May 27, 2008

Peace and Peonies

Last week I finished and sent off a commissioned painting of three stages of a blooming peony to a man getting married in Florida. Over the past year we've been in contact over a peony painting for his girlfriend who became his fiancee and now his wife. Three stages - much like the painting itself. Originally he wanted this painting last year, but I ended up selling it, then he wanted one at Christmas time for her, but I was moving to St. Louis when he needed it. This past weekend he presented it to her as a wedding gift. What perfect timing for Julie and Gary. My friend who attended their wedding e-mailed me this morning and told that Julie loved it and cried when he gave it to her. I've not met the couple, but after learning she had an affinity toward peonies and he knew about it and sought them because they made her happy, I was thrilled and honored to be asked to paint for them. Besides, I "get" the woman who is drawn to one particular flower - look at me with geraniums.
I have to admit I found it a bit difficult to start this painting. I love painting. I love peonies. I had a deadline! What was my problem? Painting commissioned work is so different mentally than doing my own thing. When I'm working on a painting for a specific person, I think a great deal about that person and what this work means to them. Before I even put brush to paper, the work has meaning which makes me both happy and overwhelmed. Here I was sitting at my painting station, trying to get through another grey, rainy St. Louis day and I'm in turmoil because I'm both happy for the couple but also struggling with my own "singleness." I'm painting a gift of love with Gary's hearfelt words writtten under each stage of the peony -
Journey... Awaken ... Love
and I feel intensely how far I am from this love. For the next couple hours I have to enter into this personal place of fear about my own desires while I paint. What a delicious smell a peony has. How it opens so quickly with all its fluffy layers and in all the best shades of pink. Much like love! Yet, inside I wonder if I'll ever experience this blooming. So you see, painting is not always technical. Sure practice is part of creating a skill. I work at it every day. But there are strong moments when the spirit/the heart/the soul moves you to work in ways you don't think you can. When I finally finished, I have to say, I didn't want to let the painting go.

May 26, 2008

Foster Kittens and One Angry Baby Kitty

from top to bottom: Milo, Mimi, Milly
Several weeks ago I signed up to foster a litter of kittens through Stray Rescue of St. Louis. I picked three 5-week old kittens up Saturday afternoon from the vet and brought them home...
Let's just say that what I thought would mostly be fun turned out to be much more drama than I was expecting. My cat of 8 years, Baby Kitty has been nicknamed Bitchy Kitty by my friends. And I'm ashamed to finally admit she really isn't nice. Well, she's nice to me - but that doesn't really count. So Baby Kitty spent most of Saturday hissing, spitting and growling then promptly throwing up her breakfast throughout the house. Then Mimi - the male runt of the litter,whom I named after my first cat who lived to be 21 years old, puked as well but like three times his body weight.. It was unbelievable. (You can be thankful I didn't take a picture.) By the end of the day I had used an entire roll of paper towels and all my throw rugs had to be washed. They step in their food, the water bowl and the poo in the litter box and then do it again.
Watching them wrestle with each other is so fun and better than tv. And to see them sleep all nestled together... ahhh. When I walk anywhere they follow me around like the Pied Piper. In between all of these days events, I'm trying to paint and do house work and gather them up to keep them out of my own cat's way so she won't hit them with her clawless paws. There is a scene in the Steve Martin movie The Jerk (which is one of my favorite movies) where Martin is shown a black and white clip of kitten juggling. It's so wrong and funny at the same time and I think of it often when I'm holding all three in my hand.
As of this writing, I think my cat is too exhausted to hiss and growl anymore. She hasn't had her 20 hours of sleep per day since they've arrived. She sleeps at the end of my bed which is too high for the kittens to climb. I really hope Baby Kitty comes around. Maybe a miracle will happen and just like Scrooge she'll be visited by three kitten ghosts who scare her into love, charity and tolerance.

May 23, 2008

Kennedy Jane

My little niece came into the world on Sunday afternoon! We are all so glad she's here! So tiny, so soft and she smells so lovely. I held her for two hours while she slept and we watched a boring movie at the hospital. It's really scary holding a little tiny person for the first time. Becca had to show me the best place to put my hands and cradle her. I was all stiff and scared and very worried I wasn't holding her right. It's a great responsibility to have such a tiny life in you hands. I can't even imagine what the parents are feeling. Life is amazing! And I'm so lucky that they've let me be in on it all.
At the same time, the baby robins have finally hopped out of their nest and are jumping limb to limb - stretching and fluttering their wings while their tiny toothpick legs don't look strong enough to hold them up. It's pretty interesting to see the baby birds move at varying paces through the trees. One is definitely braver than his other siblings. By Wednesday morning they were gone. I didn't even get to see them take their first leaping flight. They sure do grow quickly. All day long their Mama brought worms and bugs to them - what a worker! Ahhh life in all its newness and wonder. The delicate newness of the little ones that come into the world, add to to it and are reminder of all that is good and beautiful in this world.

May 17, 2008

Grumpy Bear

Well, baby is not here yet and I'm grumpy along with Grumpy Bear. I knitted this for the my soon to be niece out of this amazing little knitting book called "itty-bitty nursery" by Susan B. Anderson. This is one of those books where you want to knit every project in the book! I'll be knitting this weekend while I'm waiting...

May 12, 2008

Every Day in May ...

That was my goal. To post on my blog every day in May. Today is the 12th so it's clear I'm in a deficit. (Now there's a word I don't use everyday, but certainly hear every day.)
So... All day Saturday was the Paint Webster plein aire competition sponsored by 63119 Art!. I chose one of my favorite places to paint - Roger's produce, as it has tons of beautiful geraniums out front and I always hurt my neck trying to look at it while I drive by. Besides, I knew I would be outside painting for at least 5 hours, so it had to be something I enjoyed looking at. My sis-in-law and brother popped by and took this picture of me painting.
Well, I have mixed emotions about this. First I really enjoyed the opportunity to paint under the gun. It really leaves you no time to over analyze and judge your work too harshly. You just have to get it done. Once again, I learned a great deal from this experience. As usual, I try to paint too much. You just can't paint the world - or an entire road side market for that matter. I really should have kept it simple. Ultimately, I really didn't like the finished project. I'm only posting it as a lesson. I think I was just trying too hard and not trusting myself. I find when I paint for myself in plein aire it's much freer and spontaneous like the picture I did below at the great botanical gardens here in Saint Louis. I certainly need more practice in plein aire. Winslow Homer was the master! There was some very beautiful work on display at the end of the day. It was wonderful, inspiring and intimidating at the same time. I have so far to go!!! There were less than five paintings in watercolor????
As with my past outdoor painting experiences, there is always an interesting or bizarre story to accompany the painting - this day was no different. Throughout the day several people walked by, some stopped others didn't. So when this man approached to look at my picture I thought nothing of it. He asked if I was working in watercolor and I confirmed that it was my medium then he said,
"I don't want to freak you out or anything, but I stopped my car and parked it because I thought you were the most beautiful woman I had ever seen."
Any my response was to laugh and tell him he needed to get out of the house more. Then I said thank you and told him that was quite a compliment. Later, after the day was over, the painting finished, framed, judged and deemed "not a winner", I had dinner with my brother and his wife and told them about my day. Becca was quick to point out that even though I didn't win the prize money I was called "the most beautiful woman ever" by a complete stranger so the day wasn't a complete bust. Yeah, maybe. But I would rather have painted the most beautiful picture "ever".

May 7, 2008

Back From California

California... there really is no place like it. The amazing sun, ALL THE TIME and the traffic, ALL THE TIME. It was great to catch up with friends, lay in the sun and eat at my favorite places. One of which is Bob's Big Boy in Burbank. It's been around for ages and almost every time I go there I see "someone." My meal of choice is a pattymelt and french fries with ranch dressing and then to it with Bob under his hamburger.I also had lots of time on the flight to think about my future "job". I would love to just paint and make a living doing that. So, for the next couple of months I'm going to paint up a storm and just work as hard as I can and see what happens. I figure if I don't try it now, I may never give it a go. I met an artist here in St. Louis - MaryBeth Flynn and we spent the morning together last week. For the past 14 years she's been making her living painting watercolor house portraits. I was so encouraged to hear her story. She did let me know it was a great deal of hard work. For years I've been working two jobs - that of my day job and in my spare time, I'm painting. So, I think on some level it will be nice to just focus on the painting. So that's the plan. One step at a time, one day at a time.


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