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Back Roads & Brushes

After years of dreaming and planning, we finally bought a motorhome in January 2011.  By November the same year, we had sold our home, divested ourselves of most of our worldly possessions, and moved into the motorhome.  Nell retired at the end of March 2012, and we hit the road in our 36 foot, 1998 Holiday Rambler Vacationer. We’ve chronicled our adventures in living and painting in a small space on the  blog Back Roads & Brushes.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Lana Shaner permalink
    February 7, 2011 1:49 pm

    We were honered to know Ralph when he first began his adventure as an artist and have many of his works hanging in our home which were purchased in Texas and New Mexico. We had lost track of Ralph and his family, but am glad to now know there plans for the future. It sounds amazing….We have missed you Ralph and Nell…..

    • February 13, 2011 1:29 pm

      Hi Lana! It’s great to hear from you. Hope all is well with you and Jim.

  2. May 21, 2011 6:15 am

    Your work is absolutely beautiful. I am an artist who paints in oils and watercolors. My grandfather also was an artist and I have one of his best paintings which was painted with gouache.
    Years ago I did use gouache and am now thinking of adding it as a medium and producing some gouache paintings. Carolyn

  3. Mary permalink
    April 26, 2012 2:58 pm

    I am also thinking of painting in gouache. I had a teacher who did amazing stories on her trip in her RV. I am leaving for Greece this weekend and have a hot press watercolor block 9 x 12 and a set of gouache paints but don’t know what size brush to use with that size.
    Mary

    • April 26, 2012 4:06 pm

      Mary, since I don’t know how you paint, brush size is a tough question. If you’re going to work really fast on location, you probably want a good watercolor brush that will allow you to do bold washes, but still do some detail. I tend to work a bit thicker and drier, so I use 2or 3 sizes of bristle brushes.

  4. Patricia A. Hildreth permalink
    May 21, 2012 8:44 pm

    Hello Ralph,
    I am very interested in your work. I am 65 years old and my entire life I have wanted to paint and I have “somewhat” From the time I was a child. My parents did not have the income to pay for art classes so I dabbled along all my life. Then I became busy raising my son, working, and became involved in other art forms. I did embroidery, crewel work, weaving rugs, the list goes on. But, always I wanted to paint. I totally lacked confidence and I still do.
    Several years ago I became quite ill with a long list of health problems but because I am somewhat restricted in my activities outside of the home I said to myself instead of feeling bad for I could try painting again. We go to Florida every year in our RV. At first I wasn’t thrilled with this. We live on the water at the begining of Cape Cod and it is beautiful her so I always felf why leave. Last year when we first arrived there on the bulletin board in the club house was a posting for a class in One Stroke painting. I am sure that many atrists would frown on this, but I thought I could give it a try. It looked easy.I have seen many programs featuring Donna Dewberry’s painting. I thought i would learn some strokes and color mixing along with anything else I need to learn, which is almost everything. I always thought if you have a deep desire you probably have some hidden talent also. I am having so much trouble and my confidence went down the drain. Did you have talent when you started painting? Should I give it up? My teacher says my painting is niave. That feels like an insult. Your paintings and drawings are very inspiring. I had hoped some day to paint that way. What do you think?

    • May 22, 2012 7:04 pm

      Patricia,
      First of all, thank you for your kind words about my work. It is truly appreciated.

      I suspect you may have misinterpreted what your teacher said. I can’t imagine any art teacher working with older students who would intentionally insult one of them. Instead, it’s possible she saw in your work a tendency toward a style of painting referred to formally as Naïve (like Impressionism or Romanticism). It simply refers to work by an untrained, completely self-taught person. Very often, people who begin to paint are discouraged by what they believe is a negative description of their work, when in fact, it’s a reference to a way of painting.

      If so, you’re in good company, as this article about English rock star turned artist Gary Bunt at The Art Key indicates. I’d also point to French painter Henri Rousseau. Not particularly successful in his lifetime, one of his paintings ultimately inspired the animated movie Madagascar. And British painter Alfred Wallis, whose work hangs in the Tate Museum in Britain. We’ve also had painters of this style in adjoining booths at some of the art markets we’ve done.

      I’m really very flattered that my paintings are a source of inspiration. I have no idea if the ability is natural. I doodled and sketched when I was young, but I also took a great interest in art classes in high school, and eventually majored in art in college. The work you see is the result of many years of study and practice. And yet… I spend many hours online studying the work of present day painters who I can never hope to match. While I’ve had some training, they’ve had more training. While I’ve spent hours at it, they’ve spent twice as many hours.

      Even with all my background in drawing, my first attempt at painting a landscape was pretty sad . For the next two years, while working at a regular job 40 to 50 hours per week, I also painted 30 or more hours per week at night and on weekends. My point is that “natural ability” had little to do with it. I spent a lot of hours studying, learning and practicing. My intention was to eventually be able to sell my work. BUT… first there had to be a love for what I was doing. And therein lies the key.

      If you’ve done crewel and embroidery, then you obviously have the patience to sit for hours doing exactly what you did as a child: dabbling. It doesn’t matter if you use oils, acrylics, gouache or watercolor. Play with the brushes, mix the paint, and do simple little paintings that no one will ever see. Don’t buy expensive materials, and don’t buy a tube of every color of paint. Buy a couple of reds a couple of yellows, a couple of blues, a black and a white. Learn to mix colors. It’s half the fun. If you enjoy it, there’s no reason to be discouraged. After all, you’re doing it purely for your own enjoyment.

      I can assure you that almost every painter would tell you that they are nowhere near as good as they’d like to be. The first thing you have to do is practice. Practice… practice… practice. And that comes out of the simple enjoyment of what you’re doing.

      Don’t give up. Do what you enjoy doing. The rest will come along in good time.

  5. Patricia Hildreth permalink
    March 22, 2013 4:44 pm

    Hello Ralph,
    I will continue to admire your work, but I will not continue to bother you. Your coments to me
    were so inspiring. I hate to use that word again towards you, but it is so true. I went and did a little research and really was impressed……i mean really—– Grandma Moses? Clearly I really have a lot more research and learning to do. And you pointed me in the right direction. I almost feel as if you are sitting here across from me talking to me. You truly are an artist; I am sure in many ways. I probably did misinterpret what my teacher said. She certainly is a very kind woman and would not intenionally discourage me. In any event, because of you, I will keep plugging along. After all it is certainly, at this point, just for me.
    Of course a few family members love to see my “work” namely my husband. He thinks everything I try to paint is a masterpiece so I let him peek. Thank you again Ralph. You are a genius a what you do, Painting and being kind in how you offer your advice.

    • April 7, 2013 8:13 am

      Patricia, there’s no genius here. Just take it one painting at a time. And my wife loves everything I do as well, even the bad ones. Keep painting!

      • Mike Taylor permalink
        April 7, 2013 2:54 pm

        Patricia. Everything Ralph says is true, and like almost every artist I have met he is extremely kind about others paintings. I believe virtually everyone can paint, and the main driver is really wanting to paint. Never measure your paintings against others work. The only one you compete with is yourself. Measure your work against your earlier work and see your improvements. One would not expect to step onto a tennis court for the first time and to have instant success. You have to study and learn the rudiments and then practice. It is the same with painting. Practice, practice, practice, and when you finish practicing, practice some more. The more you paint the better you get and the more you enjoy. It is great for avoiding tension, depression etc. and if you cant swim with the dolphins, then paint. Dont give up. Keep painting

  6. Gary Presson permalink
    June 13, 2013 11:05 pm

    Ralph, I was very pleased to run across your art blog. Great work! My wife and I just recently retired and have begun our RV adventures. I started painting again after being away from it for many years. I worked with a local photographer for several years doing custom collages in Photoshop for his photo business, and all that really accomplished was to make me long for the brush again. I work primarily in watercolor, and I use gouache but mostly to beef up the highlights when needed. Someone recently asked me about selling my work but I don’t want it to feel like a job. I just retired. The last thing I want is another job. I totally agree with your reply to Patricia. Most artists that I’ve ever met are their own worst critic. I personally have never done a painting that I was completely satisfied with. Most of us have a mental image of where we want to go with a work, and if it is not what you envisioned in your mind then that work is a failure, no matter how beautifully it came out. Sometimes I have to make myself leave a painting alone or risk destroying it altogether. Having said that, I would like to say to Patricia. “Don’t let anyone rain on your parade, It is your vision and yours alone that matters.” Hope to run into you both one of these days on the road. Be well, Be blessed.

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