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Mystic Trail

April 6, 2011

Mystic Trail, 11x14, Gouache

There is a generally accepted school of thought that, if one is going to paint from photographs, they should be photos taken by the artist himself.  It makes a lot of sense, really.  If you took the photo, you have a connection to the place, and a memory of what the sounds, smells, and air were like in that spot.

But I occasionally stray from conventional wisdom in my approach to my art, and that includes the use of photographs by other people.  One caveat, of course, is that permission should always be obtained.  Beyond that, I occasionally stumble over photographs that reach out to me, begging to be used as the basis for a painting.  This was one of those instances.  Seth Ramsey, a member of my extended family, gave me permission quite some time ago to use some photos he had taken along the Rainbow Falls Trail in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  They were all beautiful photos, but one of them conveyed this almost mystical scene of a trail passing through an arch of foliage, and disappearing into the fog beyond.

One almost expects Bilbo Baggins to emerge from the mist, shuffling around the bend leaning on a walking stick.

Cathy’s Barn

April 5, 2011

Cathy's Barn, 8x10, Gouache

I’ve painted this old barn near Nashville, Tennessee before.  This is the backside of it.  Grazing nearby were horses belonging to my niece, Cathy.  Don’t know who owns this place.  Doesn’t really matter.  To me, it will always be Cathy’s barn.

Feeding Frenzy (aka The Garage Sale)

April 3, 2011

It was still dark when we pulled into the line on Saturday morning, the trailer attached behind us, our daughter and son-in-law in front of us in his pickup truck.  Our goal of travelling the country in the RV, sketching, painting and drawing, was coming another step closer.

We had driven down to Houston on Friday.  The trailer was fully loaded with boxes and boxes of items pulled from shelves, nooks and crannies throughout the house.  We had managed to fit the kitchen table (sort of “farmhouse modern”, I suppose) into the trailblazer along with its four chairs.

On Friday evening, we had reassembled the table and loaded it and the chairs into the back of the pickup.

Now, well before the crack of dawn, we were lined up to enter the parking lot of the Sienna Plantation community center in Missouri City, Texas.  We got our booth assignment and rolled very slowly and carefully between booths already set up, parked cars and trucks, and people walking everywhere.  Son-in-law Scott and daughter Carol stopped in fron our designated spot, jumped out, and along with Nell, unloaded the table and chairs and a couple of other items.  Scott moved the truck away, and I pulled into his spot.

As I walked around to unlock and open the trailer, one of the girls joined me and said “we sold the table and chairs”.  It was around 5:30 am, the sale wasn’t supposed to start until 7am, and people were already buying and selling!  Fortunately, another vendor bought the table and chairs, so we were able to use it the entire morning to display our wares.  The hour or so before sunup was crazy.  As we carried boxes from the trailer to the booth area, we had to work our way around the shoppers, who were, I kid you not, shopping by flashlight!  And they were buying… and buying.  It was like being surrounded by a school of sharks… at night.  I’m going to hazard a guess and say we sold between 80 and 90%  of what we took to the sale.  And we probably sold 75% of that before 8am.

Around 10am...

For the first hour or two, what was supposed to be a clear day started off very cloudy, with a very light mist in the air.   We didn’t even have time to set up the canopy, and the mist was coming down just enough to start covering everything with a slightly wet coating.  Things were  wet, and people didn’t care.  They bought them anyway!  It was amazing.

It was hectic, but fun.  One man spent well over a hundred dollars just buying our stuff.  He would wander off to other booths, and usually return empty-handed, and finally told Nell “Nobody else has stuff as good as yours.”  Of course, we weren’t selling typical garage sale junk.  These were things that had decorated our house.  The fact that we were nearly giving them away helped tremendously, I’m sure.  A very enterprising young man, around 14 years old, wanted to buy a game.  He made an offer.  We countered.  He stuck to his offer.  We countered again, and he wouldn’t budge.  He knew exactly what he was going to pay.  I was so impressed by his business acumen (and didn’t want to take the game home), that I took his offer.

And there were, of course, a few “giveaways” to small children.  “But I don’t have any money.” said one little boy who had been covetously fondling a bag of cheap little toys.  Hearing him carry the bag into the next booth and say “Mom, they GAVE me this!”  was priceless, as was the look on the kid’s face who, close to the end, asked how much another game was (it was marked at $3.00).  “How much have you got?” I asked.  He held up a dollar.  “It’s your lucky day.” I said, and he walked away delighted.

The best story of the day was the little plastic bag with some of those little wooden massage roller things.  I think they had been acquired as a gag gift.  They sort of resembled some kind of midieval instruments of torture, but the bag was clearly marked “Massagers”.  It sat for the entire morning, with a little price tag that said “Free”.  No one took it.  The man next to us said we should have put a price on it, and it would have sold.

If only we could have art festivals like this!  (At our normal prices, of course.)  People arriving early, full of eager anticipation to see what we’ve brought this time, money in hand, looking carefully at every item, that fire of desire in their eyes, wanting everything they see.  Ah, the stuff of dreams.

When it was over, we had made several hundred dollars.  About five small boxes of leftovers were dropped off at Goodwill, and we drove home with an empty trailer.  Now, before the money goes to something else, we need to get to Home Depot and look at base cabinets for the RV’s art/computer workstation, and decide on some new flooring to upgrade it a little.

Another major milestone accomplished.

Farmers Market

March 31, 2011

Farmers Market, 8x10, Gouache

Another departure from my comfort zone.  This is from a photo taken at a local farmers market where Nell likes to buy fresh vegetables.  I’m trying to widen my subject matter a bit, because when we start travelling, I want to be able to record the places we visit.

Joseph Skywolf clubs

March 25, 2011

Make me an offer I can’t refuse…

If you’ve been following along recently, you know we are planning to hit the road eventually, living and travelling fulltime in a motorhome.  (More about that on my blog Back Roads & Brushes.)  Part of the plan is to sell the townhome and divest ourselves of most of our worldly possessions.  To that end, I’m going to post a few things here on the blog just to let my friends know they are available.  If they sell, fine.  If they don’t… well, we’ll find a home for them eventually.

About twenty years ago, we did a show in Houston, at what I believe was the George Brown Convention Center.  A few booths down from mine was a young Native American named Joseph Skywolf.  Joseph’s booth was full of clothing, weapons, and other artifacts, all handmade reproductions reflecting traditional American Indian craftsmanship.  This wasn’t a bunch of crappy souvenirs.  This was beautiful stuff like I’d not seen before.

Joseph and I did a little bartering.  I traded him a graphite pencil drawing of a Mexican saddle for a couple of his ceremonial clubs, and I bought a couple more.  We’re not going to have walls to display them on, and I don’t want to store them.  I’d like the clubs to go to a good home.  Joseph Skywolf’s beadwork and artifact reproductions have received worldwide recognition and have been displayed at the Smithsonian Institution and the Museums of Natural Science in London, Scotland, Venezuela, and Japan.  Today, he sells his work at Skywolf’s Gallery in Teton Village, Wyoming.  I don’t remember what I paid for them, and I have no idea what to ask for them.  His website doesn’t show artifacts of this type, so I don’t know if he even makes these anymore.  An email to his website didn’t get a reply.

Joseph said the clubs were assembled using the old, traditional methods and processes taught to him by his Apache elders.  The three larger clubs are 23″ – 24″ long.  The heads are large bones or pieces of buffalo hoof.  The feathers are all in good condition.  I’ll just toss them out here, and we’ll see if anyone’s interested.  I’ll entertain reasonable offers.

Club #1 & Rattle

Rattle closeup ~ black claws dangling from handle make a rattling sound

Club #1 closeup

Club #2

Club #2 closeup

Club #3

Club #3 closeup

If you’re interested, email me at  I’ll leave it open for a while until I see what kind of offers come in, if any.  I’ll treat it like an auction, and post the offers, without posting the names of bidders.

Looking ahead…

March 24, 2011

At Rest, 5x7, Gouache Sketch

So, I just ordered more paint.  Even though I seem to be doing more decluttering, organizing, tossing things away, and all the other things required to put the townhouse on the market and move into the RV than painting, I live in fear of running out of paint and board.

April is going to be interesting.  This coming weekend is going to be the last free weekend until May.  Every weekend in April is scheduled.  First, we haul a cargo trailer full of stuff down to Houston for a community garage sale.  The next weekend, we travel to Wichita, Kansas to see one of our grandchildren baptized.  I’m told we’re going to help paint walls while we’re there so our son and daughter-in-law can put their house on the market.

The following weekend, I hope to participate in a paint-out with the art group in Possum Kingdom, Texas as part of their weeklong Arte de los Brazos Exhibition.  PK is out west of Fort Worth.  I met Bob McCormick when he visited our booth at a festival in Weatherford, Texas (out that way) last summer.  Bob’s made good on a promise to get me involved with the festival at least by being part of the paint-out.

Then the next weekend, I’ll hit the road for Gadsden, Alabama to spend the last week in April at the Southeastern Plein Air Invitational.  Because the coming weeks leading up to that are going to be busy, I’ve started cutting boards and stocking up on paint and other materials in preparation for an intense week of painting.

Meanwhile, I’m painting in spurts, in between the decluttering, trying to keep my touch.


March 23, 2011

Longneck, 8x10, Gouache

I did a few portraits when I first started painting, but I was still in “illustrator” mode, and transferred a few landmark pencil strokes onto the board first.  In other words, I either projected or traced from a photograph.  I know… heresy in the first degree.  After those first portraits, I quit transferring images.  I was, after all, painting landscapes, and who needs to trace or project a tree?  That was over four years ago.  I have kept a small lightbox in a closet, just in case I get the urge to cheat again someday.  But I’ve been spending more time drawing lately, doing simple sketches of buildings and people, just to remind myself that I can still draw.

This is from an old photograph from about twenty years ago.  Just to see if I could do it, I went straight in with a brush and paint.  It’s a quickie, just a sketchy study, but I was in the mood to test myself.