Failure is the first step

No one will ever accuse me of being a focused painter. Case in point: I was given homework in mid-July 2017 and I’m just now getting around to doing it.

When Ruth Buchanan came to give a workshop last summer, she left me with homework.

“You told me on the first day that you get distracted by color. I want you do do a week of painting in two colors, and then add three colors. Send me a timeline of your work and we’ll go over it.”

I’ve been thinking about this ever since, but have not committed.

Almost immediately, I had an idea for the topic of this potential body of work. A couple of years ago, I did this painting, which has remained one of my favorites.

Shoes & Shadows -$200

I loved the rhythm and the contrast of the white shoes and black shadows. I’ve been making noises ever since about doing more.

When I did the Francesco Fontana workshop in the fall of 2016, I several small hooves paintings, culminating in this piece which I was very happy with.

First Turn

I think it’s a good topic. Edward Degas (and many others, obviously) did a series of racehorses and the lines of the horses legs have always intrigued me (though Degas, who was a misognist jerk, is not among my favorite artistic characters in history.)

Race Horses c. 1893, Edward Degas

Last fall there was a Winsor & Newton demo at the WSO Fall Convention; they put Brown Madder and Cobalt Blue together and had people play with them. The colors wash and granulate beautifully, creating a lot of great effects.

I didn’t want to do a bunch of big paintings, so the largest painting I determined would be 1/4 sheet (15″x11″). I wanted to push myself and say I would only draw the base layer, but with time being a crunch, I have cheated on that part.

To be frank, I’m really not very excited about showing off these paintings. They just…. aren’t what I was hoping for.


#1 (color arrangement based on FF workshop)

#2 (same reference, trying different color arrangements)

#3 (have lost the simplicity and just given up)

#4 (messed up the drawing, lost the leg placement… and just… ugg)

#5 (before changed background)

#5 (changed background)

$6 (trying hard to loose edges)

#7 (drawn, not traced)

Other subjects

Gretchen’s cat Simon (still need to fix tail line)

“Focus” (love ducks, dog needs more work)

I feel like I am onto something. This is a great exercise, and when I sit down and paint, I am enjoying it. But when I walk away I start picking it to pieces.

  • “I need to draw more.”
  • “I’m using too many brushstrokes.”
  • “Everything looks purple. I’m not using the full range of colors.””
  • “I’m not loosing enough edges.”

This project is not destined for a show. The point is to strengthen my value and color understanding.

I also think however, this is turning into an experiment with style change. I’ve been painting since 2006 (about 12 years) and I’ve had a couple of very good years, getting into shows and even winning some awards. But like all artists, I want to get better, and that means trying new things.

One of my favorite artists, Lynda Hoffman-Snodgrass, is an abstract artist of some note. I heard her say she started out as a botanical illustrator (it might have been just “very detailed” so don’t quote me.) Think of all the changes she must have gone through to become the award-winning abstract artist she is today.

It makes my current struggles look very paltry indeed.

Healthy Steps – Week 10

Drum roll please! This week I  lost 4.6 pounds, bringing my total to 23.4 pounds removed!!!

Second drum roll… I’ve also been off Frappachinos for 3 days. Feeling shaky, but I’m trying.

I wish all this meant I was thriving, but honestly, both of my feet hurt now (I’m concerned I’m developing plantar fascitiis in the other foot) and I’ve been struggling with just feeling generally sore.  I recently went to the doctor who told me (as usual) I was slightly anemic. That can cause general soreness, so I’m going to take her recommendation and get some special vitamins and eat a steak. Also, Vitamin D deficiency is on the list of possible culprits, and it is winter in Oregon.

All this is to explain that while I’m  having a small cheat evening, I’m going to keep going tomorrow.

Weekly goals

  • Tracking (6 of 7 days)
  • No Frappachinos
  • Eating my prepared food
  • Hit 10,000 all seven days, taking at least one break/lunch walk
  • Work on my self talk

As I am sure you can see, I am changing my goals slightly. I am doing well on the exercise (so much so that my feet are bothering me). So, I’m going to keep doing that, but take it off my focus list.

Instead, I’m going to work on an area that I realized today is holding me back.

I have a tendency to get frustrated, particularly if I don’t feel I’m being listened to. But, rationally, I do think I’m being listened to. I think that I think I’m not heard. So I’m going to work on slowing down and hearing myself.


Tara (in my head): “Person A never does things right. It’s so frustrating. They just don’t care about doing it right and don’t hear me when I tell them the correct way.”

New talk: “Person A does things the best they can and is very nice when you tell them what they need to fix. They probably do care about doing things right, but their job is not to care to the extent that you care. The fact they don’t change is not a reflection on you or your lack of power. It’s not a reflection on your ability to explain things. It’s not a reflection on anything. It’s just a mistake. You have a choice about whether to fix it or let them know. You’ll be believed either way.”

Honestly, neither is the best speech, but I  hope you can see where I am going. I think I need to work on talking to myself and hearing myself instead of looking to others to hear me.

If this is a little out there, forgive me. It’s a new thought.

Too tired for a real post

I have been working hard. I know, you have no reason to believe me, but it’s true. The caveat, however, is I don’t want to show you what I’ve been working on yet. So, I’m going to do a random post and get some things off my list.

Red Harness

I’m either done or at a stopping point on this painting, started in November. This is a different style for me and I’m struggling with how much else is needed (if anything). Detail withdrawal is a terrible thing.

My 15 minutes of fame

As part of my show at the Canby Library, there has been a couple of articles in local papers about me and my art. Excitement!

Distaff Divas sold!

Speaking of the Canby show, I got an email on Friday that told me that my painting, Distaff Divas sold.

“Distaff Divas” – 2014

One painting down, 15 more to go!

Out of the stealth project pile

I’ve been waiting for things to happen, but it looks like it’s not going to happen, so I am going to go ahead and post a stealth project for your enjoyment.

About 18 months ago, a gal I knew asked me to paint a small commission of a cute little Haflinger for a hostess gift.

I completed the commission and turned in the painting, but haven’t heard anymore about it. I’m tired of waiting, so I’ve decided to post it

With this post, I only have one “stealth project” left in my life. Of course, it’s been in my life for three years, so you may never see it!

Healthy Steps – Week 9

I’m a day late in posting this. I sat down at my computer last night and did lots of stuff, but not this.

It could be I was procrastinating. I gained 2.2 pounds last week. It wasn’t a shocker. I tracked 2 of 7 days and went to see my mom (I think we bring out the worst in each other, eating-wise).

But, it was a good reminder that I can’t work this 2 days out of 7 and get results. So today, I finally took the plunge and didn’t buy that Frappuchino. I was able to eat my dinner without going over points. It’s a feeling.

Goals this week:

  • Tracking (6 of 7 days)
  • No Frappachinos
  • Eating my prepared food
  • Hit 10,000 all seven days, taking at least one break/lunch walk

And so I dance on…


All The Gear, No Idea (ATGNI)

From Photography Slang:

ATGNI: All The Gear, No Idea refers to a person who has bought lots of camera gear and doesn’t know how it all works.

My dad started my love affair with cameras. Since starting this blog in 2014 I’ve actually had two cameras. I started out with a Canon “point-and-shoot” that I had taken everywhere (including on my trip to England) and I loved it. And then, one day, it just died and not even the factory could repair it again. So, I “borrowed” a present my mom had purchased for herself but wasn’t using. It was a big Nikon Camera with a big 300mm lens. This piece of equipment has not been without its challenges; its big, it’s heavy, and for a “big” lens, I’m always wishing for more zoom.

Friday I was intending to go down to visit my mom, but the car went to a store in Dallas called Focal Point Photography. My reason (and this is my story) was that I was hoping to find a used spotting scope. No luck, but a new Canon “point-and-shoot” decided to come home with me.

I did make my way down to the beach to visit my mom after this detour. Friday I hit Basket Slough, the elk herd in Milo, Salishan Nature Walk, Yaquina Head, Newport jetty, and the Coronodo Shore beach. Then Saturday, Mom and I drove up the Three Capes scenic by-way. Sunday I came home with another excursion to Basket Slough.

I’m telling you all this because that is the end of my narration; this trip was all about playing with my new toy!


Healthy Steps – Week 8

This was a challenging week for me; a three-day weekend, a trip, several stressful meetings, and a slow period at work. Any one of these can and did trigger my desire to eat EVERYTHING.

I didn’t eat EVERYTHING, but I certainly did eat plenty. Thus, is was a pleasant surprise when I was down .4 pounds for a total of a nice, even 21 pounds.

It’s not about being perfect, it’s about little steps.

The next big milestone is 10% lost: 17.1 pounds to go.

So, it’s with renewed focus this week that I’m going to work on my goals.

  • Tracking
  • No Frappachinos (didn’t buy them this week, so if I can just avoid the store…)
  • Eating my prepared food
  • Hit 10,000 all seven days, taking at least one break/lunch walk

I’m also continuing to thing about tackling the weekends. The WW topic this week is scheduling your  meals, something that struck me as a novel idea as regards to weekends. I tend to treat weekends as a free form meal experience. Adding some discipline to the days might be just the first step I need.

As a last note, speaking of small steps, today I came home and walked the dog 1.5 miles. When I started this my dog walks were averaging about .8 miles. My knee is getting better (I’m occasionally forgetting to wear my brace) and while my feet still hurt, I’m hopeful that with enough small steps that will improve.

Just gonna tell you about everything

It’s a three-day weekend. You might think that this would be a perfect opportunity to write a great blog, full of insight and pictures.

Ha. I’ve mostly just sat around doing the things I want to do, occasionally getting something like grocery shopping or laundry accomplished.  But as this day (and weekend) heads to a close, I am realizing that some things do need to get done before I head back to real world.

Therefore, I will attempt to entertain you with the good things that have happened this week.

Canby Library Art Show

As I mentioned last week, I have a show up at the Canby Library. This is good enough news that I felt like I should mention it again, especially since feedback has been so positive.

Acceptance to WSO Spring Show

Thursday  morning, before I went to work, I checked my email and got an exciting email. My painting “Should the Turkey Cross the Road” was accepted into the Watercolor Society of Oregon Spring Exhibition in Florence. This makes my third acceptance into a WSO show and my first into the spring show.

Key – NW1

I reported a few weeks ago that Key aced his odor recognition trial. Since then, I have been entering him in nose work trials for the spring, but I have found out that many shows have a wait list and it’s harder than I thought to get in.

I was a little flustered by this information, so I entered him in a trial that I knew had a short wait list, but was very soon. I figured we wouldn’t get in. (Note: I’m not so sure my thought process had any thought at all.) Imagine when I got the email on Wednesday that the wait list had disappeared and we got in.

So Saturday morning I got up EARLY and headed up to Centralia, WA, to take Key to a NW1 trail. This is the most advanced kind of trial, because he has to be successful at four searches in a row to get a title. I decided to look at as a fun match; Key can still be a little wild in public.

Not only did Key NAIL the show, he got the prestigious Harry Award: “The Harry Award is given to the most outstanding rescue dog that demonstrates extraordinary ability and spirit in nose work.”

So now I have a NW1 dog.

Note: This may be as high as we ever get because at NW2 he has to ignore food. I can’t imagine such a thing. Sunday our odor work instructor put out a donut at a distractor item in a container search and it was all I could do to DRAG him away from it.

Healthy Steps – Week 7

This week I was down 3.8 pounds. This makes a total of 20.6 pounds (12.2 of those in this year) removed and… drum roll please… 5% of my starting weight. Weight Watchers doesn’t celebrate this milestone anymore, but I’m going to because I need the validation!

So I was thinking this evening about all this and if I feel any different.

The answer: not really.

I started this by saying I was tired of being in pain. I will say my knee is on the mend, but it’s far from healed. My feet still hurt, but not as much. I’ve gone to physical therapy and got some stretches which have helped. I’ve started seeing a chiropractor, another positive step. But there is still a lot of discomfort.

Do I feel fitter? Maybe a little. I’ve been noticing that my short walks around the building have merged into two trips around the building to use up break time. My breathing is better. And when the dog asks to go the extra block on our evening walks, I say yes more often than no. But I don’t feel a lot better.

Do I notice a difference in how I look? Or how my clothes fit? Not really. When you are as fat as I am, all clothes have so much give that it takes a while before there is any appreciable difference. The last few days some pants have been feeling consistently loose, but I’m not even thinking about going down a size in my closet yet.

So what’s the upside here? The little things I mentioned above are starting to sink in. My digestive track is certainly responding well to my new regime (ah, fiber…) But by and large, I am relying on numbers to tell the tale.

I wait for the scale to tell me how I did this week.

I let the Weight Watchers points tell me what to eat or how bad I’ve been.

I let the FitBit tell me if I need to get in a few more blocks at night.

I’m very much in the white-knuckle phase of this journey still. I don’t know what I’m doing, so I’m holding onto what I have to get me by.

So for the next week, am I going to change my goals? Nope.

  • Tracking
  • No Frappachinos (didn’t buy them this week, so it’s ON!)
  • Eating my prepared food
  • Hit 10,000 all seven days, taking at least one break/lunch walk

And I didn’t figure out a weekend plan, but it’s still on the burner. I had a good weekend, and I think it showed, but a plan has not emerged yet.

A dream (almost) fulfilled

If you ask any artist what their dream is, they will tell you the same thing: Storage space.

All artists DREAM of an empty studio, with all finished paintings miraculously sold, all failed paintings quietly removed from reality without decisions to be made, and the only thing on the agenda is the next idea.

This Friday I came as close as I ever expect to having that dream fulfilled.

A few months ago, a lovely woman named Hanna from the Canby Library contacted me and asked me if I would like to have a show there in February and March. I said sure and we worked out a few details.

To be honest, I should have worked harder on those details.

After a few days of daydreams about painting a whole new show (even I laughed), I decided to bring my top ten animal paintings and call it a day. Last year was quite successful, and I still have a variety of paintings hanging around, so I figured it wouldn’t be any problem to fill up the space I remember the library having.

Here’s the fault in my logic: the library has moved to a new, GORGEOUS building since the last time I went there. And this building has A LOT of room. The ten 1/4- to 1/2-sheet paintings I brought were a start, but frankly I could have brought 20 full-sheet paintings and still been okay.

The lovely Hanna hung what I brought, and they look AWESOME, but today I drove up another six paintings in hopes of filling up the available space.

These sixteen paintings are literally every framed painting I have that is fit for public viewing. I even included at least two that really should have had the mat changed (I  made Hanna hang them high.)

While this doesn’t empty my studio (I still have bin paintings (paintings that I haven’t framed), failed paintings (though lately I have been tearing these up for collage), and paintings in progress (ugg)) there is at least 20 square feet of floor space that is suddenly freed up. It’s very nice.

As I was driving back home today, 16 paintings hung in that lovely space, I started thinking about what I could do with this opportunity.

I’m going to have a sale.

I’m going to announce the details on my newsletter (yes, a year between newsletters is long enough), so make sure you’re subscribed (sign up at the right side of the screen). But if you’ve ever thought about purchasing a painting from me, this is will be a GREAT chance to get a bargain.



Healthy Steps – Week 6

In spite of a week that in some ways got the best of me, I am down another 1.6 pounds this week!

Frankly, it seems like a miracle because there was A LOT of emotional eating in there. But my goals, small though they were, were there and at the end of the week progress was made.

  • Tracking – 5 days, 3 in blue dog zone
  • Have 1 Frapachino in the morning – did well on weekdays
  • Eating my prepared food – GOOD JOB HERE!
  • Hit 10,000 all seven days, taking at least one break/lunch walk – Nailed it!

I’m sure you are tried of my little goal list, but I still feel like I have a long ways to go on this, so it’s gonna stay pretty much the same.

  • Tracking
  • No Frappachinos (didn’t buy them this week, so it’s ON!)
  • Eating my prepared food
  • Hit 10,000 all seven days, taking at least one break/lunch walk

I am going to add a little to this. I’d like to think about a plan for the weekends. I am starting to see myself sort of careening around for this 48 hours, so in the next week I’d like to work on a strategy.

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