Deadlines inspire me

Next Saturday I need to take three paintings, finished and framed, to the Paint the Town drop off.  You know me… there is nothing like a deadline to get me into the studio!

After some evaluation, I decided on finishing these three paintings. On the left is the “almost” version, on the right the “done” version. Let me know what you think!

Because I had some time waiting for paint to try, I decided to play.

For Ruth Buchanan’s workshop, you will remember, we had a long life drawing session. Even though it was not my best effort, this drawing was on my mind because I found working with the negative shapes so difficult.

I was envisioning something with a lot of texture and not in my usual style (not with horses or any other animal). So, I literally started playing with some old aqua board that I had some failed paintings on.

This is the kind of painting I call “intuitive painting” because you don’t really start out with a plan, you just keep doing things that you feel might work! It’s a lot of fun and a pure right-brain activity.

However, my studio ends up getting pretty trashed.

After that, I decided to take out some marbled papers and do a “more traditional” painting of another drawing I liked.

I’m imagining adding some ground and trees and emphasizing the “moon” somehow and calling it “Moon Dance.”

I’d like to report that I’m back in the studio today, working on paintings from yesterday’s adventure, but I’m not. It’s Sunday so I’m getting things in order to make the week go well. But there is no AquaZumba on Tuesday so I think I’m going to try to go to life drawing, if that’s any comfort!

Paint on my friends!

P.S. Would anyone like to accompany me to the Paint the Town opening on Wednesday, September 5? Let me know.

Chasing Envelopes

Last week a friend mentioned an art event just down the road (Albany) from me called Northwest Art and Air. I looked it up and it looked like fun, so when a friend wanted to get together for dinner Friday night I suggested we go to the “glow” event.

Little did we know! Traffic was backed up all around the park and we decided we were a) too hungry and b) too impatient to wait it out. But it still looked neat, so I took another look at the website and decided to attend the 6:45am  balloon launch this morning. I figured at that time in the morning no one would be around.

Wrong. Apparently the entire city of Albany got up to see the event. It’s hard to blame them!

Pro tip: They mean the balloons go into the air at 6:45, so you need to ARRIVE at 5:30. Additionally, you need to figure on at least 15 minutes of walking from the parking area. And bring a chair.

I did not do any of those things, and by the time I found parking and walked over, all the balloons were in the air and floating away.

Several ultralights buzzed mockingly around.

It was a long walk back to the car. But as I was stopping to take some consolation pictures of flowers, I overheard someone say the balloons would be landing about 10 miles down the road at the intersection of highway 43.

In for a penny, in for a pound, right? I hopped in the car and made my way a little further south. I had a vague idea of getting some reference photos for a painting. Finally, an excuse to use COLOR!

The balloons were not hard to find! By the time I arrived, several were already landing.

I love the first and third photos in this sequence. These are marked as possible paintings.

But I hadn’t got the shot I was really waiting for, so I looked around to see if I could find another balloon and witness the whole landing sequence.

As I was cruising around the various fields, looking for an opportunity, I spotted it, hovering just above the power lines.


Her name is “Knight -N- Gale” and her slogan is “Boldly Going Nowhere.” She is piloted by Tim Gale out of St. Helens, which I found out on the website.  Her official description is: A spiral of teal, blue, purple, red and yellow.

The pilot brought her down in a parking lot and the disassembly began.

1. Manuever

2. Crown Line

I had noticed in the past that balloons had a little decorative flag attached to the balloon. It turns out, that flag has a purpose. It marks the “crown line” which someone grabs and pulls on. This is what tips the balloon as they stop putting hot air into it.

3. Tarp

I don’t know if everyone does this, but it’s clearly smart. They put down a big tarp to protect the (clearly expensive) balloon from getting damaged.

4. Deflate the “envelope”

The “balloon” part is called the envelope. Listening to the crew, this made sense because there are actually several parts that work together to make the ensemble that we call a balloon.

As a note… this took 6 minutes (someone timed it).

5. Tension

This was what I found most interesting and the pictures most likely to make a painting. This gal had to “get into” the ropes at the top of the envelope to keep tension on while the crew stowed the rest of the envelope (see next step.)

6. Skinny-fy the envelope (my term)

I made up this term, but they even had a special tool to do this (check out the third photo).

7. Admire the line (and the pilot)

8. Stuff it in a bag

Thank you, crew, for letting me watch and take pictures. I suspect some crews would have have been so accommodating, but they clearly loved the spectators, particularly several kids that escaped from nearby houses to watch.

I don’t often say this, but Dad would have really loved this adventure. I miss him today.

Healthy Steps – Week 31, 32 & 33 (vacation edition)

It is back to reality for me with a thud. I did weigh in on Week 31 and didn’t write a post (up 1.8 pounds) and Week 32 passed in a haze of vacation. I no sooner returned to work than I had some work traveling to do and when I stepped on the scale on Wednesday (yes, I’m late posting again) another 2.2 pounds had been rediscovered.


In just over two weeks I go BACK on vacation (yes, I saved up a little TOO well) and so I’m not sure exactly what strategy I should be following. But I’ll tell you this… it’s been so long since I logged food on my WW app that it had forgotten my foods!

Gulp again.

So, today I tracked. Score. And I’m trying to get my head around that this is doable, even if I’m not perfect.

Marching orders for the week:

  • Eating my prepared food
  • Hit 11,000 all seven days, taking at least one break/lunch walk
  • Tracking 4 of 7 days
  • 2 Frappuccinos per day


I choose to believe this wasn’t a stumble backward, more of a sashay round the rules.

What does drawing mean to me?

As I have mentioned (lol) I spent last Saturday-Monday taking a drawing workshop with Ruth Buchanan at the Oregon Society of Artists. Recently the Artists Network published a GREAT article on this same topic: 10 Approaches to Drawing. My post will focus on my own development; please see the article for the details of the techniques described. Additionally, Ruth published two great articles in The Artist (UK) magazine on drawing horses that I recommend.)

The title of this post is one of the first things Ruth asked the class. I’ll see if I can answer it.

(Note: This is a “PG” post; we did “life drawing” on Monday.)

Saturday – Maquette and Keyline

After some initial introduction, Ruth started us off with the “maquette” technique (some may recognize it from anime or traditional drawing books.)

As you can see, the technique starts off with some basic structure and works outward from there. I have done this method many times, but I liked that Ruth allowed us to use it without lecturing unduly on correct proportion.

Because I am “that person” I worked on some other drawings using this technique in the slow times.

Next we moved to the key line approach. I have heard of this method, but I have never understood it. I understand it more now, but I clearly have some work to do (as you’ll see by my attempts).

I also took advantage of the time to work on my sketchbook. I think a few of these might become something.

Sunday – I can draw without looking at the paper

Sunday dawned and I was excited to get back.

We started out with a surprisingly difficult exercise: drawing the negative. This is something I have heard people talk about. I thought it would be easy. Ah… no.

This exercise made my head hurt. I kept wanting to cheat and draw the interior. And these were just tables!

From here we had a talk on composition, the six-lights approach, and artistic “intention” before moving on to (what I know to be) Ruth’s trademarked trick: impossibly short timed exercises.

From there we worked on our catch-phrase activity of the day: contour drawing a pineapple.

Finally we took all this and drew a very small object VERY large. The instructions were to fill up the paper.

And then we painted some very big flowers very small (these appear much larger than they are.)

The thumbtack was the exercise I asked the class to pose with for the newsletter article I will have to write to thank the Watercolor Society of Oregon for sponsoring Ruth coming over again!

In between all this, I worked on my sketchbook some more, mainly developing an idea for a painting.

Monday – FASTER!

As with all true performances, Monday was the crescendo. We had a model come in during the morning so we could practice these techniques and more. The lovely Gaby did a fabulous job, but if you can tell it’s her from these drawings, I would be SHOCKED!

Ruth started us out with another series of timed poses.

At this point, I lost a little bit of focus on what Ruth was trying to teach us with the effort of just keeping up. The next set of drawings are when we were working on… something (possibly looking at negative space and adding emphasis.)

Then tricky Ruth made us STOP drawing the model and draw around her. In the second, we were told we could draw everything BUT the model.

I can see either one as a painting, but my head still hurts.

Not to let us rest on our laurels, Ruth then had the model “walk through” poses so we could look for movement and line.

The first drawing here is my favorite of the day. I like the way I caught her foot and the hinted-at hands. Ruth pointed out that this method could be used on horses. A light bulb went out for me!

Next, Ruth had us draw tones, not lines.

Finally, devious Ruth made us select five tools and called out to us to change them at timed intervals. And then she made us change paintings with each other!

Final exercise, not all my work.

Ruth finished the day with a wrap up; I was not too tired to do a sketch in my book. Frankly, even after this marathon I was ready to go!

So what does drawing mean to me?

I was hoping I would have an answer to this at the end of the workshop. I was hoping that I would come up with an answer when I finished this post.

But I don’t.

What I got out of this workshop was something that I feel like I needed: Confidence in my own abilities. One of the things I like about Ruth as an instructor is, in her own words, she is not interested in turning the class into “mini me’s”; she is interested in passing on skills to help each of us find a way to express our own art. Doing all these exercises, some that I had done before, some that were new, I realized that I was doing them all well. Not “perfectly”, if such a thing exists, but my own lines and proportional mistakes lent a certain charm that my drawings MINE… and charming for it.

I draw big.

I draw fast.

I draw bold.

I sometimes go off the page.

I don’t catch every detail.

I don’t get it right the first time.

I can choose to work on the things that I think will lead me down the path to the artist I want to become, but I don’t have to “master” anything. Anything I work on becomes a stronger part of my repertoire, but there is no formula you must learn before you are allowed to draw with confidence.

And that’s knowledge worth workshop attendance!

Showing off my state

For the last week I have been a blissful combination of artist and tour guide as I gathered Ruth Buchanan up at the airport and showed off Oregon (in between making her teach a class at the fabulous Oregon Society of Artists (OSA) in Portland.) More about the class tomorrow.

Thursday – Airport pickup, Blicks, and Portland City Grill

I collected Ruth much more smoothly than last year (inside joke there) and took her to downtown Portland to see OSA and then swing by Blicks for workshop supplies, before taking her to a restaurant I have wanted to try for a long time, Portland City Grill.

Portland City Grill is on the 30th floor of the US Bancorp building. The food was good (pricey, not terribly generous, but good), but the views are what people come for.

Even though the fire smoke obscured the best views, you can see what it was like!

Friday – Timberline Lodge and Multnomah Falls

Since reading “Timberline Lodge: The History, Art, and Craft of an American Icon” I have been wanting to go up Mt. Hood to see Timberline, a place I have visited many times as a child, but never as an artist.

I think Ruth liked Timberline, but she had told me from the beginning she wanted to see Multnomah Falls.

Her wish is my command.

Saturday – Monday (workshop)

To pay for all my tour guide services, I forced Ruth to teach a workshop on drawing from Saturday to Monday.

It was AWESOME (I swear, more tomorrow). But after, we were off again.

Tuesday – Basket Slough, Lincoln City, and Yaquina Head

Tuesday was not a day that we moved quickly. I started out with an elaborate plan about going up to Astoria and then driving down to Lincoln City (where we had a place to stay), but common sense prevailed. Instead, we took it slow, got off late, and sort of eased our way west.

We hit Basket Slough where I tried to pique her interest in birding.

As punishment, I am assigned to paint this.

When we hit Lincoln City, though, Ruth started to get into the groove.

We stopped at one of my favorite places, Alder House Glass, and watched a vase being made.

Then we headed to Yaquina Head Lighthouse and Outstanding Natural Area via Cape Foulweather and Devil’s Punchbowl.

We capped off the day with dinner at Tidal Waves before soaking in the best hot tub in town at Hotel Maggie.

Wednesday – No to the whales, but yes to elk

My plan was to take Ruth out to see the whales via Whale Research Eco Excursions, but the picturesque marine layer just turned into dense fog overnight and the boats didn’t go out. We stopped a little in Depoe Bay because Ruth’s partner is a film camera operator and I had shown her the nearby Oregon State Hospital which is featured in the film One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest. Anyone who has seen the movie will know that Depoe Bay is also featured.

From there we travel south through the fog, our goal Cape Perpetua. We stopped at Earthworks Gallery in Yachats to admire the work of Bev Jozwiak, Harold Walkup, and Sarah Bowsama.

Because of the fog, Cape Perpetua was atmospheric but not necessarily farsighted.

Still, the wildlife ended up making up for it. As if to make up for the lack of views, I was able to show off a bald eagle, a pair of barred owl youngsters, and a fairly large herd of cow elk.

We returned to Salem to pack up, make the final arrangements, and do the rest. Ruth boarded the plane this morning to head back to England (via Reno). But we’ve already started to plot what we’re going to do the next time she comes back.


Painting with a pal

Yesterday, my friend Sandra Pearce came down to Salem and we scoped out a spot for her to demo when she does a paint out for the Watercolor Society of Oregon fall convention in October.

We had listed Minto Brown as the site, but we hadn’t yet nailed down the specifics. The specifics needed to include not just a great view, but access to potties, parking, out-of-the-way painting spots, and other important features.

After a little hiking around, we settled a spot and got down to producing a sample for the demo. Well, Sandra produced  a sample, I just painted a spot I had been wanting to paint for a while.

unfinished – “Frolicking Field”

I don’t think this is done. The background trees need a few tweaks and I think the foreground needs some dark touches.

I wish I could show you Sandra’s piece. She painted the same view (literally) but it is SO different. She chose a completely different composition and focus.

I told Sandra she only had an hour to paint, because I would want lunch. So we dashed through our paintings and headed to Konditorei (my go-to restaurant).

Next we headed out to Red Hawk Winery for the day’s Paint the Town event.

Wow, what a view. There were so many possibilities. You could even see a bend in the river. I initially was interested in the gathering clouds on the horizon.

unfinished – “Gathering Clouds”

I LOVE the way the sky turned out, but the lower area needs some work.

I couldn’t go any further on site with this, so I tried another painting, though I kept it as simple as possible because were were running out of time (the winery was closing).

unfinished – “Haying Trails”

I hope you can tell what interested me here. I still have some values to work on.

The rest of my weekend was all about prepping for the upcoming workshop with Ruth Buchanan (1 more spot left…) She had a great article in “Artists Network” this week that even mentions our workshop! I’m really excited about the workshop, but as she is also staying with me, I’ve done a lot of house cleaning to get read (can’t let anyone know I’m a slob).

Only four more days!

A nose work tale

As I told you back in January, I have been training Key in the noble game of K9 Nose Work®. In January, Key successfully navigated his Odor Recognition Trial (ORT) and a few weeks later, a little bit by accident, we picked up a Nosework 1 title (NW1).

“NW1, NW2 and NW3 titles are granted by successfully passing (receiving a score of 100 points) each element at the same trial.”

A few months later we entered an “element” trial and got a leg (but no title) in Vehicles and Exteriors. The fault was entirely mine. On the vehicles, I let a very large motor home freak me out and forgot to have Key search once side, then compounded the problem by not believing him when he didn’t find scent (moral of the story: Tara is a dork.) On the exterior, I just called it too soon; I recognized Key was “in odor” but I didn’t wait long enough for him to find the source (moral of the story: Tara is a dork.)

Frankly it was a humbling trial.

A few weeks ago, Key and I were set to go down to Grants Pass for another element trial, but at the last minute I had an emotional breakdown best not described. I decided to take it easy and not drive around the state to stressful things.

My car, decked out with a shade cloth and Key in a crate with my folding chair and lots of water nearby.

Last weekend, we were able to just drive 45 minutes (not 4 hours) down to Corvallis to compete another element trial, this time Containers and Interiors. It was REALLY hot, which I worried about, but Key couldn’t have cared less. If he had a motto, it would have been “SHOW ME THE SCENT!” Key picked up a L1C and L1E title like it was nothing.

“Element Specialty Titles may be achieved by either achieving a perfect score in one trial, or by achieving two qualifying scores at the same level and element at two different Element Specialty trials.”

Key looks so happy, doesn’t he. I had cheese. That’s the real secret to happiness.

My instructor, Dana Stillinger of Best Friends Obedience and Agility School, Inc. and Doggy Daycare said she wanted to hear about my experiences in the trial, so I thought I’d write this little blog post so she (and everyone else!) could hear all about it!

Day 1 – Container Searches

Key has always like containers, so I wasn’t too worried about this one. What I didn’t count on was floors; Key HATES slick floors so the first search of the day was pretty tough. Key’s little feet were splayed SO wide. But I let him go slow, he settled down, and when we came to the correct box, he said “alert.” The rest of the searches were on other surfaces, so he was quick as can be.

  • Tara Choate – Key – Other: American Shelter Dog – 0:22.57 – placement 23
  • Tara Choate – Key – Other: American Shelter Dog – 0:15.70 – placement 16
  • Tara Choate – Key – Other: American Shelter Dog – 0:06.78 – placement 2
  • Tara Choate – Key – Other: American Shelter Dog – 0:11.78 – placement 13

Overall placement – 8th

The only other item of note was that I kept Key on a 6′ leash instead of a long line. I wanted to be able to control where he would go in case there was a lot of boxes. I ended up being surprised that most of the tests had less than 10 boxes. One only had 5 (but the boxes were up on chairs.)

Day 2 – Interior Searches

I was a little more apprehensive about the interior searches because they have never seemed to be Key’s favorite. Little did I know!

Again, I decided to keep Key on  6′ leash instead of a long line (or off leash) because I wanted to be able to control him a little more in a confined space.

The hardest part about this set of tests was trusting my dog. In disconcertingly short amount of time (notice 4-5 seconds for the first three searches) Key would run over to some random object and say “Here.” It was SO short that I had to stop myself from double checking him. But he’s never shown ANY interest in music stands before I would tell myself.

  • Tara Choate – Key – Other: American Shelter Dog – 0:05.88 – placement 4
  • Tara Choate – Key – Other: American Shelter Dog – 0:05.71 – placement 4
  • Tara Choate – Key – Other: American Shelter Dog – 0:04.70 – placement 3
  • Tara Choate – Key – Other: American Shelter Dog – 0:46.33 – placement 20

Overall placement – 4th

The last search of the day, though, that was the one that I would LOVE to have a video of. I was SO proud of Key, and I even want to give myself a pat on the back because I think I handled it well.

It was a little room (the whole thing was in a church) that people used to sit or prayer in (they called it the prayer room). Key raced in and quickly made a search of the perimeter. There was one spot that I thought he might be in scent, but he didn’t alert, and as I said above, it’s not my job to double check him (it’s my job to read my dog, in case you were wondering). So on the second round, Key was sniffing and suddenly he caught the scent. And you could see (and hear his deep sniffing) him working the scent. “Okay, it’s here… but stronger there… but it’s up here… but no… but around… but… UNDER!” And he gave a clear alert.

All this time I kept thinking about Dana hollering at me: “Keep the leash out of his way. Don’t just stand there, move your feet! Give him space! Read your dog!”

He was AWESOME. And I wasn’t too bad either.

Healthy Steps – Week 30

Another 1.2 pounds GONE! I had a really good week and made some excellent decisions. I’m also starting to notice the results. My feet are hurting A LOT less, my knees are good, and my arms feel like they poke out less.

But there is lots of room for improvement. Frappuccinos right now seem particularly hard. I know that it’s because of the heat, but I need to somehow transition to water earlier in the day.

On that note, I’m putting out there I’m sticking to my basics for this week.

  • Eating my prepared food
  • Hit 11,000 all seven days, taking at least one break/lunch walk
  • Tracking 4 of 7 days
  • 2 Frappuccinos per day

And next week when I post, I’m going to have a plan on how I will handle the first of two vacations in the next month!

Mid year check in on 2018 goals

I got to thinking about goals, so I decided to check in on my 2018 goals. Green is doing well or accomplished, black is no progress, pink is… I have an excuse.


  • Keep painting
  • Finish the commission that is taking FOREVER
  • Do RB homework
  • Write at least once a week (goal on Sunday) about your art
  • Attend critique group
  • Enter both WSO shows
  • Enter the Equine Art Show (Emerald Downs)
  • Submit to the AAEA Show
  • Submit to both NWWS Shows (new goal for 2018)
  • Submit to Emerald Art Center show
  • Organize and attend Ruth Buchanan workshop (2018 drawing)
  • Participate in local art group Artists in Action
    • Participate in Paint the Town
    • Fall Studio Sale with Artists in Action (N/A)


  • Go to Weight Watchers regularly
    • Eat more vegetables
    • Eat less sugar
    • Eat more fiber
    • Drink water
  • Participate in walking challenges (particularly with the dog)
  • Find a source for yoga and/or meditation and go to it
  • Go to physical therapy; improve knee and foot
  • Write at least once a week (goal on Wednesday) about your weight loss
  • Get 8 hours sleep (this means going to bed early)


  • Goodreads 2018 Book Challenge: 104 books
  • 2017 goal – 86 of 104
  • 2016 goal = 100 of 100
  • 2015 Goal = 100 of 100
  • 2014 Goal = 80 of 90
  • 2013 Goal = 118 of 125
  • 2012 Goal = 111 of 200
  • 2011 = 56 of 50


  • Edit and finalize the book I “finished” during the 2017 NaNoWriMo
  • Participate in the 2018 NaNoWriMo


  • Do a walk after work, hike on the weekends
  • Get Key Odor Recognition Trial (ORT) certified
  • Participate in 4 trials (including ORT)
  • No more cats if Bob dies

Home and Garden

  • Water my new front yard to ensure the plants don’t die
  • Put in my Little Free Library area
  • Improve kitchen table area


  • Continue 2013 goal of not taking plastic bags at the store
    • Use reusable bags
  • Continue 2014 goal of using coffee cups at coffee place
  • Continue 2015 goal of picking up after the dogs every time
  • Continue 2016 goal of not consuming palm oil
  • Improve on 2017 goal of scaling back on car use
    • Bike to work at least 3 of 5 days per week
  • 2018 goal: energy audit my house


  • Finish four projects
  • Investigate a knitting group


  • Let’s just put it out there that I can improve…
  • Donate to charity


  • Church – website and tech team
  • WSO – website and fall convention
  • State Food Drive planning
  • Decide on a volunteer project (either Food Bank or Fostering Dogs) and do it!


  • Remain employed
  • Say hello in the morning


  • Go camping at least once
  • Explore the local art museum (Ford)
  • Visit the Salem carousel
  • See 150 species of birds (note: ebirds says I am at 188 for year)
  • Remember that alone time is an important part of my mental health

Healthy Steps – Week 29

I have to admit, I think I have lost a week somewhere in June or July. But I am calling weight in on July 25 as week 29 and I guess if it’s not, the counting police can come get me.

When I weighed in on Wednesday i was not expecting big things; it had been a week of good decisions with more than a few bad decisions thrown in there.  Therefore, I was thrilled to have removed another 1.6 pounds for a total loss of 40.2 pounds. Forty just really sounds like an accomplishment, doesn’t it.

When we are working in the WW books they break things down into 4 week segments. I was thrilled to notice that I had beat my four week goal and was only a few pounds away from my summer goal (by Labor Day I have a weight in mind.)

Fearlessly, I decided to put a goal EVEN LOWER than my summer goal for the next four week, which means that I could be EVEN LOWER than my summer goal weight on labor day. I guess I’ll take that as my last day to wear my skinny bikini.

It’s summer time, which has benefits as far as fruits and vegetables being available. The downside is that you have to be in a hot kitchen just to prepare them. The other benefit of summer is that when it’s 100 degrees out, I don’t really feel hungry. The downside is that I do eventually get hungry and eat EVERYTHING.

Does this mean I have a new an exciting daily goal? No. Frankly, just my four basic goals is so challenging right now that I can’t even imagine changing it up.

So I’m still tweaking my habits toward the basic.

  • Eating my prepared food
  • Hit 11,000 all seven days, taking at least one break/lunch walk
  • Tracking 4 of 7 days
  • 2 Frappuccinos per day

I just hope I don’t melt. I hate hot weather.

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