Right place

It’s been a busy day, full of my usual Saturday things. I went to the Farmer’s Market, an art class with Patricia Schmidt, dropped off a piece of art at Grapevine Gallery for the Open Studios of Beavercreek show, then went out to the barn to muck stalls for Sound Equine Options. My last stop of the day was a hike in Canemah.

During my adventures I had some great birding. On my way out to SEO I saw a flock of vultures working over some roadkill. Okay, the roadkill part was not attractive, but I did get some great vulture reference shots.










birdThen while hiking, I caught a pretty good photo of what I think is a ruby-crowned kinglet (female) gathering nest materials (it looks like maybe some spider webs?

But the best moment was when I was walking by the old broken pine that I call “Windwalker” an osprey flew up with his catch. I wasn’t able to get any good action shots of him arriving or leaving, but it was so close I could almost figure out what kind of fish he had!

I feel another painting coming on.


The only constant is change

TGIF. The last couple of weeks have really taken it out of me. First, there is my new lifestyle; while I am already seeing changes and improvements such as better sleep, improved breathing, and more energy (for exercise), it has also been a mentally exhausting two weeks. At every step I have to make choices and decisions that I used to be able to autopilot through.



Additionally, through no fault of my own, work has been challenging due to a variety of other employees leaving. This means that new things have been placed on my agenda. While I like change, it is undeniably an exhausting process.

It’s also amazing how having a commitment on one additional day a week (Mondays, Weight Watchers) cuts back on the rest time. And, in some ways, it isn’t going to get better. I am moving my painting class to Wednesdays so I can take the every-other-Tuesday Sound Equine Options volunteer class. This leaves Friday as my only week night without a commitment.

Finally the weather has decided to be… well… whatever. We’ve had rain, thunder, hail, lightening, wind, and sun. Sometimes all in the same hour. Outdoors has not been as welcoming as it has in other parts of the world.

But tonight I got home, grabbed the dog and the camera, and took off for Canemah. The Finn-ster was overjoyed.

It’s been nine days since I’ve been to Canemah, and the camas bloom is definitely over. But there are lots of other flowers blooming, including the cutest little tiny upside-down cone flowers.


It rained hard during our walk. Finn didn’t mind, but I admit to having (and using) an umbrella.

gallerywineWhen we got home I paused a moment in the garage to admire my newly installed “gallery” (really more a way to store art without damaging it). And then I poured myself a glass of wine. It really has been a long week.


I’m not weighing my soul

Today is weigh-in day. Last week I lost a good chunk of weight for my first weigh-in, and that has helped make this week easier—that and not having a caffeine withdrawal headache all week.

Not that this week has been easy; I went grocery shopping yesterday and at one point found myself in the candy aisle, adding things to my cart. I’m not sure how I got there, but I’m glad I woke up before I got the items home.

Last night I snuck a peak at the scale to see if I had reason to be optimistic for today’s weigh-in. The scales told me that I was about the same as last week. I immediately went into a pout and started doubting my worth as a human being (never mind that I still weighed less than I did at the beginning…)

Now, I have to tell you, this is just silly. First, I had a week to be proud of; I ate lots of fruits and veggies, exercised more, and generally made good decisions about my health. Regardless of what the scales say, this is a week I feel proud of. And when I got on the scales this morning (just to double check, you understand), the scales agreed with this assessment.

This whole event got me thinking about the language society (and specifically me) uses to describe weight loss and eating.

For example, certain foods are “bad” while others “good.” This reminds me of when I was first learning French and my bewilderment that all nouns have a gender. For example, cars are feminine but fish are masculine. Why? With foods the distinction is arguably a little less arbitrary. In general, foods with a lot of sugar and fat are “bad” and natural foods are “good.” But it absolutely mystifies me why bread and cheese are “bad” while oatmeal and yogurt are good.

Furthermore, it’s nearly impossible not to put these designators on yourself when you indulge in the “bad” foods. “I’ve been bad this week,” we say at the meetings when the scale doesn’t move down. We say this, in fact, regardless of anything else. We could have won the Nobel Peace prize or cured cancer, but when a piece of equipment refuses to register a lower number, we are “bad.”

And that’s another thing: What the scales say. Scales are a machine. Sometimes not even a terrible accurate machine. They don’t “say” things. At best they report facts. Why am I allowing a machine to justify my existence?

Even language around weight loss is a saboteur. We “lose” weight. As if it’s the car keys and we are going to go searching for it until we find it in the last place we look. Personally, weight is in the top ten list of things I DON’T want to find (#1: a dead body, #2: a Great White shark when snorkeling…)

I guess what I’m trying to say, and the pep-talk I give myself almost every day, is that my weight has nothing to do with my “good”-ness or “bad”-ness as a person. I am a good friend, creative artist, competent (usually) worker, and kind person. I go to church, give to charity, and volunteer for causes that are important to me. I’m a quiet neighbor, pleasant co-worker, and concerned citizen. While on any given day those qualifiers may wax and wane, the absolute truth is that what I choose to put into my mouth does not affect my intrinsic worth as a human being.

Yes, I want to remove weight. I want to feel better. I want to be healthier. I want to be able to ride a horse again. I want to get on a plane and not use the seat belt extension. I want to be able to feel comfortable sitting in theaters or auditoriums.

I know there are going to be ups and downs on this weight-removal journey, but I’d like to be able to find a way to remove the string that ties my self-worth from the scale’s journey.


So today I went to the Sound Equine Option’s Ride to Provide Horse Show as a vendor for my art. My goal was to do a dry run of my booth and maybe to get a couple of equine portrait commissions.

Makeshift "booth"

Makeshift “booth”

I arrived and discovered that my booth wouldn’t work. The vendor area was really more a table area. It was in a great spot (right near the entrance to the viewing area), but there was no way a 10’x10’ tent would fit and still allow horses to move around.

Okay. Plan B. I used what I brought to set up an attractive little table.

After this minor adjustment, I spent the rest of the day very pleasantly, alternatively talking to people, petting horses, and taking pictures (230+ pictures…)

I have never been to a horse show like this before. While I have taken riding lessons, been to a few dressage clinics, and been to the racetrack, I can’t remember being at a “show” before.

The day started with halter classes, followed by showmanship, English, and Western classes. Halter classes focus on how the horses look and are presented. Showmanship is another “ground” class and the focus is on the skill of the handler in presenting the horse. English and Western classes are as you might expect, though each was divided into a “pleasure” and “equitation” class.

It was the pleasure classes that mystified me. I have heard complaints and read articles about the artificial headset required from horses in these classes, but I assumed it was restricted to Quarter horse (or at least western) shows. Not so! Even in the English classes the judge was looking for a very low headset and slow paces. I have spent the most time riding English dressage, and to me this “pleasure” type just looks wrong.

English pleasure horse, cantering slowly (jog) with low headset

English pleasure horse, cantering slowly (jog) with low headset and no contact

English pleasure horse, still cantering slowly but on the bit with contact

English pleasure horse, still cantering slowly (not as slowly) but on the bit with contact












Outside of this, I saw many other things I haven’t seen before.

I also learned a new color: “Smoky Black.” It’s black with a dilute gene. Frankly, to me, it just looked brown. But I endeavor to be educated…

In addition to education opportunities, the day was very flattering for me. Many people who stopped by admired my art. A couple different people inquired about pet portraits and took my card. And most flattering, a customer who bought two of my paintings a few months ago admired my newest work, “Sizing Up the Competition”, and asked to be kept in touch about its fate!



Today, after work, I made my way across the river to the Oregon Convention Center to view the Gathering of the Guilds. This huge event encompasses the Oregon Potters Association Ceramic Showcase and is flanked by the Creative Metal Arts Guild, Oregon Glass Guild, Guild of Oregon Woodworkers, Portland Bead Society, and Portland Handweavers Guild.

A stunning display by Ted Ernst.

A stunning display by Ted Ernst.

As I was walking through the OPA show, I pondered how different people’s tastes are. I am attracted to the fabulous, dull earth tones in pottery. However, many people prefer the more bright glasses now available.

This display showcases bright colors and shiny glazes.

This display showcases bright colors and shiny glazes.

In most other art forms I enjoy bright colors, but in pottery it’s the deeper tones that make my mouth water.

Of course, I am me. I was delighted to see my favorite artist, Anthony Gordon of Chimera Clay Studio, had progressed from being in the showcase to having his own booth. The last two years I have loved his horse sculptures, last year’s being a particular favorite. This year he had several horses on display, but this blue bronze one was my favorite. I need to remember to save up my money for next year!


Horse by Anthony Gordon of ChimeraClay Studio

Another favorite artist is Jan Rentanaar. His horses have a more Asian flair, but they are still gorgeous.


Asian-inspired horse by Jan Rentanaar

Ceramic artists push the boundaries of their art in many ways. The way glazes merge together reminds me of watercolor, and many artists are now specifically creating wall hangings.

paintingBut it’s the combination of art and utility that gets me every time. I purchased two items: a lovely turquoise yarn bowl and a small stand for holding toothbrushes. Not as artistic as last year’s purchases, but I love them anyway.

Apparently I can’t K.I.S.S.

Last evening I began a marathon framing session. My $200+ order for frames and mats came in and I set up the living room… and dining room… and kitchen… to get some matting and framing done.

Finn and Bob are on hand to supervise...

Finn and Bob are on hand to supervise…

Two hours resulted in three framed pieces and one matted image. I have four more paintings to do tonight, plus the hanging wires.

My mom called during this mess and I talked to her while defending my piles from the cats. I said to her, “Why can’t I have a simple hobby. Or at least a cheap one?”

She laughed and said, “Because you’ve turned your hobby into a business.”

This got me thinking. Do I want my painting to be a business? Is my end goal here to make my living from art?

Short answer for the last question: no (unless I win the lottery, which I’m totally open to.) For the first question, however, I’m a little less sure.

When artists paint, they create paintings. At a certain point the paintings sort of pile up. Yes, they make handy gifts, but sometimes your friends don’t want your experimental abstracts or another horse painting. Even your mom has limited wall space. That’s where “the public” comes in.

Artists lament lack of sales. People seem willing to go to Ikea or Fred Meyer and buy a print for $50, but unwilling to invest $200 in an original by a local artist. At shows like the ones I’m going to this summer, jewelry and other small items under $20 tend to do really well, but larger pieces, no matter how well-priced, don’t sell. Many artists get around this by offering prints or cards; for myself, however, I’ve found I invest quite a bit in printing and get the money back in a reluctant trickle. I’m focusing on displaying original paintings and seeking commissions. The investment per piece is just as high, but when I do get a sale my profits look like $20, not 20¢.

$20 you say. Surely more than that! I guess it depends on your numbers (and remember, I’m a numbers person by profession.) We’ll assume I produce 10 paintings a year and use that to divide the cost per painting.

  • A sheet of watercolor paper: $6.75+ (usually divided in half) = $3.38 per painting
  • Paint: $10-18 per tube = $3 per painting
  • Brushes, equipment, other: $250 (I’ll divide this over 100 paintings) = $2.50 per painting
  • Marketing (website, booth fees, etc.): $200 per year (divided over 10 paintings per year) = $17.10 per painting
  • Classes (workshops, regular classes, critique groups, conventions): $1000 per year (divided over 10 paintings per year) = $100 per painting
  • Transportation / commute /etc.: $100 per year = $10 per painting
  • Mats: $15 per painting

In short, to get a painting from idea to the hands of a buyer takes $150.98 (matted, without a frame (with a basic frame add $35.)) One could argue that that price would be reduced some without marketing, classes, and transportation. But I do want to take classes and improve, and I like the experience of meeting the public and hearing what they think of my art.

I’m not complaining or lamenting the state of art. I’m just wishing I didn’t feel like I had to worry about all this. Keep It Simple Stupid. That would seem to be the direction I want to go, but apparently it’s going to be complicated for a while.


If anyone is interested in learning “how” to buy art, here is an interesting article.

5 Ways to Learn About Art

Lazy Sunday, but busy bees

I didn’t do a lot today, though I did make it down to Canemah. At church, our new pastor commented that everywhere in the United States they say “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” But, he said, “Here you live it!

The skies when we started into Canemah.

The skies when we started into Canemah.

The skies when we left Canemah

The skies when we left Canemah











Yesterday I mentioned the bees and today I saw even more kinds.

I tried to identify them, and even found a good site: Bees of Oregon. But I’m not good enough to figure it all out.

Other things I can’t figure out are the myriad variety of little flowers that pop out along the trail.

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler

The birds were making full use of a view minutes of nice weather. I saw a red tailed hawk chasing a pigeon and heard the result. Lots of sparrows were out. And on the home front, I saw a migrant Yellow Rumped Warbler on my back patio.

Work in Progress

I haven’t had a lot to write about this week because I have been concentrating on other matters. On Monday I joined Weight Watchers. I announced this on my Facebook account, but I (weirdly) wasn’t sure about putting it on my blog. It somehow seemed so permanent, but I need to find ways to hold my feet to the fire, so on the blog it goes.

I may occasionally write about various things on my weight loss journey, but I’ll try to keep it to art talk in the main.

Still, this week was hard with a lot of dietary and habit changes. Friday was the first day I didn’t have a raging caffeine-withdrawal headache and today is the first day I don’t feel anxious. In fact, I feel pretty good. Progress is being made…

New Paintings

"Follow the Leader" - Masking fluid only

“Follow the Leader” – Masking fluid only

On Tuesday I started a couple of new paintings. I sketched out “Strike a Pose” based on a photo of sandhill cranes I took in March on Sauvie Island. I also sketched and applied masking fluid for “Follow the Leader”, a painting of tundra swans seen on the same trip.

For “FTL” I will apply a pour, similar to my 2011 egret painting. I am still deciding about colors, but I’m leaning toward oranges to indicate energy and maybe a little fear.

rosesThe week before I decided to experiment a little with Yupo (a kind of plastic paper.) I drew four sketches of the same rose on squares and applied my first coat of paint. Because of its surface, Yupo can be pulled clear back to white and the textures are really unique. I’m looking forward to some experimentation, but I need to find my reference photo first (the original got run through the laundry by accident).

I also continue work on a few other paintings.

Volunteering at SEO

Today I went out to the barn for my volunteer shift at Sound Equine Options. While I mucked the stalls, the horses went into the arena for some exercise, then I took them out for some hand grazing. Everyone got cookies.



The last horse I did, a cute little mare named Mocha, gave me a scare! When she was out in the arena I heard a loud thumping like someone was kicking a stall. A couple horses currently in the barn will bang their stalls doors for attention, so for a little while I didn’t think anything of it. But then it went on and I looked into the arena. Mocha had cast herself! When a horse gets “cast”, it means that they rolled over and go their legs so close to a wall they can’t get them under them again in order to get up. Horses can break legs and have other kinds of serious injuries from this, though usually it works out okay.

She didn’t look frantic or terrified, so I went over and gave her a pat. She stopped kicking immediately and gave me a very cute look, like “Oh, it’s nice to see you. I was lonely.” I wondered if she was really cast or just wanted company. But she laid there with her back legs against the wall and I decided that something should probably be done. I tried to help her tip back over. She seemed to enjoy that (I rubbed her tummy a lot) but I decided her legs would move before she did.

I climbed out and was going to drive up to the house for help when she gave a big shove and got up! I hate to say this… but I think she did it for attention and was never actually cast. She’s a devious one… but very cute.

Hike at Canemah

Last I took Finn for a hike at Canemah. Today (well, this week really) has been windy and rainy, but our hike was between showers.

europeanbee1The camas are still in full bloom and the honey bees were hard at work. There were also bumble bees cruising around like little bombers.

Two male Anna’s hummingbirds were having a contest. I tried to get a picture of this one flashing, but I only got one partial of his throat color.

Male Anna's hummingbird flashes at another male

Male Anna’s hummingbird flashes at another male




The stories I tell

About a year ago I went out to the Woodburn Tulip festival with my family. We had a good time, but they wanted to do more shopping than I did, so I staked out a nice shady spot and people watched for a while.

People watching is a delightful sport. It’s a lot like watching clouds for shapes or the waves for horses; the stories are only limited by your imagination.

DSCN0177During this period my imagination was captured by this couple and their dog. I particularly liked the dog who showed various levels of contempt for all the lounging about by his humans, but stretched out under the bench for a good nap.

I took some reference shots and then concocted a story.

In my (imaginary) story the man and woman were in a new relationship and the dog was disgruntled because of all the attention his human paid to the new hotsy-totsy girl.

I started to wonder… could I portray this story visually?

My first attempt got distracted by the tulips, which initially were the most interesting thing to paint. Once I realized that I was more interested in the tulips than my story, and that neither was coming together, I abandoned the attempt. Unfortunately, I cannot find the abandoned painting to show you.

DSCN0180After taking Beth Verhayden’s class I was inspired again to try to paint the story in my head.

For this attempt I abandoned the tulips and started with a neutral-to-green base, thinking that green with jealously might be the way to go.

I’ve labored long and hard over this painting and there are things about it I like. I like the background. I’m pleased with the tenderness I see between the couple. I love the jeans and shoes on the man.

But the story hasn’t emerged for me. I could live with this, but I find myself also disliking the painting for its morbid tone. I’m more used to painting bright colors and this painting feels subdued to the point of death.

"That Sunday" - 2014 - To be destroyed.

“That Sunday” – 2014 – On the shelf for further evaluation.

One thing I didn’t do that I wish I had is that I painted my background over everything instead of saving certain areas for purer color. The result is definitely a certain color consistency, but it’s also a result that doesn’t match what’s in my head.

I’m ready to accept this painting as a failure, but I’ll put it on the shelf for a few months and then take another look. Occasionally things change with time, but usually when I’m this unhappy the only real solution is to start over.

I’m not sure I have the strength. This just may be a story that goes untold.

I’m trying to console myself that I did the best I could and that I was trying something new with this painting.

Art Talk

Last Saturday (a week ago) I went to “Art Talk” with Patricia Schmidt. This is a new series of classes that Patricia has designed, intended to help artists like me move to the next level with guided critique and analysis of our paintings.

I brought two paintings: “Sizing Up the Competition” and “Delight” (title possibly to be revised). After all the various critiques last week, I really thought “SUtC” was finished, and “Delight” had been sitting on my drafting board so long with no changes that I assumed it had finished.

I should have known better.

Sizing Up the Competition

Patricia is an award winning artist whose works have appeared in the Splash series. She worked for years as an illustrator before moving into fine art. Her works (I can’t show you, you need to follow the link) are incredibly detailed and thought-out. While I have no aspirations to paint in her style, I find her analysis to be thought provoking.

"Sizing Up the Competition" - 2014 (after critique adjustments)

“Sizing Up the Competition” – 2014 (after WSO critique adjustments)

I started with “SUtC”. The first comment came from one of the other attendees; this person asked “what is that white thing up there” (meaning the area above the grey’s ear.) I had studied that myself, wondering if it was too much contrast for a low-impact part of the painting. This comment settled that!

Patty then suggested a variety of other very subtle changes:

  • Darkening the white reign that leads out of the picture.
  • Darkening the chin of the grey
  • Lightening (or possibility) the brown behind the chestnut’s mane (to create more impact and depth of field)
  • Darkening the interior corner of the shadow role on the bay.
  • Adding a suggestion of body definition to the lower part of the bay (similar to the chestnut).

I also decided to add a little definition to the chestnut’s ears.

"Sizing Up the Competition" - 2014 - after Patty's critique

“Sizing Up the Competition” – 2014 – after Patty’s critique

These changes took less than 10 minutes; but the result is an even better painting. In fact, Patty complimented me on the intensity of the horses’ eyes.


After everyone took a turn, I brought out “Delight”. For six weeks this painting has sat on my drafting board and I haven’t found a thing to critique. I almost didn’t bring the painting. I’m sure glad I did.

Patty, who does a lot of flowers herself, immediately suggested bringing up the drama by adding a dash more darkness to the interior curves. The outer tipped petals on the right back would be better with a little more red wash. The left-most dark petal needs a dark wash on the bottom to increase the intensity.

Again, these changes took less than 5 minutes, but the results are stunning. Patty also suggested a final cropping mat the resolves the lingering tension of the outer tipped petals.

I’ll order my mats for these this week. I truly believe that this time we’re done and they are ready to make their debuts.

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