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Month: April 2018

Painting the Exuma House

Painting the Exuma House

Having a strong desire to make a painting, or several, of a building I saw on a shell collecting trip to Exuma in the Bahamas stayed with me for several years, as I related last week.

The first thing that caught my attention with this building was the color. It had a turquoise color door with a green door frame. The paint was peeling. The hinges were rusted. Part of the roof had been torn off by storms, and sunlight was streaming into the interior.

Young man sitting in window of house on Exuma

When I went back to take photos two days later, I was surprised to see a young man sitting in one of the windows. They were actually openings in the walls; the glass, if there had been any, was long gone. He had a soda and was smoking. I started taking pictures of the outside from different angles. I thought he might leave, but he didn’t. I didn’t have a lot of time to do this, so I ignored him.

This was probably a hangout for the teens on the island. There appeared to be some trash in a corner. The inner walls were stained with what looked like mold. Because the sun was streaming through the broken roof, I could get some shots with parts of the illuminated interior, framed by the door.

When I began to paint while looking at my photos, I was trying to reproduce the peeling paint, showing the different under-layers. After a few paintings of peeling paint, I became interested in the light coming through the broken roof. Getting the light right was the easy part. Painting the wall with the mold was much more challenging.

The Play of Light

While I was in the painting class I drove around some of the older parts of Stockton. I love the architecture in this city. There are areas that have beautiful older homes. I was going to take some photos for references to paint. But the details, the landscaping, the neighboring homes felt overwhelming.

As I’m writing this, I just had an idea of where to find more subjects for future paintings that I will want to make. I’ve been to downtown Stockton twice last month.

What we have is some very nice looking contemporary buildings scattered among stately old ones that are being repurposed for new uses. And then there are the old, worn down ones with the peeling paint and tattered awnings across the street or around the corner.

When we get some good weather, perhaps I’ll take my camera and see what I can find that will be a challenge for me to paint.

The Desire to Paint

The Desire to Paint

I had the opportunity to collect shells in the Bahamas in 2011. This was an exploratory trip to the Exuma Islands which are about 300 miles southeast of Miami. At that time there was not much development for tourists, but was attractive to people who had money to build a secluded tropical home. The island had one gas station and one general store which were not open on Sunday, the day we arrived.

The people on this island are descendants of slaves who were moved there in 1783 by John Rolle, a “Loyalist,” who set up a cotton plantation to protest the Revolutionary War because he was loyal to King George. Upon his death, Rolle, freed his slaves and bequeathed his land to them.

Driving along the main roads of Exuma we saw many colorful old homes and abandoned buildings, some with thatched roofs, some overgrown with vines, but many still in use. I became fascinated with these buildings.

Abandoned house near the beach on Exuma

At one beach we parked next to an abandoned home with open windows and doors where part of the roof had been torn off and sunlight was streaming in through the rafters. When I noticed the house, I wanted to paint it.

This is unusual for me. I don’t often have a strong desire to paint things I see when I travel. We were loading the van to leave the site and I couldn’t get a picture. I kept thinking about the house.  A few days later I had the opportunity to go back and take photos.

Did I get out my paints as soon as I got home? No. I did print out my photos and set them on my work table where I saw them when I was doing something else. And I kept telling myself – “Someday I will paint this house.”

In the fall of 2014, I decided to take a watercolor class in the Life Long Learning program at the University of the Pacific. I had been doing occasional small acrylics in the last year and did one of the house exterior. In the class we were supposed to select a subject and make several small paintings before we did a larger one. I had taken photos of other houses along the road on the Exuma trip, so I used those for the small studies.

I think I tend to be a tight painter whether I work in acrylic or watercolor.

Painting of house along the road on Exuma

And working that way takes a lot of time to get things just right. And I wasn’t used to having the pressure to get things done for the next class. As I recall, I was writing the first draft of my memoir and learning to participate in a critique group at the time I took the watercolor class.



As usual, too much going on.  But I was working on that desire to paint the house.

More on how this worked out next week.






If Your ‘Word for the Year’ is “WEED”

If Your ‘Word for the Year’ is “WEED”

Blooming now in my yard.

Weeding seems to have become my full-time occupation. Why is it that once you start, you suddenly notice more and more places that need your attention?

My first big clean up project this year concerned honeysuckle growing up a fence that separates

Honeysuckle I spent two weeks pruning.

the garden area of the backyard from the apartment behind my garage, plus a storage unit and wood shed. I have never really pruned this plant except when it sent long stringers on the ground.

Last fall, a well meaning friend trimmed it for me when he was looking for something to do to be helpful. He did such a good job that all the dead wood at the top of the fence was hanging down exposed below the green canopy. In February, the weather was nice and I realized that if I was going to clean out that dead stuff I needed to do it then, before new growth began. This took a full two weeks of afternoons, and I’m glad it did it, but nothing else, like art making, got done.

As soon as that was finished, I noticed the strawberry bed was full of grass and weeds while the plants were starting to put out new leaves.

Meanwhile, indoors I have been weeding through old magazines that I saved to use for collage images. When you want to do a collage quickly, going through magazines looking for images is a sure recipe for frustration. Besides, I need the shelf space for all the ephemera – nuts, bolts, rusty metal, gears, washers, and keys that I bring home from estate sales.

I already have a picture file that I started for my high school art class. So these images and words I’m cutting out of the magazines will be added to those files. Our recycling is picked up every other week, and this year I’ve put out at least a twenty-four inch stack of magazines for each pickup. I still have a way to go, but the end is in sight.

Back outdoors, two weeks ago my yard man weed whacked so severely a small area between the driveway and my lot line that I could see the dirt. This patch was full of burr clover, which has seeds with teeth that get stuck in your socks or cling to your pants. I’ve been wanted to get this cleaned out for several years, but it just seemed too overwhelming.

Of course, the roots of these nasty plants are still in the ground, only now they are easy to see. And with all the rain it is a perfect time to dig this stuff out. I know, I could spray them, but then the grass between them will die, and I would still have to get the dead stuff out to plant good stuff.

On the days it rains or is too wet to work outside, I’m weeding inside. I have this addiction to books. Most of my friends have this problem also. There comes a time when we have to say goodbye to books we have read and won’t read again, or have lost interest in that subject. Fortunately, I live half a mile away from a “Friends of the Library” book store and my books will find new owners. I have ten bookcases of various sizes and I’ve weeded six of them.

Tulips Vinnie helped me plant.

The best part of weeding is being in my yard to enjoy the birds and all the flowering plants like the tulips my grandson, Vinnie, helped me plant some years back

“I Am the Vine, You are the Branches” John 15:5-6

“I Am the Vine, You are the Branches” John 15:5-6

“I Am the Vine, You Are the Branches.”

Having just observed Good Friday and Easter, I remember weaving a tapestry illustrating these verses. I was a member of the Creative Weavers Guild of Walnut Creek, California.

At that time, the Conference of Northern California Handweavers (CNCH) had an annual conference which featured displays by all the weaving guilds. It was a big deal. Many guilds selected a theme for their display.

In 1982, my guild decided to have a wine theme, so if we wanted to participate, we had to make something related to wine, or use the colors associated with wine. I was in the middle of a series of weavings based on verses of scripture and had no interest in things related to wine, so I didn’t particularly like the theme, but I wanted to show my work at the conference.

Then, I remembered these verses where Jesus uses the grape vine as a metaphor for how His kingdom functions. He said His Father, God, owned the vineyard. Jesus said He was the vine which provides resources to the branches that will bear the fruit. He points out that the branches cannot bear fruit if they become separated from the main vine, and if the branches do not bear fruit they are pruned back or cut off.

I designed a stylized grape vine where one side is flourishing with fruit, and a small, broken, and withered vine is dying on the other side. In the shading on the trunk of the vine is the crucifix which some people will recognize and others won’t notice. I was able to use the many colors associated with wine.

Today, this tapestry looks down on my studio work table. It blends in nicely with the cream-color, textured wall, and picks up the colors of the stones in the fireplace and the red tile floor. And it reminds me that I need to produce some fruit with the supplies and resources I have available to me.