Friday, April 30, 2010

One day last week Charlene picked me up and off we went to the Antique Rose Emporium. I'm sure most Texas gardeners have been there countless times (Charlene has) but this was just my second trip and I was psyched! Plus driving out to the Brenham area in the height of wildflower season is always a pleasure, not to mention the fact that we were planning to eat at Must Be Heaven in Brenham. That is truly a reason to get excited -- I won't drive an hour and a half to eat just anywhere!

The Antique Rose Emporium is located in Independence, Texas, a little town just outside of Brenham, another somewhat larger town (famous for Blue Bell Ice Cream). They have a thriving mail order business, and this retail outlet is kind of a demonstration garden. In looking online I read many lukewarm to negative posts about the ARE; most complaints were about the condition of the roses and the beds -- leggy and blackspotted plants in weedy beds. I didn't find this to be the case on our trip, and I'm also not sure why people would expect to find ideal conditions in the middle of the Texas summer, or after weeks of rain.
Things were lookin' good to us! My advice is go in the early spring. It looked very well-stocked to me, although wouldn't cha know, they were sold out of a rose I wanted -- an orange Livin' Easy. The one I bought last year at the MG plant sale gave up the ghost -- I think I planted it too late and the summer was brutal. Instead I bought a Caldwell Pink. This is a "found" Polyantha that some experts believe to be the China rose known as "Pink Pet". (See the link for more info.) It's supposed to bloom profusely all summer and that was my main requirement. Also important is that it is cold hardy, and heat and drought hardy, and resistant to disease and pests. Sounds like a winner to me! My rose is literally covered with buds, but it's a late bloomer, so I didn't take a picture of it. I will once they open.
I did take pictures of some of the roses at the ARE like this gorgeous yellow rose. No, I don't remember what it is! I gotta learn to take notes while I'm taking pictures but I've never been that organized.
Part of the attraction at the ARE is not just the individual plants, but the way they are grown and displayed. I'm not sure if this is called a trellis -- seems like it should have its own name -- but it was absolutely spectacular with the pink roses cascading down on all sides! There are lots and lots of roses and other plants for sale, but also, as I mentioned, demonstration gardens to give the customer some clever ideas about how to use roses in the landscape. Wonder how much this would cost? I didn't know the expression about if you need to ask...
This gorgeous white rose really got me thinking about what I can set up for some climbing roses. Our property is mostly shady, but we finally made some raised beds in the vegetable garden for roses, and they are doing great! So now I want to make some more beds and get some "mannerly" climbers like this one.
We've all seen this use of a "flower bed" before, but it got me fired up again about dragging out the antique bed frame that has been languishing in the barn, and making it a home for some deserving plants. By the way, the ARE is all about roses, but not totally. If you're not in the market for a rose, it's worth the trip to see the gardens, and then have a look at the annuals and perennials they have for sale. Charlene and I both bought several herbs that were healthy and inexpensive, and there were lots of other plants I wanted to buy but I restrained myself. Just thinking about the 40 or so plants in my potting shed waiting to go in the ground is a sobering and restraining thought!
Everything is so beautifully arranged and displayed and crying out "take me home!" that it is really easy to buy more than you can deal with, which is what usually happens to me when plant shopping!
I had my hair cut this morning and Brian, my hair sylist, said he had been to a wedding last weekend at The Antique Rose Emporium. If anyone is interested, you must supply your own food and drink, etc. -- all they supply is the venue, but what a venue it is! How about walking down this aisle! You wouldn't have to buy any flowers! Probably not too great for a summer wedding, but April brides, take note!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rockport Birthday

April 17th was my birthday and I really wanted to take a little trip as Martin and I hadn't been anywhere together in a very long time. After considering various destinations I decided on Rockport. Neither of us had ever been there and I had heard that it offered a nice combination of beach, art, shops, and nature. We headed down there on Thursday, April 15th -- a bad day for some but our taxes were done the week before, nanner nanner. Martin didn't want to go through Houston and we wanted to see an incredible wildflower display. When I tell you that we drove to Rockport via Brenham you will understand that we took a very scenic and indirect route! (look at a map!) The wildflowers were indeed incredible! The very best area was between New Ulm and Columbus -- I think it was Hwy 109. Awesome! We tried to go to the museum in Victoria but it was closed so we had to settle for lunch instead -- some pretty good Mexican food.

We actually were staying in Fulton which is next to Rockport and they just blend together unless you notice a city limits sign. We went directly to a goup of cottages called "Living on Island Time" which were located on Broadway just two blocks from the bay. You can see our cute little yellow cottage ("Fin and Feathers") below. It was quite small but clean and fresh and had everything we needed and more. We got unpacked and drove around and scoped out the town. We had some drinks at Moondog (spicy Bloody Mary for me -- yum!) and later seafood at a restaurant just blocks from our cottage called "Charlotte Plummer's." Coincidence: a close family friend from my childhood was named Charlotte Plummer so it seemed a good place to eat -- and indeed it was!
The weather was not looking good on Friday, but at least the wind had died down a little from 50 mph. We planned an inside day. First we went to the Rockport Art Center where they just happened to be showing the annual juried show of the Texas Watercolor Society. That was great to see -- so many excellent paintings! And of course some not-so-excellent ones, but that just makes it more fun. Martin and I just love to critique! If you click on the link you can see the whole show. My favorite painting was "The Long Wait" by Susan Montague. This watercolor had everything -- a great composition, excellent technique, and content. You will not really be able to see her technique on the computer screen and you may even wonder why it's my favorite. The technique involved many layers of washes carving out the figure and creating beautiful colors on paper. Other favorites included "Green Stair" by Bill Bailey, "Fourteen" by Linda Sherman, "Peaceful in Pennsylvania" by Joyce Hicks, "All Aboard II" by Pam Stanley, and "Waiting for Her" by Duncan Simmons. It was great to see works by two of my favorite watercolorists -- Dan Burt and John Salminen, and also really cool to see one by an old Junction friend, Mary Lambeth. Kudos to the artists!
We also went to several art galleries on South Austin Street. One stood out from the others as having some excellent art not just aimed at the beach tourist -- The St. Charles Art Gallery. We did a little antiquing, had a good lunch, and then headed over to the Rockport Cemetery. It was truly a beautiful place as they don't mow and the whole place was covered with wildflowers. I'm not sure how great it looks at other times of the year, but in April it is truly spectacular! Don't tell but we drank a bottle of champagne while we there and had a lovely time!
On Saturday we were ready for some outdoor adventures, even though the weather was still not cooperating fully. The temperature was great but it was overcast and the forecast was 60% chance of rain. In spite of that we drove out to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, a 3440 acre area just north of Rockport on the bay. Apparently this area was a historic port for European immigrants but was destroyed by several devastating hurricanes in the 1880's. We missed the whooping crane season, but expected to see lots and lots of birds and were somewhat disappointed. Because we were there at midday we didn't really expect to see any of the mammals that inhabit the area -- javelinas, feral hogs, bobcats, armadillos, etc. -- but we expected the place to be teeming with water birds and it wasn't. We did see deer, several alligators, a snake (variety undetermined), ducks, egrets, herons, and some other birds. It just felt good to be outside and walking, and although it wasn't a beautiful day, we didn't get rained on. Here is a view from a pretty cool observation tower.
That night, my birthday, we ate at Hemmingways, which had a lovely ambiance and yummy food. The next day, Sunday, we packed up and drove home by a slightly more direct route. The flowers were not as spectacular, but we went through some towns that we had never been to -- Port Lavaca, Bay City, and Wharton to name a few. We went to an excellent antique store in Wharton on the square, and it looked like there were quite a few others but we were running out of time. Have to go back sometime! Again we ate Mexican food on the way home, and got back in time to spring Sparky from his accommodations at the Biscuit!

I'm calling the picture below "This is what 60 looks like" and I hope I don't regret posting it! It's no glamour shot -- no makeup! -- but you can see the progress of my going gray, and even though it was very windy and I was making kind of a funny face, I was having a great time and that's what I think of when I look at it! So happy birthday to me! ;-D

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Studio: Before and After

So I haven't been creating much art in the last few months for several reasons. One is that I've been concentrating on the marketing aspect -- something that's been neglected for most of my art career. So lately I've been on the computer making an Etsy shop, starting this blog, reading the blogs of other artists, creating business cards. etc. etc. Another reason is that other stuff always gets in the way -- my teaching, Master Gardener activities, yoga, my dog, and let's even go back to Christmas and blame that too. But probably the main reason is that my studio has descended into a godawful mess where I can't find anything I'm looking for, and there are not clean surfaces to work on. See exhibit A above.

So when I'd think about going out to my studio, then I'd remember that first I would have to clean up before I could ever get anything creative going. I would tell myself to just clean a little area, and then everytime I'm out there, just do a little more. I used to like to go out there even if I wasn't going to paint or make a collage -- I'd just sit out there in my comfy pink-striped chair and read a good book or some art magazines, or listen to music, or whatever -- and just enjoy my beautiful space. But I started noticing that I just didn't want to go out there at all, and that is NOT a good thing. I'm not sure how this the mess gets so out of hand. But it's certainly not the first time! I was about to leave for Slaton, and I didn't want to go out there and hopefully get pumped up about making art, and then come home and lose all my motivation because I couldn't work in my space.
This called for drastic measures!

So I hired my friend Paula to help me. She came the day after I got back from Slaton so there would be no time to get unmotivated. She was the perfect person for the job. She was actually looking for little cleaning/organizing jobs so I wasn't asking her to do something she didn't want to do. She's an artist so she understands my frustration and she has respect for my materials and my stuff. She's pretty ruthless and helped me get rid of stuff that was taking up space that had little meaning or relevance to my art. She was great about asking questions like "What would you think about moving that piece of furniture over to the other side of the room?" or "How useful is this to you where you have it?" or "How long have you had this anyway?" without being TOO pushy.

That box of exotic wood veneers from around the world that I've had since 1973 and have never used for anything? Chucked it. The sketchbooks from my Art Appreciation class from two semesters ago? Bye bye! The huge bag of lace that I was maybe going to use someday to apply textures to paintings? Taking it to Bluebonnet to sell for next to nothing.

This is one of my problems -- my studio is a multi-use space. I not only use it for creating art, but it's also a holding area for stuff i.e. antiques, collectibles, and junque that I'm going to take to Bluebonnet Square Antiques, an antique mall in Huntsville where I sell this stuff. Well, I sell some of it. My booth there is sometimes fondly referred to as "my museum" where the public is welcome to come and admire my very cool stuff. So all of that stuff has been moved to one area, and the last week of April is my target for getting as much as possible inventoried and into the shop. Here you can see two pictures of the same area -- before and after -- that really illustrate the magic worked by Paula.

We didn't get totally finished on that Monday but ran out of time. But a huge amount was accomplished! I still have boxes of stuff to sort through and purge and/or organize, but I can do that in my own time and that stuff is no longer in the way preventing me from working. It's slightly pathetic that I need to involve another person in cleaning up my mess, but we had fun and now it's done and I have no regrets! THANK YOU PAULA!!!

Slaton Sojourn

It seems that I am always a week or two behind in posting, and this post is about a trip I took with friends to Slaton, Texas, about 20 miles southeast of Lubbock. We were there for three days leading into the Easter weekend. Our destination was the wonderful studio/living space/gallery of a friend, artist, and former instructor who is on the art faculty at Texas Tech. Her space was a former furniture store in downtown Slaton, and as it is about 9000 square feet, you can imagine that it is a magnificent space! Just so you don't have to totally imagine it, the picture above shows two of her very cool sculptures on a little "stage" in front of a window that looks out on one of the state highways that runs through downtown Slaton. Awesome windows and check out the vintage flooring!

The stated purpose of the visit was "art retreat" and we did indeed do some art-making, but that was in between catching up, eating, antiquing, planning meals, walking, cooking, driving, eating out, exploring, and conversing about food. ;-D That's how I see it, but doubt anyone else did! All kidding aside we did get some nice blocks of studio time. Here is Ann Marie hard at work, and I love the light in this photo!

We made a couple of side trips, like to Post for Trade Days (don't bother!), but the one to Ransom Canyon to see the famous Robert Bruno house was very worthwhile. Bruno was a faculty member of the Architecture Department at Tech, and he built this house out of welded steel. The house is almost all steel on the outside, and a good proportion of the inside as well. Of course I had forgotten my camera so here is one from the internet. If you click on the link there is an interesting article. Apparently it took Bruno almost 30 years to build the house, and it's a pretty amazing sight hanging there overlooking the lake.

There was a dinner party the last night we were there that included other Art Dept. faculty and two California artists who have started a project called Earthbound Moon. As it says on their website, "Earthbound Moon is a noncontiguous sculpture garden, discrete parcels of land spaced across the face of the Earth, each parcel the home to a publicly accessible sculpture. " The first site is in Bledsoe, Texas which is not far from Slaton and that's why the artists were visiting. It was pretty fascinating to hear about their vision, and it was an enjoyable evening.
I got a start on some little paintings that I think may evolve into a new series. These were fun to paint, and I'll do some similar but larger pieces next. This one is called "Woodland I" and I'll probably list it sometime soon in my Etsy shop CynART.

Thanks to our hostess for a wonderfully special visit, and to all of us for being so much fun!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Artful Day

Last week I went out to West Texas for an art retreat/visit with friends, but before I write a post about that I wanted to sneak this one in about a trip to Houston the week before -- before I forget the details! The trip combined two of my favorite activities -- viewing art and eating food! The planned activites started at a Starbucks on the north side where we ordered our favorite beverages (make mine a grande coffee light frappacino with two shots of sugar free vanilla) and conversed for awhile. I was with four of my good friends; I'll call them the Yayas, as they were dubbed by some of their fellow design students. The next stop was the Winter Street Studios, the east end pictured above, nestled between two railroad tracks in the Heights. The old furniture factory at 2101 Winter Street houses 75 art studios and 87 artists, and one of them, Michael Arcieri, had graciously agreed to hosting us for a studio visit. Michael is an old friend, and a former art student of my close friend Ann Marie Hopkins.

Here is Michael in his studio with a couple of his paintings. Please check out his website to see more of his awesome work! Michael graduated from the Art Institute of Houston where he studied advertising, but then went on to study realist painting in New Orleans. His still life paintings are very Dutch masterish, in their close scrutiny of detail and incredible portrayal of texture. We were privileged to see several pieces from a series that he is finishing up that involves figures from art historical sources combined dyptych-like with scenes from nature, such as clouds in the sky or waves in the ocean. Several others overlaid graffiti-sourced text on the classcially painted figures. In the above photograph you can see one of each type (and more on his website), and a picture is worth 1000 words, especially when it's Michael's painting and my words!

After a most informative visit, we were getting ready to leave and Michael clued us in to the fact that Winter Street is one of the host locations for Fotofest. Fotofest is the first international biennial of photography and photo-related art in the United States, begun in Houston in 1986. The art work is shown for a month every other spring at many different venues; this year it runs from March 12 - April 25, so you still have time to see at least a portion of this huge exhibit. We went upstairs and spent quite a bit of time looking at the photographs, many of them large-scale, which portrayed a variety of subjects. I feel a little weird taking photos of photos so I didn't take many. This one interested me -- this young man named Spencer Eden, now 17 years old, was the baby swimming underwater on the Nirvana album Nevermind. I apologize for not getting the photographer's name.

Here are the Yayas coming down the stairs after viewing the photography. Winter Street is a cool old building, better maintained than many of the art warehouses. There are some very cool architectural details, like the spiral staircase pictured below.

After we left Winter Street we headed over to the Watercolor Art Society of Houston to see what was so great about the paintings that had been accepted into the International Show! My painting, Fragile Planet, had been rejected -- maybe you could tell from my tone! Last year my entry was accepted and it was certainly inferior to this year's entry. Ah well...what can you say about judges that hasn't been said before? And Frank Webb is certainly a watercolorist extraordinaire and knows what he's talking about, not to mention what he's looking at! Many of the watercolors were amazing, but there were several in the "He picked that?" category. My own pet peeve: Opaque acrylics in a watercolor what if they're on paper? They don't "fit."
After we left WASH we headed over to Niko Niko's for a very large and leisurely lunch. Yummy!!! Highly recommended restaurant, although avoid the unbelievable crowds at peak dining times. Very casual but delicious.
You can't go wrong with art and food!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Changed My Mind about the Gray

You know, the more I think about it, I'm not sure why I wanted to go gray in the first place. The process is really not that bad, and it wasn't costing me THAT much money, and let's face it, gray hair makes me look, well, older, or not as youthful, or...well, OLD. My friend Amuse pointed out that as an artist, pretty much the sky's the limit as far as the kind of look I want to have. So, with that in mind, scroll down to see what I think will be a better and certainly more youthful look for me.

April Fool!!!