Friday, July 23, 2010

Taking a Walk with Sparky

Almost everyday Sparky and I take a walk. There's something new to see everyday, like this back end of a bluebird! I was trying to be quick and not startle anyone, but I guess I could have framed the shot a little better!

We have a path that M mows for us that goes around the perimeter of the property at the top and bottom and crosses in the middle like a big figure 8. First we go through kind of a wooded area that is near to our close neighbor.

Those neighbors just got a bunch of chickens. Any day now they'll be old enough to start laying and we'll be able to buy cage-free next-door eggs. Sparky was extremely interested in the chickens at first, and we became more conscientious about keeping the gate shut.

The path comes out of the woods when we get to the pond. This is when Sparky usually veers off the path for a dip. You can see a dog's eye view of our walk at

The spider lilies are blooming now, bigger than last year. I'm looking forward to when the clumps get huge and look really showy.

We have lots of altheas (Rose of Sharon) growing all over the yard, and several by the edge of the pond. I love all the different colors...

...but I think this white with the red center is my favorite variety.

I thought these little gingers had been killed by the freeze; they were SO late in emerging from the ground. Now they are blooming and happy with the rain we've had, so I guess they're pretty tough little plants.

I have several red Turk's Caps (Malvaviscus arboreus) and last fall I planted white ones. Isn't the little bloom cute? They do great in the shade which is mostly what we have close to the house. I thought the little white blooms would help light up a wooded area with heavy shade. Hummingbirds and butterflies love the red ones; I haven't noticed them on the white.
I do have some areas with sun but they're further from the house. In one area I've planted mostly wildflowers like these Liatris, commonly called gayfeather.

My very favorite wildflowers are the bluebells. I didn't plant them; they were here. They are kind of persnickety! One year, I think it was 2006, we had 3 fields full. I've never seen anything like it anywhere -- seriously, I think we had the best display in Montgomery County! And ever since -- just a few here and there. I'm hoping some year they will come back like 2006 but I guess it will require the exact right combination of sun and rain at optimum times.

Sparky's not so much into flowers thankfully, but he's always sniffing something! When we get back to the house he likes to drink too much water and slobber on me and then chill on the porch.
This morning I'm leaving for West Texas by way of Austin, Wimberly, and San Angelo. Ann Marie and I will be staying at their cabin in the Davis Mountains, and making side trips to Fort Davis, Marfa, Alpine, and other places of interest. I should have great pics to post when I get back!
I'm leaving my boys here -- hope they can stay out of trouble! Love you M and Sparky!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Studio Time!

After an intense four weeks of teaching summer school (Art Appreciation) I am so ready to get back in the studio! Not that I ever really left, but I didn't have any big blocks of time to spend painting so my forays to the studio were more spririt-refreshing than actually productive.

I've eased back in the past few days, and while I don't have any momentous masterpieces in progress, I thought I'd give you some glimpses of my studio. Then in a few weeks I'll show you some works in progress, or maybe even complete.
When we bought our property my studio was a run-down two-car garage being used as a place to work on engines. Everything was covered with grease and spiderwebs; with only two small windows it was a dark creepy place with insects scuttling about, not to mention the rodents, and the snakes in pursuit of the rodents. Transforming this building into a space that feels so right to me has been a source of great happiness.
The sculpture I see right outside my French doors is by Tedd Pettibon, formerly of Huntsville. It's three red bowling bowls on rebar and I love it!

This is the front door, with Minerva the sentinel standing guard. I went to Frazier's (You haven't been? Omigod -- you have to go!) looking for some kind of statue. I liked Minerva right away, but she's the goddess of war, and I'm SO not into war. I kept trying to find something else, and I kept coming back to her. So, OK, she's a little warlike. To me she's a strong female.

I'm a semi-organized person, overlaid with a veneer of sloppiness. I'll admit -- sometimes, and in some places, that veneer can get pretty thick! I subscribe to the theory that if the studio is totally organized, not much creativity is going on. There's probably no truth to that at all, but it makes me feel a little better about the array of stuff.

I do have quite an array, some of it having nothing to do with artmaking, but things I just like to have around. Actually every single thing is meaningful to me in some way. Before I had my dog Sparky, I had a Westie for fourteen years, my sainted Dinah. That black blob on the right is the sweater she's wearing in the little picture.

My apologies for the poor quality of this photo. I just got a new camera -- a Nikon Coolpix SX70, and I think I love it! All these pictures were taken on the auto-for-dummies setting, and after I get the basics worked out, learning how to deal with different light situations should follow. Above are shown some of my bluebirds, a bit of mosaic backsplash, and my wonderful paulaart vase. (You can see MUCH better photos of her work by clicking on the link!)
Below shows the window on the opposite wall, with a few treasured objects.

The little painting was done by my best bud Ann Marie. It's from a photo of us taken, oh, about a hundred years ago. Actually it was the early 80's that she painted this for me.

Here's a glimpse of another artwork where I am the subject/model, this time by good friend Susie Harrison of Fort Worth, who does amazing work, usually with charcoal, but this one is colored pencil. Not quite as old...from the 90's.

My maiden name is Kraft, and I have quite the collection of anything Kraft! I bet you didn't know there was a Kraft Barbie! Most of this stuff I bought at least ten years ago on ebay.

So, no art to share -- yet! I have images in my head, and a few starts on paper, or I could show you a bunch of old stuff! In five days I'm leaving for a ten day jaunt to West Texas with Ann Marie -- Fort Davis, Marfa, and Alpine, with layovers in Wimberly and San Angelo. Our friend Peggy Nino is teaching in San Angelo, and currently in a show there, so I'm looking forward to catching up with her and seeing new work. I've got this week to work in the studio, and then won't be artmaking while I'm gone (other than taking many photos), but I'm looking forward to being pumped up with West Texas inspiration when I get back!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

House Fire

I've been wanting and not wanting to write this post for more than a week. So here goes. I was working at the antique mall on June 22nd when my best friend Ann Marie called to say "I'm standing in my front yard watching my house burn down!"

Our connection was bad and it wasn't like she wanted to have a long conversation anyway, so we hung up and I hoped that she was exaggerating and that it would be put out soon. If you know me (in person), you probably know Ann Marie and her husband Doug. I've known them for 35 years, and they have been like family over the years. It would be hard to overstate how many times they have "been there" for me. If you know them, you probably know that their house is cram-packed full of stuff -- art, family memoirs, collectibles out the wazoo -- everything from trash to treasure. I wondered what would survive.

Meanwhile the fire truck got there quickly only to find a faulty hydrant, and they had to send for a pumper truck. There were other problems that caused delays -- the floor plan is unusual, and the firemen were having trouble determining exactly how to get to the fire, which had started in the attic.

After awhile other fire departments were called, and you can get an idea from the photo below that many emergency vehicles made it to the scene. (About half of these photos were taken by Guy, Ann Marie's son. Thanks Guy!)

Long story short...much damage. The picture below shows the loft, over the atrium, which is right next to the section of the attic where the fire started. Unfortunately much artwork was stored in the loft, including several of Ann Marie's large mixed media pieces. It hasn't been determined yet how much of the artwork can be cleaned and/or restored.

This shows the loft from the atrium below. You can see that the fire was successfully confined to the upper areas of the house, as these wooden railings weren't destroyed. While the fire damage wasn't extensive, the smoke and water damage was, literally affecting everything in the house.
This slightly different view has the loft at lower right, but also includes the high atrium windows, boarded up by the time I took the picture. The condition of the sheetrock revealed at left is typical all over the house, and what my pictures don't show is that much of the roof is gone. It was boarded up and tarped the first day after the fire, but with all the rain we've had, it hasn't been effective in preventing rain from pouring in.

In the picture below, the center section just above the daylit doorway is another area that was completely open to the outdoors and is boarded up.

Many of the ceilings collapsed, I presume from the huge amounts of water sprayed in on the fire. The floor in Ann Marie's bedroom is pretty typical of what the floors look like throughout the house. What you don't get from a photograph is the strong odor of smoke and wet burned stuff.

I know there are some artists reading this blog, and how heart-breaking would it be if your studio looked like this? The plywood panels cover the opening where sliding glass doors used to be, presumably broken by the firefighters in the course of what they needed to do. The items remaining -- plastic bins, solvents, etc. -- testify to the fact that this room didn't get that hot, but smoke and water were very destructive.

Guy took this photo and I'm not sure which room he was in; possibly Ann Marie's studio. It reminds me again of how much art was damaged or destroyed, not to mention all of her art supplies. As an artist working in mixed media, she had a lot of everything.
Seeing the house from the outside is very deceiving, and I think some neighbors and acquaintances assume that the damage was minimal, after doing a drive-by. Really all that can be noticed is the blue tarp on the roof at upper right. The worst damage was at the back of the house.

Doug and Ann Marie will be moving into a rental near their house by the end of the week and will continue to move forward. You just never know what's going to happen! The lesson is to make a list, take pictures, video your house room by room to be prepared in the event of something like this. The blessing is that no one was hurt -- it truly could have been a lot worse.