Posts tagged Vintage Visions
3 Speed
3 Speed, 16x20 oil on panel

When I was in 4th grade my parents agreed with me that it was time for me to get a bicycle. Walking to my Elementary School gave me lots of time to admire all the cool new stingrays that went by with banana seats and tall swooping handle bars. I couldn't wait to be the proud owner of one, and began to  mull over which color to choose.

It was on the drive to the Schwinn bike store in a neighboring town that I had the chance to describe the bike of my dreams to my dad. He turned to me with a furrowed brow and said "I'm not going to buy you a silly circus bike! We are going to get a fine English 3 Speed that will serve you for decades!" I tried very hard not to let my face express the horror I felt. Not only was I not going to be getting the stingray of my dreams, I was going to have to ride the kind of bike that crotchety old men and that very opionated German widow rode around town.

I smiled wanly as we drove it home. Despite feeling like the wicked witch of the west peddling furiously around town, I defended my fine English 3 Speed fiercely when my friends made fun of it, and indeed it lasted for decades!
Oil Cans
Oil Cans
8x10 oil on panel

I hope you're fortunate enough to still be close with some of your best friends from childhood. I'm blessed in this way, a number of the kids I grew up with are still a part of my life. Sharing decades of experience is simply delightful, and the depth of understanding is beyond belief.

In the mid 60's the tomboy who ruled the neighborhood on the other side of the school yard and I decided to join forces, and we sealed the deal by climbing down a storm drain, pricking our fingers and pressing them together. My blood sister and I have made each other laugh while riding bikes, boards and horses, while confessing hopes and fears, and while exploring new places, lifestyles and fashion choices. We've celebrated countless birthdays, holidays, highs and lows and have stood by one another's side through thick and thin for over 50 years now.

We spent a weekend together on the central coast of California a couple of years ago and talked endlessly while walking the rocky shoreline and poking through antique (junk?) stores. It shouldn't be a surprise that we both fell in love with the same thing in one store, but you have to admit that it's a little unusual that it was a grouping of beat up old oil cans. Yup, our co-mingled blood called out for the very same odd ball stuff!  The cans went home to her place in Santa Ynez, but I borrowed them so I could have a painting of them!

I began by doing a tone drawing in Burnt Sienna oil paint 

After the paint dried I applied the base color for all the objects and the environment. While working to capture the color I try to remain true to the values that I established in the underpainting.  I let this stage dry and then I analyze my decisions and make note of where I want to make changes or corrections. After seeing to them I go in and fine tune all areas and add the finishing details.

The completed painting is at the top of the post.


12x16 oil on panel

When I was growing up the National Geographic came like a bolt out of the blue each month. The photos made clear to me that the world was a very big place that I didn't know the first thing about. The wonder grew when my brother was given a globe for his birthday one year. Although our family was all about maps, seeing the globe gave me, for the first time, a sense of our planet, which implies spinning through space... infinitely more I didn't know about!

My brother and I spent time turning the globe and trying to pronounce the names of all the countries we had never heard of. We were taken by the vast swaths of luminous ocean that had been, for the most part, missing on the maps we had seen.  There was a slight relief to the continents that indicated where vast mountain ranges ran and depressions where camels struggled across punishing deserts. We spent a good amount of time running our hands and eyes over that globe.

Eventually the globe was placed on the top of the book shelf that my brother and I shared. At night I routinely looked up at it as I was going to sleep. Some nights it was a way of avoiding the shadow cast by the bed posts our twin beds that looked  EXACTLY like the boogie man. Other nights I simply looked at the globe and mused on how large the world must be and how tiny mine mine was. I wondered how I would ever get to the Amazon, to see those amazing Indians hunting barefoot in the jungle with blow darts.

Mighty Mixmaster

Might Mixmaster
oil on panel, 12x16

My Vintage series is a fun balance to the Native plants that my most recent blogs have focused on. The Cactus Shadows series had become a bit hallucinogenic, and a few of you expressed concern for my mental, emotional and pharmacological state… I'm OK, and this happy little scene should put you at ease!

One of my dear sister-in-laws and I have a long standing annual date. We spend 1 day each summer at the County Fair. It began when we would take our kids to walk through the barns to see the chickens, goats and pigs and then dutifully sit at the bottom of one spinning ride after another. As the kids grew older, we began to slip into the exhibition halls as they enjoyed the midway. We combed the displays of doll houses made of match sticks, collections of beer cans, astonishingly beautiful woodworking, vests made of pop tops, exquisite quilts and needle point portraits of hamsters. The mix of inspiring next to horrifying is just up our alley. The kids are long gone, but we remain true to our date.

This proud Mixmaster was found in the cooking hall of last year's Orange County fair. Part of a display on a high shelf I loved the grouping, and the sleek power of the Mixmaster. It makes me think of Buicks with tail fins, beehive hair dos and Tang for breakfast.

I covered the panel with a thin coat of Burnt Sienna and then did a quick line drawing of the subject with my paint brush. Next I used paper towels and Q tips to lift the paint in the areas of light, and brushed in additional paint in areas of shadow. When I feel happy with the accuracy of the shapes and values I set the panel aside to dry.

Once the Burnt Sienna has dried I begin laying in the color, keeping true to the values I had established in the original drawing.

Painting the reflective surface of not only the Mixmaster but the corrugated metal behind it was a fun challenge.

The completed painting is at the top of the post. 

Want a Ride?
Want a Ride?
16x20 oil on panel

If you were lucky, you had a red wagon of your own. If you didn't, neighborhoods seemed to have some free floating wagons that you could spot in the driveway of your friend from girl scouts one day and then by the back steps of your brother's friend's house later in the week. When you were eating dinner the rattle of a wagon going by drew you to the window like a giant magnet. Wagons were what made the neighborhood interesting. They  hauled kickballs, last Halloween's candy, the little brother that could never keep up, and all the stuff you needed  for building the fort in the bushes on the other side of the schoolyard. There was always the temptation to ride one down the big hill by your house, but a couple of attempts were all it took to realize that the steering mechanism left a lot to be desired, and that your mom was going to kill you for losing the bottom of your sneakers trying to keep from rocketing out into traffic (such as it was) at the bottom of the hill. The 18 wheeler of childhood, the red wagon rocked.

The Burnt Sienna value study 

The first layer of color

Now I  really slow down. First I double check proportions and relative values and make any adjustments necessary. In this case the lower wheel gave me quite a run for the money. I spent the better part of a day trying to make the changes it needed.  Once I felt that was resolved I began focusing on details.  I try to bring depth and character to the subject at the end by attempting to capture some of the surface texture and adding the nuts, bolts, rust spots and mood that will bring back what it felt like to pull one of these workhorses through the neighborhood.

The finished piece is at the top of the page.

In The Barn II

In The Barn II
12x16 oil on panel

I completed this some time ago, but have been hesitant to photograph it. When painting this image I experimented with a painting different medium that I had read was more healthy to use. Painting mediums are used to thin paint and make it more supple, and since I'm spending so many hours a week now inhaling fumes I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately I found I didn't like the way it performed. It made my paints tacky to the point of being gluey and then dried with a very high shine. I was not sure how to photograph such a reflective surface, but when I finally tried it I found it did not present a problem. I don't care how many brain cells I'm damaging, I decided to return to mixing my own medium, the traditional mix of Turpentine, Varnish and Linseed oil for all future work. So… if you ever witness me struggling to find the word I'm looking for, it's the fault of my painting medium! 

The panel has been covered with a thin coat of
Burnt Sienna and wiped smooth. Then I do a quick line
drawing to place the objects.
Next, I wipe away areas of light and brush in more paint
where I want areas of shadow.
This phase allows me to really think out the composition
and gives me the skeleton on which I will
build the painting.
This is several sessions into adding color. At this point
I tend to become so involved that I rarely remember to
stop and take photos. I begin with bright colors and
moderate them as I work toward the finished piece,
seen here at the top of the page.

Saturday Morning, 1964
Saturday Morning, 1964
12x16 oil on panel

At our house Saturday mornings were spent gardening and doing any needed repairs on the property. The sound of the mower and the smell of cut grass meant that it was the weekend, everyone was home and that order was being established. It was the only time that my very formal father would remove his shirt and be seen in public in his "undershirt". Khaki pants and a pair of wing tips that were too old to wear to the office completed his working uniform. My brother or father pushed the mower and pruned the shrubs, and my mother always picked up and bagged the clippings. I was thrilled when at an early age I was allowed to cross the gender line and make the mower sing and spray my Vans with bright green confetti.
Value study, burnt sienna on panel
I painted over the value study, establishing the colors I planned to work with. Trying to stay true to the values I had established, I worked to capture the vivid quality of my memories. In following sessions I refined the details of the machinery and the colors of my memory. The final piece, at the top of the page, has the feel of the super saturated Kodacolor photos of the time.

Basket of Zippers
A Basket of Zippers
8x10 oil on panel

When a simple basket of zippers caught my eye as I was walking around the Mission District in San Francisco fond memories came flooding back. I realized how unusual it is now to mend existing garments, much less make your own from scratch. Daily life may be easier, but it seems a little light on the pride of ownership that once was a natural part of things.

When I was growing up the women I knew sewed. In Junior High School girls were all required to take Home Economics, which had a large sewing component, and the boys took Shop, where they learned basic wood and metal working. It was generally understood that part of growing up was learning to use tools that would help you fix, maintain and possibly create things.  My mother didn't just sew her own clothes, she periodically reupholstered our furniture, measuring out and creating her own patterns. My friends and I routinely made our own clothes, and enjoyed trips to the fabric store, and discussions of our plans and progress toward the final product. School dances and events always sent us into high gear. I've gone out on a limb here and included a photo from the archives.  

On our way to my High School graduation, my mother and I model the clothes we made for the event.  It appears that she bought a bit more fabric than I did! After choosing the pattern, selecting and purchasing the fabric, laying it out on the carpet and cutting, pinning, sewing, pressing and fitting the garment we hand finished the  hems. It gave a woman a different kind of pride in what she wore!

8x10 oil on Panel

These sturdy, well used old French Binoculars caught my eye. They hung quietly on a rough wall, against a broad leather cinch strap. Were they used for hunting, bird watching or were they a tool of the French Resistance, at the bottom of the basket of long loaves on the back of the bicycle the solid baker's wife peddled around the country side? The years of wear, whatever it may have been, only made them more beautiful.

The tonal drawing, done in Burnt Sienna on a gessoed panel

The first day of working in color on the image I lay in the broad areas of color with as much accuracy as I can. The following days will be spent on details on top of this layer, refining the color and shape of the work done on this day.  

In The Shed
In The Shed, a 12x16 oil on panel I finished yesterday.
String, who doesn't love it? How many purposes does it serve, and how long does a spool of it last? Every household develops a collection of various weights needed for different projects, and they sit together nobly waiting on a shelf in a shed or a garage to be called to duty.  Mending, wrapping, fixing. It occurred to me while painting this that you might be able to judge the stability of a family by their string, twine and rope collection. A wide variety represents not only many years together, but an active effort to care for, maintain and improve things.  I inherited a few spools of my father's collection that now nestle in with the collection we had developed, all destined, I'm sure, for some shelf in our children's future homes.
I started by covering my panel with a thin coat of Burnt Sienna and then doing a line drawing using my brush. Once I felt that I had the objects properly placed I differentiated the tones by lifting out the light areas, and stroking in a little more Burnt Sienna in the darkest areas. This helps me see the value pattern and will give me  a structure of values to abide by as I develop the color.
This is part way through my first day of working with color. The first step is to get  the average of  each color, abiding by the light and dark pattern I established in my tonal sketch.

Here I have completed getting the basic colors down and I begin refining. I  look at how the light hits each object and develop it's light and shadow, and the overall relationships of color and value.
Then comes hours and hours of detail. I begin to introduce the tiny paterns created by the way the string is wound on the spool or ball, darken the back wall and the shadows cast on it by the uprights in the shed,  and continue to become more accurate with the local color of the objects.
 I stand back and look look the overall. The final step is to make last minute adjustments ( I realized that after all the hours of looking at this, the tall white spool was too narrow at the top, and leaning in a Tower of Pisa kind of way)  I tone down the blue of the basin, thicken and darken the knotted rope on the right, and eventually find myself making such small adjustments that I realize that I'm done.
In The Barn

 I found these well worn, stacked galvanized buckets on the floor of a big barn. The doors were thrown open and the late afternoon light bounced off the concrete floor and illuminated these old work horses as if they were devotional objects. The notion of all the loads they'd carried, the powerful hands that had clutched their handles and the velvety soft muzzles that had carefully found every oat within them made me smile. I think I might have heard the angels sing.

Here are the first two steps I took in making the painting. I covered the panel with a layer of Burnt Sienna and then did a line drawing with my brush to place the objects. I then wiped the paint off the panel where I wanted to place light tones, and brushed in more Burnt Sienna in the areas I wanted dark. This helps me to place the objects and make sure it is a composition that I think is interesting.

After this initial decision making I got so caught up in the painting that I NEVER ONCE remembered to pick up the camera in the many days that followed. Suffice it to say that it was an epic battle between light and dark, warm and cool, hard edges and soft and painting time and sleeping time. I can only hope that all the right forces won out.
Seltzer Bottles

I am getting back to my art life after taking some time to focus on family matters, and boy does it feel good!

Here is a 12x16 in my Vintage Visions series. I stumbled on this box of beautiful old seltzer bottles in a big old barn of a building. They caught the light pouring through the door and glowed like jewels. Their beautiful green glass varied slightly from bottle to bottle as did the mechanisms at their top. Minor differences pointing to the fact that they were manufactured in a less industrial era. I envisioned local workshops essentially hand making small batch products. I smiled when I thought of what the workshops must have looked and felt like. Being a maker, I am always drawn to environments where something is being produced. My smile broadened when I thought of the elegant settings the bottles spent most of their career, sitting on polished bars putting the sparkel into countless festive evenings.
How could you not love these gems?

And now for something quite different… a painting from my series "Vintage Visions" which celebrates the artifacts that remind me of the huge cultural and industrial changes we've experienced within my lifetime.

 I found this bucket of old wooden spools on the concrete floor of an antique store. Sunlight poured  over the worn wooden forms from an open barn door... remember those? Although these were "standardized" parts, they had been made individually, and were subtly different from one another in size, patina and painted details. I loved the sculptural quality of the composition, the vision of the past it offered, and the echoes I heard of all the hands involved in crafting layers and layers of the necessary parts needed to produce the items we now take for granted.
In The Stacks

This 8x10 was inspired by our daughter's first set of finals after having left home for college… on the FAR side of the continent. I was unable to help her in any way, precisely like in her high school studies when we all lived under the same roof. I sent her good thoughts as I painted and reflected on the pursuit of knowledge is a constant force of good, for both individuals and societies. The reward worth the effort generation after generation.