Spinning Plates

I’ve been thrilled by the fact that in the past few weeks I’ve become much more regular in my painting.  However, as we all know, the holiday Christmas season is upon us, which means major disruptions in my routine, which I tend to resent.  My older son is home from college, and my younger one is off school.  One of the stress factors of Christmas is that I have tended to get swept away by it, and have sacrificed my art during this time.  This is exacerbated by the extra expectations from a dysfunctional family of origin.  This year, I’m not going to stop doing art just because it’s a holiday season.



It is a real challenge to balance family needs with my need to create.  Today, I thought I would bake some pumpkin bread.  It took me a lot longer than I thought it would, mainly due to baking time, because  I made a double batch.  I finally got that done, and my sons said something to me about taking them to the new Star Wars movie today.  I told them they could go together, and I would stay home.  I really dislike going out on cold, dark winter nights, and I’m not a big fan of sci-fi movies anyway.  There just seem to be a million small tasks that go along with family, pet, and home ownership, which seems to usurp so much of my time.  I have gotten my sons to help with a lot of this stuff, including cooking, cleaning house, and doing dishes, but the lion’s share still falls on me.  Take out the trash, clean the cats’ litter box, sweep the excess salt off the back deck so it doesn’t all get tracked in the house, wash dishes, prepare a meal – these are just a small subset of all the tasks I do.  Finally, I grab a fast meal at a local Chinese takout and deal with my son texting me demanding to know when I will be home so he can use the car.


However, I also feel blessed by the fact that I’m available to my kids, and hence able to enjoy the impromptu conversation I had with my college son Jonathan before lunch, enjoy the savor of baking pumpkin bread wafting through the house, and walk out of the house and enjoy the sunshine for a little bit.

The good news is, I’ve finally gotten done with all these chores, and am now about to sit down and refine some pastel paintings that I started en plein air.

The secret for me, is not completely giving away all of my time and myself.  I give a lot to my family, but I also say “no” to them sometimes, so I can have some space for myself and my art.  That way, I’m a happier and less uptight and less resentful person, which makes me happier, and is healthier for them.

Now I’m off to go do some art!  (My son’s just called up to me to let me know I received a package…… it can wait!)

I think it’s time to let some of the spinning plates fall to the ground.

Last Holdout

We had a nice prolonged autumn this year, due to mild temperatures.  I painted this en plein air at the very end of November here in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.  This is in the Holly Hills area, which is a beautiful part of south St. Louis.  Fall is my favorite time of the year.  A week prior, I had run into a fellow artist Henryk Ptasiewicz painting this very scene in oils.  He inspired me so much, as did this beautiful maple tree, that I came back and painted it myself the following week.  He also got me connected to Jane Flanders, who is now my painting buddy.  I’m glad I painted while I had the chance, because now, it is 6 degrees F, and very much winter.

Last Holdout, pastel on pastel board, 10.5″ x 15.5″

Autumn Mist

I just finished this painting a few minutes ago.  I used a photo as a reference for this.  My usual style is high key, colorful painting.  My goal in this particular piece was to loosen up a bit, and paint somewhat more softly.  I love how the violets and blues in the mists contrast with the golds, yellows, and reds in this.

My palette consisted of zinc/titanium white, cadmium lemon, cadmium yellow deep, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, purple lake, indigo, and terre verte, and burnt umber.  (I don’t care much for terre verte, but I wanted to use it up).  I mixed indigo with burnt umber to make my dark.

Fall is my favorite time of year.  We had an especially spectacular one this year here in Missouri.  It was extended due to warmer than usual weather.

Autumn Mists, oil on canvas panel, 12″ x 16″

Getting Back Into Plein Air Painting

I just met a woman who is also a painter, and she lives only about a mile away.  We have gone painting a couple of times, and having a painting buddy is very motivating to get me painting more regularly.

For the past several years, I had gotten more in the habit of studio painting, and was doing little painting on location.  However,  I need the challenge of painting a scene on the spot, and knowing that I have to get it down quickly, because the light changes so fast.

Jane and I painted in south St Louis at the corner of Loughborough and Field.  There is a quaint old brick house at the corner, with some whimsical trees, and stepping stones laid around.  I think these types of properties are so much more pretty and interesting that a perfectly manicured new home with that sterile, plastic look to it.  I love the weathered, irregular look.  It tells a story, and I can feel the history that happened here.

So I was very drawn to the two trees with the colorful autumn leaves still clinging to them, even into December, since we’ve had such a mild autumn.  I love the contrast between the bright colors of the leaves with the bluish grayness of the neighbor’s house behind it.  I also like the contrast of the straight lines of the houses with the sinuous, twisting lines of the trees that almost seem to be dancing.

To be honest, I had a hard time with this painting.  My heavy, bulky coat managed to knock one of my pastel trays onto the ground, spilling them all over.  I also didn’t simplify the scene at first, and tried to include too many elements.  I messed up the sky, and had to remove it, and redo it.  I tried to soften the pastel marks of the left tree, and ended up with a muddy mess. At one point, I was so frustrated I considering giving up on it.  Thankfully, I calmed myself down, and just went on trying to rescue it.  It came out better than I anticipated.  Here is the listing in my online store.

Last Holdouts, pastel, 15 1/2″ x 10 1/2″