Make Art For Your House

Last winter while lounging in the boring sunshine of Sun City West, I got the notion that it was time to do something I have never tried before. I painted a picture on canvas. I do well with pencil, and I have even worked in charcoal. My favorite medium is color pencil although I limit that to book illustrations. The only formal training I ever received  came from the nuns in grammar school. I took drawing class at a local Junior college, but I was already beyond what they taught me. The benefit of going to school came from doing pictures for assignments. The practice helped tremendously. The only schooling I had for working with paints came from watching an artist on Public Television do paint projects where the teacher did a complete landscape in a thirty minute time slot.

The engineer in me prescribed the method I used to make this painting. First, I have very little creativity to draw something from scratch. My brain does not work that way. I received a beautiful photograph of a cactus flower from a cousin by eMail. This would be my masterpiece. I’ll take you through the steps I used to paint an 18 x 24 canvas.

1. Make a hard copy print of the subject photo.

Photo printed from email

Photo printed from email

2 Draw a 1×1 grid on the hard copy print with pencil.

Draw a 1x1 grid on the hardcopy photo with pencil

Draw a 1×1 grid on the hardcopy photo with pencil

3. Start with a fresh canvas of any size. This description uses a 18 by 24.

Blank 18 x 24 canvas from Michael's

Blank 18 x 24 canvas from Michael’s

4. Add a grid that is square and proportional, i.e. the number of squares on the canvas equals the number on your photo. To make things less stressful, number the grid lines across left to right on both the photo and the canvas. Use letters to id the lines from top to bottom.

Canvas with grid penciled in

Canvas with grid penciled in

5. Begin transferring the picture to the canvas by marking where the subject crosses the grid lines. For instance, say your starting point on the photo crosses the grid at 4-c. make a point on the canvas at 4-c. Repeat this process until you have the subject shaped with dots on the canvas. Connect the dots lightly with pencil to make the subject appear on the canvas.

The pencil image of the subject is on the canvas, The photo is on the upper left to show the scale.

The pencil image of the subject is on the canvas, The photo is on the upper right to show the scale.

6. Continue the placing of dots until the entire subject is on canvas in dots. Connect the dots lightly with pencil to make the full image appear on the canvas.

The completed pencil image of the subject ready for paint.

The completed pencil image of the subject ready for paint.

7. Begin painting. I used acrylic paints because I don’t have patience to wait for oil to dry, and I like a water clean-up. The hardest thing to do is to match the colors. I always begin with a dab of white and add a color to it. In this case I added a tiny dab of red color into the white and mixed it completely with a popsicle stick. I continued adding red in ever so small amounts until I matched the lightest pink in the photo.

The first layer of pink. I chose the lightest color in the photo knowing that I could add darker hues over the light color easier than adding a light color over a darker one.

The first layer of pink. I chose the lightest color in the photo knowing that I could add darker hues over the light color easier than adding a light color over a darker one.

8. Continue adding colors.

The painting is about sixty percent complete at this point.

The painting is about sixty percent complete at this point.

9. Fill in areas to define the image. In this case I filled the area around the flowers with a grey that is in the background. This defined the petals and gave me a base to work the backdrop. Notice how the grey fill made the flowers pop.

The flower petals are ringed with grey. A serious painter might have begun by painting the entire canvas grey.

The flower petals are ringed with grey. A serious painter might have begun by painting the entire canvas grey.

10. Complete the painting by adding more to the background to make the grey blend in. Add more detail to the yellow stamen, and highlight dark areas to give the image depth.

Notice how the background has filled in closer to the flower petals, but the grey is still too apparent.

Notice how the background has filled in closer to the flower petals, but the grey is still too apparent.

11. Finished painting next to the starting photograph.

Pink Cactus Flowers, completed

Pink Cactus Flowers, completed

I did this on my kitchen counter top using a piece of cardboard for my paint palette. I bought a set of brushes, and a starter set of acrylic paints with a portable easel to hold the work. I spent less than fifty dollars for the set up, but have enough paint to do several more pictures.  I never painted for more than two hours at a time, and I completed the piece in about a week and a half. Will I ever become rich painting pictures? Nope, not a chance. I have a deeper appreciation of art now that I completed this project. I understand why art is so expensive, and also why the term “starving artist,” defines most people who sell their art. Today, there is a modern technique to make a picture faster, and with less effort. I could have taken the electronic image to Staples, and had them print the picture on canvas, and mount it for about a hundred dollars.

Pink Cactus Flower now hangs in my Great Room where I can enjoy seeing it everyday.

 

 

 

 

 

Murder on Christmas Eve

There is always something extra to do on Christmas Eve. For instance, this year I published books for the three youngest grand children. They have sat on my desk for a month, but here I was at the last-minute rushing to wrap them. To get some work space I disappeared to my workshop in the basement. There I would have the space, materials, tools, and desire needed to wrap the gifts in solitude. The job took all of fifteen minutes, and I had peace knowing it was done. It was time to clean up, and to put the paper back in the pantry. Upon returning, I noticed a funny black rope like thing on the floor just five feet from where I stood wrapping. A closer look revealed the rope was alive. Oh S__t! ISIS has invaded Frankfort  (Illinois Snake Inside Shop).

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This is the fourth time in nine years I have had to deal with one inside. Each time it is in the winter, it is in the basement, and each time it rattles me. The previous three times the snakes were small, only about a foot long and the diameter of a pencil. This time the damn thing was two feet long and much bigger in girth. It was also much scarier. I am still in a quandary about how they get in. One theory is that they enter from the sump pump water storage hole. In the midwest we place a large plastic pipe filled with holes around the perimeter of the house foundation. It allows ground water to seep into the sump instead of seeping into the basement. There is a pump in the hole which lifts the water out into the yard away from the house. I envision the garter snake using this pipe system as a winter den and following the water into the sump. We had a heavy rain two days earlier and most likely the snake washed into the hole. At least, that is one plausible explanation.

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My mind raced with solutions for getting the snake out of the house, and also from my mind. I recalled a story from my book Jun-e-or(available from Amazon in eBook format). I wrote a vignette titled “Scream” in which I describe my mother’s dislike for snakes, and how she dealt with them.

I made a quick trip to my tool box to find a weapon, and stealthily walked back to the slithery creature from behind. There was no way I wanted to scare this thing into some dark recess of scrap woodpiles scattered about my shop. I had visions of picking a piece of wood for a project and uncovering a mass of twisted yellow striped squirming bodies in a hibernaculum. The image of my mom’s method for dealing with a serpent played wildly in my mind, and in a second it was over. I used my putty knife to decapitate the poor thing. I walked away filled with pangs of guilt thinking I murdered one of God’s creatures on Christmas Eve.

By the time I got a dust pan and a bench brush to sweep the corpse up, he was coiled on his back exposing his under belly, a pool of blood oozed from his body, his head joined by a sliver of skin. It took a quick brush onto the pan and a dump into a plastic bag. I walked upstairs past Peg sitting on the couch reading. She looked up and said “what have you got in the bag?”

“Just a last minute gift for the kids,” I said. I took it immediately to the trash can in the garage and disposed the evidence.

 

A Haul Ass Cadillac

I often wondered how long it would be before hot rodders ran out of the old classic cars to soup up, and the cars of the sixties would become new fodder for them. It has happened. Muscle cars are the new rage and some of them are pretty nice. My cousin sent me a video of one which I totally fell in love with. First, because I love the car design and always did, but also because this car truly befits the muscle car category. When a hot rodder packs six hundred horsepower into a car, it should not be a teensy little Ford Falcon. That vision is not befitting the term muscle care. When he puts the same engine into a big ass Cadillac the motor befits the ride.

Take One Off the Bucket List

Some projects take long than others. As an example I built a work bench for my shop in 1992. The bench is the first project I built with my new Craftsman table saw. At the time my favorite can’t get enough, watch everyday TV program was The New Yankee Workshop on PBS, channel WTTW. The host was Master Carpenter Norm Abram. I bought his book and fell in love with the workbench. It was a good learning exercise for the new saw, and it developed my carpentry skills as well. There is one tiny detail I left out. It is the tiny detail I left out. The workbench included a unique built-in flush wood workers vise. I built the jaw part, but didn’t buy the screw mechanism for another three years. When I finally got the screw at a cost of nearly $100, it was too long for the bench. Oh well, someday, I’ll have it cut down and make it fit perfectly. The screw sat for another seventeen years until my oldest son asked me what I wanted for my birthday. “You know, what I really want is for you to take my vise screw and talk one of your machinist friends into customizing it.” Mind you, I worked in a place with ninety-three tool makers under my supervision and I couldn’t bring myself to ask one of them for the favor. That would be showing bad example. How would it look if the boss conveniently asked the company machinists to work on his G-jobs?

My son graciously said “Sure Dad.” I gave him the screw never expecting to see it again. After all he is a busy father with young boys who demand his attention and time too. The screw didn’t get here for my birthday last year, but it did show up for Father’s day this year.

The screw disappeared again, this time for three-months in my workshop. For the last month I have searched for the dang thing so I could finish the job. Then last night I saw the screw in a dream. It sat on top of my surplus TV in the basement out of harms way. The problem being that the TV was now so covered with stuff that make up all workshops that the screw became invisible. For that matter the TV was invisible too.

This morning I got up at my usual time fully expecting to get to the shop early to put my hand on that screw and to install the last piece of a twenty plus year old project. Wrong! Grandma Peggy had an agenda. Rather than piss her off I said to myself why not surprise her and take her on the rounds early, then go to the shop. And that my friends is what finally clicked. She hasn’t bothered me once all day long. I had two hours of fun installing this screw to the sliding block that is the vise jaw.

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The large black crescent at the bottom of the picure is my belly sucked in as far as it will go. It is still not far enough.

 

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Note, the many scars on the bench surface. This bench has been used extensively for twenty years.

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I lied, the bench is still not 100% complete. A wooden handle must be installed on the end of the screw. I promise the handle will be added this year.

Secret Places Where Features Hide

Each year I try to make my garden different. Even though there are elements that cannot change easily like a pond, hard-scaping, and all the perennials. There is however, plenty of opportunity to paint a picture in the blank spaces using different colors and plant materials. This year one of my goals was to plant a garden that would deter rabbits. I think I succeeded, that is the rabbits have given me the impression that I have succeeded. The episodes of Wabbit Wars have been sparse because the Wabbits have not been able to get to me as often.

My color palette is yellow and orange. I elected different varieties of Marigolds and sought out other species of yellow flowers to mix in like the gold Celosia, Lysimachia, Lantana, Marguerite Daisy, and Orange Joy Asiatic lily.  Close planting and weekly foliar fertilization helped the plants spread out and finally fill in the canvas. A seven minute video of the same plants would be terribly boring, so I decided to add some interest with winter scenes and an escape to the desert while I waited for Spring to arrive.

Yesterday, I posted a trailer using a new version of iMovie. It was my training session on how to use this new version of a program I was very comfortable with. The new version made posting on YouTube easier, but I felt it harder to compose the movie. There are so many short cuts built into this version that I had trouble doing things that make a movie a movie. The older version is more oriented to real movie makers. This new version targets a person interested in speed. I am sure all the features of the old version are in this new one, but I’m too old to want to spend all that time looking for the drop downs and secret places where features hide. In that regard, iMovie is a lot like Windows, it is the same stuff reorganized to make it look new and to make you work to find things. In a way, iMovie 10.0.4 is like my garden, it has many exciting things to see, but one must explore to find them.

Personal guided tours of the garden are available upon request. My favorite time to give a tour is between January and March, I spend less time touring and more time imbibing.

Please enjoy my garden called “The 2014-Monet Vision, Golden Glow”

A

 

More Capable of Picking Up Fast Women

Finally, I got to see some really old cars, some of them older than me. What really surprised me Saturday were two Buick’s one year apart which were identical models. Both were immaculately restored to perfection. Sadly, the show was so well attended that getting great pictures was nearly impossible, but I tried nonetheless.

The seventy-five year old Buick convertible with twin side mount spare tires has a rumble seat and straight eight engine producing 140 HP. Owner Gordy bragged about how his car would get to 110 mph in eleven seconds. That is impressive for a heavy pile of metal. Gordy’s Century is the same age as me, but in better physical condition, and more capable of picking up fast women.

1938 Buick Century Convertible Coupe, one of 500 produced.

1938 Buick Century Convertible Coupe, one of 500 produced.

 

1939 Buick Century Convertible Coupe

1939 Buick Century Convertible Coupe

Oh yes, there were a few other cars at the show too. The cutest was the Pepto Bismol pink Studebaker with it companion pink golf cart.

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The Best Looking Golf Cart I’ve Seen

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The car that really got my juices flowing is a highly modified 1937 Ford convertible coupé done in gold. This car looks better than most 2014 models of today. I would take it in a second.

I am in love with this one

I am in love with this one

 

The rest of the show worth looking at.

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Amazing Glass

In 2001 my Garden Club introduced me to a show at the Garfield Park Observatory in Chicago.  Artist Dale Chihuly made special pieces to place strategically throughout the tropical room of the hundred year old observatory. As president of the club I suggested we visit as a group and see what this was all about. It would be a two-fer. One, we would visit the worlds largest indoor garden, and two, we would see some amazing glass works.

Four carloads of anxious gardeners drove into Chicago’s war zone to make the visit, none of us were sorry. In January, as Peggy and I approached Phoenix from the south on the I-10, I spotted a billboard titled Chihuly in the Garden. This image settled in a working bit of brain matter within my cranium and stuck. In the last six weeks I learned that the garden referred to is the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Our field trip this week took us there to see what the amazing Dale Chihuly produced. We were not sorry, but thirteen years has passed since my last viewing of his work and the amount of energy required to see all of this exhibit took its toll on us. We came home and crashed.

The Desert Botanical Garden is not new to Peg and I. In years past we toured there to see how desert plant materials look when arranged artistically. Looking at cactus and the myriad of water starved plants that thrive au-naturel in heat gives a scuzzy appearance. The same plants in a garden environment are absolutely beautiful. I will not say much more and let my photos tell the story.

We visited on a dreary late winter day with a thick grey cloud cover. It held the heat down but threw off my pictures. After seeing them, I decided I should have used a setting for a snowy day instead of the standard landscape setting. The photos are acceptable, not great.

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