It’s not work if you’re having fun

This is where the magic happens. The easel for oil painting. The flat table for watercolor and some drawing. Everything I need within a hand’s reach.

I think people who are creative are the luckiest people on earth. I know that there are no shortcuts, but you must keep your faith in something greater than you,and keep doing what you love. Do what you love, and you will find the way to get it out to the world.” — Judy Collins

My husband will often call me in from my studio for dinner. I’m busy.  I’m right in the middle of something, I respond.  Or my brother will quip that I haven’t really retired but have just found another job.  Yes, I agree.

When I go out to my studio, a commute of about 30 feet, I am lost to the world.  Music or recorded books.  Ideas abound.  Running out of something to paint or express is totally foreign to me.

This does not mean that there are not challenges or some labor involved.  I spent several days recently cleaning my studio.  Let me be frank. Artists are pack rats.  We can always think of something we can do with the flotsam and jetsam in the creative space.  This could be useful.  Maybe I’ll need this some day.  Really!  But, there comes a time to clean and to toss.

I have spent plenty of time at the burn barrel…mostly with few regrets. Occasionally I think of something that I’ve gotten rid of and wish I had saved but it was probably for the best.

And then there is the business side of art.  Following up on e-mails and phone calls.  Scheduling exhibits and competitions.  Ordering supplies.  Keeping up with the money…or lack thereof.  Successful artists really pay attention to these details.

But, this isn’t anything at all like writing a fifty page grant application (or final grant report). Or next year’s budget. Or a formal business plan for a new venture just because the powers that be never thought you could.  (They were impressed.  And someone else ran off with the business plan. Pfftt.)

So, yes, I’m retired and have a steady income stream.  That is always a relief.  But the more important thing is that I just get to do what I want with my time.  And I want  to create art.  That’s enough.  It’s not work.

“There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?” — Warren Buffet

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Homage to a dead bird

Dead bird, wood thrush, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 14, Kit Miracle

There’s something about birds.

When I’m sitting on the patio in the evening, watching the night fall, listening to the sounds of life wind down, or in some cases, just change from day to night, I love to try to identify the birdsong.  Watch the various birds – robins, blue jays, wrens, the lovely mourning doves.  I love how the birds have adopted our territory as their territory.  We have so many kinds of birds.  Cardinals, goldfinches, bluebirds, owls,  even the dratted starlings in the gutters.

So the other night we found this lovely brown thrush on the ground.  Apparently he’d broken his neck on a window on the greenhouse.  So sad.  Although the cycles of life and death are a given here in the country, each little animal has a pull for me.

I decided to capture this bird in a memorial drawing, watercolor with pen and ink.  Taking the time to capture his tiny but strong feet.  Thinking of them clinging to a twig in the winter.  And admiring the bib of spotted feathers.  His long black beak.

Although his heart beats no more, he shall live on in this small painting.

That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over, lest you should think he never could recapture the first fine careless rapture!

Robert Browning

Racing spring

About a month ago, here in southern Indiana, we had a white out blizzard.  The snow was coming down sideways, windy, and it stuck to everything.  Very beautiful but frankly, everyone I know around here was pretty darn tired of winter.

White Iris, dark blue background, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Then the past six weeks, we’ve had spring shoving in on us with summer not far behind.  Record high temperatures.  This pushes and squeezes all the flowers in the garden.  I have been hurriedly trying to capture my favorite flowers before they’re gone!

Purple and yellow iris, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 6.5, Kit Miracle

I have several varieties of irises which are always so beautiful to me, from the tall, stately white iris, to the delicate light purple iris.  Some were here when we bought the property.  Some I traded with friends.  They all smell delicious.

Light purple iris, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 6.5, Kit Miracle

The problem with painting in the heat, even in the speedy medium of watercolor and pen and ink, is that the flowers change so rapidly.  I’ll do a painting in the afternoon, then go back to the studio after dinner to discover the elegant iris I painted earlier has crumpled in upon itself.  This is speed painting at its most challenging.

White Iris, light blue background, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

These will be on my Etsy shop in a day or two, if you’re interested.

Remembering Joan

Behind all your stories is your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins.

Mitch Albom  For One More Day

My beautiful mother Joan at age 25.

I always thought my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world.  I knew she was.  She didn’t look or talk or act like any of my friends’ mothers.

She was exotic with her dark eyes and British accent.  The way she ran the household would put June Clever to shame.  No, mom didn’t iron in pearls but the house was European tidy and organized. She always made sure that she looked lovely when dad came home.  Dinner was always on the table and there was always, always dessert.  Yummmm.

She had a spine of steel and a devil-may-care attitude.  I guess that after enduring bombs dropping on your neighborhood for several years, everything else is a trifle.

She was quick to laugh.  Not afraid to shed some tears.  Ready to cuddle an upset child with warmth and soft there there nows.

A sweet little kiss from me to you.

Yes, we had our disagreements as any mother and daughter will.  She was never afraid to voice her opinion but was also willing to overlook some of my ignorant decisions, too.  Oh, well, I got smarter.  Maybe we both did.

Even in her final days of illness she was able to find a joke to make us both laugh.  Boy, what dignity!  What an example.

I miss my mom and wish she could see what what I’m doing these days.  I  can only hope to pass along some of her values to my children and grandchildren.  I think she’d be pleased.

Taking a walk with my mother in the park.

No one worries about you like your mother, and when she is gone, the world seems unsafe, things that happen unwieldy. You cannot turn to her anymore, and it changes your life forever. There is no one on earth who knew you from the day you were born; who knew why you cried, or when you’d had enough food; who knew exactly what to say when you were hurting; and who encouraged you to grow a good heart. When that layer goes, whatever is left of your childhood goes with her.

―Adriana Trigiani, Big Stone Gap

More spring flowers

Spring bouquet of azaleas and bridal veil bush, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 14, Kit Miracle

The flowers keep coming and I just can’t seem to paint them quickly enough.  The past week I’ve been working exclusively in watercolor with pen and ink. This allows me to loosely capture the beauty of the flowers but add detail with the pen and ink.

Red Azaleas, watercolor, pen and ink, 4.5 x 6.5, matted to 8 x 10, Kit Miracle

I always sketch the flower arrangement first, then add the watercolor.  When that is completely dried, I add the details with a Platinum pen and carbon ink cartridge.  Sometimes I still use the dip quill with India ink. I can even use a plastic eraser to remove some of the pencil lines without disturbing the painting.

Lavender Azaleas with Ruffled Edges, watercolor, pen and ink, 6.5 x 4.5, matted to 10 x 8, Kit Miracle

These paintings are usually done on quarter sheet watercolor paper, 140 pound, Arches or another quality paper.  They are 10 x 14 inches with a ½ inch border or I divide the paper into four sections.  The smaller paintings are matted in museum grade soft white mats of 8 x 10 inches with a foam core backing.

Blue Phlox, watercolor, pen and ink, 4.5 x 6.5, matted to 8 x 10, Kit Miracle

Flowers this week include a branch of dogwood, an arrangement of some lovely salmon-color azaleas with fronds of bridal veil.  Smaller paintings include Greek Valerian, Blue Phlox, more varieties of azaleas and whatever else I find blooming.  The season is often so short that I can’t capture everything I want to paint but I give it a good try.

Branch of Dogwood, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 14, Kit Miracle

Branch of dogwood flowers for painting

Spring flowers. This is a selection of flowers that I painted recently. I’ve picked up the little vases over the years at resale shops, and even our farm dump. Everything is useful.

View the details of these paintings on either of my Etsy shops.  KitMiracleArt or My90Acres.

Plein air painting on a lovely spring day

I went plein air painting with my friend Bill Whorrall this week up in beautiful Martin County, Indiana.  There is just a small window between the dreariest of winter and the veredant summer.  This time of year the landscape sports so many different shades of greens, as well as the beautiful red-bud, dogwood and other spring flowers. I wanted to capture the scene before it was gone.

Plein air painting in Martin County, Indiana. The Overlook in Shoals.

This day we painted at The Overlook in Shoals, Indiana.  The scenery is gorgeous any time of year but especially now with the freshly tilled fields.  The river you see there is the White River which can sometimes be pretty angry.  Now you can see it as the peaceful water highway it once was.

The painting is acrylic on hardwood which has been gessoed and sanded.  I chose the longer format as it seemed to fit the landscape.

I only had a couple of hours to get most of the painting down before the sun had moved.  A few final tweaks were done in the studio.  Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted all of my photos for the day so this is the only one available from my Facebook page.

Yes, the painting is for sale on my Etsy shop, KitMiracleArt.

The Overlook in Shoals, Indiana. Martin County. Acrylic on wood panel,12 x 24, Kit Miracle, Spring landscape.

Spring Flower Explosion

Columbine, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

After a roller coaster ride of weather conditions the past two months – we had 80 degrees on one day and blizzard-like conditions the next – it seems as if spring is finally here…with a vengeance.  Suddenly, all the spring flowers are blooming.  A quick walk around the grounds reveals spring beauties, violets, irises, bluebells, azaleas, columbine, sweet William,  the end of the daffodils and narcissus, lilacs and more that I’m sure I’ve overlooked. Oh, of course, the fruit trees are all in bloom, too.

And I’m trying to paint them all!

Violets, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Here are three samples of yesterday’s work, all done in watercolor with pen and ink overlay.  For efficiency, I use a quarter sheet of watercolor paper (about 11 x 15 inches), divide it into four boxes of 4 ½ by 6 ½ with margins between and surrounding.  I tape the whole thing onto a board and then hand sketch each subject.  This is the same technique that I use for the fruit and vegetable paintings.  I have been using this method for about 30 years and it works for me.

Columbine, demo, working on four paintings at once.

Then I paint each sketch with watercolor.  The tape around the edge is enough to keep the heavy paper from buckling.  When the paint is completely dry, I then add an overlay of India or carbon ink.  I like my Platinum pen with the cartridges, but my first love is a quill #104 with India ink.  As you can see in the photos, each painting is slightly different although the subjects are the same.

Blue Bells, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Today’s sample of flowers for painting. Violets, blue bells, columbine.

The little paintings are matted in museum-grade off-white mat with a foam core backing.  Yes, they’re for sale on my Etsy shop, my90acres.  Mother’s Day is coming.  Get a 20% discount on everything in the shop until May 13th.

Low carb pizza

Low carb pizza

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, then you saw the recipe for the crusty artisan bread that I posted earlier.  My husband loves to make bread of all types, white, whole grain and multigrain.  Unfortunately, all this bread has consequences.  His doctor advised him last year to cut back on the carbs.  Drat!  No bread. No pizza.  Bah!

So I came up with this low carb version of pizza last year which is made from, yes, cauliflower.  Let me just preface this by saying, although we LOVE vegetables in this house, I doubt that a cauliflower has ever crossed our threshold since we’ve lived here…30+ years.  Blech.  A white vegetable that isn’t potatoes?  No way.

However, we are open-minded people so I did some research and this is what I came up with.  No, it does not taste like cauliflower…at all!  Yes, it does taste like yummy pizza.  If you’re watching your carbs, give this recipe a try.  You might like to make two crusts if you’re going to the trouble.  You’ll want to repeat this again.

Ingredients:

  • One large head of cauliflower
  • One egg
  • Goat cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Decorations for the actual pizza, your choice– your favorite sauce, herbs and spices, peppers, onions, olives, garlic, sausage, pepperoni, veggie crumbles, cheeses (Romano, mozzarella, etc.)

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven 425 degrees
  2. Cut up cauliflower into same size flourettes

    Cauliflower flourettes

  3. Add ½ c water, cover with plastic wrap with one side open to let out steam, and steam in microwave until medium soft, about 15 minutes. You may need to stir these every five minutes or so.  It shouldn’t be mushy but just al dente.
  4. Run through food processor until just riced, (not mashed). You may have to do this in batches.

    Steamed flourettes after ricing in food processor, about 20 seconds

  5. Place riced cauliflower in clean, dry kitchen towel, stir a bit to let cool, then squeeze ALL the water out that you can. The more you squeeze, the crustier your pizza crust will be.

    Riced, steamed cauliflower in clean, dry towel before squeezing

    Squeezing out moisture from the steamed, riced cauliflowe

    Riced, steamed cauliflower after squeezing moisture out.

  6. Add egg, goat cheese, salt and pepper and stir.
  7. Press onto parchment-lined pan. You want about ¼ inch with a little higher crust on the edges.

    Cauliflower Pizza crust, baked

  8. Bake 20-25 minutes or until browned on the edges.
  9. Decorate pizza as usual with your favorite toppings.
  10. Lower temp of oven to 375 and bake for another 20-25 minutes until it looks like a pizza.
  11. Cauliflower Pizza, final, baked.

There you go! You’ll be surprised that you can actually hold this like a piece of regular pizza. It does NOT taste like cauliflower.  Manga!

Wyoming Landscape

Wyoming Landscape, original painting, acrylic on canvas, near the Shoshone River, impressionistic style, Kit Miracle

If you have never visited the western United States, you really must do so someday.  I particularly love Wyoming, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.  However, when my husband and I visited a few years ago, we took the northern route across the Big Horn mountain range, (a nail-biter for sure).  After we crossed the mountains and were heading to Cody for the night, we drove along this river valley.

The scenery is just so beautiful.  Peaceful and with the bluest sky you’ve ever seen.  I imagine it’s a different story in the winter but this was summer.  As I searched through old photos earlier this week, this subject caught my eye.  Of course, much editing as usual, but the landscape just called to me.  Oh, how I want to visit again.

This is painted in acrylic on stretched canvas.  I’ve painted the edges black so the painting doesn’t necessarily need a frame.  Such a peaceful painting.  Enjoy!

A Week of Painting

A question that I often receive is, “Are you still painting?”  This puzzles me.  Do we ask musicians if they still make music?  Or writers if they still write?

The answer is, Yes, I paint nearly every day for several hours.  This is what I do.  I can’t seem to help myself.  I often do some inside work or gardening in the early part of the day, then head out to the studio and paint. And paint. And paint.

These are three paintings that I completed last week.

Chinese Bridge at Missouri Botanical Gardens, St. Louis, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30, Kit Miracle

This large one is acrylic on canvas 24 x 30 inches. The scene is from the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis.  As it’s only a few hours away, my husband and I like to visit for a quick trip.  The gardens are beautiful in nearly any season.  The scene depicted here is from the Chinese garden area.  I was attracted to the bridge, of course, but also the back lighting.  It has some echoes of Monet but is pure American impressionism.

Windy Day at the Lake, acrylic on canvas board, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

The next painting is called Windy Day at the Lake.  I painted this en plein air on Friday. My husband and I went over to the Lake (Patoka); him to fish, me to paint.  We found a nice sheltered  area and had a wonderful morning at the lake.  The acrylic sketch is 12 x 16 on canvas board.

Japanese Bridge at Missouri Botanical Gardens, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

The final painting that I completed last week is of the bridge in the Japanese area of the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis.  I was attracted to the early autumn colors, the shape of the bridge, and the reflections in the lake.  Painted in acrylic on canvas, it has the edges painted black so it wouldn’t necessarily need a frame but could be hung as is.  It just gives such a feeling of peace.

So, as an artist, this is what I do.