Preparing for an emergency

Like the rest of the nation, I watched the devastation of Hurricane Ian in Florida and up the coast this week with a mixture of sympathy, terror and awe.  What would you do?  What could you do to prepare?  The scale of this natural catastrophe is beyond comprehension.  But there are a few things you can do to help during an emergency situation.

Last year I posted a few helpful hints for emergency preparations and equipment.  I’d like to expand upon that a little.

First of all, you need a GO bag, or BOB (bug out bag).  This is usually in the form of a backpack filled with some essential tools and equipment.  You can buy variations of these emergency kits ready-made online or make your own.  These can be tailored to your location, climate and season.  Keep in mind the weight as you don’t know how long or far you may need to carry this.

I would definitely take a power bank which is already charged or can be charged from a solar-powered charger.  Both of these items come in various sizes and weights.  Add a solar-powered charger. And don’t forget your charging cords.

Then some rechargeable light source.  Either free-standing or a headlamp so your hands will be free.

A portable radio, either rechargeable or hand-cranked.

A paper map.  If the power grid goes down, your GPS won’t work.  Familiar terrain may look totally different after a major event so a map could help.

Some cash money, as all the ATMs will be down if no power, as will the credit card machines.

Some high protein food, power bars, trail mix, etc.  Water and / or containers, or even purification tablets. 

Other items that may prove helpful would be a poncho or large trash bag, some smaller resealable bags, utensils, such as a knife or pot. Disposable lighters. Essential medications, or first aid kit. Good shoes and maybe a change of clothes.  Copies of essential paperwork or at least an electronic copy on a water-proof flash drive. 

As you can tell, the list is endless.  It all depends upon the circumstances, the type of emergency you are expecting, and how long you expect to be on your own. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, earthquake or any number of man-made disasters.  You should be able to grab your bag and get out of Dodge in about fifteen minutes.

There are some excellent websites out there, as well as some informative books.  One of my favorites is Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag by Creek Stewart.  You can learn a few emergency survival skills without becoming a total prepper. 

A little preparation and knowledge can provide you with the confidence you may need when faced with a difficult situation wherever you live.

Water themes as a painting subject

Waterlilies at the Spillway, acrylic, 12 x 12

Many lists of the most popular painting subjects include landscapes and seascapes.  I must admit that I’ve painted quite a few pieces with these subjects.  Although I live in the Midwest, many of my landscapes include some water feature – streams, rivers, ponds, lakes.  And my travels have taken me to the ocean in various places.  There is something very primal and soothing about hearing ocean waves…most of the time.

Fishing at Patoka Lake, acrylic, 12 x 16

Recently I painted a couple of paintings based on the very large lake nearby.  Lake Patoka is 8,800 acres and is a major water and recreation source for the area.

Leaving the Cove, Cape Breton, NS, acrylic, 9 x 12

But I also cruised through old photos of places we have visited, particularly Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, and New England.  Such beautiful scenery that it was difficult to choose.  Many more subjects for future paintings.

White Wharf, Rockport, MA, acrylic, 12 x 16
Fishing Shack (or Motif #1), Rockport, MA, acrylic, 8 x 10

And, of course, I did an entire series of beach paintings but those are mostly about people and children with the ocean being a common denominator for each painting.

Beach Readers, Intimate Spaces series, acrylic on linen, 24 x 30, Kit Miracle The whole attraction of this subject with the irony of the two young women who are reading and totally ignoring the beautiful day at the beach. I also love the way the red beach chairs draw the viewer’s eye into the scene.
Wet Reflections, acrylic, acrylic, 24 x 30

This is not to say that painting water features is the only subject that I tackle, but it is one of my favorites.  So many opportunities if I take my time to look for them.  

Ritter Creek, oil, 24 x 30
French Lick Creek, oil, 24 x 30

What are your favorite subjects to paint?

See more paintings at my Etsy shop KitMiracleArt or my main website ContemporaryImpressionism

The oldest house

Farmhouse with Red Maple

I have mentioned several times over the history of this blog how rural and sparsely populated this area is.  In fact, until just last year, we were the only county in the state that didn’t even have a stoplight…and we were proud of it.

But times change. 

This was brought home to me last week as I pulled out of our driveway and drove down our short road.  I noticed a new house being built.  Well, I knew it was being built; it’s a former neighbor who is moving back to the area.  We’re happy as they were good neighbors. 

This set me to thinking about all the new houses that have cropped up since we moved here over 35 years ago.  At that time there were only six houses on the whole two and a half mile road.  Now there are twelve.  Yeah, I know, not many but still doubled. 

This led me to reflect upon which house was the oldest house.  And…it’s OURS! 

When we bought this house at auction (that is a lot of money to spend at the drop of a hammer), it was in the position where it could have been rented out and run into the ground in about ten years, or someone could put some money into it and fix it up.  We chose to do the latter.  We had been looking for a place such as this for over a year.  We could either find a house in the country with no property, or property with no house.  Despite what the Hallmark channel would have you believe, it’s difficult to find a nice old home in the country.  Still a desirable goal but increasingly scarce.

The road out front was gravel (since paved).  We do have city water but it had only been in for about three months which is probably why there wasn’t too much competition for the home (few people knew about the city water which would have made the property more valuable.)  It’s also only a few miles from the state’s largest natural recreation area, a desirable place.  But it’s the setting that everyone always comments on as they drive up.  The house sits in the middle of the property.  We found a cornerstone that dates it to 1883 but I think it’s probably about forty years older.  Probably an original land grant, several of which we saw when we were in the market. 

The front of the house is log with layers of clapboard, insulation, and siding on the outside, and lath and plaster, new drywall inside.  The walls are about a foot thick which makes for a very quiet home.  I’ll regale you with all our adventures in remodeling a house this old some other time.

I’ve often reflected on why someone would build a house in the middle of the property rather than on the road with easier access.  The road used to kick up lots of dust but this was before automobiles.  Probably because the house site is flat with several close water sources – creeks, dug wells, springs, etc.  I have also noticed over the years that we found many pottery shards and Indian artifacts, chips, etc.  This may have been a dwelling site long before the country was settled.  The attraction of water sources, abundant wildlife, a large river a few miles away would have been the same for native Americans as they were for settlers.

This also led me to reflect on the house numbering system.  (I had a lot of time to think on the drive that morning.)  There are some places in Japan where the house numbering system is based on the age of the dwelling.  The first house on the block is number 1, the second house on the block is number 2, etc.  That is totally confusing for a person who was raised in the Midwest where roads are laid out in grids, usually of a mile.  How does anyone find a house in the Japanese system?  Do people go around and around the block until they spot the desired number? 

I am not an historian but I do enjoy learning how a community or area got settled.  It reminds me of Pete Hammill’s book Downtown: My Manhattan, Harriette Simpson Arnow’s Flowering of the Cumberland, and other similar stories.  Who came first?  What was it like then?  Why was this area selected? I’m sure that your local library, county museum, or historical society can direct you to information on the settling of your own locale.

Anyway, these are some random thoughts I had on a little trip to town the other day.    

A month of art

August has been scorching here this summer.  Too hot for outdoor work.  So I spent much of the month in the studio just being an artist.  This was a great respite from all the other chaos of the summer. 

However, we did have a couple of days of lovely cool  temperatures, in the low 80s. Fling open the windows!  I took advantage of the cooler weather to clean out my studio.  This meant dragging nearly everything outdoors, rewrapping and packing many of the paintings, vacuuming, debris clean out.  Just making an inviting space to work again. 

Our garden was in name only this summer.  And I only gave cursory attention to the weeds and flowerbeds.  This meant that I had plenty of time to devote to creating some art.

I began with building up some inventory, especially of sunflowers, some of my favorites.  Although I usually grow several different varieties from the mammoth giants to the multi-stemmed, to all the colors that are available, this year I only had a few to work with.  I planted them but they just didn’t want to make an appearance.  So I used some of the many photographs that I’ve taken over the years. 

I did several sheets of minis.  I can get four 4 x 6 on a quarter sheet of watercolor paper.  Although I often repeat a theme, they never turn out the same.  I buy mats and backs in bulk so it’s pretty easy to prepare them for display or shipping. 

Four mini sunflower paintings on quarter sheet of watercolor paper. Although the top two are the same subject, they’re not exactly alike.

Then I did a few larger ones. After that, I created duplicates of two local scenes.  These are not standard sizes so I have to cut the mats to size for framing.  More time and money involved.

Two paintings of the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center on quarter sheet of watercolor paper

Finally, the last half of the month, I was really missing our usual vacation.  This was probably prompted by selling some previous western scenes so I dove into that subject.  These paintings were larger and more complex, the smallest being 9 x 12 and up to 12 x 16.  I have some pretty extensive photo files from some of our western vacations so plenty of subject matter to choose from.  The most difficult part with these paintings is canvas prep.  And trying to come up with new titles.  Grand Canyon Vista #1, Grand Canyon Vista #2, etc.  But it’s so satisfying to just put on some music or recorded books and zone out.  Due to the many years of plein air painting, I can generally produce a painting a day, maybe two.  But I did discover that I had duplicated two scenes from previous years.  They came out similar but not exactly the same.

Overall production for the month of August was twenty-five.  Not all are shown in the multi-image above as several were duplicates.  And I didn’t work every day.  It’s very rewarding to spend time alone with my thoughts and just create.  To build inventory for online shops, the holidays, or local and regional shops. 

Most of these paintings will be up on my Etsy shops soon. https://www.etsy.com/shop/KitMiracleArt?ref=l2-shop-info-name or https://www.etsy.com/shop/My90Acres

The rest of the story

The consensus is that Brutus isn’t as bad as we thought. Probably a small fuel leak which was set off by a spark from the manifold. Some repairs needed but should be in working order soon.

Our friendly neighborhood mechanic stopped by to check on Brutus. He thinks it isn’t that bad and he can be repaired. Some scorching to the hood, the air cleaner is toast, and he won’t know until he tears the innards out. But overall, he can probably be repaired. That’s good as we sure need a farm truck around here for hauling firewood, straw for the garden, even the trash to the dump.

And the fire extinguishers have all been replaced including a much larger one for the house. A small but necessary investment.

As you can see, the hood is scorched.

Be prepared

Brutus, the old farm truck. A family member for over three decades.

I have been working all week on a couple of ideas for my Sunday blog post.  Although I don’t usually write it until the end of the week, I give some thought as to subject matter, finding or taking photos, etc.  This week’s post was going to be about books. 

However, life had other plans.

I was in my studio early this morning, packing a painting to ship today.  My husband and son were outside installing a new battery into old Brutus.  (See former posting here.)  It was a sunny and blessedly cool morning so I had the door to my studio open while I was working. 

Suddenly, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye.  I glanced outside and saw a fire beneath old Brutus.  AAAAaaaggggghhhhh!  (And my car was parked right next to the truck.)

I shouted to my son who came running, handed him the fire extinguisher that I keep handy in the studio, and he ran off with it.  Well, two more extinguishers later, the fire was out. The outdoor faucets and hydrants are too far from where the truck was parked to have been any help.

We’re not sure yet what started the fire – maybe an electrical short, maybe a fuel leak, or even a mouse nest in the air cleaner.  We’ll have a mechanic friend stop by next week to give us an assessment. Fortunately we were prepared or it might have been a very different story. 

Although we live in a remote area which is our reasoning for having some home fire protection, I would urge everyone to have a few fire extinguishers on hand.  You just never know what kind of emergency you might encounter. 

I’m not qualified to advise what types of extinguishers to get but there are several varieties for the many kinds of possible fires – paper, wood, chemical, oil, grease, etc.   Check online or with your local dealer or hardware store to see what they advise. 

You don’t know when you will need one.  Or wish you had been prepared. 

The rest of the story

Here are some photos of poor Brutus after the fire incident. As I said, we don’t know what type of fire it was. This is the damage.

To outward appearances, Brutus still looks pretty good….for a 37 y/o truck.
On closer look, the hood is scorched. That white powder is from one of the fire extinguishers.
Ah, here’s the damage. What was burned and melted? We’ll find out this week.
One of the small fire extinguishers. This one is a C rating, meaning it will handle three kinds of fire/flames.

Writing a personal narrative

I can’t draw a straight line.

I’m not good at math.

Science always confused me.

Mom liked my brother best.

We were poor growing up so I don’t know how to handle money.

Do any of these sound familiar to you?  What is your personal narrative?  What stories do you tell yourself….or worse yet, allow others to say about you that may not be true? 

I was having a conversation with someone the other day that I’ve known for years but whom I rarely hang out with much since we left school.  He made a remark about how I am shy or some such.  I let it slide but it suddenly dawned on me that he doesn’t know me at all.  Where did he come up with this story and, more importantly, why do I allow someone else write my personal narrative for me? 

I haven’t been shy since I hid behind the door when I was a toddler.  In fact, I’m one of the few people I know who doesn’t fear public speaking at all.  I ran for office in school, worked for one of the world’s largest companies, have given numerous presentations on stage, in groups, on TV and radio. Nope, no butterflies.

This led me to ponder what other narratives do I allow people to attach to me?  Or do I tell myself? 

What stories do you tell yourself?  Were you known as the smart sibling?  Or the trouble-maker?  The hard worker or the messy one?  Sometimes we tell stories on ourselves or allow other people to define us.  Maybe we were never like that.  Maybe we tripped once, but are we really a klutz? 

So, what should we do if someone starts telling our personal narrative for us?  First, I think it’s appropriate to spend a little time thinking about those boxes that people have put us in, and be ready to stop the narrative.  You don’t have to jump all over the person – maybe they’re just trying to find some common ground – but be ready to explain that you’re not really like that.  That you haven’t run into a door since you were sixteen.  But also, don’t let them argue with you.  Maybe they’re more comfortable when they have you in that box even if it isn’t true.  Just shrug and smile.  Or give them a good long stare.  They’ll get the hint.

And then give some thought as to how you would like to be perceived.  Maybe you’ve changed over the past twenty or forty years.  You don’t have to keep living someone else’s narrative of you.  This is your own life and you are the author of your own story.

Series Paintings

Tire Swing, Park Series. Kit Miracle, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30.

I have introduced several series of paintings over the years here on my blog.  It seems that I’ve started another one, the Park Series.  This will focus on, what else, scenes from the park.  A park.  Many parks.  Parks are usually filled with scenic landscapes and people doing activities, two of my favorite things.

Most of the series paintings are a little larger than some of my other pieces.  They also tend to concentrate on the same color palette.  In fact, I’ll often make a schematic of the colors I plan to use.  Using the same color family adds a cohesive theme to a series of paintings.

Some of the series paintings I’ve created over the years include Westerns, particularly The Grand Canyon, Intimate Spaces – Beach Series, Intimate Spaces – Breaking Bread Series, The Food We Eat, Lucky Red and Alley Views.

I might have an idea for a series of paintings at the beginning but more often I just cruise through my extensive batch of snapshots until something catches my attention.  I’ll write about using photos as an art subject in a future post. 

I’ve created a step-by-step page for the painting above, Tire Swing for those who are interested.  Click here for more detailed information.

Meeting famous people

It’s been five years since I retired as Director of Jasper Community Arts Commission.  JCAC is the only city-owned arts department in the state and one of the few in the country.  It was started by a group of private citizens in the small town, then later turned over to the city.  Although initially it was just a performing arts venue, eventually it came to encompass visual arts, arts in education, special events and so much more.  Now, of course, they’ve expanded to the new Thyen-Clark Cultural Center which is way beyond anything anyone envisioned at the time the performing arts center was created.

The performing arts are still a major focus of the arts department.  With an auditorium which seats 675, we’ve hosted a number of performances over the years.  During my tenure as Director, we presented about a dozen performances a year so I had the great pleasure of meeting a variety of entertainers over the years.

I’ve often been asked who was my favorite which is truly an impossible question to answer.  We presented singers and musicians, dancers and comedians, actors, jugglers, and acrobats.  It was all good.  Well, mostly. But we won’t talk about that.  Obviously, a small Midwest performing arts center cannot afford top Vegas headliners. But we had a wonderful variety of quality entertainers.

So, I thought you might like to hear about a few of my favorites.  Not all, by any means, but there were still some memorable performances.

The first one was Marie Osmond.  This was right after I was promoted to Director.  Tickets had just gone on sale and the phones were ringing off the hook.  Marie was just starting to revive her career.  On the day of the performance, the tour bus showed up and everyone disembarked.  I don’t remember very much about the actual performance since much of my time was behind the scenes.  Marie did two shows for us that day which was our way of doubling our capacity.  She was not feeling well at all and had a very bad cold.  But like the real trouper that she was, she went on stage and gave the audience a show to remember for years.  She sang a mix of her pop standards, but then she gave us a variety of Broadway tunes.  It was perfect.  The audience was blown away.  Such a nice person and so professional.

Another favorite performance was Always…Patsy Cline.  We were having trouble right down to the wire of determining if the show was going to go or not as the Broadway management hadn’t returned the final contract.  Fortunately, through the perseverance of the wonderful agent I worked with, the show went on.  I cannot remember the name of the actor who played Patsy in this performance but she was super talented.  She was a little, tiny thing but belted out over 25 songs during the performance.  But one of the memorable moments is that Louise, the woman who was Patsy’s pen pal, was played by Sally Struthers.  So nice and down to earth.  Quick to laugh and just had a kind word for everyone. 

As an aside, I quickly learned that the biggest stars were often the best to work with.  Undemanding, kind, thoughtful of the staff and crew.  The performers that we had the most trouble with were those who were just getting started with their careers and kept trying to impress us with their star status.  We were not impressed.

Due to our location in south central Indiana, we are on the way to or from many major cities in the Midwest.  We are only about three hours from Nashville so we were able to present quite a number of county music stars.  Many enjoyed the smaller venue, plus they could sleep in their own beds at the end of the evening.  Some names you might recognize are Clint Black, Ronnie Milsap, Kathy Mattea, Lee Greenwood, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, Sandi Patty and so many more.

One of my favorites was the Time Jumpers with Vince Gill.  This group is comprised of a bunch of Nashville musicians who get together for weekly jams.  Vince often sat in on the jam sessions (he has since left the group).  He was very conscious about not making the performance all about him, and all of the other musicians were extremely talented, too.  When we were negotiating the contract, I asked what they wanted to eat.  They said just some beans and hamburgers would be fine.  I replied that we could do better than that.  We ended up serving fried catfish and creek fries.  They loved it!  So happy not to have to worry about leftovers. Vince was kind enough to pose for this photo with one of my staff members and me.  We usually avoided putting performers on the spot since they were here doing a job, so this was an exception.

Vince Gill posing with staff member Emily Colucci-Peake and me, Kit Miracle

Speaking of food.  I quickly learned that all the dance and acrobat troupes ate like linebackers.  Usually after the performances, not before.  They expend so much energy during their performances and are such terrific athletes.  We presented the Russian National Ballet twice.  I wasn’t sure how our town would respond to Swan Lake but it was a sold-out house and you could have heard a pin drop.  We could count on every scrap of food disappearing at the end of the evening.

There were so many other wonderful performances that bring a smile to my face when I think about them.  The Blues Brothers, Under the Streetlamp, Women of Ireland, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Diamonds and Glenn Miller Orchestra, Richie Havens, Leon Redbone, The Ahn Trio, The Texas Tenors, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Tommy Emmanuel, Jim Brickman and more. 

Over 132 performances during my time there.  I was so very lucky to have this experience.  I have truly missed live performances during the pandemic shutdown but I think we’re all ready to come out of our nests.  If you have a performance venue nearby, I hope you can get out and enjoy the experience. 

Jasper Community Arts

Compositional framing

There are many rules and ideas for composition.  No one idea is perfect for all situations.  You may have your favorites or you may like to try new ideas frequently.  Today I’m going to discuss the idea of framing.  I’m not talking about the frame of the painting but using framing as a composition device.

Plein Air Painting, Birdseye, Indiana

I most often use framing in landscapes, cityscapes, and sometimes interiors.  This means that I’ll often place a large tree or bush near the front of the picture frame, usually on one side or another, with the main view in the middle distance.  This leads the viewer’s eye into the painting and directs its focus.

Sometimes in cityscapes, the view might be between two buildings or down an alley. 

In a recent couple of paintings of the same subject – a child flying a toy airplane at the park – I first explored just the child and the plane.  In the second painting, I used the framing composition to lead the eye from the near subject matter, to the large tree on the left, to the child and plane in the background.

In another couple of paintings, I painted a straight view of a Grand Canyon vista.  The second landscape shows the Grand Canyon framed by tree in the front.

Here is an interior view using compositional framing.  The doorway, chair and plant, lead the eye through the doorway to the desk in the distance.

There are no hard rules on when to use compositional framing.  It’s mostly a matter of what you feel comfortable with, what helps your painting.  I’ll often do several thumbnails or even larger charcoal drawings to test the feel of the subject.