A day at the zoo

Building anticipation at the zoo entrance. As you can see, it was quite chilly when we began our tour.

It was spring break around here this week so grandma and grandpa decided to take the grandkids to the zoo for the day.  We selected Monday as it was supposed to be overcast, mild and no rain.  (Rain was predicted for most of the rest of the week but didn’t really happen.)

Due to COVID, the zoo has limited visitation so we bought our tickets online. They were timed to allow only a certain amount of people in at a time.  It’s been several years since we’ve been to the zoo and one of the grandkids had never been.  He was really excited.

The drive to Louisville was as much fun as the visit.  Our conversation went like this:

Boy (age 5) I can’t wait to get to the zoo!  I want to see the zebras!  His normal speaking tone is about 90 decibels.

I stared at the sun and it didn’t blind me.

G (grandparents)  Don’t do that.  You could hurt your eyes.

A little while later

B I just stared at it for like ten minutes and I’m still not blind!

DON’T DO THAT!

The conversation proceeded along those lines until we began counting water towers and cell phone towers.  The grandson is a very chatty child so when we were talking, his response was, Be quiet!  I’m trying to talk here! Which threw us into more fits of laughter. 

Meanwhile, big sister (age 11), Stop talking.  I’m trying to read.

We finally made it to the zoo.  Parking was fine but no one was leaving alternate spaces.  As we waited a few minutes to go in, I realized that everyone else in the area seemed to have the same idea to visit the zoo.  Whole carloads of parents and kids poured out.  I have never seen so many strollers and wagons in one place.

These giant birds were part of the Wild Lights exhibit which appeared throughout the zoo. There were dragons and penguins, giant shrimp and flowers of every kind. There must have been a few hundred of these on exhibit.

Entry was organized and we were off.  I didn’t realize until we got there that they were hosting a Wild Lights event which featured giant creatures, imaginary and real, and plants, in beautiful colors of every kind.  Unfortunately, the lighted parts were only for evening tours but it was still pretty spectacular.

I’m not quite sure what this imaginary creature was supposed to be but it was still neat to see.

The route for guests is about a mile and a half, downhill the first half and uphill the second half.  It thinned out a bit but not much.  Unfortunately, several of the animal exhibits were closed which was disappointing.  No snakes, lizards or porpoises.

These beautiful pink flamingos made quite a splash.

We stopped for a break about half way through with snacks and drinks we’d brought.  Then started heading back on the second half of the route.  Grandpa got tired and took a shortcut to the top to wait for us.  The clouds never did appear so the day really warmed up. 

I felt rather sorry for this jaguar but wouldn’t want to meet him outside the fence.
At last! The zebras! Someone was soooo excited! (And you can see that we’ve peeled off our jackets.)

The second half had loads more animals (those that weren’t hiding).  Snowy owls and snow leopards.  Lions, zebras, giraffes, gorillas, rhinoceros, and lots more.  Saw the seals and a manatee.  B I dropped my toy in the tank by accident.  It was my favorite. 

The beautiful carousel had an amazing variety of animals to ride. Most went up and down but the outside animals were stationary. A good way to end the day at the zoo.

We finally made it to the top and found grandpa sitting by the carousel.  The kids both had to have a ride.  Then for the requisite visit to the gift shop and looking for the “cheap toys” as the grandma behind me remarked.

B I LOVE THIS ZOO!

We didn’t even make it to the highway, about seven minutes, before he was fast asleep.  The whole day – beautiful sunshine, fresh air, LOTS of walking – tuckered us all out.  Early bedtimes for all.

Trees in the neighborhood

Spring is in the air down here in Southern Indiana.  The temperatures are warming.  The spring flowers are blooming.  Our yard and fields are showcasing daffodils and spring beauties.

Earlier this week I was in the woods planting some small saplings of native trees.  These are free from the state DNR.  As I was locating the new plants, I looked around at all the other trees in the area.  In the many years of living here, my boys grew up knowing how to identify trees by bark, leaves, the wood and even the smell of the wood.  But I realize that many people have never had the opportunity to explore the woods with some knowledge.  So here are some of the trees in our own woods with names that will be familiar to you.  By just the bark. 

Let’s see how good you are at identification.

Sycamores are an extraordinarily beautiful tree, especially in winter. The upper limbs show bright white against the rest of the drab forest but the lower trunk has a shaggy, peeling bark. They have very large leaves and little fuzzy seed balls. I can never see sycamores without breaking into our state song, Back Home Again In Indiana…. Now you can’t get that out of your head, can you?
This is a very large sugar maple in our front yard. In autumn, it hosts a beautiful display of reddish leaves. Actually, there were several of these trees on the property when we moved here. As you can see, the poor tree is nearly done with interior rot. We have never sugared but I imagine it was popular in the day. It was the host to a pretty neat tree house when the kids were young.
We were delighted to find a whole little grove of shagbark hickory in our woods when we moved here many years ago. It has a very distinctive shaggy bark. (Thus the name.) The nuts taste like pecans. If you can get any. The squirrels and other critters usually harvest everything.
Young locust on the left and mature locust on the right. A rather shaggy bark, these elegant trees can be found on most old homesteads. The wood was often used as fence posts as they seem to be resistant to rot. They have a small leaf so there isn’t anything to rake in the fall. They also have the most beautiful creamy white racemes of flowers with a heady perfume in the spring. The bees love them. They’re the tallest trees in our yard towering over 80 feet. They also propagate by underground runners so they might appear anywhere nearby. I don’t know if these are black locusts or honey locusts but I still love their stateliness.
This hackberry tree was a real puzzle to us when we first moved here many years ago. It has a very knobby bark and tiny whitish/green blossoms. It seems to reseed well but I don’t know if that’s an advantage. The young one on the left has more pronounced knobs but the mature one on the right is also still knobby. A good shade tree, it stands about 60 feet high in our yard.
The native dogwood tree bark reminds me of a puzzle with many interlocking pieces. These days they’re under attack from an imported disease but so far, they’re holding their own. A beautiful understory tree with large white blossoms in spring, they go unnoticed the rest of the year.
This crab apple was given to me as my first Mother’s day gift many years ago. It has a glorious display of pink flowers each spring. It’s progeny has been shared with many people. As you can see, the woodpeckers have been having a go at it as well but it’s still hanging on.
The cedar tree is often thought of as a trash tree but they are quite handy to have. We have used them as fence posts, bird feeder posts, and built an arbor out of cedar logs. We even had some milled to use as benches. They have a lovely red variegated color inside and a wonderful smell.
Wild Cherry with some problems. These trees have a very dark bark and are messy. These are not cherries to eat but contain cyanide so they can be poison to livestock and animals.

These are just a few varieties of trees on our property. I haven’t included the red and white oaks, river birch, ironwood, hazel (a bush, really), sweet gum, pines and more. What is native to your area?

How to improve your art skills

One of Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings. Many artists explore a subject in a series of paintings of the same subject. Van Gogh did at least twelve paintings of sunflowers.

I’m often asked, “How do I get better at my art?”  Hummmm….well, I have several suggestions.  They aren’t anything new but maybe they’re new to you.  In no particular order.

Make a LOT of art!  Studies have shown that students who create a lot of art eventually get better, especially compared to those who seek to create one perfect painting or poem or story or pot.  Like almost anything else, the more you do, the better you get.  This is the time to explore.  Try new things, new styles, new subjects, new mediums.  Just make a whole lot of it. Don’t worry if it’s any good yet.  Just do it.  The old adage that practice makes perfect applies here. While you are testing new things, your mind will begin to make connections and build on what you have done before.

Make it easy.  Make it easy to make art.  Do you have to clear the children’s homework from the dining table?  Drag out all your equipment and easel every time you want to paint? Find a space where you can keep your materials at hand.  Set up a corner in the bedroom to work.  Use a portable screen if the clutter annoys you.  Keep a sketchbook next to your TV chair.  Or in your purse or pocket.  I’ve often drawn mini-sketches while waiting for dinner or in the theater.  If your materials are nearby, you’ll be more likely to use them.

Don’t worry if it’s any good.  So many people worry about if their work is any good.  Stop that right now!  Refer to the first suggestion.  Just do it.  Do a lot of it.  ALL artists make some really bad paintings.  That’s Okay!  That is what preliminary work is for.  Try it out.  Maybe it will be brilliant. Maybe it won’t.  But you will have learned what works and what doesn’t.

Copy other artists.  Yes, I recommend studying other artists, your favorites perhaps.  Go to the museums or the library or even review their work online.  What do you like about their work?  What don’t you like?  Try making a few copies in the style of the artist. How does that feel to you?  Does it feel natural or awkward?  Look at what attracts you most.  Their subject matter?  Style?  Brushwork?  But do NOT EVER try to pass off someone else’s work as your own.  That is dishonest and plagerism. You won’t feel comfortable about it and you’ll be found out eventually.

Do a series.  A series is a group of artwork of, perhaps, the same subject or style or theme.  This helps you to dig deeper.  Find out what attracts you to this subject.  Van Gogh painted twelve sunflower paintings.  I’ll bet that he got better at them towards the end.  Monet painted thirty haystacks, 250 waterlillies, and over thirty of the Rouen Cathedral. Different angles, different times of day. 

My concluding advice is just keep at it.  Don’t let anyone discourage you. Only you know what you are learning.  If you have tried it before, try it again.  You’re in a different place and time.  Perhaps you have more skills and knowledge now.  Just keep moving forward. Good luck!

What I’ve been listening to in the studio

It’s no great secret to anyone who knows me that I read…a lot!  But I also spend a lot of time in the studio.  I listen to the radio, mostly NPR or music.  Play some favorite CDs.  Yes, I’m of that age. 

But one of my favorite things to do is to listen to recorded books.  And my particular favorites are biographies or tales of heroic deeds or periods of history.

We don’t have the high speed internet to listen to podcasts, and audio books take awhile to download.  But we are blessed with a fabulous library with an extensive recorded book collection. 

Listening to these recorded books doesn’t seem to interfere with my painting.  However, I often recall the book that I was listening to as I painted a particular painting. 

I got into the habit of listening to recorded books when I had a fifty mile commute.  Also, they are very enjoyable while driving on vacation.  Although once the family was enjoying the audio version of The Green Mile when we discovered that I’d only taken out the first volume.  Very disappointing.

So, these are a few of my favorite recorded books for the past year, mostly biographies or historical.  I listen to fiction as well but this is the short list.  And I don’t hesitate to stop listening to a recorded book if I don’t like it.  Life is short and there are just too many other choices.

The boys in the boat [sound recording] : nine Americans and their epic quest for gold at the 1936 Olympics (2013)  By Brown, Daniel, 1951-  I found this true story of a bunch of working class and farmer’s kids who competed in the rowing competition in the 1936 German Olympics fascinating.  They didn’t know anything about rowing and were one of the least-likely teams to reach this status and to go on to represent the United States. From the University of Washington, to winning the national competition, to Germany and back home to pre-war America, this is a story you’ll not forget soon.

Benjamin Franklin [sound recording] : an American life (2004) By Isaacson, Walter. This twenty-plus set of CDs is a daunting project but worth it.  Franklin was so intelligent, industrious, and sociable. His influence on a nation in infancy cannot be overestimated.  He lived a very long time which is why the recording is so long.

Steve Jobs [sound recording] (2011) By Isaacson, Walter. I had wanted to read this book for a long time but didn’t have the time or patience to do so.  Actually, I really just wanted to know more about what made Steve Jobs tick.  Frankly, I didn’t care for him very much by the time I finished the audio but it was interesting to learn about the early days of the digital tidal wave.

Cronkite [sound recording] (2012) By Brinkley, Douglas. Walter Cronkite was a television news staple to those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s.  People trusted him.  I was too young to remember when our family first began watching the nightly news but I certainly remember him for many significant moments.  News stories dealing with a man landing on the moon, the Vietnam war, civil unrest and so on. As Lyndon Johnson said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”

Becoming [sound recording] (2018) By Obama, Michelle, 1964-  I wasn’t sure how I would like this but it was very refreshing.  Read by the author herself, she was pretty open about not wanting to get involved in politics but followed her husband in his dreams.  What I really enjoyed was learning about the security details and life behind the scenes in the White House.  How does one actually raise a family in this environment?  Very commendable.

Educated [sound recording] : a memoir (2018) By Westover, Tara    I didn’t really know much about this book but had noticed it on the best seller list for a long time.  Written and narrated by the author, it presented a lifestyle that I had never really considered.  Very isolated, home-schooled by parents with some “eccentric” beliefs, the author managed to gain an outstanding education eventually.  I later watched an interview with Westover.  We should expect to hear more from her in the future.

This is just a short list of my favorites and recommendations of recorded books from the past year. If you’re still stuck at home, or if you have some long trips planned, you might wish to check out these options.

How Long Does It Take?

After the Dinner Party. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30. Kit Miracle this is the final version of the painting. I’ve tweaked a few things. I didn’t like the shape of the wine bottle, added a few more highlights here and there. The whole idea with this type of impressionism is that the brush strokes are clear and bold. Your eyes will fill in the rest. I think this makes a much livelier painting than if I had meticulously smoothly brushed all of the shapes.

One of the most frequent questions that artists get is, How long did it take to paint this painting?  I’m not quite sure why people ask this question.  Are they trying to gage how much per hour that I’m charging based on the price of the painting?  Maybe.  Is it worth more if it takes more time?  I don’t know.

My flippant answer is, Thirty years and a week.  No artist reaches a professional level without a lot of work.  This is actually true for most professions.  Some people may have a little extra edge in a skill, maybe eye/hand coordination, color discernment, perfect pitch, but most people get where they are by plain hard work. I think this is true for athletes, musicians, artists, chefs, frankly nearly everyone.

I painted this painting After the Dinner Party in my Breaking Bread series pretty much in one day.  But that number is deceiving.  There was a whole lot of work required before I even began painting.

First there was the canvas prep.  I purchased the gallery-wrapped 24 x 30 canvas.  Then sanded it, applied two coats of gesso allowing for drying and sanding in between. I like a textured canvas so you will notice that in some of the photos. All of the canvasses in this series are primed with a greyish/greenish color. 

Then there was the time to sort through the hundreds (thousands) of photos that I had to select the one that I wanted to use.  Then to decide what I wanted to keep in and what to take out or move or change.  I did two small NOTAN (black and white) sketches, two large charcoal sketches, and a preliminary watercolor painting.  I noodled around with the idea of placing a bouquet of flowers in the background.  Which lead me to paint two possible floral candidates.  In the end, I did not use them as I thought they didn’t add anything to the painting set up.  Finally, I sketched the full painting on the primed canvas.

THEN….I could begin the actual painting part. 

I started in the morning with the colored outlines and painted in the larger areas first.  I pretty much worked all day until late evening.  Once I’m on a roll, I’m on a roll.

You can see the step-by-step at this link.

It takes time to achieve a certain level of skill in nearly anything.  Larry Bird shot 200 hoops before school every day and was known throughout the NBA for the hours he dedicated to conditioning.  Even after decades of success, Norman Rockwell agonized over the details of his paintings.  How many hours a day do you think Yo-Yo Ma practices his cello?  (He estimates over 10,000 hours every five years which is five hours every day.)

Next time you admire someone’s artistic skill (or other skill), keep in mind that the final product is just the tip of the iceberg of work behind the scene.  You can do it, too.  If you wish to work at it.

Getting by in an emergency

A few years ago I posted about the challenges of living in a rural area during emergencies, especially if the power goes out.  Living in a 135 year old house which only received electricity in probably the 1940s or 1950s has it’s challenges.  I talked about having alternatives and backup plans.  Like oil lamps, wood or kerosene heat, propane stoves or water heaters.  But sometimes you just need a little electricity.

You could buy a huge generator but it’s difficult to justify spending thousands of dollars on equipment than you may only use once every few years.  I’m going to talk about a few items which might make your life easier for about $100 or less, for most of them together.

A couple of inexpensive hand-cranked emergency tools. The radio on the left and the flashlight on the right. I like the flashlight but the radio seems a little tinny. You have to put your own batteries in to charge. And you should take them out between uses in case they corrode and ruin your equipment. Only about $10 or less at a big box store.

The first are having a hand-cranked flashlight and / or radio.  You can pick these up at your local big box store for under $10.  They’re usually in the camping section but check around.  They’re not terrific but work well in a pinch.

The power bank and side view showing the USB ports. You can charge this up and it will hold for several months. I don’t know the brand name but there are many, including many sizes. This one is 16,000 mAh.

My next recommendation is having a power bank.  This allows you to plug in your phones and USB items.  You just charge them up (when the electricity is on) and they’ll hold a charge for a long time.  Keep them in a drawer or place where you can find them easily.  It seems the power always goes out when my phone is nearly dead.  They’re smaller than a paperback book and cost about $30-$40. Useful for camping, too, but not recommended to keep in a hot car.

Folding solar charger front. Four panels in all and you can attach it to your backpack to charge while hiking. This brand is Hiluckey but there are other brands, too.
Folding solar charger back. The white square is a built-in flash light.

Another handy item is a solar powered charger.  The one I have folds up to about the size of a wallet. You can set it out, or attach it to your backpack as you’re hiking.  Mine also has a built in flashlight.  It has a couple of USB ports, too.  Costs vary depending upon size and power, but again, around $30-$40.

Multi-purpose flashlight radio. This is my favorite little gadget. The radio (three bands) is really good. Three power sources – hand crank, solar, or lithium battery. And the reading light and flashlight are very bright. Plus it has USB ports for those essential phones. About $40 or less.
Multi-purpose flashlight / radio back showing the hand crank, battery door, antenna, and the light/auto switch.
Multi-purpose with three-way flashlight.

Finally, a little item that I LOVE is my multi-purpose flashlight / radio.  This is the neatest little gadget.  It comes with a lithium battery to insert and a little screwdriver.  The battery can be charged by hand-cranking or it has a small solar charger on top.  It seems to hold a charge for a long time.  The charger flips up to show a good light for reading.  In addition, it has a very good flashlight on one side and some USB connections on the other.  The radio is terrific!  It has AM/FM/ and weather band.  Very good reception with the fold out antenna.  It also has a built-in SOS alarm and light, and a motion sensor good for 3 meters.  The cost is about $40.

I recommend that you keep a few of these items handy for emergencies but they’re also very useful for camping or putting into a GO bag.  A small waterproof box or bag will make them readily available for use.  The links below will take you to more information about some of these items.

Hiluckey Solar Chargerhttps://www.amazon.com/25000mAh-Hiluckey-Portable-External-Smartphones/dp/B08CSD9VWY/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=hiluckey+solar+charger&qid=1613507019&sr=8-5

Multi-purpose Flashlight Radio https://www.amazon.com/Emergency-Radio%EF%BC%8C4000mAh-Solar-Portable-Flashlight-Lamp%EF%BC%8CCell/dp/B083TLZN7G/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=multipurpose+flashlight+radio&qid=1613507123&sr=8-4

What Is Impressionism?

Impressionism is, without a doubt, one of the most continually popular painting styles of our times.  But this has not always been so.  It evolved in France in the 1860s to 1900s with a group of artists whose names you know well – Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cassatt, Degas, Pissarro, etc. In an act of rebellion against the strict styles of the time of realistic, classical-based story-telling, this group of artists burst onto the scene with a new style which emphasized the beauty of nature. 

It is generally agreed that the invention of paints in tubes provided artists the freedom to begin painting outdoors. Before this time, paints were hand ground from pigments, mixed with oil and turpentine, and used only in the studio.  There was a possibility of using paints stored in pig blatters or glass syringes, but the Winsor Newton company patented the metal tube and added a screw cap.  This gave artists the portability of leaving the studio for the open fields and forests.  In other words, they began painting en plein air (out of doors). 

Impression Sunrise by Claude Monet. This is the painting from which the movement derived its name. The painting itself isn’t very large, only about 19 x 25 inches.

The freedom of painting outside allowed artists to capture a “snapshot” or impression of what they saw at the time they saw it.  This new style was labeled impressionism after Claude Monet exhibited his painting, Impression Sunrise.  The label was meant to be derisive but as fate would have it, it stuck.  After the initial shock of the crude paintings by this group of rebels, in a short time the public’s tastes were changed to one of acceptance and regard.  This big change was as revolutionary as going from classical music to rock and roll overnight.

American collectors were the first to embrace this style and began snapping up the paintings of the notable impressionsts and shipping them back to the United States.  Even today, many French musems relegate the impressionist paintings to some dim, out of the way spot while they are often featured in American museums.

Impressionism continues to be one of the most popular painting styles both among collectors and painters.  So how can you recognize what denotes an impressionist style? Here are a few guidelines.

  • Painters express feelings more than capturing a specific place or event.  How does the sun feel?  Can you see the glint off the water?  Express the coolness of the shady trees?
  • Thick brush strokes are another indication of impressionism.  The brush strokes are visible and the paint is not over-worked. 
  • The colors are mixed with the eye, i.e., they are laid down next to each other instead of being mixed to death on the palette.  If you look at an impressionist painting up close, it will often appear fuzzy and unclear.  However, if you step back a few feet (or several) the bold strokes and colors come together to form the image.  Think of Monet’s water lily paintings.  The paintings are huge and up close they appear to only be a loose collection of swirls and paint blobs.  However, from a distance of about ten feet, the whole painting comes together and the beauty of the scene is striking.
  • The subjects are often common place, found objects or still lifes. People in ordinary circumstances.
  • There is an asymetrical cropping of the paintings.  Parts of the scene are allowed to go off the edge.  Many times the scenes are captured exactly as they are found. Landscapes often have a very high or very low horizon line.

These are just a few of the main points defining impressionist style.  It continues to be popular with both painters and viewers.  However, there are now many finer branches of impressionism – contemporary, nouveau, outsider, open, etc.  Some use very bold colors and others are more muted.  Frankly, it’s all good. 

One of Monet’s many waterlily paintings. He painted over 250 images of these. Up close, it appears to be swirls or patches of paint. The composition doesn’t come into focus until you step back several feet.

If you would like to see more artwork, I suggest that you visit one of the many free museum exhibits online.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a breathtaking collection of work by the impressionists.  There are few things so humbling than sitting in a room full of Monets or VanGoghs.  Especially if you calculate how many millions (billions) of dollars worth of paintings are just in that one room.

There are more than 6,000 books on the subject listed on Amazon and more than 600,000 links about impressionism listed on Google search.  Yep, still pretty popular. Here are a few links to museums with online exhibits.

https://ecobnb.com/blog/2020/03/online-museums-free/

https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours

The Cultural Center, Part II – The New Library Is Open!

The new Thyen Clark Cultural Center is now open to the public.

Finally, the new library is open at the cultural center.  And, boy, is it magnificent!  Better than anything I could have imagined, even when I was working on the project!

As mentioned earlier, this is a joint project combining the Jasper-Dubois County Public Library and the Jasper Arts Department (excluding the performing arts center).  I posted photos of the new galleries earlier.  I’ll add the classrooms, studio spaces, and the black box theater later.

Cultural Center front, east wing holding the library.

Today’s photos feature the new library.  After nearly two decades of planning, votes, fundraising, the doors were open this week.  I took my granddaughter for our first visit afterschool on Tuesday.  Then went back alone for a more thorough visit on Wednesday.

This is the beautiful atrium which separates the arts side from the library. It has a full catering kitchen for special events and will seat 150 at table. I think this will become very popular for families looking to get out of the house in the winter with the kids…once we’re allowed to get together again.

In speaking with the library director, she said that people have commented on all the new books.  She’s replied, they haven’t added any new volumes; the old library was just that over-crowded.  Now it has plenty of room for technology, including a maker space, a teen zone, genealogy room,  lots of quiet nooks and meeting spaces.  Plus…the books books books. It even has an outdoor balcony for those who like some fresh air while they read.

For now, the entire Cultural Center is open six days a week with plans to expand to seven days a week sometime later.  If you come for a visit, don’t forget to save time to visit the nearby Schaeffer Barn, the old school house, the mill and the train depot, all set along the scenic Patoka River in downtown Jasper.  Admission is free.

The view from the library entrance from the atrium.
Lots of current magazines and newspapers to read and plenty of reading nooks for everybody.
One of many work spaces for patrons. Most of the tables have charger stations, too.
The beautiful wall art by Romy and Clare Designs. The upper level holds offices, the genealogy room and an outdoor patio/balcony.
One of the little reading nooks in the children’s section. Each has its own reading light, too. Of course, I had to try one out.
A view of the children’s section with child-sized furniture, shelves and family-friendly activities.
Another inviting lounge area. The teen zone and maker space are in the glass-walled areas behind. Recorded books and digital media and music to the rear right.
The money shot from the balcony area. Such a beautiful design for all.
Parking at the rear of the center shows our neighbors, Schaeffer barn and a one-room school house which was recently moved in. To the rear of that is the famous Riverwalk. And across the street from the center is the Jasper Train Depot and the old restored mill. This will be a great place to bring kids for field trips.

My favorite paintings

Avignon from the Palais des Papes, watercolor, 19 x 29. Framed. This landscape is one of my favorite watercolor paintings. The scene is from the Palace of the Popes, set on a hill in Avignon, Provence, France. I was on a bicycle tour of Provence and this was one of our stops. The scene just took my breath away. It still reminds me of a grand adventure so long ago and I enjoy looking at it every day.

I was recently asked what is my favorite large painting that I’ve done over my career.  Boy, that is a difficult question to answer, especially for someone with a career spanning over 35 years!

Just looking through files and folders of images spanning over three decades is a daunting task.  First there were photographs, printed and filed.  Then all the images collected on slides which was the only way we could apply for exhibits.  This involved special film, tripods, 3200K lights, a whole set up which took hours to accomplish.  And then I didn’t even know if I had captured the image correctly until the slides returned.  Thank goodness those days are over.

Now, we take photos with a digital camera, the better the camera, the better the image.  Of course, now every decent phone has a great camera.  And I don’t bother with the lights anymore.  I usually just hang the paintings on the outside of my studio on a cloudy day or on the north side. Photo imaging software can handle the rest.

My first couple of decades as an artist, I focused solely on watercolor or media on paper – pastel, charcoal, pen and ink. Watercolor paper is limiting by the size, standard sheet of 22 x 30.  Although at times I have used rolled paper which can get very large, most paintings of this time were standard size or smaller.

The past few decades have been primarily devoted to oils and acrylics.  Sizes vary here depending upon my design and are usually on canvas, canvas board, or even hard board.

Each painting has a story behind it.  I remember what inspired me, where I was, even what music or recorded book I was listening to.  These are just a few of my favorite large paintings from over the years.  Certainly not all, but a few. As you can see, I am particularly attracted to stories with people. Although throughout the years, I ‘ve painted many still lifes and scenery of all kinds, I keep returning to the human element.

The Boy with the Butterfly, watercolor, extra large. A butterfly landed on my son’s head and just stayed there for several minutes, enough time for me to capture several photos. My son has always had a somewhat fey or faraway look to him and I think this captures him perfectly. The other son and pets are in the background. This is one of the largest watercolors that I’ve painted and I had to use Arches on a roll and stretched on a large piece of finish-grade plywood to keep the paper flat. Framed, it is quite an impressive painting.
Saturday Morning, oil on canvas, 38 x 40. This nearly square painting is extra large. The story here is often seen in this country area on the weekends. Men cutting firewood. That is actually my neighbor in the foreground with a son and my husband in the background. The early morning mist was just burning off. They don’t waste much time getting out and getting chores done around here.
Cat and Boy in a Tree, oil on canvas. My son built treehouses all over our property. Sometimes the cat would follow him up there, too. I liked the composition and the fall colors, painted with heavy impasto.
Pumpkin Head. Oil on canvas, 29 x 26. Another painting with a story behind it. My son carving a pumpkin for my granddaughter. She asked for a happy face but he said, no, they’re born as pumpkins and they die as scary jack-o-lanterns. Somewhat macabre, I think. You can only tell it’s a girl by the pink ribbon in her hair.
Exodus, acrylic on canvas, 50 x 34. Part of my Intimate Spaces: Beach Series paintings, I was attracted to this subject for the subtle references I drew. The family is leaving the beach at the end of the afternoon. Mom, Dad and the baby are anonymous but the young boy glances back at the ocean longingly. This reminded me of the biblical story of Exodus and held many other layered meanings for me at the time. The actual canvas is a mix of detailed painting with impressionistic strokes in the foreground and background.
A Little Blue (on a Rainy Day) Final, oil on canvas, 24 x36 It had been raining for days and looked to be raining for several more. I set this still life up in my studio. The poor flowers are bedraggled survivors of the downpours. Roses, peonies, what have you. I elected to concentrate on three colors: blue, pinks, and yellow. And my eclectic group of vases and other bits. Check out the step by step under the tab Artworks.

Update on Jasper Cultural Center

A few weeks ago I eagerly posted some preliminary photos of the new Jasper Cultural Center in Jasper, Indiana.  Well, they weren’t quite ready for release yet so I took the post down.  However, even though they’re still not quite ready, some of the portions of the Cultural Center are now open.  So I’m giving you a preview of those parts.

The three galleries in the center are open to the public.  These are really awesome galleries, very large with clearstory windows.  They are located in the arts section of the Cultural Center.  The idea is to have staggered two-month exhibits featuring local, regional and national artists.  The first exhibits this year are John Mellencamp, Gerry Wubben, and a group show featuring local and regional artists.  Let me just say, everything looks wonderful in these galleries and Emily Colluci-Peak, the Visual Arts Coordinator, has done a marvelous job of hanging the exhibits. If you have some time, take a drive out to see the exhibits.

John Mellencamp is well-known for his music but many people don’t realize that he’s also an accomplished painter, too. An Indiana native, he graciously agreed to help us kick off the arts part of the cultural center. We weren’t planning on a pandemic, but the show is amazing and inspiring to view. Worth the visit from wherever you are.
Mellencamp, gallery view 2
Mellencamp gallery view 3

They’re still finalizing the classroom spaces.  The atrium between the library and the arts section has no furniture yet but it looks ready to go.  And the library is waiting for some shelving which is on back order. But the whole shebang will be open in another few weeks. I’ll be sure to post some more updates then.

Gerry Wubben’s enormous and awesome drawings. You can’t believe the details of these artworks until you see them in person.
More of Gerry Wubben’s drawings.
Group show featuring local and regional artists.
Group show 2
Group show 3

If you’re feeling housebound these days and looking for a place to go for a drive, I highly recommend that you plan a trip to Jasper in southern Indiana.  The new cultural center is at 100 Third Avenue right in downtown Jasper, near the river and many other interesting places to visit.  Plenty of parking in the rear of the building (turn north on Mill Street, then east on Fourth Street).  And many fine restaurants and shopping areas to visit.  Admission is free.

Jasper is a small Midwestern town of only about 15,000.  But the whole town came together to build this wonderful site…after many years of planning.  Initiated by a major challenge grant from some significant local donors, local businesses and private donors jumped in to help.  A decade-long community project has been finally realized. 

If you are an artist looking to exhibit in such a fine space, contact Emily Colluci-Peak at Jasper Arts Center. The submission deadline for 2022 is February 12th of this year. Check out this link here. Click here to take a virtual tour of the three exhibits.