Saturday, September 22, 2012


It's been a busy week here in the wee little studio. In addition to taking some fall photos on the hike & bike trail and doing some watercolor pencil sketches of my blazing orange bald cypress trees in my Field Notes journal, I did a couple of class assignments, and two just-for-fun projects -- each one nudging me further and further away from my comfort zone.

I finished up my semi-color-mad painting of a favorite hangout over in Austin. It's still a long way off from the intensely colored impressionist or folk art styles that I love most, but it's a start. I'm still struggling with that bit where my common sense tells me "that's a white wall, so you must paint it white", and forcing myself to see lime green in the hi-lites, and lavender in the shadows. Plus, I don't suppose I'm ever going to get the vivid colors I crave using water color pencils, huh? I love them because they're so easy to control (still trying to color inside the lines, perhaps?) but I guess I need to get over that.

This was the result of a fun tutorial on doing a faux crackle background. All you do is put down a layer of acrylic paint in one color. Dry it. Then spread a layer of Elmer's glue over that. While that is still moist, you paint a second color of acrylic over the glue, being careful to spread it across in a single stroke, instead of getting it all mixed up with the glue. Then just let it dry overnight, or speed things along with a heat tool. Because the glue and the paint dry at different speeds, cracks will begin to appear. So fun!

This was another Letter Lovin' lesson, where we had to write a quote or phrase about love, and finish it off using only shades of pink and red. That was pretty fun too!

This last one was a lesson from my Ode to Nature class, and it was a really hard one for me. Not because it was actually difficult, but because it was furthest from my norm. I had to choose a nature photograph, then do something abstract inspired by that, using only my fingers! I call it my Croton Creation. Messy, but fun!

Friday, September 21, 2012


We're headed into my favorite season here in the Hill Country. The plants (and the people) are so much happier, now that the night temps have finally dipped into the 50s and 60s. I decided to take a walk around this morning, to see what changes that had brought about.

The Inland Sea Oats are covered in their drooping seed pods, which remind me of woven rattan mats. The are one of the few plants that have done well for us in the shade of our oak trees.

The succulents are reaching their zenith, multiplying in size, taking on a blush of color, and sending up blooms just in time to succumb to the first serious freeze that comes along.

The Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha) is beginning to bloom. There are two varieties -- a solid purple , and this one with the white protrusions, which is by far my favorite. Trouble is, you can't tell them apart unless you actually see them in bloom. Nursery workers will tell you "I'm pretty sure these are the ones with the white", but even they won't know for sure until they see them in bloom.

I've added a few pumpkins here and there, to fill in some empty spots near newer plants that haven't had time to spread much yet. Would have added a lot more, but after so many years of working in a nursery that sold every variety of gorgeous pumpkin each fall, and getting them for next to nothing with my discount, well, it just kills my soul to pay ten bucks for a fancy pumpkin at the grocery store!

The Perilla 'magilla' looks like stained glass, when backlit by the early morning sun. I have no idea why the deer devour coleus but leave this plant alone, when they look so much alike, but I'm ever so grateful for that small blessing.

Most exciting of all, I just spotted the first glistening ruby plume on my muhly grass, which means before long, we should have gorgeous mounds of smoky pink in the lower beds, and the field of assorted grasses out front will resemble the rolling waves of amber grain they sing about.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love, love, love fall?

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Over the years, my hubby has become quite adept at pushing my buttons and sending me on guilt trips. For instance, earlier this summer I got a lunch invitation from an old friend who was coming to town with a group of ladies. At first I accepted, but the more I thought about all I had on my plate that week, the more overwhelmed I felt. Finally I called back and said "Maybe next time." When I told John what I had done, I thought he'd be proud of my being assertive for once. Instead, he just looked at me with those sad, puppy dog eyes of his and said "At least you get lunch invitations!" I have always been a sucker for those puppy dog eyes so, of course, I felt really, really guilty. I kept thinking how tough it must be for him -- to be not only newly retired, but also living in a new place -- when he was so accustomed to eating lunch out with his coworkers almost every single day.

Just can't resist that puppy-dog-look!
That lasted about 24 hours.  I came to my senses when it finally occurred to me that, actually, he wasn't newly retired. He'd already been retired a year and a half by then. He wasn't exactly in a new place either, for we'd owned this house almost nine years at the time. I found myself asking if, in all that time, he had ever once picked up the phone and called up our architect friend, or any of the Muses' husbands, or his friend from Exxon-Mobil that had moved here, and invited them to lunch or coffee? No, he had not. Had he joined any local photography, gardening, or computer groups? Nyet! He drives over to U.T. a lot for classes that are held in huge lecture halls, and he really enjoys everything he's learning, but that's not going to solve his problem here in Wimberley, now is it? As I used to tell friends who wondered why I chose to go to such a huge school, "I like being anonymous in the classroom!"

I guess he's just sitting up here on his hillside, waiting for someone to knock on the door and ask him to come out and play. That, I suppose, could actually be my fault. Well, mine and his momma's. Theda was the uber-outgoing type, and she probably set up play dates, or pushed him out the door and forced him to join the kids in the street, all the time. Once we were married, I just took over the reins from her, ensuring that we always had people coming over on the weekends, or fun groups to hang out with. Plus, he really lucked out at work, meeting several super-gregarious guys over the years who enjoyed having such a good listener around, and were willing to make the first move.

Guess it's time he learned that, in the real world, making friends requires you to actually put yourself out there and make some overtures. You have to let yourself be vulnerable, and risk rebuff. I'm not sure if he's noticed yet, but I've retired from my job as match-maker and social secretary. I've got much better things to do with my time now, and the big brown puppy dog eyes just ain't gonna work no more!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


One of the last things we did, before leaving Port Aransas, was to take a walk through the Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture. We knew nothing about it, really. We'd just passed a sign for it, and I was curious about a plant I could see near the entrance, and wanted to get a closer look.

Those huge clusters of long brown bean pods are what first caught my attention. I remembered seeing them in my "Trees" class back in school, but I couldn't think what tree it was. When I got a closer look at the foliage, I realized it was something in the Mimosa/Albizia julibrissin family. My teacher said the old timers called it Ju Ju Bee.

At first the path led us through grassy dunes covered in masses of these sunflower-like plants with soft grey foliage, and scattered clumps of the mimosas, but then a wooden boardwalk headed us off towards this flat sandy area with small puddles of water here and there.

It wasn't until we bent over and spotted all the seashells that were embedded in the sand, that we realized these must be tidal pools that fill up with ocean water now and again.

Nature just never ceases to amaze me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


For me, the hardest part of any project is just making myself begin.

Do you remember my telling you about this book I stumbled across in our little library, on a Color Mad Monday way back in the summer of '10? About how totally smitten I became with the work of W.B. Thompson from that point on, but since I couldn't afford any of his artwork, I supposed I'd just have to learn to do some color mad paintings of my own?

For as long as I can remember, I've had that problem with just getting started on something. Didn't matter whether it was cleaning my room or doing a school assignment when I was a kid, or cleaning out closets or doing yard work as an adult. I put it off and put it off, but once I finally force myself to just do one tiny thing, then I really get into it, and time goes by in a flash! What surprises me the most is that I'm the same way with things that aren't even chores -- things I actually enjoy doing, like cooking, writing in my journals, and making art.

There's something about a blank page that is rather intimidating, isn't there? It causes all kinds of self-doubt. Do I have any words or ideas or images that are worthy of this page, or will they just be a total waste of paper? The funny things is, once I put that first mark on the page -- force myself to do something, anything, to mar that pristine whiteness, then I'm o.k. I can usually fill up two or three pages with words in the blink of an eye after that, and, if I leave one of my sketchbooks or art journals lying open on the counter after making that first mark, well, then it seems I can't keep myself away from it. It calls to me each time I walk through the room -- whether I'm on my way to the bathroom, or even out the door for an appointment -- and draws me over like a magnet, forcing me to pick up pen or brush and add just a few more strokes, strokes that usually cause me to forget where I was headed in the first place.

That's what happened to me yesterday when I finally pulled out that book again, and decided to try my hand at a color-mad drawing of one of my favorite restaurants.  It only took me two years to get around to it, but I finally put pencil to paper and made a simple, Y-shaped mark. That's all it took. By the end of the day, I'd finished all but that crazy curved wall embedded with gazing balls.

So just do it.
Make that first mark.

Monday, September 17, 2012


I should have known a change was coming when I saw those bald cypress trees turning the same beautiful shades of red and coral as my big whirligig there. Every summer they start doing that when it's still a very sunny mid-90s, and every summer they scare me to death, for I fear they might be dying. But then, a few weeks later, I remember. I have no idea how they know it's time to turn, when it's still so blazin' hot outside. I guess they just feel it in their toes.

We had the most glorious weekend. Highs were in the mid-70s I think, with a slow, steady rain all - day - long yesterday. May not sound all that chilly to you Yankees and Canadians, but it had me pulling out my fuzzy lap blanket! Of course, it could spike up several more times before it's over with, but for the next few days at least, it's going to be delicious, and I'm gonna savor every single minute of it -- a lot of it curled up on the sofa with that lap blanket and a new/old mystery series I just discovered thanks to Painting Woman, who loaned me the first book in this series by Jacqueline Winspear.

It's called Maisie Dobbs, and not only is it set in England and France in a time that just fascinates me -- that time around WWI when the traditional walls between the "classes" began to fall away, and women finally became something more than chattel -- the main character is a private investigator who is a cross between Precious Ramatswe, Sherlock Holmes, and the Dalai Lama. She doesn't just gather information and hand it over to her clients. She uses meditation and forensic science, and counsels all the parties involved, to help them to see the light - and, occasionally, she even wears trousers! When I was only halfway through the first one, I went online to see if our little library had any more books in this series. Woohoo, they have them all! I put the second one on reserve, and it was ready to be picked up by the time I finished the first.

Anyhoo, by the end of the day yesterday, we had got almost two more inches of rain, which means our tank is very full and happy right now, as are we. When the rain finally slowed to a light mist sometime after supper, I went around gathering up the trash so we could haul it down to the big bin for our weekly pick-up. When I stepped out onto the balcony to empty that can, guess what I saw directly in front of me?

Yep, it was a very good day!

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Yesterday, instead of spending time in my own wee little studio, John and I got to go snooping around five or six others, as part of Wimberley Valley Art League's annual Studio Tour. I'm a voyeur at heart, so I go, not to see the art so much (though that is sometimes fairly awesome), but more to get that peek behind the curtains -- to get a glimpse of where and how people create, and the materials which they use. Yes, I get high on seeing their various stashes of art supplies, and the ways in which they store and organize them. No two are alike, and the spaces can run the gamut from a converted garden shed tucked into the woods behind a mobil home, to a custom built dream studio. However, if there's one thing I have learned over the years, it's that amazing art can happen anywhere.

That's my pal Julie, conducting an interview.
In the "dream studio" category was this recently completed one, which happens to belong to one of my Muse buddies, Julie Underriner (a.k.a. Painting Woman). She's the one who does most of her paintings by draping an un-stretched canvas over several stools, pouring the paint on, then using the stools to roll it around. There are no brushes involved. I showed you the co-operative gallery in town, that she is a part of, a few weeks ago, but this is the space where she actually works her magic. She and I both had mother-in-laws who were artists, which is such a blessing for creative types. It means our hubbies are never shocked or horrified by our creative needs and compulsions.

Fiber Woman was there to assist with the crowds and answer questions.
She had a pretty good studio in the basement of their old stone house overlooking the Blanco, but when they closed out their Houston home and moved here full time, her hubby needed a place for his pool table, so she got this new studio in exchange. Probably just as well, since her paintings are all rather large, and she was already getting pretty tired of lugging them up and down the stairs to her old studio. One thing I love most about the new space, well, other than the shelves and drawers full of every kind of arty goodness, are the marvelous double screen doors you see above. I'm so sorry I didn't think to snap a picture of them from the outside, so you could see the beautiful carving on the lower half. My house really, really needs some screen doors. Not only would it be great for letting in the fabulous fall breezes we've been having this week, it would also help cut down on the number of nasty critters that find their way into our house, whenever our hands are full and we can't get the regular doors shut quickly enough.

I had been here a couple of times while the studio was being built, but this was my first time to see it completed with all her stuff in it, and now that I have, there is this one niggling thought that I just can't seem to shake. MUSE SLUMBER PARTY!