Saturday, September 14, 2013


The second time a piece of art reached out and grabbed me, I was at a party in Indonesia, at my next door neighbors house. After seeing me stuck in my mesmerized state for a good long while, the hostess finally came over to check on me. "What on earth is this?" I asked. "Is it a water color, or what?" "Heavens no", she replied. "It's batik!" No way. I'd seen plenty of batiks before. They were those garish florals you saw in all the tourist shops, and they looked absolutely nothing like this!

At the Fabric Stall
Turns out these were made by an elderly man named Azziz.  He created these masterpieces in a little workshop behind his house, which was in Medan, right there on Sumatra, just a short trip on the company plane from us. I got there just as fast as I could...

Harvest Time

and went back to see him about once a year...

Fruit Sellers

until we were sent home.

Friday, September 13, 2013


I've spent the last couple of days playing with a Jane Lafazio tutorial that I downloaded from Cloth Paper Scissors. It's all about textured backgrounds and transparent foregrounds. Jane made her "bumpy, lumpy, nubby" backgrounds by covering pages with a variety of papers, fabrics, tags, etc. I was in a hurry to get started, however, so I just used a page that was already in my journal, where I had squirted a bunch of paint and spread it around with a credit card.

I added some more acrylic paint, in more colors, to one like this.
The next step was to create a transparent focal point by making some black ink sketches on sheer paper. I didn't have any artist tissue on hand, or at least, none that I could find, so I just grabbed my kitchen parchment paper. The colors reminded me of aspens -- not something that grows around here, but something I remember from my family's yearly trips to Colorado -- so that is what I sketched. I made several different sketches, on small bits of parchment, then played around with how I wanted to arrange them on the page. Once I was satisfied, I started gluing them down with gel medium, and that's where I ran into a bit of trouble.

I couldn't get the tissue to stay smooth!  Jane advised that the trick to having the tissue dry transparent was to get the piece totally saturated with glue. Well, the only one of my four sketches that stayed even semi-smooth was the one with the least amount of glue on it, and guess what? Not only was it not at all transparent, the next day it popped back up off the page! So I slathered it with glue, wrinkles be damned.

I've almost got myself convinced that the wrinkles actually give the trees great wood-like texture.

Still, I can't help wondering how, even though I was layering over a nice smooth under-layer while Jane was layering over all that nubby textured stuff, her pages all ended up looking as smooth as glass in the photos!

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I have never claimed to be an art connoisseur.  To tell you the truth, for the first twenty or so years of my adult life, I chose all of my art according to how reasonable the price and how well it went with my decor. In fact, the masterpiece over my fireplace in those days was a Monet print I ordered from Spiegel catalog, which made my artist mother-in-law a wee bit crazy. The trouble with buying art in this way, I later discovered, is that after a while, you just quit seeing it. All that changed when we moved back to Indonesia.

Just a few months after we arrived, there was a school holiday, and we joined several other families on a little trip to a resort in Penang, Malaysia. One day when we were exploring in town, I came across these two paintings in a street stall, and something about them stopped me in my tracks.

They cost way more than I would normally spend, and they weren't really even my colors, but, though I tried to walk away from them several times, something kept pulling me back. Eventually my hubby said "Just buy them, for Pete's sake!"

If you look closely at the people, they are almost child-like in the way they are drawn, and yet something about these images just mesmerizes me. They've had a prime place in every house since -- a place where I can stand right in front of them and lose myself in their imagery. Even now, almost 20 years later, if I do this? I can actually smell the spices from the food vendors and the clove scented cigarettes that most of the men smoked, and hear the chattering voices, honking horns, bicycle bells, and the scratchy music drifting out from the shops. It's the next best thing to time travel!

There have been a few other instances over the years, where art just grabbed me and wouldn't let go. It wasn't until recently that I finally realized they all had something in common. I'll be sharing some of them with you in the coming weeks, and we'll make a game of it, to see who can figure out what that common thread is -- and no, it isn't the thing about time travel!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


I suck at growing vegetables. And indoor plants. I do great with natives and perennials, not so great with edibles. In fact, I can't tell you how many times I've sworn "This is it! I give up!" This summer I'd had it for certain. Nothing in my veggie beds produced. My full size tomatoes came out looking like cherry tomatoes. My green bean plants looked great at first, produced a few scrawny beans, then got speckled foliage and all crapped out at once. I did get a few potatoes, but my arugula seeds never even germinated, and only one of my cucumbers did, Unfortunately, that one never really took off. By the end of summer it was no bigger than when it started. Granted, it was supposed to be a dwarf, space-saving variety, but sheesh!

At the end of August I went out to rip everything up, and guess what I discovered? My little cucumber plant had a sudden growth spurt!

I even spotted a bit of yellow between the leaves.

The real surprise came when I began lifting those big fat leaves, to check for more blooms, and found this.

My very first, gen-u-ine, home grown cucumber! And that's all it took to have me ready to dive back into veggie-growing head first. Just a tiny bit of hope.

P.S. One thing I noticed was that, unlike those dark, waxy-smooth cucumbers you get at the grocery store, my cucumber was kind of, well, spiny. Prickly even. Is that normal? And how do you know when a cucumber is ready to be picked?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Monday, September 9, 2013


Is there anything better than enjoying an unexpected Hill Country rainstorm from one's favorite perch on the porch?

Well yes, actually, there is! It's knowing that you now have a full 12,500 gallons of water in your rain tank, and that you supplied your whole house with water throughout an entire Texas summer without ever having to purchase any even once. It was a very good summer, by Texas standards.

Know what? It got me to thinkin'. I'm thinking that we (and when I say we, of course, I actually mean my hubby) really need to add a bit of gutter to our little pump house. I'm pretty sure we still have one or two of those old green plastic rain barrels from Smith & Hawken lying around somewhere. If we had them catching the runoff from that one tiny roof, I could then use that to water my two little veggie beds, which happen to by right smack dab next to the pump house. Even better yet would be if they could somehow be attached to soaker hoses that run down the middle of each bed. Yes, "we" really ought to do that, don't you agree?

Sunday, September 8, 2013


One of the final projects in my Wild Summer Art class -- the "Bloomer Project" -- turned up a few surprises. Junelle said she originally dug out the old family photos just looking for examples of pinafores and bloomers to sketch, but ended up being quite shocked by some of the ensembles she found, once she really started paying attention. The same thing happened with me. 

Is this dress gorgeous, or what?
This first photo is my great-great-aunt Katie, whom my mother was named after. I never met her, of course, but I heard a lot about her since she was pretty much Mom's idol. Apparently she and her hubby were wealthy world travelers, who often brought little gifts back to my mom.  I'm guessing this photo was taken around 1898 or so, when Aunt Katie would have been attending a lot of parties, meeting all the eligible young bachelors in the Dallas area, while her parents negotiated the best possible match. Apparently they did a darned good job of it, for my mom always described them as a happy, fun-loving couple.

This is Aunt Katie about twenty years later. Not only is she sporting one of those daring new bathing costumes, but she even allowed herself to be photographed in it, there at the Murdoch Bath House in Galveston, Texas, had it turned into a postcard, then mailed it home to the relatives back in Dallas. Notice she is also smirking a bit in the photo. How many photos have you seen from that era, where people were smirking rather than glowering? Yep, I bet that Aunt Katie was more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

This last photo was the biggest shocker in the album, and I can't believe I never noticed it before. I remember my grandmother Ruth (we called her Modie, for some unknown reason) as being a rather stern woman. She was a business woman who always dressed in business-like suits -- nice expensive ones once her three boys were grown and gone, but business suits nonetheless. She was probably the very last woman of her generation to finally cave in and purchase a pantsuit and, even then, I'm sure it would have been a very business-like pantsuit. So imagine my surprise when I discovered this.

Modie is the one on the right. She's certainly not the classic "wilting flower" beauty of that era. Instead, there's something rather feisty in her look, like she was ready to take on the world. Which is a good thing indeed, since the world did not go easy on her. She married a pharmacist who had, as it turned out, an escalating taste for alcohol. After her third son (my dad) was born, she divorced him -- a thing that just wasn't done in those days -- and raised the three boys on her own. She also helped to raise a younger sister when their mother died way too young, and their father abandoned her to start a new family. So yeah, I guess she was justified in having lost her spark by the time I knew her. I'm just happy to have discovered that it was there to begin with!

Now I'm off to see if I can sketch of few our family's fashionistas. TTFN!