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June 2016

Time Out to Paint with Oils

In my recent life, much of 2016 has been focused on family activities and caretaking, and teaching. Aside from a little sketching and a little map drawing, doing personal artwork hasn't played a part in the past few months. One way to assure that I pull out my seldom-used oil paints is to get together with my friend Claire for a day of painting together. Last week, we set up in my greenhouse and surrounded by ecstatically blooming geraniums and our happy spirits, we painted. I with my oils, and Claire with her watercolors. 

I set up a still life, and Claire brought a spectacular bouquet to paint. In retrospect, in terms of my own still life choices, I probably would have preferred to paint less fussy items. Or, perhaps because my personal bent is often toward rendering detail (something that oil painting usually liberates me from), I ended up spending too much time on this painting...but no matter; it was very absorbing and satisfying to paint. And a couple of days ago, after doing more work on it since we had our painting day, I declared it done. Below you will see the temporary painting "studio" with Claire in her spot. Following that is my finished painting. 

Claire tackles a large floral bouquet with watercolors, and in the foreground you can see my hastily assembled still life with a tiny, child's teapot, an antique bottle, a feather, and a columbine.



"Keepsakes with Columbine" 6" x 14" panel

Notes on the items in the still life: Rick and I were on a small boat on the River Li in China, in 2007, when a Chinese woman from one of the villages along the shore was allowed to board. She made her living selling things to passengers. In her basket was an assortment of small items wrapped individually in pieces of patterned cloth. One of these items was this tiny, chipped and stained teapot. It is common for vendors to approach tourists to sell their wares to them, but most items are new, mass-produced trinkets. We bought very few keepsakes in China, but the little teapot was something I did buy. On the opposite side is a scratchy decal of 3 traditionally clothed children. Hand-painted Chinese characters decorate the side you see here, and some tiny ones are on the top.

The bottle came from a sidewalk garage sale in Walla Walla, Washington. I was there about 15 years ago with a group of friends, and spotted this old medicine bottle for $1. It has held many an individual blossom or a few sweet peas in the years since I brought it home. The feather is my granddaughter Ada's. It's future is to become a writing quill. The columbine, selected for its soft colors and contrasting form, is from the garden outside my greenhouse.