Sunday, June 30, 2013

Eureka Springs

Summertime--Ah Summertime! This has been a wonderful summer. However, in all honestly I thought I would be further along on my "to do" list. All those projects I intentionally put off until I have more time, do not seem to be getting crossed off that long, long list. Sometimes I even add more before crossing off anything. And then there are the everyday things that have to be done. The garden is needy, the house is needy, my spirit is needy, and the dog is extremely needy as are the ticks and fleas that think she is a delightful summer home.
I seem to constantly bite off more than I can chew and I have recently realized I chew a lot slower than I used to.
My grandchildren are a delight--but I need more time there.
My children are wonderful--I need more time with them.
My traveling spirit is ready to go--I need to plan a trip to use those flying miles.
My anticipation for next school year has me looking for new projects--I need more time to look.
My time spent once in a while watching a Dr. Oz show makes me want to treat myself better--I need a plan.
My friends are important to me--I need face time not face book to keep in touch.
And lastly and very importantly--I need to nourish my creative self and get some painting done. For I get very cranky when I don't.
I guess what happens is during the year I know I can't finish a lot of projects so they slide and I only concentrate on the things on the top of the priority list. The things at the bottom continually being moved down.
I did not blog last week--I was on a short trip with friends--much needed and too short.
This is Hank--one of the friendly hosts of Scandia B&B
Eureka Springs Arkansas is an enchanting little place carved out of the mountain side in northern Arkansas. In the late 19th century it was a mecca for people who sought medical healing from the natural springs that dotted the landscape. There are beautiful gingerbread houses and charming shops, as well as, delightful restaurants. The approach to the downtown area has several well tended gardens. There are friendly Bed and Breakfasts to stay in and friendly people to visit with along the streets.
Outside of town are many hiking trails, lakes and rivers to explore.
Where ever I go I always make time for sweet natured pets--like Hank!
So you can see why I couldn't get to the computer to blog. But here are some photos I would like to share.                                 Who knows maybe I will paint a watercolor inspired by one or two of them!!
Stop be next week and check on my progress.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Old House Portraits

It is not often you think of a house having it's portrait painted. But houses speak to me, as do graveyards, and rocks settled in the bottom of a clear-running stream. If you look hard enough and long enough or if you are innately open to such opportunities, many houses have very distinct personalities. Whenever I pass an old house, particularly in the countryside, I always consider what kind of stories it could tell if it had a loud voice and how easy it would be to hear them. And some old houses do have a loud voice by means of a caring individual or group  devoting time, research, and no doubt a great deal of money to make sure the stories are not lost.  They are wonderful places to visit.
But the old houses that have lost their owners, that sit sadly in an overgrown meadow, that slump within a grove of old magnolia trees at the end of a weedy lane--those are the ones that call to me and whisper their stories into my ears and my imagination.
In my youth I went into old houses undeterred by weak floors or falling ceilings. In Kentucky, outside of Bowling Green (where I was a college student in the 70's), there was one such old house, built during the Civil War, in terrible neglect. It was an old beauty made of durable red brick but only part of the upper floor was intact and much of the ceiling caved in. But there was a cupola, on what was the third floor, and I wanted to see the countryside from that window. So myself and a couple of other students carefully picked our way up to that window. You could tell the house was truly loved at one time--there was evidence of good taste everywhere. The curved banister that lead to that upper window was still shiny and looked as though it was polished only moments before. The view from that third story window was brilliant. It was there I could hear the army camped in the fields next to the house. The men and horses, the rolling of the artillery, and smell the camp fires in the center of the laid out military style streets, were all as real as if I had looked out of that window a hundred and six years before. Today I would not be so headstrong and careless. I have a little more respect for private property and  a great deal more respect for weak floors and caved in ceilings.
Years later I went back to that old house. A group of caring individuals had found the time, the money, and the inclination to save a beautiful anti-bellum mansion. And as the tour guide talked about the times before, during, and after the war, and about the  families who had lived there, I already knew the stories. They were tales of children being born in upper story bedrooms--some surviving but many who filled the graveyard next to the house. Some stories were of the old ones departing this world and being "laid out" in the parlor. There were Easter egg hunts and Christmas dinners. There were many nights when storms were on the verge of taking life and limb. There were tragedies of lost children and blessed events such as weddings and christenings. It is difficult sometimes to imagine that so much happened in one specific space-- and now  is so gone
My grandfather died in the house he was born in--a house his father built and died in. A house my father was born in--along with his six brothers and sisters. The house I spent so much time visiting.  The house, yard, garden, and barns are all gone. I wanted to show my children their heritage but could not even find the location because of the new highway. Finally I recognized the power lines. The ones my grandfather sold the easement to back in the 1950's. I knew where the house and yard had been in relationship to those power lines.
So much family history, so many birthings and Easter egg hunts--so much everyday living--like it wasn't even there. My heart was broken.
Some stories are of people who had money--who exemplified their values by the possessions they cherished. Some of the stories are of immigrants who left their homelands for a chance at something better, and still others are stories of individuals who barely eked out a living on hard soil and even harder luck. I love all the stories...
Here is a photograph of a cabin from the hills of Missouri.
And here is my watercolor painting of the cabin.

Daniel Boone's home near Defiance Missouri is a great favorite of mine. Obviously one of those structures that has received a great deal of love and attention. This is a watercolor done for a lady who felt the same way I did.
And then here is an old one that is dying for want of a roof and someone to cut the overgrown foliage away from her joints and window sills. I have many, many photos of old houses I have taken over the years--maybe I will write down some of the whispers they have shared with me.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

To Reinvent or not to Reinvent

Last week there was no post as I was off in the woods contemplating the growth of moss on the north side of large trees and thinking about my next piece of artwork.
That is not true--last week I was more in the fits of a mild depression. My birthday was fast approaching and I could garner no sense of accomplishment in my world. My grandson was heading off to school and I was wondering where the last five years had gone and why I had not done more in that period of time. Clutter overwhelms me and "dirty eating" plus a  feeling of inertia slowed me to a turtles gait and left me slouched in a lawn chair--hoping at least to get a suntan.
Since I was a young child  I have reveled in the opportunities to reinvent myself periodically. When I was little it was to be a nun (I am not catholic) and another time it was Robin Hood. As I grew up some of my reinventions became slightly more realistic.  From a war protester to a wife and mother. From a stay-at-home mom to a college student to a school teacher. So once again and with the inspiration of former lives I drag out my "clean eating" cookbooks, books of spiritual guidance, an exercise chart, my most recent "O" magazine, sunscreen and sunglasses, a refreshing herbal tea with a sprig of mint from my herb garden, my journal, a psychedelic pen, and  I began to write. I have some art events coming up so I used these to cultivate a sense of empowerment. Someone said once that you need to have just about all of your basic needs met before you can engage in creativity. Unless of course in the case of creatively dealing with survival. At a time when not all of my needs were being met my creativity turned to the darker side--but I won't go into that here. I have learned the procedure for my timely reinvention of habits.
I designed a meal plan that utilizes fresh produce from the beautiful garden in my backyard(something during  the stage my bad habits I ignore and choose instead the frozen pizza). No more sugar and processed foods, more veggies, and less meat. The exercise chart is to be filled in daily and the repetitions increased as time passes. But most of all and this is different from previous sojourns into healthy living--being in the Zen of the moment. Summertime is a great opportunity to slow down and think about taking care of myself. When I lose sight of that I suffer and then the things around me suffer. It is a very significant cause and effect system.  From reading articles in "O" magazine I think about my financial plan and my health insurance. There are articles on how to declutter--I have another plan in place. I see some cute dresses I may have to order. From my books by Deepka Chopra I remember what is truly important in life and how to take the time to search for and listen to that still small voice. Did I mention the unbelievable sunglasses in the magazine too! I write in my journal--something when I get too busy I forget to do. And as time passes I am really sorry I didn't do. The mint rosemary tea is reinvention in a glass!
The better I take care of myself, the better I am at doing just about anything and everything that is important to me. When I am healthy my art is healthy. Everyday I get better my art gets better and that is what keeps "mild fits of depression at bay" and reinvention so compelling! 
If I sit down with no immediate agenda for a painting (this is not including the hours of mental searching and decision-making) I find I treat the canvas and the paints with an attitude bordering on carelessness. I choose colors for silly reasons and I let the brushes play with the thickness of the oil, pigment, and turpentine to fashion strokes with a certain "mooshyness" to them.
This carelessness evolves into better paintings on many occasions. Here is one such....a gift for my grandson's first day of school.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Charly Painting

Such sadness in Moore Oklahoma. One of the photos that really stands out in my mind is of a  woman sitting on the driveway holding her cat. The animal was wrapped in a blanket and the house was gone--gone except for a pile of rubble, and what I would assume was her car sitting on top of it. I have never felt that kind of paralysis due to a storm but I have come close a couple of times. Where do you begin? I guess the journey of a thousand miles that begins with one step really rings true. You pick up one item then another, then another.
I don't know what it says about me but I can watch movies or TV shows where people get killed and I am fairly unaffected but when I see an animal hurt or abused it is heart-wrenching and unbearable. Perhaps I have been desensitized to human pain but certainly not to animal pain.
The storm was terrible in Oklahoma, and not a couple of weeks before, my town of Granbury Texas was hit and partially destroyed. I don't live there anymore but my family is there and many memories of a beautiful little historic town.
It is tornado season and we all live in constant concern if not fear as the sky darkens and the wind blows. When the sirens fill the air with noise we think--we have been lucky so far.
I am thankful school is out for the summer--at least I don't have to worry about where to take the students--in order to save lives.

Last week I posted early pictures of a painting I am doing for a writing project.
I posted a photo of the first drawing on the board and a second photo of the first stages of applying color. Here is the  "pretty much finished" painting (because nothing is ever really finished). I decided to do a monochromatic color scheme and to leave the background obscure.
As I was working on the portrait of Charly I couldn't help thinking about all those lost animals in Oklahoma and Texas. Charly is well loved and well taken care of as a result of two people who were not intimidated by the bad rap pit bulls get from the media. Charly is loving and playful and a great companion.
He also has a great variety of expressions and moods--just enough to keep him a never-ending surprise.
I hope the painting is a good portrait for aspiring writers and helps them to find a self-expressing voice. I am looking for my next subject--maybe something playful or mysterious.

A small check is on it's way to Oklahoma to help take care of those homeless pets that have lost their owners. If you care to join me here is the address
Central Oklahoma Humane Society
9300 N. May Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mountains of New Mexico

School is about to end for this year and summer is three steps down the path. Cold weather has been lingering and over stayed its welcome. Spring  was here for a few days--long enough for the lilac, forsythia, and purple irises to all bloom gloriously--drop their blossoms and turn all green. And now it is hot. Humidity is 96% and the air so full of moisture you could wring it out like my grandmother's dishcloth.
The portrait of Charly is coming along nicely. I will not post a picture of it here because it is in it's "ugly" stage and very shy. I will post one next week regardless of it's condition--it will have to get over being shy. The portrait of Charly is the first in a small series I am doing in conjunctions with a group of writers. In July we will team up to show case visual arts and writing using some of my pet portraits as inspiration. I am trying to put together a group of paintings of especially ambiguous yet emotional animals that will invoke the writers imagination. Charly and I and the other 5 canvases are very excited.
There is a painting I would like to post. This is a painting done a few years ago in Red River New Mexico. We were staying at my sister's little cabin in the mountains above the town way up a gravel road. We were driving a Honda Insight (hybrid) which is very close to the ground. Not wanting to travel the gravel road overmuch we decided to walk to town. This was a jaunt of a little over a mile.--both ways. The walk was grand, the weather cool and fresh. There was a wonder at every turn in the road. But on one particular turn I took the time to tie my often untied boots when I saw this little stucture. I call it a structure because I didn't know exactly what it was--a cabin, a well-house, an old mining shed (ok that one is pretty far fetched, wrought from too many John Wayne movies as a child). But whatever it was I felt intriged and mystified. It sat all alone in a small openning in the woods--abandoned. Or was it? My imagination was running away with me but my upbringing told me it was private and to leave it that way. So I did--but I painted it, hoping to capture a little bit of it's charm and mystery.
I really never know if the things I end up painting are as special as I see them or if I tend to imbue some personal estimation into people, places, and pets.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Happy Mother's Day

The very best Mother's Day present I have ever received was 36 years ago when my first child was born. She was born on Mother's Day 1977. The day before she was born I had picked a bouquet of wild daisies I found by the roadside. I picked them for my own mother who had come from Texas to be present at the birth of her 8th grandchild. Amanda came easily and with dark curls all over her head.
Three years later her brother was born and added smiles and laughter to our lives. Two sweeter children never existed. They have truely been a joy all of their lives and now I have a wonderful time enjoying their children. It was a great Mother's Day--one I shared with my children and my grandchildren. We planted gardens and built fairy houses and even had a little time for chicken chasing!
A little time in the evening I spent following my passion--painting. I have an exhibit coming up in July so I began a new painting.
This is the first stages of a painting of a rescued Pit Bull named Charly. Pit Bulls were once called "nanny dogs" because they helped  take care of children. They were and still are very protective of their families. Charly is very much like a little boy--playful and fun one moment and curled up in your lap the next--fast asleep.
He is alway ready to chase a ball.
This painting is oil on a wooden panel I prepared with gesso and sanded smooth.  I do a very rough sketch on the board just to block in some colors.
I am considering a monochromatic color scheme in a sepia tone -just for fun. But this could change at any moment. It is  good  to start with a value study even if I decide to add color later.
We will all be surprised at the outcome!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Summer Yearnings

School is about to wind down--12 days left. Everyone from students to teachers to janitors seem to be less engaged with the present and more speculative about the forthcoming vacation. The weather has been unseasonably cool and wet--it still feels like early spring. But I know just around the corner summer will make her appearance and no doubt rather abruptly. As the sidewalks heat up and the shade seems harder to find I wonder if the West is still as beautiful as I remember. I have been there a number of times but each time is a new experience. Things change. I travel west to collect images with my camera and   my spirit. Next year I will apply for the artist-in-residence program in one of the National Parks.
Colorado River
Many, many words have been spoken and written about Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and Yosemite as well as many photographs and paintings have tried to capture their beauty. Ken Burns did a great job with his film on the National Parks. It is human nature to express how we feel about things that we connect with--a need to share.
I have Coyote Oldman playing in the Bose and it takes me right to that place where I smell the dust of the trails, the charred remains of the trees that burned years ago on the north rim, and the sound of the vastness that is everywhere.
A favorite experience I like to give  my students is the gift of visualization. It is a meditative practice I learned years ago in my college days. We all get comfortable, play Native American music, and close our eyes. I tell of a journey complete with sounds, smells, colors, temperature changes, and images. Many times they fall asleep they are so relaxed but they can tell me of the many things they saw and felt along the path. This, then transfers to the drawing paper or the canvas, and sometimes in the form of a sculpture. Here is a painting of Andy standing on a rock where the Colorado River and Tapeats Creek merge. It is a dangerous place, but I think he finds it magical--so do I. There are not enough years left to paint all the wild places I  would like to paint.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Kitchen

There is a famous painting by Georges Seurat that hangs in Chicago called Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Many individuals and pets are lounging on the green grass of soft hills bordering a serene lake. Everyone seems contented and at ease, enjoying the outdoors and companionship. Everything is perfect. It could not be otherwise in a painting made up entirely of small dot-like brush strokes. When viewed from the proper distance the eye mixes the dots into areas of color, then into areas of form.
My Sunday afternoon today was made up of areas of color that transformed into shapes born of free flowing youthful minds, small hands, and smiles. I painted with my grandchildren.

Maddox is the older one with a great heart for things done properly. He is a thoughtful lad of five on the cusp of kindergarten. Reaching out with curiosity and exuberance he studies his paper, his paints, and his creativity before putting brush to paper. He is as careful as a five year old can be. He has confidence in his thought process but like the rest of us when doing creative work he noticed that the painting didn't turn out quite like he thought it would. I told him, "I know exactly how you feel". I don't remember having such insight when I was 20 let alone five. I think he will be a fine artist one day. He was a fine artist today.
The little blonde on the opposite side of the easel is a whole different set of standards. She is oblivious to rules, blind to advice, and beyond direction. Her painting was free-form and unbridled. She mixed colors, swirled the brush, and applied drips in thoughtful locations adding just the right touch of the Jackson Pollock influence. With Zoe behind the brush painting has no content and no critics--it is painting at is purest. She allowed the paint to flow from the brush to the paper of its own accord--she was only along for the ride. She and the paint and the paper had a great ride through reds and blues that turned into purple butterflies, to yellows and blues that turned into magical rivers of green. When she found how to make dots she turned into Suerat. And through it all she just smiled. I wish I could paint through Zoe's freedom.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Weimaraner named Greta

A recent painting of a beautiful Weimaraner named (a very German) "Greta".  This breed of dog is very loyal and has a sweet disposition. One could go further and say this particular dog is exceedingly loyal and exceptionally sweet! Greta had a promising litter of three puppies--all of which died shortly after birth. Greta was devastated. To assuage her grief she would arranged her stuffed toys around her, place her chin on her paws, and sigh.
Her owners didn't know if she understood about her puppies or she just knew something wasn't right. It is very hard not to attribute human characteristics to animals. Maybe doing so is what connects so many of us to our pets.
In truth, there are many animals I prefer to many humans.
On a happier note Greta is  now the proud mother of several little warm bundles of Weimaraners born a couple of weeks ago. Everyone is happy and healthy and they promise to grow up to be great hunting dogs like their mom.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Follow Me on Pinterest!

Who doesn't love Pinterest!?!? If you want to see more of what interests me, follow me on Pinterest by following this link:
Some people have asked  about my Pinterest boards so I have decided to make a short mid-week post with my Pinterest link. I hope that when you check out the link you find some fun stuff to repin, make, or laugh about. Let me know what interests (or shall I say Pinterests) you the most.
 Happy Pinning!!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Lost in Plain Sight

A post did not appear last week because I was in an old growth forest in the southeast corner of Missouri--far from a computer. In this area along the Mississippi River, where I have never been, stands Big Oak Tree State Park. These are very large trees, several of which are Champion trees. Last Sunday morning as I stood among these towering beauties the silence almost hurt my ears. There were no car sounds, no boat sounds, but most importantly, no people sounds. There were myriad bird songs and a cacophony of frogs.  They would make their frog sounds, building to a frenzied pitch, and then slide into silence for a much needed respite. Disappointment was to shadow the walk as the champion Bur Oak (we had driven four hours to see) lay silently on her side half buried in the soft, moist earth. She was more than 17 feet in diameter--so large she barely seemed real. Her top was scattered here and there across the forest floor partially there, partially gone. She was probably young when the Declaration of Independence was making its way across the ocean to England. She must have been a real beauty when she grew along the river and only indigenous people sat in the shade of her branches.
Lost in Plain Sight
As we traveled home we saw many hillsides with the trees pushed up into piles--left to rot,  not even used for firewood, soil washing into streams. You can't see the forest for the trees because it's not there. These were huge trees that will take centuries, if ever, to regrow. More pasture does not seem the answer to me and I am terrified my grandchildren will have a poorer quality  of life because of attitudes that currently persist.
The painting I want to share is called Lost in Plain Sight. I feel a connection between this painting and my trip to the forest. In my mind she is like the old oak tree a bit. She more or less blends into the background with only her lovey tail and blue, blue eyes drawing attention. Like many people who can't see the forest for the greed or perhaps need (I don't know) you can't see the whole cat for those mesmerizing blue eyes.
If anyone is out there write a comment about my naming of the cat painting and any thoughts on old oak trees--or about frogs for that matter.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

My Three Brothers

My Three Brothers
This seems like an odd name for a painting that consists of two boys and a dog. The truth is the dog was my constant companion while my two brothers were older, with lives that didn't very often include a small sister. I was more of an annoyance than a playmate.
We lived in the watershed of Benbrook Lake in Texas when I was between four and eight. Occasionally there could be found a rattlesnake crawling through the short grass and dust of suburban Ft. Worth. I asked my mother if she had been concerned with letting me play in the backyard alone (in the fifties children played outside in groups called neighborhoods). Her response was that I was never alone--that Tippy was always at my side or waiting patiently by any door I had previously gone through.Tippy was old by the time I was wandering around needing protection and she did not last past my eighth birthday. She was ill and my parents had to make the unbearable decision to not allow her to suffer but to a seven year old it was a decision sure--in my sometimes still seven year old heart, I have yet forgiven. Tippy was the first "person" to die in my life and I sit here fifty years later with tears rolling down my face. Tippy was there, watching over me and her loss made me vulnerable--I still am.
My brother with the beautiful red hair has been gone for more that ten years now. And the brother with the blond hair lives far away in Texas.
This was the first "pet painting" I painted and it resides on my sunroom wall.
My memories of all my pets, my farm animals, my friends and relatives that have filled my life, and with their deaths left gaping holes, reside in my heart and on my painted canvases.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Still Winter in Missouri

"I can think of no greater happiness than to be clear-sighted and know the miracle when it happens. And I can think of no more real life than the adventurous one of living and liking and exclaiming the things of one's own time".
Robert Henri
It is St. Patrick's Day and snowing outside. I have listened to a collection of Celtic music and dreamed about standing on a windswept moor with my hair and long black coat snapping in the rainy wind--listening to Loreena McKennitt does that to me. Stepping out my back door feels a little like that today.
With my camera in hand, Keefer and I go for a walk, through the orchard, toward the pond. We run and fall, she jumps, I fall again. The sun has decided to come out for a while making everything soft and bright. Keefer darts by daring me to try to take a photograph of her in the snow. She stops and teases me with the perfect pose then darts away again--ears flapping. When she gets distracted by something under the snow and stops to paw the ground I get my shot.
It is a great happiness to be clear-sighted and know the miracle. A simple miracle of a spotted dog in a snowy orchard on St. Paddy's Day 2013.
Here is a painting of Keefer. She is a sweet companion who loves living in the moment.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cat in a Purple Chair

Here is a painting of a cat using the very painterly effect employed by Robert Henri---the artist I wrote about in my last post.
I love using lots of paint and as few brush strokes as I can get away with.
Robert Henri was a master at this and I study his work in the off chance I might find the understanding to lay the stroke down and leave it alone.
I am in love with the colors and the appearance of this cat ready to jump from the chair at any moment for any reason.
It is a hard thing to be confident enough to trust one stroke. As in the previous post about unusual moments in the world around us and using them to grow and become wise, I search for that ray of light. I found it in the sunshine, a cat, and a chair.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sign Posts from Robert Henri

"There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom. If one could but recall his vision by some sort of sign. It was in this hope that the arts were invented. Sign posts on the way to what may be. Sign posts toward greater knowledge".
                                                                                                                          Robert Henri

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite artists. It guides me daily, it justifies my existence, it helps me cultivate my vision. Robert Henri was a visionary, a painterly artist, and a brilliant teacher--all thing I strive for every moment.
In this moment from where I am sitting, I see eleven bright red male cardinals sitting in a Flowering Quince just about to burst bud. As the evening sun strikes a scarlet color on their topknots, I know exactly where I will use that hue in a painting on my easel. When I fill a brush with that brighter that bright red and glance it across the surface of the canvas, feeling it is the right mark at the right time, my happiness and my wisdom are complete. When I stand back and look, I know it is the sign that helps me recall my vision. It is through these sign posts that I reach for another canvas and another tube of red paint. And yet another moment beyond the usual.

Cardinal Red Peony
I wish there were enough hours in the day to translate unusual moments into paintings, songs, and poems.
In my blog posts to come I will periodically talk about Robert Henri and some of the things I have learned from him.
If you are interested in finding out more about his life and teachings, his book is called The Art Spirit.
It was published in 1923

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Repair for a Broken World?

When I started this blog I was mostly interested in talking about my paintings and some of the animals I have known. However, as months went by and I posted stories about some of the dogs and cats I have painted for myself and other people, along with images I had created and photos I had taken, I began to look deeper for a way to connect.
Each week I thought about what image I would post and what I would say about the painting. At first I thought I would only post about pets--thus the "petsbyhollis" name. But as time went by, more of my personality came through and I began to think I would blog about this thing I had made or that thing I had begun and never finished, knowing there were individuals out there who did the same thing. I hesitated, thinking that to be too diverse would be unfocused and less professional than I wanted to appear.
A very wise woman who has the ability to be succinct and supportive at the same time told me "it is your blog--write what you want". So I began to stray from only posting about the pets.
I started with the Graveyard Quilt because I find that story so compelling. Then I responded to the writing challenge at FOLK magazine(where I have a small ad). The challenge was to take a family photo and tell a story. I chose a photo of my mother and told the story about her trip to the state capitol when she was sixteen. I posted a drawing of a boy and a dog as preliminary work for a painting. Unfortunately, I have not put brush to canvas to work on the painting--it is on the "to do" list.
Listening to NPR is an informative and sometimes painful endeavor. I hear stories that make me mad, that make me more compassionate, that make me smile and laugh, that make me wonder how we as the human race have lasted as long as we have. And some stories make me so angry and give me such feeling of impotence that my sleep is disturbed.
When this happens I have the choice to double over in pain, throw something, take up militant songwriting or-----------paint.
I have chosen painting because I have loved ones who would protest my taking up arms.
This painting is unfinished (as so many things are) but coming along nicely in what I want to say.
A young child, like a blank canvas with the whole future ahead of her. A world teetering on the edge with broken pieces at her feet.
The story that has me so disappointed in our world is the Bob Edward's story(NPR 3/3/2013) about the dwindling population of the wolves in the West. Since they were taken off the endangered list their numbers have gone from 1,700 to 700. Wolves are such a critical part of the ecosystem, that for no other reason, they should be protected. They are social animal who mourn their dead and care for their offspring and their society. Research has shown that dogs kill more livestock than are killed by wolves. I have also read that the government reimburses the livestock owners for stock lost to wolves. So what is going on here--the Little Red Riding Hood syndrone? The thought of no wolves in Yellowstone breaks my heart and makes me sing militant songs like in the 60's. Where are rest of us?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Old Family Photos

Photographs like this hardly appear real. They seem more like an invention of Hollywood or an amusement park where you place your face in a cutout (in this case a painted 1930's school bus) to have a photo taken and a good laugh.
This is my mother's story.
In 1932 she and a dozen other young girls took a very long trip from southwest Missouri to the state Capitol in Jefferson City. These girls were the winners of the Home Economics Competition in the district schools. During this period in history and rural location girls were honored for their home making abilities. Some of the girls won for baking and canning, some for dressmaking and quilting, still others for gardening and embroidery. However, my mother won for what we in this era would find much more unique. She won the district competition by designing an undergarment. A Brassiere to be specific. My mother was a clever woman who grew up during the depression with very limited resources. She was an artist at heart who could make something from nothing-- a skill enviable in today's culture. She was an award winning flower arranger, a superior homemaker, a devoted Methodist, an honorable wife, and most of all an inventive and inspiring mother of five. The other girls were winners in the typical home arts of the 1920's and 30's. But my mother chose an unsung undergarment to design and sew--basic to looking good in those formfitting gored dresses of the period. She didn't win the state competition. I think the subject of her entry was a little too sensitive but the trip was an eye-opening experience for a sixteen year old girl from a farm in rural Missouri.
This scene was real. Taken on a bridge during a warm summer day over 80 years ago. The girls went their separate ways after the trip. One became my aunt, one became a Home Economics teacher and one was killed during WWII. To hear my mother tell the story about this trip it was the adventure of their young lives. An interesting note to this story is that I live not far from that bridge outside Jefferson City.
This photo is on my wall reminding me of a young girl traveling over 175 miles to show off her bra.

As told to me by Maxine Peck Taylor--my mother.
She is third from the right in the photo--pretty cool hat!!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Snowing and Painting in Mid-Missouri

A very cold day in Mid-Missouri. Three inches of snow topped off with a measurable amount of ice. School was called off today and will probably be called again tomorrow. The nesting/artist instincts have me baking bread and searching for watercolor paper the right size. Afternoon will bring yoga and perhaps painting.
I am working on more dog portraits, having prints made of my Chickens in the Yard painting and painting with my grandson.

I am including in this post a drawing I started as preliminary work for a painting. Working out the value scales and composition is easier in a drawing than reworking a painting. If these issues are not resolved early no amount of correction will make the completed painting work. It is heartbreaking to know there are problems that you try to fix with technique that are really fundamental design issues. Spending time early is a way to overcome some of the frustration. It is very enlightening to see the sketch on the computer. Flaws are glaring--it seems my afternoon may be spent on the drawing board. Oh, well at least there is a warm fire and a lovely piece of homemade bread beside me.
Stay tuned for an update and hopefully an improved drawing!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Article Featuring "Bleu" featured on Wines & Vines

Jane Firstenfeld recently wrote an article discussing the Label Art Competition at Les Bourgeois Vineyard. The whole article is available at "Bleu" by Hollis Taylor was featured on their 2012 Collector's Series bottle of Traminette. The winery holds a competition every year to source artwork for their collector's series bottle. Artists are encouraged to enter in multiple years. Hollis is working on preparing something for this year's entry. For more information on the competition, visit for the entry form.

Photo credit: Les Bourgeois Vineyards

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Graveyard Quilt

The Quilt of the Graveyard.
Painting pets, places, and people is what I do...for the most part. Sometimes I do things completely different so as to keep my world a learning place. I have a real need to explore all kinds of creative endeavors from painting to building fairy houses with my granddaughter to making quilts and cooking.
The project I am sharing now is not about pets but about places and people--people from a long time ago, very much like many of us today and in some ways very different but with a shared insight.
The story that accompanies this project started with someone mentioning their love of quilts which was a passion we shared. This individual said the most unusual quilt she had seen was one with tiny coffins appliqued in the center. My interest was greatly peaked but soon forgotten. Weeks later I was thumbing through an old quilt book in the library and when I laid the book down the pages fell open to the Graveyard Quilt--with tiny coffins appliqued in the center.Under the photo was the name of the museum where the quilt was located. It was the Kentucky Historical Society where I had spend hours in my college years.
I called the museum asking about the Graveyard Quilt which was unfortunately not on exhibit due to poor condition. The wonderful ladies at the museum offered to send me a book about the quilt written by Linda Otto Lipsett.When I received the book I was mesmerized. I read it from cover to cover. The author subtitled the book An American Pioneer Saga and it truly was a journey. After reading the story I decided to make as close a copy of the quilt as I could. It took about 4 months to complete using reproduction 19th century fabric, dyeing the muslin pieces for the backing(because fabric was very narrow in the early American years) with walnuts and hand quilting the entire quilt. I have won quilt awards and told the story about Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell many, many times. A few people have found the story unpleasant and disturbing, however many more have found compassion and empathy and even personal insight from the true story of one woman's efforts to deal with a personal tragedy.
This pioneer family of Shadrach and Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell lived in Pennsylvania in the 1800s. They had eleven children as they emigrated from east to west. Two of Elizabeth's sons died along the way. She fashioned a quilt top with eleven squares across the top representing her eleven children. In the center she pieced a graveyard with places for tiny coffins quilted within an appliqued cemetery.The cemetery had fencing resplendent with embroidered roses and vines. As a memorial to the two lost children she sewed small brown coffins.The rest of the family was represented with coffins along the border. The plan was for the coffins to be moved to the cemetery as the family member departed this world. While this quilt was an expression of a heartbroken mother it also served as a birth and death record for the family.
Mourning customs have changed drastically over the years and in today's world we seem to pay less and less attention to the physical nature of deceased loved ones. People move from place to place and look toward the future more than cherishing the past. But for those out there that enjoy a good tale this story about Elizabeth Mitchell's struggle to remember her dear children and how she used her creativity and resources while carving out an American saga is one worth knowing. You can find more about the quilt and other objects at
Feel free to comment or ask questions about the quilt-I love to hear from you.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

FOLK Magazine Artist Advertisment

Here is my new ad in FOLK magazine. It will appear in issue #9 coming out very soon.

Hollis Taylor, portrait Artist ad that will be published in the upcoming issue of FOLK Magazine. Check us out! It's a great magazine with the majority of their ad revenue coming from artists and crafters.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

ShortStop Shorty

This charming little corgi was a good candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame this year.She wasn't interested in performance enhancing drugs, money, or well--Fame.
All she was interested in was one clear crack of the baseball bat. As it happened she lived up the street from the city park where very early on summer mornings the local girl's softball team met to practice. Cordelia (Shorty for short, but I don't know why) would listen carefully and when she heard the first ring of a bat hitting a ball she would run down the street in her funny corgi way, where all of her legs were off the ground at the same time, and stop at the fence--waiting. When a batter would hit a ball through the infield--off she would fly, around the fence, retrieve the ball, and bring it to the closest ballplayer. Shorty could play all day but when practice was over she would sit with the girls enjoying lots of pats and ear scratches and sharing drinks of cool water. Shorty would look from face to sweaty face of those girls in red and love her place in their lives. Those girls are graduating school this year but the younger ones are anxious to see Shorty next summer. Oh! maybe she got her nickname from her shortstop abilities! May-be

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

HyVee Shopper

There was nothing small about Jag--other than the fact he was the size of a small bus. He was so loveable that he was considered by all who knew him to be the Noble Prize Winner of love and affection. He had a cat friend who loved to take naps on his broad shoulders in the depths of winter. Many people loved to warm their feet under his rug like side and warm pink underbelly. He had the run of the neighborhood and everyone felt part ownership in his outgoing nature. When he was feeling lonely (which was not very often surely) he would wander down the hillside to the HyVee store, make his way through the automatic doors and complete his rounds of the friendly and as yet unfriended individuals inside the store. After most of the adults and all of the children had a few pets the manager would call his human home and someone would come fetch him. Everyone glad they got to see the unusual occurrance in the local grocery store felt all the better for having seen him. Even the health inspector would have loved Jag--no one could help loving Jag.
No one gets to see Jag at HyVee anymore--how sad for everyone.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Cutest Dogs Ever

A Christmas Package
Is there anything more fun than a couple of Maltese needing their portraits painted for Christmas--red bows and all?
These two rescue dogs are a barrel of fun despite the past abuses. They live with their human parents and their sisters/personality counterparts in Columbia Missouri.
Painting white dogs is a bit of a challenge however with their personalities the paper was filled with love and a certain gleam in the eye.

I have included an in-progress photo just for fun.