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?