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Outside the Realm-hiking the Inca Trail

September 13, 2018 by admin

I am still baffled by the fact that when I climb a flight of stairs, or walk up a steep hill that I am winded and my heart is going “boom-boom-boom” in my head, and yet it was only a month ago that I somehow coerced this old body all the way to the edge… and then just a little bit farther, to hike the Inca Trail.

I went into the “Camino Inka-Inka trail” hike with the attitude of no problem, I can do it, probably not from being physically fit, because I’m not, but more from that arrogant air that others did it, so can I!  Even after I read and heard stories of people turning back after the first day, and not able to continue, I thought that “well, it’s just a hike”.

To ever think that trekking the Inca Trail is “just a hike”, it is akin to saying that John Singer Sargent was “just another artist”… and he wasn’t!

But I still had that attitude, even after some failed attempts to prepare for my trip. First,  a hike up Mount Wrightson in Southern Arizona, where almost to the summit, I could not continue because I was cramping up in both legs. Then, there were two days of strenuous hiking in the front range of the Colorado Rockies. Lastly, a few day hikes in and around home, when just the weekend before Peru, I ended up with my first blisters on my toes after just a 2-hour hike on a well-used “chip” trail.

Still I had no idea!

I chose this “cover” painting for all that it says to me. Here, we look across the ancient Inca city of Ollantaytambo in the heart of the Sacred Valley. The day before we were to start our trek, our guide suggested  a “little climb” to the ruins on the east side of town called Pinkuylluna.  This is where the Incas had their storage facilities, high above, where the cooler winds and temps would help to preserve the grains for later use.

Our entire group of 16 were more than game for this little hike, and after grabbing daypacks, water and cameras off we went, winding through the narrow streets and alleys created over 500 years ago.

Somehow, and I don’t know how we did it, we totally missed the sign warning hikers against this trail up the mountain, and its dangers. And I still to this day think that Nick, our lead guide for the Inca Trail, was taking us here as a test to evaluate each of us and how we handled ourselves in an actual “live” situation.

It was NOT the easy hike that I had expected, and it didn’t take long, as I climbed the narrow switchbacks up the side of the mountain, before I realized I needed to rethink what I was about to do. This was “1/2 hour up”, said Nick. Well maybe for him, but my pace quickly diminished, and I needed constant stops to catch my breath, and my wits…

…but we kept on.

When we finally made it, I looked out across the Sacred Valley. The sun was creeping down slowly behind the Western mountains, and what a sight it was. Just across on the near mountains were the ever-incessant terraces of the Inca temple of Araqhama, and what is referred to as “The Fortress” which is quite wrong being more of a sacred area than a defensive structure.

The place was breathtaking, and here I felt ever inspired from what lay before me, and then all that lay behind. The people and civilizations that had come and gone as they too looked out on the fading light through their sacred valley. Here with the pilgrimage of the Inca’s ahead of me, across “Warmiwanusca” or “Dead Woman’s Pass” at 13,780′ all the way to Machu Picchu. I began to see that before me was not a hike like any I had done before. This was to be something I had to dig down deep into myself just to put another foot in front of the other.

This was a search of what I was really made of.

Later that evening, back at the last night of lodging in a bed for this journey, I quickly reassessed everything that I was putting into my backpack and if it was not essential for the trip, it was not coming with me. Out went the extra pair of pants, extra shoes, deodorant, wet paint carriers, (I went from 3 with 24 canvas papers, to 1 with 8) everything that we thought might be considered “non-essential”. My personal pack went from 14 kilos to 9.6 kilos (21.2 pounds). Much better, though still twice as heavy as the average pack that the rest of the group was carrying, but I needed my painting gear…

…or so I thought.

Besides my preparations for my journey with physical training, I was going to paint! But I needed to revamp my gear; it was entirely too heavy for an actual trek across mountains. My backpack I normally use with my Soltek easel weighed in at 37lbs (16.8 kilos) this was NOT going to work, and if you read my previous blog (Pleins 2 Peru) you’ll see how I slimmed it down. It wasn’t easy, but before I left for Peru it was half what I normally carried, which made me think it would be a cake walk.

We began this trip in the dead of winter, winter south of the equator, at least. As we waited in the lobby of our hotel, we heard from guides and hikers who had been turned back from their Lares Trek to Machu Picchu because of snows and impassible trail. Not what I was wanting to hear, because “surprise, surprise”, I had tossed out some of my warmer gear for some lighter layering. The predictions for the next four days on the trail were lows below 0 to 1-15 above (centigrade) This, I was expecting, and thought doable, but the threat of snow was not good news. However, the day the 16 of us began, the sun was out, no winds and about 4 degrees.

I want to mention the group of fellow hikers on this journey. There were 16 total, along with Nick and Miguel, the two guides from G Adventures. We flew down to Peru with good friend Phyllis and Gary from Nebraska, and there in Lima Peru we met the rest of the clan. 12 others from around the globe, mostly from Europe, but one fellow American, a Megan Summers who was no relation… at least not to my knowledge. There was Olly and Emily from England, along with Kieran and Steph. Also, from Great Britain was Ruth, who like Megan, was traveling alone. Then from Norway) were Christian and  Christina, and slightly closer to the Atlantic were the four Irish girls, Yani, Jane, Helen and Maggie.

What I noticed about the 12 other hikers we met up with was that everyone was young, or younger at least. Ruth was the youngest at 22, and then the oldest was in their early 30’s. Phyllis, Gary, Susie and myself were the seniors of the group in our early 60’s.

To tell the truth I had thought originally that traveling with such a large group of strangers was going to be odd, then all of them so young, there was going to be this big gap in generations. But what I found was what had to be some of the best hiking partners I could have asked for. I would have been hard pressed to pick a better group of people, all with the common goal of Machu Picchu via the Inka Trail. They were there cheering us on, ready with a helping hand, or steaming cup of coca tea when needed.

You never know what or who you are going to get when a tour group throws this many together for an adventure such as this. But no complainers, no whiners, all the drama was saved for the landscape.

What stuck with me most about the Inca civilization was all their terraces. They put them everywhere, and it didn’t matter if the land was too steep to even set a foot on, they would just spend a few years in building terraces up the side of the mountain. I realize if you need to grow food, and don’t have an inch of flat land available, it was necessary. But the amount of work put into these things, and they were everywhere! I know there will be some paintings to follow that feature some of their terraces.

As we set out on the first day, the sun was warming us from the mid-winter chill. We crossed the Urubamba river, which runs through the Sacred Valley, on a suspension bridge, and then began a slow rise up the valley side. The procession of porters with our equipment and the group of 16 really seemed like an expedition heading out on an adventure. I suppose it’s not so different than those before heading out from this exact spot. For whatever reason for this journey, for spiritual enlightenment, soul cleansing, or just some good old south of the border adventure, we were on our way.

Day one of the hike had been billed as a “warm up” for the rest of the trail. For the most part it is flat, or as I learned “Inca Flat”, which is more like up, down, up, level, up, down, up. Or something like that, you get the drift. We began that day at about 8,000 feet, and towards the end of the day I was literally thinking, “there is no way”. The terrain was steadily increasing, and my steps becoming slower and shorter. My 10 kilos back pack was feeling more like someone was dragging on it.

The landscape was beautiful, and if it weren’t for Nick our ever-present guide telling us to go at our own pace, there is no hurry, and to stop frequently and enjoy the scenery, “take pictures”, I would have never made it. This came to be one of my favorite and anticipated things, the “rest stops”. They came much more frequently on the following days, but the last couple hours of the first day made me doubt that day 2 would be possible.

We finally made camp about 5:00 that afternoon. Susie and I were the last ones in and I did not mind. This would be a pattern we did not break the entire trip. It gave me a chance to visit with the guide at the end of our gang. which was usually Nick, and I would hear about some of the history, and geography of the area, along with tales of the locals, and his adventures.

We camped that night just above Wayllabamba, and as I drug myself into camp and saw the row of tents all neatly lined up in a row, and the smell of dinner in the air, I thought to myself… I must paint something! So quickly I pulled out my painting gear from my pack. I was using the nice lightweight “Fly on the Wall” easel for this trip. The thing only weighs about 1 kilo, then of course the tripod, which was double that. But despite my weariness, I wanted to paint, so I set up at the end of the campsite and began throwing something on the canvas. Here in the southern hemisphere things are a little different. Sure, the sun still sets in the west, but it’s winter time, and it sets about 5:30pm. Another thing, the arc of the sun takes it around so that it’s to the north of where you are, the moss is on the southern side of the trees. But no matter what it did, I had to do something before the sun was gone. Happy Hour began at 5:30, then after that was supper, and I could miss the happy hour, but I needed that food.

I don’t know if it was my being beat and tired, or hungry and disoriented, but I know the painting that I made had to have been the worst thing I had ever painted in my life, and of course I was doing it for an audience of porters who carried our tents and food to the camp. I think they probably wanted to not transport my gear after they saw that, but at least I got something going. It’s good to get that bad painting out of the way so the next one can be a winner.

Dinner was great. Seriously, the G Adventures people who outfitted us had some of the best chefs who made wonderful meals out of thin air. It was something I grew to look forward to. Okay, that’s a stretch.  I look forward to every meal, no matter where I am, but they did some amazing things along that rock trail there in the Andes.

After dinner it was what, about 7:30? I think this could have been the earliest I had ever gone to bed in my life, but it was needed, and everyone was retiring, knowing what was coming tomorrow… Dead Woman’s Pass.

The night was cold, getting down below 0, but I was quite cozy in my sleeping bag. Most were awakened in the night from the festivities in the local town of Wayllabamba. It was the Fiestas Patrias peruanas, their Independence Day from Spain. Music and fireworks were heard well into the wee hours of the night. I only heard the fireworks about 9pm and went right back to sleep, but along the trail, I spoke to other hikers who camped closer to town, and they told of music going to 3-4 o’clock in the morning. This is when I did not mind hiking a little further past the town to our campsite. Small miracles!

The morning came with porters knocking on our tent flaps saying ‘Up-Up’ and handing us steaming hot cups of coca tea to help us along. This was a godsend, I tell you. The coca was an amazing resource, with that quick picker-upper, and helpful against altitude sickness… and it was passed out like candy, and who was going to turn down candy?

Not me.

Today was the day we all had circled on our calendar. Today was up, uP, UP! Up to Warmiwañusqa, or “Dead Woman’s Pass”. This was the highest point of the Inca Trail at 13,800 feet, and did I ever mention STAIRS? You would not believe it without seeing it. The trail up these mountains are made up of cut stone, or steps cut into the stone. For each and every step, I found myself looking for the smaller step up, but there were times the steps were almost to my knee and there was no way to avoid pulling oneself up to that next level. I found my trekking poles extremely helpful in doing this. Putting my poles on the step above helped to lift myself and my backpack up to the next ridge.

Stairs are handy, but this, like the terraces, was overkill. I found myself stopping and looking up and saying to Susie,” okay we’ll go another 20 yards and then rest”. We saw the porters doing these things like they were nothing, and they were carrying triple the weight as us.  We noticed that they did little switchbacks on the stairs, which seemed like a good idea. I would go up the smallest step, then walk a couple steps on the same level before I went up. It seemed like a lot of extra steps, but it seemed to help… and any little thing that made this easier was a blessing.

Like Nick had said earlier, “go at your own pace, stop, rest, take pictures”, and that I did. I took over 2,500 photos along the way, I’m not sure how many are going to be tossed, but on Facebook I posted about 200.  The scenery along the way was amazing. I just loved the cloud forests. I would gaze deep into the jungle, where at times it was pitch black, absolutely no light getting through the forest canopy, and listen to rushing water somewhere buried inside, and the brilliant snow on the mountain tops across the deep blue sky. It was otherworldly.

There was not a single place where I would not have liked to have stopped and set up my easel to paint. It was beautiful all around, but the trail was narrow, and time did not allow. Photographs for the moment would have to suffice.

There were many group resting points along the trail, where we gathered together, and Nick would give us a little history of the area, show off some Inca ruins, and tell of the people before. It still amazed me that people would build cities at this elevation, with no   modern technology to cut the stone and set the foundations. But in some of the most remote places we would find this the “perfect place for an Incan village” or “Temple”.

Lunch was an oasis with llamas and alpacas grazing in a meadow, and “Dead Woman’s Pass” looming overhead in the distance. It is not named this because of any tragedies that happened here, but for its shape, like a woman in repose. These are the same folks who see bunnies in cloud formations I think, but I sort of saw it. At least the large breast that we had to travel under, that was evident, and my new landmark for the next couple hours.

This was a hike to the lost Inca civilization at Machu Picchu, but for most of us traveling this trail, Warmiwañusqa was our “Rubicon”. And getting to that pass was no easy feat. One of our team was suffering from the altitude and Nick took her backpack and carried it up to the top. We kept our slow pace, and maybe even slower. Never before had I put so much thought into each step I took. Never before had I taken so much time between each step. I began questioning my choice of bringing all the painting gear, especially after seeing yesterday’s painting, but I brought it… so I’m carrying it. Nick came back when we were maybe 500 yards from our goal and offered to carry my pack. I would not have it, I was the one who packed it, I would be the one to suffer with it. Susie was not so stubborn, so gladly gave her pack to Nick.

We tread on.

The great thing I found about being the last, everyone was already there waiting for you, and as you came in to sight they began cheering you on, and when you finally made it, a rousing round of applause greeted you. This, I’m afraid, didn’t happen for those who arrived first, and I loved it.

I’m not sure if I was on my knees when I finally made the top, but as I arrived, Gary, my friend and traveling partner from Nebraska came up and took my pack from me.  I fell to the ground to rest!

There is a bad thing about being the last to a rest stop. By the time you get there, everyone else is ready to go already. This is the way of the world, but we did do group pictures here, and a little pep talk from Nick. Now as we crested the pass and looked at what was before us,  we could see was stairs winding around the mountains as they went off into the distance, as far as the eye could see. But down for me was so much easier, but even so, going down steps for hours on end was wearing on the feet and knees.

Still the land spreading out before us was an amazing sight. And as we traveled on, we took an occasional look, back at where we had come from, and that monumental pass between the peaks.

Descending seem as long as ascending the mountain side, only gravity on your side now, but as time wore on the camp for the night seemed further and further away. The twists and turns were often and I thought, or it could have said loud that “surely we did not go up that far”.

Camp on this day was a welcome sight, set along on the terraces built hundreds of years ago by the Incas. What might they have thought, if they knew of the travelers and use of their structures still to this day.

It was much colder this night as our camp here at Pacaymayo was at almost 12,000 feet. Each day they woke us earlier and earlier, and this morning was at 5am. We had to get an early start because today’s hike was to be our longest day of hiking. They say about 11 hours, but by the time we made it to camp this night we had were using our lights to see the way, because at our somewhat slower pace, it took 12.

Yesterday we had our highest climb, tomorrow we make it to Machu Picchu, but today was, I’d have to say the most beautiful, and well, maybe the most treacherous. We had a nice combination of up and down, stairs and paths, cloud forests, and Inca ruins. The scenes that surrounded us were right out of a postcard.

Of course, we began the day with coca tea, and maybe an extra dose, because we had another pass to conquer, but this one a mere 13,000 feet, before we head down to some sweet Inca ruins of an old fortress built to protect those along the trail.

The Peruvian government has limited the number of people who can hike the Inca Trail, and I am so grateful for this. It is a pristine trail seemingly untouched by modern man. The people you meet along the trail are few and far between, and though some facilities are very very primitive, I would have been somewhat disappointed had we had running water and flush toilets. There are rangers who come daily to clean the trails and pick up any litter. I cannot imagine what condition these people must be in.

The porters along the way came in all shapes and sizes, all of them carrying the food and sleeping gear of the trekkers along the way. There were other groups from G Adventures, and similar outfitters, and private guides. One had to have a guide to be allowed on the trail, another requirement by the government. I know, more restrictions, but I believe they are doing well at preserving its ancient heritage and culture.

The third day’s hike took us on some precarious ridges, with narrow paths and steep drop offs, with me, as frightened as I am of heights, always hugging the inside of the trail, constantly warning Susie to do the same. Then, after hitting her head on a tree root while doing as I suggested, she went back to her own way of hiking.

What works for one, does not always work for others.

As the light of the sky grew dimmer we came upon the Inca ruins of Wiñay Wayna, a very steeply terraced Inca village overlooking the Urubamba River. The entire trip had been filled with amazingly picturesque locations but few more than this location. The well-preserved terraces of the temple near the top, and the cascading spring to the bath levels, all this with the Urubamba thousands of feet below. Of course, we did the group pics, and then Maggie was not going to leave without climbing down a couple of terraces to feed or pet one of the llamas.

The descent down from the top of Wiñay Wayna was as steep as anything we had done before, only straight down, and by the time we were too the bottom the light had complety left and we still had a little way to go.

I never really saw this campsite in the light, and I wish I had. I hear it has wonderful surroundings, but after hiking for 12 hours, all I could think of was food, shoes off, and bed. This was the last time we would see our porters, and chefs, so as tradition has it, they all came into our small dinner tent and we thanked them, with Megan translating to Spanish, and we gave them their tips. By far these men earned much more than what they get. We all tipped on the generous side. These folks worked their tails off trying to make our stay and experience the best it could be. They were always cheerful, with a smile or a friendly word. They earned every solas, and then some!

We had been warned when we began that the 4th day of the trail would begin early, and they meant it. Just after 3 am there came the familiar greeting at the tent flap.  This time they would not leave until they saw our smiling face peek out and confirm we were up. We had to have breakfast, break camp and be at the Inti Punku (Sun Gate) by 5:30.

It is the pinnacle of this trip, the watching the sun come up on the lost city of the Inca’s, and there are few who actually get to do so anymore with the regulations the way they are. One can stay at the hotel just outside the city of Machu Picchu, or you can hike the Inca Trail. We went the long way around, and I would not have done it any other way now that it’s all said and done. (I would like to say that before the actual trip it was all about going to Machu Picchu and seeing it, but as I look back, it was the Inca Trail and its challenges that I will remember most fondly.)

Hiking the trail in the dark was a bit treacherous, but if you stay on the trail, no problem. Do not step off the side, that first step is a doozy! We all hiked along the last few miles with occasional chatter, but myself I was mostly deep in my own thoughts of what was behind us, and the sacred Machu Picchu just a few minutes away. One big subject was taken from my shoulders, and that was painting at Machu Picchu. I had found out just the night before that they were not allowing me to bring my paints into the lost city. Nick had been in contact with the authorities on my behalf to paint there, but there were many restrictions about what you can and can’t bring in, along with what you can and cannot do once inside.

I was disappointed and bummed out at first, but it wasn’t long that I brushed this aside because there was nothing I could do about it.

I think one of the things that has saved me many a time is something I have heard all my life, but never really applied it to myself till 2002, and that is the old “Serenity Prayer” from Alcoholics Anonymous… “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.

Here I needed it as much as ever. I did not let this spoil the rest of my journey, nor let my disappointment affect any of my party.  We go on.

This place, heralded as one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World was amazing. It really was, and to me, just totally unbelievable at what such an ancient culture could have done. Most of the structures were still standing as they were hundreds of years ago, surviving countless earthquakes and time and Spaniards.

We wandered through this beautiful ruin of the Inca’s as Nick told of its history and purpose. I clicked my camera over and over here, taking the pics that I would now hope to paint in studio, taking notes on color, and light. But as we look around it was the crowds of people that one really takes over some of the scenery.

It was packed! There were guided groups, and individuals galore, looking, talking, gawking and panning for photos. No selfie-sticks though, that’s another thing that is not allowed. I was actually looking forward to getting on the bus to head down the mountain. I knew it was going to be very touristy, and that’s what we were, exactly that. Tourists coming to see this amazing place. But a different kind of tourist we were. We were part of an elite group of travelers who came the old way, the “Classic Inka Trail”, the Pilgrimage… and we looked it. Unwashed and unkept with all of our hiking gear strapped on to our packs, I’m know we did not smell as fresh as those “LBR’s” who just arrived from below. We received looks from some of the crowd, giving us the “once over”, but so what, we earned every one of those stares.

It was an enjoyable trip down the mountain on the bus, feeling the comfort of a real padded chair after only a few days seemed like a luxury fit for a king… and maybe it was, “back in the day”.

We enjoyed a wonderful meal all together for the last time at an upstairs restaurant in Aguas Caliente, then on to the train for a leisurely journey along the Urubamba River through the Sacred Valley, back to Ollantaytambo to our motel. Here we would gather the things we discarded before we bus it back to Cusco. We were in dining cars on the train with an observation roof where we could look up and see the peaks of the Andes Mountains as we rode by. Up there, somewhere, is an ancient trail made by ancient people, where we were granted the chance to follow in their footsteps, to see and feel some of the most awe-inspiring landscape I have ever encountered.

It was a trip of a lifetime, and I am so glad I did it.

Would I do it again?  Not a chance, I’m too old now 😉

But I will travel it again with paint. I have begun my Inca Trail paintings and hope to finish in the “off season”. I hiked the Inca Trail and made it to Machu Picchu. If I can capture some of that feel in the paintings that follow, I will be pleased.

I do plan more hiking adventures, maybe the Appalachian Trail, or the Pyrenees? Who knows, but I’ve got the gear, and the knowledge that “I can do it”.

Now all I need is the compass to stop spinning.

Ollantaytambo the Sacred Valley

“Meow” means “Woof” in cat.

June 30, 2016 by admin

Let me digress.

Sure I’m an artist, and I paint a lot around the land, see a lot, and hear quite a bit too. Doesn’t take being an artist to see and observe. This world is a fascinating place, and I’m happy to be here, but sometimes you’ve just got to shake your head.

The Italian Gardens, Maymont

The Italian Gardens, Maymont

Just back from a painting competition in Richmond Virginia, the “Plein Air Richmond 2016”. A wonderful event, in an amazing part of this country, beautiful, & historic, with great people all around… and cats.

Actually, not just cats, there were dogs, squirrels, birds, marmots, you name it, the regular crowd of critters scurrying about the city, picking up where humans leave off… or leave behind rather. Anyway, as I was painting in the Italian Gardens of the Maymont Mansion up came this cute little cat, friendly as can be wanting a little attention. I talked to it some, asked him how he was and all that. I was nice to it, but I was there to paint so I didn’t sit down and try to share life stories with it.

The cat did not look homeless, it was well groomed, healthy, very outgoing, but without the collar that us humans tend to put on these things to ensure folks know that it’s “claimed” by another. Well I set up my easel in the shade and began painting. As time went by, more artists began to join me in the gardens, finding beautiful subjects to paint and setting up to get to work. Our little cat friend was quite elated about this, more attention! A few well placed meows, a rubbing against a leg or two, and an onslaught of distressed artists fell upon this little animal like Liberace in a sequin factory.

“The poor kitty”, “It must be starving”.  “We’ve got to help it”. (just a few of the things that I was overhearing as I painted the rose bush by the stairs.

Well, I don’t doubt it was hungry, I know I was. But it did not look like it was lacking in anything except a collar. Well this was the cat’s lucky day, or maybe unlucky depending on how you look at it. The event just happened to be sponsored by the Richmond SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) A wonderful organization, and something I’m totally happy to help out, donate to, promote. I am very much against being cruel to animals, but then our perception of “cruelty” might differ a bit. I think sticking a dog in a sweater vest is a bit on the “inhumane” side, right Bobby Knight?

Just about everyone in sight was finding things for the kitty cat to eat, one went to their car and brought back a can of cat food, another shared some delicious looking sandwich that I would have given one of my paint brushes for, and then up comes someone with an animal carrier. A little cardboard box with a handle and holes on the side to breath. I mean some people are prepared for everything.

Obviously a former Scout, or Brownie I bet.

"Rupert" AKA "Cat"

“Rupert” AKA “Cat”

Well off they carted the well fed kitty to the shelter at the RSPCA, where of course they named it, photographed it and posted all over the social media, maybe to be the next surprise for your little girl’s 7th birthday party?

“But I asked for a horse!”

I watched from my vantage point in the shade underneath an old American Elm tree, just wondering, just thinking about what we’ve come to in this land. The past couple nights, well actually since I took up painting outdoors, I’ve come across people on the street corners with signs and a cup. Under bridges, sleeping on benches, and for the most part, people turn their back on them, or shrug them off, while others shout out, “get a job.”

Now why didn’t they think of that?

I was painting with a half dozen artists under the bridges at the train station the other evening. A very active area with people from all walks of life, and a “homeless” woman came up asking for help. I reached into my pocket and gave her a dollar, making sure I kept enough for the toll getting back to my hosts’ house. The artist next to me said “they’re just going to keep coming back if you do that”.

I knew that, and you probably did too.

I’m big on helping those who help themselves, I love the lyrics of a song by Bob Walkenhorst of the Rainmakers,

“Give a man free food and he’ll figure out a way
To steal more than he can eat ’cause he doesn’t have to pay”

I have no idea how that’s related, but any time I can plug Bob it’s a good thing. The point is, I don’t normally give out food or money, but depending on the situation I’ve no problem with it.

But animals?

Just in the United States alone last year we spent over $56 billion dollars on pets. BILLION! Holy Toledo Batman! Then in comparison we spent a “Historic” $4.5 billion on helping the homeless.

It’s just strange, okay I’ll go so far as to say, it’s a bit sad. It’s estimated that this year it will be $60 billion Americans spend on their furry little friends, something they can stroke to lower their blood pressure.

Am I an animal hater, no way! I love animals, I love pets, I grew up with dogs and cats, rabbits and peacocks. I’m a friend to all. I even have myself a little policy that I won’t step on a bug that would squish out beyond the edges of my shoe. (sorry bug lovers)

It was just something that I observed while painting out there among ya’ll. You see a bit of everything out there, traveling the country, painting in all sorts of different environments, parks, big cities, small towns, you see what the world is really like, outside the sheltered walls of your humble abode.  It’s like you’re a “fly on the wall” out here sometimes. The things people say and do, one could write a book. Actually 1,000’s HAVE written books, and it’s like crazy daddio!

Life is stranger than fiction, they say.

I’ll shush up now, go back to painting, and maybe I’ll write something about art next time around, but then what do I know?

In the meantime, “Meow” mean “Woof” in Cat…   quote by the late George Carlin.

 1937 – 2008

1937 – 2008

 

 

A Fly Over World

April 28, 2016 by admin

I was very fortunate this year to have made my first journey South of the Equator and visited New Zealand and Australia, and as I flew I continually wondered just how much I was missing out on.

Crazy to think that I would travel any other way to the land down under, other than flying given a limited time, but that did not stop me from thinking about all the world below, with their beautiful lands and people, and all I was missing.

Since my trip to the Southern Hemisphere, I have driven to South Florida for the Lighthouse Arts Festival, numerous trips to the plain states, and then just returned from the Plein Air Convention in Tucson, traveling of course not in a straight line because that would be too practical, I stopped in Texas and New Mexico along the way turning a 2,600 mile trip into a 3,708 mile adventure.

Flying never entered my mind.

The area between the Appalachian’s and the Rocky Mountains is known to many as “Fly over Country”. Then to even more it’s the the land between the megalopolis’s on the East coast, and their counter parts on the West. It’s the area that gets in the way of an easy commute from LA to NY.

There was a time I was bothered when I heard someone speak of this great area in such a manner, but then I used to get riled up when I saw the toilet paper on the roll backwards.

No more!

Call it what you want, it’s got to be some of the most beautiful country with a world of people to go with it. Sure there are those wide open places where you swear you can see the other side of the continent, and those folks who would just rather not have a crazy artist looking twice at their backyard. But that’s what is so darn great about this world. I am not a fan of “sameness” BORING! It’s variety that feeds this soul. Why in the world would one want the same thing all the time, I have no idea. Sure you may have the most beautiful view ever, but get out and see what else is there to help reinforce that utopia that you call home.

Maybe it’s the artist in me, but I’m not always looking “out” for the beauty, sometimes it’s looking down and around you. Traveling through the wide open lands across West Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, sure sometimes flat as a pancake, but it was those things that are right there under your nose that were so fascinating. I would see something, look for a turnaround spot, drive back and photograph when I didn’t have time to paint. The light hitting a draw, the curve of the wheat, an always curious cow.

Maybe it’s a good thing “flyoverstates” is just what it is. A mysterious place where people live outside the major cities, people working, people living, people creating. Let us bring this land to you in painting or in song.

You wait right there, we’ll be right back with it…

It is slowly deteriorating with time and then the careless. I don’t know if it could really handle the “progress of mankind.” Less and less considerate for those who came before, and then who might be coming after.

Ah, but we reap what we sow do we not? That is a whole new ballgame.

For now let’s enjoy what we can. Enjoy who we are. Stop looking out there for that perfect scene because it’s right there around you just waiting to be noticed. Give me an open road, the windows down and a song in the air.

A “Fly over Land”? Maybe, but that’s cool!

Measure Once, or is it Twice…

August 27, 2015 by admin

I just came home from a two week painting trip to the Rockies with not a single sale, not a single award, and my van filled with wet paintings. Was it productive?

Does that sound bitter? Okay, let me try again.

Hi honey, I’m home. How was your trip? Well it was wonderful, I painted in some wonderful places with some outstanding artists, and have over 25 paintings of the journey, how was your time?

There are times that I lose sight of my goal, and what I love to do the best.

Why is that?

Here in America, (this I know from hands on experience) we are raised to be competitive, to be better than the others. With contests and grades, and gold stars passed out for excelling at any given activity. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but as that gawd awful saying I keep hearing now-a-days goes… “it is what it is!”

Is it like this in other countries? You tell me, I’ve done the islands, and while there all I cared about was swimming, eating, and hiking. But from what I see on the news, and read in the paper it’s not just us “Yanks” who are caught up in this.

Rick on the Los Pinos

Rick on the Los Pinos

When I sat down with Rick Howell what seems like many many years ago, though it wasn’t all that long, we set out short term and long term goals. Winning contests, and beating everyone else was not on either one of the lists.

My ultimate goal was to paint. Was it to travel the world and paint? No, just paint. Presently I travel so much because I feel it’s necessary at this moment in time to help my career as an artist, which will eventually allow me to “just paint”. And then this involves taking part in contests, and exhibits. Don’t get me wrong, I love a little competition, and I like coming out on top. It’s a great feeling to know that at least this juror really likes what you did, and of course doing this helps immensely in allowing one to maybe one day “just paint”.

But how does it fit in in your “grand scheme” of life? I know there will always be someone better, and I really don’t mind if everyone is better as long as I can continue to paint and to grow as an artist. It’s like trying to get to the front of the all the cars on the highway by speeding past everyone. There will always be cars in front of you. Learn to accept that. It’s a long road out there with no real end, just sit back and try to enjoy the ride.

Sometimes I lose sight as I travel the country taking part in exhibits and paint-outs, though I believe it is interesting to see how you “stack up” to the others. I almost said compare, but I think the best thing for you to compare to is your last painting. How does it rate when you put it next to that? Did you improve, if not why? What is it about this painting that makes it different, or the same? This is how one should measure themselves.

Becoming a Master Engraving Artist I studied under 30 different Master Engravers, each for a month. You listen, you watch, you study. Find what works best for you and then leave what does not.

This is the same approach I am taking to my painting. Learn from those whose art I love, but being careful about comparing my work to theirs. Sure I would love to be as good as Aspevig, or Sargent, but I still want to be me. So I paint some more and then do it again.Finding Nemo

What I use to measure success should not be the ribbons or checks I receive, but how far my work has improved in such a short period of time. Sometimes that’s hard to do, but try taking the best 4 or 5 paintings from each year and put them in a chronological order and then measure.

Which way are you going?

Are you liking the way your paintings are coming out, do they say what you want them to say? I know better than to line my best paintings up against some of my favorite artists work. For me it would only depress me and make me wonder what I am doing here.

So I don’t or try not to, and this way I am a much happier person.

I paint because the way it makes me feel when I do. I get lost in it at times and sometimes overcome with a great feeling of contentment. I study them because I want to improve upon myself and my work, and I challenge myself inwardly.

I do no 30 paintings in 30 days challenges, or 24 in 24 hours. I just paint when I can, and try to reach toward my goals that I have set before me. They are not ridiculous goals though when setting them out so long ago some did seem somewhat insurmountable. Yet I have achieved many, and am steadily progressing towards them all.

How do you measure success?

break glass in case of emergency

break glass in case of emergency

 

 

Giving it all Away

July 1, 2015 by admin

I was recently asked “what did it take to get to that next level?”

What? Rethink, reconsider, and recalculate that one! I’m here flailing around like a ship in a whirlpool. What “next level” are we talking about?

Looking from within, it looks as though I’m just spinning my wheels in the same old spot. Kind of like being around your children all the time, they never change. But when relatives come from afar for that rare, but sometimes “too often” visit, all you hear is “oh my how little junior has grown,” or “what happened to that little girl I used to bounce on my knee?” When you look at things on a daily basis, it is only the drama that gets noticed.

I believe it must have hatched as I bantered thoughts and ideas around with artist Jeffery Sparks as we talked of creating a group for artists here in the Midwest similar to the Hudson River school of artists, or the Southwest artists. he pointed out that we had to be good to help set an example. He believed we could be among the best in the region as we led this organization that is now called the Missouri Valley Impressionist Society. (MVIS for short)

Sure I agreed, but did I believe it? No, not really.

It wasn’t that I didn’t think I had the talent, I knew I had some, but being the best sounded insurmountable. I mean there are literally thousands upon thousands of artists just in this area. How in the world? No way!

So I put that pipe dream on the back burner, and just focused on painting, and me.

The next time anything like this came up was with my friend and mentor, Rick Howell. If you didn’t know Rick, he was a one of a kind guy, always giving, always caring, helping people, the land and all that inhabited it. He sat me down in his little artists’ retreat and gave me the “low down.” “It’s not going to be easy,” he said. “If you think you have worked hard at anything in yourlife before, you are mistaken.”

Rick told me about making a serious commitment, and passing that boundary of fear that keeps one from taking that step into the unknown. He talked of the proverbial “miles of canvas” that I had to put behind me before I even came close to those goals we wrote down.

What I heard in “Casa Estella” was not new stuff. But hearing it from this unbelievable artist who actually thought that I had the potential to be great was different! It’s one thing to hear words of praise and encouragement from friends and family. But Rick Howell was a professional with an amazing talent, and he began to help me to believe in myself.

Keyword “BELIEVE”

Belief is important. If you don’t believe in yourself, how in the world are you going to convince someone else ? But belief was not all, talent helps, now what in the world are you going to do with it?

Even with Rick behind me, I was still skeptical of all involved, and what it would take to take that next step. Could I do it? Could I commit so much of my time to these goals that we worked out around the kitchen table in a high plains desert? Commit so much time and energy, and money! I was working full time still as a master engraver. Itt was going to cost me quite a bit in salary to reroute into the world of fine arts.

But try to believe.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The time commitment, the energy, looking, seeing, feeling. Eeverything had to change. I did not realize this, but as I went along, this is what I found had to happen for me to even minutely close the gap between me and the upper echelon.

Did it begin slowly? I don’t know, but for me I had to change quite a bit. I had much to learn to take my art from the amateurish to the professional. I knew nothing of color, values, composition. Sure I studied in college, but that was what, 30 years ago, and we just began brushing on things when my career as a fine artist took a turn to the commercial side and family. So I’ve shelved the tales by Stephen King and replaced them with Carlson and Payne.

When I am alone my thinking turns to my art. I am now always questioning what I see, and how I might recreate it on canvas. I see things as I’m driving just around the block or to the next show and try to figure out how to mix that color up with my 4 color palette.

I squint all the time in the middle of a conversation seeing how things look in just a few values. If you see me kind of drift off, it’s probably not a flashback from the late 60’s. More likely I see something that caught my eye and I’m thinking how it might fit best in a horizontal or vertical format.

Is it a case of living, sleeping, eating art? Yes it really is, and I still feel like I’m not doing enough. At night I lay in bed working on inventory, and invoicing, and applications, and social networking. During the day it’s the same thing, but throw in the things that life puts before you, plus if possible a little painting.

I work on a balancing act because, yes, there are other things in my life that I love besides paintingmy wife Susie, and my wonderful family. I have friends and a home, and I still sculpt as an engraver on occasion, though that is becoming rarer by the minute. I do what I must first, then I do what I can after that.

It is a commitment, and it takes a good supporting cast around you. I know I could not have gotten this far alone. At one time I thought so, but for me admitting that I needed help was freeing. I’m not the great and powerful Oz that I once believed.  (I think my parents kept trying to tell me this, but would I listen to them?) Well, this is something you must build and nurture constantly, starting in the home, the community, and then beyond.

All this just so I can paint. That’s really what I want to do, and maybe one day that will come. I now believe in myself, and I have seen a little glimpse of the potential within me. I am slowly, ever so slowly, beginning to paint the things that I love to get lost in when I visit galleries.

What does it take to become the best?

I have no idea and will probably never know. What I do know is that it’s not just having the talent.Talent is nothing if you don’t do anything with it.

I’ve heard forever “you’ve got to want something bad enough”. (sports cliché)) I always thought that it doesn’t make a difference if everyone wants the same thing, that doesn’t help. What in the world does it mean “they wanted it more than me?” No way!

What I’ve found is that what you do because you want something bad enough makes all the difference in the world. Maybe that’s what they really mean?

“If you can dream it, you can make it a reality. The possibility lies in your ability, enthusiasm and hard work to realize it.”  Lailah Gifty Akita

I’ve changed the way I live, the way I think, the way I see. Everything and anything I can think of that might make me a better artist. I see it helping, and I’m enjoying the journey. You’ve got to do that because if and when the end ever arrives…

rg at heaven hill farm

photo by Turner Vinson

…that’s it.

The END

 

The Old Same Thing

October 15, 2014 by admin

You know, the “Old Same Thing”!

Do you have a limit for doing the same old thing, don’t you get tired of it? How long can you keep repeating the same old routine before it becomes just that?

I’ve done it before, and still do at times. I could eat PB&J’s for lunch on a daily basis forever. I love them! Or maybe it’s going to work

everyday going to the corner taking a left, then a right at the stop sign, go to the light, take a right enter the freeway and off to the office. Over, and over, and over again. How many days a week? The only time you vary it is when you hear of an accident along the route during the 8:09 traffic report. Hey-hey, there’s variety!

When it comes to me and the world of art, do things get repetitive for me? Maybe, yes, how about you? I see some people paint the same scene over and over, same size, same time of day, same conditions. They do it as learning experiences, and I know I could benefit greatly from doing something like this, but I don’t see it happening.

I am a co-founder and director of the Brush Creek Art Walk: plein air competition, and each year we ask artists to paint along a creek that cuts through the upscale urban shopping district of the Country Club Plaza, and meanders past my favorite place in Kansas City, the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. Don’t stop here, there is more painting to be done farther East as you  cut BCAW day 1 065through the older  neighborhoods where you could say, okay I will say, “urban blight?” Yet you’re not done yet, there’s maybe another mile and a half of sprawling park like areas with rolling hills, woods, and a lake. There really is a lot to see down this way, the entire way! I think it’s pretty darn diverse, with interesting subjects that could last a lifetime.

But that’s just me.

What I hear and what I see a lot is people talking of how repetitive things are, they come back year after year painting the same old thing, and I can really feel for them. I don’t enjoy people being unhappy with a situation. I try to be accommodating, but there is a reason that the city approached Anne Garney and me about finding a way to get people down to along the creek. The city over the past 10-15 years has spent millions, upon millions of dollars improving the area, solving the flooding problem of the local businesses and residences, and at the same time beautifying the entire area…

…but nobody knows.

It has a not so endearing nickname, “Flush Creek!” Not a real pretty picture that title paints. It’s not so bad if the rains come, but on long dry spells no water moves, and flotsam gathers here and there, and there.

The thing about a good artist, they can paint what they want, not what is there. Sit me down in the same spot 10 times in a row and I doubt I paint the same scene more than once.  Would I paint the debris, and urban blight? Sure if the light hit it right!

I notice that many people paint the exact same thing, without even thinking about it. We are attracted to the obvious, and many tend to paint this. You see a big red truck in front of you; most will paint the big red truck. Mix it up by painting the way the big red trucks shadow stretches off across the ground, or the cool patterns that the tail lights make when you zoom in really close.

It’s not really what you see, it’s how you see it, and then maybe more importantly, how you put it to canvas. I do love seeing how a few

Adam & Andrea

Adam & Andrea

dozen artists paint the exact same object; it is amazing and quite the learning experience to me the viewer.  But artists and buyers alike do get bored with this over time.

There is so much to see in this little area, one could spend a lifetime doing just that. Look at the great Wilbur Niewald, he has been going to Loose Park and painting there for decades. You have the constantly changing light and seasons, this is what makes this world as wonderful and interesting as it is, and affects everything we see outdoors.

A good artist should be able to make or create interest when there is none. Don’t just look for what is already beautiful, find what could be beautiful and make it so. You are the creator, take control.

What is one of the best ways of learning something? REPETITION! Are you so good that this doesn’t apply? Let me shake your hand, as I scrape that last painting and start all over.

It’s a mind set, look for something new, a new approach, don’t get trapped into doing the same old thing the same old way, improve, enhance, and embrace the opportunity…

…over and over again!

And time for the show

And time for the show

 

Inappropriate Behavior

June 4, 2014 by admin

Appropriate/Inappropriate, ever been accused?

Surely you have, it’s not just me is it? Well even if you haven’t, maybe you’ve wondered to yourself, “Is this the way I should be reacting?”

I’m going to veer away from art, just for a second, because sometimes life pops up between the paintings. I know that’s not the way we planned it, or what we wanted, but sometimes things don’t always go the way we like.

There are a lot of times and places where I myself wonder “is this how I should be acting”… what do you when you are just driving along, doing everything just right and a police car pulls next to you at a stop light? Do you think he has that “school record” the vice principal always threatened you with? Do you look at him and smile or just stare straight ahead like he’s not really there? How about you are standing in a checkout line right behind the Mom with the out-of-control child that totally ignores the fact that they just keep pulling things off the shelf and dropping them on the floor in front of you. Don’t you just want to say something to the child, to the Mom, to the Manager?

But is it appropriate?

My biggest one is when a tragedy happens, what do you say? How do you act? Do you avoid talking to them, steer away from them hoping they didn’t notice that you saw them, avoid them so you don’t have to think of the right thing to say? And when you do confront them, what in the world do you say without it sounding “cliche?”

I myself am of the school that it’s better to say the wrong thing than nothing at all. If you know me, you probably know that I am notorious for saying the wrong thing… hopefully at the “right time!”

Here’s a tough one, how about catastrophic loss, what do you do? What do you expect others to do?

Where do we learn these rules of etiquette on appropriate behavior? How about from our teachers, Kindergarten to 12th grade? More likely it’s through your families, your peers, your community, and on the electronic airwaves.

I have been pretty darn fortunate in my life that I have not had to go through too much death. My girlfriend died while I was in the service which was pretty tough, and the military didn’t see a teenagers girlfriend as reason enough for leave. So that was handled remotely. I’ve not seen a guide around on how to act when it’s you that looses a partner, a parent or a child. It’s just straight greif from your heart and soul. There is no right or wrong way to greive I’ve found. It just happens, and there’s no way to stop it when it does come, so don’t even try.

I recently experienced a bit of this myself, and my wonderful wife I guess recognized that I needed to get out and suggested I go out to paint when  my Mother died. Oh she could read my mind, I tried to tell her thanks and I’d be back soon, but the words kind of choked up in me.

I drove and I drove looking for the right thing to paint. I was looking for a small Kansas farmstead, one like my Mothers, with a barn and a silo, lots of outbuildings. I drove farther still and could not find what I was looking for. I was caught North of the Kansas border with a different type of farming is done. No silos in site, but driving down country roads was a good release for me, still I wanted to, I needed to paint! I stopped at the intersection of a minimum maintenance road and the gravel road I was on and pulled out my gear to paint. The subject matter anymore was really not the important thing, it was the act of painting, the process, the routine of it all. Observing and recording. The calming ritual was needed.

Art I have found is very therapeutic.

I grew up in a family where men don’t cry, hell (whoops, I mean “heck”) I don’t remember my Mom ever crying but a couple times in the 56 years I’ve been around. I know we gave her plenty a reason to in my teens, but she was a rock, and taught us to be, I think.

How about hugging your old man at your Mom’s funeral? I don’t remember hugging my Dad, it’s one of those cowboy guy things (old time cowboy, not now-a-time cowboy… big difference) you don’t do it, though I know as a kid when he came home from work once a week (he was an over-the-road trucker) that all the kids would rush out jump all over him and hug him. Must have been “pre-teen” because I know I haven’t hugged him for probably almost 45 years, though believe it or not, we are close.

Just didn’t seem appropriate.

But now-a-days guys are giving guys hugs all the time, (man-hugs of course, totally different that other hugs) is it time to change what I do? I thought about that on the day of the funeral, do I hug my Dad, I know I probably could have used it, maybe he could too! Well I kind of broke that barrier a bit when I put my arm around him and gave him a little shake letting him know I was here if he needed.

Seemed kind of appropriate.

Timing should be essential to whether something is appropriate or inappropriate, and having the right timing is an art in itself… something I’ve never been accused of having. I am somewhat notorious for flippant, off-the-wall comments, always from somewhere out in left field. Always in the best intent of course, with no harm intended, but not everyone knows that.

What is ruled as appropriate or inappropriate behavior could be largely due to your generation, or demographics, or like I said timing… because saying the wrong thing at the right time is okay.

?What?

 

 

Return to Sender

May 21, 2014 by admin

You my dear friend are now a part of history, very pointless and inconsequentiial piece of history, but nonetheless this is the first.

This is my first ever “HOW TO” blog.

His Lordship

His Lordship

Yay!

What do you think about a “How to be an artist” blog? No way, too easy. That’s grab anything, stick it anywhere and call it art. Everyone does it, those lucky few make money at it. What I’m “How-To-ing” about is getting that wonderful piece of art you just created to the gallery on the East coast and back again. (or West coast if you are so inclined.)

It’s great creating art and selling it straight off your easel, don’t even have to worry about framing. But on occasion when that doesn’t happen, one must paint it, frame it, send to your gallery,  or if it’s a good enough of a piece, enter into shows.

I am very fortunate to live an an area where if I were so inclined could be entering shows locally all year long and never have to ship my art elsewhere.

But that would be too logical.

I of course spend half of my time taking part in shows across the country, in places that are difficult to find even with my GPS.

art containters

art containters

How’s that old saying go by one of the original prophets…  “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a soul without honor.”  Sure, it can be interpreted a bazillion ways, but I take it “you ain’t no one at home, till you’ve made it somewhere else”. Kind of a drag, but it’s often the way it is.

So I send things via courier to places far and wide, which just so happens to be different than when you ship a painting when it sells. After a show if it does not sell, it must be returned, subsequently it must then be repacked by the gallery, labeled and shipped. The package or crate I use to ship paintings needing to be returned are not the disposable type you use in a sale.

What I want in my shipping package or container is:shipping crate (5)

  • Safety for the artwork: cushioned packing materials, snug fit
  • Sturdy: able to take drops, falls, kicks, stacking
  • Ease of access: not a mystery how to open and close
  • Mobility: light, easy to carry

I believe being on the receiving end has influenced how I build my containers. I have put on several shows/exhibitions and have had to unpack, and repack artwork, and it is not an easy task. Most containers are not made for reusing, things are easily lost, poorly labeled, and often piecemealed together. Artists are great at creating art, but many times they’ll wrap it in a T-Shirt and send it out for delivery. When on a trip my paintings are all mumbo-jumbo in the back of my van, among all the gear, frames, suitcases. Organizing your vehicle for a road trip is an entirely different thing and something I need to start thinking about… again.

Oh yeah, shipping…shipping crate (6)

…I like wood boxes! Some galleries do not allow shipping in these type of containers, and in those circumstances I actually spend money on a high end cardboard box made specifically for shipping art, but that is a bit pricey, though building a crate such as I do is not cheap.

Now how do we do it?

I’m not going into the boring detail of every move in making these boxes. I’m saving that for my book, in the meantime you can get the idea here, and press me on it later.

Materials:

  • 1/4 sanded plywood (I like the sanded, less splinters in hands)   ($18 for a 4×8 sheet, enough for 2)
  • 8′ 1×4″ = shipping 1 painting, 1×6 = 2 paintings, 1×8 = 3 paintings ($8)
  • 8′ 1×2″ for bracing lid
  • 1″ thick sheet of foam insulation board (Owens Corning) ($15)
  • 1″ & 1 1/2″ wood screws ($3)
  • wood glue ($4)
  • 2 strong hinges ($10)
  • 4 “T” brackets, 3 or 4″ ($6)
  • carrying handle ($7)

Now what?shipping crate (3)

Cut it and put it together. Artists are for the most part very good with their hands, and with those hands fill them with tools and get going. Measure the top and bottom plywood to be about 4″ larger than your painting. This allows for a couple inches of padding and the wood frame. The frame must be cut to fit the plywood, glue and screw them in place. Use the 1×2″ strips for the lid, cutting to size and glueing and screwing just inside the edge to create a frame. Attach this with hinges to the wooden box you had just built. Cut insulation board to fit inside the box and glue into place. I like to cut opening in the insulation and place painting in snuggly. Bend “T” brackets to fit around edges, mount on lid. These will be later used to seal crate. Should be just 4 screws holding things securely. Please drill pilot holes before you screw into the wood to keep from splitting. Use lots of glue, the thing can’t stay together too well, but you can try.

Does any of this make sense to you? If so you now have a nice safe container for shipping your art… if not you have now just spent $75 on a pile of lumber and hardware that couldn’t save even a fresco.

Really if you want a more detailed blueprint for building  let me know. EMAILshipping crate (4)

Make sure if there is a specific way packing needs to be repacked that there are instructions clearly marked. I like to have photos of the artwork that should be packed in this box with titles. I secure this inside along with artists name and address. Don’t assume they have all that info. Put all your return shipping documents in an envelope inside the container.

I mark on the crate what screws need to be removed. They do not always do the obvious or what you thought was the logical choice.

Shipping art is not a lot of fun, but it’s the nature of the beast, and how are you going to find out if it will “play in Peoria” if it never makes it out of Springfield?

20140515_103241

 

Timing is everything

May 7, 2014 by admin

When Mom and Dad were quietly talking to themselves over in the Den with a desk of paperwork, maybe bills. Is this when you interupted and ask for a bigger allowance? How about when your waitress has a tray of food she is delivering to the table next to you, is this when you try to get your water filled?

Timing is essential in all aspects of life, you just gotta know when and where you can tell the “Yo Mama” joke. Timing!

I was recently taking part in a 11 day painting competition in the wine country along the Missouri River and found that had I put a little more thought into what I was doing, the outcome might have been different.

"In the Out Door"

“In the Out Door”

We were painting at a very popular winery in the middle of a Saturday afternoon. Families and couples gallore were all over the place taking part in the festivities. There were newlyweds, sightseers, conniseurs milling about the entire area, and about 130 artists setup throughout the grounds painting everything from the marvelous view, to the guests themselves. I arrived a little late and began squeezing my way through the crowds looking for that which only you know when you see it. I really had no idea what I was going to paint, I was just looking.

Then I saw it, I looked around to see if any other artists were painting or looking at the same thing, but no just me. What I was looking at was a beautiful little scene of light and dark abstract shapes. Some great angles cutting across the scene and no one was painting it! Quickly I’d say withing 5 minutes I had my easel up, and my paints out ready to go.

What I was looking at was through an old wooden door where which led into the kitchen, where all the food and servers were scurryinig back and forth preparing for the afternoon meal. The light was at a great angle, and there were stone steps, and cast shadows. All very visually interesting… to me. Maybe not so much for the tourists who came to see a beautiful winery, maybe take home a piece of art of the occasion.

There was a table full of Germans who were every now and then saying something about the painting as it progressed. There are only a few words of German I know and I did not hear them… luckily. I really enjoyed painting it, and I thought it turned out great.  But my timing of letting what inspired me got in the way of being in the final winning count. What did win and sell were some beautiful landscapes of the view, and scenes of the people enjoying themselves at the winery.

We had another competition a couple days later, this time at the old Daniel Boone Farm near Defiance. I won 2nd place here the previous year and really enjoyed the place. It would take a lifetime or two to paint all the wonderful things here at this place. I found an out of the way spot and painted a wonderful little painting of a neighboring farmstead with the light hitting it just right.

When judging came around the winner… drumroll please… was a nice little painting of an old wooden building with light showing between the boards.

Jeez Louise, didn’t I just paint that at the Vineyard and walked away with nothing?

The juror went on to say how it exemplified what they and the sponsoring college were looking for, and how it represented the Daniel Boone Farm to a “T”. (okay I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea eh?)

Timing! Had I waited to be caught by the old wood and light to this day I might had stood a better chance of “bringing home the bacon,”  but no I do the rustic at the winery, and the charming at the historic farmstead.

Both times I went with my gut insinct and painted what I wanted, and what interested me at that time. When I paint I look for something that excites me visually, and stirs my senses. This is not always what the judge and jury want to put on their walls or honor for your efforts. You need to know why you are doing, kind of going back to my last blog of “You Can’t Please Everyone” are you out there trying to learn, improve, make a living? Sometimes they don’t all go together, and those rare occasions that they do, that is indeed time for celebration.

You can study all you want, the jurors, the event, the sponsors, play that game, or you can do what you want. Be the artist that you say you are and just paint what you want, throw it up and see where it lands. If you are good enough you’ll do just fine.

…but just in case don’t slam the event in the title of your painting, that’s rarely to your benefit!

"Boones Farm Whine"

“Boones Farm Whine”

 

 

Give me 4 for the Road

January 30, 2014 by admin

I really don’t talk about my art much here, or how or why I create it. Not sure why, I just don’t know enough about it to be out trying to act like an authority on something.

I try not to give advice, I find it better to speak of experience, and folks can take what they want from that.

So let’s talk art for a little bit, and specifically colors. I love them! Since my very first little paint set I just loved squeezing out the paints onto a pallet and mixing those things together. I have no idea how many paints that cheap little paint set had in it, but I know it had to have at least twice as many colors as I use now. I thought then that the more paints you had the better you would be, or at least the potential to be better increased.

Many people feel the same way, and some for good reason. They probably know what to do with that magic color they just found at the local hobby store. Me, not so fortunate. I bring home the most awesome tube of color that I could find, and like I was talking about the other day, you could tell in my next painting exactly which store I went to to buy that “perfect” color.

Growing up I painted some, but what I did the most was drawing. Pen, pencil. It’s what was around. I did not have a lot of

RGS circa 1977

RGS circa 1977

disposable income, so drawing on anything I could find was the way I honed my skills. A paint by number kit for Christmas at some point was fun, and loved the results, but it was only a temporary detour from my love for the line.

It was my drawing skills and eye for detail that landed me a job at Hallmark in the 70’s, training to become the Master Engraver that I am today. I loved it, and it paid well. Taking 2D art and creating something 3 dimensional, giving it form, and depth, creating that illusion of reality with edges and shape.

Though it was the draftsman skills that paid the bills, I found painting a wonderful release from reality, a place where one could go for a time to escape the chaos of the world around. Taking a large white canvas and throwing color on it, step back and feel what develops. Finding shapes, colors, textures all mixing to bring my imagination alive.

At first I stayed away from painting what I saw, but rather painted what I wanted to see in a world of crazy fantasy inspired by the times. I don’t know if the times changed or it was me, but the imagination took a sabbatical and I began creating from reality. (which at times can be just as odd)

In this mixed up world of art where breaking the rules is the norm, and following them is like the worst thing in the world one could do, there was this rule that I always stuck to since the beginning of time…

“Do NOT to use paint straight from the tube!” Okay, Okay already.

I took this rule and etched it deep into my psyche and still to this day I get this feeling that if  I put straight paint on my canvas someone is going to come up to me and put “cheater” on my forehead. And the number of paints on my pallet was limited only to how many I could find. That and  the size of my pallet…

till 2011

In 2011 I met a man that would change my pallet, my art, and my life. A quiet man, who spoke with his art and his actions. He took that crazy art store of colors, literally shipped it to a needy artist in Africa, all save 4 simple colors. 2 cool colors, and 2 warm colors, and said “go little grasshopper!” And I went.

My pallet

My pallet

“Why?” Is it easier with 4 colors, what are the advantages, and how about the drawbacks?

At the time I thought Rick was crazy telling me that I was going to be painting with only Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, and Ultramarine Blue. Sure I had heard the stories about “you can make every color using just the 3 primary colors”, but I thought that was like an Urban Legend or something… not reality.  But I was about to find out. That or have the most gawd awful paintings the world has ever seen. (and there are some bad ones… not mentioning names)

I began my seemingly impossible task of creating art with my new pallet.

It was/is a challenge, but I must say after a while you begin not to miss the fact that you have no tubes of green paint on your pallet. I had to go so far as not even to put one in my back pack so I wouldn’t be tempted at first. I love some of those greens that they have out there, and when painting in the area I’ve grown up in, the summers cannot be recreated without every single shade of green being used!

What I began to see immediately in my art was something that I didn’t pay attention to before, (being self taught in this world

Rick on the Conejos

Rick on the Conejos

of color), and that was a harmony in my work. When they first spoke of seeing this in my paintings I had to step back and compare. And the more I became familiar with these colors, learning how to mix properly, making some of those colors that we find in our world, the more I began enjoying them, and the challenge of creating the art that I do with my limited pallet. It is very rewarding, and freeing at the same time for me. I don’t have to look to hard to see if I have all my paints before I leave on an outing. I just count them on one hand. Simple, even for me!

I use the same pallet for winter as I do for summer spring and fall (or is it autumn?) In each color I use a little bit all 3 of my primary colors. Whether the red I use is alizarin, or cad red depends on the temp I am trying to achieve at the time. But I always put a red, blue and yellow in all of my mixes. It’s that harmony I am still trying to achieve in my work, along with knocking down the tone a bit.

So is this another one of those “rules” that I have to live by, do or die type thing? No way! I really have no qualms about using a yellow ochre or a viridian sometime. I know they are very useful colors, and I’m sure my art would benefit by throwing in an extra tube of something or two, and I’m sure I will. Rick told me when he went to paint overseas he added another blue to his pallet. I wish I could remember which one, but if and when I travel across the water I’ll know.

In the meantime my goal is to become well versed at what I do. I have a long ways to go, and a short time to get there. No idea how short.

I love my 4 color pallet, it’s simple, easy to pack up, and I can still make a total mess of things with these 4 as I did with 44.

This would have been Rick’s “Golden Year” Born in ’57 and 57 years old.

Thanks Rick

LaSauses Turnaround

LaSauses Turnaround

 

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