Painting Like a Child

The Fun of Whimsical Painting

I was at the LAST Art Gallery in historic downtown McKinney (TX) today when a customer walked around and mentioned how delighted she was that we had a young child artist’s work on the wall.

Excuse me???

Well, the artwork she was referring to was NOT that of a young child, but was produced by a respected, long-time artist that (as a member pointed out) is just young at heart. Much of this artist’s work is whimsical paintings, drawings, and collages. If she had been there, I’m sure she would have laughed. Because that’s what the intent is. To make you smile or to make you laugh.

Camo Dog

Whimsical Painting is Letting Your Inner Child Come Out to Play

We ALL have an inner child. Some hear it calling and some don’t. I have to admit that I hear mine calling pretty often. Okay, daily. I hear it daily. I also admit that I give in to it. Not so much in public, but definitely at home. And in some of my artwork.

I also have to admit my inner child is quite spoiled from getting it’s way so much. From some of the artwork that I have seen at various art shows… it’s pretty evident that others give in to theirs as well. And the results are often delightful.

Painting Like A Child Isn’t Child’s Play

Whimsical, silly, artwork might sometimes look like a child did it, but in truth, it is quite often done by someone with a practiced eye for composition, color, mark making, and all the other technical stuff…even though they’re bending and blending the rules. It’s also popular. Not everyone wants a serious portrait, landscape, or still life. Some of us still enjoy high fives with our seven year old selves.

I do want to say one more thing.

Artwork of any kind actually done by a child is a precious gem from a treasure chest and I hope you let them know how much you appreciate what they created. Encourage, praise, nurture. You never know… they might grow up, become an artist, and have someone say how delighted they are seeing the “child’s” artwork on display in a gallery somewhere.

Painting Trees: The Tree Amigos

I love trees. I find myself including them more and more in my paintings, which is a real change for me because I never felt good at doing so in the past. However, you know what they say about practice. Thousands of people regularly paint trees so obviously there’s a lot of practice going on. Painting trees is hugely popular with artists. So many interpretations! Trees are also a popular subject with poets and other writers.

Advice From A Tree

Stand tall and proud.
Sink your roots into the earth.
Be content with your natural beauty.
Go out on a limb.
Drink plenty of water.
Remember your roots.
Enjoy the view.
– Ilan Shamir

The Tree Amigos: It Didn’t Start This Way!

When I started this one, I had no intention of painting trees. It actually began with the idea of a rainy day and a child under an umbrella. That’s all. No trees. Just a little girl ( which became two) under a large umbrella. And that’s what I did! I had mixes of blues, violets, grays, whites on my palette and with my palette knives, laid on my background then when dry enough, added the figures. However, the composition bothered me. Therefore, I swiped through it all, removed a lot of the paint, and in the chaos of colors I saw a street scene. I worked that idea for a while, but didn’t like that either. It just didn’t speak to me. Actually it did speak to me… it said “noooooo”. So I scraped and wiped and re-swiped the colors and sat back and just looked at it for several minutes. That’s when I started seeing trees in the shapes. Trees and water and sky. So I started developing the shapes and moving colors around. In the end, I had a painting of three trees which I finally named The Tree Amigos.

Speaking of Trees

If you google it, you’ll find that there are over 60,000 tree species in the world. The ten most common in the U.S. are the Red Maple, the Loblolly Pine, Sweetgum, Douglas Fir, Quaker Aspen, Sugar Maple, Balsam Fir, Flowering Dogwood, Lodgepole Pine, and the White Oak.

A lot of lovely subjects if you like painting trees. I guess I had better get to practicing.

The Amazing Colors of Fall

I love Fall. The gradual change in weather, the gradual change in the landscape. The way the trees and bushes begin to dress themselves in their Autumn colors… while the mortals in their midst do the same. Even if you are not a cool weather person, you have to admit the colors of Fall are just spectacular. They are some of my favorite hues to paint with. Even when it’s not Fall.

Fall Leaves (mixed media)

Too bad some of you are missing it. Fall. Not by choice, but because Mother Nature seems to have decided to skip it this year. Or at least delay it. Here in North Texas, we went from summer temps to a few days of cold, back to summer temps, a few hours of Spring, then an arctic front blew in, and if the forecasters are correct… we’ll be back to Spring again in a few days.

It’s kind of hard to figure out what to wear from day to day (hour to hour?) and I think everything in the landscape is just as confused as we are. Summer colors or Fall colors? Leaves on or leaves off? What season are we in? Luckily, the last cold snap has gotten things started. Nature’s palette is finally changing. The amazing colors of Fall are beginning to show. Especially within the trees. They are glorious with color right now. How I envy those states where the trees go on for miles and miles with the colors of Fall beautifully displayed.

I think, as adults, we often tend to lose the wonder of what is presented this time of year. The amazing colors of Fall are lost on us because we either take it for granted or all we focus on is whose yard those leaves are in… and who’s gonna have to rake it all up. Confession: Here where I live, when the leaves come down in the yard… if we wait a few hours… the wind will change and it’ll get blown into the neighbor’s yard. Of course, then the neighbor does the same thing, and a few hours later, the wind blows it all back! It’s a game of who blinks first.

I encourage you to let your inner child come out, or better yet, take a child with you, and go find a few leaves that are in the transition change (on a tree, bush, plant, the ground) and take a really close look. Some of them will have colors that merge so beautifully that they look like they were painted by the hand of an artist. Greens, yellows, reds, oranges, purples. Sometimes all on one leaf!

The amazing colors of Fall. Don’t take too long to look though, the way things have been changing lately, you might miss it.

Purple At Sunset: The Painting

Purple At Sunset
oil and cold wax painting

It’s rare that I start an oil and cold wax painting with an idea already in mind. I usually throw on a base color and then start slapping down a combination of other colors until shapes emerge that kind of direct how the painting turns out.

However, (surprise!) this time I had a definite idea of what I wanted to paint… a sunset evolving into shades of purple as night falls. So, with inspiration from many beautiful photos of purple at sunset, I just had to pull out my purple, magenta, orange, and white tubes of paint, my palette knives, a brush, and get to mixing and painting!

To me, it’s no wonder that so many artists, photographers, and writers find themselves moved to express themselves in some way after, or while, they watch a setting sun. Sunsets are one of nature’s many gifts of color to those who choose to stop and look. Color which changes in the richness of tones depending on the weather, the seasons, and things in the sky or on the ground which reflect those colors. It’s a glorious transition of light to dark as the sun dips below the horizon line.

I love sunsets. I like to paint them (or attempt to) and I like to take photos of them… especially when there are clouds in the sky. They are just too lovely to ignore! Are you a fan of sunsets? Do they move you in any way? Maybe you prefer to watch the sun rise? Those are lovely too, if you’re a morning person. I don’t see too many sunrises now. I’m retired. I get to sleep in.

Evolution of an Unplanned Painting

Plan? What Plan?

Most of the artists I know start with a plan. They sketch out what they intend to paint, either from real life, a photo, or a design they come up with. It’s probably the smarter thing to do; however, that’s not usually how it works for me. I tend to just “wing it”. I find I get a lot more enjoyment out of a session if I just slap down some marks and colors, then step back and just look at it for a few minutes. Because within those few minutes, I start seeing things and what is on the canvas starts to “talk to me” (not literally, I’m not hearing things… most of the time… that would be creepy).

I Start With Colors

I mixed up a palette of blues and lavenders, then threw in some white and black. After several minutes of moving colors around, shapes started to form. I backed up and stared at it as I began to see either a treeline or rocks and what might be a horse in the foreground of the painting. Yay! A start!

I Look At Shapes

As you can see, the black area did not want to be a treeline. It wanted to be rocks and cliffs. (Okay, my brain wanted it to be rocks and cliffs.) So, I added oranges and browns to my color palette and worked on the main shapes. The horse shape is still there since I think I can work with that.

Now, however, the horse bolted and two cows showed up. Again, I am letting the scene evolve as I play with it. By this point, I have a good idea where I’m going to wind up. Some kind of a Southwest scene. Memories of Arizona now start running through my head.

Get Along Little Doggies

The cows drove me nuts. On this particular day, I could not get the illusion of bovines on my canvas. So off they went to graze somewhere else. The evolution of this unplanned painting is almost complete. I just need to work a bit on the foreground and keep the animals corralled.

The Final Painting?

I’d like to say this is where I wound up, but as usual, after letting it sit for a week I did come back and do a little more touching up where I felt it needed it. I’d show you, but the changes aren’t that much.

To end with an update… the painting now has a mat and is framed. For this one, the evolution is complete.

View From the Cabin: Painting With Blue

View From the Cabin Confession

First of all, I do not have a cabin near a lake. I do not have a cabin near a river. I do not have a cabin near a stream. I do not have a cabin near a drainage ditch. I do not have a cabin at all. But if I did, it would absolutely have a view. However; I have been in various cabin type structures in different locations quite a few times during my lifetime. So this scene is kind of a compilation of the real and the unreal. Did it start out this way? Of course not! When I started this canvas, the only thing I was sure of was that painting with blue was the main objective.

View From the Cabin

The Need for Painting With Blue

You may or may not know this, but art galleries will often have exhibitions where they put out a “call to artists” and you need to meet the theme of that particular exhibition. Well, this particular gallery’s theme coming up is Blue. So painting with blue was the main requirement.

Easy peasy. I LOVE all the wonderful shades you can get using blue (any shade) adding small (or large) amounts of white or black. I decided to go for it. The entry fee was reasonable and I hoped the “jury” would take anybody who paid. (I’ve seen and been in a few shows where it sure seemed that way, but then to be fair, art is in the eye of the beholder.)

I pulled out my black, white, and ultra-marine blue oils and my little pot of cold wax. I slapped some lines of black. I swished large splashes of straight ultra-marine. I mixed various shades of the blue and let them dance across the canvas. I jumped back in with white. Go girl! Let loose! I had an abstract on my canvas!

From Abstract to Landscape

Once again, I just couldn’t leave it alone. Yes, there are shapes, colors, and values and all kinds of fun things in an abstract, but I kept seeing ghost images of things recognizable. And I couldn’t leave it alone. Hence, a cold winter night slowly developed on my canvas. I know that’s just how my brain works. I see recognizable images in just about everything. I also know that I’m kind of tired of summer temperatures still hanging on here in North Texas. Maybe subconsciously, I’m hoping for a future cold winter night with a view… from a cabin.


My painting got accepted. I’ll be dropping it off to thegallery 8680 next month. HAPPY DANCE!!!! Let’s hope it finds a forever home.

Mothers and Daughters: Moms and Their Mini-Me

My Mom and Mini-Me Series

This series of whimsical mothers and their daughters portraits (okay, characters) started a while back when I was in a “gotta draw faces” phase and was spending a lot of time with my sketchbook. Also, at the time, I was painting both realistic and semi-realistic female faces. I still occasionally will paint a face that passes for “real”.

However, where’s the fun in that?

I had much rather draw and paint whimsical, if not outright silly, faces. Faces, real or not, are so interesting! So… the Mom and Mini-Me series was born and I still add to it since I haven’t yet painted all the drawings that patiently wait in my aforementioned sketchbook.

Acrylic painting.  Whimsical mom and her mini-me.

Are You a Mini-Me of Your Mom?

I’m not. I look more like my father. My dad used to tell me I had “daddy’s features and mommy’s fixtures”. I think I probably act more like him too. However, back to the question. Are you a mini-me of your mom?

Because I paint, I find myself looking (discreetly as possible) at the faces of people around me, especially when a mother and daughter (or son) are together. I look to see how much they have in common. Eye color, eye placement, bone structure, hair color, mouth size. I really look. I find it fascinating. They would probably find it weird, which is why it has to be done “on the down low” so the cops don’t get involved. (Good thing I have artist friends who can vouch for me too.)

Anyhow, rarely do I see a mother with an absolute mini replica of herself, since we are, in truth, a complicated blend of both our parents… and their parents… and their parents.

Back to the Mom and Mini-Me Paintings

Though I have a good time when I create these, they are not painted just for fun. Okay, they are. But….

They make me think about the mother and daughter relationship. How much are you really like your mother?

Do you look like her. Do you talk like her? Do you have the same interests? How much has your mother influenced you? Are you truly a mini-me? Are you the mother of a mini-me?

There are several in this whimsical series of mothers and daughters, and probably more to come. You can see them online on my artist page at Fine Art America. I invite you to take a look. They’re fun.

My Peeping Tom

I live with a peeping tom and I love it. Relax… he’s a cat. His name is Bruce and he’s a joy to have around though he does spook me sometimes when he appears unexpectedly at my feet or in my lap. “Surprise!”

I have a long history with cats. I just love cats and have painted several of them, good and not so good. (The paintings, not the cats.) I’ve had the good fortune to be a two-legged mama to about two dozen over the years. I tend to adopt in sets. I should write a book one day… so many memories. I brought my first one home when I was probably five. It was a kitten that had been hanging out in the bushes around the neighborhood and “followed me” home. Funny how creatures manage to follow you if you have them securely locked in your arms. Fortunately my father liked cats. I got to keep it. The first of many. (There have also been several dogs in my life at the same time as the cats. I am a multi-pet lover.)

Clear the Shelter!

Back in October of 2018 the local animal shelter was full and begging for folks to come out, so I just happened to be driving by… two miles out of my way… and stopped in. Actually, I had been wanting to add another cat to the household ever since my sweet Nala passed from a stroke about seven months earlier. I also felt that NuNu (our other adult cat) absolutely needed another feline friend. Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. So, I stopped by with the intention of looking for a cat, one cat, a female. For some reason, I tended to gravitate toward females and they seem to gravitate towards me. So there I was looking for a cat when a volunteer at the shelter grabbed me and took me over to a litter of two month old babies that needed a home with someone “experienced”. Yep, she saw me coming from a mile, make that two miles, away. I came home that day with two kittens, a female and (so unlike me) a male. Siblings.

Calling the Husband

Confession here. My husband had no idea I was at the shelter, though I had been talking about getting another cat for months. That was a phone call, he didn’t expect and boy was he speechless! Good thing he likes me. I thought it might lessen the shock of finding out he’s going to be a (pet) father again by emphasizing that “one’s a boy!” I mean, who doesn’t want a son? Think of the bonding! I also thought it would help to let my husband name him. I kept suggesting we call him Frankie… it was October and Halloween was coming. Get it? He liked “Bruce”. Guess who won’t be getting naming rights again.

Bruce, the Almighty Tom Cat

As all animals do, they grow up fast. At one year old, he acts like a preteen. “What’s there to eat? Did you clean my litter box? Where’s my stuff? Don’t bother me.” You get it. Unlike his sister who is perfectly happy being carried, he only tolerates being picked up for short periods of time. When he was a kitten, he would stand up on his back legs (like a dog) wanting me to pick him up. Not any more. He used to “surprise” me with lap attacks every time I would sit down. Those have become fewer as he prefers to curl up by himself in my recliner now. He does, however, check to see what I’m doing quite regularly. He is a cat, and cat’s are curious. One thing he still does that I kind of hope never changes is this: he flops (yes, flops) down next to me at night and does his little “kneading” dance on my arms or stomach when he’s sleepy. Thank goodness for cat nail clippers or people might get the wrong idea about me and start planning an intervention.

Speaking of intervention, I had better go and check the food bowls.

Childhood Memories: The Story of Picnic Creek

Imagine being about six or seven years old and, while visiting your country grandparents, being told that everyone is going for a picnic “to the creek” waaaay out in the back 40 (acres) and that you are getting there in the old hay wagon hitched up to the horses! Of the many childhood memories stored in my head, this is one I hope to never forget.

This wasn’t olden times, it was in the early sixties (ok, olden times for some of you). Anyway, grandpa had hitched up his two working farm horses to his very old and still useful hay wagon with the buckboard seat and the giant wheels. Mom and grandma had prepared a feast of food and drink, though I honestly can’t remember everything about the dining service. Ha!

What I do remember is the thrill of it all, the adventure we were on. That particular event, one of many childhood memories, is what prompted me to paint Picnic Creek which wasn’t close to trees, but… well, it’s that “artistic license” thing and there are no photos from that day.

Continuing With the Story

We pulled out, the whole family in the wagon with grandpa driving, past the big wood gate, and headed down the dirt road cut between the woods which led us to the miles of open land where the cows roamed. First stop. The “horse pond”. Every pond on the farm had it’s own name. Grandpa made us all to about wet our respective pants when he got the horses to pull the wagon out into a low part of the water. My eyes must have been the size of saucers (flying saucers). We were sure that we were going to get stuck. Grandma thought so too and was fussing at Grandpa. Grandpa, with reins in hand, was laughing like a schoolkid having pulled a prank. He was having a great time. Luckily for us, we didn’t sink into the mud or the boys and my dad were sure enough going to get wet helping to get us unstuck.

From there, the our picnic party slowly blazed a path through high growing field grasses, through barbed wire gates at fence lines, past totally indifferent cows (it wasn’t their adventure), past the occasional groups of wildflowers and blackberry bushes to our final destination under a beautiful blue Oklahoma sky. The creek! We were at the creek! For a picnic! Now I really was about to wet my pants… from excitement.

This creek had probably been flowing though this part of the landscape since the time of the native Americans who once lived in the area. You could easily imagine their presence, even as a kid. It was a little slice of paradise and we made the most of it. The water was only about knee high and there was a shallow area, only a few inches deep, where it lazily flowed over incredibly smooth rocks. This smooth area became our playground. My brothers and I waded in the water, we sat in the water, we slid on the rocks, we splashed, we looked for tadpoles, we practically burst with happiness. Probably one of the few family outings where we didn’t wind up irritating the heck out of each other… and our parents. What an incredible day to look back on even if every detail isn’t there as I float back in time to remember it.

I hope you too have childhood memories of happy, incredible days and that you continue to remember them.

The Cows are Slowly Disappearing

No more cows in McKinney, Texas?

No, nothing strange is happening and it’s certainly not a mystery why. It’s called development. And it makes me very sad because the cows are disappearing from the landscape.

Field Day

When we first moved here six years ago, we were thrilled at the wonderful way “city” co-existed with “country”. To quote the city’s tag line, McKinney was indeed “unique by nature”. You could drive short distances, often inside city limits, and see cows! As well as other kinds of farm animals and scenes. Unfortunately that is changing and it’s changing at warp speed. Developments, both commercial and residential, have come in like locusts taking away the once lovely pastures full of cows as well as the lush acres of corn, cotton, and wheat both here and all around the city … for miles and miles and miles. Cows are disappearing along with the trees, grasses, and habitat for animals that have lived here for longer than humans have.

Cows Are Disappearing, But Taxes Aren’t Going Anywhere

I’m not against making fast (or even not so fast) money, I understand the motivation for landowners to sell, sell, sell. It’s really hard to make a living off the land with the financial burden of taxes and bad years like when the whole area was in a long severe drought. Farmers, ranchers… they took a big hit. I also realize that people don’t view land as something to work with, but as an investment to make money off of.

But to see land being destroyed for “pad sites” and sprawling cookie-cutter neighborhoods where houses are packed together like cookies in a plastic container just hurts my soul. Cows are disappearing. Wildlife is disappearing. My grandfather was a farmer and he LOVED his land. He knew every inch of it, he worked it, he coexisted with what was on it. But that was then and this is now. It’s a different world. My family and it’s farming history died off when he passed.

Back to development. The city (and county) tells us all this growth and new development will help to control taxes. Well, throw the flag ladies and gentlemen! That doesn’t seem to happen now, does it? Mostly because the independent school districts continue to bleed taxpayers to death. More than half of our yearly property taxes go to the local school district. More development means more people, more people means more schools, more schools means… more taxes. If you’re retired and on a fixed income… it sucks. But I love McKinney (in spite of the taxes) so here we will stay, as long as we can afford to.

On a final note. Publishers Clearing House has a giveaway in a few days. If I win the BIG ONE, I might just buy a big chunk of land and bring back some of those cows that are disappearing. Taxes be darned. My grandpa would be proud.