Sometimes, it’s possible to learn more when I am feeling lost. Then, I have to really look around and try to find my way back, or figure out what to do next. I was lost once when I was a child. It was very scary, but exciting too. Otherwise, I would not remember this. Painting is the same way. Destruction of some of my paper pieces has led me to think about the road forward, the possible reuse of the wonderful paper…..the marks on the paper…transformed by an accident. It’s interesting.
When the road is suddenly unfamiliar, I look up and think…hey, where am I?…..good question!
The painting process requires some rigorous work before the paint brush or the idea arrive in my hand and head. I’m progressing forward to a show in Gladstone, Mo. this winter in the month of December. I was very wrapped up in the paper pieces I did for the “Give Me that Dog” project, so when I returned to larger canvas painting, I’d forgotten how much prep work that can be! This afternoon I’ve stretched one canvas and prepared several pre-stretched canvas so that when the idea comes, the surface will be ready to go! Good ideas are hard to come by and also…to hang on to especially if I have to spend lots of time doing the preparation of a canvas. Even the pre-stretched canvas from Utrecht art supplies require a couple of coats of Gesso before I can begin to paint.
I wrote a note to myself the day after Helen was gone…it was kind of a list about what dog you might rescue if you went to a shelter. People sometimes say to me, “oh, I could never go to a rescue place because I’d want to take all of the dogs home”….and I always say, “no, you won’t, but then again, you might see a dog that just calls out to you! “It’s that some enchanted evening thing!
The dog might be a crazy dog like Luna or Helen…..or even closer to some unknown edge or territory that you will be exploring. You’ll know that’s the one! Be brave and strong and go on an adventure with that dog!
Go to a shelter. Sit with that mystery crazy dog at the shelter…and walk around a little and go back for a few follow up visits. Know you can handle the dog! Luna was always distant and crazy at the shelter, and so was Helen. So, I had to take them home to really discover who they were! Expectations are a waste of time. An open mind is good. The amazing part was that when I brought Luna home, she slept in the backyard for three days. After she was rested, we discovered she had separation issues, so that was the challenge we dealt with. Ultimately, she learned that we were coming back, and she could just chill while we were gone.
Helen continued her hyper active performance for about 4 months. We simply had to kennel her to get any work done. It took about a month before she knew she was really home and accepted our routine. She learned the rules of the house, and she knew what time it was. She had a regular schedule that we agreed to and could easily abide by! She loved to take walks. Her nose didn’t work either so there was never any stopping to sniff and, of course, she didn’t care a whit about other dogs ! Her hearing was marvelous, she could hear a pin drop!
While I was visiting my cousin on the west coast, my partner and her sister rescued a poorly treated neighbor German shorthair dog. He was big and bouncy and we have one dog who takes exception to any “unpack” dog she sees so, before they could move the dog to a better place, they kenneled him in my studio at night. One of the big problems with rescued dogs is that it takes awhile to figure out their typical likes and dislikes. Turns out, the dog was terrified by thunder storms. He broke out of his kennel and trashed three acrylic on paper paintings. One was sold already, so I’ll need to repaint that. (I’m pretty good at copying myself…and sometimes even make some improvements on the original). One was auctioned on our facebook page, and we were just getting ready to ship it. The name of that painting was The Deconstruction Team. There were enough pieces of that painting left that I was able to reconstruct the Desconstruct! All’s well that ends well. I’m somewhere between a frown and a smile. When I get over jet lag which I guess takes longer as one gets older… I’ll be fine and the German shorthair will be rehomed with some folks who are familiar with the breed and his other likes and dislikes. For now, he’s doing very well on a farm (except on those stormy days when he is kept in the basement of the farm house).
I'll have another please!
Helen, my yellow blind lab, died the day after I returned from my trip to Seattle. She came from Animal Haven , a no kill dog rescue, in Kansas City. I heard about her on the radio driving to KC and just went and got her. She was out of her mind in the shelter, but better when I got her in the car. No one knew where she came from….just found wandering on a road and turned in to the shelter. She loved to ride in the car, and she quickly learned schedules and then made us stick to them. I’m sure she ran trains in her last life. She became our time of the day reminder….as in: Time to walk, time to eat, time to go outside, time to eat, time to watch tv, time to go to bed. For awhile she slept in my studio at nite, but as she got older and less trustworthy, I thought she’d be better off in the kitchen. Our vet, Dr. Johnson, gave her excellent care as she struggled with heart trouble. Yesterday she slept on the front porch all day and wasn’t interested in eating. Then, I knew it was time to let her wander to yellow dog heaven with all the other free dogs. Her best qualities were that she hardly ever barked, she was a great energetic walker and could even walk off lead on this walking path we have in Weston. She never really liked affection. I think she thought we were going to trick her by being nice first…. but she did hang out with us and I think she enjoyed the life around her. Her tail did wag all day.
I sometimes think that my studio is inhabited by elves. They drink wine at nite and dance and sing. Then they move my art and my furniture around. I follow their lead and also move studio art and furniture around every time I start a new painting or project. I have no idea why I do this…but I consistently do this. ( I never drink wine while moving furniture around). (That would be dangerous)
The other day I discovered a paper piece that I hadn’t seen in some time. It was a part of a project for a t-shirt design for the local MoKan border Collie Rescue. The painting was a reject….but, now that I see it again, I think, not bad! I had an empty frame from the Give Me That Dog project so I framed it up and put it in our store….it looks pretty good out in the public eye.
I have a difficult time leaving a painting very long once I get working, and then, when I think I’m finished, I have a hard time going back to work on the piece. Painting is a lot like a conversation….only with paper or canvas and paint. Once the back and forth is done, it’s hard to jump back in at the same place and with the same feeling. In this case, my working pattern really paid off. I like the painting much better than I did when I put it away. I remember looking at it long and hard when I was working on it…and it didn’t seem like there was really anything more I could do to make the dog fly any better.
A few years ago I decided that it would be more fun to take a pad of drawing paper and some nice ink pens to a dog event in Weston in our small downtown park, rather than haul our Bellacompany t-shirts and caps into the great out of doors. That way, I could just try to so some “luna toons” of dogs who attended with their “parents”. I wasn’t sure how this would work or if I could even manage it at an actual event. I practiced drawing a “toon” of our blind lab, Helen, and it seemed to go well, so I had some hope that this new idea would work. I took paper, pens, and plastic envelopes to protect any “toons” I might complete. As the event began, a line of dogs and their owners formed so I was kind of stuck trying out my new idea.
The greatest draw back to doing a “live” cartoon is that gazing at a dog intently is not so popular with the dog! Because there was so much going on with dog agility and just the general chaos of dogs, children and adults, most of the dogs were very patient while I worked on my new idea. They were calm and mindful! . I drew about 14 toons over a 3 hour time period before the line went away and my ability to concentrate disappeared. Perfect timing! …and I discovered a new avenue for my drawing abilities. Since that initial experience, I’ve enjoyed doing Luna Toons in my studio from photos and stories that dog owners send with their orders.
The Company of Dogs catalog sold our toon concept in their catalog the next year and I received some great photos and stories about people and their dogs. I find that it is easier to do a “toon” with a few photos and a description than to actually gaze at the dog. I’ve done a few live toons in my studio, but the models were a little nervous with all that staring and no distractions! In the park, they were too distracted to notice.