Saturday, March 13, 2021


There is nothing sweeter than a little boy or girl climbing up beside you to snuggle with them. Such trust, love and warmth! When my daughter and her two children stayed with us for a time, her little boy used to ask me to 'Come, snuggle.' And the time we spent quietly together became an almost daily ritual. It also made me think of my own children, and their snuggles with me. All of them snuggled. One of them became very attached to a yellow quilt with flannel backing, and had to have it before he could comfortably snuggle or go to sleep. Actually, it doesn't matter whether you are the mother, father, aunt, or grandparent. We all love to snuggle. We love burying ourselves under a quilt, or propping ourselves onto comfortable sofas and pillows with someone else. Snuggling just doesn't work quite as well if you are all by yourself.  

So this is a very small painting in an enormous frame. The painting itself is 8" x 8" and framed in a 4"-wide, very ornate gold and cream frame. As usual, it is oil paint, this time on board. I painted a couple of layers of under-colors, to bring texture into the piece, as well as the warm tones that are hinted at. One of the things I enjoy is painting a print design onto clothing, or any use of 'fabric'. So often, the characters in my little stories are dressed in prints. 

That may have to do with my background in the quilting industry. For thirty-five years, I worked as a pattern designer, how-to book author, and maker of many things from beautiful quilting fabrics. But all through those years, I yearned to paint. So, now I do. (But I still can't help myself when I see beautiful fabrics and quilts--so I stitch when I am not painting.) 

Monday, March 9, 2020

Angel of the Battlefield (Clara Barton)

I made a list of some of the women in history who inspire me. Having read a lot and visited some of the Civil War sites, I thought I should paint Clara Barton. She was born on December 25, 1821 (and I was also born on December 25, over a hundred years later). Her comfortable life was given up to serve soldiers of the North and South, without consideration of their color of uniform.

Some of her accomplishments were lesser known. She was in charge of the Patent Office, until she was replaced by a man, who became her boss. Women just were not suited to be in charge of anything, you see. She was also involved in humanitarian work and civil rights advocacy, even though she and other women didn't yet have the right to vote. She was also a member of the Suffragette movement.

Her crowning achievement was becoming the founder of the American Red Cross. After being in Europe, and helping with Red Cross there, she was encouraged to become the first president of the American Red Cross. Unfortunately, she was eventually replaced by a man.  She certainly paved the way for modern women to become whatever they want to be. I am grateful for her and others like her.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Runaway Mama and Friends

When I painted this, I thought about the times I fantasized about running away from my wifely and motherly responsibilities. It never was a serious thought, but I think every woman alive has this thought about sitting undisturbed, in a lovely clean room, drinking peppermint tea (or the beverage of your choice) and watching a movie or reading a book--or taking a nap. So, that's what this girl symbolizes. The horse has some symbols on her flank that mean something to me personally. The circle which spirals is something I have seen on rock walls, scraped there by some early artist. I like the shape. I often use it when I am machine quilting. It's very organic. Next, to its right, is a brand that belonged to my father. It belonged to his father, as well. It symbolizes his middle name, which is Thorwald--a Danish name, which came from his grandfather and father. The bottom emblem which looks a bit like a fleur de lis is actually a stylized plant, and a symbol of my mother's green thumb. I had a very loving childhood, and my parents' goodness has sustained me greatly--even when I want to jump up and run!

The painting itself is a layered painting. I started with a green and blue underpainting, and gradually added the horse and rider, with the background hills and upper decorative border. The horse began as a grey animal, but it lacked the 'sizzle' I wanted, so I started adding a golden color, which really was the right thing. I layered several thin layers of yellow ochre, white, and Naples yellow mostly, adding a little red here and there, to warm it up a little.

This old-fashioned woman is my great, great grandmother, Nancy Bean. Nancy was descended from English gentry and Danish royalty, and was a pioneer who came from Nauvoo, Illinois to settle in Southern Utah. While she was in Nauvoo, she married a man named Mr. Lee, but when she got to Utah, she asked permission from the Church to divorce him, because she said he was a bad man. Subsequently, she married a good man named Zechariah Decker, had children with him, lived a full live, and is buried in Parowan, Utah. I admire her tremendously, and think she was a woman of courage, who gave up a comfortable life to enter the rugged and often dangerous role of pioneer woman. I am proud of the hard-working women who are my ancestors. I hope I make them proud.

I found Nancy's photograph in a family book, published by one of my cousins. The quality of the photographs were not great, but I decided to paint her in color because I thought she would approve. I know very little about the things she loved, but I imagine she loved beautiful things, just like most women. Her shawl with the fringe was something women often wore in that era, and now we wear scarves around our necks. Ladies of fashion, no matter the generation.

This last little painting (8" x 10") is "Betsy Stitches a Nation Together." I was thinking about the women who participated in the building of this beautiful nation, and Betsy was only one out of thousands who worked, bore children, taught school, cooked, cleaned, sewed, and showed gratitude to God for the blessings of living in a free country. I think we sometimes take that for granted, as we quarrel with friends and family over political figures, and points of view. I hope that we women can begin to stitch our nation back together with love, appreciation for the freedom we have, prayer, life styles that many women (and men, and children)  throughout the world are without. We are truly blessed.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Mama Discovers Fire

This is my newest painting--in fact the paint is still wet. I have been working on a new method that involves a layer or two of 'spread-paint-over-the-canvas' for a base. I like to find something within that collage of color to inspire me, then I start drawing the figure. The figures work out best when I use actual photographs of people. I have discovered through trial and error that most of the time, working out of my head produces figures that are stilted and unnatural-looking.

So, 'Mama Discovers Fire' is really about self-discovery. I told a young friend lately that I loved turning 40. (She looked doubtful.) That was a birthday that made me believe that I saw starting to figure out who I was. The truth is that all of my life experiences have contributed to that. And I keep growing and changing--just like my paintings. So I see no need to apologize for or hide my age. The older I get, the better my fire burns. I have learned a lot about choosing the right fuel.

I love the imagery of fire. It's warm--even hot, if you get too close, and brings light to a dark place. It can be used to cook food, to ward off the chills, to bring comfort and sleep. Fire is fierce, consuming and unrelenting, if it gets out of control. The maker needs to remember that balance is important to all things.

So, here is Mama, looking at the fire she has discovered. You will note that she is not fearful of the intensity of the fire. The glow of the fire holds her fascination. But pretty soon, she will go look for fuel, and perhaps find some people who will come and enjoy the fire with her. She loves those people, big and little. She might even teach them how to build their own fires.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Tales of Tila Artwork for Carolyn

This summer project became a labor of love for me. As I painted, I developed a real kinship with Tila and her family. It was as if Tila herself was guiding me in creating the backdrops for her inspiring life. The Tales of Tila begins with a little vignette of Tila as a young girl. She worked in the garden and was asked to be the family bread maker, while her mother labored in the fields with her father. This first scene depicts the story of Tila making her first successful batch of bread--and cheating her brothers of the chance to tease her.

I used an old black and white photo of Tila (in the garden) to put this painting together. I asked my grandson Lorenzo to pose so I could do Tila's younger brother in a realistic manner. I had some old magazine photographs of New Mexico kitchens in historical homes, which I used for the Tila's background.

Scene II shows Tila and her friend as they depart Taos to go to a girl's school in Santa Fe. Tila's father drove the girls to a little railroad depot so they could ride the train to the Lamy station near Santa Fe.

Carolyn furnished me with an old black and white photo of Tila's father with his horses and wagon. I found a trio of Hispanic women in the parking lot of a local grocery store, and asked them if I could have them pose for me. One of the girls put her hand on her mother's shoulder, and I thought that was a sweet gesture, so I included it in the painting.

Scene III continues the story of Tila after the end of World War I, when she married her friend Amata's old brother, Juan. Juan was 26 and had just come back from the Army, and Tila was a mere 17. Tila and Amata had just joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so Tila made Juan promise that he would join the church if she married him. He did, even though it took over three years!

When I made this painting, I had a black and white photo of the wedding. The details were scratchy, but I decided to paint them in sepia tones, with a touch of pink for cheeks, lips, etc.--just like old b&w photos I had seen. I put them on a stage; after all, most weddings are pretty much stage productions! Ha ha.

After the wedding, Scene IV. continues the story as Juan (now called Trujillo by Tila) starts work as a shepherd. Trujillo and Tila have their first little baby, Magdalena, who dies shortly after birth. So the sorrows of married life begin, but they have many more children, among them a beautiful little girl, Nora, who was the mother of Carolyn.

When I painted the sheep herding painting, I had nothing for reference. I googled an image of a 1920's sheep herder, and used it as the basis of the painting. I had some good photographs of sheep (I like painting sheep), so I was able to increase the size of the herd with some good life-like sheep. And the background is a photograph of Taos Mountain.

As the number of children increased, and Trujillo found different employment, Scene V. shows his purchase of a dark green International pickup. Since all International pickups were extremely difficult to bring to a complete stop, Trujillo drove slowly by the house so Tila could throw his lunch through the truck window. This gives a new meaning to drive-up food services.

I had Carolyn pose for this painting--and she did a great job! Again, the Internet became the source of a green International pickup, as well as some of the beautiful hollyhocks that are known as the Taos city flower. Another search yielded an old adobe home in Taos, so I stirred all the ingredients together and this is what came forth!

Scene VI. depicts Tila presenting two missionaries with a freshly-baked loaf of bread. Tila and Trujillo (who was the Taos Branch President--aka the minister of the LDS Church) donated some of their land and built a little chapel for worship. They built an extra room at the back of the Church that became a home for the missionaries. These boys became like sons to Tila, and one of them, Elder Wally Chatwin, eventually married her beautiful Nora.

I started this painting with an old black and white photo of the old chapel, which has since been torn down. I had Carolyn and two young men I drafted into posing for me help with the inspiration photo. Naturally, Carolyn wore the right kind of dress for the era, but my 'missionaries' needed a little wardrobe and hair change. So, I painted some nice pleated and cuffed trousers, made the shirts a little fuller, and the ties wider and shorter. Hair was changed a little, and they received a loaf of bread with the old chapel in the background.

The end of the play, Scene VII. shows Tila and Trujillo in their later years, dancing in front of their Christmas tree. These two kept a ledger to keep track of their finances. It was also used to record important dates--and as a place to write notes to each other, particularly if one of them had an 'axe to grind.'

Carolyn furnished me with a wonderful black and white photo of Tila and Trujillo dancing. I painted it much like the photo, and colored the skin and clothing to suit the era and my own ideas of how they might have dressed. Carolyn's sister Susan helped by remembering that the floral drapes were blue. I think this is my favorite of the paintings, just because you can see the love between these two.

I am so grateful to Carolyn for the opportunity to create these paintings for her, and hope it will provide her family the same pleasure I had in helping to create them.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Tales of Tila

Detail of face before glazing background, etc.

Many years ago, when I was about the age of fifteen, my sister Sonia and I went to a Youth Conference presented by our Church. It was held up in the mountains, near Platoro, Colorado. We made friends with some young people from Taos, Susan and Pat, and Susan's brother Lynn. We ended up having Susan and Pat stay at our house overnight, and became fast friends. When we were able to go down to Taos for a weekend, we had a wonderful time browsing through some of the art galleries, and learning more about that wonderful place. Susan and Pat were marvelous hosts, and the trip became a highlight of our lives. 

Susan had several other siblings, among them a young sister named Carolyn. Carolyn and her husband live in our area, and we gradually became better acquainted during the last several years. Carolyn told me about a one-woman play she had written, produced by Wilford Brimley, in which she tells the stories of her grandmother, Tila. Carolyn asked me to create some paintings to be placed in the foyer during the time it will be presented, and I told her I would love to do it! I decided I would create one painting for each of the seven scenes, and later was asked to paint this painting for the poster which advertises the play. 

Carolyn had a copy of a photographic portrait of Tila, and although the features were not completely clear, the color was beautiful, and went a long way to help me create this painting. It was as if Tila herself was helping me. I love this project, and feel so honored to be a part of helping this wonderful play move forward. Carolyn is so clever and talented, and her songs are full of personality and love. It is sure to be entertaining and successful!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Carolyn's Reverie in the South of France

 Carol, who is the champion ‘moo-er’ in Washington County Utah, has decided to go to the South of France, so she can listen to Charolais cattle.  Here she sits listening to the distant mooing sounds of those beautiful white cattle.

Here is the real story: I met Carol at Swiss Days in Santa Clara, where I live. She was a volunteer at one of the events, and I stopped to take her picture. How could I resist? Over two years later, I started the painting which features Carol in her charming hat. In the meantime, I lost her contact information.   So, I contacted my neighbor who I knew was very involved in the city events. She didn't know Carolyn, but found someone who did. Long story short, I was able to get a phone number.

When I called Carolyn, she told me that she was switching to a cell phone, and hadn't gotten around to cancelling the land line (which is what was linked to the number I had). If she had cancelled the land line any sooner, I may not have found her.

So, now she has seen the portrait, and loves the shoes I gave her! Carolyn was wearing some white running shoes--much too boring for this scenery--and I gave her some that were inspired by the wonderful apparel of Gudrun Sjoden. In fact, the background for this painting was inspired by the the Summer 2017 catalogue of Gudrun's. I so admire the clothing in the catalogue, and the shoes, and the the designer herself. Such great fun!

The painting is done on smooth board in gallery-wrap format, purchased in Santa Fe at their wonderful art shop, Artisan, at 2601 Cerillos Road. Wonderful place!