We love Mexico during the Fall, especially at the end of October when they begin preparations for Day of the Dead. Offrendas begin to go up around town, commemorating deceased family and friends, and the flower vendors around the jardin, the town center, go into full swing. The vendors who sell dried flowers year-round now have a greater variety and more fresh-cut flowers. They especially like marigolds and cocks’ comb, two of the most traditional for the celebrations.
The flower vendors are one of the first people that you notice as you come into the jardin from the west side. They sit on low stools with buckets and buckets of flowers surrounding them and spend the time making intricate baskets filled with dried flowers. The colors and the tableau they create doing their work is unforgettable.
Like a giant serpent, the boardwalk through the Amelia Island marsh meandered its curving way out through the tall sea grasses. Rachel Carson had it right to describe this kind of grass as a sea. The wind whipped it into a current of its own just like the ocean, changing the varied colors from cool to warm depending on your perspective. The marsh was alive. Not with just the multitude of creatures — birds, crabs, insects, mammals — but took on a life of its own, combining into a gigantic organism responding to its environ.
Without the boardwalk we could have only stood in longing at the marsh’s edge, unable to traverse into its interior and discover any of its mystery. As it was, even in its depths we found it gave up what little it did begrudgingly. A peak at a heron on a roost. Egrets skimming its surface. Dragonflies pausing for rest on a reed. What lay beneath we could only imagine.
This is another painting of the marsh grasses on Amelia Island from our trip there in the Spring of 2004. I look at these pictures and remember so well the sense of wonder and contentment at having this stretch of grassy marsh all to ourselves. As we walked along the boardwalks there wasn’t another soul in sight over the two days we went back to explore on several occasions. It was just us, the wind, and the wading birds in all this wide expanse.
The colors speak to me especially. These muted earth tones of lavenders, burnt orange, and greens. Then there’s that sky of piled up clouds that stretches to the horizon. That green island of trees and scrub was how I felt, like we were in an oasis of peace away from the daily pressures of our lives. I need those places to recharge.
I’m still into cobalt blue today after my success yesterday. Again it turned out to be the right color to provide the sky with that certain brilliant blue, especially against the chartreuse of the cactus I had in mind. I can never remember their name but they’re one of my favorites in Mexico. You see them everywhere around San Miguel, and in their maturity they grow to majestic tree size. And like trees, their limbs are strong and woody to support all that weight. Little birds of various sorts like to hop among their branches looking for food and, no doubt, protection. The skin of the cactus is smooth but better watch out for those needles! They’re serious business.
This scene is from a Christmas day walk that Dave and i took in 2004 on our first 6 month trip to San Miguel. We climbed a hill across the bypass from our house and went hiking through the valley and over the hilltop. At the top were a scattering of houses and a long sloping pasture that reached to a hidden canyon far to the south. The pasture was filled with a variety of cacti and mesquite along with long dry wind-blown grass swaying in the afternoon breeze. We watched a kite hover determinedly overhead looking for some rodent for its Christmas dinner. Once we reached the canyon we found an outcropping of rugged rocks with brilliant yellow-green and red lichen, and out of it grew nopales, the Mexican’s favorite vegetable, and my favorite cactus.
I’ve wanted for so long to paint this but have never quite figured out what to do with my photo references to do it justice. Today I decided that rather than trying to provide a literal depiction I needed instead to use the elements that I focused on, combining them in a way to show the feel and the effect of all those brilliant colors playing together. The colors are outrageous, but that’s the Mexico way.
“I never use cobalt blue.” I owe this post to Bill, who I said that to today as I looked at one of his small watercolors that he does regularly, “Like candy,” he said. The sky in that particular painting was a wonderful soft blue gray that looked like he’d swiped a piece of the real thing. I’d stopped in for a visit at his studio after I took a picture of the pot of geraniums on his front porch. It seemed only right to at least have a word.
Since the subject of the day’s painting came from the Renzullis it made sense to use cobalt blue for the background, Bill as my inspiration. But I wanted the saturated blue that you get with full strength, which is what I used. With the flowers being the main attraction I wanted just color in the background for them to bounce off of. A little sprinkle of sea salt while the blue was drying gave some interesting effect. To keep things consistent, I decided to use the cobalt for the pot as well, adding some burnt sienna to form a warm gray. I did that in several layers, and I’m loving the effect. Actually, the whole painting was really fun and quick, with some surprises along the way, having not used cobalt blue for so long I’d forgotten how wonderfully it combined with the sienna. I can see I’m going to be adding cobalt blue back onto my palate more regularly.
I’m back in town after a quick trip to Chicago to have my CI processors adjusted. Part of the post-op rehab that is part of learning to hear well with your new implant. Things are moving along nicely there, and I’m well pleased.
Today was catch-up because of my two day absence from my studio. Looking through a gazillion emails and answering phone calls. I also did a good bit of work on my second commission that I’ve been planning out for over a month. Finally, I was able to get down to work on the daily painting in late afternoon.
The pumpkins across the street in one of my neighbors’ yards shine brightly at me in a nice tableau as I look out my studio window. Some of the arrangement she’s made is too much for me, but I love the pumpkins next to the squatty ceramic pot. I honed in on what I liked to make a tight composition of the pumpkins and the pot. The boxy shape is a bit of a wooden wagon that’s too cutsie for my tastes. The yellow flowers add a touch of brightness and provide an additional play of color. Rather makes me think of Halloween and autumn.
There’s a classic mansion on the corner of Sixth and Monroe here in Paducah that sits in stately splendor. It belonged to an elderly woman whose interests ran to Civil War era gowns and their preservation. She had quite a collection, I understand. Today, the pillared house stands rather silently in expectation since her passing last year. An elaborate garden with flowers, shrubbery, and statues makes up the entire front yard surrounded by a blue wraught iron fence.
The maple and dogwoods inside the yard are in full color right now. I noticed them earlier in the week and was struck by their overhanging color and deep shadow along the south side of the house, creating a canapy of leaves for the sidewalk underneath. I ventured out today to take the picture before the colors fade. Fall resides there at the house while it awaits other occupants.
I tend to look down as I walk through woods or along sidewalks. Not at my feet but at the flowers, leaves that have fallen, and for whatever treasures in the way of bugs or things of interest I might find. Last year while walking to the library I saw the tiniest of acorns scattered at my feet. Neat little caps with miniature buds of acorns. I picked one up and was entranced by their perfection and size, especially since the trees they came from were in the category of mighty oaks. I don’t know the specific species of oak but I kept the souvenir anyway.
Yesterday I made a stroll through Lower Town to get some exercise and see what was about. Two blocks away were brilliant orange berries, part of ornamental bushes at the side of someone’s yard. The perfect Fall color combination of scarlet orange and evergreen for the leaves. I pinched a sprig of leaves and one of berries to bring home for my daily painting. The acorn and its twin cap were still safely stored in my desk drawer from last year. Small things that made my day.
This is my 50th painting since I started the 100 paintings in 100 days series. I’m hoping to have the rest done before Christmas, with a show planned for December in my studio. I think a lot of the next half of the daily paintings will be something taken from what I see around me, like today’s painting.
Temperatures have dropped here in Western Kentucky and the leaves are just beginning to turn. Our sycamore tree out front is turning burnished gold with mottled green and brown rust spots on the leaves. They blow onto our sidewalk and porch, castoffs as big handkerchiefs. I gathered a few yesterday and went in search of something a bit more saturated in color, and found a few crimson leaves in my neighbor’s yard to go with them. No great detail in this, just the colors of fall splashed across the paper with basic shapes.
We’re hoping to get out of town for the day on Sunday on Dave’s day off. Maybe we’ll go get some sawdust pie at the local diner we found in a town to our northwest. Or maybe take a drive to Land Between the Lakes and do a hike before the weather turns too cold for the winter.
We’re coming close to the end of the growing season and our participation with the community supported agriculture we’ve done with the Amish families in Marion, KY. It’s still exciting after more than 20 weeks to see what arrives in our box every Tuesday afternoon. This week there were four large sweet potatoes, a bag of a variety of leaf lettuce, a small bunch of radishes both red and white, a red pepper, an onion, and six rosy turnips. I’m not terribly fond of cooked turnips unless they’re in with other things. Actually I prefer them cut in slices or strips and eaten raw. We used to do that when I was growing up, and I remember them as a special treat that had a tangy sweet bite similar to cabbage.
Since they’ve been sitting on our kitchen counter since yesterday afternoon I’ve had plenty of opportunity to look at them. Their brilliant fuschia is glorious, no matter what you think of their taste. So, in honor of that at least, they became my painting off the day today.