Old Lilacs

Old Lilacs
A 5"x5" oil painting done in 2012

Saturday, June 30, 2012

 Raspberry Delight

Here's the first painting from my brand new, very old studio.

I found the answer to the dilemma of creating a studio space in an RV, and it comes with a touching story that makes my eyes wet every time I think about it.

You see, in 2003, my house and studio burned to the ground while we had been on Christmas vacation.  We got the news 10 minutes before Christmas dinner was ready that we didn't have a home to come back to.  All we owned were the shirts on our backs, so to speak.  My husband had died of cancer during Christmas a couple of years before, leaving me with 2 young girls to finish raising, along with a small bird farm with hundreds of pheasants, quail, exotic chickens, ducks and geese.  It was a beautiful place near a town of about 500 people, (I think).  In such a tiny place, everyone knows everybody and when someone is in trouble, help comes from everywhere.

Donations came from towns far and wide.  Churches called my friends constantly to see what was still needed, but there was just no way for me to know what to ask for.  I couldn't think.  All I knew was that I had been left with no way to make money.  All of my art equipment, kiln, egg carving drills, porcelain molds, paints, brushes, computer-everything was gone (the fire had been so hot that it even melted my cone 10 porcelain kiln, if you can believe that).

I had two girls and hundreds of precious pets who needed me to get it together before we all went hungry.  Homes were found for all the birds, and the three of us decided to move on-someplace where I could get work.  The night before we left though, I got a call from one of the friends who said I had to get there immediately.  She had something for me, and she figured it was precious.

She was right.  It was.  Some friends of hers had read about us in the papers and thought that since I was an artist, that perhaps I could use this old wooden case that had been stored in the top of their closet for many years.  It had belonged to their artistic mother who had passed away lots of years ago and had left them this wooden art case.  They weren't artists themselves, but had hung onto it just because it was precious to them.  It was full of all her beautiful brushes, a small canvas with a drawing ready to start painting, and some tubes of oil paint that were so old they were hard.  It was so beautiful and precious that all I could do was sit there and cry.  I wasn't given her name, just the names of the people who gave it to me, and was told that she had belonged to the San Diego Art Guild.  Sometimes I feel her guidance-I know, I know, I'm a little weird, but I swear I feel her pushing at me at times, and I feel it was her and those brushes that started me teaching local art classes back in 2004.

It's also because of this pushing, that I actually starting painting in oils for the first time in my life-had always used acrylics, watercolors, pastels, pencils-you name it-ANYTHING besides oils.  Once I started with the oils, I haven't had any desire to go back to the other mediums.  Oils are magic!  I still use those brushes that were given to me also, and they're still in the same condition I got them in, even though they've created hundreds of paintings!  Those too, are magic.

But the old wooden box they came in was too big to pack around for the classes I teach, so it had been stored in my garage for several years.  I was going to leave it there during this last move to the RV park when I got struck between the ears again and was told to get my fanny out there and go grab that old box.  It was precious, and I couldn't leave it behind.

And what a treasure it has just become!!  I just now found out after all these years that it's a complete little studio in a box.  I have been desperate to figure out how to find room for an easel, storage, paints, brushes, palette, and finding something tiny and efficient to carry it all to the next class, and when this box got in my way again, I finally opened it up for the first time in years and found all the answers to my prayers.

The first compartment makes an easel (I use poster putty to mount a canvas to a backing board so it's easy to move a wet painting), for the painting in progress, there's room enough for all my supplies, and all I need to do is close the lid to put my studio away at night.  I see it's just an old Grumbacher art box, and I don't know if they still make them, but boy, if they do, and you're also looking for a tiny tabletop studio space, this is an awesome set-up.  Just plain, pure efficiency, and in my case, a treasure that gives me tears and goose-bumps all over again.  I am honored to have received such a precious gift.  I'm ready to get back to painting now-the first one's standing in the easel in the photo.  The paints are are in all the compartments in back of the easel and under the palette.  Alongside the easel are three of the dozens of brushes I still use.  I see that there used to be a wooden palette that had fit into the grooves in the lid, along with slots to hold wet canvases for transport.