This Desert Moonscape painting almost didn’t get painted today. Sundays are busy. Jim is working so Tiny-Small and I are home alone together and she likes my undivided attention. Sometimes that means I don’t get to paint until late in the day or late into the night. Usually I don’t paint at all. We usually just do things together like chores and cooking or playing in her room. We often go to the park or out for donuts too. She likes to hike in the forest and do crafts, but she doesn’t like waiting around for me to paint something or to write. She thinks all of that stuff is pretty annoying. When I am doing the 30 paintings challenge I always have a hard time with Sundays. In the back of my mind I am always worried that I might not get my painting finished.
Tiny-Small was really tired today so I put her to bed early. Of course, that didn’t go as planned either. She was over tired and crying. I was trying to get her pajamas on and she turned wicked running all over and hiding under the bed laughing like an imp. Then the toilet clogged up. Then she cried some more. Then her toothbrush couldn’t be found. Then she cried some more. Then the blankets were twisted. Then she was thirsty. Then I cried. Then finally, by some stroke of luck, the stars aligned and she closed her eyes. She was snoring in three minutes. Poor kid. Why do we fight what we need the most?
Bedtime goes smoothly some nights and other nights it is an exhausting adventure. Sometimes, after getting Tiny-Small to bed and taking a very deep breath, I step outside for some cool air and to look up at the moon and stars. The sky is so big here and the stars are very bright. Looking up at the vastness of the universe is very calming. It’s so beautiful. I think the sky, during the night and the day, has become a big part of who I am as a New Mexican. It’s become something that sustains me through the hard times. I am sure that is why the sky has a big presence in my artwork.
Is there a part of your landscape that grounds you or has become a part of your identity? What one thing do you look at every day that inspires, energizes, or calms you?
I’m a little obsessed with cottonwood trees. Mostly because they are one of the only trees around here that turn yellow in the fall and lose their leaves for winter. I stare at them obsessively throughout the fall and winter each year. They only grow near water so they are far and few between. They make an impression among the scrub brush and cactus.
I feel like cottonwoods are survivors climbing out of the desert landscape to announce, “We are here! We are here! We are here!” I like that about them. I also like that they have branches growing in every direction and clumps of leaves at the end of those branches. They are fascinating trees.
Have you ever been in a situation where you had to grow where you were planted? I feel that way about New Mexico sometimes. You have to have ingenuity and gumption to make it here. You really have to make the best of things. You have to be a go-getter. I’m growing slowly where I have been planted, but if I keep seeking out what I need (water) and having gratitude for what I have plenty of (sun) I’m sure eventually I will make it closer to the sky!
I have painted sixteen paintings so far. I’ve made it past the midway hump! I hope I can keep up the momentum for the next two weeks. Thank you for supporting me through this challenge!
For Birch Trees and Butterflies I wanted to do some layering since that seems to be an important aspect to mixed media work. I have to admit right now that I don’t always enjoy layering. I mean, I like the process of layering, but I don’t like the way it often dulls the colors. It seems like the pieces I try to layer become very dark or very brown. I miss the clear, vibrant colors I usually paint with.
I am not sure if this is just something that happens to beginners. Maybe if I plan a little more to use certain colors, so I don’t end up with a grayed-out or browned-out painting, I will have more success. At the same time, I don’t want to do any planning, because the process is supposed to be intuitive. I want to let the piece unfold. I am a bit stumped right now, but I am sure I’ll figure it out through trial and error. Working in mixed media has always been a challenge for me because I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to painting. I like sketches and plans so “going-with-the-flow” is always something I have to put some effort into doing ,which probably sounds like a contradiction, but my instinct is to have a plan. Sometimes you have to do things differently to gain some knowledge, experience, and growth. I am improving, but progress is slow! I often find I don’t know where to begin or when to stop. My mixed media work often looks like it is missing something to me, but I don’t always know what to add, where to add it, or even when to put that magic something into the painting. I definitely need to consider composition more as I am going along.
I used some pages from a catalog to make the trees. I thought words in print might add to the texture of the birch trees. I like the way they came out. I wish the butterflies were brighter. I used white gesso underneath the orange paint in the hopes that it would brighten them up, but I am still disappointed in the color. For the leaves I used an old manilla envelope and some yellow mulberry paper. To begin the painting I painted the entire canvas with a sky blue. Then I put a thin layer of white gesso over the top of it and tried painting the birch trees is using the side of an old credit card. I didn’t like the way they looked so I put another thin layer of gesso on top of that. Then I started using the paper to make the trees. To make them stand out I painted around them with a darker blue.
I am still on the fence about this one. Is it finished? Is it good? Is it something I could do better if I tried to recreate it? I think I may need more branches and more yellow leaves. I’ll have to set is aside and take a look at it in a few days with fresh eyes. Maybe then I’ll know what to do!