Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lady Cats Go Visiting in a 1929 Chevrolet
This is the joy of having relatives who keep old magazines.  You have to cull them, of course.  But, if you're an artist, there are some you definitely need to save.  This picture came from a 1929 Better Homes & Gardens saved by a great aunt.  Even advertisements of this era are painting fodder!
These two obviously upper class lady cats are enjoying their trip in an upscale Chevrolet that retailed for $595.  In 1929, that might as well have been six or seven figures, especially after the Crash.  Still, these magazines were published and advertised such pricey products for those who could afford them.
It's fun to look back at the styles and technologies of yesteryear.  For instance, I have reproduced the very large steering wheel and the gear shift as faithfully as I could.  The somber car colors I have used are typical of the first cars I personally can remember.  When I was a child, my parents had a 1937 Ford.  My grandparents had a 1939 Ford that was a light green and was constantly being polished and wiped down by my grandmother.  It wasn't until the late 1940's and early 1950's  that colorful cars became all the rage.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Gypsy Intrigue
It's just the beam of a flashlight on a dark night - or maybe a flash of lightning.  You see just a little bit of the picture - but sometimes it is an unforgettable one.  I've been trying new techniques with my cat painting, and I thought this one turned out well.

The original was a still from a movie of 1918.  Thanks to my parents, I have two books of old movie photos, and they are a continual inspiration.  This was a silent version of Carmen starring opera diva Geraldine Farrar.  Farrar was good looking and knew how to act and pose to effect. She later did a silent film on Joan of Arc that gave my adolescent father the willies.

 This cartoon is another experiment from the old movie book.  I wanted an illustration for an article about the Barclay's Bank scandal for Examiner.com.  The old books came to my aid once again.  (I'm beginning to get a little better at people!)  These figures were taken from a still of the 1938 Dawn Patrol with David Niven and Basil Rathbone.  If you have artistic leanings, cherish all the old family picture books.  You'll find things there to use in a variety of ways.

The cartoon captions above are courtesy of Google +.  I'm delighted they have the old Picnik and expanded graphic tools available.  Their picture editing function has enabled me to photograph saleable art work.

This photo of my son Lawrence was another experiment helped by Google +.  I had never tried night photography before, but he wanted to try a noir shot with his trumped.  This is obviously noir with a tip of the hat to Miles Davis.  I still don't see how anybody could play a trumpet standing in that position! 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Animal Parenting
This picture is obviously animal fantasy.  Mother animals do care for and train their children, though humans would often consider their methods harsh.  House cats will wash and nurse their children, defend them against tomcats and other predators, and hide them when necessary.  As the kittens grow, they learn cat etiquette like how to fight with their siblings and when not to bother Mama or a bigger animal.  If the cats are feral, the mother teaches hunting skills as well.  Once those things are done, she washes her hands of them.  If they are part of the same community, they will all cuddle together for warmth, but that's about the size of it. - Then there are always a few lady cats who didn't want any deleted expletive kittens and haven't any idea where they came from.  In those cases human intervention is required.

There is one local animal, though, that seems concerned about its offspring until they reach full adulthood.  That is the raccoon, the State Animal of Tennessee, and I found out about that the hard way.

One outdoor cat remained out of all the gaggle my mother used to feed.  I didn't want to abandon her, so I had my brother grind herbal tranquilizers into her food.  I also rented a Have-A-Heart trap from the Nashville Humane Association.  (I've since learned that cats can outwit Have-A-Heart traps and even sometimes get the food without springing the trap.)  What I caught was a juvenile racoon - last year's baby, according to the wild animal expert.  To me it looked like it was mostly head and tail.  Not only didn't I get the cat I needed, I would now have to pay the racoon removal expert.  He couldn't come until the following morning.

The next morning he had the chore of tracking the rented cage and its occupant.  According to his expert testimony, during the night at least one and possibly two adult raccoons had made a determined assault on the cage.  They had bent and bitten through the heavy metal guard surrounding the carrying handle.  Then they had rolled the trap off the porch, over a low retaining wall, down a bank, and at least 40 yards along the creekside bottoms.  This was where he finally found the trap and released the occupant, presumably into its parents' custody.  I was just thankful the Humane Association didn't make me pay for the damage to the trap. - Then a few days later my dear Tortie cat walked into my arms and let me put her into a carrier.  I've written about her on this blog.

Most folks know raccoons from the Davey Crockett type hats that used to be a staple in all the tourist spots.  That long, stripey tail is almost a Tennessee symbol.  Raccoons are supposed to be good eating, and many folks in Tennessee ate them during the terrible Depression.  I don't think I could eat one in good conscience - they care too much about their families. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Soldier's Tale - A Painting for My Living Room
Over the Memorial Day weekend, my home air conditioner went kaput, so I bought a new one.  Thanks to recent improvements in technology, my new air conditioner has twice the BTUs and about half the size of the old one.  That means it now fits in the window, and I had a gaping hole in my wall.

Thankfully, I have a handyman contact who did a superb job of plugging up the hole both inside and out.  This took quite a bit of work, which shouldn't surprise anyone who's ever been involved in home repair.  My handyman took extra trouble for me, and for that I am grateful.  Now I was left with a grey 22" x 26" piece of drywall high on my living room wall.

If I were younger, I might have put gesso over the drywall and painted right on it.  Since I'm a senior citizen, I bought a canvas that will mask everything but the spackling.  Above is the finished picture.

I wanted something both beautiful and restful to look at.  Hence I chose four figures from four different periods of history and put them into a Dido-and-Aneas-like scent.  The soldier figure is from a famous early 19th century Aneas, and the queen figure is Maria Callas in the 1965 Norma.  The lady in red is from a Winterhalter painting of the Empress Eugenie and her ladies.  Madame de Pompadour is the figure in the flowered dress; both she and the Winterhalter lady have been dressed a la Mucha to preserve my theme.  The flowered carpet seems to have created the three dimensional effect I wanted.

This is the first large canvas I've done.  Mostly I paint on wooden boxes or small wood plaques.  This one was for my own pleasure.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

This is Puff, who has to be nearly 20 years old.  My mother hand-raised Puff when she was still able to get down on the floor and play with kittens.  Since Mama died in 2004 after a long illness, I know Puff is not a young cat.

No, she is not grey because she is old.  She has always been a grey cat with a little yellow in her.  Mama used to call her 'a beautiful puff of grey smoke'.  Puff is just as cranky as she looks in this picture.  Hand raising a kitten, though sometimes the only possible course, has certain consequences.  For one thing, mama cats do teach their kittens, and rough housing with siblings teaches them how to fight.  

Puff picked up fighting soon enough when she got old enough to mingle with Mama's other cats.  (She wanted to take in the whole cat world.)  Discovering she was not the Only Cat didn't do anything for Puff's disposition.  She hisses and swears loudly, sometimes even when you try to pet her, though she mingles purrs with her vocalism.  Her long fur tends to mat, since she no longer grooms as she once did.  But woe betide if you try to cut out a clump!

I think Puff is spending her senior years happily.  We're down to six cats in the household now, and she can lie down undisturbed just about anywhere she wants to.  She's also the best eater I've got, accounting for a can of cat food every day.  I was lucky she jumped up on the bed and sat still for her picture. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Lucia di Lammermoor - The Love Scene
I painted this about a year or so ago, adding a Beardsley fountain to a Callas photo.  Apparently a good ruined fountain is rather a difficult piece of stagecraft; I know Callas once said the Metropolitan Opera set was about as romantic as an oil tanker.  Personally, I've never seen a photo of this scene with a decent fountain, so I went to my Beardsley book.

I have this picture on a stainless steel 'to go' mug and a couple of tee shirts.  Recently I began to think it would strike a chord with all women who have had to send a loved one overseas, so I've made it available on Zazzle.

Callas was the first to treat Lucia as a real person - a sheltered, bored, young girl whom nobody ever bothered to talk to.  Naturally, she would fall for the first man to pay any real attention to her, even if he's a family enemy.  This opera isn't just a coloratura showcase; it is a troubled and neglected young woman withdrawing into madness.

Nor is that just one woman's interpretation - it is evident in the dark, brooding score.  Gaetano Donizetti, the composer, was almost writing from contemporary life; women still were being forced into marriages for family advantage in his own time.  He certainly struck a chord, for the opera seldom goes unperformed when an appropriate singer is available.