HAIR OF THE DOG


It is no laughing matter. We have hosted many varieties of canine throughout our nearly 71 years of wedded bliss, during which time I have been more or less on top of the cleaning game. The Health Department has never visited our home with poor housekeeping complaints in hand.

However, we have been “done in” by a Jack Russell Terrier, whose shedding has caused us to purchase several vacuum cleaners in the past few years. The last one was a lovely Dyson, which was difficult to care for. Our handyman was able to unclog Charlie’s hair, so we gave it to him and bought another simpler machine.

When I was a girl, my Grandmother did not have a vacuum cleaner. We used a Bissell carpet sweeper, and she hung smaller rugs on a line and beat the dust out. Auntie had a vac, and taught me to sweep over each area 7 times. (She may have taught me to chew my food 30 times since that was a new fad in the ’30s, brought about by Dr. Kellogg of corn flake fame. We have had many vacuum cleaners through the years, including a heavy and expensive Kirby, which came our way when I bought it from a door-to-door salesman. It was the best one we ever had, but I was a lot stronger in those days.

To solve the seriousness of our problem, I also bought a tool called a “Furminator” to brush Charlie. It worked fine, but I neglected to use it during a period of malaise. It somehow disappeared, so I have purchased another. I will hide this in a better place.

“A Gentle Descent” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

This painting has absolutely nothing to do with dog hair, but it was relaxation after all the vacuuming. The mountains are gently draining a spring thaw into a deep, dark and mysterious pool. To give the sky some tactile interest, I sprinkled canning salt over a coat of paint.

OUR MOTHERS


“PERSEVERENCE” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Just as the tiny tree in this painting struggles through rocky soil to reach its independence and achieve its potential, we too struggled to loose the loving bonds of our mothers.

We spread our wings and announced to the world at large “Look! We have listened; we have learned; we can survive”

We have been blessed, and we are grateful.

WAITING ROOMS


‘INUIT MOTHER AND CHILD’ watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

We are all in some sort of waiting room. Some with anticipation and some with trepidation. It depends upon where you are waiting; grocery store, post office, assisted living facility or doctor’s office. The grocery store is a toe tapper, while you wish the person in front of you would hurry up and count her change, and return the unwanted can of beans. The post office could go both ways; did you get a bill or a check? The people in the assisted living place, are waiting for God, and it could also go both ways. The doctor’s waiting room is far and away the most interesting.

Our hospital is getting older and seems smaller, and the number of patients has increased; drawn by the advent of Silicon Valley technology. For lack of space, various disciplines have been combined in spaces far to small to contain them. While waiting for my rheumatology doctor, I watched mothers and children waiting for pediatrics, There were also cardiology and oncology patients cooling their heels.

A beautiful young woman dressed with a jeweled head dress offered a seat which I gladly took. She was from India and her husband had come here to work for Google. She misses her parents and the fact that her daughter has never met them.

Two young fathers carrying their babies checked in and I remarked to myself that fathers never came to pediatricians appointments, let alone carrying their offspring. Another sign that times have changed. The day of the stay-at-home mom is over.

As refreshing as these fellow waiters were, a dark cloud arrived in the shape of a grumpy looking gentleman in his late 70’s dressed in baggy work pants and jacket, checked in with the young woman at the desk and obviously was disgruntled by having to give a co-pay. Mumbling all the way, he threw himself into the small chair with a scowl. He gave a challenging look toward the check in counter and groused: ” I pay enough as it is around here. Now you expect me to wait here?”

I was glad to go in to meet the cute young woman doctor who is always a pleasure. After chatting and acquainting her with any new problems, I told her about the current state of the waiting room, including a description of Mr. Grumpy. She laughed and said “I think he is my net patient.” I hope she was able to make his day a bit better.

LADY IN THE MIST


Lady in the Mist

Amazing who jumps out of the mist when you aren’t looking! Now trying new paths in paint, I find it disturbing to sit and stare at a piece of paper wondering just what I will paint. After several days of abstraction and distraction, it occurred to me that what I am really attracted to in depicting in paint is people.

I had had an image in my mind which never seemed to come together. After painting, washing, scrubbing I ended up with a pale nothing.

As I prepared to toss it in the bin, I turned it around and this image showed up. Where my tree root had been was actually a lady leaning forward. I have no idea what is of interest to her in what was meant to be greenish rocks, but there she is! I decided to let her remain a misty image perhaps from a distant past.

MILO ONE


Piles of milo

You only have to know one thing; you can learn anything. It’s amazing what we don’t know, but comforting to know that there is so much we can still learn.

Colorful milo grain lies in orderly piles on the Kansas plains, confounding the uninformed as to just what they are. Tiny beads of gold and saffron fall in random design after the harvest, ready to serve as fodder.

Seeing the fabulous photos taken by Shoreacres prompted the return of my paintbrush, for how can one resist mountains of red, orange and yellow lying where Mother Nature put no mountains.

OPENING LOCKED DOORS


Would I have stopped painting six years ago if I had known that one day the pleasure I had known all of my life would hide behind a locked door? It seemed as if I were blindsided that year; a year during which I not only received a new shoulder, but they also removed all my teeth, and a broken tendon assured that I could no longer enjoy even a walk around the house. I’ll admit that I did feel a bit sorry for myself, but using my father’s approach to life in general, which was “get over yourself”, I decided to find something else to fill in the gaps.

I had always written; through my early years I became well acquainted with the publishing community, who delighted in enclosing polite regrets as they returned my manuscripts. But I had never considered blogging. Actually I wasn’t sure what it was, until Cheri suggested trying it.

My blog, and all the wonderful places it has taken me to meet so many wonderful friends, has been the spice of life so to speak.

Suddenly a few weeks ago, for no apparent reason, I decided to paint again. My eyesight has been steadily “heading west”, but I thought I would give it a shot.

I have discovered a trait that many children raised in the military acquire early in life; when you are transferred to another post, you rarely look back. As my sculpture studio emptied out with kilns, wheels, slab rollers etc. sent off to their new homes, I knew I would never work with clay again. I paint in a room in my house, which I felt heeded to be emptied of all things painterly, as I probably wouldn’t paint again either.

Once I had made up my mind to paint again I needed to replenish my supply of everything. The internet is a wonderful shopping venue, and I bought new brushes and paint, saving me the trouble of trying to find what I wanted in the local art store.

After a day cleaning out the studio and arranging paint in the old pallet, I confidently set out to do a very simple painting.

Whoa. In trying to do a very simple sketch, I found that the lines completely disappeared into the paper. Suddenly there was a locked door. Certainly a disappointment. As some of you may know, a great deal of my work has been in portraiture of some detail. All of which entails a preliminary sketch. I should have know it might happen, because I find myself writing over a previous item on a grocery list, so that when I get to the store, I have no idea what I had intended. Dr. A is a wonderful shopper who follows me around and read the labels.

Anyway, I look forward to learning a new way to paint after 80 years. No identifiable subjects, just apply paint on paper. My first teacher in the second grade said: “first wet your papers children”, and that is the way I advised beginning students of watercolor during my 25 years of teaching art. Bear in mind that art is in the eye of the beholder, so bear with me my friends.

IT’S IN THE GENES


a-hat-for-all-seasons “A HAT FOR ALL SEASONS” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Is there a different category for each of those tiny gene things we confidently assume make up our personality? Just because Great aunt Hattie was an accomplished oboe player, will that make us a musician? If Uncle Henry cashed it in at the ripe old age of 102, does that mean we will follow suit?

Of course not, what a silly thought. But what about the clothes shopping gene? I can only answer for myself, and I’m sorry to say that because of the women in my family and their example, I have not only spent an inordinate amount of time and money in the rag trade, but have passed that gene on to my female descendants, including a ten year old great granddaughter, to my shame.

Call me shallow, but I even remember the new coat I had at age 11 when we went to see “Gone With the Wind”. The Depression made it difficult for people to indulge themselves, so that pink coat was a one-off experience for me.

I can’t remember a time when shoes have not attracted my attention; either on someone’s feet or in a store display. Perhaps it was the effect of the shiny Mary Jane’s my Grandmother bought me. I spent a lot of time washing their soles at the end of the day. One of my first jobs in dressing window displays was trying to make men’s work boots attractive. This was before I made a business of doing it a few years later.

No one can go into the clothing trade unless you truly love clothes. My grandmother, mother and aunt were accomplished seamstresses who also had a great deal of good taste, and I became comfortable sitting at a sewing machine as well. One of my daughters at age six was annoyed with me for not mending the hem of a dress as soon as she wanted it, so she grabbed a needle and thread and did it herself. I think sewing may be a lost art among the young today.

My mother in law tired of sewing soon after I married and gifted me with her old electric sewing machine. They were not always electrified. As a small child staying with an auntie, I slept in her sewing room, where her old foot pedal Singer machine stood.

My ‘new’ sewing machine was a Damascus Grand. It had copper fittings inside and when it need repair, there was only one old man in town who knew how to fix it. It perked away for years, keeping me and the girls presentable, eventually turning out clothes for the grandchildren. When it finally gave up the ghost, we made a lamp out of the head, which stands now in my studio.

We seldom throw things away, sometimes keeping them long after their usefulness is a memory. It is fortunate to have a friend of the same size and taste as your own, and closet cleaning is a fine time to share. Some years ago a friend called and asked if I could come help her clear out her closet. You can only do that with a close friend. At the end of the afternoon, glass of wine in hand, she decided she could bear to pass along a pair of light green sling back shoes I had admired. A few days later she knocked on my door at 7:30 a.m. to say she really wanted them back. What could I do? Sometimes we become too attached to our belongings.

So saying, I said a sad goodbye to my collection of ‘never-to-be-worn-again shoes by loading them into the trunk of a friend’s car. She is happy.

A FAMILY AFFAIR


nc-wyeth Cover photo by N.C. Wyeth

“To Billy From Grandma” is written inside the old book. It brings back a memory of a musty old bookshop in San Francisco. I had stepped from the bright sunlight into the dimly lighted confines of what might become a pleasant hour of book-looking pleasure. When I picked up the old copy of Robinson Crusoe” and saw N.C. Wyeth’s illustrations within it, I was sure I had struck gold.

N.C. Wyeth was one of America’s greatest illustrators. His first work on Treasure Island” allowed him to pay for his studio in Chadds Ford, PA. He was a painter as well as an illustrator, and said that the two cannot be mixed. He left a legacy of over 3,000 paintings and 112 book illustrations, but perhaps he is best remembered now as the father of Andrew Wyeth and four other talented children.

The family grew up in Chadds Ford, and all five children were home schooled. As a child, Andrew showed promise as an artist, and his father was his only art teacher. He lived the rest of his life in Chadds Ford, and later remarked that “he painted his life”.

His painting of neighbor Christina Olson, “Christina’s World, is one of the most well known paintings of the 20th century and is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art New York.

christinasworld

Not as well known are the Helga paintings; 247 paintings in intimate detail of Helga Testorf, a caregiver/nurse for neighbor Karl Kuener, whose farm is seen at the top of the hill in Christina’s World.

andrew_wyeth_braids_1979

The drawings and paintings of Helga Testorf were made over a fifteen year period, and were kept secret from both Andrew’s wife Betsy, and Helga’s husband. They were stored at the home of Andrew’s student Frolic Weymouth. Helga has the distinction of being made famous by a painting, except perhaps the Mona Lisa.

helga_nude

Andrew Wyeth said that he felt he had been kept in a prison by his father; never leaving his home, he painted what he saw around him. To have painted this one subject of Helga without anyone knowing for fifteen years and then suddenly showing them to the world gave him a long imagined sense of independence.

When asked if Helga was going to be present at his 91st birthday, he said “Yeah, certainly, oh absolutely–she’s part of the family now. I know it shocks everyone. That’s what I like about it. It really shocks ’em.

In 1986 the collection went on tour to much criticism, saying it had a voyeuristic aura. After the tour the entire collection was sold to a Japanese buyer.

ON BEING BLUE


In the National Gallery in London is an unfinished painting showing Christ being carried to his tomb.

Michelangelo did not finish the painting which he called The Entombment”. This makes me feel so much better when I look at my painting of the herd of Alaskan moose who will be forever marching through the snow going who knows where. In my case, it’s a case of procrastination; Michelangelo, on the other hand, couldn’t afford the paint.

Though the rest of the work looks nearly finished, or at least drawn in, the large blank space in the right hand corner has not even been started. It was probably meant to be reserved for the Virgin Mary in her blue robe, but the twenty-five year old Michelangelo couldn’t afford the ultramarine blue it deserved. He must have cursed for awhile and wrung his hands while waiting for his patron to send the money or the paint. But in 1501 Michelangelo left both Rome and that canvas to carve his David in Florence, and he never returned with the blue paint to finish the Virgin’s robe.

Ultramarine, coming from mines in Afghanistan and other exotic places, is made from ground lapis lazuli, then mixed with oils, wax, or other carriers, so understandably, it is not a paint an ordinary dabbler like me would use a lot of. In 1824 a reward of a thousand francs was offered to someone who could come up with an alternative to the color. A Frenchman named Guimet won the prize for “French Ultramarine”, which to the untrained eye is a good substitute.

michelangelo

Vermeer was less parsimonious in his use of the color, and proceeded to put his family in debt.

johannes_vermeer_-_girl_with_a_pearl_earring_-_wga24666Girl With a Pearl Earring Vermeer

Ultramarine is a word that has always seemed to me to taste of the ocean. It has a smooth, salty sound, suggesting a bluer blue than even the Mediterranean can reflect on a sunny morning. Think of the Greek Islands in the sunshine.

We think of the sky as being blue, yet there are more tints and shades of blue than could be used in a lifetime. The sky can be azure, cobalt, cerulean, or a hundred other tints. The bluebells of Scotland once seen, remain to be captured in memory again and again.

HOPPER, AN AMERICAN PAINTER


HOPPER“NIGHTHAWKS” 1942

Edward Hopper’s paintings seem to be located in a twilight zone born in his own imagination. They depict a world no longer in a state of innocence, but has not yet reached a state of self-destruction.

Hopper shows us a situation that no other American artist captured in quite this way. his spare, personal vision of modern American life became a forerunner of American Pop Art. As a teacher introducing students to Hopper, I found that most were more comfortable painting flowers and sunsets a close second. His use of silent space was sometimes uncomfortable, or perhaps encouraged too much thinking.

He struggled to find his personal style, sometimes going months without finding what he wanted to paint. Working in oil on canvas, watercolor and etchings, he did posters for the War effort, jumping from one medium to another. Often painting over a previous paint while he changed his mind. Once the religious feeling present in the earlier works had dissipated, nothing new replaced it. Only emptiness, a vacuum remained. It wasn’t so much Hopper’s themes that were typically American, as the actual things he depicted; railroads, train stations and gas stations. He was likely the first painter ever to dignify the latter feature of American landscape by using it as a motif in art.

Hopper was a great admirer of Ernest Hemingway. In 1927, Scribner’s Magazine, for whom Hopper did illustrations, published Hemingway’s story The Killers. Hopper wrote a letter to the editors, saying how refreshing it was to find such an honest piece of work in an American magazine, after wading through the endless sugar-coated mush that was usually published. And, he added, the story made no concessions to mass taste.

His ideal was to make his paintings with such simple honesty as to give almost the shock of reality itself.

In 1923 Hopper married Josephine Nivison, an artist who was his exact opposite in every way. She was short, gregarious, sociable, and liberal. He, on the other hand, was tall, secretive, shy, quiet, introspective, introverted and conservative. She once said that “talking to Eddie is like dropping a stone in a well except that it doesn’t thump when it hits bottom.”

Edward_Hopper_-_Girl_at_a_Sewing_Machine_(1921)“GIRL AT A SEWING MACHINE” 1921

He began painting short isolated moments saturated with suggestion. They have silent spaces and uneasy encounters, touching us where we are most vulnerable.

He got more of the quality of America into his paintings of urban landscapes which were filled with poetic meaning.

Typically Hopper, he said “I was never able to paint what I set out to paint.”

research included: (Ivo Kranzfelder)