Saturday, October 18, 2008

Slightly off topic...

The "K" is silent, like in "pants."

And if that makes about as much sense as the Edsel did, the remainder of this post is probably not going to be what you're expecting or what you're used to finding here either.

For the first time, we're heading slightly off subject. But it's necessary in order to fulfill a prior obligation. A while back, I volunteered to participate in the Absolute Write October Blogroll. I have been a member of this fabulous writing group for a few years and have found them to be an excellent resource for anyone who writes, whether it be poetry, literary fiction, young adult novels, or even blogs like this one.

If you're a writer, or an aspiring one, you will find this group to be a veritable plethora of talent that is always available to provide information and encouragement. You can find them at, and I encourage you to do so.

So, while this post is not going to be about the fifties, you still might find it to be of interest if you're curious in the least about this writer. My assignment in this endeavor is to pick up where the previous blogger left off. That writer was Harriet You can find her blog at She is an excellent writer, and I'm certain you will enjoy reading her posts. In fact, all of the participant links are listed in My Favorites along the right sidebar. Scroll down, and you'll find them.

Harriet's installment in this blogroll involved the difficulty of starting the writing process. Just for the record, I am in total agreement with her opinion. For me, starting has always been the most difficult part. While it would be redundant to simply repeat what she has said, I’m going to take it in a slightly different direction, as least from a medium standpoint.

In addition to working all day, blogging half the night, and writing and marketing middle-grade novels, I am also a wildlife artist ( At least I used to be. I haven't dipped a brush into paint (except to touch up a stone chip on the bumper of my Corvette) since 1995. I have sold several of my prints at wildlife art shows and several more through e-bay listings. I used to devote more time to it. When I was actively painting, four of my paintings finished in second place (darn it) in state duck stamp competitions. My greatest achievement was coming in 12th in the Federal Duck Stamp Competition out of 489 entries. Limited edition prints of my paintings are currently in collections in 24 states. My last painting was a marsh wren I painted for my mother and gave to her as a Christmas gift shortly before she died. It remains one of my favorites.

But I'm rambling. Let me get back to the subject I’m supposed to be covering. Starting that final painting was the most difficult part of the whole process. If you go to my Wildheart Gallery website you will notice a quote at the top of the home page that pretty much sums up what we’re talking about here. It says simply, “Finishing a painting is easy. It’s that first stroke that’s difficult.”

This might begin to make sense if I give you a brief rundown on my typical starting procedure. At the time I was painting, I had a studio in my basement. It consisted of a drafting table, a stack of cold pressed illustration board, a mug filled with paintbrushes, an Iwata airbrush, an air compressor, an X-acto knife and lots of blades, numerous bottles of acrylic paint, a roll of paper towels, a ceramic pot filled with q-tips, and multiple wildlife reference books I had collected over the years. There was generally a work-in-progress sitting on the drawing board, waiting for me to start in again. And, even though the initial start was difficult, the subsequent starts were equally hard.

On one particular Saturday I went downstairs to continue my work on a Wood Duck painting. It was almost finished but, being the perfectionist that I am, there was always something that wasn't quite perfect and required some additional attention. I am a creature of habit, and I always had to have a Dr. Pepper when I painted. That's important for you to know because it plays a part in how the events took place.

Before going downstairs I had made a quick trip to Quik Trip to get a fountain drink in a plastic cup. It was summer and, as you know, plastic cups collect condensation. It clings tenaciously to the surface until gravity decides it’s heavy enough to act upon. At that point it slides down the cup, gathering additional bystanders along the way, until it reaches the bottom of the cup and drops off. I realize you don't need a lesson in physics, but you'll understand the reason for the explanation momentarily.

If you take a look at my painting to the right, you will notice water drops on the duck’s chest. I had painted those water drops the previous evening, but I had forgotten about it. I walked up to the drawing table, plastic Dr. Pepper cup in hand, and gazed down at my painting.

When I saw the water drops on the duck’s chest I immediately thought they had dripped off the cup. And, in case you don’t know, acrylic paint is water-soluble. My eyes immediately riveted on those water drops, and I thought to myself, “Oh, my God! I’ve ruined it.”

Frantically, I reached for the roll of paper towels to try to salvage some portion of the work I had poured into that painting. Suddenly, and with the greatest relief, I remembered painting those drops on there the previous evening. After my heart rate slowed back down, I actually felt rather proud that I had managed to paint those water drops to look realistic enough to fool myself into believing they were real.

I realize I have wandered slightly from the initial purpose of this post, but let me tie it together by telling you this. Before I begin a painting, or start again on a painting in progress, I look for any excuse to delay the inevitable. I used to stand at my drawing table and think about starting a painting. I would carefully select a brush from the mug, twirl it around thoughtfully, and try to think about what I should paint. Then I would look down at the floor and decide that it just had to be swept before any painting could be started. And if my Dr. Pepper was more than half gone, or less than half gone, well, you can’t start a painting without a full and fresh Dr. Pepper. So a trip to Quik Trip was necessary. Obviously.

Some would consider that procrastination. I will admit that I used to procrastinate. I used to, but nowadays I just don’t have the time for it. I may be able to in a few weeks. Check back with me.

Thank you, dear and faithful readers, for allowing me to stray from the theme of this arena. And I promise I'll have more fifties and nostalgia information on here tomorrow. Meanwhile, it seems only appropriate, though somewhat shameless, to let you know that limited edition prints and artist's proofs of the Wolf and the Wood Duck, and others, are available on my Wildheart Gallery site. In addition, there is currently a Wood Duck listed on e-bay that you could probably steal if you act quickly. No pressure.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Rosemerry, you’re up.


Anonymous said...

Like no pressure or anything really. Lol, good post. And those water droplets are good.

Sissy said...

I noticed your labels under this entry. Shouldn't you at least add Dr. Pepper and condensation on there?

Love the painting, by the way. One question, though.

I know nothing about painting - I'm so nonartistic I can't draw a box on gridded paper with a ruler and pencil. So how long does it take that paint to dry? If you had wiped at it with the paper towel to remove the water drops, would it have ruined it?

Just curious - and you are so helpful with explaining things.

-Kelly Meding said...

Finding a starting point is often difficult, no matter the artistic endeavor. With writing, it's easy enough to fix if your original start is weak or wrong. With painting, I imagine it's much more important to get started on the correct footing.

Awesome artwork, by the way.

harriet M. Welsch said...

One of my favorite art exhibits I've seen was a Degas exhibit a few years back that focused on the way his paintings started one way and went through "drafts." One that struck me particularly was one that went through several iterations as a portrait and ended up as a landscape but with the same contours -- a shoulder became a mountain, etc. The difference between the beginning and the end was startling, and yet you could follow the evolution (through x-rays through layers of paint) and see how the end product could not have been created without the beginning, no matter how flawed. I found it kind of encouraging to see, and I try to remember it when I'm staring at a draft and am tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Great post and the water droplets are very impressive!