My summer reading

These just arrived, and I plan to give a full report later this summer when I have read them.  I would like to sell more of the beautiful art I create everyday, and opening my studio for a show and tell/ sale appeals to me.  So if you live near Dallas, watch for upcoming info on the studio tour.  If you are an artist, I will review these books as I finish them so can glean the highlights or perhaps decide to read them yourself.

Ghosts in the Woods

24″x18″ pastel on sanded board

I started with an oil wash underpainting.  I used thinned alizeran crimson and ultramarine blue and LOTS of mineral spirits.  I loved the subtle colors blocked in.  I finished the painting with touches in a hot coral pastel.  The painting was beautiful, but didn’t quite look enough like summer, so I added some orange touches.  That did the trick perfectly!

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Wild Lace

24″x18″ pastel on sanded Board with oil underpainting 

Here is a photo of my underpainting, in my “mobile studio” 


Did you know Queen Anne’s Lace has a edible root, like a carrot? In my reading, I also learned a very important tip. Queen Anne’s Lace has a deadly look-alike, Hemlock. Even touching Hemlock can poison you, and ingestion means almost certain death unless treated immediately. As the toxins from the plant absorb into your system, you slowly become paralyzed, your respiratory system fails, and you die.  Below is an old illustration plate of the two plants side by side.  


If, in bloom, Queen Anne’s Lace has a tiny purple flower in the very center where legend says Queen Anne pricked her finger and dropped a single drop of blood on her white kerchief. If you get close enough to check out the bloom, you will almost certainly get chiggers. Old timers sometimes call the plant “chigger flower”

Even at the risk of itching or being poisoned, I am going to continue to stand in fields and paint my favorite wildflower.

Mother’s Lace

14″x18″ oil on panel

My mom recently signed up for my oil painting class at Ghost Ranch this summer.  During her Mother’s Day visit I asked if she would like to watch how a oil painting comes together and she replied “yes, paint more Queen Anne’s’ Lace.”  Here is the painting.  If you look at the shot below you can see the bright pink underpainting I started with.

Sun Down – White Rock Lake

8″x8″ oil on panel

Not pictured: a family picnicing and playing soccer in the field between me and the tree.  I belong to a soccer family, and a picnic family – their family made me so happy.  While I don’t really look like I might understand much spanish, I understand more than you might guess, and food and soccer are probably my spanish language strong points.  I listened, and they talked about me and my painting!  The family loved it, and discussed how much it looked like what I was painting.  They talked about artists they knew, and wondered if those people ever painted from life.  Then they sent a son to talk to me, and I did not confess I had been listening to them the whole time (perhaps they could tell by my head swollen from their kind words).  The same way the boys kicking a soccer ball and family picnicing had delighted me, my painting Plein Air had returned the favor.

It was a good day.

Adobe Gate

7″x5″ oil on panel

I love the soft, quiet feel of this desert scene.  The sky was actually blue, but it felt atmospheric, so I felt the soft peach captures the mood better.

Carlsbad Caverns

7″x5″ oil on panel

This year my family went deep into the history of how a 16 year old boy’s curiosity led to one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.

This simple adobe is where our story began.

“any hole in the ground which could house such a gigantic army of bats must be a whale of a big cave. ” – Jim White

Our first credited cave exploration of Carlsbad Cavern happened in the cave in 1898. Sixteen year-old cowboy, Jim White, was rounding up cattle one evening when he spotted smoke from a wildfire off in the distance. He went into high alert. Fires could be just as devastating then as they are now. He rode closer to gather information. How big was it? Was it moving quickly? What direction was it burning?These questions and more pushed Jim to ride to the fire so he could report back to camp with the most accurate information possible.

As Jim approached the smoke, he noticed something strange: he couldn’t smell the smoke, hear the crackling of flames, or feel the heat of fire. Jim realized he wasn’t seeing smoke. He was watching bats. Thousands-upon-thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats. Jim finally stopped at the mouth of the cave completely mesmerized by the spectacle of flying mammals filling the air above him. He once said he watched the bats for nearly half an hour before the darkness fell so completely he had to return to camp.
Because he knew the other cowboys would mock him, Jim didn’t immediately describe what he’d seen to anyone.He thought it over for several days.The deep hole in the ground and its secrets continued to gnaw at him. He had to find out what was down in the dark recesses.
Jim finally went back to the cave alone with some wire and pieces of wood. He constructed a ladder that he anchored at the mouth of the cave. It twisted and turned like a bucking bronco as Jim descended using only one hand. His other held his light source. After sixty feet, he landed on the cave floor. His light barely penetrated the cloying darkness.
At first, Jim was very uncomfortable in the cave. The names he assigned to formations give us some insight into what he was feeling when he came across new features for the first time. He named the first drip pool “Devil’s Spring.” That was soon followed by the “Devil’s Armchair,” “Devil’s Den,” and finally the “Witch’s Finger.” These features are still easily seen today as you walk down the natural entrance route. As he spent more time in the cave, Jim became more comfortable with his surroundings. His naming became more matter of fact: “The Big Room” and “Left Hand Tunnel.” There were some places that sparked Jim’s imagination. He named the “King’s Palace” and even found a royal family in residence.
Jim’s exploration of the cave continued for many years. While he investigated other caves in the area, none ever captured his imagination the same way Carlsbad Cavern did. He was its chief promoter his entire life (though supporters of Colonel Thomas Boles may beg to differ!).
Today, his legacy lives on. Every time a person leaves the cave and shares the story of his visit, he is carrying on Jim’s love of this place. Every time a student researches the cave and shares her results with others, she is sharing what Jim found so awe inspiring. Carlsbad Caverns National Park owes its existence to the bats who call this place home and a young cowboy who had to know more about the dark hole that teased his imagination.