Saturday, January 31, 2009

Auction treasures

Our first summer in Canada when I was 7 there were not two spare cents to rub together so I didnt ask for anything, except a 6 cent package of juicy fruit gum when the cube van grocery- on -wheels stopped at our driveway, which I made last a whole week. Occasionally there would be a trip to Kentville and I would always wander about the Metropolitan store while my mother did her errands . In the toy department there was a wall of dolls on display, beautifully dressed baby and toddler dolls. (No wannabe hooker outfits in those days) My mother would always find me gazing up at a sweet doll in the top row that I named Heidi, after my favorite book. She cost the princely sum of $5.98 which was indeed a fortune in our circumstances. One day she was gone and I felt bereft somehow, even though my mother did her best to comfort me.

Christmas came , there was no snow but it didnt matter. My brother opened his skates, I opened my many layered package, and there was....Heidi!

I'm sure I was the happiest kid in Canning that day. Heidi went everywhere with me, in the second photo its the next summer, 1958, and we are riding my homemade horse...(somebody please get that girl a pony!)

I played dolls and make believe till I was 12 and thats when we sadly parted company. Somehow her vinyl skin had punctured and her kapok stuffing absorbed water and she turned moldy inside.

Fast forward about half a century and I'm at an auction in Saint John this winter where there are hundreds of dolls from the 50's all piled in tray lots. It was her dimpled knees I recognised first, I dug her out of the pile and I think I exclaimed out loud "Heidi!" The same model exactly with the "rooted saran hair and sleeping eyes" I recognised the curl of her ears, the dimpled backs of her hands, the placid expression, it was all there, and in perfect condition. And somebody in some previous decade had knitted her a beautiful outfit complete with crocheted gloves. To make a long story short I got her for nearly double her 1957 price which wasnt bad considering inflation and all. I was also tickled pink to bid $6.00 and win a unique wooden doll, beautifully crafted with clever ball joints at ankles knees, wrists elbows etc. She has a composition head, a mohair wig, and I have no idea where she comes from. A real work of art.

What 's more fun than an auction?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Avery, age 3 & Stormy age 19, next phase

That prairie grass in the background was bugging me so I started putting some bushes in it and now it's turned into some nondescript scrub bush that I think works better. Ive deepened Stormys belly, minis can be quite potty in their bellies and Stormy does like to eat. Some more layers have gone into the grass but I still dont like that mucky ochre color and the horses' rump is too square...
Final version..I've added some light to the pasture grass and fenced it off, worked a bit more on Averys face and pants, Stormys mane, and added lights and darks here and there.
Now it goes to the "walk by" stage. Thats where I set it in a prominent place and every time I walk by I glance at it and sooner or later inspiration says to me "Holy cow! You need to and so ! How'd you miss that?"

Friday, January 23, 2009

Stormy and Avery

I started an acrylic portrait a few days ago of two of my favorite characters, our minihorse Stormy and his little fan, Avery. There were 2 reference photos, I liked the horse's position in one, and Avery's face in the other, so the painting is a combination of the two.

This is a 16x20 canvas covered board. I started by covering the white with a lot of orangy color and blocking in the main bits and pieces leaving specks of the underlying colors to show through. Not sure what to do with the background at this point.

Actually , not sure of anything much at this point so doing some details on the face. Avery is so happy and proud of himself when he is riding Stormy and I want that to come through.
I thought the tree background was boring so I broke it up with a bit of sky, altho there really is a solid mass of spruce trees there on a steep hillside. Painting is a lot like carpentry or renovating in that you are constantly solving construction problems one after the other. I guess thats why my attention span doesnt last more than an hour or so...its just hard work! The next problem before getting into finishing details is to make Stormy's belly a lot rounder and put some kind of interest in the pasture grass, but not so much that its distracting. Looks like I'll be a few more days at this.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Freezing our butts off in eastern Canada

The weatherman says we broke a record set in 1884 for bitter cold, it was minus 34C here last night, around 25 below zero F, that was without the wind chill factor added on. The only comfortable place in this old house is 2 feet from the wood stove. And then you have to keep turning in a circle to rotisserie yourself. I reached in under the china cabinet to plug in the iron and good grief!, the entire corner and baseboard is covered with frost. That corner is about 10 feet from the stove...enough already! Time to count ones blessings, the homeless have it an awful lot worse, and it should warm up by monday...

My survival strategy is to think summery thoughts and do summery projects. I am making garden aprons to put in our shop next season. I found some fun prints in tomatoes, carrots, and zuchinnis and made the aprons with a green or black lining The bottom is turned up and sewn into 3 pockets for seed packages, gloves, change, etc. Great for market gardeners, vendors, or pottering about in the garden or greenhouse. If anyone wants one they are $25. Canadian or 2 for $45. plus actual shipping cost.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Not a happy post

My friend who is a nurse and lot braver than I am has made two trips to Mali with a group of health care workers on medical missions. Its deeply shocking to experience the deprivation, illiteracy, lack of sanitation, food, healthcare and general hopelessness of the people she ministers to. She says the lives of those in this community have not changed since biblical times, if not for the plastic garbage blowing about one could forget they were in the 21st century. It must be just the need to share love and care that keeps her going back. This was one of the photos she took, which I used as a reference for a watercolor, now sold.

I wanted the painting to convey the chaos which is much of Africa, the pointlessness an outsider feels when looking on from afar at the ancient tribalism that promotes greed, hatreds and atrocities.

Its always the children and the women who pay the heaviest price.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A reckless reality

I watched a bit of Oprah this week. She had a financial planning guru as her guest who was admonishing any one who would listen to smarten up, there's no excuse to be drowning in debt, people! It was a seminar of sorts aiming to wake people up to the difference between their needs and their wants. She posed a challenge to the audience members to go home and do three things : 1. For one day this week buy nothing. 2.For one week dont use any credit cards. 3. For one month dont eat out in restaurants. What was amazing to me was the looks of incredulity and outright alarm as the cameras panned the assembly. You'd think they were being asked to throw their firstborn to the lions. The guru asked for a show of hands as to how many would commit to this regimen and timidly a smattering of them raised a hand slowly to shoulder level. And these were people with self admitted debt problems.

I guess I'm seriously out of touch with their reality...I thought home cooking and sewing and gardening and bartering and living within our means and such was more or less normal. I'm sure we have friends who think its normal. It was a real eye opener to realise that this mostly female audience would think us all very deprived and odd indeed.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tales in a tip

There are two ways to get to the beach below us, by an orderly set of steps or by climbing down a steep wooded gully through the roots and shadows and tumbled rocks till suddenly theres the sand and the waves rolling in.

A few days ago when the ground was still bare I took the gully path down the stream bed that had eroded since my last trip exposing lots of finds and treasures to poke about in. For over 100 years the gully was the refuse tip for the families that have lived in this house. Year after year the frosts heave out and the rains lay bare fragments of the daily lives of those who have been here before us.

I try to imagine the old medicine bottles such as Dr S N Thomas 'Eclectic Oil, Internal/External in the hands of women in long dresses tending to feverish children, the ornate cast iron stove parts gracing and warming the kitchen of yesteryear, and the the jewel colored liquor bottles in the hands of hard working farmers.

A perfect pint milk bottle turned up on this trip, along with two little medicine bottles and many broken bits of glass and crockery. The pouring spout was all that was left from what was a delicate bone china jug. I wondered if some child had been hauled to the woodshed for breaking a grandmothers keepsake from the old country. So many stories associated with each remnant, they could fill a book.

The new/old bottles cleaned up nicely and now Im longing for summer and a fresh bunch of daisies to put in the pint milk bottle. The prettiest stoneware that showed up in the tip a couple of years ago was a perfectly preserved 1909 ginger beer bottle from Saint John, NB. It still had the screw in cap in place, a find just waiting to be found.