My parents arrived at our home here in the Smokies late last Wednesday. They’ve been thoroughly enjoying the cool mornings, while sitting and relaxing on the back porch, happily leaving behind the heat and humidity of south Florida for a few days! We spent a couple of hours at the river one afternoon, while friend Sharon and I took what may very well be our last tubing trip down! The icy cold water seemed even colder this time, especially when it totally soaked us going down the largest set of rapids! Of course Mom and Dad got lots of laughs out of watching us, and it cracked everyone around up, when I exclaimed that Sharon’s legs looked like a naked chicken with her mountain-sized goose bumps!
Yesterday afternoon we took a leisurely drive up along the Foothills Parkway, while enjoying what little bit of fall color there is so far. It appears that the warmer temps last week have obviously halted the color changing process, with most trees still being green and looking like summer! Nonetheless, it was still a beautiful day and a perfect time to walk up to the Look Rock Tower, where we were treated to a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains.
From there we drove along a narrow winding road, passing beautiful pastureland and homes nestled in hollers and tucked between mountains. We ended up at the lake, where we watched sunlight dance on the rippled surface, looking like hundreds of diamonds. Numerous sports cars and motorcycles either heading to, or returning from, an exhilarating drive along the Dragon, also entertained us as they passed by, with the most interesting being a motorcyclists wearing a big, furry sharks head, causing us to take a second look indeed! This coming week has a full agenda, as we’re planning to enjoy seeing the sights and make new memories with my parents!
~ Fresh off the Easels ~
I recently finished this miniature portrait painting of my parents, to celebrate and honor their recent 50th wedding Anniversary! As you can well imagine, they were both pleasantly surprised and very delighted!
Pet portraits . . . each new commission brings with it excitement, as I eagerly wait for the collector to send me photos of their beloved pet or pets. There’s always an element of surprise when I open an email, revealing what my latest subject looks like, while viewing the photos of them. During emails back and forth, there’s delightful stories that proud pet parents share with me, some funny or sweet, and some which are very touching! Upon choosing my favorite photos and coming up with compositional ideas, I draw a couple of sketches, from which the favorite is then chosen by the collector. Many times I will be asked for my input too, so I will explain why I think one pose or background will ultimately make a nicer portrait painting than others.
Once the final pose is decided upon, I do a fairly detailed sketch before beginning the painting process. The first washes of color are added at this stage, and I slowly build upon these areas, adding more washes of color, to begin establishing the values. I like to go ahead and paint the eyes straight away, as they are of great importance and bring life to the subject, if painted correctly. Plus that way the subject can watch me paint the rest of them . . . Ha Ha!
Fur colors are painted in, as well as areas of the background. I slowly build up the values and details in areas all over the painting, making sure it’s working together nicely. If there are certain curl patterns in the fur, such as the case is with Emily, I start shaping them with darker and lighter values.
Once I have the areas painted with the correct value and color, I start adding the fine details of individual hairs in areas, as well as intricate details on things such as collars. Emily is wearing an adorable bow placed on her by the groomers, and I loved the extra pop of color and interest it added to her portrait. The bedspread she’s laying on, was actually stippled, created by hundreds of little dots of color, giving it that wonderful soft texture. Since Emily has amazingly soft hair, I painted hundreds of wee hairs, carefully blending the edges on most, to create the illusion of incredibly soft fur in her portrait.
Details were painted in the pillows in the background and a few darker grain marks were painted on the wooden part of the bed. Several highlights in just the perfect spots were added, and Voila’ . . . beautiful Emily’s portrait was finished! As you can imagine when our collector received Emily’s portrait this past week and presented her gift, the recipient was absolutely delighted, and I was told that he was completely beside himself! A truly happy occasion, when all who are involved are delighted and touched in a very special way!!!
While we’re on the subject of great gifts, guess what my dear friend Sharon surprised me with this past week . . . a pink inner-tube! After she and Tom picked me up and we headed to the river one afternoon this past week, Sharon proudly handed me a box, and said “Here is your Christmas present . . . I can’t wait that long for you to have it!” Needless to say, giddy as a little girl on Christmas morning, I immediately tore it open and by the time we got to the river, had it out and ready to be inflated, which Tom kindly helped me do. Within minutes I was floating on the water in it and it was so comfortable! We’ve since decided they’re so cushy in fact, that we almost feel guilty floating blissfully along in them!
More Progress On The Train Set, Parties and Paintings!
by Rachelle Siegrist
While Wes and I have spent most of our time at the easels this past week, we’ve also enjoyed some fun times with friends! We met dear friends, Tom and Paula visiting from Florida, in Cades Cove for lunch one day this past week. Slightly overcast, the air was a bit on the chilly side for me, feeling more like a fall day rather than summer! It was a lovely one though, and we all enjoyed catching up, while doing a lot of laughing as well! Afterwards we took a relaxing drive with Fred and Barb, around part of the Cades Cove loop road, crossing at Sparks Lane. The expansive fields were full of purple and yellow blossoms creating a beautiful scene which surrounded us as we drove along the dirt road, cutting through the middle of the cove.
Last evening after meeting for supper, several friends came over for a game of Mexican Train Dominoes and dessert. We managed to really surprise friend Barb, with a birthday cake, while celebrating her birthday a wee bit early, since we will be leaving to attend the upcoming Birds in Art opening weekend festivities in Wausau, WI, this week! Since we all love chocolate, I made a chocolate cake with caramel buttercream frosting, and topped it with dark chocolate sculptures, which I call my Jackson Pollock chocolates.
It turned out wonderfully, and upon Barb blowing out the candles, the air was filled with “Mmmmmmm’s” as we tantalized our taste buds with the scrumptious cake. It was a delightful evening enjoyed by all, and happily Barb was very surprised indeed!
A very dear friend recently bought me a bunch of roasted unsalted peanuts for my critter friends, and I don’t know who is enjoying them more . . . them or me! Friendly, a young squirrel which I’m quite sure grew up in a nest located close to the back porch, has been pretty tame from the onset of our friendship. She sits mere inches from my feet during breakfast each morning, eating her little pile of peanuts whilst I enjoy my breakfast. I talk to her and she looks up at me, appearing to be listening intently to everything I say, but of course deep down I know she’s just there for the peanuts! When mid-afternoon rolls around, I love sitting on the back porch in the sun, while shelling peanuts and feeding them to visiting friends, and myself! Funny thing is, many times the birds and Blue-tailed Skink lizards join me in my basking in the sun ritual for a few minutes, so I’m hardly ever alone in my warming ritual, especially as long as I’m tossing out edible treats!
Friendly enjoying her peanut snack ~ Tinymouse basks in the sun with me
~ Our Model Railroad update ~
We’re continuing to make more progress on the model train set. In this next step you can see we pretty much finished the water including the cascading falls and the ocean below. Layers of glue and Modge Podge were added, letting each layer completely dry before another was added. Wes used a acrylic paint with it, to make the water more opaque in spots, creating the whitewater effect and waves. As you can see in the photo below, there is an old sunken boat and a Hammerhead Shark which Wes sculpted out of clay for me. They were placed underneath the Plexiglas creating a wonderful illusion of depth.
In other areas we continued to add in more trees, both those made of wire and others created from small twigs with the colored sawdust added for leaves. The lake was created by painting the bottom of it, starting with dark blue in the deepest spot, and lightening to a nice pale turquoise in the more shallow areas. After placing a fallen tree and large rock in the lake, the top was covered with a piece of Plexiglas, which Wes carefully drilled a small hole in, to accommodate the standing dead tree. The end result was fantastic and quite real looking! If only it were life-sized and in our back woods, that would be awesome!
Gravel colored sawdust used for roads and parking lots in the city was added, as well as the grass and gravel near the train tracks. More trees, shrubs and pieces of dried lichen helped create the forest and woodland areas . . . More to come soon!
~ Fresh off the Easels ~
While I finished my two latest commissions, which are both surprises, Wes finished a couple of miniature paintings this past week. The first features my precious little Carolina Wren, named Peedeepeeps. He loves sitting on this moss covered flower pot during the winter months in direct sunlight on our front porch, as is quite warm and toasty!
The other is a miniature of a little Red-eared Slider, which while being perched atop the clump, looks like it’s waiting for the water to raise and unstick him. In reality he is just enjoying the delightful warmth of the sun as much as I do!