Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mom's Nature Paintings

snowy branches
(contributed by J&M)
Speaking of Mom, I had forgotten that she was a painter.  She worked with acrylics and created several dozen pictures that she painted from nature photos that she clipped from old magazines or adapted from old greeting cards.

butterfly and daisies
(contributed by T&S)
Mom was an artist, but she went about it in a way that was different from other artists.  Most people who have an artistic bend, have a passion that drives them to create their work.  If my mom had a passion for painting, we certainly weren't aware of it because she was too busy taking care of all of us to think about doing something creative.  One day she signed up for a painting course at the community center, and suddenly she was standing in front of an easel in the basement wearing an old blue shirt and mixing shades of blue on a piece of white cardboard.

I remember her first painting was a picture of a simple winter scene - a gray background and a white house with a black roof.  (I think someone commented that the house must not have had insulation.)  She worked on her winter picture during Jan. or Feb., and it seemed to take a long time.  My dad would tease her, "The more you paint, the more it snows! Will you PLEASE finish that painting so spring can come?"

Eventually she did finish, and then went on to paint several more.  My dad sometimes made frames for her out of plywood that she stained or dabbed with paint and then coated with a clear sealant.  Other times the frames were store-bought.  Dad also helped her stretch more canvasses after her class had ended.  She never named her pictures, so we came up with our own references for them.

bird picture
(contributed by E&B)
Another painting I remember was her spring picture with the birds.  (I think she took the picture from a National Geographic Magazine.) Using a different technique, she marked off a grid on the photo with a pencil and then measured and drew in the corresponding lines on the canvass.  The birds became a source of frustration for her, though.  "I just can't seem to draw these birds in correctly," she lamented.  So then my dad dusted off the old projector, put it on top of the magazine picture, turned it on, and aimed it at the canvass. "Ok, where do you want the birds?"  My mom stood in the dark and eagerly penciled the birds in on her canvass.  For me, it was neat to see my mom and dad work together on something other than the care and feeding of children.

The first three or four paintings were hung on the walls of my mom and dad's house.  As my mom completed other paintings, she gave them to my older siblings who had their own houses.  There were scenes of the North Shore, water flowing over rocks, butterflies, and daisies.  She also took another class in abstract painting, but she didn't care for that style very much.

(contributed by SAM)

Mom's shasta daisies
(contributed by B&R)

Mom painted for only a very short time, probably about ten years, and then she stopped.  She had started working on a huge sunset picture and it was taking forever just to put down the white base layer on the canvass.  She never finished that one; it sat in the basement leaning against the moldy wall behind the ping pong table.  I'm not sure why she stopped; maybe she got frustrated; maybe she got tired of it.  Or maybe that particular season of her life had ended, and she finished what she needed to do; shared these special works so that we could remember her fondly.

When Mom passed away seven years ago, I realized I was one of the only people in the family who didn't have one of her paintings on my wall.  (I was very young when she painted, so I didn't have a house to put it in at the time.)  My favorite one, the autumn scene, was still hanging at the old house, so I asked my dad for it.  It goes very well with my living room decor - reds and oranges, light wood and gold accents.  I remember this one the most because it reminds me of Maiden Rock near Red Wing.  (I also remembered how tedious it seemed as I watched her paint every single leaf!)  I also liked the close up and distant perspectives.  It just amazed me how she was able to capture that from the original photo.  On the back of the painting I found a birthday card that my mom had used for the picture.  It was from my grandma to my brother (dated 1973).

Also in my house I have one of Mom's abstract pictures.  She painted the picture of the smoke swirling up from an extinguished match (which as you can see, is a neat picture). Since it was an abstract class, the teacher suggested that she add the curved black slices in the picture.  Needless to say, this was not my mom's favorite painting.

Personally, I really like certain forms of abstract art, but I also didn't really like the black slices.  I'm not a painter, but I decided to add a few of my own creativity to the work.  I had some glitter paint which softened up the black portions.  I also glued on some colored embroidery threads to make it look more three-dimensional.  It's still a work in progress, but it's something of which I can say, "Mom and I did this one together."

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