Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane, co-author Rainy Day Thought, where they write about ideas and creativity. Diane posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome as it turns an article into a discussion, but must be in English, with no links (unless pre-approved), use of profanity, or threats.

Painting in header by Diane Widler Wenzel.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

by Diane: Watercolors, brushes and rags workshop

At the November 2nd  ODFW and Oregon State Fish Hatchery and Research Center Fall Creek Arts and Crafts Festival there were no students who used my demonstrated idea in the morning.
Waly ( the surviving partner of high school class mate, Mike Mayer) myself
and co-teacher Cheryl French gather for a photo shoot by Ann Holyfield.
Waly is a successful designer of commercial needlepoint designs.
Recently he started doing custom work
 painting in acrylic on the backing.
This was his first experience with watercolors.
Unfortunately Crayola brand food coloring in glue
is different from artist quality paints. If he was really
serious about taking up watercolors, this workshop was not a good sample
of what the medium could offer him. 
I demonstrated how to fully saturate a brush by first spraying water on Crayola pan colors, then  making a puddle of water and paint on the palette.  The brush is rolled on its side to make it hold as much as it can possibly hold. And then the brush was ready to easily slide across the paper making shapes that look like watercolor paint.

 The number of brush fulls of paint to make the right concentration on the palette is guesswork.  After painting it on your paper and the estimate is incorrect, make the paint lighter by picking up excessive wet areas with a dry brush or rag. 

Also demonstrated how a dry corner of the rag dipped into the paint sucks up paint. Drying up excessive puddles on the paper prevents an irregular blooms as the paint dries. If desired the wet paint can be darkened by dropping more color into the paint before the paint is completely dry. 

I always learn more from these workshops than I think my students do.  For one, I learned that most students who come to these fairs just enjoy the labor of brushing back and forth gradually building their shapes. Every touch of their brush showed the scrubbing force behind the paint. Most of the students in the morning had no interest in trying a new way from how they painted maybe years before. Some were more joyfully engaged in care taking. Their clients' faces sometimes brightened with joy. They were loud and happy in no way wanting to concentrate on the painting process. Painting should also be a relaxed way to enjoy an activity with others as these care givers were doing.

The families with young children were engaged in introducing painting to their children as they had obviously painted with them before. This year's instruction on the use of brush and rag was less useful for both these families and care givers.

 I also learned from a seriously involved painter. Above is a painting done in about 15 minutes during lunch break by a watercolorist who did not take the morning watercolor class nor was she signed up to take my afternoon class. Because she was interested in looking at my stack of demo paintings, I invited her to see my demo and paint. She definitely knew how to incorporate my demo ideas. She had a considerable amount of painting experience. She dropped color into the background to make the impression of water.  She dropped purple spots on the body She motified the value with the rag, and in addition she knew she needed pencils and something to scratch into the paint.

The best part of the workshop experience was what I learned in doing the demonstration. I am excited to do more watercolors.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Love is such a medicine

by Rain Trueax

Image from the Ben Kern wagon train, a trip taken by those who want to relive 
what once was done out of necessity.

Once in a while we like to have a book sale. Recently, we've gotten busy and have not done it as often as we would like. We decided now was the right time for the first book I ever wrote-- when I was closer to the age of the heroine-- unlike now when I'd be more like her great grandmother ;). I related to this young woman then and now for her goals and then the interference of life that changes our path sometimes. 

Because Veterans Day is a time we honor heroes, those who have served our country in the military, it seemed an apropos time for a book about heroes. Not just the main protagonist but several others who totally fit the hero profile for bravery and self-sacrifice. The 99¢ price for the eBook will be until midnight November 11th. It is only on Amazon but most eReaders can use Amazon for their books. 

Round the Bend is about two young people, who are traveling to Oregon with one of the last of the big wagon trains. They are coming with their families. One of those families is the best of the best and the other is dangerously dysfunctional. The young people have been friends most of their lives. One of then wants to change things. The other wants to keep it as it's been. 

The book is about the trip West and what it took to make it given the distance, weather and sometimes harassment of those not too thrilled to see their homeland possibly being threatened. When I wrote it, I knew the basic story. Before I published it, I had a much better idea of what it took to make the trek, the risks and the wonders. It's the story of a journey of community, our bodies, and even our souls as it changes things in ways they did not expect. 

My personal story about writing the book began when my cousin and I would go for walks during family gatherings. I liked making up stories. Often, I'd tell part and then she would. With this story, which I originally named Taopi Tawote, she stopped wanting to tell her part and wanted me to finish it. It would be years later before I actually did that. I changed the title because I feared people would think it was about Native Americans. I wrote a poem for the book though and it remains at the beginning.

Wound medicine, the Lakota call it.

    Yarrow, the English call it.

    Strong of scent, herbal healer,

    born of the earth...
taopi tawote.
        Men's souls need wound medicine.
    Some hurts go so deep only the strongest
    of medicines can heal them.
    Love is such a medicine...
     This is the story of such a love  
Maybe you've never actually read a romance. This might be your chance and for 99¢ until November 12th.  https://www.amazon.com/Round-Bend-Oregon-Historicals-Book-ebook/dp/B00UZ59KQA

When I wrote this book, I had no idea that it would lead to a series that takes the family into Oregon and its settling with three more romances. When you start writing about families, it makes a writer curious about the rest of these people like two more sisters and one I never dreamed would end up a romance, which I won't describe here as that's part of reading for the joy of discovery. Following a few years, after the family arrives in Oregon, comes Where Dreams Go. Then there was the question of the oldest sister-- Going Home which is after the Civil War. That left one sister-- Love Waits. 

Fun to write a series and there might be some more as the children grow into adults... 


Wednesday, November 06, 2019

by Diane: About the header painting

The header is a detail  from "Rock and Snow," an oil painting on cradled 12" square by 1 1/2" deep board. It is one of a series begun the summer before my senior year in high school. The first painting was of Humbug Creek with a big moss covered rock - my first oil painting on location.


I have been back to Humbug Creek camp ground two more times and painted the rock and creek. Abstracts often evolve into this series at isolated times.

July 2,000

Nov. 3, 2019, down stream from Fall Creek Fish Hatchery and Research Center

My demonstration for afternoon watercolor workshop
2019 Fall Creek Arts and Crafts Festival
November 2, 2019
Painting the rock is always a comfort zone painting reminding me of pleasurable outings into the out of doors. The most recent was done on a marvelous sunny day with not even a breeze at the Fall Creek Festival.  More on the festival watercolor workshops I taught in my next blog Wednesday, Nov. 13.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

what if

by Rain Trueax

This is the season where the leaves fall off the trees. Do they also reveal what is otherwise hidden? Do we want to know what that might be? I've written before about the fairy tale for adults angle of why write or read books with supernatural elements. It was the fun part of what these books offer-- magical beings and special powers. 

There is another side-- the scary side. Why do people go to horror films? They might like being scared and looking for a vicarious, safe experience to get the adrenaline rush. In literature, there is the popularity of Stephen King's books to recognize that wanting to be frightened has fans.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

by Diane:Spookspook and the foods that comfort me

Butternut squash baked until soft combined with homemade broth to make soup served with a few roasted pumpkin seeds on top.Umum good! Sweet potatoes, yams, acorn squash topped with honey fried apples, bananas, and pears.  Plum snacks! Husband likes grapes.   And then there is Hershey's chocolate ( the product of child laborers so I hear).    We have much more than necessary sitting in a bowl for a handful of trick or treaters we will get. My husband is in charge of the treats. I am a pardner in crime. This morning I put a heaping teaspoon of Hershey's special dark coco powder on my oatmeal, raisins, pinto beans and black beans.

This is the last of our garden for the year.
                                        The spook and cat waiting for the costumed children.

Happy Halloween preparations!


Saturday, October 26, 2019


by Rain Trueax

Stores are decorated for a holiday that is a favorite of many people-- Halloween. Some decorate their homes in ghosts and scary objects. Many carve pumpkins to put a candle inside when the night arrives and scary creatures go door to door asking for offerings-- trick or treat. My dad talked about putting Model-T's on roofs as part of the trick end-- an excuse for young hooligans to run around causing mild chaos-- all in fun. The tradition from which this holiday arose goes way back to something only Pagans today may know.

October 31st is the beginning of a new season in the Celtic calendar. Samhain (pronounced sow-in) is in a season of change-- the time of shift between light to dark. It is believed that it is also when we are closest to the other side-- the barriers, between us and what is over there, break down.

This festival is older than Halloween or All Hallows' Eve, which they came out of it, as Christianity did with many pagan traditions.  The ancient Celtic celebrations, Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas, and Samhain, all relate to seasonal changes more than religious ones. They are about a connection to ancient traditions as well as to earth.

This is the season where the harvest has been gathered-- at one time critical to survive the winters. As a way of recognizing its importance, the hearth fires would be allowed to go out. The people would gather with their Druid priests, who began a new fire. They would bring that back to their home to relight their own from the community flame.

Ancient Celts marked Samhain as the most significant of the four quarterly fire festivals, taking place at the midpoint between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. The Celts, from where this comes, did believe you could reach the other side but especially during Samhain.

As protection from the other side, offerings were left out for the fairies and for protection from monsters. A shape-shifting creature, Pukah, was of particular concern. The people did not want to be kidnapped and would dress as animals or monsters to fool the other side. Pukah can be spelled different ways. The being could look like animals or humans with ears and tails. They could be beneficial or threatening.

There were other beings to watch out for including a headless woman who chased those who were out at night. The Dullahan could appear as impish creatures or headless men on horses with flame for eyes. See one of those and the person would be soon to die. You know, in mythology, fairies aren't always kind. They can also be scary.

It's not difficult to see how Samhain morphed into All Souls Day and Halloween.

There is another culture that celebrates this season. It is called Day of the Dead, and I think it begins the 31st and ends November 2nd in contemporary Mexico and those of Mexican heritage in the US and around the world.  It is believed their Day of the Dead originated from Aztec celebrations possibly 3000 years ago.  For them, this is honoring the dead and goes back to pre-Columbian cultures. Today, it's a blend of Mesoamerican ritual and European religion in the Spanish culture. It mixes with the view that life is cyclical and death is an ever
present part of life.

 So, on the Day of the Dead, with the border down between spirit and 'real' world, the dead awaken and return to feast, drink, dance and play music with their loved ones. The 'living' family treat them as honored guests and leave favorite foods at the graves or on special altars in their homes. This is not to ward off evil. The celebration today is a mix of Spanish Catholic and native Aztec for beliefs and traditions. Those skulls and skeletons had been an important part of All Saints Day festivals in Medieval Europe. They had experienced so much death with the Black Death that decimated communities. No family was untouched in the 1300s. There was a constant reminder that we all must die one day. 

Put that together with Mexico and the Aztec culture who believed life on earth was an illusion-- death was a positive step toward a higher consciousness. For them, skulls were a positive symbol of both death and rebirth. 

To celebrate the Day of the Dead, some paint their faces to look like skeletons. You see this in art for sale in Mexican towns. This tradition has led to the charge of cultural appropriation when those doing it are not of Hispanic or Latino or Mexican heritage (not sure what the right word is today). 

The thing is when you look at how similar traditions for a certain season arise thousands of miles and many years apart-- from very different cultures, you have to ask why. Coincidence? Serendipity? Did one culture see what another was doing and rearranged it to suit its own? Or does it go beyond that to something in nature that claims it for its own?

Whatever the case, and whatever tradition you celebrate, it is a season of change and maybe, just maybe the barrier between us and what is over there is thinner and they can come through-- whoever they are. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

by Diane: Brushing up for teaching watercolor workshop

Ten more days for me to get ready for teaching a watercolor workshop Saturday, November 2, at the Oregon State Fish Hatchery and Research Center Fall Creek Art Festival.

This year the workshop will be entirely different in focus from years past. The focus will be on the brush and the marks they make naturally. The marks from a single brush is dependent upon how it is filled with paint or ink, how it is held and moved. The brush marks can be individual to each person. Their desires, skills as well as the paints and surfaces they choose enters into the results. The numerous ways the brush is handled is like a vocabulary is to the writer.

Brushes are advertised as if each brush has a single purpose like liner, blender, mop, round pointed for detail, or long ones for calligraphy. If limited to their advertised label, their full range of natural mark making characteristics are missed. Perhaps the advertising labels are to get more sales. For example, the number 1 liner made by the Princeton Art and British Co. has extraordinary possibilities. When the entire length is rolled in wet fluid watercolor or ink so it  holds its maximum capacity, it is capable of making a line that goes, goes and goes increasingly thin and faint.

If the 1/8" wide by 3/4" long liner is swiped sideways along its length it makes shapes.
Many lines close together make textural shapes. These two methods are among many ways to use a single brush type. For me personally, getting to know a brush is a springboard to abstracting the subject as well as revealing a story  of how the painting was made.  Secondly, as I become familiar with a brush, I feel  how it might be expressive of how I feel about a subject.
My fourth painting of "Turkeys in the City" has just a few different
uses of the liner brush other than the usual use of it for the rigging on ships or tree branches. The open spaces between the brush strokes makes it easy for me to make major corrections even as the painting is near completion. I just noticed the heads of the turkeys are too large.
The third painting of Wild Turkeys in the City was painted with a number 12 round Kolinsky Legend brush made from the tail hairs of Russian mink ( in last week's blog I wrote incorrectly that it was sable.) Because it comes to a point it makes good curved feather-like strokes. Also the large brush makes nice big washes. The signature characteristic of the big Kolinsky brush is the round corners from ample wet color stored in the many hairs in the brush's rounded bowl.

The first turkey painting to the right consists of a build up of layer upon layer of washes using the the 1/2" Simply Simmons 1 stroke plat long . During the process I would put a wash on and then leave it to do some mundane household task, coming back for another wash when the painting was completely dry. I became fond of this synthetic hair brush. In this painting I felt it was forced

In the second painting of turkeys using the Simply Simmons 1/2 inch flat,  my initial drawing in paint did not go well, so on subsequent layers I was able to draw a new outer edge of the turkeys' heads. The right angle of the brush's tip lent itself to making angular shapes in the drawing and in filling in the background helping to unify the paintings. The lighter early drawing left a nice transition from the very dark background to the very white of the head giving the head a three dimensional form.

Branch with Fruit, Shih T'ao, Ch'ing period
Seeing an exhibit at the  Center Pompidou in Paris inspired my focus for the watercolor  workshop.  side by side were relics from prehistory with abstract works  of 20th century artists.  Prehistory A Modern Enigma reminded me to be mindful of how the marks of tools govern the form of all visual art expression from calligraphy on paper to lettering on stone. From watercolor paintings on paper to silk screen prints.
 The Chinese letter shapes are composed of a number of specially designed brush strokes. The form of alphabets made by the brush are formed in the character of what brushes will do. The letters made by a pen nib and brushes repeated many times take on the different characteristics of the tool that made them. 
Writing with pen or brush also take on the personality of the writer. I want to extend the personal touch to my own painting and inspire students towards their own style in the use of the brush.