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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Answer to how to keep paintings from becoming muddy

To the right muddy right area above the cat was disturbing before I brightened and lightened all adjacent areas and darkened the lower foreground.
No color by itself is muddy. If your intention is to make a pleasant mood there are a number of corrections possible.  Think about the relationships of  the picture as a whole. Mutilated colors can sing making other colors more beautiful when they transition to colors that are either significantly lighter or darker. They sing with complementary colors that are their opposites on the color wheel.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Working through failed atempt after atempt to make the painting meaningful to me

Resolution of  "Ritner Creek with Larkspur" oil on canvas, 25" square. 

an early version
Too many subjects all fighting to dominate were the log in the background, the water, the sunlit willow leaves and the roots upended. The painting didn't give me a sense of  wholeness and well being. Adding knock out willow leaves covering a larger area should be a happy change but it wasn't making my heart warmer.  At times I thought I was pursuing the impossible resolution. Then in the foreground I wanted a joyful larkspur to contrast with the dead wood suggesting renewal.  The violet of the added larkspur didn't show. I enlarged root in complementary colors but that did not pop the violet gray. I made the violet bigger and thicker. The root didn't move me.  I kept working scraping away root color  until I carved out the enlarged roots regaining the underlying layer tint of thalo blue.

 Here are some of the steps in the process of  making improvements:

 While I like the movement early on,  I love getting the feeling of spring's renewal and life into this painting.



Taking chances of spoiling what I liked about the painting, I made fearless changes that could make a difference in my eye and heart. Again I am trained to keep working - a painting lesson that I can apply to life.

Saturday, May 26, 2018


by Rain Trueax

Dreamscope app using one of our photos of the desert

Let's talk depression. It's one of those things I hesitate to bring up here because it's nice to be positive-- depression is a negative. I also feel like people tend to think you are looking for them to fix it when you talk about it. I don't expect anyone but myself to fix it and really only want to address it because it's a reality and has, for the last few weeks, been one element in my life.

When a person looks for the why of depression, sometimes there is no reason. Other times, there are reasons; but at a different time, they'd not lead to depression, which feeds on itself. Depression does not need a reason for why it's come.

As an example of how that works is my writing. I have written all my life but when I didn't try to put out the books, there was no feeling of rejection. Once I did put them out, then something new had the potential to come into the equation.  Rejection can lead to feelings of depression.

So early in May, my books were not selling at all. Days went by and nada, zilch. I've never had a LOT of sales but to have none-- well, it definitely felt like rejection. I understood the potential reasons for that, which included doing no advertising to get them seen. Using logic, I also believe in the zeitgeist of a time. If my books didn't fit what readers wanted (more sex/no sex; more violence/no violence; etc. etc.), advertising would only mean I'd be out money as well as feeling rejected lol. Come on, it is funny. It also isn't. I think it impacts anyone who takes creative work beyond being a hobby and tries to turn it into a business where it pays for itself or even supports a life.

So what to do about lack of any sales being a possible reason for my feeling dark. Ranch Boss, who is my editor and partner in this writing endeavor, began to research key words for ads. For months, we had known ads were important but neither of us knew how to do them. He spent more hours learning then I was spending writing. Keywords are a critical component in having a search find a book. It took him a couple of tries to get one ad right (limited amount of money going into it) but finally he began to see results. No, the sales are not blockbuster status but no longer are there zero. 

Is the depression gone? Nope. It wasn't really about the writing. I do know of other possible causes for it like the crossroads I mentioned last week, but it really won't solve the depression either. Some say go to pills but I've gone that route years back (in my 40s) and it did help, but it had side effects I didn't like. 

Recently I read that only one state in the country (no, I didn't read which one that was) doesn't have higher rates of depression right now. I think the zeitgeist of our times is a factor for a lot of us-- on both sides of the partisan divide. The sometimes physical hate has put out an energy that you can almost feel if you are sensitive. Read the papers and there are more reasons to feel depressed. The answer though isn't-- head in the sand. It might be less time reading papers...

I know from the past, that life is better when I have a dream I am working toward. Dreams are wonderful things. Depression though tends to stomp them out. I think that's where I am now. I don't know what I want, and I am at the point in life where some dreams are no longer feasible. Practicality is important even with dreams. 

It's not a dream for me to write books. I love to write about people in relationships, facing challenges, where they have dreams they must fight to attain. I have control over that-- what I can't control is whether anybody else will want to read them. It's important, I think, to do what I can and then release what I can't control.

My immediate answer is to remember dark times don't last. I try to walk regularly, not as far as I did a few years back, but keep moving. Small projects help. Lots of deep breaths. Watch some comedy movies-- laughter is always good. Concentrate on the good things and don't allow the negative ones to crowd out all that is working right. Remembering how many writers do suffer from depression as part of the gig helps... No, it doesn't. *s*

What has helped the most down here is bird watching... particularly the baby quail as I have gotten to see them grow. It's a kind of meditation where an hour can go by, and I don't even feel it. This little video is a compilation of some of what we've enjoyed with different ages of babies. I think I'll write a blog about quail and what I've learned. They are interesting.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Paintings that get a little remodeling

From time to time I like to go through my old work especially when I need to consolidate to make room for new work.

 I cropped the late evening coastal painting started at Yachats about ten years ago and it was exhibited at the Albany Public Library in 2014. Now it looked like it would be stronger with an additional cool gray wash over the sky to simplify the value composition to further pop the reflective white foam.

Rocky Creek Wayside was painted six years ago. Like the  evening Yachats painting the foreground dark value rocks were many values and is now stronger after washes reduced the contrast from very dark to light. The composition is stronger width the foreground rocks ranging in value from very dark to medium dark gradually transitioning to lighter rocks in front.

The canyon just above the confluence of the Salmon River into the Snake River painted in the mid 1990's. Since then I have added magenta and opera paint. The opera made the thalo blue green shade in the sky strident. A wash of alizarin crimson  achieved more harmony.

 In 2007 Arizona  watercolor was started and later the black ink drawing was added in 2013.  This time additional white acrylic ink pened in with the goal of creating more flow of movement.

Oceanside, California 1998 finished several times. The white acrylic applied with a brush brought the jewel like sparkle back while adding flow.  Also the green watercolor mixed some with the white.

Overworking these paintings was avoided by storing them out of sight for years.  Even storing them for a month is a big help. Then when looking with fresh eyes,  I see more easily compositional considerations of the whole painting was the goal of the changes. I could verbalize the reason behind the changes.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

borrowing a book

by Rain Trueax

After trying Kindle unlimited for a few months, we have decided it was not a good fit and we're pulling out the paranormals. The way it works there is they automatically renew you if you don't mark otherwise. I changed the auto-renewals; and two books are already out-- Sky Daughter and Diablo Canyon. The Hemstreet Witches will take a while as I didn't want to lose the ability to ever go into it again. 

In early June, the first of those will be out, and it'll take through to August to get them all out. If you are an Amazon Kindle Unlimited member and you want to try one of these books (The Shaman's Daughter; To Speak of Things Unseen; A Price to be Paid; and Something Waits), the time there is limited. (Their links are alongside here in the book lists)

The stories revolve around four sisters, who are natural born witches as they work with their mother and grandmothers to right wrongs and on their own-- fall in love. 

Beyond their being romances, I've had a hard time tagging these books as I've moved from calling them fantasy to paranormal and now maybe metaphysical. The stories have grown in complexity as the witches have faced normal problems every woman faces-- along with some extras. 

Normally, I'd suggest starting with the first in a series, even though these are all standalone books, but the fourth one, Something Waits, goes out of KU first-- June 3. If you want to give them a try, it might be your best bet. 

Torre Hemstreet's romance travels from Tucson to Navajo lands in Northern Arizona. I especially enjoyed that part of writing it with mixing in their mythology with our own... Maybe that's what the books are-- mythological romances, except that suggests set in the past and they are set in today's world with mythological powers. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018


by Rain Trueax

When you reach a crossroads in your life, how do you decide which road to take? 

As children, choices are made for us most of the time. When we reach young adulthood, that changes. We have to decide whether to go to college, then which college, or is military a better fit, how about traveling for a few years and putting it all off? For most of our adult lives, we will be looking at choices, some of which are minor like what to eat, whether to exercise, who to spend time with, but then come big ones-- with whom to build a family. That one can only be topped by deciding to break up a family. 

Today, my husband and I are looking at a crossroads which involves where would it be best to spend the next say 10 years. At 75, we can expect to live independently at least that much longer, but where to do that. Some move into retirement communities, where services will be provided as needed. Others get an RV and begin to travel figuring they won't get another chance. 

As we age, our choices can be impacted by-- do we need to be closer to doctors, stores, services, or would being reclusive out in the mountains be a better choice? What can we afford factors into where we might end up.  What worked for us in our 60s may not in our 80s. It's a constant flow of choices. Many of them we don't even think of as choices that will lead to something else.

Some of the choices others make have little appeal for me and never did. There are choices I've made that never again required rethinking-- like having children. A lot of life though is cyclical-- and one choice comes around again as circumstances change.

The immediate issue I am wrestling with is we have two homes-- one for nearly 40 years and the other for almost 20. It seems unrealistic in our senior years to keep them both as they are 1200 miles apart. They offer very different advantages and complications. I've considered dumping them both and moving somewhere else-- but where would that be? I am a huge lover of the American West. I could imagine living many places from the ocean to the Rockies. Would a new place be a better fit than one where we have long lived? Adventure or security?

I've recently spent a lot of time wrestling with this question of change as I enter into genuine old age. I don't have an answer. Do you have a way you work through such times?

 Photos altered by Dreamscope. It's a way of illustrating how we can see the same thing but angle changes everything-- a bit like life.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Composing a series of paintings

One of the challenges that I have set for myself, as my readers know, is to make permanent watercolors that do not need to be covered with glass. Reason : I do not want to be surrounded by wall to wall of glass as more and more of my work is on every wall of our home. Glass reflects so the pictures are more visible without glass.

I am opening myself up to failure especially because I am trying in addition to make a hanging solution that does not require a picture frame. This new presentation on 14 x 11 inch panels are hung from a support glued to the back that holds the painting a half an inch out from the wall. In this new presentation of my work I have naturally gravitated to painting in series.

 My birch tree series didn’t work at first because the third one I painted (pictured at far right on the bottom) was painted crazy, busy. When a painting is restless all over without a resting place for the eye, a big mat and frame helps. My rule is the busier the composition the bigger the plain mat.

 Wishing to stay with my original challenge of making a more permanent watercolor, I added a thin border but it looked tacky like i surrounded the tree with surgical tape.  So I painted over the border with watercolor washes.
Looking longer I saw another way the third painting in the series. The luminosity of watercolors in the first two was covered by thick heavy body acrylics.  So I poured hot water over the thickest acrylic and attempted to peel. The multi layered watercolor mixed with gloss medium resisted peeling so I kept chipping it away with a pallet knife. This tortured  created a patterned surface I found to be a happy accident. The pattern  is in character with peeling birch tree bark.  Plus from a little distance the third painting fits with the others because all whites glow jewel-like in the other paintings.

A large pile of peeled paint cut with a relatively blunt palette knife
so as to not cut through the canvas glued to the board.
Detail shows actively patterned areas against restful areas.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

More than I ever thought I needed to know but found out I did

by Rain Trueax

Tuesday was a morning of panic, which fortunately was eased by gaining information. That morning Paul had killed a bug in our bedroom. Because he hadn’t seen one like it before, he went online and found it likely was a kissing bug (triatomine) and had been full of blood. Their bite can lead to Chagas, [a rather scary disease].

We hoped our bug wasn't this one as some resemble it [how to identify a kissing bug]. It turned out it was-- the blood was a major proof. For us, the scariest part of what we learned didn't involve humans and Chagas-- it was our cats. In some regions, the kissing bug bite can be a death sentence if it leads to Chagas. In everything I read, it said for cats infected, because it can't be cured and they can carry the disease, the only answer is euthanize them. Ack! We bring our cats with us to keep them safe and this could happen? I was in a dither to put it mildly. 

We went online to look for information specifically to where we are, Tucson. It turns out infection happens when the bug bites and also defecates where it bit. The feces are where the disease causing parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi, can enter a body and lead to the disease and its terrible results. It appears that in this area the kissing bugs do not defecate near the bite. From what I read, the only cases of Chagas in Arizona have been Bisbee and there to people who had traveled to countries where it's more prevalent-- Mexico or South and Central America. 

The link says there may be 300,000 human cases of Chagas in this country with many not showing symptoms as it can lay dormant for as much as 30 years before symptoms show up. Worse, the bug injects a little pain killer with its bite; so victims may not know they were bit. They could think the itching bite later was a mosquito.

Scary scary scary. So we called Tucson experts to get the local situation-- first pest control and then the veterinarian we use when down here. They both assured us no Chagas has come from the kissing bugs here—but the [bugs are here] and in large numbers in some areas. 40% do carry that parasite in their feces but the method of biting is why no cases-- so far.

We were told to spray around our foundation, using one safe for pets in the areas where they go and something else where they don’t. For ecological reasons, I hate spraying for insects (think helpful ones like butterflies, bees, etc.) but there is no option if we want to be safe regarding our cats. 

At the veterinarian's office, the receptionist said she has been bitten by them and her bites have itched a lot for a few days but not other results. Since we have no itches, it looks like the blood our bedroom bug most likely had come from outside before it entered the house. They supposedly hang out in packrat dens and mostly emerge in April when the rats leave the dens. The bug then goes looking for fresh blood sources. 

We then turned to wondering how it got into the house. The screens are tight. It wasn't seen flying in the house. The most likely possibility for me is the laundry. We had hung it out to dry that day and possibly the bug flew into pants or shirts. It was found near the closet where it was killed. 

One other issue is if you see one in your home, don't touch it. Ranch Boss killed this one with a paper towel even before he knew what it was. The probability of getting Chagas from touching the bug would only be if someone had a small open wound.

I had another blog planned for today but this seemed more important. I know many here travel into areas where the kissing bug might have Chagas and be more prone to defecate into the bite. If travelers get home, later get sick, it's important to tell their doctor of the possibility of something that would not be in their home base. Also it's important for those who live in areas where the bugs are possible; and with climate change, those regions might expand. 

For me, after I felt relief that our cats weren't likely to be infected, this is not about panic but about awareness. What Chagas attacks is evidently primarily the heart, and there are treatments for humans. Hopefully, there will be more treatments for animals (for now, horses and cats are out of luck) but the big thing is to tell doctors if symptoms show up (listed in links above). 

Even before this, we had been talking how we needed to both fumigate our trailer and spray with insecticides on its undercarriage to avoid carrying with us something Oregon doesn't want. All travelers should be aware of this as we live in a time where many go to areas where they can bring back something they had not intended.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Water soluble oil painting limits

About 12 years ago I tried water soluble oils as suggested by Rain for being easier to use on outdoor excursions.  One of the disadvantages was  grainy results when diluted for transparent watercolor effects. Now there is a medium that can be mixed for glazing.  The above painting illustrates another limitation. Thick paint develops a skim dry to the touch but remains liquid underneath for years. Just last year finally this painting dried and did not smell like fresh oil paint. Unfortunately I like to combine thin washes and thick paint. But I should never the less try water soluble oil paints again.

In studio verses outdoor painting

Above is an early stage of the painting. I was painting the last days of our birch tree that was rotten and had to be cut down. I liked the transparencies of the watercolors with gloss medium to make them permanent. The painting I did from my studio window didn't have the excitement for me.  I started several more of the tree outdoors.

The next day painting outdoors, the elements of breeze and sun made a great difference in feeling the energy. Why? Was it because I needed to be more direct, spontaneous and fresh? I favor the paintings that happen outdoors maybe because I feel the pressure of the elements.  I must say the most important things from the first stroke of paint.  I get right to the essence of a primal experience.

In this photo the yellow is brighter than in the original.

 I started it the day before the tree was fallen and completed it as the arborists cut down the tree. The spring light  makes my paint appear brighter outdoors. When going back indoors to view the painting, the colors are often too dark.I had to go back and forth viewing the painting in both locations and making adjustments because it was intended to be seen indoors.
The tendancy for me is to make my outdoor paintings too dark. The darkness is partly caused by acrylic paint darkens hours after first painted. As I paint outdoors more as spring becomes summer I adapt my paint to be lighter than what I see outdoors. On this series the next I painted over the dark colors.

In the above painting rubbing alcohol lightened darks.  Another method  to brighten the rhododendrons was adding layers of whites.

In this series I found working indoors more comfortable even with the complex process of using dilute gloss medium. After working some paintings outdoors, I came back to the indoor painting. I did negative painting with complimentary blues behind the branches. The rhododendron flowers matured. Pink leaves poked between blossoms. The birch leaves glistened in the afternoon light and maybe this almost documents the shimmer.

In conclusion: Painting outdoors often has more satisfying end results for me. Also so far the outdoor use of watercolor and dilute gloss medium  doesn't work for me. Painting in acrylic or oil are the best methods outdoors for me. Acrylics can be diluted for transparencies like watercolors so the range of paint qualities. The only reasons I was using watercolor paints with gloss medium was that they would be lighter weight in airplane traveling.  Watercolor with gloss medium does not need to be covered with glass.

Maybe with more experience and modifying my outdoor equipment, I can make the technique workable. Next Wednesday I will also address framing and hanging of the tree series.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

More on Aging

by Rain Trueax

Recently, we watched a three part series on Netflix-- [Five Came Back]. Take the time to watch it as it was excellent. Yes, it has some brutal segments about WWII (if you want to think Nazis were okay you definitely need to watch the Holocaust photos). It reminded me how much each generation is influenced by the time in which it has grown up. The archival film is of five successful directors of that time and not only their participation in the war but also what they brought back from it in terms of the films they then made.

Born in WWII, I know it impacted my life in a ton of ways-- not only by it but the aftermath for what people learned from it. Because my family had gone through the Great Depression, and talked about it, it also was a factor in what I was taught growing up. This is one of the benefits of reaching old age-- we've seen a lot.

Along with aging's reality of loss and deterioration (biology-wise), there are benefits that I don't think many consider. In the United States, sadly the emphasis seems to be holding onto youth. What about considering the benefits of a long lifespan? Why do so many demean old age? 
In some primitive cultures, the old are revered. They are the ones who remember the dry seasons, what might matter when the herds travel another route, diseases that came through and proved devastating. 

Do we really believe that a seventeen year old today knows more than someone who has lived seventy years? Can life wisdom be valued instead of demeaned as so often happens with the elderly thought of as being selfish or senile? Could it be that having seen so many cultural shifts, the old have something to share with the young? This will only happen if the old value what they have experienced.

Culturally, we, at least in my generation, have lived through a lot of changes. I was born when communication was newspapers, mail, radio, movies, and party-line telephone. News was gathered from limited sources and mostly we knew our own community and family for sure-- if that. Living through a time like that puts a unique perspective on a time like ours where news is from so many sources that many end up victims of ADD (attention deficit disorder). Today, we are bombarded by info-- or what defines itself as such.

Family expectations have changed in my 70+ years. I grew up when children were expected to be polite, where the world didn't revolve around them, where adults talked and children listened-- or went off to play. The idea of coming to a time where profanity is praised and someone who is nasty is admired is beyond me to imagine from the perspective of my own youth. Being old means I remember when nasty was not a virtue but a problem.

In my childhood, we were allowed to be a child and adulthood was something to be worked toward and hopefully achieved. Responsibility was taught  through chores and sometimes rewarded by an allowance. I don't know if that still exists but I do know receiving a small amount of money for doing a job teaches responsibility. Not having much money teaches the value of making responsible choices.

Another plus of being a child in an earlier era is we were allowed freedoms that today are criticized by some as they call such to be free range kids. We all were back then. 

Examples: I was able to run over open fields, go into the brush and lie there as
I stared up at the sky. I read books sitting in a big cherry tree, ran to a rock wall to escape a sheep that wanted to butt me. I had my first rifle at 12 because I asked for it as my Christmas present, because I'd seen our sheep with their sides ripped out by dogs and wanted to protect them.

One year, my father, brother and I went to a mountain stream. While they fished, I waded down that stream by myself, climbing over logs, finding spider webs everywhere and finally overcoming my fear of breaking through them. Although I was far from any hope of my parent rescuing me if something went wrong, I relished the freedom. When I wanted to learn to swim, it was on a river and I did it staying in the shallows until I could
feel confident I could swim across. When I did it the first time though, my father swam alongside me. The only time I ever saw him swim. From then on I could do it by myself. The memories of those times and reaching the rocks on the other side, they are always with me as are so many others from those years.

I am not saying children today couldn't experience such things. Some do... Just not as many as back then.

As an old person, I have seen societal changes. Nothing lasts forever is something the old understand better than the young. Having seen a lot of mistakes and successes, I don't think I know it all-- even if I am confident I know a lot.

Less is expected of me as an old woman. That's freeing. We can do what
pleases us more than in those earlier years. When we opt to take on challenges, it's our choice. When some of those challenges lead to failures, we can still feel excited-- like who knew we could do something like that in our 70s. At one time, being old meant moving in with the kids, to an Old Folks Home, or after Social Security, retired. Now it means anything goes-- at least that our bodies allow.

A few years back, I took some time to write my core beliefs. Recently, I came across them and looked them over. I wouldn't add to the list. Have you written down your core beliefs? The things on which you stand? I put them in a blog where I archived some of my earlier blogs (there was a blog before this one). If you're interested, they are at [Age Old Beauty]. 

That's another thing I believe-- that like fine wines or old roses, there is a beauty in old age. It's not the same as youthful beauty but it has a worn patina to it that I consider it's own beauty. If we don't do plastic surgery, our life shows on our face-- the good parts and the painful ones.

 The birds are all from observations at our Tucson home. We had to add the fence for when the cats are out as they regard the fountain as a 'moveable feast.' Watching birds is one of the joys that is possible at any age. I love how they migrate, how they instinctively know when to go and where. Life is really something.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

My typical painting journey

For me expressing the strongest mood and energy moving through a landscape, means I do not paint what I see.  I select a few things from the landscape: I am not interested in copying. The linear lines are felt through my body rather than intellectually being able to put into words my direction in painting. The movement is sometimes spontaneously applied with freshness. Not having words for what I am doing in a painting means the journey can and does go a muck at first. Typically the fussy details of what I am seeing are revealed and covered with paint repeatedly until the surface appears to be a rough washboard road as in my landscape painting with "Rhododendrons and Tree".

At first the rhododendron was in the middle ground and there was a tree to the right.
As I painted I saw the house across the street.
 I decided to paint larger rhododendrons in the foreground covering the tree at right.

When the painting , "Rhododendron and Tree" became too rough I used some of the same colors on practice watercolor paper. Feeling the return of confidence I made bold strokes over much of the surface. ending up with the painting above.


almost completed "Rhododendron and Tree"