Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome, add a great deal to a blog, but must be in English, with no profanity, hate-filled insults, or links (unless pre-approved).

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.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

learning as I go

by Rain Trueax

As a writer, every now and then something comes along that makes me rethink what I believed I already knew. I value such times. I've often thought how cool it is to have creative challenges at my age. This week had such a time, and it led to this blog-- and rearranging what I had planned for today.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

by Diane; My changing ideas on teaching about paint brushes

Students in the past pressed me to teach them the uses of each kind of brush. They were used to artists on TV always talking abut the kind of brush they were using for different painting tasks. I believed brush detail to be just chatter to fill in the empty times as well as making it easy for listeners to copy.
My approach was to leave detail unanswered so students could embark on a painting as though it were a journey of getting to know what their tools can do as they paint. The brushes were unimportant as compared to quality paper and color and composition. These other basics were all I wanted to tackle in my short hour and half workshops at the Oregon State Fall Creek Hatchery and Research Center Fall Festival the first Saturday in November the past nine years.

The natural hair1/4 inch Blick Master stroke Eclipse one stroke inch and a quarter length holds enough ink to continue painting for a long time.

The 1/2 inch synthetic oval Golden Fleece was the only brush used on this 12' x9" watercolor.The oval shape challenges me when trying to fill in corners so in response I abstracted the hands. The tool can make for shaping differences.
The 1/2 inch synthetic Simple Simmons 1 Stroke plat long brush holds a reservoir of paint. It has so much body that the squared off edge works its way into the painting.
This much abused 1/2 inch sable brush has been used extensively with my acrylic paints and there is build up of hard paint at the base near the brush ferrule. Some hairs are broken and it separates as the brush empties the paint. Love these brushes with character.   At the workshop I will provide some of my old brushes.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Hunters Moon

by Rain Trueax

I don't generally do a second blog in my days but this is worth it from last night's full moon, Hunters Moon. We got lucky with our clouds and the moon. I decided it was worth creating a video from it. 

Music from JewelBeat, who unfortunately is no longer out there, but fortunately i got the ones I did from them with a license to use them. Full moons are special times, which can be used many ways as a challenge or a lift.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Evolution of a book

by Rain Trueax

As a writer, I love all my books. Of course, I do-- if I didn’t, they’d not be out there. Each has something special about them. Some though have more of me in them—not saying which. Some have more fun in them—not saying which. I though thought about one recently and wanted to write about it and why I wrote and love it.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

by Diane; A fix for the painting, Howler Monkey Mother

 Yesterday I was unhappy with this painting because it suggested black face to me. After washing away surface color that has not stained the paper, I feel better about the painting. Also I enjoy the way my previous building of the shapes left a texture. Yet I like the contrast before washing the painting and will use the contrast with colors that work with future subjects.
Red Howler Monkeys 12" x 9" on smooth hot press Instead of a filbert the brush is Simply Simmons 1 stroke * Plat Long 1/2"
Hot press papers are good for fine detail but also like here the colors spread in great blooms with most of the pigment staying on the surface. Every little touch shows. Also the hot press shows the full brilliance because less pigment doesn't soak into the paper. In this one the brush strokes did little to shape volumes.  I was distracted by the marks in laying down the under-painting in the first step. So never blocked volumes in an abstraction natural to the character of the brush. The lines were made by turning the brush sideways. The square flat shape strokes were from the flat side of the brush.

Since the Fabriano hot press paper was a big factor in how I reacted while painting Red Howler Monkeys on Thursday's I returned to cold press Fabriano so it would be more comparable to  the painting that was washed in the bath tub. The perfect synthetic Simple Simmons plat was the only brush I used. the rectangular strokes are very regular. My preference is the filbert brush.

Next Wednesday the blog will be about the influences I feel from the trip to London and Paris.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

by Diane: Watercolor Workshop at Fall Creek Festival

My tenth year demonstrating and teaching watercolor 

at Fall Creek Festival 

Returning this year is co-teacher, Cheryl French, who has taught and demonstrated with me for about five years. She is a print maker and painter plus she has extensive teaching experience especially with children. The class is made up of all levels and ages. The atmosphere is perfect for families painting together.

The watercolor workshop takes place in the education room of the hatchery with windows on the creek where Fall Chinook and silvers are spawning.

In preparation for teaching watercolor, I am painting and playing with watercolor. It is a medium with many playful possibilities.
Howler monkey mother
12' x 9"
First step
Second step - blocking in shapes with a large 3/4" filbert brush -
 a deliberate challenge. The brush's character was my partner.
Without an exact idea of how I would express the  forms,
being mindful of shapes natural for the brush. I allow myself to accept abstractions.
Many steps later
The addition of ultramarine over phthalo green over naphthol red over quinacridone gold
was uneven and not so rich as I hoped.

Cupuchin Monkey
The pure white cotton rag paper is good for high contrast.
 I am more comfortable with the starkness of white
when adding a gold tint over most of the whites.
 A concentrated permanent alizarin crimson
over concentrated pthalo green makes a richer dark than ivory black. 
The hatchery is surrounded by woods.
This painting is on a warm off white tinted cotton rag paper. 19" x16"
I like the undertone for developing rich darks.

A few more weeks remain for me to play.
Also to work with Crayola pan colors
like the ones provided for the class.
Mostly I decide on what I will teach
on the spot depending
on who is in the class.

Play isn't continuous joyful fun.
 Self criticism and doubt make their appearance.
But I am only spoiling paint and paper,
 not causing danger to national security.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

A Cowboy Christmas

by Rain Trueax

Every now and again an opportunity arises for a guest author to come here and share their books. I have read Shanna's romances and like how they depict the West. Then I learned she was bringing this nonfiction book out for Christmas and was looking for blogs to share it; I was very interested. That she is donating part of its proceeds to help rodeo cowboys (don't forget I just had a book out on them), well, it was a total win/win for Rainy Day Thought. I think you will find A Cowboy Christmas as interesting as I do. Never too early to start to build some Christmas spirit-- especially with so much going on that can drain that from us.

Read a Book, Help a Cowboy

For most rodeo athletes it is a matter of when they get hurt, not if.

Many are uninsured and for those who find themselves out of work for months on end, the injury can be devastating physically, emotionally, and financially.

That’s where the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund steps in. The JCCF provides financial assistance to rodeo athletes who’ve sustained catastrophic injuries that leave them unable to compete for an extended time. Rather than worry about how they’ll pay their bills, they can focus on healing. 

Because she grew up around cowboys and loves to include them in the stories she writes, author Shanna Hatfield supports the JCCF through her Read a Book, Help A Cowboy campaign. In its sixth year, the campaign raises funds and awareness for the JCCF. Now through Christmas Eve, Hatfield will donate ten percent of the proceeds from every book purchase to the JCCF.

A wonderful addition to this year’s campaign is Hatfield’s brand-new book called  A Cowboy Christmas. The book features 300 pages of western holiday fun with more than 70 full-color recipes.

 The jangle of spurs mingles with the jingle of sleigh bells in this celebration of Christmas—
cowboy style!
Welcome home to a western holiday with A Cowboy Christmas. A collection of unique holiday d├ęcor, traditions, recipes, and guides for entertaining with ease make this your go-to resource for an amazing western Christmas. Filled with stories of real-life ranch families and rodeo cowboys, get a glimpse into their traditions, try their family recipes, and experience their lifestyles. From preserving memories of the past to tips for wrapping presents, discover the special touches incorporated throughout this book that make it a holiday keepsake you’ll cherish for years to come. Brimming with holiday cheer, recipes with full-color photographs, and one-of-a-kind ideas, this book is a wonderful celebration of the holidays that will help make your Christmas unforgettable.

This book is available from:

About the Author:
USA Today bestselling author Shanna Hatfield is a farm girl who loves to write. Her sweet historical and contemporary romances are filled with sarcasm, humor, hope, and hunky heroes. When Shanna isn’t dreaming up sassy characters, twisting plots, or testing out new recipes, she hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller. She resides near Walla Walla, Washington.

 Chocolate Chex Trees

These yummy and adorable trees are so simple to make and a great project if you have kids at home who need something to do. Set them on a disposable plate, foil-wrapped piece of cardboard, or a large sugar cookie wrapped in cellophane for gift-giving!

3 cups Chex Chocolate cereal
6 pretzel sticks (the thick kind, made for dipping)
½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup Nutella
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar

Mix the peanut but­ter, Nutella, but­ter, and pow­dered sugar in a bowl.
On whatever you plan to use for a base, mold the peanut butter mixture around the pretzel stick until it stands upright and forms a slight cone shape.
Hold it steady by using the tip of the pret­zel as a han­dle and begin insert­ing pieces of cereal into the peanut but­ter mix­ture in a sym­met­ri­cal pat­tern around the stick. You can tip the cereal pieces up or down, depending on your personal preference. Add more cereal pieces, stag­ger­ing them as you move upward, until you get near the top.
For the top of the tree, use broken pieces or cut them in half to get the smaller scale of branches near the top.
Use two pieces of cereal back to back to form the top.
Dust with powdered sugar.
Makes 6 trees

"Absolutely one of the best Christmas entertaining books I have ever read or seen I would hold this up against even Southern Living’s Christmas book they put out every year and that’s saying a huge thumbs up for A Cowboy Christmas. The recipes are all easy and quick sounding which is always the type of recipe I love to use. Once again Shanna Hatfield is the best at what at she does!"
Goodreads Reviewer
 "Such a beautiful book, and such a wonderful celebration of traditions and ideas to introduce into your own family. Included are heartwarming stories, recipes, craft ideas. This book shares with Shanna Hatfield's readers her joy and enthusiasm for the Western Way of life and the continuity of family that needs to be handed down to the new generations."
Amazon Reviewer

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

by Diane, Happy surprises in on our garden

Some of my favorite surprises are volunteer sunflowers with their dark round seed pods punctuating the round sunburst dahlias.
The bucks with big racks peeled off the bark all but girdling our dogwood tree last year.
Amazingly the tree still blossomed and leafed out this year. Many branches died and now the tree has fruit, I have never noticed before.

A rock with a split crack cutting it all the way across the middle is a surprise planter. For several years snapdragon seeds grew in the crack. This year cosmos!

Love the way tiny snap dragon seeds find the most unlikely niche to sprout and flourish.
Love the way the holly tree is healing after last year the sap suckers pecked the trunk all around in long rows of holes. This year I allowed the sucker branches to protect the trunk while scar tissues closed the wounds. To my surprise the brave holly bush is making a come back.

Love the way life strives to survive even against the odds!