Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Shiloh" - the Final Artwork

Yesterday I finished a commission piece - a pet portrait. Some artists 'vignette' the animal, I like to include background and the interior or exterior space if available. The photo of Shiloh had so much emotion in it. The colors I would be working with in the photo lent itself to a burgundy piece of Canson paper. The undercolor really helped the pastel come alive with the right colors. I took artistic license and made the couch a little greener than it was. Included is a close-up of Shiloh's face. She must have been a real sweetheart! Thanks for letting me paint her, Lisa.

"Shiloh" 8" x 12" image in a 16" x 20" mat, pastel on Canson paper

Close up of detail.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Testing 1 - 2 - 3

I am passionate about "pet portraits" and I have a commission right now. It's a black lab. Those of you who capture a likeness of pets, know that any breed is not just that breed. Each dog (or any pet) has such a personality and character. I have several photos of "Shiloh". Black animals are harder to do, has to be a good photo showing the light reflected on their coat. I wanted to warm up to what she looked like, with a small pastel of her resting after playing in the snow - before moving on to a larger more important piece. I am pleased with the way it turned out, it looks just like her! She had cancer. I hear of that with so many dogs, way before their time. The owners loved her dearly.

"Shiloh" - 8" x 10" framed, pastel on Canson paper

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Visit

As you know, we live out in the middle of nowhere, (gosh I say that alot lately, but hey, we do) but we love company. This is Les (hubster's daughter) and Jake from Denver. They were only able to stay for a couple of days, but we had a great visit and introduced two city kids to this part of the country. Jake is a photographer. Les is a florist for now, and though she achieved her degree recently, has plans to go back to school for another one. It's nice to be surrounded by creative people.

The studio is clean, after my quarterly meeting with NCKAA, and I am ready to do some serious work in it - today! Yeah!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Where I Stand Sunday

The sun comes up
the sun goes down
with it arrives
hot day.
Air conditioners,

praying for
a gentle breeze.


a relentless
seasons change.
You just have to get up early to enjoy a little bit of coolness in the morning, something I don't do too often. Today, I am hosting the quarterly meeting of NCKAA (North Central Kansas Artists Association) in the studio. Luckily, we installed our old house AC there last week. Hubster's daughter and friend are visiting for another day from Colorado. We have enjoyed showing them around our little piece of heaven. Garden weeds had taken over, we spent the better part of the latter week, weeding! But it is in better shape now. Here are just a few of the great veggies we are harvesting, the sunflowers and a look at the wallpaper we found behind the old cabinets we tore out this week in our 100+ year old farmhouse. Funky, huh? We still have a long way to go on the kitchen remodel. Have to make a materials run, 1st part of the week.

Yep, the one above lends itself to a painting, soon!

I have seen this wallpaper in my life - somewhere. It must have been the only wallpaper in the country at one time?

Friday, July 25, 2008

What's in a Name

From time to time I am asked about the title of my blog "Dust Off the Butterfly" and thought I would take a post to explain it.
When I was about 12 or 13, (perhaps like many kids) I decided I wanted to change my first name. I wanted to be called "Dusty". I asked (or probably told) my parents to start calling me by this name. It didn't work for long, however, to make it into a joke to be remembered to this day, my dad decided to call my brother "Dirty" - get it? Dusty and Dirty? We humored him, by signing an Easter card with a pecan roll egg (I think it was) - from 'Dusty and Dirty'. That was kinda the end of being called Dusty, although I have often used it with the word Papillon - as I have always liked the movie with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, the protagonist in that tale being one who just had the need to escape and be free, therefore 'Dusty Papillon' - my pseudo name! Ha!
So - knowing that butterflies flit from flower to flower - and know it or not - I recently retired from teaching elementary school and was leaving my beloved Colorado to live in Kansas (BTW - middle of nowhere, where I like it alot!) AND returning to my first and foremost passion - ART - I use the title to mean just that. 'Dusting' off the butterfly, tongue in cheek - returning to practicing my craft, or dusting myself off, so to speak, to get back to a place in my life where I was happiest.
So now YOU know.

Butterfly in Aunt Jane's Flower Garden

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Visual Fun

Check this site out, especially if you are a photographer or an artist who might be experiencing "artist block". In it you will find so many things to play with, including many ways to look at composition. I love the "multicolor search lab". The filters are amazing! You choose the colors and shared photos are plugged into the grid of pictures that include those colors.
The "visual search lab" lets you put in key words of subject matter - photos including those items are displayed. For example, I put in "horse" and separately I put in "weimaraner". Try "wedding" those of you who shoot weddings, lots of ideas there. Also there is a BYO section where you can put in one of your own photos and they match it with similar photos. It's lots of fun, especially if you are like me, and it's way too hot to do much else right now. The IDEE blog is reading worthy also! Have fun!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Artwork in Other Venues!

Look where my art ended up!

and here...

and one hubster is sure to!

Actually I have been having fun at this site.
We continue do our remodeling of the kitchen today. Always the engineers. We can't wait to be done..if there is such a thing.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me?

Here I sit in the middle of nowhere - now I know some of you profess to be the "middle of nowhere" kings and queens, but really...I think I am the winner on this one. Almost every day, I sit and catch up on everybody's blogs that I read, checking on them through my bookmarks, one by one to see if they have anything new and inspirational. That is where I get a lot of my motivation, is by viewing art and reading about how other artists "Do It". I knew there must be a better way and as I was looking at my blog stats, I noticed that someone had arrived to my site via "Google Reader". I had some time to check that out and...lo and behold...there is a simpler way! By using this service, I can now eliminate looking at each and every blog to see if there is a new post because Google Reader (you will have to look it up, as my link won't work on that) lets you know, after you subscribe to the feed, who has a new post. Goh, do I feel like I have come a million miles, or what?!
So if you are like me, struggling along, living in the middle of nowhere, and you aren't a queen (or king - or 'serf' for that matter) yet, you can be! Check it out!

Here are a few blogs to add to your meanderings...if you haven't already seen them:
Paintings and Quilts and Gardening Life with Melody Johnson at
Drawings by France Belleville at
Someone else who lives in the Middle of Nowhere, DebSchmit,

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Where I Stand Sunday

The planter sows the seed
the earth opens wide..
it nurtures
it keeps
it welcomes the sun and rain.
Patiently, the harvester watches
as the crop evolves.

This is the sweet corn patch, we have been watching and praying for every day, for the last 59 days. The rain the other night laid some of it flat in the center of the field. Hubster is making a plan to go into it and prop it back up. It is truly a labor of love. Compared to last year's crop, this one is a big success so far. Notice we have wire strung, high and low. The low stuff has an electrical current running through it. Today I got to (I mean "too" - can't believe I mispelled it) close and found out how much of a zap it has. Wow. has kept the critters from getting into it and devouring it to nothing, like last year. This field is out of our sight, it's around the trees, so we can't babysit it. I am amazed at how things grow here. You can almost hear it grow. Here are a few more photos of our beloved cornfield. The beercans have coins in them that rattle when the wind blows...did I say wind blow? Ha. Try gale, most of the time. I knew there was a reason we were drinking all this beer!

and lastly - the pond, whose level goes up and down with the rain. Right now it is just below the 3 foot mark. The (poisonous) tiny toads are approaching our house and dog enclosure at a high rate of speed...Herman tries to eat one daily. Hope he makes it through the rest of the summer.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

More Paintings for Today

Two posts in one day!
Rare, but it happens, when you have
been out of commission for awhile.
Lots to share! First a pastel, finished yesterday.
"Madelyn" - pastel on Canson paper, 8" x 10"

And then a pastel, started yesterday and finished today.

"Christen and Grayson" - pastel on Canson paper, 8" x 10"
Christen is my cousin, Grayson her son. I liked working with the shadow that was between them. Also to report, she is expecting in November.

A Painting for Today

Yesterday, I felt frustrated as I approached the time to do some artwork. That's probably because I am 'rusty' at it. But as I worked, that special feeling came over me. (It's magic, you know!) I wanted to experiment with a surface that an 'artist friend', Brandy Miner, has been using cardstock as a surface. Upon trying it, I noticed that as you 'dust' after a few colors (there's nowhere for the excess pastel to go) the dusted colors get all over the other colors, so I ended up working and reworking. But that's ok,
I needed to see what it was like.
"Glads, Too" pastel on cardstock, 8' x 10" framed size

After that warm-up, I continued on. I have such great family photos, I decided to jump right in and get a portrait done of my (I guess it would be) 3rd cousin, Madeleine.
I will post it tomorrow. Have a few details to clean up on it. When you take photos of your work, you see all kinds of tweaking you need to do. Same goes with standing back from your work, which I am not good I often use the photo I take as my "standing back".

Friday, July 18, 2008

Renaissance...and Beyond

Robert Genn sends a twice weekly email to those who subscribe to his newsletter. The current letter is about being a "renaissance" artist, how each day artists of today are rethinking, giving new life to ideas, putting a fresh spin on a vision, and adopting different attitudes for ways of seeing the world.
Genn explains the workings of "renaissance" in these principles:
"Curiosity as a way of thinking
Suspicion of authority and conventional wisdom

Respect for intelligently filtered history

Aspiration to higher levels of achievement
Vision for renewed potential in all things

Tendency to invent private systems

Reinvention and perfection of former skills

Accepting the challenge of the difficult"

I encourage you, that when you look at art that is different, unique and not like any other...remember the idea of "renaissance".
Last night as the storm was brewing I took some photos. I got a new Sandisk, and I swear it takes better photos. Is that possible? It is an "Extreme III". Unbeknownst to me, my camera - a Nikon D-50, won't take anything larger than a 2 GB card. We found that out the hard way. Bought an 8GB card and the camera kept giving me an error message. So much for taking a thousand photos in Guatemala...I think I will see how many it will take here at home. Then I always have a back-up. So, not to worry. Here are some of the ominous clouds. The rain was different. It was like piercing and in sheets.
This is looking to the north...(BTW, for some reason, when I see clouds like this, it always reminds me of the end of "The Terminator" movie, when Sarah Connor is driving away in her Jeep - very apocalyptic)

This is looking to the west...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Is It Bigger Than a Breadbox?

Hubster was being pestered by a fly the other morning. He had to stop it's advance of attack. Interesting the size of it shown below. The fly probably didn't know he messed with the wrong person!Art isn't happening right now - oh snap! But it will be soon. Oh ya, this blog is a "periodic journal of life as an artist living in NCK" and we are "do-it-yourselfers" on most everything we do. That takes away painting and art time. I don't profess to be a "full-time" artist, I bask in the thought and would like nothing better, it's just that all these "other" things take time. We are still replacing kitchen cabinets. Big job! Here is a photo of the laundry room/entry way. The upper cab has glass doors. I have loaded all my cookbooks into that one. I also got to place my food items in my new food pantry and my pots and pans in my new pots and pans pantry - get it "pan"try?! Makes you wonder where that word comes from. I will have to research that. Ha! Lucky me, I get one more pantry (these cabs came from a "master" kitchen) and that will be a "catch-all" or "junque" as hubster calls it - pantry. Seem to have lots of that stuff, still hangin' around. Although we have AC, the heat and humidity plays with my energy levels - daily.
Took a quick ATV ride last night to check out a "burn" we could see on the horizon, never found it. We scared up a whitetail doe and twins in the stubble wheatfield to the south, they were just darn cute and very cool to watch. Their tails wag like a dog's tail! Electric fence is keeping those and other critters at bay around the sweet corn. We are going to have sooo much corn when it comes in. You should see me cringe, though, down around the pond, where hundreds of tiny Woodhouse toads are jumping out of the open cracks in the dry earth. Hasty Herman bit into another one last night before sundown. They are poisonous in case you haven't read my late rantings about them. Lots of wind and some rain at 3 AM. Sleep wasn't in the mix too much about that time.

Oh - and this one goes out to my family - who I may have told - I wasn't going to Guatemala??? Well, left my options open and then decided that I would go. (At least I will be painting!) One shouldn't pass up these opportunities in life - the world will just have to adjust. See my sidebar. Not many days til I leave. I am planning each day with what to take and how. Traveling with art supplies, as well as everything else, will be interesting. And...I am preparing my body for bug bites. Mosquitoes devour me at sunset every night!
P.S. Happy Birthday to my step-daughter, Leslie, who is 23 today! We are expecting her for a visit next week.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Where I Stand Sunday

Well, actually I stood here on Saturday, and I am probably still asleep as you read this, you early birds. Our NCKAA group had a show at the Downs, Kansas 'Celebration'. There were 8 of us. We set up for 12 hours. 'Small town, big life' is their motto this year. Lots of very nice people came by to view our fine art. I got out the old pegboard easels I used to use long time ago - used to have 7, but they got grabbed up by teachers as we used them for charts and big books in early primary grades, so now I am down to 3. Perfect for just a small show, where we were only asked to bring a few. Notice I brought 7, though (8 if you count the large one on another easel).
I am standing on the bricks outside the old train depot, where names are engraved for those who donated to the progress of the renovation and preservation of this building.
I used the time for sketching, too, so check out my sketch blog. Below are a few photos of my set-up and what the depot looks like.

Where I Stand Sunday is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell. If you would like to also post this subject, please let me know. There are several of us (see my sidebar) and we would love to add your blog to our list.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Look Alikes

When you have children, your first one usually looks like their father, not always, but often is my experience. They say it's natures way to tell the dad it's his, so he can bond with the baby right away. My daughter is a mixture both sides of her family. She has a little bit of me and a little bit of her dad and his sister. At times, she has looked a lot like me, I guess because of our 'big baby blues'. She also has a trademark expression. So much so, that my son-in-law, who is an artist, has done several paintings showing that famous scowl of hers. He is excellent at narrating expression with acrylic paint. My sister-in-law told me she had a photo of me with that same expression. I didn't believe it, however, today I received the evidence via email. You can be the judge. The photo is me eating an ice cream cone on a trip to Georgetown, in Colorado, many years ago.

Painting by James Burns, Brooklyn, N. Y.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

When Lightning Strikes

Last night, clouds rolled across the prairie and performed a super light show. I grabbed my camera and attempted to capture at least one of the lightning strikes. It was dusk and I needed to create a shutter speed that would capture it, but be able to see it, too. Shooting lightning is very tricky! My reflexes weren't up to it, certainly! This is one photo that shows some lightning, although not anything like what was going on for the most part.

As an artist, I really appreciate other art. It inspires and comforts me. On May 24, I posted a "Where I Stand Sunday" blog, which my new friend Susan Carlin found interesting and asked if she could 'paint' it. It was so wonderful, I purchased it from her. The photos below show the original photo and the painting. The photo of the painting, doesn't do it justice, as the colors are really great! It is 6" x 8". I have the perfect frame for it, and it is going on the wall where I can see it daily!

Boy, that's my feet - alright!
Also, I have a friendship that I gleaned through blogging. Leann lives in Michigan, and paints daily in watercolor, makes prints and rubber stamps and does lots of mixed media fiber art. She also cooks and bakes, writes about the music concerts she attends and has a very colorful life!
Leann has sent me several handpainted postcards. I received one while I was in KC. You can see it below. It reminds me of a time in middle school, when we used to take large square grid paper and try to draw a different object in each square. Leann painted a different object in each square. This one will also go into a frame and be a daily viewer! The post office was kinda rough on this one. Their machines tore the surface a little. I have been noticing that more lately, have you? You would think since we pay so much more for mailings and they certainly can afford equipment that doesn't wreck your mail, that it wouldn't happen. Hmm.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Back at it - Again!

Sorry, for no “Where I Stand Sunday” this week, I was at the mercy of “dial-up” service where I happened to be…and you know how that goes, especially with me! Whew! It’s good to be back. I missed my blog – hope you did, too! I returned home last night. I have been away for 25 days. However, as my compatriot Dorothy Gale said, “There’s no place like home!”

I have felt very out of touch with my little world and I am sure there will be some adjustment to be ‘normal’ once again. Hubster was involved in wheat harvest with our neighbor while I was away. He took a few great photos to keep me up to date of life on the ‘home front’. Here is a great sunset, over the harvest equipment.

I have spent a lot of time with my family over these several weeks. Our Annual ‘Gray’ Family Reunion was perfect, as usual, for catching up with relatives and just kicking back – “on the lake”. My aunt held a “Celebration of Life” ceremony, as 3 members of our clan passed away this year, my cousin Kay, and her mom and dad, Aunt Gwen and Uncle Harold. There was a short service for them at the guest house with lots of photos and memories shared and then a celebration for the three new babies born this year, my granddaughter Scarlett, and some cousins – Liberty and Maria…and there is another baby girl on the way in November….very special times! My stepson and his wife are also expecting a girl, in September. Lots of girls to increase our family numbers! It’s interesting to watch the formation of new ‘generations’ as well as watch others continue to mature and grow up. Seeing the same little kids each year, is like watching growth in time lapse photography.

A great table piece of fresh fruit served at the 'Celebration'.
Cousin Chase and his puppy Andre (the Giant - he is a bull mastiff pup), canoeing on the lake. Below are the "tweenies" (4th generation since this annual event started, 34 years ago) playing on the floor with my grandaughter, Scarlett (5th generation).
I guess between my brother and I - we took over a thousand photos!
I will be in a local show on Saturday in Downs, Ks., for their 'Celebration'. Check out a few of us at 'The Depot' from 9AM to 9PM. I may set up and 'plein air' paint, just so I get some painting done.

Happy 17th Blogiversary to ME

 I would like to admit, it's still here, I'm still here and it's still worthy of my attention - although sporadic.   Here are a ...