Middleridge Winery Reception

Middleridge Winery

Just warming up for the crowd. The Middleridge tasting room is in a beautiful building in downtown Idyllwild.

Yesterday I was scheduled to attend two gallery receptions (blissfully perfectly timed so that I could, despite the 90 minute drive between them) for galleries who have my work. The first is the group show ‘Art Uncorked‘ held at Middleridge Winery in Idyllwild.  This is the first time I have shown there, and there were eighteen artists in the show, most of whom were in attendance and who I got to meet.  Spoke to a lot of interesting people about both my work and theirs – and not just artists.

One thing that jumped out when talking to most people about my work – I have hidden the poem ‘Arrows‘ in the painting so well, that hardly anyone found it without being told to look for it.

Jeni Bate art at Middleridge Winery

The “Jeni Bate” wall. I have two other round pieces in the show which will be in the upstairs gallery.

Wet and nameless

Partially completed oil painting

Partially completed oil painting

One of the advantages of the cosy summer days is that the oils dry faster, so my previous oil painting is already dry enough to go on a wall, and the next oil is in progress.  I was inspired by a misty scene I saw on the internet and decided to incorporate some of that mistiness and put a sky of similar colors above it.  This is what I have so far – I intend to put a tree on the left when this layer had dried enough to paint over it rather than sinking into it.

I nearly made myself sick painting this layer though.  I’ve only got one large brush that I was using for the background, so I was continually cleaning it as I worked through the color gradient.  As I’m using odorless turpentine, I didn’t realize how much the fumes were building up in the studio – and indeed the whole house – as was about 108 outside and the A/C is on and the house isn’t very big.  I was feeling queasy and developing a headache. Even after I’d taken out the turpy paper towels to the trash can, it was still an issue.  Serendipity to the rescue again.  I noticed there was a stiff, hot breeze blowing outside and I thought – there’s nothing for it – I need a different batch of air.  Opened all the windows and doors for five minutes – the temperature was quickly up to 90 degrees inside (I usually keep it around 79) – but that hot air was fresh.  The A/C quickly got everything back to 80 after I’d closed up – but I know I could not have done it without that breeze!  The wind died down soon after too.

So, from a breezy phase to another quiet sky.  I have not yet settled on a name for the painting – I usually don’t until they’re complete.  More in a couple weeks when I can get the tree on.

Brown stormy day.

Dusty Sunset

Dusty Sunset

Perhaps the wind started to remind me what caused the amazing brown and gold sunset I photographed many years ago, and finally got to painting.  You can tell by the scratches it’s an old film photo. The creosote bush in the foreground on the photo is no longer there.  I was certainly in the right place at the right time though, to get this momentary shot.


10 paintings to start.

I actually started over a week ago and have been plucking away at it in stages.  This is the progress so far.  I thought also that I would use this as a quick visual ‘how it’s done’.



Circles on paper

Circles – I used the bottom of a jar that was the right size.

Cut circles

Cut circles. My hand is sore.

A few key pieces

A few key pieces

Starting to take shape

Starting to take shape

All the front is arranged.

All the front is arranged.

The Speed of Light

House - by James Youse - about 8x10, watermedia

House – by James Youse – about 8×10, watermedia

For the last three years I’ve created a painting for Alzheimer’s Association for the fundraising – and one of the interesting aspects of this is that I get to do a painting in response to the painting of an Alzheimer’s patient.  This year I happened to be in San Diego around the time they started this year’s project, so I was able to see all the available patient’s artwork instead of a small selection of images emailed to me because I’m so far away.

Many paintings spoke to me, but one spoke louder.  I am very aware when looking at these pieces of artwork of the decline of life of the artists, and this aspect alone significantly alters my response.  The painting is by James Youse, and is on the right.  It is simply titled ‘House’ – and is on the right above, but the part that struck me was the difference between the house and its reflection in the water.  My initial urge to respond was with a poem, which I did, and then created a refractured watercolor, including the poem on the painting.

    The Speed of Light.

At the edge, after my day is done,
sense of fulfillment resting in my heart,
my body’s atoms coming all apart,
returning to the dirt from where they’ve come
I’ll stop, before I dip these aching toes
into the water of the after life
(my soul arrived before the speed of light –
I don’t know how, but that’s the way it goes),
So I can see the breadth, the depth, the height
I leave behind, before my dive will break
the surface and destroy what others take
to memory, being slower still than light.
The vision in that lake will, by and by
return to stillness, leaving only sky.

The Speed of Light. Refractured watercolor with poem on float panel, 8.5x28.5"

The Speed of Light. Refractured watercolor with poem on float panel, 8.5×28.5″

The inside of a cloud (complete with angels).

Refractured watercolor clouds, inside a cloud.

Refractured watercolor clouds, inside a cloud.

I had been somewhat reluctant to go to the annual Art on the Lake show in Big Bear.  Last year our forecast ‘intermittent thunderstorms’, that two local friends said could happen on the other side of the street, or even if we did get rained on it would be for 10 minutes, turned out to be an hour and a half’s downpour complete with flooding.

But the forecast was good when I headed up the hill.  On Saturday the forecast was revised from ‘fluffy clouds’ on Sunday to 20% chance of showers on Sunday.  By Sunday morning that had been increased to 30% chance.  I think what that meant was for 30% of the day, you will be on the inside of a cloud.

At 2pm it hailed and thundered for about 20 minutes.  Then it paused and took a breath, while I photographed my booth (which still had a dry patch in the middle at that time) and rained until 5pm.

Caravan canopies are not designed to withstand three hours of heavy precipitation.  Blissfully though, I had angels.  Bob (I don’t know his last name) and come by on the Saturday and liked a painting.  His wife Judy wasn’t with him so they came back on Sunday.  At first they sheltered and chatted, but then Bob helped me back and stage my artwork on a table in the Art Guild booth next door, which was waterproof, and disassemble the booth, while Judy went from corner to corner pushing up the top of the booth to evict the puddles growing there and seeping through.  Then the clouds parted to brilliant sunshine (of course….) and I loaded my sodden equipment in the truck and headed home.

The good news is no artwork was damaged – I did break the frame on one due to my heavy handedness while packing, but not the glass, so that will easily be fixed with a few frame bars.  I also found that two years ago – the one time in the last four years that I missed the show – also had a similar storm experience.  Perhaps I won’t go up the mountain to cloud level for a show again…

Finishing up in the studio

"Upcoming Storm".  Watercolor collage 10x8" in white mat to 12x10". $80

“Upcoming Storm”. Watercolor collage 10×8″ in white mat to 12×10″. $80

Here’s the watercolor collage I started 9 days ago at Red Brick Gallery.  I had put down all the pieces, just hadn’t put on a foreground.  As with many of these creations, it really doesn’t come together until that stage.  Many people commented when I was at Red Brick that they like the three-dimensionality, the depth, that the foreground gives to the background.

The way that the paintings finally start to exist in these very last stages reminds me of the paintings that Rolf Harris did during a children’s show I used to watch.  I had to go to wikipedia to remind myself that it was called ‘The Rolf Harris Show’.  Towards the end of the show, he would do a huge painting on a roll of paper about 10’x10′ hanging on the wall, and from big brushes with pots of house paint, set in a line at the bottom of the paper.  The paintings always consisted of a number of seemingly meaningless marks of different colors (at least I assumed they were color, we only had a black and white tv) which built up over the course of about five minutes.  It was only in the last 30 seconds or so of the painting that it became apparent what it was.

In my collage, it’s not until I look at again a week later I see that there are little blonde reeds growing underneath my signature, that the mountains have more layers than I was aiming for and that the reds in the skies on the left reflect more realistically in the water than I had thought they would.

A modern fairy tale.

"The Greening".  Refractured watercolor on gallery wrap panel.  20"x48".  $1680

“The Greening”. Refractured watercolor on gallery wrap panel. 20″x48″. $1680

A couple months ago in Fountain Hills, I spoke to a woman who said she knew of an artist who had done a painting kinda-sorta like my refractured watercolors, in particular like ‘The Greening’.  She couldn’t remember the artist’s name and apparently he had only ever done one painting like that, but she thought that it was a much older man who lived in Santa Barbara, CA and promised to email his name to me when she returned to her home in the Midwest in May.  I have not yet had that email, but I will tell you of her story.

Once upon a time, she bought a condo, and after a while decided she needed artwork.  A friend suggested she go to the local framing store, as he also sold art, so she did.  On walking in, there it was, hanging at the back of the store, The Painting To Surpass All Paintings.  She Must Have It.  She asked the store owner to pack it and tell her how much the check should be for, because She Must Have It and money was no object.  No, he replied, it’s not mine to sell, it is only here for framing.  Then, she said, I don’t care how unethical this seems, but you must give me the owner’s phone number and I will make him a better offer.  The store owner sighed.  It’s pointless, I know, He Will Not Be Parted From It.

Months later, she was in a hardware store.  She said while she was telling me the story that she could not think why she would possibly have been in a hardware store, but she was and she met another customer and they fell to talking and he could think of no earthly idea why he was in the hardware store either, but they talked and they got along well and eventually he asked her for a date.

They went on a date and got along very, very well and another date and another date and some weeks later he invited her to his home.  To her astonishment, there it was on the wall, The Painting To Surpass All Paintings and She-Who-Must-Have-It had unknowingly been dating He-Who-Will-Not-Be-Parted-From-It.

There was only one solution.  They must marry.  So they did.  And the three of them lived happily ever after.

However, She-Who-Must-Know-Who-Painted-It is still waiting….