Nannie, Watercolor on 16″ x 20″ d’Arches Cold-pressed Watercolor Paper

When I was a little girl, in southern Oklahoma, my Nannie (Mom’s Mom) didn’t have a radio. But she would intuitively stand outside and watch the clouds. She would say “I bet we’re going to have a storm.” And she would watch.

Sometimes they came in the afternoon, but mostly at night. When the lightening lit up the clouds, she would watch. And she would suddenly say “Let’s get to the cellar. There’s a big one coming.” Down the clay steps, into the cellar we would go, Nannie the first one in, lighting the kerosene lamp so we could see. Daddy shut the cellar door, pulling on the rope attached to the inside center brace of the corrugated metal door. The rope was for holding the door shut when the winds picked up. Sometimes it took all the grown-ups to hold the door!

The cellar smelled of dampness and earthiness, two cots with pillows and blankets to sit on, next to the shelves filled with jars of canned tomatoes, green beans, black-eyed peas and pickled beets, and bins of potatoes, and onions hanging  from the ceiling logs. (When the hole for the cellar was dug, logs were placed close together over the top of the hole, then all the dirt that had been dug out of the hole was piled in a mound on top of the logs.)

I had a box of Crayolas and an Indian Chief tablet to keep me busy, but what I loved most was the stories that the grown-ups told. Stories about the old days, “when your Mama was a little girl . . .” But even as Nannie told her stories, she had one ear listening to the wind. Finally she would say “I think it’s about done. I’ll check and see.” Up the clay steps, pushing up on the metal door, peeking cautiously out, she could tell us in a minute if we could go back into the house, or “we better wait a bit. It still smells a little stormy out there.”

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Today’s the day that Mama and James and I are going to see Nannie! I am so happy about that, because I haven’t seen her since way last week, and I sure do love her. Mama said “We have to leave early before it gets too hot.”

            So after we eat some biscuits and gravy and pickled beets for breakfast, and after Daddy let the cows out, to go to pasture, and then he slopped the hogs and chopped some fire wood and waved to us as he went to work in the peanut field; and after Mama threw out the leftover biscuits for Daddy’s coon dogs to eat, and after she drew fresh water from the well, and fed the chickens and gathered the eggs, we are finally ready to go.  

We set out walking down the section road in front of our house. James is stomping on the ruts in the road and stirring up little clouds of red dust. Mama warns him that he should not do that or he’ll wear himself out before we even get started and then looks at me and winks and says “And we’d really rather not have to get that dust all over us! Isn’t that right, Judi?” And I was so glad she said that.

Mama said Nannie will meet us at Ambert’s store which is on the corner where her road and our road cross.

            The sun is already hot and Mama says to James, who is already whining, “Let’s see if we can make it to that big old shade tree up there. Do you see it? Can you see that big stretch of shade there in the road?” And I could see it!   I couldn’t wait til we got there because I was already sweating and James was still whining, “Carry me, Mama. I’m tired. I’m hot. Carry me Mama.” James is only three years old, but I’m a big girl and I don’t need to be carried. I’m almost six now and soon I’ll be big enough to go to school!

            Mama says we should be thankful for the shade tree, and that God always gives us just what we need. She said “Just listen to those locusts singing. They are certainly thankful for that old pin oak tree. And don’t you think the birds are thankful too?”   James listened to what she said and started whining again. “I’m thirsty Mama.” I am thankful that Mama thought to fill a Mason jar full of fresh well water. She put it in a little sack and fastened it to my dress sash so nobody had to worry about carrying it. And I don’t mind at all because Mama has enough to carry when James gets too tired to walk.   After we all have a little sip of water, we’re ready to start walking again. There are two more shady spots between here and Ambert’s store.

            We keep on walking and then resting in the shade and pretty soon I can see Ambert’s store up ahead and there’s Nannie standing out by the gas pump waving at us! I run as fast as I can so I can be the first to get a hug and James has already climbed down from Mama’s arms and is trying to keep up with me. We’re so lucky that Nannie has two arms and knows how to hug us both at the same time!

            “Let’s go sit on the porch and catch our breath,” Nannie says. And Ambert is standing in the door grinning from ear to ear. “How about an ice cold pop?” he says as he reaches into the ice box and pull out three bottles of Coca Cola, snaps the caps off and hands one to Mama and one to Nannie and one to me. We can all share with James because he’s too little to have one all by himself.   The bottle is still dripping with ice cold water and it feels so good when I put it up to my face to cool me off. I never had a Coca Cola before. It’s a lot sweeter than ice tea, and it burns my mouth a little – in a good way.

            Mama and Nannie are laughing and talking – they’re so happy to see each other and that makes me happy too. James is sitting in Nannie’s lap and I jump down off the porch because I see lots of brand new pop bottle caps, just laying there waiting for me, all shiny and orange and red and green and silver! Last year Mama helped me put some on a piece of crochet thread and we put them on our Christmas tree and it was so beautiful! We also picked up chewing gum wrappers and very carefully peeled off the silver part so we could make them into icicles for the tree.

            Mama tells me I can put the bottle caps in the sack with the water jar because we’re about ready to go and I might lose them if I carry them in my skirt.

            Me and Mama and Nannie and James are all holding hands as we head on up the road to her house.

I can tell we’ve almost made it to Nannie’s house because I can see the bridge. It’s how we cross the creek. And even cars can cross the creek on this bridge because there are boards for their tires to go on that are on top of the ones that go from one side to the other. I don’t know why they left big cracks between the boards, because they make it very scary to walk! If I’m not careful I might get my foot stuck in one of those cracks! But it’s also fun because you can look down and see the water, way down under your feet. But you mustn’t get too close to the sides though, or you might fall down in the water and then you might hurt yourself!

            And on the other side of the bridge I can see Nannie’s house! We don’t have much farther to go! And then we get to walk through those little paths between the hollyhocks and larkspurs and poppies and zinnias and marigolds! “Can I pick a bouquet, Nannie?”   “You surely can.” She says, and we’ll put it in a mason jar so we can look at them while we’re eating dinner. I picked a mess of black eyed peas this morning, and okry, and fresh ripe tomatoes. We’ll fry up that okry and I’ll make a pan of cornbread and we’ll just have ourselves a dinner fit for a king!”

            I just love the way Nannie’s eyes crinkle and sparkle when she talks.



If Life is a Game . . .

Rules: Systems, policies, laws, conventions, regulations, decrees, statutes, imperatives, canons, tenets, doctrine, directives, strategies, guidelines . . .

            We spend our days trying to find out what The Rules are, deciding which ones apply to us, figuring out how we can follow them, break them or change them, interpreting them to suit our own beliefs, being surprised to learn that someone else interprets them differently, forgetting why the rules were made in the first place, (but still following and defending them,) protesting about the fairness or unfairness of the rules, learning what happens when we break them or change them, and making up our own. We worry about what will happen if we unknowingly break a rule. Is there a rule that will protect us from someone who might take advantage of our ignorance of the rule. After all, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”

            “Not me,” the Rebel proclaims. “I don’t follow anybody’s rules.”

            See what I mean?

            If I invite you to play in my sandbox did I forget to mention that since it’s my sandbox, you have to play by my sandbox rules?

1. No throwing sand. 2. No bringing your cat in, especially if his litter box is dirty. 3. You can’t come in when I’m not here. 4. You can’t invite other people without asking me first. 5. I can make up other rules or change them whenever I want to.

If you accept my invitation did you remember to tell me what the rules are for the honor of your presence?

1. You have to treat me special because I’m your guest. 2. Your rules don’t apply to me because I’m special. 3. If you don’t post the rules, they don’t exist. 4. I can make up other rules or change yours whenever I want to. 5. There are other rules that rule your rules.

            There are rules our parents taught us: for our own safety and survival, for their convenience, for your own good, because it’s always been a rule in our family, because what will people think?, because it’s God’s rule, because it’s the law, because I said so . . .

There are social rules for how to be acceptable, (which are subject to change depending on who we’re around and what their rules are): How to eat, talk, dress, how much to weigh, when to bathe, how to treat other people, how to be a good citizen, student, friend, neighbor, child, mother, father, wife, husband, grandparent, boss, employee, politician, teacher, taxpayer, artist. If I can make up my own rules and persuade enough others that my rules are right, I can make everyone subject to my rules — I can rule the world! (At least until someone else convinces enough people that their rules are better than mine.)

            There are people who write books about rules. Some make their career creating rules “for the people,” while some earn their living by enforcing the rules. There are rules that allow us to fire, sue, incarcerate, punish, shame, shun, divorce, “Baker Act,” or even end the life of someone who breaks the rules. There are also rules that prevent us from being too harsh with those who break our rules. We may get someone to defend us and convince enough others to agree that we didn’t break the rule, or that the rule didn’t apply or maybe there just isn’t enough evidence to prove that a rule was broken or that there was ever a rule in the first place.

            There are rules for how to punctuate and construct a sentence. There is a rule for writing that (as I interpret it) dictates if you use the word rule too often you might be breaking the rule of excess repetition.

            Each morning we decide (consciously or not) whose sandbox we’re going to play in. The costume I wear that fits the rules for work does not fit the rules for church, or the rules for Goth club, or the rules for the costume party, or the rules for the beach, or the rules for a meeting with my attorney. If I wear the wrong costume, I risk judgment, ridicule, or banishment. Some are blatant and established: “No shoes, no shirt, no service.” “It’s our policy.” “We recommend . . ” “Black tie…” “Come as you are…” “Casual attire.” “No sneakers.” “Coat and tie required” “Clothing optional,” “wear a mask” while others are implied: “Doesn’t she look like a slut?” “A little overdressed, don’t you think?” “Who’s he trying to impress?” “They’re just trying to get attention.”

            Some spend their days challenging universally accepted rules. At first they are ridiculed and shunned, but if they succeed in defying the rule, they become our heroes because they make it possible for us to fly like a bird, walk on the moon, dive to the depths of the oceans, or send sound waves through the air, around the world and into outer space instantly.

            We adhere unconsciously to the rule that dire consequences will follow if we put sugar into the gas tank of our cars, while regularly putting it into the bodies of our children. (There’s no rule against that! … is there?) We both may agree that it is against The Rules to ingest drugs, but your definition of “drugs” may not be the same as mine. Does your definition include alcohol, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, chemicals, (artifical colors, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives) and chemically refined, “fast” or “convenience” “foods.”

            Oh, it makes me so weary I just want to go and live by myself in the woods. Of course it would have to be my own property, subject to the zoning rules, and I would have to pay property tax, which would require some kind of income on which I would have to pay income tax. And I would have to hire someone to prepare my taxes so I don’t have to pay too much. That would require more income and I would have to have appropriate clothes to wear to work. I would have to buy the clothes because I don’t have time to make them since I’m so busy working and I guess I’d better get a car and buy some gas . . . Oh, by the way, they just passed a new rule that says the land I live on is protected because it’s next to a protected area and I have to get a lawyer to help me find out if it’s ok for me to build a house because the one I built myself is not up to code.

WARNING:  This document is protected by U.S. and international Copyright rules.

Creative Energy Flow . . .

Every painting has a story

“Floral Essence” Acrylic on 16″ x 20″ Canvas

The above image is how the painting looked after it was finished.

I wrote the following post on Facebook as the painting was evolving:

“Thank you for letting me share my joy of “energy” painting with you. Last night I was aching to start a new one. Working on “realistic” paintings can sometimes get tedious and I want to play!

I selected a 16″ x 20″ canvas and covered the entire canvas with Titanium White Chroma Interactive acrylic. This is so I don’t get bogged down later, trying to fill in places that have no paint. Next I chose my current favorite color: Alizarin Crimson, squeezed it from the tube directly onto a #10 Bristlon filbert brush.

I try to keep my my mind free – in a playful mood, feeling the paint flowing onto the canvas, watching how it mingles with the white, playing with many different brush strokes, feeling the resistance as the brush pushes and pulls the paint on the canvas, loving the many values of pink as they appear, adding a little more paint to the brush, pushing, pulling, dabbing, twisting the brush to see what happens. I like what I see so much that I want to stop – to not “ruin” what is already there.

So I challenge myself: Pick a color, any color, don’t think about it. So I grab a fat new tube of Naples Yellow! A rich, soft, whipped-buttery, somewhat muted yellow. Practical Mind says “Oh no! Yellow and Crimson will make a muddy orange-brown when you mix them!” Child Mind says “Lets see what happens!”

More playing with brush strokes, paint squeezed directly onto the brush, no cleaning the brush between colors. “More white!” Child Mind says, and the play continues. (All this takes place with the canvas on my lap, while I sit in my recliner chair, Stitch Kitty sleeping on the foot rest.) I get up to place the canvas on the easel so I can see what we’ve done, and Stitch thinks it’s time to eat.

When I return from feeding him, I am seeing the painting for the first time.

I look at it, the way we look at clouds, looking for recognizable forms. I turn the canvas horizontal and look again, and turn it again until I have studied it from all four angles, seeing different forms, shapes, and lines each time. Each time, the painting seems to ask for green – not a bright green, but a rich deep green – olive green. Again, same brush, not cleaning the brush between colors, filling in the spaces. Now the canvas is filled with paint.

I took this photo because I like it the way it is now – 3 paint colors plus white, about 45 minutes of paint application, about an hour of studying the canvas.

Image may contain: plant, flower and food

How do I know it’s not finished? I’ve learned to “listen” to the paint. As I look at it, study it, it will tell me what to do: “Follow this line. Add this color. More contrast. If I “listen” it will tell me what to do and it will tell me when it’s finished. So far, I see flowers, but I try not to get too locked in to what I want it to be, because I might miss something even better that will be revealed as I follow the energy of the painting. It’s so much fun!!! Try it! You’ll like it! It’s cheaper than therapy!

Isn’t it interesting that I could never repeat this same painting, even if I wanted to, even if I used the same colors and the same process.

Because Creative Energy, like a river, is always flowing.

A Tale of Three Paintings: An Energy Painting, and two Portraits

“Water” Acrylic on 11″ x 14″ Cradle Board –
Winner of the 2015 “Old Florida Festival of the Arts” Poster Contest

In 2016 I entered this painting “Water” in the Cedar Key “Old Florida Festival of the Arts” poster contest. The theme for that year’s poster was “It’s all about the Water.” I loved the theme and I was inspired!

I love doing Creative Energy paintings so I grabbed an 11″ x 14″ cradle board. (It’s a rather new surface for painting – a firmer surface than stretched canvas. It’s a thin, flat piece of fine-grain birch panel, supported by wood framing. The surface is prepared with gesso for archival, acid-free paint application.)

I used Atelier Interactive Acrylics and covered the surface with cerulean blue, with a few dabs of other water-inspired colors – some greens, ultramarine blue and turquoise and titanium white for variety in value. The colors were placed randomly, with no pre-planned image in mind – only the thought of Water. Little dabs of paint squirted directly from the tube and some quick brush strokes to blend and spread the paint randomly onto the surface. Eventually the circle shape revealed itself and all I had to do was clean up the edges to emphasize the shape of the circle. I hung the piece on the wall and studied it, turning it in different directions until I saw something that wanted to be developed, amazed that the shapes evolving were so representative of the theme. And this is how this painting directed me towards its completion.

Then I entered it in the poster contest. The winning image would be used for the poster for that year’s festival, as well as the t-shirts that would be sold during the festival, and post cards used to promote the festival. You can only imagine how excited and honored I was to learn that I had won the contest!

At the time I was a member of the Cedar Keyhole Artists Co-op Gallery and as a full-time member I worked 3 days a month, as all the members took turns keeping the gallery open. The “Keyhole” is located in a beautiful building on 2nd Street in Cedar Key and was purchased, and later donated to the City by one of the founding members of the Keyhole, under the condition that it always be used for the Arts in Cedar Key. The Cedar Key Arts Center was formed and is headquarted on the second floor of the building and all of the members of the co-op are also members of the Arts Center, as well as other artists who live and/or support the arts in Cedar Key.

I was working my shift one day, soon after learning that my painting had won the poster contest. There was a special exhibit in the Arts Center featuring local men artists. The theme for the show was “It’s a Guy Thing.” That day artists were bringing their work in to be part of this special exhibit. When Kevin Hipe came downstairs, the minute I saw him, I knew I must paint his portrait! I introduced myself and asked him if I could take his photo and paint his portrait, and he obliged.


Kevin Hipe, Cedar Key Artist. Acrylic on 11″ x 14″ Canvas

I went home that day and immediately began the portrait of Kevin, and finished it two weeks, just in time to take it with me for Kevin’s approval when I worked in the Keyhole again. He seemed to be pleased with the painting and I asked him if I could show it at the festival and he agreed, and then went around the village telling his friends to come in and see his portrait. (Kevin works in several media: Oil on Canvas, Collage and Assemblage.) Here’s a link to an interesting story I found about him:


Travis Parks, Acrylic on 11″ x 14″ Canvas

Later that day Travis Parks came in to see Kevin’s portrait and he asked if he could take it to the library across the street to show it to his friend Molly, who manages the library. When he returned with the painting he stood shyly by the counter, telling me how much he and Molly liked the painting. “No one has ever painted my portrait,” he said.

I considered that an invitation! “I would love to paint your portrait!” We went out to the courtyard and I took several shots of him. Travis is well-known to everyone on the island. One of his murals graces the wall on the opposite side of the courtyard from the building that houses the Keyhole co-op and the Arts Center. He told me that he spent several summers in Hawaii painting murals for big hotels there. Many more of his murals can be seen on buildings around the island. Here’s a link to an article about Travis’ art:

After I finished painting Travis, I started photographing every artist who came into the Arts Center while I was working a shift at the Keyhole. I decided it would be fun to paint as many of them as I could before the Old Florida Celebration of the Arts, where I would display them along with the original painting that would be featured on that Festival’s T-shirts, Posters and other promotional material.

My next blog will tell the story of the other artists’ portraits I did for this Festival.