March 30, 2013

The past few months have been full of art adventures in and around Tucson. I can quite honestly say that I have immersed myself in art – and I’m loving it.

To start with, I took on an unofficial challenge to do a drawing, in ink (no erasing), every day for 75 days – just 16 days to go – and it’s becoming addictive.

Then, having come to the conclusion that I don’t know as much about color as I thought, I also signed up for a color theory class at The Drawing Studio. We use colored pencils, which I never much liked, but I’m enjoying the class immensely as my art adventures continue.

Sweetwater Wetlands in TucsonSweetwater Wetlands

There was a three-day workshop offered through one of the local galleries that sounded great to me as the instructor was to be a palette knife painter, Roger Alderman. As I paint with a palette knife, this was right up my alley. He uses bigger knives and much more paint; I tend to use small knives and get too fussy, so it sounded like this particular art adventure would be a great opportunity to loosen up. However, not enough people signed up so the class was cancelled which was a big disappointment.

I joined the Tucson Plein Air Painters Society and have been to several paintouts with them. TPAPS is a large, very active group of painters, mostly in oil, and they get together twice a month from October to May to paint in and around Tucson. Once a month the paintout is held at one of Pima County’s many parks. These feature a demonstration painting at the start, then everyone else (around 20 people come each time), sets up and paints as long as they want to. One of these was at Sweetwater Wetlands, a beautiful spot for an art adventure, with lots of ducks, which happens to be a wastewater treatment facility. I'm still somewhat timid about painting plein air, but got so inspired by the demo there, that I came home and did a painting myself from my photos, then another as the first didn’t please me. (Maybe by the 3rd or 4th one, I'll be satisfied.)

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Tumacacori National Historic ParkTumacacori National Historical Park

Roger Alderman did the demo at Colossal Cave Mountain Park in Vail recently. After watching him, I painted – it was great fun to slap on so much paint. The two small paintings I've done so far I consider to be practice pieces and plan to do a larger one of each.

More Art Adventures

I’ve also joined the Tucson Pastel Society. They meet at least twice a month to draw or paint with pastels. And, I am now a member of the Sketchbook Brigade. We meet once or twice a week to sketch or paint, most recently at Tumacacori National Historic Park. The Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild (SAWG) has a group that meets every Tuesday morning. The Sketchbook Brigade was recommended to me by a few artists met at an opening. I joined this group through, an organization available in many cities and a wonderful resource for folks new to the city for discovering groups of people with similar interests – art adventures, writing, hiking, politics, etc. It’s a regular smorgasbord – so many opportunities, so little time.

The Last Supper - Garden of Gethsemane, TucsonLast Supper at the Garden of Gethsemane

Although I dislike hauling all my gear out to plein air paint, it seems I get nothing done if I don’t schedule things like this. I keep meaning to paint at home, but too many other things get in the way. All the groups meet in various locations in and around Tucson, so I am discovering places I didn’t know about which is a lot of fun. The other advantage is getting some feedback on my efforts. Most of these groups “go dark” during the summer -  it’s much too hot to stand around painting, and we lose our “snowbird” members as they all head to their homes in some cooler parts of the country.

One of my art adventure discoveries has been the Garden of Gethsemane, which has an interesting story. As Felix Lucero lay dying on a World War I battlefield, he made a promise to the Virgin Mary to spend his life creating Christian art if she would let him live. He survived and, twenty years later, was having hard times in Tucson, living under the Congress Street Bridge in a cardboard and plywood shack. He began sculpting statues, molded from damp sand, reinforced with debris recovered from the Santa Cruz riverbed, and covered with plaster.

The Pomeranz Family - Giants Fans

The statues suffered from time, the elements, and acts of vandalism, but they have survived and been often repaired and are in a little park close to where Felix had lived under the bridge. The day I was there, a man, hired by one of the local groups that works to maintain the park, was re-plastering the figures in the scene from the Last Supper.

Felix Lucero died in 1951.  Occasionally other homeless people sleep in the bushes near the gates, but apparently they aren’t sculptors, as no new sculptures have appeared.

During one of the Sketchbook Brigade’s sessions at La Encantada Mall, I met a nice couple from Montana who were RVing in the area. She’s also a painter and we’re both enamored of palette knife painters so we’ve been e-mailing each other about our art adventures and discoveries since then.

Along with all this painting and drawing, I had art adventures of another kind, going with a friend to a few of the vendors at the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Show, the fourth largest such show in the country. Also a Sketchbook friend and I had a great day at the Tubac Festival of Art.

This past week, I took a day off from art adventures and drove up to Mesa to meet Jeff, Laurie and Jack for a ballgame. Their beloved Giants are part of the so-called Cactus League and come to Arizona each spring for their spring training. Jeff, et al, do their best to follow them and catch a few games. We don't get to see each other often, so this was a special treat. My grandson Jack will be 11 years old this summer - hard to believe!

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Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil ShowTucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Show

It’s spring in Tucson; flowers are starting to bloom on the prickly pear and there are blossoms on the various citrus trees. As I do my walking through the neighborhood, I am assailed with the loveliest aroma. The harvest from my own little orange tree was 24 delicious oranges which I picked all at once to save them from a hard frost in January.

I’ve been swimming several times in the past couple of months. If you timed it right, there was one day you could have gone swimming in the morning, then driven up Mt. Lemmon to the Ski Valley to ski in the afternoon. Now, of course, it’s really starting to warm up, so I’ll be swimming several times a week, and taking early morning walks on the other days.


The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers.  A tale of various misfits in a small Southern mill town, all yearning to escape their lives. She wrote this when she was just 23 - an incredible storyteller. Can't believe I never read it before.

The Journal Keeper - Phyllis Theroux. Marilyn Russell recommended this book which I just finished - loved it! Her writing is wonderful - she uses similes that really capture my attention - and her mother, who lived with her at the end of her life, was totally captivating - quite a psychic.

The Confessions of Nat Turner - William Styron. In 1831, the only effective revolt in the history of Negro slavery took place in southeastern VA. This novel is based on published confession of the leader of that revolt  - an incredible first person narrative.

Flight Behavior - Barbara Kingsolver. Rich, elegant writing, as always - this time she takes on climate change and the unexpected juxtaposition of rural farmers, journalists, religious faith, and a biologist. A pleasure to read.

A Man Without a Country - Kurt Vonnegut. These mini memoirs take a funny and sharp look at life, art, politics and himself.

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Canada - Richard Ford.  A coming of age adventure story - realizing one's own identity through narrative, memories, and self-examination. When fifteen-year-old Del Parsons' parents rob a North Dakota bank, his normal life is altered forever. His parents are imprisoned; Del and his twin sister Berner are left alone. Berner flees their Montana home for California; Del is spirited across the Canadian border by a friend. Great characterization – good story, though it took me awhile to become engrossed – seemed quite repetitive at times.

Maine - J.Courtney Sullivan  Decent summer read - interesting story but it didn't really make an impression on me.

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald.  A re-read. What can I say? 

Our Kind of Traitor - John Le Carre'.   Good story, but I couldn't get into it - maybe because it was large print?

Last Night in Twisted River - John Irving. The large print version is 858 pages. A great story of a boy and his father forced to go on the run because the boy had mistaken the local constable's girlfriend for a bear. They are protected by an outspoken and fiercely libertarian logger - a most wonderful character. Another hit for Irving.

Sophie's Choice - William Styron.  Somehow I never read this before. Did I see the movie? A powerfully written story.

Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger. How did I miss this classic when I was in school? 

I seem to be catching up on the classics and also reading assorted books on art during these months of art adventures.

And what have you been reading lately? Let me know, please.

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