Friday, January 28, 2011

All Creatures Great and Small

I had intended to write on a totally different subject, but realized that 5 of my last 6 paintings posted were of animals, so thought this would be more appropriate.

I have always had a strong connection with animals. Not just to the normal cats and dogs. Fur, feathers or scales, it didn't matter. I was captivated. I could relate to them more than people, easily getting inside their heads and understanding their motivations, their reactions, their fears. One of my favorite books I had as a kid was a field guide to bats that I bought with allowance money at the Heard Museum in McKinney, Texas. The grocery store carried an 'animal encyclopedia' book series. My mom would buy one each week. I'd be excitedly waiting for each one. Unfortunately, I never got the entire set, but I read what I had over and over and studied the pictures of the animals. Neighbors would ask my parents if they could 'borrow' me if their pet escaped and wouldn't come to them...they would come to me. Animals drawings were certainly the bulk of my artwork growing up and I return to the subject periodically for my paintings...and there is likely a pet hair or two embedded in every painting I've created.

One of the earliest pieces that I remember doing was of a cat, in school, probably second grade. I was concentrating hard when the teacher reached down with a pencil and drew a new foot on my cat, suggesting I should do it differently. I couldn't believe she had just drawn on top of my picture. I didn't say anything, but I know I shot her a very angry look, which would have surprised her since I was one of the really quiet, shy kids. She never did that again, though.

Walk into my home and it's obvious the love affair never ended. Currently we have 5 dogs, 5 cats and 3 parrots. Most were adopted or found, some had suffered abuse. The furry ones have plenty of room to run in a semi-rural setting. Having 3 supposedly antagonistic species living together has not been an issue. The dogs play with the cats. Some of the cats think they are dogs, one parrot meows, the other parrots think that we are all one big flock and are most at ease when everyone is in the same room.

One of the qualities I love best about animals is their honesty. You often hear people talk about the unpredictability of animals. I disagree. Their emotions are completely out in the open. You just have to be paying attention. Read their emotions through body language and you know exactly what they want and how they are going to act. People hide their true feelings. They may say things just to hurt you, or the opposite, not say something for fear of hurting you. My husband has this quality of honesty and I never have to guess whether he is concealing something. Sometimes my emotions get bruised, but I prefer that to having to guess what he is really thinking.

Animal intelligence is something so many people still dismiss and I don't understand why. I have watched our pets over the years do fairly complex problem solving. Do people think that admitting animal intelligence somehow diminishes our own? Why would it? Here is one example that actually flies in the face of my earlier honesty comments. Our Australian Shepherd mix LIES. I've caught her in many over the years. This is my favorite story.

I taught Turbo when she was quite young that if she found something on the floor that she wanted; she had to come ask me if she could have it. This worked well. I'd either say 'yes' or I'd take it, but praise her for bringing it to me. No downside for her.

One day I'm sitting on the sofa and she comes and sits right in front of me and stares at my face. I ask her what she wants and proceed through the entire list of you need to potty....are you No response. None. I finally wave my hand dismissively and say 'okay. okay.' Immediately she leaves, which I found odd. Within seconds I hear the sound of fabric tearing. I look behind the sofa and see her with a sock; holding one end down with her front paws and the other end in her mouth pulling on it. I start to yell. Then I picture her sitting in front of me and I come to the realization that she had that sock stuffed completely in her mouth and 'technically' I said okay. I didn't yell. I didn't react. I just sat back down.

Some of you are saying, yeah, yeah, I don't believe it. Well, I wasn't quite convinced myself. If she deliberately misled me, imagine the forethought that went into it. It's pretty complex.

A couple weeks go by and here she is again. Sitting in front of me, not responding to any of my suggestions on what she wants. Only this time I reach down to open her mouth. Suddenly, her jaws have the strength of an alligator's. Turbo is not about to let me see what is in there. I start sticking my fingers between her teeth and prying. She finally gives in. There sitting on the middle of her tongue is a Hershey's Kiss. Still wrapped in foil. Paper flag intact. Not a single tooth mark.

Of course I took it. Neither one of us can eat chocolate, so I have no idea where she found it, but this confirmed that I was right. She was definitely plotting to deceive me into giving her something that she knew I wouldn't otherwise AND without outright disobeying me. She was only 2 years old. I'm not sure that a human 2-year old could formulate such a plot.

Miss Turbo is 17 now and still quite a character. I'm thankful for every day I have left with her. I know the end cannot be far off now and even though I will be devastated by her passing, I wouldn't have missed knowing her for the world.

It's been said that how we treat animals today is how we will be judged in the future. I agree. Every living creature deserves respect. Domestic or wild. We should give them the best life we can.

About the painting:
One of 2 kittens we recently adopted

"She Had a Busy Day"
8" x 9"
Acrylic on Board
(contact me if you are interested in this piece)

See all of Rebecca's paintings at

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Goat's Life

"A Goat's Life"
10.75" x 11.75"
Acrylic on board
(contact me if interested in this piece)

View all Rebecca's work at

Goat Study

"Goat Study"


Acrylic on board

(contact me if interested in this piece)

View all Rebecca's work at

"Just Waking" aka Chloe Monster

This is kitten Chloe. I was tempted to name this "Chloe Monster" since that is the nickname she has acquired. I painted this over several evenings. Two of which were interrupted by the sound of breaking glass. First a small glass containing a single daisy had been knocked off the counter. The second was the Christmas garland bannister decoration being pulled off with pine cones, berries and glass ornaments scattered everywhere. Chloe had a little help from sister Olive with that one. A second painting of her sleeping -looking deceptively sweet- will be posted soon. Actually, both kittens are incredibly affectionate. They are just at a highly curious stage of development.

"Just Waking"
Acrylic on board
(contact me if interested in this piece)

View all my work at


Thursday, January 20, 2011

What Makes Art Good?

Over the last couple of weeks I've gotten e-mails, seen Facebook messages and run across documentaries that all lead back to the very basic question of... "what makes art good?"

Not something easily answered. There is certainly no consensus in the art world among artists. There is a movement afoot. A return to classicism. That may not be an entirely accurate word for it, but there are artists pushing hard to refocus the art world on highly realistic styles of painting. They wonder aloud, "if a patron wandered into a gallery or museum and saw a Picasso or Mondrian without the name or price tag present, would they still assign such an incredible value to it?" They have a point.

Some people think artists like and appreciate all styles of art. There are probably some who do, but overall we are just as likely to be opinionated and say "that looks like a 3-year old did it" as anyone else. Personally, abstract usually doesn't do a lot for me. That said, I have seen some beautiful abstracts that have completely captivated me. I think some people see a piece of 'art' and think, wow, I have no idea what that means, so it must be art. It must be good. Why? If you don't understand or connect to the piece why buy it?

I've watched it happen in local art auctions. Certain key words open wallets a little wider...nationally-recognized, solo shows, featured in books, gallery representation...suddenly those works become worth more even when works of equal or greater ability are present and sold for much less. Something that bothers me even more than matching art to your sofa colors is buying art purely because someone else says it's good. What's the point?...okay, I know, the hope is that some time in the future this piece of art will skyrocket in value and fund your retirement, but really, what are the odds. Buy what you love (and can afford) and proudly display it.

I recently watched a documentary on N.C. Wyeth and family. Apparently Andrew was waging a constant battle within himself over whether his work was illustration or painting. He wanted to be a painter. This I can relate to. I was trained as an illustrator, but I don't think it's always so easy to draw a line between the two. Why does one have to be better than the other? Sometimes what we value in the fine art world seems so arbitrary to me.

I like impressionism very much...can't do it myself...but I love it. Most people don't know that in their own lifetime, the impressionists weren't accepted into major shows or were hung in the back out of the way. I mean, who ever heard of a yellow sky! They were shunned and had to start their own shows to get their work in front of the public. Now we highly admire their work.

Perhaps as a society we go through phases, but what drives them, the media? I'm not entirely sure. I think all artists should study design, color, form. Learn from the masters of the past, but in the end, I think there is room for all styles of suit all tastes of buyers. Is it good? Make YOUR OWN decision.

About the Painting:

Not yet titled

Acrylic on Board

12" x 16"


This is a field off highway 51 between Granbury and Weatherford, Texas that I am rather fond of. Late summer sun setting the grasses aglow.

Sparrow's Garden

Newly Completed...
"Sparrow's Garden"
Acrylic on Board
24" high x 15" wide


To read about the creation of this piece go to (post titled: The Good The Bad and The Ugly)

To see all my paintings visit my website

Friday, January 14, 2011


‎"Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed." -G.K. Chesterton

I recently posted this quote on my Facebook page. It struck a cord with me. Overcoming fears, perceived or actual, is something that's been a struggle for me for much of my life. My youngest sister has done a lot of research on shyness, since her daughter and she, like me are innately shy, cautious people. We analyze every new situation looking for danger and thinking of ways to prevent harm. It's instinctual, likely genetic. Society doesn't value those traits, instead bold and fearlessness are admired. If we were a flock of birds or herd of deer, though, it's the shy wary ones, ever watchful, that perceive danger first and warn the rest of the flock, saving their lives.

Of the tortoise and the hare...I am the tortoise.
The ant and the grasshopper...I am the ant.

I've always been an artist. I went through a period where I did not do any fine art painting...that's for another blog. One of the first Christmas gifts I got from my husband was a bunch of acrylic paints, brushes and canvas board. This was around 2003. I was grateful for the encouragement, but I stared at them, doubting my ability. Slowly, the way of the cautious, I regained confidence. I started entering shows. I started winning awards. I was asked to have solo shows. Okay, maybe people actually liked my work.

I think the most touching compliments I received were on a piece called "Hands by Candlelight." Several people told me it made them cry. It was a simple composition of a pair of hands holding a votive candle. Each saw something personal in it. Some knew my story, some didn't. I was dumbfounded that I could elicit such a response with my work.

So, after much thought, planning and risk assessment, I decided to start placing advertisements in national magazines for my art. The first quarter page ad should be coming out within days in Southwest Art.

I'm both excited ...and worried... some of you will understand.

Visit my website to see all my artwork

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Good The Bad and The Ugly

It's a new year and I was honored to be invited to join the Daily Painters of Texas and Contemporary Fine Art International organizations. This is my first blog here, though I have done a bit of blogging in the past. I hope you enjoy my thoughts. I'm aiming for transparency...honesty.

I've recently started doing something I haven't done before...posting images of works in progress. This means showing not only the good, but potentially the bad and the ugly. This is something I wouldn't have even considered doing in the past. I know from my background in advertising how potent a carefully crafted image can be and how little it takes to nick and deflate it. I was also raised in an environment where every little mistake, perceived or actual, was ridiculed. Early on, I worked in secrecy. No one would see ANYTHING until it was as perfect as I could make it. Comments didn't roll off my back, but instead seeped slowly into the deepest parts of my brain chipping away at the facade of self-confidence I tried to project. It was a defense mechanism-learned self-preservation.

Like many people, it took a traumatic shake up in my life for me to reevaluate my actions. Walling myself off didn't just pertain to my art, but to most aspects of my life where I feared being hurt. I was in the hospital for several weeks due to a undiagnosed illness before I let my husband tell any friends or family I was there. It wasn't their business, I said. I didn't want to be the subject of gossip and I didn't want anyone to see me this way; unable to walk across the floor without falling, to even sit up by myself, hair falling out, body blown up like a balloon. I think it was more that I thought they wouldn't care. Wouldn't come. Even worse, they might pity me. I couldn't show anyone I was this weak. That I needed help. That would just prove everything I had drilled into me throughout much of my life. It wasn't until the doctors said, "You will die without surgery. Even with surgery, you will likely suffer major complications or still die," that I said okay. Even then, I didn't expect or ask anything of anyone.

So showing my errors, my mistakes, my flaws is particularly hard for me...on me. I'm working to be more open. I also believe that less experienced artists and non-artists need to know that art isn't always this effortless, romantic thing that just flows from the brush to the's actually work. If it is always effortless, I'd say that the artist isn't challenging themselves, isn't objectively critiquing their art, isn't growing. There is always more to learn. You'll find a hunger for learning in a serious artist.

"Sparrow's Garden" is specifically for an art show to run concurrent with a Master Gardener's convention in my town this coming Spring. The painting and photography will all feature local gardens. Since I'm also a gardener, this is of my own garden and one of my cats, Sparrow. I typically work from photos and shot several of her on the sandstone boulder. I really liked her position in the picture at the left in the photo, but when I began painting, it became apparent that she wasn't integrating into the garden scene. After much debate with myself and friends online, I was asked to keep the cat in. I had considered painting her out completely. I looked for alternate positions. It is not easy to paint out something that you have put a lot of time into. It's hard to separate from the emotional attachment and be truly objective. A lot of artists can't bring themselves to do it, or have to put the painting away for a while and come back to it, but after looking at the 2 images side by side, the second position of the cat looks much better. One person said that it even looks like 2 completely different paintings.

So here I am. Still learning. Growing...and even Sharing.