Oils by Tracy

It’s been a long time since my days of trying to find and agent or publisher, when I’d spend a fortune going from one writers’ conference to another, flying or driving around the country hoping readers would buy my existing books, or a publisher or agent would take me and my idea on board. It was hard, demoralizing at times. Ultimately, I chose Shadowridge Press as my publisher because they do beautiful work and spend a lot of time on design. I was mostly responsible for my own marketing and since I hate that sort of thing, I have a lot of books in boxes at home, and a lot of stuff on Amazon that doesn’t move. It’s my own fault for not making an effort but in my defense, I spent YEARS trying to sell, and schmoozing, and spending money on marketing. In the words of Bartleby, “I would prefer not to” continue to do that.

But painting is something else entirely. I don’t feel a need to sell, sell, sell. I’m not looking for my big break, one painting that’ll set me for life and pay off my house. I paint because I like it, because when I do a pet portrait, I smile when I’m painting, and the people I paint for smile when they see the final product.

Recently my future son-in-law started making beautiful, high-end cutting boards. Instagram @travwoodworks

He discovered a Makers’ Market in town and signed up for a table. I did as well, figuring since I’ve got a couple of dozen paintings, and am creating more all the time, I ought to try to sell some. I have my originals, prints, and have a shingle out to take commissions for pet portraits. The vibe when I’m doing this for pleasure instead of to support myself is very different. Yes, I want to get paid for work I do, but I also like the events and talking to people, getting to know others, and hearing from passersby that my pups and the paintings are cute.

All the pictures I’ve posted in the past were photos of paintings. To give a better idea of the quality, here are some high-resolution scans.

I’ll be working on the new kids’ book and will hopefully have it for sale at the Maker’s Market in the next couple of months. Keep an eye out for new paintings and shows.

As always, thanks for reading.

Stay creative!

Tracy

Writing and Illustrating a Children’s Book II

The book is just about done, Meaning the rough draft at least. All painting are complete, except one. Once I finish that one I’ll do one more run through for final brush strokes. The narrative parts of the story are also nearly done. I decided to tell the story in poem form since it’s for kids. Here’s a picture of most of the paintings in various stages, plus the “Very formal” outline of the book with notes.

In the next part of the book, where I left off in the last post, Anna tells Granola that it’s time for her to go, for good. She says Granola is ready. Granola is saddened by this so runs away from home, has a good cry on a rainy day, and is finally brought home by her parents. She gets a warm bath and lots of hugs.

Later, Mom sits Granola and Scruffy down and tells them some big news.

In the end, time passes. Granola turns two! She doesn’t see Anna anymore but says she knows Anna still watches over them all. Except she says this in kid-friendly terms, in rhyme.

I’m still working on the cover but here it is, still in progress.

My next post about this book will be when it’s done and ready to read. Until then I’ll be focusing on some of the other paintings and my new foray into Makers’ Markets and selling my work.

Happy Creativity! Thanks for reading.

Tracy

Writing and Illustrating a Children’s Book

Though I’ve sworn off writing fiction and instead have thrown myself into oil painting, I’ve realized recently that maybe there’s a way to do both.

The day after Christmas, my old Schnauzer Anna passed away from complications of dementia and heart disease. My dog Granola was very close to her old doggy sister, though she also adores her middle- aged buddy Scruffy. One day I noticed Granola looking in a mirror, so I photographed her as I often do. I decided instantly to paint it but then got the idea to add Anna in, but only on one side.

From there I became completely pulled into the idea of writing a book about loss for children. I planned out the book on index cards, just like old times. Though this time there weren’t as many cards as an 80,000 word novel needs a bit more planning.

I decided to start the story when Granola was little. These paintings still need a little touching up but they’re a good sneak preview.

Over time, Anna’s age started to get the best of her. One day she got sick and Granola and Scruffy waited and waited. But she didn’t come home… Note my masterful sketches I use as a guide.

After that day, the pups were very sad…

Soon after, in the book, Granola sees Ghost Anna in the mirror, where it all started. She is very excited until she jumps right through her. She runs and hides but eventually comes out again, tentatively. Again, not to worry, these paintings are drafts. I’d never post drafts of writing online but with paintings I think it’s fun to see the process. I’m grateful my dogs are so good about picture time.

After that, when Granola saw Anna’s ghost wasn’t going to hurt her, it made her happy. Anna stuck around for a while. They hung out and played games together, though Scruffy couldn’t see her and thought it was her imagination. Why I got the idea of puzzles I’ll never know but I thought it would be fun to paint.

That’s plenty of teaser for now. I’ve got a lot more paintings done and only ONE PICTURE left to paint. Then I have to work out the narrative part. I know what I want to say but any good writer will tell you, it’s how you say it. And that, I don’t have figured out yet.

I’ll share more soon but didn’t want you all to think I was being lazy or binge watching TV with my “free” time. Okay, I am also binge watching TV, from behind my easel. I highly recommend Offspring and Wilfred. I’ve recently started watching LOST which I haven’t seen since it aired. And of course the perfect shows whose seasons end all too quickly, This Is Us and Call the Midwife.

Until next time, happy painting!

Tracy

Oil Paintings- A Continuing Journey

Since my last post, I’ve had twinges of longing to write again. I’ve sat down at my laptop and “scribbled” down some badly written starts. In the past I’d persevere until the bad scribbles turned into something good. But with my long hiatus from writing, it’s still difficult to bring myself to write much more than blogs. In the meantime, I’ve been exploring my newfound love of painting.

When I was very young I loved to draw. I wanted to be an artist when I grew up but wasn’t good at it. This was back in the 70s and we didn’t have much money so art lessons in person weren’t even thought of. When we were kids, we played outside a lot and followed our creative pursuits and let our schools lead the way. There was no Internet or YouTube, no online lessons. Maybe there were art books in the library but writing stories came a lot more naturally to me. So that’s what I did. In sixth grade, I still really liked drawing and art class but because of budget cuts (Prop 2 I think it was called) only the tops kids got to pursue art in seventh and eighth grade in a class they called Super Art. I wasn’t chosen, not by a long shot, so that was that with art except for occasional cartoons I’d draw for myself or others.

When I took an oil painting class months ago it was a random happenstance, and I didn’t expect much. I couldn’t draw so I wouldn’t be able to paint. I’ve learned in the last several months that they don’t have to be interrelated. When I paint now, I’ve got the same excitement and enthusiasm I had when I was a child.

Since the last post here are the paintings I’ve finished. I’m throwing fewer in the trash and more are being hung on my wall or sent to people who want them hanging in their homes. This is a wonderful feeling, seeing my work on someone else’s wall. Each day something I created brings them joy. There’s nothing better than that.

Without further ado, here’s my newest stuff.

We’ll see what 2022 brings but for now as long as I’m doing something creative, I think I’ll be just fine.

Here’s to a creative and happy 2022.

-Tracy

Oil Painting- Dog Portraits

I’ve been painting like a madwoman because whenever I start a new hobby I go full force. I started painting dogs for practice and feel like I’m getting pretty good at it, enough to start selling them one of these days. Maybe it wouldn’t be as much fun if I had to do it but I may explore this and put any money earned toward my credit card debt. And if I don’t go that route, I’ll paint a bunch more and hang them to add fun and whimsy to my living room wall.

Here are the ones I’ve completed to date. The black and white ones are all of my Granola. The Australian Shepherd is my friend’s dog, Jasper. The terrier-type dog is my stepfather’s buddy Scooter.

This weekend I did the two below. The little brown dog, Maysie, belongs to my husband’s coworker. The poodle is my father-in-law’s dog, Bridget.

I’ve got two more to paint that someone requested and then I’m seriously going to consider opening an Etsy shop or at least advertising locally. I’m a little intimidated with trying to paint humans but I should give that a shot too.

Painting is so relaxing. The materials are a bit expensive but once I have the paints they last a while, except for black and white which I use up pretty quickly. I use Winsor and Newton Paints, Artist’s line, linseed oil and Dammar Varnish. I’ve been using the Winsor Winton Titanium White from Amazon because I use so much. It’s a little thicker but the oil thins is nicely.

I’ve got shelves full of tile and need to get back to mosaics one of these days. The only reason I’ve slowed down, okay two reasons, are the mosquitos that are STILL HERE even though it’s October 31st. Happy Halloween by the way. And second, I used up all the wall I can easily get to that’s not obstructed by plants. Any new work I do will need to be on the hill and it’s a lot harder to tile, lugging up heavy tile, water, and grout.

I hope you enjoy the paintings and feel a bit inspired.

-Tracy

My Mosaic Wall – My Sugar Glider

A lot of people still don’t know what a Sugar Glider is, which is probably a good thing. They’re adorable, snuggly, loyal, and more work than someone would expect for a tiny marsupial that weighs less five ounces. A lot of people buy them on impulse, like Ivy and I did, and then realize they’re not just an expensive, smart, hamster-sized creature that is content to live alone in a cage and chew things. A lot of them end of being neglected or rehomed. Ivy and I had one for eight years until she passed away. Mia, as we named her, had a lot of adventures with us. She was on Pets 101 on the Animal Planet with us, played escape artist and got lost several times in our old place, and spent about six hours a day on average sleeping in my shirt and sharing my lunch when I worked from home.

A few weeks ago I thought it would be fun to add a sloth to a bare spot I had on the wall. I looked at cartoon pics of a sloth and laid out a draft of it on a 12 inch square tile. I was pretty excited at how cute it was and expected this to be an easy project. I used bathroom white tile from the Habitat for Humanity Restore, gray floor tile from the same store, and various pieces of brown glass tile and black penny tiles from Home Depot. I’ve got some Dollar Tree broken plates for the leaves.

Unfortunately once I added it to the wall it looked terrible. But I wasn’t worried because once I add the grout everything usually falls into place. Except because there was so much white, it didn’t look at all like a sloth.

So I painted the in between spots with black grout paint. It looked ridiculous. And worse, I discovered sloths didn’t have tails so I had to chip away the tail, much to the annoyance of the husky next door who DID NOT LIKE all that hammering and chiseling. This was the final, which I hated. I planned to go out the next day and chip the whole thing off the wall which I have never done before but I was not pleased with it, at all.

When I looked at it closely, I saw that it kind of reminded me of Mia, my old Sugar Glider. She was gray and hung upside down from things and resembled this bad attempt at a sloth. She passed away a few years ago and I had failed to memorialize her on the wall previously.

I picked up medium gray grout stain and mixed it with my grout. I chiseled away the nose and the sky where the big ears would need to go. I didn’t want to chip away the sky where the sloth tail had once been, and add the tail back. But Sugar Gliders have long tails. I placed the tail tile over the sky tile, to go give it a 3D look but more so because I didn’t want to start chipping away too much of the long-settled piece beside it.

Finally, my finished result! Still not great but a lot cuter than it was before and now I’ve got my little Mia to make me smile when I look at the wall.

Now that I’ve got the gray stain I may go back and work on the Easter Island heads again. If I do, I’ll add an update to the last entry.

Two weeks ago I started an oil painting class so I may be adding pictures of new art one of these days.

Until then, happy creatiing!

Tracy

My Mosaic Wall-Easter Island Heads

Most of my mosaic projects have been small and somewhat abstract. After finishing the hands around the world piece, I got ambitious and decided to put some Easter Island heads on the back wall. We’re doing the yard in Tiki decor and I thought this would be a fun touch. It took me a good two weeks to complete this. Keep in mind, I work full time and do volunteer work, and have life stuff, so this wasn’t a solid two weeks of non-stop work. It was just when I could find time. It was probably a good 20 hours though, all told.

I started with sketches to get an idea of shading, I went through a lot of plates from Dollar Tree and the 99 Cent Only Store. I also used a lot of Home Depot and Lowe’s gray floor tile. I used black penny tiles from Lowe’s as well. The hardest part of all of this, besides the sore neck and back and the heat, was that I had to keep going up and down the hill for supplies. I also do a lot of stepping back from a piece to see it from far away and I couldn’t do that without walking up and down the hill. Good thing I have stone steps built into the hill, courtesy of my daughter and future son-in-law.

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Robert and I are just to the left of the left head, for scale. There was a lot of good, gray color before I added the grout. Once I slathered in the white grout, it started to look washed out.

Once it was fully grouted, I needed to scrub any leftover grout off the black pieces. I went to Home Depot and bought gray grout paint. The floor tile I used for the gray was porous so I had to scrub the gray grout paint off all the tile, piece by piece, with a toothbrush and wet cloth. It was really hot that day and it dried almost immediately. It was so light gray it was almost white so barely made a difference. It helped a little to bring the piece back to life though.

Next I painted around the eyes, forehead and mouth, and outlines with black grout paint. That made a big difference. When the sun went down a little, the contrast came back. A lot of the faded-out illusion was just the blinding sun. It’s pretty far from the backyard so here are closeups of the UFO and Robert and me. Why did I add a UFO you may ask? Why not.

Here’s our Tiki yard (in progress) at night with the heads (top right of photo) illuminated by our solar spotlight. All the lights you see are solar. We LOVE the solar lights!

Until my next post, stay creative!

Tracy

My Mosaic Wall – Holding Hands Around the World

Since the wall beside my house is getting full, I decided to start adding mosaics to the back wall, at the top of my hill. I knew it was going to be a large project. It would have to be so we could see it from the patio. Here’s my original sketch. I planned to surround the earth with people holding hands. Looking at the finished product every day (we can see it from the couch in the living room if we scrunch down) reminds me that there’s a lot of love and hope in this world.

I wanted the people to be uniform size which I would not be able to accomplish unless I bought pieces already cut. I picked up a few containers of these from Amazon. I never measure anything and was relieved in the end that I had just about enough of the little pieces to complete the people circle. For consistency’s sake I decided to use black penny tiles for the heads since I only had blue, black or silver. I like the uniformity of the black heads.

The first day involved smashing a lot of Dollar Tree green plates. Finding green tile is really hard so I rely on Dollar Tree plates, and sometimes The 99 Cent Only Store. In this case I used up all my plates (1st picture) then had to stop for the day. Carrying tile up and down the hill, and trying to kneel and balance among the cacti and gopher holes was physically taxing. Luckily Granola was there to keep me company.

The next day I smashed some new plates. I finished the land masses and started on the water. I had some Dollar Tree blue plates, some small (about 3 inch) mosiac or subway tile from Lowe’s, and some of my friends’ leftover pool tile. I decided to add in a “love ocean” just because. I’m used to doing a whole project in an hour or two and grout it the next day. This was a much larger project and took four days overall.

Day three I used tile adhesive to glue all the people around the earth. I started on the bottom because I knew I’d be too worn out to sit in that position and stretch all the way up by the end. It was a good decision. This step took four hours (straight). Initially I was going to add the people and put yellow tile all around them. But because of the work involved, and how cute they looked on the tile, I decided against it. One thing I hadn’t considered was that if I put adhesive on the back of the pieces and pressed down, there would be extra goop that I needed to clean off. The pieces were small and hard to maneuver so I used a wooden skewer and had to clean up around all the edges, piece by piece, person by person.

By the end, there were 53 little people around the circle. I started with solid colored people but I ran out of matches and the ones on the top are all different colors. Finished product without the grout.

At night a solar spotlight shines on it. It was a lot of work but this is my favorite mosaic so far. I do feel a little bad that we can probably never sell the house now both because I love the wall too much and also because a new owner may not love it at all. Since I plan to be here until I’m dead, I’m not too worried about it and will keep beautifying the concrete.

Here’s to creativity!

-Tracy

My Mosaic Wall – Mosaic Jerry

A few weeks ago, my former boss passed away unexpectedly. He was a bright sunny person all the years I knew him. After I got past the initial shock, I knew I had to honor him by adding him to my wall. Now when I go outside, I see his smiling face and remember all the good he did while he was here. He will be missed but will also have a place on my wall and in my heart.

I used various types of tile here. His hair and eyes are black penny tiles from Lowes. His face, floor tile from Home Depot. His glasses were strips of glass tile which do not smash well. For those I had to drag my wet saw from the shed and carefully cut the glass in strips. All the white parts were donated tile from a friend who was cleaning her garage.

Overall, I think it looks enough like him to bring me joy when I see him up there.

I think it’s fitting that he rests by the California flag, the Coronavirus 2020, and the Hope Sunset heart.

RIP Jerry

-Tracy

My Mosaic Wall – The California Flag

I’m at a crossroads with my wall. The area I can see from my patio is full. I now have to stand to my left to see all of it where the corner of the house is. To the left of the wall is a tree I don’t want to tile behind. I could tile up the wall on the hill, or against the back wall but I’m worried about water from when I water the plants. At this point I think I’ve decided I’ll continue the wall even if it’s beside the house and I can’t get a picture of it all at once. That’s what video is for.

For today though, I’m posting about my take on the California flag with its symbolic bear. One thing I learned pretty quickly into this project is that drawing bears is hard. Here are the first few steps I took. As you can see I wasn’t off to a promising start.

With determination, this finally all came together. All told it took about two hours the first day, and about fifteen minutes the next day for the grouting. First picture is the end of day one with no grout. When the project was done, I used black grout paint to make the bear’s white of his eye smaller. I sprayed the whole thing with grout sealer the third day and hoped the paint would withstand the heavy rain (and even hail that looked like snow on the other side of town). It worked out fine. I used a variety of tiles this time, from Dollar Tree broken plates to donated tile from friends, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Habitat for Humanity markdowns.

Final pictures are of my trusty tile companion Granola. This was from another project but she’s always by my side and deserves a shout out.

Thanks for visiting!

-Tracy