Tag Archives: trees

Way Back in the Woods


It’s been so long since I posted. I’ve been painting instead of writing. Got into a semi-abstract painting phase and I love it. I have an interesting show in Baker City, Oregon right now at the Short Term Gallery. Baker City is a small town with lots of art and truly creative people. Since I got home from the opening of the show I’ve been reading, walking my dog Cody, wrangling cats and doing a lot of thinking.
I like having a break. I’ve lived in the woods for a long time and am used to being alone. Timber Valley is totally different from Portland, Seattle, The Dalles or Hood River. Sometimes it can seem really lonely when you are fourteen miles up from the Columbia River Gorge and you aren’t a windsurfer, kayaker or fisherman.  The woods and mountain are beautiful.  Lots of places to hike and hang out on the Klickitat River or the Columbia. But if we want to go out for breakfast, lunch or dinner it involvesmaking a plan“. There are no meals to buy within walking distance. The closest actual business  is the Appleton Post Office…with an outhouse and a tiny woodstove. Even it is only open four half-days per week.  There is no Starbucks or even a Taco Bell (my favorite) in Timber Valley.  It’s a 50 minute drive to get to the nearest place to have a meal out.  When we moved up here from Portland years ago I’m sure some of our friends thought we had disappeared into the wild. We are out of sight, unreachable by car especially in the winter, invisible, gone but not forgotten. Everyone is busy.  I know.  I don’t often leave home for Portland to visit either.  Our lives are too fast and complicated even though we would like to keep in touch with everyone. Living this far away from civilization is even harder when you have the curse of slow dial up on your computer.  Because of that most of my life is off line. I know that not being “connected” is unheard of these days.  I have totally accepted it. I try to keep up with what everyone is doing. Believe it our not I am on Facebook. I am on S- L- O- W  Facebook.  For me to write a simple post it takes at least ten times longer than anyone else. The computer keeps timing out. Often it freezes. Any unwanted advertising, or “Like this Page” notifications get so complicated that my computer will sit forever before it downloads anything and usually will just turn off. I’m “timed out”. I must “refresh”. I spend most of my on-line time just waiting for something to happen. But I love to see what my friends are doing…they are so amazing.  I’m beginning to accept the wait just for the news.  Sometimes I feel weird putting my life into short posts for everyone in the universe to read…or  not read but just respond. Facebook sometimes makes me sad for the silliest reasons.  I don’t have a better connection. I don’t have more online friends (I guess over 200 isn’t enough for me).   I don’t get enough likes. Am I crazy? I never know what to post. I have some odd interests that don’t seem to be anything most people want to chat about or share. I guess I’ll have to learn patience, wait, and accept my own slow cyberspace or perhaps get up out of my chair and take a hike!
Bear Wakes Up (acrylic on canvas) 14 x18 175.00
It is bear season in Timber Valley. It’s always bear season in Timber Valley but this year there are more than usual. They have been clearcutting lots of the properties on SDS lands. Log trucks, chain saws, mud and old found tires litter the roads. Think beautiful Doug Firs, tall and elegant, ripped down, cut and stacked on now barren properties. Much land that used to be green and lush is now brown. The lupine is gone, the vetch is gone and all of the ground cover is gone. The animals are all confused. They have to move into new territory, rebuild nests, hives and other homes. Logging companies leave enough green to make it seem “not so bad”. They re-plant baby trees…usually pine instead of Doug Fir…and line many of them up near the highway hoping no one will notice how many are missing. This year our favorite pond, Disappearing Pond, has been so disrupted we only have one nesting pair of ducks and only three ducklings there.  More bears are around this spring. Mother bears and baby bears. Bears up trees and bears climbing up phone poles are seen early in the morning. I haven’t seen our usual bear who steals our crabapples yet. Who knows where he is hanging out now? Maybe he’s thinking of moving to Portland or Seattle.
I’m going to post a couple of my new acrylic pieces for anyone that wants to see them. Remember these are at Short Term Gallery in Baker City if you want to buy one. Hope you “like” this post. I don’t get lots of hits on my website but it is certainly a good place for me to ramble.

Chainsaws, Hub Caps and Karma

Bob Smith tames the trees

Multitasking as a word doesn’t cover what this day is shaping up to be.  I woke up to a gigantic crashing sound as a fifty foot Douglas Fir hit the driveway.  Then, like bees, guys swarmed around and started cutting limbs with chainsaws.  If you’ve ever seen the show “Inside the Actor’s Studio” there is a question asked by the host near the end of every program of the celebrity being interviewed.  The question is “What is the sound you hate the most?”  As you’ve already guessed this celebrity would have answered “the sound of chain saws in the morning”. Wild Madd Max driver...me We’re in the middle of having about ten big trees taken out of our front and back yard.  Don’t worry…we have hundreds…four acres full.  But we decided to remove a few of them when my flower garden started moving out into the driveway by its own power because it was feeling so sun-deprived.  We live like vampires in our dark cabin and need some light to keep us sane and to promote some plants we’d like to try out in our wild garden.  So the falling trees.  What you can’t imagine, especially if you live in the city is what cutting a few trees down really means.  It means moving any fragile possessions that are anywhere near the place where trees will fall as far away as possible.  It means taking down your deer fence.  It means three huge machines (one called Madd Max that I’m in love with)Colorful interior of Madd Max and trucks drive over your lupines and park all over your property.  It means all of your kitties hide in the house in the top part of your closet and huddle there all day.  It means you have all of the left over branches from each tree to pile and burn or if they’re bigger branches but not big enough to sell to rescue and cut for firewood.  It means each day that there is cutting the entire day is unsettled and nerve wracking.


And of course I’m trying to work.  You’d never guess what I’m working on.  I’ve had a lot of strange things that I’ve used for a canvas…a life sized fiberglass cow for the Kows for Kids in Portland, Oregon, lots and lots of old wooden  ironing boards, cups, bowls, chairs and music carts for hospitals but this is the strangest.  I’m painting a hub-cap.  I was contacted by a gallery in Pennsylvania about painting a hub-cap for a project called The Landfill Art Project.  To take a look at it, go to www.landfillart.org. I knew nothing about this project until I was contacted by its director to do a piece for it.  I said yes because any profits from the pieces or the book done from the finished pieces will go to global reforestation.  (I guess to get my karma right with the trees it is no coincidence that I was asked to do this).  I’ve had some mystical experiences with hubcaps in the last four years.  When my mom was beginning to show definite signs of Alzheimer’s disease, she started a collection of hubcaps in her backyard.  There were hubcaps carefully placed in her garden, her front yard, her porch and her garage.  She must have seen that they were shiny and she liked shiny (not unlike myself).  So they continued to multiply until she finally collapsed and ended up in the hospital.  During her weekend in the hospital my daughter and I HAD to find a place where she could be cared for.  She refused to have any help in her huge house, or even to have Meals on Wheels feed her.  She was getting more and more confused each day so we had to find a good place FAST before the hospital just turned her loose on the street.  The hospital had some excellent social workers who totally understood what we were going through.  They gave us a long list of facilities to look at and off we went.  It was a Saturday.  We checked the list and found a few places that looked good to us.  We looked at some and were not happy.  Then we found a listing for St. Anthony Village in Southeast Portland.  It is a non-profit Catholic assisted living and Alzheimer care center near Powell Boulevard.  We got kind of excited because it fit our checklist for everything we were looking for.  We headed down Powell to go and see it.  As we got close to the turn off to St. Anthony, all of a sudden a shiny large hubcap flew right in front of my van window.  Amy and I looked at each other and took it as a sign. Both of us being Catholic we believe in signs and miracles. We went in, were shown around by a very nice caretaker but couldn’t talk to a director or apply until Monday.  We were also told that there were few openings and there was a waiting list.  We left our names and told the director to call us when she got back from her weekend.  Dismayed, we went home.  When we got there we had a call waiting from the director.  She had just happened to go in to work to finish up some project and got our message.  She said we could have the room for my mom.  It was a miracle.  At least that’s how we saw it.


So, the title of my piece, painted on a hub-cap for the Landfill Art Project is “Our Lady of Flying Hubcaps.”  I’ll post a picture when I’m done.  Isn’t life strange? There are no coincidences.


Trees, Bark and Old Barn Wood

jerry thinks it's springLast weekends watercolor workshop went great!  We worked on textures, tree bark and how to paint trees in landscape.  I was so proud of everyone there.  I especially like how supportive my students were of each other.  There were some nice results and some good ideas.  Lots of people have been checking out books from the (Jerry Fenter) Art Library in the basement and I think that’s a great sign.  It seems to me that the library is getting some new book donations and they’re beginning to take on some kind of order.  I’m donating my very own personal labeler to the art library.  Then we can label types of books in categories.  You’d be surprised at the range of titles.  We have painting (of course), watercolor, histories of art, biographies of some famous artists, the craft of paper-folding and sculpting, papier –mache, every type of drawing you can imagine, and lots and lots more.  I hope all of the artists keep sending in their old magazines and sharing them.  There is a lot of information to be absorbed.  I’d like to thank Heather Marlow for bringing in lots of good stuff as has Carmen, our great gallery director. No matter how much experience a person has had it always helps to look at a variety of different people’s styles to get ideas for new artwork.  I like to encourage students to go out and look at as many galleries and museums as they can just to get the feel of brushstroke, composition, value and center of interest in a painting.  I encourage them to also look for an overall emotional tone in a piece of art.  My students all went to the upstairs gallery and checked out the Garden Show that’s hanging there.  We looked at all of the pieces and picked out our favorites.  We also learned quite a bit about how a juror might look at a piece that’s been entered into a show. Ron and I juried the show this year. The choices for winners were hard to make because of all the fantastic art but Ron and I knew what we were looking for. We each came to our own conclusions and then got together and talked over our final decisions.  I had no problem explaining to my workshop students our choices for awards.  I’m so happy to see that the show is selling well.  We need to really engage the community in the happenings at the art center and of course to buy art.  I think The Dalles Art Center can really become an exciting part of the whole community as we get more and more people involved.  Oh, and did I say the volunteers have been great!  They were a big help to me when Carmen was home sick. 

So here are some photos from the workshop. nancys work stationgreat wood texture

joe with some practice washes

They all look pretty great, huh?  Just one more.  We were lucky enough to have Carmen in the class.  She gets totally into her work and came out with some nice pieces. So all in all the weekend went well.  Next month I’ll be in Mexico during class time so no class until May.  Then I hope to see as many people as I can to try still life in watercolor.  That workshop will  be May 16th and 17th.  This class will be for all levels and beginners are of course encouraged to attend and welcome.  More information for anyone  interested will come later.

your director Carmen at work