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Valued Social Butterfly
Posts: 8,756
Registered: ‎07-25-2008

Re: House in the Valley

Message 51 of 55 (3,705 Views)


Chapter 4 (Word prompts: tiny, wasp, suitcase, lingering, flutter, perplexing, ultimatum, control, obsessive, encounter)



 



It was 2:00 on Saturday before the four of us piled into Theresa’s car and headed into town. She drew out a map and gave it to Mary Margaret and Della in case they decided to join us after they both said they wanted to spend the time working on a project they had begun.



The first gallery we hit had a painting in the window that I admired. Reluctantly Theresa admitted that it was one of hers. It was a landscape with a pond surrounded by trees. She didn’t give any information about the painting and seemed to be uncomfortable with our praise, so we didn’t ask questions. I was pleased to see there was more work inside. Both of hers and some other artists that I thought might be local. The manager of the gallery explained that it was a cooperative gallery that was actually run by the members. Her name was Grace and she specialized in animal art using pastels. There were also an assortment of other types of work and I purchased a clay mug that I knew I would enjoy using for my morning coffee.



I wanted to linger for a while longer at this first place. I had questions about how it was run. But Donna wanted to return to a shop she had discovered the year before. It had some inexpensive reproductions of various artists, including Dalton George. I had to admit I was also curious to know if I saw the work differently now that I knew the man. I still found it perplexing that those large, bold works could come from this man who was so far from my expectations.



When we arrived at the second shop we found the window filled with his work along with a stack of his books. I realized they probably sold an abundance of both when he held his workshops. In fact, I recognized three other members from the group who were thumbing through the bins of matted work. That was a pleasant surprise since there had been little opportunity to encounter the members of the other five groups who made up the workshop. Thus it was a group of seven who arrived at the third shop.



By the time we had roamed through the town we had gotten to know Connie, Martha and Beth and they had been invited to join the party at Theresa’s house. They declined the invitation for the night but said they might join us on Sunday for a cook out. Theresa drew a map that was almost as obsessive as the drawings that I knew she made for her paintings. It contained several markers in addition to the names of the streets. They included two churches, a school and something called The Wasp Nest. I wanted to ask about the latter but forgot about it in the midst of saying goodbye to our new friends and loading into Theresa’s car to head to the grocery store for supplies for the weekend.



It was dusk by the time we loaded the bags of groceries into the trunk of the car. This was not as easy as it sounds since there were already four suitcases in there since we were all bringing our dirty laundry. Finally we decided it would be best if the bag holding the bread and the eggs would be in the front, otherwise it would be smashed flat. I was on the passenger side in front and it fit at my feet under the dashboard.



I was enjoying the scenery made even more interesting in the fading light. There seemed to be an abundance of country roads, both paved and unpaved that made me wonder where they led. I was so accustomed to street lights and traffic signals with strings of neon lights that this open space seemed another world. This made it more surprising when I saw a blinking light up ahead and I knew it was The Wasp Nest from the flutter of the neon wings hovering over the sign. I couldn’t tell what was sold in the shop as it was clearly closed but I made up my mind I would check it out later.



Just past this last sign Theresa made a right turn onto a road similar to all those others I had noticed. We traveled though a narrow paved road that curved through the darkness for what seemed a long time, but was probably less than a mile. We came upon a clearing and I was surprised by the brightness that suddenly enveloped the area. I had been under the impression that Theresa lived here alone.



My thoughts were interrupted by the barking of dogs. Out of the house ran two large ones and one who looked even more tiny beside the other too. Theresa opened the car door and was greeted with all three competing for attention with cries of happiness. The rest of us stayed where we were until we heard laughter from our hostess.



“It’s OK, gang. I guess I forgot to warn you about my babies. This is Brook, Queen and Manny. Manny is the Chi mix and it’s short for Manhattan. The golden is Queen and the Lab is Brook. That’s short for Queens and Brooklyn. In case you are wondering about the names, I saw them on FaceBook at a New York shelter and I fell in love. It said they would transport anywhere and I decided to test it. They do.”



By this time we were all out of the car and were being greeted as old friends in the same way as Theresa. They were very interested in the bags we were unloading from the car but were very well behaved. We had decided earlier that we would have sandwiches for dinner but wanted a tour of the house before we settled down to eat.



Theresa pointed toward a door on the left of the kitchen. “Through there is where I spend most of my time. It’s my studio. You are welcome to look around while I put things away and get out the rest of the sandwich makings. We’ll take the sandwiches in the great room to eat and then I’ll show you the bedrooms when you bring in your bags later.”



She had a dream studio and I found myself being envious of it’s organization. I wondered if it were always kept like that. I thought it probably was. The area wasn’t all that large but it was bright and airy. The tops of the walls were glass over about four or five feet up to the ceiling. Below it was lined with counters, some containing drawers of various size and other with cabinet doors. I wanted to look inside but thought that would be rude so I contented myself with admiring the exterior.



There was a painting on the easel in the middle of the room and several propped up in different areas. Some seemed to be just begun and others complete. I noticed two canvases that seemed blank until I drew close and saw the pristine pencil drawing similar to the one I’d seen on that first day. One was a landscape similar to the one I’d seen in the gallery. The other was a figure piece. It appeared to be a man reading a book.



There wasn’t a lot of time before we heard our names called and we returned to the kitchen to find everything laid out for a feast. In addition to the cold cuts, bread and condiments, there were jars of pickles, potato chips and some cookies that appeared to be homemade.



With our plates loaded up we were lead through an arch into a large room with beams exposed overhead. There was a pale leather sofa and several matching chairs. The room was warm and cozy with brightly colored rugs on the floor and paintings on the dark walls. A stone fireplace filled the end of the room with tall bookcases on either side. The fireplace had some logs in place and Theresa went over and flipped a switch which made a flame appear. I thought it was the most comfortable room I had ever seen and said as much.



With that the mood seemed to change for Theresa.



“Thank you”, she said, but she didn’t sound pleased. “I really want to stay here. I love it but I lost my husband six months ago and I’ve given myself an ultimatum. I’ve got to get control of my new life or I have to leave.”



(to be continued)

Valued Social Butterfly
Posts: 8,756
Registered: ‎07-25-2008

Re: House in the Valley

Message 52 of 55 (3,705 Views)


Chapter 3 (Word prompts: tiny, wasp, suitcase, lingering, flutter, perplexing, ultimatum, control, obsessive, encounter)



During the next few days I got to know my group mates better. Donna and Betty had not only attended this workshop before but had also attended others given by Dalton George. I had seen his work in various magazines and planned to purchase his book before the workshop was over.



He was not at all what I had expected from looking at his work which was bold in all ways. It was perplexing that it might be produced by this wasp of a man who tended to flutter about like a butterfly in search of a blossom. He seemed to have more control of his watercolors than of any other aspect of his personality, or his body for that matter.



I spent a lot of time with Theresa and learned that, even though she was new to the medium of watercolor and had never attended a workshop before, her home was only a few miles away. She was familiar with the area and knew many of the trails and actually lead the group one day when we were visiting an area that hadn’t been covered before.



The workshop kept us busy through Saturday afternoon but then we had Saturday evening and all day Sunday to ourselves to do whatever we wanted. Donna and Betty said there were some interesting galleries and shops in town that they enjoyed visiting. Theresa suggested that we visit those on Saturday afternoon and then have a spend the night party at her house. She said we could do our laundry there if we wished. I thought that was a good idea since I had brought only one suitcase and needed to do some laundry someplace. Besides, I was really enjoying the company of these other women.



The other two members of our group didn’t seem to want to socialize with the rest of us. I thought they had known each other prior to the workshop but since they tended to linger behind most of the time it made encounters difficult.



Their names were Mary Margaret and Della. I was very impressed with the work done by Mary Margaret and wondered if Theresa might evolve to something like that since she tended to draw out on her paper similar to the way Theresa had on that first day. Only Mary Margaret went on to paint it with a tiny brush to develop minute details. She found wild flowers at each place we stopped and each painting could have been an illustration in a book on flowers.



Her friend could not have been more different, even though her subject matter was basically the same. Her specialty was to paint what at first glance was an abstract work until it was finished and you discovered the wild flower left in the space not covered in paint, as she developed almost entirely the negative space. I wanted very much to see her work and became almost obsessive myself in my attempt to lag behind the rest of the group.



It wasn’t until the third day that I discovered that the two women were actually sisters and they lived not too far away from my own home. I wondered if we might get together for a visit after the workshop. It would be nice to have more artist friends, especially now that I had not given in to my husband’s ultimatum and had made this trip. I really had no idea what would be awaiting me when I arrived home at the end of the two weeks. In fact, I wasn’t even certain what I wanted to be awaiting me. That was one of the things I needed to decide during this time away.



(to be continued)



 

Valued Social Butterfly
Posts: 8,756
Registered: ‎07-25-2008

Re: House in the Valley

Message 53 of 55 (3,704 Views)


Chapter 2



(Word Prompts: seeking, discarded, question, twinkling, spontaneous, cluck, shadow, quicksand, entangle, troubling thoughts)



Theresa showed me her pad. She had used the same outcropping of stones as I had chosen but that’s where the resemblance ended. She had a meticulous line drawing of the arrangement that would have made a pretty picture all by itself. I found it hard to understand what she would be seeking from me.



She explained that her background was in drawing. What little painting she had tried was using acrylics where if a mistake was made it could be repainted. I still didn’t understand the question she seemed to be asking.



A shadow seemed to hide her eyes for a moment. I could tell she was trying to communicate something to me and was struggling to find the words. This made me feel even more desperate to befriend this woman. I was only now coming out of my own period of grief, of feeling myself sinking in the quicksand of my own troubling thoughts. I thought I could recognize myself in this other person. I wondered if I could give her some courage if I told a bit of my own story, but decided this was something she needed to share on her own.



“I’m trying to change my life”, she finally blurted out as though from a cannon. “I want to learn how to be more spontaneous, to experience new things, even if they frighten me. This workshop is my first little step. I was watching you paint and you seemed to just splash paint on that white paper and that scares me to death, so it must be important for me to learn.”



I knew exactly what she was talking about. I would tell her later that this was something we had in common, but right now I felt like doing my own spontaneous action and I reached out and gave her a big hug.



I told her I would help all I could. I looked at her watercolor pallet and I could tell she had just read the prospectus for the workshop. They had recommended a total of ten colors and they were neatly laid out in their little buckets. I didn’t think they had been disturbed since they had been squeezed from the tubes. They weren’t labeled but it seemed she had cadmium red light and alizarin crimson to represent the red part of the spectrum. Next came ultramarine and cobalt blue. There was a warm and cool yellow to take care of the primaries. Then there were the earth tones of burnt umber, burnt sienna and yellow ochre. The tenth spot I knew was black because it had been listed even though it was something I never used in watercolor.



“Have you played with these paints at all?” I asked.



She confessed she hadn’t.



“OK”, I said. “That’s what you need to do. Do you have a spray bottle?” I knew the answer to that since it had not been listed on the prospectus. She shook her head again so I took out my own and handed it to her. She seemed in doubt when she saw the hairspray label on the bottle. I had forgotten how that might seem strange to someone new to the medium.



“I find that a hair spray bottle gives just the right amount to mist the paper and the dry paint. If you want more water you can use the brush or even a medicine dropper but try this for now.”



She sprayed a clean sheet of paper and the paint. I showed her how to place a bit of yellow and then drop some red into it and let it form orange on the paper. She did the same with the other colors and seemed to be having a good time.



“Remember that watercolor always dries lighter than it looks when it’s wet. Sometimes that’s a blessing unless you want it to be dark. In that case you need to use a lot of paint at first because it will never a have the same effect when you add another layer.” Then I showed her how to use a tissue to blot out some of the paint if it looked as though it would be too dark. I could tell she was enjoying this carefree activity and it made me think of how excited I had been when I was first discovering it on my own. It was that feeling I was wanting to recapture now.



It seemed no time at all before we were getting the signal that it was time to head back to the cabin. The sun was sinking low and the temperature had dropped. We had all been instructed to bring jackets and flashlights but nobody wanted to be caught outside in the dark. I could picture wild animals that would be prowling for lost artists who had become entangled in the darkness.



It was a much shorter trip down than it had been on the way up. Donna led the way as she had done many times before and we reached headquarters just as the dinner bell was being rung. I hadn’t realized how hungry I had become since lunch and was grateful it was all prepared for me. I discarded everything except my watercolor pad and, with a quick splash of water on my face and hands, I went to take my place in the dining room.



Dinner consisted of a salad and the most delicious chili I had ever tasted. There were an assortment of breads, crackers, cheese and even jalapeños for those brave souls who needed even more heat to the chili. I was not one of those.



Following dinner, each of the six groups took turns in exhibiting their work for the day. Tonight there were no clucking sounds from anyone as all groups had been very industrious. After looking at what the other groups had presented I was looking forward to the coming days when our group would visit the other five locations.



Since there was an abundance of work to be viewed and admired, it was late when the last book was put away. I was exhausted and that seemed to be the same with most everyone else as we left to find our own cabin and the comfort of our own bed. I walked back with Theresa and felt good that I had made a new friend this day. I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow and I slept more soundly than in many months. The only interruption was a pesky twinkling light that appeared in my dream.



(To be continued)

Valued Social Butterfly
Posts: 8,756
Registered: ‎07-25-2008

House in the Valley

Message 54 of 55 (3,703 Views)


(Word Prompts: seeking, discarded, question, twinkling, spontaneous, cluck, shadow, quicksand, entangle, troubling thoughts)



 



 



I should have been more careful. I was a novice in the world of plein-air painting, even though watercolors are very adaptable for the practice, I always preferred the solitude of my studio when in a creative mood. Perhaps that’s how I happened to become separated from the rest of the group. I didn’t even realize it until I looked around to ask Donna if she thought this would be a good place to stop and paint. I suppose I should have turned back and looked for the others but instead I perched on a rock to enjoy the scenery. That’s when something in the distance caught my eye.



I wouldn’t have noticed any other time as there were so many distractions. It was just a momentary twinkling light, perhaps from the reflection of the sun on a window. Yet something about this tiny incident made an impression and I couldn’t help but wonder it’s source. I was waiting for it to happen again, but it was not repeated. This did nothing to make me feel more comfortable but my troubling thoughts were interrupted by Donna’s voice behind me.



“You were right, Betty. She’s here all right.”



“I knew it”, said Betty and soon the whole group was surrounding me.



“How did you know I would be here?”



They all laughed. “Do you think you are the first one to wander off. I think more of us have ended up here than any other place. It’s almost become a sort of initiation, so I guess you are now an official part of the group.”



For the first time, I really felt like a part of the group and it was a feeling I liked. That spontaneous connection that sometimes happens between women was a rare thing and something I’d not experienced in a long time. By the time we reached the summit of the hill the memory of that house in the valley and the reflection had been discarded and replaced by so many other more interesting subjects for my watercolor pad.



From the top we could see in four directions. First we all pulled out the lunch we had brought with us and had a picnic. The sun was bright but it was still early in the spring so it felt refreshing instead of hot. There were lots of stories and giggles from all six of us. Theresa was like me, a novice on this type of expedition. I wondered if she was learning as much as I was. Even though I tried to start a conversation with her, I seemed to get only “yes” or “no” answers to my questions. This made me even more curious as I continued to seek information about this other woman to whom I felt a connection.



When the last piece of fried chicken was gone and all the bones carefully stowed away and everyone was pleasantly satiated, someone suggested a nap. This got another round of laughter and I learned this was another ritual of the group. I was told that in the past a nap had lasted the rest of the day so that when they returned to the workshop they were the only group who had completely empty sketchbooks. They had become a symbol and for the rest of the two weeks they had been greeted by a clucking sound from the others. Since that day they had made it a point to return with several pages filled with sketches, no matter how rudimentary they were.



By this time the sun had moved from directly overhead making sharp contrasts between light and shadow. I had already picked out several scenes that interested me. One was an outcropping of stones at the edge of the clearing. It lended itself to one of my favorite color combinations of orange and lavenders for the bright side and ultramarine and violet in the shadows. I thought when I got back to my studio I might add something else to the scene. However, when I finished I was pleased with the effort and decided to leave it alone.



I noticed a clump of wildflowers trying to find it’s way through an entangled mass of vines. I painted the vines in shades of green, blue, violet and touches of burnt umber and sienna with the flowers a vibrant yellow, with scarlet and orange. I was beginning to like this idea of painting outside the studio. I had made a good decision to sign up for this workshop, even if it had not really fit into my budget at this point. I clearly needed something new in my life.



I didn’t realize I was being observed until I propped my work up against a sapling to get a look at it from a distance.



“I really like the way you handle the watercolors.” I turned around to find Theresa standing behind me. “Where did you learn to paint like that?”



“I took some lessons many years ago, but most of it is just experimentation and picking up things from books and other artists”, I said. I was rather uncomfortable feeling I was being asked advice when this was actually my first experiment of this kind, but she looked so pleading that I offered to give her some tips.



“Watercolor is a lot of fun and is very versatile. There’s only one thing that you need to keep in mind. Be mindful of the colors you are mixing together as they can easily begin to resemble mud. Once you are there it’s like sinking in quicksand to try to get out of it again. It’s best to remember that there are two sides to a piece of paper and turn it over.”



I was rewarded by a smile from my new friend.



(to be continued)

Valued Social Butterfly
Posts: 8,756
Registered: ‎07-25-2008

House in the Valley

Message 54 of 55 (3,703 Views)


(Word Prompts: seeking, discarded, question, twinkling, spontaneous, cluck, shadow, quicksand, entangle, troubling thoughts)



 



 



I should have been more careful. I was a novice in the world of plein-air painting, even though watercolors are very adaptable for the practice, I always preferred the solitude of my studio when in a creative mood. Perhaps that’s how I happened to become separated from the rest of the group. I didn’t even realize it until I looked around to ask Donna if she thought this would be a good place to stop and paint. I suppose I should have turned back and looked for the others but instead I perched on a rock to enjoy the scenery. That’s when something in the distance caught my eye.



I wouldn’t have noticed any other time as there were so many distractions. It was just a momentary twinkling light, perhaps from the reflection of the sun on a window. Yet something about this tiny incident made an impression and I couldn’t help but wonder it’s source. I was waiting for it to happen again, but it was not repeated. This did nothing to make me feel more comfortable but my troubling thoughts were interrupted by Donna’s voice behind me.



“You were right, Betty. She’s here all right.”



“I knew it”, said Betty and soon the whole group was surrounding me.



“How did you know I would be here?”



They all laughed. “Do you think you are the first one to wander off. I think more of us have ended up here than any other place. It’s almost become a sort of initiation, so I guess you are now an official part of the group.”



For the first time, I really felt like a part of the group and it was a feeling I liked. That spontaneous connection that sometimes happens between women was a rare thing and something I’d not experienced in a long time. By the time we reached the summit of the hill the memory of that house in the valley and the reflection had been discarded and replaced by so many other more interesting subjects for my watercolor pad.



From the top we could see in four directions. First we all pulled out the lunch we had brought with us and had a picnic. The sun was bright but it was still early in the spring so it felt refreshing instead of hot. There were lots of stories and giggles from all six of us. Theresa was like me, a novice on this type of expedition. I wondered if she was learning as much as I was. Even though I tried to start a conversation with her, I seemed to get only “yes” or “no” answers to my questions. This made me even more curious as I continued to seek information about this other woman to whom I felt a connection.



When the last piece of fried chicken was gone and all the bones carefully stowed away and everyone was pleasantly satiated, someone suggested a nap. This got another round of laughter and I learned this was another ritual of the group. I was told that in the past a nap had lasted the rest of the day so that when they returned to the workshop they were the only group who had completely empty sketchbooks. They had become a symbol and for the rest of the two weeks they had been greeted by a clucking sound from the others. Since that day they had made it a point to return with several pages filled with sketches, no matter how rudimentary they were.



By this time the sun had moved from directly overhead making sharp contrasts between light and shadow. I had already picked out several scenes that interested me. One was an outcropping of stones at the edge of the clearing. It lended itself to one of my favorite color combinations of orange and lavenders for the bright side and ultramarine and violet in the shadows. I thought when I got back to my studio I might add something else to the scene. However, when I finished I was pleased with the effort and decided to leave it alone.



I noticed a clump of wildflowers trying to find it’s way through an entangled mass of vines. I painted the vines in shades of green, blue, violet and touches of burnt umber and sienna with the flowers a vibrant yellow, with scarlet and orange. I was beginning to like this idea of painting outside the studio. I had made a good decision to sign up for this workshop, even if it had not really fit into my budget at this point. I clearly needed something new in my life.



I didn’t realize I was being observed until I propped my work up against a sapling to get a look at it from a distance.



“I really like the way you handle the watercolors.” I turned around to find Theresa standing behind me. “Where did you learn to paint like that?”



“I took some lessons many years ago, but most of it is just experimentation and picking up things from books and other artists”, I said. I was rather uncomfortable feeling I was being asked advice when this was actually my first experiment of this kind, but she looked so pleading that I offered to give her some tips.



“Watercolor is a lot of fun and is very versatile. There’s only one thing that you need to keep in mind. Be mindful of the colors you are mixing together as they can easily begin to resemble mud. Once you are there it’s like sinking in quicksand to try to get out of it again. It’s best to remember that there are two sides to a piece of paper and turn it over.”



I was rewarded by a smile from my new friend.



(to be continued)