July 16, 2017

Salinas River2
Salinas River, next to highway 101, Paso Robles (copy of a watercolor and colored pencil on cold press illustration board)

Throughout my adult life I have given away pieces of my art to friends and family. And sometimes I paint something for a family member for a special occasion. For example, when each of my nieces was born I painted pictures of flowers that were blooming in my garden at that time. One niece got a watercolor of white irises (on a beautiful green Canson paper) that were blooming in my backyard, and one niece got a watercolor of colorful primroses that were blooming in my front yard. Recently (April 2017), I did a watercolor of Crystal Cove (near Newport Beach) for my younger brother (their dad) just because.

Before my son was born (September 1994) I became obsessed with sunflowers as they were blooming at that time. When I was pregnant I drove past an amazing patch of all kinds of sunflowers just outside the Stanford shopping center everyday on my way to work. I stopped many times to take pictures of them. I was so obsessed with sunflowers that I began referring to my son as my “sunflower baby.” I did lots of obnoxious things with that sunflower theme his first year, and that included an acrylic painting of a single sunflower for my older brother.

So, when my older brother got married I gave his new wife this painting of the Salinas River for Christmas. It was my way of welcoming her into our family. When I went to pick up the painting from my framer he told me that one of his customers wanted to buy it. But I assured him that the painting was not for sale and would soon be in the mail for my new sister-in-law. We left the discussion there.

A few years later, my brother got divorced. Maybe I saw that coming. She had pissed me off when she got the painting, as she had opened it before Christmas morning. (I had written on the box “Do not open until Christmas!”) Of all the nerve! And I am not very proud of what I did when I heard they were splitting up, but I asked my brother to get this painting back from his soon to be ex wife. He didn’t appear to want to do this, and of course I asked him a couple more times to get it back. I even thought of sneaking into her house when no one was home and taking it from the wall. After all, I had done the painting and wasn’t it really still mine?

Pretty harsh, right? So, as time passed and I saw all the heartache my brother was experiencing it got me thinking–what was I doing? Couldn’t I just let this go? It’s like we do things in love (love for my brother, not for his wife really) and give of ourselves. Sometimes we might feel betrayed and want some kind of revenge or restitution. I have to admit I was thinking I could sell it, and getting that money was going to somehow show her and give me some kind of satisfaction. Ok, so more time passed and I didn’t bug my brother anymore about getting it back. Once I realized I wasn’t going to be able to get a time machine and save my brother from this painful divorce and more importantly, I wasn’t getting the painting back, I let it go for good. (I was thankful I had made a color copy of it before having it framed.) My dad used to say that there were givers and takers in this life and the givers made life worth living. So, my brother is married again to what we all hope is a “keeper.” He seems very happy. I have offered to paint his new wife something, but they both declined my offer. I guess their apartment is pretty cramped and there really isn’t any empty wall space to hang another piece of art. Maybe I am a little relieved as their apartment is on the second floor and I’m not sure I could get into their place unseen if I needed to remove a piece of art from their wall any time soon.

Note about how I got this shot: I used to wiz past this view over and over again as I drove south on 101 just after Niblick Road. And I remember thinking it would make a great painting if I could just figure out how to take a picture of it (this was before I had “Plein Air” painting time). So, one day I realized there was a frontage road on the west side of the freeway where I could probably stop and take the picture I wanted without getting killed by a speeding car going down the freeway. I found the perfect spot with the perfect view on that road, but I was looking through a chain link fence. I scaled the fence until my head was just above it and I snapped off a whole bunch of pictures. So glad I did that, and so very glad I didn’t fall onto the freeway, or get stopped by the California Highway Patrol. The Salinas River is a pretty cool river as much of its water is underground. I understand there used to be quite an aquifer under the river and the whole Paso Robles area, for that matter. That was before all the wineries came to town and planted their grapes. The landscape of the Paso Robles hills has been completely altered with countless vineyards, businesses and houses. But of course that’s another California story.


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