November 10, 2018

1999 pumpkin
Pumpkin, October 1999 (watercolor and Prismacolor colored pencil on illustration board)
Newspaper pumpkin
The Tribune, 10/31/1999

Not really sure how I got the idea to submit my art with stories to The Tribune in San Luis Obispo almost 20 Halloween’s ago. But this was the first one. Once I formulated a plan to draw and write like this, it seemed a bunch of similar ideas for art and stories for kids and their families in the garden started to grow somewhere in my subconscious. And once I first saw this published in the newspaper a kind of floodgate of images and words began to tumble from my brain and out onto the waiting paper. There was a really nice editor at the newspaper who was my champion, so to speak. Beginning with that first story, she loved everything I sent her. That was really fun and satisfying.

Before I ever put pumpkin to paper and/or word to word processor I’d been thinking of Halloween and carving a pumpkin with my son who had just turned 5. I remember being struck by how beautiful pumpkins can be—not those wary ones. Some might think orange a rather rude color, but I’ve always admired the audacity of something so humble getting so much colorful attention. The shape of a pumpkin is pretty fun and unmistakable, and was forever made famous by being turned into a coach for Disney’s Cinderella. So, I always felt kind of sad for the pumpkin turned to jack-o-lantern because if you leave it alone, it’s the stuff of dreams and will remain whole and unabashedly bold for months—way past Thanksgiving and Christmas. But the minute you make that first stab into it, the pumpkin will soon die a quick, but painful death with tiny hairs and black spots of mold and mildew engulfing all that orange and shapely loveliness. Pretty dramatic, I know. But that was the angle I was going for with this first story.

But the real reason I posted all of this was not to lament the life of a carved pumpkin, but to share the untold story of the art I had created for it. I could also make a case for posting this now because Halloween was just 10 days ago and Thanksgiving’s pumpkin pie is a few weeks away, but I digress. I remember enjoying all the colors I had used to make the art, layering layer after layer of watercolor and Prismacolor colored pencils on my wonderful cold pressed illustration board. And as I built up the colors the pumpkin began to look very real and round on the flat page. But where this gets tragic is that I didn’t create the right shadow for the pumpkin, but hadn’t figured that out just yet. I kept looking at it and it looked somehow weird. Of course the editor was ready for me to submit it with my story and there wasn’t time to redo anything. And even if I’d had the time I wasn’t sure what I should do. So, I emailed the editor my story and drove the 30 miles from our house in Paso Robles to San Luis Obispo to drop off the art to The Trib. The editor loved it, and that was good because I didn’t have it around the house to look at and obsess over anymore. Now I just waited for the next Sunday morning to see what it looked like in the newspaper. It was quite a bit smaller and that was fine. Of course, once I saw it there in print I realized what was bugging me. The shadow was definitely off and it looked like the pumpkin was floating above the surface of the page and not sitting on anything. Darn! But it seemed that it was only me who noticed, so I basked in all my friend’s friendly comments about the art and story and sent a copy to my mom and dad.

After that I made sure that all the art I submitted to The Tribune was grounded on the page, or at least didn’t have a kind of surrealistic style. But the tragic story of the floating pumpkin did not end there. Here’s what happened next. As I said, I mailed a copy of the newspaper clipping to my mom and dad. They were of course very proud and extremely pleased for me. And that Christmas they gave me a present of the article beautifully framed—complete with a double matt. This, of course, was meant to hang on my wall somewhere. I still hadn’t said a word to anyone about my pumpkin shadow faux pas, so they didn’t know I probably didn’t really want to look at it. (In fact, in writing this very story I just realized that I have never told it to anyone until now.) They had also framed a copy for themselves and had it hanging on their wall, for all the world to see. I was horrified! Now this pumpkin was meant to be displayed not only in my house, but was hanging on the wall by their front door as well. They told me they showed it off to everyone who came to the door—even the UPS lady I suppose.

I dutifully hung mine up when I got it home, but couldn’t stand to look at for very long. (In fact, I put the original art in a drawer and hadn’t really looked at it again until I did this story.) I decided I would bring it out for only special fall occasions and holidays—beginning with Halloween and ending with Thanksgiving. And that’s what I have been doing for the past almost 20 fall seasons. In fact, it’s hanging up in my living room right now. But now that both my parents are gone, I proudly bring it out and celebrate the season and their lifelong belief in my art and me. I don’t look for the shadowy imperfection anymore.

But I am not cured of my mania; there is a huge mural of clouds that I did a few years back.

cloud canvas
Fantasy Clouds, spring 2017 (acrylic on 43 by 55 inch unstretched canvas)

Somehow, I let a little cheeky cloud creep onto the canvas on the left side. It just doesn’t belong there. Now, I am scheming to see if I can mix a pot of the perfect blue acrylic that I can use to make it go away. I will write about that, and the other half of the art, in a later post.

Fire update from SoCal

On June 16th of this year I posted a little watercolor I did of a structure at Paramount Ranch, just over the hill from Malibu. I had heard in our local news that some, if not all, of the structures at Western Town at that location had burned down as a result of one our latest wildfires. Hearing that news made my heart sink. So far no official photos to confirm or deny that story have been posted. However, somehow an urban sketcher got a picture and shared it online. It showed that at least one of the Western Town buildings had burned to the ground. Just unbelievable to see the “before” and “after” shots. In that photo I could see that the building constructed for the West World series (and the one I painted for 6/16/18) looked OK. But I couldn’t see if the oak I had sat under to paint that piece was unharmed. The winds here in SoCal on Thursday night and most of Friday were horrific and so many people have been evacuated for that fire–not to mention all the other fires burning in California right now. It would be so nice if we had a few rainclouds on the horizon, something to lighten this dry and fiery load. No more words from One CA Girl today…

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