December 8, 2018

Atascadero Road
Atascadero Road, date: timeless (oil on canvas, 24 by 32 inches)

I think the actual canvas I’ve posted today was the very first canvas I actually stretched. And I think I did this one in high school—seems like someone else’s lifetime ago. I remember that the actual weave of the cloth was not very close and when I brushed on the layer of gesso it took a couple coats to get into all the nooks and crannies. That being said, I have no idea how many paintings are under this view of lupines on a road in Atascadero. This last layer is on pretty thick as well and it would be impossible to see any of the original canvas unless you turned it over and looked at the raw ungessoed canvas on the back. In fact, I just got up from my laptop to look at the back, thinking it would be fun to take a picture of the raw canvas, but stopped short of my typical geekiness. Actually, what I noticed was years of dust and cobwebs back there and decided all of this might be just too weird. Oh, I dusted it off, by the way.

Now that I have added textures of flowers, trees and a road that takes you around an uncertain corner, this will probably be the last layer for this one. I don’t actually remember when I painted this final one, but it was definitely before the Great Recession of 2008. If you are an artist and were working at your art in the early and mid 2000s, there seemed to be people with extra money and they wanted to buy art. I met an interior decorator in Paso Robles early in the 21st century and she had lots of clients looking for art with very specific and personal themes for their walls. She suggested I look online at what other painters were making for sale. I checked it out and saw quite a variety. There were people who specialized in art that looked like it was from the Renaissance or street scenes of famous places like Paris and Rome, and landscapes of all kinds could be found there. Some did art of trains, boats and airplanes. I think Thomas Kincade, a fellow native Californian, figured this out and made a nice living painting romantic and idealized landscapes for just such a clientele. And of course there were artists who did “people” portraits and would paint your cat or dog if you sent them a photo. During this time of plenty I was doing lots of landscapes of vineyards and roads weaving in and out of the canvas, but none of it was done for a specific person or purpose. (Actually, that’s not exactly true. I did a painting during that time for what I thought was to be a poster for a Zinfandel festival in Paso Robles. That was actually a disaster and I blogged about it in my April 28, 2018 post.) Most of all I just loved traveling the North County back roads, capturing scenes of places that I wanted to linger and hang out in. The decorator I just spoke of said I should start a website of paintings that specialized in roads and vineyards. I also remember checking that out on the Internet to see if anyone else had a similar theme going. And sure enough there were plenty of paintings of vineyards. At that same time I knew of other artists who were creating paintings for wine bottle labels in the Paso Robles area. Before the crash, a Grass Valley winery owner tentatively suggested I do a label for one of their wines. Another person who was making and selling jewelry in Grass Valley told me he thought I should make posters of my work and not sell the originals. Again, I think Thomas Kincade figured out that whole idea. He mass produced his works, put them in nice frames and opened stores that just sold his art. Lots of people were all very generous with their suggestions of what I should do. Remember, I said all of this was going on before 2008. Because by 2009, that game was up and no one was interested in having someone who specialized in paintings of roads, airplanes or any other niche art category you could imagine. Of course I think there are probably still people who will do portraits and paintings of your pets. (I just Googled Portraits of Pets and found several websites that still specialize in that.)

The Road Less Traveled

And of course I didn’t do anything that anyone suggested and continued to paint as I pleased because even before the crash of 2008 I knew I would never really be happy trying to make a living selling my paintings. I think I realized it would be too much pressure to paint too many things that didn’t really interest me. So, I didn’t quit my day job. That brings me to the second part of the story that actually focuses on the subject matter of this painting. I am calling this part “The Road Less Traveled.” The idea was inspired by the “Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost. Oh, and by the way, Robert Frost was a native Californian, born in San Francisco in 1874. He got to live the life of an artist—poet and playwright.

Not sure if I could get in trouble posting the whole poem here, but think I’m OK if I just include the fourth and final stanza.

“I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Because I truly an introvert in an extrovert’s sharkskin suit, the life of an artist suits me well. Being able to paint throughout my life has allowed me to communicate my feelings and thoughts to myself and really no one else. I was painfully shy as a young girl and adolescent. I was bullied on and off through all those years as people often thought I was a snob or conceited and said and did some very unkind things to me. My dad would remind me that those people didn’t matter and I always had my art. (He also was good at reminding me of all the wonderful music that made our lives bearable…) And you know what? He was right! For those of you who also have the soul of artist, you know it is not an easy road. My ancestors were soldiers, sharecroppers, plumbers and dreamers. And when things seemed like tough going my family had an expression that went something like, “That’s going to be a hard road to hoe.” But it’s the only road I know.

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