Still MORE, confessions of a Pinterest artist: Painting #3
What American Gothic might have looked like?!
I pose in front of my Blue Blossom, inspired by Lisa DeJohn’s Blue Flower.
If it is true, what “they” say, that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then my recent attempts into the artistic realm must be an extreme compliment. Over the past few months I have been inspired via Pinterest, to paint three artistic pieces for my overseas apartment. My most recent attempt, although visually the simplest of the trio, resulted in being the most challenging. This may have been due, in part, to the black background, which tends to highlight any imperfection painted upon it. Or this may be the result of choosing a simplistic design, which again exaggerates any artistic imperfections. In other words, there is less margin of error in a less complex scheme . This point was driven home to me, in the late 1980’s, while taking tole painting classes. There, we were encouraged to “fill up” the canvas, actually a wooden shaped piece, with busy designs to compensate for any of our painting imperfections and inadequacies.
My 1980’s tole painting of a cat.
Photo courtesy of Chandler Hoffman
The Pinterest inspiration for my most recent painting came from apartmenttherapy.com. I share with you the steps of my painting process for Blue Blossom, in this post. If, instead, you prefer the pretty original and beautiful artwork, which inspired me, I have included a buying information link for Lisa DeJohn’s, Blue Flower, just below. This print was originally sold in Ikea stores, reasonably priced and available in various sizes. (I would have bought the print, but stores and mail order are quite limited where we live overseas.)
Photo from Easy used with kind permission from Lisa DeJohn.
In the words of Sean Connery, Never Say Never…
Although, my artistic attempts are sure to continue, and I may share them with you, from time to time, I plan for this to be my final step-by-step instruction blog for my paintings. …but remembering the words of the sage Sean Connery, I know to Never say never! Never say Never Again was the name of the 1983 James Bond film. Connery took on this role, after having strongly insisted to his wife, twelve years earlier, in 1971, that he would never again play Bond in another movie. It is said that the movie title Never Say Never Again originated with Connery’s wife, referring to Connery’s “change of heart” about playing his James Bond character once again. *
I have enjoyed my triple painting spree and am proud of the results, yet I hold no illusions. My paintings are certainly not of the quality of a great artist; a great artist, such as one of my favorites, Grant Wood. In fact, even before I knew Wood the artist, I was very familiar with some of his work. As a student at Iowa State University in the 1970’s, I would go to the University Library, and study near the impressive mural, dominating the walls. I was awestruck each time I saw this imposing artwork, as I reflected on the subject and composition, painted in soothing muted colors, 1930’s style. It was not until some time later, after my college years, that I was to discover that “my” beloved mural, was the artistry of the renowned American artist, and fellow Iowan, Grant Wood.
Grant Wood’s arrival, and eventual impact upon Iowa State, is explained in this short excerpt that I read online, The traditional public art program began during the Depression in the 1930s when Iowa State College’s President Raymond Hughes envisioned that “the arts would enrich and provide substantial intellectual exploration into our college curricula.” Hughes invited Grant Wood to create the Library’s agricultural murals that speak to the founding of Iowa and Iowa State College and Model Farm*.
Art in Ashtabula
As a mother, and particularly, as a homeschool mother (I homeschooled my four children for ten years.), I tried to pass along my love of certain artists, and particularly, Grant Wood, to my young children. It was the fall of 1997, and our family found ourselves moving to northeast Ohio. In addition to showing us some potential houses for sale in the area, the relator took us by the Ashtabula Arts Center, as we, along with our young daughter, wanted to see the dance facilities there. While walking down the back halls of the center, I spied a cheaply framed, rumpled sketch, hanging cockeyed along the wall. I gave it a quick glance, and beckoned my youngsters to look at the artwork. I pointed out how the artist had used a technique similar to one that Grant Wood often used in his paintings, incorporating whimsical, snowball-like foliage in the trees. The relator, along with our art center guide, took an interest and came over to listen to my impromptu art lesson and have a look at the drawing. When I had finished, the relator said, “Isn’t this signed by Grant Wood?” I looked, and it did indeed, in very faint pencil, say Grant Wood in the corner! Needless to say, that our art tour guide took notice. I asked our guide if I might buy the neglected artwork, but my offer was declined. We spent quite a bit of time in the art center over the years, but the Ashtabula Grant Wood had disappeared, and I never saw it again.
Grant Wood’s Young Corn, 1931
This painting displays Grant Wood’s use of his trademark whimsical, snowball-like foliage in the trees.
American Gothic, that iconic American painting, depicting a farmer and his daughter, posing stoically in front of their white farmhouse with the gothic windows, hangs at the Art Institute of Chicago. It was here, at this Institute, where Grant Wood entered his American Gothic in an art competition, winning a $300 third place prize, and the honor of selling this painting to the museum. Little did the artist realize, that this painting, for which his sister and his dentist posed as models, would become a celebrated piece of American art history. Even so, Grant found over the years, that some Iowans were less than enthusiastic about how this farmer and daughter were portrayed in the painting. It seems that women,especially, were taken aback by the supposed sagging, ahem, bust line in the feminine half of the painting*. (To read more, click on the links above and below.)
That house! In addition to the American Gothic protagonists looking out at us with dour expressions, there is that cute white house with the interesting windows, ever-present in the background. This house was not a figment of Wood’s imagination, but an actual farmhouse in Eldon, Iowa. In fact, this house still exists, and is now a tourist attraction, with a visitor’s center next door. For the past few years, Iowa born author, Beth Howard, has resided inside the famous house, even at one time operating a pie stand on the front porch. The pie stand is now closed, and Beth is currently concentrating on her literary pursuits, but she still occasionally offers pie-baking classes. Click on the link below, for class information and to read about Beth’s books (I have enjoyed them both!),
Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss & Pie
Author Beth Howard, shown on the cover of her pie cookbook, lives in the American Gothic House in Eldon, Iowa.
To view take a tour of the house, click on the link below from April 2012.
To view another short video of Beth and the house, click on the May 2012 link below.
Click on this link, to Beth Howard’s blog.
Click on this link, for information on visiting the American Gothic Visitor’s Center.
Click on this link, for more information about the American Gothic House.
Having fun with American Gothic
Check out these links to three fun tie-ins to American Gothic
Saturday Night Live
The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Dick Van Dyke Show: Season 3, Episode 2
“The Masterpiece”, Oct. 1963
Photos courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/MissRoseMarie
Click on the link below to watch “The Masterpiece”, and see if Dick Van Dyke and friends have really bought themselves a Grant Wood painting.
(This episode is divided into three links. You will find the other two links on the right-hand side of the youtube page.)
Click on the link below, to listen to the theme song from the classic TV series
Green Acres (1965-1971).
Click on the link below, to read about how American Gothic relates to
Paintings and My Inspiration
To read about Dandelions, and for instructions on how to paint this piece, click on the link below,
To read about Happy and for instructions on how to paint your own,
click on the link below,
And My Newest Piece…
For DIY instructions for Blue Blossom, go to the bottom of this blog.
The steps that I went through to paint this piece are shown below, just in case you wish to recreate a Blue Blossom of your own.
(24 inches x 36 inches canvas)
(When in a pinch, I use trash bags, that I have cut open.)
(I used two-three bottles of glossy white as a base coat
and glossy black for the background,
and one bottle each
of light blue for the flower,
grass green, and hunter green for the leaves.
The bottle colors are shown in the photo below.)
(I used the five brushes shown in the photo below.)
Place down a drop cloth.
Give the canvas a white base coat, including the sides,
using the wide paintbrush. I used two coats, letting it
dry in-between each coat.
I set the canvas up on four glasses to dry.
I then painted the canvas with two coats of glossy black paint on the canvas front and sides, making sure that it was completely dry before continuing. Use the photos below as a guide.
My paint smock apron and shirt are on the chair behind the painting.
The original painting can be viewed on the iPad to the right.
Using chalk, I sketched out the design that I wanted, using a tape measure to center it, and a photo of the original painting as my guide.
I then painted the insides of my chalk sketches, using the photo of the original as my guide.
As you can probably see, in-between the leaves, I painted over the first white stem that I did, as it seemed too wide.
It took several coats of paint before it covered the black background to achieve the look that I was going for.
Once I had finished painting and it was dry, I used the chalk brush “broom”; and “swept” away the chalk marks from the canvas.
Still not satisfied with the look, I went back over a few areas that needed an additional punch of paint.
Signing my painting with a small paintbrush signifies that it is finished. :o)
My painting, Blue Blossom
In honor of my newest painting, Blue Blossom, I thought it only fitting to share with you our family recipe for Dirt Cake (sometimes referred to as Flower Pot Cake). This dessert is not actually a cake at all, but a yummy concoction of pudding, cream cheese and Oreos. It is also fun to present this undessertlike looking dish with a clean trowel, and surprise unsuspecting guests as you dig (Yep, a pun!) into the dirt to serve them!
(This has been my son’s birthday cake choice for many years.)
This is best made and served in a plastic pot (with no holes in the bottom).
This photo is of my daughter’s own Dirt Cake, using foil to “plug” up the drain holes.
1-1 lb. 2 oz. pkg. regular Oreo cookies
1 (8oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar (I prefer a lesser amount, maybe ½ cup)
2(3.4 oz.) 4-serving size, instant chocolate pudding (Flavor may be varied to taste.)
23/4 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Large (12 oz. or larger) cool whip, thawed
Gummy worms –optional
Finely crumble pkg. of Oreo cookies in blender, or food processor.
(I do everything in a food processor.) Set aside.
Cream together cream cheese and butter. Add sugar.
In separate bowl, mix pudding with milk and vanilla until set.
Combine the cream cheese mixture with the pudding mixture, and then stir in cool whip completely.
Beginning with the Oreo cookies, layer with
Creamed mixture, alternating several time.
Make sure that the Oreo layer is on top, with enough
“dirt” to cover.
Add a few gummy worms.
Note: This recipe will fit into a clean plastic flowerpot (no holes in the bottom), and can be decorated with a few clean silk flowers in the center, if desired, covering the stems with foil, prior to inserting into the “dirt”
May be served with a new, clean gardening spade.
Thanks for reading! :o)
I attempt to post my blog bi-monthly, but due to travel, it will be around November 7 before I next talk to you.
A big thank you to all of my blog followers!!!
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Posing in American Gothic, along with my Uncle Larry, at the
STATE OF IOWA HISTORICAL MUSEUM, September 2012