True Stories: Some of Art's Lighter Moments

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ˇ True Stories: Welcome
ˇ That Awful Orange
ˇ How I Started Painting the Golden Gate Bridge
ˇ Muh-therr!! or The Garden Path
ˇ But Artists Are Supposed to Paint When They're Miserable
ˇ I Thought I Was Discovering a Starving Artist in a Garret

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Muh-therr!! or The Garden Path

(The painting on the cover of Cancer in Two Voices was painted at the top of this garden path.)

One of my main subjects in painting is flowers. "Flowers and bridges?" I have heard people say. "You can't paint flowers if you paint bridges." The subtext reads, "You can't paint something 'womanish' (and low on the Western fine arts totem pole) if you paint something 'manly' (and high on the Western fine arts totem pole)." Well, Joseph Stella did it, and Georgia O'Keefe did it, and Charles Sheeler did it, and Charles Demuth did it, and I do it, and that's not all.

One of my favorite places to paint flowers is in a hillside garden on the south slope of Mt. Davidson in San Francisco. The vista includes the San Mateo Bridge, Hunters Point Shipyard, Mt. San Bruno, and glorious patterns of neighborhood streets going straight uphill or curving around inclines.

The garden in which I paint was one of the first to be filled with California plants as the native plant movement started in the 1970s. At the foot of the garden is a small terrace above a retaining wall. It's a good spot to paint and eat lunch. The garden path works its way uphill with a virtual switchback. At the top there is a flat expanse even better for painting, and good for sleeping and viewing. I can not count the times I've done all three in this location. It's a steep climb up the garden path. Once your paints are up there, it's nice to have other things as well. Lunch. Coffee. Especially coffee.

This garden is the home of the Blue Teapot School, and while we Blue Teapoteers like tea, we also like coffee. Fresh, hot coffee. Most fresh, hot coffee these days pours from an automatic coffeemaker. The pot of the Blue Teapot School coffeemaker had a serious run in with the side of the kitchen sink. A replacement was on order.

Down in the basement was a fine old metal electric percolator shaped like something that would do for tea in The Importance of Being Earnest. What a gem! Also in the basement was a long, orange extension cord. When this cord was put out the kitchen window, attached to every brown or white extension cord we could find on the main floor, and run straight up the slope through the pink clarkia, orange mimulus, blue and lavendar penstamon, and various salvias, flowering grasses, and sneezeweed, it reached the top of the garden, enabling us to paint and sip good coffee at will, oblivious to the world beyond our work.

Unexpectedly, we heard a shout from the kitchen. "Muh-therr!" Angry blue eyes open as wide as they would go looked up at us from beside the offending extension cord. "What have you done!" It wasn't a question. The voice was that of the gardener - he who had put in this excellent garden. It did not suit the gardener's concept of color on the slopes to see a long snaky length of orange, brown, and white extension cord working its way up through his layout of colors and textures.

"We wanted good coffee while we paint!" we managed to say through our laughter, which kept up long after the gardener had left the window.

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