Calm Down

By W. R. Jones


    If you are a painter you have heard the words, “it must be so relaxing to paint.”  Ya, right.

    When I saw this view the light was barely touching the house.  An old woman was standing in her driveway.  I approached her to say how I liked the look of her house and would like to paint it.  She volunteered to move her car to give me an unobstructed view.

    Even as I was setting up I could feel the pressure of the moving light.   Calm down, just relax I told myself.  This is just  a study.  I’ve heard this line from very experienced very well known landscape painters.  I don’t know if it works for them; not for me.   I need drugs.

    I threw up paint as fast as I could as the stress of the rising sun pumped cortisol directly into my heart.  It really is amazing how someone could think this relaxing.

    I tried praying for strengh, I tried deep breathing, I tried thinking about being on the beach with a beautiful normal looking woman, I tried a few shots of tequila.  Nothing could still my shaking hand.  On two separate occasions passersby stopped, looked at the house, looked at my painting, looked at the house, looked at the painting, looked at me, then said, “would you like me to call your mommy”?

    I have all the stiffness of resolve of a steamed noodle.  Both times I broke down with lower lip quivering and sobbed, “PLEASE!”

    The owner of the house, sweet lady she was, came out later to ask how it was going.  I was expecting her to ask me in for something to eat and sort of let my thoughts slip out verbally, so to speak.  Where upon she informed me she would be happy to have me in but only had a few baby carrots in the fridge.  I told her no thanks, I’m suddenly feeling full.

    Still, it is an ill wind that blows no good; I learned a valuable lesson.   From now on I’m sniffing the air for the smell of bacon before I ask someone if I can paint at their house.

This entry was posted in Humor, Painting, Plein Air. Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Calm Down

  1. bonnieluria says:

    So much to like about this one Bill. The shadows on the house, the receding foliage behind the house and the foreground flowers.

    And you’re not fearful of setting up in front of an old ladies’ house.
    You may be ready to paint HERE.

    I’ll do better than a few baby carrots.

  2. Do you know where that woman (Bonnie) lives?!? Ask her for air fare and a room at her beach house, kick back, enjoy the tropical breeze, and wait for dinner! Yum!

    Are you a man or a wuss?…IGNORE THAT STUPID RED COLORED bullshit message on my comments section and click “submit comment” a SECOND TIME. I want to read your advice on my bicycle painting!

    PS: Painting indoors is HARD WORK and painting outdoors is HARDER WORK, but you did an admirable job here. Next time try Jack Daniels from a paper bag.

  3. I had to chuckle at your account, esp. the first line. I’ve thought a lot about this and was just considering it today.

    Perhaps painting is not exactly relaxing for most of us. But I do think it makes us forget about our troubles sometimes, not to mention chores. Just ask my husband; tonight I forgot to cook dinner.

    …well not exactly… but dinner IS pretty simple this evening. Leftovers.

    You should do some more of these house paintings, Bill. I think I hear your mama calling you. She says get over there and paint that house again. This one shows a lot of promise and it looks like you actually enjoyed yourself, even if you don’t admit it.

    Now what I want to know is, how do I get a photo here as a commenter that doesn’t make me look like a cross-eyed Billy Bones? Who took that of me anyway? And when was that? (I’m guessing when I got news of our last property tax increase?)

  4. wrjones says:

    Thanks, Bonnie. I really hope to get the opportunity to paint near you someday. Not likely, but I keep hoping Carol will surprise me with a ticket for Christmas.

    I think that is good advice, David. I’m going to practice on the Jack Daniels from a bag in my room until I get good at it. Did you learn that from your brother?

    Diana – you could get a wordpress blog (they are free) and comment from there for the wordpress posts and from your normal blog for the others. You can then put up the avatar of your choise. I’m thinking you should wear a bikini for commenting here in California. Actually I did enjoy painting the house, although I wish that woman would have had a hamburger.

  5. Anna Surface says:

    This is a gorgeous painting, Bill. I love it. I know how you feel, though. When out on a photo shoot and getting set up, the light will be just right but changing. I get in a hurry, just about quit breathing, wanting to capture what I see in the light just in the right slant. I’ve told myself to slow down, calm down, and relax many times. :)

  6. Dianne Mize says:

    This is a fine little painting, Bill. Maybe stick to baby carrots.

  7. Lisa B. says:

    Painting is not a relaxing sport, but a good painter will make it look so. Were you asleep for this one? It’s really very good. I especially like the subtle shadows on the house, and the simplified background.

    If you want to paint my house, I can supply homemade biscuits and jam if you’ll bring the bacon and eggs.

  8. kevmoore says:

    I have learned at close quarters, just how “relaxing” this painting lark can be. I’ll be minding my own business, accompanying Miki in a cafe, reading a book, deeply chilled (me, not the book) and i’ll hear all sorts of huffing and puffing and gallic expletives, because the woman she’s been sketching at the opposite table has had a) an aneurysm, b) gone home c) bent down to pet her dog or d) all three. Capturing a nanosecond of somebody’s likeness with pencil and pad seems rather irksome to me. I use a camera….

  9. Dawn says:

    Thanks for the laugh! I REALLY did need it. I enjoyed reading your experience and could relate a bit. I give you credit for asking her. I would have been nervous …and as the the change of light…well…it’s constantly changing isn’t it which makes it nearly impossible.
    Aren’t you glad you did it though! How beautiful a picture and what a great story you’ll always have for it.
    Will this one be for sale?
    I’m with the last commenter…That’s why I use a camera.
    When I paint I sing and I scream…and love every moment!

  10. Jala Pfaff says:

    I’ve been following you guys’ (My Midwestern upbringing is showing; you guyses’? Yourses? Youzes?) blog for quite a while now and I have to tell you, you guys are hilarious. I’ve just started my own art blog recently and had to add your link to it. And Bill, good luck with that Tock injury. And avoiding persimmons.
    Jala Pfaff
    Boulder, CO

  11. wrjones says:

    Thanks Anna, I expect you are very cognizant of fleeting light.

    Dianne – if I had a baby carrot I would paint it right now.

    Lisa B. – would I have to paint the whole house or could I just do the hallway?

    Kev – you will be the last sane person.

    Dawn – you are back. Great, you wanna come paint? That scream might keep the bears away.

    Jala – first of all, don’t lump us together. She is evil. Thanks for comming by. I looked at your work and am impressed. You are on our roll now as well. I left the first comment which by blogger rules means you owe me a free painting. At least that is the way Lisa explained the rules to me when she took my original John Singer Sargent. Said she was doing me a favor taking such an old piece instead of one of the new ones I had painted.

  12. That is a great house painting. Sorry about your anxiety…you must be off your meds. Every time someone announces that “painting is so relaxing” my lips curl and I think to myself, “This person is not getting any better. Painting is hard work, and it is not relaxing.”

  13. Nava says:

    Alas, it is only from true suffering that real art cometh. Such as changing light and baby carrots.

    Yes, I humbly admit: you really are a better whiner than I’ll ever be. My new blogpost states it clearly, if you wish to have a look.

    “I threw up paint as fast as I could” – that an intriguing new technique that I’ve never tried. Hmm – so, if you are barfing paint, you may really need drugs.

    And yet – nice painting! with so many leaves!

  14. Hehehe… So funny as usual. But not being a painter I too assumed painting was relaxing… I suppose if you are trying to capture something perfectly and precisely there would be a fair level of stress involved though.

  15. wrjones says:

    Connie – I’m completely out, you got any you can spare?

    Nava – It must take suffering and something else. If it was only suffering ALL my work would be hanging in the Lourve. Really, you mean to sit there and tell me you have never nibbled even a little bit on that Cad Red? It is so pretty had to taste it. I’m really liking the way you are managing my leaf series; thanks.

    Carmen – ¿cómo amaneció? (see, I do read your blog – sometimes). You should be a painter. We don’t like to suffer alone. That is a very attractive avatar. Do you actually eat those things? Tiny bit of fruit – large amount of seeds. A Milky Way doesn’t have ANY seeds.

  16. Pixie Glore says:

    Plein air painting is such fun! I remember the time a gardener turned the sprinklers on me! It left lovely splotches on my watercolor! Oh well–happy accidents.

  17. Lori says:

    Lovely painting Bill, thats the same color as my house!

    What kind of flowers are those, I need to get some and plant them next to it, they look beautiful.

    You think chasing the light is nerve wracking, try painting a boat in the water. The thing never holds still!

  18. 100swallows says:

    Nice painting, Bill. I would almost enjoy taking that path back to the outhouse. Sniff the flowers on the way.

  19. kimiam says:

    Bill, we’re having sushi tonight. You’re always welcome.

  20. wrjones says:

    Pixie – you found me. Stay right where you are. I will come work on your painting. There is room enough for both of us.

    Lori – thanks. I have no idea what those flowers are. I call them little red splotches of paint that does not taste as good as it looks.

    100swallows – you are supposed to go all the way back there to pee? Then what is the sidewalk for?

    Kimiam – I am stuck in airport. Can I come next week? And can I have a chocolate malt with my sushi? Thanks!

  21. 01varvara says:

    Dang, Bill… she shoulda been Russian! Then, you would have been offered a good belt of vodka for your trouble.

    Moral of the above: When a good day for painting comes, paint a good ol’ onion-domed Russian parish church. There’s enough of ’em in California! Then, you’ll be invited in for vodka n’ herring, at the least. Just remember to take off your shoes before entering and DON’T shake hands over the threshold… bad luck, y’ know. If Russkies aren’t available, Greeks and Serbs are just as good. Different firewater, though…

    You CAN hold your likker, can’t you, Bill? Good!

    Vara the puckish

  22. Great painting – love the story

  23. Jala Pfaff says:

    Hi again Bill,

    Well, let’s see, no problem, would you prefer an original Van Gogh, a Picasso, or a Pfaff? I know, tough question…I’ll give you some time to think about it. On my last post, by the way, I quoted Lisa about persimmons. Persimmons, mon Dieu!

  24. wrjones says:

    Vara – can you send me a map of all the Russian households in California? I would certainly prefer vodka to baby carrots. I really can’t paint close to any churches. Lightning will surely strike me.

    Cara – thanks but that is just too short. I want a paragraph out of you. You can choose any subject.

    Jala – I am a littttle bit smarter than Lisa. You are not going to dump some old canvas by a dead crazy guy or an arrogant original Mexican on me when I can have new canvas painted by a young beauty.

  25. Bill Sharp says:

    Nice one Bill. I feel your pain regarding the painting as relaxation thing.

    BTW, My house needs painting. I’ll even let you use my ladder.

  26. diana says:

    Bill, thanks for telling how to get my own wordpress avatar. I’ll be wearing more than a bikini, however, since I haven’t owned once since the early 70s when I actually looked good in one. 5 kids and 35+ years later I stick to covering the flaws instead of advertising them. Thanks for the kind thoughts, though!

  27. Jala Pfaff says:

    Hmmm….flattery will get you everywhere.

  28. wrjones says:

    Bill – you will provide the ladder? That sounds too good to be true. I’m on my way. I have my own brushes and I will supply the paint. I have some dioxine purple that will make your place stand out.

    Diana – dress up real purty for us. Really, the avatars are so small you will look just fine in a bikini.

    Jala – I’m going out on my front porch right now to wait for my painting.

  29. carolking says:

    I’m back. (in body only. My brain is still on an island in the Caribbean.)
    And for a few minutes I was actually relaxed.
    I like this painting. And I applaud your ability to paint outside. In front of people. Even if they are old ladies. I cannot do that.
    But whatever you do, don’t go to St. Croix. Bonnie really didn’t mean it when she said you could go there. She’s always saying things like that.
    And don’t worry. I won’t be surprising you with a ticket for Christmas. However, there may be a restraining order in the mail. Keep a look out. :)

  30. wrjones says:

    Carol – exactly how much body did you bring back? Are you sure I can’t go see Bonnie? Even if I promise to stop stalking her? I know you are teasing about the ticket. My bag is packed. I’m going to look sooo good in my string speedo. Can you get me an aisle seat? Once I start drinking I have to pee a lot.

  31. WR, When I was a youth (not THAT long ago — since pre-Cambrian times) one of my relatives told me bluntly that I “hated painting.” Was just thinking about that remark recently (and wondering if it’s still too late to let all the air out of his tires ….) Ah hem. Actually, his comment was such a needed kick in the gluteus maximus. I did hate painting. I loved looking at old masters at the National Gallery, but I hated painting.

    Around that same youthful time, I used to take a long walk in the neighborhood with my dad. We passed the same places day after day. Once while taking the walk alone, a man whose house we always passed spoke to me, and we got briefly into a conversation. He asked what I did, and I said as inaudibly as possible “I’m an artist” trying to swallow the words. His reaction was so gentle, saying “it must be wonderful to do something you love.” And I kind of mumbled “yeah.”

    Considering the remarks of my relative and the neighbor, I figured that I should try to find a way not to hate painting. Happily, as you know, I did find it.

    And so did you, sly ol’ fox …. we both figured out how to really love painting. Good for us.

    Still got any candy? Love the building and the flowers, but too bad she didn’t have any decent food.


  32. wrjones says:

    AK – I do like to paint when it is going well. When it is not working it is not so much fun. I most like painting outside with a companion but not that many people (whose company I enjoy) want to go along. Enjoyed your story.

  33. Bill, i love the vibration of that pink voilet against the greens. this painting worked (even without any bacon)! Holly

  34. wrjones says:

    Holly – thanks. If that woman had bacon, I’d still be there.

  35. 01varvara says:

    Well… there are plenty in San Francisco. If you wish to avoid churches, the Cathedral is on Geary Boulevard, but, I can attest there is a good Chinese restaurant across the street. Perhaps, the moo goo gai pan and Peking duck would keep the lightning away. If you’re a good boy, Johnny Guba might give you a slug of his home-made apple brandy… but, only if you behave!


  36. I presume that means pomegranate… since I don’t know spanish; but BRAVO Bill Bravo! ;) And yes I actually do eat these “fruits with too many seeds” as u refer to them… they are divine! Bit different to chocolately goodness but no doubt a Food of the Gods! haa

  37. wrjones says:

    Vara – I’ll have to have something to drink before I can eat those ugly ducks.

    Carmen (Seeds), if you are happy, I’m happy. Just out of curiosity, do you spit them across the room at a particular target?

  38. LOL… this fruit is one of those special ones that you can actually eat the seeds. In fact ut that way the pomegranate becomes just like you said – all seeds! 600+ apparantly! Soooo if you didn’t eat the seeds there would be no fruit! Only white bitterness. :(

  39. gypsy-heart says:

    I love this piece, wr. Looks like a place I would like to visit.
    Hmmm…if we could only step into our paintings. (well, most of the time..haven’t you had weapons in yours before?) :O

  40. Maybe you could just sit in your backyard and paint from pictures and save yourself the grief of changing light?

  41. wrjones says:

    Susan – That is BRILLIANT!

    Actually, Lisa and I started a project (and never finished like lots of stuff we discuss) to film an outdoor scene then project it for a class to paint from. I think this might come in handy for some teachers.

    1. You get the effect of changing light
    2. You don’t have to have everyone find some remote location
    3. You can carefully monitor how each student selects a design from the same scene
    4. The students can more easily learn from each other
    5. No mosquitoes, wind, rain, cold, crowds
    6. At the end of the session (or anywhere in the middle) you can replay from the beginning to see who has been chasing the light.

    With big screen TV’s (and for this you would want a rear projection TV or LCD) coming down in price, the investment would not be odious (unless you are as broke as me).

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