Friday, April 23, 2010

Art Show

A store in down town PA has asked me to exhibit paintings and examples of my FAKE IT IN FABRICS during the Art Walk early in June.

I was asked to send a bio and I have had many difficult moments trying to figure out what to send. Every time I would begin it sounded as though I was writing another blog. So it will be my new blog.

I think they want me to show a couple of paintings and mostly concentrate on FAKE IT IN FABRICS. I have made several Matisses, a couple of Van Goghs and many other lesser artists in that media. I gave a class at the PA senior center that was successful for me and for the persons in the class. I have been asked to have another class and before summer I hope to have another one, with two people coming from California to attend.

Anna is supposed to act as my agent and it is a learning time for her, as it is for me. I will offer to do a FAKE IT IN FABRICS for anyone who would be satisfied with a FAKE. It will be expensive but I can guarantee it will cost a lot less than the original.

We have a Yacht building company, or maybe two, in PA. One of the companies built a half a million dollar yacht named Vango. We saw it out in the Straight being tested before it left our waters. There was a story in our daily paper which claimed that the name of the yacht came from the fact that they could not afford an original Van Gogh. I was so tempted to ask the designer who did the interior of the yacht if he would show the owners my Van Gogh done in FAKE IT IN FABRIC. I, of course, lost my nerve.

While working on this I have managed to send a bio which is adequate with, when did I start painting, where have I exhibited, with whom did I study, and who shaved my grandfather. Wish me luck.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dr Blemer

This name was mentioned before, long ago, but I do not remember in what capacity. When we moved to Port Angeles one of my first errands was getting a library card. The library was nearly a hundred years old and not in very good shape. Most of all, it was an exceedingly ugly building, for many years ago it had needed more space and a new addition was hiding the lovely original building. The friends of the library needed new members and it was a fun group to work with. We raised between one thousand and two thousand dollars every year on a book sale which lasted over the weekend. It was hard back breaking work and most of us were more than spring chickens.

One day while sorting books, I found a book that dealt with Dr Blemer and his famous house keeper.

First I have to mention that Dr Blemer graduated from the medical school at Mc Gill University and in his senior year he was voted the most likely to succeed. He, however, married a wealthy woman who belonged to a Christian Science Church. After I knew him, he worked from 5AM to 10.30AM, seeing mostly farmers who came in from the country side and me with my chronically infected throat. I the afternoons he played golf. When he was needed for a huge accident of some sort he always behaved heroically. He also helped me with Martha and her speech problem.

And so, twenty five years later, I find this book in Port Angeles, dealing with Dr Blemer. It seems that he and his wife had given the escaped "trunk murderer' Winnie Ruth Judd a job as a house keeper. She had a car registered in her name and when a murder occurred in Danville all strangers were suspect. Her relative had borrowed her car, the Highway Patrol stopped him and found the name Winnie Ruth Judd on the papers in the car and all of a sudden she was in trouble again. She was declared not guilty and the murder of a Psychiatrist's wife was never solved. The murdered woman who was shot in their patio early on morning was an aquaintance of mine when we lived in Diablo. A friend of mine and I were invited to lunch with her on the patio where she later was murdered. We did get to see fabulous paintings by French Masters hanging in her house.

Sam and I were happy to have left Southern California where we had never really felt at home. We lived in a virtual paradise, with the most breathtaking view of the ocean. We had tennis and swimming daily as a possibility. We had two couples who were dear friends and we did many things with them, such as playing bridge, playing tennis going to Palm Springs for golf etc. Suddenly both couples went through divorces, and Sam an I felt harmed by them too. Both men had philandered and possibly the younger of the men felt he had permission to do the same after the news came out about the older one. These were both men of quality, we thought, one a Superior Court Judge and the other a professor at UCI. We were devastated and felt as cheated on as the wives did.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Herb Caen

It was time to try to paint Herb Caen. One of his good friends was Barnaby Conrad, the younger brother of one of Sam's best friends, Hunt Conrad. He paved my way and Herb said yes when I presented my plan.

I had to see him at 2PM after his walk about town checking up on his pals. And after his leisurely lunch with his friends. After 2PM he spent a couple of hours at his desk in his office taking copious notes from incoming phone calls. He laughed a lot and obviously enjoyed his life and his work. ( Historically, at one time Herb and the owners of the paper had a falling out and Herb quit and went across the street and worked for the other paper in town. Thousands of people gave up their subscription to the Chronicle and moved their allegiance to the other paper. However soon the Chronicle realized that they needed Herb and they settled their difficulties.

In Herb's office I sat next to his desk. It was difficult to concentrate for he was very amusing. The calls were constant and the repartee was exciting. It was fun to read his column the next morning remembering how the item came in while I was sitting there. At one time Herb said he would pay me a bundle if I would give him a turned up nose. My portrait of Herb was a disappointment to me. There was a good likeness but it was not ART. I got much publicity especially after the portrait hung in
deYoung Museum. I gave the painting to the educational channel in San Francisco and rumor had it that it was bought by a hotel on Market street and they hung it in the Herb Caen Suite. When we lived in Northern California I often wanted to find it.

And then I was going to paint Bishop Pike and Willie Mays. One day Sam come home from work and told us that his partner in Southern California had died and he was supposed to take over his job. We moved. We had lived in Diablo nearly 20 years and I had been very active in the schools and in our church and in the world of art. We had made such good friends. I saw myself as others saw me and after we moved and I knew no one and I lost my identity. I remember going to Martha's graduation ceremony and sat there not knowing a soul and I felt I was invisible. We lived there until 1983 and I think I painted no more than five or six successful paintings.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Famous San Franciscans

Don Sherwood was a popular early radio talk show host. He was intrigued when he agreed I could come and paint while he was broadcasting. I was nervous and packed the car the night before I had to begin. His program began at 5AM. I left home in the dark, and worried all the way to the city. How would I get the palette, my brushes, the canvas, my small easel and my purse from the car to the building into the elevator. When I arrived I found out I had to sit in a small glass booth next to a larger glass booth where Don was to broadcast. Not the best of arrangements for there were many reflections in the glass. I could hear him as if there was no glass separating us and in the middle of the hours I was there he suddenly introduced me to his audience. He was a very amusing and quite handsome person. He did not sit still for a second. I found out early that this portrait was not going to succeed. I thanked him profusely for having agreed to let me try.

I saved the painting in our garage and a couple of years later someone asked me to enter a juried show in Walnut Creek. I repainted Don Sherwood's eyes and made them into small, small raisin like eyes. I signed the painting and my entry
NEEK RETLAW. The painting was accepted for the show and when Herb Caen told about the joke there were many more visitors to the Art Exhibit. WALTER KEEN was famed for his paintings of little children with huge eyes. O rather, Walter Keen was famous for the paintings his wife painted of children.

By the way, a commenter on my last blog, asked if the sharpshooter was Annie Oakley. No. My sharpshooter was often on the same stage as Annie Oakley. My friend's married name was Semmelmeier. We all knew her public name from the newspaper articles from the Chicago papers, but I forget.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

More on painting

Maureen and I had had a long time of admiration from a distance. She was a gorgeous woman who had at one time been involved in Hollywood. She was an accomplished swimmer and had won many honors in College and the powers in Hollywood had decided to train her for one day taking over from Esther Williams who was not getting younger. That kind of picture with huge casts and imposing money outlays for the studio suddenly became passe and Maureen married a man who had kicked a football longer than anyone else in the yearly in New Years Pasadena Spectacle. Both of them became models and then moved to Diablo and became our neighbors.

Anna, our daughter who was 10 was extremely shy and Sam and I decided a horse would give her not only good posture but also a good feeling of who she was. Maureen gave her lessons in horsemanship. Anna could not ride her horse outside our property before getting her graduation papers from Maureen. This has been a long intro into my association with Maureen.

We formed a loose business deal and rented a building in Danville. We called it DIABLO DESIGN CENTER. It was located between Dr Blemers office and the local cinema. It was an old building with lots of charm. It was covered with cascading flowers. Peter Blos who lived in Berkley was happy about not having to drive to Burlingame and agreed to teach in what became my Art School and with a name like his we also lured four or five other well known painters to a come out to Danville. It was a success from day one. I bought twelve easels and signed up twelve students for most of the classes. (many drove from Burllingame). I kept one day for teaching a beginners class. A friend built a model stand and Peter brought his own lighting equipment. I want you to remember the name Blemer for it recurs in 1983 after we had moved to Port Angeles.

You may think I was well on my way to becoming rich. I painted the flowers that covered our building and sold it almost at once. I also fabricated a construction of old sewing machine parts and named it Mary and the child. A big horse owner saw it and bought it even though I had put a ridiculously high price on it for I wanted to keep it. He hung it in his elegant tack room
Maureen who was an architectual designer was busy designing a home bought all my mistakes in painting a loaf of Wonderbread. The man who sold the company the new type of paper used in the bread wrap wanted me to paint a loaf, sitting on red velvet. I accepted his offer and the price he was to pay me. I bought the bread and the velvet and a piece of Brie cheese and a bottle of red wine and proudly showed him what I had created. He threw up his arms and said 'I want a loaf of bread on red velvet and nothing else.' (he was Gilbert's baseball coach') And so every monday I bought a loaf of bread and began a new painting. Our children were not allowed to eat that kind of soft white bread so I usually just stood there after another failure and made the bread into a factory building with a river in the foreground and skyscrapers in the distance. Or I made it into a luxurious sofa with a teen slouching on it. There were many weeks of failures. Finally I said 'I cant make it'.

But Maureen bought every one of the failures. Since she knew they were supposed to be a Wonderbread she did not pay much for them. She had all of them framed in very expensive frames and when I saw them years later I think she got away with a coup

Monday, April 12, 2010

Not continued

I could not say continued for this will be an attempt to tell you what happened between the time Anna was less than a month old and when she went to college. First we had Martha and a year later we had Jane. And when Jane was born I was disconnected. My MD was worried that the negative blood situation (can you tell that here that I am faking it? I can't remember the right word. But Martha was born slightly anemic and Jane had to have a transfusion.) We were so lucky to have four healthy children.

And that was when I was going to fill my time with projects that could make money. Hence art classes. I had four children who were five and under. I spent as much time as I could painting and drawing. As my talents seemed to be in the portrait area I was in the right place in Thomas Leighton's class. He was a stickler for details and it was good discipline to follow his instructions. The worst dressing down I got in his class was once when he felt I had not cleaned my brushes correctly. I felt like a ten year old about to get a beating. But I never allowed my brushes to dry unless they were cleaned in thinner and then soap and water.

His studio was near the old baseball stadium, on Bay street. I remember starting out early on my drive to San Francisco on Wednesdays. I had an hour or more to only worry about the car nearest to me. And then I of course worried about my car making it over the bridge. I drove a 1939 Chevrolet that we bought from Sam's partner. We called it the green hornet. Sometimes it refused to start, but I watched the repairmen we called to see how they fixed that problem. On the passenger side they lifted the hood, looked worried for a while and then they grabbed a thingamajig and jiggled it slightly and then the motor would start. I said to myself 'I can do that'. One day I was going out for lunch after seeing the dentist, and since the car wouldn't start, I took off my little white gloves and moved the thingamajig. When I lowered the hood, my dentist was standing there laughing. He said, I have a few problems with my car, when can you come over. ( I digress again.)

Thomas Leighton's studio was serene with two doves usually cooing in their cage. Always we enjoyed classical music. There was a fellow student who had an interesting past. She was a famous sharp-shooter and when she was young she had shared the stage with world famous shooters. On one occasion the Chicago Police department asked her if she would help them prove how safe a certain vest was for the force to wear. She or her agent agreed. In front of thousands she shot this policeman who fell down dead. He had forgotten to put the protective things into his vest. It was such a shock to her that she never shot a gun again. After much urging she brought with her the Chicago newspapers and it was interesting to read about all the investigations that followed. And to see how beautiful she was as a young woman. She was elderly when I met her.

Thomas Leighton was such a stickler in adding everything in detail into his paintings. I enjoyed the discipline but I did not like that kind of painting. We would have a professional model for four weeks And we would paint embroidery on her skirt and each hair shown correctly. One day on the last day of the model Mr Leighton said to me 'I think you are finished.' I said 'since there is half an hour left my I get a canvas in my car and just see what I can do' He frowned but said yes. In twenty minutes I finished the face of the model and I think it is the best painting I have ever painted. So when I heard of a teacher in Burlingame whose name was Peter Blos I tried to get into his class. He critiqued my paintings and said 'yes I could attend his classes.' His portraits were wonderful with loosely applied paint. He would mix a brushful of paint on his palette and then study the next stroke he was going to apply, and then he would add a little more amber and then study again to see if he now had the correct nyance. It was a discipline of a different kind.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Plot II

I told you how I exhibited paintings after I was invited by the owner of our local cinema, against the advice of my teacher, who said I was not ready to show. And how my hair person said she wanted me to do her portrait. I charged her $25 and painted a; horrible portrait of her. It was partly her fault that it was horrible for her ears sat in the wrong place on her skull. My powers of observation were not acute enough to realize that they were sitting too high on her head. Everyone knows that the ears are supposed to be between the eyebrows and the bottom of the nose, On the side of the head of course. She loved her portrait and when she gave me the $25 I took them to San Francisco to take lessons from Sir Thomas Leighton who charged $25 for four days of lessons. From 10AM to 3PM. I arranged for a baby sitter from 8.30AM to 4.30PM. I paid for her out of our grocery money. She was a real find for she liked to bake and cook while she was there. She kept all four children in the kitchen so she knew where they were and what they were doing. Her name was Sadie and I soon found out she did not know how to read. She made apple pies with potato flour for thickening.

After I had learned more with Thomas Leighton I took the portrait back from my hair dresser and painted her again in oils and this time I knew about her ears, and the painting was a success. And I was very proud of it.

It did not take me long before I rented a space I could use as a studio. I began teaching a few of my friends what I had learned as a painter, and soon I had a long list of people who wanted to join my class. It was a heady time and I hoped it would continue but then came the time for us to move to Southern California. We moved when Anna had gone off to UC Davis so a lot of years had passed since she was less than a month old. My memories seem to shrink the time between these happenings.

Friday, April 9, 2010


When my three daughters were here for the birthday parties, Martha, very generously gave me a long hour of tutoring. All this time since, A paper that she helped me has been sitting by my computer, looking very threatening. There are twelve Post-it-notes decorating it.

At first her question to me was What made made you want to paint?

On the first little yellow slip it talks about how little money we had when the children were young. Sam worked hard and he worked daily. He was a self starter which was lucky, for he had no boss checking up on him. He could have worked one day a week and stayed home with me for the other six. I am afraid I would not have urged him to drive off early in the morning for I would have loved having him home.

There was one day when he should have stayed home. But it was a Friday and he had to go to the Furniture Mart i San Francisco. I was sick with a high temperature and possibly a strep throat. He got Gilbert fed and diapers changed and left him to play in his room. By pulling my side of the bed over to the door of Gilbert's room, he became stuck in his room. Anna was asleep in another bedroom and I had fed her and changed her. Then he put a glass of water on my bed side table and in the last minute added a bottle of aspirin. And then he left to return at seven or seven thirty that evening.

I fell asleep. And when I woke an hour or two later, I was shocked to see a white powder all over the floor in what as Gilbert's domain. I soon found out that he had taken the aspirin into his room and tried to eat what he thought was candy. I was desperate. What if he had eaten too much. What to do.

I called our pediatrician whose office was only five or ten minutes away. She said 'I will be right up to check on him.' When she arrived she went immediately to Gilbert. I took her into our bedroom and showed her how Sam had arranged for Gilbert to be safe. She told me to get back in bed and went in to check on Gilbert. She looked on the amount of white powder on the floor and offered to give him a white pill and he stuck out his tongue and shook his head. She came back to tell me the good news, that she felt he had not eaten any and might have stomped on them on purpose. And now how is Anna, she said. She is still asleep. I will show you. So we went into the third bedroom where Anna slept peacefully. Anna was less than a month old and as cute as a button with her bright red hair.

You should not have been left alone, as sick as you are. Do you have anyone to call to come to help you? I said yes I would do that. She left, and as far as I remember never sent a bill for the house call. And that was the last house call by a doctor.

All the little yellow post it notes did not help me stay organized. I was supposed to begin the way I did and then go on to tell you why I began taking art lessons. Was it to quiet an inner need to express myself? No. It happened when Jane was born two years after the story of the aspirins. I suddenly realized that we were going to have four children in college at the same time. And somewhere I had learned how much that cost. I had to do something to help. And next time I will tell you what exciting adventures happened because I was bound and determined to get rich and famous.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Another long hiatus

Is there an excuse for waiting this long and what could have kept me this long from the computer? I will let you in on all the what fors.

I think all of you know about my son in law, Steve. I call him Peter Pan, who will never grow up. He has many endearing qualities but that is a great one. Anna, his wife, who is one of my favorite daughters (I have three favorites) and Steve decided, that since it was going to be Anna's sixtieth birthday around the same time it was my ninetieth we would combine our celebrations into one party.

Apparently Steve wears home made sox on his feet when he enters the house of one of their friends. Some of them are outragiously colorful. When asked where he gets them, he replies From a mother in law who loves him. And then someone said, would she make a pair for me? His answer was Send some money to the Port Angeles Food bank and maybe she will. So twenty four couples took up a collection and sent more than six hundred dollars to the food bank. Two days ago I finished the twenty fourth pair. I rushed over to my neglected computer and it would not work. Last night, another favorite daughter, Martha, helped me overcome the problems. Martha is the plot lady you can read about on Shreve's advertisers. And by the way, Shreve has promised to insert a picture of most of the sox in question.

And then I have to warn you that another favorite daughter, Jane, sent me a huge book. The note with the book said:
HAPPY BASEBALL SEASON from three of your fans, Anna, Martha and Jane. The title of the book is WILLIE MAYS, by James Hirsch
It will take me to the time of the next World Series to finish it. Last night the MARINERS won in spring training exhibition play and I will hope for many more victories. Life is so exciting!!