Monday, May 26, 2014

Of Cars and Cats and Broken Things

Real life has a way of interrupting all the things you really want to do.  So it has been for the past two weeks around here.

It started with a cat.  One of our neighbors had a cat that they never paid attention to.  They never took her to the vet, never gave her shelter, and never fed her.  Last winter, when we were down in single-digit temperatures, the cat showed up at our house looking underfed and desperate.  We were reluctant to take her in the house, but we made up a warm and protected shelter for her, fed her, and on the worst nights, brought her into the garage.  So she adopted us and we named her Bella.  But Bella was also pregnant (the little hussy).  Eventually, she had the kittens.  We never discovered where they were, but she would come visit several times during the day and wolf down huge amounts of food and milk, then run off to take care of the kids.

Then, about two weeks ago, Janis spotted a tiny little face peering out from behind the ShopVac in our garage.  I went over and discovered three tiny, scared little kittens.  A fourth was hiding behind some shelves.  Bella had brought her children over to her safe haven.  The little things were still nursing and a bit feral.  Eventually, though, they got used to us and began exploring the garage.  (Actually, they took over the garage: we have to park the cars outside so we can come and go without disturbing the kittens.  Lord knows you can't disturb the kittens.)

We tried to find homes for them.  We managed to place one, but that was it.  So last week, well after they had stopped nursing and graduated to hard food, I took three of them over to the Madison County Animal Shelter.  They were a huge hit.  I was worried about their future, but the staff (great bunch of people) assured me that cute little kittens like these are quickly adopted.  That was good news.  Meanwhile, we've still got Bella and are temporarily watching the one kitten who's been spoken for, just until her new owner can pick her up.  And when the remaining little one is gone, Bella's going to go to the vet for the first time ever so she can get her shots and get spayed.  No more kitties for us!

About the time the kitties showed up, our Volvo got rear-ended by a 93-year-old guy driving a Cadillac.  We were sitting in a long line at a stoplight and he just wasn't paying attention.  Wham!  The front end of the Caddy was destroyed and our Volvo took a pretty good licking.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt.  Unlike the old guy in the Caddy, we were able to drive away.  It's been in the body shop for a week now and (hopefully) we'll get it back tomorrow.

Our insurance company had us go to Enterprise for a rental car.  These guys were clueless.  Totally.  I made arrangements to pick up the car the day after the accident.  When I got there, they had no idea I was coming.  Then they gave me a Nissan Frontier that was identical to our own except 6 years and 30K miles newer.  We arranged to swap it for a car early the next week.  Again, when I got down there to swap it, they had no idea that I was coming.  This despite the fact that I had called them 30 minutes prior to let them know I was on my way!  Of course, they didn't have a car ready, and after about an hour, they wound up giving us a Jeep Wrangler.  Now I'm not big on Jeeps - I think they're rolling antiques at this point - but Janis loves it.  So we've been driving a Wrangler for the past two weeks.

As we were dealing with kittens and cars, we had another rude surprise.  Our 16-year-old heat pump died.  Our trusted heating/cooling guys had been telling us for maybe three years that we should be prepared for it to go, and it finally went.  So we brought 'em out for an estimate for a replacement.  Well, it wasn't so simple.  The original heat pump was built into the attic in a way that is extremely difficult to remove.  It really shouldn't have been up there in the first place as our attic has no airflow and is hotter than all hell in the summertime.  And the heating/cooling ducts to the back half of the house are too small and too long to allow for enough air to circulate.  The bottom line: the new heat pump needs to go in the crawl space below the house, where it'll be cooler in summer and warmer in winter, and where the air ducts can be most efficiently routed.

That's the right answer.  It's also expensive.

So we've been working on a home-equity loan to pay for the new system.  It's a royal pain in the keister.  Because it's tied to the equity in the home, they want to know everything.  Everything about the house, the land, our income, you name it.  An unbelievable amount of paperwork.  Fortunately, our credit rating is pretty strong.  We should get the "good to go" sign in the next couple of days, but it'll still be a few weeks before everything is signed, sealed, and delivered.  Ugh.

And while all this was going on, our mower broke.

On the positive side of the equation, I landed a new client for my consulting business.  So I've been working hard to ensure I get off on the right foot with them.  It's taking a lot (a lot) of time, but so far, so good.

But this means that I've been able to spend about zero amount of time in the studio.  I've had a couple of art developments, but will save those for an art-related post.  Hopefully, by then the kitten will be at her new home, our new cat will be spayed, our Volvo will be back from the body shop, our lawnmower will be back from the lawnmower shop, our loan will be approved, the new heat pump will be in the process of being installed, and my new client will be happy.

Maybe then I can spend a day in the studio.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

New Paintings

I recently completed two new paintings and wanted to share them here.

Saddle Up
Oil on canvas, 50"x40"
©2014 Skip Rohde

Saddle Up is about a friend of ours, Pete, who was a Marine in Viet Nam.  Pete was in some really vicious battles during his two tours there in 1968 and 69.  When I interviewed him as preparation for this painting, he said that he was still fighting some of those battles at night.  His wife said he normally sleeps only a few hours.  I tried to capture that experience here.  Pete was the one who came up with the title.  "Saddle up, ladies" was the call to the Marines to head out on patrol.

After the Patrol
Oil on canvas, 24"x30"
©2014 Skip Rohde

After the Patrol was done from a sketch I did in Afghanistan.  A group of soldiers returned to our base completely worn out from their day conducting a village patrol in 120+ degree heat.  These can be nerve-wracking in the best of times because you never know when an IED might go off, or when insurgent fighters might open up.  You're a walking target.  And this sergeant had been in charge of the patrol.

I feel pretty good about both of these paintings.  I think both manage to capture the feelings I was looking for.  There are one or two other paintings in the queue right now.  Hopefully, it won't be months before they're done!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Artists on Etsy

Last month, I wrote a post about establishing a gallery on Etsy.  Since then, I've continued to add to it, refine the listings, and actually sell a couple of pieces.  My gallery currently has 62 items and I'll add some more this weekend.

Some artists cringe at the thought of putting their work on Etsy.  It has an image of a craftsy place for hobbyists.  I've found that's not necessarily true.  While, yes, there are tons of people who are hobbyists, and frankly a lot of the work is about the level of a hobbyist, there are actually some highly talented and capable professional artists there as well.  We're talking about people with bachelors and masters degrees in fine art, teachers at some of the best art schools in the country (Rhode Island School of Design, for example), and many who are just plain good.

Etsy has a feature called a "treasury" list.  Members can put together a variety of "treasuries" of items that caught their eye.  I did one called "Outstanding Figurative Art on Etsy".  It links to really strong work by 16 different artists.  Here are some of them.

Kristina Havens does some beautiful classical figurative work.  She has an MFA degree and it shows in the quality of her drawings.  Kristina is actually the reason I've got an Etsy shop: she wrote an article on setting one up that was published in Professional Artist magazine.  It got me started on the project and I'm still following her advice.  Kristina's shop is Krystyna81.  She also has a blog.

I've been looking at Helen Gotlib's figure drawings for years.  This young lady really knows how to draw expressive figures.  And flowers, too.  She earned a BFA degree, has exhibited in solo and juried shows, and has worked the art festival circuit.  Her shop is HelenGotlib and her web site is

Derek Overfield is a beautifully expressive artist.  His drawings are gestural rather than classical, full of energy and power.  Derek, like the other two, has a degree in fine art, and has exhibited in numerous juried shows.  His Etsy shop is derekoverfieldart and he also has a website.

Rory Alan MacLean has a way with the figure.  This one, for example, is so strong and captures the weight and mass of the model beautifully.  He studied partly in the classical manner and also in school, earning a BFA.  I really like both his drawings on his Etsy shop (roryalanmaclean) and his oils on his web site.

Ute Rathmann is a young lady in Germany whose work continues the spirit of German expressionists.  She has a very vibrant style with a great sense of composition.  I have no idea what her background is since her bio is in German, but it's clear that she's prolific and exceptionally skilled and talented.  She works primarily in drawings, etchings, drypoints, chine colle, and related media.  Her Etsy gallery is uterathmann.

So there are five of the 16 artists I've found.  If you like figurative art, go take a look at my list and browse through.  I guarantee you'll find something that will catch your eye.