Unless your home is one of those underground bunkers with no Internet or TV, you probably heard about our new soggy climate in Texas this past week. I feel so fortunate this morning to go out to the long, narrow porch on the back of the house to look out over my rough, unmowed backyard, which is out of control after massive amounts of rain and no dry moments to mow. The gnarled oaks and cedars, and the distant view of a purple hill, make up my view, and I am happy not to see a lake where the yard is supposed to be.
High Winds at Home
Our mildly high winds and water issues were nothing in comparison to others in our town who saw severe flooding, and especially our neighbors in Houston, who saw that hovering storm continue to wreak havoc with unprecedented flooding and devastation. I was having an e-mail dialogue with one friend who gave play-by-play water levels as it got closer and closer to their front door. It was frightening, as was the entire storm experience, which was a little too close for comfort.
Back to the Porch
Humidity is high, since the ground and air were soaked for much of our week, but my cozy little writing corner on the back deck is back to normal. It’s just me, the red wicker couch, and a little glass greenhouse that sits on the table in front of me as home to several small cacti. My black-haired squirrel is back to gathering nuts and running under my studio porch when she spots me, and one of the neighbor’s four brown-and-white Longhorn cows is scratching its back on the wire fence between our properties — and it appears to be in my yard. I think it’s better to look at cattle than to have to take care of them, at least for me, though I’ve got friends who do, and live to do it. Get along, little dogies…
Summer is Over for Me
Once the storm passed, I bit the bullet, officially gave up my summer of no travel away from the family, and began my grueling fourth-quarter travel schedule. Somehow I managed to visit two cities on the opposite sides of the country, and three in another country, in four days, which meant being gone on the day my kids normally help me celebrate my birthday.
But it’s better this way, because weekends are more fun for celebrations than school nights, when homework is involved. It could have been “Happy birthday, Dad, gotta get back to my homework,” but instead they honored me with an entire dinner and a cake. These are the best moments in life.
Let There Be Light
Before I left, I managed to install track lights up on the 16-foot ceiling of my art studio. When Laurie found this house, she called me, saying, “You’re gonna love this place, because you can have your own art studio and your own office.” She was right! I’d never had a dedicated studio before. My first studio was in a tiny 10 x 10-foot loft at the top of our tall, skinny house in Florida. Then in two California houses, the studio was in a back bedroom in one and a garage in the other, which wasn’t fun on cold winter days.
When we moved to our first house in Austin, I was in a tiny apartment over a garage, but now I’m in a real studio. It’s a little Texas cabin, brown clapboard, tin roof, string lights hanging around the edge of the roof, and a wonderful porch with a stone fireplace. I think I died and went to art heaven. And it’s big enough for my Wednesday-night figure painting group, the Bee Cave Painters. We’ve had as many as nine plus a model, which was pretty crowded, but it’s pretty comfortable with five of us.
Anyway, I’m experimenting with new lights in my studio, taking an approach I discovered when I visited the new studio of artist Steven Horne in the Adirondacks. He has managed to reproduce the temperature and intensity of north light using some new daylight LEDs and a bank of track lights way up high. I had been using a Home Depot fluorescent fixture over my easel, which was uglier than the Longhorn cattle in the backyard, and was so bright that I kept making my paintings too dark.
A Balancing Act
Berkeley and I tried to reach the 16-foot ceiling to install the lights, but alas, our 8-foot ladder wasn’t enough, and standing on the top two steps made me feel like I was a member of Cirque du Soleil on the high wire. So, since an uncracked head is important for continuing the status quo, the two of us took a quick drive to Lowe’s in the middle of blowing rains and wind gusts up to about 50.
Shopping at Lowe’s was like Christmas Day — we were one of about five customers they had seen all day. I guess people don’t shop during hurricanes. Soaked as we were, we fit most of the ladder into my little hatchback SUV, and we drove down the road with a new 12-footer hanging out of the back of the car while the rain flooded in.
Rushing to get the job done on Sunday before my flight took off, I got the entire track mounted and the lights up. But when I was all done and I turned the power back on, I realized I couldn’t get to the light switch because my bookshelf was covering it up. Guess I should stick to publishing and hire a professional next time. I think I overheard someone in the house say, “Told you so.”
I don’t know about you, but I felt awfully guilty watching the TV in the comfort of my dry home as others were trying to survive the floods. I felt like I should do something, so after communicating with a few galleries and artists, I decided that I had to do what I could.
Free Advertising For Storm-Impacted Art People
This past week, we sent out an e-mail offering some free advertising to help artists and art businesses that have been impacted by the storm. Our goal is to encourage our readers who buy art to consider buying from these artists and galleries to help them recover. People in Houston are not likely to be thinking about buying art while they are repairing their flood-damaged homes. So if you see this special ad spread we do for them, please buy something if you’re in a position to.
There are lessons to be learned from the hurricane, most of which have been played to death in the media. But probably the most important one is that just because someone says you’ll be safe doesn’t mean that you will be. Maybe next time a storm is coming, it might be a time to go visit friends in another state for a few days.
It’s also a reminder that we are only in control of part of our lives, and that we are at the mercy of circumstances.
There are many more lessons, and I’d like to hear what this storm helped you learn.
Soften Your Heart
Our neighbors in Houston are going to be dealing with the impact of this storm for years. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers. It’s so easy to see these things in the media and get a little callous about them. In this case, it could have been in my town, so it’s making me take notice a little more than usual, which is a good thing.
Enjoy your Sunday. Next week, I’m not sure if I can manage to get Sunday Coffee out from Russia. Fingers crossed. I’ll be leading the Fine Art Connoisseur Russian Art Trip along with Peter Trippi. We’re taking people behind the scenes, to top museums, artists’ studios, and all kinds of cool things. Hopefully I can get this to you for Sunday.