In October, I had a business trip to Holbrook, AZ and I booked a room at the Heward House B&B. What an amazing treat and wholly unexpected. I was the only guest that evening and it was like I was living the movie “Night at the Museum.” The Heward House is stuffed, and I mean stuffed, with beautiful art and objects ranging from crystal and a baby grand piano, to cowboy to Mexican, to Native American art. To boot, (pun definitely intended) the house is designed by Frank Lloyd Wright! Linda, the owner, is an engaging and welcoming host.
Janet’s inspiration for her composite paintings came from countless hours of observation and practice merging the images and elements from multiple sources and contexts to create a coherent theme. Her composites have a hint of magical realism. I found this magical experience easy to translate into my version of a composite painting.
The model for “Sonoran Sarcophagus” is a dead Saguaro on the Arizona Trail north of Picketpost Mountain. The ribs had fallen off the top of the downed saguaro and the interior segments were petrified. I’ve seen a lot of dead saguaros but this was the first time I’d seen one with the interior so well preserved. The title and painting are loosely based on Janet’s “Sonoran Senior” a standing dead saguaro surrounded by desert flora.
The first time I met Bill, Janet’s husband, he was wearing a black shirt covered with colorful dragons. Dragons were a theme in Janet’s sketchbooks and a few dragon tchotchkes are tucked in places around their residence. Janet also used her artistic skills to illustrate her understanding of Bill’s research. In 2014, William Grant Tifft, Professor Emeritus, University of Arizona, researched and published “Redshift Key to Cosmology,” an historical and controversial approach to Quantum Temporal Cosmology. I took the dragon theme and a few graphs and charts from Bill’s research to create this work dedicated to Janet and Bill and their marriage of 50 years.
“Janet had a fantastic range of environments to source inspirations from. Her keen insight into color theory coalesced with her imagination to produce a physical still life, then render it in watercolor and other media. The level of detail is achieved with attention to actual artifacts.” (excerpt from Heritage Guide Related to Local Art). In Quaker City Machine Co., I drew inspiration from Janet’s Florals and a visit to the Lincoln Park Conservatory in Chicago.
I used tracing paper to copy Janet’s sketch from a sketchbook and then painted a study using her sketch and my vision of how to paint the scene. I deliberately chose a scene with figures because I don’t usually put figures in my scenes. Janet captured gestures and figures in her sketchbooks frequently.
Using Janet’s brushes, I created a variety of brush strokes for each kind of brush. The exercises were suggested by Cathy Johnson in “Brush up on Brushes” in Watercolor Artist, October 2010. pp 61-66.
Janet did not seem too particular about brushes. She had a collection of the various types that you might expect an artist to possess, but nothing fine or expensive.
I copied a few sketches from Janet’s sketchbook and added my version of colors.