Monday, December 26, 2011

A Little Tied Up, 8x8

Every year about this time thoughts of how I'm going to make my life richer, more meaningful, and longer keep cropping up.  Like a built in early warning system these thoughts also happen in March, June and September whether I will them in or not.

My usual lists of 'to-dos' break down into the nagging concerns (clean the gutters, sort through those stacks of office papers, actually attach lights to those wires sticking out of the wall) to the ones that are more about guidance systems (meditate more regularly, exercise often, fear less and embrace more, be kinder).  Whether about meditation or stacks of papers they all keep showing up year after year regular as can be.

Perhaps it's the process of growing, not the accomplishments, that is most important in the end. 

Painting is like that.  As long as I focus on enjoying just putting down honest strokes of paint the product takes care of itself.   Life, like painting, seems to be just one small moment at a time. 'The Tao of Painting' should be a book if it isn't one already.

This painting is another I dug up out of the scrap pile, added a couple of strokes and now find it much more interesting for a very quick plein air study.

Friday, December 23, 2011

December Apples, 8x16

Here's wishing you a very happy holiday.

We are staying at home before the fire just relaxing and enjoying having family over.  Many of the gifts we are giving are from Heifer International, the organization that gives farm animals to those that don't have enough.....and we get good feelings knowing we can help in a very small way.  To those of us able to effortlessly connect electronically several times a day with friends and others it is easy to forget how important a goat or a chicken can be to much of the world.  My wife is to thank for making me more aware.

Again, have a wonderful time doing whatever brings you joy during this holiday time and I'll see you again next week.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Spring Creek Crossing, 11x12

Another rescued!  A couple of people have asked what I do with the culled paintings that have no chance of becoming more than an interesting exercise....(see the last post).  They used to end up in the dump until I saw someone pulling them out one day.  Now they get a splash with a bit of old latex house paint I usually have around....and then they get dumped.  Heartless, aren't I?

Throwing out paintings is one of those sweet/sour experiences of life.  The images always bring me back to the smells and feelings of that painting day.  At the same time I don't want images around that bring to mind my mistakes.

I'm reminded of something I heard about Greg Louganis, the diver.  In the last Olympics he participated in he hit his head on the concrete high dive stand doing one of his reverse flips.  He recovered and went on to gold medal by getting close to a 10 in his next attempt just a few minutes later.  I expected him to be severely injured....which it turns out he was.  When asked if he wanted to see the video of the mistake he said that he never looked at his mistakes, just his successes because those were the only images he wanted in his head.

I'm no Greg Louganis but his words have always made sense to me.

The changes I made to this to save it from the dump were few, all about values.  The more distant tree I lightened.  The purplish light striking the branches of the closer fir were also brought up in value.  The water reflection was simplified. 

This will be in the home of 'Bob', one of the stars of the movie 'Old Goats' because it is from an area in Montana he used to fish.

Monday, December 19, 2011

All Peared Up, 6x12

That time of the year has come.  The tree is up, the festivities are beginning and it's time for me to do my annual culling of paintings.  Occasionally, however, I run across one that doesn't want to leave.  I've only sorted through one box so far and already I have pulled out six that, with tweak or two, are going to stay for a while longer.

This comes from a hot summer day when the sun was just a few hours from setting.  I remember the light being so bright that it was difficult to see the colors.  In the way of improvement I changed only a few strokes and now find it pleasant to look at.

Like life in general, it often takes only the tiniest effort to make a huge difference.....for paintings and people.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Hollow, 8x10

Yipes, have I been busy!  The holiday season always catches me by surprise.  I've done paintings lately but haven't taken the time to photograph them.  This one was from early Fall when the leaves were just beginning to change.

Classes have finished until January when I begin a new round and couple them with some workshops on portrait, gouache, and maybe marker drawing and printmaking.  OK.  Now I'm already tired just thinking about it......secretly I really enjoy them.  I live for seeing people have that 'ah-ha' experience when all the juggling of  plates we call painting actually works. 

I also just finished building 12 suitcase palettes for people.  Don't know what a 'suitcase palette' is? .....I'll show you when I get the picture.

By the way, I ran across a painter named Daniel Corey from Maine whose work I enjoy.  He's running a fund raiser with his paintings.  Whether you buy one or not it's worth the look to see what he's doing.  Go HERE.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Green Porch, 10x10

By the end of the day it had turned cold with a bitter wind.  Heavy snow was approaching and the puddles were freezing crystals on the surface.  Just a bit earlier, however, the weather was milder, almost approaching warm if you had two jackets, warm up pants, gloves, hat and a hand warmer.  It was the last days of Fall.

Attracted first by the red tree and then by the complexity of the green porch up against that red, I stopped for an hour or two to paint this.....although it seemed longer in the wind.

Into the 1970's, coal was still being mined in Roslyn....that was a few years before it became the set for Northern Exposure.  Eons before that (careful, I like natural history) it was an island that ran into what would become North America.  The swamps surrounding that island became the coal under the town and in Black Diamond on the other side of the mountain range.  The Cascades came later, rising up to split what had been the island mass, leaving half of it on the west and the rest on the east side.  Near Cle Elum are outcrops of sandstone, the old shoreline.

So I drove back that evening, passing through an almost blizzard....but it felt great to have gotten away for the day.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Calesthenics for Painters

Painting Calesthenics!

Even after my 'you can do it, don't hold back!' painting pep talks I watched folks freeze up when they approached the canvas and I didn't know what to do to help.  Nothing worse for an instructor than not to know how to get something across.  Then, one morning at 4 AM (because that seems to be when my head feels we should be thinking rather than sleeping) I had an idea.  Why not give out something that's not considered precious and see what they do? 

Magic is what they do.  Needing little encouragement they let it fly all over the newspaper and, when they had filled a sheet, tore it off without a thought and did some more.  First we doodled, then we doodled some more.  Finally we did silhouettes and moved to rendering.  They begin like this:

This is just burnt sienna and solvent.  When that is blocked in we add white to create form as fast and easy as possible.  Here are a few examples of work to give you an idea.  (Why didn't I think of this before...)

The darker portions and around this last one are Indigo mixed with the Sienna just to make darks.  Give it a try.  Great warmup exercise to free up your arm and your head.

You say you don't paint?  Isn't it about time you did?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Artwalk Demo, 16x18

Fifteen feet away a five piece band was playing.  People swirled around me meeting and greeting.  Occasionally I had to shoo folks away from standing in front of the still life setup so I could see it.  A little kid kept running up to share his latest drawing.....'see....this is where the bad guys blow up the sun'...  A few wanted to talk to me about painting, and a few others wanted to know how I could paint in a maelstrom.  (Beats me.)

All in all, last Friday's Artwalk was a lot of fun.  The music was good, the people were nice and the energy was positive....except for that sun destruction thing.

When I look at this piece I'm reminded of a comment by Bill Reese who said, while showing us around the artwork in his home, 'There is only one work I've done that I wouldn't change if I did it over', and Bill must have done thousands.  No matter how well we do things we could make them better.   It must be what keeps us trying with whatever we attempt....

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Two Roads, 8x10

'Take me home country roads'.....'the high road and the low road'.....Robert Frost's 'road less traveled'.....all thoughts I had but the most frequent one while painting this was 'I wonder where they go?' and 'If I just started driving on one of them and didn't look back....'.  It must be all the possibilities that roads possess that makes them appear so often in our music and literature.  Hope and possibility.  Isn't it what keeps us all going....

Of course not everyone has the wanderlust gene.  Some folks have the 'baked potato in front of a warm fire let's stay at home' gene.   All good.

OK.  For reasons that will be revealed if you click on the link,  that reminds me of a TED talk my good friend Gillian sent me.  This a fascinating piece that kept me captivated as much by the subject as the unique person that was presenting it.  When I have my next life I would like to live it by following the road of my instincts as much as she has.  You can see this inspiring video HERE.

Go paint draw sculpt mold create something.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Road Dreams, 10x12

Even sitting abandoned against a fence this old water truck feels powerful, like it's bearing down on us and we want to jump out of the way.   Its weathered red rusted patina both reflects colors from its surroundings and contributes its own local color.  For many years crusty old coots drove this down untold dirt roads to bring water to the fruit trees.

The folks that own Bristol Flats Ranch didn't have it destroyed because they liked having its character hanging around, reminding them that this area has a rich past.  That's what they told me.

This truck is also in the last post but, because of its distance, becomes a stroke of red paint or two.  You can find it HERE.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bristol Flats, 8x10

Ever notice how towns across the U.S. are about 12 to 15 miles apart?  When steam locomotives were the 747's of their time they needed frequent supplies of fuel and water.   As a result they put water tanks that far apart.  Of course, as long as the train was stopped, why not board some folks and ship a few things?  Stations and towns grew up around those tanks.

Bristol Flats was such a place.  Now there is only a lonely sign that says 'Bristol' and two empty tracks.  The station and whatever town is gone....only this ranch sitting in a beautiful valley east of the Cascade mountains remains. 

The next post is from this ranch.  When you get it look at this painting and see if you can find the subject (of course, I'll probably tell you).


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rainy Day Bridge, 10x12

Alone up a dead end road and down into a makeshift parking area I found this scene.  Rain kept interfering with my painting progress but the quiet was worth the annoyance.  For much of the time I had to hold an umbrella over the painting and palette to keep them dry enough to progress.  

I've had some questions so, if a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some answers to the question of  'How do you do this?'  While it has been different every time, this is the general idea:

The Scene:

Initial separation of light and dark with an Isabey badger fitch:

Over the next few steps the image gets created by 'carving' with value and hue:

Finally, after the larger shapes begin to take some generalized form, I can begin to add the details that turn it into a recognizable image:

And that's pretty much it.  Painting is just big shapes and doo-dads... (think I've said that before.....)  Remember when comparing the photo of the scene to the painting that  1) this is a painting, not a reproduction of a photo,  2) cameras lie, and 3) see number one.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Restored Ford, 8x10

My car broke down.  After teaching last Tuesday morning my car wouldn't start until I banged it with a hammer.  So it was off to Mac n'Jacs, the local car repair.  There I was with time to kill and in the parking lot was this 1936 Ford.  How fortunate.  It fit right in with my recent truck paintings.  First it was pumpkins, now trucks.  I can't wait to see what will be next.

Notice how the dark of the truck in front of that white wall brings your sight to that area of the painting.  I insured your attention in that spot by making the red sun glow in the front tire slightly stronger than the rear.  Well, that's what I was trying for....hope it worked.

Only one more truck waiting in the studio for its turn....

By the way, Rob Weiss has been turning out some gems lately.  Go HERE to see them.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Briefness of Glory, 6x8

A setting sun, clouds moving in and drops spattering on the ground.  But yet the light seeping under those clouds lit the fields and reflected off the buildings.  With only fifteen minutes to capture this, not drawing was essential.  A quick placement and block-in of the distant mountains and intuition took over.  Had I had longer it wouldn't have come out much better.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Old Friends, 10x12

Retired trucks.....but still ready for action if you need them.  I'm never quite sure why old things hold such attraction but would guess it has to do with all the history they contain.  Like the abandoned apple tree from a couple of posts ago, it's easy to imagine the excitement when that green International was first driven down the driveway.  I used to have an International just like this one, except that it was grey.....and rust.  I think I bought it for $90.

See.  History.

This was the most difficult of the 'no-draw' subjects.  Keeping the angles, perspective, relationship to each other and design placement going was a mental gymnastic.  I'm glad it turned out.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Country Alley, 6x8

For some reason yesterday's post didn't get sent out so I'm using this little sketch to test the system.

I had a few minutes one evening but it was raining so I stood under the lid of my rear door (this is much easier to do with a Vanagon than a Prius) which kept the painting and myself relatively dry.  Just a sleepy little alley.

Here's hoping you get this one.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Orchard Truck, 10x12

Old trucks have character.  Even if you can't see much of this one you know it has at least one flat tire, a bit of rust and a headlight that doesn't work.....but it still starts when needed. 

The zigzag pattern in the grasses  leading back to that spot of red was what attracted me.  This began as thin tonal shapes in the gray grasses, the front shadow,  the shadowed portion in and under the trees and the background area...except where the two poplars are growing.  All else was left white.  That original wash can be seen most easily near the bottom, but there was variation in the color of the tone.  Under the trees it was warmer.

Brace yourself.  More trucks are coming.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Coming to Life, 7x7

Today the pumpkin patch was over-run with kids, imaginations ablaze, ready to carve a scary masterpiece.

In the spirit of the season I did this quick one just for the fun of it.  Having been released from the blank surface of the gourd, the face of the pumpkin seems to be ready for doing devilish no-good.

Basically a red-green color axis with a little purplish visual relief and counter play.  Still life has such inventive freedom...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Forgotten Apples, 10x12

Anchors to a different time, aged fruit trees can be found on so many old farms and I often wonder about what was happening on the day they were planted.  Who did it?  A young family just beginning their lives together?  A grandmother wanting to leave something for her grandchildren?  The act of planting a tree seems like a gift to the future, an act of faith and hope that our world will continue to be well.

I picked one of those apples and ate it as I finished this piece....tart and perfect for a pie.  It will need another week and some cold weather to become sweet.

This piece was quickly blocked in with large shapes that I broke up into 'trees' and 'fence' as I went along.  As in the last posting, no pre-drawing was necessary.  I like the purplish red metal roofing that was cast away as it sparks off the cool green of the tree.

Hmmm.  I'm hungry for another apple....maybe some cobbler......

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Working Stiff, 8x10

Bob handed me a bit of something and said 'Try this' .  It was beef jerky and, while I don't usually eat red meat, after that bite I was off to find the source, Carek's Meat Market, on a very side street of Roslyn.  I made it there but only after I saw and painted this old working truck sitting in the grass.

I was across the mountains as 'general manager' for the Bitterroot Workshops (general managers have a broad job description), but spent most of the time painting.  Deciding before I got over there that I was going to approach landscape the same way I've been painting figure and portrait, none of the eleven paintings I came back with was pre-drawn in any way.

 Most artists do at least a minimal sketch on the canvas before applying paint but I've found that my other work was more accurate and much livelier when I eliminated the drawing stage.  Doesn't seem right but it works.   I'll be posting several of the paintings from the last six days of work and you can be the judge.  I rather like the results.

Oh.  Carek's Meat Market, even if you don't buy anything, is worth the adventure.....and stop by the Brick for a beer while you are there.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Waiting for Kids, 9x15

Trouble.  It sneaks up when you least expect it.  There you are, enjoying the day and 'Wham!', trouble knocks you for a loop.

Like this painting.  It seemed like such a good idea for a sunny late afternoon.  All those pumpkins forming a pattern on the hillside and smiling at me......well, it seemed like they were.  Do you have any idea how many pumpkins are in a field like this?  Hundreds, thousands, maybe millions.

OK.  I'm being dramatic.  It was fun, yet challenging, to do this painting.  As you can tell, I didn't really paint all those pumpkins.....just two or three with minimal detail.  It was the illusion of all these pumpkins just sitting there waiting for children to show up that I wanted to create.  Getting the balance between illusion and reality was the trick.

What a great month to be a kid with an imagination.  What a great month to be an adult with a paintbrush in hand...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Blakeley 'Rocks', 8x10

One evening nearing dusk I noticed these 'rocks' in Blakeley Harbor and was taken with the glow of sunlight off their surface.  Normally I don't think I'd post this one as it was a good exercise but doesn't go anywhere artistically, in my humble opinion.  So why did I post it?  Read on.

There was a time in the Pacific Northwest when giant trees dominated the land.  Their trunks were large enough that people hollowed them out and made homes in them.  The felled logs needed to be sawed up for shipment and this is where the story gets interesting.

Blakeley Harbor, now a sleepy bay with a few homes around it, was once the home of the largest sawmill in the world.  The harbor was the site of a large community with hotels, stores, ship building, homes and businesses.  That is all gone but the pier posts which you can see in the painting.

OK.  Now the 'rocks'.  Sawmills run on saw blades which often need sharpening.  The business that did all the sharpening was on the boardwalk above the gone.  These 'rocks' are actually piles of the metal that was filed off the blades. 

Now wasn't that an interesting history lesson?  We are all surrounded by ghosts of the past that, most of the time, we are oblivious to.

No wonder those rocks were glinting in the setting sun.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Atumnal Roses, 12x16

Since its nice to paint with company, a group of us get together on Thursdays to work from a model or sometimes a still life.  Walking to the studio on probably one of our last sunny somewhat warm days I spied these flowers hanging over the lawn.....and that was it for me.  I couldn't bring myself to go inside and instead sat in the lawn with a winter coat on.  Remember, I said 'somewhat warm'......but I exagerrated. 

When the roses were finished....(OK, 'when I was finished' as the roses are still going on with their thing)  I moved inside and found a surly crowd grumbling mightily about the still life I had set up......but I'll save that story for a later post.

I'll be back in a couple of days.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pumpkin Patch, 8x10

Halloween Capitol of the World.....Anoka, Minnesota.  Every year there is a large celebration of everything spooky, especially if it is orange and black.  It all culminates in the 'Pumpkin Bowl', the big 'be a hero' football game of the year.

I know this because it is where I grew up, parading through the streets with all the other kids for the big Halloween parade.  We all had costumes, usually handmade.  One year we were twenty foot glow worms, another a snowman and even an oversize Sad Sack.  We did it all for the candy and the free movie tickets.

Last Wednesday Gillian and I went to the local patch and did a painting (below).  When finished I found I liked the design but felt I could do more with it and so revisited the pumpkins and did the one above.  Pretty much the same scene and coloration but with amped up color and chunkier strokes.

Some may prefer the original but this all speaks to doing a series of paintings on a theme to see what can happen.  I'm going out again sometime in the next week with a larger canvas for one more try.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Six O'clock Sloop, 6x8

 A brief break in the incoming weather, a lull in the wind, and an hour before dinner to find and paint something that moved me.  This scene more than sufficed to put a cap on a generally nice day....

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hiking the Kootenai, 8x10

As forest fire smoke filled the Bitterroot Valley Bob and I decided to see if the narrow gorge surrounding Kootenai Creek might give our eyes and lungs a break.  Sure enough, the air was fresher and the experience was as inspiring as ever.

I've lost count of the number of times we have painted this creek, but it is always timeless and wonderful.....although sometimes frustrating to interpret all that water action.    Rock climbers, kayakers, hikers and really nice painters can be found along the trail.  Sometimes people lose things in the roaring water.  Here is a photo of Cathe Gill and Bob Phinney looking for Cathe's lost silver bracelet several years ago.  Says I, optimistic and encouraging as usual, 'You've got to be kidding!  That thing is nearing the Pacific Ocean by now......' 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Midtown Montana, 8x10

John Lennon once said that 'life is what happens while you are making other plans'.....or something close to that.  'Life' took me out of the blogging realm for almost two months, but it is good to be back....and good to be painting again.

Missoula, MT is surrounded by four converging mountain ranges and three rivers, the Clark Fork, the Bitteroot and the Rattlesnake.  It's no wonder that you can sit a block from downtown on a hot day, dangle your feet in clear cold water, drink an iced coffee and paint.  How could life get better than that?

I have a rule about painting outdoors.  First, find yourself a nice comfortable spot where the bugs aren't biting, there is no sand blowing in your face and the hot sun is filtered through the trees.  Two, then find something to paint.  I used to feel guilty about that approach until I began running across 'big name' painters who said the same thing.  No need to suffer for your art.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Bigfork, Montana....
    One afternoon last week I walked into a downtown gallery and found this monk meditating over in the corner......except that this is not a monk, nor is he meditating.  Instead, he is a sculpture by Sunti Pichetchaiyakul, a wonderful artist from Thailand.....(but Sunti looks like a young and handsome Native American).

Sunti began sculpting when he was four years old.  Clay and wax is like an extension of his body.  This sculpture is one of many monks he has completed, each sculpture greatly revered in his home country.  It is made out of fiberglass and is accurate down to finger and toenails....and individual hairs.  Under that robe is a complete body.

You can click on the photos for a larger view.

On his website HERE you can see other examples, his process and technique, as well as the lifesize bronzes of Native American chiefs.  His wife and business manager says he works constantly.  This one sculpture took him a year to complete.   Dedicated to his art at the highest level of quality, he not only does the sculpting but, unlike many other sculptors, he does the casting as well.  Once cast, he then paints it and adds each hair.

He was just completing a full size standing piece of Gerald Ford to be displayed in Michigan, done with the permission of Betty Ford.

He must be a patient man because he spent 15 minutes of his day helping me pronounce his name.....JUST his first name....the last one I wasn't even going to try.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Chandlery, 8x10

Painting in Montana hasn't worked out quite the way I planned so I'm posting this one from a year and a half or so ago.  The setting sun cast a warm glow over the front of the boat supply store down by the wharf and I actually sat on the curb with my legs stretched out, pochade in my lap,  to paint it.

It is water soluble oils on Bainbridge board coated with three coats of gesso each side.  Then I make a slurry out of some sort of blue and red with traditional thinner and tone the board and let it dry in advance of painting.  This is done to 20x30 inch sheets which are then cut up.  You can see this color showing through and becoming part of the sky.  I use water only to clean my brushes, then wipe them out well.  Water soluble linseed oil is the thinner and the board does a nice job of soaking up the extra oil so subsequent paint layers can easily go on top.

Great for fast sketches, I've done twenty and forty minute nudes with it and liked the results.....also light and easy for travel or painting those coffee drinkers in your favorite bistro.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Deb's Old Apple, 10x12

There was something so peaceful standing amongst these old old apple trees.   They have been here longer than any of us have been alive, supplying the ingredients for many pies, cobblers, sauces and good eating to probably hundreds of people who have lived in the area.

Reflections on the wet paint throws off the color and values in a couple areas, but I think you can get the idea well enough.  It was a subtle value and color situation that left me muttering under my breath through most of the hour and a half to paint it.  Capturing the character of the tree was akin to doing a portrait and, like something out of a Tolkien book, it seemed as if it could pull itself from the ground and start moving at any time.  A dancer, I think.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Above Wish-Poosh, 8x10

Often good things occur when thinking stops and feeling starts.  Today, with limited time at the end of an involved day, we had only an hour to make some sort of painting happen.  It didn't really matter if something of value came out, it was just important to slap paint around while standing in a beautiful setting.  With scenery like this how bad could it get?  I like the abstract qualities.

Now off to Montana for a couple of weeks....some painting, some reading, some hiking, a little work and visiting a good friend.  If I can get some decent photos I'll post....if not there should be something when we get back.

Thanks for all your comments.  I like reading them.

Keep drawing.  Keep painting.  Keep on with whatever gives you joy.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blakely Harbor Morning, 18x24

On the Sunday before last, the 3rd, I awakened early, heading out to the shore before the hub-bub of boat traffic got started.  The clouds were just beginning to break open and turn the day into a jewel.  I slapped on paint as fast as I could, trying to capture the light as it danced across the water, changing color and value by the minute.

This piece now sits on my studio floor.  I think it's finished....and yet we give each other the EYE when I'm in the room.  Someday I might figure out what is unsettling about this one.  In truth, for several hours after doing it I decided to again give up painting because the picture of what I wanted and what this was were not matching and I couldn't figure why not....still can't.

The next day at the 4th of July market I went into a booth and found a small scroll for sale with this quote from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama:

Never give up
no matter what is going on
Never give up
Develop the heart
Too much energy in your country
is spent developing the mind 
instead of the heart.
Be compassionate
Not just to your friends
but to everyone.
Be compassionate.
Work for peace 
in your heart and in the world.
Never give up
No matter what is happening,
No matter what is going on around you
Never give up.

What is that saying about things occurring when you need them?  So, among other things, it inspired me to keep on painting.....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Plein Air Workshop

Just a few pics from last weekend's Plein Air Workshop.  A small group of dedicated painters played with paint on a beautiful day at the spacious Fecher-Gramstad estate.  While the group was small in number, they were intense with desire to paint....and they wore me out!  What a nice group of people to be around on a great day.  Thanks to Debbie for the pictures....  (Don't you wish you had been there?)