Once upon a time there was an entire village of very small beings who lived along a bayou bank. Unfortunately, an evil sorceress lived nearby. The villagers were always nice to her, because they were naturally kind folks. But the evil sorceress hated them anyway (she couldn't stand to see happiness!). So she put a spell on the entire village and turned them into cypress knees. And cypress knees they stayed for hundreds of years.
Until one day, an artist was walking along the bayou bank and saw these knees. Being an artist (you know artists have some magic powers of their own), she was able to see the beings inside the knees. And so she has committed her life to releasing the villagers and returning them to their former selfs. And, so far, they're living happily ever after!
This is a picture of one of my pieces...I
them, but have had problems with this one. I'm open to
suggestions! In case you can't tell, it's a cockatoo
sitting on the back of a dog...I don't know why!! I just
paint what I see!
I paint Cypress knees...at least that's
what we in the south call them! For all of you in the rest
of the world, that's just the root of the cypress tree that sticks up above the ground.
Here is a cool picture of cypress knees, the way
out in the wild! I love to go out where they are
growing...it's like a fairy land! I grew up near a bayou,
and we would play down on it's banks in the winter...when
the snakes were sleeping! All of the knees looked like
magical creatures to me. That's where my fascination began!
I had some that my father cut for me just laying around
the yard for about 15 years, before I decided what to do
with them. At Christmas one year, I drew my Aunt's name.
She collects Santas, and I thought,"Why not make her one
out of a cypress knee?". And so it began! I make all sorts
of creatures out of them...Santas, elves, animals, wizards, trolls...you name it, I make it! They are all, of course,
I guess I should tell you how I do it. Before I do that, let me assure you that cutting the knees does not harm the
tree in any way! And the knees grow back. Ask anyone who
has them growing in their yard! They are almost impossible
to get rid of!
Now, with that out of the way, I'll tell you how we get
them and prepare them for painting. First, my parents and I go down to the bayou behind our house with the chain saw.
Now, I have to tell you that for me, this is like going to
my favorite store with an unlimited amount of money! I CAN
HAVE ANYTHING I WANT!!! It's great!
While I point at the ones I want, they cut them down! LOL
Then we load them into burlap bags and haul them up to the
house...this is a real job!! Then, I have to let them dry
for several weeks. Some of the smaller ones I can dry in
the oven. After they are dry, I strip off the bark with a
bench grinder. The cypress knees have a really thick
bark...under the outer bark is a thin reddish layer. All of this must be removed. It is a nasty and time-consuming
job...I don't like this part very much! I hav tried boiling them and stripping them with a knife, but this seems to
work best. Next, they must be
sanded on the bench grinder...then hand sanded! I like for
them to feel as smooth as glass. That's not always
possible, but I try! When I sand, I try to leave their
natural shape, as much as I can, because that's the
challenge! And the fun!
Now I'm ready to paint them...this is the part that's
impossible to explain. People always ask me (and all
artists, I'm sure!) where I get my ideas. Where does anyone get an idea? I think that they come from one's experiences
and life...I have always been a voracious reader and so
many of my ideas seem to come from things I've read. Fairy
tales, myths, etc. Others resemble people I know. But,
mostly, the knee tells me what it is! Fanciful? Perhaps,
but I AM an ARTIST!!
Anyway, these are pictures of some of my works.
The one on
the right (above) is "Jus' a travelin' giraffe". He now
lives with a friend of mine, Mary. His hat brim is leather, and I love how it looks so battered...just as if he really
had been traveling around a lot!
On the right is "The cast from the hit Broadway Musical
Pigs"! I wish you could see it from all sides...there are
pig-guys all the way round, holding up the star! And she's
loving it! I think she must have a little bit of Miss Piggy in her!
On the right is one of my favorite pieces, "Rock Hounds".
I wish it was a better picture...it's a really cool piece!
I think I like it so much because I was a serious rockhound growing up. Whenever we went on vacation, the rear of the
car would almost be dragging the ground on our way home,
because I would fill the trunk with neat rocks! LOL! I
still have a lot of them! This is what I meant about
experience shaping art.
The name for this piece was inspired by a film,
didn't even see!) Desperately Seeking Susan. It's called
Desperately Seeking Fifi! As I was painting this dog, he
just began to look more and more French...and, of course,
the beret is the final touch. He's also wearing a button
that says L'amour on Le Brain! His ears and tail are made
from leather...it helps to have a dad who's a leather
craftsman! LOL! He's a fairly large piece-about 16" tall
and almost that wide at the bottom. My pieces range in size from about 2" to 3' tall! I much prefer the smaller
This piece is called The Golden Years, and is
because the knee has been eaten by worms! I left a whole
batch of knees outside for several months, before
attempting to strip them. When I did, I got a nasty
surprise! Worms had burrowed under the bark, where they
laid eggs...yuck! Well, at first I thought they were
useless, but the more I looked at them, the more
interesting I found them. Now they are some of my favorites to paint. It's amazing...the worms have carved perfect
little faces all over them! Talented little rascals! Oh,
yeah, I also got a whole slew of moths when the eggs
hatched!! Life's weird...and wonderful!
I'll add more pictures eventually, so check back every
so often. I hope you enjoyed these!