Red Dogwood Leaves – As told to Glenda Salley –
At the national skydiving championships in Dallas, TX, I was talking with Bill Jakshic and his wife, a couple who hired me as an artist. After discussing various possibilities, they sent me some photos of their home, from which to research ideas. From the snapshots, I picked out some red dogwood leaves, which I felt would make an appropriate painting. The Jakshic heartily agreed.
After finishing the preliminary sketch, I began the painting in earnest. I had it propped on the bookshelf in my quarters at the Raeford Resort. During those days, Sue’s cats roamed the house, taking charge of virtually “everything.” Deciding to lay claim to the newly begun sketch, one feline backed its hind quarters to the watercolor paper, raised its tail, and began to spray this fragile piece of art, which already reflected hours of work. Anxiously, I cleaned it off as best I could. I was relieved to find that the smell dissipated, and I was saved hours of additional work. New resolve girded me as I set up the easel and prepared to once again apply paint to the paper.
Days of painting passed. One morning I awoke to find Midnight the cat sitting on my easel, licking the paint from the paper with great relish. If I had been able to catch that cat, it would have instantly lost all nine lives. I am not a brutal person, but that morning, being coffee deficient by at least two cups, I was not responsible for my actions. I realized then that egg tempera was not the perfect medium for an artist living with a bunch of hungry cats. A little later, I concluded that dogs as well have a taste for the eggy concoction.
I had this epiphany when I set the artwork on the floor without thinking. While I was gone, the dog finished (I mean FINISHED!) what the cat had begun. He cleaned the remaining paint off, exposing the naked paper. I was not only annoyed by my own carelessness, but also angry that Sue’s animals were carrying out a vendetta against this particular piece.
The really comical thing about this amusing story is that it doesn’t stop there. I had carefully placed the painting in an upright position between some work paper and other materials in my computer room. At the time, my mom was visiting for the Golden Knight Reunion. One morning she heard a suspicious noise upstairs, and upon checking, she found Cypress the dog routing through my art with hopeful anticipation of finding another egg tempera snack. But once again, the painting was saved.
Needing some “Southern comfort,” I journeyed home to MS for Christmas. At the time, I was working on a wildlife painting of ducks for a NC bank. After I finished that painting, I began anew on the ill-fated red leaves and was off to “a good start.”
I returned to Raeford with the work-in-progress and safely stowed it in my room. I had since learned to keep my bedroom door closed because of the cats and their unpredictable bladder problems. On one occasion, however, the latch didn’t catch, and Cypress, definitely the “nosey” dog, sniffed out the artwork and once again cleaned it free of paint.
An old adage prophetically proclaims that the third time’s a charm. After two near disasters, I completed the painting, and I felt satisfied with the outcome, despite the amateur assistance of my furry friends. Finally the picture was mailed to its destination. To show their approval, Bill and Vickie had the painting attractively framed. They sent me a photo of “Red Dogwood Leaves,” being closely examined by their own cats, which wished, no doubt, that there were no glass covering that tasty egg tempera.