Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On her wedding day, June 2, 1937, she was a small young woman of 27 years – 4’101/2 ” tall, weighing 85 pounds, with deep brown darkly-lashed eyes, a pert little nose, high cheekbones, smiling lips and short, dark, wavy hair. She carried gardenias, one of her favorite flowers and scents.

She had always been tiny – very short and petite. Throughout her childhood, people often thought she was much younger than she was.

Her childhood summers were happy, carefree times, picking strawberries to earn her first money. She spent lots of time in the summers visiting her many maternal relatives in Lake Elmo plus her paternal Grandma in North St. Paul. She was very close with her mother’s youngest sisters as they were closer to her age than to her mother’s age. In fact, the sister’s lived with her family in St. Paul since they both worked in the city.

She remembered her early Christmases spent at one of the grandparents homes - taking a streetcar to North St. Paul or a train to Lake Elmo, depending upon which family they were visiting. She remembered the town of Lake Elmo as being "strictly Lutheran." Perhaps that also meant that Stillwater was where the Catholics lived…

Always the smallest child in her class, she led her classmates in the First Holy Communion procession, the Confirmation procession, and finally the HS graduation procession.

In high school, she was a popular student at St. Joseph's Academy where she performed in several school productions & served on numerous sporting teams. She loved what she called “kitten ball” (aka softball) and played second base. She was an award-winning rifle-woman (although I’m not sure she ever went hunting), a horseback rider, a dancer, performer, a talented artist and so much more. Her rich brown eyes were full of mischief most of the time - but no one wanted to be on the receiving end of her flaming glance when she got mad!

After graduation, she was a billing clerk for the Crane Company from the time of her graduation in 1929 until after her marriage in 1937.

She was fond of celebrations & parties and enjoyed decorating her home & table with colorful, seasonal & holiday-coordinated decorations. She had a flair with color, her favorite color being turquoise - which she painted on her kitchen cabinets, had installed on her living room floor as carpeting & which color she frequently wore with great success.

Christmas was her favorite holiday & the decorations were too numerous to mention. From the Nativity scene on the buffet or mantle-piece to the village beneath the Christmas tree (both of which were hand-built by her husband), from tablecloths & napkin rings to special window decorations, Christmas at her home was an EVENT! She collected ornaments for souvenirs where ever she traveled, always keeping her eye out for something special.

35th wedding anniversary celebration

Over the years, her rich dark hair turned silver and she lost an inch or two in height, although she never admitted to that! She always wore 2.5 or 3” heels to help her be a bit taller than she really was.

She was a woman with a warm heart and a playful nature. However, she was easily frightened by many things and worried about "more that you can shake a stick at," as she would often say. It seemed as though she expected the worst to happen, displaying little confidence that all would be well – unless or until it already WAS well.

She loved long, deep, strong, and hard. Her feelings were often hurt, and she often inadvertently hurt others when she misunderstood their words, thoughts, feelings, or motives. She needed to win, to be “right,” to be loved. Basically, she was insecure, but loving and lovable beyond words.

She was christened Alice Irene Buck, but she hated the name “Alice” (her maternal Grandmother’s name) – and always went by “Irene.” She married Raymond Stephen Gangl and they bore three daughters: Elaine, Patricia, and Susan. She was married 48 years at the time of her death, having lived a full complex life, albeit shorter than either of her parent’s (85 and 91) or her brother (81). Her death was 25 years ago today, June 30, 1985. She was only 75 years of age – and I was only 41.

She was my mother and I miss her still…

Mom and Dad with our two children, Chris & Mike - 1978

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Experiments in Pastel

Above: Portrait of Spunky #1 13"x19" (c)Pat Dolan

Below: Desert Cactus Flower - step by step

Desert Cactus Flower 12"x12" (c)Pat Dolan

Below: Red Barn #1: Process work...

Below: Red Barn #1 - 13"x19" (c) Pat Dolan

Red Barn #1 remains unresolved...the composition is off a bit, not as exciting as it could be. The colors are warmer, thus much improved, but there are a few areas that need correcting. However, I may not spend any more time on it - it's time to start some new work! FYI: I'm using Rembrandt, Grumbacher & Alphacolor soft pastels as well as Prismacolor Nupastels semi-hard sticks on Canson Mitientes paper. These are supplies I've had for years! When I did some price checking, I was stunned to learn how much these supplies cost today...

Pastels are a wonderfully forgiving medium - but the surface upon which I am working does not allow so many layers of color as I like to use. I'm using Canson Mitientes papers, and they were what I was trained on over 30 years ago. Today, however, there are many wonderful, new support papers and boards that allow up to 25 layers of pastel buildup without becoming muddy. Among them are textured/sanded papers & clay boards that hold the color pigments much more successfully.

So, I've been reading several pastel books, checking out various supply info online, researching current pastellists and their art - generally re-exploring this medium. The local library is a wonderful resource for art books - although at one time I had a personal collection that was quite extensive in the areas of watercolor and pastel. When we moved around 2001, I sold many of them via ebay since we were moving to a much smaller home. Since I was working in fiberart at the time, the books seemed non-essential. I only kept one watercolor book - because it was so instructive, even to the practiced watercolorist!

Now I find sewing much more difficult to work at the sewing machine or even doing hand sewing between the present restrictions due to arthritis and cataracts. Pastels allow me to continue creating, playing, having fun, yet not taxing my body so much.

I think I'll be experimenting in watercolors once again in the not so distant future... Stay tuned for the next installment - and, of course, there are always photographs to be shared. I thoroughly enjoy photography, too!