Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wintertime Paintings and Drawings

I fill my time during our winter break by catching up on all the artwork that has been building up in my head during the summer. I am always taking photographs which can be the basis of some of my art. I also paint live in the open, which the art world calls "Plein Air" and at an "Open Studio" with live models to draw and paint, known as "Life" painting.

Once settled in for the winter I start looking around for the local art groups. Last season it was the Leesburg Art Association, Winter Garden Art Association and a little informal group I started in Holiday Travel RV Park. This winter it's the Sundance RV Park art group, Casa Grande Art Association, Intercommunity Art and Crafts and Arizona Plein Air Painters who have grabbed my time.

Here's a sample of some of the drawings and paintings I've managed to do with all these other fine artists. 

Watercolor Plein Air Picacho Peak

Watercolor Plein Air View from Picacho Peak

Pencil on paper

Pencil on paper

Watercolor from photograph

Oil and acrylic on canvas from photograph

Watercolor Plein Air 

Watercolor Plein Air 

Oil on canvas from photograph

Oil on canvas fromphotograph

Watercolor from the same photograph

Watercolor Life painting on cheap paper! 

The figure paintings were done quickly on non watercolor paper, that's why they are wrinkly!!

Colored pencil on paper from photograph

Watercolor Life painting

Watercolor Life painting

Pencil sketch Life Open Studio

Watercolor Life painting

Pencil from photographs
(Incidentally this gentleman was my high school art teacher and he also taught me to fly!)

Watercolor from photograph

Colored pencil from photograph

Oil on canvas from photograph

Oil on canvas from photograph.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Casa Grande let go of us, please!

All this bodes well for next year as I should be able to pick up where I left off and get stuck straight in.

The plan was to leave Casa Grande April 1st and head over to Yuma then down to Mexico for new glasses and teeth cleaning.

Being NON planners has been a point of pride for us, so it was no surprise when our plan backfired big time!

I recently bought a used Mazda to tow behind the rig and spent some time and money adapting it for towing.

We had a practice tow around Casa Grande to fill up the rig and check everything was working properly. We're so glad we did that before we hit the road properly because I messed up setting the steering lock and we dragged it with the wheels locked at an angle without realizing it after a sharp turn out of the gas station after filling up.

The nice shiny car got torn up when the tire exploded.

I have to say that I WASN'T happy. All my insecurities and my anxiety disorder came rushing back. I had a couple of bad days and couldn't talk about it. Luckily I remembered my previous episodes and started meditation. That helped me over the hump and although it still hurts, I can talk about it. I have to state that this was MY FAULT, I didn't check things and ignored some things I should have noticed.

So we had an unplanned couple of weeks in Casa Grande waiting for the car to get repaired, but some good things came out of it. We did a few more jobs around the rig like cleaning the headlight lenses which were pretty fogged up and installing a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) so hopefully we'll get some warnings of problems before they get really bad.

The TPMS turned into a major job when we realized the short valve stems fitted when we got new tires last fall wouldn't suit and we had to go to a local tire place and have the wheels removed to fix it.

But I got to go to more art classes, and better yet we were around for the cactus in the park blooming. They were really pretty and we spent a couple of evenings wandering around with a camera looking for them. I started 3 paintings of them, I'll have to try and get them finished before we leave.

More bad things seemed to be waiting in the wings however and the rear AC unit refused to function just before we pulled out. Of course nobody was available to fix it when we needed to get it done. We can only run 1 at a time on shore power anyway so at least we have the front one to keep us cool.

We were so tired of things going wrong we said the heck with it. We needed to get new glasses and have our teeth cleaned. There's a little border town in Mexico called Algedones where the “Full Timer” population go for those kind of things. It;s right next to Yuma, which is convenient for us as we can stay at the SKP's KOFA RV park.

Casa Grande didn't want to let us go just yet and gremlins hit the new TPMS system with 2 tires suddenly losing pressure after holding fine for 2 days. Furious working, cursing and wrench throwing had the tires holding air (I hoped) and me covered in a nice mixture of sweat and fine dust (We had a big dust storm thru here last week!).

We had swapped the ends of the tow bar to suit the Miata, so of course they didn't fit the Fiesta! We were so determined to leave that Barbara drove the Fiesta behind the rig for the 170 miles to Yuma.

I know. You probably spotted something. We're in Yuma with the rig and the Fiesta. We can't tow the Fiesta anymore and the Miata is still in the shop in Casa Grande. How is that going to work??

Well we're so mad about things going wrong and delays in the repair of the Miata that we just left. When they call us about the Miata we'll just drive the Fiesta back to Casa Grande and put it in storage there pending the outcome of the law suit against Ford. Then we'll drive the Miata back to Yuma and carry on from there.

Another thorn in our side has been waiting on the new California lawyer to get the Lemon Law filing done. We've been expecting it to settle at any moment. That dream just got dashed as they now tell us that it will take much longer due to them suing for damages as well as the Lemon Law settlement. So the Fiesta will get stored until November then we'll have 2 cars again next winter pending the finalization of the suit.

Did I mention that we are getting SERIOUSLY frustrated with this!!

Monday, March 26, 2018

It will be April soon

We bumped into one of the Photo Club Members during the Casa Grande Art Associations annual “Studio Tour” and he asked if I was interested in going on a Jeep ride out to an old abandoned mine. I was in like a flash and had a great time. Thanks Darren.

Every year the winter suddenly ends when we realize it's going to be a couple of weeks until we move on again. This winter is no exception and the “3 weeks to go” panic is upon us!

The big project has been to get our “New to Us” car (a Mazda MX-5 which everyone in the US calls a Miata even though Mazda has dropped that name).
New to us Mazda MX-5

When you want to tow a car “Flat” or “4 down” you have to make some modifications to it. Flat or 4 down means that it sits on it's own 2 wheels and you pull it behind your motorhome. You have to ensure that it can be towed that way, FMCA publish a list of what vehicles can be towed by model year, and under what conditions. Some need the battery disconnected. Others have to be towed on a “dolly”. Some can only be towed if they are completely off the road on a trailer. 

See previous post

The particular model of MX-5 we have is supposed to be one that CANNOT be flat towed per Mazda. I have however been talking with a gentleman who has been towing his for 6 years and 50,000 miles without any damage, and he knows several other people who also tow them.

This of course is AT OUR OWN RISK. If we break it we will have to pay to fix it. This may see crazy but there are several other vehicles listed as not towable by the manufacturer but actually can be. Stick shift Mini's come to mind, and we've met several people who have towed them many 10's of thousand miles without problems.

So I'm taking a chance.

We bought a used tow bar for the motorhome last winter in Alabama and it came with the majority of the parts needed for the car too. I was almost going to tell the seller to keep the car side of it as it was a different make than we had on the Fiesta, but she didn't want it and I threw it in the storage area and forgot about it.

The first thing we needed was some way of attaching the car to the tow bar on the motorhome.

The Fiesta was fitted with a Blue Ox system, which is quick, light, easy to use and secure.

There are a few manufacturers of towing systems, the biggest I think being Blue Ox and Roadmaster. The motorhome originally came with a Roadmaster towbar and the company who set the Fiesta up changed out the end fittings to Blue Ox ones to suit the car. We've been very happy with the Blue Ox setup.

We found that only Roadmaster sold a tow bracket for this model MX-5, which unfortunately we couldn't get Blue Ox adapters for, so we were stuck with the somewhat clunky Roadmaster connectors.

I ordered the bracket and a wiring adapter kit from and they shipped them free and FAST!

I considered trying to fit it myself as the only mechanical change was drilling out 4 existing holes to 1/2” diameter. The problems were that the campground doesn't allow car repairs on site, and the work requires removing and replacing the whole nose of the car to get at the area the bracket mounts to.

I decided to leave the work to Whitaker Auto around the corner from the park, who did great work on the motorhome this winter.

The parts I bought from Etrailer where just the parts on the car. Roadmaster's system requires a series of plates, bars and pins on the outside of the car to provide the link to the tow bar on the motorhome. We were so lucky, the parts we bought in Alabama and didn't want back then fitted right on the MX-5. All we needed was a pin that cost $20.

Modern cars are full of computers. Those computers can be damaged by stray voltages and connecting directly to the existing brake, turn and running lights creates those stray voltages. The answer is and electrical device called a diode which lets electricity flow in 1 direction only. The wiring kit came with special diode setups which allow the brake lights on the car to function as both brake and turn signal lights and the running lights to come on with the motorhome lights when towed. When not plugged in to the motorhome they function as designed.

That basically is the whole setup.

Now knowledgeable RV'ers will yell “Foul! You need a braking system for the car”.

There is a problem. The law requires trailers over a set weight to be equipped with a braking system with a “Break away” feature to stop the trailer in case it gets detached from the tow vehicle. A car isn't a trailer. If you tow a car behind another car, you aren't obliged to link the braking system of the 2 vehicles. That's the problem, and there is a LOT of discussion about it. We fitted the Fiesta with such a system at great cost. 

In Canada a couple of years ago (thru my own fault), I towed the car with the brakes partially on and did $4000 damage.

We've never used it since and never found a need for it.

So, I decided not to fit the brake system at this time.

Scott and Suzanne who we've known since our first Escapees Rally and just before we all went full time, sent us a message that they were going to be near Phoenix on their way west. A few phone calls and we were all sitting around in the Elks Lodge followed by dinner out. It was so good hearing about their adventures and sharing ours.

Somehow the Art scene has burst wide open in the final 2 weeks here. Tuesdays is the Inter Community Art and Craft group, Wednesday is Life Drawing, Thursday the Sundance RV art group, now I have discovered a “Plein Air” painting group who go to different venues on Saturdays and paints outdoors! The rest of the week I have to draw and paint on my own!
Picacho Peak

Across the valley

All this bodes well for next year as I should be able to pick up where I left off and get stuck straight in.
Works in Progress!!

Monday, March 5, 2018

More Casa Grande fun.

We arrived safely back and were re leaved to find that out outdoor chairs and the big mats were still there. We were laughing about how good it was to be “Home” after being away “Camping” for the weekend.

We started to hear people talking about leaving next week and realized that February is nearly over. The Snowbirds are getting ready to migrate back north. March 1st was when we left here 2 years ago too. Most Snowbirds will be gone by April 1st when we leave.

Why April 1? We want to see some Spring Training Baseball games!

For our UK readers Baseball is basically like rounders in UK. It's the National Pastime in the US. Winter is Football, Summer Baseball. The season starts in April but it's too cold in February and March in the Northern States for the teams get in the pre-season practice games so the teams have training camps in warmer climates like Florida and Arizona. Last year we went and watched the Baltimore Orioles play in Florida and now we're watching the San Diego Padres. It's good to have a couple of “Home Teams”.

The O' Odham Tash Rodeo is in town also. Named after the Native American tribe here, the rodeo has several events over the course of a week. There's and All Indian Rodeo, a Canadian Roping event as well as the regular rodeo which is a “Rancj Rodeo”. That mean the events are more focused on practical farm and ranch work rather than the Professional Rodeo that has bull riding etc,

We like these events and have been to several on our travels. I shot over 200 photographs in a couple of hours and there are several paintings burning in the back of my head.

My art side has been getting fed lately too. I joined the Casa Grande Art Association and found they have a live model open studio on Wednesday's. An open studio is an event where interested artists gather with their on drawing/painting equipment and a model comes in for about 2 hours. Each artist pays about $5 to pay the model. The model starts out holding poses for 2 minutes, then changes to another pose for a further 2 minutes. After several 2 minute poses (During which you have to try and make a drawing of that pose), the time increases to 5 minutes, then 10 or 15 minutes and finally 30 or 30 minutes. Occasionally they have a “Long pose night” in which the model holds the pose for perhaps 45 minutes.

No instruction is given in these sessions, you are on your own.

Each set of poses let the artist warm up with quick gestural drawings and then gradually move on to more detailed drawings and/or paintings.

I love the challenge of the quick poses and my figure drawings have improved enormously. My previous portrait classes in San Diego helped too.

Tuesday morning is the Inter Community Art and Crafts Association meeting where all kinds of art and crafts are done all at the same time. It's a very inspiring atmosphere. I'm going to do a presentation on perspective for the group soon. Most beginning artists have trouble with perspective. I'm also giving a painting class at the “Adult Day Camp” the library is holding. That should be good.

Thursday is the Sundance 1 RV Resort zentangle and artists get together. They have one of the craft rooms for the whole day and again it's a very inspirational atmosphere with lots of good advice and encouragement.

We bumped into one of the Photo Club Members during the Casa Grande Art Associations annual “Studio Tour” and he asked if I was interested n going on a Jeep ride out to an old abandoned mine. I was in like a flash and had a great time. Thanks Daryl.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lake Havasu City

Next thing will be to get the towing brackets fitted to it and the rear lights hooked up.

Unfortunately we couldn't take the Miata (MX 5) along on our next adventure, but I did order the equipment needed to tow it.
Our next adventure is to join our friends from the Shanty Shakers Chapter of the Escapees (SKP's) at their rally in Lake Havasu City Arizona. Camping courtesy of the Elks Lodge there.
Full hookups at the Elks Lodge

Our Shanty Shaker friends did it right again.

The reason for choosing Havasu?


They say this is the best fireworks show in the world for a reason. It's organized by a Pyrotechnics organization and they have the vendors who provide al the fireworks for professional shows displaying their latest products plus the “Amateurs” who set off huge fireworks in “Open Shoots” were they can happily launch their creations under safe controlled conditions.

The show goes on for at least 4 days and they have light and flame effects as well as ground and aerial fireworks.
You needed earplugs for this show it was LOUD and we were really close to the action. So much so that you felt the heat from the flame effects.

Not so well organized surprisingly was the Lions Club parking arrangements. One handicapped person was stuck behind a steel railing after following the crowd along and pathway that led nowhere. There were no signs at all for the handicapped access route and the teenagers manning the parking lot didn't have a clue.

Unfortunately my new diet took a severe dent after I fell off the wagon. All the great food and cheap booze at the Elks Lodge each night plus “Happy Hour” with the Shanty Shakers was too much temptation! I'll try and make up for it next week but I'm dreading weigh in on Wednesday.
Serious catching up being done
It was good to catch up with Lynn and Wayne, Bruce and Sue, Garth and Judy and the rest of the crew. Everyone is instantly at home around the campfire. Just like our original RV full time dreams.
Great company
We went for some exercise walking around the swap meet downtown and I managed to get a big book about painting in watercolors for $1. We bought our fruit and vegetables there too for half the price of the regular supermarket. An hour walking was penance for the 4 days of eating and drinking!!

Having said our goodbyes to everyone we set off back to Casa Grande and battled strong winds the whole way. In this desert environment the wind picks up the dust and throws it around. At one point it was like driving in a thick brown fog. Visibility was down to a couple of hundred yards and we drove warily thru it with our headlights on.
The brown clouds of dust going thru the campground
We arrived safely back and were re leaved to find that out outdoor chairs and the big mats were still there. We were laughing about how good it was to be “Home” after being away “Camping” for the weekend.