Tag Archive for: painting

Just Joys — T.K. Thorne


 Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        new places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.




The whirling weeks have left me vaguely unsettled, looking for what I have “accomplished.” I am used to measuring that in terms of word count, and I don’t have many of those. Rather than wallow in guilt, perhaps word count is the wrong measurement. I decided to look back and ask, “What happened?” And specifically, “Where did I find joy?”

While I listened to the talented Lia Frederick bring my characters to life in an audio book version of House of Rose* (the first in a trilogy about a police officer who discovers she’s a witch), I pulled the grass/clover/weeds out of the moss on the brick walkway. You might call this gardening. I call it a Zen exercise.  

[* Contact me at TK@tkthorne.com to get a promo code for a free audiobook!]

During the early stress-filled days of the Pandemic, weeding the moss calmed me. It requires concentration (if you pull wantonly, the moss will pull up too; if you are lazy, other plants will take over.) One of the encroachers was a tiny flower with a deep violet base and translucent blue-white petals, perhaps large enough for an ant’s umbrella—a Japanese Mazus. I left it in the moss.


Two + decades ago, I worked in the Birmingham Police Department with two dear friends, Becky and Juanita. Becky recently had a hip replacement, and Juanita stepped up to be a full-time care-taker. (A lesson about the meaning of Love!) We visit regularly, and our tales ensure a lot of laughter, the good kind that runs deep as a river between us. Becky’s husband died not that long ago, and she asked me for a painting based on a photo he had taken on a special day. The photo is beautiful, a solitary duck and crimson reflections in the water of (unseen) day lillies on the bank above. Here my first stab at it:

The Left Coast Crime conference in Albuquerque, NM, was a mixture of delight in being with people and anxiety at the crowd after the last two years of isolating and masking.  The highlight was being with my friends, Vikki and Kevin who were experiencing a writing conference for the first time. Also loved meeting fellow Stiletto Gang members, Donnell Ann Bell and Dru Ann Love.  Didn’t get to talk much with Dru Ann (who was always surrounded by admirers!☺), but I sat at Donnell’s table at the banquet, and she kindly offered a ride to the airport, so we got to chat a bit, enough to know what a kind, generous person she is and hope our friendship grows.  
Also enjoyed extended conversations about writing and law enforcement stuff  with fellow panelists and police crime writers—James L’Etoile, Frank Zafiro, Dana King (and his wife, Corky), and Colin Conway. The best part of conferences is the people!
Brushed tangles from Foxy’s tail. Tomorrow it will be tangled again, but
today it’s a silk flag in the wind, and she is prissy, knowing how
beautiful she is (because I tell her constantly). She was a racehorse,
but during the pandemic (or perhaps because her hooves don’t grow well)
she was sold at auction with a future as dog food in Mexico if no one
rescued her. She is such a baby, wanting constant petting and treats.

Janice is almost my age (i.e., an “elder”). We met this winter at a martial arts clinic (yes, really). She rode with her sensei (teacher) from Wyoming to Alabama! Fourteen hundred miles separate us, yet we chatted via email about tying up her gutter that fell in the Laramie wind to the porch with a bungee cord, and I told her about a piece of my day. The thread of a new friendship weaving across those miles lightened my heart.  
Our old dog, Glenny, walked all the way to the barn with me today. Usually, he goes to the end of the yard and then abandons me, heading back to the house. This time I had to wait while he stopped often to read the “newspaper” of smells along the drive, a lesson in patience, but I was happy with his quiet company.

This is not Glenny in quiet-company mode. This is it’s-time-to-cook-dinner mode.

Colors in the water of Becky’s painting are giving me fits. Do I still like it?  Yes . . . no.  Frustrating. Trying to push through the fear of an ugly mess, giving the paper the paint and waiting to see what it does with it.
Took some mint to my sister (so grateful she lives nearby) and helped her move hosta plants she had grown for years to her new house and decide where to put them, as well as an ornate wrought iron gate she bought at a yard sale. (She is a yard-sale queen!) She helped me load two trellis plant stands (that she would have sold, but gave to me), into the truck. I put them in the back yard in front of the ugly metal poles of the clothesline. Any thoughts what I should grow on them?  Clematis, maybe? Only partial sun back there.
More paint on the duck. Hoping Becky will like it. Hoping I will like it. Layers defining, softening, brightening. It will never look like the photo but that’s okay has long as it evokes the wonder of the light, the quiet dignity of the duck rippling through still water, but I don’t know if it’s working or not.  Really struggling with making this right.

I was up at midnight the night before taking this to Becky because it was still not right, but in the end, I went to bed feeling it was good, or as good as I could do. 

She cried when she saw it.  
Her happiness made me very happy.

Writing this woke me to the small joys that happen every day. Looking for “accomplishments,” I miss their significant. What a gift life is.  

T.K.Thorne is a retired police captain who writes books, which, like this blog, go wherever her curiosity and imagination take her.  More at TKThorne.com

A Brave Thing—by T.K. Thorne




Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
    Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        new places, new ideas,
           and old wisdom.





My daughter recently posted this on Facebook.  

Dolly, I did a brave thing. During the pandemic, I started painting. That wasn’t
brave, because nobody was looking over my shoulder pointing out my
mistakes (the paintings did that!) 
But I really wanted to contribute
something to the Pulpwood Queen Book Club’s silent auction for the Pat
Conroy Literary Center. So here’s the brave thing—I did a “Low Country”
painting and gave it to the silent auction.

It started out very ugly. (A good lesson for the drafts of our novels.) I was thinking that I might have to just throw it away and start over, but I decided I was having fun and just kept going. (Another lesson for writing.)

When I paint, I am often drawn to go “visit” the project while passing the studio (library/book storage/printer/extra-closet room).  As a painting dries, the colors lighten and the perspective changes. One night, I made my normal stumble to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Drawn to the studio on the way back to bed, I looked at the painting in the dim light of the hall nightlight and insanely decided the color of the water wasn’t right. 

You have to understand, I am fortunate to find my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night (and the morning, for that matter.) Not bothering to sit, get my glasses, or turn on decent light, I grabbed a brush and started “fixing” it. 

The next morning, I braced myself to look at what I had done, certain it would be a disaster.

Amazingly, it looked okay.

When the painting was finished, I was happy with it. Then I panicked, realizing to meet the deadline, I  had to send a photo in to the auction. (A familiar panic, as it happens with every manuscript when I hit “send” to the editor.) I stalled as long as I could and then, with great trepidation I sent it. 

It was received kindly. But how else would polite people react? We praise a child’s art efforts no matter how primitive and stick it proudly to the refrigerator. The few friends, sister, amd hubby with whom I had shared my attempts had been encouraging. But this was different. People who don’t know me were going to be looking at this, and I didn’t think they would want to pay to stick it on their refrigerator.

I berated myself:  You’re a writer, not a painter.  What were you thinking?

The auction was for a good cause and was open to the public, so I did my duty and posted it on Facebook with an invitation to the auction. I told myself the worst thing that could happen was that no one would bid on it and no harm would be done. I’d just go back in the closet as an artist and continue painting just because I loved doing it.

The response on Facebook was immediate: 

To say I was blown away by the warm and excited comments is an understatement. In spite of the fact that I am a Writer (took a long time and several books published to own that word), it slowly bloomed in me that perhaps I could be an Artist too. Tears repeatedly came to my eyes that so many people thought what I had created was beautiful. Some of them were “real” artists. At that point, it really would not have mattered if no one bid on it.

However, they did. In fact, there was a bidding war! The executive director of the Center said he “thought there was going to be a bloodbath over it.” It received the highest bid of any item (and there were great things there).

When you finish a book, there is a certain sadness, a letting go, a goodby to the characters you have lived with for months, sometimes years. Tomorrow, I will put my little painting in a box and send it away to a stranger who lives on the other side of the country. I am happy/sad. 

I wonder if all joy has an element of sadness. The joy of seeing a child grow up and go off into the world mixes with the sadness of losing something precious. The joy of accomplishing a goal mixes with the sadness of having accomplished it. The joy and sadness of creating . . . and finishing. 

Many wise people have said this better: It is not the destination that brings us happiness, but the journey. 

Speaking of which, I think I will finish this blog and go start another painting . . . .

“Low Country”

T.K.Thorne is a retired police captain who writes Books, which, like this blog, go wherever her curiosity and imagination take her.  More at TKThorne.com.

The Paintbrush and the Pen—by T.K. Thorne


Writer, humanist,

          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,

       Lover of solitude

          and the company of good friends,

        New places, new ideas

           and old wisdom.

During the pandemic I edited several books and started two novels, both of which seem stuck somewhere near the beginning and are sitting around waiting for me.  I don’t know if it was the stress of the year or I just burned out.  

A friend introduced me to a form of art doodling called Zentangle, which is usually done on 3×3 inch pieces with a pen and pencil shading.  Looks like this:

I decided I wanted to color them and bought some colored pencils.

Then I stumbled across water color pencils. Who knew?  Got some of those and the color intensified.


So I ordered tube water colors and real water color paper and “got serious.” I started painting scenes out of my head. This one went to my new grandchild:


And then from photographs:

My nine-year-old nephew said he wanted a painting of outer space.  

“I like planets.” he said.

Which one is your favorite?”

With a wicked grin, “Uranus!”

He didn’t get Uranus (I think he just liked to say the word! 🙂 This is what he got:

My other nine-year-old nephew liked space but opted for a type of dinosaur I’d never heard of—a Spinosaurus, which has a huge head and jaws and likes water. I threw in an eclipse to cover the space interest.

Connections between painting and writing have evolved along with subject matter. Since I had no idea what I was doing, I developed a silent mantra to keep me brave enough to try things—Don’t be afraid of the paint. Writing is like that. You can’t let fear of not having the right words stop you. There are ways to fix what you don’t like in both fields, but you have to put something down on paper first. (I think I am talking to myself here….)

Painting has expanded my “notice meter.” I look at the world differently, trying to take in how light plays in the tree canopy or on a field or a face, and I note how that affects my inner world. Writers look for physical, emotional and mental nuances, motivations, and behaviors. But we also are called upon to describe the world in terms of our senses and I suspect this “arting” thing is going to enhance my ability to describe the visual world.

One major lesson is that nothing exists without contrast. Light requires dark, even if it is in shades. An arc of character must, likewise, have contrast, a setup if you will.

A painting, like a story, takes on a life of its own. Not everything goes the way you “planned” it, and that is okay. Sometimes you have to let the colors and water do what they want to do and go from there.  The same for a story. A character you planned to grant a minor role may become a major player.  A plot can go off in a new direction. Your characters may say or do unexpected things.  These are part of the challenges and joys of writing and painting.

Science says creating art can help depression and PTSD, stimulate alpha (relaxing) brain waves, and reduce the stress hormone cortisol. They also say that learning new things creates new connections in your brain. I don’t pretend to be anything more than a beginning amateur at this, but I am loving this new passion. My words got stuck during the pandemic, and I don’t know when they will come back, but meanwhile I am determined not to be afraid of the paint and to see where it takes me.

T.K. is a retired police captain who writes Books, which, like this blog, go wherever her interest and imagination take her.  More at TKThorne.com

I Love the Smell of Paint Fumes in the Morning

by Susan McBride

I’ve been on a home improvement kick of late, fueled by the long To-Do list on the side of our refrigerator that’s ever-growing. With so much going on since Ed and I bought the house almost four years ago (deadlines, health crisis, getting hitched, et al), I’ve put off unfinished projects around the house and yard. So long as things seemed clean and neat, I ignored what could be ignored in support of my sanity. But with promo for The Cougar Club winding down and a little time on my hands before a new deadline dropped in my lap, I could finally tackle what I’d been putting off. Like the human tornado I am (or, at least, my husband thinks I am!), I jumped in with both feet.

I went for the easy stuff first, like sanding and touching up paint on door thresholds shredded by Max the Cat (who thinks the entire house is his scratching post). I put two coats of Haze–aka, light tan–on the bare white vanity in the upstairs guest bath to match the walls (hey, it breaks up the white between the tiles and the sink, and I’m a woman who likes color!). I’ve mentioned to Ed that it’d look really good to cut molding to frame the oversized guest bath wall mirror (something I’ve seen them do on HGTV)–and would I kill to replace that old “Hollywood” style lighting fixture, too!–but since hubby’s the one who wields the table saw, the mirror-framing will have to wait.

My mother dropped by last weekend to help paint the guest room, another thing I’d been meaning to do and hadn’t. The rest of the house had a color makeover long ago (well, all except Ed’s “man cave” in the basement which was “Bisque” and still is). The third bedroom was always a vivid mint green, kind of like toothpaste, which matched my old comforter set well enough so we left it alone. Ed got a little sad when I said, “Time for the minty freshness to go!” He remarked that glancing in the room always reminded him to brush his teeth. Ha ha. I found a more neutral shade of green with a hint of gray in it, and it looks gorgeous. The old comforter set got laundered and taken to Goodwill. Rather than buy something new, I dug into the linen closet for a quilt my grandmother made me long ago, with scalloped edges trimmed in olive green and a circle of pink flowers and green leaves at its center. It looks perfect on the guest bed and the cats have already taken to burrowing beneath it (something I’m sure my cat-loving grandma would appreciate!).

Continuing on my “Design on a Dime” theme, I had Ed cut the old wooden curtain rod from our master bedroom (left behind by the former owner) so it would fit the guest room window. I spray-painted the rod and finials white (accidently using appliance paint which smells awful but covers beautifully!). Ed hung it up last night, and now I’m dying to go buy curtain panels, which I want to coordinate with new fabric to recover the old Victorian armchair and ottoman (er, I kind of got white paint on the green ottoman seat when I was spray-painting the feet!) Okay, so one project seems to lead to another, but it’s all going to be gorgeous when I’m finished!

My home improvement crusade wasn’t limited to the inside. Nope. I tackled a few outdoor projects as well, starting with clearing out leaves from flower beds and the basement window well off the patio where I encountered a garter snake that had the nerve to hiss at me! Geez, his head was as big as my pinky so I was less afraid than I would have been if I’d run across a giant spider. Animal lover that I am, I used a dustpan to scoop him up and toss him into a patch of ivy. Ed and I saw him again on Easter before heading over to my folks’ house! He slithered across the driveway and let Ed take his picture before he disappeared through the grass. I’m sure it was his way of saying, “thanks.”

But I digress. My yard work continued with some trimming and weeding, and I dug up a dead bamboo bush growing near the back fence, replacing it with a trellis and jasmine plant. I can’t wait for the jasmine to cover that sucker and create a wall of yellow flowers and vine! FYI, the “bamboo” bush wasn’t really bamboo at all. It was some kind of distant relative to a houseplant and didn’t ever live up to the promise of growing to 6′ x 6′ within three years. In fact, it didn’t grow but a few leaves beyond its original 1′ x 1′ self. A rotted trellis in another garden bed was replaced by a metal trellis, and now the clematis is growing thickly on it. I planted viney flowers that are supposed to naturalize in an empty area of that same bed, and I trimmed out dead branches on a pear tree and a maple (well, the ones I could reach that smack Ed in the head when he mows).

Getting out of my desk chair and moving like that has tugged on muscles I forgot existed. I’ve enjoyed transforming pieces of my world inside and out (although the tree pollen’s about to kill me! Benadryl, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…although you seriously make me crave a nap). Ed’s afraid that if I don’t chain myself to my keyboard again soon, I’m going to build a room addition to the house. Hmm, not a bad idea. Maybe that screened porch I’ve been daydreaming about, one with a comfy chaise so I can lounge and read while the cats watch the birds at the feeder….

Er, does anyone have Mike Holmes’ phone number handy just in case I need some help?