First Painting in 20 Years DAY ONE

It has been a very long time since I last sat down and put my mind to starting a painting. In truth, I have always thought of myself as a painter, even though my degree focus was in illustration. I had only discovered painting in my senior year of college and did not have enough credit hours under my belt to be able to use that medium in my final project. I knew right away, however, that I was hooked….

.Aspen tree

When we moved into our house in central Oregon, this was the view from the dining room window. One of my first thoughts was of how much I would like to make a painting of this tree. Aspen trees are one of my husband’s favorites. This tree, like all Aspens, captures the seasons so clearly and this autumn was no exception.

Aspen tree layout

At first, I tried to draw directly from the subject, but the constant back and forth, as well as the light to dark was giving me quite a headache. I have never been much for drawing out my subject anyway. There is something about drawing on a vertical surface that has always been a challenge for me. I used to get in trouble in college for insisting on moving my pad of paper, no matter how large, from the easel onto my lap.

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So, instead, I took a photo with my phone and used it as my primary reference. This was also helpful because the sun was moving in and out of the clouds all day making the lighting different every time I looked up.

With a dirty brush and a limited palate, I scratched the primary shapes and color fields onto the canvas and called it an end of day one.

Painting takes a CRAZY amount of concentration and a steady hand. These are two things that I no longer have, so I imagine this project will take some time to complete!

My New Website

It has been a while, I have missed you……

I started this blog back in October, hoping to revamp my Etsy store and spend some time chatting about it, and life in general. Well, I have given up on Etsy now. On top of the already discussed issues of allowing mass producers of crafts to sell on the site, now they are letting mass producers of supplies….I have been choked out and I quit.

My new site is all mine. I can sell what I want, how I want. If you would like to visit me it is GilliancBruce.com. I will blog there about my creations as well and use this site to talk more about life and my restoration work at my house in Central Oregon.

I have not been doing any work on the house in La Pine as of late. We have mapped out where my studio will go and have spent a lot of these rainy looking for old wood stoves and firewood trucks.

Once the Aspen leaves start sprouting, I intend to use them as molds for my silver metal clay. I can’t wait!!!! In the mean time, I am slowly packing up our house here in Beaverton, getting rid of a lot and trying not to get lost in memories.Image

Baby it’s Cold Out There!

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This morning in La Pine it was -26 degrees F. That’s -32 degree Celsius to my Canadian friends.

Winter is definitely upon us! That is my husband’s chapped hand in the photo. He went to our La Pine house this weekend to pick up a garage heater he purchased during a Black Friday sale at the local hardware store. No sense in trying to heat the garage in La Pine! I think the heater would run out of fuel before it make a dent in the cold.

Here in Beaverton it is a frigid 10 degrees F. That’s -12 degrees Celsius to my European friends.

The garage heater was purchased at my urging. My husband is a very talented woodworker who has lost his muse and as a result, filled his garage (workshop) with piles and piles of useless crap. My goal for 2014 is to get him back out there and making “stuff”. But first we need to purge a bit and that requires a heater. He must be eager to get started, because he drove 4 hours in icy conditions to a house that took 12 hours to heat up just to get the heater….and perhaps a little bit of “alone” time.

We realized right after her left, that in the 7+ years we have been together, we have only been separated twice; once for a hunting trip (him) and once to strip paint at the new house (me). That might explain why we drive each other nuts! Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

To anyone reading this, please stay warm, stay enlightened and don’t forget to take your vitamins.

I have a feeling it is going to be a long, cold winter for most of us.

Once Upon a House – New Roof!

Sorry I have been absent for so long. Tis’ the time of year for illness, holiday panic and, if you live in western Oregon, rain.

As for the house in La Pine, this story could go one of two ways. I could bore you, or anger you, or make you feel empathy by ranting on and on about the process of buying a house in a short sale….but I think it would be best to leave that to an entirely different thread. Trust me, it was a NIGHTMARE. The end result was that we got the house and I was put on blood pressure medication, but there were no homicides on my behalf, which is always a good thing.

In order to get the house, we had 2 weeks from closing to put a new roof on it or we would lose our financing. We found an excellent roofer (after finding a complete charlatan who caused more harm than good – but again, that is part of the OTHER story) and he agreed to have the roof installed by the deadline for the tidy sum of $12,000.

Seems having a pitched roof and needing a high quality roofer comes with a steep price tag. But, they had us over a barrel. By the time we got to this part of the transaction, I was so riled up, there was NO WAY we were not going to get this house. Of course, when we drove out to La Pine on the day of the deadline, the house still sat, old roof intact….but again, that is the OTHER story.

Wow, I have PTSD just thinking about the 7 months I spent fighting over this house…..breathe.

Ok, so where was I….Oh, yes, WE GOT THE HOUSE!!!!

The new roof was finally put on, the financing stayed intact, for the most part, and we were ready to start dreaming and scheming about how we were going to turn this slapped together vacation home into something we were proud to call our permanent residence.

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Old roof from the back of the house.

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Old roof from the front of the house.

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New Roof!!!!

As stated earlier, come move in day, we still did not have a new roof, but we remained hopeful and made some panicked phone calls. It turned out the sky light the roofer had ordered, was subsequently shattered and they needed an additional week to get a new one (you can see it in the above photo). The finance people we already calling ME asking why I had not taken care of the roof, but in the end, through shoddy cell phone service and hard to reach people on a Saturday, it seemed that everything would still work out.

I had never owned a house before….actually, I never even IMAGINED owning a house before, so this whole experience to me was surreal.

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Here I am, standing for the first time on MY porch…mine, all mine.

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Then a friendly squirrel offered to snap a picture of hubby carrying me over the threshold.

He likes to note that there was not an ounce of strain showing in his body as he lugged me into what has, thus far, become my dream home.

Once Upon a House Part 4

As we continued down the main hall of the house (which is all of 15 feet long) the little hands that had been grasping my wrist, pulled me again to the side and into a room that was overlooked by the others. It was set back from the hall by a deep alcove that, at first glance,  appeared to be nothing more than a closet. The child pushed open the door, ran from my side and threw herself on a large bed that dominated the room. “This is Ghrhefts’s room!” she exclaimed loudly as she rolled back and forth across the bed. Aside from the bed, I noticed a large closet with a sliding door and that there was ample room for a desk and book shelf in the room as well. Then, before I could take in much more, my wrist was once again under the control of the child and I was whisked back into the hallway.

Down bedroom

We quickly walked past the door to a large bathroom that was making a gurgling sound, through the utility room and out into the garage where the other had been standing and chatting quietly.  Nancy was awkwardly trying to seem interested in what my husband, Steve, was showing her while the owner stood at the ready to answer any questions as best he could. A previous owner had, oddly, decided to build a bathroom in the garage. It was derelict and filthy and a mouse or squirrel has obviously been eating pine cones regularly while sitting on the back of the toilet. The debris pile left behind was several inches thick. The owner chatted on about the absurdity of having plumbing in a room that could be 20 degrees below 0 in the winter. Nancy nodded appropriately while my husband continued to stare up into the rafters. It all felt awkward and I was really not sure why we were standing around in the garage to begin with. Then Steve pointed to a large beam over my head and let me in on the secret. The beam was very obviously milled from a small milling machine, The blade swirls and cut marks were unmistakable. “this house was built by a woodworker”, he said. “did you see the doors?” He pointed to the one I had just passed through to enter the garage. “They are solid wood, held together with forged iron bars”. I looked and suddenly, it hit me. This house was made of WOOD!

Garage 2

OK, that sounds silly, because most houses are made of wood, but this one was REALLY made of wood. There was no fiber board, no plywood paneling, no commercial grade 2×4’s. This was hand cut, hand milled WOOD. The walls of the garage could not lie. We walked outside and it was more of the same. The exterior of the house was board and batton, all showing milling scars…the porch was large flat planks with lovely swirling blade marks peaking through the layers of pealing paint. This house was not a kit. It was not a random plan, this house was someone’s hard earned dream. This house was built out of imagination and sweat. THIS house was what we were looking for. Our diamond in the rough…and oh boy, was it rough.  In the Real Estate industry the frequently throw around the phrase “good bones” when trying to describe a house that is solid, but needs work. The bones of this house were as solid as you could get and I knew right then and there that Steve had made up his mind.

When we got back into the car after thanking the owner, Nancy paused for a moment before asking if there were any other houses we would like to see before we headed back to her office. “Nope, this is it” Steve said giving me a hopeful glance. Nancy seemed a bit relieved and confused at the same time. “What did you like about it most?” she asked. When we told her it was hand made and solid wood, she seemed to accept that as reason enough. “Well, I guess when you know it, you know it”, she said and spent the rest of the trip back to the office telling us who we could contact to remodel pretty much everything.

What Nancy did not know was that our entire plan, was to remodel it ourselves. Steve is a woodworker with an entire wood shop at his disposal. I am an artist with a deep love for anything that involves paint. Together, we were already making plans to turn this jalopy of a house into the home it should have been when it was first imagined by the original owner only better!

Then Nancy dropped the bomb…..it was a short sale.

Once Upon a House Part 3

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When we pulled up to the house, it was clearly occupied. A baby was sitting in a high chair by the front window and a fire could be seen roaring away in the wood stove at the back of the living room. Nancy got out and went to the door as we sat anxiously in the car. The house itself, never struck me as notable. I am not sure that I really gave it much thought from the outside. It was dull, plain and the colors all blended in to the slushy gray snow.

After a few minutes, the baby was swooped up out of the highchair and we were beckoned inside. We were greeted by the owner, a diminutive man wearing a lovely Swedish style hat and holding his small daughter in his arms. He seemed a bit awkward and told us to feel free to look around as he slowly guided us through the rooms. The house was very bright and warm. The yellow walls gave an air of sunshine filled spaces and the wood stove flames made everything feel a bit like a holiday.

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Just as I was about to follow Nancy and my husband down the main hall, a little hand grabbed my fingers. Startled, I looked down to see the grinning round face of a 4ish year old girl who immediately began babbling in half gibberish and yanking on my arm. “cmon’ show you!” she said and lead me to the wide stairwell in the corner of the room. It seems she had been through the routine of house tours before and she was certain that what I wanted to see was upstairs. I easily obliged and followed her up a rough white stair case to the second floor where she triumphantly announced “This is my room!” She lead me to a pile of blocks that she had been arranging and proceeded to build a tower as high as her adorable little head. Her room was enchanting. A small window looked out the back with a view of the property and the park beyond. But the best feature of the room was a mural of the moon and stars the decorated one side of the slanting wall.

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We were quickly joined by the others; I presume that the owner sensed that his daughter was missing. We toured the awkward sloped bathroom, the HUGE drafty master bedroom with one tiny closet and a porch door that did not fit it’s jam and needed to be held closed by a large chair. I noticed that the hall floor was nothing but a screwed on sheet of melamine. The stairwell was made from wide rough cut and occasionally warped board that had a thick coating of white paint. I tried for a moment to see them as cottage chic…but decided I wasn’t sure that was my decorating style. The paint was spotty, the ceilings clearly showed where each panel of drywall ended and another began and overall the house was unfinished. We went back down the stairs to the living room and resumed the walk down the main hallway. All the while, I had a small, monkey child bouncing off my arm and randomly pointing to things. I got a quick glance at the kitchen, which while large, had ancient appliances and a ruined counter top…..but OH, the cupboards!

Once Upon a House Part 2

All of the houses we planned to visit in La pine were on at least 1 acre of land. We wanted some room to spread out, live more privately and, most importantly, NOT feel like we were still in suburbia.

The first house we visited was a 3 bedroom, 2 bath ranch that looked remarkably like many of the other homes we had passed by in the neighborhood. It was red on the outside and varying shades of plum and tan on the inside. It had a weird floor plan, with lots of unusable space in an entryway and then no real room for a full living room. The kitchen had vaulted ceilings, the bedroom had almost no closet and the whole floor plan flowed like a river that had been diverted too many times. Even though it was still occupied, and nicely decorated, we said, “no thank you” very quickly and were back on our way. I guess, looking back, there was really nothing wrong with the house at all. It was perfect….we did not want perfect though, we did not want to keep up with the Jones’ or have someone else make the decorating decisions for us. We wanted our cabin, unique, rustic, a diamond in the rough.

So back on the bumpy, muddy road we went. The second house we visited was a manufactured home that was on over 10 acres and was selling for a very reasonable price. When we pulled up to the obviously neglected house, I was instantly disinterested, but we decided to have a look inside just to make sure. 10 acres is 10 acres after all. The house was a large double wide and while not in perfect shape, it was not TOO terrible on the inside. we wondered from large dirty room to large dirty  room. I tried my best to say something positive with each new discovery. “My that’s a big window”,  “I sure could see myself being able to cook a large meal in this kitchen!”…blah, blah, blah. This house was not occupied, so we were able to open drawers and peek in cabinets without feeling like criminals. The last room we walked into was the master bedroom, where we got quite a surprise. There was a bed in the room, recently made up with a sleeping bag and a few extra comforters. La pine gets VERY cold in the winter and this house had no heat… I peeked into the master bathroom and suddenly felt like I was being watched, so we quickly decided it was time to leave. Nancy hopped outside and made a slightly panicked phone call to the Realtor who was listing the home and off we went

.Mobile Home

The third house was another interesting one. It had originally been built when the neighborhood had planned for a cul de sac to follow. But the economy in Central Oregon crashed in the late 90’s and the cul de sac never came to fruition. as a result, this house now sat on a flag lot behind a number of other homes and after making our way down the awkward driveway, we found ourselves facing the back of the house. No driveway or road had been installed to circle around to the front, so instead, the main entry to the house was through the laundry room! We nicknamed this house “big blue” because the previous owners had painted it an alarming shade of electric blue. Once inside, we had a really nice surprise. This house was HUGE! it had 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a den and a full family room as well as an ample living and dining area. It had new carpet throughout. When you walked to the front of the house, there was a big porch, reminiscent of the Walton’s and a view of a large grassy field, where the street and other houses were originally meant to be. Also unoccupied, we toured this house a bit more slowly. There were cabinets everywhere…my brain started to crunch ideas….there were TWO master bedroom suites….crunch crunch….there were patched holes in the walls everywhere…..and the ceiling….and there were STILL holes in two doors…loud crunch. I asked Nancy what had happened, and she did not know but told me the previous owner had agreed to repair everything before the sale was final…..no, I thought..crunch… This house was TOO big and TOO fake and perhaps TOO filled with someone else’s latent anger. Everything was carpeted, and I was sure that if we pulled the carpeting up, we would find chip board and maybe serious water damage. Plus, let’s get serious here, who wants to keep their laundry room “guest ready” all the times!

After that, I know we visited at least one other manufactured home, I remember the kitchen but in truth , it was all a blur once we stumbled upon the house of our dreams.

We were just about to give the search up when my husband said, “what about the house with the dogs?” Nancy seemed to know what he meant and quickly checked the listings. Yes, she had it and we could go there next. All I had seen about this house was a grainy photo from the outside and a picture of two dogs behind a gate. The one thing that made it worth visiting, my husband reminded me,  was that the map showed the property butting right up against La Pine State Park. If this house were worth it, we could have a 6000 acre back yard and that, in an of itself, made visiting worthwhile.

As we drove to the property. Nancy reminded us that this house was  short sale. I let my husband absorb that statement, having no idea myself what it meant and watched intently out the window as we pulled up through a slushy yard and parked right outside the front door of a small gray house  with two garages.