Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In Memory of my Dad...

Today, January 31, would have been my Dad's 91st birthday, and I've been thinking about him all day, even though I didn't get started on this collage I did in his memory until this evening ~ I'm not the most tech-savvy person, so things take me a bit longer to do...but I do usually finally figure things out without having to ask my children! My dad, John Launius, was born in Essex, Missouri, on January 31, 1921. He went to grade school and high school there, excelling in basketball (he would later coach high school basketball in Morehouse, Missouri, after the war). After graduating in the spring of 1942 from the University of Missouri at Columbia with a Bachelor's Degree in Agriculture, Daddy immediately enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He told me that his folks ~ my grandparents ~ were supportive of his joining the Armed Forces ~ the attack on Pearl Harbor had been just months before, and patriotism was running high ~ as long as he "wasn't in an airplane"...he told them that he was sorry to cause them concern, but that was exactly what he planned to do!

Daddy had an eventful stint in the Air Corps; the plane in which he was navigator was shot down in April of 1943, barely making its crash-landing inside the Swiss border. My grandparents received word that he was "missing in action" ~ I can only imagine how they felt... Before too long, though, he was able to get word to them that he was safe ~ he just couldn't leave Switzerland. For the next year he and the rest of his crew lived in a hotel requisitioned by the Swiss government...(they'd all escaped the crash basically unharmed)...Daddy became a librarian for the Red Cross, and was also given the responsibility of making sure that all the "guests" ~ they were actually referred to as Swiss "internees", instead of "prisoners of war" ~ were in their rooms by the designated curfew time! (I don't think he always did...:) Though it was still a troubled time in Europe, the internees did have the luxury of exploring and enjoying the Swiss countryside and the Alps, even though it wasn't in their original plans... Daddy told me they were treated extremely well by the Swiss people.

After his release and the end of the war, Daddy came back home to Essex where he taught English for a year (then coached basketball in Morehouse, just a few miles away) before settling in Bloomfield, Missouri, where he taught agriculture on the G.I. Bill to returning servicemen, and began farming himself.

I was born in 1957 (Daddy's meeting and marrying my Mom played a part in this, though they would later divorce), and would be an only child...however, not long before he passed away, Daddy told me that if he had known how well I would "turn out" ~ he would have "had a dozen more" ~ I took this as a supreme compliment! I don't think Daddy ever quite knew what to do with a girl-child ~ I'm sure it would have been much easier for him had I been a boy ~ but I sure am glad he was my Dad. Happy Birthday, Daddy ~ ♥


1. Lt. John E. Launius; 2. Daddy and my Mom's dog Taffy, whom he taught to "pray", among many other things ~ my Mom later told me that she thought Taffy was the reason he'd married her. 3. A "Taffy-sandwich"...looks like there was a little rivalry going on here! 4. Daddy at 6 months old, June, 1921; 5. Daddy, 1st row, second from right, and the air crew. 6. Daddy, a Stoddard County "Little Rascal"! 7. Daddy and moi (hamming it up!) 8. With a glider in the Swiss Alps...9. Daddy and Mom with me, at about a year old, 1958. 10. Daddy with his little cane...I always thought he looked like "The Beav"! 11. At his Alma Mater, Mizzou...12. College graduation photo, 1942.

Monday, January 30, 2012



Today was another sun-shiny day for late January, a welcome departure from all the "grayness" of the past couple of weeks...it's still winter, though (although no snow, except for the little bit that landed on my still-blooming petunias in November), and still at least another 5- 6 weeks before the daffodils start blooming...
So, my inspiration for today came in the form of blue transferware and luscious yellow pears...I'm thinking a "smallish" pair of watercolors...maybe 11x14's...using these photos as reference.


Still looking forward to "the first of March"...♥

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Wendy, Chocolate Molds, & "Victorian Homes"...

My dear friend Wendy Mullen e-mailed me with a sweet surprise last fall...the magazine Victorian Homes had contacted her about doing an article featuring her antique chocolate molds, and she wanted to know if it was okay to use photos of the chalkware (plaster composition figures cast in the chocolate molds) I'd done for her...Okay??  Of course it was okay!  I was so excited...this wasn't the first time I'd had the delightful experience of working with Wendy, though.  A few years ago, when working on her second book, The Comprehensive Guide to Chocolate Molds ~ Objects of Art & Artists' Tools, she asked me if I would consider painting some chalkware figures to be photographed along with the molds they were cast from...I told her that I would be happy to! Wendy sent some of her molds, and using those as well as some from our collection, my husband Nelson cast the figures for me, and I went to work. Wendy had given me carte blanche to use whatever colors and designs on the castings that I pleased ~ I had such fun! Then, the icing on the cake...when the book came back from the publisher, there were two of my molds, along with the corresponding chalkware pieces, on the back cover...I was so honored!

Since the Victorian Homes issue is no longer in stores, I think it would be okay for me to put the text in this post...

"Elegantly clad, trim and stern, The Victorian Santa, or Father Christmas, was adored by well-mannered children and feared by naughty ones. A favorite collectible, the dapper Victorian Santa depicted in antique chocolate molds arrived via many modes of transportation. He was seen riding on the backs of pigs, horses, donkeys and rabbits; sometimes skiing into town or arriving atop the traditional sleigh  - or simply catching a ride on a shooting star.

The first known metal chocolate molds were manufactured in France as early as 1820.  By 1866, the Hermann Walter Company in Germany began manufacturing molds quickly, followed by the world-renowned Anton Reiche Company in 1870.  The Anton Reiche Company was  headquartered in Dresden, Germany.  In fact, Milton Hershey had many of his molds custom made by his favorite chocolate mold manufacturer and friend, Anton Reiche, who had more than 50,000 chocolate-mold designs encompassing every holiday, event and occasion.  Anton Reiche chocolate molds are exquisitely detailed and were meticulously manufactured, which make them highly sought-after.  Chocolatiers, artists and collectors continue to be enchanted by these molds and find many innovative uses for the molds well beyond molding chocolate.


Today, these molds are not only collected and displayed on shelves, but artists employ a wide range of materials to make these molds come alive.  Plaster chalkware, porcelain clays, paper mache, beeswax, soaps and hard candy are just some of the mediums that can be formed using these wonderful antique molds.  New, inventive techniques include using antique chocolate molds to cast plaster as an intermediate step for making molds to form antique-looking blown glass Christmas ornaments, tin toys and solid glass figurines.

The beauty of the antique chocolate mold is in its detail.  True works of art, each design has been hand-sculpted in the tradition of Michelangelo and many of the Great Masters.  Making art from art is not a new idea; molded chocolate pieces produced in 1820 for the king's table in France were every bit as detailed and exquisite as the molded chocolate available today by many gourmet chocolatiers.  Antique chocolate molds are so inspiring they have found their way into artists' paintings. Once you hold and feel the curves and admire the details of a gorgeous antique Santa chocolate mold, you will be captivated for life.  These tin treasures have the ability to mesmerize the beholder and bring joy to the world."

(By Wendy Mullen ~ Photography (in the pages pictured below) ~ Patrick Mullen)

1. Wendy's ad in Victorian Homes (I want to give all of them a home!). 2. Holiday Issue cover. 3. A rare Kutzscher Santa on a pig! (He couldn't find his reindeer that night...) 4. "A Little Art" ~ This was the head of a HUGE, gorgeous "window display" Santa mold that Wendy sent for Nelson to mold and me to paint for her second book...). 5. The first page of the article "Santas that Break the Mold" ~ Wendy lent me the top mold last spring to "play" with, and in return I painted her a chalkware casting, never imagining it would end up in a magazine! 6. An Anton Reiche teddy bear. 6. A wonderful Hornlein mold of Father Christmas and two children...used for...molding chocolate!


Left to right; The Comprehensive Guide to Chocolate Molds; Objects of Art & Artists' Tools; front cover; back cover, Wendy's first book, The Collector's Guide to Antique Chocolate Molds; Wendy's book on antique candy containers (the Comprehensive Guide and the Candy Container books are available from Amazon.com). All Beautiful!


Left to right; Wonderful Anton Reiche "Puppet" Santa mold; "Wanderer" Rabbit and Chick from the T.C.Weygandt Company, and my "Pointy Hooded" Santa, also Anton Reiche.

Thank you so much, dear Wendy, for allowing me to be a part of your "Sweet Obsession"!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Quackers, Anyone?

Whoa! These are some BIG photos, aren't they? They look even bigger with my little duck salt and pepper shakers magnified so, but I like big and bold (it took me several days to learn how to accomplish this), so I'll leave them alone...
I have to tell the story of these little ducks...when I was little, my Grandma Launius in Essex, Missouri, had a set of these ~ more like the ones in the last photo. I remember playing with them (I was not a baby-doll-playing child; I preferred animals, so I probably made up little scenarios for the ducks to act out)...Grandma DID have a Shirley Temple doll that belonged to my aunt (left in Grandma's care when my aunt left home and got married)...Shirley had an elaborate wardrobe, little shoes and socks, the whole shebang; but she also had little tiny TEETH, and she creeped me out. I politely played with Shirley occasionally to please Grandma...(as that's what little girls were supposed to do), but I was always more than ready to put Shirley back in her box (with her little teeth) and find something less nightmare-inducing to play with. But I digress...back to the ducks. Anyway, they lived on a little knick-knack shelf in my Grandma's kitchen, and after I outgrew playing with them, I didn't give them too much more thought. When Grandma's health declined and she moved in with her sister, I remember she took me (newly married) around her house, offering me whatever I'd like. The ducks were no longer my taste (my sophisticated, 1970s, 20-year-old taste), so I passed on them...I don't know what eventually became of my little ducky friends.
Fast forward to 2008...I was looking online at watercolor artists, and came across Chris Beck...I couldn't believe it ~ there were Grandma's little ducks! Well, at least some just like them. Chris had used them, as well as other whimsical little figures, as still-life subject matter in many of her vibrant watercolors...I immediately e-mailed her and told her how happy it made me to see them, and she kindly sent me a pair! Sadly, those were lost in the fire, but as soon as I had my wits about me again (sort of) and began to accumulate art materials and "inspiration", the ducks were one of the first things I sought out on eBay (yes, there are many of the funny little fellows still around).
Now I have several sets again (both of the sets in the above photos are from the 1940s and were made in Germany), but I also have some in "lusterware" that were made in Japan. I still haven't fulfilled my goal of doing a watercolor of them, but it's on my list for this spring!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


My husband, Nelson, is the cook and baker in this household (I paint and sculpt and piddle)...this afternoon he made this wonderful "Cream Cheese Pound Cake", originally a Southern Living recipe...


Cream Cheese Pound Cake


1 1/2 cups butter, softened at room temperature
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy (do not over-beat);
Gradually add sugar, beating well.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until combined. Crack eggs into a bowl first before adding to the mixture, to make sure you avoid getting shells in the cake mix.

Sift 3 cups of flour. Combine flour and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

Pour mixture into a greased and floured 10-inch Bundt pan.

Smooth the top of the cake or bottom of the cake (depending on how you look at it) with a spatula to even it out.

Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour and 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan, and let cool completely on wire rack. The cake will have a crusty layer on the bottom that you can trim off if you want to, but Nelson left it on ~ it was good!

That's it! Enjoy!

3/12/2012 ~ Submitted to On the Menu Monday at Stonegable!


Our baby Taffy...she was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and just the sweetest thing! She passed away a few years ago; too soon...sadly, this adorable breed can be very prone to congenital heart disease. We just have kitties now (inside, that is), but for the past few days my daughter Katie has been "pet-sitting" for the cutest tri-color Cavalier named Nicholas...and I'm afraid I'm getting "puppy fever"! I tell myself that the heart problems are such an issue; heartbreak waiting to happen...and that taking a dog outside to potty in all sorts of weather is such a pain...(I'm spoiled now, to kitties who use litter boxes!)...still...♥...I said I wasn't going to get another dog for a LONG time...(fingers crossed)!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Daddy's Barn...

My Dad's barn isn't there anymore, but my memories of the interesting, arched structure built in 1952 haven't changed...
Seeing this photo reminds me of Daddy always saying he was "looking forward to the 1st of March"
about this time of year...not only as a respite from the cold...to him, March first meant the time to start planting his crops
and green grass in the pastures for the cattle, instead of their winter diet of hay...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Artful Life...

...sure can tucker a fellow out!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Photo Shoot...

This afternoon I decided it was time for a new look for "A Little Fur in the Paint"~ I had a trio of helpers...Leo, Cyrus and Tallulah were more than happy to assist in my "photo shoot", basking in a ray of cool winter sun on an antique quilt (made by my Grandmother, Elphia Edmondson Collier, in the 1920s) and playing with my watercolor brushes...it was a tough afternoon, but they valiantly persevered in the name of art... Of course, it was only fitting; since their "fur in the paint" ~ always, at least a little bit, no matter how hard I try to avoid it ~ was the inspiration for the blog's title ~ Yes, I did set this up for them...but it's truly exactly how it is, every time I paint...

My Helpers...

My sweet kitties...constant companions...Leo, Cyrus and Tallulah.

Thursday, January 19, 2012