How to Paint A Cactus: Notes on Montell, Texas (2021) 🌵
How to make a cactus painting; 🌵
(A Native Texans perspective)
Rex Hausmann, Spring 2021
I’m not trying to make a painting. I’m trying to “see”.
I’m trying to “see” a cactus for what it is.
In the middle of no where. It’s the idea of Texas the way it is. The way it has been. The way it will be far after I’m gone and the wild hogs are still there. The same breed of hogs that’s been in these parts for oh about 5000 years.
Step 1: No where / Some where / Polo.
You drive out to the middle of NO WHERE... and I do mean no where. Well, I guess it is somewhere to some people, so you can’t really call it “no where”. Let’s just say it’s remote. On a ranch in Montel, Texas. The former bee keeping capital of Texas. Montel is also the home of John Baylor, a bit of a character and former resident of San Antonio. Apparently the Montel post office has been around since 1878. Official population 20 - 50 on a crowded day and that’s stretching it. Really it’s considered an extension of Uvalde and surrounding area. Fun fact is Montel did have a polo team at one time. Gitty up!
Step 2: On the ranch. “Bump Gates”.
To get to the ranch you need to go through a wounderful invention called a “bump gate”. Two of them actually. A gate you Litteraly “bump” with your pick up trucks to open. The gate closes behind you, it’s kind of a “ranch thing”. Like I said to get to the ranch you pass through two other ranches. You’ve been up since early in the morning driving 3 1/2 hours outside of San Antonio so your ready to go get some time to paint.
Drive on an Kubota ATV that can go where a car or truck would have died a long time back. Trying to get to a spot you scouted a few months back on a borrowed ATV. If your truck would have been used on these rocky paths all four tires would have popped on the sharp hot rocks. Guaranteed they’d blow. That is after you’ve scratched all the paint off of your truck with the scrub brush and cactus. Don’t even think about taking a normal car. The ATV is light enough to go right over, it’s what it’s built for. The ATV is lovingly called “the goat”. The goat is a bright blaze orange.
Step 3: Paint 🎨
Set up your easel it’s 2pm sun b/c you’ve been traveling and getting ready for 5 hours. You paint for 1 1/2 hours and are so fed up with the mosquitos, the heat, the treck, the painting box and the bugs (that are in the paint by this point) you don’t know what to say ... and right when you are ready for yellow on the panting ... you’re out! The last tube was used in France or Florida ... you ran out of yellow and still need to make sunlight out of orange. Improvise, use neon. The idea of an art supply store is 4 hours away through 2 bump gates and two forms of transportation, truck and ATV and that is just too much. You make due.
The flowers on the cactus are yellow (but like I said you’re out of yellow! Color theory class from 15 years ago kicks in.)... use red. By this time your just worn out from the whole thing. You give up. Leonardo da Vinci once said: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
He was right. You ask “Why do I do this to myself?!?!” You say “It’ll be dry in the morning, when there is coffee.” ☕️
Step 4: The easel. The heirloom & hogs.
Pack up the easel. Go. Your done for the day.
Go home.... also a 45 min walk up a hill with the French easel that was your grandfathers. You have taken this box all over the world, because you think his spirit travels with you with the box and it does. Your lucky to be able to do such things as adventures like this.
Earlier you had to borrow some tools on the ranch to fix the old squeaky hinges and the components of the painting easel, as it is almost falling apart. The last trip to France wasn’t so kind. The heirloom took a serious beating going through TSA & customs on the way back home. The cool thing is on an old ranch you never throw anything away! So it’s perfect. The jar of old screws, the jar that was a jam jar before a random screw holder. A collection of odd and end screws built up over 40 years, yeah that one ... has just the right oddly specific screw for the easel. A perfect match.
You leave the painting box outside for the night. The painting too. You leave them out in the elements, the painting is ok, it’s acrylic. Basically you forgot it because you were looking up at the stars, talking about constellations and thinking “What did the people see 2000 years ago with no light pollution?” Your friend Christian is with you, a bud since you were kids. It’s his ranch. It’s a magical place where he and his wife ( another shining individual you grew up with) and their kids get out of the city away from everything. They swim in old fishing holes and get lost and don’t even think about cell phones working! We use walkie talkies to communicate. “Sawdust to cactus ... breaker breaker one nine!” It’s the ranch, and it should stay as such. Remember the hogs and no light pollution.... except lightning bugs that is. And those are magical. “Do you think Elon Musk’s Satellite strand ‘starling’ will reach out to Montel?” Christian asks. “Who knows and furthermore who cares?!” I respond. “I don’t think the hogs mind a bit... or the deer.”
Step 5: BBQ.
Make BBQ. Any kind.
Over oak that was chopped down on the property.
Step 6: Spirits.
Drink bourbon or tequila. In particular Hudson Valley or Hussong's Reposado Tequila or peach whiskey on hot days.
Step 7: The hogs are critics. Coffee. 🐗
Then you see the hogs found the painting on the night hunting camara. There are even art critics in the country side! Maybee the hogs liked it... your painting with colors so bright that it glows at night ... & the hogs haven’t ever seen anything like that. You then finish the painting the next morning over coffee and see the sun rise.
Pack up & go home.
I see why Turner strapped himself to the front of a mast & Monet planted & grew an entire garden just to paint. Why Cezzane walked all over the country side ... it’s actualy a pain carrying that little easel everywhere. But ya know what ... it’s worth it.
- Rex from Montel, Texas 👨🎨
Special Thanks: Christian and Sarah Guerra, Rosebud Coffee, Dr Mark Homer and Denise Homer, Scott and Claudia Clark.