A Stone’s Throw Away

Watch this Ireland Coast oil painting come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

Here’s another painting video that I needed to change the music I’d originally used, to avoid copyright claims. I like how the new music works, but I also like the Irish music I had at first, so I’m keeping it the original way here on this site.

It feels like a journey looking into the past, going through these older painting videos. This was inspired by when I was living in Ireland in 2016 after my husband lost his job and we wanted to start over in a very big way. I’ve been thinking about Ireland a lot lately. Looking back is bittersweet.

We’d given up nearly everything we had to start over in Ireland, but even though I landed my month-long solo art show and my son got a partial scholarship to University College Cork, alas we couldn’t get our “permission to remain” visa and I had to cancel my art show (it was scheduled past our temporary visa expiration date), and the kids each canceled their school enrollment. It was rather crushing, as there was a process to get accepted for both them and for me, and our work to earn the money to go, by selling most of our possessions, and, well… it just wasn’t meant to be.

So, back we went, and by that time my husband was homesick and then the rest of us felt it too. We were born and raised in America, and no matter how much my dad’s spirit was calling me to Ireland, he was gone and I was not allowed to be an Irish resident. I will never really fully stop being sad about this, but I accept my place in life and I bloom where I’m planted.

However, when we first returned to the States, we went somewhere that quickly made us miserable, and we did not bloom! We were again landlocked and cold, and nothing we did was successful. But we didn’t let our journey end in such a crushing failure.

Even though we felt crazy to try yet again, we made one last long trip to somewhere beyond the rainbow where the dolphins roam wild. And now… if I were to stand at the coast near where I currently live, and throw a stone that could magically fly in a North Eastern direction across the ocean shore to the other side, it would land at the Celtic Sea Coast. I think of this whenever I stare across the ocean, imagining that it runs into the sea, and it reaches Ireland. I am just an ocean away. And this is where I belong. I will make a good life for myself here.

As I’ve been sitting here talking to you, the sun has come out. While it’s been cold here in Southern Georgia this January, today it is beautiful. It is currently 71 degrees F, with a high of 72. I’ll “see” you again tomorrow. I’m going outside!


Slow Change

See this oil painting of a lion called “Lion of Judah” come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse)

This lion painting has had several changes of music. This is the latest version for YouTube. The emotional vibe is entirely different, depending on what soundtrack is used. And even within the same piece the dynamics of the music change as well, bringing drama to the painting.

Have you experienced times in your life in which you expected or wanted a change, an outcome, a shift in status, or successful progress toward something you’d been hoping for… only to find that change seems non-existent or very, very slow? Years later, did you look back and realize that some of the things that you thought went no where, were actually training for the very thing you wanted to happen?

It turns out that when I was blogging away, without my awareness of it, I was coming up with show concepts for my new vlog series (that I didn’t even know I was doing until a few weeks ago). And I can only do this series if I have a large collection of work. So it’s a good thing then that I finished painting after painting, after painting. Dozens. Fifty. A hundred. Now hundreds, I think. I have lost count. 200?

My life is changing, but I hardly notice it. It’s not overnight. It’s in every paint stroke. It’s in every keystroke. It’s in every day that I never give up. Opportunities come to me, and I’m astonished that I’m uniquely prepared! It turns out that when I thought “nothing” was happening, a slow change was building.

That’s YOU. If you want something, work toward it. If you work toward your dreams one day at a time, a slow change will take place. When we put ourselves in motion, it may take a long time to get where we’re going, but one day we’ll look back from on top of the hill and say, wow, it was a long climb, but we’re finally able to stand at the top and look down at everything it took to get here. And then… it will be time to climb a mountain!


Heaven Again

Watch “Flying to Heaven” oil painting come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

I’ve been telling you about my ongoing project to upload my oil paintings to YouTube. This has resulted in editing some of my older work, changing copyright-claimed music, and/or tweaking a few things that could be improved. In this case, I found the original footage (the raw files from the camera) and I re-did the video from scratch, adding a little bit about the context of this painting (why it was painted and what it was for), a painting used as an illustration in children’s book “Grandpa Smiles” about grief, the loss of a grandparent.

The footage is more grainy than you’re used to seeing from me. That’s because I still had our old home camcorder then. I wish I could go back in time and give my past self a better camera, but what’s done is done. I had no way of knowing that it would be important to me in the relatively near future to have clearer (HD) footage of my work (not that I have a fancy camcorder now either, but it’s much better than before). When we start out, staying within our budget is sometimes not only important, but we may not have any other choice at the time. As we change and grow, we can upgrade how we do things. But it makes for a bit of a mess if we’re hoping to have a consistent look and feel to the collection of our work. And here’s where today’s metaphor for life comes in…

We may wish for our lives to be nice and tidy, consistent, with clarity from the start. But that’s not usually how life goes. We may be out of focus, living on a shoestring budget, taking one day at a time- not knowing if what we do today matters for the future, not knowing which things will succeed or fail, and not able to secure anything with absolute certainty. We never know what tomorrow may bring. The best we can do is live our lives one day at a time.

If at some point in the future, we wish we’d had it all figured out sooner, then we are truly blessed. It means that we’ve lived long enough to look back. It means that we learned how to be better.

God bless and keep you, this day and always. “See” you tomorrow.


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Preview! Sneak Peek

On set for Vlog Premiere of “Inspired by Natalie” Show 1

Whoa! Isn’t this cool? Here’s a sneak peek of my new show- just a still shot though, the video would be too big of a spoiler! That’s one of my painting videos (my wolf oil painting) running via green screen technology behind me, while I’m standing in front of the green screen.

I have a few bugs to work out. I’m thinking I should use a different backdrop (right side of photo) other than the one I have now that has text on it. A plain solid background would be better. Also, I’m using a free trial of video editing software and it has a watermark across it. I’ll need to purchase the pro version. I have a few other tweaks to make, but then I’m ready to launch! Below is the video I am referencing in the vlog show sample:

See this oil painting of a wolf come alive in 1 minute (time lapse)

It’s one of my painting-on-black-canvas projects. I plan to talk about the stories behind my paintings, techniques, and turn some of my older blog posts into vlog episodes. The show will be a fast moving format geared toward short attention spans (like my own, 🙂 ) and entertainment, rather than a legacy media format that honestly isn’t likely to be viewed. I’m hoping to film at least one new episode a week. When I’m feeling ambitious I can film more often. When I’m too busy with painting projects, less often. I’ll need flexibility to make this work.

It’s still a work in progress, but I aim to have something to show you by the end of the week! Maybe even tomorrow if all goes well.


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Peaceful Change

See oil painting “Candle and Bible” come alive in under 2 minutes (time lapse)

A personal challenge is waiting for you at the end of this blog post, so I hope you make it to the end.

More of my ongoing project to upload my painting videos to YouTube- the saga continues. This is another video with a copyright claim so I changed the music to something else that allows free use. It has created a peaceful change from the original version.

The music in the original means something special to me, as it is a song I knew from my growing up years. “There is a candle in every soul, some brightly burning, some dark and cold… Carry your candle, run to the darkness. Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn… Take your candle, and go light your world”, sung by Kathy Troccoli. We’d sing this song at events and use a flashlight in the darkness.

Many years later, I saw this song performed live by Chris Rice during a benefit concert for a very tragic situation in which I knew the family. At least I think he sang that one. Now I’m not sure if that particular song inclusion is a true memory, or if my recollection of hearing this song as a recording has merged with the songs I heard live at the concert. It was a long time ago.

Anyway, the song is meaningful to me and I thought of it instantly for my candle painting, but the music is of course not the original song by either of the artists I mentioned. It’s a rather plinky instrumental version (something I found online that I thought was free use, but apparently triggers a copyright claim on my video if uploading it to YouTube). So, I deleted it and replaced it with the music in the revised version at the top of this blog.

What I noticed is a peaceful change. And here comes the metaphor:

Sometimes in life we make a decision that seems right at the time. It may be based on our personal perspective, past experiences, and emotions about these memories. Then, a day comes and we are forced to listen to the music we’ve chosen as the soundtrack of our lives. And maybe the song no longer fits. It’s a poor imitation of an original, so it’s already removed from the source. And now it’s been so long (not necessarily in time, but in spiritual growth “years” which can be faster or slower than physical time), that we don’t even feel as strong of a connection to the original either.

Now it sounds noisy. We don’t want to listen to it anymore. It no longer fits.

The new music for this candle video is mellow. It is a peaceful change from the person I was when I chose the first song. I have progressed from someone desperate to make a statement, needy for approval, anxious about avoiding hateful feedback, and frightened by death threats, targeting, and other crimes committed against me, to who I am at this moment. I stand unafraid. I have held my ground against terror group “activists”, who knew my name, address, and children’s faces. I survived being “cancelled”. I have weathered unkind and stupid hateful remarks about my work or about me personally.

And? I’m still working on my lifetime goal of 1k finished paintings. What are my enemies doing? I have no idea. They have faded away. Always a new a’hat is ready to take their place, but they don’t have the power they used to have over me.

I do not need to stress out about every detail of my work and how it might be received poorly by others. I don’t need to try so hard to please those who love my work either. I also don’t need to worry that my expression of my faith isn’t good enough or Christian enough for those who choose me only for those reasons. I am doing the best I can with who I am. And that’s a peaceful change.

I am learning a lot about how I want to go forward with my work and my life, through this project that forces me to re-visit my older painting videos. It’s like a time capsule or a diary. The scrapbook of the past few years is bringing an awareness of how different I am today from who I was before. I strongly encourage you to do something similar.

I was also sorting through our family photos and framed several of them. That journey was just as healing, if not more so. Please do that, it is well worth the time. Not only will you have a fresh round of pictures to enjoy, but you’ll find closure that you didn’t even know you needed. It’s easier to know where we’re going when we have a firmer understanding of where we’ve been.

God bless you and keep you, this day and always.


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Inspired Vlog

See my oil painting “Sparrows” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse) inspired by Matthew 10:29-31

First, about the re-edited Sparrows video: You may notice this version has new music dropped in. This is part of my ongoing effort to use music that has no copyright claim. I plan to create some of my own music too, but it’s hard to fit everything in. So, for now I am grateful to the talented musicians who have donated their music for free use!

Second, I want to talk to you about my new show. I’m starting an “Inspired by Natalie” vlog that will run on YouTube and here on this blog (and possibly other places, especially if people download my series to other platforms).

Today I wrote lyrics for my theme song. Yes, there will be theme song, LOL! And I have my show outfit. It was delivered this week and it’s everything I hoped it would be! 🙂 No spoilers. Well, maybe a few, but not today.

Do whatever you want to do, let no one tell you that you can’t. While others may mock you, they do nothing, while YOU live your best life! Be unstoppable!


The Journey

See this oil painting of a double rainbow “God’s Promise” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

I saw this double rainbow above the trees behind our house. You will see these trees and a rainbow in the video I share next. My painting is symbolic and simplistic, and in the end, I felt insecure about it. I really wanted to make the rainbows faint and more realistic, but in the end, I kept them bold and childlike. When I received a very unkind comment about this art I stopped sharing it, as it confirmed my own misgivings and regrets about this painting.

However, I have since said to myself that the journey is where the joy is. I hung a new lawn flag with the inscription “Joy is in the Journey” just today. I put it near my dormant rose bush, knowing that in the early spring the roses will bloom and the inscription will be beautifully metaphorical.

I painted this with the intention in my heart of sharing the beauty and joy that I saw. If others see only what I saw in it (the failure to create a masterpiece, and instead it “looks like a five year old did this”), then they are missing the love I tried to share. They are not seeing the language, only the literal paint on the canvas. What that rude person didn’t know, is that I have painted over 100 paintings (or more, I’ve lost track), since this rainbow art. I am a special person who he has dismissed.

Below is a video I took behind our house. The world is a wonderful place, and often it is the imperfect, childlike journey that matters most. This is the world that I see, and I try to share it with you the best that I can. God bless and keep you, this day and always, and may you always have hope.

Watch this hummingbird flying into a double rainbow! (second rainbow faint)

Protected

See oil painting “Armor of God” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

I’m continuing with my project to upload my painting videos to YouTube, after a long break from using that platform. It seems that my videos are no longer hidden there, at least so far anyway. But, it’s a bit tedious to jump through the hoops for each video and several have copyright claims on them. I used royalty free music from sites that advertise free-use music for content creators. Apparently the catch is that some of these sites hold copyrights on the music and because only one person can claim copyright on a video, it means that I cannot claim copyright for the video myself.

When YT does the auto search for claims and gives the claim to the copyright holder of the music, it means that the content creator (me) no longer has a claim to my own video! There’s no option to split the copyright fairly. Should a mass-distributed music track be given rights that will cause a denial of copyright to all of the other creative content in a video? Well, obviously I don’t think so.

It’s not even that I expect to monetize my videos, that’s not my problem with this issue. First of all, I can’t monetize. I don’t have enough subscribers to qualify. Secondly, I have very mixed feelings about doing it. I don’t like the idea of ads on my videos that I have no control over. So what is the issue then?

It’s really more about someone else having a claim on my work. After years of unpleasant experiences, I work for myself. I don’t want unsolicited scammy partnerships where someone else takes credit for my work. I’ve had too much of that during my lifetime. It’s a spiritual thing. I am independent and don’t like to be taken advantage of.

I do understand that musicians want to be paid, but there are several honest sites that set up ways to pay these indie musicians without a sneaky copyright claim that is triggered upon publishing the video. I also give credit when the musician has expressed how to provide a credit on the video. In this way, I hope to help them get exposure.

But what I’m seeing is that at least one of these copyright claims is from a big record label. So clearly it’s not just about hungry indies wanting a fair payment. It seems as if the big companies discovered that they could stake a claim on hundreds of “nobodies” like me and then it all adds up to a lot of money. It’s volume that would generate wealth from this scheme. Indie musicians would not have that kind of volume, but a record label who has a big music library of “royalty free” download sites could have.

Anyway, it just feels off to me. Call it a gut feeling, as it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense otherwise. I don’t see monetization in my near future, and possibly never, so why should I care? Yet I feel a sense of foreboding, which leads me to the thoughts that I wanted to share in today’s blog post about being protected.

This painting is about protection, as it is inspired by a metaphor about the “Armor of God”, which comes from Ephesians 6 in the Bible. When someone wears a suit of armor, he’s weighed down but he can still move. He has to work harder to carry himself, but he is protected from harm, so it is worth the effort. This is how I felt today when I had to take this video back down and find different music for it, re-edit it, and try uploading it again.

Now, this little video hassle is not that big of a deal. I spent a lot of time explaining to you what’s going on with it, so it may seem as if I’m really agitated over this, but honestly, I only find it to be a pesky nuisance problem that is causing me to waste time doing extra tasks. It’s certainly not a crisis. It is a good example though of times when we can choose whether or not being protected is worth the effort it takes, so it makes a good point for my blog.

I find that it is nearly always worth the effort to do things “right” according to what our intuition, gut feeling, heart, common sense, logic, ability to see patterns and predict future events, understanding of human nature and manipulative tactics, and much more are telling us to do. Whether our risk is small, like this copyright claim issue, or much greater, the process is the same: in order to be protected we may be weighed down and we’ll have to put in more effort.

Apply this to anything in life. Work, money, family decisions, health and lifestyle choices, and much more- all of these can put us at risk of harm. Being protected may take effort. It may weight us down, slowing us down. It may seem easier not to care, to be free of such armor. On the other hand, we may be so anxious that we pile on too much armor and we can barely move at all. The key to this, and nearly everything, is balance.

Feeling protected is a lot like feeling loved. In fact, many people feel loved when they feel safe. And love brings happiness! So, it’s definitely worth the effort to work harder to protect ourselves from harm in all decisions, big and small. Value who you are and what you do. Eat well, live well, and love well. Respect yourself by protecting yourself.


Different Perspective

See this oil painting of a house in Savannah, Georgia come alive in just over 1 minute (time lapse)

I remember the day that I wandered around a park in Savannah, the one where the iconic fountain I painted is located, and took extra pictures for painting inspiration. This is a house I saw nearby. I was captivated by the way the trees obscured the view. Now when I see this, I wonder how life has changed for the people who live in that house. Do they even still live there?

That street probably looks different. I don’t want to see it. I haven’t been to the city in a long while. 2020 wasn’t a good time to go. 2021 wasn’t either. 2022 doesn’t look good so far. When I see my pre-2020 art, I feel a touch of melancholy.


To be Hated

See my oil painting called “Jesus at the Table” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

I decided to give YouTube another try. My videos weren’t been seen on there anymore so I gave up on it. My subscribers weren’t getting notified and it seemed as if my account had been (secretly?) turned off. Many of my painting videos had ZERO views on them. None at all. That’s a bit hard to believe because surely someone would have at least accidentally clicked on one of them! Anyway, the platform seems to be different from what it was a couple of years ago so I thought maybe I could start putting my videos there again. Indeed, it seems as though my videos are seen now.

Well, today I put this painting of Jesus on YouTube and it triggered a copyright notice. No problem, I have permission to use the song, but it meant that the copyright holder could monetize my video and therefore profit from my art of Jesus through ads. I didn’t like that idea. I am not monetized and I’m not sure how I feel about ever doing it with particular subjects. I was inspired to paint this and the purpose may be cheapened by ads and the tacky nature of it.

But also, it bothered me that the copyright holder is a big record label, so there was an element of big corp involved too- once again exploiting those of us who actually CREATE things and don’t have the visibility or power that they do to turn our work into wealth. The music was on a site that advertised royalty free music that creators could freely download and use however we wish. What wasn’t understood is that the minute we publish our videos on a site that allows monetization, the copyright holder will claim our videos.

This means we can’t monetize our work now or in the future, and will never get paid for it. So, the music is NOT “free” then. Our work is the payment. It feels like stealing when big business profits from clever tricks like monetization, while the creators don’t earn income from the work that is monetized. I can understand sharing the monetization, that would be fair, but only one copyright is allowed per video. That’s convenient for big business, isn’t it?

So, in the end I quickly deleted the video I’d just uploaded. I removed the copyrighted song and replaced it with a copyright free one. The result is that the new song choice is a better fit for my painting. I’m glad that I listened to my intuition and didn’t give in to the unwanted 3rd party profiteering from my art.

So, there’s that… but it’s not hate. It’s just the cold side of big business. They grow rich from the work of others, and that’s infuriating, but if I let that get under my skin it would only make me bitter. Usually I put it out of my mind and don’t think about it. Today I was pushed to think about it because I had to make that decision about my painting of Jesus.

Now I want to talk about the hate part of what happened. The “syncing” or “mirroring” feature (copying the video to another 3rd party video platform) was still active, so this Jesus painting video was also simultaneously published somewhere else- where it was nearly instantly downvoted. I figured it was downvoted by someone who had an issue with Jesus, and not with me or my art, but I didn’t know. Maybe someone didn’t like my painting. I tried to set it out of my mind. A few minutes later a comment appeared and the downvote mystery was quickly resolved.

The person had an issue with the ethnicity of Jesus. I depicted him to be of historically noted Middle Eastern and Jewish heritage. The comment claimed that Jesus was white and not an “Arab”. I am very suspicious of this exchange because it seemed that this person was trying to bait me into an argument that would make me appear to be racist in some way. I’ve had trouble before with trolls trying to get me cancelled in a setup argument. I did not fall for it then, and I did not fall for it now. I replied simply with a link to an article by historical experts who discuss what Jesus likely looked like. If this harassment continues, I’ll block future contact. This incident was not a big problem, and it’s not why I bring it up.

My point is not this specific incident, but the pattern and cycle of hate. When we pour out love, we will- to a certain degree- receive hate in return (along with love, thankfully!). We must be willing to be hated if we want to do big things. Big things attract hate. That is the price we must pay to be a shining Light of creative energy. No matter what new ideas you may contribute, someone will counter your creation with destruction. There is a yin for every yang.

We cannot avoid hate or control everyone’s actions around us. What I find peace in, is the acceptance that hate exists and I am strong enough to face it. My response is not to uselessly try to eradicate it, or force others to give me a safe space. There are no safe spaces when we choose to expand ourselves. Instead of controlling others, I give power to myself. I can see hate as it presents itself, calmly observe the probable motive for it based on the words or behavior displayed, do a risk assessment of how dangerous the incident is, and carefully consider my response.

My rules of engagement are these:

  1. I do not respond if the attack is stupid, silly, pointless, off track, etc. If it’s simply provocative and meant to get a reaction from me, I do not give that person the attention that they are seeking. I don’t reward abusive behavior or encourage more of it by engaging. So, NO engagement for this type of incident.
  2. However, if the attack can harm my brand, my work, my reputation, my character, or my family, then I will respond. I keep the reply very short, just a simple short explanation in logical defense of myself, or my choices, or my work. I will reply in a way that would hold up well in a court of law if any of these attacks should ever escalate. I am never rude, emotional, or on the offensive. I respond specifically and directly to the accusation or insult.
  3. If the attack involves a criminal offense (slander/libel, character defamation, hacking into secured areas of my site, putting me on a target list for harassment and harm, mob/group targeting, threats upon my life or my family, etc.), then I issue a public legal warning statement that they must cease immediately or the authorities will be involved and I will bring a legal suit against them. Know your rights and defend yourself.

I don’t know if any of you may find those rules of engagement useful, but those are just the practical literal ways to respond. What’s a bit murkier is the emotional, mental, and spiritual response- the private response that the hater will never see, and that we may not even fully realize has happened. Hate is powerful. Its destructive force may settle into our soul, causing us to doubt ourselves, our purpose, and whether or not we are worthy. We may wonder if what we do is worth it. We may crave solitude to hide from how much it hurts to be hated.

When I feel this way, as I did today, I remind myself of how positive, confident, and cautiously hopeful I was before someone burst my bubble. There are two well known stories that come to mind to illustrate how I can mentally/emotionally/spiritually choose to respond to hate. One of them is from the long running Peanuts comic.

Lucy invites Charlie Brown to kick the football while she holds it. Time and time again, good old Charlie Brown gets his hopes up and runs with his full heart to kick that ball high, high, high to the sky! But of course Lucy yanks it away from him every time. He’s never going to kick that ball because Lucy (life) is hateful, and Charlie is a loser. He is stupid to trust her and stupid to get his hopes up. What a fool he is. What a fool I am when I put my heart out there time and time again, only to have life yank the ball away from me!

But the second story is quite different. It’s called “The Little Engine who Could”. In it, a little engine has an impossible challenge that other bigger and more capable engines refuse to accept. A stranded engine needs help and the little engine helps him, never giving up even though the mountain is steep and the burden is heavy. He continuously tells himself “I think I can, I think I can!” When others don’t even try, he not only tries, but he refuses to give up when the journey is difficult. He thought he could, and he did. I am unsinkable! I will take on worthy challenges and never give up!

So, I can choose which story is my response to being hated. Do I respond with, “Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, I’m the Charlie Brown-iest!”, and tell myself that I’m a fool to get my hopes up? Why even try anymore! That ball isn’t that big of a deal anyway. I’ll stop trying to kick it. I’ll stop wanting to kick it. I’ll avoid that horrible Lucy forever.

Or, do I respond with the little engine’s attitude? No matter how hard the journey, how impossible the task, how negative others are, or how heavy the burden, “I think I can, I think I can!” And I will.

I will achieve my lifetime goal of 1k finished oil paintings. I will continue to paint whatever inspires me, and share it freely. No matter how negative the forces around me are, I will persevere with the right perspective and unsinkable optimism.

Jesus at the Table oil painting by Natalie Buske Thomas
Jesus at the Table” oil painting by Natalie Buske Thomas