This art is included in the collection “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Nature“. This project was an exercise to paint outside. The experiment was not without some challenges, such as bugs landing on the wet oil paint, the sun striking the canvas in a way that was blinding to see the paints, insect bites, a bit of a breeze, and other typical pitfalls that can be expected when doing an outdoor activity without a shelter. But, there were enough positives in the experience to be open to doing more painting outdoors in the future.
This art was painted as an illustration for children’s book “Fred”. This is the classroom scene, where Natalie’s art teacher humiliates her in front of her peers. Fred is the nickname her late father called her. Fred is a special little girl with a big imagination: too bad Natalie’s art teacher didn’t know that she was Fred. All she saw is a student who wouldn’t follow the rules for how to create art. Whatever people tell us, it’s up to us whether or not to believe it.
This art is included in the collection “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Nature“. Blog posts that feature this art include: “False Prophets” (philosophical, spiritual post that explores Matthew 7:15 and the possible contemporary interpretations for false prophets who are like “ravening wolves”), “Packing Up” (shows this art in a stack of artwork in preparation for the move to Savannah, Georgia), and a few other instances. Whenever you see artwork that interests you, and you’d like to think about those paintings more, type in the name of the painting in this website’s search box that appears at the top of the long menu at the bottom of each page (on the desktop version, but your search box may appear in a slightly different location if your device has re-sized the site to fit on your screen). When you type in the name of the painting, it will pull up instances when that painting was referenced in a blog post. It’s fairly accurate and a handy way to see associated posts featuring the same work.
Painting the background of a composition may sometimes be an afterthought, but if so, that’s a missed opportunity. The background can be its own marvelous, separate painting; even painted in an entirely different style from the main composition. “Lily” has an impressionistic style background that was joyful and freeing to paint, while the foreground subject is heavily textured and detailed, and was a much more focused painting experience.
Because “Lily” is like two different paintings in one, I used the impressionistic background layer to extend the artwork, and completely cover a fashion art dress and matching sheer kimono. Seeing a background layer as not simply a composition task, but as a second painting opportunity, may lead to multiple project uses. Imagining art “repurposed” expands how we create and share art.
In this next example, “I Believe in Santa“, the background is connected to the foreground story. When the background and foreground work together, a more subtle separation between the two may be desired. A flowing story between foreground and background may be achieved by making the background layer seem to recede, while the foreground layer is bold.
Here, there are two receding layers. The snow, which was painted first, (see above video) and then the snow is further defined by the rooftop and a second receding layer- the houses and trees in the village neighborhood below. The effect looks a bit like the Santa/sleigh/reindeer subject is pasted onto the scene, much like the vintage Christmas card that this art was inspired by. When the background is part of the story, the painting process may involve multiple layers and more technique than one might expect in a background.
In the first example, “Lily“, the background and foreground share the same theme. The background is impressionistic in style, featuring closed lilies, while the subject is detailed and textured, featuring a lily in full bloom. In the second example, “I Believe in Santa“, the background is part of the story. In our final example, “Pink Flower“, the background stands alone as an entirely separate work.
“Pink Flower” has three layers. The background layer is an abstract painting, and I wish I’d thought to take a photograph of it before I painted the second layer. The second layer is of leaves, and therefore coordinates with the main subject layer, the pink flower.
When the background is painted as its own layer, it can be a separate finished work from the main foreground layer of the composition. If taking a picture of this layer before the next layer is added, it may even serve as an additional painting print or project design. As a working artist and entrepreneur, I’m open to creative ways to expand not only how to make art, but how to share it. I regret not taking a picture of the abstract painting that was layer one of this piece, “Pink Flower“. It is a lost opportunity that I pledge not to lose in the future.
My life philosophy about regret: regret helps us reach a higher place. When we promise ourselves we’ll apply that lesson when the next opportunity arrives, we are better from it. And that’s why we can proudly say, “I regret nothing!” Regret is merely a temporary condition if we see it as an opportunity, a suggestion. File it away, then let go of it. Be happy, be free, be inspired to be more today than yesterday.
The first oil painting I ever did is the portrait above, “My Daughter Reading in the Butterfly Garden“. She’s long outgrown that yellow dress, and storybooks like the one she’s reading here, but the memories live on in paint. We had to sell that beautiful property years ago, so that too is bittersweet, but in our memories we can travel back to the places we once called home, and go back in time to when our family lived there.
In the short time-lapse video below of “My Son Jumping in Leaves“, my son is on that same land, a hobby farm in rural Minnesota. I can almost hear him laughing!
When comparing and contrasting the two paintings, notice how a poignant memory, frozen in time, can be depicted equally by a subject that is peacefully at rest (sitting, reading, or otherwise still) and by a subject that is caught in mid-action (like jumping in a pile of leaves). Action is shown through blurred lines and thick strokes, high contrast, a simple color palette and heavy texture. Stillness is shown through softer colors, smoother brush strokes, many varied colors, and greater detail.
Memories of good times
This last example is another painted memory, but my family and I aren’t in the painting. That’s because we are on the other side, looking in. This was our view of cheery graffiti one fine beach day when we walked across a pier at Tybee Island, so far away from our home and life we’d had to leave behind.
The oil painting “I Love Life” captures that moment when I was taking a picture of this happy message, and a shadow caught my eye… it was one of my daughters taking a picture of this same scene, at the same time. Here we were, making new memories in a new favorite place.
A few minutes after our pause on the pier, we joined the people at the beach. So, you might say that we stepped inside this painting, or that I painted a glimpse of our then-future and now-past. And, when I see this painting, it all comes back to me, or perhaps it moves forward.
When we stand in that space between the past and the future, the past might be represented like these old pier planks: weathered, faded, and yet still standing. We can see the future just ahead, in the endless, limitless ocean. When painting concepts like the past and the future, color choices such as brown (earthy, past) and blue (heavenly, future) can help tell the story. Concepts such as letting go, moving on, and positive thinking can be told through brush strokes, color choices, textures, stillness or action, complementary styles and contrasts.
May we make peace with the past, look forward to the future, and let our present self say, “I love life.”
“This art (“Superhero”, for the storybook page “The Child Leaps”) is the fourth illustration for my first oil painting book Grandpa Smiles, published in 2014. It is a short sweet inspirational and comforting children’s book about losing a grandparent. A family’s love is forever.”