Saving for Good

See oil painting “My Son Praying” come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse)

Here’s the painting video I uploaded to YouTube today, as part of my ongoing project to upload my art to that platform. This time, the music didn’t trigger a copyright claim, so I didn’t need to make any changes to the video. The only additions are the subscribe and playlist icons at the end. Other than that, this is the same video I’ve shared with you before. But, like I’ve said many times, art changes depending on how we feel when we view it, what’s going on with our lives and in the world, and the perspective we have at that moment. Does this video feel different to you (if you’ve seen it before)? It does to me.

First of all, I have a different perspective from you because this is my son and he has grown and changed so much from the age he was in this painting. I also know that those candlesticks were my parents’, and my feelings about those have gone through several changes over the years. At the time of this painting I was in a phase in which I wanted those in regular use. It was part of my grieving process. Mom used to save the things she thought were valuable. “Save those for good” was the idea, which meant that I don’t recall her ever actually using those candlesticks that Dad had brought home from the Vietnam War. They were just perpetually “saved for good” until she died.

When I was cleaning out her room, I also found the socks I’d given her for Christmas in her drawer- brand new, never worn. I did not buy those for her to save “for good” (never!). I wanted her to enjoy the fuzzy simple luxury of warm comfortable feet. But she put the socks in a drawer. So, I thought of those socks, and the candlesticks became a symbol of never saving good things until it’s too late.

I see my face in the opening clip of this video (at the top of this blog post), and besides realizing I look much younger there (which means my face looks older), I see that my eyes are sad. I have come a long way and after a couple years of regular use, those candlesticks have only been out a few times since then. You can see one of the candlesticks in this video from my Christmas 2020 show. I think that was the last time the candlesticks were in use.

Watch oil painting “Christmas Star” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

The candlesticks are now tucked away in Mom’s hutch- furniture that has glass doors for displaying dinner plates or special things. I don’t need to use them. They are a bit too fancy for our current living situation and end up in the way in our tight space. I have nothing to prove to myself or to anyone. I was fixated on certain things during the grieving process but life has a way of moving on and drawing us in. I’ve let go. It’s now fine to put the candlesticks away, but where I can still see them and use them whenever I want to, but don’t feel the need to put them in the center of our world.

I still don’t save anything “for good”. I have special things that belong to me and I don’t stash them in a drawer for someone to find when I’m gone. But there’s a balance. When I try too hard to respect the meaning in every second, I exhaust myself. It’s like whispering in a tunnel, expecting the echo of a whisper to be heard. Even if I were to yell in the tunnel, if no one is listening, my voice will still end up bouncing around and going nowhere. Sometimes I try too hard. It’s OK to care a little less, while living a little more. It is good to just “be”.


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.


Can we Trust Ourselves?

See this oil painting of a field of lilies come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

Can we trust ourselves to always feel or act in a predictable way? Do we ever take ourselves by surprise by doing something that seems out of character? The above painting, “Consider the Lilies” isn’t in my typical style. Sometimes when I sit down to paint, my art doesn’t flow the way that I expect. It doesn’t mean that the new style is bad, even if I don’t personally like it. It only means that it’s different, not what I expected. That’s true of life in general.

There are times when we don’t do or feel, what we’d ordinarily do or feel, and this may be unsettling. But it may be a good thing to let ourselves be unpredictable from time to time, especially if we eventually settle back into a peaceful space of stability and authenticity when we’re done trying something new. We can choose to adopt the new direction or go back to how we usually do things, seeking calm and balance once again. Change can be good, whether temporary or permanent. It’s when we worry about change that we open ourselves up to stress, anxiety, fear, and sabotaging our happiness.

Matthew 6:28b-30a: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you?”

How amazing it is, the beautiful intricacy of nature! All creatures fit together into the tapestry of this world, even common flowers like lilies. What a blessing it is when we can simply “be”, when we can accept our place in the tapestry without worry.

When we see ourselves sliding off our normal course, we might feel as if we can’t trust ourselves, as if we’ve betrayed our true nature. But change doesn’t have to mean that we’re losing who we were before and turning into someone we won’t recognize. It’s possible that we’re only expanding who we already are.


Trust

Watch me paint these cardinals in 40 seconds (time lapse)

I just came back inside after an exhilarating experience! We’ve had a male and female cardinal as frequent visitors to our patio garden bird feeder. This spring they apparently welcomed a nest of wee ones into this world. We think there are five. All are juveniles now, very silly and playful, and accustomed to me being around. They now trust me enough to play and eat while I’m standing on the patio, only a few feet from where they are.

Today there were three cardinals flitting about while a hummingbird was at his own separate feeder… all very near where I was standing. They looked at me occasionally. They seem to like the attention I give them. How amazing to have gained their trust!

Trust from the vulnerable is such a precious responsibility. When trust is granted, we have a moral obligation to never deliberately, willfully, knowingly abuse that trust. Imagine having a powerful position over more than just young hungry birds; imagine having power over nations of people who may believe our words and act on them in ways that may hurt or kill them.

When I feel the spirits of wild birds, I feel the power of nature. Nature is a balanced place where predators and prey exist alongside each other. When things are off balance, something happens to counter it. This too is how humanity works. Trust is a sacred agreement from one soul to another. Those who break that trust will face consequences- if not in this life, surely afterward.

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Random or by Design?

First the oil painting, then the story that inspired this art and the update. Is YOUR life random or by design? Ponder this as you digest today’s blog post. You may be surprised at where your thoughts lead you.

Watch me paint Porch Flowers in under 1 minute (time lapse)

“When we moved here, I didn’t know that the shrubs near the front porch were the flowering kind, until one day they burst out in beautiful pink and white blossoms. The flowers graced the ground when they fell, leaving a carpet of petals. The floral shower right outside our door was such a nice surprise! Sometimes in life we fear the unexpected- the call we don’t ever want to receive, the news we can’t bear- but there are times when the unexpected is a blessing. From the big surprises we didn’t see coming, to the small ones, an ordinary day can change in an instant over a cascade of flowers.”

- from book "50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia" by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

Update to the above story…

A few years have passed since I wrote that description. True, it was such a surprise that first year we moved here and the shrub burst forth in gorgeous large blossoms, flowers that “graced the ground” when they fell. This makes me chuckle now, because “graced the ground” has morphed into “made a mess”, making the property looked unkempt and neglected.

 

The shrub was planted too close to the house, something we’d not have done if we were planning the landscaping. Now it is a nuisance problem that we have to take care of. It is crowding into the porch and blocking the sidewalk. The once-pretty flowers are now more like an infestation of blooms that blot out the shrub itself and shed petals that, after a rain, become slippery wet piles of debris.

“Porch Flowers” is a good metaphor for living a life by intention (by design), or letting random events and circumstances dictate our lives. As in all things, balance is the answer. Letting fate steer us can be exactly what we need; to learn about new paths. Sometimes fate is cruel, but often it is pleasantly surprising, like the welcoming porch flowers when we were new to the area and felt so lonely. I’m still grateful for that surprise.

But life, and evolving into a higher spiritual place, is about changing. Whether we want to or not, the world grows around us. Sometimes random events of the past create problems for the future if we are unwilling to take control and shift gears from a reactive, defensive and passive existence to one of deliberation, intention, and active design. The predestination of our lives doesn’t exclude our participation in the planning.

When you think about your life today, how much of your daily routine is a result of random events, and how much of it is by design? What might improve for you if you plan an area of your life that has overgrown its place? What was once pleasing and wonderful may now be a disheveled mess.

Today, my husband and I will be trimming the overgrown shrubs and trees that surround this house. We are renters, due to circumstances that uprooted us from the home we’d built and loved. But our journey back toward living in our own home is not as long as it once was, and we’re already planning our future flowers, shrubs, and trees in our hearts.

Acceptance of fate, random events, and forced circumstances is a necessary skill for a happy and positive life. But, few journeys stay on the same road indefinitely. At some point the terrain changes and the path narrows. There are forks in the road and choices to make.

 

What then? Do we let fate decide? Do we flip a coin, or let superstition rule? Do we say “this must be a sign” at the slightest random shift in the wind? Or do we live by design and intention, making a conscious decision about which path we will take next?

Balance. Let go and let the winds of fate guide your sails, but don’t let yourself be steered into the rocks. Recognize when it’s time to take control. Life by design can be just as freeing. Imagine taking the wheel of a motor boat and zipping across the unknown waters much faster than you ever thought possible. When you like where you are, you cut the engine and let your boat drift a while.

Reflection is meant to be gently led. Metaphors are useful for applying to your own situation; leading not forcing.

 

  1. Imagine the porch flowers in your life, and name them (small picture).
  2. Next, imagine a fork in the road (middle view). What decisions do you see in your immediate future? Even small decisions can make a difference.
  3. Finally, imagine yourself at sea (big picture). What type of boat are you in? Are you being steered, at the wheel, or drifting?

 

Think about living by design… you may be surprised at where your thoughts lead you.

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Painting Shapes

Living Sand Dollar” is a simple shape, a circle. As a circle is round, painting this shape follows the same basic principles as painting other round objects, such as oranges. However, since the object is mostly flat, creative shadows and highlights emphasize the edges and create an illusion of dimension.

When painting symmetrical shapes, such as in “Butterfly of Hope“, it often works better to paint symmetry as slightly imperfect and organic. Nature isn’t usually precise. Even mirror-image patterns can have small differences from left to right, top to bottom. These differences bring character to the painting.

Painting geometric shapes like in “Dove of Peace” is a great exercise for training the brain to see balance through lines, angles, and triangles. This type of thinking helps an artist see how round, symmetrical and geometrical shapes come together in mathematical harmony. The angles of the dove’s wings make a triangular shape. This type of simplistic art can be reduced further when creating designs for logos, embroidery, crafts, and other projects that require clean shapes without much detail.

When training the brain to see shapes, future projects that are more complex can be broken down into manageable parts. Focusing on each shape within the shape, and repeating this process while working through the entire composition, is a mathematical approach to a project that prioritizes harmony and balance as whole. Life is much easier when we focus on only one step at a time. Before long, we can look back on the journey, amazed at how far we’ve come.