“Osprey” is part of the 2022 collection “Seasons” (of life and nature). Paintings in this collection celebrate seasons of life (metaphorical, representational, or inspired-by-real-life scenes about milestones, rites of passage, and shared human experiences of love, aging, family, and beyond) as well as seasons of nature (literal scenes depicting autumn, summer, fall, and winter).
“Osprey” represents re-inventing oneself at different stages of life, new adventures along life’s journey, embracing change. It is part of the section called “Changes and Milestones” in the 2022 collection Seasons. [posters and other fun products available below]
New birds have already found us at our new home. These cardinals are different, as I knew they’d be. When I was sad about leaving our “old” cardinal friends, my family was amused because they thought that any cardinal is the same as another, and surely there will be other cardinals. But I was right, these birds are different.
Our old friends were kind of chubby, which may have been our fault by overfeeding them. They were also quirky and would look into the patio doors, interacting with me. The new cardinals are much smaller, leaner, and athletic. They soar straight up like a rocket when they are done at the feeder. They are curious about me, but skittish. It will take a while to win them over.
I take this as a metaphor for any life changes we go through. It’s the “same but different”. New adventures (especially the kind that are forced on us unexpectedly) are a chance for re-inventing ourselves, expanding who we are, and making new choices. It’s also an opportunity to appreciate the things that make us who we are- the things we don’t want to change, but are open to doing better.
A fresh perspective can elevate us to better people if we accept this challenge. Yet, we are the same as when we were born. We don’t “lose” ourselves. We simply fly a little differently, perhaps higher and better.
These birds have been coming around and stealing our strawberries! What a disappointment! I was enjoying a fresh berry with Cool Whip as a snack after dinner, but now my berries are gone. I’ll have to use netting in the future. Maybe when we move my strawberry plant (in a grow bag) to our new house there won’t be any redwing blackbirds, but they will find us again eventually.
There are only 4 days until we close on the house! It feels hard to believe. Everything has happened too slow and too fast at the same time. I hope you are all enjoying your spring weekend, the last day of April already!
This oil painting was inspired by Psalm 36: 5-7 “Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies… You, Lord, preserve both people & animals…. People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”
Sometimes I go looking for inspiration by trolling through my memories, searching for Scripture, looking at photographs, or by making lists of things that I feel would fit the collection I’m working on. That was true of the “Wings of Heaven” painting. I wanted something sky related and I looked for Scripture to give me ideas.
Other times, I paint from the heart after hearing music that stirs me, upon recalling a person or event, or after seeing something historic in the public sphere. What’s interesting is that it doesn’t seem to matter if I paint from my imagination, from looking at a personal photo, if using a stock photo as a reference, or any other source of inspiration- it makes no difference to YOU, the person I’m communicating with through my art.
I’ve found that you will respond to some paintings more strongly and intimately than others, but you are all very different in your tastes. You do not respond differently based on what has inspired me, or anything to do with me. Well, except for those of you whose spiritual strength is tied to empathy and therefore you respond more strongly to what you sense is meaningful to the artist… but that’s not because the art itself jumps out as “better” than the other works. It’s because of how you connect to others.
I have found it frustrating that I can’t predict what you want from me or plan my paintings based on what will be more popular, because I’ve found fans for virtually EVERY painting I’ve ever done, without much difference in popularity. Some of the paintings I don’t like, my own daughters will choose those instead of the ones that I think are my best. Of all the people on the planet, surely I’m the most similar to my own children- yet we don’t see my paintings the same way. How can I possibly expect to find universal agreement among people I’ve never met?
Some subjects are more popular than others, and some of my paintings have a controversial or emotional pull, but in the end, that doesn’t carry much weight when it comes to what you want to see from me. So, this has been a struggle, until I realized how off course I was in being overly concerned about what people want from me. It is a mistake I’ve made often throughout my life.
It’s FREEING to know that you don’t seem to care much what I paint, as long as I keep doing it. You will turn up as you wish, and you’ll connect with my work in unpredictable ways. One man specifically wanted me to one day paint a puffin, and I decided that it would fit in well with my plans for the 2021 collection about Nature. Another guy wanted a painting of redwing blackbirds. Several like my cardinal paintings, others like the eagles best. So you’d think that everyone likes birds then, right? No. They each had personal reasons for why these particular birds mean something to them. And, some people choose flowers. Others like angels. And many like it when I do something unexpected, like a piano or a frog.
I will stop trying to guess what you want, as your life is uniquely yours and you have your reasons for why some paintings draw you in and others don’t do much for you. You might not even know why you like certain things and feel nothing for others- you simply do or don’t. So I will keep painting and sharing, and I’ll let the language of art speak to you in your own way. It’s best for me anyway- it means I can simply paint what I’m inspired to paint, just as I’ve always done.
Sharing one of the presents from each family member of this theme: the nature that I love and share with you all here, through my oil paintings and stories. The above video shows the gifts my husband and oldest daughter gave me for my garden and the images below show the bird and butterfly related gifts from my younger two kids.
It feels good when the people we love understand who we are and what makes us happy. I loved receiving presents to help me enjoy my garden and beloved birds and nature. It is a Merry Christmas indeed! God’s world is a gift for everyone. JOY TO THE WORLD!
And now, I’ll explain the gift that came to me this afternoon (relating to geese!), and I’ll share my gift with YOU. Yesterday I talked about how I needed to do strenuous landscaping in a hurry so that we don’t get fined for not having the property edged, trimmed, etc. It was a heavy job because we have had alternating extreme heat and tropical rains, a combination that makes it difficult to keep up with the lawn care while at the same time making invasive plants grow like crazy, very quickly.
My husband is scheduled to work long hours, so it was up to me to get it all done. My oldest daughter was available to help and the two of us did a mammoth job. I was a bit sulky and resentful because I didn’t think the tone in the email from the property manager was called for, nor was the threat of a fine upon very first notice of this necessary. We have never had any violations before, always pay our bills on time, and are never a problem for anyone. I think the courtesy of a notice that simply asks us to do it would have been sufficient instead of going straight to “you have a violation” and if we don’t fix it before the deadline we will have further violations and fines. Good grief, it’s just a yard! Stuff grows, then you cut it. We caused no property damage, and this urgency is ridiculous.
So the past two days my daughter and I have worked together to cut and remove branches, trim hedges, clear weeds, and edge the sidewalks. We probably overreacted and did more than what was expected, but I didn’t want any more problems. I try to do MORE than expected in everything I do. We cleared all of our things off from the cement surfaces and swept everything. We bagged up the debris. All of this, and my daughter never complained. Instead she said, “I really enjoyed working with you.” And I realized, I really enjoyed working with her too.
Now, for the thing that made the experience surreal and magical:
The entire time we were working today, under gorgeous sunny skies, there was a flock of geese enjoying an afternoon with us! The serenity energy of these large beautiful birds created peace, and reversed the feeling of being judged, punished and treated unfairly, (as a pattern in life, not just this specific landscaping situation); unmerciful when I commit the smallest offense, when I’m already trying as hard as I can to balance all the challenges that come my way… No. Even when people don’t extend grace to us, God always does. I had a rare cool morning to do the heaviest labor, and a warm pretty day for the lighter load. And that’s when the geese shared the afternoon with us. These are wonderful things!
Before I show you your gift, I want to talk about perspective. There was a woman who showed up, a frequent trespasser whose family treats the property behind our row of houses (the area by the lagoon, which none of us own, and is restricted) as her personal park, even though there are “no trespassing” signs and she doesn’t live in one of the houses on our row. She’s an annoying rude person who is obnoxious, yells and then ignores her child, drives off-road vehicles through the property, brazenly fishes with her family even though that is not allowed, and so on, sometimes for hours, late at night, and even on holidays like Christmas and Easter. So all of us who live on this row are forced to see her and her rude family spread out doing whatever they like, as the sole view from our back patio windows, the only windows we have on that side of the house. In other words, there is no escaping seeing this awful group (sometimes they bring friends as well!) spread out having their own loud gathering. I’d report her if it felt like the the thing to do, but it doesn’t. It feels like I should simply close the curtains and ignore what they do. So, that’s what I do.
Well, she was sitting there on the bank near the geese for part of the time we were working outside. She was looking at and then yakking on her phone the entire time. Why bother going to a scenic place if you’re just going to look down at your phone? Did she even see the geese? She eventually left, with the phone still on her ear.
Another woman was outside, a neighbor. She was apparently alarmed by the large flock of geese getting too close to her yard. She sprayed them with a hose and yelled at them. Then she went inside. So, I guess she didn’t see what I saw. The thing is, these are migratory geese. They won’t stay long. We can choose to appreciate their beauty or not.
There are many bad things happening in the world today. And on a personal level, we all have challenges that are large, and small ones like my manic race to get the landscaping work caught up. So when we see something beautiful, that literally lands in front of us, it is a gift. It was a gift for me, and now a gift for you. I video taped what I saw and dropped music in. And now it’s like you were with me, seeing this too. Enjoy, and God bless you.
Our experiences with nature are often wonderful, sometimes mysterious, and occasionally pure joy. But other times dangerous, destructive, or annoying. Our experiences with raccoons have been frustrating, but not as frustrating as our encounters with squirrels. I don’t have a squirrel painting so I went with the raccoon. But my blog post is about squirrels and a VICTORY over them!
The squirrels were eating all of the bird seed and running our lovely cardinals, finches, and other bird friends away. It was also getting too expensive to feed the squirrels, who have insatiable appetites! But we have a victory! (see the video below that I took today!) Now, you’ll notice that the squirrel actually broke the baffle in the end, but it’s an easy fix to put it back up. I’ve already done that and can secure it better later. So, I think we’ve won this battle! Right now there are two cardinals at the feeder looking mighty smug, as if they know that the feeder is all theirs now. 🙂
Since today is my birthday, I searched for an oil painting I’ve done that represents who I am. At first, I thought of the most obvious choices, such as ones where I make a cameo appearance, like “Come to the Garden” or “Natalie at the Fountain“. I also thought of paintings that others say represent me, or my most popular signature pieces, but in the end, I decided to go with the one above “Autumn Angel“, who doesn’t look like me, and has not been seen by many people.
At the time, the piece was just to fill a project slot for the collection “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia“. It was inspired by the statues and monuments of angels that tourists like to visit in Savannah’s historic cemeteries. I love the beauty and hope of angels and I decided to paint a “real” one based on likenesses and poses I saw in statues.
I wanted to connect with this oil painting, but I was surprised when I actually, deeply, did. The music especially had a profound effect on me. I watched my own painting video over and over. Something about it feels so sad, so bittersweet, yet loving, peaceful, and kind. Why? Why did I feel this way about this particular painting, when I’ve done so many pieces that were just another project to tick off my list?
Interestingly, this particular painting video was one of the ones attacked by a mob who sought to cancel it because the angel is white. They said she is an “Aryan angel” and therefore racist. Am I not allowed to paint figures who might look like my own heritage? (Irish) I have very fair skin that I cannot change. I had blonde hair when I was a young child that turned light brown, then very dark brown (nearly black) like it is now. I have green eyes. This is just the coloring I was given. I was not born “wrong”.
I have painted diverse skin tones over my career. I do not paint exclusively fair skinned persons. But that’s not really something I have to say. I’ve volunteered it because I want to show that I am experienced in a range of portrait styles, but not to defend myself against something I am not guilty of.
The unprovoked attack by the mob against my artwork was seen only by me. I simply disabled comments and stopped using that platform for new work. It was not a big ordeal involving crimes committed against me, like other situations were. This really was nothing at all… only a few anonymous hateful trolls. It could have become something more if I’d engaged with them, but I didn’t.
However, the incident stirred an expected response in me. I felt violated, as if my personal diary had been read and condemned. I felt protective of this art and didn’t share it much. Why did I feel such a personal connection to this particular painting? I’ve had to reflect on this to write today’s blog post.
While this angel doesn’t look like me, and while no one has given any attention to it as a signature piece of mine, nonetheless, it is this one that I connect with the most. It makes me feel powerful emotions and brings tears to my eyes. This is how I feel about the beauty of life in an ugly and hostile world, a world where joy and grief exist alongside each other.
I love my family so deeply that I cannot bear the thought of them in pain, in fear, or gone from me. The joy of loving them, juxtaposed with the fear of losing them (or them losing me) is what living full out is all about. We cannot have joy without an awareness of grief. Yet every day that we are blessed to share life’s journey is full, happy, and even if woven with trivial irritations or concerns- ultimately beautiful when we are brave enough to love.
Love is like this angel. God’s creation, the elements of nature, surrounds her; ivy is a shelter above her head and autumn leaves cushion her feet. She is not consumed by fire. Though the flames may rage, she remains beautiful and kind. She holds peace of spirit in her hand.
When I looked out my patio glass at this very second, I could see three, no FIVE, birds right now. Two of them are cardinals. The other three look to be finches. They were perched peacefully alongside each other, occasionally fluttering to change positions. They are still there, but continuously flutter and move, so by the time I finish this blog post they will have moved on. A hummingbird has now joined in, had a nip, and is already gone. This is how fast things move in the bird world of nature.
But there are times when I am among them, when I dare not breathe lest they fly away… when they trust me to stand very near them, sharing space in the natural world, where nothing matters except this moment. We are truly living when we stand in love, extending peace, when the flames of this world can’t consume us, and when God’s protection is over our heads and beneath our feet.
We are blessed to be alive another day, and for me, I’m marking another year. May we have many more years together, as you journey with me to reach my lifetime goal of 1k finished paintings. Happy Birthday to me.
Watch me paint “Blue Heron” in under 1 minute (time lapse)
He’s back! If you’ve been following me for a while, you might remember this story:
“Astrikingly beautiful blue heron appeared at the lagoon one day. I quickly took its picture to paint later. This is a different style from how I usually paint. It looks like a watercolor because I was trying to get away with using cheap paints that turned out to be watery and hard to work with. This was a happy accident, because the watercolor-like effect captured the mood.
He has only made one more appearance that I know of, but I hope he will return next spring. On the day he arrived, he just happened to be standing at the water’s edge when the light reflected the colors of the trees in a streaky wave of color. He was all alone, with no other birds or creatures in sight, which only added to his mysterious presence.” – from book “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia” by artist Natalie Buske Thomas
He has since come back a few times. He has a quiet presence, but somehow we become aware of him. His energy is so peaceful. It inspires a hopeful feeling, as if good things are soon to come.