Experimentation

Watch this owl and rabbit landscape oil painting come to life

in 2 minutes (time lapse)

You might remember when I blogged about this. I did this landscape as two separate paintings, of an owl, and then of a rabbit. I added a moon for the final outcome. This experiment allowed me to paint economically, using only one canvas for three different paintings (photographed separately for a variety of uses for prints, publication, designs, etc.), as well as economy of time, as it was faster to paint multiple paintings using the same basic palette, and everything was all set up. I could just sit down and paint the next one. Well, sort of. There’s a lot that goes into these painting sessions, but you get the idea. It gave me a few shortcuts.

The more important result though is that when I shake things up and try new things, I’m pushed to approach my work differently. I usually go right back to my regular way of doing things, but it’s with a fresh perspective and renewed energy. Experimentation makes sure that we don’t get into a rut. I try new approaches on a regular basis- not so often that my schedule is chaotic and unfocused, but often enough to keep myself challenged.

Currently I’m doing something I’ve done before, but haven’t in a while. I have two projects going on at once. I’m alternating between the smaller short term project and the larger longer project. I work on one painting and the next day the other,  switching back and forth. When I finish this short painting on my easel now (probably tomorrow), I will then set up a new short project in its place. I will keep going like this until the long term project is done.

As usual, we can use painting strategies as metaphors for life in general. When we change how we normally do things, we can regenerate our thinking and shift ourselves into higher energy- spiritually, mentally, and physically. When we feel renewed, we tend to feel more positive, our thoughts are more focused, and we move faster. Positivity, clarity, and movement lead to a healthier and more prosperous life. We can plow through our hardships easier, we see solutions faster, and we have greater physical stamina to handle the fatigue of challenges that come our way.

When we don’t push ourselves to try new ways of doing things, we may fall into the trap of waiting for life to get better and being enslaved by events we can’t control. Bad times come to everyone. When they do, we need to be strong. Challenges make us stronger. We can make small changes, like fixing something unexpected for dinner. Our food choice can be a new recipe, or an old family favorite that no one’s made in years. 

The important thing is to break out of a rut. When we see patterns in our life, we can deliberately break them and shake things up. We might discover something we’d like to keep doing and add to our lives indefinitely, but it’s likely that we’ll revert back to our familiar and comfortable ways. When we do, it feels a bit like coming home after a vacation. It’s good to take a break, but it’s even better to come back home and feel a renewed appreciation for our lives.

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A Gift for You!

First, do you remember this one? Watch my oil painting of geese come to life in just over 1 minute (time lapse).

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.

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Dreams to Prepare

Watch me paint “Blue and Yellow Bird” in 2 minutes (time lapse)

Have you ever had a dream that prepared you for future challenges? Yesterday’s post “Do, then See” mentioned the above painting, which is about a dream I had when I was pregnant with my son. I believe it was meant to help me prepare for the fear and challenges ahead. Spiritual preparedness made all the difference when we didn’t know if he would survive the delivery.

“I didn’t want to know gender of my babies, but somehow I intuitively knew each time. During my second pregnancy, I had a dream about the spirit of my unborn baby- a beautiful vivid blue bird with yellow markings. I knew the blue meant I was having a son and the yellow meant a health related worry. I was certain of what the dream meant, and felt I knew my baby before he was born. I had a difficult experience, that I won’t get into here- but one of the scariest, longest moments of my and husband’s life was when our son was born with the cord wrapped around his neck. Not breathing. When they got the cord away from his neck and his little blue body started to breathe, it was as if everything in the world was the best it could possibly ever be. He developed jaundice, which made his skin very yellow. He was yellow for days. My dream helped prepare me. My unborn son had a spirit that I connected to. God gave us a way to communicate, and prepare me for the fears surrounding his birth and newborn days."

- from the book "50 Oil Paintings Inspired by my Christian Faith" by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

The up-to-the-minute update on this story is that my son is right at this exact second in the kitchen a few feet away from where I’m sitting here talking with you. He’s making bacon. He’s recently discovered that he can have bacon whenever he wants if he makes it himself. For the past two weeks, he’s had bacon every day. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night to the smell of bacon frying. Morning, night, or afternoon, apparently the craving for bacon can take him over at any time. 

I don’t know for how much longer he will keep this up. Other than saying, “that smells good” or “that turned out perfect!”, I stay out of his way. For, when we want to grant someone more independence and freedom, we must keep out of the kitchen and let the bacon fry.

He’s not my fragile blue and yellow bird anymore. He is much taller than I am, and his shoulders are getting broad like his father’s stocky build. He’s finding his own way, and I have a feeling the next dream I may have about him could be to prepare me for when he leaves the nest.

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