Today I was flustered, as I was preparing for the taping of the Christmas show and I realized with a sinking heart that the first segment I did had not recorded! I had to re-do that, setting my schedule behind. As I loaded the memory card back into the camera to tape the whole thing over again, a flurry of movement caught my attention. Just outside the patio doors was one of our favorite cardinals, a bird that came to our feeder as a juvenile that my daughter noticed looked like it has a mohawk hair style. The cardinal made eye contact with me as if to say, “Calm down. It will be all right. It always is.”
And it was. All went well. The show will be ready on time, despite the failed recording, a dead battery that required a delay and a switch to another one, and several other mishaps, like when my feet got tangled up in my dress and I almost did a face plant, or when my daughter didn’t realize that the camera was rolling and spent several seconds itching her nose after the faux fur on her dress jacket tickled her face. Or how about when I completely forgot the lyrics to a song, or when I was ready to paint but had forgotten my palette (the paint!)? My body aches from all of the climbing up and down the step stool to tinker with the camera, moving the easels and props around, and bustling from one task to another since early this morning.
It was a crazy day, but in the end I will look back on it fondly and remember the fun we had in trying to get this to come together. Hard work is always worth doing when we feel a sense of purpose and a connection to the people we share it with. A long day like this brings on a good kind of tired that leads to a deep, peaceful sleep.
I hope that you will enjoy the show and will feel uplifted by it. I expect it to be ready to share by next week, in plenty of time for Christmas! Please do share it far and wide when I announce it here on the blog. Thank you!!!
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Watch this oil painting of the mother of Jesus “Mary of God’s Favor” come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse)
This oil painting was inspired by a statue I saw in Savannah, Georgia (and was for the art collection and book “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia”). It turned out a bit odd, but just like I talked about before, in the blog post “Art I Don’t Like“, once I share my art it doesn’t belong to just me anymore. Art is a language and what it means is left up to the viewer. The meaning can even change depending on the mood, perspective, and time that the viewer sees it. Something we saw in it yesterday, may look different today.
When I shared this art inspired by a statue of Mary, someone felt a strong connection to it. He had an emotional response to this piece that I must respect, even though I personally think this art is unusual and even awkward. That’s definitely not how this man saw it. He felt that this painting resonated with his spiritual connection to Mary, and to his faith in general.
I’m going to keep on painting, always working toward my lifetime goal of 1k finished works, and along the way, there will be times when my journey isn’t about me. Instead of dismissing ideas or chucking my work in the bin, I will be generous about sharing paintings that I don’t feel a connection to, knowing that someone else might. What is unusual and off-putting to one person may be special and emotionally important to another.
May this be a metaphor for our lives. We may not always know when our inner light shines brightly for another person. Never hide yourself away from others. Even when it’s difficult, intimidating, awkward, or humbling, let us pledge to be generous about sharing who we are. Our energy is a language and a gift that is meant to be shared. We may not see what others see in us, but what they see may be exactly what they need. This is a hurting world. May our light shine even when we don’t feel worthy or special. We are a work of art that has value when shared.
What we see and feel about art is highly individual, personal, and intimate. It’s always interesting to see what people respond to, and what they like. It’s even more intriguing when the work I don’t like is a favorite of others- like this yellow butterfly which I didn’t enjoy painting, even though I tried to and had a few fleeting moments that felt sort of like joy. And then I didn’t like the finished art either. I was frustrated by it and almost binned it.
But it ticked off a box for a project goal and it would have been foolish to dump it, and get behind schedule, just because I didn’t personally care for it. So, I was committed to it. Well, my daughter really liked this one. I suppose that’s not too surprising, since sometimes we have the exact same taste in something (and compete to grab it first!), and other times we are polar opposites.
Later, when I shared this painting, one of my customers said she really liked this one, as one of her favorite works I’ve done. REALLY? But why? The thing is, I can’t even say why I don’t like it. I don’t know why. I just don’t. And that intrigues me… it’s how I know I’ve made it as an artist. My art isn’t about me and as soon as I set my paintbrush down, it no longer belongs to just me. It doesn’t even matter if I personally don’t like my art or if I don’t connect with it. Someone else will, and it’s not up to me to decide which paintings they can connect with and which ones I don’t allow them to see. No, art as a vocation is a language that is shared without censorship, not even self-censorship.
Now, obviously if my painting fails to make a project goal at some point- which has never happened- then I can justify binning it. But I’m past the skill level for that to happen. I’m rather stuck with my projects if my only real issue is “I don’t like it”. I don’t have to like it. If I insist that all of my paintings must be to my personal taste, I’ll never reach my lifetime goal of 1k finished paintings, and I’ll also have a one-sided conversation. Sometimes others connected differently to art than I do. What I might see as a disappointment, another person may see as special. Why is my perspective superior to theirs? It isn’t.
This same philosophy can be applied to all human interactions and ways of communicating. We must be humble enough to lay down our impulse to be the arbitrator of what people should connect with or what they should hear, see, do, think, feel and believe. We are not all the same, but our needs are the same. We all need to be respected for who we are, given freedom to think as we wish, and an opportunity to reject or connect on a deeper level to things that we can’t explain.
There are powerful occasions when we bond instantly with random strangers whose timelines intersect with ours, whether briefly or stretched out for years- perhaps even lifelong from that point forward. It could be as a result of a traumatic event that we share, such as meeting in a hospital setting while suffering from similar crises, or being on the scene of the same tragedy. It could be that we share school experiences or summer camps during our childhood, military service, working together, or living in the same space. “Space” may be literal, as in the people in our home, community, work place, or school. But space may also be virtual, like what is happening right at this moment as you read my words to you.
I painted this art called “Breakfast with Friends” for the book project “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia“. It was meant to illustrate the section about coffee houses and tea shops in the area, but I don’t go to any such shops. I have visited only one, and it was because I was in the city for a one-time event that restricted my movements for a few hours. I wasn’t at the coffee shop organically, but simply because it was near and I was “stuck” on foot, waiting for someone. So, I felt it wasn’t genuine for me to paint a coffee shop as if I have authentic fond memories of patronage.
Instead, I painted how I really take my coffee (or tea… these days I drink more tea than coffee, even though I prefer coffee). I have breakfast at my keyboard. As I’m waking up, I catch up with whatever I may have missed while I was sleeping. Then, I connect with people. Back when I painted this, I was on social media and I’d post threads that many of the same people would engage in.
These people felt like my co-workers, as I work from home and I’d chat with them as I started my work day. In the background, I was working. I’d flip tabs to check back on conversations. It helped the more tedious and boring aspects of my work go by faster, and kept me on track when doing routine tasks. I’d hold myself accountable by posting what I was doing that day, knowing I’d feel like a fraud if I didn’t actually follow through.
I stayed on track with my goals and ambitions because I’d announce my plans, knowing I’d feel pressure to prove that I’d done as I said I’d do. Because of this, my virtual friends made me better. Of course work wasn’t the only connection between us. I was a good listener when someone had something heavy on their heart, and I hope that I was of service and comfort to my friends. Usually though, we didn’t speak directly to each other, only “around” each other, and that apparently is enough to feel among friends.
Sometimes all it takes is to share our thoughts in a space like this, if we sense that people receive our words in camaraderie. There is a kinship among other creatives, writers, and artists, and anyone who appreciates creative work. There is a connection simply by reading or seeing the works of others.
I’ve mentioned several times, in various context, that I’m no longer active on any social media. The only place I engage in a virtual space is here, on my blog. My breakfast routine is now shared with you. Are you my friend? Without realizing it, the answer is YES- if you come to my space and feel goodwill vibes, fellowship, and intimacy that comes about when we feel understood. If you feel a connection to my words or my art, if you feel uplifted after spending time with me, then YES, you are my friend. If this is you, even if you never reveal yourself in a comment, my “Breakfast with Friends” painting is a tribute to YOU.
I’d pour you a cuppa and throw on an extra egg or two… although today I had a caramel-salt mini cheesecake crumble muffin for breakfast. I made these special treats for an event on Sunday and I noticed that the crumble reminded me of a coffee cake, so of course I shall now have the leftovers for breakfast! So, in the revised painting, imagine a splendid muffin sitting there. Good morning, dear friends!