New Art Journey

See this angels oil painting come to life in about 1 minute (time lapse video)

I’ve lost track of how many oil paintings I’ve done, but “over 200” is possibly right. My lifetime goal is over 1,000 finished oil paintings, so I’m about 1/5 of the way there. When I get closer to the goal (and after I’ve counted to be more accurate) I’ll add a progress bar to this site. Until then, I’ll just keep adding more paintings to the pile. And for that to happen I need to get back to work! The move has set me back, but I plan to start painting in my new space next week. I have to finish setting it up first.

Every time I’ve moved to a new place my life has changed. Sometimes the shift in my art is dramatic, sometimes subtle, but whether conscious of it or not, I begin a new art journey when I change my life. I’m thinking back to when I painted this angels painting and how it reflected what I was going through at that time.

Mom started developing health problems in her 50s but ignored them. By the time she reached her 60th birthday, she was struggling. I became her caregiver which was emotionally complicated beyond anything I can explain here. She passed away after a dramatic event in the hospital at age 62 that I was present for and traumatized by.

Dad died of cancer 25 years almost to the day, when he was 37. When Mom died it was like losing Dad all over again. My grief journey was as complicated as my caregiving journey, and all of this impacted my art journey.

I painted these angels about a year after Mom died, after we had to sell our house and move due to my husband losing his job when the company he worked for moved operations out of the country. I’ve told parts of this story on this blog several times, because it’s how I became an oil painter. Prior to selling our house, I had a home teaching studio, so I lost my job too when we had to sell it and move.

I’d been teaching dance, theater and art for many years and now everything I’d built up had abruptly ended. I no longer had a classroom and my own kids were outgrowing and losing interest in participating in the business. Why not just do it (art and shows) myself? My college age kids join in occasionally- only as they wish to do so. Most of the time I’m flying solo, no longer a backup singer to my kids or my students, no longer teaching art but painting it, no longer directing shows but performing them. For the past five+ years I’ve been an entrepreneur rather than a teacher and small business owner.

It was a big change, but it feels exactly right. Honestly, my students never had the passion, energy and intense work ethic that I do. I’d have stressed them out if I’d pushed them as hard as I push myself. I managed to teach some valuable things but the program was kept light and fun and tailored to meet each student where they are, whether child, adult, someone with disabilities, or someone with a spark of talent. Our shows were never going to amount to much more than something their families and community enjoyed. And that was enough for me. But it wasn’t enough for my life’s purpose and destiny.

My world was too small, and like it or not (and I did NOT at first! I didn’t want to give up the life I had and I felt very insecure about being in front of the camera rather than behind it) I was meant to move on even though moving (physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually) is hard. You can probably relate to this. When we are pushed to let go of a life we’ve lost, it’s easy to feel that the old days were better. But the past is only a foundation. The future is where hope lies, and it’s in the present where joy lives.

Even when we’re in a season of grief, there’s a quiet joy that exists deep down, and is reinforced when synchronicity and God connections align. Which brings us back around to the angels. The angels painting was inspired by an unexpected visit by someone I knew a long time ago. The fateful encounter gave me hope. The depth of my sadness during that time is reflected in my art.

I can see that for myself now, although I wasn’t aware of it at the time. I’m offering this particular angels painting as a clear example of what I’m trying to say. My paintings reflect my life and change when I do.

I wonder who I am now as an artist. How is my life changing? How will my art journey change? We’ll find out together. Are you with me?


Resistant to Change

Watch this oil painting of a cardinal on a tree branch come to life in about 2 minutes (time lapse)

Well, guess who’s cranky about our unexpected move? Mr. Cardinal. He was giving me the sulky grump face all afternoon because I moved things around on the patio. He sat on my empty potting table (got it ready to sell) and stared through the patio glass at me. He fussed like this until my husband emptied the rest of the bird seeds into all of the feeders. Then he was finally placated. He already had food, but a freshly topped off pile distracted him from the changes to his surroundings on the patio.

I’d hate to think that my brain is the size of a bird’s, but I too have been resistant to change. I’ve moved so many times and I’ve always been in a heightened state that welcomes the challenge- except for this time around. This time I felt blindsided and I didn’t take the news gracefully. We were so close to buying a house. We were planning on staying here only one more year, but the homeowner threw water all over that when she sent the official vacate notice- not renewing the lease. Now all of our plans had to be changed. I did not like this. Not one little bit. One more thing out of my control, after many years of things out of my control. I thought we were able to control this move- we’d move next year, to a house of our own, after working so hard to rebuild our lives.

But no, we’ll have to move TWICE now as we aren’t ready to buy a house- my husband’s new job doesn’t start until after our lease runs out. We have to move into another rental. I must admit, I was as resentful as the cardinal after his forced change of scenery. I sulked. I scowled. And I couldn’t be appeased by birdseed.

It has taken me several days of adjustment to settle down, but in reasonable perspective, I went through the 7 stages of grief very quickly. (“Grief” can be interpreted to be any loss or unwanted change). I’m now on the “acceptance” phase for the most part, although I might slip back occasionally. Meanwhile, there has been actual grief in the midst of this, as I have written a long letter and sent a sympathy card to a family member. I don’t want to get into the details of this for privacy reasons, but it has hit me hard and my heart is heavy with it. Too many unexpected and “died suddenly” deaths, and this one was young (in 30’s).

It’s easy to feel during times like this that “the world is bad, what difference does anything make anyway”, “I’ll never win”, “Bad things always happen to good people”, “Hard work never matters”, “Life will always be hard”, “The goalposts keep moving whenever we get close”, “I always try to kick Lucy’s football- of all the Charlie Browns in the world, I’m the Charlie Browniest”. But the truth tells me a different story.

“Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns lyric video

“You’ll never win, you’ll never win…But the voice of truth tells me a different story, the voice of truth says ‘do not be afraid.’… Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed- you’ll never win, you’ll never win, but the voice of truth tells me a different story… Out of all the voices calling out to me I will choose to listen to the voice of truth.”

So, I’m fighting for a win, and I believe things will all work out. Meanwhile, I got a lot done today. I finished part of the Easter show taping, got more plants ready for the sale this weekend, and packed some household items. I also refreshed the rental listings compulsively and obsessively whenever I didn’t keep myself busy enough. Nothing yet. But tomorrow’s another day. And at this point, I’m excited to get moving.


Losing Time

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

Daylight Savings Time is a horrible event that happens twice a year in many areas of the world. There is talk of abandoning this practice in the United States, and I hope that happens. I am one of those people who doesn’t need an alarm clock. I wake based on how the light feels. I usually wake up at the same time every morning regardless of an alarm set, except when the clocks are messed with. Then I wake up disoriented and miserable for about a week until my body resets itself with the new sun rising time.

I’m bent out of shape over this, and also disgruntled that I’ve lost a few of my flowers in the cold frost. We saved most of our garden by covering the plants. There’s one more frost warning tonight and I hope that the only losses are the flowers we lost overnight last night. There is some damage to my roses and a few other plants also, but I think those will bounce back.

At the end of the day, these are small issues. But we project our feelings about big issues onto small issues, and these things represent significant losses we can’t control. Losing time, losing life- these things hit home. Grief is all about losing time and losing life. It’s a hard journey. When relatively trivial events put us through a series of metaphorical losses, it’s easy for the mind, body, and spirit to associate the temporary misery with the more permanent kind.

So, if you too are feeling out of sorts and wishing for a happier day, take heart that this is a normal human condition. You are not alone. Stay strong and let the week unfold. God bless you and keep you, and give you peace.


Storm Rollin’ In

See oil painting “Eye of the Storm” come alive in under 2 minutes (time lapse)

The above painting was inspired by our first hurricane evacuation after moving here to Georgia about five years ago. It’s not hurricane season yet, but it looks like we might get our first spring thunderstorm tonight. The sky is ominous. Two of my family members are on their way home, so I hope they get in before the rain starts.

Below is a video I’ve shared before of me singing “How Great Thou Art”, the hymn in the painting video. I always feel the inspiration of these lyrics when a storm rolls in.

Natalie singing “How Great Thou Art” (hymn from the above painting video)

These are tough times. Every day can feel like a storm, even if the skies are sunny. Whatever you’re facing today, please know that you are not alone. I’m still reeling from the shock of a few things- such as the sudden death that occurred on our recent wedding anniversary- serendipitously, the death was our young ringbearer (grown up, but still too young)! I want to talk more about this, but I really must respect that the family may stumble upon my blog and I don’t want to cause them any distress. I will say this: I am deeply saddened and I wish the news weren’t true.

Grief is a storm. Any of you going through grief, it’s a dangerous and frightening time of emotional chaos, and a surreal view of what it means to be alive. And just like a storm, the worst of it ends, leaving behind a spiritual mess to sift through. It can take years to feel a sense of normal again, and some losses can never be recovered. Every life matters, and every heart matters when a life is lost. I find it helpful to make it a mission to live my life to the very fullest- out of respect for those who can no longer be here, while I’m still here, still alive another day.

As I typed that last line, a beautiful cardinal is sitting on the patio bird feeder. He’s taking his time nibbling seeds and making eye contact with me as I sit here clacking away at the keyboard in view of the glass patio doors. Now he’s closer! I don’t think he will let me take a pic of him. He’s drinking from the bird bath and staring right at me! Darn, I reached for my phone to take a pic and he flew away. Didn’t think he’d let me do that. I have to stand from the side and take photos of the wild birds when they can’t see me. Well, you’ll just have to imagine him there. Moments like these validate everything good, don’t they? That cardinal is alive. And seeing him made me happy.

God bless you and keep you, this day and always. We are here for a reason.


Tired, Weak, Worn

Natalie singing “Precious Lord, Take my Hand”

Sharing this hymn again. Maybe someday I’ll sing this properly instead of just standing near the patio doors while reading the lyrics I’d forgotten off my computer screen. But this will have to do. I haven’t the heart to write much of a blog post. I lost another young relative who “died unexpectedly“. I knew no one who died in the past five years. Now the death toll is FIVE within the past six months- none of them old enough to have died from natural old age related causes.

For privacy reasons, I won’t say anything else, but I do want to say- how did I find out? That little bird was acting weird again and I was thinking, “oh no, not again!” Surely just a coincidence THIS time, right? (read about the other incident I blogged about from last month) But a quick search for a family surname showed another fresh obituary. So it’s been dreams, messages from beyond, and birds acting funky until I pay attention. The bird has left now. I guess I got the message. If you are going through a season of grief, may I offer you these words of comfort: God sees, and we are getting help through this.


Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve!

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

Are you ready to say goodbye to 2021 tomorrow night at midnight? I think most people are impatient to see these troubled years go. We are reflecting on the past, in the hope that the future will be better. Yet we are all here at this particular time in history for a reason. May we experience the joys regardless of the grief surrounding us, may we see the beauty of time, even when the journey is painful, and may we find healing when we are broken. Here is a blog post that may inspire you to believe in the perfect synchronicity of your individual life and time:

The Beauty of Time The mysterious and miraculous story begins a little way down the page, scroll past the quote in the brown box. Here is the opening paragraph: “When I was Mom’s caregiver, I knew her little apartment inside and out because I was the one who cleaned it. Yet it looked completely different when Mom was no longer in it. That first time I entered the place after she had passed was when the first round of grief attacked me. Her tea cup was still sitting by her chair. It wasn’t right that it should be there if she was never coming back. Yet moving her cup was wrong too…” What unfolds is much more than a coincidence, serendipity. It is a reminder that every life matters, and we never leave or enter this world without our time here divinely connected to a greater picture. Think of each life as paint on a canvas. Separately, we may think we don’t form anything, but together we are a masterpiece. Read this story.


Painting Miracles

Miracle Dancer” is an oil painting that tells the story of when I was 15 and recovering from a white water rafting accident. About two hours after I was out of the water I had an odd type of seizure. I didn’t lose consciousness and the convulsions were only from the waist down (just my legs). But the effect of this left me so weak that it was difficult not only to walk, but I had slurred speech and my arms were weak as well. The seizures got worse, daily, and lasted longer. I was hospitalized for weeks, then released with no improvement. Months later (I was then 16) I overheard a doctor say, “One day she won’t get out of that (wheel)chair again.” I refused to believe that. Long story, but I worked hard and danced in my next recital- and earned a trophy too! Life’s stories of hardship and triumph are told through the language of art when words alone can’t express what we feel.

Color expresses the duality of hardship and miracles, as the contrast between somber darks and ghostly lights tells the story. Blue is a color of the natural world, but looks haunting in this painting- as if an unhappy outcome exists in an alternate reality. The dancer’s pink shoes ring out as cheerful in this otherwise gloomy scene. The dancer is moving toward the light, which could mean many things. Some may see her as leaving the pain of this world (eternally), but my intention was to show a return to living an active full life (as if escaping a deadened spirit in which I never dance again). The swirling motion of the paint strokes create action, representing both the movement of the dancer and the change in life circumstance.

Miracle of Life“, has a similar brush stroke pattern of swirling shapes (like “Miracle Dancer” above), as if a mighty wind or supernatural force is interacting with the elements of the painting. But here, there is the addition of earth tones (green, brown, flesh) and very few darks. The duality isn’t between pain and joy, but between the organic, spiritual aspect, and the scientific, logical. Painting rounded shapes and subtle shades represents the spiritual and organic, while rigid lines and stark contrast depicts the scientific and logical.

In this last example, the concepts of “Miracle”, duality, spiritually, life, and death are depicted by heavenly yellows, golden tones, and warmer shades. “The Miracle Dulcimer” exists only as a book for now, but I plan to one day develop this as a painting, probably with the full instrument and a more involved landscape. The current landscape shown on the book cover is cropped from a photograph I took on the hobby farm where I once lived. This sky is what I saw when Mom was still alive, and when my husband made this gorgeous musical instrument for her. That story is one that I’d like to tell in paint one day, but probably not for a couple of years. I’ve painted a lot of that type of work (relating to grief and hardship). I’m now in a resting space of letting go, moving on, and settling in to my new life. When I’m ready to revisit those memories, I’ll create the painting that is in me; it’s just waiting for the right time.

“Autumn Angel”

“Bonaventure Cemetery was made famous when one of its sculptures, a statue known as “Bird Girl”, was featured as a book cover and in the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. The statue was such an attraction that it needed to be removed to preserve it from the many hands of tourists, and damage from vandals as well. It was relocated to the art museum (Telfair Museums’ Telfair Academy), where I was able to view it.

Angel statues in the historic Savannah cemeteries inspired me to paint an angel in a similar pose and style to the stone sculptures. My angel is in full color with a fantasy landscape, as if giving life to what was cold and dead. As fall represents death, yet contradicts itself in color, forecasting an impending stillness, yet change, visiting the memorials felt much like the changing of seasons. There was peace and beauty, yet bittersweet, as endings and loss permeate the grounds.”

When believing in life after death, we are sustained by the hope of a joyous reunion with the people we love. They are with us, as family is forever. We see them in the faces and spirits of the new generations. They are with us in our memories, in the songs of our time, in the art that we see, and the nature that holds us dear. May God keep you strong in your times of grief and loss, bless you with healing closure, and grant you peace.

Autumn Angel oil painting by Natalie Buske Thomas

List of Oil Paintings in this Collection, linking to their pages here on the site, and also citing physical pages in the hardcover book:

  1. City of Savannah
    1.1 “City of Savannah” page 6-7
    1.2 “Natalie at the Fountain” page 8-11
    1.3 “House in Savannah” page 12-13
    1.4 “Guardian Lion” page 14-15
    1.5 “Autumn Angel” page 16-17
    1.6 “Steamship Savannah” page 18-19
    1.7 “Boiled Peanuts for Sale” page 20-21
    1.8 “Bulldog” page 22-23
    1.9 “Serenity Piano” page 24-25
    1.10 “Painting Colors” page 26-27
  2. Tybee Island
    2.1 “I Love Life” page 30-31
    2.2 “Living Sand Dollar” page 32-33
    2.3 “Matthew the Sea Turtle” page 34-35
    2.4 “Fungie the Dolphin” page36-37
    2.5 “Angel Releasing Dove” page 38-39
    2.6 “Flag on Tybee Island” page 40-41
    2.7 “My Kids at the Beach” page 42-43
    2.8 “Lighthouse near Tybee Island” page 44-45
  3. Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians
    3.1 “Gator and Snake” page 48-49
    3.2 “Tree Frog” page 50-51
    3.3 “Lizard” page 52-53
    3.4 “Blue Heron” page 54-55
    3.5 “Hummingbird” page 56-57
    3.6 “Painted Bunting” page 58-59
  4. Flowers and Trees
    4.1 “Pink Flower” page 62-63
    4.2 “Porch Flowers” page 64-65
    4.3 “Clover” page 66-67
    4.4 “Butterfly Tree Flowers” page 68-69
    4.5 “Savannah Tree” page 70-71
    4.6 “Dancer in a Floral Forest” page 72-73
    4.7 “Come to the Garden” page 74-77
    4.8 “Cherokee Rose” page 78-79
  5. Faith and Food
    5.1 “Floral Cross” page 82-83
    5.2 “Lenten Flower” page 84-85
    5.3 “Celtic Cross” page 86-87
    5.4 “Mary of God’s Favor” page 88-89
    5.5 “Lion and the Lamb” page 90-91
    5.6 “Breakfast with Friends” page 92-93
    5.7 “Peaches in a Bowl” page 94-95
    5.8 “Peach Cookies” page 96-97
    5.9 “Peach Pie” page 98-99
  6. Seasons and Weather
    6.1 “Pumpkins and Mums” page 102-103
    6.2 “Autumn Cottage” page 104-105
    6.3 “Spring Lambs” page 106-107
    6.4 “Peach Tree Hurricane” page 108-109
    6.5 “Eye of the Storm” page 110-111
    6.6 “God’s Promise” page 112-113
    6.7 “We Gather Together” page 114-115
    6.8 “Savannah Snow” page 116-117
    6.9 “I Believe in Santa” page 118-119