Watch me paint this mountain landscape in 2 minutes

(time lapse)

If we imagine life as a balanced landscape with fresh waters running through the center, mountains sheltering the skyline, trees neatly arranged on each side and rocks as a protective boundary, we may visualize balance. Balance organizes tall and short, up and down, high and low, dark and light, stillness and movement, realism and fantasy. When we are in balance, we are in various stages of harmony.

Balance Checklist

I could go on like this for hours. The point is, life is about extremes. We experience highs and optimal living, along with lows and hardships. A balanced attitude sees harmony and embraces life as a moving orchestra. Instead of pursuing perfection in the highs, or focusing disproportionately on the lows, an attitude of harmony is about acceptance of what “is”. The reality is that there are good days and bad days, and often our perception of bad or good changes by the hour or even by the minute. May we change what we can and accept what we cannot.

Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?' For it is not wise to ask such questions. Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it. Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: the righteous perishing in their righteousness, and the wicked living long in their wickedness. Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise— why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes."
- Ecclesiastes 7:10-18 NIV

In our human journey there are extremes in our approach to life, like “wise” or “fool”. There are also extremes in what we mean by having a “good” day or a “bad” day. In times of crisis, tragedy, and loss, our pain may feel unbearable. On the contrary, the joy of falling in love, winning a hard fought achievement, or holding a new baby may make one forget all the pain. When we accept what is, it may be extremely good or extremely bad. Not every day is balanced in itself. It is our mind that must find the harmony in the bigger picture.

The totality of our lives is like an oil painting. Each blob of paint doesn’t look like much on its own. When isolated, it’s nothing but a splat of color. But when seen from a distance, all of the colors come together to form a picture. If we could see our lives from a distance, we may see how all of the good parts and the bad parts form a picture of who we are. And we are a masterpiece!

We may not always have a choice about what we experience, but we have free will for how we respond to it. We can choose to see bad events as part of a bigger picture. We can also choose to forgive those who wrong us. By “forgiveness” I do not mean offering a pardon to those who deserve justice. I mean the act of letting go of bitterness, lest it destroy us. Spiritual strength allows us to remain true to ourselves even if we have no other recourse left.

In our quest for balance, we must resist the tendency to see all situations as a sliding scale in which all things are made to seem equal. When we put all of the good things and the bad things on a see saw, it will balance itself. This may appear as if the good things and bad things are equal. No, they are not. They are simply arranged on the see saw in such a way as the weight of each is evenly distributed. But if we take an extreme of one side and pair it with a weakness of the other, the see saw will flip erratically, with one side down and the other side up.

We must also consider this paradox: while one strong element can flip a weak element, there is no such thing as a little bit of evil or a little bit of good. Good and evil are extremes. One small act of goodness has a lot of power, and can lead to bigger acts of goodness. The same is true for one small act of wickedness. One lie begets another. One resentful thought emboldens another. An act of malice from one, invites the hatred of many. It is not extreme to see the truth of this. Choosing wisdom over foolishness is a valid, honorable decision.

In a misguided effort to avoid extremes (or by intention to mislead others), some may not recognize that extremes exist, or may mislabel what is extreme, or may rationalize extremes to equalize all situations as the same. This is simply not true. The harmony in an orchestra is not found by making all instruments sound the same, but by hearing them all together. If one musician blares a sour note, it will indeed ruin the piece. No conductor would find this acceptable.

We cannot make life feel acceptable by accepting the unacceptable, or by pretending that a sour note doesn’t ruin the music. Life will forever be a paradox. It is good AND it is bad. In the big picture, we may see how it all comes together, or we may never know. We enjoy our days more when we accept what is, and live in hope that the good will outnumber the bad.

I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it."
- Ecclesiastes 3:10-14 NIV

As we approach another new week, may we find satisfaction in our days, be happy, and do good. May we enjoy good food, good weather, and good people. Everything is beautiful in its time.

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Painting Clusters

Artists may take a departure from organic, scattered or aesthetically balanced compositions to paint clusters. Clusters group, assemble, or classify items together. “Consider the Lilies” groups a collection of separate flowers as a single subject: “flowers”.


Cluster art often overlaps the elements into a clustered shape (unlike my lily art, which has green grassy divisions of space between the grouped elements: flowers).

Sometimes clustering steers the viewer toward a specific emotional response. “Classroom Scene” shows desks and students assembled together in a structured, ordered way that tells the story of the painting. The deliberate clustering of elements may be an integral part of the composition, as it is in this children’s book illustration for “Fred“. The same scene with the desks in a more pleasing and organic arrangement would have produced a different emotional effect.

Clusters can also be based on classes, how elements are classified together.Autumn Cottage” clusters the vegetation together based on class (type of tree, flowers, etc.). Unless a landscaper intentionally plants and grooms a rigid, tidy classed display (such as what one might find in a botanical garden where the point is to showcase classified specimens), clustering in nature is not natural. That’s why, when we see art like “Autumn Cottage“, something seems off about it. The viewer recognizes it a fanciful scene, because only in whimsy would nature classify itself neatly into separate clusters.

If tidy classified clusters aren’t natural, why does “Autumn Cottage” look so warm and inviting? Perhaps it’s because humanity craves harmony between an ordered life and an organic journey. In this scene, even the beautiful colors are clustered, which makes the scene seem like a safe, peaceful place to be.


And yet, there is enough of a likeness to our knowledge of what nature looks like, that we can almost believe that this cabin is a real place. The merging of reality and fantasy can empower us to feel safe when we seek new ways to pursue happiness and tranquility. A contented life harmonizes order and intention with organic circumstances and letting life flow.

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.