I uploaded this painting video to YouTube today and I struggled to come up with the words to put into the description. What started off as a simple project idea turned into a story of loss and healing. My grief journey began when I was a child, but when Mom died, it felt like I lost Dad all over again because she was the one who kept his memory alive.
But it has been several years now since she passed, and now my journey has me on a path where I’m hopeful and focused on the new roads ahead. Every now and then, though, my spirit needs a retreat to the cabin in the woods. Here is what I wrote for the YouTube video description:
What does this painting mean to you? Art is a language and it speaks to you however you want. This is what it means to me: When I painted this, the project goal was to paint from my imagination (no reference or plan) and paint however the emotions and inspiration leads. My thoughts were of a cabin in the woods, a peaceful and restful space, a spiritual escape from the stresses, chaos, and darkness of this world. But as I painted, I found myself lost in the scene with additions that changed the story. The empty rocking chair and the cardinal in the tree- the chair reminded me of Mom. Her chair is empty and her tea is abandoned, as she left it. The cardinal is Dad’s spirit, who died almost 25 years before her, when he was 37 years old. This space holds the spirits of loved ones who’ve left this world, yet they live on where time and physical distance has no meaning. When the burdens of this world are too much, let our minds escape to this cabin in the woods, where peace is forever standing still, and we are forever loved. But let’s not linger there too long. We are blessed to be alive. We have so much left to do. I have hundreds more paintings to reach my 1k finished oil paintings goal. We all have a destiny, a purpose, and reason to be here.
A personal challenge is waiting for you at the end of this blog post, so I hope you make it to the end.
More of my ongoing project to upload my painting videos to YouTube- the saga continues. This is another video with a copyright claim so I changed the music to something else that allows free use. It has created a peaceful change from the original version.
The music in the original means something special to me, as it is a song I knew from my growing up years. “There is a candle in every soul, some brightly burning, some dark and cold… Carry your candle, run to the darkness. Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn… Take your candle, and go light your world”, sung by Kathy Troccoli. We’d sing this song at events and use a flashlight in the darkness.
Many years later, I saw this song performed live by Chris Rice during a benefit concert for a very tragic situation in which I knew the family. At least I think he sang that one. Now I’m not sure if that particular song inclusion is a true memory, or if my recollection of hearing this song as a recording has merged with the songs I heard live at the concert. It was a long time ago.
Anyway, the song is meaningful to me and I thought of it instantly for my candle painting, but the music is of course not the original song by either of the artists I mentioned. It’s a rather plinky instrumental version (something I found online that I thought was free use, but apparently triggers a copyright claim on my video if uploading it to YouTube). So, I deleted it and replaced it with the music in the revised version at the top of this blog.
What I noticed is a peaceful change. And here comes the metaphor:
Sometimes in life we make a decision that seems right at the time. It may be based on our personal perspective, past experiences, and emotions about these memories. Then, a day comes and we are forced to listen to the music we’ve chosen as the soundtrack of our lives. And maybe the song no longer fits. It’s a poor imitation of an original, so it’s already removed from the source. And now it’s been so long (not necessarily in time, but in spiritual growth “years” which can be faster or slower than physical time), that we don’t even feel as strong of a connection to the original either.
Now it sounds noisy. We don’t want to listen to it anymore. It no longer fits.
The new music for this candle video is mellow. It is a peaceful change from the person I was when I chose the first song. I have progressed from someone desperate to make a statement, needy for approval, anxious about avoiding hateful feedback, and frightened by death threats, targeting, and other crimes committed against me, to who I am at this moment. I stand unafraid. I have held my ground against terror group “activists”, who knew my name, address, and children’s faces. I survived being “cancelled”. I have weathered unkind and stupid hateful remarks about my work or about me personally.
And? I’m still working on my lifetime goal of 1k finished paintings. What are my enemies doing? I have no idea. They have faded away. Always a new a’hat is ready to take their place, but they don’t have the power they used to have over me.
I do not need to stress out about every detail of my work and how it might be received poorly by others. I don’t need to try so hard to please those who love my work either. I also don’t need to worry that my expression of my faith isn’t good enough or Christian enough for those who choose me only for those reasons. I am doing the best I can with who I am. And that’s a peaceful change.
I am learning a lot about how I want to go forward with my work and my life, through this project that forces me to re-visit my older painting videos. It’s like a time capsule or a diary. The scrapbook of the past few years is bringing an awareness of how different I am today from who I was before. I strongly encourage you to do something similar.
I was also sorting through our family photos and framed several of them. That journey was just as healing, if not more so. Please do that, it is well worth the time. Not only will you have a fresh round of pictures to enjoy, but you’ll find closure that you didn’t even know you needed. It’s easier to know where we’re going when we have a firmer understanding of where we’ve been.
God bless you and keep you, this day and always.
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The story of this angel is one of mourning, looking over the mass graves of children tragically killed long ago. This painting was inspired by a statue called “Turning Angel”. I am thinking today that some of you may be feeling the need for such an angel to mourn for your losses, and look over those you’ve lost. Whether you are manifesting empathy for others, or you are yourself grieving, may we together create peace and healing. God bless and keep you, this day and always.
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Sometimes tragic events unfold and there’s nothing we can do but pray. Tonight something heartbreaking has happened in America involving a horrific attack via vehicle during a Christmas parade. In this modern age, we hear bits and pieces live from witnesses online before official accounts are assessed, compiled, and released. I don’t know what has happened, but it’s clear that this is a dark and sad day for many families. God be with all those touched by this devastating incident. May those injured quickly recover, and those grieving find peace and healing.
When I shared this painting with you in July, I was thinking about time, and I used this painting to illustrate how we don’t know if the sun is rising or setting without context. It was a summer day when I showed you this one, and my thoughts were completely different on that day than they are on this one. Seasonal perspective is the obvious difference. Now I see this as an an autumn orchard painting, with trees ready for harvest. The orange and yellows look like October when viewing this art in October. So, that’s easy to figure out, but there’s more to it than this…
Seasonal perspective can be complicated, just as humans are complicated. For me, October is always bittersweet. I look forward to the fun treats and desserts, and the upcoming joy of Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions with my family. But my mom’s birthday was in October, and I think of her for the entire month. I think of the good and bad parts of our relationship, the traumatic experiences as her caregiver, the final dramatic moments that changed me forever, and how much time has passed since. Just when I think I have moved on, my heart says, “OK, it’s been long enough now, Mom. When are you coming back?”
But we can all be like that girl reading a book in the orchard. She was an after-thought. I didn’t intend to put a person in that landscape. The landscape was a project for my 2021 collection, but now it seems like this art wouldn’t be the same without the girl in it. She is what makes this scene what it is. It’s her response to the serenity of the place that helps us feel peaceful when we view it. Without this context, we might not have felt as calm. Maybe we would have interpreted it entirely differently.
For example, the sunrise could have felt like the harsh glare of the morning rush, and the fully ripe fruit may have symbolized work that needs to be done right away before the harvest is ruined. It may have seemed stressful. Or, if we saw the sky as the sun setting, maybe we’d have thought that time was running out on the day. Instead of seeing a busy morning, and the rush of work ahead, we may have seen the day as over and the work was left undone. But the figure of the girl, relaxed and absorbed in her book, tells us that this is a different painting. It is one of letting go. It is one that isn’t ruled by work or time. We don’t even know if it is morning or evening.
And when I view this art in October instead of July, or when I first painted this in the spring of 2020, I now see it through a different spiritual seasonal perspective. Autumn tends to be a time of reflection and letting go. Leaves fall, flowers die back. The wind picks up, and our thoughts go toward the upcoming holiday season and long winter ahead. This can bring us to mind of loved ones, even if our loved ones weren’t born in October.
Art is a healing language. Even though I try to express in words what my paintings feel like to create and what I want to say when I share them, and how my perspective changes with time, it’s still difficult to explain in words, because I’m translating from colors and movement on a canvas. As I share my paintings and thoughts with you, it is my hope that the healing language of art makes a positive difference in your life. God bless you and your families.
The old saying “a rose by any other name”, derived from Shakespeare, generally means that no matter what we call something, it remains the same. These days when propaganda flows more freely than the truth, words are given new meaning, and actions are given new words, but in the end, truth is truth. No matter what new words are given to describe what’s happening, the truth will be known. By some, the truth is felt immediately. Others take longer to see it. Many more won’t see it until a pivotal moment when they believe what they see because the right person, the right place, or the right time has caused the truth to finally be seen by them. Still, there are a few who will never see the truth because they are incapable or unwilling to see it.
If you ever feel discouraged, as if you are living in a different reality from others, always keep in mind that a rose is always a rose. It has the characteristics of a rose, regardless of what we call it. Truth is eventually known, and it doesn’t matter if not everyone can see it. The characteristics of truth are the same regardless, and those characteristics bring forth justice, peace, and healing.
You might remember when I painted this one and shared it in early April? At that time I hoped that the world would have sorted a few things out by the end of summer, and obviously that didn’t happen. But through it all, I try to share happy things when I can. Is there such a thing as “Happy Grief”? In my experience, yes, there is.
When we share hardships collectively as humans traveling in the same time line (those of us currently alive on this planet, spanning four or five generations across the globe) we may feel a special connection with humanity that is unique; and known only by people who experience the crisis together. Of course we may need to be “on the same side”, however we may define that to be. Connection is based on kinship, and that doesn’t happen with those who rule in dominion over us, or with those we perceive as in alignment, enforcement, or loyal to the ideology of those we are oppressed by. We do not bond with our abusers, but we develop intimacy with fellow travelers on the same journey. This is part of the “Happy” side of grief. Feeling close to fellow humans makes us happy.
Another aspect of “Happy Grief” is due to the extreme emotions. When our lows are very low, when our spirits try to counter-correct and restore balance, we swing to the other extreme- very high; happiness, joy, elation, bursts of creativity, optimism, and overall confidence that “everything’s gonna be alright”. We may feel surprisingly nostalgic and have vivid flashbacks to times, places, and people from years ago, or even many years ago. We may then take an abrupt turn in mood, as we remember people we’ve lost, and a world that used to be, but is no more.
During these extreme mood swings, we may land somewhere in the middle, but it’s not an ordinary kind of middle. It’s the middle that happens between highs and lows of crisis grief. In this sacred space, we find the greatest treasure in “Happy Grief”. We feel certain of what is most important in life. We know the secret of happiness, and it’s not things or work or relationships that we do not choose. It’s a secret that many elderly people already know: happiness comes from doing what we want to do.
When we see time as precious, vulnerable, and fleeting; when we feel that our future is uncertain and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed; when we can’t trust that the world we know today will still be there tomorrow… we live differently. We live with intention. We choose to spend time with the people we truly love, and have little patience for time wasted on those we do not enjoy being with. We structure our days differently. We are more willing to do productive work like gardening, baking, or making something homemade without thinking we should be doing work that pays an income or we should be doing nothing at all. Why work if there’s no pay check? Because productive work is happy work, and when we do something productive we are often rewarded with adventure, a pleasant outcome, and connection with others. These things make humans happy.
When we live life with intention, instead of scurrying along each day on a schedule to get each thing done, every item checked off a list, prioritizing meeting the expectations of others, putting paid work ahead of anything else- then we start to live on our own terms. We remember who we really are, and we may wonder why we squandered so much of our life trying to please others and doing what was expected instead of what we want to do. We may wish we had “one more day” with someone we lost. We may feel overwhelmed with regret or pangs of longing.
As the grief emotions sweep over us, we can channel these highs and lows into something good that improves our lives forever. Do that thing you’ve always wanted to do. Be that person you’ve always wished you could be. “Live as if there’s no tomorrow. Love as if we’re on borrowed time.” It’s not just a catchy phrase or song lyrics, it’s real. And we know it’s real when we are in a state of “Happy Grief”. That is what I meant by Happy Grief. Because, when we live as if there’s no tomorrow, we finally learn how to be happy. May we take this precious awareness into a post-grief season, and never forget. But, of course, the grief season must end before the healing can begin. I will pray for deliverance, and I will pray for YOU. I do not need to know who you are to do this. Prayer is powerful. I need only to care. God bless you and your families.
You might remember that I finished the 2021 collection “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Nature“? I said I’d reveal what the 2021 collection is at a later time, and that time is NOW. :::drum roll please:::
The 2021 collection is called “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).
The first oil painting in the collection is “Generational Tree“, which is a good transition from the Nature collection to the Seasons one, since it is a piece that could have been in either. “Generational Tree” represents the passage of time; how the elders in a family reside at the top of a mature tree and are the branches which through the ages become fragile and one day fall away- yet the branches below are healthy and strong, tender new twigs will continue to grow, and the roots created long ago will give life to this family for many years to come.
I’m very excited about this new collection because I’m going to lay my heart out through my paintbrushes. I didn’t look at any reference, photo, prompt, or even out a window for “Generational Tree”. I listen to your comments, and something one of you said about free painting settled into my brain and encouraged my soul to do more of this style of painting, in which I don’t restrain and constrain my art. I’m not saying I’ll never look at a reference for guidelines on proportions, perspective, or details (especially if wanting to get markings and anatomy correct when painting animals, people, and other identifying subjects), but my previous collections were probably 70% or higher art that was planned, used a reference, and was held to the boundaries of the project goals. I’d like to decrease that to 50-60%.
“Generational Tree” was of course a safe project for free painting because it’s simply a tree and a basic landscape (very organic, nothing precise about it). But I’d like to challenge myself and remove the safety net more often. I will still look at a reference when painting specific people when I want to capture a resemblance, but there’s no reason to look at a picture of a person when I’m painting an imaginary person.
But the decision to free paint more often is not really what I meant by laying my heart out. The theme of this new collection lends itself to meaningful work that I will be personally invested in, in a deeply emotional way. That will show in my art if I let myself be an instrument of the source of where creativity, expression, and raw (not taught, born with- or suddenly gifted with, such as after an accident, grief or a diagnosis, etc… in other words, a blessing) talent comes from. Arrogance has no place in art. Art is a language meant to share empathy with humanity. It is not meant to be hoarded or controlled by elites. It is not meant to be restricted to only the select chosen. It is not meant to be about the artist, the possessors of art, or the gatekeepers who decide which art gets seen.
Art speaks to people in ways that we can’t put into words. It is my lifelong desire to let my life be used to heal others. When people see something in my paintings that feels like a message of hope for their own lives, or a whisper from God “I see you”, or a confirmation of faith in humanity… that in a dark world, we still have light, love, compassion, and a deep desire for goodwill for all mankind, it’s beyond myself- it is a personal connection between the viewer and the art that no longer belongs to me. It’s a lofty goal, to be an instrument of healing, but I am honored to strive for this to be my lasting legacy. I’ll also paint lighthearted projects, not everything will feel so heavy. Look for a few paintings that are simply fun.
Thank you for being a part of my journey toward my lifetime goal of 1k finished oil paintings. Along the way, I hope that one of my thousand paintings (years from now!) will make a difference in your life. You are loved by God, and you are never alone. If I can remind you of that, then it’s been a good day.