I was thinking of this song today, and decided to sing it to you when sharing my art on today’s blog. It’s how I feel when we have empathy for our fellow humans- our sorrow when troubled times come- and how even if we’ve never met, we lift each other up. May you know that you are never alone. You are loved by God, and there is a special kindness among the best of us that raises us all up, to stand on mountains. God bless you and keep you, this day and always.
In my blog post “New Painting- Peaceful Landscape” that I shared with you in June, I said, “I’ll talk about what this painting means to me in a future blog post. For now, I just want to share it and let you let it speak to you.” But I forgot to follow up! I never did tell you what I was thinking when I painted this.
This was a landscape from my own imagination, in which I didn’t look at anything while painting, nor did I plan it out. I intentionally let the art tell the story and evolve, as I listened to music and let myself feel whatever came to my heart. I meant to paint a scene that is warm and inviting, and would appeal to me as a retreat, but that’s not quite what happened.
Instead, it seems that I painted the deeper feelings; the reason why I wanted a special place to retreat to. Because this place doesn’t look relaxing to me. It’s very remote and a bit lonely looking. Quiet, and pretty, yes, but it looks like someone’s missing from that empty rocking chair, as if suddenly taken from their favorite spot and the tea or coffee cup that never got cleared. There’s probably still a last sip in it.
The cardinal is observing the scene, as if he understands and has empathy. The flowers are still in bloom, the fields reach toward a clear blue sky, and the evergreens are as fresh as ever. But the walkway has no feet upon it. The steps are vacant. The rocking chair is not in motion. The last sip will never be drunk.
Reflecting on those we’ve lost, and realizing the passage of time, and feeling the weight of the dark world upon our shoulders, sometimes it feels as if we need a retreat from the burden of broken dreams and better days that must wait, or may never come at all. But in imagining a retreat, I instead inadvertently, subconsciously, painted the emotions that were driving me to want a retreat.
Maybe next time I’ll paint the actual retreat, but by the time I finished painting through the feelings I didn’t even know I had, I felt as if I’d already had my retreat. It was me observing the cardinal in the tree, from my vantage point on the other side of the canvas looking in. Seeing the scene through his eyes was enough to restore my spirit for another day.
Nature goes on uninterrupted. Seasons change. Flowers bloom. Trees grow. Then all of it repeats. There is something comforting in the sameness, and even more comforting is the pattern of change. This (spiritual) season will change. Meanwhile, we can embrace the quiet, the steady stillness, and the cabin that waits for someone to come back. When we are blessed to be here for another day, may we never leave the last sip to grow cold.
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.
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.
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.
Inside this big picture, there are many smaller pictures. Each predator and prey pair shows how the natural world operates. Should that not include humankind? Of course it does. But we must not lose heart or surrender to the fate of defenseless prey.
“There are times when it seems the predators always win, but that’s not true. There is a time and season for everything. When we get discouraged, perhaps we can think about the beauty of God’s beasts, fowl, and fishes. His divine plan is mysterious, and sometimes painful…But there’s always a larger picture, and we are part of it. We are not forgotten. Not unwelcome. We are loved.”
As our world continues to be a chaotic scene, may we not be so distracted by the many battles, that we don’t see the big picture, the larger scene. It’s hard to see the forest, the mountain ridge, the sea, the green landscape, or the sky when battles rage. But if we step back and look at this world as a whole, we will see that our home is a beautiful place to be.
Not everyone is “bad”, and not everyone is “good”. Most of us are just trying to muddle through, learning how to live and love the best that we can. No matter how much destruction we see, we can focus on creation. No matter how much malice we see, we can focus on love. No matter how many enemies we see, we can focus on friends.
It’s difficult to tell when I painted this scene because there’s not much in the painting that dates it to a specific time period. There are no automobiles or people to judge by make and model of car or by style of wardrobe. The architecture can date it, but if the buildings and structures have been in place for many years, the time period isn’t narrowed down by much. The same can be said for mature trees- some trees can live for a very long time.
The absence of people and their possessions makes it nearly impossible to guess the time period, which was in the autumn of 2019. It’s people who mark the time, with our clothing, hair styles, and transport. Without us, the world is often timeless.
So imagine, if you will, that someone has stayed out of the public view for the past year… unwilling to see the world masked, hostile, and delusional. For such a person, the world is timeless, waiting for when people let go of fear and start living again. Until then, there are trees and birds to look upon, gardens to plant, and canvases to paint.
We all have free will to choose the reality we wish to live in. What is truth? Who defines it? If a person doesn’t hear the “new truth”, does the faux reality exist? No, it doesn’t. We must consent to a delusion to make it so. And even then, reality is not mocked. Eventually, the important things are known and the deceit falls away. Who is broken and swept under the ground during the destruction? Those who are caught up in its path may be swept away.
God is timeless. “And this too shall pass”. Things of man are temporary. Those who wait it out will survive. When we set our eyes upon that which is timeless, we will see the world the way that it really is… beautiful, unmasked, and free.
More about surviving through troubled times, and winning the battle for our mind, body, and spirit: “Are you Weary?”
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.
Love job or schedule, look forward to daily routine
Working too hard, exhausted, hate job or schedule
There are good days and bad days
Strong, healthy, relaxed, and living "best life"
Often physically ill, depressed, anxious, fearful, or resentful
There are good days and bad days
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.
Happy Easter! Today I’ll share peaceful and joyful oil paintings and songs with you. May you feel the burst of new spring life in your spirit, and the blessings of God upon you. It’s a new day. He is Risen!
The painting above is a 2-minute time lapse video to watch me paint a three panel landscape of the Holy Trinity, my Easter painting from 2020. My new 2021 Easter painting 2-minute time lapse is below, “Easter Sunday with Grandma“.
Sing these three beloved hymns with us? The words are on the screen for you. The first two are clips from this year’s Easter Show. I’m the one in the yellow dress, the two on each side of me are my lovely daughters. The third song is from a live event in 2018. I’m playing the mountain dulcimer and my son is playing guitar.
“The Old Rugged Cross”
“Just a Closer Walk with Thee”
“Will the Circle be Unbroken/So Remember our Defender”
As we begin a new season, anything is possible. May love, peace and joy reign over us, as we pursue vocations, relationships, and spiritual dreams. God bless you and your families.
“This iconic fountain is at Forysth Park in Savannah. It is a well photographed, well painted tourist attraction that appears often on postcards, websites, and gifts. Many who visit Savannah don’t leave the city without taking a souvenior photo of themselves and loved ones by the fountain.
Forysth Park is a large, active park. Many events are held in that location, as well as recreational activities and a good place to take a fitness walk. Some events are planned by the city, such as ones sponsored by the library system.
I was a participating author/illustrator for a large children’s book festival held in the park. Before the big day, I painted the fountain to display it on a large standing easel, just a few yards away from the actual fountain. It was fun to watch people do a double-take, as they realized that the painting was of where they were currently standing.
The day I took the photograph that I used as a reference (this particular perspective of the fountain, as seen from the vantage point of an adjacent sidewalk), I was completely unaware that my husband was taking pictures of me, taking pictures of the fountain. This was suprisingly endearing, so I decided to paint myself into the picture. I realized later that this made my art a self-portrait, which wasn’t intentional, so we can think of me as simply “the lady in red”, even though I call myself out in the painting’s title. If you look closely, you can see my camera in “lady in red”‘s hand.
Spanish moss drapes from many tree branches. Don’t touch the moss. It looks soft and inviting, but apparently there are bugs that live in it. Enjoy with your eyes!
List of Oil Paintings in this Collection, linking to their pages here on the site, and also citing physical pages in the hardcover book: