Preparing the Way

First, the oil painting, then the story behind it… make sure you don’t miss a guidepost that could change your direction.

Watch me paint “Lenten Flower” in under a minute (time lapse)

"I mentioned earlier about learning something new, during our Easter experiences at our new Southern church ... I’d been focused on Lent being about the past- repenting, letting go, pledging to change. What I hadn’t spent much thought on is that when we let go of something it makes room for something new ... The depressing and sometimes challenging process of examining our lives and deciding what we need to change is only the beginning of the journey. We do this to prepare the way for something better, something new. It may require a leap of faith, and the journey is bittersweet, but the destination is beautiful."

- from the book "50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia" by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

Update to the above story…

 

The world has changed dramatically since I painted “Lenten Flower“. The reflective journey that millions of people take every year is now forced upon us, as the world remembers global events unfolding during the spring and Easter of 2020 that would alter the lives of nearly everyone on the planet. Because of this, the process of examining our lives and paving the way for positive change has become a universal challenge.

 

This could be nothing more than a temporary cultural fad and a sign of the times we live in… or, it could be much more. Are we entering an age of enlightenment? Possibly.

 

But regardless of what everyone else does, we are not a “collective” (who we are), but we can work collectively (what we do). As unique and wonderful individuals, we can focus on our personal journeys. And in doing so, we will then collectively elevate the whole.

 

Now, let’s grab a cuppa (coffee, tea, hot chocolate?) and reflect on how to prepare the way for change with a focused scientifically-measured plan. I can assure you that a serious effort works. No matter how intangible our goals may seem, we can find a way to measure our progress and hold ourselves accountable.

Oil painting "Lenten Flower" by artist Natalie Buske Thomas
"Lenten Flower" oil painting by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

Physical goals are often easily measured by numbers. Math doesn’t lie, but sometimes it doesn’t tell the full story, so always look at a variety of factors. We can measure body weight (weight gain, loss, or stable), body mass index, cholesterol levels, the amount of blood sugar in our blood, and much more. Harder to diagnose conditions such as allergies, eczema, and immune system disorders can be measured by keeping a diary of symptoms, and numbering the severity of each.

 

When we measure our progress scientifically, we achieve objectivity. We become an observer, a witness, and an analyst who studies our own lives in order to create positive change. When we start with a physical goal, it is easier to see how to address our intellectual and spiritual needs.

 

After a physical goal is set (perhaps a simple plan to get more vitamin D from the sun into your week by committing to 15 minutes outdoors every day for six weeks?), you can then decide how to measure your progress, such as keeping a diary and assigning a number from 1-5 of how strongly you experience symptoms such as skin problems, fatigue or depression (whatever pertains to your situation). This process of setting a goal and measuring it can then be applied to intellectual and spiritual goals as well.

 

But what if we don’t know what we want to change? Then that’s where we start. Our goal could be “discover what I’d like to do to expand my thinking”. We could commit to spending 15 minutes a day browsing through books, articles, and blogs, looking for ideas for what we’d like to study. Try this search string: “interesting topics to learn about”. If truly serious about enlightenment, we’ll find our passion.

 

When we discover a path we’d like to explore, then the process for intellectual change is similar to a physical journey. Set a measurable goal. Use math as much as possible. For example, “I’m taking a 6 week course”, or “I’m spending 30 minutes a day reading about this subject”.

 

Keep a diary to measure progress that is less tangible, such as how much energy you feel at the end of the day when you commit to expanding your thinking (assign an energy number, from 1-5). Journal your progress: how is expanding your mind in one small way leading you to new ways of thinking in bigger ways?

 

Spiritual change can follow this same pattern: explore what we want to change, create a way to measure our progress, analyze our journey. The good news is, once we are practiced and disciplined in this type of reflection, we do it intuitively. We don’t need to measure, track, or record our progress. It is simply how we live.

 

Some of us arrive at this place after life-changing trauma. Others are “born older”, wise souls from birth. But many just have to find their way. Regardless of when we start, or how many times we must begin anew, the journey is for each of us, uniquely and wonderfully ours.

 

Reflection doesn’t mean condemnation, but forgiveness, mercy, and letting go of the past. Judgement is unproductive; examination is helpful. Change your words, change your life. All of these things sound like cliques, but these are concepts that work.

 

That’s why people say the same things. Not only do these methods work, but our journey never ends. No matter how enlightened we are, we can always be “more”. And from time to time, the words from others will hit us at the exact moment when we are ready to being a new quest toward positive change.

 

Maybe that day is today. Do something good for yourself. When you push toward bigger things, you bring all of us with you. Whatever your heart desires, I wish you success and happiness.

“Lenten Flower”

Watch Natalie paint this art, and all 50 oil paintings in this collection (menu below)

“Lent is about giving something up, and adding something new. I mentioned earlier about learning something new, during our Easter experiences at our new Southern church, and it’s all about ‘new’. I’d been focused on Lent being about the past- repenting, letting go, pledging to change. What I hadn’t spent much thought on is that when we let go of something it makes room for something new. Repentance is also about forgiveness. Letting go is about mercy. Forgiveness and mercy frees us.

What a loving God we have, who wants us to be free! The depressing and sometimes challenging process of examining our lives and deciding what we need to change is only the beginning of the journey. We do this to prepare the way for something better, something new. It may require a leap of faith, and the journey is bittersweet, but the destination is beautiful.

I painted this in a style similar to ‘Pink Flower’, except this time my process was deliberate. I liked the layering-background technique I created almost by accident with Pink Flower, and now it is one of my signatures. I paint colorful shapes around my main subject, that I then paint over while the oils are still wet. The flower stays in sharp focus, while the background is soft, yet luminous. ‘Lenten Flower’ is one of my favorite paintings. I’d like to do more work like this.”

Lenten Flower oil painting by Natalie Buske Thomas
Lenten Flower oil painting by Natalie Buske Thomas

Small Print “Lenten Flower”

All small prints are approximately 8 x 10. Giclee Somerset Velvet Fine Art paper. Free shipping. No frame.

$33.50

Lenten Flower oil painting by Natalie Buske Thomas

Medium Print “Lenten Flower”

All medium prints are approximately 16 x 20. Giclee Somerset Velvet Fine Art paper. Free shipping. No frame.

$65.50

Lenten Flower oil painting by Natalie Buske Thomas

Large Print “Lenten Flower”

All large prints are approximately 24 x 30. Giclee Somerset Velvet Fine Art paper. Free shipping. No frame.

$98.50

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