Melancholy

Watch this lighthouse painting come to life in 1 minute

(time lapse)

I share this one when I’m feeling melancholic, flitting back and forth between faint optimism and bittersweet sentiment, and a gloomy premonition that something bad is about to happen. This sense of doom is partly an empathetic response to the way the wind is shifting on the world stage on a particular day, and partly a personal, individual perspective that is complicated and unique to me (although my own emotions are often astonishingly in sync with other fellow humans, even with people I’ve never met). 

Melancholy can be channeled into beautiful things. I tend to be more introspective and lost in my art when I’m feeling a bit blue. Depression or a funk is a different state, and I find no benefit to emotions so low as to be unproductive and damaging to one’s health. So I’m definitely not advocating for sadness that causes a person to have difficulty leading a normal life. What I mean is the kind of sadness that put us in a quiet, restful state that may evolve into empathy; a profound connection to fellow humans and our shared plight. This state of being is a good foundation for creating art.

When you’re feeling a bit blue, embrace those emotions by channeling them into a project you can escape into, as if alone at sea on a peaceful cloudy day, in which you can just see the comforting glow from a lighthouse. You won’t lose your way home. Stay in the cold murky waters for a while. Take in the beauty of the moment; as our joy is defined by our sadness. When we don’t know sadness, we may struggle to fully appreciate joy.

When we are weary, the lighthouse will lead us back to the shore. We can rest, and let our breath flow out, relaxed, letting go of all of our concerns. As we lay our heads on our pillows that night, we sleep deeply; our fears lose their grip, our sadness lifts, and when we waken in the morning our energy is restored. 

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What is fun?

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Art Imitates Art

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Happy Grief?

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Melancholy

Watch this lighthouse painting come to life in 1 minute (time lapse) I share this one when I’m feeling melancholic, flitting back and forth between

History

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How are you?

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Another New Week

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A Gift for You!

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Goodnight, dear Friends

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Inspiring

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Too Much Talking

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Forced to Slow Down

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Sunday Rest

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Art I Don’t Like

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End of Summer

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Not Much to Say

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See What Happened Today!!!

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Feeding Critics

First the oil painting, then the story that inspired this art and the update. Do YOU feed your critics? Everyone has critics, whether you do creative work or not.

Watch me paint “Waves of the Sea“, 2 minute time lapse

“‘Waves of the Sea’ is inspired by Scripture about trials and perseverance. James 1:2-6 ~~~‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.’ ~~~Through it all, never give up. When the seas are rough, during a storm, and whenever troubled times come, a lighthouse guides us home. Faith over fear, perseverance through trials.”

- from book "50 Oil Paintings Inspired by my Christian Faith" by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

Update to the above story…

I was still active on social media when I painted “Waves of the Sea“. I was often censored and throttled, so I was mostly seen only by a small group of people who quickly became friends. When I shared my art, I was sharing stories of encouragement. I knew some of the people who looked forward to my new paintings were going through a difficult time or were facing hardships. Some deal with chronic pain and suffering, or are grieving a loss. These are heartaches that no one can fix. There is no money to repair what is broken, and no words that can express the unfairness of life’s cruelty.

Sometimes, when there are no words, art is a balm for the raw places in our soul. It’s a language that transcends our struggles to communicate. We can express empathy even when we don’t know who will view our art, and we can’t possibly have foreknown their private pain. 

Even if you are too young to have heard a real life record (vinyl album) screech to a halt on a record player, we’ve all heard that sound as a meme for the uncomfortable jolt when there’s a sudden end to a pleasant experience. That’s what happened when a stranger popped into the thread under my “Waves of the Sea” video. The unsolicited critique was that I should have painted the sea in a more realistic manner, softening the waves around the coastline.

I often ignore unsolicited advice from self-appointed critics, but if I am approached in a place of visibility where others are watching/listening, I always represent/defend myself. Because the comment was made publicly and subtly implied that I lacked the skill to have taken that advice on my own accord (an accusation levied at my professional ability to perform my job), I responded publicly. I did so briefly, but clearly.

                                  HOW TO HANDLE CRITICS

  1. Ignore them.
  2. If comments are made in public, counter any false or misleading statements with calm and professionalism.
  3. Take any useful feedback under consideration, but don’t give them the power and energy to dim your light.
  4. Outshine them!

 

In the case of “Waves of the Sea“, the critique was mild and relatively harmless, but it still met my criteria for a response because the person hijacked a public thread with misleading comments about my work. So, I explained that the painting is a metaphor and that I often paint in a way that might look odd or unrealistic in order to illustrate a point (the waves were meant to be exaggerated and otherworldly). The conversation was brief. The critic was polite, but the thread that had- until then- been warm and welcoming to others was now cold and dead. The record had screeched to a halt.

Because my intention in sharing my paintings is communication and connection, I’m not much interested in unsolicited critique. I don’t put much stock into with what others think I should do. I have lived too many years of my life under the expectations of others, and that life was not fruitful. Their ideas were not better than my own. But, the problem at this point was not what was said, but that this person disrespected the conversation that this painting was having with those who needed it.

The earlier in life that you reach spiritual confidence, the sooner you are free to live the purpose you are destined for.

I learned that it is not always best to ignore critics. Sometimes we must fight. Why? Because the petty vindictive monster that drives people to jump in, tone deaf and arrogant, will destroy what we build up. We must fight for the good that we are destined to do for others. When I fight back, I protect my lines of communication to those who need me. I protect my purpose, my vocation. I protect all that I work so hard for.

 

I have discovered that it is not virtuous to be passive. It is irresponsible. I am trusted with talent and relatively good health. I must use it, to honor those who have gone before me and cannot serve. I can’t let those who destroy what others create simply run right over me. More is asked of me than this, whether I like this role or not.

 

It is not virtuous to be passive. It is irresponsible.

 

I don’t work for critics. The purpose of my art is language. I am not motivated by “experts”, judges, the art world, or the system. I am not persuaded by the latest groupthink or trend. I don’t care if “intellectuals” think my work is insipid (well of course it stings a little bit, but not enough to change my ways). I work for those who feel something from my art. Ultimately I work for God: I follow where I believe I’m lead. I chase what I feel is my purpose, not what others tell me to be.

Know who you work for,

and why.

Never take orders

from a boss

you’ve not permitted

to be your authority.

Always keep it professional, calm, and truthful of course. Out class them at every turn, but don’t let them walk all over you and your life, work, etc. Never let them win.

Unsolicited advice is mostly harmless (but not entirely, I’ll address that later). Only take the advice that you agree with, even if they are “right” and you are “wrong”. Otherwise, your creative vision is hijacked. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t learn techniques for how to improve your craft, or accept life coaching to improve your relationships, work, etc., but that you should keep the final say- the “veto power”.

 

While most critics aren’t dangerous, always be alert. I’ve been “cancelled”. I’ve had death threats against me. I was told, “Good thing your dad didn’t live to see you grow up”. Mobs gave 1 star ratings to my public selling areas to ruin my career (and succeeded, I never sold again on those sites that they brought down to 1 star averages). I’ve been hacked, my work deleted, and a devil posted in its place. I’ve been censored, blacklisted, and slandered. I’ve been put on a public list for others to destroy. I’ve been hated and despised for no reason. I’m not thin skinned. I can take it. They can’t break me.

Truth be told, I don’t respect the opinions of people who are driven by hate and malice, who would seek to hurt and punish people they don’t even know. Had they even looked into who I am, and what motivates me? No. They don’t bother to research those they seek to tear down. It’s usually nothing personal. If you are being attacked, please know this. It’s seldom about you… do they even know you?

We feed our critics when we validate their attacks

by accepting them as truth,

by becoming emotionally defensive,

or by passively leaving in defeat.

Critics may hide behind socially acceptable excuses such as:

  • “I’m only trying to help”
  • “It’s just advice, take it or leave it”
  • “Just my opinion”


Or, they may flip the bully>victim dynamic to paint their victim as the bully:

  • “You don’t have to get bent out of shape!”
  • “Don’t attack the messenger”
  • “If you can’t handle criticism, you shouldn’t be (putting your work out there, saying something controversial, etc.)” In other words, blaming you.


Don’t fall for these shaming tactics. Ask yourself:

  1. What do I owe this person? (probably nothing!)
  2. What do they owe me? (politeness? What standards of social interaction do I have for myself, and do they meet those standards?)
  3. Does this exchange feel like “help” or harassment?
  4. What motive does this person have for approaching me? 
  5. Is this person dangerous?


Ultimately, we all deserve the right to surround ourselves with pleasant people whose advice we welcome, and limit our interactions with people whose “help” or feedback is meant to disrupt, hurt, or even endanger us.

Now, when it comes to mild criticism, like the kind I received about “Waves of the Sea“, it looks harmless on the face of it. It’s just advice, right? No. It broke the conversation that was meant to be healing and helpful to others. I work hard to serve humanity in this one small way, and someone was tone deaf and arrogant enough to ruin it in one tweet. How do the negative nellies have so much power? We can’t just roll over and let this pattern go unchecked, because trust me, it will only escalate.

It must be a spiritual phenomena because people will come out of the woodwork when I’m low and beaten. If I let the negative voices overwhelm me, it invites more in. When I imagine myself as strong, invincible and unsinkable, with a light that covers and protects my energy, and most of all I consciously work to maintain an honest motive to connect with others in a healing and positive way, the critics seem to wither away. When I am weak, they are strong. When I am strong, they are weak. 

Thoughtless people prey upon those they think will not defend themselves. They are spiritual and intellectual cowards. I wish I could teach you how powerful you are, but you may have to learn it through experience, if you haven’t already. Life is the best teacher, but it’s so painful and slow… if only the wisdom of the elders could be inherited by the young! Well, many have tried to tell us. I’m hoping that my children can learn these truths faster than I did. I would have been free so much earlier if only I’d known that I was more powerful than I realized.

But, if being raw and honest… I was set free when my mom passed away. She was my biggest and most hurtful critic. She often said she was angry to have been pregnant with me, but never once- not even when I took care of her every need when she was ill- never once did she add, “but I’m happy I decided to have you.” That one phrase would have been so healing. I never heard it. I made the choice to let go, forgive, and accept that I will never have closure unless I create closure for myself.

As the years passed, I learned that I didn’t need to hear it. My family is happy I was born. And *I* am happy I was born. I need neither the approval or permission of anyone to be joyful. I don’t need to be loved by anyone to be given worth, but I’m grateful to those who do love me. When we finally understand that we do not live under the authority of anyone but ourselves (for even God has granted us free will to choose who to serve), we stop letting critics disrupt our life’s purpose.

Stand your ground. Protect all the good things you are meant to do and share. Invest in yourself, your energy, and your inner light. These are treasures that do not belong to you, but are meant to bless the world. It is our responsibility to defend the treasure we are entrusted with.

If each of us holds steady, we’re like a lighthouse in a storm. We can shine a safe way back to others who are lost at sea. No matter how hard the waves rage and crash, may we persevere, and hold our light steady.

"Waves of the Sea" oil painting by artist Natalie Buske Thomas
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Light House

First, the oil painting, then the story behind it… make sure you don’t miss my philosophical questions for you.

Watch me paint this lighthouse in a minute (time lapse)

“My dad’s one and only painting in his life was of a lighthouse. Decades later, I was inspired to paint one, after seeing this lighthouse both from the road on the way to Tybee Island, and then later from the sea while on a dolphin boat tour. This lighthouse is located two miles west of the tourist attraction, Tybee Island Lighthouse, and is actually on Cockspur Island. The first Cockspur Lighthouse was built in 1849 to mark the entrance to the south channel of the Savannah River. Because it wasn’t working adequately, it was later rebuilt in 1857. To preserve this historical marker, the lighthouse isn’t open to visitors. What do you feel when you look at this painting? Hope, above a sea of unknown depth & profound sadness? Do we focus on what lies beneath, or look to the Light? Art says something different to me, depending on the moment, even if the painting is my own work. So, my answer to how this lighthouse makes me feel will be different depending at where I am in life’s journey, or what my mood is at that time.”

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

Update to the above story…

 

It never occurred to me that Dad’s lighthouse painting was probably inspired by a real lighthouse that he’d seen. His painting was almost sketch like, not detailed. But when I was researching for an upcoming project, I stumbled upon images from where Dad grew up. I was surprised to see that there was a lighthouse in that area of upstate New York. Why did I never know this? Or maybe someone mentioned it and I didn’t remember? Why hadn’t he ever taken us there, or did he? Could we have driven past it when he was showing us his childhood places?

 

If so, why didn’t I remember? Was it because the tour through Dad’s places was during his last visit home, when he knew he was terminal? He was told he had only two months left to live and some of that time had already gone. I had a hard time listening to what he was saying as he gestured out the car window. I couldn’t even tell what he was pointing at sometimes, and I didn’t know some of the people he talked about. I also couldn’t see much from the backseat and I was likely nauseous, as I hate traveling in the back of a small car.

 

For all of those reasons, and possibly others, I may not remember having seen Dad’s lighthouse. But it’s also possible that he never showed me. A third possibility is that I’m wrong about the inspiration for his painting, but on this third point I feel the most confident about. I do believe the lighthouse near where he lived is likely his painting inspiration. The rest, I don’t know.

 

My philosophical question to you is this: does the truth matter? I can’t prove one way or another if Dad ever told me about that lighthouse. It’s been too many years, and most of the people who may have known are also dead. Is the truth dead also? When does reality no longer matter? Does it have an expiration date?

 

What if the truth was never known in the first place? Maybe Dad never mentioned the lighthouse inspiration to anyone. If truth is never known, does it matter?

 

What if I’m wrong, and there was no particular inspiration for Dad’s lighthouse? Maybe he painted it on a whim from his imagination, which is what I’d always assumed. If something never happened in the first place, yet people believe it does, does truth matter?

 

What creates reality, our perception of truth, or the actual truth? Dad didn’t know what I thought about his painting, or that I’d one day paint a lighthouse of my own. I don’t know what inspired his painting, or if it had personal meaning to him. I do know that he felt a deep connection to lighthouses spiritually, as a symbol of his Christian faith. I am remembering that as I write this.

 

So, as I’ve now finished the last sip of my coffee and I’ve been taken off guard by that memory of Dad’s faith connection to lighthouses, I’ll end with these thoughts… I’m calling this blog post “Light House” instead of Lighthouse. Are we seekers of a light house, or do we house light? Do we seek a house of light in the darkness, in a storm, and when we need to find our way back home? Or do we cast the light that others seek when they are lost?

 

Light house, or house light? Whether we are lost and seeking our way, or housing light to show the way to others, fate is only one factor. Much of what we do is manifested by our thoughts and desires. Even when we are in the darkest storm, destiny may prove us as both the traveler and the lighthouse keeper simultaneously.

See previous blog post that mentions this lighthouse painting: Painting Seascapes

I hope you’re enjoying my blog series, “Stories that Inspire my Art”. If you prefer not to check back to see if there’s something new, please subscribe to my blog to be notified when there’s a new blog post ready.

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Painting Seascapes

Seascapes are all about light and dark. Shadows, highlights, reflections, and gradients of color are what brings salt air to our faces. In “Lighthouse near Tybee Island“, the mood is set by the melancholic colors of the sea and sky. While overcast and gloomy, nightfall has not fallen, nor have storms blackened the sky. The lighthouse’s light is not on. The reflection of light in the water is representational, much like a lighthouse is a symbol of hope.

Short, choppy lines create a more realistic effect for both the waves of the sea and for the weathered look of structures, such as in “Lighthouse near Tybee Island” above. Changing the mood from wistful melancholy to bright optimism can be done through a change of color scheme and style. In “Steamship Savannah“, the looping continuous lines of the waves are more representational than authentic, and the tones are bright- as if lit by full sunlight on a glorious day. What a difference these changes can make! In the first painting, we feel the life of the sea hardy and the lost. In the steamship painting, we feel the excitement of discovery and pioneering adventure.

In this last example, we turn our attention to the coastline and happy sunny days at the beach. The tones here aren’t stark and vivid like the steamship painting, or murky and gloomy like the lighthouse painting. The mood is set through a soft gradient of pleasant neutrals contrasted by a bright red swimsuit that is repeated in the reflection on the sand. The result is a peaceful, joyful seascape. “My Kids at the Beach” is an oil painting that people tell me makes them want to go to the beach. A change in brush style from choppy or loopy to smooth and shapely, and a change in color scheme can dramatically and radically alter the mood of a seascape.

You can probably see the hopefulness, adventure, peace, and joy leaping off the canvas when I paint a seascape. Some art projects flow easier than others. When we paint what we love, it naturally shines through.

“Waves of the Sea”

“50 Oil Paintings Inspired by my Christian Faith”

Collection of 50 works of art: a coffee table book, fashion, prints, and videos

From Natalie: “‘Waves of the Sea’ is inspired by Scripture about trials and perseverance. James 1:2-6 ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.’ Through it all, never give up. When the seas are rough, during a storm, and whenever troubled times come, a lighthouse guides us home. Faith over fear, perseverence through trials.”

Watch Natalie paint this art (scroll down this page). Order gallery quality prints, here:

Small Print “Waves of the Sea”

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

$33.50

Medium Print “Waves of the Sea”

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

$65.50

Large Print “Waves of the Sea”

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

$98.50

Watch Natalie paint “Waves of the Sea”

“Lighthouse near Tybee Island”

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

“My dad’s one and only painting in his life was of a lighthouse. Decades later, I was inspired to paint one, after seeing this lighthouse both from the road on the way to Tybee Island, and then later from the sea while on a dolphin boat tour.

This lighthouse is located two miles west of the tourist attraction, Tybee Island Lighthouse, and is actually on Cockspur Island. The first Cockspur Lighthouse was built in 1849 to mark the entrance to the south channel of the Savannah River. Because it wasn’t working adequately, it was later rebuilt in 1857. To preserve this historical marker, the lighthouse isn’t open to visitors.

What do you feel when you look at this painting? Hope, above a sea of unknown depth & profound sadness? Do we focus on what lies beneath, or look to the Light? Art says something different to me, depending on the moment, even if the painting is my own work. So, my answer to how this lighthouse makes me feel will be different depending at where I am in life’s journey, or what my mood is at that time.”

Lighthouse near Tybee Island 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