Forced to Slow Down

Watch this oil painting illustration for children’s book “Grandpa Smiles” come alive in under 2 minutes (time lapse)

This part of the book was inspired by when my son was in the hospital for surgery and his recovery. It was hard seeing my normally happy and active child so weak, sad, and listless. He is a college student now, healthy and sturdy.

Active people hate to be forced to slow down. That’s my status for today. Saturday I was pulling weeds and spraying the concrete with strong jets of water from the hose. I sprayed an ant nest and the tiny furious insects immediately swarmed my feet. I was wearing sandals, so even though I sprayed my feet off as quickly as I could, they had already stung and bit my exposed skin many times.

Here it is, two days later, and the itching and swelling are still miserably intense. My foot swelled so much that it feels funky to walk on it. I didn’t sleep well last night because of the interminable itching, despite creams and medicine, which only took the edge off. So, I’ve been forced to slow down, to ice my foot and give my body time to heal from this irritating development.

I hope to bounce back quickly, but for now, it’s difficult to sit in one position for too long as my foot swells and itches like crazy. No painting until I kick these allergic reactions to the ant bites, or until I find a way to paint with my foot elevated (if this ordeal goes on too long and I lose patience with it). I have already found a way to do dishes by propping my foot up on the counter while I use the sink. Good thing I was a dancer in another life.

Using this incident as a spiritual metaphor, there are times in our lives when something happens that forces us to slow down. Our normal busy thought patterns are disrupted. Our usual daily thoughts are put on hold. During such times, we become philosophical and reflective. We wonder, if our regular life can be stopped suddenly without our consent or warning, perhaps the things we do aren’t as important as we thought? 

What do we miss doing when we are forced to slow down? What are we relieved to have an excuse not to do? How can we do more of the former and less of the latter? When we are forced to slow down, it’s an opportunity to re-evaluate how we live. 

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Embrace the Storm

Watch me paint “Eye of the Storm” in under 2 minutes

(time lapse)

This painting was inspired by live radar of Hurricane Irma. How fascinating to watch the storm as it moved over the ocean! Up North, I’d been through bitter life threatening cold of -25 actual temperature, not including wind chill, blizzards, tornadoes, and floods, but none of those were a shared experience world wide. When a hurricane comes, humanity watches in breathless anticipation, in awe of nature. It is a bonding experience, and seems everyone who’s been through a hurricane, even if only to evacuate from it, has their hurricane story that they love to tell. I was worried that hurricanes would be a deal breaker for me down South, but everywhere I’ve ever lived, there has always been some type of dangerous weather. In fact, there were more episodes of dangerous weather in other places I’ve lived. At least with a hurricane, there is plenty of advance notice (usually- sometimes the forecasts are wrong about exact landfall or which levies may breech, tornadoes that spawn, etc.). My point is, I no longer fear hurricanes. We can’t escape risks in life. I love living in coastal Georgia, and hurricanes are a risk I’m learning to live with. I’ve only evacuated from the threat of two of them, but each time, I felt a renewed gratitude for my community, my home, my family, and my God. Maybe that’s what storms are all about?”
- from the book "50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia" by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

“Brace for the storm!” is a fear based approach to life. “Embrace the Storm” is a mindset that takes us out of a powerless victim role. We can’t prevent or control all of the storms that come our way, but what we can do is see opportunities and make the most of every situation. A crisis is an opportunity to connect with other people through shared experiences and powerful emotions. A scary event can also heighten our spirituality and sharpen our senses. Suddenly what’s important to us seems clearer than it did when life was “safe”.

Life is never truly safe. We weren’t meant to be idle with too much time on our hands to fret. Some moments we forget to worry about the dangers of living because our minds are occupied.  When we push ourselves to be active and engaged in pursuits that we’re passionate about, we have little room left in our day for fear.

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Holiday Break

Our house is already changing from pumpkin spices to gingerbread. Today we decorated the Christmas tree and made cookies. Yesterday for Thanksgiving …

Happy Thanksgiving!

This has been a wonderful day. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. I’m sleepy and will soon go to bed. If …

Thanksgiving Eve

This painting is of a peach pie, but today my firstborn daughter baked a pumpkin pie for tomorrow. I baked ahead the …

Baby it’s Cold Outside

This painting was inspired by a rare snowfall in the Deep South (Savannah, Georgia), the first year we moved here. Of course …

Happy Anyway

I struggled to think of what to say for today’s blog post. World events paint a bleak, angry, and fearful picture. What …

Praying in a Dark World

Sometimes tragic events unfold and there’s nothing we can do but pray. Tonight something heartbreaking has happened in America involving a horrific …

New Painting – Campfire

Relax for a couple of minutes and sit by the fire. Don’t miss any new paintings or blog posts. Please subscribe if …

Time and Roses

I shared the story behind this painting in an April blog post called “Beauty of Time”. It was a long post and …

They’re Back

The geese came back! I thought they were done visiting us for the season, but I looked out and there they were, …

Are you limiting yourself?

I shared this painting in March in a blog post called “Power of Steam“. Today I’m reminded of this again, as I …

Free Online Art Classes

Watch the above video for a teaser about what my art course is like, and also a short inspirational speech to motivate you to pursue whatever your heart desires (not limited to painting or the arts, but life in general). If you’d like to take this course, you need to do nothing to sign up, all 12 classes are available 24/7 on this site, and you don’t need to even tell me you’re taking it if you prefer privacy. My art classes are completely free and available for all (tips welcome, but not required). I hope you take advantage of the opportunity, whether you are a beginner or a professional. 

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Painting Backgrounds

Painting the background of a composition may sometimes be an afterthought, but if so, that’s a missed opportunity. The background can be its own marvelous, separate painting; even painted in an entirely different style from the main composition. “Lily” has an impressionistic style background that was joyful and freeing to paint, while the foreground subject is heavily textured and detailed, and was a much more focused painting experience.

Because “Lily” is like two different paintings in one, I used the impressionistic background layer to extend the artwork, and completely cover a fashion art dress and matching sheer kimono. Seeing a background layer as not simply a composition task, but as a second painting opportunity, may lead to multiple project uses. Imagining art “repurposed” expands how we create and share art.

In this next example, “I Believe in Santa“, the background is connected to the foreground story. When the background and foreground work together, a more subtle separation between the two may be desired. A flowing story between foreground and background may be achieved by making the background layer seem to recede, while the foreground layer is bold.

Here, there are two receding layers. The snow, which was painted first, (see above video) and then the snow is further defined by the rooftop and a second receding layer- the houses and trees in the village neighborhood below. The effect looks a bit like the Santa/sleigh/reindeer subject is pasted onto the scene, much like the vintage Christmas card that this art was inspired by. When the background is part of the story, the painting process may involve multiple layers and more technique than one might expect in a background.

In the first example, “Lily“, the background and foreground share the same theme. The background is impressionistic in style, featuring closed lilies, while the subject is detailed and textured, featuring a lily in full bloom. In the second example, “I Believe in Santa“, the background is part of the story. In our final example, “Pink Flower“, the background stands alone as an entirely separate work.

Pink Flower” has three layers. The background layer is an abstract painting, and I wish I’d thought to take a photograph of it before I painted the second layer. The second layer is of leaves, and therefore coordinates with the main subject layer, the pink flower.

When the background is painted as its own layer, it can be a separate finished work from the main foreground layer of the composition. If taking a picture of this layer before the next layer is added, it may even serve as an additional painting print or project design. As a working artist and entrepreneur, I’m open to creative ways to expand not only how to make art, but how to share it. I regret not taking a picture of the abstract painting that was layer one of this piece, “Pink Flower“. It is a lost opportunity that I pledge not to lose in the future.

My life philosophy about regret: regret helps us reach a higher place. When we promise ourselves we’ll apply that lesson when the next opportunity arrives, we are better from it. And that’s why we can proudly say, “I regret nothing!” Regret is merely a temporary condition if we see it as an opportunity, a suggestion. File it away, then let go of it. Be happy, be free, be inspired to be more today than yesterday.