New Cardinal Friends

See this oil painting of a cardinal come to life in about 2 minutes (time lapse video)

New birds have already found us at our new home. These cardinals are different, as I knew they’d be. When I was sad about leaving our “old” cardinal friends, my family was amused because they thought that any cardinal is the same as another, and surely there will be other cardinals. But I was right, these birds are different.

Our old friends were kind of chubby, which may have been our fault by overfeeding them. They were also quirky and would look into the patio doors, interacting with me. The new cardinals are much smaller, leaner, and athletic. They soar straight up like a rocket when they are done at the feeder. They are curious about me, but skittish. It will take a while to win them over.

I take this as a metaphor for any life changes we go through. It’s the “same but different”. New adventures (especially the kind that are forced on us unexpectedly) are a chance for re-inventing ourselves, expanding who we are, and making new choices. It’s also an opportunity to appreciate the things that make us who we are- the things we don’t want to change, but are open to doing better.

A fresh perspective can elevate us to better people if we accept this challenge. Yet, we are the same as when we were born. We don’t “lose” ourselves. We simply fly a little differently, perhaps higher and better.


Easy Going

See oil painting “Bird in a Forest” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse video)

This painting was a “free paint” project, in which there is no reference, plan, or agenda other than to let the paints flow. I start with a general idea- such as a bird in a forest- and let the art develop as I listen to music and relax. This type of exercise can help artists break free from being over structured, tightly wound and too focused on the project goals, details, technique, etc., instead of letting creativity happen. Then, when going back to the regular painting schedule, the projects should feel easier. It’s a bit like pushing a cart with a locked wheel and realizing it’s not moving freely, then releasing the wheel and immediately feeling the difference in how easy it rolls.

We can experience this spiritually as well. It happens when we take a vacation from work, whether a pleasure break such as for a holiday, happy occasion, and travel, or a forced one due to unemployment, illness, or other circumstances. Being free from our regular routine forces our brains to think differently. When we get settled back into regular life we may wonder why we procrastinated doing things that are really no big deal. Why did we have no energy? Why did we waste so much time? Everything feels easier after some time away.

I’m missing my routine. My paints have been packed up for a few weeks now. I can’t even say how long it’s been because I don’t remember. It’s all been a blur ever since we found out we’d have to move- and quickly! But the whirlwind journey is almost over. May 4 is the day we close on the house. Life is changing!

Happy Friday, everyone. Whatever you’re going through, may you take time away to gain a new perspective. When you resume your regular schedule, I hope you find it easy going, like a bird in a forest.


The Unexpected

See oil painting “Porch Flowers” come to life in about 30 seconds (time lapse)

Here’s what I originally wrote about this art:

“When we moved here, I didn’t know that the shrubs near the front porch were the flowering kind, until one day they burst out in beautiful pink and white blossoms. The flowers graced the ground when they fell, leaving a carpet of petals. The floral shower right outside our door was such a nice surprise!

Sometimes in life we fear the unexpected- the call we don’t ever want to receive, the news we can’t bear- but there are times when the unexpected is a blessing. From the big surprises we didn’t see coming, to the small ones, an ordinary day can change in an instant over a cascade of flowers.”

So, here we are several years later, and these flowers are in bloom again. If you’ve read my recent blog posts, you might recall that there have been some unexpected developments- shocking sudden deaths- four of them within a few months of each other. I thought there were five, but my mind seems to have inflated that count. Now I’m worried that there IS a fifth one that I’ll learn about soon.

That’s a lot of “unexpected”- and not the good kind. Yes, an ordinary day can change in an instant. This time around, I feel sad when I see these flowers. They seem to be funeral flowers at the moment.

This is how life is, beauty is in the perspective. We can see something beautiful and feel joy, or feel sadness, or something else entirely. Here’s hoping that the next unexpected thing that comes our way is a blessing.

Peace be with you and your family.


Saving for Good

See oil painting “My Son Praying” come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse)

Here’s the painting video I uploaded to YouTube today, as part of my ongoing project to upload my art to that platform. This time, the music didn’t trigger a copyright claim, so I didn’t need to make any changes to the video. The only additions are the subscribe and playlist icons at the end. Other than that, this is the same video I’ve shared with you before. But, like I’ve said many times, art changes depending on how we feel when we view it, what’s going on with our lives and in the world, and the perspective we have at that moment. Does this video feel different to you (if you’ve seen it before)? It does to me.

First of all, I have a different perspective from you because this is my son and he has grown and changed so much from the age he was in this painting. I also know that those candlesticks were my parents’, and my feelings about those have gone through several changes over the years. At the time of this painting I was in a phase in which I wanted those in regular use. It was part of my grieving process. Mom used to save the things she thought were valuable. “Save those for good” was the idea, which meant that I don’t recall her ever actually using those candlesticks that Dad had brought home from the Vietnam War. They were just perpetually “saved for good” until she died.

When I was cleaning out her room, I also found the socks I’d given her for Christmas in her drawer- brand new, never worn. I did not buy those for her to save “for good” (never!). I wanted her to enjoy the fuzzy simple luxury of warm comfortable feet. But she put the socks in a drawer. So, I thought of those socks, and the candlesticks became a symbol of never saving good things until it’s too late.

I see my face in the opening clip of this video (at the top of this blog post), and besides realizing I look much younger there (which means my face looks older), I see that my eyes are sad. I have come a long way and after a couple years of regular use, those candlesticks have only been out a few times since then. You can see one of the candlesticks in this video from my Christmas 2020 show. I think that was the last time the candlesticks were in use.

Watch oil painting “Christmas Star” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

The candlesticks are now tucked away in Mom’s hutch- furniture that has glass doors for displaying dinner plates or special things. I don’t need to use them. They are a bit too fancy for our current living situation and end up in the way in our tight space. I have nothing to prove to myself or to anyone. I was fixated on certain things during the grieving process but life has a way of moving on and drawing us in. I’ve let go. It’s now fine to put the candlesticks away, but where I can still see them and use them whenever I want to, but don’t feel the need to put them in the center of our world.

I still don’t save anything “for good”. I have special things that belong to me and I don’t stash them in a drawer for someone to find when I’m gone. But there’s a balance. When I try too hard to respect the meaning in every second, I exhaust myself. It’s like whispering in a tunnel, expecting the echo of a whisper to be heard. Even if I were to yell in the tunnel, if no one is listening, my voice will still end up bouncing around and going nowhere. Sometimes I try too hard. It’s OK to care a little less, while living a little more. It is good to just “be”.


When Lions Fly

Watch oil painting “Guardian Lion” come alive in under 2 minutes (time lapse)

I last shared this art in a blog post called “Guardians“, which was about protectors and believing in spiritual protection. That’s a big idea sort of post. Today was much more down to earth. I was trying to accomplish a lot of things in a short space of time. I was more like a caged zoo lion than this winged one. I felt like I couldn’t get off the ground.

But when lions fly, nothing is impossible! I managed to finish my new painting and I’ll post it tomorrow. I also got about half the things on my list done. The problem is that I kept looking at the the things I haven’t done instead of the things I did. So much of our prosperity and happiness depends on perspective. When we think we accomplish little, little is the result. When we think we can fly, we do!


A Gift for You!

First, do you remember this one? Watch my oil painting of geese come to life in just over 1 minute (time lapse).

And now, I’ll explain the gift that came to me this afternoon (relating to geese!), and I’ll share my gift with YOU. Yesterday I talked about how I needed to do strenuous landscaping in a hurry so that we don’t get fined for not having the property edged, trimmed, etc. It was a heavy job because we have had alternating extreme heat and tropical rains, a combination that makes it difficult to keep up with the lawn care while at the same time making invasive plants grow like crazy, very quickly.

My husband is scheduled to work long hours, so it was up to me to get it all done. My oldest daughter was available to help and the two of us did a mammoth job. I was a bit sulky and resentful because I didn’t think the tone in the email from the property manager was called for, nor was the threat of a fine upon very first notice of this necessary. We have never had any violations before, always pay our bills on time, and are never a problem for anyone. I think the courtesy of a notice that simply asks us to do it would have been sufficient instead of going straight to “you have a violation” and if we don’t fix it before the deadline we will have further violations and fines. Good grief, it’s just a yard! Stuff grows, then you cut it. We caused no property damage, and this urgency is ridiculous.

So the past two days my daughter and I have worked together to cut and remove branches, trim hedges, clear weeds, and edge the sidewalks. We probably overreacted and did more than what was expected, but I didn’t want any more problems. I try to do MORE than expected in everything I do. We cleared all of our things off from the cement surfaces and swept everything. We bagged up the debris. All of this, and my daughter never complained. Instead she said, “I really enjoyed working with you.” And I realized, I really enjoyed working with her too.

 

Now, for the thing that made the experience surreal and magical:

The entire time we were working today, under gorgeous sunny skies, there was a flock of geese enjoying an afternoon with us! The serenity energy of these large beautiful birds created peace, and reversed the feeling of being judged, punished and treated unfairly, (as a pattern in life, not just this specific landscaping situation); unmerciful when I commit the smallest offense, when I’m already trying as hard as I can to balance all the challenges that come my way… No. Even when people don’t extend grace to us, God always does. I had a rare cool morning to do the heaviest labor, and a warm pretty day for the lighter load. And that’s when the geese shared the afternoon with us. These are wonderful things!

Before I show you your gift, I want to talk about perspective. There was a woman who showed up, a frequent trespasser whose family treats the property behind our row of houses (the area by the lagoon, which none of us own, and is restricted) as her personal park, even though there are “no trespassing” signs and she doesn’t live in one of the houses on our row. She’s an annoying rude person who is obnoxious, yells and then ignores her child, drives off-road vehicles through the property, brazenly fishes with her family even though that is not allowed, and so on, sometimes for hours, late at night, and even on holidays like Christmas and Easter. So all of us who live on this row are forced to see her and her rude family spread out doing whatever they like, as the sole view from our back patio windows, the only windows we have on that side of the house. In other words, there is no escaping seeing this awful group (sometimes they bring friends as well!) spread out having their own loud gathering. I’d report her if it felt like the the thing to do, but it doesn’t. It feels like I should simply close the curtains and ignore what they do. So, that’s what I do.

Well, she was sitting there on the bank near the geese for part of the time we were working outside. She was looking at and then yakking on her phone the entire time. Why bother going to a scenic place if you’re just going to look down at your phone? Did she even see the geese? She eventually left, with the phone still on her ear. 

Another woman was outside, a neighbor. She was apparently alarmed by the large flock of geese getting too close to her yard. She sprayed them with a hose and yelled at them. Then she went inside. So, I guess she didn’t see what I saw. The thing is, these are migratory geese. They won’t stay long. We can choose to appreciate their beauty or not.

There are many bad things happening in the world today. And on a personal level, we all have challenges that are large, and small ones like my manic race to get the landscaping work caught up. So when we see something beautiful, that literally lands in front of us, it is a gift. It was a gift for me, and now a gift for you. I video taped what I saw and dropped music in. And now it’s like you were with me, seeing this too. Enjoy, and God bless you.

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New Show!

Last year’s Christmas show feels long ago and far away, at least for me it does. So much has changed, so much has happened, and

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New Painting Finished!

If you’ve been following the progress of my new oil painting “Walking in Rain Puddle”, you’ll be happy to know that it is now finished

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Back to Work! Session 3

Well, it’s time to get back to work on the new painting in progress. Normally I wait until the painting is finished before sharing, but

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Not Much to Say

This oil painting is called “Silenced”. I originally painted it to express what it feels like to be censored, blacklisted, etc., but as it often goes with art, the meaning of a painting can change over time. The perspective of the viewer on that particular day and the circumstances surrounding that day can influence how we perceive art. I had a bad day today that I can’t put into words and this painting expresses how I feel.

Firstly, because it isn’t the sort of thing I want to post in a public forum. Secondly, I wouldn’t really know where to begin. To understand the depth of how horrible the day was you’d need a lot of background. Perhaps I’ll write a book and this day will be in it. That’s how many words it would take. Third, I need more time to process my feelings.

But, the events of today are over. Tomorrow will feel leaps and bounds better. Bad days give us a profound gratitude of the regular, ordinary days in which life feels normal. I will have a day like that tomorrow and it won’t feel ordinary. It will feel extraordinary! For the next few days I will float on the appreciation of the end of a bad episode- and happiness that my life is back! 

I have a new painting to share, but I couldn’t get the video finished today. It will keep until tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a good day; a regular, average, extraordinary day.

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What do you see?

I only meant to paint a faint outline of the fish skeleton, but my daughter looked at the canvas and said, “oh, nice addition to paint the cross in there”. Wow, I didn’t even see that. So then I asked my other daughter what she saw. Expected to hear fish bones or cross. She said, “Heartbeat” (monitor).

What do you see?

So much of what we see is about perspective. I only saw what was in front of my face. I didn’t see the cross shape until I stood back and saw it through my daughter’s point of view. I still can’t really imagine the heartbeat monitor very well- I have to work hard to see what my youngest daughter saw. Sometimes even when we are shown what someone else sees, we just can’t see it like they can.

This is how life is. We may not always see things the same way, but hopefully we can agree on the goodness at the heart of everything we do. God bless you and your families this day and always.

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New Painting! Plein Air

NEW Painting!

Adventures make us feel alive, as we’re pushed out of our comfort zone and forced to approach things differently. Painting outside (known as “plein air”, a French term pronounced a couple of different ways, and also butchered by Americans like me), gives an artist fresh perspective. A good field easel is well worth the cost.

 

Next time, I’ll remember to wear bug spray and sunscreen… But what’s life without risk? Except for scraping a bug off the canvas, my project was a success! I loved every minute of it, even when I knew I was being bitten by tiny flies known as “no-see-ums” or biting midges.

 

I will definitely do this again sometime!

Tomorrow we’ll resume the blog series “Stories that Inspire my Art“.

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New Show!

Last year’s Christmas show feels long ago and far away, at least for me it does. So much has

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Painting Surreal

Surrealism is an art style that combines unusual elements together to produce a dreamlike effect; merging reality with fantasy, simulating the subconscious mind. But sometimes paintings are just “a little bit” surreal. The unexpected, unreal, or dreamlike qualities may be so subtle that viewers of this style of art may not even be aware of it, and yet, they’ll probably sense that something is different that they can’t quite put their finger on.

 

In “Kitchen Devotions“, there are several elements in the composition that are unexpected. why are the flowers in a food bowl? Why is one side of the curtain moving slightly, even though the window is closed and the other side of the curtain is standing still? Why are the walls that odd color and pattern? Why does the mug look like it was made by a pottery student? Why is the bookmark floating rather than in perspective? Why does the book look “ghostly” and blank? Why are the flowers spaced evenly apart and straight?

Artists who paint “freestyle” (painting an idea rather than prioritizing a careful, realistic technique), may inadvertently paint in a slightly surreal style. “Kitchen Devotions” was a freestyle exercise to paint whatever came to mind, without looking at a reference or planning ahead. This type of exercise is beneficial for any skill level of artist and may even emerge to become a favorite work or a signature style.

 

Freestyle painting is a good option when an artist depicts a past event in which there are no photographs or existing places to re-visit for reference. When recalling the painful real life memory that “Darkened Woods” represents, it wasn’t my intention to paint an unreal, dreamlike scene. I imagined myself back in time, re-living those moments when I was running through the woods. The result is an aerial perspective that is unnaturally flat, like what one might recall seeing in a dream.

Even the video for “Darkened Woods” is a bit surreal, because the opening segment of my cheerful face is juxtaposed to the melancholy in the painting footage, placing unrelated and completely out of sync elements in one place. This was not intentional and it comes across as uncomfortably awkward. I’ve since thought I should edit the introduction out.

 

People usually see only my hands, so I was trying to put myself in front of the camera more often. This was an odd time to do it, but isn’t life like this? There’s never a good time for profound sadness, nor is there a bad time for a joyful spirit. The two often appear side-by-side. So, at least for now, the video stays as it is. Surreal presentations remind us that life isn’t tidy; it’s often a confusing ball of “good and bad” that defines the human experience.

Painting a dreamlike composition may happen naturally when an artist is daydreaming while painting. “Pumpkins and Mums” was a project assignment for a book, but there were no plans for this art beyond painting pumpkins and mums in a “pumpkin patch” sort of setting. So, I imagined a pleasant autumn scene that I’d personally enjoy.

 

The result was a painting that expanded to include more things I wanted. Why not add a couple of chairs and alfresco dining? Would I care for a cup of coffee or tea? Let’s add some food on the table for hospitality, as I’m welcoming you to join me. What’s behind us? We need a pretty autumn backdrop. As I painted my ideas, the art took on a dreamlike quality. It was a good dream, indeed, and it’s now a real place to visit. It became real when I shared it here with you.