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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What is fun?

Watch this oil painting of my son jumping in leaves come to life in 48 seconds (time lapse) You might remember when I shared this

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Are you Safe?

See oil painting “Guardian Angel” come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse) I last shared this painting here with you in August, in a

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New Painting

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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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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.

Painting Illusions

Artists create illusions. When painting in perspective, some objects appear nearer to the viewer while others recede into the background. In reality, the paint is on an even plane, a flat canvas. Shapes are stretched and skewed, which makes parts of the picture look to be in the distance, while really sharing the same space. In “Wings of Heaven“, the illusion of different layers and depths in the clouds is achieved through perspective.

In “The Moon and the Stars“, the illusion of luminosity, radiating light, is created through stark color contrast. White on deep purple looks like it’s glowing. The reality is that these hues come from ordinary tubes of oil paint, but when positioned next to each other the purple gives the illusion that the white paint “glows”.

In this final example, an illusion of reflection is created by distorted lines and patterns. “Blue Heron” was unintentionally muted and watercolor-like. It was the result of trying cheap budget oil paint. This was a happy accident though, because the watery brush strokes had a good effect on that project, in which the entire upper 2/3 of the composition is comprised of reflections of the wooded area across from the lagoon.

Here are two more examples for creating the illusion of reflection:

  1. Reflection is conveyed through light and shadow in this lighthouse painting.
  2. The reflection in “My Kids at the Beach” is created through colorful hues, distortion and a mirror-like plane. The mirror style is often the most realistic illusion method for reflection. I was pleased with how my kids’ reflections on the wet sand turned out.

Painting Perspective

Painting perspective involves the placement and shape of objects; objects can be stacked or skewed to give the illusion of space and dimension. Often a combination of those techniques works well. In this first example, “City of Savannah” the illusion of perspective is shown mostly through the stacking of objects, to give the appearance that some things are closer to the viewer than others.

The stacked items in the foreground are textured more heavily than those in the background. Heavier weight and greater detail gives the illusion that the viewer can see these foreground objects better because they are “closer” than the objects in the background, when of course the canvas is flat and all objects are the same relative distance from the viewer. In this way, artists are illusionists.

Oil Painting "City of Savannah" by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

In this next example, “Boiled Peanuts for Sale” uses skewed perspective to give the illusion that the body of the old truck is receding into the landscape. Skewed objects not only give paintings perspective, but also personality and character.

In this last example, “House in Savannah“, we see a combination of stacked and skewed perspective. Layering objects to give the illusion of receding back, combined with skewed perspective, gives character to the piece. Skewed perspective may cast strong feelings of nostalgia, such as in “Boiled Peanuts”. While used in a more subtle way in “House in Savannah”, skewing objects (slanting, twisting, and warping slightly) creates a vintage feeling to this art.