Art Imitates Art

Watch this oil painting of a little girl in a tree come to life

in under 2 minutes (time lapse)

When my dad was stationed at an Air Force base in Indiana, he took some college courses toward a degree. One of his electives was a photography class. I was about four years old then, and he used me as his subject for a couple of his assignments. His artistic eye was interesting and those two photos became the best childhood pictures available of me.

Art imitates art, as I needed some references for a children’s book I was writing about my childhood. I “aged” my child self from Dad’s art projects. In his photos I was younger than the age I was in the stories for the book. Fortunately, I didn’t need to get very detailed in likeness, as the paintings were meant to be simple illustrations with bold lines and bright colors. It didn’t matter that Dad’s photos were black and white pictures, or that I needed to make some changes.

This is a case of “Art Imitates Art”, because I was imitating Dad’s unique perspective of a ground level viewpoint of a child sitting in a tree, rather than painting from my own memory of climbing trees and sitting on the branches. The reality is that I was likely only in that tree to stage the photo for Dad. When I climbed trees at the age I was in the story (about me pretending to be a spy by hiding in trees) in the book “Fred”, I climbed scraggly, spindly, tall pine trees from the neglected Christmas tree farm that was behind our house. I’m lucky I never had a serious fall, as those trees were weak and I’d climb them to the top, where the branches would bend and sway precariously under my weight.

A sparse and unhealthy pine tree wouldn’t have made a good oil painting for my story, and surely an adult reading my book aloud to a child would have been thinking, “This tree doesn’t look sturdy enough to hold this child”. Indeed, it probably wasn’t. I gave my guardian angels heavy work throughout my life. I remember my grandma used to complain to my mom, “I don’t know why you let her climb trees. I can’t watch!” Since I was often unsupervised, no one watched as I climbed trees, and I went far enough back into the neglected Christmas tree “forest” (trees planted evenly apart, but overgrown with weeds, brambles, pine needles, and fallen branches) so that I couldn’t be seen by anyone.

Now, that’s a completely different type of story from the one I was telling in the book. So, if art imitated my actual life, the illustration would have come off as slightly dysfunctional, instead of the cheery, fun “little girl in tree” painting that appears in the book. The story is about the creativity of children, and how their natural imagination and playfulness should be respected by teachers, rather than reigned in, controlled, shamed, and snuffed out. It is a story of resilience, of children whose light doesn’t dim, whose creativity outshines the control of others.

Dad’s artistic perspective was a much better representation for the “spy” scene than my own life memory of it. Art Imitates Art. The spy scene was meant to show the imagination of a child, and how adventurous children can be when inspired by their own creative ways to play. My story would have had the opposite effect if I had painted the obvious safety and supervision issues involved in actually allowing a young child to wander alone in an unkempt wooded area full of hazards, to climb trees that looked suspect for bearing the weight of a small animal, let alone a child. Many of the branches were dry, brittle, dead, and close to snapping off. I learned how to find the flexible live branches, although I’d end up covered in pine sap. But anyway, the reader might have been distracted and their adult minds would, and rightfully so, end up on the very path that I was trying to push them out of: reigning in the imagination and creativity of children.

Because, of course I didn’t let my own children wander off unsupervised in unsafe areas to climb weak trees, and I wouldn’t recommend it for any parent to do. So, a bit of embellishment was needed. Instead of an awkward, yet accurate, painting of me in short pants and possibly no shoes on my feet, in a brittle wispy pine tree, with many brown needles and droopy branches, looking like an urchin, I used the idealized version from Dad’s perspective: a healthy tree bursting with autumn color (imagined, as his photo was black and white), a healthy well-dressed girl, supervised, loved, and free to be naturally playful. Art imitates art, and art imitates life… but sometimes life is bettered in the telling through art.

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See What Happened Today!!!

I shared my sunflower oil painting with you before (2 minute time-lapse video above to watch me paint this). Well, now I have my own sunflowers growing on the patio. I planted them from seed and they are now in bloom. See what happened today when I noticed a cardinal near my new sunflowers and I thought it would make a pretty picture. Have you ever seen a cardinal in a swing before?

You might remember that this swing was marketed for hummingbirds, and that’s why we bought it (I shared a hummingbird in swing video on a previous blog post). But the juvenile cardinals like it too! It’s so fun to watch them play and swing, and this time I finally was quick enough to capture it with both still photography (the first part of the video), and then I switched over to video mode, but he was nearly done by then. I was amazed at how long he was swinging. He seems to like the attention and looks for me! 

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New Painting – “Americana”

Watch me paint “Americana” in 2 minutes (time lapse)

This is the painting featured in my 4th of July show. If you haven’t already seen my variety show with family members as guest stars (dancing, singing, and included in the photography slideshow in the first half), here it is: 

I hope that you enjoyed my holiday variety painting show. The next show will be in November. I’m already preparing for it and have ordered my next dress!

Now that the July show is over, I’ll be back to my regular schedule of painting. There are 6 paintings left for the “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Nature” collection. Thank you to all who are sharing this journey with me, toward my lifetime goal of one THOUSAND finished oil paintings!

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HAPPY 4th of JULY!

If you missed my new painting show announcement, here it is! Have a happy Independence Day, no matter where you live. Freedom is for all persons, and is a right of humanity. Be brave, be strong, be FREE!

All photos in the slideshows are of my own family and places I’ve been. Most of the pictures are my own photography (except for the ones that I’m in, and the photos from Germany and Iraq taken by my husband or his fellow soldiers). This is my American story. I hope that you can see how much I love America, and why.

Wherever life finds you, find a way to love your home. The ground beneath your feet must never be condemned, lest you condemn yourself and your neighbors. The blessing to be alive for another new day is a privilege awarded to all who live and breathe.

My new painting featured in the 4th of July show is called “Americana“. See the art page for a 2 minute time lapse version to watch me paint it, and/or options to purchase prints.

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New Painting Show is LIVE!

Hear my American story, photography slide show, live oil painting of new art “Americana”, and surprise variety show acts! Watch until the ending – there’s a big finish! Please share my special show with your family and friends.

Subscribe to be the first to hear of new paintings and upcoming shows!

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