I painted this just over a month ago, you might remember when I shared it. It feels like much longer to me. Does it to you? I thought of this one to add to my spree of fall related paintings. Something about the sky feels moody and ready for autumn even though there are still flowers in bloom and green leaves on the tree.
In the video, do you notice how the oil paints look when they are wet and the light shines on them? The sky feels real when the light interacts with the paint as I add each layer, along with the choreography effect of time lapse footage synced with music. What I share is often more about the experience of painting than the painting itself.
Sharing my art through moving, fluid video (and live on stage) is what I want to contribute as an artist, and as a fellow human. It is my hope that I can touch lives through sharing this experience, and that people like you will feel a connection- and will make it your own experience. Your reaction is personal and unique to you, and may even be difficult to explain to others. It is my wish that you feel understood, even though I can’t possibly know your story or why you might feel something meaningful to your own life when you watch these oils flow into finished paintings.
Watch oil painting “Autumn Tree” come to life in under 2 minutes
This short project began with an abstract background. Next, while it was still wet, I added a tree design. The rather undefined or unfinished tree, then blurred, feels like 2021’s autumn doesn’t it? So many things aren’t in focus and the winds of change have nearly broken us, yet we stand our ground and we’re more resilient than we may have thought we were. We don’t have clear vision to know how this all turns out, but we can choose to have hope for the future.
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.
You might remember that I finished the 2021 collection “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Nature“? I said I’d reveal what the 2021 collection is at a later time, and that time is NOW. :::drum roll please:::
The 2021 collection is called “Seasons” (of Life and Nature). Paintings in this collection celebrate seasons of life (metaphorical, representational, or inspired-by-real-life scenes about milestones, rites of passage, and shared human experiences of love, aging, family, and beyond) as well as seasons of nature (literal scenes depicting autumn, summer, fall, and winter).
The first oil painting in the collection is “Generational Tree“, which is a good transition from the Nature collection to the Seasons one, since it is a piece that could have been in either. “Generational Tree” represents the passage of time; how the elders in a family reside at the top of a mature tree and are the branches which through the ages become fragile and one day fall away- yet the branches below are healthy and strong, tender new twigs will continue to grow, and the roots created long ago will give life to this family for many years to come.
I’m very excited about this new collection because I’m going to lay my heart out through my paintbrushes. I didn’t look at any reference, photo, prompt, or even out a window for “Generational Tree”. I listen to your comments, and something one of you said about free painting settled into my brain and encouraged my soul to do more of this style of painting, in which I don’t restrain and constrain my art. I’m not saying I’ll never look at a reference for guidelines on proportions, perspective, or details (especially if wanting to get markings and anatomy correct when painting animals, people, and other identifying subjects), but my previous collections were probably 70% or higher art that was planned, used a reference, and was held to the boundaries of the project goals. I’d like to decrease that to 50-60%.
“Generational Tree” was of course a safe project for free painting because it’s simply a tree and a basic landscape (very organic, nothing precise about it). But I’d like to challenge myself and remove the safety net more often. I will still look at a reference when painting specific people when I want to capture a resemblance, but there’s no reason to look at a picture of a person when I’m painting an imaginary person.
But the decision to free paint more often is not really what I meant by laying my heart out. The theme of this new collection lends itself to meaningful work that I will be personally invested in, in a deeply emotional way. That will show in my art if I let myself be an instrument of the source of where creativity, expression, and raw (not taught, born with- or suddenly gifted with, such as after an accident, grief or a diagnosis, etc… in other words, a blessing) talent comes from. Arrogance has no place in art. Art is a language meant to share empathy with humanity. It is not meant to be hoarded or controlled by elites. It is not meant to be restricted to only the select chosen. It is not meant to be about the artist, the possessors of art, or the gatekeepers who decide which art gets seen.
Art speaks to people in ways that we can’t put into words. It is my lifelong desire to let my life be used to heal others. When people see something in my paintings that feels like a message of hope for their own lives, or a whisper from God “I see you”, or a confirmation of faith in humanity… that in a dark world, we still have light, love, compassion, and a deep desire for goodwill for all mankind, it’s beyond myself- it is a personal connection between the viewer and the art that no longer belongs to me. It’s a lofty goal, to be an instrument of healing, but I am honored to strive for this to be my lasting legacy. I’ll also paint lighthearted projects, not everything will feel so heavy. Look for a few paintings that are simply fun.
Thank you for being a part of my journey toward my lifetime goal of 1k finished oil paintings. Along the way, I hope that one of my thousand paintings (years from now!) will make a difference in your life. You are loved by God, and you are never alone. If I can remind you of that, then it’s been a good day.
“Generational Tree” is the first oil painting for the 2022 collection “Seasons” (of life and nature). Paintings in this collection celebrate seasons of life (metaphorical, representational, or inspired-by-real-life scenes about milestones, rites of passage, and shared human experiences of love, aging, family, and beyond) as well as seasons of nature (literal scenes depicting autumn, summer, fall, and winter). “Generational Tree” represents the passage of time; how the elders in a family reside at the top of a mature tree and are the branches which through the ages become fragile and one day fall away- yet the branches below are healthy and strong, tender new twigs will continue to grow, and the roots created long ago will give life to this family for many years to come. [prints available below]
Small Print “Generational Tree”
All small prints are approximately 8 x 10. Giclee Somerset Velvet Fine Art paper. Free shipping. No frame.
Medium Print “Generational Tree”
All medium prints are approximately 16 x 20. Giclee Somerset Velvet Fine Art paper. Free shipping. No frame.
Large Print “Generational Tree”
All large prints are approximately 24 x 30. Giclee Somerset Velvet Fine Art paper. Free shipping. No frame.
Watch my poor beautiful butterfly tree come to life in under 1 minute (time lapse), flowers only… and then in the painting below you can see the full butterfly tree. My heart broke when this tree died this year so I special ordered a new seedling.
So, one tree dies and another is born. I hope my new seedling grows healthy and is soon tall with many flowers. It’s doing well so far and is currently looking healthy. I have a rather somber, but also uplifting story about a human life that dies and another is born. I will save that story for tomorrow.
Was the sun rising or setting? Was she enjoying the early morning serenity, or was she so absorbed in her book that the sun set on her? Time has no meaning without context. Without it, we choose what it means.
Today, time slipped away and I didn’t paint as I’d pledged to do yesterday. Instead, my daughters had me on a bit of an adventure. At one point I was helping to remove a pine tree that was growing inside a flowering shrub. I transplanted that tree and I plant to decorate it for Christmas. When I do, I’ll think about how my oldest discovered the tree and how excited she was to show it to me. I’ll also remember when my youngest pulled on the root, fell backward onto her bum, while showering me with a cloud of dirt. I’ll recall how she laughed while telling the rest of the family this story.
Maybe I’ll paint the tree. I paint what inspires me. Sometimes it’s not very inspirational, just a project assignment, but I find a way to connect to it. Other times my art is deeply personal, profoundly sad (and I cry while painting it), or a humanitarian statement. But usually, my art is something in-between. It’s the real life moments between the sun rising and setting, when we choose what time means.
Remember what it felt like when we were kids? Swinging carefree like this… do you still like to feel like you’re flying? Whenever you need to tap into positive energy, imagine yourself like this girl, playful and free. You are surrounded by clear beautiful skies, the green shelter of nature, and reflective waters.
This is your spiritual place that you can visit in your mind whenever you need to remind yourself of what it feels like to be free. Fight for your past, present, and future self, that you may always have the wind in your hair and the sun upon your face.
This is a tree on “Rock Hill”, a rural area in Ireland near Grenagh. Grenagh is a village close to Mallow in Co. Cork. In 2016 I lived there, off a boreen (a narrow road in which two cars can’t pass, and ours barely fit ONE, it was hairy). VERY remote. Even the native Irish couldn’t find us, they’d get lost. We had poor cell phone reception that only came in if we used a signal booster and stood directly under it. We had spotty, slow, and unreliable satellite service for Internet. Often a simple website would spin and time out. We had no rubbish (garbage) service and had to drive our trash bags to the dump site which was several miles away.
We were completely isolated, with no visible neighbors. Yet, for reasons I can’t fully explain, I never felt alone. Of course I had my family with me, so I wasn’t alone, but many people feel unnerved when in a remote location far from any stores, hospitals, and civilization. That wasn’t how I felt. I was at peace.
I’ve lived in very remote areas and very urban. I’ve lived in the inner city of Minneapolis. I’ve lived in villages (Geisfeld, Germany) and in small towns, suburban neighborhoods and apartment communities. I’ve lived in rentals, “fixers” and a hobby farm with a house we built ourselves (partly ordered up, partly with our own two hands). I’ve had times of want and times of plenty.
Some say that home is where the heart is, or where our families are, but I would politely say that this is not true for everyone. Sometimes we are placed where we do not wish to be. Sometimes we lose family members and are temporarily or somewhat permanently without close ties, without any deep sense of family or community. That has been true of my life.
Through it all, my spirit and mind stay housed in the same body. Home is where I am. Home is wherever I go. I feel most at home when I am at peace, close to God. There are times in my life when I have the company of precious loved ones to share this journey, and times when I have not had that blessing. There are times when I feel a strong connection to the place I’m living, and times when I’ve counted down the days to leave.
Embracing LIFE is to seek joy regardless of circumstance. Even an enslaved person has free will, should they choose. Mindfulness is a commodity that cannot be stolen without our consent. Even if deceived, on some level we are responsible for delegating the responsibility of our independent thoughts to others.
Today I am in high spirits. I am ripe with fresh ideas for my art, work, and lifestyle. I was up early and transplanted seedlings that I’ve babied into sturdy lush greens. My garden is really taking off and it’s such a delight to see. I’ve already enjoyed compound butter and infused olive oil and vinegar salad dressing. One of the tomatoes is red and will be ready to pick soon. My strawberries are formed but still green. One day soon my garden will be bursting at the seams with goodness… all from a small patio space.
I’ve blogged several times about the painful sale of our hobby farm when my husband lost his job. One by one, flock by flock, all of our animals were sold or given away to good farming homes, including our beloved sheep that we had raised from lambs and the guinea fowl that we’d hatched as eggs in an incubator and raised into fully grown birds. I could list all of the animals and the losses, but it’s the garden that’s the point of this. We had a very large garden that was plowed down a hill.
The garden was my husband’s deal. It was too much for me. The ground was uneven and the area was buggy. I’m allergic to many insects and the constant threat of it was unnerving. The terrain was steep and rough. He planted the rows in a compact way that made it hard to push through without brushing up against the plants. It was really and truly not my thing. I tended to my roses and other flowers in the landscaped areas near the house.
My gardening role then was to can the tomatoes, bake the zucchini bread to freeze ahead, and cook/store all of the other garden foods as well. He grew the food and dumped it onto the kitchen counter. From there it was my job to see that the food went from the garden to our stomachs.
But now, many years later, I have a pretty garden of my own. I’m honestly quite hooked on the thrill of seeing my hard work grow into fruition. Every day there is something new to see and learn. I’m astonished at the world that has opened up for me. I didn’t realize how little I knew about food. I’ve discovered bloggers who are teaching me that there are many different ways to eat that I’d never thought of.
I’ll still do the things I’m familiar with, like canning tomatoes and making refrigerator pickles from cucumbers. My husband has his own gardening space too, so there will be zucchini bread-making again in my near future, just like the old days. We haven’t abandoned the things we used to enjoy. But I’m delighted to try new ideas. My tastes have changed over the years and I’m especially intrigued by the nutrition found in herbs. My husband actually thought parsley was “just for decoration” and was surprised when I showed him the many health benefits of adding parsley to our diets.
Embracing life is about feeding ourselves good food… not just literally, physically, but also good mental and spiritual food. I’ve been studying new things and expanding my ideas about philosophy. I’ve been learning more about science and botany. I’ve been learning more about chemistry and health. I’m pushing myself to see beyond what I’ve always known.
Last night I was in a foul mood. Everything was getting under my skin, especially the dark, somber, dystopia of “current year” (a trendy phrase I despise, but it suits). As I fell asleep, my mind was full of angry thoughts and pessimistic emotions. I woke up several times. My broken, disrupted sleep ended when I woke up with a splitting headache.
But I walked into the kitchen, poured myself a cup of tea, and opened the patio curtains. A tiny hummingbird flitted away and my garden plants seemed to greet me. It was a splendid morning, if I chose to see it that way. It was up to me. Would I allow the world’s perception of my future to control my thinking (mind), my health (body), and my emotions (spirit)? Or would I see the truth plainly in front of me?
Today I have chosen to embrace life. Every day I must choose anew. It doesn’t matter where I am, where I live, or who is with me. It doesn’t matter if I am in lack or plenty. It doesn’t matter if I’m in pain or full health. The choice is always mine to make.
I will have a good day today because I choose it. I will experience joy, regardless of my circumstances. Whatever pain or grief I have, I shall set it aside into the private healing space of my mind and spirit. I will see beauty and let the sun shine into my heart. Will you join me in embracing life? The choice is yours. Every day we are blessed to be here, we have an opportunity to choose joy.