Today was a highly stressful day. We still haven’t closed on the house and we are now running out of time for the moving pods, truck, cleaning service (required to close out lease), and all of the other parts of this process. I’ve worked on cleaning and loading the pod all day and am exhausted. I’m struggling not to worry. It is difficult.
Sheltering trees (the theme of my painting in the video above) are places we can go when we need rest. “A shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain” – Isaiah 4:2-6 When we are under a great deal of stress, may we spiritually retreat to a sheltering tree.
In this emotional space we can breathe and remind ourselves of how difficult times do not last forever, and how often we emerge from a crisis stronger. When we are at peace it is “well with my (our) soul” and it’s much easier to handle stressful situations. It doesn’t mean we don’t ever lose control of our emotions or let anxiety get the better of us, but we may pull ourselves together more quickly. A restful spirit is a good companion to a faithful spirit. Faith leads to hope, and hope makes all the difference.
Our weather here is now beautiful, after being cold or raining for quite a stretch. I’m feeling like my tree landscape oil painting above- clear skies, rooted in positivity. There’s hope that things will all work out.
No update yet on the pre-approval financing for us to buy a house, so we’ll have to wait until Monday. We’ve been busy today though, as this weekend is a community yard sale event and we are very motivated to participate! I’m attempting to sell most of my garden and outdoor swing, potting table, etc. I was doing container gardening so the plants are in portable/sell-able pots and grow bags. I don’t want to burden ourselves with moving too many plants. I hope my sale goes well!
We also have some other things- many other things, as it turns out- that we can sell to lighten the load which saves money, while also raising some cash to help pay for the cost of moving everything we decided to keep. The timing of the community sales event was perfect! It’s been a lot of work to throw it together, but I’m glad we’ve had the opportunity. Good vibes that people will come out in droves and shop! It’s a beautiful day in the forecast- why not spend it buying someone’s well loved garden?
A lot can happen in 30 seconds. Here, through the magic of time lapse, this tree that I painted when we were living in a rural area of Ireland, gets some finishing details.
30 seconds can be the longest seconds of our lives when a baby is born with the cord wrapped around his neck and we’re waiting for him to breathe. That was how my son entered the world. Longest seconds of our lives. He was blue and lifeless. Then, he cried. Fear and impending grief turned to joy.
Life can change in an instant. 30 seconds is 30 instants. It’s a long time. So in that context, a full day is an eternity. Whenever I think I don’t have enough time, I try to remind myself of how time is our perception of it. When we are propelled by adrenaline, emotion, pressure, social energy, or other factors, suddenly we can pack a lot of activity into a short period of time. When we feel sluggish, discouraged, defeated, bored, or frustrated, we can drag our feet and make relatively simple chores seem like impossible burdens, missions we can’t possibly complete. We procrastinate and make excuses for why we can’t do what we really CAN.
I met all the taping goals today for the Easter show! Now I can turn my attention to the unexpected move we have to make in 2 months. It seems like an impossible task at the moment, but do I need a full minute? A lot can happen in just 30 seconds. In 30 seconds I can go from a resigned spirit to high energy. It’s really my choice. The pep talk I gave myself (and you) yesterday was similar to this one and it really helped! Some of you gave me great feedback and I was encouraged to stay the course (THANK YOU! <3 ). Now I can feel proud of what I accomplished today and I know that I can handle the challenges ahead.
Whatever you’re facing these days, I hope that my ongoing saga motivates you to join me in manifesting the outcome we want by powering through with full passion, energy, and hope. Obviously it will be difficult to maintain the full wattage of that power at all times, but if we think in terms of “30 seconds” we may be able to switch our mindset for just 30, and then 30 more… before we know it, the day is gone and we’ve done what we wanted to do!
This one has been updated with different music and uploaded to YouTube. I’m slowly working on getting all of my oil paintings on YT. I’m also headed into a busy and productive week. I should have another new painting to share and I might have the first episode of the new show done too. We’ll see what the week brings! I hope you have a peaceful day and are feeling good about the week ahead. God bless you and your family.
“Christmas Tree” is part of 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). “Christmas Tree” is from the section called Celebrations and Holidays.
You might remember when I shared this painting in a May blog post called “Are you Weary?“. It seems a lot of us are struggling with fatigue that happens when seasons change and when the wait for other types of change feels too long. Students get restless this time of year, counting down the days to the holiday break and end of term. World events may seem to drag on endlessly, with only Christmas as a hope and diversion. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t struggle with feeling weary of the work and sameness of our everyday routines, and the things we cannot change.
It helps when we commit to doing something new, and then follow through with doing that new thing. In fact, it can be so helpful, it can be addictive! Because, each new thing creates more energy, to inspire doing more new things. The list of things we’re going to learn, make, do, see, and share may grow longer and longer. I’m teaching myself how to sew, play instruments, and container garden. All of these things generate energy that is real, no screens! That alone generates more energy. Instead of focusing on things we cannot change, we are energized by the new things that change us.
When I invest my time into changing what I do and who I am, I’m more often the “good kind” of tired, rather than weary. My days are full of productive work and meaningful changes, such as growing my own food, making my own clothes, and playing music rather than just listening to music that others have made. Being active rather than passive naturally manifests more activity.
I don’t always manage this high level of engagement in a good life. I’m guilty of spending hours looking at a screen, worrying about things, and accomplishing very little. I also get buried under the mundane aspects of life that won’t be remembered a week from now, let alone a year, and have no chance of being meaningful to myself or to others. I can also invest too much of myself into my vocation or my household, ignoring all other parts of a healthy balanced life.
Sometimes we live what we intend to, other times we don’t. We aren’t meant to be slaves to a ridiculous perfectionist standard, mania, or obsession to do more, more, more. Sometimes we just don’t have it in us. But if we are feeling weary, perhaps we need to do MORE. Then, at the end of the day, we are too tired to be weary. We are tired enough to fall into a deep restful sleep. Good night, dear friends!
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.
Watch oil painting “Generational Tree” come to life in about 2 minutes (time lapse video)
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.