Beautiful Journey

Unprecedented, worldwide, social distancing, flattening the curve, shortages, stay at home, distance learning, non-essential businesses closing. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions and new information, new normal the last few months as the world has struggled with how to best deal with the covid-19 pandemic.

Living in Florida, it feels reminiscent of preparing for a hurricane coming, and yet the path of this storm is worldwide, but not clearly visible on radar. We know about germs, and washing our hands, and yet we’ve become hyper aware of what we and countless others touch. The seriousness hit home as Disney and other theme parks announced they’d be closing not for a day or two but the foreseeable future.

Disaster movies, dystopian fiction have long been wildly popular, yet not something we want to personally experience. This pandemic causes us all to face how much of life is really out of our control. Microscopic germs have ushered in a whole new reality.

If I spend too much time watching the news I feel more anxiety. I purposely limit my intake amounts to be aware of any updates that affect me but not to marinate in what is out of my control. Hope rises in my chest as I hear reports of people helping one another, businesses looking for ways to assist.

My kids are at home, doing school online. My husband set up his work station in our dining room and has virtual meetings regularly. I normally work from home, so not a big change for me.

Since all this has happened a new activity has been a daily bike ride. My son has joined me many days, as his Physical Education class requires 30 minutes of exercise a day. Besides the much needed physical activity, these rides have been mentally restorative. I live on the edge of things, close enough to stores, yet there are still some country roads around us. I have loved the mental breathing space these rides give. As we ride along, the sun is shining, leaves gently move in the breeze, a snake slithers across the road and baby sandhill cranes walk alongside their parents. It’s quiet and peaceful. Nature reveals the glory and faithfulness of God, not the worries of man. 

I’ve been inspired to paint some of these scenes of nature I’ve encountered on my rides, and will continue. For me this painting reminds me to refocus not on all the unknowns, or all the things we cannot do but on the beauty that remains. I’ve read many stories of people that had gone through hardships and struggles and how it transformed their priorities and relationships. I hope that that is the case for myself and for the world when we emerge from this season.

Morning Meet-up

Acrylic on canvas

We arrived just a few minutes before 7am and parked. It was still dark, and a few other cars were also pulling into the parking lot. We walked up the trail, our footsteps growing slower as sand became deeper, shifting under our feet. We emerged through a tunnel of sea grape bushes onto the beach. The light was still dim, but growing slowly brighter. The waves crashed, fishermen set up their poles in the sand. And quietly the sky began to lighten more and more. Warm hues of yellows, oranges and pinks crept in. Still no sun. Its light proceeded it, signaling the beginning of a new day. Little sandpipers darted down the beach, their legs a blur, staying right at the edge of the water’s reach. The sky continued its light display, a subtle symphony, building to the crescendo as the sun finally appeared over the horizon. Light beaming through clouds that kissed the ocean. The shallow surf lapping up the beach, reflecting yellows, and the lightest blues, darkening the sand, smoothing, leaving foam and sea kelp behind.

Slow changes, peaceful, unhurried. Such a contrast to the last few days and weeks as we have seen a virus spread around the world, and leaders seeking solutions to stop the spread and best provide for their citizens. Another cancellation, more stories about toilet paper, extended spring break stay-cation. Washing hands, becoming more aware of how much I touch my face, and how many other hands touch things that I touch. Wondering both will the virus hit us, and others. Especially those more vulnerable. But also wondering about short term and long term financial implications. All this shouting every time I get on social media or look at the news.

Our lives, our normal is fragile, vulnerable. So easily disrupted. Widespread worldwide tremors felt. Emotions running high; fear, anger, frustration.

A reminder how out of control so much of life is. I can plan and work and yet a microscopic virus can derail months of planning.

How do you deal? What gives you hope?

For me? I find myself repeating, that God’s not surprised, this has not caught him unaware. He is still good and in control. He has the power wisdom and love to work all things for my good and His glory. I’d love to see successful events bringing art sales, yet I need for my hope to not be in my plans but in God, his power.

I call the painting Morning Meet-up, inspired by the birds who gathered peacefully, not ruffled by the latest doom and gloom news.

Detail of painting-close up of the birds.

Beach Scenes

While I love the mountains and the southwest I live in Florida with its wonderful beaches and amazing sunsets. The colors are vibrant and expressive but fleeting.

In preparation for an upcoming festival in Vero Beach on the coast, I did several small scenes. I discovered that South Beach in Miami has a number of vibrant quirky lifeguard stands. I incorporated several of them into small scenes done on wood panels.

The size of a canvas does have an impact on how I paint. I love my big statement pieces, however working small allows freedom, looseness, and immediacy that is refreshing. When at a festival I try to have a combination of statement pieces as well as smaller work that is more accessible to every budget.

Below are the two small collections that will be shown at the festival.

NYC and my comfort zone

An ongoing theme with my art is I strongly believe that you can find beauty anywhere. It takes many forms, and an intentionality to be present and look for it. So many of my Florida scenes have been the result of slowing down, going outside, and having the mindset that just because I’ve lived here for 20 years doesn’t mean I’ve seen it all.

I think it’s healthy to explore, and I know a change of scenery almost always serves with it fresh inspiration. There is an excitement to the unknown, that puts me on high alert for new things.

I hadn’t been to New York City for over 25 years! New York City has such widespread appeal, and is so different from my day to day life. So I went with my family for a few days in January.

As we pulled up to our hotel in Brooklyn I felt a nervousness. Excitement and yet very away that this was pretty far outside my norm, my comfort zone. I’m so used to parking in my driveway, and driving to everywhere I need to go and relative easy parking. Having a car in the city is more of a liability, and our van with Florida plates stuck out in a big way.

When we take vacations (outside of visiting family) our time is usually limited so its about taking in as much as possible while at a spot.

First night we walked a few blocks and got a metro card and took the subway to Times Square. Plenty of others were riding the train and many more joined us as we neared our destination. I love to people watch and was fascinated by the variety of people who were with us on the train. It was an up close look at New York, seeing those who call the city home mixed in with tourists.

Then it was a whole new world where everything seemed over the top as we entered time square. The ball was lit and confetti was still on the ground from the previous nights New Years celebration. More streets were still blocked form vehicle traffic. Lights blazing from bill boards in every direction, tourist mixing with street performers. Loud and busy. We eventually ducked into a pizza place and had a relaxing dinner. Afterward we wandered a few blocks past Bryant Park, the library, spotted the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building before entering the grandeur of Central Station.

I took hundreds of pics over the next few days, both as we walked around and from our van. I loved seeing the variety of buildings and colors. Metal Stair cases, front stoops, older architecture side by side with new. Park settings surrounded by sky scrapers. Water towers on top of buildings and so many signs.

Life would look a lot different living there. More walking and public transport and planning ahead of how long it might take to get from place to place. Always in a crowd, finding new places to shop and eat. I loved visiting, from the subway rides people watching, to viewing the city from the top of the freedom tower. We survived, nothing bad happened to us. I left thankful for what I have, and the freedom to live a different paced life, while being able to step into this one for a day or two.

Morning over the marshland

Florida is a fairly flat state, and between Orlando and the East Coast there are miles of marsh land. The best way to take in the marsh land, and have a chance to see alligators is with an airboat ride. The boats are propelled along the surface of the water by giant fans on the back of the boat. I haven’t been on a ride in many years. (Add it to the list of things to do with the family.) However I catch glimpses of these areas as I drive out to the coast. Many times I’ve aimed my camera out the window trying to capture the waterways that wind throughout.

I wanted to capture this beautiful Florida landscape. It’s one of those times that my photos were pretty dull, so I combined them with some sunrise shots of sky that I had captured earlier.

Morning over the Marshland
30×30” acrylic on canvas

The Gulf Coast

I keep a mental list of places I’d love to visit, many international destinations to famous city’s like Budapest, Prague, Venice, and more. Those dreams are on hold for the moment, marked with maybe someday.

However I feel fortunate that we’ve been able to explore many places closer to home in Florida. Last year we spent a few days on the Gulf Coast during our kids spring break. We made a day trip to go to Tarpon Springs area, famous for the sponge docks. It was a fun day, and we also drove to a few parks in the area.

The first was on the Anclote River. I loved the trees casting their shadows and overlooking the water. And then we went to this beach that was connected to the coast by a tiny spit of land. It was palm trees and sand, relaxed, people just enjoying the day. I pulled out these photos as some that would be fun to paint as I was giving an ongoing demonstration at an art festival I did in November.

Along The Anclote River
30×15” Acrylic on Canvas
Resting on the Gulf
20×16” Acrylic on Canvas

Both water scenes are Florida, but one is more what is expected, while another could be so many places I’ve visited.

While there is so much of the world I long to explore for myself, I do feel fortunate that I’ve seen so many places in the United States.

The Amalfi Coast

About a year and a half ago I had been following and felt a kinship with a women on instagram living in Italy. Loved her spirit of adventure. We have daughters close in age, and our significant others are about the same age. She regularly shares photos and videos of her life in Positano, Italy. (You can see her feed on instagram @nickipositano. So I wrote to her and asked how she’d feel about me using some of her photos as painting inspiration. She agreed and I’m so grateful. My series of paintings of Italy are all inspired by wonderful spots she has found in Positano and the surrounding Amalfi Coast area.

Someday I hope to go in person and take it all in. I tell admirers of the paintings, if they sell maybe I’ll be able to go. Nicki had videoed a view she found while working at a wedding in a hotel, and it was spectacular. It gave a great view of the town and I loved the vantage point. I call it Summer in Positano, as the crowded beach attest to it being the busy season.

Summer in Positano
40×30” Acrylic on Canvas

It feels like the towns of the Amalfi Coast embody the saying; making lemonade out of lemons, although more accurately would be making limoncello out of lemons. This area is mountainous, and yet the towns are carved into the hillsides. The most made of small spaces, and it looks like everyone there has a green thumb with the overhanging bougainvillea, wisteria and other plants shading patios and walkways.

The painting with the orange umbrellas was a screen shot I captured of one of her videos. I loved the contrast to the busy beach with those bright orange umbrellas with the cool blue sea. I actually started the painting during an art festival where they asked us to paint so patrons could watch.

La Spiaggia Di Santa Croce, Amalfi
20×20” acrylic on canvas

And the final piece is “Umbrellas at La Scogliera, Positano” an areal view of the coast with bright umbrellas and inviting water. I loved how the view gave the scene an almost abstract quality.

Umbrellas At La Scogliera, Positano
24×24” acrylic on canvas

Changing Seasons

Fall Colors on the River
24×18” Acrylic in Canvas

While I enjoy sunshine and mild weather when much of the country is in a deep freeze, from time to time I miss the notable markers of changing seasons. Fall leaves, snow blanketing the world white, buds pushing up after a long winter. Seasons are a reminder that change is natural. Spring is more spectacular after a long dormant season!

I enjoy seeing the changes different seasons bring through my friends social media accounts, but also dream of the time I could visit the Northeast in peak leaf changing glory of Autumn, or catch the cherry blossoms blooming in spring. We spent a few days in Northern Georgia in the mountains last summer. It was a nice break from our normal flat, hot Florida surroundings. We hiked to a few waterfalls, and walked along a river that sees its share of rafting and white water kayaking. As always I took plenty of photos.

And this past fall when I was wishing to see leaves changing color, I decided to paint a few of the Georgia scenes, but take the liberty of using fall colors. My reminder that change can be glorious.

Amicalola Falls, Georgia
12×24” Acrylic on canvas

Catching up

Confession time, this blog has become an item that has been on the back burner. I enjoy sharing, or reflecting on what each painting or collection means to me. But it’s one of many things on my never ending to do list. I hope to catch up and share the work I did at the end of 2019 and what I’ve been busy with this new year.

Working on one of many NYC scenes.

As I meet people and tell them that I’m a professional artist, or they see my work at a gallery or festival, the reaction is often; wow you are so creative, or talented, I wish I could do that. I sense others think it must be so fulfilling and glamorous to be an artist.

I think everyone has different gifts, and different ways that they are creative. From expertly managing a household, a company, being faithful at what they do, pressing forward, to just getting through the day to day demands of the day.

So I wanted to give you a look at a day in the life of, or typical week in my world. I alternate getting up early with my husband, to make sure my teen gets out of bed and off to school before the sun rises. Work out when I can, check through email and facebook, other mindless tasks. Make sure my other child gets up and out the door. Look at my week, and what could be done, and what’s urgent. I enjoy the days when I feel the freedom to grab a cup of tea and head into my studio- a guest bedroom in our house. Some days its getting to spend good chunks of time painting, others its popping in for a few minutes here and there. Other days not at all.

On the days I don’t paint I might be prepping for a show, making sure I have everything from business cards, nametags, inventory lists. It might be dropping or picking up pieces that have been on display locally. Looking and considering other opportunities, including researching galleries in certain areas and making inquiries. Every time a painting is done it needs to be wired, varnished, photographed, edited and posted on my website and social media. Managing my web presence and including social media. Researching and deciding what to paint next and pulling pictures from ones I have or planning on when I will go and take new photos. Looking and being inspired by what other artists are doing, going to local art openings. Carving out time for my family and I teach drawing to kids at an after school program a few days a week. A rewarding week might include shipping or delivering a painting to a new home, meeting with a fellow artist to talk, vent, and be encouraged. Then there are the necessary things of filing sales taxes, applications, and reading and working to grow this small business. And its planning things like planning out the menu for the week, grocery shopping, and taking kids to various appointments.

One of my furry helpers!

Yes I love it. It is hard work, and for all the time I spend painting I spend just as much on the business side of things. Once and a blue moon something fun happens, like my art becomes a poster and people want me to sign it, but the day to day I wear an apron and spend a lot of time by myself. It is a talent that I have practiced countless hours honing, and yet its also my job and source of income.

Let me know if there is something you’d like me to write more about.

Conor O’Neills- Ann Arbor

30×30 inches
Acrylic on canvas

I showed this painting nearly completed to a co-worker and she said; “Italy?”

While I do love painting scenes of Italy, I ran across this charming sidewalk cafe in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I loved the bright blue and colorful flowers. Tables set out to make the most of the summer. It reminded me that beauty can be found anywhere, it doesn’t have to be an exotic location.

Sometimes I go to a place, camera-ready, walking around looking. Other times I stumble onto a scene that inspires. And of course, sometimes I’m too busy in my day to day routine to even notice. I think we stop seeing when we take the mindset of been there done that. Nothing new to see. I’ll just bury my nose in my phone while waiting for the next big thing. So the challenge is to try and have eyes to see what is good, pure, praiseworthy and beautiful right around us. How are you doing? Have you been surprised lately at what you’ve found? Recently I’ve been scrolling through paintings and becoming interested again in some of the scenes before me that I didn’t have the time or desire to paint beforehand. Time away can help you see with new eyes too.

All my work is for sale. When you buy from a living artist, you are showing your support in a practical way and investing in something you could pass onto your grandkids! Leave a comment or send me a message if you want to learn more. Reproductions are available here.