First Watch

30×48

Acrylic on canvas

The alarm was set for way too early, but no time to snooze. I checked outside the window and could see the outlines of clouds on the horizon. Quickly we got ready and hopped in the car. We drove North along A1A and the sky got brighter. Finally, we arrived at the Cocoa Beach Pier. A few others stood facing East, ready for the sunrise. The sky was a beautiful display of colors, the water reflecting and crashing onto the shore. Birds took off from the pier flying in an agreed-upon pattern and settling again.

Looking at the lifeguard tower makes me think of readiness, watchfulness, and diligence. Far too often rather than being watchful, it’s more like I’m playing in the sand, digging, busy, head down, suddenly surrounded by the tide, my designs washed away. Life is busy. But I think it’s meant to be lived with built-in rhythms. Sunrise and sunset. Work and rest. Waiting, and catching up.

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Waiting to Begin

24×30

Gathered into teams we were given a time limit a challenge and a few instructions. There wasn’t one right way to tackle the challenge. Some teams dove in headfirst, figuring if it didn’t work they’d make some mid-course corrections. Others took time to talk through a plan and assign roles. In the middle of the challenge, the moderator threw us for a spin and had us switch spots, giving our progress away to another team and trying to make use of what someone else had done.

That challenge time was meant to show how we work together, different people having different strengths. In the end, there wasn’t one clearly right way to accomplish the task.

In life some people rush ahead, others wait hoping a map will be given to them to direct their path. (And sometimes people are a little of both, cautious in some areas, adventurous in both.)

When I finished this painting I thought its as if the viewer is standing on the edge of the path, waiting. Being still, taking in the beauty around him. Perhaps it’s uncertainty, or waiting for more light to illuminate the path.

Lately, I feel like I’m waiting for direction but still taking steps forward. I need to remember to enjoy the sunrise even when I don’t know what the day(s) ahead will bring.

Repetitive Reminder

24×24
Acrylic on Canvas

I have middle schoolers. Closer to adulthood than preschool, they have learned so much, and are growing in leaps and bounds towards independence. “I know” are words often heard when we remind them of some task to do. (Bring home your gym clothes, do your best, try and be friendly and kind, remember we love you….) Eye rolls and yes, we know. Yet gym clothes are forgotten, or brought home but not put into the laundry. We hear the same complaints over and over. They might act as though we were an embarrassment or a nag rather than a loving parent and biggest fan. They may think they know it all, yet they have much to learn.

Learning takes time and repetition. It would be great if we learned, retained and applied every lesson immediately, perfectly, permanently. But we don’t. Some things just don’t get through. It can take years to understand some lessons. We may have blind spots or grow frustrated by lack of change. Or we may get discouraged when what we offer is not received. We might stop striving or repeating the offer.

I’m amazed at how repetitively patient God is with us. I think sunrises are one great example of God’s patient, enduring love. He will repeat His message to us that we are loved, cherished, known and valued, that there is hope over and over day after day. Sometimes I witness the sunrise, and it stills my soul. Other days I hit snooze and wake anxious for all the day holds. I’m grateful that regardless the sun still rises.

My hope is to see the sunrise, be encouraged and keep extending those moments of grace to others in my life. (Even if they roll their eyes, ignore me, or say I know.)

How about you? Have you felt a moment of peace in the midst of your crazy world?

 

Recently I attended a team function with my husband, we stayed at a hotel on the beach. I don’t have a high energy level, but we are almost never at the beach at sunrise. So I set my alarm and woke as the sun was just making it over the horizon. I’m thankful for the beauty I encountered, the peacefulness. And of course some nice photos to use as painting inspiration.

Pupetto’s Cafe, Positano Italy

48×60 inches
Acrylic on canvas

A fellow artist friend who does art festivals suggested I have one giant painting that would really draw people into my booth for an upcoming show. I had the time and thought about what I might paint. I recently completed several cafe scenes that I will feature at the festival, so it made sense that it would be the subject matter of this new painting. I was trying to find a local spot to feature when I had an idea.

I’ve been on Instagram for a few months, sharing my artwork, following others. One of my favorite person to follow has been a lovely British lady who lives on the Amalfi coast of Italy and shares her day to day life. She has lived there for nearly twenty years, speaks the language, and has made a career that works for her there. As I have been seeking to find the beauty right where I live, she does the same. (Only she is in Italy and I’m in Florida.) I love seeing what she posts, pictures of her life and appreciate her realness. The setting is beautiful, but life in Italy has its challenges too. Loving many of her photos I asked if I could use them to paint from and she agreed. I had seen the photo that inspired this painting a few months ago and loved it. Cafe scene, dappled lighting, vibrant colors, bougainvillea, even some umbrellas if you look close. It seemed the perfect scene to paint. This is a beachside restaurant/cafe called Pupetto’s in Positano, Italy, a small town on the Amalfi Coast.

It’s a reminder to savor the moments in life, carve into your schedule times to rest, to recharge, invest in what is good for your heart.

Going to Italy has been on my bucket list for years. Being able to see Michelangelo’s Sistine chapel, and sculptures, take a gondola ride around the waterways of Venice, take in the scenery along one of the mountainous coasts. My lists of places in this country I’d like to visit continues to grow. Right now it’s out of reach. So I try to look for beauty where I am and wait to see what the future holds.

Prince of Wales Hotel — Niagara-on-the-Lake

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but some places, some events, you need far more than one picture to capture the spirit of the place. Knowing I’d be visiting Niagara-on-the-lake I did some research. Looked on Pinterest for what places to make sure you visit while there, and I took a virtual stroll down the street with the help of google street view. I found the Prince of Wales hotel and knew I wanted to paint it. When I was there I took many photos, enjoying the flowers and architecture. Getting different viewpoints from near and farther away. I looked through the photos I’d taken trying to find that one that would completely capture the hotel and the surrounding beauty. Like past landscapes and city scenes I’d done, I realized sometimes you can’t capture all something has to offer, but you can give a glimpse. You portray a moment. And really it’s not a bad thing to be left wanting more. Perhaps prompting the viewer to go and explore it for themselves. The beauty snags you, draws you in, invites you to more.

As I write a story I’ve read many times comes to mind. About a man who had a big request. He asked for something so amazing he wouldn’t be able to take it in or fully grasp or appreciate it.

The man was Moses, he wanted to see God in all his glory. And God, knowing what Moses could and couldn’t handle responded;

“And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” Exodus 33:21-23 ESV

Moses caught a glimpse, not the whole. That glimpse gave him what he needed at the time. And yet it wasn’t over, Moses went up the mountain to talk with God many times. Heard his voice, saw him work, and grew in intimacy. In this age of information and got to have it now, sometimes appreciation comes from seeing new aspects over time. Appreciating each piece as it comes. So here is one small view of the beautiful Prince of Wales hotel in Niagara-on-the-lake.

detail of painting

Missed Opportunities – Niagara-on-the- lake No. 5

At times past I’ve sought to find a way to portray a thought, an abstract concept visually. These days painting landscapes, I go out and take photos, go through the photos and pick what I want to paint, and when finished will reflect on what I’ve learned, or the impressions I had as I painted.

Casual observers and art critics alike can theorize what an artist was thinking, or the meaning behind a painting. I have no problem with others finding their own emotional connection with a piece. I do try and take the time to think about and share what my pieces mean to me. Whether it was the experience that came when taking photos of the place or something I learned as or after painting it. My blog is sharing my art and the stories behind them.

Several months ago a photo of Shaw Cafe showed up on a friend’s Facebook feed. It was beyond gorgeous. I was so excited as I knew our trip to visit family would allow me to take a short trip over to Niagara-on-the-Lake and see it for myself. I looked forward to it for months. I wished we had been able to spend more time there, we had a few hours to walk around and take photos, before returning to our families home. I took several photos around this cafe. Flowers line the outside seating area, hang from the second level, from nearby lampposts and line the other side of the sidewalk. Variety, color, and of course as a bonus there are the umbrellas!

As I look at the painting a phrase, a verse from the Bible comes to my mind; “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Psalms 34:8

While walking one might glimpse into a window and see yummy pastries in their case. They could stop and press their face to the window, breath in deep. They can even take a step into the store, yet their experience is limited. They haven’t tasted. It remains an intellectual knowing rather than a full experiential knowledge. So close, yet they miss out. (Now at times we wish to avoid experiential knowledge, and would gladly settle for reading about it second hand.) Because of time constraints, I feel like that day in Niagara-on-the-Lake, I saw much, yet missed really experiencing, tasting. You can see the beauty of Shaw Cafe painting, but it’s from a distance. You’re not sitting in the cafe surrounded by the beauty, enjoying a meal and the company you are with. After finishing I thought, it’s beautiful, but it doesn’t capture the feeling of being surrounded or immersed in that time and place.

I can be too busy, too distracted to be fully present in a moment of time. I don’t think I’m alone. In this age, it’s easier to scroll through my Facebook or Instagram feed getting a tiny glimpse of a friend’s day instead of making a phone call or sitting down to talk. We can be so intent on capturing those perfect images for our feed that we miss just being in the moment.

I think too often I settle in my life with God of knowing things about him, without tasting, sitting down and really soaking in His goodness. Read a few verses, send a quick prayer, move onto the next thing on my list. Yet really I don’t want to be an observer, I want to be a participant! To sit, to abide and to taste.

What do you think? Where do you need to slow down?

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The Patio at Hotel Dallavalle Niagara-on-the-lake 4

24×30

I struggle with not enough. I don’t think I’m alone. Wondering if I have talent enough to make it as an artist. Being jealous and feeling in competition with other artists, that there is limited room for art and beauty in the world. Before that was a fear that we wouldn’t be about to find enough support to continue our work with an amazing non-profit. Not feeling like I have enough wisdom and grace to parent my tween children well as they pull away and struggle into adulthood. The list could go on. I’m guessing you could add your own items, times where your chest gets tight and you wonder how will this work out.

I can be dense, needing to relearn lessons over and over. And I’m coming to terms with that is OK. Learning and relearning over a lifetime is OK. And one lesson I appear to be getting schooled in is God is enough. More than enough. As I referenced when I started the Niagara-on-the-Lake painting, he is gloriously wasteful. And He wants to share his resources with me. He isn’t stingy with his grace, his forgiveness, his love or wisdom. He put reminders everywhere that he is a wellspring of life, always with more to give, not a cistern with a limited quantity. Daily sunsets, flowers, the variety of plants, bugs, animals. How many bay species do we really need?

So if you’ve read until now you might be scratching your head saying what does that have to do with a cafe scene? Everything God made reflects his nature, including humans, and what we make also reflects him.  I think the reason I’m drawn to these scenes is they’re lavish, in their beauty. Far beyond a functional meal to scarf down and run out the door. The message is sit down, fellowship, enjoy your surroundings. My reminder to myself is when overwhelmed, don’t focus on if you are enough, but that God is enough.

Have you tasted this His goodness?

This painting is the patio of Hotel Dallavalle on the corner off Gate street and Queen street in Niagara on the lake. Overhead flower baskets hand from a pergola. Crisp white tables and chairs welcome, interspersing with red umbrellas. A number of tall trees provide shade for the area.

Niagara-on-the-lake #2 & #3

Wellington and Picton- Niagara-on-the-lake Cafe #2

wIMG-6999Acrylic on canvas
24×24

This cafe is located at the corner of Wellington St and Picton street in Niagara-on-the-lake. Loved the flowers hugging the white picket fence and the different colored umbrellas. We roamed the streets in the morning before lunch, so most of the cafes were just getting set up.

I do work from photographs, but the advantage of being a painter means I can take artistic liberties. As I’ve been working on street scenes and landscapes for the last few years I’ve gotten more comfortable with trees. Knowing how much detail to go for, using different shades of green, letting sky peek through. So I modified the trees slightly. There was a lamp post in the scene, but you couldn’t see the light so I took it out. All the tables and chairs at this cafe were a black metal, with mesh tops, backs, and seats. I decided to add seat cushions and make the tables solid. It’s still a confusing mess of legs but it makes the scene a little more understandable.

One thing I enjoy about these cafe Street side scenes is even though the scene is a busy one, it invites one to slow down and relax, savor the moment. There will always be more on my to-do list than I can get to in a day. Hard work is good, honorable and necessary. However work needs to be balanced with rest, literal rest

as well as the taking the time for a leisurely treat. It’s no surprise that we are better able to handle all the demands of life when we call regular timeouts.

The Patio at the Charles Inn -Niagara-on-the-lake Cafe #3

wIMG_9514

Acrylic on canvas
24×24

Umbrellas the color of sunshine, this outdoor cafe is part of The Charles Inn at Niagara-on-the-lake In Ontario, Canada. It’s a few blocks down from all the gift stores and doesn’t get nearly as much tourist’s traffic. The greenery surrounds the patio and looks so pretty next to the windows and white trim of the Inn. It’s quiet, shaded and invites one in for a nice lingering breakfast.

What do you do to rest? To recharge the batteries and remember what important versus what’s urgent? To remind yourself that it’s OK to hit pause?

Shades of Green- minitures

I live in Florida, where there is plenty of greenery. However, traveling this summer in the Midwest, taking in some wilderness area it felt different. I loved the overhead canopy of trees and the dappled sunlight. I completed a few smaller paintings during the trip and look forward to doing more paintings in upcoming months.

The following are each 6×6 inches, acrylic on canvas, inspired by our time in Mammoth National Park.

wIMG_9467wIMG_9469wIMG_9470wIMG_9471