I’ve started a series of paintings inspired by Winter Park, FL. Each painting reminds me of different things. The first painting, Hope Renewed, reminds me to have hope. This second painting is of the Briarpatch Restaurant along Park Ave. It reminds me to have perseverance.
I was in the area a few different times and it was always overcast. One day it looked like it was going to storm and a waiter was pulling in the chairs and tables for the day. But finally I was there when the sun was shining and people were enjoying a late lunch in the mild spring weather of Florida. I can compare the shots with direct sun and overcast and the shadows add much interest to the composition.
I tried something different for this one. Usually, If people are in my photographs I don’t paint them. Yet I took a chance and kept most of the people in this painting. (Shoutout to artist Margaret Baker whose paintings inspired me to keep the people.)
The start of the piece went quickly filling in trees, sky, and umbrellas, then it slowed way down with the people. I wanted to keep it simple, yet needed proportions to be believable. I was often zooming in to make sense of what I was seeing.
The Briarpatch will always remind me of the day I became a mother. It was the last meal I had before my daughter was born. A day that was long and trying, and yet knowing we’d soon meet her allowed me to persevere through the minutes and hours of contractions. And in the end, joy, meeting my daughter. The sunny yellow umbrellas reminding me of that day.
This was the first painting I choose to complete in a series inspired by Winter Park, Florida. The location is 430 W New England Ave in Winter Park.
I experienced a strong sense of hope and gratefulness as I walked along a street I hadn’t been on before.
I’ll admit sometimes life feels overwhelming and relentless. Difficulties seem to mount up instead of receding. Patterns emerge that cause a troubled heart, that this must just be as good as it gets. Learn to live with sadness and disappointment. We wait for change to happen and start to wonder if it got lost and isn’t coming after all.
I’ve been feeling a bit stir crazy. My list of places I’d love to visit grows, and yet I wonder realistically if most will get checked off. Don’t get me wrong, I like the familiar and going new places can be a source of anxiety presenting new challenges. Yet they hold potential. Potential to find a new store or restaurant or park that you’ll love. Potential for beautiful places to take your breath away. After living in Orlando for almost 20 years it can feel like all the places have been discovered. (And I long for something new to discover.)
So today my family kindly went with me so I could take some photos in Winter Park. I’d been a few times in the past few weeks and it was always overcast, and I love painting shadows. Today was sunny. It made so much difference in familiar scenes. And I found a few new ones. Another hidden courtyard off Park Ave with umbrellas and a fountain. And a street I’d never been down with trees and outdoor seating, bougainvillea, and dappled lighting. I felt my heart lifting. Like God was whispering in my ear, no matter how set things seem, I have more in store. There is a reason to hope.
A few weeks ago we forced our kids on a family bike ride. We were riding down a country road and discovered another road we hadn’t been down. A short dead-end country lane. Old oak trees defying gravity, spreading their branches. Sun low in the sky, golden rays illuminating moss and branches. I stopped for a moment looked around at this beauty that was so close to home, but had never been seen. Thankful that we got off the couch, and for mild Florida winters.
I’ve been working on paintings this past month that belong to two different series. One is Italian landscapes, the other is local landscapes like these majestic oaks. The Italy paintings are dependent on using a friend’s photos. It’s a dream to see the sights with my own eyes. I don’t have the benefit of having walked around and examined the angles for myself. To know what is just out of the photo. (Although for the night beach scene I also looked on Google street view.) The landscapes of the oaks are moments captured pretty close to home. I’ve walked or biked around, took in the scene, know what the surroundings are. I can go back to the place for more photos if needed.
I’ve been on a journey. Back when I painted just for myself I didn’t think about if anyone else liked what I was painting. It was simply a time to express myself, to slow down, to see how beauty gives hope and can transform a life. Now as a professional artist one of the challenges is to find inspiration, while at the same time painting what I hope will appeal to local audiences. And it’s been a good challenge. It’s forced me to look around me. To stop the mentality that the grass is greener on the other side. To stop the mindset that day to day is boring, ordinary. To focus on the here and now instead of the next trip. It’s like learning to appreciate vegetables. They are not chocolate or cheesecake. But they are good for you, and your body feels better, stronger when they are a regular part of your diet.
So I’m still learning. Still seeking out beauty here, and I know it will be revealed bit by bit.
Bicycles are a deceptively difficult subject for me to paint. Getting the perspective right with the wheels have resulted in re-sketching and repainting. Yet many have shared their favorites are the ones with the bicycles. Because I’m privileged to not be dependent on a bike in daily life, bicycling for me represents free time, being healthy and exploration. I enjoy riding my bike. The work it takes for your legs to pedal, going faster than on foot, yet slower and more able to stop then when in a car.
There are several spots downtown that have bikes you can rent. This has been a photo tucked away for awhile that I’ve wanted to paint. The bikes invite you, towards adventure, and I appreciate the trees that add life to brick and concrete. This is on Central Ave facing West in front of the downtown library. It happens to be just a block or so down the street from the other landscape I painted this week. I worked on this painting over two days and had the chance to listen to the entire “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Jules Verne while painting!
Being a professional artist means I’m constantly painting and continually looking for inspiration. I have no shortage of landscapes I’d like to capture on canvas, but needing to sell my work influences what I paint and when. I love the Southwest, but live in the Southeast, so until build up my following or have some galleries representing me in the area, I mostly stick to scenes appealing to a local audience. I got some great photos of winter and snow, but I’m unsure if I have an audience for such scenes.
An opportunity came up with a tight deadline, and some size restrictions. Several paintings that would’ve worked were on display and unavailable. Wanting to submit a few cityscapes I went downtown for inspiration. I walked around taking photos. Many people have complimented one of my first cityscapes I did called “East Central Blvd” featuring an old oak tree and wonderful dappled shadows on the sidewalk. I returned to the area to see if I might capture a different perspective.
This painting is the result. I think it shows my growth. Getting more comfortable with my medium, developing my style, more confident in my choices. Growth can be hard to see from one day to the next, except maybe in toddlers who add new words to their vocabulary and new skills almost daily. But when you look back to where you were a year ago or five years the changes are more obvious. It’s an art to find the balance between reflections, dreaming, and living in the present. It’s encouraging to see progress made, and there will always be that next goal. Meanwhile, I am trying to enjoy where I am now.
The title refers to the tree which most likely is the oldest thing on the block, growing, enduring as new buildings have sprung up nearby.
Before I started my sunrise/sunset series I collected a number of photos that I or my husband had taken in the last year. When sunset is approaching I step outside and look at the sky. I’ve gotten up early to catch the sun’s rising. The other day my husband and I hopped in the car after an early dinner and rushed to a spot I thought would be picturesque for the sunset. (The painting Orange Sunrise at Lake Hart is one of the photos I took that evening.) I joked that instead of being storm chasers we were sunset chasers.
This series capturing those fleeting moments has caused me to reflect on how much fleeting beauty there is in our world. It’s spring and we see trees blossom into brilliant colors, only for those flowers to fall a week later. In the fall people enjoy the fall leaves, only to spend the next weekend raking and bagging up those leaves for burning or garbage. I feel a sadness as I look through photos of my family, great-grandparents, once so full of life, now are no longer with us. I’m not sure why beauty is fleeting. Maybe to make us appreciate it and live in that moment. Those fleeting moments might be a source of encouragement, a break from the ordinary to spur us to rest, and then keep going. Maybe its a hint of what’s to come. Hints of eternal paradise that we are moving towards but are not quite ready for.
I really like the space in front of Orlando’s city hall. There are trees and stairs and a fountain highlighted by a metal sculpture. One morning my husband dropped me off at the corner and circled the block a few times while I took some photos. I was drawn to this angle, with the sculpture leading into the scene and the calm water of the fountain and the marble edges reflected the scene. The scene faces north looking down Orange Ave at the Grand Bohemian hotel, the CNL building, and Lincoln Plaza. I like the maze of lines formed by the steps and edge of the structures.
The movement of the water reminds me of my need for change. Change can feel disruptive to my peace of mind, like the fountain moving the water might warp or obscure the reflections. However without change for the water algae would grow. For myself without change, I’m stuck, not growing. Interesting enough this fountain has enough movement to keep the water clear, and have areas that it reflects the surroundings adding to its appeal.
On a number of occasions, I’d taken pictures of the buildings that make up the Plaza complex on Orange street. The building was completed in 2006 and has businesses including a movie theatre, office space, a parking garage and a tower that is residences. I found it hard to take it all in standing in front of it. It’s amazing how your view changes depending on where you are standing. I really wanted to capture the tops of the building, yet still be able to see the foundation. Time of day also influenced the scene. Trying to capture an early morning shot would mean the building was in shadows, other times you’d get too much glare from the sun. I was looking at the area with Google street view and made a discovery. You could “walk” into one of the restaurants across the street, and if you “walked outside” it gave you a night view of the Plaza. I moved it around looking at the different angles and was taken by the view seen here. The trees were strangely bare and lit from below. Lights were reflecting off the pavement and the glass of different windows.
As I was thinking about this painting and the different angles and times of days I took pictures, it made me think of Monet’s Haystacks. I was surprised to learn there are over 20 paintings of the stacks made over a year or two. He was fascinated by how the season, time of day and atmosphere changed the light and colors. He worked on several paintings at a time, working for a few minutes or hours on one during certain times of the day. While we might grow bored with the familiarity and seek new experiences, Monet stuck with it. It wasn’t just about capturing form, but how color and shadow influence the form. Monet’s haystacks were shown as a collection and were a great success. They sold within days and allowing him to buy the land at Giverny and build his iconic water lily pond.
I could probably do multiple paintings of the plaza and each would look markedly different. For example, in the view I chose you can’t appreciate the sculptures in front of the building. My painting Lake Eola Grand Finale shows the Solaire Plaza tower.
I think it does us good to slow down and look at our life from different angles. Different seasons in life might result in new discoveries. Examining all the angles can help us see where changes need to happen. Friends and even strangers might have a different perspective, pointing out strengths to develop or weakness that can hinder us.
Looking at the Church Street Station area downtown makes me think of unrealized potential. There are buildings with beautiful details, woodwork, railings, and balconies. New buildings like 55 West alongside historical markers of the Church Street train station. And yet, instead of a bustling downtown center with lots of activity, it feels like what businesses remain are barely holding on. At times this area has thrived, so it’s always the question of why some areas boom and bloom, continuing to attract people, and others age and fade.
I think the same can happen with people. High school graduation, people are full of youth, potential, dreams, and idealism. A far different picture is the twentieth high school reunion–some succeed, others struggle…barely recognizable in a good or bad way. Aging well or just aging? Getting stuck or finding new ways to thrive, to learn, to forgive, to look forward.
There is a bit of melancholy looking at a place with much beauty, but that’s failing to thrive. Much as there is sadness looking at a life full of potential but unable to move forward. The outward appearance is not enough, there must be an inner determination and life to sustain.
A quote I read by C.S. Lewis rang true to me recently. (And ironically enough most of this painting was done while listening to an audiobook by Lewis.)
“Our product ideas (art, writing, music…) will likely not come from brainstorming sessions where we focus intensely on how we can create a product that reveals God’s character. But as we begin to create, and we “let the Word of Christ dwell in [us] richly,” (Colossians 3:16) we will undoubtedly see how we can use our creations to reveal the character of our Creator.”
At one time I’d start with a concept and try to reflect that in my work. Now I start with finding a landscape or cityscape I want to paint, and see what God might want to say to me through it.
There was a call to artist for submissions that I wanted to do and realized I didn’t have any paintings I could submit. So I spend a good part of last weekend and hours this week working on three cityscapes. This is the third. The title names the intersection downtown, it’s just before you get to city hall. I love the planters and greenery downtown. I’m not fully happy with how the building on the right came out, the perspective is not quite right, which is a bit distracting. However, this building that looks more like it’s made of jello instead of metal still reflects the sky. In its imperfection, and “man-madness,” its windows reflect the beauty of the sky around it, made not by man but God. I will always have some brokenness, weakness, areas that just don’t fully line up in my life. Yet, my hope is even with my imperfections, I will reflect the perfect creator to others. Perhaps my brokenness can even serve to make sure the focus is not how great I am, but how great is the One who dwells in me.