Hidden Courtyard

18×24 inches, acrylic on canvas

This is the third in my Winter Park series. It reminds me of hiding and being found or seen.

As a child, one of my favorite books was “the secret garden.” I loved the idea of an enclosed garden, hidden away, known only to a few. Children love exploring and making forts. Couch cushions and sheets are transformed to castles, dirt, and rocks arranged in the wood to make a custom hideaway. I was no exception, stuffing our backyard tree house with blankets and treasures, playing monopoly with my neighbor in our fort. Feeling secure, protected from the world.

There are a few courtyards along Park Ave in Winter Park that remind me of childhood. I love this one with the fountains and the black wrought-iron tables with their red umbrellas. A blue door in the corner and bright citron green ones welcoming one to a tucked away store. There are spots that everyone knows about, and others discovered by only a few who will wander off the beaten path.

As I think about hidden places, safety, protection a passage from the book of Psalms comes to mind;

“Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute— you’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.” Psalm 139:7-12 MSG

In a secret courtyard, in my room, as I walk through life, there is one who knows me who is with me, who is good.

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Lunch on Park Ave

18×24, Acrylic on Canvas

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.

Hope Renewed

18×24 inches, Acrylic on Canvas

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.

Port of Corricella, Procida

36×48 inches
Acrylic on canvas

Three things I’m drawn to; adventure, security, and home. All good things, yet they need balance.

Too much time at home leaves me feeling stir crazy and overly task focused on all that needs to be done. Who doesn’t long for security, safety, yet without risk, there is no growth. We all long for adventure in our lives, experiencing something new, and yet few of us live free of the responsibilities and have bills to pay.

The scene is of Port of Corricella, on the island of Procida, off the coast of Naples, Italy. The island has a rich history, lots of Italian charm and yet isn’t as popular a destination. I loved the colorful boats and houses.

When I looked at the finished piece and how I framed the scene I smiled. You’ve got bright inviting homes calling sailors home from their fishing adventure, all in the shadows of what looks like a fortress. Home, security, adventure.

So how are you doing with balance? Are you playing it too safe? Is your heart so locked up you are missing life-giving relationships? Or do you need to be more responsible, construct some healthy boundaries?

Recently I’ve been longing for adventure and feeling a bit trapped. I’m still learning contentment and to try and discover new adventures closer to home. I may not be able to put a stamp in my passport and fly over to explore this island. However, I can find undiscovered areas near me. Wonderful friends might have moved far away and yet I can continue to open myself up to people who remain and find connection and a sense of home and security.

 

 

Things Hoped For

24×30

Acrylic on canvas

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!”

Psalms 27:13

A friend shared this quote the other day. (Thanks Caryn!) It was spoken by David, a man who had a promise from God that he would be king, but at the time was in hiding from the current king who was seeking to kill him. He waited years to see what was promised come to pass. Yet as he waited he had hope and faith that what was promised would be seen.

Sometimes our view might look like what’s in this painting. Taking our breath away with its beauty, full of promise, needs met, expectations exceeded. That’s what we want right? Other times this is what is hoped for but not yet seen. Our view looks daunting, we feel tired and overwhelmed. I’ve faced some daunting circumstances this year, as have friends whose circumstances are so far beyond what they can fix.

So what do you do when life looks bleak?

Despair? Deny? Work harder? Surrender? Hope? Wait?

Can you picture yourself here?

Or is it instantly dismissed as a dream?

I know I have been encouraged when hard circumstances surround me to read accounts of men like David and Moses, women like Ruth and Mary, while not perfect, they clung to the one who promised them that there was more to come.

God’s faithfulness has not changed. His timing often looks different that what we think would be best. But then we appreciate the beauty all the more when we’ve been in the dark.

This painting was inspired by my friend from afar, Nicki, who lives in the small town of Positano, Italy on the Amalfi coast. I’m thankful she shares her life in photos and videos. (If you follow her you’ll see beauty mixed with challenges.) This is the view from the balcony of the Hotel Poseidon Positano.

Look for @NickiPositano on Instagram.

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.

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?

Blooming Shopfront

24×24
Acrylic on canvas

While on vacation I hoped to get photos for painting inspiration. A friend had shared a photo on Facebook of Slayton Arboretum, and realizing the place was a short drive from my parents, my husband and I took off one morning to see for ourselves. We enjoyed the Arboretum and explored the town. I love summer in Michigan, full of life, sleeping with the windows open, flowers blooming. We came across this shopfront which was so colorful, and I knew it would become one of my paintings.

Often when I visit near where I grew up I feel a bit melancholy. Older relatives have passed away, friends moved away, childhood home no longer occupied and in disarray. It’s too easy to feel the loss. I appreciated the reminder that summer comes yearly with new life, warmth and days at the lake. And I appreciated exploring a nearby place full of beauty that I wasn’t aware of.