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.

Ringling’s Banyan

12×36 Acrylic on Canvas

I am fascinated by banyan trees. One tree can look like a small grove, arms stretching parallel to the earth, and then it sends down roots, that slowly grow down to the ground and eventually provide support for the heavy branches. They are maze-like, one tree can take up an acre of land! The banyan tree is the national tree of India, yet can be found in Hawaii and other temperate climates. Henry Ford, with Thomas Edison, planted the first banyan in the continental United States, in Ft. Meyers, FL in hopes of finding a cheaper source of rubber. I’ve been able to see a few of these marvels in person. Legoland in Florida took over the Cypress Gardens where one was planted 90 years ago. I’ve also enjoyed walking the grounds of the Ringling museum which contains several of the trees. This painting was inspired by the grounds there. If you are in Sarasota this is a treasure, the grounds are beautiful. It also has a wonderful collection of art and a fun look back at the circus.

I was reading about these large fig trees and found they have also been called “the strangler tree.” The seeds of the tree often germinate on branches of other trees, and as it grows, roots and branches surrounding the host tree it can end up strangling the life out of the host! This hit me, left me pondering. I can think of positive and negative things in a person’s life that acts like a banyan. On the negative side I think if we allow things like hate, bitterness, or greed to fester and grow, they can take over. They influence every area of our life and choke us, leaving a hollow shell. Yet on the flip side, the positive, I know people who have surrendered control of their life to God, and his spirit starts working within. The transformation is amazing, bearing the fruit of love, joy, patience, peace, self-control.

Learning about the strangler tree I think I will now look upon it as a reminder and a caution. What am I letting grow in my life? Will it choke me or allow me to be stretched growing in grace and beauty?

The photo inspiration for the painting.

Golden ride

12×36 inches
Acrylic on canvas

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.

Standing Together

30×40 inches

Acrylic on canvas

This week a lot of my mental space has been occupied by my daughter who will be entering high school next year. At school they got information on how to sign up for classes in the fall. I had a lot of questions, and am grateful for friends who are a year or two ahead of me on the journey and can help me, and my daughter navigate through this. One friend said to make sure she has a tribe to journey with her. That stuck with me, and I do find myself praying often for good friends for my daughter.

At the same time, this painting has been on my easel. This stand or grouping of mature Live Oak trees was inspired by Chisholm Park on East Lake Toho in St. Cloud, Florida. A group that has weathered life together, each different yet the same. These trees have been through more than one hurricane over the decades. At times a limb grows along the ground, but it still grows. I’m always amazed at how far branches spread outward. These are no timid trees closed in on itself and contained. They take up space, ever reaching outward, and upward, roots going deep. So I’ve been thinking of this group of trees a bit like that group of friends ones need to thrive in life, and in high school. There are some big branches that you might be able to follow with your eyes from trunk to tip. Distinct, definitely belonging to that tree. But as you look up at the canopy of branches, leaves, and moss, it’s harder to see just what belongs to each individual tree. They are living their lives intertwined, drawing from the same resources, weathering storms, together.

And so I keep praying that my daughter would have some friends to go through the challenges and enjoy this phase in life together.

Chisholm Park Sunset

12×36
Acrylic on canvas

While January means snow and cold for most of the United States, Florida tends to be selective in how much it participates. We stayed in town over Winter break. There were a few days I broke out a sweater, but several found me in the standard short sleeves and flip-flops.

Most of our break was low key. Stayed local, rested a lot, and took time to visit some picturesque areas around town.

Chisholm Park is about 15 minutes from us along the east side of East Lake Tohopekaliga (Toho for short). The park is beautifully shaded by a number of old live oak trees. Branches defy gravity, invited the adventurous to climb. Spanish moss drapes adding an air of mystery. We arrived about an hour before sunset and enjoyed our time watching the light cast shadows and light up leaves and moss. We walked along a horse path, listened to Sandhills cranes sounding like dinosaurs and even dipped our feet in the water. (While keeping an eye out for gators.) Not a bad way to end a winter day!

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.

Downtown Ride

24×24
Acrylic on canvas

(Follow me on Facebook or Instagram to see time lapses of my progress! )

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!

Here are some details.

 

Encore Sunset Lullaby

wIMG_9261

36×36
The left panel of swan sunset diptych
Acrylic on canvas

I had finished the first painting, intending it to be a stand-alone piece. It was pretty closely based on a photo I’d taken a while ago. I was reading/researching a little about swans when I came across some photos of swans with their babies, cygnets, riding along on the mom’s back, secure in her wings. I had a lot of skyline left so I decided to add a second panel. This piece was compiled from a few different images, and I wanted to match the scale, coloring, and tone of the previous piece. There is another portion of skyline left in between these two, but I don’t have the time right now to do a third at the moment. Maybe another time.

I spend a lot of time in my studio painting, alone. I listen to music, audio books and sometimes will catch up on a missed sermon. As I painted this piece I was listening to Jules Verne’s “20,000 leagues under the sea.” The fictional work detailing the underwater adventures of Pierre Arronax, a doctor and naturalist, who finds himself on board Captain Nemo’s the Nautilus. He taken aboard against his will, yet exposed to wonders of the sea, he finds he enjoys the journey to the point of being hesitant to leave. I still have many chapters to read and discover Mr. Aronax’s fate. (No spoilers please.)

The story makes me think about how many times figuratively, against my will, or despite planning or protests, I’ve found myself in unfamiliar waters. And I know I’m not alone. Plenty of stories out there of the underdog, in movies, literature, and the Bible has some amazing examples. We cheer when unforeseen, unfortunate circumstances are redeemed and lead to the hero overcoming. Right now I’m in the boat. I see the shore, but it seems impossible to reach. Some days my boat can be the Nautilus, containing and exposing me to treasures unknown. Other days it feels like a smelly leaky fishing boat, no motor, one oar on a stormy sea. I’d like to enjoy the journey, feeling as safe as a cygnet surrounded by its mother’s wings. Perception makes a world of difference.

Here are the two panels together, and some in progress shots.

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