I’d passed by the entrance many times, saw a line of tables making use of the space between the buildings and assumed that was it. But one day I took the time to walk down the alley and found a delightful little courtyard. Staircases on both sides lead up to apartments or businesses on the second floor. A fountain lazily trickling water down in the center and there are a few tables with umbrellas inviting one to rest.
I knew I wanted to paint this scene. But as I looked around at the space trying to decide on an angle, I decided to make the painting a panoramic to more fully capture the whole space.
This painting went slowly for me. Lots, of details to paint, leaving me feeling overwhelmed. So like any other task that seems all but impossible when looking at all of it, I broke it up into smaller pieces. Painting the back wall, the umbrellas, sketching the brick pattern on the ground, and bravely conquering the chairs! (I paint a lot of tables and chairs but they don’t get easier!) Then brick walls, bushes, windows, etc. the process wasn’t pretty. I wondered if I’d actually be successful in completing it. At times there was satisfaction at times weariness. But I just kept painting. It helped that as I went my daughter commented she liked the piece when I was on the fence about it.
Not sure what or how many things you face that seems overwhelming. I’m sure many of you could relay things far more important and intimidating than completing a painting! My encouragement keep going, even if it’s just a little at a time. You can take breaks and ask for help. Do you have a cheerleader to encourage you to keep going, even if its just baby steps? It’s OK for it to look messy in the middle of the process. I hope you persevere and can see moments of victory as you move forward!
I have enjoyed painting these scenes of Winter Park. I have some exciting news, but I need to wait until this fall to share. Stay tuned!
This and every painting I create is for sale. Some I place on my Etsy site. Everything goes up on my pixel site where reproductions can also be found.
I have a love-hate relationship with working on giant paintings! I think the larger works have a presence, they shout at the viewer come, look, enjoy. Many have said that it feels like you could walk right into the scene. They can be dramatic and are considered statement pieces. I think sometimes bigger pieces give the perception of you being a real artist. Not playing cautiously, but going for it. On the downside, it takes a long time to complete bigger pieces. I find myself needing to back up or take a picture of progress made so I can evaluate what needs to be done. Small mistakes, not getting an angle or curve right stand out more. Transporting and shipping larger pieces is also takes some planning.
With smaller pieces, the painting goes quickly, so there is an immediate gratification of seeing the piece come together. They are easier to ship and more people can afford to collect the smaller pieces. However, they are like reserved you have to be willing to slow down and quiet your soul to take in the message that is more of a whisper.
A solo show was coming up and the gallery owner wanted big pieces. I had a few and set about completing this one for the show. The scene is inspired by one of the many restaurants along Beach Drive in St Pete Florida. High-end shops and restaurants, bordered by a beautiful park and beyond it boats sitting in the harbor waiting. When you search online for images of a city you often see skylines. Photos are taken from a distance, trying to sum up a place by its high rises. It shows evidence of man while remaining distant, interchangeable with other places. But when you walk around an area, stay on the ground you are going at a pace where you notice things. A cool courtyard, the flowers planted outside a home. You become part of the scene. And if you’ve been to such a spot all the memories of that place can attach themselves to that image. So this scene invites one to take a seat, enjoy, relax.
Lunch at Prato features diners taking advantage of mild spring weather while dining along Park Avenue in Winter Park, Florida. If you follow me you know I love these types of scenes. A reminder to slow down, breath deep, enjoy those around you. I appreciate restaurant making the most of the sidewalks, and the idea of walking around, exploring and window shopping.
I loved the vibrant red chairs and choose to match the umbrellas for an extra pop of color. I also enjoy the trees and flower boxes lining the street, proving shade and beauty.
Hannibal Square is located a few blocks off Park Ave in Winter Park, over on New England avenue. There are apartments with cute balconies, trees line the street and there are several restaurants and shops. When I’ve been there it is usually early in the day and several of the restaurants are not open. This patio space is for patrons of the Sausage Shack. (Makes me smile just saying it.) It has it all, a fountain, seating, shade from umbrellas and the trees. Lights strung for night time ambiance, even space heaters for the winter.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!