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?
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!
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.
A Colorado landscape artist will likely have paintings of mountains and aspen trees. A painter from the southwest might find themselves painting cacti. As an artist focused mainly on landscapes, living in Florida, there is an expectation to see beach scenes.
We live less than an hour from the coast. On an average year, we might make it to the beach once or twice. While millions vacation in Florida, we long for mountains, hiking in the woods or cooler northern temperatures. We tend to take for granted the familiar, what we see every day. While I do enjoy painting palm trees, I long to see changing leaves in the fall, tulips and cherry blossoms in spring, and a landscape that has some changes in elevation. So I try and have new eyes, and appreciate what’s around me.
I had no desire to paint beach scenes, sun setting with pelicans and a few palm trees. I was inspired when I saw a series Teil Duncan Henley did of the beach and poolside. What was highlighted wasn’t so much the surf and sand but the human elements of enjoying the beach. There is so much color at the beach, from the umbrellas, buckets, towels, surf boards, chairs, swimsuits. Nothing is understated.
Teil embraced what we add to the picture. Rather than trying to get shots without people, I decided to embrace it too.
I had to pick up a painting on the west coast of Florida. So we stopped by one of the most popular beaches in the state -Siesta Key Beach. The day was overcast, and love bugs were everywhere. However, the beach was packed with people. I took some pictures to work from. I usually leave people out of my painting, not this time. However, I kept the style loose, more focused on shape and color than making anyone recognizable. I decided to do a triptych to allow for a wide angle view. Hopefully will take in the beach a few times this summer and get some more photos.