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.

 

 

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Sailor’s Delight

36×36 inches
Acrylic on canvas

You might have heard the phrase; ” Red sky at night, Sailors delight, Red sky at morning sailors take warning.”  This phrase came to mind after I’d finished the piece. The scene is still and calm, a moment of overwhelming beauty. Those perfect moments tend to be fleeting, you never know how long they will last. They are a chance to catch your breath, a respite, perhaps a renewal of hope or time to strengthen oneself before facing the world again.

The painting could be read as either a promise of calm for the next day or a warning of what’s to come. Some storms we can see coming and others take us by surprise. Many times we are powerless to prevent what’s coming. All we can do is prepare. What do you do to prepare? What gives you hope when you know one is coming or you’re in the midst of one?

At times I’ll admit I worry, imagining all that could happen, usually all the worst-case scenarios, stomach in knots. Convinced after looking up my symptoms that I’ve become a doctor and something is majorly wrong. Somehow thinking my being focused on how bad it is or could be can do something other than weighing myself down. Feeling without help in the world.

Other times I shift my focus from the storm to the one who can calm the storm, and promises to be there with us in the midst. I’m less paralyzed and remember that I am not alone. The circumstances don’t change but my perspective does, and a determined hope surfaces.

So smooth sailing or storms ahead I think there is always a reason to hope!

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!

Lakeside retreat

16×20 inches, Acrylic on Canvas

Around my house, I see a lot of live oak, pine and palm trees. This was not always the case. As a child, I remember collecting leaves from the various neighborhood trees for a class project. The specimens were very different: Maples, tulip, willow, ginkgo, ash, oak.

Home is equated with comfort, familiar, we know what to expect. We are curious about the new, the unknown. These past few years I’ve painted a number of trees. My confidence and skill in doing so have grown with time. Weeping willows are not something I see in my day to day life, they present a new challenge with their low drooping branches and yellow-green leaves.

If you see my work you know I love many different and vibrant colors. At times a scene might be beautiful but seem to monochromatic. Everything is green with a blue sky thrown in. I will bump up contrast and saturation at times, and as I continue to study the photo will see hints of other colors. The different hues can add interest to ordinary scenes. I am a painter because I like to amplify my scenes. My goal is to take familiar and new scenes and find a point of view that is interesting.

Lakeside Rest

16×20 inches, Acrylic on Canvas

My paintings always start with photographs. I’m not going for photo-realism, but the photos help me remember details, texture, color. Many times I have one chance to visit a location, to explore and record. After coming home and looking at the photos I wish I’d taken the time to get a different angle, or that I’d gone when the sun was out, or higher or lower in the sky. I love going to places whether downtown in a city or a park setting and walking around. Riding in a car scenes go too fast. Of course, there are places I visit, again and again, where the challenge seems to be seeing with fresh eyes. The familiar can easily be overlooked and dismissed.

Lighting is transformative. I love shadows, and light shining through the trees.  This past summer I had a chance for a change of pace as we traveled to see family in a different part of the country. The time was relaxed, and I was able to take out a kayak a few times to do some exploring. Being low in the water, going slowly allowed a change in perspective. I was fortunate to capture some photos when the sun was low in the sky, elongating the shadows, contrasting the bright spots of light.

There are several other landscape painters I follow, observing their use of color, texture, brush strokes, how they handle different subjects. Noting how they blend realism,  impressionism, and abstraction.

One gallery owner that represents me likes to feature landscapes of mine that are more universal. (Not identifiable as one spot, but scenes that might be found a variety of places. For example, a piece I painted of a path and trees near Zion, might also have been inspired by places in Orlando. ) So I’ve been looking for scenes that are more about capturing the moment than the place.  Keeping brush strokes loose, not overly concerned about details, adding colors where only hints were found.

This scene happened to be inspired by the long shadows and low angle of the sun as I took an early morning kayak ride near my parents house in Michigan.

Fiordo di Furor

24×24

Acrylic on canvas

Ever make a fort as a kid, disassembling all the couch cushions and using all the bed sheets? Or maybe you enjoyed exploring the woods behind your house. A tent set up in the backyard or the basement could be magical. As a grown-up, we might not make forts, but we love finding a tucked away courtyard to sit, relax, reflect. We love exploring new places.

This is Fiordo di Furore. It’s a natural Fjord in the rocks, a small harbor hidden away in the mountains along the Amalfi Coast in the SouthWest of Italy. It’s the kind of place you’d stumble upon while kayaking along the coast. A small hidden beach protected by the walls of rock nearly surrounding it. Apparently, the stairs down from the bridge to the beach have been closed off due to rock slides. You can see other views on this website.

I think our looking for or creating our own hidden worlds points to our desire for paradise. Away from the problems of life, a respite, a hope that there is more what we see surrounding us. Everyone longs for peace. Where have you found a place to rest and recharge? Will you share it or keep it to yourself?!

First Watch

30×48

Acrylic on canvas

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.

Waiting to Begin

24×30

Gathered into teams we were given a time limit a challenge and a few instructions. There wasn’t one right way to tackle the challenge. Some teams dove in headfirst, figuring if it didn’t work they’d make some mid-course corrections. Others took time to talk through a plan and assign roles. In the middle of the challenge, the moderator threw us for a spin and had us switch spots, giving our progress away to another team and trying to make use of what someone else had done.

That challenge time was meant to show how we work together, different people having different strengths. In the end, there wasn’t one clearly right way to accomplish the task.

In life some people rush ahead, others wait hoping a map will be given to them to direct their path. (And sometimes people are a little of both, cautious in some areas, adventurous in both.)

When I finished this painting I thought its as if the viewer is standing on the edge of the path, waiting. Being still, taking in the beauty around him. Perhaps it’s uncertainty, or waiting for more light to illuminate the path.

Lately, I feel like I’m waiting for direction but still taking steps forward. I need to remember to enjoy the sunrise even when I don’t know what the day(s) ahead will bring.

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.

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.

wdiptychIMG_9258.jpg