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.

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.

Overhead at Conca dei Marini

24×24 inches

Acrylic on canvas

I find my tendency when facing challenges is to study the problem, look at all the facets, worry, and then see if I can find a solution. Some things I can do, like looking in the fridge and figuring out what to make for dinner. Other things are totally overwhelming, and I can feel alone. Or I alert my husband to the breadth of the problem, hoping he will magically have a solution. No doubt, it’s a comfort for others to journey with me through it. Yet I’d like to switch my default. Instead of being overwhelmed by the size of the problem, I’d like to look to God and be overwhelmed that he is with me. He will journey with me and has the power, love, and goodness to actually do something about the problem.

Oh, the irony, So I didn’t plan to be painting a beach scene when an arctic blast will send temps well below freezing and blizzards have covered everything in white. But here I’ve been painting people lounging, relaxing on the beach, basking in the sun. It takes an effort to create new habits. Here’s to leaving worry behind.

I loved the bird’s eye view and the variety and interest the umbrellas, chairs, people, and shadows made to the scene. It was a fun scene to paint, the water and rocks going quickly. Then bit by bit tackling the beach.

This is Conca dei Marini near Amalfi. The Amalfi peninsula is mountainous, rocky, with hidden towns and beaches tucked away along the coast. The hilly terrain lends to some amazing views as one stops along the road to take it in. Better yet grab your towel, find a chair and sit and relax.

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.

6×6 studies

I had a few holiday craft mart type events in early December. I wanted to make sure I had some lower price point items, so I embarked on making a number of 6×6 inch studies. I love painting on large canvases, but with smaller ones, there is a freedom to experiment and paint more loosely. I did groupings of four each with different themes: winter, spring, beach, wooded areas, parks. The paintings can most times be completed in a sitting, however, coming up with fresh subject matter for twenty paintings in under a week was tiring. Some will serve as inspiration for future larger pieces.

Senior on the Block

24×24
Acrylic on canvas

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

Being a professional artist means I’m constantly painting and continually looking for inspiration. I have no shortage of landscapes I’d like to capture on canvas, but needing to sell my work influences what I paint and when. I love the Southwest, but live in the Southeast, so until build up my following or have some galleries representing me in the area, I mostly stick to scenes appealing to a local audience. I got some great photos of winter and snow, but I’m unsure if I have an audience for such scenes.

An opportunity came up with a tight deadline, and some size restrictions. Several paintings that would’ve worked were on display and unavailable. Wanting to submit a few cityscapes I went downtown for inspiration. I walked around taking photos. Many people have complimented one of my first cityscapes I did called “East Central Blvd” featuring an old oak tree and wonderful dappled shadows on the sidewalk. I returned to the area to see if I might capture a different perspective.

This painting is the result. I think it shows my growth. Getting more comfortable with my medium, developing my style, more confident in my choices. Growth can be hard to see from one day to the next, except maybe in toddlers who add new words to their vocabulary and new skills almost daily. But when you look back to where you were a year ago or five years the changes are more obvious. It’s an art to find the balance between reflections, dreaming, and living in the present. It’s encouraging to see progress made, and there will always be that next goal. Meanwhile, I am trying to enjoy where I am now.

The title refers to the tree which most likely is the oldest thing on the block, growing, enduring as new buildings have sprung up nearby.

img_0162
East Central Blvd (the first painting I referred to, this tree is actually just behind and partially visible in the current painting.)

Pausing on the Journey

30×40

Acrylic on canvas

Light filters through the branches of evergreen trees producing a web of dappled shadows. Hints of the vistas up ahead keep the traveler pushing forward on the beaten path. Flowers and different plants add color and interest to the scene. Bare branches reaching out give hints of the life these trees have seen, and provide a place of rest in their shade. You hear flies buzzing, wind in the trees and at times your heartbeat. A place of solitude and peace that you are thankful to experience.

This is part of the East Mesa Trail. The trailhead starts at the edge of the park, among a series of poorly marked dirt roads. It doesn’t appear on the must hike lists for the area. It’s not difficult or dangerous. For most of the hike, your scenery is fairly flat with evergreen trees. Locals use it as a morning run. It’s beautiful in its own way. (Stick with it until the end and you arrive at Observation Point.)

Observation point had been the goal of the day, and it was spectacular. However, this painting reminds me to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. For most of our time is spent on the journey, one foot in front of the other. Wondering how much father. Taking in the trees, looking for markers to stay on the path. Seeing clouds roll in from the west, wondering if we’d get rained on. The journey has its own beauty, and necessity.

Speaking to myself, I need to open my eyes and give thanks for where I am on the journey. I’m not at the glorious lookout. But there is beauty and opportunity around me.