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!
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.
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!
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.
Part of my life as an artist is to look for opportunities to show my work in galleries and other venues. I found out about a call to artists at a gallery I’d like to get into. The only problem was the deadline was less than a week away and pieces had to be 10×10 or smaller.
So I grabbed a few canvases and did three sunset scenes. My work wasn’t chosen to be in the show for the gallery I made it for. It happens, for every time my work is accepted someplace there is usually several times it’s been rejected. As the year-end approaches, there are different opportunities to try and sell my work to those looking for a great unique gift. I’d love to see some big pieces, but know for many a small piece is more their price range. I have pieces listed on Etsy, and am doing a few holiday one day shows locally.
When I painted for myself I painted what I wanted. As a professional, I find subject matter I like, but it’s also about what will sell. Living in Florida makes Southwestern Landscapes a hard sell. (So I dream of the day I have enough of an online following, and or gallery representation out west to paint those pieces.) I love painting big, but it’s harder to find collectors for large pieces. So I have some big canvases waiting. I would grow weary of small paintings all the time, but there is a freedom in the small pieces. Not overthinking or getting too caught up details.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The right panel of swan sunset diptych
Acrylic on canvas
We love stories of the underdog overcoming. Rags to riches, the long-shot coming from behind to win, the ugly duckling transforming into the swan. Reminders to have hope and not give up.
In the middle of downtown Orlando sits a lake, rimmed by old oaks, tall palms and tall buildings getting a peek at their reflections. It’s peaceful and beautiful. A variety of heron, ducks, geese, and swans make their home there. And it all started as a sink hole. A dreaded word in this area. Beauty resulting from misfortune. A place to be enjoyed whether you have it all together or you feel like your world is falling apart.
I love seeing the swans here. There are five different types, introduced to the park in the 1920s. They receive veterinary care, and nests are watched with cameras and have limited flight abilities as their wings are clipped. Swan often mate for life and males take turns sitting on the eggs. Featured here are Mute Swans. This is the view facing to the northwest.