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.

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Ringling’s Banyan

12×36 Acrylic on Canvas

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?

The photo inspiration for the painting.

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.

Standing Together

30×40 inches

Acrylic on canvas

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.

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.

Willow on Rainbow Banks

18×24
Acrylic on canvas

I have a certain style when I paint. It wasn’t really super intentional, it’s just how I paint.  I fall somewhere between loose realism and impressionism. I like to amplify colors and try not to depend too heavily on black, preferring to use purple, blues and dark greens to darken. When I paint buildings the work is a bit more exacting, as I want to make sure to get the angles and perspective right. However, there are a number of artists that I am inspired by who have a looser style, with more of an emphasis on movement and brush strokes, more painterly than realistic. When I paint smaller canvas I am freer to focus on shape and color and don’t worry about capturing every detail. I’ve tried to incorporate that into some of my recent paintings. I enjoyed breaking away and being a bit more blocky with my colors. I think it contrasts and adds interest to areas that are more realistic.

This scene was inspired by visiting my parents in Michigan this summer. They live on a chain of lakes, and I was able to kayak around exploring at a slower pace. I enjoyed the shadows the trees casts, the colors of the lily pads and how reflections distort in the water. I decided to add some fall color to the weeping willow tree.

The Patio at Hotel Dallavalle Niagara-on-the-lake 4

24×30

I struggle with not enough. I don’t think I’m alone. Wondering if I have talent enough to make it as an artist. Being jealous and feeling in competition with other artists, that there is limited room for art and beauty in the world. Before that was a fear that we wouldn’t be about to find enough support to continue our work with an amazing non-profit. Not feeling like I have enough wisdom and grace to parent my tween children well as they pull away and struggle into adulthood. The list could go on. I’m guessing you could add your own items, times where your chest gets tight and you wonder how will this work out.

I can be dense, needing to relearn lessons over and over. And I’m coming to terms with that is OK. Learning and relearning over a lifetime is OK. And one lesson I appear to be getting schooled in is God is enough. More than enough. As I referenced when I started the Niagara-on-the-Lake painting, he is gloriously wasteful. And He wants to share his resources with me. He isn’t stingy with his grace, his forgiveness, his love or wisdom. He put reminders everywhere that he is a wellspring of life, always with more to give, not a cistern with a limited quantity. Daily sunsets, flowers, the variety of plants, bugs, animals. How many bay species do we really need?

So if you’ve read until now you might be scratching your head saying what does that have to do with a cafe scene? Everything God made reflects his nature, including humans, and what we make also reflects him.  I think the reason I’m drawn to these scenes is they’re lavish, in their beauty. Far beyond a functional meal to scarf down and run out the door. The message is sit down, fellowship, enjoy your surroundings. My reminder to myself is when overwhelmed, don’t focus on if you are enough, but that God is enough.

Have you tasted this His goodness?

This painting is the patio of Hotel Dallavalle on the corner off Gate street and Queen street in Niagara on the lake. Overhead flower baskets hand from a pergola. Crisp white tables and chairs welcome, interspersing with red umbrellas. A number of tall trees provide shade for the area.

Shades of Green- minitures

I live in Florida, where there is plenty of greenery. However, traveling this summer in the Midwest, taking in some wilderness area it felt different. I loved the overhead canopy of trees and the dappled sunlight. I completed a few smaller paintings during the trip and look forward to doing more paintings in upcoming months.

The following are each 6×6 inches, acrylic on canvas, inspired by our time in Mammoth National Park.

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