Conor O’Neills- Ann Arbor

30×30 inches
Acrylic on canvas

I showed this painting nearly completed to a co-worker and she said; “Italy?”

While I do love painting scenes of Italy, I ran across this charming sidewalk cafe in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I loved the bright blue and colorful flowers. Tables set out to make the most of the summer. It reminded me that beauty can be found anywhere, it doesn’t have to be an exotic location.

Sometimes I go to a place, camera-ready, walking around looking. Other times I stumble onto a scene that inspires. And of course, sometimes I’m too busy in my day to day routine to even notice. I think we stop seeing when we take the mindset of been there done that. Nothing new to see. I’ll just bury my nose in my phone while waiting for the next big thing. So the challenge is to try and have eyes to see what is good, pure, praiseworthy and beautiful right around us. How are you doing? Have you been surprised lately at what you’ve found? Recently I’ve been scrolling through paintings and becoming interested again in some of the scenes before me that I didn’t have the time or desire to paint beforehand. Time away can help you see with new eyes too.

All my work is for sale. When you buy from a living artist, you are showing your support in a practical way and investing in something you could pass onto your grandkids! Leave a comment or send me a message if you want to learn more. Reproductions are available here.

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Greeneda Courtyard, Winter Park

Acrylic on canvas
20×52 inch triptych

I’d passed by the entrance many times, saw a line of tables making use of the space between the buildings and assumed that was it. But one day I took the time to walk down the alley and found a delightful little courtyard. Staircases on both sides lead up to apartments or businesses on the second floor. A fountain lazily trickling water down in the center and there are a few tables with umbrellas inviting one to rest.

I knew I wanted to paint this scene. But as I looked around at the space trying to decide on an angle, I decided to make the painting a panoramic to more fully capture the whole space.

This painting went slowly for me. Lots, of details to paint, leaving me feeling overwhelmed. So like any other task that seems all but impossible when looking at all of it, I broke it up into smaller pieces. Painting the back wall, the umbrellas, sketching the brick pattern on the ground, and bravely conquering the chairs! (I paint a lot of tables and chairs but they don’t get easier!) Then brick walls, bushes, windows, etc. the process wasn’t pretty. I wondered if I’d actually be successful in completing it. At times there was satisfaction at times weariness. But I just kept painting. It helped that as I went my daughter commented she liked the piece when I was on the fence about it.

Not sure what or how many things you face that seems overwhelming. I’m sure many of you could relay things far more important and intimidating than completing a painting! My encouragement keep going, even if it’s just a little at a time. You can take breaks and ask for help. Do you have a cheerleader to encourage you to keep going, even if its just baby steps? It’s OK for it to look messy in the middle of the process. I hope you persevere and can see moments of victory as you move forward!

I have enjoyed painting these scenes of Winter Park. I have some exciting news, but I need to wait until this fall to share. Stay tuned!

This and every painting I create is for sale. Some I place on my Etsy site. Everything goes up on my pixel site where reproductions can also be found.

Parkshore Grill Triptych, St Pete

90 x 48 inches

Acrylic on three canvases

I have a love-hate relationship with working on giant paintings! I think the larger works have a presence, they shout at the viewer come, look, enjoy. Many have said that it feels like you could walk right into the scene. They can be dramatic and are considered statement pieces. I think sometimes bigger pieces give the perception of you being a real artist. Not playing cautiously, but going for it. On the downside, it takes a long time to complete bigger pieces. I find myself needing to back up or take a picture of progress made so I can evaluate what needs to be done. Small mistakes, not getting an angle or curve right stand out more. Transporting and shipping larger pieces is also takes some planning.

With smaller pieces, the painting goes quickly, so there is an immediate gratification of seeing the piece come together. They are easier to ship and more people can afford to collect the smaller pieces. However, they are like reserved you have to be willing to slow down and quiet your soul to take in the message that is more of a whisper.

A solo show was coming up and the gallery owner wanted big pieces. I had a few and set about completing this one for the show. The scene is inspired by one of the many restaurants along Beach Drive in St Pete Florida. High-end shops and restaurants, bordered by a beautiful park and beyond it boats sitting in the harbor waiting. When you search online for images of a city you often see skylines. Photos are taken from a distance, trying to sum up a place by its high rises. It shows evidence of man while remaining distant, interchangeable with other places. But when you walk around an area, stay on the ground you are going at a pace where you notice things. A cool courtyard, the flowers planted outside a home. You become part of the scene. And if you’ve been to such a spot all the memories of that place can attach themselves to that image. So this scene invites one to take a seat, enjoy, relax.

Winter Park, FLorida scenes 4&5

Lunch at Prato
Hannibal Square

16×20
Acrylic on canvas

Lunch at Prato features diners taking advantage of mild spring weather while dining along Park Avenue in Winter Park, Florida. If you follow me you know I love these types of scenes. A reminder to slow down, breath deep, enjoy those around you. I appreciate restaurant making the most of the sidewalks, and the idea of walking around, exploring and window shopping.

I loved the vibrant red chairs and choose to match the umbrellas for an extra pop of color. I also enjoy the trees and flower boxes lining the street, proving shade and beauty.

Hannibal Square is located a few blocks off Park Ave in Winter Park, over on New England avenue. There are apartments with cute balconies, trees line the street and there are several restaurants and shops. When I’ve been there it is usually early in the day and several of the restaurants are not open. This patio space is for patrons of the Sausage Shack. (Makes me smile just saying it.) It has it all, a fountain, seating, shade from umbrellas and the trees. Lights strung for night time ambiance, even space heaters for the winter.

Here are the photos I used as inspiration.

Sorrento Harbor

24×24 inches
Acrylic on canvas

This painting was completed in the fall of 2018 but I realized I never took the time to blog about it. It is inspired by the harbor at Sorrento that is on the Amalfi coast of Italy. It is on the north side of the peninsula and you can view Mt Vesuvius in the distance.

I loved the brightly colored fishing boats all lined up, ready for another day. Humans have such spirit, perseverance, and determination. We don’t like hearing, that’s impossible, instead, it seems our human nature is to try and find a way to make the impossible possible. We lack natural wings and so create a number of ways to fly. Our natural habitat is on the ground and even the best swimmers can’t compete with the ease of marine life in the water. Yet many think of the sea as home. And their trusty boat makes it all possible. While few would think the life of a fisherman glamorous, they enjoy the freedom and are able to glimpse the mysteries the oceans hold. They take risks and work hard, and they float!

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.

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.

Positano at Dusk

24×24 inches

Acrylic on Canvas

It is a strange phenomenon, places that many would consider a once in a lifetime trip, that exude beauty and wonder, yet the reality is living there full-time is pretty challenging. Resources might be more limited, no driving down the street to your favorite supermarket. That amazing view you’ve seen in photos requires a demanding hike with some dizzying drop-offs. We dream of that perfect trip, yet are grateful to return to our comforts at home. Makes me wonder if I miss out on some incredible beauty because of my tendency to avoid the uncomfortable or unfamiliar. Or maybe I miss out because I take for granted what’s around me, engrossed in my to do list or Facebook feed.

Visitors flock to Positano yearly, spend a day or two, taking in the shops and scenery, showing off on their Instagram accounts. Yet I think those who live there have the opportunity to appreciate its beauty while living with the tension of its challenges. Taking a hike on your day off, kayaking along the shore discovering small watery caves and beaches. Taking the steps down to your favorite lookout to enjoy the sunset. Maybe life is meant to be a combination of challenges and taking in the beauty. The challenges make the beauty sweeter, and the beauty making the challenges bearable.

I love this scene, Dusk, light coming on on the hillside, chairs line up waiting for a new day, peaceful.

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.

Missed Opportunities – Niagara-on-the- lake No. 5

At times past I’ve sought to find a way to portray a thought, an abstract concept visually. These days painting landscapes, I go out and take photos, go through the photos and pick what I want to paint, and when finished will reflect on what I’ve learned, or the impressions I had as I painted.

Casual observers and art critics alike can theorize what an artist was thinking, or the meaning behind a painting. I have no problem with others finding their own emotional connection with a piece. I do try and take the time to think about and share what my pieces mean to me. Whether it was the experience that came when taking photos of the place or something I learned as or after painting it. My blog is sharing my art and the stories behind them.

Several months ago a photo of Shaw Cafe showed up on a friend’s Facebook feed. It was beyond gorgeous. I was so excited as I knew our trip to visit family would allow me to take a short trip over to Niagara-on-the-Lake and see it for myself. I looked forward to it for months. I wished we had been able to spend more time there, we had a few hours to walk around and take photos, before returning to our families home. I took several photos around this cafe. Flowers line the outside seating area, hang from the second level, from nearby lampposts and line the other side of the sidewalk. Variety, color, and of course as a bonus there are the umbrellas!

As I look at the painting a phrase, a verse from the Bible comes to my mind; “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Psalms 34:8

While walking one might glimpse into a window and see yummy pastries in their case. They could stop and press their face to the window, breath in deep. They can even take a step into the store, yet their experience is limited. They haven’t tasted. It remains an intellectual knowing rather than a full experiential knowledge. So close, yet they miss out. (Now at times we wish to avoid experiential knowledge, and would gladly settle for reading about it second hand.) Because of time constraints, I feel like that day in Niagara-on-the-Lake, I saw much, yet missed really experiencing, tasting. You can see the beauty of Shaw Cafe painting, but it’s from a distance. You’re not sitting in the cafe surrounded by the beauty, enjoying a meal and the company you are with. After finishing I thought, it’s beautiful, but it doesn’t capture the feeling of being surrounded or immersed in that time and place.

I can be too busy, too distracted to be fully present in a moment of time. I don’t think I’m alone. In this age, it’s easier to scroll through my Facebook or Instagram feed getting a tiny glimpse of a friend’s day instead of making a phone call or sitting down to talk. We can be so intent on capturing those perfect images for our feed that we miss just being in the moment.

I think too often I settle in my life with God of knowing things about him, without tasting, sitting down and really soaking in His goodness. Read a few verses, send a quick prayer, move onto the next thing on my list. Yet really I don’t want to be an observer, I want to be a participant! To sit, to abide and to taste.

What do you think? Where do you need to slow down?

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