"God's art [Creation] speaks of Himself, reflecting who He is and what He is like."
Francis Chan

Sunday, February 1, 2015

"The Hopes of Anne Bradstreet"

"The Hopes of Anne Bradstreet"
Oil 24x30

                 I don't often do still lifes.  I am usually a floral kind of girl.  But this one mulled around in my mind for literally, three years, waiting to be painted.  It was sort of like a puzzle that I slowly collected and put together the pieces to.  In 2012 I painted a large painting of a bird nest and a feather - with lots of background.  Then I promptly asked myself "What were your thinking?".  I set it  aside, staring at it occasionally, scratching my head.  I knew the idea I wanted to convey.  I had painted the nest to convey home life.  There were an abundance of eggs - five to represent each of my own kids.  But I had nothing else - just a lot of blank space in the back of the painting.
                I was tempted to throw it out or paint over it a hundred times.  I am beginning to wonder when I will learn that when I am on the verge of pitching a painting, I am also on the verge of a break through.
                Some time last fall I began to mentally fill the background.  I thought of a bird cage.  Not the kind that entraps a bird, but one that provides a home.  In our home we are over halfway through with raising kids.  Our oldest three are on their own, one is in high school, and one, well, we have a ways to go on the last one.  Ha!  But with this in mind, I envisioned the colloquial 'flying of the coop' for the better part of my brood.  Thus the open door on the bird cage.
              As a parent, when you reach that stage when the kids are trying life on their own, you spend lots of time hoping and praying that you, in eighteen or so short years have given them the things that will equip them for life.  I am not just talking about how to pay bills and get a job (although these are important).  I am talking about the things that will make them a descent human being who chooses a good path to walk down, and doesn't get distracted with everything that glitters in this world, who remembers that we are eternal beings only living on this earth for a short time.
             With these things in mind, I mentally filled the background of the painting with the things that I hope my kids have taken and will take with them out of their childhood.  In our home, it was the light and wisdom of God's word - without which, I truly don't know how people cope with all that life throws at us.
              I felt like I needed one more thing to tie it all together.  Two things occurred that really sealed the deal for me:
               One, I found myself thinking about the word hope.  Isn't that what parenting is really all about?  You hope you did it right.  You hope they learned all they needed to.  You realize that you can have hope, because their Maker loves them and cares for them more than you could ever imagine.  I remembered a Bible study I had done years ago in which the word 'hope' first occurs in the Old testament in the book of Ruth.  In Hebrew, the word literally means "a cord for attachment (or to hold onto)"  and refers to a rope of scarlet red. It is seen quite a few times in the O.T., most often in relation to the stories of women - a woman feeling desperately alone and forgotten, unable to see that God has an amazing plan awaiting her (Naomi).  Another woman, who had been wronged, and desperately asks for a sign of deliverance, including a scarlet rope (Tamar).  And finally, a woman who wisely sees that destruction is coming to her people and asks for God's help - a scarlet rope hanging from her window to be the sign that she is trusting in Him (Rahab).
            I know, I know, you thought you were reading about a painting, not getting a Bible lesson. Ha!  But this was my thought process -what can I say!
           The second thing that occurred is that I opened up a book from one of my all time favorite poets - Anne Bradstreet.  She was a seventeenth century stay at home mom with a creative streak a mile long and lots to say.  I adore her writings.  She wrote a beautiful poem about her children ("In reference to Her Children"), all eight of them (!)  flying the coop.  I love her because she is just so real about her hopes and fears.   In the poem, she goes through each child and lovingly relays who they were and are and where they "flew" off too (in the poem, she actually refers to them as birds flying from her nest).  You can hear in her tone that she, in the 1600s is saying the same things that parents are saying  today - 'I hope I did enough".  But she has assurance that they things she taught them will see them through - not just because she taught them, but because they are Truth.  She ends it this way...
  When each of you shall in your nest
Among your young ones take your rest,
In chirping languages oft them tell
You had a Dame that lov'd you well,
That did what could be done for young
And nurst you up till you were strong
And 'fore she once would let you fly
She shew'd you joy and misery,
Taught what was good, and what was ill,
What would save life, and what would kill.
Thus gone, amongst you I may live,
And dead, yet speak and counsel give.
Farewell, my birds, farewell, adieu,
I happy am, if well with you. 

         And so, with this I had my final element for this still life - that red cord of hope to hold onto, that wound ( and winds)  its way through our home throughout the child rearing years and beyond.



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pressing In, Pressng On

"Vision Unfolding"
30x40 oil

         I recently posted a picture of this finished painting  on my Facebook page.  With it I included a few comments about the struggle this one gave me and how I almost had given up on it.    Here is the gist of what I said -

          "Finished this up today. What a great feeling. This one has sat on the easel for about three months. It has made my eyes cross ( So. Many. Petals.). I have changed my mind about the color scheme several time. It sat for a good month, out of sheer frustration. And I came very close to pitching it into the garbage ( thanks for the encouragement Tori Kulish, to keep on keeping on). It makes completing it all the more sweet. "

        Sometimes paintings sort of paint themselves.  Ahh, if only they all did that.  Some are just well, struggles.  You are in the midst of the project and you feel like it isn't going the direction you want it to.  Or you feel stagnant and uninspired.  Sometimes you feel stuck and want to just give up.  But often, you have invested too much to just throw in the towel.  I think every human alive, artist or not can relate to that situation in some area of their life, at some point.  You just can't see how the situation, the season of life, the current position your in, (you can fill in the blank), are going to turn out to be anything of value.  You just feel stuck.  
     I will say that sometimes, in painting at least,  the very thing you should do is acknowledge the complete "yuck" of where a project is going and pitch it.  I have been there.  I have done that.  It can be both liberating and a great lesson in what to do different next time.
     But sometimes, as in the case of this one ( and often in life), you maybe just need the encouraging word of your seventeen year old daughter, to cheer you on, to tell you she loves this one, over and over until you begin to see that you might just like it too.   (I believe the words she used were "I'm obsessed with this one"  - and who wouldn't be encouraged to press on with those words!)  And then all of a sudden the vision for it becomes a little clearer and you realize you actually are loving it too. (Keeping it real here - obsessed is just a little too strong a word to describe my feelings. But I really do love it!)  
     It is shocking to me, what the painting process teaches me sometimes.  I mean, I paint flowers, right?  But there is usually such amazing things being worked out in me, as the painter, while I paint that flower.  I am not sure if anyone else can see it in the painting - but I at least can.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Veins of Life

         For those of you who don't know, I am an Iowa girl, born and raised.  I make no bones about it, I am completely prejudiced when it comes to my love of Iowa - I see no other state that can compare.  Yes, I know it is humid here - I have come to terms with the fact that for about three and a half months out of the year we will need to make various outfit changes per day because of the problem of sweaty clothes.

          But I can't help it, every time I travel away and then return home, as soon as I pass over the state lines I am amazed all over again at the beauty of the state I call home.  No, we don't have oceans, or even mountains.  Ahh, but Iowa has miles and miles of lush green rolling hills of corn.  And, of course, Iowa wouldn't be Iowa without our corn.  And amongst all those beautiful fields awaiting harvest, are the creeks and rivers that bring life to quench the thirsty ground.

        These are where my thoughts have taken  me lately.  Kind of strange, I know.  But one other thing we have in Iowa (or I should say, had) is Grant Wood.  Much of his amazing art was created about twenty miles from my front door.  Of course that art in it's unique style, is full of the scenes that I was just talking about.  Grant Wood was an Iowa boy who appreciated the beauty of this special place too!   Lately I have been thinking about his lush paintings with the rolling hills and rivers.

     This painting is my ode to him.  I don't usually do landscapes - not really my thing.  But when I sat before the white canvas this time, I envisioned the landscape of a flower (obviously my thing!).  I tried to convey the flower as a landscape with rolling hills and valleys full of lush beauty.  And of course I wanted to convey the veins that bring the very life to each petal.  Without those veins bringing water to quench a thirsty plant, the petals shrivel up and die.

    If you ever get a chance, I encourage you to visit Iowa in the summer.   Note: bring lots of changes of clothes - the humidity isn't just a rumor.  There is something about those lush green, rolling hills and rivers  that words, or even pictures could never begin to capture.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

One Last Project with My Dad

This has been a project a long time in the making- two years to be exact.  Some of you may remember the two commission pieces that I completed for my dad after his sudden death in 2012.  This painting was another of his that he had started and hadn't gotten a chance to complete. This one was a little different in that it was going to go to a family member, my sweet niece, Serena.  Like so many of those it's-for-family-so-I-will-get-to-it-sooner-or-later projects, this one has sat on a shelf for two years.  Poor Serena!  I am sure she has thought that her aunt has completely forgotten about her promise to finish it.  But since Serena and her family are visiting my neck of the woods soon, I figured I had better get a move on!
As with the other projects, this was such a neat experience to get to learn from each of my father's brush strokes and color choices.  The painting was about half done when I started, and was closer to my subject matter than the other two paintings done in 2012.  So it is probably, of the three projects, the best "collaboration" between my dad and I.  He loved painting birds, and had a unique style in portraying them that was really his own.  But I got to make a lot of color decisions - so bold color it is!  For instance, the red flowers were, I believe, originally going to be leaves of some sort.  But I felt like the bold flowers were in need.  Hopefully he would have been okay that choice.
  I again, signed both of our names to the bottom.  It has been a while since I have had to forge my dad's name to write a note to the teacher to get out of school, but I don't think I did too bad if I do say so myself.  Ha!  I chose to put two dates on it - 2012 for the year he completed his part in it, 2014 for the year I finished it.  I like to think he would have been happy the end result.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Under the Shadow of Your Wings

                     I have been working on this little study off and on for the past couple of weeks.  Today the wind chill in Iowa is -30 something degrees, so it was the perfect day to stay tucked inside and finish this one up!
                     I was thinking a few months back about the beautiful scripture
 in Psalm 91 -
                                     "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
                                        Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
                                         I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
                                         My God, in whom I trust!”...
                                         ... He will cover you with His pinions,
                                         And under His wings you may seek refuge; "
                                                                                         Psalm 91 :1-3
                      I have always loved these verses and the word picture of God being like a bird with it's young, covering them with protective wings.  I am always comforted with this thought.
                      My goal is to do a larger project with this theme in mind. To prepare for that I searched through books and on line for reference photos.  This study is based on a photo I found online.  Unfortunately I have no idea who the photographer was, in order to give credit to them.  But it certainly matched the idea of what I picture when I think of Psalm 91.
                      I will keep you all posted on the future project.  Until then - think warm thoughts and hope for spring to come soon!

Thursday, January 2, 2014


        Happy New year to everyone!  I am trying to start the new year off right, by completing a painting.  2013 was a year of rest of sorts:  I painted less (not by choice, mostly due to schedule restraints), and sat out of the usual art sales/festivals that I would normally be involved in.  I spent a lot of time focusing on family - something that I never will have regrets about!  One thing I really enjoyed this year was doing a lot of painting give aways.  Because I wasn't as involved in art sales I noticed the stack of paintings in my home were getting a little out of control.  I made a conscious
decision to make 2013 a year to give.  I loved it!  I got to give paintings to friends and family and to three or four auctions and benefits to help raise money for people in my community and communities around me who were struggling with health issues and medical expenses.  There is nothing that makes you happier than to give.
     So, here we are in 2014 and I had the pleasure of finishing up this project that I have been working on for the past month or so.  This 4ft. x3ft. oil was a unique project because it was part of "collaboration"  of sorts.  In the nearby city there is a high school student who is a very talented film maker.  For a senior project he has been working on making a film to visually describe a musical composition done by the orchestra conductor of his high school.  He said when he heard the music he immediately pictured artists painting.  He spent several months filming myself and five other local artists working on various paintings.  He will then put it all together to be shown along with the orchestra performing the piece.  I just love it when various creativities work together!
    This painting is titled "Starburst"  and is for sale.  Please contact me by leaving a comment below for further information.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


    I started this project at the beginning of summer.  It was one of those paintings that the idea came to me instantly and therefore you think it is just going to practically paint itself.  It was very clear in my mind the idea that I wanted to convey - a sunflower being blown back and forth in a strong wind.  But when the first few layers were laid down, the painting just didn't seem to be falling together as I had seen it in my mind.  It was a frustrating experience that caused me to lay it aside for over a month. every time I walked by it I was dissatisfied with it.
    Other things seemed to occupy my time and mind this summer.  It has been a summer filled with lots of change and struggle and turmoil.  The thoughts that filled my days this summer consisted of questions like ' What do you do when life throws you a curve ball you weren't expecting?' and ' When life leads you down an unexpected road, one I would probably have preferred not to have gone down, do I still hold on to the beliefs that have in the past been rock solid? Or do I throw in the towel and say I give up, what's the use?'. This has been for me, and my family, a summer of turmoil.
   It was in the middle of all of these questions and struggles that two things happened.  One I stepped back into my little art studio and stood before this painting that had given me earlier grief.  I looked at it for a good three days and realized that the idea for the sunflower being battered and tossed around by the wind felt very much like the summer I was having.  I have seen lots of sunflowers that took a hit in a storm and ended up face down, uprooted.  But some, even though they bend over under the pressure of the wind, the stalk threatening to break,  can afterwards be carefully lifted off the ground and made to stand tall again.  I think the difference is how deep the roots of the plant run.
   The second thing that happened in the midst of all this was that I ran across a scripture that sunk in deeply into my heart.  Isaiah 48:10  "Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction."  Ever felt like your camping in the furnace of affliction?  But the refiner has a purpose for it all - to purify the metal until only the purest gold shines through.  
    So it was, still feeling the heat of affliction and emotionally battered by unexpected winds that sometimes blow through our lives, I picked up the brush and began to paint.  There was no longer any struggle to convey that idea I had had months ago, it really did seem to paint itself.  And with each layer of paint, I marveled at how the gold shone more and more brilliantly on the petals.


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