Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Lately I have had the an itching to challenge my self a little bit, step out of my regular floral box, and try something a little different. I am a huge admirer of portrait artists who can capture the beauty and personality of the human face. I am not a portrait artist, but from time to time I like to do portraits to work on my skills. Summer time, when I usually have a little more flexibility in my schedule, is the perfect time to do this.
When I started this one, I had a very clear idea in mind of what I wanted to convey- that wonderful innocence of childhood, and how they see the world around them in such a beautiful way, and how we so want for them to always keep that (something that I may even explore some more in future portraits). But the subject was needed. I wasn't sure who to paint. I had my seven year old, Sophia (a sweet little blond with blue eyes), pose for me for a few photos to see if that would work. It just wasn't fitting what I was going for.
For some reason I reached for some darker shades for the hair and instantly pictured my half American, half Bolivian grand daughter, Hope. Not as she is now, as an eighteen month old, but as she would some day, maybe be. It was about who I hope she will become.
It just fit. It seems like when the ideas line up, the painting lines up. The paint went on just like I wanted it to and all the time this grandma got to pray for her sweet grand baby's future. I can't even tell you how much fun it was to paint this one.
Thursday, July 2, 2015
It took me quite a while to work my way through this one. Not because it was exceptionally difficult. It was more a matter of life getting in the way. I had a lot of starts and stops on this one. Sometimes that can make "getting in the groove" a little difficult. This morning I was able to sit down and put the finishing touches on it. It always feels good to accomplish something.
The entire time I painted this one, I kept envisioning flaming fire. Thus the name, "On Fire".
Sunday, February 1, 2015
|"The Hopes of Anne Bradstreet"|
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
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
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
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
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!