For quite awhile, I have been using Square to accept online payments and send invoices. I am happy to announce that I now have an online store where you can securely and easily purchase many items including my Birmingham notecards, Alabama art, and custom commissions. Visit my online Square store today by following the link below!
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We met a man in Santorini who told me that when you come expecting good things, with a good heart and good intention, you will find goodness returned to you. When your eyes are open and your heart is willing, you see magic things all around you. You notice the hummingbird moth on the yellow thistle, the feathers on the ground, the adventure to be found.
Be a child with wide open eyes, welcoming whatever arises. -Sister Dang Nghiem
At the end of July, my husband and I were so grateful to be able to travel to the Mediterranean, journeying through Greece, Montenegro and Italy. Through the whirlwind of experiences, I watched for the twisting of the olive trees, the constellations in the sky, the plants I knew and those that I had never seen. We put our feet through the black pebbles on the Aegean coast, rode a Moped through low-growing vineyards, climbed the Acropolis in Athens, wandered through dark catacombs, ran around Rome at night. I watched the moon over the waves and knew each experience was shaping me a little bit more.
Traveling with a great group of people, we collectively reflected upon our days in the Mediterranean. I wrote in my journal on the last night in Rome, sifting through images and snatches of thoughts I had collected:
I’ve been amazed, felt filled with adventure and life, I have been worn and tired, I have felt relaxed and at peace. I have wondered after the wisp that catches my attention every now and then. I have tried to be present, at home with every step. It has been impressed upon me even more deeply than before that I am a part of the whole of creation – that the bee, the bird, the sea, the sky, the trees, the air, the land, the past, the steps and people are all so interconnected – we are a family on earth, and each place is our home. The mystery of the sea and sky and life itself seems even deeper and more mysterious and wonderfully complex than before. I am ever more convinced that love must grow, that unity and patience and an embrace of the other is necessary and compelling. There is no other way. We are all one – all one. Brother, sister all around from the people who smile to the people who push you – the bee on my plate, the cats on the pillars, the trees twisting and reaching, the sparkling sea and stars that guide. Unified as one body, God is in the wild places, all around and in and through.
Now that we are back home, I try to keep that spirit with me. The open eyes, the sense of adventure, the unity and connectedness of life on this earth. During our travels, I drew pieces and places that I collected each day, from little flowers to towering columns. I like to flip through them and remember.
I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world. -Mary Anne Radmacher
I tried to avoid the steady gaze. It seemed like the brown eyes pierced into my very soul, asking questions, surveying my existence. So contemplative, so knowing. I unwittingly mixed in a little introspective therapist into the pastels I applied, and I had to giggle a little when I stood back to survey the finished product. He’s very regal, very convicting, on his leather couch, eliciting introspection as he silently listens.
While drawing this winter, I listened to Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, a fascinating book in bite-sized pieces detailing the routines and habits of around 160 artists, musicians, writers, and great thinkers. Along the way, as I layered fur and leather, I thought about my own daily habits, my own rituals to entice and encourage my artistic creativity.
I have to say, after listening to over 100 stories of artists’ bad habits – alcoholism, substance abuse, and some really weird rituals – I feel a little bit better about myself. They do take a lot of afternoon naps, though; I wish I could incorporate that into my life. What a lovely habit.
I began to worry, as I have joked in the past, based on the biographies of great artists such as Van Gogh, Degas and the like, that I will never be a very successful artist unless I have more problems, more existential throes, more drama. Luckily, after I finished Daily Rituals, I listened to Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s Big Magic. Speaking on the same subject – these crazy artists literally killing themselves over their creativity, living in the bowels of anxiety and personal torture – she gives a different view:
On these grounds, naturally I am tempted to make the case for drinking myself to death as a creative exercise, but that would be self-destructive.
Creativity resides in making the choices that make you happy, and anyone who tells you otherwise — your inner critic, your outer critics — is fooling you. Originality is out, authenticity is in.
Whew. That’s good news. As I finish up “Bogie” the dog, I relax a bit, look him in the eyes and say “thanks.” We made it out together. He seems relaxed.
I cracked the window an inch,
letting in an icy draft
filled with the chattering of birds,
dotting the yards,
punctuating the trees.
The smallest movement sends them
flying in a blur.
Red-wing blackbirds, waxwings, grackles
cowbirds and red-breasted robins,
a congregation of busy, nervous feathers.
Cat comes running up the sidewalk,
her body alive with eagerness for a feast
if she can catch one.
No luck yet.
“I meant to do my work today but a brown bird sang in the apple tree…” -Richard Le Gallienne
I woke up this morning to a dark blue sky streaked with gray clouds. Yawning, I made my way to a cup of coffee and settled in my chair in a quiet den. I felt clouded and sleepy, like the early morning sky. Struggling to wake, hoping to sweep away weary expectations, I leaned back and looked out the window. The rising sun sent a gentle light through the stripes of dreary January clouds, a hope-filled breakthrough. Light is always brighter than darkness.
Sometimes you are fortunate to capture these moments in life, to notice them like the morning sun, when love and light shines through. A gift from a friend, a warm fire to welcome you home, a hug from a child. I’m sure you can think of many others. I know I can.
Simple, everyday moments, like a father gently preparing his daughter for a performance, carefully drawing lines and arranging her hair. His hand placed tenderly on her cheek, her eyes closed in trust and rest. I was fortunate enough to be able to preserve this moment for a family, with a watercolor on canvas.
I love to watch for the light. You never know when it will shine through.
One of the main reasons I began using pastels was to loosen up.
In high school and early college, I was the queen of minute detail. I loved teeny tiny brushes and sharp pencils. I had a huge callous on my right middle finger from squeezing the pencil so hard to get every last dot on paper.
I still love detail, as I adjust the picture next to me to the best angle and spell check myself as I type. I’m sure it drives my husband crazy, as I settle in on the couch each night, needing the correct lamps turned on, my blanket just so…the list goes on. I will spare you, even though he is trapped. I attribute this desire for order and quirky detail to my father (hi dad!), who must have his lunch of a sandwich and chips on a paper plate every day, with a Mountain Dew of course.
But I digress. My oldest daughter, to whom (poor thing) I’ve passed much of this down, calls us “noticers.” We notice things. I’m good with that.
But when it comes to art, it can be FRUSTRATING. Especially on a portrait. Sometimes you just have to let go; you have to loosen up. So I grab a big piece of chalk. Still getting good detail, the large pieces keep me from over-detailing, from stressing and focusing on minutiae. It has helped me take the leap from tight drawing to something closer to my favorite style of Impressionism.
Using big pastels is like having a third child.
You have to loosen up, or you won’t survive. It just won’t work. You have to learn and train yourself to go with the flow, to notice the important things and pass over the stressors and tiny dots that just distract. You can more easily see the beauty that stands out, and enjoy it, record it, embrace it.
We have busy minds. We are always in the process of becoming. For better or worse, our thoughts, actions and choices move us forward, or maybe backward, along the line of history and personal quest. I frequently get caught up in the existential throes of being an artist, of trying to be the best person I can be for the time I have on earth.
One morning I was thinking about fear,
how to overcome it, how to lessen the fear around us. I realized that most cruelty, most fear comes from us, from humans. We humans, more than any other species, threaten each other – with hate, with guns, with war, with irresponsibility, with greed and robbery, with anger and disregard for human life. Recently two young boys that I count as nearly my own had a gun pointed at them while they were simply playing near their porch, and this in a safe neighborhood. There was no cause or prompting, just a quick move by a man with unknown motives. It causes fear. Fear that must be overcome daily.
May we live with more peace and regard for each other. May we treat each other with love and loyalty, as members of the human race, members of creation.
In my garden, I witness a microcosm that balances and cooperates to bear fruit. Insects, bacteria, nutrients, soil, water, sun, roots, leaves…it all works together to form food we can eat, beauty we can enjoy. And I get to be a caretaker, to guide and protect the process. May we do the same in our everyday lives, care for each other, guard the process of becoming.
At this point, I hear Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life, waving dismissively, “Sentimental hogwash!” Maybe I’m laying it on a big too thick. To bring it a few steps down from mushiness, I hope we can be more like our dogs. Our pets love us, even when we act like jerks, when we ignore them or forget to buy dog food. They are loyal and forgiving, and their love is constant. We are the ones who complicate things.
Here are a few furry friends that now have their portraits painted, a testament to their worth and value, and their loyalty to a fickle race.
It’s in my personality to enjoy a challenge. I don’t mind sometimes doing without, having to be creative and find ways around a shortage. I don’t mind that our family of 5 has one bathroom; you just learn to take turns and by golly I can clean one bathroom, easy peasy.
An inconvenience I’ve been living with for sometime now is the lack of a home computer. No big deal, except for when it comes to blogging and updating my website. Well, Merry Christmas, I’m back, typing on a computer that lives here instead of one that comes home for belated visits after work.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I worked full weekends and many afternoons getting a variety of commissions painted, drawn and framed. To keep my focus in our busy home, and tune out the (mostly) happy racket, I listened to audio books. While I painted a gorgeous family farmhouse, I listened to The Zimzum of Love by Rob and Kristen Bell, and imbibed a bit of give and take into the piece.
While I listened to the stories of living in a collaborative, relational dance, I thought of how the vines and time had grown and coated the old house in an aged patina. How the old house became one with the landscape, how the house and earth united to make the image so very beautiful. The walls made room for the plants; the plants adorned the farmhouse.
I worked with watercolor canvas, a surface well-primed for the give and take of paint. I layered strong, deep colors; I removed them ever so methodically. Over and over, my brush danced to the tune of cooperation, bantering calmly back and forth with the canvas.
While I listened and worked, I navigated my way through little sibling disputes, the needs and requests of the kids, the pets, and mealtimes. A game of give and take, pause and focus, time for myself and time for others.
The whole process wrapped up in give and take.
Sometimes it’s so hard to choose a piece of art for a friend! Or you want to commission a portrait for a family member, but you’re not sure which photo they would like. If you’re stuck, I have an option for you:
Gift Cards for artwork!
Gift cards can be purchased in any amount and are redeemable for commissioned or available pastel paintings of chosen value. From pastel portraits, to ink doodles, to watercolors…so many options available for your friend or family member to choose from!
Gift cards will be written for the amount paid & purchase intention noted (ex: 5×7 framed pastel; 8×10 unframed portrait, etc.). Gift cards will be signed by the artist for authenticity. Those receiving gift cards may upgrade to higher-priced artwork by paying the balance.
She will look at the choices, ask what are the flavors, contemplate which may be most delicious. She will choose a pink one, because it is beautiful and pink. She will eagerly await the little dainty treat, and finish all her supper. She will hold it carefully in her hand, and look at it closely. She will rub the smooth top with her tiny finger, and peek into the middle to see what color is inside. She will sniff it and look at it one more time before taking a little bite. She will say “mmmmm” with as much pleasure as I, and eat the whole thing carefully and slowly. We will say French words while we eat our macarons, and feel very fancy.
So, yes, I think a three-year-old can appreciate a macaron.