Archives For children

Love and Light

Mary Liz Ingram —  January 21, 2016 — Leave a comment

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.

Love and Light, 20x20 watercolor on canvas

Love and Light, 20×20 watercolor on canvas

Big Chalk

Mary Liz Ingram —  January 14, 2016 — 1 Comment

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.

detail of "Martha," 18x24 pastelI 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.

Martha, 18x24 pastel on board

Martha, 18×24 pastel on board

The Macaron

Mary Liz Ingram —  November 12, 2015 — 2 Comments

MacaronCan a three-year-old appreciate a macaron?

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.

Bon apetit.

"The Macaron," 20x25 watercolor on canvas

“The Macaron,” 20×25 watercolor on canvas

Beach Adventures

Mary Liz Ingram —  October 4, 2015 — Leave a comment

There’s this magical place where the sands are untouched, smooth and white as snow; where the sky stretches on in the vastness of blue, where the sea oats whisper and the ocean rolls, where a river of amber flows shallow and changing into the turquoise sea. If you listen, you only hear the quiet breeze and the gentle splashing of your bare feet as you tread gingerly up the river towards the lake. The dunes are safe from the traffic and trash of humans. The herons watch you approach, and the little fish dart in the skim of water.

This is where we find respite for a week each September. I take the hearty adventurers up the tidal river towards Alligator Lake several times each day, and always in the early morning when the cotton candy clouds hang lazy in the sky. With a net and eager eyes, my son watches for crab. His lithe little body, tanned by the sun, moves with patient energy. He appreciates the stillness of the place, the untouched nature. I’m proud as I watch him wonder.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure and honor to offer a pastel demonstration at one of the monthly meetings of the Mountain Brook Art Association. Just back from the most recent beach trip, I chose a picture of my son in the beach river, green net in hand, looking up at the beautiful sky with his little feet in the damp sand.

Beach Adventures, 16x20 pastel

Beach Adventures, 16×20 pastel

At the demonstration, I was able to share some of my favorite materials and techniques. Below is a list of some earlier blog posts about my favorite materials:

Sennelier, Paris... My favorite!

Sennelier, Paris… My favorite!

Sennelier Soft Pastels:

The Darker the Better

Love at First Sight

Full Circle

Spraying Pastels:

To Spray or not to Spray

SpectraFix Pastel Fixative

SpectraFix Follow up

Papers & Boards:

Pastelbords

Pastel Ground:

Applying Pastel Ground

The Spanish Steps

Black Board with Golden Pastel Ground

 

Trio

Mary Liz Ingram —  June 26, 2015 — Leave a comment

Speaking of kids…

I recently had the pleasure to create a large 24×36″ pastel portrait of a trio of super cute kids from a neighboring state. I love being able to give a family a portrait that captures who they are at that moment in time, knowing it will last and bring them memories and joy as the kids grow up. Sending a big thanks to my sweet client, and wishing them all so well!

Commissioned Portrait, 24x36 pastel

 

Kids

Mary Liz Ingram —  June 23, 2015 — 4 Comments

Kids are awesome. Trust me, I know, because I’m surrounded by them every. day. At work and at home, lots of kids. Sometimes (ok, lots of times) they can be little stinkers, but they are funny, curious, imaginative little sponges that can teach us so much about life.

They so deserve to be loved. To be taught with patience and kindness. To be protected and given opportunities to thrive and explore. Each one is a treasure, and so unique…tiny little people.

I draw my kids all the time, trying to capture the funny things they do, the ways they teach me to find wonder in the world. Our quirky son is full of mischief and is always up to something. He makes an excellent subject:

Ahoy, 12x12 Watercolor

I See the Sea

Mary Liz Ingram —  June 20, 2015 — 4 Comments

I may be the worst blogger ever.

I have thoughts. I have paintings. I have drawings. I have stories. I’ve just kept them tucked away I suppose.

Well, today I feel like catching up a bit.

Ever since California, Stephen and I have been in a bit of a funk. Drifting a bit in creativity and thinking, thinking, thinking. Sitting on rocks watching whales and walking along the foggy Pacific ocean shore altered reality in another small shift, the outcome of all our travels. Experiences change you.

Seashore, 40x40 OilFeeling dreamy, it’s way past time to share my one and only large oil painting “Seashore” here on my website. Working from a photo taken on our family beach trip last fall, this picture captures a dreamworld. The sky was gorgeous, a tidal pool perfectly still, turned into a perfect mirror. The sand smooth and white, the kids euphoric as they skip and dash down the shore upon arrival.

You can miss so much, if you don’t look. If you just follow the kids, trying to keep them in order; if you just trudge along, day in, day out. I wasn’t particularly focused on anything that day, coming off a long car trip with 3 little kids. Luckily, I saw it. Thankfully, the scene enveloped me and smacked me out of a fuzzy world of busy adulthood.

“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.” -Dr. Seuss

From the other side of the tidal pool, the reflection was hidden. You couldn’t see the mirror. So I, running up and down the beach snapping pictures, looked like a weirdo. (Which, I believe, is not out of character….)

I was so excited to be in this magical world, where sky and land and sea were confused in a glorious vision. It is currently my favorite photo of all time. I look at the painting from across the dinner table, a reminder to keep my eyes open to the wonders of our beautiful life, our magical world.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” -W.B. Yeats

 

The Nap

Mary Liz Ingram —  February 2, 2015 — Leave a comment

There was a recent day when my son was sick. Tired and weak, he crawled into the deep pile of pillows on my bed to rest, and quickly fell asleep. On tiptoes, I inched into the room to feel his flushed cheeks and warm forehead, checking him with a mother’s worried, loving eyes.

The Bed, Toulouse-Lautrec

The Bed, Toulouse-Lautrec

The room was still and soft; the folds on the white pillows were tinted with blue and gold. The quilt lay across his sleeping chest, and the beauty of this restful moment enveloped me as I stood, quietly watching.

Always one to browse and soak in Impressionist paintings, an image floated through my mind as I lingered, a painting by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. I suddenly saw the moment as a painting.

As an artist – well, really, as a human – I try to pay attention. To notice and find the beauty and wonder in everyday moments. To value everyday moments, because that is where life is, and life is so short. When I see it, I try my best to capture what I have seen, what I have felt, what I have imagined. Sometimes it is easy, like a quick doodle to capture a snapshot in the day; sometimes it requires more effort.

In this case, I used gouache for the second time in my life, and sought to blend the images of Toulouse-Lautrec’s painting with the quiet, colorful moment of a child’s afternoon nap. It’s not perfect, but it captures a hint of what I saw as I stood in my room, and it is always a gift to try something new.

The Nap, gouache on board

The Nap, gouache on board

“The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.”  –Pablo Picasso

Watercolor study

Mary Liz Ingram —  January 22, 2015 — 1 Comment

Sitting at my kitchen table, where the sunlight rests so softly, I carefully arrange my paints and brushes. A container of water just above the paint, folded paper towels below, I line up my yellow-handled brushes, remembering when my grandfather gave them to me at my 12th birthday; they’re still my favorite. All this preparation is a design towards procrastination. The perfectly blank watercolor paper sits and waits, staring at me and asking what’s next.

What is next, I sigh.

A take a sip of tea, settle on a image, and begin.

I rub the wet brush into the color and begin to layer flesh tones, moving them, removing them, adding them, shaping the colors onto my white paper.

A face begins to emerge; I make space for the eyes. I add and move the colors to form the little pouty lips.

photo 1

Letting the colors and water dance and mingle, ebb and flow, hair begins to frame the face and the eager blue eyes.

photo 2

It’s not a mirror image, but my youngest daughter clearly stares back at me from the paper.

So that’s who was hiding there, under that smooth white surface. My little Nora. Hello!

photo 3

Southern Hygge

Mary Liz Ingram —  January 19, 2015 — 2 Comments

This weekend has left several improving marks upon my life.

It began with a challenge: an attempt to clarify a fuzzy whisper in my mind.

Feeling another step in the right direction of living well in my place, it tickled the edges of my thoughts. The many tasks and routines and duties of daily life crowded out any understanding. For the weekend, I decided an easy and concrete way to lessen the buzz and listen to life is to set aside the smart phone. You know how it is these days…our children telling us stories or asking us questions while we continue staring at the screen, looking for who knows what.

Be present, original photographyIt started with a sentence: “Be with the ones who are here.”

I added it to my phone’s lock screen photo, my favorite photo. Each time I lift it and push the magic button, I am reminded to be present. Most often, I put the phone down. I needed nothing; just an idle addiction to “news” and “notification.” When the timing is appropriate and I am the only one here, I browse. Friday afternoon happened upon an article introducing cultural concepts from outside the US. Several of these ideas struck chords in my heart and set off a light bulbs in my mind. I ate up as much information as I could to understand (and correctly pronounce) these new terms.

It begins with an “H”: The Danish Hygge (pronounce something close to “hue-gah”)

A warm, cozy sense of well-being; being grateful for the present moments, for warming, light-filled simple things. Like walks in the woods, bundled in soft clothes. Like a warm cup of tea, or hot chocolate by the fire. Like snuggling on a deep couch with your family, or taking time to pet your dog. Watching your children run and laugh and play down a trail; watching the sun rays through the trees, shining off the puddles and warming your face. A home that exudes welcome. Good friends and good company.

In Denmark, they say this contributes to the Danes being the happiest people on earth. Filling their homes with candles and lights and joy and camaraderie. I ordered some string lights for our home (with Christmas past and hygge not quite celebrated here, they proved hard to come by!) and have candles in mason jars on my mantle…a southern type of hygge. I’m ready to bring warmth to these cold winter months and more peace and awareness into our daily moments.

It starts with an “S”: The Japanese Shinrin-Yoku

Translated as “forest bathing,” we immediately explored this concept of “spending time in the forest and natural areas,” which is supposed to be “good preventative medicine.” On our sunny and mild January Saturday, I loaded up the three kids and headed around the way to our nearby Red Mountain Park. We wove our way through the forest, up and down and around the hilly trails and through the tall, tangled towers of bare trees. We soaked in the forest, the sunlight, the changing earth which darkened the nearer we came to the old iron ore mines. We explored and adventured.

It was good for the soul.

The two children who had earlier been squabbling as we stayed indoors now laughed and ran and chased each other, finding rocks and sticks and life. The mother who was tired, morose and irritable breathed deeply and gazed warmly at the world and with so much love and gratitude at the scampering kids. Can hygge and shinrin-yoku go together? Fusion philosophies, like fusion food? It seems that way.

There is so much to learn in the world; so many ways to improve our lives so that in turn, we may improve the lives of others. In our fast, competitive, needy American life, these slowing, peaceful, contented cultural concepts sound like good medicine. I already feel a difference in my life, just from the first days of appreciative attempt. I wish the same for you, along with a warm and welcoming winter.

Explore, original photography

Explore, original photography