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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

Stephen

Mary Liz Ingram —  September 28, 2015 — 2 Comments

GrandfatherThis past summer my sweet Grandaddy passed away. Whenever there is a death, we the living pause. We remember that life is transient, ever changing, ever fragile, ever complex, ever lovely. We reflect and peruse memories and belongings.

Lingering in my grandfather’s apartment with my family the day after he passed, listening to the tick tock of the tall clock, noticing the newfound emptiness now that he is gone, I wandered through the few rooms. I touched his hat resting on the lamp, the softened threads of his gray-blue suit coat, his glasses by the adding machine. I spent awhile in front of a portrait my grandmother had painted of him a long time ago, when he was a young captain during WWII. He had the most beautiful clear blue eyes. My grandmother, his wife of 60-something years, is the artist who taught me what I know.

I carried that portrait in my mind for a week. To me, it meant she loved him. She was proud of him. She created a memorial to him, to the early days of relationship, a lasting image that we can absorb decades later.

I decided it was my turn. I spent a while looking through photos on my phone, looking for a straight forward image of my love, my husband, that spoke with the same simplicity, the same earnestness I found in my grandfather’s portrait. I settled on one taken at dinner, a photo that seemed ordinary. It wasn’t on the cliffs of California, or the sunset beach, or under the Eiffel Tower. Just dinner, just us. Just a quick, easy smile.

I chose watercolor and a new surface: a canvas painted with watercolor ground, making the canvas absorbent and ready for my paint. The background formed accidentally, when I piled on the color and subsequently wiped it off. “Happy accident,” as Bob Ross says.

I began to paint, and put a lot of love into it. Admiration, pride, appreciation… all in there. The painting took on a life of it’s own, as it so often does, and captured more of him than I meant to. Someone mentioned how kind and intelligent his eyes look. The painting revealed a lot of who Stephen is, which art should do. I’m glad to have this now.

Stephen Ingram, 12x12 watercolor on canvas

Stephen Ingram, 12×12 watercolor on canvas

While we’re on the subject of portraits, this was a fun one…

A Mother’s Day gift, some sweet daughters wanted to give their mother a portrait of their grandmother. Working from an old black and white photo, we created a color portrait to bring out the beautiful auburn hair and red lips of this lovely lady. Here are some progress pictures of this watercolor commission:

Mother's Day Commission, 11x14 Watercolor

Mother’s Day Commission, 11×14 Watercolor

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

 

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

 

Recently I had a cool opportunity to share about creating portraits for my sweet friend Julie Holly’s sermon serie, The Faces of Jesus, at Canterbury United Methodist Church here in Birmingham.

Now, my nerves were threatening to get the best of me as soon as my den was overtaken with a big ol’ camera, a bunch of bright lights, and I got hooked up to a microphone. But thanks to the kind cameraman, I did my thing as best I could.

I hesitated to share the video, you know how we humans pick ourselves apart, but they did such a good job making it, and it’s not everyday you get to share what you do in a video, so here goes nothing:

The Garden

Mary Liz Ingram —  October 23, 2014 — 5 Comments

For months, I’ve been consumed with my latest project:

My fabulous front yard garden.

I’ve researched, I’ve measured, I’ve sketched and planned. I’ve shoveled dirt, I’ve carried rocks, I’ve moved buckets and buckets of soil. I’ve planted, I’ve watered, I’ve problem solved, I’ve watched food grow, I’ve eaten produce from my front yard.

With my trusty helpers, including the 2 year old, we have made my dream a reality and I have to admit I am super proud – giddy even. If you follow my blog, you may remember my post from St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, when I was first inspired to plant the garden. Well, I’m happy to say I DID IT. I did it!!! And if you follow me on Facebook, you’ve been barraged with garden doodles.

In planting, I tried to be responsible – environmentally, economically and practically. After a persistent search, I found an amazing deal on recycled fire bricks ($25 a ton!) to edge my garden. I ordered a huge dump truck load of soil at the best price. I compost and I now own a $40 rain barrel. I ordered non GMO seeds ($.99 sample packs!) from seedsnow.com and they grew. I shop at my local Homewood Garden Shop and have healthy blueberry bushes and lovely plants.

I worked my butt off building and planting this garden.

Beginning at the end of August, in the Alabama heat, I made it happen with my ever-present garden buddy. My kids, especially my son, now understand exactly where food comes from and how to grow it and care for it. My son waters it, pulls grass out of it, harvests the radishes, and takes a walk through it every time I open the door.

My garden is planted to grow community.

I didn’t know how that would work, but the first day I was out there I had real conversations with a dozen people, neighbors and passers-by. I share food with my neighbors and have met all sorts of new people. My kids tell anyone who asks about the plants growing, and I find that food is an easy thing to discuss, a common denominator.

My favorite story happened a few weeks ago. As we walked home from school, I began talking to an older lady about rosemary, as our kids were smelling it by someone’s mailbox. I just made a quick comment, not aiming at anything, not trying too hard. A few words later, we were talking about my garden. She was interested and missed her garden, as she said, “in my country, we have sun everyday and I grow many plants.” As we parted ways, I told her to stop by anytime and see the garden and take some herbs.

A week later, she stopped me at the corner with her two grandsons and asked if they could walk down to see the garden. On our short stroll, I find out they are from Haiti, and that her entire family was there during the earthquake except for her. She had arrived in the US four days before the quake for a wedding, and was plagued with anxiety over the separation at such a time. I now know her name, I know a portion of her amazing story, and the kids all ran together along the stepping stones of my garden.

Growing something, overcoming obstacles (like cats, cabbage worms, flooding rains, aphids…), being faithfully attentive and persistent…you learn things from gardening. About life, about children, about the world. I feel at peace and connected to nature when I’m checking the leaves and hearing the spray of water hitting the thick pile of green collards. It is a small miracle to see a snow pea sprout and grow out of the dirt, mere days after planting. There are more benefits to this garden than I can name.

My Garden Doodles thus far: