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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

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

 

Sunny California

Mary Liz Ingram —  April 23, 2015 — 1 Comment

It’s been a while since, months can pass so quickly, but I find my thoughts daily straying to my few days on the Pacific.

I left the downpours of an Alabama spring behind and spent some time on the shores of California. A rare retreat alone, my husband and I felt like excited, curious children on a grand adventure. We ran around Hollywood Blvd., drove down the coast in a little red rental car, climbed over the rocks and tidal pools of Laguna Beach, went whale watching, and Stephen took a surfing lesson while I giggled and watched.

It was glorious.

With such incredible surroundings – the tallest palm trees I’ve ever seen, the sky catching on fire as we watched the sun sink into the ocean, dolphins, gray whales and sea lions right in front of me – I planned to paint and draw a lot.

But, I enjoyed myself so immensely and found myself so relaxed, I didn’t feel like doing much of anything besides staring at the ocean and listening to it sing. I found the words of Mary Oliver’s poem “Today” drifting through my mind: “Today I’m flying low and I’m not saying a word….Quiet as a feather. I hardly move though I’m traveling a terrific distance.”

Here are a few paintings, doodles and thoughts from those transforming days in California:

Pacific Ocean treasures, watercolor

Pacific Ocean treasures, watercolor

When I saw this collection of ocean treasures – shells and seaweed, sticks and pebbles – I was reminded of the poem “Breakage” by Mary Oliver as well. I recommend you read the whole poem…all of her poems, really. They are so simple, so beautiful.

I go down to the edge of the sea. How everything shines in the morning light!

….

First you figure out what each one means by itself,

the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop full of moonlight.

Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.

 

Winter Trees

Mary Liz Ingram —  February 23, 2015 — Leave a comment

Everyday, lately, I watch the winter trees. Some days they are dancing in the wind, some days they stand still as statues. Often they are mobbed with chattering black birds.

The dark, bare branches look like ink against the gray sky, so I drew them. I let the ink drip down the crinkled paper, as I held it upside down. When I turned it right side up, I found a tree:

Winter Tree, ink

Winter Tree, ink

Today, the trees were rain-soaked and slowly moving, here and there. I wrote down a little poem while I sipped my coffee:

The trees stand

like frozen sentinels

drenched by a cold winter rain.

They watch me with

arms spread high and wide

daring me to hear them

to feel the bare morning

to come out of my house

and reach to the sky.

Wet to the bone

they tease me

as I sit in my warm chair

wrapped and snug.

With waving wet arms

they tell me to come out and see

come out and dance

and feel the rain.

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

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:

 

 

Grain of Sand

Mary Liz Ingram —  September 16, 2014 — 1 Comment

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

-William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

Magical evening, original photography

 

If you follow my blog, you may have noticed it’s been awhile since my last post. I’ve taken a few steps back to regroup, to build my garden, to reflect, absorb and let peace grow and guide. This time of retreat ended with a magical week with my family at Grayton Beach. I took this picture on the evening we arrived, and was blown away by the beauty of our world.

We played and read, built sand castles and dug holes, swam and walked and enjoyed every second, living in the moment.

I doodled every day and recorded my thoughts in words and art:

“A week at the beach, life relaxed.

Cotton candy clouds on early mornings, we beat the sun.

Thunderstorms in surround sound, we watch from the porch, candles flicker as clouds flash.

Feet in the blinding sand, we become one with the sun, warmly wrapping us and renewing our souls.

Splashed by aqua waves, we wade deeper into the mystery of the sea, finding new things and taking in life.

Rejuvenation. Perspective. Enjoyment. Refreshing retreat as the world swirls vividly around us.”

 

“Love in this world doesn’t come out of thin air. It is not something thought up. Like ourselves, it grows out of the ground. It has a body and a place.” -Wendell Berry

Blueberries, ink doodle

Blueberries, ink doodle

Listening to Old Crow Medicine Show, I’m standing in the kitchen in a summer dress and apron, hair pulled up and wrapped round with a yellow bandana scarf, barefoot in good Alabama style.

A colander full of fresh-picked blueberries from the farm, I begin to make a big double batch of blueberry muffins, ready to share with my neighbors and family…aiming for a little Southern hospitality.

I’m thinking of my “sense of place”…what that means to me, what is my place.

I may feel a pull to other places, such as the free hills of Britain, but here, standing in my kitchen in the middle of a hot, Southern summer, I am in the middle of my life.

I stir my muffin batter and dump in my blueberries, wondering what good I can do in this complicated, messy, humid, growing  city of Birmingham, Alabama.

Typewriter

Mary Liz Ingram —  July 22, 2014 — Leave a comment

My newest whim weighs a lot.

And I love it.

A lot.

But why read it like this…when you can read my story like this:

Typewritten

Typewriter, ink doodle

Typewriter, ink doodle

That’s right. I typed that on my awesome new…well, old…Royal typewriter. And yes, I’m still in training…lots of mistakes.

My typewriter was born in 1956, same as my dad. And even better, thanks to my typewriter, we got to meet the fabulous Billy Hagood at Alabama Typewriter Co. on 6th Avenue in downtown Birmingham.

With my heavy typewriter resting in the trunk, my sweet daughter and I headed down University into the city. After a few more turns, we came to a little building, its name in white on a dark green awning, and crunched into the gravel parking lot.

Armed with my load, I backed my way through the door into a room completely filled with typewriters and stacks of papers. Old typewriters that reminded me of Singer Sewing Machines, electric typewriters like the one I used when I was little…all shapes, colors, and sizes, rows and rows and rows.

A man in a striped collared shirt and apron met us and with purposeful outstretched arms, he took my precious burden and set it on the only clear spot in sight. Slightly shorter than me, he asked me questions about my dirty typewriter, promising to fix it and “make it something to be proud of.”

Mr. Billy, ink doodle

Mr. Billy, ink doodle

Turning to my daughter, he told her that “any writer worth something types on a typewriter.” She was mesmerized by him and his shop full of typewriters, and I am also so grateful for a unique experience…one I hope won’t disappear.

It’s neat to preserve and USE a piece of history.

It sits proudly on our desk, waiting and inviting me to type and think and tell stories. My kids think it is awesome, and they love a turn to push the keys. I type on it every day…nonsense, good thoughts, whatever I want.

 

 

 

 

An artistic pilgrimage.

Sennelier, ParisAcross the same bridge over the River Seine to the same, small green shopfront near the Louvre.

I stood in front of Sennelier for the second time.

Last time I was there, there was no art career. There was a lifetime of interest and dabbling, but no career. I bought my first pastels there, after hearing about Sennelier on NPR. That same year, I embarked on a career change, determined to make art a way of life.

And here I stood, years later, in front of the store that feeds my art and brings my pastels into being. We went inside and I touched the worn, wooden drawers containing every color pastel. We maneuvered around the cramped, aged art store, past the old wooden ladder and over to the notebooks. I made my choices and with a timid “Merci” purchased some notebooks, future home of new doodles. Something I can keep.

Like standing in the English field among the sheep that I’d drawn so often, standing in Sennelier was another step in coming full circle. But it was not the last.

Mont Martre.

With our umbrellas and soggy shoes, we left our lunch at the Eiffel Tower with our sights set on Mont Martre, the gathering place for artists past and present. Last time our visit to Paris was so brief, we only had time to touch this section of the city. Rain or no rain, we would soak it in and look over all of Paris from the hill of Sacre Cour.

Laughing and out of breath, we slipped and climbed up the steep sidewalks to the top of Mont Martre. Navigating through umbrellas, we wove our way past cafes and windmills, artists shielding their work from the wet weather. With easy smiles and free spirits, we leaned on the fence in front of Sacre Cour, the carousel below us and Paris spreading its arms as far as we could see.

Sacre Cour, marker & ink doodle

Sacre Cour, marker & ink doodle

We moved down the steps like children and stood in front of the carousel, watching it spin and entertain. I knew every piece, a former pastel now shared in a home somewhere in Alabama. A piece of Paris.

Carousel, marker & ink doodle

Carousel, marker & ink doodle

My art career has grown and my life has deepened over the years. The beginning, the inspiration, the moments have come full circle with this trip of pilgrimage. I have said my thanks and recognized those things, those places and those people that have moved me and brought me thus far.

Like the turning carousel, I made it around and stood again in the same place, I very much changed.

And now I have a renewed heart and new adventures to explore and draw and share…

moving forward with much warmth and these memories in my pocket.