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you may contact shona via email:
smacomberarts@gmail.com

2/19/12

Golden Moment


My life of "real" work leaves very little time for quiet sunlit mornings spent in good company, enjoying simple pleasures like home-baked muffins, tea, and fresh flowers... *sigh*.   What makes art so magical is that those moments can be created in spirit,  not only for the artist but for the viewer as well.   A painting draws us into the moment in a way that even a magazine photo can't.  The touch of hand-to-brush-to-paper is intimately personal and inviting, like the almost lost art of handwriting.  So come join me in a moment of warm sunlight, golden yellows and fresh periwinkle blues.  Then bake up a batch of blueberry muffins and create your own magic!


"Golden Moment" is available.  19x22"

11/7/11

What Flowers Say...

Flowers are what give a wedding its unique ambiance.  Their individual character traits give a gathering of them a unique presence that sets the tone for an entire wedding.  Can you imagine one without them? 
You can get to know the bride by her flowers and these little paintings capture the lovely simplicity of a country wedding like a formal photograph never could.  
I love the combination of watercolor and floral bouquets!


    
Sarah's Swing


                                                                             
Sarah's Bouquet

10/31/11

Pieces of Fall


I'm not really a collector... until fall.  There is something compelling about the shapes and colors and pocketable size of these treasures.   I am to drawn them, needing to pick them up and hold them.  The smoothness of an acorn's surface contrasts with those jaunty woolen-like caps.  Faded colors of summer flowers as they begin to dry give them an antiqued look of delicacy.

This year the fall colors seemed to start with a pink-and-green theme.  In our area we don't have much traditional color yet but the muted tones have a beauty that is often overlooked.  I hope to capture that charm in this painting. 



Pieces of Fall is available.  16x24"  Contact me for pricing. 

10/23/11

Sarah's Wedding Flowers



I love things that are made by hand or "homemade" as we sometimes say.  Made by hand implies  care and time and  personal touch that can connect  creator with recipient. Sometimes made by hand means complex, detailed, exacting, and finely finished--much to be admired and coveted; but most things created by personal human touch are simple and less than perfect.  In fact, it is slight imperfections that create a quirkiness that cannot be replicated by machine or assembly line.


The flowers for Sarah's wedding were not only arranged lovingly by hand, they were grown from seed.  Seeds selected, dropped into carefully prepared soil, diligently watered and protected from choking weeds by Sarah's parents.   The parallel to raising the lovely bride is clearly sensed.


That is why a photograph of the wedding flowers can only capture a part of the experience.  These bouquets need a hand-touched rendering to fully capture the essence of what they are all about.  I'm so glad that Sarah's parents thought of that!


Two more little wedding paintings will follow...

9/14/11

Colors of Fall


The Fall color scheme can be seen well before leaves begin to turn.  There is something in the air itself that gives colors the characteristic glow of Indian Summer.  Be sure to go for evening walks and take in the soft pastels that are often overlooked as leaves begin to vie for your attention.  Notice lavender undertones tinting hills of dried grasses, still-vibrant greens in gardens crowned with pink and gold zinnias, and of course apple reds.  Enjoy!


Colors of Fall is available.  Contact me for pricing.

9/6/11

Yellow Dress


I eat lunch outside most days, sitting just within the shady boundaries set by overhanging branches of graceful old oak trees.  The usual early-September heat is just bearable and reminds me that there is always a last gasp of summer right after school starts.  Today a light breeze shuffled small leaves along the pavement and I watched them mindlessly, simply letting go of the effort my new job requires of me.  I'm not sure how long before I began paying attention to the fact that the breeze now seemed to toss those leaves a bit higher until they they were airborne.  Nothing else appeared changed, but in those few minutes, I realized that Indian Summer had tiptoed in, bringing a familiar tug at my heart.  By the time I got home this evening I was certain:  the lovely melancholy of Fall has arrived, almost undetected.


This year's palette is beginning with soft gold-yellow and lavendar-pink against deep basic greens.  Yosemite has put on the current look, again tugging at my heart in a sweet, indescribable ache.  My husband and I spent yesterday afternoon riding bikes in Yosemite after the Labor Day crowds had waved good-bye to the madness of summer in the Valley.  You could almost hear the exhalation of relief as Indian Summer moved gently through the grasses and trees.



You never know where the visual journey of Fall will take you.  Perhaps that's a part of the season's allure, why it is a favorite for many.  Unexpected wildness mixes with sweet delicacy, intenseness with softened neutrals; inspiration demands expression.   It brings me back to my paintbrush.  Perhaps Fall will be irresistible once again despite changes in my life...






Yellow Dress, 11x13", is available.  Contact me for pricing.

8/21/11

"Sweet Stuff"
                                   

The current awareness of benefits from eating foods that are "local" has given re-birth to the road-side produce stand, only today's version is the Farmer's Market.  Growers gather in central locations, set up booths and tables displaying bins or bags or boxes of freshly picked produce.  We have started to re-discover the flavorful difference between foods that have been harvested, trucked, stored, and merchandised by a grocery store chain and those left in the care of their farmer-parents.  I think most of us are even willing to overlook oddities in shape and color knowing that the true character of a favorite product lies inside the package.  This is not to say that our grocery-industry can't deliver rewarding purchases, but there is something sustaining about knowing your food's background.

 I have recently tried the newest version of acquiring  locally-grown delights: a weekly delivery service of the season's best to a near-by location where I simply pick up my paid-for-on-line bag of surprises.  I plan my meals around what I find in the bag.  It's been a great way to eat and I'm rarely disappointed in the quality of each delivery (outeraislefoods.com for my area).

The gold standard for locally grown goods is honey.  I saw that others think so too when my step-father, Grandpa Joe, set jars of his orange blossom honey out on a table near a small but well-traveled road and sold 600 pounds of the treasure in a couple of days.  Nothing fancy, just canning jars filled with transparent golden liquid, thick and sweet.  The ultimate simplicity.  

What treasures we've been blessed with despite the challenges and sorrows of modern living!  Delights surround us, ours for the savoring when we take the time to do so.  Fresh produce, flowers, tiny birds, cool quiet mornings, golden evenings, precious family moments... I'm going to keep painting these riches as a reminder to myself and to you that we are loved by a Creator who is reaching out to tell us so.

O taste and see that the Lord is good...   (Psalm 34:8)  


"Sweet Stuff"
12x15" includes a hand-painted mat
Available  (contact me)



8/1/11

Treasure Hunt

Berry-picking has been a part of summer for most of my years (which are beginning to accumulate).  I have fond memories of both the process and the products that have resulted from hand selecting each perfect specimen.   When I was young we would gather blackberries from the "you-pick" farms nearby and my mom would make jam and cobbler, which was often served with home-made vanilla ice-cream.  Later, one of my first jobs located me near raspberries and I began my "Martha Stewart" phase, making fresh raspberry turnovers from flakey pastry filled with layers of butter.  Thankfully for my body-compostition, this specialty was time-consuming and never gained the status of Tradition.  (I have recently found, however, a wonderful bakery that makes them for me).  Now my husband, children, and I are easily drawn to berry bushes when the ripe season peaks.  In something a little like a treasure hunt, we search for those perfectly dark, sweet, juicy gems to drop into waiting buckets or watering mouths.  I freeze the find for waffles in the winter, saving enough to bake into pie... the ultimate berry experience.


Berry season is short and sweet, and provides one of the homiest adventures summer has to offer, proving once again that it's the small things in life that provide our greatest joys.


Anyone have a favorite berry recipe to share?  I'd love an excuse to go out and gather.


(Treasure Hunt is available)

5/29/11

Preparing the Surface

 The last few weeks I haven't spent the hours in my studio that I usually do.  I think I may be subconsciously preparing myself for a new schedule as my "real world" job starts soon.  And I've traveled a bit, seeing new places, meeting interesting people.  Now that I'm back, I thought that I'd jump right into a new painting as I usually do when I've had fresh input and inspiration, but it's been a slow start.  I just haven't seen the new piece in my mind yet; instead I've been processing-- not about paintings but about the direction of my life.  Which is what being an artist is all about:   responding to living and then communicating those responses in a way that impacts those who see the resulting work.


I don't know what to expect from changes ahead, but expectations are usually what motivate us to move forward.  I have learned what I can solidly bank on, what I can firmly expect to be reliable, and that is God's moment by moment leading in my life.  I'm no longer a "God helps those who help themselves" person; it has taken most of my life to unlearn helping myself.  I'm now a watcher, listener, a follower.  There is no better surface preparation for new experiences, surprising opportunities, challenges, and growth.


I still don't know what my next paining is going to look like, but this morning I chose the support it will be painted on.  I've applied two layers of white gesso, one with a texture added to it.  The surface is now fresh and clean, ready to receive color, form, shape, line... art-vocabulary to speak something new into existence.  A bit like my life--or perhaps your's as well.  Here's to the unknown!

5/15/11

Looking Forward...

"Peace I give to you..."
I love change.  I think that's one of the reasons I enjoy painting.  It allows me to enter other places, moments, experiences, or emotions without leaving my easel.  It allows change whenever I want it without the ramifications that literal changes bring.  But there are times that call for a drastic and profound adjustment of some element in life.  I think I'm at one of those cross-roads and I've stepped out, making a major change in my lifestyle, a change that will affect my artwork.


I first began the near daily practice of watercolor painting when I was working full-time as a school teacher.  I looked forward to several hours an evening spent painting at a little table in our family room.  I could talk with my husband, watch TV, or listen to music,  while creating little worlds of whimsical characters, animals, gardens, and home life.  


That was before children began filling that life with much of the magic I was painting from imagination.  They became new material, fresh subject matter for the painting hours I would desperately try to cling to.  As a stay-at-home mom, I learned to paint between the distractions and demands of daily living.  I continued to paint as my children grew...


My life has been Artist-Between-Mom-and-Other-Roles for over twenty five years.  More recently I have had the luxury of undisturbed painting hours in an actual studio and I've grown in technical skill as a result.  I love what I do, but there is something missing in my life.  So I have taken a job as a secretary for the small ten-grade school my youngest son attends.  I'm anxious for challenge and an opportunity to serve.  I look forward to an actual, predictable paycheck.  And I know that my days will be filled with new inspiration: the magic of children.


I like the Squeeze-it-in approach to painting.  I think I did some of my best work, art from a heart response, when I had less formal time to do it.  I want a life that is full of giving, teaching and sharing so that I will produce paintings that have the same essence.


There will be fewer paintings completed and I may hang on to more of them for my own enjoyment, but I hope you will join me in looking forward.  Let's find out what Life will have to illustrate next... 

5/6/11

New Possibilities


I think there are times when life just needs to stop-- not at a dead end but at rest.  What would happen if you just stopped doing what you've been doing for years?  I don't consider myself anywhere near retirement age; besides, an artist doesn't "retire" from making art, just like a mother doesn't leave the job of being a mom.  But both come to places of change in life, transitional periods calling for a re-evaluation of how time is used.  My life as an artist is about to take a turn onto a road once traveled years ago:  I'm going back to "real" work... you know, the kind with a starting time, quitting time, and a paycheck.  My biggest fear is the loss of painting time but before I became a stay-at-home mom, I painted prolifically  while working at a full-time-plus job.  It was my joy to sit down at my art table for the evening and paint late into the night.  That's not going to happen these days, but I think that making the choice to paint during off-hours will be powerful.  I don't see going back to work as a dead end for painting but as an opportunity to get back to painting as a daily vacation.  It will be interesting to see what comes out of this approach to art work, both in number of paintings and in subject matter.  I start in a few weeks so stay tuned for some changes... 

4/24/11

The Magic of Still-Life


This weekend I participated in a still-life workshop, given by Jeanette Jones.  Jeanette has a distinctive way of placing things so they look as if they were set there without much thought.  A few simple, beautiful objects, gathered for their color, shape, or texture, placed in an inviting grouping, have a powerful allure.  Jeanette set up several vignettes around the garden of one of my favorite locations, Milfiori, demonstrated the beginning stages of a painting and encouraged her viewers to start their still-life paintings.

 Still-life.  I love the sound of this term.  An artist arranges objects in a desired way and paints them while they sit quietly, cooperating in the process of creating beauty that can be shared.  I wish life would sit still for me more often!  Or is it me that doesn't sit still?


Engaging in the process of still-life painting made me realize that I have to stay put, keeping at it if I'm going to have the result I want in a painting.  That's true for any project, but these set-ups were outside where the lighting frequently changes, breezes blow, and--as we found this weekend-- rains come down.  The only way to capture the moment is to be in the moment.  Working from a photograph in the studio will result in a more "finished" look, but the spontaneity of plein-air has a fresh look that allows the viewer to feel the moment as well.


So I have to be there, seeing, breathing, hearing, experiencing the setting as well as the subject if I want to share that experience with you.  It has to be real to me for it to be meaningful at all to you.  Sounds like something to apply to other areas of life as well, perhaps most especially to my walk with Jesus.  I want to spend still-life hours in His presence, hearing, feeling, breathing, living its reality.  Then I want to find ways to paint it for you!

4/5/11

Spring's Song

We've had a long, wet winter.  I'd say a hard winter but those in the Midwest would laugh at my idea of "hard" when it comes to winter!  Spring warmth has been growing over the last few days and the newness of it is still novel.  I revel in passing through pockets of scented air, thrown out by full-bloomed branches peeking over backyard fences.  My own backyard apple trees are budding so quickly I almost think I can see it happening if I watch carefully.


Yesterday I joined I couple of friends for a late-afternoon fitness walk, our route leading us through  neighborhoods of charming old houses nestled in glorious spring greens popping with pink and white blossoms.  Pure heaven.  But it wasn't until we stopped talking long enough to hear birds that the full impact of Spring hit.  A series of particularly cheerful notes floated down from the overhead branches and my friend commented that we were listening to the song that a robin sings only in the spring.  We listened, enchanted by the thought that this was a "limited edition" performance.  


This morning when I began work, I turned the radio on.  The program that was underway featured a renowned scientist explaining the latest NASA finds confirming the evolution of life from single-cell lifeforms.  The approving interviewer asked if, with this understanding,  science could now create life from non-living elements.  The guest replied that for some reason bringing life still eludes them.  


Tonight's amazing sunset-- periwinkle in one direction, peachy-rose in the other-- joins with the Spring song in giving glory to the one true Creator.  We are loved and nurtured and cared for... and science will never duplicate that!

3/22/11

"Spring Chickens on a Cloudy Day"

I like to play with color and there are times when I'll do just that-- play with no real concept in mind.  That's how this painting started.  Several days ago, before the run of rain we've been having, I did a wash of delicate spring hues using a couple of new paints I had picked up.  I let the colors run and mingle and make their own decisions.  I set the paper aside for a while until I "saw" what the white spaces would become:  happy white hens among cheerful glowing flowers.  Then I began painting after three days of non-stop rain.  Even though I was thinking flowers, my sub-conscience led me to a house with a substantial porch.  I wonder if my hens are considering seeking shelter?  The fresh colors of potential flowers softened into blue-toned grays.  Of course the undertones are still there and that's what keeps those grays from being drab.


Sounds like a life lesson to me... If my foundational thinking is optimistic and thankful, it will influence all my circumstances.  I'd like to be able to say "Yeah, that's me!" but actually I was reminded of this principle by my neighbor.  He's a youngish man who has been in a wheelchair for about ten years following a car accident.  Every time I get a chance to talk to him, he announces that his happiness is so deep and rich and real that it scares him.  He can't imagine getting any happier but every day is better than the one before.  He sits in the sun, in his wheelchair, reading his Bible-- a habit he began three years into his journey as paraplegic.  God is his source of joy, his underpainting.  I have never seen such a powerful, long-lasting testimony.  He's been spreading his praises for years, praises that began after the circumstances of life left him with apparently little to be joyful about.  What power the presence of God has to change lives!

3/14/11

Out of Darkness, Hope will Rise

The spontaneous appearance of fragrant, intensely colored flowers in early spring always grabs my heart as well as my eye.  For months the ground has been dark and damp and the surprise of blooming bulbs is a welcomed contrast.  The message of hope presented in the display is especially poignant in light of the tragic event in Japan this spring.

3/1/11

Special-Affects

I believe in the power of visual illustration so when it comes to news and events I try to get my information in a way that involves only one or two senses, such as radio or print.  I'm a news-wimp... I just don't want to SEE what I need to know.  The stinging wounds of a devastated world leave all of us gasping for relief.


As a Christian I find strength and assurance in my faith in the trustworthiness of a God that I can't see, even when I have to struggle to stand firmly on that faith. I wish the struggle weren't so often; I wish unquestioning faith flowed naturally and consistently and effortlessly into my reasoning.  But the truth is that I often have to fall on my face and beg for it, sometimes for days.  Some may think that a God Who requires such exertion isn't worth it, but I find soundness and solidity in the fact that I can pour my uncertainty out before Him, emptying the contents of my heart for as long as needed to reach stillness.  I have learned from experience that His refilling is certain, the fresh contents of peace replacing stale, ineffective thinking.   New wine pours into a fresh wineskin of renewed faith. (Mark 2:22).


This is when I am surprised by the affect of God's hand in the form of human interaction bringing the touch of hope. Through encouraging words, an unexpected smile, an act of selflessness,  I experience God.  He makes Himself visible by moving in and out of lives, causing us to touch each other in ways that are elevating, and uplifting.  He chooses to relieve human pain through human interaction, which is often the cause of pain in the first place.  God uses us to bring relief and even healing to each other.  My renewed faith can start a chain-reaction of faith-building in others-- and I may never know it happened!  I'm sure that the woman who spoke encouragement to me this morning will never know that I'm writing about that encounter now.


Visual illustration is emotionally powerful.  I'm so glad that I've been given a "snapshot" of the importance of small encounters on the human spirit.  The places we go, the homes we live in, all that makes life worthwhile are given meaning because of the relationships associated with them.  We are the body of Christ, His chosen medium in which to work for our renewal.

2/21/11

My Audience and Inspiration- a bit more from the studio

They sit quietly in the corner of my studio, never speaking and yet drawing my attention most days.  They are my rabbits.  I've picked them up here and there over the years, usually because something about each one "grabbed"me.  I'm not sure why rabbits have caught my heart, but I can remember my fascination with REAL rabbits from childhood.  We always had them as pets.  My dad built a wonderful hutch in our backyard and it was home to several families of bunnies, babies included.


I've done a few paintings with realistic rabbits, but the stuffed, carved, ceramic, clay, or fabric bunnies seem to help me say something about life.  Their faces are expressive, almost alive with personality.  Rabbits take on human characteristics in a believable way; they wear clothes well or can be seen comfortably without clothes at all.  Hats with holes for ears add charm, shoes that accommodate oversized feet bring a smile.  Through the years of rabbit-painting, I've become attached.  I think it may be rabbits that pull me continually back into the whimsical realm, keeping me from ever stepping completely away from that quality in my work.


I want to always grow in fine art skills, painting landscapes, houses, gardens and natures's loveliness, but my silent audience is there, reminding me not to take myself, my art, or life too seriously!

2/18/11

Reflections on "Back to the Drawing Board" (literally)

My Audience and Inspiration
I often hear comments like "You're so lucky to get to do what you love," or "How nice you can just stay home to work," or my favorite, "I wish I could just play all day!"  I do feel blessed to do something I love ALOT.  And there are some real advantages to working at home-- except that no one really thinks of what I do as working. I'm my own worst enemy on that one, followed by my family. The real work is not painting, it is self-discipline and focus.  And today I am facing the biggest challenge to focus: the "now what?"  Now What? comes after something you've worked on for a long time doesn't quite make it... a painting gets Honorable Mention in a show, or no mention at all; or a painting sits for months in the gallery and begins to look tired; or, as for me today, you get the "You're talented but...." response from a graciously honest publisher.


No pity needed, just an understanding of the challenges to being true to oneself.  I've been painting professionally for over 25 years and I'm not sure what comes next.  Kind of like raising kids, you get to a place of needing to adjust your approach.  Only with kids, you have to learn to back off; with art, there comes a time to push forward.  That time is just around the corner for me... I'm just not sure which corner.  (I'm still wondering if I'm on the right road!)


I'll set my book project aside for a little bit and do some new light-hearted work, maybe in a fresh new medium, just for my own little audience, just for me.  Then we'll see What's Next?!

2/6/11

The Primroses are Back!

It's Super Bowl Sunday and I can easily hear cheers and shouts from my neighbor's homes because my surroundings are quiet.  The men of our household have gone somewhere else to do their cheering (we  don't have TV so my husband has to hunt for an available super bowl party to crash.)  I love this event for the freedom it offers me on a day I don't feel compelled to do anything except what I really want to do.  I'm revealing a bit about how "exciting" I am because what I've been doing for the last hour is raking leaves.  The month of February is often mild around here and it's become my yearly ritual to pull back the winter "covers" from my garden around this time.  Our oak trees have left half-a-foot of leaf confetti, now grey-brown, resulting in a covering of lifeless dullness.  Piles of the light-weight blankets can easily be tossed over the back fence, leaving cool, dark compost thriving with... weeds.  Lots of them.  Work for another day.


But treasure is found as my winter-loving primroses have come to life despite the fog of leaves.  The color-constrast is striking against a backdrop of dark neutrals, and small buds promise more to come soon.  They are a symbol of hope for my garden-to-be, the promise of seasonal cycles and the life they bring.


Hope.  It's there under the dulling cover of world events: Egypt; massive winter oppression covering half our country; poverty, addiction, and homelessness just down the street; fear and uncertainty in unemployment.  We can't get away from harsh realities but we can choose our focus.  We can choose to use the rake on our thoughts, to uncover the many positives and gifts daily displayed in small---or not so small, packages.  Step outside at sunset and be wrapped in unearthly color; look in a child's expressive eyes; breathe the essence of a freshly-peeled orange;  look for primrose buds.  Or cheer for your team!






"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."  (Luke 12:32)  The kingdom of God illustrated in primroses...

2/1/11

The Symbolic Cat


Some people are cat people, some prefer dogs.  I'm ambivalent in my preference for either, but I like a GOOD cat or a GOOD dog.  Right now we have a good cat: friendly, affectionate, likes to sleep a lot, eat a little, has short hair.  A few days ago I encountered a bad dog while out on a run, so for the moment, cats win.  One thing about cats is both hard to understand and annoying: the in and out insistence.  Our cat can be hard to please, asking to come in and five minutes later, meowing to go out.  There doesn't seem to be a predictable pattern for these requests; they just come in spurts.


This morning was one of those can't-make-him-happy occasions.  Fortunately my mind was in a teachable place and I began to see a parallel between my cat and myself as an artist!  I am driven by the moment.  I sit down to work with a goal in mind, a project to focus on, self-discipline kicked in.  And then, suddenly the clouds part, sun streams in the windows of my studio and I can't resist its effects.  If it's warm, I want to go out and paint what I see; if the day is cold, I want to paint something fresh, vibrant, sunny --- reactive --- right there, inside ant my easel.  In other words, I want to claim that moment as my own, making the most of what has just been handed to me.  I want to live life to it's most beautiful and express the journey to others.


Maybe cats are live-for-the-moment savvy.  "I want in... I want out..."   I want the most I can get from God's simple gift of "moments";  I think I'll be a bit more patient with one who meows for it.

1/21/11

Pediatric Clinic Project





I've put the final touches on one of my biggest assignments in recent years-- Foothill Pediatric Clinic. This project was a step back for me. Not back in importance or value, but back to the beginning of my free-lance career as an artist. I first started painting whimsical watercolors in the 1980's when cute was big: cute geese, farm animals, and primitive doll characters (remember?!). It wasn't long before people began asking for these subjects on walls themselves. It was the peak of the "overdone" era and painted borders, murals, and wall accents gained popularity as printed wallpapers-- which were everywhere-- had their limits. People wanted the look but wanted it custom.

My first wall-painting job was for a friend who wanted a charming room for her two-year old daughter. She envisioned large pink bows at the top of all four walls. I had done lots of bows in my watercolor paintings (another 80's passion) and moved from small, intricate details painted with tiny brushes to BIG twelve-inchers done with a one-inch brush. It was freeing! The work was done fairly quickly despite the need to measure and mark positions carefully. Textured walls were similar in approach to rough watercolor paper and I soon learned that wonderful effects could be created by taking advantage of that texture for highlights and a loose, painterly look.

For many years I hauled two large bins of those colorful bottles of pre-mixed acrylic paint, plus brushes, rags, water container, pencils, palette...you get the picture. Then I climbed ladders, moved ladders, stretched, balanced, reached, and occasionally fell while creating personal rooms. I endured the stressful pain of spilling paint on carpets (I still rarely use drop-cloths), scratching a brand new counter with the heavy paint boxes, and worst of all, having someone NOT like what I had done-- thankfully rare. My most physically challenging project involved painting wildflowers around a light fixture on a 20-foot barrel ceiling! I look back now and think, HOW DID I DO THAT?!!

I've turned a room into an underground rabbit hole, like Peter Rabbit's, and another into an underwater adventure. I've left ceilings looking like the sky, and playrooms surrounded by trains, planes, boats, and villages. Wine cellars have grapes, windows have been bordered with chickens, and many gardens have been "planted" on various walls, doors, and furniture. There are mice and rabbits and girls dancing around many rooms; dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs and who knows what are at home all over California. I've loved every project, especially if it seemed to bring joy to the occupants of those rooms.

But I got tired! It's hard to climb those ladders and scary to think of falling. So now I take on occasional rooms with regular ceilings and I've learned the rules of simplicity... I can now get everything I need into one easy-to-carry bin by mixing my own wonderful colors. And this latest project has shown me again that working Big is very fun. Especially if your audience is made up of children and people who love working with them.

Thanks to Foothill Pediatric for a great experience and a renewed willingness to hit the walls again!

1/9/11

Celebrate Daffodils

Life with a theme... interesting idea. Sometimes I'll do a painting with someone else's selection of a theme to work with. My creative thinking kicks in to wrestle with new ways of seeing that idea and even though I'm not an "over-the-top" concept artist, I usually come up with something that feels fresh and new to me. A theme is different from a commission, which usually involves some specific details that a client wants included in an art piece. With a theme you can choose to represent the subject itself or focus on a particular aspect of the subject/idea, such as shape or color. That's the direction "Celebrating Daffodils" took.

A daffodil by itself looks animated to me. I can almost see a funny little face. I'm reminded of Spring programs in elementary school with daffodil costumes, or of course, a ballet tutu. It's been hard for me to take daffodils seriously. But attending last year's International Daffodil Show at Ironstone Winery gave me a new appreciation for this amazing flower. I've never seen such sublime shades of yellow and orange or intricate detailing. Daffodils can stand artistically by themselves in simple grace but it is when they are bundled together that the color and complexity tug at my heart.

Ironstone hosts a thematic artshow featuring daffodils and this year I wanted to participate if for no other reason than to express the new love I have for them. The cake says "Celebration", the flowers themselves sing of coming spring. The subject is actually a color scheme: yellow and white. I can almost escape the grayness of this winter's fog each time I walk by the painting!

I have a feeling there are other areas of life that could benefit by being approached with a theme. Meals, clothing, gardening... how 'bout tomorrow itself? Choose a theme for the day and incorporate it in as many ways as possible. Let me know what you come up with!

12/19/10

I’m taking a break from sit-down-and-paint projects for a while. My kids are home and of course there’s Christmas to do. There is one big project outside of home and family that I’m spending some time on: the walls of our county pediatric clinic. Until recently, the precious patients who are treated here have faced clean, white, but very stark rooms. My pediatrician friend Jennifer had the vision to bring life to these walls and I’ve been pulled right in. It is my goal to bring delight and comfort to these small-scale patients and their adult companions who might be nervous or anxious.

It’s interesting that it was a tiny baby who was sent to bring comfort and certainty to you and to me. Merriest Christmas!






12/6/10

A Little Help...

The journey of an artist is full of twist and turns, and well should be. Work needs to be fresh, constantly reflecting the experiences of life in order to connect with others who have similar encounters. I'm learning that people need art, not just for its surface entertainment or decorative value, but to be moved in the deeper pockets of the soul, the places where God's Spirit interacts with each of us.

Such a heavy opening for a light-hearted painting! But the process of painting "A Little Help..." was very introspective. It's been a while since a whimsical piece has tickled my thinking much less arrived fully developed, so when the vision for a bunny standing on a sheep popped up, I was delighted.

Life has been very "realistic" for me the last few years and my paintings have followed suit. I've needed to feel connected to the truly beautiful elements surrounding me, to learn to capture them in solidly good paintings. I crave being outside and hope that my recent months of plein-air painting will continue.

However, my inner-world in one of those transitional stages, with kids not only more independent, but downright aggressive about breaking out and claiming their own identities. (Perhaps a new painting will feature baby chicks breaking out of an egg...) My role in their lives has changed from hand-holding to simply supporting. And I've got to paint it!

It feels good to be back in the realm of whimsy. I hope it stays, begging to get out through my brushes.

"A Little Help..." is available at Prestidge Gallery and through the website.

11/17/10

Sunset Supper


End of the day, end of the season, constant cycle and change. Even though change can tend to be unnerving, its affects on me are welcomed. I need fresh starts and new motivations to stay creative. Don't we all? I walk my neighborhood every day and since we've lived here for ten years, I've become very familiar with all the houses and yards that make up this little world. A man of routine lives on the far loop of my route. He sits in a reclining chair just inside the front window, probably facing a TV. Every evening he is there, same position, same look on his face, perhaps very secure in the sameness. But I see emptiness and a lack of living. I guess it's all in one's perspective.
My painting, "Sunset Supper", is about celebrating change. An end-of-the-season garden is a perfect setting for closing one form of bounty and welcoming the next potential harvest. Perhaps something new will grow from the challenge of the inevitable winter yet to come. Then it will be time to celebrate Spring! Bring on the changes...
Sunset Supper is available. Prints will also be available in the near future.

10/10/10

Completion




It's been a while since I have taken the time to work with my blog and I've missed it! I have been posting thoughts about recent paintings on Facebook, but it isn't the same "platform". I feel I have to keep thoughts condensed, requiring minimal time to read as FB seems more like a "checking -in" process for most people. But it's also the best way to connect people with my art and like it or not, that is important in order to have the audience that an artist needs to be inspired to keep working. Connection with people provides purpose to making art. I'd like to believe that I paint for myself, but I think that God has created us to be givers, to be blessed by sharing, to be enriched by receiving what others give.

I'm also in the process of creating a new website which will have an easier access to the blog. Right now things are awkward, a little cumbersome to use. I'm spread between three (four, counting FB) access locations and I hope the new site will bring them all together in an efficient and attractive way. I'm not sure when it will be born, but I'll send out an announcement!

"A Year at Milfiori" has been completed. It has been a year of significant new friendships, personal growth, spiritual deepening, and artistic progress. I have learned to see that every painting is a success, whether it is framed in the warm satisfaction of "finished" or ends up as a reference for a new painting. Some may even be found recycled on the back of another painting, serving a supporting role. Anything I (or perhaps you) do to be growing as an artist, is a success.

Very few locations can measure up to the inspiration of the seasons at Milfiori. I hope to paint there again and again. But this morning I was reminded that heart-grabbing loveliness is found in every-day life. Simple subjects become enchanting in a moment of soft morning light, or dramatic with golden glow in late afternoon. Stop to notice these moments. Paint them on your heart and then perhaps the urge to paint on canvas or paper will become overwhelming.

9/6/10

A Time to Rest

I love the look of an overgrown garden. Every space is filled with full-to-potential plant growth. But the fading colors and dried former flowers remind me that the overgrowth must be attended to. So yesterday I began that attending. I was hesitant and unaggressive when I first began trimming dried and brittle stems, but as they fell away I discovered a thriving community of hidden weeds threatening the spaces needed for garden plants. Digging and pruning my way through the overgrowth, I began experiencing a sense of freedom, renewed energy, a fresh outlook. The lesson was not lost... this is what needs to be done in other areas of my life. End-of-the-season clearance.

My garden isn't as glorious as it was earlier at the peak of its bloom, but there is a new beauty in the clean, clear spaces, simple shapes, and trimmed edges. Fall will bring a bit of new growth and I'll plant some annual color for the season. But the stage has been set for rest and rejuvenation.

"A Time to Rest" was painted en plein air early last spring in the herb and vegetable gardens at Milfiori. I pulled it from the pile of in-progress work, remembering the beauty that had captured my attention. It's a garden ready to happen, ready to flourish when the weather warms a bit more. Those empty spaces will once again fill with thriving greenery and splashes of color. Just like the new stages of my life, which will also blossom, especially if I give them a good 'tending to.

8/20/10

"Enter Loveliness"... Just like the front door of a house invites you to enter whatever is going on inside, a painting can invite you to enter a mood, an emotion, a new way if seeing. Late in this not-too-hot summer, the farmhouse at Milfiori is embraced by green. So much growth has taken place over the warm months that it's hard to see much of the house. Usually this overabundance of green leaves me hungry for color variety. Greens are hard to paint in an interesting way and too much of it in a painting can limit where that painting can fit into someone's home. But this is a moment in time when the lighting handed me a breath-catching peek at the choreography of a yellow house and the yellow-greens, lavenders, and blue-greens dancing with it. The result is almost monochromatic, soft, restful...summer morning at its best. I love how art can capture that moment, inviting you to enter at any time.

8/13/10

Angela's Garden, #1

Angela Harmon planted thornless blackberry bushes that have grown into a magical, fruit-filled tunnel. The vines climb over an arbor so the large, juicy berries hang down, waiting to be picked and pied or cobblered, or gobbled on the spot. "They just found a place they thrived..." Angela comments.
We have friends who's daughter and her very-new husband are in Haiti, not just for a visit or short mission-trip, but for a year. There is no house for them to live in, simply a room in the hospital where they are working. That room is shared when a hurting need turns up, such as an AIDS baby, orphaned by the earthquake, who has no where to go. Fruit, nourishing and sustaining, produced by a vine planted where it thrives.

What makes a vine, a life, thrive? How do we "bloom where we're planted"? I love how Angela's berries illustrate Galatians 5:22... "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."

Eat it up, be filled to the brim and in turn, become a supply.

Visit Harmon Gardens at www.harmongardens.com or take the Main Street side road to Douglas Flat when you're heading up Highway 4 to Murphys.

8/3/10

This Summer's Peaches


I grew up in Modesto, CA, so my standard for summer peaches is very high. Back in those days the "rule" was that you could walk into an orchard and pick as many peaches as you could carry in your hands. The orchards surrounding our house grew peaches so large that I could only carry three, maybe four at a time. I'd create a hide-away in the tall, cool grasses that grew at the base of the trees and usually eat the entire armload in one sweet afternoon. Nothing in the grocery store can come close. Even the fruit stands, though pretty wonderful, can't compare to the warm juiciness of a fresh-picked, fuzzy, softly-glowing perfect peach. Don't get me started on fresh apricots....

Prints of This Summer's Peaches are available on fineartarmerica.com. Contact me for the original (16x20").

8/2/10

Tractors














We have found that our favorite possible-to-do vacation is to go to Redwood Campmeeting, a ten-day event orchestrated by our church. Simple tent camping is enhanced by uplifting music, inspiring speakers, and connecting with friends. In between the morning and evening meetings, we spend long, slow hours basking in warm sun or seeking the coolness of Redwood groves and the lazy Eel River which winds for miles through the hills and deep forests. I thought I'd do a lot of painting but found that I needed a break even from the things that bring me joy at home. But not a complete break! One late morning was wind-free and warm, perfect for a bit of paint play. Nothing big, nothing too thought-out, just play. About a mile from our camp was a small organic farm (like most farms in that area) and it's work-horses, the tractors, were also on vacation. They seemed almost tucked in among tall weeds and wild flowers. They were old, well used, and charming. But something else drew me to this subject, something illustrative. Sometimes the "soil" of my thinking, of my heart, can get pretty hard. It gets packed down with responsibility, with demands, distractions, exhaustion. A spiritually-renewing break acts like a tractor pulling a plow, breaking into the hardness, opening up and exposing rich soil, ready for new ideas, fresh thoughts, refreshed creativity. Maybe we should do this more often, or how about very often!

7/20/10

Beauty of the Moment...





I can get so caught up in perfection-- and the resulting down slide of self-criticism. If
I thought I was the only one who struggles with it, I would sit quietly in the "back row" of life, keeping what I think is left of my dignity (a gentle word for Pride). The experience of painting can
reveal perfectionism to me and, fortunately, can heal as well.

I painted early at Milfiori yesterday morning, with the commitment to do several small pen-and-ink sketches of the flowers that gave this setting its name. My intent was to provide affordable gift-sized pieces to include in the show developing for October. What I came away with is a valuable lesson for my life...

It is with thought and careful planning that I usually begin a painting. Rough drawings and scribbles in my sketchbook help me to focus on the intent of the piece and to maintain that focus when the lighting changes and entices me to follow it. But working with pen and ink is quick and spontaneous, filled with shoot-from-the-hip imperfection. It is like returning to the fun of childhood art. The result is free form and abstract and very connecting; perhaps more about the subject and less about the painting. It is Beauty of the Moment. I still need the challenge of fully-developed paintings but taking the time to productively play is essential to staying in touch with my heart and how I see things. In a world where it is constantly tempting to paint what will sell, what I think people will want, this may be the most important work I can do!

These little pieces are about living in the moment, reacting to what I see and how it affects me. They are the result of learning from past efforts and adjusting for future work. The grace and beauty of the resulting imperfection not only nourishes my soul, but others are left peaceful and whole with the encounter. Maybe all my life can be lived in the beauty of the moment, that utter attractiveness of imperfection. "Just as I am... He loves me He does." (Andrew Peterson)