6 Reasons for Grateful Hearts

I write today with a grateful heart. One year ago, we launched this website and began our art blogging journey. I am so incredibly grateful for countless reasons! So if you’ll permit me, I want to offer a humble “thank you” for so much.

Grateful for Laura

First, “thank you” to Laura for pushing, prodding, and sometimes for forcefully challenging me to write. When we started this adventure, I was just the web person. She was the creative one; I was the administrator. gratefulLaura, I’m grateful to you for seeing something in me that I have not often seen in myself. You looked at someone who was IT-challenged and writing-timid to see promise that is still being developed. You are so talented, and the beauty of your art enriches my life. I’m so grateful for our business partnership, but even more for our friendship and most importantly, our shared sisterhood in Christ.

Grateful for Our Readers

When we launched The Art of Encouragement, I often wondered, “Who will read this?” On my darker days, I still wonder why you do. And yet here you are. Not just my mom (though I’m grateful that she does read) or my friends, but folks I don’t even know. Maybe you saw it on a friend’s Facebook page, or maybe you stumbled here looking for something else, but you came, you lingered, and you read. I pray you leave often encouraged. I’m grateful for your time and for your comments. I read every one and try to respond to them all. 

Grateful for Other Art Lovers

We’re just getting to know you, joining Facebook groups, posting in online forums, and posting Laura’s art. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Your comments and appreciation spur us on to create and share more art with more people. You remind us that beauty is meant to be shared.

grateful for art lovers

Grateful for our subscribers

Facebook actually just congratulated us on gaining our 30th follower on our business page. We’re hovering around that same mark here on the website. I say a little prayer of gratitude each and every time I get that sweet email from Mail Chimp letting me know that someone else signed up on our website. We are rolling out a little something special for you next week, so be watching your in box there. If you haven’t yet subscribed, now is a great time to jump in and see just what that something special is!

Grateful for our families

grateful for family

I know it sounds cliché, but it is true: We wouldn’t be on this journey without the support of our families. My husband has endured countless frustrating moments as I’ve tried to decipher CSS, HTML, FTP, and a host of other acronyms I’m still not sure I understand. Each week, he lovingly reads and edits my blog posts. He’s a teacher, so I value his grammarian skills! My children have heard me say, “Just a minute, I’m working…” more often than I’d like, yet they always want to see the beautiful art on Miss Laura’s website. On a recent art adventure, I asked the girls, “Can I post this on the blog?” They enthusiastically replied “YES!” And I know Laura has her own stories of her family’s support and encouragement. We’re so grateful for you.



grateful for kids

Grateful to God

Most of all, we are grateful to God, without whom there would be no beauty, no creation, no life. He has taken that which is unlovely and unloveable and through the Gospel made us beautiful. When we create works of beauty we reflect the One who made us. We are beyond grateful for His love for us.

© August 2012, Laura Gabel, "Winter with My Lover". Charcoal, 10 x 12. Private collection.
© August 2012, Laura Gabel, “Winter with My Lover”. Charcoal, 10 x 12. Private collection.

It has been a tremendous year, and we’re excited to see what the coming year will bring. Our trusty Google Analytics tells us that our numbers are up; more of you are stopping by to read and look. Thank you. If we’ve encouraged you in some way over this past year, if the artwork here delights your eyes and your hearts, would you be so kind as to leave us a comment and let us know? Even better, would you share our site with a friend? We want this to be a place of beauty and encouragement, and those things are so much better shared!

Thank you for walking on this journey with us.


Chickens and Brothers??

chickens and brothers collageWhat do my Rhode Island Red chickens in Florida have in common with a fabulous art exhibition about brothers at the Kimbell Museum in Ft. Worth?

During my recent visit to Texas, I discovered that Pam, my hostess and good friend had a surprise excursion planned:  TicketKimbell

The featured exhibit was devoted to a rare collection of 44 paintings by the Le Nain Brothers. These 3 French painting brothers were well known in the 1630’s and 1640’s. You can see some of their remarkable works here.

So where is the commonality and what is the mystery? Our, “Le Chicks” are pretty impossible to tell apart and art historians have had an almost impossible time trying to figure which of the brothers painted which paintings. In fact all 3 brothers worked together, apparently in harmony and signed all the paintings with just “Le Nain.”

Le Nain Brothers

Antoine, Louis and Mathieu have had the art world scratching their collective heads for a long time. A detailed chart at the Kimbell tried to ferret out the differences in signature painting styles, etc. But the fact remains that this art “who done it” will remain a mystery. Apparently the Le Nain brothers didn’t care who got credit.  La Nativite a la Torche was one of my favorites, solid, sculptural, sensitively composed with the light focused on mother and child. As you can see from this Nativity scene, they were in synch!

Le Nain Brothers - Nativity with the Torch

Very little is known about them, but they shared a studio, remained unmarried and seemed to be utterly devoted to their work. How did they do it?

Who figured out the compositions? The works are seamless. Did all three stand there and paint? Did they work in shifts? Was there discord?  They must have enjoyed it or they wouldn’t have worked together for such a long period of time. And finally, how in the world did they subordinate their egos?

Le Nain brothers

In a “me first” world, this is a rare picture of brotherly love.  Romans 12:10 (TLB) instructs us to “Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honoring each other.” But I think 1 Peter 3:8-12 (MSG) puts it in perspective for me, “Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing”

Do you know any other painters that paint together to create one work? How would you characterize the Le Nain’s approach to harmony? Have you experienced that kind of collaboration with your siblings? I know I have, but I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences. BTW, the exhibit concludes on September 11th, so if you’re in the Dallas area and you have a chance, don’t miss it!


Beauty in Organization – an oxymoron?

Is there beauty in organizing? Super-organized people are often chided for being “uptight” or “OCD,” but I want to suggest that they see art and beauty in things others might miss. If you tend to be a bit less structured, hang in there with me for a moment.

One of my favorite times of the year is fast approaching: Back to School! It’s okay to cheer if you’re a parent longing for a bit more quiet in your day. It’s also ok to be sad if you’re in denial about how much earlier everyone needs to get out of bed, or if you’re a teacher still planning. beauty of organizationThe coming of a new school year brings with it the requisite purchasing of clothes, shoes, supplies, lunch boxes, and all the other goodies necessary to ensure our children hit their classrooms ready to absorb all the knowledge their teachers can dispense. Our school offers parents the opportunity to skip the endless running around for school supplies by purchasing a complete packet through our Parent Council. GENIUS. We’ve got a bit of time yet before school starts, but I’m ready to go as you can see — uniforms sized and hung, socks bleached (who am I kidding? new socks purchased!), lunch boxes, bags and shoes upgraded. It’s beautiful. Seriously.

Maybe the beauty of organizing is easier to see in my summer bucket list. My older daughter tends to be a bit more routine-and-schedule-focused, like me. So instead of a list of things we wanted to do over the summer, we created daily themes for the week and used multi-colored popsicle sticks to keep track of the days.

beauty of organizationNot only did we have all kinds of fun things to do over the summer, but we had a handy countdown at the same time. I find beauty in that.

I just finished up a webinar course to help me as I manage this website and blog. The course was specifically geared for artists who want to be more creative with their online presence and marketing. One of my favorite sessions was the discussion of editorial calendars — how to organize your blog posts, newsletters, and social media marketing. I spent a whole afternoon looking at options to find just the right one I wanted to use. And you know what? Yes, it’s beautiful. Not in a vibrant, colorful, thought provoking way, but in a simple, clean, organized way — think mid-century modern rather than baroque. Not to mention that it makes my life immeasurably easier!

Why do we need beauty?

Once we’re old enough to assume responsibility for something, all of us make attempts to be organized. Why not make it beautiful? Bring art and beauty into your life wherever you can. Arrange your closet by colors, use pretty dishes when serving a meal, rearrange your books on the shelf to be visually interesting. 

Basil the Great said that we all desire beauty. I would suggest that we desire beauty because the One who made us is supremely beautiful and we are made in His image. C.S. Lewis asked, “The Order of the Divine mind, embodied in the Divine Law, is beautiful. What should a man do but try to reproduce it, so far as possible, in his daily life?” Where will you find beauty in your daily life? Where will you image your Creator? Leave us a comment or a picture and display that beauty.


First Time Jitters and Virtual Friends

First time jitters – terrifying, exhilarating, nerve-wracking, heart pounding joy—all of that! Those feelings were just a few of the feelings I had when first meeting Pam Jarvis. I’m an adult who’s met lots of new people and made a lot of new friends over the course of my life. This time was different. Why?

Well, I had spoken with Pam over the phone since 2000 but I had never met her in person.  Some people thought I was crazy; some people thought she was crazy; but when she proclaimed generously, “I’ve got to meet you! I’m getting an airplane ticket. Will you come to Ft. Worth, Texas for a week?” I said, “yes!” I was thrilled;  and just a bit nervous too.

First time jitters and virtual friendsWhen I got there, it was quite a meeting, really a reunion of sorts. Pam and I had worked virtually together for years, studied the Bible together by phone, shared our time, trials and advice. We had become friends in spirit. So while it may have been our first face to face meeting, in many ways it felt like the most normal thing in the world.

Pam is such a good friend, I thought I couldn’t love her more; but as the week went by quickly, I found new wonderful little things to enjoy about Pam. I’ll share more about our week together in future posts. I’m disciplined and am naturally reserved. Pam is sociable, vivacious, a genuine connector and lover of people. She’s unflappable, I’m a bit of a wreck if things don’t go as planned. These two opposites had a blast! Pam knows how to roll out the red carpet and did she ever! Here a picture of all the lovely goodies she had chosen for me. first time jitters and virtual friendsA beautiful bathing suit (it fit perfectly), two lovely dresses in my favorite color purple and a basket of all kinds of lovely toiletries, the kind you’d never buy for yourself! It was as if she knew me better even than I knew myself!

first time jitters and virtual friends

Before I left for my trip, my lovely friend Dona prayed for my trip along with my other Bible study buddies. I was dumbstruck by her insights into my trip and continued to ponder them while I was with Pam. Dona said that meeting Pam would be just a tiny foretaste of meeting Jesus in person for the first time. I love that!! There is an old song by E.E. Hewitt (1898) redone by Brad Paisley “When We All Get To Heaven”  that has a lyric “When we all get to heaven, What a day of rejoicing that will be!”

I’ve never met Jesus face to face, but I know Him through His Word, through prayer, through other Christians. One day, I will meet Him face to face. A more recent song by MercyMe wonders, “I can only imagine what my eyes will see when your face is before me.” Sometimes, I’m not sure I can even imagine! How would you feel about meeting the King of the Universe in person for the first time? He is the very special Lord of your life that you’ve known and loved for years, what would you do? What would you say? What would you feel? Can you imagine? What a day of rejoicing indeed!!