A Quest for Beauty

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.” Ralph Waldo Emerson. Beauty is all around us, but we often fail to appreciate it; we relegate it to special occasions, or museum pieces. But if it is indeed God’s handwriting, then beauty is everywhere.

Louis Comfort Tiffany summed up his life as a “quest for beauty”. He was constantly looking for new ways to further that quest through his art – whether a piece of jewelry, a lamp, a photograph, a fountain. His methods were as varied as the world from which he drew his inspiration.

Tiffany beauty 1
Window, 1906
, Laurelton Hall, Long Island, New York, 1902–57
, General exhibition window, rose, 
Leaded glass, 
Tiffany Studios, New York City, 1902–32
.

Recently, my family and I had the opportunity to see the most comprehensive collection of Tiffany works in the world – right here in Winter Park, Florida at the  Morse Museum.

Tiffany beauty 2
View of The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art from the corner of Canton and Park Avenues, Winter Park. Photo by Raymond Martinot.

As first time visitors to the Morse, we were invited to watch a brief introductory film about the museum and it’s founders Hugh and Jeannette McKean.

Tiffany beauty 3
Hugh F. and Jeannette G. McKean, Tiffany exhibition at Rollins College, 1955.

I was immediately struck by how often the McKean’s stressed the importance of beauty. Like Tiffany, they believed that beauty was abundant. But it was not just the existence of beauty that was captivating; it was the necessity of beauty. We need beauty in our lives. If beauty is God’s handwriting, and God is our Creator, then beauty is an essential component to who we are as human beings. We need beauty in our lives. Where do you find it?

Tiffany was so captured by the beautiful world around him, that when he built his final home, Laurelton Hall, he incorporated his art into every bit of the home. The Morse Museum has reconstructed several rooms of Laurelton Hall with actual artifacts from Tiffany.

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Laurelton Hall, Reception Hall, Morse Museum

Art was not just confined to pictures hanging on the walls

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Laurelton Hall, Dining Room, Morse Museum

but was incorporated into the very architecture of the rooms, inside and out.

tiffany beauty 6
Laurelton Hall, Daffodil Terrace, Morse Museum

I could have wandered for hours through just this one gallery with items from Tiffany’s home. The beauty of it – both in the objects and in the arrangements was astounding. I may not have any Tiffany works in my home, but my home can also be a place of beauty. In fact, it should be a place of beauty. We need beauty in our lives.

tiffany beauty 7
Laurelton Hall, Living Room, Morse Museum

The McKeans had a vision to make beauty accessible to everyone, and that was what inspired them to start the Morse Museum. The museum keeps its admission prices low, and offers several free opportunities throughout the year. In fact, if you’re local to the Orlando area, Friday nights between November and April the museum stays open late so visitors can enjoy a free Friday evening complete with music – beauty for the eye and ear to behold.

Do you think beauty is essential to life? Where have you read God’s handwriting in your life? Sometimes, our lives may not seem to contain much beauty. Maybe you find yourself in a season of darkness, grief, loss, confusion. Your eyes are darkened with tears, pain, and sorrow and you find it hard to see any beauty at all. The Scripture (also God’s handwriting) reminds us that “He has made everything beautiful in its time”. (Ecc 3:11) Do not despair, the beauty is there, and you will see it.

note: all the photos were graciously provided by the Morse Museum. I am so grateful for their support. All views expressed in this post are my own and I was in no way obligated or compensated by the museum. The Morse Museum is a true treasure and well worth your time to come and explore!

 

Man’s Best Friend – a Flying Dog!

Animals are so much fun to paint, especially a dog. Dogs have so much personality! They remind us of ourselves. Their antics are a relief and a laugh in our stressed out, high pressure world. Dogs come in so many shapes, sizes and colors and make us laugh and cry. They engage us with affection, protection and calmness. I’ve painted a few dogs and even a wolf in the last couple of years

But what makes dogs so special to me is the absolute love, loyalty, and joy they have for their owners.  The excitement a dog has for you when you come home just can’t be matched. Our kids, co-workers and spouses may take us for granted sometimes, but not our dogs! They have boundless love and enthusiasm.

So last year when we ran our free pet portrait contest, I got lucky. You read that correctly, yes the winner was picked by a machine and they soon will be the fortunate owners of a beautiful pastel of their dog, but truly I got lucky! Why?

When you are an artist, some commission photos are better than others and some are downright difficult. But when I saw the “machine picked” winner, I thanked the Lord!

Here’s a picture of Doc and as you can see, the photographer marvelously captured Doc with all four feet off the ground!

To give you an idea of this stunning feat, look at the size of Doc with his owners.

He is a BIG dog. Average weight for the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is 132-154 pounds. You can read more about them here.

The prize was to be an 8 x 10 pastel, but I just couldn’t do it. To do Doc justice, I just had to use 14 x 11 painting grounds. Here is my start:

I reformatted the view of Doc to make him front and center, to show that amazing joy and love running right toward the viewer. Here he is with a start of some color

Now I’m gaining a bit more locomotion on his coloring and personality, but the tongue and details are yet to come

Here is Doc below finally finished in all his delightful glory. Such a magnificent creature designed by our Lord to give us joy and fellowship.

Dogs are often called “Man’s Best Friend”, and for many of us, that statement certainly rings true. But at the end of the day, a dog is still just a dog. What if there was a friend even better?

I believe the best friend we could ever have is Jesus. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15

How magnificent that the Creator of the universe truly wants to be “Man’s Best Friend.”  Surely Job (Job 37:5) was right when he said, “God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.”

Write and tell me about your pets or your relationship with God. Feel free to drop in a picture of your own furry friend! And if you don’t consider yourself to have Jesus as your friend, I’d love the chance to talk to you about that too!

 

To Everything There is a Season

What’s your favorite season? I recently moved to Florida, and, honestly, Florida does not have seasons. Oh long-time-Floridians will tell you that there are indeed seasons in Florida. But in reality, if you’ve ever lived pretty much anywhere else, you know that there are not really seasons in Florida. My daughter likes to say that Florida has three seasons – hot, not quite so hot, and hurricane. That seems about right.

However, this is not a post making fun of Florida “seasons”. Spring is my favorite season. I love how the whole of creation comes to life again. Of course, if there were no winter, spring would not be as amazing. It is precisely the awakening of nature that makes spring so spectacular for me. When we were living in Texas (admittedly, a state where seasons are a bit wonky compared to some other places), spring was glorious. In winter, the landscape became devoid of color – the “beigeness” of Texas we would say. But in spring….oh the color! It seemed as though every week there was a new variety of wildflower blooming as far as the eye could see.

season blog
Texas, Wilson County, FM 427, oil well, wildflowers: Indian paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa), phlox (Phlox drummondii), coreopsis (Coreopsis sp.)

The beauty of spring has been the inspiration for many artists throughout the centuries. Japanese ink art from the early 1700s captures the vibrant colors of irises blooming in the springtime.

season blog
Working Title/Artist: Yatsuhashi, Ogata Korin
Department: Asian Art
Culture/Period/Location:
HB/TOA Date Code: 09
Working Date:
Japanese. Paintings-screens.
53.7.2 (flat)
Edo Period, 18th Century
Screen, six-panel, one of a pair: Iris and Bridge
(Yatsuhashi)
Ink, Color and gold leaf on paper
H. 70-1/2 in. W. 146-1/4 in.
transparency 5, photographed in 1993
scannned for burke cd-rom in 1999 (phc)

Monet has long been one of my favorite artists, and he, too, was captivated by the beauty of flowers. His garden paintings are instantly recognizable.

The Artist’s Garden at Giverny, 1900 by Claude Monet

I can’t see that painting without thinking of Laura’s most popular work:

© Laura Gabel, "Lovelock's Lavender". Pastel on UArt, framed with a black mat and frame, 15 1/4 x 15 1/4. Private collection.
© Laura Gabel, “Lovelock’s Lavender”. Pastel on UArt, framed with a black mat and frame, 15 1/4 x 15 1/4. Private collection.

I think Laura has captured the essence of why spring draws so many artists in her work entitled “New Life: Psalm 92:14”. This psalm speaks of the righteous flourishing, bearing fruit, being green and full of life even into old age.

season blog
© Laura Gabel, “New LIfe Ps. 92:14”. Acrylic on canvas, 29.25 x 23. $850.

And I think that’s why spring is my favorite season – it is life. The world comes to life after the long sleep of winter.  And I am reminded again of the new, fresh start that comes with the turning of the season.

Just like the earth, our lives have seasons too. When you are in a season of spring, you are awash in the newness of life, of beauty, of vibrancy. But sometimes, we find ourselves stuck in the dull, gray, cold, death of winter. We are waiting for the buds to break forth, but all is still. Christine Hoover has written a new book entitled “Searching for Spring” where she explores what the Bible has to say about this season of winter and of waiting.

season blog

In the coming weeks, I will be reading and sharing my thoughts on the book. For those of you who find yourselves in winter, waiting for spring, I pray your hearts may be encouraged. And for those who are not currently mired in winter, may you store up the riches for the future and to encourage those around you.

10  My beloved speaks and says to me:

“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,

and come away,

11  for behold, the winter is past;

the rain is over and gone.

12  The flowers appear on the earth,

the time of singing has come,”

Song of Solomon 2:10-12

Inside Out Peace

Most people know that one visual symbol for peace is the dove, but why?  According to Wikipedia, “The use of a dove as a symbol of peace originated with early Christians, who portrayed baptism accompanied by a dove, often on their sepulchres. The New Testament compared the dove to the Spirit of God that descended on Jesus during his baptism.” (see Matthew 3:16)

Other people equate peace to a river. You may have heard the old gospel song: “I’ve got peace like a river.”

You can’t find peace by watching television, talking on your cell phone, or playing video games.

But many people have a feeling of peace when they see nature in all its beauty. Gazing at God’s magnificent creation, whether it’s a peaceful stream, a river, a beautiful bird, or taking a walk at the ocean can sooth the cares and troubles of this world.

Walking on the beach is one of my favorite pastimes and gives me a clear channel to hear from God, which is why I created Seaside:

peace blog
© Laura Gabel, “Seaside”. Oil, 16×20. Private Collection

But I learned a long time ago, that no dove, no mountain view, no crashing waves, no painting or photograph can really give me peace. All the outside symbols are lovely and give me a sense of God’s greatness and creativity, but…

Peace is an inside job.

People search for it in other people, places or things, but the disciple John recounts Jesus saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” (John 14:27).

The inner peace that Christ gives is because He gives Himself to us.

True peace cannot be found outside His presence. It comes from Him and is never found where He is not.

I obtain this peace by opening my heart to His presence, calling upon Him, reading His word.

If peaceful times have not been yours lately, trying calling upon Jesus to soothe your soul with His presence.