When is a dog not just a dog?

I am a dog person. Many of you will not remember the song, “How Much is that Doggie in the Window?” But, let’s acknowledge the fact that most of us wouldn’t sell our dog (or dogs) for anything. Ken and I have three long haired Chihuahuas. A pack, nicknamed by my stepson as the “Terrible Trio”. Indeed, they are naughty and yappy. I will acknowledge that; but they are also loving, entertaining, and they make us happy.

Which brings me to the saga of painting Emma.

Emma the dog 1

Emma is the darling companion Mary and David Flowers, church friends. Not just any dog, she is a Boston Terrier who rules the roost with energy and antics.

My motivating question when I paint is always, “how can I portray the true personality of this person, dog, cat, whatever?” Sorry photographers; but a photo is a flat reality. 

True art intensifies the real inner persona of the subject. It makes you want to know more…he, she or it should jump off the canvas and say something that is beyond the norm of “she’s a nice looking lady”, “he’s a cute dog”, “it’s a pretty scene”, etc. It’s a forever painting that somebody will want when a loved one dies. I’m not trying to be morbid, but paintings should be evoke emotion, have meaning.

So for me, Emma was more than just a dog. Emma had to recollect mischievous love for her owners, especially Mary.

When I paint a commissioned painting, I always ask for at least one photo from which to paint. This was the photo I was asked to paint:

Emma the dog 2

On the surface, it looks nice, but it’s a nightmare for a painter.

First, it’s not just a dog in the photo. On the viewer’s right is a hand! Yikes. Emma looks brown in the photo; but she’s obviously a Boston Terrier and they are black! There is little or no contrast in the blacks, the shadows are muted and not true to color.

Am I losing you? Then of course there is that teeny tiny Harley Davidson logo on the hat–all on an 8 x 10.

What to do? Pray, face the fear and begin!

Emma the dog 3

I wanted to make her coat silky and lustrous, showing a lovely under coat of browns, blues, and blacks. I want the collectors to feel as if they can reach out and feel their dog’s coat and the blanket. So I developed four levels of pastel (you can see those swatches on the right).

Emma the dog 4

I know Emma is playful, so I wanted to develop a little action in the background to suggest her energy and character.

Emma the dog 5

No white fur can be painted in until Emma is almost finished.

Now we are close!

Emma the dog 6

Not done but closer. I’ve got to polish up the fur, nose and logo! More hours, but worth it, she’s a doll. I’ve grown to love her as I paint her and that’s important.

With a mat and frame, Emma will be a darling keepsake.

Love is a growing thing. Most people don’t realize that. We tend to think of love as an emotion, but it’s not. I can say that after 34 years of marriage. Love takes patience, kindness, attention to the little things. Just like painting Emma.

Do you have a loving friend or creature that I can give life to through a painting? Then let’s talk! You can leave a comment or send us an email. And be on the lookout for a follow up post when she’s all finished!

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An unlikely partnership – revisited

partnership remixThe original post on our partnership went up almost exactly one year ago (July 14, 2016), but I thought an update and some reflections might be interesting. While Laura and I first “met” (via the magic of the internet) in the summer of 2013, we didn’t meet IRL (in real life) until the summer of 2016. This summer of 2017 marks another milestone for our partnership. My family has relocated to Florida, as my husband has accepted a new job at The Geneva School.

In the craziness of moving our family 1100 miles, and unpacking over 100 boxes, time to write a new blog post has been severely limited. I hope you enjoy this walk down memory lane as I reflect on my partnership with Laura. 

A stay-at-home mom and a business executive walk into a bar… Okay, so maybe Laura and I wouldn’t walk into a bar together, but it is an odd pairing — an unlikely partnership indeed. Just what does a mom of two young children have in common with a retirement-age recruiting contractor? More than either of us might have thought, as we would soon find out.

Let me back up a few years to explain.

Summer 2013 – The Partnership Begins

My husband had just signed a contract to teach at a classical school outside of Philadelphia, and we were preparing to move from Richmond, Virginia, to a start this new adventure. The cost of living in South Jersey is definitely higher than in Richmond, and private schools aren’t known for their extravagant salaries, so I found myself looking at options for earning some extra money.

It just so happened that my lovely aunt contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in some part-time work-from-home hours. She had been working as a virtual assistant for Laura, but was transitioning to full-time employment. So she was searching for someone to replace her. After Laura and I spoke on the phone, I took the reins from my aunt. Since I am wired to enjoy administration, the job fit snugly with personality: answering email, scheduling appointments, managing her calendar, and partnering with her to assist her in executive recruiting.

Summer 2015 – The Partnership Evolves

In May, Laura called and told me that she wanted to take some time off from executive recruiting in order to focus more on her artwork. Little did I know how that shift in focus would transform our partnership! As we continued to talk and explore, “I want more time to paint” became questions about how to market and sell art online, the creation of a website, development of an e-store and selling on other e-commerce sites, a blog… Things have just been accelerating since then.

grateful partnership

I am a linear thinker and a Type-A personality — some might say I border on OCD (but in a good way, I’m sure). Laura… well… she’s an artist. When it comes to her art, she just creates. She inuits things; she emotes. I am the left brain while she is the right brain. While it might sometimes feel as though we are talking past each other, we’ve learned to accommodate each other. Laura endures my countless emails, complete with bulleted lists, enumerated questions, and attached spreadsheets. I’ve learned to be patient and flexible as she requests another color change or forgets to set a price for a piece of art. She makes me a better communicator. I think she would say the same of me.

The Partnership Continues

What is it that makes us work so well together? In fact, with just one of us, this art blogging adventure would look very different. Despite our differences, we share a common foundation and a common goal. Both our lives our anchored in Jesus Christ and His Word. Both of us love art, love people and want to encourage them. Because of the gospel, we are united, and because of Laura’s art and my writing, we have this blog.

I know the past few weeks have shown a lot of division in our society, and where we go seems unclear to so many people. But for those of us who follow Christ, we have a message of hope and of unity to give to a world that so desperately needs it. Who in your life needs to hear that? Who are the people in your life that are different from you, but enrich your life as a result? Tell them how grateful you are for your unlikely partnership.

I’m excited that this new chapter means we will be closer to one another, and I look forward to seeing her more often and enjoying the partnership in the Gospel that we share.

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Hmmm…..where did the time go?

Have you ever felt your mind simmering on a subject? Not like retreading, going over and over it, but new inventive thoughts that hadn’t occurred to you?

I want to challenge you to ride the imagination train with me today. So we’ve ridden the train down track “how long“, which was why I disliked the question “how long did it take you to paint that”?

My mind jumped over to track “time flow“. What in the world is that? Well, have you ever been in a place, participated in an activity, done something where you wondered, “hmm, where did the time go?”

That’s how I feel when I paint. I know not time; it doesn’t exist for me. Eating, drinking, calls, interruptions are simply an annoyance that break the primitive flow of life inside my painting experience. Painting is a bubble. I’m inside the bubble and time is outside the bubble.

Outside of the classic and overused statement, “I wish I had more time”, have you really ever thought about the fact that time is just a measurement of change? Time does not exist in and of itself. It needs something else. For instance motion is measured by time as in miles per hour. Time is used by people to keep track of things.

Time was created at creation by the Creator!

time blog
photo credit https://godandsoul.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/the-big-bang-is-happening-now/

So what happens when we find ourselves totally immerse in something in which we effectively have become unconscious of time?

Time and Flow

According to Wikipedia flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does and loses sense of space and time. 

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read in the article, that, “Mihaly Csikszentmihályi and his fellow researchers began researching flow after Csikszentmihályi became fascinated by artists who would essentially get lost in their work. Artists, especially painters, got so immersed in their work that they would disregard their need for food, water and even sleep!”

Time and Painting

That’s exactly how I feel sometimes (not all the time). So in my prayer time I asked the Lord, “what type of picture would you paint (in human terms) to describe this feeling?” He gave me a picture of some little children making sandcastles on the beach. Now that was something I could relate to! I remember summers on the shore in Massachusetts. My aunt and mother would cover my face and shoulders with gooey suntan lotion after lunch, I’d trot down near the water and the next time I looked up, I vaguely remember someone tugging or calling me to come out of my dreamland, the day was over.

time blog 2
Mary Cassatt (American, 1844 – 1926 ), Children Playing on the Beach, 1884, oil on canvas, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection

No, I don’t think time is distorted like surrealist Salvador Dali painted, though it feels that way sometimes.

time blog 3
The Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dalí
(Spanish, 1904–1989), 1931. Oil on canvas, 9 1/2 x 13″ (24.1 x 33 cm)

I think God is giving us a little glimpse of what eternal life will feel like with Him! It’s a little bit of heaven on earth.

Have you had a snip of the eternal sensation of time standing still? If so, I’d like to hear about it.

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Keen on Sadness

I don’t know how many of you have seen the movie “Big Eyes” about the artist Margaret Keane and her Big Eyed Waif paintings. It is an amazing story of a woman who found her saving grace in painting out her feelings, often of sadness, grief and anger. While you may not know her name you will be able to recognize her paintings.

Keen on Sadness
IN THE GARDEN by Margaret Keane Fine art giclee print on canvas 8 x 10 in. (20.3 x 25.4 cm)

Margaret gave up her identity as creator of the paintings. She painted in secret, allowing her husband to take credit for executing the works. For 15 years, her husband reaped accolades as the most popular painter of the time. Margaret spent hours fulfilling commissions and painting away. She was prolific and had a genuine, expressive style which her husband Walter capitalized on, making him famous and forcing her to live a life of lies, but as Margaret has mentioned…it was her choice. Which, no doubt, brought her great sadness.

close up of Margaret Keane’s eye paintings

Beside having big eyes in all of her paintings, her style carries an inherent sadness and often tells a story.  Especially her paintings before her divorce from Kean in 1965.

Sadness, is part of life. I have been dealing with some sadness in my own life. What I have discovered is that sadness can turn into self-pity.

I happen to think that self-pity “SP” weaves a very tight trap, a sort of fence around things like grief, sickness, loneliness, anger. Self-pity is clever, in that it seems “right”. It’s one of those “I DESERVE IT” emotions.  I deserve to be pitied, I deserve to spend my time thinking about poor pitiful me. It’s also one of those “I DON’T DESERVE IT” emotions.

Keen on Sadness
INDECISIVE by Margaret Keane, Fine art giclee print on canvas 5 x 7 in. (12.7 x 17.8 cm)
Sadness and Self Pity

Now I know that some folks aren’t going to like this post, because SP is a much vaunted and loved emotion for Americans. We have a right to SP! Don’t we? I guess it does make you feel better…or does it? Self pity is a self indulgent attitude concerning life’s hardships. While self pity is a big topic, here are a couple of things I’ve seen in my life and others about SP. Some are helpful and some will be bell ringers for you.

1. Don’t make a habit out of self-pity, it makes you unpopular. Self-pity is a choice.

2. Your drama life becomes boring to others; crying wolf too many times makes you a laughing stock behind your back.

3.  Find a way to shine, a creative outlet, a way of helping others.

4.  Start a gratitude list nightly; you may find this practice hard, but I promise it gets easier.

5. Remember that no matter how difficult, strengthen yourself with joy– the joy of the LORD is your strength.Neh. 8:10

6. Recognize your worth to God – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

7. Keep looking for the good of what you will learn and the strength of character you can develop out of this SP circumstance.

8. Remember you are not in total control, but you do have choices – He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. Deut. 32:4

Sadness to Joy….and you?

By the way Margaret is 87 and still painting! You can see her originals and prints displayed here. I would love to hear a story about how you have dealt with sadness and self pity in your life.

 

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