Who doesn’t love a happy ending?

I love a happy ending, don’t you? Right now you may be thinking of a movie or a book that gives you a warm feeling that all is right and perfect in the universe. I call it the “TaDa” moment.

I’m fortunate, I get a “TaDa” moment when I finish a painting. But it’s not really a happy ending yet.

My ending is just the beginning of enjoyment for others! My true happy ending is watching a collector’s eyes sparkle with delight and wonder when they get their painting.

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Even though I may be commissioned to do a work, I am giving my whole heart to apply all my God given creative abilities in translating a flat photo into art that is alive with emotion so it jumps right off the canvas.

The Bible says that it is so much more blessed to give than to receive. Perhaps in this time of holiday frenzy the phrase is overused and misunderstood. Nevertheless, it is true that delight comes from a gift that is meaningful, original and thoughtful.

Over the years that I’ve been painting, I’ve had the privilege of doing many commissioned works. I love seeing the photographs that loved ones provide and hearing their stories of why they want that particular image painted. But even more, I love seeing the fantastic joy and delight when the painting is finally in the hands of the recipient.

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You can read the stories from these collectors and more on our website.

Perhaps you’d like to experience the joy of giving someone an original piece of art. It’s not too late for a Christmas gift certificate. I’d love to consult with you over what you might have in mind! Contact me to co-create with me a one of a kind gift that really is a happy ending for all involved.

 

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How about that wacky artist?

Are artists wacky? Most artists have a style. They perfect that style and challenge themselves by working in a series. It might be a series of dog portraits, angels, bug-eyed children, pretty ladies, marsh landscapes, etc. You get the idea. Do it well, do what sells, do what you like; but many times it’s theme based. It’s a great way to create.

Other artists are often spectacularly diverse. One of my favorite pastel artists is Robert Carsten.   I’ve actually been fortunate enough to take a workshop with him.  The range of his subject matter and technical virtuosity is admirable. As you can see here, his exploration of still life and landscape show his ability to enjoy the outside and inside world.

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Spring’s Splendor by Robert Carsten
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Reflecting Pool by Robert Carsten

I can’t speak for Mr. Carsten, but I can say that art is an exploration of the inner and outer world which mostly exists in the artist’s mind.

We artists and other creative folk are no more internally tormented than any other person. Some artists, like Beethoven or Van Gogh, led such fascinating lives that they have inspired many good stories and interesting films.

I personally like having multiple art personalities that develop through growth, boredom, passion, and excitement.  I am not a better or worse artist because of it, I just like exploration! Personally, I just admire different types of art and different artists.

When I look at the finished portrait of Emma, I find myself wondering at my own exploration.

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© Laura Gabel, “Emma”. 8 x 10, soft pastel. Private collection.

As you can see, she is detailed, right down to her Harley Davidson cap.

On the other hand, when I created Delightful:

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© Laura Gabel, “Delightful”. 6 x 12, acrylic. Private collection.

I was drawing on my feelings about a special person in my life. She is lively, sociable, and bright. The colors were a reflection of her personality at the moment.

So am I wacky? No, but often my paintings reflect the character of the collector, myself, or the subject.

Indeed, variety is the spice of life in art, that’s why it’s great to paint differently and why museums have visitors!

What do you think when you see different styles coming from the same artist? Do you think they’re a bit wacky? You might find they just like to explore in a unique and different way.

 

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The Museum in My Backyard

Are you ready for some word association? I say “Orlando”, and you say…….

How many of you said “Disney”? I’d also accept “Mickey” or “theme parks” or “happiest place on earth”. I have a hunch the the overwhelming majority of responses would fall along those lines. In fact, when my husband first began discussing the possibility of moving to Orlando, my words were “what? Orlando? It’s just Disney and old people.” To say that I was not excited would be an understatement.

However, as I began to do a little research on why living in Orlando was fabulous, I discovered that Orlando is a city that has much to offer beyond Disney. This past weekend, my family and I headed out to the Orlando Museum of Art to participate in their Family Day. Once a year, the museum sets aside a day specifically for families. There is free admission, children’s activities, live music, and a general welcoming spirit to families. I have written in the past that my children are no strangers to art museums, but for many families, art museums are not part of their usual weekend faire, and events such as this one present a fantastic opportunity to expose their children to real beauty in the form of visual art.

As this was our first visit to the Orlando Museum of Art, we really didn’t know what to expect. I was thrilled to see that there is a feature piece Citron and Cobalt Tower by Dale Chihuly. We first encountered Chihuly’s stunning glass art when we were living in Richmond, VA, and we have been fans ever since.

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Like most art museums, the Orlando Museum of Art has both permanent and visiting collections.  In the permanent collections, my children were particularly fascinated with many of the modern works. They have a fantastic collection of multi-dimensional art that encouraged our children to both think, and discuss.

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I was particularly captured by the visitng exhibit Babylonian Odyssey featuring works by artist Oded Halahmy. Halahmy is an Iraqi of jewish descent who creates sculptures from metal (in this exhibit, primarily bronze) that reflect middle eastern landscapes and themes. The collection was displayed in such a creative way that truly captured the flavor of his culture. You can still enjoy this marvelous exhibit through the end of 2017.

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My children’s favorite exhibit was easily Bravo! by Chris Raschka. Raschka is an author and illustrator of children’s books. Not only did the museum have his illustrations on display, they also provided a table with many of his books.

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It was delightful to read to my girls and then walk around and enjoy looking at his artwork.

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We were fortunate enough to visit on the final weekend of this exhibit, and I’m so glad we didn’t miss it! we even went to our local library later and checked out of few of his books to enjoy at home.

Of course, since it was family day, the “craft room” was not to be missed. My own budding artists enjoyed the opportunity to create their own masterpieces as a fitting end to an afternoon of art exploration.

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I was grateful to experience this delightful museum in my own backyard. For our family, it was just the right size. We were able to wander through the entire museum without overloading our kids or our own senses. There is a wide variety of art to peruse. The exhibits were well designed and engaging. We are already planning our return visit!

Have you visited your local art museum? If not, why not plan to go this weekend? And when you do, leave me a note about your favorite exhibit. There is so much beauty to enjoy – get out there and see it!

 

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Myth, Fairy Tale, or Dream?

Have you ever had a myth shattered? Some crazy idea that crumbled apart when confronted by the truth? Let me tell you my story. I know this sounds crazy but I decided to donate a painting to Habitat for Humanity. Why is it crazy? Because, I didn’t know a thing about them. I hadn’t looked at their website; I just saw a resale store as we were passing by a strip mall in Brooksville, FL, and I felt compelled to give a painting to a homeowner. I walked in, spoke with a most gracious lady, Carmela Manno and started painting!

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My ideas about Habitat for Humanity were made up, just myths. I made up things in my mind about them, like: they just build houses in inner cities and plunk people in them..that it was started by Jimmy Carter…that all homeowners are on welfare. I had no idea of the dynamic outreach and effectiveness of this organization.

A myth is a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation. I had a myth in my mind and didn’t have the facts, but something kept driving me forward to paint and everyday, I found myself praying and dedicating this painting to it’s new homeowner.

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I had no idea that this organization had already built 65,000 homes. Nor was I aware that Habitat’s real story is a dramatic testimony of one man, Millard Fuller, a self made millionaire, and his wife, who decided to sell all of their possessions, give the money to the poor and begin searching for a new focus for their lives. Millard remembers about that time, “I wanted to make money, buy big cars, have a big house. My business was first. Everything else was second, my wife and our kids. I worked all day, came home had supper, and went back to work. My marriage suffered, our relationship suffered, while my business grew.” Finally, recalls Millard, “We wanted to make our lives count. We tried to figure out, ‘what does God want us to do with our lives?”

I’ve often found in my own life that a spark occurs when I ask a question, Millard and his wife Linda asked and God answered, mega-big. But only after many small journeys, to Koinonia Farm and Zaire, the Fuller’s developed a model for Habitat. A partnership model, based on truth and the good news of helping others help themselves in a grassroots fashion. You can read all about their approach to affordable partnership, no-profit loan housing, built by volunteers and homeowners here.

Wow! Totally different than my myth, but I was about to experience just how Habitat does make dreams come true with lots of loving volunteers, sweat equity and desire. The painting was done.

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It was time to dedicate the house! It was exciting to read their mission:

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Lots of preparation and excitement. You can see the painting on the left covered up with a blue sheet, as a surprise for new homeowner Michele Wyckoff who had spent many, many hours working on her new home. So many sponsors and volunteers gathered.

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The home was lovely! The new homeowner Michele and I posed in her new living room area.

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After a wonderful prayer dedication was completed, the unveiling of the painting was made by Richard P. Massa Jr – Executive Director of Hernando County:

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It was an exciting time for all involved. Jesus was certainly right, when you lose your life you will gain it, when you give, you receive so much more.

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I have a card in my studio by Mary Oliver, that I look at often. It’s a question you need to ask yourself today:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Well?????

 

 

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Small but Memorable

Art museums may not be high on your list of places to visit with small children. I can understand that. We’ve heard an annoyed “shhhhh” from more than one art museum docent in our years with small ones in tow. But sometimes, small children and small art museums make for big memories!

We are Bank of America card holders, so we have the opportunity to enjoy a free museum on the first weekend of every month as part of their “Museums on Us” program. Being new to Orlando, we thought this would be a great opportunity to try out a new museum. This month, we selected the Mennello Museum of American Art.

The museum itself is small, only one floor with a few carefully chosen exhibits, both permanent and rotating. However, it sits on a beautiful expanse of land along the shores of Lake Formosa in downtown Orlando. We were also able to wander through its well manicured gardens which are amply supplied with comfy adirondack chairs for lounging, and engaging sculptures to enjoy.

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No small sculptures

Currently, they are featuring the sculptures of Alice Aycock – Waltzing Matilda and Twin Vortexes. These sculptures are anything but small. My daughters were fascinated just by walking around them and noting all the various details. As they viewed the sculptures from different angles, they pointed out different features and had lively discussions about what the sculptor was creating.

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There are a variety of other sculptures to view along the pathways in the garden. My family was particularly delighted with the larger than life crayon sculpture.

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No small impact

Inside the museum, we noticed that we had arrived on the final weekend of the visiting exhibit The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William EgglestonEggleston’s photographs have shaped many in the art world beyond just photographers. American novelist Megan Abbott said, “To me, his photographs evoke entire worlds, not worlds we merely see, but worlds we feel, smell, touch…When you look long enough at his photographs, [like the gorgeous, lonely blue parking lot chosen as one of the exhibit’s central images] you get lost in it. You’re in another place.”

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Art credit: William Eggleston, Untitled, 1973, color photograph. Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses, gift of Dr. William R. Ferris.

Indeed, even our small children were in another place as they walked slowly and quietly through the exhibit. Ordinary moments in time become extraordinary works of art. In ways that I cannot quite explain, Eggleston’s works were remarkable in their power to capture my attention and my imagination with scenes as pedestrian as laundry hanging on a clothesline.

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Art credit: William Eggleston, Untitled, color photograph. Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses, gift of Dr. William R. Ferris.

My girls were full of big questions about the photos and why they were so powerful. They began creating whole stories around the snapshot moments captured and displayed on the walls of this small exhibit. Unfortunately, the exhibit has moved on, but I would encourage you to check out the works of this groundbreaking artist.

The Mennello Museum also has permanent exhibits featuring self-taught landscape artist Earl Cunningham, and a fascinating sculpture by Albert Paley, entitled Hector. 

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art credit: Albert Paley (b. Philadelphia, PA 1944), Hector, 1990, steel with red paint. Collection of The Mennello Museum of American Art, purchased by Friends of The Mennello Museum of American Art, 2016, from Paley Studios Archive, Rochester, NY

This towering steel sculpture calls to mind the character of Hector from Homer’s Iliad. My husband has had the pleasure of teaching the Iliad and my daughter has read a children’s version of it as well. We had a rather interesting and engaging discussion about Hector the Greek hero and the sculpture.

No small stories

We spent not quite two hours exploring the Mennello museum, both inside and out. I’m so glad we took the opportunity to visit. I have no doubt that we will return. The museum offers multiple opportunities to engage with the art they celebrate. They offer free docent led tours on the first Friday of every month, a monthly free day for families (where your small ones can create their own art), a monthly documentary movie screening, and even a puppet led story time for toddlers.

I was thrilled to find a museum that was accessible, engaging, and thought provoking to enjoy with my whole family. Even my six year old has asked if we can return! But you don’t have to be small to appreciate the Mennello. My husband and I were grateful for the opportunity to be exposed to some new-to-us artists and look forward to our next visit.

If you’re in the Orlando area, I would encourage you to check out the Mennello Museum. If you’re not, I have a hunch that you have your own small museum in town. Maybe you’ve always overlooked it because of it’s size. You may just find something there you never expected. What’s your favorite small museum you’ve explored? Share your experiences in the comments, I’m always looking for new places to see!

 

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Cluck, Cluck, Collecting

I love pallet knife painting and I love chickens! Fortunately for me I have a friend who loves collecting and appreciates both! Sunny, is the third rooster I’ve completed and she was fun. Sometimes it’s just a good idea to focus on something fun.

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If you’ve been listening to the news lately, it’s easy to get down, the woes of the world are many. So I’m going to recommend one of the little pleasures in life, collecting.

The joy of collecting

It’s funny when you talk to some people about collecting things, often he or she will just say, “I don’t know how I started collecting x,y,z, but it just grew. I started to see paintings, ceramics, drawings all around me. Friends started to bring me items and my collection just kept expanding.”

When you start to notice something, it does seem like it’s all around you. Everywhere you turn. If you decide you want to buy a RAM truck then all you start to see on the road are those trucks! There’s even a name for it – the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

Half the fun of collecting is displaying all your treasures. Sunny, my latest rooster will be displayed with the other two roosters, I’ve done. If you haven’t seen them, take a look, on my collectors page. I think you’ll agree that Sunny will be a fitting addition to the group. Additionally, I was able to customize Sunny, so to speak, by highlighting the blues and yellows, colors in my friend’s kitchen where she has the other two rooster paintings featured.

Perhaps it’s time for you to start something fun and a collection might be right up your alley! My husband is now collecting Red Pandas!

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What are you collecting?

How about a collecting various 8 x 10 sunsets or a series of sunflowers? Or maybe peppers for someone in your family that likes “hot and spicy”. A collection of paintings as your grandchild grows up, there are many possibilities. If you like roosters then you can always get a few prints  or a mug to kick off your collection. Even better, I’ll be happy to create a custom rooster for you!

It’s good to focus on that which makes us happy, something Sunny! Something to take your mind off tragedy, disasters, disease. I’m not minimizing those things, but we can enjoy the temporary, while keeping our eyes on the eternal too.

Jesus said that we would have trouble, but He is our Overcomer. So enjoy all that His hand has given and set your mind on things above where He is seated in the heavenlies.

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What are you collecting? Are you interested in starting a new collection? Let me know your thoughts.

 

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The end…or is it the beginning?

The End. No, I’m not writing the blog post in reverse this week. But we have reached the end of my postings about my recent vacation of a lifetime. If you’ve missed the previous posts, you can catch up with my preview post, part one, part two, and part three. I am writing an “epilogue” post in a few weeks, but it’s a bit of a different take. So I’m calling this post the official end.

I could write so, so much more on what we saw and all that we experienced. I’m more than happy to share pictures and details to anyone who’s interested. We had an incredible adventure. I’m so grateful we had the opportunity to share so much beauty with our kids.

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I could write an entirely different blog series on camping with a family, but that one might be more a comedy of errors! All good things must come to an end, and so did our vacation.

The end of a civilization

The last park we visited was Mesa Verde in Colorado. Unlike the other parks we visited, Mesa Verde isn’t so much about the wildness of the landscape, the immensity of canyons, or the breathtaking vistas. The spotlight of Mesa Verde shines brightly on the ruins of the ancient puebloan peoples who made their home among these imposing cliffs.

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Sometimes referred to as the “Anasazi”, the ancient puebloan people were hunter gatherers, and later, farmers. They built thriving civilizations in areas where few of us would dare to attempt living today. In Mesa Verde, many of these dwellings have been painstakingly restored and preserved for us to enjoy.

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The highlight of our time in the park was the tour we took of the Cliff Palace. My girls were excited to take on a steep climb, complete with narrow passages and vertical ladder climbs. By this point in our trip, they were pretty accomplished hikers.

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To protect the ancient architecture, you can only tour the cliff dwellings with a national park service guide. As we walked along, our guide did a fantastic job of telling us the journey these ancient peoples took.

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Mystery still surrounds the story of their demise. We had some interesting conversations with my inquisitive children as they suggested possible reasons for the end of these civilizations.

Not the end, but the beginning

Exploring ruins of a people who have long since faded away reminds me that I am only one part in a much larger story. It is all too easy to think that I am the center of my universe, the be all and end all of my little world. My problems are bigger than others, my successes more worth celebrating, my failures more cataclysmic. And yet, people lived, thrived, and died, long before I existed. No doubt people will continue doing so long after my story has come to an end. I am part of something much bigger.

I believe there is an Author who is writing a great cosmic story. An author who is Himself both the beginning and the end. As I reflect on a past civilization at Mesa Verde, I am reminded of this Author who alone determines the times and places for people to live. While I may be a small piece of the story, He still knows my name. I am not lost to Him.

“And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle 

So if today finds you a little too focused on your own story, remember that you are but one piece in much larger story. Not an insignificant piece, a valuable, important, loved piece. Take comfort in knowing that the One who set the stars and planets in place is writing your story as well. And His story has no end.

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A wedding, a gift, and the fun of sunflowers

I’m starting to get an idea as to why Vincent Van Gogh did so many different sunflower paintings. Whenever people came into my studio they couldn’t wait to see the progress on the sunflower painting; this one trumped everything else I was working on. EVERYBODY loves them!

I started this painting as a gift for our granddaughter Brittany for her August 18th wedding. Her flowers for the outdoor wedding were to be sunflowers. I wanted to surprise Brittany and her soon to be husband, Steve.

Sunflowers, the beginning

As I had never painted these iconic beauties before, I was quite excited.  I had an early start, here you can see the block in, sort of a Stage 1:

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As I continued working, I began building up layers upon layers of acrylic paint and medium, 5 layers in all. It takes a lot of patience and strategy to determine the lights and shadows. I designed the painting so that it would have a great deal of texture, especially the individual petals and the wooden background. This particular approach really lets the light shine through all the layers for a luminous, glowing painting! This was my first time using this method and I really enjoyed the outcome. See what you think:

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Sunflowers, the gift

Now, onto the surprise gift for the happy couple. They were so sweet to dedicate some time for the unveiling, the night before the wedding…a bit of drama in the unwrapping!

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I could hardly wait!

With every stroke, I prayed that Brittany and Steve would remember the words of 1st Corinthians 13:4-8: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

I always dedicate my paintings to the Lord, every time I pick up a brush or a pastel. I know that it is His mighty creative power at work in me and I believe that His love for all of us shines in every one of my works.

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It was a wonderful and happy event. The sunflowers are in their new home in the kitchen, and I hope a reminder of how important it is to be “sunny and kind” to each other, day in and day out.

If you’d like to learn more about the how and why of Van Gogh’s sunflowers be sure to check out #SunflowersLive, a once in a lifetime virtual gallery uniting The National Gallery (London), the Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam), Neue Pinakothek (Munich), The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Museum of Art, Tokyo.

What is your favorite flower?…

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The hike more traveled

When was the last time you went on a really great hike? Not a hike that was great because of the workout, or because of the time spent outdoors. I’m talking about a hike that challenged you physically while astounding your senses. What did you see, hear, touch, smell, and maybe even taste that was so incredible? Maybe you’re not really into hiking. That’s ok; maybe this post will change your mind!

It’s possible that I’m finally coming near the end of my blog series on our amazing summer vacation. If you’ve joined the series late, please do go back and check out my preview post, the first installment, and the follow up episode.

Today, I want to talk about my favorite hike of the whole three week trip. Ok, so my two favorite hikes. We visited eleven parks, so I hope you’ll forgive me for need to do two favorites instead of one.

The Water Hike

I must confess that one of my favorite hikes occurred in one of my not-so-favorite parks. Zion National Park in Utah is an amazing park.

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The mountains and mesas are majestic and awe-inspiring. Some of the hikes are among the most dangerous and thrilling of any of the parks we visited. And there is a beautiful river that flows through the whole canyon, a refreshing burst of coolness and refreshment in the midst of the otherwise harsh landscape. I don’t want to discount any of that beauty.

But it was hot. So hot. The temperatures hovered around 100 degrees fahrenheit every day. And it was windy. We had wind gusts approaching 30 – 40 mph. We were tent camping. The dust was red. Everything I owned became covered in red dust. I would visit Zion again, but I would not stay in a tent or come in June.

With all those disclaimers, let me say that hiking The Narrows was an adventure like none other we experienced on our trip. Zion is a canyon based park, and the river that helped form that canyon provides the setting for this most popular hike.

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I should also mention that the trail had opened only two weeks before our arrival. The river was cold, high, and swift, due to massive snow melt at higher elevations. If the river is too high, the park service will close the trail. I am grateful it was open when we came.

The girls were excited and we tried to get an early start, given the high temperatures of the day.

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The trail was crowded (it really is the most popular hike in the park and the reason many people come to Zion), but easy going in the beginning. It was a fairly level and paved trail. Gradually, the path became more narrow and the pavement stopped. We were hiking alongside the Virgin River as it winds its way through the canyon.

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But the highlight of the hike is when the canyon begins to narrow further, so much so that the trail becomes nothing more than a footpath. Eventually, even the footpath ends and the trail becomes the river itself. My girls thought it was fantastic! We waded right in and continued the hike. The water was a frigid 52 degrees, but in 100 degree heat, it was a welcome change.

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I held tight to my oldest daughter while my husband grabbed on to our six year old. We followed the river for only about 3/4 of a mile (the trails continues for some ten miles). At that point, the water was up to my little one’s shorts and the current was so strong it was a battle to take each step. For safety reasons, we knew it was wise to turn back. We were wet and tired, but it was oh so worth it. How often do you get the chance to hike in a river?! The Narrows is definitely on my list for favorites!

The Wall Hike

I think in terms of sheer grandeur, my favorite hike was Wall Street in Bryce Canyon.

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We may not have made it to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, but Bryce is considerably smaller, the weather was amazing, and we were ready to give it a go. Some portions of the trails in Bryce were closed due to excessive snow melt that had caused some avalanches, so we were rerouted from our original plan. We started off full of energy and excitement and we were not disappointed. Almost immediately upon descending the rim of the canyon, we found ourselves along an intricate serious of steep switchbacks rapidly descending the canyon.

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As we hiked lower, the canyon walls rose higher and straighter around us. We were completely surrounded by red and orange rock walls hundreds of feet above us.

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When we reached the bottom, we were astounded to see a regal Douglas fir growing straight and tall in a crevice at the bottom.

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The canyon walls split apart enough to allow both sunshine and rain or snow to easily reach the tree, and so it had grown higher and higher through the years. The bottom of the hike was cool and sheltered. There were quite a few people hiking through, but it still felt isolated from the larger canyon. I don’t think I’ve ever seen rock walls quite that color before. I know I’ve never hiked amidst rock walls quite that high before. My pictures simply fail to capture the exquisite artistry of that place.

I will spare you the details of our much lengthier ascent of the canyon. No, we didn’t have to return via the steep switchbacks. But our long, slow ascent was hampered by the altitude and little legs of tired children. We did make it back to the top eventually, and I consider that to be one of our biggest accomplishments of the trip. And we even managed to have some fun along the way.

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When was the last time you went on a hike? What natural areas are there in your neighborhood or within a short drive that you could explore? Challenge yourself; do something you’ve not done before. See what beauty is yet to be discovered and experienced. Then share a of photo of you in the midst of it!

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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.

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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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