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!

 

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.

 

Thankful for the Lasting Legacy

Webster defines a legacy as “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

Several years ago a young couple, who had recently gotten married, began attending our church. Jeremy was starting a new life. And his new wife loved the Lord, and supported and strengthened him. So when she got pregnant and we had a baby shower for her, I decided to give them a gift certificate for a portrait of their new baby boy, Eli.

Eli arrived, healthy and full of energy. I mean full of laughter, love, smiles, and ACTION! That baby loved being held by everyone at church and brought us all so much joy! But getting a photo of the growing Eli, was practically impossible–this little fellow moved fast!! Finally, after many attempts, I was able to capture his zest for life. But alas, it was a lousy cell phone shot.

Eli Legacy blog 1

I moved ahead anyway, trying to capture him in my preliminary sketch.

But in the back of my mind I had a deep admiration for his mom, Freisia and dad, Jeremy. They were raising two sons, Joshua, Freisia’s first son, and now Eli. They made a commitment to raise a godly family, to leave a godly legacy. In Proverbs 22:6 it states: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Eli legacy blog 3

Just taking pictures of Eli, I realized how challenging it is to make a firm decision in a crooked and difficult world. Parents have a hard task to raise spiritually healthy children who know and love the Lord.

Eli legacy blog 4

What does all this have to do with Thanksgiving? Well, to raise kids in a world hostile to Christian values is a struggle. It takes time, energy, and the ability to dedicate yourself and your children into His care and hands.

Eli legacy blog 5

There will be lots of families gathered today for Thanksgiving, but I am especially thankful for those parents and grandparents who are raising kids who will learn to love Jesus. I am thankful for the thousands of youth workers, like my friend Joy, who have dedicated their time, attention, and love on the young people who will one day lead our nation. Today, I am especially thankful for all the Michelles, Justins, Jeremys, Freisias, Yvonnes, and countless others who are raising a new group of godly children that will turn into God worshiping adults. We give God all the glory for helping them.

Eli legacy blog 6

Thank you Lord for parents, grandparents, church leaders, and teachers that strengthen the true fabric and meaning of love embodied in our Lord Jesus Christ. Empower them as they diligently endeavor to leave a lasting legacy of godly principles and embedding them into our children.

Perhaps you share my admiration for godly shepherds, do tell me about it! If you’d like to leave a lasting legacy in a portrait, it’s not too late to order a gift certificate for that special loved one as a Christmas gift. Email me and we can talk about it.

 

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:

sunflowers 1

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:

sunflowers 2

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!

sunflowers 3

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.

sunflowers 4

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?…

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!

My daughter the unwitting celebrity

I have a “famous” daughter. My children are an endless source of inspiration and I love to write about them. In fact, I just did a quick search on my own blog and found more than ten examples of posts where I mention my girls. We take them on trips to art museums, we expose them to local artisans, we encourage their own creativity, and we delight to see them embracing, appreciating, and contributing art.

We, as a school community, celebrate both the visual and performing artistic endeavors of our students in grades K through 12 every spring. The students perform a variety of musical numbers for their adoring fans.  We also have a chance to view many of their art projects on display. Students are invited to submit original artwork to grace the cover of the program for the evening’s festivities.

daughter art 2

My oldest daughter labored for days on getting her design just right. She wanted to find the perfect illustration for this year’s theme of “summer”. In the end, the teachers recognized her hard work by granting her the privilege of having her artwork on the program’s cover. She became an instant celebrity on campus the day it was announced. I arrived to pick her up at the end of the day, and as we lingered on campus, every student who passed us called out their congratulations.

daughter art

Proud daughter, proud mama

I was so proud of my daughter for having her artwork recognized. Our students were so gracious to acknowledge their classmate’s success, and to be genuinely proud of her accomplishment. My daughter was definitely excited to have won, but she was also humble. I know that she does not like to be in the spotlight and was even a bit embarrassed at all the attention. She was also extremely worried about being publicly acknowledged during the night’s program. Her fears were relieved when she was simply recognized verbally that evening.

Now, I don’t know whether or not my children will ever have artwork on display in a gallery or a museum. But I do know that they love to create. Their minds of full of countless ideas, and art is one way in which they can express that imagination. I want to encourage them to be creative. We want them to enter contests, to take risks, to face their fears. I’m delighted that their school and their art provide them with opportunities to do so.

daughter art 1

What about you? Are there risks you can take? What art do you have to create? We all have something to share. Let’s also be the ones to cheer others on in their successes. And remember, if you should see artwork by A. Keller in your local museum, you saw her here first!

A Gala, Grace, and Goodbye

A wise bear once said, ““How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”. If that is true, then I am indeed lucky, blessed in fact.

Two years ago, my family moved to the Austin, Texas area because my husband had accepted a teaching position at a classical school in Georgetown. This summer finds us packing up our home, saying “goodbye”, and moving yet again. I am excited to start a new adventure at a new school. However, I am finding the saying of “goodbye” to be incredibly difficult.

Recently, Laura blogged about a new painting she was finishing up for a benefit auction for our current school, Grace Academy. When I had originally asked Laura if she’d be willing to paint a landscape of our campus for the auction, I did not know we would be leaving the school. And so I found myself on a Friday night, surrounded by people who love the school and were excited to contribute their funds towards the furtherance of Grace Academy’s mission. Among the items up for bid was Laura’s painting.

goodbye to grace

Unexpectedly, I found myself anxious over it’s sale. Not because I didn’t think it would be popular, but because I was worried over who might get the painting. Would it be someone I know? Someone who loves art? A family who loves Grace Academy? Even though I didn’t create the beautiful landscape, saying “goodbye” to it felt a bit intimidating; it was also a “goodbye” to the school I’d come to love.

The auction was a silent auction, so I wasn’t aware of how the bidding was going. A friend of mine promised me that she’d let me know who purchased the painting once all the dust of the gala auction had settled. The next morning, I received a text from a dear friend that said, “guess what I have?!” and this picture:

grace goodbye 2

Not quite goodbye….yet

I found myself relieved that she was the one who purchased “Sunrise at Grace”. I told her that I was glad it was going to a good home; having it with her felt like it was still “in the family”.But I was also sad as the realization hit that she would be one of the hardest people to bid goodbye. She also texted me, “And now with y’all moving it holds another special place for me because I wouldn’t have the painting without your connection to Laura. So thank you! I will treasure it always. And always think of your and your family as well as the school we love so much!”

I have joked with her in the past that she is my muse when I have nothing to write about. On at least one occasion, she was the direct inspiration for my post of the week. I can think of countless other friends that I have met as a result of our time at Grace Academy who have so clearly influenced who I am as a person.

My friend sent a wonderful thank you note to Laura in regards to the painting:

I am writing to let you know that my family now has your beautiful painting of the Grace Academy landscape on our mantle! It is just beautiful!!! It will always hold a special place in my heart. Our two boys (currently 10th and 8th graders) started attending school at Grace in third and first grade. I can so clearly remember the first time my husband and I drove onto campus. The property is beautiful and just has a feeling of peace and joy. Even 8 years later I think of that first time I entered campus and how peaceful it was almost every single day that I drive onto the property. So thank you Laura! Thank you for your selfless donation of time and talent to our school. We will treasure it always. May God richly bless you in your artistic endeavors!

goodbye

This school will always hold a special place in our hearts as well. Even as I am writing this, I am a substitute teacher in the Upper School. I was just told by a roomful of eighth graders that I am their favorite sub, as I passed out their difficult Logic test. We will miss the students, we will miss the teachers, we will miss the parents. We are lucky indeed, for it is quite hard to say goodbye.

 

The Art of Friendship – revisited

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was part of a book launch team for the book “Messy Beautiful Friendship”. Well, the book has launched, and now I’m “launching” my book review.

Christine Hoover, the author, is a pastor’s wife in Charlottesville, VA. In God’s providence, I was once a pastor’s wife in Virginia, and Christine and I had the chance to correspond over email. We’ve not kept in touch personally throughout the years, but I do read her blog. So, I was excited when she mentioned that she was writing a book on friendship. I was happy to sign up to be on her launch team and read her book.

I appreciate Christine’s uninhibited style of writing. She is honest about her failures and humble about her success. Most importantly, she grounds all of what she has to say not in her own experience, but in the Scriptures. If we are to discover what real friendship is, as Christians, we must look to what the Bible says friendship ought to be.

As someone who has moved six times in my 13 years of marriage, I know how challenging it can be to make friends. Even finding a casual acquaintance can be intimidating – especially for those of us who are more introverted in nature. But finding deep, lasting, godly, life giving friendship? Sometimes that seems like an impossibility.

friendship

What is Friendship?

Christine looks at some of our misconceptions about what friendship is and then lays out a biblical vision for true friendship. She posits that we often find ourselves dissatisfied with our current friendships because we don’t have an accurate understanding from the Bible of what friendship should be. She says:

When I am disappointed with my friendships and I take time to dig a little deeper in my heart, I inevitably find that I’m looking for my friends to relate to me as only God can. I want God to give me good friends, and when he has, I’ve been prone to shove him aside for the attention, wisdom, and companionship of those friends, despite knowing that they were intended as gifts rather than replacements. People are not fillers for a present God, and God is not a placeholder for future friends. (Messy Beautiful Friendship, p. 38)

All too often, I find that to be true. I’d rather have the “perfect” friendship here and not rely upon the eternal friendship I have with Christ. I want to see friendship as a gift from God. But the challenge to me is not to love the gift more than I love the Giver.

friendship

Threats to Friendship

She also then examines some of the threats to developing deep and lasting friendships. In her final sections she offers some practical wisdom and insightful challenges to us as we seek out friendships that honor Christ. I especially appreciated her chapter entitled “Faithful Wounds” about speaking the truth in love. Unfortunately, our culture has adopted the idea that to love someone means you never disagree with them, and thus would never have a need to confront them. However, the Bible teaches that “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.” (Prov. 27:5) It is precisely because we love our friends that we will confront them when we see them wandering from the truth.

I highly recommend Christine’s book. Even if you are a person who makes friends easily, it can be a helpful reminder of what biblical friendship is. The book is a quick and relatively easy read. She even includes some discussion questions in the back of the book. I think the book quite readily lends itself to being a selection for a ladies book club.

friendship

As I am facing yet another move, I find myself grieving the leaving of my current friends and feeling anxious about making new ones. What a comfort to know that I already have “a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Tell me a story of one of your dear friends. Or share a picture of you with your friends! I’m always encouraged by hearing how God has blessed you. And if you happen to pick up a copy of Christine’s book, let me know what you think.

Rest and Recharge to Charge Ahead!

sunrise at grace rest
© Laura Gabel, “Sunrise at Grace”. Oil on canvas, 24″x48″. $850.

I’m taking a bit of a rest because I’ve just completed a 2 foot by 4 foot painting that will be at a benefit auction for Grace Academy in Georgetown, just outside of Austin, Texas. It’s a sizeable painting and I am excited to be able to share it with all of you!

Here are a few progress shots from the painting “Sunrise at Grace”:

Grace sunrise rest

Sunrise at Grace rest

When I start, get in the middle, and finish a painting like this one, there is a lot of planning involved to make sure the composition works out well. The overall effect that I want to portray must be in my head before I ever take paint to canvas.

Something else happens when I paint. I go through many emotional moments: concern, joy when a certain section turns out really well, despair when I think I’ve blown it, self doubt, and exhilaration. Finally, I come to the moment when I say “it’s done” in my head. But I’d still like to have another month with it. 

Sunrise Grace progress 7

Sunrise at Grace progress 8

Then the last feeling for me is a jumble of being happy, sad, and exhausted.

Some paintings are all consuming, for me. I often find that means I have a hard time stopping. I think, dream, and have it floating around in my head a lot! This was one of those paintings.

I can tell when my battery is low and I need to recharge so I can move forward. Moving forward means digesting what I’ve learned from this painting and clearing my heart and mind. I need to make room for my next painting, which more than likely, will be entirely different.

How do I recharge? I actively rest! Huh? It sounds like an oxymoron but it isn’t.

First, a couple of questions for you about rest:

  • When you think of the word “rest” in a natural sense what does it mean to you?
  • What does the word “rest” mean to you in a spiritual sense?
  • Do you find that you try to “rest” in the Lord only when you’ve explored all your other options, or hit rock bottom?

Now that you’ve taken a little inventory, here are a couple of things I’ve learned about rest that have helped me. Hopefully these will give you a different perspective on rest.

Rest is fruitful

Our minds can be refreshed and our strength renewed when we slow down and allow our minds and emotions to enjoy quiet times. Try it; watch what happens when you take a walk, go to the beach, meditate on just one scripture or turn off the cell phone and tv.

Rest is an activity

I admit this really doesn’t make sense but if you schedule a time-out for yourself you are halfway there. Being intentional about resting doesn’t mean you strive or struggle. It means you can be determined to take that break whether it be for 10 minutes, a day, or a weekend. Rest takes practice. Exodus 23:12 reminds us that “on the seventh day you shall rest;…that [you] may be refreshed.”

Rest is a choice

When you choose to recharge your batteries, you have decided to go against the world’s wisdom that counsels that we should run faster and harder. Choosing to take some of your time and dedicate it to slowing down is the best way to partner and collaborate with Christ. He promises that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Here is my simple way to practice rest: by deciding to climb into His loving arms to be held, behold Him and be loved! 

How do you recharge your batteries? Has this article has given you the encouragement you need to practice resting? If so, let me know.

A Wonderful Reunion

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a surprise reunion with someone you loved and lost?

Unexpected, joyous…a warmth in the heart. At least that is what I hope for Ian when he sets eyes on his beloved dog Sally in this painting.

Ian reunion

This painting of Ian was commissioned as a surprise from his sister-in-law Joy and I was excited to create this for many reasons. This is an international painting, as they live in England. Second, I love making memories come alive for my clients. Time stands still and yet travels right into the heart when a painting speaks to him or herIan’s beloved dog is no longer with him, but what a sweet reunion he will experience through art.

Simply, when I paint, it delights me to delight the viewer. 

The painting should be in Ian’s hands by the end of this week. So I’ve included a few progress shots for his family and you.

reunion progress 1

The challenges of developing a painting stroke by stroke are well worth the effort. Pastel is such a vibrant medium and I really wanted to show the tender love these two had for each other.

The way they look at the camera together mirrors a long and loyal relationship.

I am very much believing that Ian will be totally surprised at seeing his special friend come alive.

An Easter Reunion

It’s one thing to see a painting of a friend you think you’ve lost forever, but it’s another to see that friend resurrected and very much alive after he has been in the grave for 3 days!  What a reunion that would be!

Imagine the heart palpitations, the joy, the disbelief, the overwhelming feeling that it really can’t be.

That’s what Mary saw as she lingered in the garden, looking for her loving friend Jesus’ body. But it wasn’t his dead body she found. He was alive! She saw him, she spoke to him and he said, “go and tell the disciples that I am he, I am alive!”

Yes, she saw him with her own eyes. Some say, seeing is believing, but Christ emphatically told one of his disciples, Thomas: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29

That should give us all hope this wonderful Easter week.

Perhaps you have not believed, but are ready to now.  Realize that according to Jesus and His word, you are blessed! Talk to a friend, visit a church, email me at laura@lgabel.com.