5 Ways to Bring a Little Art to Your Summer

Summer is upon us. While June 21st marks the official start of summer, many of us mark the unofficial start with Memorial Day weekend or the end of school. For those of us in coastal states, summer is often marked with trips to the beach. If we’re in most of the US, summer means hotter weather, for some of us, too hot to even make that trip to the beach. And if we have kids, summer marks the time when mornings start a bit later, time moves a bit slower, and we ward off sibling squabbles and cries of “I’m bored.”

But what about bringing a little art to your summer? If it’s too hot to play outside, why not play inside? Here are five quick tips to put a little art in your summer – enjoy!

  1. Visit your local art museum.

Don’t just limit yourself to the biggest game in town. Most cities have smaller (and often more affordable) museums. Often during the summer, art museums will offer special programming or the occasional free day. It’s no secret that my family frequents art museums, and some of my favorite have been the smaller venues. These museums have the ability to focus on a limited number of exhibits and often do them quite well and display pieces that wouldn’t be shown in a larger museum.

summer art museum

  1. Take a stroll though a local art gallery.

Many of the cities in which we’ve lived have an “arts district”. Does your town? Is there a little neighborhood where many different artists have galleries? Or perhaps there is a larger gallery that displays works from several artists? Why not spend an afternoon or evening strolling along and letting your senses be stimulated with locally created art? In addition to seeing incredible art, you may have the opportunity to meet the artists. Check your local events calendar, regular “art strolls” are becoming very popular – galleries staying open later and vendors providing food, beverages, and even live music. Simple ask Siri or Google and see what adventure awaits!

art-less children, summer

  1. Enroll in an art class.

Summer art doesn’t have to be limited to what you find in museums and galleries. From paint-your-own studios to ceramic studios to library classes to art schools, there is an endless supply of art classes. Find a medium you enjoy or stretch yourself to try something brand new. Just because school is out doesn’t mean you can’t pick up a class just for fun! If you have kids, don’t just sign them up for art camp, why don’t you sign up for family painting night? Make some art together!

stamping art, summer

  1. Pick up a book about art or your favorite artist.

Maybe taking an art class feels a bit intimidating, while I’d still encourage you to go beyond your comfort zone….why not pick up a great book? You could read an art book, an artist’s biography or autobiography, or something that might grow your appreciation for art. Head out to your local library, look up your favorite artist, or ask the helpful librarian where the art books are and find one, two or more to take home and enjoy. Here’s a great list to get you started.

  1. Make some art of your own.

Sometimes, you just want to stay home, I get it. So why not use that time to create a masterpiece of your own? Summer is a time to relax and destress – so why not pull out a coloring book and have a little fun? Or ask your kids to get out all their art supplies, pull on some old clothes and have an art party and see what you can create? Tap into your inner creativity that unfortunately can get buried in the everyday-ness of life. Make something beautiful!

grateful for kids, summer

So how about it? How will you put a little art in your summer? What ideas do you want to try? What else would you add to this list? Now get out there and do it! Then come back, post a picture or leave a comment about your art adventure!

 

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3 Ways I want to lure you in to creativity

Today I want to lure you in to taking some risks!

A lure is something that tempts or attracts with the promise of pleasure or reward. Yes it can be pleasurable to take risks, especially when you are creating. We are all artists in one way or another and we need to cultivate and expose ourselves to trying new things.

This is exactly what I did when I created my latest mixed media painting. I call “Fishing Around” because I really didn’t know what I was doing, or how it was going to turn out. 

While you may not be able to see it “Fishing Around” is a multi-dimensional piece. It employs acrylic on the bottom as the sea layer (leftover paint that I couldn’t bear to waste from another painting, see Sarasota Waterfall).

After staring at the swirling canvas, I thought it would be fun to paint an acrylic goldfish on it.

© Laura Gabel, “Fishing Around”. 12x12, mixed media. $250., lure blog

The ideas started to evolve. Hmm, this was an experiment so I wanted to have a bit of fun. How about a dragonfly on top of the water.

© Laura Gabel, “Fishing Around”. 12x12, mixed media. $250. lure blog

Well, what could I use to separate the two creatures, the fish looking up, the dragonfly landing? I settled on a laminate layer between them. Now all kinds of things can happen when you start pouring this and that on top of this and that. But to my surprise it seemed to be working…and everyone started commenting on the crazy idea. It’s very hard to see but actually there are 3 layers of epoxy between the two creatures, which gives it a very wild depth producing look!

Then I decided to paint the dragonfly in oil on top of acrylic, on top of epoxy. Well, the whole thing could go wrong, it might sink in to the epoxy, might never dry, might smear, might not let me apply it…whew. It worked! So here is, ta da, my experimental painting!

© Laura Gabel, “Fishing Around”. 12x12, mixed media. $250. lure blog
© Laura Gabel, “Fishing Around”. 12×12, mixed media. $250.

So I want to lure you into my approach in attracting creativity simply!

1. Cultivate a creative mindset:

  • Don’t struggle – the harder you try, the dryer and flatter your ideas will get. 
  • Relax to some music.
  • Don’t discard the absurd, it leads you to make connections that can make sense.
  • Be curious. 
  • Research, but not too much! Too much reading on the internet is overwhelming and time wasting.
  • Ask yourself plenty of questions like, “what would happen if I…?”

2. Overcome your fears of:

  • Experimenting
  • Making a mess
  • Failing
  • Ask yourself: Is it ok for you to ruin something as you experiment, or do you consider what you are doing to be too “precious”?

Last but not least: Have fun! Not everything turns out right, but it can lead to bigger and better things. 

God gives us all things richly to enjoy! Tell those who are rich in this age not to be arrogant and not to place their confidence in anything as uncertain as riches. Instead, let them place their confidence in God, who lavishly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 1 Tim 6:17 ISV

If you enjoyed this, perhaps you would enjoy bring this painting into your home as well! It is available for purchase in our store.

 

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Screwtape, Wormwood, and Me

How many of you have ever read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis? I admit, I read it many years ago and remembered very little. I’ve had the privilege recently of being a substitute teacher at the school my children attend. Lately, I’ve spent a good amount of time in the 11th grade Rhetoric and Christian Thought class, and they’ve been reading The Screwtape Letters. We finished up the book recently, and I have been mulling it over ever since. 

If you’re not familiar with the book, Lewis has created a fictitious correspondence between a lead demon, Wormwood, and his nephew and junior tempter, Screwtape. The letters follow Wormwood’s advice to Screwtape on how to win the Patient away from the Enemy (God). Though the book was first published in 1942, it still speaks to the culture in which we currently live. 

screwtape letters blog
C.S. Lewis at his writing desk

I have no intention of reviewing the whole book for you here, though I would highly recommend that you read it! I want to focus in on the final letter (spoiler alert….) in which Wormwood berates Screwtape because the Patient has died while belonging to the Enemy. The demons have lost. Wormwood laments that now Screwtape has no more power over the Patient. 

The students and I discussed why the demon’s power is no longer effective. Many of them mentioned that Wormood details how the Patient has now seen who and what Screwtape is and how he operates. So, they surmised, the Patient is now wise to the tempter and the temptations and thus their power is removed. As we pushed further into the text, I think we found a much more significant reason.

screwtape letters blog

Wormwood writes, “All the delights of sense, or heart, or intellect, with which you [Screwtape] could once have tempted him, even the delights of virtue itself, now seem to him in comparison but as the half nauseous attractions of a raddled harlot would seem to a man who hears that his true beloved whom he has loved all his life and whom he had believed to be dead is alive and even now at his door.” Wormwood acknowledges that this fact is inexplicable. Let that sink in for a moment. 

Who the Patient now sees, in whose Presence he now resides, is so monumentally greater than anything that the demons could conjure up to tempt him. It is not his knowledge of Screwtape’s plans that renders them ineffective. It is because the Patient now has seen the “Enemy” face to face. Christ is so infinitely superior to anything and everyone else, that there is nothing that can tempt the Christian.

Screwtape Letters blog
“Christus Rex”, Chapel of the Resurrection, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana.

I was cut to the heart upon unpacking that metaphor. The students were a taken aback as well. The unspoken question then to us was “do I view Christ in that way?” Is He that much more glorious, lovely, valuable, worthy than anything this world has to offer? The “right” answer is a resounding “YES”! But does my life evidence that I really believe that? Am I more interested in the “raddled harlot” than the long lost love of my life?

This world has much to offer in the way of beauty and delights. This is an art blog after all, beauty makes it go 🙂 But we must remember that all the beauty this world affords is nothing compared to the One who makes that beauty. What are the things in your life (they are often good and valuable things) that compete with the beauty of the One who made you? Where are you tempted to seek comfort apart from Christ? 

Screwtape letters blog
Unfinished Landscape (The Cross at Sunset). c.1847. Oil on canvas. 32 x 48 1/2″. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid, Spain.

The Pslamist tells us that in His presence there is fullness of joy, and in His hand are pleasures forevermore. Let that promise encourage you as you face  your own temptations. There is a day coming when we will see Him face to face.

 

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Mother’s Day or Money Day?

I know this sounds un-American, but I have a close friend, who says that Mother’s Day is nothing but baloney–a made up day to sell greeting cards and goodies. Now, don’t get all worked up, even the founder of American Mother’s Day Anna Jarvis ended up criticizing the celebration for becoming too commercialized.

According to Wikipedia, Ann Jarvis [mom] “was very active within the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church community. It was during one of her Sunday school lessons in 1876 that her daughter, Anna Jarvis [daughter], allegedly found her inspiration for Mother’s Day, as Ann closed her lesson with a prayer, stating: “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.” On May 10, 1908, three years after her mother’s death, Anna Jarvis held a memorial ceremony to honor her mother and all mothers at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, today the International Mother’s Day Shrine, in Grafton, West Virginia, marking the first official observance of Mother’s Day

Jarvis frequently referred to her mom’s memory during her efforts to maintain the sentimental heart of the day while also maintaining her own role as the founder of the holiday. 

In addition to her efforts to maintain her position and recognition as the holiday’s founder, Jarvis struggled against forces of commercialization that overwhelmed her original message. Among some of these forces were the confection, floral and greeting card industry. Anna said, “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.” 

Oh dear! This echo’s my friends thoughts that honoring a mom once a year, while ignoring her most of the time is really a heart issue.

Now I know that my mom strived to be a much better mother to me than her mother was to her. I am grateful for the love, care, and encouragement she gave us. But I know that many sons and daughters may find it very, very hard to love and honor their moms. Whether it’s favoritism, abandonment, cruelty or whatever, the pain of not having a mother that fulfills our perfect image of motherhood holds us back.

Many artists have portrayed their mothers, some in surprisingly beautiful ways. For instance, very few people would recognize this painting as Picasso’s, often known as the pioneer of cubism.

We get a real treat when looking at Albrecht Durer’s oil painting of his mother and later some of his thoughts about her.

After she in turn died in 1514, her son wrote “This my pious Mother … often had the plague and many other severe and strange illnesses, and she suffered great poverty, scorn, contempt, mocking words, terrors, and great adversities. Yet she bore no malice. Also she died hard … I felt so grieved for her that I cannot express it.” I think this famous sketch of her at age 63 conveys Durer’s sadness about her hard life. 

If you were to paint your mother, what would she look like to you today, right now? Would that painting show the hardness of your heart, your anger, your unforgiveness, your hurt?

As lovers of Christ, we are commanded to love one another. This is hard, but it is a command. That command doesn’t include nursing a grudge, replaying your woundedness or treasuring your martyred state. To mature in our faith in Christ is simple. We say no to ourselves and yes to God. It is simple, but no, it is not easy. A first step toward that may be to ask God to cleanse and change your heart.

Our last portrait is the famous and iconic painting of Whistler’s mother. Perhaps you can’t tell from looking at the painting of her what Whistler thought, or perhaps you can! In any of the above 3 moms, I myself love Picasso’s portrait of his mother. 

While God is often referred to as Father, the Scriptures do in fact use maternal imagery to show us that God loves us, provides for us and cares for us like a mother with her newborn. Isaiah tells of God as the One who feeds, comforts, and cares for His children; and while even some human mothers may forget their children, God never will. He is better than even the best mother. Jesus himself draws upon maternal imagery in Deuteronomy when he laments over Jerusalem His longing to gather His people as a mother hen gathers her chicks.

God wants us to know that His heart is for us. What about your heart?Perhaps you need to examine it this Mother’s Day.

 

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Who will you serve?

Last week, I had the pleasure to serve as a chaperone for my 5th grade daughter’s class field trip. At our school, 5th graders study early American history. As a capstone experience, they take a weeklong trip to Virginia where they visit Jamestown, Williamsburg, Monticello, and Yorktown. It is an incredible opportunity for the students to see history and walk in the shoes of the people they’ve been studying.

red bud and mountains - serve blog

Now, a week with ten and eleven year olds may not sound like much fun, and there were times when it was challenging. But, overall, the trip was incredible and our students had an amazing experience. I was along on the trip to serve as the official blogger/photographer, so it was my task each evening to spend some time recapping the day’s events so that parents who were back home could participate along with their 5th grader.

view away from mountains - serve blog

I think one of the most meaningful days for me was our trip to Thomas Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville. Monticello is a place of great beauty, creativity, ingenuity, and contradiction. The students discussed how a man who penned the words “all men are created equal” could own over one hundred slaves. A man who believed that educated men were capable of self government, yet prevented his own enslaved persons from that same self government. We stood in a slave cabin and gazed at the mansion Jefferson built for himself. The disparity was immense.

slave cabin - serve blog

Our students saw firsthand that while great men can create beautiful places and craft life changing documents and found incredible systems of government, they are also capable of great blindness, wickedness, and sin. Our guide asked us to ponder the question of whether the issue of slavery negates the goodness of Jefferson’s many other contributions. That is not a question with easy answers.

monticello - serve blog

The students were fascinated with all of Jefferson’s many scientific experiments and our science teacher was certainly grateful to hear our guides remark that science is everywhere. The gardens around Monticello are still being cultivated with descendants of the seeds Jefferson planted or Lewis and Clark brought back from their expedition. The clocks Jefferson designed still toll the correct hour, season, and even day of the week. History is living and our students marveled at the plantation life they experienced today. We saw both the greatness and the baseness of mankind.

cabin and gardens - serve blog

I realize that slavery is still an exceedingly controversial topic, but if my 5th grader can wrestle with it, so can we. How we treat our fellow human beings says a lot about who we serve. If I am primarily interested in serving myself, then others are a means to an end. If my needs come first, then others have value only in so far as they can meet my needs or assist in accomplishing my agenda. Thomas Jefferson wrote that he was opposed to slavery, yet he failed to free his own slaves. He realized that he could not maintain his lifestyle without his slaves, and that mattered more to him than his stated ideals. How many times are we just as guilty of saying one thing, but evidencing another by the way we live?

cupola and gardens - serve blog

After our trip to Monticello, we were reminded in our evening devotion that there is One who Himself experienced greater heights than Monticello and took on greater baseness than slavery. And we are called to have the same mind as Christ Jesus.  We are called to consider others better than ourselves, to be humble, to serve others. Jefferson served his country well.  We want to call our students to serve each other well, and in so doing, they, too can change the world. What about you? Who are you serving?

 

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