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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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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Dillydallying at the Dali – care to join me?

Let me tell you about my day with Dali! Last week, my good friend Pam, from Ft. Worth, Texas came to visit. It was her first trip here to our home and we aimed to make it a big visit—Texas and Florida style!

Dali museum 1

One of the places we visited was the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, only an hour from our home. What a spectacular destination. The building alone is stunning with ocean views and a waterfront setting. The building features a large glass entryway and skylight made of 1.5 inch thick glass.

Dali Museum 2

The remaining walls are composed of 18-inch thick concrete, designed to protect the collection from hurricanes.

Dali Museum 3

The museum is a dizzying array that includes one of the largest collections of Salvador Dali’s works. 96 oil paintings, over 100 watercolors and drawings, 1,300 graphics, photographs, sculptures and objets d’art are on display.

Here are 2 shots I took of the “Enigma”, the glass entryway is 75 feet tall and encompasses this spiral staircase. It is just amazing.

Dali Museum 4

Dali Museum 5

I would have been delighted just to dillydally at the Dali for several days. Why? Simply…Dali was so inspiring!

Here are a couple of highlights that gave me a better view of art and in particular an artist’s life:

  • Dali’s work was so, so varied. Just going through the galleries of the 96 paintings, I was astonished at the range of style, subject matter and methods, from oil painting to sculpture. Here is a very tiny portrait of his wife and muse Gala, painted on olive wood. It’s just 3 7/16 inches x 2 5/8 inches, but so full of the intimacy of her character. The golden light infused throughout that tiny painting speaks of Dali’s love for her.Dali Museum 6
  • Dali’s work reflected different passages and phases of his life. While Dali is best known for his strange and unusual surrealistic paintings like The Persistence of Memory, completed in 1931.  In later years he explored his interest in Christ, the Catholic church and Spanish history. Here in The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, you can see in this gigantic work (161 1/2 inches x 122 1/8 inches, that’s approximately 13.46 feet by 10.18 feet!) a fusion of religious symbols and Dali’s love for his homeland, CataloniaDali Museum 7
  • Dali’s paintings showed master craftsmanship and a strong foundation in the history of art. As I viewed his portrait of his Aunt Tieta, I was struck by how impressionistic this portrayal is, fractured light that is so reminiscent of Renoir’s work. There are many paintings of Dali’s that allude to the great and early masters, but are refreshingly different. It is like he took an earlier idea and masterfully stamped his own imprimatur, that turns it all upside down and inside out and makes it only Dali’s.Dali Museum 8
  • Dali’s work was insightful and intriguing. He teases us with images that are so unusual! He stares out at us with unvarnished frankness, putting himself right in the allegory of The Ecumenical Council painting. Here he assumes the pose of another famous Spanish painter Velazquez.

Dali Museum 9

Dali Museum 10

Dali was personal. His painting reflected his life and gives us a glimpse of his inner thoughts and ideas. He makes us think. Here in the Portrait of My Dead Brother (69 x 69 in) he explores optical illusions, his dead mother (portrayed as a The Vulture), the dark cherries creating the image of his brother. There on the bottom left you can also see Dali’s homage to Millet’s L’Angelus.

Dali Museum 11

There is so much more to see, I encourage you to visit this fascinating museum. But you don’t have to be in St. Petersburg, Florida to visit the Dali Museum, you can also take a wonderful virtual tour.

It’s good to be inspired; it enables us to be an inspiration to others. Where have you found inspiration lately?

 

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Do you have an undivided heart?

When was the last time you had a heart check? I was speaking with an ex-alcoholic the other night and having been clean for over 20 years he imparted some interesting but not surprising advice.

John said, “I discovered that the more I did it, the more I wanted to do it.”

This statement has astonishing implications, not just for artists, but for moms, dads, writers, and retirees, really anyone! At this point, you might be thinking: what are you talking about Laura, I’m not an addict!

Well, if you are an artist this statement could be taken very positively. In other words the more you paint, the more you want to paint. And, naturally, the better you get at it. Edgar Degas said “One must do the same subject over again 10 times, a hundred times. In art nothing must resemble an accident…” When looking at Degas’ craftsmanship and his pastel paintings, there is no doubt that his work is superb. His obsession with the ballet and theatre, gave Degas the reputation as a painter of dancers. In total, Degas did about 1200 paintings and 75 small-scale sculptures during his lifetime.

undivided heart degas ballet
Dancing Class, 1871, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

On the other hand, my friend John’s statement can pose some serious problems if you are a Christian. Why? I’m sure my good friend Peggy who made us a beautiful quilt would love to do nothing else but be a “quilting fool” because the more she quilts, the more she loves it, the better she gets at refining her craft, the more she creatively thinks up new ideas.

count the love undivided heart quilt

Maybe you’re not an artist or a quilter or an ex-addict. Maybe you’re a mom or dad who loves your kids, loves being with them, loves helping and nurturing them, loves encouraging them, loves worrying about them. Wait, did I write worry? Yes, it could be you worry about their safety incessantly. The more you are with them, the more you want to be with them. Well, what could be wrong with that?

Again, what can be wrong with being a great artist, fantastic quilter, super mom, grandmother or devoted dad? Nothing and everything.  My friends thoughts are a double edged sword and the sooner you “discover” it, the better.

To be great at something, you must be consumed. 

Many of us don’t want to be great, but nevertheless we are consumed. I learned a long time ago, that as much as I loved art, as much as I believed that the more I practiced, the more paintings I painted, not only would I become good. I could become super good!

If you are a Christian, this kind of thinking can cause a schism in your life. Why? Because the more you do it, whatever that “it” is—even if it isn’t bad, the more you want to do it.  God commands us to love Him with our whole heart (nine times in Deuteronomy alone) Christ says that loving God with all of who we are – heart, soul, mind and strength is the greatest commandment. He wants all of us. Am I saying he doesn’t want me to be a really great painter or that you shouldn’t be a really good grandparent or super golfer?

Does that mean I should feel guilty about wanting to be a terrific artist or you should feel guilty because you love golf and want to be on the course a lot? No.

I’m a practical person, so here are some questions you may want to ask yourself:

  • Do you find yourself thinking about what ever “it” is more than God?
  • Does this good (or maybe not so good thing) occupy time that is meant for your relationship with Jesus?
  • Does it seem like your affection is drawn towards “it” rather than to Him?

Nothing should be more precious than your relationship with Christ. Perhaps I’ll never be a great painter, but I do want to be a great lover and friend of the Lord. I Him to have my whole heart. Have you heard the song, More Precious Than Silver?

Some of the lyrics are: “Lord, you are more precious than silver. Lord, you are more costly than gold. Lord, you are more beautiful than diamonds, And nothing I desire compares with you.”

My friend John, is no longer consumed by his addiction, he has a new identity. He is a friend of God.

Have you found yourself being consumed by something that is distancing you from Jesus? How’s your heart?

 

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A Quest for Beauty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tiffany beauty 4
Laurelton Hall, Reception Hall, Morse Museum

Art was not just confined to pictures hanging on the walls

tiffany beauty 5
Laurelton Hall, Dining Room, Morse Museum

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

tiffany beauty 6
Laurelton Hall, Daffodil Terrace, Morse Museum

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

tiffany beauty 7
Laurelton Hall, Living Room, Morse Museum

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

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

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

 

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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!

 

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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.

happy ending 1

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.

happy ending 2

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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O Come O Come Emmanuel!

Emmanuel  – God with us! What an incredible thought! It’s that time of year again when our schedules seem more crowded than ever, our bank accounts lower than ever, bills mounting, “to do” lists staggering, stress rising. I know many of you will hear “Jesus is the reason for the season” so often that you will tune it out. Please don’t. This post isn’t meant to be guilt inducing or full of trite platitudes to get you to spend less and worship more.

Instead, I just want to share my favorite Christmas song with you, give you some beautiful art to enjoy, and ask for God to come and be with us in the midst of everything else clamoring for our attention.

You probably guessed from the title of this post that my favorite Christmas song is O Come O Come Emmanuel. The hymn was originally written in Latin, with the first published edition in the year 1710. However, there are paraphrases of the lyrics in existence as early as the year 800.  The music we currently associate with the hymn originated in France during the 1600s. There are so many versions of this hymn and of all the verses, some with three verses, others with as many as eight.

When I was in college, our advent chapel services were each crafted around a verse of this hymn, and I found that practice so helpful for shaping my outlook on advent. While I enjoy writing, I am not even in the same universe as the ancients who crafted this hymn, so indulge me as we just take a look at the lyrics and allow them to sink into our hearts and minds.

O come, O come, Emmanuel

botticelli nativity emmanuel 1
“Mystic Nativity”, Sando Botticelli. 108.6 x 74.9 cm, oil on canvas, 1500. The National Gallery, London.

 

O come, O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

Rembrandt Moses Emmanuel 2
“Moses Smashing the Tablets of the Law”, Rembrandt, 168.5 x 136.5 cm, oil on canvas, 1659. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

 

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

chagall jesse tree emmanuel 3
“Tree of Jesse”, Marc Chagall. 81 x 130 cm, oil on canvas, 1975. Private collection.

 

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of hell They people save
And give them victory o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

“Adoration of the Shepherds”, El Greco. 319 x 180 cm, oil on canvas, 1614. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

 

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

GloriousForetaste emmanuel 5
© Laura Gabel, “Glorious Foretaste”. Pastel Private collection.

O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home
Make safe the way that leads on high
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

wisdom of solomon emmanuel 5
“Dream of Solomon”, Luca Giordano. 245 x 361 cm, oil on canvas, 1693. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high
And order all things, far and nigh
To us the path of knowledge show
And cause us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

crucifixion messina emmanuel 6
“Crucifixion,” Antonello da Messina. 42.5 x 59.7 cm, oil on panel, 1475. National Gallery, London.

 

O come, desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease
And be Thyself our King of peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

 

Be our King of peace, cause us to go in the ways of wisdom and knowledge. Bring cheer in the midst of misery and gloom by the remembrance of your first coming and the anticipation of your second coming. Show us your power and might as we stand in awe of your works. Bring salvation and freedom. O Come O Come, Emmanuel.

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We Gather Together for what?

How would you answer that question? We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing….so goes the old hymn. Was that your first response? If you know the hymn, it’s probably stuck in your head now, so perhaps that was your answer!

Many of us will gather with loved ones, friends, family, maybe even strangers, and celebrate Thanksgiving next week. But why do we gather? I’m not talking about historical or political underpinnings of the official “Thanksgiving” holiday. My hunch is that most of us have never thought much about why we gather. At the same time, most of us would not want to celebrate the holidays alone. There’s something about our need to celebrate that is most fully expressed as we gather.

I’ve written on Thanksgiving before, and this year, Laura is tasked with the official Thanksgiving Day blog post. So I was trying to come up with something unique and creative to commemorate the holiday. And for inspiration, I went to my trusty companion…google. Gatherings have been a frequent inspiration for many artists. In fact, I’ve already used one of the most famous works:

gather blog 1
Luncheon of the Boating Party, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Oil on canvas, 51 x 68, 1881. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.

Living in Florida, I found it interesting that many of the famous paintings of various gatherings depicted people enjoying a meal together outside.

gather blog 2
HIp, Hip, Hurrah! by Peder Severin Kroyer, oil on canvas, 53 x 65 in, 1888. Gothenburg Museum of Art.

For most of my life, I have lived in climates where Thanksgiving weather necessitates eating indoors. What about you? Will you gather inside or enjoy the great outdoors while you dine?

I love this painting, which was new to me.

gather blog 3
Lunch on the field, Francisco Bayeu y Subias, oil on canvas, 37 x 56 cm, 1775, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

It is clearly a festive occasion – there are wine bottles nearby and a guitar off to the side. The participants are enjoying themselves, perhaps they sang prior to the meal, or maybe they will sing afterwards. It looks like the kind of gathering I would enjoy! Will you have music involved as you gather? Will you sing together?

I was entertained to see that two artists painted such similar paintings that they actually chose the same title.

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Luncheon on the Grass, Paul Cezanne. Oil on canvas, 81 x 60cm, 1869. Private Collection.
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Luncheon on the Grass, Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 248 x 217 cm, 1866. Musee d’Orsay, Paris.

In both of these works, the participants in the luncheon seem at ease with one another. Some of the gentlemen have removed their hats, the ladies are reclining on picnic blankets. There is a level of comfort and familiarity to the scene. I certainly hope you gather with folks whom you enjoy. And that you are comfortable with those gathered around your table (or picnic blanket).

It is possible though that this holiday season finds you alone, the stranger. Who might you ask to welcome you? And for those of us who may be the host of a holiday gathering, who is the stranger who needs a welcoming table?

In our home, we will indeed gather to ask the Lord’s blessing. He has been very gracious to us this year. Enjoy this little clip from A Prairie Home Companion – may you smile, wonder at God’s blessings, and perhaps extend a bit more grace as you extend your table and gather together.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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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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