What’s Your Creation Motivation?

Creation motivation? What’s that? There isn’t just one motivation for why artists create, why painters paint and why sculptors sculpt. Many times I’m sure you create something yourself with a specific purpose in mind, for instance, a special birthday cake. Take my friend Lisa—she expresses herself so beautifully with cake and icing! Just look at this wild castle Lisa made for her energetic and delightful granddaughter, Emma!

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What a yummy creation! Lisa is always challenging herself to do something new and unique. Her chicken cake with coconut straw just makes me happy! Though it could be that it reminds of the 4 chickens we have right now: 2 reds, 1 black and 1 very, very, very large white chicken (More on our chunky chicken in a later post.)

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What is Lisa’s motivation? I don’t think it’s just to please her granddaughter or friends. I think she’s probably like me. 

motivation 3

She’s motivated, but by what? 

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Now I realize that many of us have to make do with a supermarket birthday cake, but can you imagine someone plopping down one of Lisa’s creations for your birthday? Gosh, you’d have to feel loved and very special.

Some artists create just because they love the act of doing something new, exciting, challenging or controversial. Just the act of expressing themselves in sculpture, watercolor, oils, quilting, crafts or pastels is important for some. For others, I think the achievement of a finished and final piece of work produced is important. Of course some of those things are often my motivation.

But I truly believe that Lisa’s motivation is that she loves to create and creates for those she loves. It’s an act of love, a pleasure. It’s special; her artistic self is expressed in a way that’s unique. But the true force of creation is driven by love.

For me, I create not so much because I love creating, but I love the happiness it brings to others. Creating is my way of showing love. Our love of creating things for those we love is but a small reflection of how God created the beauty of the earth for all of us to enjoy…just because He loves us. That is my true motivation.

It takes time and effort to do what Lisa does, but think of the joy the giver and receiver get in this lovely transaction! Memories can be made, by what you make!

Here is the 3rd stage in a labor of love that I am producing for someone special.

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You’ll have to wait for another blog to see how it turns out and learning about the love that has caused me to create it. But in the meantime, don’t just sit there, create!

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I’d love to know your creation motivation, so please share!

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All Creation Speaks

Speaks of what you may ask? Many of you know the answer. Creation speaks of the Creator of the universe, the one true God. 

In fact, those who do not know God often find themselves acknowledging that there must be someone higher than themselves. Someone who could have made the finite wonders of this world so astonishingly beautiful and infinitely varied. 

My latest painting, Bark and Bluebells (22 ½ x 29 framed) is an acknowledgement of how majestic a little slice of God’s creativity speaks in trees and flowers. I hope you enjoy the progress shots and how God reveals Himself through nature and His word.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1

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They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:3-4

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In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Psalm 95:4-5

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But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. Job 12:7-10

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Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the foundation of the earth? Isaiah 40:21

creation speaks

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:45

creation speaks

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20

© Laura Gabel, “Bark and Bluebells”. 22.5x29, pastel. $2500. Creation speaks
© Laura Gabel, “Bark and Bluebells”. 22.5×29, pastel. $2500.

It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it I stretched out the heavens with My hands And I ordained all their host.  Isaiah 45:12

The earth still declares His glory; all nature is meant to point to God. His creation is His fingerprint that speaks to the world that He exists. Perhaps today is the day you would like to know God in a more intimate way, rather than just seeing His creation. If so, then please email or call me.

You can bring this painting home today and add your voice of praise to that of the creation as it sings! It is available for purchase here.

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Fragile, fierce, and faithful – my friend, Cathy

“Courage isn’t the towering oak, but the fragile flower that blooms in the snow.” (Anais Nin) Cathy has this quote listed as her favorite quote on her facebook profile. Having known her for over twenty years, it’s not hard for me to understand why that might be her favorite. 

Cathy is was one of the most courageous people I know. But she was also more fragile than she let on. Her story has been both a challenge and an encouragement to me, and I hope it will be to you as well. 

fragile blog (cassatt painting)
Mary Cassatt, The Child’s Bath. Oil on canvas, 39.48in x 262 in. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Catherine (Harper) Miller passed away last week. She wasn’t even fifty years old. But Cathy packed more into those four plus decades than most of us do in twice the time. She understood that life is fragile, but a life lived with courage chooses to bloom anyway.

I first met Cathy when I was young and single and living in Chicago. We would end up being roommates for three years. At the time, she was on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru), as part of their “Here’s Life Inner City” component. Cathy had a heart for inner city Chicago. She lived, worked, and played in the midst of very fragile communities, laboring to bring the hope of the Gospel to some of the darkest corners of our city. 

fragile blog (Alice Neel painting)
Alice Neel, Mother and Child, 1926 Oil on canvas 26 x 28 inches 66 x 71.1 cm © The Estate of Alice Neel Courtesy David Zwirner, New York

Cathy loved people. She had a smile that would light up a room and immediately make you feel welcomed. Our home was constantly filled with people – people over for dinner, just to chat, studying the Scriptures, playing games. We practiced hospitality with a fierceness that I want to recapture. 

fragile blog (Elizabeth Catlett sculpture)
Elizabeth Catlett, Mother and Child, Terra cotta, 11 1/4 x 7 x 7″ (28.6 x 17.8 x 17.8 cm). Gift of The Friends of Education of The Museum of Modern Art, The Modern Women’s Fund, and Dr. Alfred Gold (by exchange)

Lest you think that Cathy was some kind of super human, I can assure you that she was just as fragile as anyone else. She knew that she was a sinner in need of God’s grace. Cathy certainly had her struggles, there were battles she fought internally for years. We had hard conversations over the years we lived together; we shared our victories and mourned our failures together. 

What kept Cathy centered in the midst of everything was her complete and total devotion to Christ. She knew that His mercies are new every morning; that in her weakness, He was strong; that He would complete the work He began in her. And it was out of that faithfulness that she was able to serve. 

fragile blog (Renoir painting)
Renoir, Auguste, Child with Toys – Gabrielle and the Artist’s Son, Jean. 1895-1896, oil on canvas, overall: 54.3 x 65.4 cm (21 3/8 x 25 3/4 in.), framed: 65.7 x 76.7 x 3.5 cm (25 7/8 x 30 3/16 x 1 3/8 in.). Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

Life took us along different paths, and she ended up in Wisconsin while I am in Florida. Over the last two decades, Cathy went on to foster over 70 children, and to adopt six. She didn’t pick the best and the brightest; she signed up for the most difficult cases. She loved on and cared for the fragile ones – medically complex, babies, older children, anyone who needed a home. She even reached out to birth parents to help them as well. Cathy’s facebook name was “Cathy momofmany”, and indeed, she was.

Six years ago, she married her soulmate. God was so gracious to grant Cathy a partner in life who shared her love for the outcast and forgotten. Together, they were raising other fragile flowers to bloom in the snow. 

fragile blog (Gaugin painting)
Paul Gaugin, Polynesian Woman with Children, 1901, Oil on linen canvas, 97 x 74 cm (38 3/16 x 29 1/8 in.). Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection.

One month after her marriage, Cathy was diagnosed with cancer. She fought bravely. In her last week, as she was in hospice, I was overwhelmed at the stories people were sharing of how she had loved them well. Her oldest daughter was a testimony to Cathy’s influence as she bravely managed phone calls and visitors to her mom’s bedside. I met Nidra when she was only a toddler, and was so encouraged to see the woman that she has become. And I know that Cathy wouldn’t take any credit for that – she would, rightly, attribute all to the grace of God. 

fragile blog - roommate picture
The Three Amigas – Michelle, Cathy, Shelley

Last week, my friend walked through the gates of glory. She stood in the presence of her true Love and heard, “well done, good and faithful servant.” From that moment, she entered into the joy of her Master and is truly at home. Those of us who remain will mourn, but not as those without hope. For all of us who trust in Christ, we will be reunited one day. And while we still labor here, we can take courage from Cathy’s example.

Will you love the least of these? Who needs your smile and care today? To whom can you show hospitality? Who are the forgotten ones in your neighborhood?

 

If Cathy’s story has touched you, would you consider donating to help out her family? Hospice care is expensive, and I know they would appreciate any help: Donate here.

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Magnificence and a moment at the Morse

I wrote recently of my family visit to the Morse Museum, and I’d like to return to that fascinating museum in today’s post. This week is Holy Week, a celebration of last week of the life of Christ, culminating in the glorious celebration of His resurrection on Easter Sunday. At first glance, the Morse Museum may appear to have very little to do with Holy Week, but keep reading, and I think you’ll be surprised.

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Tiffany Chapel Reredos, c. 1893
 Laurelton Hall, Long Island, New York, 1902–57
 Exhibited: World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893
 Glass mosaic
 Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, New York City, 1892–1900
 90 x 72 in.

Tucked away in the exhibit halls of the Morse museum in a magnificent work called simply “The Chapel”. But there is nothing simple about this chapel. Originally crafted by Louis Comfort Tiffany for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the chapel re-opened at its current home in Winter Park in 1999.

Morse Museum, Tiffany chapel 2
View of the chapel interior designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

Though originally displayed as a work of art, the chapel was so exquisite, that male patrons would remove their hats, and all who entered would sit in reverent silence, as if entering a functioning church. In fact, after the 1893 exhibition, the chapel would be moved to St. John the Divine in New York City, where it did actually function as a chapel.

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Altar from the Tiffany chapel interior at the Morse Museum.

There is a deep connection between art and worship. Anthony Esolen in his book ten ways to destroy the imagination of your child states that “In both art and worship, the heart seeks out something beyond itself – a beauty or a power that is not its own.” (pg. 225) Tiffany’s chapel does exactly that – it shows us a beauty and a power that is so clearly not our own.

Morse Museum, Tiffany chapel 4
Baptistery and Field of Lilies leaded-glass window from the Tiffany chapel interior at the Morse Museum. Photo by Raymond Martinot.

Even as we entered the chapel at the Morse Museum, there was a little placard urging silence, and we coached our children to be respectful and quiet. The day we visited, there was a small crowd of other folks in the chapel as well – some were sitting quietly, admiring the art, some were taking photos and pointing out details in the mosaics, some appeared to be praying.

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Lectern from the Tiffany chapel interior at the Morse Museum.

When we encounter great works of art, silence is often our best response. We are confronted with the transcendent, and words somehow seem inadequate.

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View of Tiffany chapel leaded-glass windows and electrolier. Left to right: The Story of the Cross, c. 1892; Adoration, c. 1900–1916; Christ Blessing the Evangelists, c. 1892. Photo by Jimmy Cohrssen.

For Christians, the events of Holy Week are the pinnacle of our faith. Good Friday services are often marked by silence and a contemplative sadness as we reflect on the death of Christ for our sins. Easter services in contrast resound with joy and delight as we celebrate His resurrection.

Morse Museum, Tiffany Chapel 7
The Story of the Cross, c. 1892
 Leaded glass
Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, New York City, 1892–1900
D. 104 1/2 in.

A trip to the Morse Museum and a time for reflection in the beauty of the chapel can be the perfect venue for me to reflect on these Holy Week events. And I am not alone in those thoughts. In fact, the Morse Museum is free on Easter weekend. A tradition begun in 1986, the museum offers a free open house on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. If you are in the area, I suggest you work in a visit to the Morse and a visit to your local church to celebrate this Holy Week. He is Risen!

 

All photos graciously provided by and used with permission of the Morse Museum.

 

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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Laurelton Hall, Reception Hall, Morse Museum

Art was not just confined to pictures hanging on the walls

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Laurelton Hall, Dining Room, Morse Museum

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

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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.

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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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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

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“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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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.

Wacky 1
Spring’s Splendor by Robert Carsten
wacky artist 2
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:

wacky artist 4
© 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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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!

habitat myth 1

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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