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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What if your Christmas isn’t Merry and Bright?

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Feliz Navidad! Joyeaux Noel! Frohe Weinachten! It’s a festive time of year with holiday greetings everywhere you turn. Local radio stations are proclaiming that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” and Hallmark Christmas movies are trending high in the news.

But what if you find yourself a little distant from all the holiday cheer? Maybe this is your first Christmas with an empty chair at the table. Perhaps you find yourself away from family and friends, and not feeling much like celebrating this year. Maybe your home has been fractured by loss, illness, divorce. For any number of reasons, many folks find themselves on the outside looking in this Christmas season.

The Census at Bethlehem (The Numbering at Bethlehem), 1566
Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Oil paint on wood panel
115.5 x 164.5 cm
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
Brussels, Belgium

I know it can be hard to “get in the Christmas spirit” when your heart is broken. Can I suggest a helpful resource? I enjoy doing special devotions during the advent season and have happened upon a fabulous resource from Biola University . The Advent Project is a series of meditations on Scripture, accentuated with music, art, and poetry. I found have the daily emails to be a tremendous help in refocusing my attitude – both turning me towards gratitude for Christ’s first coming, and in creating a real longing for His second advent when He will put all that is wrong right. You can access all the devotions for the month here.

© Laura Gabel, “You Are His Masterpiece”. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10. Private collection.
© Laura Gabel, “You Are His Masterpiece”. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10. Private collection.

Two of my favorite websites also have helpful articles for those facing a deep sadness this Christmas. Celebrating Christmas with a Broken Heart suggests three strategies for walking through this season. What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas provides some useful insight and tips for those of us walking with you in this time.  Both those articles are well worth your time to read.

Nativity (2 views), 2006
Brian T. Kershisnik
Oil on canvas
17 x 7‘
Utah Museum of Fine Art

Laura and I will be taking some time off over the holidays, and we hope you will too. In the midst of all the busyness of the time, take time to stop, breathe, rest, and remember. He has come, and He will come again!

 

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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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Hmmm…..where did the time go?

Have you ever felt your mind simmering on a subject? Not like retreading, going over and over it, but new inventive thoughts that hadn’t occurred to you?

I want to challenge you to ride the imagination train with me today. So we’ve ridden the train down track “how long“, which was why I disliked the question “how long did it take you to paint that”?

My mind jumped over to track “time flow“. What in the world is that? Well, have you ever been in a place, participated in an activity, done something where you wondered, “hmm, where did the time go?”

That’s how I feel when I paint. I know not time; it doesn’t exist for me. Eating, drinking, calls, interruptions are simply an annoyance that break the primitive flow of life inside my painting experience. Painting is a bubble. I’m inside the bubble and time is outside the bubble.

Outside of the classic and overused statement, “I wish I had more time”, have you really ever thought about the fact that time is just a measurement of change? Time does not exist in and of itself. It needs something else. For instance motion is measured by time as in miles per hour. Time is used by people to keep track of things.

Time was created at creation by the Creator!

time blog
photo credit https://godandsoul.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/the-big-bang-is-happening-now/

So what happens when we find ourselves totally immerse in something in which we effectively have become unconscious of time?

Time and Flow

According to Wikipedia flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does and loses sense of space and time. 

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read in the article, that, “Mihaly Csikszentmihályi and his fellow researchers began researching flow after Csikszentmihályi became fascinated by artists who would essentially get lost in their work. Artists, especially painters, got so immersed in their work that they would disregard their need for food, water and even sleep!”

Time and Painting

That’s exactly how I feel sometimes (not all the time). So in my prayer time I asked the Lord, “what type of picture would you paint (in human terms) to describe this feeling?” He gave me a picture of some little children making sandcastles on the beach. Now that was something I could relate to! I remember summers on the shore in Massachusetts. My aunt and mother would cover my face and shoulders with gooey suntan lotion after lunch, I’d trot down near the water and the next time I looked up, I vaguely remember someone tugging or calling me to come out of my dreamland, the day was over.

time blog 2
Mary Cassatt (American, 1844 – 1926 ), Children Playing on the Beach, 1884, oil on canvas, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection

No, I don’t think time is distorted like surrealist Salvador Dali painted, though it feels that way sometimes.

time blog 3
The Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dalí
(Spanish, 1904–1989), 1931. Oil on canvas, 9 1/2 x 13″ (24.1 x 33 cm)

I think God is giving us a little glimpse of what eternal life will feel like with Him! It’s a little bit of heaven on earth.

Have you had a snip of the eternal sensation of time standing still? If so, I’d like to hear about it.

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The Vacation of a Lifetime?

vacation grand canyon

One of the best perks of being a teacher is the ability to take an extended summer vacation. This year, my family is embarking on a three week whirlwind tour of eleven different national parks and monuments. Our oldest daughter is a fourth grader and thanks to the “Every Kid in a Park” initiative, fourth graders and their families have free entry into all national parks.

 

vacation zion

We’ve gone on a few family camping trips, revised our packing list, planned our meals, loaded our car, and now we are off to enjoy what I hope will be a vacation for the ages as we enjoy the incredible natural artistic wonders of the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Mesa Verde, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Pipe Spring, Cedar Breaks, Hovenweep, and Canyons of the Ancients.

 

vacation canyonlands

Obviously, that means we are “off the grid” for a bit while we’re on vacation. Rest assured, I will be taking a travel journal with me, and my camera. Stay tuned for more blog posts to come on our adventures.

vacation arches

What’s your vacation dream?

In the meantime, get out there and enjoy the world around you. Leave me a comment to let me know what amazing things you’ve discovered!

vacation capitol reef

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A Gala, Grace, and Goodbye

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

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

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

goodbye to grace

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

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

grace goodbye 2

Not quite goodbye….yet

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

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

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

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

goodbye

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

 

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Rest and Recharge to Charge Ahead!

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

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

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

Grace sunrise rest

Sunrise at Grace rest

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

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

Sunrise Grace progress 7

Sunrise at Grace progress 8

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

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

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

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

First, a couple of questions for you about rest:

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

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

Rest is fruitful

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

Rest is an activity

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

Rest is a choice

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

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

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

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A Wonderful Reunion

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

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

Ian reunion

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

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

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

reunion progress 1

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

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

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

An Easter Reunion

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

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

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

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

That should give us all hope this wonderful Easter week.

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

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Procrastination, Ponderings, and Perfection?

I am a serious fan of procrastination. I probably shouldn’t admit that – and I certainly wouldn’t advocate procrastination as a way of life for my children or my students. But alas, procrastination has been my pattern for decades; you can ask my thesis advisor how that worked out for me in seminary!

On my neat and tidy editorial calendar, Tuesday afternoon is blocked off for “blog writing,” and that is normally how the week goes. Yet this week, it is now Wednesday afternoon and I’m just now putting words on paper. Sometimes, my procrastination is due to writer’s block. But not this week.

In fact, I’ve had this blog post in my draft folder for almost a year. It’s been started at least three times, but never finished. The original working title was “Work hard. Have fun.” My daughter has taken ballet for three years now, and that was what we would encourage her to do when she danced – work hard and have fun.

procrastination blog

Since I was intending to write about ballet, I wanted to include some artwork of ballet dancers.

Who better to feature in a ballet blog post than Degas?

Dancers in Pink, Edgar Degas
Procrastination wins round one

In just a matter of minutes, I found myself lost in literally hundreds of beautiful paintings in stunning pastel colors, the rich hues perfectly capturing the grace, elegance and poise of the dancers.

Four Dancers, Edgar Degas

And so the post didn’t get written. Take two on writing, take two on browsing through masterpieces. Procrastination wins again.

Now it’s the third attempt, and this time, I decided to follow advice I often get from Laura (which is oddly similar to what my thesis advisor said when I captured by procrastination in seminary) – “just write something!” So I started thinking, “maybe getting sidetracked by Degas’s art isn’t a problem; maybe it’s not simple procrastination.” What if my eye is captivated by beauty and that beauty is more interesting to me in the moment than using the beauty as an illustration?

Can we enjoy beauty just for the sake of beauty? Since this is an art blog, you may guess that my answer would be “yes!” And indeed, it is – an emphatic YES! Of course! Beauty is meant to be enjoyed! We were meant to love that which is beautiful. What beauty captivates you?

Oh, and my little ballet dancer? Well, Degas never painted her, but I sure have enjoyed watching her dance. And I think she’d make a great painting subject!

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Musings on a Muse

“Muse” has become a popular way of describing the source of inspiration for one’s creative endeavors. But originally, the Muses were seven sisters who were thought to preside over songs, poetry and the arts in general.   Euterpe has been of particular interest to me lately, as she is often portrayed with a flute and is the representative muse of lyric poetry.

flute muse

I have played the flute since I was a young child. However, since my college days, I’ve not had many opportunities to play. Over the Christmas holidays, I attended a concert at my local public library with a harpist and a flautist.  After the concert, I introduced myself to the flautist and discovered that she teaches flute at the local university where I live and leads a flute ensemble there.

Finding my muse

Fast forward a few weeks and I find myself every week with 3 other students and one faculty member rediscovering my love for my flute and having an amazing time playing beautiful music together. It’s never too late to return to your artistic loves. I feel energized, free, less stressed, just happier overall because I have that outlet again. I’m so grateful for my husband encouraging me to seek out the opportunity to play again and for my new musical friends who’ve welcomed me and been patient with me as I get the rust out of my playing ability. I’ve found my muse again.

flute and situ muse

I’ve also learned to play a new instrument – the sikus (also called Andean panpipes). There is a separate little ensemble that play Andean folk music, and I was welcomed warmly as I learn to play this new instrument.

Apparently, you can teach an old dog new tricks. I’ve been so impressed by the humility of these students as they listen and learn from one another. I’m looking forward to playing with them throughout the year.

 

Finding your muse

So what inspires you? Who is your “muse”? Is there a long forgotten hobby or passion that you’ve stuffed aside? Maybe there’s something new that you’ve been thinking of learning. What’s stopping you? When we create, we showcase the beauty and creativity of the One who created us in His image. Share your muse stories  – your “musings” with me!

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