When I’m not painting, working, or doing a Bible study, I’m watch cooking shows. Well, not really just me. Both my husband and I love a good cooking challenge, particularly a British one. 

Right now we’ve hunkered down to watch Series 7 on Great British Menu.  The theme for this series is the Olympics to celebrate the games coming to London back in 2012.  It’s a marathon series of 45 episodes which features great British chefs from different regions of the country with the challenge to cook for a prestigious Olympian feast. 

The chefs are tasked with creating a menu that captures the Olympic spirit. But really they are asked to challenge themselves, step out of their comfort zones, do something they’ve never done before; wow the judges with sublime gastronomy created with an artistic flair. In an effort to impress, there are botches, surprises, frustrations, and, of course winners. With plenty of pandemonium in the kitchen!

These chefs are the crème de la crème in Britain and have certainly been an inspiration for me. Why? 

It’s good for an artist to watch another artist get out of their comfort zone. Sometimes people will ask me, “why did you decide to paint that?” I purposefully have chosen to create some paintings that are downright difficult for me. I love a good challenge. One of those times was with my Apricot Canyon paintings.   

© Laura Gabel, “Apricot Canyon 2”. Soft pastel, 16 x 20. $650.

© Laura Gabel, “Apricot Canyon 2”. Soft pastel, 16 x 20. $650.

© Laura Gabel, “Apricot Canyon 1”. Textured pastel, 16 x 20. Private collection. challenge blog

© Laura Gabel, “Apricot Canyon 1”. Textured pastel, 16 x 20. Private collection.

Here, I created a textured surface, which was a new approach with pastel, to mimic rock formations and develop tactile depth. I wanted to stretch my technical abilities and I did.

Watching some of these chefs stick to comfort level and others going way out on a limb has been liberating for me. Often I will start something and wonder whether it is going to work. It is compelling to back yourself in a corner, learn from your mistakes, and come out with something better than you ever thought possible.

When I painted Into the Light, I had no idea how difficult it would be. I’m sure I reworked the shadow on her forehead and brushed out her nose more times than I can remember!

© Laura Gabel, "Into the Light". Soft Pastel on Velour 15.5 x 18.5. Private collection. challenge blog

© Laura Gabel, “Into the Light”. Soft Pastel on Velour 15.5 x 18.5. Private collection.

One thing that has come across over and over again in the Great British Menu is that these chefs experiment, experiment, experiment! I’d like to think that my mixed media painting of The Slugger was an exciting journey into the unknown using watercolor and pastel with a more impressionistic approach that stretched my capabilities.  

© 2015 Laura Gabel, "Batter Up". Private collection

© Laura Gabel. “The Slugger” , Pastel and Watercolor, 11 x 14. Private Collection.

Challenging yourself is a good thing. It’s a frustrating thing, but it’s a growing process and it reminds us that it’s really the journey, not the destination, that makes us who we are. 

” Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize. Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable.” 1 Corinthians 9:25. 

Whether it’s art, cooking or strengthening your Christian walk by memorizing scripture, going on a missions trip or mentoring a new believer. Stretch!! Challenge yourself! After all, our rewards are so much greater than an Olympic crown or an Olympic feast! What challenges have you had this year that have stretched you?


Categories: Potpourri


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