Painting with Leaf & Flower

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I’ve been thinking about Carol lately. Wondering if she is out in her butterfly garden getting it ready for spring and a new season of winged visitors. I imagine her deciding to move a plant or two, adding in a few more of this or that, trying something different to attract her favorite species of butterflies. I’ve often thought that master gardeners are artists who instead of pen and paint, create with leaf and flower.

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I am now certain of this as I had the opportunity to create a painting of her garden for her earlier this year. I had the privilege of visiting Carol and her masterful garden in the fall of 2015. The butterfly garden was at its peak, just on the verge of diminishing for the cold season ahead. Cockscomb, zinnia, cleome and numerous other flowering plants rioted the front face of Carol’s home. She probably has a difficult time getting her guests to come indoors as they would surely want to amble around seeing all the gorgeous blooming. How could I paint such beauty?

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I honestly wasn’t sure I was equal to the task. This is a case where the beauty of what one is to capture on canvas seems to overshadow one’s ability to harness it in paint. I took a deep breath, said a little prayer, and dove in.

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She was happy with the results. I could not have been more pleased that she welcomed these paintings into her home with such joy and generosity. And I am tickled with the results as well. Especially that I had a chance to get to know such a wonderful  artist/gardener who lives in my town.

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***These paintings were created as a triptych. The center painting is 24″ x 24″. The side paintings are 18″ x 24″. (This final image is cropped from the right-hand painting.) Acrylic on canvas.

The In-Between

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In the quiet of early morn, my mind flits…like a hummingbird darting from one flower to another, not staying long enough to really drink much in or resolve a thought.

This is how I know I’m feeling better.

In the early days home from surgery, there’s a single-minded response to pain. All energy goes to managing the intensity of what one feels. Dishes in sink? Who cares? Cat vomiting on the carpet? stupid cat. Someone else will have to clean it up. Ideas for the next children’s book I’d like to write? Not even on a mental back burner. Discomfort, pain, healing requires all our mental faculties. Aside from the obvious dislike of this reality, it actually brings a quietude of  mind in the singular pursuit of feeling better.

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But as the pain level decreases, the mental chatter increases. It’s as if, for a time, the stove’s oven has been the only thing turned ON. As the oven temp reduces from broil down to a more manageable 350 degrees, the top burners begin to light up, one at a time. Creative ideas begin to glow again, to-do lists of all kinds begin filling up at an alarming rate. All of it fueled by a well-worn thought which had disappeared in the post-surgery days, but now roars back to life in the space between my ears:

“I can do this!”

Now that all the burners are ON as well as the ongoing, but more temperate, oven, it’s really quite annoying! This is the hard part, the in-between bit. This is the segment of recuperation I dislike the most because it requires such discipline. I must constantly gauge my energy level and what my body needs. I must turn down, even OFF, certain burners so that the healing work can continue. Even though I “can” do the dishes and the laundry and dinner and clean up cat vomit…I NEED to pace myself and ask others to help do these tasks so that I can choose rest–the most vital pain medicine and healer there is.

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This is all happening at the holidays. And to be honest, the “I can do this” mantra is a familiar holiday refrain. Every year, even without undergoing surgery, December feels like that stove with all burners on HIGH and the oven set to Broil. Typically I’m well enough in body to actually convince myself of my can-do-it-all super powers. Then I crash and burn just after Christmas Day either in exhaustion or some virus takes hold to wrestle me to the ground for some much needed rest. Despite my disciplined efforts, I still tend to over do. Pain from surgery is not a bad alarm system, letting me know when I need to slow down, close my eyes and rest.

We can’t all have surgery in December, nor would we want to. I certainly don’t want to do this again. But what I’d like to do is develop an approach to December, (and all other months of the year for that matter)  that does not begin with “I can do this!” Maybe more along the lines of “I choose to do this and therefore NOT THAT.” To be purposeful about how I spend my time even if it means letting go of certain traditions I somehow feel I must continue.

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Yes, December is always FULL. Full of shopping, full of making, full of wrapping, full of baking, full of partying, full of cooking, full of cleaning, full of revelling. All good stuff. But there is that saying about too much of a good thing…

The problem is that once December is over, January is on its heels and we are off to the New Year races once again with our banner “I can do this!” flying high as we run. We even make lists of how fast and how far we want to run and how high we want to jump, as if normal living of life weren’t enough for us.

So I have some ideas, I think I’ll share here in the coming days prior to New Year’s. No rocket science. Just some thoughts on how to approach a New Year with all our dreams and hopes held lovingly with the reality of our lives. I hope you’ll stop by and offer your thoughts and suggestions as well.

***The images here are from a commissioned painting I finished prior to surgery. It was to be a Christmas gift and so now I can share it with you. Commission work is always a privilege and an honor to be asked and to attempt creating something another would enjoy.

A Place to Call Home

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The most delightful part about commission work, is the people I meet through the process. Yes, I love the drawing and painting. Yes, I like the challenge of trying to climb inside someone else’s head to bring forth an image they might like. But the best part is meeting and getting to know the people who commission me.

In the fall, Nelie contacted me through a series of serendipitous online connections (to tell you the whole story would take a bit of time, but is the very best example of how connected we are via the internet). We met downtown Kernersville, at the Factory, to discuss what she would like.

She is getting married at the end of January 2013, to a wonderful man named Edwin, whose birthday was late in December. She wanted to surprise him with a painting of their new home in Raleigh, NC. Armed with only the realtors photo of this town home, there were certain things she hoped I could add and adjust. Truly I never know whether I am ABLE to do these alterations for folks, but I guess I’m crazy enough to give it a go. So I try.

We discussed size and medium choices along with the additions and adjustments. When she saw the finished painting, she said that it exceeded her expectations…and that is music to my heart. But the best of it all is the story about these two lovely people, near 60 years of age, who are embarking on a new life together.

You see, Nelie and Edwin grew up here in Kernersville, on the same downtown street, right next door to each other! Edwin is the youngest of four boys whose dad was a doctor in town for many years. With the exception of a few years that Nelie and her family moved and lived in SC, the two families grew up on the same pew at Main Street United Methodist Church. Nelie has two grown children, but Edwin never married. They lost touch with each other for 26 years or so.

Their wedding will take place at Main Street United Methodist Church followed by a reception at our brand new restaurant Giada’s. They are the delight of Kernersville. And I had the privilege of painting for them and of meeting Nelie.

A privilege I hold humbly and gratefully. I wish them both EVERY happiness!