Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Swamp Angel"

Swamp Angel was inspired by a trip to Babcock Ranch, a wonderful place north of Fort Myers. The diverse lay of the land includes swamps, pastures, wetlands, and glimpses of wading birds, alligators, cracker cattle, and panthers (if you're lucky).

Painting is 16x20 oil on canvas; $325 w/o frame. Free U.S. shipping; Plus shipping outside U.S. For giclees, prints, or cards please go to:

What's for Dinner?

I can't help myself. When the calendar reaches January, my mind conjures up images of winters past with snow and blowing cold. Even though I live in Florida, come January I get that "rumbley in my tumbley" for a crock full of homemade soup.

I love soup. I know it's not a guy thing, and nothing like real meat and potatoes, but it's user friendly. No matter what you put in the pot, it comes out smelling and tasting like fine wine or the best in epicurean cooking. And when you're done, you feel like you've accomplished something.

In the winter, soup warms your bones. In tough times, it fills your stomach. When there are many mouths to feed, you can thin and stretch soup to fill every hungry mouth. People who turn their noses up at leftovers, slurp down every sumptuous bite that is hidden between stirs of a bubbling pot of melding flavors.

Soup is like life itself: a pinch of this, a dab of that, some bittersweet, some sugar, some spice mixed together with faith, hope and love. Simmering through the highs and lows, the combination becomes the essence of a life well lived; a life remembered.

Is it any wonder that my favorite channel is the food channel? I believe that people who can decorate cakes with sculpted roses, create memorable recipes, and present with style can match any artist's creativity. Come to think of it, that soup is so colorful I see shapes forming, values changing, and my imagination soaring just like it did over my alphabet soup when I was a kid.

Got brain freeze and painter's block? Get back to basics and warm up with a bowl of hot yummy soup. Happy New Year everybody!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

For the love of paper

I fell in love with paper somewhere between third and sixth grades. I remember the excitement of making that first mark on a white sheet and wondering where it was going to take me, either to capture a vision I saw in my head, or to write a few words hidden within my heart. It was magic!

My first visit to a public library was love at first smell. There is nothing like the fragrance of books, paper and binding material to draw the creative muse from the shadows. I literally sat at a table and sniffed the pages as I read my way through several children's books. A kind, and rather concerned librarian assisted me in getting my first library card. It was heaven!

But aside from "The Bobbsey Twins," "Nancy Drew," and "The Five Little Peppers," it was eighth grade before I read a real novel: "Les Miserables." From there I discovered the classics and the great artists in history. I lugged stacks of books home from the library each week, and I snubbed my nose at the coloring books mother purchased, requesting, instead, clean white paper.

I still like the smell of paper, and tremble with anxiety before each blank page or canvas. It's all about discovery; learning about yourself, and exploring the world around you. Using simple tools like pencils and pens, brushes and paint, paper and canvas, you can change lives. Heck, you can change the world!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Brush drawing, "Mother and Child"

Every December our church and some generous volunteers, put on an unconventional nativity titled "A Walk through Bethlehem.". The characters are asked to read the Christmas story as found in Matthew, and a script suggesting possible action and dialogue, and then they improvise before a live audience. You never know what the characters will say on any given evening. You never know how the touring audience of 10-15 people per group will react.

A hunched over beggar stands outside Bethlehem's walls. He asks for mercy and pleads for shekels. This year an adorable guest asked her father for money and then skipped over to drop it in the beggar's bag. Another child attending for the third year had brought a gift for the baby Jesus. The child approached the stable, tiptoed up to the manger, and wished the baby Jesus "Happy birthday." He kissed the babe's head, and placed his gift beside the swaddling clothes.

My first year as a volunteer, I played an innkeeper. My job was simply to complain that Bethlehem was brimming with people who were there to pay taxes, and that I had no room for anyone, especially these new visitors. After all, I had just turned away a mother with child, riding on a donkey.

That first year, I thought the presentation was a bit "hokey." A little too informal for my taste. After all, I had been involved in a real pageant with a cast of hundreds, and professional actors and directors. Surely, this little play by a local church could have no impact or make no impression on the community. But I was oh so wrong.

This year I was a greeter; able to listen and observe the adults and children who walked through the grass, past the wooden props of sheep and donkeys, past the wooden scenery that I had helped to paint a few years earlier. I saw the wonderment in the eyes of the children. I heard adults express their gratitude at how much they looked forward to their "Walk through Bethlehem" each year, how it renewed them and prepared them to celebrate the birth of their Savior. And I felt the spirit that can only come in a simple stable, with simple people who in humility welcome the birth of God's Son.

Merry Christmas everyone -- and Happy Holidays!

"Mother and Child" is a monochromatic brush drawing using Burnt Umber Oil on a 12x16 panel. The painting is available for sale at $249 including postage; giclees, prints, or cards are available at:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pencil drawing, "Emma's Birthday"

Emma is a delightful person. She has spent a lifetime raising her children and serving her community and church. That's where I met her, and worked with her on the newsletter committee for several years. We still consider her a member of the group, even though she seldom participates with us anymore.

When our committee drew names for Christmas, I got Emma. With a $10 gift limit, I wondered how I could honor this prestigious lady and express my love and appreciation for her. After all, what do you give to a woman who has celebrated 94 years of living? Over the past several years, Emma had enjoyed my drawings on the homemade cards I had given her; even framing and displaying her favorites. So a drawing seemed like the perfect gift.

A few weeks earlier, we had celebrated her 94th birthday with friends at a local restaurant. I thumbed through the pictures we had taken and chose a composite of those I felt captured her delight in the gifts, the singing, and the birthday cake.

I drew "Emma's Birthday" with pencil on 70# paper and presented it to her at our annual Christmas party, matted and framed. I also printed several greeting cards of her portrait that she could share with family and friends. Her delight in this portrait will inspire yet another drawing or perhaps a painting in the future.

Merry Christmas Emma!

Dogs and green beans

When I lived in Kansas City, we had a backyard garden of sorts. We grew tomatoes, peppers, radishes, lettuce and squash. But the main staple of our garden was green beans. I was ever so proud when we had enough to can (if I wanted to), and enough to share with friends and neighbors. That is until we adopted two stray dogs we named Lady and Buttons. Adorable dogs that someone had dumped near the highway. My husband rescued them and brought them home for the kids.

Lovable and as cute as their names; Lady was a brown and white water spaniel, and buttons a solid black mix that we guessed as part terrier and part mutt. The kids loved those dogs, but I could never get them to take responsibility for their care. The dogs had never been housebroken, so we kept them mainly in the garage and in our big backyard. We weren't prepared for what happened next.

Over the course of the summer, our bean patch produced in abundance. When the dogs chased off the squirrels, I was delighted. After all, the squirrels had eaten the budding cantaloupes and my starter tomatoes, and sometimes they took big bites out of the older ripe ones. We had also battled crows and blackbirds that circled around to peck and poke. They were one reason why we had switched from corn to green beans.

When the beans were ready to harvest, I marveled at how many there were and how quickly they had grown. I was pleased with our efforts, until I washed them in the sink. Every sticky green bean, every fuzzy green leaf was covered with dog hair. While Buttons and Lady had romped through the garden scaring off birds and critters, they had left a trail of dog hair behind them.

I never could scrub all the hair off those beans. We finally had to give up on gardening all together. To this day, I marvel when I see a neat backyard garden, wondering what their secret to success is? Your comments are welcome.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


What can I say? I'm a Leo. I love sunshine and bright colors, especially yellows and reds, and I'm crazy about sunflowers. Come to think of it, sunflowers look like miniature lions, only instead of hair their mane is ruffled petals.

I remember the first time I saw field after field of sunflowers one summer in North Dakota. I was traveling from Minnesota to Mount Rushmore with my family when an incredible wave of sunshine brightened our day.

From a distance, individual flowers trickled together to form a raging flood of liquid yellow rolling across the landscape like spilled paint. Up close, sturdy stalks rooted like sentinels guarded the perimeter. Their broad green leaves clustered for protection. No wonder the sunflower has become the most popular flower to paint in history.

I could have painted black-eyed susans. They're yellow. They resemble a lion, except without the variation, texture and color of the sunflower's delectable center. But there's a problem of perception. Black-eyed susans remind me of Mexican sombreros in miniature.

I could have painted daisies; but memories of desecrating my mother's flower patch by picking petals and reciting "he loves me, he loves me not" took all the fun out of it. And that brought me back to those sunflower fields. Hey, I'm a Leo. See me roar!

"Sunshine" is an 8x10 oil on acrylic panel. The original painting is sold, but giclees, prints and cards are available at:

T'is the season

This is the season of giving. The season to be jolly. But sometimes it seems that everyone has their hand out, from organizations and charities to people in actual need. Between flashy advertisements to buy, and pleas for contributions, our cheer and our budgets get stretched pretty thin.

It was on such a day that my husband and I sat in a Steak 'n Shake and discussed our gift giving plans over a burger and fries. While we talked about budgets and lists, I noticed an elderly man sitting behind my husband. He was sipping on a cup of coffee, and slowly spooning down a cup of soup. Meager provisions, I thought; and from the way he was dressed, wondered if that was all he could afford.

I said nothing to my husband who was deep in monologue, and waited for him to finish. By the time he did, the old man had left his table and disappeared into the outside world.

We should have purchased a more substantial meal for him I lamented. I should have stopped my husband's discourse and told him what I saw. I was kicking myself for having missed the opportunity while we paid our check and pushed out the door.

In the parking lot, I was confronted by a young muscovy duck. He waddled up to me with his tiny webbed feet, tilted his mottled red head, and looked at me with pleading eyes, begging for crumbs.

Again I was empty handed; no "doggie bag," no leftovers. The duck followed me all the way to the car. Was he desperate enough to jump in, I wondered? Before I had a chance to find out, another car pulled in diverting the duck's attention. He waddled over to greet the exiting driver.

As I said "t'is the season," and everybody has their hand (or bill) out -- even the ducks.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Flash Dance"

People say that my paintings are bright and colorful. Of course, they're right. I guess I see the world that way.

Take people; I like to assume the best in them, even when they prove me wrong. Some may call that gullible, others naive. I admit I've been "taken" a few times in my life and "smartened up" in the process.

The way I see it, the world has enough negative dark vibes vying for my attention. I'll let someone else deal with that. I prefer not to ignore that pessimism, that evil, but to see through it, around it, or over it. I choose to create the world I want, and to believe in the basic goodness of people.

When I look at nature, I see God's creation in all its fullness. I see colors that blow your mind, and insects and creatures that are so beautifully patterned and bright, there's no way you could create any better. I see beauty that swells my heart to the point of breaking the feelings are so intense. If that makes me a "cock-eyed optimist" so be it.

Yes, I paint with bright colors and with warmth and passion because that's how I see my world. I also like to experiment with color to find out how blending certain colors together increases the "light" intensity. I like to layer colors, or glaze colors in such a way that the glow comes from the inside out. And sometimes I make terrible mistakes. In the beginning, I made some nasty mud pies.

I worry that my paintings are too bright, that they "shout out" a bit too much. My featured painting is a perfect example. Just when I thought my painting was complete, I'd think of another splash of color I wanted here or there. The painting almost wrote its own title: "Flash dance." Your comments are welcome!

Painting is 16x20 oil on canvas; $325 w/o frame. Free U.S. shipping; Plus shipping outside U.S. For giclees, prints, or cards please go to:

Turkey Day with the Amish

For three years in a row, we have made the trek to Sarasota, Florida to meet other family members and share our Thanksgiving dinner in a small Amish restaurant named "Mom's."

Mom's lives up to its name. The servings are more than generous. We each had a huge slab of white meat, a slab of dark meat, and a slab of honey baked ham. The mashed potatoes were light and fluffy and the gravy and dressing reminiscent of home.

We shared our meal with several Mennonite and Amish families who had come to eat their dinner early as we did; the women wearing white bonnets, the men donning long beards and suspenders. Wholesome, honest and hardworking people with a jovial outlook on life, the Amish live to work and work to serve their maker.

Many of the families are actually wealthy landowners with hundreds of acres of rich farmland. They give up what we perceive as the "good life" to live humble and simple lives in dedication to their Lord. What better place to spend Thanksgiving.