It may have come to your attention, if you have followed me for some time, that my work is taking a different direction. I thought I might take the time to let you in on how this happened and why.
Growing up in a household of artists, you have lots of opportunities to dabble. Naturally, then, I tried many different mediums and styles from a young age. I established myself in the world of folk art which my mother also inhabited, doing stylized ink and watercolor artworks in what is referred to as "fraktur-style." I also experimented with embroidery in a similar look.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, I was already feeling frustrated with my work. I felt there was a passion for the subjects of my paintings missing, and I had wrestled for a long time with what I ought to paint. In the midst of this, artists were posting videos of themselves painting on social media. I watched the freeness of their brush strokes and I decided to step out of the ink lines I was drawing and paint that way. I freed myself up to paint more loosely. My initial paintings were not great, but at the same time were not as terrible as I imagined either. Practice would be key, and this practice filled me with delight.
The decision of what to paint was in some ways easier than I thought. It was early spring, and each year (as a long held tradition in our family) I visited the wildflowers that spring up out of the crumbling leaves of the year prior. These flowers have always held a fascination for me, as our family always went to parks and enjoyed learning about native plants and animals. I own at least three wildflower guides (it might be more...) along with several bird guides and a tree guide. Why do we love identifying flora and fauna? As my sister Karly would say, "we like to know the names of our friends."
So I went out to the woods after working from home each day. I stooped down, looked close, took photos, came home and painted into the night. I enjoyed this painting more than any I had yet done. These flowers, which had brought me so much joy over the years, were now fueling my paintbrush. I was excited to paint those things which I loved, those things which delighted my soul. I had attended an exhibit called "Painting the Modern Garden" at the Cleveland Museum of Art which featured mostly the Impressionists' paintings of their gardens. As you went through the exhibit, it was clear that these painters were almost more in love with their gardens than their painting. Their paintings revealed a love not simply for the act of painting itself, but for the places and objects they painted.
For me, painting the plants native to Eastern North American woodlands and prairies holds the same draw. I want to paint other things I love, too, like vegetables and anything that delights me, but sometimes you need a main direction for your work. This is my new direction. I love the places and the flowers that I paint. I have loved them longer than I have painted them, and I can only hope that love and delight carries through my work. Most of all, I love the God whom I believe designed and created this beautiful place. Looking through my work is a little like going for a walk with me in the woods. There are images in my mind from years' past which rise up as I paint the plants that the Lord made for this place, which I have stumbled upon through many rambles through the woods and fields.
Each blog post here will be an invitation then. Come walk with me through the woods, through the fields, maybe even my own garden. Look closely at the plants that were made for this place were we live. You might discover that you want to go visit them yourself. Maybe you will even want to invite a few to take up residence in your own yard.
I cannot talk of wandering about forests and meadows without thinking of my dear mother. We lost her this year, and with her went one of my dearest friends and confidants, a mentor in faith and art. Along with that, I lost my job, which was running her art business. She spent years painting with brushes and then later "painting with wool" as she would say of wool applique. Teaching and sharing this simple but beautiful handwork became the focus of her work. My job was to help facilitate all of this from behind the scenes. Perhaps the Lord was preparing me for this day, when it seems the only way to go is forward with my work.
These days I can barely write, barely speak sometimes of what is going on in my heart, but I have found I can paint. So paint I shall, trusting the Lord with the outcome of it all. Whether or not this becomes my full time career, I want to share the gift I have been given. May it be to the praise and glory of God.
Proverbs 16:9 "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."
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