"God's art [Creation] speaks of Himself, reflecting who He is and what He is like."
Francis Chan

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Look back and "Hope for Things to Come"

As the title implies, this week will be a two part post.   With 2010 coming to a close I guess it is time to take stock of the past year.  Along with that, I would like to share the last painting of 2010, which I finished up a day or so before Christmas.
I will be begin with the painting, which, ironically, is titled "Hope for Things to Come".  I got the idea for this painting about two months ago when I gave a large painting, Midnight Glory, as a donation for a local charity.  It had been hanging in my bedroom for safe keeping and when it was taken down it suddenly left a huge bare wall that needed to be filled.  That painting had been a big one, so I really wanted to replace it with something equally big.  That was when I got the idea to do a large scale triptych.  I got three 40x16 panels and took over my dining room table with them. My family is very patient to put up with paint and wet canvases laying all over the dining room I played around with the background a bit, adding some textured designs to add interest.  These can be seen in the  close ups below:

The thing I was really excited about was the idea of painting something that left off one canvas and continued on another.  I love the look of spring blossoms on a dark, bare branch.  This made for the perfect set up for this style of paining.  
Once I got the branch on the way I wanted it, I began to lay in the flowers.  That is when I got stuck.  I was suddenly overwhelmed with the number of flowers.  I am used to doing closeup views of one, maybe two flowers - this had over thirty flowers.  I let it sit for about a month and a half with just the look of bare branches and ghost - like flowers.  I still hung it in my bedroom so I could look at it and figure out what to do next. Needless to say, my husband, at that point, was not quite sure about my vision!

 I finally got a break through last week.  I started working on it when Christmas break began and it all seemed to come together.  One thing that I tried to do that I think helped me not get to overwhelmed, was I tried to keep it really loose and not get to caught up in details.  I think that made for a softer look over all.

I thought it was fairly appropriate, given the fact that this painting closes out the year for me, and that the subject is a spring flower, to name it "Hope for Things to Come".  It is for sale, if anyone is interested.  Until then, I will enjoy waking up to it each morning!

Now, onto a quick look back on 2010.  Artistically, this has been a great year for growth.  I sort of semi committed to painting everyday, even if it meant only for ten minutes.  And for the most part, I have stuck with this.  My father, who is an artist in Colorado, always has told me that doing this is a must if you want to be a better painter.  I have to say that I agree.  I feel like I have gotten better, even though there is so much more for me to learn.
One nice thing about painting everyday is that you become a lot more prolific.  I was able to complete thirty-eight presentable paintings (we won't mention the ones that ended up in the garbage!)  I sold a good amount, donated a few, and got to give a lot away, which is always one of my favorite things to do.
  I tried to stretch myself this year by taking on some portraits.  I learned a lot doing this - mostly that I have a lot more to learn!  But it has been a good kind of challenge for me.  I am looking forward to working on some more here soon.
  One thing that I really thought about over this last year is not wasting the things that God gives us.  Taking the time to really be grateful for things like family and friends, and using the gifts that He gives us, no matter how small, in the way that He intended - for our pleasure, and for His glory.  These are the things that I hope to carry into 2011, praying always that I will implement those more and more into my life.
  So here is to 2010, looking forward with hope and excitement to 2011.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Emmanuel: God is With Us!

  It seems like Christmas is sneaking up on a lot of people this year, myself included.  I went to Walmart yesterday to pick up some stocking stuffers and found that I am not the only one behind on their Christmas shopping.  It was packed with hurried, weary, stressed people searching for the perfect gift or last minute items for their family dinners.  I have to admit that I was feeling a little overwhelmed with all of the things on my before Christmas to-do list.  Ahh, the challenge of modern day Christmas season.

  I woke up early today for my morning Bible time.  It is my favorite time of the day.  I haven't had a chance yet to look at the long list of things I need to get done.  It is still dark, the house is quiet, and this morning the snow was falling outside.  The atmosphere could not have been any more different than yesterday at Walmart.

  The passage I read today was in Matthew 1:21-22, " She shall bring forth a son, and you shall name him Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins....they shall call him Emmanuel, which interpreted is, God with us."

  I am amazed at this.  The thought of it overwhelms me.  That God would love us so much, that He would see us in our state of need - so entrapped in our own selfishness and sin - and knowing that we could never rescue ourselves from the trouble that we had caused.  So He did what needed to be done.  He came down from Heaven to save us, all wrapped up in the frail body of a human being, so that He could relate to us.

  I worked last week on this little painting (no wonder I am behind on my Christmas shopping!).  I wanted to paint something that was a little different for me.  I had in my mind a picture of two things: one the light of God piercing through the darkness of our lives to save us.  Secondly, I kept thinking about the great God of the Universe, the maker of everything, humbling himself for us, allowing Himself to become this helpless little baby, in need of human parents to provide everything for Him - all so he could relate to you and me.   Emmanuel - God with us.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Portrait Project: Mattea

This is the third in my little winter portrait project.  This is Mattea. She is the youngest daughter of some very dear friends of ours from way back when.  Mattea's mom, Amy, sent me a few different poses that were all adorable.  But when I saw this one I knew it was the one I had to paint.  I loved this little figure in this great big field. I loved how she was in the midst of turning around.  I loved the color combinations. 
 I Loved it all.  
My favorite thing about this pose is that Mattea looks like the princess that she is.  She is the youngest child in her family, the only girl.  She is a little girl who was longed for, prayed for and sent all the way from China to answer her Dad and Mom's prayers - so of course, she couldn't be anything but a little princess.  

I am always fascinated with the specialness of children who are adopted.  Of course, all children are special.   But adopted children are always a reminder to me of the special love that God has for us.  That we were once in such need and in His love He welcomed us into His family, making us His sons and daughters.  Amazing....
"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God." I John 3:1

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


  I'm working on a couple of poppies this week.  I got a little unexpected time the last few days and was able to finish this one up (the second poppy is just in beginning stages and may take a while as it is 24x48).  I never get tired of painting this unusual flower. Every one has it's one unique petal pattern and color combination.  With these three I used a few touches of my old favorite, Magenta, which I though added some surprising character to them.

  I have had a lot of requests for prints lately (they make nice Christmas presents!) and am getting ready to place some new orders.  Anyone interested in either framed or unframed prints, take a look at my Facebook page to find prints available (listed in their own album in the photo section. Orders must be placed by December 15th. Contact me by email if interested (julskul@msn.com)
  Hope everyone is having a blessed Christmas season.  Don't forget to take time to remember the reason we celebrate. As my youngest, Sophie, told me yesterday - "I get a day for my birthday, but Jesus gets a whole season!"  So true.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Getting Ready for Christmas

It is definitely starting to feel like Christmas around the Kulish household.  Decorations are getting put up and Christmas music is playing.  It is by far one of our families favorite times of the year.  This year I decided to do a double painting of one of my favorite Christmas flowers: the amaryllis.  I usually begin growing either an amaryllis or paperwhites inside to bloom during the holiday season.  Our family Christmas would seem odd without one of them in our dining room.  I chose to paint basically the same scene twice on 24x12 panels.  My idea was either to use them together as a match or sell one and keep one for my own home.  It ended up that one of them was needed for the second month of the Mercy show to replace others that had sold, so I kept one to put on a decorating shelf in my home (see the picture below) right next to this years' paperwhites.  Maybe next year I will grow an amaryllis and paint a paperwhite!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Magnolia - Work in Progress

   I was faced with a dilemma this holiday week.  I set a personal goal recently, for the sake of consistency, to post a project on this blog by every Tuesday.  I am not a daily painter, in the sense that I start and complete a small painting every day (although kudos to those who can and do - I so admire them!!)  But I usually have at least three or four projects going at any one time and you would think that if I work consistently, something should be presentable on a weekly basis.  Added to that is the news I received last week that Mercy Hospital (seems like a strange place to show art, but it has been one of the best places for me thus far!) had a cancellation with the artist that they had scheduled for next month and would like my work to stay up.  But quite a few of them already sold, so I need to bring down about ten of them for replacements the first week of December.  So I have been on a marathon to try and complete some projects that I had in the works.  All that to say - surely it should not have been a problem for me to post something this week that was done.  Alas - no.  I know, I know, it was only a personal goal, but darn it, I like to meet the goals I set.    Plus, I feel like some of these projects should be further along than they are.  This makes for some frustration.
  Of course, it could be that maybe God has a lesson in all of this for me.  Just as it so often happens, art imitates life (or visa versa).  This morning I sat down for my time of Bible reading and opened up to the book of Philippians.  This is what I read:

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others
Have this attitude in yourselves that was also in Christ Jesus,
 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."  Philippians 2:3-8

  As so often happens when we open God's word, it's like having your eyes opened for the first time and seeing your own heart as it really it is.  I really saw how far short I fall from this passage - as a wife, a mother, a friend.  Too often my focus is not on others, but instead wrapped up in my own to do list for the day. Ouch.  I couldn't help but think - "Geesh, you'd think by now I would be a little further in my maturity.  Why am I still dealing with things like this? " 

  That is when God reminded me, of course, that I am a work in progress. I have learned and overcome and been refined in a lot of areas.  But I am nowhere completed yet.   But I have given my life to Him and He is changing me, causing me to grow and mature, more and more into who He wants me to be - in His time.   I want to have overcome selfishness by now in my own life.  But sometimes the slower process brings about a more quality work.  So for now, I rest in the fact that " I can be  confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. " (Philippians 1:6)

Okay, so back to the painting.  This is a work in progress.  I would like to be able to say that it is completed.  But it is not.  Not yet.  I have some tweaking to do here and there.  But I will not be frustrated about it.  I will instead enjoy the process knowing that the slower process brings about a more quality work.
  Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving - enjoy your family and remember to give thanks to the ONE who gives us every good gift!


Monday, November 15, 2010


  I am putting a check mark next to painting number two for my fall/winter portrait project.  For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you may remember that I am attempting to learn, learn, learn about portrait painting (I have so much to learn!).  I am working through this cold season from photos sent to me from all over, by people willing to let me use them (or a loved on) as a model.  
  This is Kennedy, my great niece.  Her mother sent me some really cute pictures of her and I actually chose the one black and white one that was sent (not quite ideal) because the pose was just so cute and the shadows were strong. 
    I have to tell you, I struggled with this one.  I know that I have spoken before about familiarity and how difficult it is to really see the details of someone that you see all the time (Tori at Twelve).  I think I had a hard time with this one because of that - although obviously this is something that I must overcome!  The interesting thing about that is that I have never actually met Kennedy.  She and her family live quite far away and unfortunately, I haven't gotten a chance to see them since she was born.  So although she is not someone that I see frequently, I think some of the family resemblances were hard for me to get past and just paint what was there and not what I thought was there.  Weird, I know.
  The whole project is being done for me to learn from, and I think I am learning as I work through things and try to get better and better.  As with anything in life, we are in trouble if we ever get to the point that we think we have it all figured out.
  On another note, I enjoyed seeing one of my prints and one original (Midnight Glory)  auctioned off last week at two fundraisers for the rebuilding of community buildings damaged by the terrible floods that Cedar Rapids saw in 2008.  It was kind of a neat experience and one that I hope I can do again.
Hope you all have a good week!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rosebud Study

   It is getting to be that time of year again - time to get painting for Christmas.  I am working on this study of a rosebud for a Christmas present for this really neat girl who is a special friend of our families (I don't think she reads my blog - but just in case, I better not reveal names!)  She got her first apartment this year and my daughter let me know that she would like one of my paintings for her room.
  I considered what kind of flower to paint for her and ended up choosing a simple rose bud for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I think the rose bud speaks of potential and newness of life.  I thought that fit the time in her life as she is twenty and the whole world lies before her with endless possibilities.  When your twenty, you don't quite know who you are yet, or who you will become, but it will be so exciting to  get to make that discovery.  Secondly, I loved the feminine curves of the rosebud and this girl is such a beautiful girl (although at that age, sometimes you just don't realize it), it reminded me of her feminine beauty.
  Since this was just a study, I decided to play around a bit with it.  I usually do a study on some left over mat board which really tends to take away from the richness of the oil paints blending together.  I find that frustrating (even though I know that it is just a study) so I decided to try a little glaze over the whole thing to give me a hint of what the final painting might do.  I used a little linseed and a little mineral spirits to wash over the whole thing.  I apologize that it makes for a rather "glaring" photo, but it does get me excited to put that actual painting on an actual canvas.  I'll keep you all posted !

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Apples and Bittersweet

  This painting is setting out to dry for a Christmas present for a very fortunate mom.  Last spring my daughter had a group of friends over to hang out at our house. One of the boys there, Nick, who is about as quiet as can be, asked Shelby if her mom would paint something for his mom for Christmas. ( I think he was too shy to ask me.)  I just thought that was the sweetest thing - I mean what senior in high school commissions art work for a Christmas present nine months away?  He is obviously a really good kid - and his mom must be a really great mom.
  He left the details of the painting in my hands, except for the fact that he wanted apples (because that is what his mom loves).  I tried to set up a still life that would include the apples, plus the mason jar and some dried branches for interest.  I ended up adding bittersweet blossoms to the branches because - well, you know me, I have to have flowers in there somewhere!
  I am looking forward to giving it to Nick when it dries and hope that it is what he had in mind.  I kept thinking of the way this young guy is going out of his way to get something for his mom that would be a little out of the ordinary - that is so special.  I am reminded of God's promise in the Bible that tells us to "honor your Father and Mother that it may go well with you and you will have long life...".  I hope when his mom opens it on Christmas morning that she likes the painting, but I know for sure that she will feel extremely blessed to have such a thoughtful son.

  One other note: if you are in the Cedar Rapids area, stop by and see my paintings on display at Mercy Hospital during the month of November.  The paintings are on the first floor, cafeteria wing, and my note cards and coffee mugs are on sale in the gift shop.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Autumn Leaves

    I got to spend a few hours yesterday working on a small painting for  the monthly art challenge at Inspiration All Around Us.  I feel like I'm getting spoiled with nice fall afternoons to paint away.  Now that the weather is starting turn cold here in Iowa, I am beginning to think of the winter months ahead.  A few days ago I began working on a couple of Christmas themed paintings (more details on those when they get a bit more presentable!).  I've been doing some different subjects - I feel like I  am getting a little stretched out of my typical floral safety zone.

Monday, October 25, 2010


  I am not a portrait painter - although I have begun to love to try and capture the unique features of the human face.  I know that I have so much to learn!  With a desire to get better and learn more, I put out a request a month ago on my Facebook page for anyone who would send me some photos of themselves or loved ones so that I could work on some portraits over the winter months.  I got the idea from another artist, Carol Nelson, who did a 100 portraits in 100 days project on her blog.  Carol is amazing in what she does (check out her site!), and I wouldn't even begin to try and take on a project like that one - I just wanted some practice over the winter months with some new faces other than my kids, husband, dog, etc!
  This is a painting is of a little guy named Joseph, all the way from Texas (don't you just love internet connections?!).  His mom, Barbra, is a photographer, so she had lots of pictures for me to choose from.  I loved the position that he is lying in and I am always a sucker for intmate close ups.  Biggest challenge in this painting - the angle of his position and trying to keep his thicker eyebrows still looking like little boy eye brows.  Funnest part to paint - those beautiful baby blues!
  If you have a photo you would like to send me, click on my Facebook badge and check out all the details.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Autumn on the Font Porch

      The weather has been so beautiful this past week and I haven't gotten out lately to really enjoy it.  So this afternoon after school I took my french easel out to my front yard and enjoyed an hour or so of painting.  I had this beautiful pumpkin on my front porch with the most graceful lines that I thought needed to be painted.  The mums are one of my favorite flowers and I really liked the fall combination of colors with the mums and the pumpkin together.
      Half way through my painting I felt like I was having the ultimate painting experience as I could actually smell the pumpkin that I was painting.  Duh...my daughter, Tori, was sitting on the other end of the front porch carving some smaller pumpkins that we had, while she kept me company. I had to laugh at myself and when I told her she looked at me as if I had lost my mind!
     All in all it was a relaxing way to end a Monday.  This painting was done for the Artists Helping Artists October art challenge.  This is a 12x12 oil  - if you are interested in purchasing it, please contact me by email julskul@msn.com.
Enjoy your week everyone!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Autumn Rose

  Here is  a little something that I worked on this past weekend for the Inspiration All Around Us art challenge for September.  I love the glow of yellow throughout this pink rose.  It kind of reminded me of Nature's last hurrah before winter sets in - It's determined to go out with a bang.
  My mind has recently been on seasons of our lives.  The changing of the leaves, the preparation for winter, all a reminder that our lives, like the seasons are quickly fleeting.  To everything there is a season.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
                                Ecclesiastes 3

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Eyes of Sudan

      I am going back in time a little bit today to a painting I did in 2006.  This was one of my favorites to do because the story behind it was really meaningful to me.  It may look familiar to some of you as I had done a post with the study sketch for this last January.  About four or five years ago I had run across an article in World Magazine about the terror that Christians in Sudan were living in because of Muslim persecution.  Along with the article was a photo of what looked to be a teenage girl looking directly into the camera, with a small child ( younger sibling, a child of her own?) peeking from behind her shoulder.  The child's eyes looked terrified, as almost as if they were wondering what new horror were they about to experience.  The young woman looked at the viewer with such a sad, pleading look, it about broke your heart.  She couldn't be more than fifteen or sixteen, but her eyes looked older.  I could only imagine the terrible things that she had experienced - the things that she had to do to protect the younger child.  The article told many stories about the rapes, murders, and tortures of the people in this area.  I couldn't even wrap my mind around the responsibility that she had, trying to shield this child from the darkness that surrounded them.  What struck me the most about her was the quiet confidence that I saw in her stance and in her eyes.  She looked sad and desperate, yet at the same time she seemed to be saying with her eyes, "Come one, just try and hurt this child, I dare you!" 

      After I read the article I went on my way but I couldn't get her eyes out of my mind.  I literally laid in bed for the next couple of nights thinking about those eyes.  And about my cushy, comfy life here in America where I pretty much get to worship God the way I think I should with, for the most part, no one coming against me.  I never have to worry about my children's lives being threatened because of our faith.  I also kept thinking about a particular scripture in Hebrews 13:3 that says "Remember your brethren in prison as if chained with them."  This woman may not have been in a cage with bars, but definitely of prison of fear and terror.

      I searched my house high and low for the discarded magazine and found it in a pile of papers ready to be pitched.  I found that article with the picture and immediately began to paint.  You know when you hear the term - it almost just painted itself?  Well it really felt as if it did.  Every brush stroke laid down the way I wanted it to.  It was such a  pleasure to paint. 

    I chose to make the teen girl older, just to establish the fact that she was a mother, pleading for her child's safety.  I could relate better to her, I think.  I found myself praying for the safety of the two people in the photograph, which made them so much more real to me.  And I thought a lot about the freedom that we have here in America.  May we not waste it.  May we not take it for granted.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Micah with Guitar

  This is one of two projects that I have been working on over the past week or so.  About three years ago I  took a photo of my son, Micah, playing his guitar.  I was enamored with the way the light just skimmed him here and there.  I filed it away in my ' will paint one day' file and last week the day came!  I always have admired Caravaggio's paintings and the way he used that object-coming-out-of-the-darkness look in many of his paintings. (The formal  term is  "chiaroscuro", but who can remember that, right?)  I especially like David with the Head of Goliath which is such an amazing example of this. It's almost like the figure melts into the darkness.  So cool.  So when I took the picture of my son, I thought of Caravaggio.  Micah was wearing this black shirt and it was almost like his torso didn't exist, nor one side of his face.  It was a great chance to try my hand at chiaroscuro (other wise known as object-coming-out-of-the-darkness!)

    As a teenager, Micah taught himself to play guitar.  He could often be found sitting just like he is in this painting, quietly plucking away.  He began writing his own songs and got quite good at guitar. He is a junior in college now so he no longer lives at home.  I so miss hearing him playing and singing!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Difficult Task


  So, I decided to join in on an online art challenge at Calypso Moon Artist Movement.  For those of you not familiar with online art challenges - they basically are call outs to artists online to submit a work of art that meets specific requirements (all of the same subject, using limited palettes, all the same theme, etc.)   This one was a challenge to do a self-portrait.  Now most of you know that I have become sort of set on learning to do better portraits - but a self portrait?  Yikes.  I became instantly overwhelmed.  The one saving grace I had was that part of the challenge required that lots of color be used, and not just typical skin tone types of colors, but blues, greens, violets - all the unexpected colors.  This intrigued me.  I had  enjoyed following the self-challenge of a great artist that I ran into in "Blogville" named Carol Nelson, who did a hundred portraits in a hundred days using a Fauvism style of painting (lots of color, used in unusual ways) for the challenge. (The link provided, by the way, was her portratit of my daughter Tori - number 24.)   It seemed like fun. 'I can do this' I thought...
        ....Wow, self- portraits are hard.  I had not anticipated the introspection that it required.  It is just like painting someone close to you that you really know well.  You think you know what they look like - so you tend to paint what you think should be there.  But painting requires you to really look with  new eyes at something as if you've never seen it before, and paint what you see.  In other words, I would love to have painted Julia Roberts - but darn it, the face I had to paint was Julia Kulish!  
   Isn't  this what we as humans tend to do on a spiritual level too, with our own hearts?  We tend to see ourselves as being basically good people, even caring, giving, honest, kind (you fill in the blank...).  then one day we get a small glimpse of who we really are.  Maybe  we hear something hurtful come out of our mouths towards another person, or we see our haughty attitudes repeated in our children, or maybe, as is often the case for me, we read a scripture in the Bible that causes us to compare our goodness in the light of a holy God.  Then suddenly we see our hearts and lives for what they are - all of the faults and failures - so in need of help.
  So as I said, self portraiture causes lots of introspection.  When your talking about your own face it gets quite tricky.  Questions arise like - "When did I get so old?" Revelations are made - "Hmm, my nose is wider than I thought." Old events are revisited  - "Do I want to include that huge scar I have on my neck from the cancer scare a few years back? Wow, remember that strange and scary time period?"  (Yes, I did include it by the way- it is a part of me now, after all.)
   One thing I will say is that I absolutely loved painting in the Fauvist style.  I love bright colors, after all. The more, the better.  I chose a lot of purples, blues and,  my favorite all time paint color, magenta.  The thing I liked about the Fauvism effect is that it made me look like I had that fresh " I just got up and put make up on "  look.  (You know, instead of the "I'm forty one years old, so although I put make up on a half hour ago, I now look like I'm in dire need of cucumber slices on my eyelids and a good afternoon nap" look!)
"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Red Scarf

I am taking a little break from florals to jump back in to portraits.  Ever in the learning process, I have been reading a lot about mixing skin tones - so of course I wanted to put to practice some of  the things I have been learning about.  I have been particularly fascinated lately with the different tones you find in various ethnicity's.  
The oil I ended up with might ring a bell with some of you, as I did attempt this one a while back in Priorities, as a small study.  I am finally getting back to it after hanging it in may art corner (I would love to say art studio  - but what can I say, we have a house full of kids, at this point I only get a corner!) for months, making changes in my mind.  
I originally saw a picture of this young Indian woman in a magazine ad.  Two things fascinate me about it: one, the eyes.  One word comes to mind when I see them, and that is need.  She is a girl in need, and it feels like she almost is pleading with us, the viewer, to meet those needs in some way.  Secondly, I love the curves that form from the red scarf and the way the light hits it.  

  On another note - I want to invite all of you locals out to the Lowe's Art and Environmental Center in Marion, Iowa this Sunday for the Swamp Fox Festival Art Sale.  It is from 12 to 7 pm at the Lowe's park just North West of Lin Mar High School. Once again, mention my Art Speaking blog or Facebook page and I will be happy to let you choose from one of five note card designs to take home with you.  Hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Plein Air

   Last Saturday afternoon I set out from my house loaded with my french easel, paint palette, sun hat, and small stool and  trudged my way down to the end of our property for a little plein air adventure.  We only live on two acres, but it felt a lot longer with all of that stuff and I thought to myself that I really needed to be better organized!  But it was well worth the effort.  We live next to a farmer's field that alternates yearly between corn (it is Iowa after all) and soybeans.  Now I know I am an Iowa girl - but corn definitely plays second fiddle in my mind to soybeans because of the amazing colors the soybean fields turn in September. They absolutely glow with a zillion (yes, really, that many!) colors of greens, golds and then finally caramel.  I am thrilled each spring when I see that the tiny sprouts in our next door field are soy beans because I know how wonderful the view will be in September.  Plus, my kids, from the youngest of ages, all know that this time of year means mom will ask them to notice and name all of the colors that they see in any soybean field that we happen to pass by in the car during this time of year.  Even Sophie, at two (almost three) is catching on.  We were driving in the car the other day and she belts out, "Look at those awesome fields - lots of colors!!"  (I start 'em young, what can I say!)
  So I have been itching to get out there and paint the field next door.  I sort of jumped the gun a bit.  The weather was to die for on Saturday and I could wait no longer.  So the field got painted before it had totally turned gold.  But I used the carmel field across the highway, that had turned,  for color ideas and the view of the next door field.  I had a blast.  I lost all sense of time, only thinking about it when some of the kids came down to check on me or when friends would honk their horns to me on the highway as they passed (small town neighbors are the best!).
  I walked away (lugging my stuff back up to the house - why did everything seem heavier after three hours?), happy with my painting and totally refreshed in my spirit.

Close up view
More close ups

My field - almost ready to turn...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Little Something For Shelby

24x30 oil

     I stepped out of my box a little bit, away from the dark backgrounds to something a little more cheery.  This was again at the suggestion of one of my faithful art critics - my sixteen year old, Shelby.  Some of you may recall back in February when she informed me that all of my paintings were beginning to look the same to her and she suggested I try something a little "happier" in tone.  The end result,  "Beauty in the Ordinary" ended up being a favorite with many people who have seen it.  So when she hinted again that maybe something new would be nice, I thought I would b wise to grab the brighter colored paint.

  I had so much fun painting this!  It made me feel light hearted just looking at the canvas.  I have grown to love poppies and nothing is happier than poppies set in front of a blue sky.  I kept thinking that it looked like a group of friends gathering together to share the latest goings-on in each of their lives - thus the name -"Fellowship".

    I am thrilled to say that Shelby loved it  - so much so, it is now the background of her cell phone screen. You don't get a bigger thumbs up from a teenager than that!  It only makes sense that she would like it - the brightness and happiness fits her personality to a tee.  She has always been a joy to be around - happy, fun, with a great sense of humor.  When she was little she had white blond hair (it is still quite light) and my nick name for her has always been "Sunshine coming in the room".  I know - it's a mouth full - but it couldn't fit her any better.  She walks into a room and the whole place lights up.
So I value her honest critiquing and will always be quick to respond when she lets me know things are getting a bit to heavy. Time to pull out the sunshine.  Thanks, Shelby...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Artists Who Inspire

Although I would absolutely love to take credit for this beautiful painting - I didn't paint it.  It was painted by a wonderful artist, Helen Read,   that I "met" through the strange world of "Blog-land".
   I think the painting is terrific.  I am a sucker for curves and I could just look at these curvy lines for hours.  I love how her combination of warm and cool in the different greens.  Finally, I really like the intimate feel you get from this painting - you're up close and personal with the hosta leaf.  Love it!
   I know that I usually post a picture of one of my latest projects and tell, you, the reader, what I'm up to creatively speaking.  But I never want to get so wrapped up in my own little world that I lose perspective.  I find it incredibly inspiring to observe the work of other artists and marvel at their skills and creativity.  It's like a  breath of fresh air.  I always walk away inspired.  And of course, just like a great song that you hear for the first time - you want to share it with others!
  Never is this more true than when I find an artist who knows who they are and why they are doing what they are doing.  Enter Helen Read.  I ran across her blog a while ago and immediately felt I had found a kindred spirit.  That she is truly talented is obvious.  But it was her perspective on why she does art that caught my attention.  She sees art in her life as more than just a fun hobby or even a pursuit of beauty for beauty's sake, but instead as an act of worship and acknowledgement of the One who created all of us and all that is around us.
  Well, to be honest, after visiting her blog and reading her excerpt on how faith and art are integrated into her life, I realized she expressed (way better than I have been able to thus far) exactly what I see as the reason for art.  In her own words....

           Its really important to me not to compartmentalize my life into different realms, but rather to integrate all of it into a whole. Therefore, these areas cross boundaries and influence one another in interesting ways.
For me, my life is a whole lot about my faith... but not much about religion. That sounds sort of cliche, I guess. What I mean to say is- its about relationship and going into an ever deepening relationship with Christ, rather than a set of rituals and ceremonies. That kind of faith, I am finding, is never fully finished... always broader, deeper, fuller than I'd imagined. I am also finding out that God is bigger than my box for him... and he, in fact, won't be "contained". He's wild and untamed and beyond my ability to understand ... but entirely good.
So - how in the world does that impact art? Thinking about who this wild God is - I'm convinced he is creator and artist by just looking at the world in which I live. And he absolutely celebrates the impulse of creativity he's given to me! Visual art is a language... a language without words. So with visual expression, I can worship. I can explore. I can imagine. And, I can speak without words a celebration of my creator and all that his world contains. 

   Wow, well put.  So, like that great song that I just have to tell all my friends about - I encourage you to check out Helen Read's site for some great inspiration.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Brucemore Garden and Art Show

I was busy this weekend doing last minute packaging and framing for the upcoming  Brucemore Garden and Art Show.  I have to give kudos to my husband who is super willing to do all of the technical (read - tedious) stuff like cutting out cardboard backing to package my prints with and install all of the brackets to hang the pictures.
    In the spring when I had considered whether or not to do any art fairs or shows this summer, I had originally decided to wait.  Then some doors opened up for me to do a few which caused me to have to get my tail in gear to prepare for them.  I am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  Now I am ready to have enjoy myself, starting with the show at beautiful Brucemore mansion.
For those of you in Cedar Rapids or surrounding areas, I hope you come out and enjoy what is supposed to be a lovely day.  This is both a garden and art show so there will be lots of how- to demonstrations by master gardeners, kid friendly activities,  plus sixty or so artists and vendors - all on the grounds of Cedar Rapids' famous Brucemore mansion.  It should be lots of fun!
For those of you who live near and stop by my tent - please mention this post from either my  Art Speaking blog or from Facebook and I will be happy to send you home with one of my small notebook sets.  Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Magenta" or ??????

I felt like a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders when I was finally able to say this one was completed.  This is the last of the paintings that I was doing in preparation for art shows/sales for the months of August and September.  I feel like I have been on a marathon of painting this summer.  It has been challenging but very enjoyable.  I learned so much! Since I had this one in my mind all spring and early summer, I had really wanted to bring it to completion.  Now to name it....  I am a little stumped.  I mentioned in an earlier post (Summer Coming to an End),  that I had wanted to really focus on one of my favorite colors, magenta.  It is a beautiful, transparent paint that is delicious for glazing with.  So, of course, for titles all I can think of is Magenta.  I would LOVE a suggestion or two from any of my readers.  If something pops into your mind please let me know on my comments page her or through my FACEBOOK page.
close ups

I walked through my gardens yesterday and was so sad to see how the weeds are winning the battle because I have been distracted with other things lately!  My poplar trees are beginning to lose their first leaves already (they are always the first to go) and their was a wonderful breeze in the air that gave a glimpse of Fall on it's way.  My garden flowers are foretelling the end of their growing season too, unfortunately.  They are losing their days of glory and have begun to turn brown in spots.  It's always such a bittersweet time.  Fall is my favorite time of year - but gosh wouldn't you just love for those flowers to never lose their beauty?  It is nature's yearly reminder to us all of life's fleeting days!  Whatever we do here on earth today, only lasts a moment and then it's gone. Painted canvases are one of the joys of an artist's life, but may we not forget to pursue the things that really matter - things that pertain to  life after our time here on earth.
With that in mind - I'm off to spend some time in the Bible and then to enjoy my last full day of summer. Classes begin here tomorrow morning at 8:30 sharp!

Monday, August 9, 2010


   I got a chance to finish up this larger project this evening, in the quietness of our home after everyone has gone to bed.  It isn't often in my full house that I get to work in silence - what a treat!
  This 24x20 oil is titled "Entwined".  I began it this summer out in my garden sitting in front of one of my favorite Clematis vines.   I had this image in my mind of the weaving in and out of those vines and how they formed lovely loops and "s" curves.  If you've spent any time in the garden, you know that vines like these have to be diligently trained to go up the trellis.  If you go a couple of days without checking on strays you may end up with a tangled mess of leaves, vines and flowers that is almost impossible to pull apart.  My hope was to convey the idea of our lives (especially in a family)  taking all sorts of unexpected twists and turns throughout the years.  Those twists being exactly the thing that ties us to those we love - so that it is quite difficult to be pulled apart.
 After I had done several sketches and laid out the basics for the idea, I took it inside to really dive into it.   I wanted to step away from some of the bold colors that usually jump onto my palette and make this one a bit softer.  I also wanted to end up with a peaceful feel to the painting to go along with that almost rolling wave feel of all of the loops and curves.
  It's always nice to end a day feeling like you accomplished something.  Now off to bed for me, as tomorrow starts another week!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Summer Coming to an End


                                                    Work in progress

  It is that time of year again. I'm sad to see the summer days winding down.  It is time to dig in and get back to reality - summer break is almost over.  For me, the end of July and beginning of August are usually jam packed with preparations for the upcoming school year.  As a homeschooling mom, this is my time to make final decisions on what curriculums we are using for what subjects, get them ordered, and make the schedules and final plans for all the assignments for the year.   You can usually locate me behind a huge pile of everyones' school books, trying to make order of it all.
  Added to all of that this year, I find myself trying to finish up some art projects, pick out frames for completed work and order prints for a couple of art sales that are coming up.  Oh yeah, did I mention that I decided to paint my dining room and living room?  What can I say, when I get the redecorating call - I must answer!
  The picture above is one of the projects that I have been working on.  I am just starting into the fun phase where the basics have been laid down and I get to tinker with the really juicy details that should give it some punch.  I used some ideas from another painting I had done years ago for a friend (Art Speaking).  I had loved some of the graceful lines that were in that painting and wanted to try the same idea out using Magenta as a focus in the new painting. It is a larger piece - 30x24 - and adding glazes to that many petals is time consuming, but I think it will be worth it.  I'll keep you posted.
  One last thing, I told you in my last post that my daughter and I had been working on decorations for the room that I would be teaching in for VBS.  Below are some of the pictures of the room with my littlest, Sophia, watching videos as I was getting things ready for the classes to begin.  All in all it turned out fun.  The kids had a blast and most important they learned the awesome message of the cross.  I am always amazed at how open kids are to hear the good news.  What an honor it was to get to teach them.

                                   Underwater sunken treasure cove

Saturday, July 24, 2010

More Progress

Well, I set off at the beginning of summer to put my free time to good use and get at least three small paintings done.  This is number seven (with two more still in progress).  It is amazing what you can get done with deadlines looming!  Plus it really makes a difference painting on smaller surfaces.  This 10x14 oil was a chance to revisit an old favorite - the iris.  I love curves and gracefulness of an iris.  They remind me of my mother's garden in my childhood.
I had to take a bit of a break from oils this week to work with...craft paint.  My daughter, Tori, whom I recently discovered is a creative genius, has been lending me a hand in preparing for Vacation Bible School for next week.  The theme is high sees adventure, so we have been getting things ready to decorate the room that I will teach in as a sunken pirate ship treasure cove.  We had lots of fun painting all kinds of unique fish, octopus, whales, etc.  Set up is tomorrow, I will try and take some pictures to post.  It should be fun.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


  I just put the finishing touches on this 14x11 oil.  It was a study from a watercolor by a wonderful artist named Carol Carter.  Her work fascinates me and when I saw her watercolor version of this flower I new there would be lots to learn from giving it a try in oils.
  I have had a lot going on in my little painting corner.  Although I must confess that I have not been very good about keeping my painting things restricted to my corner of the world.  I think my family would agree that the paintings are once a gain taking over the house!  I have continued to do a sort of rotating system - working on about four paintings at once.  This really works well for me to keep things fresh.  Most of the projects are smaller, although I do have two larger paintings that I have been working on in two or three day chunks so I can concentrate on them more in depth.  All of this is in preparation for some upcoming sales and shows.  The first will be the Brucemore Art and Garden Show on August 28th at the historic Brucemore mansion in Cedar Rapids.  The other events can be seen on the side bar under "Upcoming Events".
    Off to do more painting and hopefully to take some time on this hot Iowa day for a swim in the pool with the kids.  I'll leave you with this thought...

  "This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
  It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness.
  The Lord is my portion, says my soul:  therefore I will hope in Him."
                                                                                 Lamentations 3:21-24

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


   I had a such a relaxing day yesterday, spending some time away from my current projects  painting something out of the ordinary.  This is Lilly, my great niece.  She was an absolute joy to paint.  My niece, Anna, took an adorable picture of her laying, with her feet propped up in a comfy pile of blankets and it just begged to be painted! I've been needing to get back to trying more portraits and to do a baby was so fun!  Of course, this one is not for sale - I will take as much joy in giving it to Anna and her husband as I did in painting it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


  This 12x12 oil is finally completed.  I don't usually use a lot of yellows in my paintings so this was a new challenge.  In my preliminary post on this painting (Busy, Busy ) I mentioned the article that I had read about Van Gogh's fascination with yellows, especially in sunflowers, because it was symbolic of Christ to him.  I just kept thinking about Van Gogh as I painted my little sunflower.  Don't you sometimes wonder what went through famous artist's minds as they worked on their masterpieces?    I kept thinking about the sunflower's petals being like a crown of glory - which was of course, ran with the idea of these yellow flowers being symbolic of Jesus.
  As circumstances would have it, I was reminded of two things that seemed to flow with that train of thought that just kept my mind busy as I stood at my easel.  First, a dear friend was remembering the death of her mother this week and we began speaking about the wonderful thought of her and her mother being reunited in Heaven as they stand before the Lord together, beholding His glory!  The second was a scripture in the Bible that I read this week.  In the book of Ezekiel it talks about how the glory of the Lord will one day finally return to Israel when  the King of Glory comes and sits on the throne in Jerusalem and all the earth will come and worship Him there. I could just picture it in my mind. What an amazing thing that will be!
  My oldest son, Micah, told me he really loved this one.  That's pretty exciting news to me when the kids comment on one of my paintings, because for them sometimes new paintings are just another picture of a flower. :-)  Anyway, his comments encouraged me enough that I may just have to give sunflowers another try sometime.


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