Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Happy Places"

My Happy Place

When most people think of late December, they feel happiness and a lighthearted joy; it’s a time for family and loved ones to get together and show their love for each other. However, if family members collide it can cause major stress and the busy stores and consumerism is not for everyone. Christmas can certainly be chaotic.

This reminds of a funny story about a recent customer I had. A little while ago, in a nostalgic mood I had painted a red 1950’s pick-up truck. A very nice customer bought it recently and after she received the painting, she sent me an email. She thanked me for the painting, and told me that it reminds her everyday of how she wants to just put her dogs in the old truck and escape her chaotic family.

Her sarcastic words made me laugh, I know we’ve all felt that way before. In spite of how much we love them, family can be stressful. But in addition to making me giggle, it also peaked my interest. My painting had taken her to her “happy place.” You know, that place in your mind that you can go that energizes and uplifts you with it’s utter calm and peacefulness. It’s wonderful to think that one of my paintings could take someone there. So I got to thinking this week, with the chaos of the Christmas season upon us, “Where’s my happy place?”

Everyone’s is different. Some might be looking for a way to escape the stress of family, work, or bills, but the conclusion is the same for everyone: Total peace. That customer of mine would have taken her pets along with her, which is wonderful, but not for me! No, my annoying “FEED ME OR I TRIP YOU!” cats would not be in my dream location.

I decided to paint my happy place and if you paint, I encourage you to do this as well. It was a fun experiment in making dreams a reality and I truly enjoyed it. My happy place: I’ve left all the stressors of my life behind, all the things holding me back are now in the dust. I’ve made it down to some exotic island and I’m alone: There’s only me, some beautiful tropical plants, a sun-soaked beach, a breezy blue sky and I’m sitting there, in a deck chair, just absorbing the peace and the sun and the breeze.

If you don’t paint, or don’t know where your happy place is, I suggest closing your eyes and thinking to yourself, “Where do I want to be right now, instead of pushing papers at work/racing through the mall/sorting bills like a robot?” Without a doubt, you’ll immediately go to your happy place.

Everyones location is totally different. I spoke to my daughter Caitlin, and she told me about her happy place: In a misty wood, like in an old fairy tale, she is wandering around a dark trail and then she finds an antiquated, deserted library with big cathedral-style wooden doors and she enters, and all of her favorite books are in the library and some she’s never heard of as well. She sits by a fire place in a cozy over-sized chair and reads a great book, and that brings her peace.

Please share where your happy place is in the comments section below. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Beautiful Contradictions

Based on the photograph  by Bob Gruen, 1974

The most recent challenge on the 'Daily Paintworks' website was to paint a portrait in blues and purples. It was supposed to be of my favorite actor, but when I pondered on who I wanted to paint in this moody color scheme, I came upon John Lennon.

I painted this based on the famous photograph by Bob Gruen of John Lennon, taken in 1974 for the walls and bridges album. I've read a lot about Lennon and his life. He was often a stormy and emotional individual, and I think that is why I chose him for my painting of blues and purples.

Often the stormiest, most dramatic lives are the most influential and artful. John Lennon left a large array of beautiful, inspiring music and a legacy of peace. And yet, when I think of him I often think of mood swings and rebellious attitude. It seems like quite the contradiction, and indeed the best people are made up of contradictions. 

Think about it. Have you ever said to someone: "I love it, but I hate it too!" That scary movie with the disgustingly gorey zombies that gross you out? That extra piece of chocolate cake that you know will make you feel sick? Those cigarettes that you can't help craving but don't want to smoke? The best things are contradictory.

Most people don't like to think about contradictions, because it's not simple and easy. It's not nice to think about the fact that John Lennon sang of peace but had a dark side as well. And yet some people would read his biography and call him choice names, but it's never simple. No one is clear cut. I believe he was a human being: an amazing lyricist, and an imaginative, inspiring individual, faults and all. Everyone is full of their blues and purples and I tried to illustrate that in this painting.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Are you a traveler or a homebody?

I've been thinking a lot about traveling lately, and how exciting it can be and also how unattainable it seems. So when Daily Paintworks had a blue challenge, I decided to paint this national geographic world atlas, along with my blue wine glass and vintage lantern.

Travel is a funny topic, there are only two reactions to travel. Those who are passionate about traveling get a glassy look in their eyes when a far off place is mentioned, as if their hearts are already there. However, those who'd rather stay in their "hobbit hole" reading a good book and never get into any trouble at all, will brush off travel as if it's insignificant.

I am of the first category, I love to travel. However, due to uncontrollable circumstances I am limited in my travel. I'd love to go to Europe, see The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam or spend a week in awe looking at The Louvre's collection in France. Alas, one must not be blue about circumstances, everyone has something to look forward to.

I'm currently considering making a trip to Massachusetts after the holidays so that all three grandchildren can be together for a few days. While it's not Europe, how can I not say that I am blessed to be able to say that? I have three beautiful healthy grandchildren, and just the ability to say that sentence reminds me to count my blessings.

What about you, are you a homebody or an adventurer? By choice or by circumstances? And what are your blessings?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Ordinary items can be extraordinary

Ordinary items often get overlooked. However, sometimes 'the everyday' can be the inspiration for a piece of art. You don't need a "muse", but to look at the everyday in a unique way. This old pasta sauce jar is a makeshift container for my paintbrushes and I've glanced at it a number of times; it's on my desk.

However, I have never really -looked- at it. It was next to me often and never seemed to be beautiful, but when I decided to pay attention to it, and paint it, it gained character and a special quality.

The way it held my paintbrushes, and the faux flower I had stuck in the jar so haphazardly reminded me to look at things from the viewpoint of a person who just gained eyesight: with awe and appreciation. So today, I am trying to notice the small things in my life, the unexpected but everyday works of art that surround us all. Consider trying to take a moment to appreciate 'the everyday', and then life will seem more beautiful.