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Holy Week: Palm Sunday

    Today finds us at the beginning of Holy Week, with Palm Sunday happening yesterday. Ooooh, it was pretty interesting trying to take parish photos and wrangle a 14 months old. At one point he darted out into the middle of the choir procession as they made their way through the archway of palms held by all the kids. That picturesque moment almost turned into calamity, but I managed to yank him back by the seat of his pants, much to the giggles of the kids around us. Oh, memories... right? ;)

   I really like Palm Sunday. It's supposed to mark when Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. He was met with adoring crowds who waved palms in their joy to see him. In areas where there are no palms, other plants will be used for their processions--- like pussy willow. We don't really have a surplus of palms here in Oklahoma, but in these modern times, I think you can just order them in, lol.

  As a kid I can remember doing the palm procession. I don't know that I really knew what it was or why, but it was fun, something different. I find that those really ancient traditions I'd get glimpses of as a kid were the pieces that stuck with me. They caught my attention even then.

  After we got home (all of us having escaped being mowed down by an angelic choir) we took down last year's dried palm crosses behind our icons and replaced them with the fresh ones. With these palm fronds, which are special since they're blessed with Holy water, you have to either burn them or bury them. And since I am so excited to get planting, I think we'll bury them in with the flowers we're going to plant for spring. That seems fitting, don't you think?

  As for me and the painting--- still busy and getting lots of projects worked on, which is so satisfying! Just finished up a very royal commission and now working on a family of silhouettes. Honestly, I should probably start making a plan for Christmas art. It's never too early!!!

  Thanks for coming by to visit me today! And don't forget the sale going on in the esty shop! Coupon code is in my last blog post.

  Talk soon,

Easter Sale on Etsy!

   Around here spring is finally starting to come around--- all the early flowering trees are blooming and the daffodils are out. It's an exciting time, isn't it, when the Earth begins to wake again? I dont know about you, but this time of year always makes me want to spruce up and clean out. And with Easter on it's way, I thought this was a great time to have a little sale in the shop to celebrate the coming of spring and Easter.

   For the next couple of weeks you can use the coupon code EASTER15 to get 15% off your entire purchase in my etsy shop! Maybe there's something there you will enjoy?

   Hope you're having a good week!~

Latest Work: Patron Saint Painting

    Hello there! I've been busy around here painting on some commission work, which is fantastic! But it also means I have to wait a bit to share it--- but now that I know this piece is safely in its new home, I can share with you this latest piece called "Bless Our Home", which was such a fun project.

   The concept of this painting was to include all the patron saints of the family it was made for, plus Mary. Our Lady takes center with the other saints-- Saint Mark, Saint Anne, Saint Philomena, Saint Benedict, Saint Catherine Laboure and Saint Thomas Aquinas circling around her. The color scheme for this piece was creams and whites with a bit of blue and green. With paintings like this, I like to incorporate the colors that the family already uses in their home so that it blends well with their decorating palette.

  What was fun about this project was getting to do a little research on all the saints, and distill their lives and personalities into a simple portrait. They are at once distinct and connected to each other. There were also some saints I wasn't familiar with, like Catherine Laboure, and it was fun to get to read a little more about each one and expand my knowledge. Each painting is always a learning experience, and that's one of my favorite things about creating. 

  I'm about half way through my spring commissions list, but I am thinking ahead to summer if anyone would like to commission their own piece. I know it's not even Easter, but if you'd like to have something to give at Christmas....it's never too early to start thinking about it. Actually, i should probably get started on my own Christmas art right now, hehe. No matter how early I start, I seem to always wish I'd started earlier!

For more commission info, go to the top of this blog and select the "commissions" page. All my sizing and pricing information is there.

  Well, time to start the day!~
Talk later--

Little Spring

   Do you feel it? Spring is coming! Our first sign is always Audrey's birthday. We always say, "Audrey's birthday brings the daffodils." And its always about now that they start popping up, the first sign that the long brown bareness of an Oklahoma winter is about to come to an end.
   For her birthday, we went to a local tea room and had a fancy little girl tea party. Each girl got her own tea service of a tea cup and small tea pot filled with her favorite drink (there may have been a tea pot filled with Dr. Pepper) and a decadent desert. I chose the chocolate eclair cake and was not disappointed! I am usually a very motivated dessert eater, and even I couldn't finish it! So, so good. The Burnett Mansion is a beautiful historic home downtown and everything I've had to eat there has been amazing. Plus, when we were there they had live piano music and Audrey got serenaded with her own "happy birthday" song! I think these little girls had a grand ol' time!

   This time of year I always start thinking about gardening too, and we've already been to the plant nurseries a couple of times, but I'm proud to say I HAVE restrained myself for the most part. I did bring home a beautiful hellibore--- a Lenten Rose-- and put it in our garden. These unfortunately named flowers (shown above) are so beautiful and they bloom when everything else is still in a deep winter sleep. They come in an amazing variety of colors too--- I have one with black blooms, although it hasnt bloomed this year....might need to move it....my husband's grandmother has a beautiful Japanese shade garden full of these beautiful perennials and she was the one who first introduced me to them.

   I've also started thinking about all the spring projects I want to do (aside from gardening, of course!) and sprucing up my wardrobe and creating special little accessories has my brain working over time. Yesterday I finally decided to find some beads to make a necklace especially for the coptic cross pendant I got around Christmas last year. I got some wooden beads and a small strand of blue and white ceramic beads and created this new piece for myself--- i really like it! Blue and white is my absolute favorite color combination, and I love the simple naturalness of the wooden beads with them. They stand back and let the cross take center stage. Now I want to make more! (of course!)

   Well, off to start the day. We got up much, much too early. I think an early nap is also calling our name....
talk soon!~

In the Shop: New Spring Prints!

   Hi friends!~
      Just got a new order in of some fresh prints and they are now listed in my etsy shop! You can now get "Home from Pascha" and "Tea with Babushka" in 8x10" prints and now "Madonna of the Blossoms" is available as an 11x14" print and an 8x10". These are all great spring/Easter prints to brighten up your home for the new season!

  I don't know about you, but I'm ready for green and flowers and the beauty that spring brings. I do enjoy winter, but I also enjoy when the season turns and renews itself again. My daffodils are sprouting up, the weather has gotten warmer, and I'm getting antsy about wanting to plant things.

   Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to check out the shop if you get a chance! I've also restocked on St. Claire and Picking Dinner, so lots of new things!~

Art, Faith, and Following your Heart

   This past Sunday I was invited to speak in front of a group at church on the topic of 'art and faith.' Through Lent, several different speakers were invited to come talk with this group on subjects ranging from choral music, contemplative prayer, and using art to explore faith. That last part would be me :)
   I've had some friends and followers here interested in hearing about what it was I had to say, and so I thought while it was still relatively fresh, I'd get down here on the blog what it was we chatted about, and maybe you'll find some food for thought or inspiration in the little bits and pieces I've been able to discover....

    This shouldn't come as a surprise, but I am one of those people who experience the world through my senses. Especially visual. But also the soft candle light, the bright beauty of stained glass, the heavenly sound of the choir and the familiar and comforting words of the Nicean Creed, the Lord's Prayer and the rest of the liturgy. 
   In lighter moments, I will confess that am all about 'ambiance.' What that really means is, essentially, my environment has a big influence on how I'm feeling. Just ask me at the end of July when its 110 degrees here in Oklahoma and I've had all the hot-and-dry-glaring-heat I can take. and I'm about to lose my mind. I'm just funny that way. Perhaps you are too?
   With that in mind, I had never been to a church that made me feel comfortable. At best, I was searching for a little something to catch my interest in the artificial glow of a message on PowerPoint, or I was feeling *this close* to a panic attack because everyone was swaying and 'getting into' something that I wasn't feeling and wasn't even sure was real. Not to say that these methods of worship are wrong, but just that they didn't work for me.
   My off and on experience with church was just vacant feeling, and I thought that I could probably just nurture this longing I had for deeper meaning and beauty through reading or just doing my own thing. And then I walked into a liturgical church and fell in love.

    Since that first 'love affair' --- not just the beautiful building, the gorgeous and simple alter, the stained glass and candles--- but also the feeling of tapping into something very old and sacred-- I've had a lot of great changes. Not just in life, but also art. 
   Having become more familiar with the worship and meaning behind the use of beauty in Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches, I've started using these same elements in my own art. You have probably noticed that I like to tuck icons into my work--- and I like to do this for many reasons. I love the concept of a picture-within-a-picture. A story within a story. I also love the idea of adding a little bit of "Holy" into the ordinary, because that's so like life, I think.  I want to show my regular people doing regular things--- reading a book, packing a holiday basket--- all under the watchful eye of these Holy figures.

  For me personally, creating art is extremely meditative. It's been like this since childhood. My parents would buy me large college ringed notebooks and I would sit at our dining room table (glass topped with brass legs, sooooo 80s!) and "write stories" and draw pictures. With pen. I was evidently very confident, haha. 
   Then, and now, this sitting down to create stilled my mind and gave me a focus that nothing else can match. It is restful. And when the subject matter I'm creating touches on the religious, it is in a way, prayerful. Prayer through line, color, contemplating who and what I am painting.
   Because this is something that means so much to me, I of course suggest you try it! You don't have to be an 'artist.' There is a book called "Praying in Color" which gives some really interesting ideas into using drawing and color and pretty much just sketching/doodling to explore this idea. Everyone can doodle. Just think back to your school trapper-keeper ;) no matter if you're a very linear minded person, or a swirly hearts and clouds person, there is method for you. 

   Being able to marry faith and art has been wonderful for me, because art is what I am passionate about. Art is my way of being in and translating the world. I am beyond thankful that creating is now part of my every day life, because for a long time it wasnt. It was shoved to the very corners of my life because it just didnt seem important. And by important, I mean 'a way to find a good job and make money.' Because that's how we're told to measure things in life--- how much money/status/success will this bring me. 
   I was in college and pretty much felt like art was a nice way to slowly starve to death. I tried to go the graphic design route, but the program didn't shift to my university campus like I'd been told it would during the beginning of my college studies. I tried to go into the journalism program, but failed to get in because I missed one too many questions on the program entry test. (It was a memorization of the AP handbook. Which.....when I later worked as a newspaper without the journalism degree, was always at our desks, ready to thumb through, no memorization necessary!)
  So, long story short, I had given up on art as something I did as a kid, and it was time to grow up and do 'grown up things.'
   Luckily, art still crept in to my life. I got a job as a jewelry designer for an accessory manufacturer which required drawing and assembly skills. Later, I worked at a newspaper (take that, AP test!) doing all sorts of work--- from writing stories, attending community meetings, photography, and covering everything from business to education to the arts and religion. 
   It was while interviewing artists and writers and musicians-- essentially, people following their dreams--- that I began to think of my dreams. I'd ask them, pencil in hand, "how did you accomplish this? How did you break out of everyday life to accomplish your dreams?"
  And their answer was startlingly simple--- they just began. And they kept at it.

    During this time Audrey was born. My job at the paper sure didn't pay much (it actually paid about the same as the cashier job I held as a college student, if that gives you an idea!) but it had health insurance. I was starting to grow weary of the grind of the newsroom and my sensitive nature made it hard to deal with the crackpots who love to call a newspaper and chew out whoever happens to answer the phone or cover a story. I'd go home on my lunch break and be with my baby and cry and just dread going back to what just felt like busy work, a means to an end and a puny paycheck. There are people who live and breath journalism, the thrill of the chase of a story, of delving into the here-and-now of a story, of investigating and sharing what's going on in their community; I was finding out I was not one of them.
   And so with the support of my husband, we began slowly piecing things together so that I could exit this line of work. We paid off some debt, we tracked down some independent insurance and finally I was able to hand in my notice when Audrey was about 8 months old. Halloween would be my last day at the paper!
   About a week before I was to leave, there was a big uproar at the paper, and these strangers came sauntering in. "We're your new owners!" They told us. And soon we found out these new owners...they didn't offer their employees insurance. You can imagine the immediate fallout from that--- we were, essentially, no longer part of the company who'd been offering us our insurance and we were uncovered immediately. Ironically, I was leaving the company so therefore the only one walking out the door that day with insurance; the one thing that had been keeping me tied to that job.

   I'm sharing this last part to sort of illustrate that we all have things we love but that we talk ourselves out of pursuing. It's the hardest thing, to be brave and follow your heart. Especially if it feels self indulgent. And of course, sometimes there's just no way to immediately get yourself out of one job into a new situation, or a new location, etc. But that's not a reason to never start.
   Even if its just working on that novel you've always wanted to write for 10 minutes during the day. Or painting a picture while the baby naps. Or taking one college course a semester. The first step on a journey is.....the first step.
   Now I'm one of those people, like those I interviewed, telling others to "just begin." You can't even imagine what will happen if you follow your heart.
  And these things that are your passions....I believe they're in us for a reason. They are our gift from God. We are meant to use these gifts. Sure, these gifts might not be things to make us rich or famous or successful in the eyes of the world. But they will make our lives fuller, and happier, which is worth so much more.


Art, Motherhood, and Mary

  I think when I first started to really really get Mary was Advent 2013. Because at that time, I was, as they say, "very great with child." I was so 'great' I couldn't tie my own shoes. I was exhausted. I was weary of this 9 months of this journey. And I couldn't imagine my husband saying to me "we gotta go load up for a road trip so I can go pay some taxes." However you say "Are you kidding me!?!" In ancient Aramaic, I'm sure Mary at least thought it. 

    On the Fountains of Carrots podcast last week, I was able to talk to the girls about how unique a person-- a presence-- St. Mary (Our Lady, Madonna, Mary Mother of God, Theotokos, The Virgin Mary, a woman of many endearments) is. She is vulnerable and tender, but she is fierce (in the best way) strong, protective and stoic. She has human emotion but unimaginable strength. It's a concept that was hard for me to understand (and to paint) until I went through the process of pregnancy, birth and parenthood.
   Because your little one is your heart--- before you even lay eyes on them. And its a vulnerable feeling for your heart to be out in the world, to see them cry or in pain or not feeling well-- you want to make it all better and take on their pain yourself. You want only the best and the most happiness for them, but life is often messy, bittersweet and hard.

     And so as we make our way through Lent, especially Holy Week, I can't help but think of Mary and what must have been going on in her heart. I can't imagine her great joy and terrible sorrow. And did she know from the beginning? 
   That's why in my Madonna and Child paintings, she is content and joyful, but also measured and strong. There's a whole lot of life coming. And some of it she will have to be unimaginably strong for. She has to see it through to the end.

    Mary, in my eyes, is much more than a passive supporting character on a Christmas Card. She is fascinating and dynamic. She's a strong woman, no doubt about it. Her life didnt just happen to her. She went for it with open arms and heart. I really admire that. No wonder I keep coming back to her with my paint brush, again and again. 

Tea With Babushka

    This little piece was so much fun. The idea for it came from the idea of the relationship between a girl and her granny--- or a little Russian or Ukrainian girl and her Babushka! My girl and my mama have a very tight bond. There's nothing she likes better than a day spent with her 'Ninny' as she calls her, hehe, and so that was the inspiration behind this piece; a fun afternoon at Babushka's house, feeling very fun and grown up as they have a nice tea together. On the left is the large Russian samovar for Russian tea, plus traditional Russian pastries with apples, jam and honey. Babushka lovingly serves the tea in her cottage kitchen, full of pretty dishes, an icon, and a vase of willow branches subtly announcing the approach of Easter. Out the window you can see that spring has come to the little settlement where the child and her babushka live.

   The 'characters' in this painting are the same grandmother and grand daughter that appear in my paintings Preparing the Easter Basket and The Easter Egg Tree. I guess these people are my 'Easter people' ;) I love imagining them in their little houses, what they're doing to prepare for the coming season and how their faith quietly takes part in the moments of their every day lives.

  I am pleased to report that this piece was listed and sold on etsy pretty quickly! But I fully intend to make prints. I hope you like it! It was a fun painting to create.

  Now, I am turning my attention to my commission work and coming up with ideas for new pieces. Thanks so much for coming by today!~ I'll talk with you soon--

     The days lately have been so busy, yet I feel like there is still so much to get done. Art and Mamahood....its a constant searching for balance and its a rare fleeting moment when it all feels done and complete. It is, I think, never done or complete!

   I'm tired of snow days making us home-bound from church. But I do enjoy quiet days with my family, watching a movie, working on some paintings, playing in my sketch book. I got the receipt letter back from International Orthodox Christian Charities from the donations that were made during the Christmas print special of the print and cards "A Child's Prayer." It's so satisfying to be able to contribute in a small way. My hope is that it goes towards the creation of something good, perhaps even a miracle? You never know!

  This weekend I was looking through my book The Private World of Tasha Tudor and working on some sketching in my little homemade sketch book. I wanted to play around with watercolors, which I havent done in a long time. I love the fluid, almost dreamy quality of water color, but it can be unforgiving. There's much more forgiveness and hope of salvaging a piece with acrylics or oils. With watercolor, you get what you get some times!

   I'm loving looking at my Tasha books though because I am so excited....this summer when we travel up to New England, I will be going on a tour of her cottage and garden! I am so thrilled about this, and just....flabbergasted in a way, that I will be walking into Corgi Cottage, seeing her home where she created and taking in her garden at the height of its summer glory. I feel so lucky and fortunate. And so glad I will be there with a great friend and our girls. For the first time in a long time, I am looking forward to summer!

  Anyhow...I have a little one tugging at me, so I better cut this short. Thanks for your visit today. Wishing an early spring for all of us! Have a good week---