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New Painting: The Goldfinch

   I managed to finish another small painting this week--- "The Goldfinch", inspired by a recent visit to the Mabee-Gerrer Museum last week.
   The museum houses an amazing collection of art from ancient times to modern, but my favorite area was the medieval art, much of which was religious in theme.
   I decided to make my visit to the museum, which is about an hour and a half away, because I was interested in seeing real retablos, like the ones I talked about last week. I saw where this Oklahoma museum had a nice collection of religious works and so I set off one day, baby in tow, to visit.
   The museum is located on the grounds of St. Gregory University, which is a Benedictine college. It was founded by Fr. Gregory Gerrer, whose natural artistic talent led to him being sent to Europe to study the masters and the collection of his own personal art collection. His story is so amazing--- the grand finale being he painted the Pope himself-- that I think I'll save that for a future post. But til then, just know that the whole story and the museum are both equally fascinating.

  I loved being able to see up close and personal such OLD and incredible masterpieces. Something about seeing right before my eyes altar pieces that have been prayed and gazed at for centuries is thrilling to me. How much history, life, love and sorrow these great works have seen. And now here they are, available for me to see, out in the middle of Oklahoma!

  Some of my favorite pieces were depictions of the Madonna and Child (of course!) and a few of the painting had goldfinches in them. Reading the descriptions of the painting, I learned the symbolism of the goldfinch-- a bird that eats thorns-- and its connection with the crucifixion. The birds in the paintings are fairly brown--- not what I as an American envision when I think of a goldfinch. So when I decided to paint my own Madonna and Child with a Goldfinch, I looked up the European bird and found this pretty creature with the brownish cream feathers with a mask of red and a ribbon of yellow through its wings. 

  My piece was created to invoke the style of a very old altar piece, like a retablo, but it still has my style. What I love about the concept of retablos as that the style isnt as constrained and exact as pure icon painting. I am terrible at following directions and being meticulous ;) so....retablos it is!

I listed this painting, which I called simply "The Goldfinch" last night and I am so thrilled to say it wasn't in the shop long and sold. If you'd like to catch an original, I highly suggest following me on instagram because I'm able to share work and updates so much faster on there. And I'd love to send some art your way! But never fear, I'm sure a print is in order for "The Goldfinch."

  Before I sign off though, I wanted to share with you one of these old inspiring paintings--- here on the right is an old altar piece of The Madonna and Child with a little gold finch in the Christ Child's hand. This painting was a huge inspiration to me as I painted my own piece--- the rich colors, the aging (although my aging is fake, lol) the beautiful tones of the skin and all the gold. 
   For the first time with this painting, I experiemented with liquid gold leaf--- that's what the background is. Its so brilliant and shining, I loved how it came out.

  I hope you enjoy this new piece as well! And keep watching for new little originals! It is my plan to continue to have small originals to offer while I work on my big publishing projects. I am so excited that this is what I get to spend my day doing, and I am so thankful that you guys like what I make and come visit me here and on other social media. Thank you! You dont know now much I appreciate it...

Til next time!~

Original Painting: Our Lady of Guadalupe

    Good morning! Here we are starting another week, another Monday. Let's enjoy some folk art then, to start the week off right!
  My latest painting was this little rendition of "Our Lady of Guadalupe." Considered by many to be the emblem of Mexico and a beloved version of "Our Lady", "Our Lady of Guadalupe has a fascinating story and the original, miraculous piece is still on view in Mexico today.

  According to Catholic Online: "The opening of the New World brought with it both fortune-seekers and religous preachers desiring to convert the native populations to the Christian faith. One of the converts was a poor Aztec indian named Juan Diego. On one of his trips to the chapel, Juan was walking through the Tepayac hill country in central Mexico. Near Tepayac Hill he encountered a beautiful woman surrounded by a ball of light as bright as the sun. Speaking in his native tongue, the beautiful lady identified herself:
"My dear little son, I love you. I desire you to know who I am. I am the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. He created all things. He is in all places. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth. I desire a church in this place where your people may experience my compassion. All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know my Mother's Heart in this place. Here I will see their tears; I will console them and they will be at peace. So run now to Tenochtitlan and tell the Bishop all that you have seen and heard."
  As the Bishops in these stories always do, he demanded proof of this miracle. Juan Diego was then walking near the hill again, this time to visit a sick relative, when the apparition appeared to him again, claiming that his relative would be healed if Juan Diego would pick roses from the hillside to bring to the bishop as his miracle.

   Juan Diego did as he was asked, which was a miracle itself as roses didn't grow in this arid landscape, especially in the middle of December. But he found the roses, gathered them in his cloak, and when he brought them to the bishop, he dropped the cloak and let the roses fall to the ground. The bishop and his attendants were said to gasp in amazement--- not at the flowers, but at the perfect image of Mary that appeared fused into the fabric of the cloak. The image was "Our Lady of Guadalupe, clothed in a blue star covered cloak and pink dress with a ribbon around her waist. She is standing on a dark crescent moon, an ancient Aztec symbol, held up by a cherub, a very Christian element.

  What was also so interesting about this particular image of Mary is that she is shown as a "mestiza", a young woman of mixed features who is both Spanish and Aztec. Her image is one of the first to show the intermingling of these two different cultures, and was instrumental in bringing in many of the area's native population into the Christian faith. Because of this, she has become a symbol of national and religious pride for generations of Mexicans-- and one of the most beloved renditions of Mary in the world.

  If you'd like to learn more about Our Lady of Guadalupe, you can visit these sites:

Catholic Online


Encyclopedia Brittanica

 I am happy to report that this piece has already sold and is on her way to her new home! I am busy painting more small originals that I will list when they're done, so keep an eye on the etsy shop!
Happy Monday,

Art Inspiration: Retablos

  I am always on the look-out for new art to inspire me, and lately I've been exploring a treasure trove of antique art called 'retablos.'  And what are retablos, you ask? Well they are the best kind of folk art--- small paintings used for home altars to venerate saints. These pieces were made by regular people as an expression of devotion--- usually on pieces of wood, tin or copper.  They have their origins in Catholic Europe but really florished in Spanish Colonial areas like Mexico and the American South West.
   Being so far away from Europe and their classic artists while still having a strong Catholic faith, these everyday people used the elements they had around them--- planks of pine, pieces of tin and the elements of nature to create their paints--- and created some of the most stunning folk art I've ever seen.
   What I love about the genre of Spanish Colonial art-- which also includes Santos (carved statues of saints) and Ex Votos (small paintings created with text added to share thanks for a special blessing or even a miracle experienced by a person) is that they mean so much more than just the piece of art itself. The artwork isnt created in a vacuum, but were part of the culture on the whole. They say so much--- about the faith, the home lives, the day-to-day living of the people who created them. I love that so much....I love art that is earthy and useful. Folk art, not fine art...that has always been what captures my attention. The art of the every day artist, painting by the fireside. And these pieces are the epitome of that.
   I thought I'd share some images with you, all of them antiques featured on the website Colonialarts.com. Check out these stunning pieces of folk art:

  Needless to say, i've found all these pieces really inspiring, and I'd like to create some of my own. This year I'm going to be busy with some publishing projects, but I want to offer new original pieces that I can share with you all while I work on these other things that I will have to wait to share with you. I think art like these retablos-- small paintings that can be used in your home, for your family, would be such fun projects to take on. I can think of nothing better that creating a little piece you could add to your little home alter, or tuck on the mantle or the kitchen window seal. My imagination is just whirling, and I cant wait to share with you.....

Til next time!~

*The images used in this post are all antique pieces shown on the website colonialarts.com. Be sure to check out all the amazing art to be found there, simply gorgeous!

New Originals In Etsy

     Hey there!~ Here we are starting another week....its supposed to be positively spring time here in Oklahoma--- a big tease, I'm sure, before we're hit with ice and snow. That is always what happens!

   I've been busy over the weekend adding some new original paintings to my etsy shop--- and these are really special! These 8x10" paintings are the originals of the illustrations that appear in the book Mary Holds My Hand by Michele Chronister. I'd love for them to find wonderful new homes! And Lent and Easter are the perfect time for these paintings to do just that:

   All of these paintings are now available on etsy! They were so much fun to make, so much thought and research went into their creation. Hope you love them!~

Giveaway winner!

Hi everyone! Thanks SO MUCH for all of you who entered my giveaway for the St. Elizabeth of Hungary print! I appreciate all of you who took time to come by and visit!~

  The winner of the print is---- JENNIFER!

And if you'd like to buy your own St. Elizabeth of Hungary print, I have plenty of prints in my etsy shop!
Thanks, friends!~

A Berkshire Botanical Garden Ramble...

   Here we are, in the heart of cold 'mid-winter.' It's that time of year when I start looking at books and magazines about gardening, and dreaming audacious dreams about the coming year's planting plans. At the moment, it's hard to look outside at all the brown and gray and feel inspired, but I know there are dozens of bulbs tucked just beneath the surface, and buds forming on the peach tree. Spring is making it's plans.

   Until it arrives though, I thought I'd share some photos of lush, gorgeousness as a feast for winter weary eyes! Last summer we visited Stockbridge, Mass. on our epic tour of New England. One of the highlights of that day was a visit to The Berkshire Botanical Garden. It was the loveliest, loveliest place. And looking at the photos now.....my heart does a little pitter-pat. Come see....

   A table set for a 'pick your own salad' meal. It was so neat! And so pretty! The gardens were just a wonderland of beautiful greens of all shades, and textures too. Just look at that amazing weeping pine in the back ground! 

   We arrived at the garden late in the day and it was a little overcast and drizzly, which meant our party had the entire garden to ourselves! Despite it being late June it was a little chilly, just how I like it. The garden seemed to just unfold to drink up the soft rain and it was perhaps the perfect way to see the garden.

    One of the highlights of the garden is the section set up just for children, and the beautiful, homespun kitchen gardens. I came away from these parts of the garden so inspired about my own planting, especially all the rustic trellises and fencing. It had such a simple, old fashioned feel. I loved it!~

    I hope you've enjoyed this little tour around The Berkshire Botanical Garden. If you find yourself in Stockbridge, I highly suggest a visit. What a wonderful place to ramble and surround yourself in beauty......

New Print: St. Elizabeth of Hungary

   It was a beautiful little mountain church-- not in Europe, but the Ozarks, that first introduced me to St. Elizabeth of Hungary.
   The catholic church of that name is nestled into the wooded hills of Arkansas was a stop on a visit to see family in the area, and I was captivated by the beautiful garden, the sweet chapel, and the statue of the young woman at the top of the path leading down to it all.

   That statue was of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, who through fragments of stories I've learned was a beautiful and kindhearted princess, born in Hungary and married to a Germanic prince.
   Faithful since childhood, young Elizabeth and her betrothed had a loving relationship that led to an increase in both their faiths, and three children.
   Elizabeth, as affluent as she was, was determined to spend her time caring for others--- especially the sick and poor near where she lived. She built a hospital at the foot of the mountain of her castle-- Wartburg Castle in modern-day Germany, and after her husband's death she devoted herself entirely to caring for the sick and less fortunate.

   There are many tales associated with Elizabeth--- about her sneaking food, such as bread, out to the poor and when being questioned about it by those who didn't agree with this practice, the bread she carried turned to roses.
  I am happy to share that prints of this painting are now available in my etsy shop! They are professionally printed on linen paper and would make a sweet gift for anyone who admires this popular saint.

   To celebrate the completion of this painting and its promise of spring (how I enjoyed painting roses and look forward to blooms again!) I am giving away a FREE PRINT to a lucky winner. All you need to do is comment on THIS POST--- tell me why you'd like to have St. Elizabeth in your home!

  I would love it too if you shared this post on your facebook, instagram, twitter, etc. and if you do--- let me know! Leave an additional comment and increase your chances of winning!

  I'll choose a winner on Thursday February 11. Best of luck!~

Book Review: "When God Made You"

    We recently got our hands on a 'hot off the press' copy of "When God Made You" by Jane G. Meyer and illustrated by Megan Elizabeth Gilbert. What a sweet little book!
   The premise of the books is the beautiful things God was thinking of when he was creating each and every person.
   The book explores the things used to make an array of children across the globe-- cheeriness, fireworks and pink fizzy candy trapped inside a purse to make Brigid, a golden chalice full of deep thoughts to make Hikaru, black silken hair from a desert horse's mane wound around a silver flute for Alia, and so on. 
   And as God breathes breath into each person, he commands what he wants them to do with their life-- "Dance!" "Speak!" "Sing!"

   Meyer's beautiful text and description of the things that go into making each child are so inventive, lovely and poignant. The reader cant help but ponder, "what wonderful things were used to make me?"

   The text is set off nicely by the winsome and colorful illustrations of Megan Elizabeth Gilbert, which use mixed media elements and bright colors to add to the description of each child.

   The book is published by Ancient Faith Publishing, an Orthodox Christian publishing house, yet is written and illustrated in a way that lends itself beautifully to many faith backgrounds.

   It is also captivating for a variety of ages--- my nearly 9 year old enjoyed reading the text herself, and letting the unique word combinations and names roll off her tongue.

  The toddler was more interested in the pictures, especially the front and back sleeves which depict all sorts of different people-- from saints to cowboys, to children doing handstands.

    "When God Made You" is now available through Ancient Faith Publishing and Amazon.com. Also be sure to check out Jane's blog, which is such a fun and inspiring read, and great to share with any little budding authors that might live in your house!

    Now, off to read more great books!~

Getting Creative for Candlemas

        When we first started exploring the liturgical year of the Christian church, one of my favorite things to learn about were the old holidays that you just dont hear about any more, with lovely lyrical names straight out of a Jane Austen novel. One of these lovely old holidays is today--- Candlemas!

  Candlemas-- "candlemus"-- in your best old English accent--- celebrates the presentation of the baby Jesus at the temple and the purification of the Virgin Mary. As the story goes, St. Simeon and Anna recognize the infant as the longed for Messiah, the 'light of the world' in human form.

   Old tradition holds that this day is the day people would bring their candles to the church to be blessed by their priest. The candles, so special and blessed, were supposed to be able to ward of any ghosts or goblins which might be roaming the hillsides, and keep the little cottages safe and under God's protection. 

   There is no better sign of safety and warmth than a candle in the window, is there not? And in this time, as winter wanes but spring is not yet here, Candlemas ushers in the promise of Lent and later, Easter.

    If you've got little ones who you'd like to explore this old Holy Day with, a fun activity that is easy to do is create your own candles! This year I've partnered with the Anglican living blog The Homely Hours to offer this fun printable of The Blessed Mother presenting Jesus to Simeon, framed with snowdrops.

   The coloring page is available FREE to download HERE and you can print it out on sticker paper to adhere to a plain votive (which you can usually find at your local grocery store or dollar store) or if you'd rather, modge podge the finished image to the votive glass!

  Artist Bley Hack from Esther Bley has also offered up a beautiful ready-to-use Candlemas image that is so lovely and will look pretty displayed all year long. I just fell in love with her design!

  If you'd like more information on Anglican Candlemas, The Homely Hours has this great post.
For Candlemas information within other traditions you can visit Carrots for Michaelmas for a Roman Catholic perspective and The Greek Orthodox Diocese of America for the Orthodox Christian perspective. 

  All in all, its a lovely little day that I hope you enjoy as much as I do!~

The Feast of St. Brigid

   Good morning and happy Feast of St.Brigid! Brigid-- or Brigid of Ireland, Bride of Ireland or "Mary of the Gael'-- is one of my favorite saints. She was Irish, strong willed, inspiring, and giving. 
   The daughter of an Irish Chieftain and a slave woman, the story of Brigid is cloaked in legend, but one thing remains the same--- she was a strong woman of faith who created her own destiny from an early age.

Get my St. Brigid print HERE in my etsy shop

     It is said that Brigid converted to Christianity under the influence of none other than Saint Patrick himself. The daughter of a king and a slave, she was at once half princess, and half the lowliest of society. This made her compassionate and giving, and she was often in trouble for giving away the riches of her father!

   This painting of St. Brigid that I created a few years back was my very first saint portrait-- and what a fun saint to try to capture! To me, Brigid is spunky and brave, and beautiful in that her personality shines through her. Perhaps she had unruly red hair and freckles, but I'm sure her kindness made her simply lovely, and she had a way of drawing others to her and making things happen.

  So much so that she was able to convert many to her relatively new faith-- including her pagan father--- and is credited with founding the famous monastery of Kildare.

  She's a fun saint to get to know through her numerous legends, and share with children-- especially with girls who you want to inspire!

   Here are a few fun St. Brigid facts, projects and books from around the web for you to enjoy:

1. Make a St. Brigid's Cross from the instructions on THIS PAGE

2. Recipe for St. Bridig Irish Oaten Bread at Catholic Cuisine

3. In interesting video about the Celtic mythology of "Brigid" the Celtic goddess and the saint

4. Children's Book- The Cloak of St. Brigid

5. Children's eBook- The Life of St. Brigid

St. Brigid's Blessing:
May Brigid bless the house wherein we dwell.
Bless every fireside, every wall and door.
Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof.
Bless every hand that toils to bring its joy.
Bless every foot that walks portals through.
May Brigid bless the house that shelters us.