“Cherry Season”, oil on canvas, 25 x 30 cms, June 2020
One saturday’s “harvest” from the market. It was June and cherry season had just begun. There was a sea of them, how could I not bring home a handful, at least?!?
Seeing this bright red, heart-shaped cherry made me smile. Isn’t it always a thrill when we see a symbol of love and joy in daily life? Love —- always in season, and in this time of COVID, ever more in style.
“Ever yours”, Oil on Canvas, 50 x 70 cms, July 2020
The blue scarf in this painting is the backside to a print of one of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Irises” paintings done at the Saint Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France, in the last year before his death in 1890.
Today marks the 130th year since Vincent’s death. He is arguably the most beloved painter of the 20th century but ironically, he only sold one painting during his lifetime. He was both prolific in his painting and writing. Of his many inspiring quotes, my favorite is, “It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love, is well done.”
I cannot help wondering how Vincent would have felt about social media if he were alive today. Would he think it a boon or bane to his work? I think he would have been a star on social media if he allowed it and sell more of his work, if not all of them!
My path in art was forged after I experienced his “Starry Night On The Rhone”, and his writings have been a steady influence in my art, my life. Vincent’s dedication to his work, his passion for life, the way that he saw God’s handwriting in nature and how he transposed what he saw and felt on his canvases; how he allowed such beauty to pierce through his sadness and disappointments — all remain relevant and worthy wisdom to this day.
So today I celebrate his life and honor him with every like and every kind word on social media that others have offered for my work. Let it be my gift for the man who loved so greatly and much that his work and his words continue to inspire us all to this day. You have performed much and accomplished much, dear Vincent. Well done. Truly, well done.
“Summer Blues and Greens in Porta San Niccolò”, oil on panel, 35×50 cms, June 2020
A landscape work I did in June 2020. Spring was cusping into summer then and lockdown rules had just eased. For as long as I followed safety protocols, I was free to paint outside. At last!
Clear skies of blue and spectacular natural light on everything, all waiting to be savored since the beginning of Spring. This unassuming spot in the San Niccolo Quartiere in Florence, overgrown with grass and dotted with wild purple flowers was the banquet of beauty that so thrilled my eager painter’s heart! I painted faithfully everyday en plein air, and by noon of the 4th day I had only the overgrowth to paint on the foreground and the painting would be finished. I was excited to finish!
I stopped work and laid out essentials for a quick lunch when I heard the loud, strange whirring sound of a motor approaching my spot from the other end of the garden. It was the city gardener and his mower, aiming for my treasured, unpainted overgrowth! I was in shock as he smiled at me to say, I did not have to worry, I could go on and eat my lunch…..my heart sank in a silent scream, “yes, but my foreground!!!!!! You mowed down every tall blade and purple lovely in it!!!!” I was heartbroken but I also knew he was only doing his job. Moments of secret lamentation followed and then I realized, this is exactly why I choose to paint from life. This is life —- the gardener doing his job and so I, too, must do mine — by painting without the overgrowth and finding beauty in what remains of the garden.
So this is the finished work from those early days of summer. My wish is it makes you smile for at least one reason just as it always reminds me of that 4th day and its bit of tragedy, that today in hindsight, is this work’s added dose of unmistakable, unforgettable humor. Oh Life! ❤️
Lockdown rules have eased in Florence and we are now restarting lives once paused without warning by the pandemic. The days feel fresher and every moment spent outside to run errands, to work or reconnect with each other sparkles with gratitude. I found this feather on my way to the art supply store and was pleasantly surprised, it was my first feather sighting after the lockdown. I always believed that feathers are a sign of protection and guidance from Heaven. Perhaps this very one is a reminder that as life goes on and we have no choice but to live with this virus, we have a choice to trust in God who watches over us with mercy and providence, and trust also in ourselves, that our learnings over the last three months will carry us safely through to the end of this pandemic.
True, this virus shows us how fragile we are but it also pointed us to the things that truly matter. We are still here, ever capable of making a difference, ever able to ease each other’s suffering. Seen this way, we have not lost the means to keep this world and each other safe, despite this virus. As we move forward and restart our lives, let our trust in God and ourselves be our refuge and our strength. In this, our trust is well-placed.
May this feather painting inspire you to love and care as deeply as you are loved and cared for, today and always.
“Trust (A Feather for Ana)”, oil on canvas, 23 x 23 cms, 2020
A chorus of sunset paintings done from my balcony last week. It was first purposed as a diversion from the Still Lifes I have been painting indoors since the lockdown began in early March. Then it became a challenge to me, to try and capture the movement of light across the sky just before the sun turned over its reins to the moon and its nocturnal magic. I had about an hour to work every day and within that hour were many decisions to make along with mistakes, plenty of them! And yes, there were remedies to be dealt and lived with, as the sun descended and merged into the horizon each day. Thirty minutes into the first painting, I thought, “Whatever made me think this was the diversion I needed??!!” Humor in art is a must-have and just as important as persistence and a hopeful spirit. So, I soldiered on each day.
It was not so much about what I accomplished as much as what I learned from this week of chasing sunsets, that really made a difference. I learned that it is good to take what we are given for the day and make the most of it. Unlike Still Lifes that allow deliberate arrangements in composition, sunsets are spontaneous and unrehearsed. Painting them taught me to remain open and flexible to Mother Nature’s parade of light for the day. I learned to let things be, having faith that I had what I needed to finish each painting at day’s end. I learned that what work I had for the day was a gift and a grace and that will always be enough.
These paintings were a masterclass in humility and I am equally thankful for the sense of wonder and joy that I found along the way. Now I share them with you, with thoughts of all good things for you. Loads of love always! ♥️🙏🏻🌈👩🏻🎨
“The Sunsets of May”, oil on panel, 25×35 cms, May 2020
I read Dancing With The Gods at a time when crushing disappointment over my art was upon me. Lost in confusion and regret, Mr. Nerburn’s words acknowledged my fears yet challenged them by affirming my own experience as an aspiring, hesitant creative.
It is a book that speaks from a place of truth and also tenderness.
“You will live in a world of uncertainty, never knowing if your creations are good enough, always fearing financial cataclysm, unsure if your dreams are more than self-delusion….But you will also live in a world of joy, with its magical moments when the act of creation lifts you and propels you with a power that seems to come from beyond yourself. …. And know the miraculous experience of having intimate conversations with people long dead and far away through your personal dialogue with their art. You will know what it is to work with love.”
Beyond words, this work redeemed my spirit as it pushed me forward, onward in my art. I highly recommend it as a reading constant to all of us who, on a daily basis, wrestle with fear and doubt about our work and passions, yet experience subtle, genuine moments of grace and providence in our pursuits.
Finding Wabi Sabi was sweet serendipity. Then, it was a home decorating concept, greatly appealing to my sensibility for a natural, earthy approach to home living. Now, it is a way of being that brings naturalness and beauty, a necessary peace, to my life and relationships.
Wabi Sabi is a Japanese concept, a way of life that “places value on the transient, unfinished and imperfect nature of life. It sees beauty in the rough edges of both people and things. It is at peace with what is. It values all that is real and authentic, finding joy and fulfillment in the good, bad and ugly rather than longing for unattainable fantasies of the ideal.” ¹
We believe in the ideal and flawless, and everywhere we are hounded by the urgency of manicured perfection. Some of the most beautiful words ever written, “Let it be” and “All is well” now feel like pieces of distant wisdom, irrelevant and unattractive to our passion for the idyll. Still, the true and imperfect nature of life remains. We suffer from persistent shortfalls in our relationships. We think we deserve more and so continue to demand more. We and our loves, constantly tugging at each other’s imperfections, in an attempt to wield them into anything but. What toxicity we unknowingly feed each other on such precious, borrowed time. Where is the friendship and what happened to the love?
What if we stopped making demands on the size and shape of our loving? What if we practice friendship to practice love? What if we “love without agenda”²? What if we simply let things be and allowed life to ebb and flow as it should? What if we assured ourselves that all is well and believed it enough to finally see the handwriting of God in everything?
Know that I ventured far enough into my What Ifs to say, each gives peace and joy and fulfillment. Know that the serendipity of Wabi Sabi is also practical wisdom. Know that love and truth and beauty flow forth and back on the river of imperfection yet never fade. Know that faith moves mountains and God never forsakes.
This is my experience, and quite frankly, here is my heart! I hope it is helpful.
¹Jacques, Andrea. Wabi-Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for an Authentic Life. . Kyosei Press. Kindle Edition.
² Chona Carino Solano
Four years seems too long, this update is overdue.
I observed that absence gives presence more meaning. Same with spaces, gaps and silences. All of them scant in our fashionably loaded schedules these days. How convinced we are that they are intolerable in our conversations, our routines, our weekends. Are they?
A film titled “The Bookshop” based on Penelope Fitzgerald’s book starring Emily Mortimer and Bill Nighy reminded me otherwise. The writing abounds with beautiful dialogue where gaps and silences hold more meaning than a flurry of words ever could. I think of painting, and how chiaroscuro, the play of light and shadow mastered so wonderfully by Caravaggio, give paintings precious depth and lifelike qualities. In rendering the absence of light, its presence powerfully transports us to that moment in the life of Christ. We too are filled with awe and terror like Thomas, in touching His wounded side. In music, it is the same. Silences in orchestral pieces are essential and purposed. By writing gaps for all other instruments during the violin solos, Vivaldi elevated beauty into a sublime symphony that is the Four Seasons. Hemingway did the same in writing, he carved poignant stories by silencing the unnecessary. “For sale : baby shoes. Never worn.”
We feel this too in life — when we are without something or someone, that absence amplifies the gift of their presence. More so in prayer, when we lose our words to tears, we find sacred spaces that are Heaven’s touch point.
Sacred spaces, necessary gaps, purposed silences. Attendant absences. They are not intolerable. Let them be our places and points of finding the essential, the meaningful, and especially, the most beautiful in life.
It has been four years. I hope you find this useful.
I have heard it said that paintings are an imprint of the artist’s soul. Each day that I spend marrying pigment to brush on canvas or panel gives credence to this view. It almost feels like a moving and active meditation, a time for the soul’s communion with its experience of reality, translated thoughtfully onto the painting. Long and tedious work on challenge areas eventually reward me with unexpected breakthroughs, preceded by my own heart racing as I paint angles and values with bated breath, to visibly convincing positions. At last, her foot appears mid-stride. This was my most recent and significant breakthrough.
Although I am convinced that painting is my vocation in life, I am grateful for the day job that I enjoy very much. It keeps me balanced and supports my art. It allows me to aspire towards paintings that represent an inner eternal flame for beauty, truth and meaning beyond the tangible and the daily routine. My hope is for others to view these works, these so-called imprints, and to derive joy and substance from what I have seen and felt in life, so far. I agree that art happens as the work unfolds from within the artist and just as meaningfully, art happens when the viewer is engaged and the work evokes an awareness for the substantial in his life. I seek to bring joy this way.
Each work is a gift from a heart that burns within; from a heart filled with gratitude for the gift that it can never fully deserve but can only render in faith, for others.