Day 10. Magic.

“A Little Bit of Magic” 8×8 oil on canvas

Late in December I started a sketchbook to start brainstorming ideas for the 31. Very few sketches have made it into actual paintings but I think the act of sketching itself helped serve as a warm up, a loosening. The paintings that did come forth did so through that little jostling of planning even if the what of the plan has proved quite different. 

I also wrote in the sketchbook some notes, phrases or mantras I’ve picked up over the years. From my sketchbook on December 28th. 

To Remember:

Things are hard before they are easy

Enjoy the journey (ahem, see day 1)

The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas

There is no path to happiness, happiness is the path

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do

Open mind, open heart

I have the courage to step forward, even when I’m afraid. 

 

I knew I would need reminders so I figured I’d write them down before I needed them. And how I need them now!

Today’s painting is one I started long ago and has been sitting on the fold-out table of my studio for months. It needed less work than I’d originally thought, and it was refreshing to work on the middle/end of a painting instead of the beginning because that’s what I love most. I don’t like the beginning part. It feels like an exhausting, painful, but necessary preamble. It’s the “agree to our terms” box you have to check before you can purchase anything online. It’s the form you have to fill out for the 100th time at the doctor’s office listing your medical history before you can see a doctor about a sore throat. It’s the countertop you have to clear before you can cook. 

 But middles and ends are full of the magic. Magic, I’ll concede, that is only possible because of the grind of the beginning. 

I’m calling this one “A Little Bit of Magic” and I’m grateful that I started the incantation long ago so that today I could see it flutter to life. 

If you have any mantras or helpful phrases that serve to remind you of something essential or calm you when you most need it, I’d love to know. 

** I’m doing something a little different this year. I’ll post each painting at (or close to) 10 am each day this month and they will be available for purchase on my site. However, the pieces will not be shipped out or available for pick up until February 26, after the run of the gallery show.

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Day 9. Take your own advice.

“Taking the World into my Arms,” 6×6, oil on canvas

I was having some trouble in the studio, so I took the advice I recently gave another artist: paint something familiar while you wait for the next inspiration to come. It usually comes when you’re painting, afterall.

So I pulled three figures from a photograph of a second line band at one of the many weddings where I’ve painted and started playing with their shapes and colors on a 6×6 canvas.

In her poem “When Death Comes” Mary Oliver writes, 

 

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life 

I was a bride married to amazement. 

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”

 

I like to think of this particular band as commemorating the marriage Oliver describes.

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Day 8. There you Always are

“Sometimes I Need Only to Stand Wherever I am to be Blessed” 8 in dimater, oil on canvas

Yesterday, after posting my painting with the great blue heron, I went for a run. I haven’t been running much lately–  the December marathon felt like a triple exclamation point and now I hardly know how to start the next sentence. But I went, and about halfway in, a great blue heron flew above and over me and then disappeared into the vast distance.

If you followed my 31 in 31 last year, you know that the great blue heron, particularly one flying above me on a run, was a big theme. And if you didn’t, you’re now all caught up. 

There you are, Love, I thought in reference to my day 7 painting. There you always are. 

When I look at today’s painting, I hear a line from Mary Oliver’s Poem “It was Early” which I’ve included below.

 

It was Early

By Mary Oliver

It was early, which has always been my hour to begin looking at the world

and of course, even in the darkness, to begin listening into it,

especially under the pines where the owl lives and sometimes calls out

as I walk by, as he did on this morning. So many gifts!

What do they mean?  In the marshes where the pink light was just arriving

the mink with his bristle tail was stalking the soft-eared mice,

and in the pines the cones were heavy, each one ordained to open.

Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.

Little mink, let me watch you.

Little mice, run and run.

Dear pine cone, let me hold you as you open.

 

 

** I’m doing something a little different this year. I’ll post each painting at (or close to) 10 am each day this month and they will be available for purchase on my site. However, the pieces will not be shipped out or available for pick up until February 26, after the run of the gallery show.

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"If You Want to go Far" 24x30 inches, oil on canvas I started this month with a bike, and I knew I wanted to end with one too. Only this time there’s not just one, but several. All month I’ve been thinking about the African proverb that says “If you want to go fast,...

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Day 4. Displaced

“Holy Longing” 8×8, oil on canvas

Back in November I was in Baton Rouge visiting my brother and we took a walk in his neighborhood which is in the middle of town, full of big historic homes and beautiful well-kept lawns. When I spotted a fox in someone’s yard, I at first thought it had to be a dog. Then I thought it was a statue of a fox, yard decor. 

But I got closer and it was, unmistakably, an actual fox. They were doing some work on the lakes nearby, dredging the bottom, and the wildlife seemed to have been affected. 

The fox looked out of place next to the large three-story brick house with the row of trimmed crepe myrtles that lined the expansive driveway. A golden retriever was sauntering down the road from the other direction with its owner and the fox stood still, just watching while the dog happily walked by, none the wiser. 

The fox was beautiful and its environment felt tragic. It didn’t belong with the golden retriever or on a pristinely paved road. It was made for something else. Somewhere else. 

The longing for something less tame, that’s what I think spoke to me. 

So here’s day 4. A fox. The suggestion of a halo (do you see it?). A little bit of holy in our longings for the wild.

** I’m doing something a little different this year. I’ll post each painting at (or close to) 10 am each day this month and they will be available for purchase on my site. However, the pieces will not be shipped out or available for pick up until February 26, after the run of the gallery show. 

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Day 3. Ease.

 

“You Have My Full Attention” 4×4, oil on canvas

“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed”

– Mary Oliver

 

A while back, before it finally and suddenly turned winter(ish) cold, I was leaving my house to go for a walk and stopped a few yards from my driveway to watch a very large bee who was going about her business in the weed-flowers that had grown thick, tall and lush in the ditch where we often lose soccer balls that have to be oh so carefully retrieved without falling in. 

Ever since I started reading Mary Oliver, I see things like bees as a call to prayer and prayer as the art of paying deep and loving attention.

So I did what I knew she would have me do, and I lingered and watched with my full attention. The bee, so often mischaracterized as “busy,” was diving its entire body into the heart of a bloom. There was no hesitation, no embarrassment, just a full-bodied response to its purpose, and, perhaps, its delight. 

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore, but I did think of a word I want to guide me in 2024. 

Ease

The opposite of hustle and hurry. A deep and long and attention-filled breath. And while the bee may have long been a mascot for hurry, what I saw in the weeds was something different– an ease and whole-heartedness I’m using as my New Year’s aspiration. 

What word speaks to you this new year? 

** I’m doing something a little different this year. I’ll post each painting at (or close to) 10 am each day this month and they will be available for purchase on my site. However, the pieces will not be shipped out or available for pick up until February 26, after the run of the gallery show. 

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More From The Blog

Day 31. If you want to go far…

"If You Want to go Far" 24x30 inches, oil on canvas I started this month with a bike, and I knew I wanted to end with one too. Only this time there’s not just one, but several. All month I’ve been thinking about the African proverb that says “If you want to go fast,...

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Day 29. Intuition

"Follow Your Intuition" 9x12 inches, oil on paper My art studio is a 300 square foot storage room underneath our raised house. I have an AC unit but no heat, so for a handful of days during the year it’s miserably cold. Those days are almost always in January. Those...

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Day 28. Except the Opposite

"The Birds are Circling" 9x12 inches, oil on paper Today’s painting is a companion piece to yesterday’s. As I was painting it, I kept thinking “The vultures are circling…except maybe the opposite.” I used photographs of a white-tailed tropicbird for a reference for...

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Day 2. Beginnings are Hard

“Splendidly Small, Brilliantly Blue” 4×4, oil on canvas

Beginnings are hard because they necessarily involve loss. With the first stroke, suddenly what once held infinite possibilities now displays just one. And a completed painting, a recorded song, a finished poem is now only what it is instead of all the infinite things it could have been.

But to do the thing that annihilates possibility is, I’m fairly certain, both quite brave and essential. We are not just mind or spirit but bodies. And our ideas, hopes, joys and sorrows need bodies too. 

I find myself every December daydreaming about my 31 in 31. How maybe this time I won’t do the really really small pieces because why not go just a little bigger? And then January hits, and I reach for the smallest canvas I can find because it’s the only thing between me and giving up entirely. The possibilities are just too big and the small canvas is a metaphor for creating any work of art no matter its size. It will inevitably be the smallest fraction of what it could have been. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. And of course, life doesn’t stop just because I decided to paint every day (a sentence I had to finish after a telehealth appointment for one of the kids called in. I had completely forgotten about it.)

Today’s painting is of a splendid fairywren, a bird I had discovered during one of my very early daily painting practices and have loved ever since. I was really interested in blurring some edges especially since blue and orange are opposite colors (across from each other on the color wheel). What happens when we break the sharp distinctions between opposites? What happens when blue flows a little into orange and orange welcomes it? What happens when we start small, and see what one thing transpires from a universe of potential?

** I’m doing something a little different this year. I’ll post each painting at (or close to) 10 am each day this month and they will be available for purchase on my site. However, the pieces will not be shipped out or available for pick up until February 26, after the run of the gallery show. 

Comments

Subscribe to Blog via Email

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More From The Blog

Day 31. If you want to go far…

"If You Want to go Far" 24x30 inches, oil on canvas I started this month with a bike, and I knew I wanted to end with one too. Only this time there’s not just one, but several. All month I’ve been thinking about the African proverb that says “If you want to go fast,...

read more

Day 29. Intuition

"Follow Your Intuition" 9x12 inches, oil on paper My art studio is a 300 square foot storage room underneath our raised house. I have an AC unit but no heat, so for a handful of days during the year it’s miserably cold. Those days are almost always in January. Those...

read more

Day 28. Except the Opposite

"The Birds are Circling" 9x12 inches, oil on paper Today’s painting is a companion piece to yesterday’s. As I was painting it, I kept thinking “The vultures are circling…except maybe the opposite.” I used photographs of a white-tailed tropicbird for a reference for...

read more