Draw Me Ever So Close

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Years ago I penned a song titled Draw me Close. It was really a prayer of sorts. The chorus lyrics say:

“Draw me close where I can hear your heartbeat oh Lord. Draw me close where i can feel your Holy Breath on me. Draw me close where I can know that I am your own. Draw me ever so close.”

I suppose when I wrote it my mind envisioned me always sitting on (my Father) God’s lap, always happy, safe, feeling loved and protected.

Many of you know that the last five years have been very hard on me. Let’s face it the last couple of years has been hard on everyone. But about 4 and a Half years ago I lost my sister Sherry. My world seemed to crumbled. I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t think to even pray more than to say “Oh God.” I was either numb or enveloped in crushing grief and gut wrenching sobs. There didn’t seem to be much of anything else in between. I preferred the numbness if I’m being totally honest.

As far as my Faith goes, It never faltered. I never questioned God I was at peace with it but I was in deep pain from the loss. I went from being someone who boldly came into my Father’s presence praying out loud, to being a little girl, silent in her pain.

I don’t remember much about the first couple of years really, except feeling bad that I wasn’t doing my daily prayer time anymore. (meaning I wasn’t setting aside a specific time and place each day to pray and go through my list of prayer requests and needs.) Instead I sat in silence.

I still talked to God everyday, all the time, though it could not be heard by others, through the whispers of my soul. I just couldn’t bare the thoughts and pain of verbalizing it all. I don’t even think I could concentrate enough to put things in a coherent voice. You know the feeling. You have one of those days when you are hurting so bad inside. Maybe you are at work or at school and you hope you don’t see your best friend. You know if you even make eye contact with them you will just burst into tears and do the ugly cry in front of God and everybody. Well it was like that, except it was with God only. I couldn’t bare to make eye contact with Him.

The enemy always comes to shout at me in times when I’m wounded. I bet he does for you too. I would hear him say “You should be praying every day! God is going to be mad at you because you don’t talk to him anymore. You are probably not even going to go to heaven if you don’t start doing all the things God expects you to do!” I was tempted to believe all of the lies and did believe a few for a time. Strangely enough though, even when the enemy was yelling at me, I knew it was ok to sit in my silence, God knew what my soul couldn’t verbalize and He understood me and still loved me.”

Covid came crashing in to our world. Concerned that they might bring the illness with them and it in turn would bring death with it to my husband and I, my children and grandkids stayed away. For the first month or so my husband didn’t even hug me much because he worked with the public and was afraid he would bring it home and I guess afraid it would kill me. So even though we were in our isolation together I felt so alone. My soul whispered a little quieter and the hurt got bigger.

It was during this time that our youngest Son came over to visit me (OUTSIDE, from a distance) and told me he had cancer. The word Lymphoma was SO BIG and SO SCARY. I couldn’t even hold him or kiss him the way a mother’s heart needs to in a time like that and I will never get that moment back to do it right. For days after that day every once in a while I would make Eye contact with (my Father) God and the dam would burst and I would cry the ugly cry uncontrollably and unburden my soul. Afterword only to pull myself into a ball again so my soul could cry out in a whisper once more.

On and on it goes, one thing after another troubles came. New pains, New Illnesses, new trials, losses of people I loved, depression, heavy weights taking residence in my soul,… Some to heavy to bear, Some just heavy because I was carrying so much already. Again eye contact would be made. Again I would do the ugly cry and plead out loud for mercy. Again I would pull myself up into a ball and again my soul cried out in whispers. The Enemy yelled louder at me but again I knew it was ok, God knew what my soul couldn’t verbalize and He understood me and still loved me.

Today I was actually praying out loud. I was singing and talking to Jesus out loud as naturally as breathing. I really don’t know when I started doing this again. I’m sure it happened just a few words at a time, probably weeks apart. But today I noticed what I was doing. When I did, I saw as clear as day a Daddy holding his crying child who had fallen and hurt herself one too many times. The child pulled up tight and pressing into her daddy’s chest. Though the memories of the pain were fresh in her mind, her dirty bloodied knees were now numb by the grace of God. But every once in a while she would open her eyes and see the blood and relive the fall and the pain. Because she anticipated renewed and maybe even greater pain she refused to let him touch her wounds to clean them and bandage them, pushing his big hands away. Then she would cry louder, sure that she would surely bleed to death before this terrible ordeal was over. Again she would ball up tight protecting her knees. while her daddy drew her in closer to his heart to reassure her that he would heal her pain. Placing a kiss on her forehead and whispering in a small voice for only her to hear, telling her “It’s ok, Daddy is here. I know it hurts but it will get better. I love you child!” And immediately I was reminded of the title to the song I wrote years ago.

The picture the Lord showed me told me loud and clear that though the enemy had shouted bold faced lies about God never wanting me near Him again after the way I have neglected Him, My Father God was holding me on his lap, Drawing me Ever So Close, all that time, And now clearly I could Hear God’s heart beat and feel His Holy breath on me as He was telling me, “It’s ok, I hear your soul’s whispers just fine and I understand. I love you child.”

It hadn’t been in the Happy Safe feeling times that I had imagined when I penned the song but in the balled up, soul whispering times that my prayer of drawing close to God was answered.

Life can be hard. I cry for a different family member with cancer now. But it’s also so VERY BEAUTIFUL. I have an amazing new grandson that I haven’t met yet but I’m so blessed that he is healthy and happy. Time is healing my grief. My son’s cancer is in remission. Covid, well wasn’t the monster my children had imagined for me. Though it came to visit several times and stayed far to long. It is gone from our home for the time being. Life goes on. New trials are on their way I’m sure. Old ones still linger, not anxious to leave. My God is GOOD and FAITHFUL and He keeps His promises. But most importantly He has faithfully DRAWN ME EVER SO CLOSE, and it is well with my soul.

Matthew 11: 28-30 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Entwined

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Last year I got the privilege to hold my young grandsons for a 2 week period. I loved playing hard and resting with cuddles. The second week of my visit was more cuddles then playing hard as I had come down with covid, but didn’t know it. One day I just woke up and i was very weak, tired, and my legs would buckle under me. I never had any of the typical symptoms like fever, shortness of breath, soar throat… Just couldn’t stand up and walk for any length of time.

The boys were great with sitting and cuddling with me as I put my feet up. Grey the oldest boy even handed me his beloved stuff toy one day and told me that DOG would help me sleep better during my nap time. This was such a precious gift because Grey couldn’t sleep without him. It just melted my heart. But that’s what grandkids do to us Grandmas!

One day during this cuddle time I looked down to see that the boys had intertwined themselves around my arms, making it hard to see where They began and I ended. I had been wanting to do a series on hands and feet for a while, but never had the inspiration. But this, I knew was the moment I had been waiting for. SO I asked my daughter in law Emily to take a quick photo before the boys moved.

It was months before I had recovered enough to actually work on the painting. It turned out I has gotten long covid.

My vision had just the arms and legs without faces but to do that I would need a custom made canvas. Frankly by the time I got feeling good enough to paint it I just didn’t want to wait any longer for the new stretcher bars to arrive. So I just framed it the same as the photo and started.

The more I blocked it in the more dissatisfied with it I became. I felt that by leaving the boys faces in the painting it looked more like it was going to be a portrait. But as a Portrait it felt weird because my head was cut out of the painting. Right?

So, As I worked on it during art class I began to tell my students that I was going to put this painting on a smaller canvas cutting out the faces as I had originally envisioned. They all protested, but I was certain that that was what the painting needed. SO I ordered the new stretcher bars and waited.

Cropping it, I finally had it exactly the way I originally had envisioned it. SO I proceeded to add details until I had finished. It now proudly hangs in my living room reminding me everyday of my sweet Florida boys!

If you have any Questions or comments please comment below! I would love to hear from you.

For prints you can find this and other pieces I’ve painted on FineArtAmerica by clicking this link.

Shared Surprise

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Shared Surprise is #4 in my Motherhood series. This painting tells the story of sharing the joy of a new baby with your older child/ children. I have kinda haloed mother and child not because this is the Madonna and child but because of the sacredness of motherhood itself.

My reference was a little more challenging this time as it was in Black and white. But there were others in the photo shoot that were edited in color so I used them as reference as well.

My usual process of drawing my image onto the canvas and blocking in color and value were followed to the T. it was so important to me to get the body language drawn correctly as it tells such a beautiful story. This photo took me back to when my mamma told me that I was going to be a big sister.

I have this image hanging on a cabinet door in my studio! I love this photo of me and my mom!

OK, So back to this painting, LOL! To harmonise with the other paintings in the series I kept the color pallet the same and the style the same. but when I got everything painted in I felt I needed to darken the floor to ground my subject so they were not floating. I also darkened the edges of the iron oxide back ground and left the haloed affect that I desired.

Again I left the fine details undone. there are no individual strands of hair, in fact there are no sharp defined details. Instead this one is left a bit blurry to represent a memory of a special moment in time.

Here are the 4 Motherhood Series paintings along with a few others waiting to be hung at

Mindpower Gallery in Reedsport Oregon. Prints of all these paintings are available on Fine Art America as well.

Sacred Solace

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Sacred Solace is painting #3 of the motherhood series. There is so much about painting this one that excited me as an artist. I love the brightness of the painted background. I’m absolutely in love with the mother”s hands that gently supports her child’s bottom and head as he looks around exploring with innocence his new world.

My reference photo was granted to me by photographer and Author Naomi Lynn. I just adore her work!

Again I pre-toned the canvas in the transparent iron oxide. I absolutely loved how the background turned out, dark in some spots and glowing in others. Working with that glow I allowed the reflected light of the painting to actually be the background showing through.

Notice in the reference photo how the dress is a darker but similar color to the flesh tones. This works wonderfully in the photo, blending the two figures beautifully into one against a dark background.

What works to make something a great photo does not always work to make is a great painting. The artist has to decide what story she wants her painting to tell. Where do I want to direct the viewers eyes? What Feeling do I want to convey?

In my painting he color of her dress in the reference photo more closely resembles the background of the painting. So I decided to transposed the colors by taking the greenish blue back ground of the reference and putting a dark greenish blue dress on her in the painting. I felt that the contrast of the dark teal dress would draw your attention to their pail smooth skin, body language and facial expressions.

As always I followed my usually steps of blocking in and getting tones, values and shapes right. Then touching just a few dabs of blue color around the face. Normally I would blend these colors into the wet flesh tones making them more subtle. But when I stood back, I decided that she was perfect the way she was.

This may surprise you , but this was very hard for me to physically do. I actually had to leave the studio for several days, just so I wouldn’t fiddle with the paint. I really feel it would have ruined the painting to refine and define her more, and I certainly didn’t want to do that. I’m so glad now that I listened to that voice inside telling me she was done.

Sleepless Surrender

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Sleepless Surrender is the second in my Motherhood series. I fell in love with this photo used by permission of Photographer and Author Naomi Lynn

This Mother and Child Figurative painting is the second in my Motherhood series. This painting reflex the sleepless nights and the selfless sacrifice of a mother to do what is needed for the the child to have peace and be able to sleep, even if that means she stay awake. I was drawn to the beauty in the the exhausted eyes depicting not only her tiredness but also a relaxed peace that at least finally her child has found rest.

As always I start by drawing the image out onto my canvas. With this series I have pre-toned the canvas with a thin coat of transparent Iron oxide. This is such a vibrant color and adds such a glow to the background and even shines thought the layers of paint that go over it, giving the painting a warmth that expresses motherhood perfectly.

I then block in the basic values, tones, highlights and dark shadows, paying attention to shape and form.

Once I have all the basics in place and I am happy with the composition and colors I have chosen I will start to add in detail and add layers of glazing to push and pull the values darker or lighter where needed and to add a look of reflected light.

Art Prints now available @
Sleepless Surrender

While I usually push my paintings into a realism with fine blending and detail, I wanted to leave this series blocky and un edited you might say. Raw, Real, yet Unfinished. These are the feelings I’m trying to portray. My use of bold color and contrast of cool and warm tones is to show the contrast in emotions that so comfortably sit side by side in a mothers struggle to care properly for her children. A sacrifice that is not always appreciated by the baby, toddler youth or teen. But she continues on doing her best anyway. No Matter What, because she loves her children more than life itself!

40 Year Together

Reference Photo by Kellie Doschades Trenkle

After 40 years of marriage I finally painted a portrait of my husband and I together as a Christmas gift for him. Double portraits can be tricky because they have 2 unique personalities and faces to paint, AND you have to get them right so they are recognizable.

I love this reference photo because of the tenderness in my husbands face as he kisses my forehead. This man loves me so very well! Getting my husbands features right was easy. I could probably paint him in my sleep. I know his face so well. I thought that capturing that look of love would be the difficult part, but that came easily too.

Surprisingly (to me anyway) was the trouble I had painting myself. After all I have known me all of my life, right! LOL! But that also might have been my problem. When I look at myself I see the wrinkles, the tires eyes, my wide nose and double chin. And those are just the physical things I see. My list of personal flaws is much bigger. SO I see my mistakes, my sailors and places where I just don’t measure up. I also know I’m not the only one who has this distorted view of myself. Am I right?

Anyway I got the painting to where I thought it was done, but one of my dearest artist friends told me to take my image further. She said “you are way more beautiful than that!” Which for some reason was hard and awkward for me to hear. But she wouldn’t let me call it finished until I had captured the me that she sees. AND I am very thankful for that. Not just because it improved the painting but because It lifted me up when I didn’t even know I needed lifted.

If you have been looking into a mirror of distortion while seeing your reflection, I would like to encourage you today, as my friend did for me. You are not the sum of your flaws and mistakes. You are loved, You are beautiful! The Bible tells us that “While we were yet sinners ( That’s all of us) GOD demonstrated his LOVE for us by sending Christ to die for us.” Romans 5:8

You were created just as you are by the Master of all Master artists. YOU ARE LOVED!

Motherhood

The moment I saw this photo of my beautiful daughter in law and my grandson taken by photographer Naomi Lynn Vacaro I knew it would someday be a painting. Naomi is great at taking photos that already look like classic paintings. So it doesn’t take a great imagination to envision it as such.

While I usually focus on making the image look as much like a portrait of the models, this one was motivated by feeling and not in it being a portrait. So as I blocked the painting in, I lost focus of it being a specific mother and child and focused on the feeling of the sacredness of motherhood. I wanted it to be representative of the Madonna, but not be her exclusively. I wanted her to represent the Holy gift of motherhood in all women.

For me being a mother and grandmother has been my greatest and most fulfilling job of my life. The bond I have with my children is so beyond words; and the bond with my grandchildren is a golden thread that wraps so tightly around my heart I could burst with joy.

I love this piece because the focus is not on the mother, but on the mother’s focus on the child, because that is what being a mother is all about. Motherhood is learning to die to self and give your everything for someone who is totally defenseless and dependent on you. Sleepless nights, fevered brows, knee scrapes and heat aches, motherhood is pouring love into the lives of our children in hopes that they will learn from our example how to love and how to expect to be loved.

NOTE: To you young mothers;

I know it’s hard to see the beauty and sacredness of motherhood with tiered bloodshot eyes. I know the difficulty of sleepless nights, praying that the baby will sleep through the night just once. That the 2 year old will stay in her own bed all night instead of crawling in yours and laying on your face. I know the frustration of adolescence, acne and hormones. My children are all grown and married and starting families of their own. and I still have an occasional sleepless night worrying about them.

I remember the days of just wanting 5 minutes of silence. Now with all 4 grown and out of the house I have hours of the silence every day. I find myself longing for and cherishing the days my children and grandchildren visit so I can hear their joyous laughter in these walls again. I know it’s hard being a young mom. But take it from an old mom, it all passes all too quickly. Try to cherish every minute that you possibly can. This t0o shall pass, and when it does you will dream of just a few hours more to hold your babies in your arms and feeling their sweet breath on your neck.

Collaboration

This summer I had the honor of doing a collaboration project with my artist granddaughter. I had started working on a floral diptych shortly before my annual art in the garden show. So just for fun I set up my easel along side my artist daughter, and pulled out my paints. The plan was that in slower moments I could steal away and paint. This would be great fun for me, but also for visitors who could get a peek at my process.

The problem was, that I was so busy with visitors that I just never got around to painting. But I did notice that my granddaughter was standing and watching her Aunt paint and I recognized her yearning to paint. So I placed my paint apron on her and said “have at it.”

She was very hesitant as I had already started the painting a couple days before, and she was afraid she would ruin it. But I assured her that that was not possible and encouraged her to paint.

Soon she was well into the process. So much so that she called her brother to fill in on her shift at work so she could keep painting. A sign of a true artist if you ask me. Someone who will give up a regular paycheck just for the joy of creating.

Anyway, her work was so beautiful with its broad brush strokes and bold colors. Totally in contrast to my well blended more pastel style. But together these two styles worked wonderfully when in juxtaposition with each other.

Since there were two canvas, I had her do the bud and a few leaves on my painting and I did likewise with her canvas. The affect was superb.

Our paintings are now available and hanging at the MindPower Gallery in Reeds Port Oregon.

Christmas Cuddles

 

I don’t know about you but the greatest gift I can receive is a hug from my grand kids, let alone when one comes up and cuddles in for the long haul just because. Well that is what happened Christmas day 2019. I was sitting on the sofa with my granddaughter when she leaned into me and got real comfortable. This was not the first time by any means, but as she is 16 now it was kind of a surprise. A very wonderful surprise.

I’m not sure why it surprised me, but it did. You see my eldest grandson (18) started collage this fall, and well I guess I have been telling myself that since him and his sister are full grown that this old lady was going to have to learn that she was just not going to see them much anymore. “They will go off to school, get lives of their own, move away  and lets face it, what young adult wants to hang out with an old lady? right?”

Now I’m not one for Drama, or feeling sorry for myself and dwell on negative things (AT ALL!) But this one kinda came in the back door without me noticing. Even without me realizing that I was thinking it. It just seamed like a fact.

But this Christmas proved all of those worries to be totally false. First of all, My grandson goes to school south of home and so he just stopped in to visit with me on his way home for Christmas vacation. I almost missed him because I was playing my stereo so loud. LOL! But he pounded loudly on my door to make sure I heard him. We talked for over 2 hours (something that he and I have never done before.) Grown up to grown up. It was the most fabulous thing to happen to me in years. We found out that we had a lot in common, and that many of our thought patterns were the same. We even like some of the same music! It was absolutely a magical moment in time that I will cherish for ever.

Then on Christmas day as I was sitting on the sofa beside my 16 year old grand daughter, she turned and leaned into me and snuggled in and stayed there for about 20 minutes, maybe more. At one point my arm went to sleep and my back started hurting, but I wasn’t about to move and possibly end this beautifully precious moment. Realizing that this was a fleeting moment in time, I asked my daughter to please take a photo of us together so I could cherish it forever. (Something I rarely do, but I am doing more often these days.)

Then a couple days later I see this post on my granddaughter’s Instagram and I was moved to tears. So much for my fears of the kids not enjoying time with this old lady! LOL!

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To my surprise my husband heard me ask my daughter to take a photo and he pulled out his camera as well, so I was blessed with two different views. While I loved the head on shot my daughter took, the side view from my husband struck me as a potential painting.

 

 

So a couple days after Christmas I started on the painting. It was so wonderful to work on this one with the joy of this memory so fresh in my mind.

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I started out with just basically blocking in the forms and trying to get a good start on the values. I did not worry so much about likeness right away.

The red blanket on the back of the sofa stops behind my granddaughter’s head in the photo, but I wanted to use that bright color of the blanket as part of the composition to bring attention to the two faces. So the blanket magically got a little bigger.

One of the tools I like to use while painting a portrait is to take photos of the progress as I go and compare them to either the reference photo or to a previous stage in the painting to see if I am getting closer to the likeness of the subjects or further away. It is amazing what this process can point out to the eye very quickly.

 

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Another tool I like to use is to change the photo of the painting to Black and white to check if my values are correct. Nothing makes a painting fail quicker then not getting the values correct.

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This painting is only a 12″x 16″ so these faces were pretty small. I’m not sure why I keep doing this to myself, but it is hard to get a likeness when the faces are only about 2″ square.

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Once finished with the painting, I purchased a lovely floating frame for this gallery wrapped canvas and wrapped it up as a valentines gift for my beautiful Granddaughter. It was such a joy to take her and her mom out for a coffee and to present her with my heart in the form of a painting. I think she liked it! What do you think? I sure do love this KIDDO~

A Time to be Born

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This piece is #3 in my Ecclesiastes 3 series wrapping up a very emotional year.

Titled “A Time to be Born”

This year has been a roller coaster of emotions for me. If you are a regular reader you know that I lost my big sister on Christmas day last year. So, even though I had planned to paint more paintings this year then ever before, turns out I have painted three. This season of painting has been filled with passion and raw emotion as I worked out the avalanche of emotions that were, and still are, churning around in my very soul as I allowed them to flow through me onto the canvas.

The first two paintings I have done in this series were working out my grief.Remembering tender moments and reliving old regrets. But #3 was going to be different.

In February, We found out that our son and his wife were expecting another baby. Our home was filled with joy again. This would be our 4th grandchild. Soon, though, that joy turned to worry as we got the news that the baby would have a 25% possibility of having Cystic Fibrosis. Months went by, waiting for news as Dr. visits  and check ups were scheduled, We found out the baby was a boy! Helping pick out names, counseling love and hope to our son and his wife as they worried, trying to be strong for them, feeling like a rag that had been rung out once to many times myself. Praise the Lord, the birth went amazingly well, and spirits and hopes were high, but after a few days it was evident that little man Kai was indeed sick with the dreaded disease. The roller coaster ride goes on still.

I decided to go on with my painting series. After all “to everything there is a season”, right? I decided to use my emotions artistically and focus on the positive. So about a month before Kai was born I started this painting. Using a reference photo of his older brother Grey taken by their aunt Naomi, I picked one that had the main focus on the connection of the hands and heart. It would be the companion piece to “The Last Goodbye.” and I wanted the emotional connection of the hands as well as a connection between the two pieces of art.

I started with a sketch up on canvas as I usually do, then quickly blocked in all the elements. In my typical way I adjusted the back ground several times and worked to keep the main focus on the hands not the baby’s face.

 

 

 

 

As I progressed, I felt something was wrong with the composition but couldn’t put my finger on it. So I walked away from it over night and when I had looked at it with fresh eyes I quickly realized that the mother’s thumb on the head was serving as a stop sign. So, It had to go. I fiddled with that hand and moved it several time before getting the thumb where I wanted it being the support for the head. fbsheet

Also around this point in the painting I switched from Acrylics to oils like I did with “The Last Goodbye” painting to get better blend ability.

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The idea in my head was to make the background for the baby the sheets, like in the companion piece. I was also planning on adding just a touch of the green, like in the hospital gown, for the babies diaper cover. But once it was painted in, I felt it was too cold and void of emotion and warmth. So to fix this problem I decided to switch the green to the background and the white sheet to cover the diaper and lower left hand corner of painting. Once this was done I was so pleased. The painting was now warm and full of life.

To me the green represents the LIFE in these two paintings. I “A Time to be Born” there is so much life to look forward to, and in “Last Goodbye” there is just a remnant of life left. I had accomplished telling the story.

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Part of my creative process is watching what happens as I paint and deciding where to go from there. As I progressed through this painting I was having difficulty with the hand that supports the baby’s head. Things that work ok in photographs do not always translate well into a painting. you see the ye is naturally drawn to the point in the painting with the greatest contrast. The mother’s pale hand against the dark hair and strong shadows of the baby’s head was creating it’s own focal point. This created a problem for me as the story I wanted to tell was to be told through the emotional connection of the hands. So I had to do a delicate dance of lowering the values of the hand and even graying it out some so that it would feel more like a background element, even though in reality it was the thing in the far most foreground. I needed to be there as part of the story, but I didn’t really need it as a main character.

At the same time I was dulling out the left hand, I was increasing the contrast and intensifying the color of the baby’s hand. I did this by adding glazes of a warm shadow color and adding more warm reds to the tips of the fingers, with reflected red light bouncing off of the mother’s fingers. I also added those same reds to the ear to give baby a nice health glow.47391629_218022855766036_7897445495763632128_n

A Time to be Born

11″x 14″ Oil on canvas

#3 of the Ecclesiastes 3 series By Jackie Little Miller

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I wonder what painting the Lord will have me work and FEEL my way though next. It has been therapeutic yet, painful. I love that it is taking my art up a level, but a little apprehensive of what might be next. I’m hoping for some laughter and dancing soon. LOL! But I know my God is faithful. I know that His plans for me are for good, His thoughts are of peace for me and not evil, to give me a future and a hope. And I will keep painting though what ever He brings my way next.

 

Thank you so much for stopping by and checking out my art process! To see more of my paintings check out jackielittlemiller.com