Monday, December 30, 2019

Christmas Season

It is still very much the Christmas Season in our world. The Christian Church celebrates Christmas beginning on December 25th although our current commercial culture would have you to think it begins sometime after the end of October! In the traditional liturgical Church calendar the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day are the weeks of Advent, a time of waiting, anticipation and prayer. Instead of arriving at the week celebrating Christmas exhausted and broke, Christians should be refreshed by prayer and truly grateful for the arrival of Christ the King.

This artwork is my contribution to my own church's celebrations. Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois is my home church and this art has been used for the real Christmas celebrations. It first appeared on Christmas Eve with a beautiful candlelight service.

I am also showing here some of my research and inspiration for the artwork. I found these traditional icons of Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus and used them to create a watercolor. I wanted to avoid it looking like a typical commercial Christmas card. I don't know if that can be or was achieved here. I also did not want the people to look like white Americans.
My goal in the watercolor painting was to keep it loose and bright. I go for this by leaving lots of white paper showing with a light hand and pigment.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Advent and the Annunciation

The story of the Annunciation is probably the most familiar and famous account of an angelic encounter in the Bible. The Virgin Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel, the messenger from God, who delivers the news that she will bear God’s son. Her humble and simple “Let it be to me according to your word” echoes down through the ages as a response not of mindless submission, but of opening her heart to the Love of God.
I created a watercolor painting of a version of the Annunciation scene for my church to use during the season of Advent. Advent is a season in the ancient church of four weeks before the great excitement of Christmas day when Christians around the world celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ to the world.
Advent is a time of quiet contemplation and prayerful waiting for God's revelation to us.
I made my art after looking and contemplating much of the Annunciation art from art history. There are a lot to consider as it was a popular image for  Church commissions in the Early Renaissance and beyond. 
An artist that I am particularly struck by is Fra Angelico. Here are some of his works showing the Annunciation scene.
 I worked to make the expressions on the Angel's face and Mary's face have layers of meaning. The angel is serious but kind, Mary is frightened but looking up bravely with belief. I used ink cross-hatching to build up some deeper tones and make the realism more solid. I only used shades of purple and violet, blue and white with watercolor. These are traditional Advent colors. 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Advent and the longest night

Church of the Resurrection Order of Service
Advent is a time of spiritual preparation before Christmas and the celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ.
Today is the fourth Sunday in the season of Advent and with great meaning it coincides with the shortest day of the year and the longest night.
As Christians we believe that Jesus is the Light of the World, how appropriate during this time of darkness to sing about and worship the promise of the Light.
Living here in the Northern Hemisphere, in the northern corner of the state of Illinois I find the darkness to be very difficult to endure this time of year. Instead of becoming busy with the glitter and shopping of the Christmas season, it is soul soothing to be in a season of quiet and contemplation.
I made this watercolor art for Church of the Resurrection to use for this season of Advent. I am depicting the Annunciation, that moment when an angel, a messenger from God appears to a young woman named Mary. So much to think about from the expression of the angel and the acceptance of Mary.

last rose of summer

"Tis the last rose of summer,
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone."
Thomas Moore 1805

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Everything that actually matters

“Everything that actually matters, John, happens beneath the surface.”

"When I was learning to swim, a powerful yet diminutive athlete—my 5-foot mother—gave me a tip: “Everything that actually matters, John, happens beneath the surface.” At the time, I thought this was nonsense. I wanted to be seen. My splashing and thrashing were visible signs of my speed. My mother just shook her head: They were signs of something, but definitely not speed."
These sketchbook watercolors are from a trip I recently took to South Carolina, my first visit to that state and area of the country. I stayed on the coast on Pawley's Island, part of the great barrier islands facing the Atlantic Ocean. Now I live in the Chicago, Illinois area and do not get a chance to swim in the ocean very often so I was quite excited to plunge into the waves. Happily the water temperature was mild enough for swimming even in the month of October. I was out there delighted with the water and waves when suddenly I was caught by an undertow that swept me out beyond the barrier rocks faster than I could catch my breath. The happy end of the story is that I did not drown, I managed to paddle along the beach until someone gave me a hand and pulled me in. Lesson learned- the Atlantic Ocean is much more powerful than I knew and underneath the surface there is much happening that matters.

Friday, December 20, 2019

winter solstice

time and a friend

"and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time."
Georgia O'Keeffe

Thursday, December 19, 2019

no words

“All those things for which we have no words are lost. The mind—the culture—has two little tools, grammar and lexicon: a decorated sand bucket and a matching shovel. With these we bluster about the continents and do all the world's work. With these we try to save our very lives.”
― Annie Dillard

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

thy heart

O thou sculptor, painter, poet!
Take this lesson to thy heart:
That is best which lieth nearest;
Shape from that thy work in art.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tuesday, December 17, 2019


How did it get so late so soon?
 It's night before its afternoon.
 December is here before its June. 
My goodness how the time has flewn. 
How did it get so late so soon? 
Dr. Suess– From “How Did it Get So Late So Soon?"

My blog has been on hiatus from mid-April and so much has changed around here, and I have so many sketches and paintings to post. Hang on for the ride, I will be posting and writing more.
This sketch is from back in mid-March of this year, visiting grandchildren in Mexico, enjoying sunny days observing them playing. I have said before how much I enjoy quick sketching from direct observation, how much it sharpens the keen experience of the moment. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Of whom all nature hath creation

I bind unto myself today
The Name, the strong name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
eternal Father, Spirit, Word;
praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Words: Patrick (372-466)
Music: St Patrick's Breastplate, Irish melody
My watercolor sketch of the River Boyne near Newgrange, Ireland.

Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me,
Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.

Monday, March 11, 2019

dear March

Dear March - Come in - 
How glad I am -
I hoped for you before -
Put down your Hat - 
You must have walked -
How out of Breath you are - 
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest -
Did you leave Nature well - 
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me -
I have so much to tell -

I got your Letter, and the Birds - 
The Maples never knew that you were coming -
I declare - how Red their Faces grew -         
But March, forgive me - 
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue - 
There was no Purple suitable - 
You took it all with you -         
Who knocks? That April -
Lock the Door -

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Epiphany Sunday

Rough sketch for the wood carving of the Great Doors at Church of the Resurrection.
Church of the Resurrection is in Wheaton, Illinois, I am a member and have contributed many hours of art work for the beauty of the sanctuary and narthex. I'd like to write a few posts about the Great Doors in future days and share the beauty of the final wood carving and some of my sketches that made up part of the five year project that is now completed.

Friday, January 4, 2019

rest and peace

When despair for the world grows in me....

I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

...I come into the presence of still water.

...For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

lines from the poem "The Peace of Wild Things"

by Wendell Berry

Thursday, January 3, 2019

only light

Colour helps to express light, not the physical phenomenon, but the only light that really exists, that in the artist's brain.
-Henri Matisse

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

feast for the eyes

The first virtue of a painting is that it be a feast for the eyes.
- Eugene Delacroix

Tuesday, January 1, 2019