Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Still Life

“Petal Pushers II”
6" X 6" Oil on Raymar Panel

In case you’re not familiar with the term “still life," it is an art form in which the subject matter is most often an inanimate object, such as fruit, pottery, a vase of flowers, etc.   The artist has significant control over his/her composition and arranges it in a “fixed” manner, even choosing the type and position of the light source, creating dramatic shadows and beautiful highlights.

Still lifes, while very popular, have never been at the top of my list to paint – with the exception of flower close-ups.   I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it might be because they’re usually just so ………........ STILL…….and still is really hard for me to do!!  

Or maybe it’s the same reason why I’m not especially fond of social events where the primary activity is the proverbial “small talk."  You know – the kind of contrived conversation that starts with the typical  “How do you like this weather we’ve been having?"  Or, “Love your dress!  Where’d you get it?”, and continues to proceed, and end, superficially with both participants carefully controlling their exposure – if any at all.   (You know what I’m talkin’ about!)

Now I am NOT saying there isn’t VALUE in properly placed shadows and highlights. For instance, I think you will agree that not everyone needs to see and know EVERY thing.   To quote a dear friend, “You don’t have to tell everything you know!”  And another, “You don’t have to show your hand!”  True - some things are just meant to be shadowed.  (Remember when I used to do makeovers?)   ‘Nuff said.  (Hey - I'm not talkin' about you!)

I guess when it comes to the art of painting, I prefer things in their natural setting – like fruit on the vine/tree, flowers in the garden, and horses in the paddock.   Or maybe a better term is “life," because life is not still.  Not when you’re bored.  Not when you’re sleeping.  Not even after it stops.  

But aren’t we all still life artists in a way?  In social situations, don’t we position ourselves, and our families, in the “light” that we want others to see us in?  Don’t we keep things in the shadows – even from ourselves (and God)?  And when things aren’t going the way we think they should, don’t we try to control, manipulate, contrive, arrange, position –  FIX?  Uh-huh.

Yep - you’re probably an artist – even if you don’t call yourself one.  And the more you try to control, the tighter you are wound, the greater the potential loss.  Been there.  Am there.  Trying to learn …...... to let go ……… and let God.  It’s a process.  Join me?

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of our faith.” 
Hebrews 12:2

Sunday, July 8, 2012


It sure wasn’t on my family’s agenda for the day. Mark it down – one more day that I don’t get up to my studio to paint – I’m beginning to think it’s an elusive dream.  But when my husband emergently called my son and me to the backyard that morning, I knew something was taking precedence.  (On a scale of 1-10, he routinely scores about a “3” on “easily excitable”).  As soon as we stepped outside, we could hear a cacophony of very vocal blue jays in one of our trees – and there on a lower limb, serenely perched, was a hawk in all its magnificence.

We watched as he eventually took flight, landing 25 feet away under the pine trees.  We were amazed when we were able to get 12-15 feet away and he didn’t take off again.  (Could we be bird whisperers?)   Well, reality hit and things started falling into place – why wasn’t he flying away, why would the smaller birds stay in a tree that occupied a hawk?  Why would they have the guts to even speak to this predator?  After snapping approximately 85 photos, we noticed that one of his wings hung slightly lower than the other.  He was essentially "grounded".  We decided the situation was bigger than we were and it was up to us to get him help.

True to the old family-favorite Ghostbusters movie theme song, we looked at each other and said, 
“When there's something strange,
in your neighborhood.....
Who ya gonna call?    
 Mel Lodato!"

Well, it wasn’t on Mel’s agenda either.  He was already out doing his part in maintaining the Eagle Slough Natural Area before the temperature reached 108+.  But, we reached him just as he was finishing up, and true to his calling, he sacrificed his plans to come to the rescue. 

Now, I know you're still singing that song in your head, so you're probably picturing him in a full bodysuit, a long-handled Hawk Zapper, a backpack, and a helmet for protection - just in case the bird decides Mel is the prey.  Not so, people!  Not so!  (I was kinda hoping he would come with the helmets – I didn’t want that thing coming at my head!  Ah, but that’s another story for another time :))  No, Mel showed up in his every day attire - shorts, t-shirt, and baseball cap -bearing only a pair of long gloves and a short pole with a small net on the end to accessorize his attire.  Really?  Surely there was a blood bath – I mean bird bath - in store!

Mel looked at the hawk for a few minutes and immediately we had lots of information.  For instance, he said he was a red-tail, a male, hadn’t been out of the nest very long, and was underweight.  (You have GOT to be kidding – this guy could have been mistaken for a turkey!  Well, by me, anyway.)   

A falconer, Mel holds both a state and federal license, which allows him to trap and house a hawk in captivity for a time, and he knows his stuff!  Apparently obtaining this license is no small accomplishment, but it is for the protection of the birds and the sport from abuse.  According to, “First you take a written test on biology, training, and veterinary aspects of raptors.  To pass you must score at least 80%.  Next you have to find a sponsor to train you. He will have a general or master falconry permit, and sponsor your two-year apprenticeship. Then you must build a suitable facility to house your raptor and obtain necessary equipment. This is then physically inspected by a Game and Fish representative.  After paying the state fee you become a licensed falconer. Now you can trap a raptor.”

Well, as one would expect, the bird morphed into “fight or flight” mode, which certainly made his capture a challenge.  Hopping, with a few short flights over the neighbors privacy fences (the bird, not us!), the chase ensued, but our strategies began to wane, as my husband, son, neighbor Nathan, and I were ready to surrender to failure to help this bird who should have been long gone by now. 

But in one split second, it was a done deal!!!  With extreme skill, finesse, and the quickness of an athlete, Mel acted, and the bird was rescued!  While the hawk obviously didn’t think so, he was now literally safe in Mel’s caring, capable hands.  We got another hawk lesson - close-up this time - and some of us even got to touch him.  Mel would take the bird home, put him in a special cage, feed him his favorite foods (the hawks, not Mels), in hopes of nurturing him back to good health – even helping him rebuild his strength in flying long distances.  His rescuer knew what was best for this “little” guy and will do all he can to rehab him, with the goal of releasing him to freedom in his natural habitat when healed. 


Thank you, Mel!!!!

(Note:  If the bird is still unable to fly after 4-5 days of R & R at the Lodato Raptor Resort, he will be taken to Wessleman Park Nature Center for more comprehensive rerehabilitation.)

To the hawk, captivity doesn’t feel like freedom.  Nor does it to us.  But, really, isn’t it all in what, or who, you’re captive TO?    

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives,
and release from darkness for the prisoners…
                                                                 Isaiah 61:1

“But thanks be to God,
who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession,
and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.”

                                                                                                        2 Corinthians 2:14

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Donna's House

"Donna's House"
6" X 6" Oil on Raymar Canvas Panel

My friend, Donna, recently had to place her mother in a nursing home due to a stroke that left her unable to care for herself.  Hard thing to do - really hard.  Donna asked me to paint a composition of the home her mother recently moved out of - the same one Donna grew up in.  I am humbled.  What a special project to be a part of. 

As I always do when I’m painting, I wondered what life was like in this inviting bungalow in the small town of Huntingburg, Indiana.  I bet Donna ran through the grass barefoot, long blond hair flying in the breeze, dodging bumble bees!
It reminds me of my grandmother’s home – especially the large covered porch that sweeps across the front.  Oh, the stories that were probably told on that glider!  And I bet there were plenty of times she watched it rain from under the protection of that roof – then ran out and played in the puddles.    And what about all the times it was too hot to play in the yard and it shielded her from the heat of the sun?

What is it about a building that we become so attached to it – or any inanimate object (like my car that we just sold!)  It’s not the “thing”, ya know.  It’s the memories that make us feel all warm and fuzzy – or not.   And when we lose (or sell) “the thing”, it doesn’t cancel out the memories, or even erase them.  They remain as real as life itself.  Still, it feels like a loss. 

But, “things” are limited in their power.  For instance, we need protection from a lot that porches or houses or cars – things - cannot provide.  Like when life gets too hard ,,,,,,,,, like when a situation feels threatening and we lose hope……when a quick fix won’t get the job done…like when temptation tries to get the best of us ……….

It is my prayer that this painting will provide Donna’s mother with fond memories of her life in this home – and even more so, the love of her family – and even more so, the love of Him who provides it all!

“The Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm –
He will watch over your life.
The Lord will watch over your coming and going
Both now and forevermore.”
Psalm 121:5-8