Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hoarfrost Morning

January is almost at an end.  This morning it gave me a beautiful curtain call.  Hoarfrost was everywhere, a coating of glistening ice crystalline on every twig and surface.  The sunrise reflected itself in it with shades of rose and gold.  It was a scene that would only be on stage a few moments, taking a leading role for an hour or two until the temperature would rise enough to liquefy it all.  Then it would take a bow and disappear from sight.  I marveled at it and felt so blessed to know that even in winter God's delicate handiwork greets us
and reminds us that all is well. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"Be Nothing But Yourself, But Be That Perfectly"

A long drive in the snow and the dark has its definite disadvantages, but it has its advantages, too.  One advantage is that it provides plenty of think time.  I had the radio tuned to the EWTN SonRise Morning Show.  A saint being discussed had once advised others to "be nothing but yourself, but be that perfectly".  This advice really hit home for me, as artist, a writer, and a person.  It is so easy, when we view the creative works around us, to compare ourselves to their creators.  It is only human to look at our own works and judge them as less worthy or less beautiful, not as exciting, not as skilled.  It is a challenge sometimes to remember that each of us has his or her own sense of creativity.  Each is unique, and lends itself to a particular view of beauty, of worth, a completely distinct and special way of revealing truth.  As long as we work within ourselves deeply and trust our muse to create what we authentically feel or believe, our art will speak to others.  As an artist I feel that I often overwork my painting in an effort to seek perfection, when what I might do to perfect my work would be to stop earlier on, step back often, and then discipline myself to listen to what the painting is saying to me.  It might be saying:  Don't try to make me like someone else's work. Honor my special self.  At least that's the way it seems to me,..through the cottage door.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Snow Globe

Today at my far away job, I took a break away from my desk and stood looking out the doorway to the outside world.  Snow flakes, great big ones, were falling in the most undisturbed manner, gently and softly.  The whole of what I could see from the door seemed like a snow globe scene, the kind of globe that if you shook it you had only a few moments to watch the white flakes fall and settle on the scene inside.  I have always been fascinated by snow globes, the movement of the snow, and the silence.  Maybe that is what I love the most about painting, its quietness, how the paint and water settles down into the paper to make magic and how my spirit can quiet itself in the process.  What scene did you view today that gave you a feeling of peace?

The Search

I am putting the finishing strokes on a new painting I will call "The Search."  It pictures a man in the desert, walking forward into an expanse of blowing sand.  The sunlight is intense and coming from his right side, yet there are streaks of light seemingly coming from heaven, light that falls upon his head. I hadn't planned those serendipity streaks.  They came about because I had left the painting to dry, and when I returned to it in the early afternoon, sunlight from a west window was beaming precisely across the top of the composition onto the top of the traveler's head, so I carefully lifted the paint with clear water to reveal the paper beneath, and voila! The traveler was illuminated in his journey.

I don't know who he is.  He was inspired by a photo in Sunday's Cleveland Plain Dealer, a picture submitted by James and Madeline Hayes of Brecksville, Ohio.  The photo captured my attention because of the rich blue of his long robes against the ochre sand and also because of the solitude it portrayed, the man alone sans a dozen or so footprints deep in the sand.  His aloneness intrigued me, yet he looks resolute, determined and forging ahead despite the confusing environment in which he struggles.  Perhaps he knows exactly where he is going, and that is why his steps are sure and steady.

I never seem to know exactly where I am going.  My steps are not sure, not steady at all, except for one thing, and that is that I put my life in the hands of the One who guides me, the Lord.  I know if I just keep trudging onward, He will keep me on the right path, even if I do not recognize that path in the deep and moving sand.

Anyway, hope can be a true as the cobalt blue of the my painted traveler, and when the painting is complete, I will show it to you.  Till then, keep trudging!  And may God Bless You... Through the Cottage Door.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tribute to MLK and Challenge to Myself

This is Martin L. King, Jr. weekend.  It is a good time to reflect on our nation, on the world, as they continue to spin and turn, affecting our lives and the lives of those around us.  I am hoping to watch the film "Selma" tomorrow, although I feel it will be a painful viewing for me for lots of reasons.  When MLK was assassinated, I was a newly-wed, and pregnant with the first of my two daughters.  I remember that I taped a large photo of the slain leader on the front outside door of our Columbus apartment, and draped the window in black.  I was absolutely distraught to think that this horrible thing should happen and then later, in June, Bobby Kennedy was also shot.  My world froze.  I felt that we were doomed.  I realized well that I was to bring a child into a world where hatred and evil existed and could seem to conquer.  I wondered how I would protect and teach our child to love and forgive. 

I now am faced with keeping faith alive in the face of 9-11, uncounted horrific shootings in our country, in schools, malls, churches, and in far away places I have known, like Paris, with the threat of more violence everywhere in Europe and in the world.  What can a person, the average citizen, do?  I have come to the conclusion that my best route is to treat each person with dignity and respect, and that begins at home in my own family, with my own associates, with all I meet everyday.  Is it possible to overcome self enough to reach out with true understanding, patience and empathy toward those who are closest, and then to the millions of "others" in our daily walk?  I must try.  We all must try, and try hard.

The painting just below was one I created with pretty much wet on wet, and very little planning.  I formed the subjects from the paint "flow shapes" as I call them---where the paint moved and settled is where I moved and responded.  It was in my thoughts to show slaves running away.  I want to hope for a day when there are no fugitives needing to run away for their lives.  The painting is bright and warm because the slaves will finally reach a brighter and warmer life.  Who among us still feels the need to flee and hide away?  Are we ready to give respite and shelter, as Christ has commanded us to do?  Can we recognize in people of any color the sameness that links us and celebrate it with great joy?

On The Run
Elizabeth Roth Watercolor
Sandusky Child
Elizabeth Roth
This painting shows one of the wonderful children of my town.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

And Then There Were Two...

       Just when we think we have seen it all, and there couldn't be anything to beat it, the extraordinary one-ups us!  It has been said that we cannot trump God's mercy and generosity.  I believe it. 
      Tonight after work, Danny and I were in the living room and dusk was falling.  I looked out our front window, having just asked Danny if he had seen the beautiful hoarfrost this morning.  It had been draped all over everything as if fairies had been at work decorating the landscape.  As I gazed at the snowy white expanse of lake, I saw a mammoth freighter sitting far out, looking like a beached whale, surrounded by the icy waters of Lake Erie, waiting patiently for its turn at the coal dock.  (Tonight it is lighted up like a distant ocean liner.)  As my eyes continued to scan the lake, I looked up into the sky.
      "Danny, Look!  Another bald eagle tonight, circling overhead!"  It swooped in a wide arch, banking it giant wings, and finally it glided down to settle on the ice.  I grabbed my binoculars to take a closer look when, all of a sudden, I  shrieked "Oh, Danny.  Here comes another one!"  And it was true, first just one, then there were two!  They had found food, a fallen cormorant it looked as though to me.  Together, that pair dined, the blanket of icy snow their tablecloth, the frozen lake and beach their table.  They remained there, carefully eating their found prey, for about thirty minutes.
      What an unexpected pleasure to see such wildlife up close.  It seems to be that way with so much that we experience.  When we begin to realize our blessings, thrill at even the most simple of them, and thank God with grateful hearts, we notice them to be often doubled or tripled in number or in intensity, like the fishes and loaves that multiplied before their very eyes when Jesus blessed them for the 5,000.  It reminds me to try not to take anything for granted, to live each moment fully, to give thanks.
       Like today:  I love the black, white, grey and pastels of January.  I love slant of the 4:30 sun as it already begins its descent, the long shadows it casts on the snow, interspersed with yellow and golden light.  The snow begins to have a blue look to it in the evening, and the cardinals that appear at the feeder look even deeper crimson as they sort through seeds.
      So now this day is done, and bed must come, but it is nice to know that those magnificent birds, the eagles, are not too far away, snuggled down in their huge nest, with full bellies for this night.  I hope that you are, too, snuggled down, well-fed, and at peace.
     May God Be With Your Spirit,
               Through the Cottage Door.

The Tree is Down...

The tree is down.  It would seem bleak in the space, that spot before the window, where it once stood all mellow and glowing, except that there is so much happening outside our cottage door that sings:  "Don't Be Sad!  A New Year has begun." God's gifts to us are never-ending, if we just open our eyes and look.  For example, a winter wonderland occurred this week!  The snowfall was wet and fluffy, adhering to every twig, bush and tree.  My hour-long drive to work and then home from work was picturesque, breathtaking really--especially the night that three deer ran or jumped across the highway in front of me.  In fact, the weekend recently was dominated by scenes from Nature's best.  On two consecutive days, majestic bald eagles flew from Lake Erie, outside our front window, up over our heads into the bay to our southwest.  Amazing!  Thrilling.  They are so beautiful when they fly--it makes my heart jump to see them.  Then, Sunday, two adult, white swans swam and preened in the lake just across from our home.  They were sitting in water that was yet unfrozen.  Then of course there are the two fat squirrels, who raid our bird-feeders (I let them!).  They relentlessly do their acrobatics in search of the fattest morsels they can steal.  They do not in the least intimidate the feisty downy woodpeckers or the bright scarlet cardinals who feast on the seeds and suet we put out.  Speaking of scarlet...
Hurray for our Buckeyes who put on quite a show themselves last night against Oregon's Ducks!

January 4 marks a first in my painting, writing life.  The beautiful and historic Grace Episcopal Church here in Sandusky offers gallery exposure to local artists of all kinds.  On this Sunday, a brilliant and inspiring piano concert by Ryan C. Neal began at 4:00 followed by my very first solo exhibition of watercolors.  China: Beyond the Wall is a series of 21 paintings which tell a sort of story of a culture in transition.  At 5:00 I presented my background and an introduction to the paintings.  About 40 people attended the opening, including my husband's niece and family and my daughter and granddaughter.  My granddaughter is also an artist, however she is trained and much more confident and skilled then I am.  I was honored to have them with me that night.  You may visit the gallery Monday through Friday in January, 10:00 to 5:00, free of charge.  Paintings are priced and offered for sale.  I am very grateful to Grace Episcopal for the blessing of this experience.

I hope that your January finds you safe, warm, well-fed and excited about a blessing in your life, as well.  Let me know about your blessings.  If you were going to paint a picture of one of them, what colors would you choose?

Happy Painting and Living, from the Cottage Door.
                                                  Playmates, from China: Beyond the Wall, c Elizabeth Roth
                                                  All rights reserved.