I am doing something a little different this September; trying it out. I'm sending out small paintings that I created in August to subscribers on my email list and giving you the opportunity to pay what you choose. Now most of the time I have to put a price on my art that allows me to continue being an artist and reflects my time, materials and experience. (If I could give it away, I would, but you know, "making a living" and all that.)
I am trying this "Pay what you Choose" for a reason; IT's time to Treat Yourself!!
If you see a piece you love come into your inbox, I want to see your mental conversation go something like this- "I LOVE that painting! I don't even know why but I feel a connection to it. "
Then the background critic pipes up and says " It's selfish to buy art for yourself, it's not a need" or "You can't afford this right now", or " you have other things going on that are more important, move on"
There are always reasons to justify not buying a piece of artwork. But there are many more arguments to be made for self-care, making your space feel like your own, and loving what you have around you.
I believe everyone, regardless of their situation at the moment, deserves to have unique art that they love and connect with. A lot of people I know are going through "life" right now- sickness, divorce, transitions, grief, job loss, midlife crisis, etc. - what better time to be able to purchase a piece of original art that we connect with on a deep level, or maybe just want to treat ourselves and add a little beauty to our space that brings us joy.
Sometimes when we are least in the "market" for buying art, we need it the most. If you need permission, here it is!
Art has the power to evoke emotion and stir our souls. The connection you feel with artwork actually enhances your overall well-being. It's powerful to have special things that bring us joy every day in our lives! I never know what painting will emotionally touch someone, or bring back a memory, but when that happens, it means everything to me! I suddenly know who it was that I created that particular painting for.
If you're not subscribed yet, click here and get on the "Pay what you Choose for Original Art" list today!
Our Dad's birthday is tomorrow. The first one he won't be on this earth for in 84 years. Last September 6th, he said, "Now how old am I?"
I said "You're 83 Dad!
To which he replied "I did pretty damn good!" And puffed his birthday cigar.
Dad was born in Fargo, North Dakota in 1939, a few days after Hitler rolled into Poland as the world rumbled with war. He went to school in a one room schoolhouse in Cascade, Colorado-on Ute Pass off of Pikes Peak highway- carrying buckets of water daily from the school to the train tracks nearby to put out sparks left by the coal trains.
Dad learned to drive, and race, on Pike's Peak highway when it was a dirt road and he knew it like the back of his hand. He grew up without a lot of surveillance and got into a good amount of trouble as a kid in the 40's and 50's. He grew up with his older brother Jon and they enjoyed many adventures together where they played hockey in the winter and held snowball fights using trashcan lids as defenses and hiking in the summer. He was affectionately known as "Pee-Wee" as a kid as he was the youngest among those in the group. At age 11, he was knocked backwards during a hockey game and cracked his head on the ice which resulted in a skull fracture and 3 days in a coma. He had to train himself to learn to walk and write again, and took a full year to recover.
Dad earned his Master's in Psychology from Arizona State University, while working as the bartender at "The Library" (a bar near campus) and being a member of the Delta Chi Fraternity. He then earned his Doctorate from the University of Northern Colorado. There he met our mom Barbara, a teetotaler, a girl who was smart and funny as well as beautiful in 1965. He was smitten, but also taken aback as she would paint flip flops on her feet so she didn't have to wear shoes on campus. They were polar opposites. After a bit, he asked her what she thought about getting married and Mom answered that she had given it a little thought. He replied "I meant to me!" Hence the next 58 years of misunderstandings, adventure, and family with a good dose of humor.
As soon as he could, Dad got to a job In South Texas, they moved to a place by the ocean and there he taught himself how to sail in a 13 foot sailboat. When a job came up in the middle of Kansas as an administrator at the Mental Health Center, Mom and Dad settled with my brother and I and he immediately found Cheney Lake, the windiest lake in the U.S. (no lie). Sailing was an integral part of life growing up, and our Dad's greatest pleasure and passion aside from family and... smoking his ever-present pipe.
In the early 70's, after going to Emmanuel Lutheran Church, the pastor, H.O Lindeblad, asked if he could come over to visit. He was a World War 2 vet and drove over on a 1940's motorcycle. Dad, who had not grown up in a religious home, but had a fondness for Lutherans because of his Norwegian relatives, proudly offered the pastor some of his home brew, which they drank together. A few months later, Pastor Lindeblad baptized my Dad along with myself and my baby brother at church. My Dad was a private person and religion was no different, but he became a Christian partly because of the unlikely connection forged that day.
Dad worked in private practice for years before deciding to apply to a job opportunity and the Central Intelligence Agency where he was an integral part of the Office of Medical Services. While at the CIA he received OPS training, traveled throughout Central and South America recruiting for the Agency and in 1993 following the mass shooting outside of Headquarters, he was awarded the highest honor for speaking to the entire agency employees, who had been gathered together hastily shortly thereafter, and for his role in visiting the survivors and each of the affected families that very day. Dad had left for work early that morning, or he too, would have been in the line of fire.
In 2002, after retirement, Dad decided that he would fund a family business, a dream of he and mom's for a long time. We opened the Metropolitan Coffee Shop and had several meaningful years of working together, drinking coffee together at sunrise and building community around the idea of a coffee shop where people feel welcomed and known.
Our Dad was many things to many people. One constant was his humble service and empathy for his fellow humans. He wasn't one to complain, wasn't one to brag, and probably didn't talk enough about the things that weighed on his mind, but was always there as a compass and caring guide when people in his orbit needed kindness and direction. Even at the nursing home, several of the nurses and aides talked about how they enjoyed their conversations with Dad and how he was always there to listen when they needed to talk.
To me, Dad was a hero. He was a person whose intelligence, strength and gentleness I always relied upon and admired. He taught me to rise early, to watch an incoming thunderstorm, to listen to silence in a snow filled landscape, to experience freedom in the wind and water.
To my brother, he was a great teacher of many things: Carpentry, hunting, sailing, fixing just about anything and the toughest person he has ever been around. Not complaining when injured and forging ahead even when not feeling well. He also remembers his having him remember the Lord's Prayer by having him recite it nightly.
We have some notes of my dad's, found in his bible. One is Isaiah 40-
" The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of weak. Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall. But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar with wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not grow faint. "
The second is Phillipians 4-
"Rejoice in the Lord. Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near . Do not be anxious about anything. But in everything, by prayer and petition and thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and minds in Jesus Christ. "
And finally, he quoted an old Celtic poem:
"May the Road rise up to meet you,
may the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rain fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand."
When inevitable sadness suddenly overtakes me, like an afternoon rainstorm, I try to think of his comforting hand on mine, his calming voice that was always like a balm for whatever was bothering me, and the way he walked forward steadfastly and with kindness no matter what obstacles he faced.
Daddy, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand. I hope there is sailing in Heaven. We love and miss you more than you could ever know.
"I am the daughter of a King who is not moved by the world, for my God is with me and goes before me. I do not fear because I am his." 2 Corinthians
I knew a girl in high school who was tall and skinny, quiet and kind. She had beautiful eyes and a pretty smile, but I could tell she struggled with feeling like she fit in and pretty much stayed to herself.
A lot of years passed and I got the opportunity to meet up with her again a couple of years ago in San Antonio. You want to talk about transformation... The woman standing by her sports car looked like a supermodel, even dressed in gym clothes.. She wanted to take me to a Zumba class with her. We go to the class which was so fun that the fact that I felt like I might pass out was secondary! She came out looking like she hadn't broken a sweat and I looked like an overripe, sweaty tomato.
We talked over lunch afterwards and caught up on all that had passed over 35 years. This woman I can call an old friend has achieved success and reached great heights in every area of her life through sheer tenacity, intelligence, and most of all, her faith. She is the first to talk about her walk with God and how it has informed every part of her life; sustained her through hardship, given her hope and dreams, and the strength to achieve those dreams. And she's not done yet.
Part of what I love about what I do is seeking to capture the spirit of the person as I paint their portrait.
I feel like I got pretty close here.
With love and gratitude- Gretchen
So I have a question on my mind after witnessing a powerful art show last night at St Louis Community College in Kirkwood. The images were colorful and innovative, the atmosphere filled with anticipation and wonder. The main topic of conversation- Artificial intelligence and the arts.
I'm telling you, the conversations unsettled me a bit. Let me explain .
We walked into a show that was beautifully curated, interesting, innovative and generally cool. As we studied the work, we noticed each one had a Q.R. code. Then we notice people using their phones watching a completely animated version of the art we were looking at. Sound, movement- a small movie within each one. I uploaded the EyeJack app and saw each poster turn into a universe of it's own through my phone. I talked with one of the artists, a Polish woman named Kaja Renkas- who is just every bit as fresh and beautiful and cool as her graphics are- and on an international tour with her work. I talked with her about her art- how she goes about conceptializing , collaboration with other artists, etc. , but I was aware as we were talking that we were speaking from two different planes of understanding as we spoke of the process. Maybe a Gen-X plane and a Millennial plane. While I am a fully hands on artist, from beginning to end, and speak in that language, Kaya is a graphic artist innovator using A.I. in every aspect of her work . She knows what I know, and more, and utilizes it in the most modern way- almost completely on a computer screen. She is very talented at what she does, but we are speaking different languages.
The show was not brought in. No Hauling of framed work, cleaning glass, taking down, wrapping, loading, etc. The show is generated on site with a flash drive, printer, hung, and repeated at the next location. We each got a nifty book, which includes the Q.R. codes so we can open our phones and browse whenever we want. - (I made sure to have Kaya sign mine with her actual handwritten signature)
So, what's at the heart of my unsettled feeling here? A conversation with a friend and potter who spoke about the artist becoming obsolete in the face of A.I. Now, you may say as I did, That's ludicrous! Our hands only become more essential as we are engulfed in an artificial world. But, as he pointed out, the artificial world is able to generate the art of a human hand, even with the imperfections and nuances that make it human. So that there will be a time when we do not know the difference. Will there be that time when we cannot distinguish between what human hands made and what a computer made? What happens when that time comes? Besides how the artist is supposed to make a living, what happens to the world? Will there come a time when the spirit and soul of the artist becomes obsolete? When we can hop online and make any artwork come to life with the click of a button, will we do that because it's easier, customized, costs less and no one knows the difference? What happens to humanity when we cross that line? When the human being and computer are going head to head and the computer beats us at our own game? Well, if you didn't know already, or were burying your head in the sand as I have been;
It. Is. Here.
Join me in brushing the sand out of my eyes.
Could people in the 19th century understand how their world would change once they condensed time by using automobiles instead of horses to travel? Were they able to anticipate the change in their state of mind when they no longer heard the sounds of nature and felt the changes in weather as they traveled? When their days and lives sped up from traveling on foot and by horse to traveling by car, and then airplane? I believe everyone was excited by the innovation, the ease, the fun. And there are lots of good things about traveling faster and more comfortably. But did they think of what was being left behind? And how it would affect evey aspect of their children's lives as a species?
The human state of mind in relationship to time and space. The way we interact with the world around us. The nurturing of our spirit through time and nature and silence with our thoughts. These concepts and changes are as relevant now as they were then. The massive changes that came socially, economically, culturally and spiritually could not be quantified or anticipated with the building of the automobile, just as now we have a world opening up around us that few are able to comprehend fully.
I hope that the artist is not left behind. I hope our humanity is not left behind. I believe that the human spirit can and will overcome the difficulties sure to attend the age of A.I. that is upon us. But it will take all of us, it will take our very human hearts and faith and souls and hands. Let's hang on and ride this thing utilizing the light that only a human being can manifest. May God help us.
And it was a really great show.
God's Grace is, to me, the most radical, majestic Word found in the Bible.
I'm sure people experience it differently, but this was how it unfolded in my life.
After a period of time where I felt separated from God due to my own choices, I was stripped of my defenses and the scaffolding of my false self- the one I presented to the world- fell away. Dissolved into tears.
Jesus revealed the truth to me about who I was as a sinner once I broke down, came to him and surrendered. My past, my present and future, my mistakes, regrets and shame, my relationships, children, finances and health. I was in my car, parked, on a bleak winter day.
This revelation was an undoing, a breaker that smashed into me and held me somersaulting under the water's depths as I was confronted with the fact that I wasn't just full of sin, but MY sin was truly death living inside of me, and I am no better than the very worst of humanity without Jesus.
But the God who created us and knows everything does not leave us there. He holds on and lavishes us with the most profound, radical, unconditional love of his son Jesus. Just as we are. Ugly, diseased, pathetic in the skin we are in, our past, our deepest regrets and shame splayed out before Him. Because he loves us. Beyond what we have done, beyond our past, beyond our bad choices and shattered lives. He loves you and he loves me.
His grace flows in and fills all of our wounds with healing, allowing us to rebuild ourselves bathed in his light and his love. We begin again with a deeper understanding into who God is as well as who we are, and He empowers us to move toward a life that He opens up in front of us- a life of fulfilling our purpose as his children - empowered by His grace- fueled by his love, passion and courage.
"My grandmother once gave me a tip:
In difficult times, you move forward in small steps.
Do what you have to do, but little by little. Don't think about the future, or what may happen tomorrow.
Wash the dishes.
Remove the dust. Write a letter.
Make the soup.
You see? You are advancing step by step.
Take a step and stop. Rest a little, praise yourself.
Take another step. Then another.
You won't notice, but your steps will grow more and more.
And the time will come when you can think about the future without tears.
-from the f.b. page Midwives of the soul
I read this for the first time in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic shutdown, and it has stuck with me ever since. I always think "just make the soup", and very often, I have quite literally made the soup. A kind of meditative, nourishing ritual of the basics- vegetables, water, washing, chopping, slicing and cooking.
It reminds me of my grandmother and great grandmother, who got on with the business of their lives no matter what. These were Depression people, World War people, Pre-antibiotics people. They knew difficult unlike anything we know today. There was hardship after hardship for many of that generation. Yet they were optimists. You hear it in their music, you witnessed it in their sense of humor, the dedication and care in what they did and how they conducted their lives. They were people of hope, of unabashed idealism. Think Norman Rockwell....They were a generation of faithful who persevered through difficulty because of a hope they had no business having.
Except that they believed in a God that was bigger than their problems and found that through it all- the depression, the war, the losses- They may have lost everything and lived in utter poverty, but not in poverty of spirit. They may have fought and made sacrifices for the war, yet they maintained their gratitude and belief that theirs was a country worth fighting for. And they knew their God. They were a praying people. A service-oriented people. They built up and participated in their churches because God was the one constant. The one who never left them, the one who gave them the peace that was beyond all understanding, no matter what came their way. It was simple. A simple way of living, a simple way of believing, a simple way of hoping. And sometimes I think that the complexity that we are intermeshed with on a daily basis today has not improved our lot as human beings.
The older I get, the more I see the inherent value of the simple. The slower track. Taking care of my space... the bed, the kitchen, the art studio. Many people I know learned this wisdom long ago, but you see, I am inherently a mess. Well, messy. Yeah, a hot mess. Always have been. I don't seem to be bothered by it much until it reaches an alarming level of chaos.
A grandmother's prayer
So I'm learning that lesson, (not mastered yet) that by giving myself a sense of space and calm in my surroundings, by taking steps to clean up the small messes, I am better able to clean up the bigger ones.
And the people in my space, including myself. When depression and/or anxiety used to hit me, I would let everything around me become chaotic. My house, my upkeep, even my relationships. Because I just didn't care. Maybe you can relate.
When you don't care, you don't care. And the things that would normally come naturally, don't.
That is when the "grandmother wisdom" comes into play. It is all about making the conscious decision to go through the motions- mechanically, if necessary. And by taking the small step of doing something for yourself, like taking a walk, saying a prayer, making your bed or making the soup; we find an anecdote to the hopelessness or despair we all feel at times.
These deceivingly small, simple actions don't fix anything necessarily, but they allow our souls the space they need to breathe in new ideas, new life, and new hope. Even new compassion for ourselves. And if you're reading this, God tells us that as long as we have breath, we have hope in Him, because he loves us. Because he loves you.
Don't forget it, my friend!
Fullness of life- 8x10
Today is January 2nd, my birthday. And today, my mind is on my mom and what I want to say to the universe about her.
On January 2nd, 1971, my mom's water broke at midnight and her doctor was 70 miles away . My parents had tried for 6 years to have a baby and were not going to let a little stretch of highway get between them and a safe delivery. My dad got stopped going waaay over the speed limit, but when the policeman saw the state of my mom in the passenger seat, he yelled and motioned to "GO ON!" and gave them a police assist. I was born 15 hours later. My mom did those 15 hours of back labor, with no medication, because she didn't want to do anything that might affect her baby. My mom. I won the lottery that day. There is no love quite like a mama and her baby. Even when said mom and baby are 83 and 52.
My mom would never admit she is an artist but she is one of the most profound artists I know. She thinks out of the box and has always done things her own. way- from covering her college apartment walls in floor to ceiling murals, to painting flip flops on her feet on campus because she liked to go barefoot, to playing songs on the piano by ear that my brother and I would dance to. She always retained the memory of what it "felt like" to be a child in a world that was full of imagination- sometimes scary, sometimes exhilarating, and sometimes difficult to comprehend. It's one of the reasons she was such a remarkable mom, a second mom to many of my brother's and my friends, fun loving Granny, and a wonderful teacher and counselor to hundreds of children.
She got her Masters degree in 1963 and her plan was to go to Boulder, CO and build an A-frame with her cousin Pinky, who had a jeep and an A-frame blueprint. She had some land picked out and applied for a teaching job. The secretary told her there were 80 applicants and 2 positions. After waiting and not hearing anything, the summer passed, and she assumed she did not get the job and signed a contract for another school in Alamosa. The day after, Boulder called and offered her the job.
I've always wished she had torn up that contract and taken the job in Boulder.
She married my dad in 1965. She thought he was intelligent, very mature, and had the Scandinavian good looks she liked. They had nothing in common except for the psych classes they took together, and the desire for a family. They went on a few dates and my dad asked her what she thought about marriage. She told him she thought she might someday. He responded that he meant with him!
Whatever strange alignment occured in the stars to bring these two together, I'm thankful they crossed paths.
When I went into labor with my firstborn, I asked my mom to be my coach. I didn't want and epidural and I knew she had the experience to help me through it. After a long night, kind of the delirious stage, I was thinking about all of the women who had given birth before modern medicine- I was mumbling something about about the "poor women" who went before me with no idea if they would live or die during labor. My doctor heard me and told me I needed to get the epidural because my time was running out to get one. I replied that I didn't want one, and my mom was coaching me. My mom, God bless her, said " Oh honey, I forgot how hard this is. I think you should get the epidural......" And I caved. I should have known better, I suppose, knowing my mom would endure pain for me that she would never want me to experience. That is the love of a mother.
I saw my parents at the nursing home today. I told them seeing them was my very best birthday present. My mom has been declining the past 6 months and isn't sure of my name or who I am always, but when I get close enough to look into her eyes, she always says " I LOVE YOU!! " And both of us have a visceral reaction to the love we have known for 52 years. Our souls recognize one another, even when memory evades.
Thank you, mom. For everything, for more than I could ever write in a lifetime. Forever and always. I love you .
"Benny" - latest commissioned painting
It's here again- ready or not!
Grey winter days, elongated nights filled with twinkling lights, carols, and the world is filled once again with the enchantment of childlike imagination.
My neighbor's package was mistakenly delivered to my door last night, so I put my boots on and walked into the dark across the street to their home. Built up on a hill in 1925, I walked up the old stone steps, across their well worn brick walkway, to their porch strung with happy Christmas lights.
As I gave them their package and made a little small talk, I was filled with gratefulness for the surprising light and love that comes as a gift in the wintertime. The feelings of wonderment and sparkling lights suspended in childhood memory seem like a gift from God, giving us a glimpse of the authenticity of his love for us.
Even though our experience of Christmas today is well clothed in centuries of pagan tradition and the commercialism we can't escape, the perfect gift of God's son coming into a troubled world in need of saving is present deep in our hearts and the memories we hold onto through life. Memories of loved ones, the unadulterated, all-consuming belief that only children can experience, the mystery and suspense of Christmas eve, the bright magic of Christmas morning.
As I get older and the memories become more precious each passing year, I am filled with gratitude for it all. My hope for us is that we can feel all of the love and wonder of childhood, and less of the artificial stress and pressure that seem to come with the holidays. I hope we all can have the discernment to focus on what is truly important- in our lives. With Love and gratitude- God bless us every one! Gretchen