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
Hand painted watercolor Christmas ornaments
This week I will be drawing a name from my subscriber list and the winner will get to choose from one of these 5 hand painted Christmas ornaments! Be sure you are signed up below to get your name in the drawing!
"Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will continue to dictate us and we will call it fate." -Jung
I started painting in high school and continued in college because it was only in my drawing and painting classes that I felt my anxiety and depression ease. I made my decision to pursue the arts because of this. I didn't realize I was making life decisions based on what was helping me cope at the time. I just knew that I had an inner peace when I was in the arts building at K-State and Northern Colorado. Drawing and painting always allowed me to transcend to a place of true peacefulness.
Although I wouldn't advise making decisions for life based on my formula in college, I am thankful that I pursued the arts. Painting has helped me through many phases of life; divorce, breast cancer, taking care of aging parents, and many other times I've experienced uncertainty, fear and anxiety. Painting always comes to the rescue as I mix pigment with water and allow it to mingle on the paper. It's that process, that meditation that is at the heart of why I do what I do. It is at once exhilarating, cathartic, and calming. Unlike anything else in this world.
When we can put the unconscious out for the world to see, whether verbally or creatively, we allow the wounds inside to get air and stop festering. We can start to heal those deeply hurt parts of ourselves - the ones that show up on the outside as depression, bad choices, anxiety, or addiction.
All of us have a creativity that needs to be nurtured. Whether it's painting, writing, cooking, singing, playing the drums, gardening or refurbishing old cars. We each have something that needs to come out in a way that only your unique spirit can shape it.
Find that thing, make it a practice and start pursuing your soul's true purpose.
You are one in a million!
You are here, now, and have a purpose. No matter what has happened in the past.
You matter and you are loved.
And you are not alone!
We all have them- the jagged things that take up space in our hearts and souls but are never taken out into the light.
The lie we tell ourselves that we are abnormal because we deal with the ugliness of dark secrets and nightmares and put on our smiling face to meet the world each day.
But these monsters grow without light and air. They whisper to keep them quiet and safe, but instead use darkness to feed off of the soul.
Whispers that you are not good enough, that you are not worthy to have a good life, you will never find the hope and happiness you want. They tell you that your sins and mistakes are too big to overcome and that you are a disappointment. They are a vast pool of darkness and death that begs to be drowned out by any means, just to survive another day.
And drowning their voices out only works for a while.
Afterwards, in the disorienting reality of waking up, they are louder, waking nightmares now.
These are the lies. Don't believe them.
The truth is the light. And if you can't manage much at first, if it is too painful to see, then just a pinhole, a shaft of light, will help.
Concentrate with all of your might on that light - where you remember the beauty in your life. The blessings. And your monsters will tell you that you have been passed over by blessings but don't believe them. They are liars.
You have known love and been cared for by family, known good friends, laughter and carefree days. You have known the blessing of a child or two, receptacles of the purest love humans know. You have known cottonwood trees and fields of gold and blue skies with beautiful clouds floating by. Childhood dreams and the blessings of a thousand days and nights of memories and love.
Let that small shaft of light begin to illuminate the gratitude that has been beaten to the back of your beautiful soul.
It will not be rushed.
One pinprick of light at a time.
Breath in the light and gratitude deeply,
Know the height and breadth and depth by which you are loved - by the one who created you and by all of those who stand by you and with you now and each day you are on earth. Through the ugliness and the darkness and on the other side where there is light and hope. We will form a human chain for you. You are not alone. You can come into the light and be loved.
We got to take a day with our sketchbooks to one of our favorite places- Elsah, Il. Located on the Mississippi, between Alton and Grafton, this little village sits much like it has for the past 150 years. It is nestled in the limestone bluffs, with original homes, the courthouse and jail, music hall and grocery. It is never crowded, so it seems like a well-kept secret. Gary and I have been coming here since 2007k to paint and draw and it never disappoints.
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Here's something you may not know about me- I don't do things the way most (normal) people do things.
And I have to tell you this to explain why I was lying on my back looking at a leaf as it hit me in the face Sunday morning, as I was having a conversation with God.
What happened was this: I like to take my mat out on my back deck and do my yoga when it's nice outside. And on this particular Sunday, I wanted to be near God in his creation rather than inside the church walls.
It was GORGEOUS - a breezy fall morning, everything veiled in gold, with blue sky and clouds dodging in and out of the tops of the trees. So pretty, in fact, that I laid on my back after my exercises, all relaxed and soaking in the moment. As I did, I began to say a prayer, a prayer of gratitude for the beauty all around me that was so joyful and full of life. I thanked him for being there through everything and for letting me know in a million ways that he cared for me and knows my heart.
And then, out of a clear blue sky, a single leaf pirouetted down out of the sky onto my nose.
It brought instant tears to my eyes.
Having a conversation with God will do that.
Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. _Phillipians 4:6
If you've ever wanted to have a painting commissioned, but were not sure how to start the process, you only need one thing; a good photograph! Here are some tips, from my experiences, to help simplify finding the right photo reference.
Lighting, clarity, and an accurate photo are a few of the aspects to pay attention to when you submit a photo as a reference to be painted.
If you would like a portrait of a pet or human, make sure that the photo conveys some of the characteristics that you want to come through the painting.
For instance, if your pet has fluffy hair and you love that about him/her, don't submit a photo after they've had a haircut!
Send multiple photos, if you have them, so I can get a good idea of the person, place or pet you would like for me to paint.
To see a gallery of a few commissioned pieces, click here.
To fill out a commission form, or message me to do a painting for you, click here.
I remember being in line at a drive thru bank one day in 1970 something with my mom, impatiently waiting for my tootsie roll that the tellers handed out to kids.
My mom, whose best lessons were invariably taught to my brother and I when we were trapped in the car- was talking to me about God that day- and said that He loved me more than anyone else in the world loved me. She told me to think of the people that loved me most in the world, and to remember that they could not possibly love me as much as God did. Even her!! I remember being a little stunned and suspicious that God could love me more than my own mom did. As much as I loved God at age 8 or so, I was pretty sure that I did not love God as much as I loved my mom!!
She explained that the reason she and I loved each other so much was because God WAS that love. That's how we know him. That love is how we know we could trust him no matter what.
God has given me one lesson over and over again during my life. Trust him. Not my emotions, not my intellectualizing or rationalizations.
Just. Trust. Him.
Let go of what I can clearly not do anything about, do what I can do and leave the rest to Him.
I have created trainwrecks in my life when I have chosen to ignore this message. I have taken things into my own hands because God wasn't moving fast enough for me, or because I was selfish, or afraid, or in a pit of despair. Or sometimes, all of those things together.
And when I have been wrecked from consequences of my own doing, instead of giving me the wrath I deserve, He has picked me up and given me hope. He's given me His miraculous healing mercy and grace when I deserve it the least.
And he lets me try it again and sometimes I fall on my face, but sometimes I don't. I'm getting to the age where I see these lessons so much more clearly over my lifetime and I'm better equipped to remember to lean into Him first. I'm so thankful he has never given up on me.
This series has been a meditation of sorts for me. They have been created in the midst of stormy weather this past month- health, parents, family, transition, stress and worry thrown in for good measure. The paintings aren't complicated, they are words and verses and poetry combined with paintings, and they are a little bit of my soul laid out. A series of prayers that have grounded and calmed my soul.
Along with the difficulties, we have also had hummingbirds flitting around joyfully out on our deck, and they have been such a source of peace to watch. They never fail to bring me into the present moment and remind me that there is joy in LIFE, no matter what our circumstances are. They have drawn me to them again and again. They tell me to pay attention to the beauty, joy and life in the midst of it all, because we are always in the midst of it all, one way or another.
Maybe all of us need that reminder now and again. We are not alone in this journey. Our lives ebb and flow according to our individual path, but each of us experiences ALL the things- the good, the bad and the ugly. To everything there is a season, and to be there for each other during each season is everything.
So, this series is dedicated to you, and whatever you're going through. I hope you remember you are loved beyond measure, and that you have a God who is waiting for you to let it go and leave it with Him.
Slow down, listen, connect with me Beloved child- I am the way through. This is my life lesson. I'm passing it on to you.
Live wedding paintings in St. Louis- approx. 20x26 watercolor on hotpress Arches 300lb paper
My latest endeavor in my art career is painting live weddings, which is something I have wanted to try for a while but didn't try until my good friend Denise Hopkins gave me a little push. One that I needed.
Have you ever noticed that you need friends who are willing to do that for you? As I get older, I am increasingly grateful for the love, support and inspiration of my friends. They see something that you don't, or they believe in you more than you believe in yourself. And that belief gives you some wind in your sails to reach your next destination.
I am filled with gratitude for Denise for many things, but especially this last bit of stardust she sprinkled which led me to this phase of my career. It is challenging, a little frightening, magical and so very fulfilling. Because in the end, what you capture is a little bit of magic from a night filled with love and happiness and a gathering of people who are celebrating the very best things in life.; family, friends, love and hope for the future. What other " job" allows you the honor of experiencing that wonder?
My first three events have been at the Stifel theatre and the Union Station hotel in downtown St. Louis. The paintings are watercolor, painted on a large sheet of hot-press, heavy watercolor paper. It is painted as the reception is happening in real time, making sure to capture the bride and grooms first dance. At the end of the reception, I take the painting home to let it dry and finish detail work.
My next event, which I am so looking forward to, is at the Belleville Weingarten on the Illinois side of St. Louis. I met that lovely couple at the last wedding I painted.
If you are interested in booking a wedding, email me at email@example.com or p.m. me on facebook . My rates are still deeply discounted as I continue through my first year, but will be going up, so book sooner rather than later. I would so love to be part of your special day.