I grew up sailing a little red sailboat on a lake in New Jersey. Each season we drained its leaky hull and patched the fiberglass. Not even a cockpit, our Sailfish was more like a surfboard than sailboat. 

grace wall decal

Thinking back on it, my heart fills with feelings of youth, freedom, learning to hold rudder and sail in balance ~ and how to pull the sail out of the drink when we tipped her over.

Painting sailboats … it all comes rushing back through the paint brush with charged up force.

Reflecting on why I wanted to paint a sailboat? I wasn’t sure at first. Once I began asking the question, answers piled up until I didn’t know where to begin. Then finally ~ weeks later ~ one word emerged.


Grace by Dorothy Fagan
Grace, oil on linen, 16″ x 16″ Purchase info

I remember being annoyed with the nuns for not teaching us what grace is. It seemed only that some people like nuns had it. And the rest of us had to figure it out or do without.

Who knew we were doing it all along?

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A Lily Pond of My Own | Painting Right in My Own Backyard

Right in my own backyard has double meaning in this series. Yes I have a pond outside my studio windows. Yet there is so much more here. And my pond doesn’t look like this!

Painting Right in My Own Backyard

In this story ‘my own backyard’ is inside me. I am painting these from within, NOT from any garden or pond that I have seen or painted. This is important. You may have read the beginning of this story last summer, when the first inkling came from a tiny watercolor I’d painted on my first day in France two years prior.

Water Lily Painting
A Lily Pond of My Own, oil

The unfinished paintings were clipped to a single board in the corner. Showing something else to a client, I moved a canvas exposing them to view. The one above was on top. Across the studio its colors coaxed me to stop what I was doing and listen.

I put her on the easel and sat in my chair across the room to hear what she had to say that was so urgent. An overwhelming urge for Ultramarine Blue in the shadow areas of the pond got me out of my chair. Mixing it up, I swung my brush rapidly at those places on the painting. More paint. More brush work. Sit back down.

Dorothy Fagan studio
The three canvases each took their own clip board, spreading out across the studio.

Color & Perception

In the photo you can see how I paint. The chair is on wheels back to the far right out of view ~ twenty feet from my easels. My palette is a large glass slab for mixing, a side table for tubes of paint, and a 7-drawer tabouret just below the cans of paint brushes.

Much of my color mixing is done by the viewers’ eye. Seen from across the room, you automatically blend color fields of paint. Seen up close, the paint is dry brushed like pastel over opposing colors. This creates a vibration in the way each color is perceived.

A Pond of My Own
A Pond of My Own, oil

A Lily Pond of My Own

Wanting to make everyone happy, to satisfy myself and keep the peace is a tall order. A bleeding heart I think they call it. An impossible role to fulfill sufficient to keep a person busy for a lifetime.

So. If peace is right in my own backyard and all I had to do was paint it how it feels to me ~ why oh why did it take me so long? And why do I feel like I can spend the rest of my life saying it over and over again?

I’ve always lived and painted in my own pond. Now I know enough not to mis-take everyone else’s as mine. Bleeding heart healed.