How a Dream Becomes Real A Prayer for Peace Tuscan Sunrise

I’ve been praying for peace in my life ever since things went crazy. When Mom was ill, I prayed silently with my paint brush.

After she passed, I didn’t really think about it ~ I just kept doing it. This new relationship with the Creator and my easel set my dreams in motion.

Dorothy Fagan painting in Tuscany

My heart melted when I saw the view from my balcony in Tuscany. My easel stayed there day and night, sunrise sunset.

Tramonto Toscano, oil on panel c2016 Dorothy Fagan
Tramonto Toscano, oil on panel

When the notion of painting in Tuscany first entered my mind ~ it seemed impossible. How could I possibly spend nine weeks away from home, my routine, my family?

I did what I have always done with unanswerable questions. I took them to the easel. This time I used watercolor ~ a more fluid, spontaneous medium. “Tuscan Dream” is my prayer, “is this possible? how?”

Tuscan Dream watercolor, c2015 Dorothy Fagan
Tuscan Dream, watercolor,

“Tuscan Sunrise” was the answer I received. I painted it on the balcony of my apartment in Poggio Alla Croce nine months after the watercolor.

Alba Toscana, (Tuscan Sunrise), oil on panel c2015 Dorothy Fagan
Alba Toscana, (Tuscan Sunrise), oil on panel

The vision for “Florence Sunrise” appeared from the balcony six weeks later. Usually the mountain beyond Florence was not visible. It was usually covered in mist. On this morning, sunlight poured into the valley lighting Florence and everything with it.

I started the painting that morning. Illusive at first, the colors changed as I tried to paint them. I finally completed the painting in Virginia the following year.

florence sunrise c2017 Dorothy Fagan
Florence Sunrise, oil on panel, Purchase>

That same year I began painting another view. There’s likely another post about this painting. It went through many versions before finally settling into this one.

What’s really important about it is the house and field on the near mountain at the left. You can see it in the painting above, and in the shadows of the sunset view as well.

Florence Vista, oil on canvas, c2016 Dorothy Fagan
Florence Vista, oil on canvas, Purchase

The reason it’s important is that that same house and field appear in THIS painting, and ALL the others that follow. They were painted BEFORE I went to Tuscany!

Embrace of the Mountain III, oil and charcoal on canvas, c2015 Dorothy Fagan
Embrace of the Mountain III, oil and charcoal on canvas

“Embrace of the Mountain” was painted about three months before I left for Tuscany. In this painting, the house and field are inverted ~ and so is the mountain.

If this painting were a dream, I would say the house represents my consciousness, and the field my garden ~ and the mountain, my immovable issues! Yes, your’re right ~ my house is tiny! And so is my garden. And the mountain dominates the picture.

The fact that it’s inverted in really important. It’s important because that is EXACTLY what I had done with my mountain of issues. I embraced them. I started thinking of them a golden opportunities for wisdom, blessings, and divine guidance.

In other words ~ I started listening!

Every time I stubbed my toe on that great big mountain, I reminded myself that it was the Creator’s way of getting my attention. I retrained myself to stop running away, and just stop and listen for answers.

Waking Dream 3 c2017 Dorothy Fagan
Waking Dream III,  oil and charcoal on canvas, Purchase>

I started noticing things I’d never noticed before. For example, “Waking Dream III” was painted nearly two years after returning. I know I said BEFORE, I did. That’s because this painting was inspired by the pastel below ~ one that I found in my sketchbox from 2012!

Waking Dream II, pastel, c2012 Dorothy Fagan
Waking Dream II, pastel, Purchase

A friend came by the studio and pulled it out. After she’d gone, I noticed it looked like the ones on my easel from Tuscany. That’s what got me inspired to do the mixed media one above it.

I noticed other things too.

the Phoenix, c2017 Dorothy Fagan
The Phoenix, oil on linen panel, Print>  Original>

This one is another good example. “The Phoenix,” I started in France 2013. I repainted it several times in France, and again when I returned home. Then I set it aside thinking I’d never get it right.

Painting the two above, I repainted this one as well. This time I noticed something I’d not seen before. You can see the abstract phoenix shape of the mountain wings, tail feathers poking into the foreground ~ by the shift in colors.

This time the house in centered and the mountains have BECOME wings!

Journey's End c2015 Dorothy Fagan
Journey’s End (Prayer for Peace,) oil and willow charcoal on canvas, Purchase Print>

Also painted the spring BEFORE I left for Tuscany, this one shows the vision ~ of what was to come. The mist, the mountain top vantage point, and the fertile fields.

The two cypress trees at the far left are the “Two Sisters,” a nudge from the Creator about my relationship with my soul sister. But that’s another story.

Expressionist Realism Pastels

People have often asked me, “what is your painting style?” For many years I resisted answering. I didn’t want to pigeon hole myself. Whenever someone asked, I could feel myself wiggling inside to get loose of the question, as if it was meant to entrap me!

This week I found the answer quite unexpectedly.

Expressionist Realism.

Jackson Pollock painting
Jackson Pollock’s paintings were an exploration of creative energy. While they appear like random splashes at first, the whole reflects the energy of the artist’s body and heart movement.

I am fully aware that these two terms are thought to be opposites! When you think of Expressionism, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko immediately pop to mind. Pollock with his larger than life calligraphy and Rothko with his color field paintings.

Mark Rothko painting
Mark Rothko’s paintings explore the juxtaposition of color energies.

Realism? Neither Pollock nor Rothko fit in the sentence. Realism conjures up photo-realistically, meticulously-painted images without any brush strokes. While Realism was first called such in the mid-1800s, an wonderful example of contemporary realism is Robert Neffson’s painting, Grand Central.

Neffson photo realism painting
Neffson’s paintings explores the genre of contemporary realism, taking what began in the early 1800s to new depth.

While I have enjoyed these artists paintings, I clearly am not either style. I have always been a colorist. And certainly my energetic calligraphic brushwork is an integral part of my paintings. It never occurred to me that my style is a hybrid, Expressionist Realism. That is, until this week.

When I picked my pastels back up, I had no intention of returning to large scale painting with pastel ~ much less coming home to my own distinct style. But once I did the tulip painting, I couldn’t help myself!

abstract floral painting
Lamb’s Ear & Poppies, pastel, 40 x 30

Abandoned in my stack of unfinished pastel works ten years ago, this painting helped fuse my heart-felt calligraphy and color field work together. Pulling it out of storage, the colors felt dead tired. I put her on the big easel and let her breathe for a few days. Still the colors felt heavy. I didn’t see much point in reworking it. I let her stay in the studio beside me nonetheless.

This week as I was painting something else, I caught a flash of bright sunny yellows in the field beyond the garden. Intrigued I moved the panel, a 40 x 30″ hand-gessoed marble-dust rag board, to my pastel easel by the window.  What can it hurt to try?, I thought.

expressionist realism
detail flash of yellow light, pastel

Did I know I was on a bridge between Expressionism and Realism?

NO!

I simply grabbed for the flash and cut Deep Cadmium Yellow pigment into the field behind the lamb’s ear. This muted the too-dark red poppy. Encouraged I continued took another step.

abstract floral painting
detail, Lambs Ear & Poppies

Warm and cool yellows alternating, lit the space behind the garden. Lavender brought life into the shadowed leaves. Finally pink cheeks on the lamb’s ear blossoms opened them softly, against the sunny disposition of the renewed field.

Finally, I saw them. Bright red poppies blooming in the foreground. I roughed them in. They shifted the eye to the left column, counter-balancing the sunny backdrop.

The thing about Expressionism and Realism didn’t hit me right away. Full expression, heart and soul, IS the only reality that is true and right. Each of us has a purpose in this life. Expressing who we are, fulfilling our purpose is the only reality that ultimately matters.

Why have I invested so much time and energy in searching for reality anywhere else?

Are you searching for your own creative outlet? Download my book, Discovering Joy’s Garden

Pastel Painting Lesson & Osteoporosis

Structure is a hot topic. I had lunch with two friends this week and osteoporosis was a topic of discussion in both conversations. One a writer, the other an artist, we chatted about creating both art and bones.

The Connection Between Art & Healing ~ Osteoporosis

I have been doing a lot of architectural paintings recently. Since my diagnosis of osteopenia in January, I now see the correlation to my attraction to painting buildings. This insight is helping me create a new daily structure of yoga, painting, eating well and enjoying friends. This is a healthier lifestyle than the workaholic one I was living without the support of exercise, friendships and regular meals.

Even my garden paintings are being impacted by this renewed awareness of structure. In the initial block-in, it’s easy to see the bones of this painting. Remember my post about the botanic garden last week? That’s where I first saw these tulips! To draw the tulip garden, I started with a gold ochre pastel on a 24 x 30 Ampersand sanded board.

Since artists are thought to be unstructured, these marks may appear random at first. So I will show you the structure I am using in this sequence, and how it is related to my osteopenia.

Pastel Painting Lesson

How Painting is Helping Rebuild my Skeleton

pastel painting lesson
Block-in on Ampersand sanded board with calligraphic drawing and bold shapes

Drawing is an extension of one’s signature. Everyone writes or signs their own name without thinking, a calligraphic expression of one’s heart. Like my signature, the scribbling calligraphy of my lines creates the specific foundation suitable for my painting.

Think of my canvas as a mirror. As I adjust each color, shape, and intensity, smoothing out or ruffling up ~ the same is happening in my aura reflected in the mirror. Like DNA, the wavelengths of my colors and shapes correspond to my own. I don’t need to see or want to know all the details. See that the colors work together, smooth out the hair, check for something out of whack, a little lip stick and off we go.

Like a prayer, my painting is simply a request for help and guidance. For a split second I let go of my fears and concerns about it turning out well. Yes, I still have them ~ without them I wouldn’t be able to paint!

Drawing is like holding a live wire. I hope you can see and feel the charge of glowing embers in these simple, rudimentary drawings.

pastel painting lesson
Block in warm cool balance show complimentary colors within shadow shapes.

Once I have drawn the image I use broad cool shapes to connect the shadows. The side of the pastel is perfect as a wide brush. You can see the wide triangle of cool shapes anchored along the bottom of the painting, coming up the sides, then slanting toward the center.

The tip of the cool triangle is missing. Instead it forms a V-shape in the center. This shape is open for receiving light from above.

In the second photo, I have added lavender pink to the cool shadow triangle. These pinks are part of the same anchor  triangle. The cool neutral greens and cool pinks are complimentary colors, opposites on the color wheel. Yet together they read as one dynamic cool shadow.

Again the V-shape is still open.

Shoring up the structure, I add a few more bones for the tulips and hyacinths with deep gold ochre calligraphy.  At this stage, I am not thinking about all this structure as I am painting. That would be like focusing on how to create bones when I do my yoga! As I move from one yoga pose to the next, cells in my body are called upon to build strength and bone mass. Painting the shadow structure of the flowers does the same in my painting ~ establishing an hospitable plot for my healing garden.

An Important Note About the Shadow Side

Without the shadow side, the flowers would blow away. Without the dark side of this story (my osteopenia), there would be no story, no painting, no friends to share it with. I shudder to think what would become of me if my bones dissolve!

pastel painting lesson
Block-in #3 shows addition of Highlight shapes and beginnings of integration with shadow shapes.

Integration of Light with Shadow

This third photo shows the highlights. Using a cool Nickel Yellow, I broadly stroke light shapes around the top of the triangle. You can see I have filled out the shadow with a few more cooler greens near the top of the triangle.

Notice how the light shapes begin to go in between some of the shadow shapes. And some of the shadow shapes reach up a bit to help define light areas. Without light, there is no color. It’s all shades of gray or pure intense pigment. I do not use black paint. White paint is only used when tinted with color. And with pastel, most of the color mixing is done on the painting itself.

Heart is the Healer

Now take a look at the placement of the three hot pink shapes ~ heart centers. These accent the shape of the triangle, tilting it back and open to the light. Seeing them now I realize they are my soul sisters. And the Deep Cadmium Yellow and Dark Gold Ochre calligraphy of the hyacinths brings the eye back down to ground in the lower right corner.

A bridge between earth and heaven, our heart connects us. A human being connects heart and mind day by day, moment by moment. No one stays connected all the time. The heart/mind/body/spirit connection is a pulse. Connect/Release, Connect/Release.

It only takes a split second to let this connection happen. Trying to stop it feels like holding the weight of the world on our shoulders.

What a gift to have this life on earth!

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