Coming Home to Inspiration for a Life & Artistry

I’ve heard it said that you can never go home again. I don’t know if this is true or not. Last month I went home for the last time. What I discovered made me glow . . .

Can you feel it in this painting?

Each color juxtaposes another, shimmering reflections in the river where I played as a girl. I wish you could see this painting in person. It is three by four feet and glows when you stand beside it.

Reflected Brilliance by Dorothy Fagan
Reflected Brilliance, oil, 36″ x 48″

Coming Home

Revisiting my childhood home in October, I walked trails where I played as a kid.  It really struck me ~ how clearly and distinctly inspiration for my artistry was formulated ~ from a very early age.

I went home to attend a class reunion, though my family no longer lives in the area. It seemed a one-time window of opportunity to visit Mom and Dad’s grave and the graves of both sets of my grandparents. I found myself thinking of a trail where we’d hiked many times, down behind our house on the hill.

Waking up in the hotel Saturday morning, my attention was fixed on coffee and the wooden bridge where Dad and I’d taken a picture on a rock by the stream. Googling Panera, I quickly checked off the first order of business. Remembering that I would need cash for the reunion later in the day, google directed me to my bank.

Indian Lake
Indian Lake

Many roads looked unfamiliar when a sign “Indian Trail” sparked something vague. Around the narrow neighborhood street, Indian Lake appeared in full autumn splendor. Crimson trees reflected in deep ultramarine water, houses nestled closely together. I parked and got out of the car.

The only thing I remember of living in that little cottage on Indian Lake are two photographs. One of me with my sister, in a cardboard box on a sled ~ being pulled across the frozen lake. The other, a photo of me tethered to the tree in the yard ~ so I would not fall in the lake! We moved when I was 3.

Discovering My Vision for Life & Artistry

Visiting the places I walked with my dad, feels like stitching pieces of a quilt together. My new series of paintings, Coming to the River, is that quilt. In my next post, I will show you more of my inspiration for the quilt and how the pieces fit together.

Coming to the River Series
Muses of Tuscany Retreat
Oil Painting Gallery
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7 Rooftop Garden Paintings: Tuscany, Cinque Terre & Venice

I fell in love with backyard gardens in Tuscany

Every nook & cranny is an oasis awaiting cultivation

backyard garden painting of venice italy
Venezia Dream


Flowers cascade from every window sill and balcony. During my residency, I painted in Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Figline, Volterra, Florence, Cortona, and Venice.

The Perch by Dorothy Fagan
The Perch, detail

It was not until I returned home, that I began to see the Tuscan colors seeping into my palette. My palette softened and my eye for selecting what to paint focused in on gardens.

Rooftop Garden Paintings, Cinque Terre
Rooftop Garden Series


Clotheslines with fresh laundry hung in every nook and cranny excited my imagination. A special connection to warm-hearted Italian friends stirred with every breeze.

Rooftop Garden Paintings, Florence, Italy
The Awning


Each painting appears to me a dream. Each window represents a person, an opportunity of a new friend. Some windows spill flowers, open and prolific, others just peeking, a few closed to shade the light.

The Perch, Rooftop Garden Painting Series
The Perch, Rooftop Garden Painting Series ~ Cinque Terre


Each painting seems to tell a story, an imaginary tale. Who would live there? What would they be saying? Would they be smiling, asking questions, or what? Would I recognize them?

Rooftop Garden Paintings, Tuscany
Rooftop Garden

A gardener myself, I get the message. Plant joy, drip water, fertilize with love.

Village Blooming, Cinque Terre balconies blooming
Village Blooming, Cinque Terre balconies blooming

Poggio Alla Croce

Windows and doorways like eyes peeking out at me.

Village on thetHill
Village on the Hill
Villa Rossa, Balcony Garden painting series

Three Sisters

An open balcony beside three sisters tucked into a window niche, side by side in the sun. Me, myself, and I?

Village Trio, Venice Window Garden
Village Trio, Venice Window Garden

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Tonalist Painting ~ A Meditative Stimulus to Creative Powers

A good way to increase creative powers is to study or paint tonalist paintings. Creative powers are stimulated by slowing down and becoming aware of subtle changes of color and light.

In our fast-paced, bright, loud world, this balance is essential for continued health and well-being. Awareness and sensitivity are stimulated by even short exposures to these subtleties of light and color.

Even momentary observation of subtle changes in hue and value heighten one’s creative abilities significantly. Moment by moment, bit by bit, awareness increases and creative skills show themselves in unexpected ways.

Remember, creative power is not measurable in the way we think of tracking progress. Creative power shows itself between the cracks, literally and figuratively. It is in those moments we let go, however short or infrequent, that the Creative Source steps in offering gifts.

Meditative, the process of letting the eye wander amid nuances of color releases attachments. Without struggle, creative powers are released to function as they are designed to operate. The body heals, ideas flow, wellness is maintained in a balanced state.

value painting
Tre Sorelle di Poggio, oil, 10 x 10

Tonalist Painting Exercise

Mix each color to fall into a mid-value range. If the value scale from nearly black to nearly white is 10 points, a mid-range set of values would be 4, 5 and 6. This painting is an example of a mid-range value painting.

Painting this, I worked en plein air on a misty October afternoon. I was initially attracted to the russet color of an autumn tree in the foreground. However, my painting is more of a tonalist essay reflecting the quiet autumn day.

Stepping back to look for tones which pop out as too light or too dark, will help in adjusting their values.

For more examples of tonalist paintings look at works by John Henry Twachtman.

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