Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Almond Branches

Well, I've done it. I've participated in my first ever painting class, and have painted something that I am proud to hang on my wall.

Sure, I'm no Van Gogh, or Aaron Jackson. My brother is an artist extraordinaire. And sure, you can probably tell that my painting is my very first. But you can also probably tell what it is that I tried to paint. And that's pretty much the only criteria I had for whether or not this painting would make it onto the wall.

On Monday night a friend and I showed up at a three-hour painting glass, all bright-eyed and hopeful. She, with a limited background in painting, and I, with no background at all. Unless you count the rainy childhood afternoons I sat at the counter and made watercolor masterpieces for our art-laden fridge.

I can't say that those afternoons did much for me in the way of developing my painting skills, but they sure did teach me about the pleasure of being still and creative. Which is why I decided to try my hand at the lost art once again all these years later.

I'm learning that the things that delighted me as a kid still delight me as an adult. In fact, engaging in these "lost" childhood activities teaches me more about who I really am — who God wired me to be. It's easy to forget who we are when we move into adulthood, with all its cultural expectations, insecurities, and responsibilities.

So I've begun to make a point of revisiting the things I loved to do as a child. It requires plowing through thick layers of inhibition, but every time I do, "play" becomes a bit more natural. And the more I play, the easier it is to recognize the gracious gifts God's given me.

The class was designed to teach us to reproduce Van Gogh's "Almond Branches."

Our teacher brought in her own rendition of "Almond Branches" and then taught us to reproduce a painting similar to her rendition

Here's hers:

It's lovely, isn't it?

I knew it would go perfectly in my studio of browns, burnt oranges, golds, tans, and turquoises.

We couldn't wait to get some color on our blank canvases!

Here is my friend, K. She is a former student of mine. In fact, she was my student in the first college class I ever taught!

K has the most gorgeous, dark eyes I've ever seen. And she is loads of fun.

"Strike a pose, Sarah!"

Poses have never been my forte.

K and I had grand intentions of taking a picture of every stage of our painting, but we never made it past the first stage. Painting requires intense concentration, and there was very little time for fiddling with cameras.

K is a talented photographer, and has a way of turning very normal moments into very cool pictures:

This photo really captures the calm, quiet of the experience for me. I loved getting totally lost in what I was doing, oblivious to anything except the colors in front of me. I was fully present in my body, rather than fixated on the could haves and should haves of the week. 

It was so rewarding to see something identifiable take shape under the excellent guidance of our teacher.

It took the full three hours to complete our paintings, and even then I could have used more time. I understand now why my painter friends take days to finish a painting.

I'm not sure if I would have known how to use more time, though. It's only in hindsight, now that I have some painting experience under my belt, that I have some ideas about how to refine my painting.

Here are our finished products!

Aren't they vibrant and spring-y? Don't they make you want to curl up in the shade of a blossom-bedecked tree and listen to a reading of Wind in the Willows?

And here is the painting hanging in my little studio:

It fits perfectly!

A perfect reminder of how fun and important it is to do the things I loved as a little kid.

© by scj


  1. That's pretty cool. I think art means more when we have a personal connection to it. You did a great job!

  2. It's beautiful! Great job!

    And I think you have updated drawer pulls, but the dresser that matches mine! I have the 10 drawer one, and Gryphon owns the 6 drawer one. Both were from our childhood bedrooms! :-) It's funny to have matching furniture from when you were kids.

  3. Thank you, Sharalyn!

    This dresser was a wonderful side-of-the-road find in my old, darling neighborhood. A friend spotted it, and together we carried it a few blocks to my house. It was hilarious. But totally worth it. This dresser has become my favorite dresser ever!

  4. Fun! We have a table that was found in that way. It involved frantically going in and having one of their kids stand watch so no one else got it while we made a mad dash for my dad's truck to borrow it. :-)

    1. Those are some of the funnest memories, aren't they? I still chuckle when I remember my friend and me lugging that big ol' dresser down main street. ;)