Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sympathy


Recently, I was informed that a good friend tragically lost his 19 year old daughter.  While watching  the video montage of a lifetime of pictures of this individual, I was moved at what a beautiful person she is, and also felt such sadness for her parents who now are trying to determine how to move forward, to find hope and healing. I'm always at a loss as to what to say, or what to do.  You want so desperately to take away their pain, or to say something meaningful;something that would supply succor and encouragement, while at the same time you don't want to pry or be audacious enough to think that you are capable of reducing the pain.   So, I do what I can...I paint.  Their beautiful daughter loved insects, particularly spiders and tarantulas, with the hopes of becoming an entomologist.  So, while a tarantula is not normally an image that one expects on an an envelope containing a sympathy card, this is what I am sending to them with a few thoughts, and condolences.


Done completely in gouache.





Monday, September 03, 2018

Fear

These past few months I have been dealing with some circumstances in my life which have forced me to face things that bring fear, uncertainty, even panic.  In many ways I feel like the turtle that I painted this weekend.  We can often only see all of the things that potentially could go wrong, and favor shrinking into our shell, where we feel safe, unexposed, warm.  Yet, if we live inside of the shell all of the time, we miss the ability to move forward, even if slowly.  While I painted this, I kept thinking of a great quote that I heard the other day penned by Rudyard Kipling.  He said: "Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears."

Generally, I paint envelopes for others.  I guess this one was an envelope to self.

The other thing I learned while painting this is the fact that turtle legs look amazingly like two giant pine cones.

This is done entirely in Gouache.


Saturday, August 25, 2018

An Elixir for a Friend

There is a tradition that a good friend and I share, and that brings me a great deal of satisfaction.  A few years ago I bought a very large sketchbook, and in this sketchbook my friend and I write letters to one another, post pictures, share things that are going on in our lives, and we just ship the sketchbook back and forth to each other.  We are in different states, friends since our youth, but enjoy staying in touch in this manner.  The entries are made only every few months, if we are lucky.  But it's great fun.
It's nice to have the entire book to refer back to, and to read over the years of correspondence while making yet another contribution in the dialogue.
In our exchange, we often share what is happening in our lives, the good things, and the struggles.

After I finished this month's entry, I kept thinking about a quote that I heard that simply stated:
"Suffering is the Elixir of Nobility."  That is profound, and a timely reminder for some of the struggles that I've recently been facing.

So, as I wrapped up the sketchbook and prepared it to send off, I thought about elixirs and potions, and doodled this for my friend. (I deleted his address for privacy's sake..but you get the picture).

There's nothing better than getting something in the mail that can brighten your day.

Done in gouache and Pen and Ink.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Give a man (or woman) a fish...

Over the past few years, I had the opportunity to work with a great group of youth in my church, and I’ve learned so much from each of them as they made difficult decisions in their lives and have moved forward with faith.  many of them have chosen to leave their homes for 18-24 months as a full-time missionary, in all parts of the world, to serve their neighbor.  Ive tried to send a little doodled envelope and letter to each one, and this week, the letter goes out to an amazing young woman serving her mission in Brazil (the same place I served my mission when her age!)
I decided on a fish, because I like fish!  But also because of the many inspiring stories including fish in the scriptures such as Jonah and the big fish, Christ and the loaves and fishes, a resurrected Christ preparing fishes for his weary apostles as he returns to give them needed direction (and nourishment) and many more.
Since she is out there serving in His name, I thought it appropriate to send her a fish as well!
 Here it is:  
Done in gouache.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Toad

This week I returned to the doodling on envelopes/letters and my search for unsuspecting recipients. 


Recently a picture of a toad that is indigenous to Northwest Africa, the Berber toad, or Sclerophrys mauritanica, struck me with the bold colors and beautiful, wart-covered skin.  It got me thinking a lot about toads the past couple of weeks, and all of the things I remember hearing about them when I was young.  There were the warnings about not touching them because of the infamous warts that would surely be transferred to the one brave enough to poke and prod; or the stories which promised that if anyone licked any toad, they would start hallucinating.  Unforgettable was the lore or the famous courage it took a young maiden to kiss a disgusting toad in order to turn him back into a noble prince.  Something interesting to ponder.  All surrounding stories and tidbits surrounding toads, most of which had no shred of truth, were fun to think about.  Yet, I think there is another story about toads which could be had.

We have a tendency to shy away from things that appear "slimy" or "wart-laden" and we create ideas, false realities, to reinforce our disdain for things that are different or "ugly."  Often, we see ourselves as falling into the "toad" category, wondering if we are destined for a life of being perceived as untouchable, or "poisonous" based on some of the decisions we've made, or due to a less than hearty sense of self.  I see in the warty toad something noble, infused with a quiet dignity, not caring about the stories, fables, fears and perceptions of those around him.

This week, I decided to paint a toad or a person that, by many outside indicators, would fall into the less-valued, less-proper, or less-lovable classification.  Yet, I love him dearly for his example of dedication, of continued effort, despite challenging setbacks.  I've watched the way society feels the need to chasten those who have made similar choices that he has.  We lack humanity and understanding.  To me, he has ever been kind and supportive when I see myself as a "toad."  This act is noble to me because of how easy it would have been to be focused on himself with his particular set of problems.  Thank goodness there are those around us that are able to look outside of themselves, even when there appear to be every reason to be suffocating in self-concern.

Here is some good counsel, if we are feeling the urge to retreat inwards because of our many faults or struggles:

"This year, mend a quarrel.  Seek out a forgotten friend.  Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust.  Write a letter. Give a soft answer.  Encourage youth.  Manifest your loyalty in word and deed.  Keep a promise.  Forgo a grudge.  Forgive an enemy.  Apologize.  Try to understand.  Examine your demands on others.  Think first of someone else.  Be kind.  Be gentle.  Laugh a little more.  Express your gratitude.  Welcome a stranger.  Gladden the heart of a child.  Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth.  Speak your love and then speak it again."  --Howard W. Hunter

By doing these things, you may place the affection on a "toad" that helps them realize that they are kingly or queenly.  It may also help you realize that your ability to affect others for good brings out the nobility in yourself.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Doodles in the Sketchbook, Hoop Lake

For the past few weeks, my family has been on vacation.  Consequently, I haven't done any envelopes for the past little while.  However, it was refreshing to carry along the sketchbook while up in the mountains and doodle in the shade.  There is something intensely peaceful being surrounded only by wilderness, listening to the breeze rush through the pines and the aspen all around you, and doodling until your heart is content.
We spend a few days up in the Uintah Mountains at a place called Hoop Lake.  Although it was hotter than I expected, it was enjoyable to sit in the shade and look at all of the things around me.

Here are a couple of the sketches I was able to knock out while there:

This was a little doodle of the fire pit at our campsite, and you can see Sadie, our Beagle, waiting patiently for the rest of the family to come back from their hike on this particular afternoon.


Just past our tent in a little grove of trees, I parked the camp chair and sketched the surroundings.  There were lots of deer, lots of beautiful trees, and plenty of sun too.

Now that I'm back in town, I thought I would scan and post a couple of the doodles.

These were done in pen and ink, and some watercolor.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Birds

Our little family moved into our current neighborhood a few years ago, and it was a new neighborhood, so we got to see all of the other houses go up about the same time as ours.  Shortly after we moved in, the neighbors to the back began to build their home, and since our house is a two story house, we could sit and watch out the back window everything that was going on. 
An older couple moved into the house and proceeded to turn their backyard into a very beautiful place to sit and enjoy the cool evenings. 
To add more life, they added bird feeders.  And then more bird feeders, and after that, they added a few more.
Consequently, this corner of the neighborhood seems like a set from an Alfred Hitchcock movie because of the many avian visitors.  At first, I was kind of perturbed, because of all of the droppings, etc. everywhere.  But, I have to admit that due to the crowd of birds that they have brought in, I am always fascinated with just watching all the life in our own backyard.  We also have birds nesting in our front yard each year which is so interesting to watch from my office window.  So much can be learned from just watching nature.
Nevertheless, even though I don't know my back neighbors well, I decided to paint them this envelope with a note tucked inside to thank them for the birds they have brought into the neighborhood.  It's funny the positive impact you can make on others as you try to make your own little corner of the world a pleasant place.

This was done in gouache and a little pen and ink:


Here's one of the little guys that hatched on our front porch nest and this is the first time that he "flew the coop" and began exploring his little world alone:


Saturday, June 16, 2018

Sacrament



There is a young man in my church who has been on my mind.  He often blesses and administers the Sacrament, something that has become vey important for me each week, and I’m grateful for the way he pronounces each word of the prayer, unrushed and sincere.  I painted this envelope to thank him for his service and for his goodness.   



 

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Wart Biter ...any takers?

This week I read an article about an insect, a cricket, that is on the endangered species list.  The name of this little beauty was what caught me.  It is commonly known as a "wart-biter."  Interestingly, back in the day, people actually would catch these insects and allow them to chew off their warts...WHAT?  The scientific name Verrucivorus derives from the Latin, 'verruca' meaning 'wart" and 'vorous' 'to devour."  NO JOKE, it is able to do this as it has very strong mouthparts.  Nevertheless, as I looked up various pictures of this insect, I was struck by how fascinating the creature appeared.  So ornate and armored!  Awesome.  

Consequently, this week's envelope was one of pure self-interest...not really intended to mean signify anything in particular.  Rather, I just wanted to doodle this guy and try my hand at painting this bug I don't have anyone in mind to which I will send this envelope, so, for fun, I thought I would offer it up to the person that can tell me, via comment, the most interesting cricket story that they have.  I'll read through those comments, post the one that I find most fascinating, and send this envelope out to them with a fun little letter.


Happy Story Telling!





Saturday, May 26, 2018

Tortoise and Hare

Recently, a very courageous friend of mine, made a choice that showed a deep amount of bravery, despite how he may have been perceived by those around him that didn't know all the circumstances.  This friend had been working towards accomplishing something, a mission that would take two years of his time wherein he would be serving others.  However, as he entered into that task, he realized that in order for him to accomplish what he needed to accomplish, he would need more preparation.  On his own, he went to those that had helped him get there and expressed his need to return home.

It would have been easy for him to just give up on the dream, give up on the expectation that he had placed upon himself, but has continued to work towards getting back to where he could serve in a capacity that he has looked forward to serving.

I've thought a lot about him this week, and how his diligence, despite barricades and obstacles, has inspired me to stick to the task at hand regardless of the challenges.  My mind kept going back to the story of the tortoise and the hare, and how, despite challenges that seemed to doom the tortoises success, were overcome because of diligence, tenacity, and long-suffering.  I don't remember all of the details about the story...whether or not the onlookers of the race laughed at the tortoise for thinking he could win, or whether the hare, in belching self-confidence also made fun of the seeming unfit contender, but I remember that the tortoise won.

I'm grateful for my friend's example of continuity towards goals despite potential feelings of inadequacy.  Onto victory for him.

Here is the envelope that I painted for him this week, which carried a note of thanks for his inspiring race.

Done in gouache and pen and ink.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Anchor of Friendship

There is an elderly gentleman and his good wife that allow my son and I to visit them on a regular basis.  He is turning 89 tomorrow, but is as young at heart and as chipper as they come.  While completely blind, he still is out on the sidewalk every morning getting his exercise as he moves around his apartment complex greeting the neighbors.  He and his wife are like surrogate grandparents to me and my family.  Every time we come they have new stories, and we just laugh, enjoy each other's company, and I marvel at his good nature and happiness despite having been through so much.  He proudly served in the Navy during the Korean war and has great stories about his time on the sea, but I doodled this anchor and life buoy envelope, not so much for his service there, but because of the anchoring friendship and uplifting influence he has on me and my son as we go and visit them regularly.  Happy Birthday to him!  And I hope he'll be around a while longer so that I can keep hearing his amazing stories.

This was done in pen and ink, and gouache.

Wheat, not tares.

A few weeks ago I listened to a gentleman in my neighborhood, that I respect deeply, share with a group of listeners of how he had overcome a debilitating addiction.  I was so impressed with his sincerity and the yearning invitation that he made to those that he was addressing to be courageous enough to seek out the help that can come to those that are humble, honest and submissive to a higher power.  I continued to reflect upon his kindness, but also his remarks, and decided to do an envelope for him thanking him for the boldness, and transparency with which he shared his story.  I reflected upon the many times in the scriptures wherein the wheat and the tares are spoken of.  Both look similar as they are growing, but one bears fruit that is desirable.  I let him know that I appreciated the "fruit" he was bearing and his invitation for others to seek to do similarly.  This is the doodle I sent to him.  This is done in gouache, pen and ink, with acrylic background.

Another Digital Doodle


I haven't posted for a while, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been busy.  A couple of years ago, I made a goal to paint or decorate an envelope for someone every week, and send them a letter to accompany it.  Despite my inattentiveness to posting, I'm still keeping the goal on track.  This was another digital doodle that I did using the Procreate app.  I did this for my dear mother and sent it to her for mothers day.  She is the best mom in the world, patient, long-suffering, faithful, and she puts up with me...did I mention patient and long-suffering?


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Digital Doodling

I haven't posted anything for a while, but I haven't been stagnant either.  I've been trying my hand at digitally creating art, and there is quite a learning curve for me.  Yet, I am enjoying the immediacy, the vibrancy and ability to morph and transform what is being worked on with relative ease.

The need for me to use art to try to help brighten the lives of others still needs to be a constant for me, so I have been trying to figure out how to use the digital image in connection with the "envelopes" that I have been sending to others previously.  I tried printing right on top of the envelope and it didn't come out well.  So, I decided to print the image on photo paper the same size as the envelope and am putting them right in the envelope with the letters that I send off to accompany the doodle.

Here are the last two that I did.  Again...a work in progress, and I hope to increase my ability by continuing to play with this medium, but these went out to two individuals that I care about, and that have recently faced some very challenging situations.

The first, I did because....(NEWS FLASH)....I love insects.  But also because I recently listened to an amazing discourse on the need for us to act similarly to the monarch butterfly.  You can hear the brief discourse here...it was very inspiring.  The gentleman who received this letter has been an example of how to unite, how to love, how to watch over and help others, and I have been the beneficiary of his kindness.  He recently lost his wife to Leukemia, and this went out to him with my love, condolences and a wish that I was back in Georgia to enjoy his presence again.


The second was done for a friend who has been facing the very real challenges of raising a family and watching a child make decisions that are self-destructive.  It's been inspiring watching her trying to determine how best to help, to love, and yet, to continue to reinforce acceptable boundaries.  The letter I sent to her spoke of the realization that I had, when younger, that the true determination of something's strength can only be found when it is put under stress or trial.  For example, a spider's web, although beautiful to see and to watch being made, is only brought to it's full purpose and potential when something is putting pressure on it.  Interestingly, something as frail looking as a spiders web has been found to be stronger than steel or Kevlar.  I sent her this little doodle to remind her that the test, although challenging, is what may help her see her own strength, and purpose.


I hope you enjoy.

These were both done in Procreate.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Wings for another friend

This week's envelope goes out to another neighbor who has been facing the challenge of their first born baby wanting to come much earlier than it should.  She and her husband have been at the hospital indefinitely while they work through all options to keep baby in the womb for further development. 
 
I chose to go back to painting a butterfly.  One cannot watch the transformation from a caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly without looking at the process, the struggle that each phase presents to the insect, and the resplendent result without seeing meaning in their own life.  Trials, if reacted to patiently, give us strength and beauty.  Somehow, this struggle for my neighbors, in time, will give radiance to them.  And, no doubt, the ability to soar through future challenges.
 
This is done in gouache.
 

Sunday, February 04, 2018

...to gladden the heart

In a conversation with a family member this last week, I listened to someone that I care about express her frustration about the challenges that she is facing, about feeling adrift at times, not knowing quite what she should be doing and questioning what the future will look like.  It was hard to hear that she was struggling.  Yet, we have all been in those fiery furnaces wherein we have to make decisions to either continue forward with faith, or to shrink.
My thoughts have gone back to her repeatedly this week, wondering what counsel I could give, or what reminders I might send to help her to see herself, and the world in the light that would help her in this struggle.
I came across a scripture this week that was impactful, and meaningful in this regard.  It states:

"And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances...with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance—
Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;" --Doctrine and Covenants 59:15-20
 
I was struck by the reminder that all the things in this world, even down to the tiniest creeping thing, were created for the use of man, God's children, and that he has an anxious desire to please our eye and gladden our heart.  It was helpful for me to remember that this is one of his characteristics, a desire to see us happy.  Knowing that, and knowing that we can call upon him for assistance through the rough parts, is comforting.
 
So, today, I painted a little bug envelope for my family member that I love, but who is struggling.  I sent her a letter to remind her that even the littlest, beautiful things were given to us to help us be happy, and that the same being who was careful enough to create beauty in the little things, is anxious to orchestrate happiness in our lives, as we permit Him to do so.
 
I also used a little insect, because this person's knickname when just a little girl was "bug."
 
 
This was done primarily with Gouache and Prismacolor.

Monday, January 29, 2018

As a hen gathereth...

 
Yesterday I learned that a neighbor has to face the challenge of losing his brother to suicide.  I was so very saddened for him and his family, and wished that I could somehow know exactly what to say.  But, I think the reality is that during those types of challenges, we should do more listening to the families affected thereby, instead of trying to dish out counsel. 
I painted them this small chick, and expressed my condolences, while sharing the comfort that I feel that comes from the gentle teaching of the Savior,
 
"Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the Great I Am, whose arm of mercy hath atoned for your sins;
Who will gather his people even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, even as many as will hearken to my voice and humble themselves before me, and call upon me in mighty prayer." --D&C 29:1-2 
 
 I'm grateful that although I am as errant and do stumble around like a new chick, that there is one who is watching over, ready to gather, as I need it.
 
This is done in Gouache.
 
 
 

 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Fear Not

This last week I discovered that a friend in the neighborhood had to face the daunting decision of a double mastectomy based on recent findings of cancer.  She underwent the surgery a few days ago and is now recovering.  I'm proud of her for her courage, and her willingness to undergo a very difficult procedure, both physically and emotionally, while placing trust in the future as she moves through this particular challenge.  She's a great individual, and as I sat down to do an envelope this week, I thought again about the promise in Luke chapter 12 vs. 6-7.  Which reads:
"Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?  
 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows."
 
All of us are asked to face challenges, some of those challenges appear to be such that our very lives could be lost as we face them.  Yet the truth stated above is that God watches over even the most small, inexpensive and seemingly petty things (a sparrow) with intense care and alertness.  And yet, He takes the time to remind us that we are of much more value than the small things, and that  we can trust that He will direct our lives despite our challenges and trials.  It is comforting to hear the counsel from Him to "Fear Not."  It's also a nice reminder to us of His character and a gentle nudge for each of us to be more alert of all the small, but precious things that are around us every day.
 
So, as I have done previously, I painted a sparrow, and sent it off to her with a reminder that she is not forgotten, and that I have been impacted by her courageous example.
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

...seen or unseen, they are always near

Recently, I learned that a dear friend lost his angel mother to death.  Over the past few years I watched as he took her into his own home because of her increasing struggles with dementia.  He and his wife tended to her needs, despite having young children with very large needs of their own.  They treated her with kindness and compassion, and served as a great example to me of what it means to "Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother."

When I learned of her passing, I contemplated the happiness that has come into my life knowing that my own Father, who I lost a number of years ago to cancer, still is an active, engaged participant in my life, but from a different part of the "vineyard."

A wise and trusted teacher once stated, "From the beginning down through the dispensations, God has used angels...in conveying love and concern for His children.  ...Seen or unseen they are always near." --Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

I believe that those that we loved in this life, that have passed on, are given opportunities to watch over us, when needed, and assist us through the challenges we face, just as they did while in this life, and that we, if we desire, will be given opportunities to do so now, and after we pass.

So, today, I painted this envelope for my friend, and sent a little letter thanking him for his example, and giving my assurance of the proximity of loved ones that go unseen.

Done in gouache and acrylic.


Saturday, January 06, 2018

Olive Branch

This past week, I listened to a person in our neighborhood recount her experience of working through pain pill addiction after complications that she faced with the birth of her youngest child.  The sincere way that she spoke about her challenge, the learning experience that was long, but instructive, and how she finally was able to get to a point where she humbled herself enough to recognize how badly she needed help was extremely impactful to me.  I was so impressed with her courage to share how she turned to a strength greater than her own, and only then began to find the power to face her difficulty, and to begin the process of overcoming.  The account that she gave of the reality of a more divine assistance available to us as we humbly seek it out, was refreshing and served as a reminder to me that we need not carry our burdens alone.
The envelope that I painted this week went out to her.  I painted the olive branch, because of the symbol that it represents.  In this life we seem to be at war with so many things.  Sometimes it is a war with self, or our neighbor, or family, as we battle to survive through our numerous challenges.  But there is a peace available, offered to us through meeker submissiveness to a power higher than our own.  There is an "olive branch" that is available for every person that is "warring" with this or that challenge.
I need to be reminded of that more frequently. 
This went out anonymously to her recently with an enclosed note thanking her for her courage and counsel.

Painted with gouache, acrylic and pen and ink.