To say the last few months with COVID have been a challenge for all of us would be an understatement. On top of that, it seems that life isn’t cutting us a break because of it either with more and more new challenges happening in our country daily. There have been times over the last few months that I’ve been on top of my game and then there’s been times when I’ve crumbled under the stress and pressure. As I’m sure we all have!
The month of May is always a time of celebration for me for many reasons. One of the reasons is that it’s springtime and filled with gorgeous flowers that I’ve longed for through bitterly cold months here in Colorado. Peonies and Lilacs are two of the flowers that I just can’t wait to paint this time of year. I had never painted lilacs before moving to Colorado. The first spring in Colorado I was walking down my apartment packed neighborhood street and I saw tons of lilac bushes spilling over the fences. I walked up and took a long slow sniff and I was immediately in love. Rolling a lilac around in my hand I felt every gentle little blossom. Along my walk, I would occasionally take a big whiff and the smell was far better than the smog here in Denver!
I decided to go back that afternoon and pick some of these lilacs to paint. I painted two lilac paintings that year: Spring Lilacs and Cascading Lilacs. I learned that lilacs don’t last long once picked and they don’t last long here in Denver period. They’re here for two weeks and then poof they’re glorious fragrance and blooms disappear. I was determined not to miss them this year. We had a very odd start to spring here and then it seems we went straight into summer. I kept checking on occasion over and over for my lilacs and nothing.
In the middle of May I had an extremely negative situation take place that really derailed my spirits. It took me down for a couple of days. So after a couple of days of distress and phone calls with attorneys, friends, family and therapists I decided to go for a walk. I’d made my peace about the situation and I needed to take in some nature and fresh air for some healing.
I made my way down to the lilacs to see if they were blooming yet. Not only were they blooming they were almost done blooming! I raced back to my apartment and grabbed the clippers and a basket and clipped away feverishly. I couldn’t miss the lilacs! Climbing over junipers and scaring the little bunnies away, thirty minutes later I had picked the best of the lilacs left. I was a little greedy I’m not gonna lie.
It’s amazing how I went from emotionally drained to inspired within a couple of hours. I rushed home and immediately set up the painting above Spring Lilacs and Tea. I had originally placed these in this vase just to get them in water, but when I was done I realized I needed to paint this overflowing abundance of lilacs! It was absolutely what I needed! I painted this piece with so much gratitude and exuberance. Everything just flowed from the brush and I felt like all the negativity flowed out of me that day and transformed into beauty. Even though it was a lot of lilacs and a larger painting, a 14”x18”, somehow it effortlessly came together alla prima in one day! That somehow, I think is called GRACE.
The following morning entering the studio pretty much all of them had wilted overnight. There were a small handful left. So, I picked those and put them in a fresh drinking glass of water. Taking in their fragrance one more time deeply. Although my to-do list was forever long that day, I knew that I wouldn’t get another chance to paint these for another year and they would be dead the next day. There was no question in my mind they had to be painted!
I’ve long admired the simple lilac bouquet paintings of Manet. The glowing light and dancing thick impasto petals he managed to capture have always inspired me. I really wanted to honor him with my second painting of lilacs. So, I kept it simple with a small bunch of lilacs in a simple glowing glass. I decided I wanted to go for more color saturation in this one, so I added a lemon and a rich deep emerald green background like Mediterranean water. I called it Lilacs and Lemon and is a smaller piece measuring 14”x11”.
These are the only two lilac paintings that will come from me this year as I prefer to paint from life in the moment and not from photos. I love being able to take one subject matter and explore different ways of painting it. To me that’s the fun of being an artist!
After two days of painting lilacs, my heart felt healed and my energy restored, ready to start giving again. I learned some lessons this month including:
- I’ll always be generous, but I’ll never be a doormat.
- Sometimes people will try and take advantage of that generosity. That’s their problem not mine.
- No matter what happens lilacs will always be important!
- Don’t get so distracted by other people’s drama that you forget about your own needs.
- Painting can heal a hurting heart.
- You can’t give unless your cup is full. That’s the very meaning of your cup runneth over. Others get what runs over, not what’s in the cup.
- Life is short and so are the lilacs – don’t miss them girl (or guy)!
Whatever happens during this crazy time in our lives remember to be gentle and take care of yourself. We need to feed ourselves even more of what heals us right now. Depriving ourselves of that is only going to make it worse. So, I pray that you find what inspires you, heals you and I pray that if you’re an artist you will PAINT IT OUT.
I hope you enjoy my new floral series from May which includes these two lilac paintings, a painting of white peonies on a Japanese trunk (I’ve always adored).