The Jaguar is a new painting for my rainforest series. Jaguars are the largest cats native to the Americas and third largest cats in the world behind lions and tigers. The jaguar once roamed from Argentina all the way up to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Today, jaguars have been almost completely eliminated from the United States. This endangered cat hangs on in remote regions of Central America and South America. My niece spent time in Costa Rica on a college research trip and was fortunate to see a black jaguar in the dead of night.
Jaguar is a Native American word meaning, “he who kills with one blow.” In pre-Columbian America the jaguar was seen as a god in Peru, Mexico, and Guatemala. The Mayans saw him as the god of the underworld.
The idea for this painting came to me a couple weeks ago. My daughter is spending a semester abroad in Prague, and has taken advantage of her free time traveling to many exciting places, She’s been to Paris, Rome, Naples and now, Vienna and is having a great time on her adventures. We are excited for her because she’s broadening her horizons by learning about and experiencing other cultures. It’s brought back to mind wonderful memories of my travels. One of those memories was a trip with my husband down to the Oaxaca, Mexico region. In a small arts village, I bought him a bright hand painted and carved, wooden jaguar that he keeps in his office for good luck. This jaguar painting is also for my husband and a reminder of our happy memories of Mexico.
Jungle Elephant is a new painting in my jungle animal series for my Heni’s Happy Paintings Etsy shop. He is a royal white elephant walking up through the bamboo forest in Northern Thailand. The white elephant is considered sacred and a symbol for royal power there.
Years ago when my husband and I were hiking in Northern Thailand we kept noticing large round holes on the trail, after a while it dawned on us these holes were elephant tracks. The sun filtered lush bamboo forests are lovely and it was quite an adventure even though we never saw the elephants. I put in a full moon in this painting, as a fun memory of an experience we had in Chaing Mai. One evening we were eating at an outdoor cafe when I looked up and noticed the full moon that was being eclipsed, a large shadow was crossing it. I tried to motion to our server to let her know and she smiled and said “moon” probably thinking that I was pointing out the full moon, not realizing that a lunar eclipse was happening. The area was filled with people eating and strolling and it seemed we were the only ones aware of the eclipse. It was such a magical evening.
I painted this royal white elephant for my sister who has a collection of white elephants. She was the one that inspired us to travel to Southeast Asia. She had traveled through Thailand after her stint with the Peace Corps in the Solomon Islands. I’m so glad she gave us the idea. The year we spent traveling was such an enriching experience. It helped me view life and art in a more holistic way. Thanks Melissa!
Lately with the US Presidential election season heating up, I’ve been thinking about the collective shadow. Psychologist Carl Jung termed the shadow as the unowned negative parts of ourselves that we tend to project on others. Here are a few quotes on the shadow:
Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with darkness in other people. – Carl Jung
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. – Carl Jung
Both light and shadow are the dance of love.- Rumi
These past few weeks I’ve been trying to look at my own shadow. It has been painful but I’m feeling stronger now, more centered. I wanted to do a painting about the shadow and the light that comes from releasing our fears. There Goes My Shadow is the result.
My new painting, The Water Bearer is another painting for my Heni’s Happy Paintings Etsy shop. I’m pleased with her expression, she seems to be full of fun and enjoying herself as she pours water from her pot. During our travels through the villages in Southeast Asia and Nepal we saw women easily carrying pots filled with all types of items. The water bearer is the symbol for Aquarius, the water gives life and spiritual food to the world. The water from her vessel washes away the past, leaving room for a fresh, new start.
Dolphin Playing with the Sun is another painting I did last summer after our Hawaiian trip. One morning while on our trip we got up very early to rent kayaks at Kealakekua Bay where we paddled over to a spot that had the best snorkeling reef on the Big Island. As we were crossing the bay a large pod of spinner dolphins joined us. They are named spinner dolphins because they love to jump up out of the water and spin. It was quite a thrill to see them do this.
With this painting I wanted to show a dolphin playfully jumping out of the water with the big sun in the background. Lately I have become fascinated with the close up images of our sun with the solar flares dancing up. There is so much movement; it is mesmerizing to watch. Scientists think these solar flares effect our planet with magnetic waves in some way. I tried to paint the sun showing lots energy and radiating movement with the dolphin leaping out of the water happily in tune with this energetic connection.
Last April we were in Hawaii for my nephew’s wedding. His wife is from the Big Island and they had a lovely outdoor ceremony on a bluff overlooking the water right before sunset. The spot was called Turtle Point. Just below was a cove where we actually snorkeled and saw sea turtles swimming. That was very exciting for me because I had done this painting for their wedding gift and had also painted another sea turtle earlier but had never seen one swimming in the water before. They were very gentle creatures moving about peacefully.
I had fun painting these turtles, I wanted my nephew and his wife to have a nice memory of their amazing wedding and also have it be something their future children might look at and think about their parent’s wedding. My parents had a hand-painted plate of pretty delicate love birds with the date of their wedding that they had received as a wedding gift. It always hung above the kitchen door. I loved that plate and it helped me to remember their wedding anniversary date.
Honu is the Hawaii word for the sea turtle and on the Big Island, there are images of sea turtles everywhere. The honu is revered as a sacred symbol of life force. Hawaii is a such a unique and beautiful place. They say the South is friendly but in my opinion Hawaiians top Southerners. They were so open hearted, kind and relaxed. The spectacular natural beauty of the Big Island was breath taking. I hope to return one day.
Here is my new painting of a tiger in the night, it’s another child friendly painting for my shop. I chose the tiger for a couple of reasons. When our girl was ready to enter prekindergarten, two local public schools were just starting Montessori programs. We were very fortunate to get our girl into one of those programs, a wonderful elementary school where she received a solid Montessori foundation. The school mascot was the tiger. Large blue tiger paw prints were painted on the walk to the school entrance. Tiger murals went up, the children wore tiger t shirts on special tiger spirit days. They really tried to make the school a fun and happy place to learn. We still live just a block from the school and I want to donate some of these tiger prints to the PTA for the yearly silent auction.
My husband and I also have a special tiger memory from our travels in Southeast Asia. We were in northern Sumatra staying in a small guest house on the edge of their National Rainforest Park. It was late in the night when suddenly we heard an animal squeal and then dogs madly barking. It was quite unsettling and took us a while to fall back to sleep. In the morning at breakfast we were trying to ask our host who didn’t speak English what happened, he motioned for us to come with him. A short walk later he showed us a humongous paw print of a Sumatran tiger in a muddy spot next to a spring. The tiger had killed one of their goats in the night. That day we hiked up into the lush rainforest vegetation where we saw monkeys and large fruit bats. The highlights of our day were watching a mom and baby orangutan as they foraged for fruits and taking a dip in some hot water springs. But I must say we made sure to get back to our guest house by night fall.
Fish in the Depths is another of my fish paintings. A hand carved wooden fish ornament hanging in my bedroom was my inspiration. I have always loved it’s smooth oval shape with the little dot for the eyes. Once I painted the fish in I started playing with overlaying contrasting colors and scratching back to add texture and soon it became another tropical fish painting. I think the fish’s expression turned out nicely. It’s gotten cold here in Atlanta this week, I think I’ll start a new fish painting this weekend.
Ever since I was lucky enough to spend two weeks on a fishing boat in the Caribbean and learned to snorkel, tropical fish have amazed me. It was magical to witness these vivid colored and various shaped fish gliding along as if choreographed in a backdrop of coral in light dappled aqua water.
I painted Caribbean Dreaminga couple of winters ago during a cold spell to lift my spirits. I find it freeing to paint fish because pretty much any thing goes, you can play by layering colors as the fish starts to appear and the background can also be just as colorful and layered.
This year January has been unseasonably warm but cold weather is sure to come for a bit and I will definitely take time to paint a new fish.
Last April we went to a family wedding in Hawaii. One of the highlights of our vacation was swimming with dolphins. While snorkeling at a coral reef I looked over to see a pair of dolphins swim by. We swam out to where there were more and watched them frolic. They were so playful and the beauty of the light through the clear blue water reflecting on their bodies was striking. Here is a photo that my niece took of them.
I have always loved dolphins. Throughout my childhood every year our family went to St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia for a week in late August. We used to fish at the Point – a lovely spot where the beach met the marsh. I remember fishing on the rocks there and just waiting to see the dolphins that occasionally passed through. It was very exciting to spot them, they seemed so joyful and free.
Through the years I’ve dreamed about dolphins. As a kid I liked gymnastics but could never get past my fear of doing back handsprings. My dad said it was because I was so tall and had a big head; whatever the case, I never mastered it. I remember a powerful dream that I had in my twenties when I was going through a particularly tough time and feeling a lack of confidence. In the dream a group of dolphins swam around me and helped me do a back handspring. With their help it was so easy to do and I woke up feeling they had given me a gift.
Since getting back from Hawaii, I’ve been inspired to paint them, the painting below is my third one. Dolphins are a great example of just how joyful life can be. It is my hope that these paintings help convey that joy.