When We Dream, oil painting by Daniel Ambrose of two birds on beach at sunrise

When We Dream, oil painting by Daniel Ambrose

After delivering my new painting, When We Dream, to Hughes Gallery in Boca Grande, I stopped in Venice at sunset for an enlightening dinner on the beach with a friend. It was late when the meal ended, and I eased my weary body into my van for the middle of the night run across my native state of Florida.

It had been a long, bittersweet day.

Now it was after midnight and I was processing the day’s reel of images and conversations rumbling through my mind along these dark highway miles. More ideas for paintings.

My mind was turning like my tires on the asphalt. Spinning over the day, turning back the pages of my life. The blue clock numbers taunt me with their time, 1:28 a.m. Still an hour to go before I see my bed.

“I have promise to keep, and I have miles to go before I sleep” Robert Frost

How did I come to be on this dark empty highway running ninety miles an hour at this moment in my life?

It all began with a thought thirty-two years ago. I will paint, and see where it leads.

It all began with a dream of color and light.

My dinner companion later told me my paintings radiate qualities of love and light. Visitors to my solo show this year, said there was something deeply soulful about my paintings.

I agree. These past few years, I have been digging deep, scraping the bone for inspiration. Yoga teaches us to open up and let go. I have let go of a lot of things in my life. Things that tried to kill me, and maybe a few good things I should have held on too. I’ve swam the oceans of highest love and deepest loss.

And I have learned as Bob Dylan sings in Trying to Get to Heaven, “When you think that you’ve lost everything, You find out you can always lose a little more.”

I have had a good run in life.

Coming from a dirt back road, in cutoff blue jeans and barefoot, I’ve had an amazing journey. An almost Forrest Gump like experience. With no formal art training, painting has taken me places beyond my wildest dreams. The people I’ve met, from winos in the gutter in San Francisco at 4 a.m., to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court one afternoon on a dock in Maine. All have enriched my life.

Decades ago that dream began with a simple desire to express the beautiful feeling I knew growing up outdoors in Florida.

Just learning how to paint, to draw and match what I saw around me took the first frustrating ten years. As my skills grew, I expanded my subject matter. Eventually, settling into a confident feeling of power that I could express what I saw, which freed me up to paint what I saw in my mind and felt in my heart too.

But it was always about the Light.

Now I understand how to paint. But I don’t think I understand anything about life anymore.

Life passed, and now my heart is scarred like a Florida manatee’s back cut by careless propellers.

But I’ve never stopped dreaming, never given up hope. Now I try to fill each moment with color and light. Now I fill my paintings with the love and light of all who I have deeply connected with. Now it is the memory of their beauty that radiates from my art.

Now it is always about Love and Light.

So dream my daughter, son, brother, sister friend. Your dreams are your original art. It’s in the darkness dreams begin, like a seed planted beyond the light of day. Your dreams are flower seeds. Do not be discouraged, never give up. Just as a plant must struggle up through the soil to reach the sun, so must you. Gratitude grows out of struggle. All that is good, worthy and beautiful in life comes when we dream. Hope is alive when we dream. Never fear to follow your dreams. They will take you on a wondrous journey.

Life becomes a beautiful mystery when we dream.

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