Travelin’ Through

Travelin’ Through

Travelin' Through. Egg tempera painting of the South Toe River by Daniel Ambrose

Travelin’ Through. Egg tempera painting

The sound of water running over rocks through hot summer days in the Appalachian mountains inspired this egg tempera painting, Travelin’ Through.

Cardinals, Crows and Scarlet Tanagers sing and call to one another in the tree canopy as deer pass silent along shore. I perch on a rock in the middle of the South Toe river and paint small studies. Bringing them back to my studio, I lean them around my easel for reference and begin painting Travelin’ Through.

That was the summer of 2008. Over the years, I worked on the painting through times as turbulent as that mountain stream. Eventually, I set it aside unfinished.

This spring, I pulled the painting off the wall and once again set it on the easel.

I crack open and prepare an egg. With a palette knife, I mix white, ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson and raw umber in egg and water on a porcelain plate.

Swirling my brush in this ancient alchemy of colors, luminous hues flow, summoning memories of birdsong and cool river breezes. Remembered laughter of mountain friends and warm sunshine comes while I paint… blissfully travelin’ through the blue haze of time.

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A Summer Song

A Summer Song

A Summer Song, egg tempera painting

After our American Tonalist Society inaugural show in New York City in May, we have been working on publishing our Shades of Gray catalog. However, I painted this egg tempera, Summer Song, and started a new Coastal Bird series I will share in a later post.

I began my art career painting light falling on birds. These creatures who inhabit land and air enthrall me, as does the wonder of all nature. Decades ago I donated to many conservation causes and served on a few boards until becoming overwhelmed by all our vital environmental issues.

The struggles of raising a family and running a business took precedent over global matters. Sometimes it was all I could do to keep our own heads above water. My children are now the age I was then. The intervening years brought forth an increasing amount of new evidence based environmental data.

In my studio are shelves of books by men and women who have shaped my thoughts and inspired me over the years. Artists, prophets, scientists and spiritual leaders. Each one contributing to the artist and man I became. Their ideas planted seeds that rooted and grew into beneficial forests of hope and beauty for humankind. One individual influences many.

On my easel now is a large oil painting of a scene I sketched over twenty-five years ago and birthed an idea. Like so many other beloved wild places in my native Florida, that setting is now another subdivision. Homes built so quick and cheap that major appliances need replacing in 5 years. The stately old moss-draped oxygen giving trees that would have shaded the transient arrivals homes, and provided food and cover for dozens of species, bulldozed into mountains and burned.

I did not have the knowledge to do this painting back then. It represents a circling back to my artistic roots. It’s destined for my show at Hughes Gallery next year. I will share it in the coming months. Follow me on Instagram to see works in progress.

The exhibition hall in our American Tonalist Society show was adorned with grand paintings testifying to the beautiful and spiritual embodiment’s of nature. Art students from a nearby atelier visited and spent reflective moments in front of each painting. They spoke of the spiritual void among their peers, and how these tonal landscape paintings evoked a quiet spiritual truth and beauty lacking in much contemporary art.  “They told us this was dead art,” a young student exclaimed.

To see the enthusiasm on their young faces for landscape paintings was heart warming and inspiring. I am thinking my new work will be a path to help heal the planet. A journey to wholeness.

My painting Summer Song, is available at Crossnore Gallery in North Carolina. Sale proceeds benefit the children’s Stepping Stones program.

One individual makes a difference.

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American Tonalist Society Show in New York City

American Tonalist Society Show in New York City

American Tonalist Society Founders pictured form left- Daniel Ambrose, Eleinne Basa, Mary Erickson, Don Demers

American Tonalist Society Founders pictured left- Daniel Ambrose, Eleinne Basa, Mary Erickson, Don Demers

In the summer of 2016, three dear friends, Mary, Don, Eleinne and I sat around the dining room table of Nanatuck in Port Clyde, Maine discussing the contemporary plein air movement. Our talk turned towards previous schools of art that derived their inspiration from nature, and soon settled on the American Tonalist painters of the late 19th and early 20th century.

We decided to form a group dedicated to celebrating the aesthetic and contemplative ideals of the Tonalist painters. And on that summer afternoon in Maine, was born the American Tonalist Society.

On May 3, 2019 we had our inaugural exhibition, Shades of Gray, at the historic Salmagundi Club in New York City. Thirty premier artists from across America participated with 60 paintings in the show. It was a tremendous success!

Noted art historian and author of A History of American Tonalism, David Adams Cleveland presented an inspiring talk to a full house and honored us on social media with these inspiring words:

Well done for all your hard work and vision–and talent to burn. I’m so proud and happy to see a great tradition of American art reborn and refreshed in your able hands. Now it’s time for the world to know… David Adams Cleveland

David Cleveland talk at Shades of Gray, Salmagundi Club, NYC

We are producing a commemorative catalog including 10 Founders Limited Editions that feature an original drawing from each of the four founders. Only 4 are still available. Click here for details.

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Evening Magic

Evening Magic

A haunting blue evokes my muse… an elusive blue that moans in memories halls, summoning images from the liminal regions of my imagination, sparkling like fireflies over a southern marsh.

To begin an egg tempera painting like Evening Magic, I need to tap into something greater than me. Taller than the trees, higher than the walls, stronger than words contrived to constrain my boundless spirit.

I roam aquamarine and rocky shores, unrolling the films stored in my visual memory bank. I snip a scene here, a moment there — color and light everywhere.

In the studio by candlelight I slip on my Bose, maybe play Anna Calvi and let her voice sweep me away on Hunter. One more taste. One more time… I open the door wide.

Liquid blue surrounds my muse in an island sea, and frames her body in mountain mist. She smiles in sunshine, and when daylight fades she slips into sheer cotton, burns candles at her feet and sways in twilight music.

“I just want to be alone.” She confesses. “I’ve had a good life.”

One should not tell another how to be.

Blue rides a dark horse on a jungle trail, it bathes in a valley stream, and curls in cashmere beside a crackling wood fire. Blue swirls and hangs in memory like smoke caught in frozen winter air.

It’s a summer evening in another life on the lawn of a dead man’s mansion. An old blues man plays on the stage under a white tent. A full moon rises above BB King’s head, the music is hot, dew paints droplets of silver in the grass. Afterwards we walk through a forest of flowers, golden lanterns like fireflies guide our way.

Have I forgotten all I know about painting? Forgotten what love is? Why do rocks and trees no longer hold their allure? Or maybe I seek truth in secret places. It’s the root and marrow, not the fleeting flower or smile that bears the substance of life.

I walk in sunshine and starlight and hear the humming of a deeper music. No thing is titled by an adjective or noun. Unnamed colors marry a tribe of emotions. I see beyond coasts and clouds, forms resound from a distant consciousness, coming like the sound of a faraway night train. I’ve got my ear to the ground, trying to decipher an ancient code.

No one can tell another how to sing a tune only they can hear. Let your soul be the conductor of the beautiful chorus of your life.

Anna, you sing nothing lasts. Anna tell me, how do you paint the memory of blue?

Memories meld into dreams, swirl like carnival cotton candy on a vendors machine. Lights rise from the mystery of my conscious. There was dancing and laughter and sparklers in the night.

And all these things made Evening Magic.

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Live by the Sea, Love by the Moon

Live by the Sea, Love by the Moon

Live by the Sea, Love by the Moon, oil painting of moonlight over ocean by Daniel Ambrose

Live by the Sea, Love by the Moon

Ideas for paintings come as an image or word. Fourteen years ago, I walked the beach in the moonlight when these words suddenly came into my head, live by the sea, love by the moon.

Maybe once I heard them spoken or read them somewhere. I don’t know. But knew instantly I wanted to do a painting. A great one. I sketched out ideas, quite literal ones; a house overlooking the ocean with moonlight coming through the windows, a couple by the shore… each one drawn and discarded.

The years passed with their inevitable sorrows and joys, and I would return to it with a new depth of experiences as my work continued to evolve. Always reaching deeper, seeking to go beyond the apparent reality of things and embrace their essence. What is Art for if not to probe the mystery of our souls? The divine spark that makes each of us unique beings.

In morning and moonlight I return to the beach. My feet walk the waters edge, my mind sails with poets and prophets; Rumi, Rilke, Oliver, Neruda and Gibran. I am with you, my friends. In the world but not of the world. My humble desire to leave behind for future humans how it felt to be alive during our era.

I dive below the material distractions, tunnel under concrete, computers and celebrity culture and dine with sages of ancient civilizations. I feast on saltwater, sailing clouds and windswept dunes. Perched on granite bedrock gazing upon the vast Atlantic opens my mind to previous unfathomable depths. I am this and this is me. Though we each are changing, you are the eternal one.

We humans are like pebbles rolling around on the shore. Fates waves toss us into each other in the ocean of our lives. Sometimes we part without a mark or only minor scars upon our surface. And if we are fortunate, we are cracked open to our core, carved with new insights and understandings. Perhaps compassion blooms.

Yes, like you, I’ve been cracked open a time or two. As a result my work has climbed to a new level. Or perhaps its slipped into an abyss of understanding. A new-found purity of inspiration and clarity of vision. Now paintings emerge unbidden from a lifetime of associations, experience, imagination and memory.

Inspired with new knowledge I set a large canvas on the easel. A great white space of possibility and uncertainty. Some nights with the lights down low, I sat in my chair and with headphones on study the looming surface in half light. I let the music take me to a place of memory and magic. I see the ocean, clouds swirling and rising and every moon I had ever seen illuminating the water.

Picking up a brush I swirl it in ultramarine blue. The word ultramarine comes from the Latin ultramarinus “from beyond the sea.”  I let my mind travel there, and I immerse in the saline waters I’ve known all my life.

I finished the painting in time for my solo show at Hughes gallery in January. It is a very large painting and needs the right space, the right person as all paintings do. But they will come together as all things meant for each other do.

Gallery owner Barbara Hughes wrote these lovely words.

Singularly, the most strikingly beautiful and impactful painting we’ve ever exhibited at Hughes Gallery.- Barbara Hughes

Live by the Sea, Love by the Moon.

It all comes down to living and loving.

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