Find What You Love and Make it Yours

Find What You Love and Make it Yours

The Art of Daniel Ambrose

Hauntingly Beautiful Paintings
Spring Morning, egg tempera painting of snowy egret by artist Daniel Ambrose

Spring Morning, egg tempera painting

I wake to a bird singing. Ashen light saturates the linen curtains. I make coffee and carry it across the road to the beach. Balmy air, bright green waving palms greet and gladden me. These things sing to my soul.

At waters edge I slip in my toes. Still too cold for a Florida boy. Opening my sketchbook, I make notes of the waves — gentle breaking, curling color — glassy bottle green—surface tone – silvery. A softness glides through the atmosphere.

The sun climbs higher, and a snowy egret strolls into view. She turns and a slight breeze ripples the water and lifts her new breeding feathers to the morning sun.


Find what you love and make it yours.

I remember this one. I drew her in my sketchbook in 1992. Twenty-six years ago we crossed paths.

No, that can’t be true. It’s not her. She is long gone. Her bones are likely scattered to the winds.

It is her memory I paint.

I see her in every spring morning, in each egret sailing over shining water. Every time the light traces patterns in soft feathers and turns them into delicate lace, I see her forever soaring.

Budding artists ask. “I don’t know what to paint. What shall I paint?”

And I say, paint what you love. Paint the things you think about. Study your subjects well so you can embody them with the ring of truth. Invest many solitary hours in your studio. Test, explore, play, sacrifice. Learn the rules, then break them. It is difficult bringing forth something that has never been. Trust me, painting authentically will bring out every emotion in you. Paint the deepest part of you.

Ignore the external distorted voices coming at you from all directions. Spend time with those things that inspire and resonate with your higher self. Listen to the sublime music of your soul.

These moments are true. Paint this truth. You’ll find success in your own originality.

Find what you love and make it yours.

Some people ask. “What is happiness?”

The potential for happiness exists in each passing moment. It lives in meaningful work, witnessing the miracle of a bee on a flower, conversing with a dear one, or enjoying a fine painting.

Find and notice these moments. Linger on them and make them a part of you.

Find what you love and make it yours.

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Morning Whispers

Morning Whispers

The Art of Daniel Ambrose

Hauntingly Beautiful Paintings
Morning Whispers. Oil painting of two gulls on the beach at dawn by Daniel Ambrose

Morning Whispers, oil painting by Daniel Ambrose

“I like it quiet in the mornings.”

This, I am certain I heard her whisper.

Black coffee or green tea steaming in a favored mug. The nectar of inspiration.

Listening for morning whispers.

Tell me you love pale light veiling over misty sea, water gently teasing bare feet. Perhaps a coral sunrise washing through feathered pines, or wood smoke curling up crisp tapestries of autumn blue and gold.

No, please, perhaps it is better to remain silent, and simply delight in the subtle harmonies of daybreak.

Remembering the small sounds of morning. . .  a spoon tinkling in a cup, rustling sheets, a crackling fire, contented sigh, a songbird waking on a spring bough.

The surety of a heartbeat.

It is good to ease into the day.

You my friend, It is good steer clear of soul draining screens, reflect upon memories lived, and reconnect to remembered light that danced in each other eyes.

You who wish to be an artist, find that which stirs your soul, and the muse will abide by your love.

Some say, there be nothing gotten by it — by endless rumination and reminiscing.

Nothing of profit to show for time spent watching silent films unfurl in your mind like bright colored streamers trailing a kite. Indeed, inspiration swims among those bright streamers.

Memories of morning whispers summon the muse, bearing her priceless gifts. For no earthly price will purchase her favors.

Beautiful moments that once were, become transcendent beauty born anew. Memories are resurrected and sanctified in the temples of our Art. Housed in our paintings, poetry, song and dance, they become the priceless yet essential bonds of humanity.

Whether the distance between be measured in mere inches, many miles, or the passage of a lifetime, Art creates kinship across the seas of time and space.

Live an authentic life. Speak your truth, remember the small moments, and be awake to the sacred dawning sounds of morning.

For certain I have found, the muse is cradled in those low morning whispers.

Listen. . .

About the painting:

Morning Whispers
Oil on linen
30 x 40 in.
Private collection

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The Kiss of Life

The Kiss of Life

The Art of Daniel Ambrose

Hauntingly Beautiful Paintings & Illuminating Words
Love and Beauty, egg tempera painting of venus over the ocean at dawn by Daniel Ambrose. 2004

Love and Beauty, egg tempera painting by Daniel Ambrose. 2004 Private Collection.

Last January, my daughter called at twilight wanting to know the name of a bright star.

Venus, I replied. The evening star.

I was in the process of reworking a painting with Venus in it that I wrote about in Before I Sleep.

Our conversation brought to mind an egg tempera painting I made of Venus in 2004. Love and Beauty.

On my birthday, in 2004, I ventured down to the beach at three-thirty in the morning. The sea was darker than a pirate’s heart. The moist predawn air carried a breeze pregnant with salt. I walked the shore in the velvet darkness, and felt the cool sand sink beneath my feet. My only companions were the sound of the surf, and a lone, brilliant light in the eastern sky.


By that sea, that morning, I was waiting for the first blush of dawn. Watching for that barely perceptible moment when transition occurs. That liminal space in time when dark becomes light. A world devoid of color becomes luminous. Just as in life, that precise moment when awareness comes, and hope and renewal are born and possibility springs to life. The kiss of life.

Darkness eased off, and for a moment, a pale glow trimmed the horizon, a ribbon of pink caressed the sea. Quick, but with care, I laid her colors down in my sketchbook. Later in the studio, I created the painting Love and Beauty.

Not all of us are born out of love. Not all of us have beauty in our lives. But we can make it so.

A kind word of praise or pardon, a passing touch on a shoulder, a note or flower presented with coffee in the morning, a smile across a crowded room, can make his day. A few encouraging words, a listening heart, can change her stars.

There is beauty in kindness. There is love in quiet deeds. Come together and let the sound of your hearts beat among the silence of the stars.

We can be a bright light in our personal universe. Though we may never know who is watching us from afar, who is inspired by our words and deeds — who is holding us in their heart.

Love is energy connecting at the speed of light.

Beauty is a guiding star.

Be the kiss of life.

For someone.

For you.

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The Profound Beauty of Silence

The Profound Beauty of Silence

The Art of Daniel Ambrose

Hauntingly Beautiful Paintings
Drift Inn Beach, Port Clyde, Maine. Oil Painting by Daniel Ambrose

Two Trees, Drift Inn beach, Port Clyde, Maine. Oil painting by Daniel Ambrose

Sometimes words are too shadowy to describe the luminous spectrum of life experiences. When words fail, all that remains is the profound beauty of silence.

The need to express the ineffable existed in humans long before we invented the written word. We communicated in symbols and gestures. We burnt sticks and drew pictures on earthen walls, sharpened rocks to etch figures in stone.

What compelled us to do these things? To bring forth images that only lived inside ourselves, to birth beautiful things that lived not in the world, until we created them? What purpose did art serve in our evolutionary upbringing?

Does our art emanate from the same source as our instinct for spirituality? Will scientists someday identify the exact atom of inspiration? Where does this spark of creativity live in our bodies? Or. . . maybe our creative impulse resides in every molecule of our very being.

Maybe the art of humans is the blood and bone of everything we are, all that we have lived, cried over and cursed at, moments we laughed with others or lied to ourselves. Moments of awareness that shook us to the core.

Last week I returned from Maine, by way of Boston. During my trip I spent a lot of time drawing. Drawing focuses my rabbit mind. Something about pencil pressing on paper imprints the image in my mind. Typically I take notes too, but I wrote very little. I simply drew to remember this.

For maybe drawn memories are more viable truth tellers of the human experience than accurate recording of places.

I began a new tempera the day after I returned. The inspiration came out of the blue, and I have been working on it day and night for six days. It is mostly memory. I intended to post it and share my thoughts, but found I have no words. Only the painting can speak for me in the beauty of its silence.

So instead I’m sharing a painting I made in Port Clyde at Drift Inn beach over several mornings. I left this painting in Boston, but kept the memory.

Maybe in our brief lives here on earth, our art is simply the deepest expression of all that we witness and love.

Maybe we don’t need to know all the answers to everything. Embracing the sublime mystery of wordless things, and celebrating them through our art is enough to honor the profound beauty of silence.

I’ll leave you quietly with a poem from Longfellow:

The Sound of the Sea
The sea awoke at midnight from its sleep,
And round the pebbly beaches far and wide
I heard the first wave of the rising tide
Rush onward with uninterrupted sweep;
A voice out of the silence of the deep,
A sound mysteriously multiplied
As of a cataract from the mountain’s side,
Or roar of winds upon a wooded steep.
So comes to us at times, from the unknown
And inaccessible solitudes of being,
The rushing of the sea-tides of the soul;
And inspirations, that we deem our own,
Are some divine foreshadowing and foreseeing
Of things beyond our reason or control.

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Painting the Sound of a Seaside Morning

Painting the Sound of a Seaside Morning

The Art of Daniel Ambrose

Hauntingly Beautiful Paintings
Oil sketch recording seaside morning color sensations, Venice Beach, Fl.

Color notes. Oil sketch recording seaside color sensations.

Seaside Morning

The sun is gleaming on the the water. Far out on the horizon, a rolling thunderstorm grumbles over the Gulf. Nearer to shore, cumulus clouds drift in a silent, lazy train.

I am surrounded by textures, immersed in patterns, forms repeat in various incarnations. Floating, curving and ever shifting forms. The moist air of clouds. Springy sea oats. Their lean lines curve and bow, and paint lacy patterns of blue gray on the warm, pale gray sand.

Ageless sand, coarse and fine and formed from innumerable shell and fossil fragments. Solid earth planted beneath a gaseous sky. Shells from the sea, water from outer space, and sun, always the sun, the color of light, the color of life.

Sparse, short grasses blanket the beach in patches. Slight mounds of warm green, dry domes of terse texture contrast with the upright dignity of swaying sea oats. If they were a language, the short grass would be the sturdy, slang, everyday words, while the sea oats would sing songs of poetry. Vivid yellow dune flowers embellish the melody like the high clear notes of a flute. All is a symphony of sound, shape and color.

Rambling morning glories weave themselves under the sea oats, competing for attention. Rambling and reaching their sienna tendrils out to lay claim to new territory. Bright, yellow-green oblong leaves show off tubular purple flowers. A morning dove wanders among the morning glory. Its feathered body casts a long blue shadow in the slanted sunlight. With a squeak and a flutter it flies away. Seacoast sounds.

Whispering sounds, the lapping of gentle waves, crickets in the grasses, birds sing in tune with the melody of this seaside morning.

The sun is getting hotter. The tide is rising. A breeze begins to stir from the sea.

I may go for a swim.

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The Art of Egg Tempera Painting: Preparing Panels

The Art of Egg Tempera Painting: Preparing Panels

The Art of Daniel Ambrose

Hauntingly Beautiful Paintings

Part 1 of a series titled The Art of Egg Tempera Painting summarizing the process that I use to prepare materials for painting in egg tempera. For the first post in this series, read the Introduction.

powdered hide glue for chalk gesso the art of egg tempera painting

Hide glue for chalk gesso.

The Art of Egg Tempera Painting

The humble egg has proven itself to be an enduring painting medium throughout art history. Egg was used as a paint binder by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks thousands of years ago. During the European Renaissance, the art of egg tempera painting flourished before gradually declining as oil found it’s way into painters studios.

Adding various oils instead of egg to pigments increased their drying time, and facilitated new painting methods. The advent of oil painting allowed artists to work on larger, lighter weight canvases. The invention of tubed oil paints in the 1800’s enabled painters to work outdoors, helping to ignite the plein air Impressionist movement.

As painters explored this new oil medium, the practice of painting in egg tempera waned. Over the succeeding centuries, egg tempera resurfaced a couple of times; in Britain in the 1800’s and America in the early part of the 20th century, when professor Daniel Thompson introduced it in his course at Yale.

The enduring, inherent jewel-like beauty of an egg tempera painting is unparalleled. Their satin surface shimmers with subtle hues of color, and their ability to reflect light, like a stained glass window, imbues them with an organic presence, emitting an inner glow. Egg tempera paintings retain their colors for centuries. It’s this lasting value combined with sublime effects of light, that has challenged and delighted me over the decades.

However, egg tempera is a demanding medium and proper steps must be taken to ensure its longevity. The first step in this journey of light, is preparing the panels.


The nature of egg tempera paint requires that it be applied on a rigid support, unlike other painting mediums which can be painted on a flexible surface such as canvas or paper. Small egg tempera paintings can also be painted on 8 ply, acid free museum board made from cotton.

Incidentally, premium paper is made from plants; cotton, or flax which produces fine linen paper used in stationery. Cheaper paper is made from the pulp wood of pine trees. In the early part of the 20th century, this cheap paper was used to print magazines featuring pot boiler detective and science fiction stories. These became known as pulp fiction. Many of the scrawny pine trees lining the interstates here in the southeastern United States are pulp trees. In Georgia, you know you are nearing Brunswick when you get a distinctive whiff of the paper mill.

To begin a painting in egg tempera, historically, an artist would have a carpenter make a wooden panel from oak or poplar wood. The carpenter glued narrow boards together to make the desired panel width. Sometimes linen was glued to the surface. Over time, atmospheric changes would cause the wood to contract and expand creating small cracks in the painting.

In 1924 William Mason invented a stable hardboard wood product available in large sheets. It was named Masonite and artists soon adapted it. The generic name for hardboard became known as masonite. In mid-century hardboard was “tempered” (dipped in linseed oil) which caused adhesive problems for artists. “Untempered” hardboard, though increasingly hard to find, is still available on the market, and is the material I currently use as panels for my paintings.

I make several panels at the same time and begin by cutting the hardboard to the desired sizes, then sand and clean them with denatured alcohol. The panels need to be sealed before they are prepped for painting. This sealant is called a “size.”

Sizing Panels

heating hide glue for chalk gessoTraditional glue “size” is prepared by soaking gelatin glue granules in water overnight. Next, it is slowly warmed in a double boiler to a temperature of about 110-130 degrees Fahrenheit. The formula is a 1:1 ratio of about 2 cups water to 2 tablespoons glue granules.

I slowly add the granules to a bowl placed on a saucepan of water, stirring until it is warmed to the desired temperature and dissolved.

Next, I remove it from the burner, let it set for a while to cool then leave it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day the congealed glue is heated the same way as the day before until it melts.

Glue size in pan before heating

Preparing to heat the glue size.

The warm glue is immediately brushed on the hardboard panels, and allowed to dry overnight. While the panels are drying, I begin the next step which is making the gesso.

Panels coated with glue size for painting in egg tempera.

Panels coated with glue size.

In the next art of egg tempera painting article, I’ll describe the gesso making process, and what artists typically think of as gesso is not true gesso.

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