Evening Magic

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

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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A Summer Conversation

A Summer Conversation

A Summer Conversation

A Summer Conversation, seascape oil painting by Daniel Ambrose

A Summer Conversation. Oil painting by Daniel Ambrose.

In early summer I took my painting, A Summer Conversation to work on at my friend Mary’s studio on Venice Island. Each day I went to the beach to make sketchbook studies of clouds and sky. Recently I delivered the finished painting to Hughes Gallery.  It was good to see it hanging on the wall, good to see the tangible completion of an idea.

Stepping back to view it a thought struck me. How it still amazes that a painting, how any inspiring artwork materializes from an invisible idea in the mind of an artist.

This idea can be anything abstract or concrete. External or internally motivated. Any emotion, sensation, scene or theme can inspire a work of art.

Realizing that idea is the struggle of wonder that keeps artists going. This innate compulsive desire has driven humans to make art since our beginnings. The primal need to understand and express the miracles and mysteries, the unfathomable joys and sorrows of our existence keeps art alive.

For artists hope that our next creation will be better, truer to our ideal. The ongoing dialogue with ourselves seeking the truth of what we are trying to communicate. Now and then we release a contented sigh when we know we hit bone. We have burrowed deep in the marrow of authenticity of our being.

This knowing propels artists to keep forging ahead. Artists inspire others to create, to see nature and their neighbor anew, to appreciate the wonders of the world, to think in different ways and uplift our spirits. Our creative urge can inspire or destroy us, used to celebrate love or incite hate. The duality of our traits run in accord with nature. There is no right without the left, no light without the dark. We choose to live in winter darkness or summer light, yet each we recognize. Hurricane waves become again the placid ocean.

There is an eventual balance in all things.

Early this summer I had been feeling the weight of solitude, the weight of divisiveness not the light of divineness. I needed a summer sky. I carried my solitude and sketchbook to the sea and had a summer conversation with my soul.

Art keeps hope alive in our hearts.

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A Blue Day in August

A Blue Day in August

A Blue Day in August

I aimed to leave for Maine on the 8th of August. The car packed and the studio clean. I had a long road ahead of me. The day came, and I wandered over to the beach with my coffee and sat in the sand to steep in the sunrise.

Intent on trying to decipher the blueish shadow color of the waves my visual memory ran through every blue I have known. Associations emerged from the ocean of my imagination.

In my mind as summer unwound, I’ve been musing on ideas for new paintings. And my thinking is nonlinear. It ropes through a constellation of images exploding through time. A swirling concoction of experiences tumble like seaweed through saltwater memories.

This is how paintings are born…. This is how inspiration unfolds…

“Do you want to live by the sea?” A voice rises from the blue bringing forgotten words discarded like broken seashells along the shore. One by one I pick them up and study them in memories light. Now I understand.

Ideas for paintings come like shooting stars. The best ones do. You got to net them when they pass. So I slip on my Bose, Mazzy Star on repeat, slide up the volume, and ride Fade Into You to abstraction.

Like a hammerhead shark chasing a tarpon, I’m gonna trail this arousing scent and see what comes from my unconscious.

Dreamlike images emerge. Liquid blue surrounds her in an island sea, painting her body against a blue mountain haze. Daylight fades. She burns her candles and closes her eyes and begins to sway to a rhythm only she feels. And evening becomes magic.

“I just want to be alone.” She says. “I have had a good life,” and gives me a white feather stolen from the shore. “I found this for you.”

Blue rides a roan horse on a plantation trail, turns and smiles in the jungle sunshine, bathes in a valley stream, and curls in white cashmere beside a wood fire. Blue swirls and hangs in memory like smoke suspended in icy winter air.

I’m standing on the lawn of a dead man’s mansion in the oldest mountains. A full moon rises above a famous bluesman’s head. The music is hot, the air smoking blue. We walk home through a forest of flowers, lanterns like fireflies guide our way.

Have I forgotten all I know about painting? Why do the rivers of my native home no longer hold their allure as subjects in themselves? Now I seek truth among celestial veils of secret places.

I hear the humming of a deeper music. No adjective or noun can define land or seascape. A body of unnamed colors marry a tribe of emotions. I see beyond coasts and clouds, forms resound from a distant consciousness, seductive like a Sirens call. I’ve got my ear to the wind, trying to decipher an ancient code.

Sandoval you sing, “I want to take a breath that’s true”. Please tell me, Hope. How do you paint the memory of blue?

Memories color the walls in the corridors of dreams, “colors your eyes with what’s not there.”

Each morning and evening I return to the sea.

Somewhere in the shadows of those waves,

I’ll find and paint a blue that’s true.

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The Story of the Painting Fireflies at Dusk

The Story of the Painting Fireflies at Dusk

The Story of the Painting Fireflies at Dusk

egg tempera painting Fireflies at Dusk fireflies over a green field at dusk

Egg tempera painting Fireflies at Dusk by Daniel Ambrose.

The story of this egg tempera painting Fireflies at Dusk, began as inspiration long forgotten.

Fourteen years later, this painting of fireflies floating over a field of grass, manifested from restlessness.

Maybe it’s wanderlust or perhaps the hot summer breeze. Could be my home and studio hammered by hurricanes two years in a row. Maybe it’s just a bad case of bewilderment, and I’m ready to slip my attachments and travel. In my yoga practice, we say let go of whatever does not serve you. Fear and leaving our comfort zone stops most of us from letting go. Ironically, even when that comfort zone is fear.

Wherever this desire stems, it has got me tearing into clearing, organizing and remodeling projects. I’ve been updating my kitchen, emptying the garage and adding exciting new features to my art I’ll share soon.

A few years ago I unloaded my art show cargo trailer in the garage, depositing decades of boxed up art paraphernalia. My paintings are acquired through galleries and  exclusive private collector list now. It’s been ages since I’ve done a show like in those days when I hauled the trailer behind a large truck camper.

Well I tore into those old stored art containers, and that’s when I uncovered the story of Fireflies at Dusk.

Fourteen years ago, a friend loaned me a book, Me Talk Pretty One Day. I carried it to art shows to read while traveling.

One evening after a show, I was sitting outside the camper reading my borrowed book. I glanced up and saw fireflies flickering on the edge of a field. I grabbed my paints but couldn’t find a canvas, so I quickly painted a color sketch on a page with my oil paints.

Then my life changed, and before I could return the book it disappeared.

While going through a box from the trailer, I came across the old paperback. Flipping through the pages, I found this painted sketch I’d made that night long ago.

Fireflies. . . When was the last time I noticed them here in Florida? Trying to remember brought a flood of summer memories.

As children, we darted barefoot among fireflies under the magnolia in my grandma Dewey’s back yard, and watched them glowing above the salt marsh by the river. And there was that magical moment in the depths of the Everglades when fireflies floated in the moonlight.

Egg tempera painting of fireflies in the moonlight by Daniel Ambrose

Fireflies in the Moonlight. Egg tempera painting

Decades later, I lived in the mountains of North Carolina. That summer I remember royal sunsets, sparkling streams, moonrise through the pines, deer and turkey passing and coyotes howling on the ridge.

But I still can’t recall if fireflies danced above the pond in the Blue Ridge dusk.

All this cleaning and clearing out stuff is freeing my mind and filling it with new inspiration. Memories married to adventure inspire Art.

I look forward to sharing more art adventures with you. Maybe our paths will cross this summer.

Meanwhile, if you subscribe to my posts and get them in your email, I thank you very much. If not, I invite you to join us now by filling out the form below. You’ll get each new post in your inbox as soon as it’s published.

Now go make happy memories.

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The Art of Daniel Ambrose

Exhibition History


Egg tempera painting of moonrise over Casperson beach, Venice Florida

“Inspiration. Is this what you’re looking for?” My muse inquires. High above an aqua ocean, three white birds coast south through curling clouds, wispy like smoke. The moon a day from being full, floats above palms and sea grapes in an ageless sky. The setting sun carves dusky cradles in the sand. A sense of peace prevails in the breeze. A peace tinged with yearning.

What birds are these?

Reckon I’ll never be able to tell you the source of inspiration, when it will come, or why it even comes at all. Is it stored somewhere in the universe, like lightning in a bottle? Maybe it prowls the shadowy corners of dreams, or lurks beneath our bed of memories. I can only imagine. Exhilarating like love, the energizing feeling is unmistakable when it strikes.

If you search for inspiration, it will elude you like the origin of wind. You can not command nor coax or whistle for her like a dog. She won’t come. It’s like trying to talk birds out of the trees.

Where are they from? Where are they going, those large white birds?

“If you could be in a cloud, which one would you choose?” Within the lilac mist of time, I recall a summer voice. Silently, I answer. I’m already there.

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you must leave a back channel to inspiration open in your mind—a vigil candle burning for the muse. Embrace the Divine, receptive and poised for work. Dismiss the noise in your head, and inspiration will come unbidden like a blow from Thor’s hammer, or the soft cooing of a dove.

A whisper of a breeze kisses my cheek. I roll on my side and study faraway things then reach for my sketchbook to transcribe the sweet murmurings of my muse.

The mystifying birds ghost into the blue.

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