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

Hauntingly Beautiful Paintings

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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Spring Visitor: A Painting About Respect

Spring Visitor: A Painting About Respect

The Art of Daniel Ambrose

Hauntingly Beautiful Paintings
Spring Visitor: A Painting About Respect. Egg tempera painting of a Carolina Wren

Spring Visitor, egg tempera painting

When I was twenty-four, I built a house. And though I didn’t know it then, when I landscaped the yard, I was also planting inspiration seeds for this enchanting egg tempera painting, Spring Visitor.

Around that house I planted trees, shrubs and flowers; maples, sweet viburnum and jasmine. Imagined the trees growing tall—providing shade for the porch and branches for children to climb someday. Shrubbery offering cover for birds, flowers attracting butterflies and bees. I made bird feeders, and in the backyard created a pond with a waterfall and erected a wood fence.

In my painting, a humble wren perches on that wood fence. The flower is from a drawing in one of my sketchbooks of a dogwood in my brothers yard in South Carolina. He was in college at Clemson while I was building my house.

This painting is the second version. The first version was a sweet painting of a bird in a flowering dogwood tree. I toiled on it for two weeks then scraped it off.

Painting is like writing. A process of discovery. You begin with an idea, then find what you are actually trying to say is something else all together.

The first painting was inspired by a memory. The further I got into it, I realized the heart of my idea was about respect.

Twenty-five years after I built it, I returned to see how the house was holding up—see how the trees had matured. As I rounded the curve, the house came into view, and my expectations evaporated.

The house was still there — but abandoned — not a sole tree, bush or flower remained in the yard. Not even a leaf.

I slid from my van and stood in the yard and looked around at the barrenness. In my mind I pictured the sandy vacant lot before I built the house. Remembered the year I spent designing it in my head. Offsetting walls so the sun would stream through the windows at different times of the day and seasons.

The deals I made—bartering for heart cypress I shaped and lacquered to trim the interior. The fireplace hearth of Tennessee field stone. Building oak cabinetry with raised panel doors and the stained glass window I crafted for the front door. The constant trips in my old Ford truck with my dog T.J. Hauling tons of materials; lumber, stone, bathtubs, concrete and plants. Recalled the men who trusted me and supplied materials. When I ran short of money, each one simply saying, pay me when you can.

I remembered raising walls by the strength of my back and dreaming of my unborn children filling the rooms with life.

Children did not come after several years. So I converted a bedroom into a studio and set my mind to painting. To express feelings too strong for words.

These memories flowed through me as I painted Spring Visitor. Mixing egg and pigments, brushing layer upon layer, feeling the textures of the fence I made, the bird I fed, the flower in my brother’s yard. A word that kept coming to mind was respect.

Maybe Spring Visitor is a painting about respect.

Respect for the muscle and sweat I poured into that house. For my younger brother working to put himself through college, and for the life of this bird. Respect for the men who had faith in a young dreamer, taking him at his word when he promised with a steady look in the eye and firm handshake to pay them back.

And I did. Every one.

In the larger context, respect for all my brother, sister painters who put beauty into the world. Respect for other viewpoints, for anyone who overcomes challenges to rise above baseness and cruelty to make this world a better place for themselves and others.

Words backed with integrity. Honor and humility. Dreams steeled with determination, creating beauty and striving for excellence.

These things are worthy of respect. These ideas can make paintings.

You can build a life on these virtues.

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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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