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

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

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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