Love Comes Softly

Love Comes Softly

Love Comes Softly

Gathered in the Light. Egg tempera painting of birds at the seashore by Daniel Ambrose

Gathered in the Light. Egg tempera painting by Daniel Ambrose

The falling sun blazes a fiery ribbon of liquid pink along the bronze shore. I walk for miles into evenfall. Walk beside the sea until the rising moon spreads my shadow before me.

Then I walk farther still.

I follow my shadow to see where it will lead.

It leads me along exotic shores of inspiration. It takes me into the luminous ocean of my imagination.

Incandescent ideas for paintings percolate from the void. They swirl in the penumbra region of my mind where indistinct yet intoxicating pictures incubate. Too fragile for the light of day, too intriguing to let slip back into the shadows.

Inspiration can strike like a tsunami. And sometimes it comes as love comes, softly. Full of uncertainty, tinged with hope.

Great possibilities dwell in these nebulous spheres of early love or inspiration.

An array of golden light flashes in the water. Glittering shards strewn like golden jewels scattered across the bed of a regal queen. I trace its tantalizing path up to the heavens. High above the rising moon, a brilliant lone star shines. Jupiter. Nine birds scatter at my approach.

I have been here before.

After a successful solo show, I have been walking the beach. Walking to keep things in perspective, walking to stay close to my source. Walking out the questions in my life.

Alone, these days and nights, I walk for miles, opening myself to the sea and stars, embracing the celestial dancing air. Seeking a gateway to the Divine, an open channel to the sublime. How alike are the stirrings of love and inspiration.

This morning at sunrise, I was here with the birds, and we gathered in the light.

For where two or three gather in my name . . .

Inspiration will not be forced, like love. It will find you. Be ready to embrace and nurture it with an open heart and receptive mind. The fuse is fragile that ignites the passions of Art and Love.

In my travels I listen to the stories of broken and beautiful people. Stories that stir my soul, inspire me. Fill my heart with empathy, fill my mind with pictures of color and light. I know this way too. We are not the same, but we are alike.

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Commit your heart and soul to what you love. Be whole. Release the fire within and miracles will happen. Walk towards your destiny and the universe will align to light your path. Be fearless.

Find what you love and love what you find.

And let us gather in the Light.

Where Love comes, softly.

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When We Dream, Life Becomes Amazing

When We Dream, Life Becomes Amazing

When We Dream, oil painting by Daniel Ambrose of two birds on beach at sunrise

When We Dream, oil painting by Daniel Ambrose

After delivering my new painting, When We Dream, to Hughes Gallery in Boca Grande, I stopped in Venice at sunset for an enlightening dinner on the beach with a friend. It was late when the meal ended, and I eased my weary body into my van for the middle of the night run across my native state of Florida.

It had been a long, bittersweet day.

Now it was after midnight and I was processing the day’s reel of images and conversations rumbling through my mind along these dark highway miles. More ideas for paintings.

My mind was turning like my tires on the asphalt. Spinning over the day, turning back the pages of my life. The blue clock numbers taunt me with their time, 1:28 a.m. Still an hour to go before I see my bed.

“I have promise to keep, and I have miles to go before I sleep” Robert Frost

How did I come to be on this dark empty highway running ninety miles an hour at this moment in my life?

It all began with a thought thirty-two years ago. I will paint, and see where it leads.

It all began with a dream of color and light.

My dinner companion later told me my paintings radiate qualities of love and light. Visitors to my solo show this year, said there was something deeply soulful about my paintings.

I agree. These past few years, I have been digging deep, scraping the bone for inspiration. Yoga teaches us to open up and let go. I have let go of a lot of things in my life. Things that tried to kill me, and maybe a few good things I should have held on too. I’ve swam the oceans of highest love and deepest loss.

And I have learned as Bob Dylan sings in Trying to Get to Heaven, “When you think that you’ve lost everything, You find out you can always lose a little more.”

I have had a good run in life.

Coming from a dirt back road, in cutoff blue jeans and barefoot, I’ve had an amazing journey. An almost Forrest Gump like experience. With no formal art training, painting has taken me places beyond my wildest dreams. The people I’ve met, from winos in the gutter in San Francisco at 4 a.m., to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court one afternoon on a dock in Maine. All have enriched my life.

Decades ago that dream began with a simple desire to express the beautiful feeling I knew growing up outdoors in Florida.

Just learning how to paint, to draw and match what I saw around me took the first frustrating ten years. As my skills grew, I expanded my subject matter. Eventually, settling into a confident feeling of power that I could express what I saw, which freed me up to paint what I saw in my mind and felt in my heart too.

But it was always about the Light.

Now I understand how to paint. But I don’t think I understand anything about life anymore.

Life passed, and now my heart is scarred like a Florida manatee’s back cut by careless propellers.

But I’ve never stopped dreaming, never given up hope. Now I try to fill each moment with color and light. Now I fill my paintings with the love and light of all who I have deeply connected with. Now it is the memory of their beauty that radiates from my art.

Now it is always about Love and Light.

So dream my daughter, son, brother, sister friend. Your dreams are your original art. It’s in the darkness dreams begin, like a seed planted beyond the light of day. Your dreams are flower seeds. Do not be discouraged, never give up. Just as a plant must struggle up through the soil to reach the sun, so must you. Gratitude grows out of struggle. All that is good, worthy and beautiful in life comes when we dream. Hope is alive when we dream. Never fear to follow your dreams. They will take you on a wondrous journey.

Life becomes a beautiful mystery when we dream.

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If I Can Dream

If I Can Dream

Undeniable beauty exists in our world. It permeates our lives, flourishes in our joyous moments, and shimmers in our suffering like an aurora borealis dancing in a frozen winter sky.

Beauty can be a pathway to transcendence. Authentic beauty is the divine voice of hope.

“This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. Beauty like truth, brings joy to the human heart…” Second Vatican Council

As we slide into the second month of 2017, I am writing this as a man, once a husband, always a father, a brother, son and loyal friend. A man graced with a gift, a gift that came with responsibilities and great sacrifices.

Last year, I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions. My mind is half-shot and I’ll forget em’ anyway.

Instead, I will carry on; learning to be a better painter, writer, yogi and future partner. Learning to be a better steward of this planet, learning to be a kinder man. And I’ll go on dreaming. The world needs it’s dreamers, it’s artist healers, its witnesses to beauty. It needs you, to dream and make your dreams come true.

In authentic beauty I find hope, peace and joy. This is what I will be seeking and bringing to you in the future.

When I was a child of eleven, Elvis Presley sang the song in this video. It was two months after the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.

There was fear, pain and despair in the world. Elvis’s handler, the Colonel did not want him to sing it. He said, “this ain’t Elvis’ kind of song.” Elvis told him, “I’d like to try it, man.” Those in the recording studio said, Elvis sang with so much emotion his three backup singers had tears running down their faces.

Beauty too, is a feeling.

In 2017, I offer up my intentions of happiness, good health, peace in your life for you and those you love. Thank you for your support of my art. I honor the divine light in you. Always remember… just being you is a gift.

May we all be kind to each other, and create a more beautiful world.

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Living in Astonishment

Living in Astonishment

Solist, egere flying over wave. Egg tempera painting by Daniel Ambrose

The Messenger, egg tempera, 2016. Daniel Ambrose

sanderling bird sleeping egg tempera painting by Daniel Ambrose

Asleep to Dream IV, egg tempera. 2016

The Messenger and Asleep to Dream IV are new egg tempera paintings just off the easel and headed to Hughes Gallery for their winter season.

They are visual indicators of thoughts I circle. In essence, perhaps these two paintings are simply about noticing things—the beauty of natural moments—of birds, of stillness and gratitude, about living in astonishment.

Besides being astonished, learning to appreciate a moment can cultivate a sense of happiness. Painting from life will do it, and meditation is another way to bliss.

While painting these two temperas, I’ve been listening to On Being with Krista Tippet. In a podcast interview, Krista’s guest, Ellen Langer, Harvard professor of psychology, said that meditation is a means to an end:

“Meditation, no matter what kind of meditation, is engaged to produce post-meditative mindfulness.”

In other words you have to meditate to be in the moment—meditate to be happy.

Dr. Langers, decades of research has shown that we can skip the meditation and jump right to the end. The simple act of actively noticing things, will result in increased health and happiness.

“And so, mindfulness, for me, is the very simple process of actively noticing new things. When you actively notice new things that puts you in the present, makes you sensitive to context. As you’re noticing new things, it’s engaging. And it turns out, after a lot of research, that we find that it’s literally, not just figuratively, enlivening.”

We all have our problems. If we didn’t we wouldn’t be alive. The secret to getting more joy out of life, is to simply pay attention and actively notice things. In general, deeply noticing people and things in our lives begets astonishment. Astonishment begets gratitude. Gratitude begets happiness.

Which pretty much sums up my artist friends and my experience of drawing and painting from life. The moments in my life when I’ve been totally absorbed in observation or drawing from life, reside happily in me with great clarity. From these memories I can draw a kingfisher on a slender limb, Venus beside the moon, the shape of her eye, the tender curves of those lips…

In noticing, I’ve been a receiver, a grateful witness to illuminating moments of inspiration.

Look around you and actively observe something. What do you notice?

For my painting The Messenger, I lifted the title from a Mary Oliver poem. In it she writes quite eloquently about noticing and astonishment.

The Messenger
Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium. The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth
and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all,
over and over, how it is that we live forever.

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Why I Hired a Book Editor

Why I Hired a Book Editor

 

Photo of Daniel Ambrose writing in journal in a barn

Daniel writing in a North Carolina barn 2005.

 

I printed a hard copy of my upcoming book, The Art of Daniel Ambrose, and passed it around for review. And thank you to everyone who signed up to buy a copy when it’s published.
Image of a book authored by The Art of Daniel Ambrose edited by a book editor

 

Comments were insightful and helped clarify my thinking, so I did some rewriting. In conversations I learned that several books can be unpacked from my imagination. I find it confining to corral my free roaming thoughts into one piece of writing. I try to stay on one topic, but my over active imagination is flying flat out like a wild mustang charging around riderless on the open range.

 

To rein myself I hired a professional book editor. Her name is Carol. She was an editor in New York before migrating south to open up shop in Florida. I need all the professional help I can get.

 

I’m old enough to know what I don’t know. Don’t know much about predicate nominatives and object complements. I know a lot about painting. I know all the technical parts. Accumulated painting knowledge hums in the background of my mind while I’m painting. Overriding this humming, is feeling—heart and soul.

 

My paintings are built on sound craftsmanship. But if that’s all they were, they would be lifeless without imagination and soul. While they are on the easel, I constantly edit my paintings, mindful of their soulfulness.

 

A book editor knows how to craft a sentence and wrangle a writers imagination into sense. Knows how to find a writers voice, clarify intention and steer a writer through the publishing process. Swing a rope over that pony’s neck and steer her home. Where you going filly? You threw me in that last paragraph bush.

 

In our phone conversations my editor has already given me a lot to think about.

 

I’m hoping to have the book published in time for Mother’s Day. It will be available in several different formats from paperback to a limited edition with an original drawing.

 

To get a pre-published special price on a signed copy of The Art of Daniel Ambrose, send me your name and email in the form below.

 

Share the gift of art with your friends.

 

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Nesting: Unimaginable Journeys

Nesting: Unimaginable Journeys

Nesting, egg tempera painting of sand dunes and bird by Daniel Ambrose
Nesting, egg tempera painting by Daniel Ambrose

I began this egg tempera painting, Nesting, intent on expressing a single idea. I made drawings, notes and even painted a tiny egg tempera color study to resolve various aesthetic problems before beginning the painting. I wanted to be clear about where I was going. Preliminary studies are like signposts.

I prepped an egg tempera panel and enthusiastically began, an image of the completed painting firmly fixed in my mind.

The final painting looks nothing like any of my preliminary studies.

From the first brushstroke Nesting swept off on a life of its own. Though I wrestled it, trying to pin Nesting down to my way of thinking, it led me in on an unimaginable journey far from my original idea. If this painting had arms and legs we would have been tangled up on the studio floor, locked in a battle of intentions. Mind vs. paint. Consciousness vs. the unconscious.

Paintings do that sometimes. Mirroring life, taking us on unimaginable journeys.

As we ease into a landscape of possibilities in the new year, I’ve no resolutions, only resolve. Striving to make paintings of love and beauty flow from my easel like soulful ink from Neruda’s pen.

And though it means being vulnerable like a lone bird nesting in sand, I’ll share my heart and soul, loving without expectation. Fearless. Because the world needs less hurting and more healing. Kind words comfort, and serene paintings soothe our souls.

This hurting world needs humans who care and create, who dream and do, and overcome. Humans who trust and forgive, honor and heal. Humans who inspire, nurture, respect and show us the light. Show us potentialities and possibilities and lead us on unimaginable journeys of insight, enlightenment and cooperation to a shining future.

It needs you.

“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief.
Also in singing,
especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.

As for the body, it is solid and strong and curious
and full of detail; it wants to polish itself; it
wants to love another body; it is the only vessel in
the world that can hold, in a a mix of power and
sweetness: words, song, gesture, passion, ideas,
ingenuity, devotion, merriment, vanity, and virtue.

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.”
—Mary Oliver

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