Remember when you were a kid and jumping from rock to rock in a stream took all of your courage? I have to admit, that it still takes pretty much all of my courage to do that when the water is rushing and deep in places and the rocks are slippery.
There was a point as I was working on this painting that I stood back to review my strokes and I exclaimed, "She's so brave!" It really hit me for some reason, this little girl determined to make the jump that her brother had mastered had to muster up all of her courage. I must have been having a deep, reflective moment because it brought to mind the many times in my recent years that I had to muster up courage for something I was going through. Those times had been many and difficult including setting out on my own after divorce, allowing myself to be vulnerable in a new relationship, opening up my own business in my 50's, and battling breast cancer.
I have had many people tell me that I'm strong or so courageous but, as the words to an old song say, "They don't know that I go running home when I fall down . . ."* I go running each time to the arms of my loving Father who picks me up and holds me and helps me face each day. Many songs have encouraged me in each phase of life but the one that popped into my head as I looked at this painting was You Make Me Brave.**
My inspiration for this painting was, of course, the beautiful scene and my grandkids playing, but I chose to begin working on it because a friend had asked me to think about illustrating a children's song she had written called God's Big*** which states, "I'm small but God's big." In thinking about how to illustrate that with children in nature, this was a scene that came to my mind - these kids in the expanse of the forest with God's great love and care shining on them as the sunshine through the trees.
That's the feeling and meaning behind the title, but many of you have mentioned that you like to read about the creation of the painting. In the photo below, you will see my different photo-references and how I combined them, how I began with underpainting, and changed things as I went. This painting went through a gazillion iterations because I just could not seem to get the feeling or mood I was after.
After working on it for a while, I decided that a boy and a girl would be relatable to more people and probably better for a book illustration if it was going to be used for that.
My first go at it seemed great until I saw it photographed and it seemed too green and the kids didn't stand out enough. So, I tried darkening the shadows; next I tried highlighting more areas; I added color then changed it again; I dulled the background hoping to make it recede; I changed the shape of the highlights on the tree branches to be less of a line, I glazed over it with transparent color so many times. Here you can see some of the changes, and check out all the dates! I set it aside so many times either because something else came up that I needed to work on or I just needed a break from it. I even had it in a couple of shows different times and then re-worked it after getting it back to my studio. I'm pretty sure I've decided to leave it as it is, but this final rendition is even changed from when it was photographed for my calendar that you may have.
So, from this, we can take away that sometimes we must keep on working at something until it's in a good place, and that "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13)
Here are a few more photos of that fun day in June of 2013 at the Falls of Hills Creek in the Monongahela National Forest with our grandsons.
*The Warrior is a Child, Twila Paris (This song ministered to me back in 1984 when I was a new mom dealing with the heartbreaking infidelity of my spouse. I played it over and over.) Listen to it here.
**You Make Me Brave, Bethel Music, sung by Amanda Cook (I played this song over and over dealing with various types of fear and while battling cancer.) Listen to it here.
***God's Big, Sharon Schmidt