Looking Beyond the Familiar

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At 3:30-ish on Wednesday afternoons, the storm door squeaks as I walk into my art teacher’s basement studio. Miss Judy always greets me with a smile and a friendly greeting when I arrive for my weekly painting class. I tie on my apron and look down at my current painting, which Miss Judy has placed on an easel on my table beside the door. Also waiting for me are an old ice cream bucket with water for rinsing brushes and a foam plate topped with a folded paper towel.

Miss Judy makes suggestions about any changes she thinks I should make after last week and about what details she thinks I should work on today. Soon I am rummaging through her paint bins, trying to match the colors on last week’s used paper palette. She kindly chooses just the right brushes for me from the large pile on the rolling cart in the middle of the room.

This past Wednesday I heard the welcome words, “I think you will finish it today.” I happily sat down to work on my latest project: the scene Ray and I see when we round the next to the last curve before we reach our house. Per her instructions, I added more gray to the edge of the road to make it more distinct. Then I began to work in earnest on the fog rising in the morning light above the river that is just out of view, but which the fog makes evident beyond our neighbor’s pasture.

I misted my palette and mixed the beads of water with white paint. I worked and worked to paint a sort of whitewash in front of the distant hills. I was continually disappointed. I wasn’t seeing a morning mist. I was seeing grainy whitewash over green painted trees. I worked and worked as I studied the photo of the scene that I had taken on a morning walk with Ray in August of 2020.

Then I saw it in the fog at the far left of the picture—a faint hint of orange reflection from that beautiful morning sky. I showed the reflection to Miss Judy, and she brought me some orange paint. I mean really orange paint. Think Crayola® orange crayons—yes, that orange. Miss Judy squeezed a dab on my palette, and I went to work, mixing a bit of that orange with my white paint and beads of sprayed water.

I dipped in my brush and headed for that grainy whitewash on the left side. Before my eyes, ugly whitewash over green trees transformed into morning fog. I took my brush from one patch of fog to another to transform them all from whitewash to fog.

Since we have one car and we need to be at church just 30 minutes after my class, Ray almost always comes with me. When he comes in, Miss Judy laughs and tells him to head to “his office” in her den, where he works or takes a cat nap while I paint. Ray told me on Wednesday to let him know when I finished the painting. When the last bit of fog was finished, I went to get Ray. He snapped this photo as I lifted my brush to sign it.

The three other regular students were absent on Wednesday; but all of us who were there finished our paintings that day. Here are yours truly, homeschooling mama Jennifer who lives nearby and learned about the class in this blog, and Emily, a homeschool graduate whose family I have known for over 20 years—way back when we were homeschooling our own children and they and I were taking drawing classes from Miss Judy.

As you see, I was one step ahead of them. I had already signed mine. My signature is huge and I am frankly embarrassed by that. As Miss Judy says, the hardest thing about painting is using that script liner to sign your name. Sometimes I use a Sharpie®, but I had worked so hard on this one that I wanted to try my hand at the script liner. Miss Judy and Ray assured me that the signature was fine. I reluctantly took their advice.

I want to share some thoughts about this scene and the painting.

I am deeply grateful to God for giving us a home in this breathtaking piece of His creation.

It took diligent effort for hours for me to try to reproduce on canvas this real place that God made. Imagine how very powerful He is. All He had to do was speak to make everything we can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.

Art is not simply a fun activity to keep children busy. It is a powerful learning tool that teaches them to observe what they may never see any other way.

A joyful teacher like Miss Judy makes learning pleasant. However, she doesn’t only make learning fun. She pushes us to grow and motivates us to reach beyond our current skills to achieve greater ones.

I had spent hours looking at my photo of the bend of the road near our home, but on Wednesday, I saw something new. I saw that reflection, and my painting was transformed. Sometimes we need to look again at what has become familiar. We might see all kinds of new things—a new way to reach a child, a new way to love someone, a new way to serve God, or a new way to trust Him.

Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your law.
Psalm 119:18

For my eyes are toward You, O God, the Lord;
In You I take refuge; do not leave me defenseless.
Psalm 141:8


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