December Moonrise

by Daniel Ambrose on December 11, 2014

    December Moonrise, plein air oil painting 6 x 8 in.

6 December Moonrise, plein air oil painting 6 x 8 in.

Saturday evening after dinner in the ancient town, I drive south along the ocean, letting my thoughts dwell among the dunes. Across the river to my right, the sun is sinking in an orange sky. Sea oats hail the passage with bronze pennants aflame. I swerve over past the bridge and snap a photo with my phone to share, and send it through the luminous hues. Send it over Florida from the east to the west coast in a few heartbeats.

In the peacefulness I nurse my coffee while a misty, pink veil paints twilight into a poem. Over the sea, the crown of a red moon cracks the horizon. Is it possible stanza and syllables can be arranged to describe a scene so mystical? Mirroring the sun, the moon climbs to orange, and again I click a photo to send and try to describe in words but my words fail to express the moment. I must paint it! My phone glows—Paint it! Comes back the message from the other coast. Yes, I’ve already emblazoned the moment on my soul.

I paint this December moonrise in memory and observance of a Carolina full moon that woke me in the mountains eight years ago. Moonlight enveloped the camper and made the snow covered mountains enchanting, intoxicating as these dunes are tonight.

In the silent pause between each heartbeat lies the mystery of love and creation.


A Painter Seeking Truth

by Daniel Ambrose on December 6, 2014


Sea Sunrise 14, Plein air study for Kindred Spirits.

My daughter read my previous post and said, “you used to drink and drive?” I paused and thought of the message I was sending, and removed it until I’d given it further consideration.

When I wrote it I was just illustrating a passage in my life many years before she was born. Fortunately, I survived without harming others, and quit all of that insanity before her time. I thought my writing about it might be insensitive and offend someone, so I took it down. I certainly do not condone the actions of my youth, but I also don’t want to censor myself. Life experiences shaped my evolution as a painter and a man. Just as your experiences made you the beautiful human being you are today. Upon further thought, I decided to re-post Good Dogs and Fire Water, because there are some good bits in it too.

In choosing to write about my experiences, I want to be authentic. My paintings reflect my profound reverence for life, and I believe my words should echo this belief.

The wildness of my youth is a faint reflection in my rear view mirror. And I’m man enough to know, I don’t need to wear a macho mask as I did in my youth to be a virile male. It takes a stronger man to show love and compassion for his fellow humans than to strut around like a rooster in a barnyard. In fact, I might write soulful prose and paint gentle pictures, but I’ve got other skills too, and reckon I can still fix just about anything but a broken heart.

There is not enough love on this earth. I believe that art is a vital counterbalance to the evil in this world. The global brotherhood and sisterhood of artists inspire, inform and enrich our lives. This little seascape painting epitomizes the person I am today. A painter seeking truth. A man swimming against the current with a restless heart full of questions.


Good Dogs and Fire Water

by Daniel Ambrose on November 28, 2014

November 24, 2014. Princess Place Preserve

November 24, 2014. Blueberries & Yogurt. Princess Place Preserve

I had a dog named T.J. Don’t remember why I called him that. Found him when he was a little puppy, on a cold, rainy afternoon. Truthfully, I think he found me. I was between homes, and so was he.

I was around 19 and had a ’64 GMC truck, banged up, baby blue, rusty red. Drove it through a 7-Eleven one night. The old, pony-tailed, cracker I got her from wanted $300. I gave him 200 cash. He had dropped a hopped up big block engine in it, and four on the floor. With Sunoco 260, a quart of moonshine in her, and a jelly-jar of that fire-water in me, she’d do almost 140 on a Friday night. I’d a pushed her further but she’d start bouncing so bad, the hood would start flapping and my eyeballs rattled. I quit driving like that after I found T.J.

Some nights, I slept on the bench seat, and T.J. slept underneath. We watched out for each other the best we could. Life was a wild mess, and he gave me my first sense of purpose. Take care of him. He saw me come from that truck to the beginnings of my art, sobriety, marriage, building a house, several business ventures, another home on the river, and up to the birth of my twins. He was my soul mate.

What’s this have to do with this plein air painting? Nothing really, and yet, everything. It was a beautiful day today. I’d been in the studio painting a church in a marsh, and remembering the date, which is pretty rare, got restless. I headed up here, to Princess Preserve, to paint the place I was at 8 years earlier, at the same time, to hold a small but beautiful moment. A simple snack of blueberries and yogurt.

Most people live rushing toward the major events in life. For me, it’s observing the minor spaces in between; breathing in the miraculous, everyday interactions that make life rich and meaningful. Racing to get somewhere in a blur, we miss the most beautiful parts along the way.

Could have been the excess coffee, could’ve been my random mind, could’ve been the photographer shooting the bride-to-be at sunset, but a slew of years swam by while I painted. Dogs come and gone—people come and gone.

Finishing at twilight, I climbed in the van, than sat for awhile, finishing my coffee, counting my blessings, watching mullet flash in the orange glow. Remembering another dog in the mountains, and all the spaces in between. It’s really quite simple—summed up in 8 words—have a sense of purpose, and love someone.

I glanced at the empty seat beside me, “c’mon honey, let’s go home.” As I drove through the marsh, a last stray beam of light burst through the grass, setting the water on fire with a flaming, copper brilliance. Fire water. Inspiration! Wild mess and all, isn’t life sublime?!

    T.J. 1976-1988

T.J. 1976-1988

* Update: The reference to drinking and driving is only used to illustrate a chaotic time in my youth. I certainly do not condone this behavior today.