New Egg Tempera: Sea Glass

by Daniel Ambrose on November 22, 2014


Sea Glass. Egg tempera painting. Daniel Ambrose

I was unaware of sea glass, until I was shown a fine collection. Than taught how to spy it treasure hunting among the shells on a tropic beach. Rarely, do you see it along the ocean where I live. Mostly, you find periwinkles, cockle shells, and the occasional sand dollar or starfish. Sometimes lots of jellyfish.

These day’s between painting spells, I’ve been walking long on the beach … thoughts tumbling like the waves. Loving what I know, living with what I don’t know —learning to make it all beautiful.

Leaving a trail of footprints behind me in the sand. In time, the tides of life will wash them away, and I’ll quit looking over my shoulder every time an osprey calls for his life mate, listening for her echoing cry.

A flash of breathtaking blue in the water whips me from my reverie, making me pause in awe, filling my yearning heart with gratitude for the moment.

When I begin walking again, glancing down, I see in the wet sand a piece of broken glass. I start to pass it by, and then involuntarily turn to pick it up. Square, smooth, and cupped, I rub it’s curvature between my thumb and forefinger. It feels oddly reassuring. Not much of a candidate for the collection, it’s edges, though slightly worn, lack the polished, tumbled nature of sea glass.

Still, I pocket it and carry it home to rest in an old mason jar. A gentle reminder of aqua light and cashmere sands.

How long in the sea, must a piece of broken glass tumble, before it becomes sea glass?

How long must we tumble through life before we learn, we are all so beautiful?

Each of us, unique beings to be treasured.

Beings worthy of love.

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The Heart of the Matter

by Daniel Ambrose on November 17, 2014

Two heart tree sketch

Two heart tree sketch

The grounds of the mission church are quiet save for the tolling bells and scolding chatter of squirrels. A cool breeze off the river made me glad I brought my coat. Still, the sun on my face is kind.

During breakfast I decided to come here, return to sketch this tree. Most people don’t even know it exists. It’s one of several trees in St. Augustine locally called love trees. One type of tree growing from the heart of another kind, and joined as one. Somehow, through all the storms, they’ve tenaciously remained together. For me, it symbolizes a solid, symbiotic human relationship. Two beings, each with separate identities becoming united as one, as in marriage.

I start drawing the place where the two trees merge. Trees are sacred, depicted in art throughout the ages as symbols of the divine, as—

“You can’t ride your bike on the path,”a man hollers, disrupting my thoughts.

A stylish woman dressed in white from shoes to scarf and hat, gets off her bike, “and whom are you?”

“I work here,” he replies.

“Well than, if you work here, than I will listen to you.”

He walks by me, shaking his head. “Did you hear that—if you work here.”

Returning to the serenity of my sketch, I complete it and turn to focus on this chapel at the end of the path. On my last visit, a clouded sky cast a quiet atmosphere over the landscape. But the day was filled with a happy light. An intimate wedding ceremony was taking place in this chapel. Candle flames danced in the dim interior, while a priest sang incantations over the wedding couple. A friendly nun in a blue habit guarded the the entry.

Chapel sketch

Chapel sketch

The idea of an ancient ceremony in a small chapel nestled in a natural setting appeals to my romantic senses. My imagination drifts to an island, dreaming of a chapel under palms by a tropical sea at twilight.

I begin sketching the cross and pencil my way over the ivy and down to the flower pots. A young couple pause to talk, Justin and Jennifer, a missionary couple from Georgia. Glancing at my sketch, they feel compelled to pray over me. Your name drifts across their lips. Or is it only the wind?

Happy children tugging their parents along, point at my drawing and exclaim, “look mommy!”

The chapel was first erected in 1618 on this site. This is the fourth, built in 1918. Set along the green, marsh grasses of the river, among these ancient oaks and swaying palms, the old chapel gave the wedding a mystical, timeless feel. With the same rituals, it could have been a marriage ceremony four hundred years ago.

The sun is growing hotter and slipping off my coat, I realize I’ve been wearing it inside out. No wonder I didn’t see any paint on it. Where is my keeper?

Strollers stop to look at my drawing.  A young mother cradling a baby with one arm, reaches out with the other and touches my shoulder. “You are a very good drawer.” And apparently not a very good dresser.

A blessed feeling floods over me, from the missionary couple, the young mother and sunshine, and a mystifying Saturday memory.

This tree, this chapel wedding, these marriages of differences. Strip everything away in the world, all that fades in time. At life’s core it all comes down to this—down to the heart of the matter. Two beings in billions finding each other and becoming one beautiful thing.

Random biology? Or a miracle?

I know which side I stand on.


November Moonrise

by Daniel Ambrose on November 6, 2014

November Moonrise, plein air painting by Daniel Ambrose

November Moonrise, plein air painting, 6 x 8 inches. Daniel Ambrose

The Old Farmer’s Almanac claimed that on November 6, 2014, the time of the rising full moon would be 5:22 p.m. It was wrong.

The clock showed almost four, time enough to clean and freshen my palette with new paint, grab a coffee and head down to the beach to setup my easel.

Sipping my Sumatra, I eyed the clouds scudding in from the right, hoping they didn’t settle in on the horizon. No luck. 5:22 p.m came and went, 5:37, 5:48—a woman walked over and asked if I was painting the moon. Not yet.

A fellow wandered over with his dog, a beautiful brindle boxer. Asked me if I would paint his dog. Said there was an old fellow that was going to do it, but he died. A woman came down and asked him if he was from out of town. Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach. Yes ma’am, he said, he knows. He was born and raised here and remembers a time, like me, when dogs and lots of other things were allowed on the beach. He thanked her for being a good citizen.

Then a slit of orange appeared, like light peeking through a cut in a piece of cloth. Yes!

Knowing the color of the moon would rapidly change from orange to yellow and then white, I hit that as my first note and ran it down the center of my panel.

Another lady floated over in a flowing black robe, tilted her head, and peered at me with wide eyes behind large, round glasses, reminding me of an owl, said this was a powerful moon. Enthusiastically, she told me something about the moon being exactly opposite the sun, and about Sagittarius, Venus and the Divine Feminine. Well, dang, thank you for sharing that, ‘scuse me while I get back to painting. She fluttered away.

As the night grew dark, I couldn’t make out the colors on my palette. I always lay my paints out in the same place so I know which one is red, blue, etc. I just take a little bit and mix by feel, adding a little more blue or green, etc. to adjust. It’s fun to see the colors I’ve made when I bring the painting inside. I’m usually amazed at how close they are to the actual scene.

It’s all about getting your values right. Works well in life too.