Adding and Subtracting

by Daniel Ambrose on November 30, 2015

Light Upon, egg tempera painting of a church in Bluffton, Sout Carolina by Daniel Ambrose

Light Upon, egg tempera

Adding a bird, I brushed the final glowing layers of pigment on Light Upon, an egg tempera painting, and shipped it to Cheryl Newby Gallery.

Well, it hung in the gallery where they received a few comments about the size of the bird, alight on the roof, beside the steeple. The gallery owner called to confer, considerate and concerned she might offend my artistic sensibilities.

It’s true, I’m a fairly sensitive dude, almost an oxymoron. A guy that can swing a nine pound hammer and yet, caress the painted feathers of a white dove with a breathless touch. And if I have a strong artistic reason for including an element in a painting, I will not acquiesce. But I try to keep an open mind with a listening heart, respecting the right of another human to say their words.

Not only in business matters, but especially in matters of the heart. Sometimes, we are not talking about what we are actually talking about. Art is a great translator of emotions. Art and action.

Originally, the painting, Light Upon, was simply about the bell, and southern sunlight polishing planes. While finishing the painting, I added a large white bird, a great egret. I felt the form of the bird and the steeple engaged each other. Still, this bird was a bit of an afterthought, landing at the very end. An idea that overlapped another one.

Stillness. A sense of quiet stillness. Perhaps, this is what I was searching for in Light Upon. You can’t say it all in one painting, nor convey deep mysteries of the heart in one letter of the alphabet. I wasn’t particularly married to this bird, and I think she belongs in the context of another concept. Adding her diminished the sense of stillness.

Painting is a distillation, a magnifying glass on clarity. Art is a give and take. An exchange of ideas, an Odyssean search for truth and meaning.

I read a statement the other day by a radical, religious figure. He is using his words to incite violence. Said he studied Art, but Art doesn’t answer the meaning in life. Does inciting others to harm life give meaning to life? Art doesn’t teach you the meaning of life. Art is the universal language of humanity. Art communicates symbolically, in a peaceful, nonviolent way, our dreams and desires; our innermost hopes and fears. Art too, can incite the passions of love and fear.

Tragically, for some folks, it’s my way, or the highway.

I think Light Upon is complete without the bird. Sometimes, it’s not what you add, but what you subtract, that makes a thing more meaningful. The tidal ebb and flow of people in our lives, floods the hours in between with unexpected poignancy.

Art is like a traveler on the highway of humanity guiding us towards our similarities instead of our disparities. Throughout history, art connects us, communicating what it means—what it feels like—to be a human. You and I, each the same, at the seed of our existence. Art adds to life. Art doesn’t answer the meaning of life.

Art gives life meaning.


Image of a book authored by The Art of Daniel Ambrose

I was surprised to see a copy of my new book, The Art of Daniel Ambrose, in the mailbox today, since it wasn’t due to arrive until mid December.

It’s my first book. A curated collection of blog posts from 2006-2012, including snippets from my sketchbooks, a few poems and of course, egg tempera paintings. I designed it as an intimate format, about the size of an iPAD Air. About 100 pages in length, it reveals insights into my creative process from initial inspiration to finished paintings.  A book light enough to settle in with or share.

I was hoping it would be ready for the holidays as it would make a wonderful gift. After I have a few friends proof it for me, I’ll officially release it. But for now, I just wanted to give you a sneak peek, and share the exciting news with you.

The Art of Daniel Ambrose, Paintings and Writings 2006-2012.


A Breath Away

by Daniel Ambrose on November 6, 2015

Pawleys Gold, egg tempera painting of a seagull by Daniel Ambrose

Pawleys Gold, egg tempera painting by Daniel Ambrose

This new egg tempera painting, Pawleys Gold, carry’s on my “moody birds” series. To challenge myself, I chose a strictly limited palette of three colors; red, yellow and blue, plus white, to explore delicate tonal harmonies using a single subject.

Selecting a single bird motif and limited palette inspired the genesis of my Asleep to Dream paintings.

In these bird paintings, I’m after suspension of time—of breath—a calm moment of grace and beauty to counter the disturbing distractions in our daily lives. Elegant meditations expressing the idea of serenity and stillness, a moment enveloped in the light of love.

Because that’s all I got.

To clear the demons of distraction and focus on painting these minute color vibrations, I’ve been practicing effective breathing techniques. Ancient methods of calming the mind that are now being validated by science.

Alternate nostril breathing and left nostril breathing are a couple of these techniques. In a research study of medical students, left nostril breathing was shown to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and calm the body.

Feeling a little stressed? How are you sleeping?

The next time you need to focus on a painting, or your mind is racing and you can’t sleep, here is a video demonstrating a simple technique for alternative nostril breathing.

Peace of mind may be only a breath away.

Let’s all take a collective breath now. . . Breathe with me. . .

And here is a short video on left nostril breathing to help you fall back to sleep if you waken in the night.