Wednesday night we returned home from a trip to the PNW. A couple days were spent in Seattle before taking a collection of bus and boat rides north to the Princess Louisa Inlet in British Columbia. There, we spent a few too-short days at Malibu Club for a Young Life staff marriage retreat. Time at Malibu was life-giving across the board - creatively, imaginatively, relationally, and more. It feels like another world in the best sense, and the beauty in inescapable.
There is something so inspiring about seeing images of artists who are now recognized as incredibly influential, working in their studios to create work that would someday mark history. These are a few of my favorites:
JOAN MITCHELL: I could look at her paintings all day.
HELEN FRANKENTHALER: HF is easily one of my favorite painters in history. One of my favorite things about her work is her color, but I love this black and white image - her expression, the scale of the surface, and her physicality with the painting.
LOUISE BOURGEOIS: There are few things so motivating as seeing an artist in the studio well into her nineties.
FRIDA KAHLO: Kahlo is one of those historical figures who is easy to distill, in retrospect, into a whimsical character, maybe from an exotic book or movie. This photo caught me off guard, silly as it sounds, because it reminded me she was real. Unibrow, lipstick, hairstyle - It was all attached to a brilliant human being.
ALEX KATZ: Katz is still a living artist, but at age 91, he has earned a shoutout. For years I have loved visiting his paintings in the permanent collection at Atlanta's High Museum and wherever else I can find them. He is a master of color and perfectly rich simplicity.
And to cap it off, the loveliest photo of Picasso and Bettina in Pablo's most perfect Cannes studio...
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how to hang artwork - as in the practical, physical steps to positioning, measuring, nailing, and hanging frames and canvases (download the free step-by-step guide here).
Today, we're taking a step back and discussing the question that precedes how to hang artwork, which is where to hang artwork. You've probably heard the best approach to buying art is to buy what you LOVE - not what is trendy (unless you love it), not what you think will gain value (unless you love it), and not what someone else says you should get (unless you LOVE it). I completely agree with this approach, and I've found that when you find artwork you LOVE, that sparks a deep sense of soul connection (more on that topic coming up), you will find a place in your home for it. So, while there's nothing wrong with keeping an eye out specifically to fill the wall over your sofa, don't let that stop you from exploring the work your soul connects with, that may not be for a specific spot, but could live elsewhere in your home and enrich your daily life for years to come.
That being said, once you've found and purchased artwork you connect with and welcomed it into your home, scroll down and let's talk about a few places your new painting could add to the beauty of your day-to-day life (and download the FREE printable Where to Add Artwork checklist):
Whether you have a formal foyer or not, chances are you have a distinct area that signals an entry. In our home, it’s an overcrowded coat hook and a pile of shoes (we're working on it...). Regardless of what it looks like for you, the entryway to your home is a perfect location to hang a piece of art that sets the tone for your home. I read in Donald Miller's Scary Close, that he and his wife Betsy dedicated a theme of Restoration to their home. I found that a beautiful practice - centering the items and activities in your home around your home's purpose. Artwork at your home's entrance is a perfect way to set the tone.
This has gained some popularity over the past few years and with good reason - bookshelves are not only for books. Mostly for books, but not only for books. A bookshelf is the perfect place for small canvas paintings to sit atop a stack of books or act as a bookend. Framed pieces can also be leaned up against the back of the bookshelf to add depth and visual interest. This is also an easy place to start a collection because smaller paintings usually are less of a financial investment.
3) Over the Bed
It's not a revolutionary idea to hang artwork over a bed, but it's an idea worth repeating. A bedroom should be welcoming, cozy, and make you feel like you could snuggle up and read forever. In a word, it should be restful. For some people this means calming neutrals to slow down the mind, and for others it means exotic prints and florals to stimulate the imagination - rest looks different for everyone. So find a painting that reflects what rest means to you. Maybe it's a river painting with soft blues and greens, or maybe it's a moody landscape, or a series of botanical illustrations. Whatever it is, make it something you wouldn't mind dreaming of.
4) Guest Room
If you're lucky enough to have a guest room, give it some art. It's such a fun room, because it's not for a specific person so basically you can do whatever you want. This is a great place to hang a gallery wall of several small paintings, or a painting you want to live with for a few weeks before deciding where its permanent home will be. Also if you have a roommate or spouse living with you, this is an easy place to hang the work that you love but he/she isn't so into, because chances are they won't be looking at it everyday, but YOU can visit it whenever you want. And your guests will probably love it, too.
5) Bathroom / Powder Room
Everyone goes to this room multiple times a day, so don't neglect it! I am very pro-bathroom-art (which I'm officially deeming a stance). Go take a look in your powder room and/or bathroom. Look over the tub, next to the sink, above the towel bar - chances are, there is a bit of empty wall space that a framed illustration would work perfectly in. Bathrooms are great for framed paper artwork because condensation can be wiped off glass and won't mess with the canvas fabric over time.
6) The forgotten walls (small or in-between walls)
You know that little sliver of wall space between doorways, or on either side of the curtains, or to the right of the coat closet? Hang some art on those walls. It will make your house feel more special and larger because suddenly your eye is drawn to the "forgotten" areas and you pay more attention to new sections of the home than you otherwise would.
The kitchen is the heart of the home, of course, because that’s where the snacks are. And snacks feed the heart. Right? Anyway, your home's heart deserves to have art on her walls. Hang a giant canvas on the wall behind the dining table, or a few small framed pieces on the wall next above countertops (framed with a glass front so it can be wiped down if it's in a food-prep zone).
8) By the door
I started out by saying you should have artwork in your entryway to welcome people (and yourself) into your home. The same goes for when you're leaving. There's something special about planting a reminder by the door you leave through, to take the reminder with you as you go about your day. Let this artwork serve as a statement of what's true, beautiful, joyful, or whatever will fill you up to go face the day - especially if you're an introvert like me and leaving home can sometimes feel strenuous. The entryway art and exit door art are like the bookends to your home.
I hope this gives you some ideas, or at least a jumping-off point to think about how to incorporate more meaningful art into your home. Click here to download a full check list of places in your life to incorporate art.
Most of us spend weeks, months, maybe years searching for the perfect piece of artwork to fill a particular space on our wall. It could be the large canvas over the sofa, the paintings over the bed, or a series of framed watercolors in the hallway. Whatever it is, the search process can be a real investment of both time and resources.
Once you welcome that beautiful painting into your home, the realization sets in that unfortunately you can't just velcro this baby to the wall in five seconds. If you're like me, you've left more than a couple nail holes in the wall trying to eyeball the exact coordinates for a perfectly centered and level hanging piece of art, only to rip out the nail and start all over.
If that's the case, THIS IS FOR YOU! A step-by-step guide on how to hang your artwork perfectly, on the first try. (Click here for the printable guide!)
Before you start: Gather your materials (tape measure, pencil, hammer, nail)
Step 1: Measure the top of your canvas or frame, and place a small piece of tape with one edge at exactly halfway across to mark the center point.
Step 2: Position the artwork at the exact location you want it to hang on the wall and hold it steady while using the pencil to mark a small dot on the wall at the top of your artwork at the halfway point, marked by the tape.
Step 3: Measure the vertical distance from the top center point of your canvas or frame to the hook, taut wire, or wherever the painting will be hanging from.
Step 4: Take the distance you just measured ("X inches") and use your pencil to add a second small dot X inches below the first dot you made. This is the dot where you will put the nail into the wall.
Step 5: Hammer the nail into the wall, hang your beautiful artwork, and admire that perfectly-hung painting!
**FREEBIE LINK: PRINTABLE 5-STEP HANGING GUIDE
Having some dear friends own the best shop in town is fun in and of itself... But when they ask you to come over and paint in the display window during the monthly 4th Friday Gallery Walk, it's a real good time.
Yesterday I got to spend an afternoon at the beautiful Lonesome Valley community leading a landscape painting workshop for a fun group of residents!
The view at LV is absolutely breathtaking - an obvious subject matter. We had some super talented painters and creative kiddos. And we even got an unexpected side-thrill when a nearby chicken started laying eggs (this was a major hit). It was such a fun experience and we're hoping to set up another class of two for adults in the fall (stay tuned)!
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of teaching landscape painting to a few groups of girls just down the road at Camp Illahee. The campers visit from all over the country so we focused on mountain landscapes like the ones surrounding them here in Western North Carolina. I was so impressed with how well their paintings turned out!
Wild Gardens available June 18th
Summer is a strange bird - always highly anticipated and idealized, and perhaps rightfully so if you were lucky enough to grow up with summer vacations where typical days included running through sprinklers, eating seven ice pops for breakfast, and having your day made when someone's mom ordered a round of Papa Johns delivered to the neighborhood pool for lunch. That was my experience for a few glorious years of early life. But time went on, and eventually we got jobs and schedules, and a summer calendar became indistinguishable from that of Spring, Fall, and Winter.
Today I find my summer overflowing with activities, responsibilities, deadlines, internal debates, and demands. Only thinking about this now do I remember the multitude of summer mornings spent doing yard work and household chores before I was released to charge barefoot down the hot asphalt of Princeton Corners Lane straight into the deep end of the pool. Yet I still long for that illusive feeling of summer. Of course, seasons look different for each participant, but I'm beginning to think this supposedly light and carefree time of the year can coexist with a little extra work.
The shift I'm trying to make is instead of forcing summer to be a perfect friend filled with only laughter and no strain or anxiety or struggle and being disappointed when she falls short, just accept the season as a reminder that life always returns. After winter, darkness, exhaustion, whatever it is. Life always returns. The sun always rises. And what better reminder than a world bursting with greenery, flowers, afternoon thunderstorms, tomatoes, drenched in hot sunshine, and work that is a gift - good and gratifying. All of these things exist together.
These little paintings embody such a reminder. They are abstracted, not as neat and tidy as our memory tells us things used to be. But they are packed with tiny details - little moments and marks that carry a feeling, an emotion, a story. A slash of color, wildflowers that thrive amongst tangled weeds, and a blue sky.
So whether yours is turning out to be one of hustle and forced energy, or lazy poolside naps, I hope your summer serves as a reminder that life returns. I, for one, will be seeking tiny affirmations tucked in the cracks, that yes, as with every year before and every year to follow, life has followed death, the grass has returned to green, the sun is still burning, afternoon thunderstorms will always make the world feel cozy, and this, too, with all its varied complexities, is a season to embrace.