Tag Archives: original pastels

Mozambican Odyssey: Babies Carrying Babies (Excerpt #4)

In Mozambique, it was not unusual to see toddlers carrying babies on their backs.

Lately I’ve been going through old photos from our time in Mozambique.  The photo that this artwork is based on reminded me of an eye-opening experience I had after we first moved to Mozambique, when my daughter was only 3 or 4 years old.  We had hired a young mother to help me with the housework and with learning the language and culture.  One day she needed to bring her children to work with her, and she brought her little daughter who was the same age as ours, 3 or 4, but strapped onto the little one’s back was a baby!  That little one, very much a baby herself, I thought, was expected to bounce that baby and keep her happy while her mommy worked.  I couldn’t believe it.  I watched as she entered my house, carrying that heavy load, and I worried about the little head bobbing up and down as big sis–tiny big sis– carried her around.  The little girl walked through the kitchen, and then she caught sight of my daughter’s bedroom.

At this point I feel the need to say that my kids left so many of their toys behind in the states, and there was very little around Maputo that we could afford to buy for them, or even that they would want when we first moved there.   Hannah did not have very many toys compared to her friends back in the states.  But when that little toddler entered her room, still with the baby on her back, her eyes got huge!  It was as if she had walked into Disneyland.  She had apparently never seen so many little girl toys, baby dolls, etc., and she just wanted to play in there all day.  That she did, as I recall, occasionally stopping to comfort her in-the-flesh baby sister on her back, as she played with the dolls.

It was another of many such moments in which I realized that I was the rich white American, and my employee’s kids could not imagine living like we did, despite the fact that we felt we had given up so much to move to Mozambique.

I’ve been processing this stuff for years, and I still don’t have many answers.  Being ashamed of having more than someone else is not helpful, but I do think we need to struggle with what can be done about income inequality and find ways to be compassionate.

Micah 6 : 8 comes to mind.  “And what  does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

I need to be concerned with justice, mercy, and humility.  These three are so needed, now more than ever.

Sacred Places

Sacred Places,  Oil pastel on paper, 18×24 inches, by Susan E. Brooks

Sometimes–no, all the time–I want be aware of the sacred all around me.  We tend to separate life into categories: sacred versus secular, art versus life, one category or discipline versus another, and we seldom connect things in our minds.  Yet, in reality, it is all connected.  Academic disciplines overlap, art influences life, and all of creation is sacred.

My art grows out of special times when my eyes are opened to beauty, which for me is a gift from God.  The above pastel painting was inspired by a time when the sacred danced into my ordinary day, and demanded my attention.

It was one of many summer days that I kept my granddaughters, who, though they look like little angels, do not always behave like angels.  We went out into the backyard to play, and the sun was streaming long yellow-green stripes of light across the grass, and these tiny yellow flowers were shooting up straight and thin, up to the blue-violet sky, and the tulip tree was spreading its delicate, pale pink blossoms.

The invitation to bask in the glory of the moment was not lost on the girls, who  ran to gather the tiny yellow flowers for their mommy.   It struck me that this was a sacred, beautiful moment, and though I was tired, this time I noticed, and I started taking photos.

How many times have I not noticed and just kept pushing through my day?  Too many, I’m afraid.  This year, open my eyes, God, to more and more of the beautiful and sacred around me, and help me listen and see You at work in all of this painful, yet glorious existence.

KRM We Create Art Events during the World Refugee Festival

“Not Wretched, Not Refuse, but Welcome,” was created for the KRM We Create Events in honor of World Refugee Week, The title is based on the poem that hangs on the Statue of Liberty, and the words in the trees are also taken from that poem, “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus.

I am excited to be a part of the World Refugee Festival in Louisville  beginning June 16 – 24!  Kentucky Refugee ministries has organized a series of art events in celebration of World Refugee Week.  The purpose of the events is to celebrate the refugees that have come to Louisville and the blessings they bring to us as a community.  The piece pictured above is fairly large, and it is one thing to view art online, but quite another to stand in front of an original  work of art.  Online you cannot experience the intensity of colors or the interplay of the various textures and strokes in a drawing or painting as you can seeing it “face to face.”  So I hope you come out tomorrow to the Better Block Festival and to the Brown Theatre next Saturday, June 23.  See you there!

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A Boy and His Donkey: the Story behind the Painting

We saw this young boy relaxing with his donkey as we traveled through Burkina Faso. Oil pastel on mat board, by Susan E. Brooks
We saw this young boy relaxing with his donkey as we traveled through Burkina Faso. Oil pastel on mat board, by Susan E. Brooks

 

It was one of the most difficult trips I’ve ever taken.  We were traveling through Burkina Faso during our missionary days, and the poverty was overwhelming.  I found myself, once again, the spoiled, picky, American girl who had trouble eating what the locals would have been thrilled to have.  One time at a restaurant, flies were swarming so thickly upon our plates of chicken and french fries that the only way we could  eat was to cover our plates completely with napkins,  pulling a fry or a piece of chicken out from under it the best we could.  I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.

Speaking of flies, the donkey that I painted above had flies crawling all over his eyes that were swollen shut.  They looked like two slits– they must have been infected.  I had to use my artistic skills to open his eyes and make him look healthy and happy.  The boy also was not as healthy and glowing as I painted him to be.  The truth is that I had to change the sad realities of this boy’s life in order to create a beautiful painting that people would want to see.  I’m not sure what to do with that, and I am ashamed to complain about flies on my fries when so many in that country had so  little to eat.

How do we respond to the stark contrasts and overwhelming misery that exist in our world?  How can we help?  Guilt and shame are not the answer.  The answer is probably different for each one of us.  If only painting away the infections and the hunger would make them disappear.  I don’t know how to fix our broken world, but I do see people helping, one person at a time.  Thank you, all of you who are loving, serving, and helping, one person at a time. God sees you.

 

 

 

Why I Love Oil Pastels

 

Oil pastel on paper, by Susan E. Brooks
Oil pastel on paper, by Susan E. Brooks

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I discovered oil pastels while studying art in college.  I don’t know why I picked them up in the first place, and I remember being frustrated with them in the beginning.  One of my early attempts was a ballerina whose face looked like that of an ape, sending my professors into spasms of laughter.  It’s a painful memory I’ve probably never shared publicly until now.

In spite of that failure, I kept at it, and I found that if I used a textured board and kept my work large, strikingly colorful portraits began to emerge from the background.  The pastels were so intense that I had to mix the colors on the surface of the painting.  I’ve found that not having the exact skin colors of pastels forced me to used a mixture of colors that became magic for me, and I developed my own style of portraits using oil pastels.  I thought you might enjoy seeing an earlier stage of the work, along with the finished piece.

Update on My Children’s Books

Reading with Poppy
Reading with Poppy, oil pastel painting by Susan E. Brooks. Prints available at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/reading-with-poppy-susan-e-brooks.html

When God invented grandchildren, He outdid himself — forgive me, but all of you grandparents know what I mean.  I couldn’t be more crazy about mine!  They have changed my life forever, as a matter of fact, because I wanted to write books for them.  After writing books for them, I was able to get a paid writing job for a local children’s book publisher.  One good thing led to another, and I have my amazing grandchildren to thank.

Just recently, the company that will be publishing my book later this summer was featured in Insider Louisville Magazine.  Here’s a link to that article https://insiderlouisville.com/lifestyle_culture/louisville-based-baxters-corner-creates-fun-interactive-childrens-books/.  Baxter’s Corner is a great local company that is focused on creating children’s books that promote healthy values.

Meanwhile, I’m working on writing and illustrating the third book inspired by my grandchildren, which is a surprise that cannot be revealed until it’s finished.  If you’re interested in seeing the first two books, go to http://www.lulu.com/shop/susan-e-brooks/ariel-princess-of-the-forest-mischievous-cheetah/hardcover/product-21832502.html.

 

Saying Goodbye to a Dear Friend

Burkina girl - oil pastel
Burkina girl – oil pastel

Selling an original painting is like saying goodbye to a dear friend.  Recently I sold this oil pastel of a young girl we encountered while traveling from Burkina Faso to Niger back in 2005.  The buyer is a complete stranger from a far away state who came across the painting in my Etsy shop, but I was happy to hear that she had actually traveled to the region, and has a heart for the children of the area.  I feel that God used the internet and my artwork to connect us– two people who have never met, and probably never will.  A part of me, an intangible part that is colors and marks and feelings that are uniquely mine,  will dwell with her family now, blessing that family, I pray, as I was blessed to see the beauty and the image of God in the young girl at the border of Burkina Faso and Niger.

Come See my Artwork at the Trolley Hop on Friday!

Getting ready for the Trolley Hop this week! I’ll be there Friday night, June 17, from 6-9pm, displaying original pastels and acrylic paintings, as well as prints, cards, and my books.   My booth will be located in front of VIP Quality Awards and Gifts, at 409 Spring St., Jeffersonville, IN.

Boy in Mozambique, oil pastel
Boy in Mozambique, oil pastel