That Rainy Day in Paris

I have new art to share with you on this Mother’s Day weekend.

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That Rainy Day in Paris

16 x 20, Not for Sale

This painting is my gift to myself.  No, I did not intentionally paint myself a Mother’s Day present, but when you paint a memory as sweet as this, you are not going to sell it.

This is from my most recent trip to Paris with my girls.  It is a collection of several photos combined into the memory, sealed in my head.  Yes, I do paint from photos. But only my own and never an exact copy of the photo – if I wanted that I would just print it.

This was our second day in Paris –  it rained the entire week. We visited the L”Orangerie that morning and we were walking through the Tuileries garden in search of a cafe for lunch, when the Eiffel Tower peaked out from behind the trees.

We were all wet and cold, but my girls insisted they were from Seattle and thus did not carry umbrellas.  I did have an umbrella and they constantly complained about me poking them with it.

Alyssa had on her favorite coat with the fur collar, when she reached up on tippy toes and gave Alex a squeeze.  And Alex, she had on her favorite green plaid pants. That tender moment stays with me and that is the memory I painted.

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With much love,

Jamie

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Strolling in Paris

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Strolling in Paris

16 x 20, Oil on Panel

$1200

 

New Series:  Walking Home

I have been searching for a way to combine my love of photography, travel and painting.

A couple of years ago, I was on a service trip in Nicaragua walking down what was honestly a filthy road filled with trash. I was having a conversation with Pedro, a minister in Leon, Nicaragua.  During that week we held craft fairs, passed out food and donated cloths, had a soccer tournament etc.  But as we were walking down this road with a local family, Pedro mentioned to me how he feels closest to God, and most fulfilled, while walking down the roads in Nicaragua and just listening and being friends with the local families.  I agreed completely.

This painting is Paris, not Nicaragua.  It was from a photo I snapped walking back to our apartment after a lovely day with friends in Paris.  Because, in the end, no matter where we were born or currently live, we are all just walking each other home.

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Encapsulated – New Oil Painting

I have continued to work on my Emerged series.  This painting has been completed for a while, and so has the chapter I am about to share, but the complete story is still in the works.  And I am not sure if the week before Christmas is great timing, but I also think that I can’t move on until I do share it. And recently I have met so many people who seem frozen, like I was.  Who look happy from the outside but are not truly living the lives this world has in mind for them.

As I shared before, The Emerged Series are words and paintings that share my journey from behind the white picket fence to the embodiment of my true self.  It is something I have been working on the last several years – I am still working on.  I am moving along this journey one story and one painting at a time.

Encapsulated represents the time in my life when I felt frozen inside a reality that was not truly mine.

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Encapsulated, 36 x 48 inches, Oil on Wood Panel

The reference for this painting was a photo I took of the Glacier in Patagonia

Previous Chapters and Paintings in this Series:

Chapter 1 – Emerged

Chapter 2 – The Wave

 I wrote this chapter several years ago.  Looking back on it now, I can almost hear the discontent in my words. So here it is, the Chapter  3 – The White Picket Fence, Encapsulated:


The White Picket Fence

Because desire just cheats you. It’s like a sunbeam skipping here and there about a room. It stops and gilds some inconsequential object, and we poor fools try to grasp it – but when we do the sunbeam moves on to something else, and you’ve got the inconsequential part, but the glitter that made you want it is gone.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned

It makes me nervous to share this part of the story because some of you will read it and start thinking about playing tiny violins for my swan song. Some of you will read it and look in the mirror. It is you that I am talking to.

Even though that voice swinging on the hammock in my heart filled me with a desire to live the life less ordinary, my life was in fact a cliché of the wealthy white American family.

From the outside, my life behind the White Picket Fence looked pretty darn perfect; what some call the American Dream. Trying to conquer the expectations of this world is almost inevitable for people who are born into a society driven by accomplishments and achievement and who have opportunity, ambition and intelligence. I was not born wealthy, but I was smart and a hard worker and I was given the privilege of an education. I graduated Order of the Coif from law school, married the tall blond boy I feel in love with my third year, and set out to reach what some would call the height of success.

Given these circumstances, achieving success was in some ways easy as it only required me to do as society instructed; to work hard in college, marry well, have kids, build a beautiful house, take adventurous vacations and secure the same future for our kids.

And so by the time I set out for Iona, close to the middle part of my life, we were a lower upper class, mostly white family (my son is adopted from Guatemala), living in our sprawling 6800 square foot house perched on top of two desirable acres in Washington wine country.  The blond boy I meet in law school grabbed success by the reins and was the head of the Intellectual Properties Legal Department at a software company. His work with its meetings and travel and commitments filled his life.

My three kids attended a Christian college prep private school that strived for excellence in everything to prepare them for their future lives as spokes on the wheel of American capitalism. (This Chapter I feel particularly bad about as that school left deep scars in the lives of my older children).

I spent my time driving my kids around and managing their workload, trying to ease the stress imposed by the academic rigors and competition to be the best on almost every level. Of course, taking care of that big house also demanded a lot of my time. My spare time was dedicated to regular trips to the gym, and volunteering to raise money for the local Art Museum and serving on the Board of the Private School. Every spring we escaped the Seattle rain and hecticness of our lives with a luxurious week at the Four Season in Mexico. And, wow, you should have seen my shoe collection.

Everything around us told us our lifestyle was good and fulfilling and happy.   Our peer group went to the same private school.   The husbands all worked the same types of jobs; in fact a lot of them traveled even more than my spouse. We all lived in the same types of houses, took the same types of vacations, went to the same charity events and we are all Christians.

I tried really hard to fit in with my friends from the Art Museum and the parents of the private school. I bought Jimmy Choo heals and volunteered for the Executive Board. I took the girls trip to Paris and shopped and looked at art.

Our social life was full of charity events and galas, but there were very few people that we had true meaningful relationships with. With all that was going on, who had time to keep up with friends? The burdens of having-it-all keep me so busy that I didn’t get to experience anything for more than a quick Snapchat of my life.

And I could not escape that nagging feeling that something was out of whack. Why did I not get more joy out of our success?

Why did I feel cheated out of happiness in my life?

I felt like I was standing at the Red Sea with the world on my heals, but wasn’t sure what laid on the other side or how I got there.

What we pay attention to is a piece of our consciousness, a slice of our human life. When we direct our attention at something, we are spending a piece of our conscious life.   I felt like I was spending my conscious life on things that really didn’t matter to me.

Oh the idolatry of our brokenness.

We were living the cliché of the American Dream – and even as I sit her now writing this, I almost laugh at how pathetic I sound. I wonder how many people are reading this and thinking, get over your pity party. Take charge of your life. But it wasn’t that easy.

My husband worked so hard I actually prayed he would get fired. There was a mountain of pressure on him to be successful so we could afford the big house and the private school and the charities we supported and the vacations. He looked at life through rosy sunglasses that told him everything was all right, as he became the tool of our tools. He had flyover relationships with the two younger children. He would attend events when he could but sitting down and engaging in conversations with the kids, well that was my job.

My kids crumbled under the stress imposed by the environment of the college prep school and the expectations of excellence that were put on them. My middle daughter succumbed to self-harm “just to feel something.” Their lives were rushed over. By the time we finished driving them here and there and homework, there was very little time to sit down on their beds and have meaningful talks with them.

And it bothered me.   For a long time that voice in my heart was telling me something was off. I wasn’t sure what it was, but in my gut I wasn’t happy and didn’t feel like things were as they should be.

I pulled out of the church parking on many Sundays and commented out loud about how hippocritic we were – praying to God, doing the little bit we did for the poor then pulling into the driveway of our multi-million dollar house and going about our lives as usual.

It took the quietness of Iona and me stepping out of the craziness of this life to spend some time swinging with God in the hammock. And when I did, I cried because I knew things had to change.

Unfortunately, I was the only one who seemed to notice that we were missing the point. I started to wonder if I was married to the wrong person, living the wrong life and if I had enough courage to point that fact out.

Walking over the Picket Fence to the clean slate is scary because there is no template to follow. It is harder than you might expect to not follow the rules of this world; to set aside the message of our culture; to not live up to what your friends and family expect. You have to take time to sit in the hammock and swing in the wind to contemplate what your life is really about – you have to spend time looking at the choices in your day, asking yourself who am I making this choice for, and then following through on those instincts.  You have to realize that you have an independent mind and your life is something to be created out of your own purpose.


By the way (this is me in present time again) if you are living a life similar to the one I described and you are happy, then that is great.  I have given up being judgmental of others and particularly of myself.  But if as you read this, you get a little tingly feeling in your stomach, all I have to say is “you don’t have to be frozen.”   I truly believe that we are all created to find our special gifts and to use them to bring more love and beauty to the world. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moody Blues

It may be burning hot and smokey outside, but my thoughts are already turning to fall.  I call this Moody Blues because it captures my state of mind as we transition back into the school year.

My two daughters are off to college this year.  Alex will be a Senior at UW and Alyssa is starting her Freshman year at Western.  I am so excited to see them emerge and “fly away” into their bright futures.  At the same time, I am going to miss them like crazy.

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Moody Blues

Oil on Board

11 x 14

$600

 

The Wave

I have been painting, a lot; and thinking, a lot. As usual, there is a story behind each painting. Or maybe it is the painting that is the story.

This is another painting in my Emerged series.

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The Wave – Sunrise on Easter Island

24 x 36 inches

 

If you are following along with my Emerged Series, this painting comes in the middle of the story, when I have realized that I need a change but I am struggling through the process of change.

The reference photo for this painting was from my trip to Easter Island.  We got up really, really early one morning and stood on the side of a cliff photographing the Sunrise.

A fellow photographer getting ready for sunrise.

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Katsuyoshi Tanaka took this one of us after the sun came up.

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This trip was when I started to come back to life, or more accurately, when I finally started  living the life that was intended for me.

But before I get to that part, I should probably start at the beginning. So, here it is; the beginning of my journey Over the Picket Fence, the beginning of my Emergence. There are no paintings from this time in my life, well because I wasn’t painting then.


Over the Picket Fence – by Jamie Eppenauer

 

But nothing important, or meaningful, or beautiful, or interesting, or great ever came out of imitations. The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself . . .

Set aside what your friends expect, what your parents demand, what your acquaintances require.

Set aside the messages this culture sends, through it’s advertising, its entertainment, its disdain and its disapproval, about how you should behave. . .

Begin with that most terrifying of all things, a clean slate. And then look, every day, at the choices you are making and when you ask yourself why you are making them, find this answer: for me, for me. Because they are who and what I am, and mean to be. Anna Quindlen

 

Why do we as humans struggle so hard with the notions of being our authentic selves?

Why is the call for success and money so strong that we imprison ourselves in the constant quest for it?

Why is success defined more by what we accumulate than by what we leave behind?

Why is happiness so elusive?

 

I ask these questions because I have been striving the last several years to answer them. This is the story of me stepping over the Picket Fence. I am writing it for myself so I can understand things better and in the hope that it will help me to finally clear that last picket of the fence.

The story starts in Iona Scotland. Not that the story started here but this is where I became awake to it’s existence.

I left the responsibilities of Motherhood and Wifehood behind as I traveled to this remote island on the most Western Coast of Scotland with a friend for a spiritual retreat. The Self Embodiment Retreat was really insignificant in my plans. What I sought was a week of quiet adventure in the outdoors. Little did I realize it would change my life in ways I’m still coming to appreciate.

Iona is a small island, about a mile wide and four miles long, in the Inner Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland. It has a population of around 120, not counting the resident sheep. It is the birth land of Christianity for much of Europe. As such some say the layer between heaven and earth is closer here.

Although often dismayed by Western organized religion, I have always had a very strong belief in God and the quiet voice in my heart that gives me direction when I choose to listen to it. I actually picture God as a person swinging on a hammock in my heart. Every once in a while I get so busy that I don’t take the time to lay in the hammock next to God and have a good conversation. That’s usually when life falls apart. When I choose to spend a little time swinging in the warm breeze with Him or Her, my life comes more in focus.

On Iona, when I took the time to sit a little with God, I started down a new path that I am still walking down. A path that seems so clear, but yet can be so hard to set foot on.

Actually, it started before we even reached the island.

To reach Iona, you have to fly to Scotland, take a train to the quint seaside town of Oban, then a ferry to Graingbough and a bus around the island of Mull where you catch another ferry to Iona. It was on this very bumpy crowded bus around the island of Mull, where I became separated from my travel companion, and met Keith. The end of Keith’s story was the beginning of my own.

Keith is a Methodist Priest who is wrapping up a sabbatical with a couple of days on Iona. During this quick 20-minute bus ride, he shared the story of how he came to the point in his life where he serves as a residential priest of a large estate. He compared his own journey to that of the children of God being lead by Moses to the Red Sea. The people were trapped at the gates of the Red Sea with the Romans at their backs and the sea in front of them. Then a “mighty wind blew” and the sea parted in front of them. The same thing happened in his life, where he felt trapped and waiting. And then a wind blew through and within eight days his new lot in life was determined.

My week of Self Embodiment on Iona did not leave me radically changed. But the winds of change started blowing while I was there. That was the beginning of the realization for me that I too was trapped at the entrance of the Red Sea but my Red Sea was the White Picket Fence that surrounded my Western lifestyle. Instead of Romans hot on my trail, it was the trappings of the modern world that sought to hold me and repress me. I had failed in my attempts to live in the World but not of the World. On the other side of the sea, the White Picket Fence that surrounded my life, laid my true self. This was the beginning of the transformation to a new life.

 

Emerged –

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Emerged

24 x 36 inches

Oil on Wood Panel

At first I was going to name this painting sub>merged because that is how I felt at one point:

Submerged – Under the surface of water or any other enveloping medium; inundated, covered, hidden, unknown, enveloped.  

I felt trapped behind the picket fence that enveloped my life.   I felt like I had lost my soul.

I feel pretty certain that young children have the souls that God intended. I see it in the pure joy they experience by creating art and it is why I love teaching so much.

Eventually life chips away at those souls; lucky ones hold on tight but some, like me, get lost.   We get lost in the expectations of parents and partners, and the messages this culture sends about how you should think and behave. We get lost in the news.

The last few years I have been listening to the music and lyrics of my own soul.

I’ve undergone some radical transformations that I may share at some point but I finally feel like I have stepped over the picket fence that was holding my life back and I am Emerging as the person that I was created to be.

It’s been a hard journey at times and I am not all the way home yet.  But I no longer feel submerged.

I have been working on a series of paintings and a short book that ties all of this together, but for now lets just say I am Emerging. – better, kinder, more loving and thankfully happier.

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This painting is part of a series and is not for sale yet.

 

Selfie in Espana

Some paintings are just too fun to paint.  This painting is of a “selfie” that was taken on an iPhone on the coast of Spain.  Most importantly, I see love in this painting.  But I also like the marriage of the fine art of oil painting and the cultural phenomena of the selfie.

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Selfie in Espana, 16 x 20, Oil on Wood Panel

Here is a short video with the painting process:

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Walking Home

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Walking Home – Tuscany, Italy

16 x 20

Oil on Board

At first I was going to name this painting, “If my Grandmother were Italian,” because I so loved my Grandma and if she lived in Italy, I could see here walking home from the market just like this lady.

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My Grandma was not from Italy – she was a petite farm wife from rural Iowa. And even though the mother figures in my life consistently made me feel like I could never be good enough for their affections, my Grandma just loved ME   She loved me for everything I was, without judgment or doubt.

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My Grandma taught me how to file my fingernails, sew dresses from a pattern and how to make the Worlds Greatest Sugar cookies, from scratch of course. I still remember the smell of the local dairy that we would go to and buy fresh milk, and her voice as she laid next to me at night, rubbing my back until I fell asleep. I loved her canned greened beans and stewed tomatoes, and the pretty tablecloths that she patiently tatted. Even though she made me go to summer bible school in itchy polyester dresses that I hated, I adored her and loved being on the farm. I loved being in her HOME.

The day she was killed in a tragic car wreck as she was turning into the drive in front of the farm was the first time in my life that I felt such loss and sadness. It felt so unfair that the world took her away from me. But my Grandma has stayed with me, in my heart and in my home. Her homemade quilts still warm me at night. I still make homemade sugar cookies and always have well keep nails. My Grandma is with me when I plant tomatoes in my garden and rub my own kids backs when they need some extra love.

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My Grandma is still holding my hand and walking me home. In the end, we are all just walking each other home.

A look at the Creative Process.  Thanks to my son Luke for capturing some memories of me in my Studio.

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