In Memory of Earl

Maybe it’s the overcast sky that brings me to these memories.

Twelve years will have passed in the first week of January since my dad died.

It felt as if the universe shifted… a vacancy so large that it took a quake to fill it. I never thought he’d be gone.

When in Michigan for his burial and settling other things, we almost couldn’t bury him because the frost line was 6 feet deep. However, because he was in an urn, they were able to “tuck him in” before I went home.

The idea of that frost line stayed with me while snowed into the Chicago airport. Somehow I didn’t mind this time in the airport, overnight with other stranded folk. The wings of the planes were iced over. The ground was frozen deeply. I thought about what else lied beneath the frostline, and what remained above.

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Beneath the Frostline – 14″x10″ – Oil ©Bohlender

It was a little like being in shock – the sense of unreality. When I came back home, I went to call him to tell him what a lovely day it was down in the southwest. That’s when it hit me that he was really not there anymore.

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“In Memory of Earl” – 30″x 24″ – Mixed Media ©Bohlender

My dad was a hunter, an outdoorsman, a unique man. He always said he was born a hundred years too late. He was a character, genuine and true, even where flawed. He loved me. I do not remember a time when I was younger, out “truckin’ ” across the USA, when he did not help me get started again. He was Swede, proud of it. He was not proud of his French heritage.

He was sick toward the end of his life, and ready to go. He had returned to the area of his birth and childhood because he wanted to die and be buried there.

I painted this while grieving his loss. The bark is from the birch trees in the area, the landscape of near where he grew up; his grave and urn a solid reminder of his death, yet his walking away in the background a reminder of him having been and life yet to come.

Catching up with some of the family, I did get to hear stories of dad and his relatives, and find a sense of roots that I had never known before – being accepted locally because my great grandparents and others were buried nearby. I met my grandma’s brother, and saw myself in his eyes. What an amazing thing to touch roots like that.  And, the family homestead was nearby, the barn still standing then.

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Family Homestead – 36″x 12″ – Oil ©Bohlender

This place was alive in me from my childhood. Now the barn is blown down and another generation is passing away, but I have a taste of my earthly roots.

All of these paintings are with different family members. They are some of the most heart-felt pieces I have ever painted.

Below is my grandma’s brother. I was able to spend a little time with him while living, still relatively hardy even at 94. His death was grievous to me as well. I spent a little time with him before he died; then also in my art, even though I couldn’t be there in person.

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“Uncle Dying” –  14″x 11″ – Oil ©Bohlender

I have been grateful to know some of where I came from, even if it took my dad’s passing to touch my earthly roots. We could never go there, until it was time.

Now I contemplate more my own leaving, my heavenly heritage and citizenship in the Lord’s kingdom. Death is a doorway, a beginning. We are all going home at His appointed time. Praise God.

 

Gail’s Garden

A very gracious woman commissioned me to paint an anniversary gift for her husband. She wanted it to be “through her eyes”, across her lap – showing her hand resting on her leg with her wedding ring, looking out across her garden from her garden chair.

In order to paint it, I had to go experience her garden, through her eyes. What a magical experience, full of joy and heaven. A delightful place, full of flowers and butterflies and bees… a well-loved, orderly chaos of color and life.

We had tea in the sunshine. We shared joy in the morning. The mountains echoed the vibrancy of color and life and sounds of birdsong.

The garden gate slightly opens from the pathway, leading back to her home, but closed enough to keep us embraced, almost secreted in her garden.

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“Gail’s Garden” – 24″x 36″ – Oil

I had taken a thousand photos, hoping to compose them all into a working painting. I cannot remember all the different kinds of flowers and insects there, but what a joy.

Before I painted this, I was struck by Gail’s grace – the elegance of her motions and softness of her hand while working with her plants. I painted a kind of “warm-up” painting of her clipping a flower, her braid falling behind her back. When I placed it in the gallery, her husband bought it. But it was not the painting she wanted.

After I completed the commission, I took back the portrait piece, and she was delighted with this one. It was what was in her heart. It is one of the most joyful paintings I have ever painted.

It was a painting of Gail’s heart.

Early Works

I had always drawn or shown interest in creative endeavors, but I didn’t paint until I was 14 years old. After finding money on a sidewalk, I used it to buy my first Grumbacher oil paints; and copying from paintings in library books, learned a few things, painting on my bed. If you look closely at my very first piece (after a Vermeer painting) I used the pointed handle-end as much as the brush, but it turned out well for a first painting.

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I now possess this again, thanks to my aunt who kept it all these years. There were more paintings in between this and the painting shown below, but I have no records of them.

This work reflects the times, this being painted in my junior year of high school, while listening to Moody Blues, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Cat Stephens and others. I think it’s about 18″x 24″, oils, naive – but done in love.

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I gave the painting to a man who just came back from ‘Nam, and his wife and child. He is still my friend.

Although at that age our soul and passions are often misdirected, I am glad now that my art never left me. The Lord gave me art as an anchor, and later, a way to understand more of Him.

 

 

 

 

 

A Taste of Home

There are those things that happen every day in our lives that define who we are at the time.

Raising children was the happiest and most substantial of times in my life, the things we did together, and what we enjoyed together, how we lived.

We ate meals together, we read books while we were eating, or talked, but meal time was always good. Food was important, I thought I was making nutritional meals and healthy snacks simply by making them myself. Through the years, I discovered what was not healthy was sugars and white flours, things like that, but the transition of understanding and lifestyle was slow.

I was shopping at a sidewalk produce market, where a young Italian boy told me his grandmother did not use any sugars in their apple pies. It was a combination of apples that made it just right, along with few, but perfect, spices.

My crust was made with real butter and whole grain flour, my pie filling made with that little Italian boy’s grandma’s apple recipe… give or take a little of this or that.

I thought it was so healthy, we would eat them for breakfast, or supper, or whenever. I’d make 6 at a time.

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“A Taste of Home” – 18″x14″ – Oil

I haven’t been able to eat too many of any pies for some time now, but I savor the memories of eating together with my children. I love the bowl with the red stripe that was found at a yard sale, a hand cutting blender for the butter into the flour that I bought from Goodwill, a rolling pin from my husband’s aunt for our wedding gift.  The “salmon pink” counters (that came before I got there) tell a story of a house I once lived in, wanting to change the color of the counters yet never getting to it. Even the counters tell a happy tale now.

I still have this painting, will pass it on and not sell it. They can later if they desire. For me, it holds a representation of dear, dear times.

 

Wanting to Soar

In my 20’s, there was a constant aching for more – a longing to be free – to fly away. Always.

At the time I painted “Wanting to Soar”, I lived in a hotel designed to house recovering alcoholics. I was not one of the suffering ones, but my friend who managed it, was a Veteran of WWII, one of the American soldiers who helped in the liberating of a concentration camp. He was a recovering alcoholic, remembering the sights and smells and sounds… never forgetting. He was also an artist. He painted beautiful, peaceful pieces. He also empathized with me, a young woman making a living selling paintings and painting signs, designing a logo now and then.

So, I rented a room here, it was inexpensive and centered downtown across from a park, surrounded by the businesses I dealt with. I was making it as an artist, but longed for something, I didn’t know what. I was not a constant person in those days.

This painting was painted sometime in 1981-92. I had poor photographic records of art then, this has more neutraled blues in it.

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Longing to Soar – 18″x 24″ – Oil

A friend recently thought I should rename this to Isaiah 40:31:

“Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.”

Indeed! He knew me before I knew Him, and He enables us to fly.

Another Hero

Jamie Fraser aside, my “more real”  hero was King Arthur. I loved King Arthur. My heart thrilled and sorrowed in his story.

While homeschooling my children in elementary school, we did study the dark ages, the iron and leather age, the Roman rule in Britain. Sometimes it would get so exciting while reading an adventure we could raise our sword arms, other times, we would weep, like in Mary MacLeod’s version that we read aloud together.

I still have nearly 20 books, including LeMorte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle. Versions by Roger L. Green, Samuel Lowe, John Steinbeck, T.H. White, Antonia Fraser; the Usborn “Tales of King Arthur”, and the less fictional Geoffrey Ashe, John Matthews, Andrea Hopkins, Geoffrey of Monmouth and the King Arthur Illustrated Guide by R.J. Hutchings… and the Idylls of the King by Tennyson. Wonderful stuff.

We have our books about William Tell and Robin Hood, but King Arthur – he was my hero.

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“King Arthur” – 36″x48″ – Oil ©

This is one of my most favorite paintings ever that I painted, because I felt that I got him…

One of the houses I lived in had troubles with spiders and other things, I had hired a woman who did a wonderful job with insect control. She bought King Arthur while spraying the room the painting was hanging in.  That was one of the few paintings that I really missed when it was gone.

I think my whole heart went into painting this one, the plants and overcast sky, the movement in his horse and clothes, the confidence of a true-hearted man.

Working in More Heavenly Places

It is a very enjoyable attempt to know what God’s Word says, and what His heart’s desire might be. It is also a lot of work, but not the kind that is a burden, more the kind where you get enlivened to continue.

It is not a perfect work, it began as a personal Bible study for me, working from many versions of the Bible, to know what the Word says, understanding it and illustrating it. It is a very objective and subjective experience.

The materials are what I had around – block printing papers that I never used, Golden acrylic paint, Sakura micron pens and pencils. There are corrections on the pages, an occasional pencil mark that wasn’t caught, maybe some paint outside the lines.

What “it” is coming to be is an illustrated blended version of four of Paul’s letters while imprisoned in Rome in 63 a.d. And I love doing it. I loved learning the story by seeing the sequence of the letters and a little of the history behind them. The book “Revolutionary Bible Study” by G. Edwards helped me there.

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©2018 Jean Bohlender

The Word is good, and that is free to anyone who will listen. The illustrations are protected. (I always feel I must apologize for watermarks, but have found them necessary).

This is a sample page from Philippians. They are not all so ornate, but I did like the message on this page.

The camera work is next, along with a little editing, computer work and setting it up for publication. I do my books via independent publishing. My camera and tripod are just that – not all that fancy. I do my best to get the artwork squared up. My lighting is 5700k full spectrum florescent, my “vacuum plate” is a toy box (or sometimes I use an ironing board). Not a fancy operation, but it’s what I have to use until I get to heaven.

My current project is exciting to me. I still have a ways to go, and there is not a great deal of pressure to finish. What a joy.