The Hay Wain by John Constable

This week we officially said goodbye to summer and hello to fall. Here it means that it’s time to look at either a back-to-school or a harvest painting!

I invite you to enjoy a last taste of summer and the importance of harvest time in The Hay Wain, a famous harvest painting, painted in 1821 by the English artist, John Constable.

Even though in the 1800s landscapes were near the bottom of the hierarchy of desirable art subjects, Constable specialized in painting scenes around his family’s farm northeast of London. He refused to paint landscapes in the dark tones others used and didn’t sell a painting until he was 39.

But first in France and eventually in England, his large landscapes became popular. Constable’s work influenced several later groups of artists, including the Impressionists. 

The Hay Wain hangs in the National Gallery in London. It is large—about 4’ by 6’ and can’t be missed! It is full of sunlight and shade and details of country life.

The wain or wagon, pulled by 3 black horses, is standing in a millpond, but will eventually join the haymakers in the meadow beyond. It’s hard to see in this small picture, but out there workers toil away, gathering and stacking hay high on another wain.

In the foreground on the left is a house where a lady leans down to fill a water jug. It was leased at that time to a Willy Lotts. A dog trots along the edge of the pond. You can almost hear him barking at the men and horses parked in his pond.

Ducks swim near the opposite bank where a boat is beached and a person pokes about in the bushes with a long pole.

The Hay Wain by John Constable, public domain

On the right is a low brick wall, which is all you can see of the mill the Constable family had operated for a hundred years. Both the house, the millpond, and the mill still exist.

For a long time no one knew why in this painting, originally titled Landscape: Noon, the wain is parked in the millpond. If you were taking a noon break, you might take a swim, especially if you were covered in itchy wisps of hay and chaff! But then you’d probably come out to eat and relax beside the pond.

Then a man from a rural area wrote the Gallery saying he remembered when people drove wagons into streams or ponds in the summer to soak the wheels. If they didn’t do this the wooden wheels dried and shrank in the summer heat. Wooden joints loosened and iron rims could roll right off. 

Constable was a stickler for accuracy in every aspect of his paintings, and painted only from close observations. He painted trees that can be identified by their kind, and the horses’ harness is correct, right down to the bright red fringe. Constable often went “skying” to study cloud formations for his paintings.

In many ways he anticipated the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists by using dots of red (the complement of green) on leaves to help energize the green. And he painted tiny dots of white on surfaces to reproduce the shimmering effect of light.

At this time, when the Industrial Revolution was taking many people from rural areas to the cities to work long hours in factories and live in squalid conditions, Constable’s paintings showed a quiet, peaceful country scene on a warm end-of-summer day. Sun shines on the hay field, while the wagon stops in a shady area to give the horses a break as well as soak the wheels.

Today we also work long hours. And though our living and working conditions are usually safer and more comfortable, we often must take work home and find it hard to put down our electronic devises to rest, relax and enjoy family times. We tend to ignore daily and seasonal rhythms that can help us unwind.  

Out in that field in this painting we’re reminded that harvest time is incredibly busy on a farm—it’s super important to get crops in before bad weather comes, but The Hay Wain also shows us that it’s important to take time for rest even when we’re at our busiest. The horses need a rest from their heavy work of pulling loaded hay wagons. The wagon must be taken care of too.

I hope this amazing painting will remind you of the beauty and bounty of God’s creation as well as the need for rest as fall schedules ramp up.

Looking ahead: we’ll explore the composition of this landscape, and how Constable created its great depth, so sign up to receive picture lady posts  in your inbox!

And speaking of fall schedules, I love to bring alive  great paintings and do fun art projects with groups of all ages! So head over to my website to see some of the topics I can cover and invite me to visit your group!

I can be found at kathy-oneill.com

You can also comment here and give me ideas of paintings you’d like to see me discuss. I read all comments and will give serious consideration to any of your ideas!

 

 

 

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A Non-Tail of Two Corgis

This is Piper, our first corgi. A lot of you mention Molly in your comments, so I thought I’d tell you a little bit about her and about Piper.

Molly was abandoned with no collar or chip when she was about 1 1/2 years old. Although we don’t know anything about her first year and a half, she must have been reasonably well-cared for. She’s bouncy and happy and healthy. She loves to chase her special spikey ball and she spins and weaves through my legs on command. She’s even learned to walk nicely on a leash! She’s been a great pal these last 4 years.

 

 

 

 

 

Piper, was also a tri-color female, and probably about 2 years old when we got her, but there the resemblance ends.

Piper had spent her first 2 years in a puppy mill having puppies, and she’d never been socialized or well-cared for. When we rescued Piper, she limped. At the first vet visit x-rays showed the limp was due to an old break that had never had proper care. The bones “healed” on their own to some extent, but not correctly. However, our vet didn’t recommend trying to fix it because there was already a lot of arthritis.

We had never had an unsocialized dog so we weren’t prepared for one that had no interest in people. But we worked with her and used lots of treats to reward her for staying around us. After much work, Piper eventually learned to sit and lie down on command. And she loved walks! She had probably never been on walks to see other sights and smell doggy smells!

One strange thing about Piper is that she never barked. And that is strange indeed for a corgi–it’s part of how they herd.

Instead one time when we came into the house both Amber, our golden retriever, and Piper came to meet us. Because Amber danced and barked, Piper had to wait a little until we could wade through a golden’s exuberant joy. But suddenly we heard a strange vocalization coming from around our feet.  We looked down to see Piper with her nose raised, singing. It sounded like a doggy version of a flute. She didn’t sing for us often, but when she did, we knew Piper was happy.

Because Piper had had such a hard life we only got to love and care for her for a couple years, and we were heartbroken when we had to have her put to sleep. But we learned a lot from her and I wrote the following to family and friends at the time: 

    We’ve been thinking a lot about Piper this week. Losing her has left a corgi-shaped hole in our hearts, but we’ve also been appreciating all that she taught us.

Rescuing Piper took us way out into the Oklahoma countryside. We bumped over narrow, country roads to find her, but that was nothing compared to how much God loves each of us, and the amazing lengths to which He goes to find and save each of His children!

Caring for Piper, we saw her come out of her shell and come a long ways in learning to love us back. She never became a golden retriever like Amber, but she always came and lay near us wherever we were and often came out to greet us when we came home–especially if it was near dinnertime!

This reminded us of how God continues to lovingly work with each of us, growing and sanctifying us. He never gives up on us even though He knows we’re not going to love or obey Him perfectly in this life–often only coming to Him when we need something.

Loving Piper, we often felt bad that she had not had a good start in life. In consequence she had physical and mental problems which we couldn’t completely fix. As she got older we put a ramp out back so she could get up the step. We scoured thrift stores to find an older carriage that was long enough for her so she could still enjoy some walks.  But we had to just watch and cringe as she stumbled more, even on flat surfaces.

It sure reminded us that because of the Fall we all have physical and mental limitations and difficulties that won’t be completely healed in this life. It must be even harder for God who loves us even more than we loved Piper, to see us stumble over and over again

Now that we have a healthy corgi and can see how active and loving they are, we are reminded that someday when we are with God, He will heal us completely and we will be perfectly healthy and whole, able to be and do all God meant for us!!

We learned some great lessons from Piper! She was a good dog!

 

A Stormy Year Along the Front Range

Along the Front Range of the Rockies, it’s been a year of storms. A blizzard in March  broke records and stranded thousands in their cars for hours. The National Guard had to come to their rescue.

In May one of the latest snowfalls on record brought heavy snow to already leaved-out trees, snapping large branches and whole trees. Clean up crews had work for weeks.

Summer finally arrived and we planted a rock garden in our back yard (see my recent post about rock gardens). Everything was growing well and even blooming more than I would expect for a first year.

Then the thunderstorms began. They follow a usual pattern—morning starts out sunny, soon a few puffy clouds peep up behind Pike’s Peak. These grow and multiply and seem to march across the sky in rank after ever bigger rank. Other times they produce streamers that seem to pull bigger clouds along behind them.

Soon we wrap Molly in her thundershirt and bring potted plants under cover.

By 1 or 2PM thunder rumbles closer, rain begins and lightning flashes. Hail pounds on the roof and punches holes in leaves. Bigger hail recently stripped the leaves right off plants. Water pours off the hill behind us and into the street where it deepens and finally swirls into the big storm drains.

The marshy retention area below us has stayed filled and ducks and Canada geese paddle around an area that is often dry by now.

 

 

 

 

There’s been so much water this year that some pipes in our neighborhood couldn’t handle it. Lots of head-scratching men arrived and eventually brought in tons of heavy equipment to put in new pipes.

Not an unusual summer pattern for the Front Range, and good for reservoirs and fewer fires, but like everything else weatherwise this year it’s gone on longer than usual, and  bushes look bedraggled and sad.

Here are before and after pictures of the butterfly bush.

I wondered if they could possibly recover before frosts that are just a couple months away.

Then my husband urged me to take a closer look at the butterfly bush. And right next to broken branches and leaves covered with holes, I saw new growth! I’m so excited and encouraged.

Storms come into all our lives at various times and often we just see the dark clouds and listen only to the threatening thunder. The rain and the hail seem to take over and blot out all else. But even in the midst of such storms, our heavenly Father is there to love us, encourage us, and grow us in ways that we only see when we look closely.

When difficult times come, do you, like me with my butterfly bush, just see the destruction and fail to look closely to see how God encourages and grows us through those times?

Easy Summer Art Project for Kids

Here’s a fun and easy painting project for children. Just right for a summer afternoon!

It uses the same crayon resist and watercolor technique as the flower bouquet project in my Mother’s Day post. This garden stands up and shows the roots underground, illustrating the Parable of the Sower (Matt.13:23). For more on that, see my previous post.

Supplies: Supplies include a square piece of sturdy white paper. It can be 9X9, 11 X11, etc. The ruler and pencil are only needed if you need to measure and cut your paper into a square.

Step 1 Fold your square paper into fourths.

Step 2  Cut along one fold line just to the center. This will allow the paper to stand up at the end, but you will want to work on it on the flat.

When it comes time to stand your garden up, you will re-crease the folds and slide one of the cut sections over the other.

Step 3  With crayons draw dirt, stems and leaves. Add roots with white and light pink crayons.

Step 4  With crayons, draw different shaped flower outlines. Don’t color them in. You don’t have to be very exact. Think Impressionistic!

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5  Use watercolor paints to color the flowers.

(To mix watercolors so they are bright: Using your brush, place a little water on the cover of your water color set and then with a not-too-wet brush, keep adding pigment until you have enough bright paint to paint all the flowers of that color. When changing to a new color, rinse your brush and repeat the mixing process with your new color)

The crayon lines will help contain the paint, but it’s okay to go outside the lines!

Step 6  Now you can add beneficial insects to your garden. Bees and butterflies help cross pollinate flowers. Lady bugs kill off harmful pests. Ants and worms (which I forgot!) help keep soil healthy. Caterpillars aren’t so great since they eat leaves, but they turn into butterflies, so I couldn’t resist adding a couple! I’m sure you can think of other creatures to add!

Each insect just takes a few easy steps, which I’ve illustrated. Use paint or markers for the blobby parts.

One round yellow or red blob for bees or lady bugs.

Three small black blobs for ants. Several any-color-you-want blobs for caterpillars.

A black or brown long slender shape for butterflies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 7  Add the spots, stripes, legs, antennae, etc. with a pen or thin marker. You may want to use paint for the butterfly wings. I did plain wings, but I’m sure you can be lots more creative! Let everything dry.

Step 8 Last of all re-crease the folds to stand your garden up. Color some more brown for the underground you just created and add more ants and worms.

Enjoy your colorful garden and be reminded to read your Bible regularly so God’s Word will grow and flourish in your heart!

 

Rock Gardens and Deep Roots for Spiritual Growth

This summer we actually went shopping for rocks! As you might expect, it’s not hard to find rocks here along the Front Range of the Rockies. In fact a lot of landscaping is done with small rock to conserve water and with larger rock, known here as river rock, for those areas prone to run off in sudden mountain thunderstorms.

But I wanted rocks with character for a small garden area with perennial flowers, a birdbath, and bird houses. Hence the actual shopping and payment of $. We found some medium-sized rocks with lichen, brought them home and placed them in pleasing arrangements, then planted day lilies, daisies, cone flowers, and a butterfly bush.

 

 

 

 

 

Not long afterwards, Molly and I walked along a path where rocks had spilled over from some construction work. It was a dry area with no irrigation or sprinklers like parks or our back yard.

Here I discovered God had thought of rock gardens way before us and created some wildflowers that could survive in the dry, rocky soil. Even with their shallow root system, this year’s abundant rain has made these yellow and pink flowers a refreshing sight and reminded me of the diversity of God’s creation. (The colors are pretty hard to see in the photo, but they were there!)

But soon the rains will mostly end, and at this altitude of about 5, 000 feet, the sun will sear these plants as if they were on a grill at a summer cook out.

A rainfall will revive them, but they will never grow tall.

Not so in our garden. We dug deep holes so our plants would have room for their roots to grow deep to provide support and sustenance when rains are sparse and hard winds blow (which is most of the time around here). The plants are already tall and bright.

Here again is Durer’s painting the Great Piece of Turf, and if you look closely, you’ll see he has allowed some roots to show at the base of the plants. Perhaps he was thinking of the Parable of the Sower when he did that.

A Large Piece of Turf by Albrecht Durer, public domain

In that parable (Matt. 13:1-23) Jesus compares different kinds of soil to the hearts of different people and how they receive God’s Word.

He said that like plants in rocky soil that don’t have deep roots, people without deep roots in God’s Word will fall away when trouble comes.

And trouble will come in this broken world—the strong winds of personal loss, the drought of being without a job, the searing heat of a difficult relationship—and at those times our hearts need God’s healing words and promises deeply rooted to sustain us.

Just as in our garden we dug deep so our plants could develop deep roots, that’s the best way to begin to develop deep scriptural rootsdig deep into God’s word on a regular basis. When we study God’s Word regularly we see how He cares for His people in tough times.

Most of all, we see Jesus, who came and lived among us, experiencing all this world’s troubles, but without sin. We see God’s love for us when Jesus died on the cross so we can be forgiven and become part of God’s family. We learn that Jesus, who understands our weaknesses, intercedes for us before the Father, and the Holy Spirit helps and comforts us.

What are some ways you can help your heart become good soil for God’s Word to take deep root?

What are some rocks you may need to roll out of the way just as the angel rolled away the rock from Jesus’ tomb so His disciples could see and believe in His resurrection?

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Here’s Molly in our garden and Molly sitting among the rocks and plants beside the path. What a difference deep roots make!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next post: a painting and printing project for children relating to wildflowers and gardens. Don’t miss it! Sign up to receive my posts by email.

Wildflowers Seen on Summer Walks

This summer on our walks Molly and I are seeing lots of wildflowers. Clumps of blue flowers stand tall amid the grasses at the edge of paths. White daisy fleabane peeks out from under a bush and wild pink roses grow along a wooded stream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the fields orange paint brushes poke up their spikey heads, and yellow flowers like buttercups and dandelions shine like little pieces of the sun in many areas.

 

Albrecht Durer, a German artist who lived from 1471 to 1528, created beautiful oil paintings and was also one of the first to earn much of his living from printmaking. Take a look back at my post of November, 25, 2015, about his famous Praying Hands and his great interest in Martin Luther’s teachings.

A Large Piece of Turf by Albrecht Durer, public domain

But not everyone knows of his delight in studying and painting the small everyday creatures and plants where he lived, as well as on his many trips around Europe.

He had a great curiosity and appreciation for even the smallest parts of God’s creation! Here is one of those paintings, called the Large Piece of Turf. You’ll recognize the lowly dandelion!

Take time, as Durer did, to appreciate the beauty and intricacy of grasses, weeds and wildflowers that grow everywhere.

Get out and enjoy a walk in your neighborhood, a park, in the woods, or by the shore.

Even in your own yard, before you dig up that dandelion, notice that its buttery yellow mane shades to gold in the center. And marvel at God’s care in giving this lowly weed intricate little parachute seeds to ride away on the wind (probably to your neighbor’s lawn!)

 

Studies have shown that people are more creative after a walk AND come back refreshed and more aware of God’s creativity!

 

So take along a sketchbook or take photos of the flowers so you can continue to enjoy your own Piece of God’s Turf! Use it as wallpaper on your computer or phone for a time when you need refreshing. That picture will bring back the sights, the sounds, the scents, and maybe even the feel of a soft breeze of a relaxing time!

And as you walk and look, remember Matthew 6:28-34 where Jesus reminds us that if God has bestowed such care and beauty on the flowers of the field that are here today and gone tomorrow, how much more can we depend on Him to clothe and care for us.

What Piece of God’s Turf reminds you of His love and care? Is it a wooded area with dappled shade and the scent of pines? Is it at the sea shore where you can see sandpipers skittering away from incoming waves? Maybe you love meadows filled with yellow buttercups and Queen Anne’s lace.

One of my favorite Pieces of God’s Turf are the roadsides in upstate New York where orange day lilies and blue chicory mingle to provide a complementary-colored border all summer long. Join the conversation and share your favorite piece of turf.

Here’s Molly’s latest favorite piece of God’s Turf!!

 

Molly, Cute Corgi Photos

Just as Monet and the other Impressionists suffered much rejection at first from the established art world, we had to reject many photos of Molly before getting just the right ones for our Monet and his haystacks and cathedral series.

Disclaimer: No dog was harmed in these photos, unless you think 100s of treats per session is harmful. Molly loved it, but she did have to do a little dieting afterwards to get back that svelte, streamlined corgi shape!

So here they are: Cute Corgi Photos

Getting the beret to stay on those corgi ears was a challenge!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It often fell too far back or …too far forward!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes she was very patient; other times she was not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She always wanted treats for being good, which complicated keeping the beret on!

It took lots of behind the scenes preparation!. I’m in awe of those who do animal photography for a living

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were surprised she didn’t go for the French bread!

Eventually she was truly done. I guess she thought she was hiding!

Here again are the great photos I used! A round of applause, please , for the model!!

One last thing:  spring has finally come to the Rockies, so we’re going to take a little break to enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molly is ready to get out and play ball! Oh, and she wants you to notice she is once again sleek and ready to run!We’ll be back soon, but in the meantime you might visit our series of posts from last summer about nature. there are lots of activities to help you enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.

Thanks for visiting. Molly would love see your comments on which photos you like best!