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Inspiration for the Artist: The Gift by Lewis Hyde

A recent oil painting

“The artist appeals to that part of our being …which is a gift and not an acquisition — and, therefore, more permanently enduring.” – Joseph Conrad

In January, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC, on the art of creative living. I loved it, made notes, shared it at, and noted one of the books which inspired her: The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, by Lewis Hyde.

The Gift by Lewis Hyde

The Gift by Lewis Hyde

At last, I have it on my reading stack. I have begun at the introduction and can hardly move past it, the content is so thought-provoking.

The first concept Hyde mentions: “Works of art exist simultaneously in two “economies,” a market economy and a gift economy. Only one of these is essential, however: a works of art can survive without the market, but where there is no gift there is no art.”

Where there is no gift, there is no art. Of created works, only art endures.

My question has always been, How do we know what is art? Who is to say that a modern painting with colors seemingly haphazardly thrown onto a canvas is more lofty and enduring than a random painting done by a non-artist? Or who is to say one work of fiction is more meaningful than another more formulaic book?

I don’t know the answer. But I think Hyde is on to something.

The next: “A gift is a thing we do not get by our own efforts. We cannot buy it; we cannot acquire it through an act of will.”

True. I can’t buy or bargain my way into being Mozart. There is a gift element to his talent, as well as a gazillion hours of hard work.

Inspiration for the Artist

The third big thought of the introduction is: “Inspiration as a gift. As the artist works, some portion of his creation is bestowed upon him. An idea pops into his head, a tune begins to play, a phrase comes to mind, a color falls in place on the canvas… With any true creation comes the uncanny sense that “I,” the artist, did not make the work.” Some element of what has been created does not seem to come from the artist him/herself. The inspiration comes in the act of working.

A recent oil painting
A recent oil painting

I recently worked on the oil painting (16″x24″), above. It has been sitting on my easel for months as I’ve tried to work out what to do with it. It has no less than ten layers of paint on it, all trying to depict what I see.

I don’t think the above painting is a piece of art, but merely something I’ve worked on that expresses something I see. I knew in each version that what I was trying to achieve would eventually come out.

For me, the hardest part of creating is starting at the blank canvas; the next hardest part of creating is not giving up. Now, I feel satisfied with it, though I am not sure exactly why.

“That art that matters to us–which moves the heart, or revives the soul, or delights the senses, or offers courage for living, however we choose to describe the experience–that work is received by us as a gift is received.”

Or, ART matters.

What is it about a certain piece of art that connects with someone deeply? I can read a book or article and, depending on what I’ve experienced, determines how I feel about the piece. I can see a painting and it moves me, or hear a song and it transports me. What is it about art that makes it ART?

I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments…

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Article in Salon: Georgia O’Keeffe and the Gender Debate

Georgia O'Keeffe art

“O’Keeffe perhaps didn’t need Stieglitz to achieve her artistic prime. Maybe she would’ve found herself in New Mexico fueled by Nature and its rugged beauty faster without him. Whether or not the world would’ve embraced a woman and her art without his controversial influence is another question. Today, would we say Georgia O’Keeffe is a great woman artist, or a great artist?” – my article in Salon, July 16, 2016

In February this year, I started a blog post about Georgia O’Keeffe with this:

“I remember the first time I came across Georgia O’Keeffe in high school art class. Her paintings of Southwestern-themed landscapes and cow skulls made an impression, but the color-saturated forms of her flower close-ups are images I can still see in my head. Her work is unique, brilliant. I love her poppies, their gigantic shapes and ripples and forms. Every time I see a Georgia O’Keeffe, I pause. I guess that would make me a lifelong fan.”

If that was true then, it’s even truer now.

Georgia O'Keeffe art
Georgia O’Keeffe, Series 1 No. 8, source Wikimedia Commons

In March 2016, I learned a complete retrospective of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work would be on exhibit at the Tate Modern in London beginning in July, this month. But that’s not all — Stieglitz’s work of O’Keeffe would be at the Tate Modern to accompany her exhibition, as well. That, to me, meant someone needed to say something, to give his pictorial commentary context, to open up discussion on what his work did in the reception of hers. His portraits of her, many of them nude before she began to wake up and refuse, changed the perceived meaning of her art for the past 100 years.

I spent time immersed in the analysis and writing of O’Keeffe scholar, Barbara Buhler Lynes, and, paired with the novel Georgia by Dawn Tripp (which I loved), began to formulate how O’Keeffe’s story is relevant to our time.

Article in Salon

The result: my article has been published by Salon on July 16, 2016, entitled: Georgia O’Keeffe and the Gender Debate: Can a Woman Be Great, or Only a Great Woman?

A new retrospective at London’s Tate Modern reignites an ongoing fight about how we qualify women’s achievements

I am beyond delighted!

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Georgia by Dawn Tripp: a Must-Read Book of 2016

Georgia Georgia by Dawn Tripp

I remember the first time I came across Georgia O’Keeffe in high school art class. Her paintings of Southwestern-themed landscapes and cow skulls made an impression, but the color-saturated forms of her flower close-ups are images I can still see in my head. Her work is unique, brilliant. I love her poppies, their gigantic shapes and ripples and forms. Every time I see a Georgia O’Keeffe, I pause. I guess that would make me a lifelong fan.

When Dawn Tripp’s Georgia hit the literary scene, I saw the cover and immediately loved it. It is the perfect art for a novel based on Georgia O’Keeffe’s life, and probably will be my favorite cover this year. But for the story, I wasn’t so sure. I don’t often enjoy autobiographical historical fiction, as the voices imposed on the characters tend to be indulgent of the author’s obsession with a particular person of the past. I hesitated to begin Georgia for fear the novel would take me down roads I didn’t want to go with Georgia O’Keeffe, the artist. I didn’t want the novel to be a romanticized version of her life. Georgia O’Keeffe expressed herself and her life on her own terms. I didn’t want that to change in my mind.

Why did I pick up the book? I read a nice review from a respectable and unswayed source. She wasn’t a friend of the author, and likely chose Georgia because she authentically loved the book – much like what we try to do at Great New Books. I bought the book and hours after getting it home began reading. The first sentence sounded just like an artist: “I bought this house for the door.” I read on, through Georgia’s early beginnings, her poverty, and what drove her to New York City, where she met Stieglitz, who “discovered” her. I didn’t like him. And the more I read on, my dislike for Stieglitz increased. I had to continually ask myself why.

This is the masterful undercurrent Tripp wove into the novel Georgia, the disenchantment with a man who believes he has given Georgia it all. The narrative exposes gender politics at time when women’s rights had a different toehold on social dynamics. Women needed men to be their everything, and for a time, Stieglitz convinced Georgia it was true. It was this that kept me reading on. I had to find out how Georgia could come out from under a man so oppressive she lost sight of who she was, what she enjoyed, and what made her tick — for decades.

A powerful book is one that can help us see ourselves and our former or current states in the characters and the struggles they face. Georgia is one of those books. And then there is the language, lean and strong and perfect.

My favorite paragraph:

“The cottage feels empty, and the emptiness rings. Like a tingle under the skin. And for the first time in a dozen years, it occurs to me that perhaps Stieglitz is not my life, but a detour from it.”

The truth in those words have weight. And more …

“And then I remark coolly that art is, fundamentally, a personal struggle, and that women as a class are, fundamentally, oppressed.”

“A life is built of lies and magic, illusions bedded down with dreams. And in the end what haunts us most is the recollection of what we failed to see.”

In Georgia, there is no pretense, no romance, no false representation or glorification of a heroine from the past– there is only the beauty of a creative soul seeking to find her way to herself, and Tripp’s authentic voice pointing the way. Isn’t that what we all, at some point in our lives, seek to do? Find out who we are, what we are here for?

I loved Georgia. I’m sure it will be my favorite book of 2016.

This post has gone live today as well at Please join in the conversation — especially if you have read Georgia. Thank you!

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Art and Sculpture in the Veneto, Italy: a Photojournal

the Barchessa I loved

The best artist has that thought alone Which is contained within the marble shell; The sculptor’s hand can only break the spell To free the figures slumbering in the stone. – Michelangelo

In Europe, art is everywhere — in the architecture, in paintings and frescoes, in statues and sculptures, even in the arrangement of cobblestones in the sidewalks. It is one of the elements that makes Europe its own. Every corner and door handle are inspired, it seems. Art is the air which that continent breathes.

One of my favorite places in Europe is Venice, which I’ve written about several times. When my family and I traveled to Venice from Prague, we stayed on estates outside the city in the Veneto region. Not only was staying outside Venice far less expensive, but since the Veneto is known for its wines, vineyard estates, and its longtime grandeur, the Veneto is an experience in itself.

Our first visit, we stayed at Montecchia, an estate near Padua, west of Venice in the Veneto. (I wrote about it here: The Charm of Italy’s Veneto Region.) The second visit, we stayed at Brandolini-Rota, in Cordignano, north of Venice at the foot of the Alps.

The estate was beautiful, stunningly so. The estate produces Fruili wine, harvested from its fields and stored in the on-site 18th century barchessa cellars. The vintner let us tour their facility and taste the wines. Bella!

But even more, the Brandolini-Rota estate is filled with surprising 1600s statuary throughout its extensive grounds. Like the estate Villa, which I imagine was once impressive and well cared for, the statues are now neglected. Yet even after 400 years of weather and wear, they speak.

Art and Sculpture in the Veneto, Italy: a Photojournal

the Villa at Brandolini-Rota, Veneto, Italy
the Villa at Brandolini-Rota, Veneto, Italy


the Villa at Brandolini-Rota
the Villa at Brandolini-Rota

More than 48 statues stand along the lanes throughout Brandolini-Rota. In the photograph above, you can see a few at the right.

A few of my favorite statues from Brandolini-Rota, accompanied by a few of my favorite quotes on the importance of art …

Brandolini-Rota statue

Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Brandolini Rota statue

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious – the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”- Albert Einstein


Brandolini Rota statue
“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” – Émile Zola

Brandolini Rota statue
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” – Thomas Merton

Brandolini Rota statue
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”- Pablo Picasso

Brandolini Rota statue
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”- Edgar Degas

Brandolini Rota statue
“Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.” – Flannery O’Connor

Brandolini Rota statue

an artful twist of decay and beauty, Veneto, Italy
an artful twist of decay and beauty, Veneto, Italy

“A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.”- Ansel Adams

the Barchessa I loved
the Barchessa I loved


These photographs, I discovered recently while writing on the four years I lived in Prague and on the twenty-three countries we traveled while there. I’m delighted to have found them, and to get to share them with you here. Have a wonderful week! and a beautiful Advent season.

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American Gothic by Grant Wood

Grant Wood (1891-1942), American Gothic, 1930, oil on beaver board, 30 3/4 x 25 3/4 in. (78 x 65.3 cm), The Art Institute of Chicago, Friends of American Art Collection, 1930.934

“Technique does not constitute art. Nor is it a vague, fuzzy romantic quality known as ‘beauty,’ remote from the realities of everyday life. It is the depth and intensity of an artist’s experience that are the first importance in art.” – Grant Wood [quoted in “Grant Wood Revisited,” Midwest Today, April/May 1996]


American Gothic by Grant Wood, the painting

American artist Grant Wood painted his masterpiece American Gothic in 1930, the iconic image of a farmer and his wife with a pitchfork in front of a white house in Wood’s native Iowa.

The artist had traveled Europe and studied art there throughout the 1920s, yet returned home to the US Midwest and said this (Chicago Tribune):

“I spent 20 years wandering around the world hunting ‘arty’ subjects to paint. I came back … and the first thing I noticed was the cross-stitched embroidery of my mother’s kitchen apron.”

When passing through a tiny town called Eldon, Iowa, not long after his return, Grant Wood noticed a house with an intriguing upper window, in the Carpenter Gothic style. He felt the need to paint it, to imagine the kind of people who lived in the house, and so he assembled a couple from people he knew. The wife in the painting was the artist’s sister, and the austere man was his dentist. The brooch pin was borrowed from his mother. He painted them and named the piece American Gothic, after the style of the window. It became an instant success and has become one of the most iconic paintings in recent times.

Grant Wood (1891-1942), American Gothic, 1930, oil on beaver board, 30 3/4 x 25 3/4 in. (78 x 65.3 cm),  The Art Institute of Chicago, Friends of American Art Collection, 1930.934
Grant Wood (1891-1942), American Gothic, 1930, oil on beaver board, 30 3/4 x 25 3/4 in. (78 x 65.3 cm),
The Art Institute of Chicago, Friends of American Art Collection, 1930.934

The painting reminds me of the towns in Kansas where my grandparents lived, of the frame house their parents built on the land where they settled as immigrants from Sweden in the early 1900s. The landscape is sparse and bleak, and fields stretch for eternity in every direction. Work on the land is hard, but the simple things bring the most pleasure, especially the homemade pies and meals my grandmother made. American Gothic, to me, represents that world. Grant Wood’s paintings depict the heart of America.

I saw American Gothic at the Cincinnati Museum of Art, where Grant Wood’s paintings are on display until November 16, 2014 (link here). It was fascinating to see in person, as well as with two other masterpiece paintings by Wood.

This painting has been endlessly parodied, in advertisements, and even unlikely pop divas (link here).

Mr. Wood’s work became a window into the Midwestern culture of his time. He became an expert at contrasts and details, at repeating shapes and textures, and at depicting the mundane details many of us don’t see. His work reflected hard work ethics and parodied scenarios, people, and the pressures of real life.

Thank you to the Cincinnati Art Museum for allowing me to post your image of your exhibit and collections. It is a privilege to not only see great art, but to be able to share it widely. If you have the chance to see Grant Wood’s work up close and personal, you must. He was an artistic genius.


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A Year of Oil Painting on Canvas

me (Jennifer Lyn King) painting one of the Siena canvases

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen” -Leonardo da Vinci



Ten Years of Oil Painting on Canvas

Just over ten years ago, I bought my first handful of oil paint tubes, trio of brushes, and a big white canvas. I didn’t know what I was doing. Though I’d always loved to draw, paint, and take photos, I’d never trained in art. Yet on that day back in 2003, I simply couldn’t wait another day to paint a canvas with oils.

When I arrived home with my 3 sons, all practically toddlers at the time, I remember wondering what to do with the canvas when I painted. I hadn’t bought an easel. And so when the boys were all tucked snugly in bed that night, I laid the canvas flat on the table, and found out in moments just how hard painting with oils really was.

Oil paint usually has the consistency of toothpaste. Imagine dabbing a brush into toothpaste and trying to get the trailing smear to resemble something recognizable. It was, and still is, a challenge.

Not long after, my mother-in-law gave me an enormous gift — she bought lessons with a renowned local artist for me for my birthday, and the gift came with childcare. I don’t know if I’ve ever thanked her enough for that gift. It was truly one which has kept on giving.

Jennifer Lyn King painting
Garden House, painted in 2004, 36″ x 24″ canvas

In the years since, I’ve painted and painted, everything from flowers to landscapes to cities to people. Sometimes I’m happy with what comes out on canvas, sometimes not. One of the benefits of painting with oils is that they are easily scraped off (oils take up to 2 weeks to dry) and reapplied later.

Over the past ten years, I’ve discovered not only the joy in it, but that I love to paint.

A Year of Oil Painting on Canvas

This past year, I’ve been working on a series of canvases of one of my favorite places in the world: Tuscany, Italy. The scenes are a stitched together view overlooking the hills, olive groves, and vineyards of Tuscany from the high vantage point of the walls surrounding Siena.

After I painted the first, central canvas (36″ x 48″), I felt like I had hardly begun the scene as a whole and knew I had to keep going. Now, almost a year later, this is the result.

Siena Paintings: the View of Tuscany from Siena's Walls, by Jennifer Lyn King
Siena Paintings: the View of Tuscany from Siena’s Walls, by Jennifer Lyn King

While everyone sees art differently, these canvases turned out the way I’d envisioned them. I feel that these, after this year of effort and play on canvas, are a personal triumph. I’m delighted to get to share them here with you.

me (Jennifer Lyn King) painting one of the Siena canvases
me (Jennifer Lyn King) painting one of the Siena canvases


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What It Means to Be an Artist: 8 Truths on Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt from I ALWAYS LOVED YOU

Art is a mystery. From my first memories, I’ve always loved to draw, to write, to create. I still do, and write and paint regularly, daily. But as I’ve grown older, I wonder about art — the why and how behind it, and often, the meaning.

Creating is hard. Art is important. To be an artist is to dig deep to find what it is that must be created, and to do the hard work of creation. Often that is much more difficult than it sounds. It feels impossible.

It is from pushing through those times when I deeply appreciate learning about artists who have gone before. I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira

I’ve recently finished reading a stunning novel called I ALWAYS LOVED YOU by Robin Oliveira. It is a historical novel about the relationship between American painter Mary Cassatt, her art, and her sometimes-inspiration, Parisian artist Edgar Degas. The story is meaningful, beautiful, and exquisite.

As I read, I began making notes with a pen, which by the end of the book had become notes on What It Means to Be an Artist. If the Masters felt and experienced the same feelings, doubts, criticisms as we do today, and yet persevered, then we have much to learn from their lives. Here, 8 notes I made on …

What It Means to Be an Artist:

On Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt, from I ALWAYS LOVED YOU by Robin Oliveira

1) Art takes work:

“It’s extraordinary. It looks effortless.”

“Effortless?” Degas’s placid expression twisted… “What do you think? That this is easy for me? That I could decide to paint something and then it magically appears from my hand? That I have some gift, that my work arrives finished, that this is not a struggle for me?” (page 102)

2) An Artist doubts, and then overcomes it:

“You must understand. Every day I awake and wonder how I’m going to get through the day. I have to draw and redraw endless lines upon endless lines … to establish the composition. And even then I get it wrong. I have nothing of talent. I have only desire and dogged work. I doubt myself every moment.” (page 104)

3) An Artist’s work never stops beckoning to him / her to rework it again:

“If I had to look at [my other previous works], I’d rework them all and never begin anything new. I see every mistake of composition, of brushstroke, of line. They are all flawed, every one of them.” (page 101)

4) The source of an Artist’s ability is found in a magical combination of gift and hard work:

“Gift? Rubbish. What have those idiots on the jury done to you? Art does not arise from a well of imaginary skill, obtained by dint of native ability. The sublime is a result of discipline. Art is earned by hard work, by the study of form, by obsessive revision. Only then are you set free. Only then can you see.” (page 41)

5) An Artist’s worth, is it found in money earned?

Mary’s father, Robert Cassatt: “I confess I don’t understand why she should continue working if she can’t sell what she paints. What is the purpose of any endeavor if not to make money? And how does an artist tell whether or not he is successful? For that matter, how does one know whether or not she is any good at all, or whether she is just daubing at canvases and deluding herself?” …

“Do you believe, Monsieur Cassatt, that Mary will only be a great artist if she makes a lot of money?” Degas said.

“In business, that is how we define success.” Robert turned to Mary. “You cannot pretend that you do not want to sell your paintings.”

“Of course I want to sell my paintings.” [Mary said]

“Then why is it so terrible that I asked?” her father said.

“Because you are talking about money.” (page 130)

6) Criticism happens to all great Artists:

Degas: “I want you to know that after tonight, everything will change for you, and not necessarily for the better. These last two years, you’ve been able to paint by yourself, for yourself, with no one caring or knowing what you were doing. But tonight is the eve of everything. In a few days, a dozen reviews will be published … Everyone will have an opinion of your work. They will say, on the whole, very stupid things. They will be extraordinarily mean and personal in their attacks. They will care not a jot for your hard work or your artistry. They will endeavor to make you suffer. They will claim that your style parts too much from standard taste, and in their ignorance will disparage you without reserve. Not every critic, but most. And these are people who cannot even mix a color, let alone render something as simple as an apple on a canvas. But they will believe themselves right and influence the public for the worse. They will be wrong, of course. What I want you to understand is that you should not allow their ignorance to destroy you.” (page 187)

7) The greatest achievements are made through the Artist who is not afraid to work:

“The struggle that had seemed so essential, the yearning for transcendence, the doubt that had plagued her, fell away in the face of success. Mary had become the artist she had wanted to be by dint of hard work and perseverance… She knew she would succeed eventually with a canvas. She knew that if she stayed with it long enough, through the blindness, she would finally see what it was meant to be. She knew that she would find its soul. Pain was the essential ingredient.” (page 319)

8) Balance with work and life is important, because in the end, love remains:

“Life, he now knew, was a fleet sprint from birth to death, revealed at twilight to be astonishingly brief. … He hoped, though, that his paintings might endure, but this no longer troubled him as it had troubled him in life. All of it was vanity. … he wished, upon crossing over, that he could voice his utter astonishment at the grandeur awaiting befuddled humanity, wished he could return and suffer all the folly again to whisper, It is love, my frightened ones. Love.” (page 313, 314)


Other books I’ve enjoyed on inspiration, art, and great artists:


Claude & Camille by Stephanie Cowell

on my to-read pile: Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland


The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Still Writing by Dani Shapiro

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

On Writing by Stephen King

A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle


Do you have thoughts on what it really means to be an artist? Please, share below. Thank you!

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Celebrating 5 Years of Blogging and a Giveaway

My biggest painting yet, 36" x 24", The View of Tuscany from Siena's Walls

 In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways. – Edith Wharton, novelist (1862 – 1937)


Five years ago, in November of 2008, I wrote my first blog post and called this little niche of cyberspace The View Through My Lens. Much has changed in the 5 years since then, but many things have stayed the same.

To celebrate these 5 Years of Blogging, I have 2 sets of photography greeting cards to give away (see below), a donation to send a girl to school for a year, as well as the opportunity to share some funny little-known fact about you here to help me celebrate and to enter for a chance to win. I hope you’ll help me celebrate by leaving a quick comment. Thank you!

But first, a list …

5 Changes in the past 5 years

1. a Studio

For the first time ever, I have a dedicated place to work. The windows stretch floor to ceiling, face East, and get morning sun, and the room has space for an easel, a writing chair, a desk, and rows of mounted bookshelves. Though it’s situated near the action in my house (with 3 growing boys, it’s loud!), my studio has doors that close. If you can picture my writing chair in a corner of my son’s room for the past 4 years in Prague, with my easel set up just beside my bed, then you can understand that now I’m quite truly in heaven.

2. Always a Work-in-Progress

A couple of years ago, my wonderful Dutch friend showed me around Amsterdam and the Van Gogh museum. I’ve sometimes had trouble with the blank canvas and page, thinking what I might paint or write is not worthwhile or important or necessary. But since I’ve stood face-to-face with Van Gogh’s work, I’ve realized that all artists aren’t great when they begin. The important thing is to do the work. And so I now always have a work-in-progress, a novel going and a canvas going on the easel, which fuel me onward.

My biggest painting yet, 36" x 24", The View of Tuscany from Siena's Walls
My biggest painting yet, 36″ x 24″, a color-drenched canvas of The View of Tuscany from Siena’s Walls

“Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don’t know how paralyzing that is, that stare of a blank canvas is, which says to the painter, ‘You can’t do a thing’. The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerizes some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of `you can’t’ once and for all.” – Vincent Van Gogh

3. Popelka

Poppy, we call her. A mini-Labradoodle, she is my constant shadow, my writing companion, my always-smiling dog. She was born in Prague and her name means Cinderella in Czech, because when she was 8 weeks, with the exception of 2 white paws, she was all black. Now, she’s wonderful in every way. Meet Poppy.

Me with Popelka

4. Mořic and the Birds

I’ve never had a cat. This one, pronounced More-zhitz, a traditional Czech name of a Lobkowicz prince, has a story about his name, his history. We tell his stories at dinner with friends and we all laugh for hours. He’s a character, and mostly not a nice one. But that’s okay. We all love him. He’s the other immigrant in our family.


The birds belong to my middle son (12 years old) who has always been an animal and bird lover, and a basketball player. We had to leave our beloved Buddy the parakeet behind in Prague with friends, and, as these things go, we have 2 birds in Buddy’s place now. Their primary occupation? Playing basketball with their mini-hoop toy. It’s very annoying entertaining. 🙂 Yes, I live in a zoo…

5. Wine and Coffee

Those years of European friends and influence changed me a bit. 5 years ago, I didn’t like coffee. 5 years ago, I didn’t appreciate wine. Now, I’ll just say the day is not complete without a great cup of coffee to start, and a great glass of wine with dinner.

So, I have changed in these 5 years, and change, I think, is good…

Jennifer Lyn KingAt Montecchia, tasting wine; one of my favorite wineries in Italy

What’s Happened Here in 5 Years

I’ve written 1 post per week for 5 years (= over 260 posts!). I still love to write and sit down daily for a few hours to work, still enjoy photography and painting and sharing here. And though I started out at (free), I switched to several years ago with much frustration, but learned a lot and love it now.

The Goods

I’ve recently found an art-production site to partner with for my photography and art: RedBubble, a website which prints high-quality greeting cards, framed images, and gallery wrapped canvas. Here is a sample– I love love love the product.

Jennifer Lyn King Red Bubble Portfolio

I’ll be giving away 1 set of 5 greeting cards (of your choice) to each winner…

Jennifer Lyn King's photography asGreeting cards from RedBubble
Greeting cards from RedBubble
The cards arrive wrapped in clear cellophane
The cards arrive wrapped in clear cellophane
And greeting cards arrive in an elegant package which made me laugh with its wit and charm...
And greeting cards arrive in an elegant package (witty and charming, too…)

Like the package says, above, the cards are so nice you’ll want to send them to yourself.

And I’ll make a donation to one of my favorite charitable causes, sending a girl in an impoverished country to school for a year.

How to Win

So, help me celebrate these 5 years by leaving a comment with the best little-known fact about yourself that is new within the last 5 years. (Fiction is okay, too 🙂 ) Extra points for humor.

On Saturday, November 9, I’ll draw 2 winners (randomly). Both will win a set of 5 greeting cards of my photography at and I will make a donation to send a girl to school in an impoverished country.

Thank you for celebrating with me! I’ll email the winners on Saturday. Now, click on the comments and leave a little tidbit about you. Thanks! xo Jennifer


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Ponte Sant’Angelo : Bridge of Angels, Rome

Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit; for, without being seen, they are present with you. – St Francis de Sales

The Sculptures of Ponte Sant’Angelo: Bridge of Angels, Rome

One of my favorite places in Rome, I found while walking between the crowded and celestial Vatican City toward the Tiber River. On the left, beside giant Stone pine trees, a faded castle squats on the river bank. Beside it, a marble bridge spans the river, decorated with ten alabaster angels, each different and evocative in their individuality. I’m continuing a series on art I discovered and enjoyed while I lived in Europe. Today’s art: the angels of Castel Sant’ Angelo and the bridge, Ponte Sant’Angelo.

Rome's Castel Sant'Angelo
Rome’s Castel Sant’Angelo


The massive fortress is called the Castel Sant’Angelo, and is one of my favorite places in Rome. The Castel Sant’Angelo has a colorful history, including being the place Popes used to hide out in during seiges and wars, because it is accessible by a raised viaduct to escape in secrecy from the Vatican.

Dan Brown used the Castel Sant’Angelo in his novel Angels and Demons, and Puccini’s opera Tosca, Floria Tosca famously throws herself from the Castel rooftop to evade capture.

Exterior of Rome's Castel Sant'Angelo

At the top of the Castel Sant’Angelo, the sculpture of an angel stands with his sword stretched to the sky. The name Sant’Angelo is used from a legend dating back to the 7th century A.D., when the Archangel Michael was said to have been seen standing atop the Castel with his sword drawn, to signify the end of the plague of 590 A.D.

the original Angel guarding Castel d'San Angelo, Rome
the original Angel guarding Castel d’San Angelo, Rome


The sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed the ten beautiful angel sculptures which guard the bridge. Each angel was created to symbolize parts of the story of Jesus Christ’s suffering and crucifixion.

Bernini's Angels, Ponte Sant'Angelo, Rome
Bernini’s Angels, Ponte Sant’Angelo, Rome


Bernini's Angels, Ponte Sant'Angelo, Rome
Bernini’s Angels, Ponte Sant’Angelo, Rome

Pope Clement IX commissioned Bernini in 1669 with the creation and sculpting of the art for the bridge.


Bernini's Angels, Ponte Sant'Angelo, Rome
Bernini’s Angels, Ponte Sant’Angelo, Rome
Bernini's Angels, Ponte Sant'Angelo, Rome
Bernini’s Angels, Ponte Sant’Angelo, Rome

Bernini only actually sculpted two of the angels, the one with I.N.R.I. inscripted and the one with the crown of thorns.


Bernini's Angels, Ponte Sant'Angelo, Rome
Bernini’s Angels, Ponte Sant’Angelo, Rome
Bernini's Angels, Ponte Sant'Angelo, Rome
Bernini’s Angels, Ponte Sant’Angelo, Rome

The angels mounted on the Ponte Sant’Angelo today are replicas of the actual sculptures.

Bernini's Angels, Ponte Sant'Angelo, Rome
Bernini’s Angels, Ponte Sant’Angelo, Rome


Bernini's Angels, Ponte Sant'Angelo, Rome
Bernini’s Angels, Ponte Sant’Angelo, Rome

All over Europe, art of every form, texture, age, and era stands to point us back to history, to the events and times which shape who we are today. Next week, I’ll be back with another set of photographs of art which I loved. Thanks for joining me here, and have a great week!


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Alphonse Mucha, Prague, and Mucha’s Art

Princess Hyacinth by Alfons Mucha via

“The purpose of my work was never to destroy but always to create, to construct bridges, because we must live in the hope that humankind will draw together and that the better we understand each other the easier this will become.” -Alphonse Mucha

 St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague
St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague

One of my favorite of Mucha’s works is located in the Prague Castle, on a stained glass window inside the St. Vitus Cathedral (above).

Alphonse Mucha (Alfons Mucha, said Al-fons Moo-ha) is an artist you may not have heard of, but it’s likely you’ve seen his work. Mucha lived and painted in Paris at the turn of the century 1900s in the Art Nouveau style, but he was from Czechoslovakia. He was prolific with his lithographs for commercial art.

Biscuits Champagne by Alfons Mucha via Wikimedia Commons
Biscuits Champagne by Alfons Mucha

I’m continuing a series on art and artists I saw while I lived in Europe. I loved getting to tour the Mucha Museum in Prague, Czech Republic, with a group of friends. The museum is located at the Kaunický palác Panská 7, 110 00 Prague 1. {All photos related to Mucha’s work in this post, other than the St. Vitus stained glass photo, have been found under public domain at Wikimedia (free media) because inside the Mucha Museum, photography is not allowed.}

Princess Hyacinth by Alfons Mucha via
Princess Hyacinth by Alfons Mucha
Peonies by A. Mucha via
Peonies by A. Mucha

Mucha gained initial success for designing a poster for the 1894 play called Gismonda, which starred the most famous Parisian actress at the time, Sara Bernhardt.

Gismonda by Mucha via
Gismonda by Mucha

A few of my favorite Mucha pieces remind me of antique soap boxes and other advertising I saw at my relatives’ homes when I was a child.

Chansons Eternelles by Mucha via
Chansons Eternelles by Mucha


Winter by Alfons Mucha via
Winter by Alfons Mucha

Do you remember seeing any of Mucha’s work? What do you recognize his work from?