Be Kind To Yourself

Painting is hard work, yes? It doesn’t always go like you expect. Your paintbrush gives you a mudpie when you wanted fresh veggies. You know?

I had one of these paintings just recently. I got up super early to meet my plein air challenge of three a week. It was the morning after a rain. The air was crisp and still. The sun was just coming up but it felt a little stormy. I drove to the tippy top of the east table where I could get a good view of the valley. The sun was dancing magic on the fields below. The yellow grass in the foreground was lit up. The sky in the west began to get darker and darker, super dark blue. I heard rumbles. Saw the wind start pushing those clouds harder and faster toward me. The air was very still. And we know what happens next. Yes, we do.

Storm over the west table

Storm over the west table

I kept painting, painting. Praying for a miracle on the canvas. Praying for the rain to hold off.

Guess what. You guessed it.

The raindrops began to fall. I schlepped everything back into the car. Drove home. Unloaded and took the painting inside to get a better look. Sigh. I didn’t like one single thing about it. The view I saw really spoke to me but something got seriously lost in translation. I'm sorry I can't even bring myself to show it to you. 

I could spend time on this one trying to resuscitate it, nurse it to health if you will. But. There is Right? So I’m not going to beat myself up over it, there will be more lemons like this and hopefully, more like the ones I want to paint.

Be kind to yourself my friend. Here’s a little reminder by one of my favorite artists.

My Painting Playlist

Earthy Gray - oil on Wood Panel - 12 x 12 © Beth cole

Earthy Gray - oil on Wood Panel - 12 x 12 © Beth cole

I can’t imagine painting without music. Seriously. How does one do that?

Hubby bought me the best Christmas gift last year, a JBL Bluetooth speaker. The sound is amazing. I don’t know if it has improved my art, but it has lifted my heart for sure.

Here are some artists I really love and play frequently while painting. It’s a bit on the eclectic side, but I like all for different reasons at one time or another.

So, what is on your playlist?

Beautiful Light

Looking west

Looking west

It happens almost every evening. I look up and see that beautiful, golden magic hour light streaming across the land that borders our home, the view when I look west, and our back yard. It almost always makes me stop for a minute to see. Sometimes it draws me outside to walk around and watch for a little while. And on the most special of days, it causes me to grab my camera real quick so I can capture what has gripped my heart. Oh how I love the beautiful light. Such a perfect and simple reminder of our Maker who has no dark side at all and who draws us out of the darkness into His marvelous light.

Expressing Your Art Aesthetic

Expressing Your Art Aesthetic
by Beth Cole

One of the things that was the most frustrating to me when I first started painting was knowing how I wanted something to look and being unable to make it so with my paintbrush. Ugh.

It makes sense though, really, if you think of it. You have had your whole life to develop an art aesthetic. Think of the thousands of millions of images, sight, sounds, designs, artworks, etc your brain has processed throughout your years of living. Through that process of seeing you have culled and developed your art sense, a sense of what you like and don’t like. Everyone does. Sometimes you can’t put into words why you like or dislike something, it is just that way. Unspoken.

So when you start painting, you bring to the studio this highly refined and developed aesthetic of what you like. And you know what. It doesn’t come out on the canvas right away, believe me.

Don’t give up. Nothing beats practice. And reading. And asking questions. Find mentors who paint to your aesthetic, then sit yourself down in front of them and soak it all in. There are so many great ways to learn and practice. We are so fortunate to live in the age of the interwebs where the world is at your fingertips. Seriously.

Here are some of the mentors and teachers I have loved the most.

If you are like me, it might take awhile to narrow down your choices, find a style and a voice that works for you. In fact, I am still in that process. Maybe I always will be.

But, anyway. Just wanted to say, don’t get discouraged if your painting doesn’t look like you imagined it would. It will come. Please keep going. The world needs art and you can do so much good to others with it. Hang in there.

Have You Always Wanted to Paint?

West Table Sunset © Beth Cole Oil on Canvas - 18 x 24

West Table Sunset © Beth Cole Oil on Canvas - 18 x 24

Have You Always Wanted to Paint?
by Beth Cole

My husband will tell you I said “when I get older, I want to paint” all the time. I do remember saying it but more often thinking it because I was always distracted by the sights/sounds/colors around me. Just fascinated, actually. I always wondered what it would be like to try and recreate what I saw with paint.

Anyway. This is not about me, this is about you.

I have some questions for you.

  • Is painting something you would like to try?
  • Is your nest empty and you are looking for a way to explore something new?
  • Did you go to art school but haven’t picked up a paintbrush since then?
  • Are you an art teacher but so busy in your classroom that you don’t have time to create yourself?
  • Do you just love to create?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, I have one more question for you.

What are you waiting for?

I have many regrets in my life, but one of the biggest is not starting to paint sooner. Gah. It breaks my heart because now that I’ve started I see the waterfall of grace the Lord was just waiting to pour into my life. He is faithful and trustworthy and has never left me on my painting journey and I know He never will. He has given me the deepest love for Himself and for painting, He has used in my life it to do good to others over and over. He can do the same for you.

So. Are YOU ready to get started?

I’m thinking about teaching a class for people are yearning to paint but haven’t taken the time or don’t know where to start. Is that you? If so, please raise your hand! I would love to help you get started on YOUR painting journey.

When It's Rainy or Snowy, We Go Out

We’ve had lots of rain here in the Nebraska hinterlands, welcome and much needed. Hubby said let’s grab our cameras and go down to the river road and see what we can see. It was rainy and foggy and drizzly, some places had gotten up to five inches of rain. I knew the river road was not paved. All manner of “what if’s” popped like popcorn in my little brain. Sigh. I said “ok.”

Yes. We have a jeep. Yes. Hubby loves driving it. Yes. He is a good driver. Yes. We slid sideways down a (really) steep muddy road. Yes. We almost went in the ditch and/or rolled. Yes. We almost got stuck.


The land was fresh and damp and colorful and foggy and just perfect. The air was crisp and clean. The sky was full of atmosphere and promise. There is something about rain (and snow) that just changes the landscape to something magical.

Custer County ©Beth Cole

Custer County ©Beth Cole

So we shot a few photos. We made memories (for him that muddy thrill, for me negative bonding). We chased beauty. We didn’t get stuck. We did something besides sit on the couch. High five, eh?

I hope the rain and snow invites you to go out, too, there’s beauty to behold - pursue it my friend. Then you can say…. when it’s rainy or snowy – we go out.

Sometimes It Takes Awhile To Say "I'm An Artist"

Still Waters Run Deep © Beth Cole 

Still Waters Run Deep © Beth Cole 

You know those people who know what they want to do when they are 10 years old? Or have decided their career path when they graduate high school, and then follow it, like really stick to it, and do that thing for the rest of their lives? Like teachers, for example. My sister is one of the best, and she has been doing it since she graduated college. I admire her so much. Or my other friend who is an attorney and has been doing that for her whole life.

I am not that person. It has been a quiet realization, an important one.

I have started and quit so many things in my life. I taught piano lessons, taught aerobics, sold makeup, did social work, tried banking, helped with community organizing and nonprofit fundraising, worked to help small businesses….ugh….I am so tired just thinking of everything. The only thing I didn’t start and quit is raising our children, pouring my heart into them. I’m not saying I was super mom, I made a lot of mistakes (a lot), but at least I didn’t quit.

I am not proud of this tangled ball of yarn that is my life. It makes me feel a little sad and ashamed that I couldn’t find one thing and stick with it. Like my sister.

But you know what? Every experience I have had up until now has led me to see that I am an artist and God placed me in every circumstance at every season of every moment of my life to bring me to this place of contentment and rest. I am finally at peace with what I am doing, how I am spending the time He has so graciously given me. That is how I know it is the place God has prepared for me. I am delighting in His perfect timing and wisdom. He knew all along. It just took me a while to get there.


Is Your Heart In It?

Enfolded © Beth Cole

Enfolded © Beth Cole

I am an emotional person. My little heart gets banged and bruised easily. For a long time, I have had to put armor around it so it’s protected. But I found that armor keeps the hurts from coming in, but it also keeps the loves from going out. Not good.

I think painting helps my heart heal so I don’t have to wear that silly armor. Painting is a language that helps me understand my emotions because they seem to come out on the canvas whether I want them to or not.

I can paint pieces that are shallow if you will, nice and easy on the eyes, but not really showing my heart. I have decided I don’t want to do that very much anymore.

I want my heart to show in every piece I paint.

I want my art to move the heart from the inside outward.

I want my art to show how a heart can fill up and spill over.

It’s the work I see my Father doing in me every day. To Him be the glory.