My sweet Atlas had fever for over a week. It then turned into an ear infection, strep throat, and respiratory junk. The fever finally broke . That day when I got home from work she was feeling better...and asked "Can we go to your shop Mommy?" So of course we did, bless her heart she had been inside for almost a week straight!
She wanted to paint with yellows. Then, as every kid does, she painted a giant yellow sun in the corner. She said she painted Rapunzel's yellow hair. And last yellow flowers...Beautiful flowers. She has never wanted to use yellow before that day.
I find it interesting how she had felt so sick, and the day she finally feels better, she paints such a lively happy piece. The warmth of the image just makes me smile. I knew through her art that she was getting better.
The next day when I got home she was definitely herself again, and wanted to go outside. So we got a blanket and laid in the pasture. And I knew right then that would be the photograph I use for her painting.
You know...Atlas and I make a pretty good duo.
Atlas loves animals of all kinds, especially the stuffed kind. She has way too many, and loves to sleep with several. This is what a typical nap or bedtime looks like for us. She has her favorite stuffed animal "Baby" on the right, which the Lamb Chop character. My mom bought this for her when she was a baby. It always has a set of Atlas' preemie clothes on it. I love telling Atlas "You were the same size as Baby when you were born.". Atlas loves to hear the story of how she is was a tiny miracle baby.
I read a poem once about the "last times" you have with your child, and you never even realize it. The poem describes how you will rock your baby for the last time. The last time you will give them a bath, sing them a song or pick them and then set them down, never to pick them up again. The poem broke my heart. I began to think about one day she will be too big to sleep with stuffed animals, and I want to make sure I remember it.
This is the very first "Yoked" painting. This all started as a pleasant surprise. Atlas was wanting to paint as always. This time she wanted to use one of my large canvases...which I was hesitant. But Atlas usually gets what Atlas wants, so she painted.
When she was done, I realized I loved it. I saw movement and dancing across the surface. So I decided I wanted to paint her doing just that. I found a photograph of her running and dancing and used acrylic paint to complete my painting.
So through this one moment of simply letting my daughter create, the "Yoked" series began.
"The Bedtime Story"
This painting is definitely not my best nor my worst. But after repainting my part 3 times, I called it quits. Just sometimes artist just are not happy with their work...and have to move on to the next. This is her "birthday painting", I make her one each year for the birthday. Something special, that will remind of us of her at that age.
Anyways, when Atlas did her part of the painting I asked her to paint what bedtime looked like to her. So she painted pillows, blankets, moon, and stars. It kind of reminds me of a desert landscape.
She picked a rainbow llama theme for her 4th birthday party. Now, if you are wondering, the llama part came from the "Llama Llama Red Pajama" book. Her favorite book to read at bedtime, and the book she is reading here. Along with her favorite stuffed animal "Mamma Lambie" aka Lamb Chop.
This is one of my favorite pieces of the series. Atlas is like many girls and sometimes dreams of being a princess....sometimes. She doesn't like to dress up or watch princess movies as much as most girls. On the rare occasions she does, it is beautiful.
Her cousin, Chesney, had given her this costume. When she got the dress on, she decided she wanted to go outside. At this moment she was standing on her slide, just thinking. There is such a wishful look in her expression. So soft, so beautiful.
All mothers of daughters have had this moment. When their precious little girl dresses up and instantly becomes a princess. Every little girl wishes to be a princess, even if just for a little while.
As soon as Atlas painted this I knew what I wanted to paint. The painting reminded me of sliding. A few days before she painted it we had been and the park, and I remembered a photo I had snapped of her sliding. So there it was, my second "Yoked" painting. With this second one being finished I knew I wanted to paint more of another of life's everyday moments, so I could treasure them always.
"The Golden Leap"
The Golden Leap" ...something new for us. Last week Atlas painted the dress for this piece. She has been all about wearing dresses when we are at home, and loves twirling, dancing and leaping in them.
On the day I took this photo it was the "golden hour" of the evening where the light just glows off everything it touches. Atlas was outside with her dogs and rabbit, leaping and dancing, from one thing to the next...and I was taking photos as usual. As soon as I took this one and looked at the golden highlights and beautiful colors, I knew I wanted to paint it in color. I loved that her little toes were just off the ground, and her hand holding her dress up.
I also love Atlas' interpretation of her dress. I will add the original so you can see what it looks like. I worked with her on values and showing shading in her painting. She told me what color she wanted for each section, and I gave her 2 values of each. I would ask her what side is lighter, and then let her paint what she saw.
I have had a very rough few weeks with my EDS, but this little bit of light, gave me some distraction and joy at this time. I thank the Lord for giving me such a gift...something that Atlas and I can look back on, and always do together.
"The Mud Baby"
This was a fun one....now not because of the ugly browns Atlas picked because "they look like mud". Not because she got to use a squirt gun to make the runs...but because of the memories we made to capture this photo.
This photograph was taken at Atlas' friend, Kaydence's 3rd birthday party. It had been raining for a month, and of course rained the day of the party. Well...toddlers and mud go great together, at least in their minds. In my Momma mind...all I could see was a mess to clean, but I let her do her thing. All the kids starting running through the mud. But then my child, my free spirited little stinker began to wallow in it like a pig. Now I'm not over exaggerating, it was disgusting...in a cute kinda way. She just laid in it, splashed in it, ran in it, and her once purple dress became black. That nasty blackland mud was in her hair, her ears, her eyes, and even her nose.
Im glad I let go and let her get dirty, because, this gross mud bath made quite a beautiful memory and painting
We never get snow here in North East Texas. But this year we had a couple good snows. My brother has a great place to go sledding. So as soon as it snowed we went to take Atlas sledding.
This photograph is from her very first time down the hill. The expression on her face is priceless. This is pure joy. I knew I had to paint this photograph.
I tried something new with Atlas for this piece. I pulled the photograph up on my iPad and asked her to paint what she was. I think her interpretation is wonderful. Her lines and shapes show that joy and excitement of the moment.
Sometimes life is quite and calm. I am a teacher and my summers with Atlas are filled with some of my favorite moments. This was a hot evening at my Mom's just watching cartoons. She had painted this canvas earlier in the day. I felt this photograph fit her expression of the painting.
"The Bedtime Prayer"
As a little girl I went to my parents' room every night and said our prayers as a family. I did this until I was 16, and still remember laying between Daddy and Momma while she prayed. It always started, "God is Good, God is Great. Thank you for our family...." This is a memory I cherish and I thank God for giving me such Godly parents.
We do this same prayer with Atlas every night. Most nights she lays between Kenneth and I, others she kneels. Our prayers start the same as I have always known... "God is Good, God is Great. Thank you for our family...."
This miracle child has had more prayers said for her than she can ever imagine. Not only from her family, but a multitude of people she has never even met. I hope one day she will see this painting and remember how we prayed together as a family, and know the power of prayer. But most of all, that she will know that God IS GOOD, GOD IS GREAT all the time!
"The Tea Party"
This is a pajama tea party Atlas and I had in bed right after Christmas. She had gotten the tea set from my Mom for Christmas. What's more fun than a tea party in your pajamas and in bed? We used the "Nerds" candy from our stockings to eat in the cute bowls in the set.
I also chose this photograph for another reason. This position can be an indicator for EDS. They believe Atlas may have EDS. This position shows how hypermobile she is.
One Sunday, a beautiful sunny spring day, after church We went for a ride on our UTV. Atlas picked a ton of beautiful wild flowers for me. The highlight of the ride was the turtle we found! Of course I wanted to let Atlas check it out. We picked the turtle up and showed it to Atlas. My little country girl timidly picked it up and bossed him around, as she does everyone. After a little bit we let him go in the pasture. This photograph was from the first moment she picked him. I love her smile...and you can see she is very excited but a little timid. Another first in the books...bravely picking up a turtle all by yourself.
This painting is very humorous. Atlas was 3, and an angel in our church's Christmas program. During rehearsals Atlas had been a little stinker. She didn't want to practice or sing. I had given up. But then she got this angel costume on....and she was ready to perform. The first time the angels went out she sang and played her role as an angel perfectly. The second time she came out was different. She picked her nose the whole time!
This was our first Christmas without my Daddy, who had passed away 6 months before. Atlas and Daddy were inseparable, they had a love that was indescribable. I know I looked a little crazy...but as I sat there watching her sing and pick her nose all I think was "Daddy would love this." I cried and cried. Wishing he could be there for that moment.
Once again, most people think "Why would you paint your child picking their nose?". I say "Why not?". Almost all parents experience this moment, when your child picks their nose in a public performance. To me it is another of life's treasured moments.
Atlas painted this canvas during a "little artist" themed photo session with the amazing Tara Swain. So you would think that the artist's child that LOVES to paint would be excited....well nope. Atlas through a fit the whole time, and didn't want to paint. Well after much convincing and some bribes she finally painted some.
A few days later she was having another meltdown, and I knew that's what this canvas needed. So I took some photographs of her during this meltdown, and decided to paint that moment. I think her lines and brushstrokes show her frustration that day!
My Mom asked me "Why would you paint that precious baby throwing a fit?" As any grandmother would say of their perfect grandchild. This is exactly what I want these paintings to reflect, our lives. Our lives have meltdowns, and I feel every parent can relate to this moment.
Below is a photograph from the session that day. We ended it with a kiss as always.
This was a new concept for the "Yoked" series. I am trying to show even more glimpses of the moment.
I think every parent enjoys watching their children swing. I am not able to push her anymore, but love watching her Daddy push her. When I began looking through my photos from this day it was so hard to choose which ones!
The first one to the left, it's the look of anticipation, getting ready to be set off into the sky. Maybe even a little nervous.
The middle one is pure joy.
The third, the one to the right... well that's my favorite. The look of determination. The look of "I can conquer the World". That look, like she is about to just keep soaring right into the clouds.
These photos are so much like life's journeys. Some times God's will and new journeys for us come may make us feel uncertain and fearful. But when we take that step toward following God's will, we experience the pure Joy that only HE can bring. He will launch us into more than joy than we could ever imagine. So swing baby swing, and launch right into that great big awesome World that God has given us.
This is a photo from Atlas' first time roller skating. As much as we tried to keep her from falling, she still did. And this face, as most parents know, is the "owie face". Puckered bottom lip, big, beginning to tear eyes, and a finger pointing to the place of pain. But tonight I am grateful for these "owies" as she calls them, even though they are usually nothing. And this is why....
First reason I am grateful. Most parents may have kids, like mine, that tend to ummm.. over exaggerate the owie. Tonight, Atlas had an owie so tiny I could barely see it, but she just knew it needed a bandaid. So after trying for 15 mins to convince her it didn't, I grudgingly gave up and got her one. I gave her owie kisses, put on the Elsa bandaid, and then she smiled and she was healed! After seeing her smile, I thought, one day she will be grown up and won't need me too kiss her owies and put an Elsa bandaid on it. I always remind myself that this may be the last time I get to do this. Don't complain, and enjoy this moment.
And second, I thank the Good Lord for these owies. They are minimal, and I have a beautiful healthy daughter. There are many parents that have very sick little ones or have lost little ones...how can I complain? I am blessed beyond measure, and grateful for every day I get to be called Momma...and for every owie I get to kiss. ♡♡♡
"The Snowy Taste"
I had so many precious photographs from the rare snow we got that year, and knew I wanted to paint a few of them. Now this is a classic kid's snow moment. That first time to catch falling snow on your tongue. Who doesn't remember doing that yourself as a child, or watching your own child experience this? Just watching her wonder and amazement brought such joy to Kenneth and I.
This was the second time I had Atlas paint her interpretation of something. I asked her to paint snow, and she did just that.
This was such an amazing day. It was Atlas' 3rd birthday. We had gotten our traditional birthday donuts, pedicures, ice cream, swimming, and last painting.
She had just been swimming, and her Daddy was throwing her high into the air. Of course, as usual, I was taking tons of photos. As soon as she got out of the pool she wanted to paint. She chose her favorite color, blue. Then she created this. I was in awe. It was perfect for the photos I had just taken. It look like exploding water.
I had never been more excited about a painting, and finished it in 3 days. I love the energy and movement we created together. This painting hold so many memories of my darling's 3rd birthday.
Atlas, like any child loves bubbles. It was finally spring and warming up a little outside. So, we spent the evening blowing bubbles on the patio. And yes, she is blowing bubbles outside in her panties. I mean come on, who did't do that as a kid!
Later that evening Atlas wanted to go paint...and of course she wanted to paint bubbles. I asked her what colors she wanted to use. Her reply was, "Bubbles are rainbow! I want to paint rainbow bubbles." I laid her out several colors and this is her color choices. I love that at only 3 she saw the beautiful color changes inside the bubbles as they float through the air.
"The Elf on the Shelf"
This is Atlas' first time painting imagery for a Yoked painting. She had practiced many times, learning to draw Marcy. And finally she was ready to paint Marcy on the canvas. I love the curly hair she gave her ;) The photo that I used is the FIRST morning of Marcy's mischief (see below), the morning after reading book the night before. I am kinda in love with this... and the expression she is making!!!! Hahaha!
Here's the story just in case you missed it. "I get the book out read it, show Marcy the Elf to Atlas. Explain how it works. I am so excited to set her up for the next morning.
We get in bed, and here comes the questions. With a look of terror on her face, Atlas asks the following.... "Will she come in and poke my face while I sleep?"
"Will she come stare at me while I sleep?"
"What if she sneaks in the door when Daddy goes to Campbell Soup before we wake up and touches my head?"
"How can she hear my prayers if Daddy is in the living room right now? Does she move for Daddy?"
"I don't want to see her face, why does she just look at my face like that"
After I had to LOCK all the bedroom doors, and prove I did so. Then she hid under the covers too scared to look out!
As she asks me these questions...from under the covers, I realized this Elf story IS kinda creepy! !!! It comes alive at night while you are sleeping and does mischievous things.... yaaaa... sorry for scarring you for life Atlas."
This is a series of collaborative acrylic paintings called, "Yoked". The paintings are done with my 3 year old daughter Atlas Elizabeth. She paints the background and then I paint a moment of our lives on top of her work. The definition of yoked means bonded together, which describes my relationship with Atlas perfectly.
I have a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I was told by several doctors I would never have children. It was way too risky for both of us, and I would not be able to carry a baby to full term. So we decided not to have children.
I had heard through a support group about the a national convention in Baltimore for Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. There were going to be several specialist at the event. I immediately wanted to go. However, I had just had my 3rd major hip surgery, and we could not afford to go. So we prayed. I began to look and it was more than we could afford. A few days later my Mom was at our house, and told me to book the trip and put it in God's hands. So I very nervously and uncertainly booked the whole trip on a credit card. My Mom told me again God would take care of it. In that exact moment of completing the reservations my phone rang. It was a dear family member. She said " I know you are having trouble with your disorder and I feel God is telling me there is something important in your life that you need financial help with". I nearly dropped the phone. I told her about the convention and how many specialist and doctors would be there. She gave us a blessing of money to help fund our trip. I couldn't believe it, God had taken care of this need. All we had to do was trust Him.
We traveled to Baltimore and were able to meet lots of fellow EDSers and listen to the top specialist in the EDS field. I was most excited to listen to an OBGYN that was there speak about EDS and pregnancy. The session was interesting and I learned a few things but nothing that was enough to change my mind about having a baby. It was a wonderful trip even though I was in a wheelchair from the hip surgery. On the last night there was a formal dinner for the specialists and guests. We had been sitting down a few minutes, and another miracle happened in our lives. The OBGYN specialist came and sat with us at the table. I was secretly excited, but would never ask him personal questions at a formal dinner! After some small talk he asked me if I had any children. I told him "No, we had been told it was impossible.". After some questions about my surgical history and EDS type he said "It will be long, hard, risky, and probably lots of bed rest, but you can do it.". Our hearts were so full of joy. I knew God had brought us to this exact table to meet this doctor.
After so many prayers being answered already, we decided to try to have one child. I went on bed rest at only 12 weeks pregnant, with a complication very common with EDS. At 31 weeks, both of us in danger, Atlas was born only weighing 2.12 lbs. I remember such peace during those months of bedrest and 7 weeks in NICU. Kenneth and I had ultimate faith in God. We knew God would take care of our tiny miracle. Atlas is now a smart, rambunctious, playful 3 year old who we adore and thank God for everyday.
Many wonder where we got the name Atlas. I grew up in the tiny town of Atlas, Texas. It's not really a town...more of a community with a little baptist church. The Atlas Baptist Church, is where I learned to love and trust God. I never lived any where else. The only home I ever lived in is a century old big yellow farm house on top of a hill, surrounded by crop fields. My childhood was filled with love, creeks, animals, and running barefoot on that hill. It is home, and my studio is there. One day, long before we were pregnant we were talking about baby names as we were driving home. Just then we passed the "Atlas" road sign. I told Kenneth, "That's it! That will be our child's name." It is perfect for her, a strong bold name, for a strong bold little girl.
The "Yoked" paintings reflect our love for each other through each moment of life, the fun times, the quite times, and even the meltdowns. Each moment is a blessing and I treasure each one. It amazes me how she paints each one different. In each painting, her colors, lines and movements express her mood of the moment. I then choose a photograph that represents the painting she completed. Lastly, I paint the photograph of her in a high contrast black and white color acrylic palette. As a parent these moments we have together are priceless and I will treasure these paintings forever. Most of all, they remind me daily of God's grace and mercy.
This one was a fun one. Now that Atlas is older and growing as an artist, she wants to really be a part of the pieces. I love the way Atlas painted the dresses. They have such expression and movement...just like her!
This is her Belle dress, from Beauty and the Beast. The only princess dress she will really "wear", she's just not a princess kinda gal. But every now and then...her inner princess comes out.