Ellen Starr Lyon

commited to creating art while being a full-time working mom

Smokebush: evolution of a painting


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How does one become inspired? If you are like me, inspiration comes in a variety of ways but with different voices. Unfortunately, some are too easy to ignore. Beautiful moments, ideas and relationships stand out frequently; it is my way of seeing the world. But to take that next step to create art from these moments is a big one. (Please keep in mind this blog was started so that I could speak freely about my experience as a full-time working mom who is still making art- my little overwhelmed niche.) So, to follow through with an idea it has to stick, not be forgotten from point A to point B. So many things pop up between point A and B: a full work day, homework, baseball, negotiations over screen time, dinner, showers, Dr. Who episodes, dog-walking, 99 questions and just as many altercations. If I’m lucky enough to have remembered this inspiring item, to secure a good spot my priority list, there has to be a “why”. Most often it is an upcoming event or show. With this painting my “why” is decomposition. Yep, you heard correctly.

We planted a smokebush tree in our front yard a few years ago. With this mild summer, it sent up 6 foot shoots and looked like a Dr. Suess creation. On a whim one night, mostly because we couldn’t get the screws out of our license plate to change it, I called out for gardening tools and my husband and I pruned the smokebush instead. These discarded shoots were amazing. My daughter grabbed an armload and stood them up around her room and two outside her door as sentries. I picked up the remainder and couldn’t bring myself to put them in the compost. Instead I brought them inside and put them into a large yellow glass vase I’ve had since the before-time. The before-time used to mean before I met my husband but now it means before we had children. I cannot believe this cheap, thin-glass vase has survived! As I stood back admiring my leafy goodness, it hit me that it would not last. The light  behind them, the compostion the many leaves created, the pockets of negative space and the glowing yellow glass was something I did not want to part with. Well, good news, I didn’t have to. Painting makes it permanent. The clock is ticking. As I write this, the leaves are beginning to dry. As they dry, they curl and change color. It is thrilling and scary to have to work this quickly and on such a large-for-me surface. Above are poor photographs of the evolution of my pruning inspired image.

Enjoy! Soon I will post the finished product.


Author: Ellen Starr Lyon

I am a Paintings Conservation Technician by day, free-spirit mother-of-two painter by night!

3 thoughts on “Smokebush: evolution of a painting

  1. As usual Ellen, inspiring!

  2. Painting that subject so large seems just the right statement, it’s beautiful Ellen.

  3. Paint like the wind, Ellen! Paint like the wind!

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