Painting a Friendship

Most scenes I paint are the best angle with the best light in the most ideal composition. You can see how art and artificial have the same root, art is constructed, created for the goal of the artist. Art isn’t false as much as it is constructed. In a similar way, a friendship requires construction, creating something worth celebrating. Just like painting a garden, painting a friendship requires you figure out what is worth celebration. Not every angle is glorious.

We all have ugliness in our lives. Ruts we’ve dug where we won’t budge, our spouse probably could name a few in less than five seconds. We all have stories that reveal scenes no one would want to paint.

When I paint a scene, I walk around the place to observe the different sides. When I was painting the Moffat-Ladd House and Garden, I saw several angles that were frankly uninspiring and flat. And you’ll see how grand this house was in a moment. Even the great humans, like the great houses, have lowliness about them.

But a friend approaches another human much like an artist approaches a scene, watching for the places to celebrate. An artist knows there’s a pile of drabby garbage and untended weeds on the other side of the view, but she chooses to paint where the sun made the white arch sing. In the same way, a close friend knows the ugliness of her friend. She knows the mean-spirited or manipulative words that can spring up when she’s threatened. She knows the way he disappears when the conversation turns to pain. She knows her bright blindness that keeps the truth at arms’ length.

When you’ve been friends for a long time, you can grow weary of then old angles, the ruts. We see the ugliness quite large, perhaps. And we can name our own contributions to the disenchantment. Perhaps we don’t share honestly, or appropriately. Maybe we over-shared or gossiped to get attention.  Maybe we used vulnerability to impress them. Or maybe we did the worst injustice to friendship, we were fake. We all have ugly places in our lives.

But friendship, just like painting, is a process where you figure out what drew you to this in the first place. There’s an example of this process in the Artist’s Note.

Good friendship will celebrate the beauty even while we know the grubby side. We can paint the good, relish the good without turning a blind eye to the angles we cannot celebrate.

To carry you into this next season, where we will meet many old friends through the holidays and reunions, here are a few inspiring quotes. Take from my Year of Friendship.

“The first cardinal rule of a friendship: the things that first attract you need to be obvious, nameable virtues.”

“If there’s a silence in the friendship, reach out. Don’t assume they are mad or resentful or distant on purpose. Let them know you miss them. Be steady and show up.”

“Hiding and deceit are the weeds that choke any friendship.”

“Be willing to see the grubby side, be willing to celebrate the beautiful side.”

The Gift-Giving

One of the gifts I’ve created for you this year is my Backporch Conversations podcast with Dale. You can find that for free right here. The episode “How to Honor our Parents” might be particularly helpful for you as the holidays come nearer. Be sure to email us if you have a topic you’d like to hear:

If you’re looking for a gift for one of those “They have everything!” people, I have a recommendation. My newly released 2023 Friendship Calendar. It’s small (easy to ship), it’s one-of-a-kind, and it highlights every friendship holiday each month to remind you to send a card. And, the best part, you get ALL the celebration cards included. One stop shop right here.

If you’re looking for a legacy piece for your grandparents or parents, something they will treasure for decades and pass on to you, why not commission an art piece with me? I have two spots left for Christmas pieces. But I must be booked before Nov 1. Read about what I can offer here. Contact me at

Happy Fall!


The Friendship Posts of 2022


Expecting Better Friendships: Friendship Fountain, Sorting Friendships and Downsizing Friendships
What is a Friend: Balloon Friends, Companions, It is Good You Exist
The Pace of Friendship: Walk with Me, Return the Volley, Trains and Rollercoasters
Growing Friendships: Friends and Flowers, Growing a Friendship, Weeding a Friendship
Healing a Friendship: Forgiveness, The Work of Healing, The Crucial Question
Improving a Friendship: Painting a Friendship, Mutuality: Better Two-Way Friends



Painted from a plein air day at the Moffat-Ladd House Garden in Portsmouth, NH. I had to walk around a bit before I landed on this view. Painted with permission “view of the Moffat-Ladd House Garden, owned and maintained by The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of New Hampshire”


This painting took a month.

In September, I joined an all day painting event in Ogunquit.  Plein Air Ogunquit was slammed with four major events, so parking was a stress case in an already busy seaside town. Add to that a morning fire right next to my parking spot. The morning air smoking over us as we painted, Queen Elizabeth II had just died three day before, but we all carried on, as she would.

I ended up painting the surfers with the half-masted flag on the beach. I had to paint them from sketches I hurriedly made because in plein air competitions you must paint outside and you may not use photographs.  The tide came in, the tourists filed past, I pressed but it wasn’t my best painting. You can see it below. No awards, no surprise there. I went home. I pinned my ugly little painting to the wall of my studio.

So far, this is normal. Some days I paint poorly.

In the following weeks, I tried to remember why I had stopped at that site to begin with. What drew me to paint right there? I consulted my reference photos. They didn’t really capture what I had seen. What was it that captivated me to that spot?

It was the sparkle on the water and those wild pink roses. You can see pics of the original day below.  In the next week, I painted more studies of the surfers from my photos and sketches.  I tried again, a smaller painting. In this one, I could feel more sparkle. But I knew I could do better with those roses. On a road trip that week, I saw the same roses and took more reference photos of the sun shining through them.

Using all the attempts and new photos, I tried a third time, and finally got the feel I was going for three weeks ago. It took me a month, but you can see the shimmering water, the translucent roses and the even those surfers. But, the painting didn’t just shake out of my sleeve. It was a process that required some thinking to answer: what attracted me to paint this in the first place?

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