Wednesday, November 23, 2016

MODIM : Prayer of Thanks

“We gratefully thank You, for it is You, Adonai, Our G-d and G-d of our
forefathers for all eternity; Rock of our lives, Shield of our salvation are You
from generation to generation. We shall thank you and relate Your praise -
for our souls that are entrusted to You; for Your miracles that are with us daily;
and for Your wonders in every season - evening, morning and afternoon.
The Beneficent One, for Your compassions were never exhausted, and the Compassionate One, for your kindnesses never ended -
always have we put our hope in You.”

Modim is one of the last blessings of the Amidah in which we give thanks.
The Amidah serves as the cornerstone of every service.
It was written in the 5th century B.C.E. to serve as a basic prayer
covering praise, petitions and thanks. The word modim has many meanings.
We are grateful, we thank, we praise, we bow, we surrender, we acknowledge.
All of these inferences are made when this blessing is offered.
The artistic expression of this prayer represents G-d as the color red.
He is above us and below us, as our Protector and foundation.
The red sides show that giving thanks to G-d frames the Jewish way of life.
The center turquoise ball represents the word modim,
with arches emanating from it that allude to its many meanings.
The larger ball shows how our thanks magnify our relationship with G-d.
The arches heading downward reference bowing and surrendering.
The upward movements capture the gratitude, acknowledgement, praise
and gratefulness that we experience when we recite this prayer of thanks.

This image is available in it's original painting and a wide variety of fine art prints for gifts and collections. Many items  are discounted for Clergy and those belonging to Jewish Organizations.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

AVINU MALKEINU...Our Father, Our King....

My simple intention for what turned into my Judaic series was to pour out my head and heart onto canvas.
What came next, was a total surprise.  I received such great interest in these contemporary abstract paintings.  I revisited the possibility of making fine art prints in order to give the texts and images a much bigger audience.  Up until then, I had only sold original paintings. I quickly discovered that High Holiday cards were a big seller and after a few years, I needed to add to the offerings for our holiest of days.
I read some history about how this prayer, penned by Rabbi Akivah, came to be. The Rabbi was asked to pray for rain.  All earlier efforts had failed.  Instead of asking for rain, he praised G-d and only asked that He listen to their voices and then "do with us, for Your name's sake."
The rains came.
In a formal service, this prayer is often a highlight of the service musically. It's just one of those prayers that allows cantors to share a full range of emotions.  As a congregation, we hear it, sense it, feel it.
I knew where to begin.....with a lot of water for the rain.  I also knew I needed to listen to cantorial renditions of this prayer, rather than singing it on my own.
I started with the most passionate of colors: red and slashed wide brush strokes across the wet canvas.
As the drips poured down I saw tears, not only of Rabbi Akivah's contemporaries, but of our people when this prayer is offered up in our High Holy Day services.
Lo and behold, two shofars appeared, juxtaposed from the same source....our Father, our King.

As an aside, when I was completing this painting, a woman contacted me about commissioning a painting for their beloved Rabbi.  She requested something with a shofar in it.  Their Rabbi, first hired after 9/11, played taps on the shofar at the memorial service for their congregation.
I was so moved by her story  (and still get goosebumps today just thinking about it.)
It was clear where this painting needed to make its home.

Shanah Tovah to all of my friends, followers, collectors and connections.  Please G-d, let it be a good one for us all.

Monday, September 5, 2016

And the next addition to the Judaic series is.....

In recent years, I had taken a serious break from the Judaic series.  Unfortunately,  the business side of being an artist eats up more and more of one's time these days.
Besides business, real life sometimes gets in the way...don't you just hate when that happens?
During these past few years of health issues, I have maintained my need to create with a camera in my hand instead of a brush.  I've learned to keep 'painting' abstracts with pieces of my abstract photographs. The results have been more than exciting.

That said, there's nothing like the feel of that old brush, with paint peeling off the handle from years of wear and tear.  There's nothing quite like feeling the taut resistance of the brush against a freshly stretched canvas.  There is nothing like staring down a blank canvas, knowing full well that anything is possible to appear within a matter of hours.  Painting is powerful and magical.

During this time away from my easel, I wore a charm around my neck with the biblical words of Moses, beseeching G-d to heal his sister Miriam whom G-d had punished for her words.  I recently passed the charm onto a dear friend who needs it now. She will return it to me when her healing is complete so I can pass it on as needed. It looks like a new tradition has started....

SO once I realized I was ready to paint again, I was stuck. There is no lack of resource material for my Judaic series with so many psalms, proverbs, blessings and prayers available in our liturgy. Yet nothing was screaming at me to be addressed.  Instead,   I kept coming back to these 5 words I wore around my neck...the ones Moses said with such staccato precision. " G-d, please, heal her, please."

As usual, I checked out the proper Torah cantillation for these words as said in the book of Bamidbar.
I chanted it over and over again yet nothing was emerging from my head or heart as a starting point to paint.

As I researched, my notebook was filling up, but still no inspiration.  Then along came Rabbi Rachel Barenblat's words from her blog, 2006.  If you haven't yet discovered her, it is my pleasure to introduce you and I encourage you to find your inspiration as well. Her website is Velveteen Rabbi

In her blog, she referenced her Talmud teacher who had made a connection between the 11 letters of Moses' plea to the 11 lettered name G-d used at the burning bush. Moses asked what name he should give the Israelites and G-d responded,
Eyheh Asher Eyheh, "I will be who/what I will be."

 Each of us, created in the image of G-d, is also capable to be who/what we will be.  Our loved ones with their illnesses, have the ability to change and transform. Our authentic intention in saying these five words, have the power to reach our Creator, to heal just as Miriam was healed, and speedily.

I looked at the blank canvas with ink in hand and thought of the 11th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, kaf. Such a beautifully designed letter.....a circle not yet complete, but on its way to becoming whole.  It is no coincidence that the very shape of this letter implies the possibility of wholeness.
Nor is it a coincidence that the first letter of the word Kavanah ( the sacred intention for praying) happens to be the letter kaf.
I was ready to begin painting.

This image with complete text, can be found  at: JUDAIC SERIES

Friday, September 2, 2016

A much needed break from blogging to painting!

If anyone would have told me that someday I'd be spending more time at the computer than at the easel, I would have had a good laugh.
As our world changes (in some good ways and some bad ways ) so does the business of art.
Back in the day, I painted all day while galleries represented me, marketed me and sold my paintings.
In today's world, much more time is spent marketing on the internet, yet my sphere of exposure has multiplied immeasurably.
With this series of Judaic paintings, I sensed for the first time, a real need to spread these messages far and wide.  Never before had I even printed my work.

This week I have completed the 24th painting of this series.  It has taken quite a while for me to decide which prayer to choose.  Personal circumstances kept leading me back to healing prayers but the Misheberach was no longer enough.
It's an odd thing about illness....those who rarely pray, find the words, find the feelings, find the intention.  How glorious it would be if that intention, that kavanah, was readily available to us at all times of prayer...when we offer up thanks and show our gratitude to Adonai.
When we were children we tried to make deals with G-d , trading off 2 days of being nice to a little sister if only we could pass a test for which we hadn't studied. But we are now adults and our relationship with G-d is no longer the same.  The pediatric version of our relationship no longer works.We are in partnership with G-d.  He needs to hear our authentic intentions.
I went back to ancient Biblical text and chose the 5 word plea of Moses, asking G-d to heal his sister, Miriam in the book of Bamidbar. "El na refa na la."
In 5 short words, staccato by nature, Moses' urgency is conveyed....a simple, yet direct message to G-d to please heal Miriam. The second 'please' highlights the need for immediate attention.

I did more than an average amount of research for this painting.  Much more symbolism was available than I had room for in the painting or in the accompanying text.
Suffice to say that gematria plays an important role in my interpretation.  Numbers help us make much bigger connections to a simple verse.  Digging deeper into those connections, helps us understand some of the true power of these five words.
The next blog post will detail the whys and wherefores of this 24th painting....stay tuned!
The rest of the Judaic series can be found at:  Judaic Paintings
Contact me for availability of original and fine art reproduction: E MAIL

Sunday, August 21, 2016


After completing the previous painting that welcomed the Sabbath, it seemed only fitting to move on to the blessings that heralded the end of Shabbat.

This particular painting has more concrete images hiding in plain sight, than my other paintings.  It was a challenging little game I set up for myself.  I wanted the light of the candle, the Kiddush cup and the spices to be discovered by the viewer. Challenges are important elements to an artist. We want each new creation to surpass the last, lest we get stuck in a rut and lose that element of authenticity. Abstract painting requires more 'work' on the part of the viewer, to discover meaning and connection. My goal in this painting was to set up a visual treasure hunt of sorts.

Havdallah is my favorite service and not because of the brevity of it.  It is a bittersweet time, yet it is filled with hope for the coming week.  We say goodbye to what is holy, losing the special gift of an additional soul, but we are renewed and refreshed to face the work week ahead. For me, it is almost magical to share this separation with others.  No other service has such built in ambiance.
Our senses of sight, taste, smell, hearing and touch are all addressed and delighted.
Being one who often leads Havdallah, I can attest to the fact that it can elicit a sense of childlike wonder to those who participate in it.  Close attention is paid to each ritual item and the order in which they are presented.

When I began this painting, I had thoughts of movement upward, whether it be the aroma of the spices or the direction of the flames. I wanted the kiddush cup to anchor the design because this blessing is central to so many of our celebrations and holy days.

For those of you familiar with my body of work, you know that I adore circles.  They crop up everywhere and found their home in this series simply because they  symbolize concepts found in our prayers....wholeness, infinity, life cycles, etc.  In this particular painting, it was important for me to bring in the idea of having an extra soul to aid us on our spiritual journeys on Shabbat. Hence, the stacking of two circles to represent the souls.

Design wise, the braided lines of the tri-wicked Havdallah candle are repeated in the fragrance from the spices, as they both wend their way upward, toward G-d, as symbolized by the color red.

G-d gave us a day of rest to make us holy.  We acknowledge it's end, as we acknowledge it's beginning.

To see the complete series of 23 paintings and texts: Sacred Intention

Please note that Clergy and Jewish organizations receive discounts on selected products.  These images are available in a wide variety of sizes and materials. Please contact me directly.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Hadlakat Hanerot: Lighting the Sabbath Candles

Working with the copper color and the natural contrast between metallic and opaque paint was something I wanted to pursue  artistically. My mind turned to two occasions and their blessings that also contrast...the beginning of Shabbat and the end. My next two paintings would explore Hadlakat HaNerot and Havdallah. These times when we switch between the Holy and the profane.

Tackling the lighting of the candles for Shabbat first, the concept was to make the contrast visible in form...I wanted the viewer to see the two worlds juxtaposed.  The flames of the Shabbat candles transcend the physical (blue) globe and wend their way into the spiritual, (metallic) realm.  The orange flames blend into the red that represents G-d's presence

Lighting candles heralds the beginning of the Sabbath and is one of three commandments specific to women, symbolically shown by the three turquoise orbs.  In keeping with the feminine directive of this prayer, a platinum orb floats overhead, representing the Shechina, the feminine aspect of G-d. In the original, this orb is crafted from handmade paper with an embossed pattern.  This mixed media painting also heavily relies on air brush inks to block in the initial design as well as acrylic paints.

I chose to use a ruby red copper as well, to intensify G-d's presence when we keep this commandment. The Sabbath is not just a day of rest.  We are sanctified when this commandment, one of the ten, is honored and kept.

As it turns out, the message and the image became the blessing I chose to represent the entire series.  It is the cover of my books.  Not only was I pleased with the end result of my process, I felt the message was clear.

This image and most others are available as fine art cards, printed on matching metallic card stock. Each card has a metallic envelope and clear sleeve. The text is printed on the back.
Variety packs of cards are available as are discounts to members of the clergy and those affiliated with Jewish organizations.  Prints are available in a wide variety of sizes on paper, canvas, metal and acrylic.
Please contact me directly at

Next up...Havdallah.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

V'Ahavtah....and you shall love....

One painted expression of the Sh'ma, was not going to be enough.  When I took a closer look at the paragraphs following the opening lines, I realized that there was so much more to delve into, both visually and with words.

The first paragraph "and you shall love..." commands us to love G-d and instructs us in specific ways.
Thinking of this paragraph, I immediately chanted the first two trope marks that determine how the first word is sung.  It seemed only fitting to start a painting the same way.  As an aside, I am a Torah chanting geek. The rhythms, groupings and patterns delight my brain and challenge me in similar ways as do the design elements when I paint.
In black, (in right to left order), there is a right angle in the lower right corner and double dots in the upper left. Once the trope were laid in with bold brush strokes, a natural flow between the two formed. I was thinking of a tallit, the traditional prayer shawl, that helps us create a sacred space for prayer.  The flowing lines allude to this garment and its fringe.
I have an affinity for copper. I even live in the copper state! I didn't understand, at the time, but all of the metallic colors in my paintings would come to symbolize the heavenly realm. These words of Torah originated in this realm. Silvers, coppers, golds and bronzes were going to show up in  every painting in this Judaic series.

Complementary colors are opposites on the color wheel and create a natural balance for the viewer when used together.  On a painter's color wheel, the opposite of copper (orange) is blue. Traditionally, blue is a color used for all things Jewish. It was a delightful realization to blend these two colors with their symbolic values together.

The pattern along the bottom is the diagram for tefillin, the phylacteries worn to bind's one's arm. One of the names of G-d is Shaddai and it is embodied in the wrappings, represented by the letter shin, the first letter of the name. Shaddai is also used on the parchment inside a mezuzah case, upon which these words are written and mounted on the doorposts of our homes, as commanded in this first paragraph.

I am far from finished with my need to express the Sh'ma and it's paragraphs, but it was time to respond to the call of other prayers that begged for attention...

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Sh'ma Yisrael

It was appropriate that the first painting in this series be the Sh'ma.  Afterall, they are the first 6 words taught to children, often before formal Jewish education begins.  It was no coincidence that the identifying words of our faith would herald the beginning of the Judaic series. Neither was it an accident, as described in my first post, that 12 drips, representing Jacob's sons be a message
for me to move ahead with Judaic work.

As the painting unfolded, my mind turned to 4 pivotal words: Adonai, Eloheynu, Adonai, Echad  (Lord, Our G-d, Lord, One).
With ink bottle in hand, I formed 4 corresponding circles in the center of the canvas.
The cantillation marks that denote how to chant these biblical words were painted across the top of the canvas and a strong, red vertical, anchoring the composition, sliced through the composition.

Color was added in a symbolic fashion as well. As with this first painting, the color red would come to represent G-d. Metallic shades of silvers or coppers would symbolize the heavenly realm.
Being the first of the series, I wanted to utilize a primary color palette of yellow, blue and red.
Once I settled on blue, my mind turned to the mysterious techeilet  blue, mentioned in Torah to be used to dye a thread of the Tzitzit.  All of the concentric circles that formed the bull's eye pattern became shades of blue. The single shaft of red anchors the design as G-d anchors our lives.

The complete series can be found here:JUDAIC SERIES
If you have a special request for a specific prayer, blessing, proverb, psalm, please contact me directly CONTACT

Thursday, August 4, 2016

In the beginning......

For me, the most exciting thing about abstract expressionist painting is that I never know what will show up on the canvas. Authentic expressions have deeply rooted origins. When my painting process is complete, I need to examine the results to fully understand the expression. Each morning that I paint, I face a blank canvas.  It is thrilling to realize that my day's work will yield a surprise upon completion. My emphasis is always on the process of painting rather than the finished product.

One morning, at the height of my involvement in Judaic teaching and training, I simply could not clear out my head. It was filled with prayers, commentaries, dvarim, conversations and melodies. The day before, I had taken my first look at Mishkan T'Filah and was impressed by Sh'ma Yisrael in Torah font, spanning two pages in an arc shape.
That image was stuck in my head as I chanted the prayer in Torah cantillation over and over.
My favorite Sh'ma midrash explains that when our Patriarch, Israel, was on his death bed, surrounded by his 12 sons, they announced,  "Listen, Father (Israel) : the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is One." They assured their beloved father that they understood and would maintain their allegiance to this basic tenet of Judaism. In a weak voice, he responded.
We emulate Israel's dying words by saying that second line softly or silently.

Rather than fight to clear out my head, I put the canvas on the floor and squirted black ink across the top in a big arc. I asked G-d for a sign and tilted the canvas.
Twelve drips ran down the arc.  For me, those drips represented the twelve sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel. I had my answer.
One painting led to another and 6 weeks later, I took a breath, stepped back and had 9  paintings. Before the next spurt of creative expression took over, I realized that as an artist and Hebrew educator, I needed to compose texts to accompany these paintings. Translations of each prayer with my interpretations would become an integral part of these offerings.

I have added 14 more paintings to this Judaic Series that I refer to as "Sacred Intention."
Unlike my other abstract expressionist work, this series requires preparation.  I don't measure, make renderings  or choose colors. Instead, I study, read commentaries and research origins.  Music heightens our ability to connect to a specific prayer, whether serving as a nostalgic bookmark in our lives or simply providing emotional comfort.
For that reason, I always chant or sing the specific prayer while I paint.

Authentic prayer requires kavanah.  Painting expressions of our liturgy demands the same sacred intention.

Please follow this blog as I take you on my journey of melding two passions in my life...Judaism and Painting.