Thursday, August 1, 2019

Portrait of Joey

"Portrait of Joey" by Hilary J. England, oil on canvas, 12" x 16" 2019

Portraits and life

I started working on portraits again.  I had taken a couple of months hiatus, after returning from Israel, as I had other projects that were really demanding, one being wrapping up my Master's degree, last week.

I love doing portraits, as it is always a challenge, but more, I feel like I get to know a person's spirit and soul while I am doing them.  This is especially true if a person has passed on -- and there is no physicality in this earthly plane anymore, to reference.  When a living portrait is created, I can reference the sitter, see their body language, the energy they give off, what their eyes tell me.  When I do a posthumous painting, I must pour over photos, listen to stories from their loved ones, and from those different elements, try to glean their essence -- what they were like while they were alive -- how can I capture their "likeness" in the portrait.

Defining a Portrait

A portrait is so much more than trying to copy a photograph.  You can copy a photograph down to it's last grainy pore, and not "capture" the person's true likeness.  Likeness comes when you can capture the persons' essence and spirit that emanates from their being-- in the present, or in the past, while they were alive.  When a person who loved them says to me -- "wow -- I can feel the happiness of their smile" -- or "you really captured their expression" -- then I know the artwork was a success-- it will "live" in the recipient's life, much more than just on their wall.

I have a Mom who tells me the portrait of her sons who both passed on gives her immense comfort, more so than any photo.  She "feels" them with her when she sits near their portrait in her living room.  This brings me joy to know it brings her comfort.  I feel my task was completed as an Artist when I hear her relay this to me.

And so, more will be on the way in the next few months now that my life is my own again! :-)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Wildflowers at Sunset Prints on Sale!

Hello dear friends!

It’s been a hot summer week, and to combat the dog days of summer, I decided to offer one cheerful, best-selling landscape artwork from my Gallery, for **20%** off!! 😊🖼

I’ll do this once a week, until the kiddos all head back to school after Labor Day! 😁😁

This week’s pick will be:
“Wildflowers at sunset”

This beautiful painting was created on a fine summer's day, early evening, out in a field by Blue Mountain, in Pennsylvania.  I love walking the fields in solitude and listening to the wind and the birds.  There is such peace in the beauty of the natural landscape and different seasons of the year, and of life!

This romantic print can be created to your size needs, on the type of paper or surface you would like, and framed or unframed, etc.— completely customized to your decor, space, and budget requirements!

And (this part I love!) — you can actually see it on your own wall in your home or office, to make adjustments or to see if it works for your space, BEFORE you purchase it— simply hit the AR button (Augmented Reality) and you can position the artwork and see it, the way you’ve customized it, so you don’t just take a guess and worry how it will look. You can even see how it would look in different "staged" rooms too, so say you are planning on painting your living area as a summer project in the upcoming weeks and are concerned about how the new colors will look with your artwork choice, you can be sure of all of that too!

I love these features because this is a personal concern of mine when I shop online -- thinking it might be perfect online, and then when I get it home I'm disappointed with the reality of how it looks on me or in my space -- this is especially true for Art, sunglasses, jeans, or lipstick! 😂😂

Your discount is applied automatically at checkout so no codes to remember or futz around with! 😘😘😘😘

Happy shopping!! 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Working hard!

I've been hard at work these last few weeks, wrapping up my Master's degree, and working on some showpieces for upcoming gallery exhibits.  It takes alot of work to manage both, that's for sure! I'm just going to be THRILLED to be finished with my degree work, which because I did it online rather than traditionally, took three years instead of two -- a lot of effort, to be sure.

I have some excellent things coming up the pipe for the last month of summer, and for the fall! Travel, some exhibitions, both local and not so local, new works, some fun contest giveaways on my Facebook page -- be sure to pop on by there.

Listen, folks, I can't keep up with all of the changing technology, and would rather take that time and use it working on my art, or reading a good book, so don't expect me to be all active on all these different social media sites, haha! I'm old-school, and Facebook is probably my most active place, so that's a good place to pop by, like my page, and see what's going on routinely, as I post there as routinely as it's going to get for me.  If I spent my time slathering myself all over the internet (as recommended by all marketing pro campaigns), I would never have time to paint another picture again, let alone eat a decent meal! So, that's not an option for me, as I don't have a legion of interns either :-D

Yes, it's here, my website, or my Facebook -- hilaryengland

See you soon! 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Happy Independence Day!

Hello friends!

I just want to wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July! I'm having a 24-hour sale in my online shop, -- offering 20% off ANY customized print, any size, any price (no minimums or maximums!) to celebrate !!  So, instead of wasting your money blowing up your yard and limbs ;-) -- pop on by my shop and buy a beautiful piece of Romantic artwork to dazzle your living space for years to come!

The discount is applied at checkout -- so you're good to go! Hurry on by -- the sale only goes til July 5th! 

Monday, June 10, 2019

Study of figure in the lily pond

“Study of figure in the lily pond” by Hilary J. England, 16” x20” oil on canvas

Figure Studies
My figure studies against or among different textures continues. This painting is rather larger than one of my usual “studies” — kind of a work in its own right, even if the intention wasn’t to make it a finished work, it sort of just happened. There were smaller grayscale studies, and my focus on this was the water, although in terms of design, the figure is still dominant, as the water leads you to her. She is center stage— literally, so she is the focal point, but for this Artwork it does work for me, even if she dominates the textures surrounding her.

The water, as it was choppy, was impossible not to stylize— but, that’s all par for course, since our own personal styles as artists always (and SHOULD) be visible in our works. We don’t create to make a voiceless photocopy, we create so that our voice and vision is also harmonious in our picture plane. I think this work balances that!


Friday, June 7, 2019

Live figure drawing

All sketches by Hilary J. England
Conte on Bristol paper

Today’s Figure work
I did more live figure work today, as I used to draw the figure a few times a week, and then I just got lazy. Figure drawing is so necessary for a realist artist— I like it to going to the gym— if you don’t go regularly, you get atrophied and flabby. Same with drawing the figure— you reflexes and mind gets flabby if you don’t continually practice it.

I made a goal to go at least once per week— I would do more over the summer, but I am in the capstone of my Masters program, and the workload is high, so maybe after the end of July I can ramp it up even further.

We started off with some 2 minute poses, the went to five, up to 10, 15, 20, and then 40 (which I missed). Next week will be all of the above and an hour long pose so I’m looking forward to that as well. ❤️❤️❤️

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Sunday Afternoon Figure Work

Study of Val, torso, and buttocks
Conte on Arches tinted paper
16" x 20

I always end up covered in my medium!
Sunday afternoons...
It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood, so I was able to rest and get some figure studies done.  I was able to do some preliminary sketches, and then a larger drawing, in Conte, on tinted Arches paper.  I've been working out some other compositions and studies for a few shows that I have coming up -- one, rather quickly, and I feel that I was still dragging "tail" a bit this month, and I'm not quite sure why.  I am in the capstone session of my Master's degree program, and that is a ton of work, so that could be why as well.

I really enjoy drawing, and decided it was important to focus the figure for the next several weeks while working out this composition for these new paintings.  I can't divulge what they are until the show curators give the go-ahead, so I will be quietly working on them until the appropriate time for them to be "unveiled" by the group.  Sounds very mysterious, but I assure you, on my end, it's not, haha.

So, I'll leave you with these photos of today's afternoon session.  And, I'm never happy unless I am covered in my medium -- when I'm drawing.  I am a bit of a sculptor while drawing the figure, so getting charcoal covered is normal and kind of fun for me ;-)

Yes, these are the strange things that make an artist happy!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Beautiful Human Shop is OPEN!

The Beautiful Human Shop is up and running! 
Do come by for a visit! I will be stocking it daily with new, interesting, and beautiful objects of art and functional art products -- to make everyday life a bit more interesting!
Visit The Beautiful Human. by clicking on the website Navigation bar, or by visiting here:

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Textures and landscapes

"Study of nude and the old barn (textures)" by Hilary J. England
oil on canvas, 16" x 20", 2019


I began this mid-month with an intensely renewed interest in the figure versus textures of the outdoors.  This strange obsession must coincide with the full moon! I would say it's PMS but I haven't had an overwhelming urge for chocolate, so I cannot attribute it to that haha

Working with the group of models, it's still been rainy and hard to coordinate, but that didn't slow me down too much.  I just decided to work par Coeur -- and go from there.  I had a vision in my mind of what I wanted the paintings to look like -- limited palette, reminiscent of Manet, with an emphasis on the textures of the environment rather than the figure itself.  Naked and unashamed, but rather, an object in the landscape rather than the actual focal point itself.

These things madden me.  Trying to photograph the finished work is enough to make one want to down a gallon of moonshine -- the shadows were so deep, and the reflections wash those tones away.  I tried my best and had to let it go.  The painting DID have the quality I set out to capture, even if the camera would not cooperate with me.  That age-old struggle will never end.

I guess I can't be too dismayed.  I feel the painting is a success, even if the camera is telling me to go jump in a lake.  I will attempt to re-photo it in the next few days.  I'm just too tired and frustrated now.  The hits don't stop because you are creating -- on the contrary, they seem to ramp up while I concentrating on a task! I was being lazy and didn't set up the lighting etc.  -- it was a long day and I just didn't want to be bothered.  Tomorrow! Like Scarlett said, "after all, tomorrow is another day!" ;-)


Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Robin

Here is the finished painting, 12” x12” oil on hardwood gallery wrapped panel. The sides will be painted white, so it will have a beautiful modern feeling to it and will hang wired and unframed.

I really enjoyed to do this painting— it was a change painting on the wooden panel and the super smooth surface was a pleasure to paint on. I love conveying different textures, and when painting on a very smooth surface, all the depth and textural dimensions are left for my own creation, which is very enjoyable.

The Robin was in all the purple flowers and ground cover, so I gave it a minimalist, dreamy, sort of ethereal background, to keep focus on the curious robin.

I gave my robin a look of curiosity— they are very smart birds! I don’t think that the average bird is worthy of lesser treatment than the “average” person. Sure, a robin may not be a fancy schmancy bird, any more than an average person isn’t some fancy schmancy “celebrity”— but I find the humble even more beautiful than the peacocks of the world. I’ve always been attracted to that— the quiet beauty of humble objects, people, landscapes— their beauty is magnificent— and I like to treat it as such! 

Cheers to the beautiful, mundane robins of the world ❤️❤️

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Mt. Tabor and Wildflowers

"Mt. Tabor and the Megiddo Valley in bloom" by Hilary J. England
Oil on canvas, 16" x 20"

Mt. Tabor and the Megiddo Valley

When I was in the Megiddo valley, it was unusual that the valley was in such a full bloom, but the rains had been unusually heavy for the month before my arrival, and the valley was a carpet of colorful wildflowers: Poppies, Queen Anne's lace, and an assortment of yellow hued posies -- just wonderful!
The original painting I did was small and lean -- I had no time to get too fanciful, so with the acrylics drying as I was painting, I tried to capture the essence of the dreamy scene -- some haze still lingering in the distance, lending to the scenery an ethereal quality.  It was hard to believe that this would be the scene of a great battle someday

Oils versus Acrylic

Acrylic is extremely lean and spare, so the ability to paint in oil was wonderful.  The acrylic dries extremely quickly, whereas the oil can be made to stay "juicy" for more than a day, allowing for wonderful, thick strokes and working alla prima (fresh on the canvas).  I just love acrylic and there really is no other medium like it to me, not to knock anyone that loves acrylics.  

In the end, I was just looking for an excuse to relive the lovely scene in the valley 💖  

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Day 20 Tel Aviv, and Day 21 - Home

Royal Beach, Tel Aviv

Enjoying the beautiful day on the beach!

Late night travelers in Ben Gurion

The time has certainly flown by!  Here are the last entries for my 3 week trip to Israel.

Day 20: Tel Aviv

Day 20 was an anticipatory day -- I was leaving at 530 am the next morning, which put me into a bit of a quandary: do I stay in Jerusalem and leave in the middle of the night -- hoping the shuttle or cab arrives when it's supposed to, or do I get closer to the airport and see some new sights? I opted for the second option -- go to Tel Aviv for the day, and be closer to the airport.

I had packed up on the Shabbat, taking advantage of the downtime and doing all of my laundries and getting everything together, so that on Monday morning, I had time for a little breakfast and to say goodbye to Shterny and Sensei.  Around 10 am, I departed Jerusalem, taking the train to Ben Gurion, where I had hoped to stow my luggage.  

Apparently, everyone who worked in the airport was completely unaware of this option being advertised and I was unable to be pointed in a direction to the lockers.  After an hour of searching around, and seeing my day tick on to beyond 1 pm, I grew frustrated and decided to just take my luggage with me to the hostel accommodations I had rented for the day.  

I had to take a rather high priced cab to the hostel because also at Ben Gurion, the sherut that was advertised to run 24 hrs a day to Tel Aviv had now also mysteriously disappeared.  I was a bit peeved but decided I would not think too much on it and just enjoy some time on the beach.  

The cab driver also had problems finding the hostel, but I told him the fare wasn't going to go up for his searching, and that ended that scheme.  

I arrived at the hostel at 3 pm, later than I had hoped, but the place was small and clean, and I was able to stow my luggage, get changed into my bathing suit and beach clothes, and head to the water, which was literally across the street.

I spent the rest of the day, from 3 to 6 pm, just lounging and swimming in the very calm Mediterranean.  It was a beautiful beach day with gorgeous weather, and I was happy to be able to decompress a bit before having to head back to Ben Gurion at 1230 am.  

At a little after 6 pm, I meandered the area a bit, and found a very nice outdoor restaurant, and had a yummy meal of beef medallions and salad for dinner.  I knew I had to eat carefully because the coming hours would be stressful with all the travel--eat too little, and you will be hungry and bloated, eat too much, and you will be uncomfortable and bloated.  Haha, it's a very careful balancing act!

When I arrived back at the hostel at around 730 pm, I showered up and relaxed in my bed for about 2 hours.  After, I wandered out onto the veranda and began chatting with the five women who were out there, from all different places in the world.  We talked and laughed on a number of subjects, until about 1130 pm, when I realized that I had not received the confirmation call from my driver that he would be arriving within the next hour.  

I called the service and no one had any record of the scheduled taxi ride.  I was shocked.  They had no availability for another cab, without an Israeli phone number to confirm it.  The hostel had no real "phone" number, except the mobile number of the front desk person, who was now also missing -- of enjoying the nightlife on the beach.  I had to get a cab quickly, but the streets were now quiet with none zipping by to hail, and I had no Israeli phone number to secure one online or via phone.  I felt my stomach start churning.  It was creeping close to midnight.

One of the gals in the hostel luckily had an Israeli sim and number, and we were able to secure the cab that way.  I thanked her profusely, for saving my American skin and not leaving me stranded in Tel Aviv, and within 10 minutes, I was off to Ben Gurion.

Day 21: Home

I arrived back at Ben Gurion at 1230 am, after a pleasant ride with a very knowledgeable lady cabby, which also put me at ease.  I was glad I didn't stow my luggage, because it would've required me going out of the way back to Terminal 1 to retrieve it, making things more complicated.

In the airport, I grabbed a cup of coffee in a cafe, playing the waiting game with the other airport denizens.  We all know the game.  Biding our time to check in.  I like that period of anticipation -- I might be strange, but I do.  I get things done, and I always feel excited to be heading out or heading home.  

At around 2 am, I began the check-in, which went smoothly and without issue.  The security was tight, but I had no problems, and at around 430, I was in the terminal waiting to board.  I was exhausted by then, and just looking forward to getting on the plane so I could sleep without fear of missing boarding! 

We boarded promptly at 5 am for our 530 flight, and I was so happy to see my upgraded seat into business class so now I could stretch out an additional 2 inches, haha.  I put on my little neck pillow boomerang, popped in my earplugs and put my hoodie over my face and went off to sleep  immediately, looking forward to arriving in Kiev at 830 am -- and slightly concerned about the short layover there -- it was only an hour -- but, knowing that Kiev was a small airport, and I was on UIA through the whole flight, which would not require a terminal change, and I was now onboard the plane, meaning no delays -- I was safe and would not miss my connection flight back home.  I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

I woke up about an hour and a half later and was surprised at the great time we had made to Kiev -- wow.  One and a half hours instead of three!  I looked around and noticed something was wrong.  The doors of the plane were open.  Hasidic people were very agitated and yelling at the crew.  I became confused.  I scanned the area, and there was a flight attendant sitting quietly in the corner two seats away, looking sullen.  I asked her, "What's going on?" She just looked at me.  I stupidly asked her, "We're not in Kiev?" She shook her head no.  I became agitated and incredulous -- "We're still in Tel Aviv?!" I blurted out in shock.  She nodded her head and said, "Yes. We have a delay."  

We have a delay?  Huh??  My stomach dropped out.  I would miss my connecting flight home.  And, this time around, I didn't take flight insurance. The panic of sitting in Kiev waiting for an available flight in the coming DAYS fell on me like a dead weight.  I gulped.  "Why???? Why are we delayed?? Why?!" -- the words came out harsh and demanding.  

She looked guilty as if she had personally delayed the plane.  I felt immediately sorry for my reaction and composed myself.  "Please.  I am sorry, but I am very worried.  I have a connecting flight to JFK.  What will happen now? If I miss this flight, what will UIA do? How will they correct this situation? I can't be stranded." I felt exhausted and miserable, with the thought of being stranded in Kiev, waiting standby on some floor in the airport for a "next available flight".  I shuddered.  

Others who were pacing and complaining heard our exchange and came over to chime in too, desperate for reassurance they also would not be stranded in Kiev.  The flight attendant seemed overwhelmed for a moment, and then asked each of them -- "are you all catching the connection to JFK?"  They nodded and said yes.  She said, "No worries, over 100 passengers on this flight are connecting to that flight, and they should wait." That placated them, and they murmured amongst themselves.  I said, "Hey wait a second, you said 'should' wait.  What does that mean -- does that mean they may NOT wait?" She replied, "That's possible." My throat tightened again.  "That's possible??? When will we know?" The flight attendant shrugged.  "When we get there." 

I felt creeping rage and frustration.  "Listen, that's not acceptable.  I have my ride coming to pick me up, and he's driving *3* hours -- you need to let us know so that we can make arrangements" -- the crowd had come back and I had now become their spokesperson.  "Yes! Yes!" they began to say urgently.  "This is not right!" The flight attendant said, "No, please, they will wait in Kiev." That quieted us momentarily, and she slipped away, as we stood in the galley by the door, discussing all the ills of the situation.  

Apparently, luggage without an owner had made its way into the hull of the plane, and the entire plane had to be emptied, security checked, and reloaded.  We all fumed about this.  "How did this happen, with all of the security?"  We all talked and groused, as people do in these situations.  Then we agreed to pray about it in our seats, and back we went.

At 730 am, two hours later, the crew began to shout for everyone to buckle up, and very quickly, the loudspeaker crackled, and the doors were sealed, and within a few minutes, we took off hurriedly to Kiev.  

We made excellent time, but had to be fast-tracked through security, and lo and behold, our plane had not left without us.  We were only 1/2 hour late, due to the hour layover and the fast time the pilot made up for in the air.  We were all herded on board, and we took off a half an hour later, making our delay now only one hour.

It was a 10.5-hour flight, and we were all so happy to be onboard, at not waiting to be squeezed onto other flights back and the headache that would entail.  I was so thankful at that moment when our flight to JFK lifted off.  I had just dodged some major discomfort of that missed connection, and I was tired to my bones.  I knew the next 10 hours would be very uncomfortable -- long flights always are -- but I was so thankful for heading home, nothing would dampen my enthusiasm.

I arrived in JFK one hour later than originally scheduled, but I was full of gratitude to be home! I went through the security clearances, and lo and behold, my luggage also arrived, not lost in all the confusion.  And, my commute back home was without traffic and in excellent company, so it was a very positive end to my trip!!

Moral of the immediate story: Always be prepared for the unexpected when traveling.  Seriously.  Traveling will test every skill you have, but particularly, your patience!

Moral of the entire story: Take chances, laugh a lot, be grateful for all things even when you don't want to be, and trust God! I am very grateful that I was able to visit Israel -- God's special land -- and that I was blessed with a wonderful trip and memories of it!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Day 18- 19 Caesarea, Rosh Hankira, Acre, Haifa

The ruins of Caesarea and Herod's Summer Palace

In the underground sea grottos of Rosh Hankira

The views from B'hai Gardens, top of Haifa

It's been an amazing time in Jerusalem and Israel.  I will be leaving shortly, but my last few days were very interesting.


First, I explored Caesarea and the ruins from the Roman period/time of Christ.  Herod's summer palace at the shore with his incredible views of the Mediterranean, so aqua and sublime.  Roman and ancient ruins have always been my passion so this was a delight for me.

The amphitheater at Caesarea is still used by musical groups today, and I found that both magical and poignant at the same time: people sitting there thousands of years ago, watching their theater acts, had no idea that over 2000 years in the future, people would still be sitting there watching entertainment.  It's pretty mindblowing.

We also explored the different ruins that are preserved there, including the Templar/Crusader ruins, where they held off the Muslims, badly outnumbered until they could finally escape and flee to another port.  Very interesting history all around.

Rosh Hankira

From Caesarea, we went on to the upper point of Israel, to the sea grottoes of Rosh Hankira, right on the Lebanese/Israeli border.  These grottoes were a beautiful natural occurrence, and we used a cable car to descend to sea level to reach them, as the coastline here reminds me of Greece -- cliffs to the very edge of the sea.  

From there, we ascended back up to the top of the cliffs, and walked the border a little bit, discussing the politics and history of the region.


From Rosh Hankira, we went on to Acre/Akko, where there is still a strong Templar history, with a large Templar hospice that has been restored and is now a museum.  

First, we ate a traditional Muslim lunch of salads, hummus, fresh warm pitas, and shawarma meats (beef, turkey, and chicken), washed down with lemon water.  We had a leisurely lunch, continuing our talks of history and politics, and other places we've traveled to or would like to see.  

After lunch, we walked through the Templar hospice museum and grounds and the catacombs (pretty scary and claustrophobic) and after enjoying that bit of history, we went out into the markets of Akko, now Muslim controlled, and just did a bit of shopping and exploring.  There were foods and wares of all sorts, and the Arabs love to haggle.  I was offered 10 new children and 2000 camels to marry the sweets vendor.  When I politely declined, he changed his offer.  "How about just one new child and 5000 camels?"  Sorry buddy, the answer is still No.  


After Acre, we went on to do some exploring in the ancient port city of Haifa, which is now a thriving metropolis.  Daniel, our guide, showed us around with extreme pride, as this was the city he was born in.  He brought us up to the very top of the city, to the B'hai Gardens, and we spent some time up there, enjoying the views and having some coffee and "baguettes".  

We headed back to Jerusalem then, as it was a two-hour drive back, and to be honest, by the time I got back to my apartment, I was pretty exhausted.   I had only slept a few hours the night before, and it really seemed to catch up with me -- especially after so many hours in the blinding sun.  Thankfully, I didn't get burned (I slathered myself with sunscreen early on) but some of the others in our little group did.  This guy Vincenzo from Rome turned beet red on his arms, neck, and face by lunchtime.  OUCH.

Now, off to Tel Aviv today for a day at the beach, and then early tomorrow morning, the long flight(s) back to the USA and home! 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Day 17

"Impending storm- Sea of Galilee" acrylic on canvas panel, 8" x 11"

"Flowers and sun on the Jordan River" acrylic on canvas panel, 8" x 11"

I spent today relaxing, doing laundry, and catching up on work and research.  I photoed these two studies I did over the last week during my travels.  I have to say, acrylic paint (for how convenient it is for traveling) leaves a learning curve for me haha.  But, it's all good.

The first painting was done in Migdal, before a storm rolled in over Galilee.  It was so peaceful that afternoon, like in a dream. 

The second painting was done at the Jordan River in the North, up by the Golan heights.  t was super sunny that day -- so bright and warm.

I have been enjoying working here in Israel -- it is a contemplative place, despite all the hubbub of Jerusalem.  It continues to be a wonderful journey!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Days 15 - 16 Jerusalem

Inside Christ's Garden Tomb

View from the Southern Rampart, Jerusalem Wall

View back to Jaffa Gate on the rampart corridor

Day 14 

I was sick.  No one wants to hear about bad shwarmas and food poisoning.  Nope.

Day 15 

I felt like I got somewhat better yesterday, so out I went, and although the stomach had calmed down, I still didn't feel like myself.  I meandered through the city, but it was so crowded, I thought I might go insane if I didn't find a quiet place to just be alone.

I decided to walk the ramparts of the city -- and it was a very beautiful and pleasant -- and SOLITARY -- walk.  I started from the Jaffa gate, and took it to the North, visiting the Arab quarters and the Damascus gate.  I got down off the wall there, and walked over to the Garden tomb again, and had an hour or so of quiet meditation in the Garden and in the tomb.  After, I left and wandered about in the Arab section for a little, buying some forbidden bread! It's still Passover week, so no bread in the Jewish areas -- but, the Arabs have zero inclination to stop selling it -- so I got myself a loaf for breakfast.

I headed back to the apartment, taking a pass through the shuk on the way, picking up some more rice and chicken to cook up for dinner, plus some fresh veggies, and just had a quiet night, because I still was not myself.

This morning, after a fitful night of a lingering belly ache and a relentless mosquito buzzing in my ear, I got up tired and crabby, but determined to do what I had planned to do today -- walk the ramparts to the South, plus explore down by the Kotel/Wailing wall, and go for a cup of coffee in Christchurch.

I headed out and the city was quieter today, with the pending close of the Passover holiday, and a full Shabbat coming a day early.  Everyone was busy at the shops buying for the weekend, so I was able to walk the ramparts to the South in peace.  This walk was a bit more precipitous than to the North, and with my fear of heights -- I had to push myself some of the way.  I was able to get some pretty views and a peaceful couple of hours up there before I descended back by the Jaffa gate, and went for a quiet cup of coffee in Christchurch. 

When I was leaving the bookstore by Christchurch, the cobblestones were slippery and I fell.  It was so sudden I didn't have time to be embarrassed -- my hand hit the cobbles with my phone face down.  I cringed, thinking, "that's that.  My phone is toast." But, to my surprise, no bones and no phone was broken.  Several people came to my aid, and kindly helped me, and I appreciated their concern.  There are still good people in this world, of every color and creed.

I took the slow path home and stopped to buy more milk, some fruit, and some fresh meat and veggies for the weekend.  Plus a few cookies-- the cookies in the shuk are amazing.  And, with everything closed, I felt a panic to make sure I had something sweet.  I'm not that disciplined even in the Holy Land! :-) 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Day 13 - Nazareth, Cana, Capernaum, Sea of Galilee

Mt. Tabor

Nazareth, campus of the Church of the Anunciation

Views from St. Peter's Primacy Church, Sea of Galilee

Today was a busy day.  We left at 5 am for the North -- to visit the Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights, and the biblical cities of Nazareth, Cana, Capernaum, Migdal (Magdala) and to see the river Jordan in the North.

We began our travels with a scenic route that brought us by the Valley of Megiddo (Armageddon) and Mt. Tabor, where Jesus was in conference with Elijah and Moses.  The Mountain was awash in rain and thunder, and I could feel, with a shiver up my spine, how it seemed the place such an occurrence would happen.  It was both beautiful, fascinating, and humbling, even from a distance.  It was also surreal to look at the Valley of Megiddo, now so picturesque and fertile after all the recent rains, and think upon it awash in blood for the final battle. Pretty mindblowing.

We continued to the city of Nazareth, now broken into two districts: Nazareth (lower) and Nazareth Ilit (upper).  The lower city is Muslim controlled, the city on the heights is Israeli.  We would need to visit the lower city to see the birthplace of Mary, and the home she lived in when she was visited by the angel Gabriel, about her task of bearing Jesus.  There were several beautiful churches marking these events: The Church of the Annunciation, the Basilica for Mary, and a Basilica for St. Joseph, which included the workshop of Joseph -- presumably where Jesus apprenticed and worked as a carpenter/craftsman, before beginning his Ministry.

From there, we drove through the scenic upper Nazareth, and on to Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding.  This is now also a Muslim controlled town, with many mosques.  There was a Greek Orthodox church to mark the spot of the wedding, but we didn't stop to investigate it.

We drove on through the picturesque countryside, stopping here and then to get tidbits of local history and to just rest and absorb the beautiful rolling hills and mountains.  As we approached the Sea of Galilee we stopped for a coffee and snack break.  The Arabs were running the coffee shop, so pastries were available (no pastries in Jewish shops for obeyance of Passover) and we had a little time to just chat about the current history of Israel and the ongoing conflicts with the Muslims.

We continued on to the Sea of Galilee, and to the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter, at the base of the mountain where Jesus gave the Beatitudes (there was a chapel there built during the Byzantine era that the Crusaders took apart, and rebuilt at the top of the mountain -- better real estate!).  The little chapel at the edge of the "sea" was so charming-- and the Sea, well, it was absolutely breathtaking.  The water was in a constant color change from the fast-moving clouds -- one minute, steel grey, the next, bright aqua blue, moving into a navy blue when the sun crept behind the cover.  The flowers, the breeze, the clean, sparkling vista -- it was just sublime.

We stayed there for a while so I could record some impressions, notes, and color studies. Personally, I could just pitch a tent there and stay, but we had to move on to other places and the day was starting to wear into late afternoon.

We decided to explore the ruins Capernaum, which is now a beautiful site of Roman and Hebrew relics, with a Church and a Synagogue on site.  The ruins are very impressive, with maps of the whole area clearly delineated, and are extensive enough to get a good idea of what the city looked like in the time of Christ.

A little while later, we lunched at a restaurant right on the Sea, and no, I did not eat the St. Peter's fish, haha.  I decided on some lamb kebobs and different salads, and for dessert, dates and Turkish coffee.

After, I took a leisurely stroll around the area, and many families were happily eating and picnicking together, looking very contented.  It was a happy sight, for Easter Monday -- although these were all Jewish folk, they were enjoying their Passover time together as well.

We moved along the coast to a Kibbutz called Ein Gev and stopped in there momentarily to look around, and take some photos of their piers and boats, etc. as well as chat with the residents.

We toured through the Golan Heights, visiting the spot that Jesus cast out Legion, and the herd of swine ran down the slopeside into the waters and stopped there for a little bit for a leg stretch.

Our last official stop was to visit the Jordan River in the North, another popular spot for Christian baptism, although that was not our purpose for the visit.  This place was pretty but a bit touristy, with hundreds of people flocking to pay the $40 to buy a kitschy white robe with a screenprint of the Crusader cross or some other such thing on it, and get a dunk in the deep green of the river by either a Pastor of their choice, or the Pastor at the resort, who was there, in mechanical order, dunking one person after another.  The lady in charge was extra angry, thinking we were trying to jump the line or get baptized without paying, but we assured her we were just there to watch.  Daniel thought this was hilarious, and he asked me, "Would God mind?" I said, "With her around, everyone pays $40 to get baptized in anger!" We all had a good laugh over it.

We sat outside a while, and we discussed the other baptism site I had visited the other day, in the desert, and he was amazed the guide was venturous to bring us.  "You know, that is considered the authentic site, but there are still active land mines there." I nodded, recalling the stern warnings of "lest you go ka-boom", but I was glad he brought us anyway.

We ended our touring late, about 9 pm, was when we finally returned to Jerusalem.  I was pretty exhausted by that point, ate a hasty meal, and just fell into bed.  But, it was a lot of ground to cover, and I'm glad we, as we say in the States, "got r done!"

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter Weekend - Easter Sunday - Jerusalem

"The Garden Tomb at Easter" by Hilary J. England
Acrylic on canvas panel, 12" x 16"
Easter Sunday 2019, in Jerusalem, dawned cold and tempestuous.  Early morning thunderstorms with heavy wind and hail pelted the windows, discouraging any kind of thoughts of a serene morning service at the Garden.  I decided that the Lord will forgive me for waiting until tonight's evening services rather than the morning Easter vigils.

I painted the Garden Tomb, and I'm glad I chose a quiet spot the other day, rather than wait.  The people who run the administration of the Tomb allowed me a little extra time on my own to work on my painting undisturbed, and that was very kind of them.  The sun would come in and go out just as quickly, as the weather in Jerusalem seems to be as volatile as the politics. 

I began a second painting but did not have time to finish it.  I got to the 3/4  stage and decided it would be best to just finish it up back at the apartment, as the sunlight was beginning to fade, and I did not want to be rude and stay even longer when the staff had been gracious and kind to accommodate me. I will post up that painting tonight or tomorrow -- soon :-)

So, this evening is Resurrection Sunday services at King of Kings, and I will head over there for that, and tomorrow, off to Nazareth, Capernaum, and the Sea of Galilee.  I decided to get out of Jerusalem for Holy Monday, as I need some additional quiet time out of the holiday "frenzy." For me, a nondenominational Christian, the official holiday is over -- I don't celebrate with the Orthodox, and I am "celebrated" out at this time.  I prefer to keep Easter and the resurrection in my heart every day, rather than save it all up for one day a year!

Now, my heaters are on in my room, reading my Bible, and relaxing for the next few hours before the evening services begin.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Easter Weekend - Jerusalem

"Birds in the Garden" by Hilary J. England, Acrylic on canvas panel, 12" x 16"
Good Friday was yesterday, and I spent the day wandering and relaxing.  I tried to avoid the crush of tourists and pilgrims in the Old City, as I have had my fill of crowds, and I do think the Lord would understand that.  I can have a contemplative Easter weekend in the Holy City without getting squished by a mob.

Today is Holy Saturday, and the city has been bathed in calm since the Shabbat siren sounded last night.  With my windows open, the breeze gently wafted in, and I could hear the reverent and joyous singing of the Jews in the temple across the street.  It was relaxing and made me feel cozy and comfortable, curled in my bed under my blankets -- I have been nursing an infection in my slightly impacted wisdom tooth for the last few days, and it really started to hurt yesterday -- into my jaw, all the way into my ear.  I got slightly disgruntled and alarmed but decided to just keep at the homeopathic remedies -- continued saltwater washes, extra vitamin c, extra rest in the next few days, and prayer and meditation.

I decided a painting in the Garden of Gethsemane was in order.  It was extra quiet and the sun kept flitting in and out of the clouds.  One minute bright, the next, gray and windy.  I looked at the ancient olive trees, curled and gnarled, and wondered at all they had seen in the thousand years or more of their existence.  Did they see Jesus weeping in the garden? He had much to weep for.  He wept for his life, for what was coming, for those he was leaving behind, and the state of chaos the world was and still is in.  The trees stayed stoically quiet.  Their twisted trunks and branches curled into the gray as if they would embrace the sky.  Jesus had sought shelter in their embrace -- he longed to be comforted, for answers, for release.  All the others slept, and he was alone with God, and the trees. 

I looked at the little birds quietly pecking away at the ground.  Jesus had said we were more important than the little sparrows -- but he didn't mean they weren't important too.  I looked at them, in their own little world, so beautiful in their simplicity.  They brought me great joy to see them.  I relate to sparrows.  I've not been much in this life in terms of the world, but that's okay.  I feel I've completed to this point, the tasks I was ordained to, in this life.  And, I will continue to do what is in the purpose of my life -- painting to uplift others, to help others heal, to have a moment of peace and beauty in their day-to-day lives.  I thank God for all the little moments, the precious moments of beauty, like here today in the Garden.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Day 7 & 8: Jerusalem, Jordan, Jericho, and the Dead Sea

Days 7 & 8:

Day 7 was spent visiting the King of Kings Ministry, around the corner from my apartment, and meeting the wonderful people there, and all the work they do for the Lord! It was a nice afternoon, and they showed me around their facilities, and then I had the pleasure of having lunch with Marj, a friend by proxy from the States.

Day 8, I packed up early and headed out on an exploration of the regions of Jericho, Jordan, and the Dead Sea.  I met up with a tour group -- because I knew access to Jericho would be nonexistent, since it is in Sector A of the West Bank, and that is just completely out of my depth.  It's a hostile region held by Palestine, and I knew that attempting such a thing alone would not only foolhardy -- it bordered on insane.

So I engaged with a small group with a guide, Yoav, an Israeli who held a special permit to enter Palestinian areas.  Normally, Israelis are forbidden in these zones.  There is a big red sign at the checkpoint that states in Hebrew, Arabic, and English -- that Israeli citizens are forbidden beyond this point and can be lawfully killed for trespass.  Pretty brutal.  Talk about harsh penalties for illegal "immigration".

Our first stop was to take a peek into the desert, where the Bedouin still live.  We got off the highway and went a few miles into the desert, winding up and through the bleak landscape.  Camels free-roamed, grazing the hills, as did goats.  Bedouin shanties dotted the landscape here and there.  Finally, we came to a beautiful scenic point where a monastery clung to a cliff -- in a manner reminiscent of the photos I've seen of Petra.  A big cross marked the area as one that had once been occupied by Catholic monks.  It was beautiful, but I felt a sort of sadness mingled with the empty beauty of the area.  And a slight chill of danger -- I could understand this would be an extremely harsh existence these monks had signed up for.

Our group departed and continued onward into the different Sectors or zones of the East and notorious West Bank.  Zone A is Palestinian controlled, Zone B is joint, and Zone C is Israeli.  There were signs of hostilities all over the place.  "The burn marks on the pavement are from recent Palestinian uprisings -- burning tires and attacking whatever vehicles were driving by," Yoav said with a chuckle as he shook his head in bewilderment.  That was not a comforting thought.  I glanced around, but the landscape was quiet and empty.  We entered into Sector A and went to our designated point -- Jericho.  We toured about the "modern" city a little (in the van) and then we stopped at a restaurant in a casino area and formulated/confirmed our gameplan for the day.  As we sat in our little enclave, vendors came to sell us things, but Yoav sent them away.  "They'll hassle us all day long otherwise."

Our first point of interest was to ascend the Mountain of Temptation, where Jesus stayed for 40 days fasting and was tempted by the Devil, who showed him the kingdoms of the world.  We would need to take a cable car up to the nearly 4k mountain top.  I hate heights, but I knew that in order to see this site, there was no alternative, so putting my discomfort aside, we climbed the steps to the cable car station and boarded.  We began our descent across the land, climbing higher and higher.  In the car, we all looked nervously at each other, giggling, nervously chatting,  and anxiously trying to maintain our composure.  At the halfway point, perhaps, the car just suddenly came to a halt, both sides of the cables.  We sat there gaping at each other, and at the other people in the other cars.  The cars just swung in the wind as the minutes ticked by.  I began to get extremely scared, bordering on creeping terror.  The interior temperature in the car was about 100 degrees, with only a small 6" x 6" ventilation window to let air in.  "Oh God," I prayed.  "Please let this thing move soon."  The older Norwegian woman looked at me with naked fear in her eyes.  "What do you think has happened?" I looked helplessly back at her.  My mind raced.  If this thing broke down -- how would they get us out?! I suddenly felt really angry at myself for even getting on the damn thing.  I shrugged.  "I don't know.  I don't know." We all sat in terrified silence.  Just when my mind had reached its most dire conclusion, the car lurched. The girl from the Congo let out a small scream, as we all grabbed onto each other, and then the car began slowly moving upward on its track.  "Oh thank you Jesus!" the Korean man laughed.  We all began laughing in relief and talking, so happy to be moving upward again.

We finally reached the level of the second cable station, and we literally jumped off.  I said to the Norwegian woman --"Yes, I think I might take the long road down rather than get on that thing again" and she began to laugh in agreement.

The second cable station level still did not bring us to the top of the mountain, or to the level of the monastery we were seeking.  We still needed to climb an additional 3,300 steps.  Crap.  Flashbacks of Santorini danced through my head and I sighed.  This time, there were no donkeys to haul us up there.  We began climbing.  I would climb each long row, and then stop to take a "picture" breather.  This system worked for me without causing me to have a heart attack! Others climbed a little more slowly, trying to manage the steep steps as well.  I reached the monastery and felt a surge of happiness.  I was extremely curious to see it, as photos of it had looked amazing.

It didn't disappoint.  The monastery was incredibly beautiful and ethereal, like catching a glimpse of what I pictured the Halls of Heaven would look like.  Carved into the rock of the mountain, the entire areas were ancient and ablaze with cream colored light, giving it an almost supernatural atmosphere.  We explored this incredible structure, with the monks "cells" actually hanging thousands of feet in the air off the cliffs, each with its own little gleaming, burnished door.  I was so tempted to pull the handles and see what was inside.  Maybe nothing.  Maybe a facade and you fall thousands of feet off the mountain, hahaha.

Inside the actual chapel resided the rock that Jesus had sat on, which was now protected from visitors behind glass.  In the past, people tried to chip pieces of it off, etc., so the protection was necessary.  The girl from the Congo, and her husband, immediately fell prostrate before the rock and singing songs in African to worship the spot.  It was both fascinating and enchanting.

After we left there, we made our way back to the cable cars.  We were all nervous, but Yoav chatted with the operator who assured him all was well.  We descended without incident.

When we reached the ground, we decided to go to the archaeological site of ancient Jericho and have a late lunch after.  We explored the site for an hour or so, discussing the science versus biblical references and implications, and then went a viewed a small media production about Kathleen Kenyon, the archeologist who is credited with much of the excavation of Jericho.

We ate a huge lunch in an "oasis" restaurant -- all Arabic cuisine.  The restaurant owners just kept bringing more food -- we started with local dates and fruits, and then there were all sorts of pickled vegetables, grains, pitas, and hummus.  Then roasted chicken, kebobs of lamb and mutton, followed by homemade "pita pizzas" with tomato and goat cheese.  "Eat eat!" the old man serving said.  "It's very good!" We washed it all down with big glasses of lemon water with sage leaves.  I was very grateful for their kind hospitality to us.

We left the restaurant and went to the tree that Zaccheus climbed while Jesus was passing by -- now controlled by a compound of Russian orthodox.  "Nothing will ever happen to this tree with the Orthodox protecting it" laughed Yoav.

We continued on to the Jordan River, to the spot where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.  It was in Sector B, in an Israeli militarized zone.  "Please mind the signs!" Yoav warned us sternly.  "There are still many active landmines in the area.  We don't want you to go ka-boom!" We all laughed.

The Jordan was very low, and muddy.  Some of the people in the group were a little disappointed, hoping to be baptized there.  Other acolytes stood around the banks looking dismayed to go into the brown, still water.  "Looks like there might be crocodiles in there," I said snidely, and Yoav thought this was very entertaining.   I decided to be brave and waded in.  I said a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord for such a beautiful river, and for all the blessings he has given me and my family, and then sat quietly on the steps for the duration, just meditating and enjoying the sun.

We left there and headed to the Dead Sea, for the last part of our day.  We had 3 hours to float around and enjoy the waters, and we all headed in eagerly to the Kalia Beach resort.  After securing my gear in a locker, I headed down to the water.  I was given different warnings about entering the water because it is so salty, it feels like "goop" or "oil," and if you get the water in your eyes, you are going to be very unhappy.  Just as bad if you get it in your mouth or swallow it.  Ugh.

I walked down to the water's edge, where there were about 20 or so "floaters."  They seemed peaceful enough.  At the shoreline, young people slathered the black mud all over each other, and then took photos of each other.  It strangely reminded me of something I would see in Coachella.   I gingerly took a step in and sank about up to my calves in goop.  I immediately recoiled and went to my knees, and began floating with everyone else.  They were right -- it did feel "oily".  My somewhat clumsy entrance had splashed water onto my face.  I made the mistake of rubbing it off.  It contaminated my lips with the salty sludge, making me literally gag.  I continued floating and spitting it out until I couldn't take it any longer, and was forced to crawl out of the water and rinse my mouth in the shower.  Yuck.  I had enough!

I showered off and headed up to the terrace, where there were several open-air lounges.  I got an iced coffee, and just people watched.  There were people of all ages and nationalities leisurely strolling by.  Flags from every nation fluttered in the wind.  The USA had the biggest flags there.  I smiled.  I continued to sip my drink, and chat with some of the other beachgoers.  A couple from Texas.  Another solo female traveler from Miami - who was actually leaving the beach, hitting her hotel really quick for another shower, and then flying out of Tel Aviv at 9 that night.  We chatted about our travels, our families, some of the sites and experiences we had there in Israel, decent restaurants, etc.

Finally, it was time to go, and I was ready.  Despite all my precautions, I had gotten a little crispy and was ready for a real shower.  The day was very successful and we covered all of our trek plans, and I got back to my apartment in time for a nice dinner with Schterny and Sensei -- and to call home and chat with Dad and Dale.  It was an excellent day!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Days 5 & 6 in Jerusalem

I spent my fifth day in Jerusalem catching up with work and correspondence and just decompressing.  It was cold, windy, and rainy, and not a very nice day to be out and about.  I knew that the next morning I would have a full schedule in the Old City, so I decided a day of relaxation and working on other projects for the week would be the best option.

So, on my sixth day in Jerusalem, I retraced the holy spots we passed by, while in the massive crowd of the Palm Sunday procession.  I decided to start on the Mount of Olives, in the Church of the Ascension, where we were able to touch the spot of stone that is supposed to be the actual spot of ground Jesus ascended into Heaven from.  After, we walked on to the Pater Noster, the chapel compound area where Jesus gave the Our Father prayer to his disciples and followers.  The prayer is embedded in the walls, in mosaic form, in every language known to mankind.  It was a beautiful and restful place, maintained by an order of nuns.

From there, we walked down the mountain, to the Dominus Flavit, the "teardrop" shaped church where our Lord wept for Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  It was an interesting site, with gorgeous views of the city as well.  At the bottom of the mount, we entered the Garden of Gethsemane, where our Lord prayed, and sweat blood, on the eve of his arrest, and where he was actually arrested by the Romans.  A strange marker accentuates the spot, that is surrounded by some of the world's oldest olive trees.  The garden is gated off and peaceful, with beautiful flowers all around.  Adjacent to the Garden is the Church of Nations, an impressive structure with beautiful inlaid ceilings and a magnificent glass mural in its headliner.

 We continued down to the entrance of the city, but we veered off right before the entrance and visited two absolutely fascinating sites: The Church of the Tomb of the Virgin, and the Cave of Betrayal.  The Cave of Betrayal is supposed to be the area that Judas Iscariot met in secret with the Sanhedrin, and sold Jesus to the Pharisees for 30 pieces of silver.  It is small and dark and sad, a little chapel marks the spot.  Our guide said that this chapel always gave him "the creeps" because he can feel the sad and negative energy in there.  I have to admit, I kind of agree.

The Tomb of Mary was an absolute wonderment to me. As you descend below the ground, you are greeted with a surreal spectacle of lamps and incense burners, all in the Orthodox tradition.  The variety and amount of them are overwhelming, a literal riot of color -- I was absolutely delighted! I don't know what so stirred me with fascination in this place, but I literally could have spent my entire day in there, just sitting in that strange cavern.  I found a quiet, dark corner, deep in the back by a tiny alter, and just sat and watched the spectacle of people kissing the feet of the statue of the Virgin.  I felt like a ghost.  It was a delicious feeling in a way -- to be invisible and peaceful and to just feel a state of relaxation in the quiet of the tomb.  There were also Crusader Kings from various countries buried in different vaults, and the thought of being in the presence of these mighty men was also very awe inspiring. 

We left there and continued on to the entrance of the Old City, where went in again, through the Lion gate.  We began to walk the Stations of the Cross, or the Via Dolorosa.  We began at Pilate's compound, where Jesus was put for judgment in front of the crowds, after being scourged.  The Chapel of Agony marked that spot as well.  We continued on through the day, stopping at each particular Station, to discuss the events that happened there, including the different chapels that marked the way.  We doubled back to the beautiful Church of St. Anne's and visited the remains and ruins of the pools of Bethesda, where Jesus healed a crippled man.  It was now a deep labyrinth of exposed ancient caves and wells, with beautiful wildflowers springing up everywhere.  Gorgeous!

We ended our day in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Jesus was supposedly buried.  This is open to debate because the Protestants also have a claim that the Garden Tomb is his burial place (I agree with this theory).  But, the church is magnificent and chaotic, with hundreds of people milling around, praying, touching the stone where Jesus was laid to be cleaned and prepared for burial, and having a view where the stone of the mountain split at the moment of Jesus' death.  All very fascinating.

All in all, it was a very successful day, with many of the Holy Sites in the Old City explored, and some new and interesting acquaintances struck up for the day!

Portrait of Joey

"Portrait of Joey" by Hilary J. England, oil on canvas, 12" x 16" 2019 Portraits and life I started working o...