The Key to Winter

December 20th, 2008


This is the painting I've been working on. It started out so very differently, based on an intuitively created sketch in my sketchbook. In the original sketch the key was attached to the heart of a person buried underground. It had a dark and Victorian feel to it that I decided to bring to life in a painting. But as I painted it, it became a little too dark for me. A little spooky even. I let it sit for awhile, tried playing with it in different ways and then at some point decided I needed to take it in a different direction. It takes a bit of courage to jump in a new direction sometimes, but I got a rush of energy and just began.

First, I put down collage elements from old architectural blueprints and then tore some of it off, I added some paint to make a snowy ground and some more collage elements, including maps of Lewis and Clark's path. I added circles and numbers in the sky and I knew I wanted the string hanging from the key to become like roots or an upside-down tree in the ground. It speaks to the potential that is hidden beneath the ground during winter. It speaks to tapping into that potential during the darker days when it's hard to see anything bright or inspiring. It's a reminder that even when everything seems cold and dead, there's magic happening underneath it all. It also reminds me of a quote I keep pinned to my bulletin board:

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer -Albert Camus

I could try and explain this painting to you more, why I chose this element or that. But I like it when people can find their own meaning.

The snow is still coming down outside. All of the sudden, winter is here in full force! O.k., I gotta run!

44 Responses

the painting is beautiful – Love all the little elements in it – thanks for sharing it

Oh, my! Leah, this is another stunner!! The circles in the sky remind me of Japanese “Mons”. I’m sooo in love with it! The colors and the contrast too are great.

Leah, this is so beautiful. I love the combination of elements you’ve chosen.

lovely leah! The way you did on the light and shadow on the ground is just…beautiful.

I like that painting. The way she’s looking right out at you draws you into it. Also, I love Camus, but I never figured he was filled with summer! You do make me curious though about what the original idea looked like.


Beautiful! Your work is inspiring . . .I find meaning in each. Sometimes parallel to you thoughts you write, sometimes a hidden suprise awaits me. Thanks for sharing!

this is really lovely, leah….

hi leah!
this painting is breath takingly beautiful.
i love it and what is symbolizes. very inspiring!


This painting is so gorgeous and full of meaning. I like the way you throw in certain elements that may mean one thing to you, but may mean something totally different to someone else. Very inspiring!

That is so beautiful.

Beautiful work :)

It speaks to me. Love it.

This is absolutely gorgeous and beautiful and wonderful!! I just love it.

WOW! I love it. I loved it when I first saw and I loved reading what you wrote about it. Fantastic! SUPER! Mary

Love the choice of colors!

I think that this is my favorite piece of all of your work I’ve seen so far, Leah. It really resonates with me with what I am going through right now with winter and dislike of snow and storms. It helps me to “see beneath” the surface and to find my key to continuing to move forward and to act from life in winter…it is hard for me to put this into words. I look for the best side of winter each year but don’t seem to find it. I love how this painting, for me, shows it; in meditating on it, I think it will help me to find it in my life as well. Thank you for sharing this, O

I love this painting – it is hard to believe it started out dark. It has turned out amazing.

What a lovely painting. Thank you for sharing your process and some of the decisions you made along the way. I think your idea of the key strings attached to a heart of one lying beneath the surface sounds intriguing but as you put it dark and a bit scary. With this new fallen snow and with ice building up, it is a good reminder that there is magic happening. I like the idea of preparations underway for summer. I don’t play in the winter snow so for me it tends to be a nuisance.

This is gorgeous…!

Just beautiful, Leah! I like the way she is looking back at the viewer too. So mysterious, and the colors are scrumptious.

Leah, what a wonderful piece you have created here ! It is just so moving on so many levels for me. It made me sigh, a big soul sigh…

The invincible summer within still has to fight its way through those long cold months…staring at Winter’s beauty from the safety of my cozy perch helps get me through. Your painting shows the beauty of my darkest season so perfectly…

The invincible summer within still has to fight its way through the long cold months…staring at Winter’s beauty from behind the icy glass helps get me through…Your painting shows the beauty of my darkest season perfectly…

I love your work with things “underneath:” the rowboats and whales, this (lovely!), and above: birds everywhere all the time. Because of you I now have birds in my own art – who knew? Love the snowflakes here. Jealous of your snowflakes outside. We have….rain. Rain. More Rain. Mud. Grey skies. But it’s solstice! Today the dark starts its retreat. Yea! This pciture reminds me of your January picture in the calendar – trees/roots/magic. Have I ever mentioned that when I get rich I’m buying all your originals?

This is one of my favorites. Not only do I love how the colors along with the numbers and snowflakes in the sky create a really upbeat and happy image, but the first thing I thought of when I saw the underground roots attached to the key was the root chakra and how we draw energy up through the earth. The little bird on the tree is such a nice touch… wouldn’t have known this paitning started out with a dark feeling. Love it! And thanks for reminding me about chakra energy.

yes, this is really special. I have a lot to say about it, but i think you probably already know…Love it!

You obviously have a mystical link to trees: perhaps you were a Druid in a former life.

Here’s another quote, by Rabindranath Tagore: Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.

I think you are listening as well.

leah, this is one of the best I have seen you do, imo ;) she’s beautiful…I love the way you use the element of color and design to tell a story about your ladies…they are always so expressive in a mysterious way…it makes your work so incredibly fun and always stimulating…love her! I would love to see what you did with the color red or yellow, hmmm…. although blue is my favorite color!


Lovely lovely painting.
have a beautiful day!

Leah, I have nominated you for a friendship blogger award to honor your effort to inspire creativity in the daily lives of others. Please visit my blog to check it out. Just a small token of my appreciation for the impact that you have made in my life.


Leah, this is absolutely stunning! I could just look at this for ages. Your art is evolving so beautifully. Have a lovely and peaceful Christmas :) Hugs, Kerstin xo

Love the feel of this – it speaks of hidden treasures and growth beneath the surface really well.

Leah, I love this. This is such a stunning work of art! The way the light and shadows on the ground lay are beautiful. The concept is beautiful. I could look at your art for hours! Merry Christmas!

Love this one!


that is lovely!

oooohhhhh leah!!! this painting is so so so beautiful and magical!!! it’s so perfect!!! how winter things are happening beneath the surface… ooooohhhhh fabulous work!!!


Oh, my dear. This painting speaks directly to my heart. I think it might be my most favorite one that you’ve ever done. *sigh* yes, I just love it.

big hugs to you, my beautiful artist friend. :)

Gorgeous painting, Leah! One of my favourites of yours.

Just wanted to stop by and say Merry Christmas, as I won’t be on the internet so much for the next couple of days (I think). Hope you have a lovely day! It has been great getting to know you through your blog. :)

Lots of love

Andrea xxx

this is soooo beautiful! I love the blue colors that are throughout the painting. I love them because winter can be beautiful, not just cold and dreary. And it is the same with the “winter” of life, that even those dreary days in our lives, those dark losses and such, can have beauty, can have meaning, can be powerful, and can offer us a glimpse of the brightness that is always present, whether it be in the coldest day in winter or longest day in summer.

Thank you for sharing!

Leah..this is beautiful! I love the colors you use in your painting! Wonderful Job!


Happy Holidays to you and yours! :)

I think this is one of my new favorites of yours. So beautiful, so wintery. Love the shapes and colors.
Well done my friend.

Wow – I’m of two minds on this one. First, I love the painting as it is. The cold of her shadow, the taught line from the key to the roots/tree below ground. As usual, I like the way the invisible becomes visible in your work, and ideas and feelings are drawn up from below by your symbols. Like The Lighthouse which I have at work now, not hung or placed so well aesthetically, because it’s where I see it just past my PC monitor. The point is that I see it more often than most things outside my screen. And it works well for me there, calming me and keeping me connected to deeper things.

On the other hand… I read through the comments wondering if anyone else regretted the loss of the darker, spookier image. What might that have meant? I’ve also not followed a dark image to it’s conclusion, realizing that I’d had a glimpse through the door and that was enough (I didn’t want to enter the room). But I sometimes wonder what those moments mean, and what might have happened if I’d walked into that room – towards that darkness – finished those images…

I don’t know. I don’t know if I want to know. I do know that I wonder.

This is incredibly beautiful! I have had troubles commenting in the last few, I hope to spend time catching up. I love this painting.

Beautiful post, beautiful art. I see that lots of us are focusing on the same issues. It’s great to know that.

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