24 April 2019

A Beach Towel

From March 29, 2007

A Beach Towel (Intercontinental -Miami )


Reading Study Guide to “A Woman’s Call to Prayer” by Elizabeth George

Sitting in a lounge chair, on a thick white towel provided by the hotel – no, we didn’t need to bring the big, heavy beach towels from home that took up so much room m the suitcase – my eyes are drawn to the beautiful blue sky and big white clouds drifting by.

I close my book because Elizabeth George said to. She writes, “Stop where you are and set your timer to pray for 5 minutes. Easy… “God you are so amazing. Look at the way You hang those clouds iii the big beautiful sky you stretched out!”

In back of my head, just a few feet away on the other side of the lush hedge with red flowers, a weed eater that needs tuning starts and stops and starts and stops and…. Poor guy is just doing his job unlike me sitting here as a guest on this thick white towel.

Oh yeah … I was praying … “God of creation, God of salvation, thank You for saving me.”

My cell phone is ringing … or is it the lady’s beside me who is reading ‘”The Secret of Bees” (the cover says it’s a New York Times Best Seller)? I wonder what it’s about?

Oh yeah… “Dear God, thank you for this time away so that I can focus on You.”

I wonder if the front desk has a big box I could have to pack the beach towels in so I’d have more room in my suitcase? I actually prayed about what to bring on this trip. Did I not listen to the response? Was it so insignificant that God didn’t respond? Will we need the towels in the next two days to come?

There’s the weed-eater man again. Boy! He must have a really big job!

“Lord. Teach me how to pray – not to get answers but to commit my mind and heart to be sensitive to an indwelling Holy Spirit that I believe wants to be a part of me -that we are one -packing a towel, dealing with sickness and death, loving a friend, praying and caring for family, working out or just sitting on a thick white hotel towel. Transform me to be one with you – feet firmly planted on earth (although sometimes it feels like I’m up to the ankles in mud) with arms reaching up to heaven.”

“Hear me Lord. Hear me as I pray.” -Bonnie Raitt

Buddy just got back from his morning meetings -they gave him a beach towel as a remembrance of the conference.

9 April 2019

The Sensory Button

The Sensory Button

March 23, 2019

Sleep happens to me as my head travels downward to the pillow. I’ve come to realize that I have a sensory button on the back of my head. As that button makes contact with the pillow, it turns off all of my voluntary thinking and actions. I’m asleep – this device is on a timer. When the device triggers around 4 am, my head levitates from the pillow – all unintentional.

The intentional calls me to negotiate the steps downward toward the kitchen. Intentionally grabbing my necessities – coat, mud boats, phone and most importantly my flashlight. Opening the kitchen door I enter into the darkness. After a few steps, I turn off the flashlight looking up into the dark uncluttered sky I say “Thank you Jesus.” My morning greeting.

Maybe it’s 100 yards to the studio. In that limited–sight journey, I’m overwhelmed. The beam of light from the flashlight is giving me all the information that is necessary.

Studio door creaks and I begin a familiar routine – mud shoes off, studio shoes on, coffee to be made and praise music fills my space. Some mornings I know exactly what I want to paint – very intentional. Then there are mornings when what happens is completely unplanned – unintentional. Intentional and unintentional – that would make up all of life. The unintentional good stuff can be the best ever or the worst. Same is true with the intentional.

Walking over in the dark is placing myself in the intentional. I have limited information on this narrow path with only a beam of light. I’m good with that. The limited sight offers freedom. I am not responsible for what’s out in the dark that I cannot see. This predicament forces me to have a trusting heart.

On the journey home, the sun is up and my eyes are filled with sky, grass, trees, noticed chores to be done – a kaleidoscope – sensory overload.

My art has always been about identifying the essential and eliminating the rest. On the walk over to the studio in the dark, all is eliminated except the beam lighting the path. One beam of light, one focus.

In the light of day, I declutter my life – embracing the necessary, but releasing my grip on what’s not.

Depending moment by moment on God’s spirit, I can make determinations on what needs to be kept and what needs to go.

The 100 yard march is a plugging into recharge. Setting my mind on what is above. As I look up into the morning sky, it doesn’t look cluttered to me. Peace from above.

This sensory button is one of my most cherished parts of this old body. Like the many other parts inside me that I don’t understand, this sensory feature is mysterious – totally involuntary.

I pray God takes control of my intentional thoughts. He says his thoughts are not my thoughts. Lord please take control of my thinking. I intentionally give my thinking over to you. Place in me that Holy Spirit sensory button that changes my thinking to agree with yours.

13 September 2018

I want to share my Artist Statement…

I wanted to share my Artist Statement

written 2011…

Once upon a time I was a chicken farmer. Within a year of raising these small peeping creatures in a cardboard box with a heat lamp as their ceiling, I turned from chicken farmer to trapper – live trap, of course, but none the less a trapper. My new best friend was a fellow named Floyd – “Floyd the coon man.” Floyd, with his snow white beard reaching his chest, came on property and showed me how to catch the critters that had found my chicken lot to be a smorgasbord of Road Island Red, Plymouth White, Sex Links and even Bantam hens. During this three month feast I ran over to the barn every morning to see what my clever traps had caught. The stats are 6 possums, 4 raccoons, 3 neighborhood cats (one looked a lot like a bobcat!) and, yes, 3 chickens. The sad story came to close when Floyd came to pick up his catch, a raccoon, and left that day with his trap. Game over!

My sadness was overwhelming. A fellow chicken farmer gave me the wisdom I desperately needed. She said, “Carylon, you will never be able to catch all the predators. You cannot stamp out all evil. You can only protect the good.” So…. I am now pursuing an electric fence. I have given up trying to do away with evil. I am focusing on protecting the good.

So with my heart, my life, my art… I will continue to pursue good. I want to see God’s goodness and focus my life around it. I want to paint the good I see and hope it saturates the viewer with that intent.

Coming under attack in more places than any chicken yard in 2010 has prompted me to rethink God’s plan for my life. It’s wasted energy to fight off the bad. My energy needs to be focused on a steady abiding in the good.

I anticipate with smiles and giggles getting more peeping chickens under the heat lamp in the Spring. This time I’ll be smarter.

My art is an extension of all that I think and all that I do, but most of all it is an expression of God in me.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report – if there is any virtue, if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.

  • Philippians 4:8

24 August 2018

Common Materials

August 23, 2018

Common Materials

Underneath all of the real art supplies, painstakingly placed in my car were 7-8 pieces of cardboard – some were old U-Haul boxes broken down after our move from one home to the mountain where we live now.  Other sections of cardboard were torn and tattered from protecting the real art traveling to galleries.
Most recently my journey in art (that also parallels my life story) is a popular notion of transparency. Seeking out what’s real and purposefully exposing it. The furniture industry began this transparency through deconstruction. Leaving chairs and sofas partially void of upholstery fabric – exposing the lining and nails of the inner structural materials.
In my art I have been exploring the significance of say, cardboard, not as a protection for the real art but giving dignity to the cardboard itself. By stripping off sections of the thin outer layer of this material, one discovers the real strength. A unified ridge of waves inside the cardboard is the skeletal support. Like the cardboard, there is anything but polished refinement in my art and in my life. The unfinished trackings of a painting are as easily identified as my personal flaws.
Transparency… Realness…
Edvard Munch made 3 copies of “The Scream”.  The medium (materials) of these three artworks were; oil, tempera and pastel on cardboard, tempera on cardboard and lino print. Cardboard’s durability is shown by this work that was painted in 1895.

Another common material is roofing felt or tar paper. Its common importance as an all weather protection to keep our homes from the elements. However, it is also a delightful surface for paint to adhere to . I paint from dark to light so the black surface is a tool.
Realness.. Transparency….Deconstruction

5 June 2018


June 5, 2018


Aunt Ann quipped, “They made me take piano lessons, but it didn’t take.” It’s a curious thing what “takes” in our lives. Things that take stick. Not just adhering to the surface like a sticky note, but more like penetrating our very core, as the South began to seep into my pores at 9 years old. My birthplace may have been Detroit, but southern wrapped around me like kudzu in the Nantahala Gorge. It took!

One of those curious things happened to me in the 4th grade when my teacher told me that I should be an artist, I may not be able to tell you what I had for breakfast but that suggestion “took!”

Old photo albums prompt feelings of nostalgia. A 1959 snapshot of what “took” in my Mom, Imogene (or Jean as most folks called her) – standing there in her starched white uniform and her white shoes hand on her hip beside a sign that read “Jean’s Beauty Shop.” What a great snapshot! The kind taken with a Brownie camera – the glossy print has beautiful deckled edges.

Technology may have changed the photo process, but not the essence of “Take” in the snapshot itself. They don’t call it a smart phone today for nothing. My iPhone arranges my snapshots into collections. I’ve never asked it to – it just does it. Probably because we are obsessed with organization! Hey, I’m good with that. Come to think about it, my art is huddled into collections. Gatherings of images that have taken root and been revisited over and over. Such huddles include Boats & Canoes, Figurative, Horses & Hounds, Cows & Barns and a hodgepodge I call Still Life.

Back to Jean… that white starched uniform was designed and worn to announce the purpose for the day. Wearable fabric is the snapshot of a purposeful moment in time. A gentleman’s white shirt, a wedding gown or possibly a vintage print swimsuit is a proclamation of an event. A memory saved.

Yes it’s true “until the cows come home.” I walk into a barn, see the cows and smile. The grounding smells of an honest lifestyle are a symbol of hope. Who would build a barn without hope to fill it?

Thank you Garden & Gun and the late Ben Hardaway. Seeing a snapshot of his hounds coming over a hill eager and enthusiastic for a new morning makes me know I’m not alone. Lord, I love the early mornings….. and painting hounds! A collection of horses was first prompted by folk artist Purvis Young. Horses are icons for freedom which Purvis longed for. My work has been influenced by his use of cardboard, file folders and such. Guessing art supplies are limited in prison. Character and interest through recycling!

My Boats and Canoes are almost entirely without people. Messiness happens when people come in! These floating images are minimalistic, balanced and have an overall sense of calm. Everything you need in that moment is within that contained area. Trustworthy for your complete surrender. So, viewer, like the bumper sticker reads “Just get in, sit down and shut up.”

Like Aunt Ann, not all things “take”. Thanks goodness! Wouldn’t life be messy if all things “took?” Once upon a time in a casual conversation I was saying how I had never been to St Louis. Shortly after that, seeing an old snapshot of me in front of the Arch is an example of a sticky note memory that was blown off with a breeze.

My art is a collection of “takes” of images. Life’s moments that stick. Snapshots that bring a slow smile to a memory revisited.

25 May 2016

Gracious Plenty

May 25, 2016

Gracious Plenty

Down on 11th Street, truck farmers brought in their homegrown produce. The tomatoes, peaches, okra all come in balsa wood “crates”. These small oblong crates were just the right size for picnic lunches. In Ladybug’s kitchen, after the produce came out the baskets were hand washed and put in the sun to dry out. Small groupings of cherries were hand painted on the side to match the green binder at the top. Then a red checked napkin was spread out and pushed into the lunch box. Into the box was placed 2 pieces of Julia’s fried chicken – one white meat breast and a second piece of dark meat thigh or drumstick. One half of salt risen bread sandwich, with the crust cut off, would have pimento cheese made from cheese grated by hand and Julia’s famous mayonnaise. The other half would be carefully constructed cream cheese, thin sliced cucumber and a thin spread of, yes, Julia’s mayo. Something wonderful happens to a sandwich after dwelling in wax paper. Next comes a small cup of potato salad and carrot and celery sticks.

The last 2 serendipities are wrapped separately – one chocolate brownie and one lemon square.

Pass the fruit filled ice tea and you have one of the hundreds of Southern summer gatherings at Ladybug’s.

The picnic basket was a “gracious plenty”.

At 19, she came into my life. It’s no wonder that Ladybug with her bent toward details would ask me … a house guest … her son’s new girlfriend…. a question that completely changed the trajectory of my life. She asked me if I was a sinner. My answer came immediately … NO! Very quietly she said “the Bible says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

The “gracious plenty” picnic basket is a picture of Ladybug’s entire life. Her beliefs and her behaviors were so in alignment that what was inside the basket was all-important. She that day knew an empty basket when she saw one!

Ladybug had the finest home my borrowed shoes had ever been in. Much like the basket with the hand painted cherries, I looked kinda cute on the outside. The girls in my dorm, when learning of my “weekending” at the home of my soon to be husband and father of the child I was ALREADY carrying, they collectively filled a suitcase with name brand clothes… all to be returned! My outside was painted up kinda cute, but my inside was empty. There was no “gracious plenty” in me, and for the 1st time I knew I was empty.

Ephesians 3:19 says:

“… and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge that you may be FILLED UP to all the fullness of God.”

“Gracious plenty” came into my heart that day. HIS fullness began to fill my basket. Over the next 20+ years, Ladybug gently placed truths from the Word that were gracious and plenty into my empty basket.

Here in the South, religion has been exposed as something to be proclaimed, sometimes from the roof tops, but has nothing to do with how we live our lives. What’s inside the basket is the “good stuff”… the “real stuff”.

So how do I know “gracious plenty” actually happened inside me that day?

Might as well lay it out there! I confess I’m also a country music fan. As one lyric goes…
“like a needle in a groove” …surely you remember “vinyl”. When the needle was in the groove it was magical! The trajectory, the path was set. My empty basket was being lovingly filled.

17 July 2015

Ballard Designs Interview

July 17, 2015

I wanted to share a wonderful interview from Ballard Designs. Hopefully it will give you more information regarding my art as well as give glory to God, who makes all things (even my art) possible!

Local Painter, Chattanooga

Ballard Designs: Tell us a little about yourself and your path to becoming an artist.

Carylon Killebrew: In the fourth grade my teacher told me I was going to be an artist, and I just took her word for it. That’s why I went to college to study art. My focus was in Italian printmaking, and I continued that after college until a gallery owner in Atlanta told me she loved my work but that her clients wanted larger pieces. The press bed will only accommodate certain sizes, so she suggested I start painting large pieces on canvas. It turned out I loved painting large-scale. That was at least 20 years ago.

BD: And the rest is history?

CK: Not exactly! I took a 20-year sabbatical to raise a family. We had four children — and now I have 11 grandchildren — and I didn’t try to do art during that time. I just kind of put it on the shelf. I got into the fitness industry and developed a fitness center here in Chattanooga, because that was something I could do with the kids. Once the kids were settled, I got back into art. (Editor’s note: Carylon received the Governor’s award for physical fitness for raising awareness of the need for fitness programs in Chattanooga.)

BD: How would you describe your art?

CK: Minimalist. I keep it in the back of mind always to identify the essential and eliminate everything else. Typically, I start with a particular form, which I refer to as an icon. I use icons in my work, and it’s actually how my art is divided on my website: Figurative, Boats and Water, Still Life, Cows, and Hounds and Horses.

BD: Boats is one of your popular series. Can you explain the significance of this icon?

CK: The boat is an icon for surrender, peace, stillness and rest. You have to get into that boat, but once you’ve entered it, everything you need for a moment in time is inside that boat. The headmaster of the Baylor School here in Chattanooga wrote a book and he used to say, “I love a boat. A boat is small enough to create an order, one that is complete and satisfying even though the rest of your life is in chaos.” I really identify with that.

BD: So starting from an icon that is representative of an idea is what inspires your work?

CK: Absolutely. Each one of these icons is about getting down to the essence of an emotion, a memory or a thing. Trying desperately to put a thought with an image in the most simplified, honest way that I can. I totally appreciate people who give lots and lots of detail to their work, but that’s not who I am. I paint with big brushes and I paint really quickly. My husband says I paint like the studio is burning down. I have more energy than I know what do with. And I think sometimes that comes across on the canvas, but hopefully it comes across in an uncluttered, simple way.

BD: As you said, your boat scenes exude a certain quietude, not unlike your cows. So…why cows?

CK: While we raised our children we lived on a city farm that’s actually just two miles from downtown Chattanooga where we had cows, horses and chickens on 20 acres. We lived there for 30 years. I’ve always loved cows. It’s their strength and their calmness. They’re also gentle, quiet and humble. I also love to paint horses, but they are intimidating. Horses know more than I do. Cows do not!

BD: One of our favorites is Mango the Cow. You actually have the original on your wall at home.

CK: I do! It’s hanging in my kitchen. That is not based on a cow we owned. We have a place in North Carolina, and when we’re driving along, my husband will pull the car over if he sees a cow he thinks I might want to take shots of. I gather photographs from all these cows and use them for inspiration. When I do these series, I get stuck on, say, cows for a while and I think, “I’ll never paint another cow!” And three months later I’m painting another cow. It always makes me think of Georgia O’Keefe, who, of course, painted the same thing over and over. She said, “It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.” I love that!

BD: Can you describe your creative process? What does an average day look like for you?

CK: I’m a Christian and all my work is faith-based. My typical day begins at 4 a.m. — I told you I had way too much energy! I’m in my bed at 3:30 waiting for it to be 4. I just cannot wait to get out of bed. By that time, I already know what it is that I want to do, and I come down and turn on music. I have a very eclectic play list, but in the morning, I listen to Christian instrumental for the first two hours of my day. I pray that God will honor the work of my hands, and for those two hours I paint in the darkness of the morning. Then my husband gets up, and we sit and have a devotional before he goes to work and I go back to the studio. Our home is a landing pad for my family and grandkids, so they come and go during the day. I might have to pick up someone and take them to climbing or tutoring or what have you. I’ll have windows of opportunity all day long to go back into the studio, but the thought process and the foundation is done in the wee hours of the morning.

Painting Studio

Carylon’s studio; Photo: Huff Harrington

BD: Do you start one piece and work on that one piece until it’s finished?

CK: No, I’m too ADD for that! I’ll start one piece in the early morning, but I probably have about four things going in the studio at one time. Sometimes I’ll prop things up throughout the house just to be able to walk by and catch it in my peripheral vision and think about what’s working or not and see if something pops out at me. It’s a really good thing to live with that piece and make changes along the way like that.

BD: Would you say your style has evolved over the years?

CK: You know I was hoping it would! But sometimes when I look back at some of my older work, I think, “Oh, you’re still doing that” or “You’re still applying it like this.” I think there’s a part of me that will always apply paint to the canvas in the only way I know how to, but I’m constantly learning and watching and taking in other work. I’m totally inspired by other people’s art and what they’re doing, so hopefully those influences are being compressed down into my work. But I basically do the same work. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a figurative piece or a boat or a cow. What I’m looking at is value — light and dark. I look at the planes of the face, or the planes on a cow or the planes where the light hits the boat. All of that is the same — it doesn’t matter what the imagery is.

BD: We’re so excited to have you as an exclusive artist and to have pieces of your work that our customers won’t find anywhere else. Why did you decide to work with Ballard?

CK: We love Provence and Italy, and we love to travel and take tons of photos. Our home is a reflection of that aesthetic, and we see that same aesthetic in Ballard Designs. It is a European-influenced catalog. It looked like a good fit to me. I hope I’ll be worthy!

BD: How do you envision people enjoying your art in their homes?

CK: My daughters have come with me to a few outdoor exhibits I’ve had, and they always say, “Mom, when people walk by your booth, they all smile.” There’s enough hard stuff in life. I want people to enjoy my work and smile when they see it. When you choose something for your home, I hope it would be something that makes you smile and brings you enjoyment.

BD: What brings you enjoyment or inspiration these days?

CK: I illustrated a children’s book about a true story of a rescue dog not too long ago, and I would like to once again incorporate writing and visuals together. If I were to do another residency in training for a month away from home, I would focus on another illustrated book.

Whatever you do, just keep making us smile! Thanks, Carylon.

21 February 2015

For My Grandson Austin

February 21, 2015

For My Grandson Austin

Krylon in one hand, camera in the other, Austin makes quick bold black lines on the large white wall. A canvas so big that it would intimidate most artists.

He works so confidently with the mark making, one would assume he is tracing over already carefully constructed pencil lines – lines that have been calculated earlier by some sequence of anal designs.

Austin is a graffiti artist. After the black lines go up, the creativity continues with bold colors that pour out of him like waves at high tide … one right after another. Reds, yellows, blues … no holding back.

Moving quickly, full body. Whole arm over the large wall with the rhythm of a professional ice skater on the ice. Big beautiful loops and swirls. Austin paints in his zone.

He is blessed with a gift that is so surprising that even he, after the “performance” stops, stands back and wonders “How?”

The gift is a free flow, but there is another side to this beautiful person. A popular interviewer’s question is “Where would you most likely never be seen?” For Austin it would be watching TV. Austin is a doer.

For the past 10+ years I have watched him practice another art form that has not been
as free flow as his graffiti has been … Skating.

The earlier illustration of the creative pulses of the waves rolling in takes on another storyline with his skating. When those waves roll in one after another, they crash – one after another. Austin never gives up. One crash after another for years trying to get hard flip or front side flip just right. Austin the fearless one has staying power! Courage and steadfastness and a dependency on Jesus Christ – WOW … what a combo. I’ll have a scoop of each please.

Thank you my mentor…. Austin Noonan

2 January 2015


January 2, 2015


Oralee once said to clean a house you needed an apron with pockets. That caused a pause in my thinking. A “pocket”? Why is a pocket essential for cleaning a house?

Living is messy and cluttered. The clutter has to be removed to make contact with the sink, floor, countertops – whatever. This is where those big side pockets come in.

Polly… do you remember the criteria for Oralee vacuuming your room? She has to be able to see the carpet.

Messiness may happen in the process, but by elimination, it has no place in the finished product.
Lord take away the clutter in my life and clean my heart. get rid of anything in the way of that cleaning.

24 November 2014

Identify the Essential and Eliminate the Rest

November 24, 2014

Identify the essential and eliminate the rest

A large sheet of splattered sheetrock is on my easel. It serves my purpose to secure the canvases to stay put. I have two easels. Both splattered with 20+ years of paint and writing. Writing “bullets” that I have hidden under the canvases as though they have the ability to seep through the back onto the surface and become visible. My favorite is … “Identify the essential and eliminate the rest.” Sounds too easy.

Given the choice of digging a ditch or sewing a button, I take the digging. It’s the way I am wired. My painting echoes that. No noodling, no details. Details are in the foundation – the underpainting. Kinda like the “rough in” of a building’s framing – exposed wiring and plumbing but it doesn’t remain that visually busy once it hides under sheetrock. Identify the essential and eliminate the rest.

The “rough in” begins with black paint mapping out the journey.

Canvas covered – stand back and look. “Identify the essential and eliminate the rest.” What on this storyboard is talking too much? What needs to be quiet so that the necessary can be heard? Honoring the “small talk” but moving to the essence. Big brushes, bold strokes move over the busy mark making. Done – my eyes are calmed. I don’t hear the chatter. I have “identified the essential and eliminated the rest.”

Now may I do that in my life. Give me power and wisdom to live a simple life. Glorifying God in life. I want to squint more.

Best to you,

Twitter Feeds

  • Bad Twitter account data!