Editor’s note: The following are excerpts from the book Inspirations of Timeless Beauty by the author.
Jeanne Bonine, a Romantic Realist, is known for her soft and lush larger-than-life floral paintings. Although her early works of the 1970s were executed in oils, Bonine soon discovered the challenge of transparent watercolor. It has become the medium of her choice, as she learns through the years to master "purist" techniques and the art of controlled freedom. She began to self-publish her works in 1986 as limited edition lithographs and later evolved to the newer method of giclée printing, releasing nearly 100 of her works within a 20-year span.
In 1994, after being treated for Stage III breast cancer, Bonine began to write prose and poetry, creatively revealing her idealist beliefs. The art of inspiring has become the essence of her paintings and writings. Her watercolor images can be found in galleries throughout the United States and in collectors’ homes and offices throughout the world.
A native of St. Paul, Minn., Bonine made the Southwest her home in 1994. Surrounded by subtle beauty and luminescent light, Jeanne finds the Sonoran Desert a vital part of her inspiration and well-being. Her studio in north Scottsdale, Ariz., is open by appointment.
I had reached acceptance and believed that a master plan was in progress. Surrendering is a devotion to God’s will. It is not a submission of death. "Moonlight Surrender" was inspired and painted from the depths of my soul. It was a self-portrait of a lone swan swimming in darkness. Aware of her frailties, clear of her intentions, and unencumbered by fear, she pursued her way toward the light. The painting was published by several Twin Cities Deck the Walls stores with a portion of their proceeds being donated to the American Cancer Society. It was dedicated "To all who encounter the face of darkness that they may courageously surrender their fears and discover the light of hope and joy." The following year, the original watercolor was stolen from a prominent St. Paul gallery. I was unshaken by its symbolic removal as I had already learned the lesson of letting go. Perhaps someone needed it more than I.
The long shadows of the early sun cast my bald image alongside those of the cacti and I could not distinguish one from the other. The Sonoran Desert would become my way of life. Severe in its elements, it promised a story of survival. If I listened to its silent lessons, could I be among the miraculous that flourished despite all odds?
I wondered in confusion,
Dreaming and searching for
reason and hope.
At last I came upon a desert dream
And my life began again.
In sandy submission I grasped onto this
strange and wondrous land
And watched with guided inspiration
As a cactus flower, left orphaned with disappointment
And the pains of drought,
Summoned her courage
To blossom in a profusion of light.
Surely if she could survive,
So could I!
Surrendering to this vision of strength,
I found reason in acceptance,
Life in courage,
And hope in the beauty that they bring.
Recognition came when I was honored to have my work displayed in a three-woman show at the West Valley Art Museum. The curator labeled me a Romantic Realist. How could he know so much about me from my paintings? Did he know it was incurable? Throughout my single life, I had experienced my share of romantic interludes. Now there was no need, for the love of life and the love of my work had won my dedication. The truer I became to this relationship, the more my art experienced flow, and the more my art experienced flow, the more visible the message of my art became.
Art is a reflection of the self-the essence
of what the artist sees and feels.
It is through the process of creating
that the art and the artist
deepening the symbiotic relationship
of awareness, interdependence,
From this union my purpose was born. Collectors and admirers of my work began to tell me that my paintings brought them peace and raised their awareness of beauty to a new level, and those who were suffering claimed it took their pain away. Everything happens for a reason; it is part of the tapestry we weave. What some think of as tragedy, others think of as fortune. Suddenly my dreams of the Peace Corps vanished and I was no longer a virgin of longing. Without sacrificing my love of art for the love of service, I was accomplishing both.
How did I become the Romantic Realist, the watercolorist whose passion it is to bring beauty and light to the world? Perhaps it began on the lakes of Minnesota, where I was drawn to the silence and serenity of the moment. There, surrounded by Nature’s intent, I began to feel the fabric of life. Spoken in the whispers of the wind were the answers to all I would seek. By opening my heart to the beauty that would surround my life, I would see what God had intended, for Nature is the greatest teacher of all.
Unencumbered by its own beauty is it not the rose who, in sweet surrender, gives of itself and worries not of tomorrow? In a desert where no flower should dare to bloom, is it not life, in quest of life, that gives way to the greatest miracle of all, thus fulfilling the promise of the spirit? Alone in the silent serenity of my mind, I find myself in a studio of oneness; and there I continue to create with gratitude and love.
Psychologists have placed me in the five percent of the population who are "Idealists." I was unaware of this until several years ago when I read Please Understand Me, a comprehensive volume on personality types and temperaments by David Keirsey. It places me in the same category as Gandhi, who stood for Truth, Integrity, Justice and Virtue; as Apollo, healer and Greek god of light; as Plato, the quintessential Idealist, inventor of philosophy; as the altruistic Joan of Arc; as poet Emily Dickinson; and as the incurable romantics Romeo and Juliet. There is one thing I know I have in common with these great idealists, and that is the dedication of my life to self-realization – pursuing my own identity, my own personal meaning of my true self. The life of a sage, one who transcends the material world, the ego, and even time, describes my metaphysical journey. Perhaps in my paintings I have achieved this lofty goal, blessed with the cosmic sweetness of witnessing my true destiny.
Step softly in the garden of life
And take repose next to the seat of the soul.
For there, in the deep, dreamy world of riches,
The purpose of life’s intent will be fulfilled.
Let the earth cradle you in the soil of wisdom,
Rocking you to sleep through its selfless rhythm.
Let the skies flood you with liquid sunshine,
Nourishing you with the knowledge of truth.
Lie there, in this bed of cosmic sweetness,
Until your heart has learned to sing
And the sound has awakened you to life.