Hidden beauty: Gail Sibley, "The Red Bowl," Unison Colour pastels on UART paper, plein air painting

The Hidden Beauty In The Mundane

As I was reminded recently by a dear friend, as artists, we possess a unique gift—the ability to perceive the extraordinary within the ordinary, to see the hidden beauty that can lie in the mundane fabric of our existence. 

Then in our creations, we reveal to others the light and colour we’ve seen, offering glimpses of the profound in the seemingly trivial. 

This is the kind of depth with which we artists see. These thoughts had me turn to Mary Oliver’s poem, Gratitude.

In her poem, Oliver invites us to engage in a reflection on the elements of our lives that often go unnoticed. Through her keen observations, she prompts us to ask ourselves: What did we notice today? What did we hear, admire, find astonishing, and wish to see again? In these contemplative verses, she weaves a tapestry of gratitude, celebrating the hidden beauty in the details that can escape our hurried attention.

As we approach the turning of the year, I urge you to consider the transformative power of a daily reckoning—taking a moment to pause, observe, and be grateful for the small marvels in the world around us.


Gratitude by Mary Oliver

What did you notice?

The dew-snail; the low-flying sparrow; 

the bat, on the wind, in the dark; 

big-chested geese, in the V of sleekest performance; 

the soft toad, patient in the hot sand; 

the sweet-hungry ants; the uproar of mice in the empty house; 

the tin music of the cricket’s body; 

the blouse of the goldenrod.

What did you hear?

The thrush greeting the morning; 

the little bluebirds in their hot box; 

the salty talk of the wren,

then the deep cup of the hour of silence.

When did you admire?

The oaks, letting down their dark and hairy fruit; 

the carrot, rising in its elongated waist; 

the onion, sheet after sheet, curved inward to the pale green wand; 

at the end of summer the brassy dust, the almost liquid beauty of the flowers; 

then the ferns, scrawned black by the frost.

What astonished you?

The swallows making their dip and turn over the water.

What would you like to see again?

My dog: her energy and exuberance, her willingness, her language beyond all nimbleness of tongue, her recklessness, her loyalty, her sweetness, her strong legs, her curled black lip, her snap.

What was most tender?

Queen Anne’s lace, with its parsnip root; 

the everlasting in its bonnets of wool; 

the kinks and turns of the tupelo’s body; 

the tall, blank banks of sand; 

the clam, clamped down.

What was most wonderful?

The sea, and its wide shoulders; 

the sea and its triangles; 

the sea lying back on its long athlete’s spine.

What did you think was happening?

The green beast of the hummingbird; 

the eye of the pond; 

the wet face of the lily; 

the bright, puckered knee of the broken oak; 

the red tulip of the fox’s mouth; 

the up-swing, the down-pour, the frayed sleeve of the first snow—

so the gods shake us from our sleep.


I’d love to hear your thoughts about the poem and how it may have affected you. And those questions, will you take up the daily reckoning? What hidden beauty will you uncover?

Here’s to this practice of reflection and gratitude!

Until next time (that’ll be in 2024!!),

~ Gail

PS. The painting at the top of this post is a plein air pastel I did just last week in La Manzanilla!

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14 thoughts on “The Hidden Beauty In The Mundane”

  1. Hi Gail, I just loved Mary Oliver’s poem – caused me to put on the brakes and think about things. Thank you for causing me to reflect. have a wonderful Christmas Best wishes!

  2. Hi Gail, thank you for the Poem.
    It does make you think and possibly to take a little bit more notice of the things that we do notice on a daily basis.
    I never heard that said before, that Artists notice things that the average person doesn’t. I believe that is actually true, because I do notice all kinds of stuff. As a matter of fact, sometimes, my wife will say to me as we are out walking to anywhere, will you be quiet. 🤣😂🤣. So I do agree with that statement and never knew it was a regular thing that Artists do.

    Thank you Gail and welcome back home and have a wonderful Christmas with your family and have a better and healthy New Year! x. 😁😁😁😁😁

    1. Hi Ed, I think we who visually create take it for granted that everyone sees the way we do. But they don’t as I am reminded by collectors and readers of this blog! We are so lucky…and we can share that seeing with others (even if we need to slow it down sometimes 🤣). I can totally relate to your walk. I’m always,” Wow – look at that red violet over there through the green leaves” or “Look at the amazing shapes those light streaks are making” or…it goes on forever!

      Have a wonderful Christmas Ed and here’s to magical paintings in the new year (along with health and happiness)!! 🥳

  3. Hey Gail, love the poem. It’s a great reminder that beautiful & amazing things happen every day that I don’t notice. Thank you for bringing this sentiment back to me. I plan in the new year to make the change to observe and have gratitude for all the beauty that surrounds me & I know it will translate into my paintings. Wish you a very peaceful & happy 2024!

    1. Ahhh Patti, many thanks for sharing your commitment to observe more. As you say, it will all come into your paintings.
      Wishing you the same in 2024!! 🎉

  4. Hi Gail. Merry Christmas.
    I have the habit of responding immediately so for the poem, it seemed only right to let it simmer a while. There was something niggling at the back of my mind, and it surfaced at 2.00am. What she is describing is the world through child’s eyes. That wonder and curiosity they have. That also linked for me to your November Blog – Letting go of the outcome, because that is something children do very easily -if they paint something and it ends up looking more like something else, then something else it becomes. The other thing that struck me was a child’s focus is in the process of making art (the flip side of your blog). And sure, it wants the acknowledgement of their parent/adult, but they are already on the way to the next wondrous thing. I’m sat here typing, but I’m actually smelling the poster paint in school.
    Why is it so hard to return to something that was so natural?

  5. Happy New Year, Gail, and thank you. I am a silent reader of your blogs, but they never go unappreciated. As I get ready to teach more narrative art workshops, your words often surface in my classes. Teri

    1. Teri, how lovely to hear from you! I’m glad you popped by and broke your silence 😀 It’s always wonderful to hear any appreciation so THANK YOU!!

  6. My husband and I are learning about the beauty of his journey to the Father. My husband is not expected to live much longer, and certainly not until the next New Year, so we are walking together and seeing the sights and learning more and more about our love for each other. Definitely grateful for life!

    1. Ohhhh Liz, I’m sorry to hear this news and lifted by your outlook on the whole process of living life now, grateful and attentive to each day as you share it together. ❤️

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Gail Sibley

Artist. Blogger. Teacher.

My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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