The sky was cut in half, Oklahoma City artist Kelli Folsom remembers. One half was a brilliant hot pink, and the other was the dark blue-gray hue of an approaching thunderstorm. Being mid-May, the storm was moving quickly, and Folsom was already running late that morning.
For several days in a row, she had been waking up 15 to 30 minutes before dawn to find a different location near her home in northwest OKC and paint the sunrise from that perspective. But this morning — the only one she found stressful during her 30 days of painting the sunrise — she woke up late, rushed to scout out a spot and painted from memory that “insanely beautiful” sky from the inside of her car as the rain came down.
“No matter what the weather was doing, I said, ‘I’m going to get up at the time of the sunrise. I’m going to paint,’” Folsom said.
At first, she planned to paint only one, simply because she kept waking up around the time the sun had risen and felt she was missing out on “the best part of the day.” The same day she decided to wake up early, she came across a poem from Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet, that resonated with her and her artistic endeavor. She knows the phrase by heart and recited the poet’s inspirational words: “The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.”
She had to fight the urge to go back to sleep after the fifth or sixth day of painting. But after she detected those first signs of struggle, she wanted to commit to 30 days because she knew she wouldn’t go back on her word and the experience radiated inner positivity.
“I felt so nurtured by nature,” she said. “It gets into your system. You see the whole rest of the day with new eyes. You can appreciate so much more and have so much more gratitude for the rest of the day when you start out that way.” Folsom compared the experience to exercising; you hit a wall, but when you push through it, you’re set for the duration of the challenge.
She noticed that people on social media were also enjoying the routine, following her 30-day experience as she posted her latest landscape painting every morning. The reception encouraged her to use Blurb, an online self-publishing website, to compile her series into a book, 30 Sunrises in 30 Days, so people could have a memento or something tangible beyond Facebook.
The book includes all 30 works — mostly rural landscapes around northwest OKC — accompanied by Rumi poetry. It has already sold over 100 copies, and it can be purchased on Amazon.