Mirror, Mirror

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Vulnerability

I love the concept that what we “see” in something is what is already within us.  What attracts us are those traits which we possess and value, and what strikes a nerve is often something about ourselves that we are unhappy with.  Other people act as mirrors, reflecting our own traits back to us.  If something is not within us, we will not have a strong emotional response to it.  For example, my eldest son is quite hard on himself, and gets extremely frustrated when he isn’t automatically good at something, like reading.  He has responded to his frustration by calling himself stupid, and giving up.  This kills me a little inside every time I hear it, because he is not stupid, he is actually quite smart for his age, but also, because I have an internal fear of not being smart enough.  Him saying that strikes a nerve inside me because that’s how I feel, and I don’t like it because I’m insecure myself.  Meanwhile, it doesn’t bother my husband at all, in fact, I don’t think he “gets” the level of frustration that our son feels, because he doesn’t have the same gremlin to deal with, for he is confident within his intelligence.

I believe this is true of art…we see within a painting or sculpture or photograph what we are feeling or experiencing in our own life.  Our reaction to art is a reflection of how we are feeling in the moment.  For example, I created this piece with the intention of expressing vulnerability.  I wanted to show strength in vulnerability, allowing one to be transparently true to oneself, yet strong.  Brene Brown expresses her definition of vulnerability as “our most accurate measure of courage”.  Vulnerability is about having the courage to show up and be seen…really seen.  “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity.  It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability and authenticity.  If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”  Vulnerability is strength, not weakness.  It is allowing others to see your heart and soul in their truest forms.

Yet, when I was finished this piece and showing it to people, I had varying responses to the emotion portrayed.  One friend described her as sultry, and another as very sad.  These are quite opposite responses to the same image!  To be sultry, one must be confident, whereas sadness brings on a feeling of hopelessness, in my mind.  It’s all in your own mind’s perspective.  And that’s the vulnerability in sharing art!  It may trigger positive or negative emotions in people, which may be strong, and result in being expressed as “like” or “dislike” of a piece, having nothing to do with the artistry itself, and everything to do with the emotion it makes a person feel…what is mirrored back.  In my opinion, if art makes you feel something, anything, it has been successful in doing its job.

So, what do you see?  Does she bring up an emotion for you?  What is it?  I’d be honoured if you’d share your experience with me, even if in private.  You know where to find me.  😉  I’m curious.

And remember, you are never more courageous than when you are willing to be imperfect and vulnerable.  Cheers.

A Creative Affair

At one point in her book “Big Magic”, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about seducing creativity.  She recommends to dress up, put on makeup and perfume.  Have a hot affair with your craft.  Make time, even if it’s just 15 mins to “make out”, and be attractive to inspiration.

This theory intrigues me, and I’d like to take the thought a step farther.  You see, for this idea to make sense one must believe that ideas are energy, looking for people to work with them and express them.  That inspiration has it’s own life energy.  But if you find this hard to believe or get into, consider this…you are most freely and truly you when you feel confident and pretty.  So how can I expect my best creativity to come when I haven’t showered or shaved my legs or even gotten dressed for the day.  If I feel grubby and insecure and embarrassed by my appearance, I don’t believe I can create and express my joy.  However, if I approach my creative endeavors on a day that I feel beautiful and powerful and strong, my creations have a much different vibe.  When I’m in my pajamas, I’m hiding from the world.  And I tend to spend a lot of time staring at my art, not sure which direction to go.  But when I feel confident in my skin, I get right down to business with trust in myself and the process, and when I’m finished I want to share it with the world!

Who doesn’t want that?  It’s like a runner’s high, but from art.  So today, I am wearing mascara and lipstick, and I spent my 15 mins on my newest painting, and I want more.  The craving and the desire is there…I have so many ideas, but I’m not scattered, I just want to dive in and stay in one space for a while.  Such a different feeling to yesterday, when I was trying to use art as a reward for working out and house chores, and that didn’t pan out for me at all.

When you sit down to create, do you dress for the occasion?  Try this experiment and let me know if you feel a difference in the way you feel or notice a difference in your productivity or outcome.  I’m curious.  And with that, I’m off to paint, because I just can’t stay away, and I’ve only drawn her out…but I only have about 15 mins at the moment…just enough time for a little creative affair.  😉 aerial-1

I AM an Artist

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA few days ago I was at a Christmas party for my husband’s work.  My husband was very proudly telling his coworkers and their spouses that I am an artist, and people were asking me excitedly about what I do as an artist.  It was really odd for me to hear people say “I hear you’re an artist” and it was hard for me to say “yes, I am”, when I was drawn toward answering with “I’m trying, yes” or “I’m just playing right now”.  At one point in the evening, after an automatic awkward response, a gentleman reminded me that if I have pieces hanging in a gallery, I am, in fact, an artist.

So, here I am, almost 2 years into my journey of creative and artistic expression, and I am STILL having trouble calling myself an artist out loud.  I have a society 6 shop.  I have a total of 6 paintings that have been chosen by a jury and shown in the Art in the Workplace Exhibits.  I have a big dream and am working on the foundation to get it started.  I can type “I am an artist”.  I can paint it on my affirmation paintings.  I thought I believed it.  But the other night, being asked to speak out loud about it, I had a hard time owning such a dream title.

Why is this?  Could it be because I have no formal education?  That’ doesn’t matter to many great artists.  People experiment and play and privately study their inspirations.  Some became well known as “the greats”, and others run successful businesses based on their intuition and creativity.  So that’s a bogus excuse.

Maybe it’s because I feel like I haven’t been doing art for long enough to claim the title.  Yet, when I was a student as an xray tech, in my mind, before the official test results came in, I WAS an xray technologist.  And when I was pregnant, growing a little human in my body, I was a mother in my heart.  And the moment that baby was born, I was a mother to the entire world, with not one single second of experience or knowledge.

So why, then, do I feel I can’t call myself an artist? I paint, I draw, I love colours and texture.  I express emotion visually.  I am an artist.

Yet, I feel like I don’t deserve it, like I haven’t earned the title.  Maybe it’s because I don’t have one single “thing” that I do…I don’t have a focus, a love, a singular passion.  I dabble with whatever art supplies speak to me on any given day.  And my style is yet to be set in stone.  One day it’s loose watercolour and ink sketches, the next its painterly whimsical portraits, and the next it’s fun florals.  I’m all over the map. Elizabeth Gilbert has a speech from Super Soul Sunday Sessions with Oprah about following creativity and being a hummingbird, bringing ideas from one area to another and cross pollinating the world.  She also explains that curiosity gives you the clues to the incredible scavenger hunt of life, and may just lead you to your passion.  I am a hummingbird, following my curiosity.

And that’s ok!  I am constantly learning and becoming, we all are.  It is essential to realize that we do not need to learn before we become, they can occur simultaneously.  We can learn as we become, and become as we learn.

Kelly Rae Roberts’ says in her book, Flying Lessons, “you won’t really start to believe it in your heart and soul if you don’t say it to the world…we have to believe in our hearts we are artists before anyone else will believe us”.

So here I am, saying it to the world…I am an artist.

Artists For Love

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABonus Blog Post this week!!!  When I saw Kelly Rae Robert’s painting and blog post about #ArtistsForLove, I felt compelled to join in.  I found an abandoned background and immediately found a face in it, so I brought her out and stamped and painted the lettering.  I lost myself in this piece for a few hours…Just playing and dedicating the joy and love in my heart to the world of people who are in fear right now.  I like to keep my political views to myself, since I don’t feel that I have enough knowledge on the topic to really have a proper conversation at any given time.  But my views or beliefs don’t matter.  My location in the world doesn’t matter.  What matters, is showing empathy and compassion to PEOPLE…all people.

Kelly Rae says it best when she writes that although”We may hold different political beliefs, we can still hold one another.  And love is the container in which we can hold one another.”

There doesn’t have to be such a divide between people based on who they voted for or who they support or believe in, for there are many reasons that come into consideration with political debates.  All of the arguing and unfriending on facebook I have been witness to and heard about makes my heart sad.  One of the things that makes this world so amazing is that people are so different and unique.  We don’t have to end relationships over politics.  And we don’t need to use political beliefs to fuel hatred in our society.  We can still nourish love.  We can agree to disagree, and still be kind to one another.

So join the movement!  Create something to share with the world in support of basic human rights for all people.  Show humanity that you choose love and acceptance.  Share it and hashtag #ArtistsForLove.  Search to see all of the amazing art people are putting out there.

Walls

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“We hide behind our walls because we think they protect us, when really all they do is prevent us from touching whatever freedoms live on the other side.” – Scott Stabile

When I first came across this quote, it really touched me, for I had been building walls and isolating myself.  I felt like I was not only being separated from life by my wall, but that I was actually becoming a part of the wall myself…turning to stone…emotionally detached and vacant.  I felt like I was watching life and the world from a distance.  I could see that there was beauty that I “should” have been appreciating and grateful for, but I didn’t feel a part of it.  I didn’t feel joy or love at the time, even though I was surrounded by people who love me deeply.

It inspired me to create a version of what is now this painting…for when I painted, I felt joyful feelings start to ignite.  I played with texture and a palette knife.  I painted and mixed colours.  But it just wasn’t looking “right”.  And I didn’t know what to do.  So I hung it on my basement “studio” wall, and there it stayed for almost a year without being touched, as I pondered and waited for a direction.  And then, I gained courage.  My heart full of love and joy and feeling again, I repainted the entire piece…everything from before is still there…an important layer and part of it’s history…of my history.  But I added to it, and made it warm and inviting, like a sunrise rather than midday.  Because I feel my life is just beginning in many ways.  The pause of night, and the beginning of a new day.  And now, it makes me happy.  I’m not certain that it’s finally complete, but I enjoy it now and feel it tells more story than I am going into.  I can feel it, feel her hope and desire.

Sure, she’s a little banana-faced…she’s imperfect…or rather, like me, she is perfectly flawed.  You can see her history, and her scars, but you can also see her beauty.  This is one of my favourite pieces that I’ve done so far, even though no one else I’ve shown seems to “get it”.  But that’s the thing…no one else has to get it, because it was created by me for me.  It was created for personal growth and healing.

Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book “Big Magic” that in order to live a creative life, we must let go of our desire for approval.  We can’t let everything we do and create depend upon the outcome, or how it is received by the world.  For the universe owes us nothing.  And creating is deeply personal, and should be done for that reason alone.  It’s all about the journey and the process, not the destination or final outcome.

I am getting over my fears, finding my courage, and reaching for the freedom, body, mind and soul.

spirit-animals-with-katrina-koltzI am taking an online class with Katrina Koltes called Into The Myst, presented by Ivy Newport.  This is my first piece inspired by Katrina.  I will absolutely admit, I got carried away with previous habits and preferences, and over-painting before I finished watching all of the videos…I just got into “the zone” and kept on going.  So I do intend to try again, to learn her technique for hair, and the way she drips the paint.  What I did learn, technique wise, was how to keep softened edges with watercolour paints, and how much fun adding a straw to my painting arsenal can be.

Katrina encouraged us to incorporate our spirit animals into this initial painting.  And I have to admit, I found this exercise rather difficult.  I mean, I have a few animals I tend to see everywhere, or when I’m deep in thought about life, a butterfly will show up (even in this chillier weathers), or I will see a heron flying across the city sky…weird…or a hawk perched high in a tree, reminding me to consider a higher perspective.  I see bunnies almost every time I run, regardless where I run, and chipmunks are everywhere and always amuse me.  And I absolutely LOVE what dragonflies stand for…hence my tattoo.  I also added a stargazer lily, as this was my Mom’s favourite flower, and I’m always thinking of her when one appears in my environment, as though she is saying “hello, Love, I am here”.

I won’t get into what each animal represents or the message they are said to convey.  I will tell you that a lot of my focus recently has been on adaptation, self acceptance and growth, transformation and creation, and remembering how to stay grounded while learning to fly.  Finding comfort in each of the elements, and strength from them.  Approaching uncertainty and discomfort from a place of curiosity and kindness.  Allowing myself to dream and to play.

So the first “problem” I had with this exercise was that my spirit animals are not big and magestic like a stag or a horse, like some others had, so I was confused how to make the image flow.  And then I realized that drawing animals is much more difficult for me than drawing a face.  (Thanks to an online class with Jane Davenport).  I was struggling with drawing because I felt I had to do it “just right”.

But once the paint came out, I was free.  Free to play, to observe how it plays with the water and paper, how it granulates and mixes and swirls.  Free to use what delights me, the colours that tug at my heart strings.  And that, my friends, is how I get lost in creating.  before I knew it, I was way past the point I had watched on the videos.  So I stopped, and watched the videos, and realized there was no way I could back track.  And why should I?  I kind of like her as she is!  ACCEPTANCE!  My word for the year!  So I continued o move forward, and incorporated techniques as I still could.  It may not be as powerful of a piece as intended, but I like her all the same.  And I know what I’d do differently the next time.  🙂  I accept what is AND I intend to learn from my experience and change my behaviour in the future, without guilt.  This is dialectical thinking.  Opposites CAN coexist.  It does not have to be black or white or even a shade of grey…it can be both.  It can be orange and blue without making mud.  How amazingly far I have come in a year!  I am grateful again to my art for helping to demonstrate thoughts and theories for me to apply to my regular life, to help me be a better person, for myself and for those around me.

(And yes, all of this can be demonstrated with running as well…but I will save that for another day).  😉

Believe in your own Magic

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Believe in your own Magic

This piece may not be my absolute favourite, but it means a lot to me in many ways.  It was my first time playing freely with all of my supplies and not caring about “the rules”.  It was my first time drawing hands, without direction.  I played and experimented with everything I had, with no attachment to the outcome.  It started off as a canvas board that I had started a mixed media mantra background on…but I let the heat gun get too hot, and melt the paint, and a good portion of it peeled, and I was sad and didn’t know what to do.  Then I discovered PanPastels, and I wanted to test the pastel ground over an acrylic background, that I didn’t care about…so this board came back out.  I loved the colours, so if it did work, it’d be great, but I couldn’t make it any worse.  The pastel ground dried clear, and the PanPastels went on top beautifully.  I used my fingers and got messy.  I used my watercolours that I was just starting to learn about.  I used stamps and tissue paper collage and watercolour and acrylics, pastel pencils, Pitt Pens and tombow markers, among other supplies.  I used my gelli plate.  Absolutely everything, and this little gem fell out of the supplies, breathing life into a golden butterfly, and my heart.

By completing this piece, and feeling the compliments people were giving me on her, it gave me the confidence to try more new things, more difficult and original pieces.  It helped me learn what it feels like to get out of my head and follow my heart.  She was even accepted into the Art in the Workplace Exhibition #19 at the end of 2015, my first exhibit!

Now, I look at her, and I think about creating her again…with my new face and hand drawing skills, with my knowledge of abstract flowers, with my knowledge of supplies.  But I don’t.  Because I’m afraid I will expect something better, and it will not be as free and loving and delicate.  But behind the fear, there is an acceptance.  She is how she is as a part of the story of my journey into creativity and art.  I need to keep moving forward.  Believe in myself and try new things!  That’s what she taught me already, why oh why would I go back and try to perfect her?  Especially, when perfection does not exist.

“All of your wishes can come true.  It is your own doubt that blocks them from coming through.” – Phil Good

I am currently looking at reaching for an amazing opportunity, and this quote, related to the inspiration I used for this piece originally, is very relevant in my life again.  To apply with the images I have?  Or to create something new???  I don’t want to procrastinate, but I also don’t want to rush.  hmm…what to do?

Do you have a dream you are blocking with your own doubt?  What is it?  What is your plan to get past it?