My #JudyWiseChallenge

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Hello friends!  As many of you know, I have been participating in a 30 day painting challenge, inspired by a blog post by Judy Wise, introduced to me by a good friend.  We did it together last year in December, and decided to spend our month doing it together again, with a few other friends that jumped in to the challenge this year!  Basically, you start a canvas, and you work on it, doing something to it every day for 30 days, whether you feel the need to change it or not, whether you do a small touch or a total overhaul, you do something to it every day, to get you into a free flowing habit, and to see where the journey takes you.

Why do this challenge?  To have a reason to paint every day…to stop the excuses.  Now, I will admit, I did miss a few days over the month, but not many.  And I found it to be an eye opening experience for a few reasons.

Firstly, and likely the most important thing that I learned about myself is that I don’t have a fear of the blank, white canvas staring at me, and a hesitation as to where to start.  I can very easily put colour onto a blank canvas.  What I struggle with, is continuing and doing something on a canvas that already has something.  When I only have a few minutes and I’m coming to it cold, not in an art zone, I’m afraid to make a move, afraid of messing it up.  It takes me time to “get into” my groove in order to not worry about what I’m going to do next.  To get out of my thinking head, and into my “just do it” mindset.

It takes courage to get over the preciousness of a piece…to persevere when you like it and take risks to see what else can happen.

I also learned that trusting my heart and listening to the whispers creates new art for me.  For instance, the bold colours aren’t new, they are my favourite to work with.  However, recently with doing faces and whimsical portraits, I’ve tamed my colour palette.  So this was my opportinity to play and be bold and not worry about what colours “GO” together.  Also, I found that although my initial inkling was to make a face, it didn’t fit in, and I created an abstract butterfly in a flower garden.  I have been wanting to paint flowers for literally months, and felt the need to finish faces I have begun already.

So this painting was very freeing.  I used my fingers, I splashed around colours into blobs that became flowers.  I stenciled.  I had FUN.  And I shared my process, even the scary ugly stages.  And through my vulnerability I gained encouragement and hope and confidence.  I am on the right path.

This piece, although not my favourite painting technically, is very dear to my heart.  I love the words that came to me for it, and I believe them with all of my heart and soul.  For me, art IS the perfect birthplace for self awareness, the messy raw kind of self awareness that you don’t want others to know about.  And that awareness transforms the negative emotions and beliefs into something beautiful and inspiring.  Thank you for sharing in this journey with me.  All the best to you in the New Year.  Good bye 2016!  It has been a year of awareness and radical acceptance for me.  I am interested to see what 2017 will bring.  Cheers!

(My word for 2016 was “acceptance”.  I believe my word for 2017 is “trust”.  Do you choose a word of the year?  What will it be?)

What gets in the way?

I had a moment of clarity today…one of those simple “ah-ha” moments.  I had gone for a run in the morning, and listened to “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown.  It’s my third or forth time listening to it…and it’s been almost a year since the last time, so it’s like new to me again.  I enjoyed it, and understood it, but I wasn’t really into it, as my mind was wondering with the running thoughts…my legs are tired, OMG another hill, ah there’s my rhythm for breathing, etc.  When I was back at my in-laws house, my youngest son was trying to close his paw patroller, and the cab was in the way of the trailer roof closing.  I said to him “Don’t just push harder…look around and see what’s in the way.”

And then, I looked up and a light bulb went on over my head.  OH!!!  I GET it now!  I have spent a lot of time over the last few years digging deep into my emotions and motivations.  Getting Deliberate, Inspired and Going (from “The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown).  I’ve learned and practiced DBT, CBT, and mindfulness.  I know the importance of naming what is coming up in order to challenge the truth of it in order to calm down and/or move on.  However, in practice, I keep searching for the “How to’s”…I keep looking for education and information, and in return, I keep failing, repeating old patterns, or getting stuck in an endless cycle of learning and not taking action, depending on what specifically we are talking about.  But here it is.  I need to look around and see what is in the way, and address that first!

“If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about the things that get in the way-especially shame, fear, and vulnerability.” – Brene Brown, “The Gifts of Imperfection”

So let’s dig in a little, shall we?

I have fallen off the fitness and nutrition wagon.  I have basically been on a 3.5 month plateau, in which I recognize I’m not doing the work that I was doing before in order to get results.  But why?  What is getting in the way?  I actually have more time since going part time at work, so that’s not a reasonable excuse.  Part of me tells myself I “deserve” a break, since I have worked so hard and achieved most of my fitness goals this year and done well with the running.  But when I really get down to it, I truly believe that I deserve to feel my best, and most energy, and that’s when I’m eating healthfully and exercising, not filling my body with bread and sugar.  So what is really getting in the way?  Perhaps it is the fear that reaching my weight loss goal isn’t actually enough, or won’t look like I imagined it would, and the fear of disappointment is keeping me from getting that last 10 pounds off.  Hmm…that feels very honest and vulnerable.  Perhaps it has to do with perfectionism and shame…I have “cheated” on my “diet” and therefore I’m not good enough and don’t deserve to reach my goals.  Perhaps, it’s a self fulfilling prophecy, that I can’t do it, so I’m sabotaging myself to prove my gremlins right.  Perhaps, it’s a combination of them all.

And with my art…I want to make a series of my own work, and apply for a gallery exhibition of my own, and yet I distract myself by signing up for so many courses that I can’t possibly keep up.  And the courses that I have already started, I haven’t finished…what’s that about?  I DO enjoy the courses, and I AM learning a lot, and I know that by learning from multiple teachers is the best way to develop my own style.  But it’s another excuse, another cover for the truth.  The truth is, that I am afraid of failure and of not being accepted or understood.  I’m afraid of not fitting in, and of not being good enough or not being unique enough.  I’m afraid of putting myself out there, and pouring my heart and soul into MY art, and having it rejected or ignored.  Wow…there’s another moment where I can feel the vulnerability, and wonder why I am sharing this with you.

The main thing getting in the way seems to be fear.  That sneaky little gremlin…I thought I had him beat.  So now that I have named him, perhaps I can work through the fear and move on.  Wade through the swapland, as Brene refers, rather than standing on the shore.  Feel it, lean into the discomfort, and move through it to get to the other side.

So remember, don’t keep doing the same things that aren’t working and just push harder…you have to take the time to look at and deal with what gets in the way, in order to move forward.  Do something differently, be truthful to yourself, and you will reach your goals.  (Sorry, no picture today…I’m practicing imperfection.  😉 )

 

Ready, Set, Go!

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I tend to be disorganized, despite many efforts to look like I know what I’m doing.  And I tend to be a bit of a hoarder, because I don’t know what I may need in the future, or where I put that thing that was so useful that one time…so recently I’ve been spending parts of my days in the basement, sorting through boxes of items that have been piled up for a few years now and weren’t properly sorted and purged when our renovations were done because I ran out of time.  I find purging to be exhausting and draining.  It completely depletes my energy and motivation, and it takes everything I have not to get distracted away from it.  This is something that I am working on within myself, because I know tidy and clutter free space is actually better for me than being surrounded by piles of books and papers that I will likely never read through again.  Anyways, that’s another topic for another day.

While I was sorting and purging, I discovered the card, pictured above.  I remember choosing it when I was a student or a brand new xray technologist at a department Christmas party.  I read it, and liked it, but it didn’t really resonate with me.  I mean, I was starting something new and I liked what I was doing, so I guess it made sense, but I didn’t “get” it.  I wasn’t in tune with myself and the universe to feel the impact or really get the message.  I placed it back in it’s golden bag wrapper and put it away in my “office” for “safe” keeping. And there it stayed, safely hidden away for likely 10 years, until I needed it again.

It’s interesting to me that with all of my current thoughts and changes and dreams that this card would find it’s way into my possession again.  As I dare to start something new and exciting and terrifying.  As I’m in constant struggle between excitement and giddiness of planning and dreaming, and battling the gremlins of scarcity and not enough.  It is the nudge or the reminder that I am doing the right things, and moving in the right direction.  “Don’t be afraid.  Just trust and keep going.”…is what it is telling me.  I am on the right path.  I am out of my dark spell in life, and I am awakening to a new opportunity, and it’s ok.  Things are going to be ok.  “Now is the perfect moment to dive in and embrace (my) heart’s desires”.

I am excited for 2017, and the journey it will take me on with my art.  And my physical fitness and running adventures.  I am grateful for everyone who has supported me and encouraged my growth along the way!  What an amazing way to enter into a new season, and a new year…a new chapter in my life is about to unfold.

I’d love for you to share a sign from the universe that you have received giving you the gentle nudge or affirmation that you are doing what you are meant to do.

An Artists Desire

My Jane Davenport Signature Edition of Schmincke Horadam Aquarell Artist Watercolours are here!  They arrived on Friday in the mail!  24 half pans of the highest quality watercolours in the world!  What to do?  What to do?  They are my Christmas gift…do I open the parcel and admire the packaging before I wrap it for under the tree?  Or do I wrap the entire parcel and save the excitement for the week?  Sometimes Jane and Angus throw in extra little goodies like stickers and pins!  So there may be a fun surprise!

I can hardly contain myself and wait to open it!  To gaze upon the rich colour palette.  To test the vibrant pigments on paper with a juicy brush.  To experience the exquisite delight of using fresh new watercolours for the first time.  To make a colour map.  To introduce my Daniel Smith watercolours (also Jane’s recommended palette…plus quinacridone coral…because seriously, who can live without quinacridone coral in their lives?  I don’t know how I survived before…you just can’t be sad or depressed or angry when using that gorgeous colour…it’s so delightful!)

Have I lost you?  Or are you still with me, drooling along the way?  This, my friends, is rainbowitis at its finest.  Sometimes, I think there should be support groups like AA to help control the cravings and desires for colourful art supplies, but then I snap out of it and thing “who needs that sort of negativity in their lives”?  Lol

Art supplies are to be adored.  It’s a gift that keeps on giving every time you reach for those precious colours.  

I will wrap this box and wait the week to open it on Christmas morning.  Then I can be giddy and excited too.  And I can spend the week daydreaming and anticipating the magic that will happen when I finally do get to play with my wonderous watercolours!

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So, I have had many highs and lows within the last week regarding art.  Highs: the children’s book cover competition that I got into at the very last minute, teaching my son’s art class, and attending Art Crawl as an artist for the first time.  Lows: hearing I was not chosen for the Davenparty, and learning about a workshop I’d LOVE to go to, but just can’t imagine being able to afford in time.  All of this at a time when I have been working through a book and workshop called “The Right-Brain Business Plan” by Jennifer Lee, which has also been a high for me…daydreaming about my ideal life and putting it on paper.  It’s interesting how this all comes together at the same time.

I am reminded of a portion of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic.  She talks about doing something that you love so much that you are willing to eat the “shit sandwich”.  This made me laugh, both times I listened to it, but it is so true.  Basically, she is asking what do you love so much that you don’t mind taking the bad with the good?  And I’ve come to realize that this art journey I am on is the real thing.  Because I’m disappointed, sure, but I’m not wanting to give up, like I have on other occasions with other dreams or projects.  In fact, I’m still hopeful and trying to figure out how I can make either still happen for me, which I realize is slightly delusional, but that’s what is happening in my brain.

I mean, the chosen Davenparty is an amazing group of 7 artists…ONLY 7…from applications all over the world!  They are diverse in their skills, and will represent Jane’s new mixed media art line beautifully, I have no doubt, and I’m excited to see what they create.  And I am truly honoured to have been considered for this amazing opportunity.  But, here is the thing…just because I wasn’t chosen, doesn’t mean I can’t make art with Jane’s products and post them to social media, where they will be seen and potentially shared.  All it means is that I don’t get the box of treasures to use.  I get to create my own box of treasures, by shopping and choosing what calls to me from her collection.  I get to choose, and create freely.  And there are still hashtags for anyone to use to share their art with her supplies.  And there is potential to be a “guest artist” for the Davenparty still, which I will watch for.  I’m totally ok with this, now.  How is that for eating the shit sandwich?  lol  So, I’m excited for JANEuary, and checking out the new line in Michaels…and YES it is going to be available in Canada as well as the United States, which is AWESOME!!!

By working on my Right Brain Business Plan, I am making clear my vision, values and voice.  I am putting the pictures together to see and be inspired by, as a touchstone when I lose track or get discouraged.  It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I’m only working on chapter 2 and 3 now.  I haven’t decided if I’m going to share photos of that process, as I’m feeling pretty vulnerable just putting it on paper and into the universe, but stay tuned, and maybe I will get brave enough to share it.  😉  In my preparation for creating my big vision board, I came across this postcard (photo above), that I made earlier in the year with a quote that I fell in love with.  This is helping to inspire me, and will be a part of my plan, if for no other reason, than to remind me to follow my heart and chase my dreams.

When I was working on my values, and voice, I came up with a “quote” that I placed on a piece of art I am creating for my Judy Wise Challenge.  “I believe art is the birthplace of self awareness.  Embrace your natural, imperfect beauty and transform into your most authentic self.”  This is what I believe, at my core, because this has been my experience.  I want to share this discovery with others, and help people bloom into their true selves.  This is my dream.  There…I said it…  How I will get there, I don’t yet know, but I’m working on it and open to every possibility that comes my way.  Even if I have to eat a shit sandwich now and then, it will be worth it.

My first teaching experience

I had my first opportunity for teaching art on Wednesday, to my son’s grade 2 class.  I decided to do an abstract affirmation painting in acrylics with them.  I gave the, bubble wrap and shelf liner, brayers and sponges and paint brushes, and only red, yellow, blue and white to start for the background.  The image above with the flowers was my example, and the image on the right with the heart is my son’s painting.  This was a really big step for me!  In calling myself an artist, and stepping into the role.  It didn’t come easily, but it sure was rewarding!

Here is a journal entry I wrote the morning before I taught the class…

“I’m nervous.  I’m down right afraid.  What was I thinking saying I could teach my son’s grade 2 class?  All of my gremlins are flooding in…who am I’?  What makes me an expert to teach?  My art example is ugly, what if they don’t like it?  What if we don’t have enough time?  What if we have too much time and I don’t have enough to occupy them?  I forgot cups for water (stupid).  I forgot, or should have thought of covers for the desks.  Is this too messy??  What are the teachers expecting?  Should I be teaching them steps to a “real” painting instead?”

Yep.  My mind got ugly as I was getting ready to head out to teach a class of 20 kids.  So many questions and doubts and shoulds and what ifs.

How did it go?  WONDERFULLY!!!

The class was talking about kindness, especially toward others this week, so the art class was an opportunity for them to practice kindness toward themselves.  And the teacher starts off the day with the lights dim, a meditation bell and deep breathing…it was a perfect way for me to center myself before starting, and for the children to focus and get in touch with their inner creative wisdom.  All of the students were engaged in the project, and I had many helpers at the end assisting with clean up.  They painted and scraped and stamped and rolled their art.  Some made muddy colours.  Some kept their colours separate.  Some painted “things” like hearts and butterflies, while others just splashed the colours around.  They ALL played with and experimented with colour and no rules for colour mixing.  It was brilliant!

And interestingly enough, I did see some of the things that I remember learning to overcome when I did my first art project in an online course.  Some children couldn’t understand just spreading colours around, they wanted to paint something, it was hard for them to just cover the canvas.  Others had a hard time with having paint on their fingers and washed their hands obsessively.  I am grateful for the teacher’s support, in that she encouraged the children that a little bit of mess is ok, not all of the paint will come off, and just splash the colour around and see how it goes!  She even painted a canvas, and I’m so happy for that!

I didn’t get another painting completed, I spent most of my time refilling paint trays and walking around seeing what people were doing.  But it wasn’t about me painting another affirmation piece.  It was about sharing the joy and freedom and discovery of creating.  And with that, I believe I was successful!

 

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So Sunday at 7pm I found out about a contest on Lilla Rogers website Make Art That Sells…the deadline was midnight.  The challenge?  Create a children’s book cover for a story called “The Sugar Plum Fairy’s Adventure”.  The prize?  A free spot into an online class called “Illustrating Children’s Books”…a class which would be amazing for me since I’ve been asked to collaborate on a children’s book, and I have no idea what I’m doing.  And a class that is out of my financial budget at the moment.  I felt something in my body I can’t really explain.  It was warm and tingly and full of energy, like I was going to burst if I didn’t get moving on it right away.  I can do this!  I was compelled to say good night to my boys (whom I usually lay down with until the youngest is sleeping) and I went to hide in the basement and create.

I read the instructions…3 times.  I searched for 15 mins online for images of the Sugar Plum Fairy.  I had an amazing idea…but no vision of a background…it would take me too long to draw up and then paint with the watercolours the way I wanted to.  And it would be kind of flat.  Another idea…no, that’s too much like someone else’s work from another online class I’m taking.  Can’t do that.

And then, I was completely inspired by a previous painting of mine that I’ve been told looks like a children’s book illustration. But I didn’t want to alter it, so I remade it as best as I could in the time I had. Which was tricky considering the depth of layers in the background and the drying time of gesso and matte medium between my mixed media layers.  But I did it.  I came up with something that I am proud of.  It may not be perfect, but it’s pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself.

This challenge forced me to not be too picky or critical of my work…yes, I had to kick perfectionism to the curb. It challenged me to trust my instinct and intuition.  It also forced me to get out of my head and just go for it…although there was one moment, about 2 hours before the deadline, that I thought I wasn’t going to make it and the to do list was too big. And that’s when I reached out to a couple of friends who set me straight, and I simplified. I thought of the book I just finished listening to by Samantha Bennett, “Get it Done: from procrastination to creative genius in 15 minutes a day”…she talks about aiming for the C, because I completed C is better than aiming for the A that doesn’t get completed and therefore not reached. And she reminded me that my C is another person’s A.  And so, I did it. I entered an art contest, at the last minute. What a rush!

After, I checked instagram for the hashtag, and I found some tremendous illustrations that look like children’s book covers already, like they were done by professional illustrators.  I was completely blown away with some of the art that was entered into this competition.  I thought to myself, “wow, if I had looked at these before I submitted, I never would have even tried”…why?  because I’m not good enough.  No!  Stop right there!  And then I thought to myself “I am happy to be among them.  I am happy with what I accomplished in just 4.5 hours.  I am happy that I jumped at the challenge rather than wishing I had.  And I’m happy I got over the things I wanted to keep working on in order to make the deadline.”  Gratitude.  I am thankful that I saw the contest when I did, and I am grateful to my family for supporting me and understanding it was something I needed to do.  Liz Gilbert in her book “Big Magic” talks about putting your work out into the world, and collecting rejection letters, and then putting it out there again.  That is what I am doing.  I will  not fear the rejection letter…I will start a collection, until I can start collecting letters of success!