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“Why I Run”…and Why I Paint

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A few months ago, in my half marathon clinic at the Running Room, we had a guest speaker come in to talk about his book, “Why I Run”.  I bought the book before the talk, and read it.  Let me tell you, it was a hard read for me, because I could relate so much to the author, especially with being in a tough emotional place at that time.  I was in the pit of “not-good-enough”, and had virtually stopped my self care activities, including painting.  I was running, but it had begun to become focused training and no longer as freeing.  It was on my “to do” list rather than my “to enjoy” list.  I read about the tools the author was using to outsmart his depression, and how he changed his internal dialogue, and turned to running as a positive practice for body, mind and soul.  And my gremlins came up, with self doubt and so many questions.

And then, at the clinic, I met Darcy Patrick, the author of this amazing book.  He was excited to share his experiences with us in a very real way.  Depression is a real thing.  And it can be beaten, with a lot of hard work and devotion.  Darcy was open to answering any questions we had for him, even the difficult questions.  I had so many.  I admired his strength and courage.  Many of us struggle with depression, and few are willing to admit it, out of fear of judgement or of being a burden to others.  For me, I’d rather deal with it myself than bring another person into it, most of the time.  But here’s the thing…depression, and shame, don’t like to be talked about.  In fact, being open about these feelings actually helps to ease them, and make them lighter.  That’s the secret.

After the clinic, Darcy came for our 7km run with us.  I was at the back of the pack, not able to keep pace with everyone else, and trying to be fine with it.  Most of the time I’m happy with the pace I can achieve.  I don’t need to be the fastest, nor do I expect to be.  But sometimes, and this particular day, I wished I was a little faster, so that I could be included in the conversations that were going on.  But I remembered Darcy’s book, and his visualizations that he practiced, and I started saying mantras to myself…”I am strong, I am capable, I am a runner…etc”.  And it worked.  I had been using mantras for a while when the runs got hard, but not when I was just down on myself.  At one point in the run, Darcy waited for me to catch up, and he ran with me, and we chatted.  I find his story so inspiring how he began to run in the first place, and how he continued to run, changing the internal dialogue in his head.  It fascinated me that he has that kind of control.

We became friends and chatted from time to time on facebook.  One day, seemingly out of the blue, and exactly when I needed it the most, Darcy asked me to paint for him.  He was looking for a piece to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of his book, “Why I Run”.  Having just read it, I had a tonne of ideas start to flow through my head.  I got really excited about this project.  I made a couple of sketches and researched images of people running, and started to paint.  I got into the zone with this painting, and I loved it!  Man, had I missed this feeling.  And then, I had a lot of fear…”will he like it?  will he regret asking me when he sees it?”…the gremlins were back.  But I kept going with it, and I remembered to enjoy the process, because I could always paint something different if this wasn’t what Darcy was looking for.  The important thing was, I was painting again in a very true to myself way.

One night, I needed some reassurance, and I got brave and sent Darcy a picture of my work in progress.  And he loved it!  (Although, honestly, the gremlins still questioned).  I was so relieved, I kept painting, and did some more fun stuff for myself. I was returning to self care, and breaking the cycle of depression again, through art.

This past Monday, I delivered this painting to Darcy and his family.  We had a very nice visit, and I got to see the artwork he had in his home.  I am honoured that he asked me to create for him.  It’s such a personal topic, and such a personal painting.  And…in case you didn’t read it on Monday, Darcy announced that this painting will be on the cover of his new book that he is working on!  I’m so excited I barely have words!  I am extremely grateful for Darcy, for his book, and for his encouragement to do what makes me happy.  We could all use more happiness in our lives, and trust me, it’s not as far away as we sometimes think.

A New Leaf

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Sometimes in life we have a vision, and the path to achieve the dream is uncertain.  I am taking an opportunity, following a new path, in order to fulfill my goal, to share my art with people, and teach adults to play freely, reconnect with the child within, and give up perfectionism, if only for a moment in time.

It is with mixed emotions that I am announcing an end to my offering for Traveling Paint Parties.  (You will notice the page no longer exists).  I am in love with the idea of bringing painting to people and sharing my passion for creative expression and playing with colour.  I have been offered an opportunity to share this passion with a larger audience through Cocktails n’ Canvas, by teaching local social painting events.  I am so excited to be joining this amazing team of artists!

As many of you know, and some may not, I got my introduction to acrylic painting with Cocktails n’ Canvas.  I harnessed my courage and went to a restaurant with a few friends, and learned a painting.  What really struck me was the freedom of “anything goes”…”there is no wrong”.  As I focused on the experience and took pressure off of the final product, I fell in love with my painting.  I was very proud of it, and of myself, for the first time in quite a while.  I mixed all of those colours.  I may have followed step by step instructions, but it was my hand that painted it.  A sense of individual style was present, even then.  Everyone in the group had the same instructions, and yet, every painting was unique…and gorgeous!  This person’s colours…that person’s brush strokes…and another person’s blending…it all fascinated me.  I had to do more.

So I bought paint, and sought out videos online, online classes, and more Cocktails n’ Canvas events.  The experience ignited a missing flame inside of me.  It changed my life.  And now, I have the opportunity to give back to Cocktails n’ Canvas, and share this experience with my community.  I believe we are all artists when we are creating.  We all have a unique outlook, and if we free our inner child we can feel the rush of joy and excitement in our play.

So although it is sad that I will no longer be planning or hosting my own paint parties, I am excited to be traveling along this new path with Cocktails n’ Canvas.  Did you know that Cocktails n’ Canvas hosts private events as well as public events?  Held at one of their venues or at a location of your choosing.  🙂  If you’re interested, especially as the holidays approach, check out the “Create Your Own” tab for private events.  Looking for a painting event for yourself and a few friends?  Check out the events listing.

Thank you for all of your support an encouragement!  I look forward to painting with you!  Above, please find a painting that will soon be available for Cocktails n’ Canvas events, created by me!  (Sorry for the flash…)  Cheers!

Spread Your Wings

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I have been working on a secret project recently, which I cannot share with you yet, but I am very excited about.  I have been so focused on that painting, as well as my running, that with the kids summer activities, camping, and regular household duties, there has been very little to share recently.  As I look at the mess in my basement, and a stack of paintings in my dining room that no longer have homes on the walls because their places have been taken by other pieces as my art has grown, I wonder how other artists let go of their art.

I could gesso over the “old” paintings and start a fresh canvas to create something of my own.  I know someone who does this.  And yet, each painting, especially the multiple pieces from Cocktails n’ Canvas, carry a story or a glimpse of a moment of my journey, and I’m not willing to let that go as of yet.

I would like to sell pieces at Art Crawl, yet again, of the paintings that I could sell that are my own, I love them so dearly that it’s hard to imagine sending them out into the world.  And yet, that’s exactly what they are for…to express a moment in time, in hopes of resonating with someone else, and then to go out and make others happy.

The painting in the photo above is a favourite of mine.  My first large portrait, on an 18×18 inch wooden panel.  I love the colours and the way they mix so much, I wanted to make a series of her or based on this colour theme.  And then I got stuck, and haven’t done it.  This painting is intended for a good friend of mine, and must get into the mail soon, yet I keep stalling because I want her inspiration, and her confidence and playfulness.

I have so many ideas, and yet so much fear around the creation or beginning of them all.  How do I choose?  What if I choose the “wrong” project first, or forget about my other ideas?  Maybe I should do this or that first?  What IS my style anyways?

I really need to do a serious purge right now.  Last week, I purged shoes…at least 8 pairs are out of the house.  I would like to get to my clothing.  But when it comes to “tidy the basement”, I have such a hard time.  It’s mostly my art supplies, and paintings, papers and collage material, books about art and journals for art.  How can I possibly get rid of things that have so many memories of joy attached to them, or that will have a purpose once I make the time to create again on a regular basis?  Does anyone else have this trouble?  I have seen so many neat and tidy and organized art spaces posted online, and I just cannot seem to keep my studio presentable.  I am certainly not a minimalist.

But looking at this painting, I am reminded to be courageous.  To trust my wings and to spread them wide.  To allow myself to fly.  I can create whatever my heart desires, whenever I choose to do so.  I don’t “need” things around me to inspire me, I can “live inspired” (Donna Downey).  For with letting go, comes starting anew, and new beginnings are fresh and exciting!

Abstract Expectations

So, I’ve been blocked for a while now, stuck in my head with projects I ” should do” and no real passion project in my mind.  And because I’ve been away from creating for at least a month or two, the fear of not performing well, of not creating something worth my precious time, was a hinderance on me.  But I didn’t want the structure of an online class project, I wanted to paint something fun and for me.

Yesterday at work, a friend and colleague gave me an idea for fun abstract portraits, something she had been meaning to so with photographs for a couple of years.  I got excited, and butterflies in my tummy.  I couldn’t picture the outcome, which was fabulously freeing, because when I have a vision of the finished project in my minds eye, I get stuck in the perfectionism loop of it never quite meeting my expectations.  But this, was such a different idea for me, I couldn’t imagine every detail.

I loved the sketch drawing as soon as I did it, and almost stopped there, because I didn’t want to ruin a cute thing.  But then I realized that I could totally do that again, and that by adding colour, it makes it more mine.  And gives me the pleasure of painting and playing with colour, something I’ve been craving.  And this is what came out of it on my first night.  

I used watercolour paper, so as not to have the pressure of making it something “worth while”.  It was just for me.  But I love the way it looks, I also know that by building the layers and colours that I can achieve even more joy and dramatic effect, so I do believe I will work on it again, and touch up some shadows and highlights.

This was fun, and freeing.  I let one move dictate the next.  And oh yes, there were a couple of ugly stages, but I didn’t let them bother me or hinder my joy.  I’m falling more and more in love with this, and I’m excited to do more!  The key to being freely creative is to let go of any expectations you may have.  That, for me, takes the joy away, and the whole purpose of creating is to experience freedom and joy.

Cheers!

Stuck, Distracted and Overwhelmed

Hello!  I feel like I owe you an apology for being absent.  I got really excited about my new adventure, and then I got distracted, and a few days turned into weeks, and now I’m stuck creatively, overwhelmed with so many ideas I don’t know where to start, and afraid of making a decision.  Have you ever been there?

So what could have possibly distracted me?  Well, I had an injury to my right shoulder, that is healing very well and not going to cause long term effects, but that made it next to impossible to create for a week or two, because I couldn’t raise my arm.  Don’t ask me why I didn’t blog about it then.  I guess I was frustrated and embarrassed.  And I didn’t want to bring everyone else down, I want to inspire and bring you joy!  I now realize that by sharing my highs and my lows, I can inspire more people, because it’s the natural ebb and flow of creativity.

I’ve also been spending a lot of time running, and reading a book for personal development about the first woman to officially run the Boston marathon…50 years ago today.  She returned to run it again, 50 years later.  And she was heavily involved in bringing woman’s running into society acceptance, empowering so many female athletes.  I’ve had a recent obsession with Katherine Switzer, feeling grateful for her efforts and in awe of her determination and strength.  

So I find my self currently asking a lot of questions.  Like what direction am I going?  What do I want to focus my time on?  Where is my artistic desire and focus?  What is my passion?  What Toni enjoy painting?  Do I want to work on classes or my own thing?  Have I learned enough to step out on my own?  Am I strong enough?  Do I have something worth “saying”?  What would that be?

All of these questions and doubts are overwhelming.  And I just don’t know where to start.  I ave an amazing friend, Jess, who came up with the idea of a photo inspirational challenge, to help keep us inspired to paint just something.  So the photo above is my painting inspired by a bouquet of tulips she challenged me to last month.  This no th is my choice, and I’m stuck on it, because the photo is so beautiful I want to do it right…taking the fun and freedom away from the exercise.  I think I need to take Jess’ lead and just DO something!  Art journal…no expectation, no plan, and just make art.

How contoured get out of a funk?  The fear of not being enough?  Figuring out the “right” way to spend your limited time for creating?  I know in my heart there is no right or wrong, but my head is winning the battle right now, and I’m stuck.

…just breathe

I am honoured to have been asked to design a tattoo for a friend!  She said she liked my writing, and explained to me the importance of the phrase “…just breathe”.  I was amazingly flattered to be asked, and right away started playing with the lettering to see what came up.  

Now, I will admit, I am not a fan of my handwriting, in particular, I don’t like cursive r’s.  So I was struggling.  And then, this whimsical font came up, inspired by watercolour writing lessons from the class Miss Quoted with Jane Davenport and Joann Sharpe.  And then, it just flowed together!

Lucky for me, she loved it, and took it to a tattoo artist to help add colour to the design.  It’s so beautiful, and I am so honoured to have been a part of the process of making something so personal and special.  And I am grateful for the opportunity to push myself in different directions.

And what a great reminder!  …just breathe!  The “…” Represents the gentle pause taken before taking that cleansing breath.  It’s about going with the flow, and embracing the peace that can be felt when living in the current moment.  So today, when things start to get overwhelming, take a moment, and remember to …just breathe.

For me, this has been a lesson in trust and patience.  It was therapeutic to write this phrase over and over again trying to get it right.  I am so grateful and humbled for this amazing opportunity.  And so very very happy that it is loved and holds so much meaning.

Grow into Your Art

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This is a piece that I have completed as an example of a Mixed Media Mantra Art board with a quote that really means a lot to me.  It’s so easy, in the world that we live in today, to get carried away with comparing ourselves to other people.  But as Brene Brown states, “comparison is the thief of happiness”.  By comparing ourselves and our work to others, we are only feeding our gremlins, and allowing the “not good enough” message to grow out of hand, thus holding us back from what we actually could be accomplishing if it wasn’t for the fear.  And there are so many things to fear…not being accepted, not being wanted, not being good enough…the list goes on.  And it’s unfortunately way to easy for us to generalize that if our work isn’t “good enough”, than neither are we.  All to often we personalize messages about our work, whether it be artistic or not.  I remember thinking this as a child…if I didn’t get an A+, I wasn’t perfect enough and therefore I was less loveable.  Yes, that is what I thought, and still struggle with from time to time…shame.  The difference is that now, I know I am not the only one.

This quote reminds me that every flower is unique and beautiful in it’s own way, and that a flower doesn’t concern itself with comparing to its neighbours.  No, it just blooms!  It becomes it’s brilliant self, embracing it’s flaws and imperfections, and standing tall and proud among its friends.  For every flower is beautiful, and has a gift to give to the world.

And so do we.  Every person has a gift or multiple gifts and talents that are uniquely their own, and similar to their neighbour’s.  But we cannot judge who is “better” or worthy of being shared and experienced by others.  It may be our interpretation or representation of an idea that could speak to someone.  I listened to a podcast recently called Magic Lessons, with Liz Gilbert and Glennon Doyle Melton, and they spoke to the idea that multiple people can say the same thing, but in a different way, and it may be your way of expressing an idea that really hits home and speaks to me.  Everyone’s voice is worthy of being heard.  Just as everyone’s art needs to be created and shared and seen.  It’s just that simple.  Don’t hold back from doing your thing because you don’t feel it’s unique enough…because it comes from you, it is a part of you, and you are a precious and unique human being.

And with that, I am being brave and heading out into the world to teach what I have learned in my art journey, hoping to inspire others to express themselves freely.  At the very least, I want to help people to realize the value of play.  As an adult, we tend to get busy, and the idea of playing gets pushed aside for “more important things”.  But it is crucial that we take the time to take care of ourselves.  So I am offering paint parties, for those people who don’t necessarily want to go to a big busy bar to learn to paint with a bunch of strangers.  It’s ok if you need a quieter, more controlled environment, and to be surrounded with friends and family as you play with paint for possibly the first time.  So find some friends, and send me a message.  I’d be happy to customize a painting to teach you, or a mixed media affirmation/quote for your group to interpret in their own way.  I don’t want this post to sound like a sales pitch, so if you’re interested in my paint party offerings, please check out my page Lizzie Lou Mixed Media – Traveling Paint Parties!!!