March 31, 2014

100 Happy Days

I'm participating in the 100 Happy Days challenge. If you haven't heard of it, please go check it out. It's a challenge to post something that made you happy each day. I've been doing it on my (personal) Facebook but I thought I'd share a few of my moments from last week here on the blog. Thinking about this each day has really helped brighten my perspective.

My dressed up nail stubs!

My favorite YouTube series of the moment, based on Jane Austen's, Emma {Emma Approved}. I love when a new episode is up, like today!

A hidden cemetery discovered on a beautiful day.

Any happy moments for you last week? If you join the challenge, please let me know; I'd love to follow your journey.

March 26, 2014

3 Ways to Gather Stories for Your Art

Gathering stories is something I believe we all do naturally. We collect moments and pieces of stories as we walk through life, like a kid on a nature hike. But I think there can be an intentionality about collecting stories too. When I begin to paint, I don't always know exactly which story I am going to tell, but I have a sketchbook and journal full of them; so it's not too hard to choose.

Often my paintings begin with some kind of color and then a theme or shape. The theme or shape grows out of whatever story is going through my mind.

A few years ago, when I discovered my dear friend's cancer had spread, I couldn't think of anything else. I couldn't make sense of how I felt until I painted her story onto the canvas. It started with pink because she'd started with breast cancer. It had elements of her through it all. I did this without thinking. It just oozed out onto the canvas from my hurting heart.

But other times when I start a painting, it's without knowing where it will end up or whose story it is.

Telling stories in art comes naturally, but I believe collecting stories helps that process ~ either through sketchbooks, journals, art journals, doodles, post-its or whatever is best for you.

On days where I've felt dry with no place to begin, collected stories have been a God-send.

3 Ways to Collect Stories:

1. Make a list of people you know: friends that are important to you, family you love; even enemies {they add dimension to your stories}.

Every person adds a wealth of stories. Just think of any one person who you deeply care about and I bet you could spend all day telling me stories about them: who is important to them, what they love to do, and what they fear.

Each person offers an infinite mine of stories and you are there to dig them up.

Since most of my paintings have people in them, this is a majority of what I collect. I enjoy thinking of one or two people who exemplify the story I'm trying to create. Of course there is room for imaginative additions, painting is a creative pursuit after all. But people give me a beautiful starting point.

2. Write down important events.

Just the act of putting down events throughout your life or the year, help bring up so many stories. I seem to start with holidays, because they're easy and then move into culturally celebrated events like weddings, birthdays and achievements.

It helps give a frame to your story. 

Perhaps your thoughts are on your brother and his marriage, or your best friend and the baby she's waited for. This event helps frame that one moment in time that you want to capture and share, just like a photograph.

The event sometimes gives me thoughts for background collage or painted hints of what I want to say to the person "reading" my story.

3. Collect small everyday moments by jotting them down or photographing them.

I think everyday moments are the ones we tend to overlook. We think days like this will always be days like this; but they won't. I can remember thinking that we'd never have a day without nap-times. But my kids grew up and suddenly no one was napping.

I can remember the day when I walked into my daughter's room and realized there were no toys. It happened gradually, but I hadn't noticed until I stepped in and it hit me. All those moments of not wanting to take pictures because of the messiness of toys, now seemed precious and lost.

Think through your day, all the seemingly unimportant stuff. What is your morning routine? What family member does what chore? How does your morning drive go? Whose shoes are always in the middle of the floor?

Also, we often shy of capturing ourselves, especially if we're overweight or have some other imperfection, but this is an unfortunate mistake. I regret not taking more photos of myself with my kids when they were little. I always felt frumpy and didn't want to be in the picture. But now I wish I had more record of those frumpy days ~ how tired, yet happy, I was.

Try to capture the un-celebrated moments of your day and tell those simple stories on canvas.

These 3 ways of capturing these moments will help you as you stare at a blank canvas. It will be a starting point from where your mind and fingers can take off.

What I love about painting stories, is that when someone looks at my art, they connect to the story. They add their story to the mix, maybe it's their brother they see in the painting, and it resonates with them. That's how painting a story can be so universal, because it becomes someone else's story as well as mine.

Do you have a method for gathering stories? What other collecting advice would you add to this list?

March 24, 2014

Comfortable with Perfect Imperfections?

Sometimes when I look at photos of myself I want to hide or edit out the aging evidence. But the truth is, this is me. I'm getting wrinkles at my eyes and laugh lines. My hair is spotted with gray between coloring. This is life and I think it's time I stop wanting to hide it.

I don't want to be an example to my girls that aging is something to dread or hide. It should be a privilege to embrace. Sure we all want to look our best, and I'll be the first to admit I love it when someone mistakes me for being a sister of my daughters rather than their mother. But if I dread aging, how does that help anything? It only diminishes the beauty that comes with living a full life.

Susannah Conway has a Pinterest board full of beautiful, aging women called Ageing Awesomely. I love the honor it gives women of time lived, lessons learned, and wisdom gained.

Inspired by her board, I decided not to edit out the wrinkles in my photos, but to wear them proudly and embrace the middle-aged woman that I am.

It's time to hug these perfect imperfections and wear them as medals of my one, beautiful life.

March 21, 2014

I Dream of Mountains

My paintings lately have drawn more inspiration from the people around me and the ones, I assume, are around you. We all have friends with big dreams and secret passions. This painting was inspired by my good friend, Adrienne, who feels most at home in nature, especially among the mountains. I love watching her face light up when she talks about them.

I understand why she loves them; my husband and I lived in Colorado during our first years of marriage and those mountains just draw you in. They're royal and empowering. Not to mention they helped this directionally-impaired woman find her way in a new city. I knew where I was as long as I could see the mountains.

What is your secret passion? What is the thing that even the thought of it brings a happy sigh from your lips?

P.S. The reason the words look slanted in that last photo is because I was leaning the painting back to avoid a glare. They really are aligned, I promise.

March 19, 2014

What's Behind the Curtain?

I'd had one of those mornings, you know what I'm talking about. Frantic, everything going wrong mornings that left me frazzled and late for the doctor. 

My husband realized, only a short time before his flight, he needed his passport which was in the safety deposit box. I ran to get it from the bank so he wouldn't be late for his flight, and this made me late to the doctor's.

I'd awoken in the night with terrible ear pain and hoped the doctor would be able to do something about it. Back in the examination room, the nurse was curt and cut me off as I explained some of my symptoms. She told me I only had a fifteen minute appointment so the doctor could only focus on a few things because now they were running behind.

Which I knew was my fault.

I sat there thinking how I could explain to her why I'd been late. I could try to help her understand that I didn't just blow them off. But I realized that it really didn't matter, because to her, the most important thing was that I'd messed up her day.

She forgot to look behind my curtain.

If she had, she might've understood. But like her, I forget to look behind curtains ~ especially when I'm driving. My head explodes if someone cuts me short or doesn't move when the light turns green. If I would glance behind their curtain, I might see a new divorcee struggling to breathe; a teenage man belittled by his dad; or a widow unable to hold back her tears.

I might not be so quick to anger if I imagined what was behind their curtain.

So as the nurse rattled off snippy comments to me, my view began to shift. 

I didn't know what was behind her curtain either.

In the end, I kept my excuses to myself and hoped whatever was behind her curtain, would get a little easier.

Have you ever wished someone rude could see behind your curtain? Have you ever misjudged someone without understanding what's behind their curtain?

March 17, 2014

5 Charmingly-Delicious Movies to Watch on St. Patrick's Day

I wanted to celebrate St. Patrick's Day by sharing five of my favorite Irish movies with you:

1. P.S. I love you. 

If you haven't seen this movie, you MUST. It's tender in so many ways, exploring the relationships of friends, parents, and spouses. There is so much packed into this one fantastic film. For a movie centered around death, it's injected with tons of humor and feel-good moments infused with redemption and grace. I highly recommend it.

2. A Shine of Rainbows

This movie is absolutely beautiful. Every scene, every shot is breathtaking and will make you fall in love with Ireland, if you haven't already. The beauty of the relationship between a mother and her newly adopted son will bring tears to your eyes. You might need a tissue for this one.

3. The Secret of Roan Inish

A magical story told from the viewpoint of a little girl, has the feel of a fairy-tale and tons of charm. When her baby brother disappears, she is the one who will stop at nothing to find him. She sets out to find the Selkie who she believes took him. This film will leave you enchanted.

4. Tristan and Isolde

A period piece about a forbidden love worthy of Romeo and Juliet although a bit more hopeful. If you love adventure, romance, plot twists and suspense, you'll love this movie.

5. The Quiet Man

A quiet man moves to Ireland only to encounter a fiery redhead. His quiet and her temper are the perfect combination. It's been a long time since I saw this movie, but I remember laughing my way through their fight across the countryside on St. Patrick's Day.

Do you have any favorite Irish films you'd recommend?

March 12, 2014

Storybook Paintings

Stories...oh those dreamy woven tales. I love them in songs, poems, movies, books, or articles. I love imagining them. I love stories almost any way they can be dished up. 

But I never thought of painting as a way to tell a story.

Painting stories happened secretly; at least it was secret from me. I didn't realize that's what I was doing. Although there is always a back-story in my mind about the painting and the people in it, I never thought that was seeping into my art.

I picked up a group of my paintings from a local coffee shop recently to get new photos of them for my online shop (coming soon)

When I brought them home and set them around my studio, it felt as if I'd brought home old friends. 

It dawned on me as I looked at each of them that they had a story, one I'd given them; and those stories were peeking out from each canvas. I'd been sad to put aside writing for awhile due to unforeseen circumstances, but picked up painting in it's place. Now it dawned on me that:

My stories had not stopped being written, I'd just chosen a different tool.

I can't express how happy that made me. I hadn't suppressed those dear stories, I'd painted them!

I hope the stories sing through to others when they look at my art. I hope they hear the tales hidden in the brush strokes.

March 10, 2014

Photos from the Archives

Since it's Girls Scout cookie time, thought I'd remind you of this delicious idea, make them into an ice cream sandwich. My favorite is mint chocolate chip ice cream in the middle ~ extra minty!

This was part of my process painting a guitar for a friend. I had to put paint brushes in the holes to keep the paint from clogging it up.

These flowers are from a darling little Thai place my sister and I love to visit. It's got the yummiest sticky rice and mouth-watering Pad-Thai.

Remember when I had hair long enough that I could pin it up and do cool things with it? I'm trying to remind myself of this as I grow my pixie out. *deep sigh*

I had fun discovering these past moments in my archives. It was a nice walk down memory lane. Do you enjoy browsing old photos? Are you a scrapbook keeper? I'm terrible at scrapbooking, maybe that's why I keep a blog ~ my virtual scrapbook.

March 3, 2014

Five March Goals

Hi everyone! Making a short list of goals for last month helped me in February, although I didn't quite finish them all, it did get me closer. So I'm going to do the same for March. These are little goals that are do-able. I'm trying to keep them specific rather than vague and small rather than large.

March Goals:

1. Set up shop. {My goal was to have my online art shop up and running mid-March and I'm still working on that!}

2. Take more daily photos. I've been lax with this lately and want to get back to doing it. I've had trouble getting comfortable with my new camera, but practice always helps that.

3. Make {at least} four new art pieces. I've been painting a lot but this will just help me get going on a little set I wanted to finish.

4. Get rid of two more trash bags of STUFF. We've reduced our things by probably a 1/4, but I would like to get that to 1/2! It feels so incredible to not be crowded by things we're not using. The airiness alone is worth it!

5. See the movie, Divergent. This is just for fun, but I love movies and finishing the fun goals encourages me to do the hard ones. It's my little mind trick. Since this one doesn't come out till the end of the month, it might end up being my reward for finishing all the others!

What about you, do you have some goals or fun things you'd like to do in March?

{See February's goals here and April's goals here}