February 28, 2014

Music Tells a Story and this Song is Telling Mine

My twin sister and I used to practice singing for hours. We'd pick our favorite records (yes, I'm that old) then continue putting the needle back to the beginning of our favorite songs until we knew it like the inside of our skin. We formed harmonies (she was the soprano and I the alto) and read each other's voices as if they were our own. 

Mom arranged our first gig in a small church. We were only eleven at the time, but we embraced the chance. From that time on, we took every opportunity offered us, to sing for others. It connected our music world to the real world.

Looking back, I'm shocked an introvert like me would venture singing to a crowd, but I didn't feel alone. I felt hidden behind the bravery of my sister and comfortable in the familiarity of our voices.

My children whine when I put my favorite music on. They unwillingly know every word to all my dearest songs, since they've been subjected to listening to them since entering this world.

The irony is that they're consumed with music as much as me; only, a different variety. I knew they understood when I caught my eldest with her hands up, completely lost in song. I had to capture that moment on canvas because when you love music  so much, you know:

Music tells a story, and this song is telling mine.

Have you ever listened to a song and felt it was telling your story?

February 26, 2014

Why I Sometimes Share the Room with Hopelessness

Saturday morning when I got up, the house was quiet. Tears starting pouring from my eyes and it alarmed me because I didn't feel sad

I'd been sick all week long with my son. We'd had a virus that left us wiped. But that wasn't the cause of my emotion. I thumbed through my thoughts trying to find the source of this sudden onslaught of tears.

I don't like sharing the room with hopelessness, but I could tell it was near. As I dug through the files of my mind, I found what had triggered it. It was the Amber alert that ended with a child dying. How do parents handle something like that? No one should have to.

But I knew it wasn't just for them my tears were streaming. I was grieving. Grieving for things that shouldn't be.

Things like a house standing empty that's held decades of love for you and your kids. We'd just had the estate sale for my mother-in-law's house and put it on the market. Seeing it bare was hard. I know selling it will only cement the fact that she's gone forever.

No life should be over so easily ~ young or old.

Why do things have to be hard? Why do people get away with horrible crimes? Why do we have to say goodbye?

It's not like I don't know this about life, I do. But sometimes it washes over me like a giant wave and I can't breathe.

So I just let myself weep. I hate that things don't tie up in pretty bows. I despise that one moment in time can shatter a family. I regret not being able to say one last thing.

And yet I know this is grief. I'm familiar with it. Sometimes I get out of its flow long enough to think I'm out of it for good. But I'm not sure we escape grief. It grows softer over the years, but never disappears.

Most of the time I don't drown in this feeling. But when I see unjustice, I have to cry for it. Sometimes I scream into my pillow because of things that should not be.

Sometimes you have to share the room with hopelessness to let it go, and find your hope again.

February 24, 2014

How a Non-Creative Girl Learned to Paint

Not an Artist

In 2011 I made my first painting. I didn't consider myself an artist, and didn't think I was creative at all. I always wanted to be an artist, but felt like the outsider looking in; one who didn't inherit that gene. I happened upon a mixed media tutorial on YouTube and decided to play around with it. It awoke something in me.

At that time I still didn't believe there was a creative bone in my body so I practiced by copying what others were doing (for my own use, not for selling). It helped me learn techniques. I read as many art books as I could get my hands on out of sheer curiosity. I loved adding ideas to my repertoire.

No Training Wheels

One day, I realized I was painting without training wheels ~ not copying anyone, I was just doing it! Paintings were piling up in a corner of my dining room and no one was holding my hand to walk me through it. 

My friends and family began commenting on my art. I dismissed it saying, "Oh, I'm not an artist, I'm just playing at it".

Upon hearing me say this one day, my sister asked my why I kept saying that. She reminded me that an artist makes art and insisted I was an artist.

I thought about that and found I was discounting my creative side because I was terrified of what people would expect of me if I embraced it. Would people think I could make realistic paintings? Weren't real artists the ones that went to art school? I didn't want to make realistic art; I didn't want to go to art school. I just wanted to paint and whatever came of it, that's what I wanted to do. 

That day I gave myself permission to be an artist however I wanted to be. I was free to enjoy the beautiful process and the title, artist.

Mind Yoga

Today, painting is mind yoga for me. When I feel stressed, or down, or struggling with something; painting pulls me out of that funk. I don't know how to describe it other than that. The simple act of playing with color on canvas, lifts my spirits and makes the world seem hopeful again. I can breath. It's also an avenue to express joy and excitement. It becomes a prayer of gratefulness.

Can't Say Can't

I know you may be reading this and thinking, "Well, that's nice for her, but I'm not creative." 

To that I say, You are creative. If you want to paint, you can. If you want to write, you can. If you want to sing, do it!

The trouble with telling ourselves and others that we can't, is that it stops us from trying. A painter paints, a writer writes, a singer sings. If you want to be these things, then do them. Let's start the mantra: Can't Say Can't.

I don't accept the lie anymore that people aren't creative. I believe we all are ~ even in capacities that aren't usually associated with creativity. I've seen accountants be very creative where they place money in a budget; lawyers creatively craft an argument; engineers create art with wires and electricity. We all use that creative side even if it doesn't involve what is typically considered the arts.

Let's embrace our creativity. That might be going after what you've been wanting to pursue, or create: buying sheet music, setting out paints, or dusting off a camera. Or it might be taking note of what you're already doing creatively and celebrating it.

I'd love to hear about your creativity or what you'd like to pursue; we can cheer each other on! 

February 17, 2014

5 Ways to Create Textured Backgrounds {and what I don't use on Tip #2!}

Textured backgrounds are my absolute favorite. Just as textures in daily life add dimension, so it is on canvas. I thought it'd be fun to share a few of my texturing tricks with you.

Here are five ways I create textured backgrounds:

1.  Layer paint. Paint an entire canvas one color and let it dry. Add a second color. Dab with paper towel while the top layer is still wet to give a few peeks through at the layer underneath. Continue doing this a few more times or until it looks the way you want. It'll create a multi-dimensional base.

2. Add paper. Scrapbook paper is a hugely popular choice and it adds lots of color and variety, but I don't use it anymore. I prefer creating the same effect with paint or other unexpected types of paper ~ it stretches my creativity. My personal favorite is adding anything with words (newspaper, book pages). There is something about seeing a hint of words, or even an obvious choice in words on the page in unexpected places. I also love remnants of old wallpaper, handwritten notes, and receipts or ticket stubs.

3. Drip painting. Water down your paint, dip your brush in it then sit the brush on top of the canvas. The water drips down like tears and leaves a residue of paint behind. You can make this as light or dark as you choose. To me, this is one of the most calming techniques, maybe because it reminds me of a rainy day; and I love the outcome.

4. Use stamps. It's fun to lay down a layer of paint and then grab stamps to add a pattern or just random images all over the page. I don't use ready-made stamps much anymore; partly because I don't want to worry about copyright infringement when I sell my art. I prefer designing my own. You can make them as simple or complex as you like and they have a look all their own. You can see a few I've created in the link below.

5. Create patterns. I love graph paper. I write notes in graph paper just for the love of lines and dimensions. You can add grids, shapes, or just reoccurring illustrations in your backgrounds. Patterns are fun because they give order to your playful chaos.

Sometimes if I love a background too much, I won't paint anything else on it. I have a few of these abstract pieces hanging in my home.

Of these five techniques, which one would you most enjoy using?

February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day {and a Secret}

For several years now, I've been painting and thoroughly enjoying it. I had an etsy shop for a bit but I found I wasn't good at it. Meaning, I hated dealing with the printing and shipping. It's a little difficult to sell art if you aren't so great with the shipping, ha.


I've decided there is a way I can share my art that would lift that part of the burden off my business and give customers an instant product. It would fulfill my longing to get my art out into the world without adding the heaviness of daily postal runs.

So here's my secret, I'm going to open a new shop, but this time it'll be instant download only. I haven't seen many artists do this and maybe for good reason, since there's some risk involved. But for me, this is a fit and I am super excited about it!

I have been working out the business side and painting tons lately. I can't wait to show you as well as share what else I've got planned.

I may document this art business experiment on the blog once a week or monthly. Is that something you'd be interested in reading?

Here's a peek of one of my most recent paintings:

I hope you have a happy Valentine's Day and love extravagantly!

February 12, 2014

How to Create Amazing Art {in 3 Easy Steps}

We all want to create something amazing but knowing where to begin can be rather daunting. The following are a few steps to help you get there.

How to Create Amazing Art:

1.  Set aside all preconceptions of what art is.

2.  Pick up a paint brush (or tool of choice).

3.  Begin.

Too easy? Not enough how-to steps? (I'll give you some later) We make creating art complicated, don't we? We think everyone else knows how to do it right or that only a few people have all the talent, so why bother?

If I asked 100 people what type of art they loved, I would probably get 100 different answers. Art is subjective. You may love paintings that look like scribbles. I may love art with tons of color but hate scribbles. Does that mean scribble paintings are not art? No. My judgement of it is my perspective. Just because someone's perspective differs from yours doesn't mean they're right. (And that includes art teachers!)

I think what people often mean when they say they aren't doing it right is that it doesn't look the way they wanted or pictured in their mind. Let me tell you a secret, tons of authors who write best-selling books often share that the book didn't turn out how they'd planned. Somewhere along the way it took a turn and they either followed it or lost their muse. Having your art look exactly like you pictured isn't always the way it should be.

If you really don't think you'll be a good artist until someone shows you how to do it, then call your local art teacher. 

But I wouldn't recommend it...yet.

This is my advice to anyone who wants to learn painting or any type of art, (these are the steps I promised you): get started and play. Somewhere between kindergarten and adulthood we lose the ability to play creatively. Find it again. Dab a brush in paint and go for it. Make swirls, make circles, draw lines. Use your hands, feet and elbows. Get covered in paint. Glue stuff on. Draw. Enjoy the process and let your art grow out of that.

You know what's going to make your art amazing? You. Your thoughts, your experience and your emotion. All of your you-ness is going to seep into your work and make it shine. No one else has what you're holding in your heart.

I'm not saying there isn't value in having structure and learning skills from a teacher, but I think we dismiss how much we can learn on our own just by practicing and playing. By experimenting, we learn what doesn't work, what we love to do, and where we feel most alive. Our artistic voice begins to emerge and we can add skills later to assist our art.

Why not let your inner artist come out to play for a bit?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, what other steps would you add? Or maybe your own version of three steps? It doesn't have to be only about painting, you can share steps for your version of art; whether it be a guitar, an accounting book, a sewing machine or writing.

P.S. I'll be telling you more about my new painting project on Friday.

February 5, 2014

A Smile Costs Nothing

I stood in the grocery store at the first of the month, with a snowstorm coming, the day before the Super Bowl. I'd picked the absolute worst time to shop. But I determined to make the best of it and enjoy the walk through the aisles.

As I dodged other stuffed carts mirroring my own, I noticed a young boy around five years old. He had huge eyes and messy hair ~ completely adorable. His parents were hurrying along with what seemed to be a new baby sister sleeping in her car seat in the front of the grocery cart.

The little boy absently stepped into my way and the father quickly pulled him back apologizing. I smiled at them trying to reassure him it was no trouble.

I noticed a flash of surprise sweep over his face. It took me off guard. They seemed relieved.

We ran into each other several more times in the small, crowded store and they were eager to connect with me, hungry even. I couldn't help wondering what their story was. Were they new to town? Were they so hungry for connection that a smile had opened their starving souls? Had they struggled to find kindness?

It reminded me how powerful a simple smile can be. It can lighten the heaviness in someone's day. It can make someone feel welcome, special. It's so small ~ so easy to give. It costs nothing but a little effort. 

Let's remember to reach out with this one simple gesture of love.

Does this ring true with you? Has a smile ever shifted your day? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

February 3, 2014

Five February Goals

I thought it'd be fun throughout this year to start each month with a short list of goals I'd like to accomplish. There is something about making a list and seeing it on paper that helps settle it in your mind. 

These won't be difficult, in fact some are just for fun but all of them are some things I'd like to do. I'll tell you what I finish when I list the goals for next month; it'll hold me accountable. ;)

Five February Goals:

1.  Create one video post.

2.  Do yoga 2-3 times a week.

3.  See the movie, August: Osage County.

4.  Write ahead seven posts.

5.  Work on three pieces to introduce in re-launch of my art shop.

Want to join me? I'd love to hear what your hopes are for this month!

{See March goals here}