"As the saying goes, 'Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them.' Why would I want to keep my limitations?"
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
"As the saying goes, 'Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them.' Why would I want to keep my limitations?"
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
"Creating is the act of paying attention to our experiences and connecting the dots so we can learn more about ourselves and the world around us." Brene Brown, Rising Strong
"A significant part of the artistic challenge is to go beyond interpreting human experience to be an interpreter of human possibility. It is so much easier to create an authentic work of art informed by despair, so much more difficult to create a true masterpiece informed by optimism and hope. Yet these are the most compelling people—the ones who have overcome tragedy and found beauty; the ones who should have drowned in despair but found hope; the ones who should have forever remained trapped in this rubble of their failures and yet found courage and resolve to rise from the dead."
from The Artisan Soul, Erwin McManus
A look at my world (studio, kitchen) and a look at the lives of many other artist-mamas. This is it. This is all of it. The noise and the silence. The chaos and the beauty. This is how we live and love. [embed]https://vimeo.com/120384934[/embed]
This whole creativity thing works like the Fight Club. There's a battle our own self-rejection and creative acrobatics. We have extensive inner dialogs, working out the intricacies of a good/bad idea. It's all mush. It can get ugly. But OH the glory that comes when something comes to life. OH the glory. This is why we are in the fight.
Brene, the one who is changing our culture, has much to say about creatives and the arena. If you love Brene Brown, creativity, or self-understanding, this is for you.
Need a little inspiration? A little something for your office or studio space to help you remember how to ride those waves of creativity? I've been collecting a list of tips and tricks I've learned along the way, and wanted to share them with you in the hopes that you will go forth and make great things!
So I made you a big and bright poster that you can print or share or use however you'd like!
To download the pdf, clickity-click the poster, or HERE:
They said that in desperation, O'Keefe reviewed all her previous work and "decided to paint in ways that would please her." This brave choice resulted in the signature Georgia O'Keefe style we know so well. On a quiet morning, I flipped through nearly 300 snapshots of my work, searching for those that speak to me, that I enjoyed painting. The result is a collection of 50 that I think reflect my artistic voice.
Some common elements:
Here are some that still stick with me. Do you see any similarities?
It's not often that we have opportunity see ourselves through someone else's eyes. I dare say it's a frightening and invigorating experience, one that leaves us enlightened and a bit humbled! At least this was the case for me.
My artwork, and gosh myself as well, were recently featured in Golden Isles Magazine. It's a quick little read, but is filled with information retracing my steps back into the world of art.
"During a season of depression, Mandy recalls that defining day when her therapist referred to her ways of interpreting the world as “the ways of the artist."
It's no secret that my artistic approach is one of solitude and reflection. It is a reservoir of respite for my soul, and keeps my inner landscape in balance. This is why I'm so passionate about teaching art journaling classes at our local paint your own pottery studio (Color Me Happy). Cyle's beautiful writing seemed to call that passion right out of me. Her interview questions dug down to the reality of why art is a core element of my life. My need for artistic expression came pouring out of me.
The result gave me a new take on the power of art in my own life, as well as how my art might impact others along the way. I'm grateful to be featured in the mag, and would love to share the article with you here if you'd like to take a glance:
Or you can view the entire Jan/Feb 2014 issue online HERE.
The clutter, I'm learning that it can smother an artist. It's in my studio these days—piles of substrates, scattered half-used paint, scraps of paper, recently finished pieces, yet-to-be-completed pieces, abandoned pieces.
It's all there.
So I'm clearing out. I'm making room, both in my physical space as well as in my mental space.
I'm also making room in my online space.
It's time to do some marking down and moving out in order to make room for what I really would like to focus on. With that decision, you have to let go of a few things.
One of the things I'm letting go of is the "Art Journal" section in my shop. Things have gotten a bit scattered in there, and I'm streamlining the store. Part of that process is discontinuing art journal prints.
So if there's one out there that's caught your attention, this the week to place that order and clear it out. They've been marked down 50% just for you. (Click on the list above to open the sale.)
After seeing the photograph of an abandoned mannequin, I knew I had to paint her. I begged, actually. I could do that with these friends, in that bratty way of "oh please oh please can I have her and paint her?"
They asked permission to rescue her from the alley, and then agreed to let me paint her on the grounds that they could keep her. This was a relief, because where would I put a life-sized mannequin bust?
The next hurdle was the question of "how" to paint her? With that, this project came alive. When someone asks me to create a work of art that speaks to pain and struggle, well... That's pretty much what I'm most passionate about painting.
At my friend's request, she would carry The Lord's prayer. And I knew she would have to have wings. She simply must. And those wings would carry Breast Cancer Awareness ribbons.
I wanted her symbolism to be a representation of strength and hope for them. And because of all that hope, she would have to have a red heart on her chest just like Sue Monk Kidd's "Our Lady" in Secret Life of Bees. And, with permission, she would proudly carry that heart of hope.
I consulted with a local art instructor, brushed up on my paper mache and paste skills, and stole my husband's drill. Then I got to work on those wings, which proved to be both strong and delicate. Then came the layers of mache and paste, and glue, styrofoam, and paint -- earthy, fleshy, light. And she came alive.
In all the layers and drying time, I thought about struggles, and how they bring us to life. I thought about those I love who have lived with the unbearable. When they feel abandoned by life, love, fate, God, good fortune. And we wonder how do they do it? How do we do it? These impossible moments force us to decide to truly live, don't they? You've heard the stories where lives are barely hanging on: terminal illness, sudden and unforeseeable financial hardship, natural disasters... The list feels so cliche, but those are the things that make or break our lives -- that happen TO us, that we can't control or avoid, no matter how hard we fight.
And here's the thing... Here's the thing. Even when we feel abandoned, when it feels like The End, it doesn't mean we should stop living. Even when it feels unbearable, we still have a choice.
Baring our heart on our chest, with a wing and a prayer, we can still choose to live.
(If you're interested in commissioning custom work, take a look at my details here.)
And The Shadow Side Series reflects the darker side of what I have struggled to accept in faith and life. These are not declarations as much as they are admittances. The truths sit on a dark watercolor paper background, with the high contrast of red, blue, and white pushes the truths of these darker sides to light. They are simple, but strong. Much like truth, when it stares us in the eyes in an undeniable way. It's there. It's not ornate or flashy. But it's so very unmistakable.
At seven, I feel that this series is at a place of rightness. I am not sure if I will continue to create more "shadow sides," so I wanted to offer a collector's cut for this piece: 25% off the purchase of all seven prints. You can see the full collection HERE.
Just let me know and I will set up the purchasing details for you. Comment or email works for me: email@example.com
I take pieces of my life (and self) and smatter them on canvas. I arrange the chaos in a fashion that feels often wandering and haphazard, but often comes out grittily "right." Resolved.
Even with all the questions and confessions and shadows—scratches, tears, smudges, stains, splatters, and drips—there is harmony. There is light and grace and acceptance and some strange roaring beauty.
I see it. I stand up and step away from the work feeling resolved, as if the troubles of life have been set down. Placed aside. Moved past.
Then those canvases, they are transferred from my life to someone else's life. Maybe the patron sees a bit of her own shadow and turmoil in all my mess. Maybe he sees some way to synthesize his own questions in my questions. Maybe they can even rest in the midst of the storm after seeing a path of peace in mine.
Often it's just an awkward sterile exchange of money. One hand to another. Payment to painting. And then a piece of me is gone. And I don't know where it now rests. I don't know where I am.
The treasured moments come when they say, "Tell me why you created this one. Tell me what you were thinking." I oblige with as much vulnerability as I can afford; and I delight at the chance to ask them, "Tell me why you want to take this one home."
And the beauty of their story mingling with my story, it is a powerful work of art in itself. I walk away with the illumination of knowing these pieces will hang on the walls of their lives, bringing some light to their shadows. It is the full circle of resolution—knowing the further purpose of that piece of my life. And knowing: I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
So today I want to offer a unique giveaway: a chance for those who can feel deeply the light and darkness of this painting, to win a print of it.
Just email me with a name and address: firstname.lastname@example.org. The first three who do so will have a 5x5 print shipped directly to them.
Imagine holding up your secrets for everyone to see. Or maybe your quiet thoughts from just-before-sleeping or from driving down the road by yourself. Or from a longer-than-usual and hotter-than-usual shower that you really needed for your body and mind to settle down a bit. Imagine taking all of those things and packing them into your car for a room-full of strangers.
But, then, here's the crazy thing: Imagine wanting to do this. Imagine this being a dream come true.
We loaded in and set up for a beautiful fundraiser—an opportunity to support the changing of lives in corners of the world I can't reach with my own two hands. But I carried in what I had. I carefully set it out, heart pounding over what they would think and what they would say. Or if they would care at all. I saw a few familiar faces and heard "oh I know your mama and daddy." But most didn't have expectations of me at all.
I invited them into the art gallery, explaining that this was a chance for them to "listen" to what the art was saying—engage with art as they would engage with the music and lyrics they'd just heard. Let it speak to them. Let it draw truth out of them.
That's the "why" of my art. To share truth. To share the world as I see it and as I so desperately want to see it. Art is a conversation, both between me & God and between me and those viewing.
The response was beyond what I anticipated. Story after story. Question after question: tell me about this piece, what were you thinking, what does this mean.
And I told them. And then they told me. I heard stories of homes destroyed. Marriages destroyed. Lives destroyed. I didn't say it, but I knew the truth of my art—a dance of joy and sorrow, pain and contentment. They answered my questions with questions of their own. They responded to my whispered confessions with tears and stories and memories. And hope and healing.
And I was changed because they showed me who they were.
I have a friend who's daughter wishes all art could be free. (Remember this, Mandy?) I happen to agree with her. I wish all art could be free as well. But, well, artists gotta eat.
So, in the recent recesses of my subconscious, a concept bubbled up: Why not have moments where I hold sales so others can have budget-friendly non-mass-produced artwork?
Just like that, Ten Buck Tuesday was born. The Ten Buck Tuesday section of my Etsy shop has hand-picked listings at $5, with $5 for s/h. I chose them myself, with a few brand new pieces added to the mix:
I really am passionate about providing affordable art. So Ten Buck Tuesday is my way of saying "thank you" and for giving the world a moment to grab some art at a crazy-low price.
I also can't fight off the thought that there's little down in there right now. My inner life is feels surfacey—shallow. I close my eyes to much of what would pour out at any other moment. But not right now.
I talked to myself this morning. Asked myself who was down in there.
"Hope." But that's a painting for another day.
This post, this moment, is brought to you by some of last week's makings. And maybe next week will come courtesy of my new friend Hope, who will soon have a face.
And then I heard an echo in my soul—the hungry sound of my inner voice reminding me of the year I made a goal to write 100 songs. THAT was the year I called myself a songwriter.
The voice grew bold and challenging. It danced with the idea of another attempt—no, not with songs but with art. "I call myself an artist," it reminded me.
Yes. Oh big yes.
You know those moments in life when you realize there's something you must do. Like writing those bucket list items, but for people who are dead serious about their bucket list. It's the moment you feel alive at the thought; you know that this thing is an act of living. It's your expression of aliveness. It's your "I am here" mark on your own days. It's like you hug your own existence and declare to yourself "I'm so glad you came, now let's hit the road!"
I saw the wild glimmer of adventure in my own eye. I felt the artist heart in me beat just a little bit faster. I rehearsed waking up earlier. I planned to buy packs of canvas. I imagined stacks and stacks of art.
And then I told Drew, the one with the crazy idea of 100 songs, "I'm thinking about an art goal for 2013. I want to create 5 pieces each week." I outlined the details, the "rules" and parameters of this goal. He grinned. He sat back in his seat, rubbed his head in his hands, and nodded to support me in making this happen.
If all goes well, by the end of the year I will have 250 pieces to offer the world.
We were just talking about it again this morning over tea and coffee and nothing to do but talk. He asked me how I felt about this upcoming challenge. I raised my shoulders and shook with excitement. I've already stocked up on substrates and collage material. I'm already thinking of the resources I'll need to keep the muse alive. I'm scared. I'm giddy. I'm ready to see how high I can jump.