Take It to the Streets

I love the PEM. It always has at least one exhibit that inspires me. I take photographs, get ideas for art with my Kindergartners, and gather lots of creative fodder.

This time, it was a solo visit, so I contemplated all the things I might do once I got there. For sure there would be photographing, noticing, thinking, wondering, and of course visiting the gift store. As an aside, it’s funny how I always visit museum gift stores even though I continue to be disappointed by their lack of connection with the museums, and their overall — in my humble opinion — lack of creativity.

I had been playing with the “don’t look away from what you’re drawing” sketching method in the morning. And, I had recently come upon this thought.

As I work at my drawings, day after day, what seemed unattainable before, is now gradually becoming possible.

Vincent Van Gogh

My mini watercolor journal sat next to the paper with my sketching. There’s so much that intrigues me with that method, and the loose sketching and painting school of thought. The PEM would surely have something I could sketch. There’s much I want to learn about the empty page, and its relationship to what I’m sketching.

Did I have the nerve to take it to the streets? Could I silence my own inner worrier? Could I put aside anything others might think of me or my work? Could I invite my inner artist to come out and play, and actually accept the invitation? Turns out, I can. But, I get ahead of myself.

I spoke to myself. “Maybe it’ll be fun. You like fun! Be like van Gogh and work on your drawings day after day. Just like for him, new things will gradually become possible.”

And then the kicker.

“How can you ask your Kindergartners to do something you’re unwilling to do?”

As I said that, I recalled my Kindergartners and all our affirmations, as well as my unwillingness to accept their reticence or resistance to trying something new or daunting. I took a deep breath in and out, and reminded myself of our affirmations: I have a big beautiful brain. I have an awesome heart. I can do hard things. I am brave. I am kind. I am a fantabulous artist. With another deep breath, I put my mini watercolor journal and permanent art marker in my bag, and set off for the museum.

You have to take some chances in order to grow.

Arriving at the PEM, I asked one of the museum staff what was the one exhibit to see if I were only going to see one. Without hesitation they suggested I check out the fashion exhibit. Here’s an arted-up photo of my first stop.

I spent time sketching here and at another part of the exhibit. In this one, I stood to the side, out of the way of any museum traffic. For my second sketching session I sat in the seats placed in the middle of the space. Sitting in the seats felt like a big win, and it felt good! I spoke the truth to myself. What anyone else thinks really doesn’t matter, and if they have questions or anything to say, I can explain what I’m doing.

This morning I found time to add watercolor to my sketches. As I did, I experienced worry about possibly messing it up. I chuckled and reminded myself it’s hard to mess something up that already is quite messy just by virtue of what it is. I realized my real worry was how I would manage having to see something I was unhappy with each time I opened my journal. Curiosity, love of making art, and the prospect of fun and learning won me over.

I sat on my couch with a cup of tea — careful not to dip my brush into the tea instead of the rinse cup — and painted. It was fun, and I like the result.

I thought about all sorts of detail I might add. My inner worrier, and my inner artist declined. One because she didn’t want to mess it up. The other because she thought it might not go with the otherwise loose look of the piece.

As I cooked my breakfast I thought, “Hmmm. Might I mask most of the image, leaving only the one figure that had a good bit of detail in the exhibit, and add some dots and detail with splatters of paint?” I grabbed some scrap paper out of the junk draw and did a really relaxed masking, followed by some splattering of paint.

I like how the splatters add detail without clashing too much with the sketching method.

There’s a lot reflect upon as a teacher.

  • It’s not always easy to go against your inner worrier, or accept an invitation to play — even when you’d really like to do so.
  • Breathing helps.
  • Affirmations helps.
  • Van Gogh’s quote is true for much more than drawing.
  • It’s valuable to know you aren’t the only one feeling the way you are feeling.
  • It’s valuable to know that others have succeeded.
  • It’s good to have time to circle back — after you’ve had time to think — and work a bit more.
  • It’s important to have many opportunities to work and grow your art, understanding, and confidence.

I’m going to think about this — not just for art, but certainly for art. I’m excited to see what possibilities will make themselves known.


The Magic of Three

For some reason I like groups of three. I often put patterns of three in my art. I find power in the sounds of three words strung together — Breathe, pray, trust. I chuckle as I contemplate a plethora of wonderful blueberries.

This week my threes showed up as reminders to feed my mind with truth, beauty, and positivity.

Did you know, the neuroplasticity of our brain allows us to replace negative thought patterns with more truthful and positive ones? We aid our brain in this task by focusing more of our attention and inner conversation on these new thoughts. So, in praise of the magic of three, and in my never ending quest to program my brain for health, happiness, and holiness, here are three thoughts from this week that are true, positive, and, I think, beautiful.

It’s always good to try, isn’t it? — Liz Steel

Yes, in art and in life. It’s always good to try. Try to be grateful. Try to be kind. Try to be brave. And perhaps most importantly, try, even when it seems unlikely you’ll succeed. What’s the worst that can happen? You won’t be able to do it — yet.

Liz’s book is finally out of my mail quarantine. I’m fascinated by her sketches. I’m equally fascinated by how difficult it is for me to translate what I see with my eyes into a sketch on my page. None-the-less, it was remarkably satisfying to try!

“We are never more than one grateful thought away from peace of heart.”
 Brother David Steindl-Rast

I am a huge Brother David fan. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve listened to his audio book The Grateful Heart as I drive from one place to another.

If you haven’t read or listened to Br. David, stop reading this, click on this link, and listen.

Did you go yet? His spirit, voice, and words are a blessing. “Look at the sky. We so rarely look at the sky. … Look at the faces of people you meet. Each one has an incredible story behind their face.”

I’ve decided to document my grateful noticing . Last week I jotted down things for which I am grateful. This week, I’m collecting scripture verses that I’ve experienced as gifts.

You are a true warrior!
I’m putting all those dates into my calendar to pray extra for you.
A friend

When I received this text message, I dropped my head into my hands and sobbed. It was amazing, in the midst of my fear, angst, and fatigue, to be reminded of the truth — I am a warrior, and I’m supported by my warrior friends.

As I looked for a photo to add to this magic of 3 thought, I came upon many ways I am a warrior — prayer warrior, positivity warrior, cancer-fighting warrior, sword wielding warrior, creativity warrior, teaching and learning warrior. None of them felt right for this particular connection. Then I found this photo.

It’s from a visit to the PEM. A large piece of art, lit from within, hung in one of their exhibition spaces. That light cast intricate shadows of the art on the walls. It was beautiful to look at as I stood in the doorway. When I stepped into the room, the light hit me as well, casting my image onto the wall. It was awesome.

At the PEM, the light from the piece of art projected an accurate image of me onto the wall. This time the light of my friend and her words, projected an accurate image of me onto my own heart and mind. I’m grateful for her, and every other amazing person who walks beside me, light at the ready.