Tag Archives: art

Peeling myself apart from my children

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When my son Taylor was little I used to rock him to sleep for both naps and bedtime.  (That was when I only had one child.)  I remember one hot summer afternoon in Minnesota when I was rocking my diaper clad little one on my lap.  As I readjusted his weight on my legs our sweaty, hot skin stuck together.  “Oh, you’re sticking to me, Taylor.”  I commented.

He smiled and repeated, “I’m a sticker.”  Man, he was a cute little… sticker.

When our kids are young, they act like they are a part of you, like a second skin.  And if you’re doing parenting right, someday you’ll have to pull that “sticker” off of you and let it be a separate thing.  After all, our goal in parenting is to raise them and release them.

But shortly after the first kid came along I found myself losing my personality to the identity of my child.  Suddenly I was just a mom, like a million other moms out there.  I think a lot of moms go through that.  I didn’t give up much of a career to become a parent, but I did give up something that I valued even more than that.  I gave up my privacy and my creative space.  I quit painting and drawing.  I just didn’t have the time or energy or creativity or the space to work anymore.  I found other outlets for my creativity (like quilting and gardening), but it wasn’t the same.

For over 10 years, I didn’t do any art.  Then one day when we were in Language School in Costa Rica, we decided to go to the children’s museum with our neighbors.  San Jose has a pretty cool children’s museum.  We all enjoyed our time wandering from room to room touching and experimenting with everything.  Soon we stumbled upon the art room.  They had child-sized easels set up around the room and prints of famous masterpieces mounted on wooden “canvases”.  The idea was that the children would try to copy the masterpieces.  None of our kids had any interest in this room, but as I picked up one masterpiece print, the whole world slowed for me.

As I starred at the Van Gogh in my hands, the stream of time slowed around me and I was aware… wholly and completely aware… of my soul.  I was UNaware of the world around me, but my soul and this work of art locked together.  It was like recognizing an old friend across a crowded room.  I felt a quiet, closed door in my soul creak open.  A lost room was found again.  And then I knew.  I knew that I had neglected my soul when I set aside my art.  It was time to peel myself apart from the children and find myself again.

Searching for “the zone”. It’s the time when my soul opens up and the world around me fades away. When I AM and I CREATE.

It took me several years after that experience to finally pick up a paint brush again.  Language learning, international moves, health issues and cancer all blocked my best intentions.  But I knew it was something I needed to do.  In the same way that you peel off the hot, sweaty clothes before you climb into a cool shower, I needed to peel myself apart from my identity as a mom.  I needed to refresh myself.

This required other kinds of peeling as well.  I had to peel myself off the couch and go buy some new art supplies.  I had to peel myself away from the internet to engage in my real life and cast about for ideas to paint.  I had to peel myself off of the day and to decompress- setting aside work, laundry, chores, and lesson planning.  And finally, I had to peel the onion around my feelings and get to the essence of who I am and why I want to… no, NEED to paint.

I love my kids, no doubt.  So it took me years of peeling away the layers of guilt, and exhaustion, and good intentions that crusted over my unfulfilled plans to find the time and the place to say MY TURN!  “You kids have had enough of my attention all day long, now it’s MY TIME.”  I peel them off of me in order to find me again, just me.  And though they take a layer or two of me when they peel away, I think my kids will one day thank me for peeling myself apart from them… and freeing them.

One of my most recent paintings… Poppies.

I set myself on fire!

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When I was in high school art class we had an assignment to draw a self-portrait using colored pencils on black paper.  We were not allowed to use any skin tones, but we had to have at least three colors- a dark, a medium, and a highlight tone.

I quickly found my “zone” and focused in on my self-portrait.  I didn’t pay any attention to anyone around me for the duration of the class period.  When the bell rang and we turned in our drawings, I looked up for the first time and took notice of the other students around me.  All of the girls had chosen pretty pastel colors and had drawn soft, flowing pictures of themselves.  In contrast, I had chosen spicy colors:  red, orange, and yellow.  My features looked sharp and my long, wavy hair looked like flames!  What had I done?!  I instantly hated my self-portrait.

I got a fantastic grade on the picture, but I was ashamed that I didn’t look like the other girls’… soft, pretty, pastel.  No, I was bright, sharp and fiery!  It was not what I wanted to be, but that’s what had come out of me.  I didn’t care about the grade, I crumpled up the picture and tossed it into the trash.

My teacher saw me throw it away and pulled it out of the trash.  He asked me why I did that.  I just shrugged and said, I didn’t like my picture.  What I meant was, I didn’t like myself.  The next day when I came to class I was horrified to see my crumpled work of art hanging inside the locked display window in the hallway outside our classroom.  Why!?!?  Why had he done that?  I screamed dramatically when I saw it hanging in there all alone.  He said that he liked the picture.  It was well done and it really did look like me… on fire.

Even through I hated the contrast between myself and the other girls, my teacher saw the fire in me and wanted to feed that flame.  It took me a few years to embrace the fire in me, and when I finally did… it consumed me.

“He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire.”  Hebrews 1:7 (taken out of context.)

EARTH without ART is just EH

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I had lunch with a missionary friend of mine the other day.  She talked about her deep desire to just be a normal woman, a mom and wife with few responsibilities outside her home.  She said she envied her sister who is not a missionary and does not have to write newsletters to supporters.  She day dreamed about taking art classes and expanding her new veggie garden.  She longed for her childhood days on the family farm where they worked just to survive without a thought as to how their lives appeared to others.

She said, “I just want to care for my family and to fill the world with beauty.  Is that enough?”

I smiled.  I’m pretty sure that’s one of the main purposes why God made women to love beauty.  God is the Creator of all things beautiful.  He’s the Artist.  I too am an artist.  Speaking as an artist, I like it when people are inspired and moved by what I make.  I think God likes that too.  He likes it when we are inspired and moved by what he makes.  God made Woman and she was exceedingly beautiful.  Man was moved by her beauty.  Woman looked around her and saw the exceeding beauty of Nature.  Woman was inspired by Nature’s beauty to create more beauty through her Art.  It’s a layering effect of appreciating beauty which brings glory and pleasure to the Great Artist.  It’s a reflecting of the very nature of God within us.

As an artist, there is something in my soul that comes alive only when I am creating.  I feel like it’s an extravagant element in my personality.  Creating art doesn’t actually DO anything in the grand scheme of life.  It’s not particularly productive or practical (that’s the other side of my nature at war with my artistic side).  But Art reveals something about us spiritually and enhances our relation to God.  I relate to God on a deeper level when art is part of the equation, because my Creator made me this way.  I think he wanted there to be some people who can appreciate the beauty he creates.  These people are just extravagant touches to his Grand Masterpiece.  When I appreciate beauty, it brings glory to God and that pleases him.

So is it enough to just want to fill the world with beauty?  Maybe, because it brings Glory to God and mirrors his character in us as we long to create beauty as well.  Maybe for now, that is enough, my friend.

http://www.deshow.net/cartoon/fantasy-art-painting-566.html

here’s the website to this artist’s page. Josephine Wall. http://www.deshow.net/cartoon/fantasy-art-painting-566.html

“These are a few of my favorite things” (did you just sing that in your head?)

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Oprah isn’t the only one who has a list of her favorite things.  Just because Fridays are supposed to be light and fun, here are a few of the things in life that put a smile on my face:

1.  The color turquoise.  Is it blue or green?  I don’t know, but it just makes me happy all the time!  I love that color.

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2.  Daisies.  I like all kinds of flowers, but daisies are the most cheerful, in my humble opinion.  If I could combine the shape of daisies with the fragrance of lilacs or gardenias I would have created the perfect flower.  I like Daisies so much that I named my daughter Emma Daisy.

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3.  The smell of wet dirt.  Think rain, think watering the lawn with a sprinkler, think gardening, think spring.

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4.  Kissing a baby’s head.  I can think of nothing more heavenly than kissing the soft, downy hair of a baby’s head.  Unless of course the baby is dirty, in which case, that’s not a good smell.

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5.  New shoes.  Sometimes I just walk through a shoe store and inhale deeply.  And getting a new pair of shoes makes me unreasonably happy.  I don’t know why.  Probably just because I’m a girl.

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6.  Art.  Looking at it, making it, talking about it, appreciating it- I was made to love art.  It’s the language of my deepest soul.

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7.  Books.  I have a Kindle because I live in a Spanish speaking country where English books are hard to find.  I love my Kindle because I can still read with it, but I vastly prefer books.  The cracking-spine sound of opening a new book.  The smell of paper and ink.  Turning a page and feeling the progress of one side being heavier than the other side.

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8.  Laughter.  I love laughing until I cry or until my tummy hurts or until I make a croaking sound or something equally silly and laugh inducing.  I love people who make me laugh.  I love movies that make me laugh.  I love every kind of humor from slap stick and junior high humor to dry, intellectual wit and sarcastic banter.  I love it all!  I have no problem laughing at myself either.

9.  Naps.  I’m a 20 minute power napper.  I’m a much nicer person after I’ve had an afternoon cat nap.  Every mommy loves nap time.  Even though my kids have out grown naps, I still want one every afternoon.  I just wish I had a hammock.

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10.  Coffee.  And again in the morning, I’m a much nicer person after my cup of happy goodness. Sweet and creamy is my M.O.  The smell of coffee is better than… anything!  They should make coffee scented car air fresheners and coffee scented deodorant and coffee scented breath mints and -OH- I could go on and on and on!  It’s the best legal addictive stimulant around.  Coffee makes me happy, happy, happy!  I usually feel invincible after 2 cups, so I just stick to one in the morning and go about my regular Wonder Woman way.

Of course there are many more things that could go on this list.  Beaches, fall leaves, camp fires, baking, cats (no haters!), compliments, baby animals, dark chocolate covered almonds, date-nite with my husband, my kids, traveling, learning new things, teaching, coconut lime sugar cookies, the list goes on and on.  The world is full of things that I love!  Eat your heart out, Oprah.

Homemade Creative Kids

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While the kids are creating crafts, I am crafting creative kids.

If you come to our house on any given Saturday morning you will find the TV off and the living room vacant.  In the kitchen/dinning room you will hear us rocking out to super stimulating music like Coldplay, Jamie Grace, Toby Mac or sometimes Christmas Carols on an internet radio station if the season is right.  The table will be covered with newspapers.  There might be wads of paper towels tossed on the floor.  We will all still be in our jammies.  My coffee will be cooling in the mug off to the side.  There might be paint under my fingernails or glue in my hair.  It’s a beautiful scene of creative mayhem.

The craft of the day will be spread all around the room.  Sometimes we paint.  Sometimes we cut and glue.  Sometimes we draw. And sometimes we sew.  I try to keep the craft to a level that they can manage with success.  My goal is to help them create something they can be proud of with as little help from me as possible.  Ultimately I want to help them become creative individuals.  While they are making a project for the day, I am making a project for a lifetime.

I really think that children have great creative potential.  It needs to be encouraged.  It needs to be exposed to resources like paint and glue and paper and glitter.  It needs to be stimulated with new ideas.  It needs to be challenged with inspiring surroundings.  Creative potential should be unleashed and set free!… all over the kitchen table.  Then the results need to be praised and admired because that primes the pump for more creativity to flow.  The potential to create something fantastic is in each of us, I believe.  It only takes a little planning and a little tolerance of the messy process for each child to find what they love and what they are good at.  I love that process!!

So if you drop by my house on a Saturday morning, the place will be a bit of a mess.  But we are working on creating a masterpiece- we are making creative people.  And it’s a whole lot of fun!

Making homemade Valentine's cards

Starting Something New

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I’m a starter. I’m one of those people who starts strong and then sputters out before I’m done. My interest is in launching, not finishing. I get great satisfaction in planning to do something and then starting it. I just don’t feel rewarded by completing a project.  I’m more of a dreamer and less of a doer. I set fantastic goals but when the path to my goals gets hard, or mundane, I lose interest. Sometimes I think it would be easier to be the kind of person who doesn’t have goals. I mean, I get it. It’s a lot of work to push towards a goal. Sometimes I think I wouldn’t mind being a coaster, or a follower, or an underachiever, or a quitter. I get it. Why work so hard?  What’s the big deal about actually finishing something?  (Please hear my sarcasm, this is humor… don’t take this for theology or even advice.)

Entering a new field of interest is difficult too. There’s usually a high learning curve. Lots of time spent researching and practicing and, well, learning. And a lot of money spent on acquiring the tools needed to DO a new hobby or job. Actually, this is the part that I love about starting something new. I love accumulating new knowledge. I love buying new gadgets and supplies. It’s all the set up that I enjoy. When I was a little girl I loved dressing my Barbies and getting the dollhouse all set up… and then I was done! I drove my sister nuts. Just when she was ready to start playing I was losing interest in the game.

I like crafting, but I have about a 3-month attention span. For about 3 months I eat-sleep-breathe- and live whatever I’m interested in. Once I drill that thing into the ground, I’m bored. Once I get good at it, or at least as good as I WANT to be, I’m ready for another challenge. I am a “binge crafter.”  I have done charcoal drawing, colored pencil drawing, pastels, stamping, embossing, sewing clothes, quilting (that lasted a long time), jewelry making, watercolor painting (didn’t have the patience to let the layers dry), oil painting (too difficult to clean up), and acrylic painting. I never got into scrap booking because it was too commercialized for my tastes. I did the old fashioned scrap booking in High School when it was cool. But my point is, I have dabbled in a lot of art to find what I like and what I’m good at. I still have a long list of things I’d like to try.

And because I’m a starter, I probably won’t…

Empty Canvas

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“Empty canvas waits before the Painter, waits to be the painting it must be.  Unto this end it has rightly been created to reflect rightly what the Painter sees.  A beauty that will surely find its life within its dying so another might be born again.  And in this constant death a constant beauty is created within a constant love that never ends. Jesus is the Master Painter.  And the Holy Spirit is the Master’s brush to be dipped within the colors that portray the Father’s love, that the canvas of our life might know the Master’s touch, to portray the beauty of the Master’s brush.  So an empty canvas waits before the Painter, empty canvas destined to be hung within the gallery once it has been created.  Will the canvas bear the beauty of the Son?”  (“Empty Canvas”, song lyrics by John Michael Talbot and Terry Talbot)

My painting- Bird of Paradise

These two songs have spoken to my soul ever since I was a child.  They talk about my personal relationship with God.   There is a part of my soul which is normally quiet and closed, when I paint, that part of me comes alive and opens to the Lord.  My soul feels very exposed and naked, very raw and real.  For me, Art is very spiritual and very intimate.  For this reason, I like to be alone when I paint.  These lyrics are some of the things I think about when I paint.  I believe that God made me this way for a reason, to relate to my Creator. 

So paint my life with you Charity,

Paint my life with your Mercy

Paint my life with your Humility

And I’ll share in your Glory, Jesus

Paint my life, Jesus

Paint my life

Color your brush with your Kindness

Color your brush with your Meekness

Color your brush with your Gentleness

Color your brush with your Forgiveness, Jesus

Paint my life, Jesus

Paint my life, Jesus.

~”Paint My Life”

By John Michael Talbot and Terry Talbot

Art in the School of Hard Knocks

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This is what Groveland Elementary looked like

When I was in 4th grade I went to a wonderful neighborhood school called Groveland Elementary.  You know the school in the movie “A Christmas Story” where Ralphie watches Flick stick his tongue to the frozen flag pole on a dare?  That school is identical to the school where I attended late elementary.  We lived across the street and my sister and I would walk to school.  I was a crossing guard in 6th grade.

But anyways, back to 4th grade.  Every Friday we had Art.  It was my favorite subject.  One Friday our assignment was to make a Family Crest of Arms.  I had no idea what that was supposed to be.  Our family was barely above our trailer park relatives (I’m sure one of them is The Missing Link)!  We were a rag-tag band of nobodies!  We weren’t royalty.  So apparently I had the freedom to reinvent our family identity on this Crest of Arms.

The teacher passed out mimeographed copies of a shield shape printed on cardstock.  The shield was divided into several sections.  In one section we were instructed to draw our family.  I labored over detailed likenesses of my mom, my dad, my little sister, myself, and our cat.  In another section we were to draw a picture of a place that was special to our family.  I drew Des Moines, Iowa because my grandparents lived there.  In the third section we were to depict a characteristic or a moral that our family valued.  (This was in the days when we still said the “Pledge of Allegiance” to the flag every day and the word “moral” wasn’t a dirty word yet.)  I drew a picture of a church with a cross on the top of it.  In the final section we were to make a drawing describing a goal or a dream or a plan that our family had for the future.  I honestly don’t remember what I drew here.  Maybe it was us going to DisneyWorld or something.  I don’t remember.

Underneath the shield was a ribbon shape where we were instructed to write our family motto.  In my best 4th grade cursive I carefully wrote “Nobody said life would be easy.”  I had heard my parents say this about a million times in my short 9 years of life.  My family was at the head of the class in Life’s School of Hard Knocks.  My parents taught me by example that when life knocks you on your duff, you pick yourself up, dust off your pants, and you keep marching on.  Expect no hand-outs.  Expect no simpathy.  You are not entitled to a cushy ride.  We all have our own set of burdens to bear so it’s best to bear them nobly and get on with it.  Nobody said life would be easy.

My teacher must have displayed our artwork somewhere in the classroom, I don’t remember specifically.  But my parents came home from Parents’ Open House with smirks playing around the corners of their mouths.  They asked me where on earth I got the idea that “Nobody said life was easy” was our family motto.  I told them, “Mom says that to me all the time!”  They both burst out laughing, laughed until the tears flowed, and my mom finally caught her breath enough to admit that, yes, it’s true.  So from that point on, we have been very clear about where our family stands on this issue.  It is, after all, our family motto.  Nobody said that life would be easy.