My daughter the unwitting celebrity

I have a “famous” daughter. My children are an endless source of inspiration and I love to write about them. In fact, I just did a quick search on my own blog and found more than ten examples of posts where I mention my girls. We take them on trips to art museums, we expose them to local artisans, we encourage their own creativity, and we delight to see them embracing, appreciating, and contributing art.

We, as a school community, celebrate both the visual and performing artistic endeavors of our students in grades K through 12 every spring. The students perform a variety of musical numbers for their adoring fans.  We also have a chance to view many of their art projects on display. Students are invited to submit original artwork to grace the cover of the program for the evening’s festivities.

daughter art 2

My oldest daughter labored for days on getting her design just right. She wanted to find the perfect illustration for this year’s theme of “summer”. In the end, the teachers recognized her hard work by granting her the privilege of having her artwork on the program’s cover. She became an instant celebrity on campus the day it was announced. I arrived to pick her up at the end of the day, and as we lingered on campus, every student who passed us called out their congratulations.

daughter art

Proud daughter, proud mama

I was so proud of my daughter for having her artwork recognized. Our students were so gracious to acknowledge their classmate’s success, and to be genuinely proud of her accomplishment. My daughter was definitely excited to have won, but she was also humble. I know that she does not like to be in the spotlight and was even a bit embarrassed at all the attention. She was also extremely worried about being publicly acknowledged during the night’s program. Her fears were relieved when she was simply recognized verbally that evening.

Now, I don’t know whether or not my children will ever have artwork on display in a gallery or a museum. But I do know that they love to create. Their minds of full of countless ideas, and art is one way in which they can express that imagination. I want to encourage them to be creative. We want them to enter contests, to take risks, to face their fears. I’m delighted that their school and their art provide them with opportunities to do so.

daughter art 1

What about you? Are there risks you can take? What art do you have to create? We all have something to share. Let’s also be the ones to cheer others on in their successes. And remember, if you should see artwork by A. Keller in your local museum, you saw her here first!

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Finding Your Voice

Alas our wonderful rooster Max died a couple of weeks back. I’m learning that chickens just do that, sometimes for no reason. At any rate, the ladies of our hen house, now number 6 (Trixie, Greta, Lucy, Ethel, Eenie, Meenie) and they needed a rooster! Enter Max II, a feisty all black rooster, that is a teenager.

As a teen, Max II had not yet crowed, so we waited. Then one morning about a week or so ago, I heard this feeble little crowing, and then again, and again, a little louder the next time. It was exciting, Max II was finding his voice! Finally, a real cock-a-doodle-do came out. It took effort.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a workshop sponsored by the Nature Coast Art League. Our instructor was Christine Peloquin, an amazing artist and teacher.

Peloquin voice

Christine is generous, funny, outgoing and giving. She came prepared and guided us through an exciting artistic process that she has developed over time.

She’s made a wonderful video “Reflecting My Place In This World”  which describes her journey in finding her artistic style, philosophy, her voice.

Like all of us, Christine is an amalgam of her heritage, her family, and her life experiences. One of the things I really appreciated about Christine is how she began the workshop by telling us how she evolved as an artist. How she got to where she is today. (And in my mind, in preparation for tomorrow.) In effect, she talked about finding her voice in the art world.

voice Peloquin
“Story Seen in the Picture” by Christine Peloquin. 30″ x 24″ acrylic, charcoal, paper and fabric collage on wood panel
What’s Your Voice?

Now don’t tune out, you don’t have to be an artist, writer or musician to find your voice. Your voice is simply who you are and who you were created to be. It involves your mind, heart, body, and spirit.

Some folks develop their voice unconsciously. Others, very deliberately look to explore how their talents, skills, passions, and life experiences can be of value to others.

The idea behind finding your voice is important: “you are unique, an imprint of the Divine, there is no one on earth quite like you.” This is a very exhilarating and sobering idea.

If you pay attention, you often inherently know what you are good at, what you’re passionate about, what you love doing, often how you find yourself helping others.

Finding My Voice

In this workshop and all the others that I’ve participated in, I take a piece of that creative spark and absorb it, so that it becomes more me. It’s a process.

Laura, Star, voice blog

I’m curious by nature and I’m not trying to rush this journey, I’m trying to enjoy it!

It’s about discovery. “God gets glory from concealing things; kings get glory from investigating things.” Proverbs 25:2 CJB So don’t rush it, it will evolve.

“Revelation is never a straight road. It is Dorothy’s journey in The Wizard of Oz; it is Lucy’s story in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s a series of events that form His story in you that changes your DNA and aligns you with His.” Shawn Bolz.

Stay tuned for an interview with Christine and learn how she has creatively developed ways to impact others and enhance her world and ours.

I’ve been learning a lot about “finding my voice”, how about you? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

I hope you like Star as much as I do! You can find my work here.

© Laura Gabel, "Star". Acrylic and Mixed Media on Board, 16x12. $275.
© Laura Gabel, “Star”. Acrylic and Mixed Media on Board, 16×12. $275.
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Do you need an Epiphany?

“Happy Epiphany!” “Have a joyous Epiphany!” “Wishing you a blessed Epiphany” I’m guessing you’ve neither given nor received any such greetings this holiday season. It’s entirely possible you have no idea that January 6th is Epiphany. It’s also possible that you may not even know what Epiphany is, or why I’d be writing a blog post on it….

Epiphany is traditionally observed 12 days after Christmas to commemorate the arrival of the Magi to adore the Christ child. Now, the Bible provides scant details on their visit, but Christians throughout history have added in their own details, celebrations and observations.

In our home, about the only celebration we do for Epiphany is that we un-decorate from Christmas. Not actually on January 6th, but the closest Saturday to it. I like to run the Christmas season all the way through until then. So clearly, it’s not my grand observance of this event that spurs my blogging.

No, it’s actually a painting (convenient for an art related blog…) that spurs me to write this time. When I was in college, I was required to take an art appreciation class. I had never considered myself much of an appreciator of art, so I was more than bit intimidated.

I remember having to choose a painting and write a paper about it, specifically about what the artist might be trying to convey through their work. For reasons I do not remember I chose this painting by Sandro Botticelli.

 

 

epiphany

As I began studying the painting, called the Adoration of the Magi, I discovered that Botticelli had painted several different Adorations and as I studied them, I saw some interesting differences. The older paintings of the Magi seemed more formal, the Christ child more distant. The newer paintings were much more intimate. Seriously doubting myself, I timidly wrote a paper positing that Botticelli had undergone some type of spiritual journey as he painted.

I was pleasantly surprised when my professor returned my paper and validated my conclusions. For the first time, I felt like I “got” an artist – that I could look at someone’s art and really understand what was going on in the work; it was more than just “oh, that’s a nice painting.” In a way, it was my own personal “epiphany”.

Epiphany
Do you need an Epiphany?

Now, I’m not writing to encourage you to go take an art appreciation class, or hang a Botticellli print on your wall – though both of those would enrich your life, I’m sure. It’s the beginning of a new year, the time for reflecting on the year that is ending and making resolutions for the new year. What are those things that intimidate you? Are there topics/subjects that seem beyond your comprehension? Is there a skill that continually eludes you? Why not make this year the year to conquer those fears? What step can you take this week to climb that mountain? Share in the comments and we can all encourage each other!

Oh, and Happy Epiphany 🙂

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Chicken or Rooster – which one are you?

It’s ok to be chicken, or is it? Yes, I do have chickens, no I am not obsessed with them. But my blog today is about a workshop and a rooster. 

Hopefully, I’ve made you curious!

I admit to being chicken hearted when it comes to workshops, training sessions, classes and the like. In general, learning something new with people I don’t really know that well, can be a nerve wracking experience, but I am getting better at taking a deep breath and signing up. 

Still, it feels like jumping off a cliff. The closer the time gets for the workshop, the easier it is for me to lose my nerve; so thank heaven for “deposits”. A deposit just makes it a lot more difficult to get out of the workshop. I need nerves of steel and a deposit seems like a commitment to me; it keeps me from backing out. So I took a deep breath and signed up for a Lisa Whitener pallet knife class. What a joy it turned out to be! 

chicken or rooster

Workshops can be, but not always, pressure filled, inconvenient and uncomfortable because you and I know that everyone is making mental comparisons, or is it just me that does that? 

So WHY do I take them? Simply because I learn a lot. 

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”–Unknown I want to grow! Deep down I know everyone does, no one wants to stagnate. A pond with no circulation gets a lot of algae.  

We need the weeds to grow a beautiful garden. Gardens are messy and require work. Workshops are messy and they require work, but it moves my skill to a higher level, challenges me, allows me to see different approaches.

Fortunately for me, Lisa is all about fun, all about Florida and is the opposite of an “art instructor snob”. She was refreshingly helpful, down to earth and gave a lot of great demos. You can see some of her work below and here.

chicken or rooster

We had a great group of lovely ladies, some who finished several paintings, here they are holding up their favorite from the class:

chicken or rooster

I chose to do a rooster with a knife (that’s pallet knife), after all rooster are courageous aren’t they?chicken or rooster

Lisa and the other friendly folks last Saturday reaffirmed that it’s worth the risk, learning something new. We are advised in 2 Timothy 1:7 that the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them. 

 

Oh, btw, here is my “pallet painted” rooster from the workshop:

chicken or rooster

Let me know what you think about workshops, training sessions, pallet painting and if you got a bit of encouragement learning something new lately.

 

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Hope, Hopelessness and Cancer

This is not the post I intended to write this week. I’ve been working on a post in my head about encouraging the imaginations of our children and ourselves. I did a little online research, listened to a podcast, saved a bunch of links and even had some pictures ready to plug in. Then I sat down to write and……nothing. So then I checked my email, partially from distraction and partially just out of habit. There were three emails in my inbox all from friends dealing with cancer – one needs a bone marrow transplant, one is undergoing experimental chemotherapy that (for the moment) seems to be working. One has been given a terminal diagnosis. I hate cancer. I. Hate. Cancer.

Earlier this year, a beloved former teacher at our school died. Cancer. It’s been just over year since a student at our school died. Cancer. My love for watching sports helps me see that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (I’m saddened that we even need such an awareness.); next month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. My mom is a breast cancer survivor. Another teacher friend of mine is also a breast cancer survivor. So many lives touched by cancer. So many lives taken by cancer. If you’re reading this post, the chances are high that you too know or have lost someone to cancer. I hate cancer.

Yes, I know, this is an art blog. You come here to be encouraged, to look at beautiful art. You don’t come here to read about cancer or think about those who’ve been ravaged by this hateful disease. Don’t quit reading just yet!

Hope in Cancer

When I sat my girls down to tell them about our friends who are dealing with cancer, my sweet five year old immediately said, “but it’s ok Mom, because they can go to Heaven and be with Jesus.” Yes, yes they can. But we who remain will grieve and rightfully so. 1 Thessalonians instructs us not to grieve as those who “have no hope.” Why? how is our grief as Christians to be different? Because our hope is in Christ and His return, the promised resurrection, the future of an eternity reigning with Him. Notice that we are not instructed not to grieve. Grief over death and loss can be God honoring. Death remains the enemy.

I find myself going back to Laura’s painting and thinking about my daughter’s response.

© Laura Gabel, "Glorious Foretaste". Pastel.
© Laura Gabel, “Glorious Foretaste”. Pastel.

When we re-did our home page I wrote:

We don’t know where you stand on the idea of Heaven, but as Christians we believe there is a Heaven. The Bible describes Heaven as a place where there is no more death, sickness, pain, or even crying. Heaven is where all the wrongs and brokenness we experience here on earth are wiped away because Christ is seated on His rightful throne. 

Can you even imagine a place where there is no pain, no broken relationships, no sickness? A place of perfect love and perfect community. Here, it feels as though everything is a little off, a little out of focus. In Heaven life works the way it was meant to work, and we see things as they really are. And when community and relationships work here, despite the messiness and mistakes, we get a glorious foretaste of what it will be like there. There is real beauty, real goodness, real truth. We see dimly here, as through a veil. There we will see clearly, because we will see Christ face-to-face.

Hope of the Gospel

My friends may well see Christ earlier than I would like. But they will know no more pain, no more cancer, no more sadness. And one day, I will see them again, because of the hope of the Gospel.

So today, I will pray for them; I will remember that life is fleeting; I will hold my loved ones a bit tighter; and I will give thanks to the One who will one day wipe all those tears away. Reflecting on our mortality and holding on to the hope (and the Hope) of Heaven can be an encouraging thing after all.

In what do you find hope? How do you remind yourself of that hope? Maybe you find yourself desperately in need of some hope – leave us a comment or send us an email. I promise we will pray for you! And if you or someone you love is facing a cancer diagnosis, may these articles be an encouragement to you.

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How an art show can foster community

When Nature Coast Art League put out an announcement that Salishan, a retirement community welcomed artists to display their paintings, I decided I wanted to go.

Preparing for an art show is hard work! Deciding which paintings to take, pricing tags, packing the paintings (you can’t just throw them in the backseat of the car), hauling the display equipment (which is heavy), deciding what you’ll put on the table for people to take home; I get tired just writing all that! Anyway, I’ve got a checklist now which can help the next time around. Also I had help! I definitely recommend help in any big project you may be doing. There is nothing like an extra set of legs, arms, and brains. My husband always says that many hands make the work grow lighter. My work of set up and take down was lightened by my husband, brother-in-law Tom and good friend Joy.

Salishan, in Spring Hill Florida is an absolutely lovely place. 

art show community

They put the artists right in the atrium area, so wonderful, filled with light! My contact was the lovely Ana Raposo, Activity Coordinator. You’ll be seeing pictures of Ana in my next post.

art show community

 

art show community

Once set up was completed, I introduced myself to another artist, Bob Grant. His daughter was visiting and helped him with the set up. (She is a behind Bob in the picture). What a talented guy! He does beautiful work in acrylic; his horses are superb! It’s always wonderful to visit and learn from another artist.

art show community

interview-clipart-cliparti1_interview-clip-art_05
Bob Grant Interview

Here is a short 2 minute audio interview I did with Bob, it’s quite inspirational!
Learn how Bob started at 6 and got his painting back 20 some years later. Let me encourage you through Bob–it’s never too late to do whatever divine dream has been put into your heart. Bob doesn’t have a website up, but you can contact him at 352-515-5263, he accepts commission work.

art show community

Now, some people might say, “why go to a retirement living center to show your work?” After all, these folks are divesting themselves of their posessions not looking to buy art. 

As for me, I was enriched by their community. I was blessed and encouraged by Bob and his daughter.  The staff at Salishan, especially Ana and Steve Wilkins were gracious and helpful. The residents were complimentary and in many cases fascinated by my work. I, in turn, was captivated by some of their stories too. My good friend Pam always says that people are God’s currency. People are stimulating, they stimulate ideas.  Community enriches all of us. I could tell the folks living at Salishan were happy. There was an air of “niceness” about their home; a community that encourages interaction, activity and art! What could be better?

During my time there I demontrated a painting, which caused lots of questions and interest. In my next post you’ll learn more about the demo and see pictures of the winner too!

art show community

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about “your community” and what enriches you. Leave me a note in the comments – I read every one.

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Inspired by a business card

“Tell us how you met Laura…” 

I recently sat in a room where over a dozen women shared how they knew Laura and how she had inspired them. She had encouraged them, challenged them, motivated them, comforted them, helped them to be better women. Yet this same Laura confided to me earlier that afternoon that she was uncomfortable opening up her life to others. That made for two very different perspectives on the same person, but think it’s precisely her hesitancy to share that enables her to inspire others.

I’ve known Laura for over two years, but only last week met her in person. (That might sound crazy, but explaining it will take another blog post.) We sat down to talk “business,” and I was sharing with her some of the things I am learning through an online training course. I mentioned to her that she needs to have business cards to share her art more effectively. She smiled: “I just had some printed up; I hope you’ll like them.”

inspired by a business card

Like them? I LOVE them!!!  I love her creativity in displaying different paintings on the front, while on the back including not only her contact info, but also her picture. The cards are amazing. I encouraged her, “You should hand them out tonight.” Laura was going to give a talk later that night to women’s group about our identity in Christ. 

But then came the hesitation. As we talked further, she continued to deflect the notion of putting herself “out there” for others.

But as I listened to the women in that room talk, it was abundantly clear that she had put herself out there for each and every one of those ladies in a myriad of ways over the years — in person, over the phone, via email. She had laughed, cried, prayed, talked, rejoiced, and mourned with them. She had offered wise counsel in times of confusion. She had poured herself into them, and they were changed as a result of their friendship with her.

Even now, as she’s reading this, I’m certain she feels uncomfortable with it. Laura doesn’t want to be in the spotlight. She’s quick to call herself a private person. But I want to suggest that what she is is a humble person; someone who sees her own frailty but recognizes that it is Christ in her that brings about change through their relationship with her. 

WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

Laura is a successful business woman as well as a talented artist. But what I love most about her is her humility. She doesn’t try to pretend to be something she’s not. She is open to correction; she invites and welcomes honest critique of her work. She knows the depths from which she has come and where her real hope is found. She is quick to say “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord” when reflecting on her own struggles.

So often in our culture, we idolize celebrity. But how many celebrities have a meaningful, substantial, positive effect on our lives? How much better to be inspired by genuine humility! So who inspires you? Who has touched your life in such a way that you are no longer the same? What is it about them that draws you in? Tell them: Send an email or pick up the phone. If they’re anything like Laura, they will no doubt squirm a bit under the attention, but that’s what makes them so remarkable.

So, Laura, thank you. Thank you for taking a chance on someone you’d never met. Thank you for giving me a voice on this blog. Thank you for enduring my countless questions and emails. Thank you for pointing me always back to our Savior.

And what about those business cards? Well, she was still hesitant, so I owned my role as her assistant and spread them out on a table in the back of the room. I then mentioned casually that ladies could take one as they left. And you know what? They all did.

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Competition and Courage

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase as you were growing up. It’s good advice, but it’s hard to try and try again.

There are many reasons we don’t want to try again: rejection, fear of failure, discouragement, thoughts that everyone else is so much better. I’m sure you could add to the list. In our culture there is so much pressure and competition. Some of this is due to the vast number of choices, the vast amount of information, and the vastness of our globally interconnected world. The pool of competitors and the points of comparison are so much bigger than fifty or one-hundred years ago. 

Whether it’s art, gymnastics, writing, soccer, or any other field, the idea frightens and challenges us that “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” It leads to a “win at all costs” mentality that drives some of us to work harder and longer, perfecting our craft. After all, who wants to be a loser? And yet for others, this mentality gives us a reason to give up: “I can’t win, so I won’t even try.”

The theme here is not “You’ve got to play to win.” That sort of thinking sounds like a slogan for playing the lottery. No, the message here is about courage. And genuine courage, genuine strength cannot come from inside ourselves. All of us encounter dragons in our lives that are bigger than we are. The courage and the power to slay those dragons comes by looking outside ourselves! Fear of man — our fear of others’ expectations or disapproval — causes us to lose courage. The greatest regret expressed by many people on their death bed is that they lived their life according to the expectation of others. And living in that kind of fear can kill our ability to think big thoughts and dream big dreams. Especially for those who know Christ, our Creator dreams big dreams for us. So surround yourself with courage. How? Read the Bible. Be around people that encourage you to be the best you can be. Learn to filter those who bring you down.

Courage is contagious. It can be spread from person to person. God encouraged Joshua (Deuteronomy 31:23). The King James Version Dictionary definition of encouragement is something intended “to give courage to; to give or increase confidence of success; to inspire with courage, spirit, or strength of mind; to embolden; to animate; to incite; to inspirit.” David is known for slaying the giant Goliath, but several of his comrades slew bigger giants! You can read about David’s mighty men in 2 Samuel 23:8–39. If you want to kill giants, follow a giant killer.

LookAhead. Award

Winning this First Place Award at the Cotee River Seafest was wonderful. Truly, I owe most of this award to my husband, who went to the trouble of taking my paintings to the exhibit to be judged while I was at work. Encouragement has come from so many people: my husband,  my sister, my friends whose confidence in me I don’t deserve. So look outside yourself. Are you surrounding yourself with the encouragement of the Lord? Do you have friends who inspire you? Start reading the Bible, and then find a couple of “David friends” who can counsel you, encourage you, and love you through your dreams!

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The Ugly Place

Any time I start on a new painting, I pass through different phases: the nervousness of starting, the excitement of finishing the sketch and starting to add color, and then what I call the “ugly stage.” The ugly stage can turn a painter inside out, and it happens to all of us no matter what the project. You know you are in the ugly stage when certain thoughts come to mind: “Why did I ever start this?” “This is nasty looking!” “I have no idea how this will ever work out!” “Ugh! I should just rip it up and destroy it!”  

If you are doing something that you have never done before and it seems especially hard, maybe you are in the “ugly stage” but do not recognize it. And so you just give up: The dessert is just not coming together, so you call the bakery. Your plans are not adding up, so you decide not to start the business. Or you never get as far as trying and just call the handyman or go to the store, and then watch TV and growl when someone asks you about that project you were thinking about starting. 

That point when you are wondering whether to quit — that point is the critical make-or-break point. Maybe you really have bitten off more than you can chew. There are times when we need to call in an expert. But maybe there are times when all we see is the ugliness, and so we quit way too soon.

The ugly stage

Once I understood that there is always an ugly stage, once I was able to recognize it for what it actually is, I was able to work through it. The ugly stage is just part of the process; it is just one phase, but not the whole project. I had to learn that creativity is not merely a matter of gritting my teeth and pushing through, but also a matter of seeing things in context and recognizing what will pass.

In other words, though endurance is necessary, there is more to life than persistence. There is also perspective. Gritting your teeth on a project might work, but lack of perspective often chokes your creative flow. 

Here is my advice for the ugly stage: Step back in order to get some perspective. Take a break, call a friend, listen to some music, go for a walk, ask for advice. Remember that we are all works in progress, that God’s perspective on us in Christ is not to look back on our faults and our failures, but to look at the perfection of His Son. He sees our ugly stage in the perspective of His transforming work. We can give generously and risk sacrificially because He is able to make all grace abound to us so that we can abound in every good work!

More than a Mouthful, no longer ugly

 

Are you going through, are have you gone through, your own ugly stage? Maybe sharing it will encourage others. Leave me a comment! 

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How comfortable is your comfort zone?

Safety and security, that’s what most of us crave! However, when we step outside our comfort zones, we learn ever so much more! That’s what I want to encourage you to do this week.

Experiment! Do something different. 

As Americans we spend a lot of time watching and admiring other people do the things we wish we could do. There’s nothing wrong with learning about how someone climbed K2, known as the Savage Mountain due to the extreme difficulty of ascent. It’s always exciting to watch someone train for the Olympics, or perform in a singing competition, or photograph strange bugs and plants in the Amazon.  These programs can spur you on to greater things, but sometimes they dampen my enthusiasm. A spark of discouragement waltzes into my brain.  “I’m not him or her, I don’t have that kind of drive or talent, or resources…so it’s just easier and safer to watch the experts.”

The fact that I want a great end result and I want it fast can prevent me from even trying. I want to settle back into my comfort zone. Has that happened for you? You thought you had a great idea, you tried something once or twice and it didn’t work. I’ve learned that as I do more paintings, then I’m bound to make more mistakes, messes and stuff that goes straight into the garbage pail. That’s ok, because all my experimenting leads to better work and greater confidence. Yes, it really does!

I’d love a t-shirt or apron that says “It’s the Journey so I’m going to learn to love the learning!”

LovelocksLavenderTake this painting, it started out as an experiment, I never used this technique to prepare the basic  grounds (or paper) for any of my paintings. I was definitely NOT comfortable. I was tentative, nervous, and wondering whether anything in this painting was going to pan out. I felt my way through it step by step, using experimental approaches, colors, techniques.

I’m not nearly as afraid of messing up, especially after this painting. Experimenting  gives me freedom, and my work vitality. Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” I guess my comfort zone really wasn’t as comfortable as I thought! As it turned out this painting has sold more prints for the Spring Hill Art League here in Florida than any other. You can get a print (or the original) as well here. Sometimes an experiment can turn out to be a delightful success as well as a mess.

My encouraging advice for you is two fold:

  • Make a mess; experiment. 
  • Share your mess with our community here at The Art of Encouragement. 

Transparency is healthy! Let us know about your new quilt, recipe or marvelous mess.

 

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