The Most Dreaded Question

Just a warning. I’m going to do a little fist pounding in today’s blog! It’s about the most common question I get. Can you guess what that might be?

Is it: when did you first start drawing, painting, etc?

Or how about: why did you decide to paint that?

Maybe: what is that – oil, acrylic, pastel, watercolor?

How about: why do you work in pastel so often?

Perhaps it’s: why are paintings so expensive?

dreaded question

NO, IT IS NONE OF THE ABOVE. The question I get most often is “how long did it take you to paint that“? I’m going to say that this question drives me crazy. For so many reasons.

First, I don’t punch in and punch out with a time clock when I paint.

I sometimes paint in my dreams.  Creative ideas and thoughts come to me when I wake up or before I go to sleep, or perhaps driving somewhere. I pray over my paintings, cry over my paintings, get mad at my paintings, ask God for inspiration with my paintings.

Often, I may write the approach down, sketch it, redraw it, put things in different places and put it in little thumbnail sketches.

dreaded question 2

I may decide I dislike the idea and throw it away. Sometimes, I may want to combine certain media and need to research them to make sure the elements are stable. All too often, I may start the painting one way, scrape it down and finish it another way. Then I may spend countless hours doing a painting then dislike what I’ve done and relegate it to a closet.

But I don’t hate that closeted painting. Instead, I treasure what I’ve learned.

I know one thing. All the thumbnails, sketches, difficulties, failures are part of what makes my art me. My artistic endeavors fuse, making for better art each and every time.

Right now I am working on 4 paintings. One is an oil portrait of a man I call Harry. One is a pastel portrait of a Boston Terrier. Another is a mixed media of water lilies which is a preliminary painting of a much larger 2 ft x 4 ft painting I have been commissioned to do and one is a large still life of flowers in acrylic. Only one of them is working out the way I want it to. I guess you could say I am working on 5 because I’m thinking about one in my head too.

When working on a painting, you can encounter many problems, that truly is the “agony and ecstasy” of art. It doesn’t go as well or as easy as people think and if it does go really well, really easy, it’s probably not my best work.  Recently, I was working on a painting for client’s bedroom:

 

I was working on a deadline and I was close to being done. But I didn’t like one whole section. So I painted totally over it. My husband and brother-in-law were aghast. They thought it was fine. I didn’t!

One of my favorite artists, Everett Raymond Kinstler, a highly accomplished portraitist, states in his book Painting Faces, Figures, and Landscapes of a watercolor portrait: “The final watercolor portrait was my fifth attempt, after tearing up the previous four because I failed to get a likeness or because the painting had lost its freshness.”

Kinstler inspires me and gives me hope. He states he is reluctant to give demonstrations. He calls them “stunts and ego trips”, “speed of execution mean[s] nothing”.

“Spontaneous painting is the result of years of experience.” Everett Raymond Kinstler

While, I’m no Picasso, perhaps this story will give you a flavor of what I’m try to say:

Picasso was sitting in a Paris café when an admirer went up to him and asked if he would do a quick sketch for him on a paper napkin. Picasso politely agreed, did a quick sketch  and handed back the napkin — but not before asking for a rather large amount of money.  The admirer was horrified: “How can you ask so much? It only took you a minute to draw this!” “No”, Picasso replied, “It took me 40 years”.

I’m not sure why people like to ask this question to artists but as of yet I haven’t thought of a glib, quick answer, but I’d sure like to hear your thoughts.

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The Art of Friendship – revisited

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was part of a book launch team for the book “Messy Beautiful Friendship”. Well, the book has launched, and now I’m “launching” my book review.

Christine Hoover, the author, is a pastor’s wife in Charlottesville, VA. In God’s providence, I was once a pastor’s wife in Virginia, and Christine and I had the chance to correspond over email. We’ve not kept in touch personally throughout the years, but I do read her blog. So, I was excited when she mentioned that she was writing a book on friendship. I was happy to sign up to be on her launch team and read her book.

I appreciate Christine’s uninhibited style of writing. She is honest about her failures and humble about her success. Most importantly, she grounds all of what she has to say not in her own experience, but in the Scriptures. If we are to discover what real friendship is, as Christians, we must look to what the Bible says friendship ought to be.

As someone who has moved six times in my 13 years of marriage, I know how challenging it can be to make friends. Even finding a casual acquaintance can be intimidating – especially for those of us who are more introverted in nature. But finding deep, lasting, godly, life giving friendship? Sometimes that seems like an impossibility.

friendship

What is Friendship?

Christine looks at some of our misconceptions about what friendship is and then lays out a biblical vision for true friendship. She posits that we often find ourselves dissatisfied with our current friendships because we don’t have an accurate understanding from the Bible of what friendship should be. She says:

When I am disappointed with my friendships and I take time to dig a little deeper in my heart, I inevitably find that I’m looking for my friends to relate to me as only God can. I want God to give me good friends, and when he has, I’ve been prone to shove him aside for the attention, wisdom, and companionship of those friends, despite knowing that they were intended as gifts rather than replacements. People are not fillers for a present God, and God is not a placeholder for future friends. (Messy Beautiful Friendship, p. 38)

All too often, I find that to be true. I’d rather have the “perfect” friendship here and not rely upon the eternal friendship I have with Christ. I want to see friendship as a gift from God. But the challenge to me is not to love the gift more than I love the Giver.

friendship

Threats to Friendship

She also then examines some of the threats to developing deep and lasting friendships. In her final sections she offers some practical wisdom and insightful challenges to us as we seek out friendships that honor Christ. I especially appreciated her chapter entitled “Faithful Wounds” about speaking the truth in love. Unfortunately, our culture has adopted the idea that to love someone means you never disagree with them, and thus would never have a need to confront them. However, the Bible teaches that “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.” (Prov. 27:5) It is precisely because we love our friends that we will confront them when we see them wandering from the truth.

I highly recommend Christine’s book. Even if you are a person who makes friends easily, it can be a helpful reminder of what biblical friendship is. The book is a quick and relatively easy read. She even includes some discussion questions in the back of the book. I think the book quite readily lends itself to being a selection for a ladies book club.

friendship

As I am facing yet another move, I find myself grieving the leaving of my current friends and feeling anxious about making new ones. What a comfort to know that I already have “a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Tell me a story of one of your dear friends. Or share a picture of you with your friends! I’m always encouraged by hearing how God has blessed you. And if you happen to pick up a copy of Christine’s book, let me know what you think.

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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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Musings on a Muse

“Muse” has become a popular way of describing the source of inspiration for one’s creative endeavors. But originally, the Muses were seven sisters who were thought to preside over songs, poetry and the arts in general.   Euterpe has been of particular interest to me lately, as she is often portrayed with a flute and is the representative muse of lyric poetry.

flute muse

I have played the flute since I was a young child. However, since my college days, I’ve not had many opportunities to play. Over the Christmas holidays, I attended a concert at my local public library with a harpist and a flautist.  After the concert, I introduced myself to the flautist and discovered that she teaches flute at the local university where I live and leads a flute ensemble there.

Finding my muse

Fast forward a few weeks and I find myself every week with 3 other students and one faculty member rediscovering my love for my flute and having an amazing time playing beautiful music together. It’s never too late to return to your artistic loves. I feel energized, free, less stressed, just happier overall because I have that outlet again. I’m so grateful for my husband encouraging me to seek out the opportunity to play again and for my new musical friends who’ve welcomed me and been patient with me as I get the rust out of my playing ability. I’ve found my muse again.

flute and situ muse

I’ve also learned to play a new instrument – the sikus (also called Andean panpipes). There is a separate little ensemble that play Andean folk music, and I was welcomed warmly as I learn to play this new instrument.

Apparently, you can teach an old dog new tricks. I’ve been so impressed by the humility of these students as they listen and learn from one another. I’m looking forward to playing with them throughout the year.

 

Finding your muse

So what inspires you? Who is your “muse”? Is there a long forgotten hobby or passion that you’ve stuffed aside? Maybe there’s something new that you’ve been thinking of learning. What’s stopping you? When we create, we showcase the beauty and creativity of the One who created us in His image. Share your muse stories  – your “musings” with me!

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Keen on Sadness

I don’t know how many of you have seen the movie “Big Eyes” about the artist Margaret Keane and her Big Eyed Waif paintings. It is an amazing story of a woman who found her saving grace in painting out her feelings, often of sadness, grief and anger. While you may not know her name you will be able to recognize her paintings.

Keen on Sadness
IN THE GARDEN by Margaret Keane Fine art giclee print on canvas 8 x 10 in. (20.3 x 25.4 cm)

Margaret gave up her identity as creator of the paintings. She painted in secret, allowing her husband to take credit for executing the works. For 15 years, her husband reaped accolades as the most popular painter of the time. Margaret spent hours fulfilling commissions and painting away. She was prolific and had a genuine, expressive style which her husband Walter capitalized on, making him famous and forcing her to live a life of lies, but as Margaret has mentioned…it was her choice. Which, no doubt, brought her great sadness.

close up of Margaret Keane’s eye paintings

Beside having big eyes in all of her paintings, her style carries an inherent sadness and often tells a story.  Especially her paintings before her divorce from Kean in 1965.

Sadness, is part of life. I have been dealing with some sadness in my own life. What I have discovered is that sadness can turn into self-pity.

I happen to think that self-pity “SP” weaves a very tight trap, a sort of fence around things like grief, sickness, loneliness, anger. Self-pity is clever, in that it seems “right”. It’s one of those “I DESERVE IT” emotions.  I deserve to be pitied, I deserve to spend my time thinking about poor pitiful me. It’s also one of those “I DON’T DESERVE IT” emotions.

Keen on Sadness
INDECISIVE by Margaret Keane, Fine art giclee print on canvas 5 x 7 in. (12.7 x 17.8 cm)
Sadness and Self Pity

Now I know that some folks aren’t going to like this post, because SP is a much vaunted and loved emotion for Americans. We have a right to SP! Don’t we? I guess it does make you feel better…or does it? Self pity is a self indulgent attitude concerning life’s hardships. While self pity is a big topic, here are a couple of things I’ve seen in my life and others about SP. Some are helpful and some will be bell ringers for you.

1. Don’t make a habit out of self-pity, it makes you unpopular. Self-pity is a choice.

2. Your drama life becomes boring to others; crying wolf too many times makes you a laughing stock behind your back.

3.  Find a way to shine, a creative outlet, a way of helping others.

4.  Start a gratitude list nightly; you may find this practice hard, but I promise it gets easier.

5. Remember that no matter how difficult, strengthen yourself with joy– the joy of the LORD is your strength.Neh. 8:10

6. Recognize your worth to God – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

7. Keep looking for the good of what you will learn and the strength of character you can develop out of this SP circumstance.

8. Remember you are not in total control, but you do have choices – He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. Deut. 32:4

Sadness to Joy….and you?

By the way Margaret is 87 and still painting! You can see her originals and prints displayed here. I would love to hear a story about how you have dealt with sadness and self pity in your life.

 

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Mindless Scratching

It’s tempting to scratch that itch, isn’t it? What’s more tempting is to keep scratching that itch over and over again, as if it’s going to make it better. In fact, it makes it worse. In my family we call that “picking” at something, which generally leads to an open scab or sore.

At this point you may be thinking that this doesn’t sound like your typical New Year’s resolution blog. It isn’t. But I think it will motivate you none the less.

If you’ve ever watched free range chickens, you may have noticed that they keep their heads down for the most part, looking and foraging for food. In many cases they keep trotting with their heads down, pecking away.

chicken scratch

If you are not familiar with chicken behavior, take a quick look here.

They don’t even look where they are going. Their pecking could lead them right up to the base of the Empire State building as long as a trail of chicken scratch led them to it!

So what is chicken scratch and what does that have to do with you, me and 2017? Ok, scratch is a mix of cracked grains. It usually consists of wheat, corn, oats, sunflower seeds, millet. etc. It is NOT complete nutrition. 

So basically chicken scratch is not all that good for chickens, but they like it. I can tell you they love it and would keep eating all day if we threw it out there all day. It keeps them busy and in motion.

Are you eating chicken scratch?

Chicken scratch comes in many forms for humans: 

  • Worry is tasty treat for all of us; yet has no nutritional value for our minds.
  • Busyness keeps us running in circles, thinking that activity is accomplishment.
  • Pecking, poking and chattering about others deflects the need to work on our own issues.

My latest pallet knife painting “Mad Max with Poppies” encourages us to look at these things with a careful eye:

© Laura Gabel, “Mad Max with Poppies”. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10. $75.
© Laura Gabel, “Mad Max with Poppies”. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10. $75.

So what “human chicken scratch” did you entertain last year? I encourage you to write down one area that:

  • Is mindless, but makes you feel better. You love it.
  • Often keeps you busy but isn’t good for you. You love it and hate it.
  • Leads you in circles, keeping you from God’s desire for you.

For me the most damaging thing about “human chicken scratch” is it keeps my head down. It keeps me in the world racing in circles. I don’t have the perspective that God wants me to have. I am learning to step away from my “tasty treats” and frame a new life that keeps me looking up! Framing things God’s way makes things look and work better!  “…while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 NKJV

chicken scratch

So for 2017, I hope you’ll join me in not living like a foolish chicken!

chicken scratch
photo credit www.crossrivermedia.com

 

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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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6 Reasons for Grateful Hearts

I write today with a grateful heart. One year ago, we launched this website and began our art blogging journey. I am so incredibly grateful for countless reasons! So if you’ll permit me, I want to offer a humble “thank you” for so much.

Grateful for Laura

First, “thank you” to Laura for pushing, prodding, and sometimes for forcefully challenging me to write. When we started this adventure, I was just the web person. She was the creative one; I was the administrator. gratefulLaura, I’m grateful to you for seeing something in me that I have not often seen in myself. You looked at someone who was IT-challenged and writing-timid to see promise that is still being developed. You are so talented, and the beauty of your art enriches my life. I’m so grateful for our business partnership, but even more for our friendship and most importantly, our shared sisterhood in Christ.

Grateful for Our Readers

When we launched The Art of Encouragement, I often wondered, “Who will read this?” On my darker days, I still wonder why you do. And yet here you are. Not just my mom (though I’m grateful that she does read) or my friends, but folks I don’t even know. Maybe you saw it on a friend’s Facebook page, or maybe you stumbled here looking for something else, but you came, you lingered, and you read. I pray you leave often encouraged. I’m grateful for your time and for your comments. I read every one and try to respond to them all. 

Grateful for Other Art Lovers

We’re just getting to know you, joining Facebook groups, posting in online forums, and posting Laura’s art. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Your comments and appreciation spur us on to create and share more art with more people. You remind us that beauty is meant to be shared.

grateful for art lovers

Grateful for our subscribers

Facebook actually just congratulated us on gaining our 30th follower on our business page. We’re hovering around that same mark here on the website. I say a little prayer of gratitude each and every time I get that sweet email from Mail Chimp letting me know that someone else signed up on our website. We are rolling out a little something special for you next week, so be watching your in box there. If you haven’t yet subscribed, now is a great time to jump in and see just what that something special is!

Grateful for our families

grateful for family

I know it sounds cliché, but it is true: We wouldn’t be on this journey without the support of our families. My husband has endured countless frustrating moments as I’ve tried to decipher CSS, HTML, FTP, and a host of other acronyms I’m still not sure I understand. Each week, he lovingly reads and edits my blog posts. He’s a teacher, so I value his grammarian skills! My children have heard me say, “Just a minute, I’m working…” more often than I’d like, yet they always want to see the beautiful art on Miss Laura’s website. On a recent art adventure, I asked the girls, “Can I post this on the blog?” They enthusiastically replied “YES!” And I know Laura has her own stories of her family’s support and encouragement. We’re so grateful for you.

 

 

grateful for kids

Grateful to God

Most of all, we are grateful to God, without whom there would be no beauty, no creation, no life. He has taken that which is unlovely and unloveable and through the Gospel made us beautiful. When we create works of beauty we reflect the One who made us. We are beyond grateful for His love for us.

© August 2012, Laura Gabel, "Winter with My Lover". Charcoal, 10 x 12. Private collection.
© August 2012, Laura Gabel, “Winter with My Lover”. Charcoal, 10 x 12. Private collection.

It has been a tremendous year, and we’re excited to see what the coming year will bring. Our trusty Google Analytics tells us that our numbers are up; more of you are stopping by to read and look. Thank you. If we’ve encouraged you in some way over this past year, if the artwork here delights your eyes and your hearts, would you be so kind as to leave us a comment and let us know? Even better, would you share our site with a friend? We want this to be a place of beauty and encouragement, and those things are so much better shared!

Thank you for walking on this journey with us.

 

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But I’m not a writer…..

“I’d like you to write for the blog.” That one sentence, so small, so seemingly ordinary… It rocked my world. My first (and for awhile my ONLY) response was, “I’m not a writer.” I’m a mom, a wife, a virtual assistant. I’m in the background. My many and varied roles all work to make others shine. I’m a helper; I make your life easier, better, more efficient. What I don’t do is take center stage. So how did we get here, to this place where I’m writing, where I’m putting myself out there for all the world to see and read?

Let’s back up several months to the summer of 2015. As Laura has done more paintings and received more exposure, she has needed more time to create those beautiful pieces of art we so enjoy. As she created more beauty, she wanted a place to display (and hopefully sell!) her pieces to others. She asked me to create a blog where she could write about her creative process, showcase her artwork, and eventually sell her work. But over weeks and months, what started as a mere blog turned into a full blown website, complete with multiple pages, a blog, and an e-commerce store. Many thanks to WordPress and sites such as this one for holding this novice’s hand as I learned to develop a website. Although I’m nowhere near hiring myself out to develop and design website, and I still have a tremendous amount to learn, it was less painful than I thought it would be. And the site is up and running, and you are reading it.

But then Laura dropped that bomb on me: “I’d like you to write for the blog.” What?! Why? I’m not an artist, and I didn’t think I knew much about art. Laura graciously and lovingly challenged me on those perceptions. After all, our blog is called “The Art of Encouragement,” not “Here’s how to do art” or “The Art Blog” or something similar. As we talked further, a different image of what we want this site to be began to emerge. We want this site to be a place where anyone can come and find a place of beauty and encouragement for their day. We all face challenges and difficulties, and we can all benefit from a gentle, positive “push” in the right direction. 

So Laura finds her inspiration in her own artwork and the situations that brought that artwork into being. She draws from her own life and her own creative process. I, too, draw inspiration from my own life and my own creative processes (such as they are). At the heart of my life is my faith and my family. That’s why I write about those things so much. Who am I? I’m a child of God, a disciple of Jesus, a wife to an amazing man, and a mom to two incredible little girls. Those hats alone provide countless ideas and nuggets of thought than turn into these posts. And guess what?  I LOVE to write. Writing for this blog is my favorite part of the job Laura pays me to do. Sitting with my laptop, letting thoughts flow out onto the page that later get edited into more coherent thoughts. These posts are my art. This is where I create.

renoir woman with child

This painting by Renoir hangs in my daughters’ room. They are the “two sisters” who inspire me. It’s no surprise then, that I often use portrait paintings to illustrate my blog posts – people are the source of so much of my writing. I hope you enjoy the art as much as the blog posts!

What about you? Where do you find inspiration? Where do you create? All of us are created in the image of God. And God is a Creator. One of the ways we reflect His likeness is through our own creativity. What’s holding you back? To what creative opportunities do you object by saying “but…”? My challenge for you today is to take just ten minutes to go for a walk and think about it. Find that place in your life where you want to be creative, and then go do it. Then come back here and let us know how you create! I can’t wait to hear your stories.

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