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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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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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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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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Too busy to be still?

Have you noticed that “busy” has become the normal response to “how are you?” No longer do we brush folks off with a “fine” response, but now we sigh and say “busy” or a variation on it (crazy, barely making it, running wild, tired out). We wear our tag of “busy” like a badge of honor,  almost as though it were a contest to see who can be the busiest. Why are we so busy? Or are we not as busy as we think? Do we just feel busy? Do we just want others to believe we are busy? And what would happen if we suddenly stopped being busy? Is that even possible?

Some recent health problems have meant that I have been housebound, and at times couchbound, for the past three weeks. No housework, no cooking, no laundry, no errands, no activities, no driving. I know — some of you are thinking, “That sounds AMAZING! What I’d give to have some down time when I couldn’t do anything.” To be honest, the first two days were pretty amazing. I slept whenever I felt like it, checked email, wasted time on Facebook and binge watched HGTV. But by the third day, I was restless and cranky, and I took it out on those around me. The real issue wasn’t so much that I was bored with nothing to do. I work from home on the computer, which was still very doable. I was able to complete some larger projects that had previously been left undone, and I certainly do enjoy my share of Fixer Upper

As I stopped to think about it, the real issue was that I wasn’t doing the things that earn me the “busy” tag. I wasn’t busy doing stuff around the house. I wasn’t busy being doing mom stuff. I wasn’t busy cooking delicious meals. I wasn’t busy being a chauffeur for various activities. I wasn’t busy running errands. The reality was that if I wasn’t “busy,” I felt useless. In the stillness of a forced time of rest, I felt as if I had lost my sense of identity. My usefulness was tied to my busyness which was tied to my self-worth. 

I think we like to be busy, and have others know we are busy, because we are afraid of what we might find out about ourselves if we weren’t busy. But here’s the reality: My worth does not come from my work. My worth comes from my Creator whose eyes saw my unformed body when I was still in my mother’s womb. My worth comes from the Sovereign ruler of the universe who has made me in His image. It comes from the Redeemer who loved me and gave Himself for me. It is in those moments of stillness that I can see my own frailty. I can run from that, or I can let that direct me to the One whose power is made perfect in my weakness.

water lillies

My challenge for you this week is to be still. I know some of you will immediately object “but I’m too busy.” Yes. That’s all the more reason to do it. Take a look at this painting from Monet; it is one of my favorites. The Water Lillies is just a slice of a collection of paintings by Monet. While the largest collection is in France, you can also see several panels in New York. The paintings are displayed all along the walls of an oval room, so that the viewer can sit in the midst and be engulfed by the painting. Have you ever noticed that art museums have benches everywhere? The idea is to sit, to be still in order to look closely.

What is stopping you? It’s not your schedule. We make time for the things that are important to us. Can you take time to be still? Will you? Your worth does not come from your work. In your stillness, remember the One who made you, the One who loves you, the One who rules the universe. All your busy activity does not keep the planets in orbit. He’s got that. He’s got you. Be still and know that He is God.

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ME FIRST

 

MeFirstPears

These pears started a dialogue in my head as I was painting! The pear in the front (foreground) just seem to “muscle in” for first place.  However, the last pear in the background seemed to be sitting up straight and lovely, almost happy. 

The title “Me First” was born. Do you have the “Me First” syndrome? Of course you do, admit it! Even if you’re shy or the one that hangs back. You, like me, have the gene that says self is the most important thing. Much of our lives are spent being dominated by what we want and what we think will make us happy. Soon what you have, may end up taking first place. Your identity becomes fused and confused by your possessions. They possess you and me! 

Year ago I heard Henri Nouwen speak on “I am my house, I am my social club, I am my job.” It was a totally memorable talk and impacted my life for the better. You can see it here.

I want to encourage you to develop your identity in the solid things in life: God, family, and being a person with a servant’s heart. How do you want to be remembered–by your jewelry, by your car, or by those you loved and spent time with? Be the pear in the background! Have you had a “Me First” approach or identity crisis, let me know.

Before I paint, I study, think and work out the design and the approach. This still life has texture and gold flecks in certain places. It ($395.00) is strikingly framed in black with a green suede mat,  making it 13 1/2″ x 13 1/2″. Pastel image size is 7 x 7. 

A perfect reminder that being first isn’t the most satisfying place to live. 

 

 

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