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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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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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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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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Daddy, Billie Holiday & a Silhouette

Just like all of us, my dad had many facets to his personality. His day job required precision with numbers as an accountant; on some weekends he worked on the “Gateway Clipper” river boat as a bartender. Other weekends he played drums in a jazz band. We heard lots of Billie Holiday songs in our home.

This painting “Into the Light 1” was triggered by those moody songs. If you haven’t heard any of Billie’s songs from the 1940’s and ’50s you must. Listen here.

IntotheLight1
Her life wasn’t all that great. Working on this painting wasn’t all that great either, especially since I redid certain parts of her face–that’s a 12 hour forehead! Nothing is as easy as it looks, which brings me to the phrase my dad always repeated to me, my brother and my sister: “Confidence, Determination, No Fear! It was sort of a mantra for him. Whenever I would do battle at school (and school work was always a battle for me), my dad would say this phrase. So I would go into my math tests after he tutored me with a bit more courage. That’s the way I approach my painting. Do I have fear? You bet, but I have the  determination to work through the fear and I am confident that it will all turn out. This “CDNF” phrase is imprinted into my psyche.

Which leads me to ask, what are you imprinting with your words to those around you? Is it something they’ll treasure? If not, then develop your own encouraging phrase and use it! Or take my dad’s. Do you have encouraging phrase? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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