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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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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These goats mean business

Alas, I don’t! As some of you know I have a rooster and some chickens, but no goats.

juladame goat business

Just recently though, I learned how goats launched a business. I met Julie Wells a while back at an arts and crafts show. By chance and love, my dear husband bought me some of her all natural hand cream. I’m not the kind that goes out and buys hand cream for myself, but at the risk of sounding like a commercial, I couldn’t believe how wonderful that stuff was.

So, I’ve had it in my head to talk to Julie Wells, creator of Juladame, and find out what she might have to share with me and our readers. Her journey is quite interesting.

Here are a few important things I gleaned from my time spent with Julie.

juladame business

The business of being mindful
  • Creativity is not always due to natural talent. Julie said she just fell into it when someone gave her a few goats that needed milking. Chance and opportunity are good friends.
  • Julie paid attention. She said it just felt right. Pay attention when something feels right to you, when you are in the moment of being present and enjoying that time. That “still small voice” in all of us needs to be surfaced and acknowledged.
  • Decide if you’re really passionate. Julie was surprised to learn that some people consider her an artisan. If you enjoy any of Julie’s products, you easily see that she loves what she does and has developed quality soaps and creams. But Julie considers herself an educator. Why? Because in Julie’s heart, people should not have to settle for products that have a lot of harmful chemicals. She’s truly excited when people see the benefits of goat’s milk on their skin.

Juladame1 business

The business of perseverance
  • Be determined. While Julie fell into it, she kept on with it. In effect she kept falling forward. When she moved to Florida, her tried and true recipes from New York weren’t working. She didn’t throw up her hands here in Florida, and walk away from her business. She persisted.
  • Don’t think you’re too old! Julie started when she was 42 years old. As many of you know I started painting when I was around 59. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt when he was 80 years old, fearing the journey, yet trusting God. Fear at any age is our greatest enemy.

Juladame8 business

  • She cares. Julie named her business as a legacy for her 3 daughters. Listen to the interview here to learn how:

    One of her daughters is a dedicated mother and can see the benefits of working from home. Julie also considers her customers her friends. She gets to know them, their needs, and appreciates their feedback. So for her it’s all about family and friends.

Juladame7 business

Julie has some special words to share with those of you who may not believe you are creative. She’s encouraging, and her products make lovely gifts and are reasonably priced. Why not treat yourself or a friend? Go to Julie’s page and give her a call.

Let’s support our local artisans! Which brings me to a special request. Do you have an artist, artisan or friend that you think might make a great guest? Please let me know.

 

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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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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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First Time Jitters and Virtual Friends

First time jitters – terrifying, exhilarating, nerve-wracking, heart pounding joy—all of that! Those feelings were just a few of the feelings I had when first meeting Pam Jarvis. I’m an adult who’s met lots of new people and made a lot of new friends over the course of my life. This time was different. Why?

Well, I had spoken with Pam over the phone since 2000 but I had never met her in person.  Some people thought I was crazy; some people thought she was crazy; but when she proclaimed generously, “I’ve got to meet you! I’m getting an airplane ticket. Will you come to Ft. Worth, Texas for a week?” I said, “yes!” I was thrilled;  and just a bit nervous too.

First time jitters and virtual friendsWhen I got there, it was quite a meeting, really a reunion of sorts. Pam and I had worked virtually together for years, studied the Bible together by phone, shared our time, trials and advice. We had become friends in spirit. So while it may have been our first face to face meeting, in many ways it felt like the most normal thing in the world.

Pam is such a good friend, I thought I couldn’t love her more; but as the week went by quickly, I found new wonderful little things to enjoy about Pam. I’ll share more about our week together in future posts. I’m disciplined and am naturally reserved. Pam is sociable, vivacious, a genuine connector and lover of people. She’s unflappable, I’m a bit of a wreck if things don’t go as planned. These two opposites had a blast! Pam knows how to roll out the red carpet and did she ever! Here a picture of all the lovely goodies she had chosen for me. first time jitters and virtual friendsA beautiful bathing suit (it fit perfectly), two lovely dresses in my favorite color purple and a basket of all kinds of lovely toiletries, the kind you’d never buy for yourself! It was as if she knew me better even than I knew myself!

first time jitters and virtual friends

Before I left for my trip, my lovely friend Dona prayed for my trip along with my other Bible study buddies. I was dumbstruck by her insights into my trip and continued to ponder them while I was with Pam. Dona said that meeting Pam would be just a tiny foretaste of meeting Jesus in person for the first time. I love that!! There is an old song by E.E. Hewitt (1898) redone by Brad Paisley “When We All Get To Heaven”  that has a lyric “When we all get to heaven, What a day of rejoicing that will be!”

I’ve never met Jesus face to face, but I know Him through His Word, through prayer, through other Christians. One day, I will meet Him face to face. A more recent song by MercyMe wonders, “I can only imagine what my eyes will see when your face is before me.” Sometimes, I’m not sure I can even imagine! How would you feel about meeting the King of the Universe in person for the first time? He is the very special Lord of your life that you’ve known and loved for years, what would you do? What would you say? What would you feel? Can you imagine? What a day of rejoicing indeed!!

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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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Batter Up — Risks are Rewarding!

When my sister and I started talking about her husband Tim’s 60th birthday party, my hair stood up on end– and I’ve got a lot of hair–it was only a month away. My sis being a terrific supporter, said “how about a painting”? Hmmm, that would mean I’d have to paint it, get it framed and ship it to Virginia. In my mind I was seriously considering an easier path with less risk, like a personalized t shirt.  Anyway as the conversation progressed, we started to narrow down the playing field: landscape–no, still life, no, abstract hmm.

Her suggestion: a baseball player! Tim, years earlier, had his own radio show called “Talk’in Baseball.” She sent pictures of Tim’s favorite players. My heart sunk. A figure and worse a baseball player, what I know about baseball could be stuffed into a golf ball. Plus…dum, da, dum, dum, it was totally out of my comfort zone. The obstacles of time and subject matter intimidated me, which is why I decided to accept the challenge!

I said an internal “yes” to my doubts. I’ve learned that the more I place myself in accountable positions that are slightly uncomfortable–I grow! Now I’m not saying I like having deadlines or doing things I really don’t know how to do. I have found out that I could accellerate my learning curve by making mistakes. I’m not a brain surgeon, so no one will die if it doesn’t work out. I’m learning to overcome the “I can’t” and failure label. If I make a mess, well, I’ve made a mess, it’s all a learning experience.

Slugger1

Comfort and fear are fantastic fences that keep me right where I am. Comfort doesn’t take you to the next level, comfort is momentary happiness.

The other reason I chose to risk this painting was that my brother in law stepped up to the plate and ran for the U.S. Senate with no real experience in politics. He didn’t win, but the risk changed the direction of his life and his mission. He and my sister have birthed One Generation Away:  www.onegen.org

Risk has a way of expanding our horizons. Do you approach your challenges as an adventure? Do you cringe when faced with a new project? Try reframing your thoughts to “how does this strengthen me?” Challenges can be a blessing and an opportunity!

As it turned out this painting was a joy, fun, and I’m ready to do more of them! I’d love to capture your favorite: whether it’s your child, grandchild, soccer, baseball, hockey, golf action player, etc. I’m open. We can have a terrifc 11 x 14 ready for Christmas. It’s unique, better than a computer game or laptop and it will last a lifetime. Give me a call so we can create together.

 

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