Friday, February 29, 2008

note to you:

I feel the need to connect with this writing space and to let you all know that, yes, I'm alive and am looking forward to writing a new post sometimes soon. There have been so many great blog-type-thoughts running through my head, but not enough time to write them down. Don't ya just hate that? Ohh, but life is good. I haven't visited hardly any blogs all week and even though I've been absent, please know that I have been thinking of you often. Only one day left to paint before my show!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

breathing space

Today my experiences included travel, fog, frosted trees, good coffee, alone time, quiet roads, treating myself to a book on CD, and plenty of time to think about what I want my life to include.

This road I'm traveling makes me happy.
I feel like one of the luckiest people alive.

Friday, February 22, 2008

authentic self dialogue, part I (random musings from a day)

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all this, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU. Keep the channel open.” ~Agnes Demille to Martha Graham.

Agnes goes on to say that it is the “divine dissatisfaction” that artists experience, “a blessed unrest,” that keeps us marching and causes us to be more alive than others. But this “aliveness,” I’ve noticed, makes some people uncomfortable, envious, angry. This loss of safety becomes a threat to some and an adventure to others. And in the process, this scramble of emotions can turn into an interesting (and potentially toxic) brew.

This evening, as I watched out the window while at work, the sunset caused a wholly (holy?) new spectrum of colors that reflected off the snow and salted surfaces of winter. Everything feels covered in an uncomfortable sort of crust. It has been gray for so long that this change in atmospheric conditions (the presence of the sun) causes me to observe the world in a slightly altered way. I watch the people coming home from work. They are tired, but stop at the market across the street. Most come out with a gallon or half gallon of milk, another comes out with a pack of cigarettes, someone with a child waiting in the car comes out with an entire bag of groceries. Something about their movements seems so complacent, so unquestioning, so non-spontaneous. They have stopped at the market to “make do,” and to get them through the weekend with as little effort as possible.

I find it difficult to write tonight because these words are not reflecting the energy I’ve been feeling. I’ve also noticed myself holding back my joy because I’m afraid that people won’t like me anymore if I’m too happy. What’s up with that? This saddens me and makes me feel a conflicted range of emotions. Then I remind myself that it’s their problem—not mine (I read that in a book today and was grateful to have this thought affirmed).

Spontaneous Joy.

These days I’m just not willing to settle for anything less than absolute happiness. I mean, why not? What do I have to lose? What do any of us have to lose? Because let’s just admit it: even bliss contains its fair share of struggle. Holding back my joy—well that, I’m realizing, is pure nonsense.

I want more and I’m willing to break my heart wide open to get it. I’m beginning to understand that the only thing that holds any of us back is our self. Vinny and I were standing in the kitchen the other night when all of a sudden it simultaneously dawned on both of us how we had been creating struggle and a lack of abundance in our lives all these years by the limiting beliefs we were holding on to. Amazing, these thoughts that can come to you while reaching for the door to let out the dog. And the more time I spend with my authentic self, the more difficult it becomes to settle for anything less. It’s weird. It causes strong reactions both within me and outside of me.

I’ve been reading Simple Abundance every day—and my favorite thought so far this week:

“Choice confers freedom—the freedom to embrace the new because it speaks to your soul and you are listening.” ~Sarah Ban Breathnach.

And my other favorite quote (from Taking the Leap):

“[T]he trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” ~Erica Jong

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Living Authentically

Last night, after the Circe's Circle call, I went down to my studio and, rather than paint, took a little bit of time to create a Melba-inspired journal. A few months ago I bought one of her journals and fell in love with it. It is just the perfect size to let my thoughts really flow--and knowing that Melba made it with her own hands infused it with even more energy. I quickly filled that journal up and since then I have been missing it profusely. Melba and I made a deal to exchange a teacup painting for a journal--but life has been busy for both of us and it just hasn't happened yet. And so, in the meantime, I decided to let the muse lead me and created a simpler version of the one I originally fell in love with.

The last two weeks my mantra has been ABUNDANCE. This week it seems to be LIVING AUTHENTICALLY. I've decided to start doing my morning pages again with a plan to write myself towards freedom. And since this is a Melba-inspired journal, I'm going to leave off with a Melba-inspired post by including a few of my journal pages. Sorry, but you'll probably have to click on the images in order to read.

{You can purchase your own Melba journal and other beautiful bits of magic from her Etsy, justBeAltered.}

Sunday, February 17, 2008

me and my friend, Chester.

There is a part of me that is reluctant to post this photo of myself because there is an element of vulnerability in sharing the unedited versions of oneself. Vinny took it the other night while I was painting. It was late, nearly midnight, and I was tired from working all day and then painting all evening. But despite my worn look, despite the late hour, despite a lot of things, I was feeling very happy in that moment.

These days, my life is very full. Every moment has a purpose--even the "wasted" time I took today to completely empty, clean, and rearrange my office. I justified this unplanned diversion in my schedule by placing it lovingly under a newly established "self-care" category. I am able to further justify this "lost" time by the fact that my drawing desk has been given a new place of honor, a recent painting has been hung for inspiration, and the energy has been cleared for these new endeavors that I am in the process of embracing. Then I painted. I don't mean to rub it in but, my dog (haha! oops, I meant to write "god"), I feel so goooood!

To make matters even better, I am happy to say that, tonight, I received some unexpectedly wonderful feedback from my adviser about my thesis. She used words like "mature writing," "clarity," "brilliance" (for real?!?!?! after so many months (years!) of putting myself through the wringer over that thing!). At this point, I was positive that I had either been entirely forgotten or that my writing was just so horrible that she didn't know where to begin. God, it feels so good to be wrong--on both counts!

This, of course, leads me to the subject of "self confidence." It's 11:30 pm. Do I dare get started on this topic? Well, maybe not. Instead, let me pose just one question: What would you do if you knew, without a doubt, that you would be entirely and absolutely successful at it?

These days, my answer to that question comes easily. I would paint these beautiful animals that have found their way into my life. Earlier today I was standing at the sink doing dishes and the thought "what would you do if you could do anything?" went through my mind. And I smiled--because I quickly realized that I would be doing exactly this. Even more than a trip to France? Yes. Even more than a trip to India? (well, this is a tough one, but...) Yes. Even more than any anything at all? Yes, yes, yes.

These days I feel so blessed. Every day I am being given little signs from the Universe letting me know that I'm headed in the right direction. Every day something happens that authenticates my hopes, validates my dreams. It is truly, absolutely, and downright weird. And I am accepting every single second of it.

Tired or not, these days I often find myself stopping to smile and incredulously wonder: "Is this for real?" I mean, pain is easy to believe. But this happiness I feel, this sense of satisfaction...this is so much more than I ever hoped for. I mean, this must be what abundance feels like. These days my vocabulary has grown to include a steady peppering of words like GRATITUDE, ABUNDANCE, PLEASURE, SATISFACTION, HAPPINESS. And I don't mean to be cheesy, but I can't help but look for ways to share it with you. I mean, really, I'm experiencing much more than 1 person can handle!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

among other thoughts...weimaraners in sepia and blue

"Blue Dog"
9" x 12"
Oil on Canvas
* * *

"Swan Dog"
9" x 12"
Oil on Canvas
* * *
"Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live."
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Today I finished two more paintings--weimaraners in sepia and blue. These came as a surprise to me since I am not usually drawn to paint in monochromatic color schemes. One section just sort of led to the next and, I must admit, I enjoyed the process immensely. I'm now at the end of my three days off from work (such a luxury!) and I find it hard to wrestle myself away from the pleasures of painting. I have been reminding myself, however, that this discontent is a sign of energy--and, although I lack patience, I am very aware of the changes taking place under the surface of my life. Well, actually, I think it broke through the surface a couple weeks ago.

I've been reading Sarah Ban Breathnach's Simple Abundance and, of discontent, yesterday's entry read:
"What is going on is part of the process. I call it Divine Discontent. It is the grit in the oyster before the pearl. This creative second chance is when we come into our own. When we finally claim our own lives and wrestle our futures from fate. When we learn how to spin straw into gold. When we realize gratefully that we can live by own lights if we access the Power. Ask for it. Claim it. Today."

Lately I've been noticing myself daydreaming a lot about studio spaces. Actually, there are a few things I've been daydreaming pretty heavily about. I've also been thinking a lot about things like ABUNDANCE and SELF-CONFIDENCE. I'm experiencing growing pains and absolute happiness all at once. It is such a strange and interesting combination of elements. I'm also doing a bit of MYTH-BUSTING--you know, breaking down all those myths and weird beliefs that hold me back. This, too, is a process. Last night, during our Circe's Circle conference call, I was talking about how Minnesotans don't spend very much money on art. After hanging up, it dawned on my that I have no idea why I held that belief. I mean, where did I come up with that idea?

In no uncertain terms, my molecules are shifting in more ways than one. I suppose you could say that letting go of certain ways of thinking seems to have a way of doing that. Needless to say, I like thinking about who I would be without any of the limiting beliefs that I let hold me back. I like thinking about who I would be if I trusted my instincts. I like thinking about what it means to live an authentic life. And most of all...I like knowing that I am moving towards a life that is everything it was meant to be--even if it just one step at a time. Every step counts!

Friday, February 08, 2008

And there was light!

Sometimes I'm not always sure if my husband believes in my dreams as much as I do. But then, other times, I think he believes in me more than anyone. In the end, the most important thing is that I believe in myself, but I helps to have support.

Today my morning started out with some really intense negative emotion. If this wasn't the internet I'd describe my experience in greater detail. However, it's not really appropriate--nor is the attempt to recreate the moment worth my energy. Let me just say, I felt LIVID. The weird thing is that I had a dream several weeks ago that this exact same thing happened--and today it did! In my dream, I had the exact same emotional response. Hmmmm...should I be surprised? No.

Certain aspects of my life are becoming increasingly out of alignment. Horribly, painfully out of alignment (yes, I might be dramatizing, but this is how it feels right now). But, by mid morning, it dawned on me that my time to move on is coming even more quickly than I anticipated. Not-so-strangely, the moment I realized this, I felt my whole perspective shift and, dare I say, I actually started to feel good.

I spent the rest of the day designing a business card for myself and daydreaming of my future studio (the one in an old warehouse with high ceilings and big windows and lots of wall space). When I got home I was greeted by a cooking husband, 2 jumping dogs, and several large boxes. What did they contain? Photography lights! Yes, Vinny ordered lights so that we can get high quality images of my artwork. They were delivered today.

As I moved around the kitchen helping with dinner I felt myself fill up with a really yummy energy. I am nearly finished with the things that no longer serve me. I mean, I can actually feel it! I nonsensically sang a little "I'm almost done!" song...and, oh, it felt so good!

Over plates of spaghetti, I asked Vinny to describe what his dream life looks like. He wouldn't do it at first, but after some coaxing he finally says: "I'm laying in a hammock."

Okaaay... (I don't mean to sound sexist here, but why is it so hard to get men to play this game?)

Next I asked him what he does to make money. And he responds: "I pet dogs." Then he tilts his body as though laying in a hammock and moves his arm up and down in a motion of dog petting. "When I get tired I take a break...(he stops his petting)...and then a little bit later I start again" (he resumes his petting motion).

It felt good to nearly spit spaghetti out my nose laughing at this image, but even better to think that there is a distinct possibility of turning this vision into a reality. He also admitted that he would be doing web design, but made it very clear that he would work from home and spend more time with the dogs than web design. this is one (two, three, four, five) of the reasons I'm in love with this guy. In the end, our dreams are incredibly compatible. Funny how that works since this isn't the direction either one of us imagined traveling in. The lights, well, they are Vinny's way of letting me know that he believes in what I'm doing.

And you know what? They work great!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

"Louis" {pronounced Loooo-ieee}

10"x 30"
Oil on Canvas

This is my little guy, Louis. Well, actually, he's not so little anymore, but... ;)

Today I'm looking forward to spending some time pulling together ideas for my website--the one I'm building for my pet portraits. Slowly, slowly I'm stitching together the life I want. Last night I started on my third canvas--sketching out an image of Chester, a lovable Cocker Spaniel. Tonight I'll block in the colors.

All of this is such a process, threaded in between the other demands of my life. I am so impatient for everything to start manifesting itself FULL SCALE! And at the same time I have absolute faith that it's going to happen. today's lesson: patience. Someone please tell me, how does that work?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

bear medicine.

Last night I dreamed of a bear. That sounds dramatically prophetic, doesn't it. Seriously though, last night I dreamed of a bear. I was out in the woods with my mom and grandma. To get there we had to drive down a really long dirt road--more like a logging road than a real road. We were traveling towards land that we had spent a lot of time on. And, although the place doesn't currently exist in my waking life, it was somehow our land and we felt very comfortable going there.

When we arrived I parked the car. We got out and started walking towards the camper that was parked on the edge of the woods when a huge brown bear came around the front of the car and started to follow us. My grandma and mom went into the camper right away where they started cleaning and unpacking and doing whatever grandmas and moms do to make a place feel homey and alive.

I, on the other hand, did what I could to distract the bear. Nervously, I went back to the car. The bear just lumbered slowly after me. When it wouldn't leave I turned the car on, backed up, and honked like mad. Still, the bear was not phased by my shenanigans.

Finally, I went back to the camper, the bear following me all the way. But once inside I realized that the door wouldn't shut properly and kept falling open. As I tried over and over and over to shut it, the bear just stood outside looking in at me with his face pressed close to the door. As I reached for the handle he took my fingers in his mouth and gently pulled at me. He had this expression on he face like: "pleeease, either let me in or come out, but I just want to be with you." He acted as if he wanted to play or talk or something. I was so concerned about getting rid of the bear that it wasn't until I woke up that I realized how gentle he had been all along. He simply wanted my attention.

Inside the camper, Louis was laying on the bed with a stray puppy that had apparently been found under the mattress. They looked like long lost siblings lying side by side, kicking their legs at one another in a soft, playful sort of way.

* * * *

I woke up with a very interesting feeling--a gentle sort of realization. I can't quit put my finger on what that realization is, exactly. But it is a feeling, a sensation, a reminder to listen to those gentle tugs--even if they come from unexpected places.

After getting up, I looked up the meaning of the Bear and found that "the strength of Bear medicine is the power of introspection. . . .To accomplish the goals and dreams that we carry, the art of introspection is necessary." From the book of Medicine Cards I read:
"To become like Bear and enter the safety of the womb-cave, we must attune ourselves to the energies of the Eternal Mother, and receive nourishment from the placenta of the Great Void. The Great Void is the place where all solutions and answers live in harmony with the questions that fill our realities. If we choose to believe that there are many questions to life, we must also believe that the answers to these questions reside within us. Each and every being has the capacity to quiet the mind, enter the silence, and know.

Many tribes call this pace of inner-knowing the Dream Lodge. . . .It is in the Dream Lodge that our ancestors sit in Council and advise us regarding alternative pathways that lead to our goals. This is the power of Bear.

In [dreaming about] Bear, the power of knowing has invited you to enter the silence and become acquainted with the Dream Lodge, so that your goals may become concrete realities. This is the strength of Bear."
At the very beginning of Be Brave, I had a dream of a snake. Although I am horribly afraid of snakes, that dream was a catalyst for a lot of change in my life, causing a much needed shift in attitude. Dreaming of the Bear makes me realize that I have now entered another stage in the process of dreaming-myself-into-reality.

I'm also realizing just how deeply this Be Brave journey has been ingrained into my thoughts, my actions, my dreams, my life.

This post could go on forever, but what I'm noticing is that this dream has given me a lot to think about. And so today I am going to honor that need by entering my own quiet place of hibernation. I'm going to turn off my computer, turn off my phone, and I'm going to spend the day in that quiet space within myself--painting.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Completed Dog Portrait: Numero Uno.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Russell, the lovable subject of my very first ever dog portrait. I can't even tell you how badly I want to give him a treat right now! ;)

I'm a couple days behind schedule due to a mystery illness that slowed me down the past few days, but I'm finally starting to feel better. Actually, interestingly, I feel better every time I get myself down to the studio and start painting. Or perhaps by painting I'm able to quit thinking about how miserable I've been feeling? Either way, I've decided that painting is good medicine and am going to make a point of spending time with paint brush and canvas on a daily basis (not that I have a choice if I hope to be ready for March!).

Last week I worked on Jamie's assignment (for Circe's Circle) to think about how I can gain an audience for my work. Since I was naturally gravitating to these sorts of thoughts anyway, I very happily and with great energy made a list of the things I could do to turn my pet portraits into a reliable source of income--because this, my friends, is my ultimate intention.

I got hung up on the idea that I couldn't really act on any of the things on my list until I had a website built. I could barely wait to get started, but when Jamie asked me what on that list I could do RIGHT NOW, I sort of stammered an "uh...I don't know. I think I should just paint." But the question continued to naggle at me and has caused me to think about it all week long. And so I went back and made another list. These are the things I realized that I can do right now:
  • Create and order business cards (almost done).
  • Create and order postcards.
  • Contact our neighborhood newspaper and ask them to include an announcement for my upcoming show in March.
  • Do a mock-up for my web site. I mean, duh, it doesn't happen over night! Why was I thinking I should wait? (in progess.)
  • While I'm waiting to get the "real" site up and running, I could create a page with basic contact information.
  • Make fliers and at least get ready to hang them up around the city.
Yeah, so that's a good start. Tonight I'll hopefully finish painting "Louis" and tomorrow I'll begin paintings number 3 and 4. These paintings, by the way, are quite large and even though they take a considerable amount of time to paint, I can't even tell you how much fun I'm having!

I'm even going to admit something: I've quit looking for another job. Yes, it's true. I have hereby taken a leap of faith and am putting my absolute belief in the universe that I will make a living doing artwork and web design. There's a little part of me that's afraid I might fail myself. But there's a bigger part of me that feels like I'll fail myself even more if I don't give this a shot. I've also started thinking about when I'll know it's the right time to start painting full time. When I get enough commissions to support me for 3 months? Or maybe 6 months?

Did I mention that I'm planning on advertising in Bark magazine and Modern Dog? Oh, I love those magazines. I've been saving my money for a color ad in both. And, you know, I feel like I've started running and the only thing I'm waiting for is the gate to OPEN! Wahooooooooooooo!

I'm doing my best to live fearlessly and confidently. I'm investing my whole self and, truth be told, I couldn't be happier. You know that moment just before you jump into a cold lake? Yeah, that's the moment I feel like I'm in right now. And you know what? The only thing I want to do is


Wish me luck. ;)