Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Secret to Making Lasting Changes

Do you remember when I wrote about my daily gratitude focus? I had connected my feelings of abundance to being connected with gratitude and I decided I was going to do a daily gratitude focus. I realized that when I focused on the gratitude in my life I felt fulfilled, joyous, and abundant. I even wrote myself a cute little note to remind me. Who wouldn't want to do something that made them feel good right?

Did I do it? Nope. Why, you ask. Who knows. I was busy, I forgot, my mind took off in a million different directions, it wasn't a habit. Blah, blah, blah. Can you relate?

About 10 days after I wrote that blog post I was introduced to a book called Make Miracles in Forty Days. The idea was to partner up with someone and to sit down at your computer within 30 minutes of waking and making your, "I'm grateful for" list.

The secret to this is that you aren't just focusing on all the good things that are going on in your life. In fact, you are supposed to start with the things that feel like they aren't so good. For instance, I start my gratitude list on many days with something like, "I'm so grateful that the sun isn't shining again and it is f@#%ing freezing outside." You get the idea.

The reason behind this is to focus on the truth and the reality of where you are right now. To allow for gratitude for exactly where you are in the moment whether it is good or bad.

So, I've been doing this with my bestest friend in the world Carrie every morning now for 35 days. Yes, I've actually stuck to it and done it every day! That alone is a miracle.

I would say the most amazing miracle that I've noticed is that I wake up every morning and the first thing I think of is, "What am I grateful for today?" I'm not kidding. I can be stumbling from the alarm clock, half asleep and unable to open my eyes and that is what I am thinking. What a complete and amazing shift that I can see being a part of my life forever!

Do you know what else I learned? Making changes is hard. Even changes that make you feel good. Even changes that you want to make, changes that will make your life better aren't easy to make.

But I learned that it can be done and it can change your life. I learned a few secrets about how to simplify the process and how to add some accountability. I feel like I can make any change I desire now that I have the tools. I can start a new, healthy habit every month of the year. Can you imagine making 12 new, healthy habits a year? How different would your life be if you were able to do that?

I've got an idea for my next challenge. It's definitely something that can be a life-changer. I've been wanting to do it for ages and just haven't gotten to it. I decided to create a 30 day program so I can share it with all of my friends here online. I am so excited about it and I started working on it today. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 28, 2011

More Magazine Art

I decided to share a couple more pieces of art I've created using magazines. These two are hanging in my powder room. I really love how rich they are and these are my colors! Unfortunately I had a hard time getting decent photos of them since they are under glass.

I cut thin strips of magazines in similar colors and then wove them together and glued them using my favorite Modge Podge. Then I tore the edges, ran a little sand paper over them and crinkled them up to give them some character. I mounted them on paper, put them behind a mat, and viola inexpensive art.

Part of what I find exciting about using magazines is that they are filled with little secret bits. A face here, an eye there, some beautiful script or an amazing photograph all hidden within the piece. How fun!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Celebrating the Japanese Spirit

I have a student named Tomoko. She is currently living in New York after her husband was transferred from Japan to a US office. She still owns a home in Japan and has family there. I spoke with her on Wednesday after she returned from a trip back to her homeland to check on her family.

As we spoke she broke down into tears telling me how her close friends are missing, how her family has no gas to get anywhere and how the food supplies are scarce and tainted from radiation.

As I watched the events in Japan unfold my heart broke. I couldn't imagine being in their situation. I cried as I watched the rescues and cried harder when I saw the devastation and loss.
But there is something different about it when you know someone who is personally affected. To hear her speak not only about her personal loss but about the loss of her people and of her country dug deeper into my heart then ever before.

She sent me this video that a friend of hers made. It is quite touching and what I love about it the most is that it celebrates the people and their kindness, strength and spirit. I invite you to take a few minutes to celebrate these wonderful people.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Magazine Art

Years ago, I mean many years ago, before I even had children, I was living at my moms. I was only a few years out of high school where I took so many art classes. Even so soon after I lived the joy of being an artist, I quickly learned to shut it down. I had decided that art wasn't going to work for me and I had to be practical. I was working at my parents businesses and that was just the way it was going to be.

I spent so much time in my left brain and one day I got this creative urge. I knew I had to create something, anything. I had no art supplies. I hadn't touched a pencil for anything other than writing numbers in a ledger or taking someone's food order but none of that mattered. I was possessed.

I went to the craft store and bought a canvas and some paints. I went home and started painting. Oh my gosh! It was awful! I hadn't done it in years and it showed! I was deflated but not deterred. For some reason I decided to rip up the pages of a magazine and use that to create something and the above picture is the result. I was happy with it. I was happy that I had overcome the block but it still wasn't enough to keep me creating.

Over the years this same scenario has played out over and over again.

An overwhelming urge to create--
Create something--
Go back to "normal" life.

But as you know, I've been embracing my creativity these days. I'm taking art classes and workshops, and finding time to allow my creativity to bloom. It's been fantastic.

After creating my meditative rocks I decided to shift gears and revisit my love of magazines as a medium. I've played around with them through the years and I love the vibrant colors, the glossy surface and the freedom to create anything.

Once again I got my canvas ready, drew a face, got my Modge Podge out and started ripping and gluing. It was an amazingly relaxing and meditative experience for me. I would go through periods where I sat in silence creating and then shift gears and turn on the TV to watch my favorite shows and several movies.

In the end I came out with something I'm really happy with and I feel like it was a full circle moment bringing me back to my younger self and allowing that creative freedom to burst out knowing that it doesn't need to be put back in a box for years. That's freedom!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Meditative Art

It's funny how life changes so much without much really changing. I know it seems hard to understand what the heck I'm saying but what I mean is that from the outside looking in my life hasn't changed much in the past couple of weeks but inside, deep inside, things have changed so much.

I don't even know how to explain what the changes have been but I can tell you that they haven't been easy. My mind has been whirling and churning and try as I might I haven't been able to slow it down or reign it in.

What I have been able to do is shift the focus of my art. I've taken to doing things that are meditative. That slow my mind and give me a respite from its feverish speed. This bowl of rocks was so enjoyable to create. Each one a mini meditation that cleared my mind.

These are the rocks I collected on vacation during the summer. I love the smooth texture of them and just feeling them in my hands while I created the mandalas gave me a little bit of joy.

So now that I have this bowl of rocks I have to figure out what to do with them. I'm playing around with some shadow box frames I got at Ikea. I like the way they look and now I just have to figure out a way to make it all work.

Friday, March 4, 2011

An Artful Journey Continued

We could all learn a thing or two about living from Jesse Reno. He is living his dream life, living his purpose. He said that it's more than just painting to him. He needs to have a purpose in his work. To make it personal and to learn a lesson in each painting.

His main inspiration for becoming a successful artist was his intense dislike of work. He got his first job and told his mom how much he hated it. She told him to get used to it because that was life. He decided there was no way he was going to work for the rest of his life so he was going to figure out a different way.

He said that he is always trying to get back to the kid he once was. The kid who was fascinated with all things tribal, who loved to draw, and wanted to sell his drawings for a buck. He said, "The answer to all the questions is, 'What did you like when you were seven?'"

What a concept! Now he wakes up when he wants (not early at all), paints, and enjoys his life. He's is traveling around the world teaching and showing his art in galleries. I guess that seven year old kid knew something. He said, "When you do whatever you want you cure the crazy."

He kept encouraging us to take risks with our paintings. Not to be afraid. He said, "If you can't take a risk on a piece of paper, how are you going to do it in your life?" Wise words from my tattooed friend.

On day three I had this epiphany while I watched him paint. It was so strong it was like a slap in the face. I went up to him and said, "Jesse, I just got it. I know what you do. You are practicing non-attachment painting. You're like a Buddhist painter!"

"Right on dude!" he said. "I totally forgot to tell you but it's true. I once watched these Buddhist monks create a sand mandala. They worked on it all day and then swept it away and I thought, if they can do that I can paint over my painting."

This was a great lesson for painting but to be honest I was beginning to feel like him, it's more than just the painting. What a great lesson for life!

Jesse had all these great stories about how living his passion and trusting created these incredible synchronicities. He likes to call himself a magic man and he likes to sprinkle his magic dust. It seems the Universe is bringing just what he needs to continue to live the life of his dreams.

But don't think he is all magic and no work. The cool thing about him is that he does what he needs to do. He talked about just putting one foot in front of the other. When his friends told him they thought he should start showing his paintings he didn't just sit around and think about it. He went out and made it happen.

When he was rejected he kept going. He knows that not everyone is going to love what he does and he knows that there are plenty of people who will so he focuses on that. He is a creative businessman too. He comes up with new ways to do things to save money and to market himself.

While I am impressed with the way he paints I am equally impressed with the way he lives his life. I feel like I had a lesson in Life Painting. Thanks Jesse!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

An Artful Journey

What a wonderful time I had in California at the Artful Journey Retreat. Cindy is a really great woman who planned a terrific event. Look at the welcome gift I received. It was beautiful! She was my angel on the last day when I lost the keys to my rental car! She went above and beyond to help me out and I am forever grateful.

I signed up to take Jesse Reno's class. I told you a little about him the day I left. I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought he might be a little rough around the edges. Let me tell you, he was great. He was really funny too. He told so many great stories and he genuinely wanted to teach us all he could. I even appreciated his grumpiness in the mornings. It reminded me of my 17 year old. :o)

His supply list was basic. Inexpensive paints, inexpensive paper and some brushes. That's it. Look how neat and clean everything looked when I first got there.

Nothing stayed neat for long. The first thing we did was apply the paint with our hands. It was fun. The idea is that you create this interesting "ground" with texture and color. This is done exclusively with your hands. We weren't allowed any brushes until day two. Can you imagine?

Once you have your ground down you begin to block out shapes and forms. I had THE HARDEST time with this part. I am telling you that I was so angry with myself. This flower was my first attempt and he brought it up the front of the room to show everyone what NOT to do. Hee hee.

The idea is that you are supposed to let things emerge slowly instead of making a hard shape. Now it was going to be a lot harder for this painting to be anything other than a flower.

We worked on 2-3 paintings at a time. He works on 10-15 in his studio. I had my grounds down on 3 of them and a flower on one and I was STUCK. He told me what to do to help me and I got back to my seat and forgot everything he said. I left for lunch so pissed off. I really could have punched someone. He kept looking over at me and he knew I was all kinds of messed up.

When we got back from lunch he sussed out the energy in the room. I don't think I was the only one struggling but I was definitely the most vocal about it :o) He told us that sometimes you just needed to get something blocked out so he was giving us 5 minutes to do it. What?! I about died.

I was frozen and he walked by and said, "You now have 4 minutes, now 3." Ugh! I finally just jumped in and created some weird animal like thing. Some people thought it was a dog. Others, a horse and still others thought a sea horse. I didn't know what the hell it was and I didn't like the looks of it but I felt so much better. My energy shifted immensely and I thanked him for pushing.

The painting continued to morph. I added a woman.

And then I stole the bottom of my creature and gave it to the woman. Now I had some funky animal woman. I have no idea.

I kept playing with it...blocking out the eye and repainting it (about 10 times), playing with the colors. Jesse called me his "every five minute girl" because I kept going up there to pick his brain. I figured I was there to learn his techniques and the best way to do that was to ask questions. He helped me so much.

This is pretty close to the final product. Like I said, who knows what or why. :o)

One of my favorite exercises was when he had us draw random things. He would say, "Draw a face. Now put a face coming out of the side. Now have an appendage coming out of the head." We just followed along. I have to say we were a bit taken back when he told us to paint a skull. What? We were a bunch of girls. We didn't want to paint a skull. He said he was going to be the only guy in a room of girls all weekend and since he knew about accessories we could paint a skull. We all laughed and painted our skulls.

My flower managed to transform itself into a face. A wacky face for sure. I worked on it for quite a while to get it to this stage. When I brought it up to him he asked me if I liked it and I said no, not really. So he told me to change the shape of it. To wreck it. In fact, he said that if we didn't wreck our painting at least twice it wasn't done.

I was a bit timid to wreck it I guess but I did change the shape and I hated it even more. So, change it again.

When I created this shape in the head it began to like a mask to me. You can see how the layering can really change things up. Suddenly my blue background made stripes so I put some lines and shapes on top to integrate it so it looked like one piece.

I tweaked the background a bit and we were out of time. This was my finished painting.

I really enjoyed learning this type of painting. He makes it look so easy but it is REALLY HARD! It is sort of the opposite of what you would normally do. Instead of building up shapes you are blocking shapes out of the background and then layering and blocking some more and on and on.

I have to tell you that I loved Jesse's take on life. I wrote down a bunch of things he said and I will share them with you in my next post.