Making Connections by Making Art

May 31, 2008 at 8:14 pm (Uncategorized)

My mom’s father was a minister of a small church located on the north side of Spencer and their family lived in the parsonage next door. Spencer, is the town where my parents grew up. They met in junior high and were friends through high school. When my dad died two and a half years ago, he was buried in the cemetery next to the church.

My friend Russ drives around for his job. And Spencer is one of the towns he drives through. Sometimes, he stops at the church to visit the place where my dad is buried. Recently, he stopped by and noticed that the little church was being torn down. The bricks were stripped from the exterior and soon the rest of it will be gone.

Russ walked around the church grounds and saw pieces of brick lying here and there. He found one that was in still in one piece and picked it up. Then he took it home, painted some little flowers on and my family’s last name on it and gave it to my mom as a keepsake.

Now if a person came to my mom’s house and saw the brick, they might think, “Oh that’s a nice little brick”, but what I really love about the brick is that to me it represents so much more.

That brick was a part of a structure that was a part of my parents’ past. My parents’ lives eventually brought them to know my friend Russ and to contribute to his life. And now, Russ has found that object and added his own voice by painting it. Then by giving it to my mom, has completed a circle.

Our lives are like that brick in a way. For a time, our life has one purpose and touches certain people. As time goes on, the role we once filled, may change. Our purposes change. And the people we touch go on to touch other people’s lives and once in a while we see the effect of our influence come back to us. We are all connected in some way.

I like to look at life like a web of connections. It may seem somewhat random, but I don’t think it is. We are all right where we are supposed to be. And the people in our lives are there for a reason.

In a way, that’s what making art is all about. We can take raw materials such as clay, or wood, or brick or canvas, infuse meaning to it, add our own voice and make something new.

As you go through the next week, take notice of the connections. How has your life been enriched by someone? Can you turn that into a piece of art? I find that making art helps me find meaning in the chaos. Hopefully it will for you too.

Art Saves Lives!


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Is there a ghost in your past keeping you from expressing your inner artist?

May 14, 2008 at 4:53 pm (Uncategorized)

There was once a little boy whose parents loved to have parties. Almost every weekend they would invite their friends over for food and fun. And during these parties, the little boy was told to stay in his room. His parents told him that when they had their friends over, children were to not be seen or heard.

One night, the little boy’s parents were having one of their grown up get-togethers and the little boy decided to draw a picture. When he finished he ventured downstairs to show his parents. His parents told him they liked his drawing and complimented him in front of their friends.

Because the little boy didn’t usually get many compliments from his parents, he of course felt really good. That evening he drew more pictures to show his parents. And each time they complimented him.

The next morning the boy came down and noticed his drawings on the refrigerator. Thinking that art belongs on kitchen appliances and furnishings, he found some permanent markers and began to draw a mural on the side of the cabinets.

When his father walked in the kitchen and saw his artwork, he got very angry and sent the little boy to his room to think about what he did.

Now, as grown ups, we can understand the frustration the father felt, but from the little boy’s perspective, he was confused and that confusion from that very specific incident caused him to think of himself as a failure and not want to try new things in the future.

Children often make emotional decisions that last a lifetime based on limited information. We all have patterns in our lives today that are a result of a belief we made as a child. I hear stories like this all the time from people who have the desire to make art but they are afraid to try. A long time ago, someone said something not meaning to scar them for life, but the comment was just enough to make them think they weren’t good enough.

I believe that we are all good enough. It is my hope to create an atmosphere where people feel safe to try. We all have a voice. We all have something creative inside that wants to be expressed.

Think about what is keeping you from stepping out. What kind of artistic expression have you always wanted to try? Does pottery seem fascinating? Do you have a painting inside? Have you always wanted to write a screenplay or a novel? Do you want to perform on stage? Whatever it is that you want to express, express it. Don’t let some ghost from the past determine who you are today. You are a creative being. You are meant to contribute a verse to the sonnet of life. Find your voice and create.

Art Saves Lives.

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If Winston Churchill could start painting later in life, so can you

May 14, 2008 at 4:50 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m reading a little book by Winston Churchill called Painting as a Pastime. In it, Churchill writes that the purpose of the book is not to teach people how to paint, but rather to teach people how to enjoy painting. I really like that distinction because painting for many seems like a daunting under-taking.

Many people think because they haven’t been making art for years, that it’s now too late to start. Painting is one of those art forms that people seem to be afraid of because they think it requires talent. Winston Churchill began painting in his forties. In fact, many painters started later in life. This is good news because Churchill illustrates that no matter where you are in life, you can begin to add more fulfillment to your life by painting now.

On Tuesday nights I get together with other painters, sometimes just one other painter, and we paint. We have come to understand that if you want to paint, you don’t wait for the perfect time, or until you have talent. You just start.

It may feel awkward at first, but it gets better and more comfortable the more you do it. I think if we understand that painting is a process of learning and exploring, we may be a little more forgiving of our selves. The act of painting itself will inevitably make you a better painter. That’s what’s so great about starting now. By next month, you will be a better painter than you are now. And a year from now you’ll be a better painter than you will be in 6 months.

I believe that each blank canvas is the beginning of a journey. I know when I begin a painting I may have a concept in mind, but it’s not until I put brush to canvas, that the way unfolds. As soon as the first mark goes on, the journey begins. The next brushstroke is a reaction to the previous one. And so on.

Sometimes, as I paint, I stop. I may not like what I’ve got. Then I have to determine what’s not working and come up with a way to handle the problem. My action might make it better or worse. Either way, I’ve learned something about the process.

A lot of what painting is, is just testing ideas. You may not even be aware that you are learning and growing. But you are. Painting forces you to slow down. It causes you to really look. It teaches you to identify things that don’t seem right. These lessons help your intuition to develop.

I’m a painter, so I believe everyone should try it. But making any kind of art will enrich your life more than you can imagine. If you’d like more information about painting with me on Tuesday nights, feel free to contact me at Art Village.

Art Saves Lives!

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How is your life like a piece of fine jewelry?

May 14, 2008 at 4:47 pm (Uncategorized)

My friend Erin makes custom jewelry from unusual items.  She uses keys, subway tokens, watch parts, semi-precious stones and all kinds of different materials. She calls the variety of materials in her art treasures.

She approaches her art in a very unique way. She’s not interested in mass-producing the same piece of jewelry over and over again. She’s interested in creating personal pieces of art that reflects the individuality of the person she’s designing for. She always selects items and colors that mean something to the person who will be wearing it. Each element has a meaning and a purpose, which is what makes the piece as a whole a work of art.

I think our lives are a bit like Erin’s jewelry. We pick up things here and there on our journey. People pass in and out of our lives. We find our selves at this job for a while and then another. We live in this apartment in one city and a house in the next. Our lives move in seasons. All these situations and circumstances are treasures. And as we put together our treasures, our lives become a one of a kind work of art.

When we look back at our lives, we can see patterns emerge, just like when Erin creates a necklace. There is a pattern to the objects. It may seem random to some people, but it’s not. There is a reason for every treasure that is added to that piece of art.

One thing I like about Erin’s work is that she gives her jewelry pieces names to reflect the personality of the person she’s making it for. Each one of us has a name. We are all individuals. There are no two exactly alike. And each of us is a work of art that, I believe is meant to be shared with others for as long as we are here.

I know sometimes we can feel like why is this circumstance a part of my life right now. It’s because it’s needed to complete your piece. When I feel this way, I try to look at each person and circumstance as a found treasure that is making me the perfect piece of art.  If we realize that this part of our life is just a small part of the whole, we can be encouraged that we are exactly were we need to be right now, and that our work of art will turn out exactly the way it should. Remember, as long as we keep waking up in the morning, our masterpiece is still in progress. I believe it’s going to be great!

Art Saves Lives!

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Three years ago, they had no experience. Now their art is displayed in our gallery.

May 14, 2008 at 4:46 pm (Uncategorized)

Friday night was the third annual Arts Walk here in our lovely downtown. Over the past three years, I’ve seen it grow and I believe it’s going to continue to be one of the favorite events of the year. There was a great energy, even as it rained. It was nice to see everyone out and about looking at the artwork in the store windows, listening to music on the streets and just having a good time.

The stores downtown each housed the work of one or two artists in their storefront windows.  It was a nice variety of styles and media. I must say that we have some great artists in our community.

Here at Art Village, we set up our gallery to display artwork of our customers and students. This is the third year we’ve done this and each year it gets better and better.

As we hung the paintings and arranged the pottery, I thought about the people who created these works or art. They do their art at night and on weekends. They do not get paid for their art. They make it because they love it.

It’s fun to see the progression of skill when you look at this body of work.  I’ve watched these artists change and develop their skills. And now I can see their individual self -expression.

When people begin a new artistic venture the first attempt can be a bit awkward. This happens with any type of art. For example, beginning pottery students struggle with centering and creating that first cylinder that isn’t all kiddywampus. But as time goes on, they get the hang of it. Then, once they get the technical part squared away, they start making artistic choices and design decisions.

At first when they sit down at the wheel, they hope they end up with something that they can use as a candy dish. Now, a few years later they are finding inspiration from different sources and successfully executing new ideas. They’ve started combining techniques and trying new things.

The work in our gallery is definitely an expression of the artists’ unique styles. That is very cool to see. When I walk through the gallery, I can tell which artist created which piece. These artists have started to find their own voices.

It’s not only great to see these artists grow and develop their technical skills and artistic expressions it’s also fun to see how their appreciation and observation has developed.

During ArtsWalk, a few of our artists stopped by to look at the gallery before walking around downtown to look at the rest of the artwork. Since I had a little help here at the studio, I decided to walk with them. It was so fun to look at art with these ladies. As they looked, they talked about color and technique and style. It was awesome. Three years ago, this group of people didn’t know each other and now as fellow artists, they have come together to share a common bond of creativity. It’s really awesome.

This group of ladies is an inspiration to me. When I see the excitement when they begin a new project, and the dedication they have to working at their art, I am inspired to keep the wonderment of it all in my life as well. I don’t ever want to get used to viewing art. I want to always have a curiosity and enthusiasm when it comes to making and viewing art. Making art helps us grow. These ladies look at the world differently than they did three years ago.

I believe that making art enriches our lives. I see this happening in the lives of our customers. It helps us see things differently. In a world that tries to draw our attention towards all kinds of crazy things, it’s great to live in a community of creativity, art, artists, and inspiration.

Art Saves Lives!

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What did a little girl teach me about pursuing my dreams?

May 14, 2008 at 4:39 pm (Uncategorized)

A couple weeks ago a little girl came in for the first time to Art Village to do some painting. Usually a first time visitor will want to paint pottery, but this little girl decided she was going to do a painting on one of our prepared painting boards. I gave her the paints and brushes and instructed a little bit about color mixing and away she went. She was very deliberate about what she wanted to paint. She painted an owl in a tree at night. It was very nice. When she was finished she came up to the counter and asked how she could sell the painting.

I thought about my own experiences as a child. I made art all the time but I had never thought of participating in the grown up world. This request made me realize that Art Village is doing what I set out to do. Here, everyone is on equal ground. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been painting for years or just starting out. This is where anyone can make art and if they want to, they can sell it too. I was happy to help her sell her painting.

I asked her how much she would like to sell her painting for.  She said, “I think $1.75”. I asked her if she didn’t want to ask more for the painting. The business side of me figured, after the studio fee, and materials, she wasn’t breaking even. She looked at me and said. “I think $1.75 is good because that painting hanging on the wall over there is $3.00 and it’s really good”. She pointed to one of my paintings on the wall that has a price of $300 on it. I smiled and said “Well how about we put $2.00 on it then.”

I told this story to some members of a business network I belong to. They were impressed by the young artist’s courage and belief in her own abilities. I ended up selling the painting to one of the business-owners sight unseen.

What I love about this story is that this little girl wasn’t waiting to go for it. She made a painting and that very day, she set out to sell it. There was no inner turmoil about, is this good enough, or am I really ready. No need for her to take a business class, or hire an agent. Or research the market. She just decided that she was going to do this. I love that! So many people have dreams of doing something creative with their lives, but they put that dream on the “someday shelf” because they don’t feel that now is a good time.

The other thing that strikes me about this is how she valued herself. Value is really a matter of perception. I think we create our own value in our lives. Many times we hold ourselves back by putting ourselves on life’s “Clearance” rack. We don’t put value on our own abilities and talents. We guess that others won’t either so we put creative action on hold. We can all learn from this young artist. She did the work, and felt it was of value and assumed someone else would too. And they did.

If you have a dream, and I think everyone should have one, what’s holding you back? Do you feel like you’re not good enough or don’t deserve it? We all have talents, skills, abilities and interests specifically and creatively wired together for a reason. We shouldn’t underestimate ourselves. Be bold,. Take the first step towards your dream. Walk up to the counter of life and ask. “How do I sell my painting?” you’ll be surprised how doors will begin to open and opportunities present themselves when you take the first step.

Art Saves Lives!

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How to remove worry and fear by making art

May 14, 2008 at 4:36 pm (Uncategorized)

I was talking with a friend of mine recently who was experiencing severe stress overload. While she was talking about her situation, I could feel the heaviness she felt. We’ve all been there. Our current situation seems to make the air so thick that it’s hard to breathe.

When we are in that state, it is almost impossible to think creatively. I could identify with her situation, but I noticed something as I listened to her talk. Because I was on the outside looking in, to me, her problem didn’t seem impossible to overcome. All I saw was her talents, skills, and opportunities. Things that at that moment, were hard for her to find.

When we are in that place of being overwhelmed, looking from a different perspective can have profound results. The circumstances may be the same, but by taking a fresh look, the challenges can be more manageable.

This is easier said than done. Sometimes our brains can get stuck on certain topics. When we worry or stress about something, our mind won’t let us get past it. Our thoughts can take us captive. We become a prisoner of our own life.

The good news is that we do not have to let our lives control us. We can get back in the driver’s seat by changing our perspective. You may have heard the saying “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” This is true. We can change our reality by changing the way we look at our reality.

Usually, we just want to get distracted for a while so we don’t have to think about our situation. Most of us, when we want to get our mind off something, resort to watching TV or a movie. This is kind of like hitting the pause button in our brains. For a while, we veg out. We think we’re relaxing. But as soon as the show is over, our brains resume to worrying and stress.

I don’t think the healthy way to deal with stressful situations is to anesthetize our brain. We need to rejuvenate it. How can we do that? One way is to change our surroundings. Go for a walk or a drive. This helps us gain a new perspective. Our brains love new stimuli. And when we change our environment, our brain unlocks.

Another way is to make art. The great thing about doing an activity like painting, pottery or other artwork is that our mind is actually engaged, but it is not consumed with worry. We are using the part of our brain that thinks creatively. When we are in this state of relaxed creativity, our minds begin to find solutions and relationships between seemingly unrelated things. So we stop worrying and start creating. We’re not pressing the pause button on our minds. We’re rejuvenating it. This is much healthier.

My friend who I mentioned above came in to Art Village a while back to paint a plate. She told me that painting that plate was one of the most relaxing times she’s had recently. She also said that just looking at the plate now makes her feel better. Making time for self-expression, no matter the medium, can give you the boost to keep moving forward.

We live in uncertain times. We may not be able to control outside circumstances, but we can be in control of our own minds. Nourish yourself. Feed the soul. Create new things. This may seem frivolous, but it is most important.

Art Saves Lives!

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Can Art-Making create abundance in our lives?

May 14, 2008 at 4:33 pm (Uncategorized)

Someone once asked me if being in the art business is difficult because art is not a basic human need. May answer was that I’m not in the art business. I’m in the inspiration business, and I believe that inspiration is a basic human need. Art may not be a basic human need in the same way food and shelter is, but inspiration is what drives us to be better and to grow and to dream. And I believe art is a vehicle to inspiration.

When we make art, we are giving ourselves permission to dream, to try new things and to expand. I believe that our business is about encouraging people to think beyond basic human needs and more towards unlimited possibilities. It’s about being part of the creative process. Daring to try something new.

I was thinking about the word “need” I think it tends to bring our attention towards lack. The word “want” or “desire” brings our attention towards abundance. Making art is about creating abundance. We are making something new. Bringing something to existence that wasn’t there before. We are expressing ourselves. We are adding value to our world. It’s good to have desires. It’s good to want more. More beauty, more freedom, more truth and more love.

Our speech reveals a lot about what we are thinking about. When we say “I need to make a living,” This may be true, but if we changed the “I need” statement to an “I want” statement, it could become I want to make a million dollars. Now that’s a goal that is motivated by vision. And from here we can start asking creative questions like “how can I do that?” I believe that we always find what we’re looking for. So let’s look for big things.

Try making a few statements using the words need and want. See what kind of feeling you get. For example: I need to change the oil in my car vs. I want to change the world. It’s more motivating and more fun to focus on what you want rather that what you need. We dream bigger if we focus on what we want. Our goals are smaller when we focus on what we need. The bar is set lower.

Write down what you want. What would you like to experience in your life? Who you want to be? Be extravagant. And then go for it.

I find that when I’m thinking about and doing things that I want to do, I am able to approach the things I need to do in an inspiring way. Sometimes all I it takes is to change the way I look at things.

People will tell me how great it must be to do what I love to do and how fun my business must be. It is great and I have a good time doing it. But I think any profession can be fun if you look for ways to enjoy it. And on the other hand, I think even the best job can become a drag if you start looking at it like something you have to do.

On Tuesday nights, we have our open painting sessions. This last Tuesday, my day was so hectic that when 6:00 came around, I was thinking. I don’t feel like painting because my mind is full of things I need to do.  But when I got my paints out and started painting, I remembered. The whole reason I scheduled this night was because I wanted to paint more. I am doing something that I want to do. The things I need to do will be there tomorrow. But this is why I opened Art Village. This is about the want to, not the need to. And at the end of the night I was rejuvenated and ready to take on the rest of the week. I encourage you to do something this week just because you want to. Inspiration is the fuel that keeps us going.

Art Saves Lives!

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Sometimes all we need is a visual spark

May 11, 2008 at 10:15 pm (Uncategorized)

A month and a half ago was spring break. It’s a great week for us at Art Village because we always have a full house. Kids and families come in to spend time together and make art. It’s great to see. During this week we put on an art camp. It’s not restricted to just kids. We open it up to adults as well. This is our third year doing it and every year we work out more of the bugs.

The first year of spring break camp was a learning experience for us all. We scheduled one activity for each day and estimated the amount of time it should take the kids to complete it. We thought “How hard can it be?”

What a surprise it was to us that first day when half the kids got done a half hour early. We had kids everywhere asking “what do we do now?” We scrambled to find something for them to do so they would run around Art Village. We discovered our upstairs studio is an inviting and tempting space for running. We were exhausted after day one. Needless to say, that night we quickly came up with some filler projects to occupy them throughout the week.

This year we were ready. We planned more art than there was time to do. One thing I love about spring break camp is that the kids are open to anything. When we plan our classes and workshops, we try to find something that’s new and interesting, but sometimes I’m not sure if other people will find the projects as fun as I do. One of the projects I wasn’t sure about was a 3-dimensional Van Gogh Painting. I thought it would be cool but I wasn’t sure they’d like this one because it doesn’t sound exciting. However, it ended up being one of the favorites.

We had the kids look through books that had paintings by Vincent Van Gogh in them. Each artist chose a painting that they liked and drew their interpretation of the painting on a large board. They then started painting in their own unique style. After they painted, they started to attach three dimensional objects to their paintings such as sticks, yarn, grass, drywall compound and anything else we had lying around the studio. Some kids used chalk pastel, others painted the objects. But the interesting thing was that they got so engrossed in the project that they didn’t want to stop. Each one expressing their individuality through their painting.

The results were so cool. You could really see the unique personality of each artist. There was so much expression and personality in each one. They were all truly works of art.

All they needed was a visual spark to get their imaginations going. Sometimes we can feel creatively stuck. I think it’s good to look for artistic sparks in the world around us. If you have the desire to express yourself in a creative way, (which I believe we all do), go and find something to inspire you. Do whatever it takes to motivate you to do it. When you need an idea, go and look at stuff. It’s okay to borrow and modify.

Some people are afraid to start a project because they don’t know where to begin. They say “I have no ideas.“ I understand that the blank canvas can be somewhat daunting. That’s why I look for inspiring images and ideas from other areas of my life. Just like the kids were inspired to create their own individual works of art by looking at Van Gogh’s paintings, we can be inspired by other forms to create our own personal expression. Look at art and design and color. These things are all around us. Then go to your art making place and make art. If you need to be with other people, take a class to spark ideas. If you need to be alone, make a date with yourself. There is so much in our lives to drain our energy. We need to do whatever it takes be inspired.

Art Saves Lives!

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Be present now, let go of the past and future

April 10, 2008 at 8:47 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve always had a tendency to live in the future. I love planners and calendars. I remember putting together my plans for Art Village, dreaming about what I wanted it to be. I loved talking with my dad about my plans and he would encourage and spur me on. When he died three months after we opened, the last thing I wanted to think about was the future, and all I wanted to do was get back the past. I was frustrated.

That experience had a profound effect on me. I began to wonder why I even bothered to make plans at all if they could come to an end so quickly. It then occurred to me that the past and future don’t really exist at all. All we have is this moment.

I’ve noticed recently when I become future focused, planning, predicting, dreaming, and worrying I lose a bit of the joy of living in the moment. This can happen to many of us. Our minds are consumed with questions like “What’s going to happen tomorrow?” The truth is, we don’t know. It doesn’t exist. All we can really see is what is before us today. What we should ask ourselves is “How can I make the most of today?” It can be a difficult thing to do.

Our imagination is a powerful thing. When we imagine things, we are creating them in our minds in the present moment. What can happen though, is that we begin to live there. Then we start striving. We are disappointed with the past and we worry about the future. Because we are not where we want to be, we become discontent with our current circumstances. A simple, but not easy, thing to do is make a mental shift from the past or future to the present.

A good way to practice being present is to make art. I’ve been enjoying painting on Tuesday nights because while I’m there, I can’t be anywhere else, both physically and mentally. I find that is difficult to think about anything besides what I’m doing at that moment when I’m in the process of making art. There is a joy and satisfaction we experience when we have an opportunity to be completely here now.

I decided to see if I could keep an attitude of being present. I’ve made little notes to set on my desk to remind me to be here now. I believe if I can be the best today, I’ll be in a good position to start tomorrow. Forgiveness is letting go of the past, and faith is letting go of the future.

I’m a big goal setter. I believe it’s good to have dreams, big dreams, but it’s important to live your dreams today. Find out the motivation behind your dreams and live from that motivation today.  Ask yourself “Am I setting goals because I think that by reaching them, I will become happy, or am I setting goals to increase the expression of the happiness I already have?

Start by making art. Create something to express yourself. Create the feelings of happiness and contentment now. Don’t put off feeling good. Making art is good practice because it puts you completely in the moment. Your focus is on the creative project at hand.

We need to enjoy today. Embrace the moment. Choose to do things because you want to express yourself to others. Don’t worry about what lies ahead. I heard someone say that life was like driving down the highway at night. Our headlights only reveal a few hundred feet in front of us, not the whole way home. But if we just keep driving, we’ll make it to our destination.

Art Saves Lives!

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