The Discipline of the Endless Sky and the Tiny Things in the World

A couple of weeks ago I returned home after a road trip out west. We saw mountains and canyons and hoodoos (look it up) and stone arches carved into the landscape like God’s own viewfinders. It was breathtaking. But what I kept going back to was the feeling I got from the vast sky above it all. I live in the city so on a daily basis I only see the little peeks of the sky that the cityscape grants me. But here in these wide open spaces, the sky was immense and overwhelming. I felt small in the most healing way. It reminded me that my perspective is limited but there’s something bigger and grander if I’ll take the time to look up.

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After I returned home, something prompted me to get out my macro lens and get a closer look at some flowers that were blooming in my yard. I took a walk around the garden and started zooming in on things that were moments ago hidden from me. Oh dear God, the universes inside the tiny things of the world.

 

Ironically, the feeling of encountering things this close was almost identical to the feeling I had when I encountered the endless sky. Both made me feel humble and overcome with gratitude.

If you know me well, you know that I’m prone to cynicism and just a tiny bit of soul-crushing depression on occasion. The current state of the world and other bothersome situations in my life have made fighting these states of mind a full time occupation. It’s exhausting, really. I get up every morning and remind myself:

Just put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

Part of the problem is that when I think about the “state of the world” and those “bothersome situations” I imagine that I know everything I need to know about them already. I’m not normally given to such obviously delusional thinking, but I’m tired and it’s easier to just make a boat load of assumptions about the barrage of information coming at me all the time, and move on. One foot in front of the other.

But when I disciplined myself to sit under the dome of the sky and made myself a student of her on-and-on-ness I remembered that I am so small and I only see a tiny fragment of what is real. And when I disciplined myself to invite the tiny things to teach me, I remembered that it’s good to slow down and look more deeply into the things I think I understand.

You should definitely zoom out and zoom in for yourself. You won’t believe what you discover there.

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Posted in getting real

The Discipline of Beginning Again

If you’ve followed me on any form of social media, you probably know that I will pull extended disappearing acts. I’m not exactly clear why, but I think it’s hard for me to remain present in public spaces for various reasons. This last few years have been fairly brutal for me: death, betrayal, confusion…just lots of pain in general. And my art has taken a big hit as a result. I just stopped creating. I almost stopped caring. Not completely, but almost.

Beginning again takes a certain amount of hope, and I have felt buried under hopelessness for a fairly long time. So I just hunkered down and waited. I don’t know what I was waiting for, and to tell you the truth, I’m kicking myself for that. But kicking myself is never very helpful. So I’m allowing myself to just begin without all the nasty self-talk. Here we go.

I moved to a new home at the end of May, and I think that has kick-started my life in a way. (There’s that kicking metaphor again…knock it off Terri!) It’s a lovely little apartment in a fourplex I share with people who are genuinely lovely. The process of downsizing has been good for me. I gave away at least half of my belongings, and it felt freeing, like setting down a heavy backpack that I didn’t realize was crippling me.

Then I set up my studio.

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A new studio space is a magical thing. It gives you permission to arrange your life in ways that make creation sing in you again. And I signed up for an online art course with my online art fairy godmother, Lucy Brydon. Lucy is from Scotland, and I’ve loved her from the very beginning of my art journey. When I found out she was offering a course that was interesting to me I enrolled even though I was in the middle of moving craziness. I’m so glad I did. Here’s a few pieces I’ve created as a result of her gentle direction.

This feels like home. Like it’s OK to begin again.

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Posted in creating

art therapy

dark blessing

“dark blessing”

I was visiting with a friend a few days ago when she said something that got me thinking. I had just given her a tour of my studio and she said, “You must be in heaven when you’re painting.” My reply surprised her.

Sometimes I am in heaven and everything flows and it’s easy. Other times I’m wrestling with feelings of frustration and self-doubt. Nothing is working. I feel like a fraud. Ugh. It’s a lot like therapy. I like the outcome most of the time but it can be a grueling process getting there.

I think a lot of people have romantic ideas about artists and art in general. They don’t believe me when I tell them that I’m struggling with a piece or that sometimes it’s hard work and I doubt my abilities. But it’s true. There are moments of sheer panic when I want to toss all my supplies out the window and give up.

But then there are those moments when something beautiful unfolds. I understand myself more completely. I feel at home in my body. I’m filled with gratitude and wonder. These are the moments that propel me forward through the dark times and the fear and anguish.

So, I’m curious: if you’re reading this and you’re an artist, is this true for you too? Or if you’re not an artist, what are the things in your life that challenge you this way? I know I’m not alone. There’s a principle of proportionality that seems to be universal. It goes something like this:

To the extent that something has the potential to bless you, it has an equal potential to cause you grief.

For you, it might be parenting or writing or exercise or your career. Whatever it is, I’d love to hear from you. It will make us all feel less crazy and alone and we might just emerge a little more whole in the end.

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Posted in art process

awakening

My fingers are covered in paint and my soul is pushing out color and form and emotion with every brush stroke. I can’t remember my life before this awakening. My dreams are saturated with images waiting to be born.

I’m in the third week of Pauline Agnew’s online course Expressive Faces and Figures, and I’m learning so much that I feel out of breath. This is what I was made for.

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happy fallout

I wondered what life would be like after my show, when for so long it had been almost entirely consumed with preparations. It turns out, it’s pretty much the same minus the nervous energy and anxiety. I’ve still been spending a great deal of time in my studio, and that’s a great relief to me. I worried that I would be so exhausted that my art-making would take a hit for a while. Not the case at all. In fact, I have a full day of art planned, and the only reason I’m writing this blog is that I’m trying to be patient while some wet layers dry.

I started an online class this last Monday that has been exactly what I needed. Pauline Agnew is an artist from Cork, Ireland, and she’s teaching a class called Expressive Faces and Figures. If you’ve been following along at all, you’ll know that my work has gone in the direction of portraits lately, and although I feel very good about what I’ve been able to crank out, there’s a good deal of guesswork around how to make the paint do what I want it to do. I’m largely self-taught, so I feel like I’m learning primary through experimentation and curiosity. There’s actually nothing wrong with that. However, I’m feeling ready to learn from someone more skilled than myself so I can stop wasting so much paint.

Pauline is a truly gifted teacher. She carefully leads us through exercises and then gives such helpful feedback via our group’s Facebook page. I feel happily surprised at how much I have learned already. If you have the opportunity and you’re in a place where you’d like to explore this, I can’t recommend her highly enough.

And now, here’s a piece that I finished this week. I’ll be hanging it in the show soon. It’s a 16×20 mixed media piece on Ampersand cradled art board. I’m pricing it at $300 if any of you are interested.

full of love

Full of Love

Much love,

Terri

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Posted in art for sale, art show

it is finished

I am filled with so much gratitude and excitement. My art show opening was everything I could hope for. So many of my friends came out to support me. It has made me realize how truly loved and blessed I am. And it has given birth to dreams that I have never dared dream before. I’m dreaming of a life filled with art and wondering what the next steps are for me.

And you helped create this loveliness.

If you’re reading this right now, you are significant to me. Thank you for caring enough to show up and follow along on this path I find myself traveling.

So here are some pics that my wonderful friend snapped during the show. Thank you Marcia for being a constant voice of encouragement for me. I have so many friends like that. People who have believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. These are just a few of those friends.

The show runs through June 28 if you didn’t get a chance to join me on Thursday.

***I forgot to mention that one of the highlights for me was that one of my online acquaintances made it to the opening and brought a friend with her. Thank you Anna! It was so lovely to make this connection from my virtual spaces.

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Nate shared what he saw in one of my paintings. I love when that happens.

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Patricia purchased the painting behind us. She’s a great cheerleader.

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My husband Dave who put up with all the pre-show craziness, and my son Danny with his lovely wife Amanda.

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Julie helped me get ready and cheered me on.

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Brian runs the salon that hosted the show. He changed my life and always makes me laugh.

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Brooke, Amy and Rachel.

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Shelley purchased one of my first paintings ever and helped me to see what was possible.

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Posted in art show

it’s coming! (don’t miss the give-away!)

Well, the art show kicks off on Thursday.

*happy dance*

I’m feeling pretty dang fine about what I was able to produce for the show, and because the salon has generously decided to allow me to keep the full price of all of my sales, I think the prices are pretty dang fine too.

I’ll be at the gallery at the entrance of FiveTwoSix Salon between 5-7. And if you’re able to make it to the opening, I have a surprise for you. I’m giving away three 10×10 inch prints of this painting:

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And a cute little mug with this painting on it:

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How great is that?

CorAzon and Olive You are two businesses located in the same complex as the salon and they are having some fun events at the same time as the opening. CorAzon is having a trunk show featuring items from Eco Petites Line which is designed locally, made with eco-friendly materials, and sewn in South Saint Paul. Olive You will be hosting a tasting of delicious items made with their olive oils and have specials on their products.

I’m setting up tomorrow and I’ll be sure to post some pics after that. I have a big lump in my throat and all kinds of butterflies in my stomach. Wish me luck!

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Posted in art for sale, art show

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