Footloose & Fancy Free At Any Age

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This may come as a shock to some, but I don’t like being told what to do and how to do it. Bah! Call me naive, but I’d like to think I can be footloose and fancy free with my own life. 

I guess I write this stuff to y’all because I worry that lots of people forget to think for themselves and make a life that they truly enjoy. I know I am not the only one because “purpose” and “living my best life” are quite the buzz words right now. I am always making points to remind others that this one span of time we spend on Earth is actually quite a short ride in the grand spectrum. 

In celebrating my mom turning 60 this month (because she likes her birthday to last all month), she kept bringing up how grateful she is to still be here with us at 60. Without even having any health scares of her own (gratefully!), she has still witnessed her share. And, in a culture when everyone sulks over and fights the aging process, I was refreshed by her perspective. We need to celebrate and fulfill each and every opportunity we have while we are here, and to me, that means finding true fulfillment in how we spend our days. I believe that’s why we are here in the first place! 

What could you do with this life you got if not for fear? What would you do if you didn’t worry? What would make you happy? Don’t say money! Money doesn’t count.

I heard a podcast recently in which a woman who was recently empty nested was discussing the blanket of sadness that some mothers experience without children at home to take care of. She had romanticized having a family and caring for her children all her life up to that point, and she felt uncertain of what came next. Feeling that portion of her life come to a close, she suddenly realized she had another half a lifetime in front of her. For some that is overwhelming, but that observation made me excited! 

What I am about to say could sound irresponsible to those financy people out there, Lord knows I’m not one of them… 

But what would you do if you weren’t so hung up on money? I am personally terrified of money.  And obviously the fear of losing it stops a lot of us from chasing out our ideal life. What if we erased money from the picture we paint of our happiest life?

Not long ago, I determined that there is just no way my daily work is about making money so I can buy shit. I mean… think about it. Most people only work to make money so they can buy cool stuff and be happy…well also to eat and live under shelter, too. We do need money to survive. I am fortunate to have a career which I love, but even I had to question; what’s the point of this? 

There is a lot of talk out there about finding a purpose in order to create a truly fulfilling life. This week I was reminded of the simplest and truest answer to the purpose question: our purpose is to serve God and love others. Always. End of story. 

First and foremost that’s all it takes to live a fulfilling life. Serve God and love others is the first and the last step every time. 

I am learning to not have fear in the unknown i.e. anxiety about the future and money. I am learning to stay close to God. I am learning that having complete faith by leaning on His guidance in all ways is leading me to where I need to be, to do the work He needs me to do. 

The first time I absolutely trusted God fully, He told me to deliver my baby with no medication. That seems irrelevant, but in that way He showed me how strong I was even through fear and pain (those words feel understated). I believe that was my intro to His “trust me and have no fear” policy. Then I continued to listen to my heart suggesting me to find a way to share with others a message. It was a message that felt like offering others a spoonful of hope. I worked hard and did a lot of self searching, painting and writing to understand what exactly that message was, and in the process I wrote a book. As I continued to explore my heart through my work as an artist and a writer, I felt the words “bright spot” continually emerge. As my work is a visual bright spot, my book and blog essays are written bright spots too. I am creating work that represents a dosage of hope. And, I am now embarking on another new and unknown journey in order to spread what has been placed on my heart, to encourage brightness in others. 

Let my art, my words and the “Be a Bright Spot” brand remind you to be focused on the right things, to consider your time here on Earth in the grand spectrum, to reflect on how your words and actions effect those around you. “Be a Bright Spot” is a spoonful of hope that I intend to scatter out into a world that tends to be dull with the dread and fear of growing old. A whole world of people who are afraid of using the time on Earth as He intended. You don’t have to become a nun to live a life for God. Hello?!?! (I’m waving my hand and laughing because I am no saint!) Having faith is to be footloose and fancy free of that kind of fear. Find joy in simplicity. Continually return to your heart for suggestions on what to do next. And, bravely trust the suggestions you find in there. Discover what it feels like to live with purpose and to have the brightest time of your life. 

what is BE A BRIGHT SPOT ?

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I want y’all to know, I am not claiming to be cheery at all times. Of course, I have days that are darker than others, and I need the reminder to look at what is right and good around me. But, I also recognize that there are folks out there who, no matter what, are going to look outward with a gloomy, cloudy perspective; the complainers, the whiners, gossipers, the people looking to pull you down with them cuz misery loves company. And, when you spend time with their dullness, it doesn’t make you feel good. It makes you feel depressed and helpless. It makes you shrink. It makes you dim your light.

Just like my abstract art, ‘Be a Bright Spot’ is up for your own interpretation. It can simply be a reminder to be hopeful and kind when at all possible. It can be an affirmation to be true to yourself; to be the most real version of you. It can be a nudge to notice the goodness in your life even when you are being slapped in the face with pain, sadness and discontentment. ‘Be a Bright Spot’ can be a reminder that real life is NOT about perfection. ‘Be a Bright Spot’ is not a charge to walk around with a stupid, fake smile on your face. It’s a wake up call to get real. It’s about enjoying your days and being grateful for who you are and what you have. It’s realizing that we live in a perpetual world of comparison and discrimination, mean girls and bullies (at all ages), and godforsaken mass shootings. There is plenty of dullness out there which you do not have to look for to notice. But, it is ironically hard sometimes to notice the brightness. So go ahead… Be a Bright Spot. It won’t do you any harm, but it may do someone else a lot of good.

Soft to a Point


All my life I have been told that I was soft spoken. In the 7th grade I was humiliated in class by a teacher for not speaking loud enough. I was shy and quiet ….until I wasn’t. There came a point when I realized shy was no longer working for me. So I was like, “Efff being shy.” Well, I didn’t actually say that in the 7th grade. No way. Not only quiet, I was naive and a rule-follower. I would never have said  THE  F-word, but now that I’m a grown adult, I say that when I have reached a certain point; “Fuck it.” Here’s the deal... I know that’s a pretty sharp tone right off the bat, and you’re expecting some softer language from me, but that’s what I’m here to discuss. The real honest truth can seem surprisingly sharp when you are expected to be soft. 

My Dad taught me that “first you have to be honest with yourself before you can be honest with anyone else.”. He was always finding a way to inject that lesson into all kinds of circumstances. I have grown up with that foundation, and in many ways it has made me who I am. It is the same advice I give to my own children. It is the same message that comes across in my children’s book, and it’s essentially what I am discussing in all of my work, but most definitely in my recent series of art informally known as the “Efff It” series of 2019.

The first title for this series, “Tending the Garden", was in reference to caring for one’s sense of purpose, but the truth is, this artwork was also tangled up with some strong emotions. Painting always lets me be honest with myself in a raw kind of way. While painting this series of work I realized something. I was being soft and malleable by going along with someone else’s way. By being an agreeable rule-follower, I was being hesitant, unwilling to be brave and bold. The thing is, I’ve been working hard to pave my own path. Did I forget that applies in my work too? Was I afraid to find my own way? Was I afraid to be honest with myself?

It’s really easy to get stuck in a train of thought or a rhythm of how things are done without realizing that it’s not working for you. Often times we take the beaten path because it’s soft and smooth, but that is not the only route. There is no right or wrong way to go about your life…within moral and healthy reason. What I am saying is, we can only go with flow for so long until we realize it’s not working….we can be soft, but only to a point. 

Originally, I gave the series that smooth poetic name- I guess because I thought that was what you’d want me to say. “Tending the Garden” is pretty and relevant, but then it lacked the powerful and honest emotion that this art was carrying. I was not shy about letting you know that I really wanted to name the series, “Fuck It”. I was venting that day when I posted those strong words on Instagram. I had finally realized that I had been through a year of learning what it takes to truly find my own path and trust my own heart. It was not an easy year either, but I grew in ways I didn’t know I was capable of. So, why had I stopped short of bravely trusting my heart in this one area? That sharp tone was my way of saying “I am ready to do this my way.” I suppose that was the first step to opening my own gallery, but all I knew at that point was- I was about to change things up. 

I was uncertain of what my Instagram audience would think of me when I busted out loud and proud with the F word in that post. What was I getting myself into?  Who did I think I was talking like that? These are the people who read my posts about soft tender things, like my heart and God. It seemed like a contradiction, but all I knew is that I wanted to be totally truthful and these honest emotions, sharp as they were, seemed to step up and take over. Some people were probably offended by my choice of words. Many were probably taken back. But, then, maybe some found it to be refreshing and real. Maybe I’m not the only one who is relieved when someone doesn’t censor themselves so much. I like to hear people speak genuinely and passionately even when it comes across as shocking …sharp. I admire someone who owns the honest truth of themselves, no apologies and a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. Because isn’t that the truth? You can’t please everyone so you might as well be real. Take it, or leave it. Plus, I can always tell when someone is holding back those explosive words for the sake of not offending anyone, and I just want to be like, “Go ahead- say what you need to say!”. Those words are loaded with emotion, and sometimes they hold everything you need to express in four little letters. 

Many people responded to my “Fuck It” post, but not the way I anticipated. I waited for my following to drop and to get a finger-shaking talking-to by at least one holier than Thou individual. But, that did not happen. Maybe I was being paranoid, and that’s nothing new. What I got was a whole lot of reenforcement. Turns out, there are other people like me thinking, “Go ahead- say what you need to say!”.

You know those times when you felt too modest to be honest, and then, when someone else comes out with the same thing- you’re like: “Oh ma’ gah! ME TOO!!! I thought it was just me!?” And then you feel relieved that you aren’t the only one with that thought. Being honest with yourself is an essential step, but it’s the easiest one, too. Finding the confidence to let others know about your sharpest edge is another story, especially when the expectation is to be soft. Not only was it hard for me to be honest with myself in this case, it was even harder for me to be a level of real that would surprise some, but when I did it anyway, it showed me something. Speaking the honest truth let’s another modest and soft-spoken person say, “OMG me too!”. Being honest with yourself is great, but the good stuff is letting your outward honesty strike up another person’s courage to be honest, too. 

See, I have a strict policy for the way I represent myself on social media. My policy comes down to being completely and totally real….as real as possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to be loud and proud and real.  It’s actually extremely uncomfortable at times. Because this is about being totally honest, I’ll tell you that my biggest worry with social media is that I’ll be mistaken as vain. Probably has something to do with the whole talking at myself in my phone screen routine. Or, the pretending I am talking to an audience bit, when I’m actually looking at my own face. Or, maybe it’s taking selfies and photos of myself on a timer. That younger generation has this shit down to a science with no complex issues, but that’s a discussion for another day. I do all these things, and it’s awkward AF, and if you do this stuff too, I’d find it hard to believe if it doesn’t make you self conscious. But, even though it’s uncomfortable, and I risk seeming vain, I do it anyway, so that I can be relatable and stay connected with the people who are interested. I share my art and my words to be an encourager, a bright spot, to be the voice that speaks out so that you can be the one to say “OMG me too!”. 

There is such a thing as going too far; revealing too much; being too real. I was positive I was dancing on the line with that F bomb dropping vent. So, you may have watched as I tinkered back and forth unsure of whether I felt comfortable using this sharper voice with my entire audience. I seem to save that voice for my closest peeps- the voice sprinkled with words fit for a sailor, when I totally let loose everything thats buggin’ me. It was kind of a bratty WHINE. It was, and the soft-spoken 7th grader, that in part I still am, is kind of mortified, but the determinate hard candy shell of me says: I want to be bold and brave and real as hell, even if it makes them (and me) uncomfortable because I want to make a statement in doing so. So, that’s what I did because I’d rather be considered “shockingly honest but sharp” than “vainly dishonest and dull”.

Here is where the irony comes in. Here’s why I am writing this piece about having an odd combination of conflicting characteristics. Because when I’m being honest with myself, I realize that everything I write is actually for my children. And now you might be sitting there going…. “Wait. You’re saying kids should cuss and rant on social media??” I know- I’m jumping around here, so before you think I am being totally cray, stick with me for a second. No- I’m not encouraging kids to use adult language or to over vocalize their discontentment on Insta. I am reminding you to be and say the truth, and the truth is:  real life, the real honest version, is full of contradictions.  Real life contradicts our expectations. It’s feeling darkness and knowing their is light. It’s being quiet and subtle inside but bold and colorful outside. It’s expecting soft but getting sharp. I want my children to know these things coexist.  I want them to grow up knowing that everything about them was perfectly designed with intention, even when it feels like they are a mess of contradictions. 

My most honest words come out when I am writing to my first audience: Lelia. My first baby was the reason I began writing like this in the first place. She was the bright spot in my life that inspired me to look inward, and find out who I honestly was. In writing to her, I found the courage to come out and say the truth. I started with a hand written journal for my 18 month old first born as a keep-sake for her and our children to come so that when they became confused adults one day, they could read my words and know that I, too, struggled and prayed my way through life. I wanted my adult children to see that I was a work in progress, that I was humble and scared but faithful. When I think about writing to my children, I find the courage to be honest. 

I’m laughing right now thinking about my little babies as grown adults reading this piece of writing, and, first, being totally shocked because I do not let them hear me say cuss words. But then also, they will see that at 34, I was still remembering my dad’s advice, and challenging myself to be honest. And, when they read all that I’ve written within this last year, they will realize that for an entire year I embraced every single inclination I felt in my heart, regardless of my fear and other’s concerning looks. They will see that I was always working to strengthen my faith and build confidence in who I am and who I was created to be, and that as a 34 year old I was still learning to accept the unique handful of character traits that make me me. I want them to see that it’s ok if you make some folks shocked and uncomfortable when you are as honest with them as you are with yourself. It’s ok if you’re not the person you are expected to be. Not only is it okay to be you, it is essential- because you are you by design. You were perfectly created to have even the most unlikely and peculiar concoction of characteristics that you find yourself to be; dark and light, quiet but bold, sharp yet soft. To be honest with yourself is to accept who God designed you to be. To be honest with others is to present the person you were designed to be. But, to be a bright spot is to be so bold in your truth that you inspire others to be all that they are and nothing they are not. If you think of someone who’s been a bright spot in your life, my guess is they are as honest with you as they are with themselves, and because of that, they make you feel pretty cute in your own weird ways. 

Thank you for that ageless advice, Daddy. 


Be beautifully bold and bright in your ways.

Trust in your heart and value your days.

Be all that you are and nothing you’re not.

Be color. Be light.

Be a bright spot. 

-Sarah Otts

Purpose; What’s the Point?

Purpose; What’s the Point?

What do you feel is your purpose? If someone asked me that a couple of years ago my answer would not have been honest. I would have said what I thought someone else wanted me to say. I would have had to stop myself from rolling my eyes because I thought those kinds of questions were vague and cliche. That version of me doesn’t exist anymore. I don’t have the same need-to-please drive or that cynical knee jerk reaction. So, as I began thinking about what it means to have a purpose, I realized that it’s possible many people have never stopped to consider what purpose truly means. I hadn’t. I mean, I did know the literal meaning, but not the applied meaning, the way I understand it now. It was just a few months ago, the end of 2018, when I had a yearning sense that I was overlooking a common theme in my work. So, I began looking under every rock and stone hunting for what I did not even know how to describe. I now know, I was on a quest for a purpose. 


“Clean Living” 48x60 oil on canvas

“Clean Living” 48x60 oil on canvas

Mini posts: for when I have a little something to say.

This is the background story for this particular painting and the thought process behind the title.

The clean living movement; it’s making quite a splash! The way I see it, it’s a direction we had to move towards because humanity as a whole has grown to live so far from our natural intention that we had no where to go but back where we came from. Our modern ways are sickening us, and sadly “healthy” living doesn’t cut it anymore. We are learning to be informed and knowledgeable, but it’s freaking exhausting and beyond overwhelming when you really get into the guts of the matter. We also can’t live in fear and paranoia so you truly have to choose which clean efforts to focus on. Which ones effect you the most?...And then add in more efforts as you learn and adapt.

Beyond the food, products, meds and so on that pertain to clean living, I got to thinking about this topic as it relates to my new series Drawing the Light. What does it mean to live with a clean perspective, free of toxic influences and even toxic people? To me that means living a life with purpose and heartfelt authenticity.

This painting was made with those thoughts swirling in my head. The shapes come at you from the dark and saturated confusing state that was the under painting. The final result, after layer upon layer, is a painting made up of natural shapes, marks and forms + contrasting tones, hues and values. A vibrant and lively representation of what it means to me to ‘live clean’; to live free of wrongful intentions; to bring the good things nature intended for us out of the dark brush and into the forefront where there is light.

Drawing the Light

Dark Before Light, 48x48 oil on canvas

Dark Before Light, 48x48 oil on canvas

Dark and light; they are frequently used metaphors. It’s the bad versus the good, the hidden and the exposed, pain and relief, sadness and joy. The list goes on. God separated dark from light. These two circumstances are clearly defined as opposites, yet one cannot be understood without knowing the other. My own darkness came in the form of restless anxiety. The light finally returned to me through painting and led me to a new series of work and some lingering questions.  Without our challenges, would our rewards be as great? Without darkness, would there be light?

Watch any musician’s documentary, and you’ll find an expressive person who has tapped into some deeply personal emotions, releasing them through his or her art. But, more often than not, the hardest part for that artist was not the actual work. The hard part was shining the light on what feels more comfortable kept in the dark. It’s the most personal feelings and the subsequent art that is so humbly created released for all to see and judge as they will. And, in just about any artistic profession, you’ll have to get over that discomfort or find a different job. What is art if not expressing true emotion? The fact is, an immensely talented person will remain unknown and unappreciated until he or she comes to terms with vulnerability. Until we are bold enough to first accept the truth and then be totally real by exposing the full spectrum of ourselves, including the shadowy struggles or insecurities, the art will lack authenticity, quality and value. Therefore, it is crucial that I accept and admit my own darkness in order to draw the light. 

My new series, Drawing the Light, is established on a revealing foundation. The art stems from from the darkness I experienced. As part of the creative process, and in order to let my work have purpose and strength, I am standing under a spotlight. It’s not to glamorize anxiety (celebrity style) nor is it attention seeking. This revelation is to describe my artwork, but it also addresses the many conversations I’ve had with women who find themselves in similar shoes, who also feel tirelessly challenged to do it all in today’s world. So, I determined, it’s time to stop pretending everything is peachy when in reality, no one is actually doing it all, even if they seem like they are on Instagram. 

I delivered my third baby, Josephine, on August 17th 2018. It was a beautiful experience that I wrote about on my last blog entry. Then, while on “maternity leave”, I allowed a seed of anxiety to plant itself. I knew I needed time to recuperate, but I wanted to get back in the studio ASAP.  In my head, I was going to pick up right where I left off. After all, it was just painting. I also knew from experience that I don’t do well when I am not painting regularly. If you’re a runner/athlete, maybe that’s a feeling you can relate to. I had determined that sometime in October would be the end of “maternity leave”. Well, that proved to be quite difficult. The whole ‘three children and a job on little to no sleep’ routine wasn’t working in my favor. (hmmm…I wonder why?!) But, I was determined, no less, and so I was back in the studio part time according to my self-assigned deadline. 

The thing is, maternity leave does not actually exist for the self employed. It’s a period of time when you are intended to be focused on the baby and your recovery, but it’s not a clean break from the job. At the same time, you can’t make a human and pretend you didn’t….especially on your third human. I tried. You can’t. So as it turns out, no matter how determined, I just could not do it all, and that’s what my darkness boiled down to. 

In hindsight, but without going into too much detail, I let anxiety grab a hold of me. By the end of November, I felt paralyzed. Then there was so much to be done with Christmas around the corner and a ton of painting to catch up on so things just continued to get worse. When the baby finally started sleeping through the night, I stopped. In addition, I felt a depressing awareness that my favorite time of year was feeling like the materialized chaotic race that defeats the purpose of Christmas. I couldn’t stand that I allowed myself to get there, but I was stuck. It was a cycle of swirling anxiety, and I could not get my hands on the light switch. I could not see in the dark.

All I needed to do was paint. Something like this happens almost every time I go without painting for too long. Art is the best form of therapy I have found. Even though I knew what I needed to do to get out of it, the darkness misconstrued self-care into selfishness. It seemed that there were just too many people counting on me. My needs were irrelevant.  And, then, it was Christmas time; the season of love that gets disguised as mass hysteria focused on so many of the wrong things. The worst time ever to be dealing with a bout of postpartum anxiety. What I needed was more time….time to paint and time to be with my family and close friends. But, time is the one thing I did not have……what with all the Christmas events and parties and school programs and shopping. (Hello? Priorities?!?!) 

I can say all this now because I have spent two weeks in my studio painting every single day for hours at a time. I feel like a new person. Thankfully, the light within me is relit. Honestly, I didn’t know how dark it had gotten in there until I used painting to turn on the switch. 

Now I’m feeding off of those challenges. The very thing that drug me out of the darkness is teaching me about why it got dark in the first place. I was/am a basic human trying to be super-human; unrealistically trying to do all the things and be all the people and fill all the needs, except my own. 

I do feel that women can play two major rolls, like provider and mother, but there is a lot in between that has to go, and so much of the stress we find ourselves under is a result of trying to fulfill unnecessary/impossible standards chased by the fear of judgement.

By the end of December, feeling like I wasn’t going to pull off Christmas as we know it, my sister said to me “2019 is the year of self-care.” She is capable of gathering the perfect handful of words like that, right when I need them. It was all she had to say to remind me that other people are struggling, too. So, here I sit, using my scarce time to write this post because we all need to hear this. We need to cut loose from impossible standards. 

What came of me trying to do it all? Nothing. I was frozen with anxiety. I lost the ability to nurse my baby. I could not even finish Christmas shopping.... not my peak year of gift giving.  I missed the whole month. My favorite month. I didn’t want to leave the house to celebrate our 9th anniversary or my (actual) 34th birthday. 

Past generations of women have had their struggles, but here we are creating our own struggle. Much of my female generation is doing a hell-of-a-lot within a short period of 24 hours which is setting the bar just out of reach, and that’s not something we need to be proud of. We gotta take a breath! We need to get better at making confident choices on what’s working and what’s not. Then, we need to pat ourselves on the back, or for that matter, let someone else pat your back. Get a freakin’ massage because we deserve it even when we can’t be everyone and everything all day, everyday. There is no reasonable reason to feel guilty or judged when we need to say “no” to parent involvement at school or sitting on a committee or attending every Saturday morning birthday party and Wednesday night church meeting. And, we do not need to have any particular excuse other than the fact that we should not have to push ourselves all the way to the limit in order to be adequate. Maybe, like me, you don’t even recognize that all of our choices are just that, a series of choices...decisions.

So, is it necessary to go through dark in order to know light? My own darkness forced me to find the light, but I’m not willing to believe that we have to fall into a dark pit in order to know where the edge is. 

Do you ever worry that you’re missing the glorious light of your life for fear of the darkness, for fear that you won’t be able to do it all and be it all? Do you think, maybe, if you safely tread in the middle grey area of the spectrum, where you know you can still play all the rolls, everything will work out better? Do you wonder how you’ll feel about all this towards the end of your life? Will you be glad you chose to do what you felt you were suppose to be doing versus what you wanted to be doing? Or will you resentfully wish you had said “to hell with it” to all that shit that brought you nothing but stress while keeping you from real contentment ...real light?

We do not have to push ourselves over the limit in order to find the happiness that we have a right to pursue. Happiness is wherever/however you find light(...within healthy and moral reason). I write this to caution you on where the darkness lies. It lies on the other side of overwhelming yourself. 

I knew going in, a third child would not be easy, but I also knew it was going to be worth it, and I simply could no longer ignore God’s suggestion that He still had another someone for our family. I had to choose; remain in the safe grey spectrum of light where I could handle it all, or take a leap of faith and listen to His voice in my heart. Yes, my choice led me to a period of darkness, but the light, such light! And, now I know the darkness was my own doing, but God alone brought me the light.

Little story; Two years ago exactly I had a surprise pregnancy that caught me totally off guard and had me freaking out with, you guessed it, anxiety. I miscarried very early and felt a surprising relief. I took my response as a sign from God that our family was complete, and we were done having babies. A few months later, with my husband’s surgery approaching to seal the deal, I fell into a pit of depression, sobbing for a week, all day, all night. My heart felt broken like the time I miscarried years before when we were trying to have a second baby. I could not explain it, or understand it. I thought I knew what I wanted, what we wanted, but God was speaking to my heart about different plans. I was mourning the loss of something He intended for us. The night before the surgery we canceled it. About 16 months later, Josephine was born, and I can’t imagine how our family could have been complete without her. This little tale was worth including as yet another example of those heartfelt tugs leading me down His path. 

I paint from that heart felt intuition. My recent art is very different than what I was creating before.  I establish layer after layer of intuitive markings that flow out of my hand like a faucet. I just draw on and on, fulfilling it all. When I start a painting, I am doing it all; anything and everything my heart wants to release onto the canvas. It’s unorganized and overstimulating like the tangle I let myself get into this past fall. Then I come back to the painting honing it into an organized composition. I make choices by eliminating what is not working and further developing what is. It’s proof that I can handle all the energy in my life right now. It’s proof that faith leads to the light. Through painting, I saw that darkness is to light, as fear is to faith; competing opposites. 

I believe that my artistic gift came with an objective that’s bigger than filling your walls with art. I have heart felt faith that these children of mine and my painting and my writing are all components of a great purpose.  On the tip my tongue, there is an alternative way to connect, support and encourage the women of our generation and anyone else who can relate. I continue to write and share, even though every time I post to my blog, I get nauseated with the paranoia of what people will think of me. Even though it feels like standing under a spot light buck naked, I have to write, and put it out there in order to keep working towards this illusive purpose.

Light is not tangible; it cannot be outlined making it hard to know exactly what it is that we are reaching for. Only in abstract art can you draw the light. I used my art to lasso the lightness pulling it closer and closer until I could reach out and feel it. In recognizing the dark, the light became something I could grasp and tug; something I could draw

Below the Comfort Layers

Where painting, childbirth and God came together. 


“Why? Why in the world would you choose natural childbirth?” That’s what people say when you tell them your plan to deliver a baby old school style, like prairie life old school. No epidural and no induction. No medication. And, no unnecessary interference…please. That’s the way my third baby came into this world, and yes, it was a very intentional choice.

You can call me hard-headed or nuts or just one of those crazy free-spirited-artist types. It’s ok. It doesn’t really bother me, but I call it ‘a deep desire to experience and understand things my own way’. That’s still just a wordy way to say ‘stubborn’.… That sentence makes me picture my parents smirking… they know this about me too well. It’s hard for someone to tell me how to do things. This may at once be a short coming and a gift. When it comes to an issue, I find myself wanting to get down to the most basic level before I can move forward. For example, that’s part of why I write this blog. There’s more to my art than just painting pretty colors. I grow more and more inquisitive with age, and I keep finding myself asking for more truth and purpose and needing to search for answers to “why?”.

I want to compare this quest for truth to unearthing something that’s buried. When I am painting, that’s the analogy I get. As I paint, I create layers of marks and colors by repeatedly going against the grain and drawing over a seemingly finished painting only to remove part of that layer yet again and repeat the process. This is my painting method and also happens to be the method with which I live by. I am continually searching for a deep layer that has been established but forgotten about. However, I am not aware of this while I’m painting. Later, I’ll ask myself “why did I paint that way” and then I understand it.

It is my opinion that we deny ourselves meaningful experiences in order to stay comfortable. Shave off the top layer of fluff and padding, and we see what we are actually working with. We may have forgotten that we can choose to experience the real deal…probably because we fear pain and challenge. This approach might not be for you, and it does not always apply, but when I do choose the real deal over the fluffy stuff, I’ve found myself experiencing and learning more. When I didn’t add the layers to dull the pain, I get the full experience with all the feels. What if in our modern ways we are covering up something we were intended to be exposed to? 

I lean heavily on my heart where I feel God leaves His words for me. Two blog posts ago (Painting Parenthood) I wrote about the power and relief I’ve found in having the faith to trust what my heart wants and asks of me. I consider myself uniquely faithful. I have come to find a truly personal and sincere connection to God through painting.  While I paint, I listen to the matters of my heart where I believe God speaks to me.

Yesterday I was sitting in church uncomfortably holding Josephine who was restfully sleeping and giving me this crick in my neck. I managed to focus on the sermon long enough to grasp the message. For the second time in a matter of weeks I heard a reference to a specific Bible verse. The words struck me. This verse helped me pull all these thoughts together to form an explanation of why I felt so compelled to make a certain choice this year. 

“Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?”

Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and most important commandment.

    Matthew 22:36-38

It is so simple and so obvious alone, but within the entire Bible and all of the teachings about God’s word, maybe that simple message gets buried. Simply love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.

This year I experienced something that will change me forever because for the first time I did something seemingly drastic by boldly and blindly following what my heart was telling me. I have been hesitant to write about it because it is so deeply personal, yet I feel, on that same heartfelt level, compelled to share.

Natural childbirth; it became one of those things I never imagined myself doing but did. With my first two babies, I was induced and delivered with an epidural. I thought people were insane to choose that level of pain when it wasn’t necessary. In general, we mamas love to tell our birth stories because it’s one of the most amazing events you’ll ever experience and likely a day which you cherish, no matter how horrible the details. You’re proud because it’s no easy feat no matter how the process goes…and there are so many ways that process can go. This is not a birth story, though. This is the story of how I boldly listened to what my heart asked of me despite my fear.

Last year I had come to recognize a looming interest in natural childbirth. Over medicating in general had become a concern of mine. I’ve had some bad experiences with medication side effects, and I had come to determine that medicine often causes more harm than good. This led me to the idea of an unmedicated birth. I struggled with the notion…I didn’t want to want it. But, this idea became more and more instilled in my heart. It was in there weighing on me like a heavy stone, and once I was pregnant again, I determined I could no longer ignore it. The idea terrified me, though. Knowing my stubborn ways, I knew once I committed to it, I was going to do it. I was not naive to the pain of childbirth. I had experienced enough of it to know the extreme level of pain that was involved. But, once again, I felt it was in my heart to know the real deal. After all, in the history of childbirth, many more woman have birthed babies without an epidural than with one. What were we modern women missing out on?  

I had been left partly unsatisfied with the way I delivered my first two babies. I did not like the way the epidural, among other drugs, made me feel or the idea of inducing labor, but I did it anyway out of impatience. Plus, everyone else was doing it. During those deliveries, I felt weak and useless. I felt that I couldn’t feel or know what to do. I felt that I wasn’t experiencing or participating in what my body was essentially designed to do. Those reasons alone could not have compelled me to experience the pain of natural childbirth, though. This contributed to my decision, but it truly came down to that tug in my heart that said “You need to know.”. I had to experience it without the top layers.

The first question remains: Why???!!!! Most people add that punctuation. I know my people think I’m crazy…most people for that matter… I had been someone who couldn’t understand why you’d put yourself through it. I knew leading up to my due date that few would understand because I could hardly find the words to describe the answer for myself. I didn’t expect anyone to understand, and I didn’t feel compelled to make them understand, nor do I now. All that mattered was that Robert supported me and understood. He was all for it and was along side me as I educated myself for months, all the while keeping my plans mostly between us, not expecting anyone else to relate. The more we learned about giving birth unmedicated, the more it made sense and the less scary it became. I taught myself a lot about being mindful of pain and how to accept the pain as useful unlike the pain of an unfortunate accident. It was good productive pain. And that mindful understanding got me through two days of labor. I never shed a single tear this time around, unlike my first two deliveries which had me panicking and bawling crying over pain. Mindfulness is a powerful thing. 

God was on my side throughout the entire experience. That’s how I know with certain that He intended this to happen. I went into labor eleven days early before anyone had a chance to lose patience and induce labor. I had a very supportive and encouraging doctor (You're the BEST, Quin!) who is also a great friend. I had the company of my lifelong friend, Shelby, who has recently delivered two babies naturally and sees eye to eye with me on so many things. During those two days of labor, my contractions stopped cold at night both nights, and I went to sleep and slept hard. During the days I worked and painted and prepared my kids’ school lunches for the next couple days.  I got more walking milage in than during my whole pregnancy and did more squats than I have done in five years. For real…because I don’t do squats. I spent hours with Shelby while we walked hospital halls. I did lunges, squats, yoga ball bouncing…(I don’t do yoga either)… anything to move that baby. She timed contractions while we talked and laughed. Shelby even went to my house to get me my (brand new) yoga ball and carried it fully inflated to me in the hospital. I mean… there’s a friend. How awkward.

During the third day and final hour, I was screaming my head off like a 3 year old throwing a tantrum. I mean top of my lungs, high pitched screeching like I probably haven’t done since I was a 3 year old. They say you come out with some instinctual primal sounds…but it sounded more like a Halloween movie in my hospital room, and I had zero control over it. During this highly intense moment my mom and doctor had the wits to remind me of what was to come of the experience….other than a baby, obviously. Mom kept telling me I was going to be writing about this on my blog, and Quin said something to me like, “I can’t wait to see the paintings you create out of this experience.” To both I replied something ridiculously rude and sarcastic and uncharacteristically dumbed down. I think it was, “Well it’s going to be f’ing stupid and…ahhhhuuuhh…… ugly.”. It was wildly painful during that last hour, and there was some rather unlady-like language going on. During that final stretch, I forgot why I was doing this. Then suddenly, it was stunningly beautiful, an awe inspiring moment and achievement. There is a lot to look back on and smile at and even laugh about, too…Like, Robert keeps reminding me that I was trying to bite down on my thumbs through contractions, and he held my hands like a child because he worried I was going to chew my own thumbs off. What?!? So, yeah, shit got weird. 

I know what you’re think. (“Oh hell no.”)  I know that last paragraph isn’t selling it too well, but that’s not what I’m writing this for. If you ask my husband he says it was at the same time like a scene from The Exorcist and a really amazing and inspiring moment that shook him to the core. It is not for everyone, and I didn’t think it was for me. With it all said and done, I’d do it again. I am not sharing this experience to tell you to choose unmedicated childbirth, and I didn’t want to incorporate all this in my writing because I don’t want to sound self-righteous. But, the whole experience has left me with so much to learn and know and say and paint and write. I use this blog to explore my own understandings and how they relate to and surface in my art. I also write this to share with you what I’ve learned so that in some way you may also find the confidence to trust something scary you feel inexplicably compelled to do. Prior to that experience, I could have found some major reassurance in reading something like this on someone else’s blog, and that’s what determined me to expose this personal story.

It’s been 12 weeks since that life changing day. As for the “why”, I have found answers in moments of clarity during peaceful times like painting or walking and while I sat in church yesterday hearing that verse from Matthew.… “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.”.  While I couldn’t fully put into words why I needed to do this, I knew to faithfully trust what God had placed in my heart, and I chose to blindly follow it with all of my heart, soul and mind. Robert knew to help me follow this inclination, too. Even towards the end, I wanted to second guess my ability and questioned what I had committed myself to, and to my surprise, he wasn’t opening the exit door for me. I told him this kind of thing was for people who run marathons and stuff, but he didn’t buy it. He pushed me to stay on track and continued to build me up until the moment we met Josephine face to face. The journey, the whole journey, was purposeful. 

Next question: What? What was it all for? Maybe I don’t have the full answer yet, but here’s what I’ve gotten from it so far. I experienced pain that I didn’t know existed, yet my instinct did not tell me to give up and get an epidural. It just wasn’t even in my bag of options that day…. until it felt like I could not possibly go on and just then, just like they said it would happen, she was born. I found a strength I didn’t know I had. I found a connection and support from my husband that had never been needed prior to that moment. We both agree that that day our marriage grew roots like the thickest oak trees in our deep south back yard. God had plans for me to experience the emotions I came to know that day. He has plans for my family and me that I faithfully trust and lovingly concede to. There is a verified peace within me. I followed what I couldn’t even understand or explain and gained a deep seated feeling of safety. He designed and equipped us with all the tools we need. The way everything unfolded, from the progression of labor to the way my baby nursed effortlessly right away, showed me that we have to trust the design and lean on that trust boldly and blindly with all our heart, soul and mind.

I had so much support that day from the people I am closest to who all let me make this choice without asking me “Why?”. After my mother, Robert and I witnessed this, I think we all knew why, but the words weren’t there yet. It was only a heart feeling.

It’s easy to let the layers of comfort blankets build because the looming truth that’s beneath them is intimidating. I am sharing this to remind you (and myself) to dig deep into your soul and unearth what’s below the surface. Have the faith and courage to trust what’s waiting for you. Boldly rely on what God’s placed in your heart. First trust and later you can ask “why?”. 

“Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?”

Jesus answered:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and most important commandment.

    Matthew 22:36-38

The pretty Price of a Rich Life


A life that’s rich with love and joyful experience comes at a pretty price and not in a ribbon tied perfect package.

I’m being totally straight forward here; life with a newborn is raw and unhinged. It just is. I don’t care who you are and how pulled together your life is, behind your front door is a very tired woman just trying to make sure, at the very least, her children (baby) eat and sleep. As far as I’m concerned, all else is optional for the first few weeks. I don’t think my daughter brushed her hair for at least a week or three after the baby came home. Honestly, if they brushed their teeth once a day, that would have been acceptable. The newborn time is short and oh so sweet, but boy is it ugly and messy…. the mother alone is a sleep deprived, milk leaking, hungry…no starving, diaper explosion and spit up stained, sour smelling mess. At any given time of day she could use a shower. It’s raw and at times down right ugly, and somehow, still my favorite time ever. I love the simplicity. I love the free pass to spend the entire day in pajamas getting to know my brand new person. And, this past time around, I soaked those days in even more than before. I am one of those people who covets the newborn stage (not everyone’s favorite age), but at a point I still found myself having an emotional breakdown; a good ole ugly cry. I was in much need of the talking-to I got from my best friend. Even with a love for these fleeting days, I needed help from the sinking baby blues. She pulled me from the hole I dug myself into from weeks of sleep deprivation, unfinished everything, the milk production “scaries” and that damn post baby inner tube still hanging on to my waist. She put me into this perspective that I am writing this from, and she reminded me that all that was regular will come back in time, but this little baby won’t be a baby for long (💔). She gave me the welcomed advice to relax and focus on nursing and Netflix for the time being. Music to my ears. All else will come in time.

It seems like every time I turn around lately I am reminded that it truly takes a village, and you’d be crazy to think that you are an exception. Even if your village helper is a phone call with a friend who’s been there, it will help more than you may realize.

 Now, at 7 weeks out, I am trying to focus on the world outside of my pajamas and baby laundry covered bedroom. When I make it to my studio to paint, I find myself thinking a lot about the ruggedness that is my new life with 3 children. It’s at once so ugly and so beautiful. It’s frantic and stressful at times and other times super slow paced and relaxing and completely blissful. In reflexion, I can understand that this combination is alright for now and makes for a nice balance. Stepping away to do something that makes me me helps with perspective. Things won’t always be this way, and that’s what makes it ok to enjoy it versus forcing the regularity to return before due time. I love this saying, but never before has it been more relevant: You can do anything, but you cannot do everything. You can have the things you truly want, but you better get ready to make some choices and learn the importance of saying “no”.

Consequently, my paintings are looking more like this current life of mine. The paintings are a little ragged and somewhat edgy; explorative and limit pushing; less tidy and perfected; more wild lines and loose ends yet created with intention and care. No apologies. I’m working with limited color palettes and finding a simplicity there that balances the static energy in the markings. 

The terms natural selection and survival of the fittest are appearing in my sketchbook notes….

natural selection | ˈnaCH(ə)rəl səˈlekSHən |noun Biology

the process whereby organisms better adapted to their environment tend to survive and produce more offspring. (or more art in my case)

-survival of the fittest

Survival is a heavy term, but it’s the right one. I could totally stay in my pajamas, and let everything fall to shit around me….very tempting some days. I could ignore the pressure to get back to painting, and send the kids to school everyday with a lunch-able and disgusting hygiene. I could just chill in a messy toy cluttered house nursing on demand all day….unmade beds and piled up laundry… That would be easy and that works for some people, but not me. That’s not me surviving because that’s not me. I am someone who ordinarily requires order and routine, organization and a relatively tidy house. But, surviving this new and challenging time is for me to choose painting, healthy and well-fed children, and a breastfed baby on a schedule. Those are my choices and that’s my way of surviving to the fittest. I have to adapt with all that’s going on, and it’s why selection is required on my part…no apologies just necessary choices. Because I cannot do everything…for now my beds aren’t always made and there are toys under my feet as I write this. I fit in a walk when I can, but it doesn’t happen everyday. What’s working is to allow life to unfold the way it needs to right now, adapting along the way. This is how I am surviving (not thriving) and what’s spurring my desire and ability to paint right now. It won’t last forever this way because, as they say, “babies don’t keep”.  Life is not perfect, and that’s perfectly fine. I’ve said it before, but what’s perfect is not real. A rich life is an imperfect one. A rich life is full of emotions and experiences that you wouldn’t want to miss. I couldn’t trade the mess I’m in now for something prettier. The price is too high.

Painting Parenthood


 While painting has given me a stronger sense of self-awareness, motherhood has given me more to be aware of. In a pressure filled society that pushes me in one direction, the act of painting is what pulls me back to center. The mental clarity I get from painting has shown me that sometimes what I choose has nothing to do with what I truly want and need. It’s easy to forget that it’s not about what others are doing, but rather, it’s about choosing a life for ourselves, for our own reasons. With so much noise in the distractions surrounding us, we often can’t even hear what our own hearts are asking for. The truth is, what we want and need can easily be different than what we have and do. Why is it so hard to choose what is truly best for us? Painting from parenthood has taught me to trust my instincts and shown me the value in finding my own path.

Motherhood, with all of its timeless wonderment, comes with a great deal of pressure. At this time when women have a role outside of the home, we still, by nature, have the gift of giving life to another and nurturing that life to its greatest fulfillment. However motherly the woman, the modern mother in all her maternal glory is eventually injected into our fast paced, high energy and high preforming society. There are great expectations around every corner which have the ability of stripping away the simplistic joys of parenthood. When you are focused on keeping up the same pace as those around you, it is hard to recognize and trust your own needs and set your own pace. Considering what a natural and time tested role motherhood is, it turns out that being a modern mother requires a great deal of self-awareness, confidence, and most of all, a profound sense of trust and faith.

Throughout my years as an art student and a professional artist, nothing ever brought my art more substance than being a mother. Each of my children have changed my art for the better. With so much discussion out there about the hardships of coupling a career and motherhood, I would like to say that without my children my career would be far behind where it is now. I have found that I need this balancing act to keep my moral muscles strong, and not making time for my work as an artist leaves me morally unbalanced; over focused on the wrong things. Likewise, not making time for my family leaves me uninspired. Thanks to the social stigmas attached to the working mother, I fully anticipated motherhood to negatively impact my creative momentum, but it did not happen that way. In fact, it was the exact opposite. Is it ironic that the very thing that many fear will threaten their professional life, has brought mine more balance, structure and satisfaction? This awareness made me feel out of place and naive, even.  

Everyone says that becoming a mother “changes everything”, and for me, that didn’t just mean my sleep schedule and social life. Maybe it was the sudden weight of another human’s life in my hands or that I could better understand how I want to spend my now precious time or that I realized what a gracious blessing it is to be a mother which many are sadly denied. No matter why, I know that the day my first child was born I immediately felt like the person I was meant to be. Parenthood lifted from my head and heart a fog that kept me from seeing the full picture.

I read an article last year that I can’t seem to forget. It was about creativity and motherhood. The article addresses the stigma among creative working professionals implying that you cannot be taken seriously in your work if you choose to have children. Established artists and writers are choosing their career over a growing family in order to avoid the distractions they expect children will bring to their work. The author uses the experiences of artists, writers and even lab rats to reveal how a mother’s brain actually becomes more creative, rather than less, and more efficient than it was prior to parenthood. The mother learns to use her time more wisely and effectively and sacrifices as needed to support her children/rat babies (ew) all while getting work done with sharper focus, speed and creativity. My eyes swelled with tears as I read this article because the theories and facts were so relatable and something I had genuinely felt but not discussed out loud. It was eye opening, and it factually confirmed what I already knew was true.

So, it’s not just me. There it is in writing; society’s negative spin on something I knew deep down to be good and right.

I had my first child with zero intention of turning my back on my art. In fact, it didn’t even occur to me. To my surprise, for years, I was continually asked, “So, are you still painting?”.  Of course I was. The question confused me. Not only is my art my job, it is just a part of who I am and what I do. I need to make art like I need to feel the sun or get a good night’s sleep. Sure, I can go without it, but it feels bad. I’ve gone through periods of not painting, and those close to me know that I am a less pleasant person (a.k.a. a bitch) without this creative outlet. We all need an outlet, but I am making a career out of mine, so I get to call it “work”.

I have been writing and talking about painting from the heart since 2011 because that was the year I became a mother. That year, I began to change from the inside, and my art reflected the transformation. It was that year that my paintings seemed to burrow down under the surface and find a depth that was both visible and conceptual. My work now had a more sincere source, a source that I can’t describe with any other word than “heart”. And so the thriving cycle within me began; a never-ending loop where motherhood sustains the artist and the artist sustains the mother.

With all of the positivity I’m giving motherhood, I am not denying that it has tested me in significant ways and forced me to make sacrifices and question God's reasons, but, without a doubt, parenthood has taught me much more than it has taken. Every day for six and a half years, Robert and I have struggled to parent our very strong willed, highly energetic child who has been pushing back since she was born. I have been brought to tears and even to my knees in total desperation. But, listening to my heart rather than comparing her to other children has let me trust that this child was put on the earth with a driving force to do something remarkable. The job of parenting her fierce heart is a tough one and one I take seriously and will continue to work hard at, but I will not put anything in front of God’s plan for her, even if that means making my job harder. We had a frightening experience with our daughter’s health that put me in the same desperate need for answered prayers and guidance, and it was then that I learned of the intensity of a mother’s intuition. With my son, God gave us a child with a very different set of parental needs than our daughter giving our family a certain sense of symmetry and joy that made us decide to let our family grow. And, from this side of a total of four miscarriages, I can say that I now have a stronger awareness of His plan. The plan doesn’t involve my ideas or my understanding or my earthly explanations. Even the experiences that hurt the most have been placed in my path for purpose. Those painful and challenging times gave me a sturdy realization that there is value in experiencing loss and fear, and experiences like these are teaching me to be patient with time. These are among the moments that have built within my chest a heart with more substance and trust giving me the means to make art that reflects the same. It was the act of making art that let my heart speak these truths loud and clear for me to hear. The solitude of my studio with no outside noise gives my inner voice center stage, and as I paint, I explore and understand these emotions.

My children, including the one that has yet to be born, have individually developed in me a deeper and stronger sense of heart. At the end of 2017, my art immediately reflected the new life I am now growing. Even during the first trimester drag, I could visually see how my maternal heart was again bringing new life to my paintings. Being a working mother comes with it’s challenges, sure, but it may also come with some unmistakable advantages. Motherhood, with all its trials and thrills, has allowed my work as an artist to grow richer. And, painting along side parenthood has given me the clarity to better understand my role as a mother.

My maternal art-making heart has taught me to lean in, to listen and to trust what it wants. There is great relief in finding the faith to trust what your heart wants and does not want. While it takes courage, making decisions based on those heartfelt tugs and gut instincts removes a great deal of the doubt and anxiety that come with parenting in our competitive society. Even with this understanding, I struggle to block out the loud pressures that want me to keep up with a pace that’s not for me. I am not always strong enough to trust my own voice above the louder ones. The voice in my heart is soft spoken, and each time I lean in, the words remain the same, repeating: “choose by faith and trust, truth and love.”


 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

The Gardener 2018

Time Traveler 48x48

Time Traveler 48x48

The progression of time is predictable. We can predict that a new day with new challenges and experiences will follow today, but we have no way of predicting exactly what tomorrow will bring. All we know is that time will continue moving in a forward motion at a controlled pace. We can not go to the past to make changes, but rather we must embrace the future with a willingness to allow changes to unfold building on the narrative that the past has written. Change is a component of time. Few things in nature remain unchanged from the movement of time. We are in the midst of some form of evolvement right now, and there is more to come. While some will accept change and grow because of it, others will try to resist this force of nature which is much bigger and stronger than themselves.

In 2017 I began a series of abstract art entitled The Harvest. A harvest is the process of gathering the products that resulted from a period of work. Last year’s series is a cultivation of everything I had explored and learned from my past art. This body of work could not have been painted without me having created the work that came prior. That series was the result of a sequence of events that even my most unsuccessful past paintings had contributed to. Every painting I complete, successful or not, leads to the next work I produce.

The evolution of my work happens with or without my intention, however, embracing natural changes makes way for new work to emerge, work that may have been suppressed otherwise, never having had a chance to even sprout. It is more effective for me to let my art flow from my heart through my hand than it is for me to establish something logical that first formed in my head. The most ingenuous and natural work develops from an inspiration so small and obscure, that if I were to first consider it from the head, I’d most likely ignore the suggestion.

It is now a new year making it a great stopping point to round out the work of last year to make room for those mysterious tugs making me want to spread my elbow a little wider and extend my arm a little further as I paint and draw. It’s a good a time as any to explore the fleeting, inexplicable notions leading me to the next body of work.

Having considered my last series a harvest, I reflected on other comparisons relating to growing crops. A gardener is a person who allows the beauty of growth to take place naturally working along side nature’s timing. The gardener is patient yet persistent, modest but ambitious with faithful trust in the capabilities of time. She has great aspirations for a handful of tiny seeds. She is aware of the possibility that the seeds may fail to thrive but much more engaged in how the seeds could grow.

In 2018 I will work towards a body of work entitled The Gardener. I will continue down the beaten path laid from The Harvest which established a recognizable technique in markings, composition and palette. The work of the past series will visibly carry into the next. The differences will be subtle but significant. There are more fluid and visible lines and stokes suggesting the concept of following natures flow as I allow paint to do what paint does, applying it in various forms of texture, application and color, and careful, as always, not to feel the need to over manipulate and disguise the characteristics of oil paint.

Intuition is nature’s advice. Nature's timing is trustworthy and has proven its power showing us that to change is to grow. By choosing to follow intuition and embracing inevitable newness, I have discovered a different awareness of time and the peace that lies in trusting it. I choose to follow every artistic instinct. Those suppressed and quiet impulses have a mysterious allure convincing me to simply plant every tiny seed, and let it grow.


Talking Heads: Well, how did I get here?

What It Takes 36"x48"

What It Takes 36"x48"

    Here I am painting portraits. How did I get here? This is not my art…. or is it? That song is about the passage of time and how it just zips by sometimes, and then we stop and ask ourselves; how did this all happen, and is this really me? When I look around my studio lately, that’s what I am asking myself. I wasn’t always aware that I was making so many decisions until I look at how much has changed within my work over this last year. In hind-sight I understand so much about each decision I was making and how those choices developed the artwork I am creating today.
    My paintings have evolved over a span of time and not overnight and not with a single decision to do so. I did not wake up one day and choose to embark on something new. In fact, I have been pushing portraits to the back of my head for years. On some level I have been selfishly preserving portrait painting…because I love painting and drawing heads and faces, and I believe I was afraid of what would become of that joy if I approached it in business. With that said, maybe you could say this year’s Closer series has been my way of dipping my toe in to test the water, but even still, not intentionally was I entering the portrait game.

   It started with an impulsive urge to render the human head….and so I followed it aimlessly. 'Act now and think later’ is my rather laid back approach to art anyway and so this was no different. And then, painting my own children was an easy decision and one I gave almost no thought at all. I just grabbed an oil stick one day and started drawing. My mind had begun to picture a loose, underdeveloped drawing in a further developed painting. The crossed face that serves as a grid for artists to proportionally place facial features was a key element, but rather than layering on the actual facial features, I allowed the cross to represent the face. This was a technique I have used before in figure drawing, but applying it to a large scale oil painting was new and experimental for me.
    So I waded into the water. I was ankle deep and still cushioned by the abstract, vague and loose depiction which to my surprise resulted in a very recognizable so called “portrait” of Lelia and Sonny. This was a comfortable place for me to take on portraits. I was confident that I wasn’t losing my recognizable painting style. The portraits remained undefined enough to render my usual markings and allowed my color palette to carry over from my non-objective abstracts.  It was a completely organic and unforced transition….the only thing I changed was the subject matter. But, I was still interested in digging deeper, and that meant finding a place for features and figuring out the challenge of how to incorporate the realism without losing myself. How can I apply facial features and remain loosely abstract and “me”?
    I have the most innate love for painting and drawing certain things and the head/shoulders is one of them. I’ll try to explain it, but there is something mysterious and intriguing about certain features, and all I want to do is recreate them with my own hands. This is about to sound strange….I’ll have to agree, but maybe it will help you to embrace something seemingly weird. You never know what great things are hiding under fear. This list describes some of the inexplicable things that I love about working with the head, shoulders and face.
-The shape of the head/skull. I love the feeling of holding an infant’s heavy head in my hand and noticing the boney curves of the skull.
-The hairline. I love cowlicks and hair parts… I love hair cuts and styles. In the simplest form these take on geometric shapes.
-Cheek bones and the apples of the cheeks. It’s like the back to basics of painting the tones and hues of the round ball in Painting 101.
-The angles and lines in the collar bone and shoulders. These linear and angular bones give me control of the composition of the painting. Like arrows pointing you where to look.
-Gentle curves like the upper line of the upper lip and the crease in the eyelid. I also love to define the white of the eye around the iris rather than vice versa. It’s like a tiny version of the way I wrap the whole subject in a white painted background.
    The decision to follow these fascinations felt uncomfortable at first. I quickly dismissed that reservation and chose to trust my heart and follow this white rabbit of an idea. Once I sat back to reflect on this unfamiliar work I began to understand my need to get this stuff on paper. Throughout my writing, I have continually referred to my hand and heart working together. In the beginning I don’t try to understand why I want to paint what I paint, I just do it and seek out the reason later. I can give credit to my mind for making certain preliminary and necessary decisions, but the creative work is done when I let go of the analysis and fear in my head. The resulting painting tells me more about myself than I was aware of, and in this case, these bowed heads were talking to me.
    There is intimacy in the zoomed-in perspective of the paintings in my Closer series. The abstracted turned down heads speak about an inner sense of discretion and self-awareness. The multiple head abstract paintings are a nod to relationships and the various ways we find connections with others. It only takes one common thread to create a bond. Whether it’s sisters, friends, a mother and daughter, a husband and wife, the abstract portraits are less about the physical traits of the subject and more about unspoken feelings and connections and the heartfelt emotions we relate upon. While the abstract feature-less paintings represent intimate characteristics and feelings, the portraits containing facial features bring attention to what’s less discreet but maybe overlooked.
    I have faith in knowing my purpose as an artist is to bring light to the magnificent things God has created in us and for us. Although so much of my work is abstract, I paint from the most honest and heartfelt emotions and observations, and later, I write about them giving total abstraction intention and purpose. In this same way, I am unapologetically intrigued by these human features and the sentiment behind them, and as long as my heart is leading me there, I’m going to follow it. My head wanted to talk me out of chasing down an uncertain direction, but I am mesmerized by the mystery of what my heart wants to show me.
There is an answer to ‘How did I get here?’. This is my art…. and it is not as far off as it seemed. All my work has been created from the same love of looking carefully at color, line, shape, value, texture, as well as, emotion. Artists are the most observant people, and that’s what’s compelling us to create. I notice the form and volume in cheek bones, and a swift line in the hair, and the unique way facial features are arranged, but I am also captivated  by traits behind those visible characteristics. Many artists have painted a beautiful heads, but I am discovering ways to paint what's in the heart.


Questions and Answers

While we are scrambling through some years constantly asking questions, there are other years that find answers, and many times the answers were there all along. It really depends on how clearly you can see your picture and how willing you are to make edits.

I frequently write about how my paintings go through rattling challenges right along side of me. A while back I became exhausted and bored with my painting method. Over the past two years, I searched for a painting process that was truly enjoyable. I spent a lot of time more dedicated to the process than the result, experimenting with a range of techniques, tools, materials and surfaces. It was a long period of questions, wondering what else may be up my paint covered sleeve.

I recognize that I am moving away from a question year and beginning a year that answers. I have seen my work change within the process. I can look back and see when I began to abandon a technique that had been working for me. I veered off wanting to know if I could paint without it…daring myself to be vulnerable and paint something I had never been bold enough to call a finished painting. What I left behind was the heavy impasto application I used for so long. That had been the ‘final touch’ that made my paintings complete. I got tired of it and felt like it was even a crutch. I spent two years ignoring my palette knife, and it ended up being the tool that brought my paintings into a new light. It was always there, sitting on my palette while I did back flips trying to avoid it. (some people call that stubborn. smirk)

A question year is spent disassembling, scattering and rearranging the pieces into a confusing picture. When the picture looks blurry, the obvious has a way of blending in. An answer year is when we gather the useful pieces, reassembling them into a new picture. The new picture is clear and focused. It's more dynamic and layered with substance, and the truth becomes obvious again. Every answer year gives our picture more and more strength thanks to the uprooting questions we asked ourselves.

In life, there are years that ask and years that answer, but nothing changes unless you hear the question and decide to react.

Where I've Been 48x36

Where I've Been 48x36

What I Know I 48x48

What I Know I 48x48

Vital Signs (Reworked)48x48

Vital Signs (Reworked)48x48

I felt it coming

I have known that deep in my heart, being a mother and creating art were becoming innately intertwined, but God had a very intentional way of teaching me about the relationship that was building between my two biggest passions. Getting older has taught me that there is so much this life has to offer, but it starts with knowing the truth about who you are.

My daughter has been sick for 6 weeks with 11 of those days spent in the hospital. It began with salmonella (from who knows what), and in the beginning, it was a very mild case. After the first week she seemed recovered, but 3 days later she began complaining about her elbow hurting and then spiked a fever. She was in so much pain and refused to use her right arm. That's when my heart started pounding. It wasn't for another two weeks when we found out that the salmonella bacteria invaded her bloodstream, settled into her elbow and eventually became osteomyelitis (a bone infection) with a septic elbow. I can't imagine how bad she felt all over for that whole period of time. I knew throughout this slow developing infection that something was very wrong, and I was fearful of the very thing that it became, but neither the joint aspiration or repeated blood work indicated any infection. So once it finally became clear that there actually was infection, it was bad, and she was admitted to the hospital. She began IV antibiotics immediately and had two separate surgeries to clean the infected elbow.

A couple posts back, I wrote about having the sense I was approaching something pivotal with my art. Now, here I am reflecting from the other side of an experience that has left me surprisingly revitalized, artistically speaking. To make a relative comparison, I've located my artistic pulse that I've been searching for. I knew I was close and how it would make me feel, but I just couldn't put my finger on it. The work I am creating now is engaging in a way that makes me want to create more and more. The newest paintings in my studio are climbing the walls! This is fun really fun. So, why is painting just now so satisfying?

If you've ever read this blog, you can tell I am a thinker, an analyzer.  Most decisions are made with deep consideration. Even when it's unrelated to art, I will explore every perspective and possibility (sometimes confusing the hell out of myself). Mainly, I think like this because I want to understand who I am and what I do and why I do it. I am not one to wing it and hope for the best. My over-analytical mind is part of what led us to discover Lelia's infection before it got terribly worse (I can't even think about it....inhale...exhale). After this experience with our daughter, I can now grasp something enlightening.

I have two strong needs; to be the best mother I can be for my children and give all I have to becoming the artist I know I have the potential to be. I have dedication to both, and that is overwhelming and conflicting at times. I admit that I get caught in between and feel like I am suppose to be good at one or the other. It is without question that I will be with my children when they need me. Not just for the ability to drop everything and spend 10 nights* in the hospital, but I want to be the one who picks them up from school and puts them to bed at night. I also want to be professionally significant and successful and give opportunities to my family.

Here is what God has revealed to me through our experience; not only did He give me those two strong desires, but He equipped me with the ability to fulfill them both. He never intended for me to choose where to place my best self. And so, after not painting or even considering painting for this many weeks, He allows me to pick up my brush with more vitality than ever. I have been given a gift which makes my days feel well-rounded and complete. Being their mother has taught me how to create paintings with my heart, and that gives me a true sense of satisfaction.  What I have come to understand is that my love of motherhood and art are so intertwined in my foundation that one simply enhances the other. With relief and gratitude, I realize that it is not necessary to decide where my focus belongs because these loves of mine work together and coexist beautifully and always will.



Also, Lelia is doing great! She has been put on oral antibiotics for another two weeks and has joyfully gone back to school this week! ...meanwhile, Sonny panics when "yah-yah" leaves for school and grins ear to ear when we pick her up!  (insert heart emoji here)

*My mother and mother-in-law deserve recognition in this post. They each spent an invaluable amount of time and effort to make this time as smooth as possible for us all. They each spent a night with Lelia while I went home to be with Robert and Sonny, take a shower and attempt some sleep. Love and thanks x100, Babs and Bet! (Another heart emoji goes here)

Lelia (leel-yah) and Sonny

Lelia (leel-yah) and Sonny

Essentially 72"x44"

Essentially 72"x44"


"When I paint from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head almost nothing." -Marc Chagall

We go through the motions everyday moving between moments in time. This series of paintings, Minutes, emphasizes the weight in each minute. The lines and shapes in these paintings form a pod or capsule around portions that are particularly interesting to me. The clean lines and glossy, crisp white paint contrast powerful color to create an intensity that, for me, represent decisiveness. There is no uncertainty about where this line begins and ends.

The minimalism of these paintings is taken from a need to be more clear and intentional. Without unnecessary distractions, we are focused on the significance of only a few areas. The importance of concentrating on what really matters is heightened, and anything that doesn't bring focus or contribute to that area is whited out. Color is used meticulously, and with the knowledge that the fewer times each color is represented, the more powerful that color appears.

It is easy to find ourselves spending too many minutes on things that do not deserve our limited time and energy. It is natural to want to please and impress other people, but it is so liberating to decide not to. How can it be so easy to forget to do what makes us happy? What I am asking myself is; what do I want to put in these precious minutes?... and what needs to go?


Time Capsule A  30x22 on paper

Time Capsule A 30x22 on paper

Here We Are B  24x24

Here We Are B 24x24

High Hopes

My 2016 series, High Hopes, is a collection of paintings created out of a state of optimism. When you get the feeling that you are in the midst of a before and after episode, the future feels bright. Not that I have psychic abilities... I somehow do feel like I am in the threshold about to embark on a new journey. It may be that I am finally working in a much bigger, more professional studio or that I can see my children growing into these small people full of character. Isn't it great to know you can make anything out of your life you want to? It makes me feel content to think about being on the brink of tomorrow. 

Lingering 40x40

Lingering 40x40

Grow and Fulfill

Fulfill 48x48

Fulfill 48x48

Grow 48x48

Grow 48x48

I remain in a constant desire to continue searching. I find myself looking for other possibilities, opportunities and more options. Without change, artists would sink into a hole of boredom. I know that I am someone who is continually striving for something else, and not always something better, more like an alternative. Slowing down to absorb and appreciate where I am is something I have to remind myself to do. But, my paintings always allow me to push into the next realm. I am allowed to revisit my artist self from last year if I get too far from home with my artistic trials. It is easy to get carried away....;)

GROW, any way you can, in order to FULFILL your heart.



Less selective, more acceptive

Heart Race 48x48
I am painting with more energy and enthusiasm than ever. My paintings continue to translate the hustle of my life with two children and a job that stays on my mind (and to-do list). I am finishing my paintings at a stage in which I was once still short of complete. You will see more of the raw, vulnerability and fluidity of the brush strokes left exposed. I came to a point where I felt like I was cleaning up after myself too much and selling my art short of the painterly quality that I was wanting to evoke. It is a leap and one that I am taking with confidence knowing I can always go back. If I don't push myself to do something new, I won't know what I have yet to explore. I might be missing something...

My biggest fear? Regret. The paranoia of one day saying: "I had a chance, but it's too late, and I lost it." All of my life's worries come back to fear of missing my opportunity, especially with my art.

Here is my new hashtag to go with some of the paintings I post:  #liveloosely
If you see it and wonder "what in the world?";

#liveloosely will be with the paintings that are pushing me to think, grow, overcome, learn, move on, adapt, improvise.... anything but settle with what is easy and comfortable. Because I have learned that taking a chance is more fulfilling than not. And, not being adaptive and loose is denying myself the experience of what could have been.

Marching 36x36

Proof 48x48

Pulse A 24x18

Pulse B 24x18

Vital Signs 48x48

Whole Hearted 48x48

Heart Beat 48x36

Instincts and Actions, a new series

Adding another child to my family has been quite a hiccup, but I have learned to work with the changes. Like usual, this struggle has had an influence on my conceptual approach. I have been building a new series of paintings, Instincts and Actions, chock-full of large scale abstracts loaded with layers of energetic brushstrokes, textures and carefully revealed areas of clear, powerful color.

Certainty 48x48 (Anne Irwin Fine Art)
 Instincts and Actions
Life and paint will do what it does, and we have to either go with it or against it. Forcing something to be what it is not requires a lot of energy and frustration and the outcome is never authentic. By allowing my paint to run and drip, smear and mud, I can let paint be paint, and use those natural characteristics to my advantage. Same with my family life; I cannot expect my highly energetic three year old and six month old to do exactly what I need them to so that my life can flow like I would design it to. We have adapted to a new life and routine with children. Once I understood how to loosen up and take each day as it was dealt, I became a much happier mama, wife and artist. I find the time to paint, lately at the crack of dawn, well before anyone is up and let myself be their mother later in the day without the guilt and unfinished work looming over me.
Lose control. Embrace imperfections. Live in the moment. Time is fleeting and nothing is permanent. I am adapting to the situation rather than trying to change the circumstance. Go with your instincts, and take action. Just find a way, and make it happen.

Head Above Water 48x48 (Lyons Share Gallery)

Initiative 48x36 (Anne Irwin Fine Art)

Set in Motion A 60x36 (Blue Print Store)
Set in Motion B 60x36 (Blue Print Store)

 As I continue to build on my recent series, The Big Picture, I am continuing to look at the concept from different angles. Throughout these paintings, I have been using new techniques involving oil sticks which incorporate my love for the gestural line. As I developed these paintings, I used those lines and the consequential shapes to layer over previously laid areas of the painting. I am pushing this over-lapping method even further which is giving me a new challenge for aesthetic's sake, and allowed me to reflect more on the comparisons to our lives. As we age and gather layers of experience, our character continually builds and becomes more dynamic and distinguished with each encounter and challenge, as does the painting.
Gatherer 48x48

Make Way 48x36

Mounding 48x48

Cumulate 48x48

Make a Beautiful Mess

As I was working on these two paintings, I began thinking about the way so many circumstances require us to make a big mess before something beautiful happens. I work on a painting in one direction for a while, and as soon as I get to where I was going with it, I realize it's missing dimension. At that point, sometimes against my own will, I develop almost a whole new painting on top.

That practice is something we do throughout our lives. I do it when it's time to organize a messy closet by creating a chaotic disaster so it can be put back together the right way. (My studio is the only place I can handle said unorganized messes.)

But, a more significant comparison is to the events in our lives. Without our will, sometimes things get shaken up for us. That in-between moment is scary and unfamiliar, and you are suddenly a victim in a messy spot. At that ugly point, it becomes clear what was withholding us all along and so we add, change and eliminate parts in order to pull back together again.... with more substance and strength than before.

In my paintings, that built-up second layer allows me to unearth areas to show parts of the previous painting. The layers and experiences give the final result dimension and visual strength.

Disarranged 60x48

Shake-Up 60x48