The art form of being brave

Yesterday, after all the requirements of the day were checked off my mental list, I was able to spend some time reading a book recommended from another writer’s site. The book is ‘Bird by Bird: Instructions for Writing and Life’ by Anne Lamott. I’ve been reading this book slower than most because it is content-rich. There is so much to absorb and sadly, a few chapters are all my brain can manage at any one time. I want to keep reading, to spend the entire night in mystical revelation, but I can’t because there is just too much to wrap my head around. That’s when you know you’ve stumbled upon something great. It demands that you take it slow.

I’m a little more than halfway through and I’ve found that it has challenged me in some unique ways. In some ways it is good, in some ways, well, it is just challenging. I’ve been sighing through a few too many chapters.

Without knowing much of where to begin, I’ll begin with this. I love writing. It’s an extension of my creative self I never expected to discover. It was also something I worked on for fun, amusement and, primarily, for myself. But as I moved through college and into my adult life, writing started to take more hold of me. It shifted from being a hobby to wanting to be more. That was around the time I started my novel, which was over five years ago. I didn’t, at the time, believe I wanted to publish the novel. I know my thoughts did not include being published because, much like an artist who must debut their work, there are nerves that interrupt raw creativity. I had no nerves when I approached my Microsoft Word file. When my first plot was not resonating, I scraped it and started on something different. It was easy to discard my work because there was no judgement or shame, it was just me focusing on the enjoyment of the art.

Let’s fast forward through some years and halt where we are today. I’m tinkering with some finishing details of my novel, but otherwise, it’s complete. I’ve had some innocent victims begin reading the first chapters. They are demanding more, but I’m still tinkering so they must wait. My confidence is full because the people are demanding more. Then I, also an innocent victim, being reading this book about writing, specifically about writing a novel, and realize that my process has been genuine and solid. What great news! I have followed a writing pattern that is deemed correct in the writing world. This is affirming to hear! But then I read further and there are the other parts that have split me in two. There are words and stories that have made me feel as though everything I have worked on with my novel has been a waste. What I am experiencing while reading my way through this book  are the two sides to learning: the affirming side and the challenging side because both are needed if we are ever going to grow.

Sigh, again. “But I thought I was done with my novel!”

It feels as though I’m back in art school, back learning the basics and trying out what these so called professionals are trying to teach. They are claiming there is a system, there is a good approach and a bad approach, there is a preferred method to success. It strikes me as funny that self-expression has rules. The professional would say, “Well, they aren’t rules,” she adjusts her glasses further up her nose, “they are guidelines that pave the way to your success. They are tips that will help you develop your art.”

I think for a minute and scrunch my forehead. “I’m learning all of this to ensure the critics will like my work?”

Her mouth pauses in mid-stride before the answer appears. “They will appreciate what you’ve incorporated.”

“But won’t it look like everyone else’s work?”

Her back is turned towards me. She is impatient. “You have your own style, your own patterns. It will be yours, but you’re building on what others before you have learned.”

I’m left scratching my head.

Because I have my educator background, I understand the importance of foundations. We’d all still be painting in caves if discovery and respecting advancements wasn’t of any importance. You should learn what came before your breath was present on this earth. You should be educated about what has worked for other people. You should understand how your predecessors took concepts and turned them on their heels. But those predecessors also knew when to apply the rules and when to scrap them. When to listen, when to ignore. As I think about this concept, this is the very place where art exists. The freedom and boldness of asserting your own opinion; stating that your new way of viewing the world is the right way, at least for you, is the true art.

Monet, an artist we all know and most of us love, was cast out of the art world because his paintings were merely the impression, the rough pre-workings, of the final painting. It was not accepted as true art until later in his life.

There is also Van Gogh, though that story doesn’t have a positive ending so I don’t relish focusing on it. In the science world, there are Albert Einstein and Louis Pasteur. Technology has Steve Jobs. Entertainment has Walt Disney. I’m sure music has plenty, though I’m an enjoyer of music not so much an expert, or even amateur, on anything musical. Math, well, the same there too, I’m sure it has it’s innovators. These people had to look at what existed in their past and choose what to ignore and what to keep. It’s risky, it’s terrifying, but when you’re successful, you’re suddenly a genius. All of those critical voices turn into fans. Or at least the grumbling of the critics doesn’t matter quite so much when you’re sipping champagne while holding your Nobel Peace Prize.

Knowing that innovation is not something mystical, but rather a determination to believe in yourself, I had to rethink this book I was reading. She is speaking, well, writing truth and giving excellent guidance about writing a novel. When I started out writing my novels, it was fun and about me. I didn’t think about critics, I didn’t ponder publication. It wasn’t about any of that. It was just me. Now, I want to share it. I want to have it published because I want to share this world that I’ve lovingly created. But alongside that possibility comes critics and self-doubt. Both of these voices came through while I was immersed in her book. I suddenly have negative whispers that haven’t existed before. I suddenly wonder if this work is worth anything though I had such confidence in it before. I had to ask myself why I suddenly felt fear and self-consciousness where it didn’t exist before?

I had an expert who was telling me the way things are properly done. She was saying it sweetly, she meant absolutely no harm and meant only to help yet I felt the disparaging whispers anyway. Though I’m a person who typically says, “No thanks, I’ll do it my own way”, I was becoming a victim.

Here’s my takeaway from the situation, though I’m not sure I’m any expert. Actually, I’m quite sure I’m not an expert. I’m going to keep reading the book because it is a volume packed full of wondrous advice. Wow, some of her points make my head spin with anticipation for planning my next novels. But I will be putting it through a filter, my personally designed Cortney filter to ensure that what is applicable for me will stay. Anything that could possibly restrict my creative output needs to be left in the book. I am so grateful I stumbled upon the book because it is providing an education on writing that will only elevate my skills. Who couldn’t use advice like that?

I believe we are in a society full of critics. I know I’m not alone in thinking that. It is too easy to comment and disregard without having much background in the subject. I think we often forget that people are putting themselves out there and they have a soul that can be greatly hurt. When I see how critical people can be towards a person with excellent gifts and talents, it makes me stop and wonder, “What will they say about me if I try? I don’t have that person’s level of gift or talent, how much more harsh will the critics be to me?” Those questions will lead to me not trying at all and I will always wonder if I could have done that thing I always wanted to do.

Is it worth being scared and being fearful of the critics? What would have happened if Monet would have told the art academy that they were correct, his impressions were not really that great? What if Einstein wouldn’t have returned to college to repeat his final year after failing the one prior? What if Walt Disney would have accepted that his initial movies weren’t that great and that living in a garage wasn’t the best deal on the planet? They all had other options. They all could have listened to the critics and we would have missed out on their greatness. They persevered and though they won, we won too. They cried their tears of pain and forged on, believing that what they had to offer was good and right and worthy to be out there in the world.

We all this same option. We all could give into the fear and say it’s not worth it. But what if what you’re hiding could be a motivator for people in future generations? What if you’re covering up your legacy because someone else doing your love of ___ intimidates you from trying?

I encourage you to educate yourself about your area of talent. There is a wealth of knowledge available to us with only a few keystrokes. But use a filter, dear reader. Don’t let the knowledge intimidate you, but rather bolster you to greatness. I’m using this book about writing to strengthen my skills and it is doing just that. But I don’t want to believe that I’m a complete nincompoop when it comes to writing. I find myself asking,

“Oh, most people sit down a write at the same time every day to force their creative subconscious to work?”

“Oh, most people work out elaborate characters before they ever put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard?”

Maybe they do, but I don’t and so far, I haven’t needed to do either. My writing time is spontaneous, but that’s more due to not have time each day to block off. My husband and I are a little busy, man! And as for that character development, my characters often come to my imagination in neat little packages. They arrive with their opinions, looks, words and personality and I just transcribe. I’ve also been discovering the way in which I write (how the plots, characters, words come to me) can make other writers jealous with rage. Look at that, I have a whole bunch of critics without even trying! That one notion sent my head for a loop. I felt all manner of red-faced shame. But then I let it all go and thanked God that he’s given me the gift I have. He’s also teaching me to enjoy this gift instead of being embarrassed, self-conscious or the like.

We all have gifts and talents, multiples of each hidden inside us. Chances are of the 7 billion people in the world, someone is bound to like what you have to give. Even if it is only one person who likes it, isn’t that worth it? To put a wide smile on their face and fill them with joy? Yes, yes it is, so please, go out and do that which you love, want, or are anxious to do. The world would love for you to be brave.

 

 

 

A Sunday afternoon, an email and some mild contemplation

I hope you had a great weekend. I’m still trying to recover from mine. It wasn’t a wild partying weekend, though we did spend a lot of time out and about at celebrations. They were mild mannered celebrations yet full of good moments.

My introverted self is crying out, perhaps even revolting about the activity. It’s says, “No more, I can’t take one more lively place out in public.”

“Well,” I say to my introverted self on this Monday morning, “let’s mosey over to the office, which is complete with a writing chair and a computer.” And here I sit.

Dramatics aside, we were only out on Saturday. Sunday we spent at a park then at home. After the two hour hike, brunch, then catch-up work, we were able to settle in with some much needed reading. Outside on the backyard patio while trying to unwind, I was appreciating the cobalt skies, the chilly pre-Autumn breeze, and the goldfinches chatting away. The conditions were perfect for reading, yet I was unable to focus on the novel in front of me. The words were jumbling around, but for once, it was not due to my dyslexia. There was something else at work.

Do you have moments like this where all is well in your life and you’re just trying to enjoy a moment, yet in your soul there is a bubbling turmoil brewing? I would call it annoying, but I believe this turmoil serves a beneficial purpose. For me, when my interior is frothing and churning like a hurricane that is throwing waves at the coastline, I know I need to take some time and mull it over. But yesterday I didn’t want to analyze my thoughts, feelings or interior self. I wanted to enjoy the blissful, heaven-sent afternoon with my husband by my side. So I didn’t analyze and began reading Chapter 1 of a novel.

Five minutes after my analytical boycott, I set down my book and began to contemplate the storm inside my soul. My pleasures never win out against my need to analyze. A plague of the introvert.

After a few short minutes, I concluded my internal peril was due to an email we received earlier from a friend of ours. She is one half of a couple who have what most people in America would consider the average, perfect life. They have children, they have great careers, they have the cars, the house, the pets, and the debt. We all became friends shortly after we graduated from college, when it seemed that we were all after the same goal in life – acquiring all of these things to prove our status. After my husband lost his job due to the recession, the relationship shifted, but not too much to put a strain on the fibers. Then the years went on. My husband announced that he was switching career paths to become a physician. Then our friends had children. Then they bought a larger home, larger cars. There were promotions, daycare, and more events for the children. Slowly the fibers were breaking. Then schedules became cramped and the distance as well as the commonalities were no longer enough to hold what once existed together. We grew apart.

None of this transition, this time of drifting apart, was too painful. It felt natural as the course of our lives changed. So why did I have such a difficult time yesterday with the email? That was the question that left me unable to focus on my indulgent novel under the cobalt blue sky with the singing goldfinches trilling in the nearby bushes.

The answer came to me as if a flood drenched me in deep understanding. It was the tone of my friend’s email that triggered unrest within my soul. It was as though I was reading about a facade, a great decorative exterior that was meant to hide the devastating insides of their once-beautiful cathedral. My friend’s written tone was not bubbly as it once was. I doubt she knew I could see behind the facade. She did try to hide it well, but when you’ve known someone for the length of time we have known them, you know when there is a cover up. Their relationship that was once full of laughter has few of those moments anymore. The laugh lines have been replaced by deep worry lines. As I thought about what they have traded to have all of their items, I wondered if it was worth it. And then I pondered, would they think it was worth it? As they stand on the verge of divorce, was the heaviness of the mortgage, the loans for their luxury cars, the long hours at work, the expensive daycare, was it all worth having in trade for their relationship?

I looked over at my husband, who was sitting beside me under the red umbrella at the patio table. He was wondrously unaware of my contemplations and thoughts. As I watched him being captivated by the words of his novel, I wondered: What would have happened had his job not been lost, if he hadn’t been bold and taken us down a ‘later in life’ career change – two events that severely altered our societal status? Would we have been like our friends, competing to have the nicer car, the nicer home, the better title, the nicer preschool? Would we be laughing when we arrived home from work or would we be crying and yelling once the car doors slammed shut? Would we have allowed the quest for things to suffocate our relationship?

I’ll be honest with you, dear reader, that question scares me. Had God not intervened in our life and broken my husband and myself of our want to impress, our desire to acquire items, we might have missed out on the true joy that keeps us going every day. Our perspective was so limited after graduating from college. We were just babies who were unsure in this world. We clung to the first, most prevalent idea that was available to us, an idea that fell in line with what everyone else believed: The way to achieve happiness in life is having a large home, enviable pieces to fill the home, expensive cars, ‘good’ children, career, and on and on. Having these items would impress everyone else and make us feel excellent about our lives.

What a lie that was. I can only see the lie, however, after being forcefully removed from that deceptive, raging river. I stand on the riverbank and watch the scenes unfold. Families are left in rafters’ wakes, to eventually wash up on the shore and shout, “What about this stuff is so important that it’s worth losing us?”

The returning answer should be, “Nothing.”

A person, a relationship, everything of true substance will always be more valuable than a home, an investment, a car. I wish I could help my friends; I want to throw them a life preserver and help them to safety over here on the riverbank. I wish I could help them see what I see. Their love of stuff is suffocating what is remarkable about them. It has taken away their joy, their happiness and their marriage. I want to tell them that having nice things in our lives is a blessing, not a competition. It is too easy to see stuff as a god and stop seeing the true God, from who all of these stuffs come. We forget that God could easily reset our mind’s view of who is in control with only a faint whisper into the sky. That faint whisper can readjust everything our hands have toiled to make secure and stable. I would say to my friends, “Your promotions, your salary, your children, they have all been enormous blessings from God’s hands, not yours. Give thanks and enjoy them.”

But, again, I understand that it took me years to come to this perspective. Years of heartache, years of self-analysis to find out why I had made my ‘quest for things’ a god; I had even made myself a god, thinking that I could control the ways of my life and keep my life financially secure. I also grew up believing, as most of us did, there was one way to happiness and that was to live in a certain neighborhood, driving a certain car and having a certain career. I was told my heart would be so full if I had each of these things. Such a lie and such a hard perception to break.

But sitting next to my husband yesterday, I realized that without the house, without the luxury cars, without the impressive career, my heart is full and overflowing. I have never felt joy and happiness like I have over these past few years. There is so much love, peace and hope. Removing ourselves from the river was excruciating but worth it.

I sighed after these thoughts resolved in my mind. My inner hurricane had blown through leaving humble stillness behind. I prayed for our friends, asking God to do a work in their life that could salvage their marriage. I looked above me. The cobalt sky was shining as if it was our own personal sapphire. The breeze was luxuriously cooling us just when the sun became too warm. The goldfinches were providing us a private serenade from the best composers. And then, just at that moment, my husband looked up, sensing my eyes searching over him, smiled widely and said, “I love you.”

 

Better than what I was planning

I have many thoughts going through my head at the moment and they all seem to be great options for what to say here on my blog. But I’m not entirely sure how they will rearrange themselves into any cohesion for the purposes of readability. Here’s to hoping something happens!

There has been a positive movement in my soul for a few months now. It has been unlike any movement before. Perhaps it was due to a birthday number that I wasn’t expecting to hit me so hard. Or maybe I envisioned being in a very different place on this birthday back when I was an undergrad. Oh how the reality has not mirrored what I envisioned those many years ago. It’s nearly comical on one hand, and too jarring on the other.

But it is so amazingly better than what I was planning.

Over the past few months, I have been reflecting on the journey that has brought my husband and I to this place in life, which is dramatically different than what we could have imagined. Though I know how we happened in this place, I am still in awe at the process we’ve experienced and, sometimes, how we managed to survive it together. I was a very different person when he met me as an undergrad. I was a person seeking her own ambitions, seeking success and wanting to collect evidence that I was successful. I needed to achieve an A in every class. And I did, but it came at the price of chronic ulcers and friendships. I needed to impress people; a great deal of love, or what I thought was love, came from achieving those A’s. I had goals and those goals were going to get me into the best school districts, teaching the best pupils. I needed to perform perfectly to become the person everyone expected me to be. This system could have continued this way for the rest of my life. Me trying to jump through hoops to please everyone else. There was one problem with this though: I was not being the person God created me to be. My time for change was coming.

God graciously let me graduate from college with my pride, high expectations and selfish desires. He gave me a fun post-college job that was as much a learning experience as it was rewarding. He let my husband and I have five months of wedded bliss before He began his dramatic remodeling of our life. My husband and I probably prayed some simple prayer; something that sounded like, “God, please make our lives great and meaningful” or “God, please use us.” At the time we were too naive to know what we were saying, we probably included many asterisks after our prayers (ex: *as long as we benefit monetarily, *if that greatness includes moving us down south, *if using us means we won’t be uncomfortable…you get it). But God heard our superficial prayer and answered deeply.

There was an economic collapse in 2008. Construction companies felt the pain first. My husband just happened to be a web designer at a construction company. He lost his job. I was getting ready to go back to school to fulfill my want to become a nurse practitioner. That plan was immediately halted because I needed a job. A job arrived in my email box days later – they reached out to me and I promptly accepted. It provided money and security. It also provided some humility. These events marked the beginning of our breaking down and reshaping that lasted six, long years.

We have been through years of tearing down. It was as though we were 23 year-old buildings standing on abandoned property. God must have driven by, seen potential in the land, but little potential in the buildings. He knocked everything down and dug a mighty deep foundation.

All of that breaking down was painful. It was the removal of our flesh in a spiritual sense. I wasn’t a person who cried much during my childhood, but I made up for it during this time. My husband and I were asked to let go of our dreams, our possessions, our friends, our jobs, our love of money, our pride, our guilt, our apartment, our everything and cling only to the One who could provide for our needs.

He asked us to give up everything and choose Him. To trust Him.

There were times we could have swam in a different direction and clung to a life raft that was a lesser dream, a lesser job, a lesser opportunity. But each time, my husband and I would look at each other, our hearts aching and our bodies painful from the struggle, and we would say, “But we’ve come this far, why would we give up all the work and choose that?”

So we never did. When less came along, we didn’t settle. We trudged on with God at our side telling us we could do it. Some days we were crawling forward barely able to lift our heads. Some days we made great leaps along the path. On the worst days, we were reaching out our callused hands, pulling our bodies by mere inches to at least have the sensation of moving forward. We knew our finish line was up ahead and the result was glorious if we just kept pressing on.

We are both not the people we used to be, which, looking back, is a wonderful, blessed thing. God knew exactly the pieces of our souls he wanted refined for our future. Though they weren’t ugly to us, he saw the blemishes and removed them from our bodies. I’ll admit that most of the pain was a result of our stubbornness. We didn’t want to give up comforts in this life. Each time something more dramatic came, we would let it go, but then say to ourselves, “God wouldn’t ask us to give up anymore comforts, right?” But He knew we couldn’t go where He needed us to go if we kept all of those things attached. Like heavy hiking gear when you’re going up a mountainside, there’s just some stuff that will weigh you down the closer you get to your goal. Even one pound less on your back will make a difference.

A perspective full of distance is what allows me to see the changes that happened over those six years. While going through the struggle, my husband and I were in a tunnel and couldn’t see the work that was occurring. Now it seems that God is blessing me with more and more realizations of what truly happened during that time. Each one brings a smile to my tear-stained face. It also causes me to wonder if we’ve made it to the end of that particular tunnel. Could it be that seeing all the changes and feeling the gratitude from the struggle is the unexpected light at the end of this tunnel?

Before this shift in our lives descended around us, what my husband and I both wanted out of life  was empty and shallow. I know our former ambitions would have left us at the end of lives wondering, “Wasn’t there more?” I know deep in my heart that the pain and strife we walked through together was a divine blessing. As bitter as that time tasted, every single bit of it was worth the tears because God took control and rebuilt us. Here are some of the ways I was rebuilt:

– God removed the societal pressures to achieve, to be perfect that hung over my head like a noose.
– He removed friendships that wouldn’t encourage me towards the higher goal that was intended for my life.
– He removed a love of seeking things to impress people because that is a path that would have only left me digging a deeper, empty hole.
– He removed my need to impress people with my occupation and status and told me that serving is the highest level of status.
– He showed me who He made me to be; the unique combination of gifts and talents that He gave me.
– He showed me how I had been altered, how I had accepted less and covered those unique traits to fit a standard mold that I was never designed for.
– He showed me what true love means and that it is seldom about mushy feelings and more about forgiveness and commitment.

If I am completely truthful, I doubt I would have signed on for what my husband and I went through for those/these six years. If there would have been an informational meeting to outline what we would encounter at each leg of the journey along with what we would get out of the experience, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t have found myself brave enough. If I had to do it again for the next six years, I still don’t think I would be brave enough. I wouldn’t trade what we learned, but I also think there is a time for enjoying the knowledge that you have.

That brings me to the current day. For a few months now, I have been in a period of time where the theme of my life is about having deep faith and believing God. Believing that He is who He says He is and that He can do and provide in amazing ways. There is also the theme of Him making all things new in our lives. Along with this, being a new creation has taken on more meaning than in the past. I’m not certain what these themes mean specifically; I’ve been noticing them reoccurring and popping up with coincidental timing, which always alerts me to God’s presence moving in our life. The coincidences get my heart excited with possibility at what may be coming.

I felt that I needed to write this post, though posting it online is a bit terrifying for me. I’m an introvert who loves privacy, but I also believe that what God has done in our lives is not something to be kept a secret. I want our crazy journey to be a source of encouragement, motivation or other good thing to others just like when I found encouragement from other brave bloggers’ posts when I was in the midst of the struggle. At those tough times, I needed to hear there would be good from the situation even though I couldn’t see it. Breaking down is always messy, ugly and painful. Rebuilding is rough at stages, but also beautiful and entirely worth what it takes to get there.

Calming Blue Bedroom: Design Board

Calming Blue Bedroom: Design Board by Cortney North
To enlarge the design board, click the image. All of these items are available on the stores’ websites as of 09/2014.

Perhaps I was inspired by the blue sky outside on this late summer day. Or perhaps its due to my design muscle being stretched with a few recent design projects my parents have asked me to lead. Either way, I’m glad I was inspired! My signature elements are all here, which basically means I have incorporated lots of blue hues, art and pieces ‘from the earth.’ Yep, if you could look inside my design heart, this room would probably be its love language.

Here are my thoughts about some of the pieces:

Fossil Study by Wisteria.com

Oh my goodness I love a beautiful fossil piece.The history, the design, the texture, it’s all there in one beautiful display. An art piece such as this will bring a touch of class to almost any design. It’s also an investment piece at $249 since it’s not very large. For a person like myself who is overly enamored by fossils, I would be willing to skimp elsewhere to ensure this makes the final cut.

 

Theo Bedding Set - Porcelain Blue

Theo Bedding Set – Porcelain Blue by Pottery Barn

I wanted to say a little something about bedspreads, duvets, and bed coverings at large. In general, I would always encourage you away from a bold, bright, graphic pattern because, well, it’s a bold, bright, graphic commitment. The bed is the focal point of the room and if you cover it with something that ‘catchy’, you’ll be restricted with the other elements of the room. The rule of balance would dictate that – depending on the ‘wowiness’ of that pattern – you need to go stark white with everything else. I’m looking at you neon yellow, magenta and teal bedspreads.

I’m a graduate of the ‘I like to change things every so often’ design school. Bed coverings can get expensive and I don’t want to be locked in to a color scheme for five years. The above pattern is fun, but if you step away or squint your eyes, it almost becomes a solid. That translates to: A nice option for me so I can change colors in and out with my whims.

 

Cloud Study Giclee Canvas

Cloud Study Giclee Canvas

I was having some difficulty deciding on one painting so I opted for the middle of the road. There are numerous options for big sky/clouds landscape paintings from very talented artists. Even some of the larger stores (Anthropologie) sell beautiful paintings direct from artists; artists you would find in expensive galleries. The above image is a high quality print and comes with a lower price tag compared to an original painting, but you won’t go wrong investing in an artist and one of their pieces. The depth and colors of an original can’t be beaten. I might be partial on this subject, but I speak the truth.

 

Gem Series

West Elm’s Gem Series

Gem stones are a bit like fossils for me. If I see one for sale, I’m going to buy it and try to incorporate it in a space. These just happened to work so beautifully in the room and they add a geometric element I was looking for. They are made of soapstone and have that mid-century flare that is so popular right now.

There you have it, my love language in the form of a room. Now that I think of it, the only thing that is missing is a ceramic horse sculpture. That’s easily added though. Take care and Happy Beginning of September to you!

After Graduation: The journey of an artist after art school – Part III

This is Part III of my online story: After Graduation: The journey of an artist after art school. If you would like to start from the beginning, here is the link: Part I


The overnight hours allowed a cool front to settle over Nested Lake and along with it were heavy, threatening clouds. According to the meteorologist, who was announcing the forecast on Mel’s radio, the rain would be infrequent and with the highest chances in the afternoon. Just as he finished saying his well wishes for the listeners, Mel watched two engorged drops of liquid explode against the windshield. Five more followed. She pulled her key from the ignition and looked at the bookstore, which was only a few running steps away. The drops began to thud with more rhythm. Taking a quick glance around, she didn’t see her umbrella in its usual home behind the passenger seat. Though her hands felt all around, even scooping under the seats, the turquoise and navy blue protector was no where to be found. Her head fell against the headrest just as the memory of her former roommate, Kaylie, crossed her consciousness. At the end of the school year, Kaylie had needed the umbrella while they were in town for something, something that seemed important then but was unremarkable now. She watched as the miniature puddles accumulated and dripped down the glass.

Then the splotches on the windshield stopped momentarily. Mel knew it was best to take her chances in case the torrent grew worse. Plus she couldn’t wait much longer. An artist was going to be meeting her in half an hour – unless he was scared away by the rain – and she wanted to look ready, not drenched, for his arrival. With a clean motion, she slid from behind the wheel, grabbed her purse and slammed the door shut. Her feet crunched against the white gravel. The car’s lights blinked twice as she clicked the lock button, but she didn’t glance back to see their glimmer. Her feet were already hastily rounding the building and throwing open the bookstore’s side entrance. Only a few drips had trickled from the awning onto her arms.

Inside, the bookstore’s lights were dim, but there was evidence of Tilly having started the morning early. The first exhibit greeted her at her feet. Three brown boxes were stacked up and from the top box, half of the paperback books had already been removed. ‘Whispering Lane’ was a popular request in their shop, according to Tilly, ever since it rose to the #1 position on the New York Bestsellers list back in March. It was labelled a perfect vacation read with romance, secrets and murder that tangled together five families all who happened to live on a small suburban street. Mel had a difficult enough time not laughing at the description on the back cover. Thankfully for the book’s author, most people did not share Mel’s taste in fiction. She picked up the packing slip that had fallen to the ground and continued forward.

The next stop on the ‘Evidence of Tilly’ tour was retrieving a neon yellow coffee mug from the top of a nearby bookcase. It was waiting for its owner to return along with a single copy of ‘Whispering Lane.’ Mel embraced the bright mug’s warm handle, leaving the evening suburban street covered book behind, and moved the mug and packing slip to the cashier’s desk. She glanced over to the reading nook where a single table lamp shined a warm yellow hue. Two ‘Whispering Lane’ books had been set under the lamp and two of the reading chairs had been rearranged so they were closely facing one another. A notepad with barely legible notes rested in one chair’s seat. With the clouds outside defusing any sunshine, this would be a wonderful place to spend a rainy day. It seemed that Tilly had the same presence of mind.

“Tilly?” she called out knowing the owner was around somewhere. As she walked towards the back staircase, she pulled from her purse a schedule of the day’s interviewing artists, two in all. Suddenly there was a quick burst of far away laughter, Tilly’s voice mixed with another; his was a deeper tone. They were in the gallery.

After setting the schedule down next to the neon mug, she shouted a bit louder. “Tilly?” Mel pulled back the plastic construction curtain and tried to adjust her eyes. The lights were off in the gallery. The windows were paper-covered and the three skylights were of no help on such a cloudy day. Mel was about to turn around when she heard a commotion in the back storage room. Tilly’s laugh burst again and was moving closer to the main room. The rain began drumming against the skylights and roof. The reprieve had been short lived. The drops pounded in irregular rhythm as though they were warming up for a big show.

Tilly’s voice rang out, cutting through the drums. “Mel! You’re here! What a surprise you had for me this morning.” Tilly nodded her head in the man’s direction. At first he was obscured behind Tilly’s figure and further hidden by the shadows until he drifted to the side. As the two moved closer, any breath that was inside of her body had completely vacated her lungs. She ceased to hear the rain. Her vision had become like a tunnel. There was no more Tilly or gallery, there was just a man who moved in a slowed down version of reality. Her mind was absent of thoughts. Never before had someone caused her body to react in such a way. Tilly was explaining something and laughing, laughing more than normal, but Mel’s brain was fixated as the man moved ever closer. He was reaching out his hand, her eyes moved down to watch it extend closer to her body. His was a hand flecked with paint splatters; the lighter hues stood out against his tanned flesh. A different hand was reaching out to accept his; it was her own hand, so much smaller than his, but the act was not conscious. She was too awed to do that on her own. She could feel rough edges on his palm, which were intensified by his firm grip. Her eyes left the handshake and bolted to his face. He was many years older than her, perhaps close to thirty, or if he was a hard partying artist, perhaps twenty-five. She had been surprised by artists’ ages before given that their intense lifestyles left worn, wrinkled skin as evidence. He had enough wrinkles to be older than her. And did he have gray hair or was that paint?

Sounds started coming back fully. Tilly’s voice was infiltrating just like the pounding rain. Mel suddenly wondered if she was smiling, or was she giving any hint of a response? What had overcome her? Her face flushed with the realization that she was staring at his kind face; a wide, perfectly set grin was looking down at her. Mel looked over to Tilly who was staring back with curiosity. She dropped his hand knowing she had held it for far too long. He hadn’t wretched it away though.

Tilly’s hand rested against Mel’s shoulder. “Did you bring your laptop with you?”

Her eyes gradually looked over to Tilly as her brain registered the word. She was asking about a laptop. The laptop? “No, I left it overnight in the bookstore. It needed to be charged.”

“Great, we’ll look at the other gallery’s photos over there.” Tilly was first to glide to the partition, pulling back the curtain, as the two followed behind. The artist motioned Mel forward.

He spoke to her back. “I know I arrived earlier than my appointment time. With the rain,” he pointed to the bookstore’s side window that showed a thick gray sheet of wet, “I didn’t want to risk it.”

Mel glanced over at the appointment schedule sitting next to the laptop. “But only by a half an hour, right?” The name James Wright was in the first block.

“Yes, but early is early. Sometimes it’s not a good thing.” He ran his fingers through his hair.

Tilly didn’t look up from the computer as she spoke. “I’ll speak for everyone when I say we don’t mind one bit. Like I said, your work is amazing. Look at this, Mel. He’s in other galleries around the area and I can see why.”

Mel leaned over, curious to see what this paint speckled man created. What was appearing on the screen was the exact art she had envisioned for the space. Landscapes of lakes and hills were the most plentiful, but there were plenty of paintings depicting rolling countryside. The colors were the best bold colors of nature, but tame enough to be used within any décor. Modern, but natural, and accessible for artists and non-artists, which was the perfect combination for this tourism-driven town. A breath escaped both her and Tilly’s mouths when a sunset painting appeared on the screen. The lake was reflecting the colors with passion and every tree within the painting seemed to be standing proudly that it was able to be included in such an image. She could fill the gallery with just his art and sell enough to stay in business.

“The landscapes sell the best. The tourists seem to like them. I earn my living mostly during the summer season.”

Mel glanced over at him as Tilly scrolled by a painting of her parent’s lake. “Did you bring any with you?”

Tilly answered. “Oh, that’s what I was putting back in the storage area. I already told him we’d take his work. I mean, look at it! I’m completely stepping on your toes, I know, but I already bought one. If I love it, how can other people not love it?”

Though she was glad James had agreed to be in the gallery, she also felt a twinge of annoyance creep up her spine. She stared at Tilly, who was still enraptured in the images. “Great. So you’ve gone over the pricing, signed the contract, percentage of space that we’ll offer him in the gallery?”

Tilly waved her hand towards Mel in a dismissive way. “Sort of. We agreed to the 60/40 split and for all I care he can take the entire gallery and arrange it – wow, look at his one. How did you get the water to be so, so…?”

James leaned over and chuckled lightly under his breath. “Full of depth?”

“Yes, that. I know it’s a painting because I can see the brush strokes, but it just looks like, wow… you artists amaze me. You give me the same colors and…” She paused for a few moments before jumping away from the computer. “Well, I’ve really got stuff to do.” She reached for the packing slip. “Mel, seriously, go look at his pieces back there. James, I’m so glad Brett introduced us. Thanks again. Good luck you two.” Tilly walked away, doubling back to grab the neon mug. Mel was unhooking the laptop, James had already gone back to the gallery, when Tilly called from midway up the narrow spiral staircase. Mel stared up at her boss, not doing a great job at hiding her frustration, as Tilly winked at her and mouthed, “For you.” Mel rolled her eyes, smiled slightly, and found her way back into the gallery with the laptop cradled in her hands.

James was leaning against the covered marble counter with one hand scratching his chin as though he was analyzing the space. He glanced up at the skylights. “This will be excellent as a gallery. Tilly said she put in the skylights to help with natural light.” If it was even possible, the rain had turned up the pressure and was spewing drops as fast as bullets.

Mel put the computer down and reached around to plug it into an extension cord. “She says she doesn’t know anything about art, but I think she knows more than she’s letting on.”

“She agreed to take my work, so that is saying something.”

Mel looked up at him unsure if she should laugh or agree. It wasn’t an incorrect statement.

“That was a joke. I’ve been called egotistical, but I’d like to believe it is mostly untrue.”

Mel smiled and nodded. “Well, your work is incredible.”

James repositioned himself so that he was leaning both elbows on the counter. His hands were clasped tightly. “Tilly said you’re an artist. What work do you do?”

Mel laughed and copied his position after the laptop whirled to life. She stared at the empty wall on the far side of the gallery. “I just graduated from art school a few months ago. I can’t say that I’ve picked up a brush since my exams. And I haven’t wanted to either. For now I’ve resigned myself to sketching.”

“Fair enough. What was your concentration then?”

“I was in art education so I needed to know a bit about everything, which meant no concentrations. My dream was to become a high school art teacher and teach my days away, shaping the youth of America.”

He chuckled again. “That seems a bit idealistic if you ask me. High school art seems more like keeping a balance between trusting kids with sharp objects and remembering that you’re not the idiot they think you are.”

She sighed at the truth of his words. “Sounds like you know from experience.”

“I shadowed my high school art teacher a few years ago. I give him all the credit for having the patience of a saint. We need good teachers.”

“Yes, we do.” She watched as he walked over to a nearby gallery wall and rubbed the dust from the surface. He seemed to be measuring it with his hands. “You went to Clemson?”

He methodically wiped the white powder in circles against the wall. “For my MFA. SCAD for my undergrad.”

“Wow.”

“Savannah was nice. I’d love to go back, but I think it would just bring back too many college memories. Plus I think I’m still banned in a few bars.” Her eyes grew wide though he couldn’t see them. What did you have to do to get thrown out of bars in a college town? “I had my fun, but grad school grew me up. There wasn’t any time for anything except art and getting inspiration, which apparently doesn’t come from the inside of a bar.” He seemed satisfied with the wall and meandered back to the desk.

“Did you get your MFA in painting?” She was scrolling through more images of his work. His ability was unlike any artist she had seen before. Raw and natural, not unlike the man’s exterior.

“Yes, but I also merged some of my painting with ceramics. One of the girls I was dating was incredible at ceramics. I don’t have the skill to make a living at it, but I’m glad I learned it. What about you? If you aren’t going to teach, what about an MFA?” His eyes were boring into her as though they were telling her there was only one correct answer.

She looked back at the screen pretending to assess his work. “The thought overwhelms me right now. I think I need a better body of work if I were to apply. No one would accept me.” The truth was simply she had never let it cross her mind. An MFA? Why did she need that? She was going to be a teacher. That was her script all through college.

“Hey, if you need the help or want some coaching, I’m happy to be your guide. I have an extra easel in my studio. Do you have some of your work on here?” He pointed to the laptop.

“I think, maybe I do.”

“Great, let me see it.”

“I, uh, shouldn’t…” He put his arm on her shoulder and looked into her eyes. His scent wafted around her, one of a freshly showered person. It should have been a refreshing smell, but on him, it ventured somewhere further. She fought hard against her feelings in order to concentrate.

“You can’t be self-conscious if you want to grow as an artist.” His hand squeezed before letting go. Once she was free of the paralysis, she opened her portfolio folder and let him browse through the collection. He lingered and pondered. Every so often he would mumble something incoherent.

“Mel, this is a really great base. Your digital work is incredible, by the way.” He closed the folder and looked up at her. “Your portfolio is where it should be for your training. You have some impressive base talent there. But if you want an MFA, then why not take this time and work on some pieces? Let me give you tips to move you further into your style and then you’ll blow the admission committee away. You might even get a full scholarship. I really think you have that potential.”

She stood staring at him with thoughts that were reeling in her mind. She found the word exiting her mouth before she gave it permission. “Okay.”

He leaned further into the table, now covered in fine dust particles, especially in his hair. “Great. I have plenty of canvases, just bring your ideas. What about Sunday, in the evening?”

Again she said automatically. “Sure.” The back of her mind was screaming too quietly, What are you doing? Do you even want help with your painting style?

He etched his information on the back of the artists’ schedule. When he slid it back against the kraft paper, she glanced through to make sure it was all there: phone, address, his website. He added, “Time to go check out the pieces I brought for you?”

 


© 2014 Cortney North. All Rights Reserved.

 

Something needs to fill that space behind the bed

Today I’ll be focusing on writing the next installment of my internet book. I said in my previous blog post that I was going to work on it yesterday. I did, but not enough to call it complete and post it up. This is why I am writing these words instead of ‘Debuting the next chapter after a few months off!’ It’s still summer in my head so deadlines are a bit hazy much like the horizon up here in Ohio.

Yesterday my husband and I did accomplish a major goal, which was narrowing down where we want to live for the next year. Most of our stuff is packed up in boxes at the moment. These items have been packed up in boxes for the past 4 years and as a result, we have very little memory of what we own. There are also those items we decided not to keep for the sake of not wanting to haul them. One item was our enormous couch that weighed as much as an elephant. I hope Goodwill found it a blessed home. Another item was our headboard, which I had constructed out of birch branches. I was tired of it so we disassembled the branches and used them as kindling.

This being the case, we are in need of a sofa and a headboard which leads me to the reason for the following images. I’ve seen a full range of headboard ideas and most seem do-able, but some seem cheesy, while others are just nonsensical. I want something creative, not expensive and I would prefer it to be interesting. There is the option of buying a headboard, but we will be moving in another year – possibly across the country – and I’m all for the less is more mantra when it comes to hauling stuff.

I’m not a person who is scared of a DIY project so I might go that route. I just need some sparks to get my creativity flying. Perhaps I’ll even put the DIY headboard on the blog. You will get to see me sketch the idea, cut the wood with my power tools, run to the hospital to reattach my finger…I’m kidding. I’ve taken a few shop classes (had to for my degree) as well as some metal working classes. I’m what they call a professional. Ha!

Without further ado, here are some headboard ideas I found:

 

I enjoy the rustic simplicity here, but it might be expensive to find a plank of wood like this. Plus it would mean moving a heavy object in a year.

I have seen using old doors, barn doors, shutters, everything behind the bed, but I like that these shutters have some interest at the top. The curved tops add a polished feature that most other options don’t have.

It would be easy to stop over at World Market and buy some room dividers like these and stick them back there. I’d have to make sure the design would blend well with our comforter. Mental note: I need to look at the comforter because I have forgotten its pattern.

This is one I felt drawn towards. It would be easy enough to construct, easy to stain using pine from the hardware store and easy to mount on the wall. Plus it gives me the look of the first picture’s plank of wood, but with a more economical twist.

My husband would never be on board for this, but I threw it in for whimsy. It’s well done, I’ll say that.

The possibility of no headboard and just a collection of pictures? Maybe? Maybe…I’m a hard sell on this idea, but I don’t hate it.

I’m intrigued by the bamboo blinds behind the bed, which act like a block of color. It opened up some of my creative channels. My wheels are turning.

I think I could get on board for this type of picture collection. Fun colors with bold graphic images. Maybe… But I do love that art.

Similar to the bamboo curtains, hanging a curtain behind the bed to soften the wall is a nice touch. I realize there is a window behind this bed, but you wouldn’t need it to be there to justify a curtain. It’s acting like a tapestry.

Mirrors are always great for reflecting light and adding the illusion of space. It falls into the pictures-above-the-bed category for me. Maybe I like it? Maybe?

The good thing is that I have plenty of time to mull this over. It’s a very good thing, indeed.

Working, reading, watching and hiking – this weekend was a bit of it all

The 5:30 a.m. wake up call came a little early this morning, which is why I slept in until 6:45 today. I just couldn’t force myself up a minute earlier. Do you do this too? I hope so. It would make me feel comforted.

My husband and I spent the weekend being balls of energy. Friday night I made a grilled Mediterranean salad, which was quite yummy if I do say so myself. After dinner, my husband had some larger web design projects to work on so I took the opportunity to continue reading a book I started earlier in the week, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. This book is leaving me with some weird feelings, but I want to finish it in hopes that the weirdness will be righted before the last chapter. Before bedtime Friday night, we sat outside in the very cool temperatures and enjoyed hot beverages; hot tea for me, hot chocolate for him. We lit a few tiki torches and talked about theories with dark matter and black holes. What evening could be complete without some talk of the larger issues within our universe? It was fun to discuss the larger issues that seemingly may never have concrete answers within our lifetimes basically because you can state many theories and who is know if your theory isn’t correct? Perhaps the universe is made out of a dollop of ice cream that is constantly being churned by a larger being? What is that? I’ve lost you. That’s okay. I’m lost myself.

After I got off work on Saturday, we headed off to look at apartments, which seems like a larger issue in the universe than the mystery of dark matter. Why were they all at 100% capacity? Who are all of these people suddenly needing apartments? Either way, we were able to narrow down some options and I’ll make a few calls today to help make that list even smaller. We ventured out to eat at Melt for the evening and had a grand time with our grand sandwiches. My leftovers are going to provide me exactly 2 extra meals from just the one sandwich. If you just ran a half marathon, this seems like a good place to stop afterwards. We rounded out the evening with my husband watching ‘Lone Survivor’ and me continuing my quest of reading ‘What Alice Forgot.’

Sunday morning we walked around Prairie Oaks park and it was just as beautiful as always. Something about that park stirs up all of the writing energy inside me. It’s the water, the trees, and rocks, the streams, everything is just so reviving for creativity. I’ve been working on the next edition of my graduated artist story and the time walking around the park really gave me some inspiration with finishing up the next chapter. I plan to utilize that energy today after I’ve had another cup of coffee! But back to the weekend. We came home from the park feeling good that we walked many miles, but we also needed to get ourselves ready to go visit some friends for dinner. It was wonderful to see our friends who we haven’t seen in ages. There was so much laughter and excellent food. I count it as one of the many blessings in our lives to have friends that we care about as family.

Once we arrived home we hit the sack. With all the apartment searching, walking and socializing, we were tired. So that is why Monday morning’s alarm at 5:30 a.m. was a little too harsh. When you have such a fun weekend, you simply don’t want it to stop.

But I am feeling that coffee beginning to work so off I go to (hopefully) finish up a chapter and get it posted. Here’s to you having a great Monday too!

Beige Living Room

In defense of beige

I had a conversation with a friend about her desire to live in an all beige home. She seemed to believe there was something wrong with not loving bright, vibrant colors. She kept repeating, as if a mantra, beige is boring. (I find that with me being an artist, people tend to say such things.) I ignored her statement and asked what appealed to her about having a beige or taupe room. She replied, “The simplicity of the color makes me feel calm and at peace.” If I were to guess, she would love a living room that looks like this:

 

In contrast, the room below would probably send her to the hospital for color over-stimulation.

 

Both are beautiful designs and well composed. There is absolutely nothing wrong with either design when viewing the rooms from a design perspective. But there is something wrong with the more colorful design when I apply it to her tastes.

Her assertion that ‘beige is boring’ and then her further assertion that there is something wrong with her liking beige just didn’t sit well with me. It’s been more than a week since she shyly told me her opinion. I’ve pondered why her apology of liking beige saddened me so much and I’ve come to a conclusion that is actually a prompt:

Why is it bad and embarrassing to like beige?

I’ll state for the record as an artist, designer and color-lover that there is absolutely nothing wrong with liking beige! It’s a color too.

I know a lot of this embarrassment comes from HGTV, the DIY network and the plethora of other networks that have jumped on the quick-renovation highway. The viewers want to see what is new and different and, I’ll make an educated guess here, colors are the cheapest, simplest way to make something look different.

It’s easy for a designer to go into a home and say, “There’s builder grade beige counter tops, classic Eggshell White on the walls, white ceilings, beige carpet. Let’s totally re-do this room!”

But what if you like your Eggshell White on the walls? Or your beige carpets because they can hide kids’ wear and tear? What if you enjoy the neutral and don’t want fire engine red in your kitchen? What if you just want help with artfully arranging those family photos? What if you want tips for how to integrate your treasured family heirlooms with some modern pieces you’ve been saving up for at Ethan Allen? You like how the beige color stays in the background and allows the other treasures to be center stage. But somehow in the process of watching that show, they demean the beige and eggshell colors and, though you’ve been given tips about hanging your art, you are now looking at that eggshell wall with embarrassment.

A designer’s job is to help make your space comfortable and about you – not about them. They aren’t living there, you are. Your artistic tastes are individual and can’t be easily duplicated in every home. That’s just the simple truth. Designing isn’t a one size fits all product though I’ve been running into people who believe that it is. HGTV makes it look easy, but let me tell you as a designer, that isn’t real life. For example, they may encourage you to try out that DIY project of making your own concrete counters, but let’s be honest: They are experts in this field, which is why they have that show. They’ve had some disasters, or rather times of learning, but those times of learning came before the home you’re seeing on the television. It’s only as real as the 30 minutes will allow. There has to be footage cut out; it isn’t as easy and simple as what they are making it seem. Those counter tops will require some of your trial and error to get it right. And it may take more times to get it right than you initially think. This can lead the way for some discouragement and lost money.

In a similar way, they’ve created an illusion that beige and taupe are boring and not acceptable as choices in your home. That’s marketing, but not truth. If you like an all beige room, I want you to embrace that. You are set free and allowed to like what you like! Don’t feel bad about it because, I’ll say it now, beige is a great color. It’s a beautiful neutral that is found plentifully in nature – trees, stones, mountains, clouds and more.

I feel as though I also need to add these technical thoughts:
– Yes, beige can feel boring in a room if you use all the same value (the scale of lights and darks) of beige. One color in one value will feel flat no matter what color you use. Our eyes enjoy contrast, but that doesn’t mean you have to infuse a lot of varying colors for contrast. You can use a light beige with a dark beige and have a beautiful effect.

– I will also say this: my friend mentioned that a beige room was soothing to her and she was astute to notice that. Yes, a room that has only one or two colors is monochromatic and that is soothing to our eyes. When you have limited amounts of contrast to deal with (for example, the room only has a value contrast) versus multiple contrasts (competing colors, values, textures) there is a noticeable energy difference in the room. Artists use this concept in their paintings and sculptures. The more of these contrasts you use, the more energy emits from the art piece. Your eye is dancing, hopping and venturing from one bold focal point to another. That is an important concept to note. In our world, which is hyped-up on colors, ads, noise and distraction, I am not surprised at all that my friend wants a monochromatic, color-quiet room. The noise of our daily lives can provide too much stimulation and a color-quiet home may be the perfect respite. Given this, I wonder how many people crave a beige room for sanity. Probably more than I would believe.

To end my monologue, I will leave you with some beautiful, color-quiet rooms that I found on Houzz. If you are a lover of beige, monochromatic items or peace-inducing spaces, please enjoy this visual retreat! If you love these and want some tips for how to achieve the look, let me know and I can do a separate blog post on the photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating the person who is creative

For how ever many months, or possibly years, I’ve believed myself to be in a dry spell of artistic gumption. I’ve written about it multiple times hoping that expressing my frustration would be the cure to ridding myself of the plague. It never worked because creativity is a much more complex beast than that. It is a shy beast, which only prefers to make itself known under certain times of day, during certain weather conditions (at least for me), under specific emotional environments and cannot, under any circumstances, be demanded out of its cove with the desire to chain it up in to submission. If it is chained up, it does not submit, but rather shrivels and dies. It does not act like other beasts. But the fun of this beast is that once it is catered to and appreciated for the benefits it brings, it springs forth from its cove and changes spaces into new and wondrous places.

I can state for the record that the creativity beast is alive and roaming in my life right now. At times it threatens to overtake me because of its massive energy. The well of ideas, energy, motivation, visions have been set loose on my brain in a way that I’ve never had before. Before, as recorded in many blog posts, I had to force drops from the creative well. Now I am finding it nearly impossible to hold back the flood. There aren’t enough buckets to hold all of the droplets.

So what caused this sudden flood in my life after such a terrible dry spell?

I came to terms with my art business. A few months ago I couldn’t face it; my art business was a burden and a weight that was causing a great deal of unhappiness. Mutually my husband and I agreed it was time to put the shop on vacation for a few months so that I could take a break. We also agreed that when, or if, I felt ready, I would open it up again. During the time off I indulged in the art of reading. I wrote a great deal in my fiction novel and was inspired to begin an internet book as well. I took the pressure off myself. I acquired a part time position to make up for the lack of funds from my art business.

During this time, I took days to analyze what went wrong. First, I asked myself if I was simply doing the wrong job by creating art. Though initially I thought this might be correct, it wasn’t. Second, I asked myself why, if I enjoyed doing art, did I dislike it so much right now? The answers were ones that I knew, but didn’t want to admit. I pushed myself too hard for too long. I expected my creative energy to be constrained and operated when I demanded it. As a result of years of pushing like this, it finally retreated for good, leaving me with a dry, creative well. I couldn’t feel proud of my art. Though I had so many compliments, the words felt empty. I had stopped respecting my talents as gifts and rather saw them as servants that needed to perform.

There was another aspect of myself going on at this time and that was my discovery of me. I couldn’t have told you when I was in high school what I truly wanted to be when I grew up. I could give you a list of top five careers, but to narrow down an area was difficult. I enjoyed helping people the most, which is one of the most difficult ambitions to have because in almost anything you can serve others. There was also the blessed issue of me being talented at so much; art, science, psychology, languages, writing. The exception came when I was faced with math. I only recently learned that I have dyslexia, which explains much of that math struggle. Back then it looked like math was my only difficulty, though I still earned very hard fought A’s within it.

Since taking that time off of my business, I was able to reset and discover the answer to so many questions that I had begun to ask when I was younger; the questions that I wasn’t wise enough to answer at the time. It was one of the most painful times of my life; to look back and analyze the walls I had built up to survive in school or in the working world. Over the past month I’ve been furiously ripping them down. Everything I had built up to compensate for my dyslexic tendencies; gone. The need to please others to earn an A: gone. Feeling as though there was a ‘working person’ model that I needed to fit inside: gone.

Then I found freedom. I also found my creativity. It had been hidden behind the self-constructed structures that were meant to help me be like everyone else. But lo and behold, I am very much not like everyone else. My mind loves science – deep, intriguing science – as well as art. I don’t get math or money ‘stuff’, but when it comes to psychology of people, I’m naturally intuitive. I’ve predicted business trends and have been correct based on my observations of psychology. I am deeply interested in company structures that promote employee happiness and efficiency; it is one of my biggest passions at the moment. I love computer programming and seeing the art that is held behind the frontend. These interests are varied and though they don’t instinctively fit together, they have found a unity inside my brain.

After discovering my many passions, I was left with this: Where does all this come from and how do I piece together these ragged parts? I still don’t know the answer, but they all make me move and groove so I don’t want to hide even the smallest part. The world wants to tell me that I can be either creative or science-minded. For those powers that be in our business world, they want me to fit into their understanding of people. Creatives; weird and untamable. Get them in a box to squeeze out some useful marketing material then run for the hills because they might get paint on you. Science nerds; should be scientists and doctors and they speak gibberish which the rest of the world can’t utilize. Writers; they want to be hermits so let them be hermits, but their books are good. A question that I wish I could pose to a business forum is: Does this system work anymore? Or perhaps the question is rather, should this system work anymore? But that is a different tangent for a different day.

What seems to be the final culmination of my introspective learning time (after reading Richard Branson’s inspired books on business) has been reading Ed Catmull’s book ‘Creativity, Inc.’ He is the CEO of Pixar and I cannot express how much this book means to me. I was never told growing up that I could like art and business; I was told the opposite actually. I don’t blame anyone for this because it is a widely held belief. But Ed Catmull is championing the way for those of us who think differently and are pulling for a different way of doing business. Richard Branson, too, is leading the pack when it comes to putting people first and business second. This business model helps those people like me who want to use all of our abilities to the benefit of a company, but find it constraining or suffocating to do so in the traditional model. My belief is this: Celebrate your employees and your employees will celebrate your company. It’s a simple idea, but has massive positive implications.

But back to my point. After those months off, I opened up my shop again with a renewed fervor. I have new business rules that I adamantly abide by. They are all positive and they all focus on protecting my creativity. My art is coming out exactly how I want it and I am so proud of it. I wake up each day excited by the possibilities of what I can create that day. It has been a long time since that feeling has woken me up, but despite how long it has been, I am so thankful it has returned.

Weekend? What weekend?

I was hoping to spend some time this weekend to get a sense of what is fun within the interior design world. I was also hoping to pick out a few beautiful pictures and place them here in this blog.

What truly happened was that my weekend was a great blur of fun, family and not so much of the interior designing searching. Life does have a way of intervening.

Friday was a great day of chores and by stating this I mean, 1) the chores were accomplished before 12pm and, 2) I didn’t slack off while doing them. A win! Laundry, ironing, grocery list, vacuuming, attending to my bearded dragon. Check, check, check, check and check. On a normal Friday the sheer want to end the chores as quickly as possible motivates me to get them done, but this particular Friday I knew I wanted to get a painting finished. I was also hoping to get it photographed, but the clouds decided against it. The lighting wasn’t stellar thus I pushed the photo session to a later date. In the evening, my husband and I watched the Grand Budapest Hotel by director Wes Anderson. We love anything Wes Anderson directs and this was no exception. It was certainly more serious in tone than his other movies, but we were entertained greatly.

Saturday I worked in the AM, but once I got home, my husband and I needed to run to the store before heading off to a restaurant with my parents. It is a known fact in my family that I love Key Lime pie though after moving to Ohio from Florida, I have discovered it is a dessert that doesn’t often grace an Ohio menu. If it does grace an Ohio menu, I am leery of what neon green concoction I might see presented on my plate. I was feeling brave Saturday night, possibly due to a glass of White Zinfandel, and I ordered one slice of Key Lime pie. The result: deliciousness! All was right in the world when a petite pie came rolling in my direction with the lemony hue of a correct Key Lime pie. So far there are two restaurants that do it right up here – blessings abound! We rounded out the evening with a small fire, while watching the setting sun.

Sunday, also known as yesterday, was spent up at my niece’s birthday party. We had so much fun throwing the football, frisbee, basketball and baseball with all of the kids. My right arm feels a bit like rubber, but I exercised this morning in hopes of working out the lactic acid. While we were hiking near the woods with our nephew, my husband spotted a caterpillar that was well camouflaged as a stick. How he saw it I have no idea, but it was only two seconds later that my inner nature presenter came out. For years I was a wildlife instructor to children and apparently the skills are ever-present, ready to teach to the masses in a moments notice. There were six children surrounding us, mostly those from our family, who seemed captivated by this little caterpillar and perhaps by my teaching. My husband says they were so I’ll go ahead a claim that they were fascinated by my words too. I guess you could compare me to the likes of Jack Hanna except I am lacking a show, former zoo director experience and nifty safari hat.

Once we were back at home, I made a BBQ ranch chicken salad with lots of veggies to cool us down from all the activity up at the park. I’ll be honest when I tell you that I haven’t slept so well in months.

So that brings us to today, which is Monday. The lighting is great so I am planning to commence a photo session with my newest piece of art and get it posted online. After that? I’ll probably start a new painting to be turned into a print. Back to work, I guess. Happy Monday to you!