Contemplation and Renewal

Mercy by the Sea Labyrinth

A few weeks ago I met my two sisters for a picnic lunch at Mercy by the Sea, a retreat and conference center on the ocean in Madison, Connecticut. It is a very peaceful and tranquil place run by the Sisters of Mercy. People come here from all walks of life to seek contemplation and find renewal. We had a wonderful time walking the grounds and the labyrinth, sharing what was going on in our lives, and sitting quietly on the benches in contemplation. We went away a few hours later feeling refreshed and renewed. There was an incredible feeling of the presence of God there, or spirit or higher power or whatever you would like to call spiritual presence in the framework of your own beliefs, and we all felt it.

Even though we were just visiting the grounds as guests and not attending a retreat, I came away from the visit with profound insight. Since the new year I have been struggling with balancing my tendency to do too much with my need to stay healthy. Trying to figure out how to cut back my activities when I want to do it all, and more. Focusing on what is important and what isn’t, and much of it is not important. Learning to let go of too many things being grasped too tightly and just go with the flow.

Art journaling what I love

Last week I art journaled about the things that are important to me. I have not done much art journaling over the past 6 months as I was not motivated and got involved in several quilting projects. There are only so many hours and minutes (86,400 seconds) in the day. I am learning to accept that I cannot do everything that crosses my path and need to follow my heart’s desire and do what inspires me at the moment.

I have been sidetracked by illness the past few months and I need to accept that I need a lot of time to myself right now. I was feeling unsettled and upset with myself that I was not accomplishing much and spending too much time on the couch. I usually like to run around and do a lot of different things. But I have had three medical procedures since July 3, exactly 2 months ago today, all while working full time at a brand new job. I am new baby in the house tired 🙂 Being at the retreat center made me realize that I need to accept what is right now, move through the process with grace and ease, and slow down.

I took up crocheting in July as a way of dealing with everything that was going on and found that it was a calming, meditative, centering activity. Many of my creative practices are like that and bring renewal for me. Crocheting is also very portable. I joined ravelry.com, the Facebook for yarn people, and found inspiration and patterns that I liked. I finished this shawl last week and find it so comforting to wear. I would like to design my own crochet pieces, especially after seeing the international documentary “Yarn” on Netflix, but I need to learn more about crocheting first. One day, one thing at a time.

Paint the Sky with Stars

Paint the sky with stars

I am a big Enya fan and after painting this layered and spattered evening sky art journal page and letting it sit for a few days, the song Paint the Sky with Stars came to mind and those words gave me a good way to finish the piece. I like to let things sit and think about them instead of just rushing in and finishing without letting it percolate.

A friend of mine kept asking me every time I saw her, “Did you finish that [whatever it was that I was working on the last time I saw her]?” and I finally had to explain that is not why I make things. I enjoy the creative process and I just want to have fun. I don’t care if I finish an art or quilt piece at any given moment unless it is intended for a specific recipient because that is not my raison d’être [reason or justification for existence]. I am a process person, not a product person. I love the process!

I have big news! I will be teaching 2 mixed media art workshops for teens through adults as a volunteer at Epoch Arts in East Hampton, Connecticut in March and April. The workshops are Art Journaling and Inspirational Cards and each workshop will have 2 sessions. I am very excited about this opportunity to teach at this “arts for youth” nonprofit organization in my home town. I am working on handouts which will be shared on my offerings page. Teaching art has been a dream of mine for a long while and now it is coming true!

I have been thinking about vulnerability a lot lately and why it is important. Brene Brown has done a lot of work in this area and her Ted talk on vulnerability is one of the top ten most viewed TED talks in the world. Vulnerability is basically uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Her research uncovered a common thread in those who embrace vulnerability: “They talked about the willingness to say, ‘I love you’ first… the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees… the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram.” This really resonates with me right now and I wanted to share it with you.

Follow Your Dreams

Exuberance

I walked down to the lake on Saturday afternoon wearing just a sweatshirt because we had an unusually warm sunny day for a Connecticut winter. There are a few park benches where you can sit and look at the ripples in the water and let time slowly pass by. It was so peaceful.

When you let time stand still like that you feel rejuvenated and renewed. You gain perspective on your life. Later on, when I was home, I went downstairs to my art studio and exuberance is what came out in my art journal. Giving myself space to just be let the feelings flow through me.

I had attended a volunteer meeting at Epoch Arts that morning and I am happy to say that I will be teaching two mixed media art workshops there in the next session of classes, art journaling and inspiration cards for ages 12 through adult. Teaching and sharing art has been a dream of mine for a long while. You need to follow your dreams.

Tonight I decided to relax and not do anything but daydream and listen to the rain on the skylight. My thoughts drifted like the ripples on the water at the lake and I realized I need to spend more time like this and less time rushing around in busyness and activity. The world isn’t going to stop turning if I miss a meeting. The dishes in the sink can wait until tomorrow. The To Do list will always be there and most items on the list can wait another day, or longer.

What is truly important? The people you love – your family, your true friends, that special person in your heart and life. And you are so important – that person inside of you who needs to take time for self, to relax, and to just be.

Art Journaling – Medicine Wheel

Art journal wheel

This piece was loosely inspired by the Medicine Wheel which is used by Native American tribes for health and healing. The four quadrants of the circle represent the Four Directions: East, South, West, and North.

Different tribes have different interpretations for the Medicine Wheel. Each direction typically has a distinctive color and each direction can represent a number of different concepts, for example stages of life, seasons of the year, aspects of life, or elements of nature.

On Friday night, while drifting off between awake and asleep, I had a vision of what I wanted to create the next day. I reached for the pad and pen on my nightstand, drew a circle with a horizontal and a vertical line, and wrote the words four seasons. When I looked at the piece of paper the next day, I realized that this was a Medicine Wheel.

I went through my day thinking about this in the back of my mind. I work intuitively and don’t have any plan when I sit down to make art. Then I thought about what my special friend said to me the other night when we were talking about weekend plans. And he said… “No plan is the best plan – just go with the flow. Something good always comes up.”

When I was ready, I decided to work at the dining room table instead of in my art studio downstairs. I gathered up my new Canson CP 140lb art journal, my portable art tote, my Derwent intense blocks, and later on my bin of stamp pads. I don’t know how to explain how this piece happened, because it just did.

It’s a very simple piece and it reflects how I feel right now. It also reflects who I am as an artist. I was quite happy with this when it was finished. It marks a lot of new beginnings for me, both in my art and in my life.

New Beginnings in Art

There are no words

I have been thinking about doing this for a long while and decided to sign up for WordPress for my art website today. Over the next few weeks I will set up a new art website here. It is exciting to see all of the plugins and features that are available with WordPress. There is a learning curve of course, but it will be fun exploring this platform that is the backbone for many websites.

I will be sharing my art work and inspiration here. I have been art journaling for about seven years and have grown so much through this practice. Art journaling lets you uncover and bring your feelings to the surface so that you can express yourself in a positive way and increase self awareness.

It is important to do what inspires you in the moment. I work in different media because at any one moment in time I am inspired to express myself in different ways. Sometimes I might want to draw or sketch out ideas. Sometimes I might want to work on an altered card deck. Sometimes I might want to work on a quilt. Other times I might want to paint and that could be in an art journal, on loose paper, or on canvas. There are often times when I don’t create anything while ideas are percolating in the back of my mind. Whatever you choose to do is your truth and your own path to follow. There is no must or should. There is only do what is right for you.

I want to inspire you to grow your creativity in your own way. I plan to develop offerings such as e-books, tutorials, and classes. I love creating intuitive art and am excited about sharing this with others.

We are all artists. You can follow our own path and express yourself in your own way. I would like to light the path to your art spirit and open the door to creativity.

Mary