Drawing Inspiration

New Beginnings, Change and Loss~ Fall 2016

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“For every time there is a season..”

It has been a bittersweet summer for me. I am very excited to tell you about all the nice things, like the fun Summer camps and workshops that where wonderfully intensive, prolific and inspiring. We touched on a wide range of themes and I love how being immersed in creating for 3- 4 days in a row allows a student to grow immensely. But, I have struggled with whether I should share with parents and students the difficult loss I have experienced this Summer.

I don’t want to burden other people with my struggles and don’t want it to seem that I am needy for sympathy. I am so blessed to have the support of many dear friends and family. Death is an uncomfortable and awkward subject for many and until you truly experience someone close to you dying, you have no idea how someone in that situation feels and what you should say or do for them. I want PrairieArt Studio to be a fun, happy, joyful place and don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable here. I am so fortunate to have my artwork and teaching to focus on. I find so much inspiration and joy in helping others to learn the skills and gain the confidence to enjoy the creative process.

I realized, though I am a very private person, that when I teach, I share a big part of myself, my story and my life. For me, at its best, Art is a refuge of calm, an expression and an outlet for things that are too big for any words. I invite my students and their families into my home and my world. It seems disingenuous not to share something that has profoundly changed the trajectory of my life. You see, on July 1st , I unexpectedly lost someone very close to me, my husband Tobin. We were together on a walk in nature, our favorite place to be and he was suddenly taken from this world. I will forever ponder the reason.

I love Fall and usually love change. It’s an expected change, a chance to start fresh, to refocus. It’s a crisp invigorating reminder to get back to work after a warm lazy summer. As an artist it is so important to really look and observe things and change, whether it’s the season, travel or just rearranging your furniture helps us to see things with “fresh” eyes. Some people embrace change and some are more reluctant but life is change. Every moment is different from the last. We really do need to embrace change and help our children to be comfortable with it. Unexpected change is harder to understand. We are forced to look at our own life with “fresh eyes” and to try to accept that there is a bigger plan. Having a creative outlet to express our feelings with both sadness, loss, confusion or joy and happiness is so important and extremely healing. My loss has helped to reaffirm my goal for myself and my goal for guiding my students to get past and put aside our perfectionism and our need to get it “just right” to be able to get lost in the process. I want to remind my students and myself to get out your head and back to your heart because miraculously the quality, technical skills and beauty will follow.

Our world is getting faster, more stressful and complex. It is easier to be busy and not face our feelings but not good for our health, hearts and minds. Life keeps moving, life goes on and it’s my hope that I can instill in my students a love of Art that will help them through all of the highs and lows of this time we have on Earth.

Peace,

Michelle

Sketchbook: Observer, Refuge, friend and More

I recently came across an engaging and funny article (1) (which I re-posted on our Facebook page) about some of the things that happen when you carry a sketchbook with you all the time. (Even if you're not an artist.) I haven't done this since I was a young student but it's such a great idea that I am encouraged to do it again. This particular article is geared for adults and I would like to encourage parents to try this but also to promote the idea to their children, who have a bit more idle time than we do.

A pad and paper is just as portable as a handheld screen but connects us to the present and exercises our creative mind instead of being mindlessly entertained and lost in another realm. It's a way to appease boredom or nervous energy that is engrossing but still present. It is, in its simplest form, a journal and personal record yet can be so much more. When my family moved and I had to start at a new school, my sketchbook was way to deal with that socially awkward moment of where to sit at lunch or during Common-Plan. It allowed me a safe place to feel included but also express my individuality. Not only was my sketchbook a refuge and a friend, it also allowed me to observe the outer world as well as my inner world and my creative ideas in an ongoing, developing dialogue.

An image or idea in a sketchbook is not meant to be perfect or a finished work of art. It can even be a word, feeling, doodle, pattern or impression. It's a recorded moment in time which can be used as a springboard for further development. A sketchbook is a personal place to practice, learn and develop. Don't insist on viewing someone's sketch book and if they do want to share it with you, hold back any judgments good or bad but encourage the effort and maybe just ask them to tell you about it.
An open ended question about a particular sketch can lead to a conversation that may give insight for a parent into a child's life and individual personality.

Most children will want to draw from their imagination in a symbolic style, or in their favorite cartoon style which is good as well but also encourage them to look around and draw things in their own environment or copy pictures of things that interest them. If your child gets stuck, point out some things for them to observe like the shapes of different trees, branches or clouds in the sky, a close up or exploded view of an ordinary object, pictures of a favorite animal or just suggest shapes and lines in an abstract way that represent a feeling or sentiment. Try it, take a pad and pencil with you wherever you go and let me know some of the things that you and your child experience.




References:
(1) Pricilla Frank, "9 Things That Happen When You Carry a Sketchbook With You Nonstop, Go ahead, give your inner artist some space to grow." Huffington Post: Endeavor. February 23, 2016.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/9-things-that-happen-when-you-carry-a-sketchbook-with-you-nonstop_us_56c77001e4b0ec6725e2820a

Gentle Determination

I don't usually make New Year's resolutions because by now, in February I've already gone off track. This year I have a reminder though, Clyde (pictured above), he is the manifestation of my new mantra for Art and Life..."Gentle Determination and Quiet Persistence." After many who have been sacrificed before him (May they R.I.P) and two years of tending...Clyde the Orchid has finally re-bloomed! Oh, I may need to change his name!

Our critics (inside and out) are loud and unrelenting. Our critics think they are helping but don't know all the current facts or when to let go. They can overshadow our quiet and determined Soul. What I have found works best in the long-running struggle with my critics is to acknowledge and thank them for their "opinion", become aware of what is really true and continue on, gently, one small step at a time. I am also reminded to do this myself each time I help one of my students struggle with their own critics..