Nothing keeps an artist more present than 600+ students, staff and volunteers collaborating to create a 6 x 12 ft mural… Just say YES and work backwards. 7 months ago I was asked to work with an entire school, Kindergarten- … Continue reading
Author Archives: michelleausten
Value of Silence- Summer Art Camp reflections.
Silence gives answers ~ Rumi Reflecting on my 5th annual summer art camp where I had the joy of spending a creative week with a group of young art students. I am thankful for their young energy. They are PRESENT, … Continue reading
Wow! She went brave!
“Trust that little voice in your head that says “Wouldn’t it be interesting if…” And then do it.” ~Duane Michals
The idea of having an outdoor Art show in Calgary, AB, Canada seems crazy. However, the seed was planted 2 years ago and the possibilities of having a show in this space did not go away. It was the magic of the garden and the joy and kindness of Mary, the host and owner of a historical home that made it feel like my next best step.
Almost exactly 1 year ago, I was brave enough to follow up on an offer of a lifetime. Mary began to show up to a few of my art events and it was a sign to not hesitate and “Ask for what you want!” To my amazement, Mary agreed and she also noted, “What took you so long?”…
Almost exactly a year ago we set a date for the art show, Jun 17/17.
I began to paint and pray to mother nature to please cooperate with the weather.
The weekend before it poured rain all day, the weekend after we had our usual Calgary June storm. The day of the event the sun came out and answered my prayers, a perfect day for a garden party.
HOPE 6X6 Oil on Canvas
Once the date was set, I began to paint with focus and a goal. To keep myself grounded I decided to paint a bird a day, as a meditative practice. HOPE was my first bird. She made me happy. I continued on and eventually had a little cheering squad to accompany me in my studio.
The accumulation of these new friends, gave me not only great joy but required me to ask for help to do the finishing if I was to meet my deadline. Thank you to my wonderful student Cindy, we got them show ready. Even Mr. Attitude was impressed!
MR. ATTITUDE 6×6 Oil on Canvas
Varnishing, finishing and wiring is a full time job in itself. Many of the birds were named after artists, musicians and others that walk a creative path.
With the help of a great team of creative friends and family….The birds found their perfect spot in the garden of this historical home.
In 1946, the Allied Arts Council leased this home from the City for use as a Cultural Centre. It was a place that many artists came together to study, create and exhibit art.
Since 1978, the Coste House has been a private residence.
Thanks to gracious hosts, Mary and Bob, who opened there amazing home so community could gather to enjoy a day of music, art and friends.
Lemonade was served by my art students and with the assistance of my tribe of volunteers, some lucky art pieces found their forever home.
Every event is a stepping stone to the next interesting adventure. Thank you to my book editor Elissa who shared my next dream with the guests. Sales from this show will help to fund the upcoming book I have written and illustrated.
Coming soon…“Adventures of Wilde- A Sense of Wonder.”
The best part was after the show, when I met with another artist friend who told me her 9 year old niece was inspired to have her own art show.
That made all my dreams come true!
Hoping to inspire you all to have a brave moment and follow that little voice …
Independent Spirit- Summer Art Camp 2016
“We teach what we most need to learn” ~ Richard Bach
The purpose of my art camp is for the students to feel what it is like to be an artist for a week. Similar to an artist that goes plein-air painting(painting in the open air) , one must have a basic plan and then be prepared to go with the flow. …
Despite a full week of rain… the camp was a success.
There was community, smiles and fun had by all. We did yoga, meditated, painted, explored different mediums, got a little dirty, hula hooped and played tag. Learned to thread a needle and make a stitch. Even climbed a few trees.
- SHOW UP– Be prepared. – Remember your sketchbook and lunch.
- FEEL INSPIRED– Set up, get grounded, paint and adapt.Due to rainfall, our physical yoga practice was 80% rained out, so we did other forms of yoga- mandalas, yoga-nidra, silent meditative walk and sketching.
- EXPLORE /GATHER INFORMATION–
Learn from the masters. Canadian artists-Group of Seven and Janet Mitchell.
Learn from local living artists. Thank you to the guest artists who shared their love of art and creative skills during the week. Nothing like hands on experience to gain a greater appreciation of the mastery they have achieved in their work.
Lenny Lane-Printmaker, Linocut prints
Susan Fae Haglund, Fiber artist,- Fabric Bird Sculptures
Shauna Mireault, Dotty Mandala Rocks
- WORK HARD– Hours of creating was accomplished.
- MEET A DEADLINE– Art show on final day.
They worked hard towards the final art show. Each student was allowed to choose their final acrylic painting project based on what inspired them. We stuck to the basic plan and adapted when necessary.
My Aha teaching/learning moment happened while I was doing a demonstration for my 8-year-old student.
After watching me for a few minutes, she questioned me as I held her brush in my hand.
“Isn’t this my painting?” She asked.
“Absolutely!” I replied. I was busted, caught in the act of creating my students work.
A clear reminder…Hands off teacher! Children have the amazing ability to know what they want and they generally go for it.
I smiled as I watched her confidently finish her painting while her little hips swayed to the music. She was in the flow…. this is where the magic happens!
The “Independent Spirit of the Artist” is the quality that shines the most.
This quality needs to be polished and protected. It is what makes us all unique. It is what makes art exciting and original. When I see them dancing, smiling and generally proud! I am again reminded that art is about the individual joy of the creator. The beauty is the result that can be shared and felt by others.
Whether you witness the experience first hand or walk in a museum to look at art. There is a sense of wonder. Where it came from? How was it created? What was the inspiration? Who was the artist?
I was honored to spend a week with these 9 artists, independent spirits, young minds and future leaders.
In Creative Spirit,
“ What I learned- you have to remove the inhibition. Children don’t have inhibitions. Anything goes when they’re drawing or painting. Then, there comes a period, when they start tightening up, when they want to do things as they see them. It’s very hard to knock down those barriers.’ ~Janet Mitchell
Let’s Stretch our limits 16×40 Oil
“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”~Buddha
If you have been practicing yoga at Moksha Yoga Calgary North, you may have noticed the changing art on the walls. I am the Artist and also a fellow yogini. Since the studio opened I have been doing an energy exchange- art for yoga. The perfect trade!
My love of art and yoga has always had a way of overlapping in my life. I knew from the first day of my 200 hour yoga teacher training that even though both activities are very different, they have many similar philosophies.
Coming from a fitness background… somewhere along the line I decided that teaching yoga would be more sustainable to teach while I continued to pursue my art career. I thought I would not be so tired. WOW- I was in for a rude awakening. I had only a few downward dogs under my belt and barely knew what a sun salutation was…let alone teach it to someone else. My poor teacher, he had his work cut out for him and truth be known, so did I!
I remember very clearly that exact moment in time, sitting on my mat, writing in my journal…it was my big “AHA” moment. I realized why I was in the training. It was not about the perfect downward dog. It was not to save the world, heal others, share my dimming light…it was to save me, heal me and make my light shine brighter.
In my heart, I felt like I was home.…The practice has a perfect way of meeting us where we are at…
A year later, I finished my training and that day I began my practice. I practiced everyday for 40 days. It changed my world. I surrounded myself in community and was blessed to have many great teachers. There was never a day that I did not walk out of a yoga class feeling lighter and more whole. Over 10 years later, many trainings and a lifelong commitment, I still feel the same way.
I admit that many times I fall off the train. But just like falling out of a tree pose, or being too busy to paint, I remember why I made the commitment and that I can make the choice to step back on the train at any time.
I began my yoga practice with intention to help others. I now realize that finding the practice of yoga was a gift to me. The gift of community, with the bonus of keeping my body strong, my breath flowing and my mind clear. The beauty is, with the clarity and strength I gained from the practice, I can help other by sharing what I have learned.
Whether I am doing a headstand or holding a brush at my easel, I am very aware that both are rare opportunities to really be awake. Present moment awareness – was the common feeling for me. The feeling I wish to share.
“Yoga is the art work of awareness on the canvas of body, mind, and soul.” ― Amit Ray
Present moment awareness-I know this feeling intimately. It happens when I paint well, listen intently and practice with grace. To me… ‘Waking up’ means being present enough to feel, be authentic and to gain the capacity of responding rather than reacting.
It is what I love and why I have made both painting and yoga a consistent practice in my life. It is where I get to feel most alive. My career as an artist is growing and these days I spend my days painting, teaching art and sharing my yoga practice in my art camps and retreats.
I am honored and grateful to share my art in such a sacred beautiful space where it can be seen and felt. It is the perfect energy exchange.
“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”~Walt Disney
Courageous, Confident or Just Plain Crazy!..Driving tips for Ireland from a Canadian Girl
“If you believe you can-YOU WILL!”
Upon returning safely from a 3 week trip to Ireland, I thought I would share a few driving tips.
Being a Canadian girl, traveling alone in Ireland…
Driving on the ‘left side’ of the road- was my biggest fear.
However, I am a stubborn Virgo and my desire to see the countryside on my own timeline…outweighed my fear. I was praying to find a cute Irish driver to drive me around, but apparently that was not in my divine plan.
It was just me, my rental car, GPS and a few trusty road maps.
With a quick lesson on a deserted beach under my belt- I headed out.
Reminding myself that people drive in Ireland everyday. I am proud to report… I survived the challenge and conquered my fear.
I have to say I was never more PRESENT in my LIFE!
Happily, I returned my rental car without a scratch, covered many miles, saw beautiful vista’s, almost on one tank of Diesel.
If you’re planning a road trip to Ireland…Read on.
Tips before you leave-
- · GET a GPS- it will be your best friend
- · Bring a CDW Insurance travel letter-if you have coverage on your credit card
- · Bring music or buy a good Irish music CD-Irish radio talk is endless and not very soothing for the nervous soul.
Most of the rental cars in Ireland are manual- Shift on the Left. Pedals and Clutch are the same as in North America. Automatic Transmissions are available, but harder to find and more expensive. I rented my car before I left through Costco online and brought a travel letter from my visa company to wave the insurance. If you’re not covered… I highly recommend getting the insurance. The roads are rather narrow and the tour buses are very large. Don’t be scared. If I survived, so can you!
Here are my Tips…
- · Put the correct spelling in GPS- A 1 letter slip up sent me the opposite direction.
- · Make sure Rental car has insurance, floor mats and a good old fashion road map- it rains a lot in Ireland and a missing floor mat makes for a very slippery clutch. Learned this the hard way.
- · Gas- for you and the car. Road snacks and proper hydration
- · Stay LEFT- LOOK RIGHT, TURN LEFT… repeat, repeat.
- · Always keep body to middle of road or white line to middle of road
- · Learn Roundabouts- Trick: you can ride them around and around if you miss your exit. I also heard the locals do stop and wait, if you happen to go the wrong direction.
- · For the most part Trust your GPS- It will reroute you, however when in doubt or in the middle of nowhere. STOP and ASK a local for directions. Remember all roads eventually lead somewhere…unless the road is closed…reroute via a local. The Irish are very kind, patient and more than willing to help.
- · Use side mirrors to gauge the edge of the road.
- · Back into parking stalls whenever possible.
- · Travel early to avoid Tour buses.
- · Have money for toll roads on the M50.
- Give yourself ample time. Time pressures create stress and not a clear mind.
- · Practice YOGA. Breath Deeply, Fully Exhale. Relax shoulders and fingers. Stretch occasionally. Pull over and cry when necessary. Set intention for safety and good weather. Expect a few roadblocks.
- · If you believe you can, you will!
- · I am a good driver… I will get to my destination safely.
- · All roads lead to somewhere.
Benefits of driving on the opposite side:
- Increased Alertness & Awareness= Present Moment Living
- Challenge your fears. Success= Empowerment
- · Senses are heightened.
Go dté sibh slán…May you go safely
Enjoy the beauty!
Bonus tip: Bring a 3 prong adapter.
Austen Fine Art
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Confetti Trees, Color and Creativity
“I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world-Present and in Awe.” ~Anne Lamott
Summer Camp 2015 Last week I had the honor of working with 8 brilliant Art Students ranging from 7-12 years old. I embrace the endless energy youth have and wish I could capture it in a pill bottle. One week later, as I wake from a nap, I wonder if they are tired this week? Not likely. They are probably drawing up a storm…on to the next task. Despite my praying for perfect weather we had a few storms during the week. (Luckily none in the studio, just a few outside). A little rain, hail, wind followed by sunshine again.
I had a schedule for the week, but learned long ago to not get too attached to the schedule. As weather changes, one must adapt. Similar to painting… have a basic plan and be prepared to let go of the plan. This is often were the magic happens and if all else fails you get an interesting experience followed by the pleasure of either throwing out or painting over your less desired experience…both refreshing outcomes. The rain was refreshing. It kept us cool and did not slow down the process of doing our work. In fact, as a result, we had more studio time. Question: “Bike riding or art?” Reply: “We’d rather PAINT” I am in the presence of true artists. They know what they want.
We started everyday with yoga. “Sit up tall, breathe in, breathe out, notice how you feel,” I instructed. A chance to reconnect with ourselves first, then each other and ultimately everything else that surrounds us. Taking the time to let the snow globe of the mind settle…good for creativity. Learning to rest and stay still is a practice.
So we practice… Day 1-The stillness is always a little tough at first, but the benefits are felt and respected quickly. Day 2- Free our minds as we strengthen, stretch and rest our little bodies. Day 3- 5 min into the practice Savasana (Corpse pose) is the favorite requested pose. Day 4- 20 min of silence- painting mandala rocks by candlelight was no problem. Day 5 -30 min Yoga Nidra inside while it rained outside. Who doesn’t love to be covered in a blanket with lavender scented eye pillows and have a relaxing story read to them?
This group of girls painted for more hours this week, then I can paint in a week. Their attention span, focus and dedication surpassed my wildest expectations. When they took a break from art activities, Chinese skipping was the preferred game. Remember “MISSISSIPPI”?? Great Cardio fun, efficiently taking the edge off built up energy.
It is always amazing to see the students subjective color preference and how each piece of artwork, all in different mediums create a perfect collection, representing the artists unique style. Their favorite color and love of their family was very apparent in their chosen words of intention. Watching them throw the paint around, literally and not worrying too much where it landed. Seeing the joy on their faces when they learned a new technique that made their masterpieces come alive.
Teamwork and community support was a stand out quality 5 STARS all around. Brilliant guest artists added variety and expertise. My most favorite reflection was that week ran by seamlessly. Moving from project to project, playing with wax, paint, pastels, watercolor, clay, ink was all done with a “Go For IT” attitude. We began with dream collages ending with dream catchers. By the time Friday arrived we had quite a collection of artwork to display.
Friday morning was raining…Hard…But we agreed the show must go on. We finished the dream catchers. Made and ate our pizza, decorated the cupcakes for our guests. Then worked quickly to set up the show with a sense of pride. I was thankful that the girls thrived on being given a task. They quickly achieved their task and worked well together. Lots of small hands, makes light work.
The final show was a parade of proud artists sharing their accomplishments of the week with the ones they love. Reminding me that achieving a goal is always better when you share it with others. I am blessed… Michelle “Wherever your heart is, that is where you’ll find your treasure.” ~ Paulo Coelho **Special Thanks to Brenda Walker http://www.brendawalker-art.com and Shauna Mireault for being our guests and sharing their love of art!
I am not the Bionic Women
“A Break from technology can help us to feel human again. And I am pretty sure there’s still no App for that.”~ Micheal J. Chase.
Technology is a gift. One I appreciate. However, with the stream of technology coming at us humans so quickly, it is no wonder we are all feeling overwhelmed. Seriously, what human can possibly keep up to waves of emails, texts, phone calls, not to mention Facebook, Instagram, twitter etc. Even my very efficient super human-almost Bionic friends are having a hard time keeping up. The fact that my daughter snap chats herself every 10 sec, reminds me that moments are fleeting and many of them are eaten up with a relationship to our phone/computer/iPad screen.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel social media is amazing, I can reach people I have never met. Create this blog, document my thoughts, share things, keep in contact with family while on vacation, share photo’s etc. These things I love. Yet I yearn…
I yearn for a good face to face-eye contact-heartfelt conversation. I miss seeing my friends and hate the fact that birthday are celebrated via a typed message. I love to share what I am up to and being visual person, I can easily spend hours on Pinterest-building my virtual life. However, nothing beats a good old catch up coffee session with a dear friend at a local coffee shop.
I feel the pressure technology brings. I also feel inadequate. I can’t possibly keep up. No one is as fast as a computer. Certainly Canada Post can not possibly keep up. I still welcome and appreciate a good hand written note or a postcard from a friend on an adventure. Something colourful and bright, that makes me excited enough to smile.
Retreat, like a coffee session, must be scheduled into our lives, so we take the time to feel. Feeling takes time and space. When we move too quickly we can’t feel the tiny bits of tension gripping in our bodies, reminding us that we are working too hard. The gentle tension eventually becomes a pull or a tear. Not paying attention, a fall will result in a broken bone. Not an ideal rest. I prefer to Laugh, Cry or Wail-These are welcome natural releases.
Or better yet, Schedule in a Retreat. Retreats help release the build up that we are unconsciously collecting through our busy daily activities.
A retreat could be a spa in a tropical place, an art retreat or a yoga class. If you live in the city, a drive on a country road can be enough of a break to feel spaciousness, especially in Alberta with the wide open skies. It can be as simple as the warmth of a bubble bath enjoying a good old fashion paperback.
However you choose to retreat. Be kind to yourself and make it a priority. You deserve it.
I am currently on a train in Ireland going to an art retreat. Taking my own advice. Feeling the spaciousness, filling myself up.
To live a super human life, one must take time to retreat.
In creative spirit,
Celebrating Birthdays and the Element of Surprise
“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!” ~Dr. Seuss
My Son Tyler is turning 22 tomorrow. Today I am going to bake a cake.
This morning, as I drink my tea and reflect on all the birthdays we have been lucky to celebrated. Soccer parties, laser tag, bowling, water slides, space center YYC, the list goes on. We always have a family dinner with a birthday cake. The day he asked for a Costco birthday cake with a soccer ball, I cried… moms ego took a hit. Thankfully, that was the only year he requested a bought cake.
I love to bake. Warming up the oven on a cold day, the smell of delicious aroma filling my home, feeling the heat of the oven, hearing the whip of the beaters and seeing the smile on the face of my kids when I surprise them with a cake.
I love the feeling of pushing the icing around to cover the cake with a big butter knife. Making sure I get the peaks of the icing just perfect with lots of variation of shape, covered with colored sprinkles in Tyler’s favorite color.
Watching the element of surprise when they realize their favorite angel-food cake with colored flecks and boiled icing has money carefully placed inside of it.
I am a mom and an artist. Not a professional baker, but the feeling is the same in every area. Whether painting, baking or theming a birthday party, the familiar feeling of inspiration arises! Exploring, experimenting and sharing creations. Spreading the icing reminds me of pushing paint around the canvas, the way it smells and mixes together, the way it feels. Oil paint is buttery, like thick creamy buttercream icing.
The element of surprise is something I encourage you to do in your art. Play with the paint, let go of a desired outcome. This approach is more fun and less stressful. Tyler is the master of going with the flow of life. I learn a lot from him everyday. He is methodical, patient and kind.
The painting “Natures Birthday Candles” reminds me of Tyler.
“Wild” is a magical bear with a great imagination and a quest for adventure. I started painting the bear and watched with patience as the painting came to life. His friends magically show up, they are like the sprinkles on the cake. The elements of surprise that make your day more special, like finding money in a cake or having an old friend show up unexpectedly. Wild and his friends play with the dandelions, imagining they are birthday candles, blowing and spreading seeds of intent and kindness. I love the way they play together and support each other. The dandelions mixed on my palette like they were lollipops or maybe gold coins. Magical. Wild feels it is a perfect day, sitting in a field surrounded by the wealth of friends, sunshine and golden lollipops.
All the details and feeling of softness comes from mixing the paint and getting out of the way of trying to make things perfect. I encourage you to have fun, explore and allow things to unfold naturally like they do in nature.
Not all paintings work out. I sometimes burn the cake, go way overboard, eat too much icing, yell at my children… But in the moment I make sure I am having fun and when I feel the work is complete, I invite my children to see, together we savor the moment and celebrate by eating a piece of homemade cake.
Happy 22nd Birthday Tyler– this painting is for you, honoring the “Wise one” that appreciates nature, family, friends and life. Thank you for being you and for everyday-Living life in the present moment!
Don’t forget to make a wish!
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” ~ Dr. Seuss
Living an Open-Ended Life..and wearing good shoes.
“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”~Albert Einstein
Do you find it is easy to do work for others- less easy to do your own work?
Are you burnt out and tired from serving others first?
I can totally relate and admit to suffering from, “Put myself last syndrome. “
Deadlines for others, open-ended work for me.
Deadlines make it easy to complete the work for others. I like to get the job done.
However, I notice when it comes to my work, which is creating art, I often struggle, especially if I have no deadline. I put myself last and often find myself tired or running short of time and then having to cook dinner for my kids. Sound familiar?
I am not complaining. I LOVE my job! The open-ended lifestyle of wondering what is just around the corner…
“You never know how a good quest is going to end.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert
This open-ended life-style requires one to sit in open space.
Open space is a place I LOVE. A place that is necessary for creativity to awaken.
I am very familiar with this blissful spacious state.
However, it is not always a comfortable place to sit.
I often feel the sense of panic, followed by racing thoughts…
Get to Work!…. Your wasting time!…Your spoiled!…
These familiar little gremlins have a way of agitating my spacious mood.
I notice them, invite them in, even jot them down, soon they become a distant memory and I get back to work. Get out my BEST SHOES!
How to live an open-ended life…
Feel full of possibilities and watch for doors to open.
Make sure you have the proper shoes on so you can walk through the door.
Make sure the shoes are comfy and fit perfectly.
Feel comfortable in your FEET- your FOUNDATION.
When the mind wanders, dial the craziness back into your SOLES- your SOUL.
Draw the energy in and bring it downwards – this feels more grounding.
Stand tall and have good shoes on or even better- bare feet!
Be a column of light and move forward with brightness.
We can even trade shoes. Red ones are my favorite.
Love and Light,
“There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love; there’s only scarcity of resolve to make it happen.” ~Wayne Dyer