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

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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.

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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.

DSC_5365HOPE 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.

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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!

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MR. ATTITUDE 6×6 Oil on Canvas

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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!
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Hoping to inspire you all to have a brave moment and follow that little voice …

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Energy Exchange

DSC_9336.jpgLet’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.

Namaste,

Michelle

http://www.michelleausten.ca

 “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

 

 

Confetti Trees, Color and Creativity

“I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world-Present and in Awe.” ~Anne Lamott

Encaustic Confetti Tree

Encaustic Confetti Tree

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.IMG_2168IMG_2230

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?

IMG_2156 IMG_2353 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.

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Chinese Skipping

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.

Encaustic Painting

Encaustic Painting

IMG_2336IMG_2343 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.

Dream catchers

Dream catchers

IMG_2368IMG_2367 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.

Artists getting ready for show

Artists getting ready for show

Look what we did!

Look what we did!

Art Show

Art Show

12 year old Artist

12 year old Artist

9 year old Artist

9 year old Artist

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 IMG_2320 **Special Thanks to Brenda Walker http://www.brendawalker-art.com and Shauna Mireault for being our guests and sharing their love of art!

Celebrating Birthdays and the Element of Surprise

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Nature’s Birthday Candles 18×36 Oil     http://www.michelleausten.ca

“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.

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Tyler on his 19th Birthday

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.

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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.

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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.

A quiet moment in nature.

A quiet moment in nature.

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!

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Make a Wish 20×20 Oil

Love,

Mom

 “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Living an Open-Ended Life..and wearing good shoes.

The perfect fit“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,

Michelle

“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

Seeing through a different set of glasses

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It’s my Birthday!! So I reflect on my summer, year, and life thus far.

I just returned from holidays with my family and was inspired by many Canadian east coast vistas’. You would think I would be painting Peggy’s Cove or Marine scenes, but I was feeling inspired to have some fun. Perhaps the 3 generations spending time together had more of an effect than a well known overly photographed lighthouse.

I have learned in my wisdom to not fight the creative process.                                                   The painting:   “Looking through a different set of glasses” was created.

As I age I become more aware that things are not always black and white. I do not have all the answers. I am not always right. Even when I truly think I am.

With age, comes the wisdom to see through another’s eyes. To be more aware of what is happening around us and especially within us.

Time is precious, life can be short and all we have is the present moment.  Take the time to inspire someone.  Be grateful for every day, every year, every decade.

Swap glasses. Try the Ray-bans for a day.  Ever notice the style you wore in the 80’s is back again. Should have kept my white ones…they’d be vintage.

Better yet, ditch the dark glasses and try good old fashion eye contact.  Gaze into a loved ones eyes.  If you are really brave I challenge you to gaze into a strangers eyes.

Add a smile.                                                                                                                                                    One rule: NO TALKING. Resist the urge.                                                                                            If it gets too hard, SMILE more. Creates good wrinkles.                                                        WINKING is allowed and encouraged. Fake eyelashes help.

Likely you just made someone’s day!

Encouraging eye contact and creativity everyday.

Thanks for helping me spread the LOVE.                                                                                 Michelle

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”― Confucius

 

 

Creating Community Gardens

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When I reflect on Summer Camp 2014, the general theme that stands out for me is COMMUNITY.

Whether you are painting, doing yoga, working or going to the movies…the energy of group work raises the vibration and magic moments naturally occur.  My week spent with 8 young artists was full of Exploration, Inspiration and FUN!

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The end result was alot of amazing ART, but that is not what I remember even hours after the final Art Show.

What I remember was the process, the JOURNEY.  

Just like any creative project…IMAGINATION sparks an idea that STIRS the SOUL…

We seek out tools, canvas, paper, brushes and teachers to fill our tool box….CONFIDENCE is gathered to explore something new.

Set quickly into ACTION- otherwise known as PLAY MODE.  Avoid thinking and start doing.

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CONNECT, get involved, share with others, WONDER, get frustrated, cry, SMILE, Feel ELATED or deflated, scared or EXCITED. FEEL more.  Move through, move on and WONDER what the next journey will bring…

In the end after the canvas has been long forgotten we remember EACH OTHER.  The good times and the bad.  Maybe we remember sticky fingers from the fruit bouquet or how we felt when our final project turned out better than we imagined.  

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Regardless, I will treasure this week for all the SMILES and HUGS I received and I will PAY them forward.

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Bouquets of Gratitude,

Michelle

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”~Mother Teresa

Random Acts of Kindness

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. ~Lao Tzu

 

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This is my story on how my art show unfolded by Random Acts of Kindness, some hard work and a lot of Faith.

Just shy of two years ago, I attended an art workshop hosted by Canadian artist Laura Harris. I first stumbled onto Laura’s work while I was on holidays with my family; I wandered into a gallery on a bright, sunny spring day and was instantly moved by what I saw. It wasn’t so much the subject matter – in fact, I do not remember much of the subject matter of the paintings. There were some paintings of flowers and abstract landscapes. What I do remember is the feeling that overwhelmed me as I viewed the show. Something shifted deep inside me. It made me feel more alive.

When I learned that Laura was going to be giving a workshop in Radium, BC, it took me less than one second to contact my dear friend and creative collaborator Danielle. We signed up immediately. Yoga, art, nature, friends and community = a perfect fit.

The workshop was full of amazing women. We shared a lovely experience at a beautiful location, complete with 360 degrees of stunning views with a mountain backdrop, eating good food, painting, yoga and wine. My ideal getaway with one of my best friends- a perfect gift to myself.

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After returning home, I invited some of the local women from the workshop over to my home and studio for an evening of art, wine and appetizers. I always enjoy company of like-minded women, art and good food.   With wine flowing, paint flying and ideas brewing, one of the kind women, Maureen, whom I had only met a handful of times, offers her home to me for a future personal art show. Danielle and I, again, take less than a second to look at each other, smile and say “Yes Please”. It was a little impulsive, but with a day to think about it and a confirmation from her husband, Maureen calls and confirms that they would love to host an art show. HUGE- Random Act of Kindness.

I have to confess that I have been offered this gift before. The difference this time is that I have done the work and had built the confidence to say YES. Without hesitation I agree and move forward.   I am thrilled to have a goal, a focal point to work towards. What a gift I have been given. I am excited!

My dear friend and angel wing Danielle, who works silently by my side creating her own beauty through her photography and marketing pieces, is always there to guide and support me. We also met through Random Acts of Kindness. I donated an art class  that she purchased to raise money for our local school. It is no accident that we met. This woman is beyond amazing. A mother of 3 children, active in every aspect of her kids, friends and families lives. I call her my angel wing, because with out her I would not be where I am today. It is much easier to fly with two wings. Image

I am always blown away by the fact that the perfect person comes into your life exactly when you are ready. You must be CLEAR about what you want.

The theme of my Art show 2014 was CLARITY.

“Clarity comes from knowing what you want and from moving in the direction of it.  Your soul is guiding and supporting you every step of the way.”  ~Sue Krebs

 

In my confusion of what I want to do with my life….some years ago a dear teacher of mine took the time to sit with me and listen. His advice was to GET CLEAR on what you want and work towards the goal everyday. He sent me home with a copy of Wayne Dyers “Excuses Begone” tucked under my arm and a list of to-do’s. At the bottom of the list there was a note. It said, “I Believe in you”.  This Random Act of Kindness was a boost of encouragement that I needed. A small kick in the butt was kindly accepted and was a very monumental moment in my life.

The message:

GET CLEAR, WORK HARD… the rest will take care of itself. Something much bigger is navigating when you’re doing purposeful work. I am clear that my job is to show up and do my work.  Practice Gratitude and Serve.

Your proper concern is alone the ACTION of Duty, not the fruits of the Action. CAST then away all desires and fear for the fruit.”      ~The Bhagavad Gita

May 10, 2014 was a monumental day for me. The show was a huge success- but what was the most special about it was that all of this happened due to Random Acts of Kindness from so many people.

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When I reflect, I cannot believe my good fortune and luck. I have such gratitude for all who helped, attended and supported me from afar.

I realize that when I am working towards a goal that I am disciplined and dedicated to- amazing stuff unfolds.

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The second person that walked into my art show was a yoga teacher from Vancouver Island that I had never previously met. Quickly into the conversation she asks me if I know her artist friend Laura Harris? I smile.

The next day is Mothers Day. I am enjoying dinner at a restaurant with my family, I look up at two Laura Harris original paintings hung in the restaurant.

On the way home, the amazing couple who hosted my art show sent me a picture of my painting newly hung in their home.   I am thrilled and honored that it sits in between two Laura Harris paintings.

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I smile again.  The perfect ending…or just the beginning?

Proof that Random Acts of Kindness always come full circle.

Be Kind,

Be Gracious,

Be LOVE,

 

In Creative Spirit,

Michelle

Laura Harris lives and works in Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. More information about Laura and her artwork can be found at http://www.laura-harris.com

Danielle Paetz lives and works in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. More information about Danielle and her photography can be found at http://www.tinytakesphotography.com.

 

 

Write a Love Letter

What would it feel like to be in a space that you felt totally ACCEPTED, VALIDATED and LOVED.Image

What would it feel like to be able to put yourself in that space, where you take time to LOVE yourself,  ACCEPT  yourself and JUST BE yourself.

Picture yourself in a place of pure acceptance.  Breathe in Possibility, Breathe out excuses.

Hmmm… sounds good…But…”How do I get there?”   So glad you asked… Please step into my office.   I invite you to PLAY!  The kids will lead the way.

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The crayons, markers, paint, brushes, paper, canvases are the tools we will be using.  Super SWEET and very low calorie Candy for an artist. 

Supply list: 

8” square of black paper

8-12 pencil crayons (Prismacolor work best)  1 white- the rest a rainbow of color.  

CD

Instructions:

Trace a circle using the CD with the white pencil on the square. Then play the CD or music of your choice- Caution** if using a playlist on cell phone – block any distractions- even the zen ringer-turn off.   Light a candle and/or make a cup of tea.

Breathe in, Breathe out.

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This circle represents a creative free space that is not judged.  You can do whatever you want to in this space.  Play with lines and color, shade, dots, and circles. Rotate the drawing in any direction to discover interesting compositions.  Whatever your heart desires.  There is no right or wrong, no grades are given out (you already get an A+) 

Let go, Let go, Let go… 

Choose Love over fear.  Fun over Frustration.  Acceptance over Expectations.

Breathe in, Breathe out.

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Pick up White pencil and start at the center of the circle.  Enter your playground,  spend as much time here as you wish.  Add color if and when you intuitively feel like it, explore freely.  No need for an eraser, as there are no mistakes, only happy accidents.   Write yourself a Love Letter,    Play in your sandbox for as long as you like.  Create until you feel complete.

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Breathe in, Breathe out.

Take the time to look at what you created, write any thoughts on back or front of paper.

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Save it, Burn it, Frame it or put it under your pillow.  Maybe mist it with a favorite scent.  I recommend Lavender.

Repeat often.

Happy Valentines Day!  

In Creative Spirit,

Michelle

“ Art is always a mirror- It always speaks not just about what is out there, in the subject; it also speaks about what’s in here, in the artist.” —Jean Carbonetti