The Beauty in the Different

Today I got to do something that I love to do.

Paint.

I love to sit and paint.  Under the direction of a teacher or on my own–both are fun.  Both fill my soul.

Only I rarely make time to do it.  Today that changed.

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My version of Miss J’s Red Barn in Winter painting 

I guess it’s because I fell in love with this painting.  The red barn.  Or maybe it’s because it’s January and it’s always been a hard month for me, for whatever various and sundry reasons.  Or maybe it’s because I’m tired and I really just needed to get out of my head and create.

Whatever the reason, I made time for it, and all of the people I love and live with did what needed to be done for me to go.

Thankful.

When I sat down in the group of maybe fifteen people, our teacher, the fabulous Miss J, announced that none of our paintings would look alike in the end.  She told us that we would put our own spin on her original, and that was okay.  It was more than okay–it was desired.  Different was great.

As we painted the sky and then the snow, the trees in the front and then the evergreens in the back, Miss J never sat down.  She walked around the tables, helping and offering suggestions but mostly praising.  Always praising.  When doubts crept into our voices, our questions, she encouraged.  “You can’t mess this up,” she said more than a few times.  She also kept noticing the differences in our works.  “Every one of your paintings are different.  I love it!  You are all doing so well.”

Her kind words were empowering.  Maybe, just maybe she was right.  Maybe we couldn’t mess it up.  Maybe we could make something beautiful.  Maybe my wonky tree line isn’t so bad, even though it looks nothing like anyone else’s.  Maybe, just maybe, I can create something worthy of praise.  Maybe–could it be?–I’m worthy of praise?

As I left the class with my painting (which is still a work in progress, I’m not quite sure yet what, but it needs a final touch), I felt a lift in my spirits.  Miss J is like that–her buoyant, beautiful way of living just overflows and touches all around her.  Her positivity is a gift, her encouragement a treasure far richer than gold.  She created a lot more than one painting that we all copied today.  She created the heart of an artist in each and everyone of us.

Each heart looks different, but that’s okay.  That’s perfect, in fact.

Tonight I’m thankful for those who remind us different is okay–that we can be ourselves and stay true to that, and that we are worthy of praise.  Worthy of being loved and cared for.  Worthy of making time for.

Miss J is right:  different IS good.

May we all have a day of seeing the different in others as something to encourage and celebrate.

Love to all.

 

 

Q-Tips, Art, and How the Little Moments Matter

A couple of weeks ago at Evening Prayer we talked about the little moments.  The little moments of kindness, of opening a door, offering a smile, saying hello, picking up a piece of trash and disposing of it, giving a hug, carrying a sack of groceries for someone, calling a friend–all of these little moments add up to one good story.  Sarah Thebarge compared the idea to pointillism–all those little moments create something beautiful.

So to bring the idea home with our folks there that night, we painted.

Pointillism.

My artist friend recommended we use q-tips.  I love q-tips–so versatile and easy to find at the store.  And I love my artist friend for suggesting them, because I had the paints and the canvas, but I hadn’t been able to find the right sort of brushes.

BINGO.

One of my samples--idea from Pinterest

One of my samples–idea from Pinterest

I enjoyed this one. Just colors all over the place.

I enjoyed this one. Just colors all over the place.

This was Aub's somewhat abstract turtles. One of my favorites of the night.

This was Aub’s somewhat abstract turtles. One of my favorites of the night.

And so we painted.  There were all kinds of wonderful variations on the ones that I showed as examples.  (Hello, Pinterest, you are my friend.)  Not one single person complained or threw their hands up in frustration.  There was good conversation and laughter and I heard more than one person say how much fun it was.

Must have been the q-tips.  They do make a party fun.

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I had bought some paper shapes for the children to paint, if they wanted, or if they finished a canvas and wanted to continue creating.  It was Cooter who came over and asked to paint, sitting in my lap.  He is eight, and I know this won’t last much longer.  Sure, buddy, pull up a q-tip.

I pulled out a paper cutout of a person.  He went to town on it.  Painting with many q-tips and all kinds of colors, I think he had finished three people by the time we left.

And since then?  When I can’t find him during our school days or on the weekends, I can usually go to the back porch and find him painting away.

How many characters can you spot?  There's Harry, Fred and George (see their "sweaters"), He Who Must Not Be Named, and SOOOO many others.

How many characters can you spot? There’s Harry, Fred and George (see their “sweaters”), He Who Must Not Be Named, and SOOOO many others.

You see, he’s working on painting all of the characters from the Harry Potter books. I think he’s up to Book 4.

All the characters, y’all.  Some obscure, some not so much.  But for painting with a q-tip, I think he’s doing quite well.  It’s been funny to me that he has yet to ask to use one of the brushes sitting back there, right there with the paints.

This is a child who doesn’t see himself as an artist or artistic at all.  Yet this project has struck a chord with him.  He enjoys it, and I love that it resets his brain–he comes away from painting with paint all over all the things *sigh*, his hands included, and with a smile on his face and a lift in his spirit.

I love that so much.  Who would’ve thought it?

Best purchase ever.  So much so, that yes, when I get back over to that store, we are picking up more of those.

After all, he has three more books to get through.

I’ve told him that I thought we would string them up across his wall or something to display them.  He’s thinking about putting them in a book.  We really haven’t decided, but whatever we do, I hope they always bring a smile to his face as much as they do now.

May we all find something that brings us so much joy.  And may we do all the little things we can to live a good story and paint a lovely picture.

Love to all.

I’m a Monet, Y’all

Last week was my sweet neighborfriend’s birthday.  The past two Tuesdays we’ve had the opportunity to paint together in celebration.  It was something I never would have taken on by myself but when she agreed to go together, I was all for it.  Though for the record, this was a style of painting I’d never done before.

I’ve gone to classes where we painted an owl or a tree on the beach or something more concrete and I’ve sat with Mess Cat on the back porch and painted things we’ve seen on Pinterest or ideas we’ve come up with ourselves, but I’ve never done an impressionistic painting.

Until now.

Our teacher reminded us that the idea behind this was to be loose and free in our painting and covering the canvas.

I have OCD say what now?

Yeah, it was hard at first.  But when I started letting go of what I perceived as imperfections, I really began to enjoy what I was doing and worked to make it my own.  I was doing fine until I made the silhouette of the man on the sidewalk look like he had no neck.  When I went back and touched him up, I could breathe again. He looked more like a human and less like the Hulk, thank goodness.

Last week we did all of the base colors, and outlining, but yesterday was all about adding the color and the detail.  We moved quickly and with purpose.  As we were finishing up, I stepped out of the room to rinse my brush.  I walked back in and saw my friend’s painting from the doorway.

“Girl, that is fabulous!”  And it really was.

She laughed.  “Yeah, when you’re looking at it all the way across the room, right?”

As I tried to protest, our teacher spoke up, “Well yes, that’s how it is supposed to work.  It’s impressionistic.  When you look at it from a distance, it will look ‘better.'”

All I could think about was the movie “Clueless” and how they referred to someone as a “Monet”–“far away she looks great, a masterpiece, but up close she’s a mess.”  (I’m ad libbing here, y’all.  I haven’t seen that movie in YEARS.)

As we gathered our things and paintings and said our goodbyes, I saw this sign that I don’t remember being there before over near the front door to the gallery.

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Amen.  Some of the best things in my life came about when I took a trip outside my comfort zone.  Some of the most beautiful and broken and hard and precious and moments I hold most dear in my heart came from crossing that line into the unknown.

Tonight I’m thankful for my friend who stepped way out of her comfort zone to paint for the first time something other than a room or piece of furniture.  That’s the thing about comfort zones–they are much easier to leave when you have a friend at your side.  And way more fun.  Also, I’m thankful for the reminder that up close we can all be a mess, and that what we see from afar–from the outside looking in–that can be very deceiving.

And here’s what I am most thankful for in the midst of a day of painting–

this canvas I painted, this picture I created–it is an “up close mess, far away lovely thing” all together in one.  Broken and beautiful.  Messy and magnificent.  Wacky and wonderful.

All in one.

Just like me.
Just like all of us, I’d daresay.

We are all of the beautiful and broken things, and maybe it’s time we start hanging that on the wall and letting folks up close enough to see all of who we are.  The realness of our being.

It means being vulnerable, it means being raw and open, but if we really ever want people to see who we really are and all of our magnificent colors–not just the shadows or an impression–maybe it’s time to hang ourselves up for folks to see and appreciate and love.  Up close and everything.

May we all begin to love the Monet that we are.  One point at a time.

Love to all.

My painting from across he room.  I can handle y'all seeing this.  It's not perfect, but I rather like it.  "Tardis in the Rain" our teacher called it.

My painting from across he room. I can handle y’all seeing this. It’s not perfect, but I rather like it. “Tardis in the Rain” our teacher called it.

But this. This, I didn't want to show y'all.  It's rough around the edges and way less than perfect and there are things I'd love to touch up.  But this is me--being vulnerable--and this is the REAL me.  Leaning, off-kilter, but here.  Go love yourselves, y'all.  All of you.

But this. This, I didn’t want to show y’all. It’s rough around the edges and way less than perfect, and there are things I’d love to touch up. But this is me–being vulnerable–and this is the REAL me. Leaning, off-kilter, but here. Go love yourselves, y’all. All of you.