Michele's Watercolors

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New Year Challenge – Part 4: “Raw Beauty”

New Year Challenge – Part 4:  “Raw Beauty”

 

Well, this post will end my 4 week series, “New Year Challenge”, where I’ve been reflecting on some of the ups and downs of last year’s creative challenge. I am constantly learning through that yearlong experience…as well as through these 4 weeks of reflection. There has been much value in stepping back this month to see a bigger picture, though I learned the benefit of that long ago. When I am struggling in one particular area of a painting, I am so focused on that area that it is all I see. Refusing to step away, I just keep working and working at it. I will forgo a good night’s sleep before I will walk away from my work unsatisfied. However, experience has taught me the benefit of walking away and coming back with a fresh pair of eyes. Each time, one of two things happen: Either that troubled area was not nearly as bad as it was hours earlier, or, I will see it more clearly and am able to resolve the problem quickly, with a different approach than before. So with that shared, I am taking another step back for one final look at the big picture of last year’s challenge.

 

Though my work last year did not reflect the looseness I was shooting for, I still exercised, stretched and strengthened my gift with weekly creations, looser brushwork and the beginning signs of embracing imperfections. I also achieved my goal of filling up those blocks of watercolor paper and sketchbooks with 50 new pieces of art. Fifty pieces that I would not have had if not for committing to create a new work of art each week.

 

Yet, I am still a work in progress. I will indeed continue fighting for freedom from perfectionism, believing that as ‘I’ become freer, my work will too. I read something recently that was encouraging artists who had taken on a 30-day creative challenge. There was a sentence in the article that grabbed my attention… “Keep in mind that this is about sharing rough-drafts and letting go of the preciousness that too often holds us back from experimenting and getting to even better ideas.” While the whole sentence spoke to my struggle and striving, it was the word “rough-drafts” that kept resonating with my spirit. Something about that word lights up my creative spirit. Rough-drafts are just that – “rough”. They are not all neat and tidy with a red bow…they are works in progress. They are raw. They are the place where inspiration first flows out; and there is something so real and beautiful in that to me.

 

I love to see the rough-drafts of things because I enjoy seeing the process; yet I do NOT want anyone to see my rough-drafts. Interesting, right??? Yet, inside I am screaming to get to that place! Through all of this I am learning that it’s more advantageous and adventurous to be real and vulnerable than it is to be perfect. I feel like a “rough-draft” myself right now. The end result will be a masterpiece, but the process requires lots of rough-drafts. However, I cannot forget that rough-drafts have an inherent beauty all their own due to their raw, vulnerable strokes and even imperfections.

 

Are you in the middle of your own transformation? If so, as my pastor would say, “here are your takeaways” from this week’s reflection:

  • Step back every once in a while to view the big picture and asses where you’ve been and where you’re going. I wish I did this at the 6 month mark last year!
  • Be real. If there are times when you feel anxious about being vulnerable or imperfect, think of it as being brave instead. I will be working on that one myself!
  • Stay focused on the purpose of your goal so that you won’t be derailed by distractions. I learned the hard way on that one.

 

I think one of the reasons I am so drawn to the word ‘rough-draft’ is because there is no expectation attached to it. I began each piece of art last year with a level of expectation placed on it…and that was my downfall each week. As I previously shared in Part 2: Overcoming Myself, last year’s challenge was supposed to be practice, not performance…though that is what I had allowed it to become.

 

In “The Greatest Gift” Ann Voskamp says, “There is no need to produce or perform or perfect – simply become a place for God. That is all.” Wow. My most pounding heartbeat has always been to glorify God with my life and gift. That has not changed, but perhaps my focus has. Here’s to moving forward together to become the best version of ourselves!

 

Bless all his skills, Lord, and be pleased with the work of his hands. Strike down those who rise against him, his foes till they rise no more.” Deuteronomy 33:11

 

*The above watercolor, “Spoken For”, was one of my favorites from last year’s challenge.  Though not a rough-draft, below is a shot of the painting in progress.

 

 

 

New Year Challenge – Part 3: “Half Empty or Half Full?”

New Year Challenge – Part 3:  “Half Empty or Half Full?”

 

In last January’s post where I shared about the creative challenge that I was taking on I said, “I am hoping to find freedom in my work, freedom from perfection, freedom to enjoy my gift more and freedom to fail.” As I shared in last week’s post, “Overcoming Myself” (read here), I felt these were goals that I fell short of. As I was working on my final challenge, “He Enables Me” I struggled terribly with the sky; so much so that I believe it took 7 attempts before I ‘got it’. In the middle of one failed attempt after another, I thought, “Did I really think the enemy was going to give up my freedom this final week without a fight???” Did I think he was going to give up my freedom at all without a fight?? I would have been a fool if I thought differently.

 

My gift does not come easily for me; it is something that I have to fight for, especially in watercolors. Yes, I am often trying to get the medium to do things that it is not intrinsically meant to do, nonetheless, I so want to be able to approach my art without striving. Yet, while the enemy no doubt uses my constant struggle against me, God uses it for me…

  • My ongoing struggle keeps me both dependent and humble.
  • It’s through my weakness that God’s power and glory can most clearly been seen. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

 

As a perfectionist, I want you to see me and my work in my best light, but something that I am learning through my experience last year is that being vulnerable IS allowing others to see me in my best light. How is a façade my “best light”? It’s not. The truth is, it is easy for me to get discouraged over what feels like weakness of character and a hopeless pursuit of freedom, but how about I change my perspective and focus?

 

It is intriguing to me how the very thing I enjoy most in art, and that I am best at, is what the enemy has been using most against me. Detail. Yes, with detail comes control; and control is the opposite of freedom. I will not deny that truth for one moment, but I will continue to fight for the freedom I am longing for. However, God has been shining light on this darkness, exposing how I have been so focused on my lack that I have been undermining and devaluing my gifts and strengths. Wow. God created me the way I am for His purposes…period. Though the enemy uses my perfectionism against me, I cannot get caught up in the web of his lies and condemnation. I cannot neglect who Jesus has called me to be and what He has equipped me to do…as I am.  Indeed, my glass is not half empty, rather half full.

 

I will indeed continue to fight for the freedom I so desire, but I will not be forsaking my strengths along the way. Every one of us have areas of our lives that we would like to overcome and improve on, but in your pursuit please watch out for the traps that can trip you up: Traps that cause you to lose perspective and forget God’s gifts. Your enemy and mine is NOT for us. He wants to derail us. He wants to imprison us. I leave you with Jesus’s words… “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

 

*The painting above, “Friday’s Snack”, was week four’s challenge last year.

 

New Year Challenge – Part 2: “Overcoming Myself”

New Year Challenge – Part 2:  “Overcoming Myself”

 

If you missed Part 1 of this four-week blog series, “New Year Challenge”, please read that one here before reading this one. I have a lot of being vulnerable to do this week, so I’m going to jump right in. Through 2016’s yearlong creative challenge I learned (again) that God’s ways are not my ways. I thought that challenge was about changing my style, but God purposed it to be about changing me.

 

If you will recall, this time last year I wrote a post that laid out my personal challenge of creating a new piece of art each week. In that post I said, “Please keep in mind, these will be small, quick works of art…nothing like my big, detailed watercolors. I may spend 5 minutes on some and 5 hours on others, depending on my week and the subject matter. This year-long challenge is not about sharing great work (though I hope to!), but about further developing and expanding my gift. It will be about more expression and less perfection.”

 

Big sigh. So, it is no secret that I am a perfectionist; but what I didn’t realize was just how deep rooted perfectionism is in me. The grip of it can be painful, debilitating and far reaching at times. I get so down on myself for the way I need things to be perfect. There are days that I long for the ability to live outside the confines of perfectionism; for the self-control to rule over it rather than the other way around.

 

Why am I sharing all of this? To help you understand why I drifted so far from my original vision of spending “5 minutes on some and 5 hours on others”. Very few pieces last year took me less than 5 hours and NONE of them took 5 minutes. As a result, almost every piece was overworked, thus falling short of my goals. While several factors played into that, if I am very honest with myself, the biggest reason was my fear of posting less than perfect work; THE VERY THING I WAS TRYING TO AVOID!!! It’s true.

 

While I chose to walk that challenge out publicly to keep me accountable each week (which it did), I’ve been very curious over just how different each piece would have looked if I knew I wasn’t posting them. I am confident those works would have been far looser simply because the weeks I did a quick sample piece just to get a feel of the colors or technique, those 60 second pieces had the looseness I was craving for when I was ‘trying’. Interesting, right? Yes, there was a LOT less time invested in those quick references, but there was also freedom to fail.

 

Somewhere along the way I had allowed what was supposed to be ‘practice’ each week to become ‘performance’. Through that realization, God exposed my need to refocus my gift on His purposes and not the applause of man. My reason for painting must remain pure to carry God’s anointing. At my core, my heart is not to ‘impress’ people with my work, but to ‘move’ them. Unfortunately, my focus got off last year and as a result, I got extremely burned out at the end.

 

I was down on myself for not ending the challenge as strongly as I desperately wanted to, but my friend Amy helped me to look at it from a different perspective. Remember how I said I originally wanted to paint a sunset on my final piece, “He Enables Me” (painting above), to represent the close of the year-long challenge? Well, here’s what she told me… “The sky – I actually personally love that it wasn’t a sunset, but a blue sky. I see it as a fresh beginning! It is not the end of a challenge, but a fresh start as you are carried into a New Year, a new freedom. Every struggle, every sleepless night, every tear you might have shed over a week was not for nothing, but has carried you to a new place as an artist. The artist he continues to call you to be.”

 

God saw a greater need to change me than to change my art last year, and it’s a change that is still taking place to make me into the artist He wants me to be. Not a perfect one. Not a pretending one. Not a performance-based one. Rather an artist, as Lysa TerKeurst says, “…whose character has been developed to carry the weight of (my) calling.”

 

So as you pursue your own goals and challenges this year, I’d like to remind you of two things: First, resistance (even if that resistance is you) can be good if you don’t give in to it. It brings revelation and builds the ‘muscle’ and character that is needed to fulfill God’s purposes in our lives. Second, keep your focus on Him as you move forward in your goals, remembering that we should be living for an audience of One.

 

New Year’s Challenge – Part 1: “Flap Those Wings”

New Year’s Challenge – Part 1:  “Flap Those Wings”

 

I just reread the post I wrote last January, You’re Invited To The Unveilings. I have mixed emotions sitting on this side of that yearlong challenge as I reflect on all the goals I achieved and the ones I feel I fell short of. I sure learned a lot about myself and gleaned several life lessons along the way that I plan to share over the next 4 weeks. My hope in doing so is to pass on helpful tools as you start out the New Year with your own hopes and goals.

 

First off, I learned the power of our own initiative. I talked and whined about and wished for years to broaden my gift and use it more, yet I did nothing about it. Results came when I finally acted; but that happen only after I stopped focusing on all the obstacles and focused instead on the possibilities. It reminds me of a time when I was sitting at my desk watching a flock of wild turkeys in our backyard. They got separated and half were on the far side of our fence and the other half were still in our backyard. One was just distraught, wanting desperately to get to the other side of the fence. He kept pacing along it incessantly for over 5 minutes. I felt so bad for him as I watched, so my mom went out to open the gate to the fence for the turkey to be able to get to the other side. What was so fascinating and intriguing to me was that when the turkey saw my mom he was frightened and quickly flapped his big wings and flew over the fence!! I couldn’t help but wonder why he didn’t do that in the first place. But wasn’t that just like me (and maybe you), wanting something desperately, yet for years I didn’t ‘flap my wings’ to achieve it – even though it was well within my power.

 

Secondly, I learned the power of commitment. Once I had the thought to do a weekly challenge, I was filled with excitement and inspiration (and fear)! But it was the passion and determination to become who I wanted to be that drove me to commit to creating a new piece of art each week. Dawn Chere once said, “Your commitment is your strength.” She was right. I created new art the week my dad had a heart attack, the weeks I was traveling and even the week I had surgery. Without that resolve in my spirit each week, which came from an upfront commitment, I would have easily said, “Not this week”. I learned that it’s not about being strong, but being faithful. Its diligent persistence that yields the results we want; it’s what filled my blocks of watercolor paper and sketchbooks with 50 new paintings and drawings last year.

 

Lastly (for this post), Holley Gerth helped me to see that we don’t have to feel ready to take on challenges, we just have to show up. She says, “(God) will give to us and then He’ll give through us. We’re simply asked to be willing and brave enough to do it as we are and not as we’d like to be”. Those are just such powerful words to me. They remove the power of lies and excuses that keep us bound from pursuing and achieving more…now. Each week it didn’t matter if I was exhausted or uninspired, I just had to be present. So, might I encourage you to “show up” and “flap your wings” today?

 

“When you pray, work to achieve what you pray for.” – William Carey

 

Unveiling #50: “He Enables Me”

Unveiling #50:  “He Enables Me”

 

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3:19

 

 

 

Recently the Lord put Habakkuk 3:19 on my heart to pray over my friend. As I read the verse, my own spirit testified as I reflected on this year-long challenge that I committed to. While I do not regret at all taking on the challenge, it did evolve into far more than I ever knew I was signing up for. MANY weekends I was up until 4 AM, 5 AM, 6AM… working away so I could have it finished by Monday each week. But that was only part of it; the actual challenge was so much harder for this perfectionist than I ever dreamt. I share all of that only to say, it was the Lord alone that enabled me to stay with it each week and “tread on the heights”.

 

I would have thought that by week 50 it would all go a little easier for me…but n-o-o-o. It wasn’t the deer that gave me a run for my money, but the sky. Yep. Man, did it ever beat me up. I drew the whole thing out and just could not get the sky right so I kept layering and layering (on that first one I was trying to do a sunset to represent the ending of this challenge). So I redrew the deer and tried again, only to over-layer that sky too. Well, my family was in town for Christmas and all of this was taking me away from them. I left for the Christmas Eve service so discouraged because I was DETERMINED to nail the sky WITHOUT layering since this was my last piece, yet, I knew I needed it done in order to post Monday evening…which would mean more time away from my family that I only get to see twice a year. Well, during worship in the Christmas Eve service God released my spirit from the self-imposed ‘law’ that I needed to post it on Monday. It was awesome as I literally felt the weight and stress lift. While I had many goals with this challenge, at the heart of them all was to gain freedom. God gave me that on Christmas Eve.

 

The only thing that was important to me was that I post this final challenge while it was still 2016…which it is! …albeit, just barely. 🙂 Once my sister and her family left on Thursday I headed back out to the studio to tackle this final piece. Unfortunately, I again struggled terribly with the sky. The larger the area that you work in watercolor, the harder it is to create a smooth look. I believe I did 7 attempts at the sky before I nailed it on this one.  Thankfully, once the sky was done, the rest flowed.

 

“He Enables Me” is an interesting final piece to me as it is a perfect blend of everything I fought so hard for all year (loose brushwork – in the ground and less layering – in the sky) as well as what comes so naturally for me (detail and a tighter style). I really like the way they play off each other and would not be surprised if this is a harbinger of what my work will be like moving forward.

 

I really cannot believe 50 weeks have come and gone. I have learned so much through this experience; yes, about art, but countless life lessons and more. That said, I plan to write a post each week in January to share with you some of those treasures that will hopefully resonate with you in your own story. In the meantime, let me take this opportunity to say a HUGE THANK YOU to those of you who so faithfully supported me throughout this year. It may have simply been clicking “like” on Facebook, but you will never know how that translated into cheers, encouraging me to keep going. And for those of you who commented and shared with me in person your support, THANK YOU. Your words were treasured in this struggling artist’s heart. You all made this journey that much more special and doable for me. Thank you again and I wish each of you a Blessed and Fruitful New Year!!

 

If you missed my post which explains this year-long challenge, please read You’re Invited To The Unveilings.

 

Unveiling #49: “All For Him”

Unveiling #49:  “All For Him”

 

I am a huge fan of this time of year. Okay, no, not all the stress, but all of the beauty and festivity that permeates this season. While so so many are missing the true meaning of Christmas, and are even fighting to keep that meaning OUT of Christmas (???), all the decorations and hubbub are all for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. They can argue, but that is what Christmas is…period.

 

 

I love decorating my studio for Christmas with retro accents. It takes me back to my Christmases as a child at my Grandma Morrison’s house. Such great memories! My entire tree is filled with old vintage Christmas balls, so I thought that’d make for a good challenge. I am really excited over this week’s as not only is it loose, but I didn’t over-layer it for once!!! Woo hoo!!!!! It is hard to believe I only have one more week left in this challenge. If you missed my post which explains this year-long challenge, please read You’re Invited To The Unveilings. I thought I’d give you a peek into ‘Christmas in the studio’…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Health and Card Update

Health and Card Update

 

I want to begin by thanking everyone who prayed for my surgery this past Wednesday. Everything went very smoothly and I was actually able to come home later that evening!! That was a first for me! I was just sharing with my sister today how weird it is to be living life as ‘normal’ right after surgery as I have always been in a body cast or not allowed to bear weight for weeks/months after surgery. Plus, I did not do a spinal this time, so I have not been battling the nausea and severe headaches that plagued me with my last few surgeries. So I am one happy camper as I move forward without feeling like I ever had surgery…aside from a hip and leg that is sore and mummied with layers and layers of gauze!

 

On a different note, I can finally say that the Christmas cards as well as note cards are available for purchase on my website here! If you want me to give them to you in person, please private message me through Facebook or subscribers, reply to this email and I will give you a coupon code to bypass shipping charges. I am so sorry that these are as late in coming as they are, but I will mail all orders out immediately using Priority Mail. They say good things come to those who wait! …I hope you will think these are “good things”. 🙂

 

Unveiling #48: “Lips of Praise”

Unveiling #48:  “Lips of Praise”

 

Last week was a bad week for me…a really bad week. If it could have gone wrong, it did. If it shouldn’t have gone wrong, it did. It came from all different directions and was to the point of ridiculous!!! Every day I was surrounded by frustration, exasperation and discouragement, but Psalm 34:1 states, “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” That is my heart and that is my goal; to praise my God when things are going my way and to praise Him when nothing is going my way. His worthiness and my circumstances have nothing to do with each other. Nothing.

 

lips-of-praise

 

So I decided to paint my lips this week as a reminder of Psalm 34:1. If you zoom in you will see plenty of loose brushstrokes (yay!!), but I definitely layered the lips more than I wanted to…a lot more. UGH!!!! Some habits are sooooo hard to break!!! Two weeks left and I am still NOT giving up!!! If you missed my post which explains this year-long challenge, please read You’re Invited To The Unveilings.

 

On a very different note, I wanted to let you know that I am having surgery tomorrow morning on my left hip to remove hardware from a surgery that I had in 2009. It has come up fairly quickly as I’ve been having issues with the hardware over the past several weeks. Overall, the surgery should be fairly simple, but prayers would still be appreciated!!

 

Coming NOT so soon – New Christmas Cards and Notecards

Coming NOT so soon – New Christmas Cards and Notecards

 

Unfortunately, my new Christmas cards and notecards will not be available tomorrow like I had told you, but now I am told next Friday. I am so disappointed and feel absolutely terrible for all of you who have planned to buy these to send and/or as gifts. Very little has gone the way I wanted it to this week, and despite my best efforts, I cannot move mountains. In the midst of all my frustrations I hear the Lord whispering, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) I told my friend today that I am trusting God to use all that has gone wrong this week for His glory, so all is well. Again though, I am really sorry if I have messed you up. In the meantime, let me give you a peek into the Artist Statement for each painting that will be printed on the back of each card.

 

god-with-us-wm

 

God With Us

Matthew 1:23 says, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” — which means, “God with us.”   In this painting I have portrayed Jesus as a baby holding on to ‘man’ to communicate how God is with us. He is with us in every season. In Isaiah 43:2 we are told, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” God never promised us immunity from trouble, but He did promise to never leave us or forsake us. He is Immanuel, God with us.

 

Inside: May you feel God’s presence this Christmas season.

 

blessed-is-she-wm

 

Blessed Is She

“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” Luke 1:45 Just as Elizabeth spoke these words to Jesus’ mother, Mary, so are we blessed when we choose to believe that God is faithful to his promises. We may not understand the process He takes us through between a promise made and a promise fulfilled, but we don’t have to. He is God and He is accomplishing far more than our eyes can see on this side of our promises.

The orange Poppy is symbolic: Orange is often associated with fall, the season of harvest. Waiting on God’s promises is much like waiting for a harvest. Orange is also the color of fire which signifies one being tested and proven. Finally, the color orange represents boldness, intimacy and companionship with God.

 

Inside: Blank

 

individuality-wm

 

Individuality

This painting is of my mom’s hybrid Irises along what used to be a barn, but is now my art studio! I look at each Iris and see such uniqueness and am reminded of how uniquely God created you and me. The definition of individuality is “the quality or character of a particular person or thing that distinguishes them from others of the same kind, especially when strongly marked.”

Being born with a form of dwarfism, I was born distinctly different. As a child, I just wanted to blend in and be like everyone else. As an adult, I have learned not only is it okay to be different, but it is beautiful. When we wear our uniqueness proudly, it becomes the essence of our beauty; so, be the most beautiful version of yourself by shining in who God has made YOU to be!

 

Inside: Blank

Unveiling #47: “Whitetail Rack”

Unveiling #47:  “Whitetail Rack”

 

Where to begin? This week’s challenge was inspired by two different things. First, I love incorporating antlers in decorating…especially in the wintertime and especially at our cabin! Knowing my buddy was visiting his parents in Louisiana where he and his dad have (what I understand to be) quite the collection of deer racks and sheds, I asked him to grab me some! This was the treasure he picked out and that is soon to grace my room at the cabin! Thank you, Britt!!

 

whitetail-rack-wm

 

The other inspiration came last week when my friend and I were traveling. On the last day of our trip we were looking for things to do, when she found information on a shooting range in the area. Well, I have been wanting to go shooting with this friend for some time now, so it seemed like the perfect time go! To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I’d have enough hand strength to pull the trigger, but I did! Cocking the gun, now that was another story. 🙂 I ended up shooting 50 rounds with a 9mm Glock 19…and loved every minute of it! It was sooo fun!! For those who don’t know me well, you will never ever find me shooting an animal, but if it’s a target, sign me up!!  Well, the same day that we went shooting, I came home to a big box from my friend. Inside…this whitetail deer antler rack! It seemed like the perfect arrangement… I got to shoot, I got antlers to decorate with, and I didn’t kill anything!! Haha.

 

shooting-range-duo

 

I am so determined to become markedly looser in my painting style before this year ends, so this week was difficult for me because the antlers are BEAUTIFUL. The colors are so rich and the detail on them looks like wood! I so wanted to paint it all, but forced myself to stop before I over layered the piece. Of course, having a very small window of time to work this week helped my cause. 🙂 If you missed my post which explains this year-long challenge, please read You’re Invited To The Unveilings.