Brown Paper Musings

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“Perfectionism is very dangerous, because of course if your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything…

It’s actually kind of tragic, because it means you sacrifice how gorgeous and perfect it is in your head for what it really is.”

~ David Foster Wallace

Perfectionism is no friend of vibrant creativity.  As a matter of fact, perfectionism will dilute and stall even the strongest of artistic practices.  The creative soul’s magical superhero power is to envision something new.   We create a painting, or a conversation or an experience.  We breathe life into rooms.  We take something old and make something new.

And sometimes the thing we create is not the thing we envisioned, so we judge it.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Brene Brown said this about perfectionism:

”What emerged for me in the data is that perfectionism is not about striving for excellence or healthy striving.  It’s… a way of thinking and feeling that says this: ‘If I look perfect, do it perfect, work perfect and live perfect, I can avoid or minimize shame, blame and judgment.'”

I remember sitting in a college drawing class discussing the importance of the correct kind of paper.  After all, we were creating important works of art that needed to last beyond our lifetime.  As we discussed the weight and the ph balance of the paper and the proper way to store and display, I picked up an ideal that became perfectionism.  I stopped playing and practicing and became quite serious about always creating high level work with only the best supplies.

Those ideals about lofty end product and perfect working spaces almost choked my practice out.  If I’m honest, I still wrestle with perfectionism on the regular, but I’ve learned a trick or two since my school days.

One of the things I do to step away from perfectionism is to create on highly acidic brown paper.   I create small journals from brown paper bags and fill them with everything.  Sketches, lists, collages.  I call them my “Brown Paper Musings” and on these brown pages, I freely gather my artistic thoughts and speak my truth.  I enjoy the process of creating rather than getting lost in idealistic end results.

13 July 2015 Drawing maps and asking questions with nuance. As I have learned to listen to my "inside voice" I find that one of the hardest places to weigh and measure is figuring out when I must overcome resistance and when I should pay close attention to danger signs. #learning #listening #soultending

By choosing simple, humble grocery bags as my substrate, I recognize from the beginning, the impermanence of the work.  It “right-sizes” me and the work.  It frees us both to be exactly what we are and where we are.  It keeps my creative practice alive and moving.   Sometimes I even find myself drawing on super expensive, 100% cotton paper.

I wish for you today, some brown paper and safe places to create.

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BE in your life,


By |2016-10-19T14:20:30-04:00October 14th, 2015|Uncategorized|3 Comments

Art is life is art: April – SURRENDER

The word for April is SURRENDER.

After a discussion about the creative process, my friend, Meghan Arias and I decided to embrace a bit of structure in the form of a monthly prompt.  It’s pretty simple.  We choose a word; we respond.  {You are welcome to join us by linking to your response in the comment section.}

I’ve been contemplating the idea of SURRENDER for weeks now.  I looked at dictionary definitions and I wrote words.


[suh-ren-der] to give oneself up, as into the power of another; submit or yield. {In case you were wondering.}

At first, the main image in my mind’s eye was a white flag.  I imagined climbing out of a foxhole and walking across a field with my hands up.  But I never could decide who the “enemy” was and what I was giving up.  Besides, that image is dripping with negative connotation and wasn’t really a match for the excitement I felt in taking up this collaboration.  Eventually, after much journaling and thinking out in the garden, I landed on the image of a flowing stream.  This is what I painted.


I realized that for me, getting in the flow of a current is a more accurate picture.  The surrender that was on my heart, was not a losing-a-battle surrender, but a yielding.  An acceptance of where and who I am. I wanted to capture the sensation of flowing water and the movement of thought that we face, as we make decisions and move through life.

Surrender {detail}

I love that some of the close up shots look like waterfalls.

Surrender {detail}

And others capture the organic quality of movement and flow.

Surrender {detail}

Somewhere in my musings, I realized that for me, TRUST and SURRENDER are intimately connected.  I find it extremely difficult to surrender to a situation where I don’t trust.  {Either the people or the circumstance}  As I began to paint from the preliminary Sharpie marker sketch in my journal, I decided that the painting needed a boat.   Not a big boat or even something with a paddle, but a paper boat.  One being swept away by the current.  Not a terrifying, out-of-control, sweeping away, but a choice-to-be-in-the-flow-of-life.  Like a child lovingly releasing a favorite paper boat.

Surrender {detail}

The initial under-painting was dark.  Too dark.  Probably born out of my searching {and the difference between acrylic and marker}  But silver paint, like reflections on the water, lightened things up and gave the cohesiveness that  I was looking for.   The silver, like SURRENDER, unified the swirling thoughts on the bank and the moving water with the little paper boat called Trust.

Trust is a paper boat

“You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.”

Anton Chekov

EDIT:  Yay!  Meghan just posted her response.  It’s a different take.   A lovely, heartfelt different take.

Go listen.

By |2016-10-19T14:20:36-04:00April 30th, 2011|Art is Life is Art|12 Comments

Art makes a difference

Here are my Friday night plans.


Because I believe that art = change, I donated  this mixed-media piece and decorated journal to Gift Card Giver Art Auction.



Gift Card Giver is an organization that uses gift card balances and full cards to make a difference in the lives of those in need.  Check out their story HERE.

If you’re in the Atlanta, GA area come buy some original art.  Your walls will thank you {and so will that child who needs a winter coat or food.}

Hope to see you there!


By |2016-10-19T14:20:38-04:00November 12th, 2010|Art|0 Comments