From the Archive: Hidden Treasure

Adventures in Frustration or A Hidden Treasure

Sunday, October 1, 2006

The light in October is beautiful and totally worth sacrificing breakfast and a little sleep to capture.  That’s why this past Saturday morning found me out in a field, in the early morning, waiting for the sun to illuminate dew drops just the right way.  The light was perfect and the sky was stunning, but at this location, I couldn’t find a view without power lines.  In the end, I trudged home, wet and frustrated, in search of coffee,  having decided that the “shoot” was a bust.

When I got home and off-loaded the 50 or so shots that I had taken, my suspicions were confirmed.  Between the ever-present power lines & my shaking hands, {It was cold as well as early…} none of the shots turned out to be what I envisioned when I set out.  Too blurry or too full of extra information, there didn’t seem to be any keepers except for one set of three shots that had pretty color in the sky and a silhouetted flower stalk with a single dew drop, in the foreground.   Of the three, one shot was in focus;  I liked the composition of another;  and one seemed unimpressive on both fronts.  Obviously they didn’t strike me as magical when I shot them, because I didn’t even remember taking them.  Still, I was pretty glad that there was some payoff for the pile of wet clothes and all the frustration inside my head and spilling onto Randy.

{And by the way, when is my creative practice ever worth sacrificing important relationships?…}

I decided late last night to take the one shot that had decent composition and fashion some sort of apology to Rands for being such a grump.   I also decided to take a closer look at the few individual shots that were closest to my ideal and see if metadata and intense scrutiny would reveal the adjustments needed for the situation next time.

{the situation =  the place of dealing with change, discomfort and an environment that doesn’t match large ideals.}

I almost missed it.  I almost hit delete…

September sky in dewdrop

There hidden inside the third unimpressive shot was a hidden treasure.  Reflected in the face of the dew drop was an image of the incredible sky that I had been striving so hard to capture.  There suspended on the end of a dried flower stalk, in a throw away shot, was a reminder that anything that I “create” is simply a reflection of God’s glory.   It was a prompt to look closely at what seems to be, by my analysis something to discard, and find every bit of what God has for me.

By |2016-10-19T14:20:34-04:00August 16th, 2011|Archive, Art is Life is Art|1 Comment

Art is Life is Art: A week in my pocket

Still pulling my iPhone out of my pocket and capturing our life, one day at a time.

{and still in love with the Instagram app.}

{Feb 20 – Feb 26}

egg flower

best hostess gift ever

{20 Feb Organic eggs from the used-to-be-ours-now-they’re-O’Mara’s chickens.  The best hostess gift ever.}

kitty parrot

{21 Feb DaFee the Kitty Parrot – I know, our pet nicknames are beyond ridiculous…}

antioxidents III

{22 Feb – Antioxidants III – R & I are still on a nutritional kick that includes morning scrambles with lots of veggies.}

chain coffee drinker

daily arsenal

{23 Feb Sometimes I am a chain coffee drinker…}

{23 Feb  And as of late, am always honest on the pages.}

look at both sides

{24 Feb Daffodils are in bloom here in Atlanta.  Since the house is south facing, I get a reminder to view situations from all sides every time I walk out the front door.

Vanishing point

{24 Feb Sunset and vanishing points}

R working

{25 Feb R working super late = me being super grumpy about our late dinner.   I was much better after an appetizer…}

blossom sky

26 Feb {Bradford Pear about to blossom}

By |2016-10-19T14:20:37-04:00March 8th, 2011|Art is Life is Art, photography|2 Comments

Mandala Monday: {or Thursday} sketches in journals

2011 marks the fifth time that I have begun the calendar year with an extended fast.  These fasting experiences have been life-changing.  And while I’ve been delighted with the physical and emotional benefits of feeling light and clear; for me, it is first and foremost, a spiritual endeavor.  The first year that I took up the journey, was full of victory.  Quite frankly, because of my intimate connection with food, I emerged, delighted that I even survived!  I managed to cook for my family, make it through blood-sugar ups and downs and deal with my grumpy self.  I substituted verbal prayer for food and came out at the end with a huge sense of accomplishment and perspective.  It wasn’t until it was over that I realized I hadn’t really documented the journey very well.  No journaling, photographs or epiphanies, just survival and jeans that were a little loose.


In the subsequent years, I have been more proactive about journaling/capturing the insights and clarity that come during a fast.  And, for the past four years have also chosen a Word-for-the-Year.  {Although it feels more like the words choose me…}


Somewhere amidst the writing and words, I also started using images and drawings to capture the insights that come when food is out of the way.   Unbeknownst to me, art journalers all over the world were already combining everything like this.   But for me, to stop compartmentalizing my art world and my word world, was a new discovery.  The fasting, in it’s clarifying, back-door way pointed to the “everything journals” that have become part of my daily practice.   In the last two years, the images and sketches have included mandalas.  They are my go-to sketches.  I love how, whatever my actual level of awareness, they seem to capture mood and place.  Whether it’s facilitating the start of a drawing or relaxing to let the word flow begin, mandalas are all over my pages.  Here is this year’s word ACTIVATE with matching doodles and mandalas.  Hey 2011, I believe we’re off to a good start.

Activate - doodle 1

Activate - doodle 2

By |2016-10-19T14:20:37-04:00February 2nd, 2011|Art is Life is Art, Journals|0 Comments

wild thyme photos: Yellow

“How wonderful yellow is. It stands for the sun.” –Vincent Van Gogh

I’m not really a yellow girl.  {except for where it sets off blue…}  But it seems that there was more yellow in my September and October than I realized.

soft and curvy


Sunflower w pink bokeh

By |2016-10-19T14:20:38-04:00October 28th, 2010|photography|2 Comments

Art is Life is Art: 15 things to do with a paper heart

paper heart {what shall I do with you?}

The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.

Pablo Picasso

While I’m getting better at storing and classifying the piles of ephemera that I collect “for art’s sake”, I still manage to annoy my husband at least once a week with my bits and pieces of paper, labels, tickets and packaging.  The latest “incident” was over a pink paper bag from an art gallery purchase. The original contents were a hand-thrown dragonfly platter and a Southern cookbook. The paper bag in question was rescued from the trash bin on several occasions and eventually got used for beautiful paper hearts. When the paper hearts ended up spending a couple of days on the kitchen counter, I again had to answer the question:

What are you going to do with those/this/it?

Usually, the answer is one of the following:

* Uh, I don’t know…YET.

* Something.

or his  favorite

* It/they haven’t told me.

The situation is not that bad. As a creative himself, R is understanding and supportive of my “collections” and process.  Except that as a sound designer and super-stream-lined dude, he wishes our world was paperless. Which is tough when my main art form involves lots of paper. My solution? A list, of course!

Here’s the list that I started for him. I said a couple of them out loud and then got so excited that I kept adding things to do.

15 things to do  with a paper heart

1.  Have a photoshoot.

The Girl & a paper heart bouquet

2.  Write a note on it and tuck it into someone’s pocket.

3.  Glue it in your journal.

4.  Leave it at a bookstore/in a coffee shop/on a swing for someone to find.

paper heart on a swing

5.  Write your Self an encouraging note.

6.  Fill it with doodles.

7.  Tear it in half and make a list of all the things that have broken your heart.

8.  Write a list of all the people and things you love around the edge of the heart. You may need more than one paper heart.

9.  Write down your three “safe people” in the very middle of the heart. You probably only need one paper heart for this as the number should stay small.

9.  Hang it in a window with a beautiful piece of ribbon.

10. Add sticks and make a heart bouquet

paper hearts & swing

11.  Decorate it with lace and glitter.

12.  Frame it and hang it on the wall.

13.  Tape it to the outside of your next letter. Even if it’s a bill.

14.  Use it as a bookmark.

15.  Don’t be afraid; give your heart away.

paper heart for you


By |2018-02-12T10:41:50-04:00September 28th, 2010|Art is Life is Art, photography|13 Comments

Art is life is Art: Deadlines, coffee makers & other reasons

It’s official.  Summer is really over.  The air was crispy this morning, the chrysanthemums are out and school has officially started.  We started classes last week and even I made lesson plans this past weekend.  Things are getting busy around here too.  There are wild thyme creative workshops, a studio refurbish in process and the Littles want to learn to draw – which means more movement – which means more structure.  Not a bad thing – just a change thing.  When there’s more on the calendar, creativity happens differently. {Did I mention that I actually made lesson plans?}

I recently commented on a 30-day project from my friend Dan {at A Big Creative Yes}.  He listed his creative product for the day, which included an impressive 750 word list, each word associated to the word before it.  In describing the process he said:  “I wanted to write sentences, and as I was writing, little potential avenues for poems were appearing and I chose to ignore them.”

I replied:  “What a classic example of the tension between the discipline parts of art vs. the “inspiration”. I know that sometimes I choose to stay in an exercise and sometimes I follow the “avenues” that come up. I’m learning to pay attention to which mode serves best in the moment – not always easy for me to discern. Sometimes it’s an external factor like a deadline or client expectation that makes the determination and other times an internal insight.”

I’m feeling the shift that comes with the school year.  Summer is just more free.  There’s more time and more ability to be reactive to the creative process.  {and lots of sunlight for inspiration and energy.}  The autumn brings different light, fabulous in its own way.  {but there’s less of it, which matters in my world…}   Autumn has its own pace – with less space for the creative process.  I have to MAKE room.  I find myself wondering:

Do I shoot {write-draw-paint} from the inside —-> out OR the outside —–> in?

It’s both I think, but in Autumn/Winter because of the nature of the beast, I use more structure.  So, calendars & deadlines here I come!

Speaking of structure, I entered this photo:

" Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos."  ~Don Kardong

into this contest:  Summer Photo Contest at Parenting by Dummies This is a fun, fun blog with great photos and sass.

{You should check it out AND vote for this photo of The Girl – I’m being shameless because there is a nice coffee maker involved…}

P.S.  Thank you Seven Clown Circus for the selection

By |2016-10-19T14:20:39-04:00September 13th, 2010|Art is Life is Art, photography, Uncategorized|2 Comments

On the way home, on purpose, with chocolate this time

Meticulous planning will enable everything a man does to appear spontaneous.
Mark Caine

Stopped at the park, on the way home from dinner last night to take some photos of The Girl.  While this sounds terribly spontaneous, it was only sort of spontaneous.  I actually took some 100% spontaneous shots the other day after lunch.  The flavor was strawberry with chocolate sprinkles, and the sun was a little too bright.  We were going from voice lessons to Economics lecture and we were all {including the ice cream cone} a little melty.  It was a one of those moments where I grabbed my camera and shot quickly, but didn’t really get what I wanted.  Except that I loved the idea of The Girl and an ice cream cone.

strawberry w snappy eyes & chocolate sprinkles

The concept of planning is quite the mixed bag for me.  On many fronts, I am a planner.  I like to understand, not only what I’m up against, but how I’m going to handle the situation.  I make lists, print out maps, ask questions & do research, all in an attempt to predict the details in any given scenario.  This basic approach is almost impossible for me to separate from my artistic life and endeavors.

But in many ways, I am a Romantic with expectations that inspiration and opportunity will fall into place and I’ll just happen to be there to catch it.  I am deeply aware that sometimes art is a response to a moment.  In a Romantic’s world, the sun shines just the right way;  words fall in just the right order; and a wandering blob of paint inspires.   However, this romantic ideal sits in a place of tension with Ideas-From-The-Planning-Girl-That-Likes-to-Know.

I believe that both approaches are full of possibility.  My Romantic Self is no longer offended when I plan the details of a shoot.  And, as I reign in the all-or-nothing-ness and perfectionism of the other end of the spectrum, I more often see spontaneous opportunities.


The chocolate photos were a bit more planned.  I chose the time of day when the light would be golden.  {And let me take this opportunity to sing the praises of the iPhone app Darkness – great if you want to pinpoint Magic Hour.}

I also asked The Girl to put her hair in pigtails and went to a park where I knew I could get the background I wanted.    It’s hard to imagine that I used to think that attending to those details was “cheating”, but thus run the lies of perfectionism and the strange expectations of Romanticism.

When I shot the Strawberry, I was envisioning the Chocolate.   So, we shot with ice cream again.  {It was an easy sell to the model and I was glad to be shooting with a plan and inspiration all at the same time.}

" Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos." ~Don Kardong

By |2016-10-19T14:20:39-04:00September 3rd, 2010|photography|3 Comments

Art is Life is Art: endings are beginnings

My new late-summer tradition is a letter from the HOA reprimanding me for the “weeds” in my flower beds.

Ah, clip-board-lady they are weeds to you, but to me, they are:

* Perching Places.  for the Yellow Finch and his mate.  They visit every year.  {although maybe by now it’s his son and daughter-in-law or a distant cousin.}

* Provision.  for aforementioned birds and, once the seeds fall to the ground, their friends who prefer to eat on the ground.  Sunflowers are by far the favorite.

* Winter Interest.  Have you ever seen echinacea spikes and daisy stems covered in frost??

* Hope.  And a reminder of my life.  Because even though the whole mess looks dead and messy, really, it is full of life.  It feeds and nurtures and stands {well, sort of droops} as a reminder of the blooms that will return in the Spring.

endings are beginnings

By |2016-10-19T14:20:39-04:00September 1st, 2010|Art is Life is Art, photography|5 Comments

Art is life is art: Daily habits & Inspiration

Yesterday, I got a precious note from a new art friend with the subject line:  Inspire. She says my pages inspire her.  So humbling and wonderful to hear.  It brought this quote from Marian Bantjes to mind: “Inspiration is cross-pollinating.”

"Inspiration is cross-pollinating" Marian Bantjes

I found myself dumbfounded when I read the word inspire, because I don’t think of my pages as inspirational.  I’m not trying to be overly modest or deny my talent, I am just very aware that my pages were created in the midst of everyday life. To me they’re muddy, messy and raw.  {and often in the never-never land of unfinished work/idea capture.} If there’s any inspiration in my pages, I think it comes from the fact that they happen in and around my life.  I love the quote because it captures the illusive way that inspiration happens.

It passes from person to person and from sunset to moonlight.  Sometimes flying through the wind or on butterfly wings…

"Inspiration is cross-pollinating" Marian Bartjes

I wrestle with managing time like most people and have found a tremendous amount of give and take in the small moments.  Left to my natural bent, I am very “all or nothing” in my approach to any project or task.  It used to be if I couldn’t finish it, make it perfect and/or win something {approval, a prize or recognition} that I didn’t even take it up.  This carried over into all aspects of my life.  Needless to say, life doesn’t work that way.  The unexpected comes.  Limits are realized.  Lack of perfection rears it’s ugly head.  People don’t see.  It had gotten to the point where my life was full of teaching and empowering other creatives, but I had stopped creating.  The list of why I had stopped was long:

*  I had no dedicated space.

*  As a homeschooling mom of five, there seemed to be no time.

*  Art is messy.

*  Art costs  money.

*  To justify making art, I felt like I needed to sell art.

*  I wasn’t sure anyone wanted to buy my art.  {circle round to points above}

*  Because I get lost in my all-or-nothing ways, I was afraid that wouldn’t tend to my family properly.

These were just a few of my objections, which stayed firmly in place, until I traveled with a friend to CO for some down time.  No kids, no husband, just time away for thinking and retreating.  It was January and I had the new camera that my husband had bought and put in my hands at Christmas.  Despite my arguments against the purchase, he said simply, “It’s time.”  On that trip, I realized how uncomfortable I had become with my creative self.  And acknowledged that I had put all of my creativity, literally and figuratively, in a box in the closet.  I had taken a blank journal on the trip with me, but I had entered nothing but the words of others.   When I came home, I had a few photos on the new camera, some thoughts of my own that needed a place to go & the realization that I couldn’t hand The Creative Life to my children if I didn’t model it.

And thus began the transformation of my daily habits.  I started carrying my camera and an empty book around with me.  At first the books were filled mostly with sermon notes and quotes from the books I was reading.  My sketching was really rusty and a constant source of frustration, so, for images,I turned to the camera more and more often.  Until I found this book:

The Decorated Page by Gwen Diehn


My pages started to change.  First, with swirly text, then to turning the book around occasionally and writing upside down or in circles.  Eventually I was gluing in ephemera and adding color and paint.   And then I found this book:

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

The Artist's Way

In its pages,  I found a little more permission to call myself an artist and make art.

Today, art is a daily habit.  It’s the way that I begin my day.  I am more myself, if I wake up early in the morning to read and write for an hour. In that time, I also, orient to the calendar, and often decorate a page for the day.  These days, in addition to my camera, I carry around ridiculous numbers of pens and crayons for making pages.  And I don’t apologize for stopping and writing down a quote or taking a photo.  Despite those habits, I have continued to avoid sketching.  Mostly because it’s a skill that’s rusty and not perfect.

Then yesterday, I ran across this book:

Start to Draw your Life by Michael Nobbs


It’s full of inspiration and ideas for adding the habit of drawing to your life.  {you can download the free ebook HERE}

Here’s my first sketch. {I took 30 min. of my morning time.}  It’s not finished, nor is it perfect, but it’s a start.

Draw Your Life 08/19 2010

I’ll have to work this habit into my days.  No doubt one thing or another will fall through the cracks, but I’m getting better at picking up the pieces and gluing them into my books.

I have been and am being inspired by others.

And I am, with my every day life and daily habits participating in the cross-pollination of inspiration.

Inspiration, pass it on.

sun on a rainy day

By |2016-10-19T14:20:39-04:00August 19th, 2010|Art is Life is Art, photography|11 Comments

silhouette of a bedhead

I’m learning to stop when something catches my attention. Whether I am delighted or repulsed. Whether it’s good design or a powerful word combination. I stop, notice and take note with what’s at hand.

This means:

* keeping a list of books I want to read.

* underlining passages.

* writing notes.

* walking through the garden {slowly}.


* taking quick iPhone photos of things that catch my eye.