Entries Tagged as 'getting started'

A New Conversation

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A New Conversation

I sold the Survivors painting, and I’ve been missing  those big-faced flowers around the house. So last night I started this new one.

I had just two hours to work, so I gave myself a few parameters: Paint quickly, use all the paint, and follow my first impulse.

Working on a new painting is like the precious time connecting with a dear friend. I don’t get to see my closest friends every day; nor am I able to paint every day. But I carry our dialogues with me, and they enrich my quality of life.

With a new painting in process, I’m once more happily in conversation. As long as I keep showing up, listening, and trusting my instincts, the painting will lead me home.

Flowers (part 1)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

flowers 1

“Easy is right. Begin right and you are easy. Continue easy and you are right.
The right way to go easy is to forget the right way and forget that the going is easy.”
Chuang Tzu

After getting irritated and bored with the painting in Minutia post, I started this painting with the intention of maintaining interest and curiosity throughout the process.  For me, this means following the enigmatic advice from Chuang Tzu.

I love what Tzu suggests about the natural flow of life energy and the creative process, and about the need to let go of attachment the idea of “the natural flow of life energy.” I memorized this quote years ago, and I repeat it to myself during times on the path where things don’t feel easy, and I seem to have lost the “right” way. It usually helps me soften and find my footing again, find my energy to keep going.

I’ll post my work on this painting each day until it’s finished, using Tzu’s poem as a compass. Stay tuned if you’d like to see what happens.

Easy is right.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014


“…remember that the light is within
if it is anywhere
and you must paint from the inside.”
Lawrence Ferlinghetti

“Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”
Steven Pressfield, from The War of Art

I’d been painting less than a year when this woman, who looked a touch like me, showed up on my life-sized canvas with an open window and birds where her heart was. She looked at me unblinkingly, the light inside her almost too much to bear, and I knew with absolute certainty that, in painting, I was becoming who I already was. I also knew that I’d keep painting, that I’d never again let something within my control stop me from making art.

The image reminded me of the Coptic icons in the church of my youth, but instead of a religious painting, I’d created a secular icon.  The woman in the piece seemed okay with the nature of life, with love coming and going like the birds from her open, well-lit window of a soul. She was encased in a soothing blue that faded to black, the shape of a temple door, perhaps, or a coffin, indicating acceptance of impermanence and death. Yet the light was so strong, I sensed it would continue long after the mysterious darkness claimed her. I’d been afraid of death since the cancer scares in my teens and early twenties, and this painting seemed to say, “Don’t be afraid.”

I didn’t have to look for these meanings, they were just there, as clear and simple as her big unwavering eyes.

I hung the piece in my house, but it proved too intense for me. She overpowered any room I put her in. It just didn’t feel…appropriate.

I showed the piece and was relieved to sell it to a young woman in nursing school who said she needed to see the image every day.  A couple of months later, she sent a card with photos of her smiling next to the painting, which she’d hung centrally in her living room in an Atlanta apartment. I marveled that the two women shared a resemblance, and in their smiles had forged a private relationship, one I wouldn’t be privy to–an inspiring one, I hoped.

I was glad the painting had found a new life with someone else. I needed to pull my own gaze back and focus on the next canvas.

The Baby and the Market

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

the baby and the market

Recently, a therapist quoted me a line she attributed to Carl Jung, “Don’t take the baby to the market.” It reminded me of the question of when to share our creative initiatives, and when to protect them from outside influences. When we  first start making art (broadly defined), even if the ultimate goal is to share with others (and there’s nothing wrong with that–connection is why we’re here), there may be rightful time for incubation, a sacred phase in which we need to keep something safe in the womb, just for us, while it’s gathering strength for the outside world.

I wish I’d known this at 21, when I decided to share a series of intimate black and white drawings with a public audience. I was in college studying political science, and I had stumbled upon drawing during my part-time job at a telephone survey center. I had a lot of idle time on my hands waiting for people to answer the phone and reject me, so one day I dusted off an old high school sketchbook and took to doodling to pass the  hours. However, I soon realized that the images were anything but doodles; they arrived whole with their own style and seemed to carry messages about parts of myself that needed healing, parts I didn’t want to acknowledge and didn’t know how to consciously face.

Drawing at work felt way too exposing, so I started coming home from classes and work and drawing every night. I had no idea what would come; I was just so curious, so fascinated. I didn’t ask any questions about what the drawings meant. I worried that doing so would stop the magic portal that had somehow opened to my soul. Probably the more likely truth is that I just didn’t know how to deal–let alone heal–so I was afraid to recognize how hurt and fragmented I was. So I just came home and drew, and the images kept coming, and I suppose they were their own kind of healing, though I didn’t know it at the time.

As the drawings accumulated, I showed them to a few people who suggested I do a little art show. I was excited about this and scheduled an opening at a casual local venue. I invited friends and family; friends and family came. A few people were even kind enough to buy things; that made me feel good.  I drew some more, and did another show, and then another.  But by the third show, something was wrong.  Some people liked the drawings, but others were whispering that they were disturbing. They didn’t connect. They didn’t know what the pictures were about.

Neither, in fact, did I. The problem was that I hadn’t gotten enough distance to see the messages in the work, to know how deeply personal the pictures were. I showed them to an audience before I understood them, which was equivalent to revealing a wound to people before I even knew its dimensions. When people didn’t understand my drawings, I felt like they didn’t understand me. And because I didn’t understand me yet, I couldn’t clarify, couldn’t even find my own ground inside where it was enough that I understood myself.

So I shut down. I packed up all the art supplies and slid them under my bed. I felt what I now know was good old shame. In her book Daring Greatly, researcher Brene Brown describes shame as the warm wash that makes us want to hide away our vulnerable parts, because we’re afraid that we’ll be deemed unworthy of love and belonging if others see us so exposed.  I’d exposed myself; I’d taken my baby to the market before I even knew its name, and my baby had gotten bumped and bruised. At that time in my life, this was too much for me. I wasn’t ready to stand with my art on my own terms, or even with myself for that matter. Sure, I was courageous to share, but in retrospect, I shared too early.

The shame was so great, I didn’t touch art supplies again for several years, until I started painting.

Why I Paint Trees

Monday, July 28, 2014

Why I Paint The Trees

Yesterday, a colleague asked me why I paint trees. It’s a question I’ve rarely answered because it’s a long answer, and I never know how interested someone really is. So here it is, if you’re interested, as I know it to be: Why I paint the trees.

It has, like most true stories do, more than one beginning.

Years before I started painting, I was sitting on a surgeon’s examination table awaiting lab results. He’d operated on me to remove pre-cancer when I was eighteen. There was a chance it would come back. This was my first confrontation with my mortality, and I was terrified.

I scanned the windowless walls for images to comfort me–a forest, perhaps, or a tree losing its leaves–something natural to remind me that all living things are in transition, that I was not alone. But I found nothing of the sort–no paintings, no posters, no plants, no art, no color.  It was the first time I distinctly remember missing trees–the first time I needed them and they weren’t there.

The incident stuck with me as I went to other appointments, routine and non-routine check-ups in the years that followed. Very few medical offices seemed to take an interest in art, and what decorum was there–a dusty fake plant, an amateur sea-side painting rescued from a deceased grandmother’s attic, a Wal-Mart poster in a shiny plastic frame–these struck me as vapid as the elevator music playing in the background. Why was this, I wondered? What other places did people go frightened and alone, facing the great unknown horizons of their lives, without access to natural light, windows, breathing plants, and other helpful reminders of the natural world? What other places were people vulnerable and waiting without anything close by to remind them of the larger whole?

I thought of prisons and hospitals, of windowless offices and apartment buildings and cells where people lived without access to nature or without art in their lives. I thought of the art I’d grown up with–the elaborate icons along the front of the Coptic Orthodox church of my youth–how many hours I’d escaped into them while the service droned on in a foreign tongue and the incense and fasting made me nauseous. I thought of the time my parents bought a painting at an art festival and arranged to send the artist 50 dollars a month until we paid it off. We were poor but to my parents, that painting was survival; they needed it.

All this made me think about art as necessity rather than as luxury.  I thought of the museum exhibits I’d seen where ancient cultures adorned their everyday objects with extraordinary beauty, using whatever was available–shells, stones, feathers, gems, clay. They didn’t have to make these items so ornate–after all, they were “just” utensils, water vessels, clothes, shoes, blankets–but they did. To me, this pointed to a way of living in which the everyday was sacred, was worth noticing and imbuing with intention, craftsmanship, wonder, and love. Perhaps you, too, know the feeling, the way morning coffee or tea tastes better from a handmade mug.

That was the first beginning with the trees.

Then, early in graduate school, I bought my first original painting for 400 dollars. It was an oil painting by a self-taught Gainesville artist, a passionate and informal impression of purple pines in late peach light. I hung the piece over my couch and spent countless hours staring into it, imagining I was walking through the pines towards the sunset behind them. It was an extravagant purchase; I’d used my student loan money to buy it, and it cost me as much as a month’s rent. But I needed the painting, needed the window it opened over my couch, and ultimately needed the new horizon it opened in my life.  That was the second beginning, but I still hadn’t started painting.

The third beginning had to do with a now-defunct place called the Gestalt Center of Gainesville, Inc. I was in training there for five years, in addition to the training I received in my graduate program. We had a joke around the Gestalt Center that school was the place you went to get licensed, but the Gestalt Center was where you learned to do therapy.  For me, that was the truth.

The Gestalt Center was run by my beloved mentor, the late Dr. Pat Korb, who was a contemporary of Fritz Perls. She was old when I met her, and very wise. On the chalk board at the Gestalt Center, the “rules” were written: 1) Show up. 2) Slow down. 3) When you speak, speak your truth. 4) Put your attention in the process, not the outcome.

I did a lot of my own personal work in those gestalt groups, and got to watch a masterful therapist work with many, many group members over the years. The mascot or symbol of the Center was a hand-drawn tree, with each of the roots symbolizing the theories and ways of being that support gestalt therapy, the trunk as the person-in-relation, and the branches as the skills and techniques available to a gestalt-oriented therapist.  The tree also represented a very important concept in gestalt therapy–that of holism, process, and the continual interaction between a living organism and its environment.  This was a different way of looking at myself and the life around me than the perfectionistic lens I’d been using. For me, trees came to represent a sort of vital acceptance–both of myself and of life as a process that could perhaps be trusted.

I started looking at the trees more intently, noticing their similarities and differences, learning their names. I also saw their scars, the places they’d been pruned or dropped branches in a storm. Places where they’d gotten a disease or suffered a bug infestation. Even the same kinds of trees were so different from each other. Their shape expressed something about their innate forms, but also their interactions with the environment.  I found in this metaphor permission to begin to accept myself. I could find no perfect tree, and no perfect me.  But I loved the trees for their differences, for their scars, for their ability to grow anyway, even if they weren’t quite getting the optimal resources. I began to love myself in this way, too.

When I felt the urge to paint, it was during one of these weekend gestalt groups. I actually got up in the middle of the group, left, and went to the art store right then. All these beginnings had gathered inside me enough to know and trust the urge. I’d wanted to paint for a while, and now it was time. I went home from the art store with my supplies and immediately started painting, trying to follow the same “rules” of process I’d learned at the gestalt center.  I wanted to just show up and paint my truth, and focus on the process rather than the result.  I wanted to allow whatever was inside me to emerge.

And then the trees just came.  They came as my first subjects, and though I painted (and still paint) other things, the trees keep coming. And they mean all these things to me, have all these beginnings, these possibilities for growth, for solace, for acceptance, for process.  I make my paintings thinking of those windowless rooms of my past, and those places in all our lives where we feel lost, frightened, and lose sight of how our story connects to a larger whole. I try to make the paintings I would have wanted to see in that surgeon’s room at 18, and the ones I still want to see today, when I’m waiting, when I’m worried, when I’m hurting, when I feel alone.  I want to bring the trees, and all they mean, inside, so I can be reminded, along with anyone else who needs the reminder, to show up, slow down, share our truth, and put our attention on the process of living.

On Lessons, Part 1

Thursday, July 24, 2014

On Lessons

I was wary of lessons. I was wary because I’d been a dutiful, studious girl since I was five years old, and I had a lot more lessons ahead of me. I was twenty-five when I caught the painting bug (or it caught me), waste-deep in student loan debt rising all the time, and six years out from Phinally Done. I couldn’t escape the desire to paint and ultimately succumbed to the call, but the last thing I wanted was to take another lesson before I could do what I wanted to do.

This posed a bit of a problem, though, because I didn’t know how to paint, and everyone around me suggested, kindly enough, I suppose, that I take some lessons to get started. They had a point, after all: I’d spent my high school art classes shirking the still lifes and nudes for the potter’s wheel, and during undergrad, I’d studied political science. Between high school and grad school, I only made some personal, abstract, and frankly disturbing pen-and-ink drawings. I was neither talented nor skilled at realistic rendering; nor did I derive any enjoyment from it. To me, realistic art felt like copying.

The way I saw it, why try to paint realistically when I could just take a picture? I know, I know–the capacity to depict something realistically is supposedly one of the artist’s finest tools.  And if I’d had a whole life to lead alongside the one I was living, I’d have happily studied formal painting while dressed in a fine corset, big hat, and high-laced boots alongside beret-clad, bad-breathed flirty Frenchmen on the shores of the Seine. Only I didn’t have that other life, I just had the one that I was in, broke and busy and full to the brim with lessons and homework and rudiments and administrative hoops and boring lecture upon boring lecture.  I didn’t want to study painting. I wanted to paint.

I knew from prior exposure that even beloved trailblazing artists were deemed more respectable because they’d birthed realistic art babies before they abandoned them.  This notion, however, sounded rather like hazing to me. Why spend years trying to acquire skills that my favorite artists had gleefully abandoned? Besides, I didn’t particularly like realistic art. The finest realistic stuff I’d seen in the museums wasn’t art I’d actually want to live with, work under, or even gaze at while recovering from a serious illness. I could certainly appreciate the Renaissance masters, marvel at how uncannily life-like their depictions were, to say nothing of how much time that must have taken, but those paintings, drawings, and sculptures didn’t move me. There was almost a chilly quality to that kind of precision, an absence of the soul, save for subtle distinctions in brush strokes, pigment quality, lighting, blah, blah, blah…

It was all so…safe.

I much preferred the wild, off-kilter work in which the artists had broken free of their formal training (if they had any to begin with). Those artists seemed to have gone off shrieking naked through the fields to get to new places where they found themselves reborn and brought us back the same tired world through their glowing never-to-be-alive-again eyes. That art wasn’t safe. That art made me want to rise, wiggle and shake. That art moved, and I moved with it.

I wanted to do that, too. I wanted to move and be moved by my own paintings.

Which brings me back to the matter of lessons. I was clear I didn’t want them, and equally clear that I wanted, possibly needed, to paint. What to do?

The first thing I did was buy some paints and canvases from the local art store with a little of that wonderful student loan money I keep mentioning. The second thing was to sit down on my floor, spread it all out, and put some paint on a brush and then on the canvas. The third thing was to keep going when I made work I didn’t want to live with, and the fourth thing was to accept that if I wasn’t going to take lessons, I would have to make my peace with learning on the job.

Making my peace with learning on the job meant that I had to define what success meant to me, since I wasn’t going to be defining my work against the work of others or assessing its merits according to other people’s standards. And if I wasn’t comparing my work to other people’s standards, how could I know if my paintings were any good? Indeed, without this external frame of reference, how could I even know if I liked my own paintings or not?

How I sorted this out could fill another dissertation, but I promise I won’t do that to either of us. I will write a little more on this later, but for now, suffice it to say that I did, gradually, stake my claim to a self-directed creative life. The liberation involved me stepping, one by one, through a substantial array of stinky piles, piles I didn’t even know existed until I was in them, piles I didn’t smell until I was learning to paint, learning to trust myself, and learning to clean my shoes.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I’ve heard artists wax poetic about their materials, about the creamy density of a particular white paint, the properties of glaze in fire, the saturation of magenta, the transparency of silk from far-off lands. I can appreciate these properties, too, but I personally find such conversations tiring. Finding the right materials for my work has been important, but in my process, materials are simply the tools. And like good tools, once I learn to use them, I don’t want to think about them.

As a minimalist, I need materials that don’t get in my way–easy in, easy out, nobody gets hurt. I like to work fast, so I use acrylics because they dry quickly, hold up reasonably well over time, don’t smell like cancer-in-the-making, and are versatile. I like that the paints are water-based and clean up quickly with water and soap. I wash my brushes with a cheap human two-in-one shampoo-conditioner in the bathroom sink. I rest and rinse my active brushes in repurposed yogurt containers filled with water. I use a sturdy wood easel that I purchased after painting for 6 months on my living room floor and getting back aches.

Acrylics also allow me to experiment in ways that are low-stakes. All my learning happens on the job in a painting (I don’t do test sketches or mock ups.) This way, as long as the underpainting is dry, I can try out a color or shape, see how it works, and then quickly wash it off with a wet cloth if I don’t like it. Courage is easier to muster when one has an eraser.

I tried painting on various surfaces before I settled on smooth, pre-gessoed cotton canvas. I tried watercolors and oils before I married acrylics. I tried painting outdoors and indoors before I realized I’m definitely an indoor painter (the fancy term is “studio painter.”) I had to try out different materials to know what worked best for me, and once I did, I stuck with them.

Now, I buy the same good-quality but not absolute top-of-the-line paints from the same company again and again. Brushes and canvases too. This way, I’ve eliminated at least one place I could easily get overwhelmed and make excuses for not getting to work: Selecting the right tools for the job (also known as shopping).

The rest of the creative process is already ambiguous enough for me.

The Gatekeepers

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Gatekeepers

When people ask me for advice on how to start a creative practice, I have two reactions. First, I want to cheer and say, “You don’t need my advice, just go for it! You’ll figure it out, and it will be wonderful!” Second, I want to ask if they have a few minutes, pull them aside, and tell them about the Gatekeepers. In my experience, making art more or less takes care of itself once I get past the Gatekeepers.

I call them Gatekeepers; you might know them as the inner and/or outer critics, judges, snobs, monitors, and censors that get very uncomfortable when you decide to try something a little risky or different, a little–dare I say–artistic. Brene Brown calls them shame gremlins in her powerful book on vulnerability (which I recommend highly to everyone). Writer Anne Lamott refers to her inner doubts as “Station K-Fuc$&d,” as in the radio channel that pipes up with its not-so-helpful commentary when she settles in to write. Steven Pressfield simply calls it Resistance. Whatever we call these voices, every honest book on the creative process pays homage. And thank goodness people have mapped the territory, because otherwise, I would have stopped painting shortly after I started.

Mind you, even during the first few years, I did have some fun. In fact, I experienced moments of play, awe, surprise and delight. My life benefited in ways I hadn’t anticipated; I got more open, real, and free. But those first few years were also the hardest, not because I was learning to use the materials or refine my technique (more on that topic here), but because at least half of the time I painted I was basically breaking myself out of a top-security prison in which my artist was a captive, and my Gatekeepers were the guards. My challenge was to figure out how to get past the guards–a bunch of insecure thugs and abusive maniacs who thought only they could grant access to the land of creativity.

It was as if painting awakened all the criticisms and fears I’d gathered over my entire life and inspired them to organize.

Organize they did, around the gates with their complex rules I didn’t even know about until I started breaking them. The rules were many, and toxic, but in the end boiled down to this: “Silly girl, art is for artists. You know, the real artists. Your job is to consume what those people make, not try to create for yourself. It’s sweet that you’re trying and all, I mean really, you poor thing. But there’s been a big mistake. So put down that brush and step away from the paints. Guards 17 and 32, will you please escort Miss Nash to the gate?”

These Gatekeepers, of course, were voices in my head that had accumulated via exposure to other artists, well-meaning friends and family, and an absurdly consumerist culture. These voices told me variously that I was: crazy, stupid, not allowed, a bad artist, wasting my time, should be feeding the starving orphans, who did I think I was, I didn’t have the credentials, climate change would drown me and my amateur paintings, that I didn’t go to art school, that no one would ever like my work (or me), that  I didn’t know what I was doing, that I was never very talented anyway, that I was never disciplined enough, that I should have done more of those awful drawing exercises in high school when I had the chance…

You get the idea?

To slip these voices, I kept an open document on my computer beside my easel the first few years of painting. Sometimes the voices quieted down and let me work in peace; other times, they made such a racket I could barely breathe. When they got going nice and loud, I would put down my brush, lean over my laptop, and type my defense into the document. Sometimes I didn’t even put down my brush; I stuck it between my teeth like a long-stemmed rose.

Basically, I called them on their crap. I told the Gatekeepers that I did too have a right to paint. I reminded them that people have been creating from the dawn of time, scratching symbols in caves, singing around fires, dancing dances, painting faces, telling stories, making pots, fashioning hair clips and knives and goblets and garments. I told them that creativity was my birthright.

When they responded, “Well, isn’t that cute, she’s a self-taught naive folk painter, then, “ I told them I refused to consider their limiting, patronizing labels. I told them, “Look here, people have been making art long before there were art programs in universities, long before there were masters teaching classes, TV personality painters, the internet, instruction books, even art museums and patrons. People have been making art from the start, and I’m a person, too.

Only this dialogue went on for a hundred pages.

Eventually, my hard drive crashed, taking the document with it.

Eventually, though, I didn’t need the document–I got far enough past the Gatekeepers that I could only hear their distant echoes. They were still there, of course, staging a misguided but well-staffed resistance, but they couldn’t get me anymore. I could see it only looking back: They’d never made a creative thing in their lives, and their only weapon was fear.

Of course, I still experience challenges in the creative process, but today these have a  different quality than the challenges that haunted and hailed me at the start. And truly, challenges are inevitable in any life well-lived, and in any creative endeavor worth taking.

Which is to say, I believe that the art, poetry, music, dance, quilt, sculpture, lava cake–whatever you feel called to make–is already in there. That’s the reason you’re longing to make it. The challenge is discovering how to slip your guards long enough to get to the good stuff, to get to freedom.

It’s worth it.

Paying Attention

Friday, July 18, 2014

paying attention

When I started painting, my mundane daily transits transformed into search-and-grab Wonderment Operations. I was no longer just a weary graduate student traipsing to another class or meeting; I was an invited guest of honor in a sacred world.

In awe, I watched the wind slowly whittle a raging plume of leaves into a few dry crisps, the early light turn the edges of pine bark into croissant flesh, the palms become personalities as distinct as the people I loved. The closer I paid attention, the more I got to know the trees, see more than I ever imagined, more than I could ever possibly paint. I drank from these details like fountains and was filled.

Then, painting was instinct.

I’d return from classes or meetings and simply had to paint, or I’d burst.

How I Started

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How I started

I usually say that I started painting in my mid-twenties, but I was pretty excited by my second birthday, apparently.  I got away from it, though, like so many children do as we get older. I returned only when I was floundering during  graduate school, in need of an intuitive form of expression. I was studying Mental Health Counseling, excited about the career but weary of formal education settings that had overly conditioned me to value external approval, measurable outcomes, and competitive achievements.

It turned out that good counseling—the kind that actually seemed to work—involved engaging in process, and process, contrary to my academic training, was messy. Process meant showing up as I was and connecting to my clients as they were. Process meant sitting with a lot of pain and discomfort and not necessarily knowing what to do with it. Process meant trusting my intuition (whatever that was), using the information of my senses (remember those?), and daring to be vulnerable, authentic, and perhaps hardest of all, accepting of life as it was rather than as I wanted it to be. This was a completely different way of being, one that I found both excruciating and profoundly helpful.

It was during this time that I began (again) to paint.

In the beginning, painting was something I did not know how to do, which both appealed to and terrified me. (Almost a decade later, I still reach a point in every painting where I feel the same way.) I had no experience with painting, save for a wonderful high school teacher who encouraged me to do my own thing. Every imaginable doubt and insecurity came to visit as I sat on my bare apartment floor and filled my first canvas with a small, hideous, square-shaped tree.

This was not what I’d had in mind.

 I promptly threw it in the dumpster and returned to my apartment, wondering if I’d wasted 150 bucks on supplies I’d never use. Yet as I saw the materials scattered around, I realized I still wanted to paint. So I put the square tree out of my mind and filled another canvas, this time getting lost in the process and making a silver-lit stand of puffy blue trees. When I emerged from the creative trance with something I loved and had never seen before, I had my first lesson in keeping at it.

Despite this heady first “success,” I soon found that if I didn’t want to paint the same thing again and again, I had to be willing to not know what I was doing each time I painted and show up anyway. I had to take risks, learn on the job, start over, trust what felt right to me and adjust what didn’t. I had to let my intuition tell me to stop when an image suddenly sang with a surprising wholeness, and keep going when it (I) wasn’t quite done. I had to value the process even when I didn’t always love or understand what I was creating. In short, painting meant practicing the same basic process I was learning to trust in counseling.

I completed my master’s degree and then a doctorate in counseling. It was a long road and not easy.

The paintings accumulated; many sold.

I kept on painting.

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