Guest Post | “Hear Me Roar” by Liv Grace

Today’s guest post for our series on living Black in the United States was written by up-and-coming performance phenom, Liv Grace. Liv Grace graduated from high school a couple of weeks ago, and she is already making her mark in this world. In this post, she shares a little about her music journey and her song and music video, “Hear Me Roar,” which she wrote in protest  of police brutality and racial injustice in the USA. Be sure to watch the video. 


Yoooooo! My name is Liv Grace, and amongst many other things I am a singer, songwriter, and producer. I’ve always been a lover of music and the arts. I’ve loved making music, writing, and editing films since the day I found out my Nintendo 3DS had a video camera. I started writing poetry and fictional stories around the fifth grade. I’ve been singing in choirs since I was really young. I’ve harmonized on praise teams all throughout middle and high school, and I’ve been “belting it out” in school musicals for the past five years.

What I love most about music is its ability to bring people together and make them feel something. A simple melody has the power to make us feel a plethora of emotions and a lyric can help us see the world through someone else’s eyes. I’ve always loved the feeling I get when I listen to music and I like being able to give that feeling to others.

I’ve always been composing harmonies. I remember watching a video of young Ariana Grande when I was in middle school singing into a microphone connected to a guitar looping pedal, layering harmonies and singing over it. I was mesmerized, and immediately I knew I had to try it. Unfortunately, my middle school allowance was not large enough to purchase a professional guitar looper and trying to convince my parents to purchase a $100 guitar looper for me—a twelve-year-old with no guitar—was surprisingly difficult. I decided to do the next best thing and downloaded a free beatbox looping app on my phone. I picked a random song from my iTunes playlists, listened to it on repeat and recreated the instrumental with only my voice on loop. My obsession with arranging and recreating harmonies ran wild from there. I found myself recreating Broadway cast albums and singing all of the parts. I’d post small clips of me harmonizing with myself and singing covers on Instagram.

In my junior year of high school, I decided it was time to start creating my own music. This was daunting, yet exciting. Ironically, around that same time my dad, brother, and I stumbled across a space connected to the Hirshhorn Museum called ARTLAB+. That space literally changed my life. In fact, the only reason I actually completed my very first song was because I needed it to apply and audition for one of their arts programs. I was accepted, but didn’t go in with high hopes. I showed up, I sang it, and they loved it! It was at that moment that I realized this thing I’d been doing as a therapeutic hobby was something I was actually good at! I’ve been writing melodies, producing instrumentals, and composing harmonies ever since.

Liv Grace. Photo provided by the artist.

At the beginning of the shelter-in-place [to flatten the curve of COVID-19], there was a moment when nobody in the US knew what was going on or how to deal with it. My school extended our spring break while administrators and teachers worked on an action plan, so there was this huge chunk of time in which I was able to focus on things that made me happy. I’d started a music account on Instagram earlier in the year, but rarely posted on it due to lack of time. Now, I had what felt like all the time in the world!

Like many others, I began to use this surplus of time to focus on things that I genuinely enjoy and to learn new things. I finally had enough time to pour into one of my passions—music. I started actively posting on Instagram and from this the opportunity arose through ARTLAB+ to share my creative process as a teen artist in collaboration with the Nicholson Project, an artist residency program.

Liv Grace. Photo provided by the artist.

A couple days into the process [and after I’d written a song on mental health for the project], the video of George Floyd’s murder took over all forms of media. It wasn’t the first time I’d watched my people carelessly shoved to the ground by law enforcement. Every time a video comes across my feed, my heart aches, but watching George groan in pain as he yelled for his mother was the last straw. I knew I needed to use my gift to speak out. I decided my mental health song could wait and began writing “Hear Me Roar.”

When it comes to creating, I overthink everything. I spend hours writing and rewriting, trying to find the right drum pad or the perfect harmonies to accent, but with “Hear Me Roar” everything just flowed so organically. The song just came to me. The chorus popped into my head as I was soaking in a bubble bath. The next day I sat and wrote two verses, a pre-chorus, a chorus, and arranged backing vocals in one sitting.  The next day I produced the instrumental and just continued tweaking throughout the week until the song was finished. I let it breathe for a little bit, listened to it about a week later and called it a wrap.

The song was done, and I loved it.

A little after the song was finalized, I decided I wanted it to be released with a music video, so I grabbed my video camera and my dad’s mini projector and pushed my bed to the other side of my room. Over a couple days I filmed, directed, and produced the video.

“Hear Me Roar” is the song I needed to hear as we mourned the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all the other Black people who lost their lives to police brutality. I needed a song that would remind me no matter how hard anybody tries, they cannot silence my voice.

We often see the tragedies and the news and feel hopeless, like our voices don’t matter. But they do! Not only do they matter, our voices have the power to move mountains and make change in the world. My hope is that “Hear Me Roar” can remind people how powerful their roars are and that they should use them to speak out on issues that matter to them. Right now, we are in great need of change and if we use our individual and collective voices, we can make that happen!

“Hear Me Roar” is available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Tidal, Amazon Music, Google Play Music, Youtube Music, Deezer, and Napster! It is also available to purchase on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play Store. You can find links to all of these stores here:

A percentage of the proceeds from “Hear Me Roar” will be donated to the ARTLAB+ program.  Individuals involved in the program devote their lives to uplifting and amplifying the voices of young artists of color and provide us with equipment, professional guidance, and a loving environment to express ourselves in our own creative and unique ways. I want to help the program give the opportunities they’ve given to me to other young Black artists.

You can find me and more of what I’m up to here:

We need your voice to create change, so keep roaring!

Liv Grace. Photo provided by the artist.

Creative Gathering: Art in Abundance

Back in September I participated in a 30 Days of Art challenge. I wrote a post about it, of course. Well, guess what! Sheila D, the challenge organizer, compiled most of the participants’ art [blogs] onto one Pinterest board.

It is inspiring to see so much art in one place. It’s like visiting a huge art gallery–the type where there’s so much to explore that you have to break up your tour into multiple visits–except you do it from a comfy chair in your home or at a coffeeshop.

If you have a moment–I mean, a few hours–go take a stroll through the gallery.  If you don’t have the time, bookmark the board and visit the various sites at your leisure.

Just in case you missed all the links, here’s the board: Creative Art Gathering. 🙂

Have a happy week!

Blowing Kisses: Sculpting with Tyhara Rain

“Blowing Kisses.” Sculpture by Tyhara Rain, 2019

I thought I’d treat you today to the art vlog of my student, Tyhara Rain, talking about one of her latest art projects. I really, really, really love her interpretation of “Blowing Kisses.” It was a commissioned work, but the person decided not to purchase it because the price–though more than fair–was higher than expected.

The finished product is above, but here’s Ty talking all about the process.

You’ve seen Tyhara’s sculptures on Pics and Posts before: Sunflower Story: The Sacred Joy of Creating and A Written Word: A Small Thing. I hope she inspires you to create something this weekend.

30 Days of Creative Joy!

My artist friend Sheila invited me to participate in a 30-day Creative Challenge for the month of September. With the beginning of the academic year and a million other demands on my time, of course I couldn’t resist. I needed motivation to take a few moments for creative joy each day.

Throughout the month, I doodled, drew, photographed, wrote poetry and prose and worked on two major creative projects. Here are some of the “little things” from this month’s moments of creative joy.

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I “created” a whole lot more than this. I drew or doodled something almost daily [especially sunflowers], but I sent some with letters and notes and didn’t get around to scanning others. The photographs [on my camera] were a bit too overwhelming to tackle after a long and busy Monday, so I took the lazy way out and went with photos shot with my phone.

Not surprisingly, flowers dominated, and I was also a little obsessed with clouds. But did you notice the two bears I drew? I was determined to draw a bear yesterday. My not-so-little one gave me some pointers [he’s really good!], so I think I’ll continue working on bears next month.

That’s it for now. Sleep calls.

If you’d like to check out more art created this month, check out the 30 Days Creative Gathering group on Facebook. The artists are a-maz-ing!

Have [creative] joy!

Joy Break 5 | Scatter Joy!

Scatter JoyWhen I was in college, every Friday students were given an opportunity to write positive, joy-filled messages to whomever they wished. Someone would go around the cafeteria during the lunch hours and pass out minimally decorated colored paper entitled “Joy Notes,” give individuals an opportunity to write a message, collect them, and deliver them to the dormitory offices for distribution via students’ mailboxes.

It was such a pleasure to write these notes because I knew they would make the recipients feel loved and appreciated.

What a treat it was to discover a “Joy Note” in my own box–especially after an unbearable or stressful week.

I saved many of the Joy Notes written to me, and they still warm my heart. Among them are a note from my roommate, expressing her delight that we were rooming again and appreciation for my friendship; a note from one of my good friends that decried our busy senior-year life and that let me know she cherished our friendship though we didn’t have as much time to chat as we had in previous years; one from another friend, thankful for my support through a difficult time in his life; a lengthy “missive” from my bestie after she moved off campus about how much work she was getting done since she didn’t have our long talks, shopping sprees, one-on-one basketball games, and other adventures to distract her. But, of course, she was missing all of that! 😀

You know where this is heading.

This wouldn’t be Joy Week on Pics and Posts if I were to let it end without encouraging you to spread joy to others.

It’s always a delight to know that someone is thinking of us and that we are appreciated for simply being who we are. So…take a moment to write a “joy note” today. Write a note to your spouse, your child, a long-lost friend, your parents for putting up with you; a “thinking of you” note to a few individuals you haven’t heard from lately; a thank you to the neighbor who kindly drags your trash can from the curb each week or who cuts your grass as a surprise while you’re on vacation.

We shy away from such activities because we overthink them and try to do much more than is necessary. In this case, “less is more.” Even one sentence is sufficient to spread a little joy.

To make life easier, you can use the simple 4×6 printable I designed using one of my own doodled flowers. [Aren’t you proud of me?] The card prints nicely in black and white too and can be sent as a postcard if printed on card stock.

[Click the links below to access the freebies–one ruled, one unruled]

The “spread joy” flower was inspired by a coneflower drawn by my penfriend Christine for the Brooklyn Art Library Sketch Book Project. Her flower was inspired by a flower sketched by Jane M., another artist and Love Noter. One person’s creative joy led to another’s and that led to another’s. See how quickly the joy spreads?

Come on! Let’s scatter some joy this weekend!


Bonus: Check out the gorgeous “Scatter Joy” image available as a free download from Ashley at The Handmade Home.  Be sure to download the freebie and display it in your home to remind yourself to “scatter joy” each and every day.

 

Doodle Flowers: Show Me Your Art

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. –Twyla Tharp

I’ve mentioned–on numerous occasions–I’m not an artist, but I’ve been playing around with my few art supplies lately, enjoying the feel of ink and colored pencils on the pages of a hardly used sketch journal tossed out by a friend.

This summer has not been the easy, relaxed summer I need, so I have been doodling as part of my morning meditation and at other times when I feel overwhelmed. It has been a pleasant way to take a “time out” from the demands on my time.

This isn’t art for show, really. I do it for myself–encouraged by the wonderful artists I’ve met through blogging, like Deb Breton, Sheila Delgado, and Holly M. In fact, I did not intend to share today. However, Laurie of Color Poems requested that I share–in response to my comment that I doodled flowers similar to her “scribble flowers.” I must oblige, of course!

So, here are my [original] doodle flowers.

I really wanted to watercolor the background, but since I can find neither my watercolor paper nor pencils, I just doodled them in the sketchpad. I used a couple of apps to add background and brighten the colors. The result is the first image in the post.

How about you? Do you ever draw or color while meditating? Or to relieve stress?  I’d love to see your work!  Share something on your blog and share the link in the comments. Pretty please.

Be sure to take a time out with some ink or paint or crayons this week.

An Art Statement: Making a Mess, Restoring Order

As my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance.  –Calvin, Calvin and HobbesBill Watterson

I spent most of today sitting at my window in silence, untangling thoughts, and fighting icky feelings that were trying to take root. I needed to press pause on my ruminations, so–inspired by my many artist pals–I decided to pull out my long-neglected paint and brushes and make a mess.

Three postcard-sized pieces of “art” later, the ickiness kicked rocks. The works have two things in common–purple as a base color and “lack o’ skill.” I’m sharing them with you anyway because creating a masterpiece was not the point. Besides, my two biggest fans–my guys–like them and they encouraged me to post here on the blog.

Art is certainly not my forte, but I like Calvin’s artist statement [above], so I’ll claim it as my own. 🙂 Perhaps, I’ll add words [and/or photos] and send them out into the world.

If you’re feeling a bit out of sorts, pull out your paint or markers and make a mess. It’s amazing how order is restored through the creative chaos. It’s this reality that most likely prompted someone to substitute art for the word “music” in Berthold Auerbach’s quote and attribute it to Pablo Picasso: Music  “[Art] washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Be sure to make a healthy mess this week!

Choose >>> Joy

“Finding JOY in the Midst of Chaos” by Lynda F.

Isn’t this artwork gorgeous? This is the card Lynda F sent with her response to Love Notes 26, Prompt 2, “Choose…” Lynda wrote:

Choose  >>> Joy
Start with a small step.
What little things bring you exquisite joy and happy-ness?
Try one. Then another. Then one more.
Try to do at least one joyful thing for yourself every day…
You deserve it!
Find your happy place!

Can we pause for a moment and talk about how much I need Lynda’s words?

I’ve been trapped in a season of work, work, work, and more work, getting next to no sleep and finding no time for the “little things” that add joy to my days. In the seconds between tasks, I’ve been dreaming about ignoring the to-do list, making Valentine’s Day cards, trying some of Diane’s photo collaging techniques, and taking long, long walks with my camera. At this point, I’ll settle for playing with stickers and my planner!

The office manager in my department mentioned today that she feels out of sorts if she goes too long without working with her hobbies. I exclaimed, “Me too,” and decided that I would do something–anything–this evening for balance and for joy.

As I mentioned in one of my 12 Days of Christmas Postcards posts, the word “joy” is significant to me, so the card is even more special. In fact, Lynda and I were in sync for this prompt; when I read the prompt, my response was also “choose joy.” No matter how much I tried to “shake joy” and find something else, joy insisted. So I encouraged Lynda to choose the steadying foundation of joy. I’m sure she did.

For more Lynda-art check her out on Instagram–@ladyfishpirate. Warning: You will be inspired to drop everything on your agenda and spend the night (or day) creating beauty. If it gives you joy, why not? 😉

Sunflower Field in Autumn

“Sunflower Field in Autumn” by Diane W. aka midteacher

there is peaceful.
there is wild.
i am both at the same time.

nayyirah waheed, “sum,” salt

Today’s sunflower comes from my photographer friend Diane–midteacher on swap-bot. She continually inspires me with her beautifully crafted photos.

For “Sunflower Field in Autumn” Diane tried a creation process she had just discovered.  For this project she:

  • “gessoed” watercolor paper
  • pushed pearlized crackle paste through stencil
  • allowed to dry overnight
  • Used INFUSIONS color stain on background
  • allowed to dry overnight
  • glued photo; adhered paper and ribbon
  • allowed glue to dry
  • added sewing
  • glued cardstock to backside and trimmed

I get to be the “guinea pig” for many of Diane’s experiments with new techniques. Lucky me–especially when sunflowers are involved!

Thanks for the sunshine, Diane!

Sunflower Story: The Sacred Joy of Creating

Detail of Sunflower by Tyhara Rain

If you looked closely at the sunflower wall photo in my previous blog post, you might have noticed a sunflower sculpture adorning the space.

Tyhara Rain, a student whom I introduced on the blog a few months ago, created the sunflower for me. Isn’t she the best? Initially, she painted a sunflower, but even though I thought it was beautiful, she refused to give it to me because she was not satisfied with it.

Sunflower by Tyhara Rain

Before I give you an “up close and personal” view of the sunflower sculpture, I thought I’d share Tyhara’s words regarding her journey:

I’ve been doing art since I was 6. I dabbled in pencil/charcoal sketches, oil paints, even photography, but I felt I lacked passion and inspiration for it. I never considered myself an artist because I literally didn’t even enjoy doing art! It was something I could do because I practiced so much. This year, I begged God to help me find a medium I enjoyed. Even if I didn’t believe this was a talent, I understood that God expected me to use any abilities I had for His honor and glory. One of my favorite professors had a wall full of sunflower themed art and I really wanted my piece for her to be special. I remembered how much I enjoyed the process of trying to sculpt a tree last year–but it broke and I totally gave up–and since I had an idea in my head for a clay sculpture of a hand holding a sunflower, I decided to go for it!

Before Painting: Tyhara and the Sunflower

Tyhara shared much of the creative process via Instagram stories–very late at night. Sometimes during sleepless nights, I’d tune in and listen to her chat and watch her create for a few minutes:

When she finished the piece, Tyhara carefully walked through campus to deliver the sunflower to me before a Shakespeare class session. When she unveiled it, she learned that one of the petals had tragically fallen off during transport.

Two more petals followed. It sat in my office while waiting to be repaired:

Then, she visited one afternoon and repaired the sunflower while we chatted:

After a little artist magic…um skill…the sunflower emerged stronger than ever!

In her words–

[Creating this sunflower] was the beginning of a wonderful journey I’ve decided to embark on as an artist. (I finally feel comfortable calling myself that). I’m incredibly thankful for this talent God gave me. Not only did He help me find a medium I enjoy but He pushed me so far outside my comfort zone and far from the mediums I grew up using that I could never again deny that God blessed me with a talent to create as an artist and desired for me to find joy in creating just as He does.

Tyhara has created many, many sculptures since making the sunflower for me–each one more intricate, more detailed. Here are a couple. The vintage album piece is absolutely stunning–and I’m not just saying that because of the sunflowers. [Click an image for a closer look].

Tyhara’s inspiring “journey to the sunflower” underscores an innate desire to create that resides in all of us. Made in the image of the Divine Creator, we are drawn to the creative process and have an almost sacred urge to make our creative mark in the world–no matter how big or small. It takes different forms–art, music, a poem, a story, dance, food, a theory, a lesson plan–but the act of creation involves and allows us to share beauty, love, and light. Joy is the precious outcome.