So Many Sunflowers…

Designed by Michele Frusciano for Pictura

My penfriend Christine has been my most prolific sunflower supplier. At least seven sunflowers on my wall came from her. This number does not include the gorgeous sunflower notecard sets she sent to be shared with others.

Some cards feature her photography. Some her watercolors like the two below. Some are store-bought like the one above. All of them bring cheer and brightness when days are far from sunny.

The card above, designed by Michele Frusciano, is prettier and more detailed than the scan. It is full of light and texture, not flat as it appears. The accents–lines, dots, diamonds, and squiggles–are a metallic blue and gold. The center of the bloom is navy blue and the bloom is embossed–or double embossed (is that a thing?).

Maybe, these photos give a better picture (no pun intended). [Click an image for a closer look].

The watercolor sunflowers below held a beautiful set of monogrammed sunflower notecards Christine purchased to support another artist.

“Quick Watercolor Sunflowers” by Christine

The sunflower sisters appear to be involved in an animated conversation.

“Inspired by Sheila D.”

For this one, Christine borrowed our mutual artist friend Sheila D’s idea of sunflowers in a vase.  She imitated so well that at first sight I thought it was from Sheila!

Sunflowers in vases always remind me of Van Gogh–whose sunflowers I hope to talk about later this week.

Each of Christine’s cards deserves its own blog post. So many sunflowers, so few posts. . .

What Would You Tell Your 18-Year-Old Self?

“Letters to My 18-Year-Old Self” are pretty popular lately (or maybe always?). I’ve seen them on blogs, in journals, in online newspapers and magazines, even in seminars and workshops, but I’ve given little consideration to the topic. Of course, I’ve wondered every now and then if I should have done some things differently, but I’ve never written a note to my younger self–until three weeks ago when Love Notes 25 kicked off with the prompt:

Write the words you would tell your 18-year-old self.

My assigned partner, Janet T, is new to the Love Notes community. She is a “mom to two beautiful daughters” in their 20’s, so she has probably had some recent practice with the prompt. She wrote her note in a card bearing a gold embossed mermaid silhouette:

Whatever gives you happiness–let that inspire you in your daily life. The things you love make you who you are and don’t let anyone influence you wrongly.

Have courage and be kind.

“Purple Tulips.” Watercolor postcard by Christine B.

My most prolific penfriend, Christine, created the beautiful purple tulip [above] in honor of my sister Lori [and me] and wrote a six-item list:

  1. Bad things happen.
  2. Find people to trust and love as much as you can
  3. Make your voice heard
  4. Vote!
  5. Laugh until you cry and cry until you laugh
  6. Don’t hold your breath

There are many, many things I’d say to my 18-year-old self, much of it far too personal to share in a blog post or a note [to anyone outside myself], so I sent a list of things I find myself saying to my students over and over again–not so much a “letter to my 18-year-old self,” but little bits of counsel that I found (or should have found) useful:

Card designed by Hessa, age 9, Abu-Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Children’s Art Project, MD Anderson Cancer Center. [A gift from Christine].

These sorts of exercises can be fun as long as we avoid falling into the pit of regret and the type of thinking that our lives would be so much better if we had present knowledge then. Our 18-year-old selves were just that. 18. Young. Inexperienced. Insecure. Overly confident. Full of life, contradictions, crazy ideas, and impossibilities.

Despite all the craziness of youth, I wouldn’t change a thing. My life wasn’t and isn’t perfect, but my 18-year-old self made many solid decisions and did more than a few things well. As for the things I didn’t get quite right, mistakes are inevitable and we learn so much more from our missteps than from our successes.

If you’re 18 or thereabout, maybe, you’ll find some usefulness in the lists above. If you’d like a more “focused” list, check out runner and professional coach Steve Magness’ post: Advice for the Young and Driven: A letter to my 18-year-old self.

If you’re waaaay past 18, like I am, what would you say to your 18-year-old self?  Comment below.

 

Wrapped in Love and Sunflowers

At the beginning of the year, after being cancer-free for 13 years, my sister Lori, heard the dreaded news–the cancer had returned. Initially, I shared this with just two or three close friends, soliciting their prayers. Out of respect for Lori’s privacy, I hadn’t talked about it much until I spilled to my penfriend Christine B, whose response prompted me to share Lori’s story with a group of my penfriends. They have been more than kind and supportive of me, and I knew they would embrace my sister and let her know that there are people all over the world who are rooting for her, sending her good thoughts, and praying.

Some of them went even further and sent supportive cheer mail my way as well–including three sunflower cards painted just for me!

“Sisters Dancing” by Trang K

Trang watercolored two flowers dancing–a sunflower and a purple tulip–Lori’s favorite flower in her favorite color. Her written note expresses sweetly, as only Trang can:

May you always dance to the sweetness of life in all its glory and fill your heart with everlasting joy and love.

“Time for Watercolor” by Christine B.

With her busy summer schedule, Christine B took the time to watercolor a new cheerful sunflower for my wall.

“A Note of Peace and Love” by Connie F.

Connie’s sunflower brightened a gloomy day. She slipped a beautiful bookmark (to be shared later) and a quote into the envelope with her sunflower:

It’s all about finding the calm in the chaos.  –Donna Karan

Knowing who God is makes horrific trials bearable. Lori is a bit more challenged this time around, but her faith is sure. Sometimes, it seems that worry is all I can do, but from her, I’m learning more and more not to worry. Her path isn’t easy, but through faith and fervent prayer, I can be a calming presence in the chaos of the journey just for her.

To my penfriends–Lori has received your beautiful expressions of love, hope, courage, grace, peace, and faith. We are incredibly moved by your sacred act of giving. Thank you, Christine, Trang, Lisa, Paige, Debra, Jennifer, Lori-Anne, Louise, Arielle, Sheila L, Connie, Suzette, Jacki, Gina, Andrea, Fran, Litsa, and Cricket. You have wrapped our hearts in love and have served as tangible evidence of God.

Hugs to you…

Kindness Week Day 6: Listen with Your Heart

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Listen with your heart.

Earlier today, I listened to gospel artist Jessica Reedy share a bit of her story before performing her song “Better.” She told of going through a difficult period in her life and keeping the pain to herself. She wondered if people could see her pain, if they could look in her eyes and see that she needed help. They couldn’t, and she confessed, “that made me sink lower.”

Her words cut deep.

We are daily walking with people who are privately coping and functioning through ridiculous pain, hoping someone hears their silent pleas. But we are so busy with our own lives or so focused on our own struggles that we don’t hear each other or take the time to notice the cues when others are hurting.

So today, let’s listen. Give little consideration to the “apparent” happiness. Tune in. Listen keenly. Not just to the words people say. Pay attention to their eyes, their body language.

I’m not suggesting that we probe for information. I’m not suggesting that we solve problems. We must learn how to connect and listen without becoming overly curious and without trying to fix things or save people.

Leave the saving to Jesus.

Today, let’s listen for what’s not said; let’s listen with our hearts and show that we care. Sometimes, that’s all a person needs.

Note on today’s image: The watercolor and ink artwork above was created by my Love Notes pal, Trang K. It is entitled “Golden Rose” in honor of the beautiful rose bushes her husband planted for her. She writes that the “pricking just lets me know that I am alive and that is the greatest gift and joy.” She urges, “Embrace life…with thorns and all.”

Just joining Kindness Week? Be sure to check out the previous posts:

Tune in tomorrow for our final Kindness Week post.

Liberate Your Art: Side-swapping Shindig

It’s always a bit of a challenge when Liberate Your Art ends, but side swaps help participants extend the camaraderie a little longer. I was so insanely busy when the postcards for side swaps started coming in that I just placed them in an envelope to enjoy after grades, reports, and meetings.

That time has come!

I received 13 cards via the extra swaps, plus a bonus package I’ll share tomorrow. Would you like to review them with me? Here goes…

Sherry H. of Amook Island Creations sent a reproduction of a mixed media piece accented with a Matisse quote:

“Always Flowers,” by Sherry H.

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.  –Henri Matisse

She encourages us to “look to nature for inspiration.”

From Terry O, an “in-progress” project:

“Slow Stitch” by Terry O.

This is a “slow-stitch” project. All of it is done by hand. Terry “attached a worn, paper thin vintage handkerchief to a sturdier fabric–a pink linen tablecloth, thereby creating a new piece.” Isn’t it pretty? I’m impressed that it was stitched by hand.

My penfriend Lisa C sent a “city shot” as she describes it.

“City Shot” by Lisa C

I almost didn’t notice the buildings because I was “lost in the clouds.” Interestingly, the postcard Lisa sent last year also featured clouds.  She shot this from the parking lot of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

You can find more of Lisa’s work on her blog and her website, Chasing the Sun.

Christine B, my faithful friend, sent two. Here’s the first one, a macro shot of a dragonfly.

“Dragonfly” by Christine B.

My hubby added this one to his collection. [He says, “Thanks, Christine!”]

Kathy and I agreed to swap before I received her card as part of the main swap, so I was surprised (and elated) when she sent another mixed media piece.

“Heart in Hand” by Kathy Mc

Like the first one (see LYA 2018 post), this one also started as a magazine page. She altered the page with oil, pastels, acrylics, citra solv, and monoprint. You can find more of Kathy’s work via Sol Sister Studio, her Facebook page.

As expected, Janice D sent a gorgeous mixed media piece–an angel, this time.

“Winging It,” by Janice D.

Her note, appropriate:

We’re all winging it. That’s what angels do.

You might want to go and take a look at last year’s Dreamer again and her LYA blog post to see more of her angels.

From my blogging friend Louise of Drops of Everything:

“Dancing Clothes” by Louise M

Until I read Louise’s caption (“Dancing Clothes”), I was prepared to entitle this one “Linen and Things.” 😉 She added a quote to the back:

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.  –Mother Teresa

I remember hanging up clothes to dry outdoors during the summer when I was younger. I was not yet into “seeing” or photography, so it didn’t strike me as “artistic,” but I had lots of fun running and playing through the drying clothes. Louise’s image makes me wish I could recapture those moments from my childhood.

Check out Louise’s blog for more of her photography and art.

My neighbor, PJ, moved away, but she remembered to reach out for a side swap (She used to live in Tennessee, not too far from me, but moved to Kentucky earlier this year).  She sent mountains:

“Flyover to Oaxaca” by Patsy J (PJ)

The painting is part of a triptych PJ created during a Paint Fearless Mexico retreat last November in Oaxaca. She was inspired by the mountains she flew over to get there.  I’m loving the color combination and would love to see the other parts.

My blog friend, Sheila D, sent a lovely bouquet of flowers.

This piece, a giclée print, was featured in UPPERCASE Magazine. She’s a celebrity! Sheila is seriously productive. You can find more of her work on her blog, at Society 6 or on Instagram.

In keeping with the floral theme, Natasha P. sent a peony party:

“Peony Party” by Natasha P.

This appears to be a mixed media piece. Natasha added a quote on back:

Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.  –Mary Lou Cook

After visiting Natasha’s blog, I realize that I’d received one of her postcards–a peacock–the first year I participated in LYA. In fact, she was featured in my first “real” blog post. How nice to reconnect! Natasha has a thriving henna business in San Diego.

Peonies seem to be the thing this year. I’m seeing photos and art of peonies everywhere I turn. I even “discovered” some peonies I shot some time ago. I’m not sure they’re worth sharing though. Maybe, I’ll play around with them…

Val vdP of Mellowood Studio sent a beautiful winter-themed watercolor:

“Shadows in the Snow” by Val vdP

Isn’t it just perfect? Val works with various forms–watercolor, acrylic, mixed media, monochromatic, oil. She even does lessons and paint parties. Find lots more of Val’s work on her website: Mellowood Art Gallery. Check out her blog too!

While we’re on the subject of watercolors, Christine sent a pair of sandpipers:

“Sandpipers” by Christine B

Confession–I had to “google” sandpipers to make sure I had the right bird. This watercolor is spot on! 5 green stars, Christine!  I think we should talk Christine into starting a WordPress blog, so she can share her art and photography with a wider audience.

And lastly a “butterfly on deck” from Teresa H.

“Butterfly on Deck” by Teresa H.

I coveted this postcard when Christine posted it in the LYA 2018 group on Facebook. Fortunately, Teresa had one left and she kindly sent it to me! The quote is perfect.

But on paper things can live forever. On paper a butterfly never dies. –Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming

Teresa wrote that the butterfly is “about the size of your palm and glides slowly and majestically from blossom to blossom, so it’s easy to get good photos.”

Though it was my first time swapping with Terry, Natasha, Val, and Teresa, I’ve “side-swapped” with the other artists before, and some have become blog friends and regular penfriends whom I’ve come to cherish over the years. I’m looking forward to building more friendships as we move along this artists’ road.

Tune in tomorrow to see the contents of my surprise LYA package!

I Need the Ocean Because…Mondays are Exhausting

“Ripples of Blessings,” Postcard made by Trang K.

Thalassophile (n.) a lover of the sea; someone who loves the sea, the ocean.

Mondays are exhausting, so I thought you–like me–might need the calming blues and purples of the sea. The lovely postcard above was made especially for me by the personalized postcard queen–Trang K. She blesses so many with her art from the heart.

Trang sent these “ripples of blessings”  to make me “smile and bring peace.” She has an uncanny knack for knowing what a person needs and getting it to them at the right time–and at this moment, I can use the calming vibes of an ocean, river, lake, or stream. Of course, that’s not feasible, so I’ll accept the ocean in the card.

Thanks, Trang!

[Note: the scan does no justice to this postcard].

Autumn Play

An autumn forest is such a place that once entered you never look for the exit. –Mehmet Murat ildan

I think Eileen V, one of my Love Notes pals, has a crystal ball that allows her to see what I’m going through at the moment. She sent me a bit of autumn cheer recently that arrived on a particularly difficult day.

Im Garten des Zen 2017. http://www.harenberg-kalender.de

Eileen playfully watercolored the postcard to capture the colors of the season–beyond the browns, reds, and yellows.

It’s not simply that she sent mail that celebrated my favorite season, but that her message–which included “sending loads of positive energy”–was perfect for the moment I was in.

The card also arrived when I was going through a brief spell with digital coloring, so while waiting for a meeting to begin one morning, I had a little fun with Eileen’s postcard and altered it in an app. [Click an image for a closer look]

 

These are pretty, but Eileen’s stole my heart.