Portland Modern Art, Erin Leichty Modern Art

  • Art and Architecture

Art and ArchitectureOctober 9, 2017

I love the feeling of holding a propane torch blasting its fullest flame as it lifts the grain on my wood panels and the scent of charred wood wafting in the studio air. I’m excited by what lies in the layers of my plaster when I carve deeply into a painting in progress. I adore the physicality of scrubbing off image transfers, sanding with the roughest sand paper to create delicious textures. But all of this has always been a place holder for my biggest passion: home building and design.

I grew up watching This Old House and walking around my SW Portland neighborhood watching cow pastures, forests and fields become housing developments. My mom, aunt and I would wonder through the rough framing guessing what each room would become. We marveled at 80’s geodesic domes and oohed and awed at the “fancy” nineties mansions with open foyers and soaring ceilings. We toured Street of Dreams houses and dreamed of Tuscan inspired villas.  My favorite class in high school was drafting and architecture. I dreamed of being an architect, but my mother encouraged me down the more practical path of engineering (She also paid and went with me to two semesters of Home Building 101!)- but after a few 8 am calculus classes in a basement classroom in college, it was clear that sitting still and doing math were not my forte’.

My passion for design never faltered even as my career path meandered wildly. After a fateful nanny job for an architect, I got a taste of modern architecture and I never looked back. I subscribed to Dwell and poured over its pages and dreamed of the houses I would build.

At 23, my then husband and I bought our first house (the same week we got married!) and by a series of fortunate/ unfortunate events, we spent the next 3 years spending every free moment remodeling and redesigning a dilapidated 1945 home (and living with my mom). I got my first chance to try my hand at contracting during this period and was addicted. I became pregnant with our son soon after we moved into the half remodeled home and he lived his first few months in the Johnny jump up with big ear muffs on, watching us complete various projects.

The first room we finished was my studio. Having a basement full of tools (used to remodel the house), I had my pick of tools to create my art. I started playing with applying paint with drywall knives and eventually (thanks to an inspiring class by Pat Wheeler) fell into using a medium we always had lying around the house- drywall mud. I began using chisels to carve and sand paper to create texture. My art became my way of building a house in miniature when we didn’t have the funds for the next project. I drew a concept plan, and built my pieces layer by layer, quenching my desire to design and build on an approachable scale.

After my divorce, I created an apartment in my old studio in my basement so my children and I could afford to stay in our home. This was my first solo project and I loved it, so I began to think more about what I once thought I could never do: become a contractor. I always told myself that I wasn’t handy enough and that I didn’t know enough and how would anyone ever hire me… but it turns out that 3 decades of home improvement projects, studying land use and obsessing over real estate listings and architecture magazines was a fantastic informal education. With each new client I am learning my strengths and that my hobby of psychology can really come in handy when working with clients and helping them to get what they want and to help couples reach compromises.

Now that my design business is in full swing, I’m figuring out where my art fits in. There is certainly no shortage of inspiration! As I design clients’ spaces, somehow I always envision an enormous painting on certain walls, and they look an awful lot like my own work.

Please join me for 3 events in October and see if you can see the influence architecture has had on my work.

Erin Leichty1406-1

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What’s Your StoryMarch 18, 2017

Mark your calendars for Wednesday, April 5th, from 5pm to 8pm for my Preview Party at Waterstone Gallery, 124 NW 9th Ave, PDX.
My show, Re-Connection, showcases new works embedded with the stories of 2 dozen phenomenal writers. I will install a massive chalk board so you can leave your own story behind and read about others. More than ever we need to reconnect with ourselves, find compassion for others and listen deeply to the stories that connect us all, no matter how different we may seem.
The month is chocked full of events with poets, storytellers and authors! More details coming in the next couple of weeks.

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My Story Part 2February 17, 2017

I was reading my daughter her “Babysitter’s Club” book at bedtime last night and we came across a chapter where one of the girls was on a diet. As the words fell out of my mouth I wanted to take them back immediately, to hide the book, to never let her know the word diet even existed. But before I could react, she asked, “What is a diet?.” My heart sank. My sweet baby, 8 year-old girl, with legs so long and eyes so big, I never wanted her to know what a diet was or to know the suffering the thoughts about my weight have caused me my whole life.

I was 5 when I first noticed that I was rounder than the other girls, that I couldn’t shop in the little girls section and wear the same cute clothes. By the time I was 12 I was running daily and lifting weights, certain that if I was skinny I would be loved. I had notecards of acceptable 700 calorie daily menus and lived on Snackwells and fat-free anything. At 14, I was binging and purging on Dairy Queen and exercising compulsively. In college I gained the freshman 15 when given endless food options at the cafeteria and by my sophomore year I was a raging bulimic, spending my weekends participating in all-night benders with a dozen .25 cent cheeseburgers from McDonalds, gallons of ice cream and extra- large diet cokes. My racing thoughts of never being good enough were silenced by the physical exhaustion of throwing it all up and the reassurance a box of laxatives gave me just in case I missed anything. I got skinny; so skinny my therapist asked if I would like to be hospitalized. It sounded so good. I wanted to rest. I was so tired of fighting the constant chatter inside my head, “You’re so fat, you’re so ugly, no one could ever love you.” I got compliments galore. One girl whispered, “I know I shouldn’t tell you this, but you look so good.” I fit in gap kid clothes. I was a wreck, a full blown addict.

As fate would have it, I met a boy during this time. He said, “It’s bulimia or me.” I chose him. The thoughts still circled, but they weren’t so loud. I got married. The ring on my finger proved I was lovable. My body was for babies and his eyes only and he never seemed to care much about what I looked like. But then he was gone, my marriage was over and those thoughts came back as loud as ever. My anxiety was fierce. Hours of exercise and gallons of ice cream provided temporary relief from the voices, but they were loud and persistent. I was thin again, not rail skinny, but thinner than I knew was maintainable. The voices got more frantic warning me that if I just slipped up even a little, I’d be fat again and no one could ever love me.
My pace was not sustainable and my body crashed. It couldn’t take the daily beatings. So I was forced to be still and quiet with all the threats and worries and fears spinning and spinning in my head and then I saw them for what they really were: Anxiety. My thoughts were just a manifestation of my worries of the future, my regrets of the past. Now instead of engaging with them, I’m watching them spin past me. I say hello to my Grandpa in heaven, whose genetics gave me great doses anxiety, and thank him for his love, but let his know he can keep his anxiety. And when I’m standing on my yoga mat or in front of the mirror or with a lover and the voices fill my head with, “You are so fat, you are so ugly. How could anyone love you?” I have to get quiet and breathe deep and practice great kindness towards myself. “Are you eating when you are hungry? Are you stopping when you’re full? Are you sleeping? Are you moving your body? Are you resting when you are tired?” If I answer no to any of these questions I know just how to get back on track. It’s a lot of forgiveness and a lot of remembering that I can only do this one day, I can only do this moment right now. It’s a lot of remembering to love myself as well as I love my children and my family.

Almost 4 decades is enough time to waste giving into thoughts that don’t move me forward. I want to be a great example of health to my daughter. Not a pretender, but a truly healthy person. Now, when she asks me if she’s fat or when I see the voices of anxiety getting loud in her head, I ask her: “Are you eating when you are hungry? Are stopping when you’re full? Are you resting when you’re tired? Are you moving your body in ways that make it feel energized and strong?”

What if we all asked ourselves these questions and a “diet” wasn’t about a goal weight or a goal size, but about seeing what our bodies look like when we take good care of ourselves and we celebrate that body? Can we let go of what we “should” look like? Can we stop wasting energy on dreaming our body will be anything but us? We get to make the choice every day to be beautiful, strong, rested, well-fed, and well-loved.

In the Woods

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My Story Part 1January 17, 2017

It was 1984. I was six years old and lying on the bed in the guest room at my Great Aunt’s house. The morning light was streaming through the window, the air was heavy with the smell of sausage and buttermilk pancakes. I watched the shadows dance as I lay there, my older relative molesting me, quietly, repeatedly in the room reserved for “playing”. I remember most vividly the day I told my mom. To me it was just a silly secret, until the words came out of my mouth and her expression turned from inquisitive to rage. Her feet thundered out of the room, down the hall to the phone where she furiously dialed the boy and his mother. I studied my fuzzy red tights, stroked nervously at my purple ruffled skirt and studied every stripe on my shirt embroidered with roller skates as I heard my mother roaring accusations. I had never made someone so angry. I didn’t yet understand my mother’s grief at not being able to protect me. This was before Oprah, before a google search could offer 10,000 articles of advice, before we knew that 1 in 5 girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18.

Like most 6 year-olds, I thought it was all my fault. Some relatives suggested, “Boys will be boys”, others asked why I didn’t say “No”. My mother forbade my family to ever let me be in this relative’s presence again. The trauma was compounded by the neighbor boy with whom I had been playing “doctor” and the older boy who later hid me under the bed at a slumber party so we could “play” when the adults were asleep. All this was evidence that my body was dangerous and I hated it for all the trouble it had caused. By the time I was in my early adolescence I starved it to get the attention and love I so desperately craved and stuffed it when the attention felt dangerous.

Even when the mind forgets, the body remembers trauma. Today I was listening to On-Being, featuring Bessel van der Kolk. He was speaking about trauma and the techniques he uses to make it a transformative experience that can create resilience instead of fear. There was a time when every freeway median was an invitation to stop the suffering, but I was one of the lucky ones who got the love and support I needed to become not just a survivor, but a thriver. I don’t for one second regret my journey to today. I am not angry at my molestor, I am not angry at my parents. I know everyone did the best they knew at the time. I often think of those children who have survived so much worse, those who didn’t get the support they needed, those who still hold their secret and think it was their fault.

That is what my art shows and my own story-telling are all about. I want to inspire people to tell their story, release it to someone they trust. Every time I tell mine, it liberates just a little more of the sting of shame, the embarrassment that I’m so far from perfect and so deeply flawed and human. Re-connection (my show at Waterstone in April) is an open invitation for anyone and everyone to unleash their story. I am going to have a huge chalk board, copious amounts of post-it notes and lined paper, pencils and push pins. Please come free a story you’ve never told. You can sign it, you can leave it anonymous, it doesn’t matter. Come read the stories left behind and find your own truth in the narrative of others. This isn’t an easy ride for anyone, but it’s so much better when we’re in it together.

With All my Love,
Erin

micky & me at 6 years old

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Mid May MagicMay 27, 2016

Every year March and April are a little slow and I think, “I’m never going to make it. What made me think I could be a successful artist?” And then BOOM, the end of May hits and I get calls and emails and inquiries galore. Mid-May Magic. I sold and hung a piece for a client in West Linn yesterday and sold a few pieces earlier this month after finishing a batch of WE’s and US’s. I sold one to a pastor who wanted to use the WE in a sermon discussing the WE-ness of Christ. I was recounting this story to my mom in the kitchen earlier this week and my son walked in at the tail end of our conversation and asked inquisitively, “Why are you talking about the weenis of Christ?” I think I turned bright red, and couldn’t stop giggling as I tried to explain the difference between WE-ness and weenis. A lesson to always use proper names for body parts to avoid any embarrassing confusion in the future.

I was born into the WE of my mom and aunt, two fiercely independent women, who to this day, choose to live alone (“Are you sure they aren’t secret lesbians?” so many of my friends would ask skeptically when I was a teenager, disbelieving any woman would choose to be without an intimate partner). Through heartache and celebration, household repair and major life decisions, we always call each other first. I can hear my mother and aunt’s voice as clearly in my head as my own and sometimes it’s a little hard to figure out who’s running the show. We are a package deal. Anyone who wants to enter the inner circle has to the pass the test of the other two. We are almost always accepting and excited to meet the special someone who makes the others’ heart skip a beat.

Our WE-ness was tested this Spring when my mom fell and broke her hip in my Aunt’s garage. It was traumatic for everyone, but least of all my mom, who says she doesn’t remember anything, including the pain, thank God! But my aunt and I were frantic. She moved in with my mom and lived with her for 5 weeks, while I came and spelled her in the mornings and evenings between work and kids. I bathed and took care of my mom in ways I have never done before. It was an early preview of life in the future, as our roles reverse and I care for her more and more.
I used to resent our interconnection, the inescapable We-ness, the way it would drown out my own voice, suffocate my imagined independence, but through this experience I have discovered how very lucky we are to have people that will put their lives on hold, without question, and swoop in to hold us up when we can’t on your own. The two women who have held me up all these years, and still do, are letting me do a little more with each year, returning the favor of strength and kindness they have shown me all my life.

Are you a WE or an US? That was one of my favorite questions to ask patrons of my Waterstone Gallery show in January. I made four 18” x 18” WE and US’s and they were the first things to sell out, so I made another group and will have them on display at Waterstone Gallery this Saturday, May 28th. I also made a few in the 8” x 8” size to fit everyone’s wall space and budget. I hope you can stop in for a visit. I’m bringing cookies!

Please do check out our classes !!

51weUS

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February came so fast!!February 18, 2016

New Class Dates for Spring 2016! Thank you so much to everyone who came out to see Confluence at Waterstone Gallery in January. I had such a wonderful month meeting so many new people and connecting with all your stories. So many of you were interested in classes, my teaching partner Ali and I have put together a new line up of classes for Spring.

We are offering classes using larger sized panels, a special Mother’s Day class, and a class focused on the power of words. I also am now selling gift certificates so if you want to gift a special someone a class you can. Gift certificates are also good towards art. If you don’t see something that will work for your schedule and have a few friends (6 people is my minimum for classes) who are interested in taking a class, contact me and we can design a private class for your group. I hope you all have a wonderful Spring and thank you so much for supporting local art!

Please sign up on our CLASSES PAGE

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The Ice will MeltJanuary 5, 2016

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The ice will melt just in time for my opening Preview Party this Wednesday, January 6th, from 6 to 8pm at Waterstone Gallery (124 NW 9th PDX). I hope you can join me for good food, good wine, good friends and new art!

Here is a little more about the work:

Last year, my show, Shadow Stories, revealed my personal journey of unraveling and rebuilding my life after my divorce. I examined how beliefs and experiences of the past shape the narratives of individuals and families.

While 2014 was a year of intense grieving, 2015 was about rewriting a new life. I emerged from my own cocoon of healing and could listen more closely to other people’s stories of loss and suffering, growth and triumph and I marveled at the catharsis people experienced when they could share their stories. Just the act of telling them diminished the sting of shame and gave both the storyteller and the listener a way of connecting.

It’s in these connections that the concept for Confluence was born. My work plays with the intersections of line and curve as a metaphor for the synchronicity and interconnection of our lives and stories. Using my narrative as composition, metallic reflections, vivid lines, plaster and cold wax, I invite the viewer to find their own stories reflected back to them in my mirror­ed mediums, and luminous plaster, deep with history and texture, hinting at a former life.

To find my inspiration for this show I logged many miles in the forest near my home trying to keep pace with my internal monologue as it spun and ricocheted between wrenching grief and sadness, poignant jubilation and deep gratitude.  After many miles, my mind would quiet enough for me to reflect, dream and design. The words always came first, in a rush of inspiration and endorphin-fueled realization. I would race home and scribble down the rhythm of the lyrics that had come to me. I have stacks of scrolled notes to myself, little snippets of ah ha moments, emotions so big, I had to write them down. I built Confluence layer by layer, etching and sanding, scraping back and adding new, just as I was rebuilding my life, piece by piece, leaping forward and slipping back, finding the greatest beauty in the most imperfect parts.

If we listen close enough, we can always find ourselves in someone else’s story.

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DecemberDecember 12, 2015

Hello friends! I have been quiet since Portland Open Studios big success in October because I have been madly painting for my upcoming show at Waterstone Gallery, Confluence: Where Our Stories Run Together (Opening Tuesday, January 5th, Preview Party Wednesday, January 6th, First Thursday, January 7th). I was so moved last year by all of the people that came to my show, Shadow Stories, and revealed their struggles and triumphs to me. I have been listening all year to friends and acquaintances who feel so alone in their trauma or drama, but no one is ever alone in their stories. The details may be different, but the underlying emotions are the same. I am inspired by the resilience of so many and grieve with the people who still suffer. Telling our stories, bringing the shame to light, connects us to one another. Anger dissolves when you take the time to hear someone’s story, to truly understand them, step back with curiosity instead of judgement. Love is born from listening and hearing someone’s most private grief and longings.

I divulged my personal story last year, so this year I wanted to hear yours and to create a space for people to share their experiences. I have invited story tellers to create events on several Saturdays and Sunday evenings in January to bring their narratives, some funny, some gut wrenching, but all relatable. I hope you come to one of the events in January and share your story with me. If we listen close enough, we can always find ourselves in someone else’s story.

Before all of January’s excitement, I will have 10 pieces in the 8th Annual Big 500 Art Show. It opens this Saturday, Dec 12, 2pm sharp, cash/cred/carry. All art is 8″x8″ and $40 each, featuring 500 artists. This is a great show to grab a quick unique gift and to support the Oregon Food Bank. Presented by Peoples Art of Portland, 3rd floor of Pioneer Place.
www.peoplesartofportland.com

I wish you and your family moments of peace and contentment in this busy holiday season. I hope to see you in January!

Erin

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September 2015September 12, 2015

I see the weight you carry
You wear it in your eyes
Beneath the Sparkle
Below the Sadness
Your mega-watt smile belies your suffering
Of being caught between the life you promised 
And the truth you’re not brave enough to live

I was running with a friend recently and we were sharing stories about the end of our marriages and we marveled that the best communication we ever had was at the very end, when emotions were the rawest, when we were at the most vulnerable, when we were being our most honest; willing to share our darkest thoughts and our deepest fears. We had nothing left to lose. Ironically, it was those last days I never felt closer or more connected to my ex. All that soul baring gave us a fantastic opportunity to build emotional intimacy. I ended our relationship loving him more than ever and being so incredibly grateful that we would be co-parents for the rest of our lives and that we would always be a family. But I couldn’t help but wonder: what if we had been courageous enough to be our true selves from the very beginning?

It takes a ton of energy to be someone who you are not. I think a lot of times we lie to ourselves about who we are. We aren’t even aware of the expectations we have written for ourselves or what we make it mean when we don’t meet them. It is not until our actions contradict the stories we carry about ourselves over and over that we surrender and stop fighting what we have always been.

I am a highly sensitive introvert. For years I had fantasies that I would be the kind of mom that would go with her family on vacations and to Disneyland. I would host play dates and themed birthday parties. Our house would be the life of the party. BUT THAT DREAM IS NOT ME. I am a disaster after vacations. It takes me weeks to recover from the output of energy. Disneyland and crowds are my worst night mare. The energy of all those people makes me vibrate with anxiety! Yes, it is great for me to step outside my comfort zone once in a while, but I presented myself to my future partner as someone who was excited to participate in those activities because I WANTED TO BE THAT PERSON. Of course, my partner was upset when I recoiled when he suggested doing these things. He was left disappointed and I was left feeling really bad about myself. What was wrong with me that I didn’t want to spend time with my family?

It wasn’t until I got curious about WHY I got so anxious around these activities that I figured out an important truth about myself and now I can be upfront to friends and potential partners about what I think is fun. I don’t have to say “Oh yes, I would LOVE to have coffee with you.” I tell the truth. “I don’t drink coffee and I don’t like to sit, but I have got a yard full of weeds and I sure could use some company!” So far, no one has taken me up on the super-fun offer, but I also haven’t had to cancel any coffee or lunch dates I hastily made, hoping that as they drew closer I would suddenly become someone who loved to eat sitting down.

The most interesting parts of me are not my smile that takes up my whole face or my contagious passion for life: they are my darkest thoughts, my idiosyncrasies that are quirky and challenging and not that fun to live with. But for the right partner, they might just love to live in a duplex next door, make dinner a few times a week and give me copious amounts of alone time. But this time around I am being painfully honest about who I am, what I struggle with and what my commitments are. I may never find another life-long partner, but along the way I sure am making a lot of wonderful friends and sharing a lot of great laughs about our foibles and imperfections and all of the things that make us even more lovable.

Dare to tell the truth. Take all that energy you use to stifle the real you and let it all hang out. It really is the most beautiful part of you and the relationships worth keeping will grow even deeper because of your candor. Nobody wants to watch a movie or read a book about a perfect life where everything works out. We want to see the missteps, the miscalculations, the misunderstandings, because we can all relate.

Live big. Love bigger. You are the only one who knows how to live your best life.

September Musings

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August 2015August 23, 2015

The crickets are getting louder, spiders are spinning their webs, the sun is setting sooner; the end of August is near. I am busily at work in my studio, getting ready for Portland Open Studios coming up in October and my newest show at Waterstone gallery in January. Waterstone will be moving in October to its new location at 124 NW9th, taking the place of Quintana Gallery. We are excited to be located near more galleries and are excited to see old friends in our new space and to find new friends in our new location.

I love to walk through fire. I will almost always choose the hardest way, the way that challenges me, makes me feel alive with emotion and pushes me to the brink, but I’ve noticed a shift. I only have so much energy, and limited resources and life doesn’t feel as invincible as it once did, even a couple of years ago. My wisest friends remind me that there are no wrong decisions. The only missteps I can make are to spend too much time and energy looking back on what could have been, living in the fantasy of the past and missing out on this beautiful, amazing moment.

My daughter just learned to ride a two wheeler and my son will turn 10 in just a couple of weeks. Laughing with my aunt in my kitchen about her latest Match.com escapade or spending the evening with my mom catching up on all her friends, walking with neighbors and dreaming up new projects, cheering my kids on from the sidelines at Fall soccer, this is what I am committed to. Sometimes, choosing to not walk through the fire gives me more energy and time to spend with the people who fill me up the most; my friends and family.

I will keep doing the best I can every day, plugging away at the laundry, work, weeds and the maintenance of everyday life, so that at night I can watch my son build a camp fire and feel his warm back leaning into me as we search the stars, because before you know it, it will be me leaning against him.

So I will forgive myself for not meeting my impossible list of expectations this year and I will celebrate what I have accomplished and find solace in the fact that there are still 4 months left in the year (the 4 best months if you ask me!) and the possibilities are limitless, but my priorities aren’t dollars and a true accomplishment isn’t a fully executed to-do list. Success to me is being relaxed, engaging in a conversation with a friend without feeling the ticking of an invisible clock or being weighed down by the endless docket of things to be done. I want to paint, write, make soup and run in the forest and let my passion run wild. I can’t do that looking backwards, dreaming about what might have been. I want to keep looking forward towards where you want to go, no matter how slow, holding my commitment, and even if I don’t ever get there, I’ve taken the time to enjoy all the magic along the way.

Next Blog: Meet the Village- All the people that help create and inspire my art

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Building New Work and a New LifeJuly 21, 2015

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After 6 months of sporadic studio time, I am finally back at work finding joy again in the dust on my arms, the paint on my clothes, my muscles, sore from scraping and sanding. It’s been a tumultuous 6 months. My body finally protested the last two years’ frantic pace and it came to a screeching halt. I resisted the change, wanting to work harder, get more done, prove I could do it all.

 My body sent out its warning signals. It whispered that I needed to sit, be still, rest, but I couldn’t stop. So my body stopped me. I could wake up, get the kids off to school, but then it would hit me, an overwhelming exhaustion that left me crying in the shower, praying for the energy to just get one thing done. Shingles again and again and again. My body knew just what it was doing. I had to rest. I had to let the gravity of the last two years seep in. I had to grieve the life I once knew in order to live the life I was designing right now. I had to reconcile all the childhood wounds, shuffle through all the accumulated coping mechanisms, and take the time to feel all the wrenching sadness and deep loneliness I had been too busy to face.

Sifting through the stories, I cried and I slept, pushing through each day until slowly I began to delight in the warmth of the water in the shower again, I could relish the sweet humor of my children and be even more appreciative of all the love of my family and friends. I began to honor the power of my sensitivity instead of cursing its weakness. My sensitivity makes me love bigger, feel deeper and dream larger. It’s what makes me an artist.

So now I am finding a new normal, at a slower pace, not running from the fear, but walking side by side with it. My mind still races with ideas and sometimes they fly right on through me, no pen to record what seemed like a flash of brilliance; gone as fast as it came. But many inspirations, the good and the not so good, live on post-its and backs of envelopes and are finding their way onto my panels as I scrape and etch, uncovering and designing the composition of new paintings, all while I am busy building a new life.

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Wow! It’s JulyJuly 1, 2015

July! Wow, how time flies! This past weekend I was lucky enough to be joined in my studio by 5 amazing women willing to share their stories and celebrate their families. Ali Grimshaw, one of my best friends and life coach extrodinaire, gave us insight into family relationships and how to hear and see the love all around us.

She talked about how everything we see and everything we hear is filtered through our own lense of experience. If we are looking for evidence of our unworthiness,we will find it and reject love. If we are looking for love, kindness and generosity will be able to receive it and reflect it onto others.

Prior to class, each student sent me 3 images for me to choose from. On the day of class they arrived to their own personal painting that I had prepared for them. I incorporated their favorite colors on the base and in between each of the layers of plaster. I affixed their image face down, so it appears to just be a plain white painting. But as they scrub with a little water and elbow grease the paper is rubbed away and the image is revealed.

I always love the sounds of surprise and delight as each student uncovers their favorite memory, a photo of someone dear, or their favorite landscape. From there, I guide them through adding layers of paint and oil pastel and how to add text or more images. They scrape, etch and carve into their pieces, revealing the history of the layers below. The final step is to sand the edges and reveal even more of pieces archeology.

At the end of class I add a protective coat of cold wax that saturates the colors and gives it a finished look. We all come away inspired and excited about how we can love better, live better and create more. I leave every class even more grateful for this abundant life so rich in connections and friends.

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