I’m also apprenticing myself to Alena Hennesy in A Year Of Painting Gold because I wanted to sink deeper into skills-building this year. AYOP is way outside of my comfort zone, but so far I’m really loving it. I started with this warm-up:
And then took what I learned from that to create this for the upcoming Full Moon:
Both were hours-long conversations with myself about myself – what I’m wanting to call in. What I’m wanting to emphasize and attend to. The first painting says something to me about chiaroscuro – the lights and darks within myself – and is an ode to all my parts. The second is about how much I appreciate both being nourishing/providing nourishment and being nourished/receiving nourishment.
Something else I’m shifting is this weird message I internalized somewhere along the way that I should be *quiet* in other people’s classes. Wait, what? I pay just the same as anyone else does to engage with this kind of content, and I am as deserving as anyone else in the class of the space I take up when I share my work or ask my questions. For years now, I’ve purchased classes and quietly hummed along in the background, asking for nothing, taking up zero space because I had internalized this whole “who do you think you are?” voice in my head. I’m done with that. I’m going to share. I’m going to engage as a student. I’m going to dig in and do the things.
This feels good to me even if I am trying this way of being on with a little trepidation. In the face of that wee frisson of abject terror, I’m reminding myself that I *love* it when the teachers I love are in my classes and doing the stuff. I feel honoured and super chuffed to discover that they’re getting something out of what I offer.
This whole thing where I am afraid to take up space has gotten old. I’m done with it. This coming year you’re not only going to see me in all of *my* spaces, but also in all of the spaces I have chosen to engage in.
It’s about time, eh?
Only took me 12 years. Heh.
I think I’m over the worst of whatever the fuck these last three years have been. I’m still struggling with some things but the struggle feels less OMGDOOM and more “Yeah, this is gnarly, but I can do it.” I’m choosing my battles much more carefully than I have historically, by which I mean that instead of bashing myself over the head with everything I think is “wrong” with me, I’m asking myself why I want to make the changes I want to make.
I want to drink less. Why? Not because drinking is a moral issue or something I feel ashamed of or because I’m afraid I’ll end up dead in a mission like my father or dead by suicide in a rehab like my sister. No. I want to drink less because I want to be with myself without numbing out. It’s about not wanting to abandon myself. I don’t see drinking as a character defect. I see it as a way I sometimes medicate the pain I’m in. I love my human self for reaching for relief butandalso I want to feel better without self-medicating.
In a similar vein, I want to quit smoking. Why? Not because smoking is a moral issue, but because I know I’m using it to medicate anxiety and *that actually doesn’t work*. It creates a cycle of rising anxiety which leads to cravings which leads to using which leads to a very temporary sense of relief which leads to anxiety.
I want to be self-possessed, you know? I want to be untethered. I don’t want to be subject to cravings. I don’t want to be reactive because a chemical has a hold of me. I don’t want the slow suicide that smoking represents for me. I don’t want to experience the world through the fog that alcohol induces in me.
I want to be free.
But there’s nothing in any of this about how the things I do to mitigate the symptoms of C-PTSD, narcissistic abuse syndrome, grief, rage, etc. make me a bad person.
I am not a bad person.
I’m a hurting person. I am a healing person.
Substance use is not a moral issue and I am unashamed in my struggles with it.
I have faith that I will find my way to being in the world without dependence on numbing agents.
And so it is.
In Other News
This coming weekend is going to be amazing! I’m doing a live weekend workshop in the art of creating and stuffing a Sweet Trash Journal! We’re going to get together on Friday to talk about how STJ came to be and how I use it. I’ll be sharing all the resources I can think of, and we’ll talk about supplies and systems and printable planners. On Saturday, I’ll be decorating TWO STJs – one of which will be offered up in a giveaway for students, and on Sunday, we’ll get started in filling up our books so that they bloom and evolve and go from a cheapo composition notebook into something akin to The Velveteen Rabbit of journals. I can’t wait!
Do you know this song? It’s definitely one of my favourites, and even though I’m not *actually* in the love in the romantic sense, I love how perfectly it expresses what a roller coaster ride our emotional lives can be – especially in times like these.
I so often find myself singing this song on a Friday as I do my (searingly honest) weekly recap in my written journal. It’s the perfect companion when I take inventory of what went on throughout the course of a week because it seems to give me permission to feel how I feel about things and embrace the highs, lows, and middles that are a part of all of our lives. Allowing myself to have my full range of emotions without shaming myself over it has definitely been a part of my healing journey. I’m noticing it creeping into my creative journey as well in the way I’m starting to let things be “ugly” and expressive instead of trying to pretty things up for the gaze of others.
Like this girl I painted during a recent Prayers To The Moon.
She was so not my usual fare, but she fell out of my paintbrush AND that “mistake” I made when I gently brushed some of the spray varnish over her face (because it came out of the spray can in puddles) – a move that smeared the black paint pen – would once have ABSOLUTELY devastated me. Not this time, though. This time, that “mess” I made felt *perfect* and added a little “sumphin’ sumphin'” that left me feeling satisfied.
This experience was followed up by someone asking IF SHE WAS AVAILABLE FOR SALE, which threw me for a loop because she’s just this quick little doodle of a thing on 5 x 7 cardstock that I flung out of my subconscious and onto the page during a live painting sesh. I couldn’t understand why someone would want her, and I had to sit with how awkward and weird it made me feel for a bit. And then, I came to the realization that she’s wanted because *she’s honest* and if that’s not a statement that proves that life imitates art, I don’t know what is. All of this to say that I’m done pushing for the “reframe” or the “solution” in my art journal. I want to express it all, and that’s what I’ll be doing from here on in.
In Other News
Have you seen those memes going around about how THIS IS THE TIME to find the PeRfEcT notebook that will CHANGE YOUR LIFE – a meme that makes those of us with notebook addictions giggle because we have DOZENS, most of them empty…
Well, in my world, we MAKE those and we DO use them. I call them Sweet Trash Journals, and it just so happens that I’ve got a weekend workshop coming up starting on January 6th in which we will explore their creation and maintenance TO THE HILT. We start with a thorough exploration of the best kinds of books to use (cheap composition notebooks, imo) and how to take them from trash to Velveteen Rabbit Style Treasure. This workshop will take place live with me on Zoom so there will be plenty of opportunity to commune and engage AND you will have forever access to the replay so you can revisit it as often as you wish. Click here for details.Please use promo code WILDERLOVE to get a discount
I put the finishing touches on this yesterday and it sold to a lovely collector before the end of the day (What??!!)
She is the very first lesson in Moonshine 2023, (hint: promo code WILDERLOVE works network-wide to get you 20% off) which begins on January 1st, 2023 with a live activation gathering on Zoom AND this painting tutorial. Get all the details on this life-changing class here.
If you’re joining me for Moonshine, make sure you get at least 2 big binders because you’re going to need it for all the content I’ll be throwing your way throughout the year.
You can also come paint her with me in Moonshine Lite if that’s more your jam. This is a tier on Patreon that includes EVERYTHING I do over there + a monthly tutorial that combines art + spirituality in a perfect marriage of intention and play.
And, in case you missed it, Life Book 2023 starts IN JUST A FEW DAYS and the 30% off discount ends December 31st! Get details here and use coupon code LOVEART30!
Since retiring Book Of Days, I’m going to have a lot more time to play in the classes I’ve signed up for this year, and I’m really looking forward to building my skills and a lovely body of work in 2023! I hope to see you in there!
Okay, that’s it for me for 2022, y’all! I’ll see you in the New Year!
As always, if you’d like to touch base, just hit replay to this email.
P.S. Sick of the Book Of Faces? Totally Over The Twits? I hope you’ll join me in my free online community where you can share what you’ve created in any or all of my classes/offerings and generally commune with lovely peeps of like mind. This is *not* a Facebook Group, so there are no ads, no algorithms to contend with, and no “noise”. it’s just us, sharing our hearts and art. I love it so much. I hope you will, too.
Okay, so maybe we’re not quite on the other side of the holidays just yet. We still have to get through this weird liminal time between now and Jan 1 but thankfully, I have a lot of work to do so I will be avoiding the loose ends feeling that can sometimes happen for me in the last week of the year. It was a quiet one for me. All the kids are far-flung and I don’t drive. so I hunkered down with the furs and watched TikTok to keep my spirits up. I had some moments of perfect contentment. I had some moments of melancholy & nostalgia. I woke up to word of a friend’s passing out of this world on Christmas morning, so that was a big bummer, but I know that what is remembered lives so I touched base with mutual friends, spoke her name, lit a candle, and then put a tourtiere in the oven to graze on throughout the day while I watched yet more TikTok.
Those little hits of dopamine really do save my bacon sometimes.
That’s blooming tea in that massive mug and that’s a black velvet mumu caftan I’m wearing.
It wasn’t the best Christmas, but it wasn’t the worst either (that was December 2020), and that’s progress so I’ll take it.
Every year for a while now I’ve provided my patrons with a printable calendar (landscape or portrait orientation) so they can create their own monthly calendar using art they made in my programs (or any program, for that matter). This morning I woke up ON FIRE to use some of the paintings from PTTM to create my own calendar for 2023, and I thought HOW MUCH FUN WOULD IT BE if we did that together?
Go through your art for 2022 and choose twelve paintings – 12 landscape (horizontal) orientated or 12 portrait (vertical) orientated. Pick one of the twelve to act as your cover if you like – so make this your very favourite – or pick 13 paintings. It’s up to you.
Print a copy of the calendar of your choice from the link above, and a copy of each painting you want to include in your calendar. You could also use your originals if you prefer, but I have plans for those so I’ll be using copies. I recommend printing on coverstock or cardstock for a nice sturdy calendar. NOTE: Print the calendars double-sided – I know that seems weird given that there are blank pages, but trust me on this.
Gather together scissors, glue (I’ll be using tape runner because I’m lazy like that), washi tape, and whatever else you’d like to embellish your project with.
I will be using the portrait (vertical) calendar, which I will print at 8.5 x 11. I’ll be printing my paintings at 8 x 10 on 8.5 x 11 paper so there’s room for washi tape and whatever else I want to put on there. I’m going to disc-bind mine with some dotted paper between months for notes and whatnot, (you can find a free printable here) but you can do a wall calendar with this if you prefer – I’ll show you a couple of different binding methods for that.
If you don’t have what you need to do this project with me tomorrow, no worries! Come anyway! Bring a notebook to take notes so you can get what you need and complete the project later.
If you did A Year Of Mary with me in 2021 or Book Of Mirrors with me in 2022 (these happened over on Patreon), this is a great way to use those monthly paintings as well. If you did Moonshine 2022 with me (or any year!) you could use the monthly paintings from that instead!
So, in case you’re not aware, I live alone. I live alone AND I have trouble feeding myself regularly because executive dysfunction + hyperfocusing on work = oh shit! I forgot to eat again today! I usually have this face-palm moment when I’m feeling incredibly nauseous and shaky because my blood sugar has absolutely tanked.
I do this so often, y’all, and it is so not good, and on top of how not good it is, I’ve had these weird stories in my head about how I *should* be better at this and I *should* cook for myself every day and I *should* be an adultier adult so every time it happens, it makes me feel like shit about myself on top of nauseous and shaky (and more often than not, actually pukey).
I am, finally, letting that go and over the last few weeks (after one of my kiddos suggested I might be autistic because THEY are and my head exploded and then settled into everything making so much sense) I’ve been making all sorts of accommodations for myself so that I *do* eat at least twice a day.
Sometimes that looks like ordering in. Sometimes that looks like dumping a can of soup into a microwavable bowl. Sometimes that looks like making up a charcuterie board (aka Bourdain Board) and rotating things onto and off of it over a course of days until I’m sick of grazing (almost never happens). Sometimes it means I eat nothing but hummus and cucumbers for days, but whatever.
As long as I’m eating, I finally, in this, my 54th year of life, refuse to shame or judge myself.
This week, I discovered this:
Metro has it in stock pretty much all the time, and my local Instacart (which I am completely dependent on) has them in their list of shops so it’s easy enough to dump one in my cart and stash it in the fridge. They keep *forever* – this one had a best before date in January 2023 – so I don’t have to worry about freezing and thawing OR getting to it before it rots in the fridge (this is my biggest former shame – all the food waste – ugh).
Y’all, this is a game-changer. Let me explain.
I woke up yesterday morning and did my usual routine of feeding dogs + cat, making coffee, doing admin, etc and then found myself absolutely RAVENOUS (which is what happens when I start to feed myself regularly – my body remembers that food is a thing and I actually feel hungry on the regular). I was in the middle of doing some stuff over at the new teaching network in preparation for 2023, though, so I didn’t want to take much of a break to shove some food in my face AND I hadn’t yet populated the Bourdain Board.
I dumped this into a microwaveable bowl and dished it out over a slice of thick-cut Italian bread with a fuck tonne of fresh cracked black pepper.
And then I *howled* because when I was a kid and I used to ask my mother “What’s for dinner?” she would often quip “Shit on a shingle” and this meal that I put together in exactly five minutes?
It was exactly what I imagine shit on a shingle might look like. (Hence, no pictures!)
It was delicious and quick and it filled my belly *before* noon (the daily goal) AND it made me laugh (extra dopamine? YES PLEASE!).
This shift I’ve made away from trying to *force* myself to be neurotypical (I’m not) and adultier (boring) and toward whatever delights my senses, makes my life easier, and creates space for me to be *exactly who I am at any given moment* including too hyperfocused to do a so-called “proper care and feeding” has been absolutely life-changing. I know some of you have noticed how much lighter I seem – you see it in the lives or in the classes I’m teaching and you’ve said so – and I’ve been noticing it, too.
I think this is why, y’all! I think the slack I’m cutting myself and the tender, loving care I’m showering myself with is the best medicine I’ve ever taken. Yes, therapy has helped enormously (and in fact, without therapy I wouldn’t be questioning that mean voice in my head that shoulds all over me in the first place), but this one shift from trying to shame myself into being a “better person”, which makes self-care (or the lack thereof) a weirdly moral issue (which it is *not) to making all kinds of allowances for the way I *actually work* vs how I think I *should* work has changed everything.
This is how I talk to myself lately.
“No desire to shower? Sink bath! No time to cook? Pipin’ Hot Soup Company delivers! Pile of laundry in my line of sight? Pick it up and put it in the tub until I’m ready to do laundry! Body too tired and sore to wrangle the bedding? Change the pillowcases and the top sheet. Too many dishes to do all at once? Do them in shifts! Don’t have the emotional bandwidth to go on that outing? DON’T GO.”
The last few days have been awesome. Let me show you.
On Sunday, I hopped into Kimi’s car and we went on a road trip to Kitchener so she could visit her parental units and I could visit one of my kiddos.
We made it home to London in plenty of time for me to crawl into the nest to snuggle with the furbabes before bedtime! I slept like a baby, my heart full of light and optimism having seen my kid face-to-face for the first time in a year, and got up on Monday morning ready to take on the week! I did some dishes, fed my face, broke down a bunch of cardboard (why is there always so much cardboard?) and then hopped on YouTube for Prayers To The Moon.
Look at her! LOOK!
That lovely smudge down her face happened *by accident* and I could not be more thrilled.
I’m not 100% convinced she’s done so I didn’t finish her with wax like I usually do. Leaving her open like this means I can come back and add whatever details feel right in the moment.
Last week, I treated myself to a charcuterie board in the hopes that it would help with the whole “I’m too hyperfocused on this to feed myself” thing that’s been going on. It has a little drawer in it that holds some cocktail forks and cheese knives. I LOVE IT OMG and I’ve already used it twice since it arrived on Saturday.
Yesterday, I ordered all the cheeeeses, some fig jam, some fruit, some crackers, and some Italian cold cuts so I can keep a board going at all times.
Renee and I were talking about it last night and I quipped that I want to call it something other than a charcuterie (or SharkCootchie) and we brainstormed a bit. I came up with “Bourdain Board” in honour of Anthony Bourdain.
You have no idea how happy this makes me.
I’ve also got two massive 27-ounce glass mugs coming so I can do my tea blooms (a recent obsession) in style without having to get up to refill the mug every five minutes (I’m a bit of a chugger). They haven’t arrived yet, but I’ll snap a photo when they do.
All these little treats and moments of joy are serving to remind me of what life can be like when I’m *really in it*. After being pretty much out of it for three years (with some golden moments here and there) it is so good to be back, y’all. The things that felt like a total slog just a few months ago are now feeling easy again. The brain fog is lifting. I not only see the light, I feel like I *am* the light.
And that’s progress, so I’ll take it.
In Other News
Please join me in a celebration of the returning light on December 22nd at 1 p.m. EASTERN on Zoom. Register here. If you can’t make it live, there WILL be a replay!
So, you want to be an artist, and you’ve just started out with hope in your eyes and passion in your heart for your chosen art form. Perhaps you’ve begun a practice – sketching or painting or writing or composing. Maybe you’ve done a few things by now and when you look at your fresh, shiny ‘body of work’, your heart sinks a little bit. You may be giving yourself a stern talking-to. You may even be going all GORDON RAMSEY on yourself. (Curious what I mean by this? Do keep reading!)
Practicing any art form is hard at first. We need to develop our skills, develop muscle memory (or carve out new pathways in our brain meats). We need to begin seeing or hearing or thinking in a new way.
And hard not just in the skill-building sense, but in the hard-on-our-self-esteem sense. Doing anything we’re new at comes with a double whammy of omg, I suck at this stuff + omg, look at that <insert the flaws you perceive in your work> stuff. Neither is good for the budding artist within us, or the tender five-year-old self we all carry at the core of our adulthood.
We’ve all experienced our Hell’s Kitchen-inspired inner critics going all Gordon Ramsey on our asses over how badly we suck as we are beginning. Let me ask you this: how do you feel when you watch someone bash themselves about the head and face for sucking or getting it wrong or hating their own work?
Like crap. Because this is tender territory. Our inner five-year-olds are thinking “OH NO! IF SHE’S CRAP THEN I MUST BE CRAP, TOO!” Our budding inner artists get really, really scared to *try* because we know we’re new, and we know we’re probably going to suck, too.
We need a little Julia Child infusion. Julia Child would never swear at us for breaking an egg. She would just move the class into omelet-making with grace and humour. She would never freak out at us or swear at us for burning the filet. She’d throw her hands up and say THERE’S ALWAYS THE SALAD…
So, let’s ease off on ourselves. Let’s save the really hard stuff for when we’ve mastered the basics. Let’s remember that we are NEW. Let’s remember that we get to practice and practice doesn’t mean ‘perfect’ or even ‘passable’. It means PRACTICE.
Let’s practice with a sense of fun, of play. Let’s not yell at our budding inner artists for *trying*. Let’s not traumatize our already tender inner five year olds with smack talk. Let’s not label our early attempts as ‘failures’.
I want you to take this in. Bookmark it. Make it a habit to watch it regularly. I’m down to once a month or so, but when I first started making art, I was watching this *at least* weekly.
Watch it daily if you need to:
Perfectionism BLOCKS Progress
When I first began I *sucked at everything*. I sucked like crazy. I couldn’t draw what I saw (and I still can’t) to save my life. I had to learn every skill I’ve got and then I had to practice. I knew I sucked, but I *was okay with it*. I was lucky enough to know that suckage is inevitable when you are a beginner.
If I’d expected to be perfect or even good out of the gate, I would have quit because perfectionism blocks progress. It sets us up to fail.
Because, listen: Perfect doesn’t exist. Even when (as in portrait making) we measure every facial feature within a nanometer of its existence, there is going to be something *off* in our final product. And guess what? THAT’S AWESOME! Because it is in the flaws that character shines through. It is in the slight crookedness of a grin or the wonkiness of one eye that our faces achieve their humanity.
Compare, for example, a mannequin to a photograph. Mannequins are perfect. They are also creepy. They are imitations of life, and they feel like imitations.
So, forget perfect. Go for progress. Progress moves us forward. Every time you practice, you are *bound to get better*. A first attempt will suck, but it is also medal-worthy, because DUDE! YOU TRIED! And you are going to keep trying until you are HAPPY with what you produce.
Trying Is Winning
Learning to create things that make us happy is an exercise in trying. We will produce a lot of crap, but it is COMPOST crap, not shit-on-the-bottom-of-our-shoe crap. It is the kind of crap from whence roses grow. Let us honour that. Making crap leads to making not so crappy leads to making things we love. Trying is winning. We’re all winners.
The Art Of The Reframe
If you start channeling Gordon Ramsey, try conjuring up Julia Child instead. To Gordon’s “WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU?” respond with “THERE’S ALWAYS THE SALAD”.
Do Not Do
Try it and see if you don’t find yourself easing up a little bit…or a lot.
You would not expect a five-year-old to master anything out of the gate. Like a five-year-old trying something new, you have permission to suck. Sucking leads to not sucking with time, patience, practice, humour and kindness.
Sending humour and kindness to all the places that need it.