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The Art of… making a mark

The Art of…making a mark.

So, for the creatives out there, I KNOW you can understand the “dry” periods. It’s a time where the words won’t come, the paint lies on the palette without motivation and you are quite certain you have lost all of your talent down some horrible chasm of despair. Those are the days where fear prevents me from picking up a pencil or paint brush, or even writing a word. I have to find the courage somehow to break through the negativity and find a way to begin anew. It’s not easy, it takes commitment, and I might fail, which is scary.

Paper laid out with pencils, a ruler, a protractor, and a compass on it.

Likewise, I feel like we as humans have dry periods of humanity. We wrap ourselves tightly into our own selfish worlds. We become unable to reach out beyond our own comfort to assist someone else. It’s too hard to step out of our comfort zone to do more than our busy lives already dictate we do. We forget compassion as we travel through life in lieu of the grocery list of tasks we allot for each day of living.
When we are driven by fear, or selfishness, our world gets smaller. I don’t think that is how it is supposed to be.

Take a moment, look at your hand. Go ahead, I promise it won’t hurt. See that? That unique and lovely swirl? You know- right there on the end of your finger? Your fingerprint. That is YOURS- there is not another in the world that looks exactly like yours.

Just like your fingerprint- YOU are meant to make your mark in a unique and wonderful way!

Our president has this to say. “Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.” —Barack Obama</p>

Your mission is as unique as your fingerprint. It is yours; no one can tell you how you should do it. That is on you. I suppose sometimes it takes a bit of effort to figure out just where your talents lie. However I do know that it is a process and inactivity will only serve to squander the opportunity you have to make your mark. Fear builds up, and negativity wins. Don’t allow this to happen! A painting will not paint itself; a score of music will not play until it is written, nor will a machine get built without the mechanic or designer creating it.

Another tidbit of wisdom for you-
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare composed poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

I don’t think I set out with the forming of Create Art 4 Good as a way to make my mark, but truly I felt it was a culmination of who I am. I felt that it was the next part of my journey. But certainly I hope to make a difference. I can tell you that this process has already made a mark on me. I feel like doors are flying open and I am having a hard time keeping up! The intent was certainly honorable, and I believe in that is great power- I am in awe of this process. It is exciting and life giving. It certainly comes with plenty of work, but, full steam ahead!

Now I ask you-
What can you do? What is uniquely yours? How are you going to make your difference?

Today, I invite you to make your mark on the world- go on! Get to work!
In Peace-
Susan

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The Art of…slowing down

The art of… slowing down.A white rose

Take a bath. No, honestly you don’t smell in an unfavorable way, but yes, you do look like you could use a moment to yourself. Couldn’t we all?

Life is hectic; this is no news to you. Like everyone else I have a grocery list of goals to accomplish on a daily basis. Work, family, my vocation and other commitments all add up to extremely busy.

While these distractions are useful at times and I suppose NO ONE can be productive all the time, it occurs to me that sometimes even I, at age fifty need to “take a break”. While there are the occasional word game or perhaps a family movie, these things always seem to happen in the middle of another set of “busyness”.

In my last review, my boss asked me what I do for myself. I was surprised at the question; it seemed to have really nothing to do with my work. I stumbled through the answer as I really had no clue what to say. He smiled, and said,” every Tuesday afternoon, I disappear, I turn off my cell phone, and that time is JUST FOR ME.” I sat in silence for a few moments trying to process all he was sharing with me. He went on to explain his reasoning for such an action, he suggested taking some time for him wasn’t selfish, it was vital to his well being. He suggested perhaps I find my own “Tuesday afternoon”.

I remember leaving my review thinking that was a fun idea, however my many roles including family, work and not to mention entrepreneurship would prevent me from ever taking advantage of his suggestion. I remember thinking he just didn’t understand my life.

Hmmmm

Then one day- I took a walk on lunch. I left my cell phone at my desk, and I just took a walk. Normally I work through lunch, life as a captionist seems to dictate that. I didn’t that day. I took a walk and it was amazing how I felt at the end of it. Not only had I taken a moment to clear my head, but to exercise and refocus. I let go, I enjoyed the spring air, I took in the sights of spring. The rest of the day went swimmingly well, I not only got my work done well, but I was downright joyful about it.

At the end of the school year, I brought my boss chocolate chip cookies, and I thanked him for his words of wisdom. I believe that I am a better human when I remember to take a “Tuesday afternoon” now and again.

Since then, I am honest to admit not always good about taking a moment for myself, I seem to forget and have to relearn the lesson that it is not only okay to take some time for me, it is vital.

My loving home is a very busy place. My children are still at home, my two year old granddaughter still runs screaming through the house and I forget with that giant “to do” list sitting on the table, that I need to step out and take a walk, or find a sketch pad and go to the beach, grab my camera and explore downtown architecture or… take a bath. These things are indulgent perhaps, in our quick shower world, but I believe necessary to feed the soul.

Today, I invite you to find a moment, and take it just for you. The rest of the world will keep on turning, I promise. It can also turn without your attention for an hour. Go ahead… do it! You DESERVE it.

In peace-
Susan

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The Art of … Friendship

The art of… friendship

A blue heart on a white background.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather is one of those things that give value to survival.” – C. S. Lewis

Friendship is one of the many things I believe we as humans take for granted.

In fact, the social media “Facebook” has exploited the term. On Facebook friendship seems to equate to anyone you have ever known, shopped at the same grocery store with or perhaps attend the same university (maybe not even at the same time!). It is superficial. While I agree it can be a great way to reconnect with people, I suggest that it is not always the healthiest method of maintaining or growing a true friendship.

True friendship to me entails many different things; none of them include “writing on my wall”.

There does not seem to be an accurate definition of friendship, certainly not one that truly defines all aspects of the term.

There are people in my life that I rarely speak with. Yet, when I do, it feels like no time has passed since last we met. The most difficult task seems to be sharing every detail of life during the time we spent apart. I usually leave our meeting wondering why we don’t see each other more, but grateful for each moment spent with this treasured friend.

There are friends that I call “3 am friends”. Any time, any place you need them, I KNOW they would be there. My husband jokes that there are friends who would help you move, and then there are friends that would help you move a body. All kidding aside- the body moving friends are my 3 am friends.

Without going on to define every avenue of friendship I think it is clear that there are many different types. I hope you are blessed with good friends, old friends, new ones and yes, especially “3 am friends”.

However, one of the things that has occurred to me as I travel this journey, is that just because friends come and go has no bearing on the value of their friendship.

I have lived in two states; I have attended school, and college, and even joined a few organizations. Each of these things allows you to meet different people. Each of them allows the seeds of friendship to be planted. I am honored to say that I have been blessed by many friendships. Some I still maintain, some have passed.

I used to mourn this deeply.

Shouldn’t a true friend be a part of your life forever?
NO!

Please don’t diminish those in your life by equating their worth to the longevity of your relationship. I believe that people enter our lives often when we need them to. Sometimes they stay for a cup of tea, and sometimes they stay forever. As we grow, our needs change. As we walk our journey we are open to different things.

To view friendship this way truly honors those in your life as they walk the shared journey. It is indeed an act of gratitude and ultimate love to not attempt at possession, but truly to appreciate who they are and what they are to you at the time they were in your life.

So today- look around you. Appreciate those in your life and the gifts they give to you. Be inspired by them, grateful for them and most of all… be one of them.

In Peace-
Susan

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A few more details…

A brown wooden china cabinet

A few more details…

I am overwhelmed by the support that each of you have so generously given to me. This journey has been incredible and each day resembles Christmas, a new gift, a new opportunity. Today a most affirming gift came from dear friend of mine whom I met while living in Pennsylvania. She has always been a bright spot in my life, and today was no exception. She sent me a message, “Your mom would be very proud of what you are doing and who you are becoming right now…………xoxoxo.” I have to say these words meant more than she will ever know. While I started Create Art 4 Good because I believe it is vital for me to use my talents to create a change in my corner of the world, it is also an incredible benefit to make my parents proud and to carry on the legacy that they have begun. I miss my mom, deeply. To think she would be proud of this, (and I believe she would be) is certainly an added motivation. So that said, it seems time to disclose a few more of the details of my plan.

It isn’t just a cliché. Art has tremendous power both for the creator as well as the observer (collectors too!). This is why we have things in frames on our walls, sculptures, beautiful books and are compelled to embellish our living and working spaces. Artistic opportunity is everywhere, the greeting card, billboards, murals and sculptures in the park. Ideas are limitless, and the prospect of creating a piece of art that not only moves another emotionally but also might have a long lasting positive effect, thrills me to beyond measure.

The next phase of Create Art 4 Good goes beyond the blog- and into the marketplace. Create Art 4 Good reaches out to artists and collectors alike. My process is simple. Support art and artists- (highly talented, hand chosen and juried), sell their wonderful work and give a portion of the proceeds to charity. In this, everyone benefits. How exciting is that?!

One of the best parts of my plan (in my opinion) is that I am able to continue working on my own art. As you may or may not know I am a mixed media artist. I work in pretty much whatever I can get my hands on. Clay, water media, fibre, found objects, photography, you name it! I will continue my artistic exploration; I will continue to offer my work.

As my mother always said, “Charity begins at home!” So my very first offering will be a china cabinet. It is a lovely cabinet with a very classic look. Soon, it will be a more contemporary look. Oh, it’s not done yet! In fact, far from it! Is it odd that I find that exciting? I feel like as my business grows, this cabinet will also be transformed. I will paint each stroke knowing that my dreams are that much closer to blooming. I invite you to go along with me on this exciting voyage. I will share the journey through photographs and quick updates.

Just to kick it off, here is the first image-A brown wooden china cabinet

So there you have it… come along with me… and let’s get to work

In peace-
Susan

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The Art of … mistakes.

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes. Gandhi

If you have never made a mistake, then my friend, this blog entry is not for you. For the rest of us I invite you to see your mistakes in a different way.

My children were quite addicted to PBS television in the mornings when they were young. One of our favorite shows (as it taught them something and also had adult jokes) was Magic School Bus. I loved Miss Frizzle! She was intelligent, snarky and confident. It was a beautiful thing!

Miss Frizzle was full of energy and wisdom, however my favorite quote from her was, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

It seems Miss Frizzle could have very well been sending that message not just to the under ten crowd, but to each of us. Maybe it’s time to see mistakes a little differently.

I will confess to you that I never ever wanted to make ANY mistakes. (who does?) I thought it diminished me, I felt like it made me less intelligent, less honorable, and well, go ahead and choose a few more negative opinions to go along with that. I put a great deal of pressure on myself to be perfect. (like that worked!)

The only thing I accomplished was refusing to learn from the mistakes I made because I wouldn’t take ownership of them. Guess what happens? You get to make them again! Again and again until you learn from them. ugh!

Probably one of the most profound things I have discovered is when I refuse to make mistakes, when I walk so carefully that I try not to stray off the pristine path and get messy, I do not fully live. Life is messy, very messy sometimes- mistakes are all part of that. when I keep myself insulated from getting messy, I also prevent opportunity.

One of the things I love about digital photography is that there are endless opportunities to get that perfect shot. If the photo is horrible, I delete it, yet I am able to take literally thousands of shots in order to get “the one”. There is no guilt involved, no stress. I simply hit DELETE on my photo “mistakes”. Why on earth can’t we approach life that way?

Here are a few thoughts-

First- let go of the guilt.
Guilt is preventing you from really living. What does it serve any way? Why do we attach guilt with everything as humans. I am in NO way telling you not to be responsible for your actions, only to see your mistake for what it is, not pile on a bunch of negativity with a side of suffering. Remember a sense of humor doesn’t hurt, approach life openly and understand that this is a journey not a single performance.

Secondly- GET MESSY-
Go ahead- I dare you- live 110%. Get messy, try new things, do not let previous mistakes prevent you from discovering new life. Mistakes = opportunity! Should I never take another photograph because I took quite a few bad ones? HECK NO! That should make me want to take even more photographs… in search for “the one”! So, do it, get excited, try new things, experience more not less.

Third- don’t give up.
Obviously, I am not going to wake up tomorrow and decide I should apply for a job at Kodak as an engineer. I am proud to say that I am very happy having an artist brain and skill set. I am not going to “change colors” and instantly have a completely different skill set. Thinking that is possible would pretty much just set me up for failure. However, I do know the talents I am blessed with. That said- I confess to you now that I have made countless mistakes as an artist. I have explored a myriad of ways to be successful with my art. By that admission, I am certain you have figured out that MANY mistakes have been made in the process.

Today, I come to you feeling successful in my mistakes. Create Art 4 Good is the marriage of those mistakes and a collection of who I am. I am thrilled to be on this part of the journey. If the mistakes of the past brought me here then I am successful! I truly believe in this project like none other I have ever ventured in. Determination to find “the right place” for me, brought me here.

Don’t give up!

Mistakes are an opportunity. If you allow yourself to see them in this way, they will become seeds of growth instead of pangs of shame. The art of the mistake includes attitude, ambition and action….

It’s a new day- I invite you to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!
In peace
Susan

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The Art of … simplicity

Living, truly living, in my opinion is an art form. This blog will share not only the progress of “Create Art 4 Good”, but also will share what I have learned thus far in these fifty years. Thanks for listening-

On Simplicity

sim·plic·i·ty

  1. the state, quality, or an instance of being simple.
  2. freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts: an organism of great simplicity.

We are born with nothing and in the end; we die with nothing. It seems however, that “between the dash” we spend our lives accumulating “stuff” – things that we think we need but really don’t: things, hobbies, collections and just general stuff. George Carlin quips that a home isn’t really a haven but a place to hold all of our “stuff”. His skit is funny, but he makes a valid point.

Look around you, right at this moment – how many of the objects you see, do you really NEED? I am betting if you are honest with yourself, very few. Yet we are consumed with getting something better, faster, flashier, prettier. Then we bring it home and we have to take care of it, charge it, dust it, clean it, and move it so it looks better or has a space more deserving. We are drowning in our “stuff”. Before you think I have perfected this art… I will confess openly, I have not. For me this is a journey. It is an exciting journey, but still, something I am working on. Sometimes I fail, and sometimes I succeed. The feeling of success is what I wish to share with you.

Gandhi was one of the most amazing humans to grace this earth. He walked the earth with very little in his possession. He didn’t believe that “stuff” was important. What he did believe in was simply people, peace, and hope. These are things we cannot possess, which is clearly the point. This man did not die with millions of dollars in his bank account, but clearly he made a mark that changed the world.

Simplicity is defined as Freedom. Freedom? Really? How is that?

Let me share with you my experience. This year, I turned 50. I have gathered fifty years of “stuff” – sentimental, and otherwise. I have the newspaper clipping from when I was born, I have a ceramic fish I made and gave to my parents when I was in second grade, I have countless pieces of art I have created, both finished and unfinished, I have a vase from my grandmother’s funeral, I have notes, and cards from those that sent me love the old fashioned way. I have… well, let’s be honest- much too much. As I age, it seems quite clear to me that it is time to let go of much of this. I live in a modest home, and frankly there isn’t enough room to hang on to every piece of sentimental or otherwise possessions. In reality I have discovered it really isn’t the stuff I treasure but more often the connection to how I gained it, or who it came from. Perhaps it was something from my husband’s grandmother, or my mother – both of whom were important and precious to me. For a while I needed to touch something they have touched. It helped me as I mourned the loss of them; it touched me because I could feel their presence in a physical way. I needed that. It’s not that I miss them any less, but I don’t believe it is possible to capture their essence in the items they may have given me, in the things I associate with them Certainly what keeps them closest is when I speak of them through stories and memories, or touch my heart where I know they will live on for always.

This summer has been about working through some of the process of letting go-Emotionally, spiritually and physically. My goal is to create a more harmonious environment in which to live, and create. My hope is by letting go of “things” that really don’t matter, to simplify, I will be free, life will be easier, and I won’t have to dust nearly as much! I have to say; in what I have eliminated already has been a tremendous gift to me. Also, I was able to help others by donating goods to those more in need than I. I am certainly not suggesting that we purge everything we own; however, perhaps it would be more an honor to those who have loved me and whom I love and treasure to live in a more authentic way – freedom in and of itself is a treasure. It is a treasure that we tend to squander.

I know that I will never be Gandhi. I believe he had three possessions – his glasses, a pen and his sandals. As amazing as that sounds, I know that I could never simplify to that extent. However, that level of simplification did seem to give him a great amount of freedom, no moving truck required. Today I challenge you – as I step up to this challenge as well – to simplify, to be free. Cleanse the negativity in your life, the clutter. Purge what keeps you from living unencumbered.

I wish you simplicity.

In peace-
Susan

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This is the day….

canoe next to dock

So- to be honest I feel like I have been preparing for this day for the entirety of my fifty years. I have been struggling with an actual “launch” date for some time now, however, it always seemed that I should attend to another detail, or wait for the perfect time. Imagine my surprise today when something in me decided that this was the day. I didn’t do anything special, but the time has come. Dreams come true. Today is proof… I invite you to join me in this journey

It will be simple at first, blooming in the most beautiful way…

Create Art 4 Good- is formed from a culmination of experience as an artist, advocate of the arts, sponsor of those in need along with a concentrated effort to give back to my community.

As a child my parents set a fine example of what it meant to put others first. Our home was an open door. We would often we have people who I didn’t know over for dinner, to stay with us temporarily or perhaps we would deliver food, clothing or some other form of support to them. This became a way of life. Even when financially things were the tightest in my family my parents always tithed at least 10% of their income to give to Charity. This is a foundation for how I view my opportunity to give back to others, to “Pay it forward”.

As a lifelong artist I have had the opportunity to sell my work to others. There is enormous power and gratification in having the opportunity to share your art, your passions with others. I have been blessed with the opportunity to manage a teaching art gallery. I have taught art in schools, as well as galleries working with artists from 2 to 86. The motivation to continue these efforts, to promote art, artists is strong. I believe that art as essential to live as food and water.

Marrying these two aspects of my life fulfills many dreams for me. I am highly motivated to serve others in whatever opportunity may come my way, and I am happiest serving others in the world of art, creating it and supporting the work of others.

In the beginning, I want to share with you gifts I have discovered along the way in this blog. It seems in my efforts for simplification, I have gained so much. I will continue this blog while I move on to the next part of my journey. I hope that you will participate. I pray for your grace as I move through each step of my business plan. ( for those of you who know me, I know you are shocked that there is an actual business plan! ) I am excited about the future, I am excited to use the gifts I have been given, and I am honored to serve in this most wonderful way!

I invite you- to “Pay it forward” in your own way, to simplify- to truly taste all that is offered in this world. Together, we will make a difference.

In peace –
Susan Carmen-Duffy