Insipid No More

December wraps up the twelfth chapter and 12 months of The Artist’s Way for this creative. I would only recommend completing a chapter a month if you are ready to have your world rocked. I heard other participating artists talking about needing to stop part way through the year due to blocks surfacing that they had never experienced before. This was true for me as well. Every fear, every block, every experience was intensified sometimes to the point of being too difficult to withstand. On the other hand, I have never accomplished so much, had so many breakthroughs, and been so much at home in my creative skin as I have in the last year. I really came into my own. Artist’s Dates evolved from outings into taking advantage of many live stream courses. Artist’s Pages evolved into long meditations clearing the mind’s negative self-talk/sabotage. Mediation lead to a peaceful and a more positive creative!

Chapter 12 is entitled Recovering a Sense of Faith. This chapter reminds us to trust in our Creator–trust that the Devine’s plan for us very well may be in line with our own deepest desires.

I pondered back on a time when I had told myself such a clever lie that I even deceived myself. I believed that my artistic and creative talents were lower than a true life purpose. What I mean is, I believed that I needed to be giving some sort of service (for the greater good) in order to be living my true purpose. I believed that my creative pursuits were self-centered and indulgent. I guess I hadn’t considered I could live a life of giving back while being an artist. I had always had a great eye for home decor and visual art. I felt that I would be swallowed up in materialism and worldliness if I dedicated my life to my creativity. Deep down, I had known that I had so much talent and desire to be an artist, but had talked myself out of it on so many levels. I even told myself that I didn’t want to do it as a living because it was too special to me and it would be ruined as a passion. When we take so much time to talk ourselves out of something so important, we should recognize this as the red flag it is. The further I got away from these gifts, the less I felt like me. The final nail in the coffin for me was when bought into the idea of finding a career based on making money.

This happened to be in healthcare. What was dangerous for me was that it was a hungry monster with a never ending need for service. Luckily, that is when I discovered The Artist’s Way. I was heading for a degree in social work to be a step in my goal to be a medical social worker (the highest paid in the field of social work). The course brought me back to my authentic self, so doing it for an entire year made perfect sense. It had become my self-care. I had found a mode of healing. Art, creativity, the process had become not about creating bodies of work. It had become feeling and being alive.

This year, I learned that God is in the details. He is there wanting you to live your life to the fullest. He wants you to be on fire with purpose and excitement for living. Cameron points out that we have this idea that spirituality is about living a life of scarcity.. never being given permission to be truly aligned with your hopes and dreams. As you learn to have faith that the universe has your back all the while practicing your spirituality and creativity, you find you grow. Your ability to give back increases. Your talent increases. Your reach increases. Learning a craft, an art, or a skill is bonus! There is so much to gain and so little to lose.

If you are ready for the most amazing adventure, make your creativity a priority. Make creativity a regular part of your life. This isn’t about being a professional artist. It is about being fully alive. Finding your soul’s truest expression. Honoring your spirit, your voice. Honoring life.

“Adventures don’t begin until you get into the forest. The first step is an act of faith.” -Mickey Hart

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This painting was created in Shiloh McLoud’s Awakened Woman live stream class. She teaches a visioning/intuitive/imagination process that is beautiful and empowering. “The Muse is the Voice of Your Soul.” -Shiloh McLoud.

Title: “Lady of Fire.” Going deep to talk with my muse.

Blessed

July has been a very busy month with the sun out and all. The beautiful weather always gets the best of me and before I know it another day has passed and I have little to show for my time. I love the long, warm days where I can twiddle away my time in my garden and take long drives to farmer’s markets and what not. I do wish these days of summer could last.

So, what happens in my art goals is that I get stuff done, but don’t take the normal amount of care documenting. I also tend to let my Morning Pages slide quite a bit.

This month also seemed to be packed with lots of projects as well including finally launching Michelle Quesada – Mused Art (my artist page). So Saturday morning came and I noticed it was the LAST weekend in July and knew that I was running out of time to get my Artist’s Date in for July. Imagine my excitement when I saw that Shiloh Sophia was offering a same day class called Being Abundance. I have long learned that abundance is a state of being–as well as a fleeting state at times.

I had just enough time to get down to make a few stops to pick up a few essential items to create an abundance alter before her class began (candles, chocolate, peaches, and flowers).

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I already had the other listed items for making the painting. I happen to be a huge fan of her style of art which she says she uses a style of Jungian-Shamanism or Visioning-Imagination. This really means that you search for meaningful symbols through guided meditative journeying. It truly leads to beautiful and meaningful art pieces. I had taken a class from her before and found her process fruitful.

Although the six hour class had several breaks (including lunch), she taught it live and walked the students through a painting from start to finish. In this type of process, she is the guide to assist you in connecting with your own answers. I think this is what I really love about the philosophy that she uses. There was journaling, processing, letter writing, medication, prayer, and symbol identification. At the end of the day, you came away uplifted as well as with a beautiful symbolic painting of your own. I received several symbols some of which were included in my painting of my lady of abundance. I realized that the message that I heard was that I am blessed and that I only need to open my awareness to the beauty all around me.

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This was by far one of my favorite Artist’s Dates so far this year! What has really struck me is that there are so many opportunities that would have never been possible a few years back due to the world wide web. How lucky are we all to be able to have access to talented artists such as Shiloh Sophia and so many others! What a beautiful day and productive class for only $47! I will be heading back for more of her teaching!

Layered Inspiration

June’s Artist Date was another special experience for me. I decided a couple of months ago that I would take Flora Bowley’s Bloom True course on the process she calls intuitive painting. It complimented The Artist’s Way theory quite perfectly. Each week the course followed a theme like play or bravery and each day you were given a task to complete. 2 days per week you were to paint. The bigger the canvases, the better as far as she was concerned. I went through so many emotions over the past 5 weeks, and today my Artist Date brought my painting to a conclusion.

Funny enough, this month’s chapter focused on abundance and treating yourself with luxury intentionally. What this means is that you pay attention all month how you are spending your money (no judgement), and then seeing how you are stingy with yourself in areas that would actually matter more. I found this to be true. I found myself being reluctant to buy the canvases, but in the end found coupons and my unspent birthday gift which helped me purchase my first 36 x 48 inch canvas for only $12. It’s original price of $79 felt like a lot of pressure to make something spectacular. I also had several 12 x 12s laying around and decided to do a grouping of 6 for my living room.

Each week I added new layers of paint to my canvases and started feeling a little more performance anxiety with the last 4 layers. In her course, she teaches a style that is very free flowing and without pre contemplation for the final outcome. You put on music and paint layers in warm colors, then cool colors, then blacks and whites etc. In the end, you start seeing images emerge and go out seeking inspiration on walks or in books.

This month, in The Artist Way, you were to go for a walk and collect leaves and rocks. This was also an exercise in Flora’s course. Yesterday after working on my painting I felt that the colors were just not coming together and I began feeling stuck. So this morning, I took my final Artist’s Date by going to the park with my camera, a big plastic baggie, a sketch book, my Artist’s Way journal and a pencil.

I wandered up the riverbed and calmed myself with the water’s flow and began taking pictures and sketched a rock. I then walked back up toward the trail when a big orange butterfly almost flew into me. I watched as other butterflies danced through the clearing. I wished I could have gotten a picture before a crow upset the magic. I walked up the trail and found a clearing on the path with huge trees and hundreds of ferns and realized those were the final elements missing in my painting. I collected my leaves, moss, bark, and pine cones before making my own little forest offering (another assignment for the class). As I arranged the wildflowers, moss, twigs, and leaves a woman stopped to watch. I had to wonder what she thought I must be doing.

I went home and worked on my painting with my new pieces of inspiration surrounding it, AND I finished it and loved how it turned out. I felt the most excited that it really reflected my family. Every bit of the painting was symbolic of what inspires us and our spirit. Next up, I will be working on the last few layers of my huge canvas, but as for today, I celebrate. I felt like a real painter. Something that I hadn’t quite owned yet.

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Time Out

May was a great month for my Artist Dates, but tough for my Morning Pages. In the previous chapter of The Artist’s Way, you were challenged to stretch your Artist Dates out a little. So, when my husband had a business trip to Florida, I jumped at the opportunity (something that I have passed on for the last two years). I have been excited to explore new territory & it had been too long since I took a break. I took the month off from lots of stuff, and unfortunately, I also let my Morning Pages slide. By the end of the month, I felt really out of sorts and that could have been a contributing factor.

Fort Lauderdale and Miami are favorite spots for my husband & I, so going back would be good for couple time, yet when he would be at all of his business stuff, I would have time for adventures of my own. With the reading deprivation exercise of April, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a book. I found The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh at the airport prior to departure and blazed though it by the next morning. Image

The whole trip was magical & I felt tuned into beauty where ever I went. On the plane, even though I couldn’t sit next to husband (due to our boarding order and limited seating left), I sat by a chatty lady who reminded me of a book character in the making.

While in Florida, I limited my internet time and spent the majority of my time soaking up the sun and relaxing (that is, when it wasn’t pouring rain and storming). The up and down weather amazed me because one minute it was 90 degrees and the next you were receiving tornado or flash flood warnings. The tropical climate with its distinctive personality draws me back again and again.

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I came back refreshed and feeling creative. As we landed back in Portland, Belinda Underwood, a beautiful, young musician was playing folk music in the airport and I bought both of her available albums as souvenirs of the trip.

Blooming

April’s Artist’s Dates & Walks were overshadowed by my preoccupation with reading deprivation. By the end of the month I was so thrown off that I believe that I really got back in touch with part of my younger Michelle. I felt a sense of renewal for physical vitality. I wanted to feel pretty again-to feel young again. I wondered if this is what a midlife crisis feels like. In the end, I felt grateful to have the opportunity to go on a trip to Florida with my husband. The calling sun becomes quite the temptation after a long northwest winter/spring.

Being a Facebook page owner has put me in touch with some great people. One afternoon (a couple of months ago) Laurel from Illuminating Souls offered free “angel readings.” I had never done these before, so it intrigued & brought me to tears to read the different page owners’ readings that day. It was such a sweet experience to feel that each person’s reading was so special and unique to them. Each reading also captured their best self–their potential. I decided this month, for my first Artist’s Date, to have a private reading. With little information about me, she was right on with my feelings and aligned with the direction that I have been drawn towards. She helped me to see that I have been leery of femininity, yet comfortable with the masculine. She recommended a couple of books for me to read including Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes which have turned out to be just what I’ve been needing (I can’t even begin to say how difficult it was for me to hold off picking them up until the new month). Laurel also taped the reading, so I was able to listen to it again later. In the end, I had two pages of notes and great new information for my journey ahead.

Two dates were spent with self-care activities like shopping, massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, & a mani/pedi time. I am learning more and more that my artist needs to be pampered and to feel well and nurtured.

I went back near the mountain for my final date. The town that you go through to go up to Mt. St. Helens is Woodland. This little town has more going on than what one would expect. My favorite time of year there is spring because they have both the Tulip Festival and the Lilac Gardens in full bloom. I learned about these events back when I completed the Artist’s Way my first time in 2008 and have been attending whenever possible ever since. Woodland still has the small town feel, yet understands the value of hospitality.

My first stop was to the Tulip Festival. It was a little crowded for my style, but I went with it and took pictures with other people in them as well as the flowers. I enjoyed watching many ladies tromping through the flowers with their umbrellas up protecting them from the drizzle. I smiled to see many with cameras and many others with arms full of tulips.

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Before heading home, I took a walk around the old town area, and I found Old Town Grill, a “new to me” restaurant to try out. My first impression of the place was that it was too dark inside. Most of the patrons were sitting on the other side of the establishment (in the bar) watching sports, and it definitely had the old bar feel to it (the kind that the lights are kept dim because the decor hasn’t been updated since the early 80s).  I’ve learned long ago not to judge a restaurant by its appearance, but in this instance it put me off because when I went to read the history trivia on the other side of the menu, there was a dingy build-up that was hard to ignore. Hand washing before eating helped restore my interest in eating.

The friendly waitress was also the bar tender which kept her occupied for a while before she could take my order; however, I didn’t mind having a little extra time to explore the historic pictures lining the walls of the restaurant of the trees, loggers, and settlers of the area. I felt an immediate connection with the past and got my next lead to go to the museum a couple of blocks away.

My sandwich was pretty good, but the fries were delicious. The grilled sandwich had freshly baked turkey breast, but a processed type of cheese melted over it that I did not particularly like. I would eat there again, but would probably try their club instead because so much of their food had a home made feel to it.

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Next, I headed over to the museum. I found pictures of logs that were basically the size of the log trucks that carried them. I wondered where this old growth timber had come from. The ladies that staffed this small, two room museum were pretty knowledgable and very attentive. I learned that farming & the dairies were an important part of early Woodland. Going away, I felt that I got a good idea of its history and people.

A couple weeks later, I came back to Hulda Klager’s Lilac Garden the last weekend of their season. I did bring my daughter along (I know, it did not technically count as an official Artist’s Date, but I still wanted to include it) which turned out to be a good move since I fell in love with yet another lilac variety.

Gentle remembrances of the beauty of the bloom manifested all month long. The cycles of life may be arguably at their prettiest during the spring season. A longing of earlier times in life may surprise us, but shouldn’t be avoided because so many lessons may be felt.

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Whispers from the Past

MARCH: Artist’s Dates & Walks

March started out a struggle for me to get out on my Artist’s Dates (AD) and Artist’s Walks (AW). I had a very hard time sticking with the rules for the first couple of weeks and one week even took my husband with me. Though it was nice having time with him, I really wasn’t at ease to go at my normal snail’s pace. AWs have become a time for exploration and noticing details…. ADs about connecting with the people past and present.

My husband had been telling me that I would want to see the Oregon City Falls, so when our daughters were in a Saturday jazz competition at the college there, I asked him if he wanted to go as well. We stopped to walk along the sidewalk above the river and took pictures of the water below. I took the opportunity to grill him with questions about the mills on the riverbank and the industry there. He said that as far as he knew they are a big producer of toilet paper.

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Next we went to their museum. I tried not to get caught up in the worry about him getting bored, but that was a challenge for me. Museums are great because you see what the people of the area valued enough to preserve. They had a wonderful section of Native American artifacts and information. Another favorite was reading about notable, Ralph Eddy, photographer to their area, and I saw first hand how he was able to preserve their history through his beautiful work. His cameras were saved spanning his 50 plus year career right there in the museum. I did get some pictures of my own and made the decision that there was a lot more to Oregon City that I need to explore in the future.

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Museum of the Oregon Territory

For my next notable AD, I went to a little city called Kalama in southwest Washington. I had been antique hunting several times before a couple years back and brought home many finds. This time I also learned that the high school in their town was the high school used in the Twighlight films. Even with this attention, the town remains relatively unchanged since the last time I was there seven plus years ago. I did eat in the little deli (the only restaurant in the antique mall), and had the most delicious sandwich made on home made bread. I bought fresh cookies for my family as well. I walked through many of the antique shops and one of my favorite shops was a mix of the old and the new. They had new things that looked like old things. This particular shop also had a big section just devoted to Native American finds. I saw a rattle that was carved out of wood for $200. I had no way of knowing if it was actually authentic, but I got to thinking that antique stores in a way are little museums for people who want to take things from the past home with them. I found a bunch of cool things, but bought a Ladies’ Home Journal from 1910 that I planned on using in my mixed media journaling artwork.  Image

For my AW, I asked about local parks or walking trails and was directed to their park, but didn’t make it to the location that I wanted to. I later read that their park has the world’s talest standing Native American totem pole that Chief Lelooska carved for the World’s Fair in 1962. He did not finish in time, but these were made from wood and still are beautiful today. The park that I did make it to was very small, but I went up on the hill for a great view of the river. Like many of the towns that I have visited, timber is the most visible industry. Factories and piles of tree trunks lined the river as well as a rail line. Driving under the freeway underpass also had clues of the past with a mural of Native Americans, white settlers, and a ship, but I did not find the written history of Native Americans living there before the settlers.

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Since I can remember, I have had a strong connection with Mt. St. Helens (the little active volcano in my back yard). I was only 9 years old when she erupted. At the time we lived pretty close to the south side of the mountain so we felt the earthquakes pretty strongly leading up to the eruption and experienced the blackout from the ash from the eruption itself. Maybe the year before that I met Chief Lelooska (a school field trip that I would never forget). He told many stories, but the one that I remembered was of Mt. St. Helens.

As the spring came on this year, I felt a strong draw to the mountain. I know that the observatory is still closed, so for my last AD in March, I took my own approach from the area that I know I love on the south side of the mountain. I planned on going up to Speelyai Bay. I drove through Woodland set my odometer to zero. I needed to stay on the highway for 14 miles to find the bay. As I drove past Merwin Dam, the roads got narrower and windy, but I could see the gorgeous water below. At 15 miles, I knew that I passed the bay, but honestly had no clue which road to follow to get there. I passed three to four huge log trucks in route. I was pretty stressed at the point when a deer made its way into the road in front of my car. I slowed hoping that the animal didn’t double back and hit my car (deer are funny that way sometimes.. they run up the bank and come back into the road causing an accident). Making it safely back to Merwin Dam, I decided to stop at the Lelooska Lodge to check for upcoming events. I then went down to the lake with my journal and camera. After my walk, I spent the rest of my time there pondering the presence of the mountain. The park was almost deserted, but it was a gorgeous sunny day. The wind had a low howl that was a little spooky, and being alone up there felt exciting and also a little unnerving. It was a spiritual experience as well though. I closed my eyes and felt the stillness of what it is like to be close to the wilderness. I feel like this is an experience that I long for. I imagined what it would have been like to live off of the land. The park’s education board said that the early people who lived in the valley below hunted deer and ate berries.

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On my way back through Woodland, I made one more stop at an antique store that was in an old house which gave it a charming feel. Again this store had some other trinkets that they were selling along with the older antique items. My favorite area was with the baby dolls with what my daughters would call creepy because of their eyes.  Image

Speranza Antiques, Decor and Everlastings

My longing for connection with the earth only gets stronger as I explore the different sites around my community–one that I find difficult to express in words. I want to learn more about the native people who lived in this area before the European settlers came. I also want to feel the spirit of the land.. there is a connection there that I need to discover for myself. My ADs are bringing me closer to this realization and inner desire. It is something that I accept about myself, but I also discount to a certain extent. How many of us feel these intuitive pulls, but aren’t sure where they lead us?

Being Willing to Be “Seen”

The Artist’s Date: Week 7 Camas 

Early that week I had a feeling to head over to Camas. It is a pretty small town outlying Vancouver. Growing up my memories of Camas were of its smell. I never liked driving through it with my parents because of the paper-mill gave off a rotten garbage odor. In the last few years the smell has not been as bad because of EPA rules that went into affect required upgrades that reduced toxins emitted into the air.

As I drove into the town I was surprised at how heavy the traffic was. It seems that the changes had encouraged growth since the last time that I had driven through the town itself. Right on the first block of the city was the paper-mill standing out like a sore thumb. Only a block away adorable shops lined the main strip. I always know where to find the shops of interest and in Camas it was no different. The shops that I love are always in the historical buildings which have their own special charm. I parked and the rain began to fall. I got out of my car and put my hood up. Rain stopped being a serious deterrent for me so long ago.

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Sophisticated women were walking up and down the block and disappearing into the clothing boutique and antique shop. There were also hair and nail shops, natural medicine stores, body shops, a yoga studio, but of course my favorite was the antique and gift shop. The store keepers tended the front with check outs and people were moving from section to section. It was one of those stores that people rent a space to sell their items. You could find all kinds of trinkets from candles and lotions to Mason jars converted into soap dispensers. One section had all kinds of paper stamps. Another had a garden theme. The area that I settled in to search through for quite some time had antique pages from old books and encyclopedias. I imagined great ways to use these in my mixed media projects. I picked 4 maps of different areas that spoke to me.

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Camas Antiques 

A persistent customer seemed to be following me around the store and checkout was no exception. She moved right up to the counter as my items were being rung up and started a conversation about the prices. The clerk charged me almost double for the items before I questioned her. She rang them up at the correct price, but it still seemed inflated. I asked her about other points of interest. She said that a couple of new shops would be opening soon and to try back.

Some days I feel that my ability to be almost invisible works well for me, but on this afternoon I felt a put off by it. I didn’t feel like my needs were met satisfactorily. I continued walking up and down the street looking for other shops but didn’t find much else. It was now a charming town with a new appeal. I snapped some pictures and decided that I would come back on a sunnier day to try again.

The Artist’s Date: Week 8 Ridgefield

Ridgefield was another town that had been affected by industrial pollution, but doesn’t have an overly industrial feel to it. You can’t blink as you move through the little town or you will miss it.  As I parked close to the overlook an old church caught my eye. I walked over to see the view of the overlook and could see the wildlife refuge below. It went for miles, but right below the overlook a train blasted by shaking the earth as it moved along. Next, I approached the lady outside of the wine/beer garden establishment washing her car. My friend had given me a tip that she also owned and managed the church for weddings and events and would  probably let me take pictures of the grounds if I asked nicely. She was a little grumpy about it but warmed quickly up and wanted to have a conversation about my blog and such. She said that there was a lot of history in the town and that she would be happy to share it if I ever needed more.

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Belltower Cathedral

I went down the street and looked at the antique store. Its personality reflected that of the town. It had bird post cards, bird art, doilies, tea sets and antique clothes. The owner wasn’t especially friendly, but did seem to be assisting other customers. I didn’t find anything that screamed at me so I moved on. I walked up and down the block and thought that the tiny bakery/cafe looked adorable. If I had been hungry I would have gone in to check it out. I remembered my friend’s suggestion of a store up on the hill, so I got back in my car to check it out. As I walked in, the owner immediately greeted me and was attentive to each customer that appeared. So much so that everyone in the store began talking to each other. I gave my own unsolicited advice to another customer who was having trouble deciding between two beautiful tops. I found some cute soy candles with subtle scents that I wanted to try. The whole shop had inspiring messages placed here and there. The kind that tell you to trust your ideas and to follow your dreams. She had journals for keeping ideas etc. Unique jewelry, candles, soups, lotions, specialty clothing, pillows, home decor, etc filled ever nook and cranny. If I had my own store, I would run it similar to this. Upon checkout I found the most beautiful wallet and commented on it. She told me that I have expensive taste. I agreed. I think it is more about having the artist’s eye. You recognize finery and quality when you see it.

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The Dancing Rabbit Shop

From this exchange I learned that even though we go on our date alone, people still play an important role in our experiences and our take away. One week I felt ignored and feelings of being a burden crept in to my date. The second week I was intentional in my approach. I went out with the idea that I was going to be outgoing and interactive with those I came in contact with. The result was that the people that I encountered me noticed me. Additionally, the final clerk was skilled in her approach as she tried to “see” me. She was there in the moment with her shop full of customers and “noticing” things about each one that I’m sure aid her in successful sale numbers and return patrons.