Monday, September 29, 2014

My Biggest Lesson from Painting (which is surprisingly universal to life)

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Is there something you have thought about trying, but never did because you thought you didn't have time, or you didn't know how to start, or you didn't have anyone to teach you, or you think you won't be able to do it anyway, or... whatever millions of reasons you've convinced yourself are true?

For me, one of those things was painting. I always liked the idea of painting. I like looking at other people's painted artwork and seeing how they do it. It was one of those things that I thought I might like to try one day, except I'm not really an artist. I don't know anything about paints, or drawing for that matter.

Then one day this spring, I found out about a watercolor class being offered to adults in my small town. It was three nights, no experience necessary, supplies included, $30. It was just the opening I needed. It would let me try out this whole painting thing without committing to a long-term class and without spending tons of money.

I talked to my husband and he was willing to take charge of the kids those nights, so on alternating Wednesdays in April and May, armed with a photograph I had taken of cone flowers, I went to the middle school art room.

I went in with a beginner's mindset, allowing myself to feel whatever I needed to feel - intimidated, overwhelmed, silly - all of it. I didn't worry about perfection because I knew that would be an impossible goal. If my flowers looked more like flying saucers, then I would just pretend that was what they were. My purpose wasn't to create a masterpiece, it was simply to try out painting with watercolors.

But a miraculous thing happened. My flowers didn't look like flying saucers. They looked like flowers.


That is my first painting. Seriously. Not too shabby, right?

Sure if you look closely, you'll see tons of blurred, bleeding edges. You'll see inconsistent colors. But I'm pretty sure you'll also see flowers and leaves and be able to identify them as such.

When the class was finished and we all parted ways for the last time, I wondered if painting was something I could continue on my own. I bought myself a simple set of watercolor paints, a cheap set of brushes (now that I know, I advise not skimping on brushes- go for the more expensive ones), and a beautiful leather-bound watercolor journal which just happened to be on clearance for $9 (down from $32!).

And for a couple months those materials sat unused.

Toward the end of this summer, I realized fear was holding me back. I didn't know what I would paint or how I would draw it, so I didn't bother. I experience the same resistance with writing and I have to consciously decide to write anyway. Eventually I realized I would have to do the same here - paint anyway.

So I pulled up a few online videos about beginner's watercolor to learn about technique. I drew a few squares in my art journal and practiced blending colors, using more water, using less water, and using different brushes. Along the way I scribbled notes below each one to remind myself what particular combination created each effect.

It was a really good exercise, but at a certain point I needed to try painting a scene again. Since then, I've made a few more paintings and I'm really proud of them.

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I'm still holding on to my beginner's mindset and focusing on enjoying the process of playing with color. I'm still embracing the imperfections because they are a sign that I tried. The fact that they exist means I showed up for painting.

I showed up. I tried. And I keep showing up and keep trying. Because if I show up I might have fun. I might learn something. I might progress. I might also make crap, and so what if I do? I might make something that makes me smile. But I won't do anything - good or bad - until I show up.

It's the first (and often biggest) step for anything, don't you think? What might you show up for this week?


Monday, September 15, 2014

One of My Favorite Introspective Practices

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Well, I've talked about it in passing before, but I've decided to finally make the leap: I am now offering card readings.

For more than 15 years I've used medicine cards, oracle cards, wisdom cards, and the like to learn more about myself. If I'm feeling confused, lost, or even curious or excited, I often pull a few cards as a way of pulling myself out of my own head and thinking about life in a different way.

It's a practice that has been calming, enlightening, and sometimes clarifying (especially when I pair it with journaling).

Outside of myself, I have read cards for a few close friends, but haven't talked about it much outside of what you might call my inner circle.

This summer that changed when I offered a reading to someone I met in an online writing group, someone who lived in a different hemisphere, someone I may never get to meet in real life (though I hope I do!).

Then she told a friend in a completely different country, so I did one for her, too. Then I did a reading for a fellow mom, followed by one for my own mom. And so on.

So now the timing feels right. I'm offering this card reading practice to you.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you are familiar with my card of the day. If that resonates with you, then you might like a personal reading.

Check out the Card Readings page (found in the top menu and also the right sidebar) to see how it works. I hope you will enjoy this as much as I do.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I'm a Thing Doer… or something


Last weekend I did a job I've never done before. My father-in-law was producing the annual Doo-Wop concert in Bristol, Pennsylvania. I've worked this show in years past as his photographer, but haven't been to the show in the last few years.

This year one of his usual helpers was unable to attend, so he asked me to fill in. My job, he explained, would be to drive the stars from the hospitality building to the stage and back again. So over the course of the day I drove them back and forth a few blocks for soundchecks, then showtime. I was outfitted with a two-way radio and a flashing red light for my truck.

The talent, as my father-in-law calls them, were the Street Corner 5, The Excellents, Charles Thomas and The Drifters (in the photo above with me and my stepson's friend), Shirley Alston Reeves of The Shirelles, and The Happenings. All are comprised of marvelous people. We talked, we joked, we laughed.

Charlie Thomas greeted me with a hug. Ms. Reeves said, "Thank you, baby." The Street Corner 5 (an accappella group) sang me two songs while riding in my truck. The Excellents gave me a CD and a signed photo. The Happenings looked for me in the crowd while singing "Sherry Baby" (because, you know, I'm Sherri). See what I mean? Really stellar people.

When all was said and done my father-in-law praised my professionalism and joked that I could add this to my resume.

Which got me thinking.

For all the time I've spent over the years trying to affix myself with a nice, neat title - something that tells the world what I do - maybe I've been missing the point. Because I don't do just one thing.

While working with the awesome creative living coach Jamie Ridler several years ago she said, "What if your thing is not a thing, but things… plural?" It felt so messy, so ugh-how-am-I-supposed-to-explain-that-to-anyone.

But here I am…

  • New farm owner (Oh, I haven't really mentioned this yet, but I will soon. Surprise!)

  • Wife/mother/stepmother

  • Writer

  • Editor

  • Web coach

  • Oracle card reader (I'm adding this offering to the site as soon as I get my Paypal buttons worked out. If you want a reading sooner, send me a message.)

  • Functionality curmudgeon (I like things to work in a way that is useful and simple.)

  • Amateur photographer

  • Home and community gardener

  • Fast typist

  • Watercolor newbie

  • Introspective explorer

  • Self-improvement reader

  • Driver to the stars

That's probably not a comprehensive list either. It doesn't take into account that I get all giddy when I see a butterfly, that I used to have a conversational level of sign language that sometimes comes back to me in little bursts, that I can write one heck of an instructional document, that I can make hot chocolate at a perfectly drinkable temperature, or that I most definitely cannot be trusted with glue.

I don't do just one thing. I do things. I do them well (except glue). So maybe my title could be "thing doer." Hmmm… still needs work. The problem is that social media almost demands a short and snappy role. LinkedIn wouldn't accommodate my list above. It's definitely over the 140-character Twitter limit. Facebook provides just one line to say who you are.

So who am I?

I just don't know how to label myself on these platforms. I purposely left a title off my business card. "Oh, you need help with a website? Here's my card." Or "you want a card reading? Absolutely. Here's how to reach me." Or "sure I'll look over that document. Send it here… ."

How do you put a title on things… plural? Can we have a brainstorm session? What would you suggest? Also, I'm curious how you explain yourself to others. What is your title or elevator pitch or 10-second overview?

By the way, if you want to work with me in any of the ways above, email me at smhutchinswriter at gmail dot com. I'm sure we could work something out. I'm a doer of things, you know.