Art-Full Tarot Series: week one

When I painted my abstract interpretation of the 22 major arcana of the Tarot de Marseille a few years ago, I was delighted when they were published as a tarot deck renamed: “Le Tarot Essentiel.”

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I painted this series with the intuitive understanding I had of the cards at the time (based on color and a few of the essential symbols ). It was only after I’d completed them that I engaged in any real study of the tarot and saw that my first intuitions were really pretty spot on.

Every so often, when I have a question, I pull out my trusty cards for a reading. Aside from the wonderful artistic adventure it was creating them, I’m amazed how much insight I get from each of those readings, and how truthful the projected outcomes are of the situations I’m looking into.

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I also love the jolt of energy and immediate understanding I get just from the color and form of each painted card.

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I’ve decided to pull out a card a week for 22 weeks, and share it here with you here.

I’ll give a mini interpretation about now and what’s ahead based on each card, and the following week I’ll confirm how that played out. It’ll be fun. A weekly card series and an illustration of how they can work as faithful guides in your life.

I’m hoping this will allow you to enter into the magical world of art-full intuitive tarot, and get a lively conversation going. Maybe it’ll even inspire your own creativity. Or maybe you’ll love one so much that you’ll want the oil painted version of it to live on your wall

Here goes Week One of the tarot adventure:

The card for this week:

Le Choix

Le Choix

The Lovers; Renamed “Le Choix” Choice in the Tarot Essentiel :

The positive meaning;
Love, friendship, choice, reflection, dreaming, making the right choices, listening to and choosing from your heart, accepting duality, evolving beyond your past, disengaging from your past, doubting before making a decision, using color.

The darker side:
Hesitation, unavowed desire, indecision, temptation, cowardice

If I look ahead at this week with this card as my compass, I know that I need to be careful about the choices I make. 6 energy can mean either great hesitation in making choices, or else no hesitating at all and just jumping into things randomly. This is informing me that I need to spend some time meditating on my own best interests, my deeper values before saying yes, especially to anything work related. I do tend to be the “jump right in there” type and wind up committed to things I don’t really want to do. So vigilance is the word of the week. As is looking at both sides of any picture presented to me and understanding that I’m evolving towards something new, and if “I play my cards right” different from past experiences. Great news !

Some wonderful budding new friendships are on the horizon of my life, and I’m excited to get to know these delicious people better this week. Perfect for a 6, “I love people” week.

And finally, this card is telling me to get over my struggle to get back to my painting, and just throw myself in the studio with some color, lowered expectations, some music and some play time. Thank you my faithful friend. I shall listen to that wise advice ! I’m very attracted to greens and pinks right now. Spring is upon us.

And you ? How is this 6 choice card playing out for you right now.

How do you make choices in your life ?

From the heart ? With ease ? By overthinking things ?

And what color are you most attracted to right now ?

Looking forward to hearing from you !

Information about the painting: “Le Choix”, oil on canvas, 39 x 28 inches. Available through my the Paris gallery that represents me here

Nourishing Your Creative Soul: Retreat in the South of France, Cassis, May 18,19, 20, 2013

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Do feel you have a creative place inside of you that needs some nourishment ?
Do you have a desire to paint or just be more creative?

Come to Cassis for this weekend retreat and give yourself some deeply satisfying « you time » with other like minded individuals : Give yourself some time to play, time to paint, time to dance, time for the pure enjoyment of the beautiful surroundings in the South of France, time to nourish your creative soul.

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During this two and a half day weekend retreat we will :

    Play with paint, crayons, pencils, crayons, collage and more
    Gain clarity about what you want to express, whether it be through painting, other creative mediums and how to do it.
    Get some feedback to help you open up and enjoy the creative process
    Journal and learn the joys of « free writing » to open up to our inspiration
    Discover how to integrate a creative practice into your life long term

    AndreaHeadShotAs both an artist and a coach, I’m excited to facilitate this fun and inspiring retreat experience for you, to hold some creative space for you, to give you a taste of my life as an artist in the sunny south of France. I especially want to help you integrate some of the tools I’ve used for most of my life, some of those tools I’ve been blogging about, so that you too, can create an ongoing, soul nourishing creative practice of your own.

    To read more about my background and credentials, click here

    You deserve a creatively fulfilled Life, I truly believe that. It’s high time you focused on YOU. The more creatively expressed you are, the happier you will be, and that joy will just cascade down all around you. I rejoice in starting my clients off down that road or else re-igniting their creative Fire.

    The Retreat will be held in my studio and villa in Cassis in the South of France. There’s a lot of quiet space both inside and out, a sweet garden, decks and terraces, views of the ocean and a refreshing swimming pool.

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    Workshop cost : 470€

    Costs cover and include

All art materials
Catored breakfast and lunch on Saturday, Sunday and Monday
Dinner out at a lovely restaurant in Cassis on Saturday evening
Beverages and snacks during the weekend
Workshop fee

Costs do not cover :

    hotel and accomodation,
    Transportation fees

    If you are coming from out of town, I’ll recommend accomodation in Cassis.

    I’m offering this workshop for just a small number of participants, so if you’d like to sign up, sooner really is better.

    For more details about the program, questions about it and how to register, please contact me here

Soutine Exhibit in Paris: such glorious inspiration

I dropped everything I was doing that felt so terribly urgent yesterday morning, braved the freezing weather, and headed off to the Musée de L’orangerie in Paris to see the Chaïm Soutine exhibit.

Musée de L’orangerie, Paris

It feels SO glorious to just let go of the endless “to do’s” and go see a fabulous art exhibit mid-week instead. I’m following the Artist’s Way, along with 60 other women online across the globe, and now I call these visits« Artist’s dates ». That means time for me and my inner artist to go flll the well and get inspired. Before calling these excursions artist’s dates and adding to their number when I realized just how very nourishing they are , I just called them, TAKING ADVANTAGE of being in Paris and anywhere else I happen to be where great art is to be found !

I get such tremendous pleasure from these impromptu museum visits, I wanted to share the experience here with you.

I arrived rosy cheeked from the brisk walk (did I mention how cold it is ?) across the Tuilleries gardens to get to the museum just as it opened, and delighted in the fact that there were almost no people. I managed to take these two shots before getting in trouble and being asked to put my phone away…

I wasn’t that familiar with Soutine’s work, but I certainly adored the title of this show : “Order in Chaos”. I was only mildly surprised to find out I love this artist.

The first paintings I came across were so visually arresting in their color and emotional intensity, it took my breath away. They seemed to pop right off the canvases painted in the 20’s and power their way through to us here in 2013, and on they will go through time, strong and present.

I can never quite articulate what makes Great art, I don’t really feel the need to be able to, but I know it when I see it. All I can say is, it makes my heart sing to witness that visual power and grace.

None of these scanned images do much justice to the stunningly bright colors of the real thing, but here they are, a few of the show stoppers that captivated my attention.

This one was painted in 1929, and is called Madeleine Castaing, one of his biggest collectors. It’s a big favorite and is on the cover of the catalogue book I bought. There’s an interview done in the 40’s of Madame Castaing talking about her friend Soutine. It’s fascinating to see how he’s captured her face and strong personality in this painting

Madeleine Castaing, Chaïm Soutine

This one “Le View Moulin” , my favorite of his landscapes, was painted around 1922, when he lived in the village of Céreste in the South of France. I love the wild brush strokes, fine lines and distorted image. Makes me imagine the galling winds cascading savagely down through the village.

Le Mieux Moulin, Chaïm Soutine

Imagine bright greens and splashes of deep red when looking at this one called L’Arbre. Again, can’t you just feel that wild wind whipping through the branches of this massive tree, and shrinking the tiny houses down below ?

I spend a lot of time in the wind, living in the South of France. These paintings make me want to start trying to express the wind in my paintings instead of complaining about how crazy it makes me.

L’Arbre, Chaïm Soutine

I love all of his portraits, but this painting titled “Déchéance” (loose translation “Decline”) pulled me in. There is something so bizarrely familiar about this desperate image, and something so poignantly human.

Déchéance, Chaïm Soutine

On my way out of this spectacular show, I stopped, as I always do, to watch the movie about Soutine’s (short) life (1893 – 1943) and work. I never tire of hearing how these artists lived, worked, and thought.

Here I am, back out in the Tuilleries garden, my heart and eyes filled with majestic images.

As I made my way through the freezing gardens, I asked myself a question I often ponder over : What will I remember when I get to the very end of my life ? What will have been so significant, it’ll be there with me at the end ? Aside from remembering the people I’ve loved, I know, for sure, I will remember the great art I was privileged enough to see.

Would love to hear what this visit has inspired in you ?

The Books that Most Nourished my Creative Soul in 2012 (that I’m sure you’ll love too)

I learned this year that reading is a fundamental part of the creative process. Ok, it took me a while to work this out, but better later than never. My industrious self thought that actively making art, refining technique and looking at other artist’s work, was most, if not all of the picture.

I was wrong, there is just so much to be gained from the more receptive position of reading. I found that when I allowed myself the time to relax and read up on other artist’s stories , or about creative guidance and processes, It was both eye opening, nurturing and powerfully influencial. Reading about other people’s stories allows you to somehow « normalize » the experience of being an artist, to see how others before yo have battled with the same exact issues, and to see where you stand with all of those questions.

I wondered why I hadn’t done this type of reading long ago.

Here are 6 books that altered my vision this year

De Kooning, Am American Master by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan


This is probably one of, if not, THE greatest biography ever written about an artist. It’s a masterpiece, and as Amazon says, “a page turning tale”.

I relished in following De Kooning’s process and progress as an artist from his very beginnings in extreme poverty (living on ketchup in a New York Studio with no heat and spending his money on art supplies) and struggle, to becoming one of the most important and revered painters that ever hit the American painting stage.

It was fascinating to read this brilliantly written account of the New York art scene in the 30’s and 40’s during the depression and war years, and the bursting forth of the powerful American abstract expressionists in the 50’s when New York became the powerhouse center of the Art World.

Most of all, what I took away from this was De Kooning’s fierce commitment to his art; reading of his phenomenal drive and passion to paint every single day, through poverty, rejection, artistic blocks, success, fame and decline, was both mesmerizing and sobering.

De Kooning, Portrait of an American Master felt like an experience of being up close with a genius.

Portrait of An Artist : Biography of Georgia O’keeffe, by Laurie Lisle


I discovered Georgia O’keeffe when I was growing up in San Francisco and was drawn to her vibrant colors and soft flowery, feminine forms. I had no real idea who she was, or anything about her remarkable story until I read her biography in Portrait of An Artist.

This is an even earlier glimpse of the New York art scene and a fascinating vision of “Out West”, New Mexico in the 30’s 40’s and 50’s.

The greatest part of this book is the detailed description of the life, habits and thought patterns of this pioneering and spirited woman – she was a bona-fide trailblazer for future generations of women artists and successful women in general.

My Swedish great grandmother emigrated to the US from Sweden when she 16 years old, all by herself with her little brother, and I recognized that same brave and gorgeous spirit in Georgia O’keeffe. I love stories of fiercely independent women doing their thing no matter what anyone else thinks or says.

I came away from this read fully grasping, once and for all, that abstract art, is by no means avant-garde, or radical ! A lot of people still react to abstract art as if it were way “out there” in the left field of daring experimentation. And yet It goes way, way back. Georgia O’keeffe was one of the greatest and earliest of it’s advocates starting in 1918!

That somehow made a transformative difference to me and helped me past the last barrier to making art in my favorite style, no matter what anyone says or thinks.

Tom and Jack: The Intertwined Lives of Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock, by Henry Adams

This is another formidable biography and a full-scale look into Jackson Pollock’s work and life as an artist. I’d read a lot about him in the De Kooning book and their rivalry for the super star position on the art stage of the 50’s. I’d also seen the film, knew he was a notoriously violent drunk who died young in a drunken car crash. I didn’t really understand his work before reading this, nor had I any idea of his real genius, his potent artistic influences nor how profoundly mystical the root of his work is. I particularly loved this quote :

“Two central ideas particularly interested (painter) Macdonald-Wright :first, that great art does not slavishly copy the surface of nature but probes beneath the surface and grasps fundamental principles; second, the artist achieves this goal by entering a mystical state of mindless thinking which eliminates the distinction between subject and object.
Both these ideas correspond very closely with jackson Pollock’s artistic methods and intentions.”

Finishing this book just happened to coincide with a trip to Manhattan. I rushed to the MOMA and stood spellbound in front of his paintings. I came close to weeping at their majestic power and haunting mystical beauty.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron


I’d known about this classic for 20 years, and yet I’d never read it. For a long time I admit to being convinced I never suffered from creative blocks ! Ha ! what a naïve soul I was. Then a few years ago, I confronted myself with two years in my studio, in a new region, and found myself by myself without mentors, teachers, influencers or even supporters of any kind, and well, I had a melt down of sorts and hit the wall.

I was so happy to find this book. It’s a magnificently supportive book for artist’s, full of exactly what the doctor ordered : Empowerment, tools and stimuli to free yourself to become your richest creative self.

Now I have to be honest. I didn’t make it to the end of the book. I have a hard time getting to the end of self-help books in general. I usually pick out one or two things that will be of immediate help and start doing them. This was no exception. I jumped in with chapters one and two ; the daily pages, and the artist’s dates and got so much out of them, that I stopped reading and never made it to the end of the book.

I recently came across a post by Vickie Martin, announcing excitedly to the world that she was working through “the Artist’s Way” chapter by chapter with 60 other women online, worldwide. The coach in me loved that idea and support network, and also huge fan of worldwide online initiatives that I am, I joined the group ! Very excited.

12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women by Gail McMeekin


As I just mentioned, I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time making my way through self-help or course books. I think it must be because the coach and teacher in me looks at that kind of reading as work. My brain goes into hyper-drive as I try to tackle each and every suggested exercise.

This one was an exception though. I highlighted my way through the entire book and learned SO much on each and every aspect of the creative mindset, challenges and life that I hadn’t before been able to articulate.

It puts it all out there for you. What it means to be successful in your creativity, and the skills and tools you need to cultivate along your journey. It’s an empowering resource that I plan to read and re-read.

Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland

This book had me nodding, agreeing and laughing all the way through as if I were communing with a wise and funny art sage.

It’s a short book, piercingly smart and dense with brilliantly written advice for artists. Reading this felt as though these marvelous authors got right in there inside my mind and belief system and pulled out all the issues that I was struggling with all by my lonesome and which I thought were mine alone.

They lay out probably every issue we all inevitably deal with once we start calling ourselves artists, they articulate them with wit and get you to rethink most of them from a different and more productive angle. Another exceptional read.

That’s my list. I’d love to hear what books you’ve read, enjoyed and learned from !

5 Tactics to Keep Up a Steady Art Making Practice

 

If you’re not finding time to make art, or express yourself creatively, and are feeling off purpose with a growing sense of frustration, have you given some sincere thought as to what might be getting in the way?

Could it be any of these?

You have an endless to do list and can’t find the time in your overwhelming schedule.

You’ve started telling yourself that you’re not good enough at it to give art making any real quality time.

You’ve convinced yourself that it’s too late to start practicing art and taking it seriously.

You might have gotten yourself to believe that your art work and creative endeavors won’t make you any money, so the bottom line is: everything and everyone else comes first.

You’ve hit a dry spell and can’t snap out of the quicksand of inertia.

Maybe you’ve got a personal spin on how you’ve hijacked your creative drive.

Like all artists, I fall prey to the many unpleasant voices inside my head that feed on criticizing my work and relish in taking me down into the dark dungeon of self-doubt. Despite it’s best efforts, that little tyrant of a voice has never gotten in the way of my finding regular time, inside a very busy life, to make art.

These are 5 highly effective tactics that will keep you focused on your creativity:

  • Ignore anyone who tells you, you can’t do it
  • Understand what’s behind your desire to create
  • Perfect the Art of Saying No
  • Acknowledge your fears and do it anyway
  • Make a practice of seeking balance between your work and your art

Ignore Anyone Who Tells You You Can’t Do it.

The one consistent fact that has kept me making art throughout my life has been stubbornly refusing to accept it when anyone told me I couldn’t do it.

All of those nasty and unsupportive comments rooted in fear and frustration that people have thrown at me over the years, have landed on my deaf ears.

“You’ll never become a ballerina » my mother assured me when I was three, “You’re going to be too tall ». I must have stamped my feet and put up a fight. Whatever I did, worked. The next week I was in ballet class, which I continued religiously for the next 12 years. My dance background has given me a solid foundation in discipline, which has served me my entire life.

« Do you realize the odds of ever becoming a successful actress » was met with my moving to LA and going to UCLA theater school, which I successfully completed before creating my own theater company. My theater training has been the backbone skill for my financial freedom throughout my life.

« Oh, ha, ha, so you want to paint? You’ll see, once you get pulled into your working life, you’ll drop that fantasy, just like the rest of us have » has been met with 20 years of a steady art practice.

You get the picture. People say the most obnoxious things around creative endeavor, sometimes knowingly, sometimes not.

Whatever the case, my take has always been: no one gets to tell you what to do with your life. That decision is up to you. It is, after all, your life.

Other people’s lack of support or even, at worst, their attempts to ridicule our efforts, can be a powerful obstacle to overcome, especially when we’re young and just starting off. We are equally vulnerable, though, at all stages of our creative lives. I often tell my coaching clients to keep their creative aspirations to themselves, or if they want to share, to only do so with truly trustworthy supporters, until they’ve gotten their baby out into the world.

When you stay firm and centered in your creative practice, whatever medium you choose, and most importantly when you keep at it, frustrated individuals will move on to other targets and you’ll be free of them.

Understand What Lies Behind Your Desire to Create

I’d been dancing seriously for years by age 14 and had just started getting involved in theater when my mother died suddenly. I held onto the theater and my art community throughout that chaotic, painful time and ultimately, it’s what got me through.

I learned early on that I had an artists’ temperament, and this was reinforced and anchored into my psyche by my early loss. I created not just for the intense joy and vitality it gave me, but because I felt driven to, like a survival instinct.

Respecting my creativity and making art has been the one unchanging central axis around which the rest of my life has turned since I was 3.

On the few occasions when I’ve grown tired of the sacrifices, the creative blocks, the loneliness and all the difficulties inherent to living a somewhat edgy creative life, I attempted to forgo it all, and live an « art free » existence.

Instead of the serenity and rest I thought I’d find, I’ve wound up spiraling into badly channeled sensitivities and energy gone berserk, until I pulled myself together and went back to my creative work with great relief and renewed appreciation.

Sound familiar?

The fact of the matter is, that when the drive to create is in you, you have no choice. Either you accept it and express that energy, to your soul’s complete satisfaction, or you stifle it and suffocate.

Perfect The Art of Saying No

Once you have the insight that creativity is a profound need, it’s time to begin looking at how you manage your time and your energy.

I lack a thick skin when it comes to criticism in general, but oddly I’ve been immune to any comments about the space I hold to create. I’ve been called selfish, pretentious, misguided, you name it, I’ve probably heard it. Most recently I’ve been informed repetitively and with great insistence that my numerology profile indicates I should be sculpting and not painting, and only spending five minutes at a time at it!

If you don’t grab hold of your creative time and space and guard it ferociously, you’ll get pulled into other people’s agendas. It’s just the way it is.

Help yourself by compiling a list of the people and circumstances that devour your time. Then ask yourself:

What is compelling me to say yes to these?

Acknowledge Your Fears and Do it Anyway

After a lot of hard work and perseverance, I managed to create enough independence and success in my “day job” to allow me the freedom to take my art beyond a weekend, or vacation time only, practice.

And yet I wouldn’t budge from that schedule. I only allowed myself to paint on weekends, until my frustration forced me to address the problem.

When I realized that ongoing and unproductive fears around my bottom line along with a gnawing sense of guilt were holding me back, I joined a studio in Paris where I was living, and went whenever I could.

I pursued this tactic for 7 years, scheduling the time, leaving my home, turning off my phone and going to the studio where others were engaged in an art practice. I watched as my art evolved. I began to exhibit my work in Paris, and that step into the art world, strengthened my inner resolve and the commitment to my art.

Guilt about what you should be doing and/or what someone might expect from you, along all manner of fear are two mighty creativity squelchers. Look for ways off that merry go round, or it’ll just keep turning.

One way off is to simply jump! Get brave, trust your gut, and look around for an art class you could join, a studio you could work out of, a writing group, anything that is outside your home where you can practice art. And please, turn off your phone.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover. “

Mark Twain

Make A Practice of Seeking Balance Between Your Work and Your Art

The demands to hold it all together, the job, the financial responsibility the family, can take over and dominate till you feel like all you do is move from one thing to the next in hot pursuit of a constantly evolving “to do” list.

There is no magic wand, as we all would hope, but an understanding that the work/art balance is a work in progress to nurture. It involves self-care, self-awareness and careful energy management.

Ideally, you’ll need a work situation that allows you some time, both mental and real, to spend on your art. If you haven’t found what works for you yet, ask around. Find out what other artists have done and do, to keep the balance.

When I moved to France in my twenties, I started teaching early on, relying on those handy theater skills, knowing the schedule would give me the quality time I needed for my art. The teaching has grown into coaching, public speaking training, and general entrepreneurship over the years with periods of intense bursts of project driven work and time for art.

I’ve learned to plan for recovery time after the intense work bursts, to get myself primed and ready for my art practice.

I coach creatives to find this balance for themselves, which has gone even further to creating greater levels of harmony and balance for me. The more balance I find, the more I can give back.

I’m sure you can find or fine-tune that balance too and I hope these tactics help you on your journey to full creative expression.

Andrea Wedell

 

 

Andrea Wedell is an internationally collected artist and an experienced creativity coach with over 15 years experience, based in San Francisco. She helps her clients find and maintain a balanced work/art life to help them reach their creative potential.
 

Finding Time to Make Art

I woke up last week, my mind still foggy with sleep, slowly adjusting to conscioussness as I tried to place where I was, (confused after months of travel), and what I was to do that day. I started searching, slightly anxiously already, for the day’s to do list. And then I remembered, sighed with pleasure, relaxed and stretched ! A painting day. I’d tended to all the responsibilities and here it was : A day to paint and only paint. In fact a series of four consecutive days. Joy ! I opened the shutters and let the southern France light stream in, yawned and traipsed downstairs to make a hot cup of tea and feed my hungry cats before heading to the studio.

Last month in Paris, far from my studio, a full schedule to juggle, and only bits of free time here and there, I started planning . When in this situation, I start looking for a few consecutive hours, especially morning hours, and grab them for my art. To hell with the laundry and the myriad other things I « should » be doing. Off goes the phone and the email, and out come the acrylic paints, the newspaper spread out on the lovely wood dining room table, the classical music.

I read a daunting statistic in the book Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland the other day. In the art school setting, 98% of students coming out of those schools give up on their art almost immediately ; too bogged down with the demands of earning a living, and living life, to find a place for it. Equally astounding is the fact that art teachers, hired because they are successful artists, also lay down their brushes when they start giving their all to their teaching professions. As the authors of Art and Fear state « like some perverse recycling process from a sci-fi novel, the same system that produces artists, produces ex-artists. »

I’m sure this statistic isn’t true only of those coming in and out of art schools. I’ve heard countless stories from creative people who can’t find the time for a regular art practice in their lives, and who not only really wish they could, but suffer feelings of incompleteness and inadequacy for not being able to do it. I’ve heard those same stories from artists who stop working for long periods when they get pulled into states of inertia, and can’t snap out of it.

In reviewing my own experience where I’ve managed against often surpisingly powerful odds, to always hold space for my art practice, I’d like to offer what tactics I’ve used again and again to successfully hold onto and guard that precious space.

Here’s the first one :

Ignore Anyone Who Tells you You Can’t Do It

One thing that is strikingly obvious to me looking back now, on my life where art making has always been present, I’ve stubbornly refused to accept it when anyone told me I couldn’t do it.

All of those nasty and unsupportive comments rooted in fear and frustration that people both knowingly and unknowingly throw out, have landed on my deaf ears.

« You’ll never become a ballerina » my mother assured me when I was three, « you’ll grow far too tall. ». The strength of my visceral reaction to that statement had her signing me on for dance class the next day, which I continued for the next 12 years and which has served me my entire life.

« Do you realize the odds of ever becoming a successful actress » was met with my moving to LA and going to UCLA theater school, which I successfully completed before creating my own theater company. Again, that theater training has served me my entire life.

« Oh, so you want to paint ? You’ll see, once you get pulled into your working life, you’ll drop that little fantasy, just like the rest of us have » has been met with 20 years of subsequent , steady art making.

No, I say, and have said about this from the very start, nobody gets to tell you what to do with your life. That decision is up to you. It is, after all, your life.

Other people’s lack of support or even, at worst, attempts to ridicule our efforts, can be a powerful obstacle to overcome, especially when we’re young and just starting off, but also at all stages of our creative lives. I often tell my coaching clients to protect themselves by keeping their most cherished dreams to themselves for a while, until they’ve got things going.

If you stay firm and centered in your unmoving faith and belief in yourself, in what you want to do, and most importantly, keep working, there will be less and less of those particlular kinds of comments. Or if they’re still there in one form or another, they will appear, with time, like small irritating flies that you can brush away, or open a window and shoo out of your life.

What’s Really Important to You About Making Art ?

Painting in Big Sur, California on my birthday

I’ve been pretty terrified by the idea of turning 50 for the past 2 years. I had anxiously contemplated everything I thought I’d be losing in this new decade and even imagined some things would come to an abrupt halt on August 28th 2012, D day. Maybe I’d wake up looking and thinking like an uncomfortably different, much older, person I worried.

I’d also been holding some very clear visions about exactly what I thought I should have accomplished artistically by that August 28 D date. As a coach, it’s just an ingrained habit for me to set and reach for clear, specific objectives.

I wasn’t a very kind coach to myself I can say in retrospect, my objectives were not appropriate for my creative process which doesn’t operate well in “specific timed goals mode”, and , amazingly, I gave no thought to the possible gains this new age might bring.

The pressure was on.

The pressure was pointlessly on, I can now say in retrospect.

As a coach I admire, Cheryl Richardson says ” If a kick in the ass worked, we’d all be thin, rich and happy.”

During the hot summer days of July this year, as I painted quietly and with ever increasing freedom in my studio, I felt an un-usually strong sense of tranquility creep up on me. Something was dropping out of my world and releasing a tremendous amount of tension with it.

One morning as I was outside swimming, the nature of the shift suddenly hit me: I no longer focus on or worry about what people think of my art ! I’m much more invested in what I think of it, and this is the perfect space to be in for creativity.

Nor do I have any desire to use my excess of self discipline to get myself into the studio, even when I don’t feel like it, just to keep going and producing. It’s so much nicer being kind to myself, gently coaxing myself if necessary, and having so much more fun.

I’ve used my coaching skills far more effectively and have asked myself the bigger questions : What’s really and truly important to me about making art ?

I realize it’s all about the joy and fun of being creative, of working alone and peacefully in the quiet of my studio and also being around other stimulating, creative people,

Being able to honestly ask and get to the real answer to that question has taken a long time. Having the maturity and wisdom to answer truthfully is a delightful relief.

I can definitely say now that I’ve enjoyed and am grateful for all of the artistic successes and experiences I’ve had thus far, and am also at peace with the knowledge that no matter what life throws my way going forward, I’ll stay focused on what’s important : giving myself space to make art and go at it with passion for the rest of my life.

I also know that I’m equally passionate about other people’s talents and creative impulses. I am excited to be able to lend my coaching skills towards helping them fulfill their most cherished, creative dreams.

So…with a little distance, 50 with the wisdom, greater serenity and larger life perspective is starting to look and feel just fine. Nothing has come to an abrupt halt, except maybe, that excess of self imposed pressure !

I would love to hear your comments and feedback if you’ve experienced shifts in your perspective,

and also to hear your answer to that that same question:

What’s really important to you about making art or about your current creative project ?

Sensing and Seeing, what I learned at an Art Retreat on Monhegan Island, Maine

Last week, I flew from France to the US, and headed to Monhegan Island, off the coast of Maine with 10 other women for a week long art retreat.

It was an exceptional week, in a unique environment, with 10 highly accomplished and fascinating women.

We painted out on the porches of our two houses overlooking the crashing surf, the tall brilliantly colored wild flowers, and vast expanses of green grass, with squawking sea gulls flying up above. We sat in our rocking chairs and observed spectacular sun sets out over the water, and went on walks down to the rocky shores.

The atmosphere there is raw and wild.

I learned during the week, how to sense an environment with all senses open, and use that to inform my abstract art work.

Marianne Mitchell who ran the retreat, started by having us do contour drawings. They’re quick timed one minute drawings of what you see in front of you without either looking up, or lifting the pencil off the paper. We drew what we saw, but we also drew the wind, and the colors we could see with just our pencil to record how these colors made us feel, we drew the sound of the surf pounding up against the rocks, we drew fog horns sounding in the distance. I was surprised when I looked down at my image to see how lively and sensitive the lines were.

I particularly love how this exercise doesn’t allow any inner judge into the discussion !

Another high point was experiencing the value and fun of working fast – I usually spend days at a time on a painting. Working with holbein oil pastels on paper was a completely different experience. I could do one after the other in a relatively quick succession.

Little House on Monhegan, oil pastel on paper, Andrea Wedell

Sunset on Monhegan, oil pastel on paper, Andrea Wedell

Rocky Shores of Monhegan, oil pastel on paper, Andrea Wedell

The most important learning experience was understanding how to dance with my intuition, with being recklessly abandonned, with having fun, and with my critical eye. A very subtle balance, not easily achieved.

My most successful painting turned out to be this one, I managed to miraculously get that dance just right.

Light on Monhegan Island, acrylic on gesso board, Andrea Wedell

This retreat, above all else, reinforced the value of a supportive art community. It really is great to spend time with like minded people, on a quest towards a similar search. The discussions are stimulating, the sensitivities alive, the warmth a tangiblle presence that will stay with me for a very long time.

Working and Collaborating with Artists Across Oceans

I was taking a luxurious day off the other day, reading a great novel in the cool shade with my feet up, relaxing and letting the hours float softly by. I’d check my iphone for email out of mild curiosity from time to time, ignoring all of it, until a newsletter from Cynthia Morris popped up.

Cynthia’s great post, “Collaborating on a Novel Across An Ocean” grabbed and held my attention as I read. The ever widening possibility, open now to all of us, to work and collaborate with people across oceans is a theme I particularly love. It inspired me to want to share why I think this is an exceptionally exciting time for creatives.

There are so many free resources out there that allow us to communicate, collaborate and work together, way beyond our local communities. It’s fabulous, it’s HUGE. There’s skype with video on or off, and the possibility to record calls, file sharing, video uploading, be sure to read Cynthia’s article for more detail.

I’ve been working with my art mentor Marianne Mitchell via skype for 6 months now. I live in the South of France in Cassis, she lives in Philadelphia in the US and is a brilliant, well respected abstract artist. I first discovered Marianne through a blog post on art marketing expert Alyson Stanfield’s site. It was a random yet key discovery. One of the many miracles of our internet age, in my experience, are these random finds that quickly become significant connections.

Ocean House, copyright Marianne Mitchell

When I saw Marianne’s work, I loved it. I noticed she taught, and realized she was just the type of person who could help me make the artistic shift I was attempting on my own. Her courses took place in Philadelphia in the US, and, well, that was the end of it in my mind. I sent her an email saying I loved what she was doing, hoped to attend a course one day, and got a response that classes via skype were a possibility !

Art classes via skype ? I couldn’t imagine what it’d be like at first, but jumped in anyway. The first class completely convinced me .

We use skype with video on, sometimes Marianne does a demo, sometimes one of us will hold up work, the rest of the time we have profound vision shifting discussions, art critiques or send jpegs, and email comments on technique or artistic processes.

This was exactly what I’d been looking for for a long time. I got so much out of it, that I’m actually crossing the ocean for real next week to head to Maine for a retreat Marianne is holding on Monhegan Island. I can’t wait.

Of course there are wonderful people you can work with locally. I spent 7 years in a painting studio (Atelier Malutra) in Paris, and loved every moment of it. But when the time came to search out a new mentor, I looked for a long time, using my usual search route of connections and contact, some internet searches in France, but couldn’t find what I was looking for – because the perfect person for me at that moment, was across the ocean !

And now these kinds of connections are accessable, and the connection methods free !

This experience opened up my eyes to the many possibilities I have for my own coaching work with people. I started supporting artists with their public speaking via skype, with video uploads, comments and file sharing. Public Speaking across an ocean…I’m delighted to report that it works !

I’d really be interested to know if you’ve collaborated or worked at a distance with people and what free resources your use ?