The unapologetic, raw, unedited interpretation of living life. Each of us is the artist of our own life, constantly remolding, reworking, and roughing out the details and applying what we've learned to the changing canvas. There are no do-overs, no take backs...just rough cuts that release what lies inside us.

I saw the angel in stone and I carved until I set him free. - Michelangelo

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pass on the Glitter - Focus on the image

If your childhood art experiments were anything like mine, then glitter was the most amazing, most coveted element in the craft bin.  Glitter is so much fun, it makes everything sparkle and you never needed to stay in the lines.  Once the glue dried and the excess delicately shaken from the paper, what remained was a masterful work of sparkly genius!  Early on, I learned glue was an essential material to manage and master to make my glitter creations the best they could be.  Everyone knows sloppy glue makes for clumpy glitter and streaks when its time to shake the excess... and you NEVER touch the tip of the glue to glittered glue!  Who would have thought this glorious additive would correlate with some approaches to life?

But here's the reality with Glitter and life: Not everything was meant to be covered in small, vibrantly colored speckles of reflective plastic and metal.  Ever lose sight of the image when you doused your artwork in glittery awesomeness.  I loved the way it sparkled in the sunlight, but I sometimes would forget what lay beneath the mother load of glitz and glam. Often I catch myself thinking, "If I just make it sound fun to go window shopping for rugs, my kids will jump for joy." or "This shopping trip for things I don't really need will make me feel much better." No matter how you dress it up or make it sparkle, sometimes the truth is just the truth.  Its raw, not always pretty and the temptation is to cover it up with some pizazz.

I used to wonder why the multi-colored glitter container was so huge while the fun single colors looked more enticing, but were in limited supply.  I found out the glittery truth one day while really piling on the greatness, not shaking between colors.  In my haste, I realized that I needed to shake but I now had several colors on my paper.  So out came the multi-color container of glitter death.  I mean really, who uses the multi-color?  Where's the fun or creative color assignment?  But isn't that what we do, we hastily accumulate only to find we have reached the point when our once intriguing array of choices becomes a heap of leftovers?  

I still love glitter, of course now that I am the glitter manager, we have rules...was it really that messy when we were little?  Call me the glitter control queen.  But that is okay since I know that we will have ample supply of choices, no depressing multi-color bottle, and (now that I have taught my oldest to glue - lines not globs, we are streak free!)

Glitter carefully friends, add some sparkle, throw some pizazz in for good measure, just manage your haste, pause before you pour, and use your flare to enhance your life, not cover it up!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dig Down Deep

Roughing in an image allows the artist to work out a plan before the first chisel hits the marble.  In life, we sketch out our plan, work out the details, spend time on the research, and prepare ourselves for getting started.  In those moments right before the first cut is made, before we take that first step toward commitment to our master piece, the plan flashes before our eyes.  In those moments, do you freeze?  Does the pit of your stomach form a knot so large you can feel it in your throat?

Those moments in my life always seemed to last an eternity.  The voice of doubt erupts into a raucous of negativity.  Living artistically means having such confidence in the outcome and in the freedom of creative process the threat of making a mistake had no merit.  When faced with moments when we doubt our ability to go on, the artist sees opportunity for improvement, the chance to take a risk, knowing no matter what the outcome, he is committed. 

Commitment to the process.
In the past few years, this concept has been much more evident in my life as a evaluate being a parent.  There are times when the artist in me can see what could me, but the negative voices want to throw up their hands.  I imagine it might have been what Michelangelo saw when he looked at the Sistine chapel for the first time, envisioning the potential, the masterpiece, but facing imperfections in the marble, a paint brush hair in newly poured paint. It would have been easy to throw in the towel on a bad day, in the heat of the summer; fortunately for us, he was more committed to completed the work he started. He saw the end first, allowing him to deal with the imperfect middle.

Dig in and Dig Down deep.
Wherever we are in our work: contemplating where to begin or summoning the strength to get through to the end or anywhere in the murky middle, in order to dig in and do the work to achieve our goals, we need to find the place of inspiration.  There is a place within each us where the artist lives, where he breathes and works, from that place we find the will do hammer the chisel, dig deeper into your work, and move forward. Release him, allow him to come to the surface and provide the vision of where the work is taking you.

What inspires you?  Where do you go to get strength to move forward? Where do you find inspiration and vision for your team, family, people who look to you for support?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Finish your work: Intensity past the thrill

Intensity past the thrill.
Some projects took so much time and meticulous effort I could not see beyond the now in order to get myself to the finish.  It is an exhilarating experience to develop the idea, brainstorm how it will play out, imagine the completed piece and begin the process of assembling the elements together.  Oh, the thrill of creativity, the joy of getting started on an expedition of discovery!  I had such a project in my past.  The assignment required enlarging a photo shop design and then transforming the image through layering of created color.  The project explored the world of digital imagery (somewhat still in its infancy, anyway new to me).  The possibilities were endless!

Hitting your first hurdle.
The goal of this project was to visually represent the movement of women who, through their demonstration of courage, strength, and resiliencys,  created a "wave" of  achievement.  I was thrilled to embark on this journey of self-expression.  The first hurdle: I knew nothing about digital media. No sweat, I got a quick tutorial and off I went creating!  I guess we expect to experience a few pitfalls, usually followed by, "I learned something new today!" We feel refreshed and inspired to work even harder with our new found knowledge.

Tougher stuff.
Enlarging a digital photo to an enormous size takes the work of a professional, so off to Kinko's I went!  My mind was racing with the anticipation of adhering a layered design to my particle board.  The sizes didn't quite line up with the measurement of the board, but the paint layering would fix those issues with no sweat...enter the PAINT!  I now had a 3' x 3' black and white print copy of my "would be masterpiece". I was ready to begin the glorious process of creating color!  Have you ever tried to cover three square feet of paper with detailed paint?  I neglected to think about those ladies' faces when planning the design.  I do not have a great track record with painting skin color (*note the Blue Peasant).  If I had a roller, I could have knocked out the project in no time, but the grueling process started and now I was in the midst of trying to turn a giant photocopy into a painting!  I began to loathe each brush stroke and each tiny facial feature.  After my second all-nighter and two other studio project deadlines looming, I surrendered to the agony.

Finishing takes intensity.
Needless to say, the final piece was well below my potential, though the goal was achieved and the idea conveyed, in my heart I knew it could have been so much more...if I had the intensity to see it through past the finish.

Have you ever seen the finish line but just didn't have the stamina to stampede through it?  Have you been so close to what you're doing right now that you no longer see where its taking you? Who can you take along with you or help get to their next level.  When you are moving someone else forward you will move that direction as well. We are all on our way to a finish line somewhere, you might be at the starting line or your first "lesson learned", maybe you are AT the mountain and you are thinking "No, I can't see it through." Let me share this with you:  if you think it long enough, you will begin to feel it, and if you feel it long enough you will be it! 

Be intense about being...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Light Your Inner Fire: Passion and Purpose

I have always felt that it is essential in life to find your passion. In order to embrace all that life has to offer and to keep us from becoming complacent, we must seek that for which we were created. Seeking that unique skill, talent, or purpose and not allowing it to sit idle brings forth that energy from within your heart to do and be more than you can ever thought possible.

My mother was a passionate person. She found that special calling and lived it; no matter where we lived, no matter what community or small group would benefit, she knew her purpose. Her passion helped her to live and live well. At the end of my life, I hope that I will be able to look back on a life full of moments when I can say I truly was living, not just breathing, not just taking up a space, but truly embracing, feeling, and being engulfed in life. Being truly present in those moments, whether they are the happiest times, the saddest or somewhere in between. All of those moments make the heart stronger and for those moments when we reach complete joy, I hope that those moments are so vivid that they cast out light to all the dark places in hardened hearts and remain with the others when the delicate breath of the angels blows over my small candle.

Find your passion, the fire that burns in you to reach toward higher ground and drives you to achieve that which you would never before thought possible.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Artistic Leader Dissected

We used to do an activity during trainings in which we had to draw the ideal employee, representing the organization's values. Most of us ended up with similar drawings and cliches were used to the max: smile meant friendly, a heart meant caring, you can imagine the rest.  However simplistic, this activity did serve the purpose to visually create the most important aspects of the organization.  There is something particularly profound in "seeing" what we believe to be true.  It gives us a goal and ensures everyone agrees on the same end result.  There may be variations, but the essence is something recognizable and, more importantly, tangible for the audience.

Basic Form
Over the past weeks, I have attempted to create the essence of leading artistically.  I still feel as though the artist has not been fully described and you may still be picturing a mustached gentleman in a blousy shirt and beret, holding a paintbrush or perhaps a naturalist making sculpture out of recyclable plastics, eating granola.  Let's first decide to drop what we currently believe to be an "artist" and simply agree that being a human is about all artists share at this point.  Likewise, let's pretend that "leaders" don't all wear suits and carry leather brief cases.  What if for just this moment we pictured an artist to look like the person in your mirror and a leader to look like her twin. Would you be willing to consider either of these terms to describe what you see?

Beyond being Human
The artist has a body, a form within which he contains a spirit and a soul.  A spirit of desire to create what has not been created, feel what others have not felt, and passion for life beyond the now.  The soul is deep and ever changing, seeking connection to culture, space, time, and the spiritual.

The eyes of an artist visualize the filled canvas, the written manuscript, or the achieved goal before the feet have moved forward.  The artist is a visionary.  He sees what others cannot or are not willing to see. He understands the context of what he sees and determines how it will play into the accomplishments of his other parts.

The hands of the artist are the work that is to be done.  They are not afraid to be dirty from getting close to his work and doing what needs to be done.  Always in motion, the hands are the action, the doing, the making, the creation, the process.  The artist values this highly for without action, ideas and dreams are simply internal voids consuming his time.

The heart of the artist feels compassion and aches for the work to be done.  The fire burns hottest for the love of his craft.  From each spark of the flame, a new creation is born.

The feet of the artist keep him grounded. They remind him to be humble in his ways and sure when he steps. He is confident and walks forward at a steady pace.  The road to magnificence is long and treacherous, he must have the endurance to continue tirelessly, as there is much to be lost and much to gain.  His feet will keep him on course and face in a forward direction.

What would you add?  If you were to describe leadership in a visual way, what key "parts" would you include? why?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Discipline: Focus on the target

I am not an expert in the field of discipline, however I have seen its benefits in my work, my family, and my personal growth.  Every leader needs a target, something to focus on to move forward.  My daughter (age 6 1/2) and I have spent a great deal of time over the last week or so discussing "perseverance".  It is very difficult to recover when we get disappointed.  Even more of an obstacle is ignoring the voice inside our heads telling us we aren't good enough, smart enough, or tough enough to ensure the pressure. (I really don't care for this fact, we battle it out daily)

Laser focus on a target
What wakes me up every morning and excites me about tomorrow is another day to dream and do something that moves me closer to reaching my goals. I have my sights set on starting my own non-profit, writing (and publishing) a book, as well as being an outstanding wife and mother. Every decision I make over the course of the day should move me closer to one of these aspirations.

Failure is just a side step to a better way
I've said it before: Life doesn't have an eraser. We live with our mistakes, but they do not dictate how we live...we make that choice. You can choose to let the mistake be an obstacle or a catalyst. When one of my lasers is slightly of target, something suffers and one of my goals gets temporarily fuzzy or blocked. My kids will be the first ones to tell you that I don't get it right even close to all of the time. (Apparently this is one of those great truths that they hide from you in the pregnancy books.) As dreamers, leaders, parents, people, we maneuver through disappointment, frustration, and impatience when looking at our dreams. It is easier to let these weigh us down on or distract us from the path to success.  Refocus the lens! Get a clear look at what you must do to overcome: Do you need some accountability? A new idea? Some fresh prespective?  For me, I needed to surround myself with other un-perfect parents, interestingly enough I knew a few.  The day will come when we reach the top of the mountain and look back on the journey; we will appreciate those obstacles because they made the journey significant and better than we expected.

Stay the course. There will always be another mountain. Enjoy your walk today: Savor your thoughts, experience the joy of breathing, and do something (no matter how small) to make your dream a reality.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Potter's Wheel

The Potter's Wheel is simple in its structure:  a flat round, spinning surface connected to a base which contains a mechanism for turning the working surface, powered by a manual pedal or a more modern electric mechanism for regulating speed.  Alone the wheel spins in a circle and would otherwise have no other purpose, certainly it would not even be worthy of even mentioning. But it is important, in fact it is an essential piece of machinery to form any form of ceramic that has a hollow inside: vases, cups, pots, bowls.

Think about your life right now: it is spinning or is it producing?
The constant of life, the calendar, the course of a day, a week, a year, it goes on with the same rhythm year after year. Just like the potter's wheel, it spins but it would hardly be worth the mention except for the potential it has to be the mechanism for producing greatness. It has been said that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.  I imagine a potter sitting at his wheel pumping the pedal, just watching it spin and wondering when the pot is going to be made.  Or perhaps, in our lives we are just really afraid of getting dirty (I know my least favorite part of making pottery is having dried up clay crust under my nails.)  So instead we sit and watch a flat life pass us by over and over again wondering why we can't get a break and be magnificent too? 

You are the Clay
The Magnum Opus, your life, what you will leave behind to be remembered.  This is the clay thrown to the wheel.  Over time, and with meticulous applications of water, pressure, and stretching the clay takes shape.  The spinning of the wheel maintains the balance of the piece.  Clay become the ideal material for the wheel because of its desirable quality of being pliable.  You can mold clay into just about anything.  Your willingness to be flexible, molded, and open to the exuberance of living, to become something other than a lump of clay staring at a spinning wheel. 

The Potter
Whether you are a leader and know that this metaphor applies directly to your team (maybe you have some lumps of clay or spinning wheels you need to get together). Perhaps you are a parent and you are thinking that your home is a spinning wheel: you have the same routines and the same squabbles and now you need to use the clock (your wheel) to help you schedule time to mold your family. Or maybe you are just like me and you know that you are the lump of clay waiting to be thrown to the wheel and submit to the Master Potter. Where ever you are, you can identify with one of these positions.  My hope is that you are not just sitting by watching a wheel spin, that you are willing to dig in and get your hands dirty to experience true living!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Personal Mission Statements

I was so excited to find a quote today that reminded me of why I do what I do.  Before I share it with you, we need to uncover the essence of what my WHY is really all about.  A few years ago, while I was trudging through life's tangled web of loose threads finding out who I was, I attended a workshop in which we developed a personal mission statement.  The excersize was intense, but the truth I found in one simple phrase changed the course and direction of my life. 

A few simple lines of text, a lifetime of peeling back layers
What is your WHY?  What makes you get up every morning? What makes you push aside the negative daily to pursue your dream?
I was not able to answer these questions very clearly until I really started identifying the parts of my life that really mattered.  I began asking, "What do I want my life to look like five years from now? At the end of today, how will I know if I am closer to my goals?" I was ready to face the truth that some choices I was making were acutally preventing me from even stepping near my goals...let's face it, some of them kept me so far away that I really wasn't sure what the goals were anymore.  When I made the decision that today just wasn't good enough and tomorrow was not soon enough to make changes, I pushed yesterday out of my way and took some steps forward.  Yesterday was a bully who just kept telling me I wasn't going to get there and that I was going to have to get through him first, well he was right I did have to get through him...the truth is I had to realize that it already happened, YESTERDAY!

The Truth Hurts
It is painful being honest with yourself.  Especially when you are your toughest critic.  I learned that forgiveness of your own mess and incompleteness is the most painful, frustrating, and gnarly experience you will ever endure.  But you are not alone because there is a peace on the other side and a path of freedom ready to take you to the next level of finding out who you really are ready to be!

My Mission Statement:

To bring integrity, passion, and understanding to the world through the tangible outpourings of a generous spirit. is one of my favorite "Likes" on Facebook for their posts of the lives and works of some really great artistic contributions. Today's post was about Sol LeWitt. The artist was not impaired visually, however, he understood that in order to communicate vision, others have to see what you see and how you see it.  His artistic process: He would provide assistants with only written instructions for producing his artwork.

"A blind man can make art if what is in his mind can be passed to another mind in some tangible form." Sol LeWitt (1928 - 2007)
Do you have a personal mission statement?  Share it!  Tell me what wakes you up in the morning? What gets your heart on fire?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Kaizen: The Pursuit of Perfection

Ironic as it is, I needed to revisit Kaizen.  The artist needs to look back on his finished piece with fresh eyes, consistently and see it again without the emotional clinging to the work that brought it to life.  You may wonder why an artist never seems satisfied with his "finished" piece.  He sees what can be improved, the missed brush stroke, the slight imperfection in the mold, a missed opportunity, irregularity in the material.  And when he looks upon it, he will only see what could have been. 

The pursuit of perfection
The pursuit of perfection may seem exhausting or extreme in nature to most, but perhaps that is in the misunderstanding of what truth lies behind it.  You may be asking yourself, why are we revisiting this topic?  The truth is because of what it means to an artist and what it means for a leader to dig in deeper after he has already given it all. 

There should be no erasers!
I want to draw your attention to the fact that the previous post of KAIZEN was not deleted - this is not an edited post or re-post. We learn from our mistakes, from our past, the artist acknowledges lessons learned and we all need reminders of those lessons.  Don't discount the purpose of our past; it prevents repetition of wrong choices and unwanted outcomes. 

 The artist [perfectionist] in me...

I grew up the daughter of a Marine Corps officer and his wife, the epitome of a Lady (we don't hear that word too much anymore).  They both shared a Do-it-yourself work ethic and impeccable ability to reach out to and make others feel important. Do you think anyone in our house was able to just be "good enough"?  I was the one who wanted to get to the finish line first and then get to whatever was next. Life was a sprint! But in fifth grade I was working on a last minute project for a school art competition, brought my piece downstairs for review and my Dad said, "You can do better than that." We spent the next several hours making it better. After colored paper, a straight edge, a ruler, and some careful glue applications, it was.  The finished piece went on to win awards at the school, region, and state level. 

Lessons learned
The photo of Arlington Cemetery in my "Wish for World Peace" project taught me a life lesson - it CAN be better if you are willing to spend the time, exude the effort, and believe in yourself.  It will be rewarded beyond your expectations.
KAIZEN is not a sprint, life is not a sprint. Your Magnum Opus is a slow and steady process of refinement and pursuit of perfection.