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Art Mimics Life



Can you tell I’m hiding out on the peaceful shores of Lake Michigan? Here is Clay Cliffs, a Leelanau Conservancy-protected land. 18 x 18 oil painting

The most fascinating thing about art history is the context.

Artists respond to current events. The Renaissance literally means “rebirth”; artists were responding to the Dark Ages, saying “no more” and looking towards enlightenment. And so it goes throughout the history of art: Impressionists were responding to years of constraint in art. The invention of tube paint and the camera gave a newfound freedom to get outside and paint plein air, leaving literal interpretation to the camera. With such freedom, they made bolder, freer art. The establishment hated it. The Post Impressionist took that even further.


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park is another treasure of Michigan, and a favorite resting place. 18 x 18 oil painting

In America right now, current events are blowing up all over every day. Movements are forming and the “unprecedented” is happening everyday. So how are artists responding? I don’t know quite yet. I only know that they are, and they will.

I am wrestling with this issue almost daily in the studio. I don’t know how to respond with art. Almost a decade ago, I made a choice to keep art as my happy place, to make art that brings about a smile. To make art that celebrates the landscapes I love so deeply. And to save the issues that matter most to me for writing and personal exploration. I have long been an activist, a philanthropist, championing for children’s rights for a quality education in Ethiopia. Equality and justice matter deeply to me. Now this struggle is on my own front door … that is more complex to share than boarding a plane to Ethiopia. When it came to Ethiopia, I choose to celebrate the beauty and dignity of the culture in my art. That was what was truest to my heart. It remains truest to my heart to keep art a riotous, joyous celebration.


More Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park goodness. Here, the view overlooks the Glen Lakes. 18 x 18 oil painting

I’ve heard it said, “Leave it to the artist to explain the why.” I cannot explain to you the why, or tell you why life is simultaneously hard and unfair and beautiful and resilient. But I can share with you the struggle: You’re not alone, and neither am I. And I can tell you that this American struggle is deeply on my mind; as a private citizen, I am extremely active and engaged, and I think we are all called upon right now to be so. Even if it’s just putting more kindness into the world — do that!

As for my art, for now I rest, steady in the knowledge that the mere act of making art is enough. The celebration of art is a rebellion. And I promise you this, I will keep making and celebrating art at the top of my lungs, though the words of Nina Simone haunt me: “You can’t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.”

What do you think? As always I love when you join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram. I’ll see you there!


The skies over Lake Michigan are as glorious as the shore, and never overlooked by my artist’s eye. 14 x 14 oil painting

What I Wish Everyone Knew About Making Art

Making art — good art — takes a lifetime. It’s a discipline and a daily practice. Those of us who have dedicated our lives to the practice of making art do it nearly every day. And I promise you, if you did something every day, you’d get better at it.
It’s the same with anything: You are not born knowing how to play the piano; instead, you take lessons, you practice. It is important for everyone to recognize this, because I think a lot of people never begin to make art because they believe they cannot. They believe they do not have talent. The concept of talent is this roadblock to making, when, in reality, the only path is to begin. All it takes is a desire. And a beginner’s mind: not expecting yourself to be good, but rather, begin with curiosity.
Children are the very best at this. It has not occurred to them to judge their art. This is why they beam with pride upon showing you their art. They made something, and it was fun, and that feels good. So it is my encouragement to you to begin with the child’s mind. If you have the desire to be a maker, then please, make something — just begin. Push paint on canvas, or paper, and watch what it does, without judgment. The idea is not that it be “good or “bad” but that the desire to create be given a chance to get out of your body and out into the world. If you feel like you want to but you just don’t know where to begin. For inspiration and ideas on how to get started, check out my Pinterest page “Creativity is for Everyone” or the videos on my Facebook page or YouTube page.
And, just as you signed up for piano lessons, take that creative class. The key is to just begin, and when you begin, take judgment off the table. You must always be very kind and gentle with yourself when beginning something new.
2017 will have me creating more videos, so stay tuned. And you can always email me to set up your own class in my Ada studio, and by summer I hope to roll out some classes in Leelanau as well. Make it a year of learning!
As always I love to hear from you. Do you have plans for making art in the new year?
Let’s keep the conversation going on Facebook and Instagram. See you online, my friends.