I'm going to try and start filming myself painting. I read Austin Leon's book "Show Your Work," and felt inspired to record more of my process.
I ran my first 5k in 6th grade. Or Perhaps I should say walked my first 5K in 6th grade.
My mom had a quit smoking a couple of years before this, and started a regimen of outdated 80s workout videos. She graduated to running and entered us in our first 5K. I couldn’t even run a mile.
I came in DEAD last in this 5K. She came and walked beside me at the very end. In my pre-teen angst I was so embarrassed and horrified about coming in last. My middle school principal had even passed me in the run.
“I lost the whole race.” I panted. She assured me that I had not lost the race. In fact, she reminded me that I had beat every single person at home who didn’t even try.
It was a powerful way to reframe this experience for me. It still helps me on a regular basis. I can’t lose y’all. Because. I am doing my thing every single day and I am trying. That alone is a big win.
What small things have you done this week in your race? Have you tried something new? Had a difficult conversation? Kept doing something even when it was hard? If so, you my friend are rocking it.
I have a thing with symbols, in case you don’t know. I believe every outward truth points to an inward truth. i might also be so bold to say that symbols that show up in our life repeatedly are directing us towards some sort of lesson or idea. I’m curious about the cultural stories and meanings we attach to animals, plants and events.
I saw the flamingos at the San Antonio Zoo recently, and got some really fun photos. I love to read about the animals and symbols I paint. I discovered some contradictory stories about the flamingo.
One modern meaning of the flamingo is opulence. In 1957, a recent art school graduate created the iconic pink plastic flamingo. His flamingos became a worldwide symbol of American materialism.
Ironically, a flamingo gets its color from the things it consumes. Flamingo eat shrimp. I personally see a much greater lesson in this. The mantra, “You are what you eat,” rings true here. And perhaps on a deeper level.
I’d say the real lesson the flamingo provides is one of mindful consumption. We are made of the things we consume.
Recently, I’ve been taking pause to look at the things I consume. I have cut back on caffeine and I am doing the whole cutting down on processed foods thing. I am also watching what I feed my soul, the company I keep, the businesses I support, and the books I read. I’ll admit I am a tv glut after my daughter goes to bed. I’m gonna give myself a free pass there because mama needs her shows.
In my work as a mother, wife and a creative I have a mantra that I must fill my cup before I can fill the cups of others. Looking for activities and people that fill my cup and feed my soul is essential to the work I do.
You see, we creatives must feed our souls. Thus, when making a decision I use this question to guide my decision process, “Does this feed my soul?” Because if I stop feeding my soul, I stop feeding my creativity.
Onward and upward friends,
A bit about my own story getting started in running my own business / following my passion only a short year and a half ago. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing (much like becoming a mother). I had no business plan. I didn't have marketing figured out. I didn't have a voice or brand. I hadn't even considered that. (Proof that you don't have to have it all figured out to get started.)
I just got started. I used the scrabble dictionary to find a word that included 'art' so I could make a clever play on words. I decided my business would be named 'The Austin Artery' which I thought was perfect at the time. I believe the act of creating truly brings us to life, and is just as important to living a healthy life as the heart that is beating in your chest.
I made this clever little heart logo, and promptly showed it to my brother. He responded with distress. "Um, Heidi, that looks like a real human heart," he pointed out.
I was bothered by that at first. Would people be disturbed by this heart?
Then, I decided I just have to be me. Some people won't like it. The heart that my brother had seen as gruesome became an emblem for me of being real.
I, like everyone, hide behind a facade at times when I am scared or can't handle the vulnerability. But, every single time I am strong enough to bring the real me, and my authentic voice to the table, I am rewarded by meaningful connections.
So, I dropped the whole Austin Artery thing this January and decided just to go by my name. I'll miss the heart.
However, I'm memorializing this heart by painting it in my geometric style (it is called low poly art by the way). It should be in the shop in time for Valentines. It is my biggest reminder that self love means bringing my real self to every experience. Here is a preview of the design.
I made this fox for my daughter. In utero, I believed her totem animal was a fox. I still believe it is. Later I discovered this Tswana saying "Phokoje Go Tsela O Dithetsenya" that translates to "Only the muddy fox lives." The idea behind this saying is that only a person who is willing to go through the mess of life truly lives.
Are you taking the creative risk you need to truly live today?
What does it mean to take creative risks? It means doing things before you think you are ready. It means putting your work out there for others to see. It means willingness to fail. And to try again. It means reminding yourself the good stuff comes from the mess (just like a butterfly).
Only a little over a year ago I put my art up in a public place for sale for the very first time. It was messy. It was not cohesive. And I didn't sell a ding dang thing. However, I kept taking creative steps. During this year, I had my first proper show in a gallery, and have landed multiple design contracts. I was even somehow named a "Wonder of Austin" and featured on a cable channel.
The lesson here is that it all starts with one small step. What small step can you take this weekend toward your dreams?
Welcome to 2016, y'all!
I've noticed this trend towards picking a word of the year rather than making resolutions. I am on board with that.
I made this sweet little card to remind myself of my word of the year: Simplify. I'll be sending out the link for a free download so you can print this for yourself.
“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”
The scarab represent death and rebirth.
Archaeologists have found scarab pendants from the paleolithic epoch (10,000 - 20,000 years ago). Thus, human beings have revered the beetle before the beginning of the Egyptian civilization. In these cultures, shamans were highly revered for their ability to work in both the earthly world as well as the celestial world. They were considered to “fly” into dream worlds, and dive down into the underworld in their work. Thus, the scarab, which was observed to fly in the sky and dive into the ground became a symbol for this spiritual work.
The scarab is also considered to represent the ability to change, survive and adapt. As my husband Logan often reminds me, humans may become extinct but the beetles and roaches will live on. Scarabs are known for rolling balls of dung to bury their eggs inside of. In this way, the scarab is unafraid of getting dirty in order to bring about new life. That takes some dedication and fearlessness.
What dirty work is calling you? What needs to be dealt with for you to move forward and evolve?
You will never have it all figured out. You are required to let go in order to evolve. Not once. But every single day. Let go of things that don’t work and no longer serve you.
So some of you have been asking about how I come up with these images for my latest series of paintings. I filmed this bit to give you a little peek into my world. Enjoy!
The Messy Middle Part of The Creative Process
We are remodeling our old bathroom. It isn't really because it was a dream of ours. The house is old and the tiles were splitting apart from water damage. We are 3 months in, and it is too late to turn back. We are in the messy middle part of a creative project. How about you? Where are you in the messy middle? Career? Creative project?
Being in the messy middle without clear answers and results isn't easy. However, that is where the real magic happens. Just look at the butterfly for an example from nature. I just learned that the butterfly literally turns into goo inside of its cocoon. Now that is a messy middle part!
During that time, its entire DNA changes, and it emerges a completely new creature. Whatever that change is in your life, that you are in the midst of, keep going! You too, will emerge completely transformed.
Practice Self-care & Meditation through Art
"Art guarantees sanity." - Louise Bourgeois
I lived in a unique art guild that explores the connection between art and spirituality during a tough time in my relationship about 8 years ago. I was facing the reality that I had become overly dependent on Logan for much of my entertainment and identity. I was just beginning the work of my own inner journey.
In the art guild, I lived like a monk. I ate from the garden, cleaned the toilets and swam in the ice cold river. I experienced the gamut of emotions as I sat silently along watching the trees sway in the afternoon breeze and as I gazed from the majesty of the Pacific Crest Trail.
For all of my work, I got to take classes with a variety of talented artists. During those long quiet hours in the studio and working on the grounds, I found respite from my tumultuous emotions. When I was in the studio painting or working with clay the rest of the world fell away. I didn't hear the incessant chatter of my inner critic so much.
So, when the article entitled "Why Making Art is the New Meditation" was published by the Washington Post last week, I was nodding my head vigorously as I read. Art has been sanctuary over the last decade as I skipped and sometimes trudged along this journey of life. Art is my spiritual path.
Sometimes other mothers ask me, "How do you find time for art?" It really isn't a choice in my mind. I adhere to the belief that my family and friends get the best of me when my heart is full. As a mother, entrepreneur, artist, wife, friend and board member for a local arts non-profit, people are constantly asking me for things. I know that I cannot fill someone else's cup unless my own cup is full. Art is self-care. It is imperative to the well-being of my relationship with my daughter and husband that I have an art making practice.
What is it that sets you on fire? What do you need as a part of your own self-care routine? It is not only ok to make your creative life a priority, it is vital that you make that a part of your routine.
“Mandala” is Sanskrit for “circle.” Making circles in an ancient tradition used by practitioners in religions as varied as Buddhism and Christianity. Mandalas have also been used as tools or insight. Jung kept an entire journal of mandalas.
Join us for a day of Mandala making as we share stories and gain meaning through the creative process. We will direct our creative process through the use of quiet moments of reflection , guided meditations, discussion, and writing.
This class invites you to a new way of design and painting. We'll find a unique balance between structure and flow and we create unique works of art.
The Mandala Circle provides a soulful, authentic, supportive gathering space for artists and non-artists alike. This circle is infused with ceremony, readings, and music. Participants will enjoy a catered lunch from the delightful Vanilla Orchid. Vegetarian & gluten free options are available upon request.
We will create a simple charcoal mandala, as well as a watercolor mandala that will be ready for framing after class. Participants will learn techniques for creating designs that incorporate radial symmetry, as well as basic watercolor techniques.
I don' t really name my paintings normally. It always felt silly. Like I took my art too seriously. However, I guess it makes more sense than people asking to buy "you know, the butterfly one."
I am finally comfortable with the job title artist. Though I am a teacher, camp director, wife, maniac, mystic, and much much more artist has become one of my favorite titles. It signifies that I deeply honor and feel called to do the work of sharing visual stories and messages. For me, art is about making meaning from my life, my history and my spirituality.
So, I hereby name this piece Chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro is the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting. I'm going to argue that what we do in the outer world, (ie paying attention to light and darkness for the purpose of shading a painting) affects our inner world. As I have found the patience and discipline to sit quietly with an image and its own light and dark spaces, I have also found the patience to sit with my own inner light and darkness. Outward truths point to inward truths.
I didn't always pay attention to the shadow side of myself. I struggled vehemently to live in the light all of the time. I had a childhood that was composed largely of feeling lonely and invisible. I tried to deny the neglect and empty feelings. Overtime, I have grieved those losses, and have come to make friends with feelings i used to run from. It doesn't come easily to me still, but I do live in a world filled with meaning and a wide spectrum of emotions.
This quote was particularly moving as I reflected my own journey to know myself fully.
"In each of us lies good and bad, light and dark, art and pain, choice and regret, cruelty and sacrifice. We're each of us ur own chiaroscuro, our own bit of illusion fighting to emerge into something solid, something real. We've got to forgive ourselves that. I must remember to fogive myself. Because there is a lot of gray to work with. No one can live in light all of the time. "
Visual Memoirs - A Creative’s Journey
Every single religion has a creation story. You are wired to create and connect. Is it your birthright. Claim it.
This spring I will teach an e-course called Visual Memoirs : The Creative Journey. In this class we will explore our own creative process and path. Brene Brown said that “Owning our story and loving ourselves through the Process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” I agree, and I think that the act of writing and painting are some of the most powerful ways we can own our stories. I believe that storytelling gives meaning to our lives.
Our tribe will create, connect and finds deeper meaning in their daily lives. We will learn about techniques as we walk daily along the creative path together. Each week the lessons will include video interview writers, artists, and a multitude of other creatives about their own creative journey. This is not just a painting class, it is a class about finding more meaning in our day to day lives through the development of a creative practice.
Each one of us is made up of our experiences and relationships. Much of the spiritual work I’ve done healing from post traumatic stress and postpartum depression informs my work. In my struggles, I have felt completely alone and terrified on some days. Sharing stories and art in a safe space with other creatives has given my life color and depth that was not previously present.
In fact, research is beginning to show that community and connection can change us on a genetic level. (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/epigenetics.html) I would not be surprised if the same is found about art sometime in the future.
This class is loosely based on the framework of The Hero’s Journey, by Joseph Campbell.
This journey, the creative journey, is an invitation to honor your past, be present, and building the future you want. Own your story. Change it. Re-envision yourself through storytelling and art.
Registration is now open at www.theaustinartery.com Class begins on April 18th, with the new moon.
Mandalas & Art as A Tool for Personal Development
Mandala is a sanskrit word that means circle. Mandalas are ancient spiritual and ritual symbols believed to represent the universe. Some cultures believe that mandalas are important tools for meditation. You might recall having seen monks spend endless hours pouring delicate sand designs into mandalas only to let the sand be carried away by the wind as a reminder of the impermanence of life.
In my life, mandalas have been a helpful tool for gaining insight, clarity, and becoming more authentic. Creating any piece of art is a process. When we quiet down and pay attention to that process we learn a lot about our mind, emotions and creative process. Sometimes the process of creating a piece of art is more important than the finished product itself. I believe that the lessons we learn creating in art can be taken back and applied in our life, business or relationships to help us live life to our highest potential.
For example, I began creating this watercolor mandala several years ago with the intention of paying attention to my tendency towards perfectionism. As I painted delicate designs for hours, I began to know that my creative process was lacking the spontaneity and joy that I desired when making art. I was often tense and focused on making a finished product that other people would enjoy looking at.
After making that realization, I picked up my brush and begin painting dark streaks of what I imagine it might look like in the darkest corners of outer space. The painting might not look like much to a viewer. However, this mandalas hangs on the wall in my studio and serves as a powerful reminder that I can let go, and make art that is imperfect and deeply meaningful. I would say that piece of art marks a very powerful moment in my artistic career.
I often times also use mandalas to teach children mathematical concepts like radial symmetry, angles, division, focus, and proportion. These geometric mandalas have helped to teach me patience, focus and discipline. These geometric designs have informed so much of my current work.
You can learn more about making simple mandalas online at: http://www.art-is-fun.com/how-to-draw-a-mandala.html. I also am hosting several workshops on creating 3D sculptural mandalas from natural materials, as well as geometric watercolor mandalas this spring and summer. You can find out more at www.theaustinartery.com
Two and a half years ago my daughter joined our family. I took no drugs. Don’t ask me why someone who had experimented with drugs throughout her 20s would decide not to take any drugs on the day she most needed them. I labored for twenty four hours. I became dehydrated and delirious. I cried. Her cord was wrapped around her neck twice. Twice. I haven’t even heard of that happening. I said I wanted to die. I requested to be taken to the hospital for a c-section.
It was bloody and it was long. However, in a sense it was appropriate because two births took place that day. In the end I was reborn on the bed where I delivered my daughter. The last two and a half years have unquestionably been filled with the hardest and most rewarding moments of my life. The events surrounding her birth shook my psyche. I struggled with postpartum depression, feelings of isolation and worthlessness. As my love for my daughter grew, I found myself faced with a flood of unreconciled grief from my own upbringing.
For years, I had covered all that fear and sadness and anger up with my perfectionism. However, sleepless nights, a tight budget, limited family support, and mountains of dirt diapers, finding toys in the fridge and yogurt covered laundry brought my inner perfectionist tumbling to the ground. Suddenly a great chasm yawned open inside my and years of anger, sadness, fear, and self-criticism came tumbling into the wide open prairie of my consciousness.
The resulting spiritual sojourn took my through dark canyons well trodden by the feet of my ancestors. My inner perfectionist waited patiently there for me in the darkness as I cried, blamed, and bungled my way through the following months. I hated everything for awhile. I hated my dog, my house, my marriage, motherhood, my job as an art teacher at a public school. Slowly, the tears, like a river, carved away new pathways in the canyon and life began to grow again. I spent many hours silently rocking, nursing, and reflecting with only the company of my small daughter. She was beautiful, but since she couldn’t speak I spent a lot of time in my own mind reflecting. I was visited by my grief, and by dreams that I had tucked away in boxes on shelves for some later date.
As a mother, I give so much of my life and energy to my child and my family. I came to the conclusion that I could only invest my time in things that fed my soul. I could not nurture my child if my own cup was not full. In the process of getting to know my grief, fear unfilled dreams, and anger intimately I also became well acquainted with what my heart needed in order to feel alive. For me, art, writing and teaching on my own terms, in my own way, and my own schedule were needs. Not wants.
The rebirth that took place after my daughter’s birth was a complete spiritual overhaul of my life, mind, and spirit. Those sort of events don’t occur often in the course of a lifetime (Thank God!). However, I do try to stay open to small opportunities for miracles, rebirth and beginning anew each day now.
I painted some pictures I considered fairly decent. Art is in my soul. My perfectionism held my back from progressing as an artist for so long. I’d begin challenging myself and immediately give up in frustration when the results looked awkward and embarrassing. Once I recognized the importance of filling my own cup as a mother, I knew I had to commit myself to my art.
So it was humbling to step into the studio of one of the best artists in Austin and begin again. I spent 3 hours drawing bowls and apples in charcoal pencil. I had so many preconceived ideas about how good I “should” be. As I sat at the drawing bench, and squinted my eyes at still lifes, I saw the face of my inner perfectionist staring back at me. My boisterous beliefs fell away I received coaching, “Let the pencil be a skater gliding on the ice.” I was scared, exhilarated, and eager to laugh or cry at the beauty and frightfulness of it all.
That day I was able to look deeply into the eyes of my perfectionist, and calmly tell her, “We are going to be ok. I need to make these mistakes to move forward. Thanks for all of your concern.”
Another birth. Another beginning. There was no blood. But it was painful in moments, and scary. Some moments I wanted to run out the door. Some days I still do. Like this morning.
I am now re-learning the basics of art, and re-envisioning my business plan. Both of these will render me a beginner yet again.
Meister Eckhart says “be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” I now translate that to mean that to be fully present and live authentically I have to put aside my ego and befriend my inner perfectionist each morning. I am leaning in to some uncomfortable feelings and fear. It has been on the the most important skills I’ve learned as an artist.
I like to practice gratitude, and today I am so grateful for my daughter. I am grateful for the art we make together, the laughter she has brought into my life, and her inspiring freedom and fearlessness. I am also so glad for my own rebirth. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned thus far from motherhood. I am grateful that I have the confidence to face each day anew. I am glad that I have the courage to wake up each morning and take steps forward on my journey as an artist.
What dreams have you put in boxes?
How will you begin again today?
My mom always said that there were a lot of people out there who struggle with the holidays. How sad for them, I thought. I look forward to the holidays. As it turns out, I am one of those people who struggle through the holidays.
It turns out that the holidays shine light on the barren lonely parts of my psyche. Ghosts from the past remind me of my own loss. I am slowly learning to honor that pain. My therapist recently mentioned a book in which the characters tithe pain and suffering to create magic. That rings true for me. So I am learning that holidays are a time when I must honor those threadbare parts of my soul. As I know my pain and darkness intimately, I become more empowered and creative.
I have had great things happen in my life this year. Immense changes. I feel lucky. I am not naturally positive. I am a recovering perfectionist. So it is important for me to reflect on the good things in my life. I created this gratitude mandala last week, and my family has been slowly filling it up. My heart is also filling up with each additional item listed on our mandala.
Archer, my two year old daughter told us she is grateful for the colors red, yellow, and purple. She is grateful for cheese and sandboxes. Her best friend is grateful for dolphins. Nothing can fill your heart quite like the gratitude of a 2 year old.
I bet you are busy. I know I am. I still have to go shopping. And clean the house. I wanted to give you a blank gratitude mandala of your own to fill up since you may not have time to paint and photoshop one yourself. I hope you too can honor the threadbare parts of your soul, as well as the bountiful blessings in your life.
By Heidi Miller Lowell
I do not believe anyone who tells me they do not have a creative bone in their body. I usually translate that statement to mean, “Creativity is scary. I might make a mistake. Everyone will see it.” And they are completely right. Creativity is the ultimate act of vulnerability.
Creativity is our spirit and at the core of our heart. Each one of us has a valuable story to share that has the potential to change the world through the very act of making art and sharing our tale. Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” I know that these vulnerable seeds of creativity are waiting inside each of us for the right conditions to sprout.
We humans have an innate drive to tell our stories and connect. Throughout human history, we have strived to tell our stories, even before we had words for them. The earliest humans told their stories through pictures on cave walls. Even babies begin making their marks as soon as they are able. I will forever cherish the memory of watching my own daughter squeal with delight as she discovered her own power to make a mark as she held a paintbrush in her tiny hands for the first time.
Research shows that the happiest human beings are the ones who are connected and have community. While technical skills are valuable, we believe that art and storytelling have something far more valuable to offer society. Art is a powerful tool for creating meaning, and developing empathy.
When I began to approach art as a spiritual journey it transformed “mistakes” from stumbling blocks into pathways to new opportunities. You cannot make the wrong choice. We use story prompts with a variety of media to create layered art pieces. These layers and lessons are metaphors for our life. Some psychologists believe that the stories and art we make, even when fictitious, create parallels to our life and provide opportunities for problem solving. Furthermore, X-rays show that Leonardo da Vinci painted 30 layers on the Mona Lisa. When we continue to explore with a variety of media and add layers to our art pieces, we develop persistence and patience. An art piece and our story unfold.
This kind of approach is powerful because stories are how we think. They require structure, order, and clarity. Psychologists call this a script or mental model. We use stories and images to persuade others, market ourselves, create our identities, and teach social values. Stories also allow us to walk in someone else’s shoes briefly, increasing empathy.
Telling our stories and creating art are more important now than ever as our schools and society grapple with the issues of bullying and other violence. When we activate the right side of the brain and tell own our stories, we tap into the creativity that is the foundation for innovation, empathy, self-understanding, and change
We live in a world that is vastly different from that of the previous generations. We communicate globally and instantaneously. News is doled out in 140 characters. People love cat memes. However, that is not what we truly crave. We crave meaning, connection, and community. When individuals and organizations identify and nurture their creativity and core stories, they create something that others connect with and believe in. That is something that can create powerful change.
This is why I want to help you cultivate your creative side at The Austin Artery.