It was so much fun last month, you won't want to miss it.
This month featuring DJ Boom Boom, a load of other artists popping up, and Temple residents will have their studios open. The fun starts at 7pm. Grab some pizza from 5 Points Pizza too!
It was so much fun last month, you won't want to miss it.
This month featuring DJ Boom Boom, a load of other artists popping up, and Temple residents will have their studios open. The fun starts at 7pm. Grab some pizza from 5 Points Pizza too!
I'm excited and proud to have some small works on display at Odyssey Beerwerks in Arvada, Colorado for the whole month of March, 2018.
If you've visited their taproom in Arvada before, you know that their award-winning beer is outstanding and that the owners and staff are fiercely dedicated to their community and customers. You can feel it the minute you step inside.
Join me on Friday, March 23rd, 2018 from 6-9pm for a "Meet the Artist" night and the release of one of their most popular seasonal beers, Hibiscus Eye of Ra Golden Strong Ale. See you there!
Odyssey Beerwerks is located at:
Join me on Saturday, March 9, 2018 from 6-9pm for the opening of this Month of Printmaking (Mo' Print) group show curated by Angel Estrada at GRACe Studios' Gallery.
This exhibition includes many different styles and methods of printmaking made by artists from GRACe and around Colorado. I'll have a small handful of monotypes on display.
The show runs from March 9-31, 2018.
Mo’Print is a celebration of the art of making original prints to inspire, educate and promote awareness through a variety of public events and exhibitions in the Denver metropolitan area, the Front Range region, and throughout Colorado.
Their goal is to generate a critical mass of printmaking events during the 3rd biennial celebration, taking place in March, 2018. Learn more about it, and all of the Mo' Print events in March, right here.
A few days ago, I sent out a survey to those of you on my Studio Insiders list to learn more about you.
I will always love and be drawn to making art but a huge part of it for me (and the themes in my work) is the connection it aims to create and foster. To live that and know how to best serve you through my art and business, I want to learn more about you and connect with you more. Your responses that have come in from the survey so far are already teaching me more about you and how I can foster more connection this year.
One of the biggest things I'm learning from the responses so far is that you'd like to know more about my process and what happens behind the scenes in the studio. Today, I'm sharing some of that on my Instagram Stories. If you're not already following me there, please do. I share pics of my studio, work and process there often and plan to do much more of that in the near future.
Some of you I actually know pretty well, we've had long conversations, you've been to some of my shows or events, you're part of the 100 Days of Healing and Remembrance project, you've purchased art from me, I've created a custom painting for you, we've exchanged notes on social media, or you're a close friend or family member. I'm grateful to know you and I'm still hoping to get to know more about you and how I can better serve you in my art and business. And, of course, I want to learn more about those of you I haven't had a chance to meet yet!
If you have already taken it, thank you for sharing your responses with me! If you haven't had a chance to take the survey yet, sign up for my list here or send me an email here and I'll email it to you this afternoon. If you fill it out by midnight MT tomorrow night, Wednesday, February 7th, 2018, you'll be entered to win $50.
Thank you for stopping by to visit this blog, thank you for being a part of this community and I hope to connect with more of you soon!
I’m excited to be speaking on a panel tonight, “Finding Inspiration Through Creative Confidence,” from 6-8pm at General Assembly in Denver's RiNo Art District. Check out what we’ll be discussing and sign up below. It's free! Hope to see you there.
About the talk:
Join Mass Musings and General Assembly for an evening of inspiration, community, and exploration.
We don’t need to divide the world into the ‘creatives’ and the ‘non-creatives.’ We are all naturally creative and we should let our ideas fly. Unfortunately, what often holds us back is our fears of judgment and failure as we get older.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up."
Embedded in creativity is uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure - the ingredients of vulnerability. Getting comfortable with the discomfort of vulnerability is the key to living a creative life. In this session, our creative panelists will break down why we fear creativity, and how in doing so it impedes our path to bringing forth the treasures that are hidden inside of us.”
Panelists: Kayte Demont, Founder, Mass Musings; Justin Gitlin, Creative Coder, CacheFlowe; Angela Craven, Artist/UX consultant; Kate Peabody, Founder and Coach, Kaptivate; Kraig Weaver, Owner/Founder, AND collaborative; Perry Finley, Corporate Brand Strategist, Digital Marketing Consultant, Yoga Teacher, Music Producer & That Guy With The Pineapple
About General Assembly: General Assembly (GA) is a global educational company on a mission to empower a community to pursue work they love. Focusing on the most relevant and in-demand skills across data, design, business and technology, GA is confronting a skills gap through best-in-class instruction and providing access to opportunities. Voted Fast Company’s 2015 #1 Most Innovative Company in Education.
Join us on Friday, December 15th for a fundraiser, silent auction and educational event for the Colorado Village Collaborative, who are taking on homelessness in Denver and have built a tiny home village for the homeless.
Join us for food, music, art and tiny homes!
There will also be a silent auction as part of the event where you can find and bid on all types of local art, including one of my paintings, to benefit this organization. Hope to see you there!
LOCATION: RedLine Gallery - 2350 Arapahoe St Denver, CO
WHEN: Friday, Dec 15, 2017 7–10pm
Stop by my studio in the South Building (with the painted eyes over the ramp), Studio S2, anytime between 6 and
GRACe is on the RiNo, River North Art District VIP
You'll also get to see lots of amazing artists and our entrance newly decorated with paintings by our residents.
See you Friday!
Today I’m marking Day 50 of the 100 Days of Healing and Remembrance Project with some new additions to the painting, awe, gratitude, and a bit of reflection.
The first 49 stories have been emotional, difficult, heartbreaking, beautiful and encouraging. But more than anything they have been brave. Brave because it’s easy to talk about the great things happening in our lives, there’s even an expectation in many cultures to do just that, but it's not so easy to share the difficulties.
I’ve been in awe of the people who’ve been willing to share their difficulties and speak their truth in the name of honoring a baby and/or the experiences that have changed them, and in the name of helping other people feel less alone. Each story in 100 Days of Healing and Remembrance is powerful.
Whether you’ve shared your own story here or have read some and are not quite ready to talk about yours, my wish is that you find some comfort and hope and a supportive community through these 49 stories; a community that quite literally stretches across the world.
The people who share these experiences are not from one place, religion, set of beliefs, race, heritage, or age group. They’re from people who have had a loss recently or many years ago. They’re from people who are in the midst of their experiences with infertility or have long since been through it. They’ve come from 3 continents (and counting). Some of their stories include children or pregnancies before or after a loss. And, although the stories posted in this project come from women, many men have shared their story with me via email, private message or in conversation as well. I see so much beauty in all of these aspects. It’s further confirmation that we are all connected and that our age, gender identity, race, orientation, heritage, religion, and beliefs don’t exclude or advance your experiences with infertility or grief. Sharing these tragic experiences has the power to connect us to each other and to our own humanity. Above all, there’s no question that, particularly right now, we all have a deep need to be seen and heard in our emotional pain and grief as much as in our most celebrated and joyful moments.
Another element of this project that has struck me is the number of people who have decided not to contribute but have told me that it has helped them to hear from other people and that many of the stories have resonated with them. One friend told me she has been following the project and found some peace with her own losses through it but she hasn't contributed because she felt her experience wasn’t “as bad as many others have had it.” If you can relate to that, I respect that you may not be ready to share your experience or may not want to at all. But, if the only thing holding you back is a feeling that your story might not be as intense or feels more intense, I want to encourage you to share your own truth. There are likely others who feel similarly and could find healing in your voice and point of view. I get that and it’s completely human and normal to compare. But, when you’re in the acute and most painful moments of grief or infertility, it’s also perfectly understandable and normal to be consumed with the pain and need some support regardless of what someone else has been through. Your experience is yours and it matters.
With that, I’d love to share your story and send you a piece of the painting at the end of the project. Please share this project with anyone you think might like to contribute or could find comfort in it. Please also consider sharing the link to it if you’ve never been through pregnancy or infant loss or infertility, there’s, unfortunately, a high likelihood that someone close to you has.
And thank you to everyone who has been a part of this, through reading it, contributing or sharing. Your bravery, kindness, compassion and time spent to understand another person’s experience are not small, I think those things truly help make the world a better place.
This #100DayProject captures the experiences of those of you who have been touched by infertility, miscarriage or the loss of a baby.
With the stories you share, I’m creating one large abstract painting by adding to a canvas. At the end of the project, I’ll be cutting it into 100 smaller pieces. These tiny abstract paintings will be sent to those who contributed or could use some encouragement, or both.
Why do this? Because those affected [we] are all part of an unintentional and unfortunately large community of people who don’t talk about these experiences enough and art is healing. We can find beauty and strength from sharing our stories and supporting each other. For more information or to contribute, please go to http://angelacravenart.com/100-day-project
"Ghost Currency" by Angela Craven, 30 x 80 inches, mixed media on wood panel
On Friday, October 20th, between 6 and 8 pm, I'll be giving a tour of my solo show, "Ghost Currency and Transformation" at GRACe. During the tour, and while you sip your wine or hot cider, I'll be talking a bit about some of my inspiration for the work and the ghost money that you'll see layered in it. What is ghost money, you ask? I'll tell you all about it on the 20th. I'll also be talking about my process in general and answering any questions about that or the work. See you there!
I will have my studio open at GRACe in Denver's RiNo Art District this upcoming First Friday from 6-9pm. I’ll be painting throughout the evening and will have other works in progress on display including a sneak preview of a couple of pieces going into my upcoming show, "Ghost Currency & Transformation" which opens on October 12th. See you then!
For the past couple of months, I've explored and experimented with new materials and media within my common themes of reflection, strength, and connection. One of the materials I've been working with has inspired this whole new series.
I'm excited to reveal this new work for my upcoming solo show, called "Ghost Currency and Transformation," which opens at GRACe Gallery (888 E. 50th Avenue) in Denver on Thursday, October 12th at 6 p.m. I'd like to personally invite you to the exhibition. RSVP, here.
About the show:
"As we move beyond challenges in life, we often focus on quieting the lingering ghosts as quickly as possible. What if we stopped struggling and paused to honor our suffering, using reflection as a currency for transformation? In Angela Craven’s exhibition at GRACe Gallery, she uses joss paper, or ghost money, in her newest work as a metaphor for revering our so-called ghosts."
I'll be sharing details of the material I'm using and some sneak previews of the work going into the show. You can follow along here, by subscribing to my newsletter and on Instagram. I hope to see you at the Opening Reception on Thursday, October 12th!
I'll be hosting a Healing and Remembrance Through Art booth again this year, on Saturday, September 23rd, 2017, in the Resource Pavillion at the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep annual Remembrance Walk in Littleton, Colorado.
I'll be there to hear and record the stories of people who have been affected by the loss of a baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, neonatal or any type of pregnancy or infant loss as an extension of my recent work and my 100 Days of Healing and Remembrance project. The project incorporates 100 stories of those who've experienced these types of losses. With the stories shared, I'm creating one large abstract painting by adding to a canvas every day. At the end of the project, I’ll be cutting that canvas into smaller pieces. These tiny abstract paintings will be sent to those who contributed or could use some encouragement, or both. You can read more about that project and participate here.
I set up a booth in the same Resource Pavillion last year and, as someone who has personally been affected by these experiences was grateful to also have the opportunity to participate in the walk last year. It was an incredible event. I met a lot of amazing people, people from all over Colorado, individuals and families (including kids), some of whom had experienced a loss recently while others had lost a baby many years ago. It was emotional and difficult but also incredibly healing and powerful to see so many people come together. There were close to 1,000 people at the Walk, just in Colorado. The large numbers of balloons released in honor of babies, and the families and friends standing and walking together were all a bittersweet, beautiful representation of the fact that you're never alone through this process of grief, love, and hope.
NILMDTS's co-founder, Cheryl Haggard, spoke at the beginning of the ceremony about what the event and organization mean to her. One thing she said particularly struck me:
“The best advice I can give a bereaved parent is: embrace your grief, make friends with your grief. Know that your love and your grief will walk hand in hand with you throughout the rest of your life."
Cheryl’s words resonated with me because I think we often tell ourselves and sometimes hear from others, that “it’s time to move on” or that “you should be over this by now.” The irony is that, the harder we try to forget or bury these emotions, the more they can negatively affect us. These experiences are part of us now and can be a beautiful path to our purpose, and part of the light we hold for others going through the same.
If you're not already familiar with them, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) was founded in Colorado and is now an international non-profit. They provide remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with a free gift of professional portraiture. They believe these images serve as an important step in the family’s healing process by honoring the child’s legacy. I've seen how helpful these photos can be for families in their grieving and healing processes.
The Remembrance Walk itself is an annual event that takes place on different weekends in Minnesota, Georgia, and Colorado. They also have a virtual walk that takes place online and is coming up on October 21st, 2017. Each walk is for parents, family members, and friends to come together to remember a baby who has died due to miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, neonatal or any type of pregnancy or infant loss.
If you have a chance to attend the walk, or you know someone who might like to go, there's still time to sign up for the Littleton, Georgia and virtual walks (U.S. and International). If you're attending the Walk in Littleton this weekend, please stop by the booth to say hello.
If you can’t attend the walk this weekend but would like to be a part of the 100 Days of Healing and Remembrance Project, you can read more about it and participate at angelacravenart.com/100-day-project
I am excited to announce that I was one of 62 artists selected to participate in Manhattan Arts International's “The Healing Power of ART” online exhibition curated by Renée Phillips.
This year's theme:
“At its best art has the power to heal, inspire, provoke, challenge and offer hope. It can transform our physiological state and perception. It also has the power to awaken us to become more conscious about important issues affecting individuals, society, and the planet. This year’s theme for “The Healing Power of Art is “Inspiring The Positive”: Art that either has a positive healing impact on viewers and/or art that raises awareness about our need for positive change.”
"Nel Blue", mixed media on wood panel, 40″ x 30"
I'm proud to have work in this show among a group of accomplished artists and powerful work. The painting selected (shown above) was an "Art Through Fertility" commission I painted for an incredible family who lost their little girl to stillbirth. The painting captures the layers of our conversations - literally through mixed media and text as well as metaphorically. It also represents the memories of carrying and bonding with their little girl before her birth, the hopes and dreams they had for her, the guidance their little girl continues to give them, the strength they've found in the process of grieving for her and the dreams they have for her little brother who was born a week before they received the painting. It was an honor to work on this painting and I couldn't be happier that it spoke to the curator and jurors of the show.
Renée Phillips, the show’s curator, is also founder and director of Manhattan Arts International. She has curated more than 65 exhibitions in NYC and online, including several “The Healing Power of ART” exhibitions since 2000. She is the author of several art business/resource books. She is also the founder and editor of The Healing Power of ART & ARTISTS, an online resource of art and articles to raise awareness about how art can heal individuals, society, and the environment.
The Guest Jurors were:
The art in this show was selected from 800 pieces. They received submissions from artists in 11 countries. You can click here to see the full exhibition and its talented artists. It will be running through to November 1st, 2017.
Once again, I will have my studio open at GRACe in Denver's RiNo Art District for this upcoming First Friday, September 4th, starting at 6 pm. My studio is located in the south building at GRACe (look for the painted eyes over the ramp), I'm in studio 2.
I’ll be painting throughout the evening and will have other works in progress on display. Stop by the studio early and enter to win a small painting. I'll have some pieces on display in the main gallery at GRACe as well, in the north building. See you Friday!
I'm honored and excited to be part of OSO Wellbeing's amazing wellness retreat team. This three-day, women's retreat is coming up on October 6-8, 2017 and will focus on nutrition, fitness, yoga, and art.
Sara Kosick, owner of OSO Wellbeing, Certified Personal Trainer and Master of Nutrition Therapy will be hosting the weekend and leading all of our workouts and nutrition education through the weekend. Lisa Theis, owner of Third Eye Yoga will be leading the group through restorative yoga classes and I will be leading us through two art classes.
In Sara's words:
"Join us in beautiful Buena Vista, Colorado this fall for a weekend of intuitive eating practices, light healthful whole foods, community shared cooking, art, meditation/yoga, group exercise, nature, and hot springs!! Relax into an all-female weekend of mindful practice that is designed to support all levels of individual potential to improve self and body awareness.
TRAIN THE MIND, CHANGE THE BODY!"
We'll be doing another retreat in Costa Rica next spring. Hope you can join us for one or both!
Head to osowellbeing.com/oso-health-retreats for more info and to sign up.
I will have my studio open at GRACe in Denver's RiNo Art District this upcoming First Friday from 6-9pm. I’ll be painting throughout the evening and will have other works in progress on display. I will also have small to large works for sale.
Please join us Thursday, July 13th from 8:00 A.M. - 9:00 A.M for the closing of "Fragment & Transform" by
Black Black Coffee kicked off this exhibit as part of a regular artist series in partnership with Zeppelin Development and GRACe studios.
Join us for coffee or breakfast, meet Angela and hear about her work. Say hello to Angela and mention you're there for the closing, and receive a small gift.
Learn more about the event and show here.
I sat down with the kind folks at RiNo Art District, the neighborhood where my studio and art both call home, to talk about what I've been working on. Thank you,
Thanks to the Wash Park Profile, a monthly Denver newspaper, for the write-up about my current show on display, and in partnership with GRACe and Zeppelin Development, at Black Black Coffee in TAXI.
To read the full article, go to: http://www.denvermetromedia.com/Life/arts/featured-gallery/
"Orbit" 24 x 24 mixed media on wood panel by Angela Craven
I’ll have some of some of my new paintings including the one above, a few monotypes, and a collection of my "365 Days of Art" originals on display in Vouna's lovely boutique in Olde Town Arvada (about 20 minutes from Downtown Denver) from June 2nd to June 30th, 2017.
Swing by the opening during Olde Town Arvada's First Friday, on June 2nd between 6 and 8pm or stop by the boutique any time through June. If you haven't already been, it's a beautifully curated shop filled with clothing and products that are made in the U.S., many of which are local to the Denver/Arvada area. Antonia puts a lot of love and energy into finding unique, well made goods to fill her boutique.
"Orbit" 24 x 24 mixed media on wood panel by Angela Craven
I’ll have some of some of my new paintings (large and small), a few prints, photo transfers and a collection of my "365 Days of Art" originals on display in Black Black Coffee’s beautiful space in RiNo’s TAXI Community from May 18th to July 13th, 2017. Swing by the opening to say hello, drink some wine and hear a bit about the work.
FRAGMENT & TRANSFORM
Please join us Thursday, May 18th from 4:00 - 6:00 P.M. for the Opening Reception of Fragment & Transform by RiNo artist, Angela Craven at Black Black Coffee (3459 Ringsby Ct, Denver)
Abstract forms within Angela Craven’s recent paintings explore the dualities of light and dark, the deep emotional landscapes and complexities of human communication that drive our individual paths and our relationships with others. Her work functions as a tool for communication and reflection both in the present and moving forward. Words and language inspire her paintings and inform the shapes, textures and colors on her canvas. The completed paintings communicate themselves with the viewer in layers just as the meaning of a conversation evolves as it occurs. This interaction constantly evolves with its audience allowing the viewer to explore and discover new perspective over time.
A sneak preview from @blackblackcoffee of some of my new paintings, large and small, a few prints, photo transfers and a collection of my #365daysofart originals on display in their beautiful space @taxicommunity. Hope to see you at the launch party tomorrow! ... "Black Black Coffee, Zeppelin and GRACe have collaborated to bring a new artist series to TAXI Community. Join us Thursday, May 18th from 4:00 P.M. - 6:00 P.M for the opening reception of Fragment & Transform by RiNo artist, Angela Craven, featuring drinks and an artist talk."
I'll be displaying some new work at Stem Ciders through April. The opening will be this Friday, April 7th and, to kick it off, I'll be creating a painting (live!) in their taproom from 5-8pm.
Much of my recent work has involved translating individual's stories into abstract art and that is exactly what I'll be doing on Friday. I'll be creating an abstract painting around Stem Ciders' story, and their commitment to craft and community. If you'd like a peek into my process and what creating a custom painting entails, swing by Friday night to see, say hello and enjoy one of their delicious ciders.
I'm excited to now officially be "on the map" as one of Denver's RiNo Art District artist members. If you'd like to visit, I'd love to have you. I often have my studio open for First Fridays and am always happy to schedule a studio visit. Looking forward to seeing you there!
From the site:
"Angela Craven’s abstract expressionist paintings are about community, strength and connection. Her recent work expresses the stories of those touched by grief and loss through infertility, miscarriage or infant loss. Her goal is to offer individuals or couples, who may otherwise struggle privately, an opportunity for shared understanding and expression. She hopes this work will also nurture empathy and empowerment within the community. Visit her studio at GRACe on First Fridays or by appointment."
Check out rinoartdistrict.org for more info about RiNo, artist listings and events.
Big news around here! I've officially begun a new chapter with my artwork and art business.
I recently moved on from my long (in a good way) full-time career as a software design (UX) consultant to consult part time and focus on my art, which I've been pursuing part time for years.
Before, and with that shift, I was growing out of my little studio and craving more, consistent time to work on my art and business. My studio and job were good to me but it was time for new space, in all ways. I've found some that I'm pretty happy with. I think the pup likes it too!
I'm so looking forward to having a whole lot more room to make more large paintings, work with more people, host events and workshops, and to be part of a great community of Denver artists at GRACe studios in the RiNo district.
I'll be writing all about this new chapter and everything it entails, and I also have some events planned for the coming weeks. If you'd like to be updated on any or all of that, you can sign up for my newsletter at the bottom of any page on my site angelacravenart.com (or via the link in my profile), or follow me on Instagram or Facebook.
Here's to new chapters, and to following your "must".
If you know someone who has lost a baby or is going through infertility, and you haven’t been through it yourself, it can be tough to know what to say. It’s a sensitive subject and many people worry so much about saying the wrong thing that they say nothing at all. Or, maybe they take the opposite route and offer advice or another friend’s story. Even with the best loving intentions, either route can actually be more painful for your friend or loved one dealing with loss or infertility.
The thing is, at some point, we all deal with grief. It’s an inevitable part of life. And, according to resolve.org (a respected free resource for people living with infertility), 1 in 8 couples have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. If you are one of the lucky few who hasn’t experienced either, chances are pretty high that you know someone who has.
Let’s think about the facts again. Life and death are natural parts of life, grief is a natural resulting process for those left behind and 1 in 8 couples are dealing with infertility. These are unfortunately common things that we don’t know how to talk about. So what do you say or do in this situation?
Simply acknowledging that something difficult has happened can be the most loving and helpful thing to say. Telling a friend or loved one that you’re sorry and then expressing your sadness for them can be the perfect way to offer your love and support. It’s really as simple as that. “I’m so sorry that you are dealing with ____” You don’t have to say anything else. You’ll know right away whether or not they want to talk about it. If they don’t, they’ll know you care and you’re there for them if they want to talk later. If they do want to talk about it, just listening to what they have to say and acknowledging that you hear them can be the next most powerful way to show your love.
If you left it at that, know that you’ve already helped beyond measure. But, say your friend or loved one confides in you and you still want to offer your help, what can you say or do?
I’ll tell you. And to do that, I have a quick story. If you’ve been following along over the past couple of months, you know that I’m working on a new project called Art Through Fertility. Katie is the first person I’m working with. You can read about the process with her so far here and here. She’s an amazing human who lost her beautiful baby girl, Poppy, to stillbirth last year. She’s sharing her experience of grief and loss with me so I can create an abstract painting that captures her journey.
The last time I wrote about this project, I wrote about our first conversation around Katie and Poppy’s painting. Katie had chosen 4 colors that she wanted to see in the painting and 4 that she’d rather I left out and we made plans to have another conversation about her journey the following week. It was at that point that I started to work on her painting and then shared with her the progress I’d made just before our next call. Here's a preview of what I shared in its very beginning stages and including the beautiful colors that Katie chose.
As we work through this process and painting, I’ve found myself wondering who’s getting more out of it. Not only has she become a friend but I leave our conversations with a full heart and loads of life / art inspiration.
This second conversation about her painting was no exception. She told me about where she was with everything, with grief, with Poppy and with her life. She’s been focusing on taking care of herself and is being patient with the grief process. She’s been going to yoga, writing and meditating. She’s becoming stronger along the way and it’s remarkable to see and hear.
As she was telling me about her week, she mentioned that she attended a meditation for people who are grieving. She said, after the meditation a woman came up to her and struck up a conversation. The way she approached the conversation, Katie felt comfortable sharing her story. When she finished, this woman said the most compassionate few words. She said, “what feels supportive to you right now?”
“What feels supportive to you right now?”
Soak that up. Imagine, you’re going through one of the most difficult things in your life and someone says these words to you. They instantly put you at ease right? Not only did she acknowledge that something terrible had happened and then listen to what Katie had to say, but she showed her compassion and helped without offering any advice.
Katie went on to tell her that hearing people use Poppy’s name felt most supportive and this woman promised she would do just that.
The answer to that question will be different for everyone. That’s what makes it so great. Everyone deals with these experiences differently and giving them the power to tell you how you can help ensures that you’re not doing or saying the wrong thing. You’re giving them an opportunity to tell you how you can help them in the unique way that feels the most supportive to them. Try it the next time you hear of someone dealing with infertility or loss. I would love to hear how it goes.
In the meantime, I’m continuing to work on Katie’s painting. Next week, I’ll tell you how that’s going and the visit that Katie and I got to have in person in Denver.
Goodbye for now and thank you for following along as this project takes shape. I can’t wait to share more with you.
If you want to hear about this project as it happens, via email, you can sign up below.
Katie and I exchanged a few texts and emails ahead of our first call about her Art Through Fertility painting and, just before we spoke, she texted from an art store asking if she should be looking at oil or acrylic colors. The funny thing is that when I mentioned to her to think about colors, I was picturing her looking at a hardware store for those long rectangular paint sample sheets. You know the ones that you bring home and match to your furniture and flooring before you commit to painting the whole wall? I know this makes no sense, this connection between house painting and an abstract acrylic painting. I have no idea why my mind went there. I’m so glad that’s not where she landed because I loved that we were a few states apart but that she and I would both be in an art store later that day thinking about this future painting while holding tubes of the exact same colors.
Katie found four tubes of paint that she liked and four that didn’t feel right. She sent me photos of the colors as we started our first conversation for the painting. When I saw the photos, my mind raced toward what I would do with the colors and they left me inspired to start painting as soon as possible. Colors have different effects for people and I feel that much closer to putting together a painting for Katie and Poppy now that I know what colors Katie gravitates toward. Our conversation added even more to that inspiration.
Last week, I wrote that we planned to talk for just half an hour this week and that I wasn’t sure if it would be long enough. Well, we ended up talking for an hour and could’ve easily talked for longer. Our conversations have felt like talking with an old friend. Our paths are different but we share some similar feelings and thoughts, which makes it easy to talk and is partly what drew me to contact her in the first place. This is also what makes the way she communicates in her writing so beautiful. These feelings and experiences around grief and loss are intense and personal yet can also be somewhat universal. The more they’re shared and discussed, the more access to strength for other people going through the same.
(in the studio, image by Rebecca Tillett)
Katie told me that over the past few months, she left her work as an attorney where she was, in her words "focusing solely on advocating for people who had filed for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits through the Social Security Administration (aka the Federal government)." Since leaving that job that she cared about deeply, and even before that, she has felt compelled to write about her experience with Poppy and to share it with others. She said she can’t not write about it. There’s a reason that her writing feels purposeful when you read it, that’s how she’s approaching it. As she was explaining this feeling to me, she said that writing (particularly during this time) is her vocation, it's a calling for her, and exactly what Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about earlier in the year in a post on Facebook.
If you’re not familiar with Elizabeth Gilbert, she’s the author of Eat, Pray, Love and recently wrote another book called Big Magic. She writes and speaks regularly on the topics of creativity and fear, and the creative process in general.
After Katie and I talked, I searched for Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing that Katie referenced. Gilbert has a huge following on her Facebook page and often writes mini novels there, this post (below) is no exception.
It's definitely long but well worth the read.
Once you’ve had a chance to read it, I would love to hear about your vocation, or your search for your vocation, below and I think Katie would too.
For now, I’m heading to the studio to work on Katie and Poppy’s painting and am looking forward to sharing more of this project with you.
Thank you for reading, and allowing me to share the process with you.
Question of the day: WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?
Dear Ones -
I get a lot of questions from people who are seeking purpose and meaning in their lives. And I get a lot of questions from people who are seeking career advice — especially about creative careers. And I get a lot of questions from people who are absolutely confused about where their energy is going in life, and why.
For anyone out there who is seeking purpose and meaning and direction in their lives, I thought it might be useful today to define and differentiate four very important words that relate to HOW WE SPEND OUR TIME IN LIFE.
Are you ready?
The four very important words are:
These four words are often interconnected, but they are not interchangeable. Too much of the time, we treat these words like they are synonyms, but they are not. They are gloriously distinct, and should remain gloriously distinct. Each is wonderful and important in its own way. I think a lot of the pain and confusion that people face when they are trying to chart their lives is that they don't understand the meaning of these words — or the expectations and demands of each word. So me break down what I consider to be the definitions and differences.
1) HOBBY — A hobby is something that you do for pleasure, relaxation, distraction, or mild curiosity. A hobby is something that you do in your spare time. Hobbies can come and go in life — you might try out a hobby for a while, and then move on to something new. I grew up in a family where everyone had hobbies (my grandmother made rag rugs; my grandfather made jewelry out of old spoons; etc) and I have hobbies myself. Gardening was my hobby a few years ago; now it's Karaoke and collage-making You can tell when something is a hobby because your attitude toward it tends to be relaxed and playful. The stakes are SUPER low with hobbies. Sometimes you might make a bit of money out of your hobby, but that's not the point — nor does it need to be. Hobbies are important because they remind us that not everything in life has to be about productivity and efficiency and profit and destiny. Hobbies are mellow. This is a wonderful reminder, and the concept should relax you. Hobbies prove that we have spare time — that we are not just slaves to the capitalist machine or to our own ambitions. You don't NEED a hobby, mind you, but it's awfully nice to have one. Even the word itself is adorable and non-threatening: HOBBY! What a cute word. Go get one. You have nothing to lose, and it'll probably make you happier. Also, my grandparents would approve. Back before TV, everyone had hobbies. It's nice. No big deal.
2) JOB — You may not need a hobby, but you do absolutely need a job. Unless you have a trust fund, or just won the lottery, or somebody is completely supporting you financially...you need a job. Actually, I would argue that even if you DO have a trust fund or a winning lottery ticket or a generous patron, you should still have a job. I believe there is great dignity and honor to be found in having a job. A job is how you look after yourself in the world. I always had a job, or several jobs, back when I was an unpublished, aspiring writer. Even after I'd already published three books, I still kept a regular job, because I never wanted to burden my creativity with the responsibility of paying for my life. Artists often resent having jobs, but I never resented it. Having a job always made me feel powerful and secure and free. It was good to know that I could support myself in the world, and that I would never starve, no matter what happened with my creativity. Now, here's the most essential thing to understand about a job: IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE AWESOME. Your job can be boring, it can be a drag, it can even be "beneath you". Jobs don't need to be soul-fulfilling. Really, they don't. I've had all kinds of weird and lame jobs; it doesn't matter You don't need to love your job; you just need to have a job and do it with respect. Of course, if you absolutely hate your job, by all means look for another one, but try to be philosophical about why you have this job right now. (Some good philosophical reasons for staying in a crappy job right now include: You are taking care of yourself; you are supporting your beloved family; you are saving up for something important; you are paying off debts. The list of reasons to have a job — even a bad job — goes on and on, and honor abides within all those reasons.) Don't judge yourself about your job and never be a snob about anyone else's job. We live in a material world and everyone has to do something for money, so just do whatever you have to do, collect your paycheck, and then go live the rest of your life however you want. Your job does not need to be how you define yourself; you can create your own definitions of your purpose and your meaning, pulled from deep within your imagination. A job is vital, but don't make it YOUR LIFE. It's not that big a deal. It's just a job — a very important and also not-at-all important thing.
3) CAREER — A career is different from a job. A job is just a task that you do for money, but a career is something that you build over the years with energy, passion, and commitment. You don't need to love your job, but I hope to heaven that you love your career — or else you're in the wrong career, and it would be better for you to quit that career and just go find yourself a job, or a different career. Careers are best done with excitement. Careers are huge investments. Careers require ambition, strategy, and hustle. Your career is a relationship with the world. I used to have jobs, but now I have a career. My career is: AUTHOR. That means: Professional Writer. When I think about my work in terms of my career, I need to make sure that I'm building good relationships in the publishing world, and making smart decisions, and managing myself well within a realm that is more public than private. I need to pay attention to what critics are saying about my work, and how my books are selling, and how well I'm meeting my deadlines. I need to tend to my career with respect and regard, or else I will lose it. I need to honor my contracts and my contacts. When I make decisions about my life, I need to think about whether this would be good or bad for my career. If I win an award, that's good for my career. If I get caught in a hotel room with a pile of cocaine and six exotic dancers, that's bad for my career. (Actually, now that I think about it, maybe that would be AWESOME for my career! Gotta look into that! HA!) Let me make something very clear about careers: A career is a good thing to have if you really want one, but YOU DO NOT NEED TO HAVE A CAREER. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going through your entire life having jobs, and enjoying your hobbies, and pursuing your vocation, but never having "a career". A career is not for everyone. A career is a choice. But if you do make that choice, make sure that you really care about your career. Otherwise, it's just an exhausting marathon, for no reason. I really care about my career, but it's not the most important thing in my life. Not even close. The most important thing in my life is my....
4) VOCATION — The word "vocation" comes to us from the Latin verb "vocare" — meaning "to call". Your vocation is your calling. Your vocation is a summons that comes directly from the universe, and is communicated through the yearnings of your soul. While your career is about a relationship between you and the world; your vocation is about the relationship between you and God. Vocation is a private vow. Your career is dependent upon other people, but your vocation belongs only to you. You can get fired from your career, but you can never get fired from your vocation. Writing was my vocation long before I was lucky enough to get the career of an "author" — and writing will always be my vocation, whether my career as an author keeps working out or not. This is why I can approach my career with a certain sense of calm — because I know that, while I obviously care about career, I am not defined by it. When I consider my writing in terms of my career, I have to care what the world thinks about me. But when I consider my writing in terms of my vocation, I TRULY DO NOT GIVE A FUCK WHAT THE WORLD THINKS ABOUT ME. My career is dependent upon others; my vocation is entirely my own. The entire publishing world could vanish, and books could become obsolete, and I would still be a writer — because that's my vocation. That's my deal with God. You do not need to make money from your vocation in order for it to have meaning. Writing had meaning for me LONG before you ever heard of me, and long before anyone else wanted me to do it. Vocation has nothing to do with money, with career, with status, with ambition. I often see people corrode their vocation by insisting that it become a career — and then making career decisions that destroy their vocation. (Amy Winehouse's career destroyed her vocation, for instance.) The day that I feel my career is destroying my vocation, I will quit my career and go get a job, so that I can protect my vocation. But I will never quit my vocation. Nobody even needs to know about your vocation, in order for it to have meaning. Your vocation is holy because it has nothing to do with anyone else. Your vocation can be anything that brings you to life and makes you feel like your soul is animated by purpose. Tending to your marriage can be your vocation. Raising your children can be your vocation. Teaching people how to take care of their health can be your vocation. Visiting your elderly neighbors can be your vocation. I have a friend who finds his vocation in picking up garbage off the streets wherever he goes; this is his gesture of love toward his fellow man. Searching for light and peace and meaning can be your vocation. Forgiveness can be your vocation. Brother Lawrence was a 17th century monk who worked his whole life washing dishes in a monastery (because washing dishes was his JOB) but his vocation was to see God in everything and everyone, and that is why he radiated grace. (Awesome vocation, by the way. People came from all over the world to watch Brother Lawrence wash dishes, because of the way he radiated divine love in every act. THAT'S vocation.) I admire the Roman Catholic Church for understanding the sanctity of vocation, and for teaching that the purest human vocation is LOVE. A vocation is the highest expression of your human purpose, and therefore you must approach it with deepest reverence. You can be called to your vocation by what you love (for instance: I love writing), or you can be called to your vocation by what you hate (for instance: I know people who dedicate themselves to social justice because of their hatred for violence and inequality.) If you don't have a vocation and you long for one, you can pray for one. You can ask the universe with humility to lead you to your vocation — but then you must pay VERY close attention to the clues and signs that point you toward your vocation. Don't just pray and wait. Instead, pray and SEEK. Everyone wants the lightning strike, but the path to your vocation is usually a trail of bread crumbs, instead. Look for clues. No clue is too small; no vocation is insignificant. Don't be proud; be attentive. What brings your soul to life? What makes you feel like you are not just a meat puppet — not just heard to work hard and pay bills and wait to die? You cannot be lazy or entitled about your vocation, or apathetic, or fatalistic, or calculating. You cannot give up on it, if things don't "work out" — whatever that even means. You must work closely with your intuition in order to find your highest meaning in life. This is hard work sometimes, but it is divine work, and it is always worth it. (Here's a possibility, for instance: Searching for your vocation can be your vocation!) You can choose your hobbies, your jobs, or your careers, but you cannot choose you vocation; you can only accept the invitation that has been offered to you, or decline it. You can honor your vocation, or you can neglect it. You can worship it, or you can ignore it. A vocation is offered to you as a sacred gift, and it is yours to care for, or to lose. When you treat your vocation as sacred, you will see your whole life as sacred — and everyone else's lives, too. When you are careless about your vocation, you will treat your whole life carelessly -— and other people's lives, too. Your vocation will become clear to you through the act of PAYING ATTENTION to your senses and your soul, and to what in the world causes you to feel love or hate. You will be led to your vocation, though the path is not always obvious. You must participate in its unfolding. Do not fall asleep on this job. Your vocation is hinted at through your talents, tastes, passions, and curiosities. Your vocation is calling you, even when you can't quite hear it. ("What you are seeking is seeking you" — Rumi.) When you embrace a vocation, and commit yourself to that vocation, your mind becomes a quieter place. When you accept the divine invitation of your vocation, you will become strong. You will know that — as long as you are tending to your vocation — everything will be fine.
My feeling is that people look for purpose in life without understanding these four words: HOBBY, JOB, CAREER, VOCATION. People blend these four concepts, or mistake them, confuse them, or try to have all four at once, or pretend that they are all the same thing. Or people just generally get freaked out and confused, because they haven't thought these words through, or decided which ones are most important. (Or which ones are most important RIGHT NOW.) People generally want to know, "What am I doing with my life?", but they don't slow down long enough to really think about these four different aspects of this question — the four different possibilities for where our time and energy goes. People worry so much about their careers, for instance, that they often forget to pay attention to their vocations. Or people get so seduced by the grandeur of their vocations that they forget to have a job, and so they stop taking care of themselves and their families in the material world...which will only bring suffering. (Remember: Even Brother Lawrence had a job. He was not too proud to wash dishes.) Or people are so busy chasing social status and personal advancement that they forget to make time for the relaxing joy of having a sweet little hobby. And oftentimes people mistake a sweet little hobby for something that they think should be a job, or a career, or a vocation. Don't try to blend what perhaps doesn't need to be blended. Don't mistake a job for a career, or a career for a vocation, or a vocation for a hobby, or a hobby for a job. Be clear about what each one is, and be clear about what can be reasonably expected from each one, and be clear about what is demanded of you with each one.
Here's another thing I see happening: people get so embarrassed or resentful about their lousy day jobs that they forget to be grateful that they have a job at all — and this causes only more anxiety and confusion, which again, will make them stop paying reverent attention to their vocation, or enjoying their hobbies, or making plans for a career.
We live in a real world that is heavy sometimes with real-life obligations, but we also have souls that deserve care and attention. We can pay attention to our worldly ambitions and pleasures (hobbies, jobs, careers) without neglecting our mystical, otherworldly, beautiful and often impractical vocations. We can pay attention to all of it — but this requires sitting still at times and really thinking things through, with courage and dignity. And it requires an understanding of terms.
The important thing is to be sober and careful and attentive enough to know what you are REALLY talking about when you consider the question, "What am I doing with my life?"
It isn't easy to answer this question, but understanding and respecting these four different words might be a start.
And when in doubt, at least try SOMETHING. As the wonderful poet David Whyte says: "A wrong-headed but determined direction is better than none at all."
Good luck out there, brave seekers!
If you found that inspiring, I’d definitely suggest going to the original post and reading some of the comments.
If you want to hear about this project as it happens, via email, you can sign up below.
I wrote in last week’s post that I wasn’t sure what my new project would look like and that I would share it as I go. I didn’t realize how soon it would begin.
Around the time I added the early details about Art Through Fertility on my website, I came across a beautiful and heartbreaking blog written by an amazing woman named Katie Duke. Last October, the day after her due date, she and her husband lost their sweet baby girl to stillbirth. Her name was Poppy Annabelle.
On her blog, Katie is courageously sharing her experience of losing Poppy in hopes to help others and herself deal with the emotions that come with grief and loss. I was struck by her beautiful writing. She has the rare talent to put words to a raw experience in an authentic and poetic way. She is also rare in that she’s talking openly about something that so many people try to manage alone.
People tend to be private when we’re suffering in any way. We share mostly positive experiences, celebrations and happy moments, which is even more magnified on social media. When your physical and online environments are reflecting all of the “pretty” things about life, it’s easy to forget that challenges and suffering are not only normal, they’re an important part of the human experience. The strange thing is, the more private we become in our suffering, the more I think we can prolong our suffering. I know this. I do this, and it’s something I’m actively working on.
There’s also something profound in that idea that we’re not alone. However scary and isolating your situation may be, there is someone else who is going through it. But how will we know that if we don’t talk about it? The reward of opening up is that we can connect in more meaningful ways and turn our suffering into strength. I think that’s what makes Katie’s blog especially powerful and important. She’s stepping out and giving others permission to do the same, to let them know they’re not alone, and opening herself up to more sources of strength and connection. She’s making it okay to share some really hard stuff because it is okay! It’s necessary.
I was obviously very inspired by Katie and decided to reach out to her to see if she’d be willing to work with me on this project. She responded that she would (!) and we’ve been able to spend some time since getting to know each other. She is exactly the strong, creative lady you’d imagine while reading her writing. I’m honored that she wants to be a part of this project.
Over the next week, Katie is going to think about a couple of colors that speak to her and maybe look at a few color samples. She’s also going to think about a couple of colors that she’d rather not see in the painting. Her choices will help me get to know what inspires her and think about how I’ll work to capture her story and, of course, I’ll also be adding my own colors and elements.
We’ll plan to talk again next week when I will learn a bit more about her journey and start working on her painting. Because I think having these kinds of conversations can be difficult, or bring up more grief or pain (but will hopefully also be cathartic as a result), I decided to keep our first conversation to 30 minutes. I’m not sure if this will be long enough but, for now, it seems right.
Katie is graciously willing to me write about this process as we go through it so I’ll share more next week. In the meantime, go check out Katie’s blog, offer her support and love. And whether or not you’ve been through something similar, I hope it inspires you too to share your hard news equally with your good news.
If you want to hear about this project as it happens, via email, you can sign up below.
With love and appreciation,
Since sharing the start of my Art Through Fertility project last week, I’ve been amazed at the support and responses that have come out of it. If you read that post, commented on it, signed up to learn more about it, or offered your support — thank you. I am so excited to move forward with it and can’t wait to continue sharing it with you.
Art has, since I can remember, been very important to me. I loved painting and drawing as a kid and knew it would always be a part of my world. It wasn’t until on a study abroad in Italy when I was 20 years old that I figured out what type of art I wanted to pursue.
I had an incredible painting teacher in Italy who expected nothing but professionalism out of us and our work. It was my favorite class, and I’m pretty sure every student in it had the same feeling. She took us seriously as artists (not just as students) and that was an important expectation that motivated us all to push our work forward and find our voice in it.
One afternoon she took us to her painting studio to talk about her process and work. As she started to talk about her abstract paintings and the inspiration behind them, I had what felt like a bolt of lightning hit me. I knew in that moment that abstract art was where I belonged and that I wanted to focus on it from that point forward.
It made so much sense to me that color and texture and abstract forms could be their own language. They didn’t need to represent anything, or even be explained, in order to convey deep emotion and beauty. Before that point, I had more of a practical idea of what art should be. I thought it needed to be representational to be beautiful. When I started painting abstract pieces, I realized how freeing it was and how much more authentic it felt to intuitively respond to a painting, adding color and painting over it as I went without any specific destination in mind.
This spark led me to move to New York when I graduated college to further explore abstract work, and to learn and grow as a painter. During this time, I met more amazing teachers and artists, participated in shows and started selling my work. I also started to realize what an important part of my life this type of expression could be.
Abstract painting was not only a major passion but it grounded me through some of life's ups and downs, and even became a sort of record of them. When I moved to Colorado 5 years ago, I didn’t realize how important that idea would be for this next chapter in my life.
Expressing myself creatively through my experience of infertility and miscarriages has helped me gain strength and release pain in powerful ways. Never did I imagine myself in this place. I’m realizing that sharing it here and through my work is not only a way to move through my own experiences, it’s also a way to potentially help other people dealing with the same issues by capturing their experiences.
I’m not yet sure what this project will look like but I know that (just like any other creative project) it will take on a life of its own. I will be writing soon about the process as it’s unfolding and how I intend to reflect other people’s experiences with loss or infertility with my work.
In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences if this resonates with you in the comments below, or via email. If you have a friend, family member or coworker who's dealing with loss or infertility and could use some understanding and support — please share this post. I would love to hear from them too.
With all my love and appreciation,
(Image: "200 Grant" 24" x 24", acrylic on wood, Angela Craven, 2015)
2015 has included some incredible experiences: time with family, making new friends, connecting with old friends, more studio time, a lot of new artwork, stimulating work, travel and a lot of change. It has been an intense year on a global, local and personal note. It has also been a memorable one and I'm grateful to have these 365 days of art and words as my own record of it. I'll write more on this tomorrow but I'm off to have one more glass of champagne and ring in the new year.
May 2016 bring you the best kind of change!
A little something from Sam Cooke to kick it off...