I have the honor and privilege of teaching a class called “Creative Expressions” to residents at a local retirement home. I say honor and privilege because every time I teach, I always learn and receive so much more than I give. This week I witnessed how incredibly beautiful and important each person’s unique expression is.
When I arrived. I was greeted by six ladies sitting and ready to paint. After handing out their watercolor sets and paper, I drew a large circle in the middle of their papers. I encouraged them to begin making shapes with color on their papers inside the circle. About half of them began painting without any further instructions. Another half said, “What do you want us to paint?” I told them to paint anything they liked because it was their painting. For some, this was a risky thing. If they didn’t have anything to copy or look at, how would they know they were doing it correctly? “When I’ve painted before, I’ve always copied something,” said one of the ladies. I told her she was going to paint something original, something unique from her imagination. She wasn’t sure she could do this but gave it a try. She was glad she did. Each new color and shape, gave way to the next shape. Once she started, she entered that creative zone where it was easy to focus and relax.
One woman just came to observe. I encouraged her to paint and give it a try. She told me she had never painted before. I told her that it was never to late to start. After watching the other women enjoy themselves, she changed her mind and decided to paint. She began by filling the bottom part of her circle with red marks until it filled about a third of the circle. She had to steady her hand with her other hand since she didn’t have much strength. Then she started adding shapes that looked like fruit on top of the red half moon. She completed her painting with a bow at the top of her basket of fruit. I took a picture of it and showed it to her in my iphone. She giggled with joy when she saw it. I told her how beautiful it was and that she was most definitely an artist. She smiled. As I was assisting other women, I heard her say to the woman next to her that Grandma Moses didn’t start painting till she was 80. “She just painted from her heart”, she said. I smiled and told them that all of them had been like Grandma Moses and painted what was in their hearts today. Each one said they had enjoyed painting and wanted to paint again next time. Their art was evidence that they could create something beautiful, something unique and something that gave them great pleasure. It inspired them to continue to create and even be like Grandma Moses who painted amazing paintings despite the fact she had no formal training. When we are asked to create something without copying something else, we tend to create something that originates from inside our hearts. A copy is never as good as the original.
“I’ve never painted before.”
Deborah Nell is a full-time artist and paints primarily on Yupo paper with acrylic ink, acrylic paint and gouache. You can see her artwork on her etsty store at http://www.etsy.com/shop/expressivepaintings
“Break Every Chain” 12 x 16 acrylic on canvas
Last night I painted an acrylic painting on canvas which resonated with many people on facebook. It’s called “Break Every Chain” and you can see it here on this blog.
In this painting I broke the rules of some of my patterns of painting. I normally don’t paint on canvas because I prefer painting on Yupo paper. I don’t normally begin a painting knowing that I will have to stop in 30 minutes. I did so with this painting. Eighty Five Percent of the painting was finished in 30 minutes. This painting surprised me because it has a feel and energy that is literally bursting off the canvas.
I believe that in all of us there is so much more of us than we allow others to see. We are held captive by fear, and judgements that have been made over us and that we have made ourselves. We fear failure, rejection and ridicule. How many times have we told ourselves, “I’ll never do that again!” When we try something new and we feel inadequate we may not want to try it again. It’s safer to feel competent in our world where we know the rules and can function almost without thinking about it. But the price we pay for safety stifles our creativity and freedom.
So what are some of the chains you carry with you? Chains are anything that hold you bound to something or someone. That something can be the way others see you. It may be your past. It may be an addiction or unhealthy relationship. It may be just plain fear.
The first step in breaking free of the chains is to admit that the chains are there. Sometimes that’s the hardest step. Once that step is taken, see if someone has spoken judgement over you as “stupid”, “fat”, “ugly”, “incompetent”. Have you agreed with their judgement? If so, you need to forgive yourself for agreeing with a lie. You also need to forgive the person who hurt you by saying such things or treating you badly. You only hurt yourself if you don’t forgive. That other person is not suffering because you don’t forgive them.
Ultimately true forgiveness comes from the One who took every judgement upon Himself so we would not have to carry that judgement any longer. His gift of forgiveness is free and leads to true freedom. If you have not met Him yet or have forgotten about Him. His name is Jesus and He is in the business of breaking off your chains. “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain… to break every chain.”
Some concepts cannot adequately be expressed through words alone. Some things are better said with an image or picture. I think that’s why first impressions are so important. It’s a visual image we see and it speaks volumes.
As I’ve been painting a painting a day since January 1st, I’ve found myself digging deeper for subject matter. Images that normally wouldn’t find their way into my work are appearing. Yesterday I painted a painting entitled “Out Of The Shadows”
I’ve been facilitating a bible study/class/support group for victims of domestic abuse for the last three weeks. My eyes are being opened to the reality of a woman’s journey out of a silent suffering that occurs behind closed doors. As I was preparing for the lesson yesterday I painted “Out Of The Shadows” I was deeply feeling the sense of hiddenness that so many women feel when they hide in the shadows of abuse. Many times the hardest thing to do is admit that emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse is taking place. If they admit that this is happening then they will have to admit that their dream of a happy, successful marriage or relationship is nonexistent. But admitting the truth does set one free. And coming out of the shadows does begin the process of freedom from abuse. One of the tools that the abuser uses to keep his victim bound is the tool of silence. If the victim remains silent, the abuser has won and she is the one who continues to suffer.
I am honored to assist these courageous women begin to find their way out of darkness and into the light of truth and love. In the painting, a woman is covered by dark long material. She is breaking out of the silence and away from the identity of a victim. She is coming out into the light. In the background you see her abuser. As she steps forward, he is exposed. This is something he does not want and he turns away from the light.
This painting is symbolic of anyone who is stepping out of any kind of darkness of lies and into the truth. May it give you courage and understanding of the many women who suffer daily from abuse. God is making a way for women of all backgrounds and faiths to come out of the shadows and get the help they need to find freedom. If you are one of those women I urge you to contact your local YWCA and talk to someone there. The group I facilitate is Christian based and its founder lives in Oregon. God is moving heaven and earth to make a way for women to find their way out of the shadows and into the light. Let Him help you for He so loves you and He will never leave you. There is nothing, nothing, nothing that can separate you from Him.
“Out Of The Shadows” Acrylic Ink and Acrylic Paint on Yupo paper
I Give You My Heart $145
“Good Ground” $125
So I’ve made a 2014 resolution to paint 30 paintings in 30 days. I’ve read about other artists doing this but have never attempted this before. Basically I’ve never had the time before. Until recently I was working part-time as a therapist with foster children. That job was very rewarding but took a toll on my energy reserves. I don’t think I realized how taxing it was to me until my job ended December 2nd 2013. The ending of that job was mutually agreeable. I gave a 3 month notice and then two weeks later was informed that our program was closing in two months.
While everyone around me was lamenting about our closing, I was actually glad. Children would be placed in other programs and I would get a small severance package. And the most important thing would be that I could devote myself to my art full time.
Something happens when you make that full time commitment to create. You see yourself as a professional artist and not just someone who paints. When your livelihood depends on your art, you have to take yourself seriously. So when the idea came to paint 30 paintings in 30 days… it made sense to give it a try.
So here are my first three paintings for 2014 painted in three days. The first painting is a collage painting. I incorporated a previous painting from 2008 and a print of a recent painting. It’s called “Good Ground”. It is secured on stretched canvas and measures 20″ x 16″. The second painting is painted on Yupo paper with watercolors and acrylic ink. It is called “I Give You My Heart” and measures 10″ x 13″. I purposely started with darker colors and then went back and removed paint to make room for the light. It came quickly and I was pleased with the result. The third painting which I painted today is called “Enchanted” It is painted on Yupo paper with gouache and acrylic ink. When I showed my daughter, she liked it a lot. We both thought of the name “Enchanted” at the same time…. That’s not a coincidence.
Paintings and prints of these paintings can be purchased at: