December Art Challenge: 12 Days of Christmas

Because December isn't busy at all (sarcasm) I found myself wanting to take on two (2!) art challenges this month. This one is for the Bad Apple Artist Collective 12 Day Drawing challenge. You know how there's one group that for you would be your Holy Grail? Well, for me it's this collective. The art is amazing! They don't take submissions, so it's just a pipe dream to be one (kind of like when you realize you'll never be one of the in crowd in high school? Ha!) but this challenge is forcing me to produce better work! Win-win!

Day 1 Challenge was "wreath" and I came up with "Natalia."

"Natalia" by Jaime Leigh. Watercolor, marker & ink on 5.5 by 8.5 paper.

"Natalia" by Jaime Leigh. Watercolor, marker & ink on 5.5 by 8.5 paper.

Day 2 was "Candy Cane," and I did this little number. The concept in my head was better than my execution (in my opinion) but I'm okay with the outcome.

"Candy Cane," by Jaime Leigh, watercolor, acrylic & pen on 5.5 by 8.5 paper.

"Candy Cane," by Jaime Leigh, watercolor, acrylic & pen on 5.5 by 8.5 paper.

Today is December 3 and the prompt is "Starry Night." Since it's Saturday, I was able to do a bit more, so I have a Musical.ly and a YouTube video of the creation of the painting.

Here is the video:

A link to Musical.ly:

And, of course, here is the finished painting:

"Starry Night," by Jaime Leigh, ink, watercolor & marker on 5.5 by 8.5 paper.

"Starry Night," by Jaime Leigh, ink, watercolor & marker on 5.5 by 8.5 paper.

Day 4 the prompt was "Nutcracker." I did Clara dancing with her Sugar Skull Nutcracker:

nutcracker.jpg
 

Day 5 was Gingerbread. I chose to make an elaborate Gingerbread house in the woods with a creepy vibe.

gingerbread.jpg
 

Day 6? Reindeer. What better way to do this than a reindeer antlered girl adorned with skulls? I didn't think there was one, either.

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Day 7: Stocking. Here is my girl holding a stocking filled with ...er, goodies?

stocking.jpg

Day 8 is Christmas Tree. So I chose to create an outdoor decorating scene with some help from the wildlife:

tree.jpg
 

Day 9 was Bells. My Christmas fairies have a heavy task ahead of them:

bells.jpg
 

Day 10 is Holly & Ivy, so here they are:

holly-ivy.jpg
 

Day 11 is, of course, Deck the Halls. My marionette is happy to do that . . . or is she?

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The last day, Day 12, is Let It Snow. So, do you want to build a snowman? Haha!

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Mindset + Art

To be honest, I'm trying to make BIG changes in my life, and it's scary as shit! I've been in a comfort zone for a while, and getting out of that is just a bunch of doubts surrounded by fear. My big, crazy, awesome life goal is (and has always has been, really!) to make a living from writing and art. I have finally reached the point where I'm tired of fucking around (excuse my French), and I am going to just talk about all the things I'm doing as I go for it, which includes practice and upping my skills, my mindset (HUGE), what I'm creating and what I'm learning as I go.

Change Your Thinking

Today I took a webinar on the 11 Laws of Manifestation.

Now, I'll be the first to tell you that I am still not sure I'm completely on board with this type of stuff. I watched The Secret years ago, and I've read tons of Law of Attraction stuff, and I'm SUCH a skeptic.

But!

Lately, I've started to at least consider the idea that some of this stuff does have a certain sense to it. For example, "thoughts are things." Well, if you actually think about it, everything we DO had a thought that came before it. Either we thought about going to the gym and then went, or we thought about eating Ben & Jerry's, drove to the store, and found ourselves at home with a spoon and Phish Food. Both of those "things" started from thoughts.

We take the laws of nature, the law of gravity, and other scientifically proven laws as fact, and nobody questions Murphy's Law, where what can go wrong will. So why not this possibility that other things are going on that we might not fully understand. Nobody questions intuition. Nobody thinks it's weird that we talk daily with an unseen entity who has our best interests at heart. So, why not address the possibility that changing your thinking can change your life?

A Note on Negativity

P.S. This sort of thing is huge for me. To be quite honest, I've lived my life as a "glass half full" person. A realist! In fact, I've also been a "where did my glass even go" person, and a "Hey, why are you drinking out of my glass" person. Among other things.

It took me so long to realize that the tiny critical, negative voice in my head? It wasn't even mine! I had all this negativity in my head my whole life, telling me I wasn't good enough, I would never be special or successful, or beautiful, and I just believed it because it was Me. At least I thought so.

But when I discovered that I was a child of a Narcissistic parent (and I literally did discover this as an adult: I had NO IDEA this was even a thing, much less that I had spent my entire life as the creation of a person with a personality disorder and a damaged soul), I also started to question that voice and realized that the hateful, controlling, negative person who I had been listening to all these years wasn't me at all.

It was a voice put there by a parent determined to keep me small and controlled, because if I had power, I would be able to see reality and it would destroy the illusion that had been created.

(I did, and it did. That's a whole entire story that I plan to address as I am able.)

So, negativity. Emotional abuse. Every day I am taking one step further away from that. I think it's finally time to let go of all that and consider the possibility that I am a worthwhile human being.

ART!

Painting in progress from my new series. Yes, she's supposed to look startled.

Painting in progress from my new series. Yes, she's supposed to look startled.

Yesterday I bought 12 wood panels from Hobby Lobby. I have been searching for-ever for my right path and I've come to the conclusion that looking for it won't help me. It's right in front of me and I just need to create it. Instead of sitting around trying to get my style to just come to me, I chose to issue myself another challenge (similar to my 50 Skulls in 50 Days project), except this on is on a smaller scale. At first. I plan on doing a series of 12 paintings in a series to start with. I will use subjects found in vintage photographs. I'm going to get to practice my newfound face drawing skills, along with painting and figuring out cohesive backgrounds. I didn't give myself a deadline like I did with the 50 Skulls (which was one skull painting per day).

Also, I have 3 lessons to complete in the Ever After fairy tale art course I've been taking : The Ugly Duckling, Maleficent, and my own fairy tale. Two of these are about three-quarters done and I haven't started on Maleficent yet.

Work in progress, from Ever After class, if I was making my own fairy tale: This is my first version, I scrapped it and started over.

Work in progress, from Ever After class, if I was making my own fairy tale: This is my first version, I scrapped it and started over.

 

Today I did quite a bit of work on the new series. I started an 8x8 panel of a vintage girl. I drew it, started painting the face and covered in the background.

Then I went back to yesterday's painting that I had started on smooth artist's panel board. I was frustrated with it last night because, it turns out, I have the surface. It was too smooth and I didn't like the way the paint sits on it. So I got my gesso and did a layer over the whole thing. Since gesso is very thin, I can still see yesterday's work. I'm going to try painting over all of it on the gesso layer and see if I like it better.

I do feel slightly overwhelmed. There's so much to learn, to accomplish and to finish. I feel like I'm forever behind, just trying to catch up. I have a problem with starting a million things and many of them aren't completed. However, if I remember "resist nothing," then I can't resist this. I just have to keep going and be ok with all of it.

Oh, and I'm putting this here just because it's hilarious. I was meditation, something I hate but I'm trying to see if it helps me, and when I opened my eyes, I saw this drawing left on the floor by our youngest, AJ. I don't know if it's supposed to be terrifying? or funny? What the hell is happening here??

I just laughed! What else can you do?

I just laughed! What else can you do?

Until next time!

Jaime

The Story Behind My "Princess & the Frog" Painting

I just completed a lesson for an online class I've been taking - Ever After 2016 by Willowing Arts (life changing for me, seriously!) - that referenced the fairy tale "The Princess and the Frog."

The original Lesson version by artist Rachelle Panagarry for Ever After 2016

The original Lesson version by artist Rachelle Panagarry for Ever After 2016

My version of Rachelle's lesson from sketch to color.

My version of Rachelle's lesson from sketch to color.

I did not realize how close to home this would hit for me until I was doing the lesson and started thinking about my favorite version of this story, which happens to be the 2009 Disney movie, "The Princess and the Frog." I absolutely adored this movie when it came out - it's set in New Orleans, it has voodoo, it's funny, and the story was great.

What also hit hard for me - unexpectedly, because I thought I had "processed" it all long ago - was the reality that when I watched the movie when it was first in theaters (November 2009), I was going through one of the worst experiences of my life.

In fact, the night I went to watch the Princess and the Frog movie was the night I was forced to accept that my marriage was over.

A Date Night With a Stranger

We (my ex-husband and I) took our 3-year-old daughter to see it with a 3-year-old little boy who was a friend from her preschool. This little boy also happened to be frequently babysat by a woman who was a teacher at the preschool (where I also taught). I had considered her a friend for over a year.

The night of the movie, we arrived at her house to pick up the little boy. I'll never forget the moment the reality of my life hit me. It was cold that night, and when I stepped out of the car, it was dark and you could see your breath in the air when you exhaled into the cold. I was standing beside the car as my friend came out of her house wearing a red sweater. She was going to sing at her church that night, so she was dressed up with full hair and makeup. I remember watching as my husband looked at her like he should have been looking at me.

In that one look, I finally understood that all my suspicions had been right. I was an ostrich with my head buried in the sand, hoping that my reality wasn't real. But it was. And I knew what was going on between my husband and my "friend" was much more than appeared on the surface.

Then we had to go - to eat and to the movies - with me pretending as though everything was fine. It gets worse. Over dinner at Applebee's, the little boy - out of the blue - started talking about when he was with my ex-husband and my friend while they were kissing beside the lake.

On hearing that, I think a small part of me died. To say I was devastated would be putting it mildly. My ex tried hard to make it sound as though the little boy was mistaken, but I knew.

I just knew.

We still went to watch the movie - for the kids - and it was beautiful and funny. I loved it. Even though I felt the weight of a boulder crushing my chest and battled the tears all night, the movie took me away from my shattered reality for just a few hours. The ending was hard, sitting in the dark theater with true love on the screen, knowing my husband was arms length away, but not for long.

(The line, "She is my Evangeline" nearly destroyed me. I wanted to cry knowing how desperately I wished I had someone that would say that about me, knowing it wasn't the man I was married to. Somehow, I managed to keep my composure.)

Using My Painting to Deal With My "Stuff"

Doing the Princess and the Frog art lesson, nearly seven years after that night, brought all this old stuff up for me. After I finished the lesson, I thought about what my own version of the lesson might be. I really felt I needed to watch the movie again to decide what I would create.

I knew it would be painful, the painting I was thinking of. But also, healing.

Because things have changed greatly in seven years. I'm with someone today who would absolutely say, "She is my Evangeline."

For my own painting of the Princess and the Frog, I took some aspects of the movie: the bayou setting, and the Shadow Man, Dr. Facilier, as my frog. I then put a woman with her child, mourning a man who was leaving, along with the quote from the movie that best sums up for me that time in my life:

You got what you wanted . . .
but you lost what you had.”
— Disney's "The Princess & the Frog"
My version of the Princess & the Frog. 4 by 6 watercolor, pen, and colored pencil on paper. Artwork by Jaime Leigh Hebert

My version of the Princess & the Frog. 4 by 6 watercolor, pen, and colored pencil on paper. Artwork by Jaime Leigh Hebert

What do you think? Have you ever had something unexpectedly trigger a memory or time in your life? How did you deal with it? Please let me know in the comments!

5 Things Friday! (New Video)

For Friday's post, I decided to do a video for you. I call it "5 Things Friday." This week, I give you 5 ideas for dealing with creative blocks. I hope it's helpful!

I would love to hear what you think. Did you try these suggestions, and if you did, which one was the most helpful? Are there any things you do that I didn't list? Please leave a comment!

 

 

Side-by-Side Sketchbook Drawings: My Daughter & I Draw Witches

Since I have learned how to correctly draw a person, my 11-year-old daughter Sophie has been very interested in learning how to draw faces herself. I've taught her the process and she even completed a drawing of a girl's face for a school assignment using what she learned. Last night she asked if I would help her draw a witch, and brought me my sketchbook. I decided to do a 2 page spread with me drawing on one side and letting her do her sketch on the facing page.

This was fun and the result was better than I expected. I decided to share the sketches here. I do a LOT of art at home, and since my office is right in the middle of things (Grand Central Station, practically), and that means the kids are often right there and I have two who are really into working on what I work on: Sophie and our 6-year-old, Macy. Macy really likes to draw what I've drawn and she's actually quite good! When she sees me creating something she likes, she will often do dozens of drawings of it, until she can pretty much replicate my drawings. It's kind of amazing!

I don't know if my kids will grow up to be artistic, and if they don't it's fine. But I do think it's important for them to see me pursuing my dream, to let them know that

1. It's important to go for your dreams, and

2. It's not easy and takes a lot of work, but it's worth it.

I want to encourage them to go for what they want, but also give them a realistic view of it. They have to know that it takes time, there will be mistakes, and failures, and that you just have to keep going.

I hope that I am helping them with those things. And also, when we draw together, we get to spend time hanging out and having fun. You can't beat that.

Here are the side-by-side sketches Sophie and I did:

Mine on the left and hers on the right.

Mine on the left and hers on the right.

Do you involve your kids in the pursuit of your dreams? Has it been successful, and what has it taught you and them? Do you think it's important to focus on your dreams, their dreams, or both? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

Small Witch Painting Freebie

I don't travel light.

In fact, I can't go anywhere without - at minimum - my black sketchbook and a mechanical pencil. If I know I'll be gone for a while or if I'm riding as a passenger for a while, I turn into a bag lady: sketchbook, watercolors, Kindle, phone, a writing notebook, a book - possibly several - all because there exists in my mind the terrifying possibility that at some point in time, I might get bored. Or, an even more far-fetched possibility: the chaos of my usual life might magically disappear and I might be able to do my own thing.

P.S. This rarely happens. But a girl can dream...

On Monday, I took my daughter to her voice lesson. Parents are not allowed to be in the room while their children are having their lesson. I'm not sure if this policy is because Momagers? Or helicopter parents? Whatever the reason, we're banished to the holding cell - er, library - for the entirety of the lesson. And since the library was taken up during her last lesson by, I kid you not, two girls practicing tubas, I elect to go sit outside on the picnic benches and draw.

Since Halloween is fast approaching, I wanted to do something Halloweenish. After I drew a face, it felt right to add a witch's hat to her head and Voila! She became a witch. I couldn't finish her that day, but I did share my drawing on Instagram, where it seemed well liked, so I wanted to color her when I got the chance.

And because I wanted to have some fun, I decided I would turn the coloring part into a Musical.ly video. So on Tuesday, after I did ALL the things - Buy peanut butter! Take daughter to doctor! - I was able to sit and film a short clip of me coloring in the witch. Before I did, I had sprayed her with Workable Fixative so I wouldn't lose my pencil lines which almost turned out to be a HUGE mistake!

When I started to color with Tombow Markers and used my watercolor brush to blend it, the color started beading up in a really weird manner. I experienced a brief moment of horror before I decided to blot the beading with a towel. This process (marker, water, blot) ended up making a very cool texture so I went with it. Yay for happy accidents! Or, in the immortal words of Bob Ross (yep, still obsessed), "There are no mistakes, only happy accidents!" Yes, Bob, how right you are.

 

When my witch was finished, I wanted to share her, so I decided to create a free PDF for you to download. I also will include a JPG version in case a PDF doesn't work for you.

Here is the Musical.ly video of me creating her:

And here is where you can get your Freebie PDF:

Good Witch PDF Freebie

Here is the JPG, just in case:

Good Witch JPG Freebie

I tested the PDF as a 8.5 by 11 sheet and a 4 by 6 size on a regular paper size and both printed out fine on my own printer. But if you have any trouble, you can email me at artistjaimeleigh@yahoo.com and I will do my best to help!

Enjoy!

 

 

Old Dog, New Tricks? The Digital Age is a Constant Education.

This September 1, I turned 38. To some of you, that may be ancient, while some might think I'm just a spring chicken. To me, that age seems old, but in my head, I'm still sixteen. In reality, I am often shocked at all the things I am responsible for. It's like juggling, except I'm not juggling friendly rubber balls, they're sharp metal knives and they're on fire. At least, that's how it feels sometimes. That I am maintaining a relationship, raising 5 children, helping run a business, trying to start another one, working a regular job, doing my art, dealing with stressful family situations, paying bills and taking care of the inner life of myself, my children, and my partner? OMG, just reading that sentence makes me want to hide in a cave.

Then, there's the part where I'm constantly learning new things. I've had six lifetimes of education since I completed my Bachelor's degree. I feel like I should have achieved Ninja level status in at least a few areas by now. I should have unlocked some bonus rounds, here! Yet, everyday there is a new app, a new way to connect, a new technology. In order for my art to go anywhere, I have to learn: new techniques, new skills, new media.

Lately, in addition to all the above, I've been taking online art classes (a fantastic experience) and realizing I need new ways to connect through my art. So I revamped my website, took a good look at social media, shifted to this blog from my outdated, directionless blog, and...

...drumroll, please...

...am attempting YouTube.

You see, I have a little bit of an embarassing guilty pleasure. It all started when episodes of Bob Ross showed up on Netflix. Late at night, when I'm the last one awake, his predictible paintings and soothing voice put me to sleep! I tore through all Netflix could offer, then hopped over to YouTube where ALL the episodes live. Plus other artists doing other art videos!

Then, a small voice in my head said, "You can make art videos." I'd tried it in the past, but didn't really have a good setup or direction. So then I searched out how to create YouTube videos. First, I had to slosh through all the "how to market with YouTube" stuff, but I knew some artists had to offer...something. Then I finally stumbled onto a few artists who showed their setup for recording the creation of their paintings.

I ordered a camera holder for my iPhone so I could record myself drawing or painting above my desk, and then I was good to go!

Or so I thought.

This is where that learning curve comes in. I had to record about twenty clips. Then upload all of them. Then try to get them into YouTube only to realize I couldn't edit them correctly. (I was too impatient, most likely). I found a free video editor ( the most recommended seemed to be Windows Movie Maker) BUT... my computers had all decided - on their own - that I needed Windows 10 and the program is not compatible with Windows 10. Of course!

Colossal sigh.

Finally - finally- I patched together enough help to get the program running on one computer and I was able to edit my clips AND add music AND insert helpful yet entertaining captions. (In my own head, they're entertaining, anyway). And finally, I have a YouTube video.

I think. There could be some more glitches that I'm not aware of. In fact, I'm sure there will be. But I'm on the bottom end of this learning curve, and there's only one way to go from here. (Not backwards. Please not backwards!) I will continue to teach myself art and social media and internet marketing, because face it, I have finding funny relevant Internet memes for any situation down to a science. So I can already check THAT item off the list.

Of course...

Of course...

 

I hope you'll continue to hang out with me here on the blog, and if you're interested in the YouTube vids, here's the "Welcome to my Channel" video and my first time lapse painting video links. My YouTube Channel is here if you want to check it out. Please like my videos and subscribe to my channel if that's your thing.

 

 

What the Truth Did

"The truth will set you free."

"Speak the truth."

More than ever, we are constantly barraged with advice on being truthful: how to teach our kids not to lie, the consequences that come from lying, and how being your authentic, truthful self is best.

I don't disagree with any of this. But I do think there's a side here that is rarely discussed, at least, a lot less than all those "truth" memes being shared. And it's this: not only is being truthful HARD (because being truthful often means we are revealing parts of ourselves that are weak or flawed), it also brings unexpected consequences.

Most people, in my experience, don't want to hear the truth.

Oh, they'll say the do:

"Just be honest with me!"

"Tell me the truth. What do you think?"

So you do it. You tell them the truth. You're completely honest. And what happens?

They're pissed.

"How dare you say that? I can't believe that's what you think! I'm so angry/hurt/sad now!"

I believe the quotes that read like this:

"The truth hurts."

"Lies don't end relationships. Usually the truth does."

I'll say it again, for emphasis: People don't really want the truth. As Jack Nicholson famously said as Colonel Nathan Jessep in A Few Good Men: "You can't handle the truth."

It's absolutely accurate. People say they want the truth, and that they don't want things sugarcoated, but in reality many don't mean that and they can't handle it.

Because truth isn't predictable. Lies are predictable. Lies are used to cover up misdeeds and wrongdoings and make people look good so they won't be judged.

Truth is laying bare what you really think and feel. It's exposing what other people have done and how it affected you, really affected you, in all the ugly and scary ways. It's not allowing little words to cover up bad things.

Many people aren't prepared for this, even though they say they are. They want the truth as they see it, not as you do. They can't handle the truth because they don't want to be exposed for what and who they really are.

"Lies don't end relationships; the truth does." That's what the truth did. It ended two of the biggest relationships in my life. And it may have set me free...I don't know, I'm not sure about that part yet. Because if so, being set free feels an awful lot like being hurt, scared and heartbroken. The truth dissolved the illusion I held in my head and forced me to see things in reality. I spoke the truth in court, on the stand, under oath, in front of three people who used to be my entire world. And because of my willingness to, excuse my French, "call bullshit" on what was said and done, these people are no longer in my life.

I still want my children to tell the truth. I want to tell the truth. I want to tell the people in my life the truth about things and have them do the same for me. But I wish more people understood what they are really asking for when they ask for the truth.

Because the one thing the truth doesn't do is lie. And we have to ask ourselves, are we really prepared to handle that?

 

"Truth Hurts," 9x12 original mixed media on paper, Jaime Leigh Hebert

"Truth Hurts," 9x12 original mixed media on paper, Jaime Leigh Hebert

Step by Step: I Draw a Face

So, this is kind of a big deal around here. And by "around here," I basically mean for me. I learned how to draw a face correctly, and it's kinda changed my life. Now, if you're not into art, you probably think, "Um, who cares?" But if you are, you know how it feels to accurately represent the human form. Even if you're not into art, think of a time when you were able to do something that was a frustrating struggle before. Now times it by ten, and that's how I suddenly feel about finally being able to draw with confidence!

I have never felt confident in my drawing skills. That has all changed in the past few months, thanks to some awesome online courses. Even though I have drawn many faces in my life, I felt like it was a ton of effort and frustration for only a so-so result. It's amazing when the amount of skill you have clicks and you suddenly enjoy and look forward to something that in the past was scary or intimidating.

I have been filling sketchbook pages with face drawings, and thought it would be fun to show you one step by step.

Step 1: Draw an oval and grid it with eye, mouth and nose horizontal lines, and one vertical line right down the middle. Put a nose on the second intersection of the lines.

Step 1

Step 1

Step 2: Add the eyes and lips. I tend to make my eyes almond shaped. After I drew them, I erased my horizontal line. For lips, I drop down from the nose and do the top lip first, then draw in the bottom lip to meet the top. I try to keep both symmetrical (side to side) if I can.

Step 2

Step 2

Step 3: Erase guidelines. Add eyebrows. Draw lines for upper and lower eyelids and draw in the iris. The iris isn't a full circle since part is naturally covered up by the lids. If the pupil is totally round, the face will look like she's terrified. :-) Add a little bit of eyelash to the outer corners. (I try not to add too many eyelashes or it looks like a 5 year old did it.) I added the rounded part on either side of the nose, and the little lines between the nose and top lip.

Step 3

Step 3

Step 4: Draw in hair. I don't put the hair flat to the skull because it doesn't look right. It has a little volume! I decide to give her short hair because my daughter loves seeing it represented since she has short hair. I draw ears since I can't cover them with the hair, trying really hard to get them even on either side of her head. I draw a line for the nose, although it will kind of disappear since it's only a guide for when I do shading.

Step 4

Step 4

Step 5: I lightly sketch in all my darkest shading spots. Basically, recessed areas (Nostrils, under lip, between lips, above eyes, under hair, etc.) will be shaded, while popped out areas (Cheeks, forehead, eyelids, the line from tip of nose to forehead) are light or even white. I also differentiate the pupil/iris areas of the eyes and add a tiny line of shading where the eyelid casts a shadow onto the eye.

Step 5

Step 5

Step 6: I use a blending stick to blend all my shadows into the highlight areas, making the transitions look not so garish.

Step 6

Step 6

Step 7: I take a kneaded eraser and erase out the lightest places: the forehead, the tip of the nose, the bottom lip, a little hair, and the glint on the pupil/iris. I sign my name. That means she's done!

Step 7: Finished!

Step 7: Finished!

I'd love to hear if you've had a similar experience (It doesn't have to be art-related). Just anytime you suddenly gained confidence and created something or achieved something you believed to be impossible. Leave me a comment!

 

 

The Story of My Art (Which is Really a Story of How We Find Our Way)

A long time ago, I was a little kid who drew unicorns, houses with triangle suns in the corner, and horses . . . oh, so many horses.

But my dream was to be a ballerina.

Like unicorns, some dreams aren't meant to survive, so I did not become a ballerina, although I did take dance for 14 years.

In high school, I discovered art class and made a painting. It was nothing special, but it was the first time I realized I could represent my world in paintings and drawings.

The problem, for many years, was that I lacked any drop of self confidence. I was told for many years that people went to college and got practical jobs that paid a steady income. So I went to college as Undeclared my first semester because how do you pick The Rest of Your Life at age 18?

Side Note: I don't know if anyone reading now has been Undeclared or had a friend who was, but here's what happens: sometime in your first semester, your friendly academic advisor asks you to come to his office, sits you down, and explains that you need to pick a major like, right now, or you'll be here for 5 years and pay boatloads more money for your degree. At this point, if you're me, you panic and go back to your room with the entire course catalog and go through it page by page, hoping something will pick you.

I ended up choosing teaching, since I had taught as an assistant dance instructor in high school and liked kids. This method is a sort of dartboard career picker. I snuck in a 2-D Art minor just so I could have some art classes, but I also took my major seriously and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Child Development.

I am the type of person who, once I say I will do something, will hang on to that sucker for all it's worth, long past the time when I should have gracefully let go. I won't say I hated teaching. I was actually a pretty good teacher. I devoted nights, weekends, and summers to it. I went to conferences, agonized over certain children, and tried above all to be a professional. I stuck with teaching, in some form or another, for 11 years.

But my heart wasn't in it.

Finally, I admitted to myself that I was burned out. Stressed out. Maxed out. I needed a break and I knew teaching "because I said I would" was looking less and less like a good idea. I quit in the summer of 2011, when my preschool decided that they were going to let go of all of their staff so we could re-interview and be rehired at lower salaries. After working there for 5 years, I'll admit it, I was pissed! And- it gave me the push I needed to leave.

I had no job to fall back on. When I quit that July, I did so without a safety net. All I had was a small freelance writing gig. It wasn't until 4 months later - November- that I lucked into a part-time position at a local non-profit agency. It was a perfect fit: it had nothing to do with teaching, my schedule allowed me as a single parent to drop off and pick up my daughter from school, and I had time when I wasn't working to do things I wanted to do, like write and make art.

Now was the time for that second hurdle to land squarely in my path. I loved making art, but I suffered from extreme self-doubt and lack of skills. So, it might not be a surprise to learn that I started a lot of projects but rarely finished them.

So frustrating.

From 2012-2015, I struggled against my biggest opponent. Myself. I had been raised to believe that art was not a practical thing. That I had no business being an independent, confident person. "Who I was" was not worthy, so then by extension, neither was my art. In 2015, I made a difficult and devastating decision to cut off contact with the people who instilled those negative beliefs in me and were trying to do something similar with my young daughter. I had finally had enough and said, "No thanks, I think we will get off this de-railing train right here."

Since then, I have done a ton of work on my outlook on myself, on life, and on my ability to be more than what I was. I worked to change my self talk and finally rid myself of that endless negative feedback loop. I had no idea how much damage that little voice had been doing. I started to put myself out there, I completed a large commissioned painting, and I launched a challenge to myself to complete 50 paintings in 50 days. Then, I invested in my art with the right supplies and a dedicated creative space, and in myself with classes that taught me the skills I had been lacking.

I'm still the little six-year-old who drew saggy-bellied unicorns in the bright sunshine. Only now, I am giving her permission to create what she wants to create, without limits.