Digging into the Past and the Future

Dearest all,

This is one of those posts that is both literal and metaphorical. On the surface, it is about painting. Beneath (or above) that, it is about… well, you decide!

The “stunning” artwork pictured above is my beloved practice canvas. It started out very early in my Intentional Creativity journey as a small painting of something I couldn’t make work. It made me feel frustrated and inadequate and in way over my head.

And then, somewhere, one of my paint sisters posted in one of our Facebook groups about her practice – or compost – canvas. A place where she went to doodle and plant seeds and see what would happen if…

I was so new that I hadn’t begun to sort out names or initials or who belonged where or to whom.

All I knew was that the frustrated, shaming, blaming embodiment of what felt like failure was redeemed!

That 18×24″ level 2 canvas became my compost heap. (This from a gardener who does a lot of composting!)

I tried out colors and brushes and glazes. How to write in Greek (with a toothpick) or Hebrew (with a stiff liner brush). How to make dots, and collage (which I’m still working on) and what different brushes will do.

No shame. No blame. Just layers and layers of learning.

Pretty soon there will be so many layers that it will seem to be a level 3 canvas!

Contemporary astrological glyphs. (Who knew???)

The dry, scrubby brush things that bring streaks of light – and life – to whatever you’re painting.

More dots. More glazes.

And all of it, layer by layer, teeming with new life out of old stuff that might not have worked or has given it’s obvious gifts.

It works for writing, too.

And soup, in a different, way less germ-y sort of way.

It also works for trying new things, bringing me face to face with proof that I’ve been building this life all my life.

This is what I wish for my girls. And our world.

And for you, new COW and Muse sisters, and all of you just finding your way into the magical realms of Intentional Creativity or quilting or apple pie or music or quantum physics.

If, perhaps, you are a painter, get yourself a practice canvas. Possibly one that you have that just has never clicked. Or maybe a new one. (Michael’s is having a big sale!) Pick a size that feels friendly. Even one like mine that you can hold like a sketchbook if you need to.

Paint an intention on it, for it is a real part of your journey. And then just play with a couple of layers of color and glaze. Make friends with it.

And when your garden, of whatever sort, needs a bit of a boost, turn to it for energy.

It will help you bloom!!!

ps…. if you’re intrigued but not sure you’re a painter, check out https://events.intentionalcreativityfoundation.org/red-thread-guide/ for information on becoming a Red Thread Circle guide… class starting really soon!!!




Working With…

One of the basic principles of Intentional Creativity is that the leader is working on her own work while the participants are working on theirs.

This is essentially the opposite of the old notion of psychotherapy which went something like There are two of us in the room but only one of us has any junk!

One of the things I learned in leading my early workshops was that it is not as simple as one might suppose to talk and paint at the same time! Of course, silence has its hugely useful place but if one is demonstrating, some commentary is useful.

At the same time, my Color of Woman sisters and I are also listening and observing and adapting to what we hear and see as our own work unfolds. Just as we’re encouraging our participants to do.

Claim an intention and then let go of expectations and the tyranny of talent.

Experience. Learn. Right there in the room. Be surprised!

I believe. Help, thou, my unbelief. 

Yesterday was one of those fake it ’til you make it days!

My young friend was over for our weekly painting time, which usually includes a lot of rolling on the floor with the dogs and emptying of squirt bottles.

I started by asking for his help with a particular project.

Luther’s still having a bit of trouble adapting to our recent game of Furniture Yahtzee. And Luther loves the kid next door. So we began our conversation in what is now becoming known as the library. Luther hadn’t quite managed to make it in there yet.

I think the vibes are lots better, but Luther has remained skeptical.

One kid parked in a recliner chair changed all that in about 2 minutes flat and then everybody was, as is the norm, rolling on the floor and rubbing bellies.

Luther was brave. And a certain young man was pretty pleased with his contribution.

Then, it was time to paint.

My buddy was painting away, flames in the area of his canvas labeled anger.

Sometimes he and I do the same thing. Sometimes we don’t. Yesterday, to give him a bit of privacy, I was trying to do some selective glazing on Our Lady of Living Waters.

My first effort was, shall we say, less than entirely successful. As was the second and the third.

Every now and then, I made a comment about how it wasn’t working out just the way I wanted, but I could try again, while James Taylor kept us company in the background.

Then I showed him how I was experimenting on the edges to see what might work better.

He asked if I was angry.

Gulp! I replied that I was not. Or maybe just a little frustrated. Mainly, I was  curious about what would work.

The great thing about acrylic paint is that you can always paint over it!

And curiosity is well known amongst many of my gurus as the primary mindset for learning!

Eventually, the time came to finish for the day. He was planning a bit of touch up work for next time when the paint would be dry.

I had figured out what the next right thing would be for my glazing challenges.

Admittedly, it felt a bit vulnerable to gently share my struggles while not interrupting his journey.

And then, after petting all the beasties goodbye, his parting comment:

We learned! 

So be it. Please.

ps… Many of you prayed with me for a dear friend recovering from a heart attack. My work-in-progress painting prayed, too, offering a hand raised in blessing and lots of space for dots. Dip. Life. Life. Life. Life. Dip. Repeat… He’s doing great. Hallelujah!!!


Through the Eyes of the Observer

If you’ve been reading along for a while you know that Bill and I play a lot of an old game we call Furniture Yahtzee. I sketch. He moans. I’m solving problems. (At least in so far as possible in the moment.) He’s being supportive. On a relative scale, Cribbage has it’s advantages!

Here’s the thing. Bill and I live with three enormous dogs in an early 1960’s brick ranch with more than half of the house in the basement. The dogs and I aren’t so good at stairs. We also run at least three businesses out of this house, raw feed the dogs, and boil bones in a huge cauldron, often.

This was, apparently, not what the builder, in Leave it to Beaver time, was imagining.

Historically, our adventures have included moving the bookcases over here and the sewing table over there. Or moving the bed from this wall to that, depending on what Feng shui book I’d been reading at the time.

This weekend, we’re swapping the small third bedroom in the front of the house, which has most recently been our family room/my study with our comparatively large bedroom in the back. That means enough room for a queen sized bed and a couple of night tables (plus three dogs on a rug) in the front and an actually functional library in the back with room for writing, making art demo videos, lots of books, and massive rubber mats for the three enormous dogs.

We’ve done much of the work ahead of time. Well, enough of it to actually be able to move the furniture. The paintings are all off the walls so they don’t get bashed which is no biggie as most of them need to be re-hung anyway but it looks surprisingly bland in here right now.

Blessedly, we have strong friends coming to help!

Luther’s going to be a bit weirded out but will actually have more open space as soon as he gets used to it. We’ll put a lead on and do a tour just as soon as the big pieces are moved.

This is nothing if not a massive Intentional Creativity project!

What are we trying to accomplish?

What do we have to work with?

And do we care, anymore, what it’s “supposed to” look like?


We care that a side effect of this game will be more room for our kids to visit. And a bit less stress. And, perhaps, even enough space to catch up with my Giddyup class!!!

I need one more rolling chair for painting, possibly one more shop class bookcase from my friends at Kudzu, and, I suspect, a couple more big rubber mats. I am nobly waiting to actually measure before I start shopping!

Oh, and did I mention that we need to be able to deal with soup and a Codex paint buddy by, you know, Monday???

Honestly, it’s exhausting.

And also oddly empowering.

Making what we need, mostly out of what we have.

For now, though, pulling sheets off the bed, crossing my fingers that the dog food is thawed, and being as ready as possible for our helpful friends to show up.

All the while, remembering my dear cousin, Chris, and all the family and friends gathering in Florida this afternoon to hug each other and tell the old stories.

If she were still with us today, she’d tell us to make the most of what we have while we can and live the lives we feel called to.

(Chris was good at Furniture Yahtzee, too!)

Oh, today I ordered a canvas to paint “our” farm. I’m hoping it will help tell the stories my girls and all the generations of grands and great grands and on and on need to hear. It’s the life I feel called to.

ps… the photo is the Observer from a 13-moon painting called Codex. (Give it a minute!) It is, essentially, me seeing me. What do you see when you see you?





Very Brave Dog

When I was a kid, I remember my Mom and my Granny laughing themselves silly over the writings of Erma Bombeck. Erma was an American humorist, syndicated columnist, and author of 15 books.

She wrote about midwestern suburban home life from the mid 1960’s to the late 1990’s.

I lost track of Erma toward the end, perhaps because in the 1980’s and 1990’s there was nothing much in my life that resembled midwestern suburban housewives.

I do, however, come from a long line of women just like that and I speak the language. I get the jokes. I’ve even eaten lots of the recipes. There may even have been one for tuna-noodle casserole with crushed potato chips on top. (Sorry, Bill!)

Yesterday, as I sat with Luther and our dear Auntie Kate in the ophthalmology exam room of the “specialty” veterinarians, Erma came to mind.

We were chatting, Kate and I, about dogs we’ve loved and how much I appreciate that she and the gang at Jabula Dog Academy love my herd, too.

(Deep breaths, everybody… “Freddy,” as the old camp nurse saying goes, “is fine.” Or, in this case, Luther.)

I was pretty certain, though, as we waited, what the questions were about to be.

Kate observed that Luther was my heart dog and an article from Erma Bombeck popped into my mind.

(Academic that I am, I tried to look the exact quote up, but I’m Hearth Tending today, the girls just got home from Camp, there’s a Journeywoman meeting in about 15 minutes and a Codex buddy coming at 5:00. And I have to feed the beasties in the middle. So, for today, here’s what I remember, which is, in many ways, the real quote anyway.)

Erma wrote that somebody once asked her if she loved all her children the same.

Surprisingly, from a wonder mother with the good sense of humor, the answer was, “No.”

“The one I love the most,” she went on, “is the one who needs me the most in the moment.”

This may work the same way for grandchildren, too!

Let me say again, “Freddy is fine!” Luther, however, who is blind and had been missing his security sisters for about a day and a half, is going to need eye surgery. Relatively soon.

That means more strange places and more strange people and oddly missing sisters for a couple of days.

Which will kind of leave me solo seeing eye being. And Luther needing a little more love than usual.

You all are invited to join in! Bless his heart, he loves everybody!!!!

And please feel free to make dots!


While you’re making dots, a few for my teacher, business partner, and very dear friend, please. He had a heart attack and is recovering from procedures in the hospital.

As Wednesdays go, this has been a long one!




Life and Change…

Hi everybody…  it’s me, Phoebe!

Mom asked if I’d like to blog today. I think she’s a little tired. There’s been a whole lot of stuff going on around here!

Yesterday was garden day. Our friend, Randy, came and made lots of noise but the pine cones and gum ball things are mostly gone which is good because they hurt my feet when I walk on them.

Mom was very excited about the stuff called asparagus which has miraculously appeared out front again.

Luther is a little confused. Mom had Randy cut down the holly bush out back (again!) because it has sharp, pointy leaves and sometimes Luther walks into it.

Well, pretty often, actually. Mom says that since you’re all really good friends it’s okay if I say that the bush was Luther’s favorite place to pee. It seems like he’s going to have to find a new favorite place but he’s really smart so I think it will be fine.

Sarah’s been chasing those tiny little dragons out on the deck. Mom keeps telling her they don’t taste good but she’s determined!

Today we all got a nice nap while Mom and Dad went to pick up some things called proofs from the place that can make one of Mom’s paintings into lots that look the same. Mom was so happy, she cried. And put the paintings where we couldn’t drool on them.

I’m so excited!!! Sarah and I are going to Camp Monday and Tuesday. (Please don’t tell Luther. He’s going to someplace called the eye doctor which doesn’t sound like quite as much fun to me.) The weather is supposed to be awesome and we get to do something called reviewing which I think means Mom really wants me to come when she calls me. Like right away.

We’ve been painting a lot and Mom says she needs space for something called making videos which kind of sounds like watching The West Wing but seems like it might take more stuff.

Here’s how I know that. Mom was talking to Dad on the phone the other night when he was in some far away place where it snows. Dad doesn’t like surprises much so, before he got home and found the sketches all over the place, she decided to mention gently that it was time for a bit of Furniture Yahtzee again.

I think Mom likes that game better than Dad does. Luther doesn’t like it much at all but Mom says this time she’s making more room for him to walk without things to bump into and more space for us all to hang out together. And more space for our girls to come and visit! That sounds like a great idea to me.

They’re also talking about ways to keep from drilling holes in the floor for the cable things that make the TV go. I know Mom thinks she doesn’t understand but I really, really have no idea what all that means. I do like it when the dog shows are on.

My Auntie Leisa got a new dog. We haven’t met him yet because he lives in North Carolina. He’s a rescue, just like we are. I think it’s good that there are folks who help dogs like us find homes with people who need us.

And we took some more styrofoam coolers to the people who make houses to keep kitties warm. I don’t know so much about kitties because they usually run when I’m close by but it seems like a good idea to me!

Right now, Mom says we’re going to run spell check real quick and then go to work on our painting. Apparently next week is going to be big on painting!

I’m pretty sleepy anyway. Dinner was good!

Mom and Luther and Sarah and I all hope you are paying attention to love, even in times when there isn’t enough. Dad hopes so, too, but he’s going back to the place where it snows. (And probably hoping all the furniture is moved before he gets home! Mom says not so much.)

We love you!!! Phoebe


Mom had an adventure!

Hi! It’s me Luther. I asked really politely and Mom said I could tell you the story she told me after she left us home alone today (!) and went away in the car.

First, I’m supposed to say that our blog might be a little later today than usual because Mom might need a nap and I haven’t learned how to type yet. The first thing I’m supposed to do is think of a picture. (This is a bit of a challenge for me since I can’t see. I think she’s trying to keep me busy during nap time!)

Instead of a picture, I think I thought of a feeling. The feeling I have when Mom and her friends are doing the thing called painting. I don’t really get it, except that the energy feels good and sometimes there’s dancing. (Nobody’s allowed to dance on me!)

This morning, instead of people coming to paint, Mom let us play outside longer than usual, which was great because it was chilly but not wet, while she did the thing called “getting ready” which usually means she’d rather we didn’t drool on her. We can always tell she’s going somewhere when she has shoes and lip gloss on at the same time!

Then she gave us extra treats and we got in our boxes. I’m okay with the box thing because Sarah is in there with me. She told us to guard the fort and left with a couple of the things called canvases.

We waited quite a while. Then our Auntie Barb came and took us for walks. It was later than usual, but it all worked out. The sun was shining, which was nice, but those things called gum balls were all over the road which I don’t like so much. They hurt my feet.

After we had another nap, Mom came home. She was so excited about what she learned. Apparently she left the two things called paintings to be scanned. I don’t know what that is but it sounds like it makes really pretty pictures.

Then Mom sat on the floor beside me and told me about how she got lost on the way to the place that makes prints. She said she was thinking about me a lot because even though she could see, she didn’t have any idea where she was going and she thought that must be a lot like how I feel.

Soon, I’m going back to see my friend, the eye doctor. Mom and my Auntie Karen think my left eye is worse than it was, which is kinda funny when I can’t see anyway, but they seem a little worried.

I’ll go. It’s hard to get in the car, but everybody is nice to me and they let Mom stay with me. Also, they don’t make me sit in the waiting room, which is pretty scary. And I get treats.

I think people should see Mom’s paintings because she works really hard and she and her friends are really trying to make a difference in the world. Mom says they help people be less scared and I’m really in favor of that!

For now, though, I think people should do what makes them feel brave. Trust me. Brave can be really hard. But it makes the world a better place. Now, if only we could figure out a way for me to get in the car more easily. It’s a puzzle. (But I’m brave!)

Oh, ps…. I know you’ve seen parts of this painting before but I wanted to be sure you knew the big blue guy in the corner is a mythical Newfoundland, like me! Oh, and we’re making soup!!!




The Four W’s!

Recently I received some wise advice from some awesome new friends working very hard to help artists of various sorts go “full-time” with their art by which I’m pretty sure they mean no more waiting tables unless you really love it.

The advice in question, as I understood it, had to do with the notion of establishing routines in life to make generous space and support for art. Not new advice, but well shared from folks who are walking the talk.

Somehow, though, my life just doesn’t seem to work that way.

I have, in a “normal” week, Monday-Wednesday-Friday days and Tuesday-Thursday days and then, of course, there are the weekends.

I have an extroverted Legendary Husband who lives in a random universe with a totally different time zone than mine, which is predictable only in that it is not. When he’s not traveling for business, he works mostly in the basement, wandering through the kitchen and studio now and then, wondering what I’m up to. He has not yet mastered the fine art of tip-toeing. He also loves me and fetches big canvases when called upon!

I work one on one with painting clients in my home studio, write, and hold workshops for Intentional Creativity students.

Bill and I are adoptive parents to three Newfoundland rescue dogs. That’s pushing 360# of dog, one of whom is blind and came from a severely traumatic background.

They’re great! They love their jobs as studio angels and the girls do a great job as security sisters for Luther.

They also need to go in and out the door, go for walks, and eat, you know, regularly. Grooming, while time-consuming, is an excellent aerobic workout. One of them, who shall remain nameless, enjoys barking at the traffic early in the morning and late at night which I tend to discourage by being very quiet.

Then there was the recent water in the basement episode which messed up more days worth of even perceived routine than you want to know about.

Oh, and then there are my generally manageable but sometimes challenging pain and mobility issues, and  a whole bunch of new learning things going on. And, maybe, more even than that.

It’s all good. (Well, almost.) But “routine”. Not so much.

So what do I do with this meant-to-be-helpful question?

Well, I made a nice cup of tea and reminded myself that it was just remotely possible that  I’m not doing it wrong. I’m just creating.

And then I started doodling. What looked rather like EKG tracings at first turned out to be a string of W’s. Eventually four of them. After a bit, I had a new list of essentials with no illusions that they’ll happen the same way every day. And, miraculously, a sense that I can live with them!

Water… Walking… Work (read that Art)… and Words.

I am a storyteller. A teacher. One who often doesn’t sleep for the stories rolling through my nighttime brain.

With my granddaughters, friends, clients, readers, collard greens in the front yard, and the soup in my bowl, it’s all stories. Even the images are stories, most of them in context.

The dogs are kind enough to listen, too, though I think they prefer paint music. And treats.

Here’s what I know for sure. Fighting my truly blessed life to make it routine isn’t going to work. The four W’s, on the other hand, feel hopeful. Helpful.

I am, indeed, grateful for the question. I’ll keep you posted!






Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity®
Color of Woman Teacher & Coach