One night in April, I was watching the movie Moana with my kids. Towards the end, tears streamed down my face. My kids were all like, “Mommy why are you crying” to which I ugly-cry-responded, “I don’t know!”
Pay attention to those inexplicable tears. They are trying to tell you something.
After putting my kids to bed that night, I sat down. Closed my eyes. Took some deep breaths. Looked inward. Quickly it was revealed…
My soul wants to paint.
While I’ve always considered myself creative, I never called myself an artist. So this desire was not predictable, nor entirely sensical.
A quick Google search revealed Paris College of Art offered a summer program. It was a two week painting intensive course. I slept on it that night, but knew when I woke up the following morning that THIS THING WAS SOOOO ON.
Logistics have a funny way of figuring themselves out once we fall in line with our truth. This was no exception.
My village of friends and family took care of the kids. My friends high-fived me. (except that one who said, “Can’t you justly learn to paint at Front Range Community College instead? Ummm, great suggestion…but NO.) My clients cheered me on and re-scheduled things to make space. I had enough frequent flyer miles for a free plane ticket. I found the sweetest little AirBnB in the bohemian Le Marais neighborhood. It all just worked.
Photo: My sweet little funk-a-delic apartment on Rue de Temple.
And so I went to Paris. I painted the most beautiful sights alongside some of the most lovely and talented artists as my classmates. They came from countries including the USA, Japan, Turkey, Malaysia, New Zealand and China.
Photo: These are my people, my class, my global homies…
Since I’ve returned, I’ve been trying to unpack it all – literally and figuratively. This post is a feeble attempt to boil down all the awesomeness I experienced into three big lessons…
LESSON #1: I learned to SEE.
Look at a leaf on a tree. At first glance, it’s just a leaf. It’s green. Maybe has a few edges.
That leaf may be comprised of about 20 shades of green, ranging from almost white to nearly black – all depending on the shadows. Each leaf is different, unique. And until we really, really look and see it for what it is in present time, we miss out on its unique and inherent beauty.
Photo: This is me, after staring at leaves for about 3 hours straight. I was straight-up tree delirious.
I’m pretty much a professional listener in the work I do. I got the hearing thing down. But before Paris, I wasn’t really looking. I didn’t know how to SEE. At art school, I learned to visually consume every tiny detail. To deeply notice. And in doing so, to appreciate what was before me.
This taught me perspective. One of the most challenging things for me is drawing a chair. Seriously, chairs are HARD. You really have to pay attention where the lines go. (PS: I still suck at drawing chairs. But at least now I see them better. I admire them in their glorious, four-legged complexity.)
Since coming home, I’m seeing so much I didn’t notice before. The most significant sights are the ones most precious to me.
Now after I tuck my kids into bed, I notice the moonlight on their cheeks. The sweeping distance of their eyelashes. The soft tumble of Phoebe’s curls. The tight headlock in which Miles cuddles his stuffed dog, Gaga. (no relation to Lady)
Photo: This is me and my kiddos after I returned from Paris. Ahhh, those cheeks!
I felt those tears springing back again. They were telling me something…
I am so grateful for these eyes. For this life.
LESSON #2: I learned to SIMPLIFY.
In Paris, most people seem to have their priorities in check. They don’t own much stuff and live in fairly tiny spaces. They wake up, dress nice, grab a delicious croissant and bike to work.
They often leave work early to go drink wine with a friend. And when they do, their iPhone isn’t on the table. They are too focused on connecting with the person right next to them.
Photo: This is me, pretending to be all French, drinking my wine and complementary…radishes?? (I guess that’s a thing in Paris, go figure.)
There is no Super Target with one-stop shopping in Paris. Instead, you have a cheese store. And a meat store. Next to a wine store. The elegant, conscious simplicity of this culture left me awestruck. I got another message from within…
My soul wants more of less.
As a member of the entrepreneurial community in the USA, I have often fallen into the trap of bigger-better-faster-more as being the definition of success. And perhaps that is how success is defined for some – but not for me. (at least, not anymore)
Being in Paris brought me back to the simple, sensual joys of life. The wafting aroma of pastries coming from an open-air bakery. The colors dancing off a canvas from my classmates’ gorgeous paintings. The architectural marvel of a several-hundred-year-old cathedral ceiling. The moving melody of the music composed for the jaw-dropping ballet performance. The wind billowing the long European hair of a grown-ass man with a neck scarf and briefcase riding what appears to be an adult razor scooter to work. (I sooo wish I had a picture of this, but alas, I do not. Like the radishes, scootering to work is also a thing.)
I could go on for hours about the treats to the senses this city offers, but I’ll leave it there and just tell you to PLEASE go to Paris at some point in your life. Simple pleasures, abundant joy.
LESSON #3: I learned I’m a FUCKING ARTIST.
Maybe that seems a little extreme to you. Like, “Hey Weed, can’t you just be an artist? Is it really necessary to be a FUCKING ARTIST?”
Well thank you for asking…and why, yes, it is.
I need to be a FUCKING ARTIST because my whole life I’ve been an apologetic, reluctant, self-deprecating, stifled, tormented-yet-creative soul with self-esteem issues around the stuff I’ve made. So this needs to be a little emphatic for me, as I step into the title more fully.
And guess what? Not only am I a FUCKING ARTIST.
So are you.
If you have a pulse and a body, you were born to be a maker. We are all creative. We are all humans on this planet at this time to bring color and shape and form and expression through us.
When my 5-year-old daughter creates some trippy marker drawing of a pink squirrel wearing a party hat and a diaper (because he’s not yet potty trained, she explains), while shooting a squirt gun – she naturally assumes she is an artistic genius and this psychedelic treasure deserves to be hung on the wall. (which is exactly where it goes)
To deny our creativity is to dishonor our existence.
“How old were you when you stopped believing this?”
My client and friend, Damon McCleese, first asked me that question over a year ago. (watch his brilliant TEDx talk here) I was 8 years old. My crabby 3rd grade art teacher ridiculed me for having the audacity to paint the trees behind a fence instead of in front of the fence, as she had instructed us to do.
Photo: Mad props to my mom and her borderline hoarding tendencies for preserving this masterpiece for 30 years. This is the real-deal art-tastrophe that crippled my creativity for most of my life.
I came to believe I did art wrong. I associated making art with screwing up.
Thankfully I got a new art teacher this time around. (who thankfully, was not crabby) Fist bump to my professor, Munro Galloway, for neutralizing my childhood art teacher trauma. He was patient, knowledgeable, kind and positive. I had never taken a formal art class beyond elementary school, yet he made me feel like I belonged there.
Guess what happened when I finished this course? I threw all my fear of creativity off the bridge into the Seine River. It was glorious. I feel lighter.
BU-BYE art-phobic fear-monger. And HELLO art-tastic goddess who recklessly puts the trees and fences wherever the hell she goddamn pleases!
On that note, here is a pic of some of the art my classmates and I made. Mine is in the center column. Before Paris, I never would have showed my work publicly. Now I’m happy to share it. And I’m not even gonna put in a disclaimer here. I’m just gonna show it. Proudly. (even the freakin’ chairs…)
So much of this trip was about remembering who I am. What I’m made of. What I’m here to do, and how I want to go about doing it. I remembered my 5-year-old self who probably made some wacked psychedelic squirrel portraits of her own. I came home to myself. To my artist. To my divinely creative self.
And sometimes this journey back to myself was not comfortable or pleasant. Wildly outside my comfort zone, I had moments where I felt not good enough, defeated, untalented and exhausted. I pushed through those moments, and came back for more. I’m so glad I did.
My favorite day on this epic adventure was in Giverny. It was the place where Claude Monet lived, created his art and ultimately died. His home, gardens and the lily pond where he obsessively painted was the most calming and inspiring outdoor sanctuary I’ve ever experienced. We rode bikes from the train station to his home. I felt so European.
Photo: See what I mean? Hey Monet, seriously man, you really out-did yourself here. Epic pond, dude.
This man not only created art, he created a life and home that inspired his genius. I believe we can all be mindful of the environment (and people) we surround ourselves with, in order to unleash our most artsy prowess.
Walking through his gardens and drawing them, I felt a deep, tender warmth radiating from the earth. Later when I found this quotation from Monet, I figured out what that feeling was…
“People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it’s simply necessary to love.” – Claude Monet
Art is love. Love is art.
Merci Paris, for waking me up. I won’t go back to sleep.