Sunday Sketchbook - Zippy the Chameleon

Sunday Sketchbook, a blog post by Jennifer Frith

A couple of weeks ago, an older friend at church asked me how I was doing and what I had been up to with my art recently. I shrugged and told him that I've been uninspired and in some creative doldrums lately. I laughed and explained how art sometimes feels like a misfit talent and not a very practical or useful gift to have, especially when you're in the doldrums. He said, "Well, I'm wishing you inspiration. Because artists are the prophets."

Curious, I paused and asked him what he meant by that. He explained to me that artists are conduits. They carry messages. They cast visions. They build synagogues and cathedrals. They shape and influence cultures. They see things differently than most others do. "Inspiration" in Latin means "God-breathed", after all.

All of that got me thinking.... maybe I had this "inspiration" idea all upside down.

"Prophets" cannot do what they do without first hearing. And hearing can't happen without first experiencing a closeness.

I don't know of anything more practical, useful, fulfilling, or inspiring than having a closeness with Him. 🎨

Whether you're an artist, a teacher, a wife, a student, a mom, a business woman, I hope you know what a gift it is to have a closeness with your Creator.

- SundaySketchbook in gouache -

In the Brokenness

Photo of my Mom and me

When you lose a parent to a drug addiction and mental instability, you carry around a lot of heaviness, confusion, and shame as a kid. I think that's why I want to create as much love, hope, encouragement, and joy into my artwork as possible. Because life is hard.

But there is hope.

For all the things you feel were taken from you as a kid (for me: a strong, healthy example of how to be a woman), I believe you can give those things back to the world. And maybe that's where the gift in the heartache is.

To anybody carrying the weight of the universe on your shoulders, I hope you use that pain and heartache for good.

I hope you are able to move past the hurt and into forgiveness and maybe even one day gratitude.

I hope you eventually see the gift in the brokenness.

I hope it fuels you to give back to the world 100x what you've been missing.

Because the world needs it. πŸŒ„

- photo of my mom and me.

. . .

β€œThe world is full of suffering.

It is also full of overcoming.”

- Helen Keller -

Jennifer Frith - lion art print Helen Keller quote

Lion print available in my etsy shop.

How to Embrace Your Clark Kent Disguise

 
on my way to work

on my way to work

renewing my soul at my art desk at home

renewing my soul at my art desk at home

If you'll lean in closer, I'll share a secret with you:  I'm not a full-time artist. 

When I'm not in my studio, I actually work as a Human Resources Manager for a local company.  I'm also on the Leadership Team.  At my 9-5 job, I enjoy the people side of business.  I enjoy developing our values and coaching our team.  I especially love learning about negotiations and resolving conflict.  ***Nerd Alert: one of my favorite books of all time is Chris Voss' Never Split the Difference.  He's a former FBI hostage negotiator.  I highly recommend the read!***

Because of my desire to learn more about negotiations at work, my boss invited me to go to a full week, all-expense paid training at Harvard Law School back in December.  My heart skipped a beat.  I immediately accepted the offer.  

While at the training, I learned from Peace Negotiator and founder of Harvard's Negotiation Program, William Ury, Harvard Law School professor Gabriella Blum, and Harvard's Guhan Subramanian.  I got to meet CEOs from around the world, foreign diplomats and dignitaries, whip-smart attorneys and entrepreneurs who came to learn with me as well.  It was humbling to be in a room with so many talented and driven people.

Dr. William Ury

Dr. William Ury

Guhan Subramanian

Guhan Subramanian

Harvard's Memorial Hall

Harvard's Memorial Hall

me

me

 

As much as it was an honor, I realized that while I was there, I felt really out of place.  Who was I to belong there with all of these successful professionals who were out conquering the world when all I wanted to do was to create things from my cozy studio and illustrate journals and children's books?

I felt like I had to pretend to be someone I was not and act excited about things, that --- while interesting --- didn't light up my heart like art does:   "Oh yes... our business is thriving. Revenues are high.  How have your recent corporate decisions affected your shareholders?" 

Shortly after this amazing trip, I started to sink into depression. (No shame here.  You can read more about the link between Creativity, Intelligence, and Depression in this article.)   I fell into a mucky-stuck rut with my art.  If I can pin-point when an "identity crises" type of thing occurred, it was probably after this trip.

Why?   Because the more successful I became at my job, the more I felt pulled away from my calling.  Each day as I went off to work, I felt like I was stepping into a disguise and leaving my true self buried under spreadsheets and business clothes.  I felt lost and sad.  To be frank, I felt pity for myself.  Why couldn't I just be me 100% of the time?   

My poor-me and self-destructive thoughts made me feel paralyzed.  Who was I becoming?   Is my life a fake?  Was I leaving my artist-self behind?  What is the point in me continuing with my art anymore?

And then I began thinking of Superman and Clark Kent.  If you're not familiar with the DC comic, Superman was an alien with super-human qualities.  He was found as an infant and adopted by human parents.  To assimilate into society, Superman took on the identity of nerdy, awkward Clark Kent who worked as a reporter for a local newspaper.  It was his way of surviving in a world where he didn't belong.

clark-kent.jpg

Thanks to Superman, I realized, No.  I was not leaving me behind.  I was protecting my true identity.

The realization helped me embrace my Clark Kent/Human Resources disguise, which has freed me from feeling stuck and sorry for myself. 

If you're feeling down and stuck because you're not where you feel most alive, I want to share 4 things that have helped me:

1.  Recognize the opportunities your disguise affords. (aka, Be Thankful).

Being a professional allows me to grow in ways I would have never otherwise experienced.  Had I not shown an interest in negotiation or had the boss that I have now, I would have never gone to Harvard.  (For a girl who was a teen mom, this was an incredible blessing for me.)  Had it not been for my full-time job, I wouldn't have made the connections that I have, nor would I have grown into the person I am today.

2.  Remember the safety your disguise provides.

My "disguise" allows me to pay the bills and live in a nice, comfortable home.  It has given me experiences that cannot be taken from me, experiences that will most definitely help me in my future.  If Superman were Superman all of the time, I'm sure he'd be tired and exhausted from having to constantly look over his shoulder, wondering when the next threat will come.  My job gives me a lot of security.

3.  Be sure to take off your disguise from time to time. 

Do the things that make you feel most heroic and alive.   It was in Superman's blood to be super strong.  He used those powers for good.  Had he stayed hidden in his disguise, I'm sure he'd feel lost, frustrated, and out of place more often than not.  And where would the world be without Superman to save the day?  Go out and kick some butt with your true, God-given talent.

4.  Surround yourself with people who remind you of your true self.

Just like Superman had a few people in his life who knew his true identity (his adoptive parents and his love, Lois Lane), it's important to have people in your life who remind you of your true self.  For me, these people are my husband, sister, and best friends. These people encourage me when I'm feeling lost and down and out of place.

"A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words." 

- author unknown

where I feel like I most belong

where I feel like I most belong

So, how about you?

  • What does your disguise look like?

  • In what ways does your disguise help you?

  • When are you your truest self? What are your super powers?

  • How can you go out and save the world?

A Gift For You

No Sunday Sketchbook pages from me this week, but I did want to share a gift with you.

My most popular post on this blog has always been How to Make a Watercolor Chart.  I've been racking my brain on how I can better serve you, so I decided to create an eBook out of the blog post.  It's my way of saying thank you to my loyal readers.

To get your copy, sign up for my monthly newsletter here:  http://eepurl.com/cQsUxr

Free eBook:  How to Make a Watercolor Chart

A preview of it is below:

Free eBook:  How to Make a Watercolor Chart
Free eBook:  How to Make a Watercolor Chart
Free eBook:  How to Make a Watercolor Chart

I'm really excited about this eBook.  I hope you find it helpful and inspiring too.

Grab yourself a copy of this free gift, and go make something awesome today.  :)

Make Art

"One day Boudin said to me, Learn to draw well and appreciate the sea, the light, the blue sky. I took his advice." - Claude Monet

Β 

This past weekend I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art with a good friend.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I get stuck into negative thinking that perhaps art is pointless, maybe even a little vain.  Quite frankly, it can lead into despair.  

But walking the museum halls and seeing so many pieces of exquisite art and historical artifacts brought life back into my soul.  It reminded me that art/creativity is not an indulgent endeavor.  Rather, it brings beauty, stories, joy, wonder, and human connection into the world.

Jennifer_Frith_Artist_Monet
Jennifer_Frith_Artist_Philadelphia_Art_Museum
Jennifer_Frith_Artist_Degas
Jennifer_Frith_Artist_Painting
Jennifer_Frith_Artist_Knight
Jennifer_Frith_Artist_Renoir
Jennifer_Frith_Artist_VanGogh
Jennifer_Frith_Artist_VanGogh

"The only way to understand painting is to go and look at it. And if out of a million visitors there is even one to whom art means something, that is enough to justify museums.”
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir

. . .

How about you?  Do you ever sink into feeling that maybe art is not a worthwhile investment of your time?   What have you created or what could you create that brings beauty into the world, even if only for yourself?

Go make stuff.  You matter.