Red Dot

An insignificant small circle.

Overcome, portrait art, pam hemmerling

I had no idea what it meant as I peered at the tag identifying my painting.

My painting.

It shocked me to see it hanging there although I had personally hand-delivered it just a few days earlier.

And, of course, I had come. Despite my reluctance. My resistance. My apprehension.

Here I was.

Entering the small gallery I tried to blend in. No need to acknowledge that I was one of the artists. In fact, please don’t.

Thoughts came down hard, “I don’t belong. You’re not an artist. Why am I here?”

Doubts. Fears. Insecurity. Comparison. The list goes on.

There is nothing fun about this first art exhibit. Nothing.

Eventually, a tag is found. I am labeled.


No more hiding.

Despite my desire to leave I need to see all of the artwork again. Slowly. Thoughtfully. Through the lens of grace.

I understand better than most that the “The Healing Power of Art”, the theme of the exhibit represents the artist’s hollow place. A place of deep reserve. Buried but tender to the touch.


Art heals by touching both the artist and the viewer. Whether you love it or hate it. There is value and meaning.

Engaging with art stretches us.

Eventually, my heart quiets. My shoulders relax. I loosen up.

I am approached by a couple who seem eager to meet me.

Confused, I listen as they say words like, “bought your painting, the first of show to sell, tell us more.”

Heart racing I walk with the buyers back to my painting. Words tumble out as I express meaning that is lodged deep within. Eyes glistening with emotion.

Eventually, I laugh with comprehension.

The red dot explained.

Being an artist means forever healing your own wounds and at the same time endlessly exposing them.
— Annette Messager


A Body of Work

The series of figurative portraits I’ve been painting over the past year have been weaving together a story.

One I didn’t choose to tell. But one that has emerged nonetheless.

Up to this point I haven’t indulged in attributing much meaning to my art. I’ve struggled greatly to find my voice. Preoccupied with color and composition. Value and proportion.

A few months ago when pressed to name this body of work I blurted out the word, “Scars”. As the word forced it’s way out of my mouth I immediately felt it’s essence. It’s meaning. Like a part of me couldn’t wait for my brain to verbalize what my hand had been painting all along.

Although I did not set out to create scars on my portraits I did set out to create imperfection. A rough, textured surface paves the way for the unexpected. A disheveled patchwork. An accidental discovery.

In the beginning it allowed me the freedom to make mistakes. My insecurity finding grace in the texture and marks.

For months I practiced painting these faces on canvas and in my art journal.

Eventually recognition took root as I realized these marks were actually scars.

Exposing tender wounds. Revealing invisible heartbreak. Uncovering raw distress.

Holding this tenderly in my hand I recognize myself and others. Scars revealing the depth of resilience required to live through and with our pain. Embedded with the companions of love. Hope. And joy.

Our growth comes not in focusing on these scars but in the acknowledgement of their existence. Their value and meaning stitching together all the parts of our selves.

This fresh perspective washes over me. Discernment and understanding within reach.

I now realize I painted what I could not say with words.

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.
— Aristotle

starting point.

Give Yourself a Fighting Chance

What’s holding you back?

I mean this with all seriousness. And kindness. And empathy.

What is that thing that you want to do? What is that thing that the minute you think about it your mind is flooded with excuses.

I know it’s filled with excuses because I am a mind reader. Or maybe because it is the same for me.

I have stumbled, tripped, and fallen with the weight of rationalizations on my back. Knee deep in fear. Scraping back the horror of uncertainty. My mind coursing with thoughts of how that wouldn’t work. Why would I even try? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Back to Netflix, thank you very much.

It’s hard. This I know to be true.

To try. To learn. To begin.

But what is also true is that on the other side is fulfillment. Notice I didn’t say success. Fame. Money.

The feeling you get from persevering is fulfillment. Enjoyment. Gratification.

There are no guarantees but try anyway

I know I talk about this a lot. And you’re probably thinking I need to simmer down. Find a new topic.

To be honest I was going to write about something completely different today. Really. The words just wouldn’t come out.

So here’s the deal. That thing you want to do. The one thing that comes to mind when you read this. Do it. Spend an hour a day. Half hour. Ten minutes. Whatever. Even if it takes a year. You will have learned something. You will have grown. You will have developed in unexpected ways.

You guys, I was in my 50’s when I started making art. I learned to build and maintain an e-commerce website. I started a blog. I learned to make Youtube videos.

Not to be overly dramatic but nothing about this was easy.

Yes, there was and still is a lot of bad art, poorly written blog posts, awkward videos. Yes, I have to keep tweaking things. I have to keep learning. Growing. Adapting. No I am not making a million dollars. But I am trying. I am showing up.

In the midst of all the trying is frustration. Discouragement. And of course I do not know what I am doing half the time. But one thing I know, I do not regret trying.

Here’s what I’ve learned. Life will pass. Whether you try to do that thing or not. Whether you put yourself out there or not.

One day will pass. Three months. Ten years.

You think I’m kidding?

It’s easier to stay put. I get it. Why try? Why put in all that effort when at the end of the day I won’t be rich or famous?

Because here’s the deal, you’re worth it. The future will come whether you sit in the bleachers or get on the field.

My sense of urgency peaks today because it is almost June. And yesterday it was May 1st. Just yesterday.

Give yourself a fighting chance.

If your nerve deny you, go about your nerve. —Emily Dickinson

What exciting, interesting thing have you been wanting to do? What is your starting point?

Go give it a try.

But promise me you won’t give up when it’s gets hard.

Move through your fear.

Press on.

And please share with me once you get started.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
— Mark Twain


In One Year

Our uniqueness, the things that set us apart are rich areas of our life. Overflowing with ideas, impossibilities, and vast journeys. Only you can be you.

From this uniqueness the avenues of contribution to the world are endless. Unfortunately we typically shy away from our unique attributes. Instead sticking our fingers in our ears saying, “blah, blah, blah.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m challenged to contribute too. It’s hard to be vulnerable. Do you think sharing my art is easy? I sometimes cringe when I scroll back through Instagram. And let’s just say that after pushing publish on a blog post I almost always regret it. I may be trying to contribute out of my uniqueness but believe me, I am doing it scared.

As scary as it is I believe our unique experiences, perspective and values are the place where we are called to give. To share. To contribute.

It’s not complicated. What are your gifts? Your talents? Your skills? Your passions?

That is our starting point.

Never mind what people say. Or your own self doubts.

Give yourself a fighting chance by moving through your fear. Choosing uncertainty. Exploring possibilities.

I often ask myself, “Will I be glad I did this in a year?” I’m so shortsighted that I need that perspective. I generally answer, “yes”.

Ultimately our walk into contributing will lead us to significance and meaning. It’s the process not the end result that matters.

We all need what you have to offer.

I encourage you to buckle up and get started.

In a year you’ll be glad you did.

In today’s video title “Unique” I challenged myself to use the least amount of paint possible. I love the muted look of the soft pastels, liquid pencil, charcoal and graphite blocks.

Regardless of how small you think your contribution is without it the world would be different.
— Hanna Fitz

give back.

We are the Same

“The sun still rises in the east,” my new friend Gretchen says with a certainty that I can’t muster.

In response, I mutter under my breath while grasping for my bearings. My true north. Something familiar.

For all my early bravado this trip is hard.

Seemingly no one goes to this remote, mountain village in Guatemala. Not even our young, local translator Julio has been there.

The beauty of the region is overshadowed by my shallow need for an electrical outlet. Wifi. A toilet that flushes. And in all honesty a glass of wine.

My discomfort brings to the surface all that is selfish. Forcing me to see myself in a light that is not flattering.

In the cracks of my heart I find myself stretched. Incrementally holes appear. And eventually I see beyond the lack. The need. The deficits.

I understand that we are the same.

These lovely indigenous Mayan people and me.

We may not share a language. Or a country. Or a history. But we are human. Loved of God. We share a desire to improve the health of the community for their children. This joint venture happens in the form of latrines and hand-washing stations orchestrated through Medical Teams International.

As we dig, saw old boards, and mix cement I discover the power of proximity. Up close I am captivated by strength. Resilience. Grace. My eyes are opened. My heart enlarged.

Efficiency is clearly not the goal and initially I am confused by this.

Building relationships. Respectful teamwork. Mutual consideration. These are the goals.

It is about joining hands in prayer. Peek-a-boo with babies. Simple eye contact. A hug. A smile. And even some days dancing.

Perspective is everything. It is a catalyst for understanding.

Tools and walking sticks in hand we approach the steep, narrow climb to the next home. Despite the rivulets of sweat running down my back I notice an easy familiarity developing. Camaraderie despite language barriers. Shared satisfaction with each finished project.

This is community. Togetherness. I am now bound up with these people. Forever smitten.

I receive far more than I can ever give. For I have given of my abundance. My privilege. I have running water, wood floors, and electricity.

Their thankful words I cannot shake and they echo through my mind, “We don’t know where you came from, we don’t know how you paid for this and yet you came”. The words a clear message—each day I get an opportunity to choose. To show up.

For all my flaws and failings my edges are now framed by this experience. My soul tender. I am forever changed.

I am reminded again that the world is bigger than my ordinary life. Problems more profound. Inequity undeniable. My arms just aren’t long enough to wrap around everyone. But as Mother Teresa astutely said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people then feed just one.”

Thankfully the sun does rise in the east. Maybe I have found my true north.

We are the same.

Just show up.

Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts. It even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.
— Anthony Bourdain


Artifact of Bygone Days

I grew up in the era of letter writing. Pen to paper. Stamp to envelope. Letter to post office.

This was an actual form of communication. And in many cases the only form of communication.

A time when a person might even seek out something called a pen pal. Or maybe that was just me.

Letter writing gave meaning to the ordinary details of life. School. Family. Pets. A favorite book.

The idea sounds archaic today. Or like something out of a foreign film. Or maybe from a time when walking 5 miles to school through the snow was a real thing.

I admit that I was probably more into it than most people. The letter writing that is.

None of us knew that the internet was just around the corner. That life would change as we knew it.

Letters becoming an antiquated relic of the past. Like typewriters. VCR’s. Fax machines.

But there are still times when mailing or hand-delivering a card might be relevant. Birthdays. Showers. Mother’s Day.

If you ever find yourself in such a predicament might I suggest a few of the following. Or click here to see more.

And if you are interested in receiving a card. Mailed to you personally. Stamp on envelope.

Reply or post a comment with your address and I’ll send you one.

Think of it as a nod to bygone days.

Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?
— Jane Austen

not real.

Words on Paper

I’m not a real writer.

I’ve never taken a writing class. I have no innate writing talent or writing experience. I’m certainly not a published writer. And I clearly don’t follow the writing rules of grammar.

I do have an inner critic though. Perched on my shoulder she speaks half-truths into my heart. Pointing out blunders. Delighting in my incompetence.

Despite all that I do seem to get words down on paper. Almost everyday. The more I write, the more I continue to write.

One thing builds upon another.

write every day, Julie Cameron inspired

You might not think you are a real musician. A real chef. Or a real photographer.

Guess what? It doesn’t matter.

Ignore your inner critic.

Just begin. Then begin again the next day. And the next.

begin, abstract art

Because I’m not a real writer I write mostly for myself. Attempting to root out buried truths. Digging for significance in ordinary moments.

Do I hope someone will read my writing?


But more importantly I write because it brings meaning into my life.

I realize I’m not crafting a novel. There is no character development. No dialogue. No settings.

In all honesty I started writing blog posts to show activity on my website.

And yet, I now write daily and post almost every week.

If I waited until I was ready or good enough I would never write. Not ever.

Because I’m not a real writer I feel a bit nauseous each time I post. I feel judgement before anyone reads a word. And I immediately feel regret.

I suppose given all the anxiety it is a surprise I continue.

Yes, it would be easier not to share.

But here’s the thing. Doing something new does not come without fear. Or obstacles. Or a steep learning curve.

the only way forward was through her fear

Doing something new often means opening yourself up to uncertainties. Disappointment. Frustration.

On top of all that it requires enormous amounts of perseverance.

Sure I could sit on the sidelines with my writing notebook tucked away. Hiding to avoid failure. Held captive to my inadequacies. Blinking back discouragement.

Starting is hard. Sharing is daunting.

Do it anyway.

Thankfully, I’m not a real writer.

I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it. We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.
— CS Lewis


Where It All Starts

Your heart? Your mind?

I’m not sure if it matters.

Separately they each have their own to-do list to manage. Their own unique roles to play. What I do know is that one without the other is lopsided. Limiting.

My heart can build castles in the sky all day long. Get lost in reverie. Dream. Hope. Yearn.

My mind manages all the details of life. Acquires new skills. Has a proclivity for genius even. (Or not)

But do not underestimate the collaboration of heart and mind for that is where the magic begins. Companions woven together they give fresh perspective. Fused they integrate and enrich our lives.

Yesterday I painted and created a video that lacked heart. I painted myself into a corner creating a bland portrait that lacked interest. I played it safe far from my original vision. You might not notice but you can watch it here if you want to check it out.

Today I used the exact same art supplies and basic sketch in the art video below. I allowed my mind to orchestrate the details and let my heart use her intuition. Despite creating on camera I felt a freedom and connection that I hadn’t the previous day. My efforts seemed less contrived and more open. I am glad I started over.

It’s important to honor the struggle. As much as I hate it I know it is the way forward.

I hope this inspires you to collaborate with your heart and mind in your creative endeavors. I don’t think it really matters where you start.

The question you wrestle with as an artist is: Will you express yourself on your canvas and create meaning or will you fall back into safe patterns and stay on the surface.
— Nancy Hillis


A New Direction

For the past 6 months I have been mulling over some new ideas.

I know I need to make some changes. But the problem is….can I let go of familiar? Make adjustments? Pivot?

Because here’s the deal. Sometimes good or better is not the best.

In this case I’m talking about the book cover quote cards .

They have been a faithful companion to me. A beloved staple. Selling regularly for years.

I have felt privileged to make custom orders for people for everything from weddings to funerals. Sales meetings to church groups.

As much as I love these book cover cards I have decided that they will be discontinued at the end of March.

I am headed in a new direction. Trying to be intentional with my efforts. Giving margin to the unknown.

My time will focus on painting. Good or bad. Right or wrong. Uncertainty has passed into the hands of decision. Finally.

I will continue making art videos and writing this blog. From the outside it might sound much the same and to a certain extent I would agree. Although in light of future changes I’ll be implementing it feels a bit like starting from square one.

In the meantime if you’ve ever considered buying a book cover quote card for yourself or as a gift there are still some inspirational one’s available. I’ll be including a free easel with every order. And shipping is always free.

Have you gone in a new direction? Pivoted from good to better to best?

I’d love to hear about it.

Advice accepted.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.
— Lao Tzu


Bend Without Breaking

I’ve had this quote in my back pocket for years. Folded. Dirty. Frayed.

bend without breaking quote

Surely this is meant for someone else. Someone stronger. Wiser. More patient.

Backed into a corner. Trapped. I realize the arrow points at me.

I don’t feel persevering enough. Strong enough. Tough enough.

The weight is heavy. Oppressive. Laden with shame.

I most certainly will snap. Break in two. One can bend only so far managing crisis. Regulating emotional distress. Soothing abandonment issues.

Life has not turned out as expected.

Plunged into an unforeseen darkness. Bereft of answers. I reach out to God in despair. Empty. Confused.

I find myself irritated by platitudes. Gypped by the idea of hope. Longing for normal.

And in this place of foot stomping anger I face the true monster. Unfairness.

Life is not fair. Rarely equal. But always worthwhile.

This is my life. These are my people.

I gulp down understanding. The once bitter taste yielding to grace.

Nourished, I gaze at hope waiting.

I begin to value the complex layers of life. Accept the obstacles. Embrace the blessings.

Tenderly I care for fragile. Lingering over growth. Smiling at efforts.

Hours pass. Then days. And eventually years.

encaustic, original art

Pain ebbs and flows. There is bad then good then bad again. Two steps forward and 3 back.

Somehow I am still in one piece. Bent. Scarred. A beautiful mess.

I begin to comprehend that through was the only way. Bending the only option.

Now as I stretch into wholeness I understand that this was my pilgrimage of sorts. My story unfolding.

It continues still.

Like you, my narrative is filled with hardship. Sorrow. Joy.

God points at you.

Hope is at hand.

Press on, brave soul there is joy ahead.

I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.
— William Stafford