Monthly Projects – April – Lettering Quotes

As I was prepping to write about my month of painting faces, I realized that I never wrote about my month of Lettering Quotes back in April.

When I was originally planning my monthly art projects for 2014, one of the ones I really wanted to do was this lettering exercise. I specifically signed up for Lori Vliegen’s class with the intention of doing this.

I am really grateful that it had the exact intended effect.

I started small with writing in my notebook and unsure of exactly what to do. My first five were basic and warm-up:

then I decided that I was having enough fun to pull out my watercolor papers. Each morning, I would pick a quote that spoke to me, find an image that I thought went with the quote and I sat down to make them both. I then colored it with watercolors and water color pencils.

and, most nights, I used the page and the quote to write my blog post.

some days, I struggled with what to draw but I still wanted to keep going.

Other days I didn’t know how to change things around so it would keep being interesting. But then I realized interesting is not the point. Practice was the point. So repetition is part of practice.

I tried to pick quotes that really inspired me. I am not one of those people who collect quotes so I didn’t have an arsenal. I just looked at a few sites and made a pinterest board with ideas.

I then used that board each day to pick one. If I found myself spending too much time picking something, I’d force myself to pick the very next one I looked at. That usually motivated me to pick quickly.

All in all, I ended up with 26 of them. I’ve come to realize that a good number is 20. If I can do 20 of something new each month, I am making tangible progress and it’s good practice. 20 also means I don’t have to do them on the weekend if I don’t want to.

I loved doing these and had to tell myself that I couldn’t continue on to May. It’s important to me to switch them around. So for may, I did faces, but I might come back to this on another month of this year.

Most importantly, it made me less scared about writing, which was exactly what I had hoped to achieve.

On to another month!

Your Worth

Back in February, Judy Wise put a class announcement on her blog and I signed up immediately. See where it says March 24, well, apparently I didn’t because I put it down on my calendar as April 24. So when I emailed Judy, full of excitement, on April 23 about how excited I was for the class, she emailed me back immediately, kindly telling me I had just missed the whole class.


On the up side, I now had all the lessons at once and didn’t have to eagerly await for the next day to show up. But on the down side, there’s something to be said for the momentum of taking a class along with others vs having to do it all on your own.

So I had to make a plan.

Since April was almost coming to a close, I figured the timing was perfect to make this a new monthly project.

So here we are. I will post all the April pages at once next week but now it’s time to start May.

I decided I would couple the assignments with quotes because I’ve enjoyed them all April long and I wasn’t ready to let them go yet.

So today’s quote is:

Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.

A good one to start the month with and a great one to remember. You, and only you, decide your worth. What others see or don’t see is on them.

Not you.

Feeling your Life

Today’s quote is actually the ending of a longer quote:

Allow beauty to shatter you regularly. The loveliest people are the ones who have been burnt and broken and torn at the seams, yet still send their open hearts into the world to mend with love again, and again, and again.

You must allow yourself to feel your life while you’re in it. – Victoria Erickson

That last part of the quote really spoke to me.

I always get annoyed when people tell me I feel too much. Too strongly.

I believe that if we don’t let things get to us and we don’t let ourselves experience the feelings we’re having, we’re not really doing them justice. They won’t disappear just because we’re not expressing them (worse, they sit dormant and explode at the most inopportune times). And Brené Brown has said many times that if we numb the bad, we also numb the good. So, yet, another reason to let ourselves feel it all.

I look at my kids and they experience life with so much more acuteness than I do. When something bad happens, it’s a huge disaster. Big tears. Super sadness. It’s like the world is over. This person is no longer my friend. On and on. But then when the good stuff happens it’s just as strong. I LOVE this. It’s the best EVER. I am so HAPPY. And on and on.

But you know the best part?

Because they let themselves experience it fully, step into it and own it, it doesn’t drag on. They feel it and then they move on to the next moment. And it’s over. The expressed whatever it was they were feeling and it’s not in their system anymore.

That’s what I love the most.

I believe we all could learn so much from the little kids in our lives. I want to allow myself to fully feel my life while i am in it. I want to live all of it. Feel all of it. Let it out.

And then make space for the next thing.

Merely Exist

Today’s quote is:

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. – Oscar Wilde

This is one of those quotes that made me cringe when I read it. The truth of it hit me so strongly that I couldn’t breathe for a moment.

The fact is, there are so many days, weeks, months when I am existing, and barely at that. I am just making it through my days, doing the things I’ve set for myself and the things that need to get done. And even those don’t really get done.

At this very moment, my clean laundry is piled up high, my floor is full of toys, the kitchen table has piles of papers, and my hands are covered with paint. I haven’t even begun to write my todo list for two weeks and I am hundreds of emails behind in my inbox. Random important things that I have to do pop into my head and I keep thinking I should at least write them down.

But I don’t want to do any of those things.

And I don’t.

I sit and read my book or write here or do some more art.

I am not even existing today but really in the place where I just avoid everything. I am numbing but not with food or internet, with just avoidance.

So when I read a quote like this, I feel like screaming.

Yes, I want to say, I want to live! I don’t want to merely Exist.

I don’t want it to feel so hard.

And then I remember that tomorrow is another day and I get to choose all over again.

So tonight, I’ll do a little bit, I’ll barely exist. I’ll take a walk and then go to sleep. Tomorrow, maybe tomorrow, can be the day I can take on the task of living.

On Comparing Beginnings and Middles

Today’s quote is:

Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. – Jon Acuff

Yesterday, I emailed Judy Wise to tell her how excited I was about her upcoming “painting faces” class which my calendar said was starting today.

She replied pretty much immediately and said that the class had started a month ago and was now over.

I felt my heart sink.

She then said the students were still working on all the material in the FB group and did I want to be added. I said of course and she added me and once I visited the group and saw everyone’s work, my heart sank even more.

The other students’ work was so so amazing that I just wanted to quit before I even started. What’s the point? There’s no chance I will ever be that good. I’ve been working on drawing faces for quite a few years now and I just can’t get good enough at them, how could I even think I’d be good enough to paint.

What was I thinking.

I churned and churned all night.

Then this morning, I saw this quote and decided it was my quote for the day.

It was a reminder that even if I’ve been trying for a while, I am still just at the beginning of my journey. I don’t need to compare myself to anyone. Who knows how much time or effort they’ve already dedicated to it?

And who knows where I am in my journey.

All I do know is that I want to learn how to do this. I know that I love Judy’s work and I am thrilled at the chance to learn from her videos. I know that my journey is mine alone. And not only do I not want to compare my beginning to their middle, I don’t want to compare my journey to theirs at all.

So onward we go.

I can’t wait to dig into the classes even if I showed up a month late.

Maybe they can be my project for May.

The Seemingly Impossible

Today’s quote is:

It always seems impossible until it’s done.  – Nelson Mandela

When I saw this quote today, I laughed out loud. Yesterday, I had one of these at work. I had a situation that seemed impossible. It was driving me mad and I couldn’t figure out how it was ever going to be solved.

When I am in situations like this, I don’t handle it well. In fact, it drives me so mad that I become the worst version of myself. I stop thinking logically and operate in mostly the fight or flight mode. I panic and freak out. And, like most people when they are panicked and not thinking clearly, I do unwise things.

I flail and get others involved. Which makes things even worse.

And then when it’s all over and the prefrontal cortex starts kicking in again, I feel the strong wash of shame.

Which is the worst.

So I thought a lot about this quote today. About how I can remember that it always feels impossible until that one magical moment when it’s fixed. It seems impossible until it isn’t and it’s like a switch. There isn’t much in between impossibility and possibility. It’s not always gradual (though sometimes it is) but most of the time, it feels impossible until one day, one moment you look at it and you see it is indeed possible. And then it gets done. Not a lot in between.

So the question is how will i remember that it will get done. That it will become possible. That it will seem deeply impossible till that one moment. And that I need to have faith. Faith that it will indeed get done.

That’s the hard part for me. To have faith. To stop the panic and let my thinking kick in so it can remind me to have faith. So maybe I should make a bigger version of this sign and put it up on my desk so I can remember.

Walls we Build

today’s quote is:

You are confined only by the walls you built yourself.

I read this quote a while ago and had made an art journal page on it, too.

I was thinking about it again last night when I was trying to pick a quote today. I thought of all the ways i get in my own way. All the ways I create limits for myself. Hurdles I have to jump through, blocks on what I can and cannot do.

I have so many ideas.

So many ways I get in my own way.

I know that we all do this in different ways but I think, like most things, the first step to knocking those walls down is awareness.

Seeing it.

And then Saying it out loud.

Owning it.

I build walls around what i am capable of and what’s possible for me. I feel strong urges to do things (or to stop doing things) and then I talk myself out of each of them. I have a sense of the “responsible path” and I pretty much try to follow it to a T. I create a lot of stories around what responsible means and what it doesn’t mean. In those moments when I look around and I see only walls, I need to remember that they are created by me. They are in my mind, my story, but rarely are they in the real world.

And just like I get to put them up, I also get to take them down.

Regenerating Creativity

Today’s quote is:

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. -Maya Angelou

I have found this to be very true for me and it’s the exact reason I do these month-long exercises. I find that the practice of creating art every single day only fuels more creativity more. It gives me more ideas. It stretches me more.

So if you’re from the camp of “what if i run out” I highly urge you to use up all you have. Sit and do art. Again and again. Don’t hesitate, don’t postpone, don’t be afraid.

You will get more.

So much more.

So, sit and create.

ps: alas i don’t like the spacing and lettering on this one. but i keep trying. that’s the goal after all.

The Price

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.  -Thoreau

How true eh?

Yet another one that’s been on my mind a lot lately. What am I willing to exchange my life for?

To me, this shows up significantly in two different ways. One is how much of my soul (my core beliefs, desires, identity) am I exchanging for it? Is this going against some deep sense of self I have and what will be the cost to giving that up? Am I willing to pay that price? Is this worth more to me than what I am giving up?

Some of these questions are subtle and hard to answer.

But they are important, too.

This is one of the reasons, many years ago, I walked away from my Wall Street job. I wanted to make sure that if I was working 100 hours a week, it was for a cause I really believed in. That wasn’t the case with the job I had then. I felt like I couldn’t look my future kids in the eye and tell them I had to work when I was doing that kind of work. I respect other people’s choices, but it wasn’t a right fit for me. (I left that job to do Teach For America, I felt that, there, I was serving a much more needed and important role. That didn’t pan out for other reasons but I still don’t regret my choice at all. I still believe there’s a cost to doing something that’s really not aligned with who you are and what matters to you.)

The second way this quote speaks to me is more easy to visualize and define: The time you spend on doing activity X is time taken away from being able to do Y. It’s always like that. More than money, time is the one resource that runs out no matter what. We all get the same amount of it each day and none of us gets to save any of the minutes up. So we get it, and we use it. One way or another.

I feel like a lot of my choices would be better served if I kept asking myself, what am i exchanging for this? For this hour of TV I watch, for the trip I am taking, for learning lettering, for listening to a book. Even for the activities I like doing, they still mean that I can’t do something else. My self-induced todo list can sometimes get in the way, too. And it’s important to always ask what I am exchanging.

We often think about “what am I getting?” but not as often about “What am I giving up?”

In coaching, one of the exercises I do with my clients is “what are you saying no to?” So when you say Yes to watching TV, what are you saying No to? (like getting more sleep, reading a book, talking with hubby, etc.) When we’re clearer about what we’re exchanging, we can make better informed choices.

Change of Self

Today’s quote is:

“Very often a change of self is needed more than a change of scene.” ~Arthur Christopher Benson

I remember as a little girl, I kept thinking how I would come over to America and get a fresh start. I wouldn’t be the weird girl anymore, I would fit in. I would belong. As if all the things that made me weird would magically disappear.

Alas, not so.

I took a class a few years ago and one of the quotes they say there is: Who’s always around when you’re complaining?

Let me give you a hint: you.

So I’ve learned that you can’t run away from who you are. Who you are is who you are and it follows you around wherever you go. Hence if you want something to go differently, what you want is a change of self.

(there are exceptions of course.)

I think of this often when I am unhappy with how things are and daydream that if only I had so and so, life would be so much better. If only I lived in this place or had that job or had this body, blah blah.

A shift in perspective, a change of self, can go such a long way in these situations.

I do this with my clients often. What’s the perspective you’re holding and are other ones possible.

And, like most things we tell others, I need to hear it myself often, too.

What Lies Within

Today’s quote is:

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I like that this is not as much about the present moment as it is about being you. I like the idea of thinking about what lies within me. And also what lies within the people I love. It makes me curious about what lies within each of us. I wish we talked about that more.

When we’re kids this question comes up all the time. What do you want to be? What do you like to do? What makes you happy? But as we get older, it’s as if these questions are no longer relevant.

Maybe we just assume that the career/path we picked must be the one we wanted. Or maybe others assume that. Either way, I don’t see this question come up in conversations. I can’t remember the last time anyone asked me any of these. Nor can I remember asking an adult myself.

So maybe this is a good time as any. I’ll start and maybe you can share, too.

  • I don’t know what I want to be anymore. I am a bit confused and lost.
  • I feel inspired by art more than anything else at the moment but I am not sure I have any deep desire to be an artist for a living. However I know I don’t want to stop doing art or learning art.
  • I also love learning in general. I’ve been on duolingo a lot with David for Spanish and also practicing my Italian. I love it and feel excited when I do it.
  • I love reading and listening to books. They make me happy.
  • Teaching my kids, explaining something i know, seeing someone else “get it” makes me happy.
  • Nature makes me happy. 
  • Volunteering makes me happy
  • What lies within me is a deep desire to make people’s lives better, to be of use, and to fully come into my own.

And there we go. This is my short list as of this moment. I wish we regularly asked people around us:

What lies within you?

The Way Out

And today’s quote:

The best way out is always through. -Robert Frost

Robert Frost has always been one of my favorite poets. I’ve written his Nothing Gold Can Stay on many diaries in my childhood. When I saw this it spoke to me and I started thinking about where I am in my life, how I feel, what I would like “out” of and what “through” might mean for those situations.

I am not sure I know the answer.

I think the point of this quote is that there are no shortcuts, no work arounds. You have to do the hard work it takes to move out of a situation that’s not working. And when you do, that’s when the reward comes. None of us come out the same on the other side. We’ve grown, learned, conquered and made it through.

I don’t even think through has to mean hard. It just means we didn’t take a shortcut. Or that’s what I am making it mean. (what do you think?)

And looking at my situation(s) with that lens, I am trying to put together what through would mean. How do I find my way out? What would out even look like?

I don’t know the answers but sometimes the first step starts with more questions.