Monthly Projects – May – Painting Faces

As promised, here’s my month of painting faces which is what I chose to do for the month of May for my monthly art projects. I signed up for Judy’s painting faces class the minute I read about it.

I love Judy and knew I would love the class.

Despite the really unwise move of putting the wrong date on my calendar, I finished the whole class anyway. I started it one month late, when it was already finished. I just got into the class and did each assignment on a day in May.

I ended up with a range of faces, some I liked, some I really didn’t. But I got a lot of practice, which is what this is all about.

Here are the twenty faces I made:

Another thing I learned in May was that twenty is the perfect number for these projects. Like I mentioned yesterday. I learned the magic of twenty from this project.

I need like a million more hours practicing my faces but, for now, I am grateful for this month.

The Dare

believe in impossible things. dream big dreams. live the dare.

By the time I did this piece, I had run out of quotes. So I ended up taking some of my sheets from The Walk and pasted them on my page. I love how the wording turned out. I think it was a reminder to the deep parts of myself.

I could use a lot more of these.

I want to believe in impossible things. I want to be brave. Maybe the line between stupid and brave is thin but I still want to dance on it. I’ve always been conservative. Safe. I do the right thing. I make the wise choices.

Not that I didn’t make mistakes but in the grand scheme, I’ve consistently played it safe. It’s what I do.

But when I read “live the dare” it lights up my soul. I want to live the dare. I want to dream big dreams. The big dreams of my childhood are all met (and I am really grateful for that, of course.) and the only down side of that is that it’s time for new dreams.

New big dreams.

I think that’s fuel for the soul. At least for my soul.

So what are your big dreams? are you living the dare?

that little extra

This quote says:

The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.

This one made me think a lot, too. I don’t really know if I agree with it. Is it really just “little” extra or is it a lot. Maybe it’s better to say a little extra every day. Because I think it takes a lot of work to be extraordinary.

I am a firm believer that we can all be extraordinary in pretty much anything we want to be (okay, yes there are some exceptions but fewer than people make it out to be.) and that the trick is consistent and persistent effort. And not just blind effort but concerted effort. Effort that involves critical thinking, growth, and forward progress.

When people tell me that they don’t have the brain for languages, I have to stop myself from calling them out. The fact is, languages might come a bit more easily to me now that I know many of them but, in the beginning, they were just as hard for me. I studied. A LOT. to get to where I am. When I learned English, I read incessantly in English. When I was in Japan, I spent hours every single day practicing. Just to get mediocre at it.

It wasn’t luck or genes. It was hard work.

And yes maybe some things come easier to some of us on a fundamental level. But it still doesn’t mean you can’t get extraordinary at math, it just means you might have to work harder than the other person. Which is something you choose or don’t choose.

But saying it’s not in my genes takes the choice away from you. It puts you back into the victim mentality and I dislike that. It also feels like a cop out. Like “too bad for me, i guess i am just not wired that way.” when it really is more like “aren’t I lucky, I have this excuse so I don’t actually have to put in the time and effort. I can just say I am not wired that way.”


If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine by me. I think there’s freedom in owning that. Just don’t confuse it with “can’t.” IT’s not that you can’t, it’s that you don’t want to do what it takes.

Which is fine. And takes me back to the quote. It’s not a “little” extra in my opinion. Extraordinary requires passionate amount of extra. Consistent. Disciplined. Obsessive. Truly, deeply, joyfully doing something enough to get really good at it.

Maybe if you’re passionate enough it feels like it’s only a little extra?

What is Within

This quote says:

What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us and when you bring what is within out into the world, miracles happen.

I like the idea of this quote. I like what it says. But when I really think about it, I am not sure I understand it. Is it just saying “be you”? Is it saying when you fully own who you are and step into it, miracles happen?

I am not sure 🙂

Alas, the quote really speaks to me anyway. I like the idea of bringing what’s within me out into the world.

This year’s been an interesting one for me so far. I find myself going up and down a lot and there are chunks of my life where I want to be doing more, better, different. I want to feel less overwhelmed and less purposeless all at once. I know that sounds weird that I can be both but I feel like I am.

I find I am much more productive and happy when I am stretched thinner. Partly cause I have a purpose. I like having things to do. It’s easy for me to spend my days alone, relatively unproductively (or even if somewhat productively, maybe not growing in all the ways I would like to grow). And I want to be bolder, stretch in ways I haven’t before so I can see what I am capable of. So I can see what I do and don’t like. So I can be willing to show up.

I’ve been doing a lot of things in the last few years but I don’t think I’ve been showing up a lot. Maybe a little more than bare minimum. Sometimes a little less.

And I want that to change.

Most importantly, I want to stop aching about things. I noticed that many times a day, I find myself aching for different things. To draw better, to be healthier (and thinner), to teach my kids more or whatever. These thoughts come and they overwhelm me. They make me sad and then they leave and I am left with the sad aftertaste.

I don’t want to ache anymore. I want to do or let go. Either is ok. If I find myself aching to draw better, then I need to pick a project where I draw more and regularly. If I want to sit with my kids, I need to just do it. Not much more to it than that.

And If I don’t want to do what it takes (because most of these are indeed hard work) then I need to let go of the ache. To remember that it’s my choice to not do it (and it’s a perfectly fine choice) and to genuinely let myself off the hook.

So that’s my plan for the next week. Pay attention each time I wish for things to be different. Then either make a change or let go of the wish. No more burdening myself with it.

Sounds easy but we’ll see if it’s so.

Your Unique Journey

This is one of my favorites of the faces I painted so far. It’s based off of a Leonardo painting I believe. It’s using gold paint on the hair and shirt. It’s not perfect of course but I like it especially because profiles are so incredibly hard for me.

Today’s quote reads:

Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.

I had a long, wonderful talk with my mom today. It was her birthday and yet she spent it talking to me, worrying about me, and helping me. (I hope that when my kids are grown up I can be nearly as caring and loving a mom as she is.) And we were talking exactly about this topic.

I often have the story that my thoughts, way of life, and choices are too different from everyone around me. I feel off. Odd. Outside. Broken. Like I just can’t do anything right and like my journey is the wrong one to be on and the one that disappoints all the people around me.

My wise and loving mom reminded me that we each have our own journey and the most important person to be at peace with is our very own selves. And that I don’t owe anyone anything. As long as I am happy with my choices, they are mine and I get to live them and no one else gets to tell me that’s not okay.


If only it were so easy to remember. Or to live by. This is tough for me. Somewhere along the line, I must have decided that I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I want to be kind, loving, generous to everyone. I want everyone to get what they want/need. Even when everyone’s interests are conflicting with each other. And with mine.

Which is, clearly, unwise. And unattainable. Impossible.

But alas, I strive for it.

And drive myself insane in the process. At first I get frustrated, then mad, and then deeply, deeply sad. Then, at some point, I don’t even try anymore. I do nothing. But I still continue to feel bad about it. Which is basically just asking for punishment.

It’s not surprising that I end up sad, depressed, and feel like giving up.

I am almost forty and this is a pattern I’d like to stop.

After our talk today, I thought long and hard about my mom’s words. And about how much all this is costing me. My life. My days. My moments with the people I love and adore.

And I am just done with it. Done with caring about what I don’t actually care about. Done trying to worry about the people who don’t matter. I will do what I can and the rest can deal. To make it even more specific, here’s my plan:

I will put photos of the people I care about in my notebook. When something gets me upset, I will look at the photos. Is the person who upset me in there? No? Then I let it go. Who cares about these other people. They are not on my list.

If the person is in there, I will let the hurt go and reach out to them to clear the air. These are people I love and people who I know will respect my journey even if they don’t understand it. These are my people.

And if they don’t, well that’s okay, too.

Because, in the end, it’s my journey. And only I need to understand it.

Like everything else, it comes back to you. Who you are. What you believe. What your values are. Again and again, life is about honoring that. Stepping fully into who you are and being truly at peace with that. Because you are meant to be here exactly the way you are.

And so am I.

And no one gets to take that away from me. Not even I.

(Thank you for being you Mom, you always, always, always have my back. I am so deeply grateful for you. And I love you. Happy Birthday!!)

Shots We Don’t Take

This face was supposed to be my version of a Boticelli lady. I love Boticelli so much and wanted to give it a try. It’s not perfect in any way but I love it anyway. I love that I tried.

Here’s the quote from today:

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

This is one of those “so obvious and yet we forget so often” quotes. Clearly if you’re not taking a shot, you’re not going to make it. But we’re often so afraid of failing, we don’t even try. And I’m not even talking about the really big stuff. I can see how moving to a new place, starting (or ending) a relationship, changing jobs, etc can be really scary.

But we often don’t even take chances in the small stuff: our hobbies, our wardrobe, our hair.

We don’t take the shot. We don’t want to disappoint, fail, look ridiculous. We don’t have to patience to see it through. We don’t want to work at it. We don’t have the time. We are worried about not meeting expectations. We don’t always even know what we expect.

So we take the easy route: we don’t even try.

But, then we miss out on the joy too.

The joy of accomplishing hard work. The joy of finding a new style that really speaks to us. The joy of becoming a little bit more authentically ourselves.

So maybe we start small and take some of those little shots.

Even if we miss 95% of the time, that’s better than 100%, isn’t it?

What you Allow Inside

This face was made with neocolor watersoluble crayons and gesso for the most part. It’s not one of my favorites but I made a whole range of them this month and this one is there. I like the quote on it which is why I wanted to make sure to post it.

No one can depress you. No one can make you anxious. No one can hurt your feelings. No one can make you anything other than what you allow inside.

This is one that has me thinking often. Even this morning. I had to make a decision at work and one of the engineers didn’t like my decision. It wasn’t an easy one, I thought a lot about it and then had to make a call. A big part of my job is making these calls. They are never easy and I often have to weigh all sides, think things through, and then make a decision between two bad choices. It’s not something I love but it’s something I have to do. Anyhow, I made a decision and he didn’t like it and then he made some snide comment.

And it hurt my feelings.

I was so upset that I had tears in my eyes. (Reason #23463 I am grateful that I work from home.) And then I thought of this quote. He can’t make me upset. He can’t hurt my feelings. He can just make some crappy comments. And I get to choose what they mean. I get to decide their impact on me. I get to choose how I feel.

I get to choose.

I forget this often. I think it’s easy to fall into the victim mentality and act like things are happening to you. What I like about this quote is that it’s a reminder that you are in control.

Let me rephrase: You are never in control of what others do but you are always in control of how you feel about it. Every. single. time.

You get to choose how to feel. What to feel.

And once you claim that choice, you are now in a position of power. You are no longer a victim. You remember that you own your life. Every single part of it, including all of your feelings.

You own everything that you allow inside.

The Entire Ocean

This is one of my favorites from all the faces I made in May so far. I can’t really describe what I like about it. Maybe just that it turned out the way I hoped it would.

The quote says:

You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean.

When I first read this quote, I was struck by it. Reading it now, I am still struck by it.

I can’t put my finger on exactly what strikes me about the quote. Maybe the magnanimity of it. How enormous the idea of being the entire ocean sounds to me. As I imagined it more, it made me think about holograms. I remember, years ago, I learned in a human brain class how a hologram works differently than a picture.

If you were to print a photo on glass and then break it, each glass piece would have a part of the photo. If it’s a face, for example, a broken piece might have an eye on it or an ear, etc. But a hologram doesn’t work that way. If you break a hologram printed on glass, each broken piece has the whole hologram on it, just faded. So you’d see the whole face on each piece.

That’s how I thought about this quote. How we’re all the entire ocean. The ocean is made up of all of us. Each of us is a whole piece of it. Like a piece of a hologram. We’re not a part of the whole, we’re each the whole. All of the whole.

Something about that idea makes me feel whole, held, belonging.

It also makes me feel bigger, wider, all encompassing.

I like the idea of all of us carrying the whole inside of us. Not just a piece but the whole thing.

Isn’t that a lovely thought?

Any Other Outcome

today’s face is made on a brown paperbag. I took it from the bagel cafe we go to in the weekends. I then scrunched it up, and then wetted it and scrunched it up once more. Then I flattened it out and let it dry overnight. And then painted on it. It was fun and I like the outcome.

Today’s quote is:

If you want something in your life you’ve never had, you’ll have to do something you’ve never done.

In some ways, this one seems so obvious, doesn’t it? If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get the outcome you’ve always gotten. But even though it sounds relatively obvious when we read it, we still do this all the time. I find that I have lots of areas in my life where I complain about how things go. I find myself frustrated with the end results.

But, I rarely do anything different.

Most of the time, I am just frustrated but I don’t really take action. Even if I don’t know how to fix the outcome, what this quote reminds me is that I need to change something. Anything. The only way to ensure my output is different is to change my input. In any way at all.

So here’s my plan: next time I find myself complaining about the outcome of something, I will see if I can change what I do. Anything that can possibly give me a different outcome. Even if it doesn’t end up being the ideal outcome, I think trying new things will show me what’s possible.

At least, I am willing to try.

Decorate Your Soul

today’s quote is:

So plant your own gardens and decorate your soul instead of waiting for someone to being you flowers.

This one had me thinking for a while, too. Maybe this is because of movies or books but I think we always wait for others to do the nice things for us. Part of growing up, for me, has been realizing that I can buy my own flowers. And chocolates. And presents. I don’t need someone to buy them for me.

And even more importantly, someone buying or not buying them for me doesn’t mean anything. I’ve had it both ways and I can’t say that the guy who bought them loved me more than the one who didn’t. Some people are into those little things and do them all the time and others do not. In fact, the guy who always bought me flowers was also considerably less nice to me overall than the one who didn’t.

Who made the rule that we have to be waiting?

Why do others get to decide when we get to have flowers?

Why does anyone else ever get to decide my worth? My soul’s joy?

Part of growing up is owning who you are. Stepping into that fully. Decorating your own soul. Planting your gardens. Buying whatever you desire without waiting for approval. Being not just okay with who you are but beaming in the unique beauty of fully being you.

That’s what I want for myself.

And for all of those around me.

So, I start the process of decorating my soul.

With All they have

Today’s quote is:

Just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to, doesn’t mean they don’t love you with everything they have.

As I grow older and older, I understand that this is one of the fundamental truths of life. It’s true for couples, siblings, parents or any other relationship you can think of. People love you the way they love you. They can love you will all of their hearts and souls and it might still not be what you want or need.

But it’s all they have.

We often don’t understand others’ perspective. Sometimes we don’t even understand ours. We don’t know what makes us do what we do and we certainly can’t understand what motivates others. But when it comes to judging people, that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re measuring them from our perspective.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this.

I’ve been realizing how much the people in my life love me. And even if they don’t always love me the way i want to be loved, I know in my heart that they love me with all they have.

And how can I possibly ask for more?

Known Suffering

Today’s quote is:

People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out if fear of unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.

This piece was my favorite of the ones I did in my first week, mostly because the way I did it was so new to me. I first painted the background all black. And then drew my face and painted it on top. Which is why it’s dark looking. But I love it. I loved the process of seeing the face emerge from darkness.

I wish I could tell you my faces get all better after this but that isn’t so. As I predicted, I do a few I like and many I don’t. The process is long, tough and arduous. But we soldier on.

As for the quote, it’s another one of those that gave me serious pause. I will admit right here and right now that I do this. I do this all the time. In fact, I am doing this right now in various areas of my life. As I get older and have more responsibilities in my life, I’ve noticed that I get more and more scared of the unknown. I get much more risk-averse.

The suffering I know is much better than the potential suffering that might come from the unknown. Who knows how bad it might be? I never think “Oh it might turn out so much better.” I just spend most of my energy worrying about how very bad it might get.

And while a little risk-averseness isn’t necessarily bad, it can easily get debilitating. If I am always choosing the familiar suffering, I am still always choosing suffering over any other possible path.

And here’s something I learned a long time ago: taking risks is like a muscle. Unused, it can atrophy. To be good at taking risks, you need to practice that muscle. You need to be willing to try. The less you try, the more you breed fear. The less you’ll try and the circle will go on.

So here’s what I thought today when I read the quote: Maybe I can look at my life and see the small sufferings I’m choosing. Ones that I can risk playing with. Ones where even if the unknown ended up being terrible, it wouldn’t be disastrous. I can start taking small, non-harmful risks wherever I can. This way I can flex my muscle. I can practice and strengthen it. I can also show myself that sometimes the risks pay off. Sometimes the known suffering is much worse than the alternative.

And I will only know if I try.