Note to Self : Listen to Sports Radio More Often

Recently I was driving my husband's truck around town

(truth: we missed trash day after Christmas and had to take care of that). Per normal, sports radio was playing and, because I like to have an occasional informed conversation about sports, kept listening.

 After a former NFL pace kicker, Shayne Graham, started chatting with a local radio host, I almost turned it. "This is not helping increase my sports knowledge," was the thought that flitted across my mind before traffic distracted me and the channel stayed where it was. 

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 As it turns out

what this guy shared was lots better than random sports knowledge. Somehow he started talking about the mental game and the pressure that is tied up in the position of the person responsible for kicking the extra point. The phrase, "The pain of missing is ten times more intense the high of making it 100 times in a row," made me stop and pay attention. "Wait," I thought, "I'm not the only one that puts much more weight on negative occurrences?"

He went on to say that when it's time to actually go out and make that high stress kick, he had music going through his head. He explained that pre-game was the time for analyzing the wind speed and direction, the location of his target points and knowing the quirks of whatever stadium he happened to be playing. But when it's time to actually put that information to the test, he can't overthink it, which is the reason for the music.  

Just a disclaimer, I am the least sporty person I know.

I will occasionally do yoga, kayak, and snow ski but even these are outdoor activities, definitely not major sports with teams and rules and, most importantly, competition. Certain sorts of competition make me crumble. I really dislike that pressure. 

Which makes it even more interesting that, after hearing how this Pro Bowl level football kicker talk about his process, I totally related to what he said. Over-think, over-analyze, research research research: and then totally just let go and let your body, muscles, and spirit do what it knows what and how to do. 

But the bigger story for me was this:

There is always something to learn.

I give curiosity and learning lots of lip service but then discount things that don't quite hit my "standards" (sports radio). Here's to ignoring those standards and staying curious.

Ps. I wanted to link to the audio of the original interview but can't find the file. I will update it something changes.  

Note to Self : Why the Fact That My Hair is Pink Matters

As we were signing off from a text message

that was quickly reaching past 11pm, a friend said, "Rest easy. Maybe the pink hair gives you a bump in the artistic direction." 

The "rest easy" part came because I had shared with her the fact that I wasn't able to sleep past 4 am earlier that day because the day before I had dyed my hair pastel pink. 

The "bump in the artistic direction" came because she had been praising the work I have been doing through my daily kitchen illustration project  {#myillustratedkitchen on Instagram}. 

And her text made me smile because she is one of those people who we all need in our lives: they can be forthright, they can be funny, but most often they just encourage you and make you smile.  

But as I thought about it, I realized that it wasn't my pink hair giving me some special artistic magic.

It was the opposite.

It is the fact that I grew up wanting to be an artist but never having the courage or self-confidence to even admit that outloud. It is the fact that I have always been worried about how people perceive me and what people think. It is the fact that growing up in a small town, I tried my hardest to fit into the "nice (if slightly nerdy) girl" box: long blonde hair, blue eyes, doesn't say a lot but smiles plenty, and doesn't mind it when someone looks over her shoulder on the civics test.

It's only been since I've been intentionally pursuing art

over the past year that the desire to stay in that box has dissipated. And I'm still nice. And I still smile a lot. But the desire to look and (and more importantly) act a certain way that is expected is less of a steering force in my life. 

{Notice I said, "less". I would not have gotten up at 4am if I didn't care about certain people's reaction. }

Part of my experience with not just making art but actively seeking out opportunities to show it or sale it or have it published has made me more courageous. And that's the things about living in the "nice girl" box- it's safe. No one is going to attack you for being the nice girl.

But people might attack you

if they see you doing something that they don't think is appropriate. Friends, family, or random internet or coffee shop strangers may see what you're doing, immediately dismiss your work and say, "she just paints flowers." Those same people may condone you for painting instead of going to the library with your son. Or they may make light of accomplishments that you poured your heart and soul into. Or they may totally ignore it.

And the chance of all these things happening is scary... until they happen. You realize that instead of immediately dying of a broken heart you have a cut. Sometimes it's minor emergency that requires the attention of other people, but more often than not it's an annoying (ie. painful but harmless) papercut.  

Claiming my title

as an artist has helped me realize how tough I can be and every time I revive a cut I step a bit farther from that box. Because people can't make a difference while trapped in a box. And that's part of why we're here, right? 

I got pink hair because I've wanted to have bubblegum pink hair for a while but I've always been too afraid. Growing less afraid, stepping away from the box, allowing my courage to give me the artistic bump I need: those are the reasons I should rest easy. 

Business of Art - Style and Substance

Before last year I had always looked to memories of my grandparent's beloved National Geography magazines with their hyper-realistic images as proof of the fact that, "I can't draw." This was even though I saw and acknowledged and appreciated and maybe even loved other's work that was anything but photorealistic.

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Which is why a nugget from my Intro to Studio Art class was so valuable. This was not a class about art technique. It's point was not to teach a student "how to draw/ paint/ sculpt" but to simply allow the student opportunities to draw and paint and sculpt. 

I went into the class wanting to "learn how" so I was frustrated that I was in the "Art for Dummies" class. Yep. That's what I called it in my head. Because I say really rude things in my head. All the time. 

Anyway, I stayed in this particular class at the urging of my friend MJ... and because the other class didn't work with my babysitter's availability. 

It was during one of the first classes that the instructor answered a question that I hadn't heard. It was one of those situations that you tune in only because of realize that the answer applies to you. Looking back, I assume the other student asked, "I want to do x but I don't know if that will work. What do you think? Will it work?"

The instructor, who requested that we address him as "Teacher" began by telling the student that he didn't possess the answer to that question. He explained that it was the decision of the artist.  

He went on to explain that as long as everything is similar and cohesive and intentional then that is the artist's "style" and as such the artist can do whatever it is that she deems appropriate. 

And it seems simple. The same judgey voice that called the class "Art for Dummies" answered Teacher's reply with a very sharp, "Thanks. For nothing. Not a helpful answer. " 

But me, the quiet real me who was sitting in the class with one earbud in listening to Sylvan Esso, she started nodding her at and saying, "Of course."

It was the thing the gave me permission to say, "I don't draw photo realistic images. That's okay. That's not my style."

That day- I didn't immediately have a style. Today, as I write this post I'm still working on honing my style. But tomorrow and all the tomorrows after that, I will be able to look back on that day as the day I started to claim my title of artist. 

Note to Self : Love, My Word for 2017

The past few years

I've chosen a word to guide my year.

Focus. Growth. Fearless. Abundance. 
All attributes that I wanted to embrace in the year ahead. 

This year nothing was coming to me. 
And I wasn't looking forward to 2017. The divisiveness and anger and lack of community of this past year has bruised my heart a bit and has left my inner introvert wanting to take my family and close friends and hide away a bit.

Effective? Probably not.

That's why, when I saw this limited edition print of Lisa Congdon, I immediately knew I had to have it.

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You see, my family plays a lot of cards.

A game {or 12} of Spades has been the way we've passed many many hours of hot sticky humid evenings in East Texas or crisp cold afternoons after a winter holiday in Southern Arkansas.
Playing cards is a place for bantering smack talk, friendly strategy, and a chance to listen to your dad's stories... again. It's a place to learn from people who have been doing life for a lot longer than you and a way show your uncle that you know what you're doing. It is, at the end of the day, a game with no lasting consequences other than drawing you closer to people.

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The point of a card game is love. 

So that's what I'm doing in 2017: Focusing on love.

Learning and doing and playing and reading with my son. Spending purposeful time with my husband. Having conversations with people I don't agree with. Making a point to hang out with my friends who I do agree with. Giving myself the space and time and grace I would give to others, thereby loving myself.

The point of this life game is love.

Side note: I took away my model's pacifier. He checked out the awesome art he was being asked to hold and then he decided to run away.

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ps. Another way I'm showing love this year? Buying art from some of my favorite artists. I will be showing it here as it makes it way to my home in the Ozarks. 

Business of Art : Why I Blog

Over on my LinkedIn profile, I describe myself as a storyteller. 

I blame it on my dad.
He's the person I remember every holiday, every church get-together, every family reunion sitting around a table drinking a glass of sweet tea and telling his stories.

Stories about he and his three younger brothers moved from East Texas to Portland and the scary old man who lived across the street who they charmed with their southern accents. Stories about how he played high school football defense {on the practice team} against Earl Campbell (who would go on to win the Heisman Trophy in 1977). Stories about how when he first met my maternal grandfather, the older man was sitting on the front porch cleaning his gun. Stories about how, in the absence of my mom and grandmother, he and my grandfather took me to vaccinate cows when I was a toddler and the ridiculous amount of cow manure that ended up all over my tiny blonde toddler body.

As I grew up, I began "starring in" stories that I remembered living through.
Very slowly, I realized that these weren't epic tales of grand adventure. Instead they were everyday happenings that had some sort of sweet or silly ending. He would take an event that happened over two weeks and condense it down to its essence in a 20 minute dialogue that would keep the listeners listening... even if they, like my mother and soon, my brother and I, had heard the story multiple times before.

It's through his stories that I know my dad.

And that's why I blog: to share my stories. Because I think knowing people's' stories is the first step to knowing and through knowing someone. 

about

Paige Meredith Ray is a storyteller who grew up on a small cattle farm in southern Arkansas, 30 miles away from the Texas state line. She enjoys the occasional glass of sweet tea, but none of that syrup stuff that could mascarade as cough medicine.