Tag Archives | passion

Things I Learned From Nikki McClure

A gallery walk with Nikki McClure: Art As Life :: Nurturedmama.net

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A couple of weeks ago I attended a gallery walk at our tiny local museum with Nikki McClure. I’ve been an admirer of her paper-cut work for years and have a small collection of books she illustrated. My midwife’s office was decorated with several of McClure’s prints and I studied them at every appointment. I love how her work illustrates every-day scenes – mending, nursing a baby, picking berries, toes dangling in a stream. I love how her simple lines and use of limited color can tell such an emotional story.

Her work is recognizable – I see an image in the pages of a magazine, hanging on a wall, or on the cover of a book, and I know it is her. As an artist I have set her on a pedestal labeled “successful.” In other words, not like me. I’m a dabbler artist, not a successful one. My paintings are not in books with hard covers. I’ve never had a museum ask to show my work.

But I didn’t really know much about her. What I learned by visiting the exhibit and listening to her talk is that she is actually more like me than not. She is close to my age, shares a lot of my values, and is also a mother. I don’t know why this surprised me, because I know a lot of artists, but she just seemed so, well, normal. She seemed like someone I might run into at a backyard gathering in my own town, or at a music festival, where her boy might be playing with my daughter along the side of the blanket and lawn chair seating during intermission. She seemed like someone I’d find myself swapping recipes and fermentation tips with.

It was great to hear her talk about her creative path – where she began, where she has wandered, and where she is now. To hear about her motivations, struggles, and practice. But mostly I found myself inspired because she was so down to earth.

A gallery walk with Nikki McClure: Art As Life :: Nurturedmama.net

A quote from the wall of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History exhibit.

She talked about how she makes art because she has to. Not to sell, but because cutting paper is her way of communicating, one of the ways she processes her experiences. She talked about how she believes in connectedness – how we each are connected to the world around us and how our actions make an impact on that world and on each other. But in how she represents that in her art, she works with what’s only within 30 feet of her. And in that distance there is so much.

She talked about addressing fear, having courage in creation. She said, “I always do the thing I’m most scared of first.” She was talking about cutting paper, but that sentence could be a life-wide motto.

She talked about passion, and living a life you believe in. She said, “Your passion should be lived, and you should never wait to live that.” She talked about mending clothes, making music with her friends, listening to her son’s stories, gathering berries and making jam.

When someone asked her what kind of paper she uses, what kind of blade? How does she make the thing, exactly? she said “It isn’t the blade and the paper. It is making the thing you really want to make.”

Maybe I’ve been thinking about my art all wrong. Maybe it isn’t what I put on paper so I can hang it on the wall, but the whole life I live around the paper and the wall. I love that life. The beauty of it makes me ache sometimes. So maybe I’m a successful artist after all.

A gallery walk with Nikki McClure: Art As Life :: Nurturedmama.net

This poster was hanging on the wall outside the gallery. Sister Mary Corita was an artist and art teacher and McClure is an admirer of her work. These rules, which Sister Mary wrote for her art department, seem like wonderful rules for art and for life both.

What experiences have you had that made you re-think how you defined yourself or your life?

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How To Begin: 5 Steps To Get Your Project Moving


Photo by Fran Ulloa via Creative Commons

It can be so hard to figure out how to begin when you have a big project that you want to accomplish.

There is that old advice, “Begin at the beginning,” but what if you don’t know where the beginning is?  What if the project seems so big and overwhelming that it seems impossible? No project is impossible, really, though sometimes the end result looks a little different than you thought.

Here are five tips to get from your vision to reality (and finding the path in between).

First, know your goal

Here is what I do.  I start by looking at the future. What is my goal in approaching this project? Say I want to start a blog. What is my goal?  Do I want to earn a tidy income? Do I want to build a community of like minds? Do I want to build a platform that will help me to launch other projects, like a book? Do I just want a place to write about what’s on my mind?

For this blog, my primary goal is to build a community. Which is not to say some of those other goals aren’t also true, but that’s my primary goal right now. Knowing my goal narrows down what I need to do and to know to get there.

Once your goal is clear to you, write it down. Be specific as possible. This may seem redundant, because, hey, you know what your goal is, right? But trust me, it is so easy to drift off of that target when you get into researching and other cool ideas pop into your head. So write it down.

There is great power in making this kind of clear statement. If you are a visual person, make a vision board that illustrates your goal and hang it somewhere where you will see it often. You don’t need to state your goal publicly, but put it somewhere where you can find it, because you will need to refer to it again and again.

Commit yourself

Next, commit some time. You know best what will work with your life, but don’t expect that this will be easy. Can you get up an hour earlier in the morning? Can you book yourself for an hour or two on a weekend day?  Can you commit one evening a week to working toward your goal? Find some space [link] and mark it on your calendar.  Make an appointment with yourself and do not schedule over it!

You cannot make progress toward a goal if you don’t put time toward it.  It is one thing to say you want something, but another thing to actually get there.

Make a List

Third, make a list of what you need to do to get from where to are to your goal.  To launch my blog, my list included things like “buy a domain” and “make a list of article ideas.” Refer back to your goal statement often.  When I was working on this blog I got sidetracked for quite a while researching how to monetize a blog. But then I reminded myself that my primary goal was to build a community. I didn’t need to know all about making an income right now, so I could move on.

If your individual steps feel too big, or if you when you look at your list you say, “I don’t  know how to do that,” then make the tasks smaller. Before I could buy the domain for this blog I had to decide on a name, research if it was in use, and decide which host I wanted to use. There were three more steps that I had to take before I could remove “buy a domain” from my list.

Don’t get discouraged if your list gets longer and longer at this stage! Breaking down your list into achievable steps means you will complete them instead of feeling overwhelmed by them. For every step you finish you will be that much closer to your goal.

Get some support

Fourth, and possibly most important, enlist a cheering squad. Find someone, or several people, who will hold you accountable to your goal and cheer you on when you falter.

Be a little careful about who you pick, though. For some people your cheering squad may include a husband or parent or sibling, and for others it will definitely not include those people. Your cheering squad should be people who will be gentle with you, who will encourage you to stretch your boundaries, and who will not undermine or belittle you for struggling or feeling scared.

It is scary to take on new things, especially when they are close to your heart! Pick people to cheer you on who will be overjoyed for you when you achieve your goals.


Finally, finally, this is where you begin.

Show up to your scheduled time.  Pick and item off your list and complete it.  Pick another item and complete that. I love to keep the finished tasks where I can see them, either just crossing items off as I go or making a separate “Achievements” list (sometimes known as a “ta-dah!” list). Leave yourself a trail to see how far you have come for those days when it feels like you have been working on this for so long and the goal still feels so far off.

So you have begun. Congratulations! Keeping yourself going through the middle of a long project is a whole other post that I will be sharing with you soon. But you have done the most important part. You have taken the first step.

What project you are working on?  Do you know what your goal is?  Share it with me in a comment or send me an email!

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