Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Heart behind the Art

The long-awaited Girls’ Weekend had arrived. 
Our alibi: scrapbooking. 
Our motivation: to get the photos of at least one more life event out of the shoe box into an album.
Our venue: a Cape Cod resort, off-season, on a marshy inlet
As we unloaded the cars, it became noteworthy that totes of scrapbooking supplies and grocery bags of snacks far outnumbered suitcases of clothes. 
Meal schedule: 
Breakfast: 7am to 10am
Dinner: check the crock pots
Coffee, tea, cocoa, snacks: 24/7
Dress code: 
Comfy Casual, so PJs  until one absolutely had to go out to Starbucks’. 
NONE, so some hardy souls stayed up until 1am. 
Household responsibilities: 
Distant, so some tired souls went to bed early to "rise and shine" just before the breakfast buffet closed. 
        (((AAAh, sleep, glorious sleep!)))
Serenaded by everyone from Neil Diamond to Rod Stewart to Country Western Christmas carolers, we each spread out on our assigned 8’ craft table and got to work. Besides the necessary cutting, taping, and journaling, there was the bonus  of remembering, recounting, and reliving the events preserved in the photos. More laughter than tears, but a nice balance. 

The weekend flew by and if awards were to be given, my roommate’s album of her daughter’s wedding would have gotten Prettiest Album for Color Palette and Page Lay-out. Mine would have gotten Album Most Likely to Resemble TVGuide.

From the scrapbooking venue, I drove up the coast to the oil painting venue. Mary and I were classmates in junior high and high school. She is now painting, teaching, and exhibiting in East Coast art galleries. Her plein air landscapes are in collections around the globe, and on display in such local establishments as the Maine Statehouse. She’s good at what she does, works hard to get better at it, and is excited to share her knowledge with students and audiences alike.

Yes, I had quite the artistic weekend, but here’s what moved me the most, both with my 35 fellow-scrapbookers, and with my friend of 50-some years: the generosity of the artists
Yes, I am clumping heritage-preserving scrapbookers together with a professional oil painter, because their common attribute has less to do with their finished products than with their hearts. Their common attribute of giving what they’ve learned or acquired over the years surpasses what they do, and last weekend, everyone had something unique to contribute. The scrappers, of course, shared stickers, cutting tools, and design ideas, but in the sharing of supplies, there was sharing of other gifts: compassion, joy, and nurture. One “grandma” made a pot of soup for our lunch. A “big sister” girlfriend brought clothes for a “little sister” girlfriend who was there, but the shoes weren’t her size so she gifted the hotel staffer who cleaned her room. Older moms counseled younger moms, and sometimes just listened and hugged. Our hostess asked me to bring one of my characters to the weekend, to recognize the ladies and salute all their contributions “that no one seems to notice”. Yes, there were tears, but unexpected sincere thanks and mutual encouragement can be emotionally disarming.

In Mary’s studio, I was surrounded by beautiful artwork, landscapes of the Maine coast where she paints almost daily. By “where she paints” I mean where she goes to paint... year-round... even in the winter... deliberately bundling up in wool sweaters, boots, fingerless gloves, and a wind-breaker, to set up her easel on the rocks across from Nubble Light or on the shore of a coastal marsh, to capture Nature at its wildest. As a plein air painter, she packs her supplies and her lunch to be able to endure all day until dark.

The walls of her studio are as inspiring as her discipline to hone her craft, but these were not Mary’s greatest gift to me. Her greatest gift was a lesson in art-marketing. Although it cannot be considered aesthetic, this complementary knowledge has allowed her to gracefully pass through the forbidden Neutral Zone of technology to the foreign territory of computers, social media, and the people who “speak them”, making them her friends. As she told the student at the easel next to hers on the beach, “There are no tricks, just techniques.” Mary keeps no secrets from her students, and she keeps no helpful hints from fellow-artists, no matter the medium. She encouraged me with her understanding of techniques to promote my art. 

What a weekend!

One of my favorite Bible personalities is Barnabbas. His name means “Son of Encouragement”. I wonder what his sister's name was, because I spent all of last weekend with a bevy of Daughters of Encouragement. I am thankful for their generous giving of knowledge and sharing of talent. My life is enriched by them and I am excited to receive from them. 

I can’t clearly figure how the adage “It’s better to give than to receive” fits in to all this, and I’m sure that makes me sound really selfish. Oh, well, Give, Receive, Bless, and Be Blessed! and be thankful! Life's easier that way!

Visit my scrapbooking consultant Nancy LaFlamme at
and Plein Air painter Mary Byrom at

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