Autumn in Blue

Now that I’m taking another run at pastels, I’ve decided to really take my time and try new things. Autumn in Blue is certainly something new for me. I took the same thumbnail sketch I used for the painting I shared in What A Difference A Day Makes and decided to paint the scene in blue. Doing this was something totally outside of my comfort zone and not something that I would have tried in the past, but I’m very glad I did. Painting this was a joy and I learned a lot doing it. I hope you enjoy it!

Autumn in Blue

Painted on indigo blue Canson Mi-Teintes Board with Rembrandt and Dick Blick soft pastels, and Faber-Castell Pitt pastel pencil. 5×7 inches.


What A Difference A Day Makes

Recently I’ve really been wanting to break out my pastels again. I had put them away after becoming quite frustrated with the results I was getting, but felt like now might be a good time to give them another try. I’m very glad I did.

Yesterday I painted a landscape inspired by a challenge in Marla Baggetta‘s pastel artists group. Here’s what I ended up with when I thought I was done.


This is 5×5 inches and done with Rembrandt pastels on Pastelmat. On the one hand I was rather pleased with the fact that I was able to use colors in my painting that were not in the photo. On the other hand I was a bit disappointed that I constantly had to fight to not put in lots of detail and try to recreate the photo. I propped this up on my dresser and have been studying it since. This morning I decided to take it back to the easel and try to salvage it. I’m very glad I did.

Here’s what I ended up with when I was really done.


One of the habits that I had gotten into while learning how to paint with pastels is blending everything within an inch of its life. The results were usually quite dull and muddy, even when I was doing exactly what the instructor was doing, using the exact same materials. In this piece I have done a very small amount of blending – more softening really – and have left most of the marks to add texture, interest, and meaning to the painting.

I’ve always told my husband that I never really know when one of my paintings is done. I’ll get it to a certain point, stare at it for a while (a day, a week, whatever it takes), and then go back and work on it if I need to. I’m very glad I did that with this study!

Marrying Art & Music

There are days when we all need to take some time for ourselves so that we can relax and recharge. Two things that have helped me relax over the years are music and art. When I head down to the basement to play with my paints I always make sure that I have my phone with me, not in case I get a call, but so that I have my music. What I listen to usually depends on my mood, which also usually dictates the direction my art will take for that day. For me, art and music are virtually inseparable, both being wonderful avenues for emotional release and working through old PTSD issues.

Marrying art and music can also be a very effective way of helping children get a better handle on their emotions. Well, not just children, but anyone who has emotional baggage that needs to be addressed or who needs to learn how to better deal with emotions. I’m reminded of Mister Rogers and how he would sometimes sit at his piano and show his audience how you can get your emotions out through playing music. He would demonstrate “sad” music, “angry” music, or “happy” music, all with the aim of helping children find their voice in a big and sometimes overwhelming world. If we listen to a piece of music that makes us feel, whether it’s a particular emotion or simply allowing ourselves to feel at all, and then let that feeling, along with the music, direct our hands as we create a piece of art it can be very healing.

One excellent example of this marrying of art and music is Notes Alive! Dr. Seuss’ My Many Colored Days. In this presentation the Minnesota Orchestra performs behind Holly Hunter’s narration of Dr. Seuss’ book. We were very fortunate to have this resource available through our local library when we were in the thick of homeschooling our son. If you have a little time to watch this, I highly recommend it.

Another thing that I like to do to help me relax is watch artists paint. I’m going to list a couple of my favorites from YouTube. Most have lovely music in the background, and to just sit and listen while watching a beautiful work of art come to life is quite enjoyable. Watercolor by ShibasakiPaint with DAVID

Remember, whether you are a parent, a child, a caregiver, or are recovering from emotional hurts, it’s important to take time to relax and take care of you. I hope these resources can help you add to your relaxation toolbox, or spark some ideas for other things you might enjoy that can help you relax!

Loosening Up


I’ve got a problem. Well, I’ve got lots of problems, but one in particular is that I’m terribly logical, and I find that when it comes to my art that logic gets in the way. Now don’t get me wrong. Logic is a good thing, but when you’re trying to loosen things up and get a little more impressionistic with your art it’s not such a good thing.

I’ve been practicing getting loose lately, but no matter how hard I try the logical part of me kicks in and I find myself wanting to fill in all the blanks and try to make things look perfect. Well, maybe it’s not so much my logic as my perfectionism that gets in the way. Either way, loosening up is a real challenge for me. I’m hoping that with more practice it will become easier for me. Either way I’m having fun!

This shoreline scene is about as close as I’ve come to loosening up. I’m really quite pleased with it. I grew up at the beach and love all things “beachy.” I used to go down to the shore early in the morning before anyone else was up and get some good peaceful time in – just me, the sand, and the waves. I have my new quiet places now, but the beach will always hold a special place in my heart.

Available on Etsy, here.

Still Life with Floppies

Still Life with Floppies 1

I was tossing around some ideas for new paintings and I thought of this retro still life. Let’s face it, sometimes you just have to let your inner geek come out and play! This is an 8 x 10 colored pencil drawing on 100 lb. colored pencil paper. Even the green bar paper is drawn! This was a real blast to draw. Hope you enjoy it!

Available at Etsy, here.

Creativity Therapy

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Let’s face it. Emotions can be overwhelming and scary for adults, let alone children. Sometimes when kids are faced with emotions that seem too big or too frightening for them they don’t know what to do. Sometimes these emotional encounters can manifest in out of control behavior, silence, or avoidance. Unfortunately adults sometimes have the very same responses to emotional unpleasantness. Why? Because we were never taught how to experience, trust, and deal with our emotions. Why? Because our parents weren’t taught those things either. But just because these poor emotional habits may have been passed down for generations that doesn’t mean it can’t stop, and as with anything worth doing, now seems like an excellent time for new healthy habits to begin.

As I said, emotions can be overwhelming and scary to acknowledge and deal with. Sometimes it’s difficult to put words to what we’re feeling or to allow ourselves to vent those emotions. For children, doing these things can be even more difficult, and if a child is young enough it may be practically impossible to verbalize what they are feeling. But there are other ways for our emotions to be expressed, avenues that can allow our emotions to be acknowledged and validated, which can then allow us to begin to move forward with our healing. One way or the other we are going to employ coping mechanisms. What we want to do is choose healthy coping mechanisms more often than unhealthy ones.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was very blessed to have a number of creative outlets available to me when I was growing up. Even though I was unaware that there was anything wrong at the time, looking back I can see that I was able to use those outlets to channel my emotional energy. Also, as someone with high functioning autism, those outlets also allowed me to hyper focus (aka obsess) on things that I loved and enjoyed doing. Two of those were sewing (by the time I was 13 I was making almost all of my own clothes) and playing cello. I would spend hours each day pouring myself into my interests. Some weekends I would spend the entire weekend sewing, and I loved every minute of it. I had no idea at the time how therapeutic these outlets were for me.

Today art and writing are my main focus, and for me they both allow me to express myself in healthy ways. While I still have to spend time every day being aware of my emotions and my thoughts, creativity therapy plays a large role in my wellness.

When you mention creativity therapy many people automatically think of art, but art is just one avenue of many where a person’s creativity can come into play. Here’s an incomplete list of activities where a person could express themselves creatively: Creative writing; Music (playing or listening); Drawing; Sculpting; Looking at and appreciating art; Singing; Dancing; Drama; Textile arts.

One thing that I have found to be helpful and fun is what I call ScribblePops (two examples are shown above, done by two different people). ScribblePops are very simple and can be done by just about everyone – no artistic talent required. All you do is put a blank piece of paper in front of you, close your eyes, and start scribbling on the paper. You can use a pencil, pen, crayons, whatever’s handy. Once you’re done scribbling, open your eyes and look at your drawing. Does anything pop out at you, like when you look at clouds and see bunnies or ducks? If something does pop out at you, color it in. It might be an abstract shape, or something more realistic, but whatever it is, it is your creation. And remember, there’s no right or wrong. You have let your emotions out onto the paper (your scribbles may be quite different when you’re happy versus when you’re angry), and then looked for something hidden in the scribbles. It’s a fun, healthy way to find a bit of beauty and creativity during what can sometimes be the difficult process of emotional healing. It’s also a great way to teach children how to handle their emotions in a healthy way. If we can start adding tools to their mental health toolboxes when they’re young they will be much better equipped to handle the bumps in the road they’ll encounter later in life.

You can visit Smurgles at Etsy here.

The Importance of Creativity


I’ve been spending time in the basement again. Don’t worry. That’s where I have my art station set up, so it’s okay. Not only do I spend my time down there “arting,” but I also spend the time thinking – sometimes too much.

It’s taken a long time to get here, but I’ve progressed to a place with my healing where I can look back at my life and not have an emotional flashback when I think of certain people or situations. For those who don’t know, an emotional flashback is when you experience the emotions that a person or situation evokes as if you were in the original moment. Even though that moment may be 30 years old, the emotions are raw and raging. They are quite common for people with PTSD. It wasn’t pretty getting to this milestone, but I’m glad I’m here. Even when an emotional flashback might flare up, I can usually quickly recognize it for what it is and deal with it rather than allow those old emotions to hijack my life for the next day, week, or month, and for that I am very thankful.

One of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome once my PTSD was identified was allowing myself to experience my emotions, to actually feel my emotions. At the time the only thing I knew for sure was inside me was anger – lots and lots of anger that had festered for roughly 40 years. The thought of letting that anger out was beyond terrifying for me. I was pretty sure that I’d get stuck in it and never be able to stop crying or screaming, or however it may have manifest as it came out. With as frightened as I was to unplug the dam that was holding my emotions back, I truly felt that the Lord was leading me to do so, so I took a step of faith and pulled the plug.

It took a few months, but the daily crying jags started to taper off. With that initial deluge out of the way, I felt like I could finally start letting out some anger, but I knew I needed to do it in a healthy way. Our son was seven at the time, so we happened to have quite a lot of Play-Doh on hand. He and I had some very intense sessions rolling and building with it, then, on his okay, I’d smash the tar out of it. I think he really thought it was funny how I was pummeling the Play-Doh. All I know is that it felt wonderful to finally get those emotions out.

So, back to my thinking in the basement. I was thinking that it would have been nice if I had received help when I was a child, if my complex PTSD had been identified in a much more timely manner, and if I had been taught how to deal with and trust my emotions. I also realized how creativity in its many forms helped me cope and survive. I have learned not to dwell on the past. Instead I try to look to the future and how God might use situations and experiences that I’ve had so that I can help others. He’s done it numerous times in the past, and I know He’s not finished yet, and that’s why I’m going to be heading my blog in a little bit of a different direction.

I truly have a heart for children (and the adults they become) who are in less than ideal situations, whether that be mistreatment at home or elsewhere, bullying, or living in a situation where the mental health needs of a family member are not being addressed. If one person in the family has mental health needs, the whole family has mental health needs.

I also have a heart for caregivers, especially those who are parents of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)  children and are their child’s primary caregiver. These parents are at a very high risk of suffering from PTSD.

I’d like to start exploring ways that we can help our children be emotionally aware and healthy, trusting their feelings and intuition, and knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is their right to say no to anyone who is asking them to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable. I’d like to start exploring the special needs of ASD parents. I’d also like to look at the importance of self-care, especially if you are a caregiver. In the midst of all of this, art and other forms of creativity will be discussed with ideas of how to use it to a number of ends.

I honestly don’t know how I would have survived if I hadn’t had creative outlets over the years. It is my hope that you will find encouragement and ideas to help yourself and those you love as we all continue our journeys to healthier emotions and relationships.

You can visit Smurgles at Etsy here.