Giving

Cat Portraits and the Art of Being Selfless

“Portrait of Munchkin Giggle-Sprinkles” by Michele Bledsoe

 

Recently, I put aside my work in progress..

and ignored a looming deadline

to pour myself into a special request –

A portrait of my sister’s beloved cat

who passed away last year.

This is what art is all about.

Not the galleries and the exhibits.

Not the personal attention

and public exposure…

it’s about the gift

and what you choose to do with it.

 

Terrifying Visions and the Art of Trusting the Gift

“The Ghost and My Obsession” by Michele Bledsoe

Several years ago I was sitting at my desk

in my high-level corporate job

and I had a terrifying vision.

I imagined myself far in the future

sitting at the same desk..

doing exactly the same thing

and wondering to myself

what life would have been like

if I had decided to pursue my art instead.

Not long after that, I quit my job..

and let my path take me to where I was meant to be

instead of where I thought I should go.

In life, as in art

we must be fearless.

Trust the gift.

 

Sowing Seeds and the Art of Sharing Knowledge

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“The Church of Instinct”, “As Above So Below” and “From the Old House” by Michele Bledsoe

 

First and foremost, I am a painter..

but I am other things as well.

 

I have learned a lot

throughout the course of my life..

cultivating valuable skills

that I have worked hard to accumulate.

Through trial and error

I have gained experience..

And with years of practice

I’ve learned to do things

that I used to think were

miles beyond my capabilities.

 

I suppose I could hold a series of costly workshops

on a number of  topics..

everything from social media marketing

to formatting and publishing ebooks.

 

Or maybe I could hoard my knowledge

and use these skills for myself alone.

 

Instead,

I went in a different direction..

choosing to focus more on

what good can I do through sharing my various gifts

rather than how much money I can make

selling them.

 

So now I spend my days

working with young adults within the autism spectrum..

teaching them

everything I’ve learned.

 

Maybe that’s not the path

to making myself a ton of money..

but by sowing these seeds

and watching my students grow

I am already rich beyond measure.

 

 

The Desire to Create and the Art of Embracing Your Gift

The Bridge by Michele Bledsoe

The Bridge by Michele Bledsoe

 

The desire to create is a gift from God.

 

The ceaseless passion to paint and draw

has been with me since childhood..

and by embracing this gift

it has defined my path in life

and led me to my purpose.

 

By nature,

the gift is selfless.

It has nothing to do with

the empty pursuit

of fame and fortune..

it is so much more than that.

 

Through art,

I met my husband

made friends..

and forged relationships.

Through art,

I became a volunteer drawing teacher

for a group of inner city kids..

and began working with young adults within the autism spectrum.

 

As an artist

I’ve found that’s it’s not all about me..

I am just a paintbrush in God’s hand.

 

Small Moments and the Art of Tremendous Consequences

"Metamorphosis" by Michele Bledsoe

“Metamorphosis” by Michele Bledsoe

I remember making a book when I was little.

I vaguely recall the story had something to do with a family of animals living near a beach.

I made drawings of weird dog-like creatures on pieces of paper that I folded to look like pages.

When I showed it to my grandfather

He knelt down so we were face-to-face

And looking directly into my eyes

He said to me:

“Michele, you have a gift from God.”

 

Believe me, the drawing wasn’t THAT good…

Sure, I drew recognizable objects

But that’s a far cry from being like some child prodigy drawing like Michelangelo at the age of 4.

 

Did he see something I didn’t?

Was it a glimpse of the artist I would become..

or was it something else?

 

My husband I volunteer to teach art

To a group of inner city kids in downtown Phoenix.

A couple of days ago

Something beautiful happened.

 

Surrounded by kids,

talking and drawing together

at a crowded table..

I saw a small boy.

so small, and quiet

he practically disappeared.

His tiny head was bent down

intensely focused

on the drawing in front of him.

 

I glanced at what he was working on

and I felt time stop.

All the chaos in the room

faded into the background.

There was something different about this child.

Something rare and beautiful.

I saw it.

Felt it.

And in that

seemingly small and insignificant moment..

I understood that there was something tremendous

in consequence

that brought me here.

 

“That is a great brontosaurus, “I told him

“and what a terrific volcano!”

The boy looked up..

clearly surprised that I noticed him..

that I was talking to him.

“You draw really well,” I continued

“I can see your wonderful imagination

in your drawings.”

With a tiny smile, and light in his eyes

The boy whispered. “Thank you.”

I asked him his name..

“Jesus.” He replied.

I leaned in real close so we were face to face..

And looking directly into his eyes, I said,

“Jesus, you have a gift from God.”

The Return of Boo Radley

A random act of artistic kindness..

The Secret Kingdom

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In “To Kill A Mockingbird”, Boo Radley left gifts for Jem and Scout in the knothole of an old, oak tree.  He wanted the children to be aware of his presence, to understand that he cared for them, and to know that he was watching out for them.

Now, I am going to tell you a story that will explain why I call this painting “The Return of Boo Radley”.

Once upon a time I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with my dog, Gunther. In the center of the complex, there was a large grassy area surrounding a sandbox where the kids could play.  Scattered on the ground, I would find some of the largest and most beautiful pinecones I had ever seen. Whenever I took Gunther for a walk, I would grab a couple and bring them back to my apartment to marvel over.

One day, I noticed a little girl…

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Paper Butterflies and the Art of Changing the World

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I volunteer to teach art to a group of inner city kids in downtown, Phoenix. In the summer, classes are longer and I am there for over three hours during the afternoon. Strange as it may sound, I like to go there unprepared. No lesson plan, no preconceived projects designed to hold their attention and occupy their time. Maybe that sounds crazy, but I have noticed that when I walk into that room with no expectations and open heart, a lesson will unfold.

Sitting at tables drawing together, I spontaneously picked up a piece of paper and folded it into an origami butterfly. The girl sitting next to me asked if I would show her how to make one. Yes, I told her.. of course I will.

We moved onto the floor at the other end of the room, followed by two more girls. Step by step, the four of us slowly folded pieces of paper into butterflies. While we worked, I kept talking – stopping whenever someone got lost, backing up a few steps, gently encouraging them and taking the time to make sure everyone was following along.

“The first time is the hardest,” I explained. “With each butterfly you make, it will get a little easier.”

Sure enough, after about three or four butterflies, they were really getting the hang of it.

A group of other kids wandered over to where we were sitting and asked if I would teach them how to make butterflies, too. “Yes, of course,” I replied..  then I turned to my three butterfly-makers and said, “These are your teachers.”

The girls looked at me, surprised. “You can do this,” I told them. Then I grabbed a piece of paper and waited for the lesson to begin.

Throughout the day, more and more children came into the room – “Is this the origami class?” they would ask. Yes, I replied – welcoming them into the group. Every time a new student sat down, a new teacher would be there to help them learn. Each teacher that emerged, taught their students with the same gentleness, patience and encouragement that I first showed to the three little girls. I heard them softly repeat my words to each other, explaining how the first time is the hardest.. how with each butterfly, it will get a little easier.

Although I only taught three girls, about 40 kids learned how to make butterflies that day.

How can I even begin to explain how it felt to watch the chain-reaction that unfolded before me? Children as students, learning and becoming teachers; sharing their knowledge and empowering new teachers. Over and over, the cycle continued..  like the ripples of so many stones tossed into an endless river.

When I walked into that room I was a teacher. But when I became a student, a lesson unfolded with the delicate whisper of paper butterfly wings.. and the power to change the world.