Reflection Uncategorized

Behind the scenes of my creative process

Decorative circle on canvas with the words our lives are connected
“Our Lives Are Connected” mixed media on 12 x 12 gallery-wrapped canvas

Friday night, I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to be the featured visual artist during Rhythm Visions Production Company, Inc.’s virtual open mic night on Facebook. I was invited to paint live for an hour during the performances. I was so honored to be considered. Of course, I said yes. (A special thank you to Renita Martin.)

It was one of the most unusual and amazing evenings I have ever been a part of—so full of overlapping energy, talent and diverse creativity. It was great to be able to share my vision for The Community Circle Project and to create the circle that you see here during a live event.

I say that now—after. You should have seen me leading up to the event.

In case you have ever wanted a look behind the scenes of an artist’s creative process, here is mine when a kind person requests my artistic skills. And, I’m only showing you because all of us on social media tend to make things look so pretty and easy. But that is not reality. Here is my reality. Raise your hand if you can identify.

My creative process goes something like this:

Requester: “Sandy, can you/will you/do you know how to [x, y or z] and have time in your schedule to do so?

Me: “Absolutely, yes.”

The result? My schedule is wide open. I do [x, y or z].The project turns out beautifully. Everyone is happy.

Now, here’s what happens behind the scenes, the part that you don’t see—after I have told the requester yes and before the end result.

Me: “Oh, God! What did I do?! Why did I say yes?! I have no idea if I can do [x, y or z]! What is wrong with me! This is going to be a disaster! I have a million things on my schedule right now. I don’t even think I am an artist! Who said I’m an artists?! I’ve seen the beautiful work of other artists and I’m not as good as they are. I should tell the requester to get one of those artists. Damn it, why did I go on a diet?! I need to eat my way through this unreasonable fear of disaster, but that’s way too many carbs! Get. It. Together. Girl!”

Then, I Google and YouTube my eyeballs off to figure out anything I don’t know. I practice, practice, practice whatever that thing is, or come to realize that, wait a minute, yes, yes, I do, indeed, know how to do it, that I have been doing it all along, and I need to trust the process and myself.

The result? The project turns out beautifully. Everyone is happy.

Now, will I remember this and skip all the behind-the-scenes drama next time I’m offered something? Probably not. That’s part of the excitement. But I want to always remember that I am enough. Always. (So are you.)

What does your creative process look like? Where does your fear show up and how do you tackle it?



Inspired by circle interpretations

Abby Rovaldi

I am so inspired by the circles that people are sharing with me in response to the prompt: What are you learning during this challenging time?

When I created The Community Circle Project I shared my particular approach for making circles that incorporate words and designs. As more and more people participate in the ongoing collaboration, so much creativity and talent is coming forth. And it warms my heart.

The circle above, a mandala, is a recent one from Abby Rovaldi, who is the programs coordinator at the Attleboro Arts Museum in Massachusetts, an amazing artist, art educator and awesome human. I love, love, love her mandala and I’m honored that she has participated.

If you want to participate, please reach out to me using the contact form on this website.

Reflection Uncategorized

Good conversation

Everyone eats. What we eat and why sheds light on who we are and our experiences. Food is a language that we have in common.

When we have conversations about food we have an opportunity to allow others to get to know us and our families and to see that we are all similar in many ways, even as we see how our culinary backgrounds differ.

Something as simple as a vegetable can elicit fond memories and provide a narrative to share information about our culture, heritage and upbringing.

Take for example okra. Okra takes me home to my childhood growing up in the south.

My mother steamed okra and cooks it in collard greens and field peas. My daddy uses it liberally in his famous seafood gumbo. And one of my favorite restaurants that still visit when I visit my family serves the best fried okra you will ever taste.

I’m always surprised to when I see it in the grocery store here in the north—fresh, not frozen. The same applies when I’m in the cereal aisle and see grits on the shelf.

When I cook fresh okra, I slice it really thin and pan fry it in just about two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, adding just a little bit of salt and pepper. I patiently wait for it to develop a nice brown crust before flipping it over.

When I told my mother about this recently during one of our Saturday phone calls, she called it “fancy cooking,” said she only knows how to “boil it” and wishes that she could cook it as well as her mom, Big Mama, did. It made me laugh because I’ve always wished I could cook it as well as my mom.

That’s just one vegetable. What foods conjure up special memories for you? What stories do they tell about you, your family and your roots?



Maker Monday circles

In June, I had the wonderful opportunity to be featured as an artist for the Nasco Education Maker Monday webinar series, thanks to my friend Kris Bakke, customer engagement manager.

Kris and I have become good friends via social media since meeting at the National Art Education Association’s convention held in Boston in 2019. You should see her engage with art and teachers. There is such joy and genuine excitement. She is one of the best humans making a difference in this world in so many ways.

In the Maker Monday series she hosts, I shared The Community Circle Project with the webinar participants. This was an opportunity to help spread the word about the goals of the project with a demo and a discussion about how this project can be used in the classroom to engage students as well as with adult staff and corporate teams. The goal is to connect people by tapping into  commonalities and shared experiences.

I invited participants to send me the circles they created in response to the prompt: What are you learning right now—during these challenging times.

I’m happy to share some of the circles in this post. There are others on the Instagram page. Go there to see them and follow @communitycircleproject. Use the contact form on this website if you would like to participate and responding to the prompt.


Choosing a direction

Recently, while at the grocery store, where I feel like I’m in some sort of weird video game in which I have to carefully avoid destruction from hidden dangers, I went the wrong direction of the instructional aisle arrows.

I quickly turned around for the safety of myself and other shoppers trying to accomplish the same necessary task during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From that point on, I focused on being particularly mindful of going in the right direction. Not all shoppers did the same. Some paid the arrows no mind at all.

It became frustrating and got me to thinking, if everyone would just go in the right direction, we could all accomplish things much faster. But then I wondered, absent of the giant arrows pointing out the direction, how does each person determine what is right and what is wrong? What are those decisions based on?

What I think is right, clearly is not what everyone else thinks is right. (And, I’m not talking about the laws that we are obliged to follow.)

Are there absolutes that we can all agree are the right things to do—no matter our religion, political affiliation, upbringing?

Are the things that you could list as absolutely “right?” Do those things match what your friends, family, coworkers would say? Does it matter if they don’t? Does your relationship depend upon it? Should it?

Can we disagree on what is right and still have a civil, productive conversation and treat each other with respect?

Just some things I’m thinking about, reflecting on and filtering through art.



Change is ongoing work

Concentric circles with image of three women in the center and words "I am the change; we are the change."I have always loved the saying, “be the change you wish to see in the world.” It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? That is until you think about the fact that change is, well, really hard.

Change requires opening up, letting your guard down, learning and accepting new information, new habits and new ways of thinking. It demands letting go of what is comfortable to allow growth.

For example, I ‘wish’ to see people be nicer to each other all the time, but am I that ‘change’ I want to see? Am I nice to everyone all the time? Um, no. I try to be, but, let’s face it, some folks make that challenging sometimes—a lot. 🙂 But I can’t expect something new, something different, something better from others or the world, if I’m not willing to offer the best of who I am.

Most days I will do that. Some days I will fall short. My job is not to be perfect. My job is try my best. When I don’t accomplish that, I know there is another day on the way to try again. 

I can be the change (even if it is more comfortable and easier not to be), so can you—if we are willing to repeatedly put in the effort.

What change do you want to see in yourself, in the world? Are you willing to try to be that change?


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