A look into the inspiration behind the work.

Realization #Selfie

Will you join me on this journey? I make it super easy and fun!

This post marks my 50th “Being My #Selfie” painting in the last month and a half. When I look back and consider the journey so far, I realize that the only way to accomplish anything is daily progress. Including sticking with a schedule and expecting only that something must be done each day toward the goal even if you are not real sure what that end game is going to look like.

Initially I was thinking that artists have created self-portraits throughout history and these were the original selfies. These artists didn’t have the advantage of today’s technology to get immediate feedback on their work as artists do today through the web. I decided I wanted to explore the possibilities and take a personal journey combining the new presentation opportunities online with a traditional method of creating the images.

As with any creative project, there are realizations and discoveries that happen as you get absorbed, and dare I say obsessed with the venture.

The big thing that I didn’t envision in the beginning was the development of a new website http://meme-a-leivan.com to encourage people to use my images for their own expression. The site is simple; you are immediately presented with a range of emotional images and when you see the one that fits your thought, click through to add your own expressive, witty thoughts. Finally you are offered a variety of ways to share it online. There is also a library of recently created memes to share as well as an opportunity to vote on your favorite.

Most artists would cringe if you used their work. My shift from that mindset was the idea was that emotions are universal and relatable. It seems a natural idea to open the door to making them easily available for people to use on social media. Bringing people into the mix of my exploration of the role of this technology created an even deeper study of the subject. Do you have pithy thoughts or ornery replies to ideas that have been posted on your timeline?  I invite you to join me in this project by making memes of your own to share with your friends!

What does the next few months hold? I am not sure; although trite, the truth is it is the journey not the destination that matters right now. I am thrilled that you are taking the time to follow my progress and your comments and feedback are always welcome. Better yet, become a part of the journey by using my meme maker and share your reactions to the world with your friends and family! http://meme-a-leivan.com

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Foole #Selfie

What do you think of my new look for summer?

This is going to be my new look for summer! I think that Miley Cyrus is one of the most entertaining and imaginative artists in the entertaining industry and I’m going to strive to be more like her.

Ha ha, April Fools’ Day! Really! I’m thinking that is the funniest thing I could ever strive to be and I don’t understand why even Miley Cyrus would strive to do the things she does. Exhibiting herself in a raunchy sexual manner doesn’t make her appear grown up; it actually makes her appear even more childish. Many rebellious young people seem to miss the idea of self-respect when the set out to thumb their nose at the world and usually this comes back to bite them in the tail they use to twerk with.

In the past the fool or jester in a king’s court was considered a wise man because they would often show alternative ways to view an issue. I am not sure what issue performers who choose to rehash shocking material that has been done already is trying to enlighten us on. Unfortunate for them, the shock value has pretty much worn off and now it is just trite and the reaction becomes an eye roll rather than a call for understanding the rebellion. When we strive to be a mimic we can only be a shadow of those we are flattering with our copy.

It is especially tiresome when someone with an already solid reputation chooses to insult not only their current audience but also the entire gambit of anyone catching a glimpse with the rehashing of material already done well in the past. Why throw away what is working just to make a lame attempt at shocking your audience. *** YAWN***

Ok, maybe I’m being rough on little Miley. It is clear she has strived to put aside an opportunity to be a positive role model to perform nearly pornographic and demeaning behavior that can only be a bad attempt to gain publicity. She is young and still able to recover from her mistakes when she grows up. I just hope that it is sooner rather than later.

Enjoy the fooles around you today; they will entertain you by sacrificing their own self-respect.

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Critic #Selfie

What are the unexpected reactions to your #selfie?

 “You can get away with doing that because you are beautiful.” As the astonishment wore off of that statement I asked “What are you talking about?”

What my friend was talking about was my “Being My #Selfie” series. Naturally when I see my fellow artists the subject of what we have been doing in the studio is one of the first things that come into the conversation and a critique of the work is expected and appreciated. These are valuable because you can get insight into what you are doing and how others see what you are creating.

This time her comment was so unexpected nearly floored me. The subject of my own beauty was the furthest thing from my mind as I am developing this series.

I have never thought of myself in such terms, average - yes, not repulsive - maybe but never beautiful.  Beautiful is an arena I don’t care to be a competitive player in. In my youth when young women begin to apply makeup and attempt to compete in the “Beauty” arena, I quickly realized that there was a lot of work and money that went into playing that game. Even being the people pleaser that I was in my youth, I was able to go beyond the peer pressure and decide that I had other things to worry about. I concentrated on grades and developing my talents rather than to spend time in front of a mirror.

Now as an adult, I can analyze this just a bit further and discover that it was probably a self-image issue. I didn’t believe I was beautiful so I didn’t want to spend time looking at myself or put the effort into trying to convince anyone else that I was anything but myself.

The products in my makeup drawer expire well before the product is used and sometimes it has only been used once or twice. And I cringe every time I walk into the beauty isle to get more, usually because there is a business meeting or formal occasion coming up and I think that it is socially expected to put my face on and look my best for the event. My daily routine means there is no makeup and very little mirror time.

Believe it or not, even though I am painting my own face every day, I don’t think of these paintings through the lens of vanity, but as a form of artistic expression.

As I paint, I look at the image of myself as a subject, like I would a still life or a flower. There is something else going on in the right side of the brain, looking for the shapes and subtleties that make up a face rather than it being ME. It could be my husband or any other person.

The fact that I am studying myself really doesn’t come into the equation of whether or not it is a good composition or an interesting expression that I would like to paint. But of course I can’t escape the truth of who I am painting and I use the opportunity to explore my inner self while painting my outer self. So you can see now how my friends comment about my own beauty came as a shock.

There are views out there about selfies being a vanity that our youth are participating in. I think it is a way for people to wrestle with the social expectations of the world and their place in it.  I have found that even the expressions I have chosen to paint reflect that same search for meaning of the human condition in our ever changing world.

With my “Being My #Selfie” series my intention is to explore the role of social media in our lives and usually that starts by examining our own thoughts and feelings on what we are exposed to.

Do you find yourself in critique mode with the selfies people are offering online?

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Freedom #Selfie

Would you rather be an American or an American’t?

Do you have any idea what it means to be truly free?  The concept seems to be falling into a muddled mess and there seems to be more victims daily that are held up to show just how unfair the world is.

I don’t know about you but I learned in kindergarten that the world isn’t fair. This is the first wonderful thing about living in the US. It is the only place in history you can actually create your own wealth with your effort and your mind....

There are loads of examples of honored Americans with rags to riches stories. If you stop and think about it, they were willing to risk everything to make their visions reality.  Have you ever dreamed that their story can also be yours if you desire it enough to make it happen? What would you be willing to risk?

I think with the freedom to choose we also must accept the freedom to get another job if we don't like the one we have, the pay we are getting or the benefits they offer. Or ultimately, create our own job because you will never truly experience freedom while working for another. 

Think outside the box! Exercise your FREEDOM!

If you don’t choose to maximize the liberty you currently have you are only holding yourself back.  Don’t be surprised or offended when I slap your hand like a child when you put it out and claim to be a victim when you are a capable adult with choices that you have made and have to now live with.

I refuse to be held hostage by your bad choices and I take offense at you expecting me to save you from yourself. I see too much of this expectation on the news.

If I went around saving everyone I would quickly have nothing left to give – I would be broke spiritually, mentally, physically and monetarily. Then I would be standing there getting my own hand slapped.

Your independence is right in front of you, just reach out, grab it and refuse to be a victim. Use your talents to bring something amazing into the world. Because when it comes right down to it, you are amazing and you need to give yourself permission to express it. Would you rather be an American or an American’t?

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Einstein #Selfie

Why do you think we can let small things give us pause and make us check ourselves?

There are all sorts of fun tests online. They can reveal things about ourselves that maybe we didn’t know before. Last night I was prompted by a friend to take a test on Facebook and learned something that I only suspected.

I took the IQ test at www.arealme.com it is a quick 20 question quiz. I encourage you to go take it. It is a little challenging and I recommend if you are going to try it to be fresh and undistracted. They claim that the average score is 90-100 just like a typical IQ test. I was surprised to get a score of 160 – Einstein!

As the pleasure of beating my friend’s and husband’s score wore off, I began to wonder how valid the test was and if I was living up to my own potential. Where is my Theory of Relativity? Einstein was only 23 when he came up with that world altering concept! Am I concentrating on the right things?

I have a tendency to push myself to depression and have been working really hard to evaluate my accomplishments fairly. Thank you arealme.com for telling me something I didn’t know about myself and making me reevaluate what I’m capable of doing! Frustration set in for a few moments.

With that in mind, I came to the conclusion that I am pretty darn happy with the way things are and the progress of the things I am working on. Also, I probably will never know for sure the impact of my own endeavors and maybe I’m doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing.  Even though there is always room for improvement, surly I wouldn’t be as satisfied with my life so far or be happy enough to dedicate my time to my work.

With my anxiety cleanly behind me, I came up with one more question. Why did that little quirky 20 question quiz make me reexamine anything? What does that say about me? 

Now I’m asking you, why do you think we can let small things give us pause and make us check ourselves?

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Concern #Selfie

Do you use your talents to influence your concerns?

What is it that we should really be concerned about? Our fellow man, the environment, health care, our loved ones, the list is endless as you scroll through the news feed. If I had the ability to be concerned by everything that was wrong with the world today I would be so busy worrying about I would get depressed enough it that I would get nothing productive done.

The concerns of the world are many. So what are we to do about it? The only problems we should concern ourselves with are the ones that we can take action and help solve the problem. When the problem is out of our reach, we can have faith that there are many out there that are in position to have effect of the issues of the day. Then again we can take the opportunity to participate with our vote or in an organization where our concern can be address by many rather than one.  So that really brings our concern home, to what affects our lives on a daily basis and how can we influence our concerns without taking the full burden on ourselves.  

I think we always need to evaluate what concerns we have and manage the ones that we can carefully. Life is messy and chaotic. We shouldn’t be seeking to solve everyone’s problems. It is a difficult lesson to learn. When you attempt to solve their problems, you are buying it. If your solution doesn’t fix the issue, it is now YOUR FAULT not the person who created the problem to begin with. The person who created this issue now has a huge excuse other than themselves to blame the results of their own actions.  So be careful with your concern and action. Sometimes their journey is to fail so that they learn from their mistakes. This is a very hard thing to watch and do, especially as a parent.

I think the best way we can make a difference with our talents. As author James Baldwin said, “This is the only real concern of the artist, to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art.” It has been seen through the ages that art within a culture can effect change. So gather up your talents, whatever they may be, select a concern and create some order in the world to inspire the change you would like to see in the world.

How are you using your talents today to influence change?

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Selfie - Golden Light

Why Yellow People?  My usual answer to this question is, “I don’t know where the yellow comes from it is just is what I do.” But that isn’t the real truth. I shy away from the actual answer and usually don’t admit it because it is deeply spiritual and private.

Considering that I’m in the midst of this Selfie series, and pretty much baring my soul on a daily basis let me tell you the real answer.  I’m among friends here online right?

I believe the divine Soul within the human being is “the golden soul.” The soul energizes the physical form—and many cultures throughout history have described the spirit as being filled with a golden light.

Painting is meditative for me and while in the process of creation I intuitively pick up that light and relish it every time I pick up a brush to paint the figure. I do not seek it; it finds me and will show up in the subject no matter the ethnicity of the person being painted. In my experience, the soul is void of racial definitions of our physical bodies. We all as sentient beings radiate in varying degrees with a golden light and those who starve their light will steal from or hide within those who emit a strong energy.

I first had this intuitive thought while painting when I was pregnant with my son 21 years ago and it is still with me. Over the years, it has become a part of the way I express myself on canvas and has developed into the limited fauvist pallet you see in my paintings today.

With this Selfie series I hope to share a bit of my own spirit, through my own images and notes on life in the beginning of the 21st century and along with the innovations of the modern world through Social Media as a tool of communication and expression.

It is harder to see the golden light in each of us when we are shielded by technology. I hope that my images bring to this new medium a hint of the divine light hiding within each of us.   

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Selfie - Looking-Glass

Interacting online often feels like falling into Alice’s Looking-Glass. You expose yourself to an unknown and surreal world which can make us hesitant to show our real selves.

Unlike Alice we are in full control of the images and interactions we have online. This can be empowering rather than intimidating.  With the use of photo editing software we can certainly put our best face forward, design our persona and become virtually anyone we wish to be.  

The ability to be anyone online is not only liberation but also a warning. Are you talking to the person you think you are actually talking to?  Is that 15 year old girl that you only know online really a 54 year old guy posing as that girl? Intimidating right?

Although I personally don’t understand the allure of completely changing who you are online, because it seems like a lot of work! It isn’t that much different in real life.

We all put on our public faces when we go out into the real world too. But it is much easier to create our own Wonderland in the comfort of our own home with the entire world wide web to scrape from and become who we wish to be than to expose who we really are.

In the extreme, this is called “Catfishing” which is a full blown false personality created online and they can do damage to those who the lure with the bait of personal drama and mystery. This activity was brought into light with the movie “Catfish.” http://www.iamrogue.com/catfish.

There are warning signs for these, inconsistent stories, unavailability, items sent from a different address than where they claim to live and the list is long. Basically it is an elaborate rouse created to attempt to live another life virtually and that is where they will keep it forever as long as you continue to play in their Wonderland.

With all of the dangers online, I think we just need keep our heads and to stop and evaluate the situation as we do in real life. When it comes right down to it, no matter where we interact, in real life or online we are still dealing with other fallible human beings. So my friend just be careful out there and keep it positive and you’ll be good.

Have you ever ran into a person creating their own Wonderland online? If so tell me your story.

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Selfie - Really?

Were you wearing your lucky t-shirt or rubbing your rabbit foot on Sunday? For my entire fellow Kansans whether KU or WSU fans the sad news is that your superstition didn’t work this time. We all like to win and competitions such as the March Madness tournament bind us together with a common thread. Just as in the gladiator days of old we have blood lust that comes out when our teams play in high profile games.

The startling part of the KU loss was the shot of a young fan at the game sitting in the stands with tears streaming down his face. His emotions were a reflection of thousands of other fans across the US even in the bar that I went to where many fans gathered to watch the game on multiple TVs.

You know I love to see my team win as much as the next guy, but I couldn’t help but wonder. The question that came to my mind is, are we too emotionally invested in a few talented young men who statistically my win or lose equally by 50%?  

WSU lost even with a record of a 20 game winning streak! As fantastic as this is, in reality, it is statistically improbable for them to continue their streak yet we sit in anticipation hoping for that 21st game.

I find this behavior fascinating but what concerns me is what does it do to our own since of self-worth? Going back to that young fan with tear stained cheeks, if our team loses then we take it personally. The team has let us down!

We have absolutely no control over the players or the outcome of the game, yet their failure is our own. As much as our own as if we were out on the court being able to omnisciently manipulate the game for ourselves.

Even more interesting is that every play on the court is like the coin toss at the beginning of the game and the winning team is simply the one with the most heads. Statically speaking it is very rare for a single player to have much over a 50% field goal record.

In the entire history of Basketball only six NBA players: Steve Nash, Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Durant were good enough to have the 50% field goals, 40% three pointers and 90% free throws playing record. Yet we want to believe that our young and much less experienced college players will somehow beat those statics.

My point being, we all love to win but everyone has loses that happen at inopportune times and I think it is important to look at our love of the game with a smidgeon of reality. We should teach our young people that winning is awesome but a lot of lessons can be learned when we lose and the number one is that there will always be another game to be played and the opportunity to win that one, well it’s 50% just like the one that was just played.

What are your thoughts? Are we too emotionally invested in sports?

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Selfie - Energy

Life is simple, we are what we think. If I believe I cannot do something it is guaranteed I will never be able to do it, but if I believe in my heart that I can achieve a goal, I know eventually I will do it.

It is all in the mind; it isn’t a trick but the reality we create for ourselves. The other necessary element is taking action to make it happen. As simple as this appears to be, it isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

Sometimes accomplishing a goal takes longer and we stumble along the way. When this happens we can find ourselves in a dark place where our dreams suffer. To ward off this we must pick ourselves up and look around there may be a lesson to be learned from our failure. If we take time to learn from the event, we may discover a new path to our goal.

My father described it this way. “Back when we plowed a field with a 36 inch plow, I could be out there all day and when I walked back to the house and looked back at the field, it looked like I had done nothing all day. I knew I would have to go back tomorrow and the next day and maybe for several days to see that field complete from the house.”

He knew no matter how much he wished to see the progress of his work that first day; he wouldn’t see any results until he spent more time to accomplish the simple goal of getting the field plowed. Of course there was more work ahead, to plant, grow and receive the rewards the ground had to offer.

This is how it is with all of our plans. We need to keep looking up and working toward what reality we wish to have in our lives. This is absolutely the best advice I have received in my life and I work every day to take at least a little action toward my dreams even when I’m not sure where I’m going to end up.

It takes a lot of energy both mental and physical to make our dreams come true.  There is no such thing as an overnight success. There is a huge amount of failure that precedes the perception of instant accomplishment. However sometimes fun of success is all the cool things that happen along the way as we try to figure out how to get there.

Tell me how you are spending your energy to accomplish your dreams today.

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