Being Seen

Nasty old troll

“There’s something liberating about not pretending. Dare to embarrass yourself. Risk.”Drew Barrymore

There has been a lot of conversation about vulnerability thanks to a Ted Talk given by shame researcher, Brené Brown. Little did I know when I began writing my children’s picture book, Glory in the Morning, Brené’s work would help me unearth its deeper meaning. Buried in my story, is the universal longing to be seen and believed in. Meaningful connections like that can only be earned by sharing your truth with the world, a concept Brené calls living wholeheartedly.

Glory in the Morning is an accidental allegory of events in my life. I realize now that the fairy I wrote about is actually an aspect of me. When she gets in the way of an angry troll, he casts a spell to make her disappear. The only thing that can save my winged protagonist from fading away is if two believers see her at the same time. I’ve had some trolls in my life too. Being around rage is where I first learned to disappear. My way of going unnoticed was to be perfect. Never making mistakes meant I would be left alone. And alone I was. Even after my perfectionism had outlived its usefulness, I lived in fear of exposure. I kept much of the “real me” secret. Being introduced to Brené’s research was the beginning of an awakening in me. Learning we are beautiful in our humanity, that our flaws are endearing, gave way to sharing my authentic-self with the world. In return, I was given the validation of true connection. With fairies and people alike, the only way to wholeheartedness is through risk and vulnerability. Satisfying the heart’s yearning to be loved for itself has the power to break any spell, even one cast by a cranky old troll.

As I type this, Glory in the Morning is being produced into a picture book app. It should be available in the iTunes store in mid-September. It’s such a part of me, I feel like I’m  sending my child out into the world. My hope is that everyone who reads it, will connect to its underlying message. We all ache to be seen and heard. No longer hiding, we fly free.Flying through the garden detail

All text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved.

www.sueshanahan.com

Every Child Is Like a Flower

Once when I was feeling less than pretty, it occurred to me, “Who told you that you aren’t beautiful?” I began to wonder, what if our differences actually are a gift? What if what’s unique about us is what makes us beautiful? When we let go of our preconceived notions, we’re free to enjoy our individuality. I am thrilled with the trend of using children with disabilities in ads. I love that the world is waking up to the truth that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colors.

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The illustration above is based on a photo I snapped of a friend’s daughter, Clare. Her mother needed her photographed for a calender featuring children with Down Syndrome. After adjusting the layers of netting on Clare’s party dress, I saw a longing in her mother’s eyes. Maura had the same yearning every mother has for their child. She wanted her little girl’s beauty to be appreciated. I, in turn, was smitten with Clare. Looking at the photographs from the session, compelled me to design an illustration around her. Yes, being beautiful is no longer for the chosen few.
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The real Clareclare-17

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All text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved. www.sueshanahan.com

Happy Spring

Spring has sprung. And with it comes hope. I see hope in the lilac blossoms. I smell hope in the freshly mowed lawn. I hear hope in the ceaseless chatter of the birds. Hope born anew surrounds me.kaley-13

The above illustration is aptly entitled Hope. It illustrates the line, “I believe spring brings out hope in all of us,”  from the book What I Believe. The little girl in it is my great-niece Kaley. She looked like a little china doll to me. I hunted for her vintage pinafore on-line and found the perfect one through a Mrs. Bird. I wanted to have her wearing something that set off her timeless beauty. After her mother dressed her, we plopped her on my kitchen table and I began snapping away with my camera. When photographing a baby for an illustration, I am always loose with my vision for it. You just never know how they will cooperate. I took about 20 shots, and then Miss Kaley was done. Something else I’ve learned about the models I work with is when they are through poising they are through. A smile can’t be coaxed out of a child who wants to move on.

Immediately after loading the shots on my computer, I knew which image I would base my art on. The way Kaley was looking down and touching her toe looked lyrical to me. The butterfly and the outdoor scenery were fabricated. What couldn’t be fabricated is the wonder on my little model’s face.

The real Kaley

The real Kaley

Below is another photo I love. I snapped it while shooting a wedding for a dear friend’s daughter. At times I think this photo begs to be put into an illustration. At  other times I think it stands fine just the way it is. I’m curious to know what you think about it. If you have a moment, leave me your thoughts.Girl with Hydrangeas

All text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved.