Kimothy Joy: Metamorphosis

“I believe everybody’s light is bright as a child. It’s really bright and pure. And then slowly you are influenced by who everyone wants you to be. Over time if not nurtured and protected your light dims. And then there is nothing left of you to shine.” – Kimothy Joy

Kimothy Joy’s mom, Merri, had a huge personality. Her vibrance could not be contained. When she died of breast cancer in 2009, Kimothy was lost. Her mom’s dying words, “Go have fun, Kimmy,” seemed like an impossible task. Kimothy wasn’t ready to lose her best friend and anchor. She was only 25 years old. Up until then, things had been going along as planned. Shattered for the first time, Kimothy saw that those plans weren’t even made by her. “Losing my mom magnified my lack of self-awareness and identity. It sent me into a black hole of grief, self-destruction and eventually, on a quest to know my true self.” 

Kimothy began questioning everything she thought she knew. She felt like a Russian nesting doll. The real Kimothy had been covered up with layer upon layer of belief systems that had nothing to do with who she genuinely was. She had fit herself into a mold created by others. Kimothy Joy was a good girl. She had forfeited her soul for that title.

She had been taking directions from the outside for so long that she had no idea how to rekindle the connection within. Kimothy set out on a journey of self-discovery. Digging deep meant coming to terms with feelings that were hard to look at. For starters she wasn’t happy in her marriage. She was attracted to someone else. She readied herself to tell her high school sweetheart that she wanted a divorce. She was terrified of the flack she would get from the people around her. They had only been married for a year and a half. He was the right guy but not the right guy for her. Looking back Kimothy says deep inside she always knew that the marriage wasn’t going to last. “It was a small voice, and I just ignored it. But that voice was so clear in my mind, ‘This isn’t it.’ And I still got married.”

After her divorce and a few more relationships, Kimothy decided to hit pause on dating for a year. She could see that never being alone was a distraction from listening to herself. She learned to savor solitude, read more, travel solo and hang out with friends who energized her. She began painting with watercolors. Creating for enjoyment was a revelation. Previously Kimothy thought doing something just for fun was a waste of time. She had always felt so much pressure to make money that she never allowed herself to play. Watercolor and pen quickly became powerful tools for healing and self-discovery. Painting became an outlet to express her emotions that didn’t feel safe to talk about in the past. 

After the presidential election in 2016, healing herself through painting took on an even larger role in her life. Kimothy was shocked by what a woman running for president looked like in this country. The disrespect, shaming, and superficial sexist commentary pointed at Hillary Clinton horrified her. All of it. To rebuild hope within herself Kimothy began painting images of strong women throughout history. “I wanted to tap into their stories, their work, and their power.” She began posting portraits with quotations on Instagram to remind the collective of what females are made of. She was thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive response they got.

To Kimothy’s delight the Huffington Post began sharing her portraits. Next, the website, “Join the Uproar” reached out for permission to make her illustrations available as free downloads. The website was collecting feminist artwork that could be printed out and used on posters at women’s marches across the country. Without a moment’s hesitation Kimothy said, “Yes.” That generous act would soon land her a literary agent.

At the same time, Kimothy began shining a light on women, her soon-to-be agent, Cindy Uh, dedicated her career to amplifying diverse female voices. Cindy and her sister were planning to walk in the Women’s March in Washington D.C. that January. Downloading Kimothy’s art from “Join the Uproar,” they made signs using her images to carry at the event.

During the march, Cindy was asked so many times about Kimothy’s art that the night she returned home she looked her up online. In an email, Cindy told Kimothy that she really wanted to support her in making a book out of her women’s portraits. The email was waiting for Kimothy when she returned from the Denver Women’s March. She couldn’t believe what she was reading. “I thought, Oh my God, this is a dream! When I was painting those portraits, I actually envisioned them being made into a book. I had even put together a template of what it could look like. I did a cover and everything!” With Cindy as her agent, That’s What She Said: Wise Words from Influential Women was published in 2018. It’s design stayed true to Kimothy’s original concept.

Coming from the heart meant Kimothy was no longer taking directions from the outside. She was honoring what felt right to her. “Feelings are the breadcrumbs that lead you to where you need to go. Don’t judge them. Just follow the nudges. Tap into your inner being because it knows before you know.” 

There are a myriad of ways to do that, Kimothy discovered. Painting with watercolors is still at the top of her list. She makes a practice of turning off her electronic devices. The quiet leaves an opening for insights from the Universe to come in. Being in nature is another way she listens. But her most profound awarenesses come through meditation.

“I meditate daily, but in my own way. I never went to a workshop or anything. Maybe we should call meditating something else so it’s not so intimidating for everybody. Even going for a walk and listening to the wind blowing through the trees can be meditative. When you slow down you can hear the messages and cues from your inner being. Getting quiet, with no distractions is when I get lit up with ideas.” 

Kimothy says there is nothing inherently special about her. We all have gifts and talents. What sets her apart is she is willing to go within and  “follow the breadcrumbs.“ “When I began connecting to my inner light, my whole world expanded. Things that I never thought were possible happened and continue to happen when I keep coming from within.”

Sharing her good fortune is something that she feels called to do. 10% of the profits from her online shop go to organizations that work to empower women and girls. Kimothy passes on insights about life and her art to schools across the nation. In the past she spoke in person, today she is shifting to presentations on Zoom.  

“If I can minimize some of the suffering that I experienced when I was young, it’s so worth it. Usually it’s just as simple as telling students to, “Follow your bliss.” There’s so much to be found in that phrase. It is counterintuitive to what everybody else is teaching, especially to college kids. The old careers that appeared to be safe are no longer holding up. If you are going to make it up why not make a living by doing something that makes you feel alive? I wish I would have heard that message.”

Since her mom’s death, Kimothy’s life has opened up. Her wings are unfurled. She is now navigating the terrain of motherhood. She has a huge following on Instagram, a creative design firm and recently scored a deal for her second book. Rekindling the connection to her heart has changed everything. Since her mom’s passing, Kimothy has figured out that coming from her center and living in joy are one and the same. She has taken her mother’s dying words to “have fun” to heart. She had the word “joy” tattooed on her wrist, in her mom’s handwriting, as a reminder. Embracing life and living her truth are working well for her. Anyone ready to fly should be taking notes.

Coming up next:  Shane McAnally is a three-time Grammy Award-winning songwriter and record producer who has earned 38 No. 1 singles to date. He is a songwriting pro on NBC’s series Songland.

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Text and artwork © Sue Shanahan

1 + 1 + 1 = Love

1+1=1=Love_final_ (1)

Meet Patrick, Cooper, and Bridget, one of the most endearing families I’ve ever met. Cooper is Patrick’s son from a previous relationship, but you’d never know it. When spending time with them, I’m always struck by the love they have for each other. The only thing that would tip one off that Bridget isn’t Cooper’s biological mom is that he calls her, “Babe,” a term of endearment that he picked up from his father.

To create my portrait paintings I work from reference photos. For this watercolor, I ended up combining two group-shots. It can be tricky to get three people (especially when one is a child) to all look their best in one image. I asked Pat to take off his hat mid photo shoot because his face was in shadow. Removing it, left him with a clear case of hat-hair. I knew that I could change that in the artwork by working from a photograph of Pat with his hair gelled and combed. It comes in handy having a brain that fuses and alters images like Photoshop.

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I felt like I’d won the lottery when I was commissioned to paint this piece. Getting paid to do what makes your heart sing is a gift. Plus, the fact that Pat and company are some of the nicest (not to mention beautiful) people around made it a dream job.

In September, this family by choice, will deepen their bond when Pat and Bridget are married. 1+1+1 = Love is Patrick’s love letter, painted through me, to the two most important people in his life. I’m wishing them all the best as they set sail on their happily ever after.1+1=1=Love_detail_edited-red

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

 

 

 

 

Painting with Abandon

Moon & the Stars cropped_final

“In art and dream may you proceed with abandon.” – Patti Smith

Last month I finished up the second of two very detailed portrait commissions. I’d been working on them since before the first of the year. In my artistic process, I lay down a wash of watercolor on paper and then alternate layers of colored pencil and paint until I feel like the image is totally in focus. I end up with stunning results, but I was beginning to avoid my drawing table and had to figure out why.  After some reflection, I realized that my painting style had become so tedious I was beginning to resist it. I had to figure out a way too work faster. I was ready to create something for fun.

I determined I needed to let go of my perfectionism and decided to explore only using watercolor in my next piece. In a very real way, that medium can’t be controlled. Trying to rework a watercolor can be the ruin of it. You have to work fast knowing that you can’t always direct the pigment’s course.

“The making of art is no different than prayer “- Rainn Wilson

The above image is the result of my “painting with abandon experiment.” It’s based on the daughter of an artist I know. I purposely worked from photographs of poor quality, so that I wouldn’t be able to labor over the details. I was forcing myself to fill in the blanks with my imagination. In my watercolor, I began by painting the night sky. I loaded my brush with water and soaked the paper. Next, I laid down the color and watched it flow and pool. Then I sprinkled salt on the wet pigment, so it would crystallized and texture the sky. I loved how the watercolor paints had a life of their own. I was exhilarated with the results. I knew something higher was painting through me. I could feel the presence of the Divine.

I remember painting like this as a child. The joy of expectancy that I felt back then was akin to prayer. It was the physical act of “letting go and letting God.” I was never certain what I was going to end up with, but I knew it was going to be good.

I decided to call my painting, “Dancing with the Moon,” because of the magic I found in painting my subject without restraint. I have to admit that I ended up using some colored pencil to refine the details on the image. Even so, the painting took only four days to complete, verses the six weeks my last piece did.

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” – Vincent Van Gogh

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Last week my niece, Andi, and I visited the Chicago Art Institute to see the Van Gogh exhibit. The experience filled our artist souls and reminded me of how I used to paint with vibrant colors. In my early twenties, I poured over Van Gogh’s paintings in my huge coffee table book that cataloged his works. My eyes drank in the vivid pigments he used. I began painting with bold complimentary colors like he had learned to. Over the years, my devotion to color was lost in my pursuit of mastering the minutia of realism. I wondered if my decision to paint with less restraint meant that all those years I had spent on meticulous detail were a waste of time? Andi looked at me and said, “I think you had to perfect your technique before you could be loose with it. You couldn’t have the latter without the former.”

Her words reminded me that we are always on course. Our best efforts are never wasted on God’s good, green Earth. And now it was time for me to begin painting with abandon, in brilliant color…

She Was the Moon and Stars to Me 1

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Moon & the Stars cropped_final

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

The Magic of Creativity

Snuggle Bunny

“Listen to the music inside. Can’t you hear what it says to you?” – Van Morrison

As an artist, I try to honor the muse that guides me. Over time, I’ve gotten better at paying attention and following its lead. Years before I was a grandmother, an idea took residence in my heart. I could clearly see a blue-eyed, blond haired baby, around six months old, being hugged by his mama. Around them were written the words, “Snuggle bunny, you’re my honey.” I neatly folded and tucked this concept away to be brought to life when I had a grandchild.

I became a grandmother for the first time in the spring of 2014. Shortly after my son, Brian, and his wife, Pam, announced they were having a boy, I began my search for the perfect bunny outfit for him to wear in my “Snuggle Bunny” illustration. One thing was certain, I did not want my grandson wearing a costume in which he could be mistaken for a girl. After combing the internet, I came across a darling grey, hooded sweater with bunny ears. Perfect. I was all set to photograph my grandbaby wearing it when the time was right. Now all I had to do was be patient and let the rest of the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

Cameron John Shanahan was welcomed into the world on April 8th. I was over the moon for him. I couldn’t wait for my grandson to be six months old so I could draw him as my “Snuggle Bunny.”

When Cam was around three months old, Pam sent me the most endearing selfie she had taken of them together. In it there was something so enchanting about the look of wonder on my grandchild’s face. They reminded me of sea creatures looking through a porthole. Because Pam is enamored with the ocean, I had envisioned painting a watercolor of her and Cam as mermaids, but not until he was a toddler. Seeing that selfie changed all of that. Bam, my creative juices were flowing now! I began working on a mermaid portrait based on that image. It would be the perfect Christmas present for their little family.

Pam and Cam selfie

Pam and Cam selfie

Meanwhile, on November 17th, our oldest son, Rob, and his wife, Emily, gave birth to our second grandchild, Logan James. My husband and I were overwhelmed with joy. I couldn’t wait to capture our newest grandchild’s essence in a painting. I was certain the perfect scenario to place him in would be revealed after I got to know him.

Humming in the background, was my quest to get the perfect picture of Cameron in the rabbit sweater. He was already past the age I had envisioned for the baby in my bunny illustration. One day in December, I asked his mom to bring the bunny sweater over with Cameron, so I could photograph him in it. I had decided to move forward without having her in the illustration, as she had already been included in the mermaid portrait with her little guy. At one point, I thought that maybe Logan was the baby I’d seen in my mind’s eye, but quickly dismissed the thought. No, I had bought the sweater for Cam before he was even born. I felt bound to my original plan.

After Cameron arrived, I began trying to make him smile for the camera, but he would have none of it. He sat stone-faced as I tried to make him laugh. I gave up. Letting go of my inflexibility opened the door for Logan to come through. I came to the realization that he was the baby I had envisioned all along. With his blue eyes, blond hair and chubbiness, he was the snuggle bunny I had visualized!

Cameron

Cameron being very unsmiley indeed.

I immediately began making plans to photograph Logan with his mom when he was six months old. I pictured the background of the painting being a wash of yellow— sunny like Logan and Emily. I would ask his mother to wear blue to match Logan’s eyes. Relaxing my grip allowed for the realization that the sweater had to go too. Instead, I found the softest, plushest, bunny-eared bath blanket to wrap Logan’s chubbiness in. I began to “see” him with a carrot rattle in his hand. I googled “carrot rattles” and to my surprise, I easily found one. Finally getting the concept on paper was a full-circle moment for me. The image was a gift that had been given to me to pass on to my son and his family. As I type this, “Snuggle Bunny” is getting matted and framed. It will be wrapped and placed under our tree to be opened by Rob and Emily on Christmas morning. Shhhhhh.

The two photos I taped together to base my art on.

The two photos I taped together to base my portrait on.

“I am not in control of my muse. My muse does all the work.” – Ray Bradbury

I continue to be in awe of the creative process. Bringing forth art works best when I don’t try to force it, but get quiet and listen. The muse always makes its wishes known. Step by step, following its directions never disappoints. Creating a masterpiece from thin air is a simple process. It’s all in the allowing.

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

Live From the Inside Out

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. -Steve Jobs

Live From the Inside Out

Live from the inside out. That’s my motto for the year. I have put the kibosh on following social convention and fulfilling other’s expectations. Living in a box of someone else’s making leaves little room for sharing your gifts with the world.

Over the years, I’ve learned to actually feel when my heart is speaking to me. It takes quieting the mind to discern the embedded whisper. Granted, many times I’ve ignored that guidance and gone into my brain. There is nothing like trying to reason your way to safety for a sense of false security. Being safe and being an artist do not go hand in hand.

I’m a firm believer that we are born to share our gifts with the world. The older I get the clearer it becomes that I’m just passing through this realm. That knowledge is what has brought me to the decision to take directions from within. Living from the inside feels risky until I consider the ticking clock. American author Erma Bombeck said,  “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.”

Allegra was the perfect model for my illustration. Living from the inside out is something she was born doing.

Allegra was the perfect model for my illustration. Living from the inside out is something she was born doing.

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

 

Something is Missing Without You

Ostrich and Girl

“What do you want to be?”
“Just a me.” – My answer to a friend’s question at age sixteen.

I did a little cliff jumping this weekend. I took a trip to Colorado to visit my best friend, Gigi, and went to a workshop on past-life regression. A little woo-woo sounding I know, but fascinating. Mira Kelley uses hypnosis to lead her clients into recoverIng memories of previous incarnations. If you can connect your current fears to a past life, those fears will often disappear. I was first introduced to her in a book by Dr. Wayne Dyer. When I learned that he was writing the forward for her book, Beyond Past Lives, I pre-ordered it. The day it appeared on my Kindle, I began reading it. Dr. Dyer gave a glowing account of the healing quality of Mira’s work in his own life. That pulled me in. I found her book sometimes hard to grasp but most times extremely enlightening. Gigi felt the same way so we signed up for her workshop to learn more. It’s a little scary for me to write about this because it is not mainstream, but I’ve made a pact with myself to be who I am in this blog. So there it is.

Sue and Mira Kelley

Me with Mira Kelley

I took another leap while I was in Colorado. I decided to invest in some David Smith watercolor paints and brushes. They are touted as the crème de la crème of watercolors, but in the past, I wouldn’t allow myself the luxury. They are rather pricey, and watercolor is a medium that has a mind of its own. They force the artist to be flexible with what they intend to get down on paper. To buy them meant I would have to paint with spontaneity (not always an easy thing for me). Listening to my heart, I purchased them. $350.00 later I am ready to paint with abandon. Sounds like fun doesn’t it?

I'm ready to paint with abandon.

I’m ready to paint with abandon.

“Be yourself- not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.”
― Henry David Thoreau

I imagine humanity as being like an intricate, beautiful, stained glass window. Each piece of glass is lovingly chosen for its color, texture and amount of transparency. Next, they’re cut and ground to fit together perfectly, like puzzle pieces on board. Collectively, they form a masterpiece. A broken or lost fragment of glass will unsettle and disrupt the whole. In the same way, when we don’t allow ourselves to be who we are, a disservice is done to the rest of the world. Humanity needs your song to be sung. How you think, look and feel are no accident. It’s time to be who you are. Without you something’s missing.

Flying Hearts

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

Live From the Inside Out

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. -Steve Jobs

Live fro the Inside Out

Live from the Inside Out

Live from the inside out. That’s my motto for the year. I have put the kibosh on following social convention and fulfilling other’s expectations. Living in a box of someone else’s making leaves little room for sharing your gifts with the world.

Over the years, I’ve learned to actually feel when my heart is speaking to me. It takes quieting the mind to discern the embedded whisper. Granted, many times I’ve ignored that guidance and gone into my brain. There is nothing like trying to reason your way to safety for a sense of false security. Being safe and being an artist do not go hand in hand.

I’m a firm believer that we are born to share our gifts with the world. The older I get the clearer it becomes that I’m just passing through this realm. That knowledge is what has brought me to the decision to take directions from within. Living from the inside feels risky until I consider the ticking clock. American author Erma Bombeck said,  “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.”

Allegra was the perfect model for my illustration. Living from the inside out is something she was born doing.

Allegra was the perfect model for my illustration. Living from the inside out is something she was born doing.

Me too.

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