Monday, November 30, 2009

When to Stop

Rev. Haju Sunim

As the Thanksgiving weekend comes to an end my heart is telling me that I need a vacation. Or better yet, a sabbatical. Wikipedia defines sabbatical as, “literally a ceasing, a hiatus, or a rest from work.” Yes, that is what I need: a rest from work.

In order to prevent this artist from starving I still hold down a steady day job. But when my eight hour day is over I am just getting started. There are paintings to paint, events to promote, an online presence to manage…my work is never done.

One might think Thanksgiving weekend would be the perfect time to rest and renew, but I feel like I have been running in a marathon. I started three new paintings for an upcoming opportunity to hang, sketched ideas for two calls-for-entry of which the deadlines are quickly approaching, and I when I had a second to think, I thought about my ideas, or lack there of, for a commissioned painting.

Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the opportunities to show my work that continue to present themselves, even more so since my solo art show at Michelangelo’s in November. But I’m still catching my breath from that experience.

So I have spent the majority of this Thanksgiving weekend not painting, not leisurely allowing the creative process to unfold. Instead I’ve been rushing, spilling paint, breaking spatulas, and fretting about how I don’t have enough time. Gone are the creativity and the fun and in their place are frustration and exhaustion. The worst of it is that what I did manage to paint this weekend is unacceptable. So it’s official: I’m burnt out.

The only cure I know for burn out is to take a break. And while I can’t take any time off from my day job so that I might take a vacation in the traditional sense of the word, I don’t have to keep saying yes to every opportunity that presents itself. To quote the Buddhist monk Rev. Haju Sunim, “Wisdom is knowing when to stop.”

By taking a break from painting, and saying no to opportunities, I will likely lose the momentum I’ve built and not show for a few months. But the alternative is showing work I’m not proud of. And in the end, that could be more disastrous.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Celebrating Life at First Solo Art Show

Posing with singer/songwriter Mailyn Faulkner
and art collectors Anita & Larry Larson

This month I am the featured artist at Michelangelo’s Coffee and Wine Bar in Denver. To celebrate this artistic achievement I hosted a reception there on Saturday, November 7. It was an evening to delight the senses with happy hour extended an additional hour, inspiring music performed and sung by my friend and singer/songwriter Mailyn Faulkner, and nineteen of my original works of art adorning the walls and adding to the ambiance. It was a wonderful experience to sell five of my paintings opening night, but the highlight of the evening was being honored by Tammy Cunningham of The Cunningham Foundation with a HOPE bracelet.

Photo courtesy of The Cunningham Foundation

The HOPE bracelets are a fundraising project that provides breakfast, lunch, an education, uniforms and shoes to 1,500 children at the Project Mercy orphanage in Yetebon, Ethiopia through The Cunningham Foundation. During the months of November and December 15% of the proceeds from the sale of my paintings at Michelangelo’s, and Mile Hi Church, will benefit The Cunningham Foundation. So I asked Tammy Cunningham, and fellow artist Laurie Maves, to share with the guests at my reception about the philanthropic work they do at Project Mercy through the foundation. It is with great pride that I wear my HOPE bracelet as it is a constant reminder that by honoring my creative self I am able to have a direct impact on the lives of children in the developing world and that I am living my mission: to send out love into the world one painting at a time.

Photo courtesy of The Cunningham Foundation

A first solo art show would be a significant achievement for any artist, but for me it was particularly sweet because eight years ago I could not imagine such an achievement. At that time I was just being reintroduced to art, after denying my creative self for nearly a decade, in the from of art therapy at the hospital I was being treated at for a life threatening bought of depression. Since my breakdown, or what I prefer to call my breakthrough, I have come to realize that it is imperative that I honor my creative self. When I didn’t, life for me was not worth living. So celebrating my first solo art show at Michelangelo’s Coffee and Wine Bar was not just about celebrating an artistic achievement, it was about celebrating life, my life, and a life that I now honor and live to its fullest!

Honoring my creative self and painting brings me joy. But donating a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of my paintings to a cause I support gives my life purpose. Dr. Ernest Holmes once said, “Let the one who is sad, depressed, or unhappy find some altruistic purpose into which he may pour his whole being, and he will find a new inflow of life which he has never dreamed.” And so it is.

After the achievement of being the featured artist at Michelangelo’s, what’s next? I’ve been pondering this question for the past week and answer is simple. To keep living, to keep loving, to keep painting, and to keep bringing attention to the causes that are near and dear to my heart: the philanthropic work of The Cunningham Foundation and eliminating the stigma attached to people who have or continue to struggle with depression.

My solo exhibit at Michelangelo’s Coffee and Wine Bar has been extended two weeks and will run through December 12, 2009. Please visit for their address and hours.

To learn how you too can support children of the developing world through The Cunningham Foundation please visit

To view Laurie Maves artwork and learn about her philanthropic endeavors please visit