Tribe House Blog

Mining Me – Finding Gold

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Posted : September 7th, 2012 by

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Brenda Valnicek when we were working together on planning an interactive creative expression afternoon. I was inspired by her outlook on creativity and how after battling with some major health challenges she resolved to allow herself to be more expressive especially in the Arts. Here is her story as published in the online publication www.sageing.ca (Fall 2012 edition).  Used by permission.

Brenda-ValnicekBy Brenda Valnicek
When I retreat back into memories of my childhood, I realize how creative I was. What happened to me?
At age forty-four I got cancer, but I knew having cancer was not me. I began to take a look at many of the life choices I had been making and at my ingrained ways of thinking. From a place of humility and openness I asked: What am I being blind to? Why do I have cancer?

My good friend Karen Close posed the question: How are you being creative? Was I creative? What was I doing that was creative? I realized that I did not consider myself creative, and especially not an artist. If I was dressing myself, or decorating my home or my garden, I followed what others did – and what the magazines were saying. I usually chose a ‘style’ or ‘label’ – or I let a designer choose for me.

Slowly, I began to realize that these choices were a reflection of how I chose to do many things. Rather than going into me, I looked around me. What did others do? What did society think was attractive? What did others like? I would let these considerations influence what I did. Looking back now, I know this is indeed heartbreaking. I realize that I was afraid to mine my inner self and ask the questions: What do I like? What do I want? I was afraid to act from a place of confidence in all of who I am. Even when I got glimpses of my real self, I would usually rationalize these thoughts away, or be too nervous to act. What would others think?

Karen suggested we form an art co-operative. We decided to call it heART Fit. Since February 14, 2008, it has been a place where we have shared new philosophies for me on creativity, definitions of what an artist is and the process of spontaneous process painting. We encourage each other to believe and trust in ourselves, and the supportive process of creativity. As I learned to listen to the whispers from within, they gradually became louder. I am mining gold. From inside me comes compassionate, loving and excited wisdom for all aspects of life.

Through the process I learned that:
• Often my mistakes are the best parts of my painting.
• My paintings are full of color and movement.
•The less judgmental I am with myself, the happier I am with the painting.
•Everyone paints differently.

A painting put up in front of a group of 20 people, receives 20 different opinions. Why am I trying to please 20 people when they all have different ideas? I learned that what someone else says about my painting is more a reflection of that person than of me.
Then the real life changes began to happen in my life.

Our home was brown inside and out, and had been designed by a professional. We had no original art and there were mostly prints on the walls. Items were purchased from fancy stores, so that our home would look like what was expected. The home was comfortable, but by copying the ‘look’ and giving the pleasure of creating the ‘look’ to others, instead of to me or to my family, we were missing out on the joy of personal expression.

I began to change, to embrace my creativity, and to become the carefree child I once was. I painted our house walls white, and had feature walls of bright colors. Our teenagers loved these changes. As I proceeded, I repeat- edly asked myself: What do I like? What gives me joy? What gives my family joy? What ideas whisper to me? When the old doubts and fears surfaced, I remembered the insights I had gained while painting. I realized that just as with a painting, everyone who comes into our home will have their own reactions. Some will find joy, some confusion; some will be judgmental. When guests come into our home, I watch and listen. I realize that their reactions are more about them. Real-life mining does take courage. A good friend once told me, when others are judging, pull out your imaginary lawn chair, shake up your imaginary martini, pour yourself a glass, sit down and watch their reactions.

The art in our home now is our own, and original works by friends. There are even paintings we have done together as a family. We have framed and enlarged photos our teenagers have taken. We have a doodle board – the large old prints turned around to expose a white surface. Beside the board is a container of markers to be used by visitors to write and draw. Sculpture and accessories inspire and remind our family and friends to create. As our family’s expression bursts forth, our home has become an organic moving painting which feels full of life and joy. Creativity has changed me and our family dynamics.

This winter, I painted in the garage. I bought large lengths of raw canvas and vibrant house paint. I played, and invited friends to do the same. What wonderful memories and what happy works of art we created. I was going to cut up one of my large canvases into compositions. My husband became determined to stop me. He wanted the large painting for his office! He took down a wall full of diplomas that sat behind him at his desk, moved them to the side, and placed the 5 by 7 foot painting behind him. He says the colors and the happy vibes my painting generates fill him and others with passion. His decision was a gesture of joy and love that has much meaning for me, and for him.

I have found something I was blind to…the authentic brave me, gold. Painting and the gentle voice of my creative spirit has guided me to be me. Now, I am my own colors brightened by the knowledge that this is not only healthy for me, but also for the people in my life. I tend to judge less, appreciate more and realize that there is no need to compete in how I express myself. I feel safer because I am not as affected by others’ judgment. I am free to be me. Deep within me was a knowing that the relationship with myself and others had the potential to be outstanding. When I honor my creativity – my individuality – I see this connection of heart that unites. I have been craving this ever since I can remember. Had its absence made me sick?

Creativity allows the pause I need to communicate with myself in a space that is loving and personal, but which also contains universal reverence for all of us. Being creative gives me a place to mine myself, to grow and to experiment. Creativity shows me the way to the deep love within me – the gold.

To download a PDF of this article click here.

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One Response to Mining Me – Finding Gold

  1. Linda Stanton

    I met Brenda rather briefly this past spring at heArt Fit.. already she has inspired a new freedom inside me to paint and play creatively again. It feels like part of my healing. I too have a health issue I am healing out of.. and I will return to heArt Fit very soon. Thank you Brenda, you are a Godsend!


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