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Calendar CoverI’m in my ninth year as a ReadAloud volunteer. I love interacting with the fourth graders on a weekly basis, reading, talking, laughing, and sharing our lives. Last year I presented the classroom a copy of my art calendar as a Christmas present. The following week one of the girls gave me a set of 36 watercolor paints. What a thoughtful gift!

Over Christmas break, I wanted to see what each of the colors looked like on paper, and so I drew 36 different colored swatches in a circular pattern. After they dried, I started doodling inside the colors and then created a sweet little bird to go in the middle. It was a whimsical piece, the result of playing around to get a feel for the strength of the pigments.

As I was painting and then doodling, I thought about the kids. I went through each face in my head many times, smiling again and again, appreciating the unique energy each one brought to the group.

The next time I went to the classroom, I gave them the painting, telling them that I believed each of the colored doodles represented one of them and that the bird in the middle was their teacher, Mrs. SINGleton. I said, “Even though each of you is very different, your teacher brings you all together to create a colorful, harmonious, fun classroom.” They cheered and applauded. Really!

Then I asked each to pick a favorite swatch. I said, “Whichever one you like best will be YOU in the painting.” What fun we had! I still remember: “Can I be the pineapple?” … “I want to be the orange flowers!” … “You know which one I’m going to pick, don’t you Ms. Dallmann?” … And on and on. There was no arguing, just joy. And every child made a choice.

I picked this painting for the cover of my 2019 calendar because I believe it represents the essence of why I paint. It’s all about having fun, creating, discovering, laughing, and connecting with others. I play with colors, shapes, and textures; I explore emotions and ideas. I laugh a lot when I paint. And every painting is part of a process, a very human process.

 

If you’d like to see more or place an order, click here: 2019 Calendars

 

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Backgrounds

The Beginnings

A couple of days ago I finished a painting that had been hanging around for months. While experimenting with the concept of creating backgrounds, I dripped some pink and yellow paint on wet paper. The values and shapes were interesting, but I didn’t know what to do with them. I became overly involved with the background; I seemed to want it to be the focus of my painting.

This morning, when I stopped at an interesting place (aka “finished the painting”), I began to compare and contrast creative processes: art versus life. I do that a lot. Painting has taught me so much about my own evolution—as an artist, but mostly as a person.

Maybe some people (myself included) can get stuck becoming overly concerned with “making something” of their childhoods, of their backgrounds and origins.

Could it be less grueling to just create something interesting ON TOP OF IT? To make some bold, blue marks and see what happens? What could our lives become if we allowed talents, interests, and inner wisdom to guide the way?

Years later, we gain enough perspective to see the Big Picture; we notice the origins and the backgrounds, but they are not the focus. The focus is now the finished product—the “Work of Art” this life has become.

As we look closely, we can see the pieces, remember the details, even focus on one or two tiny pieces at a time—a success here, a failure there—but the most grace-filled miracle is how, when we step back and see it as a whole, it all fits together perfectly to create a unique life. The One and Only You.

The One and Only You

The Finished Product

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Four years ago when my art teacher suggested that I publish a calendar, I immediately dismissed the idea. “I have no interest in doing that,” I said. “No one would want to buy such a thing!” Then a couple of days later, for no reason I could explain (even to myself) I decided to see if I could find 12 paintings good enough to include in a calendar that I could give away (since I was still pretty sure no one would want to buy it).

Within two weeks, I had changed my mind, picked the paintings, ordered the calendars, mentioned it on Facebook, and sold every single calendar. Wow. How did THAT happen?

Year two I hesitated. Could I really pull it off again? Yup. It happened again. And I was every bit as astonished as I was the first year.

Year three was tough. I chose 12 paintings and then one by one deleted them from the queue, convinced that they were all garbage and I couldn’t possibly expect to do this three years in row. Those who love me gently pushed. Once again, they sold out before Christmas.

This year has been easier. I didn’t spend long hours worrying whether this or that painting was “good enough.” I simply chose my favorites and placed my order. It all seemed routine and unemotional until the first email came from PayPal, “You’ve Got Money!” The six-year-old artist in me squealed with delight. She loves to paint. I love her paintings. And when someone else loves them, too, it makes me giddy. Every time. Not because someone approves of my work, but because a kindred spirit likes my “child’s” artwork.

Thank you to all who take the time to look at my paintings, buy calendars, and tell me what they see when they look at my artwork. It’s so much fun to share the process with enthusiastic supporters. And the money I get from selling the calendars? Well, I use that to buy paint, paper, and brushes . . . enough to keep the six-year-old artist in me busy and happy.

(For more information about the 2018 calendar, click here.)

 

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Front Cover of Book

The cover of my first published book. To learn more, click here.

 

I’m happy that my book is finished, published, and ready to sell. In fact, I sold several copies last week from a casual mention on Facebook. Truthfully, though, I’m more excited about using my book than I am about selling my book.

Let me explain. Creating a Life You Love is predominantly a workbook; it’s intended to be a tool for increasing self-confidence and joy. Yes, I wrote a few chapters of supportive material, but like any good tool, the real power comes from using it, not from reading about how it works.

As I face the daunting task of developing and executing a successful marketing plan, I’m beginning to long for some increased self-confidence as well as a bit more joy. To that end, I picked up the book and began with prompt #1, “My Favorite Flowers.” It was easy to zip through numbers one, two, and three (daffodils, crocuses, and lilacs … I do love spring flowers!) But then the listing slowed as I thought hard about limiting my list to five. I wanted just the special ones, the flowers I can always count on to warm my heart and leave me smiling.

I doodled a bit on the page and then observed as some of my favorite flower memories floated into my awareness. There was the peony corsage made for me by my high school boyfriend. I was worried when I heard what he had planned and relieved to find the home-made corsage was actually quite pretty. But before the dance was over, all the petals had dropped down the front of my dress. I was left with a ribbon, greenery, and an empty stem. Too funny!

I remembered fondly the vase of lilacs I placed on the altar for the Blessed Virgin when I attended Catholic grade school. Each student took his or her turn bringing flowers each day in May to honor all of our mothers but Jesus’s mother Mary in particular. So many colorful aromatic flowers!

I closed my eyes and allowed the joy of flowers to wash over me. Wild flowers; spring flowers; flowers cut from our yard; purchased flowers; wedding bouquets; flowers in Moscow, Vienna, and London; the flower fields of Carlsbad; Mother’s Day flowers; Anniversary roses; dandelions; crab apple blossoms; day lilies. The deeper I waded into a lifetime of flower memories, the more joyful I became and the luckier I felt.

When my session with the workbook was over, I went grocery shopping and picked up a bouquet of roses for my office. I painted flowers in art class, and noticed periwinkle blooming in the woods.

If working with one page on one day can fill my heart so completely, can you see why I’m looking forward to completing the next 79 exercises? I didn’t just write the book on Creating a Life You Love, I’m living it!

 

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New Beginnings Painting

“New Beginnings” – Acrylic painting to be auctioned at the Charleston Art Walk April 17 to raise funds for the WV Children’s Advocacy Network

Last year at this time I was insistently resisting the label “artist” (See: I’m not THAT!). This year when I received the “Call to Artists” email, asking for donations of art to be auctioned at a fundraiser for a West Virginia non-profit, I excitedly began thinking about making a contribution. Yesterday I awoke at 4 a.m. having just finished the painting in my dreams.

I picked my way through the dark woods to the cottage and happily assembled my supplies, all the while trying to recall the details of the dream painting. I sketched it out quickly on the back of a things-to-do list, made a few notes, and then started painting. This morning I declared it finished because it brought a smile to my face.

Last year’s agony of creation is gone; today I was so absorbed in the joy of painting, I completely forgot to drink my coffee! Now, that’s seriously absorbed!

In this moment, I’m feeling happy and proud of myself. This past year, I’ve willingly worked through a lot of painful memories and purposefully healed those wounds. I’ve butted up against some major barriers, including “I don’t know what I’m doing!” and “I’m not good enough.” Patience, kindness and self-compassion have gradually reduced the size of the barriers. Although, still big enough to be recognizable, they have gradually become small enough to step over. Finally I find myself in a valley of contentment with feelings of satisfaction, freedom, delight, and whimsy. There is a sacred flow that happens now when I paint. It has become a time of communion with my higher self–a peaceful meditation. Lost in time and space, I become childlike, curious and delighted with the colors and shapes. It isn’t about getting certain results, it’s just about the fun of dabbling.

I long to more regularly feel that sense of freedom that comes from releasing attachment to outcome. I wonder what it would be like to approach every task in my life with playful curiosity and delight. When I think about where I was artistically just five years ago (couldn’t even draw a stick man) to where I am today, it makes me believe anything is possible. Yes, it does require a conscious desire to create something new as well as focused effort, but if it results in more connection, freedom, and joy, then count me in!

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Painting of Flowers

“Imaginary Flowers,” acrylic on tile by Barbie Dallmann

I’m reading a book, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, that is stimulating a lot of thought. In the book, imaginary friends are only capable of doing whatever their children imagine they can do. For example, the subject of the book is capable of walking through closed doors, but he cannot walk through walls. He doesn’t sleep because his child imagines him keeping an eye on things all night long. Each imaginary friend is limited by his child’s imagination, and it can be very frustrating for the friends at times.

I think in a sense we are all our own imaginary friends, limited in our abilities because of some default operating system dictating what we can and can’t do. If I “can’t imagine myself ever doing that!” then chances are, I never will. But through the magic of visioning, I can begin to open my awareness to new possibilities.

I have noticed, too, that often other people can more easily see our potential than we can. After all, they don’t have our fears blocking the view. What does it take to trust the vision of others? To step out on a limb, spread our wings, and fly because several other people imagine we can?

A couple of weeks ago, some friends told me that I should teach an art class. Quickly I responded, “Oh, I could NEVER do that! I can’t imagine ever being good enough to teach!” But even as I said those words, I realized that it wasn’t the first time I’d said them. At least twice before I had been urged by someone to create a class to help those who are afraid to paint. When prompting nudges me from three unrelated sources, I have a tendency to take a closer look. For me, that means meditating on the possibility. I create a vision, and walk around in it for a while, sort of like trying on a new pair of shoes. How does it feel? Is it a good fit? Could it work?

And the next thing I know, an opportunity presents itself. This one popped up the very next day. And guess what? This coming Saturday I’m leading a workshop in compassionate creativity for art-timid adults.

So, while it’s true we are limited by our own imaginations, it is also true that we can tap into the Collective Consciousness and download a new paradigm. Why not pay more attention to the possibilities that enter our awareness? Why not try on some new ways of being? Why not sign up for an art class?

Flier for art workshop

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Painting

Acrylic on Tile by Barbie Dallmann (July 2013)

“The only limits are your imagination and your willingness to explore your own inner psyche.” –Sue St. John

You might think I pulled that quote from a coach training manual. Actually, it would be the perfect thing to say to clients as they envision the possibilities of purposeful change. I’ve probably said a variation on it dozens of times. But that’s not where I found the quote. I read it just this morning in a book entitled, Journeys to Abstraction … 100 contemporary paintings and their secrets revealed.

It just goes to prove once again that my art-life is a reflection of my life-life. I find new insights every time I pick up a paint brush, or, like Tuesday, when I skipped the brush completely and just used my fingers (see the results above.) Sometimes in life, you just have to get your hands dirty to get the results you’re looking for!

But last night, on a different painting, I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. Half of it was pretty good, but the other half was frustrating me. I began smearing paint all over the place, but I just made a big mess. It sort of reminds me of those times when part of my life was working and part wasn’t. In desperation, I just wanted to do something different to make things better, but that’s not usually what happened. Most times I just ended up with a big mess!

Never Give Up

This used to be my   Life Motto.

What I’ve learned to appreciate about myself, though, is that I don’t give up easily. I used to have this bird/frog picture on a t-shirt. I claimed it as my life motto. My pattern is to take a stab at solving things and then follow up with some research. That’s why I was reading about abstract art this morning.

I have a smile on my face now as I remember how bad things were for me the day I bought Debbie Ford’s Book, The Best Year of Your Life. As the clerk accepted my payment, I quipped, “Seems like a pretty lofty goal. I think I would be satisfied with a year that didn’t suck. But maybe that’s not such a great book title.”

As it turned out, that following year WAS the best year of my life (up until then). It was the year I finally stopped being so afraid. It was the year I woke up and started making purposeful changes in my life. It was the year I became a coach.

So, with some helpful tips from this latest art book, I think I’ll apply life-life lessons learned to my art-life and start experimenting with a few PURPOSEFUL changes.

(P.S. My new life motto is this, “Trust the Process” … After all, there’s a reasonably good chance that God really does know what she’s doing!)

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