worthy of worth, part 2

On November 25, 2018 I wrote a post about WORTH – more specifically, feeling WORTHY OF WORTH. That post was the result of the first few months of my book tour for “A Big Important Art Book – Now with Women”. I’d noticed a recurring theme of people – especially artists – not believing they were worthy of living creative lives.

Five days after I wrote that post, my dad died. It was sudden, unexpected, and an absolute shock to my family. Everything stopped. My book tour, my urge to create, my will to shower daily. True. My dad has always been my biggest cheerleader – he pushed me hard too {which wasn’t always fun}, but he was in my corner every minute of my life.

I’ve had a long, hard winter. Never experiencing this kind of grief, I didn’t truly know the range of emotions you can experience in a matter of minutes. I was sad, then okay, then very very angry, back to crying uncontrollably, and then okay again. Honestly, I’m still riding that rollercoaster, but I’ve learned to accept the dizzying effects. The best advice I got was from a childhood friend who also recently lost her dad. She wisely said, “it’s okay to not be okay.” That’s hard for a control freak who tries to be on top of everything all the time, but allowing myself to “not be okay” has been the greatest gift I could give myself. If you’re going through any kind of grief right now, I hope this advice helps you too.

All of this to say, I’ve done a lot of soul-searching. It’s cliche, but life is short. My dad certainly had no idea that his last day on this earth would be after on a morning training run on the beach in Jamaica just days before the event he was there to run. So, what matters to me? What do I want? What do I want to do with whatever amount of time I have here?

I want to make my own art, and I want to help other people feel worthy of living a creative life too.

In late February, my grief fog started to lift a little – ie., I started brushing my hair again. My dad has always wanted me to kick ass at whatever I set out to do… so here we are. I built a studio in my basement. I have reached out to people who I admire for help with what my next steps should be. I have been making art every day. I finally wrote and pitched a children’s book that I’ve been thinking about {ie., hesitating to pitch} for three years … still waiting to hear about that one, but I’ll keep you posted!

People who follow me on Instagram have commented/noticed the sudden fire under my own artwork, and have been asking how, what, why? Well, all of that lonely soul-searching is definitely a factor, but there have also been FIVE key things. Now, this is in no way a sales pitch for ANYTHING so please don’t read it that way. It’s just the truth. I’ve never been much of a joiner… I don’t join groups, I have never liked talking to other people about my art, I’ve never even been part of a book club. That said, I’ve realized in the past few years of writing books and delving into the uncomfortable world of creative blocks and inner critics, that having the support of other creative people is absolutely crucial. You don’t need a tribe of 100 people… 2 or 3 will work just fine, and they don’t even need to be in your town. Most of my “tribe” are friends who live on the other side of the planet. Ok, so, here are the FIVE things that have pushed me to stop f’n around:

  1. My Dad. His famous line {used on me, my sister and my brother} was always, “the harder you work, the luckier you get.” Yep.
  2. Going to Venice in 2017 and 2018. Talk about a rollercoaster. The Venice Biennale is filled with the most insane artwork. Work that takes your breath away. Work that made me think, “My simple little collages are so pointless!” Now, the old me would have just quit right then and there, but ‘The Jealous Curator’ took her own advice, sat down with an espresso beside the Grand Canal and wrote a list of why her work was important, but also how she could push it further. This is not a sales pitch for attending the European Cultural Academy in Venice this July, but it is a pretty transformative place / experience. {FYI, I’m one of the teachers in July}
  3. Pennylane Shen. Damn. She is an artist consultant who will sit down with you {either in person or via Skype}, and help guide you / your work to the next level. If you follow me on Instagram you might have noticed my “simple collages” getting a lot less simple. Yep, that’s a combination of the Venice experience and working with Pennylane. Oh, and she also convinced me to finally build a proper website for my art.
  4. Turning my 100 year old basement into a studio. My husband suggested this after the millionth time I complained about not having enough room to take my work from small paper pieces to large panels. I didn’t procrastinate, I didn’t find reasons it wouldn’t work, I just got it done. March was filled end to end with renos {pictures coming soon!}, and voila, it’s done. Now, after I drop my son off at school, I “go to work”. I pour a coffee, put on my paint-covered apron, kiss my husband goodbye and head down to my studio for the day. Sometimes I cry due to overwhelming happiness.
  5. Thrive. Again, not a sales pitch, just something I’ve been doing for the last couple of years that has helped me find my way. If you haven’t heard me talk about them before, it’s basically a mastermind group {online} for female/female identified artists from all over the world. I think it’s the accountability that goes along with our once a month meetings that has helped me make a plan and stay on track… when you know you have a meeting coming up, it kinda lights a fire under you to do the stuff you told your group you were gonna do!

My sleeves are rolled up, and there will be no more apologizing, hesitating, or feeling unworthy of the success I want. I’m going to go get it. I’m going to make my cheerleader proud.

Thank you for listening. ps. If you’re wondering why my podcast has been on hold, see above. It will come back, but the grief rollercoaster is not conducive to recording conversations with people you don’t know! Until I feel ready, there are 151 episodes archived for you.

comments (39)

  1. Jane Larson /// 04.21.2019 /// 9:56am

    Thank you for this encouraging post! I live out in the boonies and would really love the support of more creatives. I’m going to check out THRIVE! Love what you said about grief, too. Nothing interrupts the creative process like grief, and I still need to remind myself that it’s ok to not be ok. And my other mantra–“you have to feel it to heal it”.

  2. the jealous curator /// 04.21.2019 /// 10:07am

    oh, i like that one too, jane. thank you : )

  3. Stephanie /// 04.21.2019 /// 1:26pm

    This was beautiful. Thank you for being such an encouragement even in the midst of grief.

  4. marc cardwell /// 04.21.2019 /// 3:51pm

    you are awesome.

  5. the jealous curator /// 04.21.2019 /// 4:47pm

    thanks everyone xo

  6. Monica Lee-Henell /// 04.21.2019 /// 5:22pm

    Been thinking of you so much, wondering how you’ve been able to post but guessing you might not feeling like brushing your hair. So happy you are throwing yourself into your art practice! And I am hoping to come to Venice again this summer, fingers crossed! It will be so good to see you and having a morning coffee together!

  7. Angie MacCambridge /// 04.21.2019 /// 5:24pm

    Thank you for sharing so honestly and for the encouraging no BS words. A good kick in the pants for me and what I need to hear right now. Onward…

  8. Carey /// 04.21.2019 /// 6:09pm

    Yes to all this. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Carrie Brummer /// 04.21.2019 /// 6:10pm

    Danielle, even in your grief you share wisdom, you offer support to others and shine. We are lucky to have you share your journey with us. Seeing you set up your studio and really start to take charge of your art has helped me to light a fire under myself as well. So thank you <3 And keep doing you!

  10. Vivien /// 04.21.2019 /// 6:27pm

    When I rediscovered your website last year and started listening to your podcasts, it was truly transformative for me. I can’t thank you enough for all you do!! Its also pretty exciting just seeing everything you’ve got going on right now, and it’s really inspiring.

  11. Mandy Behrens /// 04.21.2019 /// 6:44pm

    Deepest gratitude for these words; boundless happiness for your rejuvenated art force. Couldn’t have come at a better time to hear your grappling and following your dad’s advice – my 4th stint as a family caregiver takes precedence as I help my husband with the fight of his life. Art is my compass and I will seek it (sketchbook drawings for the moment). So many irons in fire are now on hold but those will come alive someday….it’s good to know that what I’m gearing up for will be not be okay and that is okay. Always a follower of your work and wisdom. Thank you Danielle. xo Mandy

  12. Kim /// 04.21.2019 /// 7:41pm

    My condolences for your dad’s passing – thank you for sharing how you’ve been navigating this rough time. I miss your podcast because it’s been incredibly inspiring & helped light the fire in me to do my work, but it’s just as inspiring to see your journey as an artist blooming so beautifully. Your story has been a light in a dark tunnel for me. You are amazing. As someone else here said… Onward!

  13. Amy Ordoveza /// 04.21.2019 /// 7:55pm

    I hope that you feel encouraged knowing that you really are helping other people live creative lives. Listening to all of the very different stories of artists from all over the world in your podcast interviews last summer gave me the motivation to develop a body of work and get serious about showing it in the midst of a lot of life-changes that could have become excuses. Yesterday, I had a show open in a gallery that I discovered through your blog. Thanks for the inspiration!

  14. Asta Lander /// 04.21.2019 /// 8:04pm

    I want to say a zillion things. But that would be a long long comment. I feel my art has flourished since my dad died. I was alone with him and I had a shared death type experience. However I feel my art/poetry may appear scattered, and how to hone it down?? Yet I feel it is building up to something exciting. I am full of joy about the process currently. I understand about lulls… through changes/griefs. Thankfully poetry found me. So when I don’t paint (or even when I do) words soothe me. Thank you for all you do. You have introduced me to artists I now adore and by your example I continue to embrace my version of my calling. May you thrive dear Danielle. And may your heart be at peace. I am very sorry about the sudden loss of your dad. Asta xx

  15. Pennylane Shen /// 04.21.2019 /// 8:36pm

    Danielle, what a touching and incredible post. I’m so inspired by your honesty and generosity to share what a profoundly heartbreaking and difficult time it’s been. I’m also deeply grateful to be a small part of your journey as a badass, full time, studio-owning, solo-show having, ARTIST and mentioned among the greats on this list – particularly your pops. Theresa Caputo may not have channeled him but everything else has it seems! It’s kind of nuts to think back to a couple years ago when you were beginning the practice again since so much, both good and bad, has happened since then. I’m always around when you need that next ear for a listen, or match for some fire lighting. Let’s keep that fire stoked!

  16. Laura Dene Mchugh /// 04.21.2019 /// 10:32pm

    Yep. My dad passed in May 2018, not so suddenly, but the grief blanket that enveloped me was unexpectedly heavy and long in lifting. I too made a room of my own, retired from working for others, and any time I see a coin, I know dad is here with me. I keep them in a little container on the shelf in my studio. xo and here’s to things getting better. But we miss those old guys, eh? xo

  17. Katy /// 04.21.2019 /// 10:38pm

    Thank you Danielle. Thank you.

  18. Hazel Monte /// 04.21.2019 /// 10:42pm

    You are a She-ro! Still in & out of the fog here, but you give me inspiration and hope, oxo.

  19. annton /// 04.22.2019 /// 12:56am

    Thank you for sharing this. I am so sorry about your loss. I have lost my father three years ago and though it happened under totally different circumstances, it was a heartbreaking process. And it took time. And, they are right about your work, it is on fire, and you’ve just kicked me with this post too. xo

  20. christine /// 04.22.2019 /// 4:16am

    Accurate. Same. Sending you all the good vibes and confident you are honoring your dad in the best way.

  21. Kris /// 04.22.2019 /// 5:31am

    I would like to thank you for all the encouragement you have given all us makers out here over the years. I am not a professional artist, but I do love to create. You have lit a fire under me to work more often on my felting. Thanks so much, one mor time.

  22. Mary Gaspar /// 04.22.2019 /// 7:00am

    Danielle, Thank you for sharing about your grief and journey through this excruciating time. Creating during times of grief is at times paralyzing and sometimes totally therapeutic. I’m so happy you’re coming up for air. Sending you big love.❤️

  23. Robyn Arouty /// 04.22.2019 /// 7:46am

    #heroworthy xo

  24. Twyla Exner /// 04.22.2019 /// 9:19am

    Danielle, My deepest condolences on the loss of your father. I’ve been following your blog since around 2012 and I have to say it’s been super inspiring to watch your journey. I appreciate how honest and open you have been (ie. brave) with the many challenges that life and art making and navigating the art world present. And look at you! I imagine a global community of us (all cut out into little collage people) cheering for you as you as you work in your “not fucking around anymore” studio (filled with paint blobs and pom poms) towards your solo show! I can’t wait to share your kids book with the many art kids I work with every year (I really hope a googly eye makes an appearance).

  25. Melissa Arendt /// 04.22.2019 /// 10:50am

    I believe in you Danielle! Thanks for sharing and for years and years of advice, encouragement, positivity and artistic magic 🙂

  26. stephanie /// 04.22.2019 /// 2:29pm

    Thank you for this. I am always inspired and in awe of seeing what you do next. And this is the hugest thing you have done, it tops your usual writing/publishing art books, podcasts, curating shows and all the amazing things you do. For you to go through the pain of your father passing (and continue to), all while rapidly blossoming into the triumphant incredible artist that you were meant to be, well-not only is your art beautiful, but your life and your sharing of it is the most beautiful art I could ever imagine. Your depth, humor, and honesty I cherish! Your father I am sure is beaming with such pride. Love you immensely. And thanks for the awesome tips! XOXXO!

  27. Jan Weiss /// 04.22.2019 /// 2:38pm

    I lost my mom on December 5th. Though it wasn’t a surprise…she was declining…it still hits your heart hard. I miss having a mom.
    Sending you hugs even though we don’t know each other…I get where you are at.

  28. Pamela Bates /// 04.22.2019 /// 8:09pm

    Danielle. Oh the pain of losing your dad, and biggest cheerleader. Sadly, I know it all too well. I lost my Dad July of 2017 and I am still moving through the grief and finding my creative footing. Grief is being on a rollercoaster with a broken safety bar and you are just hanging on for dear life. Everyone grieves differently. While some of the most difficult times in my life, also some of the most beautiful in the acknowledging and allowing. Once I was able to create again, I painted a collection that grew out of the lessons my Dad left behind in the ones he loved, and launched I’m an exhibit I put together myself. ‘ if you build it, they will come.’ and they did. My dad was surely there cheering me on. And I keep creating and healing. Wishing the same for you. Thank you for sharing Danielle.

  29. Caroline Beavon /// 04.23.2019 /// 12:51am

    You keep doing you, gorgeous lady. You’re so inspiring to so many people, it is absolutely your turn to look after yourself.

  30. Mariela Di Nardo /// 04.23.2019 /// 10:22am

    Dear Danielle, give yourself a BIG GIFT and PAUSE the podcast at least to 2020! You’re a Human not a Factory! Getting peace again from this kind of roller coaster takes an average of two years. In my case, was hell the four years after my dad took a rocket to the sky! Really hard for many reasons. Maybe you´re the exception and in few months you´re wonder woman! Who knows?!… but please, please, please… release all the pressure from you and from everyone else on you, that you have to do this or that. It´s more than OK, IT´S PERFECT! if you don´t want to leave your house, or take a bath or brush your thees, or just want to lose yourself for hours laying in the flour of your studio without making any artwork or anything. IT´S PERFECT SISTER!!! It’s perfect NOW and when you need it!

    In these transformative couple of years, you’ll find yourself discarding many things that were important to you before, and maybe the podcast will not be there in you anymore. Will see! Transformations are always hard although satisfying when the healing process has ended. Just be kind and loving with you!

    Love you Sister! I’m here for you every time!

    Huge Hug!!!

  31. Cheryl Hansen /// 04.24.2019 /// 12:52pm

    When my mother passed away unexpectedly, I would look in the mirror and only see my face even in a full length mirror. I didn’t see color for 3 years!!!! Terrible for an artist. I was too young to lose her. And sadly, in fall of 2014, my father also died unexpectedly. I started to do the free Oprah and Deepak Chopra meditation and haven’t stopped meditation since. It really helped me get off the roller coaster of life. chopracentermeditation.com. They have a free one every quarter (just finished one) but they have some free resources you can check out. Let yourself feel the emotions because it will help you heal the hole in your heart. And there will be days that you will go back to square one and think WTF? It is just human nature. Something will trigger a memory and there you will go. It is ok not to be ok. There is a song on KLOVE with that title. Positive reinforcement. And like you, I’m not a big joiner of clubs but . . . now you are part of the tribe. Sending love and all green lights!

  32. the jealous curator /// 04.25.2019 /// 6:39am

    thank you so much, cheryl. you’re an inspiration.

  33. Anne Schwankhart /// 04.25.2019 /// 9:35am

    Thank you for sharing and being so open and thank you for stoking my fire!

  34. S. Elizabeth /// 04.25.2019 /// 12:49pm

    I’ve been peeping in on your site for years, always admiring the art you so thoughtfully curate here and share with us, and feeling so lucky to live in a world where there are humans like you who love art so much. I am terribly sorry for your loss; having my mother pass, and then shortly thereafter, losing both my grandmother and grandfather, I know how it is to be paralyzed in the face of overwhelming grief, and I concur with your friend–it is totally ok to not be ok. I know you didn’t ask for suggestion but Megan Devine’s book, It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand is truly wonderful, and you may get some useful nuggets out of it. In the meantime, all the best with your art!

  35. the jealous curator /// 04.26.2019 /// 6:40am

    thank you so much …. i’ll check that book out 🙂

  36. Andrea /// 04.26.2019 /// 8:28am

    Danielle, I love your honesty and transparency. I can’t imagine the emotions you are going through but I see your spark of light in your art. That keeps shining. And it’s part of you and your dad. Xox

  37. the jealous curator /// 04.27.2019 /// 6:51am

    thank you, andrea xoxoxo

  38. Clare /// 05.01.2019 /// 8:07am

    Thank you for this post. <3
    I am realizing on a trip now how important other women are for me and how I need to have a tribe of creative amazons to spur me on and help me keep pushing. You have changed and sparked life into my life and I am so sorry for your loss and pain. I wish I could reach through the keyboard and give you a hug. It is ok not to be ok, and grief is a part of life. It is an indication of loving deeply.

  39. the jealous curator /// 05.01.2019 /// 8:51am

    thank you, clare xo

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