Sunday, August 2, 2015

Celebrating 5 Years as an Ex Smoker

Spirit Guides and Angels

Celebrating 5 years today as an ex-smoker.

Looking to quit? Tell yourself it will be easy instead of hard because your mind believes what you tell it. I wholeheartedly believe this because for me it was easy. I quit cold turkey and never experienced any cravings or withdrawals. Notable factors surrounding my quitting included drinking a ton of water and sweating profusely the few days prior which likely helped with withdrawal of the toxins from my system. I also really wanted to quit and towards the end, was choosing to be very conscious of every action- from the horrible taste, to the way it burned my throat on each inhale.

My habit was to light up each morning when I woke. That morning, August 2nd 2010, I took out a cigarette and looked at it and said to myself, "I could light this, or I could go for a walk." I chose to go for a walk. When I returned, I said, "I could smoke this now, or I could just be done with it." And that was that.

Changing a habit means changing your behavior. What if you make yourself get up at 3:00am to smoke? Would you like it as much? What if you made yourself walk backwards around the block every time you lit up? This might sound silly, but just see what happens when you shift the habits surrounding your habits.

Can I tell you about the elephant that used to live on my chest? Within just a few weeks of quitting, I noticed how much easier if was to walk up a big hill by my house. I said that it felt like there used to be an elephant sitting on my chest that had finally got up and left.

It is sometimes common to gain weight when people quit smoking. My weight was stable for a year after I quit. I began to gain weight after a year and then within a year and a half after that, was at my heaviest. I know that I was stress eating a very poor diet and quite sedentary. Being peri-menopausal for an eternity probably wasn't helping.

In October of 2012 I began taking a few yoga classes here and there. In June of 2013 I cut almost all refined sugar and refined flour from my diet and began to focus on eating more fruits, veg, and whole grains. In 2014 I set a goal to do yoga once a week. I finished the year having done it between 1-3 times a week. In 2015 I set a goal of twice a week, and with yoga teacher training, have surpassed that.

The last time I was on a scale, I was down roughly 35 pounds from my heaviest. It could be a little more than that right now. I've gone from barely fitting in 2XL clothes to L and XL. The inches lost through yoga have been quite dramatic.

I can honestly say that at 44 and at my heaviest, I had literally and completely given up. I would look in the mirror at my naked body and think to myself, "I guess this is just going to be how it is forever." I moved like an old person. Lacking body awareness, when walking, my foot didn't always go where my mind wanted me to place it.

One of the key factors in deciding to try yoga was seeing a 71 year old woman yogi move like a 40 year old. I thought to myself, "There must be something to it if she can still move with such ease." Thankfully, I was right.

I'm writing all this to let you know that you have choice. That you can change. That you aren't alone. That you have the power to do it. That sometimes it will be challenging but that the benefits will greatly outweigh any temporary discomforts.

I do believe that change is easiest when you really want it. Do you want it? Yes? Then now is the time.

With much love,
Stephanie Smith 08/02/15

Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday, March 2, 2015

FAQ: How do you decide what you are going to paint?

Untitled work in progress

When someone recently asked me, "How do you decide what you are going to paint?"  I realized that I hadn't really ever thought much about it. The simple answer, is intuition.

Untitled work in progress

When I make the decision to show up, (to be creative) I'll always feel a pull towards one thing or another. That thing could be "gesso a bunch of canvases" or "draw this outline" or "make a piece based on tonal variation" or "work on drawing the figure". As the results of these efforts as well as the creative process itself is often pleasing to me, (sometimes eliciting a much needed emotional release of some sort) I've come to trust this way of working. This means often working on many pieces at a time - though if I have to complete something for an exhibition, I am able to focus my efforts as needed.

Untitled work in progress

If the question is based on design, I'd say that I work in a spontaneous, yet informed manner. I've drawn and painted literally thousands of mandalas over the years and from those studies, I believe that I have developed an individual artistic language. Certain shapes, forms and colors will resonate more than others and I feel an intuitive pull to repeat them. (I suppose this is one way an individual artist develops their style.) I also spend a fair amount of time looking at art and design (modern: late 1880s through the 1960s, and also primitive mark making from a variety of cultures and wisdom traditions) and allow myself to play with any individual elements as they inspire me.

Untitled work in progress

If the question is about what to paint first or next within a specific design, as in, why am I working on one area of a piece over another, I'll often work on what I "see" first. Sometimes that means sitting and staring at a piece until I understand what I need to do, or else it means taking risks, (and painting over them if it doesn't work out) or it could mean taking a photo of a piece and test painting it on my iPad before committing paint to canvas.

Untitled work in progress

Untitled work in progress

The center of this piece will be bright red- but first, I paint a few coats of red mixed with white to make the semi transparent red POP ovet top of the black gesso. PS: This piece will be hung on a diagonal when complete.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

PBS 39 WLVT Interview: The Spirit of Art w/ Stephanie Smith

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

A short while back, I was asked if I would be interested in being interviewed about my art by WLVT, my local PBS station, It would be a segment for their Emmy award winning show, FOCUS which showcases the people, places and issues of the Greater Lehigh Valley and surrounding areas.

The night before the interview, I had panic attacks. Why? Because as much as I enjoy public speaking, there is something about having someone record your words and then edit them to their personal vision. It's just, scary. You have to trust they have your best interest at heart. Luckily, these folks were all for having me do take after take after take and I am proud of the finished piece.

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

In general, television cameras unnerve me. I mean, will you just look at this thing? It's HUGE. It reminded me of the Alien monster and I kept waiting for the thing to open up and for a mini mouth to start screaming at me.

Luckily, I wouldn't be speaking to the camera in this interview. Speaking to the camera is hard. I've done it and no sir, I don't like it.

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

This is how close the host, Brittany Garzillo, would be sitting across from me during the interview.

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

Seriously. Our knees were almost touching. I only had to look at her (and not the camera) when I was speaking which made the whole experience a whole lot easier. Not to mention, Brittany and her cameraman Jeff were extremely kind during this entire process.

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

These are Brittany's notes from the interview. It was interesting to have her ask so many questions and then to see how they would decided to tell my story in the finished segment.

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

Since I don't have cable, I had to wait patiently for a week before the segment was available to be viewed online. I was hearing positive feedback from people who'd seen it, but was nervous to finally see it for myself. I think I did ok.

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

After the seated interview, I created this piece from start to finish while I was asked additional questions.

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

Jeff shooting cutaways and insert footage.

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

It was a lot easier for me to talk while I was working on this piece.

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

After working on the demo piece, they wanted to film me painting.

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

The camera lens was so close to me at times that I could feel the cameraman's body heat. I know for sure that I ruined a few takes because I kept bursting out laughing over this. It was like, "Don't look at the camera... don't look at the camera..." You know how the optometrist does that thing where they bring that little thing where it's almost touching your eyeball? It was like that.

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

I am really painting here - it's not just for show. Thankful that Brittany used my phone to take pictures for me.

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

At times, Jeff had the camera lens almost touching the right side of my canvas. That's when I'd laugh.

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

By this point, I've begun to relax and feel pretty good about the experience.

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

Here I am explaining to Brittany about how I've created thousands of mandalas in small sketchbooks like this one.

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

More insert shots before we go out into the hall outside my studio to do a walking shot. It didn't go very well. I'd touch my chest while talking and screw up the sound. Or I'd say something amazing but wasn't looking in the right direction and then couldn't remember what I'd said before, to be able to say it again. They were so patient with me...

Before heading downstairs, I wanted to use the restroom and made SURE that they removed the mike because I've seen the Naked Gun...

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

Brittany and I try another walking shot downstairs in the lobby in front of my featured artist wall. This time, the footage makes it into the segment. It might be that I'm not very coordinated, or that I haven't had much practice, but I found it to be quite challenging to speak while having to take physical direction. (Speak this, look here, walk now, look at Brittany) 

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

Another insert shot.

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

Jeff filming my work that was hanging in the stairwell. We shot for four hours and I was completely exhausted by the time it was over.

PBS39 Interviews Stephanie Smith Mandala Artist: Spirit of Art

At the end of the day, I am really proud of this piece because I think it honestly depicts why I do what I do. I create to better know myself and to ultimately know what's bigger than me.

Want to know a secret? I almost turned down the interview. The potential for the opportunity was mentioned to me twice in person by the Director of Public Relations for ArtsQuest and if I'd had to give him an answer on the spot, I probably would have said no. When the spot was officially offered to me, it came via e-mail. So I at least had a little bit of breathing room before answering him. What ultimately convinced me to do it, was overall a big part of why I have a studio in the first place.

When I was a little girl, I never knew it was possible to be an artist. It never occurred to me that that was even a possibility. As much as I'd loved art, I thought that was only something for other people to do. So nowadays, I often leave the door open when I work in my studio because I want to make sure if another little girl comes along and doesn't realize that she too can be an artist, that I have the opportunity to talk to her about it. Filming this video is an extension of that thought.

Please watch the video and enjoy.

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