Do You See What I See?

I’d wager to bet our perceptions differ, even as we may imagine we’re looking at the same thing. This is a truism. But it’s curious, isn’t it? By default, we assume we have a shared reality, when that is only partially true.

I recently posted to Facebook a photograph of a painting I made, my primary intention being to share what seemed like an amusing interchange between me and my husband. He said he liked the painting; I was less impressed and responded with something like, “If you really like it, you better take it to work with you, otherwise I might not be able to resist painting over it.” I’m known for painting over my work, for ruining a decent painting by changing “just one more little thing.”

The encounter was meant to highlight my struggles as a painter, possibly to invoke a chuckle or two. I can be guilty of taking myself too seriously. This exchange, and the telling of it, was meant to be an antidote.

What happened next was puzzling to me, but not really surprising when one considers how varied our individual perceptions of the same object can really be. In short, many people – many more than usual – responded positively to the painting. Some folks suggested the painting might be my best work. 

I was stunned. Really?

You might imagine I’d be pleased to have my work well-received, which was true to a degree. It feels good to be liked and I always appreciate when people take the time to acknowledge me in some way.

But more predominantly, I was aware of feeling dysphoric, confused. What am I not seeing here?

Have you ever created something you didn’t personally like very much? 

Of course you have!

Have you ever had other people like that thing more than other things? Things you’ve liked better yourself? Worked harder on, been more proud of?

It’s a strange feeling, isn’t it?

In some ways it’s a bit like going to a costume party and having people say you’ve never looked better. Really? Do you not like the real me? 

But who is the real me? Who is the real you? Would you know your true self if you saw it reflected back to you? If your art reveals something about you, do you know what that is?

In a world where wearing masks is a social custom, is it any wonder we get confused about what is real, true, and good?

Wait, are we talking about a painting or about being authentic? Well, I think they’re connected, at least in this example. Because I know it’s possible to hide the truth of who we are, even when we think we’re being open. Just as it’s possible to truly reveal ourselves without noticing, without seeing ourselves. For better and worse.

None of this may be relevant to the painting. Art is subjective; perceptions vary. But when the groundswell of something you’ve created differs so widely from your own opinion, the problem likely lives in your perception of self.

Perhaps it’s time for you to broaden your self perception, to expand the expressed range of who you’ve allowed yourself to be? 

I know that time has come for me.

Are you an artist?

Works in progress, on location, Provincetown, MA

I came to painting unconventionally, with no memories of childhood painting aptitude and little painting experience outside of my elementary school art classes. I’ve always liked to draw, but my ability to render what I saw was never remarkable. Playing sports and being a good student were more my things. 

There is some photographic evidence that hints of my early interest in painting, but being an artist was never part of my identity. I’m not sure what it would mean to claim that identity at age 50. Nor do I really feel I must do so, at least not any more than I’ve defined myself in other ways. Am I a painter? Someone who likes to paint? Is there really a difference? 

I don’t know. I’m just curious about these sorts of things, most especially how each of us develops and claims aspects of ourselves that have been unknown or previously dormant.

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Moving Beyond the Known

The biggest challenge to progress is our resistance to move beyond the known. 

I’ve grown comfortable with blues and greens, a color palette that soothes me. But mixes of red tones have found their way into a couple of recent paintings, perhaps inspired by the spectacular sunsets of late.

Although there are things I like about the paintings, a subtle tension becomes evident when I look at them, an experience that reminds me how difficult it is to gaze upon the unfamiliar.

The painting shown above is one example.

Of course, it could also be that the painting doesn’t work well in some way, the reason I feel a bit off center when I look at it. But I also know that our perception about what “works” is largely determined by what we’ve learned that means. 

How do we know what we could like if we never try anything new?

I make this post – open to feedback about the painting, as always – but also as a conversation starter about moving beyond the known. 

Where do you find it most challenging to sit with the unknown in your life?

Sunlit Path


Ripples of light
Unfolding a path
Over vast, shifting earth

Circuitous, but leading
Not the shortest line
But there

Along with that lone tree
Whispering wind-filled stories
Of survival and new branches

Look back if you must
But notice the widening arc
The trail gone past

Tales of your struggle
Are etched in your bones
You need not repeat them

Now, away from the setting sun
Step into your long shadow, embrace
And watch the tide shift

The unknown
Place of your thriving
Lies just ahead

© Amanda Reilly Sayer

Accept Your Gifts (Part 2)

When someone asks good questions, we often discover new things about ourselves and gain insight by the chance to more fully articulate our experience. I am so grateful to have been interviewed for this amazing podcast – Accept Your Gifts – which encourages all of us to live our most creative lives. I’ve previously blogged about part 1. Here is a description and link to part 2.

In part 2 of this series, podcaster Tracy Crow, an author, writing coach, and Marine Corps veteran, talks with Amanda Reilly Sayer, a pediatric psychiatric nurse practitioner, about the “paintings I’ve pulled out of the fire…and some actually go in the fire!” As Amanda explains, “It’s a beautiful thing to be on your journey…and to watch someone grow.” She says that each painting also reminds her of the story behind the creation of each — its layers, imperfections, transparency. And, Amanda treats us with a reading of several Haiku poems!

You may find both part 1 and 2, along with other creatively inspirational interviews here. I hope you’ll check it out and let me know what you think!

Want to Spark Joy without Tidying up?

Make art where you find it. Every day. For YOU and for love. This isn’t a Hallmark card, it’s a way of being.

Don’t wait for Valentine’s Day!

Deliberate creative acts, even small ones, feed your spirit. Do it with heart shaped strawberries or whatever inspires you. Make art – broadly defined- to create your best, most authentic life.

At most, it took an extra minute to decorate my husband’s breakfast plate as shown. The choice to do so made me smile, made him feel special, and added a little extra, out of the green box beauty, to our St. Patrick’s Day morning. Triple win.

Truth in advertising: I’m hardly an apron-clad housewife, looking for all the ways I can please my man. Most days I barely get Cheerios in a bowl for myself. Does he eat breakfast on those days? I don’t know! This post isn’t about being a good partner, at least not directly.

It’s about nurturing your creative spirit and watching your world transform!

When you cultivate a creative mindset, every day offers opportunities to make something new, to see the world with fresh eyes and an open heart. A creative approach to life changes everything.

And that’s not all…

When you find ways to share your art with others, you contribute to the pool of love. In case you hadn’t heard: love is the best antidote to fear. Don’t you want to feel less afraid? More joyful?

Making art (cultivating a creative mindset) is a form of self-love; sharing is how you spread love to others. Not everyone will feel the love, but even if one person does, the ripple effect may create a wave of goodwill. Don’t you think we need more of that?

Need more examples, more explanation?

Read more about #makeartwhereyoufindit here.

Want to Live Your Best Life?*

So often we fail to notice the interesting, potentially inspiring, or beautiful, things around us. We’re busy, tired, distracted. Hardwired to notice threat, we’re more likely to attend to the things that could go wrong, than to appreciate the musical quality of the wind, or an unusual shade of green.

Except when we train ourselves to do otherwise, as artists of all types do.

“But, I’m not artistic!”, at least some of you protest. To which I would suggest you might broaden your definition of art. To make art where you find it.

Have you ever read a sentence that made your toes curl with understanding, so moved you copied and posted it so you’d see it again? Shared a photo of a sunset? Picked and dried a wildflower that reminded you of a trip to the mountains? Kept a rock you found on the seashore and set it on your windowsill, next to the others you couldn’t leave behind?

I could go on. The point is to recognize your role in creating your experience, to look closely beyond the familiar, the easily unnoticed. To discover whether your artful witness can spark joy, no Marie Kondo style tidying up required!

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