I'm finally back in Florida after spending the last 3 out of 4 weeks in Alaska, the 2nd trip was to escape Irma's wrath! So thankful everything is fine here in Miami, feeling so blessed that both my apartment and studio came through unscathed and I can get back to my new life here :)
I had a lot of realizations and clarity come to me on this last trip to Alaska, in such a way that I can truly move forward and explore a new life full of adventures, new people and being the strong, empowered woman I am. Nothing is holding me back any longer and I feel I am in a position to now help other women realize their full potential and inspire and motivate us all to reach for the stars!!
Before I left to Alaska I had just finished up this 3'x3' painting "The Power of the Moon". This painting is part of my enlightenment series where I have created a new set of symbols that empower us to find enlightenment in everything around us. I used my "moon/gravity enlightenment" symbol for this painting, see the circular black and white drawing below and find it within the painting 😊😊I created this symbol to inspire us to find enlightenment through forces outside of ourself. We all now how much power the moon has on our planet, how it pulls the tides in and out and creates light for us during darkness. I personally notice changes in myself when there is a full moon, particularly that I have a more difficult time sleeping, without fail every month for several days.
This got me to thinking about how we allow so many outer forces to dictate how we live our lives, and give more control to certain things, and people, than others. We can't avoid things, thoughts and people having an effect on us, but what we CAN control is who and what we surround ourselves with and make sure we have positivity in every aspect of our lives. There are times however, like me with difficulty sleeping during a full moon, that we don't have control over, but we DO have control over how we respond and act to those situations. We can either fight it and create negative energy in our lives, or look for the positives in the situation and find ways to learn and grow from those experiences. I've come to recognize the issue with sleeping and the moon and know that it is only temporary; and if I feel the need to take a nap to make up for my sleeples nights, I do, and I don't let it stop me from carrying on in a normal way, I just take the extra time to rest if needed. I have learned that most negative things in life are temporary and we shouldn't give such things power over us, for they will soon be gone and nothing but a distant memory. There is no need to spend valuable time and energy dwelling on things that won't last, instead focus on the important things in life that create positive energy and happiness, make those things permanent aspects of your life.
I hope this painting, and my moon/gravity enlightenment symbolism, will help you rethink what positive and negative influences and forces you allow into your life. Create positive energy within yourself, which will radiate unto others, and respond to all outside influences with positivity.
In addition to the moon/gravity symbol there are other symbols throughout the painting that I use frequently, such as the floral "true love" symbol. Be positive, stay true to yourself and embrace life and love.
I will be doing a blog post soon with more in depth details on my Enlightenment series, the symbols and their meanings. Created on a 36"x36" Genie Canvas.
Recently hung my two degrees in my studio, two of my greatest accomplishments. Don't be afraid to go after your dreams, no matter what obstacles or difficulties you may face, it IS worth it in the end, I'm proof positive!! Read my story below of achieving a lifelong dream in spite of life having other plans for me 😊😊
I was bound and determined to go to college, even coming from the Bush of Alaska, in a remote village with a school that never boasted more than 15 kids at a time, all grade levels. I did whatever it took to make my dream a reality, and at 17 I booked a flight to Hawaii to go to my chosen school that I had been accepted too.
A few years later I moved to Florida and continued going to college, when I unexpectedly became pregnant at 20, I dropped out of school and went back to Alaska to be surrounded by all my loving, supportive family, who have always been there unconditionally, whenever I need them, no matter what. But, I NEVER gave up on knowing I would be returning to finish my education. So, while I was in Alaska I got a full-time job, applied and was accepted to attend The University of Central Florida (my Alma Mater), and within a month of my daughter being born I was on a plane back to Florida to go to school the following semester. I had a lot of people tell me, even to my face, that because I was so young, and a single mom I would never go back to school. That simply made me even more determined to prove them wrong, and I did!
It wasn't easy by any means, being 21, a single mom to a newborn and going to college full-time, but I had saved a lot of money while being pregnant and working, took out student loans and busted my butt!
When my daughter was about a year old her father and I got back together and I was then faced with an entirely new set of difficulties to deal with. My (eventual) husband had a 4.5 year old son who lived with him (who was an extreme, and I do mean extreme, handful), so all of a sudden my family of two just grew to 4 and I had to adapt to all of this while still going to school. And I would not only be taking care of both kids, mostly on my own, a full time cook, housekeeper and help my husband with his business, but I also held down 2 jobs, while eventually going to school at night for my Masters degree.
I look back and seriously wonder how I was able to manage this and STILL get my Bachelors and Masters degrees in Political Science. But, you know what? It just goes to show that if you want something badly enough and set your mind to it, no matter what, you CAN achieve your dreams and goals. Don't ever, ever give up on what's important to you, if you have the will, desire and passion inside you for something, you have everything you need to make it happen. Go out and follow your dreams and make them a reality!!
(Oh, and I got these degrees in the late 90's but still feel proud to display them as they represent dreams that came true and fierce determination to fight through the difficulties and never give up).
In honor of Susan Butcher day in Alaska, the first Saturday of March, I wanted to share my painting "The Pioneer" featuring Susan and her infamous musher dog Granite. "The day coincides with the traditional start of the Iditarod each year. Observing the special day, the bill noted, provides opportunity for people to “remember the life of Susan Butcher, an inspiration to Alaskans and to millions around the world.” (Wikipedia)
As a fellow Alaskan, having grown up in one of the most remote places on the planet, totally living off the grid with my four siblings and parents, and 30+ dogs, I can relate to the challenges and lifestyle of Susan and wanted her to be one of the first paintings in my "Women Warriors" series from my EMPOWERED collection. My sister Tara, who still lives in this same remote part of Alaska, has an Alaskan blog called "Alaska for Real" and writes columns for Capital City Weekly. Her most recent blog post, and column, were all about my childhood and my new "Women Warriors" series of art and of course Susan Butcher.
As part of the EMPOWERED Collection my "Women Warriors" series will feature strong women from history, whether the past or present, and also female characters that epitomize strength, grace and inspiration. Women who don't take no for an answer and offer society inspirational goals and a "can do" attitude, not letting anything hold them back. They are "warriors" who have fought the battle of feminism/misogyny and forged an easier path for all of us to continue to make headway towards equality. Whether that was their goal or not, they are still a part of our history towards gender equality and I want to celebrate their spirit through my art. The symbols you see throughout the painting have meanings of strength, power, true love, embracing life and so much more that epitomize these inspiring women and how they empower others.
Susan Butcher fits perfectly as a Woman Warrior, her indomitable spirit and "can do anything" attitude is an inspiration to many women. "...Butcher won the [Iditarod race] in 1986, and then proceeded to win again in 1987, 1988, and 1990. She held the Iditarod speed record from 1986 until 1992, breaking her own records in 1987 and 1990. Her other speed records included the Norton Sound 250, Kobuk 220, Kuskokwim 300, and the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. She retired from competition in 1995. Her accomplishments gained her substantial media attention in the late 1980s and earned her many awards, including the "National Women's Sports Foundation Amateur Athlete of The Year Award" and the "Tanqueray Athlete of the Year." She also won the "U.S. Victor Award" for "Female Athlete of the Year" two years in a row. In 2007 Susan was inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame as one of the five charter members in the inaugural class." (Source: Wikipedia)
I was fortunate enough to have met Susan while attending Kayhi (Ketchikan High School) in Alaska in the 80's; she gave an after school greet and meet and I wasn't about to miss out! I remember thinking how amazing she was to dominate such a hard core sport that is considered the toughest race on earth, whether it's a man or a woman at the helm. I left her speech that day feeling inspired and empowered as a woman, something that is so important for young women to feel...to know that we can do and be anything we want, that gender shouldn't be a qualifier for any sport that men and women can equally do well. This was one of the first times I felt empowered to be a woman, and it has stuck with me to this day.
What I love about Susan is that she is also from Alaska and dominated a male sport, and really in such a way that it wasn’t even about her being a woman, she just loved mushing and wanted to race. She didn’t come across as someone who had something to prove, that she was better than any of the men, just that she WAS the best, and she had a passion for what she did. So many of the women warriors I’m painting are similar in this way.
What makes Susan really stand out, is that she never labeled herself as a feminist, but still inspired and empowered many women just by being herself, including me, to go after our dreams and fight for what we want...no matter what. Susan just loved what she did and was going to do it regardless, and continued to do it year after year, and win. You can tell just by looking at some of her pictures that she loved what she did and loved her life, always smiling and free-spirited, while being strong and independent, she was a total bad-ass without even trying!! As with all of my women warriors, Susan Butcher was unapologetic for being who she was. That’s what makes her and so many of these women strong and inspirational. They know who they are and aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves and do whatever it is they have a passion for. She always encouraged other women to be independent and strong, and I'm living proof that her strength and passion for what she did has inspired me to go after my dreams.
I named this painting "The Pioneer" because Susan truly was a pioneer in the sport of Iditarod racing for women, and men. She inspired the women who came after her to not let anything get in the way of excelling at a sport that has always traditionally been male dominated, and she set many speed records for other racers to strive for. She was also very influential in the training and treatment of dogs in the sport, evidenced by her love and kindness shown towards her infamous lead sled dog Granite, who was sick and injured on numerous times and she nursed him back to health and encouraged him to continue to be the most amazing sled dog race in history.
The first of my "Women Warriors" from the EMPOWERED Collection are finished! I think today is the perfect day to finally share them as March is National Women's History Month. I chose to do Frida, Princess Leia and Susan Butcher to start off the series. I will be doing more in depth blog posts on each of these women and the impact they have had on society and the furthering of women's rights and equality.
Susan Butcher is one of the most famous Alaskan women who was the dominant force in Iditarod Dog Sled Racing for many years. My talented author sister of the Alaskan blog "Alaska for Real" is doing a column and blog post on my Alaskan childhood and my most recent "Women Warriors" painting of famed Alaskan dog musher Susan Butcher. Read all about it on Tara's blog and in her column for the Capital City Weekly and The Juneau Empire Magazine in Alaska (coming soon).
(Wikipedia) - "The first Saturday of every March [is] Susan Butcher Day. The day coincides with the traditional start of the Iditarod each year. Observing the special day, the bill noted, provides opportunity for people to “remember the life of Susan Butcher, an inspiration to Alaskans and to millions around the world.” I will be posting a lengthier blog and work in progress photos of my painting this Saturday to honor the amazing and inspirational Ms Butcher.
"Quiet little eyes looked out over the rocky shoreline to a distant silhouette of a barren tree towering head and shoulders over the flourishing green forest that blanketed the land as far as the eye could see. It was the barren tree that drew the young girl's eyes to see something worthy of drawing, something mysterious and unique about a lonely, lost soul within what was once a living, monolith of the forest."
This is perhaps one of my earliest memories of being drawn to drawing, having a need to create something; I was sitting on the edge of my father's shop, no one but myself around and a few seagulls and eagles crying to one another and waves lapping gently on the beach. It was a still moment with nothing but the Alaskan forest and sea to engage and capture my attention, and it did so in a very momentous and profound way that has stuck with me to this day, a moment in time when I realized I could draw inspiration from anything and everything around me to create something new and unique. I think it was this moment that I realized I wanted to be a creative soul and share my creativity with the world...it just took me a long and winding journey of many, many years to make that happen. But, I never gave up, and here I am today, doing what I love, feeding my passion for art each and every day and getting to share with people from all edges of the earth.
Some of my favorite childhood memories are centered around art, particularly coloring in coloring books with my mom and siblings, which we would sometimes do for days on end. Coloring everything from Victorian fashions and architecture, to animals, fantasy, every kind of coloring book we could get our hands on, the Dover one's have always been my favorites. We would all try to emulate my mother's amazing ability to shade and shadow her colorings, something I have never seen anyone else do to this day, truly inspiring to be raised around a talent such as my mom's, and to be encouraged by her and my father and grandparents to always pursue my love of art. Check out my sister's blog post all about my mother and her coloring, plus lots of other stories from our childhood. I remember one time my dad came home from a grocery run across the 10 mile expanse of Alaskan waters with a tablet of oversized paper and pencils for me to create with...just because. And my maternal grandfather once bought me a book all about how to paint, to encourage me to try my hand at something new; these were treasured items to an artistic child living out it in the wild bush of Alaska. It was difficult to be exposed to art other than through books, of which there were many, but my mom did her best to encourage all of her children, five of us, to find our creative passions and always pursue them. I also have an uncle whom I lived with for my senior year in high school who is also an accomplished artist, and who also inspired me to find uniqueness with my art. Art was all around me, a part of me, and my future, but I had to overcome some serious detriments to get to where I am with my art today, but the difficulties inspired me to be even more dedicated and passionate about my art, and to never give up on my dreams. Here is a link to some of my mother's original art creations and my uncle's art link, both amazingly talented people!
I was one of the most introverted, shy people I have ever come across in my life! As a child, when I would be introduced to strangers, or even be around many family members, I would recede within myself, a shaking, bumbling, bundle of nerves. If someone talked to me or mentioned me and I was expected to respond in some way my face would turn beet red, my whole body and voice would shake to a point where I was completely paralyzed, inside and out, no words able to come forth. It was always a frustrating situation for me, particularly as a young child, not understanding why I was this way. It was embarrassing and something I simply could not control, which made it even more difficult to deal with, no matter how I felt or told myself to act, I could not escape this paralyzing fear of interacting with people. Perhaps it was a good thing I spent most of my childhood secluded in the bush of Alaska, until I was of an age where I could manage to control my shyness...at least to some extent.
When I was 15 I overheard the teacher (only one teacher for grades 7-12 in our little bush school) say to someone, that she never expected I would go to college or move away from Alaska or my family, that nothing would come of me as I was far too introverted and shy to ever make that leap, even though I had almost straight "A"s for my entire education. It was also at this time that I started to want to experience more of the life I had read about in books, of a world full of exciting adventures and places to visit, outside of my tiny little world in the Alaskan Bush. I made a choice to take what the teacher had said as motivation, and also my dreams of exploring more of the world, to heart, and moved in with my aunt and uncle in a nearby "city"...a town of 4,000 year round residents, so that I could go to a larger school and work towards college somewhere outside the state of Alaska.
It wasn't an easy transition at all!! For someone who couldn't bear to look at or talk to strangers, this was a whole new world filled with living, breathing obstacles to overcome. I was sick much of the time that I lived with my aunt and uncles until I finished high school, just being exposed to viruses on a constant basis was something I wasn't used to, and the stress of being around people all the time was overwhelming, but I didn't let it hold me back from maintaining my grades and my dream of going to college. I slowly overcame my shyness to a certain degree and even auditioned for some of the high school plays and ended up having small parts in them, a HUGE victory for someone so inclined to avoid people at all costs!! I did loads of research on where I wanted to go to college, how I was going to pay for it, as my parents weren't in a financial position to help, and ended up deciding on Hawaii Pacific University...the sun was calling my name. I did all of the paperwork for the scholarships, student loans, admissions, housing, travel, everything all on my own; NOTHING was going to stop me from going to college and discovering a whole new world outside of the small life of an Alaskan Bush child.
During all of this I would try to make time for creating art, and would doodle endlessly on all of my folders and binders for school, until they were completely covered in ink. Some of the students would even straight out ask me what kind of drugs I was on, hahaha!! My drawings were so random and abstract I could see where they might think that, but my mind doesn't need any outside help, it's strange enough all on it's own! When I was in college I wrote poetry as a creative outlet, as I moved so often that it was hard to find a place to keep any art supplies, but I did continue to "doodle" and draw on anything I could find, whenever and wherever I could.
As the reality of being a grown up set in, in the early 1990's, I was surrounded by the pressures to make a life outside of an artist, the "starving artist" myth became firmly rooted in my psyche and I unwillingly accepted that I wouldn't be able to make a decent living as an artist, so I studied Political Science instead and kept my art as a hobby and joy, a place to escape from every day life and revisit my true passion. I received a Master's degree from UCF (Orlando, FL) while raising a family, my now 22 year old daughter, a stepson and of course my husband, sometimes working two jobs to help ends meet and dreaming of a future where art was a larger part of my life. After college I worked as a teacher, and then a Political Science journal editor at UCF, and eventually ended up working with my husband in our lucrative custom home building business.
I would do some local murals for homeowners every now and then, and looked around for other ways to possibly incorporate art more wholly into my life, but family and work took such an enormous amount of time, I would be lucky to create a couple of paintings per year, and these were purely for my own enjoyment. It was when I created this pink sunset whale tale painting in 1998, and received such a tremendously positive reaction from friends and family that saw it, that I started thinking more seriously about my art and making time to create more.
It was in 2002 when I was finding a little more time to create art now that the kids were in school all day, and on a whim I decided to list a painting on eBay at auction. What happened next changed the whole course of my life and has led me to where I am today...a bidding war ensued in the last minutes of the auction!! When the auction ended I was so elated and thrilled that not just one, but numerous people wanted to buy this painting, I was hooked, and every chance I could get I would paint and list on eBay, and the paintings always sold. It was such an affirmation to me, and a hope realized, that I COULD make a living with my art, that I COULD follow my dream and be a full-time artist. But, it would still take many years before I was able to fully put this into effect, the housing business was booming, and I couldn't detract from that business to do my art full-time, but I knew the day would come soon when that would be a reality...and finally in 2007 it happened. We saw the housing bust coming, sold everything and moved to Alaska, to the city of Ketchikan where I graduated High School. My Jamaican husband wanted to experience Alaskan life, haha! I had all the time in the world to dedicate to my art, and I attacked it with gusto and passion, working 7 days a week, sometimes painting up to 10 abstracts in a day and listing them online! My dream had materialized and it was, and still is, such an amazing experience to live the life I've dreamed, and to continue to watch it grow every day.
We moved back to Florida after a short 2.5 year stint in Alaska, my husband, daughter and I all agreed we needed to move back to sunny Florida. I've continued my art business here, growing it internationally, locally, and working with 30+ manufacturers to place my art on their products. I have so many more things I want to do with my art to take it to the highest level of art success I possibly can, no barriers are too large for me to overcome. I look back to where I started and realize that there are no obstacles in life to hold us back if we truly believe in ourselves and what we want. You WILL see much more of me and my art in the future, we are here to stay!!
Footnote: Within the past 5 years, art sensation Megan Aroon Duncanson has created a name for herself around the world. As a young child sketching her surroundings at her home in the Alaskan bush, she could have never expected the amount of success she has had as an artist. She has sold thousands of originals around the world and her art graces homes in print form in the hundreds of thousands and steadily increasing every day. Her art has been seen on hit TV shows like Grey's Anatomy, Good Morning America, Celebrity Wife Swap, adorned in hotel lobbies and rooms, used on CD and book covers, featured in magazines from Family Circle to "O" the Oprah Magazine, in catalogs and is currently offered on hundreds of products by over 30 different manufacturers; just to name a few of her recent accomplishments in the art and design world. Megan also is very active on social media and has a following of over 50,000 along with 50,000+ monthly hits to her websites.
"It's not just about where we came from, but who we are, and the journey we take through life that defines us" ~ Megan Duncanson, "Livin' the MAD Life"©