My Brand-New Art Course Launches Monday {...a little behind-the-scenes...}

I'm so excited to tell you about my very first, all-my-own art course I have entitled "Let Us Make".

You may view the trailer here

I've written the course description:

An artful, playful exploration of creation, purpose, theology and story, as we rediscover them all in Genesis chapter 1 of the bible. 
This course is built around each of the “6 days of creation”.  We will take one day at a time to make art based on “let there be light” (day 1)…firmament art (day 2)…botanical art (day 3)…moon art (day 4)…birds and fish (day 5)…culminating in day 6, where we create art celebrating a land mammal and, most of all, human beings who are Imago Dei:  made in the image of God.  

Even though we are taking our text from the bible, you do not have to be a Christian to take this course.  This class is for anyone who loves nature, art, and spirituality.  Together we will play with techniques such as abstract flow art, mixed media, collage, botanical art, and expressive portraiture.  We will try our hand at painting things that fly and things that swim, and we will "paint with light" at least two or three different ways.  

If youve ever wished you could have an excuse to make art and spend more time outdoors; if you’ve ever wished you could gain some perspective on your own story, and come to know for sure why you are alive, this is the course for you.  

All these things will be explored through art and scripture, in a safe, nonjudgemental, even playful atmosphere.  I’m excited for you to join me in “Let Us Make”.  

I have stuffed this class with art instruction, Bible study, and encouragement.  There is, all total, about 8 hours of content, all of it either direct art instruction or direct Bible teaching, and the cost is only $48 for lifetime access!

And here is the link to join:  

Now, for a little behind-the-scenes.  This is for those of you who might be curious as to what goes into the making of an online course!  If I can talk you out of it, I will.  Because isn't for the faint of heart. 

For me, the work of creating this course was much like the work I put into creating the various series of messages I bring, when I travel and teach at women's conferences...only, I had to add art to everything, which tripled the workload.  

And then I also had to video tape myself, which was awkward.  

First, I spent weeks and months gathering.  I studied, I read, I prayed.

And then, for this course, I spent months going gray:

(In case you think I'm kidding.)

I would have gone back to my silver hair anyhow, but as fate would have it, the idea to do an art course based on Genesis chapter 1 of the bible came to me back in the summer of 2016.  Which just so happened to be the time I also decided to go cold turkey off of coloring my hair.  Which is another blog post entirely....and it's coming, I promise.

Next, I had to get several headshots, and this is one of the shots that made the cut:

And then, I created a vision board for the course.  I chose a color palette, I chose certain words and phrases that I wanted to flavor and characterize the course, and I chose a wardrobe that stayed in a certain range of colors:

I gathered my own supplies:

And I then created hours...and hours...and hours...of video footage.  I created lecture videos and art instruction videos:

After which, every minute and every second had to be edited.  By yours truly.  Then, 25 videos and about 18 still shots had to be (::cough::) uploaded.

Let's not talk about uploading.  It's still too fresh.  The struggle and pain are real.  And so is the swearing, even though this is a Bible-based course.  #realtalk

Believe it or not, here we are, mere days from launching this special, special course...and I'm ready to do another one.  It is true what they say about childbirth:

You do forget the pain.  

Most of us mommas were crazy enough to have more than one.

I look forward to this new chapter in my midlife career.  I believe with all my heart that God wants to take an army of us 40-somethings and 50-somethings and do brand new things with us, and bless the work of our hands!

Join me?

A Work-filled, Lazy Saturday

Do the words "work-filled" and "lazy" seem like an oxymoron to you?

Then I invite you to explore the Christian faith further, or for the first time.

Because work is the Original Design for humans.

The Original Artist made man in His image (and P.S. "His image" is plural.  I would go deep with that, but it's a Saturday and I give you permission to not listen to my hermeneutical studies of Genesis chapter 1.  You're welcome.) and God loves the work of His hands.  Behold, it is very good, still yet.

God placed man in the precise habitat, perfect for his flourishing:  a garden.  God gave man a gift precisely suited for his flourishing:  work to do.

Work is our happy place, when we approach it with a renewed mind...which can involve listening to my hermeneutical studies of Genesis chapter 1, but I digress.

So here I am.  In front of a ginormous Mac screen ("Oh Mac, how I love thee...let me count the ways...") doing a different kind of creating.  I'm engaging a different side of my brain, and a different sort of artistry.  When I am done here, I will head to the studio and break out the paints and inks yet again.  These things, because they are so inherently creative, feel like a combination of really-really hard work and really-really intense play.

And I over-use the hyphen, and this is my confession.

Not going to lie:  later, I will have to fold laundry and clean floors.  Genesis 1 and hermeneutics notwithstanding, that's gonna feel like slave labor.

I'm not functioning in my full sainthood capacity yet.  Give me some time.

(just a fun, so-not-serious slice-of-life of my work-filled, lazy, hyphenated Saturday...)

I Am The Number 50

A day in the Smokies always fixes whatever is mis-aligned in me.  My thoughts tumble over the river-rocks of my problems, and begin to run clear, cool, and compelling.  Paint, prose, and poetry happen easily up there.

After all, I can travel to all the places.  All the magic, artful places.  But my life won't become artful until I become artful.  

And the art is found in the attention I pay to what is.

In that primitive and special mountain spot, I remember that I have the capacity to turn ordinary occasions into living portraiture, simply by the focus of my attention.  When I choose the all-there moment, I know I've put myself in that space where "art is inevitable", and poems too.

I know for sure things like "poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance."

So there I was, night before last, light-speckled and paint-stained, and completely content to simply be.  I'm always in imminent danger of writing poetry on days like that.

I Am The Number 50

I am the number 50
A good way from the beginning and
A good way from the end
I am silver dandelion fluff
Scattering seed
Remembering truth
Forgetting facts
And believing
For the first time
That there was
Good music in the 80's

*thank you to my daughter Hannah McConnell for this poignant capture...I still say you are a photographer in the making.

Open the Window {the art of cultivating sustainable delights...}

(beautiful little window, in the village of Auvers-sur-Oise - my own photography)

When I went to Paris, I was struck by how I never needed to go to Paris to feel amazed.

Don’t get me wrong, I was astonished by all of it:
the Seine river, the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame, and apricot crepes.  Especially apricot crepes.
But I already have my Smoky Mountains, my people, my garden, and my coffee with cream.

Cultivating your own sustainable delight
is an art form to be desired.

It’s sort of like the story of the woman who reached a point in her life where she was deeply unhappy.  She felt stifled.
She felt suffocated.
She lacked freshness.
She lacked light.

So she packed up all her belongings and sold the house, because she longed for those things:  freshness and light.

But the next house felt like more of the same.
So she sold it, too.

She sadly never figured out the secret to sustainable joy:

Don’t sell the house.  Just open the window.

This window speaks to me of a God who has richly
provided for me (the kingdom of heaven is "at hand") all that I need.

It is up to me to make the most of it.

My Trip To France {...I still can't believe I was there...}

If you follow me on IG , you may know that this past April I was gifted with a trip of a lifetime - to France!

This woman right here called me on a freezing cold rainy evening in late February and said, "Are you sitting down?"

She hastened to add, "It's good."

She knows me.

(Jeanne Oliver and me, on the last night of her "Living Studio - Seine River, France" art workshop)

Believe it or not, when she offered me an all expense paid spot in her workshop - which just so happened to include a luxury cruise, with excursions to Monet's gardens, a Picasso museum, and Van Gogh's attic apartment...

...I didn't say "yes" right away.  I really did pray.  And I talked to The Preacher.  And he prayed.

And God clearly said:

"Duh.  FRANCE.  Gift.  GO."

A few days later, the above luscious box arrived on my porch.

And it seemed only a few days after that, I was looking straight out at this...

...and fighting a panic attack.  If you know me, to say that "Sheila Atchley" and "travel" aren't good friends, would be an understatement.  I love a lot of things that most women do.  Great shoes, dark chocolate, a smokey merlot, and shirts from Anthropologie come immediately to mind.

But girlfriend, I will never be jealous of your trip.

(Truth be known, I'm not jealous of anything for the most part.  Your happiness is mine, and I'm pretty literal about that.)

I will be processing this trip to some degree for months to come, and for the rest of my life.  I still fight tears every time I look at the pictures.  I still get overwhelmed with the goodness of God when I think of the places He put under my feet in April of 2017.

And don't tell The Preacher, but I don't think I'm done traveling.  Please believe me when I say that the thought actually doesn't thrill me.  But I really do think that the Lord has asked me to be willing to travel to beautiful places to help see to it that women are supernaturally encouraged.  I need to be willing to travel on a plane, coach, and brave the bone-tiredness and gut-wrenching anxiety, so that women can be given art as a powerful tool in their toolkit.  I believe that art is just one tool in the maintenance of a well soul.

When I got back from my trip, this was on my desk:

It had come in the mail and someone had tossed it to my desk, not knowing that the moment I laid eyes on it, I would feel like someone had punched me in the croissant basket.

Paris marked a new season in my life.  Something begun.  Where it "ends" - my next "yes" - is totally up to me.  I'm asking the Lord to equip me for "my best yes".

Going back to about a month before I got on that giant Air France plane -

In mid-March, I had decided to offer my clients a chance to get an original painting from all the inspiration I knew I'd be receiving in France - not just images, but I knew the Lord was wanting to speak to me.  I was overwhelmed (in a good way) when more than a dozen people signed up to receive an original painting from that "Painting-A-Day, Paris" promotion!

Here are just a few pieces that have been completed, so far:

Inspired by the tiny fishing village of Hon Fleur.  Here is the inspiration photo:

Below, is an abstract of the chalk white cliffs of Normandy, with the steeple of a beautiful eglise in the foreground.

And its inspiration photo:

Above, is a dove I saw at the Medici fountain, inside the jardin du Luxembourg.

Lastly, I titled this one "Fullness of Time".  And here is my inspiration photo:

I have no doubt there will be many more blog posts that in some way involve this beautiful trip, something I saw, something I learned, something I heard the Lord say.  I will forever be grateful to Jesus for loving me so fiercely, and to my sweet friend Jeanne, for embodying His heart to love lavishly.

The Fires in the Smokies {...and restoration, and mountain angels...}

After the horrific fires in the Great Smoky Mountains national park, and the city of Gatlinburg, my husband and I needed to visit our beloved Cades Cove.  Part of me needed reassurance that these places that have sheltered my heart all my life can and will (eventually) recover, and heal, and just be okay again.

Along with countless others, I have ached over the devastation.

This image, rendered after our day trip, will always speak of restoration to me.  Through the worst of destruction, God brings about supernatural restoration.  He gives back all the fruit of the land that was seemingly lost to crime, famine, natural or man-made disaster - as told in the story found in the Bible in 2 Kings chapter 8:

"Then he assigned an official to her case and said to him, “Give back everything that belonged to her, including all the income from her land from the day she left the country until now.”

I believe there are Smoky Mountain angels..."officials"...given the sole task of restoring everything that has been stolen from the beautiful mountain people of Gatlinburg and surrounding area, who have been exiled from their previous existence, their homes, and their businesses.  

Of course, the lives lost can never be recovered.  Never.  

But someday, somehow, joy can and will be "given back" to these mountains.

(prints available here)  50% of all proceeds will be donated to the Red Cross