Mixed Media Art {the development of one piece}

The beginning - blocking out 140lb cold press watercolor paper. This consists of choosing what size the piece will be, and making that perfectly square and straight, then taping it down really well, and giving it a coat of water...let it dry...

Then I applied various antique papers - these are not "downloads" (nothing wrong with downloads, I use them when I teach) rather, they are original items. I get them as gifts from friends, and from antique stores...

I work on this easel, set on top of this beautiful vintage storage piece:

It's heavy as the burden of sin; thankfully, it is on rollers. It is scuffed and dented has beautiful blue chippy paint. Perfection! The top drawer is a locking cash drawer. For now, it contains all my "dry" art supplies for sketching and Pan Pastel work, and a few "wet" supplies for mixed media and acrylic painting.

The drawers are full of vintage papers, Caran D'ache oil pastels (water soluble) and willow sticks and blending stumps, and utility knives for trimming away extra pieces of material. There are stamp carving supplies in one drawer, jewelry making supplies in another.

Every drawer is full to the brim with things interesting - challenging project supplies waiting to become something that will bless...

But this paper is a perfect example of something not found in those drawers. I get it out, I smooth its folds, and I simply admire this invoice written in 1892. I will use this beauty in one of my mixed media pieces, but not today. This, along with many antique French and Italian ephemera sit in a special box, separate from the other vintage pieces...I am saving them for a really special idea.

This is the {unfinished} version of what was sketched and painted on the watercolor paper above. This is what my worshipping heart wanted to communicate...a beautiful woman, who is deeply aware of her own need for grace- yet at the same time, has chosen to "let no one take (her) crown..." (Rev. 3:11). This woman is a leader - not because she thinks she is, not because she says she is, but because others actually follow her.  She lives by faith, and thereby makes the hard choices that few are willing to make.

She wanted to tell all of us that she is "in it to win it!" (I Cor. 9:25)

Summer's Heartache and Summer's Message

Sunflowers are the badge of summer...summer's calling card. They are my very favorite flower, now.

I used to love white tulips, until life spun out of control, and all my best efforts seemed as if they were for nothing...nothing at all. Then I fell in love with the sunflower, which symbolizes the idea, "I am proud of you..."

Sometimes we have to look hard to find reasons to be proud. When a child, or anyone you love, really, has failed again and again, when they reject your best love and brightest hopes, your counsel, your principles...maybe even your God...you have to look deeply past the surface of things, into the depths of the bottomless love of the Father, to find a reason to honestly (without duplicity or cheap sentimentality) say, "I delight in you, child."

Today is one of those days. Today is one of those days when I am so aware of the grief of a wayward son...grief that leaks from my soul, like a slow bleed-out, threatening to render me only borderline conscious...aware, but helpless and unproductive.

And so what can I do, but find the biggest bunch of sunflowers I can afford, and offer my heart-artery to God for a transfusion.

I wrestle the conundrum of serving a happy God, with serving a compassionate God, who is touched with the feeling of my heart's infirmity. If He feels my pain, if compassion does indeed mean "to feel pain with", how is He also happy?

Mere mortality, I can only feel one emotion at a time. The term "mixed emotions" is deceiving, because one emotion will always win. Always.

And so He means for it to be. "Roll your burden onto The Lord, and He will sustain you. He will never let the righteous be shaken."

He is the only Being in all the universe who can simultaneously feel my pain, and be completely happy...because only He knows the end from the beginning. And beloved...He sings while He works.

I suffer over some of my works-in-progress, flawed artist that I am. Why? Because I fear the work of my hands is irredeemable. I fear I will have to throw my creation away, and start over.

God did that once...because His justice and holiness of His character had to be vividly and authentically illustrated, early in the history of man. He erased the world and started over, with that righteous man named Noah. But He swore in His great love never to do it again (Genesis 9:11).

From the first rainbow till the end of time as we know it, the cross is His mercy and grace, vividly and authentically illustrated. As the Original Artist, He is committed to complete what He began, to restore and even make beautiful all that has been lost.

And so He alone can bear this load of pain I feel...because He alone sees what I cannot see - what it looks like from His perspective: A Finished Work. All the beauty that is in His mind's eye, He has endless capacity and patience to execute it and bring it to pass...with joy.

See, He delights in His children.

Sunflowers. I feel my strength slowly returning.

Grace and Peace,
Sheila Atchley
All blog content is the property of the writer, including all "In the Middle" intellectual and visual art property...

Modest Swimsuit, Anyone? anyone? {Calling All Girls-Who-Lead}

There is still time to purchase a super cute, yet modest swimsuit.

This online company specializes in modest swimwear, and can I tell you? They are doing quite well. Business is booming.

See, there is somewhat of a return to modesty happening right now...even in high fashion. I use Vogue magazine pages as models for sketching my art girls...I tear out pages that particularly feature tone and value, lights and shadows as they fall across a woman's face.

So I can tell you....the pages of the recent Vogue had an unusual amount of beautiful, modest swimwear. Yes. Vogue.

I think the day is coming, and could now be here, when a string bikini looks as silly as "mom jeans". One looks like you don't try hard enough...the other like you're trying too hard, sweetheart.

I mean really...we all know you're cute. You really...like, seriously don't have to look like you are trying that hard to show us. On your best day, it is more about you than anyone cares to know...and if anyone (but your husband, and in a different time and place) DOES care to know...

...well...how can I put this...

...he's a carnal Bubba at best (regardless of his age - young or old), or a creeper at worst.

Um...you can have him. No, really. He's all yours, honey. He sure does love ogling your cash and prizes. Be proud.


Meanwhile, girls and women who lead will be leaving a little mystery going on...and enjoying the attention of a man who is a whole three levels above Young Bubba....or Old Bubba...or Creeper.

And we'll still look smokin' hot.

I know, right? Haters gonna hate. Many many girls just hate a girl who gets to have it all...a rep as a virtuous woman, and mad leadership skills, and all that gorgeousness.

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

All blog content is the property of the writer, including all "In the Middle" intellectual and visual art property...

Mixed Media Art {...from the studio...}

Some mixed media art, from my studio today...not yet finished, but she springs from such a deep place of brokenness and joy:

I accept the glory and grace I have been crowned with.

I have no righteousness of my own...I don't wear this crown because I keep the law of God.

The conclusion that I have it precisely because I have broken God's law is part of accepting the crown, see. The deep and profound revelation that I could never earn it...that I am a sinner...that I need His loving kindness and tender mercy as much or more than my prodigal sons or anyone else's prodigal daughter...

...this knowledge invites me to trust in His Finished Work...lets me wear forgiveness like a crown.

I am educated, cleaned up, churched, and living in a nice home by most standards...but that could never change the fact that on my best day my heart is trailer trash.

Yet...look at that crown!

I will lay it at His feet on that day. It is His, anyway. Christ's righteous reward, placed on my head - my heart bends in worship at the thought.

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

All blog content is the property of the writer, including all "In the Middle" intellectual and visual art property...

A New Favorite

This week marks the first "official" day of summer. The summer solstice is June 21.

"No price can be set on the lavish summer;
June can be had by the poorest comer."
~James Russell Lowell

I can't believe it. No one who knows me well can believe it, either. Summer is now my favorite season.

I live an examined life, in the sense that I know things like what God is saying in this season of my life, that I strangely crave avocado when I rarely ate it a year ago, and what time of year is my favorite. I have always loved autumn best...until the last couple of years.

I think this is what changed my mind:

Long summer nights, driving with the top down, the Preacher and I listening to the rhythmic song of cicadas. Yes. That did it.

We miss our "Barbie Jeep" like we miss our kids sometimes...which is a LOT. (Our nest is now empty, which makes us long for the Barbie Jeep even more...). She gave up the ghost summer before last, may she rest in peace. It is our prayer and heart's desire to find another mint condition spam can. (The other loving nickname we gave to our red Geo Tracker with its tiny rag top.)

If you get the chance to buy one, grab it. It'll make you love summertime.

Between the sunflowers and my garden, the crickets chirping, and the birds singing...I am in love and over the moon about summer, in spite of our drippy southern humidity, which some deem to be that little taste of hell that makes you get religion.

Enjoy your summer, friends! Like another poet said, "Summer's lease hath all too short a date!"

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

All blog content is the property of the writer, including all "In the Middle" intellectual and visual art property...

This Belongs in My House...

You can find this sign for sale on Etsy, "Between You and Me Signs" by Tara on Etsy...if you do a search, you shall find.

If you know us well at all...if you know us even a little bit...you know this sign belongs in our home.

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

All blog content is the property of the writer, including all "In the Middle" intellectual and visual art property...

That Still, Small Voice {Heed It}

That inner witness that all Christians have...the one that, sometimes without any words, comes as an impression or direction or conviction...

...it is a miracle.

The voice that reminds us to love our husband, to give a little extra tenderness to a friend, to respect authority...

...it is an other-worldly, incredible privilege that you, Christian, tend to treat as a commonplace thing.

...that inner witness that is grieved at selfishness, or disturbed by immodesty which always eventually becomes some form of immorality which New Covenant Gospel commands that we flee...that inner witness that twinges at gossip and disobedience...

...the voice of wisdom that used to cry out in the street, but now sounds more like the voice of our pastor or our mother...

...the ruminations of a renewing mind, that is all too slowly learning to comprehend what is the width and depth and height of the love of God...

...the conclusions of a sanctified thought life that decide that a God of all grace is a God worth knowing...

...and worth making known - which entails leadership, which entails the sacrifice - not of our money or our time as much as our preferences and personal freedoms and dearly held opinions and most cherished family relationships.

All these inner witnesses of all degrees and intensities, they are voiced and heard in the spirit of a Christian every day.

They are miraculous. They are what Christ died for us to have - our God, within! His voice, His ways, within!

Ignore them to your profound loss and harm. Hear God in your very midst...within...and you shall not be moved. A serene confidence leading to an incredibly rich lifestyle will be yours as a gift.

Today, if you hear His voice {and if you are His, you will} harden not your heart.

Grace and Peace,
Sheila Atchley

All blog content is the property of the writer, including all "In the Middle" intellectual and visual art property...