Art + Culture

Art (and Artists) I'm Crushing On These Days

Art (and Artists) I'm Crushing On These Days

I have been finding SO much inspiration in the art I’ve seen from talented artists on my radar lately, and wanted to share the goodness and beauty with all of you!

The One Where You Tell Me What to Watch Next

The One Where You Tell Me What to Watch Next

I'll tell you what I've watched, what I've loved, what I've hated, and you tell me what I should watch next... deal?

My Current Favorite Podcasts (from Real Life Friends!)

My Current Favorite Podcasts (from Real Life Friends!)

I'm a big podcast fan, especially when they're created by my people. Here are a few new shows I'm loving lately!

10 TED Talks I Love

10 TED Talks I Love

I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite talks, since there are SO many and it can be overwhelming to know what's best to listen to! These standouts are worth a listen.

Kicking Off my Third Round of #The100DayProject

Kicking Off my Third Round of #The100DayProject

#The100DayProject is back in action! I'm embarking on my third round, and I'm so excited to announce what I'll be creating for the next 100 days!

100 Days of RAD Watercolors

100 Days of RAD Watercolors

Did I really just type watercolors in that title spot? Watercolors? Really? Me?

To Quote Them

Lately, I've been reading good stuff. I've kept the fiction on the shelf and been diving deep into rich, real, great books. There have been several quotes that are too good to keep to myself but too long to tweet, so here they are! Hope you enjoy them. I highly recommend each of the books they are from!

This is the love you have been looking for all of your life. This is the only love that can’t let you down. This is bomb-proof love. Not friend-love, not personal acclaim, not married love, and not even romantic love—it is this love that you are after, underneath the pursuit of all those others. And it this love of active obedience is an active reality in your life, you will be a person of integrity; you will be a person of prayer; you will be kind to people who mistreat you. If you have this love, you will be a little more like him. Look at him dying in the dark for you. Let it melt you into his likeness.
— Timothy Keller, in "Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life's Biggest Questions"
Because the most important thing about art is work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying. Why is this so important? Because when we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen. A process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid. Unseen forces enlist in our cause; serendipity reinforces our purpose.
— Steven Pressfield, in "The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles"
For our lives to be works of art, we need to allow a lifetime of work. We must give god the time to make us works of art. We must press close to God and allow both the tenderness of his touch and the pressure of his hands to shape us and mold us into someone we would not be without him. If we want our lives to be works of art, we must be willing to take the time and risk the intimacy required for creating an artisan life. We have to get close enough to allow the hands of God to press against us and reform us.
— Erwin McManus, in "The Artisan Soul: Crafting Your Life into a Work of Art"
Put simply, life is God-given opportunity to become who we are, to affirm our own true spiritual nature, claim our truth, appropriate and integrate the reality of our being, but, most of all, to say “Yes” to the One who calls us the Beloved. The unfathomable mystery of God is that God is a Lover who wants to be loved.
— Henri J.M. Nouwen, in "Life of the Beloved"

The Thing About Writing

Here's the thing about writing: it's hard. It's the thing that makes me feel alive and like I'm doing what I was created to do, but it's also the thing that is a struggle full of resistance and excuses. I pour words onto the pages of my journal, but then stare at a blank screen and feel stuck. It's one thing to put my words down for my eyes only, and another thing altogether to hit publish and let them fly.

Here's the thing about writing: it's worth it. The hard posts, the ones that stay in the drafts for months too long, the ones that come with tears or shaking hands, they're worth it. They're the raw words, the ones that are real in the deepest and richest of ways, and they matter. I read words like that from writers I love and from strangers I've just stumbled upon, and my heart soars. Transparency is beautiful. Sharing struggles and successes and stories is essential-- we are all human, all struggling, all fighting through the days and trying to be brave, and when we can read words that remind us we're not alone, it's helpful. It's encouraging. It's uplifting. It's worth it.

Here's the thing about writing: it's a gift. I forget that a lot. It's a freedom to be able to share my words freely and send them out to anyone listening around the whole wide world. Not everyone has that freedom. I so often feel a pressure to publish, a pressure to be perfect, a pressure to have things figured out before I write them down...but it's a gift to write. Not pressure. Not a burden. When I see it that way, when I remember to be grateful for the chance to share and spill and journey through things with my words, it's a joy and a gift to do so.

Here's the thing about writing: you just have to do it. Inspiration may strike, or it may not. You may feel tired and exhausted and worn out and just not ready. You may not think you have anything to say. You may feel like you're not worthy to be a writer or you don't have the authority to speak into something. Just do it. Just write. Just put pen on paper and letters on the screen and do the work of it. Maybe in the end, it's not meant for the world. Okay. That's fine. You wrote anyway. You did the work. You pushed through and made something come to life, even if that something isn't polished or pretty or put together. It doesn't need to be. You just need to do it. And do it again. And keep doing it. When it's easy, when it's hard, when you're excited about it and when you feel anxious, when it's sunny outside and when it's storming, when you feel alone or when you feel wrapped up in love, when you've been learning a lot or when you're going through a dry spell, just keep doing it. Keep writing. Keep working. Keep journeying and writing it all down and seeing what happens.

Here's the thing about writing: 

I want to assure you with all earnestness, that no writing is a waste of time, -no creative work where the feelings, the imagination, the intelligence must work. With every sentence you write, you have learned something. It has done you good. It has stretched your understanding. I know that. Even if I knew for certain that I would never have anything published again, and would never make another cent from it, I would still keep on writing.
— Brenda Ueland, in "If You Want To Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit"

A Words Roundup

This last week, so many things I read just resonated with me SO MUCH. And I want you all to read them all now. Here's a roundup of the best things I've read online recently! Enjoy.

"Don’t be the next anybody. Be deeply, weirdly, completely, totally you." // Shauna Niequist drops an awesome bomb with this post

"I think my generation is venturing into some seriously uncharted waters, because while we’re hesitant to label relationships, we do participate in some deviation of them." // Jordana Narin won this year's Modern Love College Essay Contest from The New York Times, and it's a strikingly true look at what our generation has turned love and relationships into.

"If we were on a coffee date, I'd encourage you to write yourself letters. Buy yourself a journal and just write to you. Dear you and Love, me are powerful things." // Amber Thomas writes these posts as if you were on a coffee date with her, and every single time, I so deeply wish I was.

"For introverts who generate ideas best without the looming presence of others, knowing the topic in advance is key." // This post on the TED Blog is GREAT. Every brainstorm meeting I've been a part of has been stressful for me as an introvert, and this post has fantastic tips for making that NOT the case.

"We desperately need someone to tell us we are going to make it. To simple say, "I'll be there when you make it", and "I'll still be here while you make your way"." // Katherine Henson could have pulled these words from my very core, they struck me so deeply. They're the words I've been feeling and wrestling with but not really knowing how to say. These are the kinds of people I want.

"So here is my suggestion: Read a bit of poetry today." // Sarah Bessey reminded me of what my heart knows to be true: I need to surround myself with beautiful words that slow me down and open my eyes to lovely things. I need to read poetry today and every day.


Quite a while ago, I stumbled upon an article on Medium called The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna. I absolutely loved it. If you haven't read it, go read it now! It has now been turned into a book (that I preordered and should be getting in the mail this week!)-- it's that good and that popular.

Recently, I stumbled upon a magazine at Barnes and Noble called The Great Discontent and absolutely loved it as well. It was full of long-form interviews with artists and creatives of all kinds, and it was inspiring and motivating and beautifully produced.

image by  Elle Luna  for #the100dayproject

image by Elle Luna for #the100dayproject

Now, Elle Luna and The Great Discontent have teamed up on a project called #the100dayproject where people are invited to choose something to do for 100 days, sharing every day on Instagram with that hashtag as well as their personalized hashtag, too.

I chose to fill a page in a mini sketchbook with words and doodles every day from April 6 (today!) until July 14. I've called it #100daysofRADpages and you can follow along with each day on Instagram

Interested in this whole idea? Join in! Choose something today and get started, you haven't missed anything yet! I'm so excited to commit to doing something every day for this stretch of time-- I think it's going to be a great practice in dedication as well as creativity. Find me on Instagram (@racheladawson) to see each day!



An Artist and Author at Work

Have you ever watched an artist work? Stood still, captivated by their movements, seeing the brush held confidently in their hand dip into the paint and then glide along the canvas almost effortlessly? It seems fluid and graceful, like the brain and hand are in perfect synchrony as the art comes to life.

Last fall, I was still recovering from knee surgery when a street art festival took place at the Carytown Bus Depot downtown. Still shaky on my feet and learning to walk again with this altered knee, I went to see the murals.

As I entered, I saw a man painting. He was working on a stretch of wall outside of the main area, on a side street with little traffic and few passersby. I stopped and watched him work for a few moments. He wasn't being showy or dramatic or drawing any attention to himself, he was just quietly at work on a stretch of coated brick on a design I couldn't quite make out yet.

Thinking back on how he created his art, I remember little things: slow, steady, moving and adjusting and improvising, skilled, constant.

The more I've been shaping my project of seeking and sharing stories, the more I've been embracing thinking of God as Artist and Author. I'm seeing Him at work in the stories I've heard, even just the few so far: slow, steady, moving, adjusting, improvising, skilled, constant. They haven't been stories of divine, radical, earth-shattering moments, but rather of an ongoing journey of grace and learning. I've seen God like that street artist, doing His work and designing His art in quiet ways, not demanding attention, but gracefully bringing beauty to life where there once was just a dirty space.

The design doesn't always make sense as it's being worked on. It isn't always obvious what the final product will look like. I'm learning that's the best part of it all, the trusting in the process, trusting in the hand that holds us, trusting that the things that are worth it take time and patience and a willingness to adapt.

I'm learning that my story is never finished, that there will never be a time when the Artist gives up and walks away. I'm learning that grace is abundant, that mercy has been given to me, that love says "you're worth working on, the best is yet to come."

I'm still learning to walk, but now it's more learning to walk in steady step with my Savior. I'm seeing the beauty in every story, the signature of the Artist stamped on every life, the brushstrokes of grace in every piece of heartbreak and renewal. 

What an Artist. What an Author.

An Art Masterpiece

From far away, it's a masterpiece. From this view, this perspective, it's beautiful in every way. A glorious picture, a marvelous story. The closer I get to it, the more detail I see. The intricacy of this work of art is exquisite. Some places have huge gobs of paint where it took extra layers to get the final color just right. Some places are worn thin, like time stripped away part of the original design. The brush strokes of the artist are all over this canvas. On this one in particular, I can recognize the artist by his signature in the corner-- not bold or boasting, but there, a quiet reminder of where credit is due. It's telling a different story from this up-close angle-- now I'm getting personal. I'm seeing the scratches in the surface, noticing ragged edges and uneven lines. When I take a few steps back, it all fades to that masterpiece again. I appreciate it more now that I got all up in it. I know it's not perfect, but that's what makes it so remarkable. That's what gives it true character, makes it unique. If it were perfect, I wouldn't relate so well. I have places in my life where layer upon layer have been piled on, just trying to achieve the final goal, make things look and feel just right. There are places that have been worn thin, places where time stripped a part of me away. The brush strokes of the Creator are all over my life like that canvas. His signature is there, not yelling and demanding fame, just quietly waiting, knowing the credit and all the glory are His.

Come on now, get up close. Come on in to my life. See the scratches, the scars, the rough edges. See that I'm just a canvas at the hands of my Creator.