Fear or Excitement: Who Decides?


"I'm so nervous about doing this."

I hear that a lot as an Artist Coach. In fact, I hear about it so much I wanted to write to you about it because we all have those moments in life when we feel scared of what's ahead or where we are at.

Excitement or Fear? A Tool

Over the years, I've picked up a tool that's really helped me when I'm nervous or fearful about doing something and I wanted to share it with you.

So here's the secret--fear and excitement feel roughly the same physically. Our breathing is more rapid, our heart might pound a little, our nerves feel nervy--I even have a weird metallic taste that comes up whether I'm really nervous or really excited.

What we do with that physical response can affect our perceived reality. When I feel those sensations, I’ve started doing a quick analysis of the situation. If it’s not life or death and if I’m not in actual danger, I’ve been saying to myself, I'm so excited about this!” Suddenly, instead of being subject of my fear, I am agent of my own adventure!

Agent of My Own Adventure

As agent of my own adventure, I’m making a choice to do this thing (whatever it is)—from open sea kayaking, to a sprint triathlon, to leading an artist’s workshop, to traveling by myself to visit my Mum and a dear art friend to see Hilma af Klint's breakthrough art show in New York City (where the photo up top was taken).

The tool--labeling the fear as excitement--gets me over the hump and out the door to my adventure. And oh the rewards of doing that--being able to stand in front of the world's first abstract artist, Hilma af Klint. Seeing porpoises swim 30 feet away as my nephew and I kayaked together. Being a part of my workshop participants' journey to increased self-expression. Even tiger paddling my way through the swim leg to PR in my bike leg and run respectably and not finish last in my first sprint triathlon. Taking that first step to see what I can do has meant having experiences that make my life richer, more fun, and more filled with joy.

So try it out. Next time you are feeling nervous about doing something and thinking about maybe not doing it, try saying to yourself "I'm so excited!" and take that next step.


Courage is not the absence of fear, but feeling the fear and doing it anyway. This tool is one you can use to help you take that first step.

Have a great day. And remember to look for joy. I promise it is there.

Sarah C.B. Guthrie, MFA

Oh and here's a little Joy for you--"My heart flutters" 12"x12" Acrylic on paper. Click here for more information about the piece.


Want more joy, creativity, and fun in your life? I can help!

Well it’s been ages since I’ve but rest assured, I’m still working away in the studio, still making Joy. I’ve added new paintings to my website so you can see some of my latest works over there. In addition to painting, I’ve got some news on what I’m doing to create more Joy in the world through my coaching and creative practice--and how I can help you add more creativity and fun to your life!

Two shows are coming up—both in Seattle and it would mean so much to see you at both or either of them! These shows are centered around Joy--the luscious, vibrant colors you've come to expect, strengthened after a year of painting every day in 2018.
Saturday, April 13 at Locust Cider in Ballard, Seattle (near where the Ballard Market takes place). This show will be the debut of my City Joy series! I'll be there from 6-9 pm. Come see what happens when Joy meet maps of Seattle, Ballard, London, Boston, and more. (PS--The Cider at Locust Cider is the best I've ever had--just one more reason to stop by!) Details

Saturday, May 11 at Classic Consignment in Ballard, Seattle. I am SO EXCITED to have been invited to show again in the beautiful gallery in Classic Consignment in Ballard, Seattle. This show will feature the latest works from my What 3 Colors Bring You Joy? series—including a many new pieces! I'll be there from 6-9 pm and it will be a super fun opening--would love to see you!! Details
Have you wondered how I paint Joy? Would you like to learn...while also sipping a delightful cocktail or mocktail? Then sign up for my Canvas and Cocktails: Cherry Blossom Edition class at Studio Life in the Ravenna neighborhood of Seattle. Perfect for couples looking for a fun date night or a get together with your friends or coworkers, this one evening class will give you the supplies and training you need to create your own Joy—Cherry Blossom style! (And because you are reading my blog, register with the secret code BLOSSOM to get a 5% discount!) At the end of the class, you will have enjoyed a new cocktail or mocktail and will leave with your painting, step by step handouts—plus a stash of art supplies so you can keep practicing at home! Spaces are filling up--register today! Class is $105 (before the discount) and takes place Thursday, April 18, from 7-9 pm! Register
Coaching and The Artist's Way Workshop
I have had the great joy to coach more artists on building their practice, their business, and their confidence—through one on one and group Mastermind coaching. This is my heart’s work and I love empowering artists to grow their creative self-expression and business! If you are an artist and curious about online/virtual coaching, please let me know. My individual spots are filled until summer, but I still have one or two spaces in my Advanced and Intermediate Mastermind Groups that meet online weekly. The groups are really affordable ($200 a month) compared to most professional Mastermind groups and include a host of additional benefits. To find out more, send a reply message for details.

If you are in Seattle, clear your calendar on Monday evenings and join my 12 Week Artist's Way Workshop at Studio Life in Ravenna, Seattle! Julia Cameron's book changed my life forever and I am thrilled to bring her wisdom into the room to help us navigate what it means and how to live life more creatively! As a professional, trained facilitator who knows first hand what it's like to be an artist, or wanting to be an artist, I am pleased to offer this workshop $425 (includes a copy of Cameron's book, refreshments at the weekly workshop, and a professional facilitated community of fellow creatives). There are just a few spots left and the 12-week workshop begins Monday, April 15. Don't miss out! Register today!

And if you're not in Seattle, that's ok. I'm working on a Virtual Artist's Way Workshop for later this year. Message me if you want to be part of that group!

City Joy | Boston 20"x24” Acrylic painting on gallery-wrapped canvas, wired and ready to hang in your home or office. $975. Price includes shipping. Add to your collection.


Stage Fright, or What Eminem Taught Me about Fighting The Nanas

A few weeks ago I opened my sixth of seven solo art shows in the past 18 months. You would think with that many openings that it gets easier, that I improve my process, that I am—if nothing else—less nervous about it.

But you would be wrong.

The week before I was so stressed. Working late hours to get ready, trying to get through my to do lists. Trying to remember the things I remembered and forgot to write down. My breath tends to be shallow. I’m nervous. Shaky. Intellectually, I know I will be fine—but my physical self is on high alert. It’s hard to unwind. Harder to sleep.

So I’m in that space and I’m driving late one evening. My phone is plugged in and randomly going through all my songs, which ends up with unusual juxtapositions like the Kelly Willis and Black Eyed Peas and Christmas Songs and Kendrick Lamar and Mozart. And then it landed.

Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”

I turn it up. All the way up. The truck thumps as I drive through the dark and rainy night.

If you had
One shot
And one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture it or just
Let it slip?”

He asks me. He is speaking to me. This show is a great opportunity. It’s a popular shop. My work will be up for at least a month—not just a one night art walk. It was the opportunity. But then his words come back. The reality sinks in. Yes, this opportunity and all of a sudden

“His palms are sweaty—
Knees weak—
Arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already—Mom’s spaghetti—
He’s nervous
But on the surface
He looks calm and ready
To drop bombs
But he keeps on forgetting what
He wrote down
The whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth
But the words won’t come out
He choking how
Everybody’s joking now
The clock’s run out
Time’s up
Over blau.”

That’s me. That’s me with a Case of The Nanas. Getting ready to walk into a gallery. To meet other artists. To give a talk. The Nanas. It’s stage fright. It’s the most brilliant text I’ve read about stage fright. The lived experience of it. They way the mind can go blank as your body fails you, betrays you. The pressure overrides your mind. Few artists talk about it outside the performing arts. So many visual artists are introverts, which is partly why this medium has such an appeal. It’s a place for us to hide, to restore, to refresh with just the rhythm of the brush on the canvas, the feeling of joy that comes from seeing a work of art emerge from the layers of self expression.

Don’t get me wrong. I know Eminem is misogynist AF but this song. This song is incredible. It gave me a way out. A way to fight the stage fright. He told me exactly what I needed to do.

“You better
Lose yourself, in the music, the moment,
You own it
You better never
Let it go.
You only get one shot,
Do not miss your chance to blow
’Cause opportunity comes once in a lifetime
You better
Lose yourself
In the music
The moment,
You only get one shot,
Do not
Miss your chance
To blow
Cause opportunity comes once in a life time
You better
You can do anything you set our mind to, man [sic]”

The answer was right there. I needed to lose myself in the music, the moment. To get out of my head, out of my body, and into the zone—connect beyond myself—where the music is. And in that moment “Lose Yourself” became my walk up song.

What’s a walk up song? In professional baseball, there’s a tradition of batters getting a song played each time they walk up to bat. It helps set the mind, shake off nerves, gets them pumped, and ready to connect the bat to the ball. It was just the technique I needed.

Now when I feel the Nanas approaching, I put on my headset and turn up the volume and lose myself. Works like a charm.


“Lose Yourself” is written by Jeff Bass, Luis Resto, Marshall Mathers



See—this is why the walk up song works. Get lost in the music and then I’m ready for the show! Thanks to Classic Consignment in the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle for the show opportunity.

See—this is why the walk up song works. Get lost in the music and then I’m ready for the show! Thanks to Classic Consignment in the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle for the show opportunity.

Uncertain | The Nanas

I get stage fright. Whether I’m about to go on stage or give a presentation or go to a cocktail party or open one of my art shows, I get stage fright. Given that much of what I do is give presentations and have art exhibits, it can a problem. To add to it, I really love public speaking so stage fright is something I am learning to navigate.

In our family, my stage fright has a name—A Case of The Nanas. See, when we were dating, my (then) boyfriend (now husband) and I went to an Art Walk one night. If you haven’t been to one, they are a lot of fun. A neighborhood of shops and galleries shows work of (usually) local artists—there’s music, usually some snacks, even wine sometimes. It’s a great kind of event and creates precious exhibiting and selling opportunities for artists.

So there we were, walking around town popping into stores to see what other artists are doing and if they might be good a good gallery or shop for my work. We get to one gallery that’s a bit fancier than the others. I look down the long hallway and see a table of older ladies having a chat outside the gallery door.

And I freeze.

My then boyfriend now husband says encouragingly, “Go on, go talk with them.  Show them your postcard.”

I’m frozen.


“What?” he asks gently.

My breathing gets heavy. My fingers tingle. My mind goes blank.



I start to feel choked up. And teary. And so mad at myself. I know what’s coming. I have to get out.

“I can’t. I just can’t.”

I turn and run out the door and around to the corner, back to our truck. I can feel it rising—the overwhelm.

TBNH catches up to me, concerned. “Are you ok? What’s going on?”

I am sobbing at this point because this is what happens.

“I just. I can’t. I don’t know what to say. And then I got emotionally overwhelmed. And. And. Well I had to get out.”

“But I don’t understand,” said TBNH (did I mention he’s a retired Marine who served 22 years did a tour in Iraq?) “it was just a group of older ladies.”

I gasp, trying to catch my breath. I try to calm down but I am so embarrassed and frustrated with myself.

He holds me close and whispers, “It was just a bunch of Nanas.”

I snort, laugh, and cry at the same time and, at last, catch my breath.

So that is The Story of How We Identified that I Have a Case of The Nanas.

I didn’t go back in to the gallery that night.

Even now, six years later, I can still get overwhelmed, but it’s not usually that bad anymore.

How about you? Do you get stage fright? How do you cope?

I will say that I’ve found one strategy to mitigate The Nanas that I’ll talk about in my next post—so stay tuned.

#uncertaindispatches #nanowrimo


Uncertain | Radical Acts of Joy

A friend of mine messaged me today that she will be sharing my Joy series with her congregation this Sunday. I was deeply moved and her note inspired some deep thinking about the vital role joy plays in dark times.

Hi, Sarah, I wanted to let you know that I plan to mention you in my sermon on Sunday. I have been so grateful for your posting your beautiful artwork on Facebook. You have helped me see joy when the larger world looks only grim and gray. I think that's a sacred gift, and I am deeply grateful that you share that gift. Have a good Thursday, and thanks again for making the world a more bueautiful and joyful place.

Dear friend—I am honored and deeply touched that you are sharing my work and Joy mission with your congregation. It means so much that you found some light and joy in the works. Thank you for letting me know that—I am grateful. It has been very gray and grim of late but this series has taught me that creating joy is a radical act that can heal and bring purpose. Every act of joy generated ripples beyond our scope and into our neighborhood, our communities, our nation, and the world. The more of us who are creating joy, the more positive energy there is to for each of us to use to restore. I’ve heard living through dark times described as a relay, not a sprint or a marathon. We need rest and restoration before and after we run. We pass the baton for someone else to carry while we rest and then we receive the baton and run while others rest. Joy, compassion, and kindness are the energies we need to stay connected. We are interdependent beings on this planet Earth. We need each other and we all deserve joy. Thank you again so much. Many blessing to you. —Sarah

 #uncertaindispatches #nanowrimo


Bringing Joy

Uncertain | Why

I have been thinking a lot lately about the question of why I paint. I’ll continue to blog more about that as my thoughts continue to develop, but I wanted to note down a thought I had today.

The heart of my work is to create more Joy in the world. I see Joy, and its creation, as a radical act in dark times. Forces of chaos do not want us feeling happy, feeling connected, feeling purposeful. Those forces want us feeling desperate, miserly, and despairing. We can be manipulated more readily when we give into that chaos.

The only armor against it is joy, kindness, and love. I know that to be true.

So I am coming to see my work, this series—What 3 Colors Bring You Joy?—is a kind of atonement and an emotional labor. I have been extremely fortunate in so many ways in my life—born to a middle class, English family that emigrated to the U.S. I went to high school at a top public high school, went to a top private college, continued to graduate school, owned property, had the legal right to get divorced and remarried, had the right to choose when to try to have children, although that did not turn out as we’d hoped.

Any why? Why do I get all those benefits? What do I do with them? That’s where my sense of duty—to share with others, to do work that lifts people up, that atones for my privilege, that bears into being a better world through my emotional labor. The way I know best to do that is through my art—particularly my painting, through which I can bring together colors and textures and shapes and references that lift the viewer, that connect, that communicate love, joy, and kindness for whomever sees the work.

This world is so uncertain. Joy is the way.

“Here Lies Love” says my T-shirt—the title of a brilliant and hopeful musical by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim.   

“Here Lies Love” says my T-shirt—the title of a brilliant and hopeful musical by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim.   

Certain | Engage-versary

A little over seven years ago, I began dating (my now husband) Tom. I had been married and divorced because practice makes perfect. Not really, but I did learn a lot about myself—what I wanted and what I didn’t want.

In The Interim Times, as I came to describe the years before I met Tom, I went through a lot. Getting promoted to the hardest job I’ve ever had. Earning my MFA. Celebrating Christmas on my own with my dog while I worked on my master’s thesis. A two-year long relationship, becoming de facto step mom to three amazing children who I think about with love to this day. Dating a guy who I’m convinced was a spy (I lived in the Washington DC area at the time and he had no internet fingerprints back then so odds were good that this was true.) Dating men who paid for everything on the date and men who asked to split the check. Dating men who lied about their divorce being final. A couple of men had survived horrible accidents. One man looked just like my dad, not in a good way, and lived alone with his four bitches (aka dogs). One man called our date a pre-date and insisted on knowing in detail about my sexual proclivities before he would “book a date” (lol kthxbai is all he got). Men who seemed to test me by taking me to fine dining places and cheap dining placesand seeing how I reacted. (I only cared whether the company and the food was good.) One man had an extremely perfect face and a very flawed character. One man nearly died from alcohol poisoning and, if he’s still living, it’s because I was unreasonably persistent and refused to let him die alone and drunk in a hotel while his kids wondered what happened to him. He went to rehab and we said goodbye.

Having gone through all of that fire, I was made of steel by the end. I knew who I was and I knew the kind of man I deserved. For the first time in my life, I knew what it would take for a man to be worth my while.

And then it happened. Just like in the books of fiction. When I finally knew, just before I gave up, there was the ‘ping’ in my inbox at lunch one day. “THOMAS” and a photo. What a photo. A big smile. Handsome. I dismissed my terrible experience with perfect face/flawed character guy and read THOMAS’ profile. Funny. Thoughtful. A retired Marine. More handsome photos. I looked at his location. 60 miles away. I said to myself, “Oh hell, Thomas, that’s my deal breaker.”

You see, in the metro Washington DC area, more than 25 miles away from any one spot means a drive of 1-2 hours each way. 60 miles was almost to another country. But that smile. That face. That funny, thoughtful profile. What the fork, I thought, and sent him a smile.

Days later we talked. Days after that we met. Weeks later we were exclusive. Months later we lived together. And then the question—when do we get engaged?

It happened on a trip to London. We traveled there to see the band CAKE in concert. We were both big fans and had both *almost* gone to their concert in DC, but had each skipped for reasons. I had friends in London so we decided to be a little nutty and travel to London to follow a band. We had a delightful time. He tried (and despised) Marmite (but I still liked him). We traveled around the city. He met my family. It was November but dry and sunny. The holiday crowds were all about. We stayed up late talking with my friends about music, art, food, and life. We shopped. I took him to a cafeteria at a BHS department store which I thought was magical and he thought was strange. We went to art and history museums. We walked and talked. We held hands. We took goofy pictures. The night of the concert we wandered around the concert hall neighborhood trying to find a place to eat. He found an amazing pub—Prince Albert, I think. We walked to the show. It blew our minds. CAKE gave away a tree. The music thumped and hummed. We moved and cheered and sang with it. We took the bus back to my friends’ house where we were staying. It was near midnight. It was dark. The air was heavy with clouds, after a rain. He stopped and had me stand on a curb so we could see eye to eye (he’s really tall and I am short). He started saying nice things. I realized this could be The Moment. He asked. I said yes and cried. We hugged. We kissed. It was seven years ago today.

We were engaged.

It was certain.

#uncertaindispatches #nanowrimo


Not the moment of our engagement, but the day before.  

Uncertain | Late night blogging

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted a dispatch as part of this year’s #nanowrimo challenge. I’ve been writing and thinking and was getting bogged down in what I think will be a great piece when I’ve thought through the intersection of art shows/stage fright/Eminem’s Lose It. It’s gonna be good, I swear.

So in the meantime, it’s late and I am writing this blog from my bed just before I fall asleep. I have so much to say and I hardly know what to say.

I’ve been thinking a lot about speaking your truth. It’s in the air this month and it is one of the hardest things any of us could hope to do. To say what is in your heart to another person and to listen, really listen to what is in theirs. It is hard and it is the most rewarding. It’s a practice that used to be harder for me but after the 2016 election when Hilary’s opponent won* and all the sad hard and dark things happening in the world, speaking my truth with compassion for myself and the person I’m speaking with has brought some light to my life.

What’s that one conversation that’s knocking around your mind? The one you’re nervous to have? The one that increasingly matters more and more? What tender steps could you take to actually have that conversation? Can you feel the fear and speak your truth and then be still and listen?

More often it’s worth it, even when you are uncertain.



#uncertaindispatches #nanowrimo

Uncertain | Laying down the Paint

There are times I have a very clear image of a painting in my mind. And then I get in front of the canvas. It’s about a 50-50 shot whether the painting on the canvas will look like what’s in my mind. After years of painting, I can get the works where they need to go in the end but it’s so unpredictable as to how when or why some paintings flow together well and others are more of a struggle — sometimes taking years to finish.


The work, the discipline, the practice comes from showing up to the canvas every day. Day after day.

I love this quote from Louis L’Amour—“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

In 2018, I’ve been painting a painting every day. It’s been a lot of work but I’ve also learned so much. The challenge has pushed me creatively and I’m more consistently painting work that is successful.

But that little worry, that monkey mind chatter, never leaves. It will whispers doubt.

It whispers, uncertain.

#uncertaindispatches #nanowrimo


Uncertain | As an Artist

As an artist, I spend much of my time in an ambiguous space.

At the canvas, it’s wondering how a piece will come out, what will it end up being about, can I  deliver on the promise of the idea in my mind with my hands and paints and tools?

With almost every painting I complete, where will it go? Will it be collected? Will it be well-received? Will it lean up against a wall in the studio and be repainted some months or years hence?

How can I bring more joy to people?

How can I make the world a better place with what I’ve been given?

It is often so uncertain.

#uncertaindispatches #nanowrimo  



Uncertain | Tweets

I had to stop this evening. I had to stop looking at the tweets. The flood of news. On the heels of so much good news nationwide in yesterday’s elections, the dams were breeched and news horrors came tweet after tweet after tweet. Just when we need a rest, to catch our breath, the current administration breaks norm after norm.

Leaving us all uncertain.

 #uncertaindispatches #nanowrimo

Uncertain | Results

I can’t look.

I can’t ride

That rollercoaster.

That media manipulation.

The highs and lows.

The bots and trolls.

I can’t look. 

It’s too uncertain.  

#uncertaindispatches #nanowrimo


​Uncertain | Our Democracy

I’ve been writing about a lot of heavy topics in this early stretch of #uncertaindispatches. Emotionally, it feels like it’s time for something lighter.

And then.

And then I wake up to this from Dan Rather, “I don't know what will happen tomorrow. But what I do know is that it is one battle - albeit a pivotal and desperate battle - in a much bigger struggle for the soul of American democracy.”

This has been my feeling for almost two years. Democracy itself is at stake. I’d like to be lighter, but the stakes are too high. Make sure you vote. Bring your friends. Wear comfy shoes. Bring an umbrella. Please vote to bring back checks and balances to the system.

Our democracy’s future is uncertain.



One of the best days of my life—Obama’s first inauguration. 

Uncertain | Nate Silver

I became a big Nate Silver fan in 2008 when I was working on a video art project called, Election Diary. I started the project before the Conventions knowing that, regardless of who won, it would be an historic election.

Nate is a statistician who started in sportsball and went on to politics. In the 2008 election, he successfully picked which way 49 of 50 states would vote. At the time, I lived in the DC area and loved getting super geeked out on the minutiae of politics—and followed a lot of wonky political forecasters and commenters. Nate was the Uber Wonk in this world. His data and reporting were very reliable. His forecasts were consistently on the money.

So in 2016, I turned to his reporting again. What were the odds? What was he forecasting? In 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014, he was so accurate. If he forecast it, you could count on it.

Except something different happened this time.

In the lead up to the 2016 election, I was very nervous, but not completely terrified. Nate’s reporting showed Clinton holding a substantial lead in the polls. One or two polls that were outliers calling for her opponent, but Nate continued to be confident—and as Nate went, so did I. I was confident. Any other choice than her seemed like a non-starter. So I sent money into the Clinton’s campaign. I thought a lot about phone banking, but always seemed busy so I didn’t ever volunteer. I wrote social media posts urging my like-minded friends to vote. I was addicted to his 538.com website and kept pressing “refresh” to stay up to date as election day drew near, but I took comfort in the 87% chance of winning that Nate predicted. And, well, her opponent won.

I had many thoughts and feelings in the aftermath of November 8, 2016, and among them were: “Nate?! What happened? How could you be so wrong?” It turns out Nate had those same thoughts. In the time since, he’s said in the lead up to the 2016 election he stopped operating like a statistician, and started thinking like a political commentator and it made him miss some important points of data.

So this time, I’m not looking at polls. It’s too scary. I still follow Nate on Twitter, but I don’t read the articles; I don’t go to his website. I see comments and move on. I’ve been more active this time—volunteering every week since late summer with Americans of Conscience Checklist. I’ve mailed Postcards to Vote. I have conversations with friends and family—encouraging people to vote and to help others vote. I hope it’s enough.

But right now, I’m uncertain.

#UncertainDispatches #NaNoWriMo


Photo I took with my own camera at the 2009 Inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama. I was there. It was a 14 hour day and I must have walked 10 miles to be there. But I was there. It was magical.

Photo I took with my own camera at the 2009 Inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama. I was there. It was a 14 hour day and I must have walked 10 miles to be there. But I was there. It was magical.

Uncertain | At the Canvas

“I don’t even know why you bother. This is garbage. Worse. It’s like Thomas Kincaid. Are you the freaking Painter of Light (TM) now? Is that who you’ve become? I thought this meant something to you. You’re a joke. Look at that thing. It’s so...it’s so generic. Why do you even bother? What is your problem? You’re down here day and night. You’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars. Countless hours. Decades. And for what? That’s the best you’ve got? THAT? Just stop. Stop it. Stop it,” I said to myself.  

It’s called imposter syndrome.

It leaves me uncertain.

#UncertainDispatches #NaNoWriMo #impostersyndrome


It starts at a whisper. It’s hard to hear at first. This uncertainty.

It starts at a whisper. It’s hard to hear at first. This uncertainty.

Uncertain | Voting

Since I have been eligible to vote, there have been maybe just two or three elections I haven’t voted in. I am a naturalized American citizen—I was born in England and we came to the U.S. when I was two years old.

My parents were politically active in England and used to go door to door, canvasing for their candidates. We lived in the States for fourteen years before they became citizens and could vote—so they instilled in me the urgency and importance of voting. Every. Single. Election. I vote in the big elections, in the local elections, in the mid term elections. Hell, I even overnight mailed in my absentee ballot from England, where I was studying my junior year of college. It was that important (and, yes, I had procrastinated that much).

In 2016, the people who could but did not vote decided the outcome. About 47% of registered voters in the U.S. didn’t vote. If they had voted, the outcome may have been different.

I have since 8 pm Pacific time on November 8, 2016—when Florida went red—had a rough, woolen blanket of anxiety wrapped around my solar plexus. It goes with me everywhere. It makes me feel vaguely nauseated every day. It can keep me from breathing deeply. For two years. Feeling like I need to puke and can’t breathe—for two years. It’s like a dull terror. What will happen. What will happen. What will happen. Can I breathe. Will I breathe. What will happen. What will happen.

And it’s the height of privilege that I’ve only had this blanket for two years. Millions world wide, and here in the U.S. have lived with this dull terror every day of their lives as subjects of systematized racism. Much of my work for the last two years has been to learn them how you go on. How you function when your blanket of anxiety is squeezing you, keeping you from breathing.

I’ve learned you take action—whatever action you can. You get out of your comfort zone. You stretch. You talk to others. Create community. Have real conversations about what matters. Check in on your gay, lesbian, trans, black, brown, Jewish, and marginalized friends. See how they are doing. You exercise. You breathe deep. You meditate. You find some way to express yourself creatively. You eat more vegetables and less sugar. But you keep taking action.

We need checks and balances back in our system—which means having at least the House of Representatives or Senate go blue—and right now I’m not sure we will get them. And if we don’t, it is very dark what comes next.

There it is. The blanket of anxiety wraps tighter the closer we get to next Tuesday, November 6. There are times, I’m not sure I can manage it. Manage the anxiety. The dull terror. I am new to this. By virtue of the accident the life and skin color I was born into, I am new to this.

We have seen the erosion of norms I had taken for granted as a white, middle-class, suburban child growing up in New England. I had taken for granted that the U.S. would always be a democracy. Taken for granted that, as a naturalized citizen, I would always be able vote. Taken for granted that, as a woman, I would always be able to vote. It was naïve. I know that now. There is nothing we can take for granted. All of it is at stake.

It is uncertain.

#UncertainDispatches #NaNoWriMo


Uncertain | Mory and the Raccoon

Before a week ago Wednesday, I was knew one thing: if anyone ever tried to attack me while I was walking my dog—a gorgeous, earnest, and funny Golden Retriever Chow Chow mix—he would overwhelm them. A sweet, playful, and cuddly Retriever indoors, Mory turns into a barking tornado outdoors. All sorts of things set him off—squirrels (natch), bunnies, crows, pigeons, cats, other dogs, kids with backpacks, kids on skateboards, bicycles, any form of public transit, trucks, and even babies in strollers. We rescued him as an adult dog, so my work with him has been to mitigate the torrent of barking as much as I can with Rocco and Roxie’s beef jerky treats.

At first his behavior exhausted me, but over time I came to understand this was his Chow Chow side and he was protecting me. As a petite woman, having a dog with guard dog instincts suddenly gave me more confidence. I felt really safe with him. While still sensible, I felt more comfortable about taking walks on my own, as long as I had Mory. I knew he would at least raise an alarm and give us a chance to fight back or get away if we were in peril.

And then we were attacked.

It was late in the day, almost 11 p.m., and we went out for our usual last quick walk of the day. We were just outside out our front door when Mory saw a raccoon in the cedar tree in our front yard. We’ve seen raccoons there before and never had a problem--he barks; they go up the tree; we go on our way. No problem.

This night, as usual, he started barking. “You tell him,” I said—not knowing. Not knowing how dangerous raccoons could be if they felt threatened. Not knowing until seconds before that there was an adult baby raccoon up in the tree and this was its mother who was going to protect it. And then in a flash I knew. The raccoon stopped, stared, adn then ran at Mory, attacking him viciously—biting and scratching. I was screaming, trying to pull Mory off the path and back into the house. The force of the attack pushed them into our driveway. Mory was screaming. I was screaming. And in that moment I noticed I was alone. No one was coming. We were alone.

I kept pulling and pulling, and screaming and screaming, trying to get us back into the house. I got us closer. And then I heard my a voice in my head say calmly, “Kick it.” I did. "Get off my Dog!" Again and again. I got the 40 lb. beast off of Mory. We ran to the porch and got part way up the stairs. The raccoon followed and kept attacking Mory’s feet and tail. Mory was screaming. I was screaming. We were alone. I kept pulling and pulling. Screaming and screaming. I unlocked the door. I pulled him in. I closed the door…on his foot. Mory screamed. The raccoon was still on his foot. Chewing his foot. Its nose was over the threshold. “Not in my house. Not in my house. It cannot come in my house,” another voice in my head said. I got a glancing kick at its head and it was enough. It startled, let go, I pulled Mory’s foot in and slammed the door.

We were safe. He had bites and scratches, but did not need stitches. His thick Chow Chow coat and his grit protected him. He protected me from getting bitten or scratched. I got him to safety. He protected me at his own peril. I made sure he and the house were safe.

But for both of us, the incident has left us uncertain. We are even more alert when we go out. I carry a bright flashlight and something I can throw. We don’t go on a morning walk until the sun rises. I don’t assume I am safe anymore. I am jumpy. Mory is jumpy. He is more reactive to the squirrels, bunnies, cats, and people on wheels and buses.

We are uncertain.

#UncertainDispatches #NaNoWriMo #roccoandroxie


Mory in his cone, the day after we were attacked.

Mory in his cone, the day after we were attacked.

Turning Fiddy

I turned 50 this year. Well, I like to say I turned fiddy as that sounds much less AARPish than “FIFTY!!” I’ve been thinking a lot about what that means for me, for my family, for my peers.

I am proudly part of the cynical, sarcastic GenX generation. We were kids in the 70s and early 80s. On Amazon Prime/Netflix, my peers are Paige in The Americans and Lorelei Gilmore (the second one). I used to go to my friends’ houses by walking or riding my bike. Long distance phone calls cost a lot of money. There were maybe four TV stations. I rode the school bus and had no after school activities, other than occasional Girl Scout meetings. I was part of the first wave of “latch key” kids because my Mum began working full time when I was about ten or so.

I had access to a suburban U.S., middle class white girl’s generally typical childhood. With two notable exceptions:

  • I was (and am) an artist, and
  • I am an immigrant, now naturalized citizen.

I’m going to start writing more about turning 50 because for whatever somewhat random math reason, it’s a milestone number and that has an effect on how we approach the world. Well, at least for me it does. Maybe it’s just me? I’ll post here and on my blog. If you want to follow along look for #SarahFiddy

Sarah Fiddy.jpg

New horizons in "What 3 Colors Bring You Joy?" (literally), Part I (from August 11, 2018)

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know that watercolor landscapes have entered into the What 3 Colors Bring You Joy? series--although now that's called What 3 (Landscape) Colors Bring You Joy?

How did that happen?

The summer road trip my husband and I took was a great adventure for us and changed my paintings, at least for now. I’m still painting What 3 Colors Bring You Joy?—but now I’m playing with 3 color landscapes.

I love living in Seattle but hadn’t yet visited much of the rest of the state. Back in June, we decided rather last minute to go on a road trip around Washington state. The drive was gorgeous. If you haven’t been to Washington state, there are all sorts of climates to experience--from Alpines, like Switzerland, to temperate rain forests, to high deserts like New Mexico, forests, farms, canyons, and on and on. And it’s all beautiful.

As we drove past all these scenes, my desire to return to landscape painting grew. By the fourth day of trying (and failing) to paint the scenery with my Fluid Acrylics, I knew I had to make a change. To get the paintings to come out the way I wanted, to my surprise, I realized I needed to go back to my old friend—watercolors.

Okay, I'll pause there. More on that story in my next blog!

And remember, wherever you go this week, be sure to look for joy. It's there. I promise.

("You Matter," the painting below, is On Reserve.)


Creating art vs. rendering (from July 31, 2018)

“Making art is not simply rendering.”
—Barbara Earl Thomas

I was lucky enough to hear Barbara Earl Thomas talk about the intersection of her work as a museum director and her process as an artist recently. There was so much that resonated for me, particularly this—that as an artist my job is not to render. Rendering is not making art.

What that meant to me is that my job is to bring myself, my own reality to what I am seeing, thinking, feeling, and or experiencing to what I create.

Photos and copying machines do a better job at rendering than I ever could. And replicating what is seen, for me, is not the point of what I do.

I want to communicate with you, to share with you.

And so I change the reality of what I see when I make art. I am doing the work, the labor of making something that never existed before, because until I made it—without me—it *cannot* exist.

I am curious about how what I make affects YOU—what do YOU see, what do YOU think, what do YOU feel—when you see my work? What does it evoke for you? I most want you to feel lighter, to feel joy, to have some respite. It may not always do that but that’s what I want...more joy for you.

I want to show you my process, so you can see the choices I made and how they differ from the source photo--and get some insight into the enormous number of decisions that goes into each work. I normally would shy from showing you the source, because what I painted is different. But a life without taking chances is far less interesting.

So here we go. On the left, the inspiration photos. Then, on the right, the paintings.

Take gentle care of yourself. Look for joy. I promise it is there.