Meet Sheila Dunn
Meet the Muse: Sheila Dunn ~ Artist, Yogi, decaf coffee drinker.
A piping hot cup of (decaf) coffee from Lone Pine. Turns out the leaded stuff makes me a bit crazy – just ask my family or friends about Coffee Sheila.
What did you dream about when you were 8?
Building questionably stable flotation vessels to voyage down the creek behind my childhood home in Colorado.
What do you dream about now?
Building a slightly more stable vessel of purpose, creativity and love while retaining the childhood ability to trust that, eventually, the water always leads me where I need to be.
What matters most to you?
My tribe, my community, my creative work.
What is your most marked characteristic?
It’s a close tie between spontaneous and sensitive.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My perseverance to keep painting throughout the years despite various fears and doubts. Luckily my deep-grained desire/need to create has ultimately been louder than any self limiting beliefs. The prevailing power of The Muse!
What do you want to be remembered for?
Professionally, I’d love to be remembered for helping give a visual voice to the power, complexity and sacredness of the feminine. Beyond that, I’d simply like to be remembered as being a good daughter, sister, friend, and hopefully one day wife and mother.
What is your motto?
A few years back, my parents gave me a birthday card with the quote, “Ever notice that ‘What the hell’ is always the right decision?” On the inside my mom wrote, “This is SO you.” So I suppose ‘What the hell’ has unconsciously been my motto throughout the years. And as it turns out it is not always the right decision! Ha! But it sure has made for one adventurous, interesting ride.
What job I project I goal are you working on now?
What is your “why” behind it?
This current series is a bit darker/moodier than some of my previous work. There is a lot of darkness in our world right now. It can feel pretty damn heavy and hard to reconcile. Because I can’t change this on a global scale, I’ve instead been moved to explore the dark and light that exist within me; to hold space and curiosity for both. And I’ve found that by examining those darker aspects of being human through paint on canvas, I can often transmute them to some degree. That through this acknowledgment (dare I say acceptance) of the dark I can, in some roundabout way, add to the light.
What should people know about your work?
It is the result of years of experimentations, risks, discoveries and failures both personally and professionally. And in many ways, I feel like I am still in the infancy – or perhaps adolescence – of my painting career. So the hope is my work will continue to evolve and change as I do.
How can we support you and your work?
Beyond buying prints and paintings (which is always appreciated) conversations like these are a wonderful support. I think it’s so important to keep an open dialogue about why creativity and the arts are vital to our growth and progress.
How do you balance work and play?
Very poorly lately! But I’m in the midst of changing this because work isn’t nearly as fulfilling when not balanced equally with play.
When and where are you most inspired?
If you could inspire one change in yourself, what would it be?
To trust the process more. To trust, to trust, to trust.
If you could inspire one change in the world, what would it be?
More love and reverence, less fear.
Where do you look for inspiration in your daily life?
In poetry, music and nature.
Who inspires you?
Anyone brave enough to live in his or her truth – and unapologetically share it with others.
Want to share a quote or a poem or a song lyric that inspires you?
“Someone ! loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took my years to realize that this, too, was a gift.” -Mary Oliver
Oh how I love this woman and her words. As I mentioned before, my latest series explores this theme; these ‘boxes full of darkness’ that we are all inevitably given in this lifetime. And the truth, beauty and solace found within this line for me is the idea that these things or
periods, which can feel totally overwhelming at the time, often give way to our best work and best selves.
Who are your creative muses?
Seems like I discover a new one daily.
Where does your creativity come from?
Hmm. I think part of it comes from the discipline of just showing up to my easel day after day and doing the work. But another part of me – a bigger part – believes that my creativity and soul are one in the same. So inextricably linked that it’s hard to know where one ends and one begins – or if there is even a separation there at all. (And if I knew where the soul comes from, I’d be a much more enlightened woman than I am!). So I guess my final answer is part work and part mystery.
Comparison and perfectionism.
Why is creativity so important to you?
I suppose it comes back to that creativity=soul thing for me.
Why is creativity so important to the world?
To be creative is to be open; to oneself, to others, to the world. It requires vulnerability and a willingness to think outside the box. And it seems the world could use a healthy dose of openness, vulnerability and critical thinking at this time.
How do you tap into your creativity?
Blasting music and dancing around my studio for a bit.
Can you share a creativity-tapping tip with us?
Similar to exercise, I often find the first ten minutes of a creative endeavor are met with the most resistance. Sometimes it’s just a matter of showing up even if you don’t feel particularly motivated. When I’m having one of those days, I simply start with cleaning my palette. It’s a totally mindless activity, but it shifts my body into a pre-painting rhythm associated with creating. This generally leads to mixing some flesh tones together. Then before I know it my paintbrush has found its way to the canvas.
Who are your teachers?
So many, but currently in a Pema Chodron phase.
Why is mindfulness important to you?
I just read about this study done by Microsoft that concluded we screen-obsessed, tech driven humans now have an average attention span of eight seconds Cone second shorter than a goldfish). That’s pretty horrifying! And I definitely find myself slipping into this – checking my phone when someone is speaking to me, thinking about that email I have to return when watching the sunset. So taking time to slow down and breathe and pay attention feels exceedingly important to me these days.
Well to answer this question in reverse, I notice that being creative is one of the best ways for me to be fully present and mindful. That’s a big part of why I love – and need – the creative process.
What are the biggest challenges to mindful living?
Living in a culture that glorifies busyness and equating that busyness/doing-ness with our worth.
Can you share some of your mindfulness tips with us?
Something I’ve been attempting lately (to varying degrees of success) is to focus on doing one. thing. at. a. time. When I’m eating, eat. When listening to a friend, listen. Like, actually, really listen. When I’m watching a sunset, watch the damn sunset because there will always be another email to return, but there won’t be another today.
What is holding you back from living the life you want?
Wow. That’s a great question, one I’ll have to sit with some more. But I imagine all those things holding me back share the common denominator of fear.
What is your greatest fear?
There are definitely moments when I find myself deeply worried that we humans are self destructing by carelessly obliterating the environment and one another. But in these moments, I try to repeat the mantra “worrying is like praying for what you don’t want” and shift my thinking to all the incredible individuals who are tirelessly working to protect this earth and their fellow human beings. And most importantly, I reflect on how through my daily decisions, I can be part of the latter group.
What has been your greatest life lesson?
The story is continuously unfolding and this chapter will likely make a whole lot more sense a few more bends down the road. So relax a bit. And laugh. And trust.
Oh lordy, almost everything. I have a seriously sensitive heart.
How do you break your own heart?
By not showing myself the same level of love and forgiveness I extend to others.
If you had the world stage for one moment, what would your message be?
Probably some semi-coherent babble because public speaking terrifies me!
Thank you for the inspiration. xo, muse
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