Posts tagged celebrating success
Looking Back and Looking Forward

Today is my birthday. I love birthdays. When I was a child my mom always made them special (she still does!). I guess I never let go of the joy of celebrating my day.

Anne as a child with an armful of roses

Most years I try to do something interesting. Go somewhere I’ve never been before. Eat good food, maybe at a new restaurant or maybe an old favorite. I even make sure I take the day off from work.

I don’t fret about getting older or worry about what the numbers mean. Not even when they’re big. Three years ago, on the day I turned 40, I started my day by taking Matthias to a chemotherapy appointment. Celebrating my birthday within that context, when things felt so uncertain, getting old sounded really good. It still does. I have hopes and dreams and intentions for the future and I have a beautiful image of me as an old woman with white hair and funny outfits making wonderful art.

The other day I finished the last pages in two sketchbooks and it inspired me to bring out all my finished sketchbooks and arrange them in order by the date I finished them. Not all were dated, so I had to do a little detective work (note to self: always date your sketchbook pages!).

All the Sketchbooks I've Filled Up So Far on My Creative Journey

I’ve filled up 11 books so far (and have 6 in progress).

These sketchbooks tell the story of my (adult) art journey. I can page though them and witness my development as an artist. Most of the pages don’t mean much on their own. But as part of a larger whole they’re precious.

The first book begins in January of 2010. I’d been dreaming about making art for about a year at that point (two of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2009 were “Make some paintings” and “Draw”), but I hadn’t done much with those dreams. Even in 2010 it took me most of the year to overcome my fears and begin painting. That first book is mostly sketches for sewing and crochet projects, but slowly in the following books I began to take more risks, try more things and truly grow.

A recent page in one of my sketchbooks celebrating the glory of the coming spring in the form of tulips with watercolor and ink

Looking through my sketchbooks and thinking back to those tentative first steps and to all the little steps that followed (some tentative and some much more confident) made me pull out a few of my old journals and look through them, too.

My life was so different before I made my leap into creativity. I was unhappy and I knew I wanted something more. I knew I needed a change. It certainly wasn’t an easy road and I don’t think I ever dreamed I’d end up quite where I am today. Living in a small town and working in a library? Yes, I could picture that. Having my art published in magazines and books? Exhibiting my paintings? Teaching art online and in person? Sewing clothes with fabric I’d designed? Those dreams all seem too big. And yet, here I am.

Anne Butera in her studio wearing a top made with her butterfly fabric from Spoonflower

Every December I like to look back at all I’ve accomplished over the year and look forward to all I wish for the coming year. Sometimes during the day to day of life in progress it’s easy to lose sight of all our successes. The failures loom large. Our frustrations assume a weight they don’t deserve. Taking time to look back, remember, celebrate how far we’ve come is important. A birthday is a perfect time for it.

My word for this year is GROW and although I have a lot more growing I want to do this year (and beyond!), it seems right to look at all the growth that’s gotten me where I am today.

If you’re feeling impatient or frustrated or discouraged with how slowly your journey is progressing (whatever kind of journey you are on), take some time to remember how far you’ve already come. Take some time to settle into the slowness of your own unique story. To savor its sweetness (because it’s yours!). And if you have big dreams that seem very far away, remember that every little step you take brings you that much closer to them.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. For cheering me on. For encouraging and supporting me. May the next 365 days be filled with joy, with creativity, with wonder.

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On Dreaming Big

When I first started writing a blog and named it My Giant Strawberry one of the things that appealed to me about the name was how it spoke of my big dreams. Back then I had a lot of dreams, but I never imagined I would begin painting or that painting would become a main focus for me.

Since then a lot has happened and I’ve realized so many of my dreams.

I’m still dreaming.

I think it’s important to continue dreaming no matter where we are on our journeys and no matter how often we fail to reach those dreams.

Joy, Fortune Cookie Encouragement and Dream Jar Inspiring Me to Keep Dreaming Big

Dreaming big inspires us to keep going. It helps us to stretch and to grow. There IS always a higher mountain.

I have failed so many times.

That jar you see in the photo above? It’s my Dream Jar. I made it early last year (and wrote about it in the Joy Letter here and on my old blog here). On little slips of paper I wrote dreams, intentions and invitations for the year. The inspiration came bouncing around the internet to me. The idea is to write your dreams down and meditate on them daily. Keeping them in the forefront of your consciousness helps to focus your attention and bring about action (and success).

Dreams from My Dream Jar

Although I don’t meditate on my dreams daily, I do try to come back to them regularly. Quite a few of my dreams have come true this year. I did, to a degree, participate in Me Made May and my illustration was included in the Flow Calendar.

But plenty of the other dreams in my jar haven’t come true (yet).

A Failed Dream (so far) from My Dream Jar

As I shared on my old blog, I still haven’t won a Spoonflower contest (and in truth, my rankings in the contests I’ve entered have been less and less successful than the very first contest I participated in), but I’m not letting go of that dream. I hope someday the time will be right.

It’s ok to put our dreams aside for when we’re ready for them, or maybe for when they’re ready for us.

It’s also ok to let go of dreams if they aren’t the right fit. I’ve had a few of those this year and that’s ok. It’s a learning process. It’s part of finding our way and creating the path that’s right for us, not the path we think we should be taking.

Sometimes I feel down about my failures. It’s natural. Rejection is hard. Failure is hard. But I’ve found that when I’m feeling down about one failure another success comes along to reassure me that I’m headed in the right direction.

Yesterday when I was working at the library the new issue of Cottages and Bungalows arrived.

The February/March 2019 Issue of Cottages and Bungalows Magazine

I opened it up and saw that one of my BIG dreams had come true.

My 2019 Botanical Watercolor Calendar is Featured in the February/March 2019 Issue of Cottages and Bungalows Magazine

That’s my 2019 calendar in there pictured beside Vera Bradley, PaperSource and Rifle Paper Company! (One of the slips in my jar says: “Have my art featured in a major magazine”).

The 2019 Botanical Watercolor Calendar by Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry

I’m still pinching myself.

As we head towards the end of the year I always like to look back and celebrate my successes. When I’m busy with the day to day it’s easy to forget just how much I’ve accomplished. Late in December I often share a year in review on my blog.

For me looking back is fun and it’s also helpful for planning the coming year, too.

I hope that you are dreaming big. I hope that you are celebrating your successes, both small and large. (I’d love to celebrate with you, so if you feel moved to share I hope you will).

Thank YOU for being here reading my words, encouraging me and cheering me on. You help me to keep dreaming.

Successes, Failures and Celebrating Where We Are

This morning there is a blanket of snow over everything. When I checked the thermometer it said 23. And yet I have more energy and feel more inspired today than I have for a long time because the SUN is shining.

I have been so tired lately. The change of season — the cold and wet and dark — is exhausting to me. And I’ve been wavering back and forth between discouragement and excitement in my work. I’ve had to remind myself to be patient. I’ve had to remind myself of how far I’ve come.

This November marks eight years since I first picked up a paintbrush. In 2010 I took part in Art Every Day Month and began learning how to paint with watercolor while also sewing and crocheting. At that point painting hadn’t yet become my main focus. And as you can see from this post on my old blog, I wasn’t very good at it.

When I’m stuck in the day to day, it’s easy to forget how far I’ve come since I began my creative journey. Fresh failures, disappointments and rejections loom large, temporarily overwhelming my successes. It’s easy to focus on all I still want to accomplish instead of celebrating all that I’ve accomplished so far.

My art is in the 2019 Flow Calendar!

My art is in the 2019 Flow Calendar!

I know we all feel like this sometimes. Even the most successful of us struggle with these feelings (see this recent post by Holly Becker, celebrating her new endeavors but also admitting how she feels like she’s not doing or accomplishing enough).

I’m not sure what the answer should be. Sometimes it’s easy to shake off these feelings. There are days when all it takes is a little sunshine. Sometimes it’s not so easy.

It helps me to take a step back and to make some art just for fun. Play in my sketchbook, enjoying the process without worrying about the outcome. Delighting in color. Savoring using different tools or media.

Last week you got a glimpse of a spread from the collaborative sketchbook I’m working on with Dana Barbieri. Here are the finished pages:

A Page From My Collaborative Sketchbook With Dana Barbieri

If you’ve been around a while, you may remember the first collaborative sketchbook Dana and I did.

That project was featured in UPPERCASE Magazine and working on it was a turning point in my relationship with sketchbooks.

Anne Butera and Dana Barbieri Featured in UPPERCASE Magazine

This time Dana and I don’t have a schedule and aren’t sharing our pages. Keeping it (mostly) private is very freeing. In these days of sharing everything online it’s easy to forget that sketchbooks are supposed to be a place of creative freedom. They can be messy and fun and the only person you need to please is yourself.

Chicken Sketches in My Sketchbook

I think the key to long-term success as an artist is pleasing yourself first. By success I’m not talking about money or likes or followers. I’m talking about satisfaction deep in your spirit. About joy. Creating can be hard. It takes courage to ignore negative thoughts from your inner critic. It takes courage to learn how to do something new. To make terrible art and to keep going anyway is an act of bravery.

Eight years ago I was scared to admit to anyone that I was an artist. Today it’s hard to remember the apprehension I used to feel.

Giving Myself a Pep Talk in My Sketchbook

I don’t know where you are in your creative journey. Perhaps you don’t consider yourself an artist (and maybe you don’t want to be, which is perfectly OK!). Or maybe you have a yearning to create — to embroider or sew, to grow a garden or cook, to dance or write poetry. Art is not only painting. Whatever it is, do what brings you joy. Try new things. Create your own definition of success. Ignore your inner critic and stop worrying about meaningless numbers. Celebrate where you are RIGHT NOW. Yes, you may have further to go, but instead of focusing on that, take a look at how far you’ve already come.

On Blogs, Blogging and Being a Little Rebellious

Starting this new blog has been so energizing. Although a fresh start wasn't my intention when I moved to blogging on my website, it's been an unexpected, but very welcome, consequence. The thought of having a fresh space to craft into whatever I want has filled me with ideas. I'm excited to share some new posts with you. But first I wanted to talk a bit about blogs and blogging.

This new little watercolor painting of two nasturtium flowers is now available in my shop

This new little watercolor painting of two nasturtium flowers is now available in my shop

My old blog and I changed and grew a lot over the years. My journey to become a watercolor painter was documented in that space. I shared projects I was working on (painting and not), thoughts I was pondering and encouragement (for myself and my readers) to discover joy. I introduced interesting people and shared recommendations -- of books, of art supplies, of recipes. There were ups and downs (in my blog and my life). I stumbled. I made mistakes. And I also celebrated my successes.

There's a lot of pressure to Be Successful and as creative people we can get bogged down in the comparison game. It's easy to focus on the negative, the rejections, the missed opportunities. Although I think we can use rejection to inspire us to move forward, I also think it's important to celebrate our successes. My blog will always be a place where I invite celebration, mine and yours (share yours with me!).

Deadheading Geraniums and Finding Beauty in the Spent Flowers on My Potting Table

Through blogging I've met so many wonderful, creative people. Forging connections and creating a space for shared celebrations is important to me. Each of us is unique, interesting, quirky. It's one of the reasons I started the Artist Interviews and Sketchbook Conversations. It's the reason why I ask questions in my blog posts, why I welcome comments and make sure to always respond to them. I truly believe we're all in this together. It's not a competition. There is room for us all. The world needs what you bring to it. Isn't that something to celebrate? 

My Two Black and White Rescue Cats Are Often Snuggling on the Chair in My Studio

This new blogging space won't be much different than my old one. 

Over the years on my blog (and in my creative life in general) I whittled my focus, pared down what I shared, concentrated my attention. And yet at the heart, behind my pictures and words is a real person. I'm driven by my interests and passions and my quirks can't help but show through. This past winter I was feeling a bit antsy and I realized that part of it was that I'd whittled too much away. I wanted to get back to other creative pursuits. I wanted to sew and craft and be creative with more than just paint. Turned out it was just what I needed.

A Silly Selfie in My Studio Modeling a Shawl Crocheted with the South Bay Shawlette Pattern

One of the most common pieces of blogging advice I've seen is to write with a very narrow focus. Abby Glassenberg's The Creative Blogging Cookbook shares that same advice. But she also writes "People aren't actually niche. People are complex. They have more than one deep interest. Nobody's life follows a strict and narrow road. And we're always changing and growing."

A View in My Garden with Lauren's Grape Poppies Blooming Beside Borage

This is so true. It also explains why the blogs I most enjoy are those that reveal the people behind the words and photos on the screen. It feels as if there's a movement going on in the blogging world, a breaking free from too-narrow constraints. Here are a few people who have been inspiring me lately:

A Black Swallowtail Caterpillar Enjoying the Parsley in My Garden

And so, yes, I'm feeling energized by this new space and by thoughts of being rebellious in my own small way.

This new watercolor painting of three zinnia flowers is now available in my shop

This new watercolor painting of three zinnia flowers is now available in my shop

Ok, your turn. What sorts of blog posts do you most like to read? Who has been inspiring you lately? Is there anything you wish I'd write about in this new space?

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