The summer after my senior year in high school I got my hair cut. A lot. It had been really long and I decided I wanted a change, so I went to this guy’s apartment to get my hair cut. That’s right—it wasn’t a hair salon, it was a guy’s apartment. Red flag! But really he was an excellent hair stylist except this one particular day. Everyone has off days, and this was his. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the show The Brady Bunch, but in that show there was a season or two where the mom, Carol, sports an infamously bad haircut. It was short and round like a little cap but then it had these awful, long wispy pieces along the edges. You should absolutely take the time to google it. Carol Brady. You’ll know the hair cut when you see it, believe me. Anyway, I don’t think anyone thought it was a good haircut even at the time Carol wore it, and it certainly wasn’t any better twenty years later when I ended up with it. 

I went to my grandmother’s house later that day, and was glad that she didn’t notice my new, terrible haircut. It gave me a little hope that maybe it wasn’t quite as bad as I’d thought, because my grandmother would say something if it was. She was the straight forward type. But then, after we’d been sitting in a restaurant for a while she leaned forward, squinted and said, “Amanda Jane (this is what she always called me), what have you done to your hair!?” “I got it cut. This guy I know cut it a little shorter than I meant for him to.” My grandmother said, “He’s ruined you! Who is he? I want to know who’s the man that ruined my grand daughter’s hair! You look awful!” 

So, she did notice… 

Now that I’ve told you this story, it’s my job to tell you nice things about my grandmother. She was a wonderful character. I loved her and she loved me a whole lot. And apparently she also really loved my long hair.

Why have I told you this story? Partially because I like it. It makes me smile. But also because it reminds me how uncomfortable personal evolution is. Change is uncomfortable, and sometimes it gets ugly before it gets pretty again. My artwork changes. It has to because it’s following me and I’m changing and learning and growing. And when we change, there are going to be people—even people who love us a whole lot— who are going to lean forward, squint at us and say “What have you done!?”  And if you’re like me, that day in the restaurant, you’re just going to cry a whole lot, and then your grandmother’s going to say, “Oh no, I think I’ve upset her.” 

But my point is, we shouldn’t let other people’s opinions of us steal our courage to try a new direction. And, if any of you have just gotten the Carol Brady hair cut, take heart! It will grow out in about three years.

~ Amy

Follow Me

The other night I was heading to the store when I saw a whole bunch of police lights flashing up ahead of me. There had been a big car accident and some lanes were blocked. I missed the turn lane I usually get in and had to veer into the next one down the road instead. It was one of those times when traffic is so bad that people stop obeying traffic laws. I had a green arrow but still couldn’t turn because people in the oncoming lanes wouldn’t stop at their red light. I started to feel worried as cars were honking and I heard people yelling. All the lanes were becoming gridlocked. I prayed that I wouldn’t get smashed, and that I’d be able to get through the traffic safely. Right about that moment I noticed a big truck just to my left. The guy driving it was making his way through the traffic that had blocked the intersection. As he drove up beside me, he rolled his window down and I rolled my window down in response. He said, “Follow me through.” As he moved along, cars parted and made a narrow path for him, and he got across the intersection, and I followed him through. 

And I thought how the whole thing reminded me so much of God and of life. When I look back through my life, both in the dark times and the joyful times, it seems to me God has always been saying, “Follow me through.”

~ Amy

My Favorite Critique

No one likes to have someone look at their artwork and say something critical or skeptical. It can get in your head and steal your courage. That’s happened to me before for sure. However, the biggest, most hopeful turning point in my art career came directly from a critical/skeptical comment. 

I had just finished a very unusual painting. At the time, landscapes and still-life paintings were selling a lot in galleries, and mostly for that reason I’d been painting lots of landscapes still-lifes. But not this time. No, this time I painted a picture of a bunch of strangely dressed ladies carrying various tea party supplies on their heads, while standing on cats who were walking into a zebra striped forest. Not a very popular subject matter. It was this crazy, beautiful picture that was in my head and I loved it so much that I had to paint it. It was like a craving. It took a very long time to finish— way longer than any landscape or still-life had ever taken me. And when I was done I just loved it. 

One day a dear friend stood looking at this painting. She looked concerned and said, “I wonder if anyone will buy it?” This was a reasonable question as I sell my artwork for a living. But it was also a question that suggests the possibility that perhaps no one would want to buy this bizarre, candy-colored creation. A hard question to think about after spending hours creating, but I’m so thankful my friend asked. Because at that moment I looked at my painting and considered the question honestly. Would anyone buy a painting like this? And I knew right away that I would buy it. Not only would I buy it, I would buy it even if it cost a ridiculous amount and I had to save up a long time to afford it. And even beyond that, if I had seen it in a store window, I think it would have brought tears to my eyes, because I would have loved the colors so much and because the strangeness of it would have reminded me that there must be other people out there like me—that I am not alone in the world. Because that’s what art does for those of us that speak its language. And in that moment, I knew that paintings like this were worth creating. Not because they will necessarily sell well or quickly, but because anything that is beautiful is worth making. It just is. I’m sure of it.

That was the beginning of my Story Paintings. Belief is so important. It steers us. If you believe something is truly worth doing, you’ll do it. And criticism is important too. Sometimes if we let it sit in our minds too long unfiltered by truth, it can steal our courage. But sometimes it helps us make wiser decisions than we would have otherwise, and often it just wakes us up to know what we believe.

~ Amy