Living An Artful Life

When someone asked my mother who or what was most dear to her, the two-fold answer was given without any hesitation. My siblings and I came first, and art was second.

Always focused on the positives in her life,  she embraced family, friends, and a variety of painting mediums, in much the same fashion – with profound appreciation and attention to the qualities that made them unique. Her signature work was all rich jewel tones and welcoming flowers, which, over time, offered a visual reflection of her personal journey as both a woman and an artist.

When she died in 2013, her supplies came home with me. It didn’t matter if, or when they might be used again. What I needed most were her well-worn paintbrushes standing at hopeful attention in a favorite coffee mug, and those boxes of brightly smudged tubes of paint.

Working through the grief, I threw myself into writing a guide book about caring for both my parents in their final years; giving workshops on the topic; and even creating a writer’s group especially for caregivers. It has been soul work for sure, but at the same time, I’ve yearned for something less end-result and more about finding joy in the process.

Just like the Zen saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher arrives,” this month I found my way to a glorious collage and painting class called Big Bold Blooms, given by Lynn Whipple, one of my favorite artists. The irony is not lost on me since I could kill a plastic plant if given enough time.

The old paints and brushes are thrilled to be needed again, and my collection of tissue paper and oil pastels are calling out, “Pick me! Pick me!”  Feeling my mom’s presence close at hand, the first piece emerges in a mix of ripe purples, greens and turquoise, with a few tiny buttons thrown in for good measure.  Is it perfect? No. Do I care? Not a bit. Discarding judgment and being open to wonder are the real goals here.

Thanks to Carla Sonheim, a private Face Book page has been created for Bloomers, as we’re known, to share our progress. The wildly diverse styles and colors are breathtaking, and so is the generosity of spirit towards sister painters, from newbies to professionals, around the globe.

Starting with the warm and wonderful Lynn, our gifted guide, everyone’s words are kind, the encouragement is enthusiastic, and for those going through difficult times, there is comfort and compassion to be found.

Every day, I become more enchanted with each creative session, and with my gracious teacher and classmates, as well.  Like my mother, they understand that living an artful life is not just about learning to paint. It’s about celebrating each other with an open heart.

Carla and Lynn’s websites: You’ll want to check them both out. 


  1. lynn Whipple says:

    What a beautiful wordsmith you are. I was transported by the story of your mother, her love of making art, her jewel tones, her worn brushes, her paints, and watercolors. And how the grief of losing your mom was softened, as you picked up her art tools and began creating wonderful blooms of your own. A continued celebration of love of family and of art 🙂
    Thank you for your warm words about the Bloomers. We are a lucky bunch of creatives, sharing our art experiences together, and we are better for having you among us!!
    With big love,

    • Judith Henry says:

      I’m touched by your kind words, Lynn. My mom would go crazy over this class, and I’m delighted to be her stand-in. You are the real deal, missy – as an artist and as a teacher. Very glad to be part of this amazing community.
      Love and hugs,

  2. Ledia says:

    Dear Judith, you are such a gifted writer. I truly enjoyed reading this entry as much as I enjoyed reading your book.
    Art comes in many ways and for many years you have been showing your artistic talent in the writing you do.
    Is the painting shown here what you did? I love, love it so much and reminds me of the beautiful paintings done by your mom. I’m sure your mom smiles from heaven every time you grab a paint brush. This is one of the many gifts she left you with.

    • Judith Henry says:

      Oh, Ledia, you made me cry. 🙂 Thanks so much for your kind words. This is one of my pieces, and I was definitely channeling my mom during the process. I like the idea of her smiling down on me whenever I pick up a paint brush. Will definitely have to do that more often.

  3. Debbie says:

    All that is you shows in your heartfelt writing and this beautiful painting. You are truly a gem my friend!

    Thanks for sharing.


  4. Diane says:

    Thank you for sharing your creativity through your writing and your art. Very beautiful, inspiring, and healing. Brings many dear memories of my mother’s love of art and her encouragement of creativity in those around her.

    As you were a compassionate support to me at the time of her passing so many yeas ago, you continue to help and inspire others today. Thank you!

    • Judith Henry says:

      Diane, thanks so much for your beautiful words. You and I have always shared a great love for all things creative, and how wonderful that our mothers had this in common, too.

  5. Meryl Blackman says:

    Oh Judith, what a beautiful way to continue your process of grieving and living. One that so many of us have benefited from your sharing of, in your book your blog posts and now with your painting! You touched me with your writing about this new painting chapter and made me feel that much richer in my life knowing that so many different layers of creativity exist and people like you are smart enough to turn to them. To be that much closer to your mother and her memory while using her materials to experience love in yet another way is indeed truly wonderful. You
    continue to be an inspiration to me! Thank you for sharing.
    Meryl Blackman
    Real Life Matters ( we can all use a little help now and then )

  6. Judith Henry says:

    Meryl – thanks so much for visiting and for your lovely words. I don’t think the grief ever goes away. We just find different means to deal with it. Art is such a powerful connector, and this class has certainly reminded me of that. It has been quite a gift.

  7. Pegret Harrison says:

    Hi Judith! Love your flor-trait with the buttons…wonderful, loose, colors are jewel-y. I have ordered your book and look forward to reading it. I have a 95’year old mom in a memory unit in Fort Myers FL, see her most days and have to say that I enjoy her now in some ways more than in the past. I am really enjoying Lynn’s classes…I’ve become a bit of a groupie. I take workshops year round with artists I respect and admire. Doing a Henry Yan WS in Bonita in January. Look forward to playing with you! Pegret

    • Judith Henry says:

      Hi, Pegret – what a nice surprise! Didn’t realize you were kind of in my neck of the woods. Thanks so much for purchasing my book. I think it’s really special that you’re connecting with your mom more now than before. That’s wonderful for both of you. Can’t think of a better place to find some joy than in Lynn’s classes. This is my first one with her, and I’m sure there will be many more. I’m awed that you’ll be taking a class with Henry Yan. I would be completely intimidated! Take care. It’s lovely to meet you.

  8. Claire says:

    I love that quote – I’ve experienced it many times 🙂 I, too, love Lynn and Carla’s work, and I love that you’re finding new ways of expression! A wonderful post 🙂

    • Judith Henry says:

      Clair, I so appreciate the kind words, delighted that you’re a fan of Lynn and Carla’s work. This class continues to be such an amazing experience. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Elizabeth Miller says:

    Lovely! Art is so therapeutic. My sister is an oil painter and the primary caregiver of my mom. I will share these sites with her.

  10. Lorrayne says:

    I would love to learn how to paint

    • Judith Henry says:

      Thanks so much for leaving a comment, Lorrayne. I say, “Go for it!” There are so many wonderful classes available online, and perhaps where you live, as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *