Beginning Again: My Sedona Story

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A few week ago, I escaped to Sedona to paint

 

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I just got back from a painting workshop in Sedona, Arizona, after barely making it there in the first place. As you may have read in my previous blog post, I almost talked myself out of going due to deadlines and work overload. Now, I’m shaking my head in disbelief—I can’t believe I almost denied myself this restorative experience! Thank goodness I changed my mind. Both the workshop and Sedona were beyond worthwhile.  

 

 

 

 

The workshop was not a technique-based class. I saw it as a space for me to experiment with new subject matter and to push myself outside my limits and beyond my comfort zone. I went in with a strategy: I decided to try to paint as if I’d never painted before. I told the facilitator that I deliberately “forgot” how to paint and I was happy about that. I decided to approach my work with new eyes, because I think we tend to work within self-imposed limitations—we all have stories we tell ourselves, like “I’m not good at figure painting” or “I’m not good at painting florals.” So I decided, “I don’t know anything, so I guess I kind of know everything!” I felt like I had that youthful naiveté we all have before anyone tells you you’re not good at something.

 

I actually produced a portrait painting for the first time in so long that it felt like my first time. I found myself painting faces and figures, which is so unlike my usual work! I found myself experiencing a sense of possibilities unfolding and confidence rising. I’m excited to explore more figures and florals in my work in the future. Painting in Sedona gave me permission to explore new subject matter in my work. I don’t think I would have tried those new areas if I hadn’t gone there.

 

I was also very prolific at this workshop! Being engulfed in that mountain landscape made me feel free. I felt that a huge weight was off my shoulders. I felt at peace and I was able to just play.

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With all of the painting I did, you’d think that I wouldn’t have had time to enjoy the town of Sedona, but I found time for that. I even had my aura color read (lavender, of course!). Sitting in the square and listening to the magical sounds of a Native American flute being played while I drank my coffee, staring at the incredible stars at night, and watching the light change over the colorful mountains all helped me decompress and recharge.

 

I meditated on the rocks sitting at the base of Sedona's most photographed site "Cathedral Rock" and it inspired the title for my painting "Meditation on the Rocks"

I meditated on the rocks sitting at the base of Sedona's most photographed site "Cathedral Rock" and it inspired the title for my painting "Meditation on the Rocks"

How about you? Whether it’s in your artwork, your health, or your personal life, what self-imposed limits have you created? Have you pushed yourself beyond them, or are you thinking about it? Can you become a beginner again, even for a week? Give yourself permission and set yourself free!

P.S. Would you like to paint with me this month?

This trip gave life to my "Real, Raw Abstract Painting" live studio sessions. I traveled far and wide to get to Sedona and I realized not everyone can afford to drop what they're doing and travel cross-country. We have a lot of commitments and responsibilities, and so art workshops can truly be a bit of a luxury. I wanted to bring the workshop experience to you. We've had  artists from all over the world participate so far and I'd love for you to join me this month for the second session of learning, inspiration, and encouragement.

Click here >>> Join me in the second installment of "Real, Raw Abstract Painting - Live Studio Session" next week! 

P.P.S.  I share my Artist story further this month on the "Support is Sexy" podcast with Elayne Fluker. Enjoy!

Let's Talk About Self-Care in September

September deserves its own “before and after” photo. Before September, we are pretty relaxed, riding the summer vibe. By the end of September, we’re frazzled and frantic, crushed by the sudden amping-up of our schedule and our expectations. Those with kids in school are overwhelmed by the new school year’s adjustments. Every one of us also faces a big realization in September: the end of the year is a few weeks away. We take stock of our goals and resolutions and recommit ourselves to them. How many of you participated in the 30 Paintings in 30 Days project this September? I want to give a huge congratulations to anyone who successfully completed it—and a big hand to anyone who gave it a try!

 

I’m with you—I too faced the September stress mess this past month. As I reflect on it now, I see how critical my self-care practices were to getting me through it in one piece. I’d like to share some of them with you, and I’d love to hear about some of your self-care tips and routines in the comments.

I Deleted Facebook

Deleting Facebook from my phone was a productivity hack but it also had a positive impact on my mindset. I felt less distracted by constant notifications, which are so hard to ignore and even harder to not respond to in the moment—all pulling me away from my work and out of my flow. Interacting on Facebook became a mindful activity that I would accomplish when I sat down at my desk.

Rituals

My morning rituals have proven to be a powerful way to ground myself for the day:

  • Staying off my phone first thing in the morning and doing short meditation or journaling sessions instead. This is the best way to set my intentions for the day and get in touch with myself. The day starts with peace and not from a place of reactivity.

  • Some days I use Louise Hay’s wonderful book Mirror Work to guide me through self-love exercises or mirror work exercises.

  • I have also found that starting my day by diffusing essential oils makes a powerful difference in my frame of mind. My favorite type of oils are Doterra oils. Do any of you use oils? If so, I’d love to know how you use them and what your favorites are.

 

 

Investing in joy

As September wore on, I struggled with whether or not I could—or should—attend an art workshop in Sedona that I’m registered for that takes place the first week in October. If you follow me on Facebook or IG or both haha, you are aware that I even offered up my spot. I had a lot of thoughts of resistance, such as thinking that I was way too busy and that I didn’t need to guilt myself over skipping it. But after practicing some of my grounding rituals, I was able to realize that I’m not as overwhelmed as I was letting myself feel. I can give myself the gift and investment of this five-day workshop. This is an act of self-love.

The fact is, too, that I could always talk myself out of going to an art workshop: if things are busy, I could tell myself I can’t get away; if things are slower, I could convince myself that I need to stay home and hustle to pick things up. The bottom line is that I know that I deserve and need to be inspired and rejuvenated by these retreats. They are an investment in myself. Taking good care of myself and investing in myself have led to abundance and prosperity, so I need to keep up my end of the bargain.

Returning to San Miguel, Mexico

Speaking of art retreats—I attended a life-changing retreat with the remarkable Desha Peacock in San Miguel de Allende last winter. Her retreats for creative entrepreneurs sell out every year, and for good reason: phenomenal content and leadership in an inspiring setting (a beautiful mansion in a gorgeous artist town). Desha is an amazing and very present retreat leader, and I found this retreat very nourishing. It was a large investment, and I felt that it was worth it—and I am worth it. I am thrilled to be returning in Jan 28-Feb 3, 2018 to teach an art session as part of the retreat!  There are only two more spaces left. Would you like to come? Take a look at the link, and let’s meet in San Miguel!

I hope that the beginning of October finds you well. I hope you are taking good care of yourself and investing in yourself. You deserve it! I look forward to sharing my trip to Sedona with you, and to hearing about how you practiced self-care to get through September!

I had a Paradigm Shift About Money While Living Solo in Mexico

I had a revelation that rocked my world while doing an art residency in Mexico—and it had nothing to do with painting.

 

I was thrilled to be in Oaxaca, and I loved Mexico, but I wasn’t carefree. As an artist entrepreneur, my business cash flow ebbs and flows. I’m careful to always maintain personal savings, but it’s hard to not be anxious when my business cash flow dips too low. While in Oaxaca, it was dipping and one large reason for it was because a former collaborator owed me a large sum of money. I felt hurt and stressed about being stiffed by this person, even though I wasn’t the only victim.

The fact that I had recently gone through a big breakup also weighed me down even more. Some would say that dashing off to another country is a great escape, but I can testify that being a stranger in a foreign land where you barely speak the language and you don’t have close friends or family for support is not a magic breakup balm! It’s more like a recipe for loneliness.

My money anxiety was about to have a big relief—my licensing company was due to pay me a cushy check that would cover my business expenses for the next couple months. These infusions of security and cash flow are what artists (and all business owners) dream of!

And yet I clearly remember the day that the commission check was deposited into my bank account. I didn’t feel elated. I felt numb.

Where was the joy? Why wasn’t I reveling in feelings of security?

There I was, alone in Oaxaca and completely in love with Mexico, and so excited to keep exploring after finishing my residency in Puebla—and yet I was becoming more and more depressed.

"Cholula" 30x30" mixed media on canvas, Mexico 2017

"Cholula" 30x30" mixed media on canvas, Mexico 2017

 

Just before I left for Mexico, I watched a documentary called Minimalism on Netflix. The film states that the things that we do and the things we think we want are due to unseen fears and desires. We spend time, energy, and lots of money acquiring things to fill a void, but since we aren’t addressing the core need/fear, we remain unfulfilled. These needs can be extrinsic (external), such as wanting approval from others, or wanting to be liked. They can also be intrinsic (internal), such as fears about being alone, fears of not being special, or fears of being unworthy.

I think the intrinsic fears are the scariest to tap into.

Minimalism was a thought-provoking movie, and I think some soul-searching questions that it brought up were percolating in me while I was in Mexico. When I felt no fulfillment at the five-figure commission payment, I came face-to-face with the void in me that had been left unfulfilled: my need for family.

There’s a wonderful quote by Rumi: “What you seek is seeking you.”

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I realized that what I had been seeking all along was something that I was already blessed with—a loving and supportive family. And yet I had been living away from them for more than 10 years, between college, living in the United Arab Emirates for three years, and other travel. I suddenly knew that I needed to be near them.

Shortly after this realization, I left Mexico and returned to my hometown. I had a lot of emotions and grief to face and work through, and I needed a lot of self work (and an amazing therapist) to get through it. I am glad to be living near my family now, and I still enjoy traveling both within the United States and internationally. In fact, think I enjoy travel even more now that I have grounded myself more firmly in a home base.

We all want things in life, but when we have a glimpse of insight into the root—our deepest needs and desires—it is truly profound, and it can right our course.

I won’t say that money doesn’t matter to me; I also know it’s a cliché to say that money doesn’t buy happiness. I respect money, and it can make life more convenient. I grew up in one of the poorest cities in New Jersey, and I’m very grateful for how far I’ve come. But in Mexico I realized money could not fix how I felt. Money is powerless to cure depression; it can’t help you love yourself; and to my surprise it didn’t even make me feel more secure.

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This post is about my experience, but I hope it gives you food for thought. What are the deepest motivations that you have for what you do—for your goals—for what you buy? Do you have a void in your life? If so, are you filling it with things that don’t serve you instead of making the needed changes or doing the inner work? These are deep questions that can lead to profound insights. I wish you the best!

Amira xox

P.S. Please comment below and/or share this post if you found it beneficial. Share the wealth! <33

What I Learned from Taking a Social Media Break This Week

This gorgeous color wheel study, provided by one of my meticulous students. Thanks susan Gottschalk!

This gorgeous color wheel study, provided by one of my meticulous students. Thanks susan Gottschalk!

Last weekend I had the honor of teaching a 3-day workshop for the first time at the Donna Downey Studios in North Carolina. It was a glorious occasion and I painted with some of the sweetest ladies I could have hoped for. Stepping away from the online side of things for the weekend and engaging with artists in person was a much-needed change of pace.

After reflecting on such an intense year, and recognizing that in a few short days I would be starting my 30 paintings in 30 days challenge, I decided to reign it in and cancel all work-related Instagram and Facebook activity for a week. Well, 4 days to be exact but that's basically a business week over here.

Here's what I learned:

  1.  Managing two Instagram accounts, a Facebook group of 1,900+ artists, and keeping up with my account here is a full time job. 
  2. I need to hire more help and fast. Having support staff to help manage the different facets of my art business and consulting is crucial for me to stay in shape.
  3. I was able to be way more productive in my business when I unplugged for a few days. 
  4. I was able to focus on self-care more easily. I caught up with a few healthcare visits, visited my grandma, and spent my 29th birthday at the mall like a normal person. (PS I treated myself to some Madewell jeans for the first time and I did not know a pair of jeans could make you so happy. They cost a pretty penny, but you will never want to put your toosh in another piece of denim again.)
  5. I got out of the addictive loop of likes and comments and also couldn't run to them when I needed a distraction.
  6.  My time felt like my own for the first time in a long time.
  7. It is slightly scary to think the online world has imploded and may build up your anxiety to check it even for a second 
  8. I have more self-control than I thought I did. And coming back to the "work" that is social media is hard. 
  9. Social media is still a vital part of my business and how I support myself, but it is not the only part.

Have you ever tAKEN a social media hiatus?

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I intend to schedule more of these throughout the rest of this year. I never realized how much time and energy I was expending. It's nice just to be able to tell people, email me at info@amirarahim.com if you need anything and walk away. 


#AMIRAPAINTS30DAYS

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Today marks the first day of my self-inflicted 30 paintings in 30 days challenge 😝 and so you can expect me to make up for the absence this week with a months worth of original paintings from my studio to flood your screens.

If you'd like to get on my collector list for the 30 paintings and get special updates on new originals from my studio this month, sign up below:

After this I'll probably want a pina colada off the coast of Jamaica. Like for real 🌴🌴🌴

7 Bad Habits Holding Back Your Instagram Growth

#1 You're still doing "Follow-for-follow"

Back in the day (okay really just a few years ago), it was very common to see people visiting each other's IG feeds and immediately commenting "Hey, follow for follow?". Meaning, they'd follow you if you follow them back. Even worse, sometimes, you'd follow someone only to realize weeks later that they've unfollowed you already and this was just a technique employed to grow their own numbers. This is not a winning strategy for growing your Instagram audience and will only stress you out. Instead, focus on building a long-lasting community of raving fans, aka "your tribe."

#2 You're posting too little

This probably could have been number 1, because it is the most common concern I hear from artists just starting to get serious about their social media. Many newcomers feel like they will turn people off if suddenly they ONLY share their creative pursuits or new venture. And even more so, many people fear that sharing 3-5 times per day is excessive. Yet, the reality is that we are being marketed to constantly and successful businesses understand that you must vie for your ideal market's attention. The best way to do this is to post frequently and consistently throughout the day to insure that at least one of your posts are seen that day.

#3 You're posting too much

Have you ever scrolled down your timeline only to see the same person sharing 3 or 4 photos within the span of a couple of minutes? It feels a bit spammy, right? It's like you haven't shared anything all week and you're trying to make up for it by flooding people's screens. I have certainly unfollowed accounts because of this and really advise against overwhelming people's feeds. It's much better to space out a few posts throughout the day since people check their phones multiple times of the day as well (as noted in the point prior).

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#4 You don't have a vision for your feed

Some feeds are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get :P. Meaning it's all over the place and not in a good way! One minute there's a picture of a cat. The next day it's a weird mushroom you found in the woods during your morning stroll. And the next it's your latest outfit find from the mall. While it may be entertaining for the people closes to you, this isn't building a brand. Instagram is no longer a platform for personal blogging. If you run a personal blog, that is different. But for the rest of us, we can't be surprised when no one is pays attention to our art the one time we do share it. It's because they can't decide what's the most important thing on your feed and neither can you.

#5 You post selfies regularly

Everyone loves a good selfie. Indeed, Instagram is probably responsible for the creation of the term. If you treat your Instagram account like a personal blog, then selfies are more than okay. But for most of us, our audience and potential clientele would much rather see what you're working on than your face. Harsh, but true. But the beauty of this is that you can share quality photos even on days when you don't feel so glamorous because it's about your work!

#6 You don't take your photography seriously

Eventually, as you start to follow more and more successful accounts on Instagram you will develop a better eye for photography. You don't have to be a professional photographer, but some basic ideas on lighting, negative space, composition, and balance goes a long way. Interestingly enough, due to social media, we've become more selective in the quality of photo and video content we consume. So yes, the days of getting by with crappy photos on Instagram are over. If you haven't already, catch up!

#7 You rely on apps, comment pods, or paid shortcuts

This may be a bit controversial, so I will preface this by saying "to each his own." Whatever works for you at the end of the day, right? Paying for followers and other quick-fix apps is certainly a route that many people choose to take. If you've made the decision, however, to build an engaged and loyal community, then it's going to take a bit more strategy and patience.

Strategies on how to create viral content, engineer engagement, and create consistently high-quality content is exactly what I teach in my upcoming Instagram for Artists course.