By Melissa Whitaker

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Between Two Elephants

“Heebie Jeebies” Digital art by Melissa Whitaker

The above artwork is strange and bizarre, but an anxiety attack can be just as strange and bizarre. For as long as I can remember this particular vision would pop up out of nowhere. I say vision because it would happen while fully awake. I would be quietly sitting in math class and then, without any warning, I would be stuck between two elephants boxing. My heart would race and my head would throb with every punch that was thrown. As a child, I had no idea what was happening but I knew the elephants were not real, so I kept quiet about it. It was not real, so I did not have to address it.

The elephants would enter the arena with their satin robes draped over their massive shoulders. The crowd would start cheering and the first punch would be thrown POW!! The crowd would roar with excitement as I would cringe in fear of being trampled. WHAM!! my head would pound with the resonance of a timpani drum. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. My heart would march along to the rhythmic tempo and accelerate as the cheering would get louder. Meanwhile, those sitting around me casually went on with the math lesson not knowing of the battle going inside of me.

These attacks would strike at some of the oddest moments. I could never be sure when the elephants would appear, but the one place they never appeared was when I was drawing, so the art room became my sanctuary and comfort.

Art to me is extremely therapeutic. There is a zen-like quality to immersing oneself into a creative state of mind. Allowing the emotion to ebb through and come out on to the canvas, paper, tablet, or the pixels of digital art, is a release of the anxiety that can get bottled up within. When my life gets chaotic or stressful and I don’t make time for my creativity to flow, that is when the elephants make their appearance and can stampede through my mind. Exercising the inner muse is my way of calming the herd of judgment and self-doubt that can accompany the anxiety.

I have a friend who is always scolding me for putting others before myself. He sees the destruction that happens to my soul and ultimately my art when I neglect myself. The anxiety builds up to the point where I feel trapped between two boxing elephants. That is the time to stop, take a moment, breathe, and realize that I am in control and not the elephants. I have the choice of crouching in fear or standing up and proclaiming myself as the champion in the ring.

I choose.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18-54 have anxiety disorders. 54% woman and 46% of men experience anxiety in some form. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) sites that 7.1% of children aged 3-17 have diagnosed anxiety.

Inspire Your Heart

Today is Inspire Your Heart with Art day. It happens every year on January 31st. It has become my new favorite HOLIDAY.

“Tangled” Digital Drawing by Melissa Whitaker

Take a moment today and feel some art. What kind of emotions does it evoke? Art surrounds us even when we do not realize it. It is the music we listen to, the packaging on the products we buy, the painting hanging in the museum, the car driving too slow in front of you, the book or the article you just read, the icicle hanging from the gutter. Today is the day to examine that artwork and think about what it makes you feel.

An owl woven out of cords and ropes using the art of macrame


I’m one of those people who sings to the songs in my car while driving down the road. You may even spot me doing some crazy arm gestures while dancing in the driver’s seat. No worries, I am not having a seizure, I am just feeling the music. I find it relaxing and liberating. It is my time to be “ME.” Too often the stress of everyday life can make me feel like a macrame owl, a little bit wise but entirely made up of knots, and art helps untie those knots. Today on your way home crank up the music and dance. Instead of yelling at the guy in front of you going too slow, look at his car and the design of it. Those brake lights may actually impress you with the engineering of them. For dinner tonight, play with your food, you might create a forest out of that broccoli.

Art is made to inspire and make you feel. It can transport you to other worlds and take you back in time with memories and the playfulness of childhood. It can help you understand other cultures and see other perspectives on life. Art can transform people, places, and things.

Today is Inspire Your Heart With ART Day, it could transform you.

Curiouser and Curiouser

“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).”

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Inspiration happens every day if you pay attention to it.   It is not something that just magically appears, at least it doesn’t for me.  I have to consciously look for it.  We are often too busy to take the time to find inspiration, some may even consider it a waste of time.  There are things that have to be done, dishes to wash, work to be done and bills to be paid.  Who has time for inspiration?  Inspiration, to me, is what makes life worth living.  To be inspired by something or someone or someplace sets my soul on fire.  To pass a spark of that inspiration on to someone else fans the spark and makes it burn brighter.  That alone is worth the time to go and find the inspiration

Inspiration is all around us the trick is to know it when you see it.  Take a look around and examine things closely.  Inspiration is fed by curiosity, for without curiosity innovation and inspiration would not occur.  Take washing the dishes for example.  It can be a mundane chore that must be done or it can be a FUN experimentation on the formation of bubbles and color.  If you look at the bubbles only as a white foam then you are missing the wonders that lie underneath.  

Curiosity stopped me the other day while I was doing the dishes.  The bubbles from the soap attracted me all of a sudden so I ran to get my camera. 

The bubbles on the left are what is typically seen. The photo on the right is after Lightroom Adjustments that brought out the magical world of Bubbles.

The curiosity sent me down the path to the inspiration. It all started with the, “I wonder.” The next thing I knew I was examining bubbles even closer.

Macro shot of the surface of a soap bubble

The pictures that were captured inspired me even more, so yesterday when I was home due to snow I played around with the photos to see what I could do.

“Don’t Burst the Bubble”. Digital Media (rough draft)

The illustration still needs quite a bit of tweaking, but I like where the bubbles took me. Little did I know that the simple act of doing the dishes would lead me down a rabbit hole full of color and exploration. What a tumble it was.

Please excuse me now while I go and finish up the dishes.

New Year, Now What?

Here we are one week into a new year and I can already hear the clock ticking. Tick, tick, tick, at least that’s the sound that clocks use to make, now it has no sound at all. Time is a complete silence waiting for us to start the race, but if it is not making a sound how are we suppose to know when to start? In 2018 I went to an Art Business Seminar where the wise art guru threw the gauntlet down. He threw physics into an art lecture. 😳. Newton’s first law, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion.” It hit me like a fast moving train, which coincidently is the ending of Newton’s first law, “….unless acted upon by an outside force.” I often wait to start something until I have everything all planned out and ready to go. Problem is, life interferes and the plan never gets finished. It gets put off for another day, so I never get past the starting line.

This is where the physics lesson comes in. Why wait until everything is planned out? Just start. Get moving and make adjustments along the way. At least it is moving forward. It may have taken a train to get me moving, but I slowly started last year and in 2019 I am determined to go the distance. I started this blog in June 2018, and it has been slow going and I have done 9 posts in 6 months. The next 6 months my goal is at least 12. I’m in motion, just keep moving.


American Triage

For the past several days I have tried to write a blog post, but as soon as I wrote something I would quickly cut it because it may have offended someone.  Who it would offend, I don’t know, but it really didn’t matter.  Offensiveness seems to be the new normal and I do not want to be “normal.” 

I live in a small town just outside of Cape Girardeau, MO.  Today the town is being visited by the 45th President, Donald J. Trump, Sean Hannity, and Cape Girardeau’s home boy Rush Limbaugh.  There is an electricity in the air as a storm is brewing in the West, (seriously, the weatherman is calling for tornadoes this evening) the tension mounts on my social media pages, and I sit here wondering, whatever happened to civility?  I scroll through my Facebook feed and see one accusatory comment after another.  It does not matter which side a person is on, the accusations are coming from the Red and the Blue. How can we merge the two and make a lovely, vibrant purple?

When did this become an Us vs. Them country?  To borrow from one of the greatest authors of all time, Harper Lee, “I think that there is just one kind of folksFolks.”  Scout Finch had a good role model in Atticus Finch and I think we could all use a reminder of Atticus’ advice today,  “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  People develop their beliefs based on their life experiences, not another persons background.  We can learn from other people’s experiences, but it is one’s own life that develops their beliefs and foundations.

The one thing I have learned during this tumultuous time is, you are not going to change anything by being accusatory and mean to people who think differently.  It only makes the divide deeper and wider.  Saying that all Republicans/Conservatives are deplorable or all Democrats/Liberals are the Devil’s spawn is not going to heal this divide.  It only causes more discord. If you must believe in an Us vs. Them scenario then think of it this way; the more divisiveness and discord ther is, the more ground “THEY” gain.  Don’t ask me who “They” are, because I do not know.  That one I will leave to the conspiracy theorist to decide.  As for me today…. I’m going to go pass out daisies and breath mints, because if a person is going to yell at me, then they better have fresh breath while they are doing it.  

American Triage-

American Triage

The Curse of Being Nice

I am often accused of being too sweet, too pleasant, too accommodating,  too quiet, and too nice.  That last one, too nice, that’s the twisted knife.  It appears that in today’s world in order for a woman to achieve success the label “Too Nice” is the hemlock in her cup of caffeine each morning.  Do you have to go for the jugular in order to succeed in life?  Being nice and accommodating is how I was raised.

Oxford dictionary defines accommodating as: fitting in with one’s wishes or demands in a helpful way.

The question then becomes, is being accommodating a good thing?  Who is it benefiting?  I watched my grandmother spend all day cooking a meal and then serve it at the table for the family.  She never sat down with the family, she just hovered over the shoulder or sat in the kitchen waiting to serve in case anyone needed anything.  I did not think much about this growing up possibly because I watched my mother do it.   My mother would sit at the table with us, but she was always ready to get up to retrieve something.  My mother tried to teach me to do this and some of it took and some of it didn’t.

What I learned was to be accommodating and to put others needs before mine.  This accommodation can be beneficial, but it can be even more detrimental to my own personal well-being.  I no longer look at it as being accommodating or nice and sweet.  It’s enabling.  I am an enabler.  By bending to others wishes or demands I am enabling them to continue controlling MY life and MY wishes.  That control is a powerful thing and breaking free from it is extremely difficult, but in order to achieve success in my life,  I have to be in control of it.  Do I have to go for the jugular?  I don’t think so, because ultimately it is my own neck that I am sticking out and I am kind of attached to it.

It has not been easy taking control of my life and telling people “No.  I’m not doing that anymore.”  They are stunned and even a little angry but they will get over it.  I only have one shot at this life and it’s time to make it my own.

What about you?  Have you broken free?

Hey Jude

Acrylic and Graphite on Canvas

Speak No Evil, Draw No Evil

For the past few years I have felt that everything I was taught to believe in has been wadded up and thrown into the bin labeled “Lost to Posterity.”  While writing this post I sit here and think, “I hope I do not offend anyone.”  I have become overly cautious on my words and actions to the point that my only outlet has been through art.  Even some of my artwork has been tethered in the hopes of not offending.  It was the way I was taught.  Be considerate of others.  But when does being considerate of others become censorship of self?

I have been told to paint pretty landscapes, flowers and even chickens because that is what people want.  It’s safe and not offensive.  I’m sorry, but I don’t do landscapes.  I am a plant assassin, all I have to do is look at a plant and it will die.  And the only chicken I like is what’s on my plate.  If I were to paint or draw what others deem is worthy of commerce, it would be a censoring of myself.  Then I would be lost.

A few months ago I had the extreme pleasure of meeting one of my favorite artists, Pamela Frankel-Fiedler.  Her work is provocative, sensual, and captivating.  My conversation with her encouraged me to not be afraid of what others may think and being overly cautious is a restraint of self expression.

I paint and draw because, if I don’t, I feel like I am suffocating.  Art is the air I breathe.  It is my voice.

In the coming months, I will be exploring this self-expression and it may shock and it may offend, but to NOT explore it would be a suffocation of the spirit.  So buckle up Buttercup, we’re going for a ride!

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