Learning lessons from my teenage son

My son's rosin coated instrument

My son's rosin coated instrument

This summer has come to a close, after the first day of school for my kids has come to a close. I’m always a bit excited to have time the uninterrupted time to work, but sad too, as each new school year reminds me of how fast they are growing up. It’s a good, but bittersweet day. For now I will remain uber grateful of how healthy and strong they are… I don’t take that lightly.

This year is also significant because I have learned a great lesson from my 16 year old son. He plays violin in his school’s orchestra. The school has 3 orchestras, levels noted as A, B and C. All freshman start in level C, then audition into B and then A. While they are all fabulous orchestras, A is top notch, and there aren’t many high schools in the country with similar talent, direction and commitment to the quality of music these kids perform. We are lucky to be a part of this amazing public school program.

Last spring, my son auditioned for A Orchestra. He did not make the cut. I was not too surprised because throughout the year he did what he needed to get by, but did not commit to working hard and improving like he needed to to nail this audition. (This is where the lesson starts for me. In my art practice I have always drawn and painted, but have not fully committed to improving and exceeding. And, much like my son, I get disappointed when my peers get selected for shows, or their art sells, or they are recognized for an outstanding piece of work. But, the only thing separating me from them is my lack of commitment to practice and improvement. But I digress...)

After his failed attempt, my son asked the orchestra director if he could have a second chance and redo his audition. The director agreed and set a tentative time of two months out. Peter accepted this and set to work. He practiced nearly everyday, (except for times we were out of town), listened to various recordings of the music he chose to play, practiced many different scales, and techniques and sought out individual instruction. In addition he felt that he needed to perform in front of people so he sought out places to play in public to work on his performing confidence

As the two month time came to a close, he then had to communicate with not one but two directors (as there was a change of hands in the lead orchestra director) and set a time to audition for both of them. After that, he sent a thank-you for the opportunity to try again and waited for a response. I am happy to say his hard work paid off. He was accepted into the A Orchestra! He is extremely proud and so am I. I am beyond pleased he has made it into this top notch group, but honestly I am more proud that he accepted a challenge to improve, stayed committed, worked hard even when it didn’t feel like he was getting any where, and carried out the correspondence before and after with grace. 

So much to learn here. With my son as example I am more committed than every on a daily art practice, sharing it with friends far and wide, and taking the challenge of submitting for shows, setting up a shop and putting myself out there. Hard work always pays off in big and small ways. So does asking and communicating with kindness and hope. I look forward to working hard and sharing the process and success with you!

Must run. Must paint. Repeat.

After a long hiatus from consistent exercise and creative pursuits, I started running and painting again in January of 2016. Somehow, for me, these two things have always gone hand in hand. I never considered myself a 'runner' but I’ve always been fit, and would run without much effort from time to time. Similarly I never would allow myself to say “I am a painter” although I have painted off and on for years… no... actually, my whole life. So why is it that I couldn’t call myself an artist? More on that later. For now, my reboot story:

During Christmas break of 2015, I decided to train for a race in the Methow Valley. I organized a team of amazing women and found a trainer who helped put it all in perspective; who truly felt the potential had. I worked hard, through shin splints, achy muscles, exhaustion, and crappy weather (nothing like starting training for a race in the winter in the Pacific Northwest).  Concurrently I found an online art class taught by Lisa Congdon, called none other than "I Am An Artist". I debated whether or not to do this, and at the 11th hour, I signed up. I am so glad I did! Not only did Lisa debunk my feelings of the ways I am NOT an artist, but through her leadership I created a manifesto for myself and my art, I allowed myself to paint regularly by making it a priority, and I met a fantastic group of artists, worldwide, who continue to feed me daily via Instagram and Facebook.

So, how’d the race go? I ran with my friends over Mothers’ Day weekend, in May. I enjoyed the run immensely and ended up with a personal best time that truly surprised me. Needless to say, I was pleased. 

How’s the painting? I am painting in many mediums now, sharing with family and friends as much as I can and have two paintings in a show in August in Seattle. I have created a body of work I am proud of and have a zillion more ideas in the works. 

And I’m training for my next race… so stay tuned!


Welcome to my studio website, and a heartfelt thanks for reading! To begin this journey, I wanted share a bit about the three women in my family who greatly influenced who I am, and continue to help me focus on who I want to be:

In the beginning, there was my great grandmother, Grace Cosgrove Gale (aka Mimi). Though I never met her in person, she lives on in my home, my cousins’ homes, and in the hearts of all the people who had the pleasure of meeting her through her artwork. She was a prolific artist around the turn of the century, teens and twenties in Evanston, Illinois. The family lore I have learned was that she attended Pratt Art Institute in NYC, and was an oil painter, a water colorist, a ceramic artist and needlework artist (just to name a few mediums). I've also learned that she often took people into her home for long stays to help them out, when times were tough. I am always amazed at the amount of work she produced, all while taking care of many other people.

Next was my grandmother, Sarah Marian Barnes, (aka Sally to adults, and Ranny to us kids). She was also an oil and watercolor painter, and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. Together with her husband, my hilarious grandfather Chuck, she created beautiful furniture pieces in a Shaker style, complete with lovely stencils and artful embellishments. I loved visiting her home, studying her box of paints and brushes, and hanging out in my grandfather’s workshop. Pure creative joy!

Then along came my mom, Gale Barnes Schlitt, who always painted, doodled and drew house plans. She is probably the reason I became an architect! She loved surrounding herself with other artists, whenever she could. She was also an avid gardener, and I think her palette was her gardens, carefully curated with specific textures and colors. My mother died in 1994, but when I think back to her happiest times I can still hear her wonderful laughter, while with the people whose creativity and joy reflected hers.

I’m so lucky to be a part of this amazing, creative group of women. With everything I paint or draw, I offer up a grateful nod to these women, and honor them.