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Brighter Place :: by Lauren Saxton of Fair RosamundArt

Art has helped me through the most difficult times of my life. It helps me relax and lose myself for a time, which for me is very healing. I can slow down and be absorbed in the process.

My parents divorced when I was a small child, and life for me and my sister changed quite drastically after that. My mom was (and is) very loving and did the best she could, but we had many financial difficulties, which I perceived and worried about even back then. When I was around 10 years old both of my parents remarried to people who made us feel less than welcome. My mother's marriage ended soon after and we moved around quite a bit, having to go to different schools and make new friends. I was painfully shy and this was difficult for me. All of this added to my sense of insecurity, fear and low self-esteem.

When I was a teenager I was hit quite hard with depression and a nagging anxiety. When I was 19 years old I began cutting myself and soon after attempted suicide, after which I was forced into a week's stay at a mental facility. This was by far the worst, most terrifying and most humiliating experience of my life. I hid the reason for my hospital stay from most of my friends out of shame. Even 8 years later, it is difficult to think about.

Around this time I was doing some drawing and oil painting as a way to express myself and take my mind off of my problems. My mom is very creative and always encouraged my sister and me to pursue art that we enjoyed. I was not consistent with it however as I had no formal art training besides one class in high school, and I got frustrated in my attempts to do "realistic" art.

Then one day my mom was showing me a magazine she had called Artful Blogging, and some beautiful mixed-media artwork by Vanessa Valencia caught my eye. It was so different from anything I had ever seen: creative, beautiful and filled with emotion, without being concerned with "traditional" art rules. Hers was the first art blog I ever looked at, and it opened a lot of doors for me. I began making much more artwork, experimenting with different techniques and developing my own style.

About three years ago I started my own blog and opened an etsy shop, with the encouragement and support of my (now) husband, who could see how much happiness and peace of mind it gave me. It has given me a new purpose and a source of self-esteem. My blog friends and customers have been an invaluable source of inspiration, kindness and support.

These days I still have to take things one day at a time, but with a combination of medication, support from my family and amazing husband, and my artwork, the world is a brighter place. I feel like I can tackle almost anything and am even starting graduate school. No matter what the future brings I will make sure to carve out time for making art: it is a huge part of who I am, and it has saved me.

Learn more about Lauren Saxton at Lauren welcomes email at


Evolution of Creativity :: by Jean Green

Jean Green
Until I was injured in a car accident when I was 55 I would have told anyone that I couldn't draw. Following the accident a period of reduced mobility left me feeling very depressed and I was forced to give up my job which I loved. I sought help from my doctor with my various aches and pains and was diagnosed with multiple joint osteo and rhumatoid arthritis and then during x rays they discovered I had severe osteoporosis in my spine too. (I'm one of the lucky ones as an early diagnosis meant I could slowdown the total degeneration of my spine.)

Evolution of Creativity
My mom encouraged me to take a pencil and paper away with me to Spain for my holiday. If you cant explore every corner on foot you can sit and draw what you see, she said. By the time I came home I was hooked. I took up painting in watercolour and loved it. My aches and pains would melt into the background for a while and I felt useful again when I started making cards from my art work and selling them for charity. Then in 2004 my spine started to break down and sitting painting was too painful. I started collage with paper instead and then discovered scrapbooking and journalling. I have taught my skills to others at a small community center and now I've moved to a new life, on my own. My art is my salvation, I journal about the many bad times I've had lately and I scrap my lovely grandchildrens' progress through their lives too.

Jean welcomes emails at Visit


Diagnosed & Found :: By Daniella Hayes

Daniella Hayes
I thought I had planned out my life perfectly. I had 2 degrees in the medical field, a wonderful husband, 2 perfect children a house,the perfect job, everything I had hoped for. Then in 2001, my legs went numb. Being in the medial field, I knew this was bad. I found out that I had Multiple Sclerosis. I was able to work for 4 more years but then became permanently disabled at the age of 35. I lost total use of my right side. I thought the world was over. I could never be the mother I was, or the wife I was. I would never be the same and I spiraled into a deep depression. How could this be?

I was in that depression for 3 long years. Just going through the motions the best I could, but being angry. So angry. Why me?

One day, I decided to go on the computer to look for something. I didn't know what. And I found a message board where people were scrapbooking. I thought "I could do that" and there began my love of making art.

I kept searching the computer and began to find art sites. I started trying all the things I found, and I also found I loved it!! It gave me purpose!! Something to do when my kids were at school, something I felt I had to do every day to keep me going. People in the art community didn't care I had MS, they just liked me and my art. I was thrilled when I got published the first time. It was a sign to me that I found the right thing. And slowly, I began to feel my old self returning. Art saved my life. No question about it. It was what I was meant to do. And if I didn't get that diagnosis, I would never have found it.

I am much better now, both mentally and physically. I have that drive to succeed, and the ability to do it! I still can't use my right leg, but I a driving again with hand controls!! I am as close to my old stuff as I can be It has been a very long journey with many bumps along the way but I have found a way to be thankful for what I am now, and not angry about who I was.

I've started a blog called Multiple Sclerosis Journal It. I am trying to tell people like me that they have to get those feelings out, put them on paper, release them! and being creative is the best therapy. We all go through the 5 stages of loss, and my MS art journal is sectioned off into the 5 stages. No matter how awful you feel, let it out! If you feel great, put it on paper so you can be reminded of how strong you were that day!

If my MS blog, or my MS art journal touch even one person in some way then I am very grateful. Being the artist I've become has saved my life. I hope my message spreads and others find hope.

One of my pages says "Through despair, I found joy and the answer to the question Why?... Because this is exactly where I am supposed to be." I think that sums me up. I was contacted by a publisher to tell my inspirational story for a book that will be coming out this month. It is a collaboration of inspirational stories from people like me, living with Multiple Sclerosis. You never know what will happen when you put yourself out there. The possibilities are endless!
Please visit my MS blog or my art blog I'd love to hear from you!


Expressing Beauty by Gayle Bodine

Untitled-6When I was a child I felt special because I was singled out as someone who was a "good artist". No matter how afraid I was or lonely, as a little one, I hugged my artist self close and let her hug me too. As a teen words and pictures kept me afloat. Somehow poetry and color kept me safe even as a resident in the "teen-aged wasteland". Now, many years later, as an adult, I have seen art transform lives in the art therapeutic sense, and also in the heart-expanding ability to see, experience and express beauty. I also discovered that one does not have to be a "good artist" or even make "good art" to be healed through creative self expression. Working in my visual art journal almost every day and being part of face to face and virtual creativi! ty groups gives my life meaning and strengthens me as a mother, teacher, artist and counselor.

Gayle welcomes email at


The Cancer Club by Eni Oken

Eni Oken
In today's world plagued by breast cancer, my story might sound like a cliché, but it is true: I am a survivor of stage 4 breast and liver cancer, and declared in remission in November 11, 2011. After going through a grueling battle for so long, I was a little lost -- even though I have been an artist all my life — it was difficult to get back into a creative mode.

My mother suggested (doesn't it seem like our mothers always have the best suggestions!?): "Why don't you just draw a little?"

I accepted this apparently simple suggestion, not know that I'd be opening Pandora's box. A FLOOD of emotional drawings have poured out on every sensitive topic: not only cancer (which I call lovingly "The Cancer Club"), but also about other issues I had seen or experienced through others and thought were long gone. Pain and emotion can gushing through my pictures.

Although the drawings are gruesome and a bit graphic for some people, it seems that others who have gone through extreme experiences of loss or pain find them calming and even funny. I never know what kind of reaction I'm going to get!

Creating these pictures continues to help me to find inner peace, as if all the poison and hurt of this disease is being purged out from my soul on to the paper, in a continuous healing process.

View more of Eni's artwork at Eni welcomes email at


A Passion That Was Ready to Get Out :: by Rhonda Podlesak

Rhonda Podlesak
Holding all my passion inside myself was such a daily struggle. I was a collector of French antique and vintage items. Glass, metal, paper but why was I collecting it? All it took was one hand made card from a good friend and I found myself in the world of artists, creative souls and bloggers. That silly card sent me on a search for art supplies and I found a whole lot more than that. It was that simple.

It opened the door to my new life as a beginning artist. Somerset Life, Etsy, bloggers, there were others out there like me. Creating from my passion has changed my life. One French friend, one trip to Paris, many blogging buddies later and I finally feel complete. This is me, this is home. This is what I've been searching for. My passion for France has surfaced and I wake each morning with ideas pouring out of me.

I've collected for years and years. Now they all had a purpose, they can tell their story, as well. My French collections are my absolute favorites. Boxes and boxes of French ephemera, laces, bits and pieces, all from various sellers in France. They inspire me to create and often are part of my vignettes.

Prior to finding Somerset Life, Etsy and blogging, I was often told, I wish I had your passion. Our love for anything in life is so personal. I'm just grateful it was finally born. I simply cannot imagine life without it.

Rhonda Podlesak welcomes email at


Hope :: by Debbie Crews


Art was one of ways I healed after the loss of my beloved daughter, Jody. One day, a few months after her death, I was sitting at my computer and happened to look over at a piece of artwork I had in a frame. It was hers. She had made this little drawing as a child. I'd never attempted to draw before, but on that day, I began. Jody's drawing inspired me to try it. Since then, some amazing things have happened. I've written several little inspirational books, started my own greeting card line and now have a blogsite. My intention behind all of this is hope.

Learn more about Debbie's art at


Reinventing Normal :: by Denyse Dar

Denyse Dar
Being a square peg in a round hole both in your family and in your community makes for a depressing life. I spent 40 years trying to be what everyone advised me I had to be in order to fit in with the world. I toned down my personality, got a stagnant job with the intent of "working my way up," married a guy that looked like the marrying kind - you name it. No matter how hard I tried to be this person, the real me would leak out and make a mess. I was a HUGE disappointment to my family and my peers had a habit of calling me crazy. Until I moved next door to an artist and expressed my secret desire to be an artist too. So I mustered up the bravery to declare myself an artist and "normal" be damned. I showed up to the blank paper but I never could have predicted what would happen as a result. The things I painted resonated deeply with viewers! When people see my work, it's never an "Oh that's cute", it's always an "OH MY GOD, I love your work!" Some part of me leaks out into my work and literally makes people HAPPY! As a result, my life has taken off like a rocket and I'm truly happy because I don't have to work so hard to be something I'm not; "normal."

To learn more about Denyse and her art, visit Denyse welcomes emails at


Created for Joy :: by Spring Barnickle

Spring Barnickle
On a sunny October morning in 2007, my whole world changed. I had completed a 5k charity run for breast cancer awareness the day before, and at 31 years old, I had never felt better, fitter, or more in control. I woke up, got out of bed, and was shocked when I almost fell to the ground because my legs were so weak. As the day progressed, I felt worse, and within a few more days, I was barely able to walk unaided.

A cascade of symptoms and physical breakdowns followed, peaking with the sudden onset of dozens of terrifying allergic reactions for which I had no explanation. After my third ambulance ride in a week and my first ICU admission, my family and I began to realize that whatever was wrong might take much more than my mobility.

The following year was the most difficult and painful of my life. The best we could determine was that an auto-immune disease process was wreaking havoc with everything from vitamin B12 levels to kidney function to allergic responses. I was almost completely home-bound except for emergency visits to the hospital, and for months I required around-the-clock care. Long-term steroids calmed some symptoms but brought on others, including diabetes, osteoporosis, infection, and the creation of 30-40 kidney stones a week for eight months.

In time, I slowly learned to deal with a schedule and diet dictated by medical need, but by the winter of 2008, I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. I had multiple, permanent spinal fractures, my muscles were atrophied and weak, and steroids had left me with what the medical profession charmingly calls “moon face.” (Picture a long-lost sibling of the Campbell’s Soup kids...) The toll one short year had taken on my health was devastating, but the toll it took on my husband and two children was even more heart-breaking. I was 32 years old and had never before felt so broken or helpless.

I am so thankful that my story does not end there. While that October 2007 morning brought the beginning of hardship I could never imagine, it also brought the start of hope I had never dreamed. One by one, the labels I used to define myself fell away: Active? It took all my strength to walk up and down the stairs. Independent? I couldn't even do my own grocery shopping. Giving? What could I possibly have to give? But the more of me that disappeared — the me that will ever run or jump again; the me that can eat at a restaurant; the me that can take a spontaneous road trip, or dress without wearing a medical ID—  as those pieces were taken, I came to realize that what mattered was what remained: my faith in God, my amazing family and friends, my sense of humor, my desire to persevere, and my ability to create.

There were times when my hands shook so that I could not hold a paintbrush, but I will always be an artist. I am so thankful that I am now able to enjoy long, fruitful hours in the studio, and that art means something different to me than it did a few years ago. Art means rejoicing in the moment, doing the most I can with today, and no longer holding myself to unachievable standards of perfection and planning. Art means laughter, determination, and fulfillment despite pain and setbacks. I have given myself permission to make mistakes and to make creating art a priority, and art has given me stress relief and freedom in return. When I call myself an artist, I am proclaiming to the world that I believe we are all created for joy.

To learn more about Spring's art and life, visit


Transformation Within :: by Angie Williams

My first memory of creating art is one of me with my pencil and paper drawing a picture of my mom while she is ironing. I cherish that memory. I don't remember my age, or the house, but I do remember the feeling. Happiness. My mom has always been a strong influence in my life. And, so too has art.

Now, art has morphed into many things for me ... I like to create. I am not picky about the media. I guess it depends on my mood. I like to take an old dresser and cut it up and make it into something else. Or, paint a mural on a wall, or make a collage with paper and ephemera, or glue and Mod Podge and sew. Whatever form the art takes, the transformation doesn't just happen on the piece I'm working on, but also within me.

No matter what trials I've been through, am going through or will go through I have peace through my Lord Jesus. He is my Rock. And He gave me a talent and a desire for art. THAT is my THERAPY. It cleanses me from the emotions that plague. It's a release so that I can start anew. It relieves the stress and pressure that is loaded on me.

There have been many times ART has helped to make me whole again. Several years ago my family was taken advantage of by a pastor. He demanded things that weren't just immoral, but also illegal. After leaving that church and being ostrasized from friends, we moved to a different state to join a ministry that we truly believed would be our God send. This, too, became an opportunity for a pastor to take advantage of us. After sellng our home and moving to a different state, we were shocked to find that we didn't have a place as pomised! 

These have been times when I rely on my art to bring me out of depression and isolation; to provide a bit of joy in an impossible situation. I am also thankful to the few real friends I have who have encouraged me to continue doing what I love to do!


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