Time to bloom

When I first began taking my art more seriously, I would sheepishly share that I was an “artist”. I felt like a faker, nothing really, an imposter. At that time as an internally passionate artist, I recognized that in nearly everything I do, art was involved. How I set a table for guests, how I cook (by color- yes, seriously), how I make a bed, and so on. I decided at one point that either It was a deep desire or perhaps it actually had roots.

I suppose like anything it has been a journey for me. I have come into “my own” through layers of acceptance and inspiration. When you think about art as much as I do, there has to be something there.

Yesterday, I was working on a piece for an upcoming exhibit. When we first spoke about this exhibit, my artist friend and partner in the creative were very excited. It all made sense to me. THEN, life happened. I spent nearly three weeks fully entrenched with family stuff and this week, I am trying to get back to work.


But guess what? I am grateful. While this piece was a horrific struggle, I endured. I went through all the stuff I did as a new artist. Insecurity, doubt, all of that. But I kept working. I spent an entire day on one silly 8″x8″ canvas. And I endured.

Just like Spring, in the northeast, we have this battle with spring. It is silly really. It is winter one day and seventy degrees the next. Sometimes my art flows, sometimes it is a struggle. Yesterday it was a particular struggle because I was not only trying to get my head back in the game, I was trying to push it a little. Out of the comfort zone, into a new place.

It occurs to me that I needed to go through that struggle. If it was a test, I WON! How did I win? I kept going. I persisted. I did not give up . There was a time that giving up would have been the easier option.

Spring has sprung, my friends. The struggle is real, and that is okay. Yesterday might have been winter, but today, I am ready to bloom.

B is for Bird (a work in progress by Susan Carmen-Duffy
B is for Bird (a work in progress by Susan Carmen-Duffy

Active prayer

Active Prayer – mixed media on player piano paper © Susan Carmen-Duffy 2019

There are many ways of expressing your heart. Some do it with words, some actions, some music. We each seem to carry worries and concerns with us. We also carry things we are grateful for, and things that inspire. For me, art is a very strong link to my emotions and spirituality. When I create art I bring the best of me to the surface. I feel spiritually balanced. Art heals my aching heart and celebrates my dearest joys.

Over twenty years ago. I discovered the art of Mandala. It was completely an accident. I was creating them without even knowing what I was actually doing. The irony lies in the fact that for me it was instinctual. It was something completely natural and had no basis in my usual exploration. Often I research a new idea nearly to death before attempting it. With this, I had the opportunity to draw beautiful circles using my husband’s drafting tools. I wasn’t really trying to accomplish much of anything. It was more that I had an opportunity. It was an exploration. For me it was a miracle. My exploration turned into an incredible experience. I felt directed and understood, I could breathe deeper. It felt like a miracle. I felt whole as I created. I felt connected. I felt empowered.

For me, the creation of Mandalas did not come from a book or research. It came from my heart. The first time I showed this work publically a friend I had made a few years prior asked how long I had been creating mandalas. She smiled at the recognition that I had no clue what she was speaking about. While I am embarrassed to admit I was completely unaware of this type of meditative prayer, I also see that for me there was a purity in my ignorance. I created a mandala because it felt right to do so. I only discovered the depth of this art when my friend advised me to go get the book, “Creating Mandala” (by Suzanne Fincher). I did so. It was the key to unlocking this art for me. It was an incredible gift.

It all fell into place for me. It was words to a prayer when I lacked the right words, it was a connection when I felt disconnected, it was honor, it was joy, it was love.

When my mother was still alive, she brought me to a gathering of monks creating a mandala out of sand. We sat quietly as they chanted and meditated. I sat breathless as they picked up their tools and began laying down tiny bits of sand to create these incredible large mandalas. My heart broke knowing that they would toss their work into the river, as it was a prayer not permanent.

Eventually. I understood. The power of mandala, the intent, the gift, is priceless to me.

“Meditation” Mixed media mandala on player piano paper
copyright Susan Carmen-Duffy 2019

I feel that meditation is key to calming our very busy lives. I tend to meditate actively, through drawing, mandalas, art in general. Since I have concentrated on doing so, I feel better, I rest more completely and my focus also seems to be a bit better. It is with this spirit that I offer workshops. I believe my expertise is really my open heart, not the hours I have spent reading and discovering this incredible art. Experience and education are important, but more so, I believe an open heart.

In a world that feels so turbulent, this feels vital for me. I have created mandalas as art, and I have created mandalas in sand. I find both exciting, both incredible. Both completely worthy of my efforts and passions. I encourage you to explore what makes your heart peaceful, what sustains you. For me, the creation of a mandala is an active prayer, a song without words, especially when I have one.

I wish you peace, I wish you joy, I wish you love,


Rest In Sweet Peace

Ginny Duffy was one of a kind. I first met her when I was in high school. I was really close friends with her son (my some day husband). On this rare occasion I did not go to the art room for lunch, I actually got lunch and sat with Brian (the aforementioned some day husband). I remember saying to him.

“There is a lady back there with a huge laugh, it is like a party!”

He sheepishly looked at me and returned, “That’s my mom.”

Way to stick your foot in it. Good job, Susan.

Ginny Duffy had such an infectious laugh. She WAS the party. She worked hard, played hard and loved deeply. She was devoted to her family. She was devoted to the earth. She was devoted to hospitality.

I remember when we were first married my inlaws owned about fifty acres in Allegany County. It was a beautiful piece of property. It had streams and trees, hills and railroad tracks. It served as a gathering space for every season. It served as a place where we laughed and celebrated life. I remember each spring, my inlaws would order trees and plant hundreds of them. My mother in law was doing her very best to inspire the green of the earth.

At home, if she didn’t like where a tree was planted that wasn’t a problem, she would move it. Note: SHE WOULD move it. She didn’t call a child or grandchild. SHE WOULD. I admired that so much about her. She was self-sufficient and independent. She was strong-willed and yes, I will say it. STUBBORN. I admired her so much because of that.

My mother in law had a fierce loyalty. She believed in her family with unmatched tenacity. As an artist, mom has supported me through each phase of my career. Even when my work was less than stellar, she made me feel like I was downright brilliant. (of course it helps that I like to paint trees- see above)

Mom was an incredible hostess. When my children moved home ahead of my husband because my mother was so ill, we would often spend weekends with Mom and Dad. (we were gypsies in those days). One morning, I got up at about 7 am. It felt good to sleep in a bit, and there was mom, coffee made and pies in the oven. PieS you ask? Yes indeed. She loved to serve pie for breakfast. It was a special treat and well, there is fruit in pie, so that was healthy, right? I smiled and inquired what kind of pie she had made. (silly me)

Her response was, “I didn’t know what kind of pie you would like, so I made FIVE.” (edit- I was just doing the dishes and rethinking this post – when I realized it was five not what I originally posted as seven. I guess the point is Mom wanted to make sure everyone had their favorite. She was a heck of a lady.)

No, this is not a typo. This is Ginny Duffy.

The last two weeks have been very difficult. Countless hours at the hospital watching this strong woman try to come back from a horribly serious stroke. In the end, it seems it was her time to leave this earth and make pies in heaven. That is what I’d like to think. I have no doubt that this very hard working woman will be working hard somewhere else. I have no doubt that we will feel her in the whisper from the trees and when we clink a glass in her honor.

Ginny Duffy changed the world in such a powerful way. Her laughter, her heart and her special way of giving. She is already missed.

Rest in sweet peace, Mom. I love you.