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.

Welcome spring

For me, it has been about a year long winter. I have struggled to touch the warmth and grace of the sun as well as all the ideas and hopes swirling in my head. I have struggled with some deeply personal work, faced some dragons, and continued the process of letting go. (letting go of a plethora of “stuff” in a plethora of categories.) I have been quiet. I have been introspective. I have been searching.

But there is no magic recipe for success, personal or otherwise, is there?

This is not to say that life has stopped while all this personal development is going on. au contraire, my friends! Between my husband and myself, we have had six surgeries over the last year or so. While none were horrifically serious, they were stressful none the less. My husband had post-op treatments as well. Again, all has ended well and I am grateful.

My business is growing. Again, there seems to be no magic recipe for success. But nine months after quitting my full-time position to follow this dream, I have doubled the gallery’s income and made very positive changes. I have finally started to fall into some sort of regular schedule. While most days it feels like I should have a clone or two to get EVERYTHING done, I am doing okay for a solopreneur. I am grateful for this place.

So why the dramatic opening with a year-long winter?

I suppose I feel the need to be transparent. As humans, we seem to only want to know about the good stuff. We want everyone to be happy, successful, and healthy ALL THE TIME. That just isn’t the way of the journey. Sometimes things are very dark. Sometimes things are scary. Sometimes you downright wonder what on earth you are doing with your life.

I have been in that period of my life for about a year now. At times it has been painful, but I don’t see this as bad. A seed grows in the dark dirt before the sun warms it, inspires it, and assists the bloom. I believe that the bloom is near.

As a small business owner, I have thrown caution to the wind and tried to follow my heart. I do things that do not make good business sense but feel very right to me. I give time, energy, and money away. For me, that IS the right business plan.

However, bills need to be paid, don’t they? The lights, the shopping bags, the rent all need to be paid for and definitely play a part in the decision-making process. I don’t suppose I am stellar in this area. Faith dictates that I really believe that it will all work out, the businesswoman seems to get lost here.

Please put a pin in all of that.

I have offered an opportunity for small business owners for several years now. It’s called, “Marketing Monday”. We gather, discuss a topic I have researched and each participant share ideas for successful marketing. I don’t pretend to be an expert in the arena of marketing, but I do believe that we are stronger together and that was the point of the gathering.

That said, one of the “strategies” I fully believe in, is the idea of “living your fingerprint”. I believe with all that I am when we are authentic, we are successful. This holds true for business, for personal lives, for relationships.

So now… put all that together.

After a VERY difficult week (it is always darkest before the dawn) I have decided to perhaps be a little more dedicated to living my own fingerprint. Simply making that decision feels like SPRING to me. (which is ironic as Rochester where I live got a nice coating of snow last night) I feel like I have been fighting myself with the “I shoulds”, and advice of “you should” and not listening to myself. Not honoring my own heart, my own path.

So. today, a few days late from the calendar, I am declaring Spring on my own personal journey. It is time to fully live MY fingerprint. It is time to stop filling up brain space, journals and sketchpads with ideas and MAKE THEM HAPPEN.

It has been a long cold winter. But it is time to bloom. That my friends is what I intend to do.

with so much love,