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The Art of Thinking Differently

A frame says a lot about a piece of art. We form judgment immediately. An artwork encased in an ornate golden frame with its title on a little plaque underneath informs us that this is a museum-worthy piece, regardless of what’s on the canvas. There are hundreds of stories about unframed masterpieces by famous artists selling for pennies in thrift shops and yard sales. Or fakes being sold to museums when properly mounted and framed.

The right frame complements the aesthetic of our paintings in a way that adds glamour to our artwork. When displaying our artwork the frame matters - color, finish, craftsmanship, decorations, dings, scrapes, and scratches all speak volumes of how highly we regard our art.

Many competitions, galleries, and shows will even send artwork back if the frame has any imperfections. Since judges and viewers form opinions within the first three seconds of looking at your display, the right frame will help to hold their attention a few seconds longer.

I have a painting I purchased for $25 in a consignment shop that’s been hanging in a back bedroom in my house for about 8 years. I’ve always hated the shiny white frame which did nothing to complement the beautiful green leaves and flowers.

The other day I decided that this painting might look good over my bed if I changed the frame. It’s a huge artwork so rather than buy a new frame for it, I laid it on a table and repainted the frame myself.

When I finished I had a whole new appreciation for the art. The darker, textured frame makes the colors warmer and more inviting. I was curious and decided to investigate the artist (Amanda Richardson) and discovered that nothing in this work was painted, it was done by hand dying, cutting, and collaging tiny bits of silk into a highly detailed image of a garden.

Similar works by this artist sell for about $7,500!

Reframing this artwork made me think about what else I might be undervaluing because of its packaging. Where else might I have framed my thinking too early?

A frame around your thinking determines the behaviors you are permitted in any particular situation.

Reframing is changing your interpretation of a situation. So, if I believe that I can never become a “real” artist then I will give up early. I will not produce bad work and persevere throughout the learning process. Reframing my belief that I am unworthy into a belief that I am on the right path and I have work to do to grow gives me more energy to engage with this difficult challenge.

Byron Katie says “it is the mind’s job to be right” and as protection, we naturally focus on the negative, worst-case scenario. She created a series of four questions that she calls “The Work to help us reframe limiting thoughts and beliefs.

The questions are:

  1. Is it true?

  2. Can you absolutely know it's true?

  3. How do you react when you believe that thought?

  4. Who would you be without the thought?

To regularly practice reframing takes a concerted effort, but one that allows for tremendous rewards. As you consider the way you feel when you believe your thoughts notice how your inner perspective and emotions change as you reframe them.

When we reframe the way we think…it can change the course of our lives.

A frame is a window that does not actually show the outside world. Anything you see through your frame is actually a reflection of what is going on within you.

Seeing yourself as a victim in a world too damaged, too hopeless, too poor, etc. can be reframed by reversing the thought from the problem to the benefit or goal you seek.

My teacher keeps correcting me, so I must be a lousy student’ can become ‘Wow, great! she probably sees a lot of good things in me because she gives me so much attention!’

“Why is this happening to me” can be reframed as “What is this circumstance here to teach me?” As we shift our thinking about each situation, notice the change in emotional tone and the meaning that we give to our life circumstances.

When my kids were small I was advised to reframe my requests of them from the negative to the positive. “Don’t spill” lands differently than “please carry this carefully”. It took a really long time before this shift in thinking felt natural. By pausing to reflect on the behavior I hoped to elicit from my children and my students, I found there were many times it was actually better to say nothing at all. Imagine how empowered you might have felt being told to “color slowly and carefully”, versus the resentment “don’t color outside the lines” engenders.

You can reframe your artist’s block from stuckness into an opportunity for more research, reflection, and learning. The downtime can become a waypoint for gathering energy and renewing focus before resuming your progress toward your ultimate goals.

By making the ordinary seem absurd humor can be used to reframe your feelings and your perspective on your progress. Consider the classic campaign reframe by the then 72-year-old Ronald Reagan “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

Or the Japanese art of Kintsugi which reframes broken cups and pots into something even more precious and valuable. Each crack in a broken cup is mended with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy, Kintsugi reframes breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

Having permission to re-frame my thinking at any time is enlivening to me and a common artistic practice. I often look at my framed artwork and ask myself “what if…” What if I made the background darker? What if I added another tree? The fact that my art is framed and hanging on the wall does not mean I am done reframing my thinking. This is usually followed by taking my art out of the frame, again and again, to re-work it when I know what to do next.

I had a teacher who once told me to never throw out my old artwork. He said it was important to keep it so I can become aware of how much I’ve learned since I created it. What seemed impossible to see a few years ago is obvious when I look back at my artwork now.

As we step into a fresh new year, pause to think about your framing.

Look at your artwork and notice if you are displaying it to its full advantage.

Reflect on your thoughts and beliefs. Consider if any of them might benefit from examination using Byron Katie’s four questions.

As 2023 unfolds look for opportunities to reframe your experiences from “why me?” to “what is this here to teach me?” and “how can I change my thinking about this?”.

Reframing is not a denial that the challenge we have been dealt is a difficult one. Even though our circumstances may be fraught with hardship, we can learn to trust the cycles of life.

Our life comes in cycles of planting the seeds of expansion, growing them, harvesting them, followed by dissatisfaction/destruction/decay to ready the soil for new seeds, and then resting before the start of the next expansion cycle.

Through an understanding and trust of this transformative process, we can reframe periods of decline, whether they last for minutes or months, into preparation for new periods of vibrancy.

Reframing our lives in this way, we are less likely to be possessed by ongoing moods of pessimism, hopelessness, or resentment. Our prevailing attitude becomes one that is more optimistic and excited about what is coming next.

My wish for you in this coming year is that you flourish and grow in exciting new ways. That joy becomes your constant companion.

I am always here to help in reframing your beliefs about your artistic talents and abilities. I am honored to assist you in finding more satisfaction, more fun, and more connection through your art.

I would very much appreciate your help in locating venues to host my new three-day watercolor workshop "Painting Joy".

Please reach out to me, I welcome the opportunity for connection, collaboration, and conversation.

With Light and Delight,



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