Stress Relief for Caregivers

Through Art

with Melissa Smith-Wilkinson &
Liz Brindley

Discover how Liz has used drawing as a tool to find peace in the present moment. Liz walks us through a beautiful mediation on an everyday object. We chat about how to find reverence in the ordinary and how that reflects our own nature. 

Liz Brindley is a Food Illustrator in Northern New Mexico. She spends her days illustrating, teaching online classes for creatives, and designing products to make your house feel like home. She creates her art, which is inspired by farming and nature, to give people moments of pause to find joy in the present moment. Her work has been exhibited in galleries across the United States, and she is the recipient of a National Scholastic Art & Writing Gold Key Award.

Links:
Instagram: Prints_and_Plants
Website: www.printsandplants.com


Coloring Pages: Free Pack: https://www.shopprintsandplants.com/products/free-printable-coloring-pages

Melissa Smith

Hi and welcome to Caregiver Wellness Retreat podcast, we are so glad that you're here and feel really excited to introduce you to our next speaker and presenter. And it is Liz Brindley from Prints and Plants. She really made a huge impression on me when I took her workshop with the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, the simplicity in which she offers drawing as a tool for mindfulness and really as a tool for just understanding the world around this and what we see. I learned a lot from it, and it really gave me a little bit of hope. As someone who has not been the artist of the family, but more of the creative rather than the artist. I've been a doodler, but not much more than that. So I love that. Well, you'll have to hear and listen to what she feels like. Everyone can do, and I'll let her share that with you. So today, Liz Brindley is a food illustrator. She's in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She illustrates she teaches online classes for creatives. She designs products and she feels inspired by food, nature, farming, and really where things are resourced and sourced. And she has a lot of wisdom to share with us today. So I'm so excited and happy that you are here with us today and able to take part in hearing her story.

 

Melissa Smith

Well, Liz, I am so excited that you are here with us today and this will be not only on Facebook right now, but it will be on our podcast. So I'm really, really honored and really most excited that you are joining us for our Caregiver Wellness Retreat, which is this Saturday. And as a part of that, you are going to be sharing mindful drawing. And I would love for you just briefly right now, if you could say I didn't prepare you for this question. If you could describe yourself, you is the person how would you describe yourself in a couple of sentences? Who are you? That's a big nothing like starting with something hefty without preparing you.

 

Liz Brindley

It's humanity in a sentence. So I'm Liz. And the first thing I would let you know is that I'm very passionate about art and food. So I'm really interested in local and seasonal agriculture and supporting the people who grow our food. And I believe art is a really powerful way to share that message with other people. So that's kind of the main passion. But there's a whole lot of other things about me, but that's something I like to let people in on pretty early. So. Do you want more detail?

 

Melissa Smith

No, no, it's good. It's fantastic. Well, I first met you online and I took your course to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, so and was incredibly impressed. And we also have a mutual friend to let me know about. You and I have had that on my sort of wish list since we started sheltering in place. And so impressed. And and, you know you know, what I really love is the ease in which you do it. And what that tells me is that you embody your practice. Someone who has that kind of ease and comfort and shares it so well is is someone who really lives that practice. And so I'm really curious about how you take what you do and how do you turn that into a mindfulness practice? What does that look like? 

Well, you know, it started because it was something I needed in my own life. So it was about five or six years ago now when I was going through a time where I had incredible stress and incredible anxiety. And it's pretty overwhelming. And it was like a period of months where I was looking for some kind of solution to just feel grounded and connected and balanced again, because I had just gotten out of that alignment. And there was one pretty challenging day in particular where I was just asking for any kind of solution to feel that way. And the thing that immediately popped into my mind was draw. And I thought it was really weird. And I was practicing art at the time. I was studying art in school, but I was doing more printmaking than drawing. So I thought this was a weird thing, but I was ready to try anything. So I sat down at my desk and I pulled up an image of corn on the cob and I started to draw each kernel one by one. And in that process of just falling into the kernels, my breath calmed down. I forgot about a lot of the swirling thoughts. I was able to come to the present moment and feel that sense of start to feel the sense of grounding and connection that I was seeking. And it was this really simple act. But just doing something with my hands and allowing myself to be present to something from nature, even though it was just a photograph really that gave me the tool to become presence and remember what that felt like and that I wanted more of that in my life. So that was really like the kick start of the journey of drawing food. And it was in that process of continuing it for my own stress relief that I started to ask more questions about who are the people behind the food that I eat, how does the food that I eat get to my plate? And so making art about these topics allowed me to dive deeper and want to share those questions and that story with other people, not only as a means to relieve stress, but also as a means to raise awareness around our food systems and what we could do to change it. So it's been many years of a practice and now I love sharing, not just drawing food, but drawing in general with people as a way to be mindful and connect with the beauty of this world.

 

Melissa Smith

I love that, I really love that, so I had several questions popped into my head as you're talking really about the food systems, but before we do that, I would. What is one thing or one practice which you do to really bring you present, and I would imagine it's trying, but is there? Something really simple that just brings you right, like drops you down.

 

Liz Brindley

Yes, I do things, but this is something I do with food, not drawing it, but when I'm cooking or about to eat, but it's something that you could do pretty much with anything. But what I really love to do it is I love to cook and not only because it kind of gets me into a space of joy and connection, but I really love when I'm cooking or about to eat a plate of delicious food. I love to pick one ingredient on the plate or one thing that I'm cutting up and I'll just take it in my hand for a minute and study it, you know, give myself 30 seconds, 60 seconds just to look at the color, the pattern, the texture, and I'll start to ask myself what else I see, what it reminds me of and what's really beautiful, especially like if you're doing this with any natural object, you could do this right now and look out your window and see a leaf and do the same exercise. But what's beautiful about studying it and asking those questions is that oftentimes you'll start to see your own body and the patterns in your own body in that natural subject. And for me, when I notice that in my food that's coming from farmers I know or my garden, I start to remember that I'm really connected to nature and everything's intertwined. And that can bring me into the present. So that's something I really practice.

 

Melissa Smith

Wow, I love that, I love that thought and that idea, and I wonder if. So if you were if you were to guide that right now, what would that look like? OK, so we don't have food right now, I would say Lisa or whoever is with us on the Live today, or if you're listening to this podcast, wherever you are right now. Put your gaze on one object that's in your thoughts, in your surroundings, so for me right now, it's this bright yellow coffee mug that's on my desk and just put your gaze on that and just allow yourself to notice the color.

 

Liz Brindley

Notice how that color makes you feel, maybe any memories or emotions that come up. Notice what's in the mug. Maybe you can smell our coffee or tea. Notice any textures of the mug. Maybe you reach out to feel it so that you can touch the texture and start to be in contact with that object. But allow yourself to be fully present to the object no matter what it is. Allow yourself to give full reverence to see what's before you. To find some sort of beauty in whatever it may be, even if it's a pencil. To find appreciation for that object. Respect for that object. To be grateful that you have it beside you. To allow each of your senses to really witness it fully and be present to it. So notice I'm sorry, go ahead. Yeah, I think he could lead us longer. You know, you're giving so much, so much reverence to that object in this moment. And just think about how it serves you in your life as well. So the moment I'm stepping out of it gives me joy in the morning because it is this bright yellow color and it gives me my first sip of coffee in the morning, which gives me a lot of joy. And if it's a handmade mug, then I think about the person who made it and that's serving me and it's connecting me. So the objects in our life, even if they're not from nature, means so much. And they can really we can have a relationship with them. And when we honor that and find appreciation in it, then gratitude can grow, presence can grow, and that sense of balance and peace can grow.

 

Melissa Smith

It does. I mean, really, truly, what you focus on does become larger. I mean, if you have any doubt, right. If you have stress and you focus on that, it just gets a little bigger. So the opposite is true. I love your use of the word reverence. Do you have a definition of that or. We thought about that before.

 

Liz Brindley

You know, it's a word I use a lot with art and drawing and food. And I think for me, what it feels like in my body is a full sense of presence. And that presence breeds respect and grows respect and honor. So it really feels just like I'm allowing myself to see what it is before me as it is and see it fully and honor it for that, for what it is.

 

Melissa Smith

I love when you said earlier, when you look at that, that piece of food or whatever it is before you eat, after you finish cooking, that there is. A reflection of yourself in that and I think. That, to me is the tether between the reverence, the object and the reverence for that object, that when we can look at it almost as a mirror to ourselves, that's powerful and really beautiful.

 

Liz Brindley

Yeah, yeah. And I was going to add that to just thinking about. Yeah. That mirror, that two way street with whatever you're being presented with, it can give you insight into a lot of things about yourself, not only how things look like the patterns, but when you're saying, OK, I love and appreciate this object for everything it is, can I do that for myself as well? Right. So it kind of mirrors that back, asking to give the same sense of respect and appreciation for your own being to thank you for leading us in that.

 

Melissa Smith

I felt I don't know how everyone else felt listening to that, but I felt like my shoulders drop. But I also felt the stopping of the spinning when when I really, really just listen to your to your words and observed and got curious. I wasn't thinking about what I was going to say next or are trying to remember what you were saying. I was really just in the moment with what you're saying. And that is profound. And I think also it made me think of caregivers that are possibly listening into this. Even if their object was an actual object instead of a person, what I kept tuning into was, you know, what if it's that love loved one and how are you having a sense of reverence for that relationship and how can that be mirrored back to you? And that's just sort of the sensation that I got when you were speaking, and it was really powerfully present. So thank you for that.

No, absolutely. I'm glad you our. What was your object? So what were you focusing on? A feather? I don't even know.

 

Melissa Smith

I don't know. I think this is I got it in a local store here in Santa Fe, and it's a carved wooden feather and it has these great little grooves to it. And I really love feathers and I think. You know, just taking a moment to look at it and then noticing how I feel when I look at it and just kind of makes me happy. Kind of like Harry Klimek, which I think is fantastic. I was going to ask you, I wonder how you noticed the last thing you've just recently posted some corn stocks that you were drawing. And it looks a little and forgive me, but it looks similar to some Zen doodling that I've done in the past, like the lines. But and I wonder how would you describe what you do is different? I mean, after hearing you how you evolved into your artwork, that definitely tells me how it's totally different. But I'm curious how you differentiate it, because you're I'm sure you're familiar. It's kind of a similar concept, but. Differentiate it from like those and doodling. Yeah, you know, on this, I have never practiced Zen doodling. I think there's like Zen tangle and there's a lot of art forms right now, which I think is wonderful. Got a lot of adults are practicing in mindfulness. You know, there's adult coloring books. There's the Zen doodles.

 

Liz Brindley

And I think one thing I'm drawn to with these patterns that I'm drawing, like you mentioned, with the corn and the lines repeating themselves is repetition, because I think when we can pull ourselves into that space, whether it's through Zanta, Angle or coloring something, that's where we can start to just allow the thoughts to run out. Right. While the thoughts to run their course and exit kind of our minds and bodies and just enter into this kind of constant rhythm of repetition. And so I honestly don't know if there's that much of a difference between those two philosophies. I think there are two different approaches to kind of the same end or the same tool to really be present.

 

Melissa Smith

I found, you know, in working with the museum a lot. Right. Georgia O'Keeffe has so many reprises and she continuously repeats images. Do you find that you do that also? Like, do you take more? When I took your class, it was like, you know, take a little more cropped version of it. Do you find yourself doing it over and over or a different piece or a different way? I'm curious. Absolutely.

 

Liz Brindley

I think I learned that from O'Keeffe. I've worked with the museum for a number of years and I've learned a lot about her process. And I think, you know, I've drawn Cahall. I don't know how many times or many times and mustard greens and arugula. And it never gets old. It's like there's always something new to discover. And I think that's why I keep returning to the same subjects, because it's never the same. And something you brought up just a few moments ago, kind of about being present to the objects that exercise we did. But thinking about that with people, one of the things I love to teach with art and drawing and one of the reasons I returned to the same subject over and over is it's a challenge for our brains because our brains think often that they know everything and that we know what the world looks like. And so if I sit here right now and I say, OK, I want you most to think of a tree, and our viewers, too, if you think of a tree, then my guess is there's a pretty quick image that comes to mind and it's like a pretty general image of a tree. You have an idea, but if you actually go up to that tree or that Kalif or that radish cross-section and you hold it and you sit before it and you study the bark and you start to see texture and line and pattern, and maybe there's some ants crawling in the crevices and maybe there's a sense that comes up and maybe there's some crinkles and wrinkle flows and you start to see a whole new world because you've kind of zoomed in on one portion and you start to challenge your brain and realize that you don't actually fully know what you think you know. So for me, drawing the same subject over and over is really allowing myself to form a relationship with that subject and to give it more respect and to understand it better. And then with people, I think the same concept can be applied. I mean, well, we think we know our family members when we think we know our partners. And there's an infinite world that's still waiting to be discovered when we just slow down enough to really take the time to be present with that. And I think drawing something repeatedly for me is a reminder to do that with the people in my life too.

 

Melissa Smith

So good, because I think right now is a really extraordinary time where we are certainly with our loved ones 24/7, but that is not unique to caregivers. They are with that person all the time. And what they lack is that reprieve. So I'm really curious. We'll just have one more question. Really curious how like what would you say to someone I can't draw. I'm not I, I haven't drawn this is a question we got actually or a comment we get because we have a drawing table. When we do these retreats live, we actually have a coloring table where, you know, it's Mondelez or its different things and people will just sit down and they'll be like, I haven't done this since I was a little girl. And, you know, in the woman I'm thinking of who in her 70s. So what do you say to those folks that are like, no, this is not for me.

 

Liz Brindley

I love that question all the time as an artist and an art teacher because I teach adults. And so the main thing I hear is I'm not an artist and I can't draw. And my first response is I don't believe you because I know it's not true. I think when and I've done it myself when I was studying art in school, I straight away from illustration is illustration and drawing because I taught I told myself I couldn't draw because I was expecting it to look a certain way. And so I feel like when people say I can't draw it, that's because we're putting pressure on it to be a certain form instead of allowing it to be the way we see the world, which is where true beauty really can come forth and true connection can come forth. So I really like to challenge people to leave right and wrong at the door of my drawing classes to leave judgment at the door, to just play and explore and have fun and trust that your hand will create something on paper. You're making a line on paper is drawing. It doesn't have to be a real subject. It doesn't have to be realistic. In fact, how beautiful to stray from reality for a minute. Right. To make something that's not rooted in realism. How can we express creativity and find new solutions by exploring abstract and things that are a little more playful? So I really like to challenge people on that. And yeah, I think each of us has creative power. This is like one of my big beliefs, whether you're a parent, parenting is creative, teaching is creative, dancing is creative, cooking, drawing, photography, having a conversation. You're creating something new with somebody else. And I truly believe that when we harness our creative power, however, it's true to us, then we can make incredible changes in our own lives and in our immediate communities and therefore ripple out into the world. So for me, in my art classes, the first step to doing that is to say you can draw, I'll teach you how and really helping people harness their own power.

 

Melissa Smith

Wow. I think unspin. When I think about all the ways that we have to be creative and just reflecting back to caregivers in particular, I think there's a limit. It kind of, you know, to feel depleted and exhausted, very similar to parents. You know, it's like my creativity is tapped. And then other days you get a good night's sleep and then you feel a little bit better. I have a child with caregivers, how they've used coloring and drawing and things like that and different shapes and things like that. Almost one of the techniques to use with a person with dementia is almost Montessori like activities. If you think about that and how tactile it is and can be really, really effective. So I'll be very curious to see with your presentation that you're going to do this weekend to our Caregiver Wellness Retreat, how we can also utilize that not just for ourselves, but how will it apply, you know, and throughout our lives and how we work with our loved one with dementia. So, so excited about that. And I'd love for you to share. We will put it in the show notes for the podcast and on Facebook for four live where to find you. But if you want to say your website out loud, that would be great. Yeah, my creative business is called Prints and Plants Prints like printing on paper. So it's Prints and plants dotcom.

 

Melissa Smith

And I also saw which I have really appreciated about getting to know you, how organized you are. I think you have a time management class as well that you put on and you put together. Yes. You tell just a few seconds about that.

 

Melissa Smith

Yeah. And I am a total nerd when it comes to organization and planning. One of my favorite things to do, and it's entirely necessary for running a creative business. I think structure can make us even more creative. Boundaries can breed more creativity. So I created this year a class called Time Management for Creatives, but the concepts can be applied to a wide variety of people. However, you identify yourself and I have that available on a website called Skillshare, but I also have it available through Link, through my own website as well, which I can send over. But it's all about creating just enough structure where you're still really creative, but you can get the projects done that you want to get done.

 

Melissa Smith

Well, I think that that's an area that really is overarching and relating to everyone and especially, you know, as we're, you know, working with caregivers. We our relationship to time is such an interesting and interesting topic. We may have to have you come back and discuss time and how you feel about it, because I'm a firm believer that our perception and how we relate to it will, again, how we perceive it and how we act our day. So it's a really foundational topic for me. So thank you so much for sharing your wisdom today. I'm super excited to share this with our caregivers and for you to be a part of this coming caregiver wellness retreat. And if you're listening to this much later, much beyond October 2nd and 3rd, then I hope that you will still click on to our website, which is Caregiver Wellness Retreat Dotcom, and you'll find the replay and Liz will live on there infinitely. So there you will find all of our speakers and it'll just be all on our Web site immediately after the retreat. So thank you so much for today. I'm just going to take a quick peek to see if there were any questions, but I don't know that there was. There we are. And if I refresh this, it might actually start to play again. No, I don't see any. Just good stuff. All right. So fantastic. Thanks again, Liz. And I'm looking forward to this weekend, too.

 

Liz Brindley

Thank you so much. I'm really looking forward to it.

 

Melissa Smith

Awesome.

 

Melissa Smith

Thank you for joining Liz and myself, we are so happy that you took some time for yourself in this moment. I love how she describes the really beauty of looking at an everyday object and how can we see a reflection of ourselves in that. And it's really pretty fundamental and yet so needed and so profound. So to get out of that thinking process. So I'm so grateful for Liz. And if you really enjoy this topic, I hope that you will go over to her website, PrintsandPlantsPress.com. And in addition to that, she'll be a part of our retreat this coming weekend on October 2nd and 3rd. And if you're watching this or listening to this, rather, after that, then you can head over to our website at CaregiverWellnessRetreat.com and check out the replay so there'll be two options to sign up. We have two retreats now, one that is called On-demand and the other that is called Instant Access. And so the instant access will be the retreat that she is a part of. Both of them are free. So you don't need to contribute anything if you wish to donate. We're really happy for you to do that. But that is not our intention. We provide this as a service to caregivers of Alzheimer's and other dementia and really any caregiver that is in need of a little bit of wellness and respite. And we are so glad you're here. Another way, if you feel like giving back is to buy us a cup of coffee and you'll see that link with our website on our website there and also under our anchor podcasts. So buy us a cup of coffee or just share any time that you can share with another caregiver. We're really grateful that we can possibly just help one more person find who they are before they became a caregiver, which I feel is really a valuable tool. Thanks again for joining us and we'll see you again next time.

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