Wednesday, December 23, 2009

You are the boss of your own painting!

December is the month I begin to look at the goals and affirmations I made back in January to see what the year has brought; what I have accomplished and what I want to create for myself in the coming year. It’s the time of year I also look at my business and write my new year’s business plan. Now, if you own your own business, you can understand how this can sometimes be an overwhelming task. In fact, if you are a creative soul, like myself, it tends to be one to be avoided at all costs. We like to make it up as we go, be a free spirit! However, this I believe, is the kind of thinking that has tagged artists with the saying, “The Starving Artist”. I for one, do not subscribe to the starving artist way of being and am here to say, “You are the creator of your own life.” When my art students begin to show signs of intimidation in their own ability to be creative, I am known to say, “You are the boss of your own painting!” They then look at me and smile and sit up with a renewed confidence that they are indeed a creator.

So just how does the artist or creative person write a business plan or set goals? Just like everyone else - one dream at a time. The first thing I do is forget about my business and just focus on what I want in my life. My business is a means to support the life I want to create for myself. Last year I discovered the E-Myth Business Coach website and delved into some very helpful questions listed there. By answering these questions I was able to see with more clarity into the purpose of my life. It made writing my business plan so much easier. Whether you are a business owner, a student or just simply trying to set goals for your life, I think the following questions are ones that will help you be “the creator of your own life”.

What do I want in my life? What don’t I want in my life?
How do I want my life to be on a day-to-day basis?
What would I like to be doing two years from now? Ten years from now? Twenty years from now?
Of all the things on my life, what has given me the most satisfaction or pleasure?
What if I had everything I ever wanted; what would get me out of bed in the morning?

Ready? Go forth into the New Year creating the life YOU want and remember, “You are the boss of your own painting!”

Colleen Sgroi is a teaching artist and owner of Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes, 12 Andover Road, Billerica, MA You can call her at 978-667-1009 or email her at or visit her website at

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Do you think of yourself as creative?

“To be human is to be creative. You don’t have to go outside yourself to find creativity – you already have it. It lives in your heart and mind every moment of every day.” – Sandra Magsamen

Of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is my favorite. It’s a day we come together with those we love and express our gratitude, reflecting on the abundance we are blessed with. I believe that when we are in a place of thankfulness we are closest to our creative source.

How can thinking of ourselves as creative, enhance this holiday season for ourselves and everyone around us? I love asking, What are your favorite holiday traditions? I enjoy hearing how people create new traditions while still celebrating old ones. Here is one of my favorites at Thanksgiving. As soon as the dinner table is cleared and clean, we spread a light-colored “thankful dessert table cloth” and offer any and all takers colorful Sharpie markers. This light colored cloth is the canvas for all our guests to write or illustrate their grateful thoughts along with their names and the date. Each year the same thankful table cloth comes out of storage with these memories of gratitude from the heart, funny family jokes and cranberry pooping turkeys creatively written and drawn by family members and old friends. Naturally as time goes by in life, some contributors have grown up and moved away and others that have passed on. Joy fills my heart as I travel around the table each year reading what was, what is and what will forever be my table of abundance.

My current inspirational book that I draw from in my morning meditation time is called“Living Artfully” by Sandra Magsamen. Ms. Magsamen asks us to think of ourselves as creative.
“I heard a great story of Edward Adamson, an English art therapist who asked a group of high school–aged children to look at a brick and write down as many things they could imagine the brick being used for. Some children had no problem, jotting, with ease, a hundred ideas. Other children struggled, so he asked those children to close their eyes and imagine they were eccentric artists known for their creative flair. Once they had an image of themselves as innovative, artsy people, he asked them to open their eyes and again look at the brick and write down all the things that the brick could become. This time, the children overflowed with ideas. The difference was they now saw themselves as "artists." If you think of yourself as a creative person, you will begin to act in creative ways. Use this new perspective of yourself and act as if your work, chores, commute and duties are outlets for your creativity—and they will be!”

Care to join the fun? Email me at and tell me your past creative holiday traditions. Colleen, teaching artist, owns Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes at 12 Andover Road in Billerica Center. Web site:

Giving is the Gift

At the tender age of three I moved from the city of Medford to, what my grandma Nora use to call the sticks, Billerica. Sixteen years later I married and was off to explore new lands, returning only to visit my parents. Another sixteen years pass and as fate would have it I found myself back in Billerica. Already an established artist working from my home studio, sending my art out to galleries, collecting royalties through my New York art publisher and enjoying doing what I love, creating art.

Shortly after moving back home I saw a notice in the local paper offering grants from the Billerica Arts Council. Having never written a grant before, I decided to jump in and explore. My efforts paid off and I received my first funding to create what was to be the first of many Billerica paintings and limited edition lithographs. Billerica being more of a sports town rather than a cultural town, I had many naysayers who thought signed and numbered prints would not be a big seller. I, however, believed our town pride would say differently. I set up a booth at Yankee Doodle Homecoming. The day before the weekend a photo of my new lithograph depicting our town center graced the cover of our local paper. The next morning, when the parade was over, the town pride I believed in, descended on my booth and there I sold half the edition for a total day sale of one hundred prints. The remainder of the edition sold out in less than a year. Repeatedly people approached me, “Colleen what are you going to paint next?” I began to see how my art could make a difference in our town. Each year following I created a new painting along with limited editions that would benefit a different organization in town.

The truth that “in giving we receive” became so clear as I began to share my vision of a gallery and art center with my community friends. Sandy Wilson from the Enterprise Bank said, “Colleen, I want to make this happen for you”, and I got a loan to open Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes at Faulkner Mills. Then again, two years later, when I was going through some personal hard times, Fred Ciampa, CPA offered me space in his building for a third of what I was paying at the Mills, which enabled me to stay open and continue to offer art and classes to the families in our community.

I receive such joy knowing that adults and children are discovering their own creative expressions through the teaching artists at my art center. I am honored to have my art displayed in so many businesses and homes in our town. Most of all I am thankful for a hometown that has embraced my art, and me, the artist, helping me to see that “giving is the gift”. To quote Vincent Van Gogh, “The more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”

Colleen is the owner of Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes at 12 Andover Road in Billerica Center. You can see more about Colleen’s gallery and classes at

Friday, October 30, 2009

Being with what is

Sitting here drinking my hazelnut coffee out of one of my made-by-an-artist mugs, I am reminded of one of the ten affirmations I wrote down at the beginning of this year.

“I am grateful to have a home filled with beautiful art created by artists and that my prosperity has helped them to prosper also.”

This list of affirmations reflects my hopes and dreams creating a path yet to be. However, in looking around my home, at this very moment, I suddenly realize my affirmation is not only already true, but it was true back when I wrote it in January. The photos of my family and friends in every room, the art of many artists adorning my walls, the autumn decorations that bring the change of the seasons into my home, the cozy-comfy couch that I’m sitting on, even the fall leaf decorated pencil I am now writing with, all of it, came from the creative mind of an artist. As my heart swells with this realization, I sit and enjoy the “Beingness” of it all.

In front of me on the coffee table sits “The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary” with the game “Upwords” that I played with my sweetheart last night. I look up the following sequence of words:

Creative – one who has the ability to create
Create – to cause to exist
Exist – to be
Be – am, are, art, is

Finishing my hazelnut coffee in my made-by-an-artist mug, on my comfy-cozy couch, in my artfully decorated home, I smile and enjoy being with what is.

Colleen is a teaching artist at Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes on Andover Road in Billerica Center. See too how you can be creative at

Friday, October 9, 2009

What are you passionate about?

A woman called me last week to ask if I were offering any jobs at my gallery. After meeting with her and talking for a while I asked her what her passion was, if she could do anything what would it be? She immediately said with much enthusiasm, “I would paint!” but then backed down with, “Well, anything to do with being creative”.

Chris and Janet Attwood say in their inspirational book, The Passion Test, “Your passions are like breadcrumbs, leading you on to fulfill your life’s purpose”.
What are your passions? What is your dream come true? What is holding you back from realizing your dreams? May I suggest that you take some time to write down your answers to these questions. As you do, meditate on this passage from one of my favorite books by Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love.

Our biggest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant,
or gorgeous
or talented
or fabulous?
Actually, who are you NOT to be?
You are a child of God.
You playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in every one of us.
And as we let our own light shine,we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear of our own excellence,
our presence automatically liberates others.
And excellence becomes the standard of all our lives.

The year, 1968, the place, Ogunquit, Maine. Two little girls are standing in a gallery, taking it all in.
One says to the other,. “Some day we are going to be famous artists”.
That little girl who spoke of her happy future was me. At the tender age of eleven years old my passion for art was spoken out loud into the universe creating a path yet to be.

I would love to hear what you are passionate about. Email me at Let it be a step to proclaiming your excellence!

Monday, September 14, 2009

To Label or not to Label? - that is the question.

A mother walked into my art center last week looking to sign up her daughter for an art class. As she began to talk to me about her daughter, who had been tested and labeled as "gifted" with a high IQ, she was relieved to find an understanding ear. You see I too raised a "gifted" daughter who went to a wonderful, fully funded, gifted program, school in Palm Beach County, FL. However, when we moved back to my home town of Billerica, there was very little offered in the schools and town in the arts to stimulate her "gifted" creativity, so I ended up sending her to Mass. Art in Boston each summer as she went through her high school years. This was a big part of my reason for opening up Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes. I wanted to offer a place for the gifted and artistically creative out here in the burbs.

So what is giftedness and is it helpful to label a "gifted" person?

According to, Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D. the Director of the Gifted Development Center, It is developmental advancement that can be observed in early childhood. But the child doesn't advance equally in all areas. As she asks what happens after you die and “How do we know we aren't part of someone else's dream?” she still can't tie her shoes! An eleven-year-old highly gifted boy gets off the plane with his calculus book in one hand and his well-worn Curious George in the other. The higher the child’s IQ, the more difficulty he or she has finding playmates or conforming to the lock-step school curriculum. The greater the discrepancy between a child's strengths and weaknesses, the harder it is for him or her to fit in anywhere.

Ms. Kreger goes on to say, Gifted children and adults see the world differently because of the complexity of their thought processes and their emotional intensity. People often say to them, “Why do you make everything so complicated?” “Why do you take everything so seriously?” “Why is everything so important to you?” The gifted are “too” everything: too sensitive, too intense, too driven, too honest, too idealistic, too moral, too perfectionistic, too much for other people! Even if they try their entire lives to fit in, they still feel like misfits. The damage we do to gifted children and adults by ignoring this phenomenon is far greater than the damage we do by labeling it. Without the label for their differences, the gifted come up with their own label: “I must be crazy. No one else is upset by this injustice but me.”
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D says, Gifted children often lose interest in school because they're bored. They don't always get top grades because they think in unconventional patterns. Gifted adults can be misunderstood. Those who read books like Jacobsen's The Gifted Adult often feel relieved: "Finally, someone understands where I'm coming from!"
However, according to Patrick Welsh of the Washington Post, of all the labels that we give students, none seems more absurd -- and few more destructive. When we apply this label to a tiny group of children, we are in effect saying that the rest are ungifted and untalented. We're denigrating hard work and perseverance, telling children that no matter how much effort they put forth, they just can't measure up to their special peers.

We all seek to be understood and for me, as a mother raising a "gifted" child, understanding her giftedness helped me to not only understand her, but also to enjoy her.

To label or not to label?

My conclusion:
As long as it works to promote greater awareness in understanding and serving our children call them “gifted”.
Otherwise simply call them “loved”.

Colleen Sgroi is the owner of Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes on 12 Andover Road in Billerica.

Monday, August 31, 2009

How Does Art Heal?

It doesn’t take much probing to discover that students see benefits that exceed merely taking art classes. When I began to feature art lessons at Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes, the reception was remarkable. Adults as well children soon began to reap the benefits of being able to spend a few hours each week in a positive and encouraging atmosphere and produce artwork of which they were proud. One adult student remarked, “I didn’t even know I had talent. Colleen brings out the best in you.”

Another said, “These art classes are better than therapy.” A father recently said, “My son has a new sense of confidence and self esteem since he has taken art classes here.
The theraputic effects of art are well known. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is based on the belief that the creative process of art is both healing and life-enhancing.

How does art heal? Scientific studies tell us that art heals by changing a person's physiology and attitude. The body's physiology changes from one of stress to one of deep relaxation, from one of fear to one of creativity and inspiration. Art puts a person in a different brain wave pattern; art affects a person's autonomic nervous system, their hormonal balance and their brain neurotransmitters.

Art affects every cell in the body instantly to create a healing physiology that changes the immune system and blood flow to all the organs. Art also immediately change a person's perceptions of their world. They change attitude, emotional state, and pain perception. It creates hope and positivism and helps people cope with difficulties. It transforms a person's outlook and way of being in the world.

In fact it is now known by neurophysiologists that art, prayer, and healing all come from the same source in the body, they all are associated with similar brain wave patterns, mind body changes and they all are deeply connected in feeling and meaning. Art, prayer, and healing all take us into our inner world, the world of imagery and emotion, of visions and feelings. This journey inward into what used to be called the spirit or soul and is now called the mind, is deeply healing. For healing comes to us from within, our own healing resources are freed to allow our immune system to operate optimally and that is always how we heal. This is the contemporary version of freeing our healing energies and is now recognized to be crucial to healing. We go inward on The Creative Spiral together through art.

Colleen Sgroi, Teaching Artist

Art Smart

Are smart people drawn to the arts or does arts training make people smarter?

The answer isn’t clear. Much has been written in recent years about the Mozart effect – how having small children listen to Mozert raises their IQs
Now a new, on-going study by leading cognitive neuroscientists across the United States is trying to precisely determine the relationship between brain development and participation in music, dance and the visual arts.

According to research led by Dr. Michael S. Gazzaniga of the University of California at Santa Barbara, children motivated in the arts develop attention skills and strategies for memory retrieval that also apply to other subject areas.
Although such studies are fascinating I am leary of how such studies are being used to make a case for why their needs to be more arts in the schools or why government should invest in the arts period. Are we as a society saying, unless something produces economic growth or increases the IQ it has no value?

“Not everything has a practical utility, but maybe it’s experientially valuable,” said Elliot Eisner, a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University. “Learning through the arts promotes the idea that there is more than one solution to a problem, or more than one answer to a question.”

May I suggest that there are other kinds of values that can not be measured?
One day a mother called to sign her son up for art classes. She told me he was just diagnosed with dyslexia and has been struggling in school but he loves art. She asked if I would tell the drawing teacher about his diagnosis so he can be aware. The next day I talked to my drawing teacher and found out he too was dyslexic. When I called the mother and told her she began to cry. Today this young boy is flourishing into an amazing young artist with new self-esteem that will help him through all of life.

How can one measure that?

Colleen Sgroi is the owner of Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes at 12 Andover Road in Billerica, MA. For more information go to

A Tree is Known by its Fruit

"The art of living, laughing and loving." This is my artist mission statement. It is on my business card, my brochure and my web site. My goal is not only to have living, laughing and loving reflected in my art work but it is also to find the art of of living, laughing and loving reflected in my life. Are they one in the same? Can we truly separate who we are from what we do? Is it true that a tree is known by its fruit? My brother shared a story with me a few years back that gave me new insight into these questions.

My brother was a housing inspector in the Boston area. One day while inside a Dorchester residence, he noticed one of my prints on the wall. While chatting with the woman tenant, he mentioned that the print on the wall was one of my sisters’ pieces. Surprised and excited, that she was actually meeting the artist’s brother, she told him a story of an unexpected blessing in regards to the art work. The woman as it turned out, had a son, now grown, who was autistic. Meal time was always a challenging time for her. Her son typically made a big production out of eating, half the time refusing food altogether. Then, one day, while shopping, she saw this beautiful print of a fruit bowl that she just loved and thought it would look excellent in her dinning room, so she purchased it and hung it that very day. That evening at dinner she was prepared for her usual struggle in getting her son to eat, except this time he sat down and without taking his eyes off the new art on the wall, he ate his whole meal without incident. The next meal was the same, he sat, he looked, he ate. The woman went on to tell my brother that , from that point on, they took the print everywhere they went and her son would eat peacefully at each and every meal.

This story is a constant reminder to me that when I create my art, the power of that love in me is present in the very piece I am creating, even if its just a bowl of fruit.
What fruits are you known for?

Colleen Sgroi has a Gallery and Art Class center at 12 Andover Road in Billerica,MA.