Friday, July 22, 2011

Have you made a difference today?

Terri Smith's paintings, one of my first students:)
 This weeks post was inspired from a facebook post last week.  A dear friend and former student of mine, shared my link on facebook with all her friends and these were the words she wrote

"To all of my water colorist friends. You can follow my mentor, and friends blog here. Carrie is truely an inspiration to me. She taught me watercolor techniques while living in Germany. Ten years later, she continues to embrace the medium, involving her children, family, and friends in the process. She is a true artist!"

This really touched my heart.  Terri was one of the first students I had while living in Germany.  We became fast friends and even traveling buddies.  Through facebook I've recently been able to reconnect and prod her along to start painting again.  She even began teaching her own classes and a student of hers sent me a message on facebook.

"Carrie, Terri, was my first art teacher, she inspired me to continue to learn to paint.  She always talks about you as a teacher who inspired her as an artist.  I thank you for being a great artist and teacher as it directly touched my life."  Nina

How great is this?  It really reinforced the message to me that one person can make a difference.  If we take the gifts that we have, whatever they may be, and pass them along, it does really matter.  You never know how you will inspire others, even if you just make someone smile that day, you have made a difference.  

Teaching watercolor classes has brought me such joy.  I haven't taught in several years, but this makes me want too again.  I started teaching classes when my husband and I moved to Germany in 2001.  I was a fresh college graduate with a job, no less, in Interior Design, in Chicago and gave it all up to take the path less traveled and marry the man of my dreams.  We met in college, were acquaintances for a few years and during our Senior year we finally had a class together (Brian's major was Architecture, mine Interior Design).  Brian asked me to be a partner on a project in that class and we've been partners ever since.  Brian was in ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) and commissioned into the Air Force right before graduation.  His first assignment was Germany.  When he found out he was going overseas, he asked me to marry him and during finals week our Senior year we had a small ceremony--this enabled me to be on his orders.   (We had our big wedding a few months later).

So I found myself as a newlywed in a foreign country that had no use for my Interior Design degree.  I had to reinvent myself and figure out what I was going to do.  I just knew I wanted to do something creative with my work, so I found out that you could teach classes at the Skills Development Center on base.  I had to think about what I would teach classes in and somehow decided on watercolor.  I really didn't know very much about it so I checked out every book at the library and educated myself.  I painted a few paintings and off I went for an interview.  I was hired and people actually showed up for my classes:)  I met the most amazing people during these classes, I'm still friends with several.  I eventually broadened my classes to off base.  I taught groups of ladies all over the Kaiserslautern/Ramstein area.  I started teaching kids and ended up teaching to the entire home-school group for the military community.  I made a full time job out of my art.  I painted murals for the Army and became the Art contractor for the Boys and Girls Club of Landstuhl.  I look back and it was a very fulfilling time.  When it was time to move I promised myself that I would only work in a creative field wherever we were stationed.  Since then I have painted murals full-time, worked in my Mom's frame shop, created two little boys along the way and now am a full time Mommy and Artist.

All along the way I have had God whispers telling me I was on the right path.  And after reconnecting with Terri and hearing from her student I'm wondering if I'm supposed to teach again.  I've won awards and done well with my watercolor career so far but one of my best accomplishments was when I had another student tell me that after taking my class they really "saw" for the first time.  She told me that she had never really paid attention to her surroundings before and that after me talking about my process she really started to pay attention.  She said for the first time she looked at a tree and didn't just see brown and green she saw lights and shadows and hundreds of different colors and subtleties.  And for me that is what it is all about, helping someone else to really "see"

I would love to know how you got your start, inspired someone or had someone inspire you.  Have an inspiring weekend:)



  1. What a wonderful, wonderful story Carrie! I didn't realize that you taught so much while you were in Germany. Well you've inspired me for sure! I'm glad you shared this. :)

  2. I had no idea that you are basically a self-taught Artist, right? Well that is amazing! I assumed you had a fine arts degree or something! It goes to show that you are born with it. I am fascinated by your story. What an amazing life you have led! If I told you mine I would take up the whole comment page so I'll spare everyone and save it for another time, but, yes, my art journey also began following inspiration from someone else :0)

  3. Carrie, you know that you inspire me. I never tire of looking back over your posts and see what you have done. I stare at your paintings for a long time and study them carefully. My other inspirations are Crystal Cook, Tracy Hall, and several other watercolorists. I am also self-taught and started painting at the age of 51. It started with painting trees along the top of my living room in an attempt to personalize our new home and took off from there. I appreciate all you do by posting your work expecially with progress shots and commentary. If we lived within driving distance I would be at your door for sure asking you to give me lessons (paid of course). Just know how much being your blogger friend means to me.

  4. Love this post and I think this is exactly the kind of thing that does inspire me. The art world is full of wonderful kindred spirits that are some of the most giving folks around. I enjoy every new person that I get to know at a class/workshop or even just through blogging. I think we all help each other and I am proud to be a small part of that. Wonderful post and gorgeous paintings:)

  5. What a wonderful story Carrie! THat is so inspiring and how flattering for you - I don't know that I have inspired anyone that way! You are so lucky and so talented - have a great weekend!!

  6. I believe life is about finding light within yourself, sharing it and encouraging other people to do the same. I am glad that my friend Terri once met Carrie, otherwise I probably would never take a brush in my hands.
    Terri has her own watercolor class now, and I heard one of her students said,: I 'll miss this class when it's over". I said to her,"It won't be over". I know that that the light given by the teacher never dies.

  7. Yes, you should always listen to that whisper no matter how faint and the fact that you are sharing this story I would say yes for you to teach. I am planning on teaching too once my studio is complete.
    My son will be sworn on to ROTC on 9-11. Love for my son to connect with your husband. I know my son is excited for the challenge and ready to go off to University. I am so proud of him and his passion for his country first and foremost. I see a sparkle in his eye when he sees the "uniform!"
    He is looking forward to meeting many great teachers and leaders.

  8. Love it! What an inspiring story. Thank you so much for sharing, Carrie.