Ep.28 - Express The Mess: Real Life & Honest Art | Kelly Williams — Candice welcomes truth-teller and gifted encaustic artist, Kelly Williams, to the podcast. Kelly shares how a unique and challenging childhood shaped her reliance on self-expression as a means of survival and how, many years later, she discovered painting as an outlet for deep healing and personal transformation. She describes the fascinating, natural mediums through which she works, and how the process of painting offers a therapeutic avenue for the expression of the unspeakable. Kelly now guides students to reveal their secret selves safely, without the risk of unhealthy emotional over-exposure, explaining how art is an object lesson, revealing its maker, and how making a mess (or not) can become a valuable tool for self-awareness and/or social commentary. She and Candice discuss the difference between healthy exposure and performative vulnerability. Candice shares a personal discovery - how trying to be of service to others inadvertently gets in the way of being helpful - and together, they get real about things like imposter syndrome, survivor guilt, and sustaining creative integrity while operating in an online marketplace.

Kelly Williams is a contemporary multi-media artist, painting primarily with encaustic, oils, and acrylics. Her large-scale encaustic abstracts are deeply layered, energetic, and textured expressions of internal emotional mapping. Her figurative work explores the more subtle dichotomy of narrative identity, sensuality, and expression. With a background in psychology and social work, Kelly found art to be a powerful tool in helping facilitate communication around that which is unspeakable. Her approach is an extension of the visual narrative as a method of psychological processing. As a full-time artist, she incorporates similar methods in her own process as well as working with individuals and small groups in a studio setting. Kelly continues to educate and mentor both amateur and professional artists, blending multiple methods and materials with a narrative psychology approach to inform her personal work, group workshops, and private sessions.

kellywilliamsart.com | IG: @kellywilliamsart

Ep.28 - Express The Mess: Real Life & Honest Art | Kelly Williams

Thank you for joining me for another episode of The Deeper Pulse. I'm Candice Schutter. This week's dialogue is deep and rich, and I can't wait to share it with you. So we're just going to jump right in.

My guest is old soul friend and gifted multimedia artist, Kelly Williams. I met Kelly a number of years ago when she began attending one of my regular movement classes. I still remember the first time I visited a gallery in the Pearl district of Portland to view her work. It absolutely took my breath away. Especially when she described her artistic process. When she revealed what I could feel but not see beneath all the seemingly endless layers of color.

Much like her art, Kelly is refreshingly insightful and honest. In this conversation, she and I speak candidly about her life, her art, and about self-expression as a means of survival. We talk about how her study of psychology and work in the field of social work led her to a pivotal discovery. That art is a medium to express the unspeakable. Kelly is a prolific creator who is not only masterful at her craft. She also teaches classes and workshops to help others to process and share their own stories through art.

What follows is an honest and unplanned dialogue about sustaining personal integrity and about how self-expression is a means of sanity, particularly in the face of ongoing social pressures in everyday life. Thank you so much for joining us today. And here's my conversation with Kelly Williams.

Hello. You've got your art surrounding you.

Kelly Williams: 2:00
I mean, it doesn't matter where you look, it's sorta everywhere.

Candice Schutter: 2:04
I love it.

Kelly Williams: 2:06
Those are boobs. We have lots of boobs. I tried to hide most of the boobs. Put the boobs away.

Candice Schutter: 2:11
It's so great. I'm glad you're in your cozy little studio.

Kelly Williams: 2:15
Yes. This is my safe place.

Candice Schutter: 2:17
Thank you for doing this.

Kelly Williams: 2:19
Oh, no. Thank you for asking. I'm you know, I'm nervous, but once I start talking, I'm usually pretty good.

Candice Schutter: 2:26
If it makes you feel any better, I feel that way every single time. Yeah. It's just normal. Yeah. And I'm not even the one being centered and I'm nervous. It's uh, it's just, that's part of the. Well, that's part of what we're here to talk about, like in a way, right. It's just being with that and creating something in spite of it.

Kelly Williams: 2:51

Candice Schutter: 2:51
Right, right?

Kelly Williams: 2:53
Yup. Every day.

Candice Schutter: 2:54

Kelly Williams: 2:54
Every day.

Candice Schutter: 2:55
Well, I'm thrilled because I love your work so much. I always have. And then when I got closer to you and I learned kind of what was behind it and underneath it, I appreciated it on a whole other level. And when I was thinking about who would I want to speak to about courageous self-expression? Kelly Williams, for sure. We've had so many conversations over the years about creativity and your art and you know,

Kelly Williams: 3:31
Business and life.

Candice Schutter: 3:33
Business, all of it, yeah. So many things. We've shared space in a lot of different types of containers and the thread that's been alive in all of them though, is this... I don't want to speak for you, but for me, it's always felt like we're both really committed to baring it all through expression best we can in a way that keeps us safe, but also sane, in that we need to bring our insides out in order to survive them. And that's been a big piece of, I think what's kept us connected over all these years and why I've always admired your work so much. And I just immediately thought of you. And when I reached out to you, I was so excited that you said yes.

Kelly Williams: 4:13
No. I was like me? I'm just afraid I'm going to trip all over myself, but, you know.

Candice Schutter: 4:19
Well, that's part of it. That's how we get expression out of us, right?

Kelly Williams: 4:23
It is, it is. I mean, you got to make a lot of messy paintings first.

Candice Schutter: 4:26
Mmhm, yeah.

Kelly Williams: 4:29
So, I mean, there's a ton of alignment between what you do and what I do. It's just, we're doing it in different ways and the fact that you struggle and I struggle, um, this is not an easy path. People get really excited and are, oh, you're so lucky you get to be an artist and paint all day. I'm just like, well, actually not quite that simple.

Candice Schutter: 4:53
Were it that simple. For those listeners out there who aren't familiar with your work, can you describe what type of art you do?

Kelly Williams: 5:01
So, that's a trick question. Like they all are. I primarily have been known for my work with encaustic painting, which is a ancient form of painting. It's how the Egyptians and The Greeks painted before oil paints. So basically it's made out of bees wax and crystallized sap. So, you know, Amber wax. And those things are melted together and it creates this very luscious substance that has to be melted. And then it's got the pigment in it. And so it is paint just like oil paint is pigment suspended in oil. You know, acrylic is pigment suspended in polymer. Water color is pigment suspended in honey or gum arabic, you know. So encaustic is just the name of the medium the pigment's suspended in. So I think some people get a little confused about that. And I actually do, I paint all those things. However, my expression with the encaustic became really important for me because of the physical metaphors of layering and exposing and revealing. And this idea that it's a timeline, not just by looking at this visual, but you also get a layered, buried timeline as well. So if I'm doing sort of my own personal therapeutic work, I'll start with a white surface, you know, cause we all start from that place. And then you start telling your story on that surface, you know, and you can do the timeline like, this is my childhood layer, okay. This is my adolescent layer. This is my young adult layer. This is my mother layer. This is my father... you know, whatever, until you get to more the now. And then a big part of that is that you scrape back. You, I paint with torches. So I'm painting with hot wax, torches, antique irons. And then it's such a physical thing you can carve into it. Carve your name into the work, both literally and metaphorically. I talk a lot about storytelling and how you can literally write your story in the wax and then burn it away. And there's something really powerful in that from a, just a physical action, to put all of that pain or all of those things you could never say out loud, whether you are literally writing them, whether you're automatic writing them, in which case you're just creating marks. The whole idea that you put those marks in and then burn them away or scrape them away or hide or reveal them. All of that to say that, you know, you can write into it, you can erase it. Nobody will ever read it. You can emotionally sort of, vomit into the painting and then cover it up. And I think there's something really cathartic in doing that.

Candice Schutter: 7:54
Yeah. Well, it's... you're revealing yourself to the degree you're comfortable revealing yourself, and yet you're revealing yourself. I don't want to use the word hide behind, but that there's this sense of cover, ya know. What are your thoughts?

Kelly Williams: 8:08
I mean, there's the idea that there are stages in a piece that if I'm midway through, I don't want anyone in the studio. Nobody needs to see what I'm doing. Like there's a, there's a period of sort of nakedness that happens that I don't want anybody stopping by. I don't want my partner walking through, like, there's some shit on the table there and that's for nobody else to see, except for me. And then there's the process of covering it up and digesting it. And sometimes I write down what's in there for my own personal kind of record-keeping. But most of the time, I don't. It's that process of doing a thing and letting it go.

Candice Schutter: 8:48

Kelly Williams: 8:48
So it's that whole like writing a letter and then burning it, you know. It's very much in that sort of style of communication. It's a very physical medium. So like I'm taking carving tools and I'm making huge marks and I'm literally stabbing it. It can get really violent, if that's what I need it to do. Or it can become really calming, you know. I have these irons and it just smooths over their, it's like ice skating with heat over the top of this molten wax. And it creates these beautiful patterns and textures. Or I work with propane torches and that melts it and moves it like you're watching a lava flow. Which is one of the things I like about, it is feels very connected to nature in a way that say acrylics don't. Acrylics are great if you've... I've got an idea. I want to say it. And I'm going to tell you what it's going to say. And if you've got the skills, you can make the acrylics do that. Again, this is just my, my way of painting. I started in watercolor, which is a lot of out of controlness. But it didn't have that physical element that encaustic has that I love so much.

Candice Schutter: 9:55
So tell us about your journey. You can go back as far as you want. And I'm curious, how far back do the seeds of the artists go? And what purpose did your art serve when you first began? Is it the same purpose? Like how has that evolved over time? Like, what's your story, Kelly? Tell us.

Kelly Williams: 10:16
Oh, gosh. I haven't written the book yet, but...

Candice Schutter: 10:19
It's quite a story, y'all.

Kelly Williams: 10:21
It is quite a story, and I don't need to go into all the chapters of it, but, I didn't consider myself a creative child. I did not really have access to be a creative child. I was in survival mode a lot. It was a complicated childhood and a complicated adolescence. I was raised by my dad and his partner, and they really struggled with drugs and alcohol. And so a lot of my kind of survival mentality and the need to hide while still appearing present was one of those things I learned to navigate pretty well. I was the kid that stayed after school and did theater, that did orchestra, that did whatever sports stayed the longest, because I just didn't want to go home. And, in that found other forms of expression, but I never took an art class. I never took a photo class. I did do some music, but there wasn't really an opportunity to be visual. I've always been relatively articulate, so I would try to write. And that was one of the ways I would seek assistance very carefully from teachers that I thought were safe. I had a good picker in that sense of knowing how to advocate carefully without blowing my life up. And that really gave me a ton of support. I had very specific adults in my life that I kind of would tap on the shoulder and tell more of my truth to, than the hiding. And growing up in the eighties in an HIV positive household was really scary. Um, and that, that was a part of the secret I had to keep as a family system. The drugs and alcohol, secret I had to keep. You know, the, the gayness, secret I had to keep. The poverty, the secret I had to keep. And, and so there's always a lot of secrets, but there was always this need to tell my story and, and that, that became a conflict. So trying to find ways to do that, looked like poetry, writing, theater. I was good in theater, and I think a lot of that was because I could play any character. I loved doing the more, the darker characters, the broken characters, that sort of thing. And the irony is it was just a way for me to, to really represent myself more accurately at the time with the tools that I had. So, you know, I got out. Went to school. Put myself through college. Never took a single art class. And it just, the way it went, my background is actually psychology. So I have a degree in psychology, go figure. Those of us broken.

Candice Schutter: 13:02
It comes into play.

Kelly Williams: 13:04
It does. All of that to say again, the idea of understanding self was important to me. The need to express myself was important to me. And then the importance of caretaking was really important to me. Of that really wanting to kinda rescue others. Some of that was very dysfunctional, but some of it was very functional. I actually met somebody. I had just turned 18 and, within weeks, we were living together. We got married. We had kids. We raised a family. And that was a really, really important stage of my life. And I think it kept me alive in times that I'm not sure I would have otherwise. So it's kinda one of those, on one hand, I was pretty isolated at home. And on the other hand, it's exactly what kept me tethered to this planet when things got really rough for me. So all of that to say, things got really rough for me because of where I came from. And there comes a point when you do finally feel safe enough and supported enough to kind of dive into that stuff or it's coming and just hitting you in the back of the head and you don't have a choice anymore. So I hit that stage, and I had been working with traumatized children. Go figure. In the foster system. So I consulted with children's services to help assist families that had lost their children to reunite with their children. And I did a lot of the work with the kids themselves, where other people in my organization worked with the parents and parent training and creating safe environments that obviously had not been safe before. So that was my role. And it was there that I had a couple clients, children, middle-school age, roughly, and art turned into a really major part of how they could communicate with me without telling me what's going on, they could tell me what was going on. So they weren't betraying their family. They weren't saying anything that would have to be documented. There were ways in which they could express, and I had enough of a knowing and the ability to hear that vocabulary of art making. Even if it was just what color is your sad? You know, how big is it? Is it above or below your angry? What's that color mean? You know, so just things like scale, spatial positioning and color suddenly could be interpreted through their own legend. You know, they would basically give me the cue of what those things meant, and then I would give them space in which to kind of create a map of that emotional or physical or whatever context they needed to express. And so that was this, just the little nugget that hung out for me. And that job became too much of a trigger for a hundred reasons. And I had my own little come to Jesus and needed to do my own work at that point. And in that, you know, my therapy, I was involved in some trauma groups, where other people in the group also had experienced similar things. And so there was a place in which we could share and know that we weren't alone in what we'd experienced. And it was in that group, somebody leaned over and saw me doodling and went, you know, maybe you should pick up a paintbrush. What if you painted this? And I thought, huh, okay. You know, cause I was drawing like, you know, disassembled bodies and like messed up faces. And what's funny is I still paid that stuff. Not always, but like that stuff is still a part of my vocabulary. That sense of dissociative or disembodied or broken body, like all that stuff that I had to work through. Despite the fact that I had language, there was some language that never truly could capture that experience or that emotion. So, you know, trying to find ways to do that.

Candice Schutter: 17:07
So this was in your adulthood that you started creating all of this? And you have this incredible body of work now.

Kelly Williams: 17:11
I didn't start painting until I was maybe thirty. And this is one of the things, I get a lot of students and they're like, well, I can't paint a stick figure, you know? And I'm like, eh, you know, don't, don't even get me started. I have a friend, she tells this story. She used to come up and visit me. We were high school friends. One of the few friends I have from childhood. And I would show her the art I was working on. And she would be like, oh, that's nice. And you could tell, she was just like, this is awful. And then she'd come back and she's like, oh, you're still doing that thing. And I'm like, yeah, look, I'm really excited about it. And she's like, oh, that's nice. You know? And I kept getting that. That's nice. She's like, well, if that's helping you, that's great keep doing it. But she was very unimpressed. The work was awful. It was, you know, everything from childish to adolescent overexposure, to poorly technically, you know, communicated like all the things. But guess what? That's what beginners do. And, anyway, so one day she came up and she's like, wow, that's actually pretty good. And three years later, she's like, dang girl, you're getting this. And then within a few more years, I was actually selling and showing and. It was 10 years of pouring my heart out, learning my skills, finding my voice, creating my language. You know, tripping all over myself while raising kids and keeping a household and trying to find a grounding in this world as a woman that was just at home. And people were cute. They'd be like, oh, what are you doing? Like, you know, it used to be I'm a mom and that never flew real well, sadly. And then it was like, well, I'm an artist. And they're like, uh huh, sure you are. And then they come to the house and they'd be like, oh wow, you really are an artist. And I'm like, you know, dude, not cool. If I walk in your dental office after you said, you're a dentist. I'd be like, oh wow. You really are a dentist.

Candice Schutter: 19:06
Yeah. Yeah. And that word 'artist' like just how subjective it is and what everyone brings to it. I'm sure you have lots of thoughts on that.

Kelly Williams: 19:14
Yes. It's crazy what people bring, there's an assumption of... just like, you know, stay at home mom. I must sit around and eat Bon bons all day or something. You know, and Nope. It's a painful job in a lot of ways, at least the way I paint. And so for me to stay with it, moved from my need to express to survive, my true interest and curiosity and learning to get better. And I had these ideas, but I didn't have the skillset to put them to canvas or whatever. I didn't know materials at all. I didn't understand color theory or, you know, like I had none of that. So I was really starting from kind of a zero place. But that need to express the story, that need to tell my version of an experience in a way that wasn't overshare. Because I think there comes a point in the healing process where we go through the, we say nothing. Then we leave breadcrumbs for people to find and ask us. And then, we start sharing. And then finally this flood gate opens and we completely expose ourselves and strip ourselves down to nothing with our therapists. And then pretty soon with whoever will listen. You know, that need to just get it all out. And then there comes a reeling backstage where finding a way to hold it, communicate it in a way that's useful for both yourself and for the world around you. I think that there is something to be said around the whole me-too thing in whatever format that is, the, you know, you're not alone. I think that's a really important part of the human condition is you're not the only one.

Candice Schutter: 21:04
Yeah. One of the things that I find so compelling about you and the work that you do and the way you walk in the world, well, two things. One, I feel that your work, not only is it identifiable as yours, like if I'm scrolling through my Instagram, I don't need to even see that it's you that posted, like I recognize your work. It's very recognizable to me. It has a very visceral, I have a very visceral experience to your work and I recognize it immediately. And I think part of the reason is because to me, your work is very authentically a reflection of how you walk in the world. Specifically, I feel that you have this intuitive ability or perhaps it was developed over time, my guess is it's a mixture of the two... to know how to handle secrets. Of really being able to walk that... because there's a paradox to expression, inherently, there's a paradox. You just spoke to it really clearly like to being able to reveal ourselves and also to care for ourselves and hold ourselves as sacred. And then, like you said, we swing on that pendulum. It's either like, you know, we're holding back everything or we're verbally vomiting or it's exploding into our relationships or, or what have you. So,

Kelly Williams: 22:14
Or social media these days.

Candice Schutter: 22:16
Oh yeah, for sure. For sure. Exactly.

Kelly Williams: 22:20
And that's, that's one of those fine lines for sure.

Candice Schutter: 22:22
It is a fine line. And I feel that your art is this wonderful example of one way to go about navigating that paradox. Because in your work you are baring it all and yet you're not... like you and I talked, when we were preparing for this conversation, we talked about how we both really resonated with this term 'performative vulnerability', which is another place where it can, it can become this other type of identity. Like my trauma, my story is my identity and how I bolster my, my ego, so to speak is to air my story and my dirty laundry. And it becomes performative. And then it loses that therapeutic benefit because it's become something other than.

Kelly Williams: 23:05
Well, and I think it's also insulting to other people, because I think as an artist, it's as much my job to express as it is for others to experience. And I really want others to be able to find room in my storytelling of visual art for their own story. And if I get so specific or so overbearing about my story, there's no room for their story. So learning to generalize has become one of those swings in my art making from when I'm doing my like deep work, my real, you know, I want to say my real work versus my not real work. My work is all my work.

Candice Schutter: 23:52

Kelly Williams: 23:52
But there's definitely different categories when you're in the real world and trying to make a living as an artist.

Candice Schutter: 23:59
Yeah, for sure. We've had some exchanges on the social media, in comments threads of just feeling this tremendous dissonance. I feel this tremendous dissonance around, like, how do I negotiate my voice as an artist and this need to commercialize something that has a totally different purpose for me.

Kelly Williams: 24:21

Candice Schutter: 24:21
It's such a tricky little devil. I tell you.

Kelly Williams: 24:25
Oh, so I am competent. I know how to market. I know how to write. I know how to manage a basic website. I know how to edit photographs. You know, there's a lot that goes into being an artist that puts the work out into the world. It's one thing to make art for your own personal processing. It's another thing to become an artist that puts art out in the world. And it's another thing yet to become an artist that's actually trying to support themselves in a culture that does not support. We have not educated this last generation or two on how to become art collectors or patrons of the arts. At least in the visual arts. And so, so navigating, monetizing, which always, you know, they make you feel terrible about it, but I also don't want to get into the thing of painting the same painting that people like to buy over and over again, like that would kill me. I have colleagues and peers that are able to create a body of work that is consistent, you know it's their work. But it starts to feel after a period of time, like it's the same piece over and over, and they're not exploring, or they're not pushing themselves because they're making a living. And it's really hard to give up that security. If you find your little branding niche and you do your little magic dance, and then you're assured you can make your bills every month. You know, honestly, I've shown in many galleries, I've had solo shows. I'm not top of the world. I don't have a retrospective at the Whitney or anything. And yet there's this pressure to always be pushing that envelope. You need more sales, but then the target moves to no, you need a residency. Oh no, no. You need to produce a grant. No, no. You need to show in this location or that kind of location. And it's this moving target. It feels like a constant gerbil wheel race. And I lose it sometimes. I just, I just kind of shut down and I stop posting for a while. Um, because I don't want to post on a schedule. I want to actually communicate. And that means I don't play the algorithm game really well. So I have this resistance to marketing; yet, how will people know I make a painting? How will they know I'm exploring something new? How will they know I'm offering a workshop? How will they know what my work is about? If I don't use that form of communication. I'm the kind of communicator and teacher that's like, what do you want to know? Who are you? What do you need to say? What are you bringing to the table? What experiences do you have or don't have? What is your personal expectation? You know, let's form your language. Let me watch you paint and see which tools you gravitate to. Or what imagery that you want to put together to create your own narrative. That kind of thing you can't. I could write a book. I could write a workbook. I could write a curriculum, but for me, that's not where the magic lies in the form of guiding somebody through their process, both in the learning the technical skills, because there's a lot of technical knowledge required with encaustic. And also using it as a form of intentional expression without it being completely nailed down to technical application. For me, it's so much more about the creative process. It's about the personal exploration. I've made works that, I didn't know what I was painting until I was done. And then it was like, wow, I really had some things to say to myself here. Things that I couldn't reflect back through therapy, that I couldn't reflect back to journaling, that I couldn't reflect back through, you know, the long walk in the forest deal. Nope, it wasn't until I put these things on top of each other. Why do I keep being drawn to that color? Why must I always cover up this area for this reason and start asking myself those deeper questions.

Candice Schutter: 28:27
I really feel a sense of parallel in terms of my work as a coach and the real challenge of how do you hold space for authentic self-expression in a generalized way? It's not possible. It's very similar to the conversation I had a couple of weeks ago with Dr. Sam Levine, the naturopath who was talking about individualized medicine. Like, I can't come up with a checklist and share it with everyone in terms of their health. I need to sit with a patient and spend hours with them. And it's really similar. We're talking about three, very, very different containers. And yet there's this through line that is so,

Kelly Williams: 29:02

Candice Schutter: 29:03
Important around how do we tap into authenticity? And we need a certain kind of space, a certain kind of container, and a certain kind of dialogue. And not just the dialogue with you, the teacher and the student, me, the coach and the client, but a dial, an internal dialogue that somebody is creating space for and witnessing and offering reflection around, and it is through that reflection that you go deeper. As you know, I created some coaching programs and put them out and worked with some people and hands down the clients who had results were the ones who were working with me one-on-one, in conjunction with the material, it was just really game changing for those folks. The folks who just were doing the program, not so much. It's not the same. There's not the same substance. And also, if you're speaking generally, I could choose the same words to speak to this client and that client, but they're going to have very different meaning based on where that person is and the lens they're looking through. And that has to be taken into account as well. And you can't take that into account when you're generalizing what you're sharing and you're generalizing tools. And so, it just really resonate with what you're saying and the challenge of... well, the opportunity I should say, and the challenge of creating these spaces and staying in that integrity, despite the pressure to commodify, despite the pressure to systematize and create an online sales funnel, to really stay in that integrity.

Kelly Williams: 30:31
That stuff just makes me go 'ahhh'. It makes my stomach flip flop. And it's like on one hand, I totally could do that stuff. I've got the skill set, I've got the material, I have the focus to do it, but something does not align for me. And I've really struggled with that in that I do want my work to be perceived, whether it's my visual arts, whether it's the act of witnessing me paint, which is kind of a fun thing to see, or whether it's me helping others and guiding them through either making technically proficient work or emotionally substantive work. And there is a place where when those two come together is when the magic happens. You know, a lot of people come in here and they're like, oh, we're going to do a class for a day. It'll be fun. I'll leave with a painting. This is not drink and draw. That is not what we're doing here. We can do that, but that's a different class, right?

Candice Schutter: 31:29

Kelly Williams: 31:31
I mean, just to be really clear. And I have found in the last year, how important it is, cause everybody's a raw nerve, right? How important it is to set expectations. And that really curious thing for me is most people come in and have no idea what they're expectation is. They have this disconnect between I'm coming into a space, somebody that does this professionally for over 20 years now, because yes, I'm that old. Um, which still shocks me. I'm like what? I'm very confused.

Candice Schutter: 32:03
I get it.

Kelly Williams: 32:04
So one of my first lines with people now when they come into the studio is I want everyone to know your piece will not be found in a hundred years and sell at auction for a million dollars. So let it go right now because everyone secretly harbors the belief that their hidden talent is going to somehow explode in this one five-hour class. And that's going to hang next to van Gogh. Because people really do have an unreasonable expectation of proficiency the first time they try something and then they feel like they're a failure and it stops them from taking risks and really engaging in the world. And I do the same thing, but just to check myself, I'll be working on a piece I'm like, this is the one. It's like, no, this is number, you know, 22,051 and it's going to go under the bed with most of the other ones. Every now and then if I paint enough, I get some really nice pieces. But again, I do this every day for how many years. I have a dedicated studio space that I've invested my whole life into. And you've never painted before, but you think you're going to leave with a piece that looks like something I hang at a gallery? Like, what do you do for a living? Should I come to your job after three hours of instruction? And I don't know, do brain surgery? I currently have a physician in one of my classes and she does circumcisions. And so it was a great opportunity to make my point.

Candice Schutter: 33:35
I would say so.

Kelly Williams: 33:37
Do you want to show me a diagram and then let me loose with a scalpel, we'll see how that goes. I mean, it's kind of similar, but not, you know. I'm also a little bit sassy in class, so sometimes.

Candice Schutter: 33:48
You sassy, no.

Kelly Williams: 33:50
Uh huh. I know it happens. I start making all kinds of really bad inappropriate jokes, but

Candice Schutter: 33:56
That's part of the fun.

Kelly Williams: 33:58
It is. And it's primarily women that come to workshops. I find that really interesting, but across all mediums that I'm aware of, it's primarily women that are willing to invest in personal education.

Candice Schutter: 34:11
Yeah. Well, I think part of it, as you just said is we need spaces where we can, I say this tongue in cheek, but where we can sit around and make inappropriate jokes and everything that comes along with that, like a space to stop the posturing and...

Kelly Williams: 34:26
The performative.

Candice Schutter: 34:27
The performative womaning, you know. I mean, God bless this, these next generations that are ripping down all this gender bullshit because be without that, to have that stripped away and to just be who we are. And I think that women, I should say those who are CIS women who were born as women and who present as women and have most of their lives, if not all their lives, really have this internalized conditioning to hold all of this at bay. And so to come into a space like yours, where the ocean can flow. And I want you to speak to this. When we spoke in the planning for this conversation, which was more just girl chat with a few little bullet points written down as a structure.

Kelly Williams: 35:10
Yeah, this is a very unprepared script.

Candice Schutter: 35:12
Very much so. But one of the things you did say that really resonated with me, that I think is so critical and speaks to exactly what I'm talking about is I want you to talk about the experience you've had in teaching others how to make a mess and to allow for that mess and how it's a part of the process. And that's kind of a big piece of what the art is meant to do. Will you talk about that?

Kelly Williams: 35:35
Yeah. So one of the things, I'm not sure if this is an accurate term, but I think that the act of art making is an object lesson, in that I can learn a lot about where a person is coming from and which direction I need to nudge them based on how they're approaching the painting, you know. Are they, like, grabbing every color and throwing it down and making it look like a box of melted crayons? That person might need instruction on how to limit their palette, you know. So it's an object lesson in, you are putting everything out there. What would it mean if you made some very distinct decisions as you move forward? Where somebody else won't paint to the edge and they're so afraid to get paint off the edge of the canvas. And I kind of poke and find out what their limits are and I'm like, so can I come over there? Cause I'm gonna make a mess now. So you don't have to worry about it. Like, the whole reason you're in this space is because you can make a mess. You can mess it up. Like the whole point of this is just to completely screw it over. So there's somebody here to show you how to bring it back because you're going to screw things up. That's inevitable. Learning how to move past a mistake, or a willingness to take a risk and move forward. A lot of people also will come in and after two or three layers be like, oh, I like it, I don't want to mess it up. And it's like, uh, this is not precious time. This is dive in, dig it around. You know, I'll literally come over and be like, I want you to cover it with another color. Just all of it. Make it go away. And they're like, ah. But the idea that they have to make mistakes for it to get interesting. That's sort of the dynamic with the wax is if you did every layer perfect, it would be a very uninteresting expression. If every day of your life was exactly the same, you're a very boring person. It takes that one time when that really bad thing happened or years of struggling to get through that layer of your life, that makes all those little pits and scars and experiences and opportunities for the piece to develop into something interesting. Because it may be a really ugly layer; however, after five or six more layers, years, decades, suddenly those pits and those dots and those bubbles and those things that felt out of control in that layer, now add a complexity and a subtle interest that is mysterious, that makes you want to move closer and look at the piece deeper. You know, it's pretty from a distance or it's engaging from a distance because pretty is not a word I like in my art. It's kind of a joke between my partner and I. If he comes out and he's like, oh, that's pretty. I'm like, oh, damn it. Fail. And he does it and he just grins and leaves. Because I've been doing a lot more figurative work instead of abstract work in the last five years or so. And he'll come out and be like, oh, she's pretty. And I'm like damnit, because I want tension and I want a richness. And again, that richness doesn't come unless you make a mess and you make mistakes and you mess up the wax or you put the wrong thing on top of the next thing. And hopefully you've learned some really cool stuff so that the next painting you can approach it with that knowledge. So I've gotten into trying to funnel students into more of a language kind of format. So once a week they come and we spend a more limited amount of time, but we dive a little deeper in, and that gives them time between lessons to digest it, to think about it, to notice things they wouldn't have noticed otherwise, because half of being an artist is what do you see? You know, how do you see? What you feel? How do you feel what would be the visual representation of that? And why do you want to put that with this other thing? The whole idea of symbolic narrative is kind of, I love, I struggle with it. But it's a really important part of the process, whether it's, you know, literally this thing and this thing, or whether it's this mark next to this mark means this for me.

Candice Schutter: 39:52
I want to circle back to you were talking about the making the mess and creating permission for that. And when you were describing the layering and you said that layer may be ugly now, but when you get further, along in the process, it's going to reveal itself as something else that adds depth and dimension.

Kelly Williams: 40:11

Candice Schutter: 40:12
Just to say to the listeners, if you haven't yet paused this podcast and gone to see some of Kelly's work, this is going to make a lot of sense. If you just take a minute to go to kellywilliamsart.com, and just look at a few of her pieces, you're going to understand what she's talking about. And she's describing so beautifully what sort of the depth, I mean, that's another reason she's here with us, the deeper pulse, the depth that is revealed through the process of how she does her art. So when you talk about those quote, unquote ugly layers, revealing something later on in the process, it makes me think of this book that recently came out. I don't know if you're familiar with Susan Cain. She wrote the book Quiet, which was a bestseller for many, many moons. It's a book that she wrote for introversion and it became sort of the Bible of introverts everywhere. And she's written this new book that just came out, it's called Bittersweet. And she said that her initial title she wanted for the book that, of course, she has to commodify and go through all the lanes too that decided Bittersweet was the better title. But the title that she was leaning toward was something to the effect of the happiness of melancholy. In this book, she talks about so many things. I'm not going to attempt to do it justice here, but it makes me think of your work as an artist as well. And the work that I strive to do with my clients as a coach and in my writing. Especially like, the truest truth is where that sorrow and joy are both present at the same time. Where they rub up against each other. Where they create texture. And your art is such a beautiful example of the texture, when you allow all of those emotions to co-exist and create something. And that beauty, in fact, she even speaks about how art is one of the ways to get in touch with the bittersweet. It's one of the ways it's most accessible to us.

Kelly Williams: 42:03
It's very direct.

Candice Schutter: 42:05
It's very direct. And I also recently heard someone describe something I struggle with as a writer so much is the limitations of language. It's a frustration of mine. And as I spoke about in the last podcast, I know that I'm built to try to squeeze meaning into this impossible structure and that it's it's not possible. And I heard recently someone describe, as humans have invented language, they described it as a patriarchal structure. And I think that's so interesting because how do we shift that? How do we change that? And yet at the same time deal with the limitations itself. So I'm interested in that as a writer, that's another podcast in and of itself. But this piece around, because language cannot speak to paradox adequately, art can. And it can make us feel that sense of bittersweet. That sense of wow, like, I feel so much deep sadness and longing. And that is what's making me know that I'm alive and connected to this human who created this piece of work. And I feel so seen. And I feel so held. And I feel like my humanity is being reflected. And your work does that so beautifully. And I think you describing the process you go through when you're guiding your students is you're helping them to get at that. So it's not just this black and white, compartmentalized experience of our humanity, but that it's all coming out and pouring into this canvas. And because it's all there, that's what makes it so beautiful.

Kelly Williams: 43:35

Candice Schutter: 43:35
Does that make sense?

Kelly Williams: 43:37
It does. And I mean, honestly, there's some real basic art design concepts. It's like red next to another red is still just kind of red, but you put it next to its complimentary color, it's going to really stand out. And I think that when we have parts of our lives that are really, really dark, that those moments of great joy suddenly become very, very clear. Whereas if you've had a life that's, you know, wonderful, you may not always know how wonderful it is until things go bad. I mean, it's that whole you don't know a sunny day unless you've seen rain. And I think that we get so caught up in constant need to be pretty, you know, and I mean that in the most general sense of need to be acceptable. We need to be validated. We need to be visible. You know, I just feel like we're constantly shouting at the world and that need that it be pretty, you know. Which is why it's the joke here at home for me, because one of the best terrible suggestions I get from people all the time is, well, you need to make your work kind of more pleasant, so people will want to consume it. So there's this conversation around becoming digestible to those around you. And for me, I've always been a little bit edgy and say stuff without really great edit. And although many people appreciate that, you know, some people don't. And in getting to a place where that's okay. I don't want to be vanilla ice cream. I don't want my art to be vanilla. There's so much vanilla out there, and it's not that I don't like vanilla. I mean, just today I was taking photographs of tulips because I thought, huh, I wonder if I could paint a tulip, like in the Kelly kind of way. And what would that look like? Because the truth is I do find joy in beauty, but my drive is actually to paint and express the darker side of things. Does that mean that I'm a negative person? I don't know. Do I care? Not so much. You know, there comes a point where it's like, this is what my path is and it is the tension or the, you know, that dissonance that makes me feel engaged. It's often uncomfortable. I spend most days uncomfortable. Just in my own head, the stuff I say to myself is awful. You know, imposter syndrome, inner critic, you name all the things like I deal with those every day, even though I help other people work through them, you know, taking your own advice sometimes is the, is the hardest.

Candice Schutter: 46:16
A hundred percent. Yeah.

Kelly Williams: 46:18
I think it's also a metaphor to so many other areas of our lives and our relationships, in parenting. I'm a parent, of adult children now. And they're completely different human beings. And it makes me realize how, how much I have to do with that and how little I had to do with that because they are their own expressions of that magic combination of nature, nuture, genes, history, experience. And there's only so much I can do as the container for them as small children, into, you know, opening that up so that they can function in a very complicated world, as messed up as my life was, you know, it always seems like each generation has this whole nother layer of tragedy to deal with. And that's scary for them. You know, watching them decide whether or not to have children. And again, that's their decision to do, but the kinds of considerations that they bring up are different than the kinds of considerations that I thought of, or the pressures that I felt in which to participate in that particular role for that period of my life. And, it definitely brings that tension to the forefront when you make art whether it's, I don't make political art, I do a lot more around, femininity, emotional expression, the multiplicity that women are expected to adhere to. Like, I do a series and I take erotic pornography and turn them into religious saints or into mythical idealized creatures. And that's pretty work. The work is pretty. It's a little tongue in cheek. It can be a lot of fun. So that makes it a nice commodity as far as digestible. But underneath all that, I'm saying a whole bunch of other stuff. And if you bothered to look, you can see that there's like, there was an expectation of us as women, especially, coming out of the age group that I came out of, that I was supposed to be a mother. I was supposed to be a professional. I was supposed to be sexy. I was supposed to be a spiritual leader. I was supposed to be educated, but I was supposed to be a hundred percent available to everybody else's needs. The enmeshment that was required within relationships left me an empty shell. And that was a really difficult part of my life because I absolutely committed to doing those things. And those things were important to me, yet it cost me so much from a soul and, you know, just that inside place just got so fractured. So now I do these little tongue and cheek erotic saints, but I'm actually speaking to sexuality. I'm speaking to historical norms. I'm speaking to our definitions of beauty and performative visibility once again, you know. If somebody bothers to look at it deep enough there is a social statement there.

Candice Schutter: 49:13
So I think I met you kind of in the transition time, from what you just described in terms of the sacrifices you made to motherhood, as so many women do. And there's that shared through line that your art is commenting on. How would you say as you've shifted into this midlife stage. In terms of moving from that dynamic and that pattern into something different, what has that been like for you personally?

Kelly Williams: 49:44
So to be super clear, I wanted to get married. I wanted to have children with this particular person, because of that particular person. I loved him very much. And the idea that I could build my own family with him was very important. And so it is kind of this it's never simple, right? And so choosing to stay home with my children was also a choice. It was an economic choice at the time because getting childcare actually cost more than me going back to work, which was really frightening. And that led to the next choice, which led to the next choice, which led to the most obvious choice, you know, he made more money and kids had certain requirements that, you know, like all the things.

Candice Schutter: 50:24

Kelly Williams: 50:25
And it did lead me to a place where I felt like everybody was sort of renting space in my head and nobody was paying rent. Like there was the sense of, you know, the open the fridge and like, is there any milk? And I'm like, you're the one standing in front of the fridge. Why am I doing all of this emotional heavy lifting, social, relational, heavy lifting between members of the family, between social, you know. And all of that to say, there came a point where I just desperately needed my own voice, and I needed my own voice to be about me and was that selfish? Sure. It was. And is that okay? Maybe so. Um, how I wish I could have done things better. But there's some things you can't go back and change. And I have to live with that, and I have to move forward with that. And the art was really what kept me grounded, and it was the first time in my life that something was sort of just mine. It wasn't for somebody else. It wasn't to somebody else. It was the thing that was for the first time in my life, my voice alone. And that was really empowering. And it finally gave me a sense of grounded identity. I can see how if I stop making art, definitely be worried about me, because that's a sign that... Unless I'm doing something else that's as expressing, because there's a sense of when it comes down to it. I don't know how I would function in this world without the ability to have some form of kind of that deeper expression and to help others find their deeper expression. That is as much a part of my art as the art making itself. I love that I have other friends that are artists that are very different kind of artists and that we can share both the struggles and the successes and technical issues too, to just that emotional support, you know. And I think finding a community that was just mine was also really important. And I think it was the first time my children saw me as real. If that makes any sense.

Candice Schutter: 52:43
A hundred percent it does. It makes me think of something else you said when we were preparing for this conversation that I wanted to jump out of my chair and be like, yes, hallelujah. We were talking about expression and doing our work and falling in and out of our own integrity because of the pressures in terms of commercialization and, you know, running a business and all that. And we were talking about integrity. And you said, if I'm not in alignment, I'm screwed. And I was just like, the angels started singing. My little chorus of angels started singing, because I have learned that so many times the hard way. If I compromise where my compass is pointing internally, and I turn away from that to please others or to do the thing the right way or to make money. I suffer.

Kelly Williams: 53:35
Oh, yeah. I call that the squirrel, you know, that squirrel is constantly running through the studio, like, oh, somebody is doing, you know, this oh, I should, oh, I should sign up for that workshop. Oh wait, wait, wait. Oh, somebody is now teaching this way. Oh, I should do that. Or are they just got an article in such and such magazine. I should apply for that. Or so-and-so's, you know, doing a residency and you know, wherever, oh, I need to do that. And it's like, what am I doing? And then I stop painting, like actually painting. And then I'm like, I don't feel good. My body hurts. I start sleeping more. And I struggle with some pretty serious, depressive issues. And I've worked really hard on the tools to keep my head above water. And even in the best of my circumstances, I am always really close to that edge and I dip below it. And if I don't really stay in alignment, it can be dangerous for me. You know, and I'll just say that straight up and learning to ask for help and turning off the things that drain me or take from me in a way that I can't take care of myself anymore, where I really just don't want to do it anymore. You know, I start doing the whole, what's the point and why bother? You know, oh, dear Lord, those are the scary things coming out of my mouth and if I don't keep a pretty strict container for this, I don't know how good my wellbeing would be over the long-term. And you know, not to be ominous, but there is that sense of we only get this kind of one turnaround the park and how do I want to do it? And is at the end of the day, is it my resume that matters?

Candice Schutter: 55:17
Exactly. Yeah.

Kelly Williams: 55:18
You know, I was just talking to John last night and I'm just like, well, it's not like I haven't done some things like, honestly, 20 years ago I was sitting in the art room on a psych ward, hoping that I would be safe enough to leave within the next week. And they had me draw, you know, draw your future, you know, cause the whole idea of like, you want to have a future to look forward to some time. And I did, I just started painting around then and I drew all these pictures with little frames around them on a wall. And I thought, oh, I'll have made it if I can just put some art on a wall where some people see it and think it's pretty cool. Like a coffee shop or something. That was my little share in the group. And now I'm like, wow, if that was my future and where I am now, which is just a million miles past that of what I've been able to do or accomplish, it's like, what am I after? Like really, what is this target that I will finally feel okay. I will finally have arrived. My resume will finally be good enough that I am valid or I'm just intrinsically worthy of taking up space on this planet. And I think that really gets under what all of us do. Why do we do what we do? And, and, and as far as alignment goes, I can say if I'm not in alignment, I'm screwed, but there's another question under that I'm currently struggling with. What does that mean? What do I really want? What does alignment look like? It's not like I pulled the wrapper out of the fortune cookie and said for you to be in alignment, you have to do these three things every day. Or even like dieting, it's like one day you're supposed to be keto the next day you're supposed to be local. It's like, I don't know which you can't do both. It's one or the other.

Candice Schutter: 57:05
There's no formula. It doesn't exist.

Kelly Williams: 57:08
And so figuring out what works for me. And I'm really curious. I paint in different styles. I do abstracts. I do this kind. I do big, I do small. I do this, I do that. And that's really a big fat no-no for branding. But I do know if I don't stay curious and explore and challenge myself with new processes or new techniques or new visual expressions, I'm going to kind of just die in the water. And my work may not be terribly consistent over 50 years. Let's hope I get to paint that long. But it'll be interesting. You know, I would much rather be interesting than recognizable. Like I like a little mystery.

Candice Schutter: 57:52
Yeah. Well, and it will be an authentic, I mean, if we think about it in terms of when you're gone and what you've left behind in terms of your art and circle it back to your children, it will be an authentic expression of your journey. So whether it matches up with itself over the course of time, in some ways I think that's, there's some insanity to that. I was reading.

Kelly Williams: 58:12

Candice Schutter: 58:13
I went on Amazon and there was a memoir that I love, and it was reading a review of it. And this particular memoirist had written a memoir 10 years prior. And one of the reviewers said, I just don't like this book at all. I don't get it. It's she's contradicting everything she said in the last book, like, how can I trust her? She used the word trust and I thought it was so fascinating. Like at first I kind of rolled my eyes, but then I paused and I was like, isn't that fascinating that she thinks trusting her relies on...

Kelly Williams: 58:43
That she has to stay the same.

Candice Schutter: 58:46
That she's predictable. Yes. That she's cranking out something that's same, same, same, same, same. And, I think to bring it back to what you were talking about to speak for myself in terms of like, as an artist, how do I know if I'm in alignment? It's really like, how good of a job am I doing at navigating the tension that's present now in my life. And it speaks again to that bittersweetness. You know, ask anyone, who's known me in all iterations of my career. I've done so many different things. And early in my adulthood, I was really hard on myself for that. Like, why can't you just stick with something? Why do you keep changing your mind? What's wrong with you? And I eventually understood that expression is my jam. And that means it's going to continually be evolving. And as soon as I reach mastery around something, I am no longer interested in it. And it's not even to do with like conquering, like in a patriarchal capitalist sense. I put my flag on it, I can do this, moving on. For me, it's about that tension. There's no longer creative tension here. I'm no longer seeking to figure myself and something else out in the world. And, and to express it best I can, this bittersweet sensation that I can't ever do away with. Like you say when...

Kelly Williams: 59:55
Well, honestly, I get confused when things are going well. Like my body and my mind is like, what do you mean things are okay? Are you sure? Like, cause I'm pretty sure there's a monster around the corner. There's going to be a gaping hole I'm going to fall into. Somebody's going to get hurt. I'm going to be living on the streets. I'm gonna, you know, like I think so creative. I am so creative. Let me tell you nothing like depression and creativity to throw you into a swing.

Candice Schutter: 1:00:21
It's a tricky, it's a tricky thing though, right? Because it's like, you also want to express the sweetness of that bittersweet. And when you've had childhood trauma, like we have, it's real easy to default into that hyper-vigilance like, when's the shit gonna hit the fan here and how do we navigate and straddle that? And I think that's, I mean, I'm glad you said that. Cause that's kind of where I was going with this of like, how do I straddle the wholeness of my humanity and experience and express the deep joy and experience and express the sadness and everything in between and make something that is of value to me out of that. And that becomes the trick for me, as soon as I stop making what is of value to me, and it's, it's this weird again, paradox, because I am like you really called to be of service and to help and to care for others and have a positive impact. But if I'm trying to do that, I'm fucked.

Kelly Williams: 1:01:18
Yep. Absolutely. Yeah. It's like all of a sudden I'm like over myself, listening to myself, talk me and like, what the hell are you? No, no, no, no, no. But you know, I had a, I had a thought today I was walking the dog and I realized, I mean, I have a beautiful life. I have a beautiful life. I have a great partner. I have chickens that came with a house. I'm not super into them, but that's fine. We get eggs. I have this gorgeous art studio that we built from scratch. We have good people in our lives. My children love me or at least I'm pretty sure they do. And every now and then I have this deep sense of like survivor guilt, um, because of where I came from and what I came through. It isn't real typical to have children, and then those children to be okay. That they got to live a life without, you know, major trauma. I mean, life is life. They have me as a parent.

Candice Schutter: 1:02:17
Small 't' trauma.

Kelly Williams: 1:02:18
You know? Right. I did the best I could with what I had. And I think that's saying a lot that they turned out pretty okay. If not, absolutely incredible human beings. You know, but from that standpoint of they've got their own cards they got dealt and they also have the skillset and the support to deal with them in a way that I didn't. And that, that to me is if I never do anything else in my life, I did them right. You know, again, I didn't do them perfect. I did a whole lot of things messy, and I had my own journey to go through. I kind of started a second life in my early forties, and it's felt like a very distinct difference. And I do have a sense of guilt around what privilege I now have, even though it's very tenuous. Um, and there's that sense of, I was always at the bottom of the heap now I'm not. But I'm real, real sure that it's not far of a fall. And so there's always that sense of, I feel guilty that I have anything that I have, and that my mother didn't get those things or my step-sister who took her own life. There's a lot of ugly back there and I'm doing pretty good. And from the outside, people think I've kind of, you know, the soccer mom privileged thing and that's not untrue, but there's so much more in there. And that's those ugly layers. And I'm very sure that, you know, I don't get to not do more ugly layers. That's life doing life.

Candice Schutter: 1:03:56

Kelly Williams: 1:03:57
But that, that whole sense of survivor guilt of, you know, the world is falling apart and children are still suffering and you know, my heart just hurts. Um, and then I'm worried about my Instagram posts. Like what the fuck.

Candice Schutter: 1:04:12
Exactly. Yeah.

Kelly Williams: 1:04:13
I'm like, nah, you know, or I'm worried about what size my pants are or how many wrinkles I have, like who cares? You know, like really who cares? Yet I can go down that rabbit hole and start hating on myself, hating on the world. And it's just like, wow. You know, and the only time I can really, really let go of all of that is if I'm painting. I mean, it is truly an escape for me. I know you with dancing, and writing. And I think we all find our little sanctuaries. And you know, finding my alignment. Cause it's like, I'll try to ask myself the question. I journal quite a bit and write quite a bit as well. And it's like, what do you want? Like what's actually important to you? And it never comes down to those performative things. It much more comes down to relationships.

Candice Schutter: 1:05:07

Kelly Williams: 1:05:07
And impact within the context of community and relationship is far more important to me than a show or an award or a dollar amount. I mean, don't get me wrong. I love to sell my work. It's an ego hit every time it's like that dopamine deal, you know, that rat's hit the cocaine button every time selling an art piece is like my cocaine. So, you know, like that kind of thing. And really struggling with my own messiness. I'm just messy inside and always kind of have been. And I guess I just will be.

Candice Schutter: 1:05:45
I mean, that's what I love about you though, Kelly, is that you're honest about it. Because the truth is we're all messy inside, and I want to surround myself with people who aren't pretending not to be messy inside. And I, I say that not as a judgment. I pretended not to be messy inside for a long time. And I still do, catch myself. It's like a horse that got broken that I'm trying to set free again. And I appreciate so much that you are willing to wear your messiness and your heart on your sleeve and that you are comfortable hanging out in that tension and that you create a body of work, you create opportunities for people to have permission to hang out in that tension. Looking at your work, being with your work is an opportunity to be with that tension and to feel seen in that way. And I feel like that's what beautiful art does it. And again, when we have the intention to create something that does that, usually it doesn't work. The only way that it happens is if we get out of the way and we get super honest and we just strip it down and we just let it out, and then it resonates. I mean, nine times out of 10, it's so funny to me, with the whole social media thing, because I'm like you, I go through spurts and then sometimes I'm like, I just can't anymore. And I'm going to take a break and I don't do anything. With a podcast, it's a little tricky, there, needs to be a certain rhythm to my posting in order to get a certain level of engagement so sometimes I will post when I don't really feel like it. And I can tell the difference between when I post to post and when I genuinely want to share something and I post it, I can feel the difference in my, yeah, it's like exactly. I won't make any generalizations about engagement in regards to that, but it's interesting to watch engagement. If I can stay curious and not be invested in it, and just be like, huh. And I do think that by and large, never always, cause there's certain things that I post about that don't get a lot of traction that are really important to me. And yet by and large, the things that come out really authentically seem to capture more attention.

Kelly Williams: 1:07:58
Oh, yeah. When I'm cranky and write a newsletter and I'm like, screw it. I'm just going to write a cranky newsletter. I get more. And I'm like, I was not being okay. They're like, I really shouldn't have said some of that stuff. Like, I'm always afraid I'm going to get in trouble. I'm in this state of, am I going to get in trouble for saying that for showing that for expressing that for being that, you know? I'm in this constant state of I'm going to get in trouble and waiting for the other shoe to drop that whole, you know, hypervigilant thing. And then another part of me that's like, you know, fuck y'all. Cause this is, this is who I am. And the fact that I'm still standing says something. And the fact that I've got something to say, or I have a place to help others say it, you know, that's good enough. Like the whole good enough thing. We don't give each other permission to be good enough. Like, we are enough. We don't need to be the top this, or the most that, or you know, a bazillion followers. And it's like, here I am. If you like my work, great. If you don't then please go to Costco or Target and make yourself happy. Like

Candice Schutter: 1:09:07
Yeah. It's fine.

Kelly Williams: 1:09:08
And I've been loving your podcast as far as this conversational. Because I think that is true, you know, what you've really said. And what you've noticed is the fact that, it is in relationship that we not only grow as a community and provide something for others to witness as an example of authentic communication. But also the idea that it is through that communication that we reverberate back to ourselves the very things that are important. I mean, I know for me, the isolation of the last two years has been really difficult. I'm an extrovert by nature. That's part of why I love to teach. I'm one of those painters that I actually like people to be here when I paint. Like, I find it keeps me out of my own head and I can just be in the rhythm, because my hands already know what to do. My heart knows what to say. And when I'm in communication with somebody else, I find that that is really soothing for me. And, and so I've missed that a lot. And it made me realize how important it is. And so I will take time out of my busy, business schedule just to go have lunch with somebody. It's amazing. I get so much more done the next day if I do that self-care.

Candice Schutter: 1:10:24

Kelly Williams: 1:10:25
If I take the time to go for a walk or I love to cook, so I make a lot of really fancy food. And that's another form of expression and it's another form of sharing love and nurturing. I think that we all need to just find what those things are. I need to do like some manifesto or something, so I can make my decision-making easier. Like, Nope, doesn't meet these three things. Nope. Learning to say no is a good one.

Candice Schutter: 1:10:50
Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Well, I'm glad you didn't say no to this.

Kelly Williams: 1:10:55
Yeah, I'm glad you asked me. Cause I think there's important stuff to be said about that. And people don't know the magic that happens behind the doors of an art studio and all that goes into that. And I hope that if nothing else, it gives people permission to, even if it's a really, really ugly crayon drawing, you know what, that's all good. It's all good. You know, you say your thing, however you need to say it. And that's the movement. That's the forward projection we all need to do.

Candice Schutter: 1:11:21
Yeah, yeah.

Kelly Williams: 1:11:22
Thank you for giving me voice, you know, allowing me to have voice in this.

Candice Schutter: 1:11:27
Of course.

Kelly Williams: 1:11:27
I think what you're doing is really awesome.

Candice Schutter: 1:11:29
Thank you. Thank you so much. And I know that people are gonna hear this and they're gonna fall in love with you like I have. Then they're going to see your art and they're gonna fall in love with your art.

Kelly Williams: 1:11:39
Yeah. The people that love my art are people who are moved by it. The fact that I've had strangers, you know, standing in front of a piece and cry, that's worth every dollar I've ever made to see that. Thank you.

Candice Schutter: 1:11:57
Thank you so much. Yeah.

I gotta be honest and say, I have a special place in my heart for people like Kelly, who are survivors, who are courageous and audacious enough to share their stories and speak to the messiness of life. If you want to check out Kelly's work, and I sincerely encourage you to do so, you can find her online at kellywilliamsart.com and you can dress up your social media feed on Instagram by following her @kellywilliamsart.

I know a lot of folks can get hung up on the word artist, but just remember that art in its essence is never about a finished product. It is about what happens when we get out of the way and we allow for self-expression, allow for our truth to surface without filter or agenda. Any avenue of self-expression is a pathway back to the heart. And to the art of living authentically. I hope that you find a safe space or an inspired medium, where you can speak the whole truth about yourself, to yourself. May you find your own language of truth-telling and feel that bittersweet ache of self-revelation.

As always, I love you. You have my gratitude. And I'll see you next time. Ciao, my friend.

© The Deeper Pulse, Candice Schutter