Posts Tagged: creativity growth

Centering Within

It was 13 degrees here this morning when I took the puppy for a walk. I’m burying my nose in a cup of chai on the couch now contemplating all the Saturday projects. But first, fuel for the day…eggs, half of an avocado, big glass of water, vitamin, and reflection time. This is my centering time. This is the time that powers the rest of the activities, projects and…the creativity. It is this “Centering Within” process that I return to again and again-the painting behind me on the wall a mere reflection of the internal process of going within and then heading out into the world and returning again to the center for fuel for the next journey outward.

What does it mean to live free?

“Harmony Shift” and “Flourishing In the Darkness” at Art Sail Clear Lake, IA July 2017

Dear Creative Friends,

Over the last days and weeks I’ve been revisiting my “WHY?”

Why do I paint?

Why do I feel the deep need to create?

Why do I share my art?

Why do I love to inspire you to create?”

While it is not out of the ordinary for me to go back to these fundamental questions, I’m well aware that this latest bout of deep thinking has intensified since I’ve been faced with deciding on a title for an upcoming art show at the Ankeny Art Center in October. Over the winter my goal was to concentrate on painting, but now I’m at the stage of stepping back and looking at this body of work and pondering such things as “Is there a cohesive theme here?” and “What are the common threads?”

The reoccurring thought that hasn’t let me go was the word “FREE”.

Close Up of “Unraveled Fears” painting to be featured at Ankeny Art Center show October, 2017.

What does it look like to paint free?

What does it look like to freely live an abundant creative life?

What does it feel like to live and walk in internal freedom?

What does it mean to live free?

I hope I’m never done exploring the answers to these questions. I hope I revisit them over and over again coming to deeper conclusions and convictions. But, for now, I’m acknowledging that this, too, is a journey and I don’t need to have all the answers today.

What I do know is that I long to continue to say yes to my creative freedom, to say yes to painting freely from that which is within me waiting to come out in line and color, and to say yes to living my life free to make choices that are healthy for me.

I’m also keenly aware that the the contrasting side to this journey involves simultaneously exploring the things that stop me from living and freely creating with passion. It is within this juxtaposition that we live as humans-this is where the juice is…the messy middle as we each walk our pathways toward freedom.

With Passion,


Mark your Calendars now: Please join us for FREE: Pathways Toward Freedom, a solo art show by Melynda Van Zee at the Ankeny Art Center

1520 SW Ordnance Rd, Ankeny, IA, October 3- November 29, 2017. Artist Reception Thursday, October 12 5:00-7:00 pm.

Creating Paintings That Resonate


Melynda Van Zee Art Booth Laumeier Sculpture Park Art Fair

Melynda Van Zee Art Booth
Laumeier Sculpture Park Art Fair St. Louis, MO May, 2017

Creating paintings that resonate with viewers, paintings that hold the viewers attention and bring them back again for another look, is a major goal of every painter. I spent the winter months this year buried in my Iowa studio creating a new body of work and now I’ve started to share it publicly. I’m two art shows in for the year. In the last month I’ve been to my first show in St. Louis, MO at the Laumeier Sculpture Park and participated in a show on the downtown streets of Iowa City, IA.

One of the major benefits to artists exhibiting at an art fair is getting direct feedback from your audience and customers. I’ve learned to observe my visitors and listen closely to their feedback. I’ve also started to jot down some of their comments and observations for me to reflect on later. They are teaching me about my own work. They ask inquisitive questions and as I answer their questions they help me to become more articulate about my work and techniques. Creating a painting is much more of a solitary pursuit, interacting with the general public in my art booth is not.

Iowa Arts Festival Iowa City, Iowa June, 2017

Melynda Van Zee Art Booth
Iowa Arts Festival Iowa City, Iowa June, 2017

Observations, Questions and Comments from the road so far this year…

“I feel like you are inside my head.”

“There is so much depth here.”

“You’re my kind of painter.”

“Looks like lots of spontaneity there- I like that…to see surprises.”

“Calming and soothing, yet full of life bubbling up.”

“It’s just like free… so free.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“I love your stuff. It’s so vibrant!”

From a trio of college friends… “Groovy!”   “It’s crazy stuff!”   “Rad!”

“What is the name of your method? What about the ‘Van Zee Free Method’?”

Melynda Van Zee Art Booth Iowa Arts Festival Iowa City, IA June, 2017

Melynda Van Zee Art Booth Iowa Arts Festival Iowa City, IA June, 2017

And, lots of questions about technique…

“Is it glue?”

“Is it Elmer’s?”

“Is it wax?”

“Is it encaustic?”

Close Up of Painting Technique using Acrylic Mediums and Paints

Close Up of Painting Technique using Acrylic Mediums and Paints

To which I answer… “No, it is all acrylic mediums and paints”.

“Really??? Cause I didn’t even know acrylic could do anything like this?”

Studio close up of creating the first layer of line work

Studio close up of creating the first layer of line work

And, then I start to notice which paintings people are gravitating toward and which paintings they look at for a long time and which paintings they point out and talk about to their friends or family.

This year I’ve noticed there is one painting that consistently gets feedback. It is the painting titled “Unraveled Fears”.

Unraveled Fears Acrylic on Canvas 48 x 36 Melynda Van Zee © 2017

Unraveled Fears
Acrylic on Canvas
48 x 36
Melynda Van Zee © 2017
Available for purchase by contacting

Some comments about “Unraveled Fears”…

“It looks like a tornado of love.”

“I think it is an elephant.”

“Looks like female anatomy parts to me.”

“It’s a tornado. I know it’s a tornado!”

“Have you ever in your life stood in front of a painting for such a long time?” From two college age musicians who spent a good half hour studying the painting

And, an interchange between a mom and her high school age son…(which so appropriately happened on Mother’s Day)

Son: “I think it is going up.”

Mom: “No, it is going down.”

Son: “No, I am sure it is going up.”

Mom: “No. I am positive it is going down and I’m the mom so I am right!”

Melynda Van Zee painting "Unraveled Fears"

Melynda Van Zee at work painting “Unraveled Fears” in the studio

“Unraveled Fears” may be the painting that I wrestled with the most this winter. I spent so much time adding more layers to this painting and and it was the work I was the most hesitant to share. This seems to be a reoccurring experience for me- the paintings that resonate deeply with me, the ones that feel the most deeply personal, the pieces I’m concerned about sharing…end up being the paintings that elicit the most in-depth concentration and conversations. They draw people in for a longer look.

The work that resonates deeply with me, also resonates deeply with others.

And, once again, I am reminded and challenged of what I know to be true…that when artists create from that which is within, when they create from that which is authentic, when they allow their heart and soul to flow into the work, the work will resonate and the real conversations will begin and continue long into the future.

Melynda Van Zee in the studio adding final details to "Unraveled Fears"

Melynda Van Zee in the studio adding final details to “Unraveled Fears”

Do you have any paintings in neutral colors?

Horn's Ferry Bridge #1 24 x 30 Acrylic on Canvas Melynda Van Zee © 2016

Horn’s Ferry Bridge #1
24 x 30
Acrylic on Canvas
Melynda Van Zee © 2016

My dearest creative hearts,

I’m sitting at my computer desk gazing out of my window on a gorgeous fall afternoon- it is an unbelievable 72 degrees on Nov. 4. (I am born and raised in Iowa and we are long trained to start most any conversation with a comment on the weather!) And, now that the gorgeous weather conversation has got us going…what’s really on my heart and mind is a recent artistic challenge I’ve been wrestling with.

One question I have been frequently asked is “Do you have any paintings in neutral colors?” Now to be honest- I’ve met these requests to paint with more neutrals with a variety of responses…down right ignoring them, laughing them off, feigning interest while internally shouting “But I DON’T paint neutrals, they are boring”, followed by a crossing my arms pose while internally staking my claim “I paint COLOR!” Occasionally I would let myself wonder, maybe I could try it, but then a whole other host of excuses and fears would rise up. I would worry that in light of my earlier work with bright colors, I “shouldn’t paint neutrals” because it might dilute the signature colors I usually put on my palette. Artists are trained by professionals and gallery owners to do consistent work in a recognizable palette and style so that people can easily recognize the work-deviating from the known can create marketing challenges. But, underneath all the mental gymnastics, what I think was really going on was fear- fears I wouldn’t figure out the technical difficulties of switching to a new color palette, fears the paintings wouldn’t be beautiful (what if people don’t like them?), fears that maybe people would think maybe I was “going through a hard time” if I starting painting gray paintings. Oh- the power of fear to block our creative experiments!

Horn's Ferry Bridge #3 12 x 36 Acrylic on Canvas Melynda Van Zee © 2016

Horn’s Ferry Bridge #3
12 x 36
Acrylic on Canvas
Melynda Van Zee © 2016

I wish I could tell you that I was so self aware that right away I just started painting neutral paintings. But the reality is that I had to personally do the steps to the creative process that I have taught in my classes so many times throughout the years. One benefit of having painted for many years is that I am becoming more knowledgable about my own resistance patterns to creativity. Sometimes I can’t or don’t take the time to step back and figure out what is going on internally, to really digest what truly is getting in the way.

Horn's Ferry Bridge Marion County, IA Completed in 1881

Horn’s Ferry Bridge
Marion County, IA
Completed in 1881

What finally helped to break my creative roadblock was taking a walk to one of my favorite places-Lake Red Rock. I explored again old territory by doing a slow walk across the remaining section of Horn’s Ferry Bridge that still rises above the Des Moines River.

I allowed myself to go and hang out at a place I have been hundreds of times before, but this time I saw it with fresh eyes. I walked the planks searching for inspiration and sure enough I found it-under my feet.


The weathered boards…

the knots…

the lines…

the gaps…

Horn's Ferry Bridge #2 16 x 40 Acrylic on Canvas Melynda Van Zee © 2016

Horn’s Ferry Bridge #2
16 x 40
Acrylic on Canvas
Melynda Van Zee © 2016

The creative cycle going full circle- a problem to solve, making something new from something old, letting the past speak into my future, letting my specific place in this world inform my art and inspire new creative leaps. A settling of my spirit in knowing that this series of work is authentic to me and my story and my places. And, that the seemingly simple requests for more paintings in a neutral color palette took me on a creative ride back to pieces of my own story.

With Passion,




You have the opportunity to purchase one of the new “Horns Ferry Bridge” series at any one of these three upcoming shows in central Iowa or by contacting me directly at the studio- just send me an email ( if you are interested.

2016 Art Show Schedule

  • Santa’s North Pole Show, Booth #413, Parkview Middle School, 105 NW Pleasant St, Ankeny, IA (November 5 9am – 4pm) 
  • Art on the Prairie, Hotel Pattee, Perry, IA (November 12 & 13)
  • Iowa Arts & Craft Show, Varied Industries Bldg, Iowa State Fairgrounds, Des Moines, IA (November 18, 19 & 20)

I’m also working on a collaborative painting with artist Chris Vance for the upcoming Paintpushers show “Collision”. Painting in progress now- make plans to see the collaborative piece and meet all the Paintpusher artists at the opening reception on Dec. 2 at the Des Moines Social Club!

2016 Art Exhibits

  • Collision, Paintpushers Collaborative Showcase, Des Moines Social Club,
    Des Moines, IA, December 1-31, 2016 
    Meet the Artists Opening Reception Friday Dec. 2, 2016 5-9 pm