knowing when to say no... and yes

I've been thinking a lot about how important it is to make the right choices. For me. For my business. For my art. For my soul.

For a lot of us it can be hard to say, "no". We feel obligations. We don't want to seem rude. We don't want to feel left out. And yet, saying "no" is sometimes the right choice.

I've mentioned before that I've been taking the MATS Assignment Bootcamp class. This month's theme is Ellis Island. I brought a few books home from the library for research (I love research!) and then I did some sketches. I was busy with other projects and didn't do much more than sketch. When I finally got around to reading the assignment, I was a bit disappointed. Although it was a fun, it didn't resonate with me as an artist. We were supposed to design a mug with the theme of Hairstyles of Ellis Island.

At first I felt some pressure to make time for the assignment. And then I realized that I could choose to say "no"; I could choose not to do the assignment. I wasn't saying "no" out of fear. I wasn't saying "no" because I didn't think I could do it. I was saying "no" because spending time working on that sort of art wasn't the right choice for me.

watercolor, botanical watercolor, coleus, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The point of MATS (Make Art that Sells) Assignment Bootcamp is to create a body of work. It helps artists think about the different art markets and create pieces with specific assignments in mind, assignments that are the type of work clients are looking to buy. It's been a great experience and I've enjoyed the prompts and themes and getting to see all the work of the other students (there's some amazing creative work for this month's assignment).

The thing is, I don't want to be hired to paint hairstyles. My art isn't about hair or people. My art is about plants and flowers and the natural world. An Ellis Island Hairstyles mug would look out of place in my portfolio. Having just spent time re-visiting my website and revising my portfolio I'm especially sensitive to this.

It's important to remember that we have the power to say "no". We have the power to make the choice that is best for us. Whatever that choice is. Sometimes saying "no" to something is the right choice. Sometimes saying "no" to something is the wrong choice. If we say "no" to an opportunity out of fear, then that choice might not be the right choice. Saying "yes" is powerful, too. Saying "yes" to something that stretches our creativity is a good thing even if we're not entirely successful at it. If we never stretch and take risks, we never grow.

Something else to remember is that when we say "no" to something, it often means we're saying "yes" to something else. I usually work on my art on the weekends as well as during the week. This past weekend I decided not to. On Saturday Matthias and I took the day off (he usually works on the weekends for his business, too). We spent the day celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary and the 1st anniversary of his surgery. We visited beautiful gardens and ate good food. We said "yes" to life and love and beauty and joy.

botanical gardens, Rotary Botanical Gardens, Janesville Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

On Sunday instead of spending the day in my studio, I spent the day in my garden. I weeded and trimmed and planted and harvested. I pulled the rest of my radishes and pickled them.

harvest, garden, pickling, pickled radishes, garlic scapes, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I harvested some of the cilantro to make room for my cucumbers to grow. I froze some of it. Made a bouquet from some of it. And ate some of it in the burritos we made for dinner.

harvest, gardening, cilantro, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

It felt wonderful to be working in the garden and to be enjoying (and preserving) the fruits of my labor. Between the weather, my job at the library and my art business, I haven't been spending much time in the garden. I have to remind myself that these summer days are finite. I need to enjoy them while they're here.

garden, gardening, container gardens, raised beds, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Saying "yes" to my garden was the right choice for my soul. And it felt good to know that my petunia painting was waiting for me in my studio and that I'd be able to return to working on it come Monday.

watercolor, botanical watercolor, petunias, painting, painting process, WIP, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Saying "yes" to sketching a petunia flower the other day helped me to get to this place. The painting is still in process, but it's getting there. I could have chosen something less challenging, but I'm glad I stretched.

We're constantly confronted by choices. How to spend our time. Where to devote our focus. Which direction to follow. I hope that the next choice you make is one that resonates with your soul, whether you're saying "yes" or "no" or both.


  1. I took the MATS a few years ago but none of it resonated with me. When we were doing plants and flowers I rather enjoyed it but once the other assignments came through I found I was not interested in that type of thing at all. I did very much enjoy Rachael Taylor's pattern making classes though.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Roberta. We're all different and not everything will resonate with us as artists. I think it's an important lesson to learn. We need to follow our hearts and not get caught up in what is popular. Great to hear that Rachel Taylor's pattern classes were a good fit for you. I have heard good things about them!

      Hope you're having a lovely week!

  2. I love your petunia paintings Anne! I like your observation that when we say "no" to something we are often saying "yes" to something else. Saying yes to gardening, harvesting and walking around in sunshine feeds your soul and gives you balance when you return to work. Good for you!

  3. Thank You, Anne for the reminder. I can get wrapped up in Summer Chores!! And forget to enjoy summer!

  4. I love to remember Anne Lamott's wisdom.. ""No" is a complete sentence". xo

  5. I am glad that you have spent time saying no to things that don't resonate with you and yes to things that do! I still think that you would be great at painting Ellis Island hairstyles though! Belated anniversary wishes! Visiting beautiful gardens and eating great food sounds like a good way to celebrate. Your petunia flowers painting is so life like. You have really captured the deep velvety purple of the petals. A wonderful observation brought to life! :)

    1. Thank you, Simone!

      I hope you are able to say yes to things that resonate with you and no to those things that don't!


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