Those are some mighty strong shoulders...

Barb Toland Creative Sparks

Anytime I'm in Paris I feel like my heart is leaping out of my chest. I've cried many times while there, sometimes out of pure joy & other times out of massive overwhelm.

There have even been moments when I've felt a sense of pure panic while taking in the what's around me — as if at some level I don't think I deserve to experience such immense beauty!

You see, the aesthetics of my surroundings have always been extremely important to me. I actually get somewhat maudlin & depressed if I have to spend any amount of time somewhere that looks uncared for & has no sense of style. I can't help it, it's just the way I'm wired  perhaps it's that darn artist's eye.

Nevertheless, while I was growing up I never dreamed that there was actually a whole culture where people were extremely devoted to the loveliness of things like I was.

When I laid eyes on Paris for the first time, I knew that this innate need for beautiful design & aesthetics wasn't just something I alone felt. It actually existed in the hearts & minds of the French, and I've been so very smitten ever since.

But first, let's talk about the fact that sometimes we go to a dark place in our heads. Pure & simple, we get ourselves into a funk.

In my case, I tend to start thinking about all of the art I haven't created, all of the mediums I haven't explored, how much there is still to learn. So much to say! So much to do!

Then I tend to overthink things, back my mind into a corner, then my head explodes, and I proceed to crash & burn into a state of "woe is me" for a while.

And I don't just do this in my creative world, it seeps into many other areas of my life as well.

You too? So glad I'm not alone!

It's during these times that I make myself go back in my mind to a memory from the past that in some way transformed my heart & soul.

This a photo of something I treasure that lives in my studio, and reminds me of a day from my past that helps me when I need a bit of a lift...

It’s a postcard. But not just ANY postcard.

When I returned to Paris in 2014 I absolutely had to go to Sennelier – an incredibly old & beautiful art shop along the Seine. And yes, much to my wallet's surprise, it was stuffed full of all kinds of creative goodies.

Some people want souvenirs to take home, but I wanted art supplies lol. I felt like a kid in a candy store — all hands, no filters :)

This postcard shows a picture of the shop from the turn of the 20th century. It sits on a shelf in my studio on a miniature wooden easel that I bought while shopping there.

But the real thrill that day was getting to meet & chat art with the most amazing gentleman. His name is Dominique Sennelier, and he's the 3rd generation owner of the Sennelier business. Yes he’s French, but luckily for me he speaks amazing English – so I was able to engage in a fun conversation with him that day.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance encounter, and to this day it helps me to remember who I am, and tends to help me out of a funk.

Here's a photo of us discussing important & fanciful art matters...

As a little backstory, Dominique's great-grandfather, Gustav Sennelier, opened the shop in 1887, and the rest was history. The likes of  famous artists such as Cézanne, Gaugin, Picasso, Monet, Modigliani, Kandinsky & Dali have passed through the door of this very shop.

Now to an artist, that's holy ground!

And to top it all off, Monsieur Sennelier graciously signed the back of the postcard –

“To Barb
We share the love of art.
Souvenir de Paris
6 November 2014
Dominique Sennelier”

 Every single one of these creative geniuses have in some way inspired my work  — and I actually got to stand where they might have stood. It reminds me daily to remember that there have been many creative giants who have lived & worked before my time, and on whose strong, sturdy shoulders I am now standing.

It humbled me to feel their broad, strong shoulders under my feet that day.

This was one of those special moments in time that when I think back on it, helps me to feel more courageous. And I like to think that by sharing what's in my mind & heart thru my art, that I'm providing strong & sturdy shoulders for others to lift themselves up on.

I know you've had these kind of surreal moments too. Something happens that speaks directly to your heart & soul, and when you look back on the memory, it kind of helps you out of your funk.

Take a few minutes to scan your past for those rare moments when time stood still, and you felt more possibility & hope than you do right this second.

Then allow those precious memories to give you the jumpstart you just might need to get you out of your head full of negative thoughts, and back into the light of day.

And try to remember that you are in many ways creating strong & sturdy shoulders for others to lift themselves up on. And so even in the funkiest of funks, you have a reason for being ... or as the French would say, a "raison d'être".

Now it's your turn. Scroll down & share your story in the comments — perhaps even upload a picture that captures that special memory for you. I'd love to celebrate some of those awesome moments with you!

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