A Love Like Johnny & June

Rings of fire burning with you, I wanna walk the line, talk the line, until the end of time. I wanna love, love you that much.

Inspiration hit hard this past weekend. If I wasn’t creating art, I was thinking about it!

I found inspiration in the form of love. A bond between two people so strong it overcomes all obstacles.

Johnny & June are the perfect love story. He absolutely loved and adored her. This drawing of a letter he sent her on her birthday represents that in the most beautiful way.

These Moments

This is a watercolor painting of my daughter in a moment we shared one week into parenthood. The illumination is a perfect representation of the new parent high I was running on. And, of course includes that baby smell. 😉 I swear it’s like catnip for women!

How could I not be inspired by her beauty? As I slowly layered the colors I could feel incredible warmth coming from it. I knew I had accomplished exactly what I intended.

In these moments of creative clarity adrenaline fuels me. When I look at this painting I can imagine that memory perfectly. I feel her in my arms and can remember how the golden sun made its way across us.

That moment is perfection. Creating artwork that draws me in and keeps me intrigued is what makes it important for me. I love these moments. They are priceless.

Loving An Addict

The hardest and most selfless thing I’ve ever done in my life is loving an addict. I actually love many. I am not a person to claim the role of a victim and the last thing I want is for anyone to feel sorry for me. I keep a positive outlook on life, despite what I’ve been through.

Talking about addiction is not easy, in doing so I hope it will help others in healing and maybe better understand an addict in their own life. Confronting an addict is heart wrenching and will test you in every way imaginable. I’ve been laughed at straight in my face and called a liar. My feelings have been completely disregarded, I’ve been bullied, and torn apart emotionally. I drove myself crazy with worry and finding proof of lies to make a point. In reality I never needed to. I realized if I needed to prove a liar more than once I was the fool. Addiction is all-consuming in its need for attention, by the addict and by the people who love them. I’ve learned what enabling is and how incredibly hard it is to distinguish between it and love. In loving addicts I have learned so much about the kind of person I am but more importantly the kind of person I want to become.

The most giving hearts is the ones who addicts like to surround themselves with. The most vulnerable people are the path of least resistance. They want you to enable them. It’s validating and gives them no reason to stop the destructive behavior. There is so much pain within them that it spreads, it seeps out and into everything they touch.

For loved ones it’s the pain of deceit, the pain of having them take advantage of you, and the pain of feeling like you don’t matter is what hurts the most. There is pain in knowing their selfishness is most important. What has been hardest for me is the realization that I’ve had to push them away. In showing the effects of their actions I needed to be harsh. A stark reflection of how they affected my life. Whether they want to see it or not it hurts. In every single way it hurts to witness the pain. It hurts being disliked and even hated for this when all you wish is for them to heal. I did not let the pain of this take hold on me. I do have times of sorrow, as does everyone but, it does not define me. No matter how hard it is to grasp for air sometimes I don’t let pain caused by others weigh too heavy on my soul.

In confrontation an addict will fight it. They will back you into every corner and make you feel as bad as they do. The pain inside they are trying to numb will exponentially grow in the realizations of hurting loved ones. Love can fight back even harder. Help them in every way you can without being taken advantage of. Help them gain the tools to cope but stay true to your words. If you give an ultimatum stick to it. Buttons get pushed and limits tested but keep standing strong and know that addicts can recover and trust restored. We are all human. We all make mistakes. We live, learn, and grow to become better if we want to.

Forgiveness is key. Forgive them. Forgive yourself. Forgive and grow. I do my best to not be pushed around by their demons, or my own, and learn from my own mistakes and frustrations.

Strength comes in knowing that you could save their life. Holding them accountable may nudge them out of the state of denial they put themselves in. It will quite literally feel like going into battle. They will not want to stop. It will hurt them physically and mentally to do so. Everything in them will tell them no. The high they chase is in control and will not want to be diminished. The worst part about addiction is that the body loves responding to pleasurable things and loves dopamine. As the addict gets deeper into addiction the levels of dopamine they need to feel euphoria increases. The urge will always be there to push for more. The need to survive can even come second to the need they feel in fulfilling the addiction. I’m not trying to claim that I fully understand the inner struggle of an addict. This is just my thoughts from what I’ve seen. But, I do know what it feels like to watch someone you love, even more than yourself, struggle with it. It takes a lifetime to conquer addiction.

I’ve dealt with other people’s addiction my entire life. It took my childhood. It forced me to overcome. It taught me to push myself in the need to thrive as an individual, as a leader, and as a caring human being. It showed me what to avoid and what to question.

The key to truly loving someone is honesty. So many people fail in this. Honesty is the way of happiness. To do this I had to look inward. What was I doing in response to the addict that contributed in perpetuating the behavior? I became brutally honest with myself about my actions. When you’re in a relationship with an addict, your behaviors become just as important as theirs in addiction and in recovery. I changed my habits. I had to change the way I live and the person that I am to love an addict. If you trust someone nothing stands in the way of that relationship. It leads to feeling good about yourself and the only way to truly live your best life.

In having this knowledge and understanding I believe that loving an addict is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There is a fine line between being there for someone and knowing when to say that’s enough. In this there are many times I have failed. Many times I have had to pick myself back up and literally say out loud, “yes, it is worth it.” Loving someone isn’t always butterflies and rainbows. It’s a war zone, and you have to treat it as such. You have to protect what is worth fighting for and stand your ground.

In loving an addict you have to understand their limits and see if they’re willing to do the right things to save themself. You have to continue being selfless. I will spend my entire life trying to fully understand this. To recover from the selfishness of addiction, it takes selfishness of an opposite kind to overcome it. Loving an addict and being okay with this fact without resentment takes a special kind of love. In the pain of addiction, the beauty of recovery is so rare. Witnessing an addict who recovers and stays true to themself is inspiring. The transformation of a person learning to love who they are every day is beautiful. It takes extreme inner strength and perseverance.

So much of the person I am is because of addiction. My outlook on life is molded by my decision to not let an addict take me down that dark path. My need to create something positive in my life is from seeing all the negative self destruction of people I love. The way I have learned to love is because of addiction. Not a day passes that I do not feel its effects. I will always have hope in human beings to overcome. In these realizations the meaning of what it takes to love has changed for me. Loving someone isn’t just saying I love you over and over. It’s in every action you take. Its need is deeper and more intentional than I ever thought. After losing trust in someone they have to give back to you 10 fold before expecting you to give anymore of yourself to them. To regain that level of love within a relationship is rare but, achievable.

As a mother, I worry in a very real way, if my children or grandchildren will struggle with it. Addiction is due 50 percent to genetic predisposition and 50 percent to poor coping skills. I can’t help the genetic aspect of this. It is an major issue on both sides of my children’s genetic pool but, I can prepare them in understanding the dangers. I hope I can help in recognizing the signs if it becomes an issue they are faced with. I have faith I have learned enough and can provide them with the right tools to avoid it. It is a very real thought I have in raising them. My childhood and most of adulthood was impacted with the real effects addiction can have on a life. I will do everything in my power to not let my children live with the negative effects of this disease. Strength in honesty and truly connecting with one another.

Bentonville O.G. ;)

Bentonville is a tiny little spot of heaven in the middle of nowhere. Undiscovered in its charm and small town uniqueness, a place I have always been honored to call home. In the last decade or so Bentonville has drastically changed! Northwest Arkansas’s metropolitan area is one of the fasted growing economies in the U.S. and it doesn’t show any signs of stopping!!!

It comes as no surprise to me that other people have noticed and love our beautiful little town. Located in such a lovely part of our country it’s so appealing in rich history and southern charm, what’s there not to love?! We’re so blessed with the benefits provided to our community by the many corporate headquarters located here. They help keep our country’s commerce running and fuel innovation throughout different industries for the future of the world! In turn making our community even more diverse and expansive as we move forward.

I recently had a friend, I’ve known most of my life, tell me she is coming to visit and wants to know what to do when they come! I was so happy to tell her about everything there’s to do here now! With all the growth and excitement I feel like sometimes I can’t even keep up with what all is happening! I got to the end of the conversation and realized I sounded like a travel agent for Northwest Arkansas! I get excited about sharing!!!

Most people leave their hometown wanting to seek bigger and better things. I feel like the bigger and better things have coming to me! I went to art school and then the art came here! How much luckier can I get?!

From the beautiful recently developed walking and biking trails that wind from Bella Vista all the way to Fayetteville to local breweries there is so much to experience in Northwest Arkansas! Pinnacle Hills, in Rogers, Ar has a beautiful sprawling outdoor mall that can keep you shopping until your hearts content…or your pockets empty! 😉 Bentonville’s 8th St. Market and the Art District is constantly evolving with innovative new businesses enriching our community with fine art, amazing food, and custom shops. Bentonville isn’t the only amazing little town here either! All of Northwest Arkansas is expanding at an astounding rate! Fayetteville Ar. is one of the top 5 best places in America to live, according to U.S. News & World Report in its annual “Best Places to Live” report. Every industry here is seeing a massive boom, adding to our ever growing Arkansas based businesses and communities!

What does that mean to the O.G.’s?! When I say O.G., being that I’m only 31 I can only go back so far, I know there are much more legit O.G’s! If any want to chime in please feel free to add a comment! I’d love to hear your stories! Locals have loved Bentonville before it started to evolve and become “cool”. We’ve watched how beautifully our sleepy little town has become a hub of new culture and interest from people around the world.

Growing up on Main St. and having relatives living all around downtown my entire life I have countless memories that make the Bentonville Square my favorite place! As a kid I remember spending time around the fountian downtown where only a few lawn chairs and a couple good ol’ boys playing folk music on Saturday nights filled the square. The farmers market was only about 10 booths and they only sold vegetables! When the coolest thing to do was walk around the Wal-Mart on Walton Blvd. and see ALL your friends doing the same!

Spending afternoons with my siblings at Bentonville Public Library, which at the time was located in the old Massey Hotel that is now Phat Tires Bike Shop, was my favorite space to pass time. The same place that sparked my love for art. Seeing a 3D model of Crystal Bridges with stars in my eyes. When I was just 11 years old, Crystal Bridges was just a concept living in the lobby of the library. I would see it every week and daydream about what it would be like. How it would open up my eyes to the world of art! I never imagined that I would get to experience it with my children! Literally puts the biggest a smile on my face! My love for Bentonville and the pride I have living here is grandiose! I absolutely love it and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

But, with this excitement and huge growth I also wonder how it will change our identity. There are locals opposed to the growth. They don’t like all the “newness” and change. I do not see change as a bad thing, uncomfortable at times-yes but, always an opportunity to become better in a new direction! That being said I wonder if we will lose our small town charm along the way? What will we become when there are 100’s of thousands of people living here….or even millions?! Will we get that big?! What will Bentonville look like? Will we lose our charm we are so dearly loved for?

All questions I am anxious to see play out. One thing’s for sure change is here and I am one to embrace it! ❤

*all photos are taken and copyrighted by Courtney Kitterman

The Nature of Art

In the past year I’ve had extreme mixed reactions from others about art that I have created and shared. As this does cause a rise in me I enjoy the back and forth. I have received negativity to a specific subject matter and even been asked to destroy and take down art that I have shared. In this kind of response, so strongly against what I have created, I find myself wanting to share it more. I don’t know if it’s because I can’t stand someone telling me what to do with MY art or simply that I arise such strong emotion within them. Creating art that makes someone so repulsed by it they wish to never see it again.

I find it incredibly disrespectful and quite bold to demand an artist to not show or even destroy something they have created. I realize that in sharing it I take on that risk.

Is this not what we want as artists? You share it despite if others like it. Inevitably, even the most mundane and boring art will have critics. Someone tearing it apart just to show how pointless it is. But, in that act of hatred for a simple piece of art the artist still made someone feel something. Despite what emotion they feel it is so significant. How powerful of an idea it is that such great emotion can arise by simply viewing a piece of artwork.

I honestly never thought anyone would find my art offensive. When I share it I never think oh, I’m really going to piss people off with this one. I realize it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. Things look different from opposing perspectives.

Not everyone will see things the way I do. A few years ago, back to college days actually..so quite a few years ago, this thought became almost an ephifany to me. I was having a conversation with family about a piece of artwork I had finished. She loved the piece and told me that when she views something I have created she is just in awe. She said “I can tell that you view the world differently and see things in a way that I never could. Your perspective is beautiful and I’m glad that you share it”. It made me feel as though I truly do have a gift.

This conversation caused me to look back even futher into a discussion I had with a teacher in grade school. The teacher was confused and a bit taken back by my interpretation and rendering of a project in art class. She pulled me aside and said that my art didn’t match hers or anyone else in the class. It didn’t look the way she thought it should and asked me to do it again. In a the way she intended the project to be completed. I hadn’t done this out of rebellion. I never thought I was doing it wrong. I just saw things differently. I did things my own way even back in grade school without knowing. Of all the people, an art teacher should not look down on such an act but, cherish and nurture it. something I wish she would have done. It would have progressed my love of art much sooner. Anyway, enough rambling about grade school….

I now view my world and the way I interpret it as a gift. A gift I proudly share. A gift I love about myself. There is no greater joy than when people love my art. I love being able to make others so happy they are overcome with emotion and tears well up in their eyes. I also love when I evoke a different emotion. I find it interesting and it makes me see my art with new eyes. It creates a conversation about what causes this opposing emotion to come forth. I find nothing wrong with people hating my artwork. I also do not find this as a reason to destroy or feel bad about it. I’ve never been one to back down, especially when it comes to my art.

Art is my religion. My saving grace. It created drive and purpose in my life. It protects and loves me in a way that nothing else can. It’s in my bones and within my heart. It saved me. It pours out my finger tips and from a place within I can’t explain. It heals and is part of my soul. I will never apologize for what I have created and I will not shy away from any negativity that comes from it. Bring on the critics. Help me better understand different perspectives. I love learning more about others and their way of thinking. Plus, I strongly believe getting more people conversing about art is definitely a good thing! 😉

A Life Lesson Still Being Learned

My sensitive and introverted soul falls into a trap at times. My momma always told me, from a young age, that I am too tenderhearted.

I come across as quiet, easy going, caring, or too “soft.” Seemingly easy targets for those who feel empowered by belittling others. Relishing in the fact that their words can have power over me.

And because I internalize negativity more often than not, those demeaning comments can sink in deeply. If not careful, I can easily turn someone’s degrading remarks into manifested truths.

In the past, my intuition would tell me not to trust the words I heard, but I allowed these remarks to affect my self worth anyway. My soul would ache with shame and insecurity. Without consciously realizing, I’d eventually accept the words I heard as true. Making me feel unworthy of being happy. And what you accept as true, you live out.

After so many experiences of being put down and letting it fill my heart, I realized that this was unacceptable. My self-esteem is worth fighting for. I have the power to choose the words in which I live in. I will not allow it to change my soft heart or the way I show my love. I will still be one that cares too deeply and loves with all I have. Some people will say anything to feel less insecure about themselves. Always try your best to take something positive from it. Let it help you grow.

You know how damaging those words are if you’ve ever fallen prey to those who belittle and have allowed their harsh words to penetrate the vulnerable parts of your mind and heart. The next time you’re on the receiving end just know people project their insecurites onto you. It is not a reflection of who you are. And remember when you throw out harsh words it should be a moment of an inward contemplation. Why are you lashing out?? Are the hurtful things you say going to make you or them feel any better?

Besides, ain’t no body got time for negativity! 😉 onward and upward is the way I will always go.

ROOTS

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I am very much someone who snaps as many photos as the device I am using allows, sometimes to the point that it begs me to STOP! My cameras SD card cannot process the images fast enough or the app on my phone just completely shuts down….at which point I curse the ‘faulty’ equipment and decide I need a faster, more capable device that can keep up!!……Of course, I realize I just need to chill…(something I tell myself way too often).

I was a freshman at the University of Arkansas when my interest in photography sparked. I started with nature photography. Being here in the south, specially in the natural state, it’s quite easy to understand why I was most drawn to it! This was before cell phones had state-of-the-art cameras and digital photography was not something I was able to afford. I wanted to take photographs to stop time, preserve a moment, an emotional connection that I could create within an image. Studying classical art as my major, photography allowed me to be creative and expressive in a more direct way.

I had a class in black and white film photography that required me to buy a 35mm film camera. I needed to understand the basics, be at the heart of where photography originated. I wanted to develop the film and understand every aspect of it. Every step must be executed perfectly or you ruin it…and I did many, many times. I learned to love the process and how important the details are in creating a beautiful photograph. It’s such a beautiful art form from start to finish.

Landscapes, architecture, and things that would not change in the blink of an eye were my initial interests. I focused on stillness, lighting conditions, and composition. I was not confident enough to photograph people. I was either too shy or too worried that they wouldn’t like it.  I have since gained the confidence to photograph people and learned that the photos I am most drawn are when the subject is most natural and candid. Capturing real moments and expressions in people’s lives, that is what I really love.

Now, nearly every person has access to a device that can immediately create gorgeous images and print them without a thought to how it works. Even with my love for film photography I take full advantage of this technology. I love that I can take as many photos of my children as I want and capture them perfectly, instantly sharing it! I don’t have to wait to finish a roll of film, go to the dark room, and spend hours developing the photos to see if what I captured was beautiful or not.

That being said, I know I would not be as good if I hadn’t started on that old 35mm. I do appreciate the history of photography and the process a great deal but, I also really REALLY love what it has become! I am a self-proclaimed photo hoarder! I always have a camera on me ready to snap a photo at any second. I take photos every day. I document most of my life. I love photographing my children. I love watching them grow. I love sharing. I love sunsets…sunrise…street photography. I love photographing beautiful food….mainly just to show the people who take blurry washed-out photos of their over-cooked dinner every night what a real photo of beautifully cooked food looks like! Lol! I love constantly becoming a better photographer and growing as an artist.

What got me thinking and made me want to share the why behind my love for photography is a photo contest I recently entered. All the photos must be taken on a mobile device and there are 3 categories. This contest comes with the chance to win a newer, more ‘capable’ phone, further continuing my obsession!! (as she says with an evil grin).

For me, having my camera out capturing what I find beautiful enhances my experience. It doesn’t take away from my ‘moments’ or distracts me from enjoying it. I love being able to share the beauty I see.  I can’t imagine it not being part of my everyday life. Being creative grounds me and lets me express myself.

As I began to look through all the photos I have stored on my phone I realized I have over 10,000 images…remembering that I’ve only had this phone for about a year, I panicked a little and though “Never-mind, maybe I don’t really want a new phone after all!”

Luckily, I have a folder of only the best photos coming to a grand total of 2307 images. A number that is a bit easier to manage scanning through than a staggering 10,000. I decided to delete the rest! I should only keep the best ones anyway, right!? Why keep the others…but, I must say it was hard!! When you have endless storage and countless memories it’s real damn hard! But, if I’m not even willing to go through them it’s a sign I never will and don’t need them. Remembering that editing down is good and you don’t have to keep every image. A lesson I am constantly reminding myself. In a world of excess I want to only keep the best – the rest can go! As for the massive amount of photos stored on my computer……one mountain at a time!!! 😉

I love how photography has grown by leaps and bounds and I can’t wait to see where it goes next! I can’t wait to discover new ways of expressing myself and sharing the beauty of my southern world with others!