Katelyn Holub

blogging about music, art, and creativity

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What Does the Artist See?

When I was little, my family had a Norman Rockwell wall clock of “The Doctor and the Doll” that I used to spend hours staring at. I loved Rockwell’s crisp, realist style and his spot-on depictions of facial expressions—his art was relatable to me. I distinctly remember disliking Claude Monet’s art when I was little because I thought he did not do a good job painting the world realistically. I wondered if he realized life wasn’t as blurry as he portrayed it. It wasn’t until I got older that I understood that art wasn’t about just holding a mirror up to life. Art was a way of seeing the world and sharing that vision with others.

*Photo Credit: Jeramey Jannene, Creative Commons

*Photo Credit: Jeramey Jannene, Creative Commons

Ways of Seeing

Some artists look at a sunset and want to capture its expanse and grandeur in their work. Other artists want to emphasize the sunset’s brilliant colors, its unique formation of clouds, or the glowing, fleeting atmosphere it creates.

Art reflects an artist’s vision, and that vision is based on what a person knows or believes. It is also based on what a person chooses to look at.

“It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it.” –John Berger, from “Ways of Seeing”

Finding Inspiration in Our Surroundings

Oftentimes I’ve found I have turned off my senses and failed to give much notice to my surroundings. Just this summer I discovered the most beautiful purple peonies blooming in my backyard. It turns out they have been there for several years, but I failed to notice them before because they only bloom for about a week. How does life get so busy that I don’t look out my back window for a week? Good question.

Finding inspiration is as much about opening our eyes as it is about being present in our surroundings. To be artists, we must take in our surroundings. This might involve changing our perspective from time to time, and it should definitely involve us noticing how we interpret what we see—and understanding why. Once something stands out to us and we know why, we can find inspiration for creative ways to highlight that point to others.

“I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces upon me.” -Henri Matisse

Still Life with Apples on a Pink Tablecloth by Henri Matisse, *Photo Credit: Cliff, Creative Commons

Still Life with Apples on a Pink Tablecloth by Henri Matisse, *Photo Credit: Cliff, Creative Commons

How Ways of Seeing Are Affected by Our Times

In this technological age, websites like Pinterest change the way we see things. People now make and share inspiration boards with each other online rather than just clip images, letters, and drawings to a bulletin board in their bedroom. While it can be useful to self-curate images and texts to match and express our own vision on a “bulletin board,” (whether real or virtual), websites that collect data on our interests and feed us only more things like it can negatively affect the way we see things.

1. Seeing only similar or related things can isolate us and prevent us from growing, developing, and challenging our beliefs and tastes.

2. Sharing our personal interests and vision can subject us to more manipulative advertisements that use our own preferences to try to speak our language and get us to buy their products.  

An Artist’s Vision

Ultimately, as artists, we should make it a practice to always be mindful of our surroundings, for we never know when inspiration will strike. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss any more purple peonies.


What do you think? Has technology changed the way you see things? Does it tend to make people aware of more perspectives or does it tend to encourage like-minded thinking?


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My Miracle Mountain

It’s been a bit of an overwhelming week for me. In the midst of it all I’ve been reminded of what really matters in life. The One who gives meaning to us all and loves us more than we’ll ever know. My thoughts this week have led me to remember something that happened to me a few years ago that has had a profound impact on my life. Something that continues to inspire my creative soul, and I hope it will yours.

*Photo Credit: Deidre Woollard, Creative Commons

*Photo Credit: Deidre Woollard, Creative Commons

I experienced a miracle on a mountain.  Two women—Opal and Adelaide, left an indelible mark on my soul of what it means to love.  Their kindness and hospitality will never be forgotten, and I hope someday to show that same love and kindness to someone else.

It all began on a hot, humid day in western North Carolina, near the Smoky Mountains.  I was driving up a rural, winding country road trying to find the location of a friend’s wedding that would take place the following day at a stable.  After inputting my destination into my GPS, I followed a series of turns that led me up a mountain, passing a few homes nestled on the side of the wooded mountain.  I had been driving up the mountain for about five minutes at the respectable rate of 25 mph in order to handle the sharp curves when all of a sudden my car broke down and steam came pouring from the hood.

Luckily, I was on a road that had a shoulder I could pull off onto—not!  I had stopped right around a sharp curve with no way to get over or to warn people who might come up around the curve that I was stopped.  Oh well, I thought.  I hadn’t seen any traffic on the road so far, so I figured my chances were pretty good that nobody would be coming around the bend anytime soon, except maybe one of the few residents who lived on this mountain.

Panic started setting in a few minutes later when I realized that I had no idea where I was in order to call for help to come.  It turned out not to be a problem because my cell phone had no reception on the mountain.  Yep.  I was stranded, lost, and had no way of calling for help.  I felt like I was on an episode of 24, except I didn’t feel as cool as Jack Bauer.

After a few moments of panicking, an SUV with an old “John 3:16” bumper sticker rounded the bend behind me and a woman named Opal, asked if I needed help.  It turned out that she lived farther on up the mountain road but knew a neighbor who lived a few yards from where I was.  She took me to the neighbor’s house where an extremely hospitable and kind grandmotherly woman named Adelaide let me come in and use her phone to call for a tow truck.

It took several hours that afternoon to finally get a tow truck, but in those hours I witnessed a generous love poured out on me, a complete stranger, by two women who flipped through three phonebooks and made several calls for me trying to find help.   I can still hear Opal’s voice repeating over the phone, “We got a young lady who’s car broke down over here at Adelaide W——‘s house.  Do you think you could send a wrecker out today?”  I’m sure Opal had plans for her afternoon, but she put them all aside to help me.  Unselfishly.

Adelaide was in the process of making an apple pie when I showed up at her doorstep, but that didn’t matter to her. She welcomed me into her home that afternoon and told me to make myself comfortable on her couch. Waiting for the tow truck, we all talked about our families as if we knew each other well—we actually found out we had an Indiana connection.

*Photo Credit: David Leggett, Creative Commons

*Photo Credit: David Leggett, Creative Commons

During this time, I couldn’t help but notice how my feelings of panic and fear melted in the warmth of two strangers’ love.  Both women repeated how they wished they could help me as we sat waiting for the tow truck to arrive.  They didn’t understand how much they had helped me.  Not only did they help me out of my difficult situation, but they helped me realize what it means to share loving-kindness, and to extend extravagant hospitality.

All that they did for a complete stranger.  And I am forever grateful.


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What Sting Taught Me About Creativity

This past weekend I enjoyed watching Sting perform songs from his latest album and first musical “The Last Ship” on PBS.  The musical, which premieres June 10, 2014, in Chicago, is about the demise of the shipbuilding business in Sting’s hometown of Newcastle, England, when he was growing up.

*Photo Credit: Ian Wood, Creative Commons

*Photo Credit: Ian Wood, Creative Commons

I’ve always been a fan of Sting, amazed at the variety of musical worlds he’s navigated.  Inspired by Sting’s latest journey into the Broadway musical genre, I’ve recognized a couple truths all creatives can apply to their crafts.

  • Harness the Power in the Familiar and Ordinary.

Sting’s musical is about everyday life in a small shipbuilding village, showcasing people’s struggles and triumphs in daily living.  The song “Sky Hooks and Tartan Paint” is about a young man’s first day at work in the shipyards, and some of the light hazing that his crew members put him through.

It’s amazing how simple, ordinary aspects of life—like a first day at work—can be powerful tools for a writer.  By exposing the everyday feelings of a character, a writer creates a kind of transparency that forges an authentic connection with people.  We can all relate to the characters and live in the music.

Inspiration is all around us, in the people we interact with, in the routine rhythms and upsets of life.  We creatives would be wise to harness the power in embodying the fullness of life through our works.

  • Seek Out New Experiences & Creative Challenges.

Although Sting is a 16-time Grammy award-winning artist, he risked his reputation in deciding to write a musical.  He admitted that writing a musical is a much more “precise and exacting medium” than he expected it would be, and that “every line, every word is scrutinized” in a way he never imagined.  But despite the challenges involved, Sting pressed on and fought to tell his story.

*Photo Credits: Wilson Loo, Creative Commons

*Photo Credits: Wilson Loo, Creative Commons

All artists can take a cue from Sting in putting aside fears of failure and seek out new challenges, for it is when we get outside our comfort-zone and actually risk ourselves that our creativity is fueled and we grow the most.  What if our efforts wind up being a big flop?  Then we can still celebrate our efforts to learn and try new things.

Sting’s new musical “The Last Ship” is about human relationships and the triumphs of a struggling shipbuilding community.  It captures everyday life and displays its blemishes and glory.  It unites people with its transparency of life.  And those are things all artists can learn from.

What do artists like Sting teach you about creativity? 

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Living a Secretly Incredible Life

Alright.  Time for a general life post.  I just finished reading an awesome book called “Love Does” by Bob Goff.  It was such a fun, inspiring experience, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to have more purpose in life.

Bob motivates us to live a secretly incredible life full of whimsy that reflects God’s love and creative presence to the world.  We aren’t supposed to be superheroes with capes, just everyday, unassuming people doing great things that only God needs to know about.

The book is structured with several short chapters giving glimpses into different episodes in the author’s life.  Through each of his life experiences, some hilarious and others more serious, Bob reflects on how his Christian faith developed in response.

Reading “Love Does” has caused me to think about my own life and how I’ve lived it so far.  It’s challenged me to turn my intellectual faith into something more that I live out.  Something that really drives my actions.  I want to live with the joy, love, and creativity that God is.

“In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about [life] or keep planning for it.  Simply put: love does.”

I want to look at the world from the perspective of abundance, not scarcity.  I want to cast aside all fear and just live doing what love does.