December Night, Art Highlight

I am excited to introduce you to my second new design of the year. “December Night” was painted in early 2020. The poem was written in December of the same year.

I felt the two belonged together, though I didn’t plan for it when the small original was painted. I chose the first two stanzas of the original poem fit best with the painting.

I have made it available on 72 different products via my Redbubble Shop.

All profits from my art are used to fund future publications and the blog. Thank you all for your continued interest in my writing and art.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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Are You Scared of Creativity?

All humans have the spark of creativity. Some of us revel in it, and some of us hold it at arms’ length. Some of us even try to squelch it in our fists as if it was a bug we could squash, or a flame we could douse.

Have you ever done that?

I have.

Why do we do it?

Because creativity is not safe, and it scares us.

Why does creativity sometimes scare us? A few reasons may be fear of rejection, fear of inferiority, or fear of breaking rules.

When you share your creativity, there is always a risk that whoever you share it with, won’t get it or be able to appreciate it. It’s for each individual to decide if that risk is worth it.

We have a choice weather we hide our creativity from others. But that’s like placing a lit candle under a bucket. We should share creativity, at least with those who love us.

It is also a sacred thing. Creativity demands our energy. Inevitably, the creator will endow the project with a part of his or her self. It’s painful seeing our work rejected, as it’s painful being overlooked, or rejected as people. But I believe the risk is worth it.

Do you?

It’s also possible we are just not as gifted in our chosen art form as we wish to be. Other’s might outshine us. We may fail in front of the world.

I urge each of us not to let this fear stop us from practicing our creativity. Every great creative was once a beginner. Everyone will find someone more talented.

You know what? That’s okay.

Whether you gain great acclaim in your art, or not, your creativity has merit. Often, it’s the doing that blesses and not always the end product. We can bless others as they watch our progress, no matter how slow that progress may be. It can light the spark under their own creativity. Don’t stop doing what gives you wing just because you’re not the best at it.

Sometimes our creative takes us to places that push boundaries. We may have heard, “no you can’t do that, it’s not allowed.” Or been told that something makes us incapable of practicing this creativity. Be it cultural rules, religious rules, or something else, this can and is devastating. Dare we break those rules? Will we risk throwing the definition of norms out the window?

This is a personal choice. Are there moral reasons rules are there? Are these moral rules just? Honestly, human beings aren’t always fair with the rules we place on ourselves and others. It’s necessary to question rules and why they are in place, especially when they limit human creativity.

As we question these rules, and weigh the need to uphold, or brake them, I hope bravery, truth, and beauty prevail.

What will you do this week to practice creativity? Tell me about it!

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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Mary’s Redbubble Shop

He Keeps Me, Art Highlight

This week I released a new design at my Redbubble Shop.

He Keeps Me Brave Products

He Keeps Me is a blending of my art and poetry, and shares the same name as the painting. You can read the full original poem here.

This design is available on sixty-six different products. From t-shirts to mugs, stickers and greeting cards to full size posters, there is something for everyone. All profits from my artwork go to funding publications and website upkeep.

Thank you!

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When Creativity is Stuck

Do you ever just stare at the blank page in front of you, seeing spots? Maybe you’re holding a pen or paintbrush. Or maybe your ‘blank page’ is a metaphor for something else. A block of wood uncarved? A spool of untouched wool?

Human creativity comes in an endless array, and everyone’s blank page looks different. But no matter what form it takes, that ‘blank page’ can be torture.

What do you do when creativity grinds to a halt? If I am being honest, my first reaction is usually to pout. But that doesn’t help. So next I ask, why am I stuck?

Often it’s because I’m tired. But sometimes it’s something deeper. When a word surfaces that reminds me of hurt, or other emotions and memories that are uncomfortable, my knee jerk response is to push it away. When I deny the words a place, it stifles my creativity.

Have you ever told the uncomfortable no? That never goes well for me. It becomes a splinter in my foot that throbs and turns red.

I can exhaust myself with emotions that come with writing a difficult piece, though. It’s never a good idea to push too far too soon. Give yourself time when you are dealing with subjects that dredge up a lot of pain.

But the blank page doesn’t always mean I’m denying myself. Have you ever sat there staring in to space? That can be significantly worse than the splinter.

But what does it mean? Like I said, usually for me it’s because I’m tired. But the other times? I have noticed for me it means I haven’t learned the thing I need to fill those blank lines with yet. My brain can’t connect the dots I don’t yet understand.

What can you do if you haven’t learned what you need to create finish your project? An answer will be different for everyone. We should each seek it out.

Sometimes that knowledge isn’t something we find with research, though. It comes with life experience. Interacting with people, animals, nature, and the world. It will also depend on the manner your creativity manifests itself. How a writer finds knowledge looks different from how a sculptor does.

How to know you’re missing the knowledge and not just tired? You might not. When creativity becomes a battle, it’s time to move on. Set what you’re working on aside and do something else. Not forever, but for right now. This can help you determine why you’re stuck.

Go for a walk, chat with a friend, do the dishes, wash the car. Try changing your surroundings for a bit and see what happens. Still stuck? Then work on a different project, be it poem, painting, or anything else. It’s okay to lay it aside. It’s okay to give it a rest and flex some different muscles.

I often flip through my file of unfinished poems, read each one, and asking myself if I have found the word that fits. I pull out a few to focus on that day. But I don’t strain myself until frustration. It’s okay to put it aside until tomorrow.

What if you’re on a deadline? Well, putting it aside for something else doesn’t mean you don’t pick it up the next day. Be honest with yourself if it’s something you can finish alone.

Last bit of advice. Ask for help. My mild dyslexia has me constantly asking for help, be it from my grammar software, or friends and family. I ask the internet countless things a day. I ask surrounding people to tell me there stories and learn from them.

Sometimes the greatest tools in our creativity kit are other people. A friendly conversation can turn the blank page into a project brimming with life and potential.

Poetry? Email List & RedBubble Shop

I have started an author’s email list. Would you like to get updates on future publication and art projects? Then you should sign up! My email list will also be the first to have access to any discounts and coupons on future projects.

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I have also just finished setting up my new Red Bubble Shop! I am excited to make my art work available to you and the world. Please check it out and tell me what you think. See something you like? Share it with your friends. Even if you don’t care to make a purchase, sharing my shop with other will help me fund my upcoming publication projects. You can find my Red Bubble shop at MaryGWriting.redbubble.com.

I wish you a blessed New Year’s Day, and Year!

When Creativity Holds Darkness

Anyone in the habit of communicating their creativity has had moments where their work is tinged with shadow. Some artist thrive in that dark place. Are you one of them? I walk the line on how dark the words I write are, and don’t believe in denying the sad, angry, or even ugly emotions and experiences we all carry. I choose to hold them, look at them, learn from them, then try to let them go.


But what to do when that darkness overshadows all other emotions when you create?


First, decide if it’s something you want to happen. Is the ugliness necessary to YOU? Is it something the world needs to see?


These are extremely personal questions. I will tell no one the way you express your creativity is wrong, or invalid, unless you are hurting other people. I will probably choose to not view your work if it’s overly dark for my own mental health. But that doesn’t invalidate it. Your art can still teach the world if you choose to share, and people decide it’s something they like. Make sure you tread that line carefully.


What if you answer no? No, you don’t want this darkness. Then you should ask is where is it coming from.
During the year I lived in The Netherlands, my boyfriend, now husband, took me to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It was a great visit, but it also haunts me.

The Corpses of the De Witt Brothers is a c.1672-75 oil on canvas painting by the Dutch Golden Age painter Jan de Baen. 69.5 cm × 56 cm (27.4 in × 22 in)
Jan de Baen’s painting is the piece I will never forget. I almost walked right by it, the last small painting on the wall. It still stopped me dead in my tracks. I didn’t linger long, because it disturbed me. But I had to look closer to understand what it was. Then came the questions.


“What is that painting about?”
“What is the story behind it?”
“How could people do that to each other?”


The history behind the painting is pretty complicated, I will let you decide whether you want to look it up. The short answer is the two brothers depicted in the painting, were killed for political reasons.


As I remember viewing the painting for the first time, I ask myself, what was the artist thinking? Though the painting is attributed to Jan de Baen, it might be the work of an unknown artist. The exact reasons for its creation are not known for sure. Regardless, it’s a gruesome reminder of historical events. Which brings us back to what must the artist have been thinking?


Perhaps he had been asked to record what happened for the sake of history. Perhaps it was done for more political reasons. Was it a seen he has viewed himself? If so, was he releasing trauma? Witnessing violence like that would leave any human mind scared. We can’t know the answers to these questions, because we can’t ask the artist.


No matter what the motives and emotions behind the piece where, it’s important. Do I hate it? Yes. But I would argue it’s necessary. A necessary ugliness, a necessary reminder of human crimes. There are many works of art like this all around the world. Their darkness will not let us forget the mistakes of the past.
So what do you do when your own work haunts you? Do you have a story that needs to be told? Is its ugliness necessary? I would urge bravery and prayer.


It may be a darkness that you need to express and then release. Or it may be a darkness the word needs to acknowledge. But be kind to yourself. Be careful with your spirit, and if you need help with your journey of creativity mixed with shadow, reach out to a fellow creative who can support you. Or a mental health expert who can guide you.


Some people will disagree with me. They will recite things like Philippians 4:8 NIV. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. In reply, I would say, these works of art hold truth. Though the truth is ugly, it’s not something we should turn away from.


As a Christian, I often wear a cross. The tinny silver emblem of my faith is a work of art that holds darkness. It is a reminder of injustice, torture, and death. But is also my hope, the hope of this world. Should I turn away from the darkness of Christ’s death on the cross? Never.


Some artwork is created only for the enjoyment of morbidity. Again, I will say as long as you are not breaking any laws, or hurting other human beings, I don’t believe in forbidding you that kind of creativity. If this is you, I would like to ask you a question. Do you know your why? Is there something deep inside you might be neglected, that is the reason you enjoy dark art? Is it something you need to deal with?


For those of us who do not purposely seek dark works of art, may we be brave to telling the stories that beg to be told. May we be strong and not be trapped in darkness, but be able to let it go.

©Mary Grace van der Kroef 2020

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Remembering Grandpa

Original painting by Mary Grace van der Kroef

Remembering the smell of you
Sawdust, rich and fine

Remembering the touch of you
Prickly whisker hugs at night

Remembering the sight of you
Hands dipped in earth

Remembering the sound of you
Low, gentle, holding mirth

The card games played,
the things you made,
the books you read to us.

Did you know you
left these things?
Treasures, truth, trust

Remembering the things you taught
Gods generosity

Remembering is all I’ve got
Remembering you, loving me

©Mary Grace van der Kroef 2020

King of Blue

Original painting by Mary Grace van der Kroef, on 8″ by 8″ canvas board.

In the early morning gray,
I see you.
In the trees that shed their leaves,
I see you.
King of birds of blue.

You’re a brightness in the morn,
clouds are filling up with scorn.
As bits of white fall,
you’re the brightest blink of all.

Heaviness is falling down.
Let it fall.
Building on the pointed posts.
Let it fall.
You’re still a king through it all.

Blue because of shifting light,
magnificent through winter white.
Unafraid to face the chill,
that amplifies your royal thrill.

Don’t fly away my Kind of blue.
I’ll look for you.
For the frozen months, remain.
I’ll look for you.
Jay of Blue, my morning view.

©Mary Grace van der Kroef 2020