Inspiration to Follow Your Dreams and Create a Life You Love
**Inside: Nine quick messages from the life of southern folk artist, Clementine Hunter full of inspiration to follow your dreams
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Painting is a lot harder than pickin cotton. Cotton’s right there for you to pull off the stalk, but to paint, you got to sweat your mind.Clementine Hunter
When my parents moved to a small town west of historic Natchitoches, Louisiana, my heart plummeted.
I was finishing my freshman year of college and I was looking forward to going home for the summer, a place where I could hang out with my friends, a place where I had lived for 18 years in the same house.
I did not want to call a new city home. But, it was the best decision for my father at the time.
So with a heavy heart, I drove the extra two hours to a place I’d never even heard of.
As I was accepting my new reality, I visited nearby Melrose Plantation with my mom.
I discovered famed folk artist, Clementine Hunter (pronounced Clementeen) while touring the Plantation grounds.
Clementine is the epitome of the underdog inspirational woman.
We can learn a great deal from history and even the most ordinary of women.
I don’t even like saying Clementine (or any woman for that matter) is ordinary. But Clementine was an average woman living her average life.
Just like you and me.
All women are extraordinary, whether you’re a housewife, teacher, or NASA scientist.
Yes, you, You are extraordinary.
First, who was Clementine Hunter?
Clementine was well known for her realistic depictions of life on a southern plantation. She represents a rare insider’s view of plantation life.
It’s important to note Clementine was born in 1886 or 1887. The exact date is unknown. She died in 1988.
Slavery was officially abolished on December 18th, 1865. Clementine was a direct descendant of slavery. (According to the research I was able to find.)
9 Lessons learned:
1. Use what is around you instead of wishing you had more. Make the best of your environment.
Clementine used whatever was available to paint on:
- Old canvases
- Window panes
- And even walls.
She didn’t have much money so couldn’t afford the luxury of premium goods.
2. You’re never too old to pursue a passion or dream.
Clementine didn’t start painting until half of her life had passed. She was in her 50s!
Sometimes I catch myself thinking I’m too old to follow my dreams, but then I read stories like Clementines and I’m reminded that age doesn’t matter much of the time.
3. Remember the good and bad; we can learn from both.
While this may be speculation, I think it’s safe to say Clementine’s life wasn’t a life of the well-kept woman.
She started out in the cotton fields when she was 12, and then became a cook later in life.
Clementine lived in poverty for most of her life.
She lost one husband shortly after marrying him.
She wasn’t even allowed to see her first gallery showing because of the color of her skin.
Despite these presumed hardships, her paintings depict both manual and hard labor, as well as community, family, and love.
I think it’s safe to say she used the good and the bad in her life, which resulted in a beautiful living legend.
4. Don’t wait for things to be perfect before following your dream.
Clementine could’ve waited for the perfect timing. She could’ve waited for a formal teacher, better supplies, or more money.
We often think we have to wait for things to be perfect before pursuing a goal or dream:
- A perfect financial situation before having kids
- Perhaps a book or paper to be perfectly formatted before publishing
- Or, maybe you don’t want to read by yourself because of the fear of missing a word (That’s my seven-year-old daughter.)
But the truth is, things will never be perfect. There will always be the next something better.
5. Small improvements make big dreams
When Clementine first started selling her paintings, she charged 25 cents. Then three dollars, then hundreds of dollars to thousands before her death.
I often see another writer as more successful, but what I don’t see is the hard work behind their success. We often see the end result. We don’t see the failures, payless hours, or the ice pricking rejections.
The book Atomic Habits, defines this well:
“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it—but all that had gone before.”James Clear, Atomic Habits
6. Accept Help.
Melrose Plantation was a sort of haven for artists and writers to visit.
Clementine accepted the help of writer, Francois Mignon. He is often credited as helping Clementine promote and sell her artwork.
In addition, she accepted leftover paints and canvases from many artists who visited Melrose.
But what if she had refused their help?
In our independent society, we often carry the mentality of a two-year-old,
I do it myself mommy.
But we don’t have to go it alone. Help can come from the least expected places.
If Clementine had chosen to not accept help, then perhaps our daily lives wouldn’t be changed, but our world would be void of the beauty, color, and inspiration Clementine shared.
And maybe that’s all it takes for you to realize your daily life is, in fact, quite extraordinary. And that, my friend, will change your world.
7. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
As the story goes, Clementine found some old paints and canvases in the trash while working in the kitchen. She asked permission to use them, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I consider most of my children’s papers they bring home useless. I often bury the papers at the bottom of our trash can.
While I consider the never-ending papers a thorn in my side, I’m often surprised at what my kids want to keep. (And for the record, I do try to give them a chance to keep things before I chuck them in the landfill.)
Their treasure is my literal junk drawer.
The moral of the story: Don’t discount someone’s treasure as junk. It just might change the world.
8. Share your passion.
Clementine dared to follow her dream. She painted until a month before her death at the age of 101. She was often said to give her paintings away.
If that isn’t passion, then I don’t know what is?
We are all made in God’s image. Because of His great love, we all have our own art to share. Your art can be almost anything:
- Even Having the best dance parties in your pj’s.
Can you imagine if Clementine had kept her artwork to herself? Share your passion, you never know who needs it!
9. Finally, Dont let your limitations stop you.
Clementine never learned to read or write. She never finished school. She had a friend sign her artwork for her until she developed her own signature. (a backward C with an interlocking H).
If she had said, I can’t do this because…
- I’m not smart enough
- I don’t have enough education
- I don’t have the right personality
Then she would have never known her capabilities.
So, my friends, KNOW THIS:
You are smart enough, You are strong enough, YOU are extraordinary!