Drawing Ink and watercolor wash Life in general Painting Shop windows

It’s a Beautiful Life! New Year’s Reflections (Not Resolutions)

Bella Vita Window, Oakland, Ink & Watercolor
Bella Vita Window, Oakland, Ink & Watercolor

Yesterday I was taking a walk from the art supply store (where I bought some bookbinding supplies for my first attempt to bind my own journal) to a tea shop on College Avenue in Oakland, when I saw this window display at a store called Bella Vita, whose tagline begins “Unexpected Inspiration…”

Bella Vita Unexpected Inspiration, ink & watercolor
Bella Vita: Unexpected Inspiration, ink & watercolor

The display carried me away, especially the amazing yellow chiffon dress that inspired thoughts of everything from lemon meringue pie to Marilyn Monroe. I pictured myself in the dress, and wondered what kind of party I might be attending and who I would be if I were wearing that happy frock.

It was New Years eve day but my evening would not include flirting at parties in a heavenly yellow dress. I planned to spend the evening in the studio, reflecting on years coming and going while tearing and folding paper to begin my bookbinding project.

So as I gazed into the window I knew I had to sketch it. When I finished drawing I noticed their other window: equally imagination-inspiring outfits for little girls: a tutu, ruffly-necked tee-shirts, tiny cowboy boots and an embroidered Indian Kurta paired with ruffled leggings. Had to draw that window too.

Oh to be a little girl again! Ruffles and Cowboy Boots!
Oh to be a little girl again! Ruffles and Cowboy Boots!

I looked up Bella Vita to make sure of the translation and landed on this page about the dangers of getting tattoos written in foreign languages:

Exercise caution when it comes to the popular Italian phrase “life is beautiful” which many people, including Lindsay Lohan, have been getting recently. “La vita e bella” is the correct translation, and even though it uses the same words, some people have been getting “la bella vita” which actually translates to “the beautiful life“, and is used in Italy to describe someone who is living a life of wealth, throwing parties and spending extravagant amounts of money. [oops!]

New Years Reflections

I was inspired by my friend Barbara who, in early retirement, has nearly mastered the Zen art of goal-lessness and learned to enjoy each day doing what pleases her, whether it’s making art, reading, gardening, cooking, hiking, or putting together a jigsaw puzzle. So instead of a list of my accomplishments (artistic or otherwise) in 2009 or a list of goals for 2010, here are my New Year’s Reflections from my journal, written at the end of my rather bumpy, grumpy, slumpy holiday vacation (so it’s a bit of a pep talk to myself).

  • When the time is your own, don’t ask “What should I do…” Ask:  “What will make me happy?” It might be art making, playing, watching clouds float by, learning and challenging myself or doing things that aren’t fun but that will make me happy when I can enjoy the results. It’s my life and I get to pick.
  • I’ve moped over not getting done most of what I wanted to do in the studio over this two-week vacation. But the truth is, there will NEVER BE ENOUGH TIME to do it all. So instead of regretting what didn’t get done or worrying about not having enough time tomorrow, enjoy THIS precious moment.
  • Time is just an arbitrary construct. It’s useful. Without time, everything would happen all at once. This moment is fleeting. Live it and love it.
  • Buddhists say that attachment (wanting what you don’t or can’t have) is a cause of suffering. So don’t suffer: look around now at all the abundance and be grateful.
  • Winter is dark, but the days are getting longer. Soon it will be Spring and…. Oops, don’t long for spring, enjoy this precious, wintery day.
  • Are you enjoying NOW? Ask yourself what you need to enjoy it and then go after what you need: Acceptance? Gratitude? Courage? Action? Inaction? Knowledge? Rest? Help? Hugs?
  • Turn off the panel of critics and quit judging and comparing your work to others. The best work you can do is YOURS to do. It’s too late to ever be as good as so-and-so at this and that. Just be as good as YOU at what YOU do and keep getting better…and have fun getting there.
  • It’s a beautiful life!

24 replies on “It’s a Beautiful Life! New Year’s Reflections (Not Resolutions)”

Thanks Diane. I enjoyed the good advice from Geiger and Sporran! The fantasy about the yellow dress also required a fantasy body and face to pull it off. I’m so used to wearing denim and cotton comfort clothes and running shoes and have no shoes I could wear with a fancy dress. My fanciest shoes are clog sandals. I follow what Thoreau said: “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes”! Jana


Ahh! Bless Thoreau! I’m a cotton sarong gal these days in this climate. Jeans and Tshirt in winter. But I do have some memories!


Thanks Kathryn. When is your big ride? Will you be Tweeting on your ride? That might be fun to get an update of what’s going on with you as you ride! Or little blog posts from your phone. Jana


Oh, Jana! Once again you’ve given me just what I need to finish these last few days of break without that nagging feeling of having not done enough!!! I hope you don’t mind that I’m keeping this blog page close by to reference often! And referring many people to it! Thank you thank you thank you! And happy 2010!


Sorry to hear you go through that end-of-vacation dread too, but I’m glad I was able to help. I was a little hesitant sharing my personal pep talk with the world but you made me happy I did! I hope your 2010 is great! Jana


Loved this. Loved the leggings painting. Loved the goal-less goals. Even though I have 10 goals (half of them art) for 2010 because I liked the way it sounded to have 10 goals in 10! (So as long as I like the way it sounds, they’re musical goals, right?)


I like the way that sounds — sort of like your life or your year is a musical. I’ve always thought it would be fun to name our years the way rock stars name their tours or their albums. So you have “10 in 2010, the Musical” — what shall I call mine? Maybe I’ll name my tour of 2010 the “Life is Beautiful Year”. I remember seeing an artist’s sketchbooks that each had a title as if they were novels. Jana


Thank you for the sage advice. I’m thinking about: fewer shoulds, more ‘in the now’ moments, less attachment, and kinder thoughts in general.

Best wishes to you as you reach those 10 goals. I know you’ll get there.

Happy New Year!


Thanks Melinda. I’m so with you re the “shoulds”. Whenever I hear myself thinking or saying “should” I try to use it as red flag that my thinking needs reframing. Jana


It is below freezing in Chicago, but the thought of yellow dancing dress is even attractive that way. Worn with a pair of black combat boots, perhaps… Love your sketch, the colors make me feel happy!

Have a great New Year!


Your sketch painting of the dress in the store is an unexpected inspiration. I would love to be able to layer glaze under majolica so it would come to the surface for the softness that you have in the background.

Such happy clothes and colors . . .

It’s good to be reminded of the phrase I learned from you that helped me out of more than a couple bumpy spots in my own mind in 2009 – “It’s my life and I get to pick”.


Hmm, I wonder if you *could *layer glaze like watercolor. That would be cool. And could you draw first so it would come out looking like an ink and watercolor sketch? Could you make a ceramic sketchbook? Maybe a series of tiles that are sketches in a series that could be bound together with leather or something through holes on one side? Or displayed “tiled” (literally) like a comic book series of drawings?

I love that saying, “You get to pick” too, but of course I can’t take credit for it since it was Cody wisdom. Jana


What a lovely list of ‘Do now’ ‘Be now’ ‘Live in the moment’ ideas for living. The word ‘should ‘ though needs to be banned forever too.
Lovely pictures of shop windows, which I also had a go at drawing some time ago.
Happy new year of course.


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