The Benefits of Anxiety: An Artist’s Perspective

Irreantum, by Michael Aaron Hall

Irreantum, by Michael Aaron Hall

We asked artists about the anxieties they face and how they overcome or cope with those anxieties. Today’s post is a guest post by Michael Aaron Hall, who believes we can use anxiety to help our artwork.

Michael Aaron Hall:

For years I tried to figure out how to overcome and get rid of the anxious feelings that were constantly with me. At times, it kept me from having a desire to create altogether, and for a professional artist that can be a bit problematic.

After the death of my brother, I began to experience sever anxiety in every aspect of my life. I immersed myself in master artworks that I love, from Michelangelo to Winslow Homer, and I noticed something. Many of the works looked the way that I felt inside. It made me wonder if any of these artists dealt with the same things I was dealing with. I started to notice similarities in acquaintances who are also artists and even asked them if they had anxiety. I was surprised when every answer I got was “yes.”


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At this point, I came up with the theory that not only is anxiety connected to creativity, but that it is an essential part of the creative process. I realized that not only did I not want to completely overcome my anxieties, but that they are essential to me as an artist. For example, if I am feeling particularly anxious about any given thing, I could try to infuse that thing into a work of art, almost like writing a subconscious code that people could pick up on without fully realizing it.

Maybe this is why I feel so connected to certain works of art, or pieces of music or poetry, etc. I also realized that when I am feeling anxious about something, I am incredibly focused.

Heaven and Earth, by Michael Aaron Hall

Heaven and Earth, by Michael Aaron Hall

If I can guide that focus into a specific project that I am working on it helps me to see it through to the end, and I usually notice something special with the result that I couldn’t have arrived at any other way.

So in a way, anxiety can be like a hidden superpower for an artist. I don’t want to make light of the subject or make it seem like “it’s all sunshine and roses.” I am aware that anxieties can be crippling, cause fatigue, and make a person feel alone and hopeless. I am however saying that anxiety can be understood and utilized and that in some instances a person can personally benefit from its effects. When I’m feeling very anxious, I know that more often than not a creative spurt is just around the corner, or I have a short window to try and create something beautiful and unique while in my anxious state. And hopefully, the result will be something that will connect with someone in a deep and meaningful way.

See Michael’s work at and on Instagram at @Michael_Hall_Sculptor.

An Interview with Scott Higginson of Foursquare Art

We’re happy to hear from Scott Higginson, art lover, art collector, and art dealer. Scott and his wife, Cindy, are the parents of four children, six grandchildren and live in Mesa, Arizona. He graduated from BYU in 1980 with degrees in Journalism and Political Science. After a brief stint living in Washington, DC., they returned to the west living in Las Vegas, Nevada prior to moving to Mesa in 2000.  Scott represents a number of LDS artists at: and on instagram, @foursquareart22.  Here’s Scott:


What sparked your interest in art?

I have always been fascinated by the creative process. I love observing creation in all forms. I believe there is a real spiritual dimension to creativity. That spark, whether it’s the urge to paint, dance, write, sing, cook, knit, invent, construct, garden or any other expression of self, comes from a non-physical, non-mortal part of our being. It’s source is spiritual and each of us express it differently. Then, somehow, there’s the magic of connecting this internal inspiration to our arms, hands and fingers in the very physical act of painting and creating an actual piece of art. It really is amazing when you think about it. So, my attraction to the arts is rooted in fascination. The uncanny ability of an artist to manipulate dabs of paint into patterns and actual brush strokes which, when seen as a whole, convey movement, depth, form and, most importantly, light, is astonishing to me.

How did you get started collecting artwork?

My start is a bit different than most. While attending BYU I worked in the general book department of BYU. We had a wonderful children’s picture book section. I would read many before shelving them and I started collecting picture books. I was drawn to the wide diversity of art techniques used and, more importantly, how the artwork informed the story. Peter Spier’s “Noah’s Ark” was my first picture book. It went on that year to win the Caldecott Award. It’s wordless and yet full of emotion and raw story-telling power. I now own over 500 picture books and I have them alphabetized by artist on our library shelfs. This started me down a path of deep appreciation for the power of art to generate emotion.

Years later, I bought my first original oil painting. “A Man Reading a Very Small Book” by Brian Kershisnik. It went well with my picture book collection and, to me, the halo around the man’s head indicated knowledge gained through reading and art. I was attracted to his work already as my brother-in-law had a couple of his pieces. From there, I was hooked. Original art contributes significantly to the emotional feeling we want in our home. So, we’ve acquired other paintings along the way. There is real power in original art.

How is the power of original art different than, say, reproductions?

It’s really hard to describe, it’s something that has to be felt. The best way I’ve been able to explain it to friends who sense it when they visit our home and to my clients is to compare it to watching television versus seeing a live production on stage. Or listening to a CD of Handel’s Messiah compared to hearing it, feeling it, live with full orchestra, chorus and soloists at the Kennedy Center. They just don’t equal each other in the emotion and power that is stirred within each of us.

The same is true with art. A print of a great painting is pretty and, yes, it decorates the wall, but, with an original painting you’re better able to experience the emotion of the artist, to connect on that spiritual level I talked about. It’s tangible. When you make that connection, you and the artist are like two tuning forks, set to the same frequency. The emotion of the artist resonates within you and it becomes a shared experience.


Dawn. Ron Richman

How do or how can the arts overlap or compliment the missions of the church?

I love this quote of Elder Maxwell and use it on my business cards and website. It’s even on the back of my art van:

“When we rejoice in beautiful scenery, great art and great music, it is but the flexing of instincts acquired in another place and another time.”

I believe seeking, experiencing and embracing beauty can feed our spirits, nourish our souls and draw us nearer to God and Christ. So, if you accept the premise that along with providing saving ordinances the mission of the Church is to provide avenues for each us to increase and strengthen our spirituality, then the arts, all of them, are an important tool to be employed along with prayer, service, obedience and others in accomplishing the purposes of God. As the world becomes darker and darker, we will each need to discover and cling to beauty and light.

What, if any, developments have you noticed in Mormon art during your lifetime?

Two things: One, I’m so very, very pleased and grateful to see wonderful, powerful original art appearing in LDS temples and not just art with religious subject matter. Landscapes can be equally powerful in conveying a spirit of peace and an understanding of God’s love. In the past most temple art has been very illustrative in nature, conveying emotions from scriptural accounts. I see that changing and I think that’s a wonderful advancement. A tangent to this pattern is more quality, contemporary fine art being used in the Ensign magazine, including some even depicting angels with wings!

Second, I see more and more women in the Church continuing to nurture and develop their artistic talents in the arts by finding ways and time to create and sell their artwork while at home. It’s a wonderful creative outlet from the stress of motherhood and allows them to hone their God-given talents. Etsy has been a big contributor to this trend. I love watching their growth as artists. Eventually, as their talents and skills improve, galleries will discover them. I’m fortunate to represent several impressive young artists who fit this description.

What developments would you like to see in the future?

When I was younger, I feel there was a greater emphasis in the Church on the beneficial and contributing value of the arts in our lives. I remember dance festivals, speech and art contests and an emphasis on crafts…creativity in general. The Relief Society once had “Cultural Refinement” lessons. Art appreciation and paying for the actual development of those with artistic talent was once a significant part of the culture and identity of the Church. I would welcome a return to that in the lives of Church members.

What are some of your favorite places to look for art by LDS artists?


Halo Repair. Brian Kershisnik

I love to visit the Springville Museum of Art twice a year to peruse and enjoy their annual Spring Salon and Spiritual and Religious Art exhibits. They are both wonderful events to see the works of quality artists. The festivals held in Spring City, Utah on Memorial and Labor Day weekends are also a good source as is the Church’s International Art Competition. I have friends operating are some terrific art galleries in Salt Lake and Park City, too. I’ve had some great references from other artists and I get unsolicited inquiries online each month from artists. Not all of the artists I represent are LDS, however, but most are.

How did you find yourself in the art gallery business?

I’ve spent most of my professional life in the world of politics and government affairs. That work environment has changed dramatically in the past 35 years. At this point in my life, I needed and wanted a more uplifting environment and to find work that brought joy to my soul and I turned to art. I also wanted to help others experience the emotional connection I’ve found with original art.

I investigated opening a “brick and mortar” gallery and found the overhead costs to be more than I wanted to take on. I learned from talking with some gallery owners that more and more of their sales were occurring over the internet. So, I launched FourSquare ART, an online original art gallery. By lessening my overhead costs, I’m able to return a higher percentage of each sale to the artist, where it belongs. Which really makes me happy.

Additionally, by starting this business, I discovered something remarkable and, to me, very telling. Those individuals engaged full-time in the creation of art are, without question, some of the kindest, deeply connected, genuine and most peaceful people I’ve dealt with in my life. Artists see life with a different, unaffected perspective. Nearly the opposite of many found working in politics today. I treasure my associations with each of the artists I work with through FourSquare ART. They are each real, wonderful souls.

What advice would you give to someone interested in starting an art collection?

Trust your instincts, buy only what you love and make the plunge.

It’s interesting and enjoyable for to me to work with clients who are buying original art for the first time. It’s a key part of my business model. We’ll walk through a series of PowerPoint slides I’ve prepared to unearth their initial reactions and determine the subject matter, style and media most appealing. When working with couples, it can be quite fun to watch the debates and interplay.

I also try to take away their fears. Many people are hesitant to buy original art because they “don’t know if it’s good art” and/or “it costs too much.” Quality and price seem to be the constraining questions.

First, the “quality” of a piece of art is best determined by whether it moves you emotionally. Does it inspire you? Does it make you happy, feel nostalgic, brighten your day or cause you to think? Does it bring you joy? Remember, all art has an audience. It may be just the mother who hangs a child’s finger painting on the fridge, but, every piece of art will touch someone. You may not like it, but someone will. So, if you see something that “speaks to you,” then it’s good art for you, it’s a match, buy it. Quality is determined by how it makes you feel not by what others think about it.

Secondly, art can be acquired at all prices. After looking around for years at art, I’m convinced price does not necessarily denote quality. One of my favorite paintings on my website, right now, is a small $500 painting by Lindey Carter. In the art world we hear the term “emerging artist,” denoting an artist who perhaps for years has been painting only for friends and family and is just now entering the art market and beginning to have some success with selling their art. I believe there are “emerging collectors” as well who are just entering the market. They may be ready to spend thousands on a large piece right off the bat, but, generally, they will be more comfortable buying small at first and allowing their interest and acquisitions to grow over time.

Finally, I’d tell them to avoid high-pressure galleries at first, some are better than others at working with new buyers. It’s important to get comfortable with understanding art and how you feel around it and how you react to different types and styles. Visit museums, try art festivals or small community galleries first.

Bottom line, buy what you like. Art can be a financial investment…and there are those who buy solely for that purpose…but art should be viewed as an investment in the emotional energy of your home or work environment.



Families Are Forever. Natalie Featherston

Tell us about a piece you’ve collected that means a lot to you. Why do you love it? What’s the story behind your connection with this piece?

Wow, I could answer these questions for each of our paintings and each of the FourSquare ART artists. As I said, we should only buy paintings we connect with and I’ve tried to follow my own advice, but I need more wall space. Here’s just a few that come first to mind.

A favorite painting, “Dawn,” is of Christ’s empty tomb which I commissioned from Ron Richman, who does such marvelous draped fabrics. I asked him to consider the scripture, John 20:7 “And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.” Every time I look at that painting it makes me grateful for Christ’s sacrifice and causes me to ponder the staggering question, who folded the napkin? This painting has been “lifted” by numerous Christian groups and can be found all over the internet, especially at Easter.

Kirk Richards’ glorious painting “Hosanna Shout” graces our home’s entry and inspires us to remember the blessings of the temple in our life and the need to express gratitude. You should see it in the early morning when the light is reflecting off the copper foil worked into the halos. There are also some wonderful subtle images from Church history on the front of the clothes worn by some of the celebrants. Sometimes we literally will sing out, “Hosanna,” when we walk passed it.

Brian Kershisnik’s, “Halo Repair” sits directly across from my study desk and reminds me we all have need of repentance and where it comes from. It also touches on the role of angels in our process of becoming clean again. This one shows a man getting his halo adjusted which is perfectly appropriate for our home.

A most treasured painting, one that our kids will fight over when I’m dead, is by Natalie Featherston. It’s a colorful trompe l’oeil painting of a children’s drawing featuring each of our family members drawn as stick figures with a banner over our heads proclaiming the title, “Families Are Forever.” We lost a son to cancer just prior to his fourth birthday and there several meaningful nuggets in this painting to remind us of him and our connection to him as a family unit.

Cristall Harper’s lovely painting of and entitled, “Forget Me Nots.” was her sweet gift to remind me of my mother’s recent death and sits on my table in our study/library.
I have four paintings of different balls painted by my nine-year-old nephew on the wall outside my bedroom door. His first was done following our visit to the baseball hall of fame and they are each as creative as any other paintings I own in his use of color and design to show and depict the balls in play. Unlike most nine-year-olds, Sam did not draw an outline of the baseball, he let the edge between the blue sky and white ball define the shape. I think that’s pretty amazing.

I have a collection of small landscapes by a variety of artists, including, Jeff Pugh, Erin Spencer, Bridger Konkel and others which, in several instances, give a unique “view” and make me think of places I’ve visited in my life. Many of them feature clouds which have always been inspiring to me and draw me towards the heavens.

What do you look for in artists you choose to represent?

Thoughtful art. It’s pretty easy to recognize the work of artists who simply put some paint on a canvas from those who give meaningful thought as to where and how they put that paint on the canvas. It becomes more clear as you analyze their work using the traditional criteria of design, color, texture, form, etc. But, I look first for examples of intent. Were they just painting, or were they expressing emotions and purpose in their work. I want to represent work that’s moving and has an element of spirituality to it whether it’s a figurative, abstract, landscape or still life. I believe all of the FourSquare ART artists produce that kind of work.







Beth Allen on Art, Motherhood, & Community


Arizona Artist Beth Allen, photo credit Angela Hardison.

Some of you have asked about how to connect with art communities.  This guest post is by Arizona artist Beth Allen, painter of stylized portraits, abstracts, cacti, flowers, and more.  We asked Beth to specifically write about ways she has connected with art communities for resources and moral support.  Here’s Beth:

Art and Motherhood

As long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be an artist. I have always known that I wanted to be a mother as well. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do both. In fact, all through college I would picture myself setting up studio at home and painting away while my (future) children played contentedly with music playing in the background.

And then I became a real life mom and realized it wasn’t that simple. Ha! Some days it works, almost how I pictured it in my head those eighteen years ago. Most days are not like that at all: little people needing tending, bathing, to be fed, snuggled and shuttled around. Getting work done is always up to the mercy of the day. Some days I am not even able to take a shower, much less work on a painting. Some days I do find an hour here or there, but I’m so tired I decide to sleep instead. To stop painting was never an option. I just had to lower my expectations and tell myself there’s a time and season for all things.

bethallen4Now I don’t ever expect to paint–I just feel lucky when I get to do so. If I really do have a deadline or feel too far behind, I have someone watch my children for an afternoon so I can get caught up. When it is nice outside, I shoo everyone outdoors to ride bikes and play while I watch and paint. At least one child usually comes and joins me in painting, which I love.

Children are inherently creative, so having an art studio and working from home totally works some days. It really works when my mom comes over to help. I guess for me it has been all about not being too hard on myself if things don’t get done right away, and to always take advantage of those moments when the kids are content or do want to paint with me.

On the days that just are not conducive to creating with my children (they are extra energetic, or antsy, or need to get out of the house) I have learned sometimes it is better to just let it go and try to sneak in some painting another time.

For a long time, I had my studio set up in the dining room. It was convenient as far as being able to work inside while the kids were playing or napping, but not being able to keep all of my oil paints and solvents out all the time was a time waster for me. My older kids knew to stay out of them, but my baby would go right for the veridian green at every opportunity. (FYI, lavender essential oils take oil paint right off, not that I suggest letting your baby spread it all over himself by any means).

So I decided to move outside. We have a small storage room attached to the garage that we cleaned out and turned into a studio. My dad installed a little ac unit so I wouldn’t die of heat stroke out there during the brutal summer months. At first it was perfect–it was so nice to be able to leave my stuff out mid-project and shut the door. I quickly ran out of space and all of my paintings and supplies started to bleed out into the garage, especially when I started doing some larger pieces. It was nice in the winter, but Arizona is not exactly painter friendly for a good five months out of the year. So I do what I can, paint in the early mornings or less hellish evenings, move some things inside temporarily, and dream of cooler temps and air conditioned studios.

Finding Art Community

Since I graduated from ASU with my BFA in Painting, I have been working on building my skill and widening my portfolio. For a while it was a slow process. I knew it was what I wanted to do, but I also had a bunch of young kids. I figured once they were older I would really get to work and put myself out there. And to be honest, the idea of sharing my artwork with those who may not like it was really scary for me and kept me from showing others my work for a long time.

Then I got a little push that I felt forced me to put my art out in the world. Using Instagram, I started an art account (@bethannallen) and with the help of my husband created a website for selling my art. I got advice and support from my family and close friends. I studied a lot of other artists who had achieved success using social media and did a lot of trial and error. I reached out to artists and business friends who I admired for advice and maybe even promotion in exchange for a custom piece of artwork. I took every opportunity, even if it wasn’t exactly my niche, just to gain opportunities and experience. I am glad I did this because it was actually the most helpful thing in allowing me to find my niche.

I attended every social media event that I could, meeting and making connections with everyone I could, (this was wwaayy outside my introvert comfort zone.) It is pretty easy to find other creatives with all the resources on the internet. I find Instagram most helpful bethallen1but Facebook always has artist groups and meet-ups as well! I found an amazing creative community that I had no idea existed all in my own neighborhood in downtown Mesa, as well as one in downtown Phoenix that was just as welcoming and supportive. I slowly but surely was getting my art out there while meeting really amazing people and learning the whole time. I attended Altitude Summit in Salt Lake CIty and met with other small business owners and creatives, taking notes at classes about business and networking, trying to learn from other people’s (especially other mothers’ like me) experiences.

All during this process I was going through an extremely painful and difficult time after the death of my brother from a drug and alcohol overdose. I felt like I needed to have an experience to help me not only heal, but to help me make sense as much as possible of life and death and God. That is when I really began to gravitate towards other LDS artists that I felt had a way of expressing their faith through art that I really connected with. I started following them on Instagram and pouring over their websites and artwork. Three of these artists were Brian Kershisnik, J. Kirk Richards, and Rose Datoc Dall. They really inspired me and I wanted to connect with them and other LDS artists, I just didn’t really know how.

Then one day I noticed a post on Kirk’s instagram that I couldn’t get out of my mind. It was an invitation to artists to attend an art workshop in Massachusetts. It made no sense for me to go. We were super tight on money. It was all the way across the country for heaven’s sake, and my husband was in the middle of starting up his own bakery.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I decided I could at least email and ask for information. I did, and got a reply from Julia Blake (now another of my favorite people and artists) with all the information, and it was something that I could do. I was so excited, from then on everything fell into place, and I was able to take a trip to Boston, meet some of my favorite artists, and feel really positive and good about continuing to share my art.

Sometimes it is so hard for me to not get in the trap of thinking that my art isn’t good enough or that I won’t ever be a “real” artist. I promise though that ignoring those thoughts or at least pushing them to the side if possible while continuing to create is the best way to get through them. With every painting (even the horrible ones) I feel like I get closer to who I want to be as an artist and more confident in my craft. It doesn’t have to happen in a perfectly organized and predictable way, either. If I stuck with that idea I would never get anything done.

Probably one of my favorite things about being a working artist stay-at-home mom is that I have noticed that my children notice. They are learning that work is good and important and hard things can be done. I love seeing them come up with their own little creative “businesses” and recognizing things that their dad and I have done in ours. Including them in the process has been one of the best experiences our family has had. So carry on, friends! You can do this.

-Beth Allen

Guest Post: Paige Anderson, Artist and Mom


We’re excited to launch the Vision of the Arts Blog with a guest post from Paige Crosland Anderson. Paige’s artwork incorporates abstract geometric patterns,  hinting at a heritage of quilt making, the underlying patterns of our very genetic makeup, and the unseen order of things.  Paige says, “The nature of my work allows my art-making to be meditative for me personally. I wish the same for the viewer.” We asked Paige to give us an idea of how she integrates making artwork with mothering small children.  Here’s Paige:


My situation on paper as a mother and a spouse probably doesn’t look like the most conducive to being a professional artist. My husband works 10-12 hours days, my kids are young, I live in a home that’s 1400 square feet, and my extended family isn’t around the corner. But I’m grateful for what working around various constraints has taught me, and for what I have been able to make work. Below I share a few things about time management, resources for art, and creating a space to create–a few things that have worked for me.

Time Management

It’s no secret that time is the scarcest resource for young moms. Because of this, mother-artists have to be especially disciplined with their time. When I have an upcoming show or deadline, I maximize my mornings. I’ve never been a morning lark. I’ve become a believer, though, in the magic of quiet mornings. Last summer as I was preparing for a gallery show in Park City, I routinely woke up at 5:30 so I could get in at least 2 uninterrupted hours in before my kids got up. Most mornings, they would come into the studio with me after waking up and we would listen to music and create together for another hour or so before breakfast.

I’ve learned to use 20-minute spurts of time. Mothers often don’t have the luxury of “getting in the zone” or spending time warming up before we actually get to work. I’ve
PA2learned to be able to be in the game from the moment I enter the studio. Writing down daily or weekly goals also helps me get right to work when I get the chance.

That being said, I’ve also had to learn how to pull myself away and accept that some days
don’t go as planned. Some days my kids are more needy, or not feeling well, or not getting along. Learning to go with the flow of my day while still being productive is a constant and ever-changing challenge.

Money for Art Resources

“I hope you find a rich husband that can support your expensive hobby.” This is what one professor (not in the art department) at BYU told me when he found out I was studying art. So, partly out of spite, I’ve always wanted to prove that my art could pay for itself. Early on, admittedly, this went to the extreme of making very little profit on a painting to ensure my works weren’t a money sink. After I had my second baby, I shifted to smaller works and actually learned that selling small work frequently to pay for supplies was a good way to keep my larger works in production. I began selling regularly just through Instagram and Paypal invoices. I’d often sell these small studies for $30 or so when I first started out. This allowed me to save and eventually purchase big panels and frames that I would enter in juried shows and the works that ultimately got me in the door at a gallery.

Studio Space

Before moving into our current home, my “studio” was a corner in our apartment or a desk in our family room. I hung wet paintings over the couch to dry and I used my plein air easel so I could compact things down if we had company over. I worked on panels while they were hung on the wall because it was the only space they’d fit. I made it work in a small-apartment setting and that was actually totally fine for the time being.

Nevertheless, I imagined painting could be more productive and easier with a designated studio. This has proven to be true. I love my current studio ever since it became mine when we moved from the apartment. I sacrificed a lot of things I wanted in a home (hello teeny tiny kitchen and itty bitty bathrooms) for one that had room that worked well for a studio. For me, it’s a tradeoff that is worth it. Separating the kitchen table from the arts and crafts table meant that putting meals on the table and art making both had less prep/take-down time associated with them. Also, with a space set aside, I didn’t have to thoroughly clean everything up and could begin work right where I had left off.


Having a space in my studio for my kids to create has also been great. It has always been important to me to be able to share this part of myself with them. Having a space set aside for them to create with me allows me to spend some time crossing-over between mothering and creating easily. They feel like they’re a part of what I’m doing, and I’m able to keep a close eye. A space where they can come and create with me means I can squeeze in that extra 15 minutes when they were busy with their watercolors or play-doh. Sometimes it gets messy; but when it works, and we’re side-by-side creating, it feels like magic.

I don’t claim that anything I’ve shared is the doctrine when it comes to full-time mothering and creating simultaneously. I only hope to encourage mothers in their efforts by sharing what has worked for me and let them know that they can create under a myriad of situations. When I begin feeling discouraged after watching other artists—who don’t seem to have the same time or logical constraints as me—excelling, I find comfort in the fact that mothering young children is a brief season I’m sure I’ll long for when it’s over. I feel lucky I’ve found a way to strike balance and hope that if nothing else, young mothers feel empowered to create balance and art during demanding years. If there’s one thing I believe, it’s that we are capable of more than we think we are. Let’s get to work!

Thanks, Paige!  View Paige’s artwork on her website.