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008 Your truth is enough with Mou Saha

Feb 27, 2020

Mou is the guest artist for Get Messy’s Season of Belonging and she is an absolute zen queen. We talk about her journey, how she created belonging within her art, how she tells her truth, and her journey to realising that she is enough.

Mou Saha

Mou is a mixed media artist, educator, coloring book author and an avid art journaler. Mou’s goal is to empower women to connect with their creativity to heal, explore and grow. She has been featured over 700 times in print media, appeared on TV shows and taught workshops around the U.S. and Europe as well as online for Creativebug, Big Picture Classes, Donna Downey Studios, Lifebook, Wanderlust and more. Mou currently lives in Chester, New Jersey, USA.

Highlights + takeaways

Transcript

Caylee:
Welcome to the podcast today. I’m here with Mou Saha, and she’s joining me from New Jersey.

Mou:
Mm-hmm. Chester, New Jersey, USA, world, universe.

Caylee:
Yeah. Mou’s a mix media artist, educator, coloring book author, and an avid art journaler. Mou’s goal is to empower women to connect with their creativity to heal, explore, and grow. She’s been featured over 700 times, that is crazy, in print media, appeared on TV shows, and taught workshops around the US and Europe, as well as online for Creativebug, Big Picture Classes, Donna Downey Studios, Lifebook, Wanderlust, and more.

Caylee:
That is an insane, insane CV. You are impressive, I’m really excited to talk to you.

Mou:
Me too, I’m excited too.

Caylee:
Now, 700 times. Have you saved all of them? That’s crazy.

Mou:
You know, I used to, in the beginning. Then, I lost track.

Caylee:
Oh my goodness.

Mou:
I decided, I’m going to simply put it, just so I know where they went, or what went where, and have that.

Caylee:
Okay. So, it’s official, once you’ve passed a certain level of cool, you’re just blasé about it.

Mou:
I think it’s still very cool, I would still very much love that, but with time the main focus changed, and I became more interested in teaching, and creating mixed media than being published. It was like, scrapbooking was all the rage, and all of the magazines were just so popular, and then that was something. Over time … I mean, the magazines did everything they could do for me, and I’m going to be forever grateful for that.

Mou:
Otherwise, I’m a girl from India, who has a background in clinical psychology. Here, living in the States, a stay-at-home mom with two kids. It just gave me a connection to the outer world.

Caylee:
Oh, I love that.

Mou:
I had not envisioned my life to be as a stay-at-home mom. Yeah, someday I’ll get married. Someday, maybe I’ll have a family. But, that was never going to be the main thing in my life. Somehow, it turned out it was the main thing at that point of time. I loved it, but I needed something more.

Mou:
A lot of women are very satisfied with … I have seen my mom, just one kid, as satisfied, as pleased as can be, still did. She’s just straightening the beds, and I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t do that. It would just drive me crazy. I was puttering around the house. She said, “No.” I understood that may seem like puttering to me, but to her, that’s her spiritual thing, almost. Yeah, kids cried, it doesn’t matter, I’m holding my kid.

Mou:
I remember, the first page I got published, I was holding my youngest at the time, my son at the time, in my arms, because he was not going to be put down. At some points, I felt like sometimes, when the kid was not in my arm, I was holding my hand up like this, because it was like, I wasn’t fully awake, I needed sleep, but I needed to find some kind of expression. With scrapbooking, that was what I could do. That was an example of, do what you can with what you have, where you are.

Caylee:
Yeah. You found your way into the whole creativity through scrapbooking?

Mou:
That it received me so well gave me a lot of emotional comfort, I should say.

Caylee:
What made you shift from scrapbooking into the more traditional art things, with paint, and mixed media?

Mou:
I used to paint and make collages, before I knew they were called collages. I’m talking about when I was two, I wasn’t allowed to hold scissors, so I would tear things. My mom was very supportive, she’s very creative herself. I come from a long line of women who are very creative.

Mou:
But nobody really taught creativity as a profession, or as a … it was a way of life, I would say. They did everything with a lot of love, and very artsy, and I got that. That was just in my blood. When I came here, and I couldn’t right away go to work because of immigration and all of those things, I couldn’t. I didn’t come here on a student Visa, I came on a spouse Visa, which meant there were so many restrictions as to if I can go back to school, if I can go back to work, if I could do anything for some time. It was two, three years, the first three years, I was just not in a position to do any work.

Mou:
Then, I had babies. It was clear that the path had shifted. I could, no matter how much I bang my head on the wall, it’s not going to reopen that wall. I need to make peace, that door has closed because new doors are opening, and I need to open my eyes to them.

Caylee:
Oh.

Mou:
I started doing scrapbooking. It was not an easy transition, because I literally almost screamed, and kicked, and didn’t want to be … I always, always, enjoyed making art, and it was always going to be a hobby. I come from people who think that you have a proper job, and you have a hobby on the side. Art can be a hobby. They didn’t encourage me to go to art school, even though a lot of people who were closely involved in art, they wanted me to do that, they thought that I had that potential. But my parents were like, “You know what? You can always do that on the side, it’s safer.”

Mou:
They are coming from a place of loving parents, who want their kid to survive in this world. I thought, oh okay, maybe that is the way to go. Because when I was little, I was like, “Parents are God. Whatever they tell you… that is the word of God.”

Mou:
Now, I understand what they were doing, they were trying to protect me, and they were coming from their own thinking and learning, and what would be best for their kid, that she would be all set. She can always have some fun, on the side. But, it looks like life had a different plan, that fun was going to be the main thing, life was going to be on the side.

Mou:
I kind of like that, and I’m glad I even truly opened up to it, and ventured beyond just doing something at home. I never expected art to become a living, ever. I did not think I was good enough, I didn’t take it … I wasn’t giving it what it needed to become a living. It was going to be fun. Then, magazines started happening, and I started getting paid. I was getting paid to tell the story of my family. I was enjoying taking pictures, I was telling stories, and somebody was paying me for it.

Mou:
Then, other people got involved. Because I was getting published, they wanted to send me stuff for free. I’m like, “Wow. One paper pad costs $20 bucks, and they’re sending me loads, and loads of stuff for free. They’re not even telling me, do this. They’re just telling me, if you like it …” Sometimes, not all the products were a thing I would pick for myself, but I took it as a challenge. Like, if this looks uncool to me, what can I do to boost it up, and make it cool? Then, it became a thing, a challenge.

Mou:
I would challenge myself creatively. Can I turn this thing that is not speaking to me all that loudly, and make it something that does? I noticed that other people began to see that as well, and that became a little niche thing. And eventually, came a day when I began to be sponsored by a company, where they’re stuff are cool, and I no longer had to challenge myself. Once Faber Castell came on board, it was like, it was out of the blue for me.

Mou:
It was very emotional too, because I was little, I remember which birthday it was. I got this little set of pencils, of Faber Castell pencils. Somebody had gifted it to me, because they knew. Most of my childhood, I either won prizes from art contests, or people gave me gifts, art gifts, so my parents had to hardly ever buy anything for me. I loved that.

Mou:
When I came here, I hesitated asking my husband to spend money, to buy things, because this stuff is not inexpensive. I remember, I used to pray right before I fell asleep. It’s like, “God, do something so that I can get all the art supplies I need, create all I want, without having to ask my husband for money, because I feel bad asking him for money because I’m fully aware that I’m not contributing financially to the family, and we have children.” Then, that started, that flood gets just opened. All I was doing was having fun, and being myself, and literal things started arriving in the mail for me to work with. I loved it. People started paying me, for doing that. I was like, “Okay.”

Mou:
Money has its own intoxication. When you start to get paid, you understand, “Hey, I can do this, too. People are actually paying it.” They think I’m valuable, so they made me exclusive to them, and they’re paying me more to be exclusive to them. I don’t have to go around looking for who has a call out there, whose looking for what. They are sending me what they need, and I am sending them what I can do. I’m learning from them, I’m taking their feedback, and I’m learning. That learning, that is my art school. I’m learning from them what works, what doesn’t, because most of the editors, they knew more than me. Whether I’m writing an article, how to frame the language, whatever it is. English is not my first language, so I can express myself but I’m not always correct.

Mou:
It was a huge, huge blessing. It was a learning experience. I take feedback well, most of the time. If I see it’s constructive, I learn from it. I’m not too attached to my art that I can’t hear you talk about it, or talk “negatively” about it.

Caylee:
Yeah, yeah.

Mou:
Yeah, I learned. It was a huge, huge learning experience for me, a very good way, very kind people. They saw something that is beyond skill. I got support in a manner that I had never imagined was available. That’s what I was talking, and when I was doing the intro for Belonging, it said, “Say something about yourself.” About myself? What have I got to say about myself? I’m a pretty plain person. Okay, let’s talk about why I am approaching the topic this way.

Caylee:
So, you’re part of Get Messy’s Season of Belonging. I know when I mailed you, I was so happy you were down for this season, because I feel like it really … I don’t know, it’s just a gut feeling, in my heart, that you were made for this season. Now, having listened to your story, and seeing your workshops for Get Messy and all that, yeah. Completely confirmed.

Caylee:
Maybe, can you … You obviously spoke about what belonging means to you for Get Messy. But, for the podcast, do you want to share what belonging means to you?

Mou:
Yeah. Like I was just telling you, things began to line up, everything that was suitable showed up, as long as I was being me. When you give me the topic, I was like … I would not question what is given to me. That is sometimes a good thing, and sometimes not such a good thing. But, most of the time, it is a good thing because it sent to me, because it is meant for me.

Mou:
I embraced that, and I talked about it. Even if it was a difficult something, that I didn’t immediately relate to … This one, I connected to immediately. I would have taken that as a challenge, of turning something that didn’t speak to me, to something that did.

Caylee:
Yeah.

Mou:
Belonging. Yeah, it has changed, my understanding of what belonging means has changed so much over the years. It was a very tribal sense, in the beginning. Like your family, the parameters of the family, the values of your family. Then, if I was still living in India, maybe I would be living a very, very different life, but I moved. I have lived most of my adult life here, in the US. I’m a very porous person, I absorb very quickly, both the negative and the positive. It runs through my vein, after some time. It comes in, and part of me goes out, and it becomes a very symbiotic unit, almost. One whole unit, with the environment, and everything around me.

Mou:
I began to see that there are many, many things that I thought I was supposed to be part of. If I took the supposed to be out of it, would I still be part of it? I found no, for a lot of things. Do I still not love those people? Many of them, I do. Many of them, I have outgrown. Not to say that they didn’t add value to my life at that point of time, but we cannot carry everything throughout life. That was something I had to learn. Whatever you have learned, not you can release it, and just take the learning with you, you don’t have to carry the books with you, or the people. Only a short list.

Mou:
It’s a learning process, of discovering. The biggest thing, and it didn’t happen a long time back, I think. It was slowly happening, under the surface, in the subconscious, and I became very, very aware of it all of last year, when I understood that if I wasn’t speaking my truth … When I say speaking my truth, I’m not talking about lying, or white lies, or anything like that. Honesty, as in am I really expressing how I really feel? Or, am I sugar coating it to the point that it is so distorted, the person listening to it cannot even fathom what’s really going on? Because that was happening a lot, and I would think, why is this person not understanding? I want you to understand my unspoken words, but not everybody is in tune with my soul so they can understand my unspoken words.

Mou:
I understood that there will be people who would understand that, and that would be a gift. And there would be people, more people, who cannot do that. Not because they are bad, but because there is a gap in my communication. When I started closing that gap, … I’m still going to be kind, I’m still going to be compassionate, but I’m going to say how I really feel, so you know what’s really going on, the impact of you on me.

Mou:
When I started doing that, I think well, a lot of people fell out of my life. I am strangely okay with that. But, the people that did remain, it made a lot of space for new people to come in, more quality people. Fewer people, quality people, people to whom I don’t have to translate myself, they get it.

Caylee:
Oh, yeah.

Mou:
They just get it. I don’t know how to word it, and none of them are related to me, in any way. I have friends all over the world. I talk regularly with a friend in France, she’s a life coach. We talk about all sorts of things, other than our professions. I have two friends in Mexico. Again, I was talking to her last night, and these are all people that just miraculously appeared in my life, when I made that commitment to myself that I need to be able to express how I feel, and not sugar coat it. In a way, it’s a patronizing thing, that I’m thinking the other person cannot take it. Maybe they can, maybe they just don’t know.

Caylee:
Yeah.

Mou:
Most of the time, that’s the case. They just don’t know. But, I am hurt, or holding onto that hurt thinking, this person did not understand my unspoken words. That was not even clearly in those words, in my mind. It was as if the other person doesn’t even care, that was the thing. Well, they don’t care because they don’t know. Yes, some people, when they know, they would care even less. I am fine with that. I know that I no longer need to carry the burden of making it comfortable for other people, at my expense.

Caylee:
Yeah. Yeah, that’s very wise. I think that whole thing about belonging with a group of people, my friend Vanessa and I talk about it a lot, is having people see you, and see you, the real you.

Mou:
Yeah.

Caylee:
The truth about you, instead of what they want to see.

Mou:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.

Caylee:
That’s a very big thing.

Mou:
I think it’s a lot of our paradigms are such, that we are made to believe that we are not enough. I love my parents, but the fact that they thought maybe art school is not going to be financially the best for you, maybe they thought that I would not be a good enough artist, I don’t know what they thought. But I think back to it, and when I see their love for me, I do also see where I believe that maybe I need to go do something connected to medicine, rather than do art, which I really enjoyed. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the counseling part of it, I did. But, if this took on a life of its own, then it must have been much stronger and bigger than any of us had assumed.

Caylee:
Yeah. Talk to me about the way this wisdom … because you are crazy wise, it’s insane.

Mou:
Oh my gosh.

Caylee:
I watch your stuff, and I write, basically, everything down that you’re saying. Tell me about how this approach to life translates in your art?

Mou:
Ask me again?

Caylee:
Okay. How do you see … The way you see the world, I feel like you’ve got a very zen approach to life. Mature, it takes time to feel this way, you’re not going to feel this way as a teenager, with regards to this is who I am, I’m authentically me. How do you take that, and translate it to your art, when you look at a piece of paper, or a canvas? How do you see things, and how do you work them out onto the paper?

Mou:
The only difference that I have been seeing … Yeah, you’re very right about the phases of life. When I was a teenager, or even to the end of 2018, let’s just say, it was more like what was coming in was for significant to me, than what I could put out.

Caylee:
Oh.

Mou:
Then, I just shut all of it … It’s not that I went and started living under a rock, but when I started speaking my truth, that became part of that. I started controlling what comes in. Instead of trying to control what goes out, I started controlling what comes in. That changed, and it’s a process, and it’s a painful process at times, because art is not just playing with paints. For me, at least.

Mou:
It touches on raw nerves, in many places. Then, you start to see a lot of the times when people put you down, or you felt discouraged from the communication you had with them, a lot of the times it was just simply them projecting something within them on you. You are the mirror, and they didn’t want to see themselves in that form. They would put you down, because it’s so much easier to put the blame outside of you. You get to live another day.

Caylee:
Yeah.

Mou:
The way you were. When all of those things, when I started thinking about that, I understood that all of the things that people told me about whatever it is, that they didn’t feel I was good enough, and I internalized those messages. Then, I realized for every 10 messages that said that I wasn’t good enough, there were 90 messages coming from total strangers that said, “You are more than good enough.”

Mou:
I chose to listen to the 10 that made me feel that way. Why was I clinging onto that feeling? That was a huge question. But, it is a reflection of what I think about myself, that’s why those 10 messages took on a life of their own, versus the 90 messages that I just simply chose not to listen to, but it was there all along. I was not paying attention, I was choosing what I was paying attention to.

Mou:
Every person who is giving me a feedback is the same way. When I feel treated unkindly, it’s hard to find kindness, turn that unkindness around, and offer kindness back. Then, I started looking at it like this, it’s the same thing. Taking an “uncool, ugly” product, and then turning it into cool that spoke to me better, spoke my language.

Mou:
Yeah, it’s been intensely a process of self-discovery. Maybe that is why I needed to go to study clinical psychology. I would be a very different person if I went straight to art school, and came out as an artist, I would probably be a different kind of artist.

Caylee:
Yeah, for sure.

Mou:
Just embracing who you are, because you are unique. At the end of the day, you were born with everything that you need to succeed, prosper, and do whatever. But, until you let that loose, let that expression out, no one can see it. It’s not their job to dig for it, you show them. They see what they like, and they don’t like. Put it out there.

Mou:
Yeah, whether it’s an ugly page or a good page, it doesn’t matter. There are people who will connect with you, on the basis of that. Don’t be afraid of it.

Caylee:
Yeah, that’s so true. I feel like whenever I put my favorite thing out there, it doesn’t get the reaction I expect, it’s maybe less than I expect, and I put something out that’s not maybe my favorite, there’s always someone that loves it. It’s bizarre, it’s very affirming to put the stuff that you don’t like as much as your other stuff out there.

Mou:
Yeah, yeah.

Caylee:
That’s why the Internet’s so wonderful, because there’s always someone out there that it speaks to. You can’t control what other people take from it. You put it out, and it’s there, and then it’s its own being in the world. Then, when other people look, they take what they need.

Mou:
Yeah.

Caylee:
For some people, it won’t be anything, but for other people, it might be exactly what they need, at that moment.

Mou:
Sometimes I would see somebody doing something, either it’s on the Internet or even in real life, and they are probably doing something entirely different, or I would overhear a bit of a conversation, it’s exactly what I needed to hear at that moment, or it would give me a starting point for something of my own. And I understand that I was in the right place, at the right time to hear that information. So, it could open a door for a window for me, at that moment inside my head. Not always, necessarily, a manifest opportunity in the world, but it’s important.

Mou:
There was an intense phase where everything needed to be really good and exact, especially in the magazine, because like I said, money is very intoxicating. You’re starting to make money, it’s a recognition, people know you, there’s this girl from nowhere, in a demographic that does not have very many of me, my type of people, or my color of people. Then, I’m there, and I’m accepted, and I have a different view of life than they have, different philosophy, different spiritual, religious thinking. Like I said, you want to not disappoint them. But then, a point comes, after two or three pages of people pleasing sort of thing, am I just repeating myself, here? Is that what I want to do? What is the price of popularity?

Caylee:
Yeah.

Mou:
Yeah, what is the price of … The price of a layout is more than the price of the materials, and the time you put in it. There is a lot more that goes into it. You’re sharing your story, very vulnerable stories with the world. I began to say, “You know what? No. I’m going to do my thing. Either they will take it, or they will reject it. That’s okay.” It’s boring to repeat yourself. One thing worked one time, twice, thrice. Then, you keep doing it for the rest of your life? My God, I don’t want to live that kind of a life.

Mou:
I would venture beyond, I would use materials that are not conventional. Acid free was such a big thing. Is it archival? Everybody would [crosstalk 00:27:13], “Is that acid free?” It’s newspaper, no it’s not. “How do you make it archival?” Well I don’t, but you can. I’ll do the research, and this is the product you can use to make it archival. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. I’m not going to live forever, my art is not going to live forever. If my art becomes something like that, there’s going to be a host of museum people who are experts in archival things, who will take care of it. I don’t have to. I don’t take it upon myself to make my art last forever.

Caylee:
Do you have any practical ways that someone could translate your knowledge into their art journal? If they want to be more authentic with their art, how would they go about doing it?

Mou:
It’s like reading a book, or watching a movie, or listening to a piece of music, let it inspire you. It doesn’t have to be the cornerstone of your creativity, it is not. What is serious to someone else is their seriousness. It really doesn’t have to become you, you have your own. Do not get distracted from what is yours, what is waiting to come out from inside of you, by listening to … Yeah, some things are pleasant to listen to, some things are not so pleasant to listen to. Listen, by all means, take what you need. But, do not take … not just me, anybody. It took me years to understand, and learn, and actually embrace that. That somebody else might be succeeding in their own way, but that might not be your way.

Mou:
If you’re repeating what they’re doing, you will never be as good as what they’re doing, because they have already mastered that. Why not do something that only you can do?

Caylee:
Oh, yeah.

Mou:
I remember when we were just starting out with scrapbooking, I made a friend. We were very big fans of Heidi Swapp. She was a very big fan of Heidi Swapp, and I learned to be a fan of Heidi Swapp. There was a lot of pink, and Heidi’s handwriting was very, very inspiring to me. I used to think about it, and I used to see all the pages in the magazines, that followed. Somebody would post something, and everybody would herd toward that, as the only expression at the moment. It’s like, if I have to make it into a magazine, I have to drop that idea, it’s already done. Done, and repeated, and copied. Do something different.

Mou:
That’s’ what I started doing. I started telling more stories that were very raw, very raw. I learned to do hidden journaling, because I didn’t want everybody to see what all’s being said. A lot of it became things started translating into symbolism, in terms of color. Color became a huge thing, color was always a thing for me. A lot of things became expressed in colors, rather than words. Or, the words were there, they were just not as explicit as the colors. Because I understood that when you’re working with a magazine, it is their business, and a lot of their values are going to determine what they can and cannot put out there, for their audience. Because they spend lots of money, to research their audience, to see what they can handle, or is palatable to them, or is enjoyable to them.

Mou:
Then, it also needs to find a place in between where it’s in self-expression for me, otherwise I won’t be able to do it, and yet be of some value to somebody else. The more I became me, the more valuable it was. I understood that people are much more ready to listen and hear, and that I’m not alone in my experiences. They have similar things their kids don’t pose for. This is the simplest example, their kids also give them a hard time, if you want a portrait, like a nice little shot. They would never cooperate with you. You see all of these beautiful things, and you think of these moms as goddesses. They can do that, their kids are so good, they are so good. Here we are, running after the kids with the camera, who don’t even want to stop for you.

Mou:
Then, you get all these weird shots. Then, that became a thing, this is a game. This is a game for us, this is us.

Caylee:
Yeah.

Mou:
I switched from trying to capture a beautiful portrait to just, let’s tell the story with the picture. Pictures tell the story all right, it’s just not perfect. So, I chose story over the perfection.

Caylee:
Oh, I love that.

Mou:
Yeah.

Caylee:
Yeah, story over perfection. Oh, that’s lovely. You’ve got this very zen view of creating, and life, and I love it. Tell me how you … So, you haven’t gone to art school, you didn’t have a perfect, I don’t know, creative journey, where you’re creating as a child, then going to art school, and then now. Like, things are messy in between. Tell me how else you’re not a traditional artist?

Mou:
Yeah. My path hasn’t been straight, but I love the path I had, because yeah, it was fraught with difficulties, in many ways, many different ways. Health wise, and many other ways as well. But, I wouldn’t be me if I had not walked that path, if I wasn’t the person in that journey.

Mou:
While I was in it, it didn’t feel so zen. Of course, I can’t go back to school, I can’t work, oh my God, I’m going to be dependent. This is not working for me. But sometimes, you just have to be still, and allow the storm to pass. There is something, if you would simply stop kicking and screaming, you could hear your next step, direction. You will see it, if you just chill for two seconds. I try to do that, it doesn’t always work. I fall back, but I try getting back up to it. You know what? Whatever is happening, right now something massive is happening, but it’s happening, I can’t stop it. Why would I want to stop it? I want to see what’s beyond it. I no longer want to stop the storm, or hide from it, I just want to walk through it.

Mou:
Sometimes the way is through it, not above it, around it. You don’t get the same experience above and around it. It’s like you’re on a rollercoaster, versus you are watching a rollercoaster. That’s not the same experience. Yeah, I want to see what’s beyond.

Caylee:
Yeah. Yeah, I love that. At the moment, you’ve got two gallery shows right now, correct?

Mou:
Yeah, my first two solo shows. I’m like, “Ah, okay!”

Caylee:
That’s amazing. Congratulations.

Mou:
Thank you.

Caylee:
Tell me more about what you’re currently loving creating?

Mou:
I’m painting, and I’m painting with the same mindset that let me just be me. I am not someone else, how can I paint like someone else? If I did, it would not speak to anyone else is what I feel. So, I’m painting, I’m collaging, a lot of different things. I don’t know how if it’s ever going to become a composite whole, and a product out in the world, but a lot of things are, I would say, just percolating inside me. I’m making things as I feel, making a lot of collages. We will have to see where that goes.

Mou:
It’s like a bunch, five, 10 different ideas that I am thinking I want to follow, and I’m following some of them. Somewhere in my head, I know there is a master organization to this, that it’s all going to come together, I just haven’t proved myself worthy of that yet. I’m getting there. However yeah, I don’t want to think of it as a part of something big right now and, and then become all tense about it. Let’s just do what’s coming. When it’s all done, I can see what goes where. For now, I’m just doing that.

Mou:
And the painting, yeah. Painting birds, I’m just so drawn to birds. It all started when I started waling in summer, last summer, I would find all these feathers. I would take pictures, and then I would paint them. Then I started, “Oh, I want to know more about this bird, that has such a beautiful feather.” That made me think of a lot of things, and a whole series of paintings came out. Girls with birds, where there would be a birdcage that is open, and the bird is sitting on the girl’s hand. In a way, I was setting something inside of me free, by opening that cage up.

Mou:
Then, the cage is not a physical anything, but it’s a mental cage that we all tend to put ourselves in, thinking we can’t do this, that is not for me, it’s never going to be, I’m not good enough for it. That’s what it all comes down to, not good enough for that.

Caylee:
Yeah.

Mou:
Then, I’m just going to set it free, and let myself be, without … I’m not saying I am good enough, all I’m saying is I don’t have to operate from there. I can just be me, and let other people judge whatever way they want. I don’t have to judge myself constantly to soften other people’s judgment of me.

Caylee:
I like that.

Mou:
It’s like, people are not coming in and judging me, it’s just all in my head most of the time anyways.

Caylee:
Right. We do that to ourselves, it’s ridiculous.

Mou:
We do, we do. It’s so, so strange. When I was working on the Gratitude Journal, I spent a lot of time before that, even went on the shooting floor. I did a lot of work, just to come up with the prompts. What is relevant? That was a huge life review for me, kind of. Between March, and when I went to shoot in July … Yeah, between March and June, that was an intense period of really, life reviewing. What am I grateful for?

Mou:
I saw all of the things, what they did for me. Things I’m mad at, that I’m still grateful for. It was a strange thing that yes, it is so. But, what did it do for you at the time, that you can, today, stand here and be mad at it? All of those things, looking back, taking a good look at myself. Where am I BS-ing myself, basically? Am I allowed to say that?

Caylee:
Yeah.

Mou:
Most of the time, it’s nobody else. It’s just me, myself, doing that to me.

Caylee:
Exactly, exactly. Right, so for anyone listening, and listening to your story, and maybe feeling like, “Hm, I can maybe do this,” tell me, what would your three tips be to anyone that wants to either start art, and being an artist? Or, people that maybe want to dig deeper?

Mou:
For those who are on the fence about whether or not they want to do this, I would say decide. Time will wait until the end of time, until you decide. When you decide, everything will start moving, but you have to decide first. If you decide, … Excuse me.

Mou:
Having designated space to do your work is helpful.

Caylee:
That’s a big one.

Mou:
Being open to take every moment you can in a day, to do your thing is helpful. That is what I used to do. I used to wait in the car, when my kids used to go to dance, karate, or whatever. I would take whatever I needed to do, I had a little box in my car that I would switch out every single day. I was on a lot teams, and I had deadlines to meet, and I didn’t have the time because my husband was traveling all the time, and it was hard to find time. But, when they were in their classes, I had uninterrupted time. Most of the moms would go in, socialize, sit for a little.

Mou:
I never did that, I just sat in the car, and I did my work. I pushed my seat back as far as I could from the steering wheel. Most of the time, the steering wheel was my table, and sometimes I pressed the horn. But yeah, take every moment that you can.

Mou:
It’s like your commitment to it, the decision, the commitment. If your commitment to it, you will find the space, you will find the time. It’s all there for your taking, you have to just decide to do it or not.

Caylee:
Yeah.

Mou:
There is no excuse of, “I don’t have the time.” Yes, it may be more difficult for you than someone else, but you are also able to deal with the difficulties better than many other people, in that case. If you have that in your life, that’s because you are able to handle it, so you will handle this too, if you choose. It’s your choice.

Caylee:
Exactly, yeah.

Mou:
Other than that, what else? Don’t run after the latest trends, the techniques, or the products because products pile up. I can tell this from my personal experience, I used to be that chasing person who would buy everything, follow everything. Be your own leader. The more you follow, the more crap you collect. Then, you never use them, and then you feel guilty. You sit down, and don’t know which one to use, and then you do nothing, and then nothing gets done. Don’t do that, just do it. That’s the best way to say this.

Mou:
I love that slogan. The Nike slogan, “Just do it,” nothing beats that. Just do it.

Caylee:
Yeah, exactly. I mean, it does come down to that basic thing. It sounds so simple, we know every day, you make that decision whether you’re going to do it or not.

Mou:
Yeah. And go back to it, every single day, make it a habit. Go back to it, every single day. Every single day may not always happen, but it’s making every single day meaning, you make the effort to back to it as much as possible.

Mou:
I had a huge surgery end of 2018, and I was bandaged, all of my body was bandaged, and I could only move my hands. I was doing Inktober, because I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t do a lot of things, and I would just sit on the bed, propped up with my pillows, and I would just draw, very small hand movements.

Caylee:
Like a T-Rex?

Mou:
Yeah. I was like a T-Rex, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do a lot of things. It lasted for some time, and I made it last a little longer, making like, “Oh, I can’t move but I can draw all day because that makes me so happy.” I was just taking advantage of my family, at that point.

Mou:
You can do anything, people do incredible things, with incredible odds. If you choose to do it, you can be that person, too.

Caylee:
There you go.

Mou:
For those who dig deeper, take your focus out of the output, it’s not about the output. That’s where your inside meets the art process. You just start, your thought will show itself. You don’t have to map it all out, you have an internal GPS and that’s going to guide you.

Caylee:
No kicking and screaming, just stay still and listen.

Mou:
No, no. I have kicked and screamed, it doesn’t take you anywhere. You just get so tired, and then you can’t do anything, and you’re still anyways, and then you see the light. But, it was there all along, you were just too dumb to not see it.

Caylee:
I love it, thank you. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, and the way you see things. It’s such an honor to just listen to you talk, and just hear the way you see the world. It’s always so inspiring, and makes me want to immediately make art from it, and make art the way you make art, and see how I can apply it, and take what I need. So, thank you for being so open, and authentic with us, and sharing.

Mou:
Oh, it’s my pleasure, my pleasure.

Caylee:
And being you, it’s wonderful.

Mou:
Oh, that’s good. Being more of me, yeah.

Caylee:
Exactly. Yeah, there is more of you on your website, which is MouSaha.com, right? Over there, you’ve also got your shop, and you’ve got all the online workshops that you’ve done.

Mou:
Yeah. Yeah, it’s all listed under various pages. There is a blog, there’s a shop, there’s a workshop tab. I’m not technologically the best, but that was my best at the time. I haven’t updated it. I prefer to just focus on the work at hand. But yeah, the website needs to be there, and it’s there. It’s good, it’s easy to navigate. It’s easy to navigate for most people.

Caylee:
Exactly. If people wanted your art, and your work in their home, they’re able to do that through your site, right?

Mou:
Yes. There are downloadable things, printable things. When I did the coloring book, I wanted to put it out in the world like most coloring books are, as in a printed format. But then, I thought about it. Is that what I want to do? How can I make it a little more valuable, rather than just a one-time purchase? So, I made it that way people can download it, and they can print it. Because they’re downloading it, it is a very high resolution, so they can make it bigger, make it smaller. They have that option on doing that.

Mou:
I began to see that I was using those illustrations in my art journals a lot, too.

Caylee:
They’re awesome, yeah.

Mou:
I would just cut them up, so I wanted to keep those options open for people. I have had communication from people who wanted to make these into quilts, and they did. They just printed it bigger, and all of that. Making that as a downloadable, printable rather than one, hardbound copy that is sent to you, and that is it. You color it, or you don’t color it. This is more flexible, you are printing out what you need. You don’t need to print out all 30 designs right away, if you don’t want to, just do one, finish that coloring.

Mou:
I have a feeling, like when I collect products, I have whole book, I have only colored one page, or half of one page, and then I never went back to it. It makes me feel guilty. Art should not be connected to guilt, at all.

Caylee:
Exactly, amen. Amen.

Mou:
They have those, I thought all of those things. I do not know if other people see it in that same way, but that was my thinking. You should have all the options, I will give you all the options that I can, you don’t have to wait for it to arrive in the mail. You just download it, right now. You can print out a page, right now. You can cut it up, do whatever, just give it yourself now.

Caylee:
Oh, give it yourself.

Mou:
Whatever way you want to see it.

Caylee:
Give it yourself, what a good way of phrasing that.

Caylee:
Yeah, if you’re listening to this, if you’re not in your car, immediately go to Mou’s website, and download it, and use what you need. But, not if you’re driving, then please wait.

Caylee:
Thank you so much for chatting today. Yeah, you’re just wonderful.

Your podcast host, Caylee Grey

I’m Caylee Grey. Creator of Get Messy, official fairy freaking artmother and your pro excuse-squashing ninja. 

In the Get Messy podcast I’ll be chatting to a selection of amazing, real-life humans just like you are who are dealing with the very same barriers … but overcoming them to create their art.

Together, we’ll explore what it REALLY means to be an artist. Practically. Warts and all. So that you can be an artist, today, now, even if you work a day job, have a million and one commitments and own a cat that likes sitting on your art.

No more excuses. Okay? Okay.