Harnessing the "Leonardos" in Life

Jean Houston’s article: My thought’s on Leonardo da Vinci, shares the man and how he harnessed his ability to see in the times he was living … and far beyond. Her article triggered this post.

Growing up I was told, over and over again, “You have got to focus." I struggled with what that meant. I tried to look at and do everything with “focus." “Focus, focus, focus” became my personal mantra.

When I decided to go back to get my MFA, I sat with my advisor, a well-known artist in his own right, and he asked what medium I wanted to declare my mastery in. I said, “Art”. He smiled and said, “Yes, but what medium do you want to focus on?” I asked, “What are my choices?” He began to list the choices. “Photography, pottery, painting, watercolor, and … .“ After each choice I said, “Yes”. He paused and looked at me. “Why are you here? Do you want to teach when you finish your Master’s program? Is it a personal goal?" I looked at him as my mind took charge of my voice, “No, I just want to do art. I love it all. I just want to be an artist.” He sat there quietly, looked at me, really seeing me and said, “You don’t need your Master’s degree in Art. Go out and do your art. Go out and be an artist.” We sat there for a few minutes, quietly, as our minds finished up the unspoken realizations. He stood up, came around the desk and gave me a warm hug. He took hold of my shoulders, looked me straight in the eyes and wished me all the success I could create.

I left his office surprised at what I had just participated in and realized in that moment, I AM an artist. I was ready to go out and express my art. I had received my “Master’s” diploma two years earlier than I had planned! I had given my oral dissertation in front of my Chair and committee.

Out into the world I ran. Immediately I started a graphic design business  - a one person studio. It led me into many directions, utilizing all my skills and beyond. I learned printing, engraving, embossing, typography, papers, press checks, layout, design, embroidery, iconography, treatments, mediums, colors and … and … and…

I loved what I was learning. I loved being involved with people and companies finding their fullest expression. I began a line of soft goods that found a home with Disney. I was learning licensing, manufacturing, shipping, billing. I was fully immersed in a full-bodied education. Those who were close to me listened to my activities, watched my daily workout and worried that I wasn’t focused.

One day in between embroidery checks and shipping, a friend said, “I think you better stop this craziness. You are all over the place. At your age, you need to get serious and responsible in your life. You really need to focus.”  I stopped and stood still. Like a long winter storm, the clouds that had been covering my mind and heart cleared away. I looked at her and said, “I am focused. I have been focused – all my life I have focused. I focus on the whole picture. I focus on the parts and pieces as well as the lines that connect them and the space that defines them and the spacelessness that continues to expand as they expand.”  Boom! I realized again, I had graduated from trying to focus to realizing I AM focus.

After reading Jean’s article, and remembering what “focus” can look like, I can only hope that as she beautifully put it, that “My life never ever bores God.”

Thank you, Jean. Thank you, Leonardo. Thank you, God.


As the Founder of The Arts Organization, TAO MetaversityCEE, Artist Studio Suite, Wendy Adams Mendenhall focuses on experiential education to (re)awaken the Artist in all of us.  With a background in graphic design, corporate communications, retail, and an ongoing "passion for observation," she works with teachers, authors and artists, to further the recognition and utilization of their art in the 21st century." She is committed to the union of teachers throughout the world, a global curriculum and global campuses. She is a Huffpost blogger,  lives in Salt Lake City, UT and is available for travel wherever and whenever the sun shines.





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Harnessing the "Leonardos" in Life | TAO • The Arts Organization


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