I have the pleasure of having Serena West as part of the Kuel Life community. Her amazing talent shines through in her paintings. Considering herself a story teller, Serena has chosen a medium that is powerful and compelling by which to share her subject’s tales.
The phrase: “A picture paints a 1,000 words” was created with her in mind.
Her art is not only beautiful; it is moving. I encourage you to take a look at Serena’s work in the Kuel Shop.
Please welcome, ‘Share Your Story; the Women the WSJ Missed’, Week 37 – Serena.
KUELLIFE: What are you pursuing now, at this stage of your life, that surprises you or might appear to others as if it comes out of left field?
SERENA: Many people are surprised that I’ve decided to make art my career, since the idea of the starving artist is still believed. However, I see many artists being extremely successful, especially in this digital age where we don’t have to rely on the gatekeepers that traditional galleries used to be.
Something else that might come across as odd to some is that I still get out and actively play with my two boys. We’ll have snowball fights, go sledding, play hide and seek, go skiing, or have nerf gun battles. I guess you could say that I refuse to grow up – a part of me is still in touch with my inner child and that may surprise other people since I’m almost 50.
KUELLIFE: What’s a typical day like for you?
SERENA: I need my quiet time in the morning, so I try to wake up early enough to have my coffee alone, or with my husband. Then I either do a workout, or start to get my children ready for the day. Because my studio is in my home, I try to create my art while my boys are in school. It’s always a struggle to balance motherhood with running a business, but I’m extremely grateful that I’m able to be present for my children before and after school while doing a job that I love.
KUELLIFE: With what do you struggle?
“I struggle with balance.”
SERENA: I struggle with balance. The balance between being a business woman and solo parenting much of the time, since my husband travels a lot for work. When I’m with my children, I sometimes feel that I should be working, and when I’m working I feel guilty that I’m not more focused on my children. I’m constantly adjusting my schedule and re-working how I can fit it all in.When I start to feel overwhelmed I try to remain grateful that I am able to be a mom, and that I’m able to do a job that I love.
KUELLIFE: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
SERENA: Checklists. I try to have a checklist for each day and find satisfaction in checking off items as I do them. I also like to follow other women in business, on social media, and podcasts. I find it very inspiring to see what keeps them motivated. That in turn reminds me that I’m not alone in my business journey and helps motivate me.
KUELLIFE: What advice would you give fellow women about aging?
SERENA: I try to look at aging as a privilege that not all people get. As much as it is truly difficult to see ourselves declining sometimes, I also try to take care of my body by eating right, exercising, and not thinking too much about my age. I try to live in the mindset of how I feel – and I still feel about 25 in my spirit, and sometimes I even still feel 12. This keeps me playing, exploring, and laughing. In summary, I would say, not to put too much importance on the number of our age; but rather be grateful for everyday and every opportunity we still have in front of us and keep “seizing the day”.
KUELLIFE: What does vulnerability mean to you? What has the ability to make you vulnerable?
“…we have to be comfortable with ourselves and then we have to allow others to see who we truly are”
SERENA: To me vulnerability means allowing oneself to truly be who we are. First, we have to be comfortable with ourselves and then we have to allow others to see who we truly are. That’s scary, because if we’re truly being ourselves it leaves us open to be hurt if we’re not accepted by others. However, I’ve noticed that when we are truly ourselves, we have much more inner peace, and we attract others who genuinely love who we are. Other friendships may fall away, but that is okay, because the ones that stay are the ones that will help us through any trial in life and are our genuine friends. That makes true vulnerability transform from scary to freeing and beautiful.
KUELLIFE: What are three events that helped to shape your life?
SERENA: I would say that number one would be my strict upbringing. It caused me to be shy, somewhat fearful, and always living for the future rather than embracing the moment.
A second thing that shaped my life was that since I was too shy to perform in front of people, rather than choosing music or drama in high school, I chose art so that I could pursue something quiet. Although I sometimes wish I had pushed myself out of my comfort zone, I am grateful that I found something that I both enjoyed doing, and that I realized I was actually pretty good at. This new discovery eventually led me to starting my own business as a mural artist and now as a portrait and figure painter.
A third thing was becoming a mother. I think having children rounded me off as a human being. No longer could I put my concerns or problems first. I also discovered a love like no other – the love of a mom for her children. I’ve been able to heal from some of the wounds of my own childhood, through experiencing my own children’s childhood. I’ve also been able to forgive my parents in my heart for any missteps they took as parents, since I can now see just how difficult being a parent is, and how much they were simply trying to do the best that they knew how at the time.
KUELLIFE: Who influenced you the most in life and why?
SERENA: I would have to say my mom influenced me most in my life, both in positive and negative ways. She is a very kind and compassionate woman, so I was taught to look at others and be compassionate and empathetic, and for this I am extremely grateful. However, I also learned fear of new experiences and developed a need to please others from my mom. This is something that I have struggled with until recently and although it has caused me pain, and at times somewhat stunted emotional growth, I feel that the lessons I’ve learned are now able to feed my Art, and have had a part in leading me to my passion of painting both mine and other people’s stories.
KUELLIFE: What woman inspires you and why?
SERENA: That’s hard to answer, since there are so many women that inspire me. Oprah comes to mind as someone who came from a very difficult and impoverished background to be who she is today, uplifting other humans. I also think of Amy Purdy, a double leg amputee, who snowboards, dances, and faces continued health difficulties with grace and strength. And, then there is the group of women on social media, from influencers with large followings to those who are simply showing up everyday with kind words, sharing their vulnerabilities, encouraging their sisters to not give up. All of these women inspire me daily!
KUELLIFE: Are you grown-up?
SERENA: Yes and no. I’m grown up in the sense that I fulfill my responsibilities as an adult, being a mom, paying bills, etc. However, I am also constantly learning, and enjoy hearing new concepts, discovering new ways of looking at the world, and so I will never be fully grown up. As for my heart, I hope to always be a kid at heart, looking at each new day as a gift and always remembering how to play.
KUELLIFE: What do you do for self-care?
SERENA: This is one I need to work on more. However, I try to mix self-care in with spending time with my boys. So, if I need to get some exercise in for the day, I’ll get the boys out biking, swimming, skiing, or sledding with me, so that we’re having quality family time and I’m getting in my physical activity. We also laugh a lot together during our outings – and daily – which I think is one of the healthiest things a person can do.
KUELLIFE: And last but definitely NOT least: What are the top three things on your bucket list?
SERENA: I want to take dance lessons, I’ve always loved dancing and would love to learn how to do it better. I’d also love to take singing lessons, so that I can graduate from singing in the car to being a little more confident with my voice in front of other people.
And third, I want to keep working on simply being able to spend as much quality time as I can with the people that I love.