“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”
— Frederick Buechner


I remember the room where my grandmother kept her art supplies. It was full of canvases and papers, some covered, others empty. I would watch her sketch, my eyes following each stroke, amazed with the way the lead would etch the paper under the pressure of her arthritic grip. But she never sold her work, never shared her talent. My example was someone who kept it all in a room.

To me, creating and sharing art is an exercise in overcoming fear. Fear of opening the door. Fear of being seen. Fear of being known. We all have emotions to battle, but we do it with different weapons. At the moment, my weapon of choice is encaustic. I heat beeswax in a large crock pot with an adhesive resin, color it with pigment, and spread it carefully, one layer at a time upon a wood surface. The wax spreads where it chooses. Whether using encaustic or acrylics, my role is less about control and more about using each stroke to tell a story—slashes of frustration, gashes that I smooth over like a scar. I work things out through my art: beauty and pain and whatever is in between.

I hope when people look at my work, they can think, I am not alone in this. I hope they will see a familiar emotion in a painting, and feel the courage to face it, accept it, and move on from it. When we connect that way—when we realize that we are not alone in the battle, that’s when we find hope. That’s when doors open.


Marie Louise Howell is an artist based in Nashville, Tennessee. She holds a Masters in Art Therapy from Florida State University.