Growing Up in Germany

Growing Up in Germany

Growing Up in Germany

How painting and creativity can help with a child’s development.

My son Pieter and my daughter Fiona both had the privilege of growing up in Germany and attending German schools until they were 14 and 12 and we relocated to the US. It was a bit of a culture shock, more for Fiona than for Pieter, but she survived too. Change can be a challenge.

I’m glad that they grew up in Germany. The Germans love their traditions, and have a rich culture of all things arts and crafts, often linked to the holidays. And they have quite a few of those, between 9 and 13 public holidays, depending on which part of the country you live in.

Creativity has to be stimulated and nurtured. German crafting stimulates creativity and creates a cultural experience for kids of all ages with benefits for the rest of their lives. Many old German traditions still thrive today, lovingly preserved by artisanal craftsmen and small producers, and passed on from generation to generation. Traditions like these often blur the distinction between art and craft. As you watch traditional craftsmen at work, you’ll be amazed at how modern old skills can be. Germans also have an appreciation for natural materials, which is another thing I love.

“Basteln” (making, handcrafting, tinkering) is a national pastime with deep roots in history. It encompasses creative crafting in all its aspects. Around the holidays there are specific art projects in schools, at home with friends, family, and in the community at large. Creativity is a big part of growing up and has many benefits, from stimulating the imagination to making fond memories, and bonding with family and friends. The Germans never let an opportunity to be creative pass by.

So Pieter and Fiona grew up with creativity all around and it’s safe to say that they are still benefiting from it today in their work and private lives. They are both hardworking, successful adults enjoying life to the fullest, good decision makers, open minded, and innovative. Pieter a chemical engineer, now 32, holds a management position at a chemical company, and has a patent to his name (creativity at work). He still bakes and decorates yummy butter cookies for Advent and is totally comfortable with his creative side. A few years back, his wife Heidi invited her girlfriends over for a breast cancer fundraiser carving and decorating pumpkins with pink ribbons and lace. She was surprised to find Pieter sitting at the table happily joining in. Fiona, 30 years old now, is a dentist, just bought her own practice in Baltimore, married to Hilton, an artist (!), and uses creativity in her work as well as at home. She’s an avid knitter, makes macramé plant hangers, and loves to cook and decorate.

So what are the main benefits of let’s say painting for the development of (young) children? Painting allows children to express their creativity freely while having fun doing it. It develops eye-hand communication by strengthening the hand and fingers, helping with fine motor skills. Using the hand muscles allows them to develop both mentally and physically. They learn to think with an open mind, to look at situations creatively. They learn to express themselves more deeply, visually and verbally, as words often lack to describe feelings accurately. They learn to make their own decisions about what works and what doesn’t, developing critical thinking skills. They learn that it’s fun to paint with other children, bonding with their parents, esteem building and stress relieving. It also gives children a life-long appreciation of art.

It helps with brain development. The right side of the brain is mainly used for emotional and creative responses, while the left side focuses on analytical processes and logic. Learning to paint benefits children by using both sides of their brain. Painting helps to make the connection between both sides, which is how we reach our full potential.

Of all the German traditions, St. Martin’s Day on November 11 is by far my favorite. It’s a religious observance that’s particularly popular with children. It’s dedicated to St. Martin of Tours and celebrates modesty and altruism, both values commonly associated with Saints.

On the evening of St. Martin’s Day, there are lantern processions in towns and cities all over Germany. The creative part is that all elementary school age kids make lanterns in school. The teacher comes up with a design for the students to build in class. There is also a prize for the class with the most beautiful lantern. It takes students weeks to build them. You can imagine a 6-year-old making an intricate lantern out of black and colored transparent paper or wire and glue. It takes patience and resolve. They’re all so proud of their work of art. Sad to say that some of them will go up in flames during the procession. The smart parents have a spare store-bought one in their bag in case that calamity happens.

If you get the chance to paint with children, do it, and observe how free and full of joy they are. You will learn how freeing it is not taking yourself so seriously. In the summer, paint outside and let them be messy. That’s the best part. Let the little ones teach you how to paint, not the other way around. You will be in for a surprise.

Happy Painting!


Today’s author: Elisabeth Vismans, CPCC: Elisabeth is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach since 2011. an Award-Winning Artist, and an Art Instructor, has developed a unique coaching program where paint is used as a vehicle to live up to your fullest potential. Ask Elisabeth about her Intuitive Painting/Coaching programs and her “Awareness through Art” groups and retreats stimulating creativity and authenticity. Learn to be in the moment! There is more information on her website: and can be reached at [email protected]

If This Isn’t It, What Is?

If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, then I’m sure you have wondered from time to time about whether this is it. All our lives we are made to believe that the definition of success is a big house with a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, an SUV in the garage, and of course a stable job to pay for it all. If you are sensible, you don’t spend all your money and put some aside for retirement.

But retirement is far away. What about the here and now? I’m not saying that you shouldn’t save for later on, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of missing out on the moment. Live a little on the way.

Having a lot of stuff is what the consumption industry wants us to strive for, and many of us do what is expected. Until one day you get a wake-up call like being laid-off, or a big move to another country, or you just have that nagging feeling that you “have it all” but something is missing – except you don’t know what that something is.

I was lucky in that I knew what that was. I always wanted to paint and it changed my life in many ways when I finally embarked on that journey. In 2000, we had moved from Düsseldorf to Maryland. My son and daughter started high school that year, my husband worked and traveled a lot, and I was home. Alone. No job, no friends. It was culture shock. The American way of life was foreign to me. My in-laws lived just outside New York, where my husband was born, so we had been on vacation here many times, but as my daughter once said: “Mom, it’s a nice country to visit, but not to live.”

Wow! She was born in Hamburg and had been enrolled in German schools. It took her quite a few years to adjust. And it took me five years to finally make a few friends. That was a first. I had moved many times, from country to country, to different cities with different languages and jobs. Every time I lived in a new place, I gathered a group around me, but not here.

In 2005, I finally gave in to my passion. I signed up for a painting class and that changed everything. It felt like coming home, and soon I started to make friends. A whole new world opened up. It was a little scary to walk into that first class. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even know how to paint. I also knew that I had lots to learn, that I would fail many times, but I could do it if I worked hard. And I did. I ended up with stacks and stacks of some pretty ugly paintings, but I was not discouraged or embarrassed. On the contrary, with every brushstroke I got better, and I loved the process. Slowly I was making some pretty decent paintings and even won awards.

This was not the end of the journey. There was still something missing. But this time around, it was not apparent what I needed. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to combine painting with coaching. I became a coach because I was missing a tribe, like I had in all those other places where I had lived, and I wanted to help others to experience what it feels like to come home. What it feels like when you are doing what you were meant to be doing all along.

Find your passion.

If you don’t have a clue what you are passionate about, ask your friends. During my training as a coach, all my coaching friends told me that every time I talked about my painting, I lit up. I had never noticed that, but there it was. When people talk about their passion, and they do so often, they lighten up. Their eyes are on fire, eyebrows are pulled upwards, the whole body is energized, hands and arms start moving.

Pay attention to your own body when you talk about something you feel strongly about.

Body language is an amazing thing. Try sitting slumped over and talk about a passion of yours. I guarantee you that you cannot do it. Not in that position.

In 2011, I founded Quality Within. I chose that name because I am a firm believer that we all have beauty and a unique quality within us. The challenge is to find it. It is something that comes naturally. Something that is so easy for you that you think anybody can do it. But just because it comes easily to you doesn’t mean that it is the same for everybody else. I’m not saying that painting came easily to me. I had to work on it. But I had a drive from within. I didn’t have to push myself, I was pulled toward it. What does come easily to me is combining color and reading people, and reading intuitive paintings.

If you have no idea what your quality within looks like, start by getting organized. Make space and clear your mind and clutter in your home. Finish projects that you have been putting aside.

Once you have cleared your mind, start making a list with all the things you would like to do even if you think it’s impossible. Take your time with it. Then pick one theme that jumps out at you and start pondering, collect information, find out what you need to learn, talk to as many people as you can, and listen to their feedback. Pay attention to your own body, your gut, your energy. Trust your intuition. In my case, thirteen years ago I had no friends, no job. I couldn’t even paint. But paint is my favorite medium. I love working with groups. No matter how tired I am starting a workshop, I always go home fully energized. People ask me all the time: “And what are you going to do when you retire?” I think you know the answer.

Tap into your quality within and show it to the world. A precious gift you can give yourself is helping others with what comes so easily to you.

Last but not least: Don’t give up your day job right away, but learn to deal with your inner critic who might say that it’s too late to change. Believe me, it never is.

Welcome home!


Today’s author: Elisabeth Vismans is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC), an Award-Winning Artist, and founder of Quality Within, helping women in transition to find their life purpose. She developed a unique coaching program using the visual language as an extra modality. She is also an Art Instructor and conducts painting and coaching workshops. Learn more about Elisabeth at her website:, or from her Facebook page.

Intuitive Painting

Intuitive Painting

Intuitive Painting

What exactly is that? Who came up with that?

Well nobody came up with it. It exists since human mankind. Remember those cave drawings? Aren’t they fascinating? Humans have always been driven to be creative. It’s part of who we are.

We are all born creative geniuses. The educational system dumbs us down, according to the results of a test developed by Dr. George Land and Beth Jarman to measure the creative potential of NASA scientists. The test was very successful but the question where creativity comes from remained. They subsequently used the test for school children. They tested 1,600 children between the ages of 4 and 5. The tests looked at the ability to come up with new and innovative ideas to problems.

The results shocked them: 98% fell into the genius category of imagination. Wow! The same kids were tested again five years later and only 30% fell into the same category. At age 15, it was only 12%, and as for adults… How much are we in touch with our creative thinking after years of schooling? Only 2%.

What happened? Years of schooling, that’s what happened. Learning how to pick A, B, or C to pass test. How creative is that? Right … not very much.

It’s safe to say that most of us adults have lost our creative touch. We don’t dance, sing, draw, paint, or sit around the campfire telling stories anymore. We are trained to follow rules and work hard. As an art instructor, I hear often from my adult students that they stopped painting when they were six years old. Around that age we start to judge and compare ourselves to others and when a teacher tells us that the kid sitting next to us made this wonderful painting and all the other classmates think so too, we look at our own painting and come to the conclusion that it’s not good. Not good enough. And that we definitely don’t fall into the category of the anointed ones oozing with talent, so the notion of being creative is abandoned.

It took the joy away. And sheer joy helps us to get into deep play, as Martha Beck calls it. It’s about losing yourself, forgetting about time and being a child again. That’s how we learn. We learn new skills. We learn how to deal with what’s in front of us and afterwards we feel accomplished. We all have seen puppies and kittens play. We love those. How many hits do those YouTube videos get when there is a puppy chasing its tail? So funny and charming.

It’s not all play for that puppy though. Being playful is preparing it for real life, for dangers, how to get food and all those things it needs to know. The same goes for us humans. We come into the world and have to learn all those complicated skills. We play, we are being silly, and we don’t care. People even encourage us with gestures, big smiles and telling us how great we are. Until …. yes until our sixth birthday or thereabout. That’s when we start to compare ourselves to others and start questioning our actions. We stop being silly—most of us, anyway. We stop wondering and if our parents tell us we ask too many questions, we stop that too.

Over the years, we lose our sense of wonder. We lose ourselves and many of us feel down and out. We have lost ourselves. Intuitive Painting will get you back in touch with your playfulness. Deep play is what we are going to do in the Intuitive Painting session.

You will get all the freedom you need to unlock your creativity using a brush, your fingers or a paper towel. Just play and have fun. It cleanses your mind like meditating. The only instruction you get is:

Get in touch with your inner child and ENJOY!!

Come experience intuitive painting with us at the Be Creative retreat at the beautiful Turf Valley Resort on March 3! Register soon – we’re getting very close to the event and we would love to see you there!


Today’s author: Elisabeth Vismans is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC), an Award-Winning Artist, and founder of Quality Within, helping women in transition to find their life purpose. She developed a unique coaching program using the visual language as an extra modality. She is also an Art Instructor and conducts painting and coaching workshops. Learn more about Elisabeth at her website:, or from her Facebook page.

How to Stick with Your New Year’s Resolutions

How to Stick with Your New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of the year again. We are almost two weeks into the new year – how are you doing with your resolution(s)? Are you starting tomorrow or have you maybe given up already?

New Year’s resolutions are a tradition in which you resolve to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a personal goal, or otherwise improve your life. For the longest time, I did not make any, or I came up with a myriad of resolutions, but I was never committed and, therefore, never able to keep them or even remember them after a short while. This all changed when I became interested in self growth and for the last five or six years I’ve set an intention for the new year. I commit to only one.

Statistically, only 8% of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions, so it was not surprising that I wasn’t able to keep mine. I never asked myself what the importance of this goal was and how it would improve my life. The most common reasons people can’t stick to their resolutions are lack of commitment and not having the time or energy to follow through. Nobody wants to sacrifice for something that they don’t see a lot of value in. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting too many goals, setting unrealistic goals, or getting discouraged too easily.

You will have to make the new goal a priority and carve out time for it in your busy schedule. That means that you will have to allot time to your new goal. You will have to replace an old behavior with the new one. If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you cannot expect a different result, right?

You might want to do some soul searching and think about last year’s resolution to see how that worked out. And if it didn’t go as well as expected, then ask yourself, “Why not?” so you don’t go the same route next time. My last year’s intention was to make more friends. Looking back, it worked out pretty well. I have made quite a few new interesting friends with different backgrounds, which was new to me as most of my friends were in the coaching and art scene. And yes, I was committed to taking the time, to be curious, looking for people in new circles, going out of my comfort zone, talking to the person next
to me sitting at the bar. That takes some courage, but it’s so worth it. And what’s the worst that can happen? And once I had made a new connection, I made sure to nurture it by staying connected, sharing and listening, and lots of fun outings. I must add that I like challenges, and new opportunities.

Setting an intent or making a resolution takes some prep work. First of all, you have to know what the new goal means to you. So I asked myself: “Why are friendships important to me and how does it improve my life?” One of my core values is being part of a vibrant community, so there was my answer.

Furthermore, I asked myself what kind of friends did I want to make? I wanted loyal and positive-minded friends with an interesting story, so the relationship would add value to my life and vice versa. What do I want to contribute to a relationship and what do I want to get out of it? I educated myself by reading up on the importance of friendships. So I put a lot of thought into it beforehand. What kept me on track was checking in on a regular basis and being compassionate with myself if I had been slacking. I just acknowledged it and did a reset.

What are the most common resolutions people make?
Eating healthier
Spending less money
Working out more

It all has to do with caring and peace of mind. But how can you be more specific so that it works for you? Let’s take a closer look at “eating healthier” and how you can stay on track. The more specific your formulation is, the easier it is to commit and stay with it. Just saying: “I want to live healthier” is too vague. What does that mean? Working out more, spending more time with your family, going to bed earlier? Be clear. Say something like: “I will eat healthier”. That’s pretty clear and now you can ask yourself questions like what is important about that to me and what kind of “bad” behavior am I going to replace with the new “good’ behavior. It takes time to get used to the new behavior, so maybe find an accountability buddy or start a Meetup. Educate yourself on the subject, discuss books, read labels, share easy recipes, visit farmers markets on a Saturday morning together. Make it a fun and exciting process.

For whatever resolution you make, be crystal clear about what you want, why you want it, how it will improve your life, and how you can succeed at accomplishing your goal. Do your research, set attainable goals and carve out time, be committed, find support, and celebrate your achievements.

Having said all that, of course you don’t have to make a New Year’s resolution just because everybody else does it. On the other hand, you can make a resolution whenever you feel like it. Once I had a client who came to me because she had no friends and desperately wanted friends but didn’t know how to go about it. “Nobody likes me,” she said. We took an in-depth and serious look at her relationship with herself. It was a rocky ride at times, but she stuck with it. There were successes and set-backs but eventually it became second nature to forge and nurture friendships. Now she says with a big smile: “Remember when I had no friends at all? Now I have too many.”

Make a positive change in your life, enjoy the process, and celebrate the outcome.


Today’s author: Elisabeth Vismans is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC), an Award-Winning Artist, and founder of Quality Within, helping women in transition to find their life purpose. She developed a unique coaching program using the visual language as an extra modality. She is also an Art Instructor and conducts painting and coaching workshops. Learn more about Elisabeth at her website:, or from her Facebook page.


What comes to mind first when you think of creativity? Art studio? Dance? Creativity as a talent? But there’s more to it, so let’s take a look at what creativity is.

When I Google creativity, many definitions come up, but I like to stay with: Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow asked, “Who is interested in creativity?” in his 1971 book The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. His answer was: “Practically everybody is.” This interest is no longer confined to psychologists and psychiatrists, but has become a question of national and international policy as well. A 2012 Adobe study on creativity revealed 8 in 10 people felt that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth and nearly two-thirds felt creativity is valuable to society. However, a striking minority – only 1 in 4 people – believe they are living up to their own creative potential.

How can a concept be so important in human consciousness, so dearly valued by nearly everyone, yet be so elusive?

In The Creative Connection, Natalie Rogers, daughter of psychiatrist Carl Rogers, states that “we all need love and approval. Yet the key to unleashing our creative energy is finding the deepest sense of approval within ourselves.” And we have to find a way to quiet the inner critic. It seems the creative bud in each of us is very delicate. Although the urge to express ourselves is powerful, it seems to be easily squashed in childhood. Many people then feel afraid and reluctant to try again.

Creativity is not a talent. We are all born creative and in fact are taught to not be creative. Until the age of five, we are able to play and create without any inhibition. We are able to make beautiful paintings intuitively without any training. At the age of six, we start judging ourselves and listening to what others say about us and lose our freedom of expression. We start to cultivate the chatter in our heads, and start living according to the stories we tell ourselves, whether they are correct or not. One of the stories I often hear as an art instructor is: “I’m taking your class, because I like to paint, but I’m not creative at all.” If we were to treat learning to draw the same as learning to read, we would all be better draughtsmen.

Where could you use more creativity in your life?

Art professor Betty Edwards made it her lifelong quest to determine what creativity is and why we judge ourselves so harshly. Her original contributions to the art of drawing and creativity have reached far beyond the college classroom as she proved that everyone can learn to draw. In her book Drawing on the Artist Within, she related that at the beginning of the semester there are always students saying to her, “I have no talent and will never be able to learn.” “Well, wait and see,” she would answer, and sure enough a few weeks later they were happily drawing away. And even then they attributed their newly acquired skill to hidden talent.

Additionally, the students stated that learning to see by learning to draw had caused other changes in their perception of the life around them. The students said that they noticed there is so much out there that they had never seen before. They even mentioned being able to think differently.

Betty Edwards proposed that learning to see and draw is a very efficient way to train the visual system, just as learning to read and write can efficiently train the verbal system. When trained as equal partners, one mode of thinking enhances the other, and together the two modes can release human creativity and make thought visible. She described the creative process as follows:

  1. First Insight | 2. Saturation  |  3. Incubation  |  4. Ah-Ha! moment  |  5. Verification – engaging left and right brain at the different stages.

If creativity is not a talent, but a skill, then we can learn it and have more of it in our lives. I like to see myself as open-minded, creative, and resourceful. Creating is something I have to do. It’s a force from within. I love it, whether it’s painting, setting the table, arranging flowers, buying a new outfit, or coming up with a creative solution. I thrive on solving challenges, and I use my creativity to engage in creative problem solving.

3 simple ways to enhance creative problem solving:

  1. Become an expert and teach or explain.

Teaching as well as coaching have given me the opportunity to further deepen my knowledge and practice getting it across. I don’t have all the answers, but my reservoir, and also my confidence, are growing. I tell my art students to know their creative habits; with that, I mean knowing what they need in order to stay in the zone while they are painting. If you have to look for a color, you go from right brain to left brain mode and out of the zone.

  1. Be curious and open-minded.

Get curious about the problem you want to solve and be open-minded to new ideas. Fear is the enemy of creativity. Embrace the unknown and give yourself permission to explore.

  1. Gather information by asking yourself questions.

Any idea you have comes out of your memory. That means you have pulled information from your memory and used it. When asked a question, we immediately go into answer mode – so does your memory and you can come up with some unexpected answers.


Today’s author: Elisabeth Vismans is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC), an Award-Winning Artist, and founder of Quality Within, helping women in transition to find their life purpose. She developed a unique coaching program using the visual language as an extra modality. She is also an Art Instructor and conducts painting and coaching workshops. Learn more about Elisabeth at her website:, or from her Facebook page.