When one meets Aliza McCracken, be it in person or through a phone or Zoom call, it's like a burst of sunshine entered the room. She has a calm demeanor, a sweet voice and kind face that puts you at ease. You can't help but wonder, can someone like this really exist in 2020?
The answer is yes, and with a new book of paintings and creative prose out, she's hoping to make even more people smile.
The Vietnamese American artist has always tried to focus on the brighter side of life. Born in Vietnam, she was orphaned at a young age during the war and was adopted by an American family — "Hence the Irish last name," she said.
Art and creativity were always a part of her life, she explained. She first lived in New York, where arts and culture were at their highest. Her mother was passionate about culinary arts, designing quilts and playing the organ at church, and her father was a writer and choir singer.
By the age of 4, McCracken began painting and found it helped her "move beyond the shyness" she had when she was a child. Over the years, it also became a way for her to deeply connect with people, even strangers, and impact them in a number of ways.
She released her first book, "The Dance of Love," a collection of art, poetry and inspirational quotes, in 1999. From that moment, her passion of pairing artwork with storytelling blossomed.
"Normally it’s the image that comes to mind first," McCraken said about her creative process. "As I’m working on different paintings and images, it speaks to me and takes a life of its own. It shows me the direction it needs to take."
Through the imagery selected for her books — recently it has been strong, vibrant flowers — she hopes to ease people's pain and suffering, she explained. At times, it might be hard to see the beauty in life or feel a sense of strength, but it's always there, even if one does not believe it is.
Take a lotus, for example: "The lotus grows from murkiness and it turns into a beautiful flower," she explained. "Its environment isn’t necessarily what you would imagine it to be."
The words, too, help people through difficult moments. A reader recently told McCracken that a family member died from COVID-19 and shared a passage from her book, "Creative Abundance: Artful Possibilities," at the memorial.
The passage reads: "Every soul is of irreplaceable beauty. As beloved, we are uniquely designed for a brilliant purpose and plan. We are expressions of divine creativity, worthy of all the honor bestowed upon masterpieces. For indeed, we are."
"Those kinds of connections have been so wonderful," McCracken said, "when you’re able to touch just one life and make such a difference."
After a tumultuous year, it may seem like finding the positives may be a difficult task. But with her latest book, "The Art of Kindness," McCracken is determined to help people see those beautiful moments, big and small.
Each page features a colorful flower and mantras: "The art of kindness is essential to wholeness," "Kindness beautifully nurtures the heart and soul" and "Spread love, peace and kindness."
"I really wanted it to be in its essence the power of love in the face of adversity," McCracken said about her book. "We’ve all gone through so much loss and heartache ... but when I’m able to use those experiences to transform moments in life and bring a sense of beauty and happiness and share that with others, it gives me a sense of joy as well."
Her latest book and previous works are available for purchase at https://aliza-mccracken.square.site
She would normally be holding book events and exhibits to showcase her artistry, but those have been canceled due to COVID-19. In true McCracken fashion, she is focusing on the positive, which is being able to bring a little bit of joy to people through her book.
"It is always a joy to connect with such lovely readers, while supporting an amazing cause. Artistic literacy is truly wonderful for cultivating a sense of inner peace, hope and wellness," she said. "As an artist and author, I love inspiring others to create and celebrate a beautiful life for themselves, their families and communities. Through spreading human kindness and brightening lives, we can uplift one another's heart while bringing joy and warmth to the soul."