Monday, October 20, 2014

Feeding Your Art by Feeding Your Heart

Autumn is my favorite season, and I had the distinct privilege last week to tour colleges back east for my son. Our trip just happened to fall during peak leaf times for some of the areas we visited. I was in heaven!

I have such a longing for Autumn in my heart. Having grown up in California, I haven't experienced the true glory of this season. And currently living in Colorado, I only taste a bit of it. Our native aspens are beautiful against the evergreens, but it's a monochoromatic type of Autumn scene: yellow, darker yellow, almost orangey-yellow, and more yellow. People such as myself who long for more color plant maples and such in their yards to get orange and red in Fall.

But you simply cannot manufacture the true glory of Autumn in the East.  Reds, golds, oranges, russets, garnets, greens all mixed together in a riot of color, here and there topped with a dollop of fog bring such beauty and joy to my heart, filling it to overflowing.

As an artist, I felt completely spoiled. Now that I'm home again, I'm bursting with inspiration, both visual and verbal. I look forward to getting my hands into acrylics to interpret the scenes I enjoyed.

What feeds your artist's heart? Can you get a generous serving of it today?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Some of you are aware that I facilitate a Facebook group called Brilliant Chaos, an online community dedicated to encouraging people to create. Every month, during the first full week of the month, we have a Creating Challenge in which people commit to create something each day for five days straight. This week is our week! And our suggested theme is "Change."***

We are all experiencing seasonal change right now. In the Northern Hemisphere we are in the shift that is Autumn, and our Southern Hemisphere friends are sliding into the renewal of Spring. Both spheres are bursting with color and anticipation.

"Change" reflects my sense of being too. I feel I am gaining a greater sense of purpose about my activities, including this blog. When I began writing Artisan of Creative Miracles, I felt like I was taking a big leap of faith. I was calling myself an artist without much proof of it. I was stepping on wobbly, just-born-fawn legs, excited yet tenuous about the adventure before me. 

To strengthen those fawn legs, I committed to a 365-day Creating Challenge in 2013. Each day I created something and blogged about it. It was a glorious, colorful marathon that advanced my artistry and confidence. You can peruse my past posts to witness that journey.

I arrived at December 31, 2013 on adolescent doe legs. And January 1 of this year saw me begin a long rest. Teenagers need a lot of sleep, you know! (I know this personally from having two of them at home.) So much growth happens as we transition into adulthood, and rest is required. It's not that I haven't created during that time. It's just that I no longer required the push nor the accountability that my 365-Day Creating Challenge gave me. And I needed space and time away from blogging.

Coming into this Autumn, I feel I am tranforming into a young adult doe. That means I still have some maturing to do yet I also can begin to claim some truths about myself. That's the Change I want to celebrate in this blog post. I'm hammering stakes into the ground, three specifically:

  1. I am an artist. I have beauty to offer the world, and I have skills in many different techniques and arenas for doing so. I own this and will live it. I want to be an Artist of Life. This requires time and space. I can no longer afford to treat creating like a hobby. It is my vocation, and it deserves to be treated as such. So I plan to more intentionally carve out creating time. I look forward to this.
  2. I inspire others to create. I have found that a positive unintended impact of my own creating is that others feel inspired to create too. I love this! I've had numerous people tell me that because I have taken the time and opporutnity to draw, paint, play music, and write, they have felt permission to express their creativity as well. This feeds my soul because I believe everyone has something beautiful to offer the world and that when we do so the world becomes a better place. 
  3. I am a teacher. This new identity feels the riskiest for me to claim because it involves intentionality. But it's true. I am currently teaching art journaling to young people through Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Online. Next semester I'll teach a class in which parents and students will learn mixed media art techniques together. Teaching is a lot of work, and I love it! I love my students! I love preparing for my classes. The research involved means that while I'm teaching I'm learning and growing too. I'm experiencing so much creative energy! And the kids seem to enjoy what they're learning. This experience has made me realize that whether in the online classroom or elsewhere, I have expertise, enthusiasm, and encouragement to offer others, and it's time for me to do so on a more regular basis. This includes what I share on this blog. I am learning so much others may want to explore, and I'm more than willing to share all of that.

Indeed, change is afoot for me as I step on mature doe legs into this season of changing leaves. I look forward with great anticipation to what comes as a result.

How about you? What changes are you experiencing? Interested in hammering any stakes into the ground? I'd love to hear about it!

***Would you like to join the Brilliant Chaos creating community? We would welcome you with open arms whether you're creating something artistic, musical, literary, scientific, organizational, or anything else. We are a highly encouraging, positive community! Click this link to join.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Monday, September 1, 2014

I've Gone to the Birds!

As I've delved more into sketching over the past couple of years, I've wanted to learn how to draw birds. I've decided now is the time to try. So I visited my local library and borrowed The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds by John Muir Laws. To the right is my first attempt using Muir's step-by-step directions for drawing a warbler. I'm quite pleased by the result!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Announcing My Art Journaling Class for Fall 2014 Through Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Online

An art journal page I quickly created just for this blog post.
Somehow my charmed life has landed me in a place I'd never dreamed: teaching a web-based art journaling class to gifted young people through the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Online. Starting September 4 through December 18, 2014, every Thursday at 1 p.m. Pacific Time I will be teaching sixth through tenth grade homeschoolers some things I've learned about self-expression through art and writing.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've created the syllabus and begun lesson planning. As I've done this, I've grown more and more excited about teaching this class! Why? Because I get to encourage gifted young people to create, and inspiring others to create is one of my deep callings in life. As well, art journaling provides people with the opportunity to reflect on their lives, and the potential for transformation that can bring also energizes me.
Students can turn any used book into an art journal. I'm using this one!

In this class, students will create their own art journal from a favorite old book. Then they will begin to fill those pages by learning 
  • idea development
  • thumbnail sketching
  • drawing techniques
  • watercolor painting
  • pen work
  • acrylic painting
  • collaging
  • lettering
  • handwriting
  • and various writing techniques.
Having learned these skills, students will then have opportunities to apply them in experimenting with various art ideas and in expressing their experiences, thoughts, and feelings. With my background as a parent of gifted children and a personal coach to gifted grownups, I look forward to guiding this class through the gifted lens. Art journaling gives gifted people an opportunity to
  • express themselves visually and tactilely
  • explore their abundant creativity
  • write using their exquisite word skills, including word play
  • eschew perfectionism by viewing the art journal as a place to experiment
  • express their sensitivity in a safe place
  • interact with their ideas through visual forms
  • explore their curiosity through various art techniques
  • process information in a right-brained, intuitive way
  • express their uniqueness
  • and more!
Plus, it's FUN!

If you are homeschooling your gifted middle schooler or early high schooler, I hope you consider enrolling your student in my class. I would love to meet him or her and share this unique, fun art form that can become a vital practice in expressing and processing their gifted lives. As mentioned above, I will be teaching this class Thursdays at 1 p.m. Pacific Time from September 4 through December 18, 2014. Click this link to register:

Friday, June 20, 2014


What thoughts dance behind those silent, quick eyes that miss nothing?
Do you dwell on galaxies, the orbiting of planets around suns,
of suns around other suns in one giant universal waltz?
Do you focus on the universe of a cell and the smallest particles of life within?
Do you write scripts for full-length movies comprised of well-rounded characters
surviving and thriving through intricate and adept plots?
Or novels of equal complexity and quality?
Do you create a world yet unseen except in that brilliant brain of yours?
A world where justice reigns and inhabitants live in peace and harmony?
Do you plant a fairy garden of magical flowers and trees?
Paint a four-foot by six-foot canvas with thousands of intricate, colorful strokes?
Find a cure for cancer or AIDS or heart dis-ease?

Others may say you "obsess," but you know better.
You were made for this.
And the very world that judges you?
Well, you may save it one day.
So, let your thoughts run free.
Let them play and frolic in the sun.

The above is my offering to the 2014 #NZGAW Blog Tour.
Thanks to Mary St. George for inviting me to participate!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Gesso: What It is and Why I Love It

When I post about playing with gesso, I end up fielding a few questions about it. Since it's an art supply I use frequently, I figured I'd write an ode--or a blog post--about it.

Gesso is an acrylic-based surface preparation. I use it to prepare all kinds of items for paint and/or decoupage. Coating a surface with a layer or two of gesso makes it ready for all kinds of media: watercolor, acrylic, decoupage, collage, pen work, etc.

I love gesso for at least three reasons:

  1. It can make almost any surface paintable. Just a coat or two, and I can make paints of all kinds glide across canvases, book covers, papers, the cat, etc. (Just for the record, I don't have a cat.)
  2. Smearing it all over a surface feels great! Now, if you prefer, you can avoid a mess by painting gesso on your surface with a foam or bristle brush. Painting it with a brush can feed meditative. But if you're like me, you get a tad impatient with that delivery method. Plus, smearing it all over a surface with my hands is a tactile experience. It reminds me of finger painting as a child. I remember starting preschool classes approaching the painting table, a little pile of silky tempura paint powder sitting atop a glob of starch on a piece of paper, just waiting for me to dive in with my fingers. I couldn't get my smock on fast enough to begin my masterpieces! Applying gesso to my painting surfaces brings some of that childlike joy back into my heart.
  3. Applying gesso is a fairly mindless yet mindful part of the creating process. Putting gesso onto a surface takes little strategic thinking. So I can really feel the gesso, the surface, and the rhythm of smoothing it out. I can be in the moment.
Gesso is available at most hobby stores in the acrylic paints section. It comes in white, black, and clear. I recommend it highly for both the product and process of your creating!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Creating a Day Off

For some unknown reason, my kids had the day off from school today. My son went off with his friends--the joy of teenage independence--and I took my daughter and her friend to the mall. We followed inspiration, which resulted in a series of pictures mocking mannekins. You can follow me on Instagram at create_miracles and check out the pictures at #mockthemannekin. Here's a sample:

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sketching Faces

After a hiatus, I've returned to sketching faces. Dina Wakley, in her online course called Facing the Facts, challenges her students to draw 100 faces. I've chosen to take on this challenge. The faces below are numbers 13 through 20.

My daughter thinks this guy is creepy. I agree.

If the faces seem brooding, they are. I'm using models as, well, models. I've purchased a style magazine to have plenty of drawing samples. The unintentional result is I have a bunch of faces of people with attitude and slightly parted lips.

After drawing so many pouty-faced models, I decided to go free form. I'm grateful for all of the models I've drawn; they've taught me so much about drawing faces that I was able to use in the sketch below. Of all the faces I've sketched in this set, she is my favorite.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Mixed Media Journal Cover

Since completing my 365-Day Creating Challenge on December 31 of last year, I have not created as much as I'd like. I have painted and sketched here and there; now I'm feeling a greater desire to amp up my creating pace. I'm also feeling the urge to blog again (I'd rather burned out on it after posting so much last year).

So, here I am, sharing a journal cover I recently made. I like to journal in sketchbooks. They contain completely blank pages which make for truly creative writing. However, the covers leave something to be desired, and this one was particularly hideous with a bunch of marketing copy all over it. I slathered the cover with gesso then went to town with acrylics for the background. I collaged the flower onto the cover with decoupage, then painted it with acrylics and finished it off with pen work. Well, it might not be "finished"--I might have to cap it off with some lettering...

Friday, February 28, 2014

Reflections on My 365-Day Creating Challenge

Two months ago I completed a 365-Day Creating Challenge that lasted all of 2013. This Challenge taught me so many lessons! Now that I've had time to reflect since concluding the daily creating commitment, I'd like to share some thoughts that may help you if you are considering a Creating Challenge of your own:

  • A Creating Challenge can begin at any time of year and be any length of time. I don't usually set goals nor do I make New Year's resolutions. I tend to fail at both. The beginning of my 365-Day Creating Challenge just happened to coincide with the New Year. But it could have begun at any time. And it could have been any other set time period. 
  • A Creating Challenge can morph over time. What I envisioned on the first day of my challenge did not stand the test of time. I had intended to create something and blog about it daily. I found that I drank in the creating part, but blogging so regularly felt like a chore. So, as time went by I did not pressure myself to do that. I indulged in the creating, then would write blog posts in a block or include multiple creations in one blog post. Though I did not complete my Challenge as originally designed, that first vision motivated me to begin and informed the rest of my challenge. You've probably heard that it's easier to steer a moving car. Same with a Creating Challenge: it's easier to get those creative juices flowing and shift the challenge as your energy shifts than to create the "perfect" challenge out of the chute. The journey is definitely more than any finished product.
  • A Creating Challenge must draw you into it. Frequently people undertake challenges such as this just so they can say they've done them. This doesn't provide enough motivation to continue for the long haul. It's about process, not performance. Instead, ask yourself "What wants to be created through me?" My Creating Challenge began when I considered the idea of sketching each day for a year. The thought just went in and out of my brain. Then, when Wendy Balman, my Creating Challenge partner-in-crime, mentioned the idea of doing something everyday for a year, the sketch-a-day-for-a-year thought returned to me. I felt that, while it would force me to improve my sketching abilities, it lacked the breadth of interest that I require. So I tweaked the idea to creating something everyday for a year, and that worked.
  • A Creating Challenge requires rest and feeding. I ran a creative marathon. I needed to rest at times. When I honored my exhaustion, my creative output increased over time. I frequently took those times to input energy into my creativity. I'd watch a video about painting. I'd read a book about lettering. All of that empowered me to keep going.
  • A Creating Challenge is way more fun when shared with others! I not only had Wendy Balman doing her own Creating Challenge at the same time, I had so many amazing people come out of the woodwork to cheer me on. Some of them also began to create, and this encouraged me too. I learned that I not only am an artist, I am also an inspirer of others into their creating. That is an unintended but much cherished impact I and my Creating Challenge have had on people. What a blessing!
  • Your relationship with a Creating Challenge changes over time. In his book Creating, Robert Fritz describes a creating cycle that applies to bringing something into the world: conception, vision, current reality, take action, adjust-learn-evaluate-adjust, building momentum, always have a place to go, completion, and living with your creating. I feel the ideas are similar for an entire Creating Challenge, which truly is a creation of its own. I feel it particularly now that I am releasing the Creating Challenge. Just as with a completed artwork, I need to release the Creating Challenge and change my relationship with it. It is now something I have done, not something I'm doing. I felt that keenly simply in typing my title for this blog post--today's entry was the first in over a year that didn't begin with the words "Creating Challenge." That seems like a tiny shift, but it felt huge.
  • A Creating Challenge bears more treasures than you can possibly imagine at the start. Not only do I have many finished products at my disposal, I've gained internal gold. I've finally adopted the truth that I am an artist because I lived it every single day of last year. I also advanced my skills as an artist. I easily become bored, so creating everyday pushed me to go broader and deeper in my abilities. As well, this creativity expanded to other areas of my life. I found myself expressing creative thoughts and improvising more than ever. And most priceless, I learned that I am not only a creator, I inspire others into their creating. As I shared my work, others joined in, finding their creative voices and expressing them.