Morning Studio Habit Revisited


I had been real good for several weeks about starting my day in my studio. Up early, breakfast and coffee and straight downstairs.

But then other things became more important. Or my schedule for the day didn’t pan out quite right. And then 2 weeks went by and I wasn’t starting my day in the studio.

I saw the rewards of being in my studio. And I clearly saw the results of not being in my studio. All week I have felt creatively constipated. Not only had I NOT felt like creating anything with my hands, but my desire and ability to design significantly declined.

It was a rough week. I had no idea how to spend my time if I was feeling unable to design or create. I felt that my well was empty and I had no clue how to fill it back up.20140321-081118.jpgYesterday, a friend emailed to say I had inspired her to commit to her own studio. My own awesome commitment and her own jealousy and desire had led her to spend an hour daily in her studio. I suddenly felt that I had been letting myself down by not being in my studio daily.

I needed to pick up with my habit. So this morning, I got up and then went down to my studio.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I picked out a large 24×30 canvas and put some paint down. And just kept going. No plan. No real faith in what I was doing really. I just tried to make different textured marks.20140321-081146.jpg


20140321-081210.jpgI took a break for breakfast and coffee and when I returned, I saw shapes that needed to be brought to life.

IMG_3011I don’t know what’s going to happen from here, but I felt so good creating something. When those creative blocks hit, it can feel terrifying that it’s never going to return. This was only a small block, but the fear was never the less present.

Following My Energy

I’ve been creating more, recently. Part of an almost daily practice of starting my day in my studio. I’m good about getting everything else done, but trying to get in my studio later in the day is hard work.


I’ve also begun a large project which is stretching my comfort zone. I’m working BIG. 30×30 inches.


I’m learning I’ve preferred to work small because I get a bit impatient when I create. I get bored with an area and want to move on, even though I haven’t finished my intention for the space.


These large pieces are forcing me to work through the uncomfortable. And I have discovered my new favorite painting tool.


I know, not very technical. Just a 3.5×2 piece of chip board. But I LOVE the way it moves paint across large areas.


Today I leaned into this large space I was creating in. I used my scrapper and got my hands dirty, mostly forgoing paint brushes. I turned the music up loud (today it was Cat Power). I remembered my teachings from Flora Bowely and let my body guide me.

20140302-120222.jpgThis meant taking a break to have a dance party for myself, dancing like nobody was watching. Because no one was, except the dog.


I let this energy carry me on to some other in progress paintings. I often get to a point with my paintings where I have to stop because I’m afraid of ruining them. I like where they are at but I don’t love them. For real, sometimes I feel I won’t ever figure out how to finish. So I let it sit.


With my creative energy flowing, I knew it was time to make some changes to this piece. Using my new friend Mr. Scraper, I pulled neon pink and white across the canvas. And added some bubble wrap stamping. It will probably sit again until I feel the next phase.


Doodle Draw Lessons

These photos are almost a year over due, but I’m trying to get back on the blogging wagon and this post was actually already started, I just never added any text!

I had the pleasure of working under the teaching of Jennifer Mercede at the Makerie last spring and to learn the joy of doodling. We spent the morning losening up with lots of blind contour drawings outside. As well as just some free doodle exercises.20130418-213934.jpg

In addition to our day long doodle-paint exploration, we focused on the theme of “art as life” and “life as art”, and what we could learn from these two interchangeable ideas.20130418-213944.jpg

Below are a few of the lessons I learned during this day of play and joy.20130418-214210.jpg

I did create one final piece of art by the end of the day and that was this pair of blue dear. I was inspired by a photograph in a vintage book about the forest. 20130418-214008.jpg



I didn’t have a plan with these dear. I just went with the flow and when I was feeling blue, I went with it and painted the dear blue.20130418-214145.jpg

This painting now hangs in my dining room as a reminder of what I can create when I get out of my own head and just play.

And here I am channeling my inner artist, dressed for the part.20130418-214157.jpg

One of my hopes in attending the Makerie was to meet a creative friend. Below, Cara Harjes and I pose the final evening, thrilled to have made our connection. Cara has proved to be an inspiration to me and I couldn’t be more happy to have her in my creative circle.20130418-214236.jpg

Artist Interview: Cara Harjes

Today, I’m happy to share an interview with my latest painting buddy, Cara Harjes. Cara and I met at The Makerie last spring in our painting class with Jennifer Mercedes.  Both of us had the wish to meet a new creative local friend while at the retreat. Serendipity had us sitting next to one another and we quickly got to talking and bonding. We were so pleased to discover we lived minutes away from each other in Denver. And thus, The Makerie became our first of many painting dates.

Over the summer, Cara and I have shared many hours painting next to one another “riding the wave of art juju that we create together,” as Cara says. I couldn’t have asked for a better creative friend in Cara and am so thankful for The Makerie bringing us together.

cara harjesCara Harjes love your lifeWhen did you know that you wanted to be an artist?
in the third grade we had a career day and i dressed up as an artist.  but during that time, i really struggled with making art.  it never really looked the way i hoped.  and when it did, i remember being made fun of by other kids.  but i’ve always loved dabbling in the creative world.  i used to redesign my mom’s living room when she was gone.  she would come home to rearranged furniture and quilts covering the coffee table for decoration.  when i got married in 2005, i started scrap booking my wedding pictures.  that turned into art journaling and collage which gave me the courage to eventually begin painting.   i really believe that every little step we take in our creative lives moves us closer and closer to our calling.  nobody just wakes up one morning and starts painting beautiful pictures.  honor each little step along the way, even if it seems silly or insignificant or no good.

cara harjes cow nicemoveWhat does it mean to live an authentic life?
if i am nothing else, i am a truth teller.  i share my story – the good and the bad, the colorful and the dark – for myself, but also to empower and free others up to tell their own stories.  when we live as truth tellers, we live in freedom.  and it takes free people to create beauty in this world.

What has been your most exciting moment as an artist?
last spring i took a hiatus from being a wife and mother for three days.  i went to a wonderful retreat at The Makerie in Boulder (check them out for a nurturing and empowering weekend of art making and soul nurturing!) and took two workshops with jennifer mercede, one of my favorite artists.  in those classes, i came alive again as an artist.  everything i had been learning and practicing over the past three years suddenly made sense.  i learned how to take what i was already doing to the next level.  i became more inspired and excited about my work than i had been in a long long time.

Cara addie mural How would you describe your artwork? Has becoming a mother transformed your work in any way?
my artwork is whimsical, very colorful, and messy!  i believe life is both beautiful and imperfect, and that is definitely reflected in my work.
i make original paintings, prints of my work, growth charts, and murals for kids rooms!   my works tends to fit best in kids rooms, but parents like it because it isn’t cutesy. my work has shifted a great deal since becoming a momma.  having a kiddo around has helped me to embrace my identity as a children’s artist.  i have to be a lot more focused with the spare time that i have to paint.  i really have to make it count when i have time to paint, so i have really gotten serious about making sure that i love what i am doing.  i have taken classes to hone my skills, so my work has definitely been transformed as i learn more.  my style is more detailed and my technique has become more sophisticated.  if i am going to spend time away from addie to do something for myself, i want to be really proud of what i am doing.  so i think my work has become better since having her.   from a business standpoint, i am focusing on transforming my hobby into a career so that my daughter can look up to me as a woman who both cares for her family and has work that she is passionate about.  it feels impossible to balance at times but it is really important to me.

How much time per week do you spend creating (rather than time spent promoting and running your business)
i have a toddler running around my house so i depend on her to nap and babysitters to not be sick in order to get work done in my backyard studio.  creative time can range from nothing to 9 or 10 hours a week.

What is your favorite art supply, tool or technique?
i love to doodle, scrawl, and write on my art.  i use an ink pen or india ink for this.

Do you have a favorite piece of art you’ve created? What is the story behind this piece?

Harjes Llama Harjes giraffe
i have two pieces that will always be special to me because they represent bold and courageous steps forward in my artwork.  the giraffe was created in 2011 and the llama in 2013.  i had not done anything like these pieces at the time.  they took risk taking and courage and creativity to make and they both empowered me to take my work to the next level.

Do you keep an inspiration board? What is on it and what inspires you?
i don’t have a 3d board over my work table but i keep a board on pinterest that is called “art that makes my heart flutter”.  it is filled with pieces that simply pierce my heart and make me want to create!
some reflect my style and make me want to study their use of color and layering.   others are not my style at all but the passion and talent behind them inspire me to dive deeper into my own work.  some of them are just fun to look at!

What is your favorite art related book(s)?
i love all of sabrina ward harrison’s books.  she encourages me to not be afraid to make messy art and embrace the drips and mistakes and turn them into something beautiful.  this is my motto for art and life.

Who are your top 3 favorites artists?
i think this changes on a regular basis so there are too many to list.
sometimes my favorite artist has everything to do with their style and the actual work they produce.  other times i may not love their work, but i feel inspired by how they approach art and life and business.

cara Brule mural How do you recharge when your creativity hits the wall?
step away from it all.  take a break.  cook. walk.  talk to a friend.
i don’t force it when it isn’t there.
unless i have a deadline.  then i don’t worry about recharging and i just tell myself, “you can do this.  you’ve got this.”  and i charge forward!

What advice can you offer those wanting to live a more creative life?
look for little ways to think outside of the box in your daily life.  mix patterns and colors when getting dressed.  put an unexpected ingredient like chocolate or beer into your favorite chili recipe.  play. experiment.  ask yourself how you can look at something from a different point of view.  take risks.  ask questions.  wonder.  get lost.  take yourself on a creative date.  go doodle at a coffee shop.  even if you can’t doodle, do it anyway.  the only way you can learn to doodle is by doodling.  the only way to learn to paint is by painting.

cara harjesgrowth charts

How can we find you?

Art website






Tenny Lane Special Request

I just finished another cool commission project. This time I had the honor of bringing to life a poem about a garden. The buyer commissioned this piece of art as a surprise for his girlfriend in honor of the beautiful garden she tends in her backyard.

Before starting the actually creation of the art, I sat down with the buyer. We looked through my gallery of previous art and he pointed out what he liked about my style. I asked him questions about color, content and imagery. I knew that I had been chosen for this project because the buyer loved the style in which I create and trusted me to create a meaning piece of art.

It really is true that my creative energy is focused when I work on  custom projects. I worked with a color palette that I normally don’t choose for my own pieces of art, but it’s good to step out of my comfort zone and push myself. I was so happy with the way the colors, textures, images and text came together.

Tenny Lane Art

I started out going through my collection of papers pulling out what grabbed my eye and what fit the garden theme.Tenny Lane Art

Then I arranged all the elements the way I wanted them and glued them down. I added some yellow and green paint to sort of melt all the papers together. I also added some blue stamping with rubble wrap. Followed by a bit of white to wash it all out a bit.Tenny Lane ArtNext, I laid out all my top layer bits and worked on arranging them. This included the strips of paper and fabric on the bottom, red flowers, the rickrack, and the silohette of the tree, sun and moon. I typed up the poem on my vintage typewriter and cut all the lines a part.
Tenny Lane Art

When I was happy with the layout, I glued everything down and added rub on letters for the title.Tenny Lane Art

Adventure Marks the Soul Forever

I totally just love this quote right now! Recently I had the opportunity to create a custom piece of art for a woman I met at one of my craft fairs.

Here’s the progress of that piece of art.

I started by doing a textured layer of pinks and reds. Then I painted teal and white almost entirely over all of the red, so there were just a few specks showing through.

Next I took a page from an old atlas of the state of Colorado and cut it into a mountain shape.Adventure progress

I started to paint in the trees and the mountains, making sure bits of the map showed through.Adventure ProgressThen I finished up with an accent of ribbon and rickrack and I drew in the text with a paint pen.

I just LOVE how this piece came together and I’m happy to know that the customer was thrilled with the final project.

What can I create for you?

Artist Interview: Lizzie Mara

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here on the blog, but I’m happy to be back and sharing a wonderful interview with my friend Lizzie. I met Lizzie through craft fairs here in Denver. Before I knew her personally, I was drawn to the colors and beautiful line work of Lizzie’s paintings. As a friend, Lizzie is a kind hearted, warm person who I love spending an evening painting along side. I’m pleased to share this artist interview!

Lizzie MaraWhen did you know that you wanted to be an artist?
When I was in preschool at Le Pepinniere Montessori school I would literally race other children to the art station to do my “work”. I was three and remember wanting a paint pallet and an easel so much.

What does it mean to live an authentic life?
Authenticity has been a big theme for me since 2007 – which is interesting for me to reflect on. This was the year I started really dedicating time to painting again. I have three beautiful children who help me keep it real, and the love of my soul mate – Jay Treat. He was my high school sweetheart and we are absolutely smitten. In 2010 I did a whole series of paintings called Who Are You? There were 32 paintings of women painted in profile wearing vintage floral swim caps with organic matter coming from them – as if you could see their truth. This was all about authentic communication for me.

What has been your most exciting moment as an artist?
I was asked to be a part of this Green Living Festival during the Democratic National Convention in Denver. I felt so honored to be a part of such a special moment in history and have my work featured. Any time I’m invited to show my work is so exciting!

How much time per week do you spend creating (rather than time spent promoting and running your business)
I wish it was more. As an artist-mom-entrepreneur I usually create around 4 hours/week on a bad week. On good weeks I’m creating around 20 hrs/week.

What is your favorite art supply, tool or technique?
I love Golden Acrylics, white oil based paint pens, and German water colour crayons.

Do you have a favorite piece of art you’ve created? What is the story behind this piece? 

Lizzie Mara "Home"“Home” 36″ x 36″ Mixed Media on Canvas

Do you keep an inspiration board? What is on it and what inspires you?

Yes! I love to rework my inspiration boards and love gathering images. Check out one of my Pinterest INSPIRE board or INSPIRED DESIGN board 

One we have in our home is our personal family “vision map” and on it are lists of what we want our lives to look like, such as daily yoga, juicing, qui gong, and other good habits! It’s amazing how many things come to fruition when we simply put it out there to the universe. I teach a vision board painting class a few times a year with an amazing Feng Shui teacher, Tanya Jahnke of Feng Shui for the Om

What is your favorite art related book(s)?
I find so much inspiration from children’s illustrators. I love to spend time in the children’s’ section of the Tattered Cover. I also love books about master painters like The Letters of Vincent VanGogh by Mark Roskill.

Who are your top 3 favorite artists?
This was such a hard question to answer because I love so many artists!

Ancient: I am so moved by ancient Etruscan Votive Figures!Etruscan votice

Impressionists: Manet. Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets, 1872. Photograph: RMN (Musee d’Orsay)/Herve Lewandowski

Modern: Niki de Saint PhalleModern: Niki de Saint Phalle

How do you recharge when your creativity hits the wall?
I work with children a lot – so many times when I have had a dry spell in my own creativity, teaching kids wakes this right up.

What advice can you offer those wanting to live a more creative life?
Get out an go to cultural events, see indi-films, go to see live music, and eat at chef restaurants. And when the budget it tight, browse art books at the library!

How can we find you? (website, facebook, twitter, pinterest, flickr, etc)