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







3 thoughts on “Artist Interview: Cara Harjes

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