Thursday, October 23, 2014

in the studio with alena hennessy and a GIVEAWAY!

Today I am excited to share a peek inside Alena Hennessy's studio and creative life! Alena is the author of Cultivating Your Creative Life, The Painting Workbook, and beloved teacher of the art-making process, both online and at select retreats. Her work has been featured in numerous magazines and publications, including Dwell, The Washington Post, Somerset Life, Spirituality & Health, ReadyMade, Redbook, Stitch, Victoria, and Natural Health magazine, as well as being featured on Good Morning America and pilot shows for ABC Studios. Her paintings have been exhibited across major cities in the U.S., along with several museum shows.

What inspires you? What motivates you to create?

It may sound cliché—but I get inspired by many things, from what I observe on a walk in nature, to going into town and flipping through magazines or window shopping and noticing current aesthetics or motifs. Mostly though I am moved by taking in the natural world: the colors, lines, shapes, repeated patterns, sweeping movements, and so forth. Working with the elements and principles of art themselves also inspire me a great deal—creating rhythm, finding ways to unify and harmonize a piece through colors, shapes, and how to resolve a painting by balancing a composition, making it all come together. Finding inspiration by doing the work and simply beginning has so much to do with it.

I am motivated to create because I simply must! I often feel I have no other choice…. Its just a longing or stirring within me that needs to come out and be expressed. I’ve also been working as a full time artist since 2005 and usually have many deadlines and things I need to get done within the studio each day. Art has been a part of my life from a very young age; it’s just something I have always done.

I love seeing how other artists set up their creative space. Can you tell us a little bit your studio?

Sure! I live in the Blue Ridge mountain area of Asheville, NC and work out of my home that I share with my partner Matthew and my little white fox (Pomeranian) dog Mimi Simone. We live on 3.5 acres of soft rolling green and its quite peaceful, which allows me to get a lot done. I have had public/retail spaces before and at that time I was finding it was harder to complete my needed tasks. I love the ability to lock myself in my studio and shut out the world for hours. It feels like a gift.

I know that you juggle a lot of different projects. How do you organize your creative schedule?

Each day is different—and yes juggling seems to be the theme these days! I tend to roll with it though and usually have a solid idea of what needs to get done that week and what is most pressing for that day. I wake up and get my day going, answer emails, and then handle step by step each task that needs my attention. I have found that my self-care practices are pretty vital, in other words being able to step away from the deadlines and come back within myself to center and unwind. That could look like a lot of things (swimming at the gym, walking in nature, taking a hot bath), and it helps me immensely in keeping me grounded and feeling motivated to create at the same time.

What is a typical day like for you?

Oh it varies, but it usually looks something like answering emails (as I stated above), filming myself painting, editing the videos, responding to students’ needs, organizing and making more art for my book projects, taking care of website stuff, and so forth. This interview is reminding me how much I need an assistant at the moment! 

What do you feel art adds to life?

I feel art can transform life in many ways… it allows us to express what is beyond words, it subsequently quenches and expresses your soul-longing at the same time, it’s a practice that teaches us to let go, it brings you community… so many rich things!

During my quiet-hour(s) of painting, I find that my soul gets to sometimes rest, explore, or express its deep longing. That time when I sit down and create with my heart is sacred. It’s simply your time with you, no one else’s. Something within gets satisfied, something within gets fulfilled. It is a practice and meditation. Within me I also get to express something that needs to come out, be let go of, or made seen. It is a dance between these sacred intrinsic needs.

What are you working on right now?

I have begun to work on a new book project, which is pretty exciting, as well as filming for my online classes. I am always doing that! The Year of Painting class has been a pretty phenomenal experience—I get so overjoyed by seeing what women create from all over this world. They blow me away daily. Every 3 weeks I post a new painting lesson or inspiration, then over 400 women respond to it with their own interpretation (I am all about everyone discovering their own muse and strengthening their own signature style). 

Thank you so much Alena for sharing a little peek into your creative life!
To see more of Alena's work, read her blog or purchase artwork and classes, head on over to her website-

And sweet generous Alena is giving away 3 signed copies of her new book The Painting Workbook! It will ship from directly from her studio to you.

To enter-
Leave a comment telling us what art has added to your life!
I will randomly select 3 winners and announce at the bottom of this post later this week.

In addition Alena is also offering my readers 25% off her popular A Year of Painting course by using the exclusive coupon alisa25! That’s over $62 in savings!

Thank you Alena!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

a peek inside my sketchbook

One of the most important things that I teach in just about all of my classes is how important it is to always keep you eyes open for inspiration- it is what I like to call "finding your muse". In my opinion, taking time to seek ideas and inspiration off the computer and in the world around you is the only way that your work will be authentic to you and your life. 

I am always on the lookout for ideas and inspiration and keep a camera on me at all times- just in case something wonderful crosses my path. Well, recently something wonderful did cross my path. While driving to my favorite state park a giant herd of elk crossed the road (this tends to happen a lot here on the Oregon Coast) but something about the experience felt different. Maybe it was the mossy trees or the winding road or the way the light was shining down on a gigantic bull with huge antlers but the experience felt magical. 

I pulled over, grabbed my camera and tried to capture the moment as quickly as possible and I was able to capture a few photos before the herd disappeared into the forest. 

This little moment stuck with me- I couldn't stop thinking about those elk- and it is those types of moments that bring me the most inspiration and typically end up in my sketchbook.

I have been working on a little series of elk drawings inspired by that day. They are still in the works and I have no idea what I will do with them at this point but it always feels wonderful to get those ideas and that inspiration out of my head and onto paper. 

A couple of years ago I created a free little online class called- Finding Your Muse. If you would like to read more about how I seek inspiration, put that inspiration into practice and how I try to stay authentic as an artist, head on over to the class HERE

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

dollhouse cabinet

Lucy has a growing collection of Calico Critters (teeny tiny little animal characters) and we desperately needed a storage solution that could accommodate all her little animals and the accessories that come with them. While I would love to create a traditional dollhouse, we just don't have any more floor space at this point. So Andy I came up with the idea to create a cabinet that hangs on the wall but has the look and feel of a dollhouse.
Andy used poplar hobby wood from Home Depot to create a simple cabinet in the shape of a house. He added a door with a knob and used a magnetic latch so the door would withstand toddler play.

Once the cabinet was done, it was my turn to paint!

I went back and forth about what to do- my first inclination was to completely cover it with all kinds of detail. But after giving it some thought, I actually decided to keep the outside simple and just add simple little details on the inside. I figured that we can add details, paint over it or change it up over time. 

Once it was done, we hung it (and secured it) to the wall and Lucy filled it with her critters.

The cabinet is a BIG hit and such a great alternative for storage!

Monday, October 20, 2014

woodland creatures pumpkins

Fall is here and for the last few years I have a tradition of coming up with a variety of unique pumpkin tutorials for my readers! I like to use pumpkins in my fall decorating and since I am not a big fan of traditional carved pumpkins, I challenge myself to get as creative as possible with paint and a pumpkin.

This year's pumpkins were totally inspired by Lucy who actually asked me to paint a bear on a pumpkin which then inspired me to create a little grouping of woodland creatures. Even though I have been painting my entire life, I am always so excited about the fact that a few colors of paint can transform anything!

You can read all about my pumpkin painting tips/tricks and view all the pumpkins I've painted over the years HERE.

Friday, October 17, 2014

exploring we will go- oysterville

A while back we made the promise to each other to always make time to seek adventure as a family (you can read about it here). Exploring new places and going outside is a big part of our daily lives and once in a while I like to share a little peek into our adventures.

Just 1 hour north of us and across the Columbia River is Washington's Long Beach Peninsula. With the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Columbia River and Willapa Bay to the east, the peninsula is 28 miles of absolute BEAUTY and what we call oyster country! We've explored the area but still have lots of places yet to see. Recently we took advantage of a sunny day and went on a little afternoon trip all the way to the northern tip of the peninsula to Oysterville. Oysterville is a tiny community frozen in time that looks just like it did more than a century ago. A church, schoolhouse and houses from the 1870's remain and the entire community is on the National Historic Register. I've seen a lot of beautiful places but this tiny community on the edge of Willapa Bay is one of the most magical places I've been. I grew up reading Anne of Green Gables and something about Osterville made me feel as if I was transported into my favorite childhood story.


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