Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What's Beckoning You to Begin?

"And like a blank canvas, our life stands before us, beckoning us to begin, to paint with bright colors and passionate brush strokes with all that we have deep within."
~James R. Plagmann

This past Saturday I had a blast attending the Summer Solstice Art Workshop led by Laurie Maves and Anya McManis at Laurie's warehouse art studio in Denver!

Photo credit: Laurie Maves
To celebrate the first day of summer, 12 beautiful ladies painted journal boards. We began by writing on our boards what we're ready to release that is no longer serving us. Then we painted over our words with colors and images that symbolize what we imagine, believe, and want to create in this new season of being.


As we waited for layers of paint to dry on our journal boards, we took turns painting a group mural of a sun to represent the Summer Solstice. Similar to the journal boards, we began by writing on the mural what we're ready and willing to release. Then we painted over our words, ushering in new beginnings.

Creative ceremonies are great fun when tied to a holiday and done with others. But you don't need a special event to have a ceremony - they can be done anytime you feel called to have one. And solo rituals can be just as effective as those done as a group. It's the strength of your intention for the ritual that has the greatest impact during a ceremony.

Ceremonies to release the old and invite in the new aren't limited to painting rituals. You could journal about what you want to let go of, and then burn the paper you write on, releasing the ashes to the wind. You could burn sage, commonly used to clear spaces, to change the energy of your environment. Or you might consider a common Buddhist practice of creating a mandala with sand or flower petals. Then
practicing non-attachment, and mindfully destroying your beautiful creation.

As we embark on this summer season I invite you to ask yourself the following questions:

What am I ready and willing to release?

What's beckoning me to begin?

Live creatively this summer, 

P.S. Read my inspiring (and ballsy) interview with Denver artist Laurie Maves - featured in the June "She Lives Creatively" Spotlight - here.

Monday, June 16, 2014

3 Nights in the Crystal Forest (and My Favorite Camp Dish)

"I go to nature to be soothed and healed. And to have my senses put in tune once more."
~John Burroughs
Last week my husband and I made the spontaneous decision to get out of Denver and off the grid so we went camping for a few nights in the Rocky Mountains. While our favorite quinoa dish cooked, I packed a few layers of warm clothes, and Sean threw our camping gear into the back of the truck (affectionately known as the art mobile - that is, when it's not being used for camping).  

Enjoying the sunset.

With my sketchbook, and drawing utensils, packed, our adventure began. We purchased some bundles of fire wood as we drove through the small town of Sedalia. Less than an hour later, we entered Pike National Forest - or what I nicknamed the Crystal Forest. You'll see why... 

Entering Pike National Forest - or what I nicknamed the Crystal Forest.
(click on image to enlarge)
For the next 3 nights, and 4 days, we hiked, explored, and built camp fires. Sometimes we sat in silence. Other times we sat in wonderment and awe as the rocks replaced our meditation cushions and nature became our church.
Mountain view from one of our hikes.
When I wasn't bird watching, collecting crystals, hunting for wild flowers, or doodling beside the camp fire, I was snapping LOTS of photos. And since they say a picture is worth a thousand words, the rest of this blog is in pictures (with captions).
Live creatively - even when you take a break to live in nature,

P.S. For the recipe of our favorite camp dish - it's super easy and SO healthy and delicious! - scroll to the bottom.
Another mountain view. This one has snowcaps!

Sean loves that Rampart Range, within Pike National Forest, allows his street legal dirt bike.
Trail guides indicate "Easiest" to "More Difficult."
(click on image to enlarge)
"Be Bear Aware." We're not in Denver anymore...

Yet another mountain view. This one is from our camp site. 

Our home away from home.
(click on image to enlarge)
Car camping. This is as rough as I rough it.
(And no, there isn't a bathroom and the closest outhouse is a few miles.)
It wouldn't be a Colorado summer without a hail storm on a sunny day.
(click on image to enlarge)
Sean the wood chopper.

Wild flowers.
Taking in the view.
A winged  one.
Quartz crystals. The one on the right is larger than a softball!
(click on image to enlarge)
Crystals were EVERY where! So I nicknamed Pike National Forest the Crystal Forest.
Sean on kitchen duty.
(click on image to enlarge)

Doodling by the camp fire while the sun sets.

Camp fire doodle 1.
Inspired by wisdom of mountains and vibration of crystals. 

Camp fire doodle 2.
Inspired by wisdom of mountains and vibration of crystals.
Camp fire doodle 3.
Inspired by wisdom of mountains and vibration of crystals.

Sean the fire starter.

Stoking the fire.
Our favorite quinoa dish is a camp staple.
Crystal Forest Quinoa
Serves 8

12-oz package of sprouted quinoa (we buy the truRoots brand from Whole Foods)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup dried cranberries (or cherries)
1 cup raw unsalted chopped pecans
4-5 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tsp sea salt, plus additional to taste (optional)
Combine 12-oz of truRoots Sprouted Quinoa with 4 cups water in a pot. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Quinoa is cooked when each grain is translucent and white germ is visible. Let quinoa cool to room temperature before adding additional ingredients.

While quinoa is cooling, measure and mix wet ingredients; set aside. Measure dried cranberries, chop and measure pecans, and slice scallions; set aside.

Once quinoa has cooled to room temperature, add wet ingredients to pot. Stir well. Next, add dry ingredients to pot. Stir well.

Can be served same day, but we think it tastes even better if served the next day. We prefer to eat it chilled. Freezes well for up to 4 weeks.

Download and print a PDF of this recipe here.

Monday, June 9, 2014

If It Wasn't Hard, Everyone Would Do It

"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it.
The hard... is what makes it great."

~Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks' character), A League of Her Own
It's not always easy living the creative life! We may struggle to make time to make our art. Or we may have to overcome fears of self-doubt and insecurity to perform or exhibit our work. And at times it may feel like an uphill battle, with no assurance that we'll book the gig, sell the work, or receive recognition for our sweat and perseverance.

When it feels hard, and we feel like giving up on our creative dreams, is when we most need to remind ourselves why we do what we do. And then recommit to our dreams, ourselves, the life we came here to live, and the love we came to express.
In 2009, the first time I showed my paintings at Art Farm (an Eric Matelski event to benefit Denver Urban Gardens) it was rained out and our work spent the day under garbage bags.

Photo credit: Tim DeMasters
On the surface, the event didn't appear successful. But through a contact I made that day, the event led to my first solo art exhibition 3 months later. The night my show opened at Michelangelo's Coffee and Wine Bar, I sold 5 paintings and a percentage of the proceeds benefited another non-profit, The Cunningham Foundation, through my Canvas for a Cause practice. It was a huge success!

Photo credit: Sean Richardson
We never know who we'll meet next or what new opportunity will present itself. That's the mystery and magic of the creative life! And it may happen when we least expect it, when it feels hard and we feel like giving up. So don't! Instead, get some rest. Then step back in front of the canvas, the page, or the audience, and keep doing the work.

It's when our fears are the loudest, and we want to turn back, that it's most important to keep moving forward. The seeds we've been planting and nurturing are right under the surface of the creative soil getting ready to breakthrough. Keep giving them love and light. 
We're going to bloom! 

Live creatively, even when it's hard,

Thursday, June 5, 2014

She Lives Creatively Spotlight: Laurie Maves

"I want to be as relentless and as ballsy as [Frida Kahlo] was - and yes, I said ballsy."
~Laurie Maves
Laurie Maves was the first artist I met in Denver the summer of 2009, the year I moved here. I didn’t know any other artists in Colorado and I knew nothing about navigating the Denver art scene, but a painting of mine had just been accepted into my first juried art show. Laurie – BIG hearted soul that she is – took me under her creative wing. Five years later, it is an honor to feature her in this month’s She Lives Creatively Spotlight!
Right: One Million Faces photo credit: Peggy Dyer
Marcella: So Laurie, you have a BA in Studio Art and an MA in Art Therapy. After college, what were your initial creative career aspirations and what career path did you follow?

Laurie: After graduate school, I worked briefly at an outpatient treatment center, called the “Rock Creek Center,” as an Art Therapist. It was a beautiful facility in a south suburb of Chicago. But I lived in the city and the commute was crazy. I thought there had to be more to life than working as a therapist driving over an hour in each direction. So I said, “ENOUGH!”

Laurie: My love of the outdoors, of big blue skies, brought me to Denver. I had various jobs as an Art Therapist working with the elderly, working with mentally ill adults, and then with PTSD children. After filtering all of that trauma for others I said, “ENOUGH! I need to get back to my roots as an artist.” It was the one thing I knew in my heart I wanted to be since I was a child. So I slowly left the counseling field and slowly opened my small business as a full time artist.

Marcella: What advice do you have for artists – like me – who are primarily self-taught?  Do you think creativity, and running a creative business, can be learned? And if so, what challenges, or advantages, might a self-taught artist face?

Laurie: Make work, make work, make work. Thousands of hours are required to having a perfected creative relationship with yourself.  You have to know what drives your images. And make those images a dozen , a hundred, a thousand times. As long as you are called to make certain images, certain paintings, certain drawings, make the work!

Laurie: I think anyone can learn to run a business, but not everyone has the discipline and the drive to do so. Any artist, whether she is a, “self- taught,” or a, “professionally schooled,” artist has the same challenges.  Until one experiences high levels of success in whatever market they choose to pursue, the online market, the real market, or the gallery system, most times the only one who will market your work is yourself. And if you’re not willing to put in the time or effort to get your work out there – wherever that may be – I believe you’re going to be frustrated easily.  You just have to put your head down, get going, and believe in yourself. Because if you don’t, it’s hard to ask other people to.

Marcella: When did you leave your day job to pursue your painting full-time? For those aspiring to be a full-time working artist, how did you know when you were ready to take the leap?

Laurie: I quit my full time non-profit job in 2006, but took a few other part time jobs to supplement my studio income until about 2008. I didn’t know I was ready. I think my part time work kind of just dwindled out. Maybe that was the Universe talking to me. But I wasn’t interested in finding another form of part time work, even if it was creative in nature. I just wanted to paint. So I started to market, market, market myself to anyone who would look or listen.
Laurie Maves' paintings
Marcella: When I first met you in 2009, you were working out of what I would describe as a mid-size studio in the Santa Fe Art District in Denver. Since that time, your business has grown and you relocated your art studio into a spacious warehouse. How did up-leveling your creative space come about?

Laurie: I had a studio in one of Denver’s many, “Arts,” districts. But I found that most of my commissions and work came to me by referrals, word of mouth, and via social media. So having realized that, I didn’t need to have a studio in the, “Arts,” district to thrive. I found that the studio rental spaces were more expensive for the real estate than what I could get in a not-so-popular area for artists. The move has been refreshing for me. I can afford the much larger space. And as one of my friends says about my new 2,000 square foot studio, “I now have room for all of my big ideas."

Marcella: Were you nervous about making the transition to a larger, more expensive, warehouse space? How did you overcome any fears or anxieties you may have had?

Laurie: Sure I was. And sometimes it’s a challenge to make the rent. But I also feel that sometimes you have to spend money to make money. So I just keep making the work. Some months are gracious and some months are super skinny. But again, I believe in what I am doing and that making paintings and commissions for people is my primary purpose on this planet. So if the finances suffer, so be it. This studio I have now is a dream studio for me.  As long as I can afford to keep it, then fabulous! I finally can say that I have had the painting studio, “of my dreams,” and that’s a wonderful feeling to have.

Marcella: Also when I met you 5 five years ago, you were donating a lot of your art work to charities for fundraising events.  Are art donations still part of your business plan for getting your work out into the world? Do you have any favorite causes you like to support through your art?

Laurie: I have donated hundreds of artworks in Denver and across the country over the past 15 years. One year I donated $10,000 worth of work to various charities. Sometimes I think artists can be, “overexposed,” so you just have to find a fit for yourself. I am asked almost monthly, if not more, than that to donate something to somebody. So I made the personal choice to reel that in a bit.

Laurie: Now I focus the majority of my donated time and artwork to the LLS and to cancer organizations. From time to time, if I have extra work on hand that has not sold, I will try to donate that to organizations that are asking. But I often find that many artists are asked WAY too often just to give their work away. We don’t get a tax write off, as many people do not know. We only get to write off the value of materials used in making the painting, not the retail value of the finished work. So donations really only come from your heart as a way to help others. Not as a way to get more exposure or as a write off. So it’s not currently part of my, “business plan.” I think it’s a good idea for new artists to Denver, or just artists who are newer to the game in general, to get your work out there, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Marcella: You also used to live paint  – a LOT! You even painted live at Red Rocks Amphitheater during a musical event, toured with a local band one summer, and at least once you were featured on the evening news. So is live painting something you still do?

Laurie: Live painting is still something that I do and love. I do it mostly on a, “for-hire,” basis for non-profits and their annual events and fundraisers. And the paintings that I have made on-site at a fundraising event are put to a live auction and have helped raise $1,400 - $3,500 at a single event. So over time I’ve proved my talents as a great way to not only provide entertainment for their guests, but as a great method for raising extra dollars as well.
Laurie Maves live painting
Marcella: I know you’re a HUGE fan of Frida Kahlo. You even made a pilgrimage to her home in Mexico a couple years ago. How has Frida influenced you as an artist?

Laurie: She is the classic example of a woman that used her creatively as her life line. I have always admired her boldness in her works. And she would not apologize for who she was or what she painted. Her paintings were her truths. She lived an amazing life traveling the world with a great deal of physical and emotional pain. She also accomplished great goals in her short life. I want to be as relentless and as ballsy as she was - and yes, I said, “ballsy."
Frida Kahlo painting by Laurie Maves
Marcella: You use social media a lot to promote your art / art business. Which are your favorite platforms? What marketing advice do you have for fellow creative types looking to use social media to grow their creative business?

Laurie: It used to be Facebook, but I found that to be a, “closed,” audience in a way. So I’m focusing on Twitter at the moment. My advice is the same as it is in regards to becoming the artist that you were meant to be. And like making work and spending thousands of creative hours. You have to be relentless and to post, post, post. Those who don’t like your work, won’t follow you. But those who do, look forward to your posts every day. A following can become a blessing and a burden. But when people are looking for your work and give you constant feedback, then you know you are making a difference in someone’s life, simply with your creativity and your willingness to share that

Marcella: How do you define success – for you?

Laurie: When I receive random feedback from people I’ve never met in person and they reach out and say I have inspired them today. And tears. When a client picks up a painting and they have tears of joy, for feeling understood, or simply feel a deeper level of human connection. I have the greatest success when my clients cry. I know I have nailed it.

Marcella: What do you consider to be your greatest artistic achievement – so far?

Laurie: Painting live at a TEDx talk. I completed a live painting in under 10 min. That was awesome!
Laurie Maves live painting during TEDx Talk
Marcella: What are your self-care practices (nutrition, exercise, etc.) that support your health and vitality, to in-turn support your creativity?

Laurie: Green juice, yoga, and meditation

Marcella: You are a mom of two very active boys. How do you balance being a mom with being an artist?

Laurie: I don’t know how I do it. You just do.

Marcella: What’s next?! Are you getting ready for any upcoming art shows or events?

Laurie: My friend Anya McMannis and I are hosting a summer solstice creative workshop at my studio Saturday, June 21 called, "Art 1 on 1.” We may still have a few spots open if any of your readers are interested in participating. It will include live painting a large group mural and creative journaling.
Laurie: But my most exciting project is a series of healthy cell paintings that I am making and sharing with cancer patients. I believe art and imagery can help in the healing process for anyone who is ailing, physically or emotionally. These paintings are driving my studio time on a daily basis. I have been studying Edgar Cayce and it all seems to be coming together. I just have to make the work...

Marcella: What is your long term vision for your art / art business?

Laurie: My ultimate dream is to paint live in front of thousands of people who are attending motivational workshops and conferences. Like for holistic health guru Kris Carr or something similar. I believe people receive messages differently and for visual learners, witnessing a live painting may inspire them with the speaker’s message on a whole other level. But I would like to keep growing my business as much as I can handle. Then maybe someday I can retire and live off the income of print sales. But I think I would just paint in my retirement anyway. I continue to look for ways to expand my work. So that’s what I’m doing and sharing it with the world. 

Laurie Maves with Kris Carr and Peggy Dyer
Marcella: If you could speak to your younger creative self, what advice would you give to her with the wisdom you possess today?

Laurie: Just make the work. Don’t worry about your audience. And focus less energy on trying to be accepted by others . If I make work that is genuine to me, the rest will fall in line.

Marcella: Thank you Laurie! xo

Marcella: To learn more about Laurie Maves and her art visit