meditative painting for my students and for me

    When I tell people that I teach at an Alternative High School, usually they are pretty surprised. I am young, very small, and what some might call “bubbly”. Early on a student called me Jessica Day to highlight how silly I can be… I took it as a compliment.

    Alternative students get a reputation for being a little rough or even dangerous. But the truth is, these kids are warriors. Each of my students has come up against some sort of hardship (or multiple hardships) that made it impossible for them to succeed in a traditional school setting. Instead of throwing in the towel they took an alternative route. They are survivors with grit and strength. Can you tell that I love these kids with all my heart?

    During our 4th quarter, when the sun was just starting to come out and we were all getting antsy for summer I felt us losing steam as a whole. I decided it was time to do a lesson on meditative painting. Few rules, unlimited possibilities, and a completely creative mindset.

The purpose of the exercise is to let go of the restrictions and expectations we put on ourselves every day. So many times when I give students a challenge they come back with a flat out “I can’t do that.” What I try to teach them is that just because they haven’t done something before, doesn’t mean they can never do it. Just because they don’t know how yet doesn’t mean they can’t learn.

    These are the rules I gave my artists:

  1. No talking. This is not about comparing your work to someone else’s. This is about feeling.

  2. No color straight from the bottle. This one is tough but I try and get my kids to mix their own colors. Being free to paint whatever they feel and mix whatever colors they want gives them a lot of hands on knowledge of color theory.

  3. Begin withOUT an end in mind. This is the opposite of goal setting. Let go. Use whatever color you are called to and put it on the paper however your intuition guides you.

One of the most valuable lessons they learned was that if you mess up, it is not the end of the world, you can paint over it. Nothing is permanent.

Let go of fear in the art studio because it will only hinder you. Knowing that no one is judging your final product gives you total freedom to explore - and that is when we start creating the good stuff!

If you are ever feeling stuck in a creative rut, give it a try. Set up a calm safe space, play a little music (I always play Tycho), and find some materials other than paintbrushes - I use pieces of cardboard, marker caps, sponges, spoons, my hands, just about anything. Try to allow yourself to be as limitless as possible.

This practice is always so restorative to my soul. My students said the same thing. I even had days when students were really wrestling with something terrible and they requested a meditative painting session. I hope that you find just as much value in it as I do! Stay strong and keep making!

 

minimalism changed me as a blogger

In August 2015 I was still very dedicated to a lifestyle blog that I had been running for many years. I had a strict posting schedule that I followed and always made sure my content had variety between posts. That month, things started to change though. I started reading The Minimalists blog, reading their books, following their social media, and everything else that goes into developing a new obsession. I loved this idea of finding happiness within, instead of going out and buying physical things that I thought would provide me with a fulfilling life.

For 21 straight days in August I dedicated myself and my blog space to a 21 Day Minimalism Challenge outlined on The Minimalists website. I was getting rid of things, shrinking my wardrobe, changing my eating habits, and putting my health first. It was a time for major shifts.

I was learning that I already had everything I needed to be happy. I didn't NEED to buy anything to achieve it. I loved what I was discovering but what I didn't see coming was my feelings about blogging. Those started to shift as well. I started to reflect very deeply about what I was doing with my blog.

I was often known for creating new craft projects, outfit posts, product reviews, and occasional recipes. The usual staples for many lifestyle bloggers. As I worked to eliminate the clutter in my life, I found some things were holding my back. For example, I was afraid to get rid of a jar of bright orange glitter that I used for a craft project 3 Halloween's ago. Was this jar of glitter really adding value to my life? If not, then why did it scare me to get rid of it?

I realized then, that not only was my blog creating clutter and mess around me in my physical world, but also on the internet. Was it really necessary to share another flourless chocolate cake recipe? Should I really be spending hours creating felt bookmarks that look like foxes instead of reading the books that were collecting dust on my book shelf? Did I really need to go out to Forever 21 and buy cheaply made clothing so I could have a new outfit to post on my blog? No.

I found out that my blog was stopping me from really being happy. It was causing me to become a crafting and clothing pack-rat. I was constantly overwhelmed by my surroundings. All that said though, it did a damn good job of making it LOOK like I was happy. But sometimes we have to stop and ask ourselves: Is it more important that we look happy or that we truly are happy?

I still enjoy following many of the same blogs I did before. I still see great value in sharing beauty with the world. I just realized that my own path was changing and that I needed to follow.

That was the major catalyst for me to transition to this new website. Although I may not update as often, when I do, it means I have something important to say. I won't clutter this space with fluff and filler.

If you are feeling a little unsure about your own spot in life right now, here is some good advice I had heard so many times before, but once I actually followed - it changed everything.

Create 2 lists.

Step 1: Make a list of all the things you do every single day.

Step 2: Make a list of all the things that bring you joy.

Step 3: Compare and adjust lifestyle accordingly.

 

hopes and dreams for 2016

I love having a fresh start each winter. The snow starts to fall and then we find ourselves at the new year, refreshed and ready to take on new challenges!

I am very big on goal setting and personal reflection. So much of my growth as an artist and individual has stemmed from my ability to reflect deeply on life experiences. Those experiences happen because I set goals. I love love love to make lists, plans, and maps for my life. I can't say that I always stick to them, and sometimes they morph and change into something completely different - but they keep me on track and moving in a forward motion. 

This is my list of hopes and dreams for the year of 2016. Let me know if we have any in common!

  •  Live with less and embrace minimalism even more.
  • Create a vision statement for myself and my life.
  • Re-launch my Etsy shop.
  • Connect with more artists and creatives through Instagram. 
  • Maintain a healthier sleep schedule. 
  • Write a 5, 10, and 15 year life and business plan. 
  • Illustrate a children's book that my Mom wrote when I was a little girl. 
  • Stick to a structured art making schedule and habits.
  • Be better at following a budget plan.
  • Journal and sketch weekly.

Those are my goals for this beautiful new year that is off to a great start! I cannot wait to see all that it has in store!

Now when it comes to making your list of goals, don't be afraid to include both your big and small hopes. If I only made lists of my most out-there objectives, I would get pretty discouraged if I wasn't completing them as quickly as I would like. By sprinkling in some very achievable goals, it builds my confidence and belief that I really can accomplish so much more than I think! You deserve to celebrate all of your accomplishments and when your list includes your tiny and tremendous dreams, each success feels even greater. Go ahead, don't be afraid to add all of your ambitions, no matter the size! If you don't accomplish it this year, no worries, put it on your list next year! I believe in you and you can too, each and every day.

 

making the most of your creative free time during the holidays

It seems like I spend half of October and all of November looking forward to those two precious weeks in December. The weeks of Christmas and New Years are of course some of the most hectic of the year. The hustle and bustle is fast and filled with joyful moments, but, even with all of that business - there still seem to be those beautiful pockets of free time sprinkled about the season.

Here is a list of a few things I try to do to make the most of the precious free moments we are fortunate to have this time of year.

  1. Stick to a schedule. Get up at the same time each day, go to bed at the same time. Have a routine in place so you don't end up wasting your free time by napping or scrolling mindlessly on your phone.

  2. Cut back on technology. Speaking of scrolling mindlessly, nothing is a greater time waster than social media and devices. If you want, you can work your technology time into your schedule!
  3. Keep a running list. My brother was teasing me the other day because he spotted my "To Do" list and it literally had "paint foxes" scribbled on it. But this helps me to prioritize my creative projects. It reminds me to put my painted wedding invitations projects before my little personal experiments. 
  4. Read and search for inspiration. Sometimes when I have a big hole of time I can fill up with creative endeavors - I freeze up. I can't remember anything I wanted to paint. My ideas will just disappear if I am not prepared {I have ADHD, not amnesia, don't worry! Also a big reason why I keep a list!} Sometimes taking a little time to collect inspiring stories and images gets me right back on track.
  5. When in doubt, relax. Don't force it. The motivation will come naturally. If it feels like you should be creating and you're not, don't let guilt overtake you. Sometimes we just aren't in the right mindset. Be sure the make time for your meditation, yoga, prayer, reading, whatever it is that helps you feel centered and good about the beautiful life you are leading.

The main thing you need to remember is that your free time is just that: YOUR. FREE. TIME. And it is a beautiful thing. Don't spend all of it making and miss out on precious moments with your loved ones this holiday season either! Balance is key.

I hope this little post brings you all of the clarity you  need to make the most of your holiday season!

 

new beginnings lead to new adventures

Welcome my sweet friends! I am so glad that you are here. This space has been a long time coming and after much back and forth, soul searching, and a little nudge from the universe, we've finally made it! 

newbeginnings

If you are new to me, here is a little background on who I am and why I am here. I am a visual arts educator. I spend my days working hard to inspire the wild minds of children and to help them create beauty in the world. In essence, it is a pretty magical career. The days are long and messy but the outcome is so rewarding. 

The more time I have spent teaching, the more I have realized that I not only want to work with children and teens, but I want to work with adults as well. As we grow, our creativity muscles become weaker. In my students I can see that with each year of life, their artistic courage and willingness to take risks diminishes. They become increasingly aware of the world around them, the expectations that are placed upon them, and society starts pressing its way into their lovely hearts and brains. In my work it is my goal to keep those wild hearts wild. In this space it is my hope to help you reconnect with the fearless self you once were, too. 

I am here for a few reasons:

  • To document my artistic growth.
  • To share inspiring literary and visual material.
  • To develop and strengthen your creative confidence (and mine too).
  • To challenge you in your creative life. 
  • To connect a community of makers, creators, and doers.
  • To encourage collaboration instead of competition.

I have always been a curious girl and a wide-eyed dreamer. That hasn't changed at all, and each day that I spend in my classroom or in my studio - it only becomes more apparent. Let's work together to create a little extra wonder in the world, shall we?

Thank you for joining me in my first official post at Lena Elise Creative. You can also scroll down to see 2 posts that were previously published on my blog, Tiny Painter. If you are interested you can follow me on Instagram @_lenaelise.

Keep an eye out for my upcoming collaboration with Skillshare this Saturday!

tiny paint set: painting on the go

This post was originally published at www.tinypainterblog.com on 7/13/15.

Earlier in the summer I talked with Will about wanting to make my love of painting more mobile. It seemed like I wanted to paint all of the time, but it took up so much space. My large canvases will stay out for weeks; paints, brushes, palettes... all strewn about the floor of my studio for who knows how long.

With my hesitant exploration of minimalism - this too could be downsized, right? I personally have a preference for working small anyhow and this seemed to be a great way to encourage that!

This set was made from an old Altoids tin which is now converted into the cutest kit around! The first step was to remove the lid and spray paint it white. This gives you a clean surface to mix your colors on, you'll know you've gotten your colors just right when you work on white. I bought some empty half-pans, they are about $.50 a piece so I ordered 10, because I had 10 pigments I knew I wanted to include in my kit. I attached the pans inside of the tin by using sticky foam squares - they are intended for scrapbooking and they work really well keeping things locked in place! :)

I have a little hand held pencil sharpener that I use, a short pencil {it was old and sharpened down}, a tiny sponge that I cut from a larger sponge - this makes clean up easier, and also a short pen. Instead of spending big bucks on a travelers pen I took the cheap way out and sawed the end off of an old office pen so it would be short enough to fit inside my kit! There is also a small piece of wax paper that I use for resist painting sometimes! I also have an alternative brush size which I will talk about in the next paragraph!

When traveling I also bring a small notebook, postcard size watercolor block, and a permanent ink pen if I have the room! The paintbrush I use is a Sakura Koi Water Brush that has a water reservoir in it so I don't need to worry about bringing a jar of water with me if I don't want! I can switch out the brush size if need be, it is a great product for this purpose!

So this is my traveling paint set, the total contents include: paint, pencil, pen, sharpener, sponge, small brush tip, and wax paper. The rest I bring in a small bag along with the tin. The pigments that I have here are Quinacridone Red, Azo Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Hooker's Green, Sepia, Quinacridone Rose, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Phthalocyanine Green, and Payne's Gray. I prefer to work in primaries mostly, so this palette works well for me mixing color.

What do you think? Are there certain pigments you know you would NEED in your set? Share in the comments! This set is perfect for traveling, camping, or just saving space working at home! Are you going to give it a try?

painting as meditation

This post was originally published at www.tinypainterblog.com on 8/5/15.

It is no secret that I love to paint. I am an art teacher and I teach wine and painting classes on the side. I named my blog Tiny Painter after all! Needless to say, painting is a part of my soul.

Often times when I find myself feeling stressed, under pressure, or overwhelmed - I need to take a step back an re-evaluate. More often than not, those are the times when I have let a lot of time go by since my last painting. It took a long time (many years and 2 college art degrees) to realize that not every painting has to be a masterpiece. Just because you put it down on paper doesn't mean it is permanent. Every brushstroke or pencil line does not define you as an artist or a person.

I also used to think that every work of art I made was precious and one of a kind. That it could not be duplicated. It wasn't until I became a teacher and would draw the same thing 12 times for 12 different classes that I realized 'Wait a second... If I could do it once, I can do it again!' That's all there is to it! If you can do it, you really can do it! If you can't, practice until you can!

Art and fear have been close companions throughout my life and it took a great deal of time to learn how to separate them. Even now I have to remind myself not to be afraid sometimes! But in truth, it is quite a blessing. I understand the anxiety around art-making that my students experience and that makes my teaching so much better.

Lately, I have been doing some no-pressure painting to relieve stress. When I paint I go into a very calm meditative state of mind. The worries of the world go away and all I am focused on is the feeling of paint on canvas.

If you are in search of some stress relief, I suggest giving it a go! Here are the guidelines I set for myself:

  • Don't set any expectations! 
  • Paint whatever comes to mind and anything you feel. 
  • Don't over analyze. 
  • Avoid negative self-talk. 
  • Take pride in your productivity, no matter the outcome.
  • Enjoy the process. 

Do you ever use art as a stress and anxiety management tool? If not, what do you do in those times to improve your mental and emotional health? Share with us!