Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Exploring Color, Line & Texture with Alena Hennessy...

Wow! When I first saw the work of Alena Hennessy, it put an immediate smile on my face that could not be wiped away. The visual flood of colors, shapes, texures and composition just draw you right into her creations. And we are so pleased to have her teaching at our Portland Art & Soul Event this year. To inspire you, here's a little bit about Alena's process, in her own words...

Recently, I have been reflecting a bit on my own process of creating, since I spend a considerable amount of time teaching it to students. I have been contemplating why I choose the colors I choose, the textures, or draw lines the way I do.  Because my process is so intuitive, its challenging for me to describe why I paint the way that I paint. I know that I love pink and blue. I also know that I love paintings that are lighter in hue, but I also think contrast is important. Texture and layers turn me on, and lately I am all about layering India ink, then acrylic, then taking watercolor pencil and drawing directly into the acrylic (it leaves an indentation and the pigment gets expressed because the acrylic paint is wet). I then finish off the painting by cutting out organic shapes found in nature from decorative collage papers (I cut the shapes free-handed). I often will go back in and layer the inks, paints, and add any more papers that the painting is ‘calling’ for.


One of my new obsessions is finding delicate and exquisite papers to incorporate into my work. I started buying Origami paper and I love it! So soft and detailed.

The textured lines in this piece were created by dragging a very sharp pencil into acrylic paint. The layer of India ink below then shows through when I scrape that paint away with a sharp point. I like the contrast and texture it creates.

After many layers of ink, acrylic, and paper, this painting now feels complete. I know a painting is finished when it ‘clicks’ for me. Until I feel that inside, I need to keep working, no matter how frustrated I can get or uncertain how to continue. Eventually it will open up for me and the internal ‘click’ or knowing that its done will happen.

So why do we love what we love? For me, its comes down to feeling. I feel colors, lines, movements. I know a beautiful sunset turns me on (which has lots of blue, orange, and pink), but I also know I just love the way bright vibrant colors look on a wood panel. I like them to feel fresh. I also admire how other artist’s create and how different we are all with our aesthetic choices. Its important to experiment and to be true to you, as well as to stay open to what you may be overlooking or resist. 

Creative expression, in its many forms, is a constant evolution or expression of the soul. That’s why I know I will never grow tired of it. I imagine (and hope) that I will be an old woman sitting on a porch, drinking my sweet iced tea and still making time to paint. In fact, I have no doubt about that. What a comforting thought to have such a long relationship with something that is uniquely yours.

Thanks for letting me share, and I hope to see you in Portland.


Wow, Alena! So very interesting to 'see' how you 'think' about your work. Something I know is very hard to communicate for artists, but you have explained it so clearly for our readers, and with such gorgeous examples. If you would like to join Alena in one of her outstandingly creative classes, here's what she'll be teaching at our Portland Art & Soul event which takes place April 7-14, 2014.

Alena Hennessy
Portland Art & Soul 2014

Monday, April 7

Tuesday, April 8

Wednesday, April 9

For more information on Art & Soul, or to register for classes, visit us at

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Maintaining Momentum After Your Creative Retreat!

Okay... did that headline grab you or what? If you have ever been to Art & Soul — in the midst of super-creative teachers, students, projects and techniques galore — you know how it is when you get home. You intend to keep the momentum going, but then life gets in the way.

That's why we are absolutely thrilled to have Jill Allison Bryan from Creative Oasis Coaching teaching a workshop on How to Maintain Your Creative Momentum Even After Your Retreat... at our retreat! So here's a little bit about Jill's workshop in her own words... take it away Jill...

Have you ever felt delightfully wrapped up in the creative cocoon of a fabulous retreat or workshop focused fully on the joy of creating and surrounded by oodles of other supportive creative souls also totally engaged in experiencing their creative bliss? Wow! It’s an amazing feeling, isn’t it?

Have you ever found yourself back in the real world just days later feeling that joyful creative energy evaporate as your busy daily schedule, never-ending to-do lists and obligations take over?

You’re not alone! Luckily, using the gentle yet powerful (some would say magical) methods of Kaizen-Muse® Creativity Coaching, we have a wonderful variety of ways to continue to ride our creative waves.

That’s why I’m so happy to be able to share my special workshop, “So In The Flow –Maintaining Your Creative Momentum Even After the Retreat” on the final day of the 2014 Portland, Oregon Art & Soul Retreat, which runs for a whole week — from April 7th through the 13th. (you can find the line-up for seven full days of mixed media art workshops here). 

We’ll spend the day together exploring a potpourri of fun prompts, activities and discussion topics designed to help lucky participants return home from Art & Soul feeling ready to stay in the flow and maintain their creative momentum.

It will be my absolute pleasure to send enthusiastic creativity lovers back into the world with a treasure chest of tools and techniques designed to help them move past procrastination, perfectionism, overwhelm and other creative blocks that may await.

Until we meet in Portland, all the best from my Creative Oasis to yours,

P.S. – If you’d like to receive Jill's Mid-Week Oasis Moments (bite-size bonbons of creative inspiration) as well as her e-booklet, “Permission to Be Creative 101” you can sign up for both right here.

Well, Jill... I'm already inspired to be inspired! Or is that re-inspired! So everybody... check out her workshop and stay inspired even after the retreat!

Portland Art & Soul
 Jill Bryan, Creative Oasis Coach
Sunday, April 13, 2014 
9:00am - 4:00pm

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Love Is In The Air... In Portland!

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, it got me wondering.... Oh, Portland Art & Soul... why do we love you so?

Is it the breathtaking view from our venue at the Red Lion Hotel right on the Columbia River?

Maybe it's the spacious classrooms that give you plenty of room to spread out and play.

Perhaps it's our amazing staff! Working tirelessly in every aspect of the event. Always with a kind smile and a helping hand.

Maybe it's the individual attention you get from our extremely talented workshop instructors!

Or quite possibly... it's the ability to make those artsy messes you just can't make at home?

It might be the amazing array of classes — in all types of mixed media — that we are able to offer.

Perhaps it's the pride in a finished piece of art... that you had no idea you were capable of creating!

Or maybe it's the feeling of being part of this creative tribe of adventurous spirits? And making friendships that last a lifetime!

It might be the feeding frenzy we love to call our Vendor Extravaganza! A veritable smorgasbord of mixed media trinkets, ephemera, supplies and finished goods. 

Whatever the reason, we absolutely love having you here! So please... come join us at Art & Soul Portland this year, April 7th through the 14th. We'll welcome yo with open arms... and show you a good time!


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Burn, Baby, Burn!

Lately we've been sharing a lot of how-to articles from our favorite Art & Soul teachers... well, how about one from Michelle Bernard — our resident Art & Soul Graphic Artist! Michelle dabbles in several different mixed-media categories including jewelry, collage, assemblage, art dolls, and lots more. But there's one thing she told me she loves working with... and that's wood. She bought a wood burning kit ages ago and had it sitting around collecting dust... until she came across an adorable wooden purse at her local craft store. And the rest is history.

Do you smell a campfire? Nope... it's just Michelle in her studio. And here's a quick and easy tutorial to spark your own burning creativity! Take it away Michelle....

I'm not sure why, but I absolutely love making art on wood! And this wood burnt star girl purse I made is no exception! Perhaps it's the smell of the burning wood... reminds me of being around the campfire. Maybe it's the way acrylic paints let the wood show through... I just love me some texture... courtesy of mother nature!

Transferring the image is easy-peasy with the age-old pencil transfer method! Some things never go out of style. Simply rub pencil on the back of your photocopied image, then trace over top.

Burn, baby burn! This part is fun and scary all at once. But oh, the smell of burning wood. Mmmmm. If you have a wood burning kit, logic would dictate using the pointed tip for tracing your image. However, the pointed tip tends to skip. I like to use the chisel tip because it holds heat better and does not skip. You can just "write" with the tip of the chisel, as you would a pencil. But keep those fingers away from the tip!!! Ouch!

Painting in the details. I'm just loving how these bright colors just pop on the wood surface! I used acrylics that were watered down slightly, to fill in the different sections. You want it watery enough to see through, but not too watery that it spreads outside your lines. If you're unsure of the consistency, practice on the inside or back of your surface.

Fun with finishing. Here's where I treat my wood burning like a collage. I added some glitter glue to her hair for some visual depth.

Then I jazzed it up with some words from an old book, a pretty pink flower, and a star necklace with vintage ribbon. You can do as much or as little as you like with your pieces.

The back had a big giant crack in it ($2.99 sale item, what can I say!), so i just painted a dividing line over it and had more wood burning fun!

I even went so far as to finish the inside with pink felt. You might notice there's a little part at the top that I didn't cover with lining. When I used the star shape branding attachment from my wood burning kit, I tested it first on the inside, knowing I would cover it up later. But I thought it was cute, so I let it peek through.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and that it sparks a desire to burn something in your craft room! Within reason... of course.