Carving Out Time for Art

Today I’m taking over the Carve Out Time for Art Instagram account. I’m so honored to have been asked to share my day with that creative community. Carve Out Time for Art was created by Marissa Huber and Heather Kirtland and this is what they have to say about it:

“Our mission is to empower people to stop dreaming and start doing, especially when it comes to carving out time for art.

We are passionate about building community, encouraging others (especially women), and connecting people.

We want to cultivate a positive and nurturing community for creatives who want to find time to satisfy this part of their identity. We do this by fostering conversations, connecting creatives with resources, and showing people they are not alone.”

So good, don’t you think? (If you’re on Instagram and you’re not following them, go do it now!).

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to carve out time for art.

It is HARD to move from dreaming to doing. It took me years of dreaming about making before I ever picked up a paintbrush.

One of the things that helped me overcome the inertia (and the fear) is that I saw other women making art and sharing their art on their blogs. The creative community I found online was so inspiring and encouraging.

It’s one of the reasons that I love to teach (and to share my own words of encouragement in this space).

Carving out time to make art isn’t easy, either. I have dedicated time just about every day solely for the purpose of making art, but sitting down and doing it can still be hard. I have emails to answer. A website to maintain. I have to photograph and scan new work. Prepare submissions. Write blog posts. Wrap up and send out orders. Plan new classes. Film and edit online classes… the list goes on and on.

Some days I spend far too much time sitting in the chair at my computer

And then there are the days I’m not in the mood to make art.

We all have our own sets of challenges (I’m so grateful for mine — they mean I’m doing meaningful work that I love). We all have many ways to spend our time. I have a another part-time job. We have families. Pets. Hobbies. (Once spring is here for real, I’ll have my garden pulling on my attention, too).


There’s no secret answer to how to carve out time for art. No tool or art supply to buy to make things easier. You simply (or not so simply) have to show up. Consistently. Make it a habit. Even on days when you’re not feeling entirely in the mood.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” —Pablo Picasso

Write it on your schedule if that helps. Challenge yourself with something like the 100 Day Project or 30 Paintings in 30 Days, or make up your own. Sketch while watching TV. Wake up earlier. Stay up later. Live with a less than clean house (making art is a good excuse not to clean!).

In addition to the time you need for making art, is the mental space you need to make art. Putting aside fear. Releasing yourself from judgement. This might be the hardest part.

Having a nurturing, supportive creative community can help with that.

When I first started painting with watercolor, I was not very good at it. I could have easily quit. But I was stubborn. And so I painted. And painted. And painted. I painted through heartache. I painted through joy. I painted and my dreams clarified and focused. It was not easy. The road was not straight, even though it led me from there to here.

I’ll stop rambling now (after all, there’s art to be made — this painting needs me to finish it today).

An in-process watercolor painting of an orchid in a clay pot by Anne Butera

I’ll leave you with this wish. Is there something you’ve been dreaming of doing? Doesn’t matter what it is. If you’re dreaming of it, I wish for you to stop dreaming and start DOING. Today. After all, today is all we have.

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More Art Supply Love -- Kuretake Watercolors and Some Pens

A few weeks ago I wrote about how much I was enjoying playing with acrylic craft paint and mentioned there were other art supplies I wanted to share. I find it so hard to resist the pull of new art supplies. It’s probably a good thing that there isn’t an art supply store nearby! The internet does make it easy to order whatever I’m looking for (and then some), but I try to restrain myself. I don’t want to be an art supply hoarder, I want to actually use what I have. (Ahem… time to go play with some supplies that have been sitting untouched in my studio).

New supplies can be energizing. The desire to try them out can be an inspiration in and of itself.

When I wrote about acrylic craft paint I said I hadn’t considered using it because it was inexpensive. Calling something “cheap” isn’t usually a compliment. And somewhere along the line I guess I became a bit of an art supply snob.

I felt the same way about the Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolors I’d seen around the internet. Were they too cheap to be good?

I gave in to the lure of all those beautiful and colors bought a set of of 36 on Amazon for less than $30.*

Kuretake Watercolors Are Inexpensive and Come in Sets with Many Beautiful Colors

And then, after I swatching, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them!

Swatching the Kuretake Watercolors in My Sketchbook is a  Good Way to Get to Know the Paints

I was nervous about using them in a “real” painting, so I used them to play.

Playing Around with Kuretake Watercolors in My Sketchbook

The colors are rich and deep. The only downside I see is that when it’s very saturated the paint tends to sit on top the paper and looks a little shiny.

Loose, Messy Iris Flowers Painted with Kuretake Watercolors in My Sketchbook

I guess it’s just a matter of getting used to them. They seem softer than my other paints, making it easy to pick up a lot of paint with my brush.

I used them in my recent collaboration with Dana Barbieri (I’ve shared some pages from this second batch of sketchbooks, but not all of it like we did with the first project).

Vegetables on My Page (on the Right) of My Second Collaborative Sketchbook with Dana Barbieri (her fruits are on the left)

For some reason this spread makes me so happy! I painted vegetables in answer to Dana’s fruit and it was such a playful exercise.

Collaborating with Dana (both times!) was so inspiring for me. I love the way artists inspire each other, whether in collaborations or not**. Inspiration from another artist can be as simple as following their excitement with a certain medium or even a subject. The other day when I saw Dana painting rainbows I was inspired to paint some of my own.

Watercolor Rainbows in My Sketchbook were a Joy to Paint

Oh and by the way, if you haven’t hopped over to Dana’s new website, go take a look. On her blog she’s having a giveaway for a sweet butterfly painting.

But back to the paint… I’ve enjoyed using them so far but I still haven’t used them in a real painting (I’m having too much fun playing!).

If you’re looking for an inexpensive set of watercolors with LOTS of colors, the Kuretake sets would be a great choice.

Using Kuretake Watercolors in My Sketchbook

One of the cheapest ways to indulge in new art supplies is with pens.

Some of My New Favorite Pens

I love drawing with pens, but I’ve also been enjoying playing with Krylon Leafing Pens.

Gold Krylon Leafing Pen in My Sketchbook

I’ve tried metallic pens in the past and none have been as shiny and metallic as these.

Krylon Silver Leafing Pen on Black Paint in My Sketchbook

It’s hard to quite capture the shininess in photos, but you can see it a bit better at an angle.

Silver Krylon Leafing Pen in My Sketchbook

I probably need more practice to get a smoother application with less visible lines, or maybe that just adds to their charm. I guess when you’re using gold leaf it isn’t completely smooth, either.

I have the Silver and the 18 KT Gold, but there’s also Copper. They do smell a bit and I wouldn’t recommend using them if you already have a headache, but other than that they’ve great.

Black pens are one of my favorite art supplies. I use them in my sketchbooks a lot. I usually use Micron Pens and have a bunch in different sizes. At some point last year I started using Tombow Calligraphy Pens and I really enjoyed the versatility.

A Spread from the Second Sketchbook Collaboration Between Dana Barbieri and Anne Butera

I drew my beetles (the painted bugs are Dana’s) with them and was able to achieve a variety of line sizes without changing pens.

I used them for my page of chickens, too.

Playing With Pens in My Sketchbook Tombow Calligraphy Pens on the Left and Pentel Brush Pen on the Right

For even more versatility and a bit of an uncontrolled, even messy, look I absolutely love the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. It’s refillable, though I haven’t had to use my refill ink yet. It works well on top of paint, even acrylic.

Sketching with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen on top of Acrylic Paint

When I’m sketching with pens I’m usually fairly precise and careful. This brush pen lets me be looser. A fun change of pace.

Tulips Sketched with the Pentel Brush Pen in My Sketchbook

I don’t use a lot of text in my art, mainly because I’m not very confident with it, but this brush pen makes it fun. And it doesn’t matter if it’s messy. Actually, the messier the better.

I hope you’re inspired to try some new things, or maybe pick up some supplies you’ve haven’t used much. One of the joys of a sketchbook is that it can be whatever you want it to be, but mostly, I hope it will be fun.

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen Artist Pep Talk in My Sketchbook

Tell me, what new things have you tried lately and loved? It doesn’t have to be art-related. I enjoy hearing about inspiration in whatever form it may take.

*What is expensive and what is cheap is relative, I guess. I saw one review on Amazon say that the Kuretake watercolors are pricey. As a comparison, my set of Sennelier half-pans which has 14 colors costs more than twice that (even with a nearly 50% discount at Dick Blick).

**If you’re looking for inspiration like that, an online challenge could be fun to try, too. I see them all over the place on Instagram.

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What does it mean to be creative?

My friend Ruby recently wrote a blog post about reclaiming the word creativity and it got me thinking. To be honest, it fired me up. I love discussions like this. I love thinking about and talking about creativity. I wrote a response to Ruby on her blog and then I decided to craft my thoughts into a blog post of my own to extend the conversation.

So go give it a read and then come back and let’s talk.

Grab a cup of something hot and sit down and let's chat

I believe that EVERYONE is creative, or has the potential for creativity. It isn’t something to be hoarded. It isn’t something that one person can claim to have while dismissing another’s right to it.

Creativity is a natural state for every child but it often gets left behind as we grow up (Picasso certainly got that right)*. Some of us are able to hold onto it but most of us do not and often the ones leaving it behind do so because of criticism by adults.

It’s hard to ignore negative comments about your creative endeavors, whether you’re a child or an adult. Sometimes it’s more subtle than direct criticism. A lack of praise while the girl seated next to you is fawned over. Not being chosen for a part in the play… Each of those things hurts. I grieve for all the children (myself included) who grew up believing we weren’t good at art (or writing or music or dance…) just because of another person’s opinion. To discard something as beautiful and joyful and as ESSENTIAL as creativity is a terrible waste.

Along those lines if you haven’t seen this video from Creativebug, go give it a watch.

In her post Ruby says “Creativity has become a bit of a buzzword lately.” The word does seem to be everywhere, and as someone who gets excited about encouraging creativity in others I think that’s a good thing.

What isn’t as good is the never ending cast of “experts” claiming to know THE WAY to be creative. I’ve chatted with other artists about this, too. My friend Dana (from the 2x2 Sketchbook collaboration) just launched a new website for her art and we’d been chatting while she built it. There is so much advice about what artists need to do in order to succeed; sometimes that advice is conflicting and often it’s confusing. And I’ve noticed that much of it doesn’t resonate with me and the type of artist I want to be.

Watercolor Play in My Sketchbook Always Brings Me Joy

I agree with Ruby’s assertion that some of those experts seem more interested in making money for themselves than sharing creative practices with others. But who am I to judge? I decide where I put my money. Perhaps one offering is bad for me but ends up helping someone else move their life from darkness into light. Each of us has our own ability to choose what’s right for us.

Building a life around creativity is hard. Like Ruby, I’ve often looked to others for advice. Maybe you have, too. I’ve even taken advice that didn’t end up being just right for me. I recently re-wrote the About page for this website to better share who I am instead of following a prescription that an expert claimed was supposed to make me successful.

Aren’t many of these ideas true for all of life? There are as many ways to live a life as there are people. In the end we each have to navigate our own path. It’s not always clear which is the right one. We make mistakes. We learn. We grow. Life is hard.

But back to creativity and what is “true” creativity and what is not… I don’t think any of us can judge another’s creativity. And what is truly creative? What has honestly never been done before? Not a lot.

I’m a botanical watercolor painter. Botanical watercolors have been painted for centuries. I don’t think I’ll ever find a subject that hasn’t been painted before.

Ruby is a dancer. Is there truly a movement a dancer can make with her body that another person hasn’t made in the history of humanity? Probably not. But does that matter? Ruby is a unique person. Each moment she dances has never happened before she makes it happen. Her body, the music, the space in which she’s dancing… each aligns to create something that hasn’t been done before, even if the movement isn’t something “new”. Just so with my paintings. I make a momentary connection with a plant and celebrate its beauty on paper with paint.

a watercolor tulip recently painted by Anne Butera

Not everyone will like my paintings. Not everyone will like Ruby’s dance. Or your quilt. Or another person’s book…. But that is not the point. The point is the moment of my creative act (or yours) and what it means to me (or you).

I think everyone can benefit from bringing more creativity to their lives. In whatever form it might take and from whichever direction it may come.

I see Ruby’s post a challenge to herself. A challenge to break out of complacency (and cuteness – although I would argue that cuteness has its place, too). And I see it as a challenge to US. A challenge to truly be ourselves and follow our own creative paths without getting off the track onto someone else’s road.

Being our own true self, forging our own unique way, is probably one of the hardest things to do in life, though it is certainly the most valuable.

I am so grateful to Ruby for posing difficult questions. I am grateful to her for challenging herself (and us!) to be the best that we can be. I am grateful to her for continuing to add beauty and creativity to a world that always needs more of both. I hope that you will be undaunted in your own efforts of creativity. Please do not give up. Please keep shining your light.

IMG_3257 (3).jpg

*”Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain one once he grows up.”

—Pablo Picasso

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Looking Back and Looking Forward

Today is my birthday. I love birthdays. When I was a child my mom always made them special (she still does!). I guess I never let go of the joy of celebrating my day.

Anne as a child with an armful of roses

Most years I try to do something interesting. Go somewhere I’ve never been before. Eat good food, maybe at a new restaurant or maybe an old favorite. I even make sure I take the day off from work.

I don’t fret about getting older or worry about what the numbers mean. Not even when they’re big. Three years ago, on the day I turned 40, I started my day by taking Matthias to a chemotherapy appointment. Celebrating my birthday within that context, when things felt so uncertain, getting old sounded really good. It still does. I have hopes and dreams and intentions for the future and I have a beautiful image of me as an old woman with white hair and funny outfits making wonderful art.

The other day I finished the last pages in two sketchbooks and it inspired me to bring out all my finished sketchbooks and arrange them in order by the date I finished them. Not all were dated, so I had to do a little detective work (note to self: always date your sketchbook pages!).

All the Sketchbooks I've Filled Up So Far on My Creative Journey

I’ve filled up 11 books so far (and have 6 in progress).

These sketchbooks tell the story of my (adult) art journey. I can page though them and witness my development as an artist. Most of the pages don’t mean much on their own. But as part of a larger whole they’re precious.

The first book begins in January of 2010. I’d been dreaming about making art for about a year at that point (two of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2009 were “Make some paintings” and “Draw”), but I hadn’t done much with those dreams. Even in 2010 it took me most of the year to overcome my fears and begin painting. That first book is mostly sketches for sewing and crochet projects, but slowly in the following books I began to take more risks, try more things and truly grow.

A recent page in one of my sketchbooks celebrating the glory of the coming spring in the form of tulips with watercolor and ink

Looking through my sketchbooks and thinking back to those tentative first steps and to all the little steps that followed (some tentative and some much more confident) made me pull out a few of my old journals and look through them, too.

My life was so different before I made my leap into creativity. I was unhappy and I knew I wanted something more. I knew I needed a change. It certainly wasn’t an easy road and I don’t think I ever dreamed I’d end up quite where I am today. Living in a small town and working in a library? Yes, I could picture that. Having my art published in magazines and books? Exhibiting my paintings? Teaching art online and in person? Sewing clothes with fabric I’d designed? Those dreams all seem too big. And yet, here I am.

Anne Butera in her studio wearing a top made with her butterfly fabric from Spoonflower

Every December I like to look back at all I’ve accomplished over the year and look forward to all I wish for the coming year. Sometimes during the day to day of life in progress it’s easy to lose sight of all our successes. The failures loom large. Our frustrations assume a weight they don’t deserve. Taking time to look back, remember, celebrate how far we’ve come is important. A birthday is a perfect time for it.

My word for this year is GROW and although I have a lot more growing I want to do this year (and beyond!), it seems right to look at all the growth that’s gotten me where I am today.

If you’re feeling impatient or frustrated or discouraged with how slowly your journey is progressing (whatever kind of journey you are on), take some time to remember how far you’ve already come. Take some time to settle into the slowness of your own unique story. To savor its sweetness (because it’s yours!). And if you have big dreams that seem very far away, remember that every little step you take brings you that much closer to them.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. For cheering me on. For encouraging and supporting me. May the next 365 days be filled with joy, with creativity, with wonder.

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Celebrating The 5th Handmade Joy Exchange

Back in January I opened an invitation to the 5th Handmade Joy Exchange. I hosted the first one in 2012 and three more after that. Each one was such fun. It was great to get to know some new people, to facilitate new friendships and to help spread joy around the world.

Handmade Joy Exchange

This time I had 19 people join from 12 US states and 4 other countries (India, France, UK and Italy)! Some were people who had participated in the other exchanges and some were new. I matched people up randomly and there were serendipitous pairings. Laura who is from Italy but now lives in the UK (and recently became a British citizen!!) was matched with Christina in Italy. My mom (who’s participated in each of the five Joy Exchanges) was matched with Kelly who lives a few minutes walk from where my parents lived over 40 years ago. Joy at work!

It was wonderful to hear from the participants as they received their packages. So much thought went into the crafting and art making.

I was sad to hear that one package went astray, but I’m hopeful that it will eventually find its way to where it’s going.

Painting, sewing crochet, paper craft, book making… such creativity!

Want to see?

Bits of Handmade Joy Created by the Exchange Participants to Send to Their Partners

From top left to right (top to bottom): Prerna, Laurie, Sarah, Sonia, Tracey, Chris, Stephanie, Cristina, Kelly, Tara

Bits of Handmade Joy Created by the Joy Exchange Participants and Sent to their Partners

From top left to right (top to bottom): Sharon, Karen, Angela, Ida, Carol, Laura, Margaret, Caron, Cynthia (not pictured)

Read a bit more about the Exchange from the participants’ point of view in these blog posts:

Karen from Sew and Sow Life

Cristina from Nature and Paint

Laura from It Is Forbidden to be Bored

Thank you to each of you who participated! And for those of you who didn’t, maybe you’re feeling inspired you to send someone a surprise in the mail? Even just an unexpected postcard will spread a little joy. The world always needs more joy.

Battling the Winter Blahs

Spring might be on its way (according to meteorologists it’s already here), but it certainly doesn’t feel like it in Wisconsin. Does it feel like spring where you are?

Daffodils Bring Cheer to Winter Dreariness When They're Blooming Inside

We had our first snow of the season back in October. Since the beginning of the year we haven’t really been without a cover of snow on the ground. This week started out COLD, but this weekend it’s supposed to rain and sleet and snow. Around town there are icicles and mountains of snow. The roads and people’s driveways are getting narrower and narrower and the snow is getting ever dirtier. If bulbs have started pushing their way out of the ground I wouldn’t know it. (Do they even grow beneath the snow?).

Winter isn’t my favorite season. Yes, I love the magic of new-fallen snow; of glittering, ice-glazed trees and the cobalt blue of the sky set against all that white. And yes, I like spending a cozy day inside in my pajamas, baking and cooking and snuggling beneath blankets, reading books and watching movies. But I miss flowers. I miss running out the back door to pick herbs or pull carrots or search for ripe tomatoes. I miss eating fresh kale everyday and walking around barefoot and not having to don boots and coat and hat and gloves each time I go outside.

Some days it’s fine, but other days I feel so blah. I’ve found it helps to have some battle plans in place.

Orchids Blooming in My Studio Brighten the Winter Dreariness and Provide Inspiration for my Art

Grow something!

My little collection of orchids growing in my studio never fail me at this time of year. The first one opened up last month and they’ve slowly been taking turns adding their colors to my space (and inspiration for my art!).

I’ve been gathering seeds for my garden, but haven’t started any just yet. Soon. Until then I have sprouts growing in my kitchen.

Anyone Can Grow Sprouts Inside for Fresh Greens During the Winter

Sprouts are an easy way to garden any time of year. No matter how small your space, no matter which way your windows face you can grow sprouts. (Here’s a simple overview of growing sprouts on the Mountain Rose Herbs blog).

Make something!

I’ve been on a sewing kick lately. I finally got a new sewing machine and now sewing is much more fun (and so much less frustrating!). I’ve even been using some of my own fabric (Spoonflower is offering free worldwide shipping til 11:59 pm EDT March 8. I need to decide quick which other of my designs need to become clothing!).

Sewing a Top With Two Scales of Fabric Designed with My Nasturtium Watercolor Print

But I also have lots of fabric in my stash to use up. I’ve been especially inspired by Sonya Philip’s 100 Acts of Sewing and her classes on Creativebug.

I’m also planning out crochet projects (this sweater is next) and still (slowly) working on some embroidery. When I’m obsessively working on a project I don’t have time to feel blah.

This week in her newsletter Abby Glassenberg was talking about feeling a bit down about her business. Her husband told her to “go make something”, which ended up being just what she needed. And the result? A new sewing pattern, shared with the world.

A Basket of Colorful Yarn is a Joyful Inspiration

Get Moving!

I’m not really a fan of exercise. Yes I like going for walks (especially when the weather is nice), but otherwise I’d rather sit and read a book (or paint). For ages I’ve wanted to try to change that, but for me, it’s not easy. Recently I bribed myself into doing some yoga by designing a couple pretty yoga mats (you can find them here).

I’ve been trying to do some each day (on my moths mat), starting with beginning practices on YouTube (thanks, Dana, for recommending the Yoga with Adrienne channel!). It’s been changing my perspective. Exercise isn’t something you need to struggle through, but is rather a devotion to yourself.

Treat yourself!

It doesn’t have to be big. Treat yourself to a pot of daffodils (thanks, Mom, for the ones in my living room!). Treat yourself to a bar of exquisite chocolate or a bag of loose leaf tea. Matthias and I like to pick out an interesting cheese to try when we shop at the co-op in town. Trying a new art supply is another fun treat, whether it’s new paints, a new sketchbook or a fun marker or pen. Little treats like this make the day special, which is just what I need when I’m feeling blah.

A gold leafing pen is a a fun art supply treat to make your day (and your sketchbook) special

Nurture yourself!

In addition to taking time for things like yoga, I’ve been focusing on other self-care rituals. Epson salt baths with essential oils. Face masks. I used to make a lot of natural products and regularly devote time to self-care, but it fell aside because I’m “too busy”. I recently checked out Stephanie Tourles book Organic Body Care Recipes from the library as a reminder to get back to it.

last summer I infused apple cider vinegar with calendula flowers to use on my skin and in my hair

(Also a good reminder to get out the vinegar I infused with calendula flowers last summer and use it in hair rinses, baths and skin toners). Most natural body care “recipes” are so simple and don’t take a lot of time. One of my favorite face masks has only one ingredient: honey. I know I’m not “too busy” for that and I’m guessing you aren’t either.

Dress the part!

One thing that always improves my mood is wearing clothes that make me feel good. I love pairing fun colors and patterns and layering different textures. Much of what I wear is made by my own two hands, giving me even more of a boost.

I used two scales of my  watercolor nasturtiums fabric from Spoonflower  to sew this version of McCalls 5388. I added pockets and lengthened the top to make it more of a tunic.

I used two scales of my watercolor nasturtiums fabric from Spoonflower to sew this version of McCalls 5388. I added pockets and lengthened the top to make it more of a tunic.

Last month Rachel Awes and Kelly Rae Roberts teamed up on Instagram for a week-long challenge to wear spring in winter. What a fun way to bring a little more joy into your days.

I hope you haven’t fallen into the winter blahs, but if you have I hope some of my ideas will help you break free from them. I’d love to know what you like to do to cheer yourself up, too.

Wishing you a joyful weekend, no matter the weather.

Trying (and loving) New Things: Acrylic Craft Paint

Recently I’ve had to edit the wording of my bio for a few different things. In one version I say “She works primarily in watercolor but also loves challenging herself to try new things.” It’s true.

Trying new things is fun and exciting. Part of the fun is getting to play with new supplies. Whenever I hear another artist mention a certain brand of paint or sketchbook or other tool, I can’t help but start fantasizing about trying it myself. Even if it isn’t something I would otherwise have considered.

Maybe I’m just very suggestible. Or maybe it stems, in part, from early in my art journey when I believed other artists had the secrets to making good art. The right supplies were one of them.

Over the years I’ve learned the true secret: make a lot of art.

But knowing it doesn’t stop me wanting to try new supplies and tools (doesn’t trying new things ensure I make more art?).

Last fall I purchased a set of acrylic craft paint and have been using it in my sketchbooks. You might remember me sharing some of these spreads from my collaborative sketchbook with Dana Barbieri:

a spread from Anne Butera’s (right) and Dana Barbieri’s (left) second collaborative sketchbook

a spread from Anne Butera’s (right) and Dana Barbieri’s (left) second collaborative sketchbook

Dana used gouache on the left side of the book to paint her swan. I painted mine with cheap craft paint.

Craft Smart Paint is Available from Michaels

It’s Craft Smart brand from Michaels. The set I bought comes with 24 beautiful colors. Just seeing the bottles in my studio in their thrifted colander makes me happy.

Thrifted containers store my paints and other supplies in my studio

The colors mix beautifully and I’ve had fun experimenting with them.

I would never have considered using craft paint in my art practice, but when I saw it mentioned in Katie Daisy’s list of favorite supplies (she prefers the Martha Stewart brand) I began thinking about it. Then I took a class with Pam Garrison on Creativebug and in it she recommended the Craft Smart brand. Of course I couldn’t resist after that!

Here’s a spread in my sketchbook inspired by Pam’s class:

Sketchbook pages with craft acrylic paint inspired by Pam Garrison's Creativebug class

One beauty of these paints is their versatility. They work a bit like gouache and using more water with the paint gives delicate watercolor effects.

another spread from Anne Butera’s (right) and Dana Barbieri’s (left) collaborative sketchbook

another spread from Anne Butera’s (right) and Dana Barbieri’s (left) collaborative sketchbook

If I hadn’t painted those swatches, I wouldn’t have been able to guess that they were created with acrylic craft paint.

Use less water and it is very opaque.

another spread from Anne Butera’s (right) and Dana Barbieri’s (left) collaborative sketchbook

another spread from Anne Butera’s (right) and Dana Barbieri’s (left) collaborative sketchbook

Layering and blending work equally well. I’ve even used them mixed with gouache. The deep pink of my flamingo was painted with gouache, but the rest of my page used craft paint. I can’t see much difference in how the paints look on the page. Can you?

another spread from Anne Butera’s (right) and Dana Barbieri’s (left) collaborative sketchbook

another spread from Anne Butera’s (right) and Dana Barbieri’s (left) collaborative sketchbook

These paints are beautifully matte. They don’t feel plastic-y or heavy on the page, either.

another spread from Anne Butera’s (right) and Dana Barbieri’s (left) collaborative sketchbook

another spread from Anne Butera’s (right) and Dana Barbieri’s (left) collaborative sketchbook

Although I usually recommend you use the highest quality materials you can afford, I actually think in this case the cheaper paint would be a better option for someone who’s just starting out.

a page of birds in Anne Butera’s sketchbook painted with acrylic craft paint

a page of birds in Anne Butera’s sketchbook painted with acrylic craft paint

It’s easy to work with and gives beautiful results. The price is nice, too. Spending $14 for a set of 24 paints in 2 oz bottles means experimenting and playing and making art isn’t quite as scary as it would be with a set of 12 1/2 oz tubes of gouache that cost $40 (or more).

When I was a beginner I worried about “wasting” supplies and I’ve heard from many people over the years that one of the big things stopping them from working in their sketchbooks is a fear of “ruining” them. Paint is meant to be used (In fact, sitting in its tubes or bottles for years can ruin it).

The only way to learn how to make art is by making art. Experimenting. Playing. “Wasting” paint

monarch sketches in pencil and acrylic craft paint, decorated with gold leafing pen

monarch sketches in pencil and acrylic craft paint, decorated with gold leafing pen

and markers and pens* and pencils… Trying new things opens up your creativity. (And gives you a good excuse to shop for some new supplies!).

I even used acrylic craft paint for this canvas I painted for the  KVR Art Fundraiser **

I even used acrylic craft paint for this canvas I painted for the KVR Art Fundraiser**

What “new” thing have you tried lately?

*the gold leafing pen above is one of a few new pens I’ve tried and loved recently. In future posts I’ll share my thoughts on them and other art supplies

**The Kickapoo Valley Reserve hosts a community art event each year. The canvases, created by area artists “of all ages and talents”, are auctioned off to support their programs. This is the first year I’m participating. The theme is Nature in Flight.

More Thoughts on Blogs and Blogging

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts (in comments and email) after my questions about blogs in last week’s post. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking after reading what you wrote; your words brought about a few epiphanies for me.

A pitcher of roses brightens any day, but especially one in February

Why would I write something on my blog that I wouldn’t read myself? I love reading blogs that share glimpses into other people’s worlds. I love seeing other people’s creative spaces, learning about their creative practices and their creative processes.

As I mentioned last week I got out my “real” camera and in doing so was inspired to look around my world through its lens, something I hadn’t done for much too long.

I truly believe that our world is magical, even the most ordinary bits of it, but I know how easy it is to fall into the habit of rushing through our days without noticing that magic.

Instructions for living a life.

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.

—Mary Oliver

So here I am, trying again to reclaim my purpose for my blog, my energy for it. Without worrying about what the “experts” say. Without getting hung up on doing it “right”. Without agonizing over numbers.

Anne Butera in Her Studio

I’ll be paying attention and being astonished and telling you about it. I’ll be painting and crafting and sharing my enthusiasm for the magic of creativity. I’ll be sharing my ups and my downs, my struggles and my successes. And through it all I’ll be encouraging you to embrace your own creativity and to discover daily joys. The most important goal for my blog is connection.

Yes, a lot of lovely blogs no longer exist, but as Simone said there are “loads more to be discovered”. What a beautiful thought. Are you with me?

Some of you mentioned a couple favorite blogs in the comments last week. I’d love to know what others are your favorites. Please let me know which blogs you like to read and I’ll add links to them to my list below. Let’s celebrate writing blogs and celebrate reading them, too. I dream of a blogging renaissance!

Being (and Loving) Yourself (or, On Blogging)

When I’m planning I write blog topics on my calendar for each week, often scheduling the whole month at once. Sometimes those topics will be crossed out or directed with arrows to other weeks. Because inspiration supersedes planning, sometimes a post will bounce from week to week to week before I finally get around to it and then sometimes by the time I sit down to write, I can’t entirely remember what I wanted to say.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. It’s kind of a silly holiday, but as I’ve said before, I like it. February isn’t a very exciting month. It’s often dreary and cold and by this time winter’s charm is beginning to wear thin. A day set aside in the middle of the February to celebrate warm cozy feelings (and chocolate) is right up my street. I understand the flip side and all the reasons Valentine’s day is an ugh sort of day for many, but I like the idea of spreading love, of sharing joy, even if it’s just with yourself. Perhaps especially if it’s just with yourself.

Hearts cut from my Watercolor Blue Roses Pattern

We can be so hard on ourselves when what we really need is love.

I have to admit this post has bounced around on my calendar a bit and I can no longer remember my original intention for it (I don’t think it had anything to do with Valentine’s day). But considering what I wanted to say today and how I got here has me thinking about blogging in general.

Back in June on my old blog I wrote about being authentic and in July in this space I wrote about being rebellious, both posts, in part, about blogging. I still have some of those same feelings. I still wonder what my readers (you) want to hear and I’ve begun to wonder about the relevance of blogs today. I haven’t been reading blogs regularly at all lately, and some of my favorites have changed so much while others have disappeared.

My messy studio work table with lots of projects in progress

It’s interesting, when I look back at the links I shared in my post about blogging (on being rebellious), I see that:

I end up asking myself, what now?

I don’t want to quit writing this blog and I’m not certain I need a break, either. Maybe it’s just the winter blahs.

Flowers on the Meyer Lemon Tree in my Studio Window

And so, perhaps my blog and I just need a bit of self-love.

What does self-love look like for my blog? I don’t know. Maybe it’s being even more rebellious than I thought I was being. Maybe it’s writing about topics that bring me joy. Maybe it’s sharing something just because it’s fun (for me). Maybe it’s getting out my real camera (sadly neglected for months and months) and taking photos not to illustrate anything, but because something catches my eye (like those lemon flowers). Perhaps, most of all it’s letting go of any expectations (mine included) and simply being myself.

What does self-love look like for me? Well, confidently being myself is always at the heart of it (and not always easy). More fun is taking time to do things just for me. Brewing up my favorite oolong tea. Savoring a square of dark chocolate. Spending time soaking up sunshine on a cloudless day. Going somewhere I’ve never gone before. Spritzing my face with rosewater as an afternoon pick-me-up. Wearing a pair of thick, soft socks. Watching the birds at my feeder. Planning out my garden and buying seeds…. It’s probably an easier question for you, too.

Now for one that’s not as easy… I’d love to know what you’d like to see in this space. I’m not going to do a formal survey, but want to know your thoughts. What posts do you most like to read? What do you wish I would talk about? What do you want more of (less of)? Share your thoughts in the comments or send me an email.

Thanks for being here reading my words. I hope you have time this weekend to do something just for yourself.

I Made Shoes!

Last week I shared my fears around hand sewing and how my belief that I wasn’t “good” at stitching kept me from trying embroidery. I’m not sure if it was that belief, or if was other fears that kept me from using the espadrille kit I bought at the end of August.

At first I couldn’t make up my mind about which fabric I wanted to use. Butterflies (to match my top)? Goldfish? Blue Roses?

Once I got the right fabric there was always something else more important to do than sew a pair of shoes.

Then I started second-guessing my fabric choice. I sewed a pillow with my fabric in velvet and started to wonder if maybe velvet would be more fun than linen.

Although I could convince myself that each of theses delays was perfectly reasonable, if I’m honest it was fear that stopped me from tackling the project.

I guess it does make sense to think of making shoes as kind of scary. Very few people make their own shoes, right? Making shoes is hard, isn’t it? You need special tools and skills, don’t you?

But let me assure you that despite my fears (and beliefs), it wasn’t difficult!

The kit I bought is from A Happy Stitch, Melissa Q'.’s Etsy shop. Melissa has lots of different options including children’s sizes. Some of the kits come with fabric, but she also has kits that don’t.

The Espadrille Kit that I Used to Sew a Pair of Shoes is From the Etsy Shop A Happy Stitch

I purchased the “I Got it Kit” which has everything you need to make a pair of espadrilles except for the fabric. It really is a thorough kit. (If you want to learn more about all of the “bits” and about their environmental impact, Melissa wrote about it here).

I used linen for the outside of my shoes and Kona cotton for the inside, both in my small scale goldfish design from Spoonflower. A fat quarter of each was more than enough fabric for my pair of shoes.

Getting Ready to Cut out the Pattern Pieces for the Espadrilles with My Goldfish Fabric

I have to admit that I get nervous reading sewing patterns. Often I feel like I don’t know what they’re talking about (thank goodness for Google!). The instructions with this kit were very clear. There’s even a link to a video (which I never ended up needing to consult).

In Progress Goldfish Espadrilles

Even though it wasn’t difficult, it was slow for me. My sewing machine gave me trouble (as it often does). Pinning the fabric to the soles so that everything fit just right was slow. Sewing top to bottom took some strength (and patience). But it was such a satisfying project.


I can’t wait to be able to wear them!

If you’d like to try your hand at making some espadrilles, I highly recommend this kit. What’s even better is the fact that Melissa is so kind and helpful. I emailed her a couple times with questions and she responded right away with cheerful, encouraging suggestions.

The Shoes I Sewed with My Goldfish Fabric from Spoonflower and the Kit from A Happy Stitch

Sewing these shoes, working on learning embroidery, getting back to painting… all of it is teaching me, again and again, the art of patience. The art of slowness.

Patience. Slowness. They’re important lessons. They go way beyond a pair of shoes, a colorful sampler or a finished painting.

The Lies We Tell Ourself and How to Break Free From Self-Imposed Limitations

Are there things you wish you could do, but “know” you can’t because you don’t have the talent?

Around ten or twelve years ago, before I got the rose tattoo on my ankle I studied images of roses and planned out a design. I even made a sketch and brought it and lots of photographs with me to my appointment. I clearly remember telling the tattoo artist “I want something like this sketch, but I can’t draw”.

A Sketch I Did for the Tattoo I Got On My Ankle Back Before I Believed I Could Be an Artist

For some reason I believed I couldn’t draw. Many other times I remember telling people, “I’m not an artist”. Worse, I said it to myself.

It would be a few more years before I started to question my belief. Maybe I began to realize drawing and art-making is something I could learn, not an innate ability. Or maybe it was just that my desire to make art outweighed my belief I couldn’t do it. My first paintings weren’t so great, but with determination and practice I got better.

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” —Vincent Van Gogh

I think we probably all place limitations on ourselves based on lies. Maybe someone said something to us in the past and we’ve since adopted their beliefs as our own. Maybe personal experiences “taught” us lessons that simply are not true. Or maybe “expert” advice tells us that what we’re dreaming isn’t possible.

For a very long time I’ve wanted to try embroidery, to create my own designs and bring them to life. Again and again I would tell people (and myself) I’m not good at embroidery. I’m not good at hand sewing. I’ll just stick my fingers with the needle and bleed all over the fabric if I try to sew by hand. I imagined I could create designs but would need to find someone else to embroider them.

But recently I began to imagine I could try again to learn. Over the years I’d broken free from some of the other limitations I’d put on myself, why not this one too?

I have lots of fabric and I have lots of thread stored away in the closet in my studio. Last week I pulled out some of both and sat down to begin learning. With the help of Rebecca Ringquist’s class on Creativebug I tried my hand at some stitches. It was fun.

A Sampler of Embroidery Stitches I Created Recently

Now I’m completely hooked and my brain is exploding with possibilities.

Those stories I told myself about not being able to embroider weren’t true just as the stories I’d told myself about drawing and painting weren’t true.

My word for this year is GROW. I’ve been keeping it at the forefront of my thoughts. I’m trying new things. I’m experimenting. I’m setting aside my self-imposed limitations and it feels good.

Maybe nothing will come of my experiments. Maybe nothing will come of my dabbling with embroidery, but the act of breaking free from limitations, of overcoming fears, of questioning my beliefs… that is true growth.

So tell me, what is it that you would like to try and what’s been holding you back from trying it?

Plan Your Year and Move from Dreaming to Doing

Somehow January has come and now is almost gone. Are you feeling on top of your goals or is overwhelm starting to settle in?

The other day I realized that although I had ideas for what I wanted to do in the coming year I hadn’t sat down to plan anything. I knew I wanted this year to be a little freer than in the past. I knew I wanted to have time and space to learn new things and to develop and grow as an artist without the constraints of rigid goals and to-dos. But I soon realized that if I didn’t have a framework for my learning I would drift aimlessly. Without some goals and to-dos I might not accomplish anything at all.

Sound familiar?

My Snow Covered January Garden

It’s all too easy to jump into a new year filled with excitement and intentions and forget how much work (and planning) it will take to realize our goals. Partway through January we might begin to feel discouraged when we see we haven’t accomplished much (yet).

Quin on My Lap While I'm Working on the Computer

In her weekly email last Sunday, my friend Ruby shared her feelings of overwhelm and urged her readers to take “deep breaths and carve time for pure enjoyment”.

What does it mean to “carve time”? I see it simply as a matter of planning.

I’ve been watching online classes while eating lunch this month. I noticed Bonnie Christine has a new class on Skillshare and the other day I watched it with my soup. Your Roadmap to Surface Design: A Step by Step Framework to Crafting Your Career might sound super specific to pattern design, but I think many of the ideas that Bonnie shares in the class are useful for anyone with creative business dreams. To me her words were a good reminder of the importance of planning and focus.

I know how important planning is. In the past I’ve been very specific when setting goals and scheduling my year. And I know that without focus it’s all too easy to fritter away our time with unimportant tasks.

And so, armed with a renewed sense of purpose and excitement I sat down this week to plan out my year.

At My Painting Table Planning for the Year

It feels good to be clear about what I want to accomplish and how I’m going to do it.

What about you?

If you’re feeling a bit of overwhelm or a lack of direction, take some deep breaths and then spend some time planning out your year. Go slowly, give yourself space and enjoy the process.

Even if you don’t have dreams of a creative business, you can benefit from a little planning and scheduling. Want to sew more of your clothes? Want to begin a yoga practice? Want to grow a successful garden? Want to travel to Florence? Want to learn how to dance? None of these things will happen unless you plan for them, unless you schedule them, unless you carve time for them.

A New Watercolor Pattern of Tomatoes by Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry

Get your ideas down on paper. Write lists. Scribble deadlines on your calendar. Having things written down always helps me.

In case you need a little direction with your planning, I’ve created a couple worksheets I’d like to share. This general goal planning sheet and year at a glance planning sheet are a good place to start. I originally created them a few years ago (and shared them on my blog back then, too).

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are you dreaming about for 2019? What would you like to accomplish? What would you like to learn? Need a cheerleader? I know all about Big Dreams and slowly bringing them to reality.