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Posts from the ‘Organization’ Category

Top Lessons Learned on this Journey

Sunset over Rocks

Inspiration is everywhere!

Top things I’ve learned since becoming Art At Dawn

1. Inspiration is everywhereEvery waking hour is fodder for my art.  Sometimes it trickles up from my memories and other times I know it the moment it occurs.

I felt that very keenly this summer when my family and I took that trip out West.  Inspiration enveloped me and penetrated all my senses.  Look for upcoming posts on how it has begun to influence my work.

2. Consistency is key– I’ve found that I’m most productive when I keep myself on a schedule and hold myself to self-imposed deadlines. The times I flounder are when my goals are unclear or vague.

As I wrote about it in this post, I have developed a weekly schedule that helps to keep me focused.  I feel lost the weeks that I skip it.

I wish I could say that all this consistency allows my creativity to flow abundantly.  Not so.  There are times that I have to force myself to keep at it.  The important thing, I’ve learned, is just to show up and keep stoking the fire.  If the fire goes out it takes a lot longer to start it up again and feel the warmth of its glowing embers which feeds my art.

3. Time is precious– There are only so many hours in the day, and only a portion of them can be used for my art.  The trick is to use the time I have to the best of my ability and not kick myself when I run out of it.  (The best way to estimate my time?  Take the amount I think it will require and double it!)

But there is another side to the coin.  When I lose myself to my art, I often lose track of time as well.  I get in The Zone.  It is a great place to be in but requires the freedom of time, as well.

I've learned some tricks, along the way, to maximize the supplies I have on hand.

I’ve learned a few tricks, along the way, to maximize the supplies I have on hand.

4. Art supplies need not be expensive– that goes for studio furniture, too! Over the years I’ve amassed a lot of art supplies and learned some tricks on how to maximize the supplies I have lying around the house.

That goes for studio equipment and furniture, too.  I’ve also found some great deals at consignment stores and Craigslist, and am always looking out for discounted items to supplement my studio wishlist.

5. My talents are valid– It’s easy, in this field, to look around at my highly talented peers and convince myself that I don’t possess the skills and creativity that they have.  But I can’t do that to myself.  I can’t discount the feelings of excitement and happiness that often overwhelm me while creating a drawing or painting.

If I am passionate about my art and business I need to trust that others will see it and want what I have to offer.  (The trick is getting it out there where they can see it, too!)

6. Feel the fear and do it anyway– At times I am unsure of myself; where I am going with my art, and what I am doing.  I must allow myself to experience those feelings but then forge ahead. What other choice do I have? Giving up is not an option!

Sometimes I feel fearful when I am in a new situation or approaching someone about my art. I’ve found that what helps ease my anxiety is to think to myself, What’s the worst that can happen? Perhaps I‘ll get rejected or feel out of my element, but the world will still spin and life will go on. So I swallow my pride and keep going- because I must!


I am so thankful to the friends and family who have encouraged and supported me along this journey.

7. Make time for family and friends– It is so easy to lose sight of the things that matter, if I allow it, especially if I’m wrapped up in a big project or preparing for a show.  I’ve learned that I constantly need to take a step back and look around me.  I need to take in the big picture and remember what my core values are.

I feel so lucky and blessed to be able to be using my God-given talents, but I cannot forget those who encouraged and helped me along the way.  I am so grateful to them, and I never want to forget to be thankful!

8. There is an answer out there for everything– I’ve had to forge many new streams in creating my business. I’ve had to find resources and learn to navigate them. Sometimes I’ve even had to learn new skills by watching tutorials or taking an online class.

I may have to dig for it, but the answers are out there. Thank God for Google!

9. Make a decision and stick with it–   This has not been an easy lesson to learn. Everywhere I turn there are decisions to make, and it can get overwhelming.  From what kind of art I should do, to where I should show it; decisions about what my art and business is about, and how I should run it.  Only I can decide and stand my ground- otherwise it would all get washed away in the current.

But then there are times when something doesn’t work and I need to let it go. That’s not an easy decision, either, but a necessary one to keep developing my art and business.

10. Prioritize– It’s remarkable how long its taken me to figure this out. There are so many things that need my attention and if I don’t prioritize, I wind up taking little nips but never finishing anything.

I’ve learned to choose 2-3 things each day that need to get done and then fill in with everything else. Often, I find that it’s better to get the more dreaded things out of the way first, as well. (ie: book-keeping!)

11. Make Connections– It can be hard to get myself out there and approach strangers- even if it’s in the name of my art.  I literally have to push myself to do it.  But 9 times out of 10, the people on the other end are friendly and helpful, and have led to more connections. These contacts have been invaluable and make it easier to go out and do it again.


Every failed attempt becomes an opportunity to learn and grow.

12. Don’t be afraid to fail– Not that I set out to make mistakes, but they happen anyway.  It would be easy to curl up and have a pity party every time they occur.  But I can’t.  Every failed attempt becomes an opportunity to learn and grow.

So bring it on!!

Do any of these lessons resonate with you?  What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your own business and/or creative pursuits?

Having a Learning and Growing Week!

A Summer of Discoveries

Sunset over Rocks

Some say Fall or Spring is their favorite season (and a few even claim Winter!).  As for me, Summer is where my heart belongs.

I seem to feel much more alive and open in the summer- almost like a desert flower that blooms after the rainy season when all the conditions are ripe.  I feel more relaxed and exposed to experiences and discoveries that come my way.

So what have you discovered this summer?  I’m glad you asked!

1. People are fascinating.

I’m sure this is something I’ve already known, but its really begun to emerge these past few months.  I’ve bumped into a few extremely intriguing people lately and its made me hunger for more encounters like them.

I met a woman on my trip out West who was trying to climb the highest peak in every state. Recently, a fellow artist who photographs my work explained how he began an art exchange with a group in Japan.

Dartboard against orange wall

I met a fascinating woman at a local Irish Festival last weekend who shared her love of playing darts and how she met her husband at a competition.

I now realize why we were always one of the last families to leave after mass on Sundays, when my mother began talking to other parishioners. I have become one of those people. My children outwardly groan when they see me bump into a friend at a grocery store.

Sorry kids- people are just too fascinating. Hopefully you’ll understand someday!

2. Let go of expectations.

August has rounded the corner and I have only achieved a fraction of the projects I had planned for the summer.  Rather then let this eat away at me, I’ve come to a few realizations.

Getting ready to paint

The tarps are up and the hardware is down, yet I still haven’t painted the boys’ rooms.   Upate- Painting has begun!

I’ve realized that the reason things haven’t been achieved is that I’ve had a fun summer with the family.  We’ve swum, bowled, vacationed, visited local fairs and festivals, and eaten at open air restaurants.  We’ve done summer!

Isn’t that better then crossing all the to-dos off my list and missing out on all the fun?

But it hasn’t stopped me from feeling guilt for not crossing off those to-dos.  Next summer I think I’ll make a bucket list instead of a to-do list so that anything I accomplish will be a bonus!

3. Keep the creative gates open.

I’m in the post-vacation, pre-school mode and have had little time to be creative.  But this summer I have a lifeline.

I began a new 365 project in June. I vowed to create a drawing every day based on a song I was listening to. Have I succeeded? Not quite, but often enough so that it has become something I either do or at least think about doing every single day.

Drawing in my 365 music sketchbook

A drawing in my daily 365 sketchbook based on the song, Happy.

My paints will have to wait just a little while longer.  But at least I have my sketchbook to carry me through!

4. Connect.

I’m so glad I was able to see my sister (actually, my half sister) in Colorado while were we were vacationing out west. We actually hadn’t seen each other since our Dad died 3 ½ years ago! But It was a hurdle to make it happen. We had to dodge a few miscommunications and juggle our schedules.

Family gathering in restaurant

My sister’s 4 kids and my 3 made for a very rowdy reunion, but it was fun to reconnect!

Those 2 hours at the pizza parlor (driving the poor waitresses crazy with our combined 7 loud and rambunctious kids!) made a world of difference to our distant relationship. We were able to reconnect.

Just last weekend my brother and his family came up for a last minute visit. Again, connections were strengthened as the cousins romped around the backyard and the grown-ups caught up at the dining room table.

Family is a blessing. There are many differences among us, but blood is a powerful bonding agent!

5. Deadlines make things happen.

This seems counter-intuitive to letting go of expectations, but some things needed to get done this summer and deadlines made it happen.

In fact, the reason you’re able to read a new blog post from me just about every week (except when I snuck off on vacation!) isn’t because I always feel inspired to write. I wish it were the case and I’m sorry to say that it’s not! It is because I have a self-imposed deadline.

The same goes for just about everything else that I’ve managed to achieve this summer. I have good intentions, but unless I give myself a deadline, it doesn’t get done. It’s a fine line- relaxing expectations yet creating deadlines. I guess it all boils down to priorities.

A list of things to do on a computer

I recently discovered the program, Todoist, and love it’s versatility and simple format.


There are only a few weeks left before the kids go back to school and the summer season ends, at least in our household. My plan is to make the best of the time we have left and enjoy it to the last drop.

How about you? What discoveries have you made this summer?

Have an enchanting week and enjoy your summer while it’s still here!


Before I Hit The Road

Down the roadSometime in the next month, we will be leaving for our summer vacation.  I’ve been sworn to secrecy as to where and when, but, don’t fret, I’ll fill you in on some of the highlights soon afterwards!

What I can tell you is that it takes an abundance of preparation and organization to make it happen.

This is something, I must admit, that I actually enjoy doing.

What I hate?  Coming home, unpacking, and the mounds of laundry that await me afterwards!

But let me push those unpleasant thoughts aside and concentrate what is required to get the 5 of us ready for another exciting vacation…

1. Projecting

Before I pull out our suitcases, I first must slip on my thinking cap.   I always try to project ahead to the vacation location and our plans there.  What will the temperature be like?  Will we need good clothes for a special occasion? Will we need hiking shoes or beach clothes?  Will we be staying at hotels with toiletries provided or will we need to bring some of our own?

Only then am I ready for #2:

2. Lists

There are 2 lists that I create,  to-pack and to-do.  In the past, I’ve written them out by hand then tossed them out- but last year I had the foresight to type it up on my computer.  Turns out that I’m a repetitive creature and many of the items have remained the same, regardless of trip locale!

My to-pack list goes through each family member, lists the amount of clothing and what kind (pjs, jackets, undies, etc.), and then general necessities such as a camera, sunscreen, medicine, etc…  With 5 people to pack for, this list is invaluable!

My to-do list is anything and everything that needs to get done before we leave.  Hold mail and newspaper are always the #1 item.  There’s also getting cash, purchasing travel toiletries, sending last minute emails, etc., etc…

A collection of knickknacks from past travels line the windowsill in our kitchen.

A collection of knickknacks from past travels line the windowsill in our kitchen.


3. Kid’s Bags

These are essential to our kids’ happiness and saves my husband and I from schlepping all the kid’s crap ourselves!  Each person is in charge of a backpack (or purse/laptop case, for the adults) that contains all the gizmos, books, and activities required to keep them occupied.  In addition, I’ll often slip in a few little surprises (activity books and magazines) and snacks to get them through long flights or car rides.

4. CDs

A few years ago I learned how to create custom CDs, and these have also become a tradition for long car rides.  Each kid is allowed to create a playlist of 15-20 songs from our music library and/or downloaded from iTunes, then I burn them onto a disc.  It is interesting to witness their developing tastes in music and discover their favorite songs.  Often, one tune becomes the theme song for our vacation (as in the case of California Love by Dr. Dre for a trip out west a few summers ago!).

5. Food

I’ve already mentioned snacks in the backpacks.  If we are taking a long car ride, I’ll often pack a cooler of drinks (along with extras to throw in later), plenty of non-perishable snacks, and some dried cereal and bagels for breakfast- so that we don’t have to stop as often.  A special mention is gum, especially helpful on plane trips for popping ears.  Its also been used to ease fatigue for the drivers, and nausea for passengers.  We are lucky that our kids don’t get carsick very often, but one can never be too prepared!

6. Research

This goes along somewhat with projecting – learning a little about where we’ll be headed.  Back in the dark ages that would primarily be through books.  Nowadays, Google is my best friend.  Social Media (aka: asking friends) also helps, along with Yelp and TripAdvisor.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I like to keep many of these recommendations in a folder as reference for when we’re there. (along with hotel confirmations, telephone numbers, exchange rates, etc.)

quote by Hans Christian Anderson7. What Have I Missed?

I have learned that after we return from a trip, my brain is in a fog and it takes about a week to resume normal activity.  Therefore, I try to project ahead to the days after we get home and prepare as much as possible.  This year, my daughter’s birthday arrives shortly after we return, so I’ll need to start planning now to ensure that she has a party with all the fix in’s when the time comes!

If I can’t prepare beforehand, sometimes I’ll put alerts on my phone for important things I need to remember, or to shake me into action. (i.e.: bills that are due, sport’s sign-ups, etc.)

One could get tired just looking at all the prep work that goes into getting a family out of town and ask, Is it worth it?  

My answer? A resounding YES!  The more I do now, the better able I am to actually relax when we get there and disconnect for awhile.  Something we all need to do from time to time.

Are there any special rituals you do as you prepare to hit the road?  I’d love to hear about them!

Have a Fabulous Week!


How To Travel Well

Travel Quote by Hans Christian AndersonDo you know what I love?

I love the unexpected circumstances that crop up during travel. Those bits of odd stories and facts that are not included in the guidebooks.

Here are some of my own:

  1. For our first christmas together, my husband and I spent a week in Rome. A truly awe-inspiring city! What I didn’t expect to see were hundreds of ferrel cats roaming around, especially in and around the ruins that were strewn about as if it were construction debris. The Colosseum was crammed with cats- they must have to be photoshopped out of official tourist photos!
  2. Just last year my family and I were able to take an amazing trip to China.  In Beijing, where westerners are still somewhat of a rarity, we were often treated as rockstars and asked to have pictures taken of us, or with us.  My daughter, in particular, was very popular.  So much so, that we had to hide her blonde hair under a baseball cap and shield her from large crowds as much as possible.
  3. When my husband and I were newly married, we bought a 2 week rail pass and travelled through Europe on it.  One of our favorite discoveries was a beer garden in Salzburg, Austria run by monks that gave out liters of beer in huge steins.  It was a place known mainly by locals.  The snack of choice for people there? Radishes!

So how do these stories happen?  Not by planning for them, but by relaxing your expectations and going with the flow.   This is not always easy in an unfamiliar territory where you are not quite sure where or what you are doing.  If there are language barriers, this feeling is confounded.

The beauty of travel is that you are not in your home environment.  Everything is different and so should be your mindset.

I have a few tricks up my sleeve to get the most out of travel.  Want to hear them?


Figures walking through the London Mews

Allow time to wander through the streets

1.  Plan beforehand, then let intuition take over

Apps like Tripadvisor and Yelp make it so much easier.  Getting recommendations from friends and travel blogs is another.  Gather as much information as you can beforehand and start to choose favorites among them.  If you’re going to a city, look for patterns of where the recommendations are located and perhaps find a few good restaurants among them.

File it all away and then reassess when you get there.  You may be tired from the journey or the weather isn’t cooperating.  That’s when intuition takes over so you can pick and choose what will work best given the weather or your state of mind.

2. Be a traveler, not a tourist

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”-G.K.Chesterton

Choose 2-3 main attractions per day, max.  Allow for breaks and meals.  If you cram too much in you don’t experience nearly as much.   Let quality, not quantity, be your guide.

3. Soak it in

Try new foods, talk to the locals, and haggle with the street vendors.  Read local newspapers.  Wander through the aisles of the local grocery store.

There is so much more to learn and experience if you dig a little deeper.

4.  Write it down

Even if your trip seems unforgettable, trust me, someday you will forget!  Find time at the end of the day to jot down the places you went, even if it’s on a back of a napkin or hotel stationary.  Be sure to include the names of the attractions and restaurants that you enjoyed.  Try to remember a few unique moments that you encountered in your day.

Once you’re home and start to recount your trip, you’ll be so thankful that you did this.  (My problem is that I tend to lose those bits of paper.  Don’t do what I do, find a safe haven for all your travel memories!)


Boy leaning against giant eraser

Expect the unexpected

5. Expect the unexpected

Sh*?$ happens!  Illness, bad food, lost luggage, stolen cameras, etc., etc. have happened to most seasoned travelers.  It’s all part of the experience.

So is the kindness of strangers, mouth-watering food, and jaw-dropping vistas when it’s least expected.

My point is, don’t let the bad bring you down and be open to the good.

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawharial Nehru

 How do you get the most out of your travels and what are some of your favorite memories from them?

Have an adventurous week!





Progress Report

Studio Wall

Wall of my studio. I love being greeted by my work every day!

Awhile ago I wrote about the word ‘resolve’.  This was back when I was doing my 365 Project, a daily sketch + journaling about a word or phrase.

That word kept popping up periodically at times when I was re-evaluating myself, my goals, and where I thought I was heading.

Guess what?  That word is popping up again.  This time it’s making me evaluate what I accomplished so far this year and where I want to be going.

Back in January I filled out a Goals and Intentions Kit for 2014.  I set up some goals for myself and even went so far as to write about them so that I’d be more likely to stay on track.  I said that I’d be evaluating myself periodically and giving you updates on my progress.

The time has come.

The following is some of the clumps of goals I set out for myself and where I’ve gone with them.  I’ve also gone ahead and given myself letter grades for them.  A little silly, I know, but I’m a visual person and that’s what it takes!  Here goes:

1.  Social Marketing- A

I’ve developed a newsletter, hired a friend to start helping me with my website (Have you noticed my new Art At Dawn header?  That’s all thanks to Sherri!), Got an ad placed on a local News Channel 6 website with a video created if someone clicks on the link.  (Which I’ve also placed on the home page of my website).

I’ve also tried to keep a regular dialogue and updates going on my Art at Dawn Facebook page and have just opened an Instagram account but haven’t done anything with it, yet. (But I will, soon!)

Not bad, grasshopper!

Goals and Intentions Binder

My goals are written, I just need to implement them!

2.  Organization- C

The good– keeping my bookkeeping and quickbooks somewhat in order.  I have a decent weekly calendar and goal keeping system.

The not so good– my stuff is mostly in files, somewhat filed where they should be, and everything needs to be alphabetized.

The ugly– my computer files have no order to them, my art and supplies haven’t been catalogued, and I need to find a better system for keeping my to-dos and inspiration.

I need a clone!  (an organized one!)

3. Studio- A+

When I walk into my studio, it never ceases to make me happy!  I’ve been able to procure some new tables (thanks to Craigslist and my friend, Teresa, who made sure I was safe when we fetched them from a stranger and helped me haul them up to my studio!), some new organizers, and had a very successful open house.

I still have yet to get a sink area and a few more bits of furniture, but I feel comfortable with what I have so far.  I love my studio!

Side Note:  If you are in the Columbus, OH area or just passing through, I welcome you to stop on by (with advanced warning, please!) to take a look at my studio and work in progress.  Contact me through my website or Facebook page so we can work out the details.

4. Personal Goals- B

I’ve managed to read a bit more, but my goal of 2 books a month was a bit lofty.  I trained for, and finished, my 1/2 marathon!  But I still could use work in making time for myself and getting out there to meet other artists.

I am a work in progress!

5. House Goals- D

I’ve managed to keep the house relatively clean and replace burnt out lightbulbs (i.e. the essentials).  However, those bigger goals of moving my sons into their own rooms and painting our hallway have yet to happen.  My house could also stand a little de-cluttering and updating.

Usually, by this time in the life of our home, we are getting ready to move so those above things happen naturally.  Not this time!  I think the trick is to treat our house as if we were getting ready to move but then enjoy the updates and improvements ourselves.

What a novel idea!

A Fistful of Brushes in front of painting

A fistful of brushes used to create my painting. I always wish I had more time to create, but I’m enjoying every minute of it!

Of course, I never mentioned my artwork, the core of my goals and the reason I have this business in the first place!  I’ve been plugging along with it.  Not always as much as I’d like.  But I feel as if I’ve begun to find my voice in my work and it’s very exciting!

Next week I’d like to explore some insights into my work- so stay tuned!

I’m looking forward to a wonderful Mother’s Day Weekend.  My daughter is having her 1st Communion at our church so it will be full of family and fun!

Have a Wonderful Week and Give the Moms in your life lots of love!



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