Monday, December 5, 2016

Celebrating Four-Legged Joy on Joy List Monday

Five years ago today we brought home our two sweet boys from the rescue kennel.

greyhounds, retired racing greyhounds, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

A lot has happened in those five years. They've gotten us through some very bad times, always giving us so much joy.

greyhounds, retired racing greyhounds, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Every day they make me laugh.

greyhounds, retired racing greyhounds, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

They're gentle and affectionate.

greyhounds, retired racing greyhounds, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Every day I am grateful that they are part of my life.

Retired racing greyhounds are wonderful animals. I've never known such sweet dogs. If you'd like to learn more about them look for the rescue group in your area. The rescue groups work so hard to give these dogs a second chance at life. They'll match you with the right dog (or dogs) based on your situation.

Joy List Monday: 

a weekly ritual
a reminder to stop and pay attention to the little beauties and graces that make life magical and to set aside time for gratitude each day

winter flowers, houseplants, christmas cactus, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The rest of my list today:

  • a day out with my mom
  • the first snow
  • the first clementines of the season
  • a cozy, festive Sunday lunch with my parents
  • working in my studio reprinting calendars
  • incense and scented candles
  • Christmas cactus flowers
  • flower stalks forming on my orchid plants
  • sweet customer feedback in my Etsy shop
  • project inspirations and plans
studio, Anne Butera, Calendars, Art Prints, My Giant Strawberry

What's on your list today?

Friday, December 2, 2016

An Interview with Arielle Rassel

Today I'm chatting with Arielle Rassel. She's a theme park designer by day and also the designer behind the jewelry business Lemesto. Arielle's the first artist I've interviewed who approached me with the request to be included in my Artist series. The combination of her two creative endeavors was so fascinating to me that I was immediately curious to learn more.

Arielle Rassel, Lemesto

ab: I have to admit that I’m most intrigued by your career designing theme parks. I’ve known many jewelry designers and have even created jewelry myself, but I’ve never known anyone who designed theme parks. I think I always imagined it to be something more in the realm of engineers and physicists than artists. How did you ever arrive at theme park design as your career?

ar: Oh gosh - I think if you ask a lot of people, they'd say they fell into this industry by accident, or at least that it wasn't their original intention. But there are also those that have wanted to be Imagineers - the folks who design Disney parks - since they were kids. I discovered it in early college... I'd always had a desire to work in theater, and I was visiting Universal Studios Hollywood over winter break my freshman year. I was standing in the queue of the Mummy ride, looking around at all of the themed work, and suddenly thought "hey, someone has to do this... I WANT TO DO THIS." And the rest is kind of history! Sure, there are a lot of engineers, but there still have to be people to create the beauty - we have scenic designers, architects, art directors, writers, you name it - it's a lot like film in that way. I studied interior design in college, and interned for Walt Disney Imagineering right out of college. Went on to work for Universal Creative, and now I work as a design manager at an independent design firm, Thinkwell. We're the largest independent firm in the industry, with almost 200 employees, and we do everything from theme parks to museums to family entertainment centers to presidential libraries. It's pretty darn cool!

interior design, Starbucks, Arielle Rassel

ab: Can you share a bit about what being a theme park designer entails? What sorts of projects do you have? What are your job responsibilities? Are there other designers whose work you admire or look up to? Where do you find your inspiration? Do you get to travel and see your finished designs in person? I’m so curious about it all!

ar: It really depends on what you do! There aren't really people who "do it all" - we work together as a team to create the finished products. Anywhere from a team of half a dozen for a small project, to hundreds of people to create a full theme park. I've been an interior designer - which is pretty similar to interior design in the "real world," designing spaces and picking finishes. Only instead of an office, I might be designed a turn-of-the-century bakery (the Starbucks on Main Street USA at Magic Kingdom), or a military-inspired queue on a distant planet (Pandora, at Animal Kingdom). Now, I'm in project and design management, so I help bring all those disciplines together and work with the client to make sure we achieve their vision and deliver an excellent project.

There are definitely designers I admire. Mary Blair - a lot of people know her for her work in movies, but her art for Small World is stunning. Joe Rohde - the lead creative behind Animal Kingdom, is an incredible human being and the most intelligent person I've ever met, and a fantastic storyteller. He could tell you about his latest trip to Target and you'd be hooked. John Hench was a master with color. And I got to work with Alan Gilmore, who was an art director on the Harry Potter films, to bring the theme parks to life - he's an amazing person. Kind, intelligent, great vision.

A lot of our inspiration comes from history: architecture, art. So much of the time we're recreating familiar environments, which means looking to how it's been done in reality, and adding an element of fantasy to it. And I wish I got to travel and see my projects! I've worked on projects all over the globe, but sadly have still only seen many in photographs. I've been lucky to see a few, though, and getting to see guests experience something you've worked on is the ultimate in warm-fuzzies. Gotta get higher up the food chain before I get to start being a road warrior :)

jewelry design, rings, Lemesto, California Collection, Arielle Rassel

ab: To me, theme parks seem to be impersonal and very commercial. Your jewelry, on the other hand is simple, natural and very personal. How do you find balance between two types of creating? Are they two very separate parts of your life or do you find (or create) connections between them?

ar: We've got to get you to some different theme parks! I find them warm and joyful places - if a bit overcrowded. But yes, they are large. And working for big, huge companies like Disney and Universal, it's easy to feel like a cog in the machine sometimes. I felt like my work was such a small piece of the puzzle so often, but jewelry is something that was entirely created by me, by my hands, to be experienced and loved by another single individual. That's so different in scale from the mass environments of theme parks, being experienced by hundreds of thousands of guests. Sometimes my work could feel very clinical, doing detailed drawings on a computer all day - and jewelry was just so completely the opposite of that. I've always loved to create with my hands, and jewelry lets me do that.

Finding balance is a continual struggle. I love my day job, and have no desire to quit to focus on my jewelry full time. They both bring me joy, in very different ways. I keep them fairly separate, but there are definitely times when my research for projects presents interesting ideas that I end up incorporating into my jewelry, especially when delving into historical periods.

Lemesto, West Elm, Necklaces, Arielle Rassel

ab: You went to the Savannah College of Art and Design and majored in fashion and interior design. What was that experience like for you? How has your education and training helped you with designing jewelry and theme parks?

ar: I loved SCAD so much! Savannah is an absolutely beautiful town that's so rich with history, culture, and charm - and thanks to the art school, it's that much more vibrant. I started my studies there in fashion, but ultimately figured out that the built environment was more my calling. We had a jewelry department, but I think at the time it just seemed too daunting to me. I really wish I'd taken classes in the department when it was so available to me. But I got exposure to so many other things - art, fashion, graphics, architecture, interiors, management... those things really all came together to help shape me as a designer. With jewelry, it's about finding inspiration and abstracting it, distilling things down to their core shapes and colors and feelings. With theme parks, it's all about using design from all different eras and places to inform your design - borrowing a bit of this, a dash of that. Exposure to a wide variety of disciplines is so helpful. And SCAD also did a really great job of teaching how to collaborate with a variety of disciplines, which is so critical in my field.

Arielle Rassel, Rings, Lemesto, Jewelry Design

ab: Were sketchbooks part of your art school experience? I’m always interested in learning about (and sharing) other artists’ sketchbook practices. Do you keep sketchbooks today and if you do, do they play a part in your process when designing theme parks or jewelry? If not, why do you think that is?

ar: For sure - and I still have a lot of them sitting on my shelves in my studio at home! The first classes you're thrown into at SCAD are foundation drawing and design theory classes, and sketchbooks are a big part of that. Many of my classes had a sketchbook component that was part of our overall grade, requiring us to sketch regularly. I do still keep sketchbooks today, but I don't use them as much. I sketch jewelry some of the time, but I find I'd rather sit down with cheap materials and mock up a design by hand. I'll do a quick sketch of the look and feel on paper, but then when I move to material I may find that it behaves very differently than expected, or what works on paper just doesn't work in 3D. As for my job, I sketched a lot as a designer - one of my favorite things to do was head into the parks by myself for an hour or two with my sketchbook and find things to sketch - I'd always discover new details that I hadn't seen before. Living in Florida, where the parks where close, that was easy. It's a bit more challenging in SoCal, where it takes two hours to get to Disneyland in traffic. But I do sketch and doodle when I can - I always have a sketchbook on me, even if just for notes and quick thoughts.

jewelry, necklace, rainbow gemstones, Arielle Rassel, Lemesto

ab: Your jewelry is very joyful and it seems that the main point behind theme parks is creating happiness (or the illusion of happiness). With two such joy-focused careers, do you ever find it difficult to maintain your own joy? What strategies do you have for weathering life’s down times and how do you battle negativity?

ar: I'm glad you feel and see that - joy is absolutely my main motivator, in both jobs. I was told once, at Imagineering, that happy people make the world a better place. I absolutely believe that to be true, and I will always do everything I can to put more happiness and joy into the world. Generally, I have a pretty cheery disposition... I'm a cautious optimist and I really do try to see the best in everyone - I have a gift for finding silver linings. But I'm human and absolute deal with down times. Creating has always been a coping mechanism for me - when everything seems to be going wrong, it's my way to tune out the world and focus on creation. But I also turn to time with friends, my rescue pup Franklin, movies, books, exercise, and other craft projects as a way to keep myself balanced.

jewelry design, rings, Lemesto, California Collection, Arielle Rassel

ab: One of your jewelry collections is called The California Collection. Can you share a bit about the inspiration behind those pieces? You’ve stated that you are planning collections inspired by other states as well. What aspects of those upcoming designs come from regional inspiration? Other than those state collections, what’s next on the horizon for Lemesto?

ar: Moving to California was a big turning point for me in my life. I'd been in Orlando for a couple years, following college, and just wasn't super happy there. Until that moment, LA had always seemed so daunting - but through the help of mentors and friends, I was able to wrap my head around the idea of moving across the country, away from my family and everything familiar, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made. LA just immediately felt like home, so to pay homage to my new home state in my first curated collection felt really appropriate. The California Collection, to me, is that perfect mix of boho and classic that LA exudes. It's easy, carefree, and natural - which is why it's all raw gemstones. But I've also been lucky to live in some other amazing states: Florida, Georgia (for college), Washington (for work), and North Carolina - my home state. These will definitely all get collections... I'm working on roughly one a year, so I'm not too worried about what comes after those. Maybe France, where I lived for six months in college. I'm already underway on Georgia, which is a lot of moss agate and earthy stones - inspired by the Spanish moss and swamps around Savannah - with a hint of honeycomb, to pay tribute to my alma mater, whose mascot is a bee. Florida will incorporate a lot of sea glass.

Beyond the State Collections though, my big focus is sustainable growth, and an honesty in my materials. I want to keep working with raw stones, agate, and fine metals, and continue to hone my craft. I do my best not to follow trends, but create pieces that are timeless in their simplicity, made of materials that will stand the test of time. Finding balance between my day job and my shop will always be a challenge, but as long as they both keep me happy, I'll keep working at it. I'm coming up on three years in business now, and I'm still shocked it's made it this far. I can't wait to see where the next few years take me!

Lemesto, West Elm, Jewelry, Arielle Rassel

Thank you, Arielle, for sharing your story with us.

Dear readers you can find more of Arielle here:

The Lemesto Website
Her Etsy Shop

This is my last interview for 2016! I have some changes in mind for next year's interview series. Stay tuned.

*Photos in this post © Arielle Rassel, except photos 4, 5 & 8 © The Sabrina Photo. Used with permission.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

My New Skillshare Class is Here!

On Monday I mentioned that I was working on my newest Skillshare class. And now it's here!

Skillshare, watercolor, watercolor class, watercolor instruction, mixing colors, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

This one steps back a bit and shares some exercises for mixing and playing with watercolor to help you learn its properties in a no-pressure way.

When I was first starting teaching myself to paint I jumped right in trying to paint things. Flowers, mostly. At that point I didn't really know how watercolor worked. I didn't have the best supplies and none of the books I was finding about painting with watercolor showed the type of finished paintings I wanted to be making. Those books did explain how to mix colors, or at least I think they did. For the most part, I skipped past those pages. I wish I hadn't.

Somehow I muddled through and kept working at it, but in the beginning there was so much fear and nervousness. Even a small, simple painting took me a long time to complete, mostly because I was afraid of "messing up".

I wonder how different my journey would have been had I spent more time in the beginning just playing with and experimenting with paint. When you're doing that sort of painting, there is no "messing up".

On this side of things mixing colors is one of my favorite parts of creating a painting. There's something so joyful about focusing on color, watching paint combine to form something new, arranging a palette filled with many hues, seeing how those colors react on paper.

I want to share that joy.

This class was fun to put together and I hope that it will be fun and inspiring for you, too.

You can enroll here. If you haven't yet signed up for Skillshare, you can join for an introductory price of $0.99 for three months.*

On a side note, one thing that can be a challenge when filming videos is that there are a lot of outside noises from traffic and from neighbors that can get in the way. If someone starts mowing their lawn or the church bells start ringing or it's garbage day and the trash truck is coming down the road I need to stop recording.

In this class there's an instance of traffic noise that I chose to leave in. It makes me a little silly with joy, actually. It's the sound of a horse and buggy traveling down the road. Living in an area with a large population of Amish makes this a daily occurrence and yet I'm happy every time I hear the sound.

I think of it as another reminder to notice, appreciate and savor life's little joys.

*The regular price for a premium Skillshare membership is $12 a month or $8 a month if you pay for a whole year -- there are also scholarships available for those in need.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Honoring our Hesitancy and Joy List Monday

It's a wet, grey Monday morning and I'm feeling a bit discombobulated. Sleepy. Slow. I know I'll fall back into the rhythm of things soon, but for now I don't feel quite like jumping in. It's like the day is a game of jumprope and the ropes are twirling, but I'm still hesitating on the sidelines.

More and more I'm coming to realize it's important to honor these feelings. Not in a lazy way, but in a thoughtful way. Listen to what's beneath our hesitancy.

Last weekend is a good example. I was having a hard time working on a couple projects, feeling a snag of reluctance. When I paused to think about it, I realized that my studio was in disarray. I had been working on so many different projects and every work space was covered. The chaos was making it hard to focus.

I listened to that discomfort and I took the time to organize. I went further than just clearing off the work spaces. I rearranged. I purged. I cleaned.

With my space in order I was re-energized and ready to jump back in.

studio, antique typewriter, orchids, workspace, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

It's not healthy to keep plowing ahead without thought, without listening to what it is that we need to be successful. Sometimes it's as simple as taking the time to re-organize our space.

gratitude, inspiration, encouragement, studio, workspace, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

And always, taking time for gratitude.

I hope that those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving had a joyful, restful holiday.

I hope that you were able to download the mini gratitude journal that Dana and I prepared for you (contact me if you had problems -- if you tried to sign up for my newsletter, but didn't get the welcome message, be sure to check your junk folder). Perhaps you'll even use it to write today's joy list.

hearts, breakfast, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Joy List Monday: 

a weekly ritual
a reminder to stop and pay attention to the little beauties and graces that make life magical and to set aside time for gratitude each day

My list today:

  • being featured last week on Alisa Burke's blog as part of her The Art of Chasing a Dream interview series
  • nearly selling out of my current stock of calendars
  • a lovely Thanksgiving with my family (and lots of leftovers)
  • spotting an owl sitting on a road sign on my drive home from Thanksgiving dinner
  • finding hearts everywhere
  • putting the finishing touches on a new Skillshare class
  • (finally) reading a book that I can't put down (after a string of books that couldn't keep my attention)
What's on your list today?

watercolor, color, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Gift of Gratitude and Joy

Those of you who have been around for a while know how important celebrating joy is to me. Even those of you who are new here have probably noticed the importance of joy. Just look at my header, my weekly Joy List Monday posts and my Start Here page.

Joy is one of the cornerstones of My Giant Strawberry.

garden, roses, geraniums, snow, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

A while back I wrote this post about the transformative power of keeping Joy Lists. I believe so strongly in it. Paying attention to life's beauties and graces, taking time for gratitude can help you get through difficult times and it can help you savor the good ones.

This week in the US we celebrate Thanksgiving. Whether you celebrate this holiday or not, I believe it's important to set aside time for gratitude. It's important to set aside time for joy.

snow, garden, geraniums, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

For my newsletter (JOYletter!) subscribers and my customers, instead of any sort of discounts on my art, this year I'm giving gifts.

I'm so excited to share this gift with you today.

Ever since the 2x2 Sketchbook project ended, Dana and I have been throwing around other collaboration ideas. When she began painting daily Joy, Gratitude and Appreciation lists, she started thinking about collaborating on something with the intention of inspiring others to begin a gratitude practice in a beautiful way.

Of course, I jumped at the idea!

And so, as a gift to you this holiday season, we created a mini booklet to jump start your gratitude practice.

Joy Lists, Gratitude, Gifts, Dana Barbieri, Anne Butera

Later today we're sending links to a digital download of the booklet to all of our newsletter subscribers (if you don't receive yours, please contact me). If you're not yet a subscriber, you can sign up now (follow the link or fill in your email in the sidebar to the right where it says "choose joy") and I'll catch you up.

Joy Lists, gift, gratitude, Dana Barbieri, Anne Butera

Inside the booklet are pages designed by Dana and by me with space for you to collect your own lists of gratitude and joy.

Joy List, gratitude, gift, booklet, Dana Barbieri, Anne Butera

As an added bonus to my art customers I'll be tucking printed booklets into your packages throughout the holiday season.

Thank you for your support. Thank you for encouragement. I'm glad to have you here with me on my journey.

No matter what you're doing this week, I hope you take some time to savor life's beauties and joys and write your own joy and gratitude lists. May they be long and full.

Friday, November 18, 2016


I don't know about you, but I can never resist picking up acorns when I see them on my fall walks. There's something a bit magical about them.

acorn, burr oak, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I always look for the interesting ones.

acorns, nature, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Colors. Shapes. Sizes. So much diversity. Each a delight.

Of course I've been inspired to paint them. The first time was over four years ago (one of those first acorn paintings later appeared in my first calendar). It's interesting to look back. I'd forgotten how long it used to take me to finish the simplest painting. I was so afraid of "messing up" that I could only work for short periods before needing to take a break.

Interesting, too, to see my thoughts about mixing paint. I'm currently working on my next Skillshare class and it's all about mixing paint. Although I cherish my creative journey, in some ways I wish that I had spent more time just playing with watercolor when I was first starting out. Experimenting with the paint. Experimenting with color. No thoughts about outcome. No attempt to paint something. But isn't that often the case. We want to dive right in and then get frustrated when we don't succeed. I'm so glad that my frustration made me strive to keep going not to give up.

Those acorn photos are from quite a few years ago. I guess my recent walks haven't been near oak trees because I haven't picked up many this year. Even so I was pulled to paint some acorns. I had a few on a shelf in my studio to use for models, but most came from my imagination as I worked on the painting I shared a glimpse of on Monday.

acorns, watercolor, watercolor acorns, watercolor wreath, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

This painting was a joy to work on. I've long wanted to paint some watercolor wreaths and seeing the gorgeous ones that Dana Barbieri has been painting finally spurred me into action. I hope to paint many more.

This acorn wreath is finished and up in my shop. Prints will be coming soon.

I hope you have a lovely weekend filled with the discovery of life's little magics.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sketchbook Conversations -- Some Links Before a Break

With SLOW as my mantra for the coming months and with the holiday season fast approaching I thought it would be best for my Sketchbook Conversations series to take a break.

sketchbooks, blog series, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The series has been so much fun, but it's also been a lot of work. Work for me to put it together and work for the artists who are writing up their thoughts and photographing their art.

I plan to start up the conversation again in February (if you're an artist who's interested in being featured once the series resumes, please contact me and I'll send you the details).

Until then you can find inspiration in the previous Sketchbook Conversations posts. Hear from:

Each of these artists has her own unique style, her own reasons for working in a sketchbook and her own way of working. Many of these artists share their work regularly on Instagram or blogs, so be sure to follow them for continued inspiration.

I thought I'd also leave you with some inspiring sketchbook-related links to tide you over until this conversation continues:

I haven't fully explored the website Doodlers Anonymous, but when I recently discovered it I was delighted to see so many diverse sketchbooks in one place. You can also submit your own artwork and engage with the community for encouragement and inspiration.

A number of the artists who joined in the conversation mentioned Jennifer Orkin Lewis (August Wren) as a sketchbooking inspiration. She's on her third year of painting every day. If you don't know her work, take a look at her blog and her Instagram account.

Paperbacknote, a business that makes fun, upcycled notebooks and sketchbooks, features art from many artists in their Instagram feed. There are many, many great examples of sketchbooks on Instagram. Have some favorites? Share them in the comments.

Pinterest is another great place to find sketchbook Inspiration. I have a sketchbook board where I try to remember to collect inspiring sketchbooks when I stumble upon them. Take a look at Dana Barbieri's board and the Inside Out Art Journaling group board that Shannon Kinney Duh of A Free Spirit Life began. Have a sketchbook-related board? Tell me about it in the comments so I can follow you.

The Sketchbook Project, a crowd-sourced, global collaboration of artists has a brick and mortar library of sketchbooks in Brooklyn and a virtual library, too. Looking for a challenge? There's still time to join the 2017 Sketchbook Project and have your art included in the library.

Sharon Rohloff, who joined the conversation on my blog in October has since written a couple posts on her blog about sketchbooks. This one shares 10 Reasons to Keep a Sketchbook and this one shares a list of sketchbook related books.

Lisa Congdon's portfolio features a number of fun sketchbook spreads as does her blog.

Recently on her blog Alisa Burke shared a peek into her doodle diary. A doodle diary is a perfect, stress-free way to dip your toes into sketchbook making. 

Looking for classes?
  • For more inspiration from Alisa Burke, take a look at her online classes (which are on sale till November 21st).
  • Creativebug (a subscription online learning site) has a number of sketchbook related classes.
  • Skillshare, where I now teach four classes (all of which would give you sketchbook inspiration!), is a great place to find art inspiration. You can get a three month premium membership for an introductory price of $0.99 and have access to my four classes as well as the entire library of over 11,000 (and growing) classes on a variety of topics. Find art classes in the crafts and design categories.

sketchbook, micron, nature, botanical sketchbook, drawing, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Thanks so much to everyone who has joined in the conversation so far, whether as a featured artist or by sharing your thoughts in the comments of my posts. I look forward to seeing where this conversation will take us once it resumes next year!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Joy List Monday

Hello! How is your Monday shaping up? I hope you had a restful weekend.

I've been savoring our daily sunshine. Right now my home and studio are filled with it. I'm so grateful.

I've been trying to embrace the slowing down that comes with these shortening days. Honoring my feelings, my energy. So often we fight against it, but I don't want to do that this year. As I mentioned last week, SLOW will be my mantra for these coming months.

slowing down, kitchen, journal writing, being present, joy, joy list monday, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I think it will help me to be more productive overall. To be intentional. To savor the days. To always remember gratitude.

Are you with me?

Joy List Monday: 

a weekly ritual
a reminder to stop and pay attention to the little beauties and graces that make life magical and to set aside time for gratitude each day

My list:

  • sunshine, sunshine, sunshine
  • spotting a bald eagle flying over the house
  • salvaging the last of the nasturtium flowers to bring inside
  • cutting marigold arrangements
  • grasshoppers and butterflies on a recent walk
  • taking long walks with the dogs
  • all the words of hope, love and inspiration from thoughtful creative people in the wake of last week's election
  • creative cooking
  • dog snuggles
  • watching the moon rise out the kitchen window while making dinner and listening to music
  • sketching
  • taking time to be silly
  • painting
  • flower stalks forming on the orchids in my studio
  • slippers
  • HOPE -- it's a beautiful, powerful thing
watercolor, botanical watercolor, botanical painting, painting process, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

What's on your list today?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Words of Hope and November in the Studio

Hi. How are you doing today? I know it's been a rough week for a lot of us, but I hope you're hanging in there, finding joy and beauty in each day.

Here we've been blessed with beautiful weather. Sunshine, sunshine and more sunshine. And I am grateful.

camellias, flowers, houseplants, studio, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I am also hopeful. This year has been a challenge. In January when Matthias was diagnosed with cancer I was terrified. I had no idea how I would get through it, how we would get through it. But I did. We did. One day at a time.

Sometimes the unimaginable happens. And we get through it. I'm not saying that it's easy. Some days (weeks, months) this year were so very hard, but I made it through them. And I accomplished a lot.

Difficult times can strengthen us. They can make us even more determined. Determined to be the best versions of ourselves. Determined to craft the best versions of our lives.

During these days of uncertainty and fear that is my hope for you. That you will find your strength and your determination. That you will discover joy and embrace creativity. That you will shine with hope and love and release your own unique gifts into the world. We're all in this together.

My art, the encouragement I share with you, that's how I'll keep shining. So, today I wanted to share a bit of what's been going on in my studio.

watercolor calendar, art print calendar, studio, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I guess it makes sense that I chose an oxalis painting for the November illustration in the 2016 calendar. November is when my gardening attention shifts from outdoors to indoors. In my Skillshare class, Learn to Paint Watercolor Leaves, one of the leaves I demonstrate painting is a purple oxalis leaf.

watercolor, watercolor instruction, watercolor painting classes, watercolor leaves, botanical watercolor, Skillshare, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I couldn't resist leaping into another oxalis painting once I finished filming and editing the class.

watercolor, oxalis, botanical watercolor, painting process, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I liked the challenge of painting a tall and narrow plant on this uniquely shaped watercolor paper (I first tried out the paper when I painted the marigolds last month).

watercolor, nature, ginkgo leaves, oxalis leaves, botanical watercolor, botanical art, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Although this oxalis is wine-purple all year long, the color seems so autumnal to me, especially paired with those golden ginkgo leaves.

watercolor, painting process, oxalis leaves, botanical watercolor, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I love the purple paired with the rusty terra cotta of a clay pot, too.

watercolor painting, oxalis, oxalis watercolor, houseplant portrait, botanical art, botanical watercolor, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

This painting is now available in my shop.

With the end of the year fast approaching I've been printing, trimming and packaging more of my 2017 calendars. They're a lot of work, but it's satisfying work. I try to infuse each page with love.

watercolor art print calendars, studio, art process, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I'm so excited to be sending them out into the world.

watercolor art print calendar, 2017 calendar, desk calendar, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

My calendars are available on my website and on Etsy and I plan to keep plenty in stock at all times.

The bits of nature on my painting table from the post the other day? They're part of an exciting collaboration I've been working on. I hope to share more about it soon.

What have you been working on lately?