Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Dreams, Winding Roads and Gratitude: A Joy List

It's been a while since I've done a Joy List here, but with Thanksgiving this week I thought it would be a good time to focus on gratitude. My heart is filled with gratitude right now.

houseplants, flowering plants, bulbs, flowering bulbs, amaryllis, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I know it's been a challenging year for many. So much in the news to bring us down. It's been a tough few years for me. It isn't easy, latching onto a dream and fighting to make it a reality while life, well, life does its thing. Life's what happens when you're busy making other plans, right, John*?

gardening, winter, autumn, marigolds, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Looking back over these last seven plus years since I first set out to change my life, it's interesting to see the twists and turns and where they've brought us. I know the roads ahead will continue to wind, probably in some more unexpected directions. While you're in the thick of it, it can be hard to keep the faith, but you just have to keep going.

violas, gardening, flowers, winter, november, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I regularly share the dreams I'm realizing here on my blog, but lately, one of the biggest and most exciting dreams belongs to Matthias. Last Friday he had a soft opening for his computer repair shop. It's right on Main Street in our little town.

Mac Help LLC, Computer Repair, Viroqua Wisconsin, Matthias Minnig

That dream wasn't even on the horizon seven years ago (I don't think it was even a year ago) and it probably wouldn't have been possible if we'd followed the path that we'd originally set out on.

None of this has been easy, and I know there will continue to be challenges and setbacks and bumps in the road, but I'm sharing this with you because I want you to keep going, too. Whatever it is that you're dreaming and striving for. Hold onto those dreams and also let go of control. Allow for twists in the road. Allow for detours. And enjoy the journey.

One of my big twists in the road was starting to teach on Skillshare. Seven years ago I would never have dreamed of teaching online, but it's been so rewarding. During the span of my giveaway contest it's been wonderful to see the student projects coming in.

Skillshare, student projects, painting goldfish, painting violas, watercolor, art classes

This is a sampling** from my new goldfish class and the viola class. I love teaching beginners and knowing that you're setting off on your own journeys. You may or may not discover a passion for watercolor, but my intention is to encourage you to experiment and play and not give up. Being a beginner can be hard, but it's also so important. It's a precious time of learning and growing and not something to be rushed through.

Thank you to all of my students. You bring me so much joy!

And now for the giveaway winner!

Skillshare, Giveaway, Contest, Random Drawing, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Congratulations, Linda Smith! You'll be hearing from Skillshare about your free year's membership soon.

Something else that has been bringing me joy is hearing plant stories from people on Instagram. With my latest houseplant paintings I've opened up a discussion about the memories and experiences we have with plants. It's at the heart of my art, this connection to plants and flowers and nature and I think that's why my art resonates with the people it does. Plants remind us of our histories. Of people we've known and loved. Of times past. I love hearing these sorts of stories (take a look here and here and join in on the conversation if you'd like). Thank you to each of you who have shared your story.


I want to share one more thing with you today before I close with the rest of my Joy List. The connections that I've made through my blog and on Instagram mean so much to me. It's wonderful to meet kindred spirits and to have you here cheering me on and to cheer you on, too. There is so much creativity and passion in the world and that brings me hope. One sweet kindred spirit is my friend Carla. Carla lives north of me in Wisconsin (though we haven't met in person yet). It brings me joy to see her following her dream of being a flower farmer. Her business, The Little Garden That Could started as a flower stand and has grown to a subscription service and now is also sharing garden joy all year long with lovely photo note cards and houseplant deliveries.

The Little Garden That Could, Note Cards, Carla TePaske
The Little Garden That Could Autumn Card Collection***

To celebrate her new ventures she's having a giveaway on her blog now the lucky winner will receive all four cards from her autumn collection. She's announcing the winner on Small Business Saturday.

Phew, that's a lot for one post, but as I said at the beginning, my heart is filled with gratitude. I am so grateful that you're here reading these words. I hope that you are taking time to notice joy even on dark days. I always think that it's most important to focus on joy and gratitude on those dark days, to even write a Joy List of things you're grateful for.

Here's some more of mine:

  • mixing colors for a new painting
  • watching birds at the birdfeeder
  • potato leek soup with leeks from the garden
  • an exciting collaboration with an Internet kindred spirit
  • being surrounded by plants and flowers
  • family visits and holiday plans
  • snoring kitties and greyhounds (and a third greyhound in the house visiting)
  • Botanica!
  • a few days of sunshine
  • the new Philip Pullman book

I hope your list is filled with many good things! Have a wonderful week. I'll be back next Tuesday.




*"Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans" is in the song Beautiful Boy by John Lennon and the idea can also be traced back to a Reader's Digest Magazine from 1957.

**Photos by my students on Skillshare (left to right, top to bottom): Linda Smith, Alicia (., Petra G., Marije Verkerk, Suteja Rao, Linda Smith, Joanna Hall, Sandra Homewood, 5 Flavors

***Photo by Carla TePaske, The Little Garden That Could

Friday, November 17, 2017

Kristen Afionis -- a Sketchbook Conversation

This week's Sketchbook Conversation is with Kristen Afionis. I'm delighted to have Kristen here giving us yet another example of the fact that there is no right or wrong way to keep a sketchbook. It's inspiring to me (and I hope it's inspiring to you, too), to see so many different styles and media and themes. Whether or not you're encouraged to keep your own sketchbook, my hope is that you're inspired to speak your own story, whatever that may be.

Here's Kristen's story:

Hi! I’m Kristen and I am so excited to be sharing my sketchbooks with you. There is something so beautiful and mysterious about a sketchbook and I find it such a joy to be invited in to share in another’s story.

Sketchbook Conversations, sketchbooks, Kristen Afionis, My Giant Strawberry

I’m a self-taught artist living on the shores of Lake Erie in Western New York. I started painting and drawing about a year and a half ago as a way to fulfill creative longings. Not long after, I picked up sketchbooking as an accessible way to practice my new and evolving skills in a manageable time frame each day. I get up each morning between 4.30-5.00am so that I can work for a few hours before the rest of the house begins to stir. These quiet hours give me the time and space I crave to explore undisturbed. It’s my favorite time of day.   

Sketchbook Conversations, sketchbooks, Kristen Afionis, My Giant Strawberry

My sketchbooks have become my most treasured possessions and I enjoy looking back through them (usually with a large mug of chai tea latte in hand). I have found that new inspiration always pops out from old work, often in exciting and unexpected ways. It truly feels like opening a gift each time I open an old cover.

Sketchbook Conversations, sketchbooks, Kristen Afionis, My Giant Strawberry

Music is a great source of inspiration and whenever I’m feeling stuck a change in station usually helps to get new energy and ideas moving. My current favorite Pandora stations are Bon Iver, Philip Glass (a composer), Coleman Hell, and Lisa Gerrard. 

Sketchbook Conversations, sketchbooks, Kristen Afionis, My Giant Strawberry

I also draw inspiration from nature. My seven year old daughter and I have a practice of hiking and taking photos to draw from later. I keep a nature journal documenting any interesting bits of information I observe. Sometimes I print the photos and tape them in my sketchbook and then break down what I see into parts and pieces. Other times I tape a specimen directly into my book and add details to it later. This tie to nature comes across heavily in my work.

Sketchbook Conversations, sketchbooks, Kristen Afionis, My Giant Strawberry

I have just about every type, style, and size of sketchbook and I am always working in many of them at once. For me, each has a different purpose. Some are for wet or mixed media, some are for drawing and doodling with pen, and some are working sketchbooks that I almost never share. 

Sketchbook Conversations, sketchbooks, Kristen Afionis, My Giant Strawberry

The working books are filled with scratch marks, super quick shapes to get the idea of something, notes to capture ideas, color swatches, and sometimes my daughter’s doodles too. They’re not pretty but they are just as important to the creative process as the pretty ones.My favorite sketchbooks are the small pocket-sized ones because they are so easy to travel with and manageable to finish a spread in a short period of time. This, This, and These are my favorites.

Sketchbook Conversations, sketchbooks, Kristen Afionis, My Giant Strawberry

I love art supplies and I am always trying out something new. My favorites are: watercolors (especially Winsor and Newton), FW acrylic inks, Dr. Ph Martin’s black India Ink, Sakura micron pens (especially sizes 005, 01, 03, 1), and a white gelly roll pen.

Sketchbook Conversations, sketchbooks, Kristen Afionis, My Giant Strawberry

Sitting in front of a new and beautiful sketchbook can be anxiety inducing! Get up and move. Do some yoga, take a short walk, dance around to energetic music and then go back to your book. Make a mark, any mark, and then another, after that it gets easier. Try standing. I find that the ability to move and the idea that I can easily walk away helps my brush flow more freely. Enjoy the process and what comes out.  Not everything I make I love but everything I make has value. Happy Creating!


Thank you, Kristen, for sharing your story with us today.

Dear Reader, you can connect with Kristen:


Missed the other Sketchbook Conversations posts? It's easy to catch up at the series web page.

And for even more inspiration, check out my Artist Interviews



*Photos in this post ©Kristen Afionis. Used with permission.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

focusing on my indoor garden: painting sansevieria

I mentioned last week that my focus has shifted from outside to in.

sansevieria, snake plant, mother in law's tongue, houseplants, watercolor painting, art process, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

It happens every year as the weather gets colder and my outdoor garden begins its winter sleep. Despite the fact that I live in cold, snowy Wisconsin, I'm not a winter outdoorsy sort of girl. I don't ice skate or snowshoe or ski or ice fish. (Most of those sound a bit like torture to me). To be honest, on frigid days I don't even relish going for walks with the dogs. I prefer to watch winter through a window, snuggled beneath quilts and crocheted blankets with a steaming mug of tea by my side and a kitty on my lap. (Which is really more fantasy than reality).

cats, black and white cats, rescue cats,

Crowded around that window (whether I'm staring out it or not), are a party of potted plants. Everywhere I've lived -- from my childhood bedroom to my college dorm to my first apartment to today -- there have been plants in my windows. I can't live without them.

begonias, houseplants, potted plant, indoor garden, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

What about you? Do you share your home with plants?

To me it's so interesting how trendy houseplants are right now (just Google "crazy plant lady" to see what I'm talking about). This trend points to the fact that we all yearn for a connection to nature. A houseplant is an easily contained, easily cared for bit of nature. Not only that, plants are good for us. They're good for the air we breathe. They're good decoration. But more than that, they're good for our spirits. It feels good to nurture something and have it thrive (but on the flip side, I've learned not to take it to heart if a plant doesn't thrive -- it happens. Even to me and more than I'd like to admit*). There's nothing quite so exciting as spotting a bud on a flowering plant and watching it develop, grow and bloom.

lipstick plant, houseplants, flowering houseplants, indoor garden, Aeschynanthus, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

It's no wonder houseplants are so popular.

I'd have a house full of plants, popular or not. And for me, one of the things I love is the inspiration they bring my art. I've been painting houseplants almost since the very beginning of learning how to paint. They call to me. And I cannot resist their call. Even so, it had been ages since I last painted a plant in a pot.**

Maybe that's why the call was so strong this time.

This time it was my snake plants, or Sansevieria, calling to me.

Another common name is mother-in-law's tongue. Funny because my snake plants came from my father-in-law. Last winter Matthias rescued a huge, overgrown, floppy plant that his father wanted to get rid of. After letting it dominate my living room for months, I eventually hacked it apart, keeping only the most well-behaved parts, planting them in two smallish pots.

jade plant, snake plant, begonias, houseplants, indoor garden, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Stories, history, experiences with plants are one of the things I love about them. We all have these sorts of stories. I'm betting you might even have some about about snake plants. Maybe your aunt grew one that bloomed when she put out on her back porch every summer and you'll never forget the fragrance of the flowers. Or maybe you never liked snake plants after cutting your finger on the edge of a leaf from your mother's plant.

Whether or not you have a history with them, if you're looking for an easy to grow houseplant, the sansevieria is it (in fact, I recently came across a blog post advocating it for the perfect plant for a windowless bathroom -- though I wouldn't go quite that far).

The simple shape of their leaves make them fairly easy to paint, too.

sansevieria, snake plant, mother in law's tongue, houseplants, watercolor painting, art process, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I had fun with this one, especially once I started painting the patterns on the leaves. I took a little video just to share that painting details doesn't have to be a careful, meticulous process, it can be loose and fun, too.


I ended up painting two variations (there are so many variations of color and pattern and leaf shape -- something else that makes plants so compelling in the home and on paper).

sansevieria, snake plant, mother in law's tongue, houseplants, watercolor painting, houseplant paintings, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Both are available in my shop.

And now I'm on a houseplant painting roll.

christmas cactus, zygo cactus, schlumbergia, watercolor, paint palette, paint mixing, paint swatches, process, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

What ways have you been finding to connect with the magic of nature this week?




*I don't believe there's such a thing as a green thumb. There's certainly a spectrum of how interested people are in plants, but ability to make things grow? Anyone can do it if they pay attention. Know what your plant likes and doesn't like (have a plant that needs full sun? Don't put it in a north facing window where the blinds are always closed. Have a cactus that likes dry soil? Don't constantly water). Even so we all make mistakes. There are so many great resources on plants. Looking for a book to get you started? Try something by Tovah Martin (she's my absolute favorite!), Elvin McDonald or find a really cheap used copy of this oldie but goodie: Crocket's Indoor Garden. I'd love to know about any favorite resources you have, too).


**The last two houseplants I painted didn't have pots because I became obsessed with painting crazy-entwined orchid roots. You can see them here.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Emma Jane Kimmell -- A Sketchbook Conversation

Today's Sketchbook Conversation is Emma Jane Kimmell. Here's her story:

My name is Emma Jane Kimmell. I'm currently living in Seattle working as a children's art instructor but am back in school for design and marketing. I'm working on getting a coloring book published by the end of the year which will be up on Etsy and Amazon.


Sketchbook Conversations, Emma Jane Kimmell, sketchbooks, sketchbook pages, My Giant Strawberry

I started my daily sketchbook adventure back in 2011. I was determined to make it through a year and once I created the daily habit I thought why stop here? I had seen so much improvement in a year and loved that I had pushed myself out of my comfort zone and worked through the daily creative blocks. And I've been sketching ever since.


Sketchbook Conversations, Emma Jane Kimmell, sketchbooks, sketchbook pages, My Giant Strawberry

I started sketching directly into my book then I started sketching and painting on paper and pasting them in. Currently I'm working mostly with pen, watercolor and the occasional prismacolor.


Sketchbook Conversations, Emma Jane Kimmell, sketchbooks, sketchbook pages, My Giant Strawberry

My advice to someone starting this journey is to make a habit of it. Easier said than done, I know. Push yourself through those days when you don't feel like sketching. Don't look at uncreative days as a failure rather see them as progress. And I can guarantee that after a year you'll see massive improvement.


Sketchbook Conversations, Emma Jane Kimmell, sketchbooks, sketchbook pages, My Giant Strawberry

I'm able to draw things today that I never thought I'd be able to. Always keep your sketchbook on you and make the time to get it done. Some days I spend 10 minutes on a sketch and other days I spend 2 hours.

Sketchbook Conversations, Emma Jane Kimmell, sketchbooks, sketchbook pages, My Giant Strawberry


Thank you, Emma, for sharing your story with us today.

Dear Reader, you can connect with Emma on Instagram here.



Missed the other Sketchbook Conversations posts? It's easy to catch up at the series web page.

And for even more inspiration, check out my Artist Interviews



*Photos in this post ©Emma Jane Kimmell. Used with permission.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Botanica! (and other joyful things)

Suddenly it's November. A week gone by.

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

How did that happen?

Here it's been feeling like winter and although I still have a vase of frost-saved zinnias lingering on my dining room table,

zinnias, garden, flower gardening, garden flowers, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

my focus has moved on from my summer garden.

flowers, flowering houseplants, thanksgiving cactus, zygocactus, schlumbergia, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

It helps to have my indoor garden spread throughout my house. Greenery and flowers in every room. And inspiration everywhere I turn.

watercolors, watercolor, botanical watercolor, painting process, snake plant, sansevieria, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

An even more exciting antidote to dreary November (and the constant heartbreak in the news) is the arrival of Botanica.

Botanica, UPPERCASE Publishing, UPPERCASE Encyclopedia of Inspiration, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Botanica is the third volume in the UPPERCASE Encyclopedia of Inspiration, created by Janine Vangool of UPPERCASE Publishing. It's an absolutely gorgeous book, filled with inspiration and all sorts of botanical goodness. From tiny crocheted plants to vintage seed packets to paper flowers to floral design to painting...

Botanica, UPPERCASE Publishing, UPPERCASE Encyclopedia of Inspiration, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The most exciting part, for me, is the fact that my art and I are in these pages. Certainly a dream come true.

I'm rationing this book. Reading it in little sips because I don't want to get through it too fast.

In other botanical news... I just put the finishing touches on my new fabric collection and am eagerly awaiting the test swatches. I've shared a few peeks of it (this post shows the main design and here are a couple on Instagram) and I can't wait to show you the whole thing. Too bad it won't be available to order during Spoonflower's buy one get one free fat quarter sale (which is going on through Thursday). If you've been thinking about purchasing a Tea Towel Calendar (or two) to sew, now would be a great time.

tea towel calendar, nasturtiums, watercolors, botanical watercolors, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry, Spoonflower

My sweet blogging friend Karen who lives in Vermont recently stitched one and it turned out beautifully.

Not a sewist? You can order a finished tea towel from Roostery, now 15% off.

Finally, I've been playing around in my studio and created a little video to give you a hint of the start to finish process of my art print desk calendars. It includes a flip through showing each month, too.


This is my 5th year creating a calendar (you can look back at the others here). It's such a joy to know that my art is brightening the days of so many people, imagining you turning the page each month and finding the delights of one little bit of watercolor-captured magic waiting for you.

I hope you are discovering little glimmers of joy this week.

Friday, November 3, 2017

An Interview with Kate Harvey

Kate Harvey is the designer behind the jewelry shop Grace and Flora. Her pieces are nature-inspired and feature natural objects cast in metal. As someone who is always attracted to and inspired by nature, her work speaks to me and I'm delighted to have Kate here sharing her story with us today.

ab: Hi, Kate, thanks for being here. I was first attracted to your beautiful, nature-inspired jewelry and your lovely photography on Instagram, but when I read a bit about you, I became even more inspired. Although you made jewelry as a teenager, you studied zoology at University and then later went back to train as a counselor and psychotherapist. What drew you to zoology? And then how did you come to counseling as a profession? Being a therapist is just one aspect of your life today. Having different aspects to your life -- jewelry design, counseling, motherhood -- makes you feel whole. Can you expand on this?

kh: It's interesting looking back to that time - I loved biology at school, I was fascinated by the complexity of the life forms we looked at, evolution and the whole phenomenon of life itself, which still amazes me every day.  I was eventually drawn more to animal biology because they had consciousness, interesting behaviour and I found it all so beautiful!

I was always interested in counselling - looking more deeply at human experience and alleviating unnecessary suffering - but it didn't come to fruition until I was almost thirty, it stayed in the back of my mind.  I experienced a bereavement and had some counselling, after which I had my daughter. It was a good time to re-train (after years in various administration and recruitment positions which didn't really suit me!). I wasn't working and I did a part time course.

I love having all these different aspects to my life, yes it makes me feel whole, though there is some juggling!  I love being a Mum and the counselling is hard sometimes but rewarding.  I need the jewellery making just for the fun of it, and to express myself creatively - which includes the photography as well as design elements. I love the physicality of making something.

Kate Harvey, Grace and Flora, Jewelry Designers, Nature, Artist Interviews, My Giant Strawberry, Anne Butera

ab: Something I'm always curious about is how other artists weather creative slumps and down periods. What techniques help you return to joy and creativity after such a slump? Does your background as a counselor come into play when you're dealing with your own emotions and challenges?

kh: Yes like other artists and makers I do have creative slumps.  A lot of my counselling work involves facilitating being with 'what is' rather than trying to change it,  as the change then comes naturally.  The counselling has made me more able to be with difficulty or life not doing what I want! (I meditate too which helps!)  I try and stay inspired by engaging with nature, friends or responding to a request from a potential customer. I guess I try not to pressure myself too much.  There is a psychotherapy concept of the 'fertile void' - a state of mind that is the nothingness when you stop trying to push something or an agenda, the answers appear when they are ready. I do also replicate my designs so I can keep making even if I'm not having any new ideas, and sometimes this itself can bring forth a new idea.

Kate Harvey, Grace and Flora, Jewelry Designers, Nature, Artist Interviews, My Giant Strawberry, Anne Butera

ab: Looking at your jewelry it is clear that you have a strong connection to nature. You've stated that you only make pieces that you truly love and that your jewelry has meaning and symbolism, both for you and for your customers. Do you have a piece that you love more than the others or which has the strongest meaning for you?

kh: Nearly all my pieces are nature inspired, and I have to say I love them all for different reasons, and might give different answers on different days.  I wear the blackberry necklace nearly every day, something about the fruit that holds new life, growth, possibility, and the joy of picking blackberries out walking (and pain if it's mis-judged and still sour....!). It also took much perseverance to finally get it right after two failed attempts and almost giving up.  Lots of people love it too so that's nice. I went on an Instagram meet up in the spring and a woman I hadn't met before said "oh the famous blackberry!" When she saw it! Obviously it isn't famous but I like that it gets noticed.

Kate Harvey, Grace and Flora, Jewelry Designers, Nature, Artist Interviews, My Giant Strawberry, Anne Butera

ab: Can you take us through your creative process from the first spark of an idea to the finished piece of jewelry?

It's a simple process, I find something small and beautiful, some things can be cast outright or I'll have to fortify it because it needs to be 1mm or more deep for a mould to be made to be cast and re-cast. I do this by painting melted wax on the back of a leaf, feather or seed. Alternatively I make a wax model to be cast, such as the bird, daffodil, lily etc. I have hard and soft wax, files, scalpels etc. I don't have investment casting equipment so I send them or take them to Hatton Garden in London to be cast. They make a mould for me too. They come back and I have a lot of filing to do, and solder a ring or rings on for hanging. The heat from the torch turns it black so it sits in warm 'pickle' to remove the dark oxides, then I polish in a machine, or brush for a satin look.

Kate Harvey, Grace and Flora, Jewelry Designers, Nature, Artist Interviews, My Giant Strawberry, Anne Butera

ab: I'm also always curious about other artists' creative practices and processes. Sketchbooks are of particular interest to me. Do you keep one? If so, can you describe its place in your creative life? If not, are there other creative outlets that you enjoy in addition to your jewelry-making?

kh: When I did a course in lost wax casting at London Jewellery School they taught us to draw a plan of the piece, which I do for some things. I confess I like to do things more spontaneously - playing about - so don't always, which often backfires so might rethink that one.

I go to a painting class most weeks which I love, it does support my creativity hugely, plus I love photography and making pictures for Instagram especially, which has become part of the process and for some reason it is very therapeutic for me.

Kate Harvey, Grace and Flora, Jewelry Designers, Nature, Artist Interviews, My Giant Strawberry, Anne Butera

ab: You live and work in London. Do you ever find it difficult to maintain a strong connection to nature while living in such a large city? What do you do in order to remain connected?

kh: I live in Twickenham in the suburbs where there are parks everywhere, though it's because I have a dog that I'm out walking in nature each day (with the rumble of lorries, planes and trains in the distance!) I hear woodpeckers, see kingfishers, fish, wild orchids (one design in my head), and magnificent trees every day. I visit Devon and Cornwall a few times a year which I love, especially being near the sea.

Kate Harvey, Grace and Flora, Jewelry Designers, Nature, Artist Interviews, My Giant Strawberry, Anne Butera

ab: Your studio is in your garden. Can you describe your workspace? What's your favorite aspect of it? What dream aspects would you like to be able to add to your space?

kh: My workspace has everything in it, a jewellers bench, a long table where I assemble and package, lots of apple crates for storage. I have botanical drawings all over the walls and a few plants, the radio is always on, or a podcast.  The natural light is poor so I'd love to add another window, and build better storage and shelving, it is a bit rustic which is sweet but I'd like it to have a more professional feel! It's a good space though and I'm happy in there.

Kate Harvey, Grace and Flora, Jewelry Designers, Nature, Artist Interviews, My Giant Strawberry, Anne Butera

Thank you, Kate, for taking us into your studio and sharing your thoughts with us today!

Dear Reader, you can connect with Kate:


Want to read my other artist interviews? You can catch up here. And find more inspiration from the Sketchbook Conversations series of mini, sketchbook-related interviews, all of which can be accessed here.



*Photos in this post ©Kate Harvey. Used with permission.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sharing My Obsession with Goldfish, a New Class and a Giveaway

Oh, goldfish, I do love them so.

watercolor goldfish, paintings, goldfish, watercolor, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

If you've been around here for a bit you've seen them popping up in my art. Yes, my true love is flowers, but goldfish are special.

watercolor goldfish, watercolor butterflies, goldfish, watercolor, butterflies, surface pattern design, fabric design, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

They're so joyful. Bright and colorful. Glimmering. Shimmering.

watercolor goldfish, paintings, goldfish, watercolor, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

started painting them two years ago. I was wishing I could have a big tank of them again (and kicking myself for giving my tank away when we moved). Painting them seemed an easier option than setting up a new tank, so I did. They were surprisingly addictive to paint. Different than my flowers. Looser. More free and easy. The process joyful and relaxing, so similar to watching fish swim underwater. And every fish seemed to have its own personality.

watercolor goldfish, paintings, goldfish, watercolor, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I've painted single fish. Groups of fish. And even made a repeat pattern of my fish that I've used in everything from fabric to rugs to notebooks. Yes, I guess I'm still obsessed.

surface pattern design, society6, Anne Butera, Watercolor, My Giant Strawberry

When I first started teaching on Skillshare someone suggested I teach a class about painting goldfish. I'm not sure why I hesitated. When other people continued to request it, I eventually gave in.

And now the class is finally here!


To celebrate its debut I'm having a giveaway!

The winner will receive a free year of Premium Membership from Skillshare (if you're already a subscribed, the year will be added onto your current membership. If you're not yet subscribed you can access my classes by signing up for two free months here).

To enter:

  • Watch my new class Learn to Paint Watercolor Goldfish (Rather paint flowers? You can watch my class Learn to Paint Realistic Watercolor Viola Flowers instead). 
  • Paint one (or many) goldfish and upload a photo of your creation in the Your Project section of the class (or paint a viola flower and upload a photo in that class).
  • If you watch both classes and share projects in both, you'll get two chances to win!
I'll be randomly choosing a winner on November 21st, so get your projects uploaded by November 20th. I'll announce the winner here on my blog as well as on Instagram and to my followers in the Skillshare community.

painting, watercolor, paint swatches, paint palette, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Not interested in learning how to paint? Don't worry; I'll be having another exciting giveaway in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!


Friday, October 27, 2017

Jaqui Falkenheim -- A Sketchbook Conversation

Today's Sketchbook Conversation is with Jaqui Falkenheim. Jaqui is an artist with a passion for color, textures and patterns. I really enjoy following her on Instagram and am delighted to have her here today. Here's her story:

My name is Jaqui Falkenheim. I like to work on different media: watercolor, gouache, acrylics, paper collage and also digitally. Some days I tell myself I need to narrow down and focus on one medium or style and other days I feel I need to trust my path and experiment at my heart’s content. 


sketchbooks, Jaqui Falkenheim, Sketchbook Conversations, painting, gouache

I started keeping a sketchbook four years ago when I took a summer watercolor class at the Art League in Alexandria, Virginia. Most of the session took place indoors but at the end of the course the instructor took us to paint in plain air by the Potomac River and the landscape is particularly beautiful in the summer.  In preparation, she showed us some of the sketchbooks she had kept over the years and the supplies she took with her: a small watercolor set, a brush, a small container with water, a paper towel, and a sketchbook. And off we went on a sunny Saturday morning to sketch by the river.  Since then I always take a small sketchbook everywhere I go.  I have also expanded the practice to sketch at home.

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I have different sketchbooks that I use for different purposes.  I have a small one where I test colors and funky ideas and where I can be very messy.  The paper is not good but I love the way the watercolors flow in it.  For the best textures I love the Moleskin watercolor sketchbook; the quality of the paper is wonderful.  This sketchbook would be my favorite if it came in a portrait layout with the same kind of paper.  I also love the square shape and small size of Global sketchbook.  It is 5 by 5 inches and I take it with me in every trip.  I have a larger sketchbook from the Strathmore 400 series that I use when I work with acrylics because the paper is thicker and can take a lot of water. 

sketchbooks, Jaqui Falkenheim, Sketchbook Conversations, painting, gouache

Nature is my main source of inspiration.  Every time I go on hikes with my family I am the caboose because I frequently stop to take reference photos that I can use later on.  I have so many photos for inspiration—more than I have time to use!

When I work on a sketchbook I often feel less precious about the materials I use and the result tends to be more playful than when I paint on expensive paper, canvases, or panels. I say “often” because sometimes it is not easy to let go and just play and experiment with abandon.


sketchbooks, Jaqui Falkenheim, Sketchbook Conversations, painting, gouache

My advice to other artists who want to develop a sketchbook practice is to take the first step, which tends to be the hardest.  Once you start moving on a path, you see things that you didn’t see before and you can continue with another step, and then another.  After a little while you will enjoy seeing your sketchbooks grow. What I love the most about keeping a sketchbook is that I vividly remember the moments I capture in them so in a way my sketchbook works as a record of my daily life.


Thank you, Jaqui, for sharing your story with us today.

Dear reader, you can connect with Jaqui:





Missed the other Sketchbook Conversations posts? It's easy to catch up at the series web page.

And for even more inspiration, check out my Artist Interviews




*Photos in this post ©Jaqui Falkenheim. Used with permission.