Squam Art Workshops Fall 2011 Recap

I spent last weekend in the woods at Squam Art Workshops where I played with paint, dipped my feet in the cool lake, connected with creative souls, and re-energized my spirit.

I attended last year and enjoyed the creativity and connections. It was nice to be back and to enjoy some warm, sunny days for at least part of the retreat – perfect weather for chillaxing on a dock. But don’t get me wrong, I made good use of my waterproof shoes and down parka as well!

I got my hands dirty in Mary Beth Shaw’s Stratilicious, Baby! class where we learned how to create interesting textures and layers using materials such as wood icing, tar (yes, tar!), and beeswax. I’ve played with encaustics before, but this time I got to etch the wax and color it in with oil paints, which created a very cool effect.

On the second day, I did yoga with the wonderfully grounded Michelle Madden Smith in front of a toasty fire. I don’t think I’ve ever practiced yoga wearing as many layers as I did (think Stay Puff Marshmallow Man!), but it was a chilly morning. Once I got my ujjayi breath going, though, I was in the zone. I wish the class had been a full-day. It was so blissful.

I also took a hand-lettering class with Penelope Dullaghan who is a fellow contributor to Christine Mason Miller’s forthcoming book Desire to Inspire.  I really loved the effect in my first piece using the tip of a liquid acrylic ink pipette on top of a wet wash of color. I wasn’t able to recreate the look again, so I was grateful I had my happy accident.

The last class I took was Care and Keeping with “the other Jen Lee.” It was funny how people kept getting us confused.  I spell Jenn with two n’s and live on the west coast – she spells it with one n and lives on the east coast – we joked that we needed to have signs or T-shirts so that people knew which Jen(n) was which!

I appreciated the spaciousness that Jen invited in during the session. We got to spend part of it on our own and I lounged on a dock and refilled my well. It was just what I needed before leading a short talk on the Right-Brain Business Plan after lunch. During my presentation I connected with all sorts of wonderful women who are running creative businesses or who dream of doing so one day. The great thing about being at Squam is it certainly inspires people to live their creative dreams!

One of the highlights was getting to have many belly laughs with my lovely friend Kimberly Wilson. She recently launched a new e-Course about creative and conscious business and I’m on of the featured guests. I can’t wait to see her again when she’s in town next month!

You can see more pics from my trip here on flickr.

And before I headed out to Squam, I had the chance to hang out with my dear friend Leah. This was the third fall I’ve stayed with her – I like this pattern! In 2009  we led a workshop together. In 2010, we went to Squam together, and then this year I got to visit and meet her super sweet little girl Annabelle. Isn’t she a cutie?!

Going on this trip made me realize how much I’m really craving a nice private retreat with my Nurture Huddle. Oh, that just sounds heavenly! I can’t wait for us to start dreaming up some locations for us to gather at next year!

Reflections on Squam Art Workshops Part 1

I’m finally getting my Squam post up! I can’t believe more than a week has past since my trip to Boston and New Hampshire. I’ve been exhausted (travel always does that to me), but I have so many fond memories of the retreat. I connected with inspiring women, I dabbled in some new artistic techniques, I savored a yummy yoga class,  I enjoyed the fresh outdoor air, and I loved having delicious food cooked for me everyday (and don’t even get me started on those marvelous macaroons!).

Last year Leah, Mindy, Melba and I attended just the Squam art fair on Saturday night after Leah and I led a workshop together in Boston. We had such fun meeting some of our online buddies in-person and getting a taste of the Squam spirit that Leah and I decided to participate in the whole shebang this year. I’m so glad we did. I’m super inspired by the creative community that convenes there and the whole experience definitely fed my soul.

The experience also gave me some new insights into my creative process. It’s been awhile since I’ve taken an “art” class that focuses on learning techniques. Instead, for almost the past two years I’ve immersed myself in expressive arts and intuitive painting which is all about the process not the product, about the experience not technical skill. As a student and a teacher of intuitive painting, I’ve trained myself to be okay with making “ugly” art. So, it was a bit of a head trip for me at the retreat as I paid more attention to my inner critic wanting things to “look good” and to have “presentable” finished pieces. I know it was all self-imposed pressure and that the atmosphere there is totally supportive. It was just interesting to notice what happens for me when I’m creating for just the sake of being in the creative process versus when I am attached to the outcome. And I suppose both have their places. While I thoroughly enjoy diving into the depths of my crazy intuitive paintings, there is also something quite satisfying about making a beautiful, delicate piece of art to display like I got to do this past weekend.

The first class I took was Layered Lines with Diana Fayt.  I really dug her drawing/painting technique which uses oil pastels, turpenoid, and graphite pencils. It’s quite simple yet creates a super cool effect that almost looks like an etching. My favorite pieces from the weekend were from this course. I’m definitely gonna play with this method a bit more. I even went and got more supplies today so I can continue to dabble.

The next day I took the Open Your Eyes photography class with the lovely Susannah Conway. Photography is a medium I’m not as comfortable with but want to get better at it. Fortunately my hubby is a photographer so I have access to great gear. Now I just gotta learn how to use it more effectively!

In the morning Susannah walked us through lots of great images to inspire us and to teach us composition basics. I could listen to her speak all day – I just love her voice and wisdom!

In the afternoon we went on a photo safari through the woods. Of course we had to stop at the lake to get some shots of the beautiful views.

I had fun getting to know my fellow classmates as we explored and experimented. And it was fascinating to notice how we each saw the world so differently through the lens.

This is one of my favorite shots. Thanks to the lovely Jayne who patiently modeled for us as we all snapped away! I posted more of my pics on Flickr.

On the final day, I took Flora Bowley’s Bloom True painting class. Above is a peek at one of her amazing paintings. It was fascinating to watch her demos and see her magical art come to life before our eyes.

Here’s a shot of my two paintings in progress, but since we only had a half-day class, that’s as far as they got. I had fun being playful AND I noticed in this class especially how much I struggled with process versus product. We started off being very intuitive and free-form but as we started to hone in on where we wanted to take the painting, my inner critic kicked in big time. It was a good reminder to let go and pay attention to where the aliveness is rather than what I think looks good or is the “right” thing. I certainly had fun with blue!

There’s so much more goodness from the weekend. I’ll share a bit more tomorrow. Until then, check out the links to more Squammies’ posts here – you’re sure to be inspired!

Family Fun at the California Academy of Sciences

Four-story rainforest dome

My brother and his family were in town for Spring Break, so I spent the day with them at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.  What a gorgeous day to be in the city!  The sunshine and clear skies had me missing when we used to live within walking distance of the park.


My absolute favorite part of the museum was watching the huge, beautiful butterflies flutter about the rainforest dome.


I couldn’t believe how up close and personal we could get to these amazing creatures.


I saw one land on a guy’s shoulder.  It was soooo cool!

The 3-D bug movie was cool, too.  Unfortunately, I felt some motion sickness during the planetarium show, so I took the opportunity to take a quick nap. 😉


One of the amazing things about this museum is that it is an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum and rainforest all rolled in one.  We got to experience the wonders of the earth, sea, sky and beyond.

View of the DeYoung Museum from the living rooftop

I couldn’t get over how clear it was.  All I remember when I used to live in the Richmond was fog, fog and more fog.


The living rooftop is covered with 2.5 acres of native plants.

All in all, it was a great day spending time with nature and the family!  Hope you all have a wonderful holiday weekend.

What’s Your Five-A-Day?

Britt Bravo tagged me in a meme called “five-a-day” which was started to encourage mental wellbeing.

Here are my top five things to do every day (or every week) to stay mentally healthy:

  1. Yoga. Yoga is an amazing stress reliever and helps to clear my mind, too.  Can’t beat yoga bliss from Sean’s class at Namaste Yoga and Laura’s class at Monkey Yoga.  Or simply do what Larry Schultz from my It’s Yoga teacher training calls the “minimum daily requirement” – five Sun Salutation A’s and five Sun Salutation B’s (which fits nicely with the “five-a-day” theme!).
  2. Getting up without an alarm clock. This has been one of the biggest benefit of working for myself!  I feel so much better mentally and physically now that I wake up according to my own rhythms.  On those rare occasions when I do have to get up early, I use my BioBrite SunRise Clock.
  3. Surrounding myself with beauty. One of my core value strings is Beauty / Creativity / Creating Beauty / Style / Inspiration / Self Expression / Uniqueness / Emotions.  I feel so much better when I take in the beauty that’s all around me – whether that be admiring nature while I’m walking my dog, reading a touching story, appreciating inspiring artwork or creating art of my own.
  4. Reflecting on what I am grateful for. This always helps me put things in perspective.  I usually include something I’m grateful for when I journal in the morning.
  5. ReadingLearning and personal growth are also core values of mine.  So, I’m always reading a self-help and/or business book and something inspirational and creative.

I’m tagging:

  1. Jamie Ridler
  2. Leah Piken Kolidas
  3. Jennifer Moore
  4. Ananda Leeke
  5. YOU!

Now off to yoga class!  Namaste.

AEDM Day 21: Fall Leaves

While walking Emmett this evening, a tree caught my eye.  The golden leaves looked so stunning against the midnight blue of the sky.   That inspired my art for today.

I recently finished Keri Smith’s latest book How to be an Explorer of the World and enjoyed her simple suggestions for appreciating the beauty all around us in our day-to-day lives.  She encourages us to pay attention to our senses.  As an “N” (Intuiting preference) on the MBTI, I tend to notice patterns, themes and meaning – more of the intangible qualities.  What I got out of reading this book were ideas to cultivate more “S” (Sensing) ways of taking in information like observing specific, concrete details and literal data.

I gathered fallen leaves and then took them home to do crayon rubbings. I practiced my sensing muscle by trying to describe specific details like color and texture.  I look forward to more exploration of the world!

Bountiful Backyard Blackberries

Who knew that I had a wild blackberry bramble in my backyard?! Well, my next door neighbor did. This weekend, she was trimming some of the vines that had grown over on to her side of the fence. She had a large basket full of branches brimming with berries and she offered me some to me.

As I picked the luscious, dark jewels from their prickly stems, I was amazed that this succulent fruit was right in my backyard (hidden behind a big Camellia bush to be exact!).

I enjoyed a handful of the berries on my yummy waffle breakfast!

This impromptu harvest of delightful berries reminds me that there are often juicy surprises just ripe for the pickin’ right in front of us if we’re willing to look.

Winter Shadows – AEDM Day 27


I know it’s not officially winter yet, but the chill is in the air, the wind is blustery and so many people I know are coming down with colds. Winter slows us down. Gives us time to hibernate. Reflect. The colder nights remind us to take care of ourselves. To bundle up and to protect what we hold dear. It’s a time to integrate all that we’ve grown and harvested throughout the year.

I’ve been feeling slower and more tired and I tried to capture that in this piece. I used gray and black oil pastels. As I was blending the colors off the corners of the pages, I saw this cool shadow effect on the paper underneath. So, I tore up scrap paper to smudge a shadowy outline of a tree. That’s how I’ve been feeling the past few days – a little fuzzy around the edges.

[tags]National Blog Posting Month, NaBloPoMo, Art Every Day, winter[/tags]

Autumn Leaf – AEDM Day 20


Fiery oranges, yellows and dark reds popped out of the landscape as I walked my dog this morning. The turning leaves looked brilliant against the crisp, blue fall sky. I love how autumn makes me so aware of transition, of moving from the lush abundance and freedom of summer, to hunkering down, keeping warm and taking a more internal focus.

This drawing was done in colored pencil on the back of a grocery bag, which adds a nice rustic element.

How does the season change affect you? What do you notice as the leaves turn color? What transitions are taking place in your life?

[tags]National Blog Posting Month, NaBloPoMo, Art Every Day Month, autumn[/tags]

The Art of Simplicity – Art Every Day Month Day 1


Today kicks off National Blog Posting Month (post everyday for all of November) and Leah’s Art Every Day Month challenge. For me it’s a jam-packed month already but I couldn’t resist the structure and support around inviting more creativity into my life.

One of my tenets going into this challenge is to expand my idea of what constitutes “art.” Even though I crave creativity, often times I forgo it because of excuses like I don’t have enough time, my idea isn’t fully formed, I don’t know how to execute my vision, it will turn out stupid so I won’t want to show anyone, blah, blah, blah. And so, I end up not creating anything and my inner muse stagnates.

So, this month is all about busting those limiting beliefs and trying something new. It’s about honoring the creative process and not worrying about the end product.

For my first endeavor I wanted something simple and quick. The crisp autumn air inspired me to use the changing leaves. And given that I just launched my new coaching name and brand, the theme of transition seemed appropriate. I gathered a few fallen maple leaves and stamped Japanese characters on them in silver ink. They read “truth,” “beauty,” “grace.” I love that the leaves are imperfect and delicate and yet they are still beautiful.

[tags]National Blog Posting Month, NaBloPoMo, Art Every Day Month Challenge[/tags]

Labyrinths and Leadership Laboratories


Last Friday through Sunday Brighid and I co-led the third retreat of the 2007 Cheryl’s Dreaming Big leadership program in Indiana. Our retreat kicked-off with some intense storming (literally – lots of thunder, wind and rain; and figuratively – lots of group tension and unresolved issues). I must say it was pretty exhausting and challenging to hold the space for this natural, yet difficult, phase in team development.

One thing that helped me get through it was walking through the labyrinth at the retreat center. Before entering the path, you can hold an intention or inquiry. For me it was around how can I stay with the mess of the storming phase. With every twist and turn, I questioned, “How much longer? When will this end? Where is this going?!” And then I relaxed into it and trusted that I would find my way to the center. I leaned into this insight throughout the weekend. Labyrinths are a great meditative and focusing tool. There’s this really cool portable labyrinth that I imagine would have a similar effect.

The other take-away I had from the retreat was remembering that the program we created is a great laboratory for learning and practicing leadership, not only for the participants, but for myself as a co-leader as well. Brighid kept reminding me of the lessons from an insightful book called Leadership and Self-Deception. This powerful parable reminds us to relate to people as people with hopes, dreams, needs, wants instead of objects or obstacles that our in our way. By shifting my perspective to being “out of the box” I was able to rise above the muck of the storming and group dynamics and reconnect to who these wonderful people are and what they have to offer. The other thing I kept coming back to was the idea that from the crap of group storming comes the fertilizer which nourishes the ground for a beautiful garden to grow. It’s a natural cycle.

How are you with conflict and tension? What are some ways that you move through the storming in your life? How has going through the muck helped new opportunities to blossom for you?

[tags]labyrinth, leadership, leadership and self-deception[/tags]