How I Became an Artist: The Job That Changed My Life

I am a visual artist living in Southwestern Indiana who publishes art related blog posts regularly. Sign up to receive updates from my blog at the bottom of this page. 🙂

I never thought taking a job as the Coordinator of a peer-run recovery center would change the course of my life as it did. I took the Coordinator position in December 2012 and my favorite program at the center was our arts empowerment program, which promoted art as a healing tool. At the center, we helped individuals who struggled with mental health issues, and I, too, struggle with depression.

I began painting in 2009 but took a prolonged break from creating while my daughter was in her infant and toddler years. I picked up a paintbrush again during my employment at the recovery center in 2013, and after two years of not painting, I fell in love, once again, with the creative process and the healing benefits it provides. I continued to paint as much as my time afforded, and in 2014 we held the first “Art of Recovery”, an art show featuring artworks created by individuals in recovery.

A piece of mine that sold in the “Art of Recovery” 2015 show:


While I enjoyed my job, I was also being strongly called in a different direction at the same time — to be an artist. I eventually took the leap of faith in 2016 to pursue art full-time and I have never regretted this decision. Would painting have chosen me otherwise had I not worked there? I know it would have; however, I think the process of becoming an artist was sped up by the nature of my day job. Being surrounded by art and artists was so inspiring. I also say that art chose me rather than I chose art. If you are born to be an artist, art will find you one way or another, sometime during your life.

Art has really saved my life in many ways. When I am creating, it is like time stands still and I enter another dimension – one in which my work and I exist and all my despair and worries disappear. Even when I’m depressed and the thought of picking up a paintbrush sounds like the most tedious task in the world, once I get going, I really do feel somewhat better. My depression doesn’t disappear necessarily, but for the moment in time that I am creating, things don’t seem quite as difficult.

I do find, however, that creating is something I need to do daily, or at least almost daily, to keep the momentum going. Art is like anything else. It is easy to push aside and skip out while your other life responsibilities take precedence. Due to this, I must make sure I stay on some type of art-making schedule.

I believe that everything happens for a reason and I believe one of the reasons I had my job at the recovery center was to help me develop as an artist and find my way a little faster. Who knows where I would be today had I not held that position. I think I’d be an artist of some kind, but I think that job put me on the right path.

Art has helped me so much in life that I try to pass this on to my daughter. My husband and I have her in art classes and I am hoping art will be an outlet for her as it is for me.

If you are an artist who struggles with anxiety, depression, or another issue, I’d love to hear how art has helped you in your journey, and also how you became an artist.


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“The Imaginaries” – daily small charcoal portraits

I am a visual artist living in Southwestern Indiana who publishes art related blog posts regularly. Sign up to receive updates from my blog at the bottom of this page. 😊


It’s a new year, and as usual I am trying new things with my art and having a blast. This week I signed up for figure drawing/painting classes at Gamut Gallery as I have no formal training in that area and would like to learn as much as I can. Just in the first class I learned so much. The three portraits above are ones that I have completed since class on Monday and the one below is from class, where we drew from a live model.

Laura, Charcoal, 2019, created in figure drawing class

I’m finding charcoal drawing to be so much fun because it’s so dynamic. The charcoal nearly lifts off the paper so you can change, add, and subtract easily.  Another reason I am quickly starting to love charcoal is that it is extremely portable and great for on-location projects. This morning I went to Starbucks to draw, which is where Chandler was born (the portrait at the top right).

My supplies are minimal and consist of just vine charcoal sticks, a few charcoal pencils for fine details, an eraser, and a sharpener. I mostly just use the charcoal sticks so far though because the thickness of the sticks helps me create looser drawings. I keep all of these supplies in a very small pencil case that is easy to carry around, as shown below.

I never thought I would enjoy drawing so much and this is the first time I’ve ever used charcoal. I will always paint, but I plan to incorporate charcoal drawing into my life via daily (I hope) quick, small drawings. These small 5x7s I can complete in a short enough time that I should be able to finish one each day…or at least on most days, and still have time to paint as well.

I am using reference photos for these drawings but I am calling them “The Imaginaries” because they don’t really exist, not in my world anyway. They aren’t people I know. I’m having fun giving all of them names, too. It feels as if I am giving birth each day to a new character. 🙂

If you are looking for a dynamic and portable drawing medium, try charcoal!


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Murals Can Bring Your Business (and City) to Life

I am an acrylic painter living in Southwestern Indiana who publishes art related blog posts regularly. Sign up to receive updates from my blog at the bottom of this page. 😊

“You’re My Butter Half” United Way for Greater Austin mural, Austin, Texas

On a recent trip to Austin, Texas, we got creative and decided to do something fun that was also free. Who doesn’t love free, right?! Since we love art, we decided to mural hop!  While there are probably enough murals in Austin to keep you busy for days on end, we just mural hopped for a few hours, and were able to get photos with a handful of murals.

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Jerry’s Artarama murals, Austin, Texas

Where we live, in Evansville, Indiana, murals are pretty scarce. I can think of several, but not very many to speak of, and what a shame that is. Businesses that have four bare walls outside are wasting space — prime advertising space! Not only is that wasted advertising space, but I truly believe that businesses can draw in more patrons with murals, both locals and tourists.

If you hire an artist to create a catchy, iconic, or simply a beautiful type mural, that makes for an instagrammable post, which can draw people in to your business. It becomes a landmark that people want to visit. Every time a photo is taken by your business mural and it is posted to social media or elsewhere, that’s free advertising. Be sure to have your business name listed (small) somewhere in the mural.

PAZ Vet Clinic murals, Austin, Texas

Take the PAZ Vet Clinic, for example. What a great way to advertise their business by adding murals of a cat and dog to their building. It’s a billboard that pays for itself. Not adding a mural to your building is akin to not printing something on the back of your business card. Don’t waste space! 😉

There are many artists in Evansville who can create murals. If you don’t know where to start, reach out to the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana as a starting point to find an artist who can help. I would love to create a mural someday, but haven’t done so yet, and a collaborative mural would be so much fun as well!

Culinary Dropout restaurant mural, Austin, Texas

After visiting Austin, and of course other larger cities, it makes me realize how much art can make a city fun and make it more unique and attractive. Bring your city to life with art!

Just for fun, I used the Photofunia app to create a mural on this red wall of my tea (or coffee) painting. Wouldn’t that be cool on a coffeehouse!


Future mural!

And finally…my family survived my driving in Austin!



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Has Visual Art Ever Made You Cry?

No. 61 (Rust and Blue) by Mark Rothko
By Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Fair use,
No. 61 (Rust and Blue) by Mark Rothko

I am an acrylic painter living in Southwestern Indiana who publishes art related blog posts regularly. Sign up to receive updates from my blog at the bottom of this page. 😊

I was in deep thought while traveling today, husband asleep in the passenger seat, daughter watching a movie in the back seat. “River of Dreams” by Hayley Westenra started playing and almost immediately brought me to tears, as always, and as more than one of her songs can accomplish when I listen. The tempo, the notes, the rhythm, pretty much everything about the song moves me to cry every time. Then it occurred to me that a painting has never moved me to shed tears, or any piece of 2D art for that matter, which is ironic since I’m a painter. I am often very moved by paintings, but not to the point of crying.

Mark Rothko’s massive color field paintings, as shown above, have been known to move people to the point of tears.  I’ve experienced a pretty wide range of emotions from viewing visual art, but have cried only once, which was precipitated by a piece sculpted by a Central European artist. I didn’t even see it in person either, but simply saw a photo of it online.

Since I love communicating visually through the arts, why is it that I haven’t cried over more than one piece of visual artwork? Furthermore, why haven’t I been compelled, until now really, to create work that moves others in that same way?

The musical arts, literary arts, and performing arts can evoke sadness in me much more easily than the visual arts, probably due to the static nature of most visual art. I’ve been in the car crying over a sad song and flooded with tears on my face from watching a ballet or another form of dance countless times, and I wish I could say paintings have brought me to tears, but they have not. I’ve even had my share of visiting large museums in many cities, too, including Boston, New York City, and Chicago, and  I’ve seen some pretty major and historical paintings in person.

If you’ve ever cried as a result of viewing art, was it a 2D or 3D piece? Was it the sheer size of the piece, the colors, the content, the subject, or the movement of the piece that brought you to tears? Was it because it struck a personal chord with you? I would love to hear how art moves you and about what piece(s) have made you cry.

After thinking about this and having a meaningful conversation with my husband today about this subject, it is now my career life’s quest to create a painting (or more) that can make people cry. I say “life quest” because who knows, it may take a lifetime, if it ever happens at all. But before that, I am hoping to find a painting that can move me to the point of crying just as the European artist’s sculpture.


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Why the Switch to Objective Art?


You may have wondered if I’ve lost it in the past week. The answer is no; I still have all my marbles…all my faculties. But yes, I have always said nonrepresentational art is my thing and I would never switch to creating objective art.

It all started with my florals, and just like when I take a break from a painting and come back to it a day, week, or even a month later, I am then able to view it with fresh eyes and solve problems I couldn’t solve before. The same applies when you are looking for something you’ve lost. You may look for hours, only to find that if you take an hour break and then come back, you almost instantly find your lost item. Sometimes we need change in our life…in our art, an even bigger change than simply taking a break and stepping away. Sometimes we need a change of pace, and mine happens to be abandoning my nonrepresentational pieces for, well, I’m not sure how long.

I was starting to feel stuck — really stuck! I recently wrote a blog post on getting through a creative block, but I think the one thing I left out is to try a different style of art, so that’s my current detour on my journey. I’m hoping when I return to some nonobjective paintings, I’ll hit the ground running with some new knowledge learned from painting pieces of recognizable objects.

I guess this is a good time to also mention that I don’t think either type of art is better than the other. But, for a long time my preference was simply to paint abstractly…as a matter of fact, for a long time I would say in regards to my own paintings, “the more abstract, the better.” I have an appreciation for both types of art (objective and nonobjective), but I do think they usually serve different purposes.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a classically trained artist, other than art classes in middle/high school. With that, I felt like I needed another boost so I signed up for still life painting classes, and hopefully figure painting classes in the future as well. It never hurts to have others teach you some tips and tricks in your journey and make sure you are grounded in the basics. Sometimes, even for experienced painters, it’s good to start at square one again.

So to that…try something new today! 😊


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Unblocked! – Overcoming Creative Blocks

If you are an artist, you have most likely experienced a creative block at one point or another and it is so frustrating! Or you may be working on a project that is not turning out the way you would like. In either case, I sat down today and came up with 10 things that help me when I am experiencing a block, and these may help you too. I’d love to hear from you if you try any of these, or if you have tried them already. Let me know if they work for you!

  1. Try a new art supply – Simply purchasing a new art supply can change up your creative process enough to get your ideas flowing again. When I purchased my fine line applicators, I found creating fine lines added a little interest and broke the monotony of my process. I guess it is worth mentioning here, too, that as artists, we have the tendency to get bored, and that means we can even get bored with our supplies. Short on money and can’t buy any new supplies? Alternatively, you can look around the house to see what kind of texture makers you can find. A fork, comb, caps…all can create interesting textures in your work.
  2. Change mediums – If you are an acrylic painter, for example, try oil or watercolor for a while, or even add a medium such as modeling paste to create texture in your work. Sometimes simply changing mediums will open new doors with your style and techniques, and sometimes we just need a change of pace. After working with a different medium for a bit, eventually go back to your primary medium and see if anything has changed. Do you feel refreshed? Do you have new ideas?
  3. Change supports – One of my favorite things to try when things are not going as planned or if I am experiencing a block is to change the surface I am working with. I often change over to paper for a while after working on canvas for some time. Once again, it is a good change of pace. Not only that, doing the same thing on canvas and paper will often yield different results due to things like texture of the support. Any factor changed will often change your results, whether changing mediums as described above, or supports.
  4. Try a new activity – Sometimes it is good to clear our minds from what we are used to, break away and try something else. If you are a painter, try pottery, and if you are a sculptor, try drawing, and so on. This allows you to see things, such as shapes and colors, in a new light. Have you ever tried making your own pottery, then painting your pottery on canvas as still life? Even if you are not a skilled potter, try abstracting what you see in your pottery and paint that. This is just one example. Once again, changing an element of what we are doing changes the rhythm of creative flow, and then when we return to our primary medium, new ground can be broken with fresh eyes.
  5. Look at other art – I am deeply inspired by looking at other art. Seeing other color palettes, textures, and compositions, among other things, opens doors and paves new pathways for creativity. We can be inspired by other work without copying the work. In other words, all works of art are usually inspired by something else before they ever began. Art is not created out of thin air; there is usually always something that prompts the beginning of a new work of art.
  6. Rework an old piece – Some of my favorite pieces end up being old pieces that I paint over. Let’s face it, we have some pieces we like more than others. Sometimes I take some of my least liked pieces and paint over them, allowing some of the underneath layers to peek through. That combined with the textures of the first few layers help build an interesting piece. When reworking an old piece, you are not starting from scratch, which changes up the whole creative process.
  7. Change your surroundings – Painting in a different room, changing your music, painting outside instead of inside — all of these things can help you break out and overcome your creative block. I remember having a breakthrough when I painted at our table while the new roof on my studio was being added. It is amazing how changing the slightest thing can alter our brain activity and help us create. Below is a photo of my beloved Amazon Echo. Love that thing! I often find that changing the genre of music changes the way I paint.
  8. Organize – If you are like me, your studio is often messy, and simply organizing your space can make you feel refreshed and ready to create again.
  9. Scribble – Have you ever just scribbled with crayons, paints, markers, pencils, or another medium? Of course we have all done that as children. But have you really tried it as an adult? Just let loose and free your mind. Scribble for fifteen minutes then go back to your work. While scribbling is not likely to turn into a masterpiece, it can get your mind unblocked since you are working like a child instead of an adult. Children are highly creative so try being one again for a bit! Children aren’t afraid to create and they don’t judge themselves the way we do as adults. So just try being a kid again.
  10. Take a break! – Give the creative side of your brain a break and cozy up in a hammock, make some hot cocoa and watch a movie with a warm blanket, or meditate. Rejuvenate, then return to your work later.


Hope these give you some ideas to try. As always, leave me a note if you liked this post, or if one of these help you get unblocked!

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Moving My Sacred Space | Things Learned in the Shudio

I used to have my studio in the back room of the house. I painted there faithfully for several years until one day I was in the shed and had a brilliant idea. I thought, WOW, this space could be transformed into an art studio. We renovated the small space with heat/air, insulation/drywall, and updated electric. Now, a little over two years later, I am moving back to my old studio inside the house and we will use the shudio (shed studio) for something else.

It wasn’t a cheap endeavor converting the shed to a studio, although it was well worth it while the space remained my studio and for future uses. It is a usable space for storage or whatever we decide to use it for now.

Over the past couple years in that space, I learned how to paint with very little water since I didn’t have a sink/plumbing. It was actually a good experience and revolutionized the way I paint. Since I couldn’t change my water often, I usually just wiped my brush off with a paper towel when changing colors. This meant that part of the last color I used got mixed in with the new color, which also meant I was mixing my colors out of necessity rather than intentionally. That turned out to be a good thing. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to rinsing out my brush before every color change again. A thing of the past! My colors turn out much more unique and don’t look quite as flat painting this way.

I also learned how to utilize a small space. I painted directly on the wall instead of using an easel to save on space. I simply placed two screws on the wall level with each other and hung the canvases on those. I also placed peg board on the wall to hang my paints, even though my paints were usually strung out all over the place. You can see my peg board below. I must have just organized when I took this picture, because I’m normally not an organized painter.


I’ve often thought I’d like studio space away from the home. While my shudio wasn’t away from the home necessarily, I did have to physically go outside and walk about 20 feet to the space. There were things I liked and didn’t like about this. On the positive side, it felt like a sacred space…one that I could escape to and be away from everything else. This allowed me to focus, which I have a hard time doing sometimes!

On the downside, even though it was a very short walk, I didn’t enjoy going to and from the house when I needed something in the cold weather. I also didn’t enjoy being out there in the middle of the night if I was up late painting.

Overall, I am really looking forward to moving back in the house. We painted the walls a light grey yesterday. I love the cool grey color and here is how they look.


You’ll notice there is a treadmill in the above photo. Yes, our treadmill will be in my studio too! At first I was disappointed that I had to compromise with my husband and share space with the treadmill, but the more I think about it, the more I like the idea. I hope to hop on the treadmill often while I am painting in between little sessions. It will be good to clear my mind and get some exercise. Body, mind, and soul work! And boy do I need the exercise!

I will post more photos and share more once I move into my new space. I am so excited for a change of scenery. And here is my piece I created today in the shudio…perhaps my last shudio piece of work!

Jacks  20×20 acrylic on canvas

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2018 Year in Review

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Much can happen in one year…shows, growth, disappointments, and more. I’d like to reflect on this past year, celebrating all the positive things that transpired, and learning from setbacks.

In January, I began my first ever series — “Contain & Release.” It was a series of six paintings that focused on the containment and release of emotions, with each having at least one container of some sort. I ended up keeping just four in the series and dropping two of them. This was my favorite of the four. I felt as though this series provided some breakthroughs in my technique, mostly in the way I create abstract art. I realized through these paintings the importance of painting in series and plan to work this way more often in the future.

Contain & Release III, 24 X 30, 2018

Also in January, I decided to start using the name Rain for art purposes, and later around the month of May I chose D’Lay as my last name. By the time November came around, I had learned the hard way that it creates confusion having an artist name separate from your real name, so I decided to transition back to using my real name. Just a few months before my name change back, this beautiful butterfly appeared outside my studio. It was a gentle reminder to always be open to change.

And finally in January, I attended my first long pose figure painting/drawing session at Gamut Gallery. Below is the painting I created that day. It was challenging as I normally don’t paint figures, yet it was so enjoyable as well.


Stac Art Gallery

At the beginning of summer, I had several pieces on display in StaC Art Gallery, where I also sold my favorite piece of the year. Despite its small size of 10×10 inches, it’s a powerhouse of color and composition. My favorite piece — “Rings of Fire” — below.

Rings of Fire, 10 X 10, 2018

Last year I had an idea to start an art co-op with art created by individuals with mental health issues. After a group formed, we secured space at Zion Center for Spiritual Development & Healing. Below are a couple photos from the opening reception, including a photo of me with Cynthia Watson, a dear friend and art mentor.



Below are some of my favorite brushes and a note from my daughter that she wrote on my studio wall. What a nice surprise! ❤ Also shown is my favorite color – turquoise!


Funk in the City was a juried show for the first time and I was honored to be a part of it this year. This left picture was before I set up my booth with all my art and supplies in the car, and on the right is my booth in the September event. Unfortunately, it rained nearly the entire day so it wasn’t as busy as it would have been normally. It was quite a chore trying to keep my paintings dry, but since they are acrylic, the water didn’t hurt them anyway. The rain was more annoying than anything else.


I was glad to participate in my first YART show in October. I had a small setup at that event in which I took mostly smaller pieces. YART is a unique show where everything is priced $50 or below. BRRRRR – it was cold that day, but a good day nonetheless!


The Art Hop took place in September in downtown Henderson businesses where artists had little pop up galleries. My pop up gallery was located in the office of Kevin A. Francke, Attorney at Law. This was my first time participating in this show as well.


I participated in three nonprofit events this year: 1) Peace Zone Art of Recovery, 2) You Matter Suicide Prevention and Awareness Art Show, and 3) Mental Health America of Vanderburgh County’s symposium silent auction. Below is a picture of me with “Tears I Cry” at the You Matter Show at 22 Jefferson Gallery.



In November I participated in the Winter Festival at the Evansville Museum — my last and final show of the year!

I did apply to two juried exhibits this year, but didn’t get selected for either. I will try again next year! I’m sure that’s just the beginning of many rejections but I’m ready to tackle this journey. In the art world, you must have tough skin to be successful because oftentimes you are faced with many rejections.

I am looking forward to 2019 as I plan to enter some national juried exhibits, get established with an online gallery, and further develop my techniques and style. This year it seemed I was focused on both nonrepresentational abstract pieces and florals and I am pleased with the progress I made.


MeWorkingInStudioPainting in My Studio

Contain & Release Series…Expressing Emotions

This series started on January 6th, 2018, in which I finished the first painting and then decided that it should become a series. Many times we have emotions that cause us turmoil so we contain them. Unfortunately, when we do this they only seem to worsen and they permeate our existence and contaminate our environment.

In this series my goal is to paint purely from emotion, including color choice, lines, shapes, etc. Painting is a therapeutic tool for me and this series is to inspire you to explore your emotions and release them in a way that is healthy too. When I painted these pieces, I did not think about the outcome, but instead painted whatever I felt at the moment, relying totally on emotion.

In each piece, if you look hard enough, you will see a container of some sort. These containers are different shapes and you may have to use your imagination to see them. Some have lids and some do not. This is to represent the release of emotions (lid off) and the containment of emotions (lid on). Sometimes we only share a glimpse of ourselves (our emotions) to those around us. We do this out of fear of letting our true selves shine through, to protect ourselves, and many other reasons.

There are four pieces in this series, shown below.

Contain and Release I

Contain and Release II

Contain and Release III

Contain and Release IV