Heads Up: JULY

IMG_9592Another month is around the corner! The Word for this month is Atmosphere, and the main creative expression featured is Interior Decor. We’ll be exploring the significance of having a space for creative endeavors. Here’s what’s on the docket:

Audio interview with Interior Decorator Susie Fitler on why and how to make intentional spaces in the home for creative expression.


Spotlights on people who make space for their artistry and  create inspiring atmospheres in their homes

A peek inside my home and the intentional spaces I have set up for my family’s creativity

Tips, resources, and inspiration on how to rethink the spaces in your home and foster an atmosphere of creativity



What To Buy?

I hope you’ve been encouraged by our interview and our Spotlights lately to try something new, or get back to something you once did creatively. I think a lot of us have the desire to exercise our creativity, but sometimes it’s hard to get going. Personally I found that having a place and the right tools to be artistic is half the battle. I shared about my easy art journal method (see May 25 post).

Here are some affordable materials that I use, as well as our Spotlight Michael uses. I hope this list is helpful.

Sketching and Doodling

These are the sketchbooks I use for art journaling. I love that  they lay flat when open and the paper quality can handle ink and paint. I got mine at Barnes & Noble, but you can find them on Amazon too. Link HERE


I love these pens. They flow so well, and the variety of sizes is great for varying widths of calligraphy. The handy case is a bonus. You can find them at Michael’s Craft Store or on Amazon. Link HERE


Michael uses a larger sketchbook called Pentalic. He likes that it lays flat when open, has quality paper, and a durable cover. Westly also uses this sketchbook. Link HERE

Michael loves those pens. They have a nice tip and good flow. You can get them in bulk too! Link HERE

Color Medias

There are a few good starter palettes for watercolors. The brand on the left called Reeves is a good low-cost brand for starting out. The brand on the right called Grumbacher is one of the more prominent watercolor brands.

Link HERE for a good Reeves starter set. Link HERE for a Grumbacher starter set.


Again Reeves is a good starter brand for acrylics and oil pastels. This brand can be found at Michael’s Craft Store and Amazon.

Link HERE for acrylics. Link HERE for oil pastels.

Keep in mind these are low-cost choices perfect for just starting out and experimenting. I totally get that you don’t want to invest a lot of money into something you want to just try out. When you find a medium that you love, there are higher-end brands out there whose quality does make a difference.

Now be brave!

SPOTLIGHT: Brett C. Nance

drunk squid detective

Profession: Freelance Illustrator/Designer

Family: Crystal (wife & TK teacher) and son Oliver (6 mo. old)

Background: grew up admiring the works of animators like Chuck Jones, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Friz Freleng, Preston Blair. Studied traditional animation and life drawing at Allan Hancock College and Art Institute of CA-LA. Self-published comic book S.P.a.Z and webcomic Man-Boys!, illustrated children’s book Adventures of Captain Candy. Contributing artist in the TikiMachine art books and other various work for card games, logos movie poster, t-shirts, and private commissions.

chocolateProfessional Info: Facebook artist page www.facebook.com/PanBlancoArt and on Instagram @PanBlancoArt

What do you love most about being an artist?

I love seeing what’s in my head end up on paper (or digital “paper” now). When I was a kid, I’d look at how the artists I admired created their work and it was like watching a magic trick but learning the secrets of how the trick was pulled off. Any time I learn a new trick of the trade it’s that same feeling all over again. There’s also the rush I get when people react fondly to my work, especially when I get to create right in front of people at events.

How do you keep your creative juices flowing?Abbot Costello print version

Meeting up with other artist friends. Whether it’s meeting with some buddies, going to a comic convention or mingle in Artists’ Alley, or heading out to occasional sketch group, I always seem to get a boost by being around a community of artists. Sometimes if I’m stuck in regards to my own creations, creating some fan art helps clear the slate. Being a geek can pay off creatively!

Are there any other areas of your life where you exercise creativity?

I used to be involved in theatre, back when I was still in Santa Maria. I do occasionally get out the guitar, especially now with my son–I love singing to him (he doesn’t judge!)

How do you encourage others to pursue creativity?

Be around creative people; it can be infectious. Also don’t try to make what you think others would like (unless it’s for a client). Instead make what you like and what you know. And finally always keep learning and studying the craft. That was all kinda cliche but it’s true! haha

scary story squatch

Feed That Feeds My Muse

One way I weave creativity into my everyday life is by following Instagrammers who inspire me. If you’re gonna scroll through social media you might as well feed your creativity while you do! Here’s a list of artists on Instagram that inspire me:

Benji Magness pastor and artist

Jon Klassen picture book author/illustrator His humor is one-of-a-kind

Joey Chou artist who illustrated many Disney Small World books, etc. So whimsical!

Arianna Vauclin student and artist at OAHS. A true prodigy!

Sophie Blackall picture book author/illustrator who looks like Kate Winslet. I heard her speak at a conference and she was both hilarious and heart-felt

Mkonejin I’m a sucker for gorgeous watercolors (my fave medium)

How about you? Who inspires you? I would love to add to my list!

Art and Me

When I was a kid I drew. All the time.

As the oldest of my siblings, I constantly drew pictures for my sister and three brothers to color. A very happy day was when Dad came home with boxes and boxes of white paper with his business’s letter head that had been changed. His boss was going to throw out all the paper so Dad swiped it for us. Besides a small logo in the upper left corner, the paper was blank. That paper lasted us for years!


From Jr. High through High School I took art lessons with a local artist named Sharon Rachel. While she introduced me to many mediums, I took the most to watercolors, which was also her favorite. In her I found not only a good teacher, but a mentor who  challenged and inspired me.

In High School, I took personal orders from family, friends, and clients of my Dad for greeting cards, in particular Christmas cards. I’ll never forget my biggest order was placed by our insurance broker. He wanted a hand-painted card for each of his clients totaling in 150 cards/envelopes! I filled the order.

For awhile I made greeting cards, bookmarks, and postcards and sold them at local craft fairs and boutiques. When I was an elementary teacher, I did an art lesson once a week with my students. Later I became a full-time art teacher for the elementary schools in town. My last artsy job was teaching a class at Brandman University.

Watercolor pens on fabric

Then I became a mom. I wanted to make art, drawing, and creativity part of my kids’ upbringing, but I wasn’t sure how exactly. So I looked back on my childhood, cuz obviously my parents did something right there–I kept drawing and painting well past my childhood. They gave me several important tools.

First, time.  As a homeschooled kid, I had more time to create and pursue my interests. My afternoons and evenings weren’t filled with homework; they were filled with creativity. This is one of the biggest reasons we’ve chosen to homeschool our kids.

Second, resources.  My mom always had our craft cupboard stocked with crayons, scissors, glue, colored pencils, and of course all that paper! I’ve been making space in our home where art supplies are easy to get to, and my kids have a place where they can experiment with them.

And third, support. My parents saw the value in paying for art classes where I could develop my artistic bent. They were also my biggest fans and were always showing people my work and encouraging me to share it. (150 cards was a result of that!) We found Art for Kids Hub on You Tube for Westly (see May 30 post) and art lessons are on our radar for him. When he does his art gallery, we are his biggest customers.

‘Smudge Pot’–watercolors

It’s challenging to work in art right now, what with raising three little kids, homeschooling, and being an author. My art journal hack has helped (see May 25 post). I find that if too much time goes by without me being creative, or drawing, or painting, I feel angsty and parched. I think there are deep roots planted in my childhood that now in my adulthood still need water. I find by watering those roots, I am also watering the new tiny ones in my kids.

And that is a beautiful thing.





SPOTLIGHT: Michael Shaw

IMG_0519Family: yeah, he’s my hubby. We have two boys (7 & 3) and a girl (17 mo)

Education/Career: teacher with Masters in Teaching and credentials to teach infants–high school. English and Drama teacher at Orcutt Academy High School, and part time faculty at Allan Hancock College.

Instagram: @igmasterw


How did you get the idea to do a Sermon doodle each Sunday?

I’ve always enjoyed doodling and years ago I used to draw a little icon of what the pastor was preaching on. About 4 years ago my blogging wife 🙂 was out of town and I doodled the whole sermon as a reminder of what to tell her about it. Well, we never talked about the sermon, but it did help me remember it. After doodling the sermon, I realized I remembered it much better and since then I haven’t stopped.

What do you love most about it?

I love that it keeps my mind focused on the sermon and gives me visual cues to associate with the ideas of faith. Prior to this, my mind would wander to my work demands or I would drift in and out with my ideas. Doodling gives me focus. 


How do you encourage others to be creative?

I love creativity, and I think there are many ways I encourage other in their creative expressions. When it comes to doodles, the best encouragement I give is just by posting my own work. I’ve learned that there are three others in my church who have picked up doodling. The best way to inspire creativity is just to do it in front of others–jump in, try it, and then see what comes of it. 

Are there other areas of your life where you exercise creativity?

I feel like my life is a creative tumbleweed. I tumble in and out of creative projects all the time: doodling, creating plays for my school, planning my curricuculum for my classes, doing activities with my kids (drawing, painting, engaging in pretend play, going on “color walks”, playing “Chopped” in the kitchen). My biggest creative endeavor is probably my work in the classroom and on the stage. Teaching never bores me because it is a place where I get to exercise creativity and hopefully encourage others to do the same. On another note, this fall I’m putting on a play where I’ll use my doodles (non-sermon ones) as the set.



Ditch the Labels


I really enjoyed interviewing Benji last week, and he gave me a lot to think about, in particular his view on Christian culture toward creativity. In his interview, he makes a point that as Image-Bearers we were created to create and delight in it. We don’t need to label our creativity as “Christian” and we don’t need to “conquer” the world and make it all “Christian”.

I come from an evangelical upbringing where being a witness for Christ was reinforced. And anything we did, whether creatively or practically, should be used as a witness to the world. If you’re gonna write a book, it should mention God. If you’re gonna paint, add the cross. If you’re gonna sing and play guitar, lead worship at a Bible study. If you go to church, serve in a ministry.

I grew up thinking my creative endeavors needed to shout out “Jesus Saves!”, and if they didn’t then they had no value. (There are some people in my life who still don’t see my writing having much value or being a reflection of God’s creativity in me because there is no Christian label on it). And I would feel guilty for not writing stories where the protagonist repented and became a believer at the end of the story. I would also feel guilty if I wanted to try something new just for the sake of enjoying it and not trying to push people to Christ. I would try to find a way to “Christianize” my creation to justify it, as if by doing this would give it value and clout.

There are quite a few problems with this mindset: IMG_9184

  1. It’s works-based, making me strive to use all my means necessary to further God’s kingdom. I delude myself thinking that if I don’t use my creativity to share the Gospel, then the world will never know about Jesus.
  2. I miss out. I avoid things not because they are sinful, but because they don’t have a Christian label and therefore are a waste of my life.
  3. As a Christian, I have to “do without”, “deny”, and “avoid.” This is the message I send to the world about being a follower of Christ. To quote Benji from one of his sermons, “It’s eating liver and drinking prune juice.”

Through the years, God has shifted my thinking as the holes in my theology have been filling in. My mindset is different:IMG_9186

  1. It’s God-centered. I don’t have to strive. God’s kingdom will be expanded with or without me. He can use any means to do this, and in His grace he can use me and my creativity. I can rest in that.
  2. I can fully enjoy life and this wondrous world He created. I can pursue anything (aside from sin, obviously) and simply enjoy and delight in it and worship God through it all.
  3. As a Christian, I should be living fully. As an Image-Bearer tapped into the Creator, I should be free in my creativity. This life style of freedom and delight and fullness will attract a dead world more than liver and prune juice ever will.

I don’t need to “Christianize” my creativity to give it value. It’s worth something because I created it. I have only started to see this as my theology has been bolstered. I’m grateful to Benji who God is using to do this on Sundays and through this interview.

As Sinclair Ferguson says in his book Devoted to God: “Knowing whose you are, who you are, and what you are for settles basic issues about how you live.”

I belong to the Creator, and I was created to create. And that’s enough.


Meet Benji Magness

I’m very excited to kick off June with my first interview. Benji Magness is the senior pastor at Grace Santa Maria, and also an artist and all-around unique individual. Hailing from Oklahoma, he attended Dallas Seminary where he did a double-major in ministry and art. He and his wife Heather have six kids (three boys and three girls, all with middle names that nod to his artsy side–revealed in the interview). He wears black, hates mayonnaise, geeks out over the Twilight Zone, and thinks outside the box when titling his sermons (ie Jesus Make the Best Fish Tacos).

I was curious to hear his thoughts on creativity as an individual and in the church. How does he balance full-time ministry and his passion for art? How does art and creativity fit into the Christian culture? What are some of his personal struggles with it all?

Set your reminder to return here Saturday June 9 for the whole audio interview.

In the meantime, check out his art!


When prepping for his sermons, Benji brainstorms by doodling before writing his manuscript.


Wood-cutting and inking


Wood block stamp on canvas of John Calvin


Colored pencils on daughter’s snack bag



You can follow Benji on Instagram where he posts art, scripture, album covers, etc. HERE