Sunday, March 31, 2013

What Is It About Donna Downey?

What is it about Donna Downey (DD) at Simply Me that makes me want to jump in my car and drive 12 hours to North Carolina to go to one of her classes?  What makes me kick myself if a Wednesday passes and I didn't go to her site to see what she's up to? 

I can tell you right away, hands down, it's the video inspiration pages she does every Wednesday.  I can completely lose myself in watching her happy process unfold.  I've been known to lose hours of my life to watching video after video.  Donna packs in tons of ideas and demonstrates how to use different materials.  I've learned how to make my own spray bottles of paint and how to transfer images from Donna, along with a million other fun techniques.

Her site is a complete reflection of her. Her background is a compilation of her own artwork and represents her perfectly. She uses her favorite color (teal) for her headers, which matches the tips of her hair, the paint on the walls of her studio, even her glasses are teal-ish.  As she says, it's simply her.  Putting herself out there in her own totally authentic way.

Now, while doing all this seemingly fun and joyful stuff, Donna is also selling herself and her products, but it doesn't feel the least bit slimy to me.  She sells the supplies she uses in her inspiration pages, but it doesn't feel like a sales pitch. I want to buy them because I have seen what they can do and I want to try them out myself.  I wanna make something fabulous like she just did! This is exactly how you want your audience to feel if you're teaching or selling products-you want to inspire your audience to create.

You might be interested in pulling the spirit of what Donna does into your own site if it feels natural to you. You're going to do it your way, but I think it's always worth it to spend some time studying what others do well, as you can learn from the success of others.

Here's my interpretation of what Donna does well, that you can draw from:
  • Demos!  I love DEMOS!  People love demos and here's why:  People are getting tons of good information FOR FREE.  If you're giving me something for free, I feel much better about buying from you.  It's a give and take. You've given something to me and now I'm giving back to you for your efforts and generosity.
  • Show your skills:  Seeing your process online helps me to feel confident in buying from you.  I know that Donna knows her stuff and I know that she has something to teach me.  I learn something every time, so I know I won't be disappointed with my purchase of a class from her.
  • Strut your creative stuff-Donna has a seemingly bottomless supply of creative ideas and I bet you do too.  Show them off! Then, I will want to be in the presence of your energy and travel to wherever you live to sit in a class with you.
  • Share your adventures-Share your version of living the creative life.  People are signing up for your lifestyle as much as your art.  I love to see where Donna's been and what opportunities leading a creative life can bring. It's inspiration to keep on going! She's traveling all around teaching her classes and sharing her experiences along the way.  Even if you're not jet setting about, you still have aspects of your creative life that will help draw people to you.  Is yoga a part of your creative lift?  Do you take different classes yourself?  Do you visit parks with beautiful waterfalls that you might capture and inspire others with?
  • Make your site an extension of who you are- Use your colors.  Let your banner be a reflection of what your site is about.  Here's some info. on creating a banner.  It's geared toward Blogger, but the info. is helpful in general.  You can also google "creating a banner in ___" and insert the platform that you use.
  • Include great photos-The content, the clarity and the lighting of Donna's photos really reflect what she is communicating with her words.  They make you curious, you want to go deeper.  I know in my rush to post, I don't always spend time on my photos (Documenting my work is my least favorite part of the creative process).  You will be best served however, by carefully curating your own online photos.  
  • Use your photos to tell a story-Often, you don't even need a lot of words in a post.  Donna uses her photos to tell a story of what she has created.  You can do this for demos too-you don't need to make a video even, you can show what you're doing step-by-step by taking photos along the creative journey.
Drop me a comment and let me know who some of your favorite online creators are and why you love them.  Knowing what makes a website great helps us all as we work to build our own online businesses!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I spent $4500.00 for an online class

Yes.  Yes I did spend $4,500.00 to take an online class.  Yes, it scared the crap out of me to do it.  I am, shall we say.... frugal?  I won't even spend $40.00 on a pair of pants.  What's more, the class is a teacher training class in painting and I had never really even painted or taken a painting class or an online class before I signed up. 

What made me do this wild, way out there what-could-you possibly be thinking act?  I don't do this kind of thing.

It was Connie.  Her site.  Her words.  Her video blogs.  The way she is living her life.  I found it very much in line with what I want for myself, and I knew that I wanted to go deeper, learn more, and expand my creative potential exponentially. 

And I knew that Connie was exactly the person I could do this with.  I'd never talked to her before.  I didn't even e-mail her any questions about the class.  I just signed up and sent my $500.00 deposit before I could chicken out.

So, how did I know?  What does Connie do that you too, can do as you start to get your own site up and running?

She let me "see" her in a few different ways.  Through her video blogs-I watched "vlogs" that covered years of time, she got dreads, she cut them off, I felt like I was going through the process with her.  Her written posts too, were so wide open and soaked with her truth that I connected with her in my own heart.  I returned several times to her post about leaving her job and starting her own business as this resonated deeply with me.

I took her free online tutorial "Total Alignment" and knew that this type of creating was for me.  I wanted to sign up for "BIG" but it was full.  Ignite had openings and by this time, I was hooked.

I started learning everything I could about Intuitive Painting (which I had never heard of before) and I took the HUGE LEAP of signing up for the Ignite Teacher Training Class.  (Remember I had never taken a painting class or an online class before...)

Turns out, I absolutely love the class and feel like it is one of the best things I have ever done for myself. It's given me the confidence to start putting myself out there:  making and selling my artwork, teaching art classes, collaborating with other's expanding my world exponentially-just as I'd hoped.

As I work to build my own site and online business, I'm noticing what captivates me about other people's sites.  How did Connie get me from never painting or taking an online class to jumping right in with my entire self and a good chunk of money?

What can you learn from her online presence?
  • Look at the whole picture you are creating-I was attracted to Connie's lifestyle.  Doing yoga, making art, collaborating with other artists, participating in raising feminine energy-these are the things that drew me in because that's the lifestyle I'm looking for. I paid my money to move my life in a positive direction and to help others do the same, not just to learn how to teach painting.  What do you have to offer that pulls people in?  What is it about you.
  • Provide samples of what people will get from working with you.  I love Connie's artwork and she displays it frequently.  She shares how she creates it.  She holds painting parties where you can join her to paint online.  I want to be able to create powerfully and fearlessly, which is another reason I signed up.  What can you show people to demonstrate your work?  Look for ways to visually share what the outcome of working with you will be.  If you don't have a tangible product, guide people to create an image in their mind, maybe through description, testimonies or sharing the accomplishments of those who have worked with you in the past. Help them paint a picture of what they will get out of working with you.
  • Give away something powerful for FREE.  Connie does this with Total Alignment.  It gives people an introduction, a taste of what's to come.  It makes me want more.
  • Make it easy for people to sign up.  With Connie's classes, you just click on the class, you're taken to the registration form and from there it's simple. 
  • Make it easy for people to pay you:  Connie offers a payment plan, but gave us a discount for paying in full (it was a $500.00 discount for the class I'm taking!) You may also want to consider this as it makes it easier for people to spread the payments out, but gives an incentive for paying upfront.  Perfect.  Whether you're selling a painting or a class-some people may need to spread the payments out.  Connie uses Paypal to collect the payments.
So, part of my own development is evaluating websites to see what I can glean from them.   I'm happy to have a look at yours!  Want to know what people think of your site?  I'm giving out my thoughts for free today.  Leave me a comment with a link to your site. I'll check it out and give you feedback. I believe in building on strengths, so I'll point out where I see you shining as well as what I'd like to see more of.  It's not easy to put yourself out there-get a little boost of encouragement and support to keep on doing it!

Thanks to all who signed up to have me look at your sites.  I love to see the beauty you are shining out to the world through your art and your spirit!  If you missed the freebie day, but want me to take a look at your site, contact me at:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Radical Departures

Sometimes we take ourselves and our art a little too seriously.  We need to unclench and put down all of the tension that is accumulating in our neck and shoulders, setting it on the shelf right next to the need to be perfect.

One good way to open up and release is through play. You can set the stage for creativity to bloom, in your life and in your art.  I'll share some of my Recreation Therapist-turned-Artist Secrets....

Here's the first one:  BE SPONTANEOUS

Seek out opportunities to wander radically from your normal routine.  Where can you make a little room for the unexpected and maybe even bizarre?  I have followed an ice cream truck around until it stopped, just so I could get one of those kiddie popsicles...
Participated in pitching tents in random places along the southeastern coast of the US, just for an adventure.
Harrassed my husband into stopping in random unplanned spots that we've never been-like the little hole-in-the-wall antique shop on the way to Ithaca...just to change things up and have an experience we wouldn't otherwise have.
I find these things to be delicious....(especially the ice cream...)

It's the same with painting.  It's about being curious.  Asking yourself, "What would happen if I followed this line?  What will it become?" And allowing the answer to flow from your brush.

You're creating an experience that has never existed before, until you dipped those bristles in that pile of color.
You're spontaneously bringing something into being that would never have arisen if it wasn't for you, your curiosity and your action.  And it's a practice.

If you add spontaneity to your life, it will show up in your painting.  If you're spontaneous in your painting, it will show up in your life.  It's a beautiful- playful-universe wrapping it's arms around you-circle.

So give it up a little, follow where the brush wants to go, rather than where you think it should.  Be open to the wild world of experience and possibility that's waiting for you to listen and respond.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Saturday Art Adventures!

 "Saturday Art Adventures"  for kids will
begin in April at Orenda Springs in Marcellus, NY.

Here's a little sneak peak 
(I'm a bit in love with vibrant color!)

My Tree *

And Marisa's

Acrylic and oil pastels

The adventures will be held on Saturdays in April, May and June from 9am-noon. 

Kids will develop confidence in their creative abilities, experiment with different mediums and learn how to bring natural materials into their art making.  

See the "Events" page to get the nitty gritty details but let me tell you, this setting is kid-heaven!  

There are fish to kiss and frogs to find, what could be better?

*This tree activity is from the book: Dynamic Art Projects For Children by Denise M. Logan

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Building a Business Around Joy

Being creative is my play-time. Connecting with joy is my devotion.

It's about being bold and curious.  To create as children do, because it's fun and not because I'm trying to produce something to sell.

And here's what has happened since I began to approach creating in this playful 

I woke up this BIG, SLEEPING, GIANT that has taken over my life.

Creativity is oozing out of me in any form possible.  Ideas!  Paint! Jewelry Making!
Art Journaling, pastels, paper, whatever I can wrap my hands or mind around.

And it's pure joy to me.  I'm learning so very much, and it's done in the spirit of exploration.  It's not agony.  It's not ripping my soul out and putting it down.  It's play.

I know because it draws children in.  They see that I'm having a blast and they want to do it too.  I've started calling them my "proteges."  

We're weaving this sort of wacky, creative life together.

Weaving Project with yarn, lace and bits of nature

We're finding what's important and what's not.  

Some things we try we want to do again and again, like playful painting with stamps and collage, and the weaving we did above.

And that's how I'm figuring out the direction of my business too.  What's the most fun to me?  What do I really enjoy and want to build around?

Here are some questions that I'm basing the formation of my business around.
They're the guides, the essence that I keep returning to when my mind starts to stray or I begin to lose focus.  These are the questions that I'm building my business around:

What brings you the most joy?  (What do you find completely, toe-tingling, exciting?)

What is it that you most want to share?

How can you merge your work, your family and your life into one big pot of fun and joy?  Take out the walls of separation and create one whole life you love?

Are you choosing to build a "new job" for yourself or a new way of living that involves supporting yourself from your passion and joy?

I'm going to dive into these questions in more depth in upcoming posts to share how these are shaping my steps forward.  (Also, it gives me clarity and holds me accountable when I put it down.)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Comparison Demon

This is a snapshot of my journal. 

I spent a rough night with my journal staring at my fear that has been invited in by the comparison demon

(I really especially detest this demon in particular)

I've been watching too many webinars, spending too much time researching online and checking out other people's stuff.  Listening and reading about so many fabulous artists and business people doing amazing things is helpful to a point and I celebrate their greatness but then I start to hold myself up to what I'm seeing  and I start to question and doubt.  I've been here many times before and this is exactly when I start to dis-assemble my dreams.  I start to tear them down, piece by piece.

I know that's what I do. I can't even tell you how many times I have turned back from grand ideas.  But I can't keep responding in the same ways if I want to move forward.  So, instead I wrote down all the things that I was afraid of at that moment.  I wrote them and I sat there with them. I didn't try to push them away. I didn't even try to analyze them.  I just let them be with me.

Then I decided it was time to get out of my head and move around.  I folded laundry and then I started to sketch.  I became focused on the lines and shading and I stopped thinking and comparing and questioning.  I stopped beating myself with my brain.  I love how creating can do that.  How it quiets my chaotic mind.   It's a completely different way of helping me see.

I also called up the words of my mentor, Connie Hozvicka, who said:

 "Don't let what other people are doing discourage you-you're going to do it your way.  Don't pay too much attention to what other people are doing-don't even look at it!"

And she is exactly right.  I love my way!  I'm not even sure what it's going to include yet.  I'm still turning ideas over in my mind.  Will it involve kids?  My daughter?  Do I want to teach?  Live teaching?  Online? What exactly do I want to share?  Creativity?  Business?  Some combo thereof?  Neither? Who do I want to share it with?  I'm spending much time working this out and it's starting to come together, as long as I don't pull the thread and unwind it all.

So for now, I'm going to take a break from webinars and looking at other people's stuff, and spend more time creating my own.