My Daily Walk and the art process...

In the mornings I wake up and photograph some decaying plant material...then I try to resurrect it in the studio. I'm not sure what Im doing at the time, its only after reflection that I capture my subconscious intentions. 

When I’m painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It’s only after a get acquainted period that I see what I’ve been about. I’ve no fears about making changes for the painting has a life of its own. Jackson Pollock
Observations of Decay: My daily walk....

Observations of Decay: My daily walk....

creating a new studio, no time to paint....

Creativity takes courage
— Henri Matisse



For the last few weeks I have focused on creating a NEW STUDIO SPACE which I LOVE! The natural light and surrounding trees inspire my art students and myself.

SO WHY AM I NOT PAINTING?? I have a few good excuses such as my paints  aren't where they used to be, my rhythm is off, I have a new puppy to take care of (very cute one!) and then there were the fires that unnerved me and all of a sudden the beautiful trees surrounding my house looked more like possible fuel for fire than inspiration. 

I FORGOT that the gift of art making that I encourage so many of my students to do, I had not had the courage to embrace myself. Im not down on myself, just noticing what happened...Im excited to see what comes out when I get into my new space.








Art as therapy

To all of you creatives out there....your time is NOW

There was an Experience Life Study that was done that I found not at all surprising. To measure cortisol levels (an indicator of stress), researchers collected saliva samples from participants before and after their creative work. The results, published in Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, titled “Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making,” found that 45 minutes of creative activity significantly lessens stress in the body, regardless of artistic experience or talent.

REGARDLESS OF ARTISTIC EXPERIENCE OR TALENT!!!!! Did you hear that? So those of you who are convincing yourselves that you don't have talent, come and participate in THE ART PROCESS activities and experience this for yourself. ART IS THERAPY!


beautiful work from November all day mixed media art workshop: developing your own personal iconography

beautiful work from November all day mixed media art workshop: developing your own personal iconography

The liberating nature of going larger in your artwork

Recently I have been encouraging my art students to work on larger surfaces.

We require more of our body to work on a larger surface which allows us to pour ourselves into the art in a more immersive way. We are forced to step back and view it as a whole and not get too caught up in the little details. Well... a metaphor for life, right?





Why Corporate Art Workshops

“We are drowning in information but starving for wisdom”.
— E.O. Wilson (well known American Sociobiologist)
the art process

The most innovative companies are turning to art as a tool for creating astimulating work environment

Companies like google, facebook and apple have understood that having a creative workplace allows employees to not only feel happier and more connected, but to have the freedom to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to problem solving. The same creative thinking that goes into art making goes into coming up with innovative ideas. Its the same muscle, just applied to a different situation.

Team Building, an overused phrase!

Developing trust amongst employees starts with listening and spinning off of each others' ideas. Sometimes the best ideas start with a conversation, a thought shared over a cup of coffee and not necessarily in the board room. Doing art together, encourages that type of creative dialog and openness.


Solitude and writing as part of the art process

Twyla Tharp, one of America's greatest choreographers, wrote in "The Creative Habit" about building up a tolerance for solitude.  "Solitude is an unavoidable part of creativity."  After all, creativity is about expressing those deep murmurings and one can only access them by being quiet and not distracted. Yes, it's more fun to work in community (and that has its place too) however, being alone with yourself is when our real voice is heard. Of course it  can be terrifying, depending on how you respond to it. "Alone is a fact, a condition where no one else is around. Lonely is how you feel about that." says Tharp.

I have been trying to build up a tolerance for solitude while seeing it as a gift in time when I am able to go into my studio and befriend my inner voice instead of being afraid of it. This is allowing me to start writing in my of consciousness writing, writing that is like a pathway to my painting. Sometimes, I don't paint at all, but just write. That is all part of the art process and I have recently started to encourage my students to do the same. Why not try it and tell me what you think? Id love to hear from you.

We will be exploring some of these ideas in the all day November 4th workshop. Im inviting you to join me on the art process journey...


Yūgen (幽玄)

While trying to understand the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi, a friend introduced me to the concept of Yūgen, another important concept of traditional Japanese aesthetics. It  suggests that which is beyond what can be said. 

The term is first found in Chinese philosophical texts, where it has the meaning of “dark,” or “mysterious.”

Kamo no Chōmei, the author of the well-known Hōjōki poetry, wrote of yūgen: “It is like an autumn evening under a colorless expanse of silent sky. Somehow, as if for some reason that we should be able to recall, tears well uncontrollably.” Another characterization helpfully mentions the importance of the imagination: “When looking at autumn mountains through mist, the view may be indistinct yet have great depth. Although few autumn leaves may be visible through the mist, the view is alluring. The limitless vista created in imagination far surpasses anything one can see more clearly” (Hume, 253–54).

And so I come to the "limitless vista of the imagination" and its mysterious quality. As artists and appreciators of art, these concepts are not new. Yet the beauty of the imagination is that it is infinite and constantly changing. By embracing it, we are giving life to art every step pf the way...

Ojai is a perfect place to experience Yugen! Sign up at

Ojai is a perfect place to experience Yugen! Sign up at


In traditional Japanese aesthetics, Wabi-sabi (侘寂) is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete". (WIKI). It is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. It is rooted in Zen Buddhism and the ancient tea ceremony in which the imperfections in the pottery and glazes were honored.

Ive been thinking so much about this idea lately as I take a look at my unfinished paintings at various points of imperfection and transience. I am learning to appreciate them for what they are and not try to find the "just perfect" point at which I can say that they are done. It is a deeply self-accepting way of being, one in which our society does not value. We are constantly struggling to make our faces, bodies, houses, cars, children...perfect. How about if we just loved the cracks, the broken edges, what would that look like in our art and in our life?

This photograph of some decaying plant near my home struck me as beautiful in its subtlety of color, texture and shape. I think of that time honored Leonard Cohen song: There is a crack in the darkness, that's where the light comes in. 







Lets dive in to the art process together at the inspiring Peppertree Retreat 

Lets dive in to the art process together at the inspiring Peppertree Retreat 



nature as canvas and why I love my art classes for kids!

I have just completed a week of summer art camp with the most creative, enthusiastic group of kids imaginable. I provide the inspiration and the opportunity and they run with it to places that I couldn't predict. This week we focused on animals. I always incorporate use of natural materials and look what they did with the bark that had fallen off the trees in the park!! They are gorgeous.

I have 2 more weeks of camp each with a different theme. One will focus on the intersection between Science and Art, a very exciting program. Check them out if your child is free in August. 

In the meantime, enjoy whatever summer plans you have. And sometimes, no plans are the best!! Our lives are so programmed...



nature as canvas

nature as canvas


I have just returned from a glorious week of sailing in the Mediterranean around the Greek Isles. If anybody has ever wondered how to kickstart your creativity, go and experience something COMPLETELY different. I was fortunate enough to be sailing on the Mediterranean Sea and was inspired by the dazzling aqua of the ocean and the muted tones of the houses on the island of Symi. However, you can have a change of scenery wherever you are. The art process doesn't happen always in the studio. It happens when you dive into the ocean, take a stroll in the woods, climb a mountain, explore a new neighborhood or page through a new book. Changing your perspective is a great way to avoid stagnation in your artwork. Join the art process studio in one of our many classes, workshops and retreats. We focus on the whole"CARASTROPHY" as Zorba would say...


The magnificent Greek Island of Symi

The magnificent Greek Island of Symi

on art and mindfulness

Recently I heard an interview with philosopher and artist, Enrique Martinez Celaya. Drawn from workshops he has taught at Anderson Ranch, Colorado, he wrote a book called "on art and mindfulness". He writes: "When doubts bring you down, go back to the work not with the intention of doing something great but of doing something that marks your presence, that affirms you exist. Do not let yourself remain absent."

I love this quote. Those of you who know me and my style of teaching and working, know that I bring mindfulness to the art process. For me, mindfulness needs to be existing both in and out of the studio. However, it is not always easy and each day I try....


Each day I try to be mindful. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don't but I never stop trying.

Each day I try to be mindful. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don't but I never stop trying.

COME AND JOIN ME IN OJAI SEPTEMBER 16-17 art retreat with meditation and optional hiking

COME AND JOIN ME IN OJAI SEPTEMBER 16-17 art retreat with meditation and optional hiking

How much time do we devote to art making?

I have been thinking about this idea about time in the studio: the difference between chopped up time and sequential time.

Don't get me wrong, ANY time in the studio is of value. However, when I squeeze in art time between other tasks, I tend to avoid going deeper into my process. It seems that I am starting again each time and not assigning it the value that it deserves. When I devote a good few hours, or a whole day to my painting, there is no question that I swim in deeper waters at the same time while valuing my art process more.

In my full day fearless art making workshop, we delved really deeply into our process and began a real relationship with both the painting and the ACT of painting.  I will be holding monthly day long workshops coming up, so stay tuned.

Even better, join me for TWO WHOLE DAYS on a retreat in OJAI: September 16th, 17th. The Peppertree Retreat is a magical place and I would love you to join me there as we delve deeper into what art making means to us. There will also be meditation and optional yoga and hiking.



Tips on visiting museums with your kids this summer


For those of you who have unrealistic expectations (like I did) about taking your kids to museums, I have compiled a list of suggestions that will make your trips more fun, engaging for your child and will create a life long fascination with art for your kids.

1. FIRST: Put aside your own expectations for seeing art. For YOUR experience, visit the museum another day without kids!

2. Choose times that are not too crowded. Summertime is a perfect time to take them during the week at times that are less busy.

3. Do not spend too much time in the museum. Kids have a different attention span and you can land up making them dread the long, laborious museum visits that you are subjecting them to. Remember, your aim is to make them want to come back!

4. Make it about their choices. Ask them which piece  they are drawn to and go and stand in front of it. Or go into the museum shop and ask them to choose a postcard of a piece that they like and then play a game by finding it in the museum. Create a scavenger hunt. 

5. Ask lots of questions to engage them: What do you see? what are the people feeling? What are they doing? What time of the day do you think it is? etc. etc. More engagement means more interest.

Make him want to come back!!

Make him want to come back!!

Do you have a conversation with your paintings?

Do you have a dialogue with your paintings?

My painting talks to me sometimes gently and sometimes screaming out at me. I talk back with paint and we begin a conversation…That conversation often reveals something to me of my state of mind, an awareness that I would not otherwise discover. Paint allows me to access that subconscious state without me even knowing it. Thats what I LOVE about the art process. When you are stuck, grab a color and paint over an area that’s not working for you. Whats the worst that can happen? You wipe it off and then surprises pop up as the layers become more complex and actually I liked what happened when I started wiping more vigorously in the piece below. Its not done, its in process. Are we ok with process? Do we have to have a product? How about seeing painting as a journey of self discovery in the same way that our lives are a journey of self discovery. We don't stop at a certain stage and say: "That's it. I'm done. I know all I need to know." No, we continue to search, to ask the difficult questions and hopefully to be open to what comes next...I would love you to join me on this search, try a workshop or better still, come to Ojai with me in September for 2 full days of immersion into the art process. hugs to you all.... 

having a dialogue with your painting

Fun with Paper

Sometimes its just fun to play with paper and not take it all too seriously! In this collage, I experimented with what paper can do when you cut, fold, roll, twirl and stick! I'll be doing this project at the imagination station during the Venice Art Walk this Sunday May 21st. Come and check it out:

Uploaded by Kathy Leader on 2017-05-19.