The Open Hearts of Others (a story!)

I want to tell you a story. 

A few weeks ago, I was suffering from sleep deprivation. It had been building up since mid-February, and by the time I next saw my doctor, I was in tears. I cried the entire time there, through the appointment, and finally calmed down when my kind doctor told me to keep my chin up, and that we were going to figure things out. He's always asking me to call him, to keep lines of communication open, and even works with health-insurance-less me. 

However much he discounts, it still took much of my saved up funds. I hadn't been able to work much, either on art ventures or editing work, and was a little low. So when I arrived at the pharmacy to drop off what would hopefully be able to help me sleep, and was told the prescription would cost $170, I felt the tears well up. "I can't afford it, so please, just hold onto the script." I had felt salvation in my hands only to be barred from it because of how much medications -- even this one, a generic -- can cost. 

I decided to get a week's worth, to see if it actually worked; this was the six -- or is it seventh? -- medication to try ever since my Traumatic Brain Injury last March threw me for a loop. I will forever admire those football players who get a concussion and keep on playing, because let me tell you -- a TBI is no walk in the park. Sleep interruption, mood changes, personality issues, anxiety, and nearly daily headaches (luckily, eliminating gluten from my diet has helped clear up the migraines that developed afterwards!) permeates every moment of your life.

When I walked in, after waiting for the script to be filled, one of the girls, who is always bubbly, excited, and kind, held out the prescription and said, "I found a coupon that brought the price down to $18, for the entire month's worth!" 

This time, when tears fell from my eyes, they were of eternal gratitude and joy. She didn't have to do anything. She didn't have to go out of her way to find a solution for me. She said, "I wanted to call you as soon as I found it!" I leaned over the counter to pull her into a hug, so, so touched that God had put these people -- my kind, understanding doctor, this new pharmacy tech -- in my path on a difficult day.

And the medication works! I am once again sleeping, back to a healthy diet, working my behind off (new class, new zine, new videos, new new new new!), creating new art, crafting new editing solutions (playing and diving into my new practice of being a colorist!), and running around enjoying the heck out of life!

So today, I sat down to paint her a gift....for my art is the one thing I can truly give from my heart. I thought on her gift (she has since found another coupon to save me $5 more dollars, always knows who I am when I go to grab meds, and is cheerful each time I see her!), letting my joy and her kindness guide my hands. 

I have lately discovered my "style" and "colors" for painting people, and am so excited to dive deeper, so made a little picture of an Open Heart being freely given. She touched me so much, and I wanted to share this story because we sometimes think these things will never happen to us, but they will. We are loving, caring people, a race of humans who have hearts and eyes and the ability to give so much, and every so often, God puts the right people in your path at just the right moment to remind you of this. 


(The colors are a bit flat, but that's probably because I'm in love with neon and used a bunch in her hair! And she has a coat of varnish that protects her and makes her shiny!)

Giving Thanks

As I sit here, curled up under a blanket I pulled from the hope chest at the end of my bed, a new journal at my side, I am reflecting on my day. I helped cook dinner, spending hours on my feet to make turkey and twice-baked potatoes and veggies. In-between working on bits, I finally bound together my new journal, as the journal I started when in Florida is finally full.

But this morning, sitting at my desk, I spied a stack of cardstock. I cut leaves from a variety of colors and walked out into the living room where my family was gathered and handed them out. "Write one or two things you're thankful for on each leaf," I told them. "I'll string them together and hang them where we can all see them."

I can now look over at the dining room, where a colorful array of cardstock leaves hang from a string under family photos, mismatched handwriting showing what we're thankful for. In moments when we feel life is working against us, we can look up there and be reminded of all our blessings.

This is living an artful life. Bringing art and creativity into daily life, allowing yourself to express your true self, be a kid again, remember what it was like to play.

And I have to remember that none of this would be possible, this art, these journals on the couch next to me, the joy of working on beautiful new papers, teaching houses of women play and art and creative living....waking each morning knowing I am in control of my own day, my destiny, even if projects pile up and I feel pulled in so many directions I don't know which way is up....none of this is possible without YOU.

Yes, you! You, the reader, the fan, the one who reads my ebook or loves a painting so much, you buy a print, the one who enjoys my art and words and ideas, so you come take a class or join the Ning community. You, my dear, lovely darling, make all this possible.

You have given an ill girl a dream and a job she can actually do. You have given her the chance to make her own way and create things every day she can be proud of. You have given her dreams back, those she felt were long gone.

Thank you for being part of my tribe. For coming along on the ride. Seeing emotion and value in the work I do, the art I create, the adventures I go on, both out in the world and deep into my soul.

Today I am so thankful for all of you, those who I've met, who I've only spoken to, and those I have yet to meet.

Thank you.

Samie Kira


29 Faces in May: Final

I thought I'd film the final face, the only side profile I attempted (I didn't realize this until I was nearly to the end of the month!). So check it out below! 

Overall, I had a great time attempting this challenge. While I may not have finished all 29, I did work on one every single day. On some days, when it was hard to do much art, it was amazing to feel accomplished for sitting down and simply drawing with a pen or pencil while watching a movie. 

Here are the rest, in order from the first to the very last...

(I wanted to post these so you could see my progress....and that sticking with something and working on it every day, even for a month, can teach you WONDERS. If I can do this with only ONE art class in my life, YOU CAN TOO!) 


(this one was done with OILS!)

Asking, Asking, Learning


my work's in the center.

Today, we all pegged three of our drawings on the wall, sat back, and gave each other feedback. 

I’m no stranger to this process. I’ve been critiquing my own journal pages for years, now, being honest with myself as to what works and what doesn’t, collecting all the good things together like mythical roll-over minutes (side-note: do those still exist?), letting the good compound atop each other until now, when I’m mostly confident I’ll like the pages I create. 

(This is also the ‘fake it ‘till you make it trick of live demos and uStreams.)

I also encourage this habit in my students and you, my darling readers, because everything we create has a lesson to teach us, even the worst pages we want to pass off on a small child or perhaps some magic faerie that tips bad pages into journals for fun. You know, not made by you

There is good and not-so-good to be gleamed from everything. 

Here’s the thing — you are not your art. 

We’re all learning. No one can pick up a pen and draw amazingly and in-proportion on their first try. There is always room for improvement, something to learn, and something to celebrate. 

What I learned today is this — I may be a pain in the ass in class, asking questions all the time, asking for advice, looking for that little nudge in the right direction, but that’s how passion shows up. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t ask. If I didn’t want to learn, I would just draw whatever I could and give up. 

Yes, I had problem areas. And overlooked shadows. And only had 45 minutes for one of them, but in the long run, I’ve been having so much fun that it doesn’t matter what grade I got or where I messed up — looking at what I’d managed to create with my own two hands and an unfamiliar material (charcoal), I couldn’t help but smile and be proud

So be that person, darlings. Ask questions. Keep searching for answers. Email the artists you love and don’t look back. 

The ones who ask questions are the ones who are passionate, curious, and creative. Never forget that. 

on letting things simmer before inspiration strikes again



I seem to work in a cycle. 

I’ll run on full steam ahead for awhile. Full of new ideas, playing in my journal every day, working on paintings. 

My head is full of grand ideas and I get so much accomplished

And then I go into hibernation. 

I go a week without touching my journal. My days are spent messing around online. I’ll lose all motivation to do art. I’ll become a sloth, laying around on the couch (in various positions, sometimes hanging upside down). 

During that time, I’ll begin to doubt myself, wondering what’s gone wrong. Where has my love of art gone? Why can’t I manage to get up and make anything? Where have all the ideas gone?

And just before I begin to lose hope, something magical happens. 

I start creating again. 

The ideas begin to flow again. My days are spent dancing around. I work on several pages at once. I jump around from journal to painting to sewing. I churn out a workshop, maybe even two. I make videos and bounce around and feel fantastic. 

I’ve learned that the downtime in-between is when things are percolating. A lot is happening under the surface while I watch Hoarders on Netflix and eat ice cream and junk food, and I just need to trust the process and be ready when it’s all ready to come out and join the world

The Magic of Process (& playing in someone else's sandbox for awhile)


Even when you reach that point when you like most of what you create, you’re still going to make things you don’t like. 

There’s little that can excite me more than a weekend spent outside creating art. As we spread our supplies across the long table under the awning, little dogs ran around, growling at each other as they played fetch. Every so often, one would drop a little pink ball at my feet, and I’d pause paging through Traci’s new book to throw it at one of the cinder-brick walls that helped fence in the yard. Becca played in her journal, an altered children’s book rich in texture I keep telling her she needs to gather together to teach, music pumping from her iPhone. 

(And I’m a little jealous, as I’d love to play in Instagram and Hipsmatic as she has the past few days.) 

I’m working on a large parent sheet of my favorite paper, Stonehenge printmaking, laying down stencils I’d packed in my bag at the last minute before heading out that morning. Our artmaking was delayed as I visited my friend Dawn in town as she finished her latest project — painting those unsightly utility boxes at the corners with her trademark bright color and amazing lettering. But now I’m in flip-flops at the end of Becca’s table with my favorite spray inks, letting them mix on the paper. 

And then I’m playing with the printing plate I made from craft foam saved from the closet in the colorful room named “the office,” rubber bands coming off as I brayer on paint. 

It isn’t working well, but it’s working

The afternoon passes much like this. Becca works in her journal and I play around making marks on the giant sheet of paper. I try several of the methods outlined in Traci’s book, getting lost in the thrill of making new marks, brayering down layers and layers of paint over ink. Writing with fabric paint on laminating sheets since we can’t find the transparencies. Gluing foam shapes to sheets to make little repetitive patterns. Drawing with puffy paint and glitter. I’m getting my hands dirty and laughing and enjoying every minute of it. 

And when we break to run off to Jo-Ann’s to return something (which they wouldn’t take back, to our infinite sadness) and grab a bite to eat, I look down at what I’ve created and cringe. 

There are bits I adore. Little squares of space that, on their own, are amazing and fun and lovely, but when added into the whole get lost. I don’t like it. The finished piece is anything but satisfying, and I only add a little bit before we head inside where artificial light replaces the setting sun. Even in the heat of the desert, we have early sunsets in the winter, still surreal after over a year here. The thought that I’ve been sitting outside in the beginning of February in jeans and a sleeveless blouse only reminds me of the timeless nature of my new home. 

I don’t work on the piece again. The magic of the Process is gone. I move on to other things. 

That’s how it goes sometimes. I’m reminded of the lesson I learned awhile ago: not every piece of art you create is going to be good. In fact, most will be bad. Bad, bad, bad. But there’s something redeemable in every thing you work on, every time you put pencil or brush to paper. This is what I want to remind you of, that the magic of Process is the real juice of this creative life we’re living, and without it, you’re just making things to finish. Where is the thrill of discovery in that? 

I think this fundamental relates to another piece I’m working on for you about doing art as your job, in that once you start making things to finish them, to show them off, to gain followers or sell things, you lose your edge and stop having fun. 

I cleaned my art space today and pulled out this piece. Looking at it, I realized why I didn’t like it as a whole. It isn’t the colors, or even some of the doodles. It’s that I was playing in Traci’s sandbox and it’s time to give it back to her. Oh, I won’t stop making marks or experimenting with the tools she’s given us in her new book. But I can’t possibly create something I love when I’m playing in someone else’s sandbox. It’s theirs. Their heart and love and inspiration goes into it all, and I can’t possibly replicate that. And I don’t want to


No. I’ll keep playing, adding in more and more of myself until the dough tastes delicious when I lick it off my fingers. Just a sprinkling of her and all those others in the world that inspire me, multicolored dots added to the batter created of myself. 

I take shots of those bits I like, print them off, and get back to work.