Inspired by shadows

Every weekday morning I set my alarm for 6 a.m. I get up, make myself a cup of coffee, grab my phone and snuggle into my favorite corner of my leather sofa for 30 minutes of quiet time before I have to wake my kids for school. The early morning light streams through my picture window and the plants outside cast shadows that dance across my living room wall.

Every morning without fail, I take a few moments to watch the graceful movement where the leaves form positive space shapes on the negative space filtered sunlight. I breathe in a few deep breaths and exhale. Without fail, I’m inspired by the shadows and the interplay of form, light and movement.

shadows no filer

I’ve sketched this scene in an art journal. I’ve painted a canvas of it more than a few times. I’ve taken photographs and played around with various filers in Photoshop. Despite the fact I see the same scene every morning, my response to it varies according to my mood. Some days I feel reflective. Other days I take it as a good omen for creativity in my studio. On rainy days, I miss nature’s shadow puppets on my wall and silently will the sun to peek from the clouds so I can feel the comfort of my morning routine.

As I was looking at the photographs the other day I realized these images are a good teaching tool for seeing in a new way. Take a look at the top photo. This is exactly what my eyes see each morning. Soft beautiful light intermingled with the repetitive pattern of the leaves. The pop of blue chair next to a cluster of dark objects – wood chair, vintage shoe forms and woven wire basket.  Pretty scene, but you have to really focus to notice positive and negative form.

Take a look at the next photo using the Photoshop Express app’s vibrant filter. The positive shapes of the leaves are starting to become much more prominent, as is the shadow behind the blue chair. I also love the way this warm filer makes the image appear as if I were looking though an old Edison bulb.

Shadows Filter Vibrant

Now take a look at the third pic using the invert filter. Wow, this one is an amazing transformation. All of a sudden you can “read” the light in a way your eyes and brain cannot. Take a look at how the blue chair and the wooden one are now reversed color wise. Notice how strong the shadow of the light is behind the chair. See the double imagery of the wire bag, and like an X-ray machine you can magically see the cloth bag inside the wire one. The lovely play of shadows from the leaves is now a long vertical strip of black. It’s fascinating the information one can get changing focus.

Shadows Invert Filter

Teaching your brain the look differently as an artist is important. It’s tantamount in what Marcel Proust meant when he said:


How about you? Is there anything in your home that inspires you every day and causes you to simply stop and be present?



Secret coupon code

Hey peeps! My editor at F+W just sent me an email saying that the marketing folks gave me my own secret code. Sounds so very spy-like doesn’t it??

I can give away 25 of these codes and it’s only available to my blog followers. It’s a 20% off coupon for my new dvds. I can’t publish the code here, but if you email me at then I can send it to you. The code expires April 30th.

You can find all of my new dvds in the sidebar to the right. These are affiliate links with the publisher so I’ll make a few pennies when you purchase them using these specific links. Just click on the image and it will take you there. Once you have the code from me, you can fill in the box before purchase.

JenCushman Fork Hook Detail1LR

Also, if you do read my blog and you’ve already watched any of these videos I would sure appreciate you leaving a review on the Interweave site. Obviously the more stars, the better the review, but please give honest feedback because it’s important that people who don’t know me and who’re taking your reviews into consideration get your authentic opinions.

I know I’ve said this before at various times, but it bears repeating because its true for myself and my fabulous friends in mixed media. If you follow an artist’s work via their blog/social media/classes and she/he has truly inspired you in some way or added to your personal knowledge base, one of the very best thank yous is a good review of the artist’s books on Amazon or her products on sites that let you offer customer feedback.

It’s not a simple path to fully embrace the artist’s life because you need to have multiple revenue streams to make a living from your creativity. There are a fortunate few whose work is in demand to the point where they paint all day while their sales reps and/or agents and/or business partners take care of the rest. Most studio artists are juggling marketing, emails, sales, Etsy stores, branding, etc. and that can gobble up more hours in the week than actual art-making time. When the career-making projects such a books, dvds, ebooks, online classes do make their way into the world, your public support counts.

Here’s to all of us beautiful creatives!


In between space

 no longer quite


There are changes coming in my life. While I’m beyond excited for them to begin — for new beginnings, it’s also been months and months in the making. There have been days… weeks… that I fret about all the “what ifs” and “how tos”.  I’ve had many nights when I wake up at 2 a.m. and cannot get back to sleep because my mind is racing.

As all the machinations continue to move at this slower pace than I’m accustomed to, I’ve turned my working hours into pages of new ideas that I cannot wait to get started on. I’ve read books on marketing and the new economy. I’ve listened to dozens of podcasts with some of the world’s best business leaders and innovators. I’ve made a little bit of art, but honestly my heart is driving me in the direction of information consumption rather than reflection and introspection. I feel my muses happily taking a nap rather than indulging my creativity. They’re a million years old — infinitely wise — so they’ve already got this thing figured out.

I’ve visualized where I’m headed and already felt the changes deep in my heart.

The problem is this damn in between. The waiting. It goes against everything I am. Action-oriented, results-driven, always moving in the direction of my dreams. Type A, for shizzle.

So I take my work days a littler easier than I’m used to. And I remind myself to honor this space. While it’s difficult, it’s here to teach me an important life lesson about patience.

Have you ever found yourself between the no longer and not yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Packing for workshops

I’ve been home for a long and lovely 6 weeks. I really needed the time to recharge my batteries and work on some items on my to do list that just never seem to get done because they’re always at the bottom. I head out to SoCal on Thursday for a lunch and meeting at the Stampington offices and then my 2 days of Resin workshops at Make Art in LA. If you happen to be reading this and you’re local and find yourself with a free days this coming Friday or Saturday, check it out. I have only two spots left in Create and Resinate. My kits are made for the max amount of students the space holds so I promise there’s room and materials for last-minute sign ups.

If you’re not convinced about both days, here’s a little testimonial from artist Kelly Smith: “Casting is addicting! Ever since taking your class a few years ago I’ll go into huge spurts of making molds and casting. You are the best teacher!”


I thought I’d show you a little sneak peek of what it takes for teaching. I include so many mixed-media techniques in my classes that it requires a lot of supplies. I have a large heavy-duty black tote that gets filled to brim and usually weighs between 50 and 70 pounds. (It’s a bear to ship, but as much as I’ve tried to whittle down my supplies. I can’t really do so without asking my students to bring a huge laundry list with them). You can see by my short LA workshop supply list that I do my best to make it easy for people to show up, learn, play and discover.

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that if I pack for each class in plastic shoe boxes it helps keep me organized. An important consideration at many of the national hotel-based retreats where you’re teach both day and night for two to three days in a row, plus vending.

Jen's teaching box

In addition to my box, I have a black tool bag for my Wubbers pliers, steel bench block, hammer, files, drill, wire snips, torch, rivets, wire, etc. This usually weighs around 20 lbs. Sometimes I bring a small store with me, which includes Susan Lenart Kazmer Art Mechanique bezels, ICE Resin, Iced Enamels, ribbon, etc. Other times, it’s too much and I show up as just me, an artist. (When this happens, I tend to get a least a half dozen sad faces from people who were also hoping to shop and then I feel bad for not wanting to lug around all the stuff.)

Jen's toolbag

My workshop art samples, books and work for sale goes into another plastic tub along with a few display items that fold and pack flat. In this box also goes a piece of fabric for a table covering and a couple of old burlap coffee bags with great vintage writing on them for display.

Of course I have my luggage. I bring water, some snacks like fruit and nuts and Kind bars. I also pack my lavender eye pillow, a small scented candle and some essential oils because sometimes hotel rooms have musty or odd smells. Of course, all of the above is easy to pull off when I’m driving. The events I fly to are much more challenging and I have to ship my workshop box and tools ahead of time. Believe it or not, I’ve also shipped water as crazy as it sounds. I learned this the hard way when I was stuck in a hotel room in the outskirts of Chicago with no car and no van shuttle to get me to a nearby store. I was like a camel and after 5 workshops and had the most splitting headache from dehydration.

I know this is pretty mundane stuff here, but they’re a number of you who read my blog who also teach or are interested in teaching. Plus, I know quite a few of you are art retreaters yourself and it’s good to peek behind the scenes. One of the ways you can tell the difference between a newer teacher and someone whose been at it for a while is their level of preparedness. This isn’t to say that things don’t go wrong, because there’s always something that does, but the experienced instructors should have an ace up their sleeves, like a good magic trick that can save the day. I promise you, they’re a couple of things in that black tote of mine that I can use to change my workshop in an instant if need be.

I’ll catch you on the flipside next week when I return. It’ll be a little quiet here for a bit because I have my Cloth, Paper, Scissors column due within days of being home and a webinar idea I’m suppose to be getting to my editor as well (happy to have a 6 hour drive to think it through because right now all I have a headline and 3 bullet points.)

Artfully yours,



Enjoy Easter

Today marks Easter weekend and the renewal of Spring each year. Like many folks, I adore this time when the weather is beautiful and the outdoor weekend fairs and festivals are in full swing. I’ve been spending lots of quality time with my family and friends. Each Wednesday, we look through the events calendar and decide when and where we’re meeting up on Saturday. This weekend, of course, I’ll be taking my daughter to an egg hunt. We’ve already purchased her frilly pink and blue tulle dress and new sandals that she picked out. The thought of a party has had her bubbling with excitement since Tuesday.

Spring Quote - Jen Cushman Studio

Since I know this is a busy weekend for most folks, I just wanted to give you a little inspirational image of a Spring vignette pic I took at Sweet Salvage and then turned into a visual quote. I’m having fun creating these little digital graphics. If you have a Pinterest board this would look good on, please feel free to Pin away.

The soft color palette makes me want to get out some of my pastel beads and build a new necklace. The eggs inspire me to get out my resin clay and paints and see if I can make some speckled beads first. Maybe late Sunday afternoon after Easter brunch I’ll get some down time to simply play in my studio while my daughter colors beside me.

Tell me, what does this image evoke for you? 


What’s your love language?

Heart Journal page Jen Cushman

I’m sure you’ve heard of the book the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I first learned about this book from a friend of mine about 4 years ago. We were hanging out one evening and talking as only girlfriends do and I was filling her in on a stupid little tiff my hubby and I had. After listening to my frustrations, she said, “Jen, your love language is Words of Affirmation and his is Acts of Service.” It’s a clear as day.

Huh? Wasn’t clear to me, but I was intrigued. I picked up Dr. Chapman’s book. I did the test and asked my sweetie too as well. My main Love Language was, indeed, Words of Affirmation though I was surprised to learn his was Quality Time and then Acts of Service. (If this is all Greek to you right now, don’t worry, there’s a link to the test below). I’ve always been verbal, began talking in sentences at 10 months and never stopped. Communication has been a natural predilection of mine and reading, writing and talking is right up there at the top of my most favorite ways to spend time.

Family and friends how much I love and appreciate them because I’m forever telling them so. Complete strangers who give good service — like waitresses/waiters or just about any professional interaction that improves my life at the moment gets a positive affirmation from me. If they’re truly excellent, I seek out their managers to put in a good word. It’s just something I’ve always done. On Facebook, I’m one of the first to give a compliment or ‘atta girl. I do it because a kind word can generate smiles and their happiness always rubs off on me. Seriously, it’s a win-win.

My husband, on the other hand, is much more of a taking-action kind of guy.  He shows his love by running my car through the car wash and filling up my gas tank, or checking my wallet to ensure I always have cash on hand. I’ve come to expect to always have a $20 bill in my wallet at all times. Pretty cool, right? You betcha! But compliments not so much. I used to get frustrated. Now when I really need a word or two, I give him a nudge and say, “What’s my love language?” He grins and makes an attempt.

Words of Affirmation are not my teenage son’s language. Mom’s touchy-feeley words are sometimes too much for him, so I do my best to still be me, but tone it down. He refuses to take the online test because he thinks it’s “dumb” but I already know his button is Quality Time because I read Dr. Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages of Teenagers when he was in junior high. This means when I’m looking to show him how much I care or to reward him for good grades, for example, I find something fun we can do together.

You’re probably wondering why I’m even writing such a personal blog post today, particularly when it has nothing to do with art. I don’t really know myself. I’ve started and stopped at least a half dozen times. What keeps drawing me back is the fact that this book is something this has helped me honor and understand the people I care about. I also think it has implications in all relationships. If managers would ask their people to do this touchy-feeley test, workplaces could run smoother if we knew that Sally in accounting like gifts so leaving her a little piece of chocolate makes her happy, but Dan in marketing would be touched if you took a task off his plate because his son’s baseball team is playing a big game and you know he volunteers to coach.

One of my deciding factors in leaving the corporate world as a business reporter and work as an entrepreneur was the constant complaining at the newspaper. Had I mentioned taking a test to see what our love languages are, I’d have been fired for sheer stupidity. Fortunately, I made the right decision to follow my heart and my days are much more joyful.

If you do decide to jump on over and take the test let me know. What’s your love language? How do you feel about what Dr. Chapman is saying?



Heart Assemblage and new DVD

DDVDClayHeartWithWingsDVDcovero you love hearts? Check out what I have to say about them and also my new Clay Heart Assemblage DVD in my guest post on the Cloth, Paper, Scissors blog today. I wanted to throw in an extra bonus for hanging out with me, so I did a quick freebie tutorial over there for adding color and depth to chipboard. You can see a detail shot of it in the photo below. Yup, this is chipboard on either side of the Art Mechanique bezel designed by Susan Lenart Kazmer and filled with ICE Resin and Fire Opals.

The chipboard is made by an artist-based company that a friend of mine turned me on to called UmWow Studio. The designs are fresh and funky and the quality is awesome, as you can see on their website and blog. Dee Dee Catron, the owner is a total sweetie. If you’re planning to buy some chipboard for your mixed-media pieces, consider purchasing from them. I do! {Little tip: Iced Enamels work great on chipboard too.}



Resin Clay Heart Assemblage Detail Shot 1 Jen Cushman





The large heart focal in this piece is resin clay. Have you ever worked with it? It’s yummy because you don’t condition it in a pasta machine like polymer and it air cures rock solid. Particularly dense pieces can take as long as 3 days to cure, but for the most part, it’s dry to the touch in 24 hours. Resin clay is often used in jewelry, but it’s a great mixed-media art material.


Well, this concludes Jen Cushman week. (if you didn’t read Monday’s post, be sure to see my little surprise) I know it’s been a lot of updates this week for me, so thanks for hanging in there and not getting too tired of my mug everywhere.

I do want to take one last minute though to say again what a blast I had doing this. From the filming in Fort Collins, Colorado all the way to working with Cherie, the online CPS editor at the end of the process. It takes a village to support artists, and F+W/Interweave has been pretty fantastic to work with over the years. I’m truly grateful for how hard the entire team works to make myself and all its authors/artists look good. If you’ve ever wanted to write a book or film a workshop or write articles on your art in a magazine, take a good look at F+W as your future publisher.

Here’s wishing you an Artful weekend!