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How I Started Painting {And Pictures From My Gallery Opening.}

Wow, wow, wow.  Friends, this past weekend was so monumental for me!  I am part of an art show at a local gallery and showing my art totally put things into perspective.  It felt so right.

Growing up, I was always a little artistic;  I used to draw + make dioramas quietly in my room– it was a way I could relax from the busy-ness of grade school + my large family.  In 3rd grade I won the art contest for my drawing of “what my family means to me” (It was a drawing of us eating Sunday dinner together in the dining room and my dad still has it framed + hung there to this day).

I was always trying to figure out something new to try, artistically.

The creating continued in high school where I would collage with my buds on poster board on the weekends until three in the morning.  We were obsessed with cutting out the right words + images from magazines to show how we were feeling at the time (or how we wanted to feel).  Little did I know, I was actually creating a vision board.

Throughout college and after, I continued to dabble in sketching and painting, but nothing of a consistent, concrete nature.  I would just pick it up now and again when I had some time.

Prep for the show

Fast forward to a couple of years ago when I started taking a local abstract painting class.  It was my first formal art class as an adult and I wasn’t sure what to expect, I just knew I needed to try it.  Would I like it?  Would I be any good at it?  Would I be able to express what was deep in my heart that motivated me to go there in the first place?

Turns out I was pretty bad when I started painting in that abstract class; I felt clumsy and misunderstood.  What I was painting was not jiving with what I wanted to paint.  Looking back, I realize I was painting in a way that would help me fit in–it was awkward to try something new as an adult and I was trying to paint like the other students (and how my teacher told me to).

But painting like everyone else felt wrong.  I wasn’t enjoying it and it quickly began to feel like a task rather than a release.  So I gave myself a pep talk, “Steph you’re here to have fun–to explore the deep desire in your heart to create.  Listening to others and their direction is not going to get you there, so let’s start doing it your way.”  After I admitted painting for them and not me was not going to get me where I wanted to go, everything changed.

I started exploring my own style, my own voice.  Even though it looked very different from my classmates.

And then the girls were born.

Me + my work

This past Sunday when I was standing in front of a wall full of my creations thinking about my rocky start, I was so grateful that I followed my heart + kept trying.  I knew that I needed to express myself through painting and collage, but I wasn’t sure how to do it or where it would lead me.  It was a humbling reminder that a lot of life happens just by showing up and being willing.  This art journey I’m on is so very fulfilling + make me so so happy when I’m immersed in it.

Me + Chris

Me + My Honey

me + my muses

My nieces (and muses)

So I encourage all of you out there reading this to listen to that little whisper inside your heart that’s calling you to do something.  We all have those whispers. Take a mini step today towards that thing, even if it’s just writing it down or saying it out loud.

My 2 hour class each week over the past few years led to this gallery show.  I couldn’t have seen this on my first night of painting in class, but inch by inch, I made a dream come true–and you can too.

PS: Want to see some of the girls in the show?  Look here and here and here.

How I Started Painting {And Pictures From My Gallery Opening.}2018-03-29T20:23:14-04:00

Art in Progress: Mountain Spring

Art In Progress: See how I create Inspirational art for kids + the kid in you. To learn about art technique + my motivation for creating this piece, click through for a peek. See how paintings evolve from start to finish! Original artwork by Stephanie Martel.

The beginning of this was a bit of a ‘do-over’.  There was an original underneath that I just wasn’t that psyched about, so I decided to paint over it and create something else.  That’s the beauty of acrylics, you can always add a layer and paint over what you don’t like.  Sometimes that can be hard if you want to save parts of the original, but luckily, I wanted it allllll to go.  So here’s the first layer:


Then I added some collage and muddied that up a little with some color.  There’s not too much thinking at this point, I’m just putting down paper and moving the brush.  I try not to get too caught up in how it looks at this stage (that can be hard sometimes.)

mountain 3

I went with some more accent colors and drips.  I was starting to feel stuck here, like I boxed myself in with the paper, but it’s important to keep moving when I feel like this.  Kind of like life, yes?  Feelings are moment to moment, I try not to get too attached because I know they come and go.

Mountain 3

I added more layers of color to blend it together and some subtle stamping with a few strong objects.  It started to feel more cohesive…

Mountain 4

And then I finished with some line and color accents.

Mountain Final

Art is so much fun, isn’t it?  I really like the colors and the whimsical feel of this one.  It reminded me that I can always start over–the original was an eye sore (to me) and now I turned it into something I love.  Such a great lesson.

Want to see the tools I use to inspire creativity + expand my art?  

Want to see what inspires me to create art? These are some of the best tools I use!


Art in Progress: Mountain Spring2018-03-29T20:23:16-04:00

Art in Progress: You Were Born With Wings

Art In Progress: See how I create Inspirational art for kids + the kid in you. To learn about art technique + my motivation for creating this piece, click through for a peek. See how paintings evolve from start to finish! Original artwork by Stephanie Martel.

This piece turned out a lot different than it started.  And that’s true with a lot of things in life, yes?  We have a certain idea as to where we want to end up, and the twists and turns of life lead us off into a new direction.  Something I’ve learned from painting is to just go with the flow.  Some of the best ‘mistakes’ I’ve made have led me to a place of true happiness and fulfillment.

So I started this one with just throwing some color on the canvas.  There’s something I love about orange and hot pink together–the vibrancy of the colors get my heart racing.  I used a brayer for the dot-looking things and I used a toothy-comb thing to create the lines.




I wanted to add some contrast, so in went the drips, some teal stamping and little black around the edges.


Birdie 2


At this point I realized a grid was appearing so I softened it up with a little white and light blue.  It’s all about the feeling I get when I look at it–if it seems too harsh, I soften it up. If everything is blending, I try to create some contrast to make it more interesting.  It’s all about finding the right balance.


Birdie 3


I collaged in the bird and some accents.  (I really love collage, it feels like I’m adding a whole other dimension.)


Birdie 4


And then I stamped in the sentiment.  I love the idea that we’re all born with our own special talents that can take us wherever we want to go; it’s all about following your heart and listening to those calls.  We were meant to fly.


You were born with wings FINAL


I’m done with it for now, but may add some doodling adornments in a bit, I want to sit with it for a while.


Art in Progress: You Were Born With Wings2018-03-29T20:23:18-04:00

Art In Progress: Trust The Magic

Art In Progress: See how I create Inspirational art for kids + the kid in you. To learn about art technique + my motivation for creating this piece, click through for a peek. See how paintings evolve from start to finish! Original artwork by Stephanie Martel.


So here’s the beginning–I was obsessed with that aquamarine blue color as a child and something about it makes my heart leap a little, still.  I always liked the “blue-green” color in the crayola box (not to be mistaken for green-blue, of course).  The things you remember from childhood are so funny.  I just threw some colors on the canvas to get something going…
Trust the magic1


 I added some shades of purple and reds to give it a little punch.  Drips here, spots there…

Follow the magic 2

Here’s a close-up of my favorite area.


piece of trust the magic


I added some stamping along the border and collaged in a dress for my girl.


Follow the magic 4


I painted in her sweet face and added details to bring it together, along with the stamped sentiment.  I love how she turned out!  Such a gentle reminder that we need to listen to our hearts more and trust the magic of it all.

 Trust the magic





Art In Progress: Trust The Magic2018-03-29T20:23:18-04:00

Art in Progress: You Are Loved

Art In Progress: See how I create Inspirational art for kids + the kid in you. To learn about art technique + my motivation for creating this piece, click through for a peek. See how paintings evolve from start to finish! Original artwork by Stephanie Martel.

suppliesHey there!  I’m starting a new series that I wanted to introduce you to this week: Art in Progress.  Since this is a blog about the art of becoming yourself, I wanted to give you a peek inside some of the projects I work on each week in class.

I like to show things in progress so that together, we can see how the piece changes over time.

Also, I think it’s helpful to see the evolution of creating and maybe pick up a trick or two.  I feel like a lot of what I learn in painting can be applied to everyday life too.  I’m hoping to share some of those things with you as we go along.

And I’ve learned so much from the generosity of other artists that do this very thing, sharing their process, that I thought it would be a great way to pay it forward.  So here it goes…

“You Are Loved” is something I started a few weeks ago.  It began with putting down some collage papers on the blank canvas and then adding acrylics around and through it.  I started with a dry brush dipped in the acrylics and went from there–I seem to start things with a strong boost of color and eventually I soften it with some water or medium.  That’s something I love about acrylics–they’re so blendable and forgiving.  If I don’t like what I’ve done, I can wait until it’s dry and paint over it.

The first layer in any piece is just putting something down. That is a helpful idea I learned early on, especially with acrylics.  I try not to think too much about it–I just dive into enjoying the process of creating, and try to keep moving.  Working fast helps me get past that inner critic.


It felt a little dark, so during the second run through, I lightened it up a little.  There’s something that I love about that light purple in the upper right corner.


Here is a look up close at some of the collage elements:


Can you see the outline of a head in the upper right corner?  The ‘scarf’ gave me some inspiration.There’s the slight hint of a face outline in the middle, just something that revealed itself over time (and when I turned the canvas).


I added more acrylic layering and some details.


And painted the girl face.  Sweet and chubby.


I added in some collage and the stamped in the sentiment.


And she’s done for now!  It’s so much fun to experiment and see what shows up.  If you have any thoughts on this piece,  I’d love to hear about it over on my facebook page.




Art in progress banner

Art in Progress: You Are Loved2018-03-29T20:23:19-04:00
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