Category Archives: craft

Getting ready for LYA 2016

It’s that time of year again!  Time for the Liberate Your Art Postcard Swap as organized by the amazing and wonderful Kat Sloma of Katseyestudio. This is my *5th* year of participating!  Wow!  Hard to believe!

This year I am still dreaming of Hawaii… although we have no plans to visit in 2016, we did visit twice last year.  And I had some lovely experiences with the ukulele… which has become a happy hobby.

There is a little mneumonic ditty that my teacher taught me to help remember the tuning of the ukulele.


It makes no sense.  The notes do not correspond to the words.  Every Good Boy Does Fine makes sense in that Every stands for E and Good stands for G, etc.  But My is a “G” and dog is an “E”… ridiculous!  And yet…. I can sing My Dog Has Fleas and I am in tune and can tune my ukulele with good relative pitch using this “song”.

So, this phrase is dancing in my head. AND I started taking an online course with Miriam Schulman called Painting with Words. And I decided to play around with this phrase.

from my class art journal

from my class art journal

And today I finished the mixed media piece, My Dog Has Fleas.


I painted the flowers and the dog separately, then cut them out.  The music was scanned and glued on.  Even though I sprayed everything with acrylic, the matte medium that I used to glue things on with smeared things a bit. I retouched the flowers and tried to sharpen the music notes and I had to add in the jumping fleas to cover smudge marks. The font is based on a free font I found on the internet called Tiki Tropic.

I uploaded the image to Moo and should have my finished cards back in a few weeks!  So excited!

If you want one, I ordered 40 — way more than I will need for the swap, so let me know and I’ll put one in the mail for you!



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Tangled in Zen: A lesson in mindful drawing

Zentangles are very trendy these days — and for good reason!  They’re soothing to do, and since there are no wrong lines, every piece is unique, wonderful and cool!

2nd Zentangle

In the original vision of Zentangles, these are totally abstract with the emphasis on repeatable patterns.  The very act of drawing focuses a different part of the mind and according to some, releases helpful alpha waves the way meditation does.  Rick and Maria, the founders of the Zentangle method (and ology) also insist on using the best quality pens and paper for creating Zentangles because these are mindful creations and the materials influence the way you approach drawing and also enhance the experience.

As I understand from Suzanne Wilka, my Zentangle instructor, doodling is art that is mindlessly created while you are concentrating (or supposed to be concentrating) on something else; it’s a good release and helps with hand-brain muscle coordination, but isn’t meditation in drawing.  Things that are called Zentangles but that look like trees or dogs or other representational objects are also NOT real zentangles; they are ZIA or zentangle-inspired-art — cool, but since they are representational, they miss the abstract quality of true Zentangles.

A Zentangle is a zentangle when it is something that anyone can do (not everyone can draw a dog, but everyone can draw a repetitive pattern in a unique way) on a beautiful piece of paper with a glorious pigment-saturated pen. Shading is optional, but very satisfying.

In my class today, we dove into tangling with a single dot on the small tile to “break the ice”.  If one is intimidated by drawing on the same kind of paper that Renoir and Picasso used, then a single dot breaks the fear.  The dots were followed by a border and then by a “string”.  The string is a guideline drawn to create sections for the different repeated patterns — each of which has its own special name and backstory.

Then to the “tangles” or patterns.  Big strokes are drawn and then the inner strokes are drawn and the form is repeated until the space is filled and you’re ready for the next pattern. You have a lot of freedom in drawing your lines — tightly spaced elements gives a completely different feel from loosely placed ones.  Curved lines have a different feel from straight ones — AND THEY’RE ALL CORRECT! No bad lines. How freeing is that!

Suzanne was very patient with me and we drew and talked and drew some more until my brain was completely full and I had to go home!

1st zentangle

My 2nd official Zentangle; note all the variations. It’s kind of like a sampler piece.

Tangling is definitely in my future.  I can even see incorporating it into my henna designs.  And it will help keep me sane when I spend long hours in the hospital with my mother this December (she’s going in for a knee replacement; nothing life-threatening, thank goodness!)

Have you tried Zentangles?  Are you hooked?

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Sparkle Mehndi! Too much fun!

There’s never too much glitter as far as I’m concerned.

I wasn’t a glitter girl as a kid. I could take it or leave it, but something shifted in my 30s and by the time I was in my mid-40s, I was a confirmed glitter addict.

Hi, I’m Natasha and I have more than 50 bottles of glitter…


Just a small selection of glitters…

Fortunately, I was able to channel this obsession into glitter tattoos.

glitter ladybug

A little ladybug for a little lady.

But I was vaguely dissatisfied. The body glue that was available was very thin.  Either you used a paintbrush which got trashed really quickly or you used a nailpolish brush which had no finesse.  These designs were fine for little kids who just wanted something fast, fun, and colorful.  But they didn’t satisfy my yearning for bling.

Then along cames Pros-Aide Cream.


It’s amazing!

This cream adhesive has been the gold standard in both the theatrical industry for special effects make-up and the medical prosthetics business. And now, it has found a new use with henna artists: Sparkle Mehndi! Actually, Sparkle Mehndi is just a made-up name used by a couple of henna artists in the US.  Other artists call the artform by different names.

But by any name, it’s beautiful! And it lasts for 3-5 days — even if you wash, take a shower, hang out in a hot-tub, or run a 10k. But it’s easy to remove when the time comes: rubbing alcohol.

Sparkle Mehndi design from October 2012

The details! The jewels! The colors!

Here are a few of my enablers:

Henna Caravan: glitter, rhinestones, pros aide cream, lots of helpful advice

Silly Farm: glitter, liquid adhesive

Amerikan Body Art: glitter, body glue, useful tools — her Electric Magenta is to die for!

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Liberate Your Art, 2012

I participated in an art swap this year, hosted by Kat Sloma of Kat Eye Studio.

The rules were simple: Make 5 postcards and send them along with address labels and postage to Kat who then organized and sent out 6 postcards (5 plus one of her own)… so you make 1 postcard and get 6 back.

How awesome is this!

I signed up immediately!

And then I had second thoughts. I’m not a real artist.  I’m just a henna artist. I just decorate things.

But I pulled it together to create a peacock and chose a quote for the back:

Natasha's Peacock

On the back it has a quote from Picasso which inspired me to leap into the unknown and make this card: “I am always doing what I can’t do. That’s how I get to do them.”

And I made copies and added some dots of glitter (because a girl can never have too much glitter and I’d just gotten a new batch of cosmic purple which was too yummy to keep for myself)… and I packaged everything up and sent it off.

Then I began to receive my cards!  What fun to check the mail!

The first one was from Terrie Purkey of

Terrie Purkey's card

On the back it says: “There’s a road from the eye to the heart that doesn’t go through the intellect.” Chesterton.

The next card was from a mystery sender, who turned out to be Renee Martinez (apparently in her excitement to get the cards out, she forgot to sign them! That nearly happened to me, too!)

Liberate Your Art Mystery image

On the back is a quote from Abraham Lincoln: “It’s the life in your years, not the years in your life that count.”

Then I went on vacation for two weeks… and had to wait until I got home for the final four:

Liberate Your Art, Karen Koch, front

A lovely card from Karen Koch of

Liberate Your Art by Kathryn Hall

This card from Kathryn Hall has a quote from Brian Andreas: “I used to hear voices a lot, but then I read up on it and found out they don’t exist so now I don’t listen to a word they say.”

And this delightful one from Mia Ora of Aukland, New Zealand ( and a kindred multi-media artist:

Liberate Your Art by Mia Ora, front

On the back she quotes Sue Lotte: “Hear my song.” 2009

And finally, Kat’s card:

Liberate Your Art, Kat Sloma, front

The card from Kat Sloma, the person who organized the postcard swap and made it all possible!

This was so much fun, I’ve already started thinking about next year’s card! If you want to participate in the Liberate Your Art Postcard Swap in 2013, sign up for Kat’s newsletter and stay tuned for the details.

And if you want a copy of my card, just email me with your address and I’ll send one out to you!

Here is an amazing video that Kat made of all the cards in the swap; what an inspiration! It wasn’t all about the incredible images, but also about having the opportunity to connect with the artists via the swap and the facebook page.

liberate your art 2012

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Artist Interview: Betty Lovegren of Betty Lovegren Entertainment

Betty Lovegren is a local San Diego artist whom I have long admired for her skill, energy and generous spirit.  What a delight to have the chance to talk with her about her art and inspiration!

Betty Lovegren

Have you always been artistic…other forms before Henna?

Betty: I just located my report cards from grade school in Toronto and art was my best subject…all A’s…Other forms of art prior to Henna have been pottery, design classes @ Mesa (College), life drawing, charcoals, oil painting, cooking, gardening (I love this one)

When did you discover Henna?

Betty: I discovered Henna about 16 years ago. Even tho’ I had spent time in Morocco when I was 20ish, I don’t recall seeing Henna on people nor seeing Henna artists (I guess cause I wasn’t looking for it) I would love to return there (to Morocco) with my new eyes

What makes Henna so appealing & enduring?

Betty: I do face/body painting, glitter tattoos & tarot readings & I have been very involved in pottery doing hand building & throwing.

But when I discovered Henna, I was in love.  When I am doing Henna I feel a sense of peach. It becomes a very intimate situation with myself & the recipient.  I speak softly, gently, not much & I realize the conversation is different than with any other body décor.

Please share a bit about your creative process and how you nuture that.

Betty: My creative process is nurtured by first of all my attire, I feel more alive & joyous(all is well) when I am in colors, layers & unusual attire.

I am currently creating a garden of peace, love & happiness.  I love delicious food that looks very appealing & interesting & colorful.

This all is what guides me to be more creative & fun in my art.

Tell us a bit about your business and its goals

Betty: I have always been self employed doing an art of some form.  I am from Toronto & had a very successful singing telegram company for 15 years before relocating here in ’95. it took moving to San Diego to guide me toward the beautiful art of Henna.  I am self taught & make my own Henna.

And I am very, very fortunate to be the resident Henna/glitter tattoo/facepainter @ Seaport Village beside the Carousel.

My goal is to bring beauty & peacefulness to the people who hire me & my gals for their special events.  Being of service & making the experience of Henna beautiful, long lasting & memorable.

hennaed feet by Betty Lovegren

Hennaed feet by Betty Lovegren

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Artist Interview: Anita Bhakta of Hennasphere

Once a month I am going to interview an artist, starting with my local colleagues, and then expanding to artists across the country and the world. I am interested in learning more about what makes creative people tick and so it makes sense to me to learn from the professionals.

Anita hennas a baby belly

Anita adorns a beautiful belly with henna

Anita Bhakta, of Hennasphere, is a henna artist based near Sea World in San Diego. She was born in Montreal, but her family moved to San Diego when she was 4. She has lived in San Diego for most of her life with one short detour to Chicago while her husband was in graduate school.

She grew up in a Pakistani household and was surrounded by elements of her parents’ culture, but was also influenced by San Diego’s laid-back attitudes. She went to UCSD for her undergraduate studies, majoring in Biology with a Spanish Literature minor, and after that went to Cal State Northridge to earn her MA and teaching credential. Her “day job” is teaching special education.

As a child, Anita was always fascinated with mehndi (the Hindi word for henna), and loved to watch her aunties apply intricate designs at bridal showers and other celebrations. As a child, she would try her hand at henna, especially on her most willing subject, her mother! She went to beauty school in India and learned all the steps involved in preparing a bride for her wedding: from make-up, hair, clothing, waxing, threading to making the mehndi paste and applying the traditional designs. “I was most enamored by the henna portion of the training” ,” said Anita. “It gave me the confidence and skills I needed to do bridal henna, the ultimate challenge. Upon my return the States, I created Hennasphere”.

Kiran's henna

Kiran's bridal henna by Anita

Doing henna feels natural to Anita. When she draws on people, “it just comes and flows. I draw a flower and then something comes out of that and becomes a leaf or a vine or something else.” Anita said she feels that she is a just a vessel. “God has given me a gift and keeps putting it through me.”

Traditional henna designs are collections of simple elements that are repeated and arranged in an artful way. Anita finds that practicing henna is similar to meditation. “I feel so relaxed and in the moment when I do henna.”

Anita strongly feels that her business, Hennasphere, is more than just a henna service. She wanted to create a company that was earthy and natural since henna is from the earth. Hennasphere was conceived as a series of concentric circles rippling from a strong center of faith and love, with wider circles encompassing beautifying the world through henna, sharing her knowledge with others, connecting with the wider community, and giving back to the world through donations. A portion of Hennasphere’s profits go to support charitable projects; she has given to an organization in the Philippines that provides free cleft palate surgery to needy children, and helped an orphanage in Pakistan as well as Casa de los Pobres in Tijuana.

Future plans for Hennasphere include adding pizzaz to her henna studio, more collaborations with other artists in different fields, and fine tuning small details of Hennasphere that will take it to higher spheres/stratospheres…???.

For Anita, henna is just the beginning, and there is no limit in sight to what she can do.

Jasmeet's henna

Bridal henna for the happy Jasmeet by Anita

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Thoughts on Inspiration

Amretasgraphics challenged me to muse on inspiration and getting inspired for the summer 2011 issue of Amretasgraphics Blogzine.

Inspiration is elusive. I have found that if I wait for inspiration, the creative impulse gets up and goes somewhere else. It is only by doing something, anything art-related on a regular basis that the Muse comes and sits with me.

When I doodle every day, even for just 5 minutes, then visual ideas begin to swirl. When I write, even for just 10 minutes every day, then ideas for my blog and articles begin to surface. I don’t need a special place (although it’s nice and I do have my little painting space with a dreamboard and a plant nearby) but I do need consistent time.

alarm clock

I used to think that schedules were confining, but now I embrace them. They give me structure and that’s just what I need to be creative. I walk for a half hour first thing in the morning and enjoy all the ideas that start bubbling as I move my body. I write for at least 15 minutes after breakfast and sometimes it’s wonderful, but most of the time it isn’t. However, it opens my mind and makes other writing I do during the day flow more easily.   And I doodle in a journal for 5 minutes before I go to bed. Since I started following this schedule (which is pretty flexible), I’ve been more creative and felt more free. When I really need to get something done, using a timer helps me get it done. It sounds counter-intuitive, but for me, being on the clock makes things happen.  I can do anything for half an hour….and usually that half hour is amazingly productive, when I force myself to focus on nothing else for half an hour.

I like to work on several projects at once and bounce between them. Somehow, taking a break from writing to draw or cook in stages helps give my brain a little mini-break and when I return to the original project, things flow again. On good days I go from an hour on the computer to an hour of painting to a half hour of reading to more writing, then painting, then cooking…and it all feels like a wonderful circle of creative productivity.

Among my must-haves is music. Although I don’t need a special place for most of my creative work, I do have a favorite CD which helps me focus on whatever I’m doing: Theta Transport by Tommy Brunjes. Most trance/electronic music works for me, but I’m really enjoying Theta Transport right now. I also have relaxation cd of ocean waves that I find very effective in helping me concentrate as well.

There are times when I want to do something, but can’t pull an idea out of my head. That’s when I go to the Inspiration folder on my computer – it’s a virtual scrapbox of images, links, quotes, and ebooks. There is always something in there that sparks an idea and gets things rolling. And I am constantly on the lookout for something new to put in my folder– even the hunt for inspiring things is an inspiration!


Zentangles always get me back into the groove

Drawing Zentangles is a wonderful way to get back to creativity.  You divide your paper into sections (called “tangles”) and then you choose from a palette of repetitive designs, and then you fill each section with a design.  And when you are done, you have something amazing.  I got inspired by the book, Zentangle Basics by Susan McNeill, and love to use Indian bridal henna fill patterns in my tangles.

When all else fails and I’m really feeling mired in creative despair, I take a class. Classes get me off my butt and somewhere else (even if it’s just a new screen on the computer). They introduce new ideas, new perspectives, new techniques and connect me with new people – very inspiring! The last class I took was the Take Back Your Creativity e-course. It really helped get back on track and back into the creativity habit.

Ultimately, creativity is, for me, a habit.  When things feel stuck I just have to keep practicing.  When fog descends on my brain as it does from time to time, I just need to keep doodling every day even if I’m only copying designs.  I need to keep writing every day even if it is just writing to-do lists.  I need to just keep doing something, ANYTHING…and then the wheels eventually start to turn, the engine runs smoothly and ideas spin again.


me drawing a flower

Henna doodling. Photo by Debbie Solan.

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Ole, and Elizabeth Gilbert

I read a post on Momentum Gathering about the sort of Yoda wisdom of creativity: “Try not. Do, or do not…”  It’s how the act of making something, doing something, writing something gets the wheels turning.  And pushing yourself to create something — even if it’s horrible — is still creative; you can always fix it later.

This idea is one that I find resonates for me.  I discover it over and over again — in various media.  Do something.  Consistently. Show up and work, and the sparks will start to fly, the creativity will come.

Musicians know this.  Musicians practice scales and exercises to train the muscles to let the music flow through them.  They warm up before expecting something brilliant.  I don’t know why I continue to expect myself to be able to draw or write or paint without training my muscles and warming up.

And then where does creativity come from once you’re ready?  This is a wonderful talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love on creativity and its sources.  Enjoy!


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Curiosity and creativity

“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.” -Leo Burnett

Curiosity drives questions….and questions spur thinking…and ideas are born.  Creativity is not just for artists.  Some of the most vitally creative people I know are not artists; they’re scientists.

Real scientists must be creative or they won’t get the ideas that get them the grants to do the research the answers the questions they can’t help asking….scientific research is based on looking beyond what appears to be there.  Science requires people to ask questions.  And questions lead to creative thinking.

Unfortunately, many people equate science with number crunching, data sequencing, and very dull calculations.  BORING. Even for the people who do them. Those are important parts of science, but they aren’t the whole story.  Real scientists face problems and have to solve them.  Organizing data and crunching numbers can be tools for finding the knowledge that solves the problem, but they aren’t the end.  There is actually no end….one answer creates more questions, and more questions require more research, which raises more questions….for the curious person with a fire in the heart.

And that is the essence of creativity.  To be on fire to figure things out, to see things in a different way, to understand the essence of something.  Scientists ask questions about the outside world, and artists ask questions about the inner world; both share a curious passion for learning and creating and sharing.

cat and fishtank

Curiosity and my cat, Sahara...

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May Play!

Last year I bought a packet of sunflower seeds from Target.  Burpee’s Chianti Hybrid.  They were amazing!  And then, in January of this year, I noticed little plants sprouting where the sunflowers had been last year.

And yes! They had reseeded themselves.  And now they are blooming full on gorgeous!

Burgundy Sunflowers
Sunflowers blooming in May!
bee in sunflower
Sunflowers love bees
a hennaed sunflower among real sunflowers
Sunflower backpack
And I was inspired to make a sunflower bag, too.
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