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My Progression As An Artist

As many of you know, I started drawing in 2010 with no intention of ever calling myself and “artist.” At the time, I was chronically ill, mostly bedridden, and in severe pain. I had a migraine that never left (for over 6 years…), sensitivity to light and sound, extreme fatigue, insomnia, hallucinations, panic attacks, depression, digestive issues, brain fog and cognitive issues, and more.

By 2010, I’d already been suffering from this unknown (at the time) illness, and I felt like such a burden on my family, like my life had no purpose, that I was becoming suicidal.

I felt like there was nothing I could do, I couldn’t even read. There was nothing to distract me from my pain and dire circumstances.

That is, until one day I randomly picked up a pencil and started to draw.

The first drawing I did, experimenting with colored pencil to see how bright I could get the colors.

This image above is the first drawing I did, from my bed, on an old piece of poster board left over from high school. It started out as just a sketch with a number two pencil, but I quickly decided I wanted COLOR. But what was I to do? I was stuck in bed so there was no way I could use paints or pastels, they would be far to messy and require too much energy to clean. So I turned to colored pencils, which I could do from my bed without the mess, and as I experimented, I realized I could get similarly bright and opaque colors!

After experimenting with the naked lady drawing, I immediately turned to drawing animals, which have always been a passion of mine. My next drawing was a parrot, using a reference photo from a San Diego Zoo magazine I had in my room.

My Parrot drawing, the second drawing I did, and my first animal, still experimenting with how bright I could get colored pencil to be. This is on a white piece of (too smooth, I just didn’t know that yet) paper.

From the same magazine, I drew another bird, a Pochard, which was sitting on smooth water, which means it was my third drawing, my second animal, and my first real drawing of trying to get realistic water. Similar to the Parrot, this was drawn on too smooth paper not really made for the amount of pressure and layers I was applying, I was just too inexperienced to know that at the time!

Pochard, my third drawing.

Each of these first three drawings was extremely experimental as I’d never used colored pencil like this before and with drawing in general, I had no idea what I was doing! All I knew was that I found it interesting and it was helping to distract me from my pain and misery.

So I kept going.

Now, this is where I started to noticeably progress. I took what I’d learned from the first three drawings and I made more calculated decisions for the next few, including better paper! I also bought an x-acto knife to help me etch away some of the pencil and get a few more tiny details, like the fur of the chipmunk.

As you can see, my first drawings, although colorful and fun, were a little bit on the dark side. Looking back now, I think some of my depression was still coming through my artwork, choosing images and drawings that had dark backgrounds.

It wasn’t until a little while later that my depression wasn’t as severe, and you can see a distinct change in some of my artwork, like these next pieces below:

Suddenly, my drawings were getting a little brighter, a little happier, and a lot more skilled very quickly.

Now, if you know me at all, you know that sometimes I do things…er…slightly backwards. For example, most people who start drawing start in black and white with graphite and then move on to the more complicated color drawings. Not me! It was around this time, two years into drawing, that I decided I wanted to try drawing in graphite. I wanted to use the graphite to try some portraits.

My first attempt was…less than great. I only used one pencil, not realizing there were different grades of graphite for different shades. But considering I hadn’t really drawn faces before, the proportions weren’t bad.

My first graphite portrait attempt on January 24th, 2012.

The next day, I discovered a second grade of pencil as well and tried again, with the result being this drawing of Halle Barry below:

My second attempt at a graphite portrait, on January 25th, 2012.

You’ll notice a significant increase in skill in what was only a single day, mostly because of the discovery of multiple shades of pencil. You may also notice that my papers were very dirty! colored pencil doesn’t smudge very much, so I wasn’t used to having to be careful about getting graphite on my hand and then smudging it on the paper. That was, and continues to be, a struggle! Especially when I was still drawing on my lap while lying in bed.

From here, things progressed very quickly as you can see by these next few drawings.

All of the graphite drawings shown in this post so far were done within 2 months of each other, from January 24th, to the last one on March 26th.

It’s amazing how quickly you can learn something when you are focused and don’t have anything else to help distract you from your predicament.

Wanting to keep challenging myself, I went back to my colored pencil drawings and decided to attempt more water drawings. Yikes are these difficult.

I also decided to try to work a little bigger, like with my Lemurs drawing below at 16×20 inches big.

Lemurs, in colored pencil.

With my confidence growing and finally starting to think of myself as an “artist,” I decided to open myself up to some pet portrait commissioned drawings for clients, which is something I’d been asked to do a few times but had turned down out of fear.

I still continue to do commissioned drawings of animals, pets, and people, both in graphite and in colored pencil, but I only take a limited amount each year.

Recently, as many of you may know, I’ve started a new series of drawings called Threatened & Endangered. I’ve completed 3 (and a half) drawings so far in this series.

This series is in black and white with a mixture of graphite and colored pencil. They’re bigger than my usual drawings, getting up to 22×30 inches big, and feature animals from around the world that are considered threatened, endangered, or vulnerable. This series is meant to bring awareness to these species, and some of the profits from each piece sold and prints sold will be donated to an organization that helps that particular species. For example, some of the proceeds from the African Elephant drawing and prints sold of it are being donated to the 96 Elephants campaign by the Wildlife Conservation Society.

So there you have it, my progression as an artist from 2010 until when this is being written in 2019.

From these early experimentations:

To some of these:

Do you have a favorite drawing of mine? Let me know! Or do you have a favorite animal I haven’t drawn yet? Let me know that too!

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Upcoming Art Reception and Double Book Launch Party – Details!


Have you heard? In just a few weeks on December 5th, 2018, I’m having an Art Reception and Double Book Launch Party! 

But…what does that mean, exactly? What goes on at a triple event like this? 

Read on to find out the details! 


First, the Necessary Details


First off, let’s get some of the necessary details out of the way. This event is going to be at the New Moon Cafe. This recently renovated cafe has a gorgeous and cozy (but spacious) seating room in the back, delicious food, and warm drinks! It’s located at 150 Cherry Street in Burlington, VT


The New Moon Cafe is conveniently located just across the street from one of the parking garages! You can enter the parking garage on Cherry Street, less than a block from the cafe. The first two hours are free, and then I think it goes to $3, and up $2 for each of the next hours you’re there. There may also be parking available on the street. 

Date and Time: 

This triple event will take place on Wednesday, December 5th, 4-6pm

RSVP Info: 

You can RSVP to this event on the Facebook page I’ve created HERE, or you can simply email me to let me know you’re hoping to make it! Email me at: or go to my contact form HERE. You are absolutely allowed to bring friends! 


Now, What To Expect! 

Art Reception:

If you’ve ever been to one of my art events, speeches, or workshops, you know I’m a relatively low-key person. I like to keep my art receptions that way as well. You don’t have to dress up or come prepared with any “art talk,” instead I want you to be comfortable and relax and enjoy the artwork. 

New Moon Cafe is a great atmosphere for a reception like this, and as you stroll into their back seating area, you’ll see my pencil artwork framed and lit along the wall on the right. At the reception, you’ll also see me, wearing a black dress and a smile, probably standing by a banner and a table full of fun products featuring my artwork! 

There’s no rules for my art receptions and I want to make the artwork as accessible as possible, so feel free to walk up close to it to see those tiny details I’m known for, read my artist statement that’s hanging on the wall, and come talk to me about your favorite piece! 

This exhibit is special because it is the VERY FIRST TIME some of these drawings have been on display! That includes my Black Rhino drawing and my Lion Cub drawing, both of which are part of my current series called Threatened & Endangered. Those two pieces, along with the African Elephant, are the centerpiece of this exhibit! You have to see these drawings in person! 

Sneak peek at part of the display…

Surrounding those striking black and white drawings are some of my best and brightest colored pencil drawings of animals that are also considered threatened, endangered, vulnerable, or are on their way there. That’s why this exhibit is called: Disappearing Act…

Double Book Launch Party:

But the art reception is only the beginning! Not only will I have a table of cool prints and products featuring my artwork (great gift-sized items for the holidays by the way…hint, hint, wink, wink…) I will also have a table full of BOOKS! 

This is going to be the first time ever that my first two books, How To Build Your Art Business with Limited Time or Energy, and How To Communicate Effectively – For Artists & Creatives, will be available in paperback form! 

A Little Background: 

In August of 2017, I released my first book as an e-book. I had no idea how it was going to do or if anyone would care it existed. But I felt the NEED to write it. I felt the NEED to get those thoughts out on paper and then share it with the world. Little did I know that within six months that e-book would become a #1 best-seller on Amazon in the Business of Art category and be listed as one of the Best Books for Artists on the Artsy Shark website! 

The response was amazing and readers from around the world started reaching out to tell me how much it was already helping them with their business and work-life balance. It was incredible, and some of the comments I kept getting the most were about my writing style. People kept telling me how easy the book was to read, how well I simplified things to make them doable, how articulate, warm, and conversational my writing was. 

Then I was asked to give a few speeches on the subjects within the books and I was told the same things: my speech style was conversational, accessible, warm, and friendly. I was told that I was articulate and comprehensive. 

This gave me a thought. Perhaps my next book should be about: Effective Communication. 

Communication, in any form, can be a difficult thing to learn, especially for those of us who like to express ourselves in other creative outlets, like art and music. So I once again got to writing and released my second book as an e-book just this past September (2018). 

Immediately after release I had a list of emails from people reaching out to tell me how much they were enjoying it, how helpful it was, and how they were going to spread it around to their creative and non-creative friends alike! 

From E-Book to Paperback:

If you’re like me, e-books are fine, but what you really want is a good old fashioned BOOK in your hand. You want to be able to smell it, feel it, write notes in it, and access any page you want without a struggle or needing a device to get to it. You want something you can show people, lend to people, something that feels real.

Well, thanks to the sales of the e-books, I was now able to bring my first book to life as a paperback! 

Excited beyond measure, I got to work formatting the files and signing contracts with my publisher, Onion River Press. After weeks of work, we submitted the book to the printer for a proof and I started playing around with the idea for a book launch party. 

Then it struck me. Should I also be doing my second book at the same time, or wait a few months?

It was already published as an e-book. I had the formatting and design for the printed versions fresh in my mind. 

So I called my publisher. “What if we did the second book, too? Could we get them both printed at once?”


We decided to try and what had taken me a month to do for formatting the first book for the printed version, I now had to do for the second book in a week. Meanwhile I had received the proof for the first book and had to read through and edit that whole book to make sure it was set for printing. 

It was a loooooonnng week. 

By the end, we scrambled to get everything done and were successful in getting both books printed at the same time, and both in time for the book launch party I had planned for December 5th! 

Time To Party:

At a past art reception.

Now that the books are set, it’s time to celebrate! And I want to do so with as many of my friends, family, and fans as I can! So where better to do it than where I have my artwork on the walls, where they serve great food and warm, cozy beverages? 

The first hundred books of each of my two books will be SIGNED and NUMBERED! Plus if you come to the art reception and double book launch party, I will have pen in hand to write you a note in your copies! Just excuse my less than beautiful handwriting. 😉 

There will also be a brief READING from one of my books likely around 5pm where I will stand up and give a short thank you speech and then read a passage from one or both of the books. If you’ve read the books and have a suggestion for which chapter I should read from, I encourage you to leave a comment or email me! 

Have I mentioned there may also be cake? Yes! I mean, what’s a party without cake?!?

PLUS, the first 50 people there will get a free bookmark with my wildlife artwork on it! 


Can’t Make It? 

That’s okay! There will be lots of pictures from the night shared on my Facebook Page here, so you can enjoy it vicariously and celebrate with me on there, and you can also PRE-ORDER either or both of my books here! After the December 5th launch, the books will be available on my website, but until then, if you can’t make the launch, you can absolutely pre-order your copies! 


Have questions or comments? Feel free to leave a comment below or email me! 

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How to Hire Me as a Speaker & What to Expect


As an artist and a writer, I know how to express a message in a way that grabs the audience’s attention. I have an appreciation for words, but also know that cadence and movement, humor and storytelling, are what make a speech truly memorable. 

Like you, I’ve been witness to presentations that have left me wondering what they were about, ones where I was bored and watching the clock. 

That’s why I aim to engage with my audience and leave them with information they can take away and put to use immediately


I appreciate you considering me for your event. Please contact me here with any questions! 

Working with Corrina was a joy. She helped us draw a great crowd for her presentation and delivered an insightful and informative talk.”

– Rob Hunter, Executive Director of Frog Hollow

More About Me

Back in 2008, at the age of 18, I was a freshman in college. I was planning to double-major in Anthropology and Biology, but after only a few months into my first semester, my life changed. 

Suddenly I was sick. Very sick. I struggled to stay in school as long as I could, but I had to medically withdraw partway through my second semester.

Being the type-A personality I was, a three-sport athlete and 4.0 student, I refused to give up. I tried going back to school the next Fall, and my illness once again overwhelmed me. It wasn’t long before my parents had to come collect me from my room and take me back home, where I was mostly bedridden for a number of years following. 

I was overwhelmed with a 24/7 migraine (if you can imagine), extreme fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, and more. Light made my eyes ache and noises made me wince in pain. I couldn’t even read or watch more than a few minutes of television.

I felt hopeless, useless, and like a burden on my family. 

Despite all the doctors I was seeing, no one could diagnose me or figure out what was wrong. Many turned me away.

Two years into my illness, I picked up a pencil and began drawing. I don’t know what compelled me to do so, but it was a turning point in my depression. It helped me focus on something other than the pain. It helped me feel like I was at least able to do something, I was at least able to be productive in some way.

Over the next few years I taught myself to draw from the confines of my bed, alone in my darkened room, just a little at a time as my migraine would allow. 

In 2014 I was finally diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease, Bartonella, malfunctioning adrenal glands, two types of pneumonia, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, IBS, Endometriosis, and more. I’m on long-term treatment that is challenging, frustratingly slow, and yet thankfully has shown significant improvement over the last few years. 

Now my artwork, which began as a therapeutic outlet, has turned into a rewarding career. I’m now a professional wildlife artist, entrepreneur, business consultant, and author of the books, How To Build Your Art Business: With Limited Time Or Energy, and How To Communicate Effectively – For Artists & Creatives. 

(Check out the event page for an art reception and double book launch party on December 5th, 2018 here!)

“As the Vice President of the Swanton Arts Council and freelance artist, I found Corrina Thurston’s Workshops on “Creating your best artist statement” and “Social Media Marketing for Artists,” to be extremely resourceful and informative. Her workshop provided me with clear, easy to follow insight on how to promote my own art and help other artists do the same when I curate shows.  I love her suggestion to create multiple artist statements, written for specific purposes. I have never thought of using more than one. Brilliant! She is full of wisdom that is shared in such a humble way. Her ideas and advice can be easily applied immediately after her workshops.”

– Nicole Gadouas, Vice President of Swanton Arts Council

Where I Usually Speak

I usually speak at art galleries, high schools, colleges and universities, for organizations, non-profits, businesses, churches/religious organizations, etc. 

Different places tend to have different interests in what I speak about, so see below for what might be best for your event/organization. 

My Most Popular Speech Topics

  • What it’s really like to be a full-time working artist

This speech is typically geared toward art students in college, but can be tweaked to be used elsewhere. It uses humor and my experience as a full-time working artist to talk about what a lot of art schools don’t, which is if you’re a professional artist, you’re also an entrepreneur. It uses anecdotes and more than a pinch of sarcasm to talk about the business side of being an artist.

  • My story

Sometimes the best inspiration comes from people who have been through the worst experiences, and came through the other side in some way better than before. I’ve been chronically ill since 2008, including over six years undiagnosed and with no light at the end of the tunnel. My life was flipped and I was forced to adapt to my circumstances, despite how terrible they were, and make the best of them. And somehow, I came out the other side of the hell I was in, happier than I was before, a better person than I was before, and more grateful for what I have than I ever could have been before. 

  • How to maintain happiness, despite negative circumstances

I’ve been through hell. It took me time and research and experience to figure out ways to not let my circumstances drag me straight down to the full depths of depression. Now I know how to keep my spirits up even when life continues to throw me curveballs. I think it’s my job to make sure others know how to do the same.

I’m writing a book that will be released in 2019 that will address some of these topics called, How To Crush Self-Doubt & Gain Real Confidence

“I’m so delighted that I attended all three of Corrina’s workshops sponsored by the Swanton Arts Council. As an author of several series, I’m faced with not only having to market my work but also myself. Corrina offered fantastic tips and practice advice that showed me ways to get past self-doubt, gain confidence, and have a clear path forward. Thank you so much, Corrina!

-Pat Esden, author of the Dark Heart and Northern Circle Coven series

  • Productivity

I’ve started and now run a business despite being chronically ill. I can’t work consistently, because I never know when I’m going to feel well and when I’m not, so I’ve learned techniques to be as productive as possible when I can work. This speech is directly coordinated with my book, How To Build Your Art Business: With Limited Time Or Energy, which has a focus on ways to make yourself extra productive with art and business (and everything else in life). 

  • The key to success – the ability to adapt

Sometimes you think you know what path your life is going to take. In reality, you have no control over what life is going to throw you, you can only control how you handle it. This one is especially good for high schools and colleges. 

  • How to conquer self-doubt and gain real confidence

I have severe anxiety. I used to have panic attacks every day. I was chronically ill and a burden on my family for many years, with no social circle. And I had a voice in my head that was constantly putting me down and doubting everything about myself. Trust me when I say, if I can learn to overcome my own self-doubt, fear, train myself to work with and calm my anxiety, and build back my self-confidence, you can too. This speech goes into detail with practical, easy takeaways for you to start building yourself up too, to become the confident, inspired person you want to be. 

I’m writing a book that will be released in 2019 that will address these topics called, How To Crush Self-Doubt & Gain Real Confidence

  • Goal-setting 

Most people have trouble meeting their goals. That’s because most people don’t know how to create the right goals for themselves. I’ve written blog posts and a chapter in my book about this topic as well. I go into detail about creating the right goals, goals that are measurable, the difference between what I call Summit and Step goals, how to not get overwhelmed, and more.

  • Artist topics like: how to create effective artist statements, how to talk about your creative work, email marketing, art marketing, social media tips, how to create an effective business plan, how to think like an entrepreneur, and more. 

I regularly speak on a number of topics that relate to my consulting and books about art business. How to communicate effectively, marketing tips and techniques, and more. This can be a one-time workshop/speech, or you can hire me for a series! 


“Corrina Thurston’s workshop on Creating An Effective Business Plan for artists at the SEABA Gallery was so worth the time. We learned about small steps and what to figure out. We left feeling: “Yea, we can do this.” We were photographers, ceramic artists, fiber artists, painters, cartoonists, jewelry makers, and more.”

                           – James Valastro, HenArt Cartoonist

What You Can Expect

Here’s what you can expect from me as you hire me to speak for your event or organization. 

  • Responsiveness: I respond quickly to any emails or phone calls and get back to you myself.
  • Professionalism: You can also expect full professionalism and timeliness throughout the entire process.
  • Consultation: I want to speak directly with you before the speech to make sure I know exactly what you’re hoping for with the talk or lecture.
  • Promotion: I will promote your event across my social media channels and on my website.
  • Good Delivery: Mixed with humor and full of practical takeaways, each speech is tailored for your audience and presented in a conversational tone.
  • Follow-Up: I always follow up afterwards for feedback and to make sure you’re satisfied with how everything went.

What To Do

Interested in hiring me for a speech? Please reach out to me here and ask about my availability, tell me a little about your organization and event, and what you’re hoping for from a speech. Once I know more about what you’re looking for, we can discuss the speaking fee.

Hire Me To Speak


If you’re not looking for a speaker but know someone who might be or whom you think could benefit, feel free to pass this blog post along to them or reach out to me directly! 

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Behind The Scenes of the Lion Cub Drawing


The Lion Cub, a new favorite for many of my fans, is the third in my Threatened & Endangered series of drawing, focusing on animals that are considered threatened, endangered, or vulnerable around the world.

The Beginning Of The Series

The first drawing in the series was the African Elephant, at 18×24 inches big. That drawing began as an experiment with a larger drawing using graphite and colored pencil together to create a black and white drawing, and it was so popular and I enjoyed making it so much, it sparked the idea for this whole series.

Each drawing in this series is larger than my typical drawings, being between 16×20 inches to 22×30 inches big. They’re all in black and white, which I think has the ability to enhance the emotion of the image, something I’m really striving to have be an important part of this series. And all of their backgrounds are being left stark white, both to bring more attention to the animal subjects, but also to represent the fact that their habitats are disappearing and soon they’ll be without a home.

Each drawing will have some of the proceeds from prints sold of it donated to a conservation organization that helps that particular species. The African Elephant has some of the proceeds going to the 96 Elephant campaign by the Wildlife Conservation Society. The Black Rhino, the second drawing in the series, has some of its proceeds going to the World Wildlife Fund, which began the first rhino sanctuary and continues to help Rhinos today. And the Lion Cub will have some of the proceeds from prints donated to the African Wildlife Foundation.

The second drawing in the series was Black Rhino, at 22×30 inches big.

Each of these drawings has gained their own following and despite the lack of color, they’ve become extremely popular. I’m emotionally connected to this series even more than my typical work, and feel like I’m working toward something bigger than myself. It gives me great pleasure to continue this series!

Drawing The Lion Cub – The Beginning


As with all my drawings, I began with a line drawing of the piece. For this piece, that involved a line drawing of the lion cub himself and just a light line to mark where the rock he’s resting on had distinct changes. 

I wasn’t sure at this point how much of the rock I was going to draw, wanting to leave the backgrounds of these pieces in my Threatened & Endangered series mostly blank. 

I began with the upper left part of the drawing and moved down and to the right. Part of the reason for this is because I like working on the head of an animal first. The other part is because graphite smudges easily and I’m notorious for resting my arm and hand on the paper and smudging with my drawing hand, so that is less likely to happen if I move from the top left down. 

Making Progress

I continued with the drawing using a mixture of graphite and black colored pencil. I use the black colored pencil on these pieces because I love black and white images with lots of contrast, and I’m never satisfied with the levels of black I can achieve with graphite alone. So I use the black colored pencil to get that deeper, crisper black where it’s needed. 

I layer the drawing similarly to how I draw with colored pencil, with the lighter layers first, mapping out the drawing and the shapes and patterns in the fur. Then I build up with the darker layers to bring more contrast and details to create a more realistic and intense image. 

Disaster Strikes! 

Things were going well. 

Enter… my studio assistant Juno. 


I went to a wedding out in California in the middle of this drawing, leaving Juno in charge of my studio while I was gone. As many of you read about on my Facebook page (because you follow me on Facebook, right?) and in my past newsletter (because you’re signed up for that too, right?), there was a bit on an incident in my absence. 

Apparently Juno walked into my studio one day while I was gone and mistook the partially finished Lion Cub drawing for a real lion. 

Without fear or hesitation, Juno jumped into action and leapt up onto the lion, attacking it and defending her home and studio like the fierce guard she is. I mean, just look at that ferocious face. 

After successfully clawing the Lion Cub (mostly warning shots around the sides), she felt like he was sufficiently subdued and moved on, waiting until I got home to discover the evidence of her brave act. 



What To Do? 

So then the question was, what should I do? Should I redo the entire image, from scratch, so to speak? Or should I keep going with this one and have the original have some damage to it? 

At first my decision was I would redo it. This came right after having another drawing get damaged and having to set it aside to redo it eventually, so it was a hard hit. 

But then I thought about it more and looked more closely at the damage. I changed my mind. I was going to keep going with this piece just the way it was, scratches and all. If nothing else, it’ll have a good story! And it is now the first drawing on which Juno and I have collaborated! 

The scratches are mostly on the background and barely noticeable now unless you get close to the drawing. 


A Finished Piece

After plugging along with the drawing, I came to the background. The decision there was, how much of the rock detail should I add if I want to keep the backgrounds in this series of drawings mostly blank? So I compromised and added a little detail, but let it fade to the edges. 


Prints & Products

Don’t forget this drawing, as with others, is available in many different forms and that some of the proceeds of prints sold will be donated to the African Wildlife Foundation to help lions maintain their numbers in the wild. Here’s just a few of the options! 

Photographic Prints

Photographic prints of this piece are gorgeous and they start at only $20, so they make great gifts! They come in a protective sleeve, signed, and with a backer board for support. You can buy them in my Etsy shop here.

Greeting Cards

Greeting cards of the Lion Cub are an adorable way to send a message. Blank on the inside, there’s plenty of room for your note to friends, whether it’s a congrats, and thank you, or just sending to someone to say hi. Buy them here. 

Prints On Metal

I LOVE my artwork printed on metal. They’re available in a variety of sizes and there’s no need for a frame, so the artwork is all you see! They come ready to hang, signed, and the image really pops! Purchase yours here.


Questions? Comments? Let me know!

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The Moment I Knew I Was An Artist


“When you get healthier, where are you going to go to college? Are you going back to St. Lawrence University?”

“I don’t know. I might not go back to college.”

“What do you mean? You have to.”

“Well…I haven’t decided what I’m going to do, and that’s all IF I get healthy again…”

“But science and Biology was always what you loved. You’re so good at it.”

“I still love it, I’m just not sure that’s what I’m going to do.”

“You can’t think you’re going to try artwork as a career! You love science! You HAVE to go back to it. Just keep art as a hobby. It’s not a career.”


Striking A Nerve

That conversation above occurred sometime in early 2014. One of my good friends was visiting me and knew I’d just been FINALLY diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease, which meant I was also finally put on proper treatment after over six years of being chronically, debilitatingly sick. We didn’t know how treatment would go, but I was already starting to feel a little better, so we were hopeful.

And although my friend had good intentions at heart, the conversation struck a nerve and his own biases were showing.

I’ve never been one to follow what others had done, despite my anxiety and fear to do otherwise. So when someone told me I couldn’t do something, or doubted me, or tried to pressure me in one direction over another, it usually had the opposite effect.

It still does.

That’s why peer pressure never worked on me, and too-salesy salespeople hate me as a customer.

It’s also why when my friend said, “You can’t,” and “You have to,” it didn’t matter how sick I felt at the moment and how overwhelming I knew it was, I slowly raised my eyebrow and tilted my head to the side and said…

“Says who?”

Me working on one of the most difficult parts of my African Elephant drawing.

The Realization

Holy mackerel did I feel offended. And then I felt a growing, bubbling determination in my chest as I talked with him about my potential future, which at that point could have been anything.

I was not yet running an art business.

I was not yet focusing on my artwork as anything more than a hobby and a therapy, something to keep me distracted and productive during my illness.

I was not sure what I wanted to do with my life, if I were to get healthier, because I’d been sick so long I stopped thinking about that possibility. During the previous years of darkness it had only brought me sorrow knowing whatever future I envisioned likely wouldn’t happen.

So why was I so offended? Why did I suddenly feel the need to defend my right to become an artist if I wished to do so?

Holy mackerel…did I want to be a professional artist?



After my friend left, I took a tour of my artwork I’d done up to that date. My Hermit Crab colored pencil drawing, one of my favorites still to this day, was staring back at me from my bedroom wall, and I couldn’t get over the detail in it.

I DREW that.

My Dolphin colored pencil drawing caught my eye next. His playful expression and his eagerness had me put my hands on my hips and sigh almost in resignation. “I know,” I said out loud.

Then it was my Snow Leopard, which was the biggest colored pencil drawing I’d done at that point. She was gazing at me with those eyes, almost pleading with me.

“I know, I know!” 

My Snow Leopard, Dolphin, and Hermit Crab colored pencil drawings.

Inside I had a swelling in my chest.

This wasn’t going to be easy.

This wasn’t something I had ever planned to do.

This wasn’t necessarily a logical choice… but it was a choice that had just been made.

“I. Am. An. Artist.”


Decision Has Been Made

It turns out that what started out as an experimental therapy for me with my illness was now much more than that. Now it was a part of me. It was a part of me that had a growing importance in my life. 

This distraction, this therapy, had unknowingly grown to be a defining factor of who I was, not just something I did, and as I suddenly recognized that, my outlook on it began to change. 

Suddenly, I was an artist. When people asked me what I did for work, I would say I’m an artist. And for the first time, I could say it with confidence. 

What’s Next

It wasn’t long after that that I signed up for an art business workshop. If I was an artist, I needed to figure out what that meant and how to make it work. 

Then I saw a lawyer and an accountant and registered as a business.

Within a year I went to a bigger conference in Washington, DC about art business. I applied for and received a grant to help me completely redesign this lovely website and make it have e-commerce and a blog. 

Then I was featured in newspapers and was on the Vermont news WCAX, published in magazines, was guest-blogging, and continuing to make new work. 

Now that I recognized the connection I had with my artwork, I’ve become more and more connected with it. Now my work is driven by more passion than ever before and I’m putting more emotion into each piece. I’m thinking about the bigger picture of my career as an artist and I’m branching out to help other artists do the same. 


And now, as my health is slowly continuing to improve, I have fully committed to this work I’m doing. 

I am an artist. I am an entrepreneur. I am a speaker, consultant, and author. 

And I can’t wait to see what comes next. 


But of course I need YOUR help to make it all happen. YOU are what keeps this journey going and part of why I wake up to do the work I do. So what do you think? Are you strapped in and ready to come along for the rest of the ride and the next part of this journey? 


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The Emotional Story Behind The Blue-Eyed Kitten Drawing


As many of you know, I’ve been chronically ill since 2008, not long after I turned 18.

For six of those years, I went undiagnosed and I was mostly bedridden, in excruciating pain with a 24/7 migraine, extreme fatigue, severe insomnia, shaking, anxiety, hallucinations, and so much more. The medicines they were putting me on were making me suicidal, and my hopeless situation, with no knowing what was wrong or if it would ever end, wasn’t helping my depression.

My insomnia and anxiety were so bad that I was having panic attacks just getting out of bed to make tea, and my chronic migraine was so severe that just walking out of my darkened room hurt my eyes and trying to hold a conversation with my parents, who thankfully were taking care of me, made my ears and head pound to the point of crying.

Keep in mind, this and much more was happening daily for six years.

You may also know I began drawing two years into this illness, a talent I never knew I had, and the silver lining to the years of hell. It was a talent that erupted out of the darkness like a volcano, and I’ve been drawing ever since, focusing that newfound talent on animals, which have always been a passion of mine.

Some of my colored pencil drawings of animals.

What you might not know, however, is that in 2014, when I was finally diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease, Bartonella, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, malfunctioning adrenal glands, and more… it was the first time in over six years that I’d felt hope. That it was the first time I allowed myself to think of a future again, which had been off limits to me since falling chronically ill.

If you think your future is going to be the same excruciating misery you’re in now, you tend not to think about it. Being undiagnosed and having medicines make me worse instead of better, I thought I might be doomed to a life barely surviving.

What you also might not know is that when I started my long-term treatment in 2014 and started to see some improvement in my health for the first time, this drawing of the Blue-Eyed Kitten was the first piece I created.

Work in progress of my Blue-Eyed Kitten drawing. You can see in the background the blanket that was on my lap. Yes, I really did draw from bed in those days!

All that loss, all that misery that I suffered for the years leading up to that moment of finally getting diagnosed and then feeling hope and improvement, even if it was slow, for the first time in years… I threw all of that into this drawing of this fragile but hopeful kitten, staring off in the distance toward a future I had given up on until that moment…

Cats are my favorite animals, and without really knowing it, I put all of my hope and emotion into this piece.

You’ll notice the kitten isn’t bounding about, she isn’t playing or having fun. She’s still tired and forced to rest, but that LOOK. Those bright eyes full of hope, daydreaming for the first time in years…that was me.

In a weird way, this is probably the most accurate self-portrait I’ve ever created.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this drawing has become one of my all time favorites that I’ve done to date. Because of all the sentimental value, I’ve chosen to keep the original drawing to myself for now, although she occasionally goes on display with my other drawings during exhibits.

However, prints and products of this drawing are always available! Check out some of the cool options below, where you can get to experience this piece for yourself and have that daily reminder of your own hope, your own future, and your own aspirations.

Photographic prints of the Blue-Eyed Kitten drawing, starting at only $20. Purchase one here.



Archival prints of the Blue-Eyed Kitten, metal prints, and canvas prints can be purchased here.


Mousepads of the Blue-Eyed Kitten are available here, to look back at you on your desk every day and make your work day a little better.


Necklaces of the Blue-Eyed Kitten are always available here.


What do you think of this piece? Can you feel the emotion behind it now that you know the story?