Log in
  • Home
  • ARTstarters Blog

ARTstarters: Creativity at pLaY!

Blogger:  Nicole Steiman, The Creativity Coach, Founder of The ARTbar Hands-on Studio

  • 02 Oct 2017 7:24 AM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    Abstract:  Finding Meaning in the Midst of Uncertainty

    Transitions in life can be confusing times.  Any time we go through change, whether bad or even good, it can be an awkward period of readjustment.  These days, just hearing the world news can cause uncertainly in life.  Things may seem unclear, discombobulated (yes, that’s a word, and I may even have spelled it right), or like they are going nowhere.  We may have many unanswered questions for God.

    Creating abstract art can be a way to embrace the unknown through the process of art.  Although we have control over some of our creation (such as choosing colors, creating shape and movement), there is still some of the process that is not planned out ahead of time.  I let clients know that even though we don’t know exactly how the project will look in the end, we can stay open to surprise, stay true to our own authentic expression, and allow our art to unfold into what it is meant to be. (Hmmm, so similar to life!)

    Abstract art can be a way to paint our FEELINGS, CONFUSION OR QUESTIONS — all without using images.  Instead we paint our feelings with COLOR and SHAPE. This is helpful for times when we can’t put images or words to what we are feeling, and even if we could, perhaps we would rather not.


    Untitled by Jazmine

    At one time or another, we all feel somewhat ABSTRACT or unclear.  These are the moments we may want to represent with abstract art:

    1. In whatever art media you prefer or have handy, choose some colors to represent your feelings or questions. 
    2. Take a deep breath and feel your questions inside your body.
    3. Let your feelings guide you as you paint or draw.
    4. After creating, try writing your thoughts about the moment or feeling and see if you have gained any peace or clarity about the situation.

    In upcoming posts, I’ll share some of the ways that we’ve been teaching specific abstract art projects, including the Paint by Pour project pictured above.

  • 18 Aug 2017 9:05 PM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    Etegami: Just a Little Note . . . 

    Recently, ARTstarters has been out in the community sharing a fun artform called Etegami, kind of like a Japanese mail art.  Etegami is perfect for sending just a fun little note! Senders usually draw a quick sketch, add a few words and then send it off postcard-style.  It literally means “picture letters.”  Like a quick “hi there” text with graphics except you get it in the postal mail!  How old school is that?

    I love the expressive nature of the drawings!  They are meant to be quick and spontaneous, as if a random object caught your eye, usually something right in front of you. They are best done when you are on the go, sitting at a coffeehouse sketching the drink in front of you, or at the mall doodling a pretty dress from the display.  You may be out in your yard when you see an interesting flower or bird that you want to draw.  With modern technology we can even quickly snap a photo of a fleeting moment and then draw it later.

    Pictured above is an etegami postcard that an artist did in my Monday morning session.  I love how Becci captured the fun of the wood grain pattern with her colored pencils and also her written reminder to "Drink your H2O. Mmmmmm"!

    To get started, you need very few supplies:

    1. Black permanent drawing pen (we like the Fudenosuke Pen, a Japanese Brush pen to get thick and thin lines; see supplies below) *
    2. Watercolors, markers, colored pencils or crayons
    3. Index cards or cardstock cut to postcard size (Yes - you can mail index cards and they’re cheap!  Plus they already have lines on the back for you to write your message.)

    During our art sessions, I place a variety of objects around the table to draw (such as art supplies).  

    I also print out pages of sample doodles that they can copy.  The goal is for everyone to loosen up and feel comfortable drawing.  Call it doodling if that helps people relax!  

    If I have more time with a group, I break it down into a curriculum of 3 weeks of playing with the brush pen: 1) Brush Basics and Modern Brush Lettering (words), 2) Doodling with Brush Pens (images) and 3) Putting images and words together into Etegami Mail Art. (See the supplies below that I like! *)

    Because etegami art is drawn or painted quickly, there is no time to stress about perfection.  It’s the imperfection that makes them so fun!  And the quirkiness puts a bit of the artist’s personality into the art.  You can even time yourself and see if you can create 10 of them in an hour!

    Imagine getting one of these in the mail and thinking, “Huh?”  “What’s this?” “Oh, it’s a random note from Nicole. Cool!”

    It’s a visual, “Hey, I’m thinking of you.”  But so artsy and so unexpectedly random!  Wouldn’t that just make your day!

    Watch out - you might just get one in your mail!  Better yet, sketch something quick on an index card and brighten up someone else’s day.

    Send one to The ARTbar, and we’ll show it off at our October ARTwalk!

    The ARTbar

    207 N. Broadway, Suite B6

    Santa Ana, CA  92701


    IMPORTANT!  Want to keep receiving expressive art ideas like this one?  Make sure you are subscribed to our ARTstarters email list!   Just a reminder that our old email list will be ending after this, as we are cleaning up our addresses into a new system.  If you are ONLY subscribed to our local events, you will miss getting our blog posts filled with inspiring art exercises.

    Interested in having ARTstarters at your organization?  Email us at Info@ARTstarters.org


    * My favorite supplies for this project:




    (Thank you for using these links - your purchase helps support our work with nonprofits!  You still get the great Amazon price and they pass on a small commission to us.)


  • 06 Jul 2017 1:06 PM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    Hope you all had a SPECTACULAR 4th of July!  It’s a special privilege to celebrate America and the freedom we enjoy in this great country –  and of course the fireworks are fun too!  There’s something magical about the colorful explosions of light that shine against the dark sky.  Each one is different as it bursts into the air!

    This month at the various nonprofits we teach at, we have been sharing some COLORFUL NEON projects using Moonlight Pens from Sakura:

    Using colors on black paper, we draw circular patterns (or “Fireworks!”).

    We create our patterns by connecting pre-drawn dots that radiate from the center at various degrees.  The dots can be connected in all sorts of ways to make endless combinations of patterns.   Zentangle patterns can also be drawn on dark paper!

    Scratch Art:

    Another fun "Light from Dark" project is using pre-coated scratch art paper.  We discovered these fun printed designs and our clients LOVE them.  

    Tip:  To share them with a group, simply bring some wooden skewers and let them each pick the design they like.  

    Here are some reflection questions to meditate on as you draw  “Light from Dark” art:

    1)  What challenge would you like to overcome in your life right now?

    2)  What tool/resource/process can help you shine light on your challenge?

    3)  How can YOU be the LIGHT in the darkness in this situation?

    4)  Is there a verse or quote that will keep you motivated going forward?


    Moonlight Pens now come in a Finepoint (06) that make drawing patterns fun and easy!  We also have gems, glitter & metallic pens (and more) to add additional accents to your artwork.  You can try them out at one of our Open Studios and create all sorts of original designs, cards and drawings, plus try one of our “Light from Dark projects.

    You can purchase Moonlight Pens at our studio or here on Amazon: *

    *Note:  There are a variety of Sakura gel pens and Moonlight sizes so don't order the wrong one!  The link above will lead you to the Fine point pens that we use for drawing.  And we so appreciate you using the link to support the services that we share!


    Upcoming NEON Open Studios for an extra hour of step-by-step instruction & quiet reflection time (plus 2 hours of  open studio time to follow):

    July 15th, 10 – 1pm

    Or come only for the Open Studio time to create whatever project you like:

    July 15th, 11 – 1pm

    July 29th, 11 – 1pm

  • 07 Apr 2017 4:24 PM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    Happy Spring!  Warm sunshine with cool breezes, flowers blooming and birds singing . . .  Now if only the temperature would stay in the low 70’s all year! 

    I love the Spring!  But wow – is it here already??!

    Lately time has felt like it’s been zooming by . . . so fast!  It finally dawned on me that TIME isn’t moving quicker, it’s me!  And the faster I move, the faster my life seems to blur around me.

    In my ARTstarters book, we explore the Creative Mindset of seeing Beauty, and the ritual of taking a Slow Motion Day.   Can you imagine the CONTRAST in your life if you took a full day to MOVE SLOWLY, intentionally, on purpose.  Imagine what it would feel like to purposefully take your time with every action you take, everything you say, every place you go, every interaction.  Because it is so different from what we do everyday, it invites inspiration.

    If time has been moving too fast for you, maybe it’s a signal for you to slow down.  To take a walk.  To take it all in.  To ZOOM in and focus on the tiny details, the holy moments of life, the sacred seeing of creations all around us.

    Try scheduling a slow motion day, and afterward reflect on your day in your journal.

    Please share your thoughts and comments on our blog after taking your SLOW MOTION DAY!

    And if you would like to take that concept further, here is a fabulous opportunity to take a 7 –week spiritual journey of visual discernment . . . 

    I invite you to join me and the Abbey of the Arts in a special online Easter retreat:

    Eyes of the Heart

    Photography as Contemplative Practice

    Are you seeking a way to bring more presence and prayerfulness to your creative expression? Are you longing for ways to practice the contemplative life which are more visual and kinesthetic? Would you like some structure and encouragement in the creative path?

    Register here with The ARTbar group and receive a special bonus at the end of your journey

  • 22 Mar 2017 11:20 AM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    (Artwork above:  "The Caring Tree" by Michelle Hughes, published in the Cancer Foundation's 2017 Calendar)

    It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that my friend and ARTbar partner, Michelle Hughes, unexpectedly passed away late last week.

    Michelle has helped hundreds of artists at many of our ARTwalks, parties, event booths, and workshops.  I couldn't have done so many events without her!  But more than her help, I will miss her creative spirit!  An artist since she was young, she found the ARTbar over 5 years ago, and then became a "regular" at our Zentangle and painting workshops. Before long she was featured in a book, with other publications and art boutiques soon following.  It was fun to see how she would take a technique and then apply her original style to it.

    Below is Michelle's artist Bio that she handed out with her artwork just recently at the December and March ARTwalks . . . I am honored to have several of her original drawings and cards to treasure.

    We will miss you so much, Michelle!  Thank you for sharing your creative spirit with us.

  • 05 Mar 2017 10:46 AM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    The March ARTwalk was a blast!  Thank you to everyone who stopped by to create art -- and then see it materialize onto a cool button!  And special thanks to Michelle Hughes and my kids for helping artists create and making it a crazy fun night!

    My son, Jakobi, was operating the button-making machine, and wearing about 20 of his own creations on his jacket.

    My favorite part of this project is that ANYTHING looks cool once it is turned into something wearable and collectible and professionally finished off with a pin-back.  Images from magazines, cut-out words from dictionaries . . . even just regular ol' handwriting!  There's something magical about seeing what you create . . . turned into something professionally made.

    If you missed it, don't worry!  We're going to have our button-making machine back at the April ARTwalk -- plus Jenna, creator of LZPencils, will be back again making custom-imprinted pencils. 


    Here's one of my favorite pencils she just created for me, pictured below!  At the end of a long night, in response to his teenage sister's drama, my 8 year old son told her: "Suck it up, Buttercup!" What a way to end the night laughing!!  (I swear I never taught him that phrase!  Where do they pick these things up???)

    What witty saying would YOU love to see on a button or a pencil??

    I smile every time I write with one of these! :)

  • 22 Nov 2016 2:59 PM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    At our November ARTwalk, we invited guests to step up to the bar and create a Gratitude Leaf to add to our tree.  WOW!!  It's is simply beautiful!  Thank YOU to everyone who stopped by to create art with us and share your gratitude.  We are grateful for YOU!

    Watercolor leaves are easy and fun to make.  Why not set a bunch of them out in a basket for guests to write what they are thankful for?  Or put them at the table as place cards (or bookmarks) they can take home.  Better yet, at your holiday party, set up a table and invite guests to make their own!  Any watercolors will work, just provide some fake (or real) leaves for tracing for those who don't want to draw.  

    They also look great strung on a garland or piece of twine.  The clients we work with at our nonprofit partners enjoyed hanging them around the windows. At our centers, we put an interesting twist on the project to create a LEAF of CHANGE, using colors that represent the changes in their life:  the good, the hard and the ones we are currently excited about.

    To learn our favorite techniques for painting watercolor leaves, you can watch a short video clip here.(http://youtu.be/EsB1dHd58sM)

    A special thank you to our Express Members ($5 per month donation) for all your support as we share these therapeutic art exercises out in the community.  Members can click here to view our full database of Stress-Less Art Exercises.  Thanks to you, we are adding more fun projects every month!

  • 09 Nov 2016 12:06 PM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    (Photo: Old tree, Fairhaven Cemetery, Orange, CA, taken by Nicole during our Gravestone Rubbing workshop)

     In the ARTstarters book, I talk about the Creative Mindset of BEAUTY: Seeing the Extraordinary in what others see as ordinary.

    An artist can see beauty in almost anything because they look beyond the obvious, seeing visual poetry all around them.

    In the fast-paced world we live in, it can sometimes be hard to slow down and notice what is beautiful.  Being bombarded by media and opinions, we may start to lose our own sense of what is beautiful (or right).  We may even lose touch with how we experience beauty in the world around us.

    A Slow-Motion Day (Slo-Mo Day) can help us see with fresh eyes throughout our day and awaken our Mindset of Beauty.  It’s a day of cultivating awareness of how we move through the world, slowing down to notice ourselves and who/what’s around us, and how we interact together.

    Will you join me TOMORROW, November 10th, in a Creative Ritual of a Slow-Motion Day?   You can declare your intention to the public on the ARTstarter Facebook Page!

    • ·      Do one thing at a time instead of multi-tasking
    • ·      Focus on each moment that you are in, moment to moment
    • ·      Move at a fraction of the pace you usually do
    • ·      Implement a Media Prohibition: ban yourself from all forms of media, technology, email, web surfing, TV, books radio, newspapers, gossip . . .
    • ·      Imagine God walking alongside you during your day as you "show Him around your life"

    For more information, you can read about the Slow Motion Day in the ARTstarter book (or digital copy) under the Chapter “Creative Mindset 3: Beauty” (on page 125 in most book versions.)

  • 01 Sep 2016 9:29 PM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    September will kick off another ARTstarters Creativity Circle at The ARTbar.  We only have a few spaces left (register to save your space)!  If you can't join us, why not start your own group using the ARTstarters book or follow along wth us, a chapter a month. Each month we will explore a Creative Mindset and a ritual that we can practice during the month that will help create that mindset in us.  

    The 1st Creative Mindset that we will be exploring:  POSSIBILITY!

    Possibility is an amazing concept when you think about it.

    Possibility embraces imagination, hope, curiosity, our future and dreams all in one word.  It means we can look beyond what is there already.  We are envisioning what CAN be.

    Possibility can help us move forward, cause us to change, and keep us from giving up when everything about reality wants us to stay down.

    Without possibility, you would not be able to anticipate a future.

    Without the possibility of this new day you are in, it would have been hard for you to wake up this morning. 

    Without possibility, you may not have bought that very last “splurge” item you just purchased.

    Without possibility, would you be here right now in this moment, reading these words?

    People may tell us that a dream or a vision or a hope is not REAL, but it can feel so POSSIBLE that it can take you to another place, another attitude, a whole other perspective, a whole new course of action. 

    When you are about to try something new that excites you, do you feel possibility bubbling up into your heart?

    Holding possibility in our hearts means that deep inside us there is a wish for something.  We may not always know exactly what it is, but it is there.

    On the ARTstarter journey, we use the concepts and process of art to uncover inspiration in our lives! We are going to think about our lives like Artists -- like our Creator who made us to be creative.

    Can you feel the POSSIBILITY???

  • 13 May 2016 3:39 PM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    A few times a year, The ARTbar gets the opportunity to install a window exhibit in the foyer of the Santora Arts Building where we have our studio.  A big challenge for me is always, "What to share??"  

    There are so many facets of The ARTbar! And it's true that many of you would probably even describe us in different ways.  To some it is a gathering place: a social way to get together with different artists and share our art.  To others it is a place to learn new art techniques and about new products. Some still even show up (when we are closed) thinking we are an art store.  And if you ask one of our mental health clients, they might say that The ARTbar is a time to relax and feel at peace, a break from all their worries and a chance to look at life a little differently.

    There are so many facets to what we do and who we are! Well, of course -- The ARTbar has been here for over 13 years!  And as the creator behind it, I have been changing as well.

    My own creative journey has led me through many ups and down, as I am sure yours has too.  So what better way to celebrate our journeys than to create an exhibit that invites all of you to participate! 

    We have many beautiful footprints already up in the display, with more being added every week.  If you would still like to submit a footprint for the exhibit, it’s not too late. Simply slide it under our door with the entry form.  You may also email us a .jpg of our art (and the form) with a story you would like to tell about your personal art journey

    The exhibit “Created to Create: My Sacred Art Journey” celebrates how art opens our hearts to change, healing, love, God, beauty, possibility, purpose . . . and wherever else it might be leading you.

    I am excited to share your stories in the upcoming weeks!

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software