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Artist Spotlight – Holly Janssen

What is your creative story?

Growing up, I loved to sing, read, draw, dance, and write. I continued to be creative throughout high school. When I went to college to study music I was a victim of trauma and quit creating. I became a teacher and encouraged my students’ creativity, but abandoned my own. As my own children grew and discovered their own inner artists, I realized how much I longed to create art again. After spending lots of money on posters in my classroom, I decided to make my own and practiced hand lettering. Scrolling through Pinterest for creative fonts, I stumbled onto Get Messy. I couldn’t believe the power of the beautiful lettering, coupled with art; it stirred something in my soul. I joined Get Messy and have discovered how much my art is healing old wounds and allowing me to have regular meditative time that calms me. Through my practice with Get Messy, I have discovered my love of painting animals and have  had two shows during local Art Walks in my hometown.

Why do you love creating?

As an English teacher, I am often encouraged to write with the goal of publishing my work. I really have no interest in simply writing. Although I am good at expressing my thoughts through the written word, art journaling allows me to express myself far more deeply than words often allow. Creating allows me to be quiet and express my deepest thoughts in a safe space. I can close the journal after I have depicted anger, rage, sadness, melancholy, etc., and feel better. Creating calms me, heals me, encourages me, strengthens me, bolsters me…saves me.

Describe your creative process. Do you have rituals to making?

Although I don’t have rituals for  making, I do feel the need to put supplies away after finishing one piece before moving on to another. I get excited to spread gesso on pages; the promise of creating something new emerge, excites me.

What tips do you have for beginners?

Take whatever materials you have and just begin. There is no need to go out and buy lots of expensive materials. Watch a few tutorials, take a deep breath, and just begin. Don’t be afraid to post what you make; this community is incredibly supportive. The more you share, the more risks you’ll begin to take.

What do you do when you don’t know what to make?

When I don’t know what to make, I dive into the archives of Get Messy’s tutorials. Endless ideas and techniques are found in past seasons. I will also look through magazines to find images that speak to me and start there. Sometimes all it takes is spreading paint on a page and pushing negative thoughts aside. I work really hard not to censor or edit my creativity. Allowing flow into your practice often leads to new ideas.

How do you fill your inspiration well?

Get Messy Hangouts!  Take long walks and spend  time in the sun.  Talking to students and children.  Museums. Sketching. Pet a dog. Take a bath. Allow yourself to be amazed by color. Look at objects in terms of shape, color, energy. Turn up the music and dance. Sing. Read. Drink wine. Watch the clouds. Remember to look at the stars. Enjoy sunrises and sunsets.  There are so many things that can fill the “inspiration well” if you allow yourself to be open and observe the world around you.

How do you find time to make things?

This is my biggest challenge. I am a middle school English teacher. Family, work, life, commitments, responsibilities, and the like, can get in the way of creating. Sometimes I am so exhausted, I just want to curl up in a ball and watch Netflix. However, if I don’t create daily, I get cranky and am no good at doing the things I have to do or patiently and lovingly care for the people in my life. Therefore, I set my alarm so that I get at least 30 minutes of creating before work and before anyone else is awake. Even if I just get to spread gesso on pages, I feel like I am productive and creative. Five minutes of creation can also fulfill the commitment to myself of daily creation. I carry my sketchbook most places I go. When I am waiting at the doctor’s office or while the pasta is boiling, I sketch and write. I keep a pen, watercolor pencils, and a waterbrush in my sketchbook pouch.

How do you go from beginner to expert?

Michelangelo said, “I am still learning.” Are we ever experts? If we consider ourselves to be an expert, have we closed our minds to learning? I think so. I am continually learning how much I really need to learn.

What are your must have supplies?

Gesso, watercolor, acrylic paint , magazines, white Stabilo pens, black Micron pens, Uhu glue sticks, and matte gel. This is a hard question. As I keep learning new techniques, I discover there are so many must have supplies…or supplies I really want to try.

Do you feel like your art reflects your personality? How do you get it to look like you?

I believe the best way we can get our art to “look like you,” is to use our own handwriting in our work. My grandmother made volumes and volumes of notebooks in her lifetime. I feel so close to her when I read her words and can actually touch her handwriting. When I began art journaling, I was looking to improve my writing and hand lettering. Upon reflection of my grandmother’s handwriting, I think we leave a huge gift to our children when we take the time to write in our own authentic handwriting. I hope the journals I leave behind will allow my children to feel close to me when they can read…and touch.. my handwriting and art.

Holly Janssen

Holly is a public school teacher, wife, and mom from Bozeman, Montana. As she enters into the next phase of her life (retirement and empty-nesting) she turns to art for solace, inspiration, meditation, and cheap therapy.