Inspired By: A Great Day in Harlem

One of those wonderful weekends in August we took a walking tour through Harlem (and yes it is debatable if you would call all of those areas Harlem nowadays but historically that was the premise). I am following Keith Taillon on instagram and he was my highlight during the pandemic (and still is) . He decided to walk all of Manhattan during the pandemic and took us on this journey with lots of historic and fun stories and ever since he now offers walking tour, I knew I wanted to join- because you know I love my “Strolls Through the Hood” .

I am not giving away all of the tour …it would be impossible anyway- the wealth of information presented in a wonderful storytelling and knowledgable manner during the 3.5 hour walk is sheer too much for a blogpost. But I also think if you ever should be in NYC- just take a tour with Keith – he is worth every penny – and if you cannot, follow him and wait for his book to be published and then buy it ;) Anyway- here are some impressions, after we met at Grant’s Tomb on Morningside Drive.

Loved this iron fence – can’t get the artist looking for patterns out of me ;)

We strolled through the Columbia University Campus – behind us a row of fun students applauding the new students moving in …I cannot remember this kind of applause when I went to university in Hamburg, but then we are also not known to be outbursts of emotions up in North Germany ;)

Lots of amazing information about the campus and history of the campus which used to be the grounds of The Bloomingdale Asylum – where many wealthy, including the Vanderbilts – liked to “house” their nonconforming family members. Site note: The spikes on the entrance lamp are impressive no?

We spent some time around the impressive and interesting and well …unfinished Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The construction started in 1892 – and only 2/3 are done …I feel that is actually not too bad …given that European Cathedrals have always taken a long time and La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona started about 10 years earlier is also still unfinished …

There is just sooo much about this Church – Dizzy Gillespie and Aretha Franklin amongst others performed here, the facade. Def. want to come back and take a closer look when it is open and no red carpet blocks a closer look at the doors and statues (that is another story)

Next to the Cathedral is the Peace Fountain. There is a lot of stuff going on here- let me say I mostly took away something I didn’t know: “Giraffes are a Symbol for Peace” .. take that Picasso …done with the dove

Another interesting little stop amongst many was the Church of Notre Dame – built in 1916 …you wouldn’t know LOL

and decked with a replica of the grotto where the Heavenly Mother appeared to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, France in 1858. Impressive …

It was a wonderful day for a walk and seriously I wouldn’t have minded having a little cocktail afterwards on the ivy balcony of this gorgeous building later. Alas …we weren’t invited.

Wonderful town and apartment houses along our way and this one made me stop hard …as I recognized in the top of the window some Belcher Mosaic Stained Glass windows. Why? Well..we do have some too and I can now recognize them when I see them. Given that they were only made for a couple of years and with a really cool stencil technique, I am obsessed. Fear not …I will probably write in the future a whole blogpost about those windows, as ours are in terrible shape and need restoration.

I love how Keith made us look at those two houses showing the difference of eras – Brownstone on the left vs. Limestone more airy on the right.

Peeling paint over the facade

Lots of streets reminded me of our city- and my neighborhood. The history of Harlem is complicated, layered and …important to know about.

Keith was so kind to make a tiny detour to go to this stop as we do have the very famous photo “A Great Day in Harlem” hanging in our house. 57 Jazz Musicians gathered for a photo by Art Kane in front of this house in 1958. Amongst them Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Count Basie, and Lester Young.

As for the building – I wonder if the cornice was still there when they took the photos in 1958

My favorite part of the photo are the kids that just joined the fun :)

Astor Row was my favorite street by far on this walk – beautiful beautiful houses, wonderful street – I would move in in a hard beat!

Funny little creatures

Glorious houses on Sugar Hill – “

You must take the “A” train
To go to Sugar Hill, way up in Harlem
If you miss the “A” train
You’ll find you missed the quickest way to Harlem”

Besides the gorgeous stoop – look at those plants …#plantgoals

I felt sorry for the tree being caged in but isn’t it amazing how natures takes it back if you let it?

And last but not least a photo of Alexander Hamiltons house- not at it’s original spot – it was twice moved – but alas the house was saved.

It was indeed a great day in Harlem – I learned a ton, read a lot since I came back and I found it inspiring that there are others with a big thirst for the stories and buildings of their neighborhood are out there. This wasn’t the last tour I booked with Keith – that is for sure! Cannot wait for the next one :)

Comments (1)

  • Evelyn Kurz


    Great piece on Harlem!


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Color Update with Judi – Creative Squad

Last month our Creative Squad member Judi Kauffman shared her lovely little stenciled lamp journal with us (check out the full post here) and in the process, caught the eye of a friend. Sometimes you create something and at that moment the project is complete… until you decide that you could take it further LOL. Well, that’s just what happened here and we thought it would be fun to share the update with you.

First let’s look at that sweet project from last month:

Love how she used my Hamilton, What’s the Point, Crackle, and ATC Mixup stencils to give the scene dimension, a setting, and lots of interest.

And then…

W O W !!! Look at allll that color! Here is what inspired the update:

“My friend in California whose birthday is coming up fell in love with it, but said I had to do “more” to it because she thought it should have COLOR…”

We love it Judi! The lamp light is glowing, the details enhancing the sparkle, and the color palette is very Mid Century cool!!!

Thank you Judi for sharing your color update with us!

Here are some of the supplies Judi used:

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A Look Back – Layering Stencils

A Look Back – Lots of times I’ll reach for a stencil when I want a quick background in an art journal or mixed media piece. Pair a stencil with some acrylic spray paint or acrylic paint and a makeup sponge and it’s almost instant success. But then there are times where I want the background to be a bit more complex and I’m not in the mood to start layering in lots of collage papers or stamped impressions. Layering on another stencil is my secret weapon in these cases. Let me show you some examples:

In this art journal page I chose my Signals and Space Age Modern stencils to layer on in warm colors. The scales are similar in terms of the marks and it doesn’t really read as two patterns, but one more complex pattern. I think it’s a nice effect. You can see the entire spread here.

I love finding two patterns that can work together in my stencils and I did that here in this art journal page with my Chicago and ATC Mixup stencils. I first put down the Chicago pattern with a blending tool and one color of Distress Ink, then used one design on the ATC Mixup stencil in the diamond part of the Chicago stencil with another color of ink. Instant complexity. Then I also took it further with one of my Fan-fare rubber stamps and a dot from my eraser.

Two more stencils that seem born to layer? Beacon and Toledo – the patterns just line right up. This is also a cool combination because the Beacon is a delicate design and Toledo so dense. I definitely recommend putting the dense design down first as your base and then the delicate one on top to add details to the layered pattern. Check out the full art journal spread here.

Here I used Hamburg and Chicago and I like how they are similar in line weight and all those right angles, but obviously not the same. The tension between the two stencils totally activates the page. It’s like a hole in the one pattern and a patch job that doesn’t quite match. Here’s the post so you can see the whole spread.

Here’s another example of two layered stencils that also have similar line weights, and it makes for a pretty interesting combination. It gets a bit confusing as to what pattern is what and I like that. For this page I used Flower Maze and Exchange Place, all of it in warm colors. You can see the full spread here in the original post.

So there you go: some ideas on layering stencils for when you want a nice way to oomph up those backgrounds.

A Look Back is a blog series to show you some projects and posts that you may have missed – sometimes going WAY back in the archive. I think it will be fun to revisit a few ideas that we haven’t seen for a while. I’m excited to see how a little look back might inspire something new in the future :)

Here are some of the supplies used in these projects:

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Creative Squad: Favorite Art – My Way – Maura Hibbitts

Hello from my Creative Squad! Today we have a mysterious and serene art journal spread from Maura Hibbitts using my Art Deco Fairview, Batik, and Tokyo stencils and my Fairview Fan rubber stamp for our new theme: Favorite Art – My Way – Look at a favorite work of art and create something inspired by it, drawing from the colors, shapes, subject matter, feeling etc. that strikes you most when you look at it.

For reasons I don’t completely understand, I’ve been drawn to “Smoke of Ambergris” by John Singer Sargent, since I first saw this painting in a museum. Usually, bright colors call to me, but this painting is soaked in neutrals. Maybe it’s the hints of far off lands seen in the echo of architecture and floor tile. Maybe it’s the feeling of serenity as the woman lifts her veil over the brazier. There is a mystery here that is both simple and complex, an insight into another time and place, that intrigues me.

I began by brushing chalky grey gesso up and down my art journal pages, leaving some open areas. Next, I added a layer of translucent white paint, again using vertical strokes, to mimic the vertical lines in the painting. I also felt like this created the hint of shadows.

I added a stenciled layer to the dry background using Nat’s Tokyo stencil and pale gold paint.  I like to use a cosmetic sponge for this step, and you always want to use a light touch with the paint to keep the design crisp.

Next up, another stenciled layer. This time, I used Nat’s Art Deco Fairview stencil and a blend of titan buff and burnt umber paints. The layers are building…

Cut a figure out of a magazine or catalog and adhere to the page using collage medium. I added a word sticker over a label on the clothing. I chose this particular figure for the neutral clothing.

I added a bit of stenciling to the dress using Nat’s Tokyo stencil and titan buff paint.

On a piece of watercolor paper, paint it with titan buff and let dry. Next, stamp Nat’s Fairview Fan stamp onto it, using ground espresso distress ink (or any brown ink).

Smudge quinacridone gold paint around the figure and let dry. Edge the figure with a graphite pencil, then use a water brush to create a shadow.

Add three vertical stripes on the opposing corners of the pages with Nat’s Batik stencil and quinacridone gold paint.

Cut the stamped image into a hat to represent the veil in the painting. Also add a portion to the dress.

Hand letter some words to the open page with a brown Posca pen. I chose the words “A sense of mystery in our daily life.” I feel the mystery in the painting “Smoke of Ambergris”, but also sense this is a ritual for the woman in the painting. I wanted to echo the neutral tones of the painting and vertical lines, as well as bringing in a hint of the east into my art journal. Get inspired by a favorite piece of art and create! Maura

Thank you Maura! I love that painting too and how you interpreted the color palette and elements is very pleasing to the eye :)

Give it a try: you can find all my Stencils and Rubber Stamps in my Online Shop and in addition to her magazine image, here are some of the supplies Maura used:

Looking for more projects? Follow the Creative Squad on Instagram here.

Comments (2)

  • Sue Clarke


    Love love love this Maura!
    The original is peaceful and you’ve captured the feeling perfectly and made it modern.
    This gives me some ideas.


    • Maura


      Thanks so much Sue! I am so glad you enjoyed this, and it gave you some creative ideas. Have fun creating! Maura


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Jump with CJS22 and MORE – Last Day

Jump back into learning and creating!

Today, Sept 5 is the LAST DAY to save with our Labor Day Workshop Sale and Last Chance Sale!!! Refuel your creative side this fall with an online mixed media workshop. Just enter the coupon code laborday20 to save 20% off all my Online Workshops*. In addition to that, it’s your last chance to sign up for Creative JumpStart 2022 and right now it’s just $59.

Jump into something new and fun and challenge yourself to make a commitment to your creativity. See you in the classroom!

*Sales end Monday Sept 5 2022 at 11:59pm EDT (NYC time). 20% off sale excludes CJS22.

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Back to School with Online Workshops

It’s that Back to School season where I think we’re all ready for new experiences, hungry for a challenge, and excited about learning. I always like to begin the fall with some nourishment for the mind and an Online Workshop is an easy way to jump into something that you know will be both fun AND good for the artistic side of the brain.

My Labor Day Sale is running now through Monday Sept 5th* and offers 20% off all my Online Workshops. Just use the coupon code laborday20 to save.

AND in addition to all the Online Workshops being on sale, I’m also offering a Last Chance Sale for CJS22 for just $59. I’m going to be taking a little break from this program for a while so it’ll also be your last chance to get a full CJS workshop for a while – better sign up ;)

Here is just a small selection of some of the workshops I’ve got going now – Artful Adventures, Best of CJS bundles, project workshops, and super cool ensemble cast workshops:

Be sure to check out the Online Workshop section of my shop – there are even more to choose from to inspire you and exercise your creative side this fall and beyond.

*Sale ends Monday, September 5th 2022 at 11:59pm EDT (NYC time). 20% off excludes CJS22.

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Last Chance: Jump with Creative JumpStart 2022

Jump with us! Creative Jumpstart 2022 is on sale now until Monday, September 5th*! 

Have you ever felt that tapping into your creative side is hard to do? Even if you love art making or crafting and/or do it for a living, getting in your creative zone can sometimes be a struggle. Mix in being a bit of a perfectionist, overthinking, time constraints, feeling unmotivated, and judging your work and/or comparing yourself to others, and artmaking can be such a trying thing! If you feel like I’m preaching to the choir, I have just the thing – Creative JumpStart.

Creative JumpStart was created for hobbyists and artists alike to learn from the best of the best and take action to build a creative habit.

By joining CJS, you’ll get to learn techniques from yours truly, as well as 37 other uber talented mixed media artists.

The workshop can be completed in about five weeks (if you are doing the lessons daily, as recommended) via 38 pre-recorded lessons. There’s technique and project based lessons, tons of tips and tricks from our artist teachers, and all the lessons are around 10 minutes in length and designed to help you make creating a doable, daily habit.

Are you in? 

Register for CJS22 between now and Monday, September 5th, for $59 (previously $79). This is your Last Chance to sign up for Creative JumpStart 2022 and also the last chance to enjoy the CJS extravaganza while we take a break from the programming for a year or so.

*Sale ends Monday, September 5th, 2022 at 11:59pm EDT (NYC time)

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Thinking about… Original Artwork

Guess what? I love artwork! Hahaha you knew that though, right? I like making it, looking at it, talking about it, reading about it, and yes I like collecting it too. I don’t really think of myself as an art collector, but if you walk around my home, I have a lot of stuff hanging on the walls and most of it is art that I really, really love. So I guess I’m an art collector :)

Some of the works I have are favorites that I’ve made and hesitate to part with just yet. Sometimes you make a piece that really has meaning or turned out so nicely that you might want to live with it for a while. I’ve got some of those. I also have a wall of work in my office that is a collection of pieces by friends. I’m so lucky to have met so many talented folks through the years and I love to have some of their work too. Also in there I have a wall of vintage photos from my relatives and I love looking at them and thinking about their lives long ago. And then I have paintings and works on paper that I’ve gotten from art shows and art fairs, where I met the artists right then and there and just fell in love with what they were doing.

Having original art pieces around the home inspires me and keeps me connected too – something made by the hands of another artist is just a really cool, and powerful human connection. And it might not be something that you’ve ever considered. Lots of folks think original artwork is not within their reach – it’s something you see at museums or in the homes of high society. I am here to tell you that’s not the case at all! As an artist I really want to have my work speak to people, people everywhere who would like to listen.

I haven’t been able to devote much time to creating artwork lately (visitors, online workshop duties, life etc), but I still do have pieces in my online shop that are waiting for just the right person to welcome them home. And that includes some Original Artwork at lots of different price points. Please read on:

Regeneration” is an original drypoint print of an historic building in Jersey City – the Powerhouse. It’s inked in a colorful mix of inks, matted and signed and just $50. I was thinking about this building again because it seems as though the mayor would like to give up on it and finally tear it down. What a loss that would be (it is a beautiful reminder of the industrial past downtown), but not super surprising considering the power that developers seem to have here.

Here is another version of that same drypoint print. Here “Regeneration” is hand printed in two tone, highlighting the masonry but also maybe hinting at the intensity of the discussion surrounding this building now.

Hope” is an original mixed media collage piece that is matted and framed and ready for your wall, and it’s just $55. You may recognize some of my rubber stamps in this one, along with my unique way of sketching the details in architecture. This is an original piece – no other will ever be like this one again and as a lover of art, that kind of thing makes me happy. You get some of me, a little bit of my own artistic madness, for your home (or office or studio etc).

Push & Pull” is an original painting on canvas that I have in my shop for $125. I love the layering in this piece and how the details of the Victorian home turned out. It is of course inspired by a home in my neighborhood, a place where the push and pull of gentrification is felt on every block. Here are a couple other views of this beauty:

I hope you take a look around in my online shop but also in the shops of other artists. Creating is a language and our way of communicating our thoughts, sharing, and discussing ideas. In the ideal world the resulting artwork realizes its full potential when it is viewed, considered and enjoyed by others – like YOU ;)

Here is a link to artwork in my shop.

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Get ready to Focus your Creativity!

Bring some focus back to your art making with an online workshop! Life is a juggling act and it’s easy to let some of the most joyful activities fall out of focus now and again. It’s time to change that and Focus your Creativity.

We’ve got two sales going on right now to help you with that. Our Creative JumpStart Last Chance Sale AND our Labor Day Workshop Sale. Now thru Monday Sept 5th* you can save on both CJS22 and all my online workshops. It’s a nice opportunity to redirect some energy back into your creative practice with technique and project lessons to stoke your creativity. Just enter the coupon code laborday20 when you check out to save.

Creative JumpStart 2022, for those of you who aren’t familiar with CJS, includes 38 different lessons, each taught by 38 different leading Mixed Media artists. The lessons include a broad variety of techniques, projects, and styles and are designed to fit in a busy schedule – whenever you could use a Creative JumpStart ;)

Whether you’re just getting started in the mixed media world or are a mixed media veteran, CJS is a magical and interactive experience created just for you. You can expect to:

  • Be challenged on your journey 
  • Take action on your goals 
  • Discover how your art making creates connections with people, places, and things
  • Understand how you connect with certain materials
  • Gain access to a plethora of artistic techniques to learn and master

Register today for just $59.

All my Online Workshops are on sale right now in fact, and there are lots of opportunities for learning, fun, and a renewed focus on your creative side.

Go on an Artful Adventure with me and let the artwork of master artists inspire and guide you…

Or get the Best of CJS from years past if you missed those workshops or are looking for more bite-sized lessons…

Join Birgit Koopsen, Marsha Valk, and myself as we explore mixed media surfaces in Beyond the Paper or inspiration through style eras in time in Time Traveler.

Whichever Online Workshop experience catches your eye (check out the shop here to see all the workshops I currently have available), the goal is to refocus you on your art making and creative side. Carve out some time each day or week to express yourself, hone your skills, let loose with your supplies, and feel the joy of creating.

See you soon in the classroom!

*Sales end Monday, September 5th 2022 at 11:59pm EDT (NYC time). Use coupon code laborday20

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