YOUR INTERNAL LANDSCAPE is a vast and limitless space where your personal and familial histories mix with your current passions and interests, along with the many preferences and personal tastes you have developed and honed over time.

An honest exploration of this rich landscape is a sort of personal treasure hunt full of precious gifts to discover and integrate over time. By getting quiet, asking questions, and connecting the dots along the way, little clues from your past will help to inform your future, and your personal art-making style and “visual language” will begin to emerge in real time.

This kind of personal introspection is important on a number of levels, as it will nourish your art-making practice as well as your whole life.



In a time when information and imagery from other people’s art is so readily available at our fingertips, we believe mindfully sourcing inspiration from within our own hearts and authentic lived experience is a crucial part of finding a unique voice. That’s exactly why we believe turning inward is a perfect place to begin your style-seeking journey.

Throughout this chapter, we’ll take the time to remember who we’ve always been and what we’ve chosen, again and again, as a compelling way to notice patterns of style that are already rooted deep within. We’ll also explore our cultural roots, families of origin, and our “chosen families” as a way to deepen our connection to our personal history.

As you spend time with this chapter, we encourage you to limit your exposure to other people’s artwork in order to reduce the static of outside influence as you connect more deeply to your own personal experience. Overexposure to other people’s ideas can easily drown out the subtle soft voice of our own intuition, and we really want you to experience the clarity of your own inner voice.

We’ll have plenty of time to explore how to honorably integrate outside inspiration in Chapter 7, but for now, let’s sink into all the wisdom that’s right there within your skin. There is so much to discover, and you have exactly what you need to find it.

We believe just as your genetic code is one hundred percent unique, your artwork can be a reflection of this scientific truth. In this foray into the world within, we hope that you’ll discover an endless source of inspiration that is full of the precise heart, soul, and story that makes you, YOU.

We know it’s not about if you will find it, it’s about when.



We’d like to set the stage for this chapter by offering a simple meditation because we believe consciously quieting the mind is an essential part of connecting to our inner landscape. We hope this simple practice becomes a regular part of your art-making ritual. As always, do it your way.

It’s easy to move right from the busyness of life into your art-making practices with little pause in between. However, getting in the habit of slowing down and taking some deep centering breaths before you create opens up channels of intuition that can lead to more authentic and connected creativity. A simple meditation practice can also give the swirling details of the day a place to settle and drop away, making more space for your creative vision to flow through.

To begin, find a comfortable place to sit, either on the floor or in a chair. You’re also welcome to lie on your back if that’s more comfortable. Place your hands mindfully on your lap, by your sides, or place your palms facedown on your belly or heart. Close your eyes if you wish or find a place to rest your gaze.

Begin by taking a few deep breaths in and out. Let go of needing to control your breath and just let it flow, each breath linked to the next. Soften any tension you’re able to release with your exhales. Lengthen your spine with your inhales. Relax your belly, the space between your eyes, your jaw, your throat, and the palms of your hands.

Keep breathing.

If it helps you to maintain concentration, feel free to count as you inhale for a few seconds and exhale for the same number of counts. You’re also welcome to repeat words such as: “I breathe IN peace” and “I breathe OUT fear” or whatever words feel most supportive to you and this practice of settling in and opening up.

You can use this simple meditation practice anytime, but we especially recommend it in the mornings, evenings, before your art-making sessions, or whenever you’re feeling disconnected from your truth and center. Can you commit to performing this practice once a day for the next week or before you begin to paint? Even just a few minutes of mindful breathing can be so potent.



We find that unique and personal images can sometimes emerge in our mind’s eye when we sit quietly and focus on our breath. If you’re curious to explore this path with more intention, we’re happy to share some ideas and suggestions below.

We find that covering our closed eyes with a cloth helps to block out ambient light and allows the images that emerge behind our eyelids to become even brighter and easier to discern. You may a folded bandana, headband, scarf, or any kind of cloth you have to block the light from your eyes if that’s comfortable.

In addition to focusing on your breath to become more present, you can also ask the Universe (or whatever source you feel connected to) to show you imagery before you begin. You may ask specific questions such as, “What do I need to see today?” If nothing emerges naturally, simply choose a shape or image to focus on and see if it wants to morph into something else.

If images, shapes, or ideas arise in your meditation, feel free to jot down some sketches of what you saw when you open your eyes. This is your personally sourced imagery direct from your imagination!



There’s a rich world of imagery and inspiration that can be sourced through our lineages: both cultural and ancestral. We find that working with this kind of personal ephemera can add not only a layer of beauty but also meaning to our artwork, and we’re excited for you to explore this in your own work.

If you’ve saved bits of papers from travels, letters from loved ones, or photos from times gone by, this is all great material. Some other things you might incorporate are: found objects, song lyrics, religious or spiritual passages, inspiring quotes, magazine clippings, scraps of fabric, poems, words written in your ancestral language(s), and personal symbols. These are all precious materials that can help to inform who you are as an artist and what your art looks like and evokes. Please note, if you don’t want to use original photos or papers, you can use photocopies instead.


A Note on Cultural Appropriation and Cultural Appreciation

Our human history is vast and varied and conversations surrounding colonialism and power dynamics reveal a long history of abuses and unfair distribution of wealth and freedom.

With that knowledge, we believe it’s incredibly vital as visual artists to take as much interest in the origins of our inspiration as we take in our personal art-making processes.

As you seek out personal imagery and material to work with, consider the topic of cultural appropriation. A simple definition of cultural appropriation is: The unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.


To avoid appropriating, we encourage you to look into the origins of symbols or imagery you feel drawn to use in order to understand where they come from. Next, consider if you stand to benefit from the use of that imagery by making money, gaining status, or looking good. If so, understand that it’s not okay to borrow, take, or derive direct inspiration from groups or communities that you do not belong to in some way.

Instead (and this is the exciting part), we encourage you to get extra curious about your own cultural identity and lineage and the types of symbols, imagery, and inspiration that are available to explore there. If possible, engage in conversations with your family about meaningful traditions and stories, dig into family tree research, or take a DNA test to gain an even deeper understanding of your ancestry. Also consider what kinds of groups or communities you belong to now and what kind of cultures you’ve created together.

We’re excited to see what you discover and how you might incorporate it into your art-making practice. Who knows? A signature style might be waiting to emerge from what you find!

We also want to touch on the idea of cultural appreciation. A simple definition of cultural appreciation is: When someone seeks to understand and learn about another culture in an effort to broaden their perspective and connect with others cross-culturally. In our eyes, it’s fair game to love, admire, witness, and appreciate artistic expression that has been generously shared with the world no matter who made it. However, we must learn to appreciate things without taking them.

In chapter seven, we’ll explore how to mindfully glean inspiration from other artists, and you’ll find that many of those principles can also be applied to this conversation. We understand it can be tricky territory to know what is okay to use and in what ways, but we believe broadening our awareness and becoming more mindful are essential places to start. We also believe that narrowing the field of what is available inevitably forces us to be even more innovative and creative, so let the challenge be part of your inspiration!

Incorporating Personal Material into Your Artwork

Once you have gathered up an archive of meaningful bits and pieces from your life, there are infinite ways to use it in order to infuse more meaning into your one hundred paintings. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Add papers directly into the layers of your paintings. Use a utility knife to cut portions of papers to yield an exact silhouette. Tear papers to create a rougher and more natural look. Stitch your items using a needle and thread directly onto watercolor paper. Use an acrylic glazing medium to add ephemera to your paper.
  • Further affect the look and feel of the items and make them even more personal by burning, scratching, soaking, dyeing, ripping, marking, or otherwise distressing or changing any of the materials you choose to incorporate.
  • Use your own handwriting to add song lyrics, poems, quotes, or teachings into the layers of your paintings.
  • Draw inspiring shapes or images that you found in your collected materials and add these drawings to your paintings at any time.
  • To add paper, cover one side of the paper with gel medium, press it firmly onto your watercolor paper to smooth out any bumps, and finish with another layer of gel medium on top. Feel free to mix in paint as well.

For the purpose of creating art that is truly unique and meaningful to you and also ecologically friendly, we suggest seeking out materials that you already have that hold personal meaning versus buying premade “collage materials” from an art supply store. Remember, this is a great time to pull out that old box of letters, photos, or documents that you’ve been hanging onto and upcycle them into your artwork—a beautiful way to feature, honor, and preserve their significance. (As we mentioned previously, if you don’t feel comfortable using the originals, you can always make photocopies instead.)

This is also a great time to consider what other art mediums might have significance to you or your family. For example, Lynx grew up working in her family’s bead shop and has been making beaded jewelry since she was eleven years old. It was a natural progression for her to combine two long-standing passions: beading and painting.

Flora had a similar but different experience when she realized she could incorporate a box of her mom’s personal handwritten papers and letters into her artwork. Weaving these treasures into her paintings became a meaningful way to process and honor her mother’s life.

When it comes to adding mixed media into your paintings, there’s really no right or wrong way to proceed. You can begin a fresh painting with a layer of ephemera and layer paint on top of that. You can also add bits of mixed media along the way at any stage of your layering process. Allow the placement and timing to be an organic and intuitive process and stay open to how things want to evolve as you go.



In a freeform style to avoid overthinking, finish the following sentences and allow yourself to keep writing more for each prompt if you feel inspired. Think of them as a jumping-off point and go from there. Remember, this is just for you, so don’t hold back. When you’re done, look back and circle any words or phrases that stand out and notice any themes you see emerging. Notice what feels inspiring. Notice what feels tender. What did this exercise bring up for you?

I was born in the year ______________ .

So, I grew up in the time of _____________________ .

Growing up, I was surrounded by ______________ .

I’ve always loved _______________________________ .

Something that comes naturally to me is _____________________________ .

My family is from _________________________ .

Traditionally, my family ___________________________________________ .

My chosen family is ____________________________ .

My greatest teachers are ______________________________________________ .

I surround myself with _________________________ .

The books that really changed my life are ______________ .

My greatest dream right now is to ___________________________________.

Four words I live by are ________________________ , ____________________ , _____________________ , and ________________________ .


One of the most impactful ways to create a unique visual style is to develop your own visual language or way of expressing your ideas through personal shapes and imagery.

We believe one of the best ways to do this is through improvising or “riffing” on one idea in many different ways. This kind of improvisation allows you to let go of formulas, try on new ways of doing things, and explore a subject or shape in more depth.

Start by using simple lines to divide a sheet of paper into at least four squares, creating a grid. You can do this on your painting papers or in a sketchbook.

Next, choose a word or idea that stands out to you from either the Writing Inquiry, the Meditation, or your Mixed-Media Ephemera. For example, Flora might choose her birthplace of Wisconsin and Lynx might choose Turkish Textiles because that’s where her family of origin is from. You can also choose a simple shape to riff with like you see pictured below.

In each box, improvise different ways you might visually express something about the word or idea you chose. Repeat this exercise as many times as you’d like with different subjects from your writing.



Mandala is a Sanskrit word that translates to mean “circle.”

Traditionally practiced in Hindu and Buddhist cultural arts, mandalas are thought to represent the cosmos and our orientation within the cosmos. Jungian psychology also employs the mandala to assist in the “reunification of the self.”

In this book, we respectfully borrow the word mandala to invoke the creation of a symmetrical circular image, while inviting a spontaneous way of creating and honoring our own place within the cosmos.

In this exercise, we’ll also explore the use of light colors on a dark surface as a way to explore contrast.

To begin, use gesso or black paint to cover at least one of your painting papers. When it’s dry, use a light-colored oil pastel, pencil, gel ink pen, and/or paint pen and write the four words you live by from the Writing Inquiry on the four edges of your paper—one on each edge. Let these words be the guardians of the four edges of this piece.

To begin your mandala, choose one mark, shape, or word as the center point and place that in the middle of your paper. Next, continue to create marks, designs, and shapes in a circular way, radiating or rippling out concentrically from the center point.

Allow this art-making exercise to be a presence practice as each mark informs the next—one small step at a time.



At the end of each of the following chapters, you’ll find an “Integrate and Create” section.

Remember, there is no formula here for how to move forward. Simply use what you’ve explored within the chapter as inspiration as you continue to begin new paintings and/or add layers to works in progress. We’ll also include some “Jumping-Off Points” for inspiration.

This chapter was all about exploring your inner landscape, so this is a great time to consider what kind of personal visual language is starting to emerge from the meditation, writing, drawing, and collage exercises.

Remember, how you choose to integrate what you’ve gleaned from this chapter is totally up to you. Take what feels the most inspiring and use that as a starting point. Allow the rest to unfold as you go. We’ve only just begun!

Jumping-Off Points

If you’re feeling unsure about how to begin, here are a few prompts to get you going:

  • Incorporate any shapes or images you discovered through your Meditation practice.
  • Paint some of your cut watercolor papers either with black gesso or another very dark color to begin new paintings with a dark background, working light onto dark.
  • Play with more collage from your family history or personal archives of papers and photos. Try beginning a painting with a full layer of collage.
  • Create more mandalas or use elements from your mandalas in your paintings.
  • Continue to translate the information you unearthed through the Writing Inquiry into a visual language and use the shapes and motifs in your paintings.


Gathering Inspiration from Your Internal Landscape

This is a sampling of paintings completed by Fresh Paint E-Course participants.


  • Antje Zaremba
  • Amber Walker
  • Katina Edwards


  • Allyson Gunnell
  • Shawna Pechanec
  • Mathilde Berry
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