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Entries in Community Thrive (2)


Tania Hetaraka - Artist of the Month

This month's talented artist is Tania Hetaraka. Tania is a mixed media artist who I met in the online art group Community Thrive. I love all of the colors, textures and multiple dimensions in Tania's art.

Tania lives in Australia, in a small rural suburb in Penrith New South Wales Sydney.  Tania is originally from New Zealand but keeps ending up in Australia for family reasons. Tania is not only a talented artist, but a busy mother of 5! Her children range in age from 21 to 5. And in case that is not enough to keep her busy, she also has full time custody and care of her 3 grandchildren, ages 2 to 6 months. I'm not sure how she finds time to create, but I'm sure all those creative minds around her have a positive influence on her artwork.


I asked Tania how long she has been creating artwork and what she did prior to being an artist:

"I have been creating ever since I can remember. My grandfather knew I loved to create; when I was about 6 or 7 I remember him giving me my first art set of crayons, colored pencils & water paints with brushes & Papers.  I just loved them! I spent  most of my childhood on the farm so it was like a smorgasbord for my creativity. I would draw from my own resources from weaving pieces of grass into birds nest to making clay characters from raw clay.


I pursued my degrees in small business, advanced business & commercial law. So...My prior work was in security & administrative jobs, although I did get an opportunity to teach ART in 2011 at one of our rural schools (Whangaruru primary)in New Zealand to children from ages 8 & up. I had around 8 students it was a lot of fun & is something I enjoy doing."

I was curious if Tania had any formal art training:

"I only have my School certificate (like HSC) in Art, & never went any further than that. I learned to create my work through most of all drawing from GOD who is a big piece of my life, my environment, the little glimpses of life & other artist that inspire me. Being that I was naturally gifted in art I started to build myself a style of my own at a very young age, acquiring these skills over the years have allowed me & my imagination to take flight."

I really enjoy Tania's mix of different media elements in her artwork. I asked her to tell us a little about how she goes about creating them:

"These little canvases involve a number of layers. First being designer papers & vintage book pages
creating the base; acrylic paints are the second layer along with inks & chalk pastels. I then use
my graphite pencil to outline the image in my head, in which case they happen to be hearts, adding
some gold acrylic complimenting those bohemian tones, I then add a word, verse or quote & to finish
it all off some corrugated wings, a found element chain & charm & finished in scented candle
wax….making each collage Assemblage piece unique."

And Tania's favorite part of the creative process...

"I love putting all my elements together & making something old & dull into something that has its
own personality & character."

Favorite art supplies...

"Acrylics, soft pastels, water paints, inks, Tom bows, pencils, stamps to include my hand- made art
stamps, decorative papers, old book pages, art stencils etc."

I really like Tania's journals and books and was interested in learning a little more about them.

"It is a passion of mine to create journals from recycled papers, cardboard & fabrics. What I would like to share about creating these journals is don’t hold back. Create and draw from the idea you see in your head, you don’t need the flashy artist papers in order to create a book, you just need a passion for creating……"

I asked Tania who her favorite artists are and why:

"Yes, I totally draw off from the old school to name a few, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Vincent Willem van Gogh, & M.C. Escher. The people of today are Adriana (Doll Dreams);Tam(Willowing); Suziblu (suziblutube); Mystele (Community Thrive) from classes I have taken by each of these gifted artist. I love their quirky style & technique & with this, each of these individual artist have played a big role in how my work has developed today as an individual an artist and entrepreneur."

So, where does Tania see her artwork going in the future?

"My hope is to share my art & creative process, by one day teaching on sight & e- classes & that
through sharing my art and experiences as an artist, others might be inspired to see how amazing it
is to experience life doing whatever it is you love."

Tania's artwork is filled with color and positive messages. If you would like to learn more about Tania's artwork visit her Etsy shop bfree2create and her blog bfree2create-it.  I'll close the post with her positive and encouraging words:

"Have fun, learn to let go, and don’t be afraid to push your creativity, these have been the 


backbone to my creative process. I wanted to share a couple of my of my favourite art quotes;"

" For me a painting is like a story which stimulates the imagination and draws the mind into a
place filled with expectation, excitement, wonder and pleasure"


- J. P. Hughston, painter


"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." Pablo Picasso

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Tania and her beautiful creative work. Thanks for joining us on another artist of the month adventure.

"Being creative is an adventure in joy." by Madi


Heather Santos - Artist of the Month



I met this month's artist of the month, Heather Santos through an online art community called Community Thrive.I was immediately drawn to the dreamy and beautiful faces that she creates.

Heather lives in Charleston, Illinois. She grew up in the area in a neighboring town - small town, rural Midwest... miles and miles of corn and soybeans. The nearest art supply store is an hour’s drive away. She lived in Florida for 16 years and then moved back to Illinois. Believe it or not, Heather is relatively new to painting. She has only been painting for a little over a year!

I asked Heather to tell me a little about herself.

"I am a wife and a mom. My husband is very encouraging and supportive of my art, which makes all the difference in the world to me. My daughter is 19, off to college and just got married, and my son is 17, a senior in high school with a bad case of senioritis (aka: ready to be out of there and moving on). :) And then there are the three dogs.  In my day job I convert textbooks into alternate media formats for university students with disabilities. I get to meet some of the most amazing people who overcome some pretty difficult deficits. They are such an inspiration to me. Last night, I got to hear Temple Grandin speak live at our university. I know that many may not know who she is, but I encourage everyone to check her out. She has a PhD and is an expert in her field. She also  has high functioning autism... she has overcome tremendous odds and achieved so much in her life. Just a tremendously inspiring woman."  

I really enjoy the textured look of Heather's paintings as well as the colors she uses in her artwork.

I was curious about how she started this part of her creative journey. This is what Heather had to share with us.

"This leg of my journey was born out of a need to express myself in a way that words alone could not. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety most of my life, but did a pretty good job of hiding it from the outside world. Journaling was my main outlet for processing whatever I was going through. But a couple of years ago, written journaling stopped working for me and I was quite perplexed. About a year ago, through an online friend, I was presented with this idea of art journaling, which I had never heard of before. I have always been crafty, and even did some tole painting in years past, but never felt I could create with my own ideas. For some reason, somewhere along the way, I bought the lie that I could never be an artist, who created original work. But, now this art journaling, that sounded like something that I could do, but no one else would ever have to see. Plus, I was hoping to process the emotions that were no longer being released through writing alone. Once I started, then took a few online workshops here and there, I was hooked and spend most of my free time painting. One of the first online workshops I took was Gut Art with Mystele. It could not have been better timing for me. This class focuses on finding out what makes your heart sing and then applying it to your art. It was just exactly what I needed at that time and I grew exponentially through that class. Plus, I made quite a few artsy friends and eventually started helping Mystele with some of the technical side of her online community. I have been so blessed there."

I am inspired by Heather's story and how her artwork has helped her to express her emotions and deal with the sometimes uncomfortable feelings we all experience. I hope that her story helps others who feel the need to express themselves emotionally. I know that I need creative time like I need air to breath, without it I begin to feel restless and anxious. Mystele is also teaching as part of Life Book 2012. You may remember I shared my artwork that I created in her class in the post I wrote about Mother's Day.


I wanted to know more about Heather's style of creating. I asked her if she planned her paintings or sort of just "winged" it.

"Definitely wing it, but it turns out to be a face 99% of the time. :) I like to play with lots of layers underneath... just have fun and experiment. I also like to let those layers show through here and there usually. I do think it’s important to keep challenging myself in other ways though. That’s what I try to do when I search YouTube for videos or choose online workshops. Find ways to grow and stretch - do something different. Hopefully, one day, my heads will have bodies! :)"


I asked Heather what types of materials she uses in her artwork.

"Acrylics, inks, Pitt pens, pencils, stamps (including my own hand-carved stamps), collage (decorative papers, old book pages, scrapbooking bits and pieces, odds and ends, copies of old letters and writings from my family, bible pages from a dollar store bible, junk mail, security envelopes), lots of found objects for stamping and mark-making. Mostly everything but the kitchen sink. Also, I like to just paint with a palette knife sometimes. It doesn’t allow me to be so precise and perfect, which is good for me."

And what are her favorite and least favorite parts of the artistic process...

"My favorite part is all of it, except the cleanup. That would be my least favorite part. I’m way messy. If I’m not having fun throughout the whole process, then it’s just not worth it to me. I mean, sure, you run into mistakes or issues as you go, but that just changes the outcome and usually ends up being a good thing! But, my main purpose when I am creating, is to process emotion, to open and share my heart."

So, what artists inspire Heather and why?

"Sometimes it’s strictly their work that inspires me, sometimes it’s their story, sometimes it’s both. I have taken some workshops with Mystele which has helped my growth exponentially and helped me learn to create from my heart and soul. She is capable of giving constructive feedback in such a positive, joyful way. Being involved in her online community feels like being in a great big family. It’s wonderful to feel like you fit in somewhere. Some other artists whose work I admire are Wyanne - heart and soul stuff, Roberta Laliberte - more heart and soul stuff, Andre Kohn - love the impressionist look to his work and the emotion really connects, and Francoise Nielly - love the unexpected ways that she uses color... my list could seriously be a mile long. I love art. I love to see people convert their emotions into something we can see and feel and touch. And it’s all so different. It amazes me how each artist is just so different."

And what about the future for Heather's artwork?

"I have no idea where my art is going. I think at this point, I’m just along for the ride and we’ll see where it takes me. I mean, I don’t want to go around blindly slapping paint everywhere, but, I’m also not completely confident in my abilities yet. I have lots of growing to do still. It would be so cool to somehow do this full time in some capacity and get out from behind a desk, but I think that may be a long way off."

Heather has embarked on a new adventure with a local art studio. How exciting!

"I am really excited about this. I think I’ve sold a couple of pieces! The studio is called Art Smart and is owned by Shannon Johnson. I tell you what, that girl is so encouraging... she just makes you feel like you are important and what you have to give does truly matter. Her goal is to work to build and connect the local arts community. She is also filling a void in teaching art classes for area children as it is being removed from the public schools little by little. I’m really thrilled to be a part of this."

Advice for the beginners? Here is what Heather had to share:

"For beginners, it’s so important to just start. It doesn’t have to be “good” or “perfect” or like any other artist’s work. In fact, it’s better if it’s not! Find a community somewhere that you are comfortable, whether it’s online or local. You have to try them out for a few weeks and see where you fit. Build relationships that encourage you and build you up in genuine ways. Share your work! Just do it! Find a place that you are comfortable and share your work and your heart!" 

    Heather has a blog called "Sparrow's Journey" where you can learn even more about her artsitic journey. Make sure you read the About Me section to learn how she went about selecting her name for her blog. You can also view more of her amazing artwork on her Flickr photo stream here. If you would like to purchase Heather's artwork, visit her shop on Zazzle here. I hope you enjoyed getting to know Heather and her artwork today. Thanks so much for joining me on another Artist of the Month post.

    "Reach out to art." by Madi