this is your life.

one of the seriously most fun things about my class with flora bowley was the moment after we had been working on our paintings all morning and she had us pass them to the person on our left...for good.

i was just starting to like my painting when i got this one from my lovely friend, Pam. she had used a cap from one of our paint tubes to stamp all of these white circles everywhere. it was a move i never would have thought of, and as soon as she gifted me with her painting, i started filling in all of the circles with bright paint!

there were plenty of times when i decided to flip it around and work from the other side.

 Pam had a metal piece from her coffee maker that i used as a stamp to add all of the little yellow-green polka dots. And flora turned me on to using a wide foam brush and i had a ton of fun creating texture and line with it...

and i just kept on painting and adding lots of layers!

this is how the painting looked when i showed it for gallery night at the do what you love retreat.

but once i got to my hotel room in york, i simply had to add a character. 

i tried all sorts of animals and girls, and then decided to make it easy on myself and just sketched in an owl. i'd been resisting painting an owl, but i had no attachment to my painting without a character in there. i felt i have to see the eyes of something so that the piece reflects something of an emotion...something that i feel to then convey a story to the viewer.

so i painted in my owl, leaving some of the background i loved to show through.

and when i wasn't too happy with my owl's shape anymore, i gave him a new character by filling in some blue to the background.

i was liking the way my owl seemed to just be floating there, sleeping in mid-air. and i'd added in these bright colored dots for trees that reminded me of gumdrops on either side (a technique inspired by flora bowley's class and paintings). i loved the dots so much, i thought my owl needed some inside its belly too.

i was having loads of trouble feeling like i needed to define something in the backgrounds, but not knowing what i'd like it to be and not seeing much in what was already there. in my hotel, i found a photo of an arched window in a train station and added that. and it seemed like my owl needed a little egg shape to rest on...

i was liking all of my new shapes, so i decided to add in a bit more of my favorite colors.

but then i got to a point where i'd added too much definition and shape...my owl stood out too much. so i blended it back in to my surrounding by adding white texture with my wide foam brush.

now i was at a point where i really didn't like my painting. i thought i'd really messed it up, covering up all of that gorgeous blue and dot pattern. but i was happy i'd tried something and taken a chance. i knew there was no sense in keeping that original painting that i felt no attachment to.

so i went for a walk and wandered around york, england for a bit.

and when i returned, i added a new face to my owl...and i really disliked that!

so i went ahead and completely changed everything!

i disliked that even more...and i knew i'd become way too attached to my owl, so i got rid of it too!

and brought back some of that blue dot pattern i'd loved so much at the start.

i felt so much better about that blue! i kept on asking myself...who is this character that i need to appear in this painting? i got so frustrated, i made this terrible black muddy mess...

and from that, i etched in this girl with the end of my paintbrush. it all happened so quick. and when i had my girl with all of the curly-cues on top of her head..i knew i wanted her to have her hands pressed together at the center of her chest. and since my hands were all crazy full of paint at that point...i realized her hands should be my hands. so i pressed the sides of my painted hands in place...

and let the painting dry.

when i came back to it, i knew i was liking her more again. i still wasn't sure just who this character was...and in a way, i couldn't stand her...she'd given me so much trouble. i just wanted her to be beautiful. 

but i knew i just had to keep going with what i felt. i added some orange to her hair and lightened her up. then i walked away again.

when i came back, i thought, "maybe those curly-cues aren't actually her hair, but the air around her." and so she got a bit more definition in her body...and i kept those hands.

then i walked away. i went for a long walk and listened to my favorite Andrew Bird album on my headphones. So often, I thought, "What else can I do to that character? Who is that girl?" 

i thought..."okay, fine. stop resisting." i knew she had to be an owl. and i ran back into my hotel room and without thinking pulled out my white paint and a brush and in seconds i'd painted in my owl.

to me, she's really a girl wearing an owl suit. it's not a costume, it's really part of who she is. yet, it's still something she wears, adorned on the outside. 

now i felt attached to the painting. i loved her just as much as i hated her. but i knew she had to be. i already knew her name too. and when i hopped onto my place home i left her this way.

and my entire trip home i kept thinking i'd love to color in the background with dark blue. i didn't want to ruin it though, but after leaving the painting and then coming back to it when i got home and still wanting the dark background...i went for it.

i kept covering up more and more. and then i wanted to add in some more white to help my owl fit in again. so i painted in a few white circles with my fingertips. and gradually i painted in more of the dark until it all felt like it was fitting together again.

and then i remembered the one tube of paint i was able to bring back with me on the plane was copper! so i added in what flora calls FROSTING! i've never used metallics before, but i think i'm getting addicted to this copper! i started with just a few dots and soon my white circles became floating flowers!

and then i went back in with my dark and happened to have a bit of pink on my foam brush from another painting i'm working on...and that pink just worked perfectly and oh so subtly added a bit of lightness here and there!

i really loved the circle in the top left. that was a part of the background i knew i didn't want to cover up. but it just wasn't fitting. so, i took a part of it i adored...small white dots...and added them in to the rest of my painting! 

i've been reading PATTERN by Orla Kiely and so wanted to add in some pattern! so these dots were perfect!

TITLE: This Is Your Life. Prints available in my etsy shop

and her name? well, while at the do what you love retreat, they'd set out tiny envelopes on each table. we each choose an envelope and inside was a note...just for you! and mine read REMEMBER, THIS IS YOUR LIFE.

this is a phrase I keep coming back to. after travelling to england and being a part of the retreat, i feel so incredibly lucky and cannot believe this is my life! and for so long, i had people telling me my dreams were unrealistic and too idealistic. 

now i always remember...THIS IS YOUR LIFE! 


  1. What a journey this owl girl took you on! She is gorgeous and complex.....she has a story...she has life :)

  2. oh my goodness! I saw this radiating owl in flickr, and to see the amazing journey she has taken to get here makes me LOVE her even more.....now I understand why she radiates so :) absolutely stunning and an inspiring reminder to keep going, follow those whispers and we will all get there in the end :) Thankyou! X

  3. Hi there! I had to change my blog and lost all my followers. I would love to have you back
    i was free wing watercolour, now im
    This post is wonderful, I love the process and the colours are beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

  4. Wow - so many beautiful layers... in paint and in meaning!
    What an incredible journey you've both been on!

    Thank you for sharing this...

  5. Thanks for sharing her creation step by step . . . it was like being right there with you on your journey. You continue to amaze me Miss Juliette!
    I loved reading this on a holiday morning!

  6. Juliette this is amazing - it's like she went on as big a journey as you did! And I love that you used your note from the retreat to name the painting. I hope you show Pam what her painting turned into!

  7. Thanks for sharing this. It is somehow comforting to know another artist's thought process and to be able to draw from it and learn also.

    Thank you for sharing this post.

  8. This was a very inspirational blog post to me. Your painting is beautiful! Thank you for sharing the journey with us!

  9. That is so amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your process. I love all the twists and turn it took and it's so inspiring to hear how there were times were you didn't love it but found a way to push through anyway.
    It is such a beautiful piece to have to remind you of all the lessons learned on your retreat. A beautiful symbol of your life. It's just gorgeous.

  10. I just loved, loved, loved watching and reading about this painting! I'm so glad you shared this...there were so many beautiful paintings along the way too...but I love your result. And I love your owl, especially with such a story behind her. She is so beautiful!

  11. That was such a great blog post. It is funny how we resist things. Its a lesson. Do not resist. If it feels right for you. It is who you are. Love this painting and all the frosting because it is your own.

  12. So wonderful so see your process through layer after layer. That's the beauty of painting. Applying layers, working through, finding yourself and letting it unfold until at last beauty emerges.

    I love your owls. THis one is gorgeous!

  13. OMG! This was a full blown adventure! :) Thanks for remembering to take photos of all the stages. :) I so often forget. Love seeing the process and how the painting evolved. As much as I love the Flora Bowley style painting I love the owl so much better. I believe it's the painting that tells you where you need to go and it's on the artist to keep listening and going with the flow. :) This one is awesome!

  14. Juliette, I 'm so glad you took all these photos! How fun to see the process you went through and how many changes you made. I think in all stages it was beautiful, but the end result had much more meaning!

  15. I love watching your progress. It reminds me that I don't have to stare at something I don't like- keep going! Maybe I'll dust off my acrylics and take out those old canvases soon...love this one so very much.

  16. Juliette, the painting is beautiful and seeing the process it took to get to the final version is great! I always struggle with those ugly phases, and thanks in part to seeing how you've worked this painting and past paintings, I am learning to push through those ugly phases too!

  17. Quite the journey your owl took. Thanks so much for sharing. It's nice to be reminded from time to time that wonderful artists are human too and don't always love what the create the first time around. It gives me new faith in my own process. Much love and joy to you.

  18. thank you! i'm so delighted you enjoyed seeing the start to finish :)

  19. I am not an artist, but I love your work, and i love that you shared your process, thank you so much.

  20. wow, loved seeing all the different lives and stages of this painting. love how you work with so many colours on a dark background.

  21. THAT is the most fabulous thing I have ever seen! I love the journey she took!! Gives me courage to never give up on a painting. I've got some discarded old paintings calling my name for a second chance!! :)

  22. thanks!

    would love to see any paintings as you go or when you're finished, katie! have fun!


  23. Juliette,

    I ADORE her! I love seeing how this work transpired from the retreat to now - it's perfect and so perfectly you!

    Thank you so much for sharing your work - it is truly inspiring!!

  24. loved watching your process... it helps me to understand my own back and forth method...... love your art.. I'll see you at artfest

  25. Thank you for 2 things: 1: your process, showing us (especially us newer painters) that the change and evolution of a painting is more than okay. I always feel like I'm going to "mess up", its good to remember that paint is not permanent and layers are often what makes a painting so rich. 2: Thank you for mentioning Andrew Bird ... I had heard about him, forgot about him, and you reminded me I had to look him up. He is amazing. His music makes me want to dance, paint, sing and do all things creative all at once lol. He is playing here in Minneapolis Dec 3rd at First Ave! :)


Feel free to say hello and ask questions. I would be delighted to hear from you! xo -juliette

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