Inspiration is a funny thing. We look at people we know, and people we don’t know, people living and people who have passed on, and we let something in them touch us, push us, move us. I like to think that inspiration multiplies. Someone inspires you, and in turn you inspire someone else, and our society is lifted onward and upward. So for this post I’m doing two women of valor, one who has passed on and one who still inspires.

Meet Amelia Earhart and Esther Mbabazi.
Amelia Esther

A few months ago one of my amazing friends, Ruth Deal, suggested I include Amelia Earhart in my Women of Valor project. Of course I thought Amelia was a perfect fit for the project. Here’s what Ruth had to say about her:

Amelia Earhart has been my inspiration since the 2nd grade. I’ve always been inspired by her sense of adventure and desire to be be free no matter the cost. She accepted change. And married it. [My first daughter] Selah’s middle name is Amelia mainly because of how much this women whom I’ve never met has spoken into my life.”

Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic ocean. Her first flight was as a passenger, but it wasn’t enough and a few years later she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and ultimately disappeared while trying to circumnavigate the globe. Those are the facts that everyone knows about Amelia, but of course she was much more than just an aviator. Ms. Earhart was a best selling author, a teacher and a supporter of women’s rights in the days when women had very few. And Amelia was also a dreamer.

I know, that’s a pretty big claim to make. But here’s why I say it. As a child, Amelia kept a book of newspaper clippings. She cut out every article about women who inspired her, women who were excelling in fields dominated by men. And when she discovered aviation, the field she would flourish in, she did everything in her power to pursue her dream.


As I was working on Amelia’s portrait, I happened across the story of another amazing woman pilot – Esther Mbabazi. Last year Esther became Rwanda’s first female pilot at the age of 24, after dreaming of flying for 20 years. When she was 4 she watched planes flying overhead and dreamed of being that mysterious pilot, and after graduating high school she packed up and bought a one way ticket to pilot school.


When I heard Esther’s story, I couldn’t help comparing her to Amelia. Both women were determined to do something new. Amelia wasn’t just the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, she was one of the first humans to do it. Esther isn’t just the first Rwandan woman to fly a plane, she’s also among the first Rwandan pilots, male and female. And now Esther isn’t the only woman flying in Rwanda. She helped make a way for others to follow their dreams.


Inspiration spreads. Somehow when we pursue our dreams, we can open up doors for others to chase theirs. When we celebrate the success of others, it lifts all of us up. So who inspires you? Let me know, I just might paint them!

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esther scan adjust sm
Oh, and those little birds? They are Northern Wheatears. During their migration they fly around the world.

I was recently asked what my “essential image” was. Supposedly this is a single image that continually inspires the art one creates. I found that not only did I have no such image, I can’t even imagine having one. The idea of a single anything being a source of inspiration is one that completely baffles me. Everything I create is influenced by my whole life, by everything I have seen, heard, experienced and even the people I have met. But the question did make me think a bit about the evolution of my work and how I got to where I am now, which is what this blog post is really about. Let’s start back in early 2011.

The first tissue paper collage I ever did was this Daddy Long Legs.

Daddy Long Legs

I created it in one of my very first illustration classes at SCAD. The assignment was to use Eric Carle’s signature technique to create an insect. (Think “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”) This meant hand painting tissue paper with acrylic paint, cutting shapes from the paper and gluing them onto a plain white background. It was a fun project, but I didn’t see much future use for the technique. In typical artist style, I kept the extra bits of painted tissue paper anyways. You never know when you’re going to use things again!

I didn’t touch the paper for year, but then I accidentally ended up in a collage class. I wasn’t planning on taking it, but the class I had signed up for wasn’t what I was hoping for so I switched over. Turns out it was one of the most significant classes I took at SCAD. It started out with this bear.




We were practicing the encaustic technique in class, which means we were using layers of hot wax to attach paper to a surface. (It’s a wonderfully fun technique, but please do lots of research before you try it. If the wax gets too hot, breathing the fumes can cause permanent brain damage. My mom never listens when I try to tell her this.) My left over tissue paper was perfect for our projects, and I discovered that I loved being able to see the layers of paint and the brush strokes on the paper. So I tried a little lobster, without wax this time. Just paper, paint, glue and a touch of pen).


And then I tried something bigger, with no pen, just paint. It was a simple landscape, but I was developing my own technique. It was no longer something I was borrowing from Eric Carle, it was becoming something more, something that fit me much better.


After the landscape I decided to try something less experimental, and a little more realistic. Enter the portrait of my little sister, Jubilee.



All the experimenting led to my first published collage illustration, a painting called “Women, Art and Censorship.”

ruth meharg

Now, in the middle of 2014, I’m still creating art using the tissue paper collage technique. Still learning new ways to use it, still practicing making it my own. Still taking a little idea here, a little inspiration there, and trying to weave it all together.



Well, we are back in the States! We hit the ground running, and it doesn’t look like life will slow down soon. I have managed to squeeze in opening an Etsy shop however, and these circles I painted in Greece are now for sale. I’m planning to do a few more like these, personally I like the square “frame” in the background. How about you? Are the squares a good addition?

66 owl

Sixty-six – Owl

Sixty-seven - Octopus

Sixty-seven – Octopus

Sixty-eight - Zebra

Sixty-eight – Zebra

Sixty-nine - Manatee

Sixty-nine – Manatee

Seventy - Pigeon

Seventy – Pigeon

Seventy-one - Firefly (Lightning Bug)

Seventy-one – Firefly (Lightning Bug)

Seventy-two - Kiwi Bird

Seventy-two – Kiwi Bird

Seventy-three - Porcupine

Seventy-three – Porcupine

Seventy-four - Polar Bear

Seventy-four – Polar Bear

Check out my new Etsy shop if you haven’t already, and if you have one let me know! I’d love to see yours!

Three months ago we visited this little fruit and veggie shop for the first time. Yesterday we visited for the last time. Today is the last day of our first European adventure.

fruit stand a

I’m not really sure how I feel. We’ve been living and traveling on this side of the world for 9 months now. We made the best friends in Portugal, saw the most beautiful scenery in Croatia and enjoyed amazing food and museums in Greece. In some ways this feels like an ending, and it is in away. I don’t think we will ever live in Athens again. We’ll never visit the veggie stand or the fruit market again, and this is the last time we’ll have to risk taking the terrifying elevator to our 7th floor apartment. (I’m still worried I’ll get stuck in it with my bags at 3am tomorrow morning and our plane will leave without us. If I never post again you’ll know why.) In most ways though, it’s not really not an end. Our journey continues. We’re still nomads, traveling and journeying, making art and living life wherever we are. We’re just traveling to the next place. Looking for new ground to walk on, new sights to greet our eyes, and always good food.

Mmmm….I love good food.

Endings and beginnings are always tied together. Maybe they’re all just continuings.

Like most Greek cities, Corinth is a mixture of old and new. Ancient Corinth and the temple of Apollo rest in the center of new mansions, restaurants and summer homes. Modern buildings line the nearby coastline, and vineyards, orchards and fields climb the hills behind all the way to the walls of the fortified medieval castle, Acrocorinth. We took a day trip to the beautiful city last week, and had the privilege of being shown around by a local farmer and our friend, Gus. Gus was an airline pilot in the states, but he retired to move to Greece and grow grapes, olives, oranges, apricots and much more. We get some of his delicious fruit every week from the farmers market, and it was amazing to see the fields where it is grown. Farming is a beautiful thing. Without further ado, here are a few little paintings from our trip.

corinth 1a

Temple of Apollo

corinth 2 a


corinth gus a

Gus’ family owned restaurant

On June 15th Matt and I celebrated one year of marriage. It’s been an incredible year. We’ve lived in 4 different countries on 2 continents. We’ve hiked mountains and dipped our feet in the crashing Atlantic waves. I can’t believe that our life is real. One of my friends asked me what it feels like to be married for a year, and I wasn’t really sure how to answer. I think it’s like birthdays, you know you’re a little older but you don’t feel any different. For this anniversary I decided to document our first year together in a book. It’s full of memories, mementoes, letters and more. Here are a few little peeks into the pages.

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I love Athens.

athens self sm


You’d think this wouldn’t be a huge surprise since Athens was the original inspiration for our trip, the place I’ve been waiting to get to. But I was a little worried because I generally don’t like big cities, and because EVERYONE told us not to go. Friends, family and people I’ve never even met told us not to go because Athens is dirty, expensive, horrible. I’m so glad we didn’t listen to them.

Everyday a man walks around our neighborhood playing the accordion and singing.

At least a couple times a week we pass an ancient excavation site we haven’t seen before. They’re under skyscrapers, in the metro and just fenced off in the middle of the street.

Everyone has flowers, and they’re all blooming. Pink, orange and red are just spilling over balconies and climbing up walls, everywhere you look.

Everyone is friendly, kind, helpful and so, so welcoming.

Food. Need I say more? I’ve tried all kinds of new and wonderful things since arriving here, cooking and eating are absolute pleasures. It’s easy and fun to find fresh, local veggies and to shop at small businesses.

And there’s more that I don’t even really understand. I don’t know why this city is so different for me, why it feels like we just got here and we’ve been here forever all at once, why I’m not experiencing my usual desperation to get away from all the cement. I’m just really glad I’m here.

I saw a ship a-sailing,

A-sailing on the sea;

And oh, it was all laden

With pretty things for thee!  

There were comfits in the cabin,

And apples in the hold;

The sails were made of silk,

And the masts were all of gold.  

The four and twenty sailors,

That stood between the decks,

Were four and twenty white mice,

With chains about their necks.  

The captain was a duck,

With a packet on his back;

And when the ship began to move,

The captain said,

“Quack, Quack!”

sailing duck sm

This was one of my favorite nursery rhymes as a child. I think it’s partly because I loved the illustration that went with it, partly because I loved the rhythm of it, and partly because I always got to participate by adding the “Quack, quack!” at the end.

When I get back to the States I won’t be able to tell you about my trip. What do you say when someone asks “how were the last nine months of your life?” How do you sum up 270 days and 3 different countries? For us this isn’t just a whirlwind fun trip; it’s going grocery shopping, it’s cooking 3 meals a day, it’s sleeping and showering and budgeting and working. Of course we go and see beautiful places – majestic cathedrals, enormous monasteries, ancient castles, and world renowned temples – but most of those 270 days are spent just living life. And 9 months of life is a long story to tell. So here’s the short story of an average day. Not a day when we take the bus to a neighboring city or climb the acropolis hill, but just a regular day.

acropolis sunrise sm

The first hints of daylight behind the parthenon.

Step one: Wake up

Matt always wakes up a couple hours before me. I saw the sunrise over the acropolis once because I accidentally woke up, and then went back to sleep. It was beautiful though, all the monuments were still lit up and glowing yellow with a lavender sky behind them. When I was a teenager I thought that when I was grown up I would finally be able to be a morning person. That hasn’t really happened yet. I usually wake up and stay in bed reading for an hour while Matt makes me breakfast in bed. He’s a very good husband.

Step two: Go shopping

Because a girl’s gotta eat! Sometimes shopping is quick and easy, a stop at the fruit stand or mini market (I saw a “mini super market” the other day…not sure those words really work together), but somedays we need something more specialized. Those days tend to require long trips, sometimes by public transport and sometimes with long walks. Once you’ve walked across and entire town and been in 10 different stores without finding what you need, you appreciate shopping in the States on a whole new level.

Step three: Lunch

Ok, sometimes we actually work between shopping and lunch. That all depends on if it’s a long shopping day or a short shopping day. But either way we eat lunch. We ate lots of sandwiches in Portugal and Croatia, but here we throw together a fresh veggie salad with parsley, olive oil, lemon juice and of course feta. I love lunch.

Step four: Work

Painting. Sculpting. Planting. Cooking. Photographing. Writing. Uploading. Emailing. Work looks like a lot of things for us. We do a lot of creating, and then we do A LOT of work that has to go with creating.

Step five: Walk

If we took a short shopping trip in the morning, we like to take a walk in the afternoon. In Portugal and Croatia we walked to the water every day. Here in Athens we walk someplace different every day. There are so many streets, so many parks, so many neighborhoods that you never have to see the same thing twice.

Step six: Dinner

Yum. We eat on the Patio every day here. It’s wonderful. It was too cold in Portugal and Croatia to eat outside in the evenings, so we’re enjoying it to the fullest here in Athens.

Step seven: Whatever

Work, shower, read, watch TV, meet friends, look at the stars and eventually fall asleep.

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Moonrise over the Parthenon


P.S. If you haven’t seen it, check out my recent interview with Goldmine Journal here.