Reflecting on a Decade

Lots of changes over the past 10 years, both in my art and my life!

Ten years ago everything was different! Well, almost everything. I was already working as an artist and I was married to my wonderful husband, but other than that, life looked pretty different! I lived in Wisconsin in the same town I grew up in. I worked in a studio that happened to also double as my parent’s basement! We didn’t have children yet and I was still trying to recover my career as we creeped our way out of the recession.

As we dive into a new decade, I thought it would be fun to look back on the major changes in my personal and professional life which seem to strangely overlap when you are an artist. My passion is also my work.

1. We moved from Wisconsin to Texas, then Tennessee, then a few more blocks. We’ve lived in four different houses this decade, and I think it’s about time to settle down!

2. We discovered Haiti. When the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, something hit me too. I’m not sure why other than it was a God’s plan. I had heard about plenty of other natural disasters, but this time I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I started painting portraits that I found on a friend’s Facebook page and before I knew it, we were there in the country.

3. Kids change everything!

In 2014 we welcomed our first son Breckin. He is now 5 and the funniest, most determined little boy you will ever meet!

We started the adoption process in 2010. It would take us 6 years to complete. Sometimes it seems like God’s timing is crazy. After this long battle with paperwork, we finally brought our son Wilson home in 2016.

4. Live Painting!

I started doing live painting this decade which ranged from creating art during worship services, to painting weddings, to fundraisers, to 20 minute speed paintings while Rick Rushing played live.

5. Murals and More!

I found myself in a lot of interesting spaces, from 30 foot high ceilings, to the sides of buildings. During the three years I spent in Houston, I painted a lot! I found there was an incredible demand there for custom murals and finishes in all of the beautiful homes there. This really gave my career the fuel it needed after some lean years during the recession when art was the last thing anyone was carving out of their budgets.

6. Time to Teach!

I found myself as a teacher. Actually I kind of feel like teaching found me! It was never something I set out to do. I actually didn’t think I would be good at it, but as it turns out, I was wrong. I was invited to teach a small private class at a studio in Houston to members of the decorative arts organization IDAL.

My first workshop at NCF studio.

This turned into teaching at their annual convention in Indianapolis.

2013 IDAL convention

This turned into members who couldn’t make it to the convention contacting me and asking to come to my studio in Chattanooga for a class.

My very first workshop in Chattanooga

After such an incredible response to the classes I offered at my studio, I decided it was time to go all in and make teaching a substantial part of my art business. In 2018 I moved into a new studio space at my building where I could permanently set up for regular classes.

I now host students from all over the country and even a few from outside the U.S. on a regular basis.

7. Online Classes are here!

I had been thinking about trying to produce an online workshop for about a year when I was contacted by Terry Eldridge from ZENSO Creative. She was starting a new company working with a select group of instructors and she wanted me on the team! All the pieces of the puzzle fit together and I produced 4 online classes in 2019! The response to these classes is beyond what I could have ever imagined!

8. We bought and/ or renovated 5 rental properties over the past 5 years! In our spare time we thought it would be a good idea work on a house or two! It’s been fun to see the 100 year old houses in our neighborhood turn into something new and fresh. The growing popularity of our funky little city has made them super desirable as rentals!

Even the kids helped out!

9. Rusty Blooms

I discovered Modern Masters Metal Effects paints after attending the 2011 IDAL convention and I couldn’t stop experimenting with it! I developed a technique to incorporate it into my fine art and it has spread like wildfire. I teach these techniques in my classes. It’s awesome to see my students get hooked as well!

10. Portraits continue to be on high demand from my clients. I love painting faces. It’s so much fun to experiment with thick juicy brushstrokes and vivid unexpected colors. December is usually filled with portrait commission requests from clients looking for a unique and memorable gift. I love being a part of that!

It’s truly been quite an eventful decade! I am blessed with health, family, and amazing opportunities as an artist. I am so excited for 2020! I have big plans. You can surely expect to see more online classes, more live classes, and more daily painting from me! Big thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way! I couldn’t do this without you!

God is good, all the time! Cheers!

My Grandma’s Breckel Torte

Thanksgiving preparations have already begun in full force around my house. My parents who live in Wisconsin will arrive late Wednesday evening and my kids only have school Monday and Tuesday this week so I decided I better get what I could done this weekend. With my parents, our next door neighbors and another family of long time friends, we will have 12 for dinner on Thursday. My 10 year old son was interested in helping in the kitchen today and I have to admit, I couldn’t stop thinking about how thankful I was that we could spend this bit of special time together.

Thanksgiving has become my holiday. Most of our family lives in Wisconsin and we always go there for Christmas so we have come accustomed to hosting the meal at our house each year. Sometimes we have family join us and other times our table is full of friends. This year it will be both.

Thanksgiving was also my grandma’s holiday. She hosted it every year until about 10 years ago when it started to become too much for her. She would start preparing at least a full week ahead of time, maybe more. Here table would be neatly covered with her best table cloth and she would start making lists. When we would arrive on Thanksgiving day, my cousins and I would each find our name on a list with a job. One of us might be in charge of setting the fine silverware which lived in the special box that came out once a year. Another might have the task of mashing the potatoes. She was always so organized and she managed to pull off a picture perfect meal every year for our group of 11-14 (depending on the number of boyfriends present).

One staple of our Thanksgiving meal was always Grandma’s Breckel Torte. This is an old German dessert. It’s basically a chewy, nutty version of strawberry short cake. My Grandma made it every year and it was always a favorite. I can’t help but think about the year when someone dropped glass and it broke into the Breckel Torte. My devout Lutheran Grandma yelled a quick 4 letter word and made it a holiday we would never forget. It just meant that much to her.

This morning when I started looking through my recipe book, I found the recipe for Breckel Torte that she mailed to me in 2011. It said, “Ali, your mom had told me you wanted my Breckel Torte recipe, and I meant to enclose it with your birthday card, but didn’t so here it is. I’ve been making it for 60+ years and my sister-in-law made it many years before that. So enjoy & think of us every time you make it !!!” I started to cry on the inside. My Grandma passed away two years ago and this is only our second Thanksgiving without her. She was such a special lady and I will treasure this hand written recipe and note from her. I will pass it down to my children and grandchildren. It just made me think that this is really what holidays are about.

So I wanted to share this special recipe from my Grandma Luella with you. I promise you it is delicious and it will have a special place at our Thanksgiving table this year.

Happy Thanksgiving!