I met Alena Hennessy through her book first, Cultivating Your Creative Life, and more recently in person at The Strawberry Patch Summer Mart in Nashville, TN. She is a lovely artist, author, “facilitator of self-love and magic," and holds workshops and online courses where she really encourages people to develop and strengthen their own personal aesthetic.
Alena's art is full of whimsy, and her use of colour makes her pieces just dance. She is more recently offering an interesting project called Co-Lab: Paint, Paper, and iPhoneography Magic. From her website: "This is a brand new online class created by myself and the brilliant Susan Tuttle, where we bring the world of paint, paper, and photo (plus so much more) together in one brilliant virtual experience!" I am so happy to introduce you to Alena!
How do you expand yourself creatively?
By deeply observing and being aware of how my senses and feeling self is affected when taking in this world. By tuning into my heart and its longings. By understand what turns me on and why. By staying open minded and humble… or trying my best to do all these things.
Were you creative as a child? If so, how have you evolved through the years? Did anyone encourage you, especially?
Absolutely… before I could write I was drawing. I think my family just allowed me and supported me… never questioned it or tried to place their influence. They were neutral positive, so to speak. My mother is a talented artist so I believe I became subconsciously (and genetically) inspired by her, even though she was not practicing art when I was growing up. So yes, I would spend hours upon hours drawing and coloring. It was my haven.
Do you have any gratefulness practices?
Yes, I believe in the power of gratitude as a magic maker… I have seen it change my whole perception and thus affects my life. I like to write or speak out loud several things I am thankful for each day. Notice the way your energy shifts after you do this… and then your life reflects it back to you.
How do you deal with creative dry spells? Do you make space for them, or push through?
I do both. Sometimes its a sign or signal for more self care and rest, or to make space for more input or inspiration. Breaks are essential. They are the breeding ground, or tilling of the soil. Yet, sometimes as Picasso so aptly noted, you find inspiration in the work, by doing. So I find it valuable to feel into it and see where I am. I usually can tell by my energy level if I need to rest or push through.
How important is self compassion to your creative process?
One word: HUGE. The less we judge ourselves, the more we welcome our inherent and authentic mark, are true to just where we are at in that moment of creating, the more our work comes freely and easily (with ease and grace I like to phrase it). This to me is self compassion. This is also why painting is such a metaphor for life and can be so healing or transformative for many. The more we work in the spirit of the child, yet honoring the wisdom and experience that is given with age, finding the balance so to speak, the more I believe we can flourish as creative beings.
Do you enjoy collaborating, or prefer to work alone?
I love both. I mostly work alone, which my soul needs… yet every time I collaborate I gain so much. So yes, collaboration is something I like to dip my toe into.
Do you work in a studio/space designed specifically for your creativity, or on the spur of the moment/anywhere inspiration strikes?
I have a studio that I love and am very thankful for. It has tall windows, many built in shelves, a side sunning deck, and a huge mirror. I work mostly on a variety of tables, although I do have an easel. This is essential for me, to claim a ‘room of my own’ as Virginia Woolf noted.
Do you plan thoroughly for projects, or go with the flow?
I go with the flow. Ideas strike me in the shower, on walks, while sipping tea, or in yoga or dance class. They will even come to me as I am falling asleep. So to me an idea is a seed, then I let it flow out however it needs to grow, flourish, or express itself once I am working. It is then I let intuition take over.
Do you utilize social media? If so, how?
Yes, its become essential for artists these days… very necessary form of communication and supportive. I have my Facebook page, Instagram and Pinterest. Facebook is my first choice, although I love the visual simplicity and effectiveness of Instagram.
What is your typical day like?
A half day on the computer, a third creating, a third self care, food, and exercise. Lots of light, snuggle breaks with my dog, gratitude in my heart for doing what I love and being able to help so many women find inspiration.
Do you have any rituals that help to set your creative time and/or space?
Yes, many…. I am devotee to those. Lots of adequate rest (or cat naps -- 15 minutes works great), bathing with flowers/herbs/oils, tea/lemon/liquid stevia -- cold or hot depending on the time of year, walks into nature, around my neighborhood or into town, a clean house/studio, lighting of sage or sandalwood, music that is perfectly set to my mood, and so forth.
What effect do you want your art to have on the world?
I want people to feel peace, balance, that longing or stirring within to create a life that is true and joyous for themselves, through their art and relations…. mostly to their relations to themselves.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Don’t worry about what other people think. Oh, and everything you are looking for is already within you. I had to include both!
Do you have any advice for aspiring creatives?
Yes, do the work… in some way, every day, just get in the studio and begin. With focus, dedication, and authenticity comes rewards or gifts from the Universe.
Do you have any upcoming projects to share?
My Year of Painting ecourse. The Early Bird tier has filled up already.... it's been a phenomenal experience.
Where can we find your art?