Last summer, while stuck in a rut, I decided to fill my sketchbook every day for 7 days straight. It ended up getting rid of my blahs and once I began, it was so easy to keep going! A theme formed on its own and I found a ton of inspiration from my childhood. It not only got me out of my rut but I felt very inspired by tools and techniques I hadn’t thought about in years! Since those 7 days, I have continued to fill up pages in my sketchbook. (If you’re curious, here are the pages from my 7 Day Sketchbook Challenge.) As I was thinking of things I wanted to do in 2022, this sketchbook experience came to mind…what if I tried doing more of these 7 day long projects, one per month throughout the year?  


I’m going for it and named it the 7×12 Challenge! The idea is to create a 7 day challenge for myself each month that involves an activity I enjoy and want to do more of. I am going to do a different challenge each month this year.  I wanted to share with you because I would love for you to join me! Here are some more details… There are only a few rules then the rest is up to you.


  1. The 7 days must be consecutive–no skipping days! Why? I find that doing something consistently–even for just a week–is when flow and magic happens!
  2. You can choose any activity you’d like for the 7 day challenges–it just has to be something you enjoy and would like to make more time for! You can do something different each month or repeat the same activity. Each day can be different or a project can take all 7 days. Those choices are up to you!


The overall theme for my 7×12 Challenge is exploring creativity(yours can be centered around reading, gardening, writing, journaling, meditation, scrapbooking, learning different things, or random things that interest you–so many possibilities!).  

Inspired by the new year, the prompt I created for my first 7 day challenge is New Tool – Palette Knives— I’m starting day 1 tomorrow!

I’ve never used a palette knife before but I’ve always wanted to and don’t want to wait any longer! It looks like there are so many ways to use them and I love the layers and textures they create! 

For the first day, I want to play with them without any knowledge of how they are supposed to be used–we’ll see what happens :) Then for the rest of the week, I’m going to learn and try different techniques each day. I also want to try painting something abstract and something based on an object or subject, which I don’t normally do. I am keeping the ideas loose and flexible–if inspiration takes me another way, I’ll follow it!  

Have you used a palette knife before? I’d love to hear your fave tips or techniques! 

I haven’t decided on all the prompts for the challenges yet but here’s a list of things I want to try so far: paint clouds, combine music/art/video, mix lettering with paints, finish an iPad lettering lesson, incorporate quotes, create collages from recycled materials, and make art for my copper frames. (If you like any of these, feel free to borrow!) I’ll be sharing each day over at @atiliay and recapping/telling you about new challenges here in these notes too!  


What do you think? Want to try it out? You can start out with just one month and see how it goes :) Here are a few more things to consider–

  • Make this challenge work for you–when you do it, how much time you can spend on it, etc. If you only have 5 min, create a challenge that works with that timeframe (5 minutes is better than 0 minutes!)
  • Designate a journal or sketchbook for this project and/or take pics to document the process and journey! Even if you don’t share it anywhere, it’s fun to flip through the pages/look through the photos at the end! I also like putting all the materials I need in a basket for easy access and easy cleaning without having to fully put everything away (bc out of sight out of mind!)
  • Take it one month at a time instead of committing to all 12–see if this format works for you.
  • Have fun with it!! Explore, play, create :)

Let me know if you’ll be joining me! I’d love to hear what you plan on doing! You can also always email me updates or tag me on Instagram @atiliay and use the hashtag #7x12challenge. 

This year, let’s do more of the things that add joy, wonder, positivity, and calm into our lives.

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As part of launch week for my new I Am An Artist Print + Project, I am introducing you to some of my favorite artists and how their print reflects their journeys and who they are. Today is the last launch week feature and this whole thing wouldn’t have been possible without this person! Chloe of Barrio Press is today’s artist. I can’t thank her enough for helping me bring this letterpress print to life and for her thoughtful contribution of including test swatches! Chloe’s print and story reflect the struggles I think so many of us have with being creative (regardless of whether you identify as an artist or not) and how she has come to define creativity and being an artist–it’s poignant and powerful. Please see her work and words below!


From the time I was in Kindergarten until about 6th grade, you could bet money that my response to any question about “growing up” was, “I want to be an artist.” 

What I wish I realized then was that I already was one. 

To me, being an artist meant you could paint or take pictures or sing or dance, etc. My maternal grandfather is an oil painter, a graphic artist and a photographer. My paternal grandmother could stitch just about anything and created the most beautifully intricate patterns in her crocheting without using a pattern. These are just two examples of many.

I was a visual artist. I painted, crafted, knit, sewed, designed and built to my heart’s content. If it involved making with my hands, I was fully invested in learning and applying the skills needed to create magic. 

“Creativity” as a construct seemed to be something you were innately blessed with and the older I got, the more my brain seemed to be rigidly fixed on that notion. 

As a result, the more practical I needed to be as I grew up (because you know, adulting) the less creative I felt. I recall once referring to my brain as feeling like the “black hole” where creativity and fun went to die. Add anxiety around being creative (because who doesn’t want to do everything perfectly??) and I was literally paralyzed when the idea of making art came to mind.

Instead, I sought out opportunities to think critically about constructs and systems which in hindsight, I have realized was another opportunity to be creative. To think about and see things from a different perspective and use that information to determine how I navigate the world. 

This is now how I define being an “artist.” It isn’t about how talented you are or how many hours you’ve practiced or even what tools you use. There doesn’t have to be a resulting “piece” or final product. When you are looking at the world from a different lens and simultaneously admiring its beauty and being critical of its shortcomings, that is the creative thought process happening in real time. It is how we shape our world and move forward.

This new understanding of what it means to create and be creative brought about a whole new definition and scope of artistry for me. Art became creativity plus skill and thought. My logistics manager Dad? An artist at organizing and solution-building. My florist friend? An artist mastering theories of color and balance. My school teacher colleagues? Redefining the art of teaching based on who and what is in front of them at any given moment. 

As I write this, I wonder where all of this leaves me as an “artist”. I am an artist when I’m sitting behind my computer monitor whether I’m writing lesson plans or designing a wedding suite. I am an artist when I’m hand mixing inks to use on my platen press. I am an artist when the very same antique machinery needs some creative problem-solving applied to make sure it’s still operable 100 years after it left the factory production line.

When it came to creating my “I am an Artist” piece, I drew a blank for the longest time. I was literally the first person to see the physical product and all I could think was, “wow, I can’t wait to see what other people make on these.” When Olivia asked me to make one too, I excitedly said yes while panicking internally. “Am I even creative enough to do something cool?” 

Ultimately, I knew those thoughts were coming from a place of self-doubt; that black hole I mentioned earlier. To overcome it, I brainstormed times in the recent past when I’ve felt a jolt of creativity and have seen the project through to its completion. It just so happened that as a hoarder, I had plenty of scraps from those very same projects lying around my print shop. A multimedia approach was a given. Here, I’ve combined a few things I love — paper, letterpress printing and a good ol’ fashioned black Sharpie. 

To put it simply, my piece says that when life has you feeling creatively blocked or blacked out, it’s okay to take a new approach that is equal parts practical and dreamer. Once you are past the barrier of convincing yourself that you are indeed an artist, magic happens. That magic is what we ultimately put into the world and hopefully inspire others to create too.

Am I even creative enough to do something cool?” First of all, as we can all see, YESSS!!!!!!! :), and secondly, this was such an honest question to share–how many of us have felt this way and doubted ourselves? I definitely have. I hope the next time a thought like this crosses our mind, we think about what Chloe has shared and find confidence and inspiration through her print and words. I also love how she changed the shape of this print, the texture, and the bold black!

Thank you Chloe for turning this idea into something tangible and sharing your journey so openly and honestly. I also wanted to wish my fellow Virgo a very happy birthday month and amazing year ahead!!

For all your letterpress needs and more, you can find Chloe at and on Instagram at @barriopress. Chloe is also teaching at Summit for Success later this month in NJ if you are in the area and interested!



As part of launch week for my new I Am An Artist Print + Project, I am introducing you to some of my favorite artists and how their print reflects their journeys and who they are. Parmeet makes the other half of the artist and friend duo who are co-founders of @permission_to_create! She shares how family, motherhood, nostalgia, sharing your culture and values, and finding balance have played a role in her creativity and artistry. She also had a helper for her print :) Please see her work and words below!


I am Parmeet Arora Bori, an Indian born mixed media Artist/Illustrator, who loves indulging in nostalgia – the comfort & protection of my joys of childhood and re-connecting with what I am passionate about as an individual. After losing my mom to cancer in 2015 and becoming a mother myself within consecutive years, I started painting & illustrating art which creates a sense of repose, growth, recollection and belonging for me and the viewer. I am constantly relooking at my environment while appreciating a sense of belonging. Raising a mixed ethnicity child in a different country, it’s not easy to pass on the cultural values or beliefs I have been brought up with, be it food, textiles or places. In the process of helping my child understand a bit more I started questioning if I am truly an artist?!  What do I like to create and would I like to share with my son? At the same time what would I like to be known for?

Balancing time to be with him and being a work from home mom, has brought its own struggles but also a special bond that helps me appreciate the ever changing personalities we are. I speak about this and more in my course on Skillshare – Balancing Art Practice with Motherhood.

This artwork is a fusion of a few of my favourite things-Punjabi food, Chintz print motifs and bright colours. My son especially joined in too which was super important for me, as my recent art is heavily influenced by my growth as a mom and being able to work side by side with him.

As the world went into lockdown in 2020, Bhavna and I started ‘Permission to Create’  as a non judgmental place for us to create and be a bit more playful in our art no matter what medium it is. Soon we grew into a beautiful community where we shared advice, cheered each other on, and were silly or smart at the same time.  As part of the Permission to Create community we do weekly ‘Intsathursdays’ 30 mins simple art exercises (sometimes nonsensical) for which one can be on any phase of their creative journey. We also do limited capacity monthly zoom, which is more of 40 mins session. Most of the creatives in our community are from South Asian heritage, maybe our diaspora is a reason for that.

I love that this piece is a collaboration between Parmeet and her son! I can see all the different elements that influence and inspire her, beautifully combined together here. And as a child of immigrants, reading her story makes me think about what my parents were nostalgic for after moving to a new country and how my mom also found it challenging to pass on her cultural beliefs and values.

Thank you Parmeet–and your son!–for taking the time to work on this project together and sharing your perspective and journey with us! 

You can find Parmeet on Instagram at @parmeetarorabori and @permission to create and
learn more about her Skillshare class here: Balancing Art Practice with Motherhood.

See you tomorrow for our final launch week artist feature!



As part of launch week for my new I Am An Artist Print + Project, I am introducing you to some of my favorite artists and how their print reflects their journeys and who they are. We have 2 more artist features remaining and they are a special duo–they have been friends since high school and are co-founders of @permission_to_create! Today’s print and story is from Bhavna. It’s about finding your calling, joy, colors, community, architecture, discovery, and more. Please see her work and words below!


Hi, I am Bhavna and I am an artist.

Since beginning I was drawn towards art but never thought of pursuing it as a career option. So I went for something that was closer and more practical you could say. After moving to California in 2005 I went on to finish my higher studies in Architecture Design. Soon after graduating and working in the Architecture field for four years, I found my love for Art and Painting more compelling. It definitely took me a while to realise that painting is my calling. Art has always been there inside me, it just took me a while to understand that and pursue it as a viable career. At one point in my life I wanted to let out my feelings and feel more alive, so I started experimenting in Watercolors and Acrylic. To my surprise it worked, not just feeling alive but also creating something beautiful and meaningful. I realized that it makes me forget everything and gives me such peace, joy and freedom. I found myself more focused and content. That was a big turning point in my life.

I realised and accepted myself as an artist when I started painting everyday. Somedays are better than others. A pivotal part in my artist journey was when I switched from watercolor to acrylic and fell in love with those bright colors. Creating something out of joy and happiness and passion has been uplifting in my journey. I believe anyone can be an artist just follow your passion. 

I believe community plays a very important role in every field and it also does in artist life. One of the best things that happened in my artistic  journey is creating a conscious community @permission_to_create  with my high school friend Parmeet. Getting together and meeting was not an option last year and it’s still very vague so we started virtual insta lives/ art zoom sessions as we went in lockdown in March 2020 as a way to show up for our art and use it as therapy and loosen up. The mission of this community is that you don’t need to be an established artist. We believe everyone is creative, we just need to give ourselves Permission. Make space for art, play and join in.

This artwork is all about my love for architecture and colors. I feel close to nature and drawn to buildings and interiors more than anything. Maybe because of my architectural background. The perspective, light and shadow and texture plays an important role in my painting. Either it’s An alleyway, A Building, A Window or an Interior Scene. It’s all in detail yet it’s a bigger picture. 

Every painting is a journey of discovery and each stroke a breath of life. Just like meditation, experiencing life beyond one’s physical nature.


Bhavna Handa 

Reading Bhavna’s story makes me smile and reminds me of the happiness and freedom that comes with doing something that is aligned with who you are and what you believe. I’m also inspired by how intentional she is with showing up for her craft whether it’s committing to painting everyday or creating a community so that getting together to practice is still possible! And I found her words, “We believe everyone is creative, we just need to give ourselves Permission” especially powerful. Is there something you need to give yourself permission to do?

Thank you Bhavna for being a part of this project and transforming this print into something bold, bright, and beautiful as well as sharing a piece of you with us!

You can find Bhavna on Instagram at @lovetocreateart by bhavna and @permission to create!

See you tomorrow for the final artist feature of launch week :)



It’s been amazing to see how each artist has transformed their print and the stories they have told! Today, I want YOU to share your craft and journey through this print as well!

To celebrate the launch, I am giving away one 5×7 “I Am An Artist” Letterpress Print! Enter to be a part of this project or if you have an artist in your life, enter to win one to gift to them! 

International entries are welcome. Giveaway ends Wednesday, Sept 8, 2021 at midnight PST. The winner will be randomly chosen and I will contact them the following day.


If you are a newsletter subscriber, please check your inbox and enter via the link in the newsletter (you automatically receive 3 entries)! Otherwise…

Sign up for the newsletter and receive 2 entries by clicking here.


Head over to Instagram and share this post in your stories for 1 entry. Be sure to tag @atiliay so I can count your vote!

You can also do both to receive 3 entries total. That’s it!

There are so many  possibilities and this print is not limited to a specific type of artist. I see ceramicists using their fingers to add smears of clay, poets and authors jotting down their written words, make up artists adding colorful pigments with powders and polish, embroidery artists and weavers punching holes for threads and fibers, multimedia artists gluing papers and fabrics to create a collage, dancers using paint on their toes to make their mark, and so much more. The word “artist” belongs to so many of us! If you aren’t sure and would like some suggestions on how you can make this print your own, reply to this email and let me know what your art form is–I would love to brainstorm some things you could try!

I also really like the idea of gifting this to a teen or child in your life–the way they fearlessly create always amazes me and fills me with a special kind of joy and awe! It’s important we help nurture, encourage, and support their creativity.

Lastly, if you want to enter but there’s a voice in your head saying, “I’m scared I’m going to mess up!” or “I’m not there yet/good enough”, I understand (I also got cold feet about messing up right before starting!) but what if there’s no such thing as messing up and what if there’s no “there” to arrive at? What I’ve learned from the artists we’ve seen so far is that what you create now is a way to capture who you are in this moment and every mark you make is exactly where it was meant to be.




As part of launch week of my new I Am An Artist Print + Project, I am introducing you to some of my favorite artists and how their print reflects their journeys and who they are. Melissa and I were connected through the magic and mystery of Instagram (we aren’t exactly sure how she came across a post of mine) but it seemed like it was meant to be! We ended up doing the 100 Day Project together and I resonated with so many of the things Melissa was so honestly sharing. Whether or not you identify as an artist, there’s parts of her story that I feel anyone/everyone can relate to. Please see her work and words below!


I am an artist.

I have a beautiful story written up for this already.  Full of memories of art through my life.  

Getting this big box as a kid and creating my own little world within it, completely taken over and in the moment, fully myself in a way that when I got older and lost that feeling, I kept searching until I found it again..never thinking to look in the same place I lost it.  

Coloring at my grandparents on Sundays, and how my mom would sometimes sit down with me and color special that felt to me.  

And of my grandpa, who is the real he would try to teach me to draw faces, how he could look at, study, and talk about one painting for what felt like I remember spending hours with him in the hospital when my grandma was sick out in the hallways, talking about paintings.  I didn’t understand at the time how he could be out in the hall looking at crappy hospital paintings instead of in the room with grandma until I found art again years later.  

I didn’t understand at the time that it’s about more than paint on a’s about feelings, it’s a way to express what you can’t put into words, it’s a space where your mind goes away and the things that come out are coming from the depths of you.  And in talking about those paintings with me, he was showing me who he was, what he was feeling..he was trying to express what he couldn’t say in any other way, maybe even not to himself.

I didn’t understand his language then, but I do now.  

And I could have just gone with what I wrote before.  It’s beautiful and true.  But when I was working on the painting this afternoon, I added a bit too much water when I was blending out the colors on the top.  And on cotton paper, using a harsh old brush like I do, that causes the paper to start to lift up a bit.  Little pieces of cotton paper blending with the paint, creating a bit of an odd texture on the painting..washed out a bit, torn up a bit.  Right where the AM is.

And I know that it’s not a coincidence that my brush was scrubbing out the letter in the AM in trying to clean up this spot.  Because in art, what you put down on the paper, how you feel about it, all of it is a reflection of yourself.  There are no mistakes, everything is perfect.  Even if you don’t like it. 

Art is something that’s created from what you feel, a true expression of yourself, often surprising you when you see it on the page since it goes deep – it’s not what’s on the surface, it’s an expression of what you try to cover up.  Emotions are energy in motion, you are energy in motion – all art is is a movement that comes from that energy that you are, put down on paper with paint or a pencil or whatever your medium is.  And through putting it down on paper, it comes to the surface and you see it, you feel it, you can’t hide from it anymore.  And if you share it with others, they look at it and it makes them feel something – maybe they feel the feeling that was coming from within you or maybe they feel a different feeling that it makes them feel deep inside.  But they feel something.

That’s why it’s so vulnerable.  It’s vulnerable to create it, it’s vulnerable to share it, and it’s vulnerable to say you’re an artist – to own it as part of you. 

It’s my belief that everyone is an artist.  Not everyone is drawn to art, but everyone is capable of being an artist.  It’s just that most who are drawn to it feel like I did for so many years – they don’t like what they create, they judge it, they give up and say they can’t, they get frustrated because what they create doesn’t look like what others create, they feel not good enough, they think it’s ugly and throw it in the trash, they think they need someone to teach them or the most expensive brushes or a studio or something else external for it to be enough.

I am an artist now because I allow myself to create without judgement of what it looks like, because I know that it’s just as much about the process as it is about the end result, because I can’t imagine my life without this way to express myself and see myself, because I both lose and find myself within it.  I am an artist regardless of what it looks like, regardless of if I show it to anyone, regardless of if anyone else likes it.

I don’t have a studio – I paint in a corner of my kitchen where I also make my coffee.

I don’t have fancy brushes – my favorites are $1 brushes that I don’t always clean off and my palette is currently a 3 month old Happy Birthday paper plate.

I don’t have a style – if you check out my instagram, it’s all over the place.

But I put it all out there.  In the stories I share every layer of every painting I’m working on.  Some I absolutely hate and there’s a part of me that asks why I’m putting that out there for people to see.  But I do it for a reason.  I do it because for so long I didn’t create, then when I started I hid it because I didn’t think it was worth anything, and now I just want to show it all without a filter.  For myself – and for others to see, to maybe make them feel better about what they hold inside that they want to hide.

So when I tried to scratch out the AM in the “I am an artist” in this painting, I paused and I looked at where it was coming from.  I spent time with the insecurities that were coming up.  And after I did, I chose to go back in with some black paint and make the AM stronger.

I AM an artist.  

“I do it because for so long I didn’t create, then when I started I hid it because I didn’t think it was worth anything, and now I just want to show it all without a filter.  For myself – and for others to see, to maybe make them feel better about what they hold inside that they want to hide.” I found these words to be especially powerful–the growth from feeling her work wasn’t valuable to sharing it all and to use it help others feel better about a part of them they want to hide (I think we all have parts we want to hide). It’s not easy to share your art–especially when there’s things about it that you don’t like–and I find Melissa’s approach to be brave and inspiring.

You can find Melissa on Instagram at @insplorations (intuitive art) and @breakingopenbreakingfree (her words) as well as on

Thank you Melissa for being a part of this, putting your special touch on this piece, and sharing your story–and your grandpa with us! :)