Evolve or Remain

nature inspired art socially conscious sustainable business b corporation portland artist abstract painting

Have you read Brené Brown’s essay The Midlife Unraveling? This essay has been an open tab on my phone since I first read it last year. She writes, “to call what happens at midlife “a crisis” is bullshit. A crisis is an intense, short-lived, acute, easily identifiable, and defining event that can be controlled and managed. Midlife is not a crisis. Midlife is an unraveling. By definition, you can’t control or manage an unraveling. The truth is that the midlife unraveling is a series of painful nudges strung together by low-grade anxiety and depression, quiet desperation, and an insidious loss of control. By low-grade, quiet, and insidious, I mean it’s enough to make you crazy, but seldom enough for people on the outside to validate the struggle or offer you help and respite.”

One way the midlife unraveling looks for me is situations that arise and make me confront my mindset, patterns and coping mechanisms. Similar situations have appeared throughout my adult life, but in midlife, the questions become quite insistent, urgent, and louder. Is this (insert mindset, pattern, coping mechanism) actually working for me? Is it helping me be who I want to be or is it helping me be who is familiar to be? And if the answer is familiar and not who I want to be, then the choice becomes clear: do I want to evolve or remain?

This painting embodies the question for me with the crisp white floral contrasted against the saturated magenta pink and deep yellow (remain) vs. the floating away, subtle soft pink floral which blends more with the soft pinks around it (evolve). Remaining is comfortable, safe, familiar. Evolving is unknown, different, scary. Our brains are designed to keep us safe. As Robin Sharma said, “The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.” (click here to purchase this original painting).

Scenes from Kauai and Maui

I was extremely fortunate to travel to Kauai and Maui this summer with my husband and son. We reconnected, swam in the sea, and I reaffirmed my knowledge that I thrive near the ocean, especially a warm ocean. I wanted to share some of the beautiful things that caught my eye during our trip. It feels good to fill a blog post with photos — a real throwback to my blogging beginnings circa 2006!

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It was very hard to leave, for many reasons beyond typical end-of-vacation blues. I feel called to move away from Portland but it’s not so simple when you have a family to follow your own callings.

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Until we meet again, Hawaii. I love you.

Mother's Day Gift Guide

Gift giving is one of my love languages. So naturally, I wanted to curate a thoughtful collection of gift ideas for moms for Mother’s Day this year. These are beautiful objects and ideas that you can either order directly or use as inspiration!

I enjoy choosing things that seem quite indulgent if I were to purchase for myself, and therefore might not ever choose them (like the olive oil! But it’s gorgeous and would get used up so I believe that makes it a prime gift candidate). Enjoy!

mother's day gift guide 2019

1. Radiant Glass set from Moma, $32 (upper row, left)

2. Designed to Impress notecard set by me, $20 (upper row, middle)

3. Awake Olive Oil by Brightland, $37 (upper row, right)

4. Wicker Monogram Keychain from Anthropologie, $20 (bottom row, left)

5. Leather Laptop Case by Madewell, $88 (bottom row, middle)

6. Petal Pink Taper Candles from Connected Goods, $48 (bottom row, right)

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7. Acacia Wood Salad Servers by Jungalow, $29

8. Ba Lai Ceramic Bowl from The Citizenry, $55

9. Power Plates cookbook, $24.99 (I can personally vouch for this gorgeous, healthy collection of recipes)

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a stunningly beautiful platter from Love Shovel

10. Boos Black Walnut Cutting Board from Sur La Table, $167.95 (nice and big for creating dreamy food platters like that one!)

NOTE: You can define mom however you want, and I especially encourage you to mother yourself.

10 Things for Artists To Do in Portland

I know when I travel to new places as an artist, I love to find out where the local artists shop. Knowing when the local art walks and other art-related activities happen is also great information to have when planning a trip. Did you know that planning a vacation gives you most of the mental boost of taking the vacation? So consider this travel guide for artists to my city of Portland a gift to your mental health.

portland travel guide for artists by jessica nichols

I’ve broken this travel guide into three sections: places to get supplies, regularly occurring art walks and art-related activities you’ll enjoy. Of course, Portland has a reputation as a hotbed of creativity so this is a starting point for your research. Feel free to pin it for later!


Let’s talk art supplies. Happiness! Of course, Portland has a giant Blick so I didn’t include it in my travel guide. I’m a frequent shopper there but there are plenty of other art supply stores in town.

1. Artist & Craftsman Supply has two locations in Portland: one in North Portland and one in SE Portland. I visit their SE location since it’s between my home and painting studio. They are employee-owned, and the SE location is small but densely stocked with a knowledgeable friendly staff, and they have a dedicated parking lot. Win!

2. Columbia Art & Drafting Supply is on East Burnside which is what divides north and south Portland on both sides of the Willamette River. This is a medium-sized art supply store with yes, another knowledgeable & friendly staff. There isn’t a dedicated parking lot but I’ve found street parking with ease. Note: they are closed on Sunday, so plan accordingly. Plant lover alert: it’s also located directly across the street from an amazing terra cotta pottery store called Little Baja

3. Collage is an art & craft supply store with two locations in SE Portland (Sellwood and Division neighborhoods) and one in NE on Alberta Street. They have a little bit of everything.


Depending on when you visit, there could be an art walk to check out. If you’re really planning ahead (Hi to my Virgo readers), you might plan your trip to coincide with one.

4. First Thursday is in the NW area of Portland. This is an art walk through art galleries that covers downtown to the Pearl District to the NW District. Note: pair this with a trip to Powells. 

5. First Friday PDX is in the  Central Eastside district of SE Portland (fun fact: this is where my studio is located). You’ll look at the map and find your way to variety of open art studios.

6. Last Thursday is in the NE part of Portland. This art walk covers 15 blocks in the Alberta Arts District in June, July and August each year. Note: pair this art walk with a trip to Collage.

travel guide for artists visiting portland

Item 10 is a street mural called The Collector by Josh Keyes (whose work we studied in my winter painting class at PCC).


This section includes activities from the obvious to the definitely-unique-to-Portland!

7. Portland Art Museum is being filed under O for Obvious but hey now you know they’re closed on Mondays, kids under 17 are always free, every Friday, it’s $5 admission after 5 p.m. AND there’s free admission for grownups too on the first Thursday of each month from 5-8 p.m. Note: hmmm did they do that on purpose? See item 4 in this guide. Sketching in pencil, colored pencil, and charcoal pencil is encouraged, but the use of ballpoint pens, crayons, pastel, charcoal, and wet media is not permitted. 

8. Land Gallery is an art gallery + rad gift shop in the Mississippi neighborhood in North Portland. The gift shop features books, cards, prints, tees, and more from about 100 artists — souvenir heaven. It’s also very close to Pistils Nursery, a must visit if you love plants as much as art. 

9. Explore Portland Street Art is a unique-to-Portland airbnb experience. This 3.5 hour tour is a social impact experience with airbnb with means the fee you pay for the tour goes directly to the Portland Street Art Alliance. airbnb notes that availability for this tour is “extremely rare” so plan ahead or plan way ahead and book your tour, then airfare and lodging. At the time of this blog post (April 2019), the fee for this activity is $65/per person.

10. SE Portland Murals — so this is a self-guided activity, unlike the guided tour with airbnb listed above, but there are some incredible murals in SE Portland. Bonus: wide availability as it’s up to your schedule. I’m really grateful many of these are on my daily commute from home to studio and highly recommend seeing some of them while you’re in town.

I hope my travel guide for artists has inspired you to plan a trip to Portland! Please leave a comment if you’re a local artist and you can’t believe I left __________ off my list or if you’re in town and want to come see my studio.

Winter in Review

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I do work hard to embrace all of the seasons, but it’s admittedly always a relief when winter ends and spring arrives. I tried something very new, and very far out of my comfort zone, to manage the winter blues this year. I signed up and trained for a 10K. 

Have I mentioned that I’m not a runner? I think my collection of selfies tell the honest truth how I felt out there in 30-degree temps and even snow at times. The crucial lesson that I learned: I never once felt like going for a winter run. But I did it anyway. 


I learned “don’t feel like it, do it anyway” from Mel Robbins in 2018. I highly recommend her free training, Mindset Reset, which I spent all of January doing (but it’s really lifelong work). I’m also now realizing this saying applies to many, if not all, areas of adulting. “Don’t feel like cooking, do it anyway.” “Don’t feel like pitching, do it anyway.” “Don’t feel like _______, do it anyway!”

Back to running, the views and the fresh air were awesome, even when it was a biting cold day or with a bitter wind blowing in my face. Trail running is a win-win because it gives me time in nature + it gets the exercise in at the same time. Efficiency is one of my top 10 values after all. :)

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I learned another valuable lesson after finishing the 10K — don’t let the stats deflate you. My stats were terrible. Awful. As my teenager said to me, “I’m proud of you and I don’t think you should pay much attention to the numbers this time Mom.” I am competitive though so I’m going to do the exact same event in Winter 2020 and see my own progress. That’s all that really matters.

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That’s one exhausted woman at the finish line!

2019 Word of the Year: Community

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Last year, I realized quite deeply and profoundly how isolated I had become in my life, especially as an artist. This was a big reason I signed up for a class at Portland Community College in the fall, which almost immediately confirmed my suspicions. I do enjoy choosing a word to focus on for the year, and so focusing on community came to me quite quickly in light of what I realized last year.

In addition to choosing a word to guide me, I’m also starting the new year with Mel Robbins’ Mindset Reset program. This program is truly life changing with small, science-based, actions to improve one’s mindset. (Join anytime, no cost, no sales funnel). In the first week, I identified manageable goals for the first quarter in six areas of life: body, work, money, love, friendships and self worth.

My mindset deteriorated quickly in the fall when I gave up my summer outdoor exercise routine. This realization is how I found myself in late December clicking my way into signing up for a 10k in March. I am not a runner, mind you, but one day last summer I discovered myself jogging in the forest with a smile on my face and nearly tripping over the path in shock about it. So before I could overthink it, I signed up to motivate myself to exercise outdoors in the winter. This is a hurdle I have not overcome in 7+ years of living in the Pacific Northwest. Guess what? It’s working like a charm. I never feel like it, I moan and groan three times a week, but I put on my shoes and I do it anyway. See that photo up there? Taken yesterday on my longest run to date: 3.7 miles. It’s worth it. I’m not crying five days a week anymore either. The forest air truly lifts the spirit and helps the mind process.

Basically, in summary, you can expect to see more writing from me here on this blog in 2019, my friends.

2019 Calendar

luce means light…a reminder of your inner light for those days you feel darkness.

volo means flight…a reminder that your dreams need action.

ombra means shadow…a reminder that if we ignore our shadows and fears, they will only grow larger.

12 curated images invite you to pause, reflect, breathe, dream, plan.

Luxurious 100-lb. paper printed locally in Portland, OR.

These calendars are created with love from the moment I took each photograph, through the curation process, from choosing the name to the wrapping/shipping. Your purchase supports my small business and my small business supports the small printing business that beautifully prints them.

Based on what my beloved repeat customers tell me, I advise buying two: one to gift and one to keep. :)

Behind Every Beautiful Thing, There's Some Kind of Pain

We are in the thick of autumn. I learned two weeks ago that in Chinese medicine, fall is a season for grieving. I've been feeling that emotionally and energetically. Not only as I watch the trees change colors and shed their leaves, as the flowers go to seed and turn brown, but I'm truly feeling like a lot of my identity is dying away as I continue to adjust to parenting a teenager and thinking ahead to the next phase of my life (should I be so fortunate is forever and always the unsung lyric in my cells). 

Every day brings an internal sense of loss as I watch families around me with their younger children out playing, out trick-or-treating, out walking home from school with their tiny backpacks and tiny hands entwined with their mothers' hands. Every time I attend my art portfolio development class at the community college, as I learn about other artists' paths, as I learn about BFA and MFA programs, as I sit among the 20-somethings with their whole lives ahead of them to ponder such decisions, some of my own identity as an artist dies away.

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Any notion of my path ahead is shrouded in mist this season. As I research career paths and talk to people with clearly defined career paths, there is another layer of grieving who I was, who I am, who I am to be. Every time I tune into the news, I grieve for the suffering in my city, my state, my nation, my world. 

Yes, I would agree that fall is a season for grieving. I'm learning to lean into it, to recognize it and call it by its name, to trust that it's leading me somewhere anew (for example, to artist Richard Tuttle, this interview with him showed me I have some kind of energetic connection with him), to understand this is the natural cycle of life. 

"I always aim to live seasonally anyway," I say to myself.

So. What is soothing my grieving heart?

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1. Making art (read the story of this collection here).

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2. Observing nature (this is my ginko tree flowing in the fall breeze).

3. Pure love.

4. Meditation.

5. Taking action for the midterm election. It's my personal dream is to see 90%+ turnout nationwide so we can see where we really stand in this country. No more of this half the population staying home during our elections. Please vote. 

6. This quote:

If I am not for me, who will be for me? 

And when I am for myself alone, what am I? 

And if not now, then when? 

— Rabbi Hillel, Pirkei Avot 1

New Year Thoughts

I trust you are settling in to the new year, at whatever pace is best for you. I love the energy of January and I continue to try and pace myself, because it is still my nature to want to do too much in one day. My family and I went on a long overdue vacation the week before Christmas to San Jose del Cabo with some good friends.

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Although I was sick for most of the trip (boo), I did make it out on a paddleboard on our last full day, fulfilling a dream and a promise I made to myself every day on the radiation table back in 2015. Sick or not, it was glorious to be warm and listen to the ocean day and night. You can see more of my Cabo photos here.

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The colors have definitely lingered in my soul and my "word of the year" is show up: to the canvas, to my body, to my business, to my community.

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I really struggled with a lack of an inspiring, well lit, painting space in 2017 which is why I did a lot of watercolor work at my dining table instead of acrylic on canvas. After we took the Christmas tree down, the empty corner in the living room by a wall of windows was calling my name. So I've set up a mini studio right in the living room. It's a bit strange painting here but the light is so worth it. I've got two paintings going at once now, this pink/golden one and of course, I started the new year with an ocean blue palette.

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I don't think I ever told you but the very first layer of every painting I have ever made is full of secret messages like you see in the upper left corner of that collage up there. I intentionally infuse the painting with the energy of the messages. I let it be a mystery afterwards too usually, I paint over and trust it is all tucked in each layer. But when I shared this part of my painting practice with a friend last week, she thought it was a very important part of the story of each painting. This year, I am going to keep track of the secret messages for each painting and include them for each new owner on a handwritten note. 

In addition to painting, I've been doing some purging in my kitchen to support ease in cooking this year. I've been treading lightly into yoga before bed because I'm nursing a shoulder injury. I'm 2/3 of the way through planning the first quarter of the year for my business, with a heavy focus on finally getting my wholesale program up and running. By the end of this month, I will finish out the plan and also choose my core four to support in 2018 politically. I wrote a future letter to myself on New Year's Day, do you do that? It's not too late if you're interested. It's your year, your pace remember. I also printed some family photos from our vacation and framed them, all that's left is arranging them on the wall achieving a goal from 2017 when I sadly realized I'm a photographer with no family photos on the walls. 

Finally, back around to painting, I found this interview I did from 2016 and I love the way I described creativity as opening space to let your soul shine through. I'm experimenting with painting in different sizes than my standard 30x30. One idea I'm toying with is doing custom mini paintings with your intentions for the new year layered in.

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What do you think of that? Interested? Write me an email and let's talk about it.

Gift Guide for Nature Lovers

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I'm excited to share a collection of gift suggestions for the nature lovers in your life. I hand picked each item, sourced from independent artists, makers and small businesses, largely (but not exclusively) in the Pacific Northwest. Each item is under $50 and as a nature lover, I would be thrilled to receive any of these items myself. Let's check out my picks!

These dreamy meditation stones by artist Jenifer Lake are hand formed, cleaned, incised with one of a kind designs, fired twice, glazed by hand, & given a little blessing. The ceramic pieces weigh beautifully in the hand, they feel smooth & grounding sitting in your palm, lending themselves to a quiet, peaceful feeling when held. $45

This Relax-Fast Tincture by Fettle Botanic Supply & Counsel is like meditation in a bottle. It's a soothing, specialized selection of calming herbs to dial down the tension. $28

These single stem bud vases from Notary Ceramics come in matte white (shown), glossy white and matte grey on brown. Their lovely studio is right in my own neighborhood in walking distance. $44

My 2018 calendar, fede. speranza. amore., is a daily reminder of the faith, hope and love that is all around us and, most importantly, within us. Twelve calming, peaceful images celebrating the beauty of nature printed on luxurious paper sits on your desk or wall reminding you to tend to yourself, nurture yourself and love yourself. $28

This shibori moon tea towel from non-perishable goods is made of 100% hemp and comes in two styles: mama moon and baby moons. Hand-dyed with indigo blue and handcrafted. non-perishable goods embraces an authentic + artistic approach to a nourished life. they believe in the power of the handmade and cherishing the crafts and traditions which remind us of a simpler, slower time. $32

The Prussian Palette from Hushwing Watercolors contains two pans of handmade, professional grade watercolor and includes Prussian Blue and Colonial Raw Sienna. Each pan is magnetized and packaged in a metal travel tin. All orders are shipped with a handwritten swatch card, reusable hand dyed silk ribbon, and a small sheet of 100% cotton rag handmade paper to test your watercolors with. Made by an artist for all artists, learn more about the process here. $35 (Dear Santa, Are you reading my blog?? Love, Jessica)

Perfect for reading on the couch by the fire, or even in the tub, Devotions is a staff pick at the venerable Powells Books in Portland. This volume of poetry was carefully selected by Mary Oliver from her entire body of work. "Oliver is a much-needed voice in this time, with her praising of nature, the value of life, and silence." (Richard C. at Powells). $30

This holiday sampler from Fire Brew contains their signature set of all-natural, fiery health tonics, a bookmark of serving suggestions, and a Fire Brew shot glass. This whole food health tonic can be taken preventatively or when you feel "the crud" coming on during the winter. Learn more about the benefits here. $28

Ahh, this NW Rainforest Grey Salt Bath from Live Botanical is the perfect cure for the chill of winter after a day out hiking. Grey Salt hand gathered from the French coast using ancient Celtic practices.  The result is 82 trace minerals and high moisture content to achieve the most benefits possible from a bath.  Essential Oil Blend of Lavender*, Spruce*, Fir*, Cedar*, and Jasmine*. Created to open the airways, clear the mind and calm the spirit. $22.

These brass, organic triangle earrings from local favorite Betsy + Iya remind me of leaves dangling from a tree and make a statement. Approximately 3.25 inches long. $44

Finally, I suggest this e-book, Messages Everywhere, from Nissa Howard, who I have worked with extensively and have the highest regard for her work and wisdom. Nissa teaches by guiding you through the wilderness of your inner world. This interactive PDF contains 31 prompts to guide and inspire you with the dance between your spiritual experience as a human being and your human experience as a spiritual being. Instant download. $45

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2018 Calendar

My 2018 calendar, fede. speranza. amore., is a daily reminder of the faith, hope and love that is all around us and, most importantly, within us. It sits on your desk or wall reminding you to tend to yourself, nurture yourself and love yourself.

Gift this calendar to yourself and all the people in your life whether they are celebrating the faith, hope and love around them, or need to be reminded of its presence in our world.

Order yours today, these are in stock!

They will ship by December 1st in time for Christmas gifting!