Good Fortune, 16" x 16" mixed media on canvas, $500 by Kellie Day ©2014
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September 7, 2014
Bike, 8" x 8" mixed media on canvas by Kellie Day , ©2014
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Squam Art Workshop

My own private dock on Squam Lake

My own private dock on Squam Lake

My own private dock on Squam Lake

My own private dock on Squam Lake

 “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I went to SQUAM Lake this week, deep in the glorious, clear air of New Hampshire, to teach art. I was invited by Elizabeth Duvivier, an endlessly creative and giving woman, who’s talent also lies in bringing together beautiful, creative people, and providing an atmosphere in which they bloom.

Out of my comfort zone, and having experienced a very bad day of travel, I landed in the dark woods, rolling two heavy suitcases over pine needles and rocks, peeking in cabin windows to find the place I was to stay.

A classic cabin at SQUAM Lake

A classic cabin at SQUAM Lake

SHADOW PINES the little sign said, a tiny, rustic cabin, just 25 feet off the lake. It’s own private dock, a fireplace, and the reflection of the moon in its thick, rolling water. Loons called in the night. I fell asleep immediately in my classic camp bedroom.

At daylight I was whisked away by Elizabeth to a classic, east coast, camp dining hall, where we stacked two plates with food and rushed to the building where I would teach.

Paints, canvases, papers, a giant fireplace, and another view of the lake. I relaxed for the first time in 36 hours, eating eggs and preparing my mind for the day.

Teaching is new to me, and has never come naturally. On top of that, I love to be alone and well, I wasn’t sure how zapping this would be. What happened next was so unexpected. I was so uplifted by each and every one of my students, as I rolled from table to table, peeking over their shoulders. Each and every one of them had something completely different and lovely to offer up on their canvas. Talking with them and encouraging them came completely naturally.

Painting is Not for Sissies

As I led them through the creative process, they were completely gung ho. There were frustrating moments and delightful moments, and we did our best to work through all of them. We wanted to see what was on the other side.

Painting is not for sissies. There is no pattern like knitting, no expected outcome. There are moments when you have to face yourself, and your failure. Every. Single. Time. And there are moments where you feel brilliant. You cannot be a painter unless you are willing to see all of this. I did my best to shed a few tidbits of helpful inspiration along the way, and to share a piece of myself, because that’s what I had to offer.

All the while, the birds were landing in the water outside our window. The docks waited patiently, and the lake rustled its crystal clear water over sparkling rocks. Deep forests lined its banks. Somehow, this was all so reassuring.

Teaching is a bit like painting for me – that critical inner voice wonders, “Am I good enough?”

My student Jackie shows her inspiration

My student Jackie shows her inspiration

What I told my students was this: Good or bad painting is simply not relevant. Each of us has a unique perspective, something to share that no one else has, simply because we are in our skin, and no one else’s. We have a unique history, our own quirky family crap that made us who we are, our own mistakes and successes, and loves and losses.

In the end, this is what we have to share with the world – something no one else has. And herein lies the value. To not paint, or for me to not teach, is to deprive the world of our unique perspective.

When our paintings look like hell, or my teaching voice is boring even me, I say keep going. Keep. Moving. Ahead. Somewhere in there is something brilliant, and the world is waiting to hear it.

Read more about SQUAM art workshops here.

Thanks to all of my students, who made it easy to teach, by being so lovely, and by simply being willing to try.


Painting, gluing, collaging

Painting, gluing, collaging


  1. jackie says:

    You were such a delight and I am so happy to have met you. You seemed very comfortable and in your element! Your words are beyond inspiring. Ever since I have left my painting is calling me to finish. Thank you!!!

  2. Amy Ambroult says:

    well said. Everybody who took your class raved about you, and, judging by the pieces they brought to the gallery each night, I’d say you are a pretty amazing teacher. So nice to have met you!

  3. margi smith says:

    Kellie, I loved your laid back teaching style and your smile and encouragement. You helped to make me bolder and take more chances with my work. I got home from Squam yesterday and rearranged my space to do more mixed media! Can’t wait to see your work come out of WIld Apple Graphics! Be well, hope to see you at another Squam retreat.

    • Kellie Day says:

      Margi, I am THRILLED that you set up a working space for yourself! Have fun collecting fun papers and things everywhere you go. I so enjoyed having you in class, and I’m so glad you feel bolder! Thanks for your words.

  4. Juli Mahoney says:

    Hi Kellie,

    I loved reading your follow-up piece to the weekend at Squam. Sadly, I was not able to attend but this is definitely on my radar for next year. I hope you’ll be there too. I appreciate your philosophy about what makes an artist. I am certainly no expert but I love to paint and I love what I paint because no one else can do it exactly like me. Creating something completely unique is a wonderful experience and something that everyone should try.

    Best wishes, and thanks for sharing your weekend with your readers.

    Juli Mahoney

  5. Patricia says:

    THANK YOU for such a lovely class and great opportunity to create. Had such a wonderful experience and glad you enjoyed it as well!

  6. Teresa says:

    Kellie, it was such a pleasure taking your class. Your genuineness and encouraging style is what i loved most about your class and chatting with you. Your blog and reflections from squam mirrored that authenticity. You are real. Don’t ever lose that, even when you become some big famous mixed media celebrity in the future:) I thoroughly enjoyed your class and simply enjoyed the process vs stressing about the outcome. Thank you for sharing your gift with us! Can’t wait to get home from my business trip and do more paint slapping and collaging!! Oh, btw, I did manage to bring my canvases
    home with carry on only!!! Yey!!

    • Kellie Day says:

      Hi Teresa, I’m glad you got your canvases on the plane-YAY! Thanks for your great laugh and enthusiasm. I appreciate your feedback, and your fancy pants 😉

  7. Heather says:

    thanks for the great day painting. Loved the quotes, loved being won over by a squeegee; I remember getting in trouble in first grade for coloring over my drawing to make a back-ground… then (ages later) you tell me to paint over my image and wipe away the paint on top?! and it worked !! so great.

    hope you had a gentler travels getting home,
    be well,

    • Kellie Day says:

      Heather, isn’t it funny, you had it going on in first grade? Just goes to show we know all these things innately. It was GREAT meeting you, and talking with you. I love your practical style. Keep creating!

  8. There’s nothing like willing creative souls coming together with a talented energetic mentor like Kellie.

  9. Nina says:

    Kellie…I am so glad that I got to meet you. Even though I didn’t get to take your class, I found myself really inspired and itching to paint again! Thank you!


  10. Danielle says:

    Gorgeous words about a gorgeous place. I was next door, working with Courtney, and made many trips through your teaching space. It was so lovely to see you all at work and the gorgeous pieces that resulted! Well done!

    I would argue, however, that all creative endeavors – even those like knitting or cooking that have patterns and recipes – have unexpected outcomes. I have more than enough sweaters – too small and too big – to prove it! 😉

    • Kellie Day says:

      Hi Danielle, I appreciate your insight. I drove to Boston with two knitters, and we found this observation helpful in making sense of the process we explored in our class. You are so lucky you go to take Courtney’s class… I would have loved to take it myself, she is amazingly creative! Take care.

  11. Kelly Jones says:

    Kellie, I enjoyed your class so much. I would have to argue with you about teaching not coming naturally to you. I thought you were a great teacher. I learned so much, I was so surprised to leave class with a piece of art that far exceeds any mixed media have attempted before. I look forward to using what I’ve learned and trying more stuff. I loved your description of Squam, it was such a special time with amazing people, you captured that wonderfully.

    • Kellie Day says:

      Hi Kelly! It WAS an amazing time, and I loved Elizabeth’s exit letter about letting it all sync in, and incorporating all that was amazing about the experience into our lives, and not letting it slip away. I enjoyed meeting you so much. I loved your painting, it was so meaningful. Keep in touch, xoxo

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