Saturday, December 21, 2013

Your Presence Is the Best Present

moonlit elven magic
photo by doctor oblivious

(that's me in the photo on last year's Winter Solstice, 
spinning lights around the full moon!)

What is the greatest gift you can give to others?

Do you think you can buy it in a store, or online?

Is it a thing?

The best present is your presence.

In this world full of technology, distraction and multi-tasking, giving your full attention is a very rare experience.

Anything that is worth doing, is worth doing with your complete attention. 

If you are driving, just drive, and keep the road safe. 

If you are cooking a dish, put good intentions into it, and it will taste wonderful. 

However, if you are distracted, with your mind elsewhere, you could make mistakes, you could mess things up, or you could miss out on something important that someone is saying.

My friend Tom always says: "Be here now." 

And sometimes he also says: "Just be."

It sounds so simple, but it's actually very difficult. 

The mind likes to distract us and scatter our attention every which way. We like to feel important, with so many things to think about. 

But the most important thing is being right where we need to be right now, doing the thing we are doing. And if what we are doing isn't important, than maybe we need to examine why we do it at all.

When you're having a conversation with another person, do you feel the difference between when they are truly listening to you and responding to what you say in a thoughtful way, and when they are playing with their phone, texting, thinking of other things, or tuning you out?

Which way do you prefer to be treated? 

Which way makes you feel honored and important?

I'm working on bringing more of myself (attentive, present, open, honest) to every interaction, and as I do that, I feel others responding positively and in similar fashion. 

Relationships improve, bonds strengthen, and communities form this way.

Being present is the gift I give to myself and others.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Coyotes Sketch

sketch by Rosa Phoenix

On my hike today I saw, and heard, many coyotes. They were singing, howling and barking in the desert mountains at sunset.

Their song has a haunting and eerie sound. If you've ever heard them, you know what I mean!

Earlier this year I made a sketch from my memory of three coyotes singing.

Where I live in Phoenix, Arizona, there are many nature preserves with hiking trails, where you can see beautiful plants and animals of the desert.


Thursday, November 28, 2013


pumpkins and gourds
watercolor painting by Rosa Phoenix

It's Thanksgiving in the U.S.A.!

It's the day we get together with our family and friends, give thanks, and celebrate the abundance of the harvest!

I love the autumn season. At the market I bought many pumpkins, squash and gourds. I love the bright colors and unusual shapes. They are simply brilliant!

Giving thanks for what we have, and sharing what we have, is a good way to celebrate, every day.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What's Holding You Back?

pencil drawing by Rosa Phoenix

In my work as an art instructor, I hear it all the time:

"I'm not an artist."

"I'm not good at art."

"I can't draw / paint / make art / be creative."

Recently an elderly lady told me that when she was a very young child, she had loved creating art! 

But when she got to kindergarten, she saw that many of the other kids there were much better at it than she was. 

As a result of comparing herself to others, she stopped drawing and making art.

I thought this was incredibly sad.  

The poor woman had stopped doing something that she enjoyed, and had deprived herself of this activity for more than 60 years, because her inner critic told her that she wasn't good enough, at the age of 5! 

Unfortunately, we got interrupted, just when I was about to tell her that drawing is a skill that anyone can learn and improve, at any age. 

The lady walked away, and I went to teach my class of people who (thankfully) know better than to let their inner critic stop them from doing what they want to do!


Life is short, and it goes by quickly.  

We make plans for a future "someday", but things often happen to thwart our plans.

What are you putting off for a future someday, that you could be doing today? 

 self portrait
ink drawing by Rosa Phoenix


Let me tell you about myself.

I was born an artist. As a child I drew and painted all the time. I dreamed of being an artist, and I was supported and encouraged by my family.

The voice of my inner critic was very strong, however. 

Although other people thought my art was good, to me it never measured up to the vision I had in my mind. The defects I saw in my art stood out and created a feeling of shame within me. 

I won prizes for my art when I was a teenager, but it wasn't enough to overcome my sense of inadequacy. 

I didn't think I was good enough to pursue art further, and so I stopped painting and drawing.

I moved to New York City to attend university, and there I found myself surrounded by many artists. I felt overwhelmed by the talent around me. 

Comparing myself to others, I felt like I was out of my league. I kept my artistic side hidden, and did other things. I studied writing and literature, but, just as with art, I lacked the confidence to pursue it.

After university, I ended up working in offices, working overtime to just get by. 

I frequently burned out, growing bored by the routines, drained by the long hours, irritated by office politics, meetings, and spending all my energy doing work that I cared little about.

I had the idea that I could "moonlight" and do my creative work during my free time, but at the end of the day I was so tired I just wanted to eat and sleep, and then I'd wake up and do the same thing all over again.

I watched my childhood dream of being an artist get crushed in the gears of the corporate machine. 

The combination of workaholism, lack of self-care, and grasping at various mind-numbing activities and substances to distract myself from feeling the pain of my existence . . . led to a crisis with my health. 

I became extremely weak and sick, and was diagnosed with autoimmune disease.

If I continued on this path, I would literally die.
I couldn't avoid any longer. I had to face my pain, my pushed-away dreams and my fears.

I began making art again because I had to.  

"I'm not good enough" didn't matter anymore. My spirit needed to do it. 

Making art helped to heal me when I was sick, sad, depressed, grieving and confused. 

I didn't care anymore that my drawings were bad, from having not practiced for 15 years. Drawing soothed me when I was nauseous from medication, when I was having anxiety attacks, and when my heart was racing and I was afraid I would die.

As I began to recover slowly from my illness, and re-discovered my love of art, my re-awakened creativity blossomed. Beautiful visions and ideas began to pour out of me like a fountain.

There was a person in my life who was very close to me, and often when I shared my dreams, ideas or art, he would criticize it, or he would say "You can't do it."

As I grew stronger, I began to believe in myself and have more confidence. 

Art became my passion once again. 

I created in spite of my inner critic, and in spite of my loved one who was a critic also.

My father died suddenly and unexpectedly, and this shock sent me the message that life is not meant to be taken for granted. Life is meant to be lived, and not wasted doing things that don't matter to me.

My father left me an inheritance. I spent this money to go back to school, to learn digital arts, and I taught myself graphic design from books. I bought a computer and art supplies, and rented a small private art studio where I could paint, design and make things.

I wanted to make art my life. I felt that I had already died in my life, when I got sick, and now I was being given the chance to start over. 

It was like a rebirth, and for this reason I re-named myself Rosa Phoenix -- for the bird who rises from its own ashes. 

As I was growing and changing so rapidly, I got feedback from other people in my life. Some positive, and some negative. Some people seemed uncomfortable, envious or threatened by the changes in me and the shift in my priorities and attention. 

These people didn't support my growth or my new vision of myself and what I wanted my life to be. Including my closest loved one.

I had to let my old life go. Even the people I loved, I had to let go, in order to grow.

It wasn't easy. It was the most difficult thing I've ever had to do.

I won't let anyone hold me back now, including myself. 

 dream of running
ink sketch by Rosa Phoenix

The rewards have been so great. Art is worth all the pain and difficulty I've been through.

Now I work as a teacher, helping others to discover and express their own creativity. I'm able to affect many lives in a healthy and positive way. I'm staying healthy myself. I'm being true to myself.

I'm proud of myself, for surviving, and for accomplishing many wonderful things. 

I'm incredibly grateful for the life I have today. It's my life, the one I've always dreamed of.

I feel like a lucky person. I am thankful to be alive and to have been given another chance to follow my dreams.

Believe in yourself. Follow your dreams. Live the life you yearn to live. 

Don't let anything, or anyone, hold you back.

Don't worry that you aren't good enough. 

There are people who need you to share your unique gifts. 

Teach them what you know, and they will go from there.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Kids Orchestra Japan


Young musician of Kids Orchestra Japan
in Oakland, California U.S.A.

My friend, Junko Suzuki Parsons, founder of the band Cyclub, created Kids Orchestra Japan, a project that involves kids in Fukushima, Japan and Oakland, California USA.  

The children will work collaboratively to play music together, creating a cross-cultural exchange of friendship, art, music and education.

Junko and her band Cyclub are currently working with kids in a public school in Oakland, California to learn music that they will eventually play together with young musicians from Fukushima, Japan.

Below, a few of the young musicians in Kids Orchestra in Oakland, California.

Junko is from Japan and has been an anti-nuclear activist for many years.  

When the March 11, 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster struck Japan, she was heartbroken for her country. 

Me (left) and Junko Suzuki Parsons (right) 

Junko's activism took on a deeper sense of urgency, as she watched events unfold, first from a distance in San Francisco, then she traveled to the disaster area in Japan and toured with her band Cyclub.

Junko has organized many benefit events to help the Fukushima victims. She now feels that it is incredibly important to reach the children of the disaster area, as they will be the ones most affected.

The band, Cyclub, her communities in Japan and the San Francisco Bay Area, and many concerned people in Japan and the U.S.A. support her mission. 

"Shining in Da Sun" album by Cyclub
CD cover illustration by Rosa Phoenix

The next generation inherits what we leave behind. 

Let's show them that a better way is possible, by educating kids about health and the effects of contaminants in the environment, and by empowering them to build bridges with art, music and cross-cultural collaboration and dialogue.

Children need hope to survive and thrive.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sketchbook: San Francisco

crayon and color pencil drawing

The streetlight looks like asparagus. 

It makes me think of Paris. 

In reality, I'm in downtown San Francisco.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fall and Winter Classes in Phoenix, Arizona, 2013

 Chili Peppers
Watercolor pencil on paper
by Rosa Phoenix

I've enjoyed beautiful summer in San Francisco this year, and I'll be heading back to Phoenix, Arizona soon for the winter.

I've posted my upcoming classes and events on my website.

You can see it by going to and clicking on Classes.

I'll update this as I add more events, so please check back for the latest schedule.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Copy of Venus, Satyr and Cupid by Correggio

pen and ink drawing by Rosa Phoenix
on letterpress paper

I was looking through an art book of masterpieces of the Louvre Museum. 

I found some letterpress stationary paper and made the drawing on it. 

I took a photo of the drawing with my iPhone, and then I edited and filtered the image in the Camera+ app.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Red White and Blue Dog

Red White and Blue Dog
felt tip pen sketch
by Rosa Phoenix

Here in the U.S.A. it is Memorial Day weekend: the holiday to remember our lost loved ones, especially those who died in war. 

I recently found this drawing in an old sketchbook from a few years ago. This is my pitbull dog, Diva, gone but not forgotten.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sketchbook: San Francisco

felt tip pen drawing
by Rosa Phoenix

A rainbow over the ice cream shop in Hayes Valley, San Francisco.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sketchbook: San Francisco

San Francisco Fireboat
pen and ink sketch
by Rosa Phoenix

When you're in San Francisco, take a stroll along the Embarcadero . . . and bring your sketchbook.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Baby Joy

 colored pencil sketch
by Rosa Phoenix

This baby girl's joyful expression captured my heart!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Lost in Thought

watercolor pencil on paper
by Rosa Phoenix

Continuing with my studies of the body, the face and expression . . . and playing with color, of course.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Creative Collaboration

watercolor by Rosa Phoenix

"Love is, above all, the gift of oneself."  

- Jean Anouilh

A few months ago, in the Fall of 2012, I partnered with the City of Phoenix, Arizona to teach free and low-cost art classes at senior centers.

My first experience teaching, it is the most wonderful collaboration.

Most of my students are beginners. Many have physical disabilities, or are recovering from illness, injury, trauma and grief.

They come to class with an open mind and heart. 

They are shy and embarrassed, because they don't yet know how to draw or paint. 

They are drawn to my classroom because something in them wants to create, express the beauty around them and within them, and to learn the skill of the artist. 

They know instinctively, that creative expression is their birthright as humans.

"We can do better than I can."

- Lykke Li

I think the highest form of creativity is collaboration.

The spark of energy exchange that happens when two or three or more share their ideas, is so much greater than what one person can accomplish alone.

That's why I love teaching so much.

To be able to share my love of art, and to teach people the skills to create their own works of art, makes my heart happy.

My students greet me shyly and say, "I can't draw," or "I can't paint." 

Within half an hour, they are happily drawing or painting, and watching themselves do it with amazement.

Their sense of sight, and their observation skills awaken. 

Suddenly, they are looking around them at their familiar world, now rich with colors, shapes and shadows that they had never noticed before. "It's beautiful!" they say.

Their ordinary world becomes an extraordinary world, because they now have an artist's vision.

Lotus Pond
acrylic painting 
by Rosa Phoenix

Wouldn't it be wonderful, if we could live this way every day?

We can . . .

. . . be the student, with open mind and open heart, willing to learn, willing to improve, aspiring to a higher expression . . .

. . . be the teacher, willing to share the skills and knowledge with others . . .

In my daily work, I do both, teaching and learning, sharing and collaborating.

My students continually inspire me with their dedication and motivation. They inspire me   because they make so many contributions themselves: volunteering, teaching and giving, with all their hearts.

We share our best selves with each other. Let's keep doing this, and uplift the world.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Profile of a Young Man

watercolor pencil sketch
by Rosa Phoenix

I've been going to life drawing / painting sessions, to learn how to draw the body and face. 

It is so challenging to draw from life, rather than copying photographs or other artwork.

It took three attempts to get a good likeness of this young man. I was really happy to be able to get the profile view. 

I struggle with drawing people, but it's gratifying to see that I am getting better, each time I go.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Future Vision

sketchbook page
pen and ink sketch 
by Rosa Phoenix

"I keep having this vision, where I am walking out into the desert."

This is a page from my sketchbook, one month before I moved to Arizona, in 2011.

At the time, it was vision into the future. This vision is now my reality.

It's interesting to look back at past sketchbooks, and see records of my thoughts, dreams and things that I was seeing at that time in my life.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Blue Corn

pen and ink drawing
by Rosa Phoenix

The Hopi people have a story, that when all the races of people were created, each were allowed to choose their own food. The Hopi waited until the end, to make their choice, and chose the smallest ear of corn. The Creator told them that they had chosen wisely, for they had chosen the "true food." 

The Hopi still plant and grow corn on their land in Arizona today. The blue corn they cultivate is more nutritious than other varieties of corn.

A page in my sketchbook. 

When you draw, you learn to see how beautiful and miraculous the simplest things are.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

More or Less

me and a furry friend 

It's a new spin around the Sun again.

Here we are again, in the same point on the same orbit, beginning the cycle again.

But, it isn't the same, is it? 

We have changed. You, me, everyone and everything. We aren't the same as we were last year.

We are constantly evolving. 

It's nice to be able to take stock of our progress, know that we are growing and moving forward, and to voice our desires for our lives.

I don't make New Year's resolutions anymore. 

However, I did make a "More or Less" List.

A "More or Less" List is a list of the things I want more of, and less of, in my life.

Here's what my list looks like:

While we remain "more or less" the same, we can maintain a sense of what we want "more or less" of in life. 

I'm really happy because, as I created this list, I felt that I have already made so much progress in creating "more" of my "more" list and "less" of my "less" list! 

I expect to make even more progress as I continue my journey.

Thanks for joining me.

What would you like "More or Less" of? 

Please share!