A Peek Inside my Artist Studio


I lived in Austin, TX for eight years and was very happy with my friends, my home and my very art-friendly city. So when my husband suggested we move to San Antonio, I have to say I wasn’t very gung-ho over the idea.  But then he said the magic words- new artist studio.

In my old house I had the easel in my living room.  It was the room right next to the front door.  It had big beautiful windows, but it was by the front door.  Did I say it was by the front door?  I felt I needed to have the room perfectly picked up at all times.  I’m not a messy painter, but as an artist I just had stuff and more stuff.  So lots of canvases started migrating across the foyer to the dining room. etc etc etc… Any-hoo, my husband “had me” at NEW ARTIST STUDIO!

The Painting Corner

This is my light-filled painting corner. As luck would have it, the studio has north facing windows. The perfect light for painting. I have large windows on three sides on my studio, painting heaven! Outside the windows I have several bird feeders, so when Sophie isn’t supervising my process she is bird watching.

Across from the easel I have my comfy chair. Perfect place for my muse to taker her catnap. I’m surprised she isn’t in this pic. 

I love this wonderful antique bookcase that I my husband collected about 30 years ago. It has been used for many things over the years. I found these handy-dandy baskets, which fit perfectly in the shelves. Love when things like that happen.  I separate my paint by color- yellow, red, blue, greens. So now it is super-easy to find a tube when I’m painting.


I was able to custom design the room to have storage for my canvases, books, papers, shipping materials and equipment. Now all that stuff has a home.  I made the storage closets 5′ deep and added shelves up to the ceiling.  In the closet to the left of the sink, I added a counter with file cabinets underneath to put my printer on and other messy stuff.  The Christmas before we moved into this house my Dad gave me a nice Christmas check, I used the money to add a sink.  A sink!! It feels like such a luxury. In my others homes, I was always washing brushes in my kitchen sink, so this is so fantastic.

Finishing Touches

On one wall I have an old mantel that my husband and I found in a antique store when we lived in San Diego.  It has moved several times and found a home in my studio. It serves no function other than I think it’s cool.  There is also an extra easel to put my paintings as they are drying. I think all artist studios should have an old mantel in it, ha!  The painting on the easel is called Orchid Ovation, click for more information.

This sweet little chair is what I designed the room around.  I loved it’s color it the inspiration for  the drapes, paint color and the rug.  Above the chair is a piece of art I bought about 25 years ago.  It is a whimsical painting of a kitty.  It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I realized that I now own a real kitty that looks a lot like this art.

And there you have it! Let me know when you’re in the area, I’ll give a personal tour.

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3 Simple Tips for Selecting Art for Your Home

I have heard from many people who feel lost when choosing art for their home. I’m going to give you some tips that should make this much easier. It doesn’t have to be hard or intimidating!

1. Identify the Size and Shape
It is best to have a plan when you start out in your search. Just like when you are shopping for furniture it is essential you know- what will fit where. I’m going to assume you already have a location in mind for your art. So first determine if it needs to be horizontal or vertical or square. You want the art to fill the space nicely without a lot of blank wall space.

I’m going to use the example of finding the right piece to fit above a fireplace, but you apply these same guidelines to other areas in your home. Let’s say you are selecting a showpiece for above your fireplace mantle. Image the distance from the top of the mantle to the ceiling is about the same distance as the floor to the mantle. In this example you would not want to use a skinny tall vertical piece. It would leave a lot of empty wall space on either side, leaving the art looking lost. A horizontal or square would work nicely. Look at the images below to better illustrate what I mean.

The vertical shape looks a little lost.

The square shape commands attention.

If the distance above mantle to the ceiling is double the distance or more than the distance as the floor is to the mantle, you would want the artwork to be vertical.  See image below.

The vertical size and large scale make a dynamic statement.

Determining the size of the artwork would follow the same criteria. You want to fill the space with art without having a lot of empty wall space. You wouldn’t want it to look lost. On the other hand, you don’t want it to be too big either. You want the space on the wall to act as another frame. If there isn’t enough wall space around it, it would feel like the artwork is shouting at you.

So let’s take the example of the fireplace mantle again. Say you determined that you need a horizontal piece of art. The leftover space on either side of the art should equal 1/4 the length of the art.

2. Identify the Texture

I’m going to use another assumption. I am going to assume you want your art to add to the beauty of your room. Creating a beautiful room encompasses many elements. Element such as space ratios, colors, repeating elements and there are many others. One element that is often forgotten is texture. Texture adds depth and interest to a room. So how can you add, not distract, to the interior design with the art you choose?

Back to our fireplace mantle scenario. Image you have a room that is rich in texture. The room has dark solid wood floors with lots of distressing, the fireplace has heavy round stone boulders. In this instance it would nice to add an oil painting with a smooth surface to help balance out all the existing texture.

Then imagine a room with smooth tile floors and a sleek surface covering the fireplace.
Selecting a piece of art that is three dimensional piece of art would add so much interest and contrast to this type of space.

3. Identify What Moves You

The effect that Art has on people has been studied by neurophysiologists. They have found that beautiful artwork can affect a person’s autonomic nervous system, their hormonal balance and their brain neurotransmitters. The awe that people can feel when looking art can inspire them and wake up their creativity. It has also been documented that art can have a have a big role in decreasing stress. It has been proven that stress affects your immune system by ramping up inflammation, Our immune system is greatly affected by inflammation. Inflammation is a precursor to many threatening diseases: cancer and heart disease two of the most serious.
I tell you all this so you can know all the benefits having something beautiful in your home.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This is why it is important to chose something that really moves you, that gives you an uplifting emotional reaction. An easy test to help you identify if a piece is right for you is to ask yourself “When I look at this does it make me feel lighter or heavier? It is that easy.

Don’t let selecting art be scary, hard or intimidating. Use my suggestions for size, shape and texture and then allow your heart find the piece of art that would give you the most positive effect every time you look at it. When you select with your heart you cannot go wrong.

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5 Things I Do to Clear My Mind for Painting



It is my intention that my paintings have an impact on people to help them heal and bring them joy and happiness into their lives and into their souls. As we have all heard many times, everything is energy and in that vein, thoughts are energy. So before and during my painting time I want to have a clear mind, clean energy and become an empty vessel so that I may download joy into all my paintings. I want to be singularly focused on the task at hand. If my mind is swirling with a to do list or my latest conversation, I am actually multi-tasking… the opposite of a singular focus. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Over time I have come to realize I utilize different “tools” to help me go to that Zen place. Depending on what is going on in my mind I use different methods. I share these with you so that you might find an idea that could help you get in your most creative space.

Listen to Tibetan Bowls

I think music has always been a way for visual artists to get in the flow. I do have my favorite Pandora stations and Sonos’ channels, but over time I realized that my mind would pay attention to the words of the song and my body would pick up the energy of the songwriter. The words and energy would side track me and before I knew it my mind would start to ponder why the lover left or what caused the heartbreak, LOL!

So what was the alternative? I thought back many years ago when I went to Cranial Sacral Healer in California. Before and after her sessions she would begin by playing Tibetan Bowls. It would immediately put me in a beautiful relaxed state and clear my mind of all it’s busy-ness. They have such a healing quality. Many articles and studies have been done to prove exactly that. I found a site that plays continuous sounds. Tibetan Bowls sounds is what I was personally looking for but, there are many other sounds to choose from.


Stare at the Sky

This may be one of the easiest on my list. I think I stole it from my childhood when I would sit in a field of wild daisies for hours on end and look up into the sky. It has such a tranquil and calming energy and yet it feels very powerful. The beautiful blue color and vastness has a mesmerizing ability like no other. It never fails to bring a smile to my face and the blankness in the canvas of the sky allows my mind to fall quiet. Try it. Trust me. You’ll like it.

Listen to a Guided Meditation
Sometimes when my mind is especially busy, I will use a guided meditation to calm it down. I use an app on my phone called Insight Timer.  It’s free! There is an endless supply of guided meditations on that app, with every topic under the sun. You can also use the timer feature to sit in your own quiet meditation.
One of my favorite guided meditations on that app is by Tara Brach called, “Loving This Life-Happiness”. It always puts a smile on my face, clears my mind and puts me in the perfect mode to paint.
There are times when I find I have an emotional upset which makes it almost impossible for me to paint. When I’m in that state, I will use a meditation that will get to the core of the issue and release it. It was created by my good friend Wendy Down. She is an amazing life coach and energy healer. The meditation is called “Pure Sleep Now”, but like I said, I use it to release an emotional issue. You can find the meditation here.

Move Your Body

Back in the day when I owned a design firm, I did a talk every year at a nearby University for the Interior Design students. One of the topics I spoke on was: What to do when you’re stuck and no creative juices are flowing. My simple solution was to go for a walk. It makes sense that our body and brains need oxygen to function at optimal capacity. There are studies upon studies that will speak to the virtues of movement and how it benefits our bodies. I know from personal experience taking a walk or jumping around my studio to my favorite dance music works! Try it. Trust me. It helps!



Beautiful Kitty

Pet a Kitty

We all know that loving a pet can do wonders for our lives, but did you know why?

According to Dr. David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. a kitties purr calibrates at 500 on the scale of human consciousness. This is the same level that love measures. According to Hawkins we, as humans, live at vastly different “levels” of consciousness. Hawkins’ Consciousness Scale ranges from 0-1000, (1000 is the Highest Level of pure/consciousness humanly possible.) This Love level (same as a kittens purr) is the level which opens the door to benevolence, mercy, and forgiveness. This is a beautiful level to create from, don’t you think? Google Dr. David R. Hawkins and learn more.

These are just some of the things I do to help me get to the right head space in which to create from. I would love to hear from you if they work for you or what practices you use.

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Boundless Love

Boundless Love by Artist Amy Hillenbrand
Boundless Love © 2016 Amy Hillenbrand
48 x 36 oil on linen


I’m introducing my new series. It is called High Vibrations. The idea for this series was truly inspired. One day, as I sat down to work on some business details, I had an idea flash in my mind. I did not want to forget the idea. I wrote it down so I could quickly get back to my other work. Well, Someone had a different plan. I wrote and wrote and wrote. The words easily flowed like rushing water and my left brain was completly left out of the picture. It must be what a writer feels like as they are filled with story ideas from above.

As you may know or may not know, I spent many years as a life coach. In addition to my coaching education, I studied many energy healing modalities.  One day the next part of the equation was sent to me; combine my healing gifts with my art. It was as though I had one of those “da!” moments. You know the ones; like why had’n I ever thought of this before. The idea that makes you want to slap yourself upside your head.

This High Vibration series is a series specifically created to be a transformative instrument. Each piece is infused with a higher vibration emotion.  What type of higher vibration emotions you ask? Feelings such as joy, love, empowerment, fulfillment, worthiness, enthusiasm, freedom, happiness, hopefulness, optimism, eagerness and passion. Notice how much lighter you feel just reading those words!  I don’t yet want to disclose what energy I infused into this painting. However, I would love to hear your feedback. Please let me know what emotion bubbles up in you when you look at this piece.

As the series continues I will share with you the journey each piece takes and the story behind why flowers. I can’t wait, I hope you excited to go on this journey with me.

Boundless Love Details

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Glorious~ an oil painting of Sunflowers

Glorious Oil Painting by Amy Hillenbrand

Glorious © 2015 Amy Hillenbrand
24 x 24 Oil on canvas



As you can see, this is not your typical perspective of a Sunflower.  I was quite intrigued by the beautiful intricate design of the back of these beauties.  The engineering, the way the flower is put together, is so very very ingenious. I really wanted to capture the detail of  God’s fabulous design. And as I was painting the lovely backs of the flowers I had an A-hA!

Before I can share the A-ha, I have to back up and tell you about a really neat tool created by Sally Hogshead.  It is a personality assessment called How You Fascinate. It informs you of how the world sees you, what makes you fascinating to others.  Here is a quote from Sally  “You already have certain naturally fascinating qualities. These qualities positively shape how the world sees you. These are your Advantages.”

I completed the assessment many many months ago and was quite confused about the results. I didn’t really see how my profile applied to me.  Some of the words used to describe me in my profile were: precise, language of details and uses a deliberate style of communication. I know when I was running a design business these very much applied to me, but as an artist…not so much or so I thought.

So back to the A-HA, as I was happily painting the glorious detail of the back of the sunflower, it hit me.  For years I have struggled with the idea that I should be more loose in my painting style and try as I might, it just didn’t happen. Either I couldn’t or wouldn’t or did not know how. My style just emerged and it was no where near loose.  Then the words of my profile came back to me- precise, detailed and deliberate. That is exactly how I express myself in my paintings.  I realized the way I paint is okay, it’s me! And I only know how “to do” me.

In other news… this painting was selected to be used by a brilliant writer Mary O’Malley in her recent blog. Mary O’Malley is an author, teacher and counselor whose work awakens others to the joy of being fully alive. Her inspired and transformative approach to compulsions offers a way to replace fear, hopelessness and struggle with ease, well being and joy. Please take a moment and read her post titled “Your Grieving Heart Needs Love”

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Charlie and His Buddy Blue Portrait


Charlie and His Buddy Blue

Charlie and His Buddy Blue © 2015 Amy Hillenbrand
12 x 12 Oil on board

Can I get an awwwww?  Such a sweet image.  This is a portrait I recently finished.  I was so excited to share, but needed to wait until the painting reached its final destination of Florida. I don’t know who was more excited, the gift giver or me. It was a present from the Grandma of Charlie; who had commissioned the painting for her Son and Daughter-in-law for their wedding anniversary.  Very thoughtful gift I might add.  Just sayin’.

Are you curious how this moment came to be? I was. This is the story from the Mom of Charlie and Blue.

“That picture is one of my favorites. We were sitting on the couch in the den. It was about time for little Charlie to take his nighttime bath, but he was getting sleepy. Charlie was starting to take off his clothes (hence no shorts) and I picked him up from couch. He started crying and reaching for Blue who was still on couch. So we put him back down and he just hugged Blue and fell asleep on top of him.”

When the above mentioned Grandma, first approached me with this project I said “sure, of course, I’d love to”.  When she first sent me the image, I was overcome with the cuteness of the picture.  I was excited.  And then… and then… I looked at again and thought to myself, uh oh, what have I gotten myself into?  All the fabric folds were quite daunting, but more challenging then that was tackling of that face, that sweet adorable-little face.  If I didn’t get that right…..well you know.  When I first started painting it,  I thought ~ well this is going to be okay. Then when I was about half way done, I was tempted to call the Grandma and say “I think I need to back out”. Many many times when I’m at the midpoint of a painting I want to open my studio window, whip it outside and let the vultures of Texas eat it for lunch. Then I remember this is the same feeling I have every time. So onward I went and when the last brush stoke went up, I said to myself, this isn’t so bad.

More important then what I think, is what the gift receiver thought.  Here is what they told Grandma: “Thanks so much for the painting! We absolutely love it, it’s beautiful. I can’t believe how much it looks like the picture, incredible!

If you know anyone that would like a portrait like this please pass this on (see the little arrow below this post) or go here to learn how you can commission a painting.  Thank you and I would love to hear your thoughts!

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A Painting of Love and Joy

The Enchanting Glow from Below Oil Painting by Amy Hillenbrand

The Enchanting Glow from Below © 2015 Amy Hillenbrand
24 x 24 Oil on Canvas



This painting is the big reason I became an artist and the big reason I paint flowers. How can a painting of daisy be the reason I paint you ask?  Four score and seven years ago, I was a little girl living in Wisconsin. During the summers,  I would go to the open fields near my house and lay among the daisy and stare upon the fluffy white clouds. When I finished with my cloud meditation I would pick handfuls of daisy to bring to my Mom. Right there, (that moment, that split second that I handed the bouquet of Daisy to my Mom) is the magical reason.  I would see in her eyes the look of joy, of love. I also knew with that twinkle in her eye that I had touched her heart. My Mother was not a hugely outwardly expressive person. So that moment of intimacy (in-to-me-I-see) between my Mother and I was so priceless. I cannot even put it into words.  Hence for the rest of her life I gave her daises. So later in life when we lived 1200 miles apart I sent her my message of love in the form of a bouquet of daisy for her birthdays, Mother’s Day and in her period of sickness before she died. I knew she knew the love that they represented and also the bond I felt with her. Even as I write this, my eyes are leaking thinking of the love I have for her.

My Mom was a teacher and I think as a teacher she had a gift of knowing what gifts her children had, whether it was the children in her classroom or the four she had at home.  My Mother always encouraged me to be creative. The phrase she said over and over was “you could make that”. It still rings in my head when I see something in a store that I want. I hear her voice.  During the summer she sent me to art classes, because she knew what I didn’t know at the time. She knew how much I loved to paint and draw.  Even though she knew this about me, it wasn’t until I was in my 40’s that I ever did any oil painting.

Now, if you have followed my blog for a while or have seen  my portfolio you will know I had a period of time that I painted shoes. And then you will see I stopped and now I paint flowers.  You see, after my Mom left this life to live in Heaven, I had this urging, this desire to paint flowers.  Co-winky-dink?  hmmm… But what I sense is my Mom is still sending me her encouragement.  The signals were everywhere in my life. All the pieces of art I have in my home are of flowers.  The fabrics I selected for my interiors have flowers in them. My favorite hobby is gardening, etc etc etc  It wasn’t until she passed on that I recognized what was obvious.

 Flowers = Love  Flowers = Joy    Paintings of flowers is how I express my love and joy to all.  Paintings of love & joy is how I help others touch their own hearts.


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Oil Painting of a 1973 Chevy Camaro

painting of 1973 Chevy Camero, painting of car, large painting of car


High School Crush © 2014 Amy Hillenbrand
36 x 48 Oil on Canvas

An oil painting of a 1973 Chevy Camaro? Am I on the right blog? Yes, yes you are. Yes, I normally paint flowers or critters (otherwise known as animals). Yet a wonderful friend wanted to have a commissioned painting from me. He didn’t know exactly what he wanted so he left it entirely up to me. How is that for trust?  I was very very honored that he did trust me that much.  I wracked my brain and wracked my brain. Big donut

So then I went to a man, namely my husband, and asked him what would a man want a painting of.  He quickly came up with the idea of this car. This was David’s car in high school and he loved it; to say the least.  What guy doesn’t love a fast 1973 Chevrolet Camaro? I used a tiny picture from his cell phone, that my husband covertly gained from David, to paint from.

I told David it was a surprise and I didn’t even let him have a sneak peek before it was done. So how does the story end?  He loved it.  It was kind of funny because he knows I normally paint flowers. When he opened his eyes on reveal day, he had a blank look on his face. I was worried. Really worried. Then he burst into a huge smile. He explained that he was so excepting a flower that he had to take a second to comprehend what he was looking at. He then snapped a picture and sent it to his Dad and brother and got on the phone to talk to them to tell them how excited he was. Whew! then I knew I was home free.

Painting of 1973 Chevy Camero by Amy Hillenbrand

Sometimes it is hard to understand the scale of a painting on the computer so I included this picture to give you an idea of how big it is.  Please share this with anyone that you know who would love a commissioned oil painting. Or click here to see other gift ideas.

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Winnie the Pooh – a Pet Portrait

pet portrait, animal portrait,


Winnie the Pooh © 2015 Amy Hillenbrand
8 x 10 Oil on board

Meet Winnie the Pooh. No, not the adorable Pooh bear from the wonderful classic book, but Winnie the Pooh a treasured friend and helper.  Winnie belongs to Sue Anne Dunlevie. Sue Anne is a blogging coach and has the very helpful blog called Successful Blogging. I met Sue by taking her incredible on-line class called Successful Blogging Blueprint. One thing led to another and now Sue has a portrait of her little fury friend.

The photo I used to paint Winnie, Sue snapped herself after reading my article on how to photograph your pet.  He is sitting in his favorite spot on the couch near the window.

I asked Sue for some little tidbits about her lovely companion. Turns out Winnie is more than a best friend, he is also a service dog. Sue has fibromyalgia and on her bad days he lays with her and on Sue’s good days he happily goes along to do the errands and grocery shopping. Can you say car ride? Just like the fictional character, this Winnie loves kids too. He is a kid magnet.  When they are in the stores together, he wears his red “service dog” vest and kids swarm him. They can fondle his ears and even pull his tail and Winnie just licks them and smiles.

This is Winnie at home with his new portrait. Here are the unedited words after Sue received her oil painting of Winnie.

OMG, Amy! Winnie the Pooh is gorgeous as a work of art! I LOVE IT! You are so talented – you got his eyes perfectly (along with everything else, but I assume the eyes are the hardest to paint)

Winnie the Pooh a pet portrait.

Oh, one more thing I thought you would enjoy. Here is the Making of Winnie. This video is a great demonstration on how I paint a pet portrait from beginning to end.

The Making of Winnie the Pooh- a dog portrait

If there is someone you know who would like to commission a pet portrait please click on the share buttons below this post. Thank you 🙂

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Three’s Company- a happy flower painting

Three's Company, happy flower oil painting by Amy Hillenbrand,

Three’s Company © 2015 Amy Hillenbrand
30 x 24 oil on gallery wrapped canvas



I personally love this painting. I love the fresh-happy colors and joyful subject matter. As an artist, I’m always looking for the next idea for a painting. This happened to be an inspired idea. The vision popped into my mind one day. I then I had to pop out to the store to find the perfect bottles to pose my flowers in. I found the bottles in the first store I went to, nice!  I was then on the hunt to find the green hydrangeas that had been in my vision. As luck would have it, I located the hydrangeas at my favorite grocery store. An extra bonus, the store is only 2 miles from my studio.  Happy Days!  It reminds me of the quote:

“The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred”.         Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I know I didn’t move mountains or anything, but it felt so good to have everything happen so easily.

Okay, ready for my weird imagination again?  Here is what I see when I look at the painting, this too popped in my head one day. For the life of me, I can’t shake the mental picture. You might not be able to shake it either after you read this! Don’t say; I didn’t warn you.   Unlike many of my past flower paintings (see here and here,) these happy flowers are not dancers. They are ladies getting a pedicure. Notice they have their feet in the water soaking their toes. These gals are talking up a storm. And like may people in intense conversation, they are talking with their hands. Notice the gal on the far right, she has her hand out in mid-sentence. I can hear her saying something like: “Well!  did I tell you that _______.”  I will let you fill in the blank.  Please comment below and tell me the rest of what she was saying!


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