My Inspirational Retreat

mtrainier My whole life I've wanted to live somewhere other than NY and Rhode Island. But it hasn't happened, yet. This summer I decided to just pack up my supplies and rent an Airbnb, get on a plane, stay for 3 weeks and see what happens. I'm still in the middle of it so I don't have perspective but so far I can say its been wonderful for the change of pace. I'm on Vashon Island which is a little island a ferry ride from Seattle. This is my view from the deck of my house and from the work table I set up in front of a big glass window. Different, yes!!!


The first day I was nervous, I had a stomachache because of it but as I adjusted to the situation I felt myself relaxing. Sort of luckily a few jobs I have got delayed a little bit so I really had time to explore the island, see new things and play around with painting. I've been wandering the roads and the beach and collecting wildflowers and rocks and seeds, so many little bits that inspire me. My eyes are open wider.


There are really nice houses here, cute cottages, gardens that are out of this world and amazing views. I take lots of pictures so I can refer to them later for reference. I also have done a lot of plein air painting which I don't get to do very often.

Jennifer_OrkinLewis_vashonlandscape2.s JenniferOrkinLewis_vashonlandscape1.s

I've done many loose, slightly abstracted  watercolors in a cheap sketchbook just to get going. for me, if I work in a very quick way, without regard for the final outcome I can find new ideas and directions. Even here I still have times where I have no idea what I want to paint, what is inspiring me. But I go take a walk along the beach, or a hike in the woods. Or go to a cute cafe and sit for tea. These small mindful things are so necessary to the creative process and sometimes in the business of everyday life I forget to take time for myself.





And I've met the most wonderful warm, kind people. I've been invited over to so many incredible homes. With all the stuff going on in the world right now it's such a pleasure to turn off the news and just enjoy simple, beautiful, generous humanity.



New Video From Flow Magazine

Check out this really cute video from Flow Magazine that features my paper doll art, as well as tons of other great artists' work!



On the paper doll, there are stickers used to dress her in different outfits for different occasions. Different summer days include trips to the city, the beach and the farmer's market.

To purchase the magazine click here!


30 day Painting Challenge with Creativebug

PaintADay_1920X1080_1 I'm excited to share that I am now an instructor with Creativebug! The first class goes live on June 1 but you can start at anytime. Everyday for the month of June I hand picked an object to paint and I go through the steps with you on how to paint it. It was a great experience being out in San Fransisco at the CB offices and filming for a week. It is my first time on camera and I'm excited and nervous for it to be released into the world! They have many great classes and its so affordable to join. Click here to play along with me painting everyday. I'm looking forward to seeing what you do!



herbarium_s I've been playing with Dr PH Martins India Ink. They are so vibrant. It's a fun change rather than gouache. It feels good for beginning of spring. Looking forward!

Etsy Update

IMG_7967 I got a new printer that works, I started adding some items to my Etsy store, Finally. I'm very happy with the quality of the prints. If there is a piece of art you are interested in that I don't have listed please let me know and I will see if it's available as a print. Prints are available at 8.5x11" and 11x14" at this time. I'm looking into a bigger format too. Thank you!!

My sketchbook and how I do it take 2!

edges I wrote a blog post 10 months into my sketchbook project here. I am always asked so many questions about how I do this.. from discipline to supplies I think its fair time for an update. The earlier post  isn't all that different but I have changed up a few things.


The main sketchbook I now use is a Strathmore 500 series Mixed Media sketchbook. The paper is heavy and smooth but with a fine tooth. I love the texture and it handles the paint very well. I can use thick gouache or watercolor or ink and I'm happy with the results of all. I also sometimes use a black sketchbook so I can paint directly onto black paper. It is a Derwent, I am pretty sure this is the right one that I'm linking to here.. Gouache glows on this paper as well as using gold and white gel pens.



I still love my Muji book and I play around in it sometimes but not for this project anymore. The purpose of that was to be free and able to play without worrying about perfection. After a year of that one I'm able to do the same thing on better paper.

I mainly use gouache. I have lots of brands, my favorite is Winsor Newton but I'm a art supply junkie and its hard for me not to buy any color that looks beautiful. I have Holbein, Schminke, Linel, DaVinci..


I recently found this set of Shinhan poster paint that I've had for decades!! It was all dried out so I added water and reconstituted them.. They are so vibrant and gorgeous so I use these now too.


I also use a Sakura of America Watercolor travel set. I take this with me whenever I'm away. It is quite thick lustrous paint and Its perfect for travel and I also use it as an everyday paint if I'm too lazy to squeeze some paint onto the palette! I also add detail with ink, either Dr PH Martins Black Star waterproof ink or just lately some Black Walnut ink that a friend made and gave to me... That one isn't waterproof. I also use Bleed Proof White for details and layering over gouache.



I really love this little well palette, but I'm happy mixing paint on anything that is white.


For paintbrushes I started using Escoda Barroco sintetico after I picked some up on a trip to Spain last spring. They last so much longer than other brushes for me. I am rough on them!!! I use size 1 up through about 16. For big areas of color it goes fast to use a really big brush and the size 1 is great for layering details.


Discipline wise it has just become something I do. Some days are still hard and I don't love every piece. But I get more confident every day. I don't apologize for one that is ugly anymore.. Maybe I have a migraine, or I got a call that upset me or I just feel crappy. Its about doing it for me and not about the outcome. I usually find something in all of them that makes me happy, but if I don't I just move on to the next day. There is always the next day.  30 minutes is manageable, I can fit it in without feeling too stressed out. This is the only habit in my life that I have been able to keep up like this. I think because its the most rewarding in so many ways.


I still love this project, even on my 3rd year. I haven't missed a day! I love all the amazing support from everyone.. I wish I could respond to you all individually but it just takes so much time. I read and look at everything that comes through. I'm so grateful for all the press and the jobs and the encouragement that has come from this. Sometimes I just stop in my tracks and am amazed by the whole thing. I wish I could keep up this blog more consistently but I just get too busy and I need time to unwind at the end of the day. I hope this helps answer some questions and I'll update when I can. xo Jennifer







Every other blog post I have to say "I can't believe how long its been since I blogged" I guess it's just the way it goes. You have to say no to somethings, so others can get done.  Time passes, where does it go? JOL_motherbabysketch_wreath_s

A sweet woman who is teaching a class on Joyful Mothering commissioned me to paint this last week. I love the softness and love here. My son is turning 22 in March.This feels like a lifetime ago.

A Monthly Painting Challenge

IMG_6909 Let's do a painting a month all together. I am working this challenge with the inspiring Courtney CerrutiMeighan O'Toole and Erika Seers. Each month we will propose a theme and you can paint something that inspires you. Tag it #12monthsofpaint and post on instagram. We wanted to create an exciting community where we can all work on a similar project and be inspired by each other. I will pick one to feature on my instagram feed and post a whole bunch here on my blog! So will the others.There are no real rules except tagging it, Use a media that inspires you, paint, pencil, collage. any size. Just have fun!!

Month 1 is the color Blue. What inspires you about blue, or use all  or mostly blues in your work. Anything goes. The idea is to get creative and working!

We will announce each monthly theme on the 1st of each month, We will post our paintings on the 15th but you all have the full month to play! Enjoy, We can't wait to see what you create!!

2015 Thoughts

myselection Here is a selection of 6 from the last 365 days of painting. I couldn't really choose favorites as each one has a memory and a meaning to me. I hope you all enjoyed following along for the 2nd year. Tomorrow I start year 3. I'm sort of amazed at myself. I also hope so many of you have also tried to start this habit. It's been the most amazing journey of my life.

2015 has been the year of so many new things. Feeling confidence in myself most days is a big one. Even on my "bad" days I did something, so that alone is an accomplishment. I've mentioned many times before that I have chronic migraines. I have to step back sometimes. But I learned that I can work through anything. I never felt so strong before.

I got an agent. Wow! That is going on 1 year in a few weeks. For me it's been an incredible positive in my life. I have lots of work that I love and I love Jennifer, I love having someone to talk to and to work with. I feel like I have a wonderful partnership and friend.


I wrote a book!! It's still a bit under wraps for a bit but I never thought in a million years that I would be the author of a book. It's really beautiful and will be fun to work with you on it. (details to follow).

I've been covered in so many publications that I love and more is to come. And a podcast, and an upcoming podcast in March. I'm shy so that is scary. My new mantra is to say yes. Then new things happen. Things you never thought were a possibility. And then it's ok.


Flow Magazine Illustrator issue and Flow Magazine issue 10


Uppercase Compendium


RISD XYZ (my alma mater)

I made so many new friends on Instagram and Facebook and I am so grateful for all the amazing support I get. That very certainly keeps me going, and going strong. Even when I think I can't. I never thought when I started that in 2 years I'd be closing in on 50,000 followers. That sounds insane... I get so much motivation from it and you tell me that I inspire you too so its just a huge win!

I sold work in my etsy store and it's being revamped for 2016. I will be offering prints of my work in 3 sizes. I finally got a new beautiful printer and the prints look like originals!


I got better at painting. I learned how to use periscope. I love to work, I want to do more amazing things. I made a list of out my dreams. I think that helps them come true. I loved 2015. In 2016 I want to teach, I want to grow in even more ways. If it's anything like 2015 I can't imagine whats to come....

And I really believe the core of it all is starting the daily painting project. Please try it, you will grow in so many ways. Whether it's painting, drawing, writing, meditating or dancing. Something everyday teaches you so much about yourself.

Thank you all for coming along with me and peace, happiness, creativity, love, painting and joy in 2016!


And by the way, I've done yoga everyday for the past week. I'm approaching it like my sketchbook and its working.Just start.



New Habits

JOL_yoga_ivory_s I let myself go this year.... completely. A combination of tons of work and migraines and other life events, I didn't take care of myself. So many things are great but I feel weak and not at my best and a bit out of control. I decided to tackle my exercise issue the same way I do my sketchbook.

  1. I'm going to do yoga every day in 2016.
  2. The goal is at least 30 minutes, if I can build it up to 60 that will be great but I'm starting smaller. Asking too much of myself is a proven failure for me.  If I'm sick or busy or whatever I'll do 5 minutes. Just like I said with my sketchbook, "I'll paint a dot if need be" That never happened because once I start I can do more. Starting is the hardest part.
  3. I will post my progress here on the blog once a month by showing my crossed off calendar. I need the accountability so thanks if you are reading this!
  4. I will write a bit about how I feel and how it's changed me each month.

I realized I wasn't going to class anymore because of the time constraint. An hour and fifteen minute  class plus going and coming home is 2 hours out of the day. I just got a big block on that. A friend told me about a website called Yogaglo. I started a week ago and it's working. There are tons of classes to take so you can find something that fits for how you are feeling each day. I hope to make it back to classes too but if not this will be great.

Today I had a small family interaction that was upsetting. I couldn't concentrate, I was blaming myself. I didn't want to do yoga. But I STARTED. And now I feel so much better. That is positive reinforcement.


If you want to start a new habit for 2016 my friend Tammie Bennett who has been doing multiple small daily habits for 4 years now is offering an online class to inspire you to start too. Check it out here.

I Want to Feel Green

greenlady_s What I mean is.. I feel a bit out of control and confused, sort of in between... I don't have much work now which I was very happy about. I wanted to take this time during the holidays to figure out some things. What form will my sketchbook take for 2016? How can I find more harmony and balance in my life? How can I incorporate the goals I have, art and otherwise and make them into habits I will accomplish. I spent the last few days floundering. It's easier for me to be swamped with work and just get my head into it and go. I realized just now that I need to be more intentional from now until January 1 so I can see the bigger picture, before busy life starts up again. Green creates equilibrium between the brain and thoughts and the heart and feelings. Thats what I need.. balance.



End of the Year Sketchbook Thoughts

9.3_s I'm not quite at the end of a sketchbook but it is the end of the year. The time we all reevaluate the year, think about the positive and negative things that have passed and what goals we want to achieve in the New Year. I'm about to embark of year 3 of daily painting and drawing. I'm sort of in shock that I've done this for so long.


There are days that I feel like I just can't do it.. I make a mess, I'm not satisfied, I'm unhappy and stressed. But every single day I get it done. Whatever happens, whatever it "looks" like is really ok with me. Sometimes just the process of putting aside any other work or commitment puts me in a happier place. Those 30 minutes become relaxing and rejuvenating. There are also times when I suffer through it. The brush isn't comfortable in my hand, I feel edgy and wrong... In a practice that is every single day there are bound to be good and bad days. You can't get around that. But as a whole, when I look back at 6 full sketchbooks and 2 in progress it's an amazing feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.


I'm thinking about what changes I want to make in my project for 2016. I'm not the type to keep doing the same thing for the rest of my life. What I do know is that I want to keep painting daily for the rest of my life or for as long as I can. I never could have imagined the positive things that have happened for me because of it. I'm not even talking about jobs, or collaborations, or number of followers. Its the personal joy of setting my mind to doing something and really doing it. I'm more confident, I'm happier, I'm busy in the way I want to be.


In the next 2 weeks before January 1 I'm deciding if I want to keep on painting in a sketchbook or move onto flat paper. There are pros and cons. I love having a book I can hold with all my work in it. It feels like a diary, a tangible thing that starts and ends. On the other hand I'm not taking them apart so I can't have a exhibit which I'd like to have. I guess I could say I'd do another project where once a week I do a stand alone painting, I'd still have 52 by the end of the year. I'd like to be able to sell my originals, I'm going to run out of room for all of the sketchbooks at some point.. I'd also like the art to be in loving homes. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what I should do... Whatever it is, I do say to myself, it's my project, I can do what I want, I can switch around. The main point is that I show up every day.


Now to do the same in other areas of my life!!



Creative Style: Jill McDonald

Today's Creative Style post is on the newest artist to join the Jennifer Nelson Artists roster, Jill McDonald!! New to JNA but not new to the world of art and design and licensing. What a great, successful story!! I was fortunate to meet Jill a few years ago at Printsource and saw what an incredibly beautiful and huge amount of work she has. And a very lovely person as well!!!

1. How did you arrive at the style you working in currently?

I’ve drawn, painted & cut things up since I was a little girl. From an early age I knew I would be an artist. After High school I went to art school. I spent my freshman foundation year at Parsons School of Design in NYC. (I liked to sew & thought I’d do fashion design) I hated the city & fashion turned into a lot of math. So, I transferred to Rhode Island School of Design.  This felt much more like home to me.  At R.I.S.D I was in the textile department & did lots of large scale silk screen work.  Focusing on flowers as the subject. (flowers continue to show up in my work today). In school I was introduced to coordinating patterns.  I enjoyed continuing to spin the main piece off in a variety of patterns. All of this was before computers were part of the curriculum.

RISD textile work 1 RISD textile work 2

My plan after graduation was to work for a high end home textile company.  Like many plans right out of school I ended up taking a different path.  I found myself back in NYC (still disliking it) and got the chance to do freelance work at Gap, Inc. And I was hired on a full time basis a few months later.  At Baby GAP I worked as a print stylist & was part of a team who bought prints from studios & recolored them (using Info Design) for Gap Kids & Baby clothing.  I missed making art so when the team couldn’t find exactly what we had in mind I’d make something. (if it was something in my wheelhouse) I had a talented, kind boss who taught me a lot & took me seriously even though I was just 23.  This was a seasonal collection I made for girls underwear & pajamas.

GAP girl sleepwear Gap present pjs gap undies

I left Gap with an enthusiasm for younger art & headed back to my hometown of Kansas City. I got a job as a illustrator/ designer for Hallmark Cards.  I worked in the gift wrap department & my experience at Gap came in really handy.  I was accustomed to working in a color palette, in repeat, understood the importance of making things coordinate & worked well under pressure. I spent 3 years at Hallmark & worked on many exciting projects. This is where I learned how to draw digitally using Photoshop & Painter. I enjoyed the chance to create collections which tends to be how I think. 

hydrangas learning to draw digitally

lillies learning to draw digitally

pretty in pink

After awhile I started to get restless & wanted to try my hand on a variety products.  I’m good at being my own task master so I was confident I could make it work. I remember seeing one of the first Land of Nod catalogs & just knowing I was going to work with them. They were one of my first clients when I started my studio. I got to bring my joy for sewing back in, sewing many of the samples I made for them.  Then scanning them in a large format scanner.  I’d offer ideas for additional accessories like rugs & pillows. 

Creatures Great and Small mock up Creaturs Great and Small catalog

Bedding was an area I have worked quite a lot since then. Working with Target on several teen collections for their old Restore & Restyle brand. (which is now Circo)

RR girls rock tween collection Target girls rock cad

I’ve always kept a sketchbook by my side and one of these pieces was purchased by Pottery Barn Kids and used on a variety of items.

A Z orignal painting a z PBK uses

As I continued painting & creating new art some of it turned into wall art for Oopsy Daisy that in turn got me noticed by an editor with Barefoot Books.

I used my cut paper collage style with painting on top for my first children’s book with them.

Whos in the Garden ART Whos in the Garden Cover Whos in the Garden finished spread

Since then I’ve gone on to illustrate many children’s books which, I really love to do!

I’ve been fortunate to work on a wide array of products and that has really helped me grow as an artist. This can feel scary as I’m often out of my comfort zone but there’s also something really fun about that.  I’ve found that trusting my instincts while working within the parameters the client puts in place continues to led to the most satisfying results. It’s been exciting to see my art applied in so many different ways.

2. Are there any other styles or techniques you are playing and experimenting with now that you think will incorporate into your work?

I missed the silk screen work I did in art school so I am taking a class now to revisit what I use to do.  Over the last year I have made a real effort to step back from the computer and start most of my work painting and collaging first.  This take more time & effort as then I need to scan it in, clean it up & most times keep building it digitally. But, I find the art looking richer and in return I believe it has a bigger impact with others.  For a couple years I tried to take my business a more commercial route focusing only on baby or really young art. But now I’m working on going back to creating art for every age. I love that there’s no one way to go about being an artist!  You try something, see how it goes, feel it out, reassess if needed & keep on moving forward.

Favorite things

Paper forest

Thank you so much Jill! I love hearing about your journey!!

See more of Jills work at her website

on instagram @missjillmcdonald

on facebook  and her blog.

Uppercase Magazine Compendium

IMG_6807 Sometime last year Janine Vangool, the amazing creator of Uppercase Magazine had a call for entries for a compendium book she was producing. I submitted because I knew I would love to be included and there was no doubt I would love the publication.

I heard sometime in the summer that I was accepted! I had to rewrite a bit of my questionnaire since things had changed since then.. (like getting an agent!)


It arrived in the mail yesterday! It has a paper wrapper with yarn tied around it, and a different quilt pattern on the actual cover.

It consists of so many different makers of all kinds, quilters, painters, terrarium makers, sewers, collagers, such a great variety and wonderful stories to read.


My feature is 4 pages, and the big painting is of Frida Kahlo that I painted on her birthday!! It would make a great gift for an artist in your family. You can purchase it HERE.


I've been interviewed for my first podcast ever! Monica Lee from Smart Creative Women got in touch a few weeks ago and asked if I'd like to be on her show. Of course I would!! I was definitely nervous but I think it went quite well! You can have a listen to my interview here  11.12_s

Daily Sketchbook Tips: Permission to Myself

  FullSizeRender (1) copy

Today is the 667th day of painting a day in my sketchbook. I'm in a slump. I still LOVE it more than anything. I don't ever want to stop. BUT, each day is taking me longer and longer to decide what to paint. It's taxing, stressful and I'm losing the joy. I know I can get it back but I need a short reset. I haven't wanted to give myself permission up to now to change the parameters of my project. But today I'm giving myself permission. I don't want to stop. Its like the opposite of giving up sugar. I can do it for 2 months but the minute I have a bit I can't stop. If I stop my daily sketchbook I'm afraid I won't get back to it... So for the next week, 2 weeks or 3 weeks or maybe only 3 days I am going back to my cheap MUJI sketchbook and setting the timer for 10 minutes. That's it. I'm still in the game but I'm saying yes to myself. Lets see what happens. I think its so hard for us to say yes to ourselves. It's self preservation and I think the we should all allow ourselves that.