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Asheville artist's new book aims to help others cultivate the creative life

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3/13/2012 - Asheville artist's new book aims to help others cultivate the creative life
by Jason Sandford - Asheville Citizen Times

 ASHEVILLE -- Artist Alena Hennessy, who has always been fascinated with ideas about the law of attraction, now has a real-life example of how it can work.

 Hennessy, 35, had been toying with the idea of a workbook for artists. She took inspiration from "The Artist's Way," a classic in the realm on helping artists find their inspiration and creativity. Her idea -- a book that combines all kinds of inspirational tips with advice on remaining healthy at the same time.

"I put it out there on my little blog -- I don't have a lot of people reading my blog, I'm more of a Facebook person -- that a publisher would be really lucky to publish this book I had in mind," Hennessy said.

"Within two weeks, a publisher contacted me," she said. "I put it out there, and it became real."

Quarry Books is set to publish Hennessy's book, "Cultivating the Creative Life: Exercises, Activities and Inspiration for Finding Balance, Beauty and Success as an Artist." It will be available in June, and Hennessy has a full schedule of promotional events to follow. When she's not painting birds, trees and other elements of nature, she's creating an array of prints and scarves and T-shirts featuring her designs in her Curve Studios space in the River Arts District. Some of her designs have been licensed to big companies, including Target and Urban Outfitters.

Hennessy recently took time out of her busy schedule to talk about her book, her art and how she finds inspiration.

Question: How did you get started?

Answer: I've been in Asheville seven years. I grew up in Florida, got my undergrad in fine art from Florida State and my master's in Portland, Ore. I learned so much from the artists there. They're so driven and self-motivated to create their own business through their creativity. I really went full force when I moved to Asheville.

Q: You're a full-time artist?

A: I've been doing my art full time since October of 2005. I had been working at the Asheville Art Museum in their rural outreach program part time, and I taught art in high schools in Portland. I was teaching after-school care when I was in high school, so I've always been involved in education. I got really burned out. But I created this line of modern animal tiles that got a lot of press through some really big blogs. It was around Christmastime and people were ordering them, and I wasn't expecting that. I also wrote a children's art book through Lark Books about the same time, so I had to quit teaching.

Q: How do you handle the business side of the art you produce?

A: I think I've been lucky that I've had a business sense. I was always good in math. In high school, people made fun of me. I just had an intuitive sense of how to run a business. I think there was an entrepreneurial spirit in me, and there was a challenge for me in how to do that and express myself authentically. There's a whole business to art design. It's a great business. It's fun. But you have to be motivated in that area.

Q: OK, let's talk about your book.

A: I've been reading books about creativity since high school. I did the "Artist's Way" course when I was 21, and that's when I changed my degree from education to art. A few years ago, I graduated from a holistic healing school here in Asheville. I learned about body-centered therapies, herbal medicine, yoga, energy healing, meditation. And it just deepened my fascination with integrating healing with art. I've seen how art does heal people. So I knew I had a book in me that wanted to come out, and I wanted it to be personal and relate to my life, and to be practical and helpful to people. A workbook of sorts.

Q: What are some of the things people learn by reading your book?

A: Besides the self-inquiry process, you'll learn how to create and dream. You'll learn how to make your own flower essences for your emotional well-being and creativity. You'll learn some yoga and ways to unwind. You'll learn tips of the trade, some things that brought me success. It's really about going for what you want in life. You can write and draw in the book, and I ask people to do their own journal and buy their own art supplies -- simple things -- and work with it supplementally.

Q: Anything else we didn't talk about that you'd like to mention?

A: I teach workshops around the country about the creative process, and I do teach some in my studio here at Curve. But I'm starting registration for an online workshop where people can work at their own pace. It's hosted through www.sqaumartworkshops. com. It's really an exciting project that feels almost as important as my book.

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