Our 4th & Final Gratitude 52 Interview: Sophie Thurlow

For our fourth and final Gratitude 52 Journaling interview, I'm thrilled to introduce Sophie Thurlow to you.  Sophie hails from England (across the pond for most of us!).  It was so great connecting with her this past year.  I admire her genuineness, her tenderness, and her love of animals. 

gratitude journal - sophie thurlow

Welcome, Sophie!  Please introduce Yourself.  What’s your name?  Your profession?  Your biggest passion?  How would you describe your personality and your interest in art?

Hi, my name is Sophie Thurlow and I live in a small village called Sandford in North Somerset, England.  I’ve just started a new role as a part time, charity shop manager, for a local hedgehog rescue centre, but I am also an artist too.  I love being creative, I NEED to be creative!  I’m quite a behind-the-scenes kind of a person. I love my family, my pets and my home.  I’m a wife, a mother of two children and owner of Milo our Miniature Schnauzer.  I’ve had a passion for art from a very young age.  I spent my childhood copying pictures from my books or my birthday cards.  I particularly enjoyed the drawings in the series of Brambly Hedge books by Jill Barklem.  As I grew up, my parents took my sister and I for days out to National Trust houses around England. Whilst there, I would spend ages studying the beautiful portraits in the houses, trying to work out how they had painted the clothing to make them look so much like the velvet, or silk, that they were wearing.  Beatrix Potter also had a big influence on me.  I loved visiting her home, Hill Top, in Cumbria and seeing the different rooms and items that were featured in her much loved, little children’s books.

What made you decide to join the Gratitude 52 Journaling project?

2015 was a tough year for us as a family.  We’d had a few health scares during the year and were going through a period of uncertainty.  I was feeling quite overwhelmed.  One day, I was looking through Pinterest when I stumbled upon Jenny’s ‘Say No to the Naysayers’ journal page.  It really made me laugh, and I discovered her blog through that Pin.  It was then that I saw that she was looking for people to join her in her Gratitude 52 Journal project.  I had never taken part in anything like this before.  I didn’t even have an Instagram page at that point, but I felt it was just what I needed to help me to re-focus and connect with other artists around the world.

What did you learn from this challenge?  How were you surprised by it?

I’ve learnt that I’m not keen on drawing vehicles!!  Seriously though, it has given me the opportunity to draw things that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought to sit down and draw.  I’ve learnt what subjects I enjoy drawing more than others. I was also quite surprised at how my art developed over the year.  Taking part in the Gratitude 52 journal has made me look at the important things in life too.  Don’t miss out on those important little things in life because you’re too busy looking for the bigger things.  As I’ve heard it said ‘sometimes it’s the little things that are actually the big things’.

How has your own art and journaling style developed as a result of participating?

I feel it certainly improved as the year progressed.  I had never previously thought about putting a quote with my artwork but I loved researching various quotes linked to the prompts and working out how best to illustrate them.  I could feel my imagination cogs whirling into action again.

What were your favorite materials to use?  Did you discover that you were drawn to other materials more than others?  

I tried to experiment with a variety of materials.  For one entry I needle felted a picture of a sheep onto fabric and then stitched this into my journal.  In another entry I used Derwent Inktense pencils to paint onto strips of fabric to represent the patterns on my favorite items of clothing.  It was fun to use threads to stitch my art into my journal.  I also particularly enjoyed using my Faber Castell Polychromo pencils and my Winsor and Newton Watercolours too.

gratitude journal - sophie thurlow

What was the most difficult part of the project? What did you overcome?  

There were a few prompts that I found a challenge.  I wanted to express gratitude for my late Mother, who passed away in 2009.  We had a very close relationship and I really wanted to do her justice, so it took me quite a while to come up with an idea of what to do.  The prompt for Thanksgiving was hard too as that’s not part of my British culture, but I looked at it a different way and found a quote about being thankful and illustrated that instead.

How did you fit it in with your schedule? 

Being a busy wife, and mother, it was hard to have a definite schedule, but I set aside any free time to sit and draw, usually when everyone else was busy with homework.  It has made me reflect that, going forward now, I will be setting aside specific time in my diary for my art and creativity.

Describe a page or two of which you are most proud.  What do you love most about those pages?  

I think that my favorite pages are those where there is a lot of love and feeling behind them.  An example of this was my page ‘Dancing on the feet of my Daddy’.  Although this may not have been my best page artistically, it was one of my most heartfelt pages.  It brought back to me those little, happy childhood memories of being loved and cherished.  

Prompt 28 was all about first memories and I looked back to when my passion for art began.  I came across a drawing that I had done when I was around 9 years old, of a character from one of my Brambly Hedge books.  I decided to stick this little picture into my journal and finish illustrating it with a garland of wildflowers that featured on one of my Brambly Hedge plates.  It was wonderful to continue to illustrate this drawing 32 years later!  I’m also proud of the pages where I’ve felt that my artwork reflected just what I wanted to say.

Describe your creative setup: did you have a special Gratitude Journal space to create?  

My creative space was either at our family table in our conservatory, where during daylight hours it is a lovely, bright space to work in or, in the darker, colder evenings I’ve worked in our lounge near to our log burner fire to keep cozy.  It’s suited me very well because it meant that I was still around my family, whilst doing what I love.

Who did you meet and connect with as part of this project?  

Firstly, Jenny, it’s been fabulous getting to know you as part of this project and the advice and support that you’ve given to me has been so gratefully received.  It’s also been wonderful connecting to the other Gratitude 52 Journal participants, in particular, Shelly V (@artsycrafty7) and Leigh Ann Simpson (@uhsart) who would regularly leave me encouraging comments on my posts. Through our pages, we shared little insights into each of our lives and through those pages I felt that connection, even though I am miles away in England.  As I’ve posted my pages through Instagram, I’ve seen my Instagram followers grow steadily too, connecting with other artists and people with shared interests and beliefs.

How has gratitude journaling made your life better?  

It’s meant that I’ve made that time and space to reflect on the good things in life, and it has helped me to develop and find out who I am as an artist too.

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to journal and express themselves artistically?

I would say firstly, don’t be afraid of that blank page and just experiment.  Try out different materials, techniques, surfaces and styles.  Have fun and don’t worry if some pages don’t turn out exactly as you wanted.  It’s a learning process and it’s through trying that you understand who you are as an artist.

What else would you like us to know about you?

I feel that art and creativity is a God-given gift to me and I want to use this to some purpose.  I have a deep love for this beautiful planet of ours.  I’m currently working on a project linked to the environment and all the amazing and diverse creatures that we share our little green and blue world with.  I am looking to create various art pieces where some of the proceeds of sale will go towards benefiting wildlife in need, starting with the hedgehogs at Prickles Hedgehog Rescue in Cheddar.  My most recent pieces are artworks of beetles which I am planning to turn into prints and cards.  Once completed, these will be available to buy through my Etsy Shop that I have recently opened and am gradually stocking with items.

How can we connect with you?

I would love you to come and follow my art.  If you are interested to see more, you can follow me here:

I’ve just set up an Etsy shop  where I am selling my new art work. As well as art, I also love to crochet, sew and knit and my shops Bobbin and Bodkin on Folksy and eBay where I sell the creations that I’ve made using various other materials.

If you would like to see more about what Prickles Hedgehog Rescue do in Cheddar, please see their website www.prickleshedgehogrescue.org.uk Thank you for reading and spending this time with me.

gratitude journal - sophie thurlow

Thank you so much for sharing, Sophie! 
And thanks to all of you who have either participated in this project or stayed along for the interviews. 

If you're not already signed up to my Blog Newsletter and you'd like to receive future interviews and fun tips like these in your inbox, be sure to sign up for my email list below:

Keep creating and enjoying this one precious life you've been given!



Gratitude 52 Journal Interview #3 of 4: Leigh Ann Inskeep-Simpson

Here is our 3rd Gratitude 52 interview, with Art Teacher and journaler, Leigh Ann Inskeep-Simpson. 

gratitude journal - leigh ann simpson

Happy to have you here, Leigh Ann.   Please introduce yourself.  What’s your name?  Your profession?  Your biggest passion?  How would you describe your personality and your interest in art?

Hi everyone!  I’m Leigh Ann Inskeep-Simpson.  I am a high school Art, Art History and Photography teacher.  I love to paint, draw, teach, garden, photograph, walk in the woods, play with my dog and eat chocolate.  I would say that I am optimistic, a good listener, fairly quiet and friendly.  When I was in elementary school my neighbor was an artist.  I was best friends with her daughter.  I thought being an artist was the best thing ever.

What made you decide to join the Gratitude 52 Project?

As a teacher I assign “Art Journals” to my students.  There are times when I get stuck and don’t know what to suggest they draw.  I promised my Art 3 and Art 4 students I would draw as often as they draw (once a week). It was good for me to have new inspirations.

What did you learn in the last year with your journaling? 

I learned that sometimes it’s really hard to be on the receiving end of a prompt!  “How am I supposed to draw_________?”  I often struggled with what or how to draw the prompt.  I was surprised at the way others in the group interpreted the prompts.  Their way of looking at the prompt made sense… it just wasn’t what I had thought when I first read the prompt for the week.

gratitude journal interview - leigh ann simpson

How has your own art and journaling style developed as a result of participating?

I have been doing Art Journals for three or four years.  In that time my drawings have gotten more realistic, and I draw more quickly.

What were your favorite materials to use?  Did you discover that you were drawn to other materials more than others?  

Most of the time I use pencil, but there were times I wanted to use ink, colored pencils or watercolor.  Some weeks I just want to shade with pencil.  Other times I need color.  It’s nice to be able to use whatever media fits the mood.

gratitude journal - Leigh Ann Simpson

What was the most difficult part of the challenge? What did you overcome?  

Oh wow, there were definitely times that I felt like things were too personal to share.  But I shared anyway.  “Your Salvation Story” was a prompt that I wasn’t sure I could tell or share.  My husband passed away in December too.  I wanted my Instagram friends to know… but didn’t know how to tell them.  My journal pages told the story in a way that I felt comfortable sharing.

How did you fit your weekly gratitude journaling in with your schedule?  

I usually drew on the weekend.  I liked the fact that the prompts came on Friday.  I could get them drawn on the weekend, but if I didn’t I still had time.  I know there wasn’t a deadline, but I always tried to get them completed in the same week they were given.  My schedule is typical of a teacher - really busy from late August until the first week of June, then pretty open until school starts again.

gratitude journal - Leigh Ann Simpson
gratitude journal - leigh ann simpson

Describe a page or two of which you are most proud.  What do you love most about those pages?  

I really liked the “Role Model” prompt page, mostly because I really like my role model, my professor and friend, Joanne Stichweh.  I usually send Joanne a photo of my drawings, paintings and collages.  When I had lunch with her she said that one of the drawings looked suspiciously like her.  That really made me smile!

gratitude journal - Leigh Ann Simpson

Describe your creative setup:  did you have a special Gratitude Journal space to create?  

Oh my, I draw sitting at the computer.  It’s a mess!  Papers, mail, grocery list, glass of water and the dog medicine.  

With whom did you meet and connect?  

I connected with Sophie (@sophiethurlow), Shelly (@Artsycrafty7) and Barbara (@scrappermamo).

How has gratitude journaling made your life better?

I tend to look for more things to be grateful for.  I am more aware of the blessings in my life.

What advice with you give to someone who is trying to journal and express themselves artistically?

Keep at it!  The more you draw, paint or collage the better you will become.  Share with others!

What else would you like us to know about you?  

It’s been quite a year, new dog, one son graduating high school then going to college, my other son getting a job, my husband passing.  Glad I have visual reminders of everything!

How can we connect with you?  

My Instagram is @uhsart.  My website is www.leighanninskeep-simpson.com

Thank you so much, Leigh Ann.  It seems as though 2016 was a tough year for many people; I'm honored to have you share your talent and heart with us through your journey. 

. . .

Which one of Leigh Ann's pieces speak most to you?  What are you thankful for today?

Our 4th and Final Interview of this series will be up in a couple of days, so be on the lookout for that!

Gratitude 52 Journal Interview #2 of 4 - Shelly Vaughan

I am super excited to introduce our 2nd Gratitude 52 Journal guest, Shelly Vaughan, to you.  Shelly is from Kentucky and a fellow encourager.  I love her magical and playful images; I think you will too.  Curl up with a cup of tea and enjoy her interview below.

g52 gratitude journal - Shelly Vaughan

Hi Shelly!  Welcome to the Gratitude 52 Interview series.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

g52 journal pages - Shelly Vaughan

My name is Shelly Vaughan, and I am grateful to introduce myself as a Domestic Engineer, which means I am a Wife, Mom, Home-School Teacher, and Homemaker, and I love my career!  I graduated with a degree in counseling which I definitely use in all those rolls.  My husband and I have a ministry called WordOutreach International, and we enjoy the privilege of sharing the love of Jesus with many folks around the globe.  

One of my biggest passions is probably encouragement.  I love to encourage my family in their goals and dreams, and I enjoy encouraging others in our home through hospitality.  Big crowds or parties are not my thing, but I love sitting with a small group of friends, or better yet, one-on-one with an old (or new!) friend, a cup of tea in hand, and talking about things that really matter.  I guess that’s one reason I have always loved art – because it’s a way to express your heart without having to make a speech.  I’ve seen how the beauty of art has encouraged people, whether it's the artistic display of their favorite dessert, a hand-painted card just for them, or the cozy decor of a guest room that makes them feel welcome. 

What made you decide to join this project, and what did you learn?  

Joining the Gratitude 52 project was motivated out of a need for something to help me get back into sketching/drawing/journaling on a consistent basis, as well as knowing how important it is to cultivate an attitude of gratefulness, and this was just the perfect fit.  Of course, I was excited to learn more about Jenny’s techniques … my mom introduced me to her art several years ago, and I find her style inspirational.

What did I learn from this project?  Well, my goodness, so much!  First of all, it showed me how many blessings I often take for granted, like clean water and shoes.  It was convicting and encouraging at the same time - to regularly be grateful for all of the Lord’s blessings, even when dark times come.  It was also wonderful to see others work. I wanted to try new things, like using bolder colors (can’t wait to try gouache!), drawing things I never had before (dragons are magical!), and how to add lettering to a journal page in a way that accents the artwork (I’m loving white ink, now).  Seeing others be bold in sharing about personal struggles and joys, it motivated me to not be so self-focused, and to be willing to be open with others … I was impressed with the folks who participated - not just their talented artwork, but their lovely hearts! 

How has your own art and journaling style developed as a result of this project? 

I think this project confirmed to me how much I enjoy the medium of water-color pencils … and I definitely want to pursue getting better at using them.  The most fun I had was when I drew animals, so that also was a discovery for me.  I’ve always enjoyed landscapes and still-life objects, but now I want to get better at depicting animals.  That’s probably why I’m so drawn to Jenny’s work - as well as some of my favorite artists being children’s book illustrators. 

What was the most difficult part about the challenge?   What did you overcome?  

The most difficult part of the project was  putting my work out there for others to see… it was a bit intimidating.  The positive and encouraging feedback from others was sweet and so very appreciated!  The other challenge was just making the time to do it.  Most weeks, I tried to fit it in on Sunday afternoons - after church and lunch. Our house is usually quiet, and we all work in our own little worlds.  I really looked forward to those peaceful moments away from everything else. 

Describe a page or two of which you are most proud.  What do you love most about those pages? 

My favorite pages would probably be the ones with the little mice.  It was fun to kind of create little characters that showed up now and again throughout the year, and I was happy with the page layout of each of those.  I was also pleased with the page about eyesight … I feel that the depiction of the horse’s eye and the simple lettering made for a thoughtful impact.  The hardest page to do was the "1 good thing page"  My heart was so full of emotions that week, and I had a very specific message I wanted to put on paper but really wasn’t sure how to do it.  It may not be the best artistically, but it was the page that was the most cathartic, and, I hope, a little magical.

g52 gratitude journal shelly vaughan
g52 journal pages - Shelly Vaughan

Describe your creative setup.  Did you have a special Gratitude Journal space to create? 

Mostly, the journaling took place in my art room. We live in a log cabin in the country in the Bluegrass State, and we have a little room on the end of our house that looks out over our pasture and horses. There’s an easel in one corner, a little sink in another, a project table in the middle, a small cabinet full of my favorite artsy-crafty supplies, and lots of natural lighting.  It’s probably my favorite room in the house, although we also have a school room which is where I spend a lot of my day … many of the pages were created in that room, fit in around teaching math, history, science, etc. 

Who did you meet through the Gratitude 52 Community on Instagram?  What did you enjoy most about the connections?

Well, it has been a joy to “meet” some of the artists who participated - and continuing to be inspired by them through their Instagram pages!  I’ve really loved the little snapshots of England life with Sophie Thurlow’s page.  I enjoyed the professionalism and open-heartedness of Leigh Ann Simpson.  And Sharon Grace’s beautiful pages encouraged me to take up bible journaling and “artsy” Planning … It’s so much fun!  I especially enjoyed when Jenny posted videos of her art in action. 

g52 gratitude journal pages - Shelly Vaughan

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to journal and express themselves artistically? 

g52 journal pages - shelly vaughan

Advise for others who want to journal:  Like most pursuits in life, it takes doing it consistently to see results. In home education, I have discovered that one of the best ways to learn is to copy the masters – in music, in writing, in art.  Then, you can develop the skills that let you discover your own special, unique style.  It’s okay to look at others work for inspiration.  "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!”  Then, you can discover what is unique about your own style, and pursue that. 

How can we connect with you?

My Instagram is artsycrafty7, you can find me on Pinterest under Shelly Vaughan, my Facebook account is here, and our ministry website is wordoutreach.org (My husband has a podcast encouraging from the Bible and highlighting our international friends and their work overseas if you would like to hear about places like India, Korea, Japan.  And coming soon: a podcast called “Happily Ever After” for ladies only!  My mom-in-law and I sharing about practical helps in our calling as wives.) 

We love having friends come to visit, so if you’re ever traveling through Kentucky and need a little get-away, come on over to “Serenity,” where you will be happily greeted by our two loving guard dogs, and the tea kettle is always on … relax to live harp music while you swing on the front porch, or hit the trails with one of our equine friends!  It’s peaceful and you won’t be lacking material for sketching and journaling!  Although you may need to nudge one of our feline friends off your lap first.

g52 gratitude journal page - Shelly Vaughan

Thank you sharing your experience and journal pages, Shelly!   We need to take you up on that visit-to-Kentucky offer.  Sounds splendid.  

Be sure to connect with Shelly on her Instagram page.

And a gratitude reminder for you on this Sunday evening:

"Be in love with your life.  Every minute of it."

. . .

Which one of Shelly's journal pages is your favorite? 

Gratitude 52 Journal Interview #1 of 4: Jennifer Nave

In 2016, we participated in the Gratitude 52 Project.  We had the pleasure of connecting with many wonderful women.  To wrap up the project, I wanted to highlight a few of you lovely creatives who had completed at least 46 of the 52 prompts in a series of interviews.  

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be sharing their gratitude journals and stories in my blog.

For the first interview, I'm happy to introduce Jennifer Nave to you.

Her interview is below.  Enjoy!

Hi Jennifer!  Introduce yourself.  What’s your full name?  Your profession?  Your biggest passion?

My name is Jennifer Nave.  I’m a 43 yr old mother of 2 grown children:  a son, 21, who is in the Navy and stationed in San Diego, CA, and a daughter, 19, who lives at home while she attends college full time.  My husband David runs the municipal cemetery.  He is the most precious and amazing man on earth. We live in western Colorado.

I had been an office administrator my entire adult life until November of 2014 when I was unceremoniously forced into “early retirement.”  Since then I have been a full time domestic engineer and part time self-employed web and graphic designer working towards offering my skills to the public.

My passion(s) are my husband David, camping/boating/hunting/fishing, my dog Delilah, and my art, which in a nutshell consists of pen & ink sketching, watercolor painting, writing and illustrating.

How would you describe your personality and your interest in art? 

My personality and my art (as well as my writing) lean towards whimsical and capricious.

What made you decide to join this project?  

I was searching for something that was a year-long commitment (whimsical and capricious often equals scatter-brained and squirrel moments).  I wanted to challenge and commit myself to completing a project.  It was a gigantic bonus to learn about your art and your Christian-based expression of gratitude.  It felt tailor-made for me.

What did you learn from this project?  

I learned that there is ALWAYS a positive and grateful way to look at almost anything, and the act of finding the good in things becomes a habit.  Also, I learned that when I am passionate about something, I can see it through to completion. The act of pushing through to reach a goal can also become a habit.

How were you surprised by this project?  

I was surprised by how much I looked forward to the emails arriving every Friday, getting the prompt, and then digging deep to come up with a creative “answer."

How has your own art and journaling style developed as a result of this project? 

I have learned that journaling of any kind doesn’t have to be strictly In . A . Journal. I was super disappointed early on in our weekly arting, that the journal I had chosen for 2016 was far less than ideal for a watercolorist.  I made some modifications to the journal itself which decreased my available pages to about half of what I had projected. Consequently, I needed to use alternate items to draw and paint on by approximately week 38.  What I discovered was torn bits of leftover 140lb cold pressed watercolor paper make lovely make-shift journal entry pages.  Making due with what you have on hand is the Mother of good and beautiful things.

What were your favorite materials to use in this project?  Did you discover that you were drawn to some materials more-so than others?  

My favorite materials are my clunky OLD drafting pencil, my Pigma Micron pens, and my tiny little pots of Twinkling H2o’s which I only have in 6 simple colors, but they have served me so very well. I LOVE a little (or a lot) sparkle on...well, EVERYTHING!

What was the most difficult part of the project?   What did you overcome?  

Hands down the most difficult part of the project for me was Week 8 - Role Models. My role model is my pastor, co-worker, and close friend, Rex Townsley.  Back in March of 2016 he was battling colon cancer.  With absolute certainty in my mind and heart I used the term “Cancer Survivor” on his page.  On January 13th of this year we attended his funeral.  He was 57 years old. It was painful in March of 2016 to deal with someone so precious and dear to me battling something so unfair and frankly unimaginable; but today, looking back over my 2016 art and coming to his page is almost unbearable. I am forcing myself to see his page, not as a constant reminder of a desperately loved man lost, but as immortalizing a superhero who is no longer bound to earth in a body that failed him.

 EPSON MFP image

How did you fit it in with your schedule?  What did your schedule look like before/during/after?

The word schedule is something I have not been very devoted to since Nov. 2014 when I stopped working full time. I just haven’t had one, and my state of mind and the cleanliness of my house has suffered for it.  My resolution for 2017 was to develop a schedule and weekly routine and then stick with it.  To answer the question, art was my priority, and I did it when/where/for as long as I felt like it.  Now, I have my day split in two, first half is “Eat The Frog” time which is household chores. The second half of the day is dedicated to “Office Hours” where I can then retreat to my home office/art room to work on websites and their maintenance, developing my blog, and arting!

Describe a page or two of which you are most proud.  What do you love most about those pages?  

I think my most favorite page is from the Week 17 - Eyesight prompt I did of my daughter’s eyes. I love that it really looks and feels like her beautiful green eyes, and the chance to honor the doctor who saved her eyesight was such a blessing.  


Describe your creative setup.  Did you have a special Gratitude Journal space to create? 

I do have a very nice and cozy art desk set-up in my home office, but I found that I gravitated to the kitchen table where I sit next to a low window to work.  Arting in the kitchen allows me to do what I WANT to do (draw and paint) with the things that I HAVE to do like dishes, cooking, and laundry.


How has gratitude journaling made your life better? 

It gives me something to look forward to, gets my creativity flowing, and helps me focus on the good stuff.

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to journal and express themselves artistically? 

Keep an open mind when it comes to art supplies and DO NOT compare your skills and abilities to anyone else's.

What else would you like us to know about you?  Feel free to share anything that’s on your heart. 

This month of January has been brutal in more ways than one but also because I haven’t had G52 Prompts in my email box! When do we get started again? I’m so anxious!!

How can we connect with you?  

Thank you for your interview, Jennifer! (And new journaling prompts will be be coming soon :)). 

Be sure to head over to her blog and connect with Jennifer there.  And be on the look out for 3 more interviews coming to you soon.


What have *you* created for yourself today?