Celebrating Birthdays and the Element of Surprise


Nature’s Birthday Candles 18×36 Oil     http://www.michelleausten.ca

“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”  ~Dr. Seuss

My Son Tyler is turning 22 tomorrow. Today I am going to bake a cake.

This morning, as I drink my tea and reflect on all the birthdays we have been lucky to celebrated. Soccer parties, laser tag, bowling, water slides, space center YYC, the list goes on.   We always have a family dinner with a birthday cake. The day he asked for a Costco birthday cake with a soccer ball,  I cried…  moms ego took a hit. Thankfully, that was the only year he requested a bought cake.


Tyler on his 19th Birthday

I love to bake. Warming up the oven on a cold day, the smell of delicious aroma filling my home, feeling the heat of the oven, hearing the whip of the beaters and seeing the smile on the face of my kids when I surprise them with a cake.

I love the feeling of pushing the icing around to cover the cake with a big butter knife. Making sure I get the peaks of the icing just perfect with lots of variation of shape, covered with colored sprinkles in Tyler’s favorite color.

IMG_1389 IMG_1390

Watching the element of surprise when they realize their favorite angel-food cake with colored flecks and boiled icing has money carefully placed inside of it.

IMG_1391 IMG_1392

I am a mom and an artist. Not a professional baker, but the feeling is the same in every area. Whether painting, baking or theming a birthday party, the familiar feeling of inspiration arises!  Exploring, experimenting and sharing creations.   Spreading the icing reminds me of pushing paint around the canvas, the way it smells and mixes together, the way it feels. Oil paint is buttery, like thick creamy buttercream icing.

The element of surprise is something I encourage you to do in your art. Play with the paint, let go of a desired outcome.  This approach is more fun and less stressful.  Tyler is the master of going with the flow of life. I learn a lot from him everyday.  He is methodical, patient and kind.

A quiet moment in nature.

A quiet moment in nature.

The painting “Natures Birthday Candles”  reminds me of Tyler.

“Wild” is a magical bear with a great imagination and a quest for adventure. I started painting the bear and watched with patience as the painting came to life. His friends magically show up, they are like the sprinkles on the cake. The elements of surprise that make your day more special, like finding money in a cake or having an old friend show up unexpectedly.  Wild and his friends play with the dandelions, imagining they are birthday candles, blowing and spreading seeds of intent and kindness.  I love the way they play together and support each other.  The dandelions mixed on my palette like they were lollipops or maybe gold coins. Magical. Wild feels it is a perfect day, sitting in a field surrounded by the wealth of friends, sunshine and golden lollipops.

All the details and feeling of softness comes from mixing the paint and getting out of the way of trying to make things perfect. I encourage you to have fun, explore and allow things to unfold naturally like they do in nature.

Not all paintings work out. I sometimes burn the cake, go way overboard, eat too much icing, yell at my children… But in the moment I make sure I am having fun and when I feel the work is complete, I invite my children to see, together we savor the moment and celebrate by eating a piece of homemade cake.

Happy 22nd Birthday Tyler– this painting is for you, honoring the “Wise one” that appreciates nature, family, friends and life. Thank you for being you and for everyday-Living life in the present moment!

Don’t forget to make a wish!


Make a Wish 20×20 Oil



 “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” ~ Dr. Seuss


Living an Open-Ended Life..and wearing good shoes.

The perfect fit“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”~Albert Einstein

Do you find it is easy to do work for others- less easy to do your own work?

Are you burnt out and tired from serving others first?

I can totally relate and admit to suffering from, “Put myself last syndrome. “

Deadlines for others, open-ended work for me.

Deadlines make it easy to complete the work for others. I like to get the job done.

However, I notice when it comes to my work, which is creating art, I often struggle, especially if I have no deadline. I put myself last and often find myself tired or running short of time and then having to cook dinner for my kids. Sound familiar?

I am not complaining. I LOVE my job! The open-ended lifestyle of wondering what is just around the corner…

“You never know how a good quest is going to end.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

This open-ended life-style requires one to sit in open space.

Open space is a place I LOVE.   A place that is necessary for creativity to awaken.

I am very familiar with this blissful spacious state.

However, it is not always a comfortable place to sit.

I often feel the sense of panic, followed by racing thoughts…

Get to Work!…. Your wasting time!…Your spoiled!…

These familiar little gremlins have a way of agitating my spacious mood.

I notice them, invite them in, even jot them down, soon they become a distant memory and I get back to work.  Get out my BEST SHOES!

How to live an open-ended life…

Feel full of possibilities and watch for doors to open.

Make sure you have the proper shoes on so you can walk through the door.

Make sure the shoes are comfy and fit perfectly.

Feel comfortable in your FEET- your FOUNDATION.

When the mind wanders, dial the craziness back into your SOLES- your SOUL.

Draw the energy in and bring it downwards – this feels more grounding.

Stand tall and have good shoes on or even better- bare feet!

Be a column of light and move forward with brightness.

We can even trade shoes.  Red ones are my favorite.

Love and Light,


“There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love; there’s only scarcity of resolve to make it happen.” ~Wayne Dyer