Focusing on Yourself in the New Year

Winter break is the perfect time to step away from school and start making some things happen for yourself. Whether that is a New Year’s resolution or takes some other form, now is the time to get started! Listen to Cassie as she discusses her past resolutions, why you should share goals with your “yay”-sayers, and why you have to start somewhere.  Full episode transcript below.

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Cassie: Yesterday was my first day of Winter break. I woke up yesterday morning kind of at my usual time and I remember kinda laying there for a moment thinking oh my goodness I don’t have anywhere that I need to be. I don’t have an art show looming like I did this past Tuesday. I don’t have any book deadlines hanging over my head as I did. I wrapped up my book just this past week. In case you didn’t know I’ve been working on a Fibers book for kids, much similar to the Clay book.

I laid there thinking holy cow, I’m a free woman. No kids, no lesson plans, not as if I write them, nothing. Nothing but days, a week and a half, of this beautiful thing, called a break, and I rolled right over and slept in ’til 10:00 and it was the best thing ever.

I think that Winter break is like I chatted with you last week, it’s a great time to do some reflecting. I know I shared that I did some pretty intense reflecting last week thinking about all of the things that I want to work on as a teacher when I come back from break. You’ll be proud, I even started implementing that and getting my room so spic and span organized, at least according to my pretty low standards, so that I can come back to a space that’s not a hot dumpster fire. But that was last week’s topic.

This week I wanna chat with you about now focusing on yourself, your goals, it’s the new year. It’s the time when everybody does that thing called coming up with new year’s resolutions. I’m not saying that we have to come up with resolutions but let’s just take a moment to shift our focus from teaching and talking about teaching and think about what do we want. What do you wanna do with your life? I mean I know that sounds so crazy and major but when’s the last time that you had a moment to sit and kinda think about it?

I think Winter break is the perfect time to do that. Snuggle up, get a nice cozy blanket, get a notepad, a pen, and a big old cup of whatever you feel like drinking, this is your break, and let’s work through what you have on your major life goal list.

I am Cassie Stevens and this is Everyday Art Room.

Now, this podcast episode this week I’m gonna be really honest with you, it’s one part chatting with you and another part motivation for myself. I have this habit of having lots of lofty ideas just like we all do, we’re creatives. It’s kind of like part of our blood type. It’s in us to just have these great big enormous ideas, but my problem is that I often don’t bring them to fruition. I get tangled up in the I don’t know how, I don’t know where to begin, I don’t know who to turn to for this. So as I’m chatting with you today I’m gonna share with you some of my experiences and ways that I’ve worked through all of that self doubt and self doubt talk and made things kinda happen for myself. That makes me sound really arrogant but I have continuously, and I keep doing it, put up barriers for myself too.

So as I’m sharing I’m also kind of motivating myself to use this as the year … I hate to say the year ’cause why does it have to be confined to just a year … use this as the time to really think about what we want and how we’re gonna make that happen. It could be all intertwined with art teacher-ing or maybe it has something to do with furthering your own person education or getting your artwork in a gallery. Whatever it may be let’s talk about it.

So I came up with a list of five. Five seems like a nice number. Five ways to go about making your goals and your dreams happen, however big, wild and crazy or even teeny tiny and small they may be. So the first thing is, like I said before, grab a notebook and a pen. I love brand new notebooks, don’t you? Spiral bound, flipping it open to that clean sheet of paper. That is like my most favorite thing. I want on my Christmas list, all I want for Christmas are a bunch of composition books and brand new flare pens. You? Yeah? Same? That’s what I figured. That’s good ’cause that’s what I got you. Even though now that you’re listening to this Christmas has since past so no spoiler alert there.

Start by writing down even your wackiest, wildest of dreams. Things that you wanna do with your life. Places you wanna go, people you wanna meet, whatever. Just like a stream of consciousness, just start jotting things down. I’m gonna share with you a couple of things that were previously on my list that I’ve been able to say, yeah I did that. I made that happen and I can’t believe that I actually did.

But I’m not gonna share with you what’s currently on my list simply because I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to make it happen. So anyway, let’s go back to what has been on my list. I remember sitting right where I’m sitting right now in my sewing room, it had to have been about seven years ago writing down a list, a wild and wacky list. One of the things on my list was I wanted to write a book. I didn’t know what I wanted to write a book, I just felt like that was something that I wanted to do.

I also remember writing down that I wanted to learn how to sew clothing that I could wear in my art room. I know for many of you it may seem as though that’s something I’ve always done but that’s actually something kind of new for me, teaching myself how to sew and then making something that’s actually gonna not completely fall apart or disintegrate while I’m wearing it which would be mortifying. But it’s actually a wearable article of clothing.

I also have had things on my list where over time I realized it wasn’t something that I was interested in anymore. Opening an antique booth was at one point on my list. I love thrift shopping, I love hitting estate sales and I have had … I’ve gotten rid of a lot of it since, I had an enormous amount of stuff. Stuff, stuff everywhere. So I had this idea that I should open an antique booth. That never came to be. And running an art camp for art teachers. That once upon a time was on my list and I’ve done that a couple of times and it was super fun.

So just jotting things down, even if they’re things that you’re not quite sure that you want to do why not just write it down? It’s not like it’s set in stone and you don’t have to share these ideas with anybody else. But onto number two, you might wanna consider it.

So I painted this sign for my art room office. It hangs in my art room office next to my refrigerator so that I can see it every single day and it says to ignore the naysayers, seek the yay sayers. It was a little slogan I came up with when I had made a friend about 10 years ago. I know I’ve shared with you before, especially in my more recent podcasts about hosting a craft night, that I spent many years having a hard time finding friends, finding people that I could be myself around, that I felt comfortable with. I remember making one of my first friends during this time as an adult.

This friend and I we loved to create together. She was an art teacher and we loved to spend time together but one thing that I noticed about her was that she was a naysayer. Any time I shared an idea with her or something that I wanted to create or weird outfit that I wanted to put together she would talk me out of it, tell me it was not a good idea. It was just a negative kind of friendship.

I always felt bad after hanging around with her, shot down a little bit like my ideas were silly and I was pursuing the wrong things. Eventually, I had to end the friendship. It was not healthy for me and it wasn’t productive. So seeking out folks who are going to lift you up, who are going to celebrate your ideas no matter how ridiculous or silly they are is a great thing. Then sharing your list, your little notebook with those friends might not be such a bad idea. Especially if you encourage them to do the same thing.

Hey, what do you say we get together for some coffee? I have this wacky idea before you meet up with me write down a list of 10 things no matter what they are that you just wanna do with your life. Meet up with that friend, that family member, your spouse, and just share. As the sharing occurs, if it starts to turn negative or maybe if it’s a spouse and they get a little offended that some of your ideas are a little lofty and crazy and they don’t understand why you’re pursuing them, maybe that’s just not the right person to share them with.

So seek out those yay sayers and share your thoughts with them because the right yay sayers will be a cheerleader for you. Now number three. Not only do you need to seek out the yay sayers but it also helps to seek out the doers and ask them how they done did this. For example, if you want to write a book, a children’s book or whatever it may be, finding somebody who’s actually done that or knows a little bit about it and have them help you along a little bit or give you some tips or pointers can be really helpful.

The great thing about the internet now is that you often have access to email addresses. But one of my favorite ways to reach out to people is on Instagram and direct message. A lot of times artists and authors, they’ll respond right back to you and you know what, little secret, if they don’t it’s probably because, and myself included, it’s probably because the message got placed in a hidden folder that they don’t know exists or don’t have time to always check. That’s sometimes my problem.

But finding people who’ve actually done what you’re looking into doing. Traveling to Europe, ask them a million questions. They’ve gotten their Master’s Degree, they’re going to national boards and you’re thinking about doing it. Find the doers and ask them how.

Another thing that I would recommend that you do is even though somebody might say, okay you wanna write a children’s book. All right you wanna do your national boards. Okey dokey you wanna show in a local gallery. This is how you do it. If as they’re explaining it to you this is how you should do things, this is how you should do it, if it doesn’t feel like your path then don’t confuse that with it not being what you should be going for. Meaning just because one person wrote a children’s book and their path looked this way, it doesn’t mean that yours has to look that way also. Sometimes you have to clear your own path. Even though it’s an unchartered territory and you have to go your own way, it’s super scary but stop and think about it. Every artist that we teach our kids about is an artist that cleared their own path, that went their own way, that didn’t follow in the footsteps of anybody else.

So simply because you’re pursuing something that other people have also pursued doesn’t mean you have to follow in their footsteps. In fact, it might be much better if you don’t. So recently I oftentimes go live on Wednesday nights on Instagram and Facebook. We were just chatting and somebody asked me about writing a book. I just finished my second book, I’ve written a Clay book. These are not children’s books per se but they are definitely books for kids. They’re kids’ craft books.

I know a lot of art teachers use them in their classrooms as well. I, a lot of times get questions about, hey how do I go about writing a book? Well, for me I was approached by the publisher to write a book. So my path to getting the “book deal” was a lot easier than most people. That was fortunate for me but when I’m asked that question by people who want to write a book I can’t answer it very easily. But what I can tell you is this. You don’t need a book publisher to write a book. Like so many other things you don’t need somebody to be there to make it happen for you.

If you wanna write a book or anything else, I don’t know why I keep focusing on that, there are so many ways to go about doing it online. Even if you have to go it alone, even if you’re going to sell it through yourself or selling your works of art or your jewelry or your handmade goods, you don’t have to go through a gallery, you don’t have to approach stores to sell it. You could open an Etsy store. There’s just so many other paths that you can take so think about pursuing that. Think of all of the different avenues you could take, not just the road mostly traveled.

Lastly, sometimes and this is the biggest thing that I struggle with, you just have to start somewhere, even if that somewhere is any stinking where. So I had this idea and if you follow me on Instagram you see I just recently finished it up, I had this idea gosh I guess it was about a year ago that when I have gotten really into latch hooking. If you’re not familiar it’s that craft from the ’80s where everybody was making little rugs or pillows and it’s like a little shag carpet with a design on it. Last year when we had a snow day I went out and bought a latch hook kit ’cause I was going a little stir crazy, got some cabin fever. I decided to make one of my own.

I followed the pattern and when I was done and it was fun it was easy but I just thought, eh I followed somebody’s pattern and now my design looks exactly like every other 13 year old girl on the planet who has this as a pillow. I had the idea that I could probably just design my own but I constantly talked myself out of it. As silly as that sounds, I mean it really is just a matter of graph paper and coming up with a design.

I recently did that with a portrait of Friday Kahlo and I latch hooked it and I’m excited because I’m really thrilled with the result. Here was something that was a task that was pretty simple that for whatever reason I just kept talking myself out of. I wouldn’t let myself start somewhere, when finally I just said you know what I’m just gonna try it and if it fails and if it bombs who cares. Nobody has to even know about it and all I can say is well at least I tried.

Sometimes when you just go for it and you just try it’s gonna definitely not work out. It’s gonna blow up in your face but how are you ever gonna know that unless you just give it a shot? Like I said, when I’m saying these words to you I’m saying them also to myself because I really struggle with taking that first step and just kind of pushing myself. I’m not necessarily afraid of failure, I’m just afraid of the unknown, of not even knowing where to start. Like I said, maybe that knowing where to start you’re not gonna figure out by following in somebody else’s footsteps because maybe it’s never been done. Maybe you need to find your own way to make it really happen.

It’s totally okay if in a year or in a week you look at that list and you think, you know what opening that antique booth that doesn’t really seem like anything I’m interested in. You know what getting national board certified that sounds like a lot of paperwork, that’s what talked me out of it. I don’t think I want that. Just because so and so has their Master’s Degree, doesn’t really feel like something I want.

So definitely make sure that when you’re looking at that list, listen to you. Listen to what you want, not what your art teacher friend down the street has done or buddies on Instagram. Be true to yourself and when you look back at that list you’re gonna see the things that stick out to you as far as yeah scratch that. I’m gonna go ahead and take a different path.

Okay. So like I said, this little chat was like a motivational speech for me and for you so I say we hold each other accountable. I really hope that you make that list and you take the first couple of steps, even if they are just going around in circles, to making it happen. ‘Cause I know that you can do it.

Tim: Hello this is Tim Bogatz from Art Ed Radio. I wanna tell you today about the Art Ed Now Conference which is taking place in just a couple months. It’ll be Saturday, February 2nd this year, the first Saturday in February. Now if you haven’t gone to an Art Ed Now Conference it is an online Conference with art teachers from all over the world. It is a perfect day of professional development and we have over 20 presentations on a huge variety of topics including art therapy, social and emotional learning, a lot of hands on art making, and so much more.

As I said, it is an awesome day of professional development and you can see all the presentations we’ve released, see what the Conference is all about at Make sure you check it out soon.

Now let me turn it back over to Cassie as she opens up the mail bag.

Cassie: And now it’s time to take a little dip into the mail bag. I have got to tell you I get so many questions about this topic that if only I had invested in this little teeny tiny product I’d probably be a bagillionaire. Bingo daubers. Y’all last year I rediscovered the bingo daubers that were in the back of my storage closet and I suddenly realized that I’d been using them incorrectly with my kids, filled them up with something special, and it has taken off like crazy with my students and then with all art teachers and all students.

If you have not gotten on board the bingo dauber train then you my friend are missing out. Where have you been? So they’re basically little bottles, they’re called bingo daubers. D-A-U-B-E-R-S. You fill them with whateves and then let the kids paint with them. I refer to them as paint markers and this brings me to my first question.

Is it ink that you fill your bingo daubers with? Is it blank tempera? Is it watered down tempera? Please share your secret recipe. Thank you so much.

Well, there’s no secret really. If you’re looking for bingo daubers you can find them in your art supply catalogs. I think they’re a tiny bit cheaper on Amazon and I also buy a bottle of India ink, the big bottle. When I’m filling my daubers I use a little pair of pliers to remove the felt tipped top. They’re basically like a felt tipped marker. Like if you can enlarge a flair pen, that’s essentially what you’re working with.

There is, I’ve seen on Amazon I believe, this weird little device that you can purchase to remove the top but it’s just probably one more expense that you don’t need to spend if you have a pair of pliers. So I just peel off the pliers, I squirt in a little bit of India ink and then I add a splash of water. Why do I add water? ‘Cause India ink’s expensive and I was trying to make it go a little bit further. Sometimes if I add a little too much water the India ink color won’t be as beautiful and dark and black as it could be so sometimes it’s a tiny bit gray.

But that’s what I add. That’s my special secret recipe. The reason I had those daubers in the back of my closet for so long was because I had been filling them with tempera paint, with watered down tempera paint. That doesn’t work. It’s too thick so it doesn’t go through the bingo dauber quite as easily. Now my really good friend Laura Lee Chambers who you can follow on Instagram and I strongly recommend you do at 2artchambers, she recently put liquid watercolor in her bingo daubers. Gold liquid watercolor. Did you even know that was a thing ’cause I did not.

She put it in there and her kids were painting with the daubers these beautiful spirals that were inspired by Clint. They did it on black paper with the gold paint. It was gorgeous. So yeah. Now, what did I do that I had to go out and get a bunch of brand new empty set of bingo daubers ’cause now I wanna fill them with all kinds of things. I mean liquid watercolor is a great idea to fill them with. The only problem with liquid watercolor is that at bottles they just don’t have enough. But you know what, you don’t really have to put that much liquid watercolor into the dauber.

So nevermind, scratch that. There’s no problems with liquid watercolor. Do it. Endless possibilities. Like I said if only I had invested I’d be a bagillionaire bingo dauber person.

Here’s my second most popular question coming from Beverly. My question is what type of watercolor paints do you use? Oh my goodness, I get asked this all the time. I think it’s because watercolor paint is super popular in elementary art rooms, it’s a low mess, but y’all why can’t these watercolor people get their lives together because some of these colors are yuck-o or sticky or just gnarly and gross. So I only order, this is not liquid watercolor I’m talking about. I’m talking about the little replaceable pan watercolor paints and I know I’ve talked about this before.

But I wanna help Beverly out. I always order Crayola. I never order a complete set. I just order the refills. So if in your art teacher-ing world you already have the little tray that you can pop in and pop out the watercolors then you don’t need to continuously every single year buy the whole brand new complete set. All you have to do is just start buying the refills.

When I give my students the watercolor paint I have already popped out all of the colors and I fill them back with colors in this specific order. First of all I kick brown and black watercolor paints to the curb because they’re gonna mucky up all the other colors and the kids have a tendency when it comes to black paint, I’ve noticed, to paint a beautiful picture, you turn your back for a second, you turn back around and holy cats the entire paper is now black. Why? Why?

So I solve that problem by taking away the black paint. In my watercolor tray, I put the following and this is by Crayola and like I said I only buy the refill packs and then just pop ’em in and out of the trays as needed. Red, violet, which is basically magenta or fuschia, red, red orange which for Crayola their red orange paint pans are better than their orange so I don’t even buy the orange. Yellow ’cause you gotta have that, green. I don’t love their green but you gotta have green so even though you could technically make it. We still have it in the tray. Turquoise. They make a beautiful turquoise which you need to have in your life. Blue, blue violet, and violet. Sorry, had to think for a second. The blue violet is more like an indigo so essentially what you’re giving your kids is the entire color spectrum in watercolor paint.

These paints they don’t get sticky. I had that question recently when I shared a picture of my watercolor sets on Instagram. A lot of people were asking, do these paints get sticky? No. They never get sticky. They dry nice and dry and they’re not gonna stick together. There is another brand out there that I won’t mention that their paints are very sticky and then the paints end up sticking together or they get really gookey and gunky. So I just stick with what I know and what I love.

Thanks for the questions ladies. If you have a question for me feel free to send it my way. You can find me at the Every Day Art Room, at the

When I first moved to Nashville after just having graduated from college a lot of my buddies from college, because I got my BFA in painting and then got a secondary degree in education, a lot of my buddies from college immediately dove right into getting their master’s in painting, their MFAs. I remember being so jealous and having so much guilt that I didn’t pursue that, that I started teaching and was kind of in my mind giving up on my art pursuits, my pursuit in creating to become a teacher.

I remember meeting my husband, we were just dating at the time, and he said, but why? Why do you need to pursue this degree to make you feel like you’re an artist? Maybe that’s what they have to do but maybe that’s not what you have to do. You could just be creating. Or maybe that’s just not something you wanna do anymore.

And I had a lot of guilt about that because every time I did go to pick up a paintbrush or to go sit outside and paint a landscape I just wasn’t feeling it. I mean I felt a little bit like I had to drag myself to do it and sitting there was just not fun. It was a little bit torturous. It took me so long of beating myself up and all of these feelings of guilt to realize that I had other pursuits I was interested in. I wanted to learn how to sew, I wanted to make my own clothes, I wanted to write stories, I wanted to do something different and it wasn’t painting.

And guess what, it’s okay. It’s okay if your passions change, it’s okay if your interests change. But it’s not okay to make yourself feel bad, to beat yourself up and to limit yourself and your pursuits because you think you should be doing this, that or the other. So go easy on yourself people. It’s the new year, be nice to yourself and enjoy this amazing time off. Talk to you guys soon.


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.