Raven was asked to be a part of The Isolation Journals by her dear friend and creator, Suleika. The Isolation Journals began during the coronavirus pandemic, and from their community of 100,000 participants. Each week they send out a journaling prompt from some of the world’s most renowned writers, celebrated artists, inspiring community leaders and unsung heroes. A few of their contributors include Maggie Rogers, Rachel Cargle, Jon Batiste and Elizabeth Gilbert. Raven has thoroughly enjoyed following the prompts throughout this time and was honored to be featured in this past week's journal. View her prompt below and on The Isolation Journals here. Feel free to also view Suleika's book Between Two Kingdoms available for pre-order here.
A few years ago, someone I loved was struggling with addiction, and I found myself reckoning with my own deeply ingrained pattern of codependency. It was a turning point in my life. People say that beauty can come from the darkest places, but when you’re in a dark place, making something beautiful can feel impossible. How do you even start?
I began with a simple practice of going into my studio, thinking about how I felt, and playing. I started with color, choosing ones that matched my emotional palette for the day. As I put paint to the surface, loosely weaving the colors together, I found myself somewhat unconsciously constructing a nest. Yes, I know—with a name like Raven, it seems too obvious. Yet the symbol of a nest has grown to mean so much to me through this process. It’s such a perfect representation of life—messy but beautiful. One painting turned into a series, then the series turned into a storybook for children.
Since then, other objects have taken on meaning and helped me in difficult moments. Just this morning, I came across a new one. I was out for a walk with my scruffy rescue pup, Willie, and I was feeling anxious and a little trapped. I’m an extrovert several months into quarantine, and as I wandered, I was actively asking myself, “Am I in a funk?” I kept on, avoiding the talking trap of the grey-haired man who sits on his porch smoking cigarettes.
I came to the white house with big white columns, the one with the overgrown front garden. I stopped to stare at the lily pond, flowers blooming from an old moss-covered fountain. I wanted to peek through the foliage; I wanted to magnify it, to spread it with two fingers like a static image on a screen, to get a glimpse inside the flowers.
At that moment, a man came down the stairs, and I burst out eagerly, “Excuse me, sir! Can I take a closer look at your fountain and flowers?” I could tell he wanted to say no, but he reluctantly agreed. I opened the hip-high iron gate, and Willie and I stepped into the garden. The lily, which burst from the thick water between leaves the size of watermelons, was so heavy it was leaning over. I bent down to take a closer look and I noticed the petals were like tissue paper, soft and pink, the light behind them revealing how delicate they were. The wiry yellow stamens looked like tentacles surrounding the stigma, like an inverted cone, so strangely flat. This shape probably inspired some sci-fi character, I thought to myself. I was taking it all in, getting lost in the flower, getting lost in thought, getting lost in myself.
It was then I noticed the feeling in my chest—the tightness, the feeling of being trapped, of maybe being depressed—had eased. It felt like I’d opened up.
Think about the last time you looked at something and noticed a change within—studying a painting, an animal, a flower, a piece of fruit, what you saw through a window. Write about what you saw, and what you felt shift.
You can repeat this practice of paying attention, noticing an object, and seeing what it helps you see—maybe daily for the rest of the week.
As 2020 is officially under way, I wanted to reflect on all that happened in 2019! This felt like a big year for me and my work as it was full of some dreams finally coming to fruition and full of other exciting accomplishments. Below are my top ten highlights that made my year!
No. 1 - A Raven's Nest
I released my storybook, A Raven's Nest, in January! Growing up, I loved reading artful books, so this was an idea that I had always wanted to pursue.
No. 2 - Book Tour
For the launch, Lil Bit Lit and I partnered with Serena & Lily on a book tour. At each Serena & Lily store I visited (Chicago, Newport Beach, Dallas, and Summit NJ), I shared a reading of my book and did a nest drawing workshop for kids. It was so fun seeing children connect with my book and artwork!
No. 3 - Open House TV Feature
Renovating our Charleston home was one of the biggest personal projects I have ever taken on. It was so fun to show all the details that make our house a home on this feature!
Interior Design by Plum Collective
No. 4 - Girls With Flowers Release
A series that I continue to re-visit year after year. For 2019, I had a limited color palette in mind, which made exploring this subject more challenging. I think the end result was a success!
No. 5 - Anthropologie Collection
For years, I have admired Anthropologie and I was so grateful when this opportunity came along! We took some of my favorite paintings of birds for a tabletop collection. Seeing the finished products on their shelves was so surreal!
No. 6 - Book Reading at Zoo Gallery
I got to read my book at my family's art gallery, The Zoo Gallery, on the Gulf Coast. I spent quality time with friends + family and got in some beach time!
No. 7 - Mountains: Birds + Daily Studies
During the month of August, I took a self-imposed artist residency in the mountains of North Carolina. Not only did I work on a series of Bird paintings, but I also challenged myself to a drawing a day. Each drawing was then a surprise to the purchaser and included a note about that day during my residency.
No. 8 - Love Birds
This was a new series that I developed during 2019. These paintings were intended to bring delight into the home and was such a sweet series that I am currently working on round two to be released before Valentine's Day!
No. 9 - Nests
Another series that means so much to me. For this series, in particular, I was inspired by my families old quilts. The quilts that have been apart of us way before me. The ones who have kept so many loved ones cozy.
No. 10 - Gregg Irby Event
Grateful for another year of life and to be able to do what I love! Thank you for your continued support, year after year. It means so much. Here's to 2020 and all the things to come!
At each event, I shared a reading of my book and did a nest drawing workshop for children. I asked the children to think about how they feel and connect those feelings with their emotions. They then drew nests using those colors.
I grew up admiring the Anthropologie store and loving the things they make. It was really exciting when Anthro reached out to make a tabletop collections using my artwork!
Working with Anthropologie feels like a stamp of approval, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity. Here's my collection with Anthro!
I started painting my Nest Series about 5 years ago when I got engaged with Thomas. For our wedding invitations, I wanted to create an image that represented home and our love. Our love that wasn’t perfect but was perfectly imperfect. The invitations never came to fruition because we eloped to Italy, but painting nests stayed with me through the years.
Looking back on five years of nests, something amazing happened I never expected, but made perfect sense. Just as the nests were born out of a special meaning for me, the nests began to take on special meanings for my clients. Early collectors of my Nest Series loved how the nest represented their family. Some found each egg in their nest represented a loved one. Clients began sending me artwork from their children, inspired by the Nest Series. These messages meant so much to me. The idea of my paintings inspiring children to make art – is there a better gift?
Seeing these messages from parents made me think … could I tell the story of painting nests for children? Could I write and illustrate a children’s book? A book that would connect color to emotions and teach children that they can create a safe space using colors. I sat on this idea for a couple years until I was at a holiday party with a friend, Molly Fienning. She asked what I was excited about this coming year. I told her about my children’s book idea and her support put new life in this project. She connected with her editor friend, Jenny DiBenedetto. But the idea was too big for one book and we created Lil Bit Lit (lil bit lit-erary), an art-forward publishing house for children’s books. I’ve settled nicely into my role of Art Director and I’m so excited to share this project and platform with you all and the world.
Writing and Illustrating a book had its ups and downs. It might have been the hardest thing I have ever had to do. The struggle to marry words to my images and ideas felt impossible at times. The journey was personal. The book feels vulnerable. I have always struggled with words and working on this book really brought to surface these insecurities.
In the coming weeks the book officially launches. My hope is that this story makes people feel things and empowers them to connect with those feelings. You can order the book now. All orders should be on their way to their new homes - your nests - in early February.
Thank you so much to everyone who supported this dream. I couldn’t have done it without you.