Whimsical Woodland Creatures Come to Life in a New Art Collection by Iowa Nature Artist, Marie Stephens

The Happy Surprises are a collection of surprises that resulted from unplanned events.

See Frank and the Entire Happy Surprises Collection

Over the summer, I have been creating a new collection of animal illustrations.  I am so thrilled with each piece, as it is always a surprise as to how it will turn out! 

What do I mean, you ask? Well, one day, I went out to my garden, and was looking at my river birch tree and admiring its peeling, papery bark. So, I decided to simply tear off a piece. Low and behold, that random piece spoke to me. Its unique shape, a result of my spontaneous act of peeling, looked like a fish! So I decided to tear off another piece, and guess what? It looked like a fox! I even tore off several pieces and stored them in my studio for a few weeks. One day, I decided to try again, so I pulled out one piece, and it looked like a koala's face. I pulled out another piece, and it looked like a Koala's body!

 Over the past year, I have been taking as many business webinars as I can, listening to podcasts, and slowly networking in public, to try to learn how to develop a brand.  One common thread from all of them was that my art needs to either solve a problem or satisfy a basic need that my clients have.   For me, it was very hard to grasp this concept when it comes to my art.  For me the creator, art and the making of it satisfies a basic human need to use my hands and capture the beauty of things and people who inspire me. But for others, I was not sure what would resonate, especially for this unique collection of illustrations!  

I also have a great friend, who is also an entrepreneur and maker, who has become a sort of accountability buddy for me since my children have gone back to school.  We have both read or heard around that putting yourself into new environments, stimulates your brain, and spawns creativity, so rather than "work" on creating, we have decided to do a weekly "walk and talk" session.  I can't begin to tell you how nice it has been!  We pick a new place each week, and pick a topic to discuss that relates to our businesses.  Often times we end up talking about other things, but eventually, we come back to business.  Before we know it, an hour or more has gone by, and we have walked 3 miles!

On our last walk, I had a major breakthrough.  I have been racking my brain lately to try to put into words why I enjoy this new collection, The Happy Surprises Collection, so much.  In fact, I didn't even have a name for it yet.  My friend and I were walking and talking about family, and some how, through our conversation, I shared with her that I was a surprise baby, and sometimes, I struggle with the idea that I was not a planned event!  As I was talking, I had an epiphany!  The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, and I got goosebumps all over!  AHA!!!!!   That is the reason why I enjoy my tree bark illustrations so much!  It's because they become who they are as the result of a spontaneous act of ripping a piece of bark off a tree, much like the way I came to be!  I don't go out and say, "hmmm I think I am going to paint a cat today."  and then go rip off a piece of bark to match my idea.  I do the reverse!  I tear off a piece of bark, and the bark tells me what it wants to be.  Each shape has it's own personality and uniqueness, and I simply go with the shape and what it looks like……so each one is A HAPPY SURPRISE, just like me!

And so the name for the collection was born, "The Happy Surprises Collection".  I feel that this collection satisfies a basic human need that we can all relate to, whether it be because we ourselves were surprises, or that we know someone who is also a happy surprise, or that we know someone who is expecting a happy surprise.  We all want to know that we have a purpose here, and that God has a plan for us, regardless of whether we were planned or not!

I hope you will return or sign up for my newsletter, to see new pieces as they are born, and know that you are all part of a bigger plan too!  


My best to you,


Marie Stephens