Nicole Chilton

Nicole Chilton is a multi-media abstract artist and writer living in Southwest Missouri. She works quickly and intuitively, capturing emotion rather than reality, and uses vivid color and floral motifs as inspiration. Her current project, The Dream Diary Project, explores dream interpretation through art journaling, and can soon be found in workbook format for all dreamers.

The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams.

-- Eleanor Roosevelt

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Do you dream?

I’m actually talking about literal movies-in-your-head-at-night dreams. What are they like? Do you remember them the next day? Head over to my Patreon page and answer my poll.

Today at work, while chatting with my co-worker, I had to stop and pause. Did I already tell her that thing I meant to tell her? It feels like I did. Or was it my dream?

With all the dream recording and dream enhancing I’ve been doing, my reality is starting to blur into what may or may not be true.

This should be interesting…

Heather Smith Jones

Do you remember the moment when you started a new project and had that a-ha moment, that “this is it, this is what I was born to do” feeling? For my sister Stephanie, it was the day she took her first quilting class. She has always been creatively driven, but it wasn’t until a structured class that she really could grow artistically. Quilting turned into a business for her, which developed into allowing her to focus on multiple mediums at a time. (You can see some of her work at The Lady in Thread or Hornickelhouse on Instagram.)

For me, that a-ha moment came while flipping through a book I checked out from the library, “Water, Paper, Paint,” by Heather Smith Jones. It arrived in my stack at the most necessary moment, when I was struggling with post-partum depression and transitioning into a functioning human with two babies, wondering how on earth I was going to be ME, when I felt the least like myself. The book’s projects are colorful, do-able, and the author made it sound effortless. It felt SO GOOD to pick up that paint brush again, after a 15-year hiatus.

And so today, I am SO EXCITED to share with you a spotlight of Heather Smith Jones!  I hope you are as inspired by her and her work as I have been.


  • Name:  Heather Smith Jones
  • Current City: Lawrence, KS
  • What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be an artist. It was my main interest and strength.
  • What are you now?
    Currently, I am an artist working in a variety of media (watercolor, oil, acrylic, photography, printmaking) and part-time instructor in an arts-based preschool at our local arts center.
  • How did you get to this point?
    I think one thing leads to another. When I was in graduate school I had the idea, as it was sort of pumped into us at the time, that upon graduation I would teach on the college level. I did teach painting at university and then began substitute teaching within the public schools among a wide span of ages. While I was doing that a friend of mine told me about the position where I currently teach. I applied, interviewed and have been working with 3, 4, and 5 year olds since early 2004. Over the years, I have grown to truly enjoy working with young children in a creative environment more than I probably expected.
  • Are you paid doing what you love? If not, what would you like to be paid to do?
    I am paid doing what I love. Since I teach part time I am afforded studio time on other days. I work with galleries who promote and sell my work, sell in my own online shops, do freelance photography, have written a book and contributed to many others, and pick up additional projects from time to time. But, I think artists and (early childhood) educators could be better appreciated and paid more!
  • Current project(s):
    I maintain a few personal projects including a regular sketchbook practice, which I share frequently on my public art Instagram account. I also keep a daily photo and words journal titled “my story today”, where I combine a photo I take each day with written thoughts or prose. At the end of the year I intend to combine the entries into a book. These serial practices express my interest in accumulating specific details into a phenomenological event. Gathering ephemeral moments helps me to see development and patterns within the form of a visible anthology.
  • What pop culture are you consuming? (movies, books, podcasts, etc):
    I enjoy watching anything from PBS Masterpiece, including Endeavour, Poldark, and Grantchester. The most recent movie I attended in the theater was “A Quiet Passion” about Emily Dickinson; for no particular reason we don’t go to movies frequently. I like reading poetry, Wendell Berry, and think I have read all of the novels by Anthony Doerr. I just started listening to the “Happier with Gretchen Rubin” podcast and have always liked NPR’s “Hidden Brain”.
  • How do you express yourself creatively? Watercolor or any visual media, my sketchbook, writing, sometimes baking, arranging things in a space, I love arranging flowers and would like to take a class sometime.
  • Have you ever written a fan letter? If so, to whom? I don’t think I have?
  • Drink of choice? Right now I enjoy a nice cup of tea each morning, straight up english breakfast. When the weather gets cooler I pretty much drink tea all day long, though in the afternoon I switch to herbal or non-caff teas.
  • Who inspires you, and why? Well, I have to say young children inspire me, for all the obvious reasons. Their approach to the world is fresh, everything is a discovery. They are imaginative and make connections in ways that are surprising to adults. They don’t have rules for their creativity. When they make something they are immersed in process and experience rather than outcome and aren’t trying to make it look like what someone expects. It breaks my heart when I hear adults say they aren’t artistic, or creative, or can’t draw, or whatever else. I think we are intrinsically creative as children, yet somewhere along the way it is drilled out by external pressures, expectations, criticism, etc. Maybe some simply aren’t interested though, and that’s fine. But for those who are or were, and at some point were discouraged, that is sad to me. I love to hear stories from those who are rediscovering a creative voice in themselves and exploring art again. That too is inspiring. And when people email me that my book, Water Paper Paint, plays a role in that rediscovery, well that’s just the best.
  • Favorite tool to stay productive (for example, a set of watercolors, a specific planner or app, an exercise program…) I think for me this changes somewhat in practice over time but it comes down to a few constants: always having a watercolor palette and sketchbook ready; walking outdoors or yoga, some sort of regular exercise; and keeping a routine.
  • Something you have learned this year? I think I’m continually learning resilience, when I am pushed beyond what I thought I could handle and yet I am still here afterward, that kind of situation. Learning acceptance when things don’t turn out like I planned. To embrace the full spectrum of life, the disappointments and the hopes, the struggles and the mountain tops. To allow myself to feel it even when it’s happening all at once. To live within the tension.
  • How can people find you? People are welcome to follow my Instagram account @heathersmithjones, where I post most frequently. My website is Sometimes I post on Facebook
  • What can people do to make the world a better place? Hmmm, I guess what comes to mind is to find what you are good at and/or enjoying doing or find a way to enjoy what you are already doing. See that you have a place and are of value in that work. I think it’s a mindset, one that takes effort to see through your life or at times is harder than other. I remind myself and say, how can I do my best today or how can I help one person today in some way? (This can be hard when I’m grumpy, or stressed, or pressed for time.) Yet, it’s active, and I think with a kind of practice over time it becomes more spontaneous. For instance, I think simply smiling at others, or holding the door open for someone, or thanking people more often, making eye contact, little things like that help connect us and are moments of encouragement. It’s the little things that can feel big sometimes.

Thank you so much Heather!


Dear Diary…

Ever since I was old enough to write, I have kept a diary or journal. And because of the extreme satisfaction I receive from completing a full notebook (or using all the ink in a pen), I have a hard time getting rid of them, although I probably should.


{If I die unexpectedly, they are in a safe place and I have a few friends who know where to find them and to BURN THEM.}

A few years ago, I had some deep dark mental health issues, and thought that writing out my thoughts would be good therapy. Turns out, it was quite the opposite, and I stopped altogether. My hands ached to put pen down on paper and my brain churned wanting to puke out its thoughts, so earlier this year I decided to work on a new form of journaling: a visual diary. I already knew I wanted to make intentional creating a part of my daily habits, but I had no idea that starting my mornings off with art journaling would be so therapeutic.

With a new year quickly approaching, I’m eager to get my calendar set up for 2018’s journal. I learned so much this year, and I’m ready to share the process with you! So many of my friends have expressed concerns that they aren’t “artistic” or they could never do it. But trust me, it’s not true!! If you can scribble and if you have a few minutes of free time to tune in and zone out, I know you can be a successful “art journaler.”


I have culled information and ideas from dozens of books about art journaling, and I think I found the perfect blend for my time commitment and goals. What works for me won’t work for everyone, but if you are interested in a workshop, I am in the works of compiling a few evenings of art journal goal setting and set-up.

Join me in December {date and time to be determined} for an evening of setting up your very own yearly journal. The workshop will cost about $50, and include a dynamic journal and supplies to get it set up and snazzy to your liking, plus inspirational prompts, brainstorming ideas, and, duh, snacks.

Check back soon for registration!


Q&A with Rachel



Rachel McElroy

I remember the first time I met Rachel, we were living on the same floor of Johnston Hall at MU, and she was sitting on her dorm room bed, reading The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing. We exchanged a few sarcastic comments. I became a fan of hers from that moment, and am still one today.

In college, Rachel was a writer, and had an amazing opportunity as an intern and editor at The Missouri Review. She always made sure I clung to my creative roots, and even gave me a set of fancy watercolors as a wedding present.  I absolutely love following along on her adventures, which now include motherhood and podcasting.

Small world story: My husband and her husband work together, but didn’t know Rachel was a mutual connection!

  • Current City: Austin, TX
  • What did you want to be when you grew up? a writer
  • What are you now? A grant writer for a regional community college, a podcaster and a mom
  • How did you get to this point?  I focused a lot on creative writing in undergraduate (Mizzou) and graduate (University of Chicago) school. I also did some work at nonprofits and on the administrative side of higher education. A lot of stops on my path involved happy accidents. I got into grant writing because a coworker of mine left her grant writing position and shepherded me into the role because she knew I’d been coveting her position. Podcasting (and motherhood) was a result of meeting and marrying my husband in 2013. Griffin’s a podcaster that has been in the game for years. He recommended we start Rose Buddies after we exchanged regular quips while watching TV at home and with friends. Luckily, he had all the equipment and skills to get us up and running.
  • Are you getting paid doing what you love? Yes! It took me about eight years after completing my Bachelors degree, but I found my career(s) of choice!
  • Current projects: A podcast called WONDERFUL! and my nine month old son Henry. It’s a podcast for enthusiasts that love to hear about the passions, big and small, of other people. We’ll be talking about things we love each week and inviting listeners to write in with things they love. Topics may include movies, television, sports, books, drinks, eats, animals, methods of transportation, cooking implements, types of clothing, places in the world, imaginary places, fictional characters, and fonts to name a few. You can find it on the Maximum Fun network. Henry is an eight month old baby that is doing everything in his power to avoid moving himself. You can find him mostly on his stomach or back.
  • What are you reading/watching/listening to? Thanks to the baby, I don’t do a lot of reading these days. But I definitely do a lot of watching (the Nest cam) and listening (to the baby monitor). Seriously though, my biggest creative undertaking is listening to podcasts. Wonderful! is on the Maximum Fun network and I listen to a ton of shows there (and not just those created by my podcasting McElroy family). I’d recommend The Turnaround for those that like to hear individuals talk about their craft (in this case the craft is interviewing).
  • How do you express yourself creatively? When I started out as a creative person, my focus was on writing poetry and short fiction. After graduate school, I got a little burnt out and found it difficult to generate new work. Lately, it’s been easier for me to react to the work of others. I’m hoping to return to short fiction soon.
  • Have you ever written a fan letter? The ones that sticks out are the fan letters I wrote in elementary school to Fred Savage and Chelsea Clinton. Fred never wrote back, but I did get a nice letter from the White House telling me that Chelsea was very busy. It was signed by President Bill Clinton.
  •  Drink of choice? Anything Izze or San Pellegrino (non alcoholic) or Tito’s vodka and lemonade or ginger beer.
  • Who inspires you and why? My husband. Griffin is a tireless creator. He is constantly making new, original video and podcast content. He is funny in a way that lifts people up, which is rare and comes through in everything he does. His dedication to perfection and originality is awesome.
  • Favorite tool to stay productive (for example, a set of watercolors, a specific planner or app, an exercise program…) I’m currently working part-time as a grant writer which has Henry in daycare a few days a week. While I’m at work, my life is Google calendar. While I’m at home, I have a literal dry erase calendar on the fridge. My mom always had one on our fridge growing up and I can’t break that habit. It helps for me to see the whole month at once.
  • What is something you have learned this year? Everything is terrible until it isn’t. That sounds simple, but it helps me when I’m struggling. It’s a less elegant way of saying “this too shall pass.” Oh and the other piece of advice is: pee first. I learned this after a few months with a baby. He’d wake up or start crying and I’d drop what I was doing and run to him only to pick him up and realize I had to use the bathroom. Pee first. That’s good advice for parenting, but probably for life too.
  • What can people do to make the world a better place? Recognize that everyone is vulnerable and no one is purely good or evil. Most of the time, people are trying their best to do right for the people they love.
  • Where can people find you? @rachelcmcelroy on twitter. WONDERFUL! Podcast downloads here.

Q&A with Miss Cheryl T.

Cheryl was my oldest child’s first teacher at daycare, and I knew from the moment I met her that the two of us were kindred spirits. She left after a semester to pursue her true passion, writing, and since then I have had the extreme pleasure and good fortune to have her as a Mentor, a writing critique partner, and a coffee date companion.
Having published one book, and another on the way, Cheryl has learned a lot since her first novel. I can’t wait to see more of her work on shelves!
  • Name: Cheryl Tuggle
  • Current City: Springfield, MO
  • What did you want to be when you grew up? A jockey.
  • What are you now? writer/novelist
  • How did you get to this point? Reading, observing, writing, more reading, more observing, more writing..
  • Are you paid doing what you love? Yes, but not enough to live on. Enough for a couple Pineapple Whips each summer.
  • Current Project(s): Just finished a novel called “Lights on the Mountain” which is being considered for publication at HarperLegends and have a novel in infancy with the possible title of “The Last American Pilgrim”.
  • What are you Reading? I’m always reading several books at the same time. Right now it’s: “The Faith of a Writer” by Joyce Carol Oates, “The Uses of Enchantment” by Bruno Bettelheim, “Animals and Man: A State of Blessedness” by Joanne Stefanatos, DVM, “Poems That Make Grown Men Cry” and “The Man Within” by Graham Greene.
  • Watching? Does reading in the same room with my husband while he watches American Ninja Warriors count? If not, then nothing.
  • Listening to? I don’t have I-tunes or any of the apps for music and the CD player in my car is broken so it’s NPR, KSMU and 107.7 The Lake. I did recently get to hear Levi (Thomas) play a set from his new album at the Outland last weekend and it’s very, very good.
  • Making? I am gearing up to sew bridal separates to sell on Etsy or through Instagram.
  • How do you express yourself creatively? I express myself creatively through my writing, both prose and poetry.
  • Have you ever written a fan letter? No.
  • Drink of choice? Top shelf margaritas.
  • What or who inspires you, and why? Humans. I’m inspired by people. Every day, all the time. Yesterday I watched a homeless man who walking down Kearney street approach another man who was sitting on the curb holding a sign. The first man paused, reached into his backpack and gave some money to the man with the sign. Without any further conversation, he zipped up his backpack and continued down the street. That’s inspiring.
  • Favorite tool to stay productive (a certain set of watercolors, a planner, an exercise program, for example)? Exercise: I walk/run 4 or 5 miles very early in the day. It’s my best time to think.
  • Something you have learned this year: That life after motherhood is like moving to Iceland.
  • What can people do to make the world a better place? Be kind.
  • How can people find you? I’m hard to find, temporarily, I think.

Recent posts

  • Do you dream?

  • Heather Smith Jones

  • Dear Diary…

  • Q&A with Rachel

  • Q&A with Miss Cheryl T.

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Tapioca Dance is an e-newsletter featuring creative movers & shakers, do-ers, and makers, written and curated by Nicole Chilton. Subscribe here for weekly inspiration!