A look into the inspiration behind the work.

A Celebration of Women Who Rock!

Women Who Rock Topeka

The seveneightfive magazine's third annual Top City Ladies / Women Who Rock issue is filled with many amazing woman who are rockin' Topeka day-in and day-out and who know what many of us are looking for. Whether it’s helping our neighbors, providing great food, art and entertainment or carrying on traditions and community culture. And I am honored and humbled to be one of the featured ladies. To check out all of the amazing women who make our community better here is the PDF Link: seveneightfive magazine Feb-Mar 2015

Comment on or Share this Article

Jayhawk Fans at Old Chicago

Jayhawk Fans at Old Chicago by Michelle Leivan

An evening with good friends, new beer to try, great food to eat and an exciting game to watch at Old Chicago Topeka is always something worth experiencing. Last Wednesday night (1/9/2013) Chuck and I were looking forward to joining members of our Kansas Trivia League rivalry “The Brew Crew” to enjoy an evening of “Kill the Keg Introduction Goose Island” which offers the chance to try a few new beers from a single Brewer.  Although we see these people nearly every week, we seldom get the opportunity to enjoy their company, because of course during the game we don’t spend time connecting because competition is stiff and quite serious.

The evening  started out with an enjoyable flight of three new tasty beers (Goose Island Brand: Sofie, Bourbon County Brand Stout and Matilda – all fantastic beers) and ended with the Jayhawks pulling a losing game against Temple University into a tie at one second to go and eventually securing the win in overtime. I was fascinated with the social phenomena of people talking at the screens and encouraging their team to make the tie happen. Then some had already given up hope, “Oh, man I wouldn’t want to be on that team the day after losing in ‘The Phog’. They will certainly know the true force of the warning ‘Beware all who enter”.  The mood was tense and during those last few moments everyone in the bar was riveted to the screens, then when the tie shot was made, the entire bar exploded with excitement. 

In this piece are my husband Chuck Leivan and one our trivia rivals, Sarah Carver, enjoying those last few moments at our table and in the background you can also see the Old Chicago manager, Todd, behind the bar drawn to watch the tense moments just before the tie happened.  A memorable evening with our own competition both drawn into a fever pitch intensely as highly competitive teams strive in the final moments a seemingly evenly matched game that harvests every eye in the establishment making every witness a fan.

P.S. Here is my critique of the three beers we tasted that evening:

Sofie is light and airy blonde but it is not an air headed blonde because it has a citrus body and goes down smooth like a good brew should.

Bourbon County Brand Stout OMG this is like eating the finest steak prepared perfectly! This brew has wonderful eyes and a whiskey mouth that will have you Begging for more!

Matilda which waltzes with your palette, teasing and pleasing with full flavor with subtle citrus overtones and a drinkability to satisfy.

Stop by Old Chicago soon to check out these great beers.

Comment on or Share this Article

September First Friday - Paint Topeka, Celestial Correspondence and the Figure

There will be three locations to see my work during the September First Friday Art Walk in Topeka and another one day event in Kansas City!


Paint Topeka!

 The piece above "Coffee and Conversation at the Flying Monkey" and "Raks Sha'abi at the NOTO Saturday Market" are my pieces accepted as one of over 50 artists entered SouthWind Gallery's latest plein air art competition, Paint Topeka, and hit the streets on Saturday, April 28, 2012, to capture the allure and beauty of our city. We think you'll be "wowed" by the artistic talent and the diversity of the Topeka scenes the artists chose to paint along with the publication of SouthWind Gallery's newest book  that features the art and artists of Paint Topeka.

The exhibit and sale of the paintings will open during Frist Friday Art Walk Friday, September 7, 5 - 8:30 pm. An awards ceremony for the top three winning artists will be held that evening, with many of the  participating artists in attendance to talk about their inspiration and their artwork and available to sign the new art book. To buy the book online or to preview the show go to www.SouthWindArtGallery.com

Celestial Correspondence by Michelle Leivan
Brought to you by Sinnen & Associates and SouthWind Gallery
921 SW Topeka Blvd
Opening Sept. 7th, 5-8:30 pm  and throughout September 2012 during business hours 8 am - 5 pm M-F.

Swinnen & Associates Law Office Atrium Gallery, 921 SW Topeka Blvd. Open First Friday Art Walk (5-8:30 pm) and during business hours (8 am - 5 pm M-F) through September. The new location at 921 S.W. Topeka was constructed between 1860 and 1880, and the structure at 917 S.W. Topeka perhaps 20 years later, he said. Owner of the building, Benoit Swinnen has arranged for an atrium, with skylights, to be constructed between the buildings. Swinnen has partnered with SouthWind Gallery in Topeka to feature art from a different up-and-coming artist in the atrium during of Topeka’s monthly First Fridays Artwalks.

Works by local artist Michelle Leivan's series “Celestial Correspondence” will be on display in the atrium during September’s First Friday Art Walk.
Click Here to learn more about the series.

"The Figure" at Foole's Dream Studio

833 1/2 N. Kansas Ave.  Topeka, KS

Wed-Sat: 10 am - 5:30 pm and First Friday 5-8:30 pm.

Several figurative artists present their works at Foole's Dream Studio. For my work,  I have 4 figurative pieces on exhibit.  Each of these paintings is a study in the human form, color and composition created during a single two hour sitting in the Open Session Life Drawing Sessions that I coordinate at Washburn University. Each session consists of 2-five minute poses, 2-ten minute poses, 2- 15 minute poses and 3-20 minute poses, there is no specific direction given to the model except for the time constraints. Many of these works include something from each of the 9 poses presented by the model. The challenge is to compose on the fly to come up with a successful visually interesting piece. CLICK HERE to see more of my figurative work.

Then later in September - my figurative work will be featured at for one night only!


September 20, 2012 | 8 pm - Midnight

Uptown Theater | 3700 Broadway St.,  Kansas City, MO

21+ | Cocktail Attire | $10 in advance | $15 at the door

RAW events are multi-faceted artistic showcases. Each event features a film screening, musical performance, fashion show, art gallery, performance art and a featured hairstylist and makeup artist. These artists are all local, hand-picked talent who have been chosen to feature at RAW.

RAW events feature a cash bar for cocktails while you enjoy the night. Dress code is cocktail attire, so dress the occasion and get ready for an artistic circus of creativity!

Get your tickets in advance for only $10 at

Comment on or Share this Article

The Bee's Visit to Milkweed

The Bee's Visit to the Milkweed

It’s funny the things we can discover about beliefs and assumptions that we make about our world when we open our mind to new information. I’ve gone out to capture wildflowers for reference now for years. Each new plant I find to photograph seems to amaze me when I start my research. This painting is of the “Common Milkweed” which has been seen less in my outings than the Butterfly Milkweed that sports rich orange blooms. When I found the “common” variety, I thought I had found a treasure. The dusty purple/pink blossoms called to my color sensibilities as I was drawn to photograph it. Much of the time on my field trips I am accompanied by various insects and more often than not I encounter bees. Of course, I don’t have a fear of bees, they simply poke around the flowers and really mind their own beeswax as long as I too mind my own.

Best known for their attraction for monarch butterflies, the Common Milkweed also serves as an important food source for bees. It has been suggested that our food supply, without bees, would put one third of the world food supply in danger. In the news over the last decade there has been concern about the health and welfare of our bees caused by a mysterious phenomenon referred to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Recently experts estimate losses projected in the billions if the honeybee population continues its decline at this rate.

“About 130 crops in the U.S.—worth some $15 billion a year—depend on honeybee pollination, and if bee populations really did collapse, it would mean an agricultural catastrophe,” Time Magazine wrote last April.

There is much conjecture about the cause of CCD including the use of insecticides on our food source fields. However each of us can help by putting the Common Milkweed into your backyard garden and creating a bee friendly garden.

There are many benefits beyond the health of the bees to add the Milkweed to your backyard. According to http://www.wildfoods.info milkweed is also a tasty and nutritious addition to soup, stir fry and even as a side veggie dish. “Because of the myths surrounding the plant, many people have kept their distance from the common milkweed. This is sad because it is one of our best tasting, easiest to harvest, and most abundant edible wild plants,” www.WildFoods.info wrote about the untapped potential of the plant.

Now, I haven’t personally tried milkweed as a side dish, but will gather some up the next time I go flower shooting just to give it a try.

No matter what this is a beautiful, fragrant plant the is invaluable to our ecosystem and deserves for each of us to consider it when we are out on a nature walk. - To check out the Availablity of the piece - Click Here

Comment on or Share this Article

Sweet William's Girl

Sweet William's Girl

Sometimes great legends can be found among the unassuming wildflowers. The Black Eyed Susan along with the Southern European native plant Sweet William (which blooms at the same time and are wonderful companion flowers in a garden) tells a romantic love story that is replayed even today with the overseas wars and rumors of wars. The story of a farewell to a lover who is off to an uncertain fate has been experienced by myself twice as my husband, Chuck, left for the Iraqi war in 2004 and again in 2008. He came back not much worse for wear but not every soldier has been so lucky.

This timeless ballad takes us back to the years of our founding father's and their own struggles for Independence. Written in the 1700's by John Gay and at the time the lyrics were very popular in several ballad operas of it’s time. The words were set to various scores by different composers, including Carey, Leveridge, Haydon and Sandonis.

So I ask you as you prepare for this year's July 4th to take a moment and consider these lovers and the insecurity they feel about their future and think about our soldiers, many who have given all and never returned to their own Black Eyed Susan.

The Ballad of Black Eyed Susan by John Gay

All in the dawn the fleet was moor'd,
The streamers waving to the wind,
When Black-eyed Susan came on board,
Oh where shall I my true love find?
Tell me, ye jovial sailors, tell me true,
If my sweet William, if my sweet William
Sails among your crew?

Oh William, who high upon the yard,
Rocked with the billows to and fro,
Soon as her well-known voice he heard,
He sigh'd and cast his eyes below:
The cord slides swiftly thro' his glowing hands
And as quick as lightning, and as quick as lightning
On the deck he stands.

So sweet the lark, high poised in air,
Shuts close his pinions to his breast,
If, chance, his mate's shrill voice he hear,
And drops at once into her nest:
The noblest captain in the British fleet
Might envy William, might envy William's
Lip those kisses sweet.

'Oh Susan, Susan, lovely dear!
My vows shall ever true remain,
Let me kiss off that falling tear,
We only part to meet again:
Change as ye list, ye winds, my heart shall be
The faithful compass, the faithful compass
That still points to thee.

'Oh, believe not what the landsmen say
Who tempt with doubts thy constant mind,
They'll tell thee sailors when away,
In every port a mistress find:
Yes, yes, believe them when they tell thee so,
For thou art present, for thou art present
Wheresoe'er I go.

If to fair India's coast we sail,
Thy eyes are seen in diamonds bright:
Thy breath is Afric's spicy gale,
Thy skin as ivory so white:
Thus every beauteous object that I view
Wakes in my soul, wakes in my soul
Some charm of lovely Sue.'

Though battle call me from thy arms
Let not my pretty Susan mourn:
Though cannon roar, yet safe from harms
William shall to his dear return:
Love turns aside the balls that round me fly
Lest precious tears, lest precious tears
Should drop from Susan's eye.

The boatswain gave the dreadful word,
Her sails their swelling bosom spread:
No longer can she stay on board -
They kissed, she sighed, he hung his head:
Her lessening boat unwilling rows to land,
'Adieu,' she cries, 'Adieu,' she cries
And waved her lily hand.

To hear one of the most popular of those tunes to which this poem was set can be found at http://www.contemplator.com/england/susan.html

For Availablity of the Painting Click Here.

Comment on or Share this Article

Primrose Life

The Primrose Life is more than what it seems. In my painting there is one wonderful bloom shining bright in the sunlight and it is surrounded by a couple blooms that have seen better days and to the left one bloom that has promise but has not reached its full glory. When I was working on this painting I was thinking about how fortunate I am. I had taken off early from work and decided to paint. I’m my own boss, so I can do that on occasion. Of course, the first thing that came to my mind when I decided to paint this flower was “Primrose Path” which technically didn’t fit what I wanted to show in the painting. As I see it, the primrose has gotten a bad rap from the wordsmith himself, Shakespeare in Ophelia’s warning to her brother, Hamlet:

I shall the effect of this good lesson keep,
As watchman to my heart. But, good my brother,
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven;
Whiles, like a puff'd and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede.

Ophelia is warning her brother take his own advice and not reject the difficult and arduous path of righteousness that leads to Heaven in favor of the easy path of sin. Shakespeare later used 'the primrose way', which has the same meaning, in Macbeth.

Let’s explore that Primrose Path, which by definition is a life of ease and pleasure, which leads to a bad end. It also seems to be the “in” kind of lifestyle lauded by many Americans today, and they don't even realize what they are missing. Ok, I’m not going to be preachy but I want to explore what an easy life surrounded by pleasure is like and does it always have to a bad end? I think it depends on how you go about your pleasure and whether or not you are serving your bliss or simply falling in with the crowd.

When you find that one thing you love and you figure out how to get that to make a income by doing it, you end up living a life of success down the Primrose Path. Now, you must be careful not to be led down the Primrose Path to your own disaster by the hypocrites, but to find for yourself the path that leads to your own happiness and wellbeing.

Sometimes that road can sure feel like a wild goose chase, but if you choose a path that is true to yourself and fulfilling a need to others which is a true entrepreneur mindset and lifestyle. You will find that your Primrose Path even seen to others to surely lead to a bad end is indeed a path of ease and pleasure with huge payoffs at the end. Discovering this path is not a simple process but it is truly worth the pain to get there.

So now I’ve argued myself into a box. Maybe what we really need is a new Primrose idiom. How about simply the "Primrose Life: A life of ease and pleasure filled with service to others that also creates a good standard of living income." I’m getting a little philosophical here, but I think that turning the negative into a positive is always a great way to live – so I’m taking on Shakespeare. What do you think? Are living a Primrose Life or being led down the Primrose Path?

Comment on or Share this Article

Mystique and Madness

This is my first painting of this beautiful treasure with the odd name of "Spiderwort"; I have been fascinated by its simple beauty since the day I found them in a field near Clinton Lake. I found this particular one a few weeks ago, bouncing in the wind near a roadside ditch. It seems sometimes, when I am out specifically looking to wildflowers to capture, they draw me in with a nod with the wind or a glimmer of color. This one brought me in from my moving vehicle with both the nod and the glimmer. When this happens I stop the car, grab my camera and walk back to the place I thought I saw the color. I was not disappointed. Not only did I find this beautiful Spiderwort, I also found a Primrose which will be coming around soon.  

As one of the few flowers in the Tallgrass Prairie of Kansas with a blue bloom Spiderwort grace us with their pretty petals for one day and then fade away, however the plant itself continues to bloom with each pod taking its turn for glory throughout the month – so the mystique and madness of me finding this very flower and painting its portrait with adoration to lengthen that short lifetime, hence the title. 

Not only does the plant intrigue me, but even in my research, there is a lot of mystique that goes along with this plant, the oddest being that the stamens will turn pink in the presence of nuclear fallout.  I suppose that came in handy for the service men who manned the nuclear missile sites buried throughout the area.

Some of the more interesting tidbits about this plant is that there is a long standing herbalist tradition that the sap from the leaves (which comes out clear and stringy like spider webs or “Cow Slobber” another common name for this beautiful plant.) cures spider bites and an interesting disease called “The Dancing Madness” (symptoms included headaches, sweating, trembling and severe melancholia) which was believed to be caused by spider venom. Never the less the plant gets its name as many plants do through the Doctrine of Signatures which is an ancient herbalist theory that a plant can be used as a medicinal for human ailments based on some aspect of its form or color gives us a clue as to the plant’s beneficial nature to the human body. So, since spiderworts grass like leaves are suggestion of a crouching spider and the sap looks like spider webs, then the plant is a good remedy for spider bites. So there you have it the mystique and the madness surrounds this pretty little blue flower from all sides. – Enjoy!

To see more of this series go to http://michelleleivan.com/collections/21558

Comment on or Share this Article

Paint Topeka Plein Air Exhibit and Book

Today I would like to share that my  artworks "Coffee and Conversation at the Flying Monkey" and "Raks Sha'abi at the NOTO Saturday Market" have been selected for exhibition in the Paint Topeka Plein Air Exhibit! Paintings produced from this event also will be featured in the upcoming art book, Topeka: A Great Arts Town!, published by SouthWind Gallery.

Opening Reception Activities & Awards Ceremony

The Paint Topeka art exhibit will open September 7, 2012, during the First Friday Art Walk, from 6: 00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. Activities will include an Artists' Reception, a special recognition ceremony for the winners of the Paint Topeka competition and a book signing. In addition, all artists' names and artwork will be posted on the SouthWind Gallery web site.

The Mission: To Paint Topeka. The Topeka Plein Aire Paint out presented by SouthWind Gallery.  Over 60 painters met on Saturday, April 28th at 6:00 a.m. at the Ramada Inn for breakfast and then they converged on Topeka and created paintings of our town. I was one of them and this little piece "Coffee and Conversation at the Flying Monkey" is my entry for the competition. All the artists wore a tangerine colored ball cap so they could be identified all over the city. All of the pieces will be juried and the accepted pieces will be published in a fine art book "Topeka: A Great Arts Town."


When thinking about Topeka, it seems to me the community is best reflected by the people who live, work and play throughout the city. I chose to paint the new coffee shop the Flying Monkey along with two college students who were out enjoying a bit of coffee on the early Saturday morning. "We just stopped in to talk before we went to work-out." one of the girls said. 


Unlike many of my paintings in this series, I did not know these two girls prior to asking if they could be my subjects, I also promised that they would not be readily identifiable - I'm just an artist stalker - randomly choosing people to paint. But my trusty tangerine colored ball cap with the SouthWind gallery logo helped to legitimize me. The two girls knew one of another artist participating! It was an interesting experiment on my part as well, not knowing the girls there was less pressure to make sure they reflected the personality I knew they had, instead I was free to impress my own imagination about who they were and so, like the viewer, I was forced to create my own story about them. 


They were as agreeable as anyone could expect and I am sure that my quick photograph has been long forgotten about on that sunny spring morning. However, there is no doubt in my mind that their memory will be sparked when they begin hearing about the new exhibition in September during the First Friday Art Walk.

Comment on or Share this Article

My Lucky Day

My Lucky Day - Violet Wood Sorrel

I discovered this little Violet Wood Sorrel growing in my “Hidden Garden” this spring. I was hidden in among the other foliage and shyly peeking through the shadows. It only grows about 4” tall so you can see why it was a treasure to find.  The day I discovered it, I felt lucky to have found it instead of stepping on the fragile plant. I didn’t realize that day that I had possibly been luckier than I thought.  There is an argument that the Wood Sorrel is the original St. Patrick Shamrock. I don’t know about you, but I remember as a kid spending hours in the playground searching for a lucky shamrock or 4 leaf clover. Well, here I am – decades later and I have actual shamrocks growing in my own back yard!

Through my research on this little guy, I dug up an old manuscript from 1911 that is available on the web, “Myths and Legends of Flowers, Trees, Fruits, and Plants in All Ages and In All Climes” by Charles Montgomery Skinner. This eBook will be most valuable while considering stories about my Kansas Wildflowers.  I love to learn new things about the plants that I’m drawn to painting, it adds to their character in my mind and make the plant even more fun to paint.

So here is the argument from the early 20th century as to why the Wood Sorrel is actually the original Shamrock – Enjoy!

“The clover which we call wood sorrel was anciently a charm against snakes and other poison dealing creatures; and witches, too, would none of it. On going into fights soldiers would tie a sprig about their sword arms, or to the handles of their blades, that they might be secure from the foul strokes of enemies who had black and secret ways of killing. The Arabic word for the trefoil is shamrak, and Persia makes it sacred as emblematic of the Persian Triads. Our wood sorrel is white with faint ruddy or purple streaks in the petals. A pink variety appears in England earlier than the white, but, as in other flowers, the farther north we go, the more of white appears in the flower, bluebells being white in Russia, and red campion emulating the snow in Arctic lands. Wood sorrel is ‘the hallelujah’ in Spain and Italy because of its blossoming when the Hallelujah is sung, after Easter; the Welsh name it fairy bells; the Scots call it hearts and gowk's meat. Cuckoo sorrel is a common name for it in the British islands, where it appears when the cuckoo begins to sing.

“Among the plants one no longer eats is this same wood sorrel, once used as a salad. Sheep or field sorrel, which is of a different botanical family is still used as greens, though it is sharp to the untrained palate.

“The acid of wood sorrel (oxalic, from the botanical name of the plant, oxalis) is extracted as ‘salt of lemons,’ a chemical in some demand for commercial purposes, but a rank poison. Its leaves yield five per cent. of acid. Because of their heart shape the doctrine of signatures prescribed them as a remedy for heart troubles. The variety cultivated in Bolivia as oca has a tuberous root as well prized as the artichoke; another four leaved variety is used on Mexican tables; the Peruvian species, arracha, is also eaten, both root and leaf stalk.

“Wood sorrel is held by many to be the original shamrock, as its Persian name implies, although the plant commonly worn as such on the 17th of March, when all the bows to St Patrick is Dutch clover. It is a little disconcerting that the authorities are not a unit as to what a shamrock is. The Erse word seamrog is from seamar, three leaved, and og, meaning small. It occurs variously as seamsog, seamroge, shamrote, shamrock, shamrug, oge, and chambroch. The plant actually used by St. Patrick may have been Dutch clover, or trifolium repens, or trifolium minus, or wood sorrel. Early references to it in Irish literature represent it as a food plant, Campion, in history of the island printed in 1571, speaking of ‘shamrotes, water cresses, and other herbes they feed upon.’  Matthias Lobel, a Flemish botanist, tells of the purple and white trefoil, and says of the white variety it is good for fattening cattle, but that it is also ground meal for consumption by the peasantry.  Spenser, the poet, also relates how, during the wars of Munster the escaped starvation by feeding on cress and ‘shamrokes’; and Fynes Moryson describes them as devouring herb of sharp taste, the acrid wood sorrel, one may fancy, ‘which as they run and are chased to and fro, they like beasts out of the ditches.’  If, however, the ditches contained water, the plant was probably cress, which still use as a garnish to our meat.

“The religious association of the shamrock, and its adoption as the emblem of Ireland, is due to an inspiration of pioneer of Christianity in that country:  After his landing St. Patrick found his pagan subjects in deep trouble the Trinity. Preach and argue as he might, he could not prevail on them to accept its possibility till, looking down on the earth, in the course of one of his homilies, he chanced to spy the little divided leaf of the shamrock. It exemplified his point to a nicety. Stooping he plucked it and showed how, though a leaf, it was yet three leaves in one. After the Irish accepted Christianity, they used the shamrock as their sign, the three leaves typing in their formulary, the national virtues of love, heroism, and wit. The leaf was already in general use as a defense against witchcraft in St Patrick's time, and many a peasant plucked a trefoil before he ventured across the moors and bogs where banshees cried and fairies stole the souls of wayfarers. It was the power of the shamrock indeed, over poisonous and maleficent things, which enabled St Patrick to drive the snakes from Ireland, for he had only to hold it toward them to see them go scuttling into the sea.”

From “Myths and Legends of Flowers…” by Charles Montgomery Skinner (source link above)

Well, no matter where you come down on the argument – may the luck of the Irish be with you always.

Check out my entire collection of Kansas Wildflowers in Oil

Comment on or Share this Article

Raks Sha'abi at the NOTO Saturday Market

Raks Sha'abi at the NOTO Saturday Market

This piece for me is both nostalgic and celebrates my new achievements. In the nostalgic department, I am not unfamiliar with belly dancing as I took several classes during my husband's first deployment and choreographed a dance for him when he returned. Since then, I have had an appreciation of the art which is wonderfully feminine and alluring. As for the present, last Saturday, I exhibited 11 artists in my Art Print Express booth at the NOTO Saturday Market (a new venue for artists in the NOTO Arts District north of the river in Topeka, Kansas). If you look carefully you will see my booth in among the background vendors. It was that weekend that I took advantage of the Irie Blu troupe performance to capture my friend Cyreigna in action and to place her at the Saturday Market.


The term "Raks Sha'abi" refers to a belly dance style that is "dance of the people". This seemed an appropriate name for this piece even though the dancer works in the American Tribal Belly Dance Style. Many locals will recognize the Cyregina in her belly dancing regalia because she regularly performs in public venues such as the NOTO Saturday Market. She has also posed for my Open Life Drawing Sessions at Washburn University with her full costume, sometimes even bringing her dancing props such as a Scimitar (a curved Middle Eastern sword) balanced on her head - it is always a fun and lively event when she models. 


Cyreigna is also Owner/Director of Irie Tribal Dance Co., a Fatchance® Bellydance Sister Studio...Irie Tribal, is derived from the Rastafarian saying, 'Irie,' which stands for 'I Respect I Eternally,' and is a word that conveys hope and happiness--exactly the emotion Cyreigna endeavors to create.


Irie Tribal Dance Company is an all-inclusive Dance company that offers not only classes in American Tribal Style® Bellydance, but also tribal costuming. They believe that no matter what type of dance you do, as long as you are true to self and others everything will indeed be Irie, (a word that conveys hope and happiness).

While trying to open more eyes, hearts, and doors in the Auburn/Topeka area, Irie strives to portray themselves in a positive light and give back to others....Dancing for those can't dance for themselves....Dancing is the most unselfish thing we can do...That is why we smile, that is why we dance. It brings us joy to see joy in others!

The performing Troupe, Irie Tribal consists of Cyndi (Cyreigna) and Amy (Miriam)
Irie Tribal Dance Company students are known as Irie Blu. They are taught pure ATS® as Carolena intended.

To purchase the piece  or explore my other pieces go to my website

Comment on or Share this Article

Artists to Watch in 2012 on WIBW

The Bee's Secret for the Echinacea

The great folks at WIBW will be prempting their 13 News @ 4 show for the Arts on February 6th. Please set your DVR's to see a sample of what the arts community in Topeka has to offer. The show will consist of three segments that will feature several art venues and as one of those segments, three artists: Marylin Horsch, Michael Allen and Michelle Leivan (I always wanted to prempt a show!) were interviewed by John Ary last month to talk about the the Artists to Watch in 2012 show at SouthWind Gallery. 

Because I know you can't wait to see the show, here is a different short YouTube video from SouthWind Gallery where they asked several of the Artists to Watch in 2012 what the best advice they've ever been given was. This video is sure to spur you on as an artist. And, the exhibit is sure to amaze you. So, if you have not already done so, I would recommend getting over to SouthWind Gallery to see the works from these regional artists! SouthWind Gallery, 3074 SW 29th St., Topeka, KS through February 15, 2012.

Artists to Watch in 2012
January 6 - February 15, 2012
SouthWind Gallery
29th and Oakley
Topeka, KS 66614

Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Artists to Watch in 2012, is an exciting new show featuring the work of 10 artists. The common thread that links the artists is their high level of talent and an all-consuming passion for creating art.

The artists range in age from 20-somethings to Baby Boomers. The show features over 65 pieces of art and includes all genres including figurative, landscape and still-life works in a variety of mediums. The intriguing subject matter ranges from abstract prairies scenes, to realistic portraits of working cowboys, and from the hard steel and concrete of local architecture, to sensual wild flowers spilling out of a porcelain vase. The paintings vary widely in size, from huge oversized canvases to miniatures.

The featured artists are: 
Michael James Allen (Topeka); Jim Clements (Eldorado); Jane Flanders (Lawrence); Doug Frye (Topeka); Marilyn Horsch (Lawrence); Michelle Leivan (Topeka); Cheryl Heller Olsen (Council Grove); Jeannie Pflumm (Lenexa); Richard Prather (Garland, TX); and Deb Schroer (Strong City).

Comment on or Share this Article

Meet the Artists to Watch in 2012!

Pollination Anticipation

Please join me and my artists friends on First Friday for Artists to Watch in 2012 on February 3, from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm at SouthWind Gallery, 29th & Oakley, Topeka, KS 66614 785.273.5994.  If you can't make it to the artist reception, please stop by and see the show Mon-Fri 10-6 and Sat 10-4 or visit online at http://www.southwindartgallery.com/ 

Artists to Watch in 2012, is an exciting new show featuring the work of 10 artists. The common thread that links the artists is their high level of talent and an all-consuming passion for creating art.

The artists range in age from 20-somethings to Baby Boomers. The show features over 65 pieces of art and includes all genres including figurative, landscape and still-life works in a variety of mediums. The intriguing subject matter ranges from abstract prairies scenes, to realistic portraits of working cowboys, and from the hard steel and concrete of local architecture, to sensual wild flowers spilling out of a porcelain vase. The paintings vary widely in size, from huge oversized canvases to miniatures.

Here is a short video about what inspires each artist!

The featured artists are: 
Michael James Allen (Topeka); Jim Clements (Eldorado); Jane Flanders (Lawrence); Doug Frye (Topeka); Marilyn Horsch (Lawrence); Michelle Leivan (Topeka); Cheryl Heller Olsen (Council Grove); Jeannie Pflumm (Lenexa); Richard Prather (Garland, TX); and Deb Schroer (Strong City).
Artist Reception, February 3rd
Artists to Watch in 2012
January 6 - February 15, 2012
SouthWind Gallery
29th and Oakley
Topeka, KS 66614

Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Comment on or Share this Article

McCoffee Council

McCoffee Council

There are so many important things that happen to us on a daily basis and often times we get into the habit of just taking those seemingly daily events for granted. I regularly go to coffee with my Dad and his "cronies" several times a week. I started out reluctantly, thinking that I wouldn't have much in common with a bunch of old guys. How wrong I was, this morning diversion in my day has become a ritual that I look forward to and regret when other things keep me from being able to join them. At first I didn't understand them, they would talk to each other in no way any woman would dare to talk to another woman and expect to remain friends. The best way to describe their banter is the scene in "Grand Torino" with Clint Eastwood when he walks into the barber shop with his young mentor and begins to talk to the barber. (For those who haven’t seen the movie, at the end of this post is  a rundown of the dialogue.) As you watch the movie, you understand that Walt and Barber Martin in "Grand Torino" love each other and Walt also loves Thao or we wouldn't see this scene. Never the less, that scene would play in my head for the first month that I joined them and stayed pretty quiet until I figured out the rules. 


Ok, so my guys aren't quite that crass but you get the point. It took me a while to assimilate to their banter. We’ve had discussions as lively as the use of barbed wire to scratch that itch you can't quite reach and not to forget it is also useful for hemorrhoids, to the healing benefits of dog licks to heal a pesky wound that is slow to heal. It is often like sitting in a council dedicated to saving the world. They always tell me that I'm the best looking of the group - how can I pass up that ego boosting opportunity? With all kidding aside, they have become wonderful mentors with wonderful life stories and wisdom that you would not expect to be found at a McDonalds. They are my guys and I love them and miss them when I don’t see them. 


Last July my husband, son and I traveled to Austin, TX to go see my brother-in-law who had just returned for leave from a tour in Iraq. One morning during that trip we stopped at McDonalds for a quick breakfast. There in the back of the restaurant was another group of guys not all that dissimilar to these guys, enjoying their coffee and discussions to save the world. I was tempted to walk up to them and simply sit down at the table and explain that I had left my coffee group guys back home and that I missed them so could I please join them for a while. There is no doubt in my mind that they would have welcomed me and made me feel at home. Had it not been for my present company (my son would have been mortified) and the urgency to get back on the road I would have and enjoyed every second of it. That realization in a foreign place was the seed that germinated into this painting. I wanted to paint my guys in their everyday environment shooting the breeze and easily laughing at something someone said. You may not know them, but yet you do, because all you have to do is walk into any McDonalds or corner Cafe across the nation, in the morning between 6 and 10 and you too can find your very own McCoffee Council. 


Scene from Grand Torino as quoted by the IMDb website: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1205489/quotes


Walt Kowalski: Now you just gotta learn how guys talk. You just listen to the way Martin and I banter it back and forth. You OK? You're ready? 
Thao Vang Lor: Sir! 
Walt Kowalski: Alright let's go in... 
Barber Martin: Perfect! A Polak and AND a Chink! 
Walt Kowalski: How ya doing Martin, you crazy Italian prick? 
Barber Martin: Walts! You cheap bastard! I should have known you'd come in, I was having such a pleasant day! 
Walt Kowalski: What'd you do? You ruse some poor blind guy out of his money? Gave him the wrong change? 
Barber Martin: Who's the Nip? 
Walt Kowalski: Ohh... He's a pussy kid from next door. I'm trying to man him up a little bit... You see kid, now that's how guys talk to one another. 
Thao Vang Lor: They do? 
Barber Martin: What, you got shit on your ribs? 
Walt Kowalski: Now you go out and come back in and talk to him like a man, like a REAL man. Come on! Get your ass outta here! Come on back now. 
[to Martin
Walt Kowalski: Sorry about this. 
Thao Vang Lor: What's up ya old Italian prick? 
Barber Martin: [pointing rifle at Thao] Get out of my shop before I blow your head off, you goddamn dick sucker! Go! 
Walt Kowalski: Jezus Christ, Holy Shit! Hehe. Take it easy, take it easy! 
[to Thao
Walt Kowalski: What the hell are you doing? Have you lost your mind? 
Thao Vang Lor: But that's what you said. That's what you said men say. 
Walt Kowalski: You don't just come in and insult the man in his own shop! You just don't do that. What happens if you meet some stranger? You get the wrong one, he's gonna blow your gook head right off! 
Thao Vang Lor: What should I have said then? 
Barber Martin: Well... why don't you start with... eeehm... Hi or Hello... 
Walt Kowalski: Yeah, just come in and say... eeeehm... Sir, I'd like a haircut if you have the time. 
Barber Martin: Yeah, be polite, but don't kiss ass. 
Walt Kowalski: In fact you could talk about a construction job you just came from and bitch about your girlfriend and your car. 
Barber Martin: eeeehm... Son of a bitch, I just got my brakes fixed and eeehmm those son of bitches really nailed me, I mean they screwed me right in the ass! 
Walt Kowalski: Yeah, don't swear AT the guy, just talk about people who are not in the room... eeeh... you could talk about your boss... eeeh... making you work extra time when there is bowling night. 
Barber Martin: Right, or... eeeh... my old lady bitches for two goddamn hours about how... eeeeh... they don't take expired coupons at the grocery stores. And the minute I turn on the fucking game, she starts crying how we never talk! 


Comment on or Share this Article

Artists to Watch in 2012 Exhibit Opening

"Bees Knees on Echinacea II" currently at the SouthWind Gallery, Topeka

"Artists to Watch in 2012", is an exciting new show featuring the work of 10 artists. The common thread that links the artists is their high level of talent and an all-consuming passion for creating art.

The show features over 65 pieces of art and includes all genres including figurative, landscape and still-life works in a variety of mediums. The paintings vary widely in size, from huge oversized canvases to miniatures.

Participating artists: Michael Allen (Topeka), Jim Clements (El Dorado), Jane Flanders (Lawrence), Doug Frye (Topeka), Marilyn Horsch (Lawrence), Michelle Leivan (Topeka), Cheryl Heller Olsen (Council Grove), Jeannie Pflumm (Lenexa), Richard Prather (Garland, TX), and Deb Schroer (Strong City)
January 6 - February 15, 2012

Opening Reception, January 6, 2012 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

SouthWind Gallery
29th & Oakley - Topeka, KS

Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Comment on or Share this Article

Feminine Desert at Boscos - Oct. 7

Candid Introspection from the Feminine Desert: Paintumentary

Bosco's features art, music for First Friday Art Walk

Bosco’s Urban American Cuisine, located at 435 S. Kansas Avenue, will feature paintings by artist Michelle Leivan in the downstairs dining space for First Friday Art Walk, October 7. Her exhibit will be up until the end of October.  

Leivan received her education at Fort Hays State University. She has been distinguished as the featured visual artist at the Kansas River Valley Art Fair, Topeka Jazz Festival, and the Aaron Douglas Art Fair. Her work has been selected to hang in the Kansas State Capital building and in the U.S. Embassy Resicence of the Ambassador in Asuncion, Paraguay.
Leivan’s First Friday exhibit is entitled, “Feminine Desert: Paintumentary.” The series of paintings is based on the perceived dualitymany young women present to the world. Each piece is dominated by abstract female figures. Notably, the use of color creates a striking contrast to the expected outcome in portraiture. The originals and fine art giclee reproductions of the pieces are also available. 

Pianist Scott Senn performs at Bosco’s every Friday from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Senn has been performing for over 30 years and is an accomplished composer and arranger as well.

Bosco’s serves dinner from 5:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and has a full bar with an extensive martini list and craft beers on tap.

Bosco’s is also open for lunch from 11:00 am until 2:00 pm Monday through Friday both downstairs and at the street level location.

Comment on or Share this Article

Sunflower CIRQUE - Warehouse 414 - Oct 7.

End of the Season Oil on canvas one of three pieces accepted in Sunflower CIRQUE at Warehouse 414.

Three Michelle Leivan sunflower pieces,  Apollo in DelphosFacing the Evening Sun, Apollo in Delphos Facing the Morning Sun and End of the Season are 3 of 77 pieces accepted in: 

Sunflower CIRQUE

Exhibiting works of art centered around sunflowers . . . about sunflowers or made from sunflowers!

Event Dates: 10/7/2011 - 11/12/2011
Reception: 10/7/2011 5:30pm - 8:30pm
Location: Warehouse 414
414 East Second Street
Topeka Kansas

Exhibition open October 7 - November 12

Comment on or Share this Article

Visions of the Flint Hills - Opens Oct. 7

Michelle Leivan's piece accepted in the Visions of the Flint Hills Benefit and Sale

Visions of the Flint Hills

Opening Reception Friday, Oct. 7th, 6 pm - 9pm and Saturday, Oct. 8th 10am - 3 pm. Second Reception is Nov. 4th 5pm - 9pm and Sat. Nov. 5th, 10am-3pm.

The Visions of the Flint Hills Benefit and Sale runs from October 7th through November 25th, 2011. Fifty percent of your purchase price will  benefit the Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, a non-profit organization which promotes the Flint Hills as a visitors' destination with authentic Flint Hills experiences. The continent's largest remaining tract of tallgrass is also one of America's unique places, harboring a wealth of adventure, beauty, and history. All art representative of the Flint Hills area with 50% of purchase price going to support
the Flint Hills Tourism Coalition. The gallery will be open M-F 9am-5pm and Saturdays IOam-3pm.

During the opening reception, appetizers provided by The Kansas City Club and wine provided by Maker's Mark. Contact Kathy to make reservations at 816-285-9040 or Kathy@ButtonwoodArtSpace.com

Buttonwood Art Space, 3013 Main Street, Kansas City, MO 64108 WWW.BUTTONWOODARTSPACE.COM

My piece "Pale Purple coneflower Above a Patchwork Plain" 12"x9" has been accepted in the Buttonwood Art Space 3rd Annual Visions of the Flint Hills Benefit and Sale. Come out and help my fellow artists and I support the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and the Flint Hills of Kansas.

Comment on or Share this Article

Kansans Paint Kansas - Topeka Art Guild Opening Oct. 7

One of three accepted entries of Michelle Leivan's in the Kansans Paint Kansas Competition

Topeka Art Guild & Gallery Hosts it’s Annual “Kansans Paint Kansas” Fund Raiser and Art Competition
A juried competition, open to Kansas artists and students.


Kansas artists come together in a collective art exhibit to benefit one of the biggest supporters of the arts in the North East Kansas area.

Statewide artists submitted Kansas inspired subject matter to be included for consideration in this juried competition. Both traditional and progressive art mediums are represented from artists in all levels of their career. All juried entries are available for sale providing an opportunity to buy art from Kansas artists as well as support the oldest continuing art organization in the City of Topeka. This exhibit was jurored by Judith Mackey an award winning a professional artist of 40 years and a native Kansan who resides in the Flint Hills of Kansas, paints

what she is most familiar with—landscapes of the prairie, working cowboys and the ranch life that surrounds her rural Chase County home. She agreed to judge our newest show, Kansans Paint Kansas. The Topeka Art Guild is grateful for her giving her time and expertise to our big fundraising event. It is an honor to have her participate.

Judith will be showing some of her paintings in the gallery along with the Kansans Paint Kansas show. If you haven’t seen her work before this will be a great opportunity for you to see beautiful Kansas art by Mackey and other members of the Topeka Art Guild.

Opening Reception for Kansans Paint Kansas will be held on Friday October 7, 2011 from 5 - 8pm during the First Friday Art Walk, juror Judith Mackey will be present. The Topeka Art Guild Gallery is located at 5331 SW 22nd Place, Topeka, KS 66614 at Fairlawn Shopping Plaza. This event is free to the public and will continue through November 2011.

Comment on or Share this Article

Stroke of Genius Game at the Aaron Douglas Art Fair

If you are in Topeka, Kansas this weekend, I'll be at the Aaron Douglas Art Fair where we will be showcasing the new Stroke of Genius Game application. You'll have a chance to see it in action and try it for yourself. Also the hard copy of the game will be there for you to check out as well. The fair is at 12th and Lane at the Art Park. Happening September 24th, 2011 from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. the Art Fair showcases diverse and emerging artists from Topeka and the surrounding region. The day long fair also features entertainment, food and children's activities.

 Also Featured Artist The Craftivists are a local Topeka group of friends who stand together at the intersection of art and activism. For Nikki MacMillan, Sara O'Keeffe, Laura Burton, Michelle McCormick, and Julie Velez, their mission is simple: to rock the world into an understanding about important social and worldly causes through art culture. It ought to be a grand time! 

About Stroke of Genius: a creative game that challenges you to take a single drawn Stroke and transform it into an imaginative picture that reflects the Spark Word, please the Juror and collect the Spark Word cards to win the game.

The new electronic Android Phone version that allows you to share your creation on Facebook will be showcased along with the hard copy play at home version. You can see some home videos of game play and various comments about the game at facebook/strokeofgeniusgame (it's a facebook page, so why not become a fan while you are there too!) 

Comment on or Share this Article

Pale Purple Coneflower Above a Patchwork Plain

Pale Purple Coneflower Above a Patchwork Plain

This piece has been accepted in the Buttonwood Art Space 3rd Annual Visions of the Flint Hills Benefit and Sale.

Come out and help my fellow artists and I support the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and the Flint Hills of Kansas.

VISIONS OF THE FLINT HILLS BENEFIT AND SALE is a juried exhibit featuring art of the Flint Hills. The exhibit will run from October 7, 2011 thru November 25, 2011, in the Buttonwood Art Space (www.buttonwoodartspace.com ), 3013 Main Street, Kansas City, Missouri. Partial proceeds from the event benefit a non-profit organization which promotes the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and the Flint Hills of Kansas. www.visionsoftheflinthills.org

Gallery Hours:
Monday through Friday - 9:00 am to 5 pm
Sundays and Evenings by Appointment
First Friday October 7th and November 4th, 2011 - Open House Food/Drink 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm

JURORS: Jamie Lavin, Buttonwood Gallery Director.

Artist's Comments:

Pale Purple Conflowers are a favorite subject of mine. Here I found them looking over a Kansas landscape known as the Flint Hills near the Konza Prairie Reserve in Riley County. The beauty of the Flint Hills in Kansas is unrivaled and many artists are inspired by them.

The Flint Hills are steep-sloped and overlain by shallow limestone soils unsuitable for cultivation. This region contains the largest remaining area of tallgrass prairie in North America since the majority of the Konza Prairie and the surrounding landscape have not been plowed. To learn more about the Konza Prairie go to http://keep.konza.ksu.edu/friends/

Comment on or Share this Article

Tinkham Veale - in September

Bees Knees on Echinacea

Beginning First Friday Art Walk from 5:30 - 8:30 on September 2nd through September, several Leivan Kansas Floral oil paintings are available at the Tinkham Veale Gallery,909 1/2 S. Kansas Avenue, Topeka Kansas. This group of paintings are among the most recent oil painting created during the last few months and include Hidden Garden Red Poppies, Trumpet Flower Trio Playing Taps, That is a Very Nice Way - Sunflower, Daffodil Delight East, Daffodil Delight West and Bees Knees on Echinacea. The gallery hours are First Friday Art Walk and Top City Thursdays evenings. Michelle's long-standing love affair with the flowers of Kansas is gloriously represented in this new collection.

A 1996 study conducted by Virginia Lohr and others showed that rooms and offices decorated with plants and flowers helped sacrifice stress as measured by decreased blood pressure and pulse rates. Researchers have further determined that there is also a correlation between flowers and being satisfied with life. In another study it was demonstrated that flowers will improve a person’s mood by decreasing anxiety, depression and agitation.


Decorating your home or office with Michelle’s colorful floral art instead of fresh flowers, allows you to include flowers in your decor that will never die, dry out or fade. Having blossoms filled with personality as an element in your home can be a positive influence for both inhabitants and visitors because they make a home more welcoming and create an inviting atmosphere. With their versatility and universal appeal, floral paintings go well in any room of your home or office. In a living room or dining room they add a degree of sophistication; in the bedroom they add romance to the ambiance.


 Also at Tinkham Veale Gallery:

The silent auction fundraiser for Doodle it Downtown is coming to an end this First Friday Art Walk, September 2nd. To view and bid on the pieces go to the foyer of The Tinkham Veale Gallery,909 S Kansas Avenue. This will be your opportunity to own one of these amazing pieces. The programs offered by Downtown Topeka,Inc. and Topeka Parks &Recreation Foundation will both benefit from the Auction.

Sponsored by local business, the artists created their pieces on 26″x 40″paper outside during record heat from Noon to 7:30 pm on July 28th. Among the participating artists was Art Print Express’ sponsored Michelle Leivan who painted a sunflower “Ad Astra Apollo” pictured in chalk.

Comment on or Share this Article

End of the Season - Sunflower

End of the Season - Sunflower

The sunflower faithfully tracks the sun through a late summer watching the evening sun set and soon returns toward the east to meet the morning. This sunflower shows the wear and tear of an entire season. On occasion I find myself feeling more and more cynical about the world we live in and this sunflower echoes the withering of my optimism. It seems every time I tune into the world today whether it is on TV, Radio or on the Internet, I am inundated with disaster, murder, war and loss of various degrees. It is exhausting!

However, we must remember that with the passage of time come eternal change and the promise of a new day just as the change of each season. When I feel overwhelmed by the media and the pessimistic events of our day, I rummage around in my mind for a bit of comfort. Lately I’ve found an item of peace with an ancient observation offered by King Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible and later brought into pop culture in the ‘60’s by Pete Seeger of the Byrds, “Turn, Turn, Turn, to Everything There is a Season.”  

Turn, Turn, Turn - The Byrds

To everything, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of peace, I swear it’s not too late

Comment on or Share this Article


It's been a while since I blogged, it's funny how life seems to take over. I started a series of portraits and there are several of them in my "People I Know" series category. This is my newest piece in that series and it features my niece in a daydreamy pose. It makes me think about clarity of morning thoughtfulness. I was so excited to get this piece painted because it was a wonderful pose and the lighting was just right to capture her character. I hope you enjoy it.

Comment on or Share this Article

Topeka Art Guild Gallery celebrates "Kansans Paint Kansas" art competition

Topeka Art Guild celebrates the Third Annual "Kansans Paint Kansas" juried art competition this weekend with live music, food and Kansas inspired art. The afternoon party promises to be a fun filled event with Nate Hill of KSNT as Master of Ceremonies, Dulcimer Music by Fred Appelhanz and many of the participating artists will be in attendance. The announcement of prize award winning entries for 2D, 3D, photography and student categories will be made during the grand opening reception on Sunday September 26, 2010 from 2-5pm at the Topeka Art Guild Gallery. Read more at : Topeka Art Guild Gallery celebrates "Kansans Paint Kansas" art competition - Topeka art | Examiner.com

Comment on or Share this Article

Ensley Echinachea

16"x20" oil on canvas

Michelle Leivan at Ensley Gardens
Ted Ensley Gardens
Art Competition and Sale
A fundraiser for the Friends of Ted Ensley Gardens
Sunday, September 19, 2010
1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Garden House at Lake Shawnee, 37th & West Edge Rd.
(Refreshments served)

In June, SouthWind Gallery invited 35 artists to participate in a one-day plein air painting competition at the beautiful Ensley Gardens at Lake Shawnee. Shown is a photo of me (taken by Dylan Clemmons) painting my "Ensley Echinachea" pieces near a fantastic collection of purple coneflowers in Ensley Gardens.

The paint-out is part of a fundraising event organized by the Friends of Ted Ensley Gardens. The public is invited to attend the juried art exhibit and sale on Sunday, September 19, 2010, from 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m., at the Garden House at Lake Shawnee, 37th & West Edge Road. Jurors for the art competition are Gary Blitsch and Sharon Hotchkiss of SouthWind Gallery.

The World Class Ensley Gardens would not be possible without the public and private partnership created between Friends of the Ted Ensley Gardens and Shawnee County Parks & Recreation. All proceeds from the art sale will be used to support local artists and to ensure that the Ted Ensley Gardens remain "World Class Gardens" for all to enjoy. *

View additional artwork online at SouthWind Gallery: www.SouthWindArtGallery.com.

To learn more about the Friends of Ensley Gardens or to volunteer, contact Shawnee County Parks and Recreation at 267-1156.  

*Sales Proceeds: Participating Artists will receive 60 percent and Friends of Ensley Gardens will receive 40 percent.  

Comment on or Share this Article

Tulips and Daffodils found a home

My Facebook posts led to my most recent paintings, "Daffodils - Signs of Spring" and "Easter Tulips" to find a home tonight. As with many art buyers there is a story. Identical twin grand-daughters, one who loves daffodils and the other who loves tulips inspired the purchase of these two paintings. Grandma wanted something unique and beautiful in her house that reflected her beloved girls. I love this story, it is art sold for exactly the way art should be acquired and is the exact reason why I paint. There is not a better complement than to find that your work makes a connection and for it to bring a lifetime of joy and memories for another person. Thank you Jeanie!

Comment on or Share this Article

Landscapes in the Abstract

Tomorrow during the First Friday Art Walk, SouthWind Art Gallery is hosting a bold new show of contemporary abstract landscapes for which I have created some new pieces.

Artists' Reception
Friday, Feb. 5, 2010 6 - 8:30 p.m.

I am stepping out of my box a little for these, but I am having a load of fun! It is going to be a fantastic show with artist's from across the country. Also, my necklaces, winecharms, tiles and cards are available at SouthWind Art Gallery. Not everything is available online, but stop in and see me 10-6 Monday through Thursday.

Gallery Hours: Monday - Friday, 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Landscapes in the Abstract
is the title of our annual all-abstract exhibit featuring the work of 33 artists from Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Canada.

This year's all-abstract show focuses on the landscape, but rather than literal translations, the artists interpret nature in fresh and powerful abstract forms that capture atmosphere and mood instead of detail The artists' have used shape, color, texture and line that elicits both contemplation and excitement for the viewer.

The stylistic variety in Landscapes in the Abstract is highly engaging with 33 artists participating, each using his or her own visual impressions and emotions to create works of art. The paintings in the exhibit include all mediums from acrylic to oils, to watercolor and encaustic, as well as mixed media pieces.

Landscapes in the Abstract Artists:
Janet Bailey, Ed Balda, Carol A. Bradbury, Steve Denny, Dana Hassett, Mike Henry, Phillip Hershberger, Linda Humphries, Cally Krallman, Michelle Leivan, Jancy Pettit, Beverly Radefeld, and Barbara Waterman-Peters (Topeka, KS); John Gary Brown, Jane R. Flanders, Robert Sudlow, and Joanie Whitenight (Lawrence, KS); James Pringle Cook (Tucson, AZ); Gary Ozias (Downs, KS); Debra J. Groesser (Ralston, NE); Nicole and Wes Hyde (Denver, CO); Stephen Kilborn (Taos, NM); Alyson, KinKade (Loveland, CO); Scott Lennox (Ft. Worth, TX); Mary Binford Miller (Eldorado, KS); Neil Patterson (Alberta, Canada); Jim Rigg (Manhattan, KS); Don Tiller (Port Townsend, WA). To see more go to


February Newsletter Link from Michelle Leivan Original Painting

Comment on or Share this Article

Take Kansas Home dot com!

Take Kansas Home.com
Echinacea Tile Set

Take Kansas Home!

TakeKansasHome.com was created through a public-private partnership between the Kansas Department of Commerce Travel and Tourism Division and Free Bird Business Solutions.  The goal of this venture is to feature Kansas culture as it is represented in the fine artisan goods produced in our state. Kansas artists offer a host of wonderful handcrafted items, from specialty foods, to artwork, crafts and glassware.

You can find specially selected 8x10 prints, ceramic art tile sets, wine charm sets, note card sets and my Stroke of Genius Game.

http://www.TakeKansasHome.com Go check it out! Find out more about the site, and
do a search for my name!

Comment on or Share this Article

Creations Unique With Originals!

Creations Unique in Topeka now Showing Several of My Originals! 4028 SW Huntoon (Gage Village) Phone: 785-271-8288Playful Peek

I had the pleasure of meeting Tamra at Creations Unique.
She was gracious enough to offer me her entire south wall to exhibit my originals. You have got to stop in this month to take a look!

I was thrilled when I stumbled upon her store a few weeks back, a customer at Framewoods was needing stain glass repair and we guided him to Creations Unique. So, I thought I'd better go see where we were sending people. Tamra teaches classes on stained glass, fused glass and glass bead making. I also discovered that she sells the glass tiles that I've been coveting for my jewelry design. One of the things that is important to me is to find the items I use to create my work in the local economy and nearly jumped up and down when she brought out exactly what I spent all summer looking for!

Along with my originals, you will also find my Stroke of Genius game, note cards, wine charms and tiles and hopefully soon, my jewelry!

Comment on or Share this Article

Dreamy Wildflower Necklaces!

Can Be Found at
Dreamy Wildflower Necklaces
I have been working all summer designing a new product line. In our current economy it's good to have a variety of options for the art lover and I wanted to make something fun and can be worn next to your heart!
Kansas romance in its finest form can be found with these glass tile and ribbon necklaces featuring a print of a wildflower painting from the Kansas Wildflower Series, handmade, by me!
Pendant measures approximately 1" in length are made with a selected print which is adhered to a slumped glass tile and covered with water resistant glaze. This necklace also features 19" coordinating ribbon and cord strands with gold tone Aanraku bail and clasp. All displayed delightfully on a gift card and packaged with an envelope.
There are several designs to choose from and they make a wonderfully unique gift!

Comment on or Share this Article

Aaron Douglas Art Fair

Still accepting artist's entries until August 28th!
Aaron Douglas Art Fair

Youth, High School, College Student, Amateur, and Professional so artists of all ages can apply!

Don't miss out on this Family event! 4th Annual Aaron Douglas Art Fair Don't miss out on this great family event!
Mark your calendars for the 4th Annual Aaron Douglas Art Fair coming this fall on Saturday, September 26, 2009 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Aaron Douglas Art Park 12th and Lane in Topeka. This year's fair will be bigger than ever, featuring:
  • Over 30 local artist exhibiting original artwork in a variety of mediums
  • "Kansas Silkers" will be doing demonstrations of their art process
  • Live musical entertainment
  • Lots of fun FREE children's activities
  • Affordable Food and Beverages sold by community NIA's
The fair will showcase the work of diverse and emerging artists from the region to keep alive the legacy of Aaron Douglas, a renowned artist from Topeka who was the leading visual artist of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s.

Initiated in 2006 by the Topeka TurnAround Team, the Aaron Douglas Art Fair simultaneously celebrates the memory of Douglas, nurtures up-and-coming artists from all walks of life, and provides a fun and creative environment for residents of Topeka and beyond.

Check it out, apply - forward to your artist friends!

Comment on or Share this Article

Art in Embassies Program Accepts Kansas Wildflower Artwork

I am so excited! Two of my Kansas Wildflower Series paintings were chosen for the  Art in Embassies Program. They will be a part of the exhibition at Ambassador Liliana Ayalde, the U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay in the U.S.. Embassy Residence in Asuncion. It will be on loan for the next 3 years. The pieces "Apollo in Delphos Facing the Evening Sun" and the "Apollo in Delphos Facing the Morning Sun" were both selected.

It is amazing how serendipity plays a part in life. I work two days a month a the local co-operative gallery Collective Art Gallery of Topeka. This month, I swapped work days with a fellow artist, this is common when we discover conflicts in our schedules, just seemed like a typical day at the gallery. I received a phone call from a gentleman from the Art in Embassies Program and he inquired about member artists who have sunflower pieces. He was putting together an exhibition for the Paraguay Ambassador and sunflowers where a connection between the two countries. He had called the gallery because he knew there had to be an artist in Kansas who painted sunflowers.

Being caught of guard by the call, not a single artist came to mind... except my own. I stuttered and hemmed a second or two and said "At the risk of sounding self serving, I paint Kansas wildflowers and have several sunflower paintings, but I could make some calls and see if our other members have sunflowers they'd like to submit."

He asked me if I could send him Jpgs of some of my pieces and I told him he could have instant access on my website. We disconnected, I made a phone call to help my foggy brain, gathered a list of fellow sunflower painters.

A short time later, he called back and was very complementary about my two Apollo in Kansas paintings and requested to send them on to the curator. Making a long story short, they were accepted by the curator and off we go on the adventure. These pieces will be more world traveled than me! How exciting!

Had I not been working for someone else that day, would my pieces have been suggested or selected? All I can say is WOW! You can never predict what a day will bring you.

I didn't know about this program and I am pleased to discover it. The Art in Embassies Progam also accepts submissions.

About the Art in Embassies Program:

Established by the United States Department of State in 1964, the ART In Embassies Program is a global museum that exhibits original works of art by U.S. citizens in the public rooms of approximately 180 American diplomatic residences worldwide. These exhibitions, with art loaned from galleries, museums, individual artists, and corporate and private collections, play an important role in our nation's public diplomacy. They provide international audiences with a sense of the quality, scope, and diversity of American art and culture through the accomplishments of some of our most important citizens, our artists.

ART's curatorial team develops thematic exhibitions in collaboration with each ambassador, taking into account the host country's artistic traditions and cultural mores. They recommend artists and works of art, negotiate all loans, and propose placement of the art within the embassy residences. After all loans are secured and the art insured, ART's registrars coordinate with professional art handlers for the assembly, packing, crating and safe shipment of each exhibition to post.

Art in Embassies Program

Comment on or Share this Article

Sweet Tweets! New Twitter Fan!

A Part of the Crowd

I joined Twitter several months ago. There was some buzz about the application and how cool it was. Well, as I spent a couple of days tweeting the whole business just didn't make sense. I had 3 followers and didn't know who to follow myself? it was just so foreign to me. Why does anyone what to hear what an obscure artist is doing during the day? Ok, I just wasn't getting it.


Then fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with Chad Manspeaker and Joshua Dieker with Mixed Media (a new Topeka company offering their experience with Web 2.0 and website development.) They had worked in our local elections as Nancy Boyda's campaign management. They used Obama's campaign model by utilizing social media to enhance her constituency outreach.


What an eye opener. He made it really simple, tweet about yourself, use the search tool to find people in your area to follow or people who have similar interests and watch your circle grow. Also, he introduced me the integration of Twitter and Facebook if they find you on one application they will probably seek you out on the other.


He also explained how it's changing the entire concept of marketing back to the oldest most original concept of marketing ? by word of mouth (or should I say by stroke of the keyboard) and friends recommendations. The only difference is that it goes at light speed rather than plodding along via Pony Express. He wasn't kidding.


To keep from being intimidated I didn't want to grow too fast, just a steady growth so that I wouldn't get overwhelmed and this is exactly what I got. It's amazing! In just a couple of weeks and maybe 3 hrs total of poking around, I have 47 followers on Twitter, many whom I don't know but have found my tweets interesting and I have found their tweets interesting as well. On Facebook, my friends have grown to more than 42 (and not all from my personal solicitation) from around 5 many local people who have access to the galleries that I show in and many who I know but haven't been in touch with for years.  My circle includes many from the local media circle as well. The best news of all is that my website gained 171% in activity from last month.  People are starting to find me online and it is literally growing on a daily basis.


Between Twitter and Facebook if used properly can launch your online presence from obscurity to a targeted, interested, friend base. Now, I am not even going to pretend to know all the ins and outs of either application, because I am still learning. My strategy is simple. Use Twitter and Facebook in tandem to enhance my online presence and drive traffic to my site.


Facebook has several perks for artists who participate: just take a look at their Statistics. http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics

Specifically for artists, more than half of their 150 million users are outside of college and their fastest growing demographic is people over 30 years old?. This adds up to educated people who have the funds to buy art. Many people who are on twitter own the high end phones with internet services. If they have those kinds of toys, logic follows they can also afford fine art. Just take a look at those stats on the site and see how that plays into a marketing goal for the artist.


Next, not only did I have my profile on Facebook, I also created a "page" about me and my artwork. These can be found at the bottom of the page under "advertising." Creating a "page" is completely free and then you can add applications to them as well.  With "devices" turned on and the Twitter application added to my Facebook profile, I can update my status on one and catch both systems in one sweep, even from my cell phone.  Also, I discovered that I can RSS (really simple syndication) my blog to pick up my blogs as notes for both my page and my profile. What a time saving applications! No more cutting a pasting my blog so that all of my friends can find it!  


A local group of Twitter fans started to gather in the evenings at "Tweet Ups" where you can actually meet fellow Tweeters in real life. What a fantastic opportunity to rub elbows with those interesting people! I have planned a "Tweet Up" for SouthWind Gallery in Topeka where I work, it is a preview opportunity for the tweeters to get together, enjoy new art (some of which are mine) and get to know each other. All in building bonds across the area. (If you are interested take a look at my events on Facebook "Michelle Leivan" or follow me on twitter @michelle_leivan)


Finally, one final thought ? people buy art from artists they connect with, either the art itself connects or they know the artist and therefore enjoy the artwork even more through the relationship connection. The advent of the Web 2.0 creates the "conversation" era for the information age. The web is no longer a simple tool to find or present information, now we can make connections, social interactions! Share and have conversations with people across the world. It's just simply amazing! Isn't life Tweet!

Comment on or Share this Article

Critiques and "Cutting Edge Subject Matter"

A few months back I applied for Junction City Arts Council's Premier Artist Search 2009. It was the type of contest that, like every other art contest? subjective. It is healthy to occasionally subject yourself to criticism as an artist and my hope was for the minor entry fee to get feedback from professionals with fresh eyes. I was successful in that endeavor but it has put me in a quandary for the last few days because I received the coveted feedback. Let me start a out telling you what I received.


Three art professionals were asked to critique the work. Two are unidentified and one gracefully put her critique on letterhead. There were 4 categories for the judges to respond to: Professionalism and technical skills, Originality, Clarity of Style and Overall presentation. Each with a scale of 1 to 5 ? making it possible for a high score of 20.


The first unnamed juror was extremely lean on their comments? Nothing on Professionalism?? On Creativity "I have seen similar work before." (I am really wondering if they haven't see MY work before.)  On Clarity of Style "I see two styles in this body of work & I believe the florals show stronger." Then Overall: "I see the floral as a much stronger form for marketability. Finally, overall score given 12.5  (Ok so I see their point, did wonder where they had seen bald headed yellow nudes in Kansas though? Maybe just concentrated on the florals. Overall, I am dissatisfied with my feedback from the juror? Money wasted here?)


The second unnamed juror was a bit more insightful. Score marked hand written on top "10" --- oops! "As the artist points out in her statement, the images presented reflect at least three distinct series. While all three have their virtues, the problem is that they are too distinct ? so much so that it is hard to see the imprint of one artist on the total body of work. I prefer the simplicity and material usage in the "Kansas Wildflower" series. They are unpretentiously presented, beautifully colored and skillfully rendered. Other than the entire body of work being figurative and brightly colored, it's hard to discern obvious or even subtle connections. While it isn't necessarily a weakness to work in such seemingly disparate series, it does make it hard for the viewer to fairly assess or even find the underlying aesthetic of the artist. Some work appears too illustrative, perhaps even appropriate for a children's book. (Clear concise, constructive. But I'm still wondering if my Tarot series or my nudes are for children's books, maybe it's just a right mind type of thing.)


Finally the last critique? worth the entry fee? This one was an identified local gallery owner.


Professionalism and Technical Skills: 4

Comments: Michelle appears to be a really good commercial artist. She has a strong grasp of style, form and function. I am not sure I buy her philosophy, but I am happy to see a strong point of view. In viewing her collectors, I see a list of people that I also respect and have shared as clients through the years. It makes me believe that there is more to Michelle than we are seeing here.


Originality: 4

Comments: Her work is a little trite. I think I would like to see her open herself up to more risk taking. She has a good sense of color and use of color in juxtaposition to design. She pulls both components off seamlessly.


Clarity of Style: 5

Comments: Very clear style and direction; almost too commercial. I would advise her to stay away from the floral work. It has been overdone and there are people that do it much better than she does. If she was in my artist stable I would push her to experiment more with color and form and strive for cutting edge subject matter?. Oh the last sentence, I so much want clarity on that statement.


Overall: 5

Comments: The talent is there. She is a very good artist. But, I would push her to let go of herself and express the miracle that may be inside her. I believe that there is much more she can be doing that may surprise even her? Good News! Overall this critique filled with thoughtful criticism definitely made it worth the fee.


Oh, the quandary?. Florals or no Florals but cutting edge subject matter. Ahhh, I must remember where I am and that these professionals also live where I do and if I was successful and receiving comment from a professional from the east or west coast? I am sure that my critiques would have a completely different feel, not to mention if I ask my neighbor for her opinion.


But my biggest and most haunting statement was "cutting edge subject matter" Surely it's more than throwing some stuff together and calling it Steve?. I live in Kansas, in the center of the Bible Belt, this is where my current market is. For the most part, as artists our work is a reflection of our inner being, the environment we live in and our various skills.


It is important to meet your market and I fail to do that locally with all of my series except my florals so they are here to stay for the time being. But, I love my other pieces as well. I completely understand that the majority of my local market will not appreciate them and may not even understand them. These scream at me time to time to be created so then to stay sane I must oblige. In order to finance my work with sales and until my market expands beyond the Midwest my work will continue down a few different paths. I don't believe I am the only artist in history with this quandary.  


I guess what I need to walk away with is the realization that as an artist we are in a regular flux of growth and expansion. Maybe I do need to let go of myself and just let it flow. I am sure in time my work will merge into something that may surprise even me. Who knows where these thoughts may lead? sounds like a new adventure.


I just wish I knew what "cutting edge subject matter" is exactly? Where is Picasso when you want to ask him a question? LOL  If you know the answer please enlighten me? I need to know!


Comment on or Share this Article