Finding Inspiration in Your Creative Space

I am so excited to share Miss Vanessa Brantley-Newton and her art studio with all of you today! 

If you aren’t familiar with Vanessa, you are in for a treat. Vanessa has illustrated around 90 children’s books, and I’m going to give away her next picture book, Becoming Vanessa, at the end of this blog post. Vanessa’s vibrant style and representation of so many children just makes me happy. 


And she has a way of bringing love and joy with her words as well. I shared one of her poems with a niece just yesterday. Vanessa really is sunshine. 


Go ahead and watch the video, and then I’ll highlight some of Vanessa’s tips for making a creative space where you can find everyday inspiration.

Tip #1: “Find a place that you can call your own.”

Find a place where there’s light and quiet that you can call your own, where you can work and be enlightened, even if it’s just your kitchen table. 

Vanessa got her first illustrating job for a major publishing house because a friend she didn’t even know worked as an editor came over and saw her work out on her kitchen table.

We all have to start somewhere.

Tip #2: “Find the things that inspire you.”

Books, music, fabric, chachkas, quotes, art—bring in whatever makes you feel happy and creative. Personally, I have a thing for plants (and books, of course). Vanessa finds inspiration in the art supplies themselves, as well as other things. I like the way she talks about how much she loves her office. “There is never a time that I come into this office that I am not inspired.” I want to feel that way about my office.

Tip #3: “Make it a sacred space.”

Vanessa says to make it a place where no one is allowed unless you invite them. (Parents, Vanessa and I see you. You may be at a stage in life where you need to invite your kids, and some of those days will go better than others.) She said it should be a place where you feel safe to meditate or pray or whatever it is you to to feel lifted and inspired.

Tip #4: “It doesn’t need to be a whole big office.”

She says you don’t need a big space with a lot of supplies. You only need the supplies that make you happy. And she’s right. As long as you have what you need to get the work done, you’re good.

While Vanessa is at a stage where she has a big office with a lot of supplies, she didn’t start out that way. 


I just barely moved into a house where I have my own creative corner. For the first time in my life, I have a table where I can leave projects out, and I love it! I still don’t have tons of supplies, and most of the ones I have came from Vanessa a few weeks ago when I was telling her about my fun new space. (Yeah, when she said she loves to give away art supplies to friends, she really does that.) But I got work done before that. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with copy paper, index cards, pens, pencils, sharpies, Wite-Out, and tape.


I’m going to leave you with one last quote from Vanessa: “Create the space that you’re going to be most inspired in.”

Picture Book Giveaway

And now I’m going to give away Vanessa’s next picture book, Becoming Vanessa. The book doesn’t release until next month, so I will preorder it for the winner. Tell me something helpful you learned from Vanessa’s video in the comments to enter. This giveaway will close on May 15 at midnight, PDT. You can share this post on social media for extra entries. Just post a link (or let me know) in a comment below. 


If you'd like to learn more about Vanessa, you can read this blog post I wrote about her a year ago. It includes some of her other books, what she teaches for Storyteller Academy, and a TED Talk she gave awhile back. She also has her own website and is a joy to follow on Instagram.


Thanks for reading!

Picture of Myrna Foster
Myrna Foster

Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems.

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35 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration in Your Creative Space”

  1. Oh, my goodness! I'd love a copy of Vanessa's new book! And what a great video. It was wonderful to see her creative space; so full of light. I learned that it's ok to take/make a space your own. Big or small it can be just what we need to inspire us and fill us with creative joy.

  2. Vanessa, thank you for virtually inviting us into your creative space! I am illustrating my first book, and as a gift to myself for my 40th birthday, I am redecorating my office space which also doubles as a guest room. The part of your video that resonated with me the most is the advice that our creative space doesn’t have to be a large space as long as it is a space where we feel inspired to create.

  3. jonathan simon

    I would love a copy of your brand new book and what resinated with me is that a space does not have to be big but to make it your own

  4. Vanessa Raney

    Ha ha, first, we have the same first name! Her idea of creating a creative space with the things that inspire you actually mirrors my own intent to set up the big paper trees and cutout animals as the background for when I teach. I love color and nature, but, first, I'm still working to organize my office space which has been a step by step process since last year. I have a few months before I launch, so I'm not rushing! For me, writing happens in all kinds of circumstances, at my computer, on my phone, and with sticky notes and notepads. The ideal home I want to move my mom and me into will have five rooms (2 bedrooms, 2 offices, and 1 TV/workout room) so that I can turn the living room into my own creative space for art; Vanessa has shown me a great possibility for how that might actually look. What she has inspired for me now, however, is the desire to finally open up the watercolor pencils I bought last year and experiment with them. I will do this every morning until my Ugly Sketchbook/Morning Journal meets an end. THEN, I'm going to buy something else to play with in another Ugly Sketchbook/Morning Journal! Thanks so much, Vanessa, for inspiring me!

  5. I loved seeing such a beautiful creative space! It was so inspiring. I also appreciated when she said she likes to keep things “tidy” in bins and containers… girl, I SEE you!! Vanessa validated keeping little items around that bring joy and inspiration, I love that!

  6. Vanessa saying “You don’t need a big space with a lot of supplies. You only need the supplies that make you happy.” Gave me a gentle reminder it's okay not to own all the supplies. Just the ones I need for my watercolors. Which I love to do.
    Looking forward to her new book.

  7. Vanessa, your creative space is wonderful and makes me happy and inspired! I especially love that you shop your own space. Sometimes when I’m feeling stuck, I dig through my own art supplies and look through my old sketchbooks and the ideas flow again. Thank you for sharing and encouraging and inspiring us!

  8. What I learned from Vanessa Brantley-Newton–That she is definitely the “all-around sunshine”! My takeaway was that we need to create a space that you “feel creative in, feel calm, elated, and happy to be there.” Being in that space should allow you to take time to find “what inspires and lifts you.” For her, it didn't matter how big the space was/is/will be. The key hinges on creating the space “you're going to be most inspired in.” Just listening to this “all-around sunshine” definitely injected me with inspiration to create things on my heart and from my heart. Thank you, Vanessa. I look forward to meeting you sometime.

    Thanks, Myrna, for being so creative yourself!

    Darrel L. Hammon

  9. Denise O'Daniels

    It was delightful to “visit” Vanessa in her studio! I wanted to look at every little thing, and now I really want to make myself a paper character that will literally sit on a shelf, too! (Didn't you love her paper lady sitting and reading on a shelf?) I love that although her work is creative and takes place at home, she sets Saturdays apart for herself to have some free creative time just for fun and discovery.

  10. Elizabeth Moore

    I am a huge fan of Vanessa simply because she radiates the joy of being creative. I really believe in making an area your own creative area, of course right now “my area” is taking over much of my bedroom and part of my den. I feel the same as she does, I love art supplies! Can't wait to see more from Vanessa . It is so nice to find out that you are not the only one that thinks this way.

  11. Thanks so much for the post and video. I loved seeing Vanessa's beautiful, joyful office and hearing how she fills her creative space with joy and inspiration. I too started writing from my dining room table. I shared this delightful blog post on Twitter!
    Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom, Vanessa! Congratulations on BECOMING VANESSA! Can't wait to read it.

  12. Sally Yorke-Viney

    Vanessa, thank you so much for sharing your creative space and how this space lifts you up emotionally and spiritually! You joyful sunshine beams through you and out to the world!

  13. I loved your class, this video and hearing you on TED talk! I love your heart and all of your creativity and amazing work space you shared! I would love to have a copy of your new book!
    Deborah Wise

  14. Vanessa's office is a window into her creativity, talent, and personality. It's bursting with color, full of supplies that you want to pick up and play with, rich in texture and everything looks like the most wonderful designer's store window. Thanks for inviting us in to soak up the sunshine, happy, and joy of creativity, Vanessa. Mine has a way to go but I have so many new ideas for it. You made us feel like special guests.

  15. My takeaway: it's important to have a space that inspires you and interests others. Please send me a copy of her book.

  16. How much fun was this??!! I came across Vanessa's work a few years ago and have followed her work on social media ever since. Vanessa is such a joyful and authentic creator. She is incredibly inspiring and radiates love. I can not wait for her new book! Her studio tour made me feel better about my collections of “junk”. I love that she has it all out on display. Thank you for this post!

  17. Ohhhh this was so inspiring. I love Vanessa's energy and enthusiasm. I'll be making some changes to my little creative corner. I love her advice to make it a sacred space..

  18. I appreciate the advice to not only surround yourself with books that inspire you, but music as well. What a beautiful studio!

  19. Debbie Whitaker-Meneses

    Thank you for the tour of your fun, Fun FUN Creative Space. I have started to create my own such nook. My husband calls it my “Studio.” Somehow just that word “Studio” makes it seem as if that’s the most important space in our home. I am inspired by your many creative images and sculpture pieces of children displayed in your space, as if their spirit is cheering you on to be your most creative self. I have collected pieces of objects, scraps, ribbons, and textured items my whole life and now there is a space where I see all the items to be used as magical “scraps” sparking my imagination. There is a store in Portland, Oregon called “Scrap.” Have you seen their website? They have pictures of what us inside their store. My children seeing this store said, “Oh my! Mom would love this place! It looks like she would be in so inspired in, here.”

  20. Thank you Vanessa, for encouraging me to make the room and place or corner for art. Someplace to do me. I sure like your room it was filled with you. I hope I can make one as enchanting. You are such an encourager and I appreciate it

  21. Tiffany Daraja

    I enjoyed reading Vanessa's learning curves. It's a wonderful simple reminder of you having everything you need to just do it. Finding inspiration within yourself and using other things for guidance. Using what you have to grab onto the momentum and building on it. You don't need the whirls to start something. Just take the leap and put your best foot forward and enjoy the journey along the way. Learn from everything and your experience.

    Thank you

  22. Loved this! And I can't wait to see her new book! After watching this video, I feel like Vanessa has given me permission to group my art supplies and PBs by color. 🙂

  23. Eva NMN Felder

    Vanessa is right when she says “I am the spreader of sunshine.”
    Her voice is clear and strong when she either talks, writes, illustrates or sings. She is such an inspiration for me.
    “Make it a sacred space for you” is so personal and powerful. I would love to meet her in person, exchange earrings with her and just get lost in her colors. Her light is so energetic that it is impossible to be left in the darkness.

  24. Such an inspiring video. Love the concept that you can start with whatever space you have available, and your method of organization is whatever you want it to be!

  25. Wow, thank you for letting us see this unique space where you create! I love the idea of filling a sacred space with things that make me happy and calm.

  26. I got a lot of validation from this post. I just moved, and now have a small office where I put my computer, favorite (mostly picture) books, tchotchkes, and art supplies. Many years ago, I had my friend build a light table for me, and that lives in the office, too. A few cat beds and a cat tower, some of my favorite art, and coffee lids to serve as coasters for my coffee and tea mugs. I do yoga in there, too. It's truly a small slice of heaven to have this space, even though the cat litter is in the closet :–) I had stopped doing art for a year or so, and this space has helped me refind that part of myself. I love that Vanessa arranges her books by the colors on their spines!

  27. Oh my goodness I love her space. During live workshops with Vanessa last term I always wished I could just poke my head a little further into her room and look around. Thanks for bringing us along Myrna! I loved her colorful open containers of pens, markers, pencils, etc. Very inviting. I will definitely be doing some intentional planning to adjust my creative space and make it joyful.

    (Shared on Facebook for the extra entry! ✔️)

  28. Vanessa is so inspiring! It's encouraging to hear that my creative space should work for me, and me alone. I don't have to try to work in a ‘professional' space. In fact, where and how I work changes with the seasons. Thanks for the peek inside!

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