Free music: stream a solo piano album

Listen to 30+ minutes of original piano music

Piano hands stream free solo piano album

The music in this solo piano album (still in progress) is somewhat soundtrack-ish, which makes it easy to listen to while working.

It plays on a lot of nostalgia-inducing themes, which makes it better to listen to while drawing or writing moody pieces. It’s probably not the best background music to planning an upbeat social media campaign. ;)

I’m still composing and recording more piano solos for the album, so check back here later if you like what you hear and want to hear more.

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The Writer: a surreal portrait

Whether you’re a writer, musician, visual artist, or creator of any kind, you’ve probably noticed that your opinion of your own work can change over time. Since we humans are regularly changing (and hopefully growing), often creators are ashamed of their old work because it doesn’t represent who they’ve become.

On the other hand, sometimes a creative will stumble upon an old piece of work they almost threw away years ago, and find themselves pleasantly surprised.  That thing that almost ended up in a landfill has become work they’re proud of.

This happened to me with this blue ballpoint drawing. There’s a reason it bothered me then, but that has since become irrelevant.

surreal portrait drawing in blue ballpoint pen by Laura Kranz

The story behind the surreal portrait drawing

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Photos from Castle Rock (a short hike in Tumwater Canyon)

This collection of photos is from a short but rewarding hike in Tumwater Canyon right outside of Leavenworth, Washington. It’s a relatively popular spot for top-rope and lead climbers during the summer, but it’s also a great place to go if you want a gorgeous view in a short time and are OK with some scrambling. The spot gets extremely warm in the summer, so it’s good to bring lots of water even though the whole hike can be completed in under an hour.

Castle Rock Tumwater Canyon-24

Can you spot the human?

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How to paint a guitar

Painted guitar art Cyborg Crow in Native Style by Laura Kranz

From instrument to wall art: a cyborg crow painted onto an old Yamaha 12-string guitar

There are many unusual materials you can use as an art canvas. One of them, as I learned this past weekend, is a guitar.

In this post, you’ll see photos of the guitar I painted, and I’ll lay out the process step by step so that you can try it on your own guitar.

Disclaimer: this post is not about painting on a guitar that you want to be able to play afterward. This is about taking a guitar you don’t plan on playing again, and turning it into something that looks great hanging on someone’s wall.

How to paint a guitar step by step

Here’s the process I went through for turning an old guitar into a painting. I hope it will help you avoid some of the mistakes I made when trying it out for the first time.

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The best places to find Iceland photos

Iceland photos Gulfoss waterfallHas Iceland caught your attention?

The lonely little country of Iceland, once thought of as obscure (when it was thought of at all), is gaining a reputation for being awesome. And that’s happening for really good reasons.

Iceland is a geographical anomaly.

It’s one of a just a few places in the world that’s both on a divergent plate boundary and above sea level. This is why Iceland is known for volcanoes, hotsprings, and geysers.

Iceland is extremely friendly to tourism.

When I traveled to Iceland in Spring of 2013—Iceland was the destination of choice for our honeymoon—I was treated better by locals than in any other country I’ve been to. Tourism has become an important industry for Iceland’s economy, and it shows in how friendly they are to their tourists.

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Creature drawings, paintings, and sketches

Surreal creature drawing "The Hard Way" by Laura KranzCreature drawings are one of my all-time favorite types of art to make. You’ll find close to 100 imaginary creatures in the collections on this page—and the galleries will keep growing as I create more art.

Insect-like characteristics, slime or decay, and robotics are common themes that show up in many of my creature art pieces. The patterns in the carpet, wrinkles in clothes, or shapes I see in woodgrain constantly seem to be inhabited by strange characters.

Many of the monsters I draw were born out of a simple texture that told a story.

Here, you’ll find collections (arranged by medium) of all of my creature-themed work. Clicking each drawing will enlarge it.

Navigate the creature artwork

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Creativity doesn’t handicap rational thought. Creatives do.

creative rational-IMG_4638The more creative you are, the less rational you can be, and the more rational you are, the less creative you can be. Or so we tell each other.

You’ve probably heard the words “I’m not creative” in school or at work from classmates or co-workers who are too shy to speak up or can’t think of a non-cliche paper topic. You may have also heard the phrase “I’m creative” from others used as an excuse for ignoring the rules or bombing a math test. Creativity is a weirdly polarizing characteristic, and the presence or absence of it is used to explain all kinds of actions (or lack thereof).

Creatives and rationals stereotype each other (and themselves)

I’m an artist, but I’ve also worked in the “highly creative” field of database marketing—so I’ve been pegged as both irrational and uncreative at different times from both sides. Intellectual acquaintances who only know me as an artist tend to talk down to me; they expect me to have no context, interest, or aptitude in topics I know like the back of my hand. This annoys me, but when I interact with creatives who don’t know I’m an artist, it becomes painfully clear why academic or business-savvy people are inclined to speak to self-identified creatives that way.

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35 free photos of Venice, Italy

free venice photos gondolasThe 35 free photographs in this collection were all taken in beautiful Venice, Italy. I was able to capture the images during a low-budget backpacking trip with two friends I met at Capernwray Hall (an international gap-year Bible school in rural northern England).

During this trip—I was just 19 at the time—my two friends and I traveled to nine different countries in 30 days, and the whole experience cost me less than $2,000. If I were to do it again, I’d definitely try to have more money saved up; there was a lot of roughing it, and we didn’t usually feel very safe. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to get back to a dormitory-style bed in my life. On the other hand, it turned out to be an extremely enriching experience, and I came back with my camera still in tact and lots of great photos to show for it.

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12 drawing ideas to overcome creative blocks (free email course)

drawing ideas kitchen creature

A drawing based on one of the 12 ideas

Are you struggling to come up with drawing ideas? You’re not alone. Many creative people deal with mental blocks. Staring at a blank sketchpad with no idea what you’re going to draw can be frustrating.

This year-long art challenge includes 12 drawing ideas to help you clear those creative clogs. There’s one idea for every month of the year. Just sign up here to get one drawing idea emailed to you every month for a year!

Get one drawing idea per month for a year

You can pick and choose the drawing ideas you like, do all 12 in a week, or just start with the email course and see where it takes you. If you get through all of these and want more, check out these ideas on making surreal art.

If you create an art piece based on these drawing ideas and want your art featured in this blog post, just send a photo of your final piece to laura [at] I’d love to show off your work!

These drawing ideas are created by setting limitations for the artist. Limitations give us creative problems to solve. This helps us avoid dealing with the intimidating blank space of infinite possibilities.  I like to imagine the act of setting limitations as building shelves to put ideas on.

The limitations function as a framework for the final art piece. In this list of drawing ideas, each one has two limitations. First, the medium(s) used to create the art piece have been narrowed down.  And secondly (and most importantly), the subject matter has been narrowed down.

Navigate monthly drawing ideas

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Painted wedding portrait (a commissioned art piece)

If you’ve followed my work for a little while, you’ll know that I create art in a variety of mediums, mostly for the purpose of exploring a concept or helping to educate about a specific topic. On occasion, someone will reach out to me to create a custom art piece just for them. To give you an example, here’s my latest commissioned piece of work.

How to commission me

About the wedding portrait

The friend who commissioned me only had very low-resolution photos of her wedding, but she wanted a large tribute to the event to hang on her wall. She sent a digital version of the tiny photograph, and asked me to create a 24-inch–tall painting of the scene.

It was tough to discern detail in the image, which helped me decide on the style of painting I would use. There would be visible brushstrokes in the final piece so that I wouldn’t have to paint details that weren’t represented in the photograph—especially details in the face of someone I’d never met.  Not many people likely want a portrait of two happy strangers on their wall. Continue reading