There is something that happens when I teach. I see this light turn on when my students have the art supplies in front of them. The excitement is what makes this so rewarding for me.

Photo by Margaret Alvarez

I attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas. It was there I learned how to use an art journal. If you were in the visual art department, they required you to carry one and it was graded. I struggled with my art journal; I wasn’t sure how to use it. I saw others with beautifully filled journals, but I felt that I didn’t have much to say. As I got older that would change. I was gaining new experiences and growing, and I started to consistently use my art journal to reflect on my growth. I didn’t know it at the time, but I would be carrying this art journal for the rest of my life.

Photo by Margaret Alvarez

Art journaling reflects who I am. It is a record of my development and my experiences. As an adult I’ve learned to use it as an outlet. For the past six years a reoccurring theme in my art journal has been GRATITUDE. This brought to life the idea of teaching others to start a “Creative Gratitude Practice”. This gratitude practice would also include exploring art materials, art techniques, collage and writing. I felt so strongly that without this gratitude practice I created, I would have nothing. If I could have this safe space to record all my blessings and reflect on the life, I am grateful for, why couldn’t I share these ideas with others? Once I came to this conclusion, I knew it was time. 

This happened during a very interesting period. It felt like divine timing! The pandemic started and I was working from home for five months. I needed my art journal more than ever. It was helping me put everything that was happening into perspective. So, I started sharing my ideas on social media, and brought “My Artsy Coach” to life. I would coach people on using creativity as self-care, mainly using an art journal as a gratitude journal, combined. Art journaling is something I am very passionate about, so it seemed like a great place to start. I began by creating a website, social media accounts and I invited people to try out my Art Journaling workshops for free. I wanted to dig in and share how truly helpful this practice was. 

Photo by Margaret Alvarez

After teaching several online workshops I was introduced to Kristi Nelson’s book, Wake Up Grateful, by one of my students. She thought I would really enjoy it, since my focus is gratitude. 

I was blown away by the ideas in this book. I found so many things that I related to. I knew I wanted to make this book a part of my journey, so I started by creating a “5-day Gratitude Challenge” on YouTube. The challenge was based on the five guiding principles in the book. Each day of the challenge would include a discussion about each of the principles, doing a related activity and then a reflection, by doing art journaling prompts. 

Photo by Margaret Alvarez

There are many things I now do to share my ideas. I’ve taught myself how to create and edit videos, reach out to people in need and I speak my truth. I do this by sharing how gratitude has changed my life. I realize some people are afraid to be creative. They don’t know what to do when faced with art supplies and blank pages. I think this is the reason my work is so important. People who want to be creative but don’t know where to begin are in need of coaching, and I wanted to be there to guide them. I want to provide the tools to help people create a shift in perspective, embrace something new and channel good energy, especially during difficult times. What better way than GRATITUDE!  

There is something that happens when I teach. I see this light turn on when my students have the art supplies in front of them. The excitement is what makes this so rewarding for me. I love art and I love teaching so much. I feel very fortunate that I get to do this job for a living and now I also get to share why my Creative Gratitude Practice is so important to me. It has been such a gift.

5-Day Gratitude Challenge: Invitation to Practice

In the short videos linked below, I offer a fun 5-day practice focused on the five guiding principles of grateful living, as written by Kristi Nelson in Wake Up Grateful: The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted. Each day offers a brief reflection on the principle and a guided creative exploration.

Day 1: Life is a Gift

Day 2: Everything is Surprise

Day 3: The Ordinary is Extraordinary

Day 4: Appreciation is Generative

Day 5: Love is Transformative

Margaret Alvarez

Margaret Alvarez

About the author

Margaret Alvarez is a working artist who has been passionate about art ever since she was a small child. She has taught art for grades K-8 full time in private schools for the past 13 years. In 2019 she founded My Artsy Coach where she hosts creative gratitude practice workshops that help people connect creativity, art journaling, and gratitude. She received her BA in Fine Arts from the University of Houston and her master’s in teaching with a specialization in Teaching and Learning in a Global Society from National University. She lives in Houston, TX with her family and feels very fortunate that she gets to share her passion for art and gratitude with the world. Connect with her at and on Instagram @myartsycoach.