CARTER CITY Artist Julie Rhea Lewis enjoys the freedom of creativity in her home studio. She also enjoys sharing that freedom with students in her Curly Bird Studio on her property.

The 52-year-old artist experiments in a variety of media — from painting, drawing, acrylics, mixed media and monoprinting — but she has a special love for art journaling.

“When you think of art that you put on a wall — other people see it — which means it is up for judgment,” she said. “I think people ‘get’ art in different ways. They see it and it invokes a feeling. Some people look at art and they look to see if it looks realistic and they judge it against a skill to replicate perfectly. Art journaling is in a book that does not have to be shown to the world unless you want to, so it is all yummy art just for your own eyes and soul. I always think the kids learn the most from working in their journals.”

That’s not to say you can’t share your journal. Lewis said journals help children keep track of their creations.

She said by middle school, children respond well to prompts — suggestions of what to work on, such as make an item that’s blue or circular.

“As an adult, prompts still work, and it is a place to work out techniques and make messes and mistakes that sometimes turn into lovely pieces of work,” she said. “Maybe you didn’t know you would like to use peach and green until you wiped your brush off in your journal and saw the two side by side. I think adults learn the most about themselves when working in their journals.”

Lewis doesn’t consider herself a teacher of art as much as a participant.

“Before COVID, I provided one-hour classes to kids and teens five times a week after my full-time job. Some of our classes focus on artists, sometimes techniques, sometimes I let them work in journals which seems like free art time to them. Every couple of months I did a canvas party which allowed them to follow along in the step-by-step process,” she said, adding she hopes to return to classes soon.

The classes for children are important, she said.

“My classes are also nonjudgmental. I am not creating the best artists. Each artist must do that by practicing their skills. I just try to help them express themselves and throw some art basics in at the same time,” Lewis said. “Some of these kids are better skilled artists than me. I just provided a place to play with cool art supplies.”

Lewis enjoys a variety of media, including journaling. She has deep roots in art.

“My paternal grandmother was a fine artist. My maternal grandmother was a seamstress designing and making clothes. I have one son who does photography, one who does costume work for professional ballets, a daughter who does digital art, a stepson who does woodwork, and my husband can build anything from buildings to cars,” she said. “I just try to ‘keep up.’”

As an only child, Lewis spent a lot of time drawing and painting.

“I love it when I see friends who tell me they remember coming to our apartment and seeing my walls filled with artwork I had made,” she said.

Her artwork took a back seat to life after high school, when she started a family; although she did some sewing, she said she didn’t have time to paint.

Later, while working for Grayson RECC, she earned a degree from The Art Institute in graphic design. Working in mixed media rekindled her interest.

“I loved every assignment from art history to color theory. I just needed more of it in my life,” she said.

It worked.

“I started posting things I had painted online and had a local mom ask me if I would paint with her young daughter,” Lewis said. Her painting parties grew by word of mouth until her husband renovated a place for the art-based get-togethers, now known as Curly Bird Studio.

“I wanted to have a group of people to talk with about the simple joys of color and art making,” Lewis said. “So I prayed for a while for God to give me some friends that I could share with. And He did — and they were about 6 years old.”

Lewis sells original, prints and greeting cards at her husband’s store, J.F. Lewis & Co. Furniture Store, and at Horton Bros. and Brown Compounding Pharmacy in Grayson. She also takes commissions and displays and sells her art at the Grayson Gallery and Art Center. She also has designed posters for the gallery. She said she hopes to do a journal class for adults.

(606) 326-2661 |

For more information, visit the Curly Bird Studio Facebook. View Julie Rhea Lewis’ work at

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