A Bold Artist With A Smiling Heart

by Tess

Our guest today is Jen, an Australian artist & writer, currently living in China. I found Jen through her guest post on Tiny Buddha and felt like I found a friend. She could be the boldest blogger I've ever know!

As the author of the blog My Smiling Heart, she shares her inspirations & adventures whilst on her journey to self-discovery, with the hopes of making hearts smile all over the world.

What motivated you to start My Smiling Heart? 

I started My Smiling Heart in October 2010. My fiancé & I had been living in China for only 3 months, but in that time I’d had food poisoning more than once, suffered from anxiety attacks, I was unfairly fired from the teaching job I had moved across the world to do, our passports were illegally withheld by the school so that we couldn’t leave, & then I was bed ridden for a month with an unknown illness.

All of these sudden challenges left me in a state of shock. I was weak, miserable & felt like a failure. 

But, being sick gave me a lot of time to think. It gave me time to process everything that had happened, & I came to a realisation. I still had another nine months in China, as my fiancé was still under contract with the school.

I had three options: 

1. Go home to Australia

2. Stay in China & continue being miserable

3. Stay in China & make the most out of what life had given me 

I decided not to go home, because I knew that I would always wonder what I could have achieved had I stayed. I didn’t want to waste any more time feeling sorry for myself, so option number two was out.

I decided to go with number three, & do whatever I could in order to be truly happy again. That included anything from singing along to my favourite music & smiling at myself in the mirror every morning, to studying philosophy online & learning how to speak Mandarin.

But, by far one of the best things I started doing in my quest for happiness was writing. I had no idea how healing it could be. And that’s when I decided to start a blog. 

My Smiling Heart started as a way to document my journey as I built myself back up from ruin, but it has grown into so much more. I am always surprised to realise how passionate I am about My Smiling Heart.

I pour my heart into it, & I feel so blessed to know that it helps so many people all over the world. 

What’s your advice for people who are stuck and unmotivated? 

Try something new. Take that course you always wanted to, go on that adventure you’ve been dreaming of, or just go out & experience nature – go for a walk in a park or take up gardening. 

Anything that mixes up your routine. If you’re feeling unmotivated, think of the things that you love to do & find ways to incorporate them into the tasks you are procrastinating about.

For example, I just wrote an essay on Aristotle for my Philosophy class, but it took me weeks to actually sit down & start it. I kept seeing it as a chore, so I kept putting it off. 

I didn’t understand why I was so unmotivated – hadn’t I been so excited to learn about philosophy? I wanted to feel excited about it again, so I decided to change the way I thought about it.

Instead of seeing it as another task on my to-do-list, I saw it as another step on my journey to self-discovery. After all, I write about self-development all the time, so learning about Aristotle, one of the go-to guys for happiness, could only improve my life & my writing. 

By incorporating something I love (learning about happiness) into something I didn’t want to do (write an essay), not only did I complete the assignment within just a few hours, I learnt so much about happiness – some of which I’ve already started putting into practice!

What’s the quality you like best about yourself? 

Over the past few years, I’ve become very self-aware. It’s a quality that I often overlook in myself, but it is vital to living consciously. 

True, meaningful growth & happiness requires maintenance. Being aware of how we are feeling, & what we are thinking to create those feelings, then making any necessary changes, are essential to maintaining happiness. 

Having self-awareness means I am able to notice when I’m happy, gain a better understanding of myself, acknowledge how far I’ve come from the person I used to be, & fuel my desire to live my best life. 

My life would be bolder if____________________. 

I’ve thought about this question all day, listing all of the things I could do to live a bolder life. 

But then I realised something; boldness isn’t something you do; it’s something you are.

I think if I had more trust in myself & my abilities, spent more time focussing on my inner voice instead of on all the outer voices, & had the courage to be more assertive when needed, then I would be a bolder person, I would make bolder choices, & lead a bolder life. 

In order for my life to be bolder, I need to be bolder. That’s something I intend to improve on. 

If I knew then what I know now______________. 

I wouldn’t change a thing. As hard as it all was, everything happened exactly how it was supposed to, from getting fired to losing all hope. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.

What’s your favorite motto, mantra, or quote? 

Oh, how I love quotes! I have so many favourites, but one that sums up how I try to live my life is this one by Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Eat, Pray, Love: 

"There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under the jurisdiction. I can decide how I spend my time, whom I interact with, whom I share my body and life and money and energy with.

I can select what I can read and eat and study. I can choose how I'm going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life – whether I will see them as curses or opportunities.

I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts."

Another quote I live by, especially when it comes to writing, is this:

“The least & most each of us can do is make sure we release something good into the Universe regularly.” ~ Oprah Winfrey 

Favorite books on art and creativity? 

I don’t really read books on art & creativity that much. But I do read books that inspire me, which then lead me to live a more artistic & creative life. 

Books like Goldie Hawn’s A Lotus Grows In The Mud, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, & Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, have all inspired a lot of creativity & change for me. 

The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone is another book that has really changed my life; by encouraging me to live more consciously & to be kinder to myself, animals, & the earth. 

What is something that no one knows about you? 

I love getting older. I love the wisdom & knowledge that comes with age. 

I remember watching an episode of Oprah when I was about sixteen, & wishing that I was Oprah’s age, with all of her insight & ‘Aha! Moments’.

I wanted to know as much about myself as she knew about herself. I knew that the kind of wisdom I wanted required years of life experience & self-reflection. 

These days, while it still excites me to think of all the amazing moments & achievements that lay ahead of me, I’m in no rush. Right now, I’m just happy living in the moment as much as possible, whilst making countless memories for myself to cherish one day. 

What advice would you have for others who are a facing big change and fear? 

Breathe, & just go with it. Life is full of times that will require us to overcome our fears, but we are never faced with anything that we can’t handle. 

Whatever happens, be kind to yourself, & know that you have a choice. Fear can be a brick wall that keeps you trapped or a stepping stone towards a more fulfilling life.

Change can be a gift or a curse. It’s up to you. 

Remember: change leads to growth, & facing fears leads to strength. Go with it. 

A big decision I’m currently wrestling with is____? 

Lately, it’s not so much a decision that I’ve been wrestling with… it’s more like I’ve been wrestling with myself. 

I feel as though I’ve been in a period of transformation for a while now, & I’m starting to reach a point where there’s almost two of me; my old self, my old life; & this new self, that started emerging in my writing & is now entering all aspects of my life. 

I know it’s time to let go of the old parts of myself that are no longer serving me, but it’s a process. With each day though, with each piece of writing, & with every ‘Aha! Moment’ of my own, those old parts of me have been falling away, leaving room for new, awesome opportunities & experiences to enter my life & shape who I am. 

Where do you see yourself five years from now? 

In five years time, I would like to have travelled the world more, to have visited some of the places that I’ve always dreamed of visiting – like Rome or New York.

I want to have a career that I’m passionate about, such as writing, art, or something just as creative. I’m marrying my soulmate at the end of this year, so in five years time we will be celebrating our five year anniversary, & hopefully we will have started a little family of our own. 

But, mostly I just want to be leading a happy, fulfilling & purposeful life. 

If, in five years from now, I am still waking up with a smile on my face & love in my heart, spending time doing what I love, & somehow using my life to inspire others, then I will have succeeded. 

Why would we all love to visit China? 

There are many reasons to visit China; to witness a nation that is quickly on the rise; experience the culture; admire the architecture; to visit amazing landmarks such as the Great Wall; or to learn about this ancient county’s incredible history. 

Being in China, even just for a little while, is a very eye-opening experience. It is a completely different world from what we are used to in the west, especially if you visit places that aren’t necessarily tourist attractions. 

Of course, there are some things that take some getting used to, like undrinkable tap water, people spitting everywhere, & getting stared at all the time, but it’s all part of the experience of being in such a different country. 

Do you sell your art? Where can we find it? 

At the moment I mostly sell my artwork as prints, posters, gift cards, & t-shirts here. I also have some original pieces from my last exhibit available, & I am open to commission work. Feel free to email me at for any inquiries. 

Sign for Jen's  RSS feed to keep up with her travels, art and smile. Follow her on Twitter: @smiling_heart Or, become a fan on Facebook.

Please share your thoughts with Jen below!


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    { 28 comments… read them below or add one }

    Little Lessons Under the Big Sky January 26, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Tess, thank you for sharing Jen with us!

    Jen, this is an amazing journey you have been on. I love so much about your story. The fact that you were BOLD enough to go with the choice of sticking it out and designing something out of a very challenging situation, and come out stronger in the end.

    I am especially grateful you were able to find a calling, in discovering a love of writing and helping others along the way. That is exactly how I began my writing too..through a journey of self-discovery. I centers me and reminds me to live in the moment, as you are doing.

    Best of luck to you as you continue on your journey, and congrats on the upcoming wedding! I will look forward to checking out My Smiling Heart!
    Tess, thanks again for another wonderful post!
    (Another) Jen


    Jen January 27, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Jen, thanks so much for your lovely comment! I never even considered myself bold until I did this interview, but it’s a quality that I’ve always admired in others :)

    It’s great to meet other passionate writers, especially because I’m still so new to it (although it feels so right that sometimes it’s like I’ve always been a writer)

    Thank you so much for your comment & well-wishes, & for visiting my blog :) I look forward to getting to know you!

    Jen :)


    Galen Pearl January 26, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    I’ve been noticing your interesting comments on other blogs, so I thought I would check out your blog. So glad I did. This is a great post, so now I found two great blogs. Jackpot!


    Jen January 27, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Haha! How awesome is it to stumble upon blogs that you really connect with? I find myself doing it almost every day! Thanks so much for your comment, Galen :) I’m so glad you liked it!
    Keep Smiling!


    Mandy Allen January 27, 2011 at 3:20 am

    Hi Tess, what a fabulous find! And Jen, what a great adventure, I love adventures. Defintely another blog to add to my list to visit more often. I do hope you get to all the othe rplaces you want to visit, and in five years I believe we will have heard some amazing stories from you.

    Enjoy the journey.



    Jen January 27, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Hi Mandy :)

    Thanks so much for your words of encouragement! I definitely intend to make the next five years (& many years after) as AWESOME as possible :) I’m only at the beginning on this journey, but I’m loving the ride!

    Thanks for commenting, I look forward to getting to know you through the My Smiling Heart community!


    Dandy January 27, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Hi Tess and Jen,
    Thanks so much for sharing this. I love learning about smart, independent women who have a hold on themselves and their lives. I love what Jen said about maintence. It’s true if we are to continue being on the good path we are on, we must not take it for granted. We do have to keep ourselves in check and have that internal conversation with ourselves. This is a great article filled with positivity! Thanks so much ladies!


    Jen January 27, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Hi! :)

    Thank you so much for considering me to be a smart & independent woman. I have been working long & hard to become someone worthy of that title, & while I still feel I have bit further to go until I reach that point, I really am very honoured to know that I must be closer than I think if that’s what others see in me.

    Thanks for reading & commenting, I’m so happy you liked it :)


    Peggy January 27, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Hi Tess,

    thanks so much for introducing Jen! I’m heading over to check out her blog!



    Jen January 27, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Hi Peggy!

    Thanks for reading & commenting, & for visiting my blog! Welcome to the My Smiling Heart community :)


    Marci January 27, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Welcome Jen. I love hearing stories of how people find the upside in adversity. I find we often wait for happiness, and your message says, why wait, you can find something meaningful in even the things we don’t like to do.

    I once told myself that cleaning my house was better for my health (don’t like to clean, but like to be healthy – get some exercise by cleaning makes me mix what’s important to me with what I don’t like to do.) Great job!


    Jen January 27, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Hi Marci :)

    You are spot on, why wait for happiness when it’s right in front of you? That’s definitely something I’ve learned over the past few years.

    I’m exactly the same when it comes to cleaning! But my motivation is always how great I feel when everything is tidy, the whole cleaning process is a great way to clean yourself up mentally & emotionally, too :)

    Thanks for your lovely comment! Keep Smiling!


    Bryan Thompson January 27, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Jen, what an amazing journey. You took the road less traveled by (by almost everyone including myself so many times in life). How many times would I have been tempted to take Choice #1 (the go home option)? Your journey taught you some valuable lessons about life – #1 being that you could survive and learn to make the most of your experience. Try something new! You got it!

    Tess, great interview! Thanks for posting!


    Jen January 28, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Thanks Bryan,

    I must say that I have taken the ‘go home’ option many times in the past, & that’s probably one of the main reasons I didn’t choose it this time. I didn’t want to give up anymore. And I’m so glad I stuck it out! I wouldn’t be writing my blog or even writing this comment without it, & I wouldn’t be the strong person I am today.

    Thanks so much for your encouraging comment, & for stopping by My Smiling Heart! :)


    Tammy January 27, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Jen and Tess,
    Thanks so much for sharing this. Your boldness and your kindness shine through. You have amazing courage and it’s healing for you to tell the story and for us to hear it. Thanks so much for sharing.


    Jen January 28, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Hi Tammy,

    You are so right, the more I write about my experiences & share my vulnerabilities with the world, the more I heal & grow. I cannot tell you how much meaning my life gets by knowing that I can help so many people!

    Thank you so much for your comment :)


    Renee January 28, 2011 at 7:43 am

    Hey Jen- I continue to learn and be inspired by you! You have so much wisdom and have learned so much for being so young.
    I love what you said about living a BOLD life. It can be intimidating to be assertive and listen to that inner voice…..but the more I do it and see that the results are positive, my confidence grows and I feel like I am that much closer to living a BOLDER life!
    I love your artwork, esp. Flower Child! I am so happy to see I can order it!!
    Have a great day! ~Renee


    Jen January 28, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Hi Renee! :)

    Thank you so much for all of your support, it means a lot to me :) I’m still working hard to be more assertive & to make my inner voice louder than the outside voices, but it’s getting easier every day, especially with all of this encouragement! I love being a part of your journey to living your best life, so thank you for helping me with mine :)

    Keep Smiling!


    Betsy at Zen Mama January 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Wow! What an inspiring interview Jen and Tess! I will sign up to receive Jen’s posts and go see more of her art online. Jen, I’ve put together a book of quotes because they mean so much to me, too. I love the ones you’ve chosen to share. May I post them (via you of course) on my Facebook page where I posts quotes everyday? Looking forward to reading more of your adventures in the bold life you are living!!

    For some reason comment luv is not working for me right now…but if anyone wants to visit zen mama my last post was Can You Find Opportunity in Adversity.


    Jen January 28, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Hello Betsy!

    Thanks for signing up, & welcome! Of course you can post the quotes :) Share whatever you like! I’m on my way over to Zen Mama to soak up more of your awesomeness! :D

    Thanks for your wonderful comment!


    Jonathan Manor January 29, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Jen you seem very qualified to be an inspiration writer. The thing I can’t handle about most inspiration writers is that they, personally, have never actually experienced pain first hand. They talk about pain through the scope of other people’s pain. To be an inspiration writer there has to be those times where everything doesn’t make sense, you’re throwing punches under water, stuck in a barrel rolling downhill, with no life suit, no parachute, and no inhaler. That’s what makes someone’s word worth it’s power.

    A genuine pain.

    Thanks Jen for sharing yourself and thanks Tess for sharing Jen. :)


    Jen January 29, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Jonathan, thank you so much for saying that! I have often felt the same way when reading self-development books & the like, & I’ve always felt more respect & connection to writers who share their pain as well as their joy. It is definitely a goal of mine to be a professional inspiration writer :)

    Thanks for such an encouraging comment!


    Angela Artemis January 29, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    You’re an inspiration! The traveler in me is getting excited after reading this. I think we can learn so much from traveling. It really is one of the best ways to get an education.


    Jen January 29, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Hi Angela!

    Thank you so much! I cannot tell you how fulfilled I feel to know that I can inspire people. You are so right, travelling is so eye-opening. The further you go, the more you grow! :) I feel like I’ve done a lifetime worth of learning & transformation in these past six months, & I still have another six months to go!

    Thanks for your wonderful comment :)


    Sandra I Always Well Within January 30, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Hi Tess and Jen,

    This was such an uplifting interview. And I felt so drawn to the image that adorns it. Jen, I really appreciate your focus on self-awareness. That’s the key, isn’t it? Thanks for giving me an inspiration infusion today.


    Jen February 10, 2011 at 1:16 am

    Hi Sandra :)

    I have been following your blog for a little while and I love it, so to know that I have given you an ‘inspiration infusion’ is pretty awesome for me! I am so happy you found the interview to be so uplifting :D And yes, you are right, I cannot tell you how important self-awareness is to me, especially lately!

    Thank you so much for your encouragement!
    Jen´s last post…Wise Words- Long Way Round


    leanne February 1, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    hi jen

    i always thought the mother was supposedto be wiser than their child but you have wisdom and kindness well beyond your years. I would like to think that i may have had something to do with that !, but the credit is all yours and i am bursting with so much pride i may cry with happiness luv u honey infinity mum


    Jen February 10, 2011 at 1:19 am

    Mum! :D

    Thank you so, so, so much! It is so amazing to know that you are so proud of me :) And I promise you that you have everything to do with it! I would not be who I am without you. I can’t wait to give you a big hug when we come home! 5 months to go! :D

    Love you xoxo
    Jen´s last post…Wise Words- Long Way Round


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