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river girl artworks

let the rivers clap their hands,

let the mountains sing for joy.

- psalm 98:8 niv

hey, y’all! 

come along for the ride as this retired type A, INTJ, Virgo embraces mindfulness and spiritual intention through watercolor…

(HINT: God winks... 😉) 

part nostalgia, part IRL adventure with a dash of river girl memoir - this endeavor is a compendium of creative exploration - living true to myself - fully present in the present, but with {hopefully} fewer type A antics… (we’ll see how that goes…)

thanks for tagging along! 


kim keel  |  river girl


social butterfly | come play with me!

river girl roots

River girl age 10 standing on wake board in a cove on the Catawba River

catawba river
summer of 1966

art, like the river, speaks

when you are open and listening.

I became a river girl at age nine when my family bought a cabin on the Catawba. It still speaks to me in a way other places don’t - and allows for kids of all ages to play and explore and create joy. 


My playtime included lots of ‘art projects’ which, over the years, morphed to graphic design because in the nonprofit world where I spent my career, you often become a jack-of-all-trades out of necessity in a budget-constrained reality. My career-long job description required a ‘be prepared’ mantra with a plan always at-the-ready… and not just one plan, but I often felt uneasy without a backup plan for the backup plan.


Now, after retiring from that long and satisfying career, God nudged me with, “Enough planning already - you should play more - watercolor is the thing for you!”

That notion has since become an intention. And if you know anything at all about watercolor (I didn’t) then you know this will be an amusing ride. River Girl Artworks is the compendium of my journey to Plan Less, Play More and be where my feet are - present in the present. My prayer is that it will inspire you in some small way to pursue whatever creative interest calls your name!

IRL translation: 

Retired Type A Virgo embraces mindfulness and spiritual intention through watercolor; God winks. 😉

Show box top with collage from words and pictures cut from magazines

true story

how it started

River girl at age 5 sitting at a card table writing on notebook paper.

make your mark

From the time I was old enough to hold a crayon, I was fascinated with any and all writing tools - pens, pencils, markers, and chalk - if it would make a mark, I could spend hours drawing letters and words. My five-year old self loved playing office at my first ‘desk’ fashioned from a kid-size card table my mom got with Green Stamps in 1961. And like my grandmother who was very creative, I always had a project in the works.


Most of my projects featured words… and if you’ve known me more than five minutes, you know I love words. Lots and lots of words.


Words have been my ‘art’ since I can remember… speaking them, writing them, drawing them. Many say I was born talking while others recognize my ‘lettering’ at first glance. It’s just what I do - the swoops and swirls, the angles and loops - all a concert of expression to me.

Author’s hand-drawn stylized word cloud from June 1971

love affair with words

My love affair with words translated to collage-making in my teen years. My 'word cloud' pictured above and the 'true story' shoe-box top collage are from 1971 when I was a sophomore in high school. How they survived all these years I’m not certain – it’s like a little time capsule of memories.

Over the years my ‘art’ morphed into elements of graphic design because life in the nonprofit world where I spent my career often requires becoming a jack-of-all-trades out of budget necessity.

Keeping us off the rocks was my ‘day job’ as a CEO, but I also had almost unlimited opportunities to exercise my design muscle with countless brochures, invitations, flyers and ads over those years. Again, words and layout were my ‘Old Faithful…’

how it's going

One child and one teenager jumping into the lake from a dock

plan less, play more

But what would happen if I learned to speak in a different way? If I tried using a different voice?


At the height of the pandemic, God used this question to nudge me as the OG dyed-in-the-wool Type A, INTJ, Virgo into a notion of “Plan Less, Play More” through taking up watercolor. Now, mind you, I’ve never painted using any medium… pens and markers are my ‘brushes,’ but paint never crossed my mind.


The idea of soothing my pandemic anxiety-ridden spirit with mindfulness through watercolor (which shall be controlled by no one!) was seemingly random. Over time that notion became an intention, and then God winked…

Current photo of River Girl superimposed on lake view with fishing boat

{use all your}
powers for good

My older granddaughter encouraged me to put this endeavor ‘out there’ – to use art journaling to mark my progress in learning this ‘new’ language. So, River Girl Artworks was born to be the chronicle of my exploration – part memoir, part IRL - and not always in the traditional art sense. Rather, a spiritual journey to listen intently, to reimagine creativity, and to play more…to use all my powers for good  and encourage others to do the same. 


Now, my 'River Girl self' prompts me daily to 'plan less, play more' by recalling a time when play was the order of the day – every day. Retirement makes that both possible and probable!

In our house we believe Ephesians 3:20 - more than all we ask or imagine - can be a reminder daily to acknowledge the awesome abundance of grace and joy that is ours if only we are open and listening.

I listen best at the river....

what’s on your mind?

i love hearing from friends - old and new. your ideas for featuring quotes, new collaborations, and creative projects are welcome and invited! 


kim keel  |  river girl

thanks for connecting!

River girl age five sitting at a card table desk with writing tools
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