Cherie Dawn Haas interview

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Cherie Dawn Haas is a writer and dancer…and much, much more. She loves all things that involve creativity. She lives with her husband and two sons in Kentucky, where they manage a small vineyard and take care of their three dogs and 13 chickens. She has worked in the field publishing (specifically in the art community) since 2005, and is currently the Online Editor for Streamline Publishing, including Fine Art Today, Plein Air Today, and more.

I’ve been working with Cherie Haas now for several months, contributing articles for the Plein Air Today newsletter. In April I had the pleasure of actually meeting her at the annual Plein Air Convention, held in San Francisco.

In working with her I came to discover this lady is multi-talented, so much so that I wanted to delve deeper into what makes her tick. There’s a lot here, even a few surprises. I know you’ll enjoy this interview. I appreciate Cherie telling us her story, you will also. (Click images to enlarge)

Cherie Dawn Haas

You are an employee of Streamline Publishing, what are your responsibilities and how did that job come about?   I joined Streamline in January 2018 as the Online Editor / Web Content Manager, working for Eric Rhoads. On paper and in a nutshell, my job includes producing the newsletters/blogs for Fine Art Today and Plein Air Today, and managing the social media accounts. This is oversimplified because of the many extra pieces involved, but in a broader sense, I like to think of my job as connecting artists with each other through the web and in person, connecting artists and collectors, and connecting teachers and students – inspiring people to do more of what they love. This is the sweet spot – it’s why, amid analyzing statistics, strategic content planning, and meeting weekly deadlines, I feel like my work is making the world a better place.

Please give us some insight into your typical workday.   A typical workday includes spending time communicating with our audience through social media (if you see a response from us that has a heart emoji, that’s probably me!) and also working with featured artists and groups through email. Sometimes it seems like answering email is the bulk of my day – but I remember that these emails are all building up to something interesting, important, and/or meaningful. I also spend time actively looking for more art/artists to feature. I absolutely love it.

I have come to discover you are a creative person through and through. Although you’re not a painter or sculptor, you are a dancer, musician, singer, writer, and have even done some modeling; what is it about these various disciplines that appeals to you?   It should be noted that I’m barely a singer! I just started taking lessons in June, to go with my ukulele playing. That said…It all comes down to self-expression. I personally thrive when doing activities like this that in some way say, “this is who I am,” or “this is what I believe,” because there are no limits to what we can create. This, as you likely know as a painter, helps me get into the “flow” state, where time seems suspended because nothing else matters except the present moment of creating something that didn’t exist before.

An example of a random piece of mixed-media art I made. Sometimes I like to draw, and also dabble – I repeat, dabble! – with watercolor.

I feel strongly that everyone should try to tap into that passion for themselves. So when I make an effort to put myself out there in something that’s both creative and public, I feel like I’m giving encouragement to others to do the same for themselves, whatever outlet they end up choosing.

Almost all of my creative pursuits also involve collaborating with another person who may or may not be doing the same artistic act. For example, as a dancer, I worked heavily with musicians (and other dancers) to come up with choreographies; when I modeled last it was for a meaningful project called Photography for Peace. Photos from that project may be viewed HERE

We have to find a way to make personal creativity a part of our regular lives.

What do you find most challenging about music, dance, singing and writing; are there similarities between them?  Like many artists and creatives, I get frustrated sometimes and experience the normal highs and lows. As an author I had many rejection letters and there are auditions I’ve not made it through, etc. But I’m still alive. I try to remember inspiring stories of those who had hundreds of “no’s,” and continued on.

Recently I had a major creative breakthrough in regards to the negative voice that many (all?) of us hear when we’re trying to make/build/paint/create something. My voices were saying things like…wait a minute. I’m not even going to give them the space here. They don’t deserve it.

The positive voice yelled louder, and I listened, and it said SO WHAT to all of the negatives. Now I’m working full steam on a draft for a new novel. So, those would be the similarities – the creative path is universal. I actually learn a lot from artists, and tuck away advice that applies to paintings, which I can use for writing! Even though my passion, my drive, isn’t through painting or drawing, I get just as inspired through this medium because I can apply it to my personal passions and modes of self-expression.

What was your childhood like; how did all these creative expressions find a place in your life?   Well, I started dance lessons when I was about 3 years old, and just never stopped, even through college and beyond. I remember when my dad gave me a record album once, and as a way of saying thank you to him, I choreographed a dance to one of the songs. I was about seven.

And I have the first book I wrote, illustrated, and even bound, when I was in first grade. It was called “Mom and Dad Love Each Other.” 

My daily journals evolved into thick books of poetry; by the time I was in high school, these were getting passed around to other students because so many teens could relate to my writing.

I guess you could say that my life IS creative expression, between my professional career and my personal endeavors. It makes my chest hurt to think about what life would be like without it.

Hula hooping with Circus Mojo during Cincinnati’s “BLINK” festival (Image courtesy Earl Stanfield Photography)

How much instruction have you received in each of your creative disciplines?  As just mentioned, I took dance classes for years and years. I still take movement classes, which might involve learning hula hoop tricks, for example, so I can dance with a hoop (I studied and performed circus arts on the side for several years). I studied English/Literature in college, and minored in Journalism. And I’m always looking for ways to learn new things, either in movement arts, writing, or a plethora of other topics. My current area of intentional study is yoga.

Moving around in a wonderful studio space my parents built in their house for me. 

It seems you are most passionate about writing. You have even authored a book, “Girl on Fire”, which has 5-star reviews on Amazon. Please give us a brief synopsis of the book. Are you the Girl on Fire?  I can’t deny that I’m a writer because it’s just part of my DNA. My novel is about “a troubled girl who becomes a confident fire dancer.”

I wouldn’t say that I’m the main character – while the book started out as an autobiography, I realized that it needed to be fictional in order to be a New York Times Best Seller (it’s still not, yet…). So I changed quite a bit of it and started stretching the story like taffy.

Plus, the book needed an ending, and my story isn’t over yet!

When working on “Girl on Fire,” I rented a cabin in a nearby town with another writer/friend, so that I could focus solely on editing for an entire weekend, without distractions.


My little ol’ novel, “Girl on Fire”

What writers have influenced you and why?   William Burroughs, for pushing the envelope on how a novel could read, and because his content was so shocking to me when I first discovered it. When I perform or write for myself, I like to push other people out of their comfort zone a little bit, and maybe I got this from him; Kurt Vonnegut, for his sense of humor; Stephen King, and I’m not sure why, but his writing is just so good; JK Rowling, because of her personal story of writing as survival, and also her excellent writing skills.

What books have most inspired you?   Oh boy. I have a library of books on creativity that I rely on. I re-read them, often going back to places I dog-eared or underlined for what I like to think of as “instant inspiration.” I keep them stashed throughout my house, and usually even in my car for those snippets of time that I’m waiting for my kids or if I arrive at an appointment early.

For you, and for our readers here, I’ll list three of my favorite books on creativity, not in any order: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert; Imagine by Jonah Lehrer; The Nine Modern Day Muses and a Bodyguard by Jill Badonsky.

I almost forgot! I actually have a curated list of books on creativity/inspiration/brainstorming through Amazon: HERE is the list of books Cherie has curated. These are great for anyone who loves to further their self-expression. (Note: I am an affiliate for Amazon, so I hope this is okay, but I personally own all of the books I included here.) 

Please share with us what you’re currently doing with singing, music, dance, and modeling.   Singing and ukulele: Taking lessons. I can confidently sing about 3-4 songs at the moment (don’t laugh – I’m getting there!).

Dance: On hiatus partly because I had a knee surgery recently, but I’ve transferred that energy into yoga and general fitness so I’ll be prepared to dance again eventually. I do have an upcoming dance project with a photographer for a 2020 art show.

Modeling: Same as above…if I’m asked to model, I do, but it’s not something I actively pursue.

This feels like a good place to say what I’m not doing…one of my mantras is, “If it isn’t a heck yes, then it’s a heck no.” This keeps me focused on my personal goals, to the point of staying in on a Saturday night to write, instead of going out to something that’s not absolutely thrilling, for example. Working from home over the years has taught me how to focus despite distractions and temptations (and I feel obligated to make excellent use of the time I save by not commuting).

Image courtesy Cincinnati Opera

Do you perform in public; what venues; how often?  Not so much these days; the last time I performed it was with the Cincinnati Opera in “Another Brick in the Wall” at Music Hall. I was an “extra” on stage, and loved being a part of it. Prior to that I performed with circus and dance groups for years (in addition to working full-time to pay the bills) at festivals, parades, private parties, etc.

I’ve actually backed away from performing quite a bit because as my sons have gotten older (they’re 13 and 15, both musicians), they need me around more. For example, when I realized that one of my gigs could conflict with one of my son’s concerts last year, I knew I had to put my performing life on hold, because I don’t want to miss a minute of what they’re doing. My own rehearsals and gigs can wait. In the meantime, I pursue things I can just do at home on my own time, like writing at night and early on weekend mornings, so I can still support my family and be my authentic self while doing my #1 job of raising these guys.

Now I learn you’re also a ‘Fire Eater”. You must explain that…what, where, when, how, and why. It might explain why you wrote “Girl on Fire”.  Hmmm…it’s a long, long story. But first, I wrote “Girl on Fire” when I was fired from a hula hoop gig at a casino (true story). They told me they were “looking for pretty girls who could dance.” I cried for a few days, then began writing the book “A Pretty Girl Who Can Dance,” which evolved into “Girl on Fire.” (See above, re: negative voices, re: I’m still alive.)

Fire dancing with Circus Mojo at a city-wide festival

But back to the fire eating…that, I believe, was a natural path that led out of my dancing. I met a couple of fire dancers through a dance community, and poof! My love for fire arts, and my true form of self-expression, was born.

They told me to read a bunch of literature to learn about the dangers first. I read none of it. Anything is dangerous, even driving. I wanted to work with fire, and that’s all that mattered to me.

What drives you to do all these things?   Love. Adrenaline. A combination of the two. There’s like a “runner’s high” when I have a success in any of my endeavors, especially with dance, writing, and performing.

And I believe that every moment is full of limitless possibility. You can choose – do you want to do this? Or do you want to do that? Do you want to sit and watch television, or scroll through Facebook, or do you want to make a small effort to improve your life? I won’t lie – once in a while I need 30 minutes to watch a Seinfeld rerun, but more often than not, if I’m not working or taking care of my family, you’ll find me studying or practicing some sort of art.

Of all your creative disciplines, which one allows you to express yourself most freely? Why?   Dance, I think, because there are no rules. Like many endeavors, it’s important to learn the rules and then break them. But with writing and music, breaking rules can often create a work that’s not very enjoyable. I want to make art that others enjoy taking in as much I enjoy creating it, and so the ephemeral nature of dance, especially fire dancing, does just that. I put more concentrated effort into writing, whereas dance comes more freely.

I can choose the music that is my canvas, so to speak, and then just begin moving without much planning. I’ve built up the muscle memory to allow room for spontaneous improvisation that’s there, and then gone, but still having existed long enough to create what we know and love as art.

You are exposed to a lot of art and many artists and obviously have favorites; what is it that makes one artist’s work more appealing to you than another?   This is true – at one point I was working with dozens of artists in any given week; my days are filled with viewing paintings and working with their digital files.

What makes art appealing to me is the same as for anyone. It’s personal, and it’s hard to define. I love rural paintings that celebrate the Golden Hour, for example, and that’s probably because I grew up and still live in beautiful Kentucky. But I also have a great appreciation for photorealism, and I love illustration-type watercolors with ink outlines, and other styles. I think one of the things I love about all art is the fact that someone took the time and effort to create it, simply because they had the vision to.

Why is art important?   I think art is important for several reasons…

*It’s one of the few things that separates us from animals

*It gives viewers (including the general public, or muggles, as I like to think of non-artists) the opportunity to think about something they may not otherwise think about

*It gives us a channel to express not only our creative ideas, but sometimes also our love, our anger – the strongest emotions that need lots of room for expression.

*It connects us, because many forms of art don’t have need for a specific language…music, dance, paintings, drawings, and sculptures can be understood no matter where you’re from on this planet.

A collaborative mixed-media art project I did with the lovely and talented Tonia Jenny. (Photo collage and much of what made this beautiful, by Tonia Jenny. HERE is Tonia’s website.

Where does creativity come from; can it be taught? How?   I think everyone is creative in some way, but a mathematician might not think of his/her work as creative because it doesn’t involve paint, for example. I do think it can be taught, and I believe this because my own creativity has developed more over time.

We have to start by paying attention to our intuition, especially when it tosses us a good idea. Follow that idea, and ignore – absolutely stab* – the negative thoughts that may immediately come with it. The good idea might not work out, but it is likely laying the groundwork for your next good idea.

I would also suggest reading books on creativity because these can be an endless source of inspiration. They are for me, at least. And know that if you’re doing anything that supports a creative life, then you’re probably on the right path.

*Please do not try to literally stab your inner voice

Who have been the most influential people in your life and why?   My parents, and my husband, for sure. I’ve been fortunate to have many excellent mentors along the way, as well. I’ve also had many good friends whom I thrive from being around. We don’t get together to just hang out – we gather because we’re working on a project together, or giving each other feedback about a project. I love them for this.

Aside from your Streamline Publishing responsibilities, what are you currently working on?  In my spare time (I often joke, “what is ‘spare time’?” or “what is this ‘sleep’ of which you speak?”), I’m working on a new novel. It’s related to a story I’ve battled with for several years, but have started from scratch fairly recently after having a breakthrough idea that, yes, I followed, right into the dark.

My current project: Writing a draft and using index cards taped to craft paper to help me “build” the best story flow.

I found a way to make the story more visual so that I could, well, visualize it better and not be so overwhelmed by it. I actually created a storyboard on index cards one night, working on the floor of my basement and moving the cards around until I had the story laid out. It was shortly after my knee surgery, so it was a physical challenge as well. That’s okay, because one of my favorite mantras is that “you have to suffer for your art.” I hobbled around until I had it just right, and then I transferred the cards, one at a time, onto a giant piece of craft paper. Now, I refer to the cards and then sit down and write until my tank is empty, and then I give myself a sticker next to the card I completed. (It’s funny because it’s true!)

I’m also starting a collaborative project with a photographer involving my movements / fire arts, which will result in an exhibition next year. I’m really looking forward to it.

What’s on your “bucket list”?   This is unrelated to anything else I’ve shared here, almost, but it’s to take my family to see Yellowstone, the Redwoods, and the Grand Canyon, especially while our sons are still young enough to want to go on vacation with us. I have about three years, I think, before they’re off to college doing their own thing.

If you were stranded on an island, what three books would you want with you?  Bhagavad Gita; A photo album of my family (does that count?); A ginormous, empty notebook with college-ruled lines

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Girl on Fire:  HERE

Next week: “Bringing Some Sanity to Plein Air Painting”


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I’m pleased to announce the release of my latest teaching video and book. The video and accompanying book, shown here, along with my first video, “Limited Palette Landscape”, include everything I’ve taught in my workshops. You can now take my oil painting workshop right in the comfort of your home, and for a lot less money than physically being present. (Click image to learn more)

To own an original painting from the book, please click HERE


John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Living Master. To view his art and bio, please click HERE.


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