The Accidental Artist

Denise Braun

How I left ‘Shrink’ behind!


This is me. Denise. Born in 1972 in a tiny desert town to an artist mom & rocket scientist dad (no kidding). I suppose you could say my childhood was fairly normal. As a family we traveled, shopped at Costco, burnt the pork chops…regular stuff. When it was time for me to head to college the message I received was, “Do something you love. You know…that’s stable and makes you a fine income.” Hmmm. Well I loved to sew suits for my cat Kitser. No. That’s weird. Who’d buy those things anyway? I also loved collecting stickers. And another no. That’s just ridiculous. And it continued on….I loved to draw (not a stable career), I loved people (yea but what will you do? Why not be a nurse)? And it was decided…I’ll be a SHRINK!

The years winded around the bend and I circled around the proverbial the drain. Here’s the brutal truth about the field of Psychology. You don’t go into this profession with any sort of mild trepidation. You JUMP into the work. Hours and hours of therapy sessions to gather your hours towards licensure and learn the trade. Multiple work venues to gather layers of experience.  After many years I landed in the county mental health system as it was “the best place to really get diagnostics under your belt.” It was also the best place to feel stuck and drained. Any county system of care, be it mental health, public health (you name it), is going to ask that you give everything for very little in return. I worked extensively long hours with very little guidance. I was paid minimally, told I wasn’t productive enough, & literally worked with felons. Forensics. Law + Mentally Ill Offenders = my job. So the picture above of me staring out the window? Yea. I often thought, “What the hell am I doing? I really don’t like my work. It’s intense. It’s ‘dark.’ And it never ends. The criminals get worse & I get more tired.” And…iit was dangerous.

Let’s fast forward just a bit. I found the love of my life in 2009. A friend of my sweet cousin Ben. John Bundy lived in Colorado and became my everything. I cashed in all my vacation and dug out the extra change in the bottom of my couch to go visit this man and really solidify our relationship. I was a single mom holding it together with very little money (because the county system didn’t give any of it’s employees a cost of living increase in over 6 years). But I knew I loved John and somehow it would work out. I was right. We were married on April 31st of 2011. He was warmly welcomed into my family and became my rock. And biggest fan!


And then, something amazing. I was inspired. I was electric. I felt as though I was a new me. My man by my side….and soon enough…paintbrushes in hand. I started to paint. And let me just say…it wasn’t all fabulous in the beginning. Here are some of my early works:

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But it didn’t matter. The real truth and beauty in my early artistic years was the process. Yada yada yada….yea we hear it all the time. But it was legit. Using the brushes and moving the paint and paper around on that canvas awakened the sleeping beast. It sparked something deep in my being that told me I needed to create. And so I did. I painted. And I painted. And I painted. And within a year (as if by accident), my art started to look like this:

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There’s so much more to this story. And I would love to have you come along for this ride. Little by little we find our ‘true North’ (Thank you for that Bill Poett)! The star that glitters way out in the night sky and promises to light your way even through the darkest moments. I recently met an uber-brave woman who told me, “Miss…you’ve been working in the dark so long, it’s time to step into the light.” I couldn’t have said it better myself!

And on Feb. 27th, 2014….the unimaginable happened. I gave notice at my Forensic job. *Gulp* With huge amounts of fear, uncertainty & courage….I told my ‘big boss’ I would be walking away from the job (and the field) permanently on June 27th. Yes I have 4 months to tie up loose ends and begin the bold process of self definition. But honestly…I’ve been working towards this moment for the past 7 years. There are so many lessons I want to share with you. So many courageous explanations & words of wisdom. And I will. Thank you for coming on this journey. I’ll show you the highs (“YAY I JUST QUIT MY SHITTY JOB!”) and the lows (“Uhm, I have no idea what I’m doing today. And how will I pay for gas?”). Let’s get started…..