Category Archives: about us

Inspiration From Peru

Machu Picchu

This January, we had the opportunity to visit the magical and sacred country of Peru.  We had always wanted to go there, and of course Machu Picchu would be at the heart of our visit.   What struck us the most was the warmth of the people, and their connection to their land.  They seemed to be very much in tune with the natural beauty around them.  You could feel a warm energy as you traveled.  The Sacred Valley region bordering Machu Picchu was filled with majestic mountains and a winding brown rapidly moving river making its way through the land.


The memory of the Incas was alive with ruins and geometric terraces where corn, quinoa  and potatoes grew.  As an artist, Elise was struck with the awe inspiring landscape, the morning mist over the mountains, the colors of the artisan market places.  She has always been drawn to the inspiration of the mountains as a source of healing, and this healing art has served as the basis for the creation of our book, Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth. The trip to Peru will stay in our consciousness, and sure to serve as a point for future art, contemplation and writings. Here are some pictures from our trip, ending in a new work in progress from Elise, Mystic Mountain.

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Original pastel by Elise Okrend, Mystic Mountain, Aguas Calientes, Peru.

March 7th Workshop- Gain Clarity, Passion and Purpose Through Art & Words

We have a few programs coming in March based on the Art and Words from Messages to the Heart. We are grateful to the Asheville Citizen Times for their write up on these programs. See article below:

ASHEVILLE – Elise Okrend and her husband Phil have a passion to help others find their own personal truths. Elise, a pastel painter, and Phil, a writer and professional coach, came together to produce and release the coffee table book “Messages to the Heart: Reflections of Beauty and Truth” in 2014.

The book pairs Elise’s pastel landscapes with Phil’s poetic passages and is divided into chapters to inspire readers to connect with their own fulfilling life vision. Chapters include “Reflections on Following Your Heart,” “Unity,” “Love,” “Optimism,” “Transformation,” “Awareness” and “Empowerment.”

Read more of the article HERE!
Register for the March 7th Workshop HERE!



Living Well Radio Show Interview

Living Well Radio Show 

Messages to the Heart

We really enjoyed the opportunity to talk about Messages to the Heart during a November 2014 radio interview with Dr.Bob Hanna on Asheville Free Radio.  Dr. Bob asked some very insightful questions about how we came to our individual paths in life, Elise as an artist and me as a writer and life coach.  We also discussed how as a couple we evolved to living from what creatively inspired us, from building a greeting card company to writing the book, Messages to the Heart.  We read passages from our book, talked about art, philosophy and how we see our mission as helping and inspiring others to connect to the inherent truth and beauty in their own lives. We hope you enjoy this one-hour podcast.

Phil & Elise Okrend

Listen Here!

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Feeling Alive


In the presence of aliveness, creative ideas happen spontaneously. they don’t need to be forced. Find that place that makes you feel alive and spend time there . The answers will come.

This passage from Messages to the Heart speaks to me as I take another step in my journey as an artist.  I found a wonderful space to work and show my pastel paintings in the vibrant River Arts District of Asheville.  It is a beautiful open space with lots of natural light, and it will serve as a day to day place for me to dream, to paint and to build community. It is called Whitespace and it is located in the Wedge Building, a place filled with a diverse group of artists and crafts people.  I welcome you to visit me in my new creative home.  One of the upcoming highlights in the River Arts District will be the studio stroll coming this  June 14th and 15th where over 170 artists will open their studios for demonstrations, viewing, classes and fun. I am so excited to be a part of that experience and look forward to seeing you at the Studio Stroll or any time you may be in Asheville and want to visit.




Sharing Our Story Behind Messages to the Heart


Here’s a great story, just released in the Asheville Citizen-Times about the creation of Messages to the Heart.  The book is an organic pairing of our different forms of creative self expression through art and words, and our desire to inspire and help others find their own authentic path.  We are so excited to have the opportunity to share our story and read from the book at two upcoming events in Asheville during Valentine’s Day Week.

Messages to the Heart events

•  Malaprop’s Bookstore and Cafe, 55 Haywood St., downtown Asheville, 3-5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9th, for an author reading and book signing.
• Hotel Indigo, 151 Haywood St., downtown Asheville, will host a Valentine’s Day themed reception, book signing and art display with music, 5-7 p.m. Feb. 12.


Elise and Phil Okrend

Welcome to the Messages to the Heart Blog

1530336_402620499868113_1546710253_nWelcome to the New Blog for Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth. The book was conceived from our passion to inspire and uplift others through a creative pairing of art and words. Just released on December 15th, 2013, Messages to the Heart is making its way into the hearts and homes of readers.  We invite you to share your comments about how the book speaks to you, what touches you, the paintings and the words. How does it influence the way you can see making positive change in your life?

Starting this blog with purpose. What is your purpose?  Here is an excerpt from our book from the Chapter, Reflections on Following Your Heart:

Each one of us has a purpose, a destiny. We each have a time when that purpose will manifest. You can not choose that time, that time chooses you. It is your job to recognize when that time is calling you. You can not prematurely put your actions into motion when the time isn’t right, for then it is just your ego wanting control. Listen for the time, and then act. You will know when it is time. 



What does this passage and art evoke in you?

Original pastel painting titled San Miguel by Elise,