By Jocelyn Tatum 
Illustration and photos by Heather Essian 

Using acrylic paint on raw canvas, cover artist Heather Essian chose a butterfly because it is the symbol of transformation. Of change. Reading Danika Franks’ story by writer Shilo Urban reminded Heather that we are always undergoing our own metamorphosis. “A butterfly comes to mind, the way it evolves and the time that it takes to get to its ultimate place of beauty and everything it represents,” Heather says. “The cover will be just half of the butterfly because she’s kind of in that waiting, not knowing what is next for her.” 

The process

The art was still evolving when I first spoke to Heather for this little story on the making of our cover. “She’s a work in progress, I’m a work in progress, the art is a work in progress for the cover story. We are all in progress right now,” she says. 

Heather says staying in her usual creative lane, which is abstract painting, would be too safe and wanted to challenge herself. Heather does not draw or paint still life, but she depicts this image in a way that was not abstract yet true to her style. For this reason, she says it is the most challenging piece of art she has completed in her career. 

Heather was a full-time professional photographer before she slowed down to start a family more than 10 years ago. At that time, she changed to other creative outlets like painting and says for the first time in her creative career, the process of creating this cover merged her former life as a photographer (using Photoshop), her current life as an abstract artist, and where she is taking her art — cutting up her work and reassembling it onto  canvas for intrigue, which is depicted in this butterfly. Like Danika, she challenges herself to grow but brings her life experience with her. 


Danika’s and Heather’s husbands knew each other through their work with Texas Christian University and had been out to dinner with each other several times. While they admired each other, Heather never knew the depth and power of Danika’s journey until she read the cover article. “I do relate a lot to her story, just the evolution of her interests and her profession,” Heather says. 

Like so many women struggling with balancing careers and being mothers present for their children, Heather related to that a lot as a former professional photographer who worked nights and weekends. Like Danika, she is always transforming, seeing balance and surrendering to the challenges in her work that inspire growth. “Just the tension of being a woman who is creative, who’s driven, who wants to do her own thing and explore what she is capable of, but who also wants to be present for her family,” she says. 

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