Category Archives: Art

Keys to Creativity: Part 2 Just Start!

There’s nothing quite so intimidating as a blank page. Except, maybe, the first blank page of a brand new journal or sketchbook. I don’t know why it’s so terrifying to make that first mark, but I experience a distinct feeling of dread blended with uncertainty mixed with more than a dash of insecure anxiety when I crack open a new journal. That’s true even though I’ve managed to fill dozens of journals over the years.

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Dad at work making a crayon rubbing on the flat stones along Spring Creek. The smoke from forest fires across the BC/Alberta border was awful for most of the time he was here. 😦

Dad came out for a visit to my place in Canmore and we spent almost a week together making marks and experimenting with new mixed media techniques. One of the first things we did was head down to Policeman’s Creek and Spring Creek to do some rubbings on the big flat stones and the weathered wooden railings beside the creek.

We weren’t intending to use the rubbings by themselves, but rather as elements in another project.

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Crayon rubbings in Canmore, along the creek. These will become elements of other pieces.

Crayon Rubbings on Stone

Though the patterns were random, a couple of them immediately suggested natural forms – mountain ranges and river deltas. Having something to start with made a huge difference when it came time to sit down and start to work. Over the next week we layered our rubbings (done with peeled wax crayons on plain old copy paper) as backgrounds, cut them up and used them as textured layers in mixed media pieces, and then filed the extras for future projects.

Meanwhile, back at the condo, we transformed the place into a wild and wonderful (and very messy!) creation space!

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We both had several pieces going at any given time – so, when we got stuck on one (or a layer needed to dry) we just switched over to another project.

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What we didn’t worry about was where we were going… we both just dived in (dove in?) and tried a whole bunch of stuff… Some worked, some didn’t, but along the way we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, playing and experimenting.

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I liked the way this mixed media piece with a Paris theme was going, so I glued it onto the intimidating first page of my new sketchbook. I’ll add some text about Paris on the facing page.

Tip of the Day: Cheat

If you really can’t bring yourself to make a mark on the first page of a brand new book, create something on a piece of separate paper and then glue it in. That’s what I did with my new Art Journal/Sketchbook (see the Paris mixed media page above). And, once that first page had something on it, I was off to the races and have already filled the next several pages! Another trick is just to leave the first page blank (for now) and come back to it later. Perhaps your journal will develop a theme and then you can do a title page that suits the content several weeks (months) down the road.

Confession:

I have several journals where the first page is still blank, years after I started them.

Do you struggle with figuring out what to put on that first page? How do you overcome that block? Add a comment below – I’m always curious to hear how others deal with getting started…

Come! Join Us: Create in Provence!!

Want to come play with us and learn all kinds of tips and tricks for banishing that fear of creating something – anything – to break in that new notebook? Check out our creativity retreat in France next spring!

Keys to Creativity Series: Part One Don’t Worry About the Outcome

Create Like Nobody’s Watching

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A year ago if you’d told me I would have been sitting out in public scribbling away in a notebook DRAWING (!!) I would have laughed… long and hard. And if you’d told me I would have posted my crude efforts, I would have told you to stop drinking so much.

After a somewhat chaotic year full of interruptions, distractions, and challenges, I am reapplying myself to my yoga studies with gusto. And while it may seem that yoga has nothing to do with creativity, I’m finding the opposite to be true. Part of the course I’m taking includes quite a lot of yoga philosophy (in case you are wondering, it’s the Kaivalya Yoga Method, 500 Hour Teacher Training through Yogadownload). To be honest, I thought that part (the philosophy bit) would make me a bit squirmy, something to endure, you know? But the reading and thinking about the philosophical aspects of yoga has actually been both inspiring and useful and I’m enjoying it more than I would have thought possible.

Yoga, Writing, Drawing, Acting, Art Journals, Collage, Creating: It’s all Related

 

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Collage in my art journal… yes, I’ve got one of those now. This was sort of an art meditation done while listening to a recording of a rolling om…

 

At the same time that I’ve been doing my down-dogs and studying anatomy and thinking about how ancient wisdom can still be very relevant in terms of dealing with the complexities of the modern age, I have also been madly productive on the writing front. I’m putting the finishing touches on the non-fiction book for teens about medical assistance in dying and working on fiddly details relating to the picture book that’s coming along beautifully with Holiday House (LOVE the preliminary sketches by the talented Katie Kath). Research has started for two more non-fiction titles for youth (one about civil disobedience, the other about global deforestation) and, of course, I continue to slowly work on the book about the three-generations Camino trip we did last fall.

Walk the Camino, Think About Creativity

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Though it has been slowest to progress, that project is the one that has a strong hold on my heart, in part because it had me examining my relationship with the creative process. Walking with Dad and Dani, the conversations Dad and I had about art and the creation of art before, during, and ever since our oh-so-slow stroll across Spain really got me thinking about what it means to be creative. What the word means as an adjective. And, as a noun. I’ve been referred to as ‘a creative,’ and that implies that creativity is some sort of integral component of my makeup.

We Are All Creative Children, Trapped in Over-critical Adult Bodies

 

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First attempt at a freehand mandala – on the cover of one of several yoga notebooks I’ve got happening at the moment (of course! where else would I attempt a freehand mandala?)

 

Aren’t we all creative? I think we all have some kernel of creativity within us. Just look at a kindergarten classroom and what happens when you set children loose with paint and blank sheets of paper. You can’t get the paint smocks on fast enough before the brushes are flying!

What happens to us to make us so afraid of exploring our natural desire to create? To explore? To play?

Let Go of the Outcome

My theory is that at some point we attach output with being good enough. If our drawing or painting or story or poem doesn’t measure up, then we have no right to be drawing or painting or writing. We become embarrassed to show our work to anyone else. We second guess our efforts and, before long, most of us give up. When asked, we say, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body. I couldn’t draw to save my life.”

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You may be wondering what on earth all that messy art stuff has to do with yoga, but the connection is this. One of the things yoga philosophy has to say is that we spend way too much time attached to the outcome of an action, rather than just allowing ourselves to be fully engaged in whatever it is we are doing. All those poses and paying attention to our breath are about finding a way to tune out all the busy, negative, distracting, endless thoughts that plague us and having us fully enter and engage in the present moment. Does it matter if my triangle pose is a bit wonky and my drawings will never hang on a gallery wall? No. 

What my yoga studies (and recent explorations in visual art) have shown me is that creative output happens a lot more easily when you let go of worrying about how it will all turn out. It’s the process of creation that matters, exactly as it matters only that I embrace my yoga practice both on and off the mat. 

 

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Come – explore your creative side! Bust loose and send those doubts scurrying!

 

Come to Our Creativity Retreat in France!

If you are interested in exploring your creative side, why not join us next May at a really cool retreat we are organizing in Provence. We’ll be holing up in a pretty swanky villa with a small group of people who want to try their hand at painting, journaling, writing, collage, sketching… But more than that, we’ll be exploring what it means to embrace life creatively, no matter what form of expression you choose to pursue. And, yes, – there will be yoga to help fuel that process- every morning out by the pool. I can’t wait!

There’s more to this train of thought, but that’s why this is just Part 1. Stay tuned!

Full disclosure: If you happen to get all inspired and decide you’d like to sign up for the YTT course I mentioned above and you use the link in this post, I’ll get a small referral fee. If you have any questions about the program, shoot me a message and I’ll happily answer. I love the program and have learned a lot.

 

 

Come! Let’s Get Creative in France!

Give Yourself the Gift of Time to Create

Writing, Painting, Creating Retreat in Provence, France

Think you might be interested? Have a look at the listing here.

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Amazing location (check out that pool!!) – nifty field trips (can you say wine? truffles? ancient markets?) – a chance to try your hand at watercolor painting, journal-writing, pen & ink, or drawing… Work on your novel… or, finally try your hand at writing a magazine article… outline a book of family stories for your grandchildren… Wherever your creative heart leads you, that’s where you’ll go… What about a scavenger hunt with your iPhone, honing your photographer’s eye? What would you do with a week (or two, space permitting, you can score a great deal if you book two weeks back to back) in Provence where we’ll feed you delicious local meals, provide you with space, time, and as much peace and quiet or inspiring workshops as you choose?

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We’ve structured this retreat so people can come and experiment, play, and create with as much or as little involvement from the facilitators as you like. We’re organizing some pretty nifty local field trips, which you can choose to participate in, or not. Everything is included – we’ve made it easy for you to change your mind on the fly, opting in or out of activities as the mood strikes you.tim-arterbury-126157-unsplash

Don’t let that blank page intimidate you! Join us in France and let your creative side come out and play!

Book Your Spot – Don’t Miss Out!

For more information or to book (spaces are limited and there is a discount if you register early), follow this link:

Book Now

And, watch the blog for more details…

Oh, Juliet…

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So then, Juliet drinks this potion stuff (didn’t her mother ever tell her not to take drinks from strangers?) and, sure enough, she falls into a deep, death-like slumber. Fools everyone – her mother, her nurse, all the townsfolk and, yes, Romeo! Somehow a letter describing the intricacies of the plot-twists never quite made it from the Friar to poor old lover boy…

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Funeral Symphony (V) by Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis, 1903

Today, being Canada Day, was a day of processions, though not of a funereal type.

Spirits were high as we sang, danced, and laughed our way through the streets of Canmore!

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Happy Canada Day!!!!

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Choo-choo-choose your own adventure day! Too cold, too wet, and too tired to do anything more than post this photo I took the other day when I was in Banff and the train roared past me…

 

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Train in the Snow at Argenteuil, by Claude Monet – 1875

 

The Death of Me… (Reboot365-5)

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By the time you get to the end of Romeo and Juliet there are bodies everywhere… There’s Paris, for example… about to be discovered in the dark by the Friar. Come to the Canmore Summer theatre Festival (coming up SOOOOOON!!!) to see who else winds up sprawled across the grass…

Here, though, in my world (which has shrunk to the dimensions of my computer keyboard), I’ve been obsessing about death. Still. Again. I’m deep into revisions of my book about medically-assisted dying and oh, my – it isn’t getting any easier. The subject matter, or being a writer.

 

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Mountain Graveyard, by Kurt Schwitters, 1919

 

How is it possible that I can get to this point in a manuscript after so many years of writing books and still feel that I should perhaps be looking for other work? But it happens with every manuscript – I get to a point where I completely lose perspective and think that the whole project is worthless. It’s more boring than anything ever written by anyone – the subject is boring. My opinions are boring. Death is boring. Life is boring. Being a writer is definitely boring. Everyone in the book is boring because – guess what – they all die!

Sigh. This is the point in my day where I push back from my desk and throw in the towel. There is no point in flogging this sorry horse to… yeah, death any longer.

 

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Thanks, Picasso. I can always count on you to have painted something appropriate to my bleaker moods. This is “Minotaur With Dead Horse in front of a Cave Facing a Girl in Veil” by Pablo Picasso, 1936

 

 

O, Life (Reboot365-1)

 

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Aaaaaand… it’s full-on summer! (the view from the bridge on my way to rehearsal the other morning).

 

Apparently, there is a threshold of busy-ness which, once crossed, makes it tough to meet the blog-a-day challenge. I hit that a few days ago after… let’s see, 30 (for my April challenge) plus 44 (in my blogging every day for a year project) days. Not a bad streak, really, but long enough to hurt when I managed to get home and to bed late enough one night only to realize that it was after midnight and I had totally forgotten to blog. I threw up my hands, heaved a deep sigh and said, ‘Never mind.’

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One of my favourite parts in our production of Romeo and Juliet is when the ethereal maids are humming, in harmony, The Sound of Silence. Bring tissues!! (A Woman Weeping by Rembrandt, 1644)

I was up early the next morning to continue on a writing project and considered posting a photo and back-dating the entry (cheater!!) and couldn’t quite bring myself to be so deceitful. Then, I was going to just post and stats be damned, but I couldn’t decide how to number the next post…

Anyway, enough time has passed that I now feel I can clear the slate and just suck it up and start again.

 

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With plants like this around (and they are all over the place, apparently…) there’s no need to slow down to smell the flowers. These puppies exude an exquisite scent so intense I smell it as I whiz by on my bike. With the hot weather here now, the wee flowers are fading (along with their perfume). Can anyone tell me what this bush is called? 

 

Not that life has slowed down, mind you (that was another consideration – wait until I actually have time to embark upon such a project). Much as I live in a fantasy world that has me sitting with my feet up somewhere balmy, but breezy, preferably with a sailboat under my backside, the reality is I always have lots of balls in the air. I’m picking this blog ball up and tossing it back in the mix.

How to Hit a Kid with a Chair

(Fight choreography – we have a gorgeous brawl in Romeo and Juliet, but wow – it’s complicated to get all the moving parts right without hurting anyone. Anastasia, our fight choreographer is amazing!!)

I warn you. though, that there may not be too much meaty content for another 3 weeks or so until our Canmore Summer Theatre Festival performances are done and the edits to the current draft of the medical assistance in dying book are back off my plate. Sorry, you might be looking at more photos than usual…