Category Archives: Photography

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.

 

 

Mountain Trivia (Reboot365-4)

Did you know that more than half of humanity depends on mountains for water? (This fact comes from this article on The Telegraph website).

 

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At this time of year we have plenty of both mountains and water… 

 

Why am I thinking about water (where it comes from and where it goes)? It so happens that my ghost walkers last night wanted to know about Banff’s water supply and sewage system, not something I had come prepared to talk about (ghosts neither drink nor pee).

I figured there had to be some kind of waste-water treatment going on (there’s no way all those hotels have some funky septic system under  Banff Avenue) and, sure enough, Banff has a pretty skookum system. Because the town is in a National Park, they are pretty particular about what they consider to be a clean end product. Here’s a list of what Banff suggests you do NOT flush down the toilet. I’d say it’s a pretty good list for all of us to keep in mind.

 

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I try not to forget how lucky I am to be able to enjoy a glass of good, clean water whenever I’m thirsty. 

 

On the incoming end, Banff’s (quite delicious) drinking water comes from very deep underground wells. It’s pumped up to a reservoir on Tunnel Moutain and given a bit of chlorine treatment before trickling back down into the townsite and into drinking glasses and refillable water bottles all over town.

 

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The Town of Banff provides filling stations so you can tank up with great Banff water free of charge. 

Here in Canmore, there’s a rather ambitious action plan in place that hopes to reduce per capita water consumption by 50% by 2035 (from 200 rates). I love drinking the water here (tasty!) and I enjoy long showers… I guess I will have some work to do if I am going to do my part.

Do you have any great water conservation tips to share? I might as well start now…

 

 

 

Photos Only for a Few Days (43/365)

A LOT going on here at the moment – so much, in fact, I forgot an important birthday today!!!! SORRY!!!!!!!!!

 

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Raindrops on roses… 

 

For the next week or so, I will likely be reduced to posting a photo and perhaps a piece of somehow related artwork but without much writing to go along with it. Sorry about that, but you know – life can get in the way of blogging sometimes. (Two apologies in as many paragraphs – how very Canadian!)

 

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… whiskers on kittens… (Girl with a Kitten, by Lucian Freud, 1947)

 

The last time I forgot a birthday, btw, was the terrible year I forgot my only child’s birthday. That was bad. She reminded me in the horse paddock while I was making her help muck out. She was not amused. Horse manure removal and sacred birthdays do not, apparently, mix. A couple of decades (almost) later, she is still not amused and reminds me of this black incident when I dare to say anything along the lines of, ‘hey, I wasn’t the worst mother in the world…’ And then she counters with, ‘what kind of mother forgets her only kid’s birthday?’ Not that it would be any less awful if I had forgotten one of six children’s birthday – then, I can just imagine, there would have been accusations of favoritism. “I knew you never loved me as much as the others.”

Carousel Ponies, Frogs and Nosebleeds (17/365)

 

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Dad and Frog (or, toad?)

 

After leaving the hospital for what has become our daily morning visit to ER to deal with ongoing nosebleed management issues, Dad and I headed for Butchart Gardens to gather some raw material for drawing and painting.

 

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I couldn’t make out the signature, but this drawing is stuck to a cabinet in the ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) Room at the local hospital emergency room… It’s the chair in which Dad has spent a fair bit of time over the past several days… 

 

It has been YEARS since I was last at the gardens and I have to say, they really are quite something, especially given the place is also a story of reclamation and rehabilitation. Once an ugly quarry that supplied limestone for Robert Butchart’s cement plant, the gardens were the dreamchild of Butchart’s wife, Jennie who wanted to pretty things up a bit once industry was done with stripping what it needed from the land. What a beautification project!

These days, almost a million visitors a year stroll around the gardens, snapping photos.

As one would expect, there are gazillions of flowers, shrubs, and trees, but there are also fountains, statues, and a carousel. I have always loved carousels and am always a bit disappointed when I’m near one without a child to coerce into riding with me!

A carousel horse statue prances near the carousel, an escapee from the endless drudgery of up and down and round and round. I took several photos, thinking I might be able to draw it later.

 

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Statue of a carousel pony dancing at Butchart’s

Dad gave me a brush pen with a reservoir for use with watercolours and once I got home  I pulled out the watercolour pencils I brought with me and started to experiment.

 

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New toy, must play…

 

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Unhappy with the pole, which looks awful, but I’m thinking that if I mess around with that it will get much worse… As it is, you can tell it’s a carousel pony, so I’m happy to leave it at that!

Of course I’m not the only person to be captivated by carousel ponies…

 

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Carnival the Carousel by Georges Lemmen, early 1890s

 

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Many carousel ponies (and other creatures) are works of art themselves… I’d kind of like one in my living room, to be honest. Maybe even a row of them for people to sit on at the kitchen island… We would need a bigger kitchen island, of course… Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

That’s it for now… I’m struggling (really struggling) to draw or paint a flower that looks even remotely floral, so you don’t get to see any of that stuff yet. I’m feeling a bit heartened, though, that with practice comes progress, so I’ll keep trucking on and see what happens next…

 

 

 

 

 

How Cool is This?? (16/365)

 

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From the series of images, Ornitographies by Xavi Bou (visit the website here…)  www.xavibou.com (many thanks to Xavi Bou for permission to use the photo here)

Imagine if you could see the patterns made by birds as they swoop in unison, drawing on the canvas of the sky. I’d never heard of the artist, but one of the wonderful volunteers who stayed with us on the farm a few years ago sent a link to an article in National Geographic about the artist/photographer and wow – how cool!

Dad, of course, was immediately intrigued and asked if I had seen the images as they relate so well to what we’ve been talking about in our ongoing lines and patterns discussions…

 

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Birds in the Clouds by Georges Braque, 1960 

 

So many artists have explored the image of birds in flight it’s hard to know where to start with examples.

 

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Twelve Birds by M. C. Escher, 1948

Line, pattern, repeating shapes, and negative space all fuse in this work by M. C. Escher.

 

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Lucian Freud takes a different approach in Landscape with Birds (1940)

Da Vinci tried to freeze the movement of birds with the naked eye…

 

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Drawings of a bird in flight by Leonardo da Vinci (1500s)

 

 

Leonardo had an ulterior motive, I think – hoping to learn how to fly himself. The challenge kept him busy for years…

As for me, I’ve been having enough trouble trying to draw things like a coffee cup sitting on the table in front of me and that, so far, is more than challenging enough!

For the moment, I’m happy to enjoy the work of others when it comes to this subject, but perhaps at some point, I’ll take up the challenge and try to capture movement in the ethereal form of birds in flight…

 

 

 

 

I is for Ice (AtoZChallenge)

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It may not be much fun to have your feet whip out from underneath you when trying to navigate an icy sidewalk, but ice in its other incarnations is nothing short of stunning (it is also symbolic of transformation being, after all, the reincarnation of water…).

I was reminded of this on the weekend when we headed out for a bit of spring ice climbing in Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park.

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Back in the farm days, ice was a major pain in the backside. Water buckets froze solid and it was an endless struggle to haul water by hand down to the livestock.

 

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Days when you have to bash a hole in the ice to get at the water below and then keep things topped up with water you’ve hauled from the top of the hill really make you realize just how much you love your horses (and how much they drink!) 

Today, though, ice is something we climb…

 

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Me nearing the top of Professor’s Ice Climb near Banff last year… 

 

Ice is something I never get tired of ogling. Aesthetically, it’s stunning the way ice catches the light, the way it’s always moving, forming and changing, the way it changes colour, the way it is simultaneously hard and unforgiving and fragile in a way that scares me to death.

 

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Grotto Canyon, practically in our back yard… 

 

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All of this crumbly stuff was dripping wet… some days one feels like a wetsuit would be the most appropriate clothing choice for climbing… 

 

 

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A couple of times a year in spring and fall, the edge of ice where it meets water is also symbolic of a seasonal transition. Soon, soon, we will be enjoying our annual spring melt here in the mountains. So far, though, it’s been a cold winter and for that the ice climbers (and skiiers) are grateful. 

What’s your favourite season? I’m partial to spring and fall when change is so obvious in every direction one looks it’s impossible to forget that all things are always in a state of flux. The only constant is change.

 

 

 

 

A is for Abbesses, Amelie, Artists and More (#AtoZ2018)

Well, I thought A might be for Art but that was three days ago before I had spent some time on the Paris Metro. When we were here last year I thought it would be great to do a journey to all the stations which are, conveniently, listed in alphabetical order here. The first station on the list is Abbesses, a name which always seems to me to have too many double letters…

 

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This is the platform in Abbesses Metro station as depicted in Amelie. (That’s Amelie over on the left)

 

The deepest of all the stations (118 feet below street level), there are a lot of stairs to climb to get out of there. Reading a bit about it, I discovered it was used in the movie Amelie. Well, sort of… the set was made to look like Abbesses, but in fact, the filming was done at an abandoned platform at the Porte de Lilas station.

 

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Abbesses during my visit today… the actual, real Abbesses. 

 

This tidbit led me to try to remember the movie Amelie, which I thought I had seen. Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, I found it on iTunes and watched it in my BNB (closest Metro station to where I’m staying is Lourmel on Line 8, named after General Lourmel who was killed in the Crimean War).

 

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Between the tourists, the garbage can, the shipping container and construction zone, it’s pretty hard to get a decent shot of the exterior entrance to the Abbesses Metro station. So, here’s a cinema-style letter box crop in an effort to make the best of a difficult photographic situation…

 

Turns out either I haven’t seen the movie or my memory is way worse than I could have imagined. I think the former as there are so many odd moments and bizarre scenes that something would have rung a bell, even if dimly…

As a result of watching (and thoroughly enjoying) the movie (and because I love my Navigo pass and any excuse to ride the Metro, particularly if it means a trip to Montmartre – location of Abbesses station), off I went to have a quick peek before heading to the Rodin Museum for my daily… oh, there it is… Art fix!

 

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Do I share my ‘argh’ moment, or not? Ok, why not… I foolishly purchased my Rodin ticket twice! Once online in the wee hours of the morning and then again when I arrived at the museum. What can I say, I thought I was going to go to the Musée d’Orsay… which I am going to do tomorrow… And, since it’s the first Sunday in April, the d’Orsay will be free, so I won’t actually be out of pocket. Not really. But seriously, argh. 

What a bonus to find not one but several pieces of sculpture by Rodin that featured artists!

 

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For the sake of today’s A-themed post I will pretend I am not in Paris where this is obviously a peintre. Sadly, I will be long gone before the letter arrives!

 

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This is not a great photo for various reasons (it’s not sharp, for one thing), but I include it here because of the scale. The hands really were massive… 

 

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Art students hard at work sketching Rodin busts… How they managed to concentrate with all the tourists peeking over their shoulders and obnoxiously taking photos, I don’t know… 

 

 

While I was in Montmartre, I took my time wandering back downhill to jump on the Metro at Blanche. On my way I stopped in to poke around in the Montmartre Cemetery. There I found the grave of Endre Rozsda, a Hungarian-French artist who died at the age of 85 in 1999. I found this self-portrait online:

 

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Endre Rozsda – born in Hungary in 1919 – this self-portrait dates from 1939

 

 

 

What’s your favourite movie set in Paris? The Red Balloon? Midnight in Paris? Let me know in the comments below… If I have time before I head home I might just go on another jaunt to a cool location captured on the silver screen. And, since we are also talking about A for Artists, who is your favourite artist who spent some time in Paris?

(Here’s a p.s. of sorts… the reason I may have been a little groggy at 2 am when I finally went to bed and bought that extra museum ticket is that I might have been slightly distracted by all the ads I was reading for Paris apartments. Ahh, dreaming. It’s always fun to fantasize about things like going shopping for a Paris apartment, though doing so right before bed resulted in some peculiar nightmares about buying an apartment and not having any money left for furniture.)

Nurture Your Inner Medici! 

Enjoy the blog? Consider becoming a patron to support the creation of these blog posts, photo essays, and short videos. In return, you’ll have my undying appreciation, but you’ll also get access to Patron-only content, advance peeks at works in progress, and more – all for as little as a buck a month! It’s easy – head on over to Patreon to have a look at how it all works. And, if enough (like a gazillion) of you all sign on, maybe that Paris apartment will be mine some day… and then you can come and visit and we can take photos of art together!! And then sit in a quaint café and talk about how we met right here at the end of a blog post about artists and Amelie and Abbesses and stuff…