Tag Archives: drawing

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…

Möbius Madness (32/365)

Well, I have discovered the most obnoxious form on the planet – at least, if one is trying to draw it.

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Based on the recommendation of Sue Vize, author of Botanical Drawing using Graphite and Coloured Pencils, I made myself a Möbius loop and have been trying to draw it. It has not been pretty! My eye thinks it’s following a line along quite nicely, my hand dutifully attempts to follow and this happens…

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And this…

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What the…?

I can actually feel my brain having spasms as it tries to figure out how best to direct the clumsy hand flopping around at the end of my limb…

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The more I try, the worse they get…

 

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Mobius by Charles Hinman, 1965

 

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Mobius by Katsuhito Nishikawa, 1994

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Turned it around…

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Gads. Way harder than it looks like it should be!!

At least you know why today’s blog post is short! I am entangled in a Möbius loop and can’t get out!

From On High… An Idea (25/365)

So I was pretty high up on a climb on Kid Goat (Blue Bubble) when it occurred to me it’s really hard to capture a real sense of how it feels to be up that high above the valley floor in a photograph.

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A vista like this sort of conveys scale (those are tall trees down there, and they don’t look very big). But what is harder to capture is the sense of vertigo when you are actually directly above stuff, like when you are at a hanging belay on the side of a cliff…

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So, I took a bunch of reference photos and what I think I’ll try to do is a drawing or painting that exaggerates certain elements of the composition to try to better reflect the feeling of being up there…

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Here’s a view of the climb from below, from the approach trail.

Dad has been very helpful, sending me examples of work by people like Sonja Delaunay and Andre Derain, who both used exaggerated colour and perspective to get their point across.

 

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Baker’s Hotel by Andre Derain, 1904

 

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Three Women Dressed Simultaneously by Sonia Delaunay

And then I found this one, also by Sonia…

 

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Color Rhythm by Sonia Delaunay, 1967

Which was a bit odd, because I’d been playing with colour blocks in my notebook just moments before I found her work after following a link sent by Dad…

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My blocks are a lot less solid than hers (pastels on textured paper rather than oil paints in Delaunay’s…). And my palette is totally different, of course… but on that front I was inspired by Josef Albers, about whom you will hear more in the days to come as Dad and I have had several Albers conversations and, weirdly enough, he is also featured in a current issue of an art magazine (which I stumbled across online and have now lost again… I’ll retrace my steps and try to post a link when I get back to Albers properly…)

It has been another busy day and I need to go find some grub, have a shower, and take another look at the scenes we’ll be rehearsing tomorrow for the Canmore Summer Theatre Festival’s production of Romeo and Juliet. My creative cup runneth over!!

 

 

 

 

 

All I Had Was Five Minutes and a Green Pen (23/365)

After yesterday’s outpouring about being paranoid about sketching in public (and how I would try to do it more often/ever) I found myself riding my bike home along the creek.

 

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I stopped several times and snapped photos with my phone…

I was about to hop back on my bike and continue home when I remembered how I had this grand plan to a) draw something every day and b) sketch out there in the real world, no matter how intimidating that thought might be.

All kinds of excuses came to mind – I was in a rush to get home, I didn’t have a sketchbook with me, I had no pencil… But then I thought, EXCUSES! and rummaged through what I did have in my bag.

Turns out, it is possible to turn one’s daytimer on its side and use a green pen to do a scribbly sketch.

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There you go. My very first ever en plein air attempt at sketching!

And below, one by the Russian landscape painter, Ivan Shiskin.

 

 

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Sketch for the painting, “Rye” by Ivan Shishkin, 1878

For the moment, that’s all – I have to rush off and get ready for something else I’ve never really done before – my singing lesson! Seems like I’m having some kind of midlife creative crisis over here!

 

 

On Sketching in Public – A Sketchy Business (22/365)

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Sometimes there’s not a lot of choice when it comes to choosing a subject to sketch… my knee and foot were handy while waiting at the hospital…

For whatever reason, I am happy to pull out my phone or camera or even the awkward iPad and take photos wherever I find myself. The exception to that is portraiture – bad enough when I know the subject, beyond daunting when I don’t. That’s why, when you look through my billions of images, you’ll rarely see one that includes a recognizable person. It’s a shame, really, because people are endlessly fascinating and certainly worthy of being photographed. But there’s something about invading people’s privacy and stealing their souls that makes me anxious. So, I generally wait until passers-by get out of the way before snapping the photo. 

 

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People? Who needs people when you can photograph your dog? This is Pippi, looking adorable as always… 

 

Maybe that’s why I enjoy Humans of New York so much. Brandon Stanton’s work taking photos of people in New York is both disarming and captivating. The combination of deceptively straightforward images and the stories of the people he photographs is endlessly entertaining. Not in a funny way (though, sometimes the anecdotes are pretty amusing) but also often in deeply touching ways. More than once since I became a HONY groupie (groupy?) years ago I have been moved to tears after seeing an image and reading the accompanying text. 

 

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Sunflower experiments… various waiting rooms

 

Not that this is a post about street photography or candid portraits. Over the past couple of weeks as I’ve been trying to draw something every day, there have often been times where the available time to do a sketch was in public somewhere… in a waiting room, at a ferry dock, on a plane or at a coffee shop. 

I have forced myself to surreptitiously pull out my notebook and draw something, but oh my, it’s excruciating. First, it’s physically challenging to contort myself so I hide as much of what I’m doing as I can from curious eyes. I cross my legs to make a sort of angled platform for the notebook and then ‘rest’ my right arm over the page while leaving just enough of the drawing peeking out that I can sort of see what I’m doing. People are curious, of course. I would certainly wander over to peek at someone’s work if they were sitting out in public somewhere, drawing. So why the shyness? I’m keenly aware that I’m not very good – and, that this does not matter. But who likes to think that the response from an onlooker will be ‘dear God, why is that woman wasting her time? What is that she’s trying to draw?’ 

At the hospital the other day, I was waiting with Dad in a small room off to the side of the main emergency room waiting area when the lab tech came in to take a blood sample. I was sketching something from a photo I had taken over the weekend (oh, how much do I love having so many photos at my fingertips on my cell phone???) and the lab tech stopped and asked, “Are you sketching?” I nodded and blushed but before I could say anything else she started going on about how in all the years she had been working at the hospital she had never seen anyone drawing while waiting. “People are always on their phones! Their heads are down. They aren’t paying attention to anyone else. This is so cool!”

 

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Pretty soon, I’m going to have quite the collection of waiting room chairs in my notebooks…

 

She didn’t actually come over to see what I was working on, but the whole time she was busy with Dad she kept talking. “We all used to draw, didn’t we? And color? They say it’s very therapeutic – relaxing. Why did we ever stop? Why did we ever stop playing? Why do they take the swings out of the middle school playgrounds?”

 

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Children’s Playground in Tiergarten Park in Berlin by Max Liebermann, 1885

 

What excellent questions! What the heck happens to us when we grow up and get all serious and think that everything we do either needs to have a dollar sign attached to it or has to meet someone else’s standards of good enough? She wasn’t the only one to note the strange shift that happens at some point in our childhoods when we stop experimenting and trying stuff. Dani also made a comment when she was looking over my shoulder at a truly awful rendition of a lily I was struggling with and observed, “We all stop drawing as eight-year-olds. That’s why our drawings all look like they were done by eight-year-olds.” 

It’s true. My lily was crude, but not in a good, sophisticated Picasso-esque kind of way. It was just badly drawn and the colour was wrong and there was something terribly skewed about the perspective. Kind of like what I might have come up with when I was about eight. For so many years I have kept that eight-year-old kid artist wannabe locked up, banished to a darkened room without access to coloured pencils. Now, suddenly, she has burst out of her room and gone mad!

 

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Just a bunch of squiggly lines, right? Any kid could do that, right? Wrong… Artist and his Model by Pablo Picasso, 1926

 

What is interesting about my recent efforts is that for some odd reason I seem to have reconnected with my eight-year-old self and am treating her much more kindly. I am so enjoying exploring different materials, techniques, subjects, approaches as I blunder my way from page to page in my notebooks. It’s fun to be messy, to be wrong, to make mistakes. There is nowhere to go from here but up! To facilitate this progress (because I have to believe that if I keep going, there will be progress), I am determined to get as comfortable whipping out a sketchbook when I see something interesting as I am pulling out my camera or sitting down to write in my journal (or, as I am doing right now, typing on my iPad). I used to be a bit embarrassed about that, too, but in terms of writing in public, I have done it so often I don’t even think twice about settling in wherever I find myself. 

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I’m writing this while on a plane heading from the coast to Calgary. I’m inches away from my seat-mate, who is watching something on her iPhone. Outside the window, we are descending into fields of crazy big puffy white clouds… I stop my writing, flip the iPad over and aim it out the window and snap a few reference shots. I’ll sketch those clouds a bit later. Maybe even in the airport, at a coffee shop, while I’m waiting for my shuttle to take me back to the mountains. 

 

Orange You Glad… (20/365)

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After another morning of blood tests and follow-ups (all is well, Dad is on the mend…) Dad and I headed off to Glendale Gardens (at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific). The man-eating rhodos are in full-bloom and putting on quite a show at the moment.

I was on a mission to find a couple of things. The first was some good examples of the color orange as that’s the Artists Magazine is looking for Instagram submissions using their #artistsnetwork_colorstory hashtag and, yes, the featured color for the next couple of months is orange.

Sparty’s dashing orange life vest made it into my notebook yesterday…

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The color is actually a pale impression of the real thing, which is neon crazy bright (a good thing, I suppose, if he went overboard and needed to be rescued), but I didn’t actually bring an orange pencil with me. This led to a somewhat awkward moment in the hospital waiting room when I had to ask Dad how to mix orange… He looked at me like I had just asked ‘what do I do next, I’d like to breathe…’ I know mixing colours is second nature to some, but for me, I never really got past yellow and blue make green. And so far, most of my early efforts at sketching stuff has been without colour and certainly without colour mixing…

Anyway, the answer (delivered with a minimum of eye-rolling, I suspect because Dad is not feeling his best) is red and yellow. Which, I guess, I maybe did kind of know because what else would you possibly mix to get orange?

IMG_3882.JPGAs it happens, the gardens were filled with orange-y flowers, blossoms, and blooms of all shapes and sizes (and, scents… but that’s hard to deliver via the Internet).

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Looking at those variations on the orange theme, you can see how some are more yellow, some more red… In my imagination I am swirling my paintbrush through blobs of pigment to create exactly the right mixture to capture the brilliant colors at the gardens.

 

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Perhaps my favourite orange flowers were the little balls on this aptly named “Orange Ball Tree” (did you spot the bee? they were everywhere today, which was GREAT to see)

It’s funny how, when you start looking for something, it starts showing up every time you turn around. We went to the tea shop in the gardens and what’s lying on the tea plate?

 

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Things were getting more orange by the minute… I took a series of photos of stuff on the tea table. Perhaps there may be a still life in my future? 

Even after we arrived home, the orange kept appearing!

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I thought this might make an interesting subject for a drawing with everything except the orange being done in either pencil or pen and wash…

Here’s a painting I found where the oranges look very yellow (though, that might be in the reproduction…)

 

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The Orange Market by Maurice Prendergast (1898-ish)

How about this one by Andy Warhol?

 

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Five Deaths Eleven Times in Orange by Andy Warhol, 1963

 

 

I must say I’m kind of excited about the possibilities when it comes to colour… Stay tuned!