Tag Archives: family

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!

Y is for a Year (or so) of Travels (AtoZChallenge2018)

Yesterday I started my post with a clip from an old song… I’ll do the same today with this old chestnut, I Was Born Under a Wandering Star.

 

My mom was the one who used to sing this to me (in not quite as low a register as Lee Marvin does, mind you) every time I said I was yearning to hit the road and go travelling. I don’t know where that need to roam comes from, but for some of us, itchy feet have nothing to do with athlete’s foot.

 

The past year and a bit have been really good for finding myself in far-flung places. Strangely, though I lived there for many years, Vancouver Island has become a destination. Last year I had the pleasure of taking a couple of sailing trips with my daughter and her husband on their lovely sailboat, Easy Rider. 

 

 

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It was a little chilly lounging around on the foredeck in February… But that didn’t stop me from trying. That’s what those lovely survival suits are for, right? 

 

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Had a great road trip through the mountains in March and stopped (of course) at Grizzly Book and Serendipity Shop in Revelstoke where, it turned out, they were filming a Christmas movie (hence the Christmas decorations in March…)

 

 

After arriving back in Canmore (home, these days) I basically unpacked and re-packed and went off to Paris. But not before a late night ice climbing expedition:

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Our neighbourhood. For most of our stay we hung out in the 15th, a five minute stroll from this bridge. 

 

 

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From Paris, I took a quick trip to Montreal, Toronto and London as one of my books was nominated for a Silver Birch Award in Ontario. 

 

Then, back to Paris. Where, among other things, I ate frog legs.

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Eventually, we returned to the mountains, but only briefly, just long enough to climb a mountain or two.

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The weather was good on the coast and I was longing to get back on the water…

 

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I’m fastening on the ‘don’t lose the dog’ netting on the boat before we set off for a few days of puttering around in the Gulf Islands. I have no more photos of this trip because I dropped my brand new phone overboard as we approached Nanaimo Harbour! Note that the weather had improved dramatically so no survival suits were required. 

 

Once back in the mountains I played about with my replacement phone and enjoyed a bit more climbing

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before heading back to Europe.

There was a day in Paris…

 

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quick visit to the Centre Georges Pompidou…

 

… and then on to Madrid, where I met my daughter and Dad in Madrid…

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From there, a train to Sarria where we began a very slow walk 120 kms or so to Santiago de Compostella as part of our Great Camino Project. (If you haven’t already found it, check out @lastlegbook on Instagram for lots of photos of our journey).

 

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Santiago… that way… 

 

Because we were working on a book about the project, after our time was up in Spain, we jumped on a cruise ship in Barcelona and wrote 65,000 words or so… One of these days we will get the rest of the manuscript done and, with any luck, will eventually see a book. If you’d like to have a look at a few of the posts written along the way, here are a couple of links…

That Way!

The Kindness of Strangers

Once back at home in the mountains, I lost a bet and had to jump down Main Street wearing a pink bunny suit…

(and no… I didn’t… pass wind, that is… I did jump through town while singing the Happy song by William Pharrell… )

When all that was over, it was time to pack our bags again and head back to the coast for Christmas with family.

 

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The gang in Vancouver… 

 

You might think all that was more than enough packing and unpacking, but what did we get for Christmas? Yes!! Allegra and I received tickets to go on a cruise together! So off we went again to explore the Caribbean… but not before a little ice climbing…

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It’s kind of nice you don’t need seventeen layers crampons and ice axes to have fun on the beach… (this one in Jamaica).

 

And then, home again just in time for spring break and (this is getting a bit ridiculous) another trip to Paris!

 

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It was a wet spring in Paris – the Seine is threatening to overflow her banks… 

And finally, back home to the mountains for a bit more ice climbing…

IMG_2126.JPGYeah. It’s been quite the year, or so… I couldn’t have imagined all those many miles being logged had I tried to look ahead at the beginning of 2017. Who knows where this next year will take us?

Yikes!!

 

 

 

World Art Day – and Week Two Recap (#AtoZChallenge2018)

According to my source (thanks, Dad!) today is World Art Day! Given that Dad was the first artist I met (and certainly the one I’ve known for the longest), here’s a black and white photo of an early painting from Australia.

 

The Rocks

The Rocks by E. Colin Williams – not sure of the date – 1967ish?

 

This is an old area of Sydney – here’s a link to the Wikipedia page about The Rocks, now a touristy destination while still preserving some of the flavour of this historic district.

All these many years later, Dad is still going strong, still painting, still exploring new subjects, materials and techniques. Yes, he’s my father so I’m a bit biased, but I find him inspiring and love getting texts each day with updates from the studio. I never know what to expect and it’s so cool to be able to see paintings as they progress from the roughest of sketches to finished works.

 

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Self Portrait, 2015 E. Colin Williams Unfortunately, this photo isn’t really sharp, but it’s kind of fun to see the artist posing with the artist…

 

Hmm… I’ve been enjoying the daily blogging challenge this month – maybe I’ll continue for another month and just blog daily about Dad’s projects. He’s got lots on the go at the moment – then you could all see the cool stuff I get to see arriving on my phone each day…

I will chew on that between now and the end of April … Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in an ECW Art-themed month of blog posts starting in May.

Meanwhile, here are links to this past week’s blog posts:

Day 9 – H is for Home

Day 10 – I is for Ice

Day 11- J is for Jumping Jehosephat (and a BUNCH of other fun J words)

Day 12 – K is for Kisses, Klimt and Kerouac

Day 13 – L is for Landscape, Leonardo, Liu, Lowery, Lichtenstein and Lots more…

Day 14 – M is for Mary, Mountain (but not Montmartre)

See you tomorrow when we return to our regularly scheduled alphabet… Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Portrait of a Pilgrim

The Plan

We are on our way back to North America after having spent about five weeks in Spain, most of that walking the last 120 kilometres or so of the Camino de Santiago. What was the point of all that, you might ask? Why did we feel the need to drag ourselves, and in the end, a wheelchair, across a chunk of northern Spain? It would be great if I could say something glib like, “Because it was there” or “Because we like to go on vacations with a bit of a twist” but it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

For one thing, we can’t really afford to just jet off and wander around the Spanish countryside for weeks on end. Usually, we either need to find a way to keep working on the road (Internet access makes this possible, though it can also create huge logistical challenges when connectivity is not quite as good as we need it to be). Even better is when we can find a way to tie a project to a travel destination. Sometimes it’s as simple as writing a destination travel article about a place we want to go (or, happen to be going anyway). Sometimes it’s using a destination or activity that takes place in a distant place (climbing, for example) in a book. Taking copious notes, reference photos, or conducting interviews to gather information is a way to write some of the travel costs off as long as the material is used somewhere down the road.

Digital nomad at work in a small cafe in the middle of nowhere.

In the case of this trip along the Camino Frances, though, the intention all along was to write a book about the trip and to find a way to integrate art (Dad’a art in particular). Not only is Dad’s work integrated into the written project, he is also beavering away on a series of works exploring the idea of creating a portrait of a pilgrim to be presented in an exhibition of work.

At the end of a long day of walking, Dad works on a drawing of the Castillo de Pambre

One of the the good things about being a writer or an artist is that all of life becomes a potential source of inspiration. That’s also one of the tough aspects of this type of job. There isn’t really a way to shut life off, close the office door and go home. Everything is raw material and holds the potential of the next great bit of writing or amazing painting. For someone in the arts, each day could be the one where our desire to create something worthwhile is realized. Just the act of living life becomes a pilgrimage of sorts, full of challenges and roadblocks to overcome on the way to coming up with something decent.

When we set off on the road to Santiago we knew we wanted to create something (visual art on Dad’s part, written work from me and Dani), but beyond that we weren’t exactly sure what our story would be. After all, we had plans, but plans never exactly correspond with reality.

The good news is that post trip we have plenty of raw material for a book and Dad is well on his way to creating some very cool pieces unlike anything he has ever done before. The walking together, the conversations in the evenings, the time spent looking at art, watching Dad create art, listening to conversations among other pilgrims, reading about the act of pilgrimage, visiting museums – all that input, that raw material provided a massive amount of information, stimulation, and inspiration. The creative wheels aren’t just turning, they are spinning fast.

We knew that part of the challenge after a trip is coming back and being thrown into real life distractions, so we decided to spend a couple of weeks together after we finished walking to Santiago in order to focus on the project. The process has been as challenging as anything we faced on the journey.

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Some of our conversations have been predictable – like comparing notes about various high (and low) points of the trip, but we’ve also talked about mortality, what inspires us, surprises like how much we all liked the Segrada Familia, Gaudi’s ode to nature and God in Barcelona, and what makes a great portrait. We’ve asked ourselves a lot of questions about the nature of pilgrimage and what a real pilgrim looks like. We sought out images of pilgrims in art and now, as we begin to write (and Dad continues to work with pen and ink and wax crayon and tempera paint sticks and watercolours) what is emerging is a story about our pilgrimage, but also a meditation on what it means to be a pilgrim – in words and images.

We collected dozens of pilgrim-related images on our trip… this one from the Pilgrim Museum in Santiago.

Dad is also exploring juxtapositions of self portraits with ancient depictions of pilgrims. He’s playing with stylistic twists and bold colour, taking fresh inspiration from time spent in the presence of Gaudi’s work, Picasso’s ever-evolving approaches to art and portraiture, and the many, many pilgrims we have seen in carvings, sculptures, murals, painted, drawn, and etched into stone.

We have been privy to Dad’s creative process in ways that have never been possible before now – living in close quarters for so long there is no way to avoid seeing how he comes up with ideas, starts sketching, restarts, scribbles, and polishes. At the same time, Dani and I have been clicking away on our keyboards.

The artist goes shopping – finding art supplies was easy in Barcelona.

I’ve been working on recreating our journey, integrating notes about art and history found along the way. I’m also trying to figure out the best way to share the conversations Dad and I have had over the past six weeks or so that we’ve been travelling together. Dani is digging deeper into the many moments that make up a pilgrim’s journey, writing a series of reflections and information essays that take the reader behind the scenes on subjects as varied as bedbugs and courier systems. The more we write and draw and talk and question, the more we discover to explore, describe, question and discuss.

Leaving Sarria…

“Is that where we are going?” Dad asks, pointing up.

“Unfortunately,” I answer.

“Oh my God. I haven’t trained for this.”

At one point we all worried that we wouldn’t have anything to say about our trip, that our three creative wells would simultaneously run dry. In fact, the opposite is happening. We all have found so much to explore I’m thinking our bigger task will not be thinking of what to include but what we will need to eventually trim out.

No fears about not having enough reference material!

Dutch Power!

Dani and I were trucking along today and about the 6 kilometre mark after leaving our hostel in Salceda a couple of Dutch guys slowed down and insisted in taking a turn in pushing Dad. For a couple of kilometres they stuck with us, chatting away and helping us on all but the steepest of downhills.

Then, it was better for us to hook up our patented “D-brake” system, with Dani behind and connected to the wheelchair with the laundry line and me hanging on to the handles of the chair. As soon as we hit level ground again, though, the fellow from the Netherlands (I can’t believe that throughout the entire time we spent together nobody mentioned names!!!) took over again and kept pushing.

We made excellent time and found out about a documentary film called “I’ll Push You” https://youtu.be/W7gKD3q0-V0 about two friends, one in a wheelchair, who do the CAmino together. Turns out one of the Dutch brothers is a Camino-phile. This trip along the French Way is his fourth, his seventh Camino in total. In 2013 he happened to see the guys on their wheelchair trip, stopped and took a photo. Then, recently, he saw their documentary film and (I think) watched it with his brother. And, when the brothers saw us, they immediately wanted to stop and help.

It was pretty cool to hear their stories and share a bit of the journey with them. One of the things we have really missed in our journey so far was the camaraderie so many pilgrims speak of. Our Camino family has been limited to the three of us as moved so much slower than everyone else. Now, though, people don’t pass us nearly so quickly and when they do, it doesn’t throw them off schedule too much to walk with us for a short while and have a chat.

After a couple of kilometres it was time for us to stop for lunch, which was lovely in the warmth of a late autumn afternoon.

The Dutch brothersa continued on their way and then Dani, Dad and I finished up the day here in O Pedrouzo. As soon as I get somewhere where I can stream video, I’ll have to watch “I’ll Push You.” From the trailer, though, it makes our little jaunt look pretty cruisy!

An update about the Camino

Our trip to Spain is getting closer! Follow the link below to my writing blog for more details…

There is nothing quite like receiving that email confirming your flight is booked. In this case, the series of emails (Calgary to Paris via Montreal, Paris to Madrid and then various bits and pieces of the return trip plus information about trains within Spain) have triggered a crazy mix of wild excitement and sheer terror. […]

via Camino tickets BOOKED!!!!!! — Nikki Tate – Author

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Writergrrrl vs the Dastardly Drysuit

There can be only one winner… and something tells me it wasn’t me…
For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to get myself a drysuit – you know, in case I am invited to go surfing in Antarctica. I found one, really cheap, online. This was my attempt to put the stupid thing on.

Warning: Best not watch this with a mouthful of coffee… I can’t be responsible for any damage your keyboard might suffer as a result.

Curious how I got out again? Pop on over to Patreon and sign up to be a Patron. There’s a sequel that only Patrons get to see… Escape from the Dastardly Drysuit.