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Don’t Compare

Don't Compare

I came across something this past week that reminded of an Aha I had while viewing the Matisse exhibit a few years back.

I can’t compare my rough drafts with someone else’s finished masterpiece.

Yet I fall victim to this all the time and people in my workshops often do the same thing. We’re too hard on ourselves. We forget we aren’t seeing the process and the experiments of the masters. We don’t ever see the bits and pieces lying in closets, sitting on a hard drive or consigned to the trash.

Our work is as unique as our signature and that comparison can be helpful. I never worry that my signature doesn’t look like someone else’s. It doesn’t even cross my mind. (Not to mention that would be illegal.)

That’s why we shouldn’t compare our efforts to the person sitting next to us in a workshop or even worse, hanging in a gallery. We are learning about tools and techniques, just like we did in school as we learned to sign our names. Be gentle with your inner artist.

There IS a lot to learn by studying the work of others who have mastered their craft. Just don’t try to BE them.

Let’s be ourselves

So next time my inner voice says “I wish I could paint like…” I’ll remind myself that it’s better if I let myself paint like me.

 

 

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Marion Boddy-Evans

My sister visits the Isle of Skye each summer to work on her Gaelic language skills. In 2017, she discovered the artist Marion Boddy-Evans. Marion Boddy-Evans sheep

She sent me the link to Marion’s blog and I’ve been following her ever since. Lots of good stuff on there for painters. I highly recommend it.

This summer, on her way back to the airport my sister somehow coerced her cabbie into stopping at the studio of Marion Boddy-Evans. She met Marion and bought me a lovely surprise – one of Marion’s sheep paintings!

I wrote to Marion to tell her how much I loved it and asked (with bated breath) if she would be a guest on my blog.

Happily, she said yes!

So,  without further ado, here’s Marion!

What does “being creative” mean to you?Marion Boddy-Evans Sketchbook

I would say that ‘being creative’ is impossible to separate from life itself.

Many people look for a meaning of life, but I feel it is there in front of them: to be creative. Creativity is the fight against entropy, not against chaos which is fundamental to so much art, but the passive, fogginess of life without art.

When did you first realise that you absolutely had to lead a creative life?

When did you first realise that you absolutely had to breath to live?

I mean, that dawning of realization of a need for creativity is part of gaining maturity as a person. The jump from the internalization of childhood to the external world view that comes with self recognition.

Marion Boddy-Evans Waterfall

What inspires you?

Impossible to truly quantify. But at various instances there is the environment around me, the sharing of philosophies between friends, the love of a partner (who is also known as the “in-house art critic”), and cats. Lots of cats.

What do you want your art to communicate?

I paint what appeals to me, and hope it creates some joy for others. I don’t intend for my paintings to have a specific narrative, but to allow the viewer to dive in and discover their own stories. In essence it’s whatever a viewer takes from it.

Describe your creative process. What kind of patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

Think “Groundhog Day”.

Each day is one of discovery, in a familiar setting that still generates surprises. I take delight in trying out new mediums and methods, and vary my time between making art and making jewellery and writing and sometimes just sitting quietly at the sea shore listening to waves.

Marion Boddy-Evans white sheepWhat is the most challenging part of the creative process for you and how do you meet that challenge?

Finding the time to do all I wish to achieve for that day amidst the demands of everyday life and the ‘admin’ side of being self-employed.

What’s the best advice you were every given about how to be more creative?

Creativity isn’t rationed. It isn’t a finite quantity, but it also doesn’t fall out of the ether. The Muse has to arrive and find you working. The Muse doesn’t so much whisper in your head as illuminate the possibilities around you, and that only comes because she is entranced by what you are trying to accomplish.

Connect with Marion Boddy-Evans

https://marion.scot/

https://twitter.com/painting

https://www.facebook.com/boddyevans

https://www.instagram.com/isleofskyeartstudio/

Marion Boddy-Evans Eagle
Air Flow by Marion Boddy-Evans
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Protect Your Art Online

protect your work

Just because we’re not famous artists or writers (yet) doesn’t mean we shouldn’t protect our creations from being used without our permission. I was reminded of that fact just recently.

I ran a Facebook ad for the Creative Fire Cafe, getting the word out to other creatives about this safe space where we share our experiences, a few laughs and interesting conversations about the creative life.

Surprise!

The image I use on the group’s banner was created by a Cafe member and good friend of mine. My friend showed the original to me a few years back and I never forgot it because it’s such a wonderful image. It’s a piece I particularly love because of its ‘creative fire’. I asked for and (importantly) received permission to use the image for the Cafe.

Join The Café

So imagine my surprise when I got a nasty comment on the ad post from someone using the exact same image as her business logo. She claimed a friend created it just for her and she had paid for the image. She ordered me to remove it because it was hers.

I immediately got in touch with my artist friend, who attempted to contact the person who posted. As the artist, my friend has valid proof of ownership and wanted to share that, along with a request to desist using the pirated image.

My friend never got a response but I suspect that other woman’s friend has “some ‘splainin’ to do.”

The conundrum

This is every creative person’s worry and conundrum – how do we protect our original pieces?

We need to be out on social media but once your work is out there, you run the risk of a scenario like the one I described. It happens all to often. Someone passes off your work as theirs while profiting from it.

How to protect your work

So I did some research and here are a few things we can do to protect ourselves from having our work stolen:

ARTISTS:

1. Take a photo of your image as soon as you complete it and before you post it. Photos have metadata attached, including the date and time the picture was taken. If someone copies your work, that metadata proves your work predated their use of it. (Luckily, my friend has photos of her original piece.)

2. Before putting your work online, protect it with a visible watermark using editing software. Make it part of the image itself. If you simply add it to the edge or a blank space, it can be trimmed off or edited out.

If most of your images are on your phone you can use an app like Iwatermark. If you work from your desktop, almost any photo editing software can be used. Simply add your name, a copyright symbol and the year in an interesting part of your image and reduce the text opacity to about 40-60%.

3. Don’t post high resolution images to social media or your website. Take high resolution photos for reproductions of course but save a copy in low resolution (72 dpi).

A word of warning: When you save your lo-res copy, be sure to give it a unique name. If you save it over the top of your hi-res image there’s no going back.

WRITERS:

1. Like images, your documents have metadata with creation dates as well as the last edit date. That metadata proves your work preexisted any unauthorized use of it and protects it from plagiarism.

2. For manuscripts, print a complete copy of the work and send it to yourself via registered mail. When you receive your mail, sign for it but don’t open the envelope. Tuck it away someplace safe. If you ever need to prove your work pre-existed another’s, you now have the postal service on your side. That envelope will be valid evidence in court.

For all creatives, be sure people know how to contact you so they can purchase your work or get permission to quote you.

What about you?

If you have other suggestions to add these lists, please share them in the comments. This is a problem all creatives face so let’s support each other!

 

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Playing at The Art Shack

Margaretsville Lighthouse

It’s my turn to cover a shift at The Art Shack today so I brought along some art supplies to play with.

One of those items was a bottle of acrylic artist ink.

I follow artist Marion Boddy-Evans’ blog and she posted an experiment she did which inspired me to give drawing with ink a try.

Line drawing I sketched in a line drawing to follow (which is also the view from the Shack window. Hard not to be inspired.)

Then, using the ink dropper like a pencil, I drew in the lighthouse, cliff and the dark edge of the water.

Next I dampened the water area with a clean brush, being careful not to touch the ink until it was all damp. After that I just let the ink do what it wanted to do, spreading out into the damp paper.Ink drawing

I liked the effect so much I did a little of the same in the cliff to add more texture and finally on the shadow side of the lighthouse.

Really enjoyed playing with this and can see me doing more.

If you give this a try yourself, please share in the comments. Id love to hear what you think.

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Studio Report 1

Magic can happen in a studio. — Benny Green

I’ve been promising a peek into my new studio for awhile now but it’s been a much longer road than we originally planned on but moving day has finally arrived.

A little background

Our home has been reinvented quite a few times over its 125 year life. Each iteration left behind its own reminders. The old wood floors and beamed ceilings hint at its original purpose – the village general store and community meeting hall.

In the 1960’s, one of the storekeepers built an apartment on the second floor. Sometime in the 1990’s the first floor store added a fish and chip restaurant with a separate dining hall outside overlooking the Bay of Fundy. That’s the smaller blue building to the right in the photo below.

Finally, a previous owner turned it into a home and a few years later, we entered the picture.Nova Scotia Home

The Summer House

When we bought this place 2 years ago, we called that small blue outbuilding the “summer house”. We had no idea what to do with it, if anything. It became kind of a catch-all, storing stuff from the move we didn’t have a place for and firewood for the winter

Since our attention was elsewhere, we ignored it that first year, waiting for inspiration to strike.

the original summer house
The yard side before construction began

Making it up as we go

The truth is, since our decision to move here we’ve been making it up as we go. All our working lives we were planners with defined goals and an action plan to get there – most of which didn’t work out as planned.  One day we decided to try something completely different and follow that still, small voice of intuition. We would look for where we are being led, rather than running ahead, trying to control the outcome.

I’m happy to report this approach works amazingly well!

That’s why, one morning when I woke up, I looked at my husband and said, “We’ve got the perfect setup. Let’s try a BnB.”

And he replied, “Sure. Why not?”

Seriously. That simple.

The BnB idea worked out so well, we added a second bedroom suite this year – which meant my studio and his workshop needed new quarters. Luckily, we had the right spot waiting.

Work begins

Last winter, my husband divided his time between the second BnB suite and the studio/workshop. First thing he had to do was level it up because it was sliding downhill towards the Bay.

The Bay side prior to construction work

Then he opened up the sides, rebuilding and insulating as he went along. You can see the beautiful view I have from the studio windows. It’s also north facing so the light is perfect!

studio build
Look at that view!

studio build

In order to echo the Maritime flavour of the buildings and homes around us we went with board and batten siding and a gray stain. I love it and we’ve had lots of positive comments from the neighbours.

Next week the scaffolding comes down

The New Studio

The studio area is now dry walled and painted and I’m moving in this week. There’s trim work to be done and closet doors to go on but I can still work with that going on around me.

That’s where the open wall was in the previous picture!

Once I’ve got things set up so I can paint and host workshops (and lots of paintings hung on that deep red wall) I’ll share more photos. Watch for Part 2 of this post.

Right now I have to run. I’ve got shelves to fill and paintings to hang!

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Focus on what works

Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear.  — Anon

A radical shift

In our culture, shifting the focus to look for what’s strong in our creative work can be a radical idea because we’re taught early to find what’s wrong and fix it.

A few years ago I trained in the Amherst Artist and Writers Method with Pat Schneider. Pat changed the trajectory of many lives with her writing workshops. No less than Julia Cameron calls her a ‘fuse-lighter’. Taking that training with her was a highpoint for me.

One of the very wise things (among  many) I learned from Pat was to focus on what’s strong and successful in a new piece of writing. I’ve come to realize it’s good advice for any creative endeavour in its baby stages.

After training with Pat, I went on and facilitated my own writing workshops. As my students heard from the others in the group about what they liked and what touched them, the writer naturally repeated what worked as they developed their piece. The “other stuff’ fell away.

I witnessed the power of this shift over and over as I worked with my writers.

However, there was one student who felt irritated and uncomfortable when I wouldn’t tell her what to ‘fix’ after the group gave her glowing feedback. She dismissed what she did well – which was actually quite a bit. She was convinced we weren’t telling her the truth about her work.

I get it.

The marketing industry makes a lot of money convincing me I need to be fixed. They taught me to focus on flaws and ignore the good stuff. Like my dissatisfied student, it seems too simplistic to simply build on what works. It can also feel hard to let the other stuff go. The stuff that holds me back and clutters up my creative landscape.

For a long time I bought into the idea that it’s easier to fix something rather than to build on strength. Until I witnessed the power of the building approach in those writing workshops. These days I try to remember to look for what I like and more importantly, to ask for help finding it.

Talking to another artist awhile back, she showed me a watercolour she’d done and lamented that while she loved the lower part of the painting, she’d “ruined” the top. I suggested she tear off the top and keep the good bit. (I think I actually saw the lightbulb go off.)

She ripped that painting almost in half, framed the bit she liked and sold it not long after.

Most of us are terrible at judging these things for ourselves. I know I am because I see where I fell short of the original vision I had and my Inner Critic uses that as ammunition.

I simply can’t be an objective observer. None of us can. Sometimes we need help to see clearly.

Find and ask

First, find someone who can be objective – which usually rules out family and friends.

Second, whatever you do, don’t ask for feedback or constructive criticism.  Not when you’re work is in its early stages. Most of us are trained to default to the negative so be very deliberate in how you word your request.

“What works? What speaks to you? What attracts you here? How does it make you feel?”

All good questions.  If the person I’m asking starts to go to The Dark Side, I try to redirect them with another question. Whether it’s my art or writing, I need to know when/where the piece catches their attention.

This is valuable information.

Try it yourself sometime. You will probably be surprised at what others see in your work. Things you totally overlooked or dismissed. Things you can do more of.

Keep learning

None of this means we shouldn’t take risks, learn from others and practice our craft. We need mistakes – lots of them – to grow and constructive criticism of mature work can help us improve.

We must embrace our personal sparks of brilliance and fan them into flames. Our creative work becomes mediocre and vanilla if we ignore our gifts.

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Meet my creative friend: Donna Mulholland

Donna Mulholland

This month I’d like to introduce you to Donna Mulholland.

While we’ve never met in the real world, I’ve been following Donna Mulholland’s Instagram account for awhile now and her work always gives me a lift. To me, she makes joy visible.

I took a chance, contacted her and she graciously agreed to be part of this series, another example of the generosity of creatives.

Thanks, Donna. Maybe one day I’ll be able to visit Donna Mulholland Studios and meet you in the real world.

What does “being creative” mean to you?

For me, being creative comes down to being curious about the world and curious about trying new things. I always want to know “what will happen if …?” What will happen if I try this … or that?

I’ve always loved the quote “creativity is another word for courage” because you must face the fear of failure to go outside your comfort zone where the real creative breakthroughs happen. I like to think of myself as a creative explorer seeking adventure. No risk, no thrill, eh?

When did you first realize that you absolutely had to lead a creative life?

Donna Mulholland

I was a creative kid. I was always doodling or drawing on a piece of paper, writing stories or running around pretending that I was a horse. Fast forward thirty plus years, to the day I noticed a sign for a watercolor class on the bulletin board at my sons’ elementary school. I started the class in January 2006, totally unaware how that one action was going to change my life.

I soon began drawing and painting practically every day, and the darndest thing was that drawing and painting changed me … it opened me up in ways I had no idea were even possible. Within 3 years, I had left my government career to pursue creativity and painting further.

What inspires you?

At this time of year, nature is a huge inspiration. I adore my daily walks on the trails of my beautiful city. There’s always something new to see and appreciate as the seasons change. Music is another important inspiration. I also find that when I am taking good care of myself inspiration is more likely to find me.

Donna MulhollandWhat do you want your art to communicate?

I want my art to uplift, to inspire and to communicate freedom and joy. I used to think that being told that my art was happy was an insult, as if my work was shallow and unsubstantial, but now I realize that it’s a gift to express and share freedom and joy.

Describe your creative process. What kind of patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

There are two general approaches I take to painting. The first is totally intuitive, where I simply stand in front of paper or canvas and see where the paint takes me. This is my favourite approach, and if it leads to something I like, it may lead to a new series.

Donna Mulholland

The second approach is when I start with an intention or concept that I want to explore further and paint intuitively from there. With both approaches, I am always cognizant of the principles of design as I paint. Often, I journal when I paint so that I can remember intentions, thoughts and such. This comes in handy when it’s time to title a painting and write a blurb about it for social media.

My current studio in my home is deliciously private and quiet, so I find I don’t require special routines and rituals beyond my favourite Spotify playlist and a beverage. Certainly, in the past I have tried and enjoyed many different tools to plug me into my creative stream before I started to paint; including meditation, yoga, affirmations, burning palo santo and such.

What is the most challenging part of the creative process for you and how do you meet that challenge?

The lulls between creative periods can be challenging. There is always the fear that creativity won’t return. Turning on some music and playing with no expected outcome can get me going again. It’s like eating one potato chip … after one taste you have to try another and another!

Alternatively, leaving the studio for activities that fill my well also works. It basically comes down to believing in myself and taking good care of myself. (Also read on for my answer to the next question!)

Donna MulhollandWhat’s the best advice you were ever given about how to be more creative?

“If you don’t fall off the horse now and again you aren’t trying hard enough.”

That is, if your paintings are all turning out well, it’s not a good thing. It means you’re being too careful. You need to push beyond the comfort zone and have some failures to really grow as a person and as an artist. A bonus is that something extraordinarily good often follows a not-so-good painting.

Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask?

One of my business goals this year is to reach 10,000 Instagram followers. I started the year with 3500 followers and at the time this was published, I had about 7700 followers. I’d be thrilled if you checked out my account and followed me at @donnamulhollandstudio at https://www.instagram.com/donnamulhollandstudio/?hl=en.

Thanks so much!

Links

Latest Hot Links: You can find out what’s new at Donna Mulholland Studio in one place at https://linktr.ee/donnamulhollandstudio

Mailing List: Join my mailing list to get first access to art collections, news and surprises. There’s also a monthly draw for a Goofin’ with the Muses poster! Click https://mailchi.mp/edf8ee64f1eb/muse-poster-giveaway-sign-up  to join!

Instagram: @donnamulhollandstudio at https://www.instagram.com/donnamulhollandstudio/?hl=en

Facebook: Donna Mulholland Studio https://www.facebook.com/mulhollandstudio/

Website: https://www.donnamulhollandstudio.com

Shop: https://www.donnamulhollandstudio.com/store/c1/Featured_Products.html

Blog: https://www.donnamulhollandstudio.com/blog

Contact: Got a question? Email me at info@donnamulhollandstudio.com

Donna Mulholland

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Ideas have ancestors

geneology of ideas

“Look at Shakespeare, who borrowed all of his plots. In ‘A Song of Ice and Fire,’ I take stuff from the Wars of the Roses and other fantasy things, and all these things work around in my head and somehow they jell into what I hope is uniquely my own.” George R.R. Martin

It’s all been done before…and that’s fantastic!

Ideas are the seeds of creativity. And yet, as artists and writers we often get discouraged thinking “It’s all been done before.”

That’s the good news. No, really. It IS good news because I’m not sure anyone is wholly original. We build on each other’s ideas. That’s why I say that ‘ideas have ancestors.’ We can trace their lineage.

Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet (and it sounds like he got his plot elsewhere.) Along came the creators of West Side Story who basically told the same story but changed it. George R.R. Martin took a story from history, amped it up and made it his own.

You’re probably thinking “But, Aprille, what about Leonardo da Vinci?” (Insert any creative hero here.)

They got their ideas from somewhere else, often the natural world around them. They saw what everyone else saw but  through the lens of curiosity.

Make it your own

What could you create today starting with the inspiration of something else? How would you change it to make it truly your own? I’m not advocating copying. That’s just plain bad karma.  But inspiration? That’s a good thing.

Inspiration always starts somewhere. Steve Jobs got his design idea for the Ipad on a Zen retreat. The designer of Velcro was a hunter who had to pick cockle-burs off his pants and wondered how they stuck there.

The geneology of an idea

Austin Kleon, in his brilliant book “Steal Like an Artist” talks about the ‘geneology of ideas’. I love this concept. So much in fact, that I did as he advised and spent time reading about an artist I greatly admire. From there I tracked down her influencers and saw how they inspired her.

From that I got a whole slew of creative ideas, all of them uniquely mine and yet…not. I can trace their family tree.

See what I mean? It’s not about being an original. It’s about seeing things in a new way by building on our creative ‘ancestors’. I’m not sure anyone starts from nothing. Ideas have family trees.

Gives a whole new meaning to recycling, doesn’t it?

Who are your creative heroes? How have they influenced you? Share in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Longing for more creative expression?

Join me for the next session and sync up your life and creative soul.


What are you waiting for


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that fits the life you lead today.

Get ready for your future.

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Sketching to Experience the World

Power of Sketching

Drawing is first about taking something with all the senses, letting what is simply be as it is, without judging it. – Jeanne Carbonetti, The Yoga of Drawing

Call it what you will

Sketched from my deck

I love sketching. While it’s a good creative warm-up, it’s even better as an antidote to the distractions all around me. It reminds me to pay attention because the world is a pretty amazing place.

Sketching is available to anyone because there’s no need to call yourself ‘artist’. No need even to share what you produce. I have pages and pages of sketches for ‘my eyes only’. You can even throw away what you produce because it’s NOT about the product.

It’s about being present for that moment and really noticing the world again.

It’s all about curiosity

Sketching makes me pay attention and examine small details.

It shifts me out of auto-pilot and helps me to let go of preconceived ideas about how the world around me ‘should’ look.  When I really get into flow, I focus in without judgment about the object I’m studying or what my hand produces on the paper.

Perhaps ‘doodle’ is a better word because it strips away that serious artist overtone.  It’s about curiosity and taking a closer look.

Carpe Diem and Sketch

Sketch of a tide pool
Tide Pool

Keep it simple and your tools handy so you can do this anytime, anywhere. Seize every opportunity.

Choose a pencil or fine-line marker that you like. I prefer a marker because my lines feel more confident. The energy is just different when I know I must commit and can’t erase. I also keep a few watercolour pencils with me because I like colour but it’s not necessary.

The paper itself isn’t important. While it’s nice to have sketchbook, the back of a napkin also works. As I said, it’s not about the end product but the process.

Then just do it.

Try it

Sketch something in your environment right now. Start by taking a second look.

Is the top of a mug really round or something else when it’s in front of you. How do the shadows fall? Is there a glint of light on this somewhere? How do the pieces line up? Or not? Is the top bigger than the bottom?

sketch of boats
Fishing boats by the Margaretsville wharf

You get the idea.

Then just make some marks on the paper. Once you start, it gets easier. Don’t judge the marks you make. They’re not important.

You only need a few minutes. Do it on your lunch hour or while the kids nap. It’s a practice you can squeeze into any schedule and can help you feel more grounded because for those few minutes, you’re paying attention.

Invisible Rule holding you back?

Sketch of the Point
On the Point by the lighthouse

If you’re hesitating I’ll bet the conversation in your head sounds something like “I could never do that.”.

Who made up that rule?

Change the inner dialog to a curious question — “What if I tried this?”.

I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.

Hard to find creative time in a busy life?

I’m putting together an online course that can help with that.

 


What are you waiting for


Build a personalized creative practice

that fits the life you lead today.

Get ready for your future.

Get on the waiting list for the next session

By signing up here you are agreeing to receive occasional emails from me with information about Synchronize.

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Pricing Your Work and Other Things: Business advice for creatives

You need some basic business skills as a creative if you want to earn a living from your work. Pricing your work isn’t always easy.

Here’s some advice on this podcast I did with my friend Joan Sotkin on her Prosperity Place show. 

Highlights:

  • Telling your story is how you connect with your market.
  • Even creatives can learn basic business skills.
  • Too many creatives undercharge for their work or services.
  • We talk about why it’s difficult to decide what to charge for your work.
  • Because your art comes easy doesn’t mean it has less value.
  • Many creatives are multipaths and multipotentialites who are good at a number of things.