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Joy to you and me

Find your joy

Every time you express a complaint about how difficult and tiresome it is to be creative, inspiration takes another step away from you, offended.  Elizabeth Gilbert

In her book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Gilbert takes a practical common sense attitude towards living a joy-filled, creative life I can appreciate. It’s a breath of fresh air that makes creativity feel accessible to anyone and dispels the myth of the suffering artist.

The risk we take

Joy is magnetic. Use the force.Actually, when we focus more on the negatives in any area of our lives, we risk becoming boring and a repelling force. Chasing people away with our attitude runs counter to success in any endeavour, creative or otherwise.

That’s why I’m heeding Elizabeth Gilbert’s advice to focus on the joy of my creative practice.  That doesn’t mean the work isn’t difficult times and I don’t get tired. Hardly.

What is joy?

I’m not blind to the hard work (and yes, sometimes sacrifice) it takes to create from the heart. And I’m no Pollyanna. I grew up in a dysfunctional home with a mentally ill mother, so I get it. Life can be tough and painful and even frightening at times but I don’t need to drag that along behind me.

Yes, we experience joy in the bright moments but it’s also there in the shadows. A friend of mine put her busy life on hold to care for her mother in the final stages of a terminal illness. After her mother was gone, she shared withe me that their time together had joy laced liberally into the sadness.

Joy isn't about being giddy but rather feeling deeply fulfilled by an experience. Click To Tweet

Find your own joy

We’ve been well-taught to look for the negative. The marketing messages you’ve heard most of your life start with the idea you’re not good enough and need to be fixed. (We can help! Buy our product!) So shifting your perspective may take some re-training of your inner chatter.

Here are some tips that can help.

First, pay attention

That inner chatter is powerful. Train yourself to be aware of the negative words you repeat to yourself, especially about your art. Write them down, if you need to. Whenever you hear one pop up, challenge it by responding “Says who?”

Change the conversation.

Second, stop comparing yourself

The habit of comparison always gets in the way of our satisfaction and joy. If we look at the public works of a successful artist and think “I could never do that”, we overlook the ‘learning curve’ pieces, hidden away in closets or thrown in the trash.

Third, actively look for what works

Back when I facilitated creative writing workshops, I followed the AWA method. My training in the methodology emphasized providing feedback only on the strong writing.

“What works? What moves me? What emotions do I experience?”

I witnessed the magic of that again and again. The weak writing fell away simply because we humans crave the positive feedback. “You liked that? I’ll do more of it!”

Each week the writing improved. Many of my students went on to be published, so we were definitely doing something right. I only ever had one participant who constantly complained that unless I told her what was wrong, she couldn’t fix it.

Missing the point, she also missed the joy her art could have brought to herself and others.


In the end, joy is a choice. I choose joy.

Find more joy

The Creative Fire Cafe is a group of creative thinkers and do-ers who support and encourage each other. If you’d like to be part of a virtual group of positive people, join us on Facebook. Just click the link below and ask to join. We’d love to meet you there.

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Wee Art


I’m very excited to be part of an exhibition of Wee Art at Round Hill Studio in Annapolis Royal during December 2017.

The criteria was to work no larger than 6″x6″ in any medium we chose. Of course, I chose watercolours and decided to use what I found on our shoreline to explore the idea of transformation.

The first is the slow transformation of rock to sand. Then I found an empty shell on the beach and felt that was also a transformation.

Finally, I chose the universal symbol of transformation – butterflies.  However, I was stuck after that and almost decided to be satisfied with just three paintings.

Then the dog and I went for a walk by the lighthouse.  On the cliffs, I discovered a pile of feathers being blown about by the wind. I gathered a few and brought them back to my studio. When I set them on my table, I realized I had my fourth painting – the final transformation we all experience one day. Last flight.

I’ve never worked this small before and found it very gratifying because I completed all four paintings in a relatively short period of time. Even more gratifying, all four were accepted for the show.

If you have an opportunity to stop in to Round Hill Studio. Tell them I sent you.

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Whale art: Create to make a difference

whale mandala

The news reports this past summer about the plight of the right whale touched my heart.

The gist of the story is, they have been dying in large numbers relative to a population size of less than 500.  These are magnificent, intelligent creatures and I want to do something to help. I hate to think of a world without them in it.

A little soul

Stand up and show your soulI could probably write a post about using our gifts as artists and being generous with our talents but I hate being preached to and I’ll bet you do, too. I get it that what touches me, doesn’t necessarily move you as an artist or a viewer of art. Also, what we get up to should fall under the heading of “Want To” rather than “Have To.” (There’s enough of those already in my life.)

That’s when I found the quote by Clarissa Pinkola Estes and that proverbial light bulb went off.  What I wanted to do was to show you my soul.

Why the whale?

The plight of the whales touched me because I care deeply about animals. I’ve learned to be careful about reading news articles about abused pets and such because their stories haunt me. It’s not that I don’t want to be informed but it also breaks my heart and, as they say, once you know a thing, you can’t un-know it.

I believe whales to be sentient creatures who are as curious about us as we are about them. When we encounter them in the open ocean they are usually quite gentle. The declining numbers, however, are due to humanity’s less-than-gentle interactions with them.

I asked “How can my art help?”whale mandala

I did a few sketches but nothing seemed quite right until I combined one of those sketches with a mandala, something I played a lot with this past summer.

“Mandala” is a sanskrit word that means “circle” or “center”. I understand it to be sacred space because it represents the circle of life. So when I drew a mandala around my sketch of a whale diving, I knew I had it.

This is my art wish for the whale signifying safe space, a prayer for sacred protection and practical help to maintain their place in the circle of life

I’m offering prints in my Etsy shop for $35 plus shipping. For each print sold, I will donate $10 to the Canadian Whale Institute to help them continue their work. Part of the important work they do at the Institute is untangling the whales from fishing gear.

In addition, the 9×12 pen and ink original is still available. If you’re interested in purchasing it, contact me. I will donate 25% of the proceeds to the Institute as well.

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How to Create a Blooming Mandala Journal Page

I’ve been on a mandala kick for the last little while. I’ve discovered they are a great way to get into the creative zone. Add some visual journaling and…WOW!

Exploring the Mandala

My obsession started when I purchased a copy of  The Mandala Guidebook by Kathryn Costa out of curiosity. In the book, she suggests a brilliant journal exercise that I’ve fallen in love with. I’ve hung mine in the studio as a reminder of what I need to bloom when my creative soil feels dry.

Because what feeds us is different for each of us I want to share what I did so you can give it a go. If you decide you like the mandala form as much as I do, I highly recommend getting a copy of the book for your own library.

Make your own mandala journal page

The Base

First step is to create a flower mandala. I like working in a large, hardcover sketchbook. I used a math compass to get a 6″ circle but you could use a plate. The size is determined simply by how large your paper is and what you want to do. Trace a second circle the same size on a piece of scrap paper, cut it out and set it aside for now.

Add some smaller circles inside your first circle to act as guidelines (Fig 1).

Mandala Start
Fig. 1

You can divide your circle in to twelve equal sections by using a protractor but it’s easier to take your cutout and fold it in half and crease. Then fold that in half again and crease. Finally, fold it into thirds and crease. When you open it up you have the guides you need to create a 12 part flower. Easy, right?

Place your guide over the top of your first circle, mark the points and remove the guide. Using a ruler, connect the points. Be sure they cross the center of your main circle and adjust if any seem a little off center. (Fig 2)

12 Point Mandala
Fig 2

Your Design

Begin designing your mandala in pencil so you can change your mind and make corrections. You can see from the picture (Fig 3) that as I began to design I added a few more smaller circles but you could also freehand the smaller elements of your design if you choose.

Mandala Outlined
Fig 3

Once you’re satisfied with your design, outline the permanent lines with a fine point black marker. (Fig 4) Erase the pencil lines and you have your very own 12 point flower mandala. (Fig 5)

Mandala Inked In
Fig 4
Mandala Ready to Color
Fig 5

Get Creative!

Now the fun starts. Choose colours that speak to you. Don’t second guess yourself. When you’re done, Google the meaning of the colours you chose. I’m often surprised by how much they reflect my current journey.

For my mandala I used the amazing Chameleon markers Kathryn recommended in her book. They make shading simple and magical. Now I have another obsession!

flower mandala
Fig 6

The Journal

Once you’re happy with your mandala, it’s time to connect with your inner Muse. Ask her, “What keeps you blooming?”

In other words, when you’re feeling low, what perks you back up? Some of our answers may be the same but there will be some that are unique to you.

I wrote mine in pencil first and I’m glad I did. I rearranged the order a few times and re-thought a couple of my choices. When you’re satisfied, use your black marker and add them to your mandala. I had fun with the lettering style and added some final details.

How I Bloom Mandala
Fig 7

My only recommendation is to do it YOUR way and trust your intuition.

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It’s easy to book a single, private session with me. Click on the button below, select a time that works for you and pay at checkout. You can even choose between a phone call or a live video feed. You’ll receive an email confirming our appointment and then we’ll talk!

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(In this post I’ve included affiliate links to the supplies I used. While I receive a small commission if you order through my site, that cost is not passed on to you.) 
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Day 2 of My Creative Commitment

I almost tossed this one but decided to take on the challenge of making it into something I liked.  At first it was just blue pen on white paper. Pretty ‘meh’. So I played with colour, added more flourishes and finally a bit of shadowing.

While it’s not a work of art I’m happy with it and that, my friends, is all I ask of this. Not everything has to be worthy of a frame. To play and have fun is reason enough to spend a little time each day with my sketchbook.

Besides, I find doodling is like yoga. It stretches my creative muscles.



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Day 1 of My Creative Commitment

Almost missed the first day of my commitment! It was 9 pm last night when I realized I still needed to do something. Anything!

This painting in my sketchbook was the result and I have to admit the colours made me smile this morning. I even learned some things doing this.

  1. Making a commitment public has power. If I was the only one I’d committed to, I probably would have let this slide. At 9 pm I was comfortably ensconced in my favorite chair watching a movie.
  2. I can no longer use the excuse that “I’m a morning person” and therefore couldn’t possibly be creative after dinner.
  3. For me, being creative means drawing or painting.  I need ink and colour.