Exterior of my studio
The Sketchbook

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 – 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!

sketch of boats
The Sketchbook

Sketching to Experience the World

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.

Power of SketchingTry 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?

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.

3 Sheeps to the Wind
The Creative Life, The Sketchbook

Muse Flash: Tell the Story

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. T. S. Eliot

Choosing the head or the heart

I have to watch myself or I get too “heady” when I’m painting and I forget to tell a story. My background in designing computer systems may have something to do with that.

We like sheepFor that reason, I’m consciously painting “looser” these days. I try to avoid realism, not because it can’t be a story but for me, it becomes an exercise in skill, not story.

Loose, however, is not easy. My Inner Perfectionist wants it to look like a photo. (So does my husband, who just doesn’t ‘get’ anything else.)

To help break away, I’m experimenting with acrylics, bigger brushes, pouring and other mediums such as collage. I’m kicking myself because I gave away all my encaustic supplies before we moved. (Note to self: NEVER give away art supplies.)

As I play with these new (to me) materials, my inner dialog goes something like, ” What am I curious about? What do I feel? What do I want this to say…wait…that doesn’t look real…Oh, right. Back to story.”

Tell a storyAsk the right questions

The trick seems to be sticking with the right questions. The ones about heart, emotion, meaning and story. Doing a piece that is technically well-executed feels…well…satisfying and when I let it, the detailed work pulls me in. The problem is, it doesn’t share anything about me except that I know how to handle a brush and familiar medium.

So I’m on a quest to reach deeper and deeper. To tell a story with my art. To let my inner artist out more and more.

I may end up back where I started but I’m hoping the journey will teach me how to tell my story on a heart to heart level. That’s the powerful kind of art I long to make.

What are you exploring? What story do you want to share?

waves and wonder
The Creative Life, The Sketchbook

Muse Flash: Get out of the studio

When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing – just sitting and looking at the sea, or watching the wind blowing the tree limbs, or waves rippling on a pond, a flickering candle or children playing in the park?  — Ralph Marston

The picnic tables in the park down the street are calling to me. They overlook the bay and I plan to visit them soon with my paints and sketchbook for a little plein air work.

I love my studio but lately I’m hungry to be out where I can smell the ocean and feel the wind. After a dreary, rain-soaked season, I feel flat and empty.

It’s been an easy winter but still…it is winter. At first, I enjoy being cocooned indoors but by March I’ve been inside too long, despite daily walks with the dog.

It’s time to escape and energize my art heart.

One day this week, I’ll take my sketchbook, walk over the our park and set up on one of the tables. The neighbours may think I’m a bit touched but then again, who cares what anyone else thinks?

Even if I don’t paint, it’s never a waste of time to watch waves and listen to the wind.

We all need to get out of our studios and get back into life or we run the risk of growing stale.

Care to join me?

The Sketchbook

From the Studio: My Comfort Zone Challenge

My comfort zone felt safe but it also kept me from growing.

Recently I tried something that wasn’t really new. Just something I left behind years ago – painting with acrylics but it definitely moved me beyond my current comfort zone. 

Everything old is new again

I used to teach decorative painting using acrylics. You’ve seen stuff like it on Pinterest, I’m sure, decorating tables and other furniture using fluid brush strokes and simulating 3D. I loved it and still have a few of my pieces decorating my home.

The problem was I travelled (a lot) on business, which meant airplanes and luggage. I didn’t quite trust packing acrylic paints in with my business clothes so I switched to watercolours. They seemed less risky and cleaning my brushes in a hotel sink was easy.

This meant learning a whole new way of painting because, if you use both acrylics and watercolors, you know they require slightly different techniques. So I made the decision to focus on the watercolours and abandon the acrylics. I didn’t have time or budget to learn and practice both mediums.

I never worked with acrylics again – until recently. 

Stretching the comfort zone

Frankly, I was a little concerned about trying them again, afraid I might find it confusing to switch back and forth. Plus I spent a lot of time and money bringing my watercolour skills up to snuff. Did I really want to start back at the beginning again?

(I think perfectionism might have been running that train of thought.)

Road Block, Acrylics
Road Block

But my comfort zone felt stale. I wanted something with a different energy and vibe and acrylics kept calling to me. So when I dropped off my paintings at Roundhill Studio for their Wee Art show, I noticed her flyer for an acrylic class. I threw caution to the wind and registered on the spot. (That way I wouldn’t change my mind.)

When I showed up for class, I was pleasantly surprised how my watercolour skills crossed over. The brush didn’t change, only the medium. (Duh.)

I felt so excited and pleased with the painting of sheep I created that day, I went back to my own studio and started pumping out acrylic paintings. I’ve done a number of them since that workshop a few weeks back. More importantly, I’m outside my comfort zone, having a lot of fun!

What I learned

The Flirt, acrylics
The Flirt

I still paint with watercolour but in a completely different style. They tend to be much more detailed while the acrylic paint brings out my loose and playful side. I find it easy to move back and forth between both mediums and styles, which surprised and excites me.

All this time I’ve hesitated only to discover that each one informs and enriches the other. I might never have know this if I had continued to shy away.

Sometimes we just have to get out of our own way and leave the safety of the comfort zone. When stopped listening to that story holding me back, I learned a little more about what I was capable of.

What’s something new you’d like to try? Have you stretched your comfort zone lately? Share what you found there in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.