Marion Boddy-Evans Sketchbook
Creative Friends

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 quote

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

Marion Boddy-Evans Eagle
Air Flow by Marion Boddy-Evans
Donna Mulholland
Creative Friends

Meet my creative friend: 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

Thanks so much!


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Contact: Got a question? Email me at

Donna Mulholland

Creative Friends

Meet My Creative Friend: Elizabeth Cottrell

The creative art of writing

This month my guest creative is Elizabeth Cottrell, a heart-based writer I’ve come to know in the virtual world. Although we hang out in similar circles and have many friends in common in the real world, our paths have never actually crossed except online. I hope one day we get to share a cup of tea and some face-to-face time because I consider her a friend in a very real way.

In the meantime, it’s my pleasure to introduce her to you and the creative art she practices.

What does “being creative” mean to you?

Being creative, to me, is tapping into a more intuitive, spiritual side of myself for guidance from God’s Holy Spirit on how to live, how to interact with others, and how to write. Others may use different names for this higher power: Source, Light, Abba, Yahweh… We shouldn’t get too hung up on semantics. When something is True (with a capital T), I believe it transcends all religions, labels, and limitations. Creativity is a universal energy to which everyone has access if they open themselves up to it.

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

I’m guessing my answer to this might be a bit different than for many of your other guests on this blog. It has been—and continues to be—a journey, not a moment in time.

For way too many years, I thought I was not creative at all. I am a math/science/business person and was not drawn to traditionally artistic practices. The closest I ever got to creating a real painting myself was with one of those step-by-step courses where I was told exactly what to do…not much more advanced than paint-by-number! I thought I was just “left-brained,” and while I have always appreciated art in nature and art made by others, I never felt called to create it myself. So I concluded that I wasn’t creative.

About ten years ago, in an effort to explore my more whimsical side and get to know myself better, I participated in an online class by Cyndi Briggs called “Play in May.” Cyndi told us that if we ever felt resistance to her suggested activities, we should sit with those feelings and ask ourselves why we felt that way.

Her first assignment was to gather all the art supplies in our house – colored pencils, glue, glitter, stickers, markers, crayons, paints, blank paper etc. and identify a space somewhere to use them creatively. Wow, resistance slammed me like a sledgehammer, partly because I didn’t even have those kinds of supplies around (except what was left from my now-grown children). But being the “Obliger” I am, I followed instructions and started having a conversation with myself:

Me: “Self, why don’t you want to do this assignment?”

Myself: “Well, it just feels like a waste of time.

Me: “Okay, self, but what else do you have to do that’s more important?”

Myself: “Good grief, just about anything! I’ve got a client’s job to finish and groceries to buy and laundry to do and …”

This “conversation” continued in this vein for a few more minutes. Fortunately I was very patient, because finally, I very calmly asked myself:

Me: “So, you’ve got a blank sheet of paper there. What would you like to do with it?”

And suddenly, in a flash of enlightenment, my response was:

Myself: “ I want to put words on it!”

Eureka! The colors and emotions could pour forth through my pen. They didn’t have to only come through traditional art supplies. For me, this was truly a breakthrough moment.

From then on, I began to redefine and greatly expand what I understood to be creativity. I’ve come to realize I AM creative after all! I write personal notes that recipients call to thank me for. I often find the right words for awkward and difficult situations. My blog posts resonate with readers. I help clients find solutions to communications issues they have. Even the ability I have in a board meeting to take in a lot of complicated information and synthesize it to its core elements is, in itself, a type of creativity.

I’m still not drawn to the studio arts, but I’ve started cutting out beautiful or interesting pictures from magazines to decorate my journals. I’d like to take a drawing class to teach me how to be more observant. Being part of Aprille’s Creative Fire Café has deepened my appreciation for ways to stimulate my creativity.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by anyone who seems called to take the ordinary tools available to any of us and make something fresh and new. I am especially inspired by writers who can use everyday words in thrilling and unique ways to transport me to places and experiences I couldn’t otherwise know. Annie Dillard’s writing gave me fresh eyes for nature. Mary Oliver’s poetry shifts my thinking about the world around me.

What do you want your art to communicate?

I want, more than anything, for my words to encourage, comfort, and inspire—to remind my readers and anyone whose paths and mine intersect that they are worthy and special, and important to the whole of life. It would make me so happy to know that my words might be an antidote to the shrill and polarizing voices of our culture today.

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

My morning routine is perhaps the best practice I’ve developed (thus far) for creating space for Spirit to speak and move in and through me. I like to get dressed before coming downstairs. That feels like an important step towards a mindset of readiness for the day. I make a pot of coffee, and while it’s brewing, I stretch and drink a glass of water to rehydrate after the long night. Often I step outside to breathe in the fresh country air and enjoy the sights and sounds of a Shenandoah Valley morning. I give thanks for the day and its opportunities.

With coffee in hand, I head to my favorite chair—an upholstered rocker/swivel chair—surrounded by books and writing supplies. I begin with Scripture and devotional reading. This helps to settle me down and “primes the pump” for a receptive mindset. I go through my own “Heartspoken’s Morning Checklist for Spiritual Well-Being” (Click Here to download). This practice often inspires writing in one of my journals. I use a lap desk, and I prefer fountain pens and high-quality paper.

While there are some days when I “hit the floor running” without this special time, the day goes better when I fit it in. It is a “marinating time” when ideas and thoughts have a little extra space to declare themselves.

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

Information overload, distractions, and interruptions are all challenging to me. Meditation has helped me re-frame the distractions and interruptions and begin to view them as divinely-inspired. Sometimes the phone call or email that feels like an interruption is an opportunity to touch someone and be a channel for God’s love.

I still think it’s helpful to set boundaries to protect the time and space we need to nurture our creativity. Getting up before anyone else is up or likely to call and interrupt works best for me, but my success in meeting the challenges effectively varies from great to dismal.

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

Two come to mind – one has come from many sources, but most powerfully from the work of Dr. Brené Brown: Stop comparing yourself to anyone else! Each of us is unique, yet we waste so much mental and emotional energy when we feel “less than.” Her book Gifts of Imperfection addresses this propensity for self-comparison directly. We’ve got to learn to appreciate the creative gifts of others without it making us feel our own gifts are small in comparison.

The second comes from creative business coach Laura West. At a retreat several years ago, she suggested we adopt this practice: “Say No more often and Yes more fully.” This is such important advice, especially for those of us who tend to think we should just because we can. I call this “The Tyranny of Shoulds.” The reason it relates to creativity is because when we burden ourselves with activities we’re not really called to do, it squeezes out the time and space required for creativity to flourish in us.

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

I just want to thank you, Aprille, for creating a community that celebrates and nourishes creativity. You have walked the walk and shared your highs and lows, and you’ve been generous in finding and sharing ideas and practices we can implement ourselves for a more creative life.

“I’ve been lots of things in my life—from farm girl to leprosy researcher; from wife and mother to bank board chairman—but at my core, I’m a connector and encourager whose artistic tools of choice are fountain pen and paper and whose deepest desire is to be a channel for God’s light and love as long as I’m able.”

Elizabeth CottrellElizabeth is a freelance writer​/blogger​ ​and ghostwriter​​ ​at​ ​and ​ You can connect with her here:

Creative Friends

Meet my creative friend: Karen Richardson

I’m very excited about introducing you to this month’s guest artist – Karen Richardson.

I first met Karen Richardson when we visited her home during a Studio Tour and came away with one of her paintings. Later, I enrolled in her workshops and along the way discovered a good friend. Before my move to Nova Scotia we got together regularly to paint and encourage one another.

Let me introduce you to my friend, Karen Richardson, an extraordinary watercolour artist.  I have no doubt she will inspire you as much as she inspires me.

Karen Richardson painting
Time to Head South
What does “being creative” mean to you?
Karen Richardson painting
Stillwater Lily

For me, creativity comes in many forms. It is an activity that is so absorbing that I lose track of time and of my surroundings. Creative pursuits make my troubles fade away and leave me feeling happy and re-energized. I can be creative as a gourmet cook and baker; as a home gardener designing layout, shape, colour, and bloom time of my perennial beds; as a designer of my web site; as a writer of my artist’s-life-and-travels blog and my painting instruction book; as a photographer of my travel adventures; as a creator of mini-videos for social media posts; and, most importantly, as a painter of realistic landscapes and nature studies.

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

There has never been a time in my life where artistic creativity was absent. As a young child, I enjoyed playing with construction paper, scissors, colouring books, and drawing pencils, and in high school I excelled in a sophisticated arts program. But back then, I could not envision a practical career in fine art, so my life took a different path.

About ten years later, a chance night school course rekindled my love of watercolour painting, and I began moonlighting as a professional artist at age 29, while working full time at a day job. My art was therapy for my stressful career, (and my day job skills helped me build the business side of my art), for the next 18 years.

Finally, at age 47, when my husband retired, I became a full time artist. Later, I began teaching watercolour workshops, and that lead to the publication of Watercolour Toolbox, my painting instruction book. So far, in the 32-year span of my fine art business, over 600 of my paintings have made their way into art collections in 19 countries.

I have been heard to say, jokingly, that I became an artist by accident, then an art instructor by accident, and then an author by accident. But if I really think about it, maybe I always was destined for this artistic path. Looking back and looking forward, the journey feels absolutely authentic to me.

Karen Richardson painting
Leaves and Lichen
What inspires you?

My husband and I love to travel, and we have been privileged to explore every province and territory in Canada, every state of the USA, and several countries abroad. I carry a pocket camera everywhere we go, so I can capture fleeting moments of inspiration. RV touring, hiking, motorcycling, snowmobiling, ATVing, kayaking, and gardening provide unique images for my paintings. My instinct is to seek out peaceful surroundings – natural places that rejuvenate the spirit. My paintings reflect this feeling of inner harmony.

What do you want your art to communicate?

When I see something in Nature that is worthy of celebration, I want to capture that feeling of heartfelt awe and wonder in a painting. My artistic mission is to uplift, to share a moment of focused calm; in short – ‘making the world a happier place, one painting at a time’. (That is my business tagline.)

Karen Richardson painting
Hunter’s Moon
What’s the best advice you were ever given about how to be more creative?

I believe in the famous quotation from Chuck Thomas Close (American photorealist painter and photographer): “Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”  I share his belief “that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will — through work — bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea’.“

Describe your creative process. What kind of patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
Karen Richardson gallery
Karen’s Home Gallery

My year is divided roughly in thirds; 4 months of travel, 4 months of teaching watercolour workshops in my studio and at local galleries, and 4 months of intense painting time in my studio. During my studio painting time, my goal is to complete one painting a week on average. During my teaching time I produce at about half that rate, with my class demonstration paintings becoming saleable inventory. During our travel months I only paint a few hours each week, finishing a couple of paintings while on the road in our travel trailer. Most of my photography work is done during our travel months and becomes the inspiration for my studio paintings.

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

Often my studio painting time takes a back seat to other activities in my art business and life in general. For me, two strategies help to avoid this problem. One strategy is to have external commitments to create new work. This could be scheduling weekly time to paint with a buddy, partnering with art galleries to sell my paintings (and therefore I commit to supply a certain volume of new work to support those galleries), or exhibiting at art fairs and open studio events. Another strategy is to schedule regular painting time each week, while getting ‘buy-in’ from family and friends to respect that schedule.

Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask?
Karen Richardson studio
Karen’s Studio

Recently, I completed an 18-month online ‘Art Business Academy’ course, in which I was coached by a gallery owner in Arizona and had to complete a new assignment every second week. The goal was to expand the number of galleries showing and selling my paintings, by ramping up all aspects of my art business to a highly professional level. Thanks to my ABA lessons, I now have 7 gallery partners across Ontario.

Connect with Karen Richardson:

Order Karen’s award-winning book for watercolour artists by clicking the image below:

(*affilliate link*)

Creative Friends

Meet My Creative Friend: Victoria Lynn Hall

I believe in the power of art partly because of my creative friend, Victoria Lynn Hall.  She is a truly multi-talented, multi-passionate Renaissance Soul. As an artist, blogger and musician, I’m in awe of how creativity permeates everything she does.

I’m sure she’ll inspire you as much as she does me.

What does “being creative” mean to you?

Being creative means a lot of things to me. It means focusing on possibilities rather than limitations. It means problem solving and trying to make order out of chaos. And it means recognizing beauty and doing something to bring that beauty into the light for others to see. 

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

I think I’ve always led a creative life, I just didn’t always value it. I spent way too much of my early life wishing I was more normal and yet all the people I admired were extremely creative in one way or another. 

It was reading and practicing the tenets of “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron in my twenties that finally made me take myself more seriously as an artist and see myself as in the same league as the people I idolized. It started me on a path of healing the wounds that told me my creative and imaginative talents were something frivolous so that I could see them and utilize them as the incredible gifts that they really are.

It’s a path I’m still walking.

What inspires you?Creative art by Victoria Lynn Hall

Color, pattern, form. Music, art, nature. Questions, mysteries, possibilities.

Almost anything can spark my imagination and once a vision is formed there of something that could be created or transformed, it’s impossible for me not to pursue it.

What do you want your art to communicate?

I see making art as a communication between myself and my higher self (and perhaps even something beyond that).

I don’t seek to control that conversation but rather focus on expressing my thoughts, feelings, hopes and visions as honestly as possible through whatever medium I am using and trusting the response I get back from that. However, almost always what comes out of that collaboration conveys a story of hope, beauty and transformation.

Creative art by Victoria Lynn HallDescribe your creative process. What kind of patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

My most faithful creative routine is journaling.

It is how I check in with myself and it helps me prioritize my creative passions. Writing down what I am thinking, feeling and envisioning for my life shows me where my imagination is engaged and everything flows from there.

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

The most challenging part of the creative process, for me, is just getting started on something. Usually, I meet that challenge by getting started on or finishing something else.

Having many different types of creative projects going on at once makes me a “productive procrastinator”. I focus on the task that I have the least resistance to and accomplishing that gives me the energy and confidence to take on the next task (or inspires a completely new one).

What’s the best advice you were ever given about how to be more creative?Creative art by Victoria Lynn Hall

This is a tough one for me because I’m not sure I need advice on how to be more creative.

There are actually some days when I would prefer to be less creative, at least long enough to get my laundry put away. But I will tell you one of the mottos I live by, which is engraved in gold letters on a little journal I keep close to me at all times: Trust Your Crazy Ideas.

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

I would just like to say that I believe in the magic of kindness, especially when it comes to artists encouraging, inspiring and supporting each other.

Thank you Aprille, for being that magic for me and for inviting me to explore these questions.

Here’s how you can connect with Victoria:

You can find my blog at

For creative inspiration and encouragement like my I Believe In Art Facebook Page at

You can also connect with me through my I Believe In Art account on Instagram at

And find fun and creative products to inspire your creative soul at