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
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*)

Big Magic
The Creative Life

Book Review – Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Today, I welcome Elizabeth Cottrell to the blog. She is a writer and creative friend who generously offered to share her review of “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear”.

Redefining creativity

From the book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert:

Q: What is creativity?
A: The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration”

There are a few books in my life that I want to buy several copies and share with my dearest family and friends. Brené Brown’s books are among them, and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is another. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this, because I didn’t jump on the bandwagon for the author’s famous book Eat, Pray Love, which took the world by storm many years ago ( some loved it, some hated it). I have recently started following Elizabeth Gilbert again — she has grown up; she’s a marvelous and engaging writer with a wicked sense of humor; and she is motivating and inspiring. I follow her Facebook page and enjoy her posts.

Who is this book for?

As with most books, timing is everything, and while I could blithely say this book is for everyone, it is probably going to resonate with you more at certain times than others. However, Elizabeth Gilbert is not so timid in her introduction:

I happen to believe we are all walking repositories of buried treasure…The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.

The hunt to uncover those jewels—that’s creative living.

The courage to go on that hunt in the first place—that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.

The often surprising results of that hunt—that’s what I call Big Magic.

So right from the beginning, she throws down the gauntlet with that challenge…because who wants to live just a mundane existence, right? And who isn’t tantalized by a good treasure hunt? With those words, I was hooked and ready for the adventure.

Creativity Myths Busted

While this book flows well and is an easy read, it can also be put down and picked up without losing continuity. It’s like a necklace of jewels strung together, each beautiful or interesting itself, but even more lovely as a necklace.

Myth-busting is an entertaining and enlightening part of Big Magic. Gilbert takes on some of the myths about creativity that hold us back or paralyze us.

  • We have to kill off our fear of our creativity. No, she says. It’s too likely that when you kill off your fear, you kill off your creativity too. She advocates acknowledging and leaning into your fear. “The less I fight my fear, the less it fights back.”
  • Our worth is measured by our successes or failures. No, our worth is measured by our dedication to our path.
  • Your muse is yours alone. Gilbert believes inspiration is energy seeking a human partner to be made manifest. So if one human refuses to embrace and cultivate it, it will move on elsewhere. She shares a fascinating personal story to demonstrate this.
  • There are creative geniuses. She would say there are people who embrace genius.
  • True creatives must do something original. Gilbert says, “Most things have already been done—but they have not yet been done by you.”
  • True creatives must suffer and starve. “There is no dishonor in having a job.”

Question the common wisdom

One of Gilbert’s gifts is taking common/trite sayings and turning them on their ear. A good example of this is the question often asked by motivational types in an attempt to help their students identify their true calling: “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” Gilbert sees this differently and asks instead, “What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?” That’s a question to test your passion, for sure.

One of the reasons I particularly enjoyed this book is because of my own conflicted feelings about creativity and how narrowly I used to define it. I’ve written about it before (See “Are You An Artist?”), but for years, I was sure I wasn’t the least bit creative. I was a science major with no obvious aptitude for drawing, painting, or thinking up fiction plots. My only skills were all about logic, productivity, business, or common sense.

Or so I thought.

Several years ago, I had the startling revelation that creativity manifests itself in lots of different ways, including business, marketing, networking. When I have a blank piece of paper and colored markers in front of me, I may not want to make a picture, but what I DO want to put on the paper is WORDS. So now that I’ve embraced the notion I’m creative after all, I can’t get enough of reading about creativity. Gilbert’s words on the back of this book’s dust jacket are compelling:

Creativity is sacred, 
and it is not sacred.
What we make matters enormously,
and it doesn’t matter at all.
We toil alone, and we are
accompanied by spirits.
We are terrified, and we are brave.
Art is a crushing chore and
a wonderful privilege.
The work wants to be made, and
it wants to be made through you.

Elizabeth Gilbert, through Big Magic, made me want to say YES to the adventure of uncovering the hidden treasures within me. What books have you read that motivate and inspire you to live your most creative, wholehearted life?

Elizabeth Gilbert has been a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her latest novel, The Signature of All Things, was named a best book of 2013 by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and O: The Oprah Magazine.

Elizabeth Cottrell, Big Magic reviewElizabeth Cottrell, author of this review, hales from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She is a freelance writer and blogger at

“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.”