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By the Bay

Back to my sketching today.

I intended to do one of a scene I shared this morning on Instagram but this was the view when I sat down in my studio to sketch.

I mean, how could I not?

I pencilled in a rough outline first because I often start too big and don’t capture what I want. Pencil first helped with that.

Then I picked out the important bits with my trusty Pigma Micron (love those pens). The watercolours are from my Winsor & Newton travel set, mostly using cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and raw sienna.

I like the blue into the cliffs for shadows because I’m focusing on deeper colour. When I looked back over my first sketches I wasn’t satisfied with the colour. Too washed out. I find myself drawn to other people’s sketches with pops of colour. So obviously it’s something that speaks to me. Time to stop playing safe.

Right now the outside world is still pretty gray and brown and it has a definite influence on my palette. I may have to really let loose and make it up as I go!

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Creating my own sunshine

Yesterday was another rainy, overcast day and all I wanted to do was hibernate until the sky turns blue again. So I looked at the forecast for the next 14 days.

8 days of rain!

I may end up covered in moss if I stand still too long, so I fought off the hibernation urge. Instead, I finished moving (see what I did there) back into my summer studio where the light is wonderful. Not quite summer sunshine but at least there’s a glow. All of which helps lift the mood.

After I finished putting things away, I completed a painting and still had some time to spare. So I did today’s sketch sitting by one of the studio windows, overlooking my neighbour’s place. Wish I could show you the inside with its driftwood furniture. Cute as can be.

Because I’m the artist and I get to make up the rules, I painted a summer day, complete with sunshine and wild roses.

Ahh. That feels better.

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Cloudy with a chance of red doors

Today is raining and overcast. Too many folks on a flood watch right now but here in Margaretsville we’re okay. Most of our water drains into the Bay of Fundy, which means the waterfalls are spectacular along the cliffs.

This time of year the whole landscape seems grey and brown. The one spot of colour is the red door on the Art Shack down by the dock which I can see from my studio. Unless the sun comes out. Then the bay and sky become a brilliant blue. Here on the Bay a “Blue Day” is a good day. But for today, it’s the red door that calls to me.

I used my Daniel Smith colours for this sketch.

  • Payne’s Blue Gray is perfect for overcast skies and bay.
  • Their Pompeii Red and English Red Ochre worked well for the ironwork along the edge of the dock. 
  • Peryline Scarlet for the door. 
  • Lots of others as I experimented but the surprise for me was Buff Titanium. Perfect for the cement barrier at the head of the wharf.

Day two of the sketch book practice completed.

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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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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.

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

 


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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?

 

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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.

Choose

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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Style and Fun: Keeping it real

hooked on sheep

A couple of months ago I had an interesting conversation with an artist friend who asked me about my style. I admitted to her I couldn’t define my style. Yet.

Up to this point I’ve been learning the mechanics and mastering my craft. However, lately I’m feeling an inner push to go to the next level and polish a personal style. My raison d’etre, if you will.

This led to discussions in our Facebook group on topics like our Why, being authentic and creative courage as I wrestled with this question. It seemed to me I needed to know me better, if I wanted my style to ring true.

Then, just recently a friend who is also a coach like myself asked if I was overthinking it. Ding, ding, ding. Lightbulb goes off. Of course I was! I was working WAY too hard on trying to come up with the ‘perfect’ answer.

So I promised myself to hold the question lightly and wait for whatever showed up. To stop thinking and just hang out with the question and make the journey. For some it might be an “AHA” moment but for most of us I suspect it’s an evolution.

So I’m creating while keeping an eye out for those clues the universe loves to place in our paths.

Style Clue #1

In the Facebook group we focused on the word WHY for a week and one of the members mentioned her reason was to have fun. That struck a chord for me. No. Wait. Let me be clear. Her words gave me good bumps.

Here I was, trying to make my Why be IMPORTANT and WISE and PITHY. I’ll bet you know what I’m talking about here because I see this in folks all the time and I fell for it, as well. I’d bought into the myth that if my Why didn’t sound like a quote from Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela that somehow it wasn’t valid.

fun style
I want to be THAT one.

 

I mean, really, why can’t it just be about the fun? After all, I’ve always maintained if something I’m choosing to do isn’t fun, why am I doing it?

FUN became a valuable clue to  personal style.

 

 

Style Clue #2

hooked rug styleI used to do a lot of rug hooking but somewhere along the way I stopped. Too busy making a living, I suppose. Recently, my interest rekindled so I bought a small kit.

I was drawn to this little roly-poly sheep and completed the pattern in a week. As I hooked the last loops, the wind was howling outside and suddenly I heard Gramma’s voice in my head saying “He was 3 sheets to the wind”.

Only my brain heard “sheeps”.

playful style sketch

Immediately I grabbed my sketchbook and came up with this drawing. It tickled me so much I kept going.

The ‘punniness’ demanded a painting that was playful and light. The next day I pulled out my acrylic paints, a canvas board and began to play with the idea. As it evolved I even found myself telling a story – something else I love.

Below is what I have so far.  It needs the details like eyes and foliage but every time I walk by my easel I smile. I believe I’m onto something. The colours and simple figures appeal to something my heart. They cheer me up.

When I complete the final version, I’ll post it for you.

playful style acrylic painting

Style Clue #3

Most mornings, along with my coffee, I check out the CBC on my Ipad. I love the Nova Scotia news and also from Newfoundland (my husband’s home province.) While there are the usual crime reports and bad news stories, it seems to me they fill in with more local and human interest stories.

Recently, I came across this one, about 75 year old artist, Frank Lapointe, who is still looking for his perfect picture after a lifetime of painting. As I read the interview, his words spoke to me:

“To copy a photograph into a painting shows your manual dexterity and your ability to manipulate paint, but it’s not creating anything new.”

I’m looking for that “something new” that can come only from who I am in my heart. Stay tuned!

 

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The Road Not Travelled…Yet

Just when you think you've figured it out...
Just when you think you’ve figured it out…

Some days feel so far from where I meant to be at this time in my life. I dream of creative exploration but spend too much time navigating the ‘real world’. I took a wrong turn somewhere. A Personal GPS would be handy right now.

“Recalculating.”

As a child growing up in a home where mental illness existed I learned early on that anything that took attention from my parent made me “bad”. To answer a creative calling was the most suspect thing of all. “Useless. Selfish indulgence.” Something to fit in after the ‘real’ work was done. Which, of course seldom happened.

Claiming my creative voice was first and foremost a declaration of independance.

Regardless of who we are and any early conditioning we experienced, we have to be  very brave to make art. By its nature, art is a different way to see things and different always challenges someone, somewhere 

Personal and unique are essential qualities of any creative process and its product.  But art exposes the heart of the artist. 

And that’s scary.  To see the venom some people can spew I only have to explore social media. It takes an extremely courageous heart to step into the line of fire totally exposed.

I do lots of creative things. Painting, knitting, quilting, collage; but it’s in writing that I find the edges of my fear.  Art needs to skate that edge.

I have two novels partially completed exploring topics that frightened me away from the work. I put the work away fearful of what “they” would say. My heart felt too tender for blunt blows. 

Am I brave enough to go looking for that missed turn?

Suddenly, possible regret for the road not traveled is more frightening than anything “they” might say.