Margaretsville Lighthouse
The Sketchbook

Playing at The Art Shack

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.

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!

Choosing a Passion
The Creative Life

Focus on what works

Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear.  — Anon

A radical shift

In our culture, shifting the focus to look for what’s strong in our creative work can be a radical idea because we’re taught early to find what’s wrong and fix it.

A few years ago I trained in the Amherst Artist and Writers Method with Pat Schneider. Pat changed the trajectory of many lives with her writing workshops. No less than Julia Cameron calls her a ‘fuse-lighter’. Taking that training with her was a highpoint for me.

One of the very wise things (among  many) I learned from Pat was to focus on what’s strong and successful in a new piece of writing. I’ve come to realize it’s good advice for any creative endeavour in its baby stages.

After training with Pat, I went on and facilitated my own writing workshops. As my students heard from the others in the group about what they liked and what touched them, the writer naturally repeated what worked as they developed their piece. The “other stuff’ fell away.

I witnessed the power of this shift over and over as I worked with my writers.

However, there was one student who felt irritated and uncomfortable when I wouldn’t tell her what to ‘fix’ after the group gave her glowing feedback. She dismissed what she did well – which was actually quite a bit. She was convinced we weren’t telling her the truth about her work.

I get it.

The marketing industry makes a lot of money convincing me I need to be fixed. They taught me to focus on flaws and ignore the good stuff. Like my dissatisfied student, it seems too simplistic to simply build on what works. It can also feel hard to let the other stuff go. The stuff that holds me back and clutters up my creative landscape.

For a long time I bought into the idea that it’s easier to fix something rather than to build on strength. Until I witnessed the power of the building approach in those writing workshops. These days I try to remember to look for what I like and more importantly, to ask for help finding it.

Talking to another artist awhile back, she showed me a watercolour she’d done and lamented that while she loved the lower part of the painting, she’d “ruined” the top. I suggested she tear off the top and keep the good bit. (I think I actually saw the lightbulb go off.)

She ripped that painting almost in half, framed the bit she liked and sold it not long after.

Most of us are terrible at judging these things for ourselves. I know I am because I see where I fell short of the original vision I had and my Inner Critic uses that as ammunition.

I simply can’t be an objective observer. None of us can. Sometimes we need help to see clearly.

Find and ask

First, find someone who can be objective – which usually rules out family and friends.

Second, whatever you do, don’t ask for feedback or constructive criticism.  Not when you’re work is in its early stages. Most of us are trained to default to the negative so be very deliberate in how you word your request.

“What works? What speaks to you? What attracts you here? How does it make you feel?”

All good questions.  If the person I’m asking starts to go to The Dark Side, I try to redirect them with another question. Whether it’s my art or writing, I need to know when/where the piece catches their attention.

This is valuable information.

Try it yourself sometime. You will probably be surprised at what others see in your work. Things you totally overlooked or dismissed. Things you can do more of.

Keep learning

None of this means we shouldn’t take risks, learn from others and practice our craft. We need mistakes – lots of them – to grow and constructive criticism of mature work can help us improve.

We must embrace our personal sparks of brilliance and fan them into flames. Our creative work becomes mediocre and vanilla if we ignore our gifts.

organizing and sweeping
The Creative Life

Organizing the studio

Organizing anything can be a big job but I believe an artist organizing her studio faces a special kind of distraction.

I realized this after I took on the job in my own studio and then read Marion Boddy’s Monday post on her studio blog. Seems she and I shared a similar journey. She mentioned books as her brand of distraction and I find the same thing so I’ve learned to shelve them as soon as I finish with them. An open art book is also an open invitation…

Between projects I try to keep some space ready for when inspiration strikes but it seems the Studio Law of Attraction states that all horizontal surfaces should be covered. I have no one to blame but me for cluttered counter tops because my husband learned long ago NOT to dump things there (and the dog can’t reach.)

organizing the creative spaceIt’s usually at its worst when I complete a project. Then it’s like an archaeological dig, going through layers of inspiration as I sort, toss and put away.

Too often, WIP’s (works in progress) interrupt the organizing process. I usually prop up a painting for a bit to let it ‘percolate’. To see it with new eyes, so to speak. Then it seems inspiration hits when I’m trying to straighten up my creative mess.

I’ve learned to pay attention when the muse whispers her ideas because when I don’t, she’ll go away in a sulk and refuse to repeat herself just because I have time to pay attention.

Organizing the studio just isn’t as simple as it seems but every once in awhile, everything is back where it belongs and the tabletops are clear.

I’m discovering that while I love my home to be organized and tidy, it’s a different story in the studio. That’s where I want a little creative chaos. My muse appreciates it, too.

What about you? Organized or mussy? How do you like your creative space? Share in the comments.