During the early days of the pandemic, many organizations and companies needed to develop creative methods to continue being relevant. For instance, Blue Mountain Foundation for the Arts’ 2020 Juried Art show transformed from being in-person to being virtual. My painting ‘Hope Springs Eternal’ was selected to be in that virtual show. It is a framed acrylic painting (24 inches W x 30 inches H). To inquire about acquiring the painting, please use the Contact Me form.
… selected my image ‘Helping Hands’ to be made into a banner to hang in Waterloo Park’s Art Promenade. Sometimes some positives come out of drastically difficult situations such as a pandemic in 2020. Thank you City of Waterloo for this honour to show my art in your park. I have many great memories of spending time in that park while I attended UW in the late seventies and while our children were young.
I am over the moon excited that the Porcupine’s Quill plans to publish my debut collection of contemporary literary short stories. The projected release of the collection is Fall 2021 or 2022. Keep abreast of news about the release by checking here on a regular basis.
(Note: an earlier version of this post appeared in WHT/SWG)
You’ve got your watercolour set and a handful of Sharpies, right? While you are at it, find your scissors and some Post-it notes, small ones are perfect, around an inch by an inch.
Next ~ Find a large (up to 8×10 inch) picture of a celebrity or someone you know. Photocopy or scan the picture and print out two copies. Tile Post-it notes across the picture. Label the backs of the Post-its with row and column number so you can reassemble later. Cut the picture into pieces along the Post-its. Over the next week or so randomly select a couple of Post-its, and draw that portion of the photocopy onto the Post-it. Don’t even try to cheat by referring to the original picture! Once you’ve done this a few times, reassemble and compare to the original. You could do this with a buddy, or in a group, too. (Credit for this idea goes to Danny Gregory’s ‘Art before Breakfast.’)
Who is stopping you from being creative?
Spend time doodling. Draw squiggles on scrap paper. Start carrying a notebook with you. Doodle while waiting for a beverage at your favourite coffee shop. Copy phrases you hear or read into your notebook. Sketch the words to depict what you think they mean to you. Glue small things that you collect into the notebook: the slip of paper from your fortune cookie, or a movie theatre stub.
How can children’s books help? Check out a couple and you’ll soon see. What’s stopping you?
Head for the children’s section of your local library. Borrow picture books by artists whose illustrations you admire.
Drop into local art shows. Visit the Walkerton Juried Art show. Head over to the Durham Art Gallery and check out their ever-changing shows. The folks at Nature’s Millworks in Paisley host shows throughout the year. Take a drive to the Owen Sound Artists’ Co-op. Their members have displays plus the gallery runs guest artist shows. In the summer, check out the Owen Sound Art Banner project in the Owen Sound Harbour and admire the artist banners on display.
Drop me a line via my website to let me know how your creative mojo is coming along.
Have you been trying to create more time to be artistic?
(Note: an earlier version of this blog appeared in WHT/SWG)
Make sure you have an inexpensive watercolour set and a handful of Sharpies (black ink) with different sized tips.
Without giving it much thought, create the landscape outside your window or an architectural image using only one colour of paint. Or use only green to create your grandson or niece’s face. Sketch the building across the street using only a fine tip Sharpie. Paint over parts of it using only orange. Use a Sharpie to bring out details in a painting you did earlier in the week.
Draw or paint with your non-dominant hand. I like large tip Sharpies for this exercise. It makes me feel like I’m back in primary school with an oversized crayon in my hand. This exercise allows you to create something that isn’t perfect. Draw something like the toaster on your kitchen counter, your other hand, or a bird outside your window. Take about one minute to make the picture. Record only your impression of what you’re seeing. There could be scribbling in this rendition, and that’s perfectly okay.
You don’t have to go to Paris or China to find things to paint. Paint or draw what is around you. Do you love to cook? Create a still life painting of some favourite fruits or other yummy foods. Like to play cards? Paint a stick picture of people playing Bridge. Draw your partner or a child’s portrait while keeping your eyes trained on the face and not the paper. Draw your breakfast before you eat it. Draw it again after you’ve eaten it. Draw the ketchup bottle standing next to your eggs. Draw the coffee maker. Draw it again from a different angle. Do these sketches and paintings in five minutes or less. Again, you are only capturing the essence of what you see and not getting hung up on every detail.
How was it? Did you have fun? Did you find you made mistakes? Mistakes are lessons wearing disguises, what Barney Saltzberg (author of ‘Beautiful Oops!) calls oopses. Maybe you need to slow down your drawing, or speed it up. Maybe you need to paint or draw more often. Drop me a line via my website’s contact page and let me know how you made out.
I have a brilliant idea for you.
To find your creative mojo, get yourself one of those dollar store notebooks. It doesn’t matter if it is lined paper or blank. Whatever you prefer. I even love the notebooks filled with graph paper. Open the book, make a quick sketch and record a sentence or phrase or two to capture what is going on in that picture. Sketch anything you want. The coffee mug you are drinking from. A piece of bread. Your fridge door. Anything. Don’t want to draw. Then don’t. Just write. Doodle. Whatever you want. Turn everyday moments into something amazing. Something significant. Draw a frame around it even. You will, over time, build up a little notebook of memories.
I started writing morning pages over a year ago. Perhaps you recall that from a previous newsletter. I used the teachings of Julia Cameron who talks about the importance of writing everyday for 15 minutes. I spend an equal number of minutes making some rough sketches of pretty much anything. Sometimes it’s something from my life, sometimes it’s a prompted sketch (prompted by a sketch book called 642 Things to Draw). I draw for 15 minutes. Then I’m done. Even if I never write or draw anything else that day, I have given myself 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to write and draw.
Making art this way, through words and sketches /paintings, shows how much I have in my life. My treasured words and art. It doesn’t have to be anything amazing. Sometimes I write quotes that I like. Sometimes I write about something Kai said or John or how the sun felt on my skin after twelve days without sun. Sometimes I draw the dimples of an orange or the chipped edge of my mug.
Stuff a mini-notebook and writing instrument into your purse/handbag/ pocket. When you find yourself waiting around at the dentist’s office, at the garage getting winter tires swapped for summer tires or reaching for your phone to read tweets, pull out the notebook instead. Shape the mush of everyday life into something lovely. Be creative. Create some order out of chaos. Have a vision of what you want to do with your time and do it.
Here’s the thing: you would likely not subscribe to this newsletter if you didn’t want to have more creativity in your life. Creativity is not a luxury. It is an essence of everyday life. Invent something new with your just-sharpened pencil. Fit creativity into your life like you do tooth brushing and shampooing your hair. You’re not striving to be a full time artist. Just commit to expressing what is inside of you. Express what it means to be you. Everyday, if you can. Make everyday worthwhile. Seriously, don’t beat yourself up if it isn’t everyday. When Kai drops in for a week or two, I push pause on my creativity and make him the focus. I make things with him, alongside him, with playdough or pudding or crayons or markers or scissors and paper. I make notes of little sayings he has and photographs of him and Mira, and when they go on their merry way, I have new life experiences to capture somehow in my creativity.
Remember, art with a small ‘a’ (from Danny Gregory) is not the end product. It is a way of life. Now go play.
In my monthly newsletter (April edition), you’ve been introduced to Austin Kleon, a writer who draws. He thinks everyone who creates should show their work. With that in mind, he poses some serious questions for creative types (like us) to consider:
What do you read?
Do you subscribe to anything?
What sites do you visit on the Internet?
What music do you listen to?
What movies do you see?
Do you look at art?
What do you collect?
What do you pin to the cork board above your desk?
Me interjecting for a moment: Wait a second, you don’t have a cork board. That’s ok. If you did have one, what would you pin to it. What do you pin in Pinterest?
Wait a minute (it’s me interjecting again) Let’s go back a couple of questions to…Do you look at art? and What do you read?
This is super important. To be an artist or a writer or a musician or a dancer (anyone creative), you need to fill your head and eyes with art, writing, music, dance…whatever art form you admire and want to emulate. Get ready to steal some ideas, too! Kleon wrote an entire book on the topic called Steal Like an Artist.
Kleon writes further: Your influences are all worth sharing because they clue people in to who you are and what you do–sometimes even more than your own work.
If you want to comment on what I’ve shared about Austin Kleon and sharing work, please fill out a comment form. I’d love to include one or more of newsletter and blog readers’ ideas in future newsletters/blogs.
Why Keeping an Idea Journal of Some Sort Makes Sense
During a recent purging of my studio-office, I stumbled upon binders and a journal in which I’d been keeping ideas for writing projects, big and small. I thought I’d share a few of them with you
– guy selling Nintendo Play Stations from his van (this idea scrawled on a Post-it note)
– people who nailed or tied their shoes to a tree in a vacant lot off Winchester Drive, Waterloo
– a sheep farmer that makes visitors dip their shoes into bleach before entering her farm (observation)
– Working title ~ ‘7 Hours’: premise ~ a school girl dies in a horrific collision when a delivery van slams into the Teens and Tots vehicle that just picked her up from school ~ each chapter focuses on POV of each of her noteworthy classmates / parents / teachers
– Keady Market near Owen Sound: a kitten’s thoughts before being sold at auction to the highest bidder, a child in a wheelchair
– same market: lady with tea-cup dog in her bra
– two year prison term for knifing spouse (about a woman in KW who tortured her spouse and held her half-sister hostage) August 26, 2009
– prompt: write a list ~ places I don’t go anymore
– prompt: write a story titled ~ ‘Do you have to do that?’
– write about the thing in a drawer with the most colour
– write about my father’s hands; turn him into a fictional character with a new name
– describe a best friend at age 11
– -hazards of hoarding can be deadly (November 28, 2009) Waterloo Region Record (first line of article: ‘For years, no one on Crest Drive paid much attention to the little white house with pink trim.’ How can you not be intrigued by this topic???)
I won’t be throwing these out. While I am not sure that any of these ideas resonate with me now (well, maybe the hoarding idea), the ideas/articles resonated then, and rereading them helps me to understand where I was as a writer and person, and where I am now.
I encourage all writers, people starting out and those with a writing habit, to make jot-notes, to collect ideas, to keep an e-file, whatever works for them. Ideas, rich ideas, are what make writing believable, interesting, and authentic.
Not convinced? Read 10 Reasons to Keep a Journal
Did you know that I write a monthly newsletter about creativity (visual art/writing)? If you haven’t already done so, sign up here: monthly newsletter
Writing Ideas Abound!
Writing ideas do abound. I’m serious. You can find snippets to explore everywhere. This link gives you piles of ideas. I particularly love the one about using your family in your writing. I wrote an amazing creative nonfiction piece a few years ago about Cory having head lice and connected Cory’s experience to my father’s journey with lung/brain cancer.
Obituaries are terrific places to get juicy characterization. I did not know this Chesley woman but after reading her obituary, I wish I had. This is an exceptionally rich obituary. So crack open your local daily or weekly newspaper, or search online for obituaries.
This link will take/link you to loads of other places with tons of ideas and topics. If you find your source of ideas has dried up, you WILL find something to inspire your next writing project via the provided link.
This idea is more about writing to a timer or word count. Something I do every morning is write for fifteen minutes. Sometimes there is a phrase or sentence that will spring off into something else, something I can delve into more deeply. Others write to a word count: 750 words. Then they stop. Later, they reread and see if anything they wrote might actually lead somewhere.
I love this link. Michelle mentions Facebook among other places as idea generators. I’ve used Facebook. Sometimes there is a joke that jumps into your newsfeed or some random feel-good story that wants to inject itself into your stream of consciousness. Why not explore it further in your writing?
Another great place for ideas is a CBC Radio 1 one hour weekly show called Out in the Open where the host explores ‘out there’ stories with regular people. I have written crazy stories inspired by this show: one example is a story about a widower who develops a relationship with a blow-up doll, much to the chagrin of his daughter.
Last but not least, here is a link to ‘Unusual Places’ to find story ideas. One of my favourites is Classified Ads. They are in newspapers, magazines, and of course, online. Personal ads can be particularly juicy places to help you develop an idea.
Use the comment form on my website to let me know how you made out. I’d love to update people in a future newsletter.
Happy New Year, Friends!
To celebrate the onset of 2019 (can you believe it? It’s 2019!!!), I am sharing a bunch of quotable quotes that bring me joy and inspiration. I have embedded the quotes in my art work to add some punch and interest to the words. I love pairing art/photography and words, and I hope you do, too. If you wish, please share one of your favourite quotes here. I’d be thrilled to share your quotes in a future newsletter.