Get Yourself a Little Creative Mojo

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.

This whimsical piece was created with Alcohol Inks. When dry, I added squiggles and wiggles with thin tipped Sharpies to create a fantasy ocean scene.
This was created as a gift to the grandchildren.
NOTE: I had absolutely no plan or intended outcome when I began this piece.

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. 

This winter I craved colour. Don’t we all after a long winter. Ours seemed particularly long because we were in Yellowknife more of October (YK already had some snow by then) and by the time we were home, winter threw her fierceness at us in Bruce County.
We still had mounds of snow in mid March.

This piece is done on YUPO paper with Alcohol Inks and white Posca Pen (like a Sharpie only white ink comes out).

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.

Alcohol Inks on Yupo ~ My version of tulips

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.


Do you want to become a Small a Artist? Great term coined by artist Danny Gregory

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.

Nothing fancy. A little Picasso-like self-portrait using doodles.

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.

See ~ nothing fancy. Just a few seconds and voila, a doodle flower.

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.


You should show your work. Seriously.

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?

I added this to a blog a few months ago but it really fits in our current discussion, doesn’t it?

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.


Keep jot notes. Ideas make your writing richer.

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 

~ newspaper clipping from Aug, 5 2010 Waterloo Region Record

         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


Need some inspiration for your writing. Check this out.

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.
Write to a timer. Click clock to obtain image source.
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.
Pictures can spark writing ideas. 
By reading this quote and examining this image, you might receive inspiration.
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.

Do You Feel Inspired by Quotable Quotes? Then You’re in the Right Place.


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.
















Painterly Cindy and More Blogs about How to Make a Quick and Easy Collage Painting that will Appeal to a Child or Adult Alike

Ever wanted to create a quick and easy collage piece whose sensibilities might appeal to a child (a grandchild, niece, nephew, your own child)
or an adult?

Sometimes we want to create something simple yet interesting as a gift for someone. In my case, I set the bar high. I made a bunch of wall-art for our first grandchild, Kai, so now I feel compelled to continue the tradition. That’s okay. I have nothing but time on my hands, right? 

In this piece, I started with a blank canvas. I used a 10×10 inch stretched canvas. I painted the canvas with something called white GESSO. I thinned the GESSO with water as I painted (used a spray bottle). I used two coats of GESSO to create a nice white surface.

      Lovely blank piece of stretched canvas. So much potential. 

When dry, I stamped muted colours of acrylic paint all over the place. I used a small SEA SPONGE to paint over alphabet and shape stencils. I let that dry.

Did I mention that the day on which I was painting we were experiencing pouring rain? Cats and dogs, in fact.   

Some people say, “Yuck, rain.”

I say, “Hurrah!”

I painted the edges of the canvas with black ACRYLIC paint at this point. I usually do this step at the end. I know I have to repeat this edge painting step at the end of the project. Silly me!

I used GOLDEN BUFF MEDIUM (Acrylic) to cover the stencilled canvas.

       For reasons unknown to me, this iimage doesn’t look very buff here but I included the image because it’s important to see the process.

The really fun part: I used images from a discarded adult colouring book to create a still life piece. With a pair of ultra sharp scissors I cut out ‘shapes’ like a bowl, some butterflies I found in the colouring book, an apple or apricot shape, a banana shape and a bunch of grapes. I did not draw before I cut. Repeat! I did not draw before I cut. I also found some words in the book that I liked and snipped them out, too. I used GEL MEDIUM (an acrylic product) to glue the back of the shapes and words to my canvas. I added GEL MEDIUM over these items, too. I smoothed using the edge of a used gift card. I let everything dry.

I actually love how it looks just like this. It has a Zentangle feel.

I used ACRYLIC PAINT MARKERS and PAINTERS markers to add colour and more dimension. I also outlined some objects here and there as well as some words. Then I used an ACRYLIC PAINT MARKER to create the illusion of the bowl sitting on the table (yellow colour).

      It is looking pretty cool here but it’s missing some pop!

For this next part I scribbled (yup) some charcoal here and there to give an illusion of shadows. Them I smeared it all up and covered it all with acrylic medium to ‘fix’ the charcoal in place. Otherwise the charcoal would smear if anyone touched it. So much to learn, right?

Then I let the piece sit for a week. Yup. Just like I do with my writing. I let things sit and after a week, I see what else might be needed. Can you guess what I added to the painting? 

      I added a few scribbles on the bowl and white dots on the butterflies. That’s about it. It might not be done yet but I like it just how it is and I hope my newest grandchild (a granddaughter) will, too.


It never hurts my feelings if you share my blog and / or newsletter with friends. In fact, I’d like that very, very much. CM




Are You a Late Bloomer, too?

In my October newsletter, we were discussing how I feel like a late bloomer sometimes, that I arrived at fulfilling my creative mojo at such a late age. And sometimes, just sometimes, that feels a little daunting!

Here is the rest of that article:

Something new for me is digital designing (see above). It is like painting using a mouse. I love these new challenges, even though I AM a bit old to be doing so much learning and experimenting. Or am I?

Intrigued by the concept of being a late-bloomer, I studied others who arrived at making art later in their lives. Take Bill Traylor. He was broke and homeless at the ripe old age of 85! To pass the time, he made art and displayed it on the streets of Montgomery, Alabama. Another artist who wanted to support Bill’s creative expression bought Bill better art tools. Bill Traylor made 1000 + pieces in his life and many are on display to this day. To learn more follow this link: Bill and his art.

This short article (by Marcia Smalley) about awakening your inner artist later in life emphasizes many points but the one that resonated with me is the idea of Beginner’s Mind. Allowing our creativity to take hold means there are no rules. Imagine! Just letting yourself do whatever you want with a few bottles of paint or a box of smelly markers. Sounds fun! What are your experiences? Perhaps write about them via the CONTACT ME page.



September Brings up the Topic of Vision and the Arts (Visual, Writing and Otherwise)

In June 2018 I experienced floaters in my eye. This resulted in me having to have emergency laser surgery on a tear in my retina. There is a history of detached retinas on the maternal side of my family.

As you would expect…

The inner artist came out in full force during this ‘brush with lost eyesight’ experience. First, I wrote a fictional account about the experience. Somehow through using the fictional story telling lens rather than memoir writing techniques, I could more honestly integrate the emotional response of my ‘character.’ There was greater clarity in the writing rather than pouring my own emotions into a retell. Secondly, I researched visual artists and authors who are blind and still manage to create (visual art, writing).

Here are some of what I wanted to share with you.

Esref Armagan was born with non-functioning eyes. He is a Turkish-born visual artist whose work is simply amazing. He starts his paintings by using a Braille stylus to etch the outline of his sketches. Then he uses his fingers and oil paint to apply colour. He doesn’t want his colours to smudge so he allows the paints to completely dry between applications. He apparently receives no assistance from others during the process. He requires complete silence in order to paint. To learn more go here.

Art by EsrefArmagan  ~  Image source click here.

Jorge Luis Borges, Argentine writer ~ A prolific writer and thinker, this writer’s vision deteriorated in the latter part of his life. His mother, who lived until age 99, became his personal secretary, recording his thoughts and ideas. Learn more here.

Arthur Ellis is a UK painter. In 2006 he fell ill to Bacterial Meningitis. This disease caused him to lose his eyesight, as well as most of his hearing and balance. He continues to create albeit using different materials and techniques. Via this link to learn more. At the site you can view his pre sight loss (lots of portraiture work) and post sight loss work. I was most fascinated by his visual journal where he demonstrates ‘how he does it.’

Jean Little, Guelph Ontario ~ I learned about Jean Little when our children were in elementary school. They often borrowed her novels from the school library. Jean is a prolific writer. Blind since birth, she uses a talking computer to create her stories. Jean enrolled in regular classes in elementary and secondary school and has a university degree in English Language and Literature. She has a seeing eye dog, Honey. Learn more about Jean here.

Jean Little

Image source click here.

Do you have a special affinity to an artist (visual, musical, dance) and/or writer who is faced with physical/mental challenges? If so, please add a comment to the comment page on my website.