favourite places online

It's crazy to think how much the role of the internet in our lives has changed in our lifetimes. From non-existent when I was a kid, to using chat rooms as a pre-teen, to my obsession with looking things up, and beyond. Since I am almost always plugged into something, I thought I would share where I spend most of my time online.

Favourite podcasts - I listen to podcasts when I'm doing mundane, routine tasks at the art table, or when I'm making dinner, doing dishes or laundry, or anything else that requires my hands and eyes but not my brain or ears. I'm a little bit addicted to these I think...

  • Dear Sugar - An advice column turned radio show. Hosts Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond are deeply wise and insightful and I love hearing their take on their listener's problems.
  • This American Life - Super popular, and for good reason. One of the first podcasts I listened to, the variety of stories always keeps me coming back.
  • Radiolab - Sometimes sciency, often not, this show finds some of the most bizarre stories and facts and shares them using brilliantly edited sound and music.
  • Surprisingly Awesome - They take a supposedly boring topic, like broccoli or concrete, and tell you all the ways that it is actually amazing. There have been quite a few mind-blowing moments thus far.
  • Reply All - A show about the internet that also manages to delve into some strange and fascinating places. And the hosts are quite funny at times.
  • Planet Money - Super quick snippets about how the world of money works - I always learn something new and am usually entertained in the process.
  • Magic Lessons - Elizabeth Gilbert coaches people through creative struggles. They've only done one season so far but the second one is in the works!


encouraging bannerLast fall, after I published my Role Models post on Miranda July, my mom and I were talking about Miranda's project, Learning to Love you More, which was a list of assignments that people could complete and post to the website. Specifically, my mom brought up assignment #63: Make an encouraging banner and hinted that she would love if someone made one for her. I took the hint and scheduled it as a Mother's Day gift.

Deciding what the banner should say was pretty easy. I wrote down a few statements, but the one I kept coming back to is something that my mom and I talk about frequently: You know what to do. Sometimes we feel confused and think we don't know what direction to go next, but the truth is that deep down we really do know what to do. We just have to learn to trust that knowledge. (more…)

spa day, artist dateLast year I decided to start taking regular "spa days" where I spend an entire day doing only things that energize and replenish me. I see them as a way to step away from my constant need to produce and accomplish and instead simply soak up inspiration. This doesn't mean hours of scrolling Instagram, but instead a conscious process of seeking. Maybe you've heard of Julia Cameron's concept of Artist Dates, from her book The Artist's Way. Her explanation describes the purpose of a spa day perfectly:

"The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore
something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly
“artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the
imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the
play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well
of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask
yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it."

My plan was to take a spa day every two months or so, but I've been bad and haven't had a proper one in over six months. The trick is to schedule them, and then stick to the schedule, no matter how badly you think you need to get work done that day—which is what I have not been doing. I usually like to schedule them after a big project or deadline so that I can fuel up for whatever comes next but every time I finish something there's always something else on the horizon so I keep postponing them.

Does this sound familiar? Do you put off taking time off or resting because there's just too much to do? I think it's pretty common in our society and the truth is no one else is going to plan our breaks for us. We need to take control of our calendars and declare spaces that are just for us. Are you with me? Here's how you can plan your own spa day:  (more…)

edmonton resilience festivalAt this time last year, I was wandering around the Middle East and wasn't about to take on any sort of creative commitment. This year, however, when I saw Elle Luna's #the100dayproject come around again, I knew I had to get in on it.

If you're not familiar with the project, the gist of it is that you decide to do something creative for 100 days and post about it on Instagram. You create your own hashtag so that all your posts can be found easily and you use #the100dayproject so that your work can be found by others. I love scrolling through the hashtag and seeing what people are coming up with.

I wanted to do something simple that wouldn't take me away from the work of my Drawing Project but that would also challenge me to engage every single day. I thought about doing 100 days of cartoons about my life but I was already focused on drawing and didn't want to add to that workload. I thought about whether there were things that I wanted to do more of in my everyday life and immediately realized it had to be field notes. Of course.

Field notes are the name that I give to any sketches drawn or notes written "in the field"—the field being anywhere that isn't at home or at work. They imply notetaking in the moment and the recording of observations. I tend to take a lot of field notes while traveling but I've been wanting to get into the habit in my regular life as well. I'm always coming home from walks with stories of the 'amazing' (at least to me) birds or flowers that I saw and I wanted to start intentionally recording these moments.

Thus began #100daysoffieldnotes. I'm on Day 9 and loving it. It's easy enough that I don't feel stressed about it (like other daily projects I've attempted), but it also makes me keep my head up and my eyes open when I'm walking around. Every time I catch myself staring at the sidewalk worrying about how anxious I feel (or some other meaningless thought spiral) I remember that I need to pay attention so I can find things to write down.

What am I writing? Anything that catches my eye and anything out of the ordinary. It doesn't have to be wildlife, and it doesn't have to really be that interesting. Today I saw three bananas at the foot of a light pole, yesterday I saw three cats on one block. Last week I went for what was supposed to be a short walk and spent 30 minutes stalking woodpeckers, juncos, and robins, taking notes the whole time. Sometimes I record sounds, sometimes smells, and sometimes I sketch whatever is in front of me when I have a minute—yesterday it was empty seats on the bus.

Why pay attention to bananas and cats and empty seats? Because paying attention, as I've written about before, builds creativity. When I announced the project, my mom posted this quote from Edward de Bono on my Facebook page and it couldn't be more accurate: "One very important aspect of motivation is the willingness to stop and to look at things that no one else has bothered to look at. This simple process of focusing on things that are normally taken for granted is a powerful source of creativity."

What things are you taking for granted? What are you passing by each day without noticing? What creative connections are you missing, what ideas are you ignoring?

If you want to practice the art of taking field notes—the art of paying attention—join me in my workshop this Sunday at the Edmonton Resilience Festival. It's called Creative Adventuring: Finding Inspiration in your Everyday Surroundings. We'll spend some time wandering around outside, noticing everything that we can and collecting notes, sketches, photos, and artifacts. Then we'll come together, using what we found to create a collaborative art piece.

Start your note-taking practice and learn a new creative technique. You can buy tickets for my workshop and many others based on sustainability and resilience here


courage gala 07 Last week I finished a commission for Edmonton's Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation and their fundraising event The Courage Gala. The assignment was to create a 'map' that described what the proceeds from the Gala were able to achieve over the last five years. When I found out that they wanted me to use both maps and anatomy imagery, I was very excited—my two favourite things!. The project was a lot of work and I had to put myself under house arrest for two weeks to get it done on time, but I was happy with how it turned out. Here's how I put this piece together.

courage gala (more…)

necklace hangerBack before I started trying to make a living from art, I used to make crafty projects all the time. Lately, though, making pieces to sell takes precedence over making things for other people or just for the fun of it. I want to prioritize at least a little bit of my time for fun projects so I'm going to try to do one every month, usually to give away. This month, I'm starting with a necklace hanger for my bedroom, which we're in the process of redecorating.

necklace hanger

I've accumulated a lot of necklaces in the last couple of years and they were starting to get hopelessly tangled in my jewellery box. Back in high school, I had made hangers for my necklaces and earrings and wanted to do something similar—if a little more sturdy. Those early versions were made of foam core that I stuck pins in but for this one I used a piece of particle board that I had leftover from another project. For my 1.0 versions, I had covered the foam core in collages made from fashion magazines, so that was my first idea for this one as well. I looked up 'necklace hanger' on Pinterest to see if I could find anything more interesting and, while there were some great ideas, most were a variation on this branch theme and a bit plain for me. I wanted colour in mine and a feminine touch. (more…)

nela dunatoOne of my favourite ways to stay inspired is to read about how other people put their creativity into practice and learn to live creative lives. On the first Friday of each month I’ll be interviewing someone who is letting their creative light shine. Hopefully, these folks will inspire you as much as they inspire me. 

I kept seeing Nela's insightful comments on the blogs I was reading and when I checked out her website I was super impressed. Not only is she a talented artist and designer, but she also has a ton of wisdom to share about creativity and creative businesses. I'm excited that she's here to share some of that wisdom with you!

What sort of creative work do you do?

I’m a multi-passionate creative, but my two main things are visual art and design. I run my own design studio, and that’s what pays my bills. I create branding, web sites and other graphic design solutions for small businesses.

My other big passion is art. I work in a variety of media: traditional drawing and painting, as well as digital painting and mixed media. I occasionally do illustration commissions for books, and I’ve participated in art shows in the US and Europe, but mostly I make art just for my own enjoyment. (more…)

creative activitiesThe only thing better than doing something creative is doing something creative with a friend. Lately, I've been reminded of just how nice it is to sit down with people that I care about to make something together. I love all of it: how the creative energy from one person feeds the next person, how you seem to have really important, satisfying conversations with a creative project in hand, and those long periods of silence when you're focused on what you're doing but are still enjoying the company of the person next to you. Here are some of my favourite ways to combine creative time with quality time: call up your friends and let the creativity blossom.

Seasonal crafting parties - I started a tradition years ago of hosting seasonal crafting parties and now look forward to making Christmas ornaments and decorating Easter eggs with friends every year. You can use any holiday as an excuse to gather people together: carve pumpkins at Halloween, make Valentines day cards, or make decorations for St. Patrick's Day or New Years Eve. Ask everyone to bring supplies, or to pitch in for the supplies you provide. Make snacks, have drinks, go wild!

Cooking or baking - This year a friend suggested that three of us get together to do some Christmas baking for a local charity that was asking for donations. We spent a lovely afternoon in the kitchen and donated a few dozen cookies. You can make your favourite recipes or choose new ones to try, and don't feel bad about keeping the results all to yourselves! You can also invite other people over to be guinea pigs. (more…)

This past Sunday I enjoyed one of my two annual crafting traditions: decorating Easter eggs (the other is making Christmas ornaments). I invited everyone I knew and some people I didn't know and set up my living room for an explosion of crafting.

During the five years or so that I've been having these parties, I've tried a number of different techniques for decorating the eggs. Tired of dipping your eggs in food colouring? Give these methods a try!

Draw with a Sharpie or other markers

easter eggs

Photo by Kelly Tran

This is super simple. All you need is a Sharpie or other permanent marker. Draw a repeating pattern around the egg. It looks just as nice on a brown egg as on a white one. (more…)

everyday artistry drawing projectWhat I came up with for last month's 'draw a monster' assignment

“Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don't know how paralyzing that is, that stare of a blank canvas is, which says to the painter, ‘You can't do a thing’. Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of `you can't' once and for all.”
― Vincent van Gogh

You've decided that you're finally going to start a regular drawing practice. You bought a nice sketchbook, sharpened your pencils, and have a nice collection of markers and paints standing by. You open the first page and... you don't know what to do next. You have no ideas, no inspiration, no inkling of where to start. When you feel a big expanse of nothingness staring you in the face, how do you take the first step? What do you draw when you don't know what to draw?

Last month's theme in the Drawing Project was drawing from the imagination. The goal was to pull images from our minds instead of using reference photos. The assignments were very challenging at first because, though they all gave a starting point, there was still nothing concrete in front of me telling me what to draw. I spent a lot of time staring at blank pages, wondering what to do next.

By the end of the month, however, I was completely hooked on drawing from my imagination. The freedom that came from making things up, experimenting and playing was so rewarding.

How did I overcome the struggle of the blank page staring up at me? Here are a few ideas: (more…)