Archive for the ‘Try This’ Category

homemade giftsFor awhile now, I've been on the fence about Christmas gifts. There are years when I love spending hours searching for the perfect gifts for friends and family, and other years when I feel like I'm falling into a black hole of consumption and waste. One year I convinced my family not to exchange gifts and we spent the time we would have spent shopping doing Christmas activities together instead. This was one of my favourite Christmases ever, but it was obvious that other members of my family missed the gifts so now we compromise by drawing names instead of buying for everyone. So far it seems to be working out, and I enjoy putting a lot of thought into one gift, rather than scrambling to get something perfect for everyone.

Still, sometimes it is nice to take a step back from the urge to spend spend spend and make a gift instead. Making things for other people feeds my soul in a way that buying gifts never can because I get to exercise my creativity and develop new skills, while also making those I love happy. It's a win win!

All these ideas are based on either something I received that lit me up, or something I gave that seemed to go over well. It was really nice to remember giving or receiving these gifts, and I hope they inspire you to spread love this Christmas, or at any time of year. (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…)

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…)

creative projectsWhile it sure is nice to feel constantly creatively motivated, sometimes a little nudge can help. Working with other people and following prompts or assignments can get us thinking in completely new ways and take us in new directions. This week I have a list of seven interesting projects that you can participate in. Try one or try them all and see where your inspiration takes you.

Free Projects

Illustration Friday: Every week a topic is posted and you can join hundreds of thousands of people from around the world in interpreting the topic and submitting your illustration. You can send in your artwork for a chance to be featured on their blog, or you can just post it to Twitter or Instagram with #illustrationfriday. (more…)

christmas gift wrapMy art room looks like an angry Christmas elf tore through it. The floor is covered in scraps of paper and assorted pieces of gift wrap, and both my desk and my craft table are overflowing with glue, tape, paint, stamps, ribbons, bobbles, and other materials. Why so much chaos? Because I went a little crazy making Christmas gift wrap and wrapping gifts and, as I mentioned in a previous post, when I'm in the middle of something there is no way I'm going to stop to clean up. Sunday I gathered up all the gifts I'd wrapped to take them downstairs to photograph. I closed the door to the art room and haven't gone back in there since. I'm a little afraid.

The mess was definitely worth it though, since I was able to make so much fun stuff. I made four different types of wrapping paper, some bows, and some gift tags. They all turned out so well, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to bring myself to buy gift wrap again (unless it's this stuff, which is so darn cute). (more…)

keeping a recordLast week I wrote about the importance of paying attention and how it can elevate our everyday moments and inspire us to create. While mindfulness is important in its own right, the observations you make and information you absorb when being mindful can also provide the raw material for creative work, as long as you find a way to record them. Austin Kleon, writer of Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work advocates keeping a notebook handy at all times, and Twyla Tharp, choreographer and writer of The Creative Habit, explains how she keeps a box for each project, where she stores every last scrap of source material related to the project. I've found that the act of recording can be just as important as the act of paying attention, though for different reasons. Observation helps us tune in with the present moment. Recording helps us capture the magic of the moment for future use. Paying attention can enrich your life, but recording your ideas, discoveries, experiences, and learnings can help you to enrich other's lives with your creative productions.

It can be tricky to figure out how to start a practice of recording, so here are four ways you can keep track of your experiences and observations. Use these to build up a creative archive that you can pull from at any time: (more…)

learningI am slightly obsessed with learning. I was the only kid in my grade one class who was excited about homework. I couldn't wait to get to university to take classes on theoretical physics and African history pre-colonization. As my boyfriend can attest (he had to implement a 'no books in the bed' rule when I moved in), I usually am nearing the maximum number of books my library will allow because I want to read every book written about all the subjects I'm interested in - of which there are many.

Constant learning has been essential to the growth of my creativity. As I mention in my booklet, 51 Ways to be more Creative Every Day (don't have it yet? Sign up for email updates on the right side of this page!) learning helps us grow, and growing is energizing. It gives us new ideas to play with, new methods of exploring those ideas, and new ways of seeing ourselves and the world we live in.

I've satisfied my thirst for knowledge and understanding in many different ways, from formal education, to library books, to courses and workshops (in person and online), from extensive Google searches in my living room to immersive hands-on explorations on other continents. I love teaching myself - I learned to speak Spanish and to swim with more ease and efficiency without an instructor - and I tend to try to figure things out on my own before asking anyone for help. I often get to the point, however, when I know that I can't get farther on my own steam and need to take advantage of the work that someone else has done to become an expert. (more…)

creative ways to relax

#9: draw with dots

Last year I worked with a friend of mine to make a giant paper maché brain for a school project. We met on Friday mornings to share breakfast and work on the project and chat. It was a lot of work and took us many weeks. Though we both often thought about cancelling due to heavy work load, we never regretted the time we spent together getting messy and making something. When we were finished my friend told me that this time had helped her to feel relaxed amidst her busy student life. Playing with paper mache was a treat and a good chance for her to rest and regroup. For me, too, it was a nice break from the pressure I put on myself to constantly be producing new work.

It's hard to make creativity a priority in our lives. There's always something more important to do. And it can be hard to feel relaxed doing it when our inner critic can be so mean. Sometimes it feels more stressful to work on a creative project than to just zone out with a book or a TV show.

But creativity doesn't have to mean doing something hard, or coming up with something brand new. It can be easy and relaxing, and still give us the satisfaction of saying yes to our creative selves. (more…)

inner criticLately I've been thinking of creativity as a journey that we are called to embark on. I'm on an adventure, trying to fight the demons and make my way home to my truest, best life, and so are you. Along the way, I think we encounter two characters, two sides of ourselves that have their own take on how to live this adventure. And they usually don't get along.

You have a creative self, a version of you that has amazing ideas, endless energy and motivation, and that gets so lost in creativity she forgets to eat.

And you have an inner critic, a version of you that tells you that it's pointless to try be creative because nothing you do will ever turn out right and no one cares and you should just shut up and go back to bed.

If you have trouble accessing your creative self, it might be because you've spent too much time listening to your inner critic. Even if that part of you is buried beneath years of criticism (from yourself or from others), I promise you it's there. (more…)