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…)

Edmonton Pecha Kucha 24 - scary thing

Photo by Edmonton's Nextgen

My scary thing

Last week I did something scary. I stood up in front of a couple hundred people and told them about something very personal and meaningful to me. I talked about the Drawing Project, which has just passed its halfway mark, and how it's changing my life. I showed my drawings, blown up on a giant screen. I was nervous, I was excited, I was happy, I was stressed - I was a big bundle of emotions in the weeks leading up to giving the talk. But I am so glad I did it.

I've done a fair bit of public speaking in my life. I did speech competitions all through elementary and junior high, I was my high school valedictorian, and I studied theatre in university, where I did some acting. It's been years since I've spoken to more than 10 people at a time but it's a little like riding a bike. While the nerves can be pretty intense, it does come back to you.

What I've never done is spoken about something so personal. I knew (underneath the anxiety) that the speech would go well. I knew that it was well written, that I had chosen good photos and that I could deliver it with confidence. What I didn't know was whether people would respond positively to my message or whether they would brush it off as being completely unimportant. This project and what it stands for - creativity, passion, living your best life, overcoming fears - mean so much to me and I was terrified that people would think it was lame. (more…)

touch a treeWhen it comes to creativity, it’s important to have a constant stream of inspiration to draw from. If we choose to pay attention to them, our senses can offer bucket loads of material as we move through each day hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, and touching. Paying attention to our senses helps us live in the moment, excites our curiosity, and can make us more in tune with our natural impulses. However, so many of us—myself included—go through our days without really feeling much of anything. To deepen my own awareness, my plan is to write a post on each of our senses, explaining some ways that we can focus more intently on that sense and wake ourselves up to the variety of experiences around us. Hopefully, they’ll help you too. So far, I’ve also written about taste, sight, and smell.


I'm sure we can all agree on the importance of our sense of touch. Studies show that hugging someone you care about can reduce blood pressure and provide other health benefits and that babies who are not touched early in life don't develop normally. Touch helps connect us with the people we love, but it also helps us perform most of our everyday tasks. We rely on touch to find the keys beneath our fingers when we type, to find the lip balm buried at the bottom of our purse, and even to keep ourselves upright (this site says that elderly people might be more prone to falling because their feet aren't as sensitive to the ground as they used to be). Unlike other senses, which receive information from one small area of our bodies, we can experience touch in countless different ways, over almost every part of our body, which means there is plenty of opportunity to be inspired.  (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…)

booksI have a bit of a long list for you today, mostly because I've been reading a ton of illustrated books lately. I recommend getting a stack of them and cozying up in a nest of some kind and reading for days. That's a good way to deal with the end of winter, right?


Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

Our local library was running a program that was sort of like a city-wide book club. They chose one book, had extra copies on hand, and created lots of games and challenges to take part in. My curiosity was piqued: it must be a good book if they thought the whole city should read it. I didn't end up taking part in any of the activities but I really enjoyed the book. It's sweet, and sad, and strange, and captivated my heart. (more…)

yuko mikiOne 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 found Yuko on Instagram when she was in the middle of her 365 day "Happiness is" illustration challenge, which got me completely hooked on her feed. I loved her cheerful drawings of everyday pleasures and soon found my way to her blog where she shares super helpful insights into what she's learning on her journey as an illustrator. She recently quit her day job to draw full time and it's been inspiring watching her grow.

What sort of creative work do you do?

I'm mostly an illustrator and make simple and friendly drawings for stationery and wall art using pen and ink and watercolor.

Have you always thought of yourself as a creative person? Why or why not?

Not really! I guess I've always been interested in creative activities but didn't think I was "creative" per se. When I was little, I liked to draw. But I didn't do much to nurture my interest in the visual art then and moved on to drama and theater in my teenage years. But after high school, I didn't pursue any creative passion for many years. I guess I was being too busy being a college student and navigating the new phase of my life being away from my home and family for the first time! (more…)

liking or not liking

Drawing Faces

Five months ago I embarked on an adventure to learn more about drawing, to practice and build skills and, most importantly, to tame my inner critic and learn to have fun with drawing. So far, it has been quite the ride. I haven't always been able to keep up with my two assignments per week, but I'm drawing more than I ever have before and I'm learning so much.

January's theme was 'people' and one of the assignments was to draw 100 faces quickly on sticky notes. This assignment started slowly for me. I drew ten imaginary faces at work, fighting resistance the whole time. Then I decided to draw my Facebook friends' profile pictures and it suddenly became a lot more fun. It was tricky to find the right pen - a Sharpie was a little too thick, and made the faces too simple, and a micron was a little too thin, which had me trying to add too much detail and being too fussy. I finally found that a Faber Castell brush pen was juuuuuuust right because it forced me to simplify the features but didn't obscure them completely. So far I've drawn 60 faces and this has by far been one of the most interesting assignments that I've done. (more…)