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…)

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…)