nuit blanche edmontonA couple weekends ago, Edmonton saw its first Nuit Blanche event take over downtown and transform it into one giant art party. There was a pedway full of balloons (well, half full), a stack of bouncy castles, 120 trees covered in wishes, decorated potholes and dozens of other creations.

I didn't get to see any of that. I was in my booth at the Grand Market from 7pm until 3am, selling my artwork and watching something amazing unfold.

I've been experimenting with pop-up workshops and interactive activities at markets and art sales. Normally people come to these events to see art and buy products, but I want to give them the chance to participate in another way. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, when people are only consumers and not participants, it's like they're "not allowed to contribute to the evolving story of a universe that's in motion."  I want to give people the chance to contribute to that story, in whatever small way they can. (more…)

Breakfast jones

One 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 met Kendyl briefly at a meetup for entrepreneurs that I organized. She was only able to come to one meeting but she had plenty of wisdom to offer the group and I was a little sad when I learned that she was moving to Victoria, British Columbia. Thankfully I can still see her fun drawings and constant creativity - and her adorable dog, Breakfast - on a regular basis.

What sort of creative work do you do?

Well, I feel like I do everything... if I can get my hands on it, I do it. I draw, paint, cut things, crochet, ink, design, sculpt, stitch, make whatever I can find. As a profession, I'm a freelance artist. The most common work I do is caricature and character design. (more…)

drawing projectYahoo! We've almost finished a month of the drawing project. This experiment that I had no idea what to expect of seems to be going quite well. People signed up, they're doing the assignments, they're posting in the Facebook group. The assignments are actually fun (I half expected to be getting into arguments with myself about them) and I'm a feeling a looseness around drawing that I haven't really felt before. My inner critic only woke up during one drawing and the rest of the time has been snoring soundly in a corner. I definitely don't think I've cured my anxiety around drawing, but I think I'm off to a great start. And from the looks of the Facebook group, a lot of others are as well! (more…)

sea balls

My contribution to the installations

I spent the last couple of months working for one of my favourite events here in Edmonton. The Kaleido Family Arts Festival is an exuberant celebration of the arts that happens over a weekend in September every year. It started as a way to help make the neighbourhood safer and friendlier to artists and families. After 10 years it continues to grow, with music, dance, circus, theatre, art installations, and more. When they asked me to coordinate their installation competitions, I jumped at the chance to be part of something that I believe so strongly in. (more…)

creative role models

This is a series where I write about the people that inspire me to be more creative every day: the people who live and breathe creativity and are using their passion to make the world a better place. I've also written about Nick Bantock, Jim Hensen, Lisa CongdonAmanda Palmer, and Elizabeth Gilbert.

Who is Miranda July?

A multi-talented, multi-passionate artist who is known for her bold, unconventional choices. She started out in performance art, made a couple of feature films (Me and You and Everyone We Know and The Future), published a short story collection, helped start a massive group art project, wrote a book while she was procrastinating writing a screenplay, sent her famous friends' emails to a hundred thousand subscribers (I was one of them), created an app that lets you send someone to deliver your messages in person, designed a handbag, and published a novel, among a myriad of other projects.

What’s so great about her? (more…)

self-helpYou may or may not have noticed, but I'm a bit of a self-help addict. This week, I'm sharing with you some useful self-help tidbits I've come across on the internet. A lot of these writers are people I go to when I'm stressed, and I pull from them when I'm trying out new techniques to feel better and be more creative. If you want to make the most of your creativity, you gotta take care of yourself. Here are some ideas. Enjoy! (more…)

creative living

One 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. 

Artist and illustrator Gloria Ho was introduced to me by a mutual friend who thought we might get along since we were both artists and Royal Bison vendors. Did we ever! From the first day we met we've had so much to talk about. Gloria's watercolours paintings are distinctive and she's so good at capturing the whimsy and delicate beauty of the animals and people that she paints.

What sort of creative work do you do?

I'm a watercolour painter and I specialize in animals and people. I sell my work at art markets around Edmonton and Calgary and also do custom commissions and freelance editorial work.  (more…)

SAYING YES

A couple of weeks ago I saw a Fringe play where the actor asked the audience for some random nouns. Only, she didn't ask the whole audience like you might normally see. She asked one specific person. And because the show was about memory and she had endeavoured to memorize every person in the audience's name as we came in, she called on one person, by name. Everyone looked at him and he froze. It sounded like he might have muttered a word but when she said, 'Pardon?' he just shook his head. His friends were equally stumped. Sensing his discomfort, the actor called on another person by name, and this person was ready with three words. The play moved on, but I couldn't help feeling bad for the guy who hadn't risen to the task. I've been in his shoes, feeling embarrassed and down because I didn't follow my impulses and just say something.

While I've made enormous strides in terms of my ability to speak up, last month I started thinking about the ways that I still say no to myself. Despite my efforts to be kind to myself and be my own friend, I still constantly catch myself saying things like, "I can't" or "I don't want to" or "I'm too tired" or "I don't feel like it." A few months ago I was trying out Toastmasters and at the end of every meeting guests have the chance to stand up say what they thought about the meeting. When it came to be my turn, I just shook my head and said, "I have nothing to say". I left the meeting feeling terrible. I had essentially just shut myself down, the same way that I had for years, telling myself and the group that I had nothing to offer. Which just isn't true. I have plenty to offer and the more I say no to myself, the more I stifle my natural intelligence, openness, and creativity.

This urge to say no, to not speak up, to not share ourselves with the world, becomes ingrained at an early age. We're afraid of rocking the boat, getting in trouble, getting made fun of. As Keith Johnstone writes in his book Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre, "We suppress our spontaneous impulses, we censor our imaginations, we learn to present ourselves as 'ordinary', and we destroy our talent--then no one laughs at us." I've spent many years suppressing my impulses, to the point where I often didn't think I had any. Maybe you've felt this way too and if you're tired of hiding, it might be time to start reconnecting with your impulses and learning to say yes. (more…)

drawing project

Learning to Love Drawing

or

Drawing your Way to a Better Life

or

Why Everyone Should Draw More

I still don't know what to call this project. All I know is that I want it to happen. I want to spend a year drawing as much as possible, learning to improve my skills, but more importantly, learning to calm the critical voices in my head that make drawing so unpleasant. I want to find a way back to childhood, back to when drawing was FUN. Will you join me?

Why spend a year drawing?

People who love drawing really love it. I've been reading a lot of books and blog articles by artist Danny Gregory and he talks about how drawing basically saved his life. It helped him to slow down and recognize the detail and beauty of his life. It brought him out of depression and showed him how to really live.

On the other hand, people who hate drawing really hate it. It can inspire so much anxiety, resistance, fear, and self-loathing that it's no wonder that most people don't even bother trying it. "I can't draw," is what many people will tell you when you bring it up.

We all drew at one point. As children we all felt the joy of making our mark. But once it became clear that childish lines were no longer acceptable, we stopped. Some of us keep trying, and keep coming up against fearsome mental and emotional obstacles. I have a love-hate relationship with drawing: I love the way it feels when it's going well and I lose track of time. I hate the frustration and negative self-talk that attacks me when it's not. To illustrate my relationship with drawing, and to help explain why I want to spend a year facing my biggest creative challenge head-on, here are three stories. (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…)