Monday, 30 May 2011

Sand Scribes

One of the many joys of walking the beach at the end of the day is seeing the messages that have been left there in the sand. On particular day I was delighted to meet a little lad who had just arrived at the beach and, after much deliberation, pounced upon a particular piece of driftwood. “A perfect writing stick” he declared. Who was I to argue?

A little ways along the beach someone had drawn two hearts and written the word “ME” in the centre.

And further on an image resembling the petroglyphs for which Gabriola is known for, this one’s story to be washed away on the incoming tide.

Later still I came across another figure; the kind only children can draw.


I just only wish I could read “dog.”

But I can tell from the writing they were having fun!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Mayworks Poetry Festival 2011

What better way to spend last Saturday afternoon than with a bunch of people who love words! The second half of Nanaimo's first ever Mayworks Poetry Festival of Working Class Culture was held at the Nanaimo Museum. I was interviewed by one of two featured poets, who proceeded to write a short poem about me on the spot. What fun! We were then invited to read these poemsat the open mike, along with any others we had written on the subject of "work."

I hadn't brought anything with me, but caught up in the moment (and I might add, at the very last moment) I decided to read out an unedited poem I had written earlier that week, while waiting for the ferry, after giving a talk on "Trusting your own Intuition." I had taken a walk along the quay and witnessed the glorious full moon rise over the harbour. I wrote about the moon and how it reflected what I felt about my life and my work.

Some of the poems were poignant, some funny, many thought-provoking. Wendy Morton, the poet who had interviewed me, is part of a project teaching native students to learn how to write poetry, interview their elders and then write a poem about them. David Fraser, another poet, wrote beautifully about the working man, and woman ~ and their stories lingered with you long after the day was over.

A man who had attended the first part of the festival was so inspired that he went home and rewrote one poem several times, then came back to the second half of the festival and participated in the open mike. In turn, he truly inspired many of us, reading his poem with his fingers touching the sheets of paper on which he had written the poem in braille.

A wonderfully rich and inspiring day of words ~

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists by Carla Sonheim

Once in a while, if you're very, very lucky, you come across a book that within the first page or two you know, unequivocally, that it will change your life, the quality of your work, and the way you see the world around you.

One such book came through my mailbox recently. I made a mug of tea, curled up in bed for an afternoon's nap, opened the book, and read the first couple of pages. And fell instantly in love with the way the information was being presented to me. This book speaks to me in a way that no drawing, painting, writing or any other creative arts book has ever done before.

Carla Sonheim’s “Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists – 52 creative exercises to make drawing fun!” is pure joy! As a matter of fact I had been considering signing up for her latest on-line workshop  called “The Art of Silliness” but felt that I could be duplicating effort. After reading the first “Lab unit” in her book I immediately signed up because I wanted to immerse myself in whatever this author/artist has to share with me!

I mean to say, how can you not learn, and have sheer fun doing so, from someone whose first instruction tells you to “Gather your materials and get into bed… you can either sit up with your paper propped on a pillow, or lie on your stomach with the paper on the mattress.”

I’ll tell you how much this book spoke to me – I closed it up, reached for my netbook and immediately started writing this post, even though I had two other books on creativity that came with the same order still to look at!!!

Don’t be put off by the seriousness of the title, head for your local bookstore, check it out online, at least go to the author’s blog – you’ll be so very, very glad that you did…

Monday, 23 May 2011

Woody Hummingbird

A recent visit to our hummingbird feeder was a little oversized. In all likelihood a young Downy Woodpecker, it sucked up the nectar as if there was no tomorrow.  And kept coming back for more...
But he got me thinking. Whoever said birds of a feather have to flock together?
After all isn't this simply a matter of marching to the beat of your own drum...
Or following your bliss?

Friday, 20 May 2011

In search of the ultimate sketchbook

I have this thing about notebooks and sketchbooks - a neurosis some might call it. I prefer to think of it as a process by which I eventually arrive at a decision. It's that need to choose exactly the right sketchbook or notebook for exactly the right project. And to ensure that the notebook or sketchbook in question is used to the fullest capacity that is its due. As in: this is a particularly nice note/sketchbook and so should be dedicated to particularly nice (read: important) work. This can cause quite a dilemna each time I purchase a new note/sketch book (and I puchase a lot of them...) and unfathomable amounts of time are lost in the perpetual debate of what to use it for. Which could, I am well aware, be used for... well... writing... or sketching.
On a day trip to Victoria recently I picked up a simply delicious little sketchbook called "Flexi-Sketch" that came in several sizes and what was really more important, utterly delicious colours! With a soft cover with French folds, the Flexi-Sketch lays flat while open and accepts all kinds of media. There are 120 sheets plus 30 bonus sheets of acid-free 75 lb paper with a soft tooth. How can you not love a sketchbook called "Twilight" or "Celery"

Affectionately called "Pumpkin" (but it's official name is "Mandarin") this 6 x 6 inch sketchbook became my new best friend and after far too much thought and deliberation, was finally allocated to become a cache for my stones, pen and ink sketches and full moon poems. It went everywhere with me. My special note/sketchbook.
As luck would have it, two weeks later I had another chance to head down to Victoria, and once again my favourite art store, Opus Framing and Art Supplies, was my first stop. And there I purchased the next size up: "Butternut" is 8 x 8 inches  -  Now this was definitely had to be my very special sketchbook. What higher purpose would this be dedicated to? The hand wringing and intense questioning began.

Then came the epiphany from the unlikeliness of places. I attended a local trust committee meeting and from a distance noticed that the local planner sat making prolific notes in the coolest of notebooks. Having to know which one she was using I emailed her later, and lo and behold it was the same Flexi-Sketch Butternut I'd just bought the week before!

I was somewhat stunned to discover that these beautiful, luscious books were being used for something as, at least in my opinion (with sincere apologies to any planners out there) mundane and well... boring as notetaking at local planning meetings. Then it began to occur to me that maybe I was the one that needed to make a bit of an attitude adjustment. In her email the planner had said that she sat through so many meetings that at least it brightened her day to be writing down notes in such a beautiful funky looking sketchbook.

I decided here and then it was time to take these albeit wonderful note/sketchbooks off the pedestal I had put them on. And use them in the way they totally deserved, which was to be loved and.... thoroughly used. My Butternut has since become my "exercise" book where I deposit all the sketches of new techniques I'm exploring, creativity exercises I'm doing, ideas to develop, storyboards for my new book - there is no limit to what goes in there.
I'm sketching and writing and jotting down notes in both of these great books with no second thoughts.

And I'm loving it!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Writing (on) Stones

I recently came across a website which sparked a whole new adventure for me. The site talked about poetry and the practice of writing stones.

What a wonderful idea! Writing poems on stones! And before you know it I’m picturing myself beachcombing this summer finding flat round black stones, returning home and writing simple poems I have created in the winter months, upon them.

blue raven
witness to the mystery
surrounding us
each day

I could use gold or silver metallic or Sharpie felt pens, and spray them with a protective layer of varnish.

gently layers the earth
warming souls
after cold hard rain

I could write little poems for the people in my life that matter so much to me, and give them as gifts.

white flash
black slash
against cobalt sky
gone from sight
an indelible mark
in our heart

And I could write about this lovely island I call home and the sacredness of the land and nature and I could get a stall at the Farmers Market this summer and I could call them “Writing on Stone” after the park in Southern Alberta I never managed to find time to visit in all the years I lived there.

And of course these same poems would make wonderful greeting cards I could illustrate, and… this is just a tiny glimpse of how my mind works…

I have the tendency to speed read which means I often misinterpret instructions.

So imagine my surprise when I began to read the information correctly and discovered that “A small stone is a short piece of writing that precisely captures a fully-engaged moment. The process of finding small stones is as important as the finished product – searching for them will encourage you to keep your eyes (and ears, nose, mouth, fingers, feelings and mind) open. Writing them regularly will help you to connect with the world, & to love it a teensy bit more than you do now..."

Stones is a wonderful form of writing, very imaginative and freeing. I’m so glad I came across this site and discovered the sheer joy of Stones - I’ve been writing them ever since.

You’ll have to excuse me now… I have to go to the beach to look for more stones…

Monday, 16 May 2011

Finding your muse

Recently I was re-reading a most insightful book by Jan Phillips called “Marry your Muse.” One of the many gentle suggestions that she makes is finding some object that would personify your muse and dedicating a space in your work area to her.

As often would have it, I went for a walk on the beach later on that day and found this most wonderful piece of driftwood. I knew immediately who she was!

It never creases to amaze me what nature creates as she goes about her day to day business, and how whatever we need simply turns up when we are open and ready for it.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Nhety the netbook

Fondly called “Nhety” my Sony Netbook is, right now, my most prized possession. It’s ridiculously cute, packs more power than both myself and my partner’s computers together, weighs less than my regular purse on any given day, and is by far the best purchase I have made in recent years for my work.

Years ago I was hired for a project that required travelling back and forth doing extensive research. After much deliberation I purchased a laptop which served me beautifully over the next several years as I wrote and published my own, and others, work.

I discovered quickly how much better I wrote on a laptop. I was more focussed. I also wrote better fiction and poetry. Put me in front of a keyboard and the poetry flowed, with very little editing required. Leave me to pen and paper and suddenly I am journalling. My poetry, the rhyming verse of my youth.

What a joy to discover that on this netbook the same thing is happening again. All of a sudden I can’t stop writing and by default, am finding new ideas and concepts to write about.

I have a little notebook where all my writing topics, ideas for blog posts, and class outlines converge and it fits perfectly in the side pocket of my satchel. I have this funky little stick thing that allows me to transfer my files back and forth onto my main computer. And the best thing? I find myself writing sitting up in bed, at cafes, in the line-up for the ferry.

Can’t wait until it’s warm enough to head to the beach…

Monday, 2 May 2011

Knowing how to paint...

"One of the biggest problems in painting, is knowing how to paint"
Gino Hollander