Thursday, January 4, 2018

winter makes me feel zen

And now we welcome the new year,
full of things that have never been.
- Rainer Maria Rilke
Happy 2018 everyone!

I hope this finds you all in good health and spirits
and that if you did celebrate Christmas,
it was a good one.

This (below) is what I see outside my window right now. 
They're predicting from 20 to 40cm of snow,
along with high winds & freezing rain.

Hopefully, we won't lose power
until I'm able to post this. :)

Christmas here was a bit strange this year.
Between cancelled plans due to freezing rain,
an emergency trip to the hospital for dad on Christmas eve,
and a snowstorm on Christmas day,
it was just a little different, let's say.  ;)

Thankfully, dad's emergency ended up being sorted out quickly.
He thought he was having another heart attack,
but it turned he tore a muscle
when he sneezed the day before!
He went to the hospital by ambulance 
at 7am on Christmas eve,
and I drove him back home at 4pm.

We were all relieved and
he was very happy to be back home.
He went right back to watching
Christmas movies,
as if he hadn't skipped a beat. :)

In that lovely space between Christmas & New Year,
I spent lots of time
making soups,
reading & writing,
painting, and
watching movies.

Basically, doing as little as possible.

Some people go all out during this time
with goals and plans and resolutions
that put me to shame.
Clearly, I'm not one of those people.
I seem to do more thinking than anything else
in that quiet week after the holidays.
And chances are good I'll be in this mindset
for at least a few months.
Maybe it's a Canadian hibernating thing? ;)
Like I'm mentally preparing for the new year.
The one thing I do that's as close to a plan as I'll ever get,
is Susannah Conway's UNRAVEL YOUR YEAR.
I've been doing it for a few years now,
and it always helps me ease into the new year
without much pressure 
and look back at how much I've actually accomplished
in the year I'm leaving behind.
I don't know about you, but I often feel
like i get very little done in the course of a year.

Until I look back.

And it's not even about what I get done
but more about how I feel at the end of the year.
I've been walking as much as I can,
because i really think it's the most beneficial form
of exercise for the body AND the mind.

It can be so meditative - 
even if the weather makes it challenging sometimes.

This photo (below) was taken a few days ago,
when it was about -18C. (closer to -25C with the windchill!)
On that day, I dressed like an eskimo and braved the cold
and it was so worth it.
I ended up walking for an hour
and came back feeling like I had gone to a spa.
I know I would miss winter
if I lived in a warm climate.
Of course, winters can be harsh here in eastern Canada,
and come March, I'm ready for the sun again.
But if you dress properly when you have to leave the house, 
and the roads are cleaned fairly quickly after a storm,
it's really not that big of a deal.
It may not be pretty outside right NOW
but by tomorrow, when the plows have cleared the roads
and the sun comes out again,
it's gonna bright & beautiful.
You just wait and see. ;)

Here's to wishing you all magic
in the new year!!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

I procrastinate, but I get shit done anyway

hello everyone!
I am in such a better place
than I was when I last posted here.
As much as I try not to let it bother me,
November is a rough month (mom's death date)
and October was rather rough this year too,
so I'm more than happy to
Sorted out some of dad's old Christmas records & cassettes
(yes, cassettes!)
so he can do Christmas in style. ;)
Dad loves music and has quite the record collection.
We bought him a 'retro' turntable a few years ago for Christmas
and he uses it all the time.
He loves his new place,
so that's a load off my mind.
I've been busy with so many things lately,
but always make at least some time for art.
Otherwise, well, you already know.
I go insane.
I've been working on my website
(thanks to the wonderful Kerstin Martin & Squarespace!)
getting all my ducks in a row
to teach e-courses on-line.

Hit a few snags along the way.

#1  I am the worst procrastinator.
Actually, I should say 'I am the BEST',
since I'm so damn good at it. ;) So it took 
extra effort on my part to sit my ass down 
and DO the actual work.

#2  I was afraid.
Afraid of starting, afraid of getting stuck,
afraid of not being able to follow along,
afraid of not finishing.
You know the feeling.
Finally, one day, i just said:
"fuck it, I'm more afraid of NOT doing it than doing it!"
and I've been coasting ever since. 
Go figure.
#3  I have a few other projects on the go
so I've had to find a balance between
working on those
and doing the groceries
and visiting dad
and watching movies
and taking my car in for winter tires
and designing my website
and doing all the other fun things
that make my life good.
#4  I hate Trump. 
Doesn't have anything to do with anything.
I just wanted to make that clear. ;)

I got so sick of hearing about
the sexual assault allegations
and young black men being shot by police
and 14 year old girls being raped
by rich, white men,
and shootings in churches
and greed
and abuse of power
and corrupt everything
that I just decided I needed a break from it all.
So I rarely check social media
in the mornings anymore
and I almost never listen to the news.
I go for walks with this little Fluffy face (above) instead.
(She's holding on to her teddy bear, just in case I decide to steal it!)

At night, I go outside
and look at the stars in the sky
and life makes sense again.
Even when shit continues to happen
on the surface, on a daily basis...
the world keeps turning.
Mornings are kept for creative work,
reading, writing, walking
and good coffee.
And i feel so much better inside.
I go on Instagram,
because I am always inspired there
rather than depressed.
And whenever I do check Twitter,
I almost always think:

"Did this enrich my day in any way?"
"Did this make my life more meaningful"?
"Did I learn something valuable?"

and the answer, clearly, is always NO.

I usually just feel more angry, more frustrated,
more disgusted with too many people,
so i kinda went on a social media/gossip diet. ;)

I sketched this (below) right after spending
some time on Twitter.
It feels angry and confused and
like a bombarding of too many things at once,
doesn't it?
That's what it feels like to me.
So I've been breathing better
and finding some great 2nd hand books
at the local bookstore...
 ...and I found this one (new) last week.
Hard cover, the illustrated story of Jane Austen, for $6.99!
Yes and thank you.
Oh, and I've also started bullet journaling!
My pages are nowhere near as beautiful
as some of the serious bullet journalers out there,
but I seem to be getting more done, somehow.

I just needed a tool to help me keep focused.

I found a few videos that explained bullet journaling
in a very BASIC way, and I went from there.
Found a notebook I had lying around the house
and used that one for the first month,
just to get in the groove.

I've never been big on goal setting
but I do love lists.
I have post-it notes all over the place.
The problem is, my 'list' is scattered all over the house. :)
So this way, it's all kept in ONE place.
So I treated myself to these lovely journals
(bought via Amazon for like $8 each!)
and these great ultra thin drawing pens.
Christmas came early!! YAY!!

I was going to spend today putting up the Christmas tree,
but I ended up cleaning closets and doing paperwork instead.
I hate doing that stuff,
but it feels SO good once it's done, doesn't it?
Besides, I usually like to wait
until the first snowfall to decorate the tree.

I'm kinda looking forward to the snow. 
Course, I could feel differently come mid-March,
in the middle of fucking blizzard 
that keeps us without power for 3

So many people in the world
seem to be having a hard time these days.
So many sad and lonely people out there.

Sometimes, there seems to be
so much ugliness in the world,
that we tend to forget
that beauty still exists,
right alongside the darkness.

When I listen to this song
by Tom Waits, 
I hear beauty.
I hear hope.

Thanks for being here!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

I've been gone too long.


Brace yourselves for what could be a long post.
I have lots to share.

I caught myself a cold,
so I'm sitting here sipping on
a hot mint tea.

First things first...
November 11th.
Remembrance Day

Several years ago, I worked on an art calendar
as a fundraising project
with the local school and it was such a joy.
Each class (from 1st grade to 8th grade)
had a monthly theme.

I painted backgrounds for each month
on large bristol boards (12 backgrounds!)
and they painted things relating to the monthly theme.
We then cut & placed each little drawing on each month
and then I scanned them & reduced to an 8" x 10" calendar.

November was done by the 3rd grade.
Some kids did more than one drawing.
I was so impressed by their sensitivity.
This little drawing of 4 soldiers 
carrying a casket, and the tombstones
really touched me...

Let us never forget the sacrifices.
And so, it is fall here in eastern Canada
although this morning feels more like winter. :)

I took this lovely photo a few weeks ago
when my dad and I went for a drive
to a nearby park.

A lot of the colorful leaves
are now on the ground as
we've had a few good windy days.
Dad recently moved to a new "assisted living" place
in his hometown and he loves it.

I'm so happy for him.
It's a little further away from me (20 min)
but he still gets his visits with Fluffy. :)
October was a bit of a whirlwind.
We were moving dad to a new place
and preparing our son
Alex to move away at the same time.

This happened.

Our son was going to move to Western Canada
to work at a ski resort
and we were torn apart
and excited for him all at the same time.

But once he got there,
he had a change of heart
and decided to come back home.

Shit happens.

We're not all cut out
to live adventures 6000 kms away from home. :)
Some of us will find our own adventures
right in our backyards
and that's perfectly ok.
I moved to Alberta, in Western Canada
for my own little adventure when I was 18
and although I loved the time I spent there,
I missed the ocean so much.

Such beauty can really take hold of one's heart...
At least it did my heart.
I painted this in my little journal
while Alex was gone.
An abstract version of mountains, I suppose. :)
I haven't painted much on canvas lately,
but I have a few Christmas commissions,
so I'll be doing that soon enough.

In the meantime, I'm doing some journal painting.
Painting, sketching, writing on paper.

It's something that takes near zero preparation -
I fill a cup with water, have my markers & paints nearby
and I'm ready to roll!

I worry a lot less about 'what it will look like'
than I used to.

I'm more concerned with the feeling I get
while I'm painting or sketching or writing.

And it usually feels pretty damn good.

With all the crap going on around the world these days,
if I can do something that makes me feel good
or peaceful or happy - even for just a few minutes a day,
it is so worth it.

And sometimes, I just have something on my mind,
like this little journal painting below.

When I visited dad one day,
one of the old men there had this look on his face.
I couldn't get him out of my mind,
until i painted this on paper.

Someone once told Ralph Steadman
that things must be very dark & scary in his mind,
and he replied that things are quite peaceful in there,
because he gets it all out on paper.

That makes a lot of sense to me.

And so, on particularly dark & heavy days,
when I start to feel overwhelmed with everything,
or when I just want to keep a record
of how I spent my day, 
I do this:
 ...and almost immediately, my head clears.

I haven't solved anything
simply by drawing or writing about it,
it doesn't matter that the drawings aren't perfect -
what matters is, I've expressed how i feel about things
and that always brings me a calm inside.
And when I feel more calm,
paintings like this (below) emerge.

She looked like an alien to me,
but someone I love & respect told me
she looked like a "beautiful Madonna of the cosmos"
and said she was very grounding. 

So I chose to believe that instead. :)

You just never know what 'clearing your mind'
can pull up sometimes.

I love this quote.
Painted acrylic on sheet music.
And on October 17th, 
Canada lost this great man,
Gord Downie
to terminal brain cancer.

He was 53.

He was the lead singer of The Tragically Hip,
a Canadian rock band.
He was a wonderful songwriter 
and a poet at heart.

For any Gord Downie fans out there,
you can buy a print of this painting
in my ETSY shop for $20.
This picture was taken
on the morning Alex was leaving for the airport.

Fluffy wouldn't even look at him. 
Alex was smiling, but Fluffy wasn't fooled.
She could sense the sadness in the room.

She was pretty excited to see him again. :)
For those of you wondering about my e-course,
it's still happening - just taking a bit longer
than i anticipated.

I'm currently working on designing my website,
with the help of the talented Kerstin Martin -
where I'll be offering e-courses and paintings 
and all sorts of fun stuff. :)

This has all been very eye opening for me.

I'm not sure I really knew
how much work was involved,
although Kerstin has a way
of making it all feel less overwhelming somehow. 

I have no regrets at all 
and still feel like this is the beginning
of something good.

I hope you're able to pull yourselves away
from the craziness now and then
and find your own way
back to the quiet spaces.

Here's to the season of cocooning
and creating! :)