After lamenting the noticeable absence of my muse a couple of weeks ago, my little creative sprite has returned and has been making up for lost time. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with an idea that you liked so much you couldn't wait to get up so you could start working on it? That's what happened with this first illustrated watercolour and I'm quite pleased with the way it turned out.
My second illustration is not as pleasing to my eye, but I still like it, as a practice piece. It's been snowing a lot over the last few days, so I'm content to be spending time in my studio where I'm cozy and snug. I have a feeling Spring is going to be late for her own party on the 20th of this month. *sigh* Hope you're warm and safe wherever you are in the world. Have a great weekend!
The following information, while fun and easy, is also highly addictive. Proceed with caution. *grin*
My recent post dedicated to colour therapy as a way to beat the winter blahs, seems to have struck a chord with several of you, as I received a number of enquiries wanting to know how I did it. You do need Photoshop and, in my experience, it seems that the steps below have to be followed in order. I'm no expert, so if you know a better way, by all means, do that. Without further ado, here's how you make your own Amazing Colour Circle Thingy: Choose an image you want to alter.
1. Make the image square by going into IMAGE -IMAGE SIZE-(unmark Constrain Proportion). Alter the dimensions so they match, typically making each one equal to the smallest size.
2. Make sure the image is 8 bits and then Flatten.
3. Next, go to FILTER-DISTORT-POLAR COORDINATES. Select "Polar to Rectangular" and hit "Okay."
4. Rotate the image 180 degrees. (IMAGE-ROTATE-180)
5. Go back to FILTER-DISTORT-POLAR COORDINATES and, this time, select "Rectangular to Polar" and hit "Okay".
I love serendipity, don't you? Shortly after I made the decision to devote as much of my free time as I could to creative exploration last week, I happened upon Lori Vliegen's blog. Permit me to back up a bit. Well, way back, actually, to when I was a young child poring over magazine ads and dreaming of being an advertising wunderkind. The marriage of words and images absolutely fascinated me and if there was subtle double entendre included in the message, so much the better. Life has a way of tripping us up and, although I followed my heart's call and, going against my parents' wishes, attended art college, circumstances led me to remain there for no more than a year. I abandoned my studies and my chosen career path and entered the corporate world as a secretary where I would stay for several years. Nevertheless, I have never lost my love of words and imagery, especially if there is a touch of whimsy involved. Imagine my delight when I discovered Lori's Doodle Page* e-course. It brings together three of my loves - words, illustration, and quotes - and allows me to create with a medium I'm comfortable with and that feels natural. Lori presents the information clearly and concisely and there is enough instruction to address any creative concerns that might crop up without tipping over into overwhelm. PDF files are provided with a list of recommended supplies and to assist with lettering practice and design. Lori has also designed the course to be accessed whenever it fits your schedule. There is no deadline for registration with the accompanying pressure to decide immediately or regret that you've missed out. The illustrated quote above is my first attempt at this style and I can see lots of areas where it could be improved upon. In addition, although the journal I was working in claims to be appropriate for watercolour, the paper really doesn't seem to take water all that well. That said, I'm happy with the results and look forward to getting reacquainted with an old area of fascination.
I have not been approached to advertise or promote this e-course, nor am I receiving any compensation of any description. This is unsolicited information, freely given, based solely on my own personal experience.
My alter ego, the Mad Scientist, has been busy playing with Photoshop. This effect is, admittedly, a bit gimmicky, but it makes me happy and that's good enough for me.
I've been crazy for colour the last several months and these just seem to hit the spot like a sweet square of milk chocolate on my tongue.
A short while ago I was lamenting my complete absence of inspiration and suddenly, I'm finding myself overwhelmed with all the ideas I'm getting - even in my sleep (!) - and opportunities for learning that have been presenting themselves. Honestly, there don't seem to be enough hours in the day to explore everything that's captured my imagination recently. I love serendipity and I'd much rather have too much choice than not enough.
I'll be back to share a few more tidbits as I try my hand at new ways of creating. As with all experiments, some are working, others not so much. The pleasure is as much in the journey as in the arrival at the destination.
I'm on hiatus from Facebook. I'm committed to staying off it for a week, however, I may extend my self-imposed exile for a longer period, if I find that serves me best. It had become a too-easy form of entertainment for me that had been infringing on my time too much and I found I was reaching for that instead of exploring several artistic impulses that have been clamoring for my attention lately. So, if you're a) having a baby; b) starting a new job; c) breaking up with your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife and getting a puppy instead; d) going to war; or e) any variation of the above, it will happen without benefit of any witty repartee from me. For the next week, at least. As a big fan of the lost art of reframing, I'm declaring this week to be my own personal Creative Retreat. It's not that I don't have other responsibilities or obligations. I do. However, after the groceries have been bought, the laundry done, the dinners prepared, and the doctor's appointments kept, the rest of my time will be spent upstairs in my playroom studio having fun. It's true, isn't it? When you're doing what you love to do and things are coming together the way you'd envisioned them - or better yet - with delightfully unexpected results - it feels remarkably like play, doesn't it? The mixed media painting shown above is a small experimental piece, roughly 4" x 6", that I worked on yesterday afternoon in my mad scientist's laboratory. What are you playing at these days? Do tell.
The sun rose reluctantly in the sky this morning. Shrouded by heavy skies that blurred the line between heaven and earth, for a few brief moments it cast the world in a pastel shade of pink. Thick hoarfrost lined branches and whiskers alike and transformed trees into great big cotton candy treats.
A fluffy cloud descended and wrapped us in its chilly embrace, enveloping and intimate. There's something about fog that brings with it a reverent sense of peace. My entire world was hushed in that moment and time had been suspended.
I've been having fun creating small bookmark sized paintings over the past few weeks that I've dubbed my 'doodles'. They're prototypes of a sort for a line of original acrylic paintings I'm adding to my product line in my etsy shop. I've really been enjoying the creative process, as well as the rediscovery of a form of expression I'd all but abandoned long ago. The canvas sizes will be modest, befitting my current subject matter and all will have a touch of whimsy. Details on this piece I'm calling A Girl and Her Bunny can be found here. Keeping in mind that creativity comes in many forms (baking, drawing, sewing, etc.), what have you been up to lately? I'd love to hear.
You may recall that we discovered a squatter in one of our outdoor sheds at the start of winter and I'm happy to report that our adopted feral cat, Barney, is still partaking of our hospitality. He didn't like the renovations I made to his accommodations initially so, shortly after that, we decided to relocate him completely. We removed everything from the rickety shed and moved him into a separate section of the shop adjoining it, where it's significantly more protected from the elements. Inside this space, I created an insulated sleeping area with a heating pad designed specifically for animals. This is also where he receives his meals, so he has warm feet while he dines. A heated water dish is kept filled with fresh water, as well, and his litter box is located in the larger shop area, a chilly yet short walk away. I literally stood vigil at the window for hours that first night, worrying that we'd done a bad thing moving him. As darkness fell, I finally saw him creep along the edge of the building and slip inside the small opening we'd made in the door for him. I think I enjoyed the first really good sleep I'd had in weeks that night.
There are the occasional mornings when he skips breakfast, perhaps in favour of some other tasty treat, or perhaps because he has cabin fever and would rather get some sunshine and fresh air than a meal. He can always be trusted to return in the evening for dinner and a warm place to sleep, though.
With the exception of a few days over Christmas, he hasn't shown himself to me. I thought we were making some progress when he began peeking around the corner of a lawn tractor we have stored in the shop. I had really hoped that we could become friends, but he's gone back to being extremely shy and all but invisible.
He does make forays out of his apartment and if I track his footprints in the snow, they lead me around the shed to the back where they disappear underneath the building. There are likely lots of mice wintering under there and it's a safe place to go to get away from my curious dog and the weather.
Every now and then, I bring him out a little treat of wet food and he cleans it up so completely that the dish looks washed and ready to put back in the cupboard when he's done.
I continue to chatter away to him when I deliver room service twice a day in hopes that he'll eventually begin to recognize me as one of the good guys and worthy of his trust. I've become quite attached to him and I sincerely hope he stays with us after spring arrives.
I'm going to pretend you all noticed my absence the last several days. It goes like that sometimes. I'm long over worrying about keeping up appearances over here in my virtual home and, frankly, the last thing I want is to feel like I have to punch a clock. Besides, I was grieving.
Since I was unable to attend my uncle's funeral last week, I decided to conduct my own little ceremony here, instead. I lit a candle, spoke a prayer, shed a few tears, drank some green tea, and made a little art. I felt a lot better afterward.
Today, we have an honoured guest in our home. Master Kippy is always welcome here. Willow loves Kippy. Unfortunately for her, Kippy's getting old and prefers to nap on the couch more than play. They get along well, as long as Willow isn't overly exhuberant and respects his personal boundaries. A little growling and a well placed nip usually gets the point across and from then on, they're best buddies. Kippy and our cat, Luna, maintain a respectable distance and no one's fur gets ruffled.
I've also been doodling and playing with paints and am enjoying the exploratory process very much. If all goes well, I may have something new to reveal soon. There have been workmen in the house installing a boiler so we can use the in-floor heating in an area of our home that, prior to this, didn't receive any heat. It can get pretty chilly here during the winter months, let me tell you, so we're very pleased to have that working. I also painted a feature wall in our living room. Again. I may be destined to change the colour once more because, although we like it, we don't love it. After nearly a dozen coats of paint - between base coats and colour - on this one wall alone, it's safe to say, I'm ready to be done with this wall. There seems to be more wildlife moving around lately. I watched a healthy coyote lope down the road past our home the other day, and a gorgeous fox basked in the sun near our fence line on Sunday. I'm thinking this could be a sign that spring is on its way.
There's a lot of talk about death this week, with the recent passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman and yesterday, I received the news that my favourite uncle had succumbed to widespread cancer. He was special, my uncle, in all the ways that word implies. Born at home on the farm in the early 1900's he was deprived of oxygen and suffered brain damage, as a result. He always walked a little funny and the umbilical cord that was wound round his neck damaged his vocal chords, as well, causing him to speak in an abrasive, gravelly voice. I always knew that Uncle Nestor was different than other people and he didn't share the same authority that the other adults in my life had. I don't know what age he would have been mentally, but he always seemed like more of a playmate, in spite of his size, and it wasn't long before I surpassed him in intelligence. Back when I was growing up in the 60's, his condition was referred to as mental retardation, and I won't deny that he was an easy mark for us kids to tease. His mother, my grandmother, was a hardworking woman of Ukrainian descent who bore 10 children and lived a hard life on the farm. As far as she was concerned, his disabilities wouldn't keep him from being a contributing member of society. One of his first jobs was to deliver newspapers in the neighbourhood and he took this responsibility very seriously. He would walk his route, pulling his inventory around behind him in a red wagon. That wagon was one of his prized possessions, next to his transistor radio. It was his childlike qualities and pure heart that really endeared him to me. You haven't lived until you enter a banquet room filled with people as an adult and hear one single, distinctive voice cut across the murmur of conversation to announce your arrival with unfettered and enthusiastic delight. My grandmother chose to keep him with her instead of putting him in an institution, and he lived with her until her death a couple of years ago. She was literally his whole world and although his sister took over his care, I believe that's when he really began to die himself. I didn't see him a lot after I grew up and moved away from home, but I loved him and I'll miss him. That's the thing about death. It's so damn final.
It would appear, for all intents and purposes, that my creative muse has gone A.W.O.L. I've been struggling with a lack of inspiration lately and have decided to simply ride it out. I'm not sure whether that's being defeatist or highly evolved. It's true, I've had some further small success with my fledgling business, having acquired a new client in town, and that's been very satisfying. The truth is though, that the number and variety of obstacles I've been facing creatively has been endlessly frustrating. Everything from finding reliable suppliers to selecting pleasing paint colours for walls in our house. I remain steadfastly determined to find solutions and, after months of exasperation, may finally be seeing a faint light at the end of the tunnel, for some, if not all of these challenges. I remind myself (and God) daily that He is the one who put these dreams in my heart, so I know there's got to be a way to make them happen.
Every once in a while, in the middle of doing some ordinary thinking, I have an epiphany. You know, when the only reaction you can muster in response to that mental slap upside the head is to sit back with a 'huh' and a "blink" "blink". I've been unhappy with my weight for a while now. Over the years, I've come to accept that I'm a hedonist at heart. I like eating bon-bons and lounging around in my sweatpants, so it's only natural that I would struggle with the hard parts, like adjusting my diet to exclude some of my favourite treats and establishing an exercise routine. But, enough is enough. Basically, I'm having to face the reality of life lived as a middle-aged woman. Crap. It sounds really bad when I say that out loud. Anyway, there I was doing a few gentle stretches in a blinding beam of sunlight in my living room, all the while doing my best not to crush my cat who loves to lend her support by rolling around underfoot, when an old thought popped into my head. Let me give you the backstory. At the time that this thought was first birthed, I was in my twenties and working as a secretary for a large timber company. They owned a company jet and the pilot's wife didn't work. She was always trim and slim and well-dressed. The thought I had then that came back to haunt me last week was this: "Well, if I didn't have to work, I could spend all day looking after myself, too." Hmmmm..... Fast forward to 2014. I don't work outside the home and I have the enviable luxury of arranging my days the way I want to, for the most part. So, I was basically called out by my conscience and I'm left with no excuses. So far, my new routine is working out quite well. It's only been about a week, though, so I'm not doing any happy dancing yet - although that could probably be counted as exercise . I'm determined to make some progress with my goal to slim down, in spite of some debilitating pain I've been suffering with my hips for the past several months. I'm seeing a doctor about that, hoping to find the cause and, in the meantime, I'm finding that soaking in the hot tub followed by gentle stretches seems to help somewhat. I do hope I see positive results soon because I have only so much time before my initial enthusiasm for this new routine begins to wither. One final thought, in what could be interpreted as a sign from the Universe - the backspace key on my computer has stopped working. Have you experienced any moments of serendipity or flashes of insight in these first few weeks of 2014? I'd love to hear.
Early last month, I heard about a call for donations of original artwork for a good cause and knew that I wanted to take part. The Richmond Animal League in Richmond Virginia will be hosting a Small Art with Big Heart Auction on February 22nd, 2014. Each canvas measures 5" x 5" and is an original work of art. As participating artists, we were asked to create something that reflected the work of R.A.L. and their mission of saving lives: providing hope, help, and homes for animals in need. The hardest part for me was coming up with an idea that I could translate onto a small canvas. I've never considered myself a fine artist or a painter, so after much consideration, meditation, and fretting, I decided to do something fun and slightly cartoonish. This is my first ever attempt at this style of artwork and I have to say, I'm really pleased with the result. I'm told that there has been a very good response to their call for art and if you want to bid on one of these small canvasses, in support of animals in need, you can visit the R.A.L. website for more information. I enjoyed this project so much, I'm thinking of creating a few similar works of art and offering them for sale. I'll keep you posted. ...now, back to shoveling snow and working on my blog header...
I'm not tech savvy. This I know. In spite of that, I thought I would attempt to change my own blog header because it's sadly out of date and in dire need of a face lift. Other people - you know who you are - are changing theirs all the time, so I thought, "Hey, how hard can it be?" My first attempt was a disappointing piece of doggy doo-doo at the top of my blog.
*Sad frowny face*
I kept at it and am marginally more satisfied with what you see now. Bear with me. I'm learning. If you have any pointers or suggestions, feel free to pass them along. In the meantime, I'm taking my dog outside so she doesn't die of boredom and I can clear my head. My bwain is stwained...
Okay, this is embarrassing... ...only 8 hours into 2014 and I already felt compelled to change my Word.
: not rough or severe, kind, mild
Thinking back, it's the one I really wanted but didn't feel I deserved to have. It came to me quietly and I didn't really notice it because it wasn't pushy or insistent like I thought my word should be. Instead, it softly, politely suggested itself to me and although I felt a longing at my core, I couldn't see it sitting in the room with me, patiently waiting to be acknowledged. You probably sensed that I had really been dreading the start of a new year. Both of the words that I seemed destined to carry - persevere and onward - seemed to have a lot of "shoulds" attached to them. They felt like itchy wool sweaters when I put them on. They fit, but they didn't feel very good. January 1st arrived and my all-pervading desire was to greet the new year...gently. I wanted to linger in the day and savour the solemnity of the occasion. This word, Gentle, kept asserting itself in my mind and coming out of my mouth in my morning conversations with my husband. Before I had even formally acknowledged it, Gentle had gracefully moved in and assumed her rightful place as my official guiding light for the year. Once again - custom fit, not objectively chosen. In the moment that I finally recognized My Word for 2014, I experienced a profound sense of peace and gratitude. I know my word choice doesn't mean that I won't suffer setbacks or challenges in the coming year, nor does it mean that I plan to sit on my tuckus and listen to chanting monks all day long. It does mean, however, that for the first time, I feel like 2014 is going to be a good year. ...and that's my final answer. *grin*
After much wrangling and thrashing about, I finally selected the word that will guide me for the next 365 days.
As many of you know, this word presented itself to me at the 11th hour. I already had a word. It didn't thrill me, but it just wouldn't go away. I had a blog post written about it and everything.
"Once you learn how to do something, move on. The most dangerous position in any creative act is certainty: that's the moment we stop learning. One should constantly be the beginner."
Rob McLennan, Writer.
Then, a new word appeared and, with no small measure of relief, I knew - this was the right one.
It carries with it the kind of support I feel I need this year. I don't need to be pushed to break new ground, I need to be gentled forward and encouraged.
"There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth:
Not going all the way, and not starting." Buddha
In the 4 years that I've selected a word to act as a beacon to guide my steps for an entire year, I've noticed that I don't seem to have much choice in the matter. The word presents itself in a number of different ways and, in the end, I simply must respond to its siren call. It was different this year and that may be why I got stuck. In 2013, my word was Courage. It felt scary because the word implies a good degree of fear will have to be faced and yet, muscled through regardless. I dallied with the word for a good portion of my year, although it still showed up in smallish ways.
"The magic recipe to living out your boldest dreams:
A pinch of delusion, a dash of audacity,
and a shot of courage." Kirsty Spraggton
My real act of courage, the one that I'd been so assiduously avoiding, was to approach total strangers and ask for their support in marketing my work, specifically, a line of greetings cards that I've produced. Much to my delight (and relief) I was well received and they committed to trialing a sample. But, I can't stop there.
"Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there." Will Rogers
That's where my new word for 2014 comes in.
: to or toward what is ahead in space or time.
: moving toward the future or toward a more advanced state or condition.
To qualify as My Annual Word, it must touch on all areas of my life - Financial, Physical, Spiritual, Emotional, Relational. This word applies to them all - as did persevere, it should be noted. This word, however, feels kinder and gentler, with a touch of grace.
"We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, therefore, is not an act,
but a habit." Aristotle
"Onward" still requires a healthy dose of courage. In fact, every single word I've chosen in the past, continues to have merit and value in my daily life, although they no longer take centre stage.
"Many of life's failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."
Today is the last day of 2013. Imagine that. In retrospect, 2013 was a pretty good year for me. - My husband and I bought our new 100 year old home in January on 5.5 acres surrounded by farmers' fields. Our dream to leave the city and move into the country was realized. - I learned how to tend bees. I haven't given up on getting my own hives, it's just become fairly evident that's its a more expensive endeavour than I'd realized, at first. All in good time. - I created a studio space for myself that feels nurturing. - I planted a garden and watched it grow. My first ever. - We installed a gas fireplace just days before the first snowfall of the season and the temperatures plummeted. Timing is everything! - I got my Etsy store up and running and have enjoyed some small measure of success. - I developed a line of greeting cards and my work is now available to purchase at the regional hospital gift shop. Naturally, there were also a few setbacks and losses, this past year, too. - I experienced a deep sense of homesickness in the first few months after my move to the prairies from the west coast. - I got my car stuck in a snowdrift and had to be rescued by the very farmer I'd driven out to offer assistance to. One word: Embarrassing. - and, of course, the harshest loss of all, our kitten Teddy Pinkleton. My word for 2013 was Courage. I don't feel that I really did it justice. I did do my best. I thought my new word for 2014 was going to be Persevere . There was a heaviness associated with this word that I just couldn't shake, a sense of foreboding that seemed to promise a year of struggle and difficulty. I tried on several different words and kept coming back to that one. Nevertheless, as right as it felt, there was too much that was wrong with it for me to commit to carrying it for an entire year. I believe I've found an alternate word that has a similar intent and yet, suggests a lighter, more uplifting mood, more in keeping with my truest self. More on that tomorrow, my lovelies. For now, let me leave you with this final thought as we bid farewell to 2013 and welcome a new day, all bright and shiny and full of promise.
I'm not gonna lie to you, I'm feeling a bit apprehensive about 2014. I'm not sure why, exactly. It could be that the word that's presented itself to me as the most likely candidate for the coming year has been weighing on my mind. It feels heavy and I've really being wrestling with it the last several weeks. The mere fact that it's still hanging around, poking me in the ribs and whispering in my ear like the Ghost of Christmas Future is an indication that it's probably the 'right' one. Nevertheless, I still have a few days before the ball drops, the bell tolls, and the new year begins to decide. I've kind of been giving it a test run, in the meantime. The last couple of days I've been trying it on for size, you know, to see if it's going to be a good fit or if it is, in fact, to large for me to carry this year. Has a word been stalking chosen you for 2014 yet?
All content and photos are original to Carolynn Anctil and A Glowing Ember and are copyrighted, 2006 - 2014. Please do not copy, or download any content without express written consent. All content and photos remain the sole property of Carolynn Anctil and A Glowing Ember forever unto eternity. Don't take what doesn't belong to you. Karma will kick your ass. Don't say I didn't warn you.
I'm a Superficial Dabbler - I know a little bit about a lot of things and I'm an expert at none of them. I’m a city girl with a country soul, a curious nature, and a very short attention span. I believe that animals are angels wrapped in fur, come down from heaven to model unconditional love.
I have decided not to display the awards that I receive. If you like my blog, leave me a comment. I read and appreciate them all. It's the connection with the friends I make here that I treasure the most.