Saturday, March 13, 2021

Finding a path...

 Here we are right about in the middle of March. The snow has melted but this Saturday morning is quite cool. Spring will be here shortly and I will be spending more time outdoors. This morning I bought some beautiful roses and carnations for my desk. It seems that I have grown quite dependent on bringing bright flowers into the studio. It is good for the soul!!!

 Life has been busy here in the winter with so much teaching. I have enjoyed every minute of it and have had the joy of creating new courses for students. What a delight. I will be announcing new courses shortly for private students as well as some group online classes.My pen, pencil and brushes have been given quite a work out lately.  As I continue to create content and hone courses of study for individual students I have been reflecting on some of my own experiences. I have taken several large format online courses, some pre-recorded courses and some that were open to only a few at a time. All of them have their good points and bad points. One thing that I found so inspiring in a very small format class was feeling part of a group of people and seeing what work they created week to week. The care that these individuals put into their projects was so inspiring to see and there was so much respect for their efforts and interpretation of the assignment. I do sense levels of discomfort as students are asked to share their work. Sometimes that is such a hurdle to overcome or endure. Taking these various online courses can be a great way to expand your skills at a more reasonable price than private instruction or the eventual return of in person instruction. But as I have explored various methods of study over this past year, I recognize that there is not a one size fits all method for each student. There are multiple paths and so many ways to navigate in this creative life.  Let me offer a few thoughts here for those of you who have written and feel like they have met with a bit of a plateau. 

I hope you realize first and foremost that you are unique and one of a kind. You come with your own default thinking patterns, visualization processes, likes and dislikes. You are you! And that is something that will never change! Your vision, voice and ideas will have an expression that only you can give. My biggest encouragement I can give you is to follow the paths that spark a sense of joy and delight in you. Most of my learning and advancement in skills has come from going down rabbit holes that seemingly make no sense. I will spend days looking at illuminated mansucripts, or the manuscripts of writing masters looking for some spark or detail that sends me down another rabbit hole.Sometimes I need to just walk in nature and the curve of pinecone or branch can be enough to send me to my desk with a spark of an idea Hone the skill of observation and study the things that you want to excel at. Self study, self care and independent research is the backbone of personal artistic growth. I can't recommend this highly enough and I hope this maybe alleviates some pressure of thinking you have to check of a list of courses to study before you can get anywhere. 
I also encourage you to remain true to your vision and ideas. One of my greatest inspirations is  seeing the work of Kate Greenaway. She was often told to abandon her vision and ideas of illustration children and simple florals in pastoral landscapes. She heard this over and over and still created what she wanted to create. Her story never fails to inspire me. 
Taking a cue from Kate Greenaway means that sometimes I know that when I sit at my desk, I am not going to create something huge and magnificent. That day or hour I might just need to paint a flower or write a note to a friend. Kate wrote letters as part of her daily routine. I know it is part of a bygone era but many times getting a note into the mail to a friend is food for your soul as well as theirs. 
Finally, remember to take breaks. We are all carrying large workloads, juggling tasks, dealing with physical limitations and we have been navigating a very trying year. Even though our activities have been greatly reduced we still need to respect the needs of our body and spirit. You might need a mini retreat even within the confines of your own home. Maybe you need to schedule a beautiful cup of tea in your favourite tea cup and just breathe without any pressure for awhile. Stepping back and taking a breath is enlightened self interest. Don't think of it as falling behind on anything. Think of it as part of a natural rhythm in this artistic journey. 
 We are starting to circle another Season and in your corner of the world I hope you are taking good care of yourselves and finding moments of solace, joy and peace. I am cheering you on as you step back to breathe or if you sitting at your desk immersed in a huge project. You will find the path that makes your soul sing. Hugs all around!!

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Welcome March!

Hello sweet friends. I hope you are doing well in your part of the world. Here in Ontario I see snow on the ground but the trees are sounding increasingly more cheerful as more birds start to gather. Every morning I hear the sweet song of the cardinals and it is such a cheerful sound to wake up to. I bought a lovely pot of daffodils for my desk as I prepare to teach my Spring Symphony course this weekend. They are such a vibrant burst of colour and they bring some warmth to the desk. 

I worked so hard preparing the handouts for this new course and I am excited to bring these new ideas to my next set of students. It was refreshing to work with such a joyful palette of colours.

It's been nearly a year since we went into our first lockdown here in Ontario. Things changed drastically for all of us. I remain so grateful that I have been able to work and teach from home. There have been blessings in disguise with this adjusted lifestyle and I know many of you feel the same way. I have had much more time to work at my desk and it still feels like such a joy to open the studio door each morning. One of the things that struck me as I worked this week with my faithful pointed pen is that no matter how long I work with this tool, it still teaches me something. A lot of things have to go right for it to work properly on the page. Nibs expire as they are pushed to their limits.Ink sometimes has a bad day where it is just a bit too thick and seems sluggish. I can have shaky moments as the pen doesn't do exactly what I want it to. Even though I have been doing this work for 18 years now, I still feel as if I have to pay my practice dues. There is always something new to learn and a skill to refine. I am continuing to work through my Enchanted Letter alphabet as I work on new course notes for the class in May. Even though these letters have been with me for 10 years now, they are still bring me challenges and wonder as I work through them as little puzzles.

 As Spring approaches and we come full circle around a very trying time I hope you can find peace and calm as you pick up your pen and play. Bring some brighter colours into your palette as we start to shake off the dark winter. 

Sending hugs all around. Thank you for reading through the blog and showing me what is blooming in your garden or what flowers are gracing your desk! I appreciate the emails and photos so much. Keep sharing your calligraphic gifts with others. It really does make a difference!