When I was in England, I found all of my old art journals and school work. I made the decision to lug them all back to Canada (paying surcharges for overweight luggage and all, I’m nothing if not dedicated!).

Over the years, I stopped drawing and painting and my ability suffered for it. It’s great to look back on these samples because if my name weren’t attached to them, I’m not convinced that I would believe them to be mine. Especially remembering how I used to rush through these projects because I saw them as a waste of time, funny how things change.

This project was kinda fun to do, there are a few others that I will share and some that I probably won’t. Do you have any idea what it is like to see what your 14 year old self  thought you looked like? Bizarre, that’s what.

 

The best part of reviewing these comes from reading my teacher’s comments. She used to write over a lot of my work and, quite often, the comments were far from encouraging. Yet, when I look through these sketchbooks I am entertained by my positive reaction to what I see. This alone has taught me that creating things is incredibly subjective. So long as I enjoy it, that’s really all that matters. I shall never be good at producing photograph like images but accepting that art allows for things to be ‘not perfect’ is part of the enjoyment, this calms the perfectionist in me. Good thing too, because that perfectionist is bloody annoying.

 

Looking through these pieces is great for reminding me of mediums and styles that I haven’t thought of in a long time. What do you think? Do you ever  look through old school books and projects to use as a measure of growth?

Surprise 13th birthday party invite, illustrated

What do you do for invitations when you want to throw a surprise 13th birthday party? Well, of course, you draw one.

My friend in town decided that 13 would be a good age to throw a surprise party for her daughter. She was a little stumped as to how to invite everyone and still keep it all one big secret. Time was a little tight when she approached me and discussed developing an invite, so I created a digital one, meaning that the invitation could be used on Facebook and e-mail.

It took about 5 hours to create and it allowed me to use up some of that good old digital painting knowledge that had been neglected.

What do you think of the final image? Age appropriate? It’s tough creating an invite for a girly who has no interested in “all things fluffy”.

In 2012, I drove around Lake Superior, which really was one of the most fantastic journeys I’ve ever been on. Talk about breathtaking.

A year later, when I was just starting to take an interest in drawing again, I decided to sketch an image of a -meh- photo I had taken.

The ink sketch was ok, but it was lacking something, so a few months later, I started incorporating ink and acrylic into the drawing.

It’s not completed yet (because I am scared) and not really sure how to finish the top part. Any suggestions, should I just wash it with ink, should I build more into the boat? The biggest barrier is that I am not particularly confident when it comes to detailing vehicles, people etc. If it’s a rock or a landscape then I can use my imagination and interpret it in whatever way I’d like, but that doesn’t work the same with, ya know, boats. Thoughts?

I am excellent at taking photographs. I am not so good at sharing them. These past 6 months have been no exception, so here’s a bit of a catch up on what’s been happening:

1. Cute Christmas presents from my mum/ Christmas tree decorations/ the cutest of kitties. 2. learning first aid (I’m a qualified first aider, don’t cha know?)/ enjoying a christmas present that happens to be a minnie mouse onesie because I’m cool like that/ I taught myself to knit this past year. I’m not very good but I do enjoy it immensely/ this past winter was one of the worst winters in this area (according to those who have lived around here long enough to know things like this), it was very, very snowy. 3. my hair is now long enough to put into side french plaits (braids), it makes me feel like a little girl to braid my hair in this way as it was the only way to control the unruly when I was younger. 4. The Canadian persuaded me to try smoking a cigar, I wasn’t very good at it and I don’t think I can say I’ve even tried it yet because it went out before I inhaled. This is a hashtag moment right? #justnotcoolenough. 5. I’m trying to read this book again, but I’m not getting anywhere with it. 6. Canadian mother’s day consisted of 5 hours of baking and making sandwiches, tarts, honey cake and pasta bakes. It was well received and I think that means I’m eligible for the best daughter in law of the year award. 7. The Canadian is good at getting seeds to do their thang, I am good at keeping them alive and growing #teamwork! This year our bay windows are filled with lavender, leeks, peppers, beets, cilantro, oregano, mint, basil, tomatoes, chillies and something else, but I’ve forgotten already! 8.I hang out with this fellow a lot. 9. The Canadian and I played a lot of chess this past winter. 10. I really wasn’t lying about hanging out with this guy! He’s the best and, better yet, he patiently waits while I take his picture. So malleable.

Emeli Sande lyrics on hand drawn patterned wedding card by the lemon hive

Weddings are one of my favourite things to celebrate. I love that wedding cards are one of the most intimate and special items that can be given at a wedding. Most people keep their wedding cards to review time and again and it provides the perfect opportunity for me to really invest time and effort into the card and leave a lasting impression.

I loved spending the time on this detail and, for many months, it was blank. Then a friend in Edmonton told me that she was getting married and incorporating an old, vintage theme into her decor. This card took about 2 hours to complete and, I knew instantly, that I wanted her and her, now husband, to get this card. After listening to various love songs and came across this one by Emeli Sande. Her song seemed to fit their relationship perfectly.

Her album later came to inspire a whole host of art projects for the remainder of the autumn. I love it when a plan comes together.

I think this style would make a brilliant congratulations on your engagement, job promotion, graduation. I just love the potential that white on black offers.

Is it just me that keeps special and memorable cards, or do you too?

It’s no secret that I went to England over the Christmas period.

There is something really magical about the UK at Christmas time, I have yet to experience the same coziness and Christmas spirit in Canada. Saying that, Canada is usually too cold to allow for collective, outdoor fun times, unless you are happy to brave seriously brutal minus temperatures.

 

It was delightful celebrating in the UK with my family, it was the first time since 2009 that we had spent time together at Christmas.

Christmas in the UK is awkward, things close, tourism isn’t at its best but there’s still so much to love. The festivities seep through everything from the incessant Christmas music to the roasted chestnuts sold on street corners. In the end, The Canadian and I rented a car and split time between visiting my family and friends and exploring Yorkshire, this included a quick trip to Ilkley to see the Moors and pick up macaroons and egg custards from Betty’s.

We flew from Ottawa just before a massive ice storm, so we spent 10 hours (with delays) in Philadelphia. Turns out The Canadian comes in handy, occasionally, and we managed to get access to the business lounge as part of a military appreciation program and/or the efforts of the lovely receptionist who took one look at our exhausted faces and took pity on us. It was definitely a good way to spend a 10 hour layover.

We had a lot of fun in Leeds and Yorkshire, generally. I will be posting more photos from our trip (and, eventually, a video!), so I won’t go into too much detail here, but here are the photos from the ‘good’ camera.

One of the many, many things I love about Yorkshire is the large number of small towns and quirky history. When we were little, my mum was always taking us to Hebden Bridge to visit the clog factory and post letters to Santa (there was a Christmas themed exhibit), so it seemed only fitting that I share a little of that with The Canadian. Unfortunately, many of the museums and exhibits have since shut down but there was still so much to share about the area, especially the old fashioned railway station and signs.

 Although the entire experience was amazing, it really was getting to spend time with one of my besties that made it all perfect. My sister and I have quite a significant age gap, and, once we got over the whole ‘older sibling’ /bossy thing, we seemed to have developed quite the wonderful friendship.

When I first told her I’d be visiting for Christmas, her first response was ‘board games are going to get played!’. We played 3 games of Monopoly and I was shamed into realising that I am no longer any good at this game. I still put that down to the freely flowing alcohol and The Canadian’s sneaky ways of beating us both, multiple times. He just sits there quietly and wins, with no warning whatsoever. not cool.

I am so grateful for those Christmas memories. In the past few years, I have missed out on so many beautiful experiences and this Christmas was really needed. I wanted to spend time with my, now grown up, sisters and be a part of my adult-family holiday, and the opportunity afforded to me leaves me feeling very lucky.

Here’s a confession for you: I suffer from winter blues! Ok, so it’s not much of a confession if you’ve ever met me through winter. But for those online folk/people who only know me in the summer, winter is a tough time for me. I get lethargic, I need more sugars, I sleep more, I hibernate. To be fair, moving to Canada helped a little bit, there’s something to be said about winters that are filled with sunshine, even if it is cold. Anything is better than the gloomy, cloudy winters of England!

Although my issues with winter may not be a surprise to those that know me, it’s still something that I don’t really talk about with many. It’s been a real struggle for me to post on here lately. I felt bad about this, but then I received a beautiful letter from a friend in the UK. I had never expressed my struggles to her, so I was surprised when she mentioned that she was writing because she knew that I tend to get sad at this time of year and letters seem to make me happy. I got a little teary eyed because, ya know…winter, and then I thought about it. Everyone knows that I struggle in the gloomy end of winter and yet I never speak about it. Having dealt with this for years, I, perhaps, have some knowledge on the experience that I could actually share, so, share I shall.

 

1. Be kind

Being kind to yourself is the best way of dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or, in fact, any sadness. Sadness happens, don’t be tough on yourself. Allow it to be there, cut back where you need to and take time to be kind to yourself.

If you’re hard on yourself, it’s just going to make it worse. Criticizing yourself for being lazy or feeling ‘that way’ isn’t going to lift your mood or change the situation.

 

2. Get outside, in the daylight

It’s so tough to leave the house in winter because it’s cold and, lets face it, you don’t want to. Seriously, leaving the house in the winter is the best thing you can do! Get some sunlight on your face, or at least feel fresh air airing out your head. Even if the sun is hiding, there are still benefits to being outside in winter.

 

3. Dress up

Do something for you. I have a bit of a love for cocktail dresses and high heels but I rarely have anywhere to wear those clothes. I don’t dress up often but when I do, I feel awesome. It’s not unheard of for me to just dress up for no reason, or for very little reason. It makes me feel good and I enjoy myself. Find something that makes you feel good, preferably something you don’t do very often and then just do it. Even if I don’t go anywhere and just spend the evening dressed to the nines, watching the TV with a nice big portion of ice cream, it lifts my mood.

4. Eat healthy

I’m not talking about eating 10 fruits and vegetables a day. I really struggle with healthy eating during the winter. I just want to eat junk food (such as the ice cream that made up my breakfast this morning), and I do (I try to be kind to myself about this slip up), but I find it better to eat junk food that I’m making at home, so I stop pretending that I will make pasta sauce from scratch, like I would in the summer, and I’ll buy the pre-made jars of tomato-y goodness, the frozen pizzas and gross frozen lasagne. I hate them all but they’re better than eating out every night and they mean that on those days that I really can’t face chopping vegetables, I have something to eat that isn’t as bad for me as a burger from a fatty take away.

5. Friends, showing love, connecting with people

If hibernation were an Olympic sport, I would be champion. It’s a seriously great talent of mine, however, we all need a level of social interaction and ignoring that just won’t help any gloominess. I spoke here about how I want to make more effort to connect with people and this is partly because I need that social interaction to stay positive. It’s an effort to leave the house and make myself look decent but I always feel so much better afterwards. As an introvert, it’s really easy for me to get overwhelmed and then hide again, so I set limits during winter. I try to fill 2-3 evenings a week with social interaction, whether that be skyping with friends around the world or driving to spend time with my pregnant friend who wants someone to sit with while she organises her nursery.

These work for me and help me feel more sane. What about you? Do you relish winter and snow? What do you do to keep sane during the chilly months?

Being grateful is not easy. In fact, the term grateful itself makes me uncomfortable. It reminds me of the awkwardness of having to recite all the good in your life, in front of your class. The term is uncomfortable, often associated with the deeply religious or deeply free spirited. I am neither of these things and finding a middle ground, reclaiming the experience of gratefulness and feeling it’s benefits did not come easily to me.

These experiences are definitely my own and I am not suggesting that being religious or free spirited is good or bad. It is, however, difficult to figure out how it applies to you if you do not identify with a category your action is mostly associated with. So, where does this leave you? How can you be grateful if, like me, you’re usually a pretty grumpy, gloomy and negative person?

How to start being grateful

Following on from some of the research I did into gratitude (thanks Amit!), it has been suggested that individuals can improve their attitude and encourage their feelings of gratitude.

“Increasing focus on the link between mind and body can encourage feelings of gratitude”

– Bono and McCullough (2006)

There are lots of ways to share gratitude and experience the benefits. Even if you’re not at the stage of wanting to share all that you love with the world around you, you can still experience the benefits.

How to be grateful

Gratitude and Thinking

Thinking of grateful events has a bigger impact than when you write them down. It’s suspected that this is because when we write them down we are forcing ourselves to be grateful in a moment that may not be conducive to the act. Thinking can be done at any time and mindful thinking can help you experience really positive feedback as the thought occurs rather than stocking it up for later. Eamons & McCullough (2003).

What should I be grateful for?

People often think that they need to be grateful for actions of another person but it’s been found by Wood, Joseph and Linley that those that find gratitude easiest are more likely to involved a wider range of people and events. Such as:

  • Being grateful for being able to see a sunrise
  • Being grateful that you met your partner
  • Being grateful for the love of your partner
  • Being grateful that your church leader makes the weekly sermons relevant and engaging

Gratitude and writing

Writing is an incredibly rewarding way of expressing gratitude. Although it has not been found as effective as just thought, writing is still a useful tool. Unlike thoughts, written word is available for those days that you require a boost in your mood or any ailment

What other ways can you express gratitude? What works for you?

Bono, G. and McCullough, M., (2006) Positive responses to benefit and harm: bringing forgiveness and gratitude into cognitive psychotherapy, Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy.

Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E., (2003), An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 372-389.

I have been busy doing all kinds of art and journalling. You can stay up to date with my creative ventures through Instagram, as that is updated far more regularly than the blog. 

I must admit, speaking with Pages and taking his advice to just get on with it has truly been a big motivation for me these last few weeks. Thankfully, whenever I attempt to be creative and reflective, I am left feeling excited, positive and incredibly optimistic. My mindset is good right now!

What has everyone else been up to these last few weeks? Was the holiday season satisfactory for you?

Christmas is drawing to a close and my attention is fast changing to focus on the new year and resolutions. As 2013 draws to a close, I am reflecting upon my goals and what I want my 2014 path to look like. I wrote about my feelings of uncertainty and direction over here and I have spent a lot of my December taking time to think about me. Although my plans are not yet set in stone, I know that I am inspired to be more constructively creative and active in my life. As soon as I plan it out more, I will be sharing.

In the meantime, I’ve been developing an awesome friendship with Pages Matam, who spoke here earlier this month. We’ve been talking about creativity, purpose and direction, all the things I’ve been struggling with lately. He kindly offered to share some of his tips on how to start being creative and focused.

 

When did you become interested in poetry and teaching?

I first was interested in poetry in middle school. I fell in love with teaching may be about two years ago working for Split This Rock building the LTAB-DMV Youth teaching and empowerment program. Seeing the way these kids were impacted by not just my work with them, but how they found their voices and used them to grow not just as writers/artist but people it is so beautiful. Those kids inspire me to do and be better.

When did you realise that your work was making a difference?

After the first time a young boy came up to me after I did a poem about a friend of mine
committing suicide, saying that he wants to do and be better with his life and being a good
kid to his mother. The kid must’ve been no older than 10 years old. A few moments after,
the boy’s mother came up to me and confessed on how she was ready to give up on life
and call everything quits, and how her poem inspired her to keep pushing and going forward.
At that time, i was may be 16/17. But something clicked in me, on how art can be a  source
of healing and inspiration, and that words hold such power and can make a huge difference.

What does your son think of your poetry and work?

He is only 6 years old, he thinks it’s fun…he is not really into poetry though, he just likes being able to stay out late and be at venues with lights and he gets to eat all the food and hear adults say crazy things.

Tell me a little bit about why art heals and words have power.

Art heals because there is something about Art that allows to manifest healing. It allows you to use your imagination to express whatever darkness you may be going thru, but also it gives what a lot of people tend to lack in that time of darkness – power and control: whether it is over their own bodies, their minds, their feelings, the outcome of a situation. With your imagination you can create any outcome that you so desire. And that in itself is powerful and can provide such a great step in healing. With that said, words are extremely powerful. There is energy in the things that we say and how we act upon them. knowing how to navigate the world with that energy, how they can empower or hurt people, how they can give or take away, is extremely important.

6 Tips for Increased Creativity and Staying on a Creative Path

  • Just write. No matter what it is. Whether a single word or a thousand paragraphs, write. Allow the words to spring forth on their own, don’t force them.
  • Read. Watch and listen to other work too, but also read. I could not be where I am without having read/watched/seen such a diverse array of work from writers/artists from all around the world and from all walks of life.
  • Find a trusted person/mentor and loved ones that you can share not only your work but yourself with. It’s important to have people you trust in your life. 
  • Be authentic and genuine. Your work will reflect it.
  • Be open minded and receptive of change, especially in competitive slam. Bad scores don’t mean your work is bad, but it doesn’t mean that you’re better than anyone else either. They’re just a reflection of other people’s opinion.
  • Remember always why you do what you do. The purpose in your work and keeping a clear sigh of it. Be fierce and unrelenting in that notion. Don’t let anyone take that away from you, no one.

What do you do to stay creative, inspired and confident?

Pages Matam is a multidimensional national touring artist, residing in the D.C. metropolitan area, but originally from Cameroon, Africa. He is a Write Bloody author, playwright, and award winning slam poet (2time DC Grand Slam Champion, 2013 Southern Fried Champion) with passions in the field of youth, activism, and education. Along with his greatest accomplishment, being a father, he is also a proud gummy bear elitist, bowtie enthusiast, professional hugger and anime fanatic. As he takes stage – as a poet, educator, or host – be prepared to be taken on an experience of cultural, socially conscious, and personal discovery unapologetic in its silly, yet visceral and beautifully honest in its storytelling.