Category: Creative Process

Original Art Studio Sale

floral bouquet vines2

I’m thinking about the final scene in the movie You Got Mail. When Meg Ryan stands alone in her empty bookshop after the chain bookstore forces her to close. I always found that scene heartbreaking even if in the realm of rom-coms she hit the jackpot. Any business closure has a bit of sadness. It’s the end of a story and though maybe it’s a simple transition into something else, it feels a like abandonment or a loss.

Being a freelancer or an entrepreneur has a lot of pitfalls. You collect life-lessons along the way and I have collected a lot. The most important one: Follow your instinct not the advice. Don’t give up too soon but also, be aware of sunk costs and make sure you cultivate self-compassion because if you don’t instead of learning you’ll be frustrated and unhappy.

I wrote about this earlier this year and I will share more on my newsletter, about what’s next but for the moment, FlowArte’s existence as a small business has come to an end is on hiatus. The Etsy shop will remain open for a while and I might be inspired to create new legging designs but it won’t be my main focus. I will focus on art and process.

Originals are looking for a new home

Original watercolor paintings are currently on sale in my brand new Etsy shop. All these are one of a kind, single available artworks that are searching for new homes.

Luisa Painting
Original floral pattern

Original art has a certain feel. It comes from someone’s hand, someone’s space, someone’s particular moment to your hands, your space your moment. It becomes part of your world. Choosing an original artwork is as personal as art can get.

Luisa Paints
Floral Bouquet

The Mystery of Unfinished Projects

Unifnished Projects

Some projects have been in my head for most of my life. They have never even set foot outside my skull. Other projects happened without intention or reason, they just took off.

Some of the projects that came to life indeed were big, others very tiny, so tiny that I don’t even recognize the effort or fact that they were completed. Others began and stopped by accident.

For some there was serious commitment on my part, for example: I had a podcast way before podcasts were a thing. It was a DJ set where I played my most snobbish music discoveries to a live audience of… very few. But I was there, every weekend, with my MP3’s, my headphones and my intro.

Another project was my personal blog in Spanish that ran for eight years.

I completed two novels, completed as in: I typed 50,000 words for each and then never looked at the manuscript again. Then I wrote a few stories that got published in a couple of literary journals.

In the category of mini-projects, I complete a portrait now and then. I complete a collection of leggings, I complete a surface pattern design. I complete a tote bag. All these should count as finished projects but why can I only focus on the huge projects that I really, truly want to do and I just don’t?

Unfinished project mess

It’s baffling. When I take a walk these are the projects that roam my thoughts, I see them clearly: what I want them to be, why I want them to be but then when I get to my desk, I do something completely different.

Of course I’ve heard all the mantras before:

Just start

Better done than perfect

Progress not perfection

etc. etc. etc.

But mantras don’t change a thing. When we have a project  in mind that is too important for us, the biggest fear is usually that it will not turn out like it exists in our minds due to lack of skills or an unclear roadmap. In my case: I will lose steam and leave it unfinished. And it’s the unfinished project that stresses and depresses me to no end. So, as my anthem song says:

“Finish nothing you start,
and start nothing
you think you’d continue”

-Piano Magic

The trap is you want to build the skills before taking the plunge but then you never feel ready. We then have two options:  start or abandon. If you start, chances are the project will not look like in your mind and you will be discouraged thus abandon. If you abandon immediately without even trying, the project will nag you FOR YEARS.

So what to do?

I want suggestions! Do you have a huge project in your project box that you are afraid of tackling? What is your project management style?

Do you just dive in? Do you shuffle your workspace? Do you consult with others?

Can you help me think outside the box?

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The Mystery of Unfinished Projects Pin for Later

Digital vs. Analogue illustration

Life before the internet

An artist I follow asked on Instagram if when drawing digitally (on iPad or other) if it feels like cheating. I just had to comment but then the thought continued all day.

To me it does feel like cheating and it shouldn’t.

The thing is, I enjoy digital drawing and painting a lot. I remember when I first took a drawing class the instructors encouraged us to use pen and not pencil to commit to our marks, to not second guess everything and not strive for perfection. It made sense to me. But this anchored me to a pesky belief that I should always commit to what I draw and the undo is a sin.

So the question: Is analogue art more valid, authentic… better than digital?

Well, as Alfred Eisenstaedt said, it’s the eye, not the camera. In my very personal opinion, one has to have the skills to draw and paint, the tool shouldn’t matter that much.

A good photographer will shoot great pictures with a disposable Kodak camera. Probably not under extreme conditions but the composition and the story will get told. If you can draw something on paper with just pencil, chances are that you’ll be able to draw very well on iPad. Even with the undo button at our fingertips.

One of the few mediums that are hard to correct is in fact, watercolor. Acrylic, oil and gouache can be painted over and cover a mistake or a change of heart, you can use liquid paper to cover up ink. Of course you can use an eraser for pencil. But digitally you can change things as much as you want until you achieve “perfection”.

Sometimes I wonder why we strive so much to try to get that “traditional media” texture digitally. The market for digital brushes is booming. I guess it all comes down to “productivity”. It’s definitely faster, easier to export, easier to deliver.

It’s simply part of the unstoppable tech revolution whether we like it or not.


Skillshare for Creative Thinking

Best Skillshare Classes for Creative Thinking

Learning online has become an addiction for me, however in the beginning I was constantly striving to try to recreate the same thing that the teacher did.

Quickly I realized that this wasn’t how I liked to learn. I am not a project based learner. I need to understand the thinking and creative process as I struggle a lot with coming up with new ideas. Technique aside, you can become the worlds most capable watercolorist but if you want to illustrate things, it takes more than drawing skills.

These teachers are a class a part and set the bar for other Skillshare teachers. I personally don’t like “tutorial” style classes. I watch those on YouTube, but a teacher’s thinking process is what makes these valuable.

If you’re like me and you want to skip the “how to paint a _____” and more how to create your own _____, these are the best classes and teachers. Plus a couple of classes that are just too useful!

  1. Odd Bodies by Tom Froese
    This is a brand new class. I was recovering from surgery and binged watched it, but it was so compelling that I had to get up and do some of the exercises. The result was surprising. I never thought I would be able to ever break free from the “eight head” figure.
  2.  Casual Hand Lettering: From Drawing To Digitizing with Linda and David
    I had watched other lettering classes in which being exact with extrema points and pixel-perfect (is that still a term?) rendition were overwhelming to me. I love casual and loose. This class is short and to the point. I loved it!
  3.  Radical Typography: Using Hand-Drawn Branding for Expression & More with James Victore
    This is one of Skillshare’s earlier classes, I hadn’t watched it because I was still stuck on the step-by-step thing. James Victore is so direct you have no choice but to go and make a mess in your studio. Result: this mug, which is more an art piece than a simple ceramic thing to drink coffee from.
  4.  Expressive Illustration: From Ideas to Execution with Roman Muradov
    I love Roman Muradov’s work. This is a step-by-step class but what makes it more compelling is his initial thought process. The word lists and how he comes up with a concept for an illustration. The result is breathtaking.
  5.  Design For Meaning: Creating Effective and Artistic Book Cover Designs with Peter Mendelsund
    Again, a master sharing his thinking process. From reading a text, finding the keywords and coming up with a concept. The stuff jealousy is made of.
  6.  Draw Your Life: Intro to Illustrated Journaling with Mimi Chao
    Super fun class if you want to document your life in images and drawings.
  7. Leveling Up Your Art Game: The Elements & Principles of Design with Dylan Mierzwinski
    What to do with inspiration? Sometimes we endlessly collect images and then we don’t know what to do with them. How do you use them? And how do you self-critique? Here Dylan shares her process of how she takes her inspiration to finished pieces and how she uses the elements of design to evaluate the work.
  8.  Fit Your Pictures to Various Social Media with Minimum Effort with Agnieszka Kobylinska
    Huge time saving process!
  9.  10 Quick Tips From A Pro Designer with Lindsay Marsh
    As a non-designer and someone who does not aspire to be one, but requires just the basic tools to create my own promos and marketing material, this super short class gave me excellent tools.
  10. Kickstart your Creativity: Introduction to Mood Boards with Nancy Hermann
    Again, as I am someone who curates and collects a lot of stuff: images, quotes, photos, etc. This class helped me distill moodboards into something I can make my own.

The process of finding your style, your voice, your OWN way of doing things is quite difficult today, despite having all the resources available. Having so many choices means being able to see what others are doing and it’s difficult to not be influenced. This is why these classes have made a huge difference in my learning this year.

Thank you to all the teachers who have put their hearts into their teaching!

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Skillshare for Creative Thinking Pin for Later

Montreal Brunch

Montreal Brunch sketch

One of the most intriguing things I’ve come across is how patient Canadians are when it comes to brunch.

On Saturday I went for a walk along Rue Notre-Dame and stopped to borrow a couple of graphic novels at the St-Henri Library, then went for coffee. Right across the street of a (what I assume is) a trendy Montreal brunch/diner place. The line-up was long. They are willing to wait outside under the burning sun (or freezing cold) for breakfast. I don’t think any breakfast is worth it. I remember in Mexico, the line-up was usually that long but there was no option, there are so many of us. You were destined to wait, always.

I snapped a picture and then proceeded to do a practice sketch. It was mostly to test using sumi ink and transferring this into a composition into Photoshop.

I’m happy with the result, despite the perspective being  wonky.

Montreal Brunch sketch

You can see the pencil sketch at the bottom, then using my lightbox I added some washes of ink, lettering and a bit of texture.

I have been using several techniques for transferring inked drawings to Photoshop but the quickest I’ve found is this one. Also Dylan’s class on Skillshare is super helpful.

I’m starting to appreciate more and more the joys of using sumi ink to get interesting washes and textures that I can colorize in any way I want. I will be posting some more experiments soon.

Meanwhile, have you visited my portfolio? You can see a few examples there.

Brunch in Montreal Sketch

Finished coloring everything in Photoshop. If you’ve been to Arthur’s in St-Henri, do you recommend?

Alejandra Pizarnik

Alejandra Pizarnik Retrato

Sometimes there is a world of words that want to come out but they don’t. They accumulate at the base of the throat and before you know it you’re choking.

Alejandra used to feel it and with this, she felt the panic of never being able to say exactly what she needed or being misunderstood: Que no se preste a confusiones. How difficult it is to avoid confusion.

I discovered Alejandra very late in my life. And it’s a good thing because I don’t imagine I could have managed reading her in my early 20s. It would have been dangerous.

Alejandra Pizarnik Print

I’ve read her on and off for the past fifteen years. Her writings are like my own personal oracle. I open Tumblr and search for the tag. The first one that comes up is exactly how I’m feeling.

Last month I took a wonderful writing workshop in Spanish. It wasn’t a workshop per se, it turned out to be a place to write without expectations. It was the most wonderful experience I’ve had in many years. Led by a literature professor and a psychoanalyst, attendees were a diverse group of women who came from different Latin American countries. We read Rosa Montero, Reynaldo Arenas, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Alejandra Pizarnik.

I had not written anything in Spanish in ages. I have a Tumblr somewhere and occasionally I do write there like I did a long time ago in my long lost blog Megara, The Diary. This workshop, opened the floodgates.

I realized that through the years since I changed countries that I have experienced profound loss, yet the loss was voluntary.

I moved here because I wanted to, because I had a safe place to land and because I felt I didn’t fit in my own country.

But I lost my mother tongue. Though I speak it all the time at home (in a somewhat bizarre bilingual dialogue – husband speaks in French, I speak in Spanish) and at work, the daily struggle with French and the fact that I do most of my thinking, writing, reading and learning in English, has left me a little mute.

Drawing and painting has been a way to not feel so drowned in silence.
Alejandra knew that words were treacherous, both when they come out or they stay in. The things I wrote in that workshop emerged without effort, without any expectation or demand. I did not think about “good writing” or impressing anyone, yet they reflected that something is amiss.

As I go through the summer trying to do many things but also trying to do less I wonder if I should even worry where I’m headed. There is so much I want to communicate but as Alejandra Pizarnik, I circle around the creature never looking at it in the eye. Words, images, thoughts, ideas, shoulds, should nots, desires, wanting to stay, wanting to leave, wanting stillness, wanting something to happen, wanting to be in the moment and yet eternally making plans or dreaming of a life beyond.

“Simplemente no soy de este mundo… Yo habito con frenesí la luna. No tengo miedo de morir; tengo miedo de esta tierra ajena, agresiva… No puedo pensar en cosas concretas; no me interesan. Yo no sé hablar como todos. Mis palabras son extrañas y vienen de lejos, de donde no es, de los encuentros con nadie… ¿Qué haré cuando me sumerja en mis fantásticos sueños y no pueda ascender? Porque alguna vez va a tener que suceder. Me iré y no sabré volver. Es más, no sabré siquiera que hay un ‘saber volver’. No lo querré acaso.”

This portrait is my tribute to her. I’ve wanted to paint her for so long. At last, yesterday in a rare moment of not feeling “the shoulds” I did.

You can purchase a Fine Art Archival Print in my shop.

How do you curate your own artwork?

FlowArte Portraits

Short answer: you curate without mercy.

I spent the week alone. My husband was traveling and I stayed home with my pup.
Of course I had epic plans. And not because my husband wasn’t home, but because I was not going to follow a schedule of any kind. I would eat when hungry, I would sleep when sleepy. My titanic plan was to review all my watercolor work and curate it. Discard, throw away, classify and within all that try to notice the patterns and see if I can find hints of that elusive thing called “style”.

Mountain of sketchbooks

I accomplished part of it. Now I have a smaller pile of paintings I like. It gives me a few clues as to what I’m naturally inclined to work on.

During this process here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Series

Most artists work in series, they paint several versions of the same thing or the same color palette or subject. I have never done that. I paint a one off thing and then my curiosity takes me to another in a different technique.

2. There is an element, line, expression, color that carries throughout your work, even if you paint a cow one day and a flower the next.

I’ve noticed this, I love the bluish-greyish-muddy tones that unite two bright colors. These tones are in almost every one of my textures and abstracts. They’re also in my portraits and my more illustrative work like my Grenoble paintings.

3. There is no waste

I’ve felt so tense when starting a new block of paper, a new sketchbook, because I don’t want to ruin it. I’m precious about the paper, but invariably, the first painting will be a warm-up. As I went through all my stack I noticed how many had been practice paintings. I wonder when I will cut myself some slack and just enjoy every bit of the process!

Illustrative portraits by FlowArte

4. I don’t like to mix mediums too much but when I mix them in a subtle manner I love it. Or keep it pure.

In particular I love seeing pencil lines against watercolor (like in the above painting). This is definitely one element that I will keep. I’ve mentioned Marc Taro Holmes, who is my favorite watercolor artist in Montreal. He paints directly with watercolor with minimal or no pencil sketch. The purity of the blends and the amazing paintings that emerge are stunning. I aspire to that.

5. Words and pictures.

This is my happy place. Illustrated books for adults where the shortest line or paragraph takes my breath away and there is an image that goes along with it.
Last year during my 100 day project I started to create a series of postcards with words cut-out from magazines. Maybe I should pick up where that project left off.

So here are some of my ways of curating my own work. How about you?

How do you curate your own work Pin for Later

Why the name FlowArte?

Featured Image FlowArte


FlowArte: Watercolor Beyond Paper

The word Flow represents so many things: movement, ease, softness, something that is constant, evolutionary but mostly it’s something without beginning or end. Infinite.

The initial idea behind FlowArte was using my watercolor work to design beautiful leggings for movement artists, like dancers or aerial yogis. But I also suspected that the idea would eventually change and I wanted a name that would work with anything that I wanted to do.

The only thing I was sure about was that it would be art related. But I knew, because of my personal history, that I wouldn’t stick with a single thing forever.

I’ve been extremely hard on myself because of this. I mean EXTREMELY.

I have put myself down in ways that I would never do to others. In fact when a friend has come to me with almost the same problem, I offer her comfort and encouragement and emphasize that she’s exactly how and who she’s supposed to be. And I believe it.

So why can’t I do the same for myself?

During my MBSR workshop there was a moment when the instructor asked: how do you practice self-care? And I went humph! I work out, I sleep well… I… I…
And it struck me: I do not practice self-care at all. I am constantly pushing to what’s next and evaluating progress/success in terms that are completely external. I castigated myself for money spent, for money not spent, for forgetting something on my calendar, for staying in, for going out. For not trying “hard enough” but mostly for not focusing.

During 2017, every time I had a new idea, I would stomp on it.

I used to relish each and every one.
I was doing a small business program and I was going to make it work! I had to focus on ONE thing.
But before I knew it, my head was creating all sorts of alternate universes, artworks, stories, ideas. I was reading more books, novels, graphic novels, etc.
I was discovering plant based eating, new ways of writing. I was practicing realistic portraits AND illustrative portraits, I was painting flowers, and jewels and animals.
I couldn’t, for the life of me, just do one thing.

And then, thanks to Greta, I watched Elizabeth Gilbert’s Flight of the hummingbirds. A talk she gave in 2015 and I just bawled my eyes out.

FlowArte is my creative playground.
FlowArte is where I experiment with words, pictures, and ideas.
FlowArte is where I draw and paint.
FlowArte is where I write about my take on creativity.
FlowArte today is watercolor but tomorrow it might be collage, or ink drawings.

You can be two or three things at once. And today I had the perfect example. This is the most beautiful short movie I have ever seen. She embodies my ideal of what FlowArte represents. Soft movement, freedom, without a single direction. It’s just fluidity in action.

She is a deep diver, a dancer and a filmmaker.

Well, I’m a writer, designer and visual artist with a penchant for philosophy.

If I publish paintings with quotes, if I create leggings because watercolor represents movement and I write my e-zine about a wide range of topics is it confusing?


I am so tired of fighting who I am and how I am. Of course there is always the financial issue and how focusing on one thing would probably give me better results but I’m not able to. Too many years trying and not succeeding and being blocked because I’m waiting to find something that will pull me in and not let me go.

I haven’t found it yet.

I have endless curiosity. I do not know what boredom is.

I still have to explore. I still have to try things, I still have to trust myself. I still have to negotiate with my own little negative voice about my ability, skill or talent.

2018 has so far been about answering that question about self-care. I used to think it was to drill positive thoughts into my head, despite the fact that I’m a happy pessimist or a negative optimist, however you want to see it.

Going down the wellness rabbit hole, double-guessing my choice of workout, food or habit. But self-care, I think, is striking a truce with that thing in yourself that provokes a battle. Once the peace treaty is in place, that pinch in your heart eases up.

So on we go.

Watercolor Beyond Paper

Getting Your First Art Show

Flow Arte Exhibition at Archibald et Alistair Montreal

Snow fell for the most part of the day. That soft, fluffy thing. The kind I love. It wasn’t cold. Just a perfect, memorable day. I wasn’t necessarily nervous until about 4:30 when I realized that I was doing my first art show IRL.

Flow Arte exhibition

You may have felt the same at one point: something that seems momentous is happening, maybe a speaking engagement, a feature in a magazine or blog. Maybe your graduation or your wedding or an exhibition, for example.

All those things bring the spotlight towards you and it seems for a brief moment, you’ve achieved something grand.

I may have a strange philosophy which I’m reluctant to share, but I’ll do it anyway because it’s helpful to me and maybe it will be helpful for someone else.

Low expectations always.

This doesn’t mean to shatter dreams or self-deprecate or undervalue things. What I mean is that if you put too much weight on something, it will probably never meet those high expectations. If you have low expectations, the result will always surprise you and even if it doesn’t go well, you won’t feel crushed.

This philosophy has helped me manage levels of disappointment. Of course, when I’ve secretly wanted something very badly and it doesn’t happen, I am indeed crushed and it takes me a while to get over it. Usually it’s something I’ve left to chance and superstition, but when an event is set and I walk into it with curiosity and low expectations I am 97% of the time happily surprised.

There was an art show.

FlowArte Exhibition

Have you ever come across someone who is doing what you want to do and wonder, hey, how did they get there? It happens to me often. And up until last year, I thought it was truly a case of “build it and they will come”. But in reality, every event, from tiny to grand, has so many steps. Not least, saying YES.

I live in a neighbourhood in Montreal that is not well known. In fact when people arrived they were joking that it was the first time they rode the Green line to the very end.

Archibald & Alistair is a lovely café near my house. The first time I went there I got so excited I texted my husband: we have a café!! And a million emojis. We used to live on the Plateau, so I was missing my weekly coffee crawl.

I  went a few times, followed them on Instagram and Facebook and genuinely interacted with them. At one point I went and offered them some greeting cards on consignment and they said yes. Part of their mission is to promote local artists. They exhibit a different artist each month.

After my 100 day project, I focused more and more on watercolour and at the end of 2017 they asked if I’d like to exhibit my work. A first art show!

Getting your first art show, despite your introvert self.

Two weeks before the exhibition I was about to balk. I didn’t know how to frame things, how they would look, if my work was good enough (always the question…) what would people say?

But little by little, overcoming my fear and my procrastination, I purchased frames, cleaned them, did last minute touch-ups to some paintings. Made a list, wrote a bio, made the little cards that go with each painting. And I promoted the show. This was by far the hardest. And yes, we all know that it shouldn’t feel awkward or yucky but it does.

FlowArte Portraits

I showed three portraits. Which I haven’t shared on social media. These portraits are very personal. This one for example, is one of my dearest friends. A woman with a personality unlike any other, so intelligent and cultured, so authentic and yet mysterious. She’s not on social media. She’s out there living her life. Touching other’s lives with her unique way of teaching. Nobody can ever forget her.

Camille Claudel Portrait by FlowArte

And this, a portrait of Camille Claudel.

My very first attempt at a portrait was in 2014, precisely Camille. The horror! I still have it. It’s a reminder to keep practicing, keep experimenting, keep going towards the aesthetic you want to achieve. (The photos aren’t quite clear because it was getting dark)

Camille’s story fascinates me. The movie with Isabelle Adjani is one of my favourites.

I’m also showing a series of mono prints that I made using glass and watercolor. After failing to get prints I liked on the Gelli plate, I looked for ways to do printing with watercolor. Five of the best results are on display. Two sold!

Mono Prints FlowArte

So, low expectations?

It was a lovely, casual, friendly evening. I was able to relax and talk a little about my work. I happily took compliments and enjoyed the moment.

Sometimes small events are the best for dipping your toes, especially if you’re an introvert. Simply take the opportunities that feel right for you.  I usually feel I have to take every opportunity that comes my way and there have been times when the stress of it has not been worth it.

If I’d been in a frenzy treating this as a live or die situation, like opportunities sometimes feel, it might have been a very different experience. If I’d expected sales, amazing contacts, partnerships and all that business stuff, I would not have savoured it. Instead, I enjoyed hearing about upcoming marriages, babies, travel plans. Gather recommendations for our upcoming trip to France, discuss a favourite topic of mine: handbags!

So if you’re an artist, small business owner, freelancer, be on the low-expectation spectrum, take the opportunities that feel good and enjoy the moment. It’s cliché, I know, but it’s also a great place to be.

Practicing one thing at a time

Today I felt like drawing.

It’s January 15 and I’m already overwhelmed. There is not much to be done about that. Except to recognize when things are not flowing, take a little break and do something else.

Since I started drawing and painting, I’ve practiced each thing separately. I learned how to draw faces, then I tried to draw full figures, gesture drawing, watercolor, florals and botanicals, abstracts. Each little thing by  itself.

There are a couple of disadvantages with this approach:

  1. When you want to bring all the elements together it becomes a little chaotic. There are important “nuts and bolts” that are missing such as design principles, story telling , layout and such. These things are not taught anywhere outside University. To your enquiry “learning to draw”, Google will send you down a rabbit hole of online classes. All of them quite valuable on their own but once you need to create a final piece of work, you need those nuts and bolts or it will fall flat.
  2. Drawing is different from illustrating  You can make stick figures or seriously “ugly drawings” and communicate more than the most accomplished artist. Where is the secret? When you learn to do lettering plus drawing one is still missing a very important piece: a message. Again, this piece, I believe, is obtained in that (lately) despised institution that is College or University.

Right now, I’m satisfied with my watercolor as artistic expression, I’m also satisfied with my technique although there is much room for improvement. I’m just happy that my colors are vibrant and you can tell what I’m painting. But I still want to be able to communicate something and I’m missing the nuts and bolts.

Where are they? How do you connect the different acquired skills and put them together into something that makes a person stop their feed and be unexplainably moved.

I don’t know.

I’m at an impasse, do I continue with watercolor or do I work on finding the nuts and bolts? I could improve my drawing skills, keep creating variations of what I’ve already done to arrive to that elusive “personal style”.

I know it’s there. I just need some more hours in a day.