What are those small rituals you share with your partner? What are the things you want to say in a more permanent way than with an emoji? Do you often remember how you met? Do you anticipate what he or she will do or say? Do you imagine them as little kids and feel warm and fuzzy? Do you say thank you to your mother in law for creating this perfect creature?
Are you in the beginning stages? Are you building a home? Are you ten, twenty or thirty years into your life together? What do you share the most? Are there stories about him or her you do not yet know? (I often ask my husband: “Tell me something you haven’t told me…”) Do you melt with their little idiosyncrasies? Do you each buy your own toothpaste because one or the other won’t put the cap back on?
Do you keep quiet when they take a nap hoping to let them sleep as long as they want? And do they get up in the freezing morning to walk your beloved dog? Do they cook for you? Do they bring you a smoothie in the middle of the day? Do they let you choose the Netflix movie on Friday night?
Are you opposites? Are you alike? Can you be silent for a while and be OK? Can you talk about everything?
Maybe your days are full and there is no time to go and look for a pretty card, maybe you want to add a personal touch, you want to say things in your own hand writing.
Here is a Valentine’s day card which you can print on the paper of your choice. It’s easy and convenient to print, cut, fold and personalize.
You can customize it by adding a bit of thread, adding inspired and romantic words as collage, giving it a more rustic look using crafts scissors to mimic torn paper like so:
You can purchase it here as an instant download.
Psst: My newsletter subscribers will get it free! Join and I will send it out this weekend!
I spent six days almost completely at home, except for a few hours on Tuesday when I went to my MBSR session. That’s a record even for me and my solitary tendencies. Though my husband works from home often and we’re in our respective offices, not leaving the house for so long seems unhealthy, but is it really?
Or is it one of those things that most people find difficult and strange and so they advocate for “leaving the house” even if the entire city is a block of ice and walking is hazardous. I’m not exaggerating. The temperature went up, it rained quite a bit and then the temperature plummeted and so cars, windows and houses woke up in a shell of ice.
So here we go.
I did my Body Scan meditation in the subway. I never thought I’d be able but I did it. I felt every inch of my body, I saw my thoughts as bubbles. Ten minutes is all it took. It is quite a feat to manage not reading, not looking at the phone,
I opened my commissions page. For the moment, I’m offering personalized scarves, but soon I will offer other items. I’d love some suggestions!
I spent a good part of Thursday building color palettes. Sometimes I get the feeling I’m trapped in the same combinations or influenced by other artists a bit too much so I turned off the internet, grabbed a stack of magazines and created a few mood boards. Up until now I’ve relied heavily on Pinterest, but as we all know, it can be quite unproductive and directionless as it’s the algorithm that suggests similar pins, you are not really choosing and observing.
I watched M2M documentary about Fashion in the 90’s. The documentation team did an amazing job. It’s so good in every level: it allows us to see creativity from every angle, from trendsetters to followers. For example how at one point all the luxury brands had to turn to the street for inspiration. Even Valentino! I’m not a fashion consumer, but I love the creative and historical aspect of it.
I cleaned my office/studio. This might seem like procrastination but I was at a point where I couldn’t function. I felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that kept piling up. I don’t allow myself to use the common spaces of the place I live in. I tend to claim a space/room for myself and I jam it with everything I consider mine. So at this point I was drowning. I did it the Marie Kondo way and I battled quite a bit with shame in the process when I saw right there in front of me, how much money I had spent in art supplies that were going bad because I wasn’t using them. How I bought another mechanical pencil when I had eight already. But also, I recognized how much work I’ve put into my development as an artist. Piles of old sketches showed me that I have come a long way.
This weekend we’re going back to the cabin. I will bring fewer things this time. I’ll attempt to keep up with meditation and I will try to write a little bit.
There are words in the English language because they are so precise. You don’t need additional articles or pronouns to illustrate a state. One such word is “disarray”. I sit here on Friday afternoon looking at my office/studio, the mess, the chaos. Simply untameable. Every time I get up from my chair I look around and the feeling of impossibility takes over. How will I ever be organized or get everything done?
I started the MBSR program. I am going to be meditating each week. During the first session they asked us to reflect on Why we were there. The instructor kept repeating the question and every time I had a different answer until one floated in my mind and stayed there: To stop battling with the way things are. Especially in the world and my surroundings. Like getting angry at my neighbor because he loves to use his snowblower. This ties into what I wrote recently in my newsletter about attention.
Transitioning into plant-based eating. Thanks to Veganuary I am now really making an effort. On Sunday I walked 50 minutes in the cold to go get diary-free products like “yogurt” and cream “cheese”. Made a fabulous soup and a vegan bolognese pasta, despite my cooking challenges. The change has made me feel so good emotionally.
I flipped through the pages of a sketchbook I started at the beginning of 2017. I’d used about 15 pages only and I drew a portrait on page 16. If you ever doubt that you are getting better at your art, try that. Get an old sketchbook and draw in the next available blank page and then flip through it. Boom! Confirmation that you have made huge progress.
I lost my Photoshop Presets, my Spotify playlists, my favorite podcast app stopped working… so I make new playlists, new presets and I discover new podcasts.
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:
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.
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.
It means you did other things that you probably need to acknowledge now and they probably will surprise you.
My friend and I have tried to do several end-of-year recaps using the Year Compass. We felt compelled to do it and like everything else that happens in mass sometimes we don’t even know why. Same thing for planning the next year.
Some people are born with a very structured-oriented brain. They can plan, execute and recap like it’s their second nature. Artists rarely operate this way but if we want to support ourselves with our work we need some of that structure; however, we need to discover it within ourselves instead of trying to adapt someone else’s methods to us.
I won’t pull out last year’s compass and compare what I said I’d do and what I actually did. Instead I will examine the themes that came up more often.
What we want vs what we think we want.
Finding true creativity and what does true mean.
Ethics and values that guide my art making
Being a small business owner.
Focusing on one thing vs. doing many.
So over the next few days I will examine each one of these themes and try to come up with answers that will guide me into 2018.
The interviewee said: “It’s weird, I love doing my job, I could do it all day long but the second someone offers to pay me for it, it becomes work and so all the procrastination mechanisms become activated”.
I can’t remember which podcast it was. It must have been around 2014 when I was listening to a lot of web design and development podcasts. This woman was a UX designer. I remember I had an a-ha! moment when I listened to her.
I’m able to tinker away at my WordPress site for hours. I can get into the code and change things until it looks perfect, I don’t mind to refresh the page a thousand times but when I started to do it for clients, the whole picture changed. I had a lot of trouble and anxiety about breaking things, about not doing it well, about writing spaghetti code, or having to do endless changes and adjustments, despite being paid for it.
When I started to do illustration work, it was exactly the same. I illustrated many things, I created clip art sets and worked meticulously on them with strict quality control and I released them to my Artistic Clipart shop, but when somebody asked me to work on a paid project, it automatically became “work” and it stripped the pleasure. There was money involved.
This is a phenomenon that baffles me, especially since illustrating and painting is my dream job, I want to be able to support myself with my work but why does money murk everything? Why is it a source of insecurity and dread?
It’s all about confidence and self-worth. I am certain that my work is good. I show it and I feel proud, but I don’t associate it with monetary value.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
I’ve always found pricing very difficult. At first, I wanted to make things at a very low price point, something that me and my fellow broke-artist friends could afford. I looked at the costs of production and marked pieces up based on that, not factoring in time and labor at all — I was basically just looking at a piece and thinking “I would be able to spend X amount on that” and calling that the price. Then there was a point where I started to get busy, and was churning orders out, working crazy hours, replying to countless emails, totally exhausted, and I realized I was probably making about $3/hr. It’s really important to value your time and effort, and to factor it in to your pricing. I still try to keep my pieces as affordable as I possibly can, but it was an important discovery that pricing based on your own finances is not necessarily going to be good for your health and sanity!
Big insight right there!
Ever since I started to work for myself, I’ve had this fear of pricing my work and since most people still tend to complain about cost when they know they’re doing business with a freelancer, I always caved and charged too little. No wonder it felt like an ungrateful job.
Artists and hand made businesses need to learn how NOT to mix our own financial reality with that of our potential customers. We have no idea of their reality.
I think it’s a bad sign to be surprised when you get an order. It means you are not valuing yourself enough. People have purchased my leggings and they love them! Why am I surprised?
My clients and customers value my work, they do or they wouldn’t buy. It’s my job to value myself too. To account for the long photography session of last Tuesday when I spent all afternoon bent over taking pictures of my Furoshiki wraps and scarves. Then editing the pictures in Photoshop. Practicing tying them up and verifying that they indeed look beautiful.
For this scarf, the process went like this :
I did a painting.
I wanted the most simple brush strokes, something evocative and delicate. Something botanical with a Japanese feel.
Next, came the process of digitizing and transferring to Photoshop to extract the image from the background. I digitize at 600 DPI.
Extracting the background from defined shapes is a little easier than abstracts and very fluid watercolors. This image is quite defined so I decided to make a dark navy scarf. No wandering white pixels would tarnish the final design.
The file is sent to my local printer who I visit regularly and reassures me. I know where my products are made and this printer follows ethical guidelines which were the defining aspect when I decided if I wanted to print them overseas at ridiculous low prices at the expense of workers who labour under poor conditions, or here in Montreal where production is a little slower and yes, a little more costly but I know that on Friday afternoon, workers leave to enjoy their weekends or any other paid holiday.
I’m confident that my customers value this process. From my studio to their hands. And so, yes, there is money involved but the money supports values that are important to me: ethical and local shopping, reducing waste by creating multifunctional products and last but not least creativity.
Visit my Etsy shop, look around, if you have questions contact me.
If you’re a creative share with me how you manage to successfully deal with the monetary aspect of creativity.
A package arrived to my workplace last week. In fact, several packages arrived but I had been waiting for one in particular. A brush. A brush I’d heard so much about I really thought it would be a game changer. I waited for a month because I couldn’t find it here in Montreal. Ordering from Amazon and having to wait a month is not fun, it’s the severest form of “first world pain”.
Finally it arrived. I unpackaged it carefully just to be able to admire the thing in all its glory. All my faith was in this magical wand.
I still had to work four more hours before I could get home and dip it in water and in my lovely White Nights watercolor paints. In my mind I went through all the things that had to happen before that moment: a 30 minute subway ride, eating dinner, cleaning the kitchen, walking Boris, unearthing my watercolor pad, the paints, changing the dirty water of the previous painting session and then, only then I would be able to experience the joy and the fabulousness of this brush.
The strange phenomenon of the “fine materials” is relentless. But this time I was convinced that after my incomplete #100daysofwcpostcards I had tamed it. In fact, I thought I was on to something, I loved making my postcards and I loved each and every one, even those I ended up tossing. In my head, with this brush I would be able to paint a-mai-zing-ly.
But I didn’t know what to paint.
“Should I paint another postcard?” It was dark and the artificial light changes colors. “Do I want to paint something figurative? Do color swatches?” I ended waisting a sheet of paper just doodling. I put the brush away.
Ignoring what is already there
Weeks go by so fast and I paint so much. It’s like a race to get somewhere, only I don’t really know where. I love painting with watercolor but I’ve been focusing on certain principles and rules and I didn’t totally love what I was painting. I love the immediacy of watercolor, but there are some styles that require long, painstaking processes, like layering, glazing. Precise, realistic, delicate. Other styles are very illustrative, almost like coloring. You do a sketch and then you fill it with color. The style I’m mostly drawn to and the one that has been emerging this year is the fluid, poetic, brush-strokey (sorry, this isn’t a word), but it’s the style where watercolor blends almost in a messy way.
In this style you sketch directly with the brush. It’s a risky undertaking because you have to work so quickly. The painting above is one of the very first sketches I did. It’s inspired by Virginia Woolf’s garden. My palette was a real pile of mud afterwards but I was quite happy with this very first result.
The thing is, I did these paintings with my old brushes, not with the magical “new one”. So why order a brush that “I heard” was exceptional? Because somewhere along the line there is still a lot of doubt. I still believe that all those artists using this particular brush are so much better than I could ever be (and they ARE great!) but I have to force myself to recognize that all the practice, all the seeking, all the art book carrying from the library studying different artists has amounted to something.
Today I stepped out into my backyard to try to capture some of the (delayed) autumn colors. There is no fiery red anywhere yet. More dark browns, greens and occasional burgundy reds. I took the magical brush and tried it at last.
Now, do you see a difference?
I don’t really. I could easily keep evolving without any more brushes. I’m happy about the looseness and this comes from the paint, the water and a medium-quality watercolor brush.
If you are considering those fantastic materials that an artist on Instagram is being sponsored for because you believe your art will improve BECAUSE of it, I urge you to step back and look at the work you’ve produced until now. Ask your work: do you need it?
Look at some of the pieces you’ve made, what did you use? What did you like? Compare to earlier work, do you prefer it now? Chances are that all the work you’ve done until now has been the result of just that: YOUR WORK and your evolving artistic style.
Now, if you suffer from brush addiction, I can’t really help you. I’m currently in withdrawal ;)
Yesterday was a difficult day. Again. It was one of those days in which I battle myself: who I am, how I am. The endless battle of “Why am I not like everyone else?” “Why don’t I fit in?”. It’s the same old tune that has been playing in my head since I could speak.
This time it was the simulation of a sales interview where I’m supposed to meet with a client and sell them my wares by going down a 7 bullet point list (or the ten commandments of sales).
The simulation derailed because I tried to play out a scenario that is so far fetched that it open the floods to what I despise the most: faking. I’m not good at role playing. I can’t pretend. I can’t lie and pretending is lying which is why when I’m bored I fall silent because I can’t pretend to be interested when I’m not. I respectfully listen but I can’t participate.
So in this case, I was playing a role and it went downhill. Which in this case it just woke up all my monsters that love to sing in a high-pitch note: you are not made for business! you should get a job! what you’re doing is a hobby!
I left the class with a hole in my heart. I wanted to abandon everything. Truly. To sit there and “pretend to be interested in a person that doesn’t exist” was grueling. I want to believe that if I was sitting across a person in a real situation, I would be interested. Because I usually am, I am curious about the other, I want to know. I’m open to listening and probably I will not take many notes because I rather look at the person than thinking how to use what they just told me to make them trip up.
This simulation was a practice, the real one is next month. I will be sort of “graded” on it. Nevermind that it’s in French and feeling wobbly in French is not cool, let alone pretending in French. So I was demoralized and profoundly sad and as the day went by things got worse. I felt like I wouldn’t get out of bed the next day.
But I did. Despite reading a bit of Pessoa and perusing all my favorite existential Twitter accounts.
My day started again with a gigantic SHOULD. I should work out… maybe I should take a bike ride…no, you need serious sweat, you had a donut yesterday… do Tonique.. Tonique kills me… I suddenly remembered an old DVD I bought a while ago. Shiva Rea’s Yoga Dance. I put on a pair of my leggings and chose the Dance Flow routine where you just dance with your eyes closed while you beat on imaginary drums. I danced like a lunatic for 31 minutes and ended with a brief meditation.
I loved how she says: Dance for nothing at all…
I’m not a Yoga fan, my wrists are too weak and my shoulders complain every time I do a cobra but this DVD is the antidote to my sadness. I don’t do it often because I don’t want to get sick of it. Only when I feel very sad, unsure and ready to give up.
I don’t know anything about Shiva Rea, never googled her, I don’t want to know or go down any rabbit hole. I don’t know if she’s a good instructor or not, the only thing I care about is that the music is good and her voice-over is so soothing and comforting and subtly motivating.
Promotion is difficult and slow in my world. Today I believe again that what I do is good, that my watercolor work has come a long way, that women with a curious soul recognize the fluidity, the poetry and will want to wear it.
Have you heard that Forest-Bathing is a thing? There’s no denying that a walk in a forest or even a park, is beneficial. It can’t NOT be. It’s silent, it’s solitary, it’s peaceful, it’s full of things to discover, things we don’t see every day. Most of these discoveries we keep to ourselves, we wonder how the tree got its bark, how a leaf falls, why do mushrooms grow in a certain patch of land, but we rarely announce it to the world. Maybe we take a few photos, but ideally, we wouldn’t be doing that.
In January I started my small business project with the help of a local organization. People come together and we follow a course to write a business plan and then we follow a sales course. I recently started that one, which is a HUGE step away from my comfort zone. I have to talk to people. I usually only write to people. I am terrible at small talk and at superficial conversation. I favor long deep conversations one on one, preferably over coffee (not a bar), or a walk. So a sales course huh? It’s compulsory if you want to keep your grant. Well, it’s going to be four months in which I will have to get over my introversion and my shyness. But this is a good thing (says the person who recently finished a YA novel titled Optimists Die First).
The noise and the changing landscapes
There is a rabbit hole, a never-ending, endlessly entertaining, bright and shiny path of noise and psychedelia called “being an entrepreneur”. If you were online, or blogging around 2006, you might have fallen through it and still haven’t emerged. Those were the days when the term pro-blogger was born and people started creating info-products. Where shopping carts were easier to install and the notion of “leaving your day job” “doing what you love” brain-washed us into thinking it was easy or that it was the ideal state of being.
I’ve tried on several occasions to create a business relying only on what is available on the internet. It seems so easy, until you start doing for real. When people tell me, you should give me a crash course on selling stuff online, I laugh and say, you have no idea what it takes. Because I didn’t have an idea myself.
I did what everyone else was doing: get a mailing list, be on all social media channels, follow like this and like that, create content per channel, write, work like crazy, listen to podcasts, take great photos etc. Until I finally realized that what “works” for some, doesn’t work for others.
I do it the quiet way and it’s hard.
I have been working steadily behind-the-scenes, I’ve written a 43 page Business Plan, I have hired a graphic design firm to help me. I’ve worked on my designs, on my Etsy shop and my Shopify shop. I’ve invested money, which is something that wanna-be entrepreneurs don’t want to do, especially if they want to build a business online. I’ve printed prototypes of everything and through that, I’ve pushed myself to try different things in watercolor.
All this trying to silence the comparison-monster that shouts every time I look at Instagram. How can some people publish a book, film thirty or more online classes, launch a home decor line and maintain a shop, on top of having kids? I’m still trying to perfect my Photoshop retouching skills for my watercolors.
The good thing is that since I quietly opened my shops, people have been purchasing leggings and scarves. I have gotten great feedback and my friend Amanda even filmed a couple of videos wearing my Ultra Floral design.
I tell myself I could do more but I also remind myself that if I do things my way, chances are they will reach a finish line. If I try to do things like other people, I will feel disconnected and I will abandon my projects. This should be in the Luisa Handbook.
So I am launching Flowarte like if I were in a Forest. Walking slowly, observing, taking the time. Even if during my sales course they said you should be selling 80% of the time. I say, sure, but not yet. I’ll get there. I’m moving towards that goal a little every day.
Meanwhile I enjoy the summer, which gives me the strange impulse to try painting flowers again.
Take a peek into my shop, fun colors, lovely textures, high-quality fabric printed right here in Montreal!
One of the most asked questions in the illustration and visual arts world is “how to find your style”.
When you’re starting out, that becomes huge once you realize that copying photos is not what being an artist is about.
I’ve written about originality so much and it’s constantly in the back of my head. It’s a bit pathological in fact, so much, that when I discover an artist on Instagram or Pinterest that makes me flip out in admiration, I DO NOT FOLLOW them because I’m afraid I will become influenced.
I saw a new class on How to find your artistic style and I got a little upset. You see, some people truly make art for the sake of it, others have gone to art school and it’s the natural path but some of us, who started later in life or fell into it by a happy accident (and it doesn’t matter what field you tackle) we feel we have to make up for the lost time, so we become a little anxious and we wish for shortcuts. These classes sort of feed a little on that anxiety.
I certainly feel this way, like I have been on some race against time trying to learn everything so I can be “a good artist”. Well, maybe it’s a rite of passage, but one thing I’ve started to reject is any effort of monetizing on something that is so deeply personal and such a place of vulnerability. I will definitely pay for classes to better my technique, but not for classes that offer me promised lands.
I don’t believe you can teach someone to find their style. I really don’t.
The book Art and Fear* would be a better investment. That book, which is very short, lists the fears I’ve had almost in the right order. I bought the book a while ago but I re-read it recently and it made much more sense. Here is where everything stopped:
Style is the natural consquence of habit.
Those seven words, floored me. Here I was obsessing over one artist and then another trying to find the magic key. I would go over my inspiration boards and spend hours trying to make lists of “elements” that could make up their style.
No. You won’t find their style there. And you certainly can’t checklist your way into finding your own style.
Nowadays, you can prove it again and again on Instagram. Those artists who are most admired, most easily recognized, they produce almost the same kind of work and once they’ve got there, once they’re comfortable, they can experiment with variations.
Yes, but how do you find it?
Again, the book Art and Fear answers: quantity over quality. It has to come naturally, you will sit at your table, at your easel, with your guitar, with your camera, etc.. and you will produce as much work as you can. Then, you take your work and you lay it out on piles (or you make playlists) and you observe. What do you do over and over?
For example, I realized that my most enjoyable work continues to be with watercolor but I also found that I love two seemingly opposite ways of painting with watercolors: the traditional layering and then the more flowy abstract.
Is there a way to combine these? So the resulting combination something that makes me feel like I’m communicating something?
At this point I believe there are two extremes to the art continuum: you’re a beginner or you’re not. Either way, you must produce.
I also learned this lesson thanks to my sister who has been a painter for more than twenty years. She is prolific, she’s a mom and yet she manages to churn out painting after painting, drawing after drawing. When I look at her instagram, I find her work cohesive, she has a style. Oh yeah… that’s twenty years.
There is a reason for the expression: honing your art.
In my case, I’m still searching, I’m still producing, I know that eventually after enough repetition I will stop thinking and questioning “my style”, I’ll be able to move on to the more complex issues: what am I communicating?
So finding your own style is actually very simple: make, make, make, examine, make some more, examine… until you feel you are at that comfortable place. Then continue to do that and then… be deliberate.