Finding Creative Freedom

Every year my sister Shannon and I sign up for Carla Sonheim‘s year-long art course. We’ve explored collage, worked through the alphabet, followed our creative spark. My art table has been covered with paints, papers and pastels as well as wires, books and stuffed animals. It’s always an adventure.

This year’s topic is Words & Pictures and the course features lessons from many different artists. This week I caught up on a class by Kara Kramer about keeping a messy notebook. The concept is to have a sketchbook in which anything goes and to dive into it for 15 minutes a day.

As I watched Kara work in her own messy journal, I was moved by her absolute lack of hesitation. With assuredness and immediacy she would grab an oil pastel and make confident marks. She would reach for a paintbrush and slap on striking colours. She’d grab a piece of paper, cut out a word or a shape and quickly glue it onto the page. Her moves were bold and instinctive. Her hand was strong.

That’s what comes form having a regular practice.

That’s what comes from being creatively free.

It’s taken me a long time to feel free with the visual arts. I had childhood art wounds that left me believing this was simply not a venue for me, Even though drawing and painting had always brought me great joy, I turned away from them for a very long time. It was only when my little niece came over and we went out for art supplies and then spent the whole day painting that a love for the visual arts rekindled inside of me*.

After that day, I slowly found my way back. It was a long, hard and frustrating road. I signed up for community art classes and would leave each night in tears, weeping out of the sheer frustration of having a desire that couldn’t find its way out of me and working with teachers that didn’t help. It was like having something I deeply want to say without having access to any words at all and it was painful.

Over the years I found better teachers, including Carla. I started to understand that it’s that unrelenting impulse to express myself that makes me an artist and the development of skills over time that makes that visible.

You don’t start out knowing how to speak.

You don’t start out knowing how to draw.

You learn.

Bit by bit, you learn.

And a part of learning is making crappy drawings and messy art. It’s not easy at first because each bit of wobbly artwork seems to affirm what your inner and outer critics have been saying for years, “You have no talent. I mean, look at that!”

This is where you must build the most powerful artistic muscle of them all: devotion. You must keep going, keep experimenting, keep learning and growing until you start to discover and recover the artist that you are meant to be. You must not give up on yourself or your art. You must find your way through.

When you do, you will remember that making a mess with paint is a blast, that playing with colour is a joy, that making marks is your birthright and you need never let any of it go.

And so it is that today, instead of crying in frustration at not having a language for my fingertips, I am here with you on a Sunday morning, eyes misty with the joy of knowing I am healed, that I can spend hours drawing and painting, making a mess or attempting something ‘finished’. The visual arts are mine and I am theirs and we will not be separated again.

Now I am delighted to have a sketchbook open on the table, to be surrounded by supplies. Now I can reach for a marker, a paintbrush, a pastel and, without hesitation, make marks on the page.

I hope that you’ll give yourself a chance to experience this too. Create a safe space for the journey, whether it’s a sketchbook, your kitchen or your backyard, to experiment, discover and grow. Find your teachers. I hope I am one of them. Weep if you need to. And heal.

Find your way back to your art. Find your way back to yourself. And once you do, never let go.

* Remember, you are the keeper of your creative fire.

Find Inspiration: Andrea Bocelli, Ellie Goulding – Return to Love

I came across this video for Return to Love by Andrea Bocelli and Elli Goulding this week and was moved in a way that seemed particular to this moment in time. In the video, they explain that they asked 100 people to sit down and listen to this song. They filmed their reactions.

No doubt if I had watched this last year, I would still be moved but during this time of COVID-19, this opportunity to look deep into the eyes of people as they respond to the music feels intimate in a way that is much needed soul-nourishment. I hope you find it so as well.

You are the Keeper of Your Creative Fire

A few years ago one of my university friends made an observation about the director of our theatre program. She said, “‘X’ never saw anyone that wasn’t obvious.”

That struck a chord deep in my heart.

I was never that girl. I was the quiet one in the second row with her head down, working. I was the earnest one practicing flute, writing poetry and listening to music, creating dances in my mind. I was the shy one waiting for someone to notice me and give me a chance.

Until I wasn’t.

Even though I was quiet and shy, I had a fire inside, a creative fire, and somewhere along the line I realized that if I waited until someone saw and nurtured that in me, I could be waiting a very long time.

Maybe you’ve been waiting a very long time, waiting for someone to see your gifts, to recognize your talents, to encourage you and invite you in.

Maybe you’ve been invited in sometimes, in some ways, but not in others – and those other times have left their mark.

Maybe no one has ever recognized your creative heart and you’ve been waiting in the wings for years.

Maybe you have been noticed but unkindly, making it much better to hide your fire than to ever risk again.

But we must be who we are.

So often our world treats the arts as an extra, something you do after all your chores are done, something that is frivolous play or, if it is taken seriously at all, something that is resigned to an elite chosen few.

But what if art is a part of your soul, the very makeup of your being? Being separated from any part of yourself is damaging. When an artist is cut off from their creativity they often numb out or lash out.

When we numb out, it’s because we’ve asked the creative part of ourselves to play dead. As that part of our soul complies, more and more of who we are dulls and eventually erodes. Our life turns to grey and we find ourselves going through the motions. We wonder what’s missing and finally we forget there was ever anything else at all. After a time, we find ourselves listless, anxious, unwell. We may find ourselves crying at unexpected times. Though we have forgotten our creative fire, our body remembers and mourns.

Alternatively, we lash out. All of that creative energy needs somewhere to go. With no artistic outlet, our inner fire twists its way out of our creative soul, turning into caustic comments, snap judgements and all-around prickliness. We may still find ourselves drawn towards the arts but our creative genius weaves harsh critiques and cleverly builds airtight arguments that both attack possibility and defend the status quo. We rail against a cage of our own making.

Without the creative part of our soul, we artists find ourselves in a dark, dark place.

But we can come back to the fire. No matter how much time has past, no matter how far you have come down the road, you can return to your creative self. You can rouse the artist hidden within. You must.

Your art is waiting.

It doesn’t care how old you are.

It doesn’t care how rusty your skills.

It misses you.

It wants to be a part of your life.

So forget what anyone has ever told you. This is not about your relationship with the world. This is about your relationship with your soul. This is about devotion.

You are the keeper of your creative fire, [FIRST NAME GOES HERE].

It doesn’t have to be obvious to anyone else that you are an artist but from this day forward, let it be clear and obvious to you. Let this knowledge guide your choices and lead the way. Let the arts be your medicine. Let them reunite you with this essential part of who you are and who you will always be.

Starting today. Starting now.

Pour Your Creative Magic into Fall

Today I was out for a run and I came across this exquisite sky. I wasn’t in a pretty place or on a pretty road. Normally I would have taken the first turn onto a side street but not this day.

On this day, I kept running towards the light.

I’m aware that we’re moving into a darker season and that light is going to become ever more precious. Moments of sunlight, the glow of candles, the sparkle of twinkie lights, the luminous moon, not to mention breakthroughs of hope, moments of lightheartedness and the shining goodness in people – all of it will matter.

This will be especially true as we start to go back inside, not just as respite from the growing cold but also as, for many of us, restrictions due to COVID-19 increase once again. It’s hard not to be discouraged. This is especially true at the 6-month mark, recognized as a time when we hit the wall in a crisis.*

So how do we move forward?

I’m not here to bring back those first wave suggestions of making the most of this pandemic (i.e. write your novel, bake bread, learn a language). Most of us are depleted – physically, emotionally, mentally and/or financially. We’ve suffered loss: the loss of loved ones, jobs, community, ceremonies, experiences, intimacy and a sense of all things normal.

I’m also not here to offer a one-size-fits-all prescription for getting through this but instead I am here to encourage you to create your own. This is the perfect time to get intentional about how you want to move through the season, to remember that you have agency in the midst of it all.

In Mindful Mondays, we start each week with the magical practice of turning imagination into reality. We begin with imagining the week we want to live and then we plan how we can bring that week into being as best we can. There will always be constraints. Creative magic happens when we bring our hopes, dreams and ideas into the tangible world anyway. We work with constraints, around constraints, despite constraints, whittle away at constraints and sometimes bust through constraints.**

So despite this pandemic, or perhaps because of it, think about how you want to intentionally create this fall. Because things remain so unpredictable, make this less about specific goals and detailed plans and more about the experience you want to create and have, the energy you want to infuse into the season. This will give you much more flexibility and the power to adapt as and when things change, while giving you a strong north star or guiding constellation.

Take It To Your Journal

I want to fill my fall with… (e.g. grace, ease, love, daring, connection, art, meaning, healing, joy, impact, hygge, learning, renewal, etc.)

Brainstorm a list of possibilities in order to find what feels just right for you. Then choose one to three to be your touchstones for fall.

Some ways I might fill my fall with ________ (fill in the blank) are…

Take each touchstone you chose and come up with ways you can bring more of that energy into your season. Remember, these are possibilities not projects. The practice of generating ideas will help you stretch into the season you are looking for. It will help you recognize opportunities for joy or daring or learning when they arise. You will have a list to choose from when you have the desire and energy to do so. You’ll also have a clarity that will provide ease in decision-making. You will know to say yes to a quiet night roasting marshmallows and no to a lively community Zoom call because you have chosen to fill your fall with “Relax”. Someone else will know to choose the Zoom call because they have chosen “Connect.”

Your touchstones are unique to you. They are a unique representation of how you want to create this fall in this moment in time.

Let this exploration keep you company for the next while. Ponder. Muse. Noodle. Talk to friends and family about the kind of season they want to create. Play with ideas of how to make that real, for yourselves and for one another. Also, keep your eye out for and celebrate when things align with your intentions, including things you didn’t expect or plan (Thank you, Universe!!)

We think of creativity as something we bring to the page, to our paints and to the dance floor, something we bring to our music, our meals and our gardens. It’s something we can bring to every aspect of our lives, including the creation of our life. All the lessons we have learned through art – dedication, patience, risk-taking, vulnerability, flexibility, bravery, honesty, connection, play, initiation, response, agency, action, discernment, the list is unending — we can draw on it all to help us create our life with intention.

May you and your loved ones be safe and well, {{ subscriber.first_name }}. May you create a magnificent fall.

The Journal Showdown – How Many Journals Do You Use?

Several years ago, the Journaling Sage, my sister Shannon and I each created videos about the range of journals we had going and how we used them. We called it the Journal Showdown. Since then, I’ve really refined what I use so I thought it would be fun to do an updated version. I’d love for you to play along!

A Summary of My Current Journals

  • My Personal Journal (Moleskine Classic Notebook, Hard Cover, Large (5″ x 8.25″) Ruled/Lined)
  • My Everything Book (LEUCHTTURM1917 Medium A5 Dotted Hardcover Notebook) These actually last almost half a year. I tend to use a Fuschia one for Spring-Summer and a Navy one for Fall-Winter.
  • My Studio Yearbook (http://www.jamieridlerstudios.ca/the-studio-yearbook)
  • My Commonplace Book (LEUCHTTURM1917 Medium A5 Dotted Hardcover Notebook)
  • My Studio Journal (Moleskine Classic Notebook, Hard Cover, Large (5″ x 8.25″) Ruled/Lined)
  • Project Journals (Accordion Journals – see below)
  • Sketchbook (Moleskine Cahier Journal, Plain)(These pages do bleed through a bit so they are not the perfect sketchbook but they have suited my purposes.)

I didn’t mention in the video but before I started making the accordion journals, I used Moleskine Cahiers for projects. They come in a set of three and I always purchase the Kraft Paper ones and put a sticker or image on the front to indicate what project it is for.

Mentioned on the Journal Showdown

Fall Classes in the Studio

Back to school is in the air and registration is now open for a new season here at the Studio.  I hope you’ll join me for some wonderful creative adventures online. We start in just a couple of weeks!

Journal Club (September 25 – November 27)

Find Out More & Register for Journal Club Here

Many creative hearts have been awakened through the simple act of journaling. In the pages of your journal you will discover your heart, your truth, your spirit. The gifts of journaling are rich but it can be a challenge to start this practice and to keep it up. Journal Club can get you over the hurdle of starting and then keep the inspiration flowing, all while in encouraging company!
We meet live on Fridays for an hour rich with deep introspection and soulful sanctuary, as well as laughter, doodling and the occasional dance! If you’re looking for a community of encouraging creative souls – you’ll find it at Journal Club!

This is my invitation to you: this will be the easiest door you’ve ever opened. You will be received with open arms and hearts. You will grow even braver. You will go deeper into the tender places in your heart and the laughing places in your belly. Come laugh and live with us; on the page and in the room with Jamie. I can see you’ve cracked the door open…fling it wide and step on in, we await you in our circle. Vugs, Laura


Mindful Mondays (September 21 – November 30)

Find Out More & Register for Mindful Mondays Here

What would be different if you started your week with time for you? What if, in a space of quiet and calm, you could hear your heart and build your plans from its wisdom?

With Mindful Mondays, you will embark on a weekly practice of meditation, imagination and journaling that connects you to your inner compass and allows you to develop and focus your plans based on insight and self-trust.

The practice is simple. The impact is palpable.

I find that I look forward to this focused time to get my week off to a great start. I know I got things done this season that I wouldn’t have otherwise because I had a place to announce my celebrations. I loved hearing everyone’s comments each week, gathering inspiration from their touchstones and celebrating our accomplishments. While I found it challenging to get up earlier the first few weeks, it’s now a dedicated part of my week that I really look forward to. Starting Mondays like this has helped me focus more mindfully throughout the week. Thank you Jamie and everyone in the circle. Mindful Mondays made my season more magical. Such a supportive, insightful group of women. I will miss you all during the break. Who knew that one special hour could mean so much? Amy


The Studio Yearbook Seasonal Journal (Available Now – Begins September 22)

Find Out More & Get Your Studio Yearbook Here
Imagine having a journal that supports your creative process and practice, a journal that not only holds the space for your inspirations and celebrations but that also becomes a beautiful keepsake of your journey as an artist. The Studio Yearbook brings together creative practices that have been in use at Jamie Ridler Studios for years! Imagine one place to celebrate the seasons and make a dreamboard under the full moon, one place to gather your gratitude and acknowledge yourself with gold stars, one place to be inspired, to learn, to experiment, to grow – a special place to bring your creativity to life!

My Studio Yearbooks have changed the way I journal. I love that the yearbook can be anything I want it to be and mine has become a place where I dream, create, and capture memories of what’s important to me and my family. Before I discovered the Studio Yearbook six months ago, I found it difficult to incorporate art and creativity into the pages of my journals. The prompts Jamie provides make this simple and fun and now I use collage, color, and sketches (something I thought I’d never do) as well as words, in my Yearbook daily. I still rely on my version of morning pages to vent and release frustrations, and this leaves my Yearbooks free to become the memory keepers that I’ve been wanting to create and just didn’t know how. I’m so glad I found Jamie Ridler and her many studio resources! Denise


In addition to these LIVE classes and timely offerings at the Studio, there are self-study classes available in the Academy.  Register now and gain immediate access!


And Coming in 2021 ~ A Brand New Program for Your Artistic Devotion

I am creating something beautiful and transformational for those of you who are ready to deepen your commitment to your art.  (Be sure to sign up for the Studio to stay up-to-date as details are released)