Category: Studio Diaries

Studio Diaries: Moments from this Week

Studio Diary: August 31, 2018

Though fall is still weeks away, the transition is in the air. Luckily that has meant a slight drop in humidity and the chance for open windows! The kittens are thrilled. This spot at the back of the kitchen has been their favourite place since we rescued them years ago. They slept under, climbed on and hid behind the piano that is right under the window. It was one thing I didn’t need but also couldn’t bear to part with when my mom passed away. With our reno approaching, it is going to finally go. I wonder what the kittens will perch on in the kitchen’s next iteration.

Our house continues to be in disarray from our rush to get ready to move out for a reno and then our abrupt stop as we realized that wouldn’t happen for months. Boxes are everywhere. Papers, piles and projects abound. That didn’t stop us from having a family get-together on the weekend. Good company, fruit and cookies and suddenly the focus isn’t the space we’re in.

I’ve been pulling a tarot card a day from The Wild Unknown deck but this is my first full reading. Some strong warnings but also some great promise. This gave me lots to think about.

For me, the two best ways to think something out are to take it to my journal or to go out for a walk. This week the walks have won. I love noticing what’s going on around me as I pick a direction and head out. This week, the birds have been close and plentiful.

I even saw a unicorn. Thanks, Cindy!

Though it’s been an incredibly busy week getting The Academy ready to go, I did manage to get a little bit of creative time in. I had fun making a very random pocket/envelope from scraps and ephemera. I so appreciate the patterns on the inside of our bill envelopes!

I also continued to work through a class I’m taking. I’m letting go of judgment while holding onto assessment. I don’t want to be hard on myself for not liking the results – that just shuts things down. I do want to continue to assess what I like and want to build on and where I think things could be shifted so I will like them more. It’s very freeing to let go of the angst and just find your way through. Some days I’m better at it than others.

My sister Shannon brought me this button from the library. Yes, yes, yes! Wonder starts with me. Wonder starts with you. I hope we can all have more wonder in our lives this fall.

No matter how many times I watch this video, it cracks me up. It’s so subtle but it’s as if someone told Escher that when a cat blinks it means, “I love you” so he’s trying it out. “Like this?” “Is it like this?” “Am I doing it right?” You’re doing great, Escherpants. You really are.

Studio Diaries: Justin’s Birthday

Studio Diaries: August 30, 2018

One of the greatest traditions that Justin and I have ever started was taking one another’s birthday off and celebrating the whole day. It’s like our own personal holiday and it is a delight!

This year we started Justin’s celebration by getting out to The Stockyards on St. Clair West for the best Chicken and Waffles you could ever imagine.  It’s the  chili maple citrus glaze that makes this wildly unique and memorable. I have a feeling we’ll be back every year!

After a meal like that, we were ready to do some walking! We found a fun and fabulous vintage store that was unfortunately closing for retirement. Justin was kind and let me do some exploring.

I love stores where there are unexpected treasures everywhere you look. I could have stayed there for hours but it was Justin’s birthday after all!

We decided to do a good long walk and had a great time taking in the neighbourhood sights.  I just love this bunny on a city utility box!

Of course, we made friends with a cat in the hood.

Amazingly we even saw a woodpecker! (Sorry the picture isn’t better – we just couldn’t believe we saw him at all!)

We walked through some beautiful neighbourhoods.  I had this idea that I’d love to get a map of Toronto and fill in all the streets that we’ve walked along. Walking the city is one of our very favourite things to do!

We came across an equipment rental place but we couldn’t help but notice that from this angle it looked like we were at the CNE (the Canadian National Exhibition) looking at a ferris wheel!

We were curious about the construction that’s going on now that Honest Ed’s is gone. We were worried they were taking down this lovely little row of Mirvish Village. It turns out they are refurbishing the entire street. Amazingly, people are still living in some of these houses while they do construction.

Of course everywhere we walked we looked around with the eyes of people about to renovate their home. We’re currently really focused on windows. This is very much what I’m thinking of for the extension of the studio.

We wandered through many neighbourhoods and saw a number of houses that are just dreamy to us. This house, for example, would be just perfect for our family! Can you imagine coming to workshops through that corner door? There’d be well enough room for the studio, us and my sisters!

After over 22,000 steps, we headed back to the east end of the city, which is where we live. We managed a good neighbourhood walk there too, coming around to a local brewery called Left Field to pick up some unique and interesting beers to try.



Our plans for the evening were to head out for a fancy dinner at a restaurant we’ve been dying to try. We ended up postponing that for a day where we were fresh and our tummy’s not so full. Instead we got nostalgic and went to a restaurant that we used to go to all the time when we first moved to this part of the city. Back then there were almost no options and Sarah’s was a haven for us. Unfortunately the food quality and atmosphere diminished over time and we haven’t been for years. On a whim, we decided to give it another shot and had a lovely night sitting on the patio in perfectly temperate weather celebrating this man, who is my joy and the best gift the Universe ever gave me. I feel like the lucky one on Justin’s birthday.

Studio Diaries: Out and About

Studio Diaries:  August 22,  2018

In these few days of quiet, when the summer season in the studio draws to a close, I try to take time to breathe, rest and check in with my spirit. Even though I have often scheduled myself out of these days, I know that they are crucial. I’ve learned that without this time it’s easy to keep moving forward and forward and forward without being sure I’m on the right path.

So this time, I’ve been starting the days with some journaling and with amazing synchronicity, my sojourn arrived just as Kim Klassen was running a free 5-day Write Now challenge about journaling our way to our dreams. Perfect. (It led into this course.) I’ve found myself writing about our home, my work and personal transformation. It’s been just what I needed to tune my inner compass. Thank you, Kim!

The Beach

One thing I knew I wanted to do during this time was to get down to the Beaches neighbourhood. I used to do this quite often in the summer, bringing my work down to a coffee shop and also taking time to sit by the boardwalk and watch all the dogs walk by as I enjoyed the breeze from the lake. I haven’t done that once this year and so I made sure today was the day. My plans were almost thwarted by rain but I reminded myself that I wouldn’t melt, as my mom would say, and headed out.

I think the location change of the Starbucks has been one of the reasons I don’t go as often. it used to have a wide front full of glass windows, big cozy leather couches and a fireplace. People gathered there, read their papers, had meetings, sat in the stools by the window and watched life go by. The new location is slick and less inviting. I’ll look for another local spot but for today, I was glad to get a secluded little set up by the window. Perfect.


Along with my journals and beautiful Spirit Cat pencil case, I brought a book: The Artist’s Journey by Steven Pressfield. It’s quick reading and I was devouring it. I found it compelling to think of the artist’s journey as something one experiences after your hero’s journey – and it’s a journey you are on for the rest of your life.

Some notes:

“The gift you bring is the works you will produce.”

“I had no choice as an artist except to follow this subject and serve it, as it revealed itself and evolved over time.”

“Everything in her not-artist life falls away.”

“Seeking herself, her voice, her source, she enters the dark forest. She is alone. No friend or over knows where her path has taken her.”


Afterwards, I walked about, letting my mind wander and absorb all that I had written, all that I had read. I held all of those thoughts lightly as I took in the beauty around me. These flowers by the library surprise me every year. I simply don’t expect to see these colours all together in one flower, certainly not in different little buds. What a surprising delight!

And wherever I go, I am obsessed with looking at houses, especially now that we’re renovating. These black framed windows are all the rage right now and we’ve spent hours discussing whether to head in this direction – never mind thinking about casement versus sliders versus single- or double-hung windows. So many decisions!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a day at the beach if I didn’t actually make it down to the beach itself! I found my way to this iconic building, its familiarity in stark contrast to the surprising boat, which was of a size I have never seen on this part of the lake before. Interesting!


I finished the day by picking up groceries to try a new recipe, Tex-Mex stuffed peppers. I took a photo of how they turned out but I am definitely not a food photographer! They were yummy but in the future I would switch to crushed tomatoes or add a second can of tomato paste to thicken up the sauce.

These days I am continually working on creating a meal plan that tastes good and feels good for everyone in our home – one recipe at a time.

Studio Diaries: The Drop

Studio Diary: August 21, 2018

After 10 straight days of work, including production week for the Studio Yearbook,  I decided to take a couple of days to myself. I was looking forward to some reading, writing and art-making. I’d been wanting to get to a class I’d signed up for and thought, now is the time.

After laying down some lines and collage pieces, I quite liked the watery face that was emerging. I took a picture and thought I was off to a good start. But then, quite quickly, it turned into a familiar experience, one that I have seen clients go through again and again, one that stops us cold.

Let’s call it “The Drop.”

There you are, all excited to finally be painting, thrilled to have some creative time. You start working on something, full of excitement and anticipation. This is going to be fun! And suddenly, DROP, it turns hard. You hate what you’re making. In fact, it embarrasses you. You can’t figure out what’s wrong with it or how to make it better. You just know it sucks. Pretty soon you’re telling yourself that YOU suck. Why even bother? Clearly your 6th grade teacher was right – art is not your thing!

I was so disappointed when the drop hit me. I was frustrated and even kind of angry. Why didn’t I know what to do next? Was there an instruction that I had missed? Was there a missing instruction?  I honestly just wanted to throw my painting out and walk away.

But how would that help? What would I learn from that?

Just that I am a person who gives up on my art.

Not me. Instead I’m going to look for any little thing that I do like about my painting, no matter how small…

like this character’s right eye. Okay, that’s something.

Wait.. What about her left eye? I kind of like it too, the way it looks like a reflection of the moon, just like the symbol on her forehead.

Okay, what about what I don’t like? Anything in that category is fair game and can be painted over, eradicated, transformed or erased. No sense being precious about things that don’t work! Instead I’d just try something else and if it didn’t work either, well, at least I was experimenting and learning.

I didn’t end up getting the piece to a point where I liked it but I did make sure to actively gain insight from the painting and the experience of creating it.

I continued to ask myself, “What elements of the painting please me?” I looked for clues about who I am as a painter.  I liked any part that glowed.  I loved the way the orange looked against the purpley blue. I liked purple and blue and red. I loved the sense of the moon and mystery. I enjoyed the look of layered collage. I liked the scribble in the hair and in the shadows but not on the face.

Yes, I looked at what I didn’t like too. I didn’t just go for a big dismissive “I hate this” moan!! Okay, I started there. You know I did. But after some time, I got analytical. What was it that wasn’t working? I might not know how to fix it but being able to identify it would be a step in the right direction. I didn’t like the proportions. The head seemed too big. Could I make it smaller? What if I looked at it from far away? Did I feel differently?

Most of all, there was something about it that just didn’t feel like “me.” It wasn’t my style. Of course this makes perfect sense. I’m working with another teacher’s approach and I am just learning. It will take many paintings before my hand starts to shine through.

I learned and then I left it.

Later that day, simply to capture the moment, I decided to draw the simple outline of the face I had painted in my yearbook.

The unexpected thing was that I loved it! Suddenly this ‘character’ was more my own. She felt like she came out of my imaginative world (probably because I have done way more drawing than painting) and that felt good. And the truth is that if I hadn’t found my way through the drop, if I hadn’t stuck with it, I wouldn’t have landed here.

On top of that, I am confident that in sticking with a painting that I didn’t love I am that much closer to being able to create one that I do.

In fact, I’m well on my way!


Studio Diary: Stuff & Nonsense

Studio Diary: July 5, 2018

So much has been happening that I want to pull out each of my current activities and put them down here in my diary, like I’m emptying my bag and having a look at what all has piled up in there while I wasn’t looking! First – reno chaos* and the studio.

The Reno

As soon as my show finished, it was straight into preparing for the reno. Packing, boxes, moving and storage estimates filled our days! I struggled with finding a matrix for making good decisions about what to bring and what to let get of.  Justin and I are having deep and meaningful discussions about the nature of things, space and what we want for our home, our selves and one another.

Justin helped me make progress on my books, encouraging me to start with simply packing the ones that were dearest to me, the ones that elicited an immediate “Yes!” Yes to the Secret Garden. Yes to Come, thou, Tortoise. Yes to Writing Down the Bones. I started to take that approach in every room and it helped. One, two or three boxes of immediate yeses in each room. And lots of piles and questions left behind.

I also made amazing progress with my mom’s stuff and the timing seems just right, as we marked the 5th anniversary of her passing on June 28th of this year. My goal is to transform the 7 or so boxes of her things into one and I am almost there.

Amazingly, just as we were getting lost in the process, we found out that our application for an extension needed to go to the committee of adjustment… and the earliest date was November 7th. That changed everything. We thought. We talked. We strategized. We asked for advice. Then the other night as we were coming closer to a decision, I could feel both Justin and I settle. We would continue to go for the design we wanted and we would push our reno to the spring. Everything about it felt right. Even more so when today I called the city to find out how old our house is.  “It was built in 1919,” the woman at MPAC told me. “Really? So next year will be its 100th birthday?” “Well, yes, it will be.”


The Garden

Now I feel so badly for have completely neglected the garden. It didn’t seem to make any sense at all to plant and putter when construction guys would be walking through with equipment and throwing things in the yard. I have been amazed by how consistently anyone that comes to work on the house shows absolutely no regard whatsoever for the garden.  One guy who was just there to give us an estimate on some tree work walked right on top of my tulips without hesitation. I couldn’t help but think it signaled how much care he would take of the whole job.

Despite the garden being overgrown and left to its own devices, there is still beauty there. Two years ago I planted a white rose and last year it gave one singular bloom. This year it is more generous and I couldn’t be more delighted.

This time of year we see a lot of raccoons. This family seems to have claimed quite at least a 6-house radius around back. On this day they faced quite a dilemma. The two little babies below simply couldn’t find their way up. They were at it for at least an hour! I’m not sure whether Mom came down or babies finally made it up. I’m betting on the mom.

Letting Go

One of the things we are letting go of is boxes and boxes of our childhood Lego. Every one of us played with these pieces. Suzie has done an amazing job creating a series of photos for their sale on eBay. We hope that they will find a really good new home. I’m delighted to have such evocative photos and the memories of everyone playing together one last time!

The Kittens


On July 3rd it was the third anniversary of the day I went out for coffee and came home with three kittens. No one believes me but the truth is that I never intended to give them all a home. I sincerely just wanted to help them on their healing journey and then let them find their forever home(s). We had just said goodbye to Jinx and to Shannon’s cat Gobo. We needed some time to heal and didn’t want to rush into anything – but sometimes the Universe has other ideas.


Thinking about it now I see how all of our cats have been misfits. The beautiful Bascha was a flea-bitten, scraggly 3-lb stray who would nip at you if you tried to pet her. Jinx was a soft-hearted goofball who most people didn’t seem to quite ‘get’. Now these Escher, Shibumi and Scout, with their wild and strong personalities, are a part of our family. I wouldn’t change a thing.


Those We’ve Loved & Lost


Pouring Love In

Studio Diary: May 31, 2018

The Studio Yearbook: This has been one of the busiest weeks that I can remember in the studio. It began with getting the #first100 print copies of the studio yearbook out into the world.  Luckily I didn’t have to do it alone.

Shannon spent hours on handmade envelopes and we all spent a few Friday nights gathering treasures to fill them. Then this past Sunday we had a packing party, pulling everything together and pouring love in as we did. We three believe in magic and so we put our intention and our intuition to work as we made choices, added labels and filled envelopes. We hope that everyone will feel that when they receive their package.

Then I spent the next two days filling my granny cart with yearbooks and heading over to the post office, getting the system down and getting to know the post office clerk. It turns out he has quite a creative life!

 Class Prep

Creating a Class

The next two days were spent filming a class that I am contributing to a wonderful collection. It’s too early for me to share the details. One of the hopes that I have for our renovation is to have a space that is always set up or readily set up for this kind of overhead filming. The less barriers to creation, the better!

Dance: This week we hit the “one month until showtime” mark. We have learned all of the main choreography and are now working to hone our skills and develop our strength.  We’re rehearsing 3 times a week and have been working in smaller groups with the professional dancers. I’m also practicing in my  backyard so I can start to get used to the sun and the temperature, since we’ll be performing outside and I am not so great with the heat!

At rehearsals, people are starting to think about what they are going to wear and experimenting with new outfits, new shoes, new ways of doing their hair. It’s important to “audition” your costume pieces, actually wearing them so that you can see what it will be like to move and perform in them. I have an idea of what I would like to wear but haven’t had a chance to get out shopping as of yet.  Soon, though, soon.

Every rehearsal I am reminded that the better we know the material, the more fun we will be able to have. Plus, I’m working to stay present and enjoy the moment, not leaning into the sadness I already feel that one day soon this will be over and there will be nothing like it to follow.

This week I saw Sylvain’s video and enjoyed the sneak peek into what it will be like when we perform at Nathan Phillips square. I love how the video shows some of the pre-show moments. It really evokes the excitement  – and pressure – of doing a live performance. I am so looking forward to it and am committed to being very, very ready.

Tree Peony

In the Garden: With all this busy-ness the garden is being totally neglected. I was so surprised the other day to look out the kitchen window and see the tree peony in full bloom! The cold of winter hung on for so long and then we seemed to go straight into the heat of summer, bringing these beauties along faster than I would have expected. I’m so glad I didn’t miss them!  I hope to get out there soon and tend to the weeds.

Studio Kittens: Our three kittens give me plenty of creative inspiration. I am always trying to capture a magical moment, one that really expresses some aspect of their personality. Considering how introverted our Escher is, this moment of him curled up on my shirt is a great reminder that he is feeling love and connection. In fact, him sleeping on my clothes was the first clue I had that he actually liked me. I like you too, Escher, even if I was going to wear that shirt!

Rough Day, Cat Company & Dance

Shibumi on My Desk

Studio Diary: May 25, 2018

Some days things are just challenging and yesterday was one of those days. Everything just seemed to go off the rails! Lots of unexpected challenges reminded me that leaving space for the unexpected is wise. Now I just have to remember to do it!

On the BTS today, as I was talking about multiple project and problem wrangling, I came up with the image of corralling ducklings and this made me laugh. It’s amazing how the right metaphor can lighten everything up!

The best part of a really tough day was that Shibumi kept me company for the whole morning. This has never happened before. She slept on my desk most of the time.  I have a little pad to make it comfy for her. We played a little bit too. I put one of her balls underneath a hand drum and let her try to solve the conundrum. (Haha, I just noticed the wordplay there.)  And she curled up in the corner chair and enjoyed the sunshine. She was great company.

It’s funny that this bruiser of a cat has a gift for healing. When I imagine her in comic book form (which is incredibly easy to do), I visualize her rather ticked off that healing is her super power. “Why can’t it be combat?!!”

Dance: After a long and demanding day, I went to dance rehearsal. We’re one rehearsal away from reshuffling our spots and getting our final placements for the show. This felt like a particularly rotten time to have a bad day! I tried to relax and stay focused but still the moves were neither settling in or showing up for me. That’s okay. It’s just one rehearsal and there is still plenty of time for practice.

Before rehearsal, there’s time to go over the choreography and to enlist the help of the professional dancers. It’s amazing how each one of them brings out something fresh and different. Their unique perspective shines a light on something we hadn’t seen before.

When reviewing the choreography for one section, Jane Alison says to us with great directness, “Don’t hesitate! Change direction. Move forward. Show confidence!” Watching her dance, it’s clear this is a philosophy that informs her work. She seems to always be moving forward – no fear, no hesitation. It reads as not only as confident but also brave, maybe even reckless.

The Reno: We continue to go through our things as we prepare for the reno. This week Justin grabbed a bunch of my old English books and said, “Which of these do you want to keep?” My answer is always, “All of them.”

I can’t remember the last time I picked any of them up. Don’t we all go online when we have a question about a word or language? Still, I think someone might make better use of these than I am.

These book hold such memories for me. I remember the excitement of getting Fowler’s Modern English Usage, wanting to start understanding not only the how but also the why when it came to language. Or the Gage Canadian Dictionary, which my family often used when we played “The Dictionary Game” around the kitchen table. Someone would pick a word and we would all write creative definitions for it. Then one player would guess which was correct. Such a Ridler game to play!

Most recently the thesaurus was used not so much to expand our vocabulary or improve our writing but for coming up with great names for characters when we were online gaming. I loved playing a healer named Recovery. (Hmm… thinking about that, I might not be able to let that one go!)

I plan to only keep the Oxford, which I have had as long as I can remember. It was my companion through all my studies and I’d like to keep it with me.


Yesterday we also had an important conversation with our contractor. We are deciding whether or not to go ahead with an extension on our house, which would give us a much better bathroom (much needed) and more space for the studio (much wanted!) It would open up our second floor and add a sense of “making it our own.” Justin designed the layout which even our architect thought was great. The thing is – it is out of our budget. So we are dancing with the possibilities and figuring out priorities.

Do we stretch and save and reach? This feels exciting if it works and terrifying if it doesn’t. Do we work within the given blueprint, using the resources we have and feeling secure but not dreamy? That seems safe and familiar.

This is a question that relates to so many situations.

Is it best to scale back and work within what’s smart, reasonable and comfortable?

Is it best to hold a bigger vision and trust yourself to grow into it?

Right now we’re working on a third option – trying to figure out how we can make the very most out of the resources that we have. I am a Maximizer after all (See Strengthsfinder 2.0!)