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Start Inside

On Tuesdays I invite you Behind the Scenes at my studio.

Today:   To find your authentic confidence and true artistry, the first step is to look inside.

Mentioned in Today’s Video:

  • Journal Club – registration opening soon!

Nothing Can Replace the Power of Practice: Interview with Artist & Entrepreneur Jeanne Oliver

Jeanne Oliver is one of those creatives who does it all. She’s an artist, an author and an entrepreneur. She runs a site that hosts a plethora of creative classes, some taught by other artists and some taught by Jeanne herself. She leads exquisite retreats, is a dedicated mom and keeps a stunning home. She is also one of the kindest and most generous people I have met in the online creative world.

A while back I interviewed her for the Creative Living with Jamie podcast and now, inspired by her new Creatively Made Business program, I’ve interviewed her for the blog. There are a lot of people teaching online entrepreneurship but Jeanne is the only person I know who is doing that from the place of running a successful art-based and instructional business. If you have dreams of developing that kind of work yourself, I suggest you check her new program out. I haven’t taken it (and I’m not an affiliate) but I have done one-on-one business consulting with Jeanne and have always found her to be insightful, direct and incredibly helpful. No matter where we are in our creative journey, it’s so powerful to keep growing and learning from one another!  I know you’ll learn a lot from Jeanne!

Hi there, Jeanne. I am so excited to have this conversation with you and to hear about all the creative energy that percolating around you! Let’s start off with you sharing a bit about yourself and the work you do in the world.

Thank you so much Jamie for the opportunity to talk with you and share more about our business and what we are about.

I am Jeanne Oliver, the owner and creator of Jeanne Oliver Designs. Our business officially became more than a hobby 12 years ago and what was once creations of wood and scrapbook paper are now online art classes, live business and art workshops, artisan products, original and reproduction art, beautiful collaborations and travel. I feel like our business is the perfect example of the power of starting before you are ready and that we have second and third chances to walk out our gifts.

You teach many art classes and also run a beautiful hub rich with inspirational creative classes. In your experience, what’s the greatest hump people have to get over to fully embrace their creative gifts?

I love that you are asking this because the whole purpose of our creative network is to make it easier for people to connect with their creativity. I feel like we could talk for hours about this topic because we hear more about this subject than any other.

I would like to suggest that we stop treating our gifts as the reward for the day to day of life. That we stop saying when we finish the laundry, dishes, bills, mopping the floors etc. THEN I will connect with what makes life rich, beautiful, meaningful like painting, baking that pie, tending your garden, playing the piano, cuddling up and stitching, learning a new instrument, having coffee with a friend, reading a book with your child. Can you imagine how beautiful our days would look and how connected we would be with our gifts if we didn’t treat them like rewards?

As an artist, what was essential for you to discover your unique creative voice?

Nothing can replace the power of practice and figuring yourself out. Nothing has been more rewarding than knowing I have practiced myself into my own style. Nothing has made me as proud when it comes to my art as someone saying, “I knew that was yours before I knew it was yours”. Practice and through that making lots of bad art to also make good art.

I know that you also have a major new offering coming up, one that is based on running a creative business. What do you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?

I wish someone had told me that they were so proud of me for following my gifts and that they didn’t think for a second it made me less of a mom or wife but more of everything. I wish I had had cheerleaders that told me all I was showing my daughter and all I was showing my boys. I may have lost early years in my own life to pursue those natural gifts but I am so thankful that our children will have the most beautiful early understanding about who they are, where they are strong, where they want to grow and the out of the box life they can live if they choose to. I am so excited for them and all of us that get to be their cheerleaders.

Tell us more about your new Creatively Made Business course. Who is it for?


Creatively Made Business is a 6-month online course that takes you step-by-step through the tools your business needs to succeed and your creativity to thrive. This online business workshop is for any business owner no matter if you are in the dreaming stage, building stage or needing fresh ideas stage, this online course will help you create a plan for what is next.

Through monthly modules, video training, podcasts, downloadable worksheets, printables, live Q+A and monthly book discussions we will share tools your business needs to succeed and your creativity to thrive. This is not just for artists! This is for anyone that wants to create a plan to create a more intentional life and business.

We have been sharing online business content for over 7 years now, doing one-on-one consulting and also leading live business workshops and we knew it was time to update everything and bring it to business owners no matter where they are in life and business. We wanted to make it doable for busy creatives to take their businesses to the next level.

Creatively Made Business will begin February 3, 2020. You can find out more here.

While I have you here, there’s one more thing I have to ask you. It’s clear to anyone who follows you that one of your gifts is creating beautiful spaces. I’m in the midst of a major home renovation. I’d love to hear any advice you might have for creating home.

Everything starts and ends at home for me so I love talking about this. Creating home for me is about creating a warm and inviting space first and foremost for our family and then taking that gift and sharing it with others. People are longing to be invited and so many are missing connecting and gathering. Home is one of the sweetest ways I know to walk that out. I just don’t want anyone to not open the doors to their home because it is not done enough, clean enough, or put together enough. We just don’t have enough time in this world for that.

Thank you so much, Jeanne. It’s always a delight to chat with you. You’re an inspiration and a light.

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The 5 Minute Difference

Last week was a lively one in the studio as we prepared the print copies of the summer Studio Yearbook for mailing. It was a joy to pack them up with love and send them on their way before the long weekend here in Canada began! I must admit though that when things get busy, I have a terrible tendency; I take root. I stop moving my body. I simply tuck myself in front of the job at hand and stay put for the duration. (My Fitbit and creaky body tell the tale!) This is when I need to remind myself of something I teach all the time…

There is power in 5 minutes.

When we’re super busy or have a big project on the go, it’s easy to feel like we don’t have 5 minutes. And even if we did, we tell ourselves, what difference would 5 minutes make? It’s too short a time to be worth it! Isn’t it better to just get 5 more minutes of work done? We can eat, rest, stretch, etc., when we’re done.

That’s what I used to think until I built my entire meditation practice on the gift of 5 minutes. I had been thinking about learning to meditate for some time but wasn’t finding my way to actually doing it. One day, I realized a simple truth; if I didn’t have 5 minutes to meditate, I was overextended. None of us should regularly be so busy that we can’t take 5 minutes for ourselves. I started to meditate that day and have been doing so ever since.

I’ve also seen the power of 5 minutes in Journal Club and Mindful Mondays. In both classes, we regularly do a 5-minute free write and the impact is clear:

  • In 5 minutes, we release internal pressure.
  • In 5 minutes, we connect to where we are.
  • In 5 minutes, we see what we are thinking.
  • In 5 minutes, our to-dos are revealed.
  • In 5 minutes, we have more clarity than we had 5 minutes before.

Want to try it with me now? Set a timer for 5 minutes, just 5 minutes, and let the words flow onto the page. Don’t edit. Just write. Pour out whatever is on your mind and in your heart. Stop when the timer goes. Notice the impact. What’s different because you took 5 minutes to write?

It’s easy to underestimate the gifts available in such a short period of time. Here are some more 5-minute breaks and activities, all of which I have used to unglue myself from my seat and to remind myself that I am a living, breathing, organic being not a tireless workhorse of a machine.

More 5 minute breaks…

  • Doodle
  • Stretch
  • Make a cuppa
  • Get a glass of water
  • Cuddle with your fur babies
  • Open your window and breathe the fresh air
  • Step outside
  • Read a poem
  • Listen to the birds
  • Draw an oracle card
  • Listen to one song
  • Dance to one song
  • Grab your camera and find a photo opp (or 7)
  • Tidy one spot
  • Make your bed
  • Fold your socks
  • Give your counter a quick wipe
  • Take out the garbage
  • Wash your face
  • Massage your feet
  • Put lotion on your elbows
  • Lie down and close your eyes (Set a timer if you’re worried you’ll fall asleep)

5 minute breaks I don’t recommend, especially if you need a break from the computer!*

  • Watching YouTube
  • Checking Facebook, Instagram or other social media.
  • Checking email.
  • Anything that leaves you sitting in the same place.

Having a strong focus and deep commitment is a good thing, as is working hard, but it’s also important to remember that we are human. We need time to breathe, to move, to eat, to sleep, to rest, to play and to be free. Let’s see if we can get into the habit of booking in a bit of extra time for each activity we schedule. Let’s give ourselves some white space and some wiggle room. I truly believe that we will do better and more sustainable work if we allow ourselves to regularly take a 5-minute break.

Now, I just need to remember that!

What Remains?

The packing has begun in earnest as we get ready for our renovation. Today I stood in front of my bookshelves, frozen. Do I keep everything? Do I let some things go… a lot of things go? What metric do I use to decide?

I remember so well taking the books down off of my mom’s shelves. I thought, “Here is her life: math, music, Kabbalah, painting, sacred geometry. Here is her life in books.”

I feel the same as I look at mine: creativity, art, writing, coaching, memoir, photography.

If I give these away, am I dismantling my life the way I dismantled hers?

How do I choose what remains?

Sick Day

My sinuses convinced me to take a sick day. Though I spent most of the day in bed, I was just too uncomfortable to sleep. Luckily, I had marvelous company. I also had a laptop, which meant I could spend some time diving into inspiration and catching up on a few of my classes.

I did a few of the exercises from Carla Sonheim’s 365 class in my accompanying sketchbook. In one lesson, Carla also mentioned a book by Maira Kalman, which sent me down a rather inspiring rabbit hole.




After quite a journey exploring Maira’s work, I found she had left me with one overwhelmingly powerful question:

“What protects you in this world from sadness and the loss of an ability to do something?”

This is certainly a question worthy of deep and useful contemplation. For Maira the answer is work and love, which sounds about right to me.

I believe that the men in this video might answer, “Dance.”

What would you say?


Tourist in My Own Town

Studio Diary: June 2, 2017

Today I am filled with gratitude for so very much, which seems both auspicious and appropriate for the beginning of this new and much-desired venture into sharing my Studio Diaries. It may take me a while to find my feet, to stay unattached and experimental, to fill it with the truth of my creative life and exploration as it is right now without making it to precious, to let myself sketch and wonder and imagine and explore, to truly let this be a diary – unfettered and free.

Justin at Georgia OKeeffe

Justin is home after a week visiting his father in Curacao. It was so good for him to go and so weird for us to be apart. We, in fact, couldn’t remember the last time we had been separated. We Skyped every day and throughout the week Justin would send me fun pictures of his adventures, from the surprise of iguanas to grocery shopping with his dad.

My fear of flying made the beginning and the end the hardest part of the trip, even though it wasn’t me that was getting on the plane! On each travel day, I loaded Justin’s flight number in a flight tracker and watched with anticipation, sending love to the flight and everyone on it. I am so thankful he arrived and returned safe and sound.

Georgia O'Keefe at the AGO

Today we went on a wonderful Saturday adventure to the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. This year I decided to become a member and I am so thrilled I did. In fact, I quickly took advantage of a special offer and signed up until 2019! There is such joy in not only being able to go whenever I like but also to share. I went to Mystical Landscapes three times, once by myself, once with Justin and once with Shannon. Plus, I’m surprised by how much I feel like (and like feeling like) a part of the gallery.

I knew I would enjoy this exhibit and I did, especially the abstract pieces and yes, of course, the flowers. I was captivated again and again not only by colour but also by composition. The velvety richness of Georgia O’Keeffe’s oil paintings made me want to give the medium a try.

Even more than the art, I was fascinated by the artist. I searched through the gallery’s write-ups for clues about who she was. I was struck by her strength and her presence. I wanted to sit with her at a table under the night’s sky with a glass of wine or a cup of tea and listen to her talk about her life and her work. I will follow the threads of this desire.

Lion Velvet Door

After our visit to the gallery, Justin and I kept with our tradition of going out for a bite and chatting about what we had seen. Of course, we also stuck with our tradition of taking a while to choose a place to eat! It didn’t matter. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and the temperature was idyllic. We walked by our old apartment building right behind the Art Gallery and through our old Queen Street West neighbourhood. We remembered Justin’s late night walks and remarked on how so many of the stores and restaurants on the street had changed.  We reminisced about Taro, The Tequila Bookworm and Velvet Underground. (The photo is of the door to that nightclub.)

We stopped for a coffee and looked on Yelp to find a local spot we might like. We decided on Beast and it looked like a treat but by the time we got there it was too late. They were wrapping up their lunch service. We put it on our list for another day. In fact, it inspired a really fun idea, which I will be writing more about. Perhaps you’ve seen people create their 40 in 40 lists – 40 things they want to do in their 40th year. Justin and I have decided to do a similar list based on the years we’ve been married – our 15 in 15! So far we’ll be making homemade gnocchi and going to the Scarborough Bluffs.

 Lunch at Canteen

For today, we ended up at Canteen on King Street, sitting on the patio with a view of the CN Tower and having a lovely meal. It was so good to be together, to have walked 10,000 steps in downtown Toronto, through old haunts and new finds, and doing it all together.