Here, on the west coast of Canada, we’re experiencing a heat wave. At 3:15 p.m. Monday (June 28) I took a photo of the thermometer in the shade at our front door. I read it at 43C which converts to 109.4F. That felt blistering hot for us! And because we don’t have air conditioning everything stayed warm long past the peak of the heat …surfaces, doorknobs, I felt like I was sleeping on an electrically warmed sheet and pillow.
I was reminded of the poem I wrote some years ago and included in my book Family Reunion (2007).
Yesterday’s fever broke in the evening This morning cool soothing air bathes face arms legs the neighborhood refreshed as if it slept deep and exhausted after sickness
But sun’s warm hand upon my back warns temperature is rising and burning heat will soon again blister the brown grass make bright-eyed impatiens and roadside chicory droop in the dazzling delirium
We will lie in darkened rooms splayed under whirring fans flushed fighting off sweats ice-tinkling drinks within arm’s reach till evening when the fever breaks again.
Thankfully the temperatures have moderated since then. But such a weather stretch drives home our vulnerability. We humans have only a small temperature range in which we can comfortably exist. I am in awe of the complexity of creation which God has fine-tuned for plant, animal, and human flourishing!
Tomorrow, July 1st and Canada Day, always feels like the official beginning of summer to me (a holdover from years of school rhythms, I guess). I’ll be taking a break from weekly blogging during July and August. I may post occasionally but not on any schedule. I hope to be back to a weekly post in September.
Wishing everyone a Happy Canada Day and a happy, safe, and healthy summer!
In the Snowflake Method, Ingermanson starts writers off by planning from their main concept to ever more detailed aspects of the book. The genius of his method is that you assemble the bones (setting and characters) and construction plan (plot) in its entirety before you ever begin writing. You won’t spend weeks at the computer just to discover that your story comes to a dead end.
I purchased the C. S. Lakin book, (The 12 Pillars) while working on Under the Cloud and spent several months making sure my story had each pillar in place. Here again the focus begins with story basics. Lakin identifies four main pillars as the basis for a good story: 1] Concept with a Kicker; 2] Protagonist with a Goal; 3] Conflict with High Stakes; and 4] Theme with Heart. With these established, she goes on to talk about eight additional pillar: 5] Plot and Subplots; 6] Secondary Characters; 7] Setting; 3] Tension; 9] Dialogue; 10] Voice; 11] Writing Style; and 12] Motifs. A downloadable checklist/worksheet (link provided in the book) is available for each of these pillars.
For myself, making sure that I had considered my story in the light of each of these pillars gave me confidence that I hadn’t missed anything major.
So if you’re writing a novel and struggling with any aspect of it, either or both of these books, along with books by James Scott Bell (especially Plot and Structure and Revision and Self-Editing) will prove helpful… or they sure were to me!
t’s peony season here on the west coast of Canada! These gorgeous, fragrant flowers decorated the reception tables at our June wedding in Saskatchewan back in 1981, so my love affair with them is lasting. They are also an irresistible magnet for my camera and paintbrush.
I was excited to see a peony in bloom in the back garden of our current property when we first saw it back in June of 2007. That magenta peony bloomed beautifully for a few years and then mysteriously stopped blooming, eventually shriveling away to nothing. I blame the encroaching roots of trees that line the walkway behind us and the gloomy shade their branches cast over the garden.
Since then I’ve had to get my fix of peony beauty elsewhere. One local garden where the peonies bloom in profusion is Sendall Gardens in Langley. We visited on Sunday and I was not disappointed. We went shortly after a rain shower and the blooms were heavy with raindrops making them all the lovelier.
One of my favorite peony poems is by Jane Kenyon.
Peonies at Dusk
White peonies blooming along the porch send out light while the rest of the yard grows dim.
Outrageous flowers as big as human heads! They’re staggered by their own luxuriance: I had to prop them up with stakes and twine.
The moist air intensifies their scent, and the moon moves around the barn to find out what it’s coming from.
In the darkening June evening I draw a blossom near, and bending close search it as a woman searches a loved one’s face.
In Powerful Thinking, popular Christian author and speaker Joyce Meyer challenges readers to take a deep look at twelve mindsets. Each mindset titles a chapter and is expressed as an affirmation (e.g. ”Mindset One: Because I Am in Christ I Can Do Everything I Need to Do in Life”). Meyer uses personal stories, scripture passages, and explanation of those passages to detail what each mindset involves and why it’s important. The chapters end with a “Think, Then Act” section made up of questions to use in journaling or group discussion to help the reader apply what they have read to life.
I did not find this book all that different from other books on the thought life that I have read by the same author. However, familiar truth is still truth and a good reminder. The chapter in Powerful Thinking that really struck me, judging by the number of highlights I saved, was the mindset “Because I Am in Christ I Am Difficult to Offend.” Notable quotes from that chapter:
“As human beings, we tend to be suspicious of others, and we get hurt due to our own imaginations… I encourage you to believe the best about others. Resist the temptation to question their motives or to think they hurt you deliberately. Believing the best about people will keep offense and bitterness out of your life and help you stay peaceful and joyful” – Kindle Location 397.
This compact volume is a great introduction to, or review of thought life hygiene for a Christian. It is inspiring, challenging, and a quick read. Powerful Thinking will be available for purchase on June 15, 2021.
I received Powerful Thinking as a gift from the publisher in return for writing a review.
Finding places to sell art is a challenge. That’s why, a few months ago, Pacific Arts Market caught my attention when I saw that a few of the local artists I follow on Instagram had shopfronts there.
Pacific Arts Market is a physical marketplace in Vancouver. It operates out of the second floor of a building at 1448 West Broadway (near Granville). I have never visited it in person but it looks like a happening place!
As well, the market has an online store!
After giving it a lot of thought and prayer, I applied a few days ago and was accepted into the online store! My storefront is now live. The image below is what it looks like. You can find it HERE.
At Pacific Arts Market, in-store and online, you can purchase a huge variety of arts and crafts including wood, pottery, photography, wearable art, jewellery as well as drawings, mixed media, prints, and paintings. These come at a variety of price points from $ to $$$$. Check out some of the many crafts and vendors from the Online Store Home Page.
Whatever creative practice you’re into, you’ve probably faced the question—what do I fill my time with?
If it’s writing you ask yourself, what do I write about? If it’s a craft, what do I make? If it’s art, what do I draw, paint, or sculpt?
I have faced this question daily since starting my sketch journal in December of 2018. Here are some ways I’ve solved the problem of what to draw.
Sketch some detail of your day:
I was inspired to start a daily art habit by Samantha Dion Baker’s book Draw Your Day. In it, she tells of how she began doing a daily sketch of ordinary items from her day. When she posted these on Instagram, they gained an eager following which encouraged her to continue this practice. Since starting it several years ago she has filled many sketchbooks, published books, taught classes, and more.
My first sketchbook entries were in that vein—items from my day. My book became a visual journal—interesting to look back on.
However, after doing this for a while, I felt drained of ideas. My life just wasn’t that interesting or varied. Around that time I discovered lists of prompts.
You never need to look for inspiration. In a way, though, when the item feels uninspiring, finding an angle to make it your own is another challenge.
When you post your drawings to social media using hashtags, your work becomes part of a collection and you get to see how others have responded to the prompt. You can follow them, comment on their work, and inevitably a community develops.
You are challenged to draw things you would never choose to draw without the nudge of a prompt, and so you grow as an artist.
Other lists of prompts I have followed are Spring Your Florals (an Instagram flower prompt every second-day), Opus Daily Practice (ever February), and Inktober (an October drawing challenge).
Sometimes, though, you just get the hankering to work on subjects of your own choice. When that happens, you can make up your own list.
Set up your own list of prompts:
When I tire of following someone else’s list, I make up my own. I usually do it by themes. One month I sketched and painted only birds. Another month I gave each week a different theme (favourite things, fridge and pantry items, buildings, and plants). The possibilities are endless here: shoes, jewelry, dishes, desk items, wild flowers, insects etc. etc.
There comes a time, however, when you may feel you should spend those art hours with more intention. You may feel the need to learn a new skill or work on your weaknesses.
Work on areas that need improvement.
As I’ve continued my art practice, I’ve become increasingly aware of areas where I need to improve. Painting landscapes, for example, has shown me how I need to get better at painting rocks, trees, and water. Hours of art time can be absorbed by studying and practicing elements that need work. You can also grow in specific areas by watching videos and painting along with art instructors on YouTube and other platforms.
Work on your art business
At the moment I’m in still another space, where I’m trying to keep my little art shop replenished. Thus my daily art time has frequently gone in that direction, painting another set of cards, sketching a value study for a painting doing trial sketches and paintings in my sketchbook before getting out the pricey paper. Then, of course, the paintings themselves take hours of work.
Wherever you’re at in your creative practice, look hard and long at the challenge of how to spend your time. Then, if you’re not happy with your current source of inspiration, give it some thought, try something different, and so keep yourself and your creative endeavors fresh, nourished, and growing.
My newest art book is the gorgeous Watercolor Flower Artist’s Bible: An Essential Reference for the Practicing Artist, edited by Claire Waite Brown.
This is quite a comprehensive volume. It starts out with a section on watercolor supplies and explains the most common techniques watercolorists use. Several tutorials encourage practice with these, e.g. “Combining wet-in-wet and wet-on-dry,” “Using Masking Fluid” and more.
An analysis of flower shapes follows. Here the text explains the look and structure of the various flower shapes (like bell, trumpet, cup and bowl, etc.—eight in all), delving into how they appear foreshortened and reflect light from different angles. Of course a real flower example is used in each case. (For example, in the trumpet section, a Daffodil is the example).
A Directory of Flowers section follows that. In this part you find a picture of each flower and a link to the instructions on how to paint.
You can also find flowers by color in the colored garden section that follows the directory (“The Red Garden,” “The Pink Garden,” “The Yellow Garden,” etc.) that ends with “Berries and Leaves.” Each garden color chapter is introduced with watercolor paintings by accomplished artists. These are followed by details of specific flowers in the color family and include color swatches of the particular flower’s blooms and instructions on how to draw and paint one example.
To help you even further in finding the flower you want to attempt, you can go to the comprehensive Index at the back, where each flower is listed (alphabetically) and linked (in the Kindle edition) to its page in the book.
This book is chock-full of information and tips. However, my favorite aspect of it so far is the artists’ paintings that begin each colored garden and are sprinkled in other spots throughout. Talk about eye candy and inspiration to improve!
I purchased the Kindle edition of the book, which I read on my iPad. It’s easy to use propped on my desk during painting sessions with no need to fight stubborn book binding. Also I can enlarge the images to my heart’s content.
I’m sure this book will be one of my most used painting references in the months ahead.
A few weeks ago I took part in a three-session masterclass hosted by artist and mentor to artists Matt Tommey. The class was called “Artist Mindset Makeover.” In it, Tommey stated that one’s mindset is the greatest factor in an artist’s success or failure.
In the lectures he defined what a mindset is and identified potential internal roadblocks to experiencing success as an artist. He named roadblocks like memories of put-down words from teachers, parents and friends in childhood and past failures, of fears that we’re too old, too young, or not educated enough to be successful at this activity we love. Even the fear of success could be a roadblock. He also suggested how these roadblocks can be overcome by aligning our thoughts and mindset with what the Bible says about our identity and purpose.
Because the course was based on Tommey’s book Created to Thrive, I re-read it in the past weeks and was encouraged and inspired anew.
In the book Tommey goes into the idea of mindset in greater depth in chapters with names like “As a Man Thinks…” and “Be Transformed.” He casts a vision for Christian artists that inspires them to respect and honor the aspects of imagination and creativity put within us all as part of our creation in the image of God.
Using stories and parables from the Bible as his basis, he challenges Christian artists to use and develop their talents to be salt and light in their time, place, and sphere of influence. Rather than say more, I’ll let the book speak for itself. Here are some bits that I highlighted.
From the chapter “As a Man Thinks”:
“The power of agreement is a core principle in the Kingdom of God. Whatever you agree with, you welcome into your life” (Kindle Location 665).
From the chapter “Be Fruitful and Multiply”:
“I know all too well what we start in our own strength, we have to maintain in our own strength” – (KL 1144).
From the chapter “Faithful with Little, Ruler over Much”:
“Just realize when God invests something in you, or when the Holy Spirit brings an idea to you and puts something in your hand, it’s serious because it’s not just about you. It’s about His Kingdom going forth. You’re His ambassador in the earth within your circle of influence” – (KL 1351).
From the chapter “For Such a Time As This”:
“I believe when God said, ‘Let there be light’ in Genesis, He was saying something deeper like, ‘Let there be a release of My nature,’ or ‘Let the light of My nature invade this environment that is dark, chaotic, and void.’ When God declared the light of His very nature to be released, all of a sudden everything was transformed! My friend, when God shows up, life as we know it is transformed” (KL 1599)
“As a child of God, you are already commissioned as His ambassador on the earth to release His power and His nature for such as time as this. You have a divine purpose and the divine provision you need to pursue your divine assignment with divine authority. Realize, ambassadors have the authority to make a change in the name of the one who sent them” (KL 1660).
“It’s the habits of your life that create space for God to move, and it’s the habits you create which will enlarge your capacity to be used by Him” (KL 1673).
Finally, from the chapter “Moving from Hobby to Pro”:
“Creating with the Holy Spirit is about process, not product. It’s about continually cultivating ears to hear, eyes to see, and senses to feel what God is saying and doing within your world and then responding through your chosen creative process. For some people, that’s a very intentional process where their art speaks specific messages for specific situations, and for others, like me, it’s a much more fluid approach.
For example, as a natural materials sculptor, I create pieces that reflect the beauty of the natural world as I interpret it through my relationship with God. I simply create what I love as I’m inspired, because I believe God put those desires in me, and I sense His pleasure when I’m involved in the creative process” (KL 1883).
And a last one that I believe is so true:
“Realize people don’t buy art because they need it, they buy because of connection. That connection might be with the artist, the process, the medium, the experience, the subject matter, or any combination of these factors, but there has to be a connection” (KL 1902).
If you’re Christian artist (whatever your art form), struggling with your calling or with how to make progress towards goals and dreams that seem unattainable, Tommey’s book Created to Thrive will definitely put you on a positive path toward thriving, even flourishing as a Christian creative.
Tommey is also a mentor to artists and hosts a regular artist podcast. Find out more about these aspects of his work at MattTommeyMentoring.com
Sunday is Mother’s Day—I’m sure I don’t need to remind you!
Mother’s Day reminds me of my own mother and the fact that it’s already 15 years ago that I gave her her last Mother’s Day card. She died about six weeks after Mother’s Day in 2006.
I still miss her, though signs of her are sprinkled throughout my life. I still wear a few clothes of hers that I rescued from her closet. Some of the art that she made adorns our walls and decorates our house at Christmas. Bells from her collection sit on my window ledge. And we have photos! On beginning to go through my photos a few weeks ago, I came across so many wonderful memories of things we did together—pictures of the birthday parties and family dinners we celebrated at our home and hers, camping trips on which she accompanied us, scenic walks we took around Abbotsford where she lived.
I also have a few photos of her when she was much younger. I love studying them and finding premonitions of the faces of my siblings, our children, nieces, and nephews. This week’s quote in my daily planner reminded me of one of them:
“I can’t quite see myself as a mother and I can’t quite see my own mother as anything else” – Courtney E. Martin.
On my cleanup a few weeks ago I found a stash of sympathy cards we received on Mom’s death. Many of them tell memories of her. This Mother’s Day, I’m going to reread all those cards and appreciate her again for all she was to those of us blessed to have her in our lives.
This week I’m taking in a three-session webinar on the artist’s mindset led by artist coach and mentor Matt Tommey. Yesterday’s lecture was followed by a Q&A where Tommey answered submitted questions. The first question and his answer opened a window for me.
The question was (not the exact words but the gist) “What do I do when I feel an artistic calling in many directions?”
Many creatives are polymaths, i.e. Renaissance people who are interested and excel at many things. It is not surprising that they struggle with finding a focus when their interests and skills are wide and varied.
The answer to that is to recognize that life has SEASONS.
He spoke of his own seasons of leading worship (music), basket making (art), church involvement, now leading his mentoring program.
Our seasons are determined by many things: our age, family and responsibilities to them, finances, health, etc. When we are aware of life’s seasons, and the changes they bring, we don’t need to stress when we find our focus shifting as a result of changing circumstances.
I can relate to that!
When our family was growing up, my creative pursuits involved decorating my home, sewing for my family, gardening, and doing the odd craft project.
Then I started a home-based medical transcription business and for a time my attention was absorbed by it—along with family and church responsibilities.
Once it was established, I got the itch to work on an old love—writing. I registered for a writing course and within about a year, had sold my first article. Many published articles, stories, devotions, puzzles and poems followed. I published a couple of poetry books and even wrote two novels.
(Many of my siblings are talented artists with formal art training. I loved art but felt I couldn’t measure up, so shoved that old interest into the background. When I saw the Bible Journaling book and the projects people did, immediately I knew I wanted to try this, just for the fun and spiritual enrichment of it. I promptly ordered a journaling Bible, which I enjoy doodling in to this day.)
My next step into art was joining Instagram where my visual world exploded with the wonderful art work of others. I joined in on a few art and lettering challenges and stumbled across Samantha Dion Baker’s book Draw Your Day, about keeping a sketch journal.
On December 7, 2018, I made my first sketch journal entry, with a resolve to do a little art every day. It’s a resolve I’ve pretty much honoured since them.
What I discovered, however, as I let myself get drawn ever more into the vortex of art, was that my formerly high enthusiasm for writing was waning. All the creative oxygen in my life was being sucked up by art. I often felt sad and a little guilty about this, but didn’t feel like going back to the committed writing lifestyle either.
Yesterday’s discussion by Matt about flowing with the seasons of life, then, helped me put my experience into perspective.
I realized there were reasons why I was moving out of the writing season.
I have written about many many things and felt talked-out.
As I age (and I am a senior) words are harder to find. The old mind isn’t quite as nimble and sharp as it used to be. Art is easier on the brain.
The production cycle for any big writing project, like a book, is long and taxing. Even if one puts one’s heart and soul into it, it is often not monetarily viable. (It’s true what they say, that writing the book is only a fraction of the work that’s needed to get it out into the world.)
All that to say, I now understand my journey better. I feel free to embrace this new season of visual art creation as a step that was right and perhaps even inevitable.
Our Lecture One assignment was: “Create a piece of art that reflects your response to the beauty of God’s gift of imagination.” The Red-wing Blackbird study that illustrates this post is based on a reference photo i took a few weeks ago, of a blackbird singing his heart out. It symbolizes the joy of a new season.
One more thing!
We’re having a two-day sale at our Etsy shop. You will find 15% off all items in the store (art cards and wall art). Check it out: at Violet Nesdoly Art.