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Can you find yourself in our stories?

When I was at the Railway City Arts Crawl, I met a lot of fantastic people.

It was a really fun and enlightening weekend.

I accidentally swore in Illumine Gallery’s Facebook live video. (oops)

I painted 7 paintings in 9 hours while still talking to crowds of people.

But one thing that hit home really hard for me was when women were going through my business cards and looking for my portraits of women.

Now, when I started on my pop culture journey, I was painting main characters. Painting people from shows I was watching. And painting whatever came to mind.

They were all men.

I hadn’t noticed. Why should I? My entire life has been full of shows and movies and characters that are male dominated. This is my normal.

Sure there were exceptions. Wonder Woman. Ripley. Princess Leia.

But for every exception, there were hundreds of roles that simply weren’t for women.

Now I’m not anti-men by any means. I love men. Men are among my favourite people. But what we need here is dialogue.

This is 2017 and we haven’t really made any forward movement. But what’s worse, without dialogue about things like the roles of women in pop culture, there’s no awareness and no way to change.

You can’t change what you don’t see.

For me, my awareness began when my friend asked me to paint Black Widow. She told me outright that I have no female portraits and I needed to be aware of that.

My youngest spawn, who’s got a strong personality, also actively looks for women to look up to. Her first choice for every show, movie or story is one that represents her.

She needs to see herself and her gender in the common stories we share.

I remember when the Battlestar Galactica reboot was announced and Starbuck was suddenly going to be female. Boy did the shit hit the fan. Including protests from the original actor who played Starbuck.

A woman could never pull off that role. Women aren’t strong. They lack the motivation for the character. On and on.

Or how about the furor when the Ghostbusters reboot was announced with an all female cast? IMO it was one of the best reboots I’ve seen. Respectful yet original.

And then there’s the Doctor. We’re getting a new one. Guess what the stink is about? Gender.

Look, I’m all for strong male characters as much as the next person. And I love stories of all kinds. And yes, men need to see themselves in our stories too. Absolutely.

But I think we’re at the point where we need to make sure that the stories we tell and the stories we support are inclusive.

And inclusive in a way that isn’t diminishing to the characters. None of this, my kid/husband died and I’m out for revenge crap. Female characters can have the same motivations as the male ones. And sometimes people are just evil. No reason necessary.

So what can I do here on the ground? How can I, a single person, have any kind of effect on what’s going on?

I can affect change by choosing where I spend my money both in movies and in memorabilia.

I can affect change by talking about the stories that are incredible and inclusive. By having any kind of dialogue, like this email, about it.

I can affect change by being even more vocal on social media to writers, studios, producers etc. But respectfully vocal.

And I can affect change by making sure I paint across the board. The Michonnes and Uhuras and Rowenas and Heimdalls that are in these stories.

I’ve said it before, and now I’ve seen it in action: representation matters.

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If you’re beating yourself up right now, you need to read this

Objectivity in art is hard, if you’re the artist.

I don’t spend any time hating my paintings like a lot of artists do because I’ve released myself from each piece once it’s done. My journey with the art is over and judgement would be completely unfair.

I’ve seen it at its worst, at its best and I know where I fell short of my goals.

This is a lesson I know and I’ve written about it before.

But I got to thinking about how objectivity is impossible with ourselves too. As individuals.

Each of us sees our faults from right up close. We know our most secret motivations. We know what’s under the hood, if you will.

This came up in my mastermind group this week. A lot. And I realised that maybe it’s a good time to address the disconnect we all have.

The disconnect lies in the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. How we define and limit ourselves.

I spent years, or really more like decades, limiting myself through my personal stories. For everything I did, I could only see where I fell short. Where I failed. Where I tripped up.

I once coded an application that should have been submitted to a now defunct technology award. I coded it in 2004/2005 and in the middle of it I had my second kid but still kept going. A variation of this app is still in use today in schools and libraries around the world.

Do you know why I refused to submit it?

Because all I could see is where the code wasn’t strong enough. That I wasn’t a true programmer. Real programmers could have done this with less than 5000 lines of code.

If I stood up to accept the award, everyone would see what a fraud I was.

Etc., etc.

This was definitely a limited self-belief. I had zero objectivity about it though my client’s business grew significantly because of my work.

A few of my friends are suffering from this right now. That they can’t see the growth they’ve made, the leaps, because they only see the inside of their journey not the outside.

If you’re in a time of self-growth, getting out of your comfort zone or even really changing things up, it’s even more important to be aware that progress as judged from the inside view will not be accurate and will be unfailingly stingy with praise.

So here’s what I do, and it’s a simple thing: I take a huge step back and look at things from the ten-thousand-foot view.

This time last year. This time next year.

This time last year I was prepping for Toronto ComicCon. I was scared. I had a sense of how I’d be received but this was going to be my biggest show to date. I was still figuring out who I was becoming.

Since then, I’ve done a crap ton of ComicCons and even my Everest, which was the Supernatural convention. I’ve had art in galleries and even San Diego ComicCon.

I’ve connected with tens of thousands of people in person (truth) and online in an overwhelmingly positive way. My art has improved. I actually like myself now. And I live for running towards the things that scare me the most.

This time next year, my book will be out. I plan on becoming a public speaker. I’m going to be making a living wage on my work. And I’m open to more opportunities that are, as yet, unknown.

So…this view has removed the things that were hiding it from me. Feeling worthless or awkward. Knowing that I’m behind on my timeline. Wondering when I’m going to start feeling like an adult (I’m pretty sure that’s never going to happen, so that’s something I’m going to learn to accept).

All that messy internal noise that doesn’t serve a purpose beyond limiting.

Objectivity or the lack of it, is incredibly important to acknowledge when it comes to personal growth. Sometimes the ten-thousand-foot view is best.

I’ve done some pretty awesome things in just one year. Things that were unthinkable to me at exactly this time last year. And I give myself permission to be proud of that growth because it’s huge.

Now it’s your turn.

This time last year, what were you doing? Where was your head at? How have things changed since?
And where are you going to be this time next year?

Do this one quick thing. I guarantee you that you’ll feel better about yourself and your growth in minutes.

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When Inspiration Doesn’t Strike, Here’s What To Do

I’m waiting for inspiration.

I’ll write when the muse strikes.

I’m too tired.

I’m too busy.

I want to but I can’t.

You know what makes me sad? These are the excuses I see from people who want to be creative but don’t follow through.

I’m reading a little book that talks about creativity right now, and in one section the author writes about the differences between being a professional and being an amateur.

One group talks the talk, the other group walks it.

There were so many days that I never felt like painting but did so anyway.

Stepping up to murder canvases and turn out garbage as I worked to get my skills to a level I was happy with.

Sure, having inspiration helps. It greases the wheels. Makes everything easier.

But like everything emotional, it is fickle.

You know when you sit at work and think of all the things you want to be doing? Writing that novel or making that art? Ideas flow like mad. And then you get home and poof! Nada.

Fickle.

I wrote the first draft of my book by showing up every day and writing one page. Just the one. I didn’t wait for inspiration, outside of getting the idea to write it. I didn’t write only when I felt like it.

Two years ago, when I knew I needed to create a body of work – a good-sized portfolio for my art – I did the same thing. I jumped onto a 30 in 30 challenge (in 30 days create 30 paintings) and painted nearly every night for a month. Whether I felt like it or not. Whether I was inspired or not. I showed up at 7pm and painted.

A few of those pieces were garbage but not as many as I expected. Just like some of my daily emails maybe miss the mark but I show up every day anyway.

But here’s my secret to showing up: have a schedule and stick to it.

This removes the emotional element from creating.

And if daily is too much for you? Make an appointment with yourself and know that every Xday, you will create a thing. Whatever you thing is. That’s how I started, way back when I decided to add art back into my life. Saturday nights were for painting. Just the one day.

What happens when life gets in the way? Because you might have noticed I’m not painting right now. Production is at an all-time low.

Life can and does get in the way. The trick is to deal with what’s going on and then jump right back in.

Don’t think about it. Don’t agonize (too much anyway). Just hold your nose and jump back in.

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One Big Thing I’m Doing To Help You

I’m writing a book right now.

It’s not something I ever expected to do. Not a whole freaking book.

Oh, I’ve always loved writing. I spent many of my younger years writing my brains out. Short stories and poetry. I’ve been published a few times in small anthologies.

But a whole book is another thing altogether.

I just printed out the first draft and the power of holding my words in my hands, a tangible thing, was incredible.

This book is fucking REAL!

Now the draft is sitting here in my studio going through edits. Pen to paper. Pages rearranged. A path being mapped out.

And this book? It’s ain’t fiction. Not at all.

This is the story of how I flipped my life upside down. Dragging my poor family along for the ride.

The story of how I went from resentful and existing to nurturing my creative spark and learning to really live.

The story of waking up.

But it’s not just me, me, me, me, me.

For fuck’s sake, that would be boring.

It’s a guide. A path. A light at the end of the tunnel.

Something for anyone who has looked around at their lives and asked, “Is this all there is? Is there nothing more?”

Because, honey, there’s SO MUCH MORE!

But sometimes the flip turning can be terrifying. The devil you know can be safer for sure.

And sometimes you need a little guidance. Or inspiration.

Someone who’s been there, done that and shares the vulnerable moments that come between the glitter and parades.

That is my book.

And I’m pretty fucking excited about sharing it with you later this year.

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One Easy Cure For Browser Brain

You know that joke about your mind being a browser with 12 tabs open?

Three of them are porn, two have videos going and where the hell is that music coming from?

That’s me all the time.

Ok, maybe not so much the porn, but the rest? Yes.

I’m constantly multi-tasking or flitting from task to task like a crazed hummingbird but with paint and a computer in hand…wing.

There are days when I can’t get my mind to shut down so I can sleep.

I bet a lot of you are like that too.

The thing is, that this constant jump from Facebook to painting to writing emails to making videos to whatever has affected my attention span pretty profoundly.

And I know there are days when I do a lot of flitting and don’t get a lot done. And I spend a lot more time thinking about all the things I need to do, feeling overwhelmed.

I was complaining about this to my coach recently.

Now I don’t complain a lot. Generally, my goal is to be part of the solution, but sometimes…sometimes a good whinge is needed.

Especially when my browser-like brain is just making me crazy.

My coach, Martin, looked me in the eye and asked, “Why don’t you make to-do lists? They’ll solve this problem.”

I don’t make to-do lists! NO! Those are for organized people who have it together.

I’m more chaos held together with duct tape.

The few times I’ve made lists I’ve lost them or forgotten about them.

Besides, I was sure that wasn’t my problem. I’m just slightly this side of loopy at times.

But Martin persisted, as he tends to do, and convinced me to try making lists using an app.

Of course, instead, I made a list in a notebook that I have next to my computer. It lives here. Loss is less likely.

And as an artist and tactile person, I love putting pen to paper. It has more meaning for me.

So I wrote down all the things I needed to accomplish in that week. Big and little. Anything that came to mind.

And then I stopped to paint. Just paint.

My thoughts stayed with my process. My presence was 100%.

I moved to the next task and edited videos. Thoughts stayed there too. No thinking about what’s waiting for me. No more sense of being overwhelmed.

And for several days, I referred to that to-do list and crossed things off as they got done. Added more things to do.

I could see my progress.

My brain became less frantic.

Martin, dammit, was absolutely right.

And while I still flit and multi-task, because that’s how I am, I don’t do it nearly as much.

And when I feel like I’m getting nothing done, I look at all the things crossed off my list and know that I am doing the things.

To do lists. Who knew?

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Busyness Is A Lie. Here’s How To Kick It To The Curb

I’ve noticed in the last decade or so, maybe longer, that we have perfected the art of being busy.

And busy is synonymous with being important. Having value and status.

When I was growing up, in the olden days as my kids love to point out, busy wasn’t a thing. Now I’m a product of the 1970s and I remember none of the things we do now.

I belonged to one thing at a time. Choir. Violin lessons. Soccer. Girl Guides.

Nothing overlapped.

My siblings were pretty much the same. We were often thrown into activities together.

(We also weren’t supervised and wow, there was a lot of shit we got into! LOL)

I’m raising my spawn the same way. One activity each. We are not a family that scarfs down dinner between coming home from work and running to nightly activities. My weekends are not crammed with events.

But this is not me being judgey. It’s me wondering at the changes of the things we accept now as normal.

I’m going to pause here and acknowledge that every parent and person is doing the best they can with what they have. We’re all swimming without a real map and it can get messy.

What I’m looking at is being so busy that we miss out on life.

At the Railway City Arts Crawl this past weekend, I spoke with several creative people. Lovely people, each with interesting stories. But the one that got me was the sculptor.

She glowed when she spoke of her art. She overflowed with ideas. And so I asked her about her current piece.

Her current piece was sitting, unworked on for several years because she was too busy.

What. A. Shame.

We accept being busy as a reason to set aside dreams. And since busy = importance, it’s seen as a good excuse.

As parents, we’re told that in order for the spawn to succeed in life, they must be enrolled in various sports and classes outside of school. Their dreams should be our dreams.

And if we haven’t spawned offspring, then it’s work or other obligations taking over our creative lives.

I reject that utterly and completely.

What we’ve lost is the ability to make priorities. And priorities matter in life.

When I go to speak, or write online, I run three questions through my filter:

Is it true?
Is it necessary?
Is it kind?

I think we need the same thing when it comes to being busy.

Is it necessary?
Does it bring me joy?
Can I live without it?

And we can flip that around for allowing things into our lives.

So for me, this is how I answered when I was deciding about my art career. How much of my busy life, my work life was I willing to sacrifice?

It’s necessary. I will regret it FOREVER if I don’t take this as far as I can.

It completes my life in a way I never expected. Joy is an understatement. I am fully and 100% me when I paint.

My soul would wither without it. And in fact, I’m so determined to make sure I can always paint, I taught myself how to paint equally well with both hands. If you watch my videos, you can see me switch hands as I go. This way if I lose the ability to hold a brush in one hand, I have a backup.

So, if you have the urge to paint, write, sculpt or create, a calling that maybe has been set aside, maybe it’s time to prioritize.

To add art in my life, I gave up hovering over my kids all the time. Making their wishes and activities a priorty. Instead I invited them to join me in the studio.

To add art in my life, I gave up a lot of evenings and weekends drinking with my friends and neighbours. I missed their company but my liver was grateful.

When I added art in my life, I accidentally ended up modelling living your dreams to my kids. I don’t talk the talk, I WALK it. And that has been an unexpected and major force in their lives.

I challenge you to look at your dreams. Old, dusty or maybe just recently neglected.

I challenge you to look at your life and see what you really need.

And I challenge you to answer these three questions:

Is it necessary?
Does it bring me joy?
Can I live without it?
Did you know?

When I was growing up, married women and especially women over 40 had to live, dress and act a certain way.

An acceptable way.

I remember, as a young child, thinking life for me would be over at 30. I had to meet my dreams before then because life after 30 was a slow death.

Things are different now but I still see a lot of walking dead people everywhere and it breaks my heart.

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Why The Stories We Tell Matter

I was thinking about stories over the weekend.

After all my art is powered by stories.

We tell stories about ourselves, both as individuals and as a culture.

For example, I tell the story that I’m an artist. A painter. And I paint boldly.

I also tell the story that I had a hard upbringing. That I spent many years hiding, trying to be invisible, because that’s how I learned to be safe.

Then there’s the story of how I changed my life suddenly about two years ago after a certain death experience.

You can read about it here http://www.paulamould.com/my-certain-death-experience/

And there are other stories I no longer tell about myself. I don’t think about them anymore because they don’t fit.

There are stories we tell about each other. She’s loud. He’s a jerk. That person is always willing to help.

Our species loves to put labels on everything and everyone.

But when we go bigger and look at the stories we tell about ourselves as a culture, things get interesting. And conflicted.

There are so many stories of the underdog taking on the government, a big enemy or some kind of insurmountable force. And they win through sheer luck and a little karma. The Hobbit, Star Wars and Firefly/Serenity immediately come to mind.

There are ugly stories of good intentions and bad outcomes. Like the most recent Marvel movie, Captain America Civil War, where the destruction the heroes created outweighed their accomplishments.

And more stories where humanity is discarded in favour of a buck. Sell firearms to third world nations. No one cares who lives or dies, just make money and look away. The Lord of War, among others.

There’s a lot on both big and small screen I don’t even watch. Stories about corporate ladder climbing. Office politics. He said, she said.

Game of Thrones comes to mind for me. There’s a lot of that going on and I couldn’t continue watching it. I want us to be better as a species. To pull together rather than stab each other to get ahead.

So many stories we tell about ourselves. And consume in the watching or reading, which then continue to define us.

And I got to thinking, which stories are right? Which ones should we reject as a whole? Or is there value in the telling of even the ugly ones? That we accept our seedy underbelly and expose it to be examined.

Stories are the most powerful things we have both individually and as a culture. The shine a light on us in ways I don’t think were always intentioned.

That we see ourselves as scrappy underdogs fighting for what’s right. And we see ourselves as unethical people causing more harm than good.

But going back to individually, because that’s where everything starts. One person part of a whole. What kind of stories do you tell about yourself?

How do you define you?

Because I know, for me, rejecting certain stories that I always told about myself, changed my world. Changed how I moved through the world.

But the first step to changing your world is realizing what you’re saying in the first place.
Did you know?

I’m not in favour of censorship at all. And I certainly wouldn’t want to reject art, writing or movies based on what I deem, or anyone deems, acceptable.

But it does bear thinking that what we create is a reflection of ourselves as a culture. So what are we saying about us?

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I Put The aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! In Awkward

I’ve been making videos starring me lately.

I shared my first, most awkward one already.

That one took me a few hours to record and edit.

Nothing is harder than talking to an empty room with no script and feeling very self-conscious. And by very, I mean COMPLETELY.

You see, I’ve been separating the artist from the art. Keeping myself in the background because I want my art to stand up and speak for itself.

But that’s completely unfair to my art.

There’s a story I read recently about a piece of art that consisted of two clocks side by side on a blue wall. If you were to just come upon the piece, it would seem meaningless.

Two clocks? Any idiot could do that.

Bah.

The story behind the clocks pulls the piece together and it becomes a tragic story. One that I have never forgotten.

“Two clocks are placed side by side; one will inevitably stop before the other. The date of this work corresponds to the time during which Félix González-Torres’s partner, Ross Laycock, was ill, and it embodies the tension that comes from two people living side-by-side as life moves forward to its ultimate destination.” https://www.dma.org/collection/artwork/f-lix-gonz-lez-torres/untitled-perfect-lovers

My friend and colleague, Robbie Kaye, did the same thing recently. She posted a nice painting. One in her own unique style. I liked it well enough. Her work is very unique and I love where she takes her art.

But then I read the story behind the piece and I went from like to love. It was her story of 9/11 and told not to sell the piece but to share what she went through. You can read more about it here https://www.robbiekaye.com/standing-still/

The stories matter. They make all the difference in how art is perceived and whether someone takes a second look.

I’ve been letting my art down completely not talking about why I picked a scene or emotion to paint. And there are a lot of reasons behind my choices.

And not just Sam did this or Luke was there.

Loss. Love. Joy. Terror. Hopelessness. Triumph.

These are the things I paint and I choose to do so through fandoms because this is where I go to process my feelings.

Yes, I am that person who watches and listens to the things that reflect back my emotions.

Can I be sadder? Yes, find the most traumatic thing possible on tv and watch the hell out of it.

So while my go to method of communicating is the written word, I’m putting the artist in front of the camera.

Sharing my art stories. Being myself. And putting the aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! in awkward.

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I’m Seriously Cheesed Off Here and I’m Not Talking About Cheddar

You know what cheeses me off?

And I’m being serious here.

People and companies who take advantage of their customers/clients.

In the art world, for example, there are galleries that charge for wall space. This is more common than you might think.

Oh, but it’s normal? HA no.

Because any so-called gallery that does that, doesn’t care about making sales. They aren’t selling art, they’re selling wall space.

I have ZERO respect for those kinds of galleries.

Don’t even write to me to tell me how good they can be or whatever. Just no.

You see, I’ve worked with a gallery like that. And a crafts/artsy store too. Pay per show or per month.

The people I paid were really nice. The sweetest ever.

And of course they were because I was their customer. They wanted to part me and my money. They never bothered really trying to sell my art because their job was already done.

Full walls? Check.

Crowds of art buying people through the door? Who cares?

Online, there are tons of other companies ready to part artists with their money.

Buy this course and improve your sales!

Sell your art through us and make a percentage of the sales!

Pay a monthly fee and get a completely useless agent!

These companies must make a killing because they’re everywhere.

And artists, especially ones starting out, are usually tight for cash and desperate for exposure. Spare money goes to art supplies and let me tell you, they ain’t cheap.

So what’s an artist to do?

Be very, very aware that an artist and their money are easily parted.

Never go for the pay-for-space gigs. Ever.

And take a good look around, see what other people are doing and then do something completely different.

Being one of several thousand artists on an arts site just hides you in the crowd, surrounded by competition.

The print-on-demand places usually pay a tiny amount to the artist and cite the rest as their own costs. For every print sold, know that you get a dollar or two and they get the rest. They wouldn’t exist without the artists, but that’s just a tiny detail.

And when/if you choose to show with a gallery? Choose one that charges commissions on sales. They’re the ones that have your back. That know exactly who their customers are.

This is why my prints are only available on my site. I don’t pay fees to 3rd party sites. I completely control the quality of my prints myself.

And this is why my art is currently at Illumine Gallery. They know who their customers are. They know how to treat their artists. And they are truly fantastic people.

So if you’re looking for some art, head on over to my site and take a look around. And know that you’re supporting an individual artist with every purchase and not some sleazy, unethical 3rd party.

And if you want one of my Wonder Woman paintings, they’re at Illumine Gallery until March 15th. Plus, you have the option to purchase raffle tickets to win the biggest Wonder Woman painting I’ve ever done. All proceeds go to Violence Against Women Services Elgin.

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Failing Forward One Emotional Step At A Time

My FedEx delivery guy wrote a novel.

It’s amazing what people do on the side that you’d never expect.

He’s a really nice guy. We got to talking one day and he was so proud of his achievement.

It’s actually a really good novel too. Aimed at young adults and takes place in Ottawa. And honestly, anyone who can write a novel, no matter how good it is, has my utmost respect.

But like anyone who’s been creative, there’s a point where the energy just runs down. Dead.

He faced a series of rejections. He’s trying to get in with publishers. You know, the usual. Knocking on a lot of doors.

And all the doors were a no.

He’s been my FedEx guy for a long time. He used to deliver to my house when I worked out of the house. Now he delivers to my studio.

The last time he was here he told me my space makes him feel guilty. Like he’s doing nothing with his novel now. Abandoned.

But he sees me in my space and wants the writer’s equivalent of success. Or at least some visible progress from all his hard work.

We are all emotional beings. A lot of the time we are driven or stopped by our emotions.

This week I was planning on making a big move, career wise for me. Guess who froze in fear?

Yeah.

Emotions FTW.

But the thing is, as creators, it’s our responsibility to share our work with an audience. Our journey with our art or writing or whatever ends when the piece is done. But the work our creation has to do is just as important and can’t be done unless the work is shared.

So I told my FedEx guy that he owes it to his characters to keep going. He wrote them. Created them. Made them well-rounded. And they aren’t able to do their job because his book is languishing.

You know, I’m not even talking about making money with the art. Not selling books or paintings or whatever. I’m just talking about putting work out into the wild.

Because my FedEx guy? He just wants to have someone enjoy his work. Be entertained. And make a difference in his own way. He’s not looking to be a world famous author. He just wants to leave a mark on the world.

Today he came in, two weeks after our last chat, and told me that he’s got an appointment with a publisher for libraries.

I am so thrilled he’s moving forward. He’s cautiously optimistic. I told him that even if nothing comes from this, he IS moving forward. It may feel like failing forward, but there’s still movement.

And that’s a good thing.