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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 as 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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I Did Gratitude Wrong My Whole Adult Life

I always thought of gratitude as a basic thing.

I’m grateful for what I have.

Thank you.

Boom. Done.

But it’s not. There’s so much more to gratitude and I think I finally get it.

If you have kids, you’ll know about giving the little shits gifts. Xmas, birthday, whatever.

As a parent, generally, you want your kid to enjoy the thing you got him/her. You want them to treasure it.

After all, you spend hard earned money on it and took the time to purchase it.

So it sucks, really sucks, when the kid takes the gift, opens it and says, “Thanks, what else did you get me?”

Not enjoying the gift or the thoughts behind it. Looking for the next one already.

It feels like that gift, and effort, was a total waste.

A slap in the face, as it were.

This is what I was doing with gratitude.

I’m sitting here in my studio, writing this email and right now I am truly grateful for where I am. I’m not looking for the next big move. I’m not running myself ragged trying to get things done.

I am enjoying the gift I have right now.

A year ago… hell… two years ago, this was my dream. Have my own art space. Paintings on the walls. People coming by to learn, chat or discuss business.

My own autonomy on my day and space.

When I got the space, I was thrilled. Definitely. But I treated it like last year’s dream.

Meh… space…Thanks. What’s next?

I admit it’s taken me until last week or so to get this. REALLY get it.

Maybe because I had already stopped looking around with jealousy at other people’s successes.

Maybe because I slowed down to enjoy the place where I am right now.

Maybe because we’re getting ready to move house again and it’s made me remember where I’ve been and how much things have changed.

I don’t know.

I do know that when the thought hit, I was painting, and it actually made me stop.

This is gratitude to me.

For the place where I’m at in life. For the people around me. For the skills I’ve grown into. I am truly grateful.

Not when I’m thinner. Not when I’m more successful. Not when I have an overflowing schedule of events.

Now. Right now.

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Let’s All Be Tony

Tony is my personal trainer and has been for a while

He asked me to write about him in these emails. Hi Tony! This is what you’re getting.

Tony is the kind of person who approaches life with joy. The guy is always happy. His exuberance can be contagious.

Today, I didn’t want to get up to go to the gym. 5:30 is pretty fucking early and some days the act of getting up is painful.

I drag my ass out of bed at that ungodly hour four days a week.

At my age, working out means putting future health in the bank. Once you hit forty, and I’m just a wee bit over that, exercise becomes something that prevents future dementia and immobility. If I’m going to age, I’m going to age as gracefully as possible.

And with muscles.

Tony’s attitude to work is inspiring to me and it’s something I’ve wanted to share but I’m trying to figure out how to write about him without making him sound perfect.

We’re all kintsugi. None of us are perfect.

Our beauty lies in our imperfections.

So what can I say that isn’t trite or meaningless?

When things get me down, or feel impossible, I try to flip them on their heads. Look for the good stuff because we invariably see what we focus on.

When I drag my ass out of bed on workout days, I try to focus on the fun I’m about to have.

There’s a person waiting for me, ready to cheer me on. It’s the biggest reason why I’ve been going to the gym for years.

Some days we need just one person to stand there and celebrate our victories.

That’s Tony for me. He celebrates, He challenges. He loves his job.

So even if the rest of my day is shit, and it usually isn’t, I always start out in the right frame of mind.

Go me!

And Tony? Thank you. Really.

The serious amounts of weights I have lifted have been because you truly care. The fact I can box is because you stand there and take my hits.

When I have you at my back, I know I can do anything.

We all need a Tony in our lives. And, where possible, we should be Tony for other people.

Because lifting each other up to achieve insane goals? It’s the best part of being alive.

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One Tweet Changed The Way I Looked At My Art

Objectivity in art is hard.

It’s something most artists struggle with, sometimes significantly, throughout their creative lives. Even once they’ve gotten to a point where they’re “good”.

I think about perception a lot especially as I paint. This is in relation to how I perceive my work versus how others do.

My perception will always be different from anyone else’s because I have a different journey with my work. I walk with it, in joy and fear and frustration from the moment the idea is conceived until I put the last coat of varnish on it.

When I look at my art, I see the moments where I struggled or felt joy or really felt the magic when the painting came together. With the way I paint, that magic is almost literally a BOOM! At least in my head.

I used to look at my finished art and only see the flaws.

So many artists do this and it’s a shame.

As creators, we have the privilege and honour of bringing our ideas to life. Once they’re alive, done, it’s important to release our negative feelings about the pieces.

It’s unfair to the creative process and can actually slow down creative growth.

After all, why create anything when it brings constant pain and even blows to the ego?

Sure there’s always room for growth. Always. But by being so harsh in viewing work, we’re not doing the final job of allowing others to enjoy our art.

One of the things that changed my objectivity about my own work was watching people’s reactions to it.

My year of travelling to Comiccons changed me profoundly, both personally and professionally. This was the greatest gift I got from that.

When I finish my art, varnish and/or frame, I release myself from the outcome. My journey is done. It’s not my job to be hard on both it and myself. It’s not.

And you know what? The reactions I get from people who see my work reinforce that. My job is to create and let go.

I will never be objective about my art. It’s impossible. But I no longer go through the pain of “it’s not good enough” that most artists go through.

Having said all that, any of you who follow me on Twitter will know that last week I had a moment while painting where I convinced myself I’d forgotten how to paint.

The pieces weren’t coming together. It was taking too long. I had panicked a bit about the size of the audience for these pieces. And bam! I was a mess.

I have no idea why I tweeted about it but I’m glad I did.

My followers and fans quickly jumped up and sent me so many incredible messages and encouraging tweets.

The messages everyone sent me, you are not alone, helped me get through the moment and push the paintings to completion.

With these paintings, objectivity is going to be impossible. When I look at them, all I see is the moment when I lived the very message I was painting.

And that’s not a bad thing at all.

Did you know?

I talk about and support mental illness because it matters. When I was growing up, people were shunned and hidden away to suffer alone. We are so lucky now that there’s support and dialogue.

There are days when I struggle. The very act of creating art brings me back into alignment. I’m a nicer person when I’ve painted. And I feel most like me when I’ve painted.

I’m part of the best fandom in the world. The Supernatural fandom. When someone trips, there are ten other people there to help them stand again. It’s humbling, awe inspiring and I’m so grateful to be part of it.

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How I Get Through The January Blahs

January is the Monday of the year for me.

I think it is for a lot of people. This time of year, is drab, cold and full of snow storms. It almost feels like spring and summer were just a mass hallucination.

The stores though, love them or hate them, already have gardening stuff on display.

And though it feels like they’re rushing things, it’s a good reminder that even these days don’t stick around long. The darkest days of the year.

The blahs.

I always get insomnia at this time of the year. And since my days start so early, it means that I’m walking around like a zombie but minus the motivation for brains.

Couple that with the blahs and it can be unpleasant.

The one thing that keeps me going is knowing that this too shall pass. Seasons change. Things happen. Seeds that are planted grow.

And of course, there’s always painting. For me, that’s being alive. Even if it’s winter outside, it’s spring in my heart and summer in my head.

If you aren’t already doing so, follow me on Facebook, twitter, tumblr or Instagram. I paint live regularly. Speed painting videos get posted to YouTube.

And if you’re in the market for some custom art, this is a great time to order a commission. Not only do you get your own, one of a kind painting, you get to see it come to life live.

How cool is that? Message me and let’s talk. There’s absolutely no obligation until we both decide to go ahead.

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Sometimes A Car Is Not A Car

There’s always a bit of stage fright for me with certain projects

I know these pieces are going to be seen by a lot of people, specific people, or hanging somewhere prestigious and I freeze.

And then I put them off because starting is difficult and I second guess myself on everything. It’s like a vortex of doom inside of my head. Just a mad swirl of all the ways I could approach a piece.

I’m doing that right now.

The only thing that will save my bacon is the fact that I can paint really fucking fast and with both hands at the same time. I swear that skill came from the amount of procrastination I’ve done in the past.

I’m getting ready to paint the ’67 Chevy Impala from Supernatural right now. It’s part of the series of paintings I’m doing for the Jacksonville Supernatural Convention (#jaxcon #spnjax) and www.IMAlive.org.

I’ve never painted a car before. And this car matters.

Of course, I know who’s going to be seeing my art: the fans that come to the con and the stars from Supernatural.

You wonder why I have stage fright.

And this car matters. She matters so much. She’s the heart and soul of the show.

I told my eldest daughter how I was feeling and she blew me off. “Pfffffffft! Mom, don’t think about painting a car, just paint the colours and the car will appear.”

My spawn is right.

It’s how I paint my portraits so how could I forget? Impressionism is a method of painting light. It’s the method I use to paint. That moment of BOOM! When a face appears is pure magic.

So I’m going to stop procrastinating, listen to the words of my kid, and just paint.

After all, I didn’t get to where I am today by letting fear make my choices for me.

Have a colourful and bright weekend!

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The 3 Things You Need To Know Before You Buy Art

One of the things I struggle with a lot is the inaccessibility of art.

Too many people raise it up and put it on an intellectual pedestal. Galleries become pompous. Artists put garbage out and then justify it.

But then we also have the reverse, which is dissing the art that maybe takes more effort to understand.

And both sides are inaccessible.

You’ll notice I do a mix of gallery shows and ComicCons. And a lot of internet. There’s a reason for my madness.

Galleries are useful to get art out into the public eye. But I cherry-pick my galleries because I want to be in ones that reflect my personality. Fun. Accessible. And know how to promote their artists.

My current fav is Illumine Gallery in St. Thomas, Ontario. Their openings are so popular, there’s usually a line outside the door on opening night.

And ComicCons are great. I had a blast doing my year of the con circuit which just finished in November. I learned so much. And definitely met people who would never enjoy visiting a gallery.

The internet is my main focus. It’s the great leveler. I can reach people I never otherwise would and I can do it from my studio.

I’ve made so many friends online, people who enrich and add their amazing selves to my life.

But most of all, the internet removes the inaccessibility from art.

A viewer doesn’t have to worry about appearing intellectual, or saying the wrong things about a piece. There’s no status involved in viewing. And you can view virtually anonymously.

When art becomes inaccessible, it’s also a struggle to know what to buy. People buy art that shows status rather than their choices and taste. The art becomes one more designer purse that costs a fortune, gives the wearer an artificial lift and isn’t big enough to hold a wallet.

I have a personal art collection. Some of it hangs in my studio, some in my home. And I’m going to share my tips for collecting art.

There’s just three.

Yup. It’s dead simple.

Ready?

  1. Buy the art that MOVES you.
  2. Buy the art that MAKES YOU FEEL something. Even if you think that something is silly.
  3. Buy the art that you LIKE.

Some of my art consists of framed calendar pictures. Just because I liked them and had no chance to get the originals. Some of my art pieces are cartoon-style portraits. Some are abstracts. Some are landscapes. Some are sculptures. A lot are prints.

None of it matches.

All of it means something to me.

Sure my own art has many layers of meaning. Some of which I never share. But if you want to buy art because you like Han Solo, go for it.

The meaning doesn’t matter, in the end, it’s the fact that it makes you feel something enough to buy it.

Have questions about collecting? Or want to talk about one of my paintings? Hit reply. I’m here to help and I’m definitely not on the pompous side of the art world.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep painting, because my art doesn’t make itself!

Did you know?

I now have public studio space in Dorchester, Ontario. My gallery is open by chance or appointment. Come and see my work in person.

Hate galleries? No problem. Mine is also full of toys. It’s like a one person ComicCon here. Bring your lightsaber and I’ll fight you!

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When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not

When I was growing up, sci-fi and other nerd pursuits were not considered mainstream.

Sure we had novels and some tv shows, but nothing like it is today.

I don’t recall a lot of sci-fi movies until Star Wars came out.

Who remembers the 1977 Star Wars? And I don’t mean seeing it later. I mean seeing it in the theatres.

I was little when it came out, and we were living in Quebec at the time, but I did get to see it in Montreal in English. I know I didn’t understand a lot. What I did get mattered: three unlikely people teamed up to fight the bad guy.

Okay, so I was 5 at the time. And what really hit home was Princess Leia. Not because she was a princess, because in 1977 princesses weren’t the big thing they are now. No, it was because she was a wise cracking, self-rescuing woman.

Stop for a second.

I’m not getting on a gender-based soap box here. Just a nod to the fact that my heroes in the 1970s were few and far between.

Wonder Woman. Bionic Woman. Sometimes Daisy Duke.

When I talk about the impact Star Wars had on me growing up, anyone who lived through it felt the same way.

When I encounter someone who saw it a decade or two later, the impact isn’t there. It’s just another sci-fi movie in a long line of sci-fi movies. Not especially special, even.

Prior to Star Wars, I was Andy from Toy Story. All about my six shooters, horses and being a cowboy.

Yes, I was that girl. The one that scrubbed up reluctantly and died every time I was forced into a dress.

A total embarrassment for a 1970s mom. Ha.

Cowboys were mainstream, at least where I was living just outside of Montreal. Hell, pirates were pretty okay too. No one played space stuff.

Not until Star Wars came out.

I’d go so far as to say that Star Wars started the mainstreaming of nerd and geek pursuits. It was cool to love Star Wars. So cool, there was roller disco to go with it.  And t-shirts. And all the merchandise.

There’s a lot to be grateful for when it comes to the impact Star Wars had on our culture and on pop culture in general. No one saw it coming. We’re still feeling the reverberations today.

And for me personally? Star Wars made me look up and out beyond my little girl dreams.

I drew, played, painted, and dreamed of outer space and going on adventures. I dreamed of travel and risk and friends as yet unmet.

And I know that so many other people did too.

I’m grateful to Star Wars for validating nerds everywhere. And I’m grateful for how it completely changed my path. Upward and onward.