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A Tribute to an Artist

Today I pause to pay tribute to a friend and artist who died on Saturday, November 22, 2014. Carla was not yet 60, still in the prime of her creative life. She had many artistic plans, hopes and dreams and things she wanted to accomplish. All that has been cut short and will now not be realized.

However, what Carla leaves behind may be even more important than what she had hoped to accomplish in the future. She was an active member of several local art clubs. But Carla was never a just a member. Rather she used her considerable stills in organization and financial expertise to take on the jobs such as treasurer and grant proposal chair for these art groups. Often jobs that are difficult to fill, especially among artists, Carla would make sure that all the details were in order and documented in a timely way. She really was on top of things and even had the knowledge to wisely invest club endowments, even through these days of low interest rates, so that the interest could be used for scholarships.

More than that, Carla knew how to be a good friend. She was interested in other people in general and in their artistic journey in particular. Not one to be an extravert, she still had a knack for seeking out newcomers; finding out about their art and making them feel welcome. She also had the ability to size up a difficult or controversial situation and bring kindness and gentleness to it.

Carla also leaves behind a sizable body of work, much of which was sold and some of which has been collected by the city in which she lived. Her art was something she truly loved to do and she poured herself into it. Her paintings speak of her love for bold colors, nature and landscape.

Her interest in and the energy she put into the Artist Run Studio she belonged to has helped to ground that endeavor and to establish it in the community as a valuable asset. Her relationships with many of the other artists were longstanding and important to her.

I will miss Carla so very much; for her art, for her contributions but mostly for the genuine caring person that she was. She knew how to love deeply and in return she was deeply loved.

Peace Can’t Be Taken for Granted

Today we remember those around the world who have fought in wars to protect our freedom here in Canada. My paternal grandfather, Jack Harrowby Harrow fought for England in WWI and my father, Peter Gorden Harrow fought for Canada in WWII. Both were fortunate to have returned home safely to live out their lives in Canada.

As I listen to the Remembrance Day Ceremonies on the radio I think about the many Canadian War Artists who documented the various wars Canada has participated in. I want to highlight two such artists mostly because both have died within the last two year.

Molly Lamb Bobak was born in 1922 and died just this year (2014) in March. She was a Canadian teacher, writer, print maker and oil and watercolour painter. She joined the Canadian Women’s Army Corp (CWAC) in 1942 and became the first Canadian woman appointed as official war-artist and sent overseas to document Canada’s war effort, particularly the work of the CWAC. She served in that role from 1945 to 1946. Molly with her new husband, the artist Bruno Bobak, returned to Canada after the war and taught part-time at the Vancouver School of Art and the University of British Columbia as she raised her family. In 1960 she moved with her family to Fredericton, NB where she continued to teach and paint. Of the 32 official war artists in World War II, she was the last surviving member.

David Alexander Colville was born in 1920 in Toronto, ON. The family later lived in St. Catharines, and then Amherst, NS. In 1942 he enlisted in the Canadian Army in the infantry. He painted in Yorkshire and took part in the Royal Canadian Navy’s landings in southern France. Because he was a fine-arts student, he was made a war artist in May 1944. After the war Colville did a painting call “Infantry at Nilmegen” which represents a platoon of Canadian Soldiers marching along both sides of a road. It is now in the Canadian War Museum. In the painting Colville portrays both heroism and enduring persistence in the difficult conditions of war which included constant danger. The face of the first man in the painting is a portrait of Colville’s father. Alex Colville died in July 2013 in his home in Wolfville, NS at the age of 92. He was the second last surviving member of the 32 official war artists in WWII.

The concept of being a war artist seems so very outdated today in our world of twitter and social media where photos and commentary on world events are broadcast immediately around the world into our phones and tablets. Yet the paintings done by these war artists are an important part of our history and often the viewer connects with the events portrayed in paintings in a very emotional way.

Today we celebrate the relative peace we have enjoyed in Canada over the last 70 years. Neither my husband nor my son haven been called to fight in a war on behalf of Canada. But many of our Canadian soldiers have continued to fight on our behalf and some have given their lives for our freedom. Today may we celebrate peace and remember that peace is not a given in our lives. Peace can’t be taken for granted.

Get Started Today!

This little Downy Woodpecker stopped by our suet feeder at our lake property.

This little Downy Woodpecker stopped by our suet feeder at our lake property.

As a Creativity Coach I help artists get back to doing the things they love to do.  If you are not doing your creative practice regularly you might try experimenting with what it feels like to do so. Here are some ideas to help you get started.

  • Even though you are busy, making a small commitment, even just 30 minutes three times a week, can have a huge impact on what you create and how your feel.
  • First thing in the morning is a great time but anytime that works for you is fine. Just make sure you schedule it into your day timer or smart phone. It would be even better if you set an alarm to remind yourself that it is time to stop and do your creative practice. And then, no excuses!
  • If you haven’t done your creative practice for a while, don’t be surprised if you have to do some preparation, cleaning up your work space and getting out supplies. Maybe you can do that the evening before so you are ready to do your creative practice at the time you have scheduled. You are less likely to be frustrated if you can jump right into your work.
  • Jump right into the hard part. If you have been putting off your creative practice because you are stumped or have come to a difficult part, now is the time to take the bull by the horns. All you have in front of you is a problem to be solved. If you do something so that you can’t salvage the work, is that any worse than never finishing the work? I don’t think so.
  • If you really mess things up, try to figure out what you learned from your errors. As Tall-Ben-Shahar says in his Positive Psychology course at Harvard, ”Learn to Fail or Fail to Learn”.
  • Most of all have FUN. Don’t take the work too seriously or yourself too seriously.
  • And get started TODAY!


Nurture Your Creativity!

Nurture Yourself!


It Makes All the Difference in my Day

One of many reference photos for paintings I took in Penticton, BC in May.

I’ve been really busy these last two months. I’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks that I have been feeling dissatisfied with my life. I really don’t like rushing from one activity to the next without time to pause and reflect. I’ve even been doing stuff I like to do, like babysitting my granddaughter, working on a course for CCA certification, applying for grants, taking in the fall harvest, visiting my Mom in Calgary; things like that. What has really been missing is my creative practice. I still did some framing and getting ready for a show but I wasn’t doing my painting regularly.

Last Saturday I took myself to a coffee shop to do some writing. I found myself wandering off into my dissatisfaction and took some time to figure out what was really bothering me. Once I had identified the problem I also recognized that this was all under my control. So I set aside time this week to work on a painting first thing each morning, before I get busy with all the other things I am doing. No matter how many things I had on my to-do list, I committed to doing my creative practice first thing. And what a difference it makes in my day!

To be engaged in the creative process and lose myself in the painting and what it needs is refreshing and emotionally satisfying. Once I have painted for a while, I feel happy and throughout the day continue to engage with the painting at times when I am in my studio, looking at it from different angles and distances, and analyzing what needs to be done next. Even though I might not get back to actually painting that day, knowing I will be able to the next morning leaves me with a feeling that all is well.

Somehow, once I have painted, the rest of the day falls into place and I feel like I accomplish more because I am more energized. Painting helps me slow down and be less focused on outcome and more focused on the moment by moment process of each activity I am involved in. Energy and focus is a great combination to bring into the necessary activities of the day.

If you are not doing your creative practice regularly you might try experimenting with what it feels like to do so. I’ll give you some tips on how to get started in my next blog post.


Nurture Your Creativity!

Nurture Yourself!

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