Chickadee-dee-dee

It’s the first bird call you learn when you’re raised in Dorion and your Mom is an avid birdwatcher. Chickadees are super-cute and they’re very common in our area. If you have a bird feeder, they’re often the first ones to show up & remind you to stick to your feeding routine.

And they’re brave.

If you get the chance to walk through a trail this winter, bring some bird seeds with you in case there are hungry chickadees around. Here in Red Rock, the best place to feed chickadees is on a trail called Lloyd’s Lookout, which is exciting – especially if you bring kids with you (and the best way to enjoy watching kids stay still with a handful of bird seeds — and to try to remain still when the first bird lands on their hand).

My friend Susan and I were chatting about these brave birds when she visited last summer. She loved the idea of feeding chickadees so much that she might work it into a book club activity in the new year, which is exciting because winter is tough! If you read my last post, you’ll know how I struggle with the season. It really helps to look forward to some fun activities.

So, to help her prepare, I thought it would be fun to make a little chickadee painting.

I found an adorable picture of a chickadee in my files from last winter and got a few supplies ready…

Then, instead of taking pictures of my progress, I took short videos. If the book club (& monthly activity) idea is a go, I want to be prepared!

As an extra challenge, I used TikTok to combine the videos & make something shareable:

Not too bad for a TikTok beginner, right?

And the little painting is adorable. It’ll make a great Christmas gift for my Mom.

Do you feed chickadees? Do you enjoy bird watching?

Tell me about it in the comments.

xo

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Winter is Coming…

It is a season I dread. The colder temps chill me to the bone and winter driving is something I avoid at all costs. But here in Canada, especially Northwestern Ontario, winter is unavoidable. We have four seasons, even though the magnet on my fridge divides them into two: winter and bugs.

Canadians are known for winter – it’s almost a source of pride when we talk about the weather with anyone who doesn’t live in our area. Sometimes it almost becomes a game of one-upmanship. For example, I scoff (politely, of course) at the feeble attempts of friends in Southern Ontario who post a picture of their outdoor thermometer. Mine is always colder. If it’s not, I might tell them how we’re living in the tropics up here.

But deep down, I shudder when I hear “wind chill” on the radio weather update. When the cold hits, and stays, I’m not a cheery person. Quite the opposite. But really, if we have colder weather half of the year, it’s not healthy to be grumpy about it so I have to figure out a way to enjoy our colder, shorter days.

Yesterday, I wrote on the back of two little watercolour paintings I made into postcards. (I love snail mail. Getting a real letter in the mail has always excited me, and sending letters makes me equally as happy because I hope the other person gets excited too)

Then I chose to sit down and begin another little painting. I scrolled through my saved posts and pictures, found a beautiful photo taken by Blair Wright, and got my supplies ready. I’m beginning to love this ritual, which usually includes lighting a candle and pouring a cup of tea or a glass of wine.

As the light began to fade, I chose to keep painting. I couldn’t see the details as well and I began to question some of the colours I mixed but it didn’t matter. It felt wonderful. The candlelight provided a soothing glow and there was a spark of excitement in this little bit of risk-taking.

This morning, I got a better look at the final product and took it outside just because the fall colours would contrast with our leafless backyard.

I love it.

For so many reasons. The scene depicts Ouimet Canyon, which is in Dorion – my home town. I love the mix of fall colours and the strong contrast of shadows only seen on very sunny days. And of course, I love it because it was so fun to make. It holds a memory of a beautiful, calm evening sitting at my table, painting by candlelight.

It makes me wonder if this might be one way to make happiness in winter. Not find happiness, but make happiness.

I pulled out my copy of The Little Book of Hygge, which seems like the healthiest way to welcome the winter season. It’s also a good time to stock up on candles and cozy socks and sweaters.

Next step: finding a way to get outside in the winter and enjoy it.

How do you make happiness in the winter?

xo

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Pixels, Patience and Practice

If you’re going to get better at something, it helps if you actually like it.

Most people don’t want to spend the time or energy to get something “just right”.

But if it’s something I like — or need — that’s a different story. And yes, there is a definite difference between doing something if you like it vs. needing it. Which is basically where I’m at.

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a children’s book for quite some time and since I’m off work for a bit, it makes sense to use my extra time productively.

The writing is fun for me – I enjoy making little story-poems, and I’m in the process of making one about Cooper. Our family adopted Cooper and his sister Chloe from the Thunder Bay Humane Society in 2017 and we love them dearly.

Every pet owner probably thinks their pet is the cutest, the funniest or the quirkiest – which is always true – and I think it’s safe to say that we all learned a lot more about our pets throughout the pandemic. We spent a lot more time with them and our relationships deepened. (our pets sure are special to us, aren’t they?)

Like any proud pet parent, I think Cooper would make a great character for my children’s book.

And like anyone who is new to something, I’m quickly discovering that developing this book involves more steps than I thought. I’m determined to figure it out, but it’s taking more time than I thought — especially the illustrations.

Ugh. I’m an artist, so this is extremely frustrating – and probably a good ego check.

Seriously – some of my attempts make me question my abilities as a creative person. Take a look at these sketches:

The first was made using Google Keep, and the second & third were made using Procreate. They’re very basic sketches to help me learn some basic steps but they’re nothing like what I’d like to see in my book.

My frustration was almost enough to make me give up, but I decided to vent to two former students whose skills with Procreate are crazy-good. They always had patience for working with digital art and even though they’re not my students any more, we keep in touch and I am so proud when I see them sharing their work.

They gave some awesome tips and lots of encouragement. (I loved this role-reversal)

So, like a kid wearing superhero underpants, I set out to do what I needed to do.

I found a tutorial on YouTube. Actually two – but this one helped me take my first steps. The best thing about learning from videos is having the ability to watch, re-watch, pause and work at your own pace:

You’d think creating a cartoonized image of your pet would be easy. Cartoons look simple, right?

I thought so too. But we’re wrong.

It takes some serious skill.

Freezing rain & snow outside = the perfect day to stay inside & avoid doing laundry.

Learning takes time. Our brains need time and repetition to absorb stuff. And practice.

It probably wouldn’t hurt if I had better equipment. I think I’ve accepted the fact that I need a stylus because using my finger to do all this kind-of sucks.

I also have a 4th generation iPad. It’s fine for a beginner like me, but holy smokes it’s an antique compared with what’s available now.

From what you see on this video (Procreate gives you the option of saving a video of your work), you’d think it didn’t take much time to create. But it did. It took hours.

I’m satisfied with my progress, but I’m hoping to get better.

My goal is to make images that are good enough for a kids book so maybe it’s ok that they’re not perfect. But still, I’d like people to enjoy looking at them and I’d really like to move beyond static pictures so I can show Cooper with some expressions.

If you have advice, please share. I’d appreciate it!

🙂

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Can Art Make a Difference?

I sure hope so.

This year, I’m using my art to raise funds for two hospitals in the region. It’s my way of doing something with my gift to help others.

It’s also a way to remember Aggie.

Maybe this could be my take on form vs. function. I’ve never really been the kind of artist to create “art for art’s sake”. I just express how I feel through my art, and landscapes are the best way I can do this.

I’ve often thought about how cool it would be to be avant-garde, edgy, cerebral but it isn’t me.

When I go hiking, I feel connected with nature. If there is a “Mother Nature”, I feel like she gets me. It’s a bit like the love of a pet – they accept you and love you deeply for all that you are. But being in nature is taking it on a deeper level – like you’re part of something bigger so everything you feel is interconnected. Does that make sense?

That’s why I create. It’s my way to connect with something bigger than myself; something that understands me. Some people feel like it’s a form of meditation and I wouldn’t disagree. If you’ve watched Soul, you’ll understand what I mean.

So I choose to use all these good vibes to give back to my community.

I’m eternally grateful for the amazing health care we have in our region. We’re not close to any really large cities – Thunder Bay is the largest city in the area, and the population is about 120 000. Other than that, we’re a mix of much smaller communities that aren’t usually above a few thousand.

And yet, we have such caring and dedicated health care professionals that are there for us when we need them.

When Aggie transitioned into palliative care at the Nipigon Hospital, I was so grateful for the welcoming and warm environment filled with furniture and food that made it feel like a home for Aggie and her family. If there’s a way I can provide more funds to help them buy whatever they need for anyone else who needs to stay with a loved one in the hospital, that would be something I could be proud of.

Head to my website or send me an email: colleen@colleenrose.ca if you’d like to buy a print.

We’ll do some good together.

xo

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Kids’ Easels, Part 2

Part 1 was a good start, but if you’re a parent and you’re trying to make a decision, you need more details!

Let’s take a look:

This post will focus on just one thing: kids’ easels.

I’m a parent, an artist and a teacher. There was no way my kids could possibly escape having art in their lives, so I’ve acquired a fair bit of supplies throughout the years. Now that my kids are teens, I can look back with a bit of satisfaction knowing that every moment of creativity counts. It helps them focus, relax and express themselves.

It also gave us countless hours of time to talk about what they were creating, what it felt like, what stories they were imagining, and even more importantly, time slowed down.

To be honest, you don’t need an easel. If your kiddo is creative, that can happen anywhere ~ for us, our dining room table is used *all the time* for stuff like this. So don’t feel pressured to get an easel. Creativity isn’t limited by the lack of an easel.

If you do want an easel and you have the space for it (luckily most of them fold up nicely for better storage when you’re not using them), then I’ll share the reasons why I’ve enjoyed ours.

Ally’s easel was a Christmas gift for her when she was two years old. She had a relatively new baby brother and we felt it was important for her to have something special – and the teacher/artist mom also wanted the gift to be a great learning tool because I’m a geek. (or nerd? I always get those mixed up)

What I liked about this easel:

  • sturdiness (because kids)
  • little shelves to hold supplies (organization plus prevention of spills)
  • a chalkboard on one side & a clip to hold paper on the other side

These criteria worked for me when I bought it and I think they’ll help you when you get your easel too.

If you’re looking for recommendations, here are a few!

An easel isn’t a necessity – you can be creative anywhere, any way you like.

But, sometimes it helps to have a dedicated spot for all your stuff.

And, as I learned a few times, an easel also helps bigger artists like me to keep things in proportion rather than accidentally skewing the measurements. (see below. oops)

xo

*note: some of the links are affiliate links, meaning I make a small commission if you purchase the items. If you do, thanks!

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Get Your Crayons Ready

…or pencil crayons, markers, maybe even paints? If you like colouring or you’re willing to give it a go, I created my first colouring page and I’d love it if you downloaded a copy. It’ll cost you a dollar, so you’ll have to double-check your budget first. If it’s a go, hop over to my Etsy page and get your downloadable file.

I loved creating the original painting this summer; the smooth rocks and earthy hues combined with the appearance of a moonlit scene make it feel calming and restorative. So I picked up my outdated-but-still-functioning iPad and opened up Procreate.

The app allows you to use layers on top of images, which helps keep proportions correct. And, it’s simple enough for me to use, unlike Photoshop – a program I feel I should know how to use because I’m an artist but I don’t, so I feel guilty and avoid it altogether.

Hopefully a few people get the file and set aside a little chunk of time to get creative. This morning, I did just that, and it helped me start my day so much better than I had planned. I actually didn’t have a plan – but after seeing Doug Peterson‘s video that announced a segment on VoicEd Radio, I quickly gathered my supplies so I could listen and paint. For some reason, listening to Doug and Stephen chat on this show is relaxing and comforting. I love listening to their conversations and I learn a lot about what’s going on around the province.

Two kind-of funny frustrations about these pictures:

  • I couldn’t find my cute washi tape so I had to grab the ugly painters tape to hold down the watercolour paper… then I ran out of the ugly painters tape so I was forced to hold down the rest of the paper using scotch tape which didn’t even match the painters tape.
  • In my rush, I accidentally oriented the card the wrong way so now it opens backwards.

I don’t think Doug will mind. Since he’s the reason I sat myself down and enjoyed a lovely creative morning, I’m sending the card to him in the mail.

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Aggie

This past week, someone very special passed away. Her name was Agnes, but to us, she was always Aggie.

We met Aggie at work, where she was a phenomenal Education Assistant – the kind of person you hoped would be in your classroom because of her positive energy and amazing attitude. Students who worked with her believed they could do what they needed to do, even if they struggled. She had a way of putting things in perspective so they didn’t seem so overwhelming. And with Aggie by your side, you felt you could do anything.

That’s why it meant so much to us when we started a family – we were typical first-time parents: anxious, unsure of ourselves, and looking very much like a couple of deer-in-the-headlights whenever our baby would cry. Aggie, with her endless compassion, took pity on us (although she would never say it this way), and embraced our family with so much love. She was the first person to watch Alison when she was a baby, which became the first of many times my children would spend time with her.

She and her husband Tom became surrogate grandparents to Ally and Ethan, always a phone call away – when the kids were sick, when we needed advice, when there was a birthday party, when we were celebrating a milestone, when it was a good day to feed the chickadees up the Lloyd’s Lookout trail, when the kids were upset and needed to talk through a problem… over the years, the list became endless. Because family is like that. Aggie proved that you didn’t need to be related by blood to be family.

We were devastated when we learned that Aggie had cancer. The cruel disease didn’t discriminate in any way, and there are no adequate words to describe how we feel about its ability to target someone so precious.

Now that she’s gone, the only way I can work through my grief is to imagine what Aggie might do. And she was a doer. She was constantly volunteering, giving back, helping others, and proving that love is action. So I will try to follow in her footsteps using the skills I have and hope that it is enough to bring some light to share with others.

Last year, Aggie’s birthday provided my family with an opportunity to donate funds from studio sales to the Northern Cancer Fund through the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation. It meant so much for us to know that Aggie was receiving such great care, thanks to the work they do.

This year, 50% of my studio sales will be donated to healthcare in Aggie’s honour. 25% will be donated to the Northern Cancer Fund, and 25% will be donated to the Palliative Care Unit at Nipigon District Memorial Hospital. I’m so grateful that we have access to such excellent care in our region, and I hope that I can contribute in a small way.

If you’d like to purchase a print, please visit my website at https://www.colleenrose.ca/shop .

If it’s easier for you to leave me a comment or email me: colleen@colleenrose.ca , I’ll help you with your purchase.

On December 25th, I will donate 50% of the proceeds to our area hospitals.

I hope that Aggie’s family knows how much we’ve loved her, and we are so grateful that she was a part of our lives. She was our Mary Poppins.

She taught me how to love better.

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A Wish List for Young Artists, Part 1

I thought that most people think in pictures like me, but apparently this isn’t true! For me, everything is visual. When you speak to me, I imagine what something looks like — even if you’re giving me directions to go somewhere.

Doodling helps me focus, hand-writing notes helps me remember (this helped in school because I could remember what the notes looked like), and creating helps me feel much better.

So I thought I’d share a few gift ideas for your creative kiddos, whether they’re little artists or they’re beginning to dive deeper into the world of expressing themselves.

Wish List Item #1:

An Easel!

The type of easel you want will depend on a few things: how young your artist is, how much space you have, what supplies they will use, and where you plan to use your easel.

  • If you have a young artist, I’d recommend the Standing Easel by Melissa & Doug. My children enjoyed their standing easel for years, but theirs was made from plastic while this one is made from better materials and it folds up beautifully! *Tip: Rather than clipping paper to the easel, buy a roll of paper to use on the locking paper roll holder.
  • If your artist is a bit older, they will love this Painting Set, which comes with a *ton* of art supplies too! This would have been on my wish list if it had been available in the Sears catalog when I was a kid – but at least I can recommend it for other young artists.
  • A sturdier easel is a dream for artists who are truly creative. Like me, they’re happiest when they’re lost in the world of art and need something they can depend on to support some serious work. This easel is similar to the one in my own studio, it’s not too heavy, it can move around on wheels and it can fold up for easy storage.

Let me know about the young artists in your life. I’d love to know what they’re creating!

Stay tuned as I work on Part 2…

Note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that I will make a small commission if you purchase products after clicking the links. If you do, thanks!

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Come and Visit Me in My Studio

*cue the cheesy commercial intro from somewhere in ’80s TV history

Colleen casually turns around and acts surprised to see a film crew in her face and begins to talk to the world on the other side of the lens

“Oh hello there! I was just tidying my studio and getting ready for my day as an artist. Let’s see what we’re going to do today!”

Now I’m imagining a variety of little fun segments, a little mix of Mr. Dressup and Romper Room. Because why not? They made me happy when I was a kid so I’m pretty sure they’d make me happy now. Watch the clips I’ve linked. I guarantee they’ll make you happy too. (do it)

There’s something really important about remembering our childhood selves. Because who we were is still inside. Sounds weird, but it’s really true. And we still need to feel excitement, wonder and love. These are not sappy and childish things. We need them to remember that life is beautiful.

Just because we’ve grown our physical bodies doesn’t mean we have to be dragged down by the things that drain us. I’m saying this out loud because I’ve been drained lately. Officially bummed out. I’m dealing with some health challenges that have left me stressed, sometimes in pain, sometimes sleepless… sometimes life just sucks.

The list of things that kind-of suck gets too long for my liking. Am I sticking to my budget? Do I need to book another appointment? Do I know what meals are ahead for the week? Will I have the energy to do the chores around the house or will I need to ask for help? How are my kids doing? Will they be able to talk through their problems with me? …etc., etc. …

You know what’s also weird about being a kid? We couldn’t wait to grow up!

WTF?

It’s true! We looked up to the kids who were older than us and wanted to be like them. They were so much cooler than us, weren’t they? My elementary school had two levels to it – grades 1, 2 and 3 were on the first floor and grades 4 through 7 were on the upper level (we didn’t have grade 8 – we were bussed to Red Rock from Dorion that year). When my friends and I were in grade 3, we couldn’t wait to be in grade 4 because then we’d be in “high school”. Weren’t we clever? Get it? “High” school? Kid humour.

But that’s the thing. We were little, things were simple and we took joy in stupid things.

So take a break from being an adult. Even if it’s just for a few seconds ok?

You were awkward. Your clothes were cringy. Your Mom cut your hair. So what?

“Welcome to my studio, boys and girls! Today, I will be packing up prints of my paintings and sending them in the mail! Isn’t that exciting? It sure is! I love sending out packages to people because it makes them so happy. Do you like to send mail? Do you write letters to people? It’s fun, and it always makes them smile. What would you say in your letter?”

Can you guess where this came from?

Today, do me a favour. I know your adult list is long. But it’ll always be long.

Schedule 5 minutes to do something for your childhood self. They’re inside you and they’re looking for something kind-of cool. Maybe something stupid, because stupid is funny. They like a good laugh.

Set a timer. Kids like timers.

I’m getting ready to carve pumpkins with my kids who are 16 and 18. Because they still need to feel like kids too. And it makes me super happy. I need some happiness and so do they – and so do you.

xo

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The Audacity

I am not a natural writer. I am a natural artist.

But when I began blogging, I discovered that writing helped me think through my ideas in a way that came more naturally than speaking. This meant a lot to me; I could take time to formulate ideas, I wouldn’t feel awkward for taking time to think of the right words or question social interactions during a conversation. Lovely!

I am fascinated by words that express ideas that might otherwise take time to explain. One of those words is audacity. I was familiar with the word, but it didn’t occur that it could be a powerful word until I read Barack Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope. It’s been a few years since I enjoyed the author’s (can I say “Barack’s” or “Mr. Obama’s”?) book, but the word popped up again while I was listening to a podcast and it reminded me of my affection for the way we can use language to fully realize an idea and share it with others.

The word has a rebellious ring to it, doesn’t it? It makes me think of daring to do something, but with more of an edge to it. How dare you…?

I like it. The edginess of it pulls at me. Compels me. Do it. Do that thing you truly want to do. That thing that you’d regret not doing if you were dying.

It challenges us to look past the routine, the mundane, the day-to-day tasks that occupy our time and our space. It encourages us to think about the things that mean more to us but take for granted — those little dreams that we think we don’t have time for, the skills for, etc., etc…

Can we meet that challenge? What would it look like if you had the audacity to do what you wanted to do? What you were meant to do? Would your life look any different? How?

Have you always had ideas that would make a really great book but you never wrote any of them down? Do you spend your time scrolling through social media for hours without realizing it, knowing full well that your time could be spent doing something that would make you happier? Are you really good at procrastinating because there’s always something important to do rather than what you’d really love to begin (look at that sewing machine that’s just begging to be used… what about those running shoes that would love to go for a walk… or your banking app that keeps telling you that you could start a savings account to help you plan your first big trip)?

I see you. I am you.

Breathe with me. Sit up straight. Shoulders back. Jaw unclenched. Take a slow, deep breath all the way in… slowly let it out.

You just did a thing. A little step for you. And you can take another one.

What is the next little step that will get you closer to your goal? Your dream? That thing you’ve been putting off? My steps will look very different than your steps. My steps include putting more paint on my palette, choosing a good playlist, sitting my butt down on my stool and putting that paint on my canvas. But sometimes it’s learning how to put something up for sale on my website, struggling with tech steps that I’m unfamiliar with, clicking “contact us” and chatting with the help desk until my new skill starts to magically appear in my brain.

These steps are hard sometimes. But I don’t regret one of them. Every step I take to becoming the artist I’ve hoped to be means the world to me. I want you to feel the same way.

Tell me about your steps. I’m not joking. Think about that one little thing you know you can do and do it. Leave me a comment or email me (colleen@colleenrose.ca).

These little choices make our lives everything we need them to be.

How dare you?

The audacity!

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