Have you struggled with how to create a vision board that works? Do you want to create a vision board that not only reflects your desires and goals, but also helps you identify some steps so you can start working on those goals? 

I've been making vision boards for a few years now, and recently came across a unique visioning technique that enhances the vision board, allowing us to dig even deeper than before and to follow our heart's desire. This technique is based on the work of Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D., ATR, an art therapist and author, from her book Visioning:Ten Steps to Designing the Life of Your Dreams

There were 4 of us following her process to make our vision boards for 2019. While there is so much more information in her book, the highlights are below. I recommend getting a copy of her book to create your own vision board. 

It starts with journaling

You may already do some journaling when you create your vision board, and before sorting through magazines and other images. This idea isn't new. The addition of journaling helps us gain insight into our goals and clarity on the directions we wish to pursue. In this visioning process, journaling is done with specific outcomes in mind. And the key is to use the journaling technique she discusses in her book. 

The powerful technique for journaling that actually works

You'll need a notebook that will become your Creative Journal - any size or style is fine - and several coloured markers for writing. Throughout each step, you write out the question or exercise in your journal.  

The key is to then write the answers with a different coloured pen and with the non-dominant hand!

This non-dominant hand writing taps into our true inner self, our unconscious mind, feelings, intuitions, inner child and dreams, sometimes even leading us to 'aha' moments. In addition to Dr. Capacchione's observations of others using this technique, neurologists have also shown that use of the non-dominant hand accesses the right hemisphere of the brain where our creative and image centres exist. 

This style of journaling is not new to me. I had learned about and tried it several years ago while pursuing a certificate in Introduction to Expressive Arts Therapies. But I had not thought of using this technique with the vision board process.Having now tried it, I can say that, yes, this technique does facilitate the creation of a vision board that actually works! 

Yes it can be slow and awkward to write or print this way. The trick is to write the same way you would with your dominant hand, e.g. using the same fingers and gripping the pen with the same tightness or looseness. 

And it's important to not think about what you should write, but to let the words flow from the unconscious. If the words don't come easily at first, start by writing blah blah blah; the brain should then kick in and answers begin to come

The Visioning and Vision Board Process:

While Dr. Capacchione breaks down the Visioning process into 10 steps, I have grouped them differently here to focus primarily on the journaling side of the process and share the benefits our group experienced throughout this process.

- Establish a focus phrase or theme

The first step in the creation of your vision board is to journal with your non-dominant hand about what you want for the coming year, and to come up with a phrase or theme that reflects your desired direction. This phrase becomes the focus for your vision board. 

With this phrase now established (although a bit of word-smithing may happen later on), you can begin to find and cut out images and words from magazines, old books, photographs, ephemera and so on that fit your focus. Any pictures or words you are drawn to that do not seem relevant at this point should be put aside to explore later on. When you feel you have enough, look for connections between the words and pictures. You may find some words work well together, or match up well with an image. And by finding such groupings, a deeper meaning may be revealed that you had not thought of earlier.

- Silence that inner critic

That annoying inner critic can rear its head during this kind of process, telling us that we shouldn't bother pursuing our goals, that the plan will never work, we don't deserve it, yadda yadda yadda. 

Non-dominant hand journaling can be very effective at stopping that voice in its tracks, snuffing it out, telling it to get out of our way, that it is wrong.- and to provide reinforcement that we have the strengths and desire we need to achieve our goals and that we are on the right path. 

- Journal about the images

Lay out the images and words on your vision board until you are pleased with the arrangement. Then begin to journal, again with your non-dominant hand, about each image, including any you had put aside. 

I was pleasantly surprised at the meanings and metaphors that were surfacing for each image using this journaling technique. Ideas and steps I could take were coming to mind and that I had not thought of until that point. I was also able to find connections to the images I had put aside, those images I was attracted to but had thought did not fit. These were added to my board. 

And the ideas coming from the pictures covered not just steps to reach my goals, but also related to support networks, how-to's, new ideas, strengths that align with my goals, and reinforcement to be open to what was being presented to me. 

This is powerful stuff!  

- Plan some steps to meet your goals

The last journaling task, after gluing the images and words onto the board, is to pretend you are in the future, 6 months or a year from now, and that you have achieved or are well on your way to achieving your goals. Then write the story from this future time - again in your non-dominant hand - answering questions about where things happened, who provided help, what you did, how you felt, how things have changed, challenges you overcame, what you learned. Not only can you see that what you are pursuing is possible, you will also have steps laid out so you can begin your journey.

Some closing thoughts 

I came away with a clear plan for the first half of 2019. And more than a little excited as I don't think I would have been able to create this plan from my board without this journaling technique.

The others in the group also stated they were going much deeper than when creating previous vision boards. That can be a scary process at times, not always within our comfort levels. By working in a small supportive group, we offered each other encouragement and reinforcement. And there were a few 'aha' moments along the way!

While working on finding images is the fun part, taking the time to put the right pieces into place ensures we each have a vision board that works, and a much more achievable plan for this coming year.

I plan to write more about this journaling technique in a future blog post, as I continue to explore Dr. Capacchione's research and her suggested exercises and activities. Simply fascinating I think.

Related post: Annual Theme? Or Vision Board?


Do you set an annual theme? Or make a vision board? Or maybe both?

I started using an annual theme as a tool a few years back to keep sight of the direction I wanted to go in. The theme can cover personal quests, family, work, creativity, hobbies, health, bucket list, financial, and more, essentially whatever areas you feel you need or want to work on. It can cover all of these or a few or just one area.

The theme does not identify a specific goal such as "lose weight" but is more general in nature. For example "reduce" could cover a number of areas you wish to work on: losing weight, reducing spending, getting rid of clutter, watching less t.v., and so on. 

Discovering your theme for the year is usually done after setting goals or creating a vision board, but for some there could already be a theme you’ve been working towards that you have intuitively figured out. And not all of us follow the calendar year to set or re-set a theme. I seem to update mine about every 8 months or so. 

As you set goals for the year or make a vision board, a theme starts to emerge – one of mine from a few years ago was “connecting” and for another was "building successes". This latter one was not just about, well, building successes, but also about creating three dimensional fibre art buildings for an art exhibition, the first time I had worked in 3D.  Other people have identified intentions and themes such as “slow down”, “network”, “healing”. Usually one word or a short phrase is all that is needed. 

Vision boards are a process to help us create the life we want, a visual representation that we see daily to remind us of the directions we wish to pursue and the goals we set. Just like the theme, it can cover many areas or a key goal or purpose. It's an intuitive process, unlike the theme that describes a connection among the areas we wish to work on. Thinking in pictures can be a very successful way to keep on track, a form of visual journalling or storyboard, speaking to us in images and symbols. Athletes are a great example of people who use visualization techniques to pursue their goals and achieve success. 

Goals identified on a vision board can be big ticket items, but could also be steps that you wish to take toward something bigger, leaving us feeling less overwhelmed. It can be a good way to get started on something new: a workshop you want to take, a new exercise to try, connecting with family every Sunday - things that are of significance to you.

Creating the vision board helps us dig a bit deeper to see what our heart desires. By working with images, we are accessing our dreams and creative side, not just our logical brain to discover what we need to focus on.

I've been making vision boards for a few years now, and recently came across a very different way to create a board, digging even deeper than before. I think this new vision board will fit perfectly with identifying a theme for the upcoming months.  

I will share this new vision board process in a future blog post, once my board is complete and with some feedback from others who are using the same process. It's a process I already think is better and I'm excited to see how my board turns out. 

Do you set themes or create vision boards? I'd love to hear from you.


Craft show and bazaar season is upon us. Do you find you get overwhelmed with all there is to see? Are some shows too big with too many sellers? Is it hard to get to see some areas due to the crowds? And there are often multiple sales close together in one day - craft, flea markets, farmers markets, bazaars, rummage sales, food sales, art, direct sales, and on the list goes. 

It's easy for mental fatigue to set in when there is too much to see - a seemingly infinite amount of goodies in front of us. We can't possibly take it all in. Whether you're at the sales to buy goods or find bargains, or just to be inspired and get new ideas and replenish your creative reserves, we can quickly become over-saturated by the plethora of offerings. Our concentration wavers. We drown in details. We make poor buying decisions.

So how do we get around this type of fatigue that can set in at these shows & sales? Try this hack for both recovery and to see what you missed the first time: 

  1. Take a break. This may seem obvious, but taking some time to clear the mind helps make room to absorb more information. Write down or record some notes so you don't have to keep juggling all those thoughts. Then take a walk (outside is best if possible), drink some water to stay hydrated, eat a snack if you're feeling hungry. When you're ready, go back in.
  2. You should be feeling refreshed, but this time, go around the room & rows in the opposite direction. You'll see everything from a different perspective and, like a veil lifting, will be able to take in details you didn't absorb on the first go around. Your eyes and senses will open again. 
My recent trip to the Toronto area is proof-positive. The visit was to see an exhibition of fibre art, my goals were to see the works of the international artists, to be inspired, to perhaps see a few techniques what would help with my own work. 

Part way through the visit, however, we were feeling overwhelmed. We were no longer absorbing what we were seeing. Information overload was setting in. There were over 300 artworks, each needing some time to see not just the big picture, but also their intricate and often sophisticated details.

A lunch break and time to get away definitely helped. But seeing the works in the reverse order was key, or the fatigue would set in at the same point as the previous visit. By seeing the latter half of the show with fresh eyes, we were able to absorb more details than if we had started at the same spot from earlier in the day.  

Give this a try next time you're at all these shows, indeed there are lots of places where this hack could help. And if you're a seller, this idea is worth sharing or visitors may just be walking by your booth with eyes glazed over....


"The next thing I knew, I was buying notebooks, the cheap student kind, and filling them with what I thought of as clues, although at this point I had no idea what the mystery was, just that something had shifted inside me, revealing a burning desire to know." Mickey Hart, Grateful Dead percussionist, in his book Drumming at the Edge of Magic

Does this quote resonate with you? It definitely does with me, especially the part about not knowing what the mystery is. 

When was the last time you felt drawn to exploring something? Felt intrigued about a topic, or perhaps just feeling some restlessness? Did you trust your intuition and follow a hunch or opportunities presented to you? What was the result? If you didn't follow the longing, is it still with you? You may not know yet where it will lead, but it's a path that could bear some interesting results. 

I love books. I go to several used book sales and used book stores each year, usually to stock up on novels to read. But this year I've felt drawn to finding books all about creativity, idea generation, imagination, the science of art and music, visioning..... And I've hit the jackpot at a couple of sales, quickly growing my stash of creativity-type books this past spring and summer from the 8 or 9 I already had to well over two dozen.

Some of the books I've now read, others only thumbed through, and others have put aside for another day when I can study them more deeply. I've tagged several pages, written notes about others, and marked some items for thought and reflection. Several of the books have intriguing creative exercises which I have started to explore one by one.

I'm excited to see the results that will come from all the reading and experiencing the creative ideas being presented to me. 

Why? I am only beginning to scratch the surface and understand what I may be looking for. The more I read the more I seem to be reliving expressive arts classes I took a few years ago and the powerful art and music activities we experienced. And trusting in this kind of creative process, not quite knowing where we are going - or even the next step -  but with patience and a belief that this act of faith will lead to something important. 

I'd love to hear your story about following a hunch. 


Synaesthesia is defined as:
"a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway."  
Some synesthetes see letters and numbers as colours, others may see days of the week as shapes, some taste sounds, yet others see colours or images in music. Many other combinations exist where the senses are cross-linked or merged. And I've become fascinated with this subject.

I am not a synesthete, but I can discern images from some music, like a sixth or kinesthetic sense. It's more than just listening to the music, it's about feeling its vibration and energy, experiencing emotions and sensations. Music may rouse goosebumps or stimulate muscle tension. Breath rate, blood pressure, pulse and skin temperature may change. We may be compelled to move or dance. Pain relief is a possibility. We experience higher energy or a feeling of relaxation. We may see colours or images or movement.

Receptiveness varies from person to person. Images may come based on genre, chords, melody, rhythm, tempo, instruments, vocals, loudness or softness, high and low pitched sounds. 

After coming across several instances of creating art from music, including learning from a friend with synaethesia that she sees each number as a specific colour, I took a class this past spring through Almonte's Mississippi Valley Textile Museum on colour approaches inspired by the senses (other than sight). Later a local pianist shared that she had an artist painting her music while she played at a recital. The abstract pictures, done in gouache, are stunning! 

After deciding to create some pictures based on pieces of music, I discovered that some songs speak to me, others do not. It's all about being tuned to the music, being mindful and turning off all else while listening. And being open to whatever may come up - difficult or positive. The images are not necessarily realistic, but often a level of abstraction.

I then happened upon an ad about an upcoming show at the Atomic Rooster on Bank Street: Tones is an exhibit of art - not just of creating while music plays in the background - but about creating a work of art inspired by the music. And artists are asked to include a YouTube link so the visitor can listen to the music while viewing the work based on that song. 

     Tones (Art Inspired by Music)

     Dates:                November 27 - December 18, 2018
     Opening party:  Tuesday December 4 from 7-10pm. 
     Location:            Atomic Rooster, 303 Bank Street Ottawa

I hope to enter 2 or 3 fibre art pieces in this show. The one piece I have completed so far, the abstract pictured below, is based on Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve. 

The colours came to me first, reflecting both harmony and contrast in the music. After painting the background and choosing fabrics to include, shapes began to form in my mind based on the rhythm and repetitions in the music and on the directions in which it was going.  The next layers represented bits of the melody and chords. It was not really a thought process of creating, but rather done at an intuitive level while listening repeatedly to the song. What a great way to get out of our usual grooves of creation. 

I'm looking forward to seeing Tones at the Atomic Rooster and what other artists are creating. Let me know if you'll be putting in a piece or two or visiting the show. 


Guest post by Renée Gendron MA, Business Development consultant, Co-founder and Chief Information Squirrel, Author 

I set a goal to write 1 million draft words of my 1.8 million word series in 2018. That’s 5,000 pages. Although I’ve written other books and short stories, this series is the first that has the potential to be commercially viable. I reached that goal on August 31, 2018, and I’ll work towards my stretch goal of 1.8 million words. I’ve been stumped. I’ve written myself into corners. I’ve had to redesign characters and do some deep thinking on magic systems to ensure that my world was logical and internally consistent. And I continue to have to fix problems with plot, structure, characters, and endings.

I’d like to share with you some components of emotional, psychological, and professional resiliency that you can use in your creative work whether it’s writing, Painting, performing arts, composing, or some other artistic endeavour.

Put your Pride Aside

It’s not easy creating something. What gets typed up on a page, painted onto a canvas, inked into a score, often isn’t what you initially thought it would turn out to be. I wrote a romance scene where the heroine and hero fell into each other’s arms and fell madly in love with one another. A perfect ending to a beautiful story. Romantic, eh? The problem was when my beta-readers reviewed it, they pointed out the glaring flaw that the conflict the heroine and hero had just a chapter ago wasn’t resolved, that it didn’t make sense in context for them to wrap each other up in their loving arms and that the scene was flat. No spark, no desire. Ouch.

I rewrote the scene with their advice, looked at the margins where they scribbled notes and questions, answered them all in the rewrite, and ended up with a better chapter.


To create the best product (art) you need to open yourself up to feedback. Open to feedback from people who have more experience in the art than you.
A chapter may not make sense. A composition may lose its rhythm or not synch well with other instruments. A piece of weaving may not achieve the desired pattern. A painting may work best when another technique or perspective is used.

Sometimes you’ll have a creative difference with the person providing the feedback. Other times you’ll have to have a think about how to rework it, how to incorporate the feedback, how to make it fit for what you want to achieve.

It’s not easy, but you’re better off for it. Sure, there might be some creative differences, but you asked them for feedback. You won’t get better unless you take that feedback and rework it into your work.


There are days where my brain doesn’t want to cooperate. I have an idea in my head, it’s clear and crisp, but when I go to type it up, it’s garbled and flat. There are days where I can’t get a piece of the story to work, the plot twist that I thought it would turn out to be a gentle slope, uninteresting and predictable.

I think I write goodly 😃, but then it comes out as making no sense. Sometimes it’s because I’m tired, so I take a break. Sometimes, it’s because I’m dehydrated and I can’t think clearly in those situations. Other times, it’s because I need to improve my skill level.


Budget your time and money.

I budget time and money for professional development. If you don’t have a lot of money, that’s okay. You need to allocate more time. For example, I read a lot of free articles online, listen to free podcasts, and participate in free forums about my craft.

I also allocate a professional development budget, and I participate in conferences, workshops, and online courses. The better I get, the more tools and tricks I can use to overcome a technical challenge.

Support Systems

It’s nice to have your spouse or sibling ask you about your art. And then you see their eyes glaze over when you become animated and enthusiastic about your work. Your spouse, your children, your siblings, are likely to smile and nod when you show them a new creation, but they often don’t share the same passion for your art as you do. That stings and can discourage you from pursuing it.


Find and surround yourself with people who are equally passionate about the type of creative practice you do. I’ve developed an ecosystem of individuals associated with publishing and writing to help me through this project, and I’ve expanded my network in this area. With them, I get technical about writing, engage in deep conversations about the craft, go to conferences with them, share resources, and talk until lose my voice about all things related to writing. But when it comes down to it, I still need to put my fingers to the keyboard and produce.


I love writing. I took a fifteen-year break from writing – though I can’t remember why I stopped writing, and when I came back to it, I remembered how much I love it. I find editing difficult and less entertaining. When I don’t feel like doing it, even though I know I have to do it, I break it into smaller chunks, I learn techniques to make it less of a slog, and I keep reminding myself that I need to do this to achieve the end goal: a well-written, polished, book.

What’s your motivation? What drives you to do what you do?

Take that idea, then apply the points of this article from bottom to top.

Renée Gendron MA

I’m the founder of Vitae Dynamics where I help companies and communities improve their economic resiliency. I think Canada needs to create 6 million full-time jobs to ensure prosperity for all. You can like my Vitae Dynamics page on Facebook and/or follow me on twitter under @vitaedynamics.
My website is

I’m also the co-founder of a clean agricultural company. We offer a range of organic certified whole life cycle products that reduce the need for antibiotics, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, improves air quality in barns, and boost yields for farmers.
If you’d like to follow me for my writing, please do so on twitter @reneegendron I’ve not posted much yet but will do so soon. I will probably post a lot about squirrels because they are awesome.


Having spent the better part of my career in event planning, I've seen many things that can and do go wrong at shows. Some things can be prevented with a bit of insightful planning, other things, well, are just beyond one's control. And with art, craft and vendor show season well underway, it's always good to do some planning to prevent things from going wrong and to put contingency plans into place for the uncontrollable, This applies whether you are a show organizer or renting space at a show.

Here are some DO's and DON'T's to help prevent similar situations that I have encountered: 

😲 DO be prepared for small hands who like to touch your products. A potter I know who makes bowls with beautiful textures keeps one piece at the ready, just for those little hands who like to touch. Then parents can rest assured that nothing will get broken.

😲 DO Trust your intuition if something doesn't feel right.

My most memorial mishap was at an art show where all the grids had been set up in advance. I didn't feel the grids were stable at the area where I was assigned, but the organizers looked at it and advised me it was fine. Alas, a gentlemen who was unsteady on his feet knocked over several of the grids in the row where I was stationed, resulting in several broken frames and broken glass on several art pieces, including mine. Fortunately there was someone in the group would could cut glass and she re-framed the items with broken glass, at the organization's expense. But it was very upsetting and I was not impressed with the organization. Others confirmed to me that I was right that the grids were not stable to begin with.

😲 DO always double check plans and details that others have responsibility for.
      DON'T leave anything to chance.

I was coordinator of an international conference at a local hotel where we discovered at noon that our lunch had not been set up for us! Turned out the person in charge forgot to check the banquet sheets that morning. The staff was great - they got tables set up and food for us within half an hour, but I learned from that mishap to always check the rooms and with the staff the day of to make sure nothing gets missed.

But sometimes things can still go wrong. The next time we were at the same hotel, for the next annual international conference, despite checking that our meals would be ready for us on time, when we did actually make our way to the meeting room, it was only discover another group was sitting down eating our food!

😲 DO have an emergency action plan put together in advance - who will stay with the person who is sick or injured, who will call 9-1-1, and who will meet the emergency unit at the door and guide them in.
     DO know if anyone in your group has CPR or defibrillator training. Emergencies do happen, and one does need to know what to do.
     DO check in advance if cell phones will work where the show is - some facilities block cell phones, so you need to have a back-up plan in case of emergency.

😲 DO bring a change of clothes in case of bad weather. This is a given for outdoor events, but indoor? I've been caught in torrential downpours while bringing my stuff from my car to the building, and without dry clothes to change into. Also a good idea in case of spilling coffee.

😲 DO bring a pool noodle for your tent for an outdoor show. They help to absorb water that may leak during rainy periods. 
     DO check your tent, guy lines, tarps, and other booth props before coming to the show, just in case anything is missing or in need of repair. Signage especially has a tendency to flip the wrong way or hang skewed. You do want customers to see your name. 

😲 DO have a plan or policy in place in case of last minute cancellations - or no-shows - of vendors or artists. It doesn't look good when there's an empty table in the middle of a room, or if a vendor packs up and leaves early. This happens more than you would think. Touch base with anyone on your waiting list a day or two before the show to see if they are still interested, should the need arise. And reconfirm with all your vendors the day before the show. 

😲 DON'T panic or show your stress if things do go wrong. It doesn't help, and if you show stress or anger or panic, then others around you will too. Take a deep breath, stay calm, keep your head on, and decide what steps you need to take to rectify the situation. 


Delighted to have Ottawa Mystery Writer Barbara Fradkin provide one of her recent blog posts here - this topic is equally relevant for writers, artists, indeed anyone who is involved in any of the arts. Read on...

GUEST POST by Ottawa Mystery Writer Barbara Fradkin
In Pursuit of the Perfect Title

It's the August long weekend, and it's hot, sunny, and gloriously lazy. I am sitting on my dock by the lake, far from the bustle and obligations of city life. I am working in a desultory fashion, reading research books for my next Amanda Doucette novel, which is still a mere twinkle in my imagination but as of yesterday possessed of a title. It's always a thrilling moment when I hit the combination of words that make the perfect title. Sometimes it happens before I even know there's book ahead. PRISONERS OF HOPE was a title in storage for years until I finally had the idea to go with it, and now the finished book will be released in October of this year.

Sometimes the title comes during the writing of the book. At some point I write a phrase or a character says something, and I think "There's the title!" This happened in one of my Inspector Green novels, when halfway through the book, Green and his sergeant are discussing suspects, and Green says "But what about the fifth son?" FIFTH SON was perfect. Sometimes I wait in vain for the epiphany and at the end of the first draft I am still at sea. I fiddle and worry and turn phrases and words over in my mind as I go about my day. In desperation I may eventually throw a bunch of theme words and descriptors into a Google search, enter "Quotations" and see what pops up. THIS THING OF DARKNESS, a quote from Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST, was discovered that way.

A book is never finished until it has the perfect title. A title should capture its essence or hint at a major theme or conflict. It should match the mood and voice of the piece. It should give the reader some idea of what lies inside. Titles with puns are popular with cosies but would be inappropriate in the gritty mystery/ thrillers I write. Punchy, one-word titles like FEAR hint at bare-bones thrillers, also not the type of book I write. Mystery titles should hint at mystery, rather than romance, horror or science fiction.

Sometimes the quest for a title becomes an urgent matter when the publisher demands one for promotional purposes or when the media puts you on the spot by asking what the name of your next book is. You could always say I don't know, but that's a promotional opportunity lost. HONOUR AMONG MEN was conceived when a newspaper reporter asked about my next book. I had already started researching PTSD among our soldiers but as yet had no idea of the plot or conflicts, but that phrase popped into my head on the surge of adrenaline the question provoked. It was a classic military phrase, and ended up suiting the story very well.

So back to that languid day reading on the dock yesterday. I was reading a beautifully written and illustrated book called ALBERTA THE BADLANDS, which was peppered with snippets of poetry by an early fossil hunter in the area. I came upon this quote from "A Story of the Past", by Charles H. Sternberg. "The rains of ages have laid bare the ancient dead."


I only hope my publisher agrees. Now my story has begun.

Barbara Fradkin is a child psychologist with a fascination for why we turn bad. Besides her short stories and easy-read short novels, she is best known for her gritty, psychological Inspector Green series, which has received two Arthur Ellis Best Novel Awards. However, her newest mystery suspense series features international aid worker Amanda Doucette, who battles her own traumatic past to help people in trouble.

The first two novels in that series were released to starred reviews, and the third, PRISONERS OF HOPE, is due for release in October 2018. She is currently planning a trip to Alberta to research the fourth, to be set in the Alberta badlands. For more information, check out


The telling of stories through visual art - or narrative art - has been around forever but is rising in popularity as a means for social-cause stories, rather than the more traditional depiction of daily life or events, myths and folklore. Some recent subjects I have come across are dementia, the value of friendships, and the environment, portrayed through paintings, mixed media, sculpture and woven art. 

The visual language of symbols, metaphors and archetypes are the main elements of the narrative art, designed to guide and engage the viewer in interpreting the story. More subtle are the metaphorical art mediums chosen, as well as colour, contrast, texture, movement, rhythm and so on. Art genres can range from painting and mixed media to sculpture and fibre arts, and may also include forms with both visuals and text, genres such as collage, journaling, book arts, cartoons and comics, graphic novels, mixed media.

And without the addition of a title or a few words, the story is not always clear to some. Words can be the prompt that assist the viewer in getting the picture, or message. And sometimes it's only after reading the artist's inspiration or statement that the story is unveiled - or partially unveiled.

But maybe that's what the artist intends - that it's up to us as viewers to use our imagination to fill in the blanks and reflect on the subject. Our experiences, knowledge and ideas all contribute to deciding what story the artist may be trying to tell. A bit of thinking may be required. The artist may want us to decide in what direction the story will go. 

Often a narrative is told not through just one picture, but through a series of pictures. Just as written works have many layers and elements weaving through several chapters, the same would hold true that multiple visuals may be needed to disclose the threads of a story. Consider setting, characters, plot, conflict, etc., all elements of a bigger whole. Of course it depends on how complicated and long the story is. 

My own attempts at visual storytelling have been somewhat successful. Perhaps my best one to date, shown here at left, is of this woman standing on the side of a road under a make-shift shelter, a mixed media piece using old fabric, paper, and cardboard, acrylic paint and coloured pencil. The contrast between the sari and the grays is an important visual element. Some assumptions can be drawn but it's the picture and materials combined with the title - "A Place to Call Home" - that I think suggests a story behind the picture. You be the judge. 

My goal is to make some narrative art for an exhibition opening in June 2019.  My challenge right now is to sift through possible stories and chose 1 or 2, then start thinking about how best to represent these stories through fibre art. 

In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you about narrative art you have created - or samples you have seen.  

Related story: Titling your Art


Sometimes we overwork our art. Sometimes we under-work them. It's easy to get caught up in working too close to the piece but we need to step back once in a while to see the big picture. Once you think you have finished a piece, here are 6 ways to help determine if your piece of art is actually complete - or if it needs more work.

  1. Turn it upside down, then stand across the room to view the piece and look at it from different perspectives. By altering the right side up view, we start to see gaps or disconnects where the piece is not quite finished, where a colour needs to be fixed etc. It's like looking through someone else's eyes.
  2. Hold the art up to a mirror  - try right side up, upside down, sideways. By looking at the mirror image, as in #1 above, we gain a new perspective and can see if and where fixes are needed.
  3. Walk away for a few days, then look at the art through fresh eyes, like seeing it for he first time, and as another viewer sees it. Some suggest to hang it up and live with the picture for a week or more. You will be drawn to parts that need to be fixed.
  4. Ask a friend - There's nothing better than getting a second opinion. Just make sure it's someone who will be honest in a positive way, and not be afraid to critique and possibly hurt your feelings. "I love it!" is wonderful to hear but not always helpful.
  5. You realize you're bored with the piece - It may be unfinished, but perhaps you have gotten out of it what you needed to learn. Decide if you want or need to finish it. If not, move on.
  6. Trust your intuition - As you get more experienced in art-making, you'll start to sense if it's finished or if something still needs to be fixed. Then turn to the suggestions above to figure out what needs to be done.


How often do you hear someone say "I'm really bad at remembering names"? I'm one of those. I was told a few years ago that we have to say someone's name 3 times when we first meet them in order to remember it. Uh huh. That didn't always work for me.

Then I met someone this week (gosh, what did she say her name was ?!) who asked how I spell my name, specifically with or without an 'e'. She explained that she remembers names by "seeing" it as a word and with all its letters, so she always check the spelling, even when it's a simple name.

It occurred to me later that she must be a "visual" learner. Approximately 65% of the population are visual learners, 30% auditory, and the remaining 5% are kinesthetic.

Auditory learners are naturally good at remembering names and at finding ways to do so. Kinesthetics need to feel some kind of connection with you in order to remember your name. 

Visuals will remember a face, but not the name. Since 65% of us are visuals, it's no wonder I hear so often from people how bad we are with names. By working with images, perhaps this idea of seeing the name written out is just the trick we visuals need to cement a name to memory. I will try this next time I meet someone and check how they spell their name. And if you give it a try too, let me know if it works for you!

Anne - that's Anne with an e - Warburton
Visual Learner, Fibre Artist and Blogger


In my last blog post I talked with my friend, visual artist Kerstin Peters, about "Creating Art with a Group" - about groups she is part of, how they can help contribute to success as an artist, and about meet-up locations ( In this second part we talk about challenges and about collaborations on a joint piece, and provide you with 14 questions to ask before you join - or create - a group.

4) What are some disadvantages of creating with a group? Are you afraid to lose your own creativity when you participate in group activities too often?

One of the advantages of creating with a group can also be a disadvantage: you influence each other. If you paint too often together, there is a chance that you start to copy each other.

It is also important to realize that it does not matter how fast or slow you paint. It does not say anything about your skill, but rather reflects your personality. This was something that was very discouraging for me at the beginning, because one of my painting buddies paints very fast. Sometimes, it feels like she is almost finished by the time I start. We go on many trips and outings together and have come to an agreement that we will look for spots where she can easily find several angles to paint.

It is also important to realize that we are all unique and as much as we sometimes admire another artist’s work, it is important that we stay true to our personality. We have our own styles and interpretations, and part of the beauty is that we are all creating unique artworks, even if we paint the same scene.

5) Have you collaborated with other artists to jointly create a piece of art?

Until now, we only talked about creating a piece together but we never worked on one artwork. The closest we came to jointly creating art was last September, when we all set up our easels at the same location to paint the sunset in Kamouraska. We could probably put all six pieces as a sequence showing different stages of the sunset.

Kerstin has provided my answers to these same questions on her blog. I invite you to visit her post at:

If you would like to join - or put together - your own creative group, here are some items to consider so you can define what you want to get from such a group:

  1. What kind of creative work does the group do, is it restricted to one medium or are other mediums allowed?
  2. Is there a demonstration or workshop during the meeting, or does everyone work without instruction?
  3. Who is part of the group? A mix of skill levels? How about the age group?
  4. Are you all expected to work on the same project, or can you work on your own project?
  5. Will you need to bring your own or purchase extra supplies? How about tables, chairs, easels for an indoor venue?
  6. When does the group meet: day or evening, weekdays or weekends, and how often do they meet?
  7. Is there a fee (if so, it is usually minimal for local events)? If you are looking for multi day outings like a retreat or a painting trip, the costs vary depending on the accommodation and location.
  8. Is regular attendance expected, or can you sign up for individual get-togethers? Do you have to pay a yearly fee, or can you pay on a pay as you go basis?
  9. Does the group work inside or outside, or both depending on weather?
  10. If you are inside and there is oil painting in the group, are you sensitive to the oils or thinners? Are thinners allowed? Are there other art materials or tools used that some people can be sensitive to?
  11. Is there a lot of idle chatter or do the artists mostly focus on their projects (chatter related to the projects is usually fine)? Be honest with yourself. If you need tranquility to work, you will not enjoy an environment with chatter or music in the background.
  12. How far are you willing to travel? Is parking available close by? Is there a cost for parking?
  13. Is there food or coffee/tea available near by? Do you need to bring your own?
  14. Where to find groups: Facebook, art organizations, local art schools and galleries (paid instruction)


"Music is full of longing and movement.  Painting should be the same." I read this quote in Hundred and Thousands: The Journals of...