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Am I Too Old to Change? Embracing Life

Photo by  Miguel Á. Padriñán  from  Pexels I'm in the process, at last, of working on the book that came to me in a dream seven years ago. It has circled my head all these years, demanding I get at it. It's called: We're Not Done Yet: Coming to Art Later in Life .  It has actually hung in the air a couple of feet behind my head, attached by a string like a helium balloon, like a cartoon cloud, waiting for me to get to it. Some of you will know of it because I posted a request on Facebook  in 2019 asking for artists who have come to art later in life to reply to me if they'd like to answer a questionnaire. I received 168 responses plus earlier interviews I did before the put out the questionnaire. There was some overlap, and some didn't respond after they'd offered to. All in all, I received 128 responses.  By a huge majority it was women who responded to my questionnaire.  By the time we get into our 60's we bring a rich life experience to our work: most ha
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Living with Creative Cycles

The blank panel I barely painted all of 2020. I could feel the anxiety and fear of Covid in the air all around us as well as the violence and the political unrest. The uncertainty. The confusion. Some artists were able to block it all out and paint prolifically. I could barely get into my studio. I felt so stuck. I tried making myself....."just  go into the studio for an hour ..........just clean it up..........paint".  All the advice I give my students. Nothing worked. I found creativity though through teaching workshops. In 2020, I translated my Workshops in Wild Places travel workshops into Stays Home workshops and taught them on Zoom. In those workshops, I suggested nature connection exercises to artists from all over North America and as far away as Australia. It occurred to me that one small contribution I could make to honour the earth is to teach nature-based painting workshops, where artists connect with nature where they live; the backyard or a n

Liminal Time

 The word liminal comes from the Latin, limen meaning threshold. an in-between place, a place of transition, a time of waiting and not knowing. Dawn and dusk are considered liminal places. Crepuscular animals, like foxes and coyotes are most active at this time of day, a time that is considered a magical time in Celtic spirituality and to Indigenous people which is perhaps the origin of their designation as tricksters.   As I write this, the northern hemisphere has just passed the vernal equinox, where day and night are of equal length.We are in a liminal space between winter and spring right now, unsure if we will have one more storm or snowfall before spring finally settles in. We're also in a liminal place as we live through this pandemic with the  anxiety and discomfort of not  knowing. A  time of great transition for the entire world, wondering what we've learned from this and what lessons we'll carry forward.     Author and Franciscan friar Richard Rohr describes limi

An Awe Walk

 Last January I published a blog post I called Exploring Awe in Art and Life . I wrote about travelling to Tofino, BC where I taught a Workshops in Wild Places class. While exploring the area, we met an incredible 1000-year-old red cedar tree. This year with Covid-19 and not being able to travel, experiences of awe are different. Instead of standing next to giant red cedar trees in the British Columbia rainforest or looking out over the moody Scottish landscape with its broad, inspiring vistas or watching powerful icebergs float down Iceberg Alley in Newfoundland, I look for awe much closer to home, in more ordinary places, like the forest behind my home. In my current zoom workshop, Workshops in Wild Places Stays Home, I talked to the artists  about having the intention to find awe in the land each time they go outside. If we look for the experience of awe, of course we find it. It's what I try to do. Sometimes of course, I am deep in thought as I enter the forest, or I'm pond

Art and Listening

 My daughter, Jen Mason , has recently completed her PhD and in an article she's writing, she discusses how self-expression is an important topic in school and in life. We're taught how to write persuasively, how to speak convincingly and how to argue effectively. Mainly, it's loudest one that gets the attention. How much time do we spend learning how to listen? She goes on to say, "Listening is an internal process and like expression, it is a skill that needs to be developed." Who listens? In my Workshops in Wild Places workshops and in my Stays Home zoom workshops, I try to address not only self-expression through painting, but also how to listen. We're taught self-expression in painting: how to find your personal voice.Because my current workshops are about creating an intimate relationship with Nature and using this relationship as a point of reference for creativity, it's important to learn to listen to nature, not only her sounds, but also to open yo

Creativity and Conversations with Nature.

F rom the work of scientists like UBC's Suzanne Simard, among many others, we are learning more and more about the intelligence of the earth, how trees communicate with each other, and the myriad physical and creative benefits humans gain from spending time in nature.  An article in Outside , cites neuroscientist David Strayer’s research which has shown that our "prefrontal cortex is less active when we’re out in a natural environment. When the prefrontal cortex quiets down, the brain’s default mode network kicks in. Think of it as the imagination network: it’s activated when we’re not focusing on anything specific, and instead are allowing the mind to idly wander or to dip into our deep storehouse of memories, ideas, and emotions. W hen the ‘imagination network’ kicks in, sudden flashes of creative insight come to you.  " There are loads of benefits humans receive from nature. But what about a 2-way communication with the natural worl

An Unplugged Home Retreat

Kindness 9  12x12"  Oil on paper © 2020 Janice Mason Steeves I scheduled a wonderful retreat week for myself the week before last. It was a quiet week with long unscheduled days, days that stretch out before you like the vastness of the prairies where I grew up. I'd wake up early, take my dog for a quick walk, have a smoothie and a cup of coffee and settle myself at my studio desk to write in my journal. My desk overlooks  a walnut tree and beyond that, a grassy area and a stand of white pines. At times I just stared off into the trees as the wind gently played in the branches. No thoughts. Other times I'd read some passages from my spiritually oriented books, closing my eyes to consider what these readings might mean for me today. Solitude is something you choose. Loneliness is imposed on you by others."  Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today Kindness 8  12x12"  Oil on paper © 2020 Janice Mason Steeves I've done digital detox weeks at home