Here are some details about a project I am submitting my work to. Come take a look!Read More
Come see a new painting of an incredible creature: a White Bison.Read More
Come follow this turtle's transfomation!Read More
A post about finding out what your "Spirit Animal" is.Read More
Hello! I wanted to write this message to let you all know what I've been up to with my art this year!
A month in 2017 has already passed and I've been lucky enough to create more Spirit Animal paintings. Over the past year, I started painting this series.. These started off as small 8 x 10” Acrylic on canvas paintings. Here are the first four that I made:
In these small paintings, I create animals with qualities that I admire. I am in love with creating a sense of movement, using swirling brushstrokes and layers of translucent glazes. While I admire all animals, I began painting animals that I often see at my home by the river or at the lake in Minaki. Some of my favourites are: owls, foxes, wolves, eagles, hawks, otters, deer and bears.
I can’t get enough of bears and owls!
I soon found out that a lot of people love these animals too! And in these paintings it isn’t just about recreating nature, it is about creating an emotion or feeling. When I am working on these Spirit Animals, I feel both calm and a sense of energy.
When I'm painting them, all feels right in my little corner of the world.
A sense of calm and energy is something I think a lot of people want in their lives. My hope is that someone looking at my paintings can feel a sense of that. Maybe having a painting of mine in their home can give them a feeling of peace, happiness, and beauty, a little bit every day.
Every painting that I create is deeply personal to me. Often when I’m working on a painting, I will have a word, message, or feeling that I think of as I’m working. With each new piece this year, I’ll have a small note, wrapped around a feather, twig, or inside a tiny glass bottle. When you take home a painting of mine, you can read this message and know what I was thinking of while working on your painting!
Also, my paintings have started to grow in size! I’ve worked on paintings that are 24x48” 20x 40" and 40x40”. I know I will continue to go larger with my art because it is amazing to capture the size of an animal on a larger surface. The sense of movement that you can get is incredible!
In all honesty, I’ve become more confident with my painting as a result of every person that has ever commented on my art or purchased one of my paintings. As much as I love painting for myself, I cannot express how much I am encouraged and motivated by the feedback from others about my work. So, Thank you!
I am pretty excited to see where these Spirit Animals will take me.
P.S. I’m going on a trip to Hawaii in the Spring and my hope is that I will see a Sea Turtle., which I will create a large painting of. Wouldn’t that be amazing? I wonder what else I will see.
Thank you for reading!
To see which paintings are available, please visit my Gallery page. I am also more than happy to create custom work, so please feel free to send me a message from my Contact page.
Episode 4 of Lynn and Lemon's Adventures!Read More
“Brrrrrr!” Lemon shrilled as he clutched the reigns close and shook his head!
“It's getting chilly", Lynn agreed. Lemon carefully tacked up a poster to an old oak and the two stood back, admiring their work. Throughout the woods, they had hung up nearly a dozen posters. Eleven to be exact, because one got caught up in the wind and blew past the river bank.
They were hoping to hear back from anyone looking for a missing creature and the whole crew at the Workshop would do their very best to bring the lost one home.
Within hours, word had spread that a little mouse was missing. He was described as having:
"Red fur, a green hat, a purple scarf, and missing a tooth".
Flick “had a feeling from the tip of his nose to the end of his bushy tail” that the mouse might be field, beyond the woods. To get the field, they would need to cross the road.
Lynn looked back at Lemon and instantly they knew what each other was thinking.
To get the field, they’d risk being hurt by the monsters. If they took too long crossing the long stretch of road to the field, they could be hit by the shiny, gigantic, mechanical animals that fly by at lightning speed.
Lemon was already shaking in his saddle.
Maybe it was too dangerous. Perhaps they should just stick to searching in the Woods and not risk going into the field.
A small voice piped up.
All heads turned towards Whisper, who was peeking out from the pack on Iris' side.
Iris said not a word, but closed her good eye and nodded. Even though Iris is new to the Workshop, the others could not question her strength and swiftness. After packing a few supplies, Whisper and Iris were prepared to go.
"Please be careful!" Lynn sang as the two made their way past the workshop and the woods. Flick waved his wand and hollered"Do be careful!" and Lemon shivered once more in his seat.
Hours passed and the day wore thin. Iris and whisper had not yet returned. Lemon, Lynn, and Flick kept watch and gathered firewood to pass the time. Flick considered adding his broken wand to the heap of sticks, but it felt like an old friend to him and he decided against it.
As they worked, Lemon hummed nervously, trying to fend off bad thoughts of those monsters and whether or not their friends were safe.
"Have you ever wondered why Iris always keeps one eye closed?" Flick huffed as he waddled towards the pile with a heavy twig. Lynn opened her mouth to answer but before she could say anything, she was interrupted by Lemon "SHHH....."
Lemon sat up tall on the saddle and his ears perked up again when he heard a high pitched squeal! Sure enough, Iris and Whisper were slowly making their way to the workshop, pulling something behind them.
Whisper called out: “We found the missing mouse and two more!” They’d never heard Whisper sound so excited. She was practically bouncing out of the pouch on Iris' side.
Flick helped to remove the leather strap from Iris's shoulders. She stretched her back and sat down in the soft moss.
Lynn gazed down into the bundle that iris had pulled home.
Not one, but three Mice were curled up inside! The three of them were huddled together, two grey and one red.
The little grey one on the left had on a green hat and the one on the right was wrapped up in a purple scarf.
The little red one in the middle had not a scrap of clothing, but looked cozy and warm between the other two. He must have shared his clothing with his friends. He smiled shyly and it was true, he was missing a tooth!
"Hello, I'm Lynn", she said softly. "We're happy to have you here".
That night, three rested in a nest of wool and were lulled to sleep by the hooting of an owl. Before going to sleep, Iris brought Whisper over to say goodnight to the three. Maybe they would dream of all the places they would see tomorrow.
If you are new to this story, you may want to scroll down and read Episode 1 first!
Flick shuffles excitedly back to the workshop with someone new. Actually, make that two!
Using his wand as a cane, he walks towards the workshop and shouts:
“Lynn, Lemon, fetch some food, we’ve got company!”
A tall, thin wolf, stands behind Flick and a shy rabbit peeks out through a bundle of leaves on the wolf’s back.
"My Goodness, they must be starving" Lynn gasps and lemon squeaks a soft "Hi there".
They hurry off together and in no time have gathered some snacks.
"It's not much, but I think it will do. We found some cat food, blackberries, coffee, and cream"
So as to fill the silence, Lynn keeps chattering on...
"Be sure to stay away from the cats", she advises. "Even more so, stay away from the hounds! There legs are so tall that they reach almost to the sky. They are gentle, but they might step on you! You may also want to keep away from..."
Suddenly self conscious of her rambling, she takes a sip of cold coffee and Lemon has a chance to speak.
"I brought these" Lemon holds up some sweet potatoes and offers them shyly to the rabbit. “They are almost as good as carrots” he explains. Actually, they were his favourite food in the world.
Whisper nibbles the sweet potato happily. The new arrivals are quiet and eat with gratitude. They barely say a word and they don’t speak of how they came here. But here is what I imagine:
The wolf walks the woods alone. One eye shut, I know not why. The other one a brilliant crystal blue.
Tired and weak, her ear receives a sound, softer than a whisper. As she comes closer, she sees with her one eye, a little rabbit, stuck. I’m sure the rabbit knows what was to come and could all but wait. But then, her trapped leg was gently freed and the wolf bundles her up with twigs and leaves.
Until her hurt leg is healed, she keeps her close and carries her.
Iris and Whisper.
This part we do know because Iris told Flick their names.
“I hope you'll like it here at the Workshop in the Woods” Flick waves his arms wide, almost toppling over the saucer of cream. “It’s a fine place. I’m just here until my wand is up and working, but it’s a very fine place indeed. Speaking of wand, let me see what I can do. Maybe I can fix up that little one’s foot.”
Flick picks up his wand and points it at Whisper. She looks a fright.
Lynn, noticing whispers worried eyes says “Don’t worry, he means to help. Nothing bad will happen to you”.
Nothing happens, not even a green glow
“Bloody wand! Would be better off using it as a splint!
"It’s alright Flick, we’ll let them rest now. It will be dark soon and we better get back to the workshop. Maybe you will get to meet Stephanie."
I hope you enjoyed this episode! My plan is to continue adding more creatures. But...If you'd like to give one of these guys a home, please let me know!
Lynn and Lemon, they are not your average pair.
Lynn, being and llama, and Lemon, a lemming, they are quite a sight wherever they go! Lynn has left her pasture far behind and Lemon has fled his slice (did you know that's what a group of lemmings are called?). Now they've ended up in this little piece of paradise.
They don't sit idle though. oh no...
Together they wander the Workshop in the Woods to make sure all is in order. What do they see? You'd have to ask them. But I'd imagine that birds with broken wings, fallen trees, and interesting varieties of wild mushrooms are some of their regular sights.
Today, was their very first day on the job! While in the back woods, they heard a thin, distraught voice. Up on stump, they saw him, dressed in a cape and flicking a small twig in the air! As if defeated, he said "What's the use!" and slumped down into the moss.
It was a frail, aged raccoon named Flick. Lynn and Lemon found out that he was lost and that his magic twig was broken. All it would do is light up a faint shade of green and fade out again. He could not get back to where he was from. He said it is important to return soon because he needs to watch over a child's room and fend off bad nightmares. What good could he do here, out in the woods?
Until Flick's wand starts working, he will join Lynn and Lemon. They will go in search of other creatures during the day and will sleep in the Workshop at night.
If you can give Flick a good home, please contact me! His specialties are fending off bad nightmares and bringing a smile to those around him :)
Check this blog post often to see who else has been found!
Please click on the contact button at the top of the page to send me a message about Flick!
Also, check out the "Little Lost Ones" page to see who else is available for adoption!
-Stephanie McGregor from the Workshop in the Woods
You may not know it, but in my house, there is a monkey in a room.
He does not swing from vines, cause mischief, or eat bananas.
His job is to sit and wait.
Now, this is not what monkey signed up for. As he was carefully wrapped and gently placed into a box two summers ago, I am sure he felt that he was on the adventure of his life.
What would he see? Where would he travel to? Who would he belong to?
He would end up in a little house by the river, with two humans. As nice as they were, monkey was lonely and thought that he'd like to have someone closer to his own size to play with. So he sat and waited.
Monkey is still waiting.
So are we.
After our wedding in 2014, we found our monkey on etsy. We thought it would be so cute to take a picture of us standing side by side with each or us holding monkey's paws. When the time came, we'd post a picture and say we were expecting our own “Monkey in the Middle”. We laughed about putting him up on the gymnastics rings that hang in the tree outside our kitchen window.
We even bought a matching sock monkey collar for Penny.This was our dream.
Months passed, no good news. More months passed, nothing. How long has it been? Two years and counting.
What is wrong? I can't say for sure.
Monkey felt like a sad reminder and he was put away in a room.
Twenty-six months have passed and we’ve watched family and friends starting their own families. We are so happy for them, but it’s like we are stuck at the bottom of a tree with no branches within reach.
Will we ever have our turn?
The unknown is difficult and so is waiting. What's also difficult is feeling like we can’t talk about it.
Our monkey in the room is like a secret that is scared to climb out.
You know what is also difficult? Saying the word: Infertility.
I’ve said it but it doesn’t make me feel a whole lot better.
Actually, it’s starting to make me feel:
It makes me feel as translucent as my Zinc white paint.
Maybe I'll boldly write it in Mars black and pretend that I'm being brave, when I feel...
that this is just all a big mistake to share and maybe I should just shut the door on this all together.
But that is not right.
I’ve decided that it’s ok to feel upset, disappointed, discouraged, and angry. I also don't have to pretend that everything is fine, when it's not. I can feel sad. At the same time I think it is necessary to find the good and to see that the positive is always within reach, if you are looking up.
It’s also important to share.
There have to be others that are struggling too and maybe they feel like they have to hide it. Maybe they also have to gulp back that lump in their throat several times a day and put on a smile.
I'm not one to sit and dwell on sad feelings for too long. Monkey and I are on a mission. I’ve put up a large canvas in the room. When I’m feeling low, I can work on creating something beautiful.
Whatever I’m feeling, I will paint. I can be transparent, I can be bold. I can be dark, or I can be brilliant greens and blues. I will document what I’m going through and not feel that I have to cover it up.
While I feel uncertain about my family's future, I do feel hope. As an artist, I know that even what feels like something wrong, can turn into something beautifully unexpected.
I can't always control what happens to me, but I am in charge of what I create on canvas.
For anyone out there going through something tough: give art a try! I cannot express how the act of creating something can make you feel because there are no words for it. Painting, sketching, knitting, writing, cooking, anything! Choose something that makes you feel comfortable and calm and go from there.
You can message me if you something similar and want to talk about it or if you want to share ideas about art projects. I'd love to hear from you!
I'll be posting updates of the painting as I go, so if you are interested in following me and monkey,
the door is open!
Here are a few new paintings, fresh from the Workshop!
All of these paintings Are available (except maybe the bear!). Please let me know if you are interested in any of these. I am also more than happy to take custom orders of Spirit Animals too!
These are all 8x10" Acrylic on canvas and I can create larger sizes as well.
Symbolism: Dragonflies represent Change and Self Realization
Symbolism: Turtles represent Wisdom, Peace, and Determination
Symbolism: Bears represent Strength, Solitude, and Leadership
Symbolism: Magpies represent Opportunity and Luck
Thanks so much for taking a look at what's new from the Workshop! I will be posting the painting of the winner from the "Spirit Animal Contest" next week!
My artwork is deeply inspired by nature and animals. Come to think of it, it always has been. Lately, as often as I can, I will go out in my kayak on a peaceful morning at the lake and just look and listen. If I am quiet, I see small things that I might normally pass by and I can get closer to animals. I remember slowly moving towards a young, bright orange deer, who kept dipping his head under the water and happily munched on some reeds. He didn’t seem to mind that I was ten feet away. Another time I sat in a bay with Kent while two eagles swooped above. At times like this, I feel like I am recharging and gathering energy and inspiration for new artworks.
Along with animals, my dreams are also a large source of inspiration for my paintings. Bears were a reoccurring emblem in my dreams as a kid/teenager. Over the years, I probably had several dozen. It really intrigued me and led me to thinking about Spirit Animals.
Some people say that it is representation of the traits and skills that you are supposed to learn or have. Consequently, your animal is not something you pick, but is something that chooses you. Deep in my subconscious, I think there is a bear roaming around.
The dreams most often began with me looking out the cabin window towards the lake and the point (the edge of the rocks at the end of our little bay).
My heart would sink when I spotted that dark shape, slowly lumbering towards the cottage. It was never a surprise, because I knew it was there anyways, but I rushed as fast as I could, shutting all the windows and locking all the doors. I would find a hiding spot in a closet or under a bed. Sometimes I would hurriedly leave dishes of ice cream and chips, hoping that it would fill the bear’s belly and he would no longer be interested in devouring me.
Within my dream-induced panic, I’d be waiting and wondering which window he’d be peering in, but was pretty sure he knew exactly where I was.
These dreams happened every few months and they followed the same plot. Me spotting the bear, locking up the cabin, hiding, and feeling a sense of dread. Sometimes the bear broke into the cottage, and growled and pounded at the bedroom door, but I usually woke up before actually facing it.
One dream was different. I went through the usual routine of spotting the lumbering sillhouette in the distance, panicking, racing through the cottage and waiting for its arrival. This time, despite having all the windows and doors shut, it appeared right in front of me in the living room. It looked right at me. I waited, fearing the worst. It slowly turned and vanished. It left me with a feeling of “is that all I needed to do all this time? I just had to look at him?” After facing this bear, I have not had a bear dream since. A few times it has been replaced with a wolf, but never a bear.
I have often thought of these dreams and wondered what they meant. I know that it has something to do with how I need to face my fears. But is the Bear my “Spirit Animal”?
I looked up the meaning of Bears as Spirit animals. It is representative of “inner strength, fearlessness, and confidence”. It is also a guide to take a leadership role in your life.
Maybe the aspects of myself that were lacking are the ones that the bear represents. I did this painting to represent the bear and the qualities that it possesses. In hanging up this painting, it will be a reminder that I need to find my own inner strength and confidence.
I have started painting a series of Animal Spirit paintings: 8x10” Acrylic on canvas. I want to see which animals you would want to see paintings of.
Please leave a comment on my blog or Facebook post, saying which animal you think is your “Spirit Animal”. If I get at least 25 comments by Friday, I will draw a name from a hat, and the winner will get a painting of their Spirit Animal!
You may want to check out some of these websites to read about the meanings of different animals:
A few weekends ago, I found this little accordian folder full of drawings. There were coloured marker drawings of dogs, pencil sketches , and a myriad of things from when I was 9-13. I found a collection of drawings that brought me back to when I was thirteen years old...
As a kid, I had two main things that I loved to do: drawing and Irish Dancing. I was drawing from the time I could pick up a marker and dancing since I saw Riverdance at age 11. These two interests took up most of my free time and I loved it. Instead of watching tv, I’d draw for hours in my room, and instead of sleeping in on the weekends, I’d be in my basement at 7:30 practicing (I think I only practiced soft shoe in the morning, so everyone else could sleep). From this time I have books full of my practice notes, i was twice as dedicated to irish dancing than I am to CrossFit now!
There were many things that I loved about Irish dancing and one of those was, without a doubt, the dresses! If anyone has ever seen an Irish Dancing dress, you know that they are a sight to be seen! They are full of intricate designs, formed from embroidery, fabric appliques, and rhinestones. The designs originally were inspired by the Book of Kells, but they have become much more stylized over the years. My dream was to own one of these dresses, but I knew I had to earn it. I’d be practicing in my basement for hours, thinking of the next competition and hoping that I could get my own Irish Dancing dress soon.
I attempted drawing these celtic knot designs in my sketchbooks and i found them really challenging! I saw that these designs sometimes included animals, usually hounds. I was pretty pleased with this celtic hound that I drew.
Then, for a reason unknown, I combined celtic knot patterns with all three of my sisters’ cats. They were Celtic Cats! I think my sisters liked them, so I drew more Celtic cats. The crowning touch was the tail. It always had a "triquetra" shape.
I was 13 years old and my family had just bought our first computer. An Irish dancing friend of mine had a website about dancing and she showed me how to set up my own website. I posted tips about Irish dancing and posted pictures of me and my friends at competitions, etc. Then, I had an idea! I would post pictures of my Celtic Cats. Then I would make a form that allowed people to order their own Celtic Cat! They could type in the colour and pattern of their cat and they would also include details about their cat’s personality.
I was so excited when I opened my email and saw that I had my first Celtic cat order! I got to work right away. I would scan and email the Celtic Cat or in some cases, I think I mailed them. I kept on getting more submissions!
They were mostly Irish Dancers who had stumbled across my website, but they were from all over the world! Now I may have had a good little business, but I wasn’t charging anything for these Celtic Cats. It simply made me happy to create these images that made people happy. I really enjoyed it.
Seeing these drawings brought back a lot of memories and shows me that I have always loved creating artwork for others. So for old time’s sake, I thought I would give anyone reading this the chance to submit their own cat's name for a custom illustration. I wish I could do a drawing for everyone, but I will draw just one name on Wednesday! If you win, you can choose between having a Celtic cat, or a slightly more realistic image :)
You can leave a comment here, or on the Facebook post, and I will post the winning cat on Wednesday!
What is imagination?
Everyone might have a different idea of what it is. I like to think that it is the most positive, fun, and creative part of myself. It allows me to dream up my own world and put it down on paper. Pretty cool, I think. I feel that everyone can be imaginative if they allow the time for it. Depending on how much you have allowed it to grow, or how you have (unintentionally) squished it, you might think of yourself as very creative or totally unimaginative.
Your imagination was probably very much a part of you when you were five. I know mine was and the only difference between me and someone who thinks they are not creative is that I’ve let my imagination grow up with me. I’ve let it happily crawl, play, stumble, run, and jump right along side me my whole life. When an idea comes to me, I might laugh out loud, write it down, or file it in my mind for future use. Either way, I acknowledge it. Maybe you feel like you’ve ignored your imagination for so long that it no longer exists.
Fear not! Your creativity can be regrown. Follow these steps (or any others that work for you!) for growing your imagination and cultivating your creativity! I think this applies to any creative pursuit, not only painting and drawing.
Be Attentive and Kind:
When you have an idea, draw or write it down. Have a little sketchbook with you, always! In acknowledging your ideas, you are telling yourself that your ideas are worth saving. If an idea comes to you and you ignore it, it is akin to ignoring a little tug on your sleeve of a little kid wanting to play. Don’t be that person! You wouldn’t tell a little kid that their ideas are silly or dumb, so be kind enough to think that way about your ideas (or paintings, drawings, etc).
Also, spend more time observing. Look, really look at everything around you. Notice the way the sun is shining through the trees. What kind of pattern does it create? Can you see any images in those patterns? Imagination is all about imaging the possibilities of what could be.
Anything that you want to be good at requires time and dedication. You need to work at it every single day. Even a few minutes may be enough, it just has to be something you can incorporate into your life. An example might be that you quickly jot down the dreams that you remember every morning. You might choose one of those to write in greater detail or do a sketch each week.
For me, I am motivated by tracking the amount of time that I paint and how long it takes me to complete a painting. I channel my inner kid by using stickers to track how many paintings I do each month. I tally up the hours that I put in. Some days even when I am tired, I will push to get an extra hour in!
Something I have found is that the more I use my imagination, the more ideas come to me!
Take Baby Steps:
Keep it simple. Do one small thing at a time and have your supplies on hand. I keep my paints in a "stay wet palette" and all of my supplies on a table in my kitchen/dining room. That way I can paint for 30 minutes while I’m waiting for something in the oven., with very little preparation. Also, I can’t paint in my art room anymore because all the animals start scritch scratching at the door for my attention. If they can see me at the kitchen table, they will at least let me paint in relative peace :).
Also, I was intimidated by doing larger paintings. So, I started with smaller papers (8x10"). Now I am working on lots of larger paintings (16x20"). Maybe start on a smaller scale to raise your confidence and see where that takes you.
Celebrate, Celebrate, Celebrate!
Just as you would hang a little kid’s painting on the fridge, you need to celebrate the things you have made, no matter how small. I hang up my paintings and it makes me happy to see them! At the end of the day, being creative has to be something that you do, not because you want recognition from someone else, but because it is something that makes you smile and adds a whole new dimension to your life.
I don’t always know what my imagination will lead to, or what will come of it, but it delights me every day. It's like an adventure. Although I am an adult, I feel comforted to know that I can dream up and create as freely as when I was a little girl, colouring with markers on computer paper at the kitchen table. If I want to create my own world, I can do so with my paint brush! I wish for others to feel this way too.
So my advice to you is nurture your creativity, give it the time and attention it deserves, and watch as you see what will grow from it!
If anything in this post has rung true, I would love to hear about it. I would also love it if anyone reading this has any other advice on how to develop your creativity and imagination, because every person is different.
Also, here are some pictures to show how this painting went from beginning to end:
Thank you so much for reading!
This Christmas was really special for me and my whole family. We welcomed a new family member, Benjamin Micah English on December 15th. He is the first grandchild of the family and I could not be happier to be an aunt!
I don't think I've ever seen something more beautiful and I will probably not again until one day if I have my own baby. How can something be so perfect?
I wanted to make something for Benjamin that he could look at for years to come. I hope that when he looks at it, he will know how much he is loved! I wrote a poem to go along with the painting.
Wishes for Benjamin
I hope that you find adventure in every nook and cranny,
that you see the world through kind and curious eyes
and make an imprint that is entirely unique to you.
I hope that you bravely walk the path you want to follow
and find beauty and magic in the Stars, the Clouds, and Sun
Wherever you go and whoever you become
I hope you know that you are always loved.
I cannot wait to get to know Benjamin more and be a part of his life! What an adventure being an aunt is going to be!
If you had asked me as a little girl about what I wanted to be when I grew up I probably would have responded with “an Artist or Veterinarian”. Making art and interacting with creatures has always been a passion of mine. Not much has changed!
Now, if you had told my teenage self that in the future I would be a teacher, I probably would have looked at you with a confused expression. Being one of the quietest girls in school, I could be found working endlessly on my many art projects and avoiding having to speak in class. I was drawn to art is because it provided a way of expressing my individuality and talents, but in a way that was safe to me.
I could look at an object sitting in front of me and recreate it in my sketchbook. Or I could take something entirely from my imagination and make it come to life on a canvas. I could even take some clay and some scrap materials and pretty soon there would be a weird and wonderful creature sitting in front of me. I did this for myself because it was what I loved to do.
Art gave me a chance to shine when I was so compelled to fade into the background.
Despite my shyness, I always liked to challenge myself. Whenever I felt nervous, “Just do something that scares you every day” was what I repeatedly told myself. Sometimes I felt like the most scared brave person in the world. Other times I felt like most brave scared person. Somehow I managed to intertwine being nervous, yet having the desire to do well and not letting my fears stop me.
There was never a question that I loved art, but it took me a long time to consider teaching. As a teen, it never crossed my mind that I might step from behind that desk to the front of the classroom. Yet, here I stand as a first year teacher! Let’s take a few steps back to see where I started.
I vividly remember the second thoughts running through my mind the day before my first practicum. I was preparing for my first art lesson to 34 Grade 9 students and panic set in. Having a vivid imagination, it was like all the possible negative scenarios rolled through my mind like a bad movie. I don’t think I even slept. The next morning, I got up, drove to the school and bravely gave my lesson, which I still cringe to think about.
This was so out of my comfort zone. I thought maybe I should just go back behind my watercolour paper and my paints, maybe that is where I belong. But I had this nagging feeling that I couldn’t just give up and that maybe I have something valuable to learn or share with continuing this path.
The course of my whole first practicum had to have been one of the most challenging and stressful times for me, as I tried to shift roles from being student to teacher. I wanted so much to be perfect, but I couldn’t be.
With paint, when you mix yellow and blue, you know you will always create green. I know that I can create depth on a page in the way that I apply specific colours. This is what I do; it’s what I know.
But, with teaching, you may plan meticulously and for dozens of different reasons, the outcome is completely different than you had imagined. Here were 34 individuals, all with different personalities and needs, and who knew what they were going to do! It made me feel very uncertain. But, it was time for me to step back and realize that all the mistakes, awkward moments, and feelings of uncertainty were only small blips within the larger picture. It was all a part of the process of becoming a teacher.
Am I ever glad that I stayed put and showed up day after day, willing to try again.
My second practicum I felt a change happening I was becoming more confident, and better able to connect with students. I was letting my mistakes roll off my back and seeing every day as an opportunity to try something new.
I am proud to say that I have my first teaching job and that I truly love it. The things that I love about my job are not always the things that I would have expected. I quickly realized I am not here only to train artists. Every day I see these kids they show me what it means to be a teacher. Patience, empathy, and flexibility, to name a few. I can see reflections of myself in some of the students and I know what they need to be successful and to feel cared about. Then I have other students who are like puzzles and challenging, but equally wonderful. Of course, some days I need to remind myself of that.
I like to think that teaching is an art and right now I’m a novice. I have so much to learn and I often worry that I could be doing more. Maybe one day I’ll make it to Da Vinci status, or maybe just Stephanie level. All I know is that I will bravely continue teaching and creating my own artwork, for myself, my students, and everyone around me.
I smile, thinking of the surprised look on my fourteen year old self if I were to tell her that not only am I an artist, but also a high school teacher. I imagine thinking she would be a little bit proud.
This post strays a little farther away from what I usually write about in this blog. It is something important to me and I find that it relates to many aspects of my life and is probably something you can relate to, even if you have never tried CrossFit before.
How do you define strength? Is it how much you can lift at the gym? Is it is how far you can push yourself through difficult situations or overcome obstacles in your daily life? Is it about getting past those unhelpful ways of thinking that hold you back? I think everyone has their own idea of what strength is defined by. I believe that it is a combination of those and many more.
Part of feeling strong for me is how far I can push myself at the gym. I'm drawn to gymnastics because not only does it require a lot of strength, it is also amazingly fun! Included in this are many different movements on the gymnastics rings, such as muscle-ups.
When I first started crossfit, muscle-ups seemed like the epitome of strength and control. This is a movement where you start with the rings within arms reach above your head. You pull yourself up, to the point where the rings are at your chest and lean forward, arms bent. Then you push yourself up, straightening your arms. Despite it being a fairly basic gymnastics movement, it is incredibly difficult when you are first learning it, especially if it is done strict, instead of kipping.
Getting my first muscle-up took me by surprise. I had been working on L-sits on the rings and paralettes every single day for months to get stronger, but I didn’t have the guts to actually try a real muscle-up. I dutifully did ring holds and ring dips, practiced my false grip, but never really thought I would get a muscle-up anytime soon. Muscle-ups were for “strong” people and I didn’t think I was there yet.
I had been doing Crossfit for almost a year before I tried doing a muscle-up. When I finally tried it for fun, to my surprise, I was extremely close. The next day I tried again and I made it through the transitions and I slowly and shakily got myself up and above the rings. One arm almost gave out and it was the equivalent of Bambi learning to walk, but I had made it! Anyone who has gotten a muscle-up will know the feeling. It’s like reaching the top of a mountain. I will never forget that feeling and I was walking on clouds for days after.
When I got that first muscle-up, I thought to myself “Yes, now I am getting strong”. It started to become easier and I thought, “ok, maybe I AM strong!”. Being able to do this one movement almost became a defining feature of myself. It became a symbol of me doing something that I never imagined I would do.
I did many, many muscle-ups, even weighted muscle-ups. I hung a pair of rings out in a tree and did even more. I did summer, spring, fall, and middle-of-a-blizzard-muscle-ups. Yes, even party dress muscle-ups. If I had a list of my favourite things, muscle-ups would be pretty near the top! For about a year and a half, I had a lot of fun doing muscle-ups.
One day, I was taken by surprise when I couldn’t do them. I hadn’t been practicing them as much because I was focusing on other things, like Oly and Powerlifting. They hurt my arms so much. It wasn’t as effortless to pull myself up. In fact, it was near impossible. I could get a few, but it just didn’t feel right anymore. I gave it a week and tried again. My arms were not cooperating and I was stuck. I tried them on my rings at home, and same thing, it is just not easy anymore. That elated feeling of effortlessly pushing myself up above the rings was replaced with the frustrating feeling of standing below those rings and thinking “What is happening? This used to be simple for me.”
I felt defeated because I hadn’t struggled with them like this before. In my life, when I go through something that seems really hard, I often visualize the feeling I had when I got my first muscle-up and that really helped me with whatever situation I was in. But now my muscle-ups were gone. The crazy thought ran through my head “Maybe I’m not strong anymore.” I just wanted to cry.
Despite feeling like I had lost something really valuable, I needed to take a step back. I can squat 200#, walk almost 20 feet on my hands, and do lots of other things that people might consider to be strong. I had improved in many other areas, but because of this one thing, I felt like I had lost a lot of my strength. It actually scared me. If you know me, you may realize that I am incredibly tough with myself and beat myself up for not trying harder or accomplishing more. I may have a smile on my face most of the time, but I am not always nice to myself when I should be.
I had always bought into the notion that as long as I was improving and that I am better than I was yesterday, that was success.
Well, I’ve changed my mind.
Sometimes you aren’t going to be better than you were yesterday, two months, or a year ago. You can’t possibly improve all the time with every single thing that you do. If you can, you are superman/woman and all the more power to you. I’ve changed the way that I look at strength. I’ve decided that as long as I keep trying to the best of my abilities, I am strong.
I’ve decided it's time to be patient and go back to the basics. I’ll practice those L-sits, ring holds, and dips. I will get my muscle-ups back, if I work at it. But even if I don’t, I can still feel proud. It is not my ability to do any one thing; it is my perseverance, dedication, and positive attitude that makes me strong.
There are many strong people in my life that I really look up to. I know that everyone defines what strength means to them, but I just want to say that I have a lot of admiration for anyone that keeps on going and never stop trying, whether it’s at the gym or in any other part of life.
There are people who have illnesses, injuries, or other really difficult things to work through and yet, they keep doing what they can. It is often these people are the first to encourage others to keep on going and try to the best of their abilities.
In whatever way you define strength, I hope that you are able to work towards it despite any setbacks you may face, however big or small.
In my last blog post (Stephanie & Salukis), I asked for stories about how all of you found your dogs. Daria wrote about she gave a home to four dogs in need. I did an illustration of two of Daria's dogs, Penny and Rusty. Here is Daria's story:
I've had 4 dogs now and they've all been rescue. Penny (a shepherd mix) was my first rescue. I was living in Cleveland and I had just bought a house....with the sole purpose of being able to finally have a dog.
Two weeks after I moved in, I went to the Cleveland ASPCA with a friend of mine. My friend was wandering all the rows of dogs and she kept saying come and see this one, or you should totally pick this one. I had walked into the dog area and my feet felt like they were in cement. I couldn't walk any further than the first kennel. I couldn't move, I couldn't walk by all the kennels and just pick one. My heart was breaking seeing all those dogs in need of a good home. Penny was in that very first kennel. She was sitting quietly at the back of the kennel just looking. She looked so sad. I burst into tears and stuttered out that I was taking this one as I pointed to Penny. By the time I left I had all of the staff in tears as I was sobbing into Penny's coat. Fast forward a year and Penny and I were at the annual Humane Society walk.
Penny found Rusty and it was love at first sight. He was a great big orange dog who turned out to be a rottweiler/golden mix; he had an adopt me sign on him. Penny and I didn't stand a chance, we left that walk with Rusty in tow. They were the best of friends. They both lived long lives, Rusty was 14 when he passed and Penny made it to the ripe old age of 16. Not a day goes by that I don't miss those two! Now I have 2 more rescues in my life; Roxy and Sam.
Thanks Daria, for sharing your story about your dogs!
What is it with Stephanie and Salukis? If you’ve known me for any length of time, you will see that I absolutely love salukis and dogs of all kinds. They are a recurring subject matter within my artwork!
If you’ve read my blog post about Spotty, you will know that from as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved dogs. When I had the chance to pick out a book as a kid, it was often a dog breed dictionary or a story with dogs as the main character. I remember when I was nine or ten, my favourite book was about an abused dog, “Beautiful Joe” and was based on a real dog who had his ears and tail cropped. I’d read that book, crying and wonder how such cruelty could even exist. I decided to always be a friend to dogs.
In one of my dog dictionary books, I remember seeing a cream saluki puppy. I laughed at how long her neck and “grasshopper legs” were and how enormous her eyes were. I thought she was kind of strange, but cute at the same time. I had never met a saluki in person, but I read that they were slightly aloof, sensitive, and difficult to train, and could never be let off a leash because their prey drive was so strong. I also learned that they were called "The Royal Hounds of Egypt" and are one of the most ancient dog breeds. I did not know if I would ever cross paths with one of these near mythical beings.
Fast track to when I was 20 and moved to Ontario for school. Unfortunately I had to leave my aging pup, Spotty behind, but I knew my parents would take good care of her. I had just moved to Oakville and was exploring the trails in the lakeshore area with my cousin who had come to visit me. The sun was shining, the lake was sparkling, and there was a gentle breeze as we walked a winding path. As if from a vision, two red, deerlike creatures, the sun highlighting the fur on their ears and tails were galloping straight towards me. They were salukis! I talked with their owner, who happens to show salukis and have the occasional puppy litter. She told me how wonderful they are, that they are affectionate in their own way, and can occasionally be let off leash. I felt like I was walking on clouds and knew that as soon as I was out of an apartment, I would find a saluki.
For four years, I visited dog shows, just so I could see salukis and learn more about them. Yes, I was the weird girl who asked the owners, can I pet your saluki? I went to lure coursing events and saw them run. Salukis running at full tilt and zig-zagging across a field is probably one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen.
After four years in Ontario, after I finished my illustration degree, I moved back to Winnipeg and into the house that I live in now. A few months before moving in, I started looking for litters of saluki puppies. At the time, there were not many rescue salukis available.
Finding a saluki is not a simple task! In Canada there are a handful of breeders, but they tend to have very careful, highly planned litters only every couple of years. No puppies were available in Canada at the time. I saw that there was an expected litter from a breeder in California, so I contacted this lady. She sent me updates and pictures as soon as the puppies were born. I fell in love with a small black and white boy in the day 3 photo and decided to name him Grubby.
The breeder continued to send me pictures of Grubby over the next two months and I loved him, despite having not met him yet! At 8 weeks, Grubby flew to Minneapolis and I drove to pick him up.
He was the sweetest little guy and he followed me everywhere. His little back legs were extraordinarily long, so that he had to kind of step them to the side as he chased after me. He didn’t like sleeping in his cage even though it was right beside my pillow on the bed. So, on his first night, I opened the door and he stumbled out and stretched out right across my neck and slept soundly.
Two nights later though, he did not sleep. He started coughing. After a few hours of restlessness, I became very worried. His gums started turning white from lack of oxygen, so I rushed him to the emergency vet. From having an x-ray, it was seen that his heart was much larger than normal and I was told that he was having congenital heart failure. I was heartbroken. I loved this little hound so much already. I had waited four years to get a puppy like him and now I was faced with the decision that it would be best to end his short life. So I kissed his soft little forehead, held his white paw, felt his last puppy breath and said goodbye to sweet Grubby.
The breeder was shocked and so very sorry about what happened. She said “I have one beautiful red girl left, would you like her?” So my wonderful Penny was flown to Winnipeg, several weeks later.
Right away, I saw that she was a very regal, reserved, yet sweet hound. She didn’t follow me everywhere, but she showed her affection by glancing my way and by nibbling my arm. She took away the sadness of losing Grubby, and I would not want to imagine life without her!
She has taught me that salukis always find the best seat in the house, are discriminating eaters, they always like their paws kept clean, and that a tail wag from her should be seen as the highest honour. She is such a gentle, sensitive creature. At first I worried that Penny was also going to be unhealthy, but I just tried to appreciate every day that she had to spend with me. Five years later, she not been unwell even once!
About two years after I got Penny, I saw that a new rescue group had started up: Arabian Saluki Centre of Canada. This rescue group works with shelters in the Middle East and brings salukis over to Canada to find new homes. The dogs are flown over with flight buddies, people who are already making the trip to Canada and they adopters or foster families meet at the airport to pick up their new hound. To date, they have brought over 70 salukis to Canada.
I look at these salukis often and hope that they find good homes. It really hurts to see a dog that is neglected and in need of care. I think it is amazing that organizations like this exist!
For a while, I’ve thought that Penny might like to have a friend. She absolutely loves to run and I thought she would like a running partner or someone to share the couch with. One day, I saw a picture of a little guy named Taheem.
I knew just three things about Taheem: he was found on a beach in Qatar, he was about one year old, and he may have been a racing dog. His ears had been cropped and this is a sign that he made have been a racer. It was his adorable face and big dark eyes that captured my heart. Once I found out that he is good with cats, I filled out an application for him. Amazingly, he could be put on a flight that was coming in two weeks. This was very lucky because often there is a long wait (upwards of six months) to find a flight buddy.
Kent and I drove to Calgary to pick up our new four legged family member. We grew very worried after almost three hours of waiting. They were not letting Taheem through customs. All I could think about was how scared he was, being locked in that kennel for so long and not knowing what was happening. As I was waiting, Kent all of sudden said “Look Steph!” and a crate labeled “Second Chance Rescue” was being wheeled towards us. When I looked inside, I was struck be how tiny this saluki was, all curled up in one back corner of the crate. I carefully opened up the door and it took some coaxing to get him to step out onto the floor.
I placed new martingale collar around his neck and carefully adjusted it as small as I could make it. To think I had been worried that the collar would not be large enough! Instead of trying to get him to navigate through the noise and confusion on the leash, I scooped up my long legged pup and held him safely as we made our way through the parkade. He seemed relieved and grateful when we placed him in the back seat on blankets and pillows and he immediately curled up.
On the long drive home, this poor jet lagged pup slept, but kept on opening one eye to peer at as. What was he thinking? Probably “who are these people and where am I going?”. But I like to think that he finally felt safe and that everything was going to be alright.
We’ve had him for two weeks and it is incredible to see this little creature opening up and revealing his own personality. He's already put on a couple of pounds and is living a hound's dream. This pup loves life and soaks up all the affection and attention we have to offer.
I’ve illustrated his whole story and will continue to add to it. I plan to make a page that shows the story in it’s entirety. I'm at around twenty pages so far
I am so grateful for these sweet creatures that add so much to our lives!
Please feel free to share your experience of getting one of your dogs in the comments section. I may be inspired to do an illustration of your dog for you!
Earlier this summer, I asked for submissions of your favourite summer memories. Thank you to everyone who shared, I really enjoyed reading them. I randomly chose a name and the winner received an illustration based on the story they submitted.
Becca recounted her memories as a child and wrote about wanting to create new memories with her young family. Here is the illustration I created and her story:
"Summer time, and the living is easy. Fish are jumping and the cotton is high."
My Father sang this song to me as a lullaby when I was a little girl and now I sing it every night to my two little boys. For me the living has always been easiest in the summer. Born in July, I have forever been a lover of fireworks, picnics, swimming, hiking, canoeing, strawberries, watermelon sundresses, bare feet and everything else summer has to offer us. I spent most of my childhood summers in at Victoria beach, where my grandparents owned a cabin. I loved it there, I loved the beach and the rocks which I thought were unquestionably mine. I loved the small candy store where I could buy a treat for a penny (imagine that!). I loved the treats that they are still baking at the bakery there, what I wouldn't do for A dream cookie. I loved riding the "beach bikes" up and down the winding and hilly roads. I even have a few scars to remind me of some of those rides. I loved poking around the bush on the "kiddie trail" behind the cabin, always finding an interesting insect, fungus or leaf. I have countless fond memories of that place.
Unfortunately my grandparents could no longer care for the cabin and two years ago they sold it. I felt that along with the sale went much of my past and a piece of my heart.
Now I am working on building new memories with my children. We took our first tenting trip as a family two weeks ago. The boys explored sand dunes, ate smores, splashed in the lake, threw rocks in the water, made fires and stayed up way too late. I love being able to share some of my favourite things with them.
My favourite memory is hard to pin down. It is definitely either somewhere past the gates of Victoria beach, or lake side watching my boys and their Dad skipping stones.
Thanks again Becca for submitting your story!
I will likely have one more contest this summer, so watch for updates!