A few weeks ago, while visiting my Mom & Dad in Shediac, New Brunswick, I received a disappointing email. My wonderful studio assistant, Christy Litster had been offered a full-time dream job and was regretfully resigning.
I’m actually happy for her. Christy is very talented and has the potential to do great work. In the eight months we’d worked together, I’d learned as much from her as she had from me. I’ll miss her input and wish her much success.
My hope had been to return after my vacation, refreshed and ready to ‘rock ’n roll’. As you read in my last post, Christy and I were working on revamping my color resource website ColorWheelArtist.com.
Progress on the site had not been going well. We’d been tied up of for over a month, with a challenging series of cascading technical hurdles.We were both frustrated and Christy kept saying, “It’s a sign you should be painting.” and we’d laugh.
This is one of the paintings from the series I’ve just begun.
‘Wish You Were Here’
acrylic on canvas.
48″ x 48″ © 2015
We all get side-tracked sometimes. The trick is to look at a challenge as an opportunity to review the map and find your direction again.
My approach has always been to ask myself two questions.
“Where am I now?”
“Where do I want to go?”
I then re-set my course and get going.
Recently, the computer had become my master and was sucking up all my creative juices. The phrase: “Step slowly away from the computer with your hands up.” kept popping into my mind.
I started reading older entries in my studio journal and instantly came across a list of conclusions I’d written several years ago. Not only did they remind me of my own path, but in retrospect, pretty much apply to anyone who wants to live a more CREATIVE, VITAL LIFE.
- Observe & listen. Notice what you notice.
- Clarify what has meaning for you. Decide what you want.
- Stay authentic and true to your values.
- Keep it simple. Stop trying to do it all. Focus.
- Spend time in creative flow every day.
- Share and be grateful for the opportunity to create.
This list helped me re-focus with a renewed purpose. Often, what we see as a huge disappointment serves as an important reminder to stop and look at where we are. Only then can we take the next step in our own personal journey.
If you thought this post was helpful, please share it with others who might like it also.
Wishing you a creative life !
How are you enjoying your summer so far? Everybody, everywhere seems to be talking about the weather.
Here in Windsor, we’ve had record setting amounts of rain with the wettest June in 75 years. While the rest of us pray for sunshine to lighten our spirits, the area farmers are struggling with swampy fields.
This summer, I’m taking a little break from painting every day. Instead I’m ‘filling the creative well’ by reviewing old sketchbooks, some going back 20 years.
It’s a wonderful experience to discover past drawings and ideas I’d totally forgotten about. Relevant drawings are being carefully separated from the sketchbooks and gathered together to inspire my next group of paintings.
Christy, my studio assistant, and I are also intensely focused on another creative project.
Let me tell you about it.
In 2008, to teach myself web design, I built an educational website about my favorite subject, which is COLOR. I hadn’t really added much to the site during the past seven years. But to my utter surprise ColorWheelArtist.com has continued to grow steadily all by itself. It now receives about 110,000 unique visitors every month!
The site is chock full of useful information, fun facts and tips on using color. It’s the perfect resource site for choosing colors that harmonize well, the meanings of color and color theory. There are even Free Printable Downloads of blank color wheels to practice mixing colors with.
I get lots of inquiries from students, teachers, artists, interior decorators and hobbyists asking for more. Schools and colleges all over the world are even using ColorWheelArtist as a curriculum guide.
Since Christy is a computer and graphic design whiz, she was keen to help me update and relaunch.
What I initially thought would be simple design changes has turned into be an incredibly involved endeavor. The internet is now exponentially interwoven and complex at a technical level. I am not naturally inclined to be a computer ‘nerd’ so the learning curve is extremely steep. But Christy and I are tenatious and determined to improve the experience for site visitors. We’re making changes almost every day – trying different things.
Please go take a look at ColorWheelArtist.com
Let us know what you think. We’re eager to hear any comments, ideas or suggestions for content.
Wishing you a colorful day !!
In just four short days we will be hosting our open house and art sale!
The art is mostly hung and ready to go – just all the finishing touches being taken care of around the studio.
A little sneak – still lots to see.
There is plenty of parking on the side streets around the studio, as well as parking (on the weekend) in the parking lot behind the studio. Parking is free!
The studio is located at 3080 Grand Marais Rd. E, north of the E.C. Row Expressway just between Central Ave. and Walker Rd.
Follow the link below for directions from Google Maps:
Map To The Studio
We recently installed a brand new sign that you can’t miss!
We look forward to seeing you all there!
Be sure to drop by and say, “Hi!”
Friday, May 8th, Noon – 6pm
Saturday, May 9th, Noon – 6pm
Sunday, May 10th, Noon – 5pm
See you there!
Keep the Passion Alive! #ArtLife
Shirley and Christy
Be sure to mark your calendar for this rare event !!
I’ll soon be hosting an Open Studio for the first time in 3 years.
Many of my paintings have just returned from a gallery tour. Plus there are lots of new ones to see.
Invite your friends and come take a look !!!
One of the exciting projects we’ve been working on in the past few weeks was a fun corporate client appreciation paint party. Shirley was contacted by a good client, who also happens to a Senior Vice President of a Financial Institution. He and his firm are passionate about their clients. They wanted to offer their VIP clients a fun and unique experience to show their appreciation for their VIP’s years of business.
After a fun brainstorming session, Shirley had the plan all laid out. Her goal was no small task: provide a memorable artistic experience to those who may have never dabbled in art before.
In preparation for the event, I prepped 20 pieces of paper, gessoed and textured. The prep for this event was fun for us both, as we played, creating demos through Shirley’s step-by-step instruction.
All set up and ready to go!
Another view of our set up in Shirley’s awesome studio.
The event took place on the evening of March 4th. Refreshments were all set up and ready to go, courtesy of her client.
A delicious selection of food and drinks. (I definitely enjoyed my share )
Everyone was all set up and ready to go. Each participant was given a piece of paper. Shirley took all of the decision making out (ie. colour palette, tools, media, layout) so their special clients could focus on the fun part of being an artist: experimentation and creativity.
A group shot of all of the participants going through the steps with Shirley
Our VIPs definitely got into the spirit, painting with different tools and even their hands!
One of my pre-event jobs was to pre-cut mats. As the event came to a close, Shirley and I handed out selection mats and instructed on how to find areas of interest in the pieces they had been working on. They were so shocked to find that they had been creating their very own art all evening, as opposed to just playing with art supplies.
VIP, Deb making the finishing touches on her piece.
Shirley assisting with the selection mats, helping to find the right points of interest.
Once the pieces were found, I snuck out of sight – to the backroom, to start professionally matting and packaging their selections. The special clients were so shocked and excited to see their work archivally matted and ready to frame!
A finished and matted piece.
The evening was a great success. Shirley’s client, the Senior Vice President, had only wonderful feedback:
” You and Christy were very personal and enthusiastic. The pace and painting process was perfect. My clients were very comfortable with your instructions and how the evening flowed… it was so fun and enjoyable. [We all] loved our professionally matted take home art that we each created.”
Smiles all around!
Everyone had such a fun evening. We can’t wait to do it again!
Keep the Passion Alive! #ArtLife
CHRISTY and SHIRLEY
Over the past two months there have been some exciting changes at Shirley’s studio. One of the most exciting – at least from my perspective – is that I have come on as Shirley’s assistant!
Hello there, my name is Christy Litster. I am an emerging artist and illustrator specializing in, well, I’m just figuring all of that out actually – so stay tuned! One of the many exciting tasks I’ve taken on is to assist Shirley in her art career is the social media aspects of her marketing.
I enjoy capturing little moments of brilliance in every day life, so having the passenger seat in Shirley’s art life is fairly thrilling.
You’re probably wondering who I am? Well, I trained as a Designer earning a degree in Fashion Design from Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario. I have worn a variety of creative hats in the past few years. My design experience ranges from fashion doll designer to custom uniform designer catering to the gaming and hospitality industry. I have created exciting conceptual lines, and have participated in large scale fashion shows both in Windsor and Toronto, Ontario.
Although, I have always enjoyed design, illustration and painting has been my passion from the time I could raise a pencil. Over the past few years, I have switched hats once again focussing mainly on painting and fashion illustration. I am currently an illustration and design instructor at St. Clair College’s Fashion Design Technician Program.
Working over the past little while with Shirley has ignited my passion for art more than ever, and we’ve definitely enjoyed brainstorming and working on all sorts of fun projects….
… projects that you’ll just have to stay tuned to check out!
Until next time…
Keep the Passion Alive! #ArtLife
A few weeks ago I was contacted by a young Journalist named Matt Recker. He wanted to shoot a Video Profile of me in the studio for a Graduate Project.
Matt Recker setting
My first thought was, ‘What fun! ‘
In the 1980’s, before becoming a full-time artist, I was a Video Producer in Toronto. So I feel quite comfortable around cameras.
But my second thought was a twinge of apprehension. Matt wanted to shoot me while painting a large canvas live.
I’ve done lots of live demonstrations in the past. But for me, being in the flow of a real painting is a deeply personal and private practice. No one had ever filmed me doing it before.
Could I forget the camera was there and truly paint in the flow?
Day One – THE INTERVIEW
Fortunately, Matt turned out to be a very capable and gentle giant who made me feel really comfortable.
He decided to conduct his interview on the first day. You can see him setting up in the photo above.
Once he was ready, we quickly began with his first question.
‘Tell me your name, age and how long you’ve been a professional artist.’
After the interview, Matt and I talked a bit about my painting process. He understood my concern about filming me live while painting. If we did it, it had to be authentic.
Matt graciously didn’t pressure me and offered to let me mull it over. A few days later, I was mentally prepared and called him back.
Day Two – LIVE PAINTING
My studio practice involves working on several canvases at the same time. It also involves multiple layers of paint applied over weeks at a time.
Fortunately, I had a large 72 x 36 inch canvas at the perfect stage to receive it’s first layer of undertone colors.
Before Matt arrived for the shoot:
- I put on my warm painting clothes as the studio is always really cold in December.
- I selected my pigments, media and tools
- and cleared my work space.
- As usual before painting, I set my intention
- reviewed my notes and sketches and
I was ready to go just as Matt arrived.
While concentrating deeply on the act of painting I was surprisingly unaware of Matt and his camera dancing around me.
The painting is still far from finished with several layers still to go.
But you get the idea.
Thanks to Matt Recker for producing such a great video.
See it Now …
Artist Shirley Williams painting live
Wishing you all a happy and prosperous 2015 !!
The truth is, I’m human.
There are times when I just don’t feel creative. The well is dry and the idea bank is overdrawn.
During these dry spells, trying to come up with something doesn’t work. It only leads to paralysis of analysis. If I let it get out of control, it can quickly escalate into total studio avoidance.
Avoiding the studio is the kiss of death for any artist.
So what do I do when this happens?
Nipping this spiral in the bud starts with the obvious ways to kickstart myself.
- Going on inspirational walks in nature with a camera
- Reviewing photos of my old paintings
- Reviewing my sketchbooks
- Looking at other artists’ work online
- Going to galleries and museums
- Doing some creative research, thinking and journaling
Most of the time one of these is enough to stir up the creative juices again. But sometimes, the clock is ticking and I’m still coming up empty. The big white canvas just sits there mocking me –
daring me to approach – daring me to ruin its pristine surface.
The challenge is to get out of my head – to stop thinking and start doing.
Every artist encounters this overwhelming feeling sometimes. To break through, I’ve found a little trick that works nearly every time.
Blasting Through a Creative Block
- I prepare a pile of 4 x 6 inch heavy watercolor paper, by priming and texturing each piece.
- I make a conscious decision to ignore my desire to make something ‘good’.
- I give myself a set of restrictions before beginning . This stops me thinking too much.
- create a specific number of pieces
- stick to one composition
- use only specified materials
- use a limited color palette
- set a time limit to finish
- explore one word or phrase
I roll up my sleeves, crank up the volume on some jazz or samba and start messing around to the music. My goal is to loosen up and let my mind go with the flow.
The pre-set arbitrary restrictions are actually freeing. Limited options force creative thought. It’s a bit counter-intuitive, but true. One piece quickly leads into the next.
Here’s A Recent Example
- 16 pieces
- grid composition
- only use acrylic paint, pastels, black grease pencil & number stamps I made myself
- analogous color scheme – around the color wheel
- finish under one hour each
- the phrase was ‘Count Down & Go’
‘Count Down & Go’ © 2014 Shirley Williams
They were titled ‘Count Down & Go’ because that’s what I was saying to myself as the paint flew.
Sure enough, before long, the larger surfaces beckoned me.
I normally put them away after finishing. Much later I take out my accumulated pile of little warm-ups and decide which ones are worth keeping.
I grouped these 16 miniatures in pairs of colors and mounted them with archival white mats, (not shown here).
The mats have generous 3 inch borders all around.
There are 8 pairs with a finished outside size of 14 x 11 inches each. Just pop them into any standard 14 x 11 inch frame.
Just imagine how they’d look as a grouping in a small space.
$65. each (3 or more $ 50. each)
For larger images or more info contact me at
‘Count Down & Go’ © Shirley William