Studio visitors and lessons from Melba

I had a number of visitors to Birdsong Studio this weekend.  Calling it "Birdsong Studio" probably makes it sound more glamorous than it is.  In truth, is is a re-purposed motorcycle shop that was built by Jim Dorie (singer/songwriter and from Syncrude employee now living in Nova Scotia) that I turned into a carpentry shop, and finally, into my painting space.  Let's just say it has lots of character.
The Pierre family dropped by to say hello on Sunday
Different folks came by to pick up their commissions - Christmas gifts that need to remain under wraps until the big day.  If they are not in a rush, I drop what I'm doing and give them a brief tour: out to the back to see the murals of Elsie, Dorothy and Tom and over the fence to the one of Norm next door.  I talk about how this crazy painting adventure began in June 2014, painting on whatever I could get my hands on - walls, boards, album covers, etc. and a few of the stories that pop into my brain in the moment.

I enjoyed two extended visits with Melba in the studio, first participating in an interview for her blog ( and then drawing and painting together last week.  It was lovely creating with another person and chatting between brush strokes.  I especially appreciated Melba's insights on Instagram, a social media platform that I quite enjoy, but am still trying to maximize.

If you follow me on this photo sharing site, you'll notice that I've begun to use three extra hashtags on a regular basis.  Melba helped turn the lightbulb on that if people didn't know my handle - rvthomas67 - they would have a difficult time finding me.  However, if I tag everything with #russellthomas, #russellthomasart (same as my Facebook page) and #birdsongstudio, it will be easier for strangers to run into my work.

Melba also taught me to bring others into the Instagram conversation - much like we do in Twitter - by adding them to the post: @MelbaSeat, @DominicsArt, @TheArtofTyler, and @ericstaub are some of my favourites.  There are also some "art assistant" profiles that have loads of followers who share work that they like.  I've tagged a few of those in my effort to break through the Instagram ceiling.

As part of her Trans Canada Trail adventure with Woods Canada this summer, Melba and her boyfriend Adam Kochanek had to strengthen their social media skills to help share the story of what they were doing (and the products they were representing).  I'm somewhat proficient in social media, but I'm still learning how to be better, and I'm grateful that Melba shared her insights while hanging out amongst the paints, brushes and canvases.

In the spring, it is my intention to empty Birdsong Studio of all its contents, work benches and tables.  I'm going to create several piles:  stuff to sell, give away, throw away and keep.  Then, I'm going to reconfigure the space to make it more functional as an art studio.  It's a little cozy at the moment, not to mention messy and cluttered.  Visiting six months from now will be a whole new experience. 


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