Painting your life at Mindcamp

I am heading to Mindcamp next week, my annual pilgrimage to YMCA Geneva Park near the community of Rama in Ontario.  I will be facilitating one of the Mind U offerings; it is called "Painting your life".

We were on our evacuation when I heard that my session had been approved and heartily agreed when asked if I would be interested in doing it as part of Mind U.  Of course, my mind was a little scattered in those days and weeks when we were displaced from our home, and I didn't fully understand what Mind U was going to entail.  After a short phone call with organizer and friend Tim Hurson, I now understand.

Every morning at 9 am, a small group will convene in the Daniel Centre (what I refer to as the Boathouse) and paint for 75 minutes.  On the final day of Mindcamp, it will be two hours.

Here is the write-up that is featured on the Mindcamp website:


Playing with canvas, paint and brushes can be incredible fun when we allow ourselves the gift of letting go of our inner critic. This session will be a guided creation experience where participants will be given prompts that will inspire colour, shapes, text and composition on individual canvases. Like everything in life, we become tethered to things: ideas, people, habits, and patterns. What happens when we let go of our attachments?

Participants will be asked to give over their creation to the group, at which point they will select someone else’s work and be led through a new series of prompts.

How will allowing ourselves to respond to others’ creative instincts influence our own? How can collaborative creation exponentially affect outcomes?

The Skinny: 3 things you will get from this session

1. The freedom from your inner critic
2. The power of letting go of attachments
3. The thrill of collaborative creation

I have had dozens and dozens of people participate in my painting workshops over the past year.  A very small number have been seasoned painters while the vast majority have had little to no painting experience.  They all go through similar things as they dance with their inner critic, feel frustration as they struggle to find their rhythm,  then soar as the painting comes together.

I'm excited to go on this journey with up to 10 Mindcampers.

I've had many opportunities to reflect on my own journey the last few days, as I've had conversations about a couple of major projects coming up this fall, including my first solo exhibition.  These are a few things that jump out to me.

Painting with intention - I've discovered that I go into a painting session with specific intentions.  My father-in-law observed this weekend while visiting that I paint for 45 minutes to an hour then get out of the studio and do something.  Sometimes it is cutting the grass; other times it is chopping up some kindling for the fireplace.  I use a physical activity to clear my head and make myself ready to return to the canvas with a new intention.

Discipline in the work - while painting is something that I love to do, I have a very disciplined work ethic.  I probably do 25 to 30 hours of painting a week.  In other words, I don't wait for inspiration to strike before heading out to the studio to lay down colours on the canvas.

Listen to your body - there are times when I don't have the energy to paint.  In those cases, I retreat to my bedroom for a 5 to 10 minute power snooze to recharge.  Painting when physically exhausted is a bad idea for me.  I'm fortunate in that I can get an extraordinary boost in energy (and productivity) just by closing my eyes for a few minutes.

Have the right tools - I have to be very mindful of my supplies.  If I am running out of particular key colours, my stress starts to go up.  Nothing is more discombobulating than diving into a project and finding out that I have no more Paynes Grey or Phthalo Tourquoise.  I also have a couple of key brushes that need to replaced from time to time.  If I didn't have a 1/4" angle brush in good condition, I would be in trouble.  That said, if I find myself without a key colour or brush, I approach the project with the idea that I have something to learn.  I always do....learn something.

Reward yourself - doing commission work requires a lot of focus and energy.  I like to reward myself after finishing a major piece by doing something quick and fun.  It is the quick and fun projects that end up being made available through my Facebook page.  If something pops up that catches your interest, never hesitate to ask if it is for sale.  I've learned not to overtly say that something is for sale because I believe that Facebook automatically reduces the way the post gets displayed.  The performance of posts with the dollar sign ($), or the words offer or sale, is abysmal.

Honour the imperfect - every painting project, whether I love it or not, is an integral part of the journey.  Sometimes clients ask me to paint subjects that just don't get me excited.  I have to give those paintings more energy and focus as they have much to teach me.  Every portrait, every composition, influences my style and the paintings yet to come.  I try my best to honour and respect them all.

The beautiful thing about art - much like being human - is that it is always evolving.  Trying to predict where my work will be a year from now is an impossibility. I think that is rather exciting and mysterious.


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