Posts Tagged ‘writing’


Yesterday, I had my creative writing workshop. I have been writing non-fiction for many years. I started this workshop a few years ago and it motivates me to write short fiction pieces as well now. The class is very interesting and useful if you manage to be alert for the full two hours.


The man who leads the workshop is quite special, having worked for over 30 years as an English teacher and writing throughout his life. He credits his supporting mother for going into this field. He claims she was always respectful of his interest in reading and writing from the time he was a child. His knowledge of the language and his attention to our reading are quite extraordinary, and his comments are always pertinent and on point.


Anyhow, he came up with a statement yesterday that took me out of my comfort zone: “When you get to be a certain age (over 60), you realize you are stuck in certain patterns and no matter what you try to do to change them, they always come back.” Hum!


Well, it might not have been said exactly this way but this is what I got from it. When I told him I found this very discouraging, he rephrased the statement talking about our patterns of writing but I think his thought ran a lot deeper than this.


Strangely enough, just that morning, I had been walking and pondering my own struggle with change specifically that of my moods and the sadness that sometimes engulfs me. And just that morning I was thinking back to my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and on, realizing how I had not changed that much over the years. My anxious core is still the same despite all my attempts to be less serious, more relaxed, less worried, to focus on the positive and forget the negative.


I am a perfectionist and no matter what I do to change this, I always go back to it and it has been so all my life. What happens when you are a perfectionist is you tend to focus on what can be improved instead of what is good.


I often say I have learned to live with this, to accept it, but whenever I manage a week of:  “I am letting go, I can do it, it’s all good”, I go back to rigidity with a vengeance, especially with myself. It is a constant internal battle for me.


This week, I spent some time working on a painting I started in 2016, a semi-abstract that is turning into a semi-realistic piece (Isn’t that the same?). For months, it leaned against the wall, staring at me, in creative limbo. I wanted to put a lot of textures and show the flow of energy with birds and flowers, a sort of large bouquet.


But once I started to paint it, I didn’t really like the concept. The painting is now going in another direction especially since I decided to include a large butterfly which I love. This often happens when there is a component missing at the planning stage and I decide to just start anyway and see where it goes. I like the element of surprise. Unfortunately I now think the butterfly will have to go…


Doing the endangered birds artworks inspired me to complete the two ducks I saw in the paint strokes. I decided they would be loons to bring strong contrast and because I love them. They are nowhere near finished and will end up being quite realistic. I do have hope it will eventually turn out beautiful. This piece is really exploratory and it is a long process.


As a side note, I saw a great demo last night with Alcohol Inks on Yupo, canvas and tile. It was quite inspiring to see the artist playing with the inks without focusing on a specific result. Liberating!


Finally, how is this all linked together? The demo last night gave me hope, hope that things CAN change and that I can relax and lose that perfectionist streak in painting as well as in life one day. So here I am sharing this unfinished work that is moving in one direction even if I am very unsatisfied with it for now. But it will get better.


You cannot lose hope that you can change or improve for this is what Life is all about. I get the pattern thing and I also agree with the fact that it is difficult to change permanently but I refuse to give up hope that we can better ourselves. After all, Life is about movement and impermanence, we are all “Works in Progress” so everything is possible!


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Enviroart par Suzanne Bélair



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A little over ten years ago, in December 2007, I started this blog. My original intention is reflected in my tag line: This is a blog about art, the environment and the angst of life and creation. This has not changed since and I still hold the views I was presenting in 2007.


I am leaving on vacation for a few weeks and thought that instead of posting while away I will revisit some of my earlier posts.


I used to write a lot about the environment, climate change and air pollution. I also wrote a lot about painting, feelings and life.

©2009Suzanne Bélair
Oil on canvas 10 X 8 in


So here is the first post I would like to share with you. It was first published on June 5th 2008.


Reflection on painting

June 5, 2008 by Enviroart


Today, I am reflecting on the art, on the work of painting, on the world of painting. It is often difficult to get going and start a new painting. The famous blank canvas… Some say that if you put a coat of background color or rather an undercoat, you erase the stigma of the blank canvas. But this is not true. If it can be useful to judge the tone or unify the painting, it remains a blank canvas. The blank canvas might be yellow or brown or blue or white, it still represents a challenge. Will that first touch of paint, that very first brushstroke be right? Will the color show how my mind’s eye expects or sees it or will it be totally wrong and send me in a tailspin of wondering, of corrections and self-doubt, of inquiring and research?


True, there is technique and we can learn to mix colors. It is an art in itself to be able to do this properly and rapidly, but the best way to learn and reduce this anxiety of the first stroke is really to practice, practice, practice. Some days are better than others but all days spent painting, each minute, are a step on the path the painter wants to follow, meaning forward, learning, progressing.


Just like writers are told to write everyday no matter what comes out to exercise the writing muscle, painters, sculptors, artists must practice their craft everyday even if we can give it only half an hour. When you love painting, this anxiety is mixed with expectations and questions. Expectations, because you want this new painting to be better than the last one, to be truer, to expose you a little bit more. Are we just asking for people to understand us a little better? Difficult to say…  Questions, because you just don’t know how your painting will be received.


Unless you are a really experienced artist, that knows what his public wants, it is hard to judge how the painting will be received. This depends on so many different ideas and criteria, that vary according to the individual staring at the painting. When you offer a painting to an audience, you are trying to touch the onlooker. To go deep into his or her soul and somehow touch a part of them, light a switch, create a “Ah !”  moment before the analysis takes over. Before they wonder will this fit in my living room, in my dining room? Is this the right color?


I think we are looking for understanding, for people to peek into our heart and soul, to share something joyful we feel in our core, or sad in some cases. The only way to do this is to paint first and foremost for ourselves. I think this is the main difference between doing artwork and doing “decorative art” or “crafts”. Unless you create, you don’t normally see the difference. Actually a friend of mine said one day that decorative artists are only “good technicians” and I felt a bit insulted by this statement. But now I see the difference. It is true that decorative art is all about technique except for those that actually create patterns and designs. There is a bit of sharing when you pick the pattern you want to reproduce or paint. But is nowhere close to the opening of the soul that happens when you create from your core.


I am speaking for me but there is no emotion when I simply paint someone else’s design. There is the satisfaction of completing a project but none of the excitement, no skipping of the heartbeat, none of the quiet joy of just working at transferring your soul to the canvas.  In conclusion I would like to say that the main thing is to make ourselves happy with what we are painting. I don’t mean to be 100% satisfied with the finished product but to paint for ourselves, about things we like and appreciate. It is not about painting what is trendy now if we hate it (unless we are painting strictly to make money). There is so much talk about finding your style and being unique, but each of us is unique and it is by painting what you believe, what you are, what you like that your uniqueness comes out. We have to live with ourselves, we are the only constant in our life and painting first and foremost for this individual that inhabits our body is a good way to start. So paint what YOU like and do at least a little bit everyday.


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Enviroart par Suzanne Bélair


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©2015 Valerie Fafard

Photo©2015 Valerie Fafard

Love, love, love December 31st and January 1st , the two days of the year when all hope is permitted, when all options appear open and everything seems possible !

The time when dreams can be made and when the will to take the necessary steps to bring them to fruition is alive! Ahhh the New Year, the best time of the year !

Time to look back and think about everything positive that happened during the year and think about where we want to go. The perfect time to reflect on life.

During the week before, I finished a great book by David Bayles and Ted Orland on the perils and rewards of art making and called “Art and fear”. I simply love this book, and plan on applying its wisdom to my art-making in the New Year and forward.


As artists, we are always pulled in different directions, pulled between what we want to do and what we THINK our audience wants to see. The book really brings home the contrast between our personal and emotional involvement in our work and that of the viewer who‘s appreciation of our work is not based at all on our motivations or history. Nor is it based on the time required to write an article, a book or paint a particular image. The main thing the viewer wants is to connect with the art in his/her own special way. But seeking approval, even that of our peers, is a trap since it puts a lot of power into the hands of someone outside of ourselves.

The book talks about the fear that invades us, that is ever present, the fear that transforms itself into procrastination, resistance to deadlines, irritation at a lack of time or at our materials, our surroundings, distraction over the achievements of others… Indeed fear of being open to outsiders, of showing ourselves raw, the fear of being too honest, the fear of rejection…

As we start this New Year, I want to forget about all these underlying fears, put them aside and move forward. I would like to learn to live with them, accept them but don’t let them control me.

The book is reassuring. We recognize ourselves in it, whether painter, sculptor, writer or performing artist. It talks about dry spells, a totally normal occurrence that happens to all of us. Unfortunately, we often tend to treat these as personal failures each time they occur, when we should simply accept them and continue with our art-making routine.

I know talking about routine is not very romantic but routine is what anchors our art in our day to day life. So for 2016, my plan is to get back into my routine of art-making and stick to it and not beat myself down if I don’t produce as much or as well as I would like.

It has become harder and harder for me to stick to a routine, especially since my October 2014 accident. I feel pulled in several directions and love to get together with friends and see my family. Art-making takes time away from all this. It is difficult to balance friendships, family and painting/writing time, on top of all other obligations and actions that we need to take on a daily basis. After all, life is full of priorities and presents us with a lot of opportunities and challenges.

When you are doing something, engaging into any activity, you necessarily forego something else. I don’t understand people that talk about boredom. For me, there are never enough hours in the day or days in the week to do all that interests me, all that I want to see, all that I want to love !

So, following my reflection of the last two days, I decided that today is my organizing day. I have made a few decisions this morning:

No more e-mails, social media or reading the news first thing in the morning. From now on, I will leave all my devices OFF until I have accomplished something on my “To do” list. This includes painting and/or writing everyday. Phone calls until then, will be limited to what needs to be accomplished that day.

I am planning to respect my time and force others to respect it too.

I am planning to respect my art and I, by only doing art that I care about. I basically do this already but sometimes, the temptation to produce for a show and letting our guard down on our ideas can be strong.

Happy New Year to all and Good self-reflection!




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Ahhh the New Year, the best time of the year ! Time to look back and think about everything positive that happened during the year and think about where we want to go. The perfect time to reflect on life.


As we start this new year, lets focus on the art world and what we need to do to feel good about what we are creating and at the same time, move happily forward as an artist.

I am talking about Artistic Vision- What is it, how do we get it, how do we know it is the right one? As artists, we all like to experiment and try different styles and mediums. When do we know what is good TO us  and FOR us?

What is an artistic vision? It is basically what you are trying to do with your art, what you want to convey, that intangible that comes from within and makes you different from everybody else. Is there a grand theme or an underlying message that can tie your work together? You have to know what you want to say with your art. Do you want to entertain an audience, please yourself, change the world, become a great technician? If you don’t know, find out. Whatever it is you want, it is worth pursuing and it is worth knowing for yourself as well as your audience.

Vision is about insight. It starts with your heart, your soul, your intuition.  as Carl Jung said: “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside awakens.”

Take some time to think about your vision and write down all the ideas and things about your vision that come to mind as it comes to you, no order, no sorting, or record yourself speaking the words you hear or envision. Don’t edit or erase, don’t think too much, just keep on writing without worrying about what you write or why and keep at it until you feel everything has been written down or said. Discover yourself. Once you know where you want to go, what you want to say, who you are, it becomes easier to chose your subjects and your commitment to the technical aspect of your art will be renewed so that you can convey this vision.

This clear vision is what sets you apart from other artists and nobody but you can decide what this vision should be.


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I have been working from home for many years. Back 20 years ago, when I had my business and the kids were still at home, I had a large office built in the basement. Then as a writer for the ABQ and finally as an artist, I always had my studio in my home but back then, it was still an open area where everyone would wander and comment. Not very much painting got done in those days.  It is not until my older daughter moved out that I claimed one bedroom as a closed studio space for myself.

When everyone was gone, husband at work, kids busy somewhere and eventually moved out, it was easy for me to carve some time for myself and my art and I must admit I was very lucky. I would unplug the phone, put the music on and drift into my own world of colours and shapes. Sometimes, I would feel my father standing beside me, also an artist who died many years ago.

Today, everything is different. We recently moved to a smaller house and my husband decided to retire, all at the same time or just about. After much consideration about getting an outside studio, I decided to keep it at home even if the space is limited. This choice came out of convenience mostly and also because I feel like I work better alone and without distractions. I also like the fact that I can work at anytime, even the middle of the night if I want to, without having to drive anywhere.

It took me over a year to be able to block out sounds from other rooms in the house and I still have some problems with this. It is getting better every day.  I still don’t write enough, not as much as I used to and this I blame on the loss of routine. I used to exercise, then write sitting on my couch for one hour before tackling anything else. It was easy when I had the house to myself… Sometimes, I would spend the day writing and researching.

We have to be flexible in life and it is not always easy at first when you are faced with major change. Here are a few tips to eliminate distractions and interruptions and get back our creativity that I found work for me.

First, I now dedicate a minimum of two full days to painting and a third to find inspiration and work on drawings and concepts. Since I have done this and told everyone about it, I find it has reduced  my anxiety of not finding enough time to paint. It is a compromise and I wish I could dedicate more time for my art like I used to, but it works for me and some weeks, I get 5-6 days in. But no matter what, my ‘’sacred days’’ remain.

For these two days, I totally refuse to get caught-up in any distraction or any interruption from anyone. I live according to my own schedule, I block out the sounds outside my studio, I don’t answer the phone. My only response to anyone attempting to interrupt me is ‘’I am not here, I am working’’. It happens less and less often now. This has lowered my anxiety level. Before I reserved these days for my art, I was constantly wondering when I would have time to paint, how I would escape without hurting feelings and feeling guilty.

I no longer feel bad or obligated to answer my phone while I am involved in my art. If it is important, they’ll leave a message. The biggest hurdle was to get over the guilt, to claim my own time and space but I am 95% over it now.

Structuring our time is one of the most important step in regaining control and creativity when we work from home.

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Sketching in Punta Banco Costa Rica

I have been happily painting and sketching  in the Costa Rican jungle for the last 2 weeks! Wonderful!  Not a big fan of landscapes, I nevertheless tried my hand at it and between the sounds, the smells, the monkeys and the birds, I found peace and regained some of the calm that has been missing from my life lately. None of the artworks are finished at this point but I am hoping to complete them soon. This was a wonderful trip that I wish all artists would have the chance to take. Outside painting is fun and the colors are so vibrant in the sun!

Anyhow, what I wanted to share today is more about inspiration, creativity, and originality. Living in the rain forest for two weeks, you see all that biodiversity around you and it forces you to realize, that just like each plant, each animal, each leaf, each particle of soil, we are all different from one another, we are all unique even if we are all connected.

We as artists are often faced with the fear of not being original enough, or creative enough. Don’t we hear that all has been said, all has been done already? It is important to keep in mind that if a lot of people have painted an apple for example, no one has painted it your way or has placed it in the same context as you. No one felt the same as you did while they were painting it.

Just like each drop of water in the ocean is different from the one next to it, just like each wave that comes crashing to shore is different from the preceding one and from the following one, so it is with each artist. We are different from one another, we do have something to say or to express in a different way from each other and we do have our own voice, be it written or visual.

How to be original? How to be creative? The best way I found is to write down whatever idea comes to my mind as soon as I think of it. I know it’s not that easy sometimes but well worth the effort. The second thing to do is put in the work, put in the hours. It is often while you work that ideas pop into your mind and that you find what you like or don’t like. The way to be original is to be yourself. Paint what you like to paint, write what you like to write about.

Each individual artist has an artistic voice. It might take a while to emerge, especially when you’ve been working with other artists or concentrating at perfecting your skills, but eventually, it will.

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