Friday, January 30, 2015

running with wolves and creating art

Have you ever read Women Who Run with the Wolves, by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes?

It was first published back in 1992 and your local library will have a copy. I loved it and I still pull out my copy every now and again.

Clarissa writes about the myths and stories of the wild woman archetype. Her analysis of these stories, from different cultures, is aimed at getting women to honour their creative selves.

My old and yellowed paperback edition is filled with notes, much underlining and stars on important bits. Back then I really needed her message.

Do you have trouble giving yourself permission to just flat out go for it and honour your artsy needs? I suggest you have a look at this book.

Anyway, if you are familiar with Women Who Run with the Wolves, you will know what I mean when I say that the time has come for me to bare my fangs and to do some running with the wolves.

I am donning my artist hat for a while and my mentoring hat is getting shelved to gather a bit of dust. I am immersing myself in art creation and I am setting myself free from most things computer related.

This means I am taking a break from writing a weekly newsletter.

I am going to practice what I preach and I am going to start getting snarly about my studio time. Mid-winter seems like a good time to disappear as many of you are on cruises or on other sorts of vacations.

“Wolves lead immensely creative lives. They make dozens of choices every day, decide this way or that, estimate how far, concentrate on their prey, calculate the chances, seize opportunity, react powerfully to accomplish their goals. Their abilities to find the hidden, to coalesce intention, to focus on the desired outcome and to act in their own behalf to gain it, are the exact characteristics required for creative follow-through in humans.” (Pg. 316, Women You Run with the Wolves) Amen Dr. Estes!

During my absence I plan on posting a few fun things on my blog and probably some work in progress updates. Some of this will wind up on my FB biz page but I confess I really like blogs and I am not keen on facebook J. (check out my info on the blog sidebar to sign up to receive updates in your inbox or make a bookmark, saves you having to remember the address)


I haven’t had much artwork to share lately so I am showing an oldie and I think a goodie. I like this one so much that I didn’t wish to sell it. J It is hanging on a wall in our dining room.

copyright Teresa Mallen

The sunflower was done in coloured pencil on Stonehenge paper and is 14 ½ inches wide and 10 inches high. I was captivated by the underside of the plant and that was the ‘story’ I wished to tell.

I hope you have some wonderful art making time planned for the weeks ahead. Why not give Women Who Run with the Wolves a read?

If you hear an eerie, weird human sound at night, it is probably just me, howling with the wolves. My pencils are sharpened and I am ready to join my pack in the woods!

Take care everyone, stay warm and may you run a wee bit on the wild side yourself.

Friday, January 23, 2015

the after image phenomenon

TMS Newsletter Excerpt, Friday January 23rd, 2015

I hope everyone is having a great mid-January. Might be a good time to mention spring J - if you are in the Ottawa area, I have just posted info about my spring classes on my website. Registration is now open. I will give some details after I answer this week’s question. I can’t wait to meet you!

This week I have a really interesting question to answer. Loni from Seattle writes:

“Hi Teresa. I hope this isn’t a dumb question. I took an art class several years ago. It was mainly a drawing class but we did get into some color theory at the end of the course. I was looking through my notes from that class and I came across something the teacher called the “phenomenon of after image”. I can’t make sense of my notes and I am wondering what this phenomenon is and how do I use it in my art or maybe I should I avoid it (not sure if after image is a bad thing). Thanks for any information you have time to share.”

This is a very cool question Loni (certainly not a dumb one J). I haven’t heard of after image in years.

Readers, if I asked you to define ‘after image’, what would your answer be?

If you need a refresher or if you haven’t actually ever heard of ‘after image’ then listen up cause here is the dish...

The phenomenon of ‘after image’ is said to be a demonstration of our brain’s ‘need’ for the complement of a particular colour. This comes from studies of the brain (for example what the left part of the brain controls and the right part of the brain etc.)

I won’t get into science speak about this but here is an example that will let you experience the phenomenon first hand (read the instructions through first).

How to Experience an After Image

·        Take a piece of paper and draw a circle of about an inch or so in diameter. Colour/paint the circle a rich, intense red colour. Next make a tiny back dot in the center of the red circle.

·        Take a second piece of paper. Place a similar black dot in the center of the page.

·        Hold the two sheets side by side. Gaze at the red coloured circle for about a minute.

·        Next, quickly shift your gaze to the dot on the second blank sheet. (This is why you need to read the instructions through first. Stopping to read this after gazing at the circle will ruin the effect.)

·        As you gaze at the black dot on the second blank sheet of paper, you will “see” the complement to red (which is green) emerge on the blank paper - the same shape, the same size as the original red circle.

Try this with any colour. Your brain will produce the exact complement of any hue. This is termed the negative after image.

Apparently if you experiment with two colours, both complementary colours will appear. (I haven’t tried this)

As an odd twist, for some people, the original colour will appear as an after image, but in the negative spaces of the original shapes, which are the uncoloured areas. This is called a positive after image.

So our brains are tricky things, making us see things that aren’t on the page!
 Wonder what else in our lives gets skewed? J

This is a great little project to get up to with kids or grandkids. They love magic and illusion.

Why would our brains, need the complement? I have no idea. I am sure there is some sort of theory on the internet if you are curious enough to look.

Loni also asked how this applied to her art.

I honestly don’t think it does!

Understanding complementary colours and how you can use this knowledge in colour mixing or in creating interesting darker values (say in shadows) is fun to learn and is of value but I don’t concern myself with the after image phenomenon.

If any of you do create art being mindful of this after image phenomenon please write and tell us why. Then tell us how you compensate for this effect.

Personally, I think it is neat to know about how our brains process colour images but I don’t use this particular bit of info in my everyday art making.

Art Newbies:

Maybe you are new to all of this art stuff and you don’t have a clue what a complementary colour is. I am guessing you have heard of something called a colour wheel or a colour circle. Colours are arranged around a wheel based on their relationships with other colours. If you become familiar with how colours are arranged around a colour wheel, then a complementary colour will be easy to determine. It is the colour that is directly opposite any given colour.

Referring back to our example above, the colour across from red on the colour wheel is green. Therefore the complementary colour of red is green. Easy peesy. If you would like to learn more, have a look at the art how-to books in your local library or look up info on the colour wheel on-line.

I hasten to add that you don’t need to know this to get started drawing or colouring!  If you are a newbie, stay within your comfort zone and don’t overload yourself with stuff you think you should know. Keep it fun and simple. There will be a time for all of this stuff when you are ready.

Thanks for the interesting question Loni!

Spring 2015 In-Studio Classes, Coloured Pencil Basics and Beyond the Basics

Coloured Pencil Basics:          May16th and 23rd, 2015

Is 2015 your year? Is it time to seek out vast possibilities and to discover magic? Have you always wanted to really dive in and explore the world of coloured pencils?

Maybe you are thinking it would take a miracle for you to be the artist you dream of being. If so, then you are in the right place because here at TMS, delicious alchemy happens. You bring your doubts, your fears and your insecurities and I wave my magic wand and poof, at the end of our time together, you are transformed into a confident, pencil savvy diva. I have seen it happen over and over and over again. Let me assure you, you are not the exception! J (okay the bit about the magic wand is a bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea)

If you are ready to ditch your fears and sharpen some pencils, I am offering Coloured Pencil Basics, a course consisting of two full days on Saturday May 16th and 23rd, 2015. 

This course is jam packed with fun projects and tons of how-tos plus an incredible Bonus Package. You will go from a total newbie to someone that can create this:

Plum Project, step by step, CP Basics, copyright Teresa Mallen

You will also create your own version of this leaf. The veins are super simple to do but you have to experience it to believe me... (line drawings are included, plus full instructions and you also get a drawing of the veins to ‘impress’)

Impressed line technique, leaf project, CP Basics, copyright Teresa Mallen

We work on lots of other stuff too!

Have I mentioned that we have lots of fun? 

To read all of the details, please visit the classes page of my website, (click here to get there). Scroll down past the glowing testimonials until you see Coloured Pencils Basics.

 I have spent quite a bit of time describing the course and the Bonus Package so please do yourself a favour and make sure you take in all of the super helpful info.

You can register via your credit card right from that page.

Need more help deciding?

If have read the course description and something inside of you is excitedly saying ‘yes’ and you really want to hit the cart button but you also have a few butterflies in your stomach, I get it. This is just a message from that tiny part of you that still wonders if you can really do this.

 Why not drop me a line? Click here for my email address.

We can set up a time for a quick get acquainted call. Together we can determine if this course is the right fit for you. And you can get to know me. Studying with someone you haven’t met can be intimidating but I can assure you, once we have chatted you will know that I am not the least bit scary. J There will be no pressure. Whether or not you register is entirely up to you. I simply want to give you any info that will help you make the decision that you feel is best.


Beyond the Basics         April 25th, May 2nd 2015

As the title suggests, this content packed two day course is all about launching into more artsy info that takes you beyond the basics of working in coloured pencil.

This course is perfect for someone who has already taken my CP Basics course or someone that is self taught and has been practicing on their own or someone who has studied with someone else and who wishes to explore the world of coloured pencil further.

We will cover a lot in this course but it won’t be overwhelming. I firmly believe that learning should be fun and we will take it all at a manageable pace. We will spend quite a bit of our time on learning how to see and create colour with greater mastery, we will explore the rich world of working with complementary colours, we will practice the different ways to create darker values and there will be fun bits of info on colour harmony and composition.

I won’t write out all of the course details because I have carefully described it all on my classes page. You need to scroll down the page to the Beyond the Basics section. You can register right from that page.

Please read the Need More Help Deciding? section just up above. The same applies for this course. If you would like to have a quick chat about this course, please email to set up a time for the call. I would love to hear from you.

On-Line Course Bonus

By now you know that I will be offering my first on-line course later this year. Perhaps you are trying to decide between coming to in-studio classes or waiting and taking something on-line.

The easy answer is that you should do both. BUT you won’t have to shell out tons of money for both.

As a thank you to everyone that has studied with me over the past decade, I shall be offering my on-line course to former students at a super duper special price.

The on-line course will run over many weeks and as a result it will contain a lot more content. Please don’t feel that you will miss out by taking the in-studio session.

 You will have the best of both worlds – you will be able to get started working with your pencils this spring AND you can sign up at a crazy bonus price to get all of the extra projects, on-line. I really do value and appreciate all the support I have received over the years and I want to thank you.

So just to be clear, you won’t have to pay the full price twice. It is not better to wait. It is a much better deal money wise, to take the in-studio session and then add on the on-line course when it becomes available.

Finally, if you know of someone that might be interested in these courses, please do them a favour and let them know.

 Spaces are very limited and seats are filled on a first come first served basis.

I don’t plan on offering these classes again in 2015 so if you are keen, please don’t miss out.

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, January 16, 2015

a gritty pencil problem and some thoughts from a fellow reader

Excerpt from my TMS January 16th, 2015 newsletter...

Have you ever had a problem with a gritty pencil core? Newsletter Group Member Daphne L. from Toronto has the following question for me...

“I have a quick question. I sharpened a pencil recently and started working with it. There was a scratchy feel as I was applying the colour to the paper. I didn’t think much of it and kept going. Suddenly I laid down a dark streak of colour, much darker than the pencil’s actual shade. I was able to remove the dark streak of colour but then I realized that the scratching of the pencil over the paper had actually left an indent in the paper. I haven’t had this happen before. Is this common? I am using Prismacolor pencils and I thought they were a good brand. Thanks for your time.”

Thanks for the question Daphne. First up, Prismacolor is a very good brand of pencil. What you experienced isn’t common when using coloured pencils but it does happen. I suspect this bit of hard ‘something’ is simply a tiny bit of undissolved pigment or binder that has been formed into the core. Considering you actually laid down a dark streak of colour, I am guessing it is a bit of pigment.

 I have had this happen to me. Here is how I deal with it...

When I feel that obvious scratching that you described, when applying the colour to my paper, I stop working and I break the point off completely. I then re-sharpen. This should take care of it. I have only had one pencil that I had to break the lead a few times as the core had something really weird in the mix. It really doesn’t happen very often though and getting rid of just one sharpened tip should do it. You do want to get rid of it though because (as you found) it can scratch your paper.

Try going over your scratch with a colorless blender pencil (Prismacolor makes one). This pencil is waxy and you should be able to fill in the scratch with the colourless wax. Then lightly apply the colour you wish to have in that area. If the area is dark in value, keep going over it. By using light pressure, there is less chance that your stroke will end up leaving deposits on the edges of the scratch’s tunnel, which would end up outlining the very scratch that you are trying to hide.

I hope this info helps Daphne.

If you have a question you would like me to tackle, send it in. It just might make it into a newsletter.

Now about last week’s questions regarding 2014 – did you read them over and then go on to something else?

 If so, here is some feedback from a Newsletter Group Member whose name is Janice. She has a message for you.

“Hi Teresa. Thanks for the list of questions in last week’s newsletter. I wanted to share my experience in case it helps someone else get more value out of the questions than I first did.

When I first opened the newsletter, I just skimmed the questions. I answered some of the ones that were obvious to me. I just answered them in my head. I could easily remember the exhibit I attend last July and I remembered that I had renewed my membership with my local art club. But I confess I didn’t actually think much about most of it. I considered doing what you suggested, that is writing out my answers but I was too lazy to go get a pen and paper and I didn’t want to go dig out a calendar from last year to help me remember stuff.

On Sunday I met a friend for coffee. She started telling me about how at work last week her manager had put her team through a similar year in review sort of process. My friend was astonished by just how much her department had accomplished. She could see the targets they reached, the goals they met over the year and she also saw how much her work had contributed to this.

This conversation made me think of your questions. That night I went home, opened up your email again and this time I had my 2014 calendar and some paper and my favourite coloured pens. Might as well make it pretty right? J

Well I couldn’t believe the results. I really thought about the parts of the questions that asked me things like what I learned and what impacted me the most. I ended up with pages of notes. You said it would be “powerful stuff” and you were right!
I am so glad I decided to answer the questions properly.

I got so much out of doing this that I have decided to put this to use in 2015. Instead of waiting until next January, I am going to write down what I got out of an art show (or whatever) right after it happens. That way I won’t forget.

Is there any way my story could be used to help someone else that didn’t answer the questions?

Thank you for writing them out for us.”

Thank you very much Janice for taking the time to write such a thoughtful email. I am delighted that you went through the questions a second time.

As you all can see, I am publishing her email in the hopes that Janice’s experience will help
I am so delighted that Janice found the process powerful.

Living life with awareness is always powerful stuff but we usually need a poke or a prod to ‘do the work’. Her chat over coffee fortunately gave her a prod!

Please let Janice’s email, be a prod for you!

And Janice has a great idea. Why not grab your journal and write out your thoughts immediately following something – write out what you got out of that art seminar or presentation, what you liked about the exhibit. Think about what you learned, what moved you or inspired you. Think about how these insights can be used to improve your art making or your art habits.

Perhaps set aside time every month to review what happened in the past four weeks.

If you have nothing to make note of, then this could be a good reminder for you schedule in some artsy experiences.

In-Studio Classes

Dates for my spring classes will be announced in next week’s Newsletter. Registration opens on January 23 (next Friday).  Spaces are limited so I always encourage early registration in order to avoid disappointment.

The further up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it’s considered to be your style. (Fred Astaire)

Friday, January 9, 2015

excavating your 2014 gold and celebrating your wonderful groovy self

TMS January 9th, 2015, Newsletter excerpt...

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope you all had a safe and wonderful holiday. Seems like a long time ago doesn’t it?!

For many of us, the arrival of a new year is a delicious time of refining our goals and dreams. Personally, I enjoy mapping out the coming year with plans that will fulfill my intentions.

But before I go into my planning, scheming and dreaming I make sure I pause and consider the gifts and gains of the previous year.

I do so much more and accomplish so much more than I remember or give myself credit for. I suspect this is the same for you.

This week I would like to encourage you to pause and take stock of your artistic accomplishments in 2014. At the end of a year, our tendency is to think we didn’t do that much in the past twelve months, or at least not the stuff that was meaningful to us. But before you assume that, read over my list of questions below.

Honour yourself by celebrating what you did and what you learned. You have more to be delighted with and proud of than you might initially imagine.

My list of questions is intended to take you down a path of personal awareness and celebration. I encourage you to write your answers down. This is powerful stuff...just wait and see. J

TIP: Before we get started, you may find it helpful to grab your day planner from 2014, or your family organizing calendar or your journal. Hopefully you have something on hand that will help you remember what you did 10 or 12 months ago. Also, you may find it helpful to review your sketchbook or your paintings to help you get a sense of your progress.
Here we go...

Celebrating Your Artistic Journey in 2014

·        Did you read any art related books in 2014 and if so, what did you learn from them?

·        Did you watch any movies about artists you admire or did you read any biographies? If so, what did you take away from learning about the artist’s work and life?

·        Did you add new images to your sketchbook over the year? If so, did this change and/or improve your drawing skills?

·        Did you complete any drawings and/or paintings this past year (count the unframed ones too)? If so, how many? Make a good guess if you don’t know for sure.

·        Did you visit any art exhibits, art museums, attend any solo or group shows? If so, review what you enjoyed about your experiences and what you may have learned from these events.

·         Did you discover any new artists that inspire you? This could be someone you discovered from reading an art magazine, or from finding their website or discovering them on a studio tour. What exactly is it about them that inspired you?  You may have been influenced by their use of colour, their mastery of their chosen medium, their work ethic, their down anything and everything that comes to mind.

·        Were you involved in any art organizations? Did you renew an existing membership? Did you attend meetings to socialize and network with other artists? Perhaps you volunteered your time and talents.

·        Did you connect with fellow artists in some other way (other than the art groups referred to above)? Write out if or how these experiences were helpful to you.

·        Did you take a workshop or an art course? How did this help you grow as an artist?

·        Did you explore a new medium? What did you gain from this experience?

·        Did you try new methods or techniques with your favourite medium?

·         Did you master a new skill? Give yourself credit for even attempting a new skill.

·        Did you attend any art lectures or seminars?

·         Did you improve your art making space/studio? Perhaps you sorted things or added a more comfortable chair or invested in better lighting.

·        Did you establish a regular art making routine or did you in some way improve upon your studio habits? If so, how is this routine working for you?

·        Did you mentor anyone or share your art making knowledge with someone? (making art with children definitely counts here)

·        Did you invest in yourself and your passion for art, i.e. did you buy some new supplies, or did you take a class?

·        Finally, if you exhibit your work, review what shows you participated in. Consider how well your displays worked, what sales you made, what the feedback from the public was like and how well your promotional material worked for you. What did you gain from these experiences?

After pondering these questions and reviewing your calendars and sketchbooks, consider what might be the absolute best thing that happened with regards to your art making in 2014. Write this down.

Pause, look at your notes and soak in the wow of how much art related stuff you accomplished...go ahead and squeal woo-hoo! J

A lot can happen in a year and yet it can be so easy to forget the various events. I hope my questions have helped you unearth some activities you are proud of. I’ll bet you were rocking it and I’ll bet were more amazing than you thought!

If you are reading this newsletter, you are doing something to add fuel to your artistic spark that you didn’t do a year ago. Congratulations. (and thank you for reading and while I am at it, thanks for the feedback and the questions too)

Maybe these questions are revealing to you areas that could use some improvement. The gift of a new year is a perfect time to start making plans for better outcomes.

Ask yourself what sort of art experiences you would like to have this year. Then brainstorm some ideas.

Perhaps plan to set aside some money to attend a workshop or to buy some new pencils or paper. Review your weekly schedule and see where you can add colouring or painting into it. Do you already have a business trip lined up or maybe a trip during March break planned? Check out the city you are visiting and see what galleries they have. Consider ways to slip a visit into your schedule. Have some fun looking for new ways to take your art further this year.

 I encourage you to start marking up your brand new 2015 calendars with some super exciting intentions!

Everything is white outside my windows, but not this kind of white. Here is a lovely remembrance of summer.