On Creative Living: Discipline & Balance

It doesn’t matter how disciplined you are. Sometimes, life has other plans.


This past week was one of those weeks. I work from 5-6am on my art and writing passion projects, and I usually work from 8-10pm on commissions or carry-over from the morning. I’m also knee-deep in report card season, a less than exciting time in the life of a teacher. That alone should have slowed me down, but I am disciplined. I work hard, because I know what I want. No one is paying me to work on my passion projects (yet), but I show up and do it anyway.

Except for this week. The boys caught some viruses. Nasty bugs. My wife had special work commitments, so I took 3 days off in the end. Report cards or not, I was at home working on those little humans instead of everything else that I had lined up. (Um, for the record, I am completely okay with this, because I wish I was a stay at home dad anyway.)


The usual nap time break, where on a weekend I would slip away to the studio to work on something creative? Nope. Magnus coughed himself awake and spent the rest of the time slipping in and out of coughing and crying fits on my chest. Kingsley needed to cuddle and be hugged most of the day.

Putting them down for bed early to get extra rest, I thought, might give me some extra time. Nope. Even though they went to sleep, I couldn’t slip away to work. I was too drained. I watched TV instead. I read a bit. I thought about some art I’d like to make. I worried about report cards and if my students were doing okay with different supply teachers every day.

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Reflecting on it is peculiar. A year ago, I’d have seen the week as a huge success. I completed and mailed out a commission. I finished six pages of a picture book dummy revision. I wrote 102 personalized report card comments. Yet, I have become so accustomed to

producing and progressing so much more, that my bar is now set higher. This is discipline in action.

So how do we balance our work, family and creative lives?

Well, we don’t.

We are disciplined. We work hard. We set tangible goals and lofty-big-idea goals. We track progress. We keep trying. We shrug off the rejection letters and tweak our projects. We get up at 5am and work. And then, we forgive ourselves when we don’t. Because sometimes, we can’t. We must live happy lives in order to be creative, and that does mean that every now and then, we forgive our lapse in discipline and we watch TV, and day dream, and let our babies drool on our shirts, and clean the toilet even when it doesn’t really need to be done. We are human.

27653717_10102011956800961_676300210_oForget balance. I believe in harmony. At the end of the day, if my soul feels happy, then I have succeeded. I check in with myself. I ask myself if I really deserved the break I gave myself, or the push I gave myself. I take stock of every bit of pressure and expectation coming in from others and coming from myself, and then I let myself breathe, because I know that once these boys feel better, I will return to my projects. It’s not over because I took 4 days off/did less creating than I would have normally & liked to have done over those 4 days. I will complete that picture book dummy revision. I will complete the line of illustrations I’m working on. I will write something new.

How do we balance it all? We don’t. We harmonize it. We make it feel right, and we forgive ourselves when it doesn’t.


New Painting Reveal: Love! (An Explosive Sound)

To say that I’m excited about this one is an understatement. I’m so freaking excited about it!

I’ve been toiling away at this one with a rare approach to my work: only work when inspired to. This means that the timing, the external pressures, the weather, the paint supply, every single little thing had to line up for me to feel that surge of raw excitement to work on this. Even the moon had to line up with Venus AND Mars! (Kidding. I’m a little weird, but not that weird. Yet.)


This large piece started out as something else altogether. I tried a few different paintings on the canvas, but they never went anywhere. I kept painting over top, and on the eve of Magnus’s first birthday, I was reminiscing about the last year with him. He joined the family as #2, but is a force to be reckoned with. Wild, hilarious, creative, independent, and musically driven. We spent the first two months sleepless as he screamed and it seemed that only loud renditions of Sia’s Chandelier did the trick to soothe him for short bits of time. He’s grown into this unique, incredible person, all his own.


In an attempt to capture his vibrant, bursting personality, I had the vision for this piece. I immediately named it Love! (An Explosive Sound) to honour his energy, his vocal skills, his smile that bursts a room into laughter, and his amazing musicality. He hears any rhythm, stops what he’s doing, and breaks into dance. This piece is an Ode to Magnus. It’s a visual representation of the bursts of love that explode every time I think of him, look at him, kiss him, talk to him, see a picture of him … everything about his being, I tried to throw into this piece.

I think it’s sometimes overlooked, to put a piece of art in a child’s room that isn’t filled with cozy animals and soft tones or primary colours. Yet, I wanted to give him something special. Something he would love now, and as he grows.

And so, here are some photos of my process, and of the beautiful, wild Magnus with his original piece, created on canvas with acrylic paint (neon and metallic tones included), crayon, paper (dictionary pages and the sheet music to Mockingbird), and white charcoal pencil.

This video is from when I first started the process, after a couple of base coats.


And then, some progress shots of the instruments:

Finally, Love! (An Explosive Sound):


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#ArtistsForLove: We Stand With You

When Kelly Rae Roberts posted her #artistsforlove piece, along with a blog loaded with gorgeous pieces sending the same message, I felt the call to create my own.

I talk to my students about this all the time.

I stand for kindness, respect, love, hope, and kindness. Above all else – above math concepts and spelling, above scores on standardized testing – I stand for these things.

I stand with all indigenous people, muslims, LGBTQ, immigrants, alter-abled, women, the disenfranchised, refugees, all people of colour, veterans, survivors, and anyone feeling alone and scared.

If you would like to join in, then create your own and share it for free with the hashtag #artistsforlove. You don’t even need to be an artist. You can just be someone who feels called to stand with the world, and all of the people who live within it.






Gratitude (Part 2)

My family came over yesterday to celebrate Thanksgiving. It was raining, so we couldn’t eat outside like we’d hoped, and we couldn’t have a camp fire, like we’d hoped. But we did have a kitchen loaded with all of the best food, so we ate. It’s one of the things we do well.

During dinner, we shared our gratitudes. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you might know that Stephanie and I share our gratitudes on a nightly basis before we eat. When we have guests over, we sometimes ask them to share their gratitudes as well. At Thanksgiving, for the past three years, we have insisted that my parents, brothers and sister join in the fun. This has become a tradition, and the gratitudes have become so meaningful over the course of the few years we’ve done it. Something happens when you share a heartfelt gratitude with family: you reveal parts of yourself that may not be obvious on a daily basis.

And the most amazing thing happened. Kingsley has never has shown any understanding of this practice we do nightly – we always ask and he never responds, as if we never said anything to him in the first place. Sometimes, he says, “Yeah.” I expected that tonight.

Everyone was looking at him. He looked out to everyone, HUGE SMILE, and said very clearly:

“I’m grateful … for … supper!”

TEARS! I’m a mess! But it was AMAZING!!! (I mean, first of all a full sentence?! AND it made sentence and it was a legitimate, logical gratitude!!!!! I was in a state of shock. A state of love-filled, joyful, proud and excited shock.

And so from our weird, wonderful family to yours – Happy Thanksgiving.

Joy – A Collaborative Painting

Kingsley and I have completed our first collaborative painting! (It’s at the bottom!)

I am really excited about the pure joy that this piece communicates.


We did some painting the other night (mostly with fingers), and then I scanned it into IMG_7188.JPG
Photoshop. I did the slightest bit of editing. I thought about adding a lot of my own touches, but for this first try at merging traditional and digital, I opted to keep it almost as-is. Sometimes (usually) it is best to leave the adult’s voice out of it.

I grabbed some of the colours from the original painted (using Photoshop) and added in some feathering-out, and then scribbled on the earth. Then I saved it. This is mostly Kingsley’s piece.

Take a close look and notice the uninhibited nature of the work. We can learn so much from kids who are exploring. IMG_7191.JPGFor Kingsley, this was about colours on his fingers and smacking the paper. He was having fun and it shows. To me, this looks like all of the potential in the world EXPLODING into the universe, a sure sign of amazing things to come. It’s pure joy, pure love, pure fun.

How do you collaborate with your creative kids?





Music For You & The Kids – Session 3

Music For You & The Kids – Session 3 is a mellow mix of acoustic sounds. This was our soundtrack for Sunday morning, as we tinkered away baking muffins, eating the muffins, and cleaning up after the mess. It was the perfect backdrop for a rainy day.

If you want more music, check out Music For You & The Kids Session 1 and Session 2. These are curated by me, and are music my family enjoys listening to without the nasty (albeit catchy) of some of the music out there (that seems to always come up when you just hit “shuffle”!)

Enjoy, and leave me your feedback!

The Playlist:

Lennon & Maisy – Lean On (cover)

John Mayer – Daughters (live)

Karen O & The Kids – All is Love (from Where The Wild Things Are)

Arcade Fire – Wake Up

The Temptations – My Girl

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes – Lullaby

Jason Mraz – Shine (live)

Jack Johnson – I Got You

Ingrid Michaelson – You & I

Weezer – Island in the Sun

Israel “IZ” Kamikawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World

House Tour: The Playroom REVEAL!

If you missed the process post, take a look here. As a creative person & daddy, I believe the most value is in the process. Also, be sure to check in on Wednesday when I reveal how we organized the playroom with a creative kid in mind.


But let’s face it. The most fun as a viewer is usually the finished product. Here is a tour of the playroom – but first, the BEFORE (the wall you’ll see in the playroom now exists between that green post and the left of the photo, with the doorway wall spanning across from the green post to the right of the photo):


The during:


And, the AFTER: