My Coloring Book is Now on Amazon


I did it! I created my first coloring book and it's now available on Amazon. The process has been a very interesting experience and by going against my previous habit of planning more than accomplishing, I was able to get it done. Jack Canfield in his book The Success Principles, talks about the idea of shooting first and aiming second, as no amount of planning can ever fully prepare you for any endeavour. You have to take a leap of faith and trust that you will figure it out as you take action. This coloring book is the manifestation of me taking action. I imagine there's still a lot to learn, but it's very satisfying to be able to see an actual product made by me. I also created a little video (shown above) about it to show what it looks like inside. Again, I'm new to making videos, but I learned as I worked on it, and I'm quite happy with the results. 

The amazon version of the book was made using CreateSpace. It's a great platform that enables creators to self publish and print physical books that are printed in the US. I ordered a couple proofs, that came in no time and enabled me to check the book before making it available online. I'm quite impressed with the quality of the book. I also printed a "homemade" version of the book at a local print shop to see how it would look like using thicker paper (65-lb). It's quite nice as well and perfect for markers. It's a little more expensive but I'm thinking about selling them directly as a special edition if there's a demand for it. I also created a free sample version of the book as a trial. If you're interested, just sign up below to get the file.


You can also find out more about this project here.

Fear Is the Weak Chain Holding Back the Powerful Elephant That Is Your Life Dream

Fear quote by MJ
Ever been in a position where you have something important to do for yourself but you keep doing everything else to avoid doing it? That’s something I constantly have to fight through in order to get certain things done, like writing a blog post, organizing an event, painting an idea, starting or finishing a project, exercising regularly and even writing this. Why?

Fear : fear of the possibility of failure, fear of not reaching my goals, fear of disappointing myself or my peers, fear of the unknown, and even fear of being wildly successful. Each goal is like a powerful elephant held up by discouraging thoughts. And although these thoughts seem convincing, they are no match to our ability to overcome them. Fear will never go away, it will always be there, because it has its place in our lives. Still it shouldn’t stop you from accomplishing the things you would like to accomplish. I think the difference between those who seem to fearlessly live their dream life and those who wish they could is in the way they react to their fears. I’m not an expert, I’m learning from others who found a way to overcome their fears and accomplish great things and I would like to share what I’ve learned so far and what has been working for me (mind you I still have work to do):
  • Acknowledge your fear for what it really is 
  • Take action in spite of your fears 

1. Acknowledge your fear for what it really is 
What is fear anyway? Is it rational? Can it really hold you back or did you decide to give it the power to hold you back? 

I was listening to an interview with artist Ann Rea a little while ago and she was talking about a friend she used to work with and who was a cancer survivor. Her friend dreamed of becoming an interior decorator but was working a soul sucking office job instead. She had no debts, no kids and a supporting husband but for some reason she was more afraid of starting a new career in a field she loved than to go through chemotherapy. She died unfortunately without ever giving herself a chance to at least try. This was a wake up call for Ann Rea who decided to turn her own dream into reality. She quit her job, moved to her dream city and started earning more money doing what she loves: painting. Now she also coaches other artists on how to thrive while doing what they love. She faced her fear and came out the other side a better and stronger person. 

If you don’t take the time to really face your fears and to evaluate them, chances are you’ll perceive them as being much bigger than they need to be. Think about something you've been dreaming about but have been avoiding out of fear. Now think about one of the worst things that has happened in your life. Is your current fear of something that could happen worst than what already happened? I'll guess it's probably not. Not only did it happened, but you faced the worst and you survived. Chances are you’re probably stronger because of it. So could it be that you’ve been giving that fear a little too much power over you and that by going ahead anyway, you’ll find out that you are stronger than you think you are? No matter what the outcome is, you’ll learn something and grow. As far as I know, no one ever regrets facing their fears in the long run. 

2. Take action in spite of your fears 

Fear will never go away. It’s part of the process. However, the more you take action, the smaller your fear becomes and the more powerful you'll feel. 

I used to be scared of driving alone across the border but when an opportunity for a sketching event came up, I started to think about it a little bit more rationally because I really wanted to go. So I thought “What exactly am I afraid of? I have a cell phone if I get lost. There are road signs along the way. I can prepare and see the entire trip on Google map before going. I speak English. Many people will be going as well. It’s not like if it’s in the middle of nowhere”. I really was running out of reasons to be afraid. So I went. I drove 5 hours to Ithaca, New York by myself. My first solo drive across the border and the longest I’ve ever driven to date. And yes, I felt very empowered once I conquered my fear. Now it doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore because I took action. Not only that, I met a lot of great people and learned a lot of new sketching tricks. I’m even thinking about doing it again this year. 

Fear keeps you from moving forward only because you think it’s stronger than you, not because it is. What fear are you willing to face and conquer this month?

Peek inside my sketchbook

I love watching other artists' sketchbooks, online and offline. They always inspire me. I get to do this a lot during our urban sketching session in the city and it's something that I think most artists love to do. So I figured why not share them online as well. A couple days later, here's my first video showing the content of my tiniest sketchbook in a little over four minutes. 

I received this little sketchbook while attending the urban sketchers symposium in Barcelona back in 2013. I really like it because it used to fit in my pockets or purse, so I could easily sketch anywhere at any time. In this case, most of the sketches were made while riding public transport in Toronto. There are some sketches from restaurants and bars as well. I also brought it with me on my way to Montreal while riding the train. Since we were stopped for a long time, I had a chance to sketch and colour some of the scenery on the way there too. 


You Know It’s Art When the Check Clears

The Artist Project Contemporary Art Fair
A couple weeks ago I went to check out The Artist Project Contemporary Art Fair. It’s a great little exhibition enabling artists to connect directly with potential buyers. Part of the exhibition this year included a competition where artists were invited to create a piece of artwork involving typography. The winner for me was the one shown above by artist Jim Bourke of a portrait of Andy Warhol and one of his quote : “ You know it’s art when the check clears”, answering the question : What is art anyway ?

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s checks started to clear when he was in his early twenties. He had a dream of becoming a famous artist, and went on to make his dream come true in a relatively short period of time. The Art Gallery of Ontario is currently exhibiting some of his work (the show ends on May 10th) , so I went to see what art is from his point of view.

Viewing his art felt like seeing a portion of the North American culture through his eyes. Most of his work was not about him but about people and events around him. I think that’s a clue to what makes art valuable to others enough for them to pay for it. This reminds me of what many successful entrepreneurs promote : the importance of taking yourself out of the equation and find ways to be of service to others. In the case of Basquiat, I think it was more about his message and how his art made people feel when viewing it as opposed to how perfectly one color blended into another or how perfect the canvas was stretched over the frame. I try to keep that in mind when I find myself seemingly hypnotized by the minute unimportant details taking me out of focus from my main goal. Perhaps that was one of Basquiat’s strengths and that’s why he succeeded.

Art is an emotional trigger that changes shape from one point of view to another. Art is in the eye of the beholder. If a person sees value in the artwork, that person will gladly pay for it. So I think Andy Warhol said it best: "You know it’s art when the check clears".

Basquiat at the AGO Basquiat at the AGO

Urban Sketching at 401 Richmond


Earlier this month, I organized a sketching event at 401 Richmond for the Toronto Urban Sketchers group. It's a very interesting restored heritage building right in the middle of the city and is home to several artists, cultural producers, microentreprises, galleries, festivals and shops. It's always a bit of a challenge to find indoor spaces that will accommodate a large number of people comfortably with interesting things to sketch when it's cold outside, but this building fits the bill. It wasn't too cold in the sun so some people event ventured outside in the courtyard and created beautiful sketches. (You can see them on the Toronto Urban Sketchers blog and Facebook page

Manning the event and taking pictures of the sketchers tend to eat into my sketching time, but I managed to sketch the view from the second floor into a parking lot. There was this skinny long building right in the middle of the parking lot and a little parking shack next to it, surrounded by tons of barrels. Weird. It also looks like the top floor is someone's home. If that's the case, the surroundings are not very welcoming and the stair leading straight to the parking lot are rather steep. There's absolutely no green space around it either, kind of sad.  

I usually get to play "Where's the Urban Sketcher" during these event, capturing them in their element, totally focused on what they are sketching. I managed to capture quite a few in the zone. It's great to see how they benefit from this relaxing activity and how they interact with one another. 



The event is typically divided in two sketching sessions. For the second part, I spend most of the time exploring the building with some of the participant but still squeezed in a quick sketch of a really neat art installation made out of drinking straws, shown below.   

2015 Reading Challenge - First Quarter


What have you been reading lately?

Shown above are the books I read over the past three months. It's interesting for me to see how books just "land on my laps".  Despite having a list of books to read for my reading challenge this year, there seems to be certain books that find their way ahead of the list. Seth Godin, Zig Ziglar, James Altucher, Jason Gaignard and Robin Sharma's books were amongst those who skipped the reading list line this first quarter of the year. I'm happy to report that I'm 3 books ahead of schedule, according to Goodreads. Audiobooks are a big help in keeping up with the challenge. Perhaps I can increase the amount of books I read over the next three month. I'm curious to see what kind of books will end up on my read list in June.

Invest in yourself. Read a good book!

Start With What You Keep Avoiding

art journal april clouds
Is there something creative you'd like to do but keep rescheduling it to "Someday" every time you think about it? Is it writing a book? Scrapbooking? Making a video? Designing something? For me it's painting. For some reason, I can't stop thinking that I should paint more and more often. But as soon as that thought comes to mind, so does about a dozen thoughts about all the reasons why I should wait until someday when...  [insert excuses here]. It's a trap! "Someday" is not a day of the week. My way around that has been to do little paintings in my journal at least once a month : no pressure, no "waste" of canvas, no big time commitment. Not only is it a good way to actually do it, but it also encourages me to do it more often. This one was made with only two colours and a couple paint brushes on my desk in about 30 minutes. Take that Resistance! Now I feel like I'm starting this month on the right foot and I'm very happy with the result. 

What have you been putting off to "someday"? What small step you could take today to start chipping at it? Whatever it is, I hope you find a way to fight your way through any discouraging thoughts this month and start expressing yourself creatively. I'm sure you won't regret it. 




Ten Down Twenty to Go


The challenge continues for the Grumpy Cat colouring pages. I now have 10 done and at least 20 more to go. It's definitely a challenge to come up with some interesting backgrounds and make sure they look different. It's a great way for me to practice patterns as well. I really like the latest one with the catnip plant leaves. To purchase the print, just check out my Gumroad page : https://gumroad.com/mjillustrates

A Couple More Printables


I've been playing around a little more with my grumpy cat sketches and came up with four more colouring pages with fun backgrounds. The goal is to digitize all of them and create a colouring book. It will be an interesting experiment to conduct and I will finally be able to get that idea out of my head. In the mean time, each page are currently available on my Gumroad page for a dollar each. 

Polka Dogs

I recently joined Spoonflower to try my hand at pattern making. They have this really neat weekly contest where they give a topic and participants get to design a pattern based on the given theme. This week's theme is Beagles in honor of Miss P, winner of the best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. I wasn't sure I would participate as I couldn't think of something interesting, but today I thought of making Polka Dogs and this is the results. Their patterns are used for wall covering, fabric and gift wrapping paper. I think these would make a fun wallpaper.