Friday, September 15, 2017

Tangled Thought

Tangled Thought (2017)
When I started this painting, the idea was to create another version of the String of Thoughts painting because I feel there is still a lot more to explore. As I was adding the yellow string, I got the idea of wrapping it around the cloud. Not sure why, but it felt right. I don't always come with the name of the piece right away. I tend to let it it for a while and eventually, an idea will come. Two weeks later, Tangled Thought came to mind, and while searching for a quote that would resonate with the painting, I found this one : 
"Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking." 
- Jalaluddin Rumi
Fear is definitely a thought that can leave you bounded or trapped if you let it, but if you act despite of the fear, you realize that there was nothing to fear in the first place, it was an illusion : False Evidence Appearing Real. This is what this painting reminds me of, the fact that most of our fear are illusions. Although it seems like the string is restraining the cloud, it cannot do so because the  clouds is not a solid object, it can't be restrained.  

Friday, September 01, 2017

String of Thoughts Knot

I recently created this painting as a continuation of another series of paintings using the idea of thought clouds and strings. As I was painting I decided to add a loop on the strings on the last cloud and the title that came to me after taking another look at it was String of Thought Knot. I like the idea of matching the painting with a quote I feel resonates with the painting, and the quote that I chose for this painting is the following quote by Michael Ondaatje: 


"We all have an old knot in the heart we wish to untie."
Michael Ondaatje
 
 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Art As Meditation Workshop

 ✱ Thursday, August 31, 2017                                                            

ART AS MEDITATION - INTUITIVE PAINTING NIGHT 

Give your left brain and break and let your right brain play a little. 


What's intuitive painting?

Think of it as meditation but a lot easier and more fun. It’s painting based on what your feel and whatever comes to mind. There are no right or wrong way to do it. It helps you tap into your own creativity and it’s a proven effective way to manage stress. 


Materials will be provided. All you need to bring is yourself.



Friday, August 18, 2017

Portal Paintings


This is the second painting I created recently around the topic of clouds and portals. As I'm creating more paintings around clouds more surreal ideas are coming to the surface inspiring me to keep creating. It seems like I needed to go through the basics understanding of painting clouds first with the 100 cloud painting project before coming up with all these ideas. And I have a lot more coming! There are so many ways to paint the same topic! Enjoy the videos below of the accelerated process. They took about an hour each to complete. 

Both original paintings are available for sale. You can click here for details


Portal 



Portal 2



Monday, August 14, 2017

Painting Live at the Spoke Club

Tomorrow I will be joining 5 other local artists to paint live at the Spoke Club's gallery. It's a fun little competition where we'll be painting for 15 minutes on a given topic and the audience will chose the winners.

Have you ever been to an art battle? Join us in The Gallery to watch a competitive painting tournament where the winner takes all! What is competitive painting you may ask? A group of artists duke it out in three separate rounds as they each create a masterpiece you deliberate on. Vote for your favourite and the best painters move onto the next round for a chance to be the last artist standing and win the ultimate prize. Their works will also be auctioned off after each round. Each $15 ticket gets you access and voting rights at the show plus a glass of wine or beer.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Thoughts are things


Do you have a friend, a relative or a colleague who’s always complaining? Have you ever noticed that they often seem to find themselves in unfortunate situations? What if one of the main causes of their unfortunate situations is their way of thinking? What if our thoughts attract these unfortunate situations, like a magnet attracts metal. And the more we think and complain about everything that’s going wrong, the more they seem to happen. What if our thoughts really create our environment?

“Thoughts are things”. The first time I heard that concept was while watching a motivational video compilations featuring Will Smith. I didn't really get it at the time, but it stuck with me and my search to get a better understanding of what he meant lead me to discover various authors and speakers such as Napoleon Hill, Bob Proctor, Wallace D Wattles, Eckhart Tolle, Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Gilbert, and many more. And I started to get a better understanding of the concept behind the idea that our thoughts and emotions affect our environment. It’s essentially what the book The Secret is trying to convey. The part that was unclear to me was the importance of the emotion behind the thoughts. Emotion is key. As I pay attention to what's going on around me, I can now see how thoughts fuelled by emotions can become things.

This is what inspired this painting called Thoughts are Things. As I mentioned before, this year I felt compelled to paint clouds using the colour trends of the year and later discovered that my painting are essentially a representation of what I see around me. As an artist, I observe and see the world differently and reproduce it visually to share a new perspective with you. I paint was feels right and analyze it after. And after completing this particular painting I started to notice parallels with what I see around me and in the media : people (including myself who create their own negative environment by holding on to thoughts they don’t like ). The problem is, the more we hold on to those negative thoughts clouds, the stronger they can become. Those little negative thought-clouds fuelled by our emotions soon become storm clouds, casting more shadow into our lives, and if we keep holding on, those storm clouds can turn into tornadoes, turning our world upside down.

I can see how the more we focus on negative thoughts, the more negative events we can attract. They don’t need to be our own thoughts to have this effect. Watching the news and witnessing a lot of negative press can get us emotionally involved in nurturing thoughts that has nothing to do with us. But by latching on to them, they start to affect our own lives. I see that a lot, especially when it comes to politics lately. You may have seen many example on your Facebook feed like me, of people just arguing online about events that are completely out of their real lives and affecting their own genuine relationships which has a direct impact on their lives.

So what’s the solution? We can’t avoid all negative thoughts but we can be mindful, observe them from a distance, let them pass by without holding on to them and focus on the thoughts we want to materialize instead. It takes practice because it doesn’t necessarily comes naturally to all of us, but it makes life a lot more enjoyable. Instead of focusing on what we don’t want, we can focus on what we can, fuel these positive thoughts with our positive emotions, and these emotions will then fuel our actions and we’ll see our worlds change for the better.



Head over to Cafe Press to get a print of this artwork

Monday, June 05, 2017

Uncovering Saskatchewan's historical faux pas from sketching the Devonian Pond


Yesterday, the Toronto Urban Sketchers headed over to the Devonian Square, near the Ryerson Image Centre, to sketch the Devonian Pond, also known as Lake Devo. I was hoping to get a nice picturesque pond with the surrounded buildings and boulders reflected on the water, but there was no water. Just a couple puddles here and there, probably from the rain earlier that day and some discarded coffee cups. There was also large images of a lady wrapped in a bright red fabric standing on a rock pasted onto a couple boulders . Not what I was expecting, but then again, Toronto is always full of surprises. 

It turns out that the images are part of a temporary art installation by artist Lori Blondeau regarding Indigenous identity. It was a bit shocking a first to see this but not nearly as shocking as it must have been for the Crees and Assiniboin who saw their 400-tons sacred gathering rock blown up by the government in 1966 to make way for the man-made Lake Diefenbaker, named after the John G. Diefenbaker, former Prime Minister of Canada. Knowing a little bit more of the story behind the installation, it makes a little more sense. I can see the parallel between the sacred rock in the 1960s that was destroyed to make way for a man-made lake vs an empty man-made pond using imported boulder from the Canadian Shield plastered, almost like a graffiti on a natural stone, with the image of a Cree artist defiantly and ironically standing on a rock in pristine nature wearing a red cloth. 

From what I understand, this installation brings more awareness so that we can hopefully make better decisions.  It's great to be aware of these stories to get a better understanding of the complexities of our history. But, where do we go from there? What's the next step to make things better? Apparently the site it still considered sacred despite being 60 ft under water. Steven Thair, a diver in Saskatchewan discovered the remains of the rock and is looking to make a documentary about it. He's also looking for experienced Cree divers who would be able to work with him. 

You never know what you're going to find out when you take the time to sketch the city. We had a great turn out. About 20 sketchers showed up to sketch the empty pond and surrounding areas. You can see more images on Facebook and Instagram


Friday, June 02, 2017

Chasing Clouds

Here's a quick little clip showing the acrylic cloud formations of one of my recent paintings. I hope you enjoy it too. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Music: Dark Hallway by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License. (via YouTube Library)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Don't let fear be your guide


Yesterday I listened to an audiobook called The Instant Millionaire: A Tale of Wisdom and Wealth by Mark Fisher. It was a nice little story about a man who's unhappy with his life and met a self-made millionaire who teaches him the secret of becoming wealthy in all aspects of his life. It's a beautiful story full of great simple insights that really resonated with me. I'm probably going to listen to it again because it reminded me of various lessons I've been picking up along my journey so far, but I haven't necessarily applied all of them. 

One quote that particularly struck me wast the one shown above : "Don't let fear be your guide". How many of us make decisions or avoid making decision out of fear? I know I still do it and too often. The silly thing is that a lot of those fears are silly : fear of the unknown, fear of getting hurt, fear of hurting other people, fear of feeling judged, fear of feeling embarrassed, fear of making a mistake. The longer they stay in my mind, the bigger the can become if I don't take a step back and look at these fear honestly with a certain amount of detachment. Most of them are not life threatening. They're just uncomfortable. And uncomfortable is where growth happens. So it was a nice little reminder for me to get uncomfortable in order to keep growing. Silly things like going to an event even though I don't know anyone. What's the worst that can happen? Nothing really, but I'll learn and experience something new.

Another beautiful quote that I really connected with was this one :

Always remember that at a certain height there are no clouds. If there are clouds in your life it’s because your soul hasn’t soared high enough. Many people make the mistake of fighting against their problems. What you must do is raise yourself above those problems once and for all. The heart of the rose will lead you above the clouds where the sky is forever clear.
Mark Fisher, The Instant Millionaire: A Tale of Wisdom and Wealth

This quote is freakishly aligned with my thoughts regarding my art project on clouds this year and almost reenergized my determination to pursue my call to paint clouds

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Timeraiser Toronto Party was a Success

I first heard of Timeraiser when I lived in Ottawa back in 2009. It's a unique concept that enables artists to sell their artwork to the organization which, in turn, enables art patrons to bid for the artwork in exchange for their time volunteering for various non-for-profit organizations. Fast forward 6 years later, I decided to attend the event in Toronto last night and it was quite inspiring. 

There was a lot of interesting artwork, a lot people interested in volunteering in exchange for the artwork as well as great live art installations by various local artists. I didn't plan on staying long but I ended up staying for 4 hours! 

Artists were making portraits of the visitors. The lines were long to get the opportunity to be sketched by them. It's quite impressive that they were producing so many portraits surrounded by so much activity around them.  


An artist called dahae invited visitors to co-create art pieces with her by leaving their handprints on canvas fabric fixed on the wall. 



Some artist quietly created their work in their bubble while others involved visitors in their work. It's interesting to see the different way artists create. 


I was particularly fond of the work of Jonathan Edwin Simpon who patiently engrave wood trucks with letters creating some sort of poem. Very inspiring!

I really like the way it was set up. There was drinks and food for everyone as well as a clever game Timeraiser put together. We were given a Nonprofit Passport including the logos of each of the participating organizations. They had a booth in the main area to talk to visitors. And for each representative we spoke to, we got a stamp on our passport. If we collected at least 6 stamps, we could participate to a contest to win a prize. This encouraged visitors (including myself) to go talk to the organizations reps and find out the amazing work some of them do. In my case, I found out about groups I genuinely would love to get involved with. Kudo's to Timeraiser for an effective solution to getting more people to connect.




From what I gather, it was a huge success. Timeraiser Toronto raised 15,863 volunteer hours last night. There's  probably more to come from those who, like me, who plan to connect with great organizations such as Emerging Young ArtistsFull Circle and Luminato amongst many others. And if you're interested in participating as an artist, they are still accepting submission for their online version here : http://www.timeraiser.ca/artist 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

STRESS MANAGEMENT WORKSHOP

Expand your vision and change your perspective using creativity.

I will be taking part in a workshop to help people better manage their stress this coming Saturday, April 29 2017 at 2PM along with some fellow wellness experts to provide a complete practical guide addressing various aspects of the effects stress have on your body and how to protect yourself from it.

Get your ticket here : https://goo.gl/VQgf3A 


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Are you living your life in survival mode ?


"It's hard to flourish when we're in survival mode"

This was an insight that came to me during a recent conversation with a friend. It got me thinking : How many people are currently living in survival mode, focused on making it through another day, on autopilot, working 5 to 9 on a 9 to 5 job, anticipating every Friday nights and dreading every Monday mornings? How does that affect their quality of life?

Surviving goes beyond our ability to feed ourselves or have a safe place to live. It also has to do with our ability to express ourselves. Unfortunately, that is often taken away from us as a result of us trying to keep up with the Jones, following the heard, or being trapped in Reaction Mode where we're reacting to everything that life seems to throw at us without a second to take a step back,  breathe, and figure out a better way to live. This can eventually lead to depression or worst.

Sometimes all we need to get out of survival mode is a broader perspective. Something as simple as taking a step back to look at our situation from a new point of view. When we're in survival mode we tend to have tunnel vision. We only see what's in front of us. In that case, it can help to have a friend, a motivational book, podcast or video to give us a glimpse into what's possible. Other times, an event will cause us to snap out of it long enough to realize what's going on and change things. This is what happened to me when I was living in survival mode.

A couple years ago, I was living in survival mode. I became aware of it when I found myself searching on Google for ideas on what to do to have fun on my birthday. "How ridiculous!" I thought, "Who asks Google how to have fun? How can I not know what I want to do for fun? What happened?". It seems like I had forgotten what I loved to do for fun. I had been working really hard the previous years to the point where was struggling to take a well deserved break and enjoy myself.  What's the point of doing all this work if I don't get to enjoy life? Those thoughts became my "White Rabbit". So I decided to take on the role of Alice and follow these thoughts to find answers for myself.



Following the White Rabbit 

I quickly realized that I wouldn't find my answers out there but within. So I started to dig deep, got back into journaling to search my mind for some answers. For me journaling was my gateway out of survival mode. It allowed me to take a step back and see my situation from a new perspective. I would ask myself a question, write it down in my journal and then record anything that came to mind. This resulted in many pages of words, diagrams and sketches and after a little while I realized that what really made me happy was to create in the form of drawings. I used to draw all the time as a child. Drawing was my thing. I would spend hours drawing anything for fun. With that answer in hand, I decided to bring drawing back into my life.

I started to draw whenever I had a little bit of free time and then I signed up for a life drawing class once a week with a friend. In class, I would spend hours observing and reproducing what I was looking at on paper. Time slowed down. I was present and fully engaged in the process. Drawing was a mindfulness exercise and as a bonus I would come back home with something I was proud of. The more I sketched the more I wanted to sketch. This led me to urban sketching, where I was not only drawing but also exploring my environment with a renewed perspective. I was appreciating the simple things more and enjoying the life we're so blessed to have.

Drawing was now an easy tool for me to relax and enjoy life. I wasn't stressed anymore, I felt happier and I no longer felt like I needed to be in survival mode. I had found a way to make time for myself and having fun. One of my favourite sketchbook is the one I made during two trips to Las Vegas. It was one of the first time in a while when I really felt like I was reconnecting with myself and was enjoying life. If you'd like to see the sketches I made, I recently made a video flipping through that sketchbook below : 





Helping others reconnect with their creative side

This self exploration journey eventually led to me moving to Toronto and founding the Toronto Urban Sketchers where, in a sense, I now get to hold space for fellow creatives to reconnect with their creative sides and come out of survival mode. I believe that we are all here to create. It could be in the form of drawing, coding, painting, talking, cooking, teaching, dancing, building or more. The key is to first take the time to find out what creating looks like for us and then make space in our lives for it. Creating enables us to express ourselves, which in turns makes us happy and help us flourish. It also energizes us and enable us to face our problem with more resilience. Failing to be creative tends to keeps us in survival mode with tunnel vision, missing out on many wonderful life experiences.

If you're currently living in survival mode, I really hope that this will encourage you to follow your own White Rabbit to rediscover your unique creative toolbox so you can start expressing yourself out of survival mode and into thriving mode. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Comparison is the thief of a successful life

Imagine if Professor X from the X-men wasted time wishing he could look more like Wolverine, regularly working out at the gym to bulk up, going through all kinds of surgeries, and combat classes to emulate Wolverine instead of investing his time perfecting his natural telepathic abilities and create his school. How would that affect his life and the life of everyone around him?  

I was talking with some friends the other day about how comparing ourselves to other people is not only detrimental to ourselves but to everyone around us as well. That’s because by spending time picking at what we can’t do because of what we don’t have, as opposed to strengthening what we can do using what we do have, it robs everyone who would benefit from our unique abilities. We are all born with a unique set of skills and gifts. When we work with them and share the fruits of our labour with others, we essentially become superheroes helping and inspiring others.
I think that’s why many people admire popular public figures like Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates. They each have something unique that they are really good at. By focusing on their skills, they accomplished great things for themselves and others. They also inspired many along the way to do the same for themselves. Both Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey are like superheroes to those who connect and relate with them, not because they are better then others, but because they chose to focus on their strengths. Anyone can do the same. The reason why most don’t is because they tend to spend more time trying to fix what they perceive as flaws as opposed to nurturing and growing their unique gifts and talents: their superpower.
If you’re familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk, I think that’s what he means when he talks about the importance of becoming self aware as the starting point to a successful life on your own terms. This is something I’ve been pondering on lately (maybe something for you to ponder on as well) : asking myself What kind of superpower would I have as a superhero based on my personality, skills and natural abilities ? And most importantly : Am I making full use of them right now or am I waisting time comparing myself to others?
What about you? What do you think?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Self discovery through art

As I was putting together this latest video about my 100 cloud paintings project, I realized that there seems to be a right brain left brain game going on while I create the paintings. Despite the fact that my intent while creating the paintings is always to make them look different, perhaps because I paint them in pairs, the pairs have a lot of similar traits, just like non identical twins. 

This didn't occurred to me until I saw them side by side in the video. I wonder if it's because of my setup painting them side by side or because I used the same colour palette. Maybe both? Even the first two, sold painting to two different collectors, were from the same painting session. What does it mean? Who knows. 

Another interesting insight from this discovery is that, is it also reveals another part of my personality: a particular affinity for balance and symmetry. The more I paint the more I discover about myself. How you do anything is how you do everything. I think this says a lot about how art can support people in figuring things out about themselves if they are open to it. For me it's a great way to find clues to many existential questions such as : Who am I?   

If you're looking in finding things out about yourself, I would definitely recommend using a form of art as a tool to bring out some clues from your subconscious mind into light. It may even help you find your true purpose in life. 

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Failing Forward - 5 benefits from my "unsuccessful" Kickstarter project



You win or you learn. Despite not reaching my goal for my Kickstarter project, I survived the imagined humiliation of having an unsuccessful crowdfunding project online. Who knew it wasn't as big of a deal as I thought it would be! Don't get me wrong, it was quite the roller coaster of oscillating between confidence and self doubt, constantly switching between my desire to keep going vs my desire to give up. What kept me going is that I really want to make these paintings and I kept learning new things along the way. Besides, all of the people I admire for achieving great things, failed many times before. What's one failed project? The thing is, if you're not failing you're not trying hard enough. If you're not trying hard enough, you'll stay where you are. So I kept going and came out the other side with a handful of insights and skills that will surely serve me in my current and future endeavors.

My benefits came in the form of five upgrades in the following area : 
  1. Quality
  2. Productivity
  3. Creativity
  4. Social media
  5. Online business

1. Quality : I improved my art  

Practice makes perfect. Although  I haven't reached the famous 10,000 hours of painting clouds yet, I'm closer today then I was a month ago. Repeating the same process using various colours and shapes gave me insights on how to best use and mix the colours to be able to get more depth into the paintings. With practice I came to better understand how to mix the light and the dark colors to create more depth and I also allowed myself to experiment with colours I may not have tried to combined together otherwise. Some were surprisingly complementary.  I can already see the difference from the first painting to the 30th, and can only imagine how much better the will look by painting number 100. 

2.  Productivity : I made more art 

This is what 30 cloud paintings look like
One of the things I kept in mind while learning about the life of Picasso is that he was very productive. He has thousands of paintings to his name. In order to become better and more successful I know I have to produce more work: pay the 10,000 hours entry fee to the Notable Artist Party. Challenges like this was a great excuse to get to it. No amount of theorizing, reading or watching instructional videos will ever come close to the effect of taking action. This project was my main focus for the month of February. Being focused on one goal made me more productive and I probably created more paintings in that month then I ever did. 30 paintings, that's a little more then a painting a day. The Make 100 Kickstarter challenge made me accountable and as a result I became more productive and I have 32 finished artworks to show for. It doesn't stop here. I'm only a little over 30% done and despite not being funded, I'm continuing the process so that I get to 100 painted clouds by the end of March,  as planned. 



3.  Creativity : I got many new ideas

Doing something for the first time forced me to think outside the box and what I'm used to. For me, thinking of new ways to bring my artwork in front of people required more creativity. It also let me to create different videos (like the one below) based on suggestions from peers and ideas that emerge from various conversations about this project. It also gave me a chance to come up with new ways to present the artwork on social media, different ways to photograph my work, and different ways to describe my work.


This focused challenge also made me see my subject from a new angle and I'm realizing that I'm not only painting clouds, but I'm painting thoughts or a reflection of them. The more I'm diving into the "why" behind my inspiration to create these paintings, the more I'm discovering opportunities to express my own thoughts and insights through my art and also it enable others who see it to discover more about their own thoughts through them as well. I'm realizing that clouds are thoughts and we give them meaning depending on our own stories and experiences of life. I get a feeling that the clouds are just the first step in this creative journey, which makes me more eager to complete my challenge this month so I can dive into its second stage.

4. Social Media : I have a better understanding of its impact

First : Gary Vaynerchuk is right : Facebook trumps all social media platform at the moment. I documented all the actions I took over the course of the month (where I posted, what I posted, how many times I posted, etc) and got the results from Google Analytics regarding where the clicks came from. By far, Facebook was the most effective, followed by Instagram. I also saw the difference videos make compared to pictures. Video created spikes of interest compared to any other posts. Working on this project also made me realize that I'm not yet fully benefiting from the capacity of social media platforms to reach the right people. I've barely skimmed the surface. 

I also learned that while it's great to get views they don't equate purchases. I was fortunate enough to have my project partially funded so I also got a bit of insights regarding where they came from and as I suspected, it's far easier for someone in the Kickstarter community who has backed projects before to back your project then to get someone new in the system. Nevertheless my click to sale ratio, based on the available data was 1%, which is good for a beginner. This means that had I been able to get the page viewed by 5000 people, I likely would have reached my goal. 

As it turned out, both backers had backed projects before and I suspect that had there been a way to reach out to art backers via Kickstarter's mailing list, this project would have gotten a better chance at being fully funded. The main issue for me was not enough views. Perhaps a 60 day campaign would have given me a more time to get a better hold of the online marketing aspect of the project. I would say marketing is probably one of the most important aspect of a Kickstarter project like this. 

I've always kept google analytics at bay because there seems to be so much data to look through, but at the same time, its valuable information tells you how your presentation and products are received by the public. It's definitely something that I need to use more often.Throughout my campaign, I've learned about the benefits of using tools like Google Analytics to get an idea of what's working and what's not, what gets attention and what doesn't. Starting this project with the goal of making it successful prompt me to look for avenues to spread my message and reach the right backers looking for such a project. This meant that I had to be more active online and post on a consistent basis. Using Google Analytics, I was able to see the impact of my posts.


5. Online Business : I have new tools to create a better online store 

Participating to this project made things a little more real in terms of the process of creating a piece of artwork, selling it and shipping it to it's collector. I realized that I had a few steps in the process that needed tweaking and refinement. For example, once the Kickstarted was over I realized that my artstore on Square, only accepts purchases from Canada after a client from the United States tried to purchase one of the paintings. I had no idea this was even an issue. Why they would create the system that way, is beyond my comprehension, but that little bit of information got me working on alternative ways to enable clients from other countries to purchase my artwork. It's still in the works, but I'm currently using Paypal, which makes it easier. If there's anything I learned from listening to people like Gary Vaynerchuk and Tai Lopez is that when it comes to selling items online, make it as easy as possible for any interested party to get your product.

Conclusion

All in all, this experience turned out to be very valuable for me. It was worth it, and dare I say, I would do it again. I guess, going through it made me grow a little more and I have a better appreciation and understanding of what it takes to succeed : repeated failures leading the way to success. So, no matter what difficulty or obstacles lies ahead of your dreams, don't give up. The guys in the video below didn't and look where that attitude took them. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Thoughts on Valentine's Day




Valentine’s Day is a day for many to celebrate love. Although the origins of this holiday is a little murky, it’s one of the most popular and lucrative holidays in North America. Unfortunately not everyone feels the love on Valentines day. That’s partly because mass media’s depiction of love is lacking. Mass media love is a bit like fast food. It’s usually represented as “an intense emotionality combining physical attraction, possessiveness, control, addiction, eroticism and novelty.”  It feels great, looks great, tastes great but it often lacks nutrition or substance. The “organic whole food” kind of Love is a state of being that all of us have the capacity of becoming but that many of us forgot. Although it’s nice to receive and give cards, flowers, chocolate, special dates on Valentine’s day, it's not necessary. So if you didn’t get something, don’t despair, you are still loved. 


In his book Power vs. Force, Dr. David Hawkins describes Love as “a way of relating to the world that is forgiving, nurturing, and supportive. Love is not intellectual and does not proceed from the mind. Love emanates from the heart. It has the capacity to lift others and accomplish great feats because of its purity of motive. [...] Love focuses on the goodness of life in all its expressions and augment that which is positive. It dissolves negativity by recontextualizing it rather than attacking it. 


This is what Love is all about: It’s unconditional, it’s infinite, it’s self sustaining and it’s everywhere. We just need to pay attention to see it. That version of Love is worth celebrating not only on Valentine’s Day but every day. It’s something that I’m learning to reintegrate in my life in a more active way rather then in a passive way. Love is simple. It just is. It’s always there and it comes from within you and me, if we allow it to take over us. Everything else will fall into place when we do things with and out of Love. Love is not something that’s outside of you to find. Love is who you are at your core. It’s the most vulnerable and at the same time the strongest part of ourselves and it's capable of changing the world around us once we set it free.  


Today is a great day to remember to look into ourselves and our actions : Are we withholding the Love that is within us or are we setting it free to emanate from our core and from our own actions? Today can be a New Valentine’s Day, a reminder not just to give items as a representation of Love but to constantly behave in a loving way with every action we take. I challenge you (and myself) to use Valentine’s Day as a reminder to let that Love inside of you radiate out of everything you do and affect everyone around you in a way that is unconditional, forgiving, nurturing, supportive and uplifting : to act with an open heart because the world need a lot more Love right now. 


Happy New Valentines Day


Monday, February 06, 2017

Lessons from 5 strategies used on my first Kickstarter project


I've always avoided the idea of running my own Kickstarter project. Even if 
many visual artists ran very successful campaigns, many also failed. And the idea of running a project that fails is terrifying. But for some reason, the Make 100 challenge from Kickstarter felt different. Perhaps it's the fact that it was initiated by Kickstarter and that the idea of challenging myself to create a series of 100 art pieces, warmed me up to the idea of joining. After seeing some similar project succeed under the Make 100 umbrella, I decided to take the plunge despite the fear of failure and the illogical shame that comes with it. Now that's I'm 1/3rd of the way to the deadline, I've learned a couple things so far from the strategies I used as a beginner, to try to make it a successful one. And I would like to share them with you. It might give you some insight if you're thinking of creating your own campaign in the future.


1. Ignore Kickstarter Spam Messages

One thing I did not expect to get is spam messages within the Kickstarter mailing system. As soon as I hit the launch button, I received a lot of unsolicited messages from anonymous Kickstarter accounts selling their services to promote my campaign. You can imagine my disappointment receiving 10 messages selling me crowdfunding campaigns for hundreds and thousands of dollars and not one word of encouragement. Most of the accounts I received messages from had no activities on their profile. I'm not even sure they are real accounts, they could be bots. If they weren't they would waste their time soliciting on a $500 campaign. At least I don't think so. So be aware that this is something that's going to happen. Maybe they are valuable to people running larger campaigns, but the fact that they don't even check to see if what they're offering fit, they wouldn't be my first choice. 




2.  Seek Advice from fellow Kickstarters

The silver lining in receiving so many spam messages on Kickstarter was that it made me realize that I could also reach out to fellow participants and ask for advice. So I did.  I reached out to a couple successful artists who also took part in the Make 100 challenge project and surpassed their initial goal. I asked them if they had some advice for newbies. Some of them were kind enough to reply (interestingly all first timers as well) and they recommended to post daily on all social media platforms and email previous clients. For a lot of them, the bulk of their backers were people they knew. The ones who seem to have more experience or a longer career in the field, seemed to be the ones who did better. One early participant was lucky to be featured on the Kickstarter newsletter and that helped boost her reach. Reach is probably one of the most important thing to focus on during a campaign. If you're lucky enough to be featured on a high traffic site, you'll be able to reach more people. Unfortunately I haven't seen a lot of promotions by Kickstarter about the #Make100 project other then a post about how many creators joined and maybe a handful of posts promoting some projects under this umbrella. I would have thought that for initiating the project, they would tweet about it a lot more often.



3. Reach out to more people on podcasts

I got a message from a former Kickstarter creator to beware of unsolicited messages selling campaign promotions at a high price. She suggested I take a look at Fiverr instead as there were more affordable options there. It's not something that had crossed my mind but so I decided to take a look and found a well rated online radio DJ who sold ads on his show for $12USD. I figured that would not be an expensive lesson to pay if it didn't work out, so I gave it a try. Three days later, I received the link to the show featuring my radio ad,  a download of the audio version that I could use as often as I like, a posts on his Facebook account (3400+ likes), a post on his Twitter feed (44,700+ followers) and a custom Google link to track traffic coming from his posts. 

It's hard to say how much this has helped other than having a couple extra clicks from that specific url on my page. I only got 27 clicks from it so far and I don't suspect I'll get much more then that, unless I repost it myself. Since I already created my own custom link, it would defeat the purpose. The bulk of the leads coming from this ad would be by listerners searching for "100 cloud paintings" on Kickstarter, as it was the only way for his listeners to get to my page, and it's difficult to track. Still you can listen to the ad below, it's kind of fun to have a stranger create an add based on your content. It's a genius idea on his part to fund his show through Fiverr, but I think if I was to do this again, I would choose a radio show targeting a niche market interested in arts. Another lesson is that one tweet on a social media account of 44,7K followers doesn't make that big of a difference especially if there followers are not very engaged. Hindsight 20/20.





4. Track my own social media marketing efforts


Right at the beginning of my campaign, I decided to use a shortened Google URL across all platform to see what kind of traffic I'm getting from my effort. I could have used different URL for different social media platform to get a better idea of which is more effective, but I kept it simple with just one. This link is used on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and in my email signatures. Basically, any opportunity to insert that link and get people to at least go see the page that I could think of was used. What I've learned so far is that it's important to reach as many people as possible. One of the reasons why project may fail is that they are not seen enough. To date I generated only 53 clicks (+27 from the Fiverr service), which tells me that I need to work on that aspect of my campaign. It's not being seen by enough people online and I will have to think of other strategies to get it in front of the right people.


5. Track and update my Kickstarter page

I've only realized today that there's a way to track traffic on my Kickstarter page using Google Analytics! What gets measured get accomplished. In the remaining 19 days of the campaign, I'll be able to learn where traffic is coming from, what works and what doesn't work.  It will be a great way to get a better understanding of it.  I also keep updating my page with better photos, more videos and better description as I'm producing the artwork. I'll keep you posted on the progress and results from this experiment. 

If you have any questions, comments or advice, feel free to post them below. 


CLICK THE IMAGE TO GO TO THE PAGE

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How working with artists and designers can boost your marketing efforts


Last weekend I went to see the Interior Design Show in Toronto.  I used to regularly travel to Toronto from Montreal to see the show a couple of years ago. It used to be an inspiring pilgrimage for me to see what new amazing products and design ideas were emerging. It has changed since the last time I was there. There were a couple interesting installations and booths, but one thing that caught my attention was how the exhibitors who collaborated with a creative person or team were a lot more visible on social media. The most obvious examples of this was between three paint companies present at the show: Beauti-Tone by Home Hardware, Premier paint by Canadian Tire and Benjamin Moore

All three seemed to have similar sized booths, but each took a different approach to essentially connect with current and potential clients. In an age where everything happens online, it seems like the first two had a better grasp on what to do to get people interested and talk about their products outside of the show. This led me to better understand the impact a creative person or team can have on a business and how collaborating with creatives can positively boost marketing efforts for businesses and products so they can stand effectively out from the crowd. Based on what I saw at the show and online, the winner was Beauti-Tone, closely followed by Premier. Unfortunately for Benjamin Moore, they seem to be lagging behind. Here's why: 


Beauti-Tone grabbed people's attention by collaborating with a fashion designer

Beauti-Tone partnered with fashion designer Simon Chang and they came up with a unique and creative way to present their colour palette for 2017 : a wall of painted shoes using each of the trendy colours. By creating such a beautiful wall, they were able to reach more viewers online through social media. I actually saw a photo of it on Instagram before even seeing it at the show. I realized after clicking on the photo that it was part of the interior design show. It's such a original wall that many people (including myself) felt compelled  to take a picture and post it online, which resulted in free advertising for their product and brand. 

They didn't stop there. Their booth was beautifully appointed for an interior design show. They had a space showcasing their paint in a dining room. They also took the time to create a shelving wall featuring various items painted in their feature colour for 2017. The lady at the booth was very welcoming, she made sure the we took one of the paint samples and a nail polish of the same colour before we left. Not only did they appear on many social media accounts, they also created a lasting effect in people's mind because that nail polish is basically mobile advertising for them whenever they use it. Genius! 




They left a great impression in my mind and I'm definitely going to use their paint and nail polish. What makes them the winner for me is that they extended the attention on their brand by giving each visitor something to go home with and showcase online.  

A couple days after the show, doing a search for #beautitone, I found these pictures of  women showing off their colour trend nail polish, essentially continuing to advertise for Beauti-Tone. 


It took someone from the fashion industry to come up with a unique way for the paint company to increase attention towards their brand




Premier got people using their product by partnering with a design firm

Premier paint had a great booth for people to spend time in and interact with the paint. They collaborated with  Citizens and Collaborators, a design firm, to create an interactive mural enabling visitor to paint on the wall and essentially get a feel for their paint while having fun. They also had a really beautiful rainbow ceiling and a juice bar featuring some of their colours through juices. Again, their booth was advertised quite a bit through social media from people taking pictures of the ceiling and the evolving wall, as more people came to add more colour to the wall. It was a very inviting space and the people at the entrance of the booth made sure to ask people carrying magazine if they needed a bag to hold them. Their also won an award for best booth design. They came in second for me because they didn't have something like Beauti-tone to keep their brand on people's feed after the show ended. 





It took a design firm to come up with a fun and effective way to get potential clients to try their products. 


Benjamin Moore didn't get much attention online 

I was a little disappointed by the booth from Benjamin Moore. Their paint is so much better then how it was presented at the show. As you can see below, there were a couple painted squares on a white wall to showcase their colour palette, a giant poster featuring the colour the year and a sitting area that reminded me more of an office and a box for people to pick up a bag on the outskirt of their booth with the word Shadow on it. Womp. Womp.

The booth was kind of boring. Everything looked very "corporate" and there was nothing special enough to grab people's attention or entice visitors to take multiple pictures and post them online for extra reach. I only found 3 photos of visitors standing next to the colour trend wall : giant paint swatches. They weren't even mention on the official Instagram of the show (at least I didn't find them), which to me says a lot. They would benefit a lot from partnering with creatives to come up with unique and inspiring ways to showcase their products and make their booth more exciting, because we creatives are great at thinking outside of the box. 













Here's what I thought about when I saw their booth :

1. Why didn't they make better use of the their featured colour? 
Shadow is such a dramatic colour. Instead of embracing the drama by using the colour in larger quantity, the only had it on a small narrow wall with their logo on it. Also, flanking the poster with white paint on each end takes away from the drama. Perhaps having more wall or even recreating one of the scene from their brochure using their colour of the year, so that visitor can really feel what it's like to be in a room with that colour would have given them a more memorable experience, and something to share online. It feels like they missed the opportunity to impress the visitors.

2. Why didn't they collaborate with other exhibitors? 
Another way to stay in people's mind is to be in as many places as possible. One thing they could have done with their feature colour is to offer exhibitor to paint their wall in exchange for a shoutout. A product such as Gweilo light by Partisans would have been an ideal partnership. It's a great product featuring a sculptural light that is best seen against a dark background. They didn't have one so their product didn't show as well as it could have. Benjamin Moore could have provided them with a simple painted partition wall and floor with a discrete sign identifying themselves and the name of the paint. The light fixture would have stand out more. Beside,  how cool is the analogy of having Shadow paint to feature a lighting product!

They also missed an opportunity to collaborate with  DEKKO Concrete (right behind their booth) who could also have benefited from a dark floor to enhanced their light concrete wall and their beautiful fire pit.

There was also a sculptor on the other side of the exhibition room called CEK who had these amazing concrete sculptures, some with light, which would have looked amazing against a dark wall, and again it would have been an opportunity for Benjamin Moore to show how their featured paint colour can enhance light coloured furniture and artworks. 

3. Why didn't they do something a little more creative with their colour palette? 
The large coloured square on the wall is so uninspiring. I would think most people would pass by it and keep walking. It's not much different then seeing it on the catalogue. One simple way they could have make it more interesting would have been to used 3-D shadow boxes instead of flat squares and put fun objects inside the boxes, painted the same colour to give a bit more interest, texture and interest in the colour. Imagine if they would have taken random items painted the same colour as the boxes and create a story within the boxes that somehow connects to the name of the colour. I think that would have been shared on social media. 

By not collaborating with creatives, they missed a lot of opportunities to increase their reach and consequently increase their sales. 

Overall it was a great experience for me to visit the show as I'm getting a better understanding of how art plays an important role in businesses and how the return on investment when it comes to creativity can be quantified. Don't underestimate the power of creativity and how it can positively impact your business's bottom line!