Stoke Your Creative Fire

Stoke Your Creative Fire



inspire yourself

Spring is here and I’m full force in creative mode.  Between planting seedlings, capturing my dreams day and night, dropping off creative deeds, and connecting with my muse, sometimes there just doesn’t seem like enough time to do all the things I want to do. But I know in my heart, I feel it in my being that creating must continue. It allows me to connect with my true self, be who I am, and be ok with not getting it ALL done.  After all, there is always more to do right?

My head sometimes spins in anticipation of all the new things I will be involved in now that warmer weather is just around the corner.  Gardening, a creative endeavor I take on each spring reminds me ever so clearly of the creative process and its ebb and flows. I hang on to this metaphor, with its powerful reminder that even when I am not creating art, I am still an artist, even when I am not painting, I am a painter.  A story told by Clarissa Pinkola Estés speaks to this: an artist is sitting down in his backyard seemingly doing nothing and his neighbour approaches him and comments I see that you are resting, and the artist replies, no I am working.  The next day the artist is painting at his easel and the same neighbour comes and says, ” oh I see you are working today” and the artist replies “oh no, today I am resting”.  

Creating is not just about what is produced, it is about process. Sometimes the process may seem like it has nothing to do with creating at all, like those times when you seem to have hit a dry spell and are not creating at all, but just like the garden whose seeds have been planted and are germinating underground where we cannot see them, so too the creative process is often germinating out of our sight.  And if we forget this we can sometimes go into panic mode and think that all is lost.

Sometimes our creative process  needs a little help though.  Just as the garden seeds or perennials may lay dormant until the right conditions and environment exists, so too can our creative process.  Sometimes the embers of the creative fire inside need some attention, a gentle blowing to ignite will suffice, too strong and we may become overwhelmed by its power.

Simply put creative practice needs to be fed by engaging in it.  When we create for the sake of creating rather than for the end result the creative fire is stoked. When we forget about it or put it off, it dies down, and sometimes can go out, the same as if we forget to water seeds planted.


Here is what you can do to keep your creative fire active:


But there lies the problem for most right?

Protests from the critic say, “there is not enough time” or “its frivolous!

Here’s how to counter these notions:

Schedule it in.  Scheduling does two things:

  1. It gives your creativity due respect and importance.
  2. On the practical side, it sets aside time that you may otherwise dwindle away on worrying about not having enough time to create.

Be Prepared:

  1. Make sure others know you have set aside this time for your art.
  2. Have a space dedicated for your creative process:
    • whether it is a room,
    • a wall in a hall,
    • a desk or table or
    • simply a toolbox with all the supplies you need on hand when its time to create.

Commit to Take Creative Action:

Don’t confound yourself with projects that don’t make you happy, create from your heart for your self. Creating is an act of self-expression. Allow your process to unfold in a supportive environment, whether it is with trusted friends, at a workshop or through an online course which respects individual process and expression.  When you create in community you are often more likely to act on your creative impulse.  Community can support: it reminds you of the importance of creating and holds you accountable to take action because you are making a commitment and dedicating time for your art.



Inner Wise Self or Inner Critic?

Inner Wise Self or Inner Critic?

Trust Your Wise Self

From time to time my inner critic states her opinion on the task at hand. In the past I have given in, giving up on what I was doing as a result.  Then I became pretty good about listening to her without judgement for the most part and letting it slide.  Still these critical voices would come back and interfere with whatever it was I was trying to create in my life. Who would have thought that after all this time I would still be taking her opinion seriously right? But what if that was the point, what if there was something there that I needed to take a serious look at?

Let’s look at the role of the inner critic. Is the inner critic simply an annoying voice that makes us feel bad about our selves and doubt our abilities? Or does the inner critic serve some other function?

If we unravel the concept of inner critic it is derived from the Freudian concept of the ego or even the super ego. A part of ourselves that has internalized the expectations and values from our families and society at large. The judge who looks at what we do compared to these internalized expectations.

But somewhere a long the line the inner critic has shifted out of the original protective role of keeping us in line or at least aware of other’s expectations. I say “protective” because if we continued to act from an egocentric place as very young children and babies do, we would have difficulty over time relating to others, putting ourselves in their place and having empathy.  Following expectations to an extent is an important part of being human since we are relational beings.


The inner critic can be seen as an imbalance within the ego whose role it is to make sure we follow the rules of our family and the bigger society. The inner critic takes criticism too far, putting us down and degrading our sense of self.  So it is easy to see why many people think the best thing to do with those inner critic scripts is to ignore them.

But lets take a closer look at this. If the original role of the critic is to bring our attention to something that needs to change, then if we ignore the inner critic messages entirely we may be missing out on reflecting on an important message from or unconscious.  I’m not saying that we should accept the undermining tone of these messages, but rather that it is important to take a closer look to see what exactly might be going on.


There are a few ways of viewing the inner critic:

  1. We can shun these critical voices as malicious and not noteworthy, scripts we’ve picked up from our childhood that no longer serve us. Or
  2. We can embrace the inner critic, looking at the true intention behind its misguided or improperly presented criticism.

I think that it all depends on the situation and what messages we are getting.  If the general message is “I am not worthy” then ignoring this message may seem like a good thing to do.  However, if we do not replace it with an alternative message then we may find ourselves in constant ignoring mode which can consume a lot of emotional energy.

Instead of using one method over the other I prefer to use both: explore the hidden meaning or message of the inner critic, recognize where it may be coming from, past interactions with others, present fears, and then replace it with a more appropriate message that will support us. This is the embracing of the true intention that I am talking about, recognizing when we are feeling stuck and why, accepting these fears or doubts (that everyone experiences from time to time)  and moving forward with a message of believing in ourselves despite these fears or doubts. Sometimes reminding yourself of times you have succeeded, despite being fearful or uncertain can help.


Here are the steps needed to gain insight from those inner critics:

  1. Identify the messages you have internalized. What are they? Where did you pick them up? How have they been reinforced over time?
  2. Release the critical messages. Acknowledge these messages, any good intentions that may have originally been behind them as well as not so good intentions and let the old messages go.
  3. Examine if there is something you can glean from the message(s) that will give you insight.
  4. Devise a helpful message to replace the critical message. In order to be able to release them they need to be replaced with  new messages. What is it you need to hear for support in your particular situation?
  5. Move forward and create, reminding yourself of past successes and times you were able to move through or with the stuck.

Next time you find your inner critic interfering, step back and take a look at just what exactly going on and then take action!

Creative Determination

Creative Determination



This past Saturday I had the pleasure of guiding a group of muses in my Painting With Your Muse intuitive painting workshop. Each time I do this workshop I am in awe of the amazing muses who join me. If you don’t already know the muses I’m talking about are the inner muses of each participant at the workshop. I believe strongly that we all have what we need inside and it follows that rather than have a muse outside yourself that inspires you, that creative wisdom and inspiration comes from within.


After warming up with some drumming and setting intentions to follow their own internal rhythm, came the task of facing a blank sheet of paper. Inner critics were busy trying to argue and scare the muses away from using their true voice. Luckily the muses were prepared!


It was with pleasure that I watched the creative voices in the room be expressed through the painting. For some it was a constant battle, but they persisted to follow the process rather than self-imposed expectations. “Mistakes” were welcomed, “Shoulds” were ignored. Inner patterns observed and reflected on to make room for stifled parts of self to express. Risks were taken.




It was hard work for those muses as the incessant inner critics kept trying to come back into the room and douse the creative fires inside. But the room kept glowing with creative determination.





There is something about being given permission to notice and let go of the scripts which no longer serve us that allows one’s creative spirit to shine. There is something about coming into your body and out of your head that opens the doors to one’s inner muse. And the watching of this as it unfolds before my eyes- stunningly beautiful. Their courage and persistence to create despite all the roadblocks reminds me of the power of creativity.



I’m an Art Rebel

I’m an Art Rebel


live outside the box


The other week when I was dropping of some creative deeds for #creativedeed365 project, I left several around the restaurant we were eating at.  I figured the restaurant was full so why not? My eldest son laughed at me and called me an “Art Rebel” like some kind of Marvel superhero. At the time he said it, I had to laugh too: there I was sneaking around public places looking for just the right spot to leave a creative deed for an unsuspecting person to stumble upon and perhaps make their day, maybe even inspire some of their own creative power to shine through.  Yes I felt like an art rebel for sure!


It also felt rebellious to be doing it without trying to take credit for it – quickly placing them in spots where others could find them but not while others could see me do it- anonymously. I am an Art Rebel!


In the grocery store . . . 


Where I teach . . .




At a senior’s building . . .




Then I started thinking about the idea of being a “rebel”.
The Merriam Websters dictionary defines a rebel as: “A person who opposes a person or group in authority : a person who does not obey rules or accept normal standards of behavior, dress, etc.”.


While this definition is a little more extreme than what I mean by Art Rebel, one thing that stands out for me is the “does not obey rules or accept normal standards” part.  Not so much in the act of leaving creative deeds for others to find, but more in the way that I create these little creative deeds. Like my usual process they have been spontaneous, intuitive, and free-flowing without a particular plan to them other than following the constraints of the cue card I use as a base. I add a message, but don’t make my art around the message instead the message finds a voice in the art and once I see this I add the verbal rendition of this message in. Sometimes I use quotes that I stumble upon that fit with what I’ve created. Sometimes it’s seemingly disjointed words which begin to make sense when I place them together with the imagery. There are no rules perse, only unlimited options for expressions.




To me this is not just what an art rebel is it is what following your creative muse is about. Many people don’t identify themselves as creative or artists because they measure creativity by artistic skill.  As a result their inner artist is trapped inside, without permission to come out. But what if you were to see art in a different light and rather than judge it by standards of professional art view it as a creative expression capable by anyone willing to take the courage and express themselves. An art Rebel doesn’t allow inner critics or outside judgement to silence their creative voice. An Art Rebel does not follow the rules of conventional art. An Art Rebel creates their own standards of expression and recognizes when these too may hold them back.


I’m an art rebel and I’m proud!


Creative Deeds for Me and You

Creative Deeds for Me and You



CreativeDeeds WIP

I have been making  little art offerings to give away as random acts of kindness as part of Gretchen Miller’s  #CreativeDeed365.  Though January has proven to be too busy for me (I’m doing one extra day of clinical art therapy, plus teaching and extra class for the Toronto Art Therapy Institute) to make these daily, I have been making batches of them on the weekend or on evenings when I have some down time.  They have become somewhat of a meditative practice for me; flipping through magazines and picking out words or phrases that entice me as well as textures or photos that inspire and putting these together in ways that seem right in the moment.

Live Life

They have been relaxing to do, and fun to leave in places where unsuspecting by passers might spot them and pick them up.  This has actually been challenging, since I really don’t want to be “caught” leaving them somewhere for others.  I like the mystery of it all, yet my critical self starts second guessing if anyone will find them or more specifically pick them up.


Anais Nin quote

So far I have left these little messages of hope in washroom of restaurants, yoga studios, bulk stores, public transit, community centres, an ATM

Trust the process, trust the process, I keep reminding myself.  It has become my daily mantra.


What is this process anyway? By committing to make these little art offerings I am also committing to making art more regularly. The nature of these means that they are very in the moment and spontaneous driven. They are process oriented, yet there is the structure of a message that seems important for me to share at the time that I make it.  I follow my intuition.

Look in the mirror

Another part of the process is the placing of them in public places where they will be discovered by someone who will enjoy them.  There is of course the process of letting go.  Some of them I start to feel attached to in that I might like one more than another. Though I take pictures of each one, leaving them for someone else allows me to practice the act of releasing, letting go and non-attachment.  I don’t need these cards, but because I created them sometimes it feels like I should hang on to the ones I like. Letting them go helps me stay true to the process of creating for the sake of creating rather than for a product to hang on to.




I will keep you posted as I continue to leave these little art offerings for others.  Who knows maybe they will inspire the finder to make some of their own.  Maybe it will inspire a journal entry, or some art making in response.  If you would like to follow along and see the cards that I am leaving for others you can follow me on INSTAGRAMTwitter Pinterest or Facebook .

If you really want to challenge yourself, you can make your own art response to the messages on my creative deeds in your art journal.  And of course you can make your own creative deeds to share with others- whenever you want (no rules). 

Embracing Your Creative Self

Embracing Your Creative Self


Photo on 2011-04-11 at 13.42 #5


“The thing that is missing from your life is you”  Guy Finley

Sometimes we spend a lot of time looking for things. Things to make our lives better, things to make us feel better, look better, be better. We seek change to happen to us. We seek change or transformation as if it’s a commodity we can purchase. We get sucked into the notion that there is always something better out there that we need to be, better as if what we have or what we are is not enough.


This searching for something more only serves to reinforce any feelings of insecurity or not being enough.


Do you see where this is going? The striving to be or have something more or better ends up making us feel less than we are. It preys  on our insecurities and makes us seek outside of ourselves even more.


But what if we began to believe that all we are is enough? What if we accepted ourselves as we are and basked in this revelation. Even if we are not perfect.  Even if doesn’t meet our expectations?


You Are Beautiful CeativeDeed


I’m not saying that things should just stay as they are, but the idea that we need to change to improve is misleading. When we  begin to accept ourselves for who we are we open the door to our full potential, not trying to change who we are but rather expanding the notion of our Selves outside of the preconceived restricted notions we may hold about who we are becoming.  The  way I see it is that we are constantly growing and evolving.


This opening to acceptance is essential. Rather than looking at self as something broken in need of fixing we may look at self with compassion. And when we have compassion for self we can connect better with self.  When we are more connected with self we are more of who we really are – the possibilities that exist inside flourish in that kind of attitude and environment.


What kind of environment are you fostering for your self to grow in?


Here are some tips that I have found helpful for opening to my inner possibilities:

  1. Start the day with a clean slate: I spend 10 minutes in the morning (most) sitting in silence just noticing my thoughts and going back to my breath.
  2. Do something you enjoy each day, whether it is 5 minutes of dance, doodling, art journaling, playing with your kids, or yoga.  Just give your self permission to do it, expanding the time as it becomes more comfortable for you to gift this to yourself.
  3. Notice what is, there is beauty everywhere, recognize it within yourself and name a strength of yours.
  4. Find something to celebrate about your day: the way you handled that conflict well, that the sun was shinning, the infectious laugh of a child you crossed paths with, the smile of a stranger, whatever it is notice it and celebrate it.
  5. Use affirmations to remind yourself of your worth.


Witnessing the Unfolding

Witnessing the Unfolding




This past weekend I witnessed the beauty of women connecting with their inner wisdom. This is one of the many things I love about my work: holding space for the unfolding of the creative process as it guides  people back to their inner wisdom. In my clinical practice this happens as well but often over a longer period of time. There is something about the workshop process that allows participants to engage their inner wisdom at a quicker pace and in ways that pleasantly surprise them.   I feel honoured to be a witness to this.


Each woman was unique in her process with separate but overlapping intentions for participating. Each came to the workshop with their own ideas and goals for participating.  Their willingness to explore and share their journey simply by being present was inspiring to me.


We laughed, their were some tears, expressed desires and intentions. We released old patterns form 2014,  shared new intentions and visions for 2015.




Each woman knew they wanted to be there, but not necessarily why. Their original vision of what they would accomplish shifted in ways that empowered them connecting them to their inner wise woman.


I was in awe of their strength, their willingness to open to vision. Each board reflected their uniqueness, beauty and power. These strong women embraced their heart’s desires, ripped through pages and pages of magazine in search of a connection with their intentions in visual form.


No two vision boards were the same. They were as different from each other as they were different from what each thought their vision board would look like. And that was the point. Sometimes we think we know what we want but it is this very thinking that  gets in our way of our true desires. If we allow ourselves to feel our way toward a vision for ourselves, the outcome can be miraculous.


I share this here to remind you that you too have the answers inside. There is no need to over think the answers. For they will come when you are ready to open to your vision.



Looking Back to Look Forward

Looking Back to Look Forward




The beginning of a new year often seems like a over-rated time to begin anew with setting intentions for the year ahead. But to me New Years is a symbolic of a new start, a reminder that at any time we can begin anew and make positive changes in our lives. We don’t need to wait for New Years to do this however there is something about the idea of a NEW Year that helps us focus on the possibilities of letting go of the old in the past year to make room for the possibilities of what we can invite into our lives.

But in order to make room for creative possibilities ahead we must pay respect to those creations which have already been nurtured into being by us.

This year brought so many new beginnings, lessons and opportunities into my life. Here are some of the highlights I would like to share below:

1) I began my year by going on a much-needed retreat with my soul mate and best friend.  It was an important reminder to me how essential self-care is being in the helping field.   Always remember to give back to yourself, so that you have the energy to give to others.



2) I was part of Dirty Foot Prints Studio’s 21 Secrets Spring, offering my workshop Inner Art Explorations combining my love of nature, meditation and art in art journaling. (You can still purchase 21 Secrets Spring 2014, the 21 Secrets fall 2014 or the newest Spring 2015 21 Secrets here) Note: these are affiliate links which means I get a portion of fees from purchases through these links- this is how I get paid as a 21 Secrets teacher.


Artsy Collage


3.) I went on a wonderful bike trip with my friends and colleagues!  We stayed at a beautiful luxury cottage. This is the second year we’ve done this together and it looks like it will be turning into a yearly thing!

2014Bike TripCollage


4) I took some time off to visit California! I took time to relax with my soul mate and left the online world behind for a few days!



5.) While guiding several Painting With Your Muse Workshops I met so many fabulous Muses!


6.) I was invited to be part of  Art Therapy Alliance’s 30 day Facebook Hop in June.


7.) I made the top 50 Art Therapy blogs!

8.) I enjoyed some beautiful spa days and nature adventures while I was off for the month of August.



9.) I was proud to be a part of 21 Secrets Conversations over at  Dirty Foot Prints Studio’s.  Click the picture below to watch this interview. It’s FREE!

21 Petrea


10.) I hosted a Doodle A Day Challenge for the month of November and doodled every day!

DoodleADay2wksCollage DoodleaDayBlog


While I have just shared some of the highlights these are by no means the only celebrations from my year.  There were many more, just as there were times of disappointment.  I chose to focus here on the positives, as the lessons learned from the more challenging times are personal to me, but just as important to acknowledge and reflect upon.  Be honest with yourself but gentle too.  When you take the time to reflect upon your year you may be surprised at just how many highlights there were as well as important lessons.

Take some time to acknowledge your accomplishments from this year.  Allow yourself to let go of perceived failures and accept the lessons  as gifts. Take some time now and review your year. What gifts has this year brought you?


For a limited time I will have my link for my New Beginnings Guided Meditation available for those who are signed up for my newsletter and Free e-course Free Your Inner Child. You can sign-up below or to find out more click here: Free Your Inner Child Free e-course


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New Beginnings Guided Meditation


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Lessons In Letting Go

Lessons In Letting Go

Letting Go solstice 2014

Flowing across the floor as I dance that is where my comfort lies. The sharp movements of staccato feel awkward forced. It’s as if something is off and it is. Staccato in 5 rhythms is a force to be reckoned with. A few weeks back I attended a 5 Rhythms movement workshop and have been processing it’s effects since.

This is why I love the expressive arts. It gets us in touch with parts of our Selves that otherwise might be ignored, and left  unexplored.  There are many more than just five rhythms to life. But how many of our own rhythms, or ways of being in this world do we actually allow ourselves to connect with?  Or perhaps it is better to look at these rhythms as potentials for being in life.


At the workshop I attended I was reminded of this. How important it is to let ourselves go and freely experience these  other parts of self.


When I paint or art journal or do any sort of creative expression I give myself permission to connect with these true aspects of self.  This includes the parts we may avoid as well. The shadows that scare us or seem ugly are held safely in the space of the large canvas or paper.  Containing them this way allows them to be  explored more deeply.  When this happens, the parts of self that are meek or shy are able to make an appearance, peeking through the pages of my art journal, knowing that they will be seen yet protected between covers.


This is the beauty of self-expression through the arts.  We are not limited by our technical skill, but only by our minds and their eagerness to control out comes.  The more we work in this expressive-process-oriented way the more room we give for authenticity, unhindered by outcome and our own judgement.


Last night I went to the annual Festival of Lights celebration here in Toronto and was reminded of this once again while I watched the burning of a magnificent bird sculpture.  Every year a different sculpture is made and lit for the final bon fire as community gathers to celebrate  this time of year.  There is no sadness as the paper mache sculpture burns, in fact we are all in awe, embracing the beauty of the moment and releasing it happily.  The sculpture, a product made through a loving process of communal expression is not as important as the process of creating it.


I am reminded of how easy it is to let go when we are not invested in hanging on.  I am reminded of how difficult it can be to let go within ourselves when we place unnecessary expectations on ourselves.  And so the process of creating in the expressive arts has the potential for powerful lessons in letting go and connecting with the present.  Letting go of the past and our frustrations with it and letting go of our future hopes which inadvertently can suggest that what is now is not enough.


Need some help developing or maintaining a creative practice? Why not create in community?

Art journaling, intuitive painting or creative visioning available online and in Toronto

PWYMNEWlrg Visioning Your Year Ahead blank date Opening To VisionLRGVJJ2014Collage


Setting Intentions

Setting Intentions


world is a canvas


I have never been the best planner. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants for the most part. Getting ideas and acting on them shortly after. But in the last few years, at about this time of year I find that I am drawn to doing a little more planning ahead than usual, and do you know what I have noticed? The things that I am dreaming to do and wanting to make happen are coming together much smoother as a result. I know, I know, hard to believe right?


But seriously there are a few rituals that I do this time of year as the seasons are changing.  Where I live things are getting colder and I tend to go into my shell a little more – in a good reflective way that is.


One of the things that I always do this time of year is clear out old junk, literally and metaphorically speaking. The last few weeks I have been tidying around the house and in my home studio space (there are pockets of creative space throughout my house) getting rid of stuff that I don’t use. I have been clearing out the old to make room for the new. Not necessarily new stuff, but new ideas, dreams, hopes, aspirations, the kind of stuff that takes up a lot of mental and emotional space and needs a tidy organized environment to thrive. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not a neat freak, and I’m all for a bit of creative chaos, just as long as it doesn’t become so distracting that it gets in the way of my new ideas and creativity growing.


Another thing I like to do this time of year is a vision board, otherwise known as a dream board. I find that as a visual person, visioning my year ahead in this way helps me tap into those unconscious dreams and aspirations in ways that just writing lists cannot. And it is a tool that I can use throughout the year to help keep me focused on my vision and my intentions for the year.


The next thing that I like to do is review my Life & Biz planner from the year (I use Leonie Dawson’s Shining Year in Life and Business). It is amazing to see what I have dreamt up and what I have accomplished. I review throughout the year of course.


I then set out to fill in my new planner for the upcoming year. This is by no means a rushed process. I like to begin to fill it out in early December and work on it as much as I can each week so that I am ready for the new year. I don’t always fill out every part, and sometimes come back to fill out parts when it makes sense for me to.

What I know is that this process of doing opening to vision and  filling in the 2015 workbook help bring more clarity into my life. These simple but powerful rituals really help me focus on my intention to bring more of what I want into my life, namely a joy filled year.

What do you do to help bring life into your intentions?


Need some support getting started?  In person or online vision board workshops are available.  Creative visioning online workshops available, online art journaling and  Toronto vision board workshop.

 Opening To VisionLRGLeonie 2015 200x200Visioning Your Year Ahead blank date