Lovestache 325I painted this painting in response to the death of Jack layton, the leader of the New Democratic Party. It is not really a political painting. I like to think (no ego LOL) that it is about something larger. When Jack died there was a spontaneous outpouring from people from across Canada, from across the globe, from across income levels, from across ethnic, age or educational backgrounds and from across political affiliations.

What were they responding to? I had the thought that people were responding to the loss of someone with undeniable integrity. Here was a man who had a consistent and persistant message for years and years. He wasn’t angry or arrogant but outspoken and willing to educate anyone about the elements that were creating the current situation.

In a time when we are skeptical about our politicians and their motivations, Jack was a man we could trust. You might not like his politics or even the way he presented his message, but there was something that everyone recognized in him as being of value.

Trustache - the word cropThis was painted last summer and just yesterday – a week or so from the first day of Spring, someone pointed out that she had seen the graffiti “Trustache” that rhymes with Jack’s ever present moustache and read it differently. What she saw was TRUST ACHE and thought that the painting spoke to the “ache” that the voting population has for being able to TRUST our politicians and each other.

Some MBTI types use metaphor and even think in metaphor. This particular interpretation really touched me. Typically I say that I paint rather than call myself an artist, but having someone else see something deeper in your work is in the territory of art and what art contributes to the human experience.

Category : Communication | creativity | Uncategorized | Blog

Over the years I have combined my coaching hat with my artist’s beret by introducing drawing, sketching and painting as a way to enter into new and important conversations.

On a very simple level using painting combined with collage to kick-start, augment or crystallize a visioning process works in often stellar ways. The most objective elaborate strategic plan can be brought to life when images amplify the story into full colour.

Solo-preneurs, professionals and individuals in management and leadership positions have used a day of creative exploration to reflect, re-imagine futures and reconnect with passion and purpose. People have returned annually using the opportunity for creative self-expression as part of their overall strategy to keep their engagement to their work true to their original passion and intent.

I have seen how art levels the playing field in intact teams and cross-functional situations. There is also a kind of magic that happens as the occasional reluctant participant realizes the shift in thinking that occurs when the brain is informed with images as well as language. This is not the same old output that discussion alone typically produces.

Leading Full Circle is a two day intergenerational leadership event for women that fully integrates arts-based experiences into the program design. One of the participants describes this program:

Leading Full Circle invites you into: conversations that uncover the thoughts and emotions that are guiding you, individual reflection that makes it easier to hear your inner voice, artistic practice that opens your imagination to the future, kinesthetic exercises that cultivate a more powerful presence, and self-assessment that helps you identify practical next steps.

The women who attended were from all sectors, interests, ages and types. Some of the descriptors used in describing the impact of artistic practices include:

revealing, freeing, re-connecting, immensely helpful, powerful

Injecting an artist into your next workshop, training or meeting may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Drawing, sketching and painting experiences can shift conversations from endless problem solving loops to making connections that deepen meaning and harness inspiration. Action that arises from this level of awareness flows out of alignment with a larger purpose. And that is powerful indeed.

Category : creativity | Leadership | Blog

Kick start 2011 with creativity. Sure you can do a purely analytical approach to planning and designing the next 12 months but even if you do, nothing brings your plans to life like making them visual. We are accustomed to taking in information through text, live “talking head” presentations or visual media. These are passive modes of learning and retention is limited. There is a an old saw that guides teachers SAY SEE DO when planning lessons in order to ensure participation and retention. Say little. See more. Do a lot. Kolb’s Learning Styles Inventory describes 4 aspects of the learning cycle:

  1. Concrete Experience – (CE)
  2. Reflective Observation – (RO)
  3. Abstract Conceptualization – (AC)
  4. Active Experimentation – (AE)

I am offering two options for anyone in the Toronto area who wants to kick start their year with a day that sits outside the box and highlights steps 1, 3 and 4 in Kolb’s cycle plus incorporates visual, auditory and kinesthetic experiences. Passive input will be replaced with total engagement. So much so that time will fly.

Visioning Through Collage will connect you to what’s important, get ideas flowing and provide insights that might surprise you. Expressive Explorations offers 4 possibilities to shake things up, unleash parts of you that have been stifled – put aside or ignored for too long.

Category : creativity | Events | Blog

Imagining possibility, considering possibility, implementing what is best from that possibility is critical for both creativity and on a purely practical level, for getting unstuck and finding viable practical solutions. People with a preference for Intuition expand the field and see possibility beyond what is immediately apparent. Laura McGrath is a coach and facilitator who combines a preference for Intuition with her gifts of critical thinking and organizational genius to help individuals and organizations imagine and take action on more creative, more effective and fulfilling answers.

In a recent blog post Laura paints a vivid picture of what happens when possibility itself gets stuck in the endless looping of internal overwhelm – when the cycle of action / reflection gets reduced to to imagining alone.

I have copied Laura’s post here below to show how she invites us to use Sensing as a way to evaporate the overwhelm of possibility run amok.

In my room the world is beyond my understanding;

But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four hills and a cloud.

~Wallace Stevens

The most daunting part of the journey is, I think, the part I make up in my head when I am alone, when I withdraw, when I cut off from support, when I look at the immensity of the task. I sit in my room, and it is all beyond my understanding.

But if I venture out, if I take one step and then the next, if I do the first thing, and then do the second thing, and let the obvious third thing arise when it’s ready, then I see that it is all very simple really: three or four hills and a cloud

Category : Coaching | creativity | Blog

I had a tour of an amazing facility in Toronto that has been a hidden gem for me until today. I am so excited about this wonderful place that I want to shout it to the rooftops.

Mukibaum Treatment Centres serve children and adults with complex disabilities in a number of venues from residential facilities, day programs for children and programs for adults. I visited the bright, spacious facility which houses day programs for adults. I met some of the people you can see in these images.

One of the staff was saying that people have a willingness and understanding that children with the kinds of complex disabilities that Mukibaum serves have the possibility for growth and development. Unfortunately this attitude often does not extend to adults, and this lack of enthusiasm and commitment hampers fund raising and the visibility of the center.

Once inside the walls what I sensed was total commitment and enthusiasm from those who work at Mukibaum and from the people that they serve. Everyone was recognized as an individual with a unique personality. The program was tailored to work with each individual’s strengths and to offer support in areas where it would be of benefit.

There was so much to take in but in the midst of expressive arts rooms, music rooms, dance rooms, art studios, rooms for storytelling, many rooms for sensory development there was the virtual reality room. It was here that I got an understanding of the level of creativity and dedication of the staff.

One of their clients had been a kayaker before head trauma changed his life. Seizure activity prevented working a therapeutic way in a kayak on a river or in a pool, but the virtual reality experience did not produce seizures. This fabulous set up allowed them to help use the kayaking movements to exercise the parts of the brain that had previously had strong neuro-pathways.

The use of technology provides a lot of fun and is so rewarding that people are motivated to learn how to work with the equipment. This is a big reach that is a bonus side effect of the value of the experience from a therapy perspective.

Not only did the staff understand the needs of the clients but also their own needs and what keeps the work alive and fresh and their spirits intact. One small example is the room that is set up for the volunteer chiropractors that serve both staff and clients.

It is well worth visiting the site to see what else is happening and to watch the video of the real Michael aka Muki Baum who inspired it all.

I came away “filled up” by being in an environment where everyone was viewed through the lens of possibility. A good reminder for us all.

Category : creativity | Personal | Blog


Poetry is subversive. It dives in and plays deep in territory we haven’t stepped into before, asking questions we dare not ask.

Poet David Whyte, speaking at the Remarkable Leadership series, considers the bigger questions.

He weaves poetry with story and observation to offer keys to help us consider how the particular aspects of our work and passions connects to a much larger reality that is quite invisible to us. We also come to see that if we limit our perception of self, work and relationship to the superficial, we miss the way these everyday items and events can open us to the deeper purpose supporting our work and to the wellspring of our creativity.

David tells the Sufi teaching story of Mullah Nasruddin. Nasruddin traveled each day from Saudi Arabia to Egypt with his donkey loaded with many packs, and each day the border officials would search his packs to see what he was smuggling in. They never found anything suspicious. For four years, the border officials were determined to catch this smuggler. They watched him become increasingly wealthier until he finally stopped crossing the border every day. Later the chief border official also retired and he happens to meet meet Nasruddin. The official said, “Now that we are both retired, you are not in any danger. For my own sense of curiosity, please tell me what is was that you were smuggling.” Nasruddin answers, “Donkeys.”

The focus on the minutia caused the officials to miss seeing what was happening. The smuggling was about a different donkey every day for four years.

Assessment tools such as the MBTI, Enneagram, Reiss and DiSC look at parts of a whole to shine a light on aspects of a person’s preferences, worldview, motivation and strengths. We understand that this is not who we are but rather that these tools provide a way of reflecting back to ourselves ways we might be in the world. They open the door for inspection and discussion so that we can understand who we are and make sense of how others may be different.

If we get distracted or lost in the details of these tools we miss the whole. Indeed we miss the person.

In addition, if we focus all of our attention on the superficial aspects of the person and their work we miss the larger territory below the surface and all that that can contribute to finding deeper meaning and to our well-being.

Category : creativity | Leadership | Uncategorized | Blog

Can we learn from others?

My response is YES as long as we translate their process to adapt to our own strengths, natural motivation and preferences.

I wrote a previous blog post in response to an email question I received but my answer wasn’t what Sandra was asking. Below is my second response. My painting process has developed through some self-observation, through trying to work with my Enneagram Six tendency for self-doubt and it may be a portrait of an ENFP in action. I trust that Sandra, who asks the question below will find one piece in this ramble to “translate” into how she can paint “Ideas” her way.

After reading your blog post, I understand what you were talking about although that wasn’t what I was asking. I understand you are saying you could use an idea rather than an object as subject matter. But I was asking specifically about your process of getting that idea onto canvas. For example, if you were going to paint “hatred” would you sketch it out, work it out first, think about it or would you just stand in front of a blank canvas and “feel” or intuit your way through it? In other words, how do you translate concept into visual.

I have more than one way in. I suppose I do all of what you suggested but I vary the order depending on the circumstance. I go by what feels right in the moment. This can be influenced by the weather, the amount of sleep I’ve had the people who are around, the materials I have on hand etc. Forcing things doesn’t work for me.

Often something I read or write or learn about sparks an idea. The shapes and colours may come full blown or I may work them out ahead of time. The times I try to work them out on canvas are either a roaring success or a big flop. It might work to go straight to canvas at the end of a long day of painting when I am open and warmed up.

* For Inner Landscapes 1 I had a clear outcome in mind – which was to capture the essence of each of the 16 Reiss desires so that people could add the image to the description of the desire and enhance their understanding. I wanted them to look and be able to say “YES That’s me.” or “NO way.”
* For my Inner Landscapes 2 show I also wanted people to engage with the MBTI in order to deepen their understanding and anchor it in their memory. I had coaching clients come to the gallery and sketch their interpretation of a concept such as Introversion and I used those sketches as a jumping off spot for about 1/3 of the 33 paintings – then I filled in the other components with my interpretation which evolved from what the clients started.





* For some things like Introversion- I then ask myself what would the opposite of something I have done -feel like, look like. How would I paint Extroversion to have the opposite energy? This is something that I do quite often – eg 2 paintings-1 of the word MORE called “too Much is Not Enough” and One of the word LESS called “Less is More” – humour is big for me and it is often there but not explicit. I change colour, texture etc. to show the difference
* I often ask a question something like ” I know I want to paint about X so what do I want to say?” and then let things percolate for a few days until something comes to me –
* Then I might try some ideas out in a series of one minute sketches – I like to go from sketch to painting pretty quickly while the feeling state is alive for me. Everything I do is part of a coherent whole eg standing, using a big brush and big gestures for a painting about a concept like freedom that calls for that way of painting. Painting intimacy might be suited to a different size brush, different palette and a different physical posture – perhaps sitting and doing more considered and careful brushwork

* I often have a big back story going on for me while I paint. This video above shows an example of 2 paintings that I did for a show to be curated by Moses Znaimer on the Last Taboo (which is aging acc to Moses). You can see that I was in the country and that being in nature influenced my thinking and my images. What I wanted to paint didn’t get fully expressed so I just found myself exploring Twitter to see what people in general thought about aging. One thing led to another and I ended up doing a twitter background created from 2 other paintings. The canvas panel from the printed jpegs of the Twitter search is blanket stitched on because to me that was a funny juxtaposition of some hand craft I learned as a kid which could be considered something old fashioned and the new element of Social media. There are a hundred little thoughts and connections and reasons why things are the way they are in these paintings that I can’t express – I tried in a blog post and got 1/4 of what I was thinking – having to explain it takes some of the fun and magic out of the process for me – I love the PROCESS – the end result needs to be OKAY in other words I want to be somewhat proud of the art but it isn’t the exciting thing for me – the process of expressing something is where the charge is. If people have a reaction that is a bonus – I am even more pumped if they have a completely different story going on for them than the one I made up. It’s all about engagement for me.

Sixteen MBTI types

Sixteen MBTI types

* For the 16 MBTI type paintings I had certain things that I wanted to express – In one of the 16 type paintings I used a series of blocks expressing order and the colour of those arranged in a pyramid shape to represent hierarchy for the ESTJ. I used the red colour for the SP types because they are so physical and because different temperament tools use red or orange for those types

* I have thoughts, ideas, theories and then once I start to paint I surrender to the process of making marks and putting paint on paper or canvas. The physicality of the process is so pleasurable – put paint on take paint off, go with the happy accidents and try to be bold and open to what wants to happen at the same time. There is a real paradox in the painting process.
* Sometimes the initial gesture is about my idea and then the painting takes on a life of its own. I surrender to the textures and shapes as they emerge on the canvas so that the end result is a surprise. At this point in my development as an artist, I trust that I know when to bail or when to keep on until I have a semblance of something worthwhile.

Category : creativity | Personal | Video | Blog

Sandra Muscat wrote to me about some observations I made on The Painter’s Keys twice weekly letter geared for visual artists.

I am writing because of a comment you recently made at The Painter’s Keys. You wrote that you paint your ideas and I am wondering if you would be willing to expand on that a bit and share what that translates into as far as your process goes. I am intrigued how you approach it without getting stuck on subject matter. I’m also wondering if you think about it versus feel your way through it.

I understand many artists are uncomfortable sharing their process so please forgive me if this is too intrusive. I sincerely appreciate anything you would be willing to share.

The original post that Sandra was referring to was about how people handled “painter’s block” and I was excited to leap into the conversation. My first 10 years of painting included a daily dose of painter’s block as I struggled to find subject matter for paintings.

That is no longer the case and I typically have a gagillion ideas for what I want to paint next. What’s the difference between then and now? Then, I was painting in watercolour and my total focus was on technique. My subject matter came from the classes that I attended – producing still life drawings, floral bouquets or landscapes from my uninspired paintbrush.

Because I had not investigated what I wanted to say in my painting, the work I was creating did not resemble not the work that I admired. I was drawn to Jasper Johns, Rothko, and Jack Bush, and there was a major disconnect between what I was painting and what I loved.

I have worn dual hats as a coach who uses personality assessment tools with a career as a painter and partner in an artist run gallery in Toronto’s Historic Distillery District. I was doing a lot of painting and receiving regular ongoing feedback from the public. It was exciting to find ways to integrate art into coaching and coaching clients loved coming down to the gallery to use collage for visioning exercises.

Learning to be a better observer of one’s own behaviour is a critical skill I suggested to my coaching clients as a way of impacting personal development. This skill helped me make the link between the talents I exhibited according to“>Clifton Strength’s Finder and my subject matter. My number one strength on the Clifton Strengths Finder is Ideation – “People strong in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.” I live in a world of ideas and can think of all kinds of ways to connect them to images. To participate in Coaching Awareness week activities in Toronto, I had the idea to paint a trait based personality assessment tool called The Reiss Desire Profile. There are 16 core desires and I did one or two paintings per desire. I hung a solo show at the RedEye Gallery called “Inner Landscapes” based on the Reiss and promoted it as part of the Greater Toronto Area Chapter of the International Coaching Federations calendar of events.

What totally intrigued me was the reaction of the people who came into the gallery. Rather than the typical 3 minute visit, people came in and took their coats off- prepared to follow the show guide to find out about their traits. It was fun and noisy and interactive. People argued and laughed as they pointed things out to each other about the paintings and about each others behavioural characteristics.

So I was hooked. The viewing public wasn’t bored and neither was I. I saw that I could capture the essence of an idea or perhaps more explicitly the energy of an idea in a way that helped people reveal their own interpretation.


Here is an example from my second “Inner Landscapes” show based on the MBTI. This painting depicts the MBTI Judging preference. What I hoped to capture was the structure and order that having a preference for deciding imposes on the person’s worldview.

This image led to the painting of the opposite preference pair and the 6 others preferences as well as the 16 type images and some of the distinctions. I just keep following the bouncing ball as one idea leads to another. Perhaps you can see how this concept can lead to painting other aspects of personality models such as the Enneagram and so on.

Understanding and using your strengths in your work creates a natural flow and “blocks” aren’t on the radar screen. Once I am on a role there aren’t enough hours in the day. I paint in my dreams and wake with new ideas to continue the work.

The purpose in sharing my process isn’t about having other people painting “ideas”. It is about using your own strengths or talents and“>The Clifton measures 34 “talents“. Charles Pachter is a Toronto artist known for his witty rendering of iconic images and he provides another example of how his strengths are incorporated into his approach to his art. Pachter built his career on talent and Woo (People strong in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person.) Pachter was a sought after dinner guest and speaker as his natural winning style made both artist and his artwork desired commodities.

For more information on the Strengths Finder you can take the profile online or buy the book Now Discover Your Strengths.

Category : creativity | Blog

I’ve attended various events where the topic of the inter-generational aspect of the workplace has been discussed, dissected, labeled and yet still left open and somehow unresolved.

One thing that I do know that is the same for me now as it always has been is that I want to push the edges of who I am. I want to contribute and I definitely don’t want to be relegated to the corner (Oh Patrick Swayze – taking Baby out of the corner was a “best ever” moment and I hope you can hear my thanks).

This brings me to a personal exploration I have been immersed in since creating and submitting two paintings for an art show called “The Last Taboo.”

Moses Znaimer is a Toronto media legend – founding the “at that time” cutting edge CITY-TV and now venturing into reimaging what it means to be 45 plus by putting the Zip into Boomer in his ZoomerShow 2009 – a Lifestyle Expo to be held this month. He is curating an art show called “The Last Taboo” as a way of inviting commentary on how people of a certain age are relegated to the corner because WE (whoever we are) are not comfortable reconciling aging with sensuality, sexuality, individualism and either turn away or label people as “cute”.

So my question to you is “what don’t you want to know about, think about or see when it comes to aging?”

That’s it… that’s my question

since I was limited to 250 words in my submission I will continue.

If you are curious about how some of my thinking on aging has been spinning over the last month by all means continue. If not – Ciao until next time!

The Great Escape
Simply doesn’t exist. That is if you think you can escape aging it eventually catches up with you in some form or other. AND THERE ARE PARTS OF IT THAT SUCK. But the real question is “so what?” Now comes the time to put my money where my mouth is and to carry on living what I say I believe. Doing this when it is easy …is …well … easy. So now I get to be ME regardless of aches and pains and all the tiny things that mark out “aging”. Some people become their complaints and I don’t wish to do that.

The Real Taboo
I have been looking at nature and getting curious about how our observation of the cycle of life influences our attitudes. We seem to accept growth and decline in nature but I wonder if at a certain level how much of our taboo against aging is really about our fear of death.

The Role of Acceptance
Carl Jung is quoted as saying, “What you resist persists.” Being in denial or resistance to aging actually defeats the achievement of a desired way of being. All the energy goes into the resistance. Acknowledging what is real and accepting it is not a surrender. It is a liberation. Now I can ask “Given what is real for me now – what do I want to create next?”

My Interpretation
Let me start with the end – my birth sign is Cancer and I often wander sideways into things just like a crab walks sideways. I did the last painting first

What's on Your Horizon?

What's on Your Horizon?

What's on Your Horizon?

Every evening at the cottage I sit on the dock and watch the sunset and then the following morning lift my head off my pillow to watch the sun rise from my bedroom window. At some point the sun on the horizon looks the same . That led me to ask what I wanted to have on my horizon? What did I want to have the sun rise on now in my life? It wasn’t going to be anything CUTE or part of any RED Hat Society. I painted the colours of the sky when it is ablaze with the crimson of the sun. Stepping into that colour in my life…yes… I say YES to that!!!!

I did a twitter search on “old people” and got a cross section of attitudes from disgusting to enlightening. I made a banner of this search by adding a Twitter background of a combo of my Twitter background and a painting of the word ACCEPT.

I blanket stitched it on because I thought the juxtaposition of Social Media and blanket stitching was hilarious and part of how I want to go forward… still a bit sassy yet not trying hard to be anything but who I am.

Back to the Beginning
This painting tells of the four seasons, and the story nature tells in the trees that surround me in my Fenelon Falls retreat. This really is the beginning of my exploration by having a look at “what is”. The truth is that the old tree really is magnificent.

The rings that make up the core of the tree contain all the seasons before. Developmental work is similar. No matter where we are on any developmental model (Torbert, Spiral Dynamics, Maslow) we bring with us the elements of the previous levels in the model or at least we are in a stronger position if those previous elements are as developed as they ought to be.

This is a comforting and inspiring thought. I have earned the rings of my inner core. It is not up to me to change society’s attitudes. It is up to me to work with my own beliefs and to shift them if I have put myself in a corner.


Magnificence of Age

Magnificence of Age

If you have read this far … you might want to stay and watch this 2:47 minute video. In it you can see the influence the beauty of nature has had in inspiring me to step up to the taking on the next decade of my life with grace and all the flair I can grab onto.

Category : creativity | Events | Personal | Blog

I am going to admit to bias when it comes to the topic of both MBTI and creativity. So when I sat in on Marci Segal’s presentation on Creativity presented for TypeLabs Type Practitioner Blueprint, I was immersed and scribbling copious notes.

Marci gave us 90 minutes chock full of models and applications so there is a lot to talk about. One thing that stuck out for me was the changing attitudes and perceptions we have and have had about what creativity means. In the far far past, creativity was the domain of the few. For something to be deemed creative it fell into the category of something new and never seen before. It was something you either had or didn’t have and most people were thought of as “not” having creativity.

In more recent past, we came to have an expanded view of creativity that allowed that everyone tapped into creativity in a way that was particular to them. The second aspect of this is that for something to be creative meant that it might be a new idea or way of being / doing for the person involved as opposed to new for everyone. This approach opened us to type aligned ways of being creative. Previously those with preferences for Intuition or Perceiving were recognized as creative. Now we appreciate the ways other preferences contribute to creativity. A person with Extraverted Sensing, for instance, will use what they do naturally to scan the outer world and add their unique observations to a new perspective. AND that’s creative! We understand that creativity is bigger than painting, acting and making music.

Currently we have shifted to see creativity in a more interactive way, so that we are focused on what is new for the group. Marci didn’t mention this but in Dan Pink’s book “A Whole New Mind” he talks about this as being a core competency demanded today. There is an application here for transparency and openness in the business world and Marci talked about several ways to work with these ideas in a business setting.

End of day

End of day

Finally in the future Marci predicts that we won’t be even talking about creativity. Not because it has fallen off the radar screen but because it is simply a “given.” Generating creative approaches to how we live and create satisfying home, environmental and work scenarios. It will be part of “business as usual.”

If you are hungry for more…Contact Marci for all things that fall under the “creative” umbrella and Kris Kiler’s Type Practitioner Blueprint program for more juicy MBTI wisdom.

Category : creativity | Blog