Telling Life's Stories Through Art and Positive Thinking

Welcome to my retreat, a place to explore, create, reflect and share life's stories through art, and photography.

Let's live a creative life together!

Renee Dowling
Reflections Art Studio
and Community Classroom
Highway 523 (Holsom Road)
Cypress County, Alberta

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Beating the January Blues

For many years I suffered with the January Blues.  The hustle and bustle of December and the excitement leading up to Christmas, family time and the events associated around the holidays, all gave me reason to get up each morning in anticipation of the season.  However, once the family events were over, the blues would set in.  Knowing that the days would be filled with less excitement and the thought of going back to work and having to get back into the same old routine didn't help my state of mind.  Some years the sun rarely shone and grey skies prevailed. 

When I didn't have a creative outlet, it was very hard for me to cope.  I would sleep Sundays away, dreading having to go to work the next day.  Like a lot of people, Mondays were often my sick days.   Not physically sick, but emotionally sick. I would lay there trying to psych myself up and decide whether or not it was worth taking the day off or not, or if I should plug through and pretend everything was all right.

When I first began to express myself through art, I drew on loose pieces of paper. 

Looking back now, I can tell I was really unhappy and wanted someone else to acknowledge my depression.  Being a perfectionist, back then I would never admit that things were bothering me.  I didn't want to seem weak.  Perusing my pages, I can also tell that I had immense job dissatisfaction, but I didn't have the courage to change that.  I bounced around from one position to another, but still having to deal with the same things that bothered me each day.  Feeling powerless about my dad's illness bothered me far deeper than I realized.

Then eventually, years later,  I graduated to a visual journal.  My pages were a lot more simplified than they are now, but my reflections did help me to manage my emotions through the dark times of January.  I chose blue for my backgrounds and drew simple images to symbolically represent my state of mind.  It always baffled me and still does, that others didn't know or didn't bother to acknowledge they knew that I was depressed. 

 Yes, I still have certain days when I am in the dumps, but I now longer feel it on a daily basis.  I have realized that if I feel out of sorts, that that is my body and mind telling me that I need to create and get what ever is bothering me out of me and onto the paper. After I have done this, I feel a sense of relief and can often identify what is really bothering and what I need to move forward.  I have learned that I can conquer the January Blues instead of it conquering me.

If you would like to learn how to conquer your January blues, I would love to show you the processes I go through to do this.  You will be happier, healthier and feel more creative and able to face your days with a more positive mindset.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Opening my heart, ears and mind

Visual Journaling Theme Night Reflections

One of the advantages of inviting people to my home to do art is getting to know new people and connecting with them and their life stories. I have learned that we are not as different as we think. We all have experienced joy and heartache. We all have similar stories to tell but have our own perspectives.

 A wonderful lady literally rolled into my life. She and her husband, by some lucky chance, drove to our acreage for our garage sale at the end of the day. I courageously asked her if she was "into art". She immediately said yes, and the conversation took off!

Since then, she has joined me for an evening of visual journaling. The theme was 'Anything is possible". We created a background using different texture tools, watercolour paint and rubbing alcohol. Next we painted blobs and then turned the blobs into something new. She saw a squirrel, I saw a mermaid. No right answers, just fun. The great thing about this process is the letting go and not expecting anything but having fun watching the paint do its thing in water. We did a lot of creative thinking and problem solving. We giggled and oohed and ahhhhed over the simplest surprises, just like little girls.

We talked like we were long time friends. Isn't it marvelous that complete strangers can connect so easily?

We have been brainwashed with the stranger danger message to the extreme. We walk by people and not acknowledge them. We don't hold the door open for others or even smile at them in fear that something bad will happen if you acknowledge the stranger.

Well, I can tell you first hand that there are more nice people in the world than those dangerous strangers. Of course, you want to be cautious, but don't close your heart, ears and mind. You could be missing out on an amazing life altering event.

 The lesson here is to open yourself up to new opportunities, experiences and chance meetings. Open your heart to welcome in new people. We all have valuable things to learn from each other. Know that you are not alone in the world. You don't have to go through your ups and downs alone. There are people out there, even strangers, who have open hearts, ears, and minds to support you and grow with you!

 When I first started this adventure, it was about teaching art to people. Now it is about teaching art and making connections, meeting new people and connecting with their life stories and growing as a caring, open person. If you would like to have me send an email to you of upcoming events, ideas and special offerings, email me at and I will send you a newsletter soon.

 Blessings to you, Renee

Monday, July 30, 2018

My First Commission: You Have Hit 40. Bang On! Traveling Watercolour Kit

I attended a workshop last week with Deborah Peters founder of the Neuro Engineering Institute, and one of her lessons was to put oneself out to the universe and the universe will answer. On the very same day that I posted my watercolour traveling kit on Facebook, a friend asked me to create a watercolour kit for his running friend who is turning forty.

I began in my visual journal and planned out different layout based on my friend's requests. I also kept track of how much time I spent creating, so I have a better idea of what to charge in the future.

Then I transferred the image into the Paper app on my iPad and played around with the layouts.

I erased the backgrounds and played with new colours.

I decided to use an old atlas because the colours are so beautiful and complimentry to the colours of the runner. I used an old Sucrets tin.

I collaged a fortune cookie message, and messages typed on a typewriter. I included my contact information and my blog address.

The plastic from a Slurpy cup was utilized to make the sections for the watercolour paint. I had a horrible time gluing the plastic. I kept testing each section to make sure water didn't leak, and it did, over and over again. Grrrrrrr. I decided from now on to use watercolour pans. I ordered some from Amazon. They are inexpensive and will save me A LOT of time and frustration in the future. Look all of the glue gun mess. Yuck! Rubber cement was suggested in a book that I read. I may have to try it.

The watercolour paint is professional grade from Winsor Newton, primary colours, plus Daniel Smith's Quinacridone Magenta.

Included is a reusable and washable “sock top” is to put around one's wrist to clean a paint brush or dab paint.

There is space for a little pool of water or to add a small brush or a few little pencil crayons or a golf sized pencil. This time I put the old sock and the names of the paint in the space. The lid is attached on this one,, giving less space for the sock on top.

Little pieces of watercolour paper were added to the lid. The plastic was reused from a sour cream container and can be used as a palette and to stop the paint from running all over the place when the tin is closed. I cut a little tab to help pull out the plastic more easily.

I covered up the Sucrets labels on the sides and added a typed quote. It is my motto: Live a Creative Life! I left "Lemon/Citron" showing for fun and as a reminder that the container was reused.

I hope the kit will be well used.

Remember, put your self out there and the universe will answer. It might not be immediately or in the way you think it might answer, but it will answer.

This is my visual journal reflection of the process.  Visual journals can be used to think ideas through, make decisions and reflect on experiences. I just finished my reflection about making my first commission of making a traveling watercolour kit. This is my brainstorming, thoughts and feelings.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

I Live in a Beautiful Place

There a lot of exotic places to visit around the world, but I think that the prairie is just as magnificent.

We have had some extraordinary days this summer.

Dramatic skies...

Refreshing green fields...

Stunning canola yellow...

Calm waters...

Charming visitors...

Cute, adventurous kittens...

Clear safe roads...

Peaceful sunsets...

A stairway to heaven...

If you look around you for beautiful things, you will find them. You don't have to go far to see the miracles of this planet.

Celebrate your life every day!

Starting out as an Artist: Traveling Watercolour Kits

When starting out as an artist, it is often difficult to figure out what one needs. It is so confusing when there are so many products and qualities. So I decided to make it easier for anyone interested in living a creative life. Here is an example of the little watercolour kits I am selling.

These kits are ideal for travel because they are light and easy to carry. They can fit easily into a back pocket, pencil case, backpack or purse. They would make excellent gifts for the budding artist. I am very careful to respect our environment, so they are made reusing old tins, plastic from ice cream lids and slurpy cups, an old sock, a fortune cookie message, a paper napkin, some have collaged copies my own art and messages typed using a very old typewriter.

The reusable and washable “sock top” is to put around your wrist to clean your brush or dab paint.

The plastic pullout with a tab is for a mixing palette.

The watercolour paint is professional grade from Winsor Newton, primary colours, plus magenta.
There is space for a little pool of water or to add a small brush or a few little pencil crayons or a golf sized pencil. Little pieces of watercolour paper can be added to the lid. I sold two yesterday to two very inspiring artist. I can’t wait to see what they will create. I will be making more soon. I found some beautiful vintage tins at my father in-laws house, but am always on the lookout for more. If you have any you would like to share with me, please let me know. If you have a particular quote or a picture that you would like on the top or bottom of the tin, or if you would like a name added to it, I can customize it for you. Price varies on size, amount of paint, and special requests.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Take Chances

"You will continue to take chances and be glad that you did."  This fortune cookie quote was the first thing to be glued onto my page in my visual journal.

Next random colours, layers and marks were added to clean off my brush as I was painting a canvas.  The next step was to take a chance and use my intuition to figure out what images I could imagine in the colours and marks.  I used my trusty fine tipped marker to do this and I ended up with this nature scene.  I had a hard time deciding if I should add light and a few shadows and leaves, but finally decided to take another chance.

I was frightened that my delightful random spontaneous colours and patterns would disappear, but I am happy with the results.  The final stage was to journal.

The colours reminded me of the magical time of night just before the sun goes down, when a warm radiant red paints the landscape.

The landscape seems to glow and all of the colours change.

I am glad that I took chances!  I think that will be my mantra for this year!

Thursday, January 18, 2018


Police Point Park has always been a little oasis for me in the middle of the prairie! It is a combination of grasslands and forest. My Dad and I used to ride our bikes across the prairie to Police Point. That was before the prairie road was paved and paths were made. mom and I have spent many autumn days there for week long Community Classrooms with my students. My son and I spent many days exploring the enchanted forest there. He would pretend to be a report for National Geographic and would create videos talking about the magnificent Plains Cottonwood trees and the giant boulders that line a dirt path. I have spent many hours walking there in the early summer mornings before the temperature got too hot! What a treasure I have! If only those hills, cliffs, trees, grasses, bushes and paths could talk, they would have a lot of stories and history to tell!

Grassy Lake was a favourite fishing lake we frequently went to. The campground was a farmer's field in the middle of the bald prairie. It was common for us to have to walk around cow paddies to get from our trailer to the lake. Dad liked it because the fishing was usually good and the lake was long and wide and not full of crazy boaters.

Dad and I would get up really early for most people, have a banana and then go fishing!

When I asked dad to wander over to a specific place because I spotted certain birds, he would without hesitation troll the boat closer for me to take a photograph.

On this particular day, on what I call "Pelican Island" (a mere rock pile sticking out of the low lake water) there were about 10 or more pelicans, along with geese, ducks, seagulls, a heron and various other shore birds.

For a change, the pelicans didn't fly away and instead gave a performance!

I got some fantastic close ups. This watercolour painting is of that special day with my dad. Summers are just not the same without him!

 It has been another busy week finishing journal pages.  This page I was practising my hand lettering. 

Life is a song... Sing it!  This is a visual journal reflection of my summer holidays. I started it on the airplane and just finished it this week.

What do you do when you have just hopped out of the tub dripping wet and you look outside and see a Great Horned Owl in one of your willow trees? Well, you put on a hat, get dressed in the first clothes you see, bundle up and out you go!

I hope you have been singing your life's song and have had another artistic week.

Happy Paint Friday!