Finding ways – even in grief, to stay creatively engaged ❤️❤️❤️

Barb Toland

As many of you know, I have been through a grieving process over the last few months. My sister Sandy passed away on 12/28/20.

When we were kids she was my mini mom  always holding my hand, making sure that I was protected, and that I was actually behaving myself! Which I'll admit was a real challenge for her sometimes ;-)

She's the beauty on the right...


It's been tough the past few months for sure, but I wanted to focus on sharing with you the studio practice I've been doing during this time. Even though the heavy lifting of grief took center stage for quite a while, I still needed a way to keep my creativity going, and to spend some time in the studio. But I needed something that didn't feel too demanding, intentional or goal oriented.

And so after exploring in the studio one day, I discovered a fun & relaxing way to play, and help me hold onto my creative center. Something that was enjoyable & relaxing, and kept things a bit more low key & also felt soothing – which was something I needed!

This "playwork" that I came up with is what I'll be sharing with you today.

But before we get into that, I just want to say that I think it's so important for all of us to try & show up in our creative outlets regardless of life's circumstances. And finding something simple, playful & relaxing, with no goals in mind, is so helpful in drawing us into the creative dance.

First I want to show you what one of them looks like, so you kind of get an idea of where we're going with this...


Now I'm going to give you an idea of how I got there.

The first thing I love to play around with in the studio are my Uni-ball gold gel pens. So I picked up one of them one day and I was like ok, I need to figure out what to do with this. What can I do that just feels graceful & relaxing – no pressure?


Another thing I have in the studio are what's called "watercolor blocks". Basically, it's a stack of watercolor paper that's been glued along all four sides. This way you can paint directly onto the block of paper, without having to tape the paper down to a board first. Keeps things easy peazy.


And with the gold gel pen, very gently, easy and relaxing-like, I drew these curvy, overlapping lines all over the paper, like you see below.

It felt so playful & relaxing, and was a gentle way to stay connected to my creative source – a powerful place to be during stressful, physically demanding times like those initial stages of grief.


The next thing I did was pick out a color palette I really love, and then just started playfully painting the shapes made by the lines that I had drawn with the gold gel pen. Below is a partially completed one, so you can get an idea of this stage of the process.


You can see some additional texture in each one of them. That's just water that I dropped into the watercolor paint while it was still wet. It creates some interesting, and totally organic texture in the paint.

So that's basically what I did to relax, take it easy on myself – which was what was required, and still is! Regardless of where we are in life, it's important that we take care of ourselves, and find ways to relax & keep that creative source flowing in us.

So the last thing I wanted to show you is just different ones that that I've done. I've painted a whole stack of them, and I'm quite sure I'll be creating lots more!

I've included just a few of them to show you what they look like, and how much variety they have. I used all all my favorite colors, so that was yet another way to keep me more creatively engaged in the studio.


They're just so graceful & fun, right?

And yes, they're all very similar. But then again, they're like fingerprints or snowflakes. They kind of all look alike – until you get a bit closer, and then you see all of the beautiful differences in them.

Here's another one...


With this one below, I did some things a little bit differently.

I didn't put that texture of the water droplets in the color, instead I used the gold gel pen to add some geometric lines. And the colors are a little different than the others.

This was the very first one I did, so there's some black in there, and the colors overall are a little less saturated. But I still like it. The gold geometric lines were fun & relaxing to make, so I'll probably do more of those too.


So that's it. That's what I've got for you today. I've missed all of you so so much! And I hope we get a chance to hang out again soon.

As always, I'd love to hear from you. Please give me your thoughts in the comments below, I'll be sure to respond. Let me know the thing that you do creatively to help you to relax, and feel more at peace in stressful times.

It was great to be with you, and I will see you next time :-)



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