Watercolors from Nova Scotia – Trip #1

rock at prospect nova scotia watercolor painting

One of the funny tricks my mind plays is confusing thinking through doing something versus actually doing it. Well, I swore I posted all my urban sketches and en plein air paintings, but I guess I didn’t! 

Lets start with a few from October, 2017. Around that time of year, I went to visit some family and Nova Scotia and took my painting supplies with me. I’ll likely do this from now on, since visiting Nova Scotia and not painting might as well be a crime…what a beautiful piece of Canada.

rock at prospect nova scotia watercolor painting
9″x12″. Watercolor on 140lbs watercolor rag paper. The ragged coastlines of Nova Scotia, featuring a prominent rock painted entirely on-location. The painting aims to be accurate while being loose and gestural. En plein air painting. ~2017

This is one of my favourite spots to revisit every year, and so I will leave it vague as to where it is. Only locals really know how to get there, and I think it should stay that way instead of being trampled by selfie-taking tourists. Not that there isn’t an abundance of landscape at any stop in the road, should you choose to paint yourself. Just this place in particular…is special. This painting was completed entirely on location in about 2-3 hours.

peggy's cove nova scotia watercolor painting by karolina szablewska en plein air painting

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My Last Several Pieces Made on Twitch

hello twitch streamer watercolor portrait

When I started streaming, it was an experiment to see if anyone at all would show up. Just even 1 person I don’t already know as a friend, or family, or someone else. I didn’t expect anything from it. Everyone’s asking me how I can tolerate having a camera pointed in my face when I can barely tolerate giving a presentation to a room of 3? Good question, because the truth is: I don’t know. I’m not psychologist and I can’t explain it, however I talked to some other streamers about it and we concluded it’s basically an introvert party where we get to control exactly how much socializing we get and with who. Anyone can leave at any time. If I don’t like someone and they’re being awful, I just ban them. No one has to make awkward eye contact. You don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to. But I think there’s something more to it than that, because the other day I volunteered myself to go on a talk show I found filming downtown and asked questions on camera, which would otherwise have made me run and hide had streaming not been there to condition my shyness away.

It’s really helping with having an art-producing schedule; I can’t just keep putting off making art for some other seemingly important thing because I promised my viewers I’d be there so&so many times a week. It really makes me realize how much I do put off making art, when I always thought I didn’t. The span of time between two intervals when I create is a lot longer without a schedule to keep me in check. Generally, I’m not good at perceiving time… a month can go by and I won’t notice, or a day goes by and feels like it’s been weeks. So, I’m not really surprised. It’s not that I consciously procrastinate, it’s that I don’t notice how much stands in the way. My streaming computer broke for about 2 weeks and I felt pretty unhappy I couldn’t paint, and in that time span I realized that is usually how infrequently I painted. Yeah, that’s pretty bad. If I want to work on my style and have a new body of work that stands out, that can’t be happening.

So here are a few pieces I’ve completed since I started streaming! If you don’t count me goofing around with experiments, then I think I started in November of last year. As I’m selecting these, I’m realizing I made more than I thought. Some of these I already posted about, so I will talk about the ones I haven’t. All but 2 of these are in my art store as prints. If you’d think you’d like to watch one day, you can go here.

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How Does Your Space Influence Your Creativity?

How Does Your Space Influence Your Creativity? by Karolina Szablewska

Back in the days of being a kid, I used to paint more spontaneously. I had a clearer connection to something subconscious that filled the brain with images, vivid and ready to paint. As an adult, not so much and I look for ways to reconnect with this organic process. I’m reading a fun book and I would actually like to recommend it. It’s about writing, however I think it really applies to any creative profession because the creative process generally follows a similar mental path, similar downfalls and similar anxieties. The pleasant writing feels like I am listening to the author reminisce while sitting in a sunny room on a lounge chair with tea. She has a wonderful, eloquent way of making points through prose. Her perspective is highly empathetic to the hurdles of creating meanwhile being an average person stumbling through life. The book is Still Writing by Dani Shapiro.

How Does Your Space Influence Your Creativity? by Karolina Szablewska
How Does Your Space Influence Your Creativity? by Karolina Szablewska

I could pull so many points from her book I think are brilliant. One of the things talked about by the author is how the biggest obstacle of art is life itself. Now, that sounds pretentious, yet it really is true. If you are struggling with maintaining a practice of routinely creating art, it’s just like going to the gym, or quitting smoking, or learning a new language…you have to fit it into your life, you have to create the time for it. Otherwise, what happens is you suddenly have errands to run at the store, clean the bathroom, do laundry, pick up Timmy from his soccer game, or Sharlene wants you to go to her potluck and you got to make a side, or you’re doing a favour for George when it really has no benefit to you in the end and George is kind of a dick that never does anything in return. (Don’t worry, George is fictional and I’m okay.) What it comes down to for me as someone who has made that space in time is also making the space in my head because all the noise that life creates also takes up mental space and crowds out that intuitive energy and pictorial stream of consciousness I am trying to reconnect with.

This is probably why artist’s homes are so weird. Okay, I admit it! To be in that kind of creative, intuitive, voodoo dark energy that an artist has to connect with, you need a certain feng-shui and creamy beige walls, tans, and Live, Love, Laugh deco on the wall doesn’t cut it. Well okay, if that kind of stuff matches your artistic energy, then it makes sense for you to have it up…however, in most cases I find artist’s belongings to be typically eccentric in a way that seems to fit with what they make.

My partner and I have been fantasizing about this a lot: a great creative atmosphere for us seems to involve coloured lights (mainly red), small lights sprinkled throughout (lanterns, string lights), Persian rugs, strong colours for walls, and lots of furniture that is either wood or metal. I’m absolutely in-love with the current trend of live-edge wood tables, and I know a very sunny room is pretty important to my well-being. Here’s kind of a mood board below via various Google images:

It becomes very evident in these images what I find comfortable and inspiring is somewhat of a sunny grotto. (Fortunately because I don’t care about trends, I already live kind of  in a space like this.) This is partly why I have an extremely hard time creating in a rented artist studio, which is usually clinical with white, slightly grungy walls, dull overhead lighting, old linoleum tile, and absolutely zero character outside of the fact it’s old and gross and probably in a warehouse. Some artists have told me they find this inspiring because the space itself doesn’t suggest anything in itself…however, I disagree since their work kind of looks equally clinical, empty, and with lighting too similar to their space. When I had a studio like this in university, I would go to great effort to mentally block out this environment or waste hours trying to motivate myself, as the reality was I really didn’t like being there. It really applies to everything, doesn’t it? Even in a conventional office, I think employees would do better work if they were allowed to personalize their space, make it a place they want to be.

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Overcoming Social Anxiety after 10+ Years – My Advice

turtle sitting on driftwood watercolor painting

Working through crippling social anxiety is one of my on-going New Year’s Resolutions and definitely a huge road block from friendship, live streaming, and presentations. It’s fairly common artists and introverts struggle with overcoming social anxiety. I can safely say it’s been a work in progress for a decade, and every year I look back and I’m surprised with myself.

My social anxiety used to be such a force to reckon with I would sit at home with an empty fridge to avoid making eye contact with a cashier (this is ages ago, when I was single and no one else could go fill the fridge for me). I pitched a film script to a jury in my second year of university, and that put me so far over the edge — I blacked out in the bathroom. Like a lot of anxious people, I’ve also drank myself to oblivion at every social event and greatly embarrassed myself in the process while attempting to find comfort…it’s very common and bad advice to drink to “take the edge off” a social situation. For me, it rarely helps, if not makes things worse. Any good therapist will try coach you away from relying on a drug response to cope with situations, especially if it’s away from alcoholism.

I guess I’ve been wanting to write something on this for a long time, but I never felt like I was quite there. It’s been a decade and I feel I’ve read “all that’s out there” for social anxiety advice. I’ve gone from having anxiety attacks everyday to being very calm, and I’m starting to notice a marked difference between myself and other people with anxiety. Some people even mistake me for being outgoing!

Overcoming Social Anxiety after 10+ Years - My Advice by Karolina Szablewska
A comic strip drawn for a project, SFX Comic, which used sound effects as inspiration for plot direction in each strip. This one transitions between the sounds “smek” and a fart. Ink and marker on bristol. ~2014

After 10 years of social anxiety, what have I observed?

I think social anxiety is a symptom of a low self-esteem + a higher-than-normal fear of rejection and failure + being an asshole to yourself. Yes, you are an asshole to yourself.

Think of an average person in high school breaking through that initial awkwardness of having feelings for people, coming out about those feelings, ultimately getting a Yes or No response, or being ridiculed for their actions. Eventually by repeating that experience enough, the average person builds up a tougher skin, learns how to gracefully ask someone out, and things turn out okay. They make friends, have relationships, they get along with people at work.

For people with social anxiety, it’s like that experience x1000 applied to every single social interaction in their life, with the added wall of paralysis on many occasions. It turns paying for groceries into a confrontational, emotionally intense, and very uncomfortable experience. But why does it matter if a cashier thinks you’re awkward? Are they even paying that much attention, or are they zoned out, don’t care because you’re not the first person to mess up saying “Good morning” or to drop your credit card in the universe?

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