Tips to Get the Creative Juices Flowing

This summer Mike and I spent a lot of time working on creative projects. Although we generally enjoyed ourselves, ideas did not always come easily. Creative ruts can kill your enthusiasm and your output.

In retrospect we had a few go-to methods for overcoming these mental obstacles. The tips below are by no means exhaustive, and may not work for everyone, but they definitely helped us get through some of our summer projects!

1. Get out of town or at least the house. A change of scenery can really help clear your head. As students, Mike and I don’t have a lot of spare cash or time to travel, but we like to take quick day trips here and there to recharge our batteries and check out new sights and sounds.

2. Time travel to the past and/or future (not literally, of course!) Try looking for inspiration in history and science fiction. I find these two genres are chock full of ideas that spark my imagination. Envisioning what life was like way back when or what life will be like in 100 years always helps reinvigorate our minds.

3. Unpack your likes and dislikes to better understand your interests. Ask yourself why you like or dislike certain things in order to gain some insight into who you are and what you want to produce as an artist. Looking at art you like (or dislike) can also inspire you to create something similar or something better.

4. Do a 180 by trying something completely different. Recently on a collage supply hunt, I randomly reached for a magazine I would never usually go for – a rural living-themed periodical circa 1971. Although it’s not my usual style, it ended up being one of my best finds so far. I found images inside that instantly sparked ideas for future projects.

5. Give yourself a free pass to create something imperfect. It’s important to remember that art is a creative process (emphasis on the word process). Things may take a while to come together or to look the way you want. Try not to let a fear of imperfection stop you from starting.


Head Games

Here is another collage I completed last night. It’s made entirely of digitized vintage New York Times Magazines (even the crossword pieces!). I titled it “Head games” because it explores feelings of confusion and self doubt, emotions which definitely have the power to play with your mind.



One of the many abandoned homes in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. This house is particularly striking because it looks both neglected and lived in; its paint is chipping and its power is cut but curtains still adorn its windows and flyers still hang from its doorknob.


(This week “the bean” has been visiting his home province.)

Bisymmetric Hendecahedra

Freelab is over and summer is on!  As promised, these are a few shots of our final installation. After a week of research, planning, and design we began manufacturing 500 cardboard bisymmetric hendecahedra. By orienting this 11-sided block we created masses and tendrils, spanned gaps and scaled walls. The result is part vine, part parasite, creating both building-scale and people-scale moments as it passes from outside to inside. It’s too bad the installation is so temporary but for now it’s turning heads. The cardboard can at least be recycled, though I wish I could bring it all home with me.


(Edit: I should emphasize that this was a group project and I was only one of eight contributors. The photos are my own.)


Here’s a little collage I completed a few days ago. It’s made from 50+ year-old New York Times Magazines (except for the two insects, which are from a copy of the Canadian magazine, The Walrus). The piece explores longing and desire, of wanting to be somewhere – either emotionally, mentally, or physically – that you’re not. I really like how the composition of this collage turned out, I think the curves of the balloon, circle, watch, etc., play well together. This is my first non-robot collage, and I have to say, I’m really enjoying this medium. Cut and paste has never been so fun!



During “freelab” our class is divided into groups to work on architectural projects alongside faculty and practitioners. This year my group is working with Christopher Kaltenbach, a designer and professor at NSCAD, on a project which is part furniture, part sculpture. Christopher introduced ideas of human scale and had us document interesting uses of urban infrastructure. Comparing this with some of Neufert’s data, we found a fairly simple geometric form which could be repeated, mirrored, stacked, and packed to create people-sized features and enclosures. We’ll be done with our final installation on Friday and I’ll make sure to post an update. Stay tuned!


Architecture Portfolio Tips

Architecture students and graduates know that it’s not enough to simply do good work – half the challenge is communicating the work you do. The job search portfolio is probably one of our more stressful representational challenges. There’s a balance to strike between personality and professionalism, and you don’t want to wonder whether you didn’t send the message you intended.

In preparation for an upcoming work term I put together my first professional portfolio this summer and learned a few things along the way. I’m by no means an expert, but here are some of the things I’ve been told or complimented on thus far:

1. The cover is your first impression. You can go minimal, use elaborate patterns, or use a photo you’re particularly proud of, just know that it will say something about your style and interests. I chose a photo relevant to my interests in coastal architecture and repurposed materials, with colours I thought worked well together.

2. Resumes can come at the front or the back of your portfolio. In my case I paired it with a table of contents over a graphic which ties to the theme of my cover. The (lack of) colour here introduces the stark black and white scheme which I use throughout my portfolio.

3. When you get to your projects it helps to have a system. I first split my page spread into top and bottom, and then into three columns per page. This gave me some zones to work with. The three labelled above stayed the same on most of my pages while the others vary. Once you have a system you also learn how to break out of it – on some pages large images cross my guides, placing emphasis on them.

4. Think about print. If you ever plan to make physical copies of your portfolio there are a few things you should consider. First, standard sizes make for cheaper copies – mine is formatted for a letter sized page in landscape orientation. Second, printing to the edges of your page (full bleed) requires printing larger and cutting down. This can be costly and time-consuming, but can also be worth it. In my case I wanted to be able to make many copies, so I kept my graphics from the edges of the page (in most cases) and left room at the “spine” for binding.

In a few years I’m sure my portfolio will be very different than what you see here, both in content and style, but for now I’m very happy with it. Good luck!


Making Room

It’s important to make room in your life for the things you love. In my case, that meant literally making room for all my vintage magazines and other art supplies. A few days ago, I cleared out a corner of the apartment and made a very very small studio space. It’s not entirely glamourous, and you can tell by the repurposed cardboard boxes and tin cans that it was done on a budget, but I love it. I’ve already logged quite a few hours there creating new pieces and workshopping ideas (more on that soon!). Someday I’d love to have a real studio where Mike and I can both work, but for now I’ll happily take my humble little artist’s nook.


Final Project: Theatre

Our major assignment for the summer semester was to design a theatre on an existing site in Halifax, Nova Scotia. They probably could not have chosen a more complicated building at a time when no one really wanted to be in school, but somehow we made it through.

There are many considerations in my scheme but these are the basics. The theatre itself is a rectangular structure with the other rooms arranged in a round building surrounding it. There is a bar at the street and a courtyard for outdoor seating and small performances. For larger performances the audience circles around to the second floor lobby and enters the audience chamber from the rear. Attached are some of the graphics from my final presentation last week. In order of appearance:

1. Plans for levels one to three.
2. The big moves I made to get to my final form.
3. A photomontage of the neighbourhood with my proposed elevation inserted (ie. the frontal view).
4. A section (cut) through the theatre chamber and courtyard.
5. A section from the back of the theatre looking at the path from the street to the audience chamber.


Glo’ ‘n’ Zo’

imageHere’s a quick update on the little art project I blogged about a while ago. It took some time but I’ve finally built some new bots: Zoe (right) and Gloria (left). Zoe has motorcycle-wheel eyes, a nose-cone mouth, and killer legs (literally!). Gloria has portable paraffin stoves for eyes, mismatched wheels for feet, and two hug-ready arms. I had a lot of fun building them and can’t wait to keep updating my collection with new pieces. Stay tuned – more bots are on the way!