Painting Happy Little Trees

I have a creative spark that runs deep inside of me. Letting my imagination guide me has been part of my core since I grasped my first crayon. My childhood was full of many glitter bombs and I am sure that some of that glitter is still floating around today. Glitter never fully goes away once it is released.

My creativity has blended with the different stages of my life and each phase of my journey has brought out a different creative element including painting, cooking and baking, blogging, journaling, and writing children’s stories. I am currently in the chapter of decorating my home and finishing our basement and I relish the creative process. Creativity in all its forms makes feel peaceful, upbeat, fulfilled, and steady.

I painted on canvas a lot in my early twenties. I had a large wooden easel in my small studio apartment that took up a prominent amount of space. I loved it. I primarily painted abstract and would throw paint at the canvas and swirl and blend and create something that really only made sense to me. I rarely explored other painting styles. Abstract was my solace.

I felt the call to paint again about seven years ago and I purchased a small table top easel. As it turned out, I simply did not make the time to paint and I donated the easel to a community organization. I had a toddler at the time and we often attended playgroups where there was a craft component. While my busy-bee toddler moved on to another activity, I often found myself supervising from across the room while I glued popsicle sticks together with accenting feathers, glitter, and pompoms. I still have a pig craft that “Calista made” but it was really me who made 90% of it.

Painting once again became a regular activity for me when I discovered Paint Nite events. I would occasionally go with others but I most often went by myself. The feeling of having a paint brush in my hand gave me power that I channeled within. I commonly veered off from the painting that we were “copying” and added my own twist, often with an abstract element, that again only made sense to me.

Paint Nite events are commonly held in restaurants, bars, and lounges and the break period between the first and second stage of the painting is jokingly called “drink and dry.” The first phase of the painting is left to dry and the bartender was ready to take drink orders if anyone wanted something.

Enter sobriety. I honestly felt triggered by going to a Paint Nite event, even though I was there for the creative process. When I did drink alcohol, I only had 1 or 2 because I was driving. Alcohol was never a focus of the evening for me, until I decided to no longer drink. I did not feel comfortable going to an event that had a “drink and dry” portion. Sobriety is all about the mind game that we play with ourselves. I have browsed the Paint Nite website over the last three years on a regular basis but have not attended.

Thursday nights at Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba is Women’s Programming. There are often speakers or activities planned and last night, was a guided painting activity. I signed up as soon as I saw the event and counted down the weeks and days until I could paint again.

I came with a Starbucks venti earl grey tea latte and felt at ease as the subtle hints of lavender and vanilla relaxed me. I was in a place where the people around me have similarities with our lived experiences of mental health. The environment was the right place for me to pick up a paint brush again.

The original painting that we were “copying” was a beautiful Winnipeg scene overlooking the Red River and Esplanade Riel Bridge. I decided to paint happy little trees instead of Winnipeg landmarks. I was feeling a restored radiance of creativity and I wanted my masterpiece to be uniquely mine.

My happy little trees led to “little mountains”, which is how I affectionately describe the Whiteshell area of Manitoba. I attempted to paint a larger tree, near the front of the scene but the tree didn’t look like a tree. The odd-looking tree turned into a triangle, which wasn’t much better. I held the canvas back and looked at the whole painting and suddenly, a light went off in my head. The triangle is the silhouette of a tent at night!

Without any planning, I painted the scene of my very first solo overnight backpacking trip that I took on Mantario. I let my imagination flow and the memory of an amazing experience came from it.

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