The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be, as far as possible, friendly, rather than hostile.
Stanley Park is my refuge. For me it’s the trees, the ocean view, and the mind-blowing sweep of nature set smack in the heart of Vancouver. Some people delight in the squirrels and skunks or the geese and ducks. Others gush over rock formations, or the site’s history, stopping to read each placard. Many folks focus on personal health goals, and the park is simply a place to get exercise and fresh air. Regardless of your obsession, a stroll through flora and fauna works to boost your mental wellbeing. Pity the sad character, who wanders a scenic park looking at nothing and impressed by diddly-squat. Pleasant activities and happiness hitch together like a team.
Lately, I’ve returned to a pleasant activity of my youth—visual art. At one time I painted obsessively. Today it’s a good place to go when avoiding tricky parts in my new novel, and creating art has helped me stay sane during these trying times.
When I ran out of wall space in the 1990s, I put my paints away in a plastic bin where they eventually turned into concrete pellets. The picture below is a painting I made long ago. It’s one of four feet portraits, three of which used to hang in my office. Now that I’m retired from the day job, they’re confined to the storage locker along with many other canvases. That’s why I’ve created a gallery on my website. A few traditional paintings are hung there—ones I have photos of. Click below to look.
Recently, I acquired an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil. Creating digital artwork is not much different from regular painting, but it’s much easier to fix mistakes in the digital world. Maybe on the downside, as my daughter pointed out, you don’t have as many “happy accidents” when painting on the screen. But the pluses outweigh the minuses. You don’t need a special room. Paint messes, brush cleaning and turpentine smells cease to exist. Wall space is no longer an issue, because everything hangs in a virtual gallery. The canvas is smaller, of course, and you must master the software. I use Procreate, an amazing program for digital composition.
I’m a novice in Procreate, but I’m going through video tutorials. My favourite on YouTube is “Art with Flo.” Many of her lessons are free. Flo is an excellent instructor, so I’ve signed on to her Patreon page for a modest monthly fee. You can follow along to create fabulous images. You do end up with a copy of someone else’s artwork, but it is a perfect way to learn. Before long, it’s easy to branch out with your own ideas. For example, my painting at the top of this post is a digital landscape of the Stanley Park seawall, done using techniques learnt in Flo’s tutorials. Click below to see a room I created on my website gallery for digital art. As I complete worthy paintings, I’ll hang more pictures.