Monday, December 24, 2012

See you in the new Year!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Don't wait for permission from someone else 
to begin living your life with purpose and passion. 
Its not up to anyone else to 'let' you do it. 
Its up to you to start living that way now. 
~Cathy McMillan

Well, my cafe will be one year old tomorrow. 
Which I guess means that I have been a 'cafe owner' for one whole year.

Its actually very similar to being a first time mother and how I felt absolutely overwhelmed, exhausted and amazed at just how much work it really was....even finding myself sometimes thinking ......"What the hell have I done?"  

Waking up everyday in a new life with so many decisions to be made, 
so much responsibility,
and constant uncertainty of just how far 
I would be pushed out of my comfort zones each and every day.

This whole experience has taught me so much about myself and about business.

A year ago whenever I was doing some kind of official 'left brained business' task,
I often apologized to whomever I was speaking, warning them that I was 'only an artist'
 before I launched into the discussion or negotiation.
I was certain that I was at a disadvantage because I knew nothing
about business formulas, marketing strategies or profit margin concepts.

Since starting the cafe, I have had to make a LOT of decisions.
I really didn't know what "regular" cafe owners do, so I just made my business decisions the same way I do when I paint...from my intuition and gut.
Sometimes I really needed to step back and think about certain details intellectually
(like I might have to do with colour theory or value rhythms in a painting),
 and so I would do that and then quickly return
to the intuitive process just to make sure it was correct.

Over the past year,
I slowly figured out how to read my intuition for business decisions.
I learned that if a business decision didn't make me want to puke,
 that meant it was probably okay and I should do it,
but if it did, then definitely I should stay away from it.
If I couldn't get a solid decisive feeling about a something one way or the other,
I learned that it just meant that I needed to wait
and so I learned to be really patient,
trusting that eventually I would know exactly what to do.
And inevitably I always do.

So here I am a year later 
looking back over all my intuitive business decisions that have turned out right.

Building a cafe on a caricature artist's small income is one thing,
but then making it to one year,
completely debt free
is apparently a success in the business world
(at least that's what "business" people tell me).

Last week it finally dawned on me,
I have been successful so far
BECAUSE I am an artist, 
not in spite of it. 

So my cafe is now one year old. 
She is finally sleeping through the night, standing up on her own, and getting ready to walk by herself. 
Patterns and routines have settled into place,
 easing some of the daily uncertainty and decision making
and now everything feels like this has been our lifestyle forever.

And the best part of all,
is that I just love spending the majority of my days
in this special little place in the world.
Please come by and help us celebrate one year tomorrow.
All small hot beverages will be only a Loonie!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Basking in the after glow of creative inspiration and friendship....

San Antonio's historic Riverwalk
This past week I attended the International Society of Caricature Artists convention in San Antonio, Texas. What a blast! It was my sixth convention over the past 4 years and each year it just keeps getting better and better. This year 160+ caricature artists came together from all over the world for a week of educational sessions, competitions, creative inspiration and most importantly, friendship. The convention was held at the El Tropicano on the historic San Antonio Riverwalk.
Art Fight 2012
The week always begins with a "Meet and Greet" on Sunday night. This year an "Art Fight" was planned. Artists were chosen by a random draw to come up to one of the three easels and were given a topic and a minute to draw the best thing they could for that subject. The voting was done by clapping until there was one artist left standing. Improv for artists!

The Guest Speaker this year was the talented and accomplished artist John Kascht. He presented 2 wonderful sessions — discussing his lengthy caricature career as well as humorous stories from his life. On the Wednesday evening at the Gold member gala we were treated with the opportunity to watch him work.

Jan Op de Beeck drawing Nick Nolte

Throughout the week there were many informative and educational sessions: Caricature 101 with Matt Zitman, Art Class with Jan Op de Beeck, Digital ipad caricatures with Nolan Harris, Caricature sculpting with Celestia Ward, Corel Painter12 with Jon Casey,  and Zombie Caricatures with Sean Gardner and Nick Mitchell.
 In between the sessions were the competitions....
 the Likeness competition, the Speed competition and the party/event competition.
Party Event Competition. Everyone gets a half hour to draw as many people as they can in their party event style.
Throughout the week everyone gathers in the main hall which is open 24 hours a day for artists to set up their "studio space" and start creating. Everything that goes up on their wall space at the end of the convention to be voted on, must be produced in that room and must be caricatures of the people in the room.
 I opened my cafe right after attending last year's convention in Florida and since I have been playing with latte art at the cafe, I thought it would be fun to do "fake" latte caricatures this year as my entry. 

Photo: Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News
 I filled take out coffee cups with upholstery foam, then topped them with gesso. The using acrylics, I painted the caricatures on top as if it was only milk and coffee. 
Me and my "fake" latte caricatures.
I couldn't help laugh at the puzzling looks from others as I prepared them and then just how many people thought it was actually really coffee.

On Friday night we have a fancy banquet and awards ceremony. Its always so wonderful to see everyone all dressed up at the end!

Congratulations to all the winners this year!

When the banquet is over, we all pass out our caricatures to the model to take home.
San Fransisco's Digital Caricature artist Jon Casey
Jessica Du Preez from Orlando, Florida and Canada's own Lar DeSouza
 And then....just like that it is over all too quickly and we are left saying goodbye to dear friends, scattering off home to begin savouring the anticipation for next year 
(which will once again be held in Saint Pete's Beach Florida). 
Only 362 days till Florida baby!!!

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Ode to my Mottled Left Paw

You make me smile
Simply because
I have no expectations of you
to make ME feel special

Ode To my mottled left paw
You are the “behind the scenes”
The “grunt worker”
The “holder of easels”

Ode To my mottled left paw
Struggling to always work  
While listening to praise
that only the drawing right paw receives.

Ode To my mottled left paw
I am so sorry that I didn’t protect you
Boiling water needs respect

Ode To my mottled left paw
I shall take better care of you
I promise.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Entering a new decade with great food, a few shooters and lots of laughter...

Tonight I drew caricatures at a fantastic 40th birthday party. 
Here are a few of the faces I managed to get a quick photo of tonight.....

I loved the coasters at the party...

my thoughts exactly!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Celebration of Impermanence & Lightness
New Paintings by Cathy McMillan 

Life is always changing. 
We are always growing, evolving, aging.
Even when we reach a goal or achievement, 
it never really stays in a peaceful state of completeness for long. 

Over the years I have found that true lightness and peace
come from accepting and being present within our various states of incompleteness.

What if we learned to celebrate those stages with others, instead of hiding them away, waiting until they are complete and deemed ready to be publicly displayed?

The paintings in this art show are all at different levels of "completeness"; some blank, some with the structure of the painting roughed on with black paint,  some with the first touches of colour added and finally, others that are finished and ready to be sold. 

This show is a celebration of the beauty that exists within each creative stage.
 Through the next 6 weeks this show will evolve and change daily as new ideas form on the blank canvases, colours appear on the "sketched ones" and the purchased finished ones will leave to make space for new blank canvases.

Show runs April 28th- June 6th.

Artist will be in attendance pretty much the whole time. :)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

“If we are growing, we are always going to be outside our comfort zone.”
― John C. Maxwell

This past weekend I was drawing caricatures in Devon for the Provincial Hockey finals of the Boys Bantam League. It was a unique event in that 95 percent of the caricatures were presold by the organization and scheduled at certain slotted times, fitting in with their playing schedule. They were paying me my hourly rate but wanted to recoup the costs if possible and so they organized the entire prepaid thing. They also supplied me with logos of the 8 teams attending and I had templates for each of the team uniforms drawn in advance.

To be honest, I was really nervous doing this digital gig even though I draw digitally everyday at the cafe. Since December, I haven't had to take my tablet anywhere outside of the cafe and I was surprised when all the concerns of everything working technically somewhere else, suddenly worried me again. I was also a little concerned about the timing of drawing (especially with a schedule) and then of course the printing.

With all these worries, I saw just how comfortable I had become with my little digital set up at my cafe. The first day that I was in Devon, before I started drawing, I actually thought to myself "Hmmm, maybe I just don't want to do digital gigs anywhere but there from now on."

By Saturday though, I felt myself relax as everything was going really well. We managed to keep to the schedule (with the wonderful help of my volunteer Joan), as well as draw a number of walk up customers. This event also helped me figure out what little things I do need to get or change to make this a less stressful thing next time.

Its interesting how sometimes we get so comfortable doing things a certain way that the slightest bit of discomfort or stress in changing those things makes us react instantly with "Oh, I don't want to do this". That thought suddenly reminded me of 8 months ago when I was faced with City licensing issues for my cafe. At that time all I could think of was "I don't want to do this", but because I had already added the cafe I had no choice. And now that I see the remarkable results of that adventure, I realize how uncomfortable situations are just part of our moving forward.

As I packed up to leave, I realized again just how much I do enjoy drawing live, both traditionally AND digitally, and sometimes I guess a little bit of pre-gig stress is just part of the job, especially if I want to keep growing.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs
and developing our wings on the way down.”
― Kurt Vonnegut
Last night's altered book class was SO much fun.
What a wonderful and creative bunch of women!
We spent the evening painting with gesso on the covers of our freshly sanded books.

I offered up an assortment of things to combine with the gesso (lace, mesh, twine etc) and I have to say I was SO absolutely impressed with the what people came up with!
I can't wait to see what amazing art is created over the next 8 weeks with this group...

Sunday, January 01, 2012

(sorry this took so long to finish writing but i have a feeling you will understand once you read this,and if you have forgotten part 1 and 2 they are still below)

The Quirky Art Cafe
part 3

“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.” Zig Ziglar

So, I decided to have a real cafe in my studio.

But to be perfectly honest, I really wanted someone else to do it for me.

When I got home from Spain in May, I dove quickly into the things for the cafe that I knew I could do...rearranging the studio to make room for a coffee counter, cleaning things out, visualizing, finding the perfect counter and making it "look and feel" the way it would best look like a cafe but then came the hard part....

All the legal shit.

Coincidentally, I met a woman at an Art Walk in July who apparently was a coffee shop set up consultant and I was THRILLED. We met a couple times and she validated all the ideas I had with her expertise and knowledge (basically affirming for me that this could really happen), which I really needed at that point.

Then she disappeared.

I tried to get a hold of her but she wouldn't get back to me.

Eventually, I learned in September, that due to serious family issues, she was no longer available to help me and I was left completely on my own once again....

So, after a lot of feeling sorry for myself, one day I just thought "Oh fuck it!" and I finally went to the official places I needed to go, talked to all the official people I needed to talk to and found out all the official things I needed to do. And once I learned what I needed to do....

I honestly wanted to just give up.

But the problem was, I had already "done" it. The cafe was already built, rearranged, sinks in and ready with espresso I couldn't give up now. A good friend wrote to me at that point..."Hmmm maybe you should have looked into all this BEFORE you actually made it into a cafe." And for a moment, I thought the same... I thought "Oh, I am SO stupid for not having looked into all this BEFORE I did everything.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that IF I had asked what I needed to do first, I would NEVER have gone and done it. I know that I would have given up way before I ever started. The ONLY thing that pushed me through to the end of this was the fact that it was already done.

But it was so hard for me.

All along I kept thinking "I am just an artist, I can't do all this stuff." I felt so far out of my comfort zone, that most days I seriously woke up feeling nauseous about what had to be done that day.

But....I just made myself do what I needed to do, one small uncomfortable step at a time.

And every day, when I would get completely overwhelmed, by fear, money concerns or whatever, I would just go sit in my studio, and reassure myself that this WAS the RIGHT thing to do. I just knew that people would love to come in and enjoy my space with me.

So then, the next day I would get up the courage to go do one more uncomfortable thing...

(like measure every square inch of the lot and the building complex, convert it to metric and then draw up three different site plans TO SCALE for instance....)

It took so much longer than I thought it would. I didn't have the money to go out and hire people to do things like site plans for me or figure out what stock structure (with incorporating) to have, I had to do it all myself.

And now that I am on the other side of it, I am glad for that. I have learned so much and I really did it! I really accomplished something that I honestly didn't think I could do.

I also realized that I needed to get used to the idea of owning/running a cafe on top of my art career as much as I needed to to get all the permits for it. And starting things from scratch meant there were thousands of decisions to make. I had worked in cafes before (the only job I have ever had except for being an artist), but in all those situations, the decisions were already made for me and I just did my job. Here, I had to decide everything....what hours to be open, how I would make all the hot beverages, how the cash register would be programmed, what kind of food would be served...etc. Plus, along with all of this, I still had to maintain my full time art career at the same time- drawing caricatures at events, doing commission work, teaching classes and workshops as well as keeping up with the all the family life responsibilities at home.

One great coincidental thing was that I was able to get the cafe ready right before my trip to another caricature convention in Florida, where I got to spend time with my amazing, caring, talented caricature artist friends, which by that time I REALLY needed.

I opened 3 days after I got home from Florida.

By the time I opened November 23rd, I was really every way. I no longer panicked about the time commitment of being there 5 days a week from 8-5 or how I would manage responsibilities with my drawing commitments or my family along with it. I just knew that it would all fall into place and it really has.

It was a CRAZY, CRAZY month in December....I was open full time at the cafe 5 days a week, I had a grand opening, 17 caricature event gigs, many commission pieces to do for Christmas and an altered book workshop at Victoria School of the Arts.

But I made it...
and I love my little cafe/art studio even more than I did before....
and honestly, I really didn't know that was possible.

I am thrilled with the response and the feedback I have received from people....

  • I love meeting longtime residents from the neighbourhood and hearing their stories of how long they have lived here, other special little details of their lives and just how they have LONGED for a cafe in the neighbourhood for years.
  • I love that I have regulars who come, sit and chat about what's going on in their day so far, and inquire about mine.
  • I love that I have an after school rush of kids and parents, popping in from the toboggan hill or skating rink across the street for a hot chocolate or chai latte.
  • I love that I can work on my drawings or paintings when its quiet at the cafe and how even when people come in, how interested they are in what I am working on.
and most of all,
I love hearing how much people feel at home
in my little art corner of the world.

So here we are on the threshold of 2012.....Happy New Year Everyone!

“Often, it’s not about becoming a new person, but becoming the person you were meant to be, and already are, but don’t know how to be.”
― Heath L. Buckmaster