My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Archive for the tag “Creativity by Design”

Bonus Art Assignment: Art Trip Tijuana Part 2


3. Try to see if you can name those people before you meet them:

Women in their 40s walking their dogs – the Carols.

Kids under 15 riding their bikes – The Zachs.

Retired men walking for exercise – the Carls.

New parents pushing strollers – the Jones.

4. Meet them and find out the connection between your image and who they really are.

I decided to start with one of the Carls.


This particular Carl walks down our street with his walker once a day as long as it’s not too hot or too cold out. When he gets to my front yard, he takes a break and sits on the seat attached to his walker. Sometimes he reads his mail after he retrieves it from the mailbox across the street. I think the walking is physical therapy. When he first began this routine, I saw him walking with a number of different women in scrubs who looked to be home care workers. Since the photo above doesn’t show his face, I thought it might be alright to share it.

So one day when I say this Carl sitting in front of my house, I went out to get my mail. As I passed by him I said ‘hello,’ but Carl didn’t answer. I tried it twice more on other days but still nothing. Maybe he doesn’t like strangers? Maybe he didn’t hear me? Well, for now this is as close as I can get to completing this art assignment. #theartassignment


Art Assignment 49: Conjure a Studio


This Art Assignment reminded me of being a teenager, living in my parents’ house and feeling like I had the smallest bits of privacy. I used journals and sketchbooks as my studio. I decorated them with bright collages laminated with packing tape and they were where I wrote and sketched and drew. My parents always respected these journals and never looked at them unless I wanted to share something I had done. I was smart enough to keep them after high school and they live in a wooden chest in my bedroom. I dug out two of my favourite sketchbooks and decided to share their covers with you.

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So these are my teenage studios and I still love them. Oh, you want to see what’s inside them?


Did you miss it? Did I flip through too fast? Sorry folks, I’m not quite ready to share my high school creations. #theartassignment

Art Assignment 48: Measuring Histories

For this assignment, I decided to trace all the places I’ve lived so far. I defined living somewhere as any place where I stayed for more than a month. I don’t consider myself terribly well-traveled at this point but I have lived in some neat places. All of the maps except one are within Canada. Being Canadian and living in Canada is a proud part of both my personal and cultural history.

None of these maps are to scale with each other and that is on purpose. Instead, I used how I felt about these places and how I imagine them mapped out in my mind to give them the scale I think they each require in relation to each other.

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This idea of tracing my history across maps reminds me of a conversation I had with my husband Nick when we first met. As we were getting to know each other, it became apparent that we had lived within a few blocks of each other for years and had never met. We went to the same grocery store and bank, we even had the same dentist. We even found out we’d both attended some of the same concerts and music festivals over the years. I lived in London for five and a half years before he and I ever met. I like these idea of us slowly circling each other around the city, pulling towards each other a bit at a time.

Art Assignment 43: Constructed Landscape

Pet Fish


My constructed landscape contains:

  • Black craft stones from Michael’s,
  • 4 larger stones from the river near my house,
  • One trimmed branch from my bonsai tree,
  • 3 fish made of craft paper,
  • 3 bamboo skewers and 3 pieces of thread to elevate the fish.

I like the juxtaposition of items from nature with items I purchased and made. I chose my favourite photo to display but I’ve included all the shots I took below so you can see this landscape from all angles.




Art Assignment 41: Present Perimeter




I call it Pop Up. #theartassignment


Art Assignment 40: Object Empathy

So when we moved into our house, I found this book on one of the basement pantry shelves.


It looks like someone started a recipe book. This book is beautiful and sad. It’s both weathered and unfinished. Check out the gallery below to see the recipes I found inside:

I wonder who started this recipe journal and why they left it behind when they moved? Did they abandon it or was it forgotten? Does the original owner still wonder where it went? I guess most people in my situation would just throw this book away but I just couldn’t bear to do it. It’s been sitting on the shelf with my other cookbooks since we moved in. Now I have a reason to use it.

Here is my fix for this sad book: I’m going to add my own favourite family recipes into this book.


That already looks much better. I better finish up this post so I can keep adding posts to my new/old recipe book.

For the curious chefs out there, I will be trying one of the original recipes in my next post.

Art Assignment 39 Make It, Break It

Step one: make a delicious cake for my niece and nephew’s birthdays.

Step two: devour cake with family.

Success! #theartassignment

Art Assignment 38 Fake Flyer

My flyer reads:





I hung a box of sharpened pencil crayons just below it.


I took a chance and hung it on the community event board outside my library branch. Hopefully no one takes it down. I’m going to check back in a few days to see if anyone was brave enough to participate in some community art. #theartassignment


I went back to the library and they moved my flyer, but they didn’t take it down!


Thank you to the library staff, who know a fun bit of art when they see it and allow it to stay in their space.


And thank you to the people who drew something on my flyer. Hopefully more of you will join in. #theartassignment


Making my own Art Assignment

I’ve been watching The Art Assignment on YouTube and completing the assignments. I use being creative as a way to relax and get out of my head. So, I decided that I would make my own art assignment for a change.

It all started when I found this jar in the basement:

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I can’t remember what was in it before, but I wanted to do something creative with it. The smooth glass just looked so inviting. It was crying out for a purpose.

So then I found a bunch of stuff in junk drawers and corners around my house.

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Here is the final result:

My idea here was to use the technique of found objects to create something beautiful.I’m quire pleased with how it turned out. However, I also want my art to be a bit more interactive so I’m going to display my Jar of Wonders on my desk at work. For those of you who work with children or teenagers, you know that some of them are going to ask what the jar is for and I’m going to tell them it’s art. It’s up to them to interpret it after that. I will also have a number of precocious students who ask if they can have something they like out of the jar. I’m ready for that response too. If they want to take an object from the jar, they have to replace it with an item of equal value, not monetary value but artistic value, (which I will explain to them as the coolness value.) So, for example, how cool is my neon snap bracelet from the 1980s? What are they willing to give up that is as amazing as a tiny glass Hello Kitty bead I picked up in Taiwan? They will have to bring something in and argue its artistic value to me and if I am convinced, we will swap the items. That way the piece stays fluid and students have permission to interact with the art in a way that is forbidden in most galleries.

The idea for the Jar of Wonders comes from the French objet trouvé and involves taking objects that already have purpose and turning them into works of art. Artists such as Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp have created art using found objects, (see illustrations below.)

Still Life with Chair Caning, Picasso

Still Life with Chair Caning, Picasso

In this piece, Picasso used the seat of a cane chair as the basis for his still life. This forced a discussion of the blending of the mundane experience of everyday life with the high experience of art; the mass-produced elements blending with the skillfully crafted artistic ones. This was considered unusual as the art world of the time strictly separated the low, common experiences from the elevated experiences presented in artistic works.

Fountaine, Duchamp

Fountaine, Duchamp

In this well-known piece, Duchamp presented a signed urinal at the Society of Independent Artists, in 1917. The Society rejected it as not being art, despite the fact that the rules of the exhibition stated that any work would be accepted from artists who paid the fee. Again, this raises the question of if and how common objects and experiences can be part of art and of how commonality can still elicit strong emotions from an audience.

If you want to try this Art Assignment, see the instructions below:

  1. Find an interesting container.
  2. Fill it with your own found objects. You can use any materials that you like and arranged or affix them to your container using any method you prefer.
  3. Find a great place to display your found object art. You can make yours interactive (like I did) or not.
  4. Document your work and/or your process. Tweet it to me @JenMcAwesome
  5. Kudos from me (I’ll post your work on my Twitter and Blog to share with everyone).


Art Assignment 35 Lost Childhood Object

I have always loved the story my mother in law tells about my husband’s Nintendo64. So as kids my hubby Nick and his brother Rory wanted an N64. Their parents said no, citing concerns about unfinished homework and violent games. So Rory and Nick saved their money and secretly bought the system themselves. They hid it in their bedroom closet and only played it when their parents were out.

I wanted to make something for Nick for this assignment but you have to understand that I married an introvert. He loves video games and other geeky stuff but he doesn’t like trumpeting his nerd affiliations. He is the quietest gamer I know. I finally settled on making him an N64 controller cookie.

I used chocolate chip cookie dough, M&Ms, sprinkles, and some rectangles of milk chocolate to make his geek treat.

I began by tracing the outline of the controller on my parchment paper in pencil.


Then I shaped the dough within it.


I wasn’t going to include this photo but it looked so funny when it came out I had to share it with you. I forgot how much this cookie dough spreads. It kind of looks like a sad dog butt with candies stuck to it.


That’s the way the cookie crumbles!


I tried again, this time giving room for cookie spread. I also froze the cookie dough for five minutes after I shaped it.




I pressed the candies into the warm cookie after it finished baking because I wasn’t happy with how the colours seeped into the cookie in attempt one.


I cooled it and presented it to Nick. His response was, “Is that an N64 controller?” Then he devoured it in four bites and told me it was delicious. Well, with that level of success I may make these again sometime. At least if Nick’s mom catches him with these controllers, he can eat the evidence. #theartassignment

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