Touched By Fire, 2013

I haven’t been blogging, regularly, but I’ve been having an awesome-busy time of late in my life-as-artist. Entered my work into Touched By Fire Art Show & Sale, which was held in November at Artscape Wychwood Barns hour window of opportunity to view the show. And what a lot of work the staff and volunteers and committee members and jurors put into creating that show!

Take a look at the slideshow created to highlight the event, which is really all about the people. For the art – visit the gallery at or check out the digital exhibition catalogue. And I just want to give a little shout out for Gold Picture Frames & The Gallery Wall – 3083 Kingston Road, just east of McCowan. They did a brilliant job of framing my-enormous-watercolour and I want to recommend them!


Gwen Hayes with her latest watercolour from the Threshold Series, shown at Artscape Wychwood Barns November 26, 2013 as part of Touched By Fire Art Show &B Sale








Just three days after the main event, we (MDAO) also participated in a conference organized by TD ‘s Diversity Leadership Council with a smaller, private, juried Touched By Fire exhibition at their event which was attended by over 400 TD staff. Close to 40 paintings were displayed, including work by fellow artists also present at the event: Lorette Luzajic, Jeff Jackson, Amanta Scott, Joey Dammit!, and Ralph Martin. 

The TD show was a lot of fun to set up because a group of us got a behind the scenes look at the Ritz Carlton, including a pass-through the kitchen, where 400 plates were being meticulously and beautifully prepared for the lunch, on our way to the loading dock to retrieve the paintings.

MADO staff and TD staff-volunteers set up the event (thank you all) which was also attended by MDAO Executive Director & CEO Ann Marie Mac Donald, John Burghardt, and Paul Grissom. 

And thank you TD for a fabulous opportunity to present the work of Touched By Fire artists – and for lunch, and for the opportunity to hear Caroline Casey, the fabulous founding CEO of Kanchi in Dublin, in person.

She made us laugh and almost-cry as she shared her story, which starts with quite the revelation and winds up with a challenge to move beyond the limits that we may think we have (or I might also say, limits that others in society sometimes attempt to impose).

Her points were that disability is about attitude; ‘othering’ people isn’t helpful; and to change the way society behaves we have to change the way it thinks. The whole day was a celebration of the capability and ability of all and it was uplifting and inspiring to share some time with someone who is so eloquent about her desire to live in a world where every single person is included and can actively participate irrespective of difference. Caroline Casey’s TED talk is well worth watching!









Making voices visible

Sometimes it’s hard for people to envision what expressive arts is… Here’s an example of exploring depression through expressive arts: Fay Wilkinson’s Visible Voices program;  a video snapshot of Fay’s work with seniors in two long-term care homes was taken to a variety of community groups for their response.

Stare down the stigma

I’ve put painting on ‘pause’ for a few weeks while my focus shifts towards helping to raise awareness of MDAO and their MAD About You Gala. The Mood Disorders Association of Ontario is a federally registered charity that offers support to individuals living with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.

The MAD About You Gala is the signature event of the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario. The event, which is attended by over 450 of Toronto’s influential community and business leaders has since its inception raised in excess of $1.9 million dollars. These funds allow the MDAO to serve the more than 15,000 individuals across Ontario who seek out FREE support and recovery programs from the Mood Disorders Association annually. The goal this year is to raise $500,000 in revenue that will be designated towards supporting and expanding the eight recovery programs (including Boost Your Mood, WRAP and Laughing Like Crazy). MDAO continues to support and introduce innovative programs and events designed to build awareness and stare down the stigma associated with mental illness. Please consider attending their Gala on February 9, 2013. See you there!



Painting as metaphor

Recap of September and October: • took painting lessons • started next counselling course • applied to a couple of juried exhibitions;  rejected! • Attended the openings to see what got in • got organised to take credit-card payments, via my cell phone no less • went to Algonquin Park • came home and painted and then painted some more

This is one of the pieces I completed in October; part of my Threshold series. It’s titled  Where the City Meets the Forest. Acrylic on Canvas. 24 x 30.© Gwen Hayes_Where the City Meets the Forest_ Acrylic on Canvas _ 24 x 30



©Gwen Hayes _ Leaf Dancer_Mixed Media on CanvasPleased that my painting Leaf Dancer is being displayed in a group show at the Elgin Winter Winter Garden Theatre with Opera Atelier, in November 2012 alongside, so I’ve heard, some great painters such as, as Margaret Roseman and several others I’m anxious to meet, including Frances Ferdinands, Pauline Bradshaw and Rita-Anne Piquet. Cool. And isn’t the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre a beautiful heritage building.

Also attended ART TORONTO which was brilliant. Have a look at the Art Toronto catalogue.  The ultimate goal. Be there.

I’ve been painting in watercolour a lot lately and find that it prompts plenty of metaphors for other aspects of life and work. The quality of my painting is directly related to the calibre of my drawing (skill and thoroughness) and my presence to the task at hand. I love that watercolour has a built-in requirement to allow drying time or in some cases to work without stopping over longer periods of time; an exercise in mindfulness and learning to pace myself. Wait. Walk away. Just be in the flow.

The process of painting offers many opportunities for reflection and allowing. The use of a resist for planning areas to keep clear makes me think of personal boundaries and things like booking time for your self into your calendar.

The way colours behave the way it loads onto a brush, how it blends, and the degree of transparency, opacity or luminosity is so unique – reminds me of relationships and how people think, feel and behave – and aren’t we all unique. The technique of ‘picking up’ colour after it dries to open up the light makes me remember the idea of gratitude.

The way each brush is constructed, its features and purpose… the right tools for the job. The texture of a surface and huge advantage of a best-quality paper contribute to the process in ways that remind me of a strong personal foundation.

All of that together influences  the quality of my work; how the paint absorbs, sits or floats across the surface of the paper… which makes me think of how we learn. It all made me think, ah yes, I have plenty of opportunity to dance in the moment. Writing that made me laugh because for years my mantra has been “true calm, applied knowledge and a dance in every moment.” Something to strive for.

Quality Control & Commitment

Well okay, so all wasn’t sweetness and light in the studio for a day or so. I got a bad batch of pre-coated canvas, something I’ve never experienced before. I always insist on 100% made in Canada for my canvases but ended up purchasing a brand I don’t usually buy (Gottrick) from a store I don’t usually go to, and I have to wonder whether these canvases were actually imported product.

None of this would be quite so annoying if the canvases weren’t large and expensive, and I hadn’t wasted a full jar of gesso, half a jar of paint and half a day trying to figure out what the problem was. Contacted the manufacturer who confirmed a “Yes, unfortunatly I have a bad batch. Now I have a good product. Really sorry about that.” Geez. Worth my while to take it back? No. It’s a long jaunt to that particular store and way too much time out of my day, so I’ve taken it off the stretchers and will start over.

And with that trouble behind me I decided to step up and buy an entire roll of 10 ounce canvas from Curry’s Art Store, a gallon of gesso and a whole bunch of stretchers — quality control and inventory. According to my calculations I should get between 30 to 37 large paintings out of this roll. Now that’s a commitment. Wonder if I’ll be able to lift that roll!

Until next time.




Committed…ready or not

This summer someone asked me, well, rather he told me, “better that your artwork be hanging on someone’s wall rather than keeping it all to yourself.” And I decided he was right, I ought to show my work again somewhere, but first I’d have to…

Well let’s just say, I had a very long list of things I’d have to do before I was ready to take my art out into the world again. The gremlin voice leapt into my mind and a dozen ways to postpone. But he gave me a short timeframe and no wiggle room to opt out. “Two weeks and you’ve got your first show,” he said.

It wasn’t really a show, as in proper art exhibition. It was a street festival with a crew of vendors selling arts and crafts and 10,000 people wandering around. Frankly, being on the other side of the table felt a little out of my element. But it was an opportunity to set up a print table and it did get me and my paintings out of the house, in front of people who actually had questions about my work. Valuable experience that; actually talking about my paintings. I was struck by how rarely I’ve ever done so.

And guess what; putting my artwork out there wasn’t nearly as difficult putting my very first short story into the mail years ago. I was so certain I’d be — rejected. And isn’t that something we’re all afraid of. That very first story was published and I won $3,000 and identified as a writer. This time I sold only $80 worth of prints and got a $30 parking ticket. I still identify as an artist. But that’s not my point.

Maybe keeping our creative output all to ourselves is all about readiness, which is something that probably links right back to the whole idea of commitment. Whoa. Scary. Because when we step up in a way that feels big, sometimes nothing happens; but sometimes everything changes, and maybe that’s the part we are really fretting over while we’re so busy being not-quite-ready.

Perhaps it is about our capacity to respond to the ever-so-slight (or monumental) change in who we become as a result of what we commit to and actually follow through on.

And maybe it’s not about fear of failure either; it could be fear of success and what that might mean when our self-perception changes, and when what we choose to do starts to affect our relationships with time, money and others in our social realm.

So, what is it for you, that you continue to put on the back burner? Who challenges you to step out of your comfort zone and into a new realm faster than you would on your own? And what kind of support do you have when you get there?


I’m sure there is more than one side to you. There is for me. One is ‘corporate’ as in marketing & communications; another is ‘small business’ as in worked in them and on them, and as business owner myself. And then there’s artist-writer-coach what I like to think of as the warm-fuzzy of me. My news is that I’m in transition (aren’t we always) and if I can make a career transition… so can you if that’s what you really want to do. Guess I’ll blog some more about that shortly. Meantime, thought you might be interested in what I’ve been up to.

Re-starting my coaching private practiceaccepting new clients for September. In process of completing a Counselling Certificate via George Brown College (4 courses to go); concurrently pursuing Constructivist (SocioDynamic) Career Counselling Certificate (mentorship right now) and most exciting of all: undertaking a post graduate Certificate in Expressive Arts at Haliburton School of the Arts. Where’s this all going — personal & small business coaching + constructivist career counselling + expressive arts facilitation? Stay tuned; check back and find out! Meantime, some pics from Haliburton and a little new personal expression.

Haliburton School of the Arts_ Great HallHaliburton School of the Arts_Classroom