Ottawa Art Gallery

My fourth art show in as many months! WOW!

My torso of Billie De-Constructed will be hanging at the vernissage of the Mental Health Week Ottawa Art Show at the Ottawa Art Gallery on Friday, May 10th. I have invited everyone I know in Ottawa to join me, so I hope to share this exciting event with some of my friends.

The theme of the show is “Creative Journey” and this piece certainly represents the very beginning of the artist adventure I have embarked upon.

Billie Deconstructed

Ottawa School of Art

Over the winter, I took a fantastic course in contemporary painting with local artist, Lindsay Watson. Having no formal training in the arts, I thought it might be a good idea to do so. I applied and was accepted into the Ottawa School of Art (OSA) Art Fundamentals Certificate Program which requires the completion of 10 courses over the course of three years. I have one course under my belt and the experience was challenging yet enlightening. I created new pieces each week as part of the curriculum and had the opportunity to hang a piece in a small show in The Wall Gallery at the Orléans Campus of the OSA.

Celestial Evening

The premise of this piece was to paint something on a “non-traditional” surface. I found this piece of wood with three cut-outs in it at the local thrift store. A little abstract and a little “real”. Something quite different for me.

Brain & Mental Health Art Show

Brain & Mental Health Show

I submitted a mixed-media piece I made on eating disorders for consideration for the 2nd Annual Brain & Mental Health Art Show hosted by the Society for Neuroscience Ottawa Chapter.








“Get Out of My Head” was one of 80 pieces on display at the vernissage on April 19th, 2013. The event was hosted at Grounded Kitchen & Coffeehouse which was the perfect intimate and funky place for such a powerful show.

Get out of my head


There were tons of people, lots of art, a DJ and great food. It was a really neat vibe and it was cool to be part of something so hip! A video monitor played stills of all the art submitted, we could text our favourite piece to vote for the popular choice award and you could get up close and personal with the art. It was a well organized event and the art was very thoughtful, including the video submissions.


I was inspired to write a simple poem about the night and the feelings it evoked.

The music
The energy
The art
The passion
The pain
The stories
The sharing
The celebration
The hipness
The support
The friends
The food
The wine
The interest
The ideas
The families
The funk
The groove
The embrace
The cool
The judges

Just getting started

My adventures with Billie have ended, but my adventures in art and recovery are just getting started!

I made a cast of Billie’s torso so if I want to make more “deconstructed” versions, I at least have the foundation. My initial thought was to create a series of 5 torsos, all representing different aspects of body image, recovery and eating disorders. I also saw some miniature paper-maché torsos and perhaps I will tackle a mini version. It is still a concept at this stage and I am not sure I have figured out what all 5 will look like, but the idea continues to simmer slowly in the background.

Billie helped me enter a world of art and opportunity. I am excited to see what’s next!

Mold of Billie


Is it ironic or appropriate that this cast is made out of food flyers from local grocery stores?

Viva Las Vegas

Well, there was no way I was going to let Billie go to Vegas on her own!  I contacted IAEDP to discuss whether or not it would be OK for me to be there for the announcement of the contest winner. Not only was I assured that it was OK, I was welcome to partake of any of the Symposium events and be a guest at the banquet where the winner would be unveiled. How amazing!

IAEDP Symposium

So I reached out to some of my Beautiful Brave Girls that I met in Boise last summer. Two of these kindred spirits actually live in Las Vegas so I thought I would impose on one (or both) of them for a place to stay while in Vegas. Then a third Brave Girl announced she was coming to Las Vegas from Salt Lake City to be there for me.WOW! Next thing I know, the out of towners are booked into the hotel where the Symposium is taking place! Double WOW!

I arrived in Vegas and was enveloped in love, support, acceptance and encouragement from the moment I landed. We laughed, we ate, we chatted, we gabbed, we did a bit of sight-seeing and we diligently kept an eye on the UPS shipping updates to see when Billie would arrive. Thankfully, she arrived in plenty of time and my team of Brave Girls helped me set her up. We hid her under a black cloth and the stage was set for the big reveal later that night.

Me and my Brave Girl posse wandered through the trade show for Eating Disorder clinics and support organizations. We had to get bags to carry all our free loot! We carted off pens, t-shirts, water bottles, an autographed book, magnets, cookbooks, candles…there was a LOT of tables to visit and lots of goodies to grab. Throughout it all, the folks manning the booths chatted us up, asking where we worked, trying to drum up business, of course. I began to get more comfortable with announcing that “I am one of the artists of the mannequins for the contest.”


Those words still don’t ring completely true for me, but that speaks more about my self-esteem and self-confidence than what I create.

At the dinner, it was announced that I won the Professional’s Choice award with over 300 votes. That one was a surprise! I had not expected that at all. And a few minutes later, we unveiled Billie and she got her moment in the spotlight.

And the winner is!

Billie & Flags








I was given the opportunity to speak, so I told the 300 plus people in attendance a bit of my story and the journey with Billie. (video to be posted soon)

I got a standing ovation and some really positive comments from people like the previous President of IAEDP and one of the contest judges. It was very emotional, very powerful and the perfect send off for Billie.

Then the auction began! Nope, Billie wasn’t coming home with me, she was getting auctioned off. After a few minutes of bidding, $500 sealed the deal and Billie has a new home in South Beach, Miami – lucky girl! The auction winner actually offered to let me keep Billie if I wanted to, but I declined. Billie’s story didn’t end with me, it just began and she needed to share her message with others.

Sadly, we had to take Billie apart and pack her up in her shipping box again. It was a beautiful experience to share with my Brave Girls. It was so wonderful to have their support and encouragement throughout the whole experience. I can honestly say that it was a once in a lifetime experience. An experience that I must not forget, an experience that will help shape my future artistic and recovery endeavours.

Farewell, Billie!

Hands, hands?!!?!?

Shortly after the email notification of my nomination for the top 5 finalists in the Imagine Me art contest, I received another email. This one was super secret and announced that I had, in fact, won the Imagine Me art contest!!!!! To say I was surprised would not have been accurate. Somehow I knew Billie was special enough to take home the prize, but I was still pretty excited! The next step was to get Billie to Las Vegas in time for the IAEDP Symposium.

I would have thought that shipping via UPS would be dead simple, but I was wrong. The first UPS outlet store I visited bemoaned the cost of packing, the size of the shipment and the overall cost to ship. This lack of customer service led me to another UPS outlet where I had had a positive experience in the past. Unfortunately, it seems the individual that helped me the first time was not working that day and I was faced by three women who were less than enthusiastic about my shipment. They warned me about “all the paperwork” involved since the shipment was US-bound and they must have cautioned me at least three separate times about how much it was going to cost. Did they want my business or what? If I had not already agreed with IAEDP that I would ship via UPS, I would have found someone that wanted my business.

So I dragged in my own box – Billie’s legs are just about 4′ high, so I had to purchase a wardrobe moving box from a local storage unit facility. And then I brought in all the bubble wrapped bits of Billie. I had pre-packed her in the box at home so I knew how to put everything into the box to maximize space and ensure she would be safe during her travels. Once we put all the pieces together, we filled up the rest of the box with popcorn and taped her up. After filling out one, very short form (mountains of paperwork, indeed!), I bid adieu to Billie. She was on her way to Vegas!








But the shipping adventure was far from over! I got a call the next day from the Customs Brokerage house. You see, it seems I was shipping body parts, and well, they just wanted to make sure about what exactly was in my shipment. At UPS, I listed what was in the shipment. The document read like this:

1 x mannequin which includes, 1 x torso, 1 x set of legs, 1 x stand, 2 x arms, 1 x bodysuit & 2 x hands.

When the UPS staff entered this info into their system, the bodysuit and the 2 hands ended up on a separate page. So this poor woman at customs calls me and (in a Southern accent) asks me “um, ma’am, you are shipping a mannequin to Las Vegas, but it also says here that there is a bodysuit and some hands. Now are those hands, hands!??!” I immediately imagine that she is seeing a scene from Silence of the Lambs, where I have stitched together some skin suit and have packaged up some body parts to go with. I was laughing so hard as I tried to explain that no, it was all just part of the mannequin. Fortunately, we got it resolved quickly and Billie was released from customs to make her journey West.


Brave Girls Club

If you have not heard of these amazing women yet, you need to make your way there….NOW…GO…I’ll wait…

Melody & Kathy have created a beautiful, safe place for women to create, share and BE BRAVE. They offer daily inspiration, on-line classes, soulful art retreats and a chance to make a difference. Make a difference not only in your life, but in the lives of others. These women, and the community they have created, have truly changed my life.

I took a chance last August and enrolled in Brave Girls Camp (BGC). I needed to get away, I needed to do something just for me. And after much Googling, it was BGC that I kept coming back to. And I am so grateful that I took the leap and signed up. Not only did I meet some pretty amazing women at this camp, but I discovered the power of words when incorporated into art. I lost myself for hours and could have happily stayed for many more days. If you are looking to reconnect with yourself and learn something new about yourself, then this is the place to do it. Fall back into the loving arms of the Brave Girls Club.

Here are some iPhone pics from my beautiful time at camp:

It is a farm, after all









I enjoy snapping photos with my iPhone while I am out and about. I capture anything and everything that catches my eye. I also downloaded a few apps (listed below) that allow me to edit and play with my photos.I started with a Tumblr photoblog, but have moved everything here. I like order, I like structure, I like having everything in one place.

So this gallery is a place to collect my “ photo art”. And with that, let the walking adventures begin…

iPhone Apps used:

  • CamWow
  • Camera+
  • My Sketch
  • CamStar



I was notified this week that I am one of the top five finalists in the IAEDP contest I entered with Billie. I am still in shock! Final results will be announced at the IAEDP Annual Symposium Banquet on 21 March. In the meantime, there is also a “Professional’s Choice” award which allows those in the field that cannot attend the conference to participate in selecting a winning entry. Not only do professionals get to vote, but voting is open to anyone, although still limited to one vote per person. So, I was (by my standards) very brave and I sent out an email to everyone I know asking for their support by voting.

Not only was I asking for help (Being Brave #1) but I was putting my bio & the story behind Billie out there for everyone to see (Being Brave #2). I decided that it’s all OK. It’s my story and there is nothing to be ashamed or scared of. And if sharing my story can help someone else, then I am all for Being Brave!

So if you haven’t already done so, please visit the IAEDP contest and place your vote!

Where to start?

And suddenly, here I am on the net with a website and real art to display. Where did THAT come from?

I was surfing the net in October and through the magic of Google, stumbled across an ad for a contest. A contest about body image and in support of recovery from eating disorders. And the rest, as they say, is history!

The International Association for Eating Disorder Professionals (IAEDP) hosts an annual conference and recently added an art contest entitled “Imagine Me Beyond What You Can See”. In its third year, the contest requires participants to use a mannequin to “promote healthy awareness and acceptance of body images”.

An idea started to form and was loosely based on a piece of art I made last year in an art therapy session. I knew I needed three things:  a mannequin, a flesh-coloured body suit and an extra-large zipper. A trip to Montreal secured the mannequin and some on-line purchases furnished the rest.

Her name is “Billie“.

Billie at the Beginning

There’s lots more to the story of Jen & Billie…stay tuned!