Blog How I Found My Jam

How I Found My Jam: A Creative Life

An interview with artist and writer, Andrea Bures

Illustration of a ladybug with a cup of tea and a watering can looking out of a snowy window. Plants on the window sill, paintings of plants and a daisy on the wall, and a bookshelf in the background. Artwork by Andrea Bures
Ladybug Waiting for Spring by Andrea Bures
What kind of art do you do?

I’m exploring the worlds of illustration and fiction writing!

When did your interest in art begin? How did it start? Do you remember your first project?

It’s hard to remember when it all started exactly! I feel like my beginnings just slowly built on themselves, there wasn’t one big moment in particular. I remember we had a huge (at least, it seemed huge at the time) watercolour paint set when I was young (there might have been a pirate on the front). So, there were certainly moments of playing around with colour and paper. Early on I also enjoyed stories- all sorts really- but I especially remember books of folk and fairy tales from around the world. I’m guessing that’s where the roots of it all began.

When I was older and in school, I enjoyed making up poems with my best friend and creating stories for fun. At some point, in high school perhaps, I started to make elaborate birthday and greeting cards for friends and family by turning magazine clippings into collages (it was so much easier to get your hands on magazines back then!) I kept making cards, though I began to draw and paint more instead, occasionally selling my work at local markets. I was also always taking art options throughout school. My sister taught me to create shadow effects in my work. My dad always created larger posters for our birthdays with drawings of flowers and other images. It really was a collection of small moments.

But when it came to choosing where to go for university and what to study, my family strongly suggested not going into art. It just wasn’t something that was done in our family! It wasn’t practical. I didn’t feel dedicated enough or have a strong enough art practice at the time to push back and disagree, so I chose another route.

When did you realize you wanted to devote your energy to art?

The idea has moved in and out of my mind for a great deal of my adult life, but it didn’t really start to fully take shape until a few years ago. A friend of mine saw some handmade cards I created and told me about a story he had for a children’s picture book, and asked whether I was interested in illustrating it. We teamed up, and going through the process I began to think, “maybe I can do this!” At that time, I was also writing a bit and submitting short stories and toying with ideas for a novel. Before I knew it, more and more of my time and energy was immersed in art. I had also tried so many different jobs at that point, most of which I had found to be kind of joyless and just not the right fit for me. It felt like I was finally aiming in the direction that I should have been focusing on all along.

How has your artwork changed over the years?

Oh, it has changed a lot and it’s still constantly changing! I see other artists who have a very distinct ‘style’, and I don’t quite see that in my work yet. I’ve been searching for it, but I’m learning to accept that what my ‘style’ is might always be shifting. When I was very young, I used to love doodling silly cartoon images. Into my adolescence I became fascinated by realism, and portraiture. I think at the time I believed realism was ‘good art’, so it made sense that was what I should work towards. Then over the years it became a blend- sometimes realistic, sometimes more stylized or cartoony, sometimes folksy. I used to paint with acrylics or draw with pencil. Now I’m much more focused on watercolour and watercolour pencils, and also gouache, pencil crayon, markers and ink. I’m dabbling more in mixed media. I’ve expanded my practice and don’t feel the need to limit myself to one medium anymore, which is important as I feel I’m still just exploring what and how I enjoy creating and working on improving my skills.

My writing has also changed. I used to be focused on poetry and short stories. Now I’m drawn to creating longer pieces, that are often filled with elements of fantasy. Growing up I used to think I didn’t like fantasy very much, but eventually I realized that was just my family!

Bird dogs – English Setters and Partridge
What/who influences you? Where do you go/what do you do for inspiration?

There are so many people and things that inspire me! Other artists, of course. Painters like Emily Carr, and many of the impressionists and surrealists. I have a big love of folk art and naïve art from around the world, like the work of Maud Lewis. Josef Lada is another folk artist I greatly admire. He’s from the Czech Republic, where my family is originally from, and there are quite a few illustrators and artists from my country of heritage with a whimsical and unique style that I enjoy. I also follow the work of more contemporary artists such as Shaun Tan, Lisa Aisato and the cartoonist Ricardo Siri Liniers. Not to mention the countless authors that have influenced me including Neil Gaiman and Diana Wynne Jones to name only a couple.

I discover inspiration all the time through books of all kinds, galleries and even Instagram. If I need an extra dose of inspiration, I go through the children’s picture book or YA section in a bookstore or library or peruse for mini art courses online. Generally speaking, I gain a lot of inspiration through people and their stories, in all the different ways that we share them: through books, film, music, etc.

Nature is another huge and constant inspiration in my life. Wherever I am, nature is there with some secret or treasure to share. At the end of the day, I believe that inspiration can be found in the simplest of moments if only we’re paying attention!

What do you think the role of creativity and art is in society? Why is it important?

When I have moments of doubt as to my purpose or what I could possibly ever contribute to the world through my art, I stop and consider the huge impact that the art and writing of others has had on me. I believe that creativity of all kinds is such a liberating form of self-expression, and a wonderful way to both create and understand the meaning of our experiences. I believe that creativity and art are direct gateways to empathy, as we can try to better understand the stories, experiences, and viewpoints of others when they share their stories with us. Not to mention, it’s fun! It can be as playful as it is deep and poignant. Which is something I think we all need, at any age. A way to follow and explore our curious natures.

Immersing ourselves in creativity and art also works our imagination muscles. And I think one of the underlying problems we’re struggling with in the world right now is a lack of imagination. We are overwhelmed by the big issues of our time, but we’ve also accepted that the way we live our lives and ‘do business’ is normal. That it must be this way. When really, we can use our imaginations to envision different ways of being, living and interacting with one another and the earth. It would be naive to think solving the world’s problems is just as simple as turning on the imagination switch, but I think it plays a role for sure.

Tell me more about your children’s book!

I’ve had the great pleasure—and great learning experience—of illustrating my first children’s book, “Llama, Girl and the Sunriseflower.” It was written by my brilliant and talented friend, Greg Clay. The story follows two friends, Llama and Girl, and how they spend their days, including the adventures, big and small, that they go on together. The story really focuses on their friendship, and how they connect to the magical land they call home. One day, Girl becomes sick, leaving both to cope with spending the day on their own. A surprise twist in the book shows how we can always care for one another and connect, even in difficult times, with a little creativity and resourcefulness. There’s no set date yet, but it will be published by Brandylane Publishers, Inc. and out later this year!

Cover Art for The In-between Places: A Memoir of Travelling Through the Unexpected by yours truly
Tell me about the novel you’re working on- where did you get your ideas?

I’ve recently completed my first draft of a YA fantasy novel (for readers on the younger end of the YA spectrum), and I’m in the process of editing it with the help of a couple wonderful and talented friends (namely, yourself… I can’t thank you enough, Jamie!).

As I mentioned earlier, I’m a believer of inspiration being found anywhere and everywhere. For this book I found inspiration in the most magical of places… suburbia! It was during Covid, when I was spending a great deal of time in my own neighbourhood, and the story began to take shape. Maybe it grew out of my own need to escape reality a little, but the more I looked at the place I live with fresh eyes, the more I found magic in the mundane, and wondered at the stories behind the lives of others living in the same area as me. And not just people, the trees and the rocks and the mosses, and so on. You get the idea!

I don’t have a fixed title yet, but Bridges is a land in another realm which overlaps with Blue Moon, a suburban neighbourhood on Earth. The protagonist is a fourteen-year-old girl named Kes, who stumbles across this new realm when she enters a portal accidentally while playing hopscotch with her brother. She quickly learns that a curse has befallen the residents of Bridges, making it so they can never leave their land. Unfortunately, resources are slowly becoming scarcer, not to mention the added challenge of a mysterious fog called the Emanon that has been rolling through their land more regularly, spiriting away anyone it touches. Kes is told of an object that might be the key to freeing the residents of Bridges. Unburdened by the curse, Kes is the only one who can search for the object, though she is helped by a great deal of friends and a great many strange characters she meets along the way. It’s, at least partly, about the power of storytelling and community even (and maybe especially) in the darkest of times.

Tell me about the 100-Day Project

The idea of a 100-day project is very simple. To choose something creative, and to commit to working on and exploring that creative activity every day for a hundred days. For greater accountability and to help build community and increase enjoyment, these projects are wonderful to do with others. I was first introduced to the concept by Suleika Jaouad and her beautiful creative space/community, the Isolation Journals (which have recently turned three years old!). She took part in her first 100-day project at the suggestion of family and friends when she was sick with leukemia. Several years later, when Covid struck, Suleika created the Isolation Journals as a place to bring people together, using creativity to navigate the uncertainties and interruptions of life. She subsequently began organizing 100-day projects for this online community.

I had the great fortune of stumbling across the Isolation Journals and participating in one of these projects. It’s a beautiful community, and I felt so inspired by everyone participating. I also felt enough accountability to give it a proper try. Practicing art or writing every day felt a little forced or awkward at times. It brought up insecurities and a lot of doubts. But through the process these feelings settled. I learned to be gentle with myself when I skipped days, but also to push myself on days when I felt I needed it. It set me on a trajectory to really embrace working on creative tasks if not daily then very regularly.

I’m nearing the end of another 100-day project now (our second together- well done us, Jamie!) and it feels like I’ve built new habits. For instance, when too many days go by where I don’t work on any writing or drawing something is missing. This path is still a lot of work, but the ideas flow a little more easily and the more I immerse myself in creative practice, the more connections are made, and more skills are built upon others. I’m so grateful for the project, for Suleika’s wonderful work and for all the creative souls I’ve had the good fortune to come in contact with and be inspired by each and every day.

I believe we are all creative beings. Creativity is a birthright. But it’s not just art or music or dance. It’s how we live our lives and often revealed in small, daily actions. I think most people would benefit from participating in their own 100-day project!

Andrea Bures lives and creates in Calgary, Alberta.

Connect with Andrea and check out her work on Instagram


Want to share your journey of how you found your jam? Let me know!

Read about coffee connoisseur, Jenn Young’s journey here.

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