About Mary

Mary Dixon  
Artist, Doodler, Writer,
Creatively Fit™ Coach

Some of my story….

To say that I have had a circuitous path to being here as an artist (still hard to embrace that word), photographer (a love I am revisiting after giving up the professional part about 10 years ago), and writer (in my blogs at least), oh… and an occasional cartoonist… might be a kind of an understatement.

I have a pretty diverse background, starting out with what I thought I was *supposed* to do, more or less… with two university degrees (B.A. in Political science & LLB, Bachelor of Laws.)
I did become a lawyer, over 30 years ago, but knew pretty soon it was the wrong place for me, although it has taken me years to fully understand why. Part of it is just the way my brain gets into gear and focused, I actually have to LOVE what I am doing. I’ve been fighting it for a long time.

I have been heavily influenced or inspired by the partners I have been involved with, and after leaving law, met a professional photographer who became my life partner and mentor for a while. While I had started out trying to do some freelance writing, my interest in photography took over. It had not occurred to me when younger that one might actually be a pro photographer although of course I knew they existed, with studios, as journalists, or as artists. It was like I had some block in my vision of what was actually possible for me. I had loved photography as a hobby but had no art training at all in school, and in my youth believed everything required a degree.

A commercial shoot, looking like I know what I’m doing.

I found some specialized courses, and worked as a commercial photographer doing small freelance assignments and selling stock photos through an agency in Toronto.  I also had the luxury for a while of exploring my own artistic vision, making hand-made prints and exploring alternative photographic processes. My specialty became hand-printed infrared black-and-white photos, often hand-coloured, and also using manipulated Polaroid film to make Polaroid Transfer prints. This was mostly pre-digital, and also just as the revolution was happening, with a steep learning curve heading into that new era.

In 2000, I became a member of a brand new photo and print co-operative named ViewPoint Gallery in Halifax. I had three major solo shows, and participated in group exhibits there and at some other galleries in Nova Scotia. A relationship change led to a move and new inspirations, and for a few years I had my own home-based art gallery and studio to sell and show my work, something that I had actually dreamed of as a teen.

My former Third Eye Gallery

I rode the new digital wave of photography only so far before I stopped taking commercial photo jobs and eventually closed down my darkroom and gallery in 2011.

During the same period I had planted and grown a small lavender farm on the rural property I had moved to, discovering a huge love of gardening that I had never had the chance to experience previously. I sold products I made with the lavender and other herbs through my gallery shop and at local farmers’ markets. I enjoyed some delightful years there,  connecting deeply with nature, living on a forested acreage, watching the wildlife, photographing plants and insects, caring for a flock of chickens, growing vegetables and flowers, owning my first ever dogs.

Lavender. Still can’t believe I planted all that.

During this “mid-life” phase I also began an internal quest for meaning and spiritual insight. I wanted to understand myself, my relationships, my place in the cosmos, exploring some of life’s mysteries. That led to certifications in, among other things, Soul Coaching® with Denise Linn,  Advanced Reiki Training, NLP, Feng Shui, life coaching, and group facilitation and leadership. While I focused for several years on offering coaching and personal development with a sort of spiritual influence, it was an area of work which was not ultimately the best fit for me.

I was always happier making something tangible or visible, but it took a funny path to return me to art.

 In 2015, while banging my head against the wall of trying to make my work as a coach get more focused and successful, I met a colleague/coach whom I’d asked for some advice. We did some casual coaching together.

 That winter in Nova Scotia we had an incredible amount of snow in multiple heavy snowfalls. One day I created a small doodle/cartoon bemoaning the inundation on our hilltop, wondering, in my thought bubble, whether I could coach my little farm back to life. I posted it on facebook.

 My coach messaged me: “We need to talk.”

He had noticed a spark in me he hadn’t seen before, and offered me a challenge: to do a doodle every day, and post it on facebook, for the following 30 days to just see what would happen. I agreed, despite the fact that I had not been drawing for years. 

My friends became engaged by my silly, funny, sometimes poignant cartoons, as childlike as they were.

At day 30 my coach challenged me again, to another 90 days! I said yes. By the end of that my friends were asking when the “book” would be out, still despite the fact that my character Mary Doodle, who had evolved through this, kept changing.

 That fall and winter I self-published 200 copies of a glossy 50-page book of Mary Doodle cartoons. 

Soon afterwards I started sketching and doodling things other than my character “Mary Doodle Rural Life Coach,” using pen and watercolour.  My next inspiration came from a couple of women I had met through the coaching world. Both of them had recently learned to paint vibrant, expressive art using acrylics and a bold, “intuitive” style that used layers of colour, pattern, and meaningful symbolism. They were influenced by an artist named Whitney Freya who taught that process.

I decide to dive in and learn about their techniques. I soon caught the bug and by 2018 I had signed up for a couple shorter programs online by Whitney Freya and then joined her Creatively Fit™ Coaching certification in the fall of 2018. The idea that this art process was a form of *coaching* was what finally gave me *permission* to paint with acrylics on canvas. It was something I had resisted ALL my life…. thinking I had needed to go to art college to do it.

A mandala of hope.

Plus, I was a coach, I’d invested a lot in trainings. I felt I *should* be coaching. I know, I had a lot of inherited mental blocks, despite all my learning and self-awareness.

 So, now I doodle, and paint, and I photograph the landscapes where I walk my dog.  And having been certified in 2019, I also offer intuitive painting workshops as a Creatively Fit™ Coach, but am no longer doing individual sessions as as Life & Soul Coach.

My garden sanctuary.

Here on my web site I offer a Gallery Shop where you can peruse my original paintings, prints, and cards for sale, including photography, and find copies of my first book, “Mary Doodle ~ Stumbling Toward Enlightenment.”

The other big development in 2018 was that my husband and I sold our expansive rural acreage and moved 10 minutes away to a tiny lot in the small town of Bridgewater, NS. Downsizing from an open hilltop with large perennial beds, vegetable plots, and small lavender farm to a shady, fenced backyard, was a big challenge for this gardener. But a small, green sanctuary is taking shape. I hope to make it an intimate space for occasional summer painting workshops and art shows.

So, I am once again back to creating, whether in the studio, out with my camera, or in the garden, and sometimes writing in my blog, and hope to be sharing more in person with people once this pandemic eases up. Maybe I can help some other late bloomers remember their earlier creative urges and help give them permission and courage to play for the simple joy of creating and expressing. The rest of my time I enjoy a quiet and cosy life with my husband Edward, our cats Spirit and Leo, and dog Alfie.

Welcome to my web site.