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Forward

Original Photo: Joshua J. Cotten / Unsplash

Happy New Year!

2019 was a whirlwind. I quit my job to make art full-time, turned thirty, went to Italy, and had my first expo booth! It was all super exciting and incredible experiences!

But a lot of the year was spent in the quiet normalcy of routines that I love — trips to the grocery store, game nights with friends, and watching soccer. (So. Much. Soccer.)

After re-evaluating my personal and professional goals for the future, I spent December building the habits I need to make progress in the right direction. Since I’m not a person who believe in “the hustle” (as I’ve mentioned before), I’d much rather “work smarter than harder.” And in the last few months, I’m realizing that the smart way to work is in small consistent steps forward. In the quiet routine. But part of that also meant redefining consistency.

In the past, if I stopped something no matter how briefly — missed a day of a yoga challenge, didn’t find time for Inktober, for examples — that was the end. I had failed. But it shouldn’t work that way. The real failure is simply not picking back up where I left off. Life is messy and I’ve decided that a 30 day challenge is just as important and helpful and challenging if it’s finished in 35 or 40 or 60 days, or however long it takes. If it’s important to you, it’s just important to keep coming back to it, even if you drift away for a bit.

I’m also giving myself room to start again without feeling like I have to start over completely. When I’m learning something, I don’t unlearn everything if I make a mistake. I use what I’ve learned to keep going. For something like Inktober, if I miss a day of drawing, I don’t feel like I have to re-do the work I’ve already done. But yet, that’s kind of how I approach any other resolution for a new routine or habit. Not helpful.

It seems so obvious when I write it out this way. But for a long time I’ve been terrified of failure. And yet, I simultaneously had a very narrow definition of success. There is plenty I can be afraid of — the learning process shouldn’t be one of them.

So that’s my hope for 2020. I have some modest goals for the year and things I want to get better at or spend my time on. And this year, I will succeed if I just keep moving forward.

My word of the year is: FORWARD.

If you have a word you’ve picked out for 2020 (and feel comfortable sharing) I’d love to hear it!

Sketchbook Tour: Watercolor Landscapes

Original Photo: Sarah Brown / Unsplash

Surprise! Another sketchbook!

I’m really pleased with how this one turned out. I think watercolor landscapes might now be some of my favorite work. But I’m also exhausted! I’m working on a new sketchbook challenge currently and one of the prompts was “landscape painting” and I was like, “yeah, no thanks…” and improvised something else just semi-inspired by the prompt.

All of these paintings were done from photo references from Unsplash. So they were already amazing pictures, but I enjoyed framing them in this really wide ratio.

I’ve definitely fallen in love with the medium after this sketchbook. And if you’ve noticed in my Etsy shop, I have a few prints of original landscape paintings that I was inspired to create after this was finished. While I’m taking time to work on other stuff right now, I definitely plan on creating more originals in this style next year!

For now, enjoy and happy holidays!

Own Goals

Original Photo: Annie Spratt / Unsplash

This year I had goals.

This was new for me. I’m not typically goal-oriented about anything. But I felt that this year I needed to push myself and have a clear direction for where I was going to focus my attention.

I only realized the last few weeks that those goals didn’t match anything I really valued.

Oops.

Instead, I noticed that they tended to reflect what I thought made other people successful, or even worse — what I thought other people would think would make me a success.

These are both terrible guides for goal creation, as at no point does it factor in: what does success look like for you? I decided it’s entirely possible to view someone as successful and not want that level or type of success for yourself.

I was glad I had this epiphany of sorts, albeit a little later in the year that I would have preferred. I felt liberated in shedding myself of these ambitions. I mean, I won’t say I had adopted a “hustle or bust” attitude this year, but I took regular measured steps on my to-do list. Still, I was so glad to stop feeling the pressure, even just from myself, to work towards something that ultimately I didn’t want.

But, it was also uniquely stressful. I was now left without any direction and nothing to motivate myself but work for work’s sake. Which, let’s be real, it may sound good to just love to do the work. And I love my work. But that’s not always enough to get it done. What I lack in motivation, I make up for in deadlines (but I didn’t know what those should be anymore!)

Now goal-less, I gave myself time to just think about it. I had to sit down and actually ask myself, “what do I think success would look like for me?” (which I hadn’t thought to ask before). Once I had a better idea (which took way longer than I anticipated), I then had to decide what does that mean for my goals — what steps do I actually have to take to get to that kind of success?

I’m pleased to report that after this thought-exercise of sorts, I have a much better understanding of what I value, and a better sense of direction for the purpose of my work. I don’t know if it was a matter of my goals being wrong from the start, or if I had just changed over the course of the year. But, I definitely underestimated the value of checking in– not just with my goal progress, but with my goals themselves.

My goals may now sound silly, if I said them out loud. And I don’t want to say what they actually are, because that always seems to make them ten times harder to reach! They may not be taken seriously, or be understood by others. Or maybe when I share them, people will just go “of course, that makes perfect sense!” But either way, it doesn’t matter. Because this time, they are really mine.


Happy holidays!

Gratitude

Original Photo: Matthew Henry / Unsplash

This year I’ve been trying to work on gratitude. I’m not very good at writing it down — things that I’m grateful for — because it almost gives me weird test anxiety. I worry that I’m not including the right things, or that my list is too repetitive. I just didn’t care for it. But I do like the idea of being more open to gratitude. For me, I tend to understand it as a feeling, and I’m trying to be better about noticing that feeling. Noticing that a sunset is gorgeous and I’m grateful to witness it. Noticing how content I feel while curled up on the couch with my cats and a good book. But even using these examples makes me feel uncomfortable — should these be the things I’m supposed to notice, or are they too cliche? Does it matter?

I’ve read in so many places that gratitude is important. But the details on what to do with it are pretty vague. We’re supposed to work on it, and practice gratitude. But besides recognizing an emotion, what else should it involve? What does it look like to adequately demonstrate gratitude? I know saying “thank you” is important. But sometimes it’s either difficult to express, or just not sufficient. Plus, I admit, I’m not great at expressing myself emotionally anyway. Usually that looks a lot like getting flustered and teary-eyed when I’m mad. But I’m just as bad at giving thanks.

Sure, I try to remember to say “thank you” in transactional exchanges — thanking the kid that bags my groceries at the store, thanking a barista or server, as examples. But how do I thank friends or family for something like emotional support? Oof. Just saying “thank you” doesn’t seem to make sense. And gratitude of a social nature requires a level of vulnerability that makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I can simultaneously realize that I value the relationships in my life AND not want to tell them. Oops.

No wonder the idea of Thanksgiving stresses me out. I definitely enjoy getting together with family and eating a delicious meal. But we don’t really have any traditions or rituals about giving formal thanks. And honestly, the few times I can remember being asked “what are you thankful for this year?” I tend to panic answer, “this dessert.” Cool.

So I think Thanksgiving is important, but I’m worried I’ve become just a little cynical about it.

The only way I can think to remedy this is to lean in to the holiday. I’ve decided that Thanksgiving, not unlike Halloween or Christmas, should be celebrated in the approach. I think this November I’m going to take a moment each day to really reflect on the year, and practice gratitude. This won’t be super formal, like a ritual, but it will be intentional. Then, on Thanksgiving, I think I will try to shift focus from contemplation to celebration and being thankful with others.

I almost mean to turn it into an early New Year’s Eve. But rather than focus on the future and new beginnings, I’m hoping that at Thanksgiving I will take a moment to celebrate the good things that happened this year and the gratitude that came with it…It’s not a contest or competition or a test. It should just be like a comfortable, chill party, with good food and great company…

Actually, that sounds pretty reasonable. In fact, it sounds a lot like Thanksgiving as it already is…

Maybe I just need to be more grateful.


I’m not going ask you to share your Thanksgiving traditions (unless you want to!), but if you want to read more about gratitude (that is written a lot better), I highly recommend Diana Butler Bass’ Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks. A perfect Thanksgiving read!

The Neighborhood Sketchbook

A few months ago, I wanted to challenge myself to drawing everyday. As an extra challenge, I wanted the sketchbook to be cohesive. So, the task was two-fold– be consistent, and don’t get bored. (I usually can handle a “theme” but I don’t typically draw the same subject matter multiple times in a row.)

But then I accidentally ordered an accordion sketchbook, and then the challenge became like a dozen-fold.

Now I had to pick something that made sense in a sketchbook that could be folded out into one really, really, really long page…

First, I was inspired by artist Minnie Small and her illustrations of houses (check her out! She’s my favorite!). Then, I remembered I used to draw houses as a kid, and I just really like architectural drawings. Plus, I thought it would be kind of interesting to see a bunch of different houses all in a row, when the sketchbook is unfolded.

Each drawing uses Tombow Dual Brush markers, because I had a bunch and liked how they worked but wanted to get more practice with them. It also limited my color palette, but in a good way. And the linework was all done with my trusty Copic multiliner pens.

All the photos came from either Google Maps (just picking random locations) or Unsplash (which is, for the record, where I get all my reference photos in my work. Highly recommend!)

So here it is:

“The Neighborhood”

The coolest part of the sketchbook is that it unfolds into one ridiculously long page of illustrations. However, I do not currently possess a table long enough to hold it all. Here is a picture that kind of demonstrates the overall effect:

Maybe you recognize the picture from my Instagram account? Which if you aren’t already following me on Instagram, now is a good time to start!

So there you have it — another sketchbook tour! I hope you enjoyed this one! I definitely did!


Have you ever created a mini-challenge for yourself to learn something new? Any tips for building up a new habit, art related or otherwise? Share in the comments below!

Italy

Buon Ottobre!

I am not a good traveler. I would love to frolick through the airport to my gate, stopping for friendly chatter with the locals, Starbucks, and a selfie. But instead I get to the airport a few hours extra-early “just in case” — and am in line to check my bags before the airline agents are there yet. I don’t mean to, but travel is chaos. And I do not handle it well. I try my best to stay on schedule and organized, but that means I have to work very hard to relax enough to actually enjoy my trip…

Going to Italy this last month for my first international adventure was a gift. My husband had been numerous times before, so he took care of all of the planning. My only request was to see the Spanish Steps, until I realized that wasn’t the Appian Way, and that in fact I didn’t want to worry about it this visit anyway.

Instead, we got to see so many amazing museums and churches and ruins. We ate so much pasta and gelato and more gelato and more gelato. Like, seriously, they started recognizing us at the gelateria next to our hotel. We were regulars within a week. (I’ve never been treated like a regular at the restaurant at home that I’ve been going to for nearly a decade now!)

I had kept my expectations grounded, considering every rave review I’d heard of Rome and Italy to be influenced by equal portions nostalgia and romanticism. But I have to admit, I was amazing. I really enjoyed the two weeks, and never tired of the art and architecture of that beautiful country. And gelato.

I did quickly tire of Italian television. Hours of The Amazing World of Gumball re-runs in Italian that still somehow cracked us up despite the language barrier.

I know what you’re thinking — “you didn’t learn Italian?” No. I really really tried, thanks to months of Duolingo. But forgot it instantly (thanks jetlag, maybe?) and what I remembered I was barely confident enough to use. “Grazie!” and “Il conto, per favore” and “l’acqua naturale” were my staples. (“Thanks” “check please” and “still water” (instead of the much more popular fizzy water)).

Oh, wait… is that not what you were wondering? Are you surprised to find that we watched television? Hours of it, no less? That’s fair. I didn’t expect it. And judging by the size of the TVs in our rooms, the hotels didn’t guess it either.

But the reason we were watching so much television is also the reason I think we managed to enjoy our trip so much.

Siesta.

I had really only heard about “siesta” as a Spanish cultural norm. But apparently it can be pretty common in Italy too. And we adopted it wholeheartedly. I really think it kept us sane. Every day we would enjoy a small breakfast and cappuccino, venture out to a museum, have a relaxing lunch, and then head back to the hotel for a few hours. Then, go to another museum or sight, before a late and long dinner somewhere.

That seista was the perfect break in our day. We went nearly everywhere on foot, and even if we took the subway, we still spent a while in lines or hours walking through the museums. Add a late-summer heatwave and crowds of likeminded tourists and we were exhausted every day by two o’clock. We used the break to rest our poor feet, enjoy some air conditioning, re-hydrate, and research what we wanted to do in the afternoon (and more importantly where we would eat dinner!).

It felt very weird to spend hours hiding away in our hotel. Almost wrong. Like we were wasting precious time in our limited stay. There is so much to do on vacation, especially in places like Rome and Florence… But what might have been lost in adventure, we made up for in appreciation. By remembering to rest every day, we stayed consistently in good spirits and excited about what we were doing. I think if we hadn’t stopped now and then to rest and recover, we very likely would have gotten so fatigued that we easily could have lost an entire day or two to exhaustion. And that would have been worse, in my book. After all it was still vacation, and the point was equally to escape from the busy-ness of our daily life as much as it was to explore another country.

Travel is still chaos. International, even more so, I’ve learned. But I’m so glad we were still able to rest and enjoy time off as we experienced the extravagant and lush vistas of Italy.


Do you have ways to stay rested during a busy vacation? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Ciao!

A Sketchbook Tour – Part Two

— In case you missed it, HERE is Part One! —

This sketchbook started out as a place to work on ink and watercolor pencils. But by the end, I was getting restless and was rushing through it. I was using all kinda of media, and struggled to find quotes. I was much less worried about how neat and pretty the finished project was for the second half, and honestly it shows. Instead I was focused on consistency in my work habit, making sure I put pen and pencil (and marker and paint) to paper everyday.

I didn’t love the over all look, by the end of it. But I can’t really complain since it did keep me working. And if you follow my work closely, you might see a few pieces that were basically rough drafts for other finished works I did separately from the sketchbook. If there has been one less I’ve learned this year, it’s been the value of practice and sketching (two things I normally try to skip, if I can).

Let’s begin!


“There is a place for anyone who wants to be creative.” – Danielle Krysa
I own this lantern, but in reality is a like a green/red plaid and pretty gaudy. I’m not sure how it caught my eye at one time. So here I used the shape as a reference and practice a much more subtle color palette.

“My time has come when my crown is reunited with the eternal flame! I shall be restored to my full might and will tower over the mountains to bury my sword deep into Asgard!” – Thor Ragnarok
I watch a lot of movies while I work, but mostly the same movies over and over. The Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, Arrival, and Thor: Ragnarok. This piece was absolutely inspired by the landscape at the beginning of the movie. Epic!

After the Italian landscape in Part One, I felt encouraged to try another large landscape. I think the large open shapes are not my style usually, but the watercolor pencils provided a nice texture to keep it interesting, so I think it works. But I actually don’t think it would be nearly as interesting if I had used traditional watercolors.

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” – Julia Child
I hate this one. Nearly everything about it, I hate. There are plenty of times that I finish a piece and hate it, and maybe even throw them away… I can’t do that with this one, so I guess it’s just a reminder there is always room to improve. Ugh.

“Ah! There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.” – Jane Austen
Disheartened after the macaroon incident, I decided to paint this house instead of using the pencils as I normally did. I had just started reading “Everyday Watercolor” by Jenna Rainey and felt like I could tackle a house drawing if I took it step by step… Yeah, not so much. So this house is very blue, very streaky, and not great, but it did give me a pretty great idea… (but that’s another sketchbook!)

“Body be bangin’.” – Playing House
Playing House is a three-season TV show that ran on TBS a few years ago. It’s one of my favorites and I quote it all the time. The female leads are amazing — my heroes. And this lady statue was giving real hero vibes. Second, I did not realize the boob was out until I started inking the piece. I don’t normally draw boobs, but eh, “want a boob? flop, there’s it is.” (A quote!)

“Wildness is a part of who we are.” – Beth Kempton
More watercolor painting. Decided to take a step back and try something that can handle a little messiness. Flowers are very forgiving.

“Ut pa tur aldri sur.” – Norwegian saying
I’m pretty sure it’s literally “out on tour, never sour.” Basically, it’s hard to be in a bad mood while hiking. Agreed… This daffodil was also done with watercolors. Still definitely just learning at this point. But I drew the daffodil from memory instead of a photo, so that was something different for me!

This is when the watercolor fatigue hit for a while, and I switched over to markers. I really enjoy drawing palm trees, their leaves are so interesting. I didn’t love the way the markers worked out, but I enjoyed the ways the colors popped!

Still too lazy to practice watercolors. I really wanted to try to draw the ocean, but wasn’t sure how to tackle it. It’s mostly a matter of color, the ripples and waves are just suggested with lines. I drew it twice to see if I could duplicate the color of the water but pair it with a lighter color sky. Turns out I can, and that I actually liked both!

“You can find your true home in the full relaxation of your mind and body in the present moment.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
More markers. Again, at this point I’m drawing just keep to the habit up. I like the shading at little, but otherwise don’t love this one. I think this piece is peak “what am I doing anymore??” with this sketchbook.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” – Rachel Carson
At the time, I was proud of this piece for painting with bolder colors, and trying a more detailed landscape. Now I’m just proud of how much I’ve improved since then! 😉

“It might have been done before but it hasn’t been done by you.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
This quote by Elizabeth Gilbert keeps me going on, when it feels like absolutely nothing is original anymore.
At this point, I realized I want to practice landscapes more. A lot more. I knew I wasn’t getting it “right” but that I was really enjoying the challenge of it.

The last page! And a personal favorite! I think I went back to watercolor pencils for this one. And after this piece, I was resolved that I would keep trying new landscapes… (but that’s another sketchbook!)


So there you have it! A finished sketchbook!

I have a few other sketchbooks I’ve been working on lately, and if you want to see some of the work before it makes it to the blog, check out my Instagram! If social media is not your thing, I definitely plan on posting more sketchbook tours on the blog soon!