The Shallow End – April 2020

Original Photo Credit: Etienne Girardet / Unsplash

Hello April!

Where do I even begin?

In case you missed it, I’ve decided to temporarily close my Etsy shop. I’m super disappointed, but I also believe it is the right decision for me right now.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to keep busy working. So a smidge of good news is that I’ll probably have a lot of new art added to my store when it is finally safe to re-open!

I recently tried a course from Laura Horn in watercolor abstracts. I absolutely loved it, and am finding so much joy in the painting process again. I’ve enjoyed drawing a lot recently, but after that course I just keep wanting to paint!

I really wanted to spend more time this year working with my physical art media, including watercolors. I never would have imagined this is the direction it would go, but I couldn’t be happier with it. While admittedly naps have increased significantly, I’m so grateful that I’m still finding energy to work, and finding joy in my art again. It’s a small comfort, in the scheme of things, but it can make a big difference in my day. I don’t want to take it for granted.

From my sketchbook

I’m struggling to watch much TV or movies right now. Classics like Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice seem to be forms of escape and entertainment for me, but that’s about it. These kinds of films are relateable in their humanity, but foreign in the lifestyle depicted. I can’t be nostalgic about Victorian or Regency England the same way I am about say, I don’t know… January? …This aversion to contemporary stories seems to be boundary I have drawn to protect myself from grief when what I’m seeking is to be entertained.

The only exception is The Amazing World of Gumball because it’s a ridiculous cartoon that makes us laugh at dinner time.


I’m reading a bit, as usual. But I’m definitely struggling to focus on any one book. (I’m making steady progress through Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, in case you were wondering.) But I’m also reading a few other fantasy or historical fiction books. And then there is Untamed by Glennon Doyle, which is fantastic. I haven’t finished it yet but I love it (and also her previous memoir Love Warrior). Both are sooo good.

I’m also considering re-reading one of my favorite books (although I haven’t decided which one). I used to re-read a lot, but I haven’t lately and think it might be a good source of comfort now. Do you have books you like to revisit? Let me know in the comments!


For the record, it actually feels like I spend the entire day playing Animal Crossing on the Switch and have no idea how there are enough hours in the day for any of the above to be true. 😉

Thanks for joining me at The Shallow End!

Creative Block

Original Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

I thought I was struggling with making art because I wasn’t creative enough (or anymore). Or maybe I was too lazy. I knew I wanted to create, but I still found myself hesitating to make any mark.

Normally the wisdom for “creative block” is to press on, to create anyway. And yes, this can absolutely work. Sometimes. One small idea can, when explored, lead to many more — and this repeats with each new idea, and before you know it, you have so much exciting stuff to create.

Sometimes.

The problem for me was I already had a list of ideas. I already knew what I wanted to do, I just wasn’t doing it. And to get started seemed nearly impossible.

I realize now that problem was two-fold.

First, I was putting so much pressure on myself that I was sucking the joy out of my work. I was starting to resent it. Second, I especially needed to feel that joy to make my art because I create “happy” art. I aspire to create art that makes people smile when they see it.

So for me, emotion plays a large part in the creative process. I know a lot of artists can work from a place of emotional depths — sadness and fear can be great sources of inspiration. However, I prefer to work from a place of play, humor, and exploration. And I just couldn’t push myself into that mindset.

So I gave myself room to just not make art for a while.

I worked on my hobbies, got up off the couch (my desk of sorts) and worked out (for fun!). In some ways, it was a mental vacation to explore ways to spend my time that help me destress and have fun. But it was also more than that– it involved talking to my doctor and getting help with my anxiety and depression. It was starting therapy and medication. It was journaling, and ice cream, and TV show binges, and yoga. Trying to cook, reading books, and taking naps.

Eventually, within a few weeks, I was feeling refreshed and ready to create again. Having a better mood and attitude and daily routines meant that I wasn’t daunted at the thought of creating artwork anymore. I feel like myself again, and this self wants to make art! I’m having fun with it again, and I think it keeps my work fun too. I know I now have the resources to find that bit of renewed energy and eventually channel it into my art.

By giving myself space to come back to creativity in my own time, I found myself no longer standing in my own way.


In this time of anxiety and uncertainty, lets all do our part to take care of one another, but let’s not forget to take care of ourselves as well. As writer Glennon Doyle often says, “we can do hard things.”

The Shallow End – March 2020

Original Photo Credit: Etienne Girardet / Unsplash

Hello March!

I didn’t do a lot of art this last month, admittedly. I spent a lot of time thinking about and figuring out what it takes to keep myself feeling inspired creatively. Some of the more successful approaches surprised me and I plan to talk about it more in depth in my next blog post…

But I did manage to get one painting done! The Rosy Alley (now available on Etsy!). I was really tempted to paint it in true to life colors from our trip to Italy — lots of pale oranges and vibrant greens. But I wanted the piece to be a little more playful than literal, so I decided to do a monochromatic color palette in a bright pink. It was a fun challenge to simplify my palette so much, and I enjoyed working on it a lot. I could see myself doing a bit more of these in the future!

The Rosy Alley

In other news, now that The Good Place is over (so sad, but it ended really well!), I’ve started watching a show that may automatically send me to the Bad Place… I blame Hulu, which kept suggesting it, but I’ve become obsessed with Love Island (the UK version).

It looked pretty bad, and I was certain I’d make it through the first episode of this season and be done. But I was super pleasantly surprised! Two weeks and 30+ episodes later, I’m nearly caught up. I think it’s the season finale this weekend??

Anyway, I couldn’t believe how weirdly positive this show is. Like cheesy American reality TV — a la The Bachelor and Big Brother — but with a “cast” that is as sweet as The Great British Bake Off. There were no real catfights or machismo. There was communication and friendships, silly comedy, and love stories at least as compelling as any others I see on scripted TV. I mean, it’s still cheesy and dumb, but I’m hooked.

But now that the winter season is basically over, I once again find myself not knowing what to watch. Hulu is suggesting Jersey Shore now, but no thank you! 😛


I’m still reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It’s starting to pick up and get very interesting — which means I might finish it this year!

But does anyone else struggle with reading (too) many books at once? I’m always back and forth among a stack of books. My only rule is I can’t overlap genres or there is no hope of keeping it all straight.

I’m a sucker for self-improvement and memoir books. And while I’m not known for being any type of active, I read a lot about health and fitness over the years. I started reading Train Happy by Tally Rye, on a whim, and I basically read it in a weekend. It was so good! It’s definitely a huge shift away from traditional fitness books, but in the best way possible. I never do the fitness plan in a book about fitness, and the same goes for this book — however, I have been so encouraged by her that I’ve been more active this last month that I have in years. Yay!

The book also referenced Beyond Beautiful by Anuschka Rees, and so I had to read that one as well. It’s tangentally related to health and fitness, but was also fascinating. I have both on my short list of books that I’ll be referring back to for the rest of the year. Highly recommend them both!

[Disclaimer: not a medical expert at all, just a book worm, and I don’t plan on changing careers and becoming a fitness blogger so you don’t have to worry about that! 😉 ]


Thanks for joining me at The Shallow End!

Small Steps

Original Photo: Rodion Kutsaev / Unsplash

Starting new art is intimidating.

But I’ve found that there are two approaches that help me to get started on a new illustration.

First, I start with the “next smallest step.” Fortunately, that rarely starts with a blank sheet of expensive paper. In fact, it usually starts with my sketchbook — testing out different layouts, perspectives, and proportions. After that, it’s figuring out color palettes, media to use, and the overall mood I want to convey. All done in my sketchbooks.

This seems to help because it’s harder to get nervous about lower-stakes tasks. It comfortably feels a lot like playing with my favorite supplies and colors. I can stay on this step as long as I need to before moving forward, and when I feel good about where I’ve ended up at these steps, it doesn’t seem as daunting to move on to the next smallest step…

Once I’ve got this prep work all done, I’m usually excited to get started. And even then, I just plan on starting with the smallest step. Just sketching. Just inking. Just waiting for it to dry…. None of that seems that hard by itself, and by the time I’m really going I have to force myself to take a break. Because at the end of the day, I love creating art. It’s why I do it. Even if I get a little nervous about it.

Which brings me to my second strategy — adjusting the goal. The nervousness usually comes from the risk of failure. Maybe the piece won’t turn out the way I imagine. Maybe the cat will jump on my lap and I’ll scribble all over what I’ve done. Who knows what could happen? Ultimately, what I don’t want to do is make something I can’t be proud of… but I’ve decided to shift my perspective of what I can take pride in. These days that looks like doing the work, and learning along the way. The end result is important, but it definitely isn’t everything.

Even if the piece isn’t that great, or what I expected, odds are very high I’m going to learn from the experience. Whether an illustration ends up in my shop or portfolio, or in the trash, it’s good practice no matter what. By changing my attitude, I lower the pressure on myself even more — that it’s okay to fail and success isn’t any one thing.

At the end of a project, I find that I’ve truly enjoyed each small step forward. (And even if I do make a mistake, I usually enjoy pushing myself creatively to solve it or work around it.) Basically, when I am able to remove the pressure from myself, and take things one step at a time, I remember how much I enjoy making art.


P.S. – Since this approach is working so well right now, I should have a few new items in my Etsy shop soon! Yay! (And if you haven’t checked it out recently, there are already a lot of fun prints and stickers available now!)

Introducing: The Shallow End

Original Photo Credit: Etienne Girardet / Unsplash

Hello February!

This year I thought I would shake up the blog a little bit. I really like offering a second post for the month, but I don’t quite work fast enough to regularly post a sketchbook tour.

When I do have a sketchbook or project to share, that will stay at the mid-month post. But for the months that I don’t, I’ll be offering instead my usual blog post content, which is usually a deep dive into a single topic that’s on my mind…

So what happens on the 1st? Well, The Shallow End — an informal newsletter of sorts, including behind the scenes of what I’ve been working on, inspired by, and any upcoming events (you never know!).

I’m really excited about this format, since I think it will allow me to share a bit more about myself but also more about my art too! I hope you enjoy it!


Over the holidays, I was really focused on stepping back and building a habit of sketching regularly. Normally I just sort of “doodled” at best. So, for January, I tried to get back into the rhythm of regularly making art, while still keeping up the sketching practice… and I’ve found it hard to do both well!

I seem to be okay with spending the day in my sketchbook with a pencil practicing skills I want to develop. OR I can grab my favorite art supplies and drawing board, and spend the day engrossed in a new illustration. The thought of doing both in the same day is weirdly intimidating. But I’m trying…

I did create a new watercolor piece in January — The Winter Night. I really want to focus on physical media this year — so, mainly watercolor, ink, and colored pencils. This means I’m also challenging myself to work from specific color palettes. I’m used to sort of winging it and making adjustments when I color pieces digitally. But physical media is much less forgiving in that regard so it’s forcing me to plan ahead… good practice in color theory, I guess!


In other news, I’m so sad The Good Place is over. I’m writing this just before the series finale, and I’m not ready. In case I haven’t mentioned it recently, I did my undergrad in Philosophy, and focused on Ethics. So it was great to see a comedy mention and even discuss ethics seriously. It was amazing. And honestly I think the show was funny anyway, even if I that hadn’t been my background. But after Thursday, I guess I’m back to not using my degree anymore. Haha. 😉


I started a reading goal for 2020 — stop buying new books. I have so many already that I haven’t read so I curated them into a reading list for the year. I’m also trying to be better about using the library, since they offer ebooks now too.

I’m currently reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. It’s one I’ve owned for a while but couldn’t get into previously. But as a huge Jane Austen fan, I’m back at it. I’m only a handful of chapters into it, but it’s starting to pick up, and I’m definitely intrigued by the lore and use of magic in the Regency era. It’s a cool concept, I guess I’m just waiting for a more exciting character to show up…But so far, no idea what’s going to happen!


Speaking of books, that’s definitely where I’m finding a lot of inspiration for my art right now. I’ve recently become a fan of Art Books. You know, the big, luxurious, full-color coffee table books filled with amazing art and the stories behind it? I knew there were books for the greats — Van Gogh, da Vinci, etc. But I’m learning it’s more common now for contemporary artists to offer art books too!

I stocked up on a few over Christmas, and I can already tell this new obsession will be my downfall, since they are kind of expensive — so I’m glad I’m sticking to free books otherwise. Oof!


What book are you reading right now? Are you mourning The Good Place too? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for joining me at The Shallow End!

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!