Places

Original Photo Credit: Annie Spratt / Unsplash

One of my favorite ideas to explore when making art is a sense of place — either small spaces, like a bouquet of flowers in front of a window; scenic locations often viewed through a window; and large landscapes.

Admittedly, I never really noticed this pattern before. It wasn’t intentional, it just keeps showing up, and I’ve noticed a bit of a pattern. I mostly enjoy making art that when I look at it, I can kind of imagine I’m taken into the piece and find comfort and happiness there.

But, I mean, occassionally I’ll draw something like a croissant as the moon… so like I said, it’s just ONE of the themes in my work.

Anyway, I say all this because I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of place. I suppose one finds the time, when one doesn’t leave their place for months… But the real inspiration was in maps and mapmaking.

I think old maps are super neat, even though I don’t know anything about them. I just thought they were really pretty, and super interesting as a part of history. (Side note: the Galileo Museum was a hidden gem in Florence, Italy. It has so many old maps! They were incredible!).

A celestial globe at the Galileo Museum

Apparently I also didn’t realize that hand-drawn map making is still a thing, a genre of illustration. Once I learned, I was like, “I have to try this…why did I never think of this before?!” (Side note part two: I think for like one second in the Galileo Museum I was inspired to make my own map-styled art, but never thought about it again, because it was Florence ITALY and I was inspired by everything…)

So, I’ve bought a book on map making, because learning always starts with a book! And now I’m learning to make maps! I am still at the very very beginning, but I really like it so far. I’m excited to explore new ways for representing places in my work. I haven’t decided what kind of maps to make… I immediately thought made-up fantasy maps would be a lot of fun, but I’m just excited for all the different possibilities!

A compass rose!

It’s also exciting to be able to work on map stuff while I wait for watercolors or ink to dry… I’ve realized that painting is a game of patience (ugh!). So while normally I stick to one project at a time, I’m looking forward to having a couple different pieces to work on right now. After all, the days are long and I can only do so much puzzlin’!

The Shallow End – August 2020

Original Photo Credit: Etienne Girardet / Unsplash

Hello… August?!

This last month I took a sort of mini-staycation from my art. I stopped working on any big pieces, and got back into a sketchbook habit. I was already working on figure drawing and learning how to draw people. But this time I really tried to focus and keep at it.

To keep my practice simple, I just started drawing bits of my day, as a sort of mini-selfie. Taking out the trash, working on puzzles, and laying on the couch. It’s been a fun, informal kind of project, and while I don’t do it everyday, I do keep coming back to it when it’s time to practice.

This month, I can already tell I’m shifting away from my abstracts temporarily and returning to my illustrations. My creativity ebbs and flows, and right now I’m just really having fun drawing (thanks sketchbook habit!). As a result, I’m wanting to work on some bigger drawings outside of my sketchbook… I’m working on a few landscape illustrations right now. Just sketching and inking for now, and will go back and add color with watercolors. I’m really enjoying each step of the process, and am excited to share the finished pieces!


In other news, sports are back…

Well, they’ve been back for a while now (Liverpoooool! You’ll Never Walk Alone!)… but now there are even more viewing options! Fun fact: the WNBA is awesome! Go Lynx! This is my first time watching them play, but I’m already hooked.

In theory, I even feel inspired to go outside and kick the ball around or shoot hoops… but also it’s really hot outside, so maybe I just keep watching the pros?


I just finished reading a book for the first time in what feels like ages. The Power of Ritual by Casper ter Kuile is totally awesome and I highly recommend it, if you are into that kind of thing. Basically, it’s a fascinating read about secular and religious rituals as a source of meaning and connection in the modern age. That’s totes my jam.

I’m also obsessed with the Lumberjanes comics. Coincidentally, I’m officially coping with quarantine by imagining that this is just really long summer camp. There are a variety of activities (friendship bracelets, anyone?), s’mores (if we could freakin’ get graham crackers — I guess we’re not the only ones with this idea), and I’m thinking about getting a vuvuzela in lieu of a bugle for the daily wake up call…

This is fine…we’re totally fine…

And I clearly never went to summer camp, unless watching The Parent Trap a million times counts…

I feel seen. ✨ Credit: Girls’ Night In on Instagram

Thanks for joining me in The Shallow End!

Notes on Style

Original Photo Credit: Pawel Czerwinski / Unsplash

When I start a landscape, still life, or a drawing of an astronaut in space, the one thing I don’t have to think about is style. I have to consider the composition, color, and size of the piece before and during an art project, but the actual drawing style relies of experience and intuition. It evolves gradually, combining techniques and tips from artists I admire, but making those decisions, at this point, is largely more dependent on intuition than intention.

Yet, it seems pretty common for artists to worry about style at some point, and for me that has begun just recently, as I’ve started expanding my horizons for what I’m capable of drawing (i.e. learning to draw people!). So I thought this month I would share a few of my observations on style and what that really means for an artist…

First, no matter how you create, you have a style. This isn’t limited to fine art, but is true for home decor, fashion, writing, and really any creative form of expression. The way you choose to express yourself is your style. To me, style is just another word for approach — so, no matter what you make or how you make it, you are expressing a style. Learning to acknowledge that is the easiest part, which is good news. The bad news is that sometimes that’s not as easy as it sounds.

It can be hard to recognize our own style. We get numb to our unique way of thinking, realizing our approach is not likely to be identical to anyone else. Like, when was the last time you paid attention to your handwriting? I personally don’t think about it, I just write! It’s only when someone else says “that is your handwriting?!” that I stop and take note…and usually shrug, “oh, I guess?” As with handwriting, we don’t usually worry about naming or categorizing our style of writing, the way we can get transfixed by the names of fashion looks or home decor themes (e.g. “gothic coastal librarian” or “glam minimalist desert”). So when it comes to using our creative powers to make creative things, it can be easy to get distracted with what to call it — but the special part is that we made it, and named or not, it reflects our original approach to creativity.

Second, style can change, and that change can be intentional. Style reflects all the things that influence us in our work and creative endeavors. We all choose what we let influence and inspire us, which is then reflected in our unique tastes and approach (style). I’m personally interested in and influenced by Impressionist paintings, graphic novels, and Cartoon Network, among others. But because I tend to draw more traditional art subjects and not silly stories (usually), it becomes it’s own thing. And every artist makes these kinds of decisions. We all get to learn from who we consider to be the masters, and translate it into our own natural approach and let it gradually influence and evolve our style. We all learn and get inspiration from others, no one learns in a vacuum, and it’s the unique combination of experiences and influences that make you unique! And as much as I resent practice — it is practice where that influence transforms from intentional to intuition.

Third, don’t give into envy. There are so many ways to be creative. It can be hard to know what to choose to let inspire us, and to what extent. Nothing makes me more insecure as an artist that finding the style of an artist I love and realizing it looks so incredibly different than my own. Do I simply admire their work and let that be enough? Or do I learn from it and let it influence my work moving forward? A little bit of both? There are no clear answers (besides obviously not copying another’s work and using it as your own, but that’s a whole other conversation). Whatever I do, I find it is always the least helpful to beat myself up for not being creative the same way someone else is… Much of the time, the real joy (and anecdote to envy) is found in admiring another’s work for it’s own merit, and standing by my own as equally valid and creative. It takes confidence, and that itself can take practice too, but it’s never a wasted effort!


The Shallow End – July 2020

Original Photo Credit: Etienne Girardet / Unsplash

Hello July!

While I’m still not comfortable with re-opening my shop just yet, I’ve recently started to imagine what it would look like when that finally happens. It feels like kinda sorta starting to maybe get ready to re-open, which feels hopeful.

I mean, I have a lot of art work I’ve made recently that I’m excited to start turning into prints! But I’m also looking into eco-friendly packaging options and moving away from the plastic covers that I’ve used for storing and shipping prints. I always enjoy a good research project, and I’m glad to see there are so many resources available!

So alas, I don’t have plans to re-open my shop just yet…but it feels encouraging to consider as a possibility for the near-ish future-ish…


In the meantime, of course, I’m keeping plenty busy with writing poetry, watercolor painting, and drawing. I recently started a small series of watercolor abstracts inspired by our solar system. It’s been a fun little challenge to give myself a theme to work with, each planet inspiring a 5″x7″ painting. I’ve only made it to Earth, so I still have a bit of a way to go!

“Venus”

I’ve also been revisiting ink drawings again more than I have in a long while. I started with a space-themed landscape (go figure) that was a lot of fun. I really tried to add more detail than I’m used to, and added color with my watercolors. I think it turned out well, and I’m hoping I’ll come up with new, similar ideas to approach in this style.

Untitled

Right now, I’m also working on learning (once again) how to draw faces and figures. It’s something I’ve always wanted to be able to do, but I’ve been terrible at learning. But it can feel pretty limiting as an artist when the subject matter of “people” is just not available…

I guess I somehow missed the stage as a kid where you draw your favorite cartoons or comics or manga characters. So it seems a little ridiculous to be starting that now at this age — I’ve started studying manga in particular. But I’m really enjoying it and learning a lot, so who cares?! …I’ve read a lot on figure drawing in all kinds of styles (it’s really the practice I struggle with), but I recently started Mark Crilley’s Mastering Manga series. It’s been super helpful with the techniques it uses, so much so that I’m actually enjoying the practicing part… so yeah, highly recommend! And I’m excited to see what new visuals I’ll be able to create as my practice evolves!


Okay, so admittedly, a huge part of the inspiration for my art lately has been thanks to the anime show Dragon Ball Super! Haha!

Right before quarantine began we started watching Dragon Ball Z Kai. My husband watched it as a kid, but I had never seen it. So we made our way through like seven seasons of ridiculous fights in gorgeous scenery. After Kai comes Super apparently, which luckily is on Hulu, so we’ve been watching it now pretty regularly. Kai was good but in a totally ridiculous over the top way, but Super seems to have leaned into the ridiculous making it genuinely funny and entertaining. Plus the artwork is STUNNING. I still don’t care about the fighting sequences, but the linework and color use is incredible, so I keep watching (also fighting isn’t even the main story for Super, thank goodness!) … And I don’t watch a lot of anime, in general, we also watched Bofuri: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt so I’ll Max Out My Defense on Hulu this year, and it was fantastic. Can’t wait for season two!


As for reading, it is staring to feel like I’ll never actually finish a book! I can’t focus on any one of them, so I currently have a stack/list of half-read books on my desk and my Kindle that I rotate through. I tend to do this now and then, but this time is especially bad… Anyone else struggling with that right now, or is it just me??


Oh yeah! I almost forgot — time to share a poem!

The sky doesn’t feel blue
when the light shines through
yellow from the sun into
the glimmering green of the trees
I see outside the windows
and everything glows
with the lime light of nature’s
constant stellar performance.


Thanks for joining me in The Shallow End!

The Shallow End – June 2020

Original Photo Credit: Etienne Girardet / Unsplash

Hello June!

I finally feel like I found a natural rhythm to my work day. I took the pressure off myself to reach specific daily goals, and found that in giving myself that space to follow my intuition instead of a to-do list, I’ve become more productive overall. I’ve been painting and writing nearly every day now (in case you missed it, I’ve started writing poetry!). If I miss a day, it’s no worries. If I mess up and toss a painting, that’s okay too. Because overtime, I’m slowly developing a portfolio of new art and collection of writing that I’m proud of. Yay!

As I’m working more consistently and on projects I completely enjoy, I’m finding renewed confidence as an artist. I think previously I knew I made art, but I mostly viewed what I did as being an entrepreneur “who happened to make art.” But I think I’m starting to view myself as a fine artist first and foremost. It’s not a huge change, but it is still a shift in perspective that I’m embracing. And I’m excited to see what new possibilities for the future this mindset may create… Like, maybe there will be a day when art fairs will take place again in the parks, and galleries will reopen. And maybe when that day comes, I’ll be there too…?


I’m not watching much in the way of TV shows or movies. Bundesliga (German soccer) has resumed, so we’ve been watching that a bit over the weekends. It’s been interesting to follow different teams and players than we usually watch, so we’re enjoying it. Our local club also plays old matches throughout the week, so we’ve been watching some of the games we attended or were before our time. I can’t think of when else we would get the chance to watch that, so it’s been pretty neat!


As for books, I’m still reading a lot of poetry. Still. If you want the pro tip on how to be a better writer it can be summed up as thus: “read a lot, write more.” (As my husband observed, that’s the formula for how to get better at anything — “study, do.”)

That said, here’s a poem a wrote:

I live in the meanwhile
the time between
waiting for things
to happen
tending to that which I can
control, to distract
from the helplessness
of that beyond my reach
meanwhile…

hope.


Thanks for joining me at The Shallow End!

Early Days

Original Photo Credit: Freestocks / Unsplash

The espresso machine
fills the cup
with dark, warm
nectar.
It hums, it buzzes.
And soon,
so will I.

Sooo…I’ve started writing poetry!

It was something I had tried a bit last autumn on a whim. I literally have no memory of what compelled me to try to write that first poem. I know I had been reading a lot of poetry then — so I guess I’m just super impressionable that way? I don’t know…

Anyway, I stopped writing poems over the holidays. And then quarantine happened. I started reading poetry again, and in greater quantities than ever before. That basically encouraged me to start up writing again.

I genuinely love it — there is just something so interesting and challenging about poems. It lets me explore ideas and thoughts in a way I can’t always work through in my visual art. Plus, the process of writing poetry feels a lot like joy and contentment. And I don’t know about you guys, but I could use a bit more of both right now.

Maybe it weird to admit to it so early, but honestly, I’m hoping to turn my poems into a book! I’ve always wanted to write a book and I for some reason I thought that meant I had to write a novel… but I don’t actually like writing stories like that. I’ve tried! So, I never before considered there were other kinds of books to write — oops! …But now it feels like maybe this is something I can actually do! Yay!

It’s still very, very, early days for this project. So, I don’t know if I’ll use my artwork or create new artwork for the book, or skip including art altogether. But, I’m excited to have a new way to spend my time during the day. I still paint, make no mistake, but it’s hard for me to dedicate a whole day to painting or drawing. So, it’s been really nice to kind of follow a rhythm of moving between the two creative outlets throughout the day.

I know this will be a BIG project, and I’ve got a lot I’m learning about the process of writing and publishing. That said, in the meantime, I’m hoping to start sharing some of the more finished poems on my social media!

Originally, I was kind of embarrassed at the thought of sharing my poems (does this make me a poet now? an “instapoet”?? what is happening???) I’ve always considered myself an artist so sharing my art is very natural feeling. But sharing poems is so new and makes me nervous! But I’m going to do it anyway! And obviously, I hope you like them!

So let’s talk — have you started any new stuff during quarantine? Is there a hobby you’ve wanted to try but haven’t? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. – In case you need to hear it — you don’t OWE anyone discovering a new hobby right now or starting a big project or whatever. If the timing feels right, great! If it doesn’t, that is OKAY too! ❤

The Shallow End – May 2020

Original Photo Credit: Etienne Girardet / Unsplash

Hello May!

I hope to reopen my Etsy shop as soon as possible, but more importantly, as soon as reasonable and safe. Unfortunately, I do not believe that is right now. But I appreciate everyone’s patience and support right now.

In the meantime, I’ve been focusing on other business-y tasks that I usually don’t make time for… like, updating my website! I recently changed up the layout and design, and updated the gallery to better reflect the work that I’ve done in the last few years. I really like the look of the site now and hope it’s a lot easier to navigate too. Yay!

I’m also still keeping busy with my abstract watercolors. I’m having fun playing with new color combinations — something I’ve usually found more challenging than enjoyable. In some ways the abstracts feel like a far departure from my ink drawings, but I’ve also really tried to bring some elements from my drawing style into my paintings which I think works as a sort of bridge between the two genres of art.

I will go back to drawing eventually. But I think being limited to inspiration at home, abstraction has given me a lot more room, so to speak, to work and explore. For me, it draws more on a dreamy imagination than those sharp details that come from working directly from life or a reference photo…

Plus, it’s a lot of fun! I spend as much time in my sketchbook working with the water and paint to see how ideas will work and testing new techniques, as I do using my fancy paper trying to execute those concepts as a final piece. It looks less structured than my drawings, but it is way more thought out than I used to give abstract artwork credit. It’s a delicate balance between intuition and intention. I love it!


As for staying entertained while staying home, I’ve finally started to watch some television again, which I guess is a baby-step back towards normal. I was watching Veep before this all began, and now I’ve resumed watching it on Hulu the last week or two. At the rate I’m watching (nearly constantly during the day as background while painting — provided I’m not taking an Animal Crossing break), I’ll probably be finished with it in a few more days. Then I can go back to staring at the wall, or even better — my new hobby of playing solitaire until my eyes glaze over… but mostly, Animal Crossing…


I’d like to say I’m also reading a lot right now, but I’m not really. Or, I guess more accurately, I’m just reading differently. Lately I’ve found a renewed interest in poetry. When it start to feel like the anxiety is never going to stop, I open a book of poems. Right now, I’m reading the works of Rainer Maria Rilke, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, and Morgan Harper Nichols… oh man, Nichols’ “All Along You Were Blooming” was published this last month, but what I’ve read so far seems like it was only written this month, it has so captured the feelings I have about quarantine. It’s uncanny. Definitely recommend!


Thank you for joining me at The Shallow End!

Normal

Original Photo: Diane Alkier / Unsplash

I shaved my head.

Correction — I made my husband shave my head.

My hair has gone from shoulder length and permanently in a messy bun, to an undercut pixie thing ala Abby Wambach.

So we’re handling stay at home pretty well. Obviously…

I kid… not about my hair. That actually happened. But about it being some sign that we’ve officially “snapped” under quarantine.

This is not my first foray into super short hair. I first cut all my hair off in high school, wore it short all through college, and again a few years ago. According to a few pictures hanging in my office, I basically had this exact hair cut at least once before. (Weirdly I like this version better; my husband was fearless, whereas many stylists understandably are nervous to do a big cut like this.)

Anyway, I quickly realized that while the decision was spontaneous and immediate, a drastic hair cut with a beard trimmer and office scissors is, for me, way less impulsive than it sounds.

In a way, it is actually a return to myself.

Staying at home is really really hard. And I say that as someone who is intensely introverted and would only leave to go to the store once a week…or recently, to go to therapy to discuss, among other things, figuring out how to get out of the house more (heh, great timing!).

Yet, as hard as it is, in some small ways, I’ve found it also kind of freeing.

I used to declare before that I was “beholden to no one” in regards to my schedule. I had work and I had free time and I could mix and swap them as I pleased. Now though, I find myself “beholden to no one” in many other areas of my life. Social norms kind of go out the window when you officially stop being social.

Apparently, upon introspection, a lot of my “normal” was just a reflection of those social norms. My hair is just one example of “things that I delt with because I thought it was expected, but really doesn’t matter to me.”

I’ve decided to view this time of social distancing as an opportunity to figure out who I really am when no one is watching. My goal isn’t self-improvement, but more of a self-reflection. It’s not re-invention, but re-discovery.

It’s not about coming out of this better than I was before. Instead, my goal is to know myself better and to know exactly what I’m made of, while in the midst of all this.

For me, this is a silver lining to the clouds of anxiety. This small shift in mentality is making things feel just a little easier, a little more comfortable, rather than make a hard time even harder by feeling pressured to reach big goals and make big changes.

Again, “we can do hard things.”

Stay well.

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.”