Show & Tell (blog)

  • Working digitally has its pros and cons; much as I love the versatility of Photoshop, I also find it takes forever needling and nitpicking, picking the right brush to do the job (there are too many brushes out there, which is a blessing and a curse!). And even though I do a lot of traditional drawing/markmaking to break up the digital, I have been wanting to push my traditional/digital ratio. So after a lot of research, I decided to order some cel vinyl acrylic paints from Cartoon Colour, seeing awesome results from folks like Martin Ontiveros, Tim Biskup, Drake Brodahl, and Martin Hsu. This is my first little painting experiment, and I have to say, it’s pretty awesome stuff. I always love the look of gouache but for whatever reason mixing it and getting really opaque results with fine lines and drybrush has been beyond me. This stuff makes it easy, and I suspect there’s some really fun things I could do with markmaking and layering traditional and digital mixed media with this stuff.

    I don’t really think like a painter, more like a drawer or a printmaker, but I’m hoping with practice this will change! I will share more as I keep playing around with this stuff.

  • The lovely folks at Working Not Working did a little feature on me; I thought I’d share the little behind the scenes snippets of my studio space I shot for it. This space is little, but comfortable.* I do wish I had slightly better lighting— eventually I need to get a replacement light for my drawing area. You can see my newest studio addition, an adjustable standing desk (The hardware is from Stand Desk, and the top’s an Ikea bamboo, if anyone’s curious)! I have been using it for about four days now, and besides being a very effective high-rise perch for my little canine buddy, it feels really nice to try and work in a hopefully healthier way. Hunching over a monitor or piece of paper 10hrs a day can’t be that great for anyone! Plus I apparently tend to shuffle and dance a lot more while I work this way. It’s not DDR but I’ll take it!

    *Fun fact: my dedicated studio workspace (not counting art storage) is like 35 square feet (enclosed by my two desks and flanked by my husband’s workspace.). The standing desk also makes it a bit more open, which helps me not feel as claustrophobic. Always a bonus!

  • A special new year surprise— my lovely editor and art director over at Chronicle sent me an advance copy of Interstellar Cinderella— my first illustrated picture book! What a blast to work on. Every page was made with sheets of rubylith, ink, shape, washes and pencil— all meshed with digital process into a cacophony of color, shape, texture and pattern. The book, written by the lovely Deborah Underwood, is a retelling of the classic story where Cinderella is a fiery girl who wants nothing more to fix spaceships and be a space mechanic. Plus, the front cover has this amazing holo foil treatment that looks like oil on pavement. So neat.

    It’s available this May— preorders are already up on Amazon and Powell’s. I can’t wait to see it at Powell’s and I hope lots of kids enjoy it! Meanwhile, I can’t wait to work on my next picture book— any takers? I’m itching to incorporate collage :)

  • Just like that, another year down. The end of the year has gotten me particularly thoughtful over the last five years, and this year was turbulent but a lot of really good things happened. In 2014 I visited Iceland (more on that TK), completed my first children's book, continued teaching/ mentoring, got braces, moved across town, went to ICON8, Crafty Wonderland and Linework NW... A lot of other things also happened (good and bad), but this is a time to look forward and dream/make new goals.

    [in case you didn’t figure it out, I’m back in CT for a few more days, hence the seaside theme. I wrote captions but I guess they don’t show up in dashboard view? Hm.]

    Here goes for my list of goals. Dreaming big for 2015.

    Professionally:

    • I am looking forward to the release of Interstellar Cinderella in the spring— I have a copy back in Portland I can’t wait to peek at and share with you! I hope 2015 brings more picture book projects or book covers. Working on my first picture book was so hard but so fulfilling and I want to keep doing more.
    • Tying into that, I really want to target books as a goal for 2015. I want to practice writing more and develop the zine/book series I have plotted out in my head, hopefully quarterly. After working with so many lovely thesis students, the idea of books/visual essays is so appealing to me. I also want to come up with something to pitch to Nobrow.
    • I am planning on making work based on my Iceland trip— travelling internationally was life-changing and I am craving it. One of the zines I will make will tackle that trip, but I want to find more excuses to travel. I would love to do a travel workshop or travel somewhere for an on-site project.
    • I also want to explore ceramics- first through a class and then hopefully with a collaborator!
    • I’m hoping within the first half of 2015 to find a studio space outside my home for proper work/life balance, and to work alongside my talented friends.
    • I want to practice what I preach to my students and establish more of a daily sketchbook practice. Looking back at my career thus far, I’ve done well for myself but I want to level up, draw more from life, extend my patience for harder subjects, expand my visual vocabulary. This might be digital or traditional, but my hope is the more I target weaknesses, the better my art will become and the faster my output will be.
    • Plenty more freelance of course, but also making time for collaborations as well as personal projects.
    • I hope to step up my documentation/process game too. I want to get a tripod for my phone, continue to upload behind the scenes shots of work in the studio both here and on Instagram, and share more insights about the work.
    • As I continue to broaden my focus (teaching/mentoring/freelancing) I have found it harder to keep on top of professional practices. Email + self promo have been particularly tough and I want to be better at that.

    Personally:

    • I think health has taken a bit of a toll as I overwork myself. My muscles need more strength and sitting hunched over a drawing for 10+ hours at a time is not good. So I am promising myself to enact better lifestyle habits. Making time for cooking + gardening, longer walks with the pup and tricycle rides, running, trying bouldering (I got hooked on climbing and solving problems in Iceland), and also setting up a standing desk to work digitally at. It’s gonna be frustrating and uncomfortable at times but I want to be a stronger and healthier human being.
    • More reading, more researching, more writing.
    • Making more time for friends, family, and non-art activities. Too easy to get sucked into work and I want to be better-rounded.
    • Enjoy 2015 no matter what it throws at me!
    I hope you’re all having a lovely first day of the new year; thanks for sticking around with me this far and I’m excited to show you what’s next. Let’s make it amazing.
  • Free Illustrated Holiday Gift Tags!

    Hey all— I have been away juggling the end of the semester, making a ton of stuff for Crafty Wonderland this past weekend, and now I’m flying back for a holiday respite! I hope to post with an end of the year recap soon, but in the meantime I wanted to pass along news of a little holiday gift from all of the illustrators at Scott Hull Associates— a pretty set of printable gift tags to adorn your hard picked (maybe handmade?) gifts for loved ones!

    Head over to Scott’s site to get them! Mine of course is the ornery but sweet Yule Goat.

  • Hey friends, remember me? One of my goals for 2015 is to establish a better more personal blog practice, but I have still been working away even if it’s been a little quiet outside on the internet. Right now I’m doing a ton of work gearing up for Crafty Wonderland next month— and this is the first screenprint I’ve finished for that! Stay tuned.

    "Early Birds," 5 layer screenprint, 2014.

  • Just spotted this illustration is out in the wild! Before I adventured off to Iceland, I got a nice little project from SooJin Buzelli to illustrate a piece for CIO for their feature on knowledge brokers. Lots of fun excuses to draw glowing pomegranates and get a little experimental with the marks.

    Had a lot of fun with this one!

  • Recently I was commissioned by Adobe to put together some header illustrations for their Creative Cloud video tutorial series. An interesting challenge in finding non-literal imagery to depict applying gradients in Edge Animate, keyframe animations in After Effects, photo touch up in Photoshop, Edge Web Fonts in Dreamweaver, and the History panel in Photoshop.

    In the process of making these images, I learned a few new ways to flex creatively in Photoshop and the whole thing has me itching to experiment with new imagery. Stay tuned on that.

    Thanks very much to Kendall Plant and the rest of the Adobe CC team for a lovely project!

  • Drawing drills.

    Hi friends, I still need to post up something about my recent Iceland trip (which I forgot to let you know about! I went to Iceland! The photo above is of Haystack, a little needle-felted friend who came with me for the journey) but since I got back there’s been a lot on my mind about art practice, and I’ve been trying to think of how we make and especially when you make art for a living there’s some weird things you have to navigate as you get deeper into it. Such as making work for yourself versus for a client and letting it not ‘be’ for anything but for making it, learning when and where you need to switch things up to keep it stimulating for yourself, how to go back and shake yourself out of the bad habits you’ve built up over years, how to keep patient when you just want to move onto the next thing, how to stoke excitement when art feels like work, and the like.

    I’ve been doing some sleuthing online and a lot of the advice given is geared towards beginners and is a little more technically dry than I’d like. But I do think there’s some good things to mine from it; lately I’ve been trying to think of art practice like a sport or like exercise— you build up skills like muscles as you create work, but sometimes you let other muscles work to cover up weaknesses and get lazy. So drills and exercises (something I think we often think are boring/simple or for beginners) are useful to help break those habits and become a little more well rounded, as well as help you regain some excitement when things feel routine, or feel more patient when you’re hitting a wall.

    I solicited responses on Twitter last night and got a good slew of ideas to practice no matter what stage you’re in! I wanted to share them with you (if you have others feel free to message me and I’ll add to this list!)

    • completing a sketchbook where you work with ink or paint only- no pencil underdrawings!
    • thumbnails of existing compositions/movie stills/etc to gain better color/tonal/composition sense.
    • do warmup paintings in a found or altered book- working with type on a page gives you a compositional challenge, but is also less intimidating than a blank page.
    • do morning warm up drawings, such as doing a small lettering warm-up.
    • figure drawing sessions or drawing at a coffeeshop/public space.
    • make a list of the things you get specific about and make them iconic and simpler. Make a list of things you use visual shorthand for (a t-shirt, car, bar of soap) and get specific.
    • create a list of words/phrases and randomly pull from them, then illustrate something fusing those ideas. (magnetic poetry style!)
    • do 100 20-minute sketches from life.
    • draw with kids to find spontaneity and focus— learn from their fearlessness!
    • also, have kids as art directors giving you assignments.
    • take bad, rejected, or old sketches and spend time to fix them into a finished piece.
    • take something you’ve made/designed and translate it into the spirit of another style/time period/art movement/voice. Or try and draw it from a different perspective or viewpoint, or try and draw what happened before or after it, or draw the opposite of it.
    • give yourself an alter-ego with a totally different visual voice, and try and create work for them.
    • create a project with parameters and a goal to explore, and a set end date and accomplish it.
    • if you draw fast, try to redraw it really slower and slower, find places to add specificity. Or redraw with your eyes closed. If you draw really complicatedly and slowly, find ways to redraw quicker and simpler but still keeping the essence of the subject.
    • blind contour drawings are really great to practice seeing without assuming. Drawing upside down, working with continuous line, or drawing negative spaces of things is also a good way to think differently.
    • sitting with another person who draws, draw the same thing with your eyes closed.
    • stream of consciousness drawing.
    • change scale, draw standing up (or bonus, draw with your pencil on a dowel 3 feet away from the paper).
    • draw something you feel very comfortable drawing. Then consider how an alien would consider that thing and what it wouldn’t know about it. Is there a way to convey more personality/information into that drawing?
    • try and draw things without line.
    • try and translate your drawing into a 3D medium and then redraw it after making it.
    • the biggest thing is though: build time to practice, and DON’T TALK YOURSELF OUT OF DOING A DRILL. Think of it like a musician practicing their scales and don’t worry that it’s just for you. Sow those seeds and reap ‘em later!
    Whew, I gotta stop writing books instead of blog posts, but hope you find it useful! I may need to compile a pdf sometime…
  • ICON8 Insights (pt. 2)

    I wanted to write a follow-up to my first ICON8 post—so here goes!


    Delight, enthusiasm, surprise.

    These were the lingering effects that really stuck with me post-ICON. From the changing narrative displays on the stage, to the little pauses and page turns for comedic effect in presentation, to learning that people you admire are just as awesome in person as you hoped, I was constantly feeling one of those above emotions. Which thus has made me want to do the same in my work for others and for myself. One of the tricky things I’ve found is making time for my own work when teaching and freelancing take up so much time, not to mention work-life balance. I’m not great at that balance, but I think I do need to make more time to play and let ideas develop on the page, or in my world. Saying no is something I have to continue to do so that I can invest in myself and my growth. Because as this sprint has grown into a marathon, and next spring marks my tenth anniversary as an illustrator (!) a lot of change and growth is going to need to happen to evolve into my next form. And it’s got me itching to explore a lot more narrative and conceptual things in my work. I have ideas for books, zines, animations. I’m excited for decade number two.

    PS: going to ICON made me remember about grad school. I wish there were grad school patronages because now I really want to go back! Maybe one day; I’ll have to save up :)


    Bringing people together.

    One of those latent things I forgot I really enjoy doing, and one of the great end-results of ICON! It’s why I loved making Picture Book Report, why I was thrilled to bring so many artists I love together for Join Together last year at Land, and what is really fun for me about teaching. I’m sure if you were there and I talked to you, you might have noticed after a while I really had a lot of fun smooshing people together and ask ‘hey, do you know this person?’ It feels great to grow the connections between people, and I was especially happy to get my shy students to meet the people they’ve admired. Being bold and just raising your hand, not being afraid to look silly is a great skill to build.(It also helped for closing night when I danced like a fool across the Crystal Ballroom!)

    Seriously though, bringing people together was what really drew me to Portland, and it’s underlined how I want to have a group studio and bring people together both in the work and the occasional drawing club. Beyond that I really want to curate another project. Picture Book Report gave me so much and I loved what my contributors made; what that next project could be though I wonder! I’ll let that brew for now.


    Keyword: Authenticity.

    I heard authenticity brought up a lot. Tell your story, share yourself both in the studio and out, bring your creativity into your life in a playful way. In short: be real! Which I wondered if that was a pushback against something— were people being false in a previous generation? Maybe it’s a pushback against the sense that you are your work. This seems to be encouraged by the perfectly manicured, curated life we are able to show online— you can see the work, and you can often think it was created in one graceful fell swoop with no struggles or gnashing of teeth. You can share a photo of a perfectly organized studio space, nothing out of order and everything carefully curated to show a version of yourself. But that doesn’t really tell me who you are, just what your taste is. If so, I’m all for the pushback of real authenticity of who you are— that creativity takes hard work, a sort of scrappiness, that sometimes it’s going to be a mess of art supplies and papers and scribbles. This is more of what I like about living in Portland vs. the beautifully hewn wood slabs and Edison bulb aesthetic. It’s pretty but it’s a shorthand, and as a creative who loves creatives I want to learn the true language. Maybe I just want to see more of how the sausage is made. I think I’m a process junkie; I’d rather see those little steps and tease little details rather than keep a secret and unveil a project. I am bad at keeping my own secrets and admittedly I’m bad at the minimalist curation (although I feel the pressure to do it all the time); so if this is what’s meant by authenticity than I am all for it!

    So in terms of authenticity I loved seeing those mistakes surface in presentations, or those explosions of process, or that sense of personality shine through. I wish I saw even more! It’s why I am always so excited to see a presentation by Kate Bingaman-Burt, and why I loved seeing Jennifer Daniel speak. The humor and personality shows through their life, and their work. Even when things go awry or you’re hit with a big challenge, it’s way more interesting to see how you roll with the punches and grow from it rather than just show 100% success all the time.


    Deeper Inquiries:

    Everything that went on during ICON was super inspirational! But sometimes I want to dig my teeth in deeper. It would be cool to continue to see more cross-disciplinary speakers like they did this year, more discussions with art buyers, art directors, etc. It would be really interesting to talk deeper about problems and growing pains our industry might be facing as it’s evolving and growing new limbs, as illustrators start designing, animating, sculpting, concepting, whatever! I’ve had many a talk with my rep Scott Hull about who’s actually buying illustration these days, especially when you get past editorial or publishing. And how do you share your value to clients when you might actually being hired by someone who isn’t so creative? How do you navigate budgets being slashed as more things are being made for the web? How do you learn to edit, market and art direct yourself on entrepreneurial projects when there’s so many possibilities and platforms now? It’s an exciting time and I would love to hear more dialogue about issues people are facing, and even more discussion between people at different stages of their career and where we can learn from each other.

    I had a lot of fun at my Light Grey Art Lab workshop a couple of years ago and one thing I really enjoyed was the roundtable we did on day 2. Getting to talk with those lovely people about all sorts of issues both tangible and intangible they are working through was so beneficial! And even though I led it, I learned a lot too (always the best!) Sometimes I know that in my own practice, I like hashing out things and talking about the trials and successes of things, which might be why I find the whole curated online realm frustrating sometimes. It’s hard to know if talking realistically or digging deeper comes off as complaining, but I think the more we own the struggles and discuss it more in our field the stronger we get and the less we’ll be willing to put up with bad practices.


    Things I would love to see for ICON9:
    • A continued focus on education. I really enjoyed the workshops and educators papers quite a bit and I wonder how many regular attendees got to see this. Sometimes it was tough to pick between the two, and I could also see potentially integrating workshops into the main event to break things up and let us process. This could be tricky, but one thing I noticed on day two of the conference itself was that there was almost an information oversaturation point for me; even if there was a longer lunch break to draw and absorb I think that might’ve helped, as my brain was filled with lessons and faces and experiences galore!
    • Piggybacking on point 1, I think if education is an important part of ICON that documentation is also a key part of that. I appreciated the use of social networks to share snippets, but I think video documentation would’ve been a great thing to implement if possible. Even if it were only shared internally and shared to attendees later on when they might’ve forgotten the many things they learned at the event), or to use as an education tool for students, or even used to help promote and improve future ICONs, it’s a valuable tool. If cost were an issue, I suspect the partner school would be happy to lend services/tools (I know PNCA would’ve!).
    • One thing I noticed was that for the most part people grouped together with similar age groups or peer groups. Which is pretty natural, but I would’ve loved to see more interaction across generations. It happened a bit during workshops but it’s too easy to stick with your known groups! I’m happy that my background has allowed me to mix between groups; from students to people my age to those ahead of me; in a way not going to one of the big art schools made it a little easier for me to cross groups. I wish I did it even more though, but next time!
    • Even more diversity of attendees and speakers. I appreciated the number of female illustrators and designers at the event but I would love to see even more diversity of opinions and backgrounds— the more we see this in our field the better it gets for everyone. I really appreciated that the speakers for ICON8 weren’t all in the editorial and publishing field— subjects I would ordinarily not gravitate towards were my favorites, and it helped me remember how varied our creative field can be.
    • I’m also hoping ICON9 is set in Minneapolis, and I want Light Grey Art Lab to host an amazing gallery/book/project event :)

    As a last takeaway, I wanted to make a list of various little takeaways I jotted down from ICON8. Hopefully it might give a glimpse into the event and give those who didn’t attend a little snippet of inspiration! If I get to go to ICON9, I’m really curious what I’ll learn there….

    • Illustration is now a multi-faceted beast. So what is its or my true identity?
    • "You have no control over what becomes iconic….push back against something [in your world and in your work.]… growth happens the most in your 20s…you don’t need to know how to do it, just WHO knows how to do it."—Paula Scher
    • Art should exist in life, not just in the work.
    • Non-drawing activities are really great in unexpected ways.
    • Sketching is vital.
    • Put the passion into your surroundings, stoke the creative fires- it will feed you. (Often in ways you can’t expect.)
    • "If you can defend your work you can get people to sit with it."— Jennifer Daniel
    • "Keep it blurry….You [first] build your chair and sit in it… but you are constantly reimagining your world." — Souther Salazar
    • Play first, edit later.
    • Illustrate the metaphysical.
    • "Passion shows new perspectives no one else sees."— Cassie Zhang
    • "People buy your joy… put your voice in the work."— Lilla Rogers
    • "You should write so that the illustrations have a job."— Mac Barnett
    • "Everyone changes and one changes throughout a lifetime."— Vivienne Flesher
    • Work will inspire future work. Each piece gets you one step closer, but of course we don’t exactly know where it will take us.