I'm failing at #The100DayProject and it's ok by me


Let me just preface this by saying that I think The 100 Day Project is wonderful. Creativity is definitely a muscle that needs to be worked. If you don't use it, you loose it. And committing to anything for an extended amount of time (especially beyond 30 days) creates habits. I didn't floss regularly for years- and then all of a sudden i just did it everyday. Now it's been 5 years and i can count on my hands the number of days i've missed flossing. (Enough about my dental hygiene- back to art.) One day I will do something like #The100DayProject and be "successful." This time around I failed pretty quick and I'm ok with that. It didn't make me a failure. It taught me about the valley (stick with me).

I began #The100DayProject by picking something that i wanted to improve on- warming up by doing a little drawing or painting before diving into working on a project. My intentions were good- I was excited and then I was sick one day and super busy the next- so I stockpiled a few warmups to show on instagram. And then it happened. I went into the valley. The creative black hole. The art void.

Sounds pretty dark and gloomy doesn't it? It can be and it definitely has been in the past. For me, the valley appears after having a few weeks of intense creative highs. New work, new success, crazy productivity! Wheeeeeee! But up ahead is the valley. When I see it coming I can prepare and am usually only in it for 2-3 days. If I don't see it- i find myself a bit caught off guard and that can add some extra time of wondering what the heck is going on.

So what happens in the valley? The bad: self doubt, ugly inner critic, jealousy, basically all that nasty stuff that derails creativity and overall happiness. The good: reflection, brainstorming, rest. The key is recognizing and embracing it. Using it for good can take many forms:
-Taking long walks and just thinking
-Reading magazines and books
-Listening to podcasts (The Accidental Creative is wonderful for the valley)
-Doing busy work or organization in your studio
-Playing with or learning a new medium
-Writing blog posts about the valley ;)
-Making lists. Lists of cute animals (otters!), lists of dream clients (Hygee & West!), lists of funny sounding body parts (medulla oblongata!). You get the picture.

This year it's been all about learning about myself as an artist- what I like most, what i'm best at, where I want to be in 5 years, etc. Learning about the valley, being able to see it coming a mile away, and using it for good has allowed those peak creativity-productivity times reach even new heights.

But what really brings on the valley? Does it line up with lunar cycles? Does it show up faster after eating ice cream? Will it always be there after meeting a big deadline? I think it's different for everyone and it can change without warning. Sometimes after a big project I am rip roaring and ready to go for the next one; sometimes I need to rest in the valley for a few days. Meditating and starting a (mostly) daily yoga routine (check out Yoga with Adriene) has really helped me tune into knowing when the valley is calling. And now that I know there is good work to be done there (see list above)- I'm totally down with hanging out in the valley. Plus- have you google-imaged "valley"? Yeah- it's pretty awesome. Even the dark and scary ones make me feel like "dude- if I went through that valley- i'd come out the other side pretty darn bad-ass!" (And probably feeling like i could take on anything- cue creativity-productivity!)

So that's that. This time around my version of #The100DayProject might take more like 132 days- and if that's "failing"- then that's ok with me. Oh, and if you ever find yourself in a valley and need a fellow creative/friend to show you around- feel free to give me a shout!

Poster Contest (guess what...I won!!)


April's Make Art That Sells Bootcamp assignment was to design a poster for their live Global Art Gathering happening this summer in Brighton, England. It was a slow start for me- I spent a few days just in my brain- letting it all stew. The thought process went something like this:

-maybe i should make a simple grid of icons 
-what could i do to make this more fun?
-tattoos? tattoo man? 
-wait?! is the "tattoed man" over-done? (check in with fellow illustrator, hubs, googles)
-tattoo LADY would be bad ass. 
-tattoo lady in swimsuit (not striped) with tats that nod at the event (mer-lilla, MATS house, folk-craft influences, Brighton landmark), trends (owl, pineapple), traditional tattoos (bird, lettering), and communicate event messages through hand-lettering. 

I then created a few roughs and even re-did most of the hand lettered tattoos a few times. Once I started going I knew I had a potentially really great idea and so I needed to make sure the execution was equally excellent. I chose to keep with the fonts that they gave us for the event (though we didn't have to- and were encouraged to explore hand lettering). I felt like it kept the whole poster on-brand and allowed both the info and the illo to stand out. They didn't get mushed together. The whole design took 2.5 days to make. I had a few other projects for the month that I needed to get done (and I work well when I just throw myself at a singular illustration for a few days). 

Once the bootcamp gallery was uploaded I knew that there could be a number of winners. So much talent and a variety of styles- so many of which would have made great posters! (I highly recommend checking them all out!)

When I got the email about winning I freaked out for 5 minutes and then continued to freak for the rest of the day. (who am i kidding?! I'm still freaking out!) I get to skype with the lovely Lilla Rogers for an hour AND have my poster all over Brighton! You can read their post about it here

MATS B - Round-up


Welp- here are all the Make Art That Sells part B assignments. Kinda fun to have them all together and realize just how much work I created in five weeks. I was also working on a few commissioned pieces during that time- but I think my favorite non-MATS piece i did was my llama pattern!

MATS B Week 5 - Party Paper


It was a bittersweet end to a fantastic course. This last week I went on vacation starting Wednesday so I had to have all my painted bits done really early in the week. I then brought my laptop and tablet to Arizona where I worked on my piece with palm trees, cacti, and love birds in the background. Not too shabby. I knew most people would be focusing on birds and flowers with the Bavarian/Ukrainian Folk theme- so I went with fish. Folky fish. A "Folk-sea" if you will. :)
I was happy with how it turned out given my vacationing circumstances. Also- since creating art with icons makes your work really versatile- you can easily turn bits from this into:
A little illustration for a card or print. Or into:

A cute fish pattern! 

I think that was the biggest takeaway from MATS- as Lilla says "icons, icons, icons." And it's true- when your work is versatile- the possibilities for different gigs is endless. Now it's time to get back to work and keep on crackin'!

MATS B Week 4 - Editorial

Good gracious- i'm so far behind on my blogging. Time to catch-up! Week 4 in Make Art that Sells B was one of my favorite (and arguably most successful) weeks yet. I knew it would be a map assignment and I was kind of dreading that I needed to do a map of Dubuque, Iowa. Then I found out that we could do a map of where we lived OR a favorite place. I could do Yosemite or Bloomington, IN, or somewhere else! But then I thought about it- and realized that illustrating Dubuque was a good opportunity to really look at our new city and challenge myself. (Thankfully Dubuque does have a lot of interesting old buildings, a river, and a noticeable german/irish Catholic influence). Here's what I made:
I adore how it turned out! It was so fun to draw such a variety of icons- from a nun and trout to an eagle and trolley!

MATS B Week 3 - Scrapbooking


Scrapbooking. I must admit I was kind of dreading this week since I am not a scrapbooker and haven't felt much of a connection to a lot of the scrapbook market. But the mini assignment that was provided was airships- blimps, dirigibles, balloons! love it! I just wanted to have some fun with it at first so I painted up this piece:
Then I got started on the assignment. The truly freeing part about this week was just being able to make a ton of little icons and then puzzle-piece them together. So on Wednesday I painted my shapes and words:
I wanted to go kinda steampunk-light and focus on nautical adventure. About an hour into work on Thursday I realized that Juni didn't have school the next day and my mom was coming to visit. So I pushed hard and finished it up on Thursday night:
I like how it turned out. However I think some things get a little lost since it's all very much a similar tone. My favorite things are the whale weather vane, the birds, and the fact that i got to letter "ahoy-hoy" and "huzzah." On Sunday I was able to sit down and paint during Juniper's nap...
And then on Monday I procrastinated by making these guys:
Can you tell that it's been kinda a grey week here in Dubuque? Maybe some warmer weather and sunshine will add a little more color to my art. ha! Now time to work work work!

MATS B WEEK 2 - Baby/Kids Apparel


ah seahorses! I feel like ive been doing a lot of ocean illustrations for Oopsy Daisy (coming this summer i think)- but I was excited to go at it again in a new way. Right away the idea of "Hide and SEAk" came to me and though i tried to think of other ideas- it just stuck around. So i went with the bad pun. I got to a point with my main pattern where I wanted to settle on the color scheme. Here are some color drafts that I sent around to some trusted illustrator friends and the MATS community to get some votes on:
from this I narrowed it down to the off white and dark blue...

Here I blocked in some potential coordinate color ideas. I was leaning toward the lighter colors but something needed to change...

 Then I switched out the blues for the olives and it felt fresh but kinda vintage and fun! So I went to work and came up with the final....

and quickly realized that this was crazy-boat-overload. So i tweaked it till I had this...

ah so much better! Juniper definitely needs some eyeball leggings asap! 

But wait! there's more! 

So I still had that pretty sweet darker color scheme and some time on my hands (well, a morning at least). So I decided to jump on the llama train (yes, there is a llama train) and made this...

i'm kinda obsessed and now I definitely need to get this licensed and made into a sheet/comforter/pillow set! 

MATS B WEEK 1 - Paper Market

Ah the first week back for part B of Make Art That Sells! I love the fast pace of these assignments and end up being super productive. This week the assignment was to create a holiday card with a toy train theme. After countless thumbnails (actually about 32)- I realized I wanted to just focus on some beautifully colored/decorated train cars rather than on illustrating a whole scene. The main reason behind this was Lilla's voice saying "make a card you would send." For me it had to be simple, interesting, and beautiful. Here's what I ended up submitting:
I think it's cute and I really like the colors I used. I think it would be awesome as wrapping paper. I'm not 100% on the hand lettering and a few other elements- so I may revisit it at some other point. But it's so good to be back at it!

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