It Is Good to Love Many Things




Have totally lost sight of this recently. Getting back on track this week with the love. It is the key to all good things.

Happy Thursday, friends.



Lisa Kokin :: Once Removed



{Vestige, by Lisa Kokin}

I became acquainted with the work of Lisa Kokin in early 2012 when we were both part of the Do Not Destroy exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. Once I saw it, I fell immediately in love with Lisa’s work. Lisa won the Dorothy Saxe Invitational Award for Creativity in Contemporary Arts for her gorgeous piece Fauxliage: No Birds Sing, which was part of the show at the CJM.

I was excited to learn that Lisa teaches classes in her El Sobrante studio, mostly about using thread and found materials in mixed media work. I am thrilled to be taking Once Removed on Sunday, March 17. As many of you know, I am a collector of vintage photos and periodically use them in my work. I am really looking forward to learning from Lisa about combining both vintage photographs and sewing techniques. Workshop participants will work with found photos, found papers, books and other small found objects to create collages, sculptures or books. Lisa will teach hand- and machine-sewing techniques, gluing, stapling, and binding for attaching the photos to other surfaces and objects.


{Forget-Me-Not, by Lisa Kokin}

Space is still open for the Once Removed class. You can learn more and email Lisa about registering here. You can see the full range of Lisa’s work on her website.

Happy Wednesday!


Sister Corita Kent’s Art Department Rules




Last year I became smitten with something I read on Brain Pickings: a list of Art Department Rules by artist & teacher Sister Corita Kent and composer & writer John Cage. While I was laid up after foot surgery last year (with hours of time on my hands to kill!) I decided (with Maria Popova’s encouragement) to hand letter the rules in my own style. What you see above is the result.

Sister Corita Kent was an artist and an educator who worked in both Los Angeles and Boston. She worked almost exclusively with silkscreen and her distinctive style helped to bring screen printing into the world of fine art.


{one of Sister Corita’s gorgeous posters}

Sister Corita was known as a fierce and outspoken activitst for peace, love and social justice, and her iconic artwork reflects that passion. Kent designed the beautiful, well known 1985 annual “love” stamp. She was a forward-thinking artist, and was friends with not only John Cage, but Charles and Ray Eames, Saul Bass, Buckminster Fuller and Alfred Hitchcock.


{Kent’s “Love” stamp and Kent and other teachers in her print making workshop.}

What I love most about Sister Corita’s and John Cage’s Art Department Rules is their encouragement to trust and experiment alongside discipline. As artists, we know we must be disciplined, but often we tell ourselves that we must work hard toward the end of perfection or mastery only. It is so refreshing to remind ourselves that disciplined experimentation is what is important.

“Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.” -Sister Corita Kent

**For those of you who’d like a print of my hand lettered version of the rules, I’m unable reproduce or sell them. We contacted the Corita Art Center last year about selling prints and donating proceeds to the Art Center, and we were unable to get permission.


Tove Jansson and Tuulikki Pietilä




One can’t travel through Scandinavia without noticing the Moomins, the characters in a series of books and a comic strip by Swedish-Finn illustrator and writer Tove Jansson. In some ways they are ubiquitous with Swedish and Finnish culture — sold as dolls in the airport gift shops alongside other traditional souvenirs. The Moomins are a family of trolls,  plump, white hippopotamus-like creatures. They live in Moominvalley, in the forests of Finland, mostly. They have many carefree adventures with friends.



The books are written by Tove Jansson, who was born in Finland but spoke Swedish and lived in Sweden for parts of her life. Recently I discovered Jansson’s adult novels when my friend Lindsey gave me The Summer Book. I became immersed in the book, and wanted to know more about Jansson, so my research began.



I found out that Jansson was a bit of a renaissance woman — a prolific artist, sculptor, illustrator and writer. I also discovered that she had a life partner named Tuulikki Pietilä, who was a Finnish graphic artist and professor. Pietilä was also talented, and was one of the most influential people in Finnish graphic arts. The two met during their studies and they collaborated on many works and projects, including the Moomin works.



Here are the two on their boat on Klovharu Island, where they spent their summers for almost 30 years.

Jansson’s and Pietilä’s travels and summers on the Klovharu have been captured on several hours of film, shot by Pietilä. Several documentaries have been made of this footage and I’m determined to find them and watch them (I can imagine this island is incredibly beautiful). I’m also determined to read the rest of Jansson’s novels.



I have a tendency to romanticize bohemian artist couples as having the perfect life (painting all day and spending summers on a remote island). These two are my latest obsession.

Have a good Thursday, friends.

CATEGORIES: Inspiration

Shine Brite



Every now and again I get an email that really makes me feel happy in a profound way. I got one such email last week from an art teacher in San Diego named Don Masse. Don teaches at Zamorano Fine Arts Academy (a public elementary school). He keeps a blog called Shine Brite Zamorano about what his students are up to, and last week he sent me a link to a post he’d written about the work his students did in response to two of my paintings, “Sol” (above) and “Iceberg” (below).


Don went through various steps to help the kids both analyze my work and develop similar pieces of their own. He helped them to identify the parts of the paintings that created a sense of depth and dimension (the color choices I used that made parts of each iceberg recede and parts appear more forward). He then showed the students a sample he had made, and, in his words: “…with that we identified cool colors in the icebergs and water and warm colors in the sky and sun. I also pointed out how things get higher up as they go back and they also get lighter in color value.”

And then, they drew together in a guided process, which he describes on his blog. And here are the results. Impressive, I am sure you will agree!


{drawing by Nathaniel}


{drawing by Diego}


{drawing by Samuel}


{drawing by Leann}


{drawing by Treasure}

I used to teach elementary school (yep, that was my first career) and, as you might have guessed, teaching art was my favorite activity of the week. My first class of students in 1992 are all now about 31 years old. I am still in touch with many of them (they were in fourth grade when I was their teacher; I was 23}. They often tell me that the art projects we did together are some of their fondest memories of our year together.

I am so happy that the work I do now  — even in small ways — can still impact kids.  Thank you, Don Masse, for sharing your students’ work with me!

Happy Wednesday.

CATEGORIES: Inspiration | Paintings

Living on the Sunny Side



{a little table with some of my favorite things in front of the giant window in our living room}

“He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This past weekend we moved to our new home in Oakland. It was a gloriously warm weekend, and our new house was filled with light. It is so quite and peaceful here. So far I’m pretty smitten.

Our cats were pretty freaked out the first couple of days, as cats get when you move. On Friday, Ms. Margaret went missing for about five hours and we couldn’t find her. Turns out she’d crawled into the chimney and made a nest for herself in a tiny alcove about two feet up. She was looking for a dark place to hide (poor, scared thing!) and wasn’t coming out. We heard her meow when we brought out food, and I managed to get in there to pull her down. She was covered in soot! So she had a little bath, which I am sure didn’t help her anxiety.

But by Sunday she was settling in and enjoying the sunshine alongside us (see below). My other cat, Barry, didn’t leave the safety of the closet until Sunday night, but now he’s discovered the birds outside our ample windows (a treat he didn’t have at our old apartment), and he seems quite content.



As you can imagine, my pup Wilfredo is in heaven with all his new found space (inside and out). Here he is on moving day on our front porch (sitting on the moving blanket no less!).



Happy Tuesday.


Moving Day




What better way to pay homage to the city I’ve called home for two decades than this?

Yep, I’m moving today! See you on the other side Monday, where I’ll be back with the next Reconstructionist.



The Willard Asylum Suitcases



{Photo of suitcase contents by photographer Jon Crispin.}

You guys probably know if you’ve read my book that I am a sucker for anything old or worn, and that the idea of a time capsule is one that excites me to no end (see my recent post on Frida Kahlo’s closet). So you can imagine my delight when I read a recent article & interview between Hunter Oatman-Stanford (who happens to be a friend of mine) and photographer Jon Crispin about Crispin’s photographs of the contents of found suitcases of insane asylum patients.

So here’s the story:  between 1910 and 1970, many patients at the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane left suitcases behind when they passed away. In 1995, the asylum closed and employees found hundreds of these suitcases locked in an attic. The Willard staffers contacted the New York State Museum to preserve the hidden cache of luggage as part of the museum’s permanent collection.

Freda Bowker's Willard Suitcase


After learning about the Willard suitcases, Crispin sought the museum’s permission to document the contents of each suitcase (brilliant!!). To help fund the first phase of the project Crispin enlisted the help of others through a Kickstarter campaign.



This coming spring, a selection of Crispin’s photos will accompany the inaugural exhibit at the San Francisco Exploratorium’s new location. {Side note: yes!!}



My friend Hunter sums it up well: “Crispin’s photographs restore a bit of dignity to the individuals who spent their lives within Willard’s walls. Curiously, the identities of these patients are still concealed by the state of New York, denied even to living relatives. Each suitcase offers a glimpse into the life of a unique individual, living in an era when those with mental disorders and disabilities were not only stigmatized but also isolated from society.”




To see more photographs and read the full interview with Jon Crispin, go here. It’s fantastic.


{All photos in this post by Jon Crispin.}

CATEGORIES: Collections | Inspiration

On Embracing It




It’s an active time for me: I’m moving, juggling six separate (and exciting) illustration jobs, planning a wedding (hee hee, notice how I didn’t use the term “busy”). Sometimes I find myself sighing dramatically in despair because I begin to feel overwhelmed. And then I remind myself: I chose this. I chose all of it, even the parts that suck (the packing, the deadlines).

Then (and this is the hard part) I am trying to remember to embrace it — all of it (even the packing & the deadlines). And I realize that attitude changes everything.

There was a great article in the New York Times Sunday about the importance of relaxing — and how taking time to relax actually increases productivity. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to balance my internal drive to work with periods of intentional relaxation (I’ve written about this in other contexts before). I plan to use my move to a completely new environment as an opportunity to start a new practice: taking regular breaks to rejuvenate (at least one a day) — to walk, lie down with my eyes closed, read for 20 minutes. I need to get beyond just thinking about taking relaxing breaks during my work day — to actually relaxing. I’m not philosophically opposed to relaxing, per se, it’s just that I get so caught up in my work on most days that I don’t lift my head from the desk or look away from the computer for hours at a time. So this will require being more mindful and intentional.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Here’s to embracing all of it.



1000 Portrait Illustrations




I’m very excited to have been included in a new book of portrait illustrations called 1000 Portrait Illustrations, edited by Julia Schonlau. Here is sneak peek at my spread:





The book is chock full of amazing portraits by artists from around the world. You can get this new book here on Amazon or at your local bookstore.

Have a great Tuesday.



On Planning a Wedding




“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
―George Harrison

A year ago this weekend, my partner Clay proposed to me. Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for that long know I was taken completely by surprise. Those of you who are acquainted with me personally know that while I was overcome with joy, I also walked around in a state of disbelief for several weeks afterward.

Indeed, a year later, we are planning a wedding, one I thought I would never have for most of my life (hence the disbelief). And despite the fact that I am now 45 years old, I never really thought much about a wedding for most of my life — not what I wanted it to look like, or who I wanted to be there, or what rituals I might want to include, or what kind of food I would want to serve. I didn’t really think about much of any of it, because I really thought I would never get married.

But this June 1, its happening, right in Mill Valley, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. I bought a beautiful (and very simple) dress. And we’re having a suit made for Clay (and a neon pink bow tie). We have planned a menu with a lovely caterer and are beginning to choose some delicious wines. My talented friend Anna is designing our invitations. The amazing Bonnie will take the pictures. My cousin will officiate. Elizabeth is helping us with all the details. All manner of friends and family are helping in various ways. And Clay is a really generous partner and a naturally good planner — and has taken the lead on almost everything.

In order to cope with the multitude of decisions, I find myself saying things like, “Okay, sure, that sounds good,” or “That sounds about right,” even when I am not sure at all. Except, of course, when it comes to things like chair covers, about which I become Bridezilla, and practically throw a fit because the only ones available are shiny polyester satin (and there will be no shiny polyester at my wedding).

All in all, however, things are going very smoothly, and I have to remind myself that while the date of the big party is coming quickly, we still have more than 100 days to get everything ready and that there is still plenty of time to do things like make bunting and name cards and figure out how we will cover the chairs.

And, best of all, I’m getting increasingly excited about the big day, as bewildering and overwhelming as the planning feels most of the time. And as family and friends from far away make plans to travel here, and as we choose the music to which we’ll walk down the aisle, and as I think about all the things I want to say to Clay in the vows to her that I write, I am positive this day will be the perfect way to celebrate our love and commitment.

And then all my nightmares about chair covers fade into the distance. At least for now.

Happy Friday.



Wallpaper Class!



So remember last October when my line of wallpaper from Hygge and West was released? Well, now you can learn a little bit about both the process of designing wallpaper AND how to hang the stuff.

That’s right: Makeshift Society is hosting a Saturday wallpaper workshop on March 16 from 10-1! This class will start with a introduction in which Christiana Coop (Hygge & West’s co-founder) and I talk about our wallpaper collaboration. We’ll discuss our insights into the world of pattern making, wallpaper and design.

The second and third hours will allow for a hands on opportunity to hang wallpaper. Christiana will walk you through the step by step process, teach you tricks and tips, and talk about how to fix and hide mistakes! Bonus: Each participant also will receive 30% off any purchase of wallpaper at Hygge & West.

Will you join us? Sign up here. In the meantime you can check out all my wallpaper designs here.



New Photography Themed Journal


Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 7.12.10 AM

{Cover for my new Compendium Journal}

Last year I designed a new journal for Compendium, Inc, and I’m so happy to announce that it is now available for purchase! The journal is photography themed, and includes paintings of vintage cameras and hand lettered quotes by famous photographers.


{Journal Cover & End Pages }


{Interior Illustrations from the Journal}

This line of journals features plenty of lined pages to capture your thoughts. They are softcover and printed on FSC®-certified paper.




{More Interior Illustrations}

You can purchase this journal here on the Compendium site or look for it at your favorite store.

Happy Wednesday!


Helen Dardik



Cayo-CoCo Birds - pattern by helen dardik

{Helen’s patterns are gorgeous and colorful! Top: Black Swan gift wrap for Logom Design}

As you may have come to know if you read this blog, I love pattern design, and one of my favorite pattern designers (and one of the most talented pattern designers around today) is Helen Dardik. Helen was born in Odessa (the fifth largest city in the Ukraine) and also lived in Siberia. She went to the school for art and design in Israel and then moved to Canada in 1993 where she studied graphic design. That’s where she fell in love with illustration.

I'm Positive - pattern by helen dardik


I absolutely love Helen’s unconventional use of color and how she uses graphic elements and space in her work. She is clearly influenced by mid century design and Scandinavian design (which are two reasons I must love her work so much!). Helen also loves to travel, and if you read her gorgeous blog, you can see how her work is inspired by her travels with her family (Helen has three daughters: Lola, Margo and Anais).

Christmas Trees - pattern by helen dardik



I have had the pleasure of hanging out with Helen a couple of times over the years. We are both represented by the same illustration agency and often see each other at the Surtex surface design show in New York City.


{me, Jenn Ski and Helen at Surtex in 2012}

Floral Fireworks - pattern by helen dardik


Helen is most well-known for her patterns, but she also has a beautiful little Etsy shop where she sells bright and graphic prints in her iconic style.



Happy Tuesday to you, friends.

CATEGORIES: Inspiration

Organize with My Labels!



Friends, I’ve got some free downloadable labels to help you organize your files, jars and boxes over on Design*Sponge today! There are some other fantastic labels by other artists over there too (a low res image of mine, above). Head over to download yours today! (Thanks for the invite, Grace!)

Happy, happy Friday! I’ll be back Monday with the next Reconstructionist!