On Being Equal



“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” ~ Nelson Mandela


You may recall that back in March, I wrote a piece on Why DOMA Matters. I am elated to report (not that you haven’t already heard) that yesterday, in a historic pair of 5-4 rulings on the final day of the term for the United States Supreme Court, the justices struck down the sixteen year old Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to gay couples married under state law, and let stand a ruling that found Proposition 8 (a 2008 voter initiative that ended same-sex marriage in California) unconstitutional. What that means for me: as Californians, Clay (the woman I married June 1) and I can now legally marry, and, after we do, we will have the same rights under federal law as our straight friends and family.

On an evening stroll last night, Clay asked me, If we file our taxes jointly after we get legally married, will we owe less money? I had to break it to her that my accountant mentioned that we might have to pay even more money in taxes by filing together. After a brief sigh, we laughed heartily. Equal rights won’t necessarily mean financial savings. Nevertheless, it feels good. It feels really good.

It feels good, because for so many years, for so many of us, no matter how loving our families of origin (if we were lucky), no matter how normal our lives, no matter how accepting our co-workers, we have lived our lives as outsiders in a system designed (in theory) to support all of its people. As a result of pervasive hatred and ignorance, many of us have lived lives filled with intense shame, discomfort and fear. I think sometimes about the collective pain of LGBT people from generations of this shame — especially LGBT people of my generation and generations before mine — and I am overcome with emotion. This is why we deliberately celebrate Pride — to remind ourselves that we are, in fact, loved, valid, whole human beings, despite (and because of) our differences. We are a family of people united by struggle.

The good news is that the collective pain has been arduously and lovingly channeled into making things better for future generations of LGBT people. Fast forward, from lifetimes of gay shame to 2013: things are changing, and they have been changing rapidly for the past several years. Because of the efforts of so many brave people, something profoundly historic and significant happened yesterday. The government ruled that we should be treated the same under the law, that our relationships are as valid and important as straight relationships, and we deserve the same rights. All those LGBT people you saw sobbing and hugging each other on TV yesterday? That was the collective pain expressing itself as utter relief and joy.

People have asked me over the years if I could wave a magic wand, would I want to be straight. I have always answered no, even back in the 1990’s when my own shame about being gay was at an all time high, when my own pain was most profound. I have never been able to imagine any other life but this, and I cannot imagine being anyone else but who I am. And I am so incredibly proud to be part of a community who has — arduously and lovingly —  fought for its rights, and the rights of future generations. I am so grateful that my niece and nephew (who are now 13 and 11 years old), may become adults in a time when being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered is just as regular or accepted as being straight. I realize we still have a long way to go to get there. There is still so much hate and ignorance, and so many LGBT people live in states where the hope of marriage equality is a pipe dream.

But as I mentioned here, legal gay marriage anywhere (even in a state like New York or California) felt like a pipe dream to me 20 years ago. And yet here we are. And we will keep fighting. Things will keep changing. We will create an environment in this country for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people that is based on acceptance. Love will triumph.

Happy Gay Pride, friends. Happy equality. Happy life.

See you when I get back from my honeymoon July 16.



My Nordic Adventure: Helsinki Apartment




You may recall the gorgeous apartment where I stayed in Helsinki. For a long overdue addition to My Nordic Adventure Series, I painted a breakfast scene from that wonderful place, replete with Marimekko dishes and curtains and a Bialetti espresso maker (which I learned how to use out of necessity). Dreaming of going back there now…

Happy Wednesday, friends.


Honeymoon & New Magazine



You may recall that Clay and I are heading to Paris for our honeymoon next week. We’ll be there for two weeks, staying in an apartment in the 6th arrondissement. While I’m away, starting Monday, July 1, I will mostly be taking a break from this blog until I return on Tuesday, July 16. I’ll still be posting The Reconstructionists on Mondays, but that’s it. My Etsy Shop will close tomorrow and reopen on July 17th (that means if you’d like something before the end of July, order now).

I will be posting images from our Paris adventure on Instagram, so if you’d like to follow along, just head over there. And, of course, when I return, I’ll fill you in on all the highlights of our trip.

Speaking of travel, I’ll be back tomorrow with a long overdue new installment in My Nordic Adventure. Stay tuned for that.

Last but not least, I have written an essay for a gorgeous new magazine called Hand and Hand. This issue is specifically about knots, and my essay is aptly about “Tying the Knot.” It’s put out by maker and artist Carrie Strine and designer Tim Lahan, and it’s chock full of good stuff, including many rope knot DIY projects. Get yours here.



Have a great Tuesday.


On Finding (Time for) Inspiration




Read most interviews with artists and here’s a question you’ll usually see : “Where do you find your inspiration?” This is actually a question I dread answering, and that’s not because I don’t think it’s a valid question to ask or that the topic of inspiration is silly. I dread answering it, because inspiration is so elusive and ever-changing for me. I love this quote by Jack London (hand lettered, above), because it cuts to the chase of my personal experience with inspiration: that one often has to actively seek it out.

I make my living making art, mostly as a commercial illustrator, which means I mostly make art for other people. I illustrate their stories or hand letter their mottos or make stationery or wallpaper for their company to sell. I love doing this, and sometimes I get to infuse a lot of my personal passion and interest in my illustration jobs. But it also means that I don’t have a lot of time (or recently any time) — or inspiration — for personal work. And when I do find the time, I’m not even sure what to do with it. Maybe some of you can relate?

The irony is that my full time art career began precisely as a result of the fact that I painted for enjoyment. Gathering inspiration and making art was what I did “on the side”  to relieve stress from my job in the non profit world.  But once something becomes your job, it changes. Last year my art career became the largest source of my stress, which makes me laugh (I do find humor in the irony). I realized recently that I desperately miss the days when I had time to make art for the sake of making art or to leisurely scour picture books looking for new ideas. I love my illustration career and am grateful to have steady work. And I also know that in order to remain an enthusiastic working illustrator or to continue to be a viable artist in the market for years to come, I need to have carefree time in the studio to both go after and apply inspiration.

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that recently I’ve been working in general in my life to have more fun and to relax more. And that’s going well, I am happy to report. I am no longer wishing for my life to be more balanced. I am making it more balanced. My latest goal? One day a week I will go to the studio to explore new subject matter and make new work, just for me. My latest inspiration? This book. Stay tuned.

Happy Friday.


I’m in O Magazine!




Super excited to be interviewed about one of my greatest passions — collecting — for the July 2013 issue of O Magazine! It’s newstands now, a sneak peak below.



Happy Thursday, friends!

CATEGORIES: Collections | Press

Tauba Auerbach




I discovered Tauba Auerbach’s work back in 2008 when she was the recipient of a SECA Award and her work was on display at the San Francisco MoMA. Auerbach is considered one of the most innovative painters of our time. Born in 1981, her career is still in its infancy, and already she has pushed the boundaries of painting and drawing into new territory in her short but prolific career. Her work always plays with the mind (her early work played with perception and optical illusion in geometric shapes), and this current body of work is no exception. What you see are paintings, though they look like photographs of folded fabric or paper.

To achieve this result, Auerbach manipulates her raw canvas by folding or crinkling it, and then sprays it with different colors before stretching the canvas. The result looks three-dimensional, even though they are actually two-dimensional. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.







Auerbach’s work is a treat to see in person. See here for her current exhibition schedule.

CATEGORIES: Inspiration

On Being Tattooed




Tattoos? They are not for everyone. But I have eleven of them, and they are so much a part of me that I often forget that other people notice them. Late last year, I did a rare lengthy interview about my tattoos with photographer Caroline Lee, who also took photographs of my tattoos and my former studio in San Francisco. You can read the interview here and see the rest of the photos too.





On Prioritizing Travel



{New hand lettered quote, available also as a print in my shop}

As you may recall, I caught the travel bug last September. You may also recall that Clay and I are heading to Paris on June 30 for two weeks. So needless to say, I am feeling very giddy about getting out of dodge again.

I have found myself in the past feeling occasionally resentful toward a few of my friends who manage to leave their home more than several times a year to go on various adventures. They are not necessarily heading to Europe, of course (though sometimes they do), just traveling to the mountains or another city in their state, or to New York or Palm Springs. I see the photos of these friends on Facebook or Instagram and exclaim to myself, secretly jealous: “How on earth do they get to leave home so often? Don’t they work?”

The answer, of course, is that they do work. It’s just that their priorities are different. None of the friends I’m thinking of make big incomes, and many of them have quite modest ones, actually. None of them have kids either. They simply spend what extra money they do have on travel, even if it means not going very far. As Robert Louis Stevenson says, “The great affair is to move.” Instead of resenting those friends, I am now finding myself wanting to emulate them.

The truth is I love being at home too (I am, for the record, smitten with living in Oakland and really enjoy spending weekends in my little house), but I also know that I feel most free and relaxed when I am away from the responsibilities of home and the reminders of my sometimes hectic working life. The minute I am up in an airplane or on a road trip in my car, even before I have reached my destination, my mind bursts with new ideas and everything is possible.

The great thing about travel for many of us is that it both inspires us and makes us happy to return to our own bed in the end. We want to leave, to move, to see new things, to eat new food, shop, take in new sights, find new inspiration, but we are also so glad to come back to the comfort and familiarity of our own environment. The great thing about most travel is precisely that it is temporary.

Have a great weekend. If you are traveling, be safe. If you are home, stay cozy.



T-Shirt Design for The Teal Cat Project!


Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 7.08.57 AM

{Close up of my t-shirt design for The Teal Cat Project}

I’m so excited to have designed the latest t-shirt for The Teal Cat Project, a fundraiser for cat rescue groups started and run by the esteemed and completely fabulous vegan cookbook author and cat lover, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, who happens also to be my friend. The Teal Cat store sells, well… Teal Cats, of course (teal spray painted vintage cat tchotchkes, currently all sold out) and also (bing!) t-shirts. My t-shirt design is the latest edition, and it’s limited, so if you want one, I recommend purchasing today.  A must for cat-lovers! Here’s the women’s design:


And the men’s:


They are going fast. Get yours today!

Happy Thursday!


My Etsy Shop Has Reopened!



{New 11×14 print}

I am happy to announce that my Etsy Shop is now open again, this time with some new items! I will be closing again between June 26 and July 17 while I’m away on my honeymoon, so if you need something before the end of the month, order now. I’ve got loads of new prints and new tea towels too! Enjoy.

Happy Wednesday.


Lost Cat




When Clay and I moved to Oakland in February, one of the first things that happened was that our cat Margaret went missing.  The first person I called was my good friend illustrator Wendy MacNaughton. You see, Wendy and her partner Caroline Paul lost a cat several years ago. And they made a book about it (written by Caroline, illustrated by Wendy). Their book is called, well, Lost Cat, and it’s a story about stopping at nothing to find their cat Tibby when he one day disappears for five weeks, and then after he returns, fat and happy, their obsession to find out where he’d been. I read the book early last month, and I loved it so much that I wanted to share it with you.


{My favorite illustration in the book}

Losing cats is a relatively common phenomena. Cats who don’t normally go outside sometimes get out and don’t come back for days, if ever. When their owners move, cats sometimes get confused and try to go back to their former homes. But what was different about Caroline and Wendy’s story is that their cat Tibby, who was an indoor/outdoor cat, had never disappeared before for more than a very short time, and nothing had changed about his life that might cause him to leave.


{Fear about Tibby’s well being took over when he was gone for five weeks}

Eventually Tibby returns. And while some owners might shrug and just be glad when their cat returns after five weeks, Wendy and Caroline had to find out where Tibby had been and what drove him to stay away for so long (where he was clearly being fed). They begin tracking him with all kinds of technology, and that’s where the story gets absurd, but also oddly compelling. If you love your cat, you’ll relate to their story.


{Imagining why Tibby might be and what he might be doing}


{Tibby donning one of his tracking devices}

In the end, Caroline and Wendy do learn a lot about where Tibby has been and what he does when he leaves the house. In a way, this is what makes the story so satisfying to read — their crazy attempts do give them some answers in the end. It’s also incredibly silly and touching all at the same time.

The book is funny, and it’s also heartfelt. What most people don’t know is that the book is also a love story. When Tibby went missing, Caroline and Wendy had just started dating, and Caroline had also recently been in a serious accident. The stresses that would normally have caused a relationship in its early stages to crumble only cause Wendy and Caroline to grow closer and more devoted to each other.

So back to my story: where was Margaret? Wendy (now lost cat expert) told us to get some cat food and take it in and around the house, calling Margaret’s name as we held it out for her. Sure enough, we heard a meow. Margaret had crawled up into the fireplace chimney. We managed to coax her down. Covered in soot, we put her in the tub. No GPS needed, thank goodness.

Get Lost Cat here, or like I did, at your local bookstore.

Happy Tuesday.


Christopher Hall




For nearly 5 years, my friend Christopher Hall has been photographing vintage cars he finds sitting in front of San Francisco and East Bay buildings. “I started noticing how cars interplay with their background and how cars seem to match up with trees and colors of houses. You see lots of vintage cars in San Francisco and Oakland. So the series began,”  he says.

Christopher, who lives in the SOMA district of San Francisco, goes out to shoot nearly every weekend and posts his finds on both Instagram and Flickr. “I also carry at least three cameras with me at all times,” he admits. He’s always ready if he sees the perfect shot, even on a weekday when he’s commuting to or from his job on Market Street. Christopher has a huge camera collection, but mostly shoots with a Sony NEX5, which is a small camera on which you can use Leica lenses. He also uses two different vintage Rolleiflex cameras, among several other gems. And, of course, he also shoots with his iPhone.

I met Christopher back in the early 2000’s when we both swam for the same swim team. We quickly learned that we both had an interest in photography and became fast friends. For a period of about a year in about 2005, we periodically explored (er, broke into…) abandoned buildings in and around San Francisco together to shoot in the natural light. I learned a lot about photography from hanging out with Christopher.

Below is a small sampling of Christopher’s gorgeous car photos, of which there are hundreds dating back to 2008. To see more, follow him on Instagram or Flickr.









Happy weekend.

CATEGORIES: Inspiration




{Photo by my dear friend Jon Rendell)

As many of you know, I got married to my partner Clay on Saturday. Not legally (yet…c’mon US Supreme Court!), but with a ceremony and a huge party with 100 friends and family in attendance. The photo above of Clay and me pretty much sums up the day. It’s not the most beautiful or flattering photo, but what it does show is the absolute unbridled joy we both felt that day. For me, the joy was not just in reciting to Clay in front of witnesses how much I love her (and in all the ways that I love her) and hearing her do the same for me. It was also about being surrounded by so many people we love — and having them be so incredibly happy too. With our guests, we hugged, we drank, we ate, we listened to tear-jerking toasts, and we danced the night away.

I have more to say about the whole experience of getting married, especially as someone who spent most of her life thinking she wouldn’t — but I am still processing all of it, and it may be awhile, if ever, before I can write it all down here. Suffice it to say, though, I have never felt so totally whole as I did that afternoon & evening. Sure, I was a little nervous before the ceremony — I felt a little bloated in my dress and was overly worried about my bra straps showing. But all of that disappeared the moment the processional began and the unimaginably beautiful evening unfolded for us.

It will take several weeks to get our official wedding photos back from our photographer (we worked with the inimitable Bonnie Tsang; she is so wonderful). As soon as they are ready, I will share my favorites here with you. In the meantime, you can see a few photos taken by me and some of our friends and family on Instagram — just search for those labeled with the hashtag #clayandlisa2013.

Happy Thursday, friends.


Tender Buttons in Elle Decor UK




I was thrilled to find out last week that my illustrated version of Gertrude Steins Tender Buttons, Objects was listed as one of seven “Best Illustrated Tomes” in the June issue of Elle Decor UK (see details, above)! If you are not familiar with the book, you can read about it and see examples of many of the illustrations here. I wrote about the making of the book here for Chronicle Books (the publisher).  Several of the original paintings from the book are still available in my shop.


For those of you who are wondering, our wedding this past weekend was pretty magical and without a doubt the happiest experience of my entire life. I’ll be back either tomorrow or Thursday with a couple of photos and some reflections. Stay tuned.