Courtney Cerruti // Playing With Surface Design


PlayingwithSurfaceDesign A few years ago, I met artist, curator, author & teacher, Courtney Cerruti. Courtney works for Creativebug and helped to concept and produce all of my classes there (including my two best-selling Basic Line Drawing and Sketchbook Explorations classes). Courtney has become one of my most treasured friends. I am perpetually in awe of her prolific creative energy and free spirit. Courtney and I also share a longtime love of neon colors. Courtney has published several books (one which I wrote about here) and her latest is my new favorite. It’s called Playing with Surface Design, and it’s a book of surface design projects, including projects for creating wrapping paper, ribbon, lampshades, garlands, plates and more. Each project is fully photographed and includes step by step instructions. Last week, I sat down with Courtney to talk about this gorgeous new book. I’m also sharing here photos of some projects from the book, all styled by Courtney and photographed by Liz Daly (except the one above, which was taken by me). I hope you enjoy this latest in my Interviews with People I Admire!


Lisa: What inspired this particular book?

Courtney: I wanted to make a book that showed traditional printmaking techniques with a fresh and contemporary look and feel. I’ve added neons, metallics and indigos to the color palette overall and made specific tweaks to some of the processes like marbling, paste papers and monoprinting so that they better fit into the craft and DIY world we all know and love today. I’ve also thrown in some favorite painting and stamping methods to cover designs for all surfaces.


Lisa: You have several amazing and beautiful project-based books under your belt. Tell us about what it’s like to make books like this. What inspires you to share techniques with other people?

Courtney: Every book I’ve written came from my current passion/obsession. In addition to wanting to share a process or project that I love to make, most of the projects are ones I teach in my in-person and online workshops. The books aim to inspire people as well as teach successful methods for making. I want people to pick up any one of my books and learn a better way to make an image transfer, a monoprint, a book, etc., and to feel proud about learning a new skill AND smitten because they made something beautiful too.
Lisa: That is a great feeling! To learn something new and make something beautiful. What is your favorite project in the book and why?

Courtney: OOOH, so hard! I think my favorite might be the Bold Botanical Prints because its evokes the feeling of cyanotypes with the addition of neon. Its also more accessible and less expensive than the cyanotype process. Best of all, the printing surface is an actual slab of gelatin, as in Jell-o, which is just plain awesome.

Lisa: When you come up with an idea for a project for one of your books, does it always go as you planned? Or do you end up scrapping some of them and trying other techniques? Tell us about this process of risk-taking and experimentation.

Courtney: The process of making a book is ever-evolving. Although I come up with an initial list of projects, they change and shift, because I become inspired by something new as I work. Delving deep into any method allows for moments of discovery and that in turn causes me to add projects and strike others as I become more or less inspired by a certain aspect of the process. Luckily I worked with a great photographer, Liz Daly, and a great Editor, Jonathan Simkosky at Quarry, who were both flexible along the way.


Lisa: When a project you’ve imagined and then try comes out beautifully, what does that feel like?

Courtney: A successful project feels like falling in love, like what you expected and at the same time like a tiny miracle. The processes I love — and most often use and teach — all have an element of unexpectedness, which is why I think they’ve kept me interested and engaged for years.


Lisa: There is a gallery in the back of the book of artists who do surface design, in which I am so honored to by included. Besides the artists in the book, who are some of your favorite surface designers today?

Courtney: Helen Dealtry, Chris Schmidt of Yellow Owl Workshop, Naomi Ito of Nani Iro, Kindah Khalidy, Llew Mejia, Kitty McCall, and fabric and work from the studios of Mara Mi, Marimekko, and Liberty of London just to name a few.

You can find Courtney’s website here and follow her on Instagram here. You can purchase Courtney’s new book here or wherever books are sold. Did you make something from the book? Tag it #PlayingWithSurfaceDesign to share with others. Thank you Courtney for this inspiring interview. I hope everyone has a great Monday!


New Book: Art For All Seasons



Back in 2005 I met Susan Schwake online. Susan is a fellow artist (one of her gorgeous pieces is pictured above), gallery owner, art teacher and author. I’ve had the great fortune to work with Susan in many capacities over the past 10 years, including in shows as a fellow artist and numerous time exhibiting in her spacious gallery in New Hampshire.

It’s really clear when you meet and get to know Susan that despite her own talent as an artist, her greatest passion is introducing the world of art-making to children. Susan began by teaching art classes to kids in the back of her gallery (she also teaches adults), and then over the past few years began publishing books with engaging and thoughtful art projects for kids. She started with Art Lab For Kids, then published Art Lab for Little Kids, and then 3-D Art Lab for Kids.

Most recently, she’s published Art For All Seasons: 40 Creative Mixed Media Adventures for Children Inspired by Nature and Contemporary Artists. I am so honored to be one of the artists whose work is featured in the book — one of the project is inspired by my hand lettered work!


Art for All Seasons is a handbook of mostly nature inspired art projects that can be explored with kids. This book is great for parents, teachers, grandparents or anyone wanting to make art with kids.  The book includes over 400 full-color photographs of projects and additional inspirational images of contemporary artists’ work.

You can watch a little video about this wonderful book below and purchase it here or wherever books are sold!

Have a great Monday, friends!


Print & Pattern :: Geometric


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I’m super excited to have finally gotten my hands on Print & Pattern Geometric, another fantastic compendium of print & pattern by Marie Perkins, aka Bowie Style. I’m honored to have two full spreads in the book with some of my geometric works, along with the works of tons and tons of other illustrators. This book is a treasure trove of geometric visual inspiration — 460 full color pages in all!

photo 1

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You can purchase the book here.

Have a great Thursday, friends!


The Jealous Curator Show at Bedford Gallery



You may recall that earlier this year I wrote about my friend Danielle’s (aka The Jealous Curator) fantastic book Creative Block. And recently 20 artists from the book were curated by Danielle into a show at Bedford Gallery: From Blog to Book to Gallery. Last night I attended the opening, and it is a beautiful show with many amazing works. Here are just a few of my favorite pieces(too many to photograph!) and my own work down at the bottom of the post:


Kate Pugsley.


Stephanie Vovas’ large scale photographs.


Large scale Jenny Hart.


Danielle Krysa.


Martha Rich.


Hollie Chastain.



Jennifer Davis.


Leah Giberson.


Aris Moore.

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Lisa Golightly.




All six of my pieces in the show.


My hummingbird.

All work from the show (if not already sold) is available through Bedford Gallery. The gallery does not have an online shop, but you can call or email at any time to purchase with a credit card. If you are local to the Bay Area, the show will be up through February 1, and I highly recommend a visit! Here are the seven artists (including Danielle) who were able to attend the opening last night: Kate Pugsley, Lisa Golightly, Stephanie Vovas, Danielle Krysa, me, Leah Giberson & Trey Speegle.


One last note: both my book Whatever You Are, Be a Good One and Danielle’s book Creative Block were included in Brain Pickings Best Art, Design and Photography Books of 2014!  Have a happy Monday, all.


Blair Stocker :: Wise Craft



Every now and again a friend calls on me to illustrate something for them. To me, this is the greatest honor: when someone you’ve known for years actually wants to work with you. Maybe some of you can relate — it’s a special experience. Last year I got an email from my agent — my friend Blair Stocker was writing a craft book and she wanted me to illustrate some of the projects. Truth be told, Blair’s book has SIXTY amazing projects in it, and I only illustrated a handful. But it was a super fun project, especially because I got to interact directly with Blair to get the illustrations just right.  I can’t wait to share some photos with you.

Blair’s book is called Wise Craft: Turning Thrift Store Finds, Fabric Scraps and Natural Objects into Stuff You Love. It’s based on many projects from her longtime blog, Wise Craft — and, of course, some new ones too. Instead of throwing away things like old dishes or shirts, Blair teaches you how to remake/reuse them, adding special touches to make them unique. This book is also particularly great for folks (like me!) who like to thrift for special treasures and then use them in projects. The book is divided into four seasonal chapters, with designs that reflect different holidays and the like. Here are some of my favorite projects from the book:


{Dip Dye Toile Dishes}


{Bead-bombed Tote Bag, with my illustration in the upper right}


{Spooky dishes}


{Summer Sherbet Picnic Blanket, with my illustration on the right}


{Hand Painted Journals}


{Hottie Rice Pillow, with my illustration on the right hand page}

You can purchase Blair’s beautiful book here or wherever craft books are sold. I’ll be making those dip-dyed ceramics very soon (stay tuned for a post on that!)

Have a happy Thursday!


Danielle Krysa :: Creative Block



Friends, Danielle Krysa, aka The Jealous Curator, has put out the most beautiful book, and I am so honored to be part of it. It’s called Creative Block: Advice and Projects from 50 Successful Artists, and it’s published by Chronicle Books. The book includes interviews with 50 artists, recommended activities for getting your creative juices flowing,  plus pages and pages of gorgeous imagery. Yes, it’s a beautifully curated & edited book, but truly the best part of this book are the countless pages of stories from real working artists talking about their worst days and how they get through them. I always say that it’s our humanity as artists that connects us with the world, and this book is a testament to that.

Danielle is going on a book signing tour to a few major cities, and I highly recommend going to one of these events if there is one near you:
San Francisco, March 5
Los Angeles, March 22
New York City, April 2 (you must purchase tickets to this one)
Vancouver, BC, May 15, 7 pm

A few spreads from the book:


{one of my mine}


{Holly Chastain}


{Aris Moore}


{Kate Pugsley}

You can get the book here or at your local bookstore. Congratulations, Danielle! I love this book.

Happy Tuesday.



Valentine’s Day Cootie Catcher




If you grew up in the US (and maybe they were popular elsewhere too), you probably remember the folded paper contraption called a Cootie Catcher. Essentially they are silly fortune tellers, and they are incredibly fun to make and play with. Last year Michelle Taute published the book Fold Me Up: 100 Paper Fortune-Tellers for Life’s Pressing Questions, a cootie catcher book for adults. She asked artists from around the world to create unique cootie catchers, and today in honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re offering a free download of the cootie catcher that I designed for her book (which is all about love, FTW). The download PDF looks like this (below, except larger), and includes the design and directions for assembling it.


Enjoy and happy Thursday!



How to Hang a Picture




Several months back I was contacted by my old friend Jay Sacher (he was my first editor at Chronicle Books back in the day and now lives in Brooklyn). He was writing a book on how to hang a picture, and also how to make arrangements of things in your home, and would I contribute some ideas? Since collecting and arranging are passions of mine, I said, of course. Well, that book, How to Hang a Picture, is now available. The book, written by Jay and his partner Suzanne LaGasa, is chock full of tips and even technical stuff like which hardware to use and how to find a stud on a wall or hang a picture on (gasp!) cinder block!

Here’s the publisher’s witty description of the book, which I loved, “Like tying a Windsor knot or brewing a perfect cup of coffee, knowing how to hang art on your wall is a hallmark of everyday style and nuts-and-bolts know-how. The where, what, and whys of hanging art are an overlooked, under-appreciated line of inquiry. Most of us simply wing it with a quick eyeball and a swing of the hammer. How hard can it be? we think. What can go wrong? The answer, of course, is plenty: crumbling plaster, ruined antique laths, mismatched art hung too-close together, or a poorly-mounted photograph warping in its frame. But beyond the technical mishaps, there is a more essential lesson to be learned: The skill and consideration with which you decorate your home makes an aesthetic statement about the world you inhabit—and more importantly, when it’s done right, it very clearly looks a whole lot better.”


How to Hang a Picture: And Other Essential Lessons for a Stylish Home is a user-friendly guidebook that details everything you need to know about hanging, framing, decorating and displaying art. Elegantly illustrated by Sacher, this book is both a stylish addition to your coffee table stack and a great resource.



My advice is in the collections section of the book (surprise, surprise), entitled (again with wit) “Shelf Life: or How Not to Hang a Picture,” which is all about using shelves and other surfaces to arrange collections and objects

I absolutely love this book. I think it’s brilliant (and a long overdue resource).  I hope you will check it out too. It might even make the perfect gift for someone in your life.

Have a great Wednesday, friends. And happy pre-holiday to my readers in the U.S.!

I’ll be back tomorrow with a Thanksgiving post.


Iceland & Alvar Aalto in UPPERCASE 19!


#19 cover preview




As you may remember, about a year ago I’d just returned from a three week solo adventure to Scandinavia, including Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. For this month’s UPPERCASE Magazine, I’ve written two articles — one about my love affair with Iceland, and the other about my trip to the Alvar Aalto studio. The Iceland article features pages from my travel sketchbook/scrapbook and some of my artwork. Both articles include original photos I took on the trip.




I highly recommend a subscription to this gorgeous magazine. You can look at and read the entire issue here online, but it’s really 1000 times better in print. For a list of stockists in your area, check here.

Happy Tuesday!


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.



The Where, the Why and the How


I am super thrilled to be part of a new book edited by illustrator and author Julia Rothman and the folks at Also Design and published by Chronicle, called The Where, the Why and the How.  If you are interested in both science and art, I think you will really enjoy this book.

Here’s a  little about this gorgeous book from the publisher: “A science book like no other, The Where, the Why, and the How turns loose 75 of today’s hottest artists onto life’s vast questions, from how we got here to where we are going. Inside these pages some of the biggest (and smallest) mysteries of the natural world are explained in essays by real working scientists, which are then illustrated by artists given free rein to be as literal or as imaginative as they like. The result is a celebration of the wonder that inspires every new discovery. Featuring work by such contemporary luminaries as Lisa Congdon, Jen Corace, Neil Farber, Susie Ghahremani, Jeremyville, and many more, this is a work of scientific and artistic exploration to pique the interest of both the intellectually and imaginatively curious.”

75 illustrated pages and 75 short informational essays on some of science’s most interesting questions (all underneath a sturdy hardcover)? Oh, yes.

I painted the illustration to accompany the essay about Why Do Whales Sing? Here’s a sneak peek at my page:

Want to learn more about the book and see some more of the illustrations? Take a look here at this terrific video!

Get the book here or at your local bookstore.


Happy Monday, friends.


You Are So Loved


It’s always a pleasure to work with Chronicle Books. And one of their latest projects — You Are So Loved — was no exception. It’s a follow up to their previous best-selling book of inspirational phrases penned by artists: Everything is Going to be Okay. Just like its predecessor, You Are So Loved is a visual feast that will make you feel really good.

This is the piece I contributed to the book, on page 13:

And here are just a few of my favorites from the book:

Nicole Lavelle

Jen Collins

Cori Kindred

Available for pre-order. Comes out August 29, 2012.

CATEGORIES Books I'm In | Drawings

Knot Thread Stitch


Two of my close friends have book releases this week! You may remember earlier this week I posted about Mati’s new book. Today I’m so excited to tell you about Lisa Solomon’s new book: Knot Thread Stitch: Exploring Creativity through Embroidery and Mixed Media.

Lisa (my evil twin who I wrote about here) is a master with thread (just take a look at her expansive fine art portfolio). So it is no wonder that thread is the common theme of this book of projects. The book is organized around simple projects, from tea towels to pillow cases to decorative pieces. For each project, Lisa offers her own design and then highlights the work of an artist. For example, a tea towel embroidery design by Lisa is paired with another tea towel design by artist Kate Bingaman Burt.

I was lucky enough to do a project for the book. I designed a floral silhouette pillow. It’s a labor intensive project, but really pretty easy, and one that you can adapt to your own silhouette if you like.

Wilfredo happens also to be featured in the book (who can resist putting him in their book these days?). As one of her projects in the book, Lisa designed a pet portrait of Wilfredo.

Isn’t it amazing? This project is followed by a pet portrait pillow by Camilla Engman of her late dog, Morran. The list of artists in the book is fantastic.

If you are new to the stitching arts, the also book includes loads of information on supplies, tools and technique, along with the over 30 projects.

Lisa is having a book signing tomorrow evening at The Curiosity Shoppe in San Francisco. Wilfredo and I will be there and we hope to see you!


Daring Adventures in Paint


I’m so excited to talk today about Mati McDonough’s new book: Daring Adventures in Paint. As many of you know, Mati is a dear friend, and my partner in Get Your Paint On. She’ just written a colorful new book, and I wanted to share a little bit of it with you. Daring Adventures is part painting+collage technique, part inspiration, part Mati’s story, and 100% gorgeous.

Perhaps most stunning in the book is the color photography, taken by another dear friend, Leslie Lindell. She did a phenomenal job at capturing Mati’s colorful spirit, aesthetic and work.

Guess who’s also in the book? Yep, that’s Wilfredo and me in my studio!

Mati’s having a book signing here in San Francisco Thursday evening, July 12 from 6-9 pm at Rare Device in San Francisco, located at 600 Divisadero Street at Hayes. It’s a great opportunity to get a signed copy of this beautiful new book, meet Mati, and sip on a glass of wine. I hope to see you there!




I am so happy to announce the release of an illustration project I worked on for nine months last year. You may recall earlier this week I was lamenting about how hard it is to keep secrets about my work, and this project was no exception. The book, The Pickled Pantry, includes over 70 hand painted illustrations of pickles, vegetables, fruits, pickling tools, herbs, spices and vinegars. This project was great fun. I loved working with Mary from Storey Publishing on this project. Author Andrea Chesman serves up no only mouth-watering pickling recipes, but tips, history, biographies of picklers, and fantastic stories.

One of my goals for the summer is to learn some pickling (oh, do I love fermented foods), and I’ll be starting with this book. You can get your copy here.