Linework NW // Special Guest

01/27/15

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Friends, I am so excited to announce that I am an official Special Guest at Linework NW 2015, an illustration and comics festival in Portland Oregon, April 18 & 19 at Norse Hall.

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The coolest thing of all is the Special Guest company I’ll be keeping: illustrator & comics artist Lisa Hanawalt, animator, character designer and illustrator Jay Howell, and one of my heroes, Ghost World creator, Daniel Clowes (!!!).

I’ll keep you posted on the events scheduled for the weekend and when I’ll be hanging around and what I’ll be doing closer to the dates. For now, mark your calendars!! It’s FREE!!

Have a great Tuesday, friends!

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Heading off to Alt Summit!

01/20/15

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Friends, I’m headed to Salt Lake City tomorrow morning to Alt Summit, a business conference for bloggers and creatives. I was asked back in early December by the organizers to give the opening keynote address (gulp!) for the conference, and I am so honored. I attended Alt in 2012 and never could have imagined that I would be flying to the same conference three years later to stand in front of hundreds of attendees!

And that’s the thing: you never know what life will bring. “Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable,” Mary Oliver once said.

If you are attending Alt Summit, I hope you will say hello.

While I’m away I’ll be blogging, so stay tuned for regularly scheduled programming.

Have a great Tuesday, friends!

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Some Recent Sketchbook Spreads

01/13/15

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As you may know if you follow me on Instagram, I keep a regular sketchbook in which I create intricate spreads with various mediums. Today I thought I’d share with you some of my recent work in my sketchbook. For all of these, I used some combination of Sakura of America pens: Gellyroll pens, Koi brush pens or Micron pens.

If you enjoy keeping a sketchbook or would like to start, I offer a Sketchbook Explorations class through Creativebug and it’s never too late to start!

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Have a happy Tuesday, friends!

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Sketchbook Explorations // Week 2

01/12/15

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Friends, tomorrow begins Week TWO of my latest class on Creativebug called Sketchbook Explorations. If you are interested in taking this class, it’s not too late to sign up! In fact, this class will live on the Creativebug site forever, and you can take it at your own pace whenever you like.

This week we’ll be diving into creating collaged backgrounds and layering over with line drawings of flowers. This week there is also a live video chat with me on Thursday at 11 am PST where you can ask questions!

Have a great week!

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Pattern Camp is Back!

01/07/15

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Friends, I’m so excited to share with you that Jessica Swift’s Pattern Camp is back! If you missed the first round of this class last Fall, there is another opportunity to take it in February. What is Pattern Camp, you ask?

Pattern Camp is a 2-day, intensive, weekend-long virtual, online pattern design workshop created + taught by my good friend and fellow illustrator, Jessica Swift. It’s pattern design boot camp!

If you dream of learning how to make repeat patterns but are unsure of where and how to begin, this course is for you. Throughout the 2-day online workshop you will learn to design repeat patterns in both Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, and we will start from the beginning. No prior knowledge of how to use either program is necessary — beginners are absolutely welcome!

Videos, tutorials, and live Q+A’s will guide you through the tools, techniques, and tricks to get you quickly on your way to proficiency in the programs + creating your own beautiful patterns.

I highly recommend this course for anyone wanting to learn to make repeat patterns! Here’s a little video preview:

If working through the course in 2 intensive days doesn’t jive with your schedule/life/time zone, you can work through the lessons at your own pace. You’ll have access to the website and all the lessons for one full month and won’t miss a thing!

Good news: the course is $199 USD January 6-8 ONLY. Regular price $239 USD, beginning on January 9, 2015. Register here!

Have a happy Wednesday, friends!

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New Online Course: Sketchbook Explorations!

01/06/15

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Friends, I’m so happy to let you know today I am launching a brand new four-part online class with Creativebug called Sketchbook Explorations! You might remember my the online course Basic Line Drawing that I launched last year (you can also still take that one!). This class has a similar format but entirely new content and activities.

Watch the preview of the course here!

Each of the four parts is released one week at a time, and this first week is all about creating watercolor backgrounds and layering with a line drawing. You can make a spread that looks like mine, or use the inspiration to create your own totally unique spread. That part is up to you.

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The following weeks we’ll do some collage with paper and work with pens as well (I’ll be back next Tuesday to share more about the content for Week Two). Throughout the course I’ll share some of my process and you’ll have the opportunity to learn alongside me. I cover materials you’ll need, composition and technique. You take the course at your own pace — it lives on the internet forever, so there is no rush! In the 2nd week of the course there will be a live chat with me that you can tune into to ask questions and learn even more.

Head over here to learn more, watch preview videos, sign up for my class or get a Creativebug’s subscription if you don’t have one already. It’s a steal at $9.99 a month (and you can take as many classes as you like and can cancel any time).

In the past students from my course have posted images of what they’re making on Instagram. If you do take the course, be sure to follow me @lisacongdon and tag me & use the hashtag #cbugsketchbook in your images so that I can see what you’re making!

Hope to see you in class & have a great Tuesday!

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Whatever You Are, Be a Good One

01/02/15

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When I made Whatever You Are, Be a Good One, I honestly didn’t expect much to come of it. I have learned to take each book or product launch with a grain of salt. You may want something to resonate with people and sell well, but any artist or designer who’s been making, launching or selling books or products for any amount of time will tell you, it’s really hard to predict what will and what won’t take off. Things I thought would be a slam dunk have failed. And now, things I never expected to sell much are selling really well. Every now and again something happens in your career that surprises you, something totally unexpected — and sales of Whatever You Are, Be a Good One have really, really surprised me (in a good way, of course).

In the past two weeks alone the book has been named not once but twice as a top Art/Design book of 2014: once here by Maria Popova on Brain Pickings and then this week here by Fast Company. The book appeared on the homepage for the Today Show in the U.S this week also. It is a top selling book in all its categories on Amazon (for awhile at the #1 spot for quotation books).

For me, it’s a humbling experience when something I make sells well or gets attention. The sales of Whatever You Are, Be a Good One have felt great, of course, but there is part of me who is also re-making the book in my head, because all I can see are the ways I would make it better if I could make it over again. I am a true artist I guess — never totally happy with my work!

I have just finished a sequel to Whatever You Are, Be a Good One, and it comes out later this year. It’s called Fortune Favors the Brave, and I cannot wait to show you the cover! For now, that will have to wait.

I am also having another book signing for Whatever You Are, Be a Good One coming up on January 10 in Los Gatos, California, my home town. I’ll be signing at Village Books on Main Street from 1 pm to about 2:30 pm. If you live in the area, I hope to see you there! EVENT CANCELLED!

Here’s to the unexpected!

Happy New Year, friends!

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Block Printing E-Course!

12/17/14

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Friends, I’m so excited to share a new online ecourse by my friend Jen Hewett. In this sure-to-be-fabulous two day class, Jen will use videos, photos, and downloadable notes to guide you through the process of block printing on fabric. At the end of this class, you’ll know how to print your own custom fabric, which you can then use for tea towels, bags, quilts, or other fabric and sewing projects. Awesome, right?

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The course will take place online on January 31st and February 1st 2015 (PST), and will be accessible to you until March 3rd, so if you can’t take the class on that weekend, or if you want to work at your own pace, you’ll be able to access all the course materials through March 3. You will also have access to an exclusive Facebook group, where you’ll be able to ask Jen questions, as well as network and get feedback.

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And from now until December 31, 2014, you’ll get the early bird price of just $99 for the course! The price will go up to $109 on January 1st. Go get it!

I can vouch for Jen’s fantastic teaching: here I am earlier this year taking a block printing class from her in which I made some fabulous yardage that I used to make a dress.

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You design and carve your own blocks, so you can make your patterns unique to you. To learn more about the course and what supplies you need and to sign up, go here!

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Happy printing and happy Wednesday!

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Creativelive Branding Class

11/28/14

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If you took my Become a Working Artist class on Creativelive (now on sale for $79!), you may recall that I recommended the Sell Your Products to Retailers class, taught by Megan Auman. Megan is a fantastic teacher with a wealth of knowledge & experience and next week she’s also teaching a Brand Your Creative Business class, which you can watch free on December 4-5. RSVP here.

In Brand Your Creative Business, you’ll explore what makes your business a unique brand and find ways to share it. You’ll learn about implementing a brand strategy and growing and protecting it. Megan will teach:

+Why branding matters

+How to define your brand

+Storytelling to promote your business

+How to develop a strategy to implement your plans

I highly recommend Megan’s classes!

Want a class that covers all aspects of launching or reigniting your art career? Purchase my Become a Working Artist class now for $79 (on sale from $99).

Have a great Friday, friends!

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On Doing the Work

11/17/14

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I am often asked by people starting out in the business of selling art what are two or three things they can do to begin making an income from their work. Of course, since I wrote a book about making art for a living and offer an online class on it too, I have some opinions about the topic. But the thing that I also want people to know is that, most of the time, even when you are doing all the things I recommend and even when you are doing them well, success and opportunity take time. So in some ways my three pieces of advice are: 1) this could take awhile so get started now (ie: don’t wait!)  2) show up and do the work everyday 3) be patient.

In his new book, Things a Little Bird Told Me, Twitter founder Biz Stone says, “Timing, perseverance and 10 years of really hard work will eventually make you look like an overnight success.” This quote resonated for me, as I am sure it does for a lot of successful people. Before I continue, I want to give a big fat disclaimer here: I am in no way comparing myself to Biz Stone. While I make a steady and respectable income as an artist and work with a great set of clients, I am not a millionaire (or even remotely close), and I have not near the fame or financial success as Biz. What resonated for me is this notion that to people who don’t know me or who have just started following my work, it may appear as though I walked quickly, easily and swiftly into my successful career as an artist. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Recently I wrote this essay in which I spoke about my determination — and how that energy and resolve eventually led to my own tipping point — in which regular opportunities began to flow my way. That tipping point for successful people is often when others begin paying attention, and so it can often look like their success miraculously occurred. Who is this person I am now seeing everywhere on the Internets? He/she must have come out of nowhere! When, in fact, that person has been working hard for years and years to get where they are. Furthermore, those people just starting out (and we were all there once) may then infer that this same “overnight success” (albeit false) can happen for them. Fact is, only a very small portion of the artist population experiences overnight success. It’s so rare that it’s practically non-existent.

What gets artists and writers (and anyone) to success (however you define it) is usually a combination of lots of different factors and strategies, and pretty much always includes showing up and doing the work — all the work, and not just the stuff that’s fun or easy. Whenever I think about this notion of doing the work I think about Cheryl Strayed’s brilliant essay in Dear Sugar/The Rumpus called Write Like a Motherfucker. I’ll leave it to you to read it (and I highly recommend it), but essentially she’s telling a young female aspiring writer that if she wants to get anywhere as a writer she needs to get off her ass and write. To become a good writer, you must write. To become a good painter, you must paint. To become good at selling your work, you must do the work of putting your work into the world — not once or twice, but over and over and over. Success and opportunity never come to those who sit back and wish things were different. They come to those who do stuff.

Not to confuse the issue, but while doing the stuff (the work, the self promotion, all of it) is really important, I also believe that so are more “woo-woo” things like having positive intentions and envisioning yourself being successful. You must believe it’s possible in order to do the work. Simply envisioning yourself being successful without doing the work will get you nowhere. In the end, having positive intentions and showing up and doing the work go hand in hand.

For more nuts and bolts information about making a living from your art, order my book Art, Inc or take my online class Become a Working Artist.

Have a great week, friends!

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My Doodling Manifesto

11/06/14

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Earlier this year I designed this Doodling Manifesto and I realized the other day I had never shared here on the blog! If you’ve taken my line drawing class with Creativebug, you’ve probably heard me talk about some of these principles.

1) In doodling, there are no rules. We all have that voice in our head that says, on occasion, “you should be doing it this way.” And when we doodle, it’s important to tell those voices to shut up. Rules play a really important role in some forms of art making: how to hold your brush, what materials to use, how to create a lush background, on and on. But in doodling, you get to draw whatever you want however you want. And, furthermore, no one but you ever has to see what you doodle. So you have all the freedom.

2) Carry pens and paper with you everywhere. This is important because you never know when the opportunity (or inspiration) will strike. In line at the bank? The waiting room at the doctor? Make your down time (even the boring stuff) less boring with doodles.

3) Make time to doodle every day. Even if you only doodle for a few minutes a day, free form drawing can loosen up your creative juju and even help you process other more difficult stuff, like working through creative blocks or thinking about solutions to life’s problems.

4) Think of everything as lines and circles. You don’t have to “know how to draw” to doodle. Make shapes! Create lines! And if you do want to draw flowers or people or buildings, think of them more abstractly as a collection of lines and circles.

5) You are the boss of your art. You get to draw what inspires you. You get to draw what you want to draw, even if it’s the same stuff you always draw. If you keep a sketchbook to doodle (which I highly recommend), your sketchbook (unless you choose to share it) is your own private place that no one else ever has to see.

6) Imperfection rules. Do you know that Japanese term Wabi Sabi? It translates to something like “beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.” The idea here is that it is actually the “imperfections” that make something beautiful or interesting. What I often describe as “wonkiness” in art is to me what makes something really cool or different. Embrace imperfection in your doodling.

7) Doodling is art (end of story). Many of the large abstract paintings I make in my studio and sell to clients begin as doodles in pen in my sketchbook. Many of the repeat patterns I create that adorn fabric began as doodles in my sketchbook. Doodling itself, even if it’s never translated to things like canvas or surface design, is art. Every great artist doodles and every great doodler is an artist.

8) Black and white are beautiful colors. While I do use colored pens and watercolor paints in my sketchbook when I doodle, my favorite tools are black Micron pens and white paper. I encourage you to embrace the simplicity of using just one color (even if it’s not black) and even if it’s just every now and again. When you draw in black on white you will find great beauty in the monotony.

9) Negative space is as important as positive space. Whenever I teach line drawing, I remind my students that it’s important to pay attention not just to the marks you are making on the page (the positive space), but also to the white (negative) space that surrounds it. Composition is made up of negative and positive space and how they interact together, so ponder both as you doodle.

10) Everything you draw (even the stuff you don’t like) is part of your journey. It’s important to remember that even when you want to rip something out of your sketchbook because it is SO UGLY (and even if you do, and you can), the exercise of “making mistakes” or pushing something on the page too far when you should have just left it alone (sound familiar?) is all part of the journey of making art (regardless if you are a doodler or a professional artist). We learn & grow from those experiences. It’s important to learn to embrace the ugly, the mistakes, the “that looked so good until I added that color” moments. It’s all part of your path.

Have a happy Thursday, friends!

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New Creativebug Class :: Geometric Paper Collage

10/28/14

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For those of you who love creating collage, you may be excited to know that I’ve launched a new Creativebug class today called Making a Geometric Paper Collage! In this new class I teach you how to create a small collage with six pointed stars made from paper, like the one pictured above.

If you have a Creativebug subscription, you are all set — go ahead and watch the course! If not, you can either buy a class ala carte or sign up for a monthly subscription (a bargain at 9.99 a month!).

Learn more about the course (including the materials you need) and buy the course here. And in the meantime, you can watch this little video about all of my Creativebug classes! See links on my sidebar to the right to go to the Line Drawing Class (which includes hand lettering and photo doodling) and also Painting an 8-point Star.

Have a happy Tuesday!

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On Owning It: I Am An Artist

10/23/14

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About two months ago, I was at the book launch event for my latest book, Art Inc. I was signing books, one by one, and chatting with the folks who came to the table. Two young women approached, smiling widely.

“I am so excited about this book!” one of them exclaimed.

“Oh, thank you!” I replied.

And then I said, assuming if she was excited about my book it must be the true: “You must be an artist!”

The young woman paused with clear hesitation. “Well, I do some graphic design…and I paint in watercolors, but…”

“So you’re an artist,” I replied.

“Um, I guess so?” she said, her cheeks turning red.

I have wondered for a long time why it is so hard for artists — especially women — to own their status in the world. It took me years to identify confidently as an artist. Why are we so hesitant – at least until we’ve graduated from school or until we’ve “made it” — to proclaim, “I am an artist”?

And so it made perfect sense to me that the first chapter of my book, Art Inc: The Essential Guide to Building Your Career as an Artist, be dedicated to the notion of claiming our identity as artists.

For time immemorial society has seen artists as a different breed. We are moody and temperamental. We starve to follow our passions. If we are at all concerned with making money or if we do make money from our work – especially through commercial work – it must mean our intentions as artists are somehow corrupted. From all of this has grown the starving artist myth.

And, furthermore, most of us have been taught – either directly or indirectly – that if what we create brings us any reward at all (financial reward, recognition, even industry awards) that this reward is fleeting. This notion that our careers are built on a foundation of scarcity (which is no foundation at all) has permeated our society and our psyches.

And that is, in part, of course, because art is subjective. Our careers and our future careers as artists are based on whether people like our work, whether it becomes a commodity others want to own or pay us to make. We are always reminding ourselves that we could tomorrow starve, so we better be grateful for what we have today.

No matter how we came into the world of making or selling art, we all believe in some small way (or many of us in some big way) that at any moment it could all go poof! and disappear, that the people who pay for it today could go away tomorrow and pay for someone else’s work instead.

So many of us spend a lot of time feeling like we are lucky at best and that if we are making money from our work we might not even deserve it. Even artists who have been at this for a lifetime may feel like “imposters” in this world, that at any moment they will be “found out” and exposed for not really being talented or legitimate.

This sense of impermanence, of treading lightly, of not knowing whether my future was secure, even after my work was in demand, has been a big part of my story. And I have come to learn from talking to scores of other artists that it’s an incredibly common story.

It has been 14 years since I first picked up a paintbrush. And I spent much of that time feeling like an imposter. I didn’t study art or illustration formally in school. I did not follow traditional pathways to get where I am. Most of what I do most days I taught myself how to do. I don’t even know most of the time if there is better or easier or “more right” way to do what I do.

And for that reason, I used to spend a lot of time feeling inferior; like for some reason I did not deserve the success I was experiencing. And worse than that: that’s what I feared others might think about me too.

But at some point, I decided, this is bullshit.

And then the next part of my story became my internal fight to think in broader, more confident terms about who I am as an artist and what I can accomplish — not just in the near future — but over my lifetime.

I began spending a lot of time reminding myself that regardless of whether this has all been luck or whether I have any talent isn’t what matters. Who cares about that? What matters is that I am happy getting up every day to paint and draw. What matters is that I make my best effort every day to be myself in my life and work. What matters is that I work really hard at my career. What matters is that I am thoughtful about the work I want to make and the people I want to work with. What matters is that once it started, making art for a living hasn’t failed me.

I have also come to own & embrace all of my experience, including my unconventional (and late blooming) path, including feeling like an imposter, including my mistakes, including all of the less attractive parts of my story. Because all of those things, in addition to my hard work & my successes, have helped to make me who I am.

I am an artist.

For more on owning your identity (and potential) as an artist, see my book, Art, Inc. or my online class Become a Working Artist.

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The DELVE Toolkit

10/16/14

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I love hearing about new resources for artists, and I was really excited recently when Sara Jones showed up at an event I had in New York and introduced herself to me. She is one of the founders of Kind Aesthetic, an creative agency who helps artists create a visual, written and emotional representation for their practice or business. One of their services is the DELVE Toolkit.

The DELVE Toolkit for artists & creatives offers personalized, one-on-one, professional guidance to visual and performing artists, creative entrepreneurs, crafters and makers to help them best communicate what they do, get (and stay) organized, and achieve their professional goals.

What you get:
+personalized direction and weekly assignments
+hours of one-on-one conversation plus email access to Kind Aesthetic
+the drive and focus from two professionals who truly care about your success
+honest, clear feedback
+constant, steady motivation and manageable tasks
+confidence, accomplishment, self-reliance and new amazing work habits and skills

You can set up a free 20 minute consultation by emailing hello@kindaesthetic.com

You can also read more about the toolkit here.

Have you taken my Become a Working Artist Course on CreativeLive or read my book Art Inc? The DELVE Toolkit sounds like fantastic followup support and action to get your art career moving.

Happy Thursday.

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Portland, YOU Are Awesome

10/13/14

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This past week I spoke two different times at two different events for 2014 Design Week Portland. I have always known Portland is a special place. I have been going to Portland for visits for the past fifteen years. Several members of my family, including my sister and parents live there, and I have loved that town from the beginning. But the experience of the last several days brought a new level of love and appreciation to my heart. So many incredibly kind people, well organized, sold-out events, and good beer, food, smiles & hugs.

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Thursday I spoke at the Design Week HQ in Pioneer Square (which happened to be a geodesic dome). I was in conversation with Namita Wiggers, former Director and Chief Curator for the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, and also friend and inspiration, now freelance curator, writer and big brain. We talked about my path, how I’ve used the Internet and my mulch-disciplinary approach to making a living as an artist. Thank you to everyone who came out to hear us talk, and for all the great questions I got and interest in what I do. It was all very heartfelt! A special thanks to Namita and PDW organizer Kate Bingaman Burt for inviting me to do this event!

Then, this past Friday evening, I gave a talk about my work in general & my sketchbooks to a crowd of over 200 people.

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The event was organized by the amazing Yvonne Perez Emerson and Scott Baker, founders of WeMakePDX.

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Here I am with my wife Clay and Yvonne at the party following my talk. I have been working with Yvonne to prepare for the event for almost nine months, and I cannot say enough about her energy and enthusiasm, not just for my event, but for supporting and being part of the Portland creative community.

Thank you, Portland, for making me feel so welcomed!

Have a great Monday, friends.

 

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