On the Messiness of Life

11/27/14

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{The quote above by Tara Brach, one of the world’s greatest Buddhist teachers, will appear in my next book of hand lettered quotes, due out from Chronicle in 2015)

For most of my childhood my mom had a cartoonish greeting card taped to our refrigerator that said DULL WOMEN HAVE IMMACULATE HOUSES. Even after it was splattered with food and yellowed at the edges, this card never left the center spot on the freezer door until after I went off to college. This saying was, in a sense, my mother’s mantra. She wore her lack of fastidiousness like a badge of honor. She told my siblings and me repeatedly that she had more important things to do than to clean all the time. It was, she told us, more important to be an interesting person who did interesting things in life than to be obsessively tidy.

While I have never been a fussy house cleaner, thanks in part to my mom, I have had a harder time embracing the more figurative disorder of life: things like messy relationships, unfinished conversations, incomplete projects and impending deadlines. Immediately after reaching adulthood, I began continually obsessing over the details of the imperfections in my life and how I should fix them. If only I worked hard enough or fixed this or that relationship, my life would finally be okay. It might even become perfect!

This idea of “if I could just fix this” was, for most of my adult life, the theme. If I can just get through this to-do list. If I can just mend that relationship. If I can just finish getting that part of my life in order. Then I will finally arrive at a beautiful, perfect life. As a result, I spent years with horrible anxiety, in therapy, exploring Buddhism, reading self help books, trying to find some relief from this spinning wheel.

One of the most beautiful things about entering your 40’s and leaning toward your 50’s  (I turn 47 in January) is that you learn really crazy lessons almost daily. Stuff you thought was true your whole life comes undone. And this undoing can feel both completely terrifying and also completely liberating. One of the lessons I have learned is that I will never, ever feel like I have arrived. There will always be relationships that feel painfully awkward, there will always be unfinished items on my list, goals I haven’t achieved, unresolved email threads, people who I may have disappointed, people who don’t like me. I am never going to get there. Ever.

While this idea still freaks me out from time to time (wait, oh no, I really don’t have control?), it has been the most freeing understanding I have ever had about my life. And furthermore, I have realized the messiness of life I once rallied against is precisely how I learn and grow and evolve.

Truth be told, I still rally against the messiness. I still make to-do lists and stress out at the end of the day when I have to move things I didn’t accomplish to the next day’s list, again. I still worry that people don’t like me. I still want to please the important people in my life. The difference now is that those thoughts don’t control me or my ability to feel happiness and joy. And I also understand now that the messiest situations give birth to some of the most beautiful (I wrote about that here earlier this year). It is in fact the messiness — and not the orderliness — that is part of what makes life so profound.

So this Thanksgiving I continue to be thankful for growing older, for everything I have learned, and for my beautiful messy, imperfect life.

May you also find some beauty in the messiness of your life.

Have a happy day, friends.

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Words for the Day :: No. 49

11/24/14

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Pretty excited to have this gem in my next book of hand lettered quotes, coming from Chronicle Books, Fall 2015.

Have a great Monday, friends.

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Words for the Day :: No. 48

11/12/14

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Have a happy Wednesday, friends.

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Words for the Day :: No. 47

11/07/14

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Have a great weekend, 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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Tote Bag for Team Sue!

11/04/14

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I am so honored to be part of Team Sue Loves You. Team Sue Loves You is a collective of American artists. We have teamed up to design limited edition tote bags to support our dear friend, artist Sue Eggen of Giant Dwarf, who was diagnosed with colon cancer earlier this year. The intention of the project is to raise awareness to colon cancer and raise money to support Sue as she recovers. Each of the 14 tote bag designs draw inspiration from Sue’s brave journey with the disease. You can see my tote design above.

Sue is one of the kindest, bravest, most positive people I know, and I am so happy to be part of this effort to support her. You can view and purchase any of the tote bags here (and see thumbnails of each of the amazing designs below).

Funds will support Sue’s medical bills and a portion of the proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society, as their support has been paramount to Sue’s recovery during her treatment via Philly Patient Ride.

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Thank you and have a great Tuesday, friends.

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New Poster and Holiday Cards for 826 Valencia!

11/03/14

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If you don’t already know about 826 Valencia, you probably should. Founded in 2002 by writer and artist Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari, it is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages six to eighteen with their creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Their services are structured around the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.

To help fund their program, 826 Valencia has a store called The Pirate Store, which is filled with all kinds of pirate themed stuff. Every year, they ask a designer or illustrator to donate their time make a poster or tea shirt to benefit the organization, and this year they asked me! I was so honored and so excited. We decided to go with the theme of Pirate Tea, as famous teatotaling pirate Bartholemew Roberts (aka, Black Bart) loved his tea. The result is what you see above, and these posters are on sale both at the pirate store at 826 Valencia in SF and online here.  This limited edition poster is 18″ x 24″ screen printed with gold and white ink on black paper and for sale for just $20. Get one while they last!

I also designed this year’s holiday card for the 826 Pirate Store, which you can see below and purchase at the store or here online. Each letterpressed bundle contains six cards with envelopes for $20. Cards are blank white inside.

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If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, mark your calendars for a poster sale and pirate tea party this Friday, November 7 from 6-8 pm! RSVP on the Facebook page or just stop by! I’ll be there to say hello and celebrate the release of my new poster and cards. Come for all things pirate and some tea!

Have a great Monday, friends!

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Lettering for AFAR Magazine

10/29/14

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I was so excited early this fall when I was contacted by Elizabeth Spiridakis Olson, Creative Director at AFAR Magazine (who is, full disclosure, also a friend), about doing some hand lettering for an upcoming issue. Not only was I thrilled because I love AFAR Magazine (and am a subscriber), I was also excited because the article they wanted me to contribute to was about Lotta Jansdotter‘s childhood home, the Åland archipelago.  Åland is located midway between Finland and Sweden. I am both a huge fan of Lotta’s work (and have been for a decade) and a huge fan of Scandinavia. So it was a dream job!

Here are some of the spreads from the article, written by Lisa Abend and photographed by Christoph Haiderer.

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You can read the full article here, and you can purchase the print copy of the magazine at your local book or magazine shop.

Have a great Wednesday, friends!

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Words for the Day :: No. 46

10/24/14

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So excited that this quote will be appearing in my next book of hand lettered quotes, along with 99 others, to be released Fall 2015!

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Words for the Day :: No. 45

10/22/14

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Hope everyone is having a great Wednesday.

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Editorial Illustration for Design Observer

10/15/14

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I was pretty excited last month when I get an email from esteemed journalist Rob Walker, who writes for The New York Times and Design Observer, among other prestigious gigs. He asked me to be part of his latest project: the “Spawn of the Gerrymander” — in which he asked some of his favorite illustrators to use their talents to highlight the true shape of political mapmaking in the twenty-first century. You can read the introductory essay here and browse the whole series here on Design Observer.

I illustrated North Carolina’s Gerrymandered Fourth District to look like a Leafy Sea Dragon. You can see the illustration in all it’s glory and read about my interpretation here.

Have a great Wednesday!

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New Print in the Shop

10/14/14

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Friends, I’m now offering this Harriet Beecher Stowe hand lettered quote as a print in my shop. Get it here.

Have a great Tuesday!

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Napkin Design for Schoolhouse Electric

10/09/14

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Friends, I’m so excited to have done another project with my friends at Schoolhouse Electric! This time I’ve designed a linen napkin for them, pictured above.

Each 16×16 inch napkins is screen printed by hand and hand sewn in the Schoolhouse Factory. Crafted from natural linen, these dinner napkins will just get better with age and use. A Schoolhouse Electric Exclusive!

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You can order them here or purchase them at the Schoolhouse Electric shop in Portland, OR.

Happy Thursday!

 

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Words for the Day :: No. 44

10/07/14

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Have a great Tuesday, friends. I’m back tomorrow with a brand new set of coloring books in my shop! Stay tuned.

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Words for the Day :: No. 43

10/03/14

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Have a great weekend, friends!

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