Friends, I am writing today to let you know about the #YESALLWOMEN fundraiser. Proceeds benefit the East Los Angeles Women’s Center, which aides survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse. The event includes both a ticketed event (see poster above) plus an opportunity to donate online.

For the online fundraiser, I have donated a package that includes a framed 11×14 inch original piece of art from The Reconstructionists series pictured below (of Frida Kahlo!) along with a signed copy each of my books Whatever You Are, Be a Good One and my latest book of quotes, Fortune Favors the Brave. Here’s how it works: if you donate $450 to the fundraiser, you get this original piece of art plus the two books!

If you are able to donate any amount to make this venture possible, organizers would be so grateful!


If you live in the greater Los Angeles area and are interested in purchasing tickets to the #YesAllWomen fundraiser (check out that list of artists!), you can get them here.

Have a great Monday, friends!

CATEGORIES: Exhibitions | For Sale

Chroma Show // Lisa Solomon & Christine Buckton Tillman



{the CHROMA installation in Baltimore}

Almost 10 years ago I met artist Lisa Solomon online. The online world was much smaller then, and I met most of my internet friends at that time on the photo sharing site Flickr. When Lisa and I met on Flickr, we quickly discovered that we both lived in the Bay Area in California, so we went rapidly from being internet friends to real life friends. Over the years we’ve collaborated on projects (even having a show together on the East Coast in 2008), traveled together, and remained close friends and confidants. Lisa is one of the artists I interviewed in Art Inc, and I admire her work greatly.

Around that time I also met Christine Buckton Tillman on Flickr and admire her work greatly as well. Lisa and Christine (who Lisa also met on Flickr 10 years ago!) have gone on to be friends and collaborators as well. Recently they collaborated on an installation called CHROMA at Gallery CA in Baltimore, Maryland that literally knocked my socks off. CHROMA “explores color theory through objects from everyday life, expressed through crowd sourced installation, drawings, and sculpture…  The installation will be a culmination of sorting, arranging and compiling the materials into an orderly, chromatically compelling piece, with the intent of elevating the viewer’s relationship with the mundane debris that we interact with on a daily basis.” I decided I had to interview Lisa and Christine about their CHROMA collaboration. It was a huge, time intensive endeavor, and the end result is really phenomenal (as the photos here show) . Without further ado, I present to you Lisa Solomon and Christine Buckton Tillman in my Interviews with People I Admire Series!


Lisa C: Tell us about yourselves! Who are you and how did you meet?

Lisa S:  Hi, I’m Lisa. I live in Oakland, CA. I’m a mixed media artist who gravitates toward concepts of hybridity, domesticity, and issues/materials surrounding art and craft. I also am an educator, teaching at various colleges in the Bay Area, and sometimes a craft book writer/illustrator/graphic designer. Christine and I met online – I think Flickr was where we first crossed paths almost 10 years ago. We had both recently finished grad school, and we were eager to find like art minds. Back then Flickr was a great community. We would post a lot of work and get feedback. I gravitated to Christine’s work immediately. It was just so my aesthetic, the colors, the subject matter, the handmade quality of it. We joked that we should have a show together back then. We’ve always kept in touch via the various social media of the moment, and so more recently it’s been Instagram.  We are also both working mom artists [which I often don’t want to admit is its own clan, but I think in many ways it is.]


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{Lisa’s work on display in the gallery}

Christine: I’m Christine! I have Midwest roots but I’ve lived in Baltimore, Maryland for the past 13 years. I’m a very flat sculptor who makes mostly drawings. I also teach at The Park School of Baltimore. When I met Lisa on Flickr, I was a couple of years out of grad school  (Iowa 2002!) and missed the accountability that a large community of artists. Lisa was one of the first like minded artists I met on there. I think she was embroidering robots. I loved that the community shared not just finished work but the process too. I have really vivid memories of her early felt tanks and seeing her map drawings in her studio before the installation.  At the time I was doing a lot of work with felt too and a few years later made similar maps for these huge outdoor sculptures made to be photographed using copy paper and golf tees.


{Christine’s work on display in the gallery}

We met in person back in 2011. I was tagging along on a trip for my husband’s project and he ended up speaking to Lisa‘s Professional Practice class at SF State. While it was short, it was great to meet in person. I was pregnant at the time, and we turned the trip into a California “babymoon.” Lisa‘s daughter is a few years older than mine, and watching her parent, teach and be an artist has helped me every step of the way. Most of my mom friends in town are not in the arts. It’s a much needed clan.


{cross section of final CHROMA installation}

Lisa C: First, describe the concept for the CHROMA show. How did the idea for the show come to be? Tell us from the beginning how it was sparked and how it evolved.

Lisa S: I think we honestly have ALWAYS wanted to show together. Our work just seems to fit together. But Christine finally pushed us to propose a show to Gallery CA in Baltimore when they put out a call for exhibitions in 2014. It turns out I know quite a few lovely people in Baltimore so it seemed like a great idea to me. Show/Visit/Hang out: YAY!

In thinking thematically about where our work intersected it seemed that color was really an obvious starting point. We are both drawn to and utilize color in pretty specific ways in our work. I think as moms we became even more acutely aware of how toys are colored. How much plastic and general colored STUFF is in our lives. For example why are there bread ties in white, turquoise, red and blue? I’ve also been doing social practice pieces lately – asking the public for help in various ways; it’s been really rewarding and adds a different dimension to the work. So we thought HEY, why don’t we ask people to send us stuff?  Any kind of stuff – things that mostly read as one color,  junk from your drawers, discarded kids toys, etc. etc. In part I think we wanted people [and ourselves] to take notice of what surrounds us: how do we interact with color in our daily lives? And, in part, we both believe that things arranged in color can be stunningly beautiful, even bits and bobs and doodads.

In addition to the installation, we concluded that we’d both show individual pieces, but we also thought it would be SUPER fun to collaborate. Christine sent me a pile of “reject” drawings [none of which I thought were rejects], and I sent her a pile of drawings and we had at it. It was really fun to get to play with her work. I just ended up doing something really simple. I added felt and embroidery. She ended up doing some really amazing collaging and cutting up of my work. When I saw them I kept thinking, now why didn’t I think of that?!



{Some of Lisa and Christine’s collaborative work}

Christine: When I first finished graduate school I taught a Color Theory class at a local community college. I asked students to make a “color collection” — collecting 100 things of different colors. I always felt that idea had more potential than what my students ended up doing. Probably because Lisa and I didn’t just simply collect, we also ordered everything, and ordering the stuff was a big deal. It took the both of us nearly two days of arranging during installation of the show. That part is super formal and complicated. Size, shape and texture all play  a role with the color. We had to think about lines, edges and small compositions within the larger composition. It’s hard stuff. We were so afraid that it would just be straight up rainbow but there’s so many transitions- pinky- oranges! dull purple-blues! A yellow and green paper corn and husk! That’s the stuff that makes it different than a new box of 8 Crayola crayons. That and the fact that it’s massive and full of thousands of things.

I was happy to have the rest of our work together too. I love how Lisa‘s doily piece and my woven piece work together. They both feature obsessive handcraft and grid structure and it’s nice to see them hang out together.

The best part of collaborating is when you do something you would never have done solo. I think for both of us it was nice to let go and work entirely with found objects. I’ve done large scale installations with found objects and overhead projectors but this is different. I can’t forget the drawings! I hadn’t see what Lisa did with my rejects till we opened them in the gallery and HOLY CATS!  There’s this great one where she cut out these Mattise-like leaf shapes that were in the back of my drawing in the colors from the shape in the foreground. I think I’ll have to keep sending Lisa my rejects!


{Lisa installing the CHROMA show}

Lisa C: You put a call out for people to send you their colored stuff for the show. What was the experience like for you of asking and receiving people’s unwanted stuff? Did you use everything that you received? Did you get about what you needed/expected or more or less?

Lisa S: The experience was really positive. I think we both thought, OK hopefully we’ll get a couple 100 objects and we’ll manage to make it work. In the end we ended up with thousands of items. Way more than we expected. Most of the stuff came to me and I would arrange it and photograph it and give a shout out to the donor on our blog & Instagram. I was shocked at what people sent. Some beautiful vintage items. Some really personal items. Some handmade things. We got a lot more than we expected. This is the beauty of just asking. It’s amazing how people want to participate. The small installations for documentation ended up being really crucial to understanding how the larger install was going to work.

We did not end up using EVERY item we received. Mostly because we ran out of room. In some instances we just couldn’t fathom using 50 buttons of the same color [although there really are a lot of buttons up there]. And also a few things were just really tricky to figure out how to adhere to the wall; we used hot glue for most things, some pins, and poster putty – a few items like really heavy bouncy balls just would NOT stay up no matter what we did.


Christine: We definitely ran out of room for blues and whites and a few things didn’t make it on the wall. But it was like less than 1% of the total submissions!

The bulk of my objects came from my work. I work in a K-12 school and while people sent me things by mail too the bulk of my collected objects came from the Park School community. I spoke about the show in assemblies to the Lower, Middle, and Upper School showing them pictures of Lisa‘s work and mine. You could always see the knitters (students and faculty) in the audience gasp when they saw Lisa‘s 1000 doilies! I showed them a picture of some found objects and told them I need the same kinds of stuff. I left boxes around campus and they filled up over the course of a month or so. The Lower School kids filled the box three times and while the Upper School students filled it about one and a half times I had a student give me a whole box from her house and the cast of the spring play carry up a box of hundreds of popped balloons that they had used as fireworks sounds.


{Installation process!}

Lisa C: What was the installation like? What was the process? How long did it take? How did you decide on composition? Where there any items that were difficult of impossible to hang on the wall?

Lisa S: The installation was crazy, but good. I had organized all the stuff sent to me by color, each in it’s own garbage bag. The first day in the gallery we dumped all the colors out and started arranging them. We realized that we had enough stuff to pretty much cover the main wall in the gallery. That was exciting and daunting! The composition was sort of dictated by what we had, and how we wanted to transition from color to color. We also knew that we didn’t want to start with red. While we love rainbow order we didn’t want to strictly adhere to it. So we started with red on the right. We were SO lucky to have so many amazing helpers and scaffolding [I love scaffolding] so the process went faster and smoother than we anticipated.


We basically decided that the best way to go about it was for Christine and I to arrange the bulk of the installation right in front of the wall on the floor. We tacked each color. We realized that we both felt that the transitions between each large area of color were incredibly important. There were certain objects that helped those transitions happen, and there were certain multi colored objects that we had to decide where they belonged. We also noticed that there were certain color combos that  kept coming up: red and green, royal blue and red. Trying to incorporate those became tricky, but also rewarding. As we worked on the floor we photographed each section and then people had a map to use as they glued to the wall. We knew that it wouldn’t be exact, but the map would help to insure that things ended up close to how we wanted.

We also wanted the composition to be organic, not a rigid square or rectangle. What we liked about all the smaller compositions [photographed as they came in] was that they had interesting borders, so we wanted to reproduce that on a grander scale.

Overall the install took 4 days – with a couple of long nights in there.


Christine: We had tons of volunteers too! Gallery CA is in in the ground floor of the City Arts Building in the Station North Arts District in Baltimore. The top floors contain live/work spaces for artists and creatives and affordable housing for people in the neighborhood. We had lots of residents volunteering to help as well students and former students of mine, and of course friends from Instagram!

In total I think we had over 20 different people helping us so having the maps that we photographed on the floor was crucial. We learned pretty quickly due to the red section having a thermostat in the middle of it that sticking to the map made everything go much smoother. Especially when you have 8-10 volunteers sharing glue guns and working on different colored sections, some up on a high scaffold. Having a guide and being able to just get someone started as soon as they walk in was crucial.

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Lisa C: What was the most satisfying aspect of collecting and installing the show? What was the most frustrating aspect?

Lisa S: I think it was mostly really fun to collect everything. It was like Christmas every time I went to my PO box. It was also just wonderful to see how involved people got. All the notes of encouragement, the excitement for the project. It was infectious. Also hanging a show like this always feels like camp or theater, you know? You have a finite time with these people. You have to trust them. There’s a lot of time to talk and get to know someone while you are performing a repetitive task. It feels very communal and exciting – everyone working towards a singular goal. Overall there wasn’t much frustration. A couple of times during the layout process I realized a needed a break and couldn’t see straight anymore. A few times we had to re-adjust things on the wall, but otherwise I’d say it was a pretty seamless experience.


Christine: Not much frustration at all. We should have had knee pads for that first day crawling on the floor but otherwise I thought the install went great! I loved seeing all the things come together at once. That first day was the first time we had seen everything together and it was great to see each others reaction whether it was my awe at some pink scissors or a glittery blue car or Lisa‘s amazement that we had three of these weird toy compasses.Lisa C: What was the reaction of the people at the opening of the show? What are some of the things you heard people say?

Lisa S: I would say in general the reaction was surprise and wonder [always a good reaction]. Kids LOVED it [including mine – she insisted on telling me what one special item she would treasure from each color]. There was some good gasping.  And good giggling. A lot of “I would not think to do this,” and “how much time did it take?”


{Observers at the show’s opening}

Christine: I heard a lot of “this is so awesome!” A team of videographers making a short about the neighborhood said they got some great shots, and my friend’s 3 year old wants everyone to know that he “likes the blue car.” When you see a bunch of things all together like that it’s hard not to try to pick out your favorites. It’s overwhelming in the best possible farm auction kind of way. While it wasn’t at the opening I was pretty thrilled to see that the Mayor of Baltimore took pictures of it and Instagramed it!

Lisa C: That’s amazing! I wish I could see it in person myself. Now, I have to ask: What will you do with everything once the show comes down?

Lisa S: We are saving everything! We are doing CHROMA #2 in San Francisco next summer at Rare Device. It will be interesting to reconfigure it to fit their space. I’m already thinking about how to deal with the doorway! And the fact that we can’t lay everything out on the floor for days on end since the space has to function as a store too.


{Christine and Lisa after the completed installation!}

Christine: It comes down on August 20th. I’m already assembling another team of volunteers ready to climb the scaffold and get everything off the wall. It all fits into about seven boxes that will live in my basement until it’s time to ship them across the country again. I love thinking about the jet set and glamorous life these objects are having.

Lisa C: Thank you so much for telling us about this amazing collaboration and for sharing all the gorgeous images of the show! I know my readers will enjoy it! If you live in Baltimore or nearby, the show is up through August 19.

Kindred in Mollie Makes!



I am thrilled that my work is featured again in Mollie Makes Magazine! This time they have featured a blurb about my new Kindred fabric collection with Cloud9, which you can read more about and see images of here.

More about Mollie Makes from their editors: “Mollie Makes is a British lifestyle magazine for those who live creatively. We bring you the latest crafting trends in easy-to-follow how-tos, encouraging you to adapt and share your own crafty spin on things. We celebrate creative industries and give up-and-coming designers their first platform. We discuss hot topics in the design world with lots of insider tips. And above all, we aim to inspire you to live your best, artful life.


Creative endeavours are more than a day job for the Mollie Makes team. From choosing gorgeous indie cushions and prints for our interiors pages to learning how to take beautiful photos for our website and Instagram feeds; customising our clothes to making gifts for friends, we’re crafting along with you. We love trying new things and being inspired by what you’re creating, wearing and blogging about too.”

The Mollie Makes community is supportive and lively. They would love for you to join the community.

Readers can subscribe here, download the iPad version of the magazine here, and view a preview of the latest issue here. Keep up-to-date with the blog and subscribe to their newsletter here.

Have a great Wednesday, friends!


New Online Course // Tell Us Your Experience



Hello friends!

I am in the process of designing a three-day intensive online course that will launch this January, 2016. The course will focus on overcoming the things that hold us back as we work toward finding our voice, building confidence and growing our creative careers. The course will offer practical tools and advice for taking your art practice and/or career to the next level and offer an in-depth, interactive exploration of some of the material I cover in Art Inc, along with some exciting new material. The course will include video, live video chats (with me) each day, reading material, exercises and a community forum for discussions and questions. This will be a business & “mindset-shifting” course, and NOT an art class. Though we will do creative exercises, I will not be teaching art technique in this class (just a note to avoid any confusion).

I am in the process of gathering information from potential participants about how you identify as an artist and where you find yourselves the most “stuck” as you work toward launching or building your art practice or career. If you are an artist or an aspiring artist who thinks you might be interested in taking my course, I would be so grateful if you could take this very short five question survey. If you are not a candidate for the course (you are not an artist or an aspiring artist, never take online courses, or would never take one from me), no need to take the survey. I am particularly interested in hearing from potential participants about their experience and struggles so that I can design the best possible, most relevant curriculum.

If you take the survey, you can also sign up to be on the mailing list to get up to date information on the course and course registration (including early bird discounts).

Thank you again for your input, and I look forward to hearing what you have to say!



Kathryn Clark // Foreclosure Quilts


Washington DC Foreclosure Quilt Overall

{Kathryn’s incredible Washington D.C. Foreclosure Quilt, now part of the Smithsonian Collection}

A few years ago, I became acquainted with artist Kathryn Clark. We have many friends in common, and it was inevitable that we would meet. Since I’ve known Kathryn, I’ve always admired her work. Earlier this year we were both at a gathering at our mutual friend Sonya’s house. There were about eight of us, and we were all sitting around chatting. Kathryn pulled out part of a quilt she was working on. She explained that it was a quilt she was madly trying to finish because it had been acquired by the Smithsonian. We all gasped in delight (the SMITHSONIAN!!!), and naturally we all had many questions. She proceeded to tell us about the series of “foreclosure” quilts she’d been making and how that led to the Smithsonian acquisition. Her story is so fascinating and her foreclosure quilts are such stunning (and interesting) works of art that I decided I had to interview Kathryn here about the quilts and the story behind the acquisition.

Without further ado, I present to you the amazing Kathryn Clark in my Interviews with People I Admire series!

Clark_portrait Leslie Sofia Lindell

{Portrait of Kathryn by Leslie Sophia Lindell}

Lisa: Kathryn, congratulations! You just had a quilt acquired by the Smithsonian! We’ll get to that in a moment, but I’d love first for you to tell us about your background & trajectory as an artist. How did you get where you are? What kind of work do you make?

Kathryn: Thanks, Lisa! I’m still in a state of shock about the acquisition. When the Smithsonian’s Renwick first contacted me via email, I thought it was a hoax! I’ve been pretty lucky with my background that led me to where I am now. I’ve been an artist ever since I can remember (both my mom and dad were artists so it was natural to follow a similar path). I’m a fourth generation artist on my mom’s side. I also had a love of maps and architecture from my dad’s side of the family. But, I wanted to have a degree in something where I could find a job but didn’t have the financial resources to pursue architecture, so I chose to study interior architecture at San Jose State. My first job out of college was working for my college professor who had a three person architecture firm in San Francisco. We had the chance to do some urban design and our bible was Peter Calthorpe’s book, “The Next American Metropolis.”  I realized when working on the urban design project that Peter’s firm, Calthorpe Associates was in Berkeley, just over the bridge. I loved the big picture, sketchy nature of urban design over architecture so I called up the firm and asked if I could stop by. With no prior design experience, Peter loved my rendering skills and called me that night to offer me a job. I was blown away! I worked my way up to project manager in three years and loved every second of it. I left after three years to work in San Francisco in the hopes that I would be closer to home to start a family. But a few less than exciting jobs in other firms sent my stress level over the edge so I escaped to work full time as an artist.

Washington DC Foreclosure Detail 02

{Detail of D.C. foreclosure quilt}

I slowly evolved as a fiber artist, actually resisting the urge to work with fabric for several years because of the stigma of it being a craft and not an art. I used to be an abstract painter but started to dabble with sewing and knitting when I had my daughter in 2004. I didn’t understand what drew me to love the medium, it just felt so comfortable when I was sewing. One day, when I was doing a little weaving project on Mother’s Day and doubting that what I was doing was ‘art,’ I was listening to a Storycore Mother’s Day special. It suddenly dawned on me that my mom had been a fiber artist and that’s why I was so drawn to it. My mom battled leukemia for a large part of my childhood, and she died when I was seventeen so I vaguely remembered the early years of her sewing and weaving on her giant loom. No wonder working with fabric felt so comfortable for me. I’ve never doubted my choice of medium after that day.

Chicago Foreclosure Quilt full sm

{Chicago Foreclosure Quilt}

Lisa: That is so interesting! My mom was a weaver when I was a kid and is also a fiber artist! Okay, now tell us about your series of “foreclosure” quilts. How did that series begin? What sparked it for you? How did it develop over time?

Kathryn: It was a slow process as I knew I wanted to merge my love of urban planning with my art. The first foreclosures began around the time I was still an urban designer. There was a lot of rapid urban development and a lot of encouragement to buy into these new neighborhoods with crazy incentives. Las Vegas is a great example. No one seemed to care how much making people live beyond their means with predatory lending was hurting the people and the economy. It certainly wasn’t obvious in the news (except for Gretchen Morgensen’s articles in the NY Times). You would hear the stories about the foreclosures and you would hear a statistic but you couldn’t actually see the effect it was having at the neighborhood level. That is, unless you paid to access the foreclosure data and only then could you see it on a map. Of course I paid because I was obsessed with it. That was when it hit me. I had to show the crisis in map form to reveal what an affected neighborhood really looked like. It took me a few months to figure out how to show the maps as an art form. I had been dabbling in fabric for some time and my paintings had started looking like quilts (lots of gridded blocks). I had one of those ‘ah ha!’ moments when I could translate a neighborhood ‘block’ into quilt ‘block’. I had another big moment after I had made my first quilt (Las Vegas) and thought it looked too perfect and too clean. This was a messy situation and it needed to look that way.

So I started to sew my quilt blocks together in reverse with the seams showing. As the quilt is made, the edges fray and become tangled and ugly. And this is literally what has happened to our neighborhoods: decaying and abandoned houses, vacant lots covered over with weeds. Another thing I learned that I wasn’t able to show in my work was that the foreclosure data is collected differently in every city. It was being addressed as a local crisis. There really wasn’t an investigation at the federal level or any kind of intervention early on. I think they just hoped the cities would cope somehow on their own. And some cities did better than others.

Washington DC Foreclosure Quilt Detail 01

{D.C. Foreclosure Quilt detail}

Lisa: The quilt you made for the Smithsonian. Tell us about that Washington, D.C. foreclosure quilt specifically. Was it commissioned? What is it made out of? What was the process like for you? Is it your largest foreclosure quilt to date?

Kathryn: The D.C. Foreclosure quilt wasn’t officially commissioned as the Renwick gallery doesn’t do commissions. The gallery curators contacted me last year to purchase one of the existing quilts. I mentioned I would be happy to make a quilt of any area of their choice and they asked about making a quilt of a neighborhood in D.C. Finding the foreclosure data varies from city to city but the foreclosure data compilations on D.C. are practically nonexistent which completely shocked me. The data just wasn’t there! I did manage to find some compiled data on a few neighborhoods but they didn’t scream D.C. when you looked at them on a map. So the curators kept encouraging me to dig deep and do something monumental like, for example, the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

So I agreed and started researching and researching and researching. I was really freaked out that I’d come up empty handed but found if I went lot by lot (!) and compared the data through zillow.com, dcblockshopper.com, and DC Atlas Plus, I could go back ten years and see all of the sales history on every lot. It took weeks to coordinate the data and mark up a map! And those lots are narrow so you can fit quite a few on a block. My friends thought I was crazy to be so detailed. But you never know when someone who lives on a block will walk up and recognize their lot. Once I found the data and I knew I could make an impressive quilt of the Capitol Hill neighborhood (that was half the work!), we discussed fabrics and agreed on just the right shade of linen (of course I started to run low at the end and was panicking, lesson learned, always buy way more than you think you need). It is the biggest quilt I’ve made to date at 57 1/2 “ x 84”  and the hardest to piece because the ‘street’ angles needed to line up perfectly with the overall ‘street’ grid. Let’s just say fractions and geometry were never strong subjects for me in school, but I had to be exact with my measurements and plan for all of the seam allowances. I pulled my hair out more than a few times. By halfway through though, I had a system for piecing and it all just flowed from there. It’s all hand sewn as well I might add, just to add to my friends telling me that I was crazy.

Modesto Foreclosure Quilt

{Modesto Foreclosure Quilt}

Lisa: That is an amazing story!! You were very determined. What impact do you hope these foreclosure quilts have on the people who see them?

Kathryn: I made these quilts for people today and tomorrow. For the people who were directly affected, there is a feeling of shame and I feel that’s wrong. Most of the people who lived through the crisis were targeted with predatory lending. They had real hopes of living the ‘American Dream’. A little diversion here about that: I’m sure there were people who took advantage of the system but I really believe that the majority just didn’t know what they were getting into. You bought a house recently (congratulations!) and did you read your Truth and Lending statement they handed you before signing the papers? My husband did when we bought our house in 1998 and I can tell you he was fuming when we went in for the signing. We almost walked away. The paper they had handed to us didn’t match the Statement we had agreed to. They had changed the paperwork to their advantage. I’m guessing millions of other homeowners didn’t delicately read their documents when signing their papers or just didn’t understand the lending jargon. I also made the quilts for the people who are naysayers, the NIMBY’s who told everyone that there was no crisis in their neighborhood. Oftentimes, a foreclosure isn’t obvious from the street. It hit everywhere and spared no group of people.

Detroit Foreclosure Quilt KClark

{Detroit Foreclosure Quilt}

I also made these quilts for future generations. After all of my research (Alyssa Katz’s “Our Lot” is a fantastic place to start), I learned this was not the first foreclosure crisis we’ve had; we have forgotten the past. There was a huge foreclosure crisis in the 1930’s that coincided with the stock market crash but that history is dying along with the people who lived through it. The stories become buried in newspapers that are thrown aside or hidden away on microfiche. I wanted something that would be laid on a bed or hanging up on a wall in the future to tell a story about the past. Honestly, who could ask for a more appropriate place for these quilts to hang than in the Smithsonian?!

Cleveland Foreclosure Quilt KClark

{Cleveland Foreclosure Quilt}

Lisa: The Renwick at the Smithsonian is currently closed for renovations, yes? Tell us about when and where people can see your quilt once the gallery reopens.

Kathryn: The Renwick has a grand reopening planned for this November called “Wonder”. Afterwards, the new permanent collection will be on view starting in the summer 2016, exact date TBD. My quilt should be a part of that exhibition. I certainly will be at the opening!

Cleveland detail 02

{Detail of Cleveland Foreclosure Quilt}

Lisa: What are you working on now? Will the foreclosure project continue? Any goals for that project or new projects?

Kathryn: Well, it seems that the foreclosure crisis has mostly subsided somewhat (never say never though as I’m seeing a bubble happen all over again right now), so I’m focusing my attention on other projects. I’ve created a new website called www.blocklabstudio.com where I design quilt block patterns that reflect what’s relevant in the world today. The block patterns will tell stories, just as traditional quilt patterns did years ago, but these are our contemporary stories: drought, racism, equality, revolution etc. I’m in the idea generating stage at the moment. One of these ideas will likely turn into another investigative project like the foreclosure quilts. It will depend on how the media handles the issue. If I feel like they’re not addressing the story well or misinterpreting the facts, I will feel the need to create a body of work around it.

Lisa: Thank you so much for tell your story, Kathryn! I am so inspired by everything you make and do.


New Podcast: The Jealous Curator



Hello, friends & happy Monday! I am excited to let you know that I have recorded a podcast with none other than Danielle Krysa of The Jealous Curator for her new podcast series Art For Your Ear! Danielle and I have been friends now since the early days of her blog, and she’s written about my work and my books several times and I am part of both of her books (Creative Block and Collage).

Since I record a lot of podcasts, Danielle wanted to ask me some questions that no one had ever asked me before and get me to talk about stuff I’d never talked about — and I think she was pretty successful. The episode is called “Push Through the Messiness.” If you are interested in hearing our conversation, give it a listen! Danielle also posted on her blog some images for reference for some of the things we discuss in the podcast here.

Have a great week, friends!


Fortune Favors the Brave Pre-Orders & Poster!



Last week I was at my publisher Chronicle Books to sign a huge stack of posters. That’s because Chronicle is hosting a giveaway of limited edition signed posters (see image below) to those of you who pre-order my book Fortune Favors the Brave (while supplies last)! All you have to do is go here, purchase the book from one of the retailers listed, and fill out & submit the form. If you’ve already pre-ordered you are still eligible!


The posters are beautiful quality printing on fantastic textured paper and are 11×11 inches.

Happy Friday and thank you as always for supporting my work!


The Hello Sessions



Friends, I am so excited to let you know that I will be speaking at The Hello Sessions in October! This new conference is being held in Portland, Oregon on October 9. My session will be all about creating and sustaining personal “passion” projects. I’ll talk about all of the passion projects I’ve embarked on (Collection a Day, 365 Days of Hand Lettering and The Reconstructionists), how I approached them, and how they led to amazing new lucrative opportunities in my career. I’ll also talk about how you can create your own!

There are many other really cool sessions with amazing speakers, and I hope you will check out the line-up! Lastly, I am offering a discount code, just for you. Scroll down to the bottom of the post to grab it before signing up!


The Hello Sessions: What is it?

The Hello Sessions is about creating hands-on, interactive experiences with some of the most successful bloggers and creative entrepreneurs, which will offer participants the tools they need to stand out in a noisy online world. Their approach is simple, friendly, and intimate, with a day focused on having fun while learning. 

From The Hello Sessions: “Each of our workshop leaders have seen success by building brands that go beyond blogging, taking on book deals, appearing on television and radio, and creating products that you’ve seen in your favorite stores. At The Hello Sessions, our speakers aren’t just telling you how to become successful–they’re SHOWING you–with activities that will get your wheels turning!”

Who should come to The Hello Sessions?

This conference is for bloggers and creative entrepreneurs who are ready to answer the question “What next?” for their blogs or online businesses.

It’s for more advanced bloggers, artists or makers who are ready to make money, get featured by the press, write books, or launch shops, our workshop leaders will help you to fill your toolbox with the ideas, tips, tricks, and skills they’ve gathered on their paths to success.

For early bloggers, artists or makers who are interested in growing their websites and social media presences, The Hello Sessions is a launchpad that will give you the tools to take your work seriously, help you to craft a distinctive online identity, and provide you with a welcoming community of experienced bloggers who want to help you to grow.

What the day will look like

The day will be divided into three workshop periods, during which three workshops will occur simultaneously. When you purchase your ticket, you’ll be whisked off to register for your top three workshop picks. Each workshop only has a limited number of seats, so if there are particular workshops you’re interested in it’s smart to register as soon as possible to reserve your seats!


Ready to sign up? Go here. I am offering a discount code to my followers. Just enter LISACONGDON10 to get 10% off your registration fee through July 30th! More questions about the conference? Read more about it, the speakers, where to stay, etc., here.

Have a great Thursday, friends!


Tools I Use & Love



I am often asked, especially on Instagram, what tools I use and what resources I take advantage of in my business. While I am happy to share most of my tools and resources, I can’t possibly share all of them (both because I can’t remember everything and because that would take too long). The following tools are some that I use and love, and I hope you find this list helpful!

First, as always, my disclaimer: I do not speak for all artists here and what will work best for you or anyone else. I speak only for myself! I am also not representing any of these companies. I also can’t vouch for how any of them will work for you and your process.

I also link to many products here on Amazon, because they carry pretty much everything — and if you live in an area without a local art or printing store, Amazon is a great place to order supplies. That said, I encourage you to shop small local businesses for these products, and I also encourage you to search the internet for other places that sell art supplies if shopping on Amazon isn’t your thing.

Products, Hardware & Creative Software

Black pens: I love Micron pens. Most of you who follow me on Instagram see that I draw with Microns everyday. I love this pen, and I have several in each width, from very tiny tips to thick “Graphic” widths. I do all my lettering with Microns. They are permanent and acid free. Find the widths that work best for you (I tend to use .03-.08 the most often). Buy them here. I also like these black brush pens by Sakura.

Colored pens: I use Koi Brush pens and Gellyroll Pens, but mostly in my sketchbook. Some Gellyroll pens are archival, and those I use in the artwork I sell.

Gouache: My favorite brand of gouache is Acryla. The color selection is lush and they mix nicely. It is more opaque than many gouaches and might be because it’s an acrylic-based watercolor paint. Gouache is matte in finish and I like this, especially when I’m painting on paper.

Watercolor: I also use both Holbein and Koi watercolors. Both are rich and lush.

Acrylic: I use both Golden and Liquitex Professional acrylic paints for my larger abstract work on wood. If you are lucky enough to live near a Blick Art Store, they have an amazing selection of both brands of paint (along with the Acryla gouache I referred to above).

Brushes: I purchase whatever firm, flat head or tiny head brushes are on sale for either watercolor or acrylic painting. I go through brushes really fast, so I buy whatever is on sale or feels nice to the touch.

I also use X-Acto Knives and regular old scissors for paper cutting (note: be extra careful with these, especially if you have small children! Put the cap back on when not in use).

Paper: I am not a paper snob! I draw on vellum or regular drawing paper and paint on watercolor paper. I use so much paper that I usually purchase what is on sale. Canson and Strathmore are fantastic paper brands but there are many other great papers out there. Find the papers you like the best by experimenting. My sketchbooks are just regular everyday cheap sketchbooks, and sometimes if I want the pages to be thicker, I glue every other page together with an acid-free glue stick. I do occasionally work in a sketchbook with watercolor paper, which is a nice treat.

Computers: I have two computers. I have an iMac with a large monitor, which is great for Photoshop editing when I am working on illustration gigs. I print from that computer onto my Epson 3880 (see below). I also have a MacBook Air which I use for everyday stuff and some editing in Photoshop.

Printer: Many of you ask how I make my art prints. Since 2008, I have owned and used an Epson 3880 printer, and I make all of my open edition (non limited edition) prints on this fine piece of machinery. The ink is NOT CHEAP (about $60 a cartridge and there are about 8-9 cartridges) but it lasts a long time.

Printer paper: I find that Epson Paper is the best for Epson printers, and I use Premium acid free Epson matte paper for all of my art prints.

Scanner: I scan my work as a regular part of my workday and find that the Epson V800 scanner does the job well. Like with any scanner, you have to play around with the controls to make sure you are scanning in just the right way (scanning artwork is different from scanning negatives or photos). Once I scan my work, I edit it in Photoshop (see my note about Adobe Creative Cloud below). I learned how to use Photoshop to edit my artwork many years ago by taking tutorials on Lynda.com and also asking people with more experience for help or lessons. Then I practiced everything till I became an expert at it. Much of what I scan is larger than the scan bed, so I scan in parts and piece together with Photoshop tools. Another skill I taught myself over time.

Creative Software: I use the Adobe Creative Cloud for all my design software, and the program I use daily is Photoshop (I also sometimes use Illustrator).

I work with a Intuos Pro Wacom Pen Tablet for editing my images or for digital drawaing in Photoshop.

I don’t know how I lived without my desktop USPS postal scale (and I use Etsy’s shipping feature to make my USPS labels). Highly recommend both if you are an Etsy seller.

I really love Moo for business cards and postcards. I purchase their Luxe business cards for an extra “wow” factor! Their quality is gorgeous and mine are always a conversation starter.

My Website

I’ve been using Siteground for web hosting. I can’t recommend this company enough. They have hosted several of my web sites.

Since 2011, I’ve used WordPress for content management on both my blog and website. It’s user-friendy and free!

Sara Jensen Design designed both my blog and website. Sara and her husband Thor handle everything for me from design, development, site updates, and more. They are the bomb.

Other Resources and Tools

We use Mailchimp for email marketing, which I send twice a month. You can sign up for my email list here at the bottom of my website.

I’ve been on Etsy, the handmade online marketplace, since 2008.

I highly recommend the Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines for crucial information on pricing your work, contracts, licensing information, and more. It is the best book out there on the topic, period.

We recently signed up with Hootsuite for social media scheduling and monitoring. So far so good.

My Business Classes and Book

Become a Working Artist (Online Course)

Art Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist (Book)

Online Art Classes

Sketchbook Explorations (online class)

Basic Line Drawing (online class)

More classes coming soon! Stay tuned…

A closing note: yesterday my 15 year old niece came over for her first day as my studio assistant. She is an aspiring and already prolific artist and has plans already to go to RISD to study illustration when she graduates from high school. Several times yesterday she said to me: “Wow, these pens are SO NICE!” or “Wow, this is the nicest Wacom Tablet I’ve ever seen!” and “That is such a cool scanner!” I said to her, “Someday when you are a professional illustrator you will have nice equipment too!” So this is all to say that much of what I own, I own because I make my living as an artist and using high quality materials and equipment makes my work better and my clients and collectors happier. I had none of this stuff (except for maybe the paint) when I started out as an artist. That said, there are many other alternatives to the stuff I’ve listed that are less expensive and still great. I encourage you to use the materials and equipment you have and find the stuff that works for you. Don’t ever use not having the “right” materials as an excuse for not getting your hands dirty and creating!

Have a great Wednesday, friends!


Sketchbook Explorations Class // Relaunch



Hello, friends! I just returned from a whirlwind of a week in sunny San Francisco, where I taped my next set of classes with Creativebug. A new set of Sketchbook classes will launch early this fall, and a drawing-a-day class will launch in January. Stay tuned for those!

In the meantime to whet your appetite, I’m so excited that Creativebug has officially relaunched my four-part sketchbook class, Sketchbook Explorations. This is a great chance for you to participate – whether it is your first time participating or you’ve taken this class before.

Summertime is the perfect time to crack open your sketchbook and explore new mediums. In this multi-part series, I’ll share techniques to incorporate pen, watercolor, collage, brush pens, and more. These exercises will help you to deepen your creative practice and play with approaches that go beyond your comfort zone.

Also, we want to see your work! Show off your sketchbook drawing skills and join the #cbugsketchbook Instagram contest. Read all about how to win a subscription and Micron pens here!

To celebrate this relaunch, Creativebug posted an exclusive interview with me, where I chat with Liana Allday (Senior Content Editor) about my artistic process and the Sketchbook Explorations series. You can listen to the interview here (scroll to the bottom for the recorded interview).


Have a great week, friends!


Words for the Day // No. 68



Quote I created for Blogtacular just last week. Quote by Anthony Peters. Have a great weekend, friends!


Katy Ann Gilmore


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Every now and again I discover an artist’s work on the Internets, and I’m immediately blown away. My most recent mind explosion happened when I saw the work of Katy Ann Gilmore on Instagram. Like me, Katy Ann has a thing for micron and gel pens, and she uses them in most of her work; but Katy uses them in very different ways than I do. In fact, I’ve never seen anyone use them in the ways she does, even friends who are obsessive pattern drawers. I became so intrigued by her “one-dimensional-drawings-of mountains-that-look-three-dimensional” (or what I’ve come to call them), that I decided I had to know more, so I emailed her to see if I could interview her. Not only are her drawings impeccably rendered and mind-blowingly beautiful, I figured she also had to know a thing or two about how to play with dimension in space, which meant she had to be super smart. I was right.

Thankfully, she accepted my interview request. I present to you Katy Ann, the latest installment in my Interviews with People I Admire Series.


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Lisa: Katy, welcome to my blog! Tell us a little bit about you. Where did you grow up, what’s your background and how did you begin your career as an artist?

Katy: I’m originally from the Midwest (Indiana/Illinois) and moved out to LA about four years ago. I’ve always had an internal drive to create, and when I wanted to learn a new skill or technique, I would find someone to teach me or teach myself. Growing up, I learned woodworking from my mom, was always drawing/painting/making sculpture, and picked up sewing, knitting, and other fiber arts. I don’t think there has been a moment in my life where I haven’t been making something.

I was also really interested in mathematics, so that was pushed a bit more strongly as I entered high school as it was deemed more practical. I’m definitely happy to have studied mathematics as well as art, but the distinction between math and art, or metaphorically the practical and impractical, has been something I’ve worked to navigate. I went to a liberal arts undergrad, so that allowed me to study a few different subjects. This was a great decision for me, as opposed to an art specific school as I’ve always felt a bit more of a hybrid. I don’t see the two subjects as disparate and have worked to naturally communicate my love for both in what I make. I think the pieces have been there my entire life, I’ve just been working to put them together.

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Essentially, growing up, I knew I wanted to somehow live my life by just making things. I didn’t grow up in an environment where that was realistically encouraged because of that whole “practicality” issue. Moving to Southern California was certainly a key decision in pursuing what I love. I worked as an Admin Assistant and then Finance Coordinator for a few years while working on my MFA.

I finished my MFA last summer and kept working my 9 to 5, because that’s the practical thing to do. I think I was plagued by practicality and was a bit complacent, because working a regular 9 to 5 job is what you’re supposed to do, right?! I was practical and realistic even as a young kind, and if I could talk to little 10 year old Katy today, I’d say, “You’re tenacious. You can make things full-time. It will be hard, but you’ll figure it out.” I eventually quit my 9 to 5 last fall, without really intending to pursue art full-time, but I think my intrinsic desire to do so took over. I eventually let myself believe that it was possible, and I’m so thankful I did.


Lisa: Congratulations! Making the leap to full time art-making is not easy. I’m so excited for you!  Okay, so let’s jump straight into the juice here. I am super intrigued by your two-dimensional drawings, mostly because they look three dimensional! How did you begin making this kind of work? What is your process for making it? What is your medium? Pens only or are there other tools involved?

Katy: I started these type of two-dimensional drawings about four years ago. I’ve been drawing my entire life, but these grew out of desire for a change of pace after finishing undergrad. At the end of undergrad, I was painting on unprimed canvas, cutting it up, and sewing it back together, which I see big connections with in my current drawings. I wanted to simplify things a bit, work on technique and detail, and ultimately decided to focus on pen and paper for awhile. Also, drawing is just really convenient….I love the portability of it (at least when working on a smaller scale), and make my “studio space” in a few different locations. The drawings then started to be expressions of 3D work I would ultimately make during my MFA, and eventually become works in and of themselves. And, in the year since finishing my MFA, I’ve mainly focused on drawing.

I typically use Pigma Micron pens (usually size 005 for small drawings, and sizes 01 and 02 for larger ones). I’ve also been using watercolor, gouache (although I typically end up using the gouache in a wash-y way like watercolor), marker, or bottled ink. Depending upon the type of drawing, I may sketch a few things out, but I usually just let the drawing develop as it goes. This has been my method for the more topographical/mountain-y drawings. I love the mix of planned vs. unplanned parts in a piece. For these mountain pieces, if color is involved, I’ll sketch out the general idea in watercolor and lay the grid on top. But I welcome the little surprises that happen when drawing the grid. Parts of the drawing will recede, parts will come forward…so sometimes it becomes a bit of an intuitive and reactive process. That rigid/planned vs. unplanned/intuitive mix serves as a good metaphor for my interest in math and art I think.


Lisa: Inquiring minds want to know: how long does it take you to create one of these drawings? Does your hand hurt after awhile? How do you stay focused?

Katy: Small 5 in. by 7 in. drawings typically take a few hours. For an 11 in. by 14 in. drawing, it can take anywhere from 10-25 hours, and, honestly, I lose track on anything larger than that. I usually try to “clock-in” and “clock-out” when making larger drawings, but I haven’t been too diligent about that (and sometimes I don’t really want to know how long it takes, because it’s long.)

I think I’ve instilled a good amount of diligence in myself and am able to focus for long periods of time. When I was a kid working on a self-imposed art project, I’d be able to focus for hours, so I think that’s only increased with age. Sometimes I do feel stuck or in a rut with one particular drawing, so I’ll move to another. I’m usually working on 6 or 7 drawings at a time (all in different sizes), so that allows me to move to another drawing when I’m feeling frustrated with one. I think this is a good tactic because I don’t stop the flow of work. Instead of ceasing to work when feeling stuck, I move to another drawing and return to the original one later.

My hand does hurt a bit after marathon sessions, but never anything too crazy. I try to rest my eyes/hands/brain every once in awhile by looking away from the drawing, dropping the pen, and taking a breather. I know I hold my pen a bit strangely as I rest it heavily on my ring finger. In kindergarten, I remember teachers trying to correct this, but I think this strange pencil holding probably allows me to draw for longer periods of time. Hahahha. I think that’s the secret.


Lisa: Your Bachelor of Arts is in Art, Mathematics, Spanish. Talk more about the intersection between math and science and your work.

Katy: I think my love for mathematics extends to my general curiosities about the world, and art has been a way to communicate those questions visually. I think a lot about grids and organized representation of spaces, which is certainly inherently mathematical. A few years ago, I was thinking a lot about the negative space around objects and how that constantly fluctuated as physical objects like you or I moved about in space. This resulted in an installation called “The Shape of the Air“.

For my MFA thesis, I was again thinking about objects in space. I was researching phenomenology and experience in environments, and this led to an installation (again, based upon a grid) called “Matter and Void”. I was intrigued by the disconnect between our perception of the world as consisting of solid objects and the reality of the “empty space” (that doesn’t appear empty) in matter. It floored me (and still does) that we don’t see things as they actually are, only in the format permissible by light, which interprets these non-solid objects as solid. I was really intrigued by that concept, so I was thinking a lot about perceiving these tiny little particles interacting. I think that’s a theme in my work, whether 2D or 3D as tons of little parts coming together and repeating.

For my recent drawings, I’ve been thinking a lot about a 2D grids being warped/pulled in 3D space. Connected with that, I think a lot about calculus. A lot of it is just about slicing up 3D objects into an infinite amount of 2D slices, and I’ve been thinking about that with some recent drawings by slicing up topographical drawings to reveal 3D cross-sections.

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Lisa: Tell us more about planning versus creating as you go in your drawings.

Katy: I usually have a general idea but let the drawing develop and change as I go. I like that unexpected part of it and responding to the drawing as it develops.

I have made pieces that are a bit more precise and there isn’t as much room for responding to the drawing. I drew a series of Square Shift/Glitch pieces that are generally confined to a square, so they require planning and adherence to a particular format.


Lisa: What is the largest piece you’ve ever drawn? Any ideas to go even larger?

Katy: As far as drawing, the largest I’ve done outside of the formal education scene is 4′ x 5′. Oh, I definitely have plans to go larger!

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Lisa: Where can people find you on the internets?

Katy: Here’s a quick list:

Website: katyanngilmore.com
Instagram: @katyanngilmore
Twitter: @katyanngilmore
Facebook: facebook.com/katyanngilmoreart

Lisa: Thank you, Katy for taking the time to share your process! I have learned so much! Can’t wait to see what you do next.

Have a great Thursday, friends!


Dress Workshop with Cal Patch (& Me!)



Friends, I am so happy to let you know that I am going to be in Hudson, New York at an artist residency between August 12 through 30 this year at Drop Forge and Tool. Mostly I’ll be drawing and painting my heart out for those three weeks, but also relaxing, getting inspired and catching up on some much needed sleep. I cannot wait! While I’m there, my friend, the amazing Cal Patch. is coming up from her home in Upstate New York for August 22 and 23 to teach a dress making workshop. This isn’t just any dress-making workshop, though. It’s a two day immersion, where you will learn, step by step, how to make a dress from scratch. You’ll learn how to draft a pattern (using your own measurements) for your own custom shift dress with sleeves, make a muslin to test the fit, alter the pattern, and then sew a real dress with an invisible zipper.

I’ll also be there and will give a brief talk at the beginning of the workshop about my fabric designs and process.  If you attend the workshop, you will also have a chance to visit my studio space and see what I am working on at Drop Forge & Tool.


More about Cal: Cal Patch is one of my favorite people and makers. She sews, crochets, spins, embroiders, knits, prints, makes patterns, dyes, hence her moniker: *hodge podge*. Cal has taught all of these subjects for over a decade, and loves showing people new skills. After seventeen years as a New York City dweller, she now resides in the Catskills. She teaches at creative retreats around the country and is a fellow Creativebug teacher. Her first book, Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified, was published by Potter Craft (and is a treasure-trove!).


If you are interested in signing up for the class and learning more about it, just go here.

Have a great Tuesday, friends!


Julia Rothman // Nature Anatomy



Back in about 2006, when I was first starting out as an illustrator myself, I met & befriended another emerging illustrator named Julia Rothman. Julia had graduated from RISD a few years earlier and was back in New York (her home town) starting out in what has become a distinguished career as an internationally known illustrator. In the almost 10 years I have known Julia, she has published seven books and her now iconic drawing style has landed her work for such prestigious clients as Chronicle Books, Target, Anthropologie, Crate & Barrel, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bloomberg Businessweek, Urban Outfitters, The Metropolitan Transit Authority, The Land of Nod, Kashi, Design*Sponge, Food and Wine, New York Magazine, Storey Publishing, and Victoria’s Secret.

I love everything Julia puts into the world, and I am especially smitten with her latest book, Nature Anatomy, part of her “anatomy” series, which includes Farm Anatomy and the upcoming Food Anatomy (more on that below). This book is a fantastic compendium of gorgeously illustrated bits of the natural world. Part personal interest project and part science anthology, Nature Anatomy is Julia’s tribute to the inner workings of the natural world that have fascinated her since she was a kid.

As part of my Interviews with People I Admire series, I sat down with Julia a few weeks ago to ask her all about this beautiful new book, how she made it, what inspired it, and what she’s up to next. Without further ado, Julia Rothman!


Lisa: Julia, I really loved Farm Anatomy when it came out, and I really, really love your new book Nature Anatomy too. Nature Anatomy seems so much bigger and denser than any of your previous books, which makes sense because nature is really an endless topic. How did you decide what to include and what not to include in the book so that it was just the right size?

Julia: Thanks, Lisa! It is dense. There are a lot of drawings in this book. Like Farm Anatomy, it’s 224 pages of paintings and mostly handwritten text. It was very hard to decide what to include because the topic is so broad. At first it was going to just be “Backyard Anatomy” because I was worried the topic was too big. But backyard was a word that could mean too many different things and might have been misleading as a title. In the end, the way I decided what nature should be included was anything you could find around you if you lived in the United States and went for a short walk. Which narrows it down only a tiny bit since there are so many kinds of landscapes, from grasslands to deserts to forests to beaches. I tried to include a few plants and animals from every area – some very common ones and others that are more obscure and interesting. It also came down to visually appealing things. Ultimately the book is filled with plants and animals I wanted to draw. I worked with a friend on this book who is a sort of naturalist, John Niekrasz. John helped me organize the content and we wound up adding in some of his favorite topics as well that I would have never thought of (like mycelium, the underground fungi network, and recipes from edibles collected in a forest).


Lisa: You grew up in New York City. Over the years, how did you develop an appreciation for nature and a passion for understanding the way the natural world works?

Julia: I grew up on a small island in the Bronx called City Island. It’s a strange place that most New Yorkers haven’t ever visited. While it feels like a small fishing town, it’s a quick subway ride to the middle of Manhattan. At the end of each block is a beach so I did spend summers swimming in the salty water and collecting shells. My parents were both teachers (they are retired now), and they were constantly trying to engage me in the natural world. We had a vegetable garden in our backyard and went camping every summer, usually in Maine. But I was more rebellious as I got older and preferred to be in the middle of the city hanging out with friends rather than hiking on a lake with them. Now that I’m getting older somehow the appreciation for those activities like quiet nature walks has developed. And I look forward to visiting my parents who still live in the same City Island house and hanging out by the water.


Lisa: Why did you turn that interest into a book? What do you hope people take away from reading it?

Julia: After I finished Farm Anatomy, which was such a huge undertaking, I felt relieved. I told everyone I would never do a project like that again. It was so much work and I had really stressed myself out struggling to draw and paint in those deadlines. Then the book came out and it felt so incredible. The response was so positive. I missed having a giant project I was totally engrossed in. I suddenly wanted to do it all again. I wound up doing another book about growing up in New York City (Hello NY) before deciding to do this book. I realized I did really enjoy doing big book projects even with all the anxiety that came with it. After talking to my publisher and Storey, we decided to make a series of “anatomy” books. I really wanted to do a nature book next because I had all this renewed love for the outdoors after the farm book. Also I just started running, and I live very close to Prospect Park in Brooklyn. I wanted to learn about all the trees I was jogging under and the names of the wildflowers I was passing by. When you get excited about something, you want to share it with others and this is a perfect medium. I am hoping this book will remind others to appreciate the outdoors around them as well even if it’s just a small park in a dense urban area.


Lisa: The research for the book must have been intense! How did your relationship with your writing partner John work?

Julia: The research part is always the best and the worst part. It’s daunting and overwhelming, but you learn so much. I bought so many Audubon field guides and books about nature. I bookmarked them all with stickies when I found interesting information or something I wanted to draw. Soon there were hundreds of yellow tabs sticking out stacks of books with no order all over my studio floor. Chaos! Once I brought John in on the project things got a bit more under control. He took over the writing part that was hard for me and I concentrated on the drawing and painting more. We worked on a shared Google document. I would add to it with notes “I just drew these sea birds. Can you find me some good facts about them?” and he would answer with a handful of amazing tidbits ready for me to insert in the pages. We had some very fun days together in person too, doing “research” by walking in the park. He forced me to eat a lot of plants I was sure a dog had peed on but it was a lot of fun. He kept me on schedule (as much as he could. I was always late!) and pretty much saved this project from becoming too much for me to handle.


Lisa: You’ve made several books, some with your own work, and some compilations of other artists’ work. The artwork and the lettering in the book (and all your books) are really stunning. How long did it take you to make the book from start to finish? What do you enjoy most about the process of making books? What do you enjoy least?

Julia: The art compilation books are amazing. I get to work with all the people I admire the most acting as a sort of art director. Funny, illustrator Cun Shi won an award from the Society of Illustrators for a piece he did for our book The Who, the What and the When this year, and, as a result, I got a medal for art direction. I’ve never won a medal for my own illustration but now I am an award winning art director. Ha! The group books are just hard to make because publishing is not a huge money maker, so we (I work with my ALSO partners on those usually) don’t have the means to pay all 100+ artists and writers fairly, or usually even at all. I’m so grateful to all those contributors and so glad that we were able to produce such collaborative books. We want to continue doing them, just under a different model so that everyone gets fairly compensated for their time. We just haven’t figured that model out yet.

Doing my own illustrated books like Farm Anatomy, Nature Anatomy and Hello NY take me about a year from start to finish. My art process is a bit convoluted since it start with drawing in pencil, then inking it with a pen. Then I scan that in and print it out at a very low transparency and paint it. Next I scan that back in and composite it all in the computer. I think that last step of combining the line art with the paint is my favorite part. I get to see all the paintings come together. It’s very satisfying. Also that day I get an advanced copy in the mail, holding the final finished book for the first time, my face hurts because I smile too much.


Lisa: What is your favorite section in the book and why?

Julia: Oh boy, it’s hard to pick. I like the spread on neighborhood creatures because I think the colors just all came together. The lake fish page as well, even though I could have painted those fish a little more detailed. I also really like the tree bark page because it was such a boring topic but the differences between the bark and the patterns they make was fascinating to me. I think the spread came out just okay, but I remember being really eager to draw it.


Lisa: What are you working on now?

Julia: The third anatomy book, Food Anatomy! Yay! A very general topic again. It’s going to cover a lot about where food comes from, dining traditions around the world, techniques for cooking, a few recipe. I’m very engaged in it right now. I’m in the research and drawing phase. It won’t be out until next year. Rachel Wharton, a wonderful food writer, is helping me, thankfully. Coincidentally, I am also illustrating a children’s book for food critic Joshua David Stein that also happens to be about eating obscure things. Leah Goren, Rachael Cole and I are also putting together a Ladies Drawing Night book which chronicles twelve nights of our weekly drawing sessions with instructions. Other than books, I have a new wallpaper collection coming out next month that I’m thrilled about and have been doing lots of editorial work for a handful of publications. It’s been a busy summer! The best way to be. Thanks so much for the lovely interview Lisa!

Lisa: Thank YOU, Julia! I have learned so many interesting facts today! Friends, you can find Julia’s stunning portfolio of work here, follow her on Instagram here, or purchase Nature Anatomy here or wherever books are sold.

Have a great weekend!


40 over 40



I’m extremely honored today to let you know that I have been named as one of 2015’s 40 Women to Watch Over 40. The list includes forty women over the age of 40 years old who are “reinventing, leaning in, and creating momentum that will be felt by those beyond their community and field of work.”

The yearly list was created by Christina Vuleta and Whitney Johnson to bring awareness to amazing things being accomplished by women over 40.

This is a great honor for me and I am humbled to be included!

You can read about the other women on this year’s list here.