I’m super honored to be featured on Sandi Hazlewood’s long-running podcast series Crafty Planner. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to Sandi and I hope you enjoy the podcast! You can listen to it here.
Friends, I’m so excited to launch my 2017 Print of the Month series! For each of the 12 months of 2017, I will release a new LIMITED EDITION print. Each month, there will only be 40 of each print: once they are gone, they are gone forever and will not be for sale any longer.
Prints will be of various sizes, mediums and prices each month — some months I will offer a digital print, another month I may offer a handmade block print, and another month a screen-printed poster, etc. Each month, the print will go for sale during the first week of the month and I will announce on Instagram. The prints will remain for sale in my Etsy Shop until they sell out.
The January print is called QUEEN OF HEARTS, and it’s a piece I painted to represent 2017 as my symbol for 2017, representing love, strength, and change. Perfect for ringing in the new year!
Get yours here.
Happy Monday and happy 2017!
True story: I started my career as an artist ten years ago as eager a beaver as you can imagine. I was the textbook illustrator and artist at the beginning of her career (except for that I was already in my late 30’s when I began). I was building my client base, finding my voice, experimenting with mediums, building my portfolio and dreaming about where I wanted to go next. It was scary, yes (I made no money for the first three years), but I loved it. I was motivated in a way I had never been motivated to do anything in my life. It took me about four years to really get going, and then once I did, opportunities began happening for me very quickly.
Since 2010, I have written and/or illustrated 15 books (seven of those my own) and worked with over 65 illustration and licensing clients. I’ve also recorded nine classes, 21 podcasts and stood on stage and spoken at 27 different events. Just this past year alone I flew on 28 different airplanes. Amazing things have happened for me in the past six years. I’ve worked with fantastic clients and on dream projects. I do not take those things lightly. I am enormously grateful for every opportunity I’ve had. I feel extremely lucky.
But (and this is not the first time I’ve admitted this in the past six years), all of that work has, over time, also made me really tired and, as a result, I found myself earlier this year at an entirely new level of unmotivated, stressed, and cranky — a level unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I started by admitting this to my wife, employee and friends, and then, slowly, in fits and starts, here on the Internet to the people who follow my work.
To be clear, I don’t think my situation is special or unique. I know from talking about my struggle with scores of other creatives that many share it (you can listen to my conversation with artist Samantha Hahn here, in which we discuss this and related issues). Turns out, it’s very common for artists and writers to catch a wave of opportunity that is both wild and exhilarating but also dangerously unending. After a time, we want to jump off the wave and take a rest (or maybe just do something different for awhile), but the wave is going so fast we feel like we don’t have the chance, or, worse yet, we are scared to jump off for fear we will never be able to get back on.
Ironically, for me, the constant work, while good for my portfolio and pocketbook and growth of my career, began to do the worst possible thing: it began to kill my sense of creativity and excitement about making art. Worse than feeling tired or cranky or constantly stressed, this, to me, was the most frightening side effect. Over the past year, in particular, my work began to feel dull and monotonous. I began to worry I’d lost “it” all together — not just my will to make art, but my ability to innovate or make anything that mattered or that anyone would have any interest in looking at or consuming. I know this wasn’t reality, but it was how I felt. I began even to ask myself existential questions about the point of life all together.
I am sure by now (if you have gotten this far in this sad and woeful tale) you are looking for me to now transition to sharing a happy ending to this story — the next part wherein I make some solid changes in my life, learn a bunch of things, and am no longer tired or anxious and have regained a renewed sense of creativity.
The problem is life doesn’t always go that easily and changes don’t happen that quickly, at least not most of the time. I have made a lot of changes over the past four months — to slow the fuck down, to take pressure off myself, and to regain a true sense of excitement and motivation about making art again. And I’m making progress in all three of these areas. But recovering from six years of bonkers might take me a long time, at least that’s what others who’ve been through it have told me.
Another true story: I used to be one of those super annoying people who, when asked by others, “What do you do when you get creatively blocked?” would say, “I don’t ever get creatively blocked!” And, until a couple of years ago, it was true; I was a font of unending energy for my work and for putting ideas onto paper and canvas. So part of my work now is not comparing my new reality to my old reality. My work is accepting what is, and taking the process of regaining energy for my work one day at a time.
I am taking an active (rather than passive) approach to recouping a sense of excitement and inspiration. I have begun diving into new subject matter and revisiting old subject matter. I even went back to using a medium (gouache paint) that I haven’t used in years. I am trying to pay deep attention to what I want to make and less and less attention to what I think my audience might want to see from me. I made the move to get a second, larger studio space in which I can experiment on large surfaces and get messy.
So the good news is that I am beginning to feel a sense of motivation and inspiration again. I’ve started several new bodies of work and I’ve jumped wholeheartedly back into my sketchbook (I even changed the orientation of my sketchbook from horizontal to vertical as a new way of looking at things). I am also being extremely judicious about accepting opportunities for collaborations and projects going forward, all in an effort to create space and energy for my own exploration and innovation.
Part of me feels like telling this story is self-indulgent. Who should really care about my burnout? And I don’t honestly think anyone should. But maybe it can be useful as a tale of warning for those of you seekers out there who aspire “to have it all” as an artist. Working toward success can come with a price. So at some point, you may end up here too. Perhaps that many of us end up here is unavoidable. Maybe it is a normal part of the process: pushing the boundaries until you implode, and then rebuilding.
One hopeful thing I have learned: it is possible to ride a wave, hop off, and hop back on. It’s also true that some waves die, but new waves always come along for us. So now my work is figuring out when to hop on a wave, and when to hop off. Similarly, which waves to ride and for how long. And when to just lie on the beach for awhile.
On that note, happy 2017. I hope to be back here writing more next year. And I’ve got lots of other fun things planned. See you then.
(Side note: the illustration above is from my upcoming book, A Glorious Freedom, out October 2017 from Chronicle Books. There it will accompany an essay by writer Caroline Paul about learning to surf at 50.)
Friends, I am so very excited to announce my next class series with Creativebug, the first in almost a year! It’s called Creative Bootcamp: Six Exercises to Spark Artistic Discovery, and it launches January 3rd just in time for the new year. You can take the class at your own pace in at any time of the day or night, anywhere the world! We have launched the class page today so that you can prepare to begin the class by gathering all the materials you’ll need (just click on “materials” below each class description). That said, there is no time limit to this class! Once the each week goes live, it will live on Creativebug forever. Aren’t a subscriber to Creativebug? You can get a free trial membership starting today, and after that, it’s only $4.95 a month.
More about the series: using a variety of my favorite art supplies and tried-and-true processes, learn how to use Microns, oil sticks, paints and collage to take a fresh look at shape, line and color. These exercises allow you to “get loose” and enjoy the process without overthinking the outcome. You’ll also learn how to work with color, use collage to respond to your in-progress artwork, and go outside to gather inspiration from your surroundings. Unlike my other classes, this series focuses less on specific projects and dives deeply into the artistic process to help you develop your own creative voice.
Watch the trailer for more!
Here is a little bit about each week:
Part 1: Reinventing the Basics with Lines and Circles – Jan 3rd
Starting with the basics, you’ll learn how to look at lines, circles and simple shapes with new eyes. I guide you through drawing and image-making exercises that utilize three mediums: pen, collage and paint. Working in a large sketchbook, you’ll begin this journey by learning how to keep your approach loose and fresh.
Part 2: Color Conversation – Jan 10th
Everyone has a color palette they tend to lean toward. In this class, I show how to build upon your favorite palettes, investigating color relationships and proportions in order to achieve optimal composition and flow. To put this lesson into practice, you’ll create a collage in your sketchbook with these principles in mind.
Part 3: Get Messy Sketchbook – Jan 17th
Leave the white pages of your sketchbook behind and dive into the printed pages of a vintage book. Working in a variety of mediums, I share my favorite “Messy Sketchbook” technique, transforming a printed page into a vibrant sketchbook spread. Plus you’ll learn how to respond to the content on the printed pages in order to create truly original artwork.
Part 4: Working in Monochrome – Jan 24th
Sometimes you don’t need every crayon in the box – in this part, I focus on choosing a single color and working in a monochrome color palette. Not only is this exercise good practice for self editing, it also helps you better understand the various shades and hues that are possible within a single color. Using a variety of mediums and sketchbook spreads, you’ll unlock all of the possibilities of working in monochrome.
Part 5: An Artist Outing – Jan 31st
Sometimes leaving the studio to get some fresh air is the best way to spark inspiration. Take a walk with me through downtown San Francisco and see what catches my eye. Sit alongside me on a park bench as I sketch the buildings around me, and then watch how she adds color and further develops my drawings when I head back into the studio.
Part 6: Accordion Books – Feb 7th
Now that you’ve created oodles of artwork in our Creative Boot Camp, you’ll need a way to put the pieces together to share with the world. Learn how to make an accordion book structure to feature as much or as little of your original artwork as you like. Or you can make a blank accordion book to use as an alternative style sketchbook and start the creative process all over again!
Sign up today! I can’t wait to have you in class!
Friends, can you believe there are only two more weeks in 2016? For this week’s 2016 Experiment in Blue, I painted a vintage milk carton (this is also part of my new series of painting of vintage packaging, which you can view on Instagram). A little disclaimer here: so some of you may find this image confusing because, no matter the brand, in the U.S. of A. usually the packaging for Whole Vitamin D milk is usually RED & Lowfat milk is BLUE; and truly, the original packaging on this vintage carton was indeed red, but I wanted to paint it blue so it could be this week’s Experiment in Blue. So I guess you could say this is this week’s “Cheat” in Blue, but, you know, art. And when you are an artist you get to make your own rules.