Experiments in Blue: Week 45



This week’s Experiment in Blue is a large painting at 3 feet by 4 feet! It’s one of the largest paintings I’ve made in a long time. Here you can see my latest collection beginning to form in my new painting studio:


Hoping everyone has a great week!


Portland AIGA Speaking Event!



Friends, I’m so excited to invite you to Fake It Till You Make It: Building Your Toolbox for a Successful Freelance Career! It’s an event I’m doing with the Portland Chapter AIGA in their Career Toolbox series.

I’ll be joined on stage with fellow freelance Illustrator and Portland Icon Kate Bingaman Burt. We’ll be talking about  current trends in the creative world and ways you can set yourself apart from the rest and become a successful freelance designer or illustrator. We’ll offer tips and suggestions for establishing yourself, getting paid work, and managing your business with finesse. We hope you will walk away equipped—not only with the right tools—but also with the right mindset and conviction to conquer the freelance domain.

The event will be held on November 18 from 8-9:30! Be there or be square.

Sound interesting? You can register here.

The event will be held at:
52 Limited Creative + Tech Staffing
330 Southeast Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard
Portland, OR

Hope to see you there!!


Experiments in Blue: Week 44



This week’s Experiment in Blue: 8×10 inches, acrylic on wood. Can’t wait to share more from this new series I’m working on!


Andrea Pippins



I’m so excited to share with you today an interview with illustrator, designer and author Andrea Pippins. Her latest book, Becoming Me, was released earlier this month.  Becoming Me is a book for for young women to color, doodle, and brainstorm their way to a creative life. Just months earlier, in November 2015 Andrea published her first book, I Love My Hair, a coloring book featuring her illustrations celebrating hairstyles and textures.

Andrea is a former professor of graphic design who now makes a full time living illustrating. Andrea works for clients around the world, and currently lives with her boyfriend in Stockholm Sweden. She’s on a book tour at the moment, which you can read about here.

Andrea is one of the most driven and inspiring illustrators I’ve encountered in a long time, not just because she makes beautiful work, but because her work is driven by her vision and values. In her own words, “My vision is to empower women and girls of color and people in marginalized communities with visual tools to own and tell their own stories.”

And with that I present to you my latest Interview with Someone I Admire: the amazing Andrea Pippins.


Lisa: Tell us a little bit about yourself! What’s your story? How did you become a designer or illustrator?

Andrea: I spent my early years, from the age of six months to four years, in a sewing studio in the Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Georgetown. It was run by a French woman named Solange Cody and was occupied by a team of four women who spent their days constructing, hemming, and altering clothes. These ladies, except for one African-American woman, were all immigrants—including my mother who’s from Brazil. While my mother was sewing and fitting clothes I would be drawing and coloring for hours. I believe that space planted seeds for my own creativity, my love for textiles, patterns and color, and my desire to become an entrepreneur. But that all would come together much later.

I didn’t really know about graphic design until I saw Halle Berry playing the role of Angela in the film Boomerang. Angela was an art director and artist, and it was my first time seeing a woman of color doing that kind of work. Even though it was fiction, it blew me away. But it wasn’t until I started applying for college that I really learned about careers in graphic design, or what was then called commercial art or graphic art. I applied to Tyler School of Art at Temple University and after several tries, because of a lackluster portfolio, I was finally accepted into the design program.

After working as a graphic designer at companies like Hallmark Cards and TV Land/Nick@Nite I returned to Tyler and graduated with an MFA in Graphic and Interactive Design so I could teach design on a college level. After several years as a full-time assistant professor, teaching courses in graphic design I decided to take a leap of faith and pursue a path as a full-time freelance designer and illustrator. Currently, my work is transitioning from graphic design to a focus on art and illustration. I’ve always solved design problems with illustration, not realizing that that is where my skills and talent flourish.


Lisa: How did your latest book Becoming Me come to be?

Andrea: The inspiration behind Becoming Me was to create a an interactive resource to help people along the process of self-discovery through creative expression. Becoming Me is also a resource for living a creative life daily. Even if you’re not a visual kind of creative person (painting, drawing, etc.), Becoming Me is a great space for collecting your ideas and inspirations.

The idea came about soon after the release of I Love My Hair when the publisher and I had a discussion of what the next book should be. We didn’t feel another coloring book was the right way to go but maybe the idea of what a coloring book might evolve into. So after some discussions and some proposed ideas we thought it would be cool to create a tool for young people, especially girls, that they could use to develop their creative skills while exploring who they are. This brings together a lot of what I learned as a designer, illustrator, and educator about being creative and inspired.


Lisa: Who is this book for? Why was writing a book on living a creative life important to you?

Andrea: Anyone can use this book, but I had young women in mind when I was working on the various pages. I was thinking about creating something I would’ve wanted to see when I was a teen. Back then I was so hungry for information about art and looking for guidance to explore my creativity, and since this was before the Internet I relied on teaching myself. I loved art but didn’t really have access to the outlets to develop my skills. A book like Becoming Me would have been a great resource to empower me with some ideas of what I could I do with my skills and/or what it means to live a creative life.

So this book is for that young person who may need the same guidance. But Becoming Me can also be used by someone who may need inspiration for personal projects, or someone who just wants to color and create.


Lisa: What was the process of making the book like? How long did it take? What were the most exciting, enjoyable aspects? What were the most challenging or difficult for you?

Andrea: Because of traveling and outside deadlines I basically finished this book just over two months. It was really fast and intense but I got it done.

Luckily, because I’ve always used creative prompts with my students, in workshops, and for myself I had a list of ideas already in place that I could use.

It was exciting and important for me to include quotes from diverse women, and to celebrate the artists who inspired me. But most importantly to include space where readers can write down their dreams.

It was difficult to get the book done in such a short period of time. And designing the book cover was a creative challenge for me. The publisher and I had different ideas on what the cover should look like but after a lot of trial and error we found a happy medium. We struggled with getting all the necessary info on the cover without it looking too crowded and creating an image that fully reflected what one might find in the book. It’s more than a journal it’s more than activities, but how do you say that visually? So we went more abstract with watercolor swashes and doodles, which I love.


Lisa: The cover turned out beautifully (and covers are always one of the hardest parts of making a book!). I also love the page of your favorite artists. What a great way to expose young women to new heroines! What is your favorite activity in the book?

Andrea: The writing prompts are some of my favorites, especially the ones about writing down your dreams. I believe there’s a lot of power in writing down your dreams so it was very important for me to include space that readers could use to document what they’d like to see happen in the future.

But my absolute favorite activities are the ones dedicated to looking at art. This is a section that gives guidance on analyzing art whether one is going to a museum, gallery, or looking at art online. I tried to write it in a way that would allow anyone to interpret what they see. In that section I also share some of my favorite artists with some exercises encouraging readers to try creating art like those artists, for example collaging like the amazing Mickalene Thomas or making dots like Yayoi Kusama. These are exercises that give the reader an opportunity to play and experiment.


Lisa: This is your second book! Tell us about your first book, which came out earlier this year.

Andrea: I know it’s so crazy. Two books in one year!! I Love My Hair happened when I met an art director at Random House and sent her some ideas for a coloring book last spring, none of which had anything to do with hair. After looking at my artwork, she responded asking if I’d be interested in doing a coloring book about hair, and I said, “OMG of course.” I didn’t have a specific plan of what to include, I just knew that I wanted it to be fun and that I wanted to show a wide range of hairstyles and ideas of hair There were 84 pages to fill, so it was a (great) creative challenge to figure out what would be interesting and what would work in terms of filling it with color. Because “hair” is so specific, and because I didn’t want it to be just about hairstyles, I had to be creative in my interpretations. So I explored abstract representations, lettering, and accessories and tools related to hair.


(Andrea’s fans send her photos from I Love My Hair!)

But a little background, “I Love My Hair” started as a social campaign for a design thesis project while I was in graduate school. Our topic was social awareness, which inspired me to focus on the revived natural hair movement that was just starting to take off. During that time I was really intrigued by the black beauty industry and how much money black women, all over the world, spend on hair care products. At the time I had been natural for seven years and loved it, and wondered how the industry would change if more women of color embraced their coils and went natural as well. So that project allowed me to explore that idea visually. Soon after, those graphics became art prints and tees, and now the I Love My Hair coloring book. The book continues to celebrate my love for black hair while exploring other elements of my artistic interests.


Lisa: You are currently living my dream of living in Stockholm, Sweden. I’m so jealous. How did this happen and what’s it like living there after living in Baltimore, MD?

Andrea: I didn’t know that was your dream! You should totally come and visit me. It’s funny because a little over a year ago Sweden was not on my radar at all. But I moved to Stockholm for love. It is not an official move yet. But I met my partner, who is Swedish, last year, and we have been going back and forth since then.

Being in Europe is amazing! Stockholm is such a beautiful city. What a great place to be for an artist and designer. Over the summer I was renting in a studio loft space inside of a boutique and it was a great way to connect with the creative community and make new friends. My commute was literary 5 minutes door to door and I would pinch myself every time thinking, “OMG, I’m walking down this cobblestone street in this quaint and cute artsy neighborhood in Stockholm to my cute little studio to work.”

As I’m responding to these interview questions I am back in the states for a little bit to promote Becoming Me.

Baltimore is a fantastic city going through so many changes. It was hard to leave during these transformative times, especially since I enjoyed being a part of the tight-knit creative community there. My guy likes Baltimore as well, so who knows we may live in the states one day and make Baltimore our next home.


Lisa: I may be coming back to Stockholm this summer for a wedding. I’ll keep you posted! Tell us about some of the other illustration work and projects you’ve been enjoying over the past year.

Andrea: Aside from the books, in the last year I’ve gotten to work on some amazing projects. I was commissioned to do an illustration of Alicia Keys for Lenny Letter. That was a lot of fun. I also was invited to submit some illustrations for the museum shop at the new National Museum of African American History & Culture. For that project I created illustrations for their design team to use on product. The illustrations were inspired by the collections that celebrate the African American contribution to performance arts and music.
I did not have the final say on how the illustrations were applied and on what product they were applied to. So I didn’t know what was going to be produced.
On opening day of the museum I went to the museum shop and there was an entire section of my illustration on products like socks, coasters, keychains, magnets, t-shirts, and mugs. I couldn’t believe it! I wasn’t expecting that, it was so fun to see.

(Andrea’s mural at Brown Betty Dessert Boutique in Philadelphia)

Lisa: Part of what I love about what you do is that you are clearly a mission-driven artist. That is, it’s obvious that you want to be a positive force in the world through the things you create. What is your mission? What drives the part of your creative process? Where does this come from do you think?

Andrea: My mission is to create what I want to see. The nature of my work has always been from a place of wanting to see myself and my stories reflected in illustration, books, art, and media which is why I started my blog and why I focus on the topics that I do. I believe that when we see reflections of ourselves our stores and experiences are validated. So I look for my work to be a voice for many.

My vision is to empower women and girls of color and people in marginalized communities with visual tools to own and tell their own stories. As an author and educator my ultimate goal is to create spaces and platforms that allow these specific audiences to learn to take control of the narrative of their lives. Helping them understand that they get to dictate who they are and what they want to do, and the power in believing that truth.

Lisa: Thank you so much for this interview! Where can people find you online?

Andrea: Thank you, Lisa, I love your questions. People can find my online portfolio at andreapippins.com , my blog: flygirlblog.com and follow me on: twitter.com/andreagpippins and instagram: @andreapippins. And for Becoming Me book tour info visit http://andreapippins.com/book-tour

Thanks Lisa!

Lisa: Thank you, Andrea!!


Experiments in Blue: Week 43



In case you missed my mentioning it before, I just moved into a brand new studio that will be dedicated entirely (and only) to my fine art (aka painting) practice. I realized I needed to work bigger and bigger and bigger and that my illustration studio was too small for painting. So I’ve moved into a new space in Portland and have been heading over there a few days a week to just PAINT.

I’m nearly finished with the painting pictured above (it still needs some touch ups in some parts), but it’s finished enough to qualify as this week’s Experiment in Blue. I’ve been using white as my background/negative space for years and years, and decided to begin changing that up recently. And I started with blue, of course. I forgot to measure this pieces, but I think it’s about three feet by five feet (much larger than my usual pieces). I’m super excited about working on some larger panels now. You can see a video of me working in my new studio here. Working large is so liberating. Scale changes so much about paintings!

I’m preparing for two shows in the next two years — one in 2017 in NYC and one in 2018 in Southern California. So most of the work I’m making now in my studio will go first to my show in NY. As soon as I have a date and location, I’ll let you know!

Hope everyone has a great week. Happy Monday!