Thursday, September 1, 2016

Play everyday: my "collage a day" sketchbook.

I believe that every effort you make toward your curiosities is a step closer to your truest voice. Sure, you want to do work you like but staying focused on play and curiosity means staying focused on learning. Little kids know this so well, they know that making a mess leads you into uncharted territory. But what makes it hard is that you have to take scrutiny and analysis completely out of the picture when you play. When you practice letting the intuitive-self lead you everyday, you practice how to trust yourself, regardless of you own opinions. We forget that the process is much more important than outcome. That’s probably why kids art usually feels so fresh, it’s all about the process.

Daily creative practice is also a reminder that every step you take leads you to learn something about yourself— something you didn’t know was there. For example, when I collage I usually have to force myself to paste the first few papers down. I can spend a lot of time just moving things around. It occurred to me at some point that to “get it down” is kind of the process of any art making. Making the choices and standing by those choices is what gets you there. It takes courage to stand by your choices and we need to recognize that aspect as well.

This brings me to the “letting go” part of it. I know I can get so caught up in a “this piece sucks” mentality. Every time I would post anything I would get so nervous, the inner critic would pipe up and tell me “think again”. I still get nervous posting but forcing myself to share with others has helped me feel like I’m putting myself out there in the world, and that seems key to growing as an artist.

Finally there is the fact that a journal is really a journey. You can look back and see your story in those pages. Whether you like it or not, you have a wonderful documentation of your process, another way to learn about yourself, just like re reading an old journal.

Here’s some tips I complied on doing a daily practice of play. 
This could be for anything, not just drawing or collage, what ever you're curious about.

-Set up some loose ground rules to start. Maybe it’s a time limit. I do 30 to 45 min. If you have only just a bit of free time, 10 min is fine. Don’t get caught up in the rules though. If you want to give it structure, go ahead but be open to adjust it. 

- I prefer one designated sketchbook for my daily practice but you can also use a folder to put every piece you do in, if you prefer. Don’t  let the book or organizing principle discourage you either. 

- It's all good. Stay focused on having fun, not if it’s good or bad etc. remember, that's the inner critic talkin'.

- Get inspiration from seeing what other have done. Tell yourself, if they can do it, I can do it my way. But be careful to not get caught in the spiral of worry about being as good as someone else. It’s normal to feel that way but just stay focused on the play. Look at what inspires you and start from there some days. Ask yourself details about what you like about the piece. Is it the colors, the textures, composition and so on. Find out why you love it and use that to launch you into a piece.

-Keep an ongoing list of your fascinations. I have a bunch of post it notes near my desk with things that I want to explore and lists of topics. It really helps me when I’m low on ideas. I just look up and pick something Sometimes I pick a specific theme and just keep going from there, making it a series of many pages.

- Sometimes I see something in my minds eye and just want to see how that might translate in a sketch so I keep a specific sketchbook to jot down idea. Most of the time I just pick a paper and start making the image I have in mind.

 - Have your materials handy. If you need to spend a lot of time setting things up that will bite into your time to create, just keep that in mind.

- Explore materials too. OK, so I just said to try and stick with materials you have set up but now I’m saying the opposite. Just try new stuff. Experimentation is the name of the game. Especially if you’re burned out and bored. That’s the best way to kick start things again.

-Try a few ways of working. Some days I just play with abstract color pallets and some days with more figurative things. When I play with color palettes I just pick a few colors I want to try to use that day. For me, It feels easier to just be abstract so on days I’m low on energy I try to stick with abstraction. Just consider how you feel each day energywise/mood wise. That will play a factor. 

- Be open to change you mind. For example, If you set your self up to do a collage and then see something else you like, just be open to switch directions. I often find myself doing that kind of thing.

- Time off. If you need a break just post a little do dad or just something that is quick. When I go away I just take my glue stick and scissors/exacto with me. I usually like to find my collage material when I get there. Be open to let it lead you when you travel as well.

- Feel good about it. For me it's like going to yoga class. At the end of the class my teacher always says “now thank yourself for giving yourself the time to practice today”. It’s always a good thing, you never feel bad that you worked out right?

Finally, here's a little quote I love-
“What we give our attention to matters”
-Sue Monk Kidd

Just spending a little time listening to your creative self matters.

Here are the first installment of my 220 page sketchbook. 
Pages 1-40. 

To see any of these pieces close up just go to my Instagram page:
If you like the video on Instragram and you follow me you will automatically have a chance  to win a giveaway package of my stuff (value aprox. 100$).

or my facebook page:

Incase this video does not come up in your browser here's a bunch of the pieces from the sketchbook.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

D is for Dress - Up, about the process.

Well, I've been meaning to post something about the making of D is for Dress up for some time now. It's weird though, I keep feeling like I need some distance from it to really be able to talk about it but  about  2 weeks ago Nick Patton from All the called me to discuss the book for his podcast and that got my brain percolating again. I remembered I had a lot of screen shots and things I collected along the way that might explain my process and inspiration.
First, I started with a different stylistic direction than what I ended up with. I was meaning to create the art with collaged fabrics, as you can see in these two samples. On the first piece I labeled the items of clothing in French, cause french always sounds so much more sophisticated!
(click on the image to see them closer up)

On the podcast I talk about how many dummies had to be done, even for such a simple book. Initially I did this poster, after a of few dummies. I thought it might help to flush out the characters for the book, plus since I license my work to stationery and gift companies I thought a poster would be a fun thing to do anyway. After the made the poster I realized I could try to put some of the poster characters into a new version of the book. Here's a few dummy pages with characters from the poster. Some pages made the cut, others didn't. I liked the "elastics" spread but we opted for "Ensemble and Fabric"in the end.

Also, one of many versions for the cover/endpapers.

Finally, here are some screen shots of the process. I do the art in Photoshop with hundreds of layers. I took the screen shots after about 100 or so layers. I think it helps me to see how the composition is developing. I place the sketch on the top layer and turn it off and on through out, to see where I'm at. Eventually I just keep building the layers. Photoshop is great, I love being able to completely change colors etc. You can see here how I changed the background colors to be brighter and more up beat in the end.

Overall, I do enjoy collaging in Photoshop but I after doing the book I decided to get back to the physical page. I've been really enjoying doing a collage a day in a designated sketchbook and posting the art on Instagram/facebook/twitter. It feels like it forces me to stay close to what interests me. It also reminds me that  I can find something fascinating to explore everyday. Some days I don't like the art I post, others days I do. I think it's good for me to share regardless of how I feel. I know we all struggle with sharing ourselves, so I just want to try to do what I can to push myself. This is my daily meditation so I figure why not try to create a habit that helps remind me that I can find something beautiful in each day.

Link to the podcast.

Link to my shop, with the poster.

Social media links

Chronicle Book's site. You can download a free paper doll dress up kit here, see the link on the page.

and a few pages on my site:

Friday, January 9, 2015

Story Corps

If you've never heard of Story Corps, it's worth checking out. It's an amazing archive of people's stories. You can learn more about it on the site (below), and you can hear many stories there too. Anyway, I was driving in the snow this morning and heard this short (only a few minutes long) episode about a ex con and a woman that helped him get his life back on track. It was so moving to hear this, I got all choked up (then again, I can get choked up from a tampon commercial too). Check it out.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Teahouse

Recently I had a class assignment to write a 3 page description about someplace I would want to visit. I wrote this piece about a lovely pond in Irvington, a place a love to walk my dog. It's my way of meditating in the morning, my walks in the woods with Paloma, my dog. I also had to create an illustration based on the writing so here's what I came up with.

           I briskly walk up the long gravel path, through the woods, that lead to the pond. Paloma, my old black lab mutt, always nearby, keeping pace with my steps, either leading ahead or trailing behind, distracted by the millions of incredible scents available to her now. As I reach the top of the hill, the sun miraculously peeks through, almost knowing we’ve arrived. I stop a moment and watch Paloma basque in the glow, silhouetted by the blinding rays that peek through the trees. The woods surrounding the pond are usually dense but the trees are becoming bare, allowing the sight of the golf coarse and a few neighboring homes to become visible. This pond is still hidden enough though, secluded from any roadways, making it a hidden gem.
            I walk along a smaller gravel path that encircles the pond. I glance towards the geese and ducks the make their homes there, examining the patterns their bodies make, as scattered shapes on the water’s surface. Eventually, I come to another small dirt path that leads to the small stone Teahouse. On a nearby stone there is a rock with a metal plaque. The plaque explains that the Teahouse was part of a large estate built in 1905. It was owned at one time by a family from Irvington NY and then later became the property of the village. When the village owned it many of the citizen’s volunteered time, money and resources to restore it back to it’s original splendor. At times I like to think about how this place might have been back in 1905. The women in their big dresses and perfect hair maybe even a parasol or two, me in my sneakers and old jeans.
            The main part of the Teahouse is slightly dark inside. Something about it feels so grand- its stature still seems to suit this place perfectly but I can see through the cracks and chipped pieces of rock that it is aged a bit now. The stone structure seems strong yet there are parts that are crumbling, concrete and wood planks used to reinforce the walls and ceiling. I can tell this small structure has withstood numerous storms over the years.  As I walk through I look towards the arched windows that let the outside in. I eventually reach an arched doorway that leads to a terrace. I walk out onto a long, wide terrace that jets out into the pond. I can feel the warm morning sun drenched on my face.            
            I look out from the terrace onto the pond and down at the geese. Their honking start and stop frequently, the sounds overlap with the other more subtle sounds on the pond, a few ducks and some other birds. It is clear the geese are communicating with one another, my mind races to the language they might be speaking- how they are yelling to each other about when they will take off. The drama intensifies, as they get closer to taking off. I can feel them getting ready as their honks get closer together, louder and more intense. Finally, the geese build momentum from the water’s surface and take off. Eventually they are up over the trees. In a few seconds they are past the pond and out of sight completely. I am grateful to have experienced this, to watch them take their place in the sky above.
             After the geese leave the pond I realize I must be heading back as well, but instead I linger just a bit longer on the terrace, trying to take in every bit of the warm sun on my face. I notice a man in a dark brown coat walking his dog in the distance. He seems to walk slowly. I might catch up with him on the way out but I don’t want to see anyone today, no conversations, not even if it is just “Hello”. I want to be alone in this space. I decide to stay on the terrace a bit longer, until he is no longer in sight. I notice that I can see the hill by the golf coarse. Usually its covered by the leaves on the trees but today it’s clearer. The sun is piercing through a section of branches, blurring and fragmenting the forms. I squint to try and make sense of these shapes but the sun is so strong that it seems to burn through that whole section of the hill.

            The pond is glassy now that the geese have left. Their bodies created different textures on the surface of the pond but now I can see the reflection of the horizon mirrored perfectly. Paloma is starting to dig as some rocks and weeds in the corner of the terrace so I decide that we should head back. I walk toward the entryway and out through the main section of the teahouse, down the small path that eventually leads me to the larger gravel path. As I head down the hill I think about how the Tea house was my temporary home for just a few minuets, a place to take refuge and a place to notice another world go by- another vantage point from up above.

            I walk briskly downhill with Paloma, my fateful companion of 14 years. The incline feels steep at times and I know even the dog has to take some steps slowly. I continue down toward the car and click open the doors with the remote button on the key. I look for my iphone to make sure it’s still in my pocket. I open the back door for the dog but she just sits there in front of the door looking at me and then looking at the seat in front of her, it’s clear she’s not sure about her own ability to jump up on the seat now that she’s old. I keep repeating “inside” over and over, eventually my voice gets louder. Minuets go by and finally she jumps up into the car. I pet her a few times and say “good girl”, feeling bad about rushing her.  I get in the drivers seat then roll down a window in the back for the dog, as I do so I can hear the last bit of geese honking in the distance, in the sky above. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Here's a few little things that's I've been working on for  character class.  It was great to see stuff come out that I didn't know was inside. A story emerged once I kept exploring this little guy. I always write my story first and then come up with characters after that. I never knew I could do the reverse, draw the characters first and let them tell me their story. Here's some sketches and a turn around as well.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Behind the scenes of my fashion book

Maja loves to direct me on how to draw my characters, among other things. Here she is drawing fashion girls at my desk. I'm almost done with the last dummy of my kid's fashion book. I'm chomping at the bit to go to finals, mostly so I can make the deadline! Thought I'd show my crazy, cluttered desk, lots of research.

Exploring digital media

I've been taking a class with Danny Pelavin at FIT. At first I was worried that I would not be able to explore digital media in a way the would work for me but over the past few weeks I've seen that is actually the opposite is true, it has pushed me to find new ways to explore this medium. Here's the first two pieces for the class. On the top is an illustration for story called "A Good Day for the Banana Fish" by Holden Caulfield. For the second assignment Danny instructed us to "use photography (photos from a photo shoot) as an inspiration for an illustration". Thanks to Diana Shoenbrun for the use of her photo...I'm posting that to show how the photo was used. It's cool to see how it was translated.