A Homage to Olympic Gymnastics

Okay, so I have a confession.  I get seriously obsessed with gymnastics every four years.  I did gymnastics growing up for about 6-7 years, and I have these fond memories of being on vacation in 1996 in Myrtle Beach, watching gymnastics during the '96 Olympic Games in our hotel room every night on the pullout couch my sister and I slept on.  Since then, I get in a kind of obsessive tunnel vision with gymnastics as the Olympics grow nearer and the memories flood back, I remember doing flips in the parade with my gym, bouncing on the trampoline, trying to do bars with my weak weak arms.  And maybe I sometimes kind of try to do the flips again, because cartwheels aren’t THAT hard, right?  One-handed cartwheels, no problem (ha).

So, last week after watching the Olympic trials, I may have gone on a binge a little early and caught up on everything gymnastics: rules, past Olympics, key athletes over the years, history, how they train.  It’s pretty darn impressive and actually really inspired me to kick in gear, because honestly, these young women kick some major butt.  I was definitely not that strong or disciplined (mentally or physically) when I was their age. 

So, in light of all I learned during my free time last week, I thought I’d make a quick, fun illustration full of gymnastics facts.   Cheers to the Olympic countdown.  Can’t wait!

Try This: Draw Your Family Blind Contour Style

I bought these cute little yellow circle frames on clearance when I was first decorating our house.  

They've sat in our basement for awhile now, waiting to be filled and hung.  I saw these three sweet little drawn family portraits via Pinterest the other day and thought it was so sweet and special.  I wanted to do something similar, but add in some quirk.  I decided to draw Yosi, Meg, and I blind-contour style, add some mixed media to the final pieces, and then hang them in our bedroom which is seriously lacking wall art.  

I’ve always been really attracted to wiggly lines and the interesting shapes blind contour brings to illustration.  It provides this weird abstract expression of the subject.  Have you ever tried?

Blind contour is basically drawing without looking at your paper using single unbroken lines.  It’s the fine self-control act of focusing on the subject (whatever you’re drawing) and not looking down at the paper while you’re drawing.  I remember first learning this technique in ninth grade drawing class, though I know some schools teach this technique much earlier by prompting students to place a paper plate over their pencils to keep them from looking at their papers.  Give it a try!

(PS - don't forget the tape or your plate will just slide right down!)

If you’re really skilled at self-control, or just too lazy like I am to grab something to hide your paper, try really really hard to not look at your paper while you’re drawing.  I first measured out the right size shape I’d need for the frames, and then began to feel out the exact space I wanted to draw.  I drew our portraits from photographs -- goofy, excited portraits!

Take a peek after you’re done drawing.  I like to go back and add some additional lines and shading to help bring about the expressions for each portrait and exaggerate the shapes. I mixed a lot of different materials here: pencil, graphite powder, watercolor, acrylic white paint, and ink until I had something that was really fun and quirky for our space.  

I cut out the final pieces, cleaned them up, framed them and voila!  A sweet addition to our bedroom. 

Give it a try!  Blind contour or traditional illustrated portraits are a fun, unique addition to the traditional photograph.

Let Out Your Fears and Move On

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We all have them.  Pesky fears, presumptuous failure, all of those thoughts in your mind that tell you you can’t do something.  So you give in and sit on the couch and begin constantly searching for something else.  Something else that can fill that void and be that almost something that you really want.  The almost something that will make you happy in the short term, maybe for years, but won’t satisfy that growing intense longing.

Sometimes you get what you want.  You realize it.  You dig it out of your bones and cry and deliberate how you can get it until you’re blue in the face and ta-da -- you figure it out and finally have it.  But now that fear of failure seeps into your bones until you can’t do what you always wanted to do, what you carved time in your life for, what you want, need.  

This is what I’ve been battling.  It’s crippling, really.  And I just spent a half hour whining about it to my husband which was enough time to sit back down to my computer and realize - HELLO, SNAP OUT OF IT.  Fear of failure is everywhere, hindering you from staying true to your inner desires and becoming the best person you can be.  Life gets in the way, people get in the way, ideas and expectations you set for yourself get in your way.  And it’s crippling.

I’ve heard it all from other small business owners: it’s hard to do everything as a one-woman show, you have to try a dozen things and then try a dozen more, nothing ever is settled and easy.  I listened to all of this advice and more when I started my business and honestly, I got really tired of it.  I knew it was going to be hard.  I didn’t need to hear it 10,000 times.  I wasn’t naive to that fact, but I was also coming out of a job that had completely burnt me out and I was running on fumes -- big black ones that followed me into my new business.  So, yes, I knew it was going to be hard, but I also knew it was going to be rewarding.

Lately, I’ve been struggling to find that reward that drew me to begin my business in the first place.  No job is perfect or 100% what we want it to be, but I wasn’t creating, or finding joy in finishing the projects I started.  They fell flat, stale.  I missed writing, and I wanted to come back to this blog kicking and screaming and providing awesome content that I was really excited for, but I forgot how to hustle, I was afraid of the stress that burnt me out so hard in my old job that thinking about becoming stressed in my new, precious, sweet little illustration business actually made me stressed out and fear working hard.  How could I fear that?  I was the hardest worker I knew.  I was a perfectionist and A+ student and high achiever, but all of that felt hard, heavy.

And while I haven’t blogged in a month, I have written things.  Several posts are started and more ideas are building up in my Trello lists.  And I just want to be real, here, because I can tell you that I want to have a professional, clean and polished blog that inspires, but honestly, I can’t do that without sharing much more than I have ever been willing to.  A lot of that requires me to bust down these walls that I built in my mind and share where I’m at and what I’m going through.  I’m an extremely emotional person.  It’s hard for me not to put that into my work, into my writing, into my ideas.  They’re always encompassing me.  My feelings are my memories, create my present moment, push me forward and hold me back.  

So, this is me, back to blogging.  I’m terrified, but I built this baby and I would be 100 times more angry and upset with myself if I gave into fear and gave up than I would if I shared my heart and soul and kept chugging.  

See you soon.  There will be more drawing ideas, because I love creating them.  There will be more inspiration, and more real life.

How I Filled Up My Doodle Sketchbook

I have dozens of sketchbooks filling up a drawer in my studio.  It’s an obsession of mine to buy new sketchbooks whenever I'm in an art store - a blank-paged book full of possibilities, room for new projects or ideas, and drawings.  So, I buy a bunch, fill up half the pages and abandon it for a new book.  It’s an old habit I am struggling to kick.  But, I bought a couple of new books a couple months ago.  I’ve been working in all of them simultaneously.  Each one is a different size and has different paper quality which means I grab a different one depending on the task or travel-adventure.  And I just completed one -- hoorah!

This one was one of my go-to doodle books, great for sketching quick ideas while sitting on the back patio, or doodling while getting frustrated with production design, or just drawing ideas while watching TV.  It was the book for anything, and I let myself run loose, fill it up, use the blank pages as messy paper.  Having a book without purpose is always hard for me.  Doodling feels messy and not clean and polished and complete, and definitely not something I would want to show to the world.  But, alas, to inspire you to just get drawing and share your messes (which indeed helps to describe your creative process), I’m sharing several pages from my messy sketchbook.

1 | (Really really) early sketches for the Limn House logo. 

1 | (Really really) early sketches for the Limn House logo. 

2 | Early ideas for a card design. (See the almost-finished piece on Instagram!)

2 | Early ideas for a card design. (See the almost-finished piece on Instagram!)

3 | Funny doodles while watching TV.

3 | Funny doodles while watching TV.

4 | Save the Date design ideas.

4 | Save the Date design ideas.

5 | Quick animal sketches.

5 | Quick animal sketches.

6 | Brainstorming blog posts.

6 | Brainstorming blog posts.

7 | Brainstorming blog posts part 2.

7 | Brainstorming blog posts part 2.

8 | Piggies!  Birthday card! 

8 | Piggies!  Birthday card! 

9 | More TV doodles.

9 | More TV doodles.

10 | Greeting card brainstorming - lists and thumbnails.

10 | Greeting card brainstorming - lists and thumbnails.

11 | Holiday card ideas. 

11 | Holiday card ideas. 

12 | Drawing the sweet cardinals on our back patio. (Card design coming soon!)

12 | Drawing the sweet cardinals on our back patio. (Card design coming soon!)

Some of these pages feel so old, because they were weeks, months ago.  Others give me fresh inspiration by reviewing some of my earlier brainstorm sessions and concepts I haven't had a chance to complete.  Onto a new book (or onto filling up the old ones)!  What's in your sketchbook? 

Try This: Draw Animals with Calligraphy

I was having a horrible horrible week last week motivating myself to get working.  So, I went on a ton of bike rides (hoorah for summer!), tried to pinch myself and to remind myself how lucky I am to carve my own path, and then just spent hours and hours and hours doing calligraphy.  There’s this calming flow you get just drawing letter forms and creating them with the pointed pen - the soft and then weighted strokes blending in together to create meaningful phrases, words.  Ahhhh....  So, as I was poking around for some fun sketch ideas, I immediately wanted gooey ink and flowy marks. So, what better way than to combine some animal sketches with calligraphy?

This project reminded me of an assignment from my 2D design class in college my freshmen year.  It was really fun and a quick study.  Grab your sketchbook and follow along!

1 |  SKETCH YOUR ANIMAL

I picked a giraffe because I really wanted to use an “S” shape for the long neck, it was just in my mind.  But, experiment.  Pick your favorite animal and sketch it out in pencil so you can erase later!

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2 |  SKETCH OUT YOUR LETTER FORMS

I began looking at the different shapes that outline the animal’s overall form: the curve of the neck (the “S” shape), the rounded nose, the curled back ear, the under belly, its long long legs.  And then began to draw letter forms to accentuate these shapes, making sure they helped to define the form and add movement and detail to the animal’s shape.  I used big letters in the middle of the body, and smaller to create the legs and smaller features like the ear and hooves. 

3 |  INK YOUR LETTERS

Grab your pointed pen or your favorite pen or marker and begin to ink your letters.  Pay attention to the weight of each letter and alternate weights to accentuate different shapes or foreground/background elements.  This was pretty easy to do with the pointed pen, but you’ll have to experiment in more detail with a pen or a marker.  

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4 |  ADD DETAIL

I felt like my giraffe really needed some additional lines to help the forms. I added some subtle marks near the face to complete the eye, nose, and mouth, and around the legs and around the body to help complete the forms.  Think in subtle terms, don’t go crazy.  You want your letters to pop out and create the overall body shape.

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5 |  ERASE YOUR PENCIL DRAWING

Let the ink dry and then erase your earlier sketch and pencil lines.  Voila!  Your finished piece!  I also scanned my drawing into the computer and added some color and cleaned it up a bit more.  A fun project!

And, because I really really loved the look of the giraffe’s face, I draw a dog’s face too to get some more detail.  There’s a lot of potential in this kind of illustration style.  Check it out and send me your progress.

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How Art + Yoga Go Hand-in-Hand

I’ve been a steady yogi for over 2 years now.  I attended my very first yoga class about 12 years ago, back in high school, before it was really popular and there were many yoga studios in town.  I bought a package of classes at the local Y (the classes weren’t even offered as key classes, but a separate package), and practiced in this small, dark, back meeting room with group of middle-aged men and women once a week.  I loved it.  It was refreshing, challenging, and peaceful.  And it reminded me of pilates which I was seriously obsessed with in high school.

I always wanted to continue, but the cost was steep and the locations were limited, and time was limited as I went through college.  But, early during my career developing exhibitions for museums and science centers, I was assigned to develop a yoga exhibit for a science museum.  I hired a local yoga teacher and a video producer to shoot a few videos for the exhibit, and we even had a Kinect-based interactive system which challenged you to hold poses for certain period of time.

The teacher I hired was this breath of fresh air, completely calm and relaxed.  I rushed into hurried meetings with her, defining everything she needed for the shoot, what she was going to say, wrote and re-wrote the script she was going to read and she just told me, “It's okay, everything sounds good, I teach 10 yoga classes a week, I’m really chill”.  I didn't understand what "chill" meant at the time and really didn't think I could ever feel relaxed again.

Fast forward a year later, tons of built up stress and anxiety, and I cashed in that free yoga class the instructor gave me during our filming sessions and fell in love.  I started attending classes at the studio regularly for a month-long membership, but quit after it expired.  Then, a few months later, after a really hard summer trying to train for another half marathon, I felt completely exhausted and depleted and decided to turn to yoga to try to relax a little. That’s when my passion for yoga really took off.  

I felt really connected to this yoga path I started.  I felt calmer, more able, and more flexible.  My body wasn't fighting me anymore, but it was working with me.  I started making more and more time for it - getting up at 5am to drive across town to the nearest studio to start my day, taking more advanced classes, trying more advanced poses.  I remember trying to find a studio closer to home and just hoping, wishing, praying for one to pop up, when it did - a local studio 5 minutes from my apartment opened its doors early January 2015 and I've been going 4-5 times a week ever since. 

Yoga has provided me a clear mind, an open body, helped me work through so many decisions, has given me emotional peace of mind, has afforded me the opportunity to take risks and seek new opportunities.  I find new direction when I practice regularly.  My body feels strong and I have discovered muscles I’ve never had before.  I feel more like myself.  I feel like this person I used to know, or knew before and forgot to appreciate and take care of.  

And I know this has yet to draw a connection to art, but I’m getting there.  There’s this universal connection in my mind about who I want to be and how I want to say it to the world or go after it, or inspire strength in myself.  I find that in yoga.  I find that in nature.  And I find that as I make art.  I sometimes think making art is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I used to use it as an escape from reality - a chance to take a breather and create something with my hands.  It’s freeing and allows my mind to grow and change and expand and repurpose (much like yoga).  But, when art is hard for me, when I can’t see between the lines, I think about those yoga poses that are hard one day and easy the next.  It’s about pushing through creative and physical boundaries, to be present where you are each day and what you want it to be and bring.  Some days I don’t feel creative or “good” or inspired and feel like a failure.  But, I’m hoping as I push through this creative journey, I take those days like I take them in yoga - when I don’t feel flexible or strong or able.  Some of those yoga days are hard - but I feel happier that I went to class and pushed through, and I guide my body through what it really needs that day.  What if we took that approach to creativity, to art?  What can I make today that will feed my soul.  Some days I love designing on the computer, but others I’m screaming for the paintbrush and I don’t fully realize that until I sit down with the brush in my hand.  I feel calm, steady, more like myself, more ready for the world than I did when I felt like crumbling down.  It's about showing up to the mat, showing up to your sketchbook, the computer, your painting.  And practicing.  Feeding your creativity.  Feeding your body. 

So, if you haven’t tried yoga, I encourage it.  I tell everyone to go to yoga.  A lot of people grumble at me or say they aren’t flexible, but it doesn’t matter.  It’s about you and your body and pushing through and being capable.  Yoga saved my life and brought clarity when I needed it the most.  It's the reason I took the risk to start my own business.  It's the reason I found creativity again and actively pursue it daily.  It’s the best blessing.

Namaste.