Freelance Friday Interview with Adria Olender

Another Freelance Friday is here! I enjoy writing these posts and I hope you are finding them helpful, inspirational and fun to read. 

Today’s interview is with my friend and fellow ex pat of Old Navy, Adria Olender. She is a brilliant graphic designer, working mom, and a real sweetie to boot. Adria switchedcareer directions not once, but twice! She has worked hard to design a life of balance that she loves so that she can continue to do her art and spend more time with her adorable family.  Check out that cute portrait photo! Amirite?  Read on to see what Adria has to say about getting clients to pay on time, overcoming anxiety and dealing with corporate angst a la Peter from Office Space. Oh, and, you might want to learn her secret superpower. It’s a goodie! 

DG: HI ADRIA! CAN YOU START BY TELLING US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND HOW YOU GOT TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW? 

AO: Sure. I think I’ll share a bit about my long and twisted journey, as perhaps some people will find it inspiring. I actually switched careers at age 30. Prior to that I was an HR Manager at a craft beer company (long story…) I went go back to school on nights and weekends and got my degree in Graphic Design. I was living in the heart of the “Silicon Valley” so my first design jobs were in the tech industry. A few years later with some design experience under my belt, feeling burnt out on the Silicon Valley, and looking for adventure, a friend and I decided to move to New York City. (Ah, to be young and brave and naive!) Within 2 weeks I landed a job at Cole Haan, my first job in the retail/fashion industry! At the time, Cole Haan had just been bought by Nike. The Creative Director was Gordon Thompson, who was essentially the mastermind behind NikeTown that turned the act of shopping into an entirely new retail and brand “experience.” Needless to say, working at Cole Haan with such amazing creative leadership was a great experience and helped to shape me as a designer. After 4 years, I decided to move back home, primarily with the desire to meet someone and start a family. And lo and behold, my plan worked, within 6 months I met my future husband and landed a job at Gap, Inc. After 3 years I moved over to Old Navy where I worked for over 5 years in in-store marketing. Working at Old Navy was fun and exciting, as the brand was completely different from Cole Haan or the Gap. It challenged me in so many ways and I am truly grateful for that experience. After a while though, the daily grind of working for such a large, public (read numbers-driven) brand started to wear on me. I found myself stuck in meetings most of the day, uninspired, stressed, and worst of all the job was wearing at my confidence. Not to mention that by now I was a mother and looking for more balance in my life. So, after a lot of thought (I think it took me about 2 years!) I finally took the leap and quit my job. At that time, I had no ideal what I would do next. All I knew was that I needed more time, balance and flexibility in my life, which for me that meant working less and having more control over my schedule. I think we are really lucky to be living in a time where working remotely and having a flexible schedule is a viable option for many people like us who are seeking a different path. 

DG: ADRIA, YOU HAVE MADE SOME BRAVE AND WONDERFUL LEAPS! BRAVA. AND I CAN TOTALLY RELATE TO YOUR CRAVING A MORE INSPIRING, FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE. WHICH BRINGS ME TO MY NEXT QUESTION: YOU ARE THE FIRST MOM THAT I HAVE INTERVIEWED FOR THIS SERIES! AND I LOVE YOU BECAUSE YOU’VE CHOSEN TO ADOPT A FLEXIBLE WORK SCHEDULE THAT KEEPS YOU ON THE CLOCK 25-30 HOURS AS OPPOSED TO THE DAILY 9-5 GRIND. HOW HAS FREELANCING CHANGED YOUR LIFE AT HOME?

AO: Absolutely! Working from home and having a flexible schedule is huge! Having a baby and working at a full-time job was very stressful. Even though I knew I still wanted to work, I did feel guilty that I wasn’t home with my son more. I was also very stressed with the job and the commute. My schedule was so tight, getting ready for work, getting my son ready for the day, commuting, making dinner, etc. I was just running myself ragged. I also worried about taking time off work, that I would fall behind, or that my boss or co-workers may not think I was pulling my weight at work. Bottom line is I was full of guilt, stressed and my life felt very out of balance. Now, as a freelancer, I feel so much calmer and in control. When I was working 9-5, I didn’t feel like I had control of my schedule, now I do. Being less stressed allows me to be a better, more patient mother. And now that my son is in Kindergarten, I can easily take a couple hours out of my day to volunteer in his classroom, go see a music performance, or take him to swim class. I also love that I now have more time to put nutritious meals on the table. And I also I have time for myself, be it to just relax, get a pedi, or work on a project. Everything in my life is just more relaxed and balanced. 

DG: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER WORKING MOMS IN THE FREELANCE WORLD?

AO: I think the biggest piece of advice is don’t be afraid to define your terms and to take care of your needs. I find that I am so much calmer, in control and productive as a contractor. I’m not bogged down with meetings and interruptions, and am able to produce at a full-time level. For me working 25-30 hours a week helps me stay in balance and have time for my family and for myself. I do have to be very organized and set a schedule for myself to get it all in though. And, although I do occasionally work late or over the weekend…that’s part of having a flexible schedule…for the most part I try to stay on schedule and put my work aside at the end of the day so I can focus on my family. 

DG: SINCE YOU ARE SO BUSY MULTI-TASKING DURING THE DAY, DO YOU HAVE AN ALLOTTED SPACE FOR “WORKING” AT HOME THAT ALLOWS YOU TO AVOID DISTRACTIONS?:

AO: I do. And let me tell you, I really bunker down in my office. I close the doors, turn the little heater under my desk, put on some tunes and off I go. I have a few quotes that inspire me and my “Create” stone, and lots of photos of my husband and son that make me happy. I do think having a separate work area is important, as it helps me focus while at home. 

Adria's workspace

DG: WITH FREELANCING, WE ARE OFTEN ASKED TO BE GLOBAL IN SEVERAL DISCIPLINES. HAVE YOU FOUND THAT FREELANCING HAS REQUIRED YOU TO BECOME INTERESTED IN AREAS YOU WOULDN’T HAVE CARED ABOUT BEFORE? MY PERSONAL MOTTO IS TO JUST SAY “YES” AND FIGURE IT OUT LATER BECAUSE I KNOW I CAN DO ANYTHING IF I PUT MY MIND TO IT! 

AO: Oh yes, in particular I feel like my clients do not understand the importance of a copywriter! So sometimes I find myself writing the copy or using the copy they provide and feeling frustrated because I know it could be so much better! To help counter that, I am gathering my own resources for copy, so now I can provide that resource to the client. 

DG: I KNOW! I LIKE TO WRITE, SO I OFTEN WRITE IN MY OWN FPO COPY AS WELL AND SOMETIMES IS MAKES THE FINAL CUT! HOW ELSE DO YOU ADDRESS FILLING IN THOSE CROSS FUNCTIONAL GAPS?

AO: As a contractor I often find I need to “manage up” and really operate as a project manager. I find myself defining the priorities, setting and managing schedules, defining the process, gathering resources, etc. And like you, I have adopted the motto to just say “yes,” especially to those project that feel a bit scary for me. I think of it as on-the-job training! One of my inspirational quotes is “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” I love this quote because it makes me think about the times when I would get overwhelmed or worry that I couldn’t do something. Then, I would figure it out, and that always reminds me that I can do almost anything I set my mind too! I’d say that is one of the best things about being a freelancer is having those opportunities to learn and grow, and each time I successfully do something that I’ve never done before, I get more and more confident.

Indeed!

DG: ATTA GIRL! HOW WOULD YOU FARM SOMETHING OUT FOR AN ASSIGNMENT WITH SKILL REQUIREMENTS YOU DON’T POSSESS? 

AO: I’m just starting to cross that bridge now. I am realizing that sometimes clients do not understand the process or their needs and that it’s my job to help and educate them. And if I can make their lives easier by finding someone to fill the job myself that’s even better. 

DG: ADRIA, WE TALKED ABOUT THIS BRIEFLY LAST WEEK. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH CLIENTS THAT ARE SLOW IN PAYING? I MEAN, WE’RE THE LITTLE GUYS. WHAT DO YOU DO IF A PAYMENT IS REALLY PAST DUE?

AO: I am still figuring this one out and so far my clients have been good at paying me, but sometimes it does come a little late. Some things that I do to help are always have a contract, always submit my invoices on time and ask for payment upon receipt. I do have a 21 day period, and I’m not afraid to bug the client when the due date is approaching. I send polite reminders or inquiries to my client. I’ll also reach out to the accounts payable department to check on the status. So basically, my “strategy” is to hound them (nicely) until they pay. ;* )

DG: GETTING PAID IS SOMETHING EVERY FREELANCER HAS TO DEAL WITH, SO WE APPRECIATE YOUR ADVICE ON THAT TOPIC.  ON THAT NOTE, DO YOU MANAGE YOUR OWN ACCOUNTING? IF SO, HOW CHALLENGING IS THAT?

AO: For now I do. This will be my first year where I’m officially a sole proprietor, so we’ll see how it goes. I’m thinking that I may need an accountant or at the very least a business expense tracking software. Let me know if you have a good recommendation for that!

DG: ANXIETY!! WE ALL HAVE IT. I KNOW THAT WORKING FULL TIME FOR A FORTUNE 500 RETAIL CO. HAD SOME STRESSORS FOR SURE. IN YOUR NEW LIFE, DO YOU EVER FEEL ANXIOUS ABOUT WORK? 

AO: Oh yes. I’m especially anxious when I first start a new contract and work on that first project. I want to make a good impression and fulfill my clients needs/expectations. Did I hit the mark? Do they like me? Do they like my work? I worry about all of that. Over time as the relationship builds this anxiety goes away. But then a new anxiety appears, the anxiety of being let go unexpectedly. I’d hope to have advance notice, but realize that I may not get that. To help manage this anxiety, I do try to tuck away a chunk of money for a rainy day. So, I make the choice…instead of buying that new pair of shoes, I put some money away. Which actually brings me to a tangent topic about how much time and money I save not having to commute, buy lunches, or buy new clothes for the office. But, I’d say that at the end of the day, the stress I feel as a contractor is much more manageable than the stress I felt as a full-time employee. I guess because I know I’m in control, whatever happens.

Adria is killin' it with her awesome logo and in-store designs for Bevmo!

DG: THANKS FOR BEING SO HONEST. I DONT THINK THERE IS A FREELANCER OUT THERE WHO DOESN'T FEEL THE SAME WAY. 

DG: SO, HOW DO YOU RELAX? AND CAN YOU FIND TIME TO BALANCE YOUR HOBBIES WITH YOUR BUSINESS?  

AO: I find that my days are pretty full with work, taking care of my son, and managing the household. When I’m not doing those things I’m usually trying to get some exercise in or visit with friends. For exercise I like to walk and hike. To calm my mind I like yoga and Zentangles. Zentangles is basically doodling for relaxation and inspiration. I am also getting into cooking and eating healthy. We have an organic vegetable box delivered every week, so I am having fun discovering new vegetables and figuring out creative and delicious ways to cook them. My favorite these days is roasted curry romanesco cauliflower, yum!

Adria's Doodles

DG: YAY! I LOVE YOUR DOODLES. SELF CARE IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO "WORK FOR THEMSELVES."

DG: DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE REINVENTING THEIR CAREER MID STREAM?

AO: As the saying goes…feel the fear and do it anyway! It took me about 2 years to leave my corporate job because I was worried that I wouldn’t find a better job, or that no one would ever hire me. (It’s crazy what those demons in your head will make you think!) Now that I’ve made the leap and look back on it I wonder what took me so long. And not just me, I know so many people who have made the leap to follow their dreams and they are all happy and successful. You, Dawn, are a perfect example. It’s been so great to see you grow and really “bloom” as you pursue your passions. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. You can define the terms of how you work and what you do…within reason of course. Have you seen “Office Space?” It’s like that scene where the lead character tells the business consultants off, and their reaction is admiration for being so frank and he gets a promotion! 

DG: HA HA. LOVE IT. HERE'S THE FAMOUS SCENE FOR THOSE OF US WHO NEED A REMINDER:

 

DG: AND, LASTLY: WHAT IS YOUR SECRET SUPERPOWER?

AO: Hummm, I think my secret super power is faking it until I make it. When I am asked to do something that I’ve never done, I put a confident smile and say of course I can do that! And then, my “make it work” superpower kicks in and I do it! 

Those, my friends, are words to live by.

 

Check out Adria's amazing work here:

http://adria-olender-bvut.squarespace.com

and learn more about her here and here:

https://www.pinterest.com/adriao/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/adria-olender-1bb17b2

Freelance Friday Interview with Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh

Hi friends! Today I bring you an inspiring interview with visual artist and my friend, Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh. I first met Dawline two years ago at a Creative Live taping of Lisa Congdon’s "Become a Working Artist” class. I am a huge fan of Dawline’s work especially her printmaking and portraiture. This lady is super prolific in many mediums but her sensitive brush and ink line work is immediate recognizable. If you live in the Bay Area, you may have seen her work at Oxtail Studios and Art Attack, SF. I love Dawline’s spirit, drive to work hard, and commitment to creating art daily. Oh, and she’s super smart and funny. Read on to learn more about what inspires Dawline, her ideas on authentic and consistent self promotion, and her feelings about sweatpants.

DG: HI DAWLINE. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR JOURNEY FROM A CONVENTIONAL WORK-A-DAY LIFE TO FOLLOWING YOUR FREELANCE AMBITIONS.

DO: I moved to the Bay Area almost 10 years ago from New York. I've spent most of my work life in management of some sort, with the past 6 years managing a large art supply store in the area. I would say overall, in the almost 20 years that I've spent working my aim has been to work in as many diverse environments as possible - everything from teaching art in a Ukrainian Catholic school in the East Village to a coordinating catering events in an Orthodox Kosher restaurant. I think its really important to get to know as many different people as possible, and there is no faster way to get to know people than working side by side with them. I very recently decided to focus on my art career full time because it was simply time. In the past 3 years I've been showing my work with a fair amount of regularity and there are projects in my head that I felt I needed to make real.

DG: SINCE LEAVING YOUR 9-5, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN GETTING YOUR ART CAREER UP AND RUNNING?

DO: My biggest challenge since leaving my 9-5 has been developing a daily work flow. At my previous day job my work day had an arc - come in, have a big gulp of coffee, check in with my assistant, make a plan for the day, read through email and other correspondence and so on. At home it's different. I think I blame sweatpants. In all seriousness, I have started to develop a routine but as there is no commute to signal beginning and end I have tended to work or think about work now all the time. I've had dreams about Instagram and woken up at 4 am to jot notes down in my phone.

DG: CAN YOU SHARE  SOME OF YOUR SUCCESSES WITH US?

DO: I was asked to lead a watercolor workshop at a conference in San Francisco soon after I left my 9-5 in October for people who were looking to transition out of their day jobs into work that was more in tune to their creative passions. It felt really great to use my very recent experience to help others explore their dormant creativity. My other success has honestly just been taking some time out to identify what I need from my life and finding my voice as an artist. It sounds like such a small thing but it's really valuable. When I was younger I would have said just having an art show was a success - last year I had a show a month. At least 3 of them where solos but I honestly don't remember because it was such a blur. Working 45 hours a week and putting in 5 hours a day in the studio was tough and made me reevaluate what success would might mean to me moving forward. I'm still trying  to sort it out.

DG: SUPER EXCITING THAT YOU WERE SO BUSY SHOWING YOUR WORK IN GALLERIES. AND I LOVE THAT YOU DEFINE AN ELEMENT OF SUCCESS AS TAKING TIME OUT FOR SELF CARE. IT'S SO IMPORTANT. 

DG: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT “WORKING FOR YOURSELF” AND WHY?

DO: My favorite part about working for myself is determining the tone and mission of my work. When you work for someone else you are always speaking in their voice, to a certain extent. It's the "company culture" that dictates how you answer the phone, deal with the public, interact with clients. Sometimes it aligns, sometimes it doesn't. I really value the ability to speak in my own voice.

DG: I LOVE THAT: "SPEAKING IN YOUR OWN VOICE." IT'S VERY EMPOWERING. AND WHAT INSPIRES YOU, AS A FREELANCER, TO SPEAK IN YOUR OWN VOICE?

DO: My mind is always on which is great and terrible - I'm inspired by everything. I've gotten to the age where I've learned to adapt to my own way of thinking and figure out ways of filtering and organizing my thoughts to bank for those rare "inspiration dry spells". I take walks around my neighborhood, always with a camera, and jot down notes in my phone. It's a great reference guide for me and it's better than a notebook for me because I don't have to try and read a hastily scribbled note (though sometimes I look through them and laugh... what exactly was I referring to when I wrote down the word "Nostrajamas"?!) 

Inspired by nature

DG: I KNOW WHAT IT WAS. YOU MEANT TO REMEMBER TO ILLUSTRATE NOSTRADAMUS WEARING HIS JAMMIES. 

DG: HOW DO YOU KEEP BALANCE IN YOUR LIFE WHEN EARNING A % OF INCOME FROM YOUR ART AND ALSO KEEPING SOME CREATIVE TIME FOR YOURSELF? 

DO: I'll be honest - I haven't quite gotten into the flow of making a decent income from my art - it's an everyday hustle between my web shop and teaching classes. Right my daily workflow is devoted to research, finding and building my audience, creating a body of work and administrative work like maintaining websites, social media and email.

DG: THANK YOU FOR YOUR CANDIDNESS. I KNOW THE EVERYDAY HUSTLE WELL.  IT'S SO IMPORTANT TO BALANCE "GOTTA PAY THE BILLS" MAKE SOME MONEY WORK WITH YOUR ONGOING PURSUITS OF DEVELOPING YOUR BUSINESS.

PART OF DEVELOPING YOUR ART BUSINESS IS HAVING A STUDIO PRACTICE. IN OTHER WORDS, "MAKING ART EVERY DAY." CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURS? 

DO: I used to have an outside studio, which I miss, but lately I've been working from home. I usually start the day with some warm up drawing, and then some more later in the evening. I would say I spend at least three hours a day on studio work now. Ideally it would be 5. 

DG: I LOVE SKETCHBOOKS. CAN YOU SHARE A PEEK INTO YOURS? 

DO: It's taken me a while to get into sketch booking. Until very recently I either painted on substrates like canvas, wood panel or paper with out planning or preliminary sketching, or made relief prints. Now I take my sketch book with me on the train or at other times when I feel there will be down time. It helps me organize my thoughts and be present with my environment. 

Commuter sketching

DG: WHAT IS YOUR DREAM JOB? DREAM CLIENT? DREAM GIG? 

DO: Eeek! I would love to do editorial illustration. I like making work that's graphic or narrative. I'd love to go back in time and create posters during the Art Nouveau period. Lately I've been fantasizing about illustrating a picture book for Chronicle Books. 

DG: YOU CAN DO IT! I CAN DEFINITELY SEE YOUR WORK TRANSLATING TO THIS GENRE. HOW WILL YOU GET THERE? ANY ADVICE FOR SELF PROMOTION? 

DO: Right now I spend a good deal of time devoted to marketing. I'm trying to launch my business and find an audience which takes a lot of work. I actually really enjoy it which is funny I'm actually a little shy. My advice is to be authentic and consistent but don't hit people over the head shouting "me me me" constantly. Find and take a genuine interest in things going on around you and in other people's work. The arts community is a small one that thrives on collaboration. On the other hand, don't let a fear of seeming pushy stop you from showing the world your work and what you are up to. There's a myth that someone will "discover" your art work and make you famous but I don't think that's realistic. You have to send out a beacon. 

DG: WHO OR WHAT HAS INFLUENCED YOUR WORK THE MOST?

DO: I think my work has been influenced by pop culture, mid century graphic design and advertising. I'm not afraid to admit that I love TV and I think it has to have in some way crept into the framing of my paintings. I also actually started out taking photographs (35mm and large format film) before I started painting with any serious regularity, which informs the way that I place objects in the picture plane and decides what I choose to focus on or filter out.

Block Printing

DG: DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE REINVENTING THEIR CAREER MID STREAM?

DO: Recently the old question "How do you eat an elephant?" popped into my head. Rather than thinking of tackling this huge thing the idea is to take it one bite at a time. I would never condone eating elephants, but you get the idea!

DG: AND LAST, BUT NOT LEAST, WHAT IS YOUR SECRET SUPERPOWER?

DO: I'm a dog whisperer. I can also guess babies ages.

Thanks to dear Dawline for sharing her story. You can learn more about here:

https://www.facebook.com/disfordilettante

 http://www.dawlinejaneart.com

 https://www.instagram.com/disfordilettante/

Twitter @dawlinejane_art

And check out her Waterfront Sketch Workshop this weekend with Verlocal:

https://www.facebook.com/verlocal/

Crazy Pom-Pom Lady Alert!

One of my goals for 2015 was to open an Etsy Store. I did it at the last possible second, practically. But I did it.

Yes, I am the Crazy Pom Pom Lady. Not to be confused with the fabulous PINBALL LADY in this skit from The Donny and Marie Show, 1976. Fun times.

Pinball Lady!!

Check me out! I have tons of cute gift items for your friends who are just the right brand of crazy, like me!

Pom-Pom Flower Pins, $6.00

Pom-Pom Dangly Earrings, $12.00

Neon Pom-Pom Statement Necklace, $22.00

Pom-Pom Friday Headband, $14.00

And I also have non-Pom Pom related items like these:

Animal Print Duct Tape Statement Necklace, $22.00

Pink Zebra Duct Tape Earrings, $14.00

This shop is just another way that I am trying to diversify myself as a working artist. I'll report back to you at the end of 2016.

I was inspired to open my shop because of my positive experience with my craft booth at the Holiday Arts Festival hosted by the Richmond Art Center.

  Photo by David Bernard and John Wehrle

Photo by David Bernard and John Wehrle

I’m so proud to have been one of the many artists and faculty that helped raise $30,000 to support the many programs RAC offers to people of all ages.  How great is that? I love art and my community. What better way to contribute. Thank you to all who came out and supported us.

And if you missed out on the color explosion that was the Pom-Pom Lady's booth, you can visit me at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/DawnGonzalesDesign or attend my Mother's Day Pom-Pom Making workshop at the Richmond Art Center on Sunday, May 8, 12 - 4pm. Mark your calendars! More details to come soon.

Pom-Pom on, my friends! Pom-Pom on!

 

 

 

MAKERS GONNA MAKE! My sisterpalooza mini “crafti-cation”

I have always loved to make things. When we were children, my sister and I would get an idea and just go for it with any materials we had around the house. A large stack of printed inventory cardboard from my dad’s work kept us busy for years as we transformed it into such things as:

  • Paper dolls
  • Christmas tree ornaments
  • A pair of open toed high heeled shoes!

Sometimes our ideas worked. Sometimes they didn’t. But the process was always fun and we never felt bad about our craft “fails.” Children embrace creativity so much easier than adults because they are not afraid to experiment, and there is no judging. They have not yet been exposed to the cruel jive of this world: (“We’ve always done it THIS way.” “That will never work!” “Did you use an approved vendor?”) Ha-Ha. Can you relate?

This week, when my sister, Dionne, came to visit, we were busy from sun up to sun down making stuff and recapturing our creative spirits. We had a blast!

Here are some of the things we created:

  • Pom-Poms Headbands and earrings (inspired by The Richmond Art Center’s Skeletonfest workshop where we helped children make hundreds of fluffy pom-poms just for the fun of it)
  • Duct tape wallets, earrings and ID cases
  • Coloring sheets
  • Cheap and cheerful party decor
  • Spidery deviled eggs
  • Halloween costumes

We called my downstairs studio the CRAFTHOLE and documented our pursuits on social media. Our week included three diy costume changes too!

  • Dia de los muertos faces
  • Corsets and sequins for Rocky Horror Picture show
  • Freakshow outfits* (Tomorrow I will post a tutorial on how i made my parasitic twin costume.)

It was all so much fun and therapeutic!  Making art is such a wonderful release that I try to do it every day. Here are a few of my favorite quotes about creating art as therapy. I find truth in all of these:

“It’s time to make art, my soul is hungry.” - Anonymous

“If your heart is broken, make art from the pieces.” - Shane Koyczan

“Art was made to overcome chaos.” -Don Jones

I would love for you to share any of your favorite quotes along the same theme. Leave them in the comments section! 

Have a great week everybody! Go forth and make!

Skeletonfest 2015 at the Richmond Art Center

You guys! It's almost here. Skeletonfest 2015 at the Richmond Art Center! I'm so excited because I will be hosting their first ever Pom-Pom Making workshop. Stop by from 1-3 pm on Saturday October 24th at 2540 Barrett Avenue, Richmond, CA 94804 for a fun family afternoon of Dia De los Muertos arts and crafts.  Here are some of the Pom-Poms I will demonstrating:

Cat Eye Pom-Pom

Jack-O-Lantern Pom-Pom

Ghost Pom-Pom

Googly Eyes Pom-Poms

Square Pom-Pom

There will be so many fun arty things going on at the center that you don't want to miss. Bring the whole family to make sugar skulls, screen print  a T-shirt or (bring your own clothing or fabric), make a cool or scary mask, and enjoy the Dia de Muertos decor and snacks throughout the Art Center!  No registration necessary and all ages are welcome

While the kids are having fun creating, you can relax and get creative with my festive coloring pages for adults. You know you are intrigued! I can't wait to see you.  Felicidades!

http://richmondartcenter.org/events/skeletonfest/


8 Solid gold nuggets of advice I have received as an artist

I’ve been actively pursuing an illustration career for two years after a 15 year stint in corporate America. How am I doing? I’ve never been so busy or felt so creative in my entire life! In fact, I'm managing so many different creative projects at the moment, that I forgot to eat lunch yesterday.  What? That’s huge. I have never forgotten to eat in my life. As I reflect on the past two years, it occurs to me that there are some shiny golden nuggets of advice that have consistently helped me in my new career. I practice them all the time, and they have all led to great things for me. Maybe they will help you too?

Here are my 8 solid gold nuggets of advice I have received as an artist:

1. Create/Sell Your Joy: I have loved drawing all my life. One of my first memories of how art saved me happened when I was 5 years old. I won 100 dollars in a drawing contest sponsored by Zales Jewelers, my Dad's employer in the 70's. I’ll never forget it. We were so poor at the time, my parents started crying with joy when they read the award letter that I received in the mail. Wow. We really needed that money. I guess Zales didn't pay all that well. Ha-Ha. Here is the award winning masterpiece. The judges must not have been very discriminating as I drew my dad with only three fingers on his left hand. But, check out those groovy duds.

In high school, my advanced art history and studio classes created an escape for me in the midst of a tumultuous home life.  In college, I got my BFA in illustration and then, naturally, promptly took a job in retail upon graduation.  To my credit, I did spontaneously move to San Fransico, the most creative town I’d ever been. And eventually, through "on the job" training, I carved out a career for myself in the visual merchandising/marketing world. 

Old Navy Chevy

Old Navy Showroom

While I had a creative role at Old Navy for a very long time, as often happens, I faced major burn out in my final year there. Retail moves at the speed of light, and if you "can't hurry up and be creatively brilliant," it's going to be a struggle! Before leaving my design gig at GAP, Inc. in 2013, one of my last ditch efforts to recapture the excitement that brought me to marketing in the first place was to start sketching every day. Instead of working on the computer, I drew by hand.  At home, I sketched my greatest joy, my precious English Bulldog Cookie.

To my surprise,  I ignited a spark that I knew I needed to hold on to and fuel. I attribute this nugget, "Create your joy" to one of my favorite ladies on the illustration/educators circuit, renown artist and agent Lilla Rogers. One of the questions Lilla addresses in her book, I Just like to Make Things, is: "Why should you create your joy?" The answer is "Because people WILL BUY IT." I believe that. Last year I started a side business drawing and embroidering custom pet portraits that has been quite popular and just the most fun, rewarding and meditative art practice in my repertoire. Because DOGS = JOY. At least for me they do.

2. Create Art Everyday: Creating my joy is how I began the practice of creating art everyday. Drawing just makes me so damn happy. Sometimes at night, color combinations swirl in my head and keep me up thinking about all the great stuff I want to draw. Sometimes I can hardly wait for the morning so I can put that pen to paper. I haven't had a passion like that in a long time. And, maybe it's because I always have art on the brain, but I noticed a funny thing happening: I began to hear this mantra everywhere from successful artists and coaches alike. Sometimes in the form of "Put your art first" or, "Make time for your art",or "Create a daily studio practice that you love."  It's so powerful to make that studio time work for you. It will also make you a more well rounded and skilled artist. Clearly my studio practice involves wine.

3. Use Cheap Paper: This simple piece of advice that I use every day, again, comes from Lilla Rogers. She encourages us to just be crazy and free and uninhibited and messy. Use up that paper. Because ideas will flow and things will happen. It’s true. If you are a perfectionist like me, you want to get everything perfect with no mistakes. That first page in your new sketch book is precious and will set the precedent for all musings to come. BAH!! I say tear it out and scribble on it!

Here is a snapshot of my first ever sketches from my Lilla Rogers 2014 MATS BOOTCAMP class. I used bond paper and nice markers. I cut out the mistakes and glued the "good" sketches to a board. 

I'm surprised I didn't frame this for display! Here are the sketches I did outside yesterday with some old brushes, some scrap paper, and cheap watercolors.

They are now in a pile on my studio table. I will scan them and use them in my new series of abstract patterns. I like both sets of doodles the same, but I definitely had more fun with the loose brush technique. I recently created my best work from loose sketches like these.

Here is the very first pattern I created from those super stylized precious drawings from 2014.

I know more now.

4. Talk, Talk, Talk: Well, this one is a doozy. It’s very hard for artists to talk about our own work. For me, I don't want to inundate people with my world or seem boastful. But, I think there is a right way to "spread the word," and this is tied to the concept of creating/selling your joy. Simply share your excitement! Lisa Congdon talks about this in many of her classes and her essential guidebook for artists, Art, Inc. It's good advice that I think about almost everyday. And it works. When I started creating art again after two decades, I was so jazzed about what I was doing that I began sharing photos of my work with friends and family on social media. I wasn't trying  “sell” anything or direct people to my portfolio because I didn't have one yet!  I just posted things like, ‘HEY GUYS, LOOK WHAT I DID TODAY! I’M SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS (diorama, collage, painting, bulldog shaped cupcake).” 

Excitement and joy is contagious. I’m interested in what makes artists tick, or inspired! Why wouldn't people feel the same way about me? PS. Thank you to all my friends and family who have supported me and my work over the past two years. I’m glad you all love dogs as much as I do.

5. Network /help others: I've heard this advice from so many artists, and coaches. It's hard to credit it to any one person. I used to hate networking. But it's not that awful or hard! You don't even have to leave your couch now with the internet. I began joining virtual art groups everywhere! Linked in, Facebook, and Instagram. What I learned is that there is a lot of crossover in the community.  Not only did I learn about new opportunities like classes, and competitions, but I made new like-minded friends. My brave move of "joining the party" opened up several doors of opportunity for me. Here is an example: Because I had been a fan of the blog at PatternObserver.com (of which I learned from a fellow designer in the Make it In Design summer school class user group on Facebook), I subscribed to their newsletters. When there was a call for entries on new designers, I contacted them. And then, when I was featured in Pattern Observer, an old college friend of mine who also subscribes to their blog recognized my name and we began talking again over email.

social

Guess what? He’s contracted me to design a series of typographic t-shirt designs for the very cool company he works for. Super thankful to the universe for that one, and also proud of myself for putting myself out there.

Conversely, I recently received an email through my website from a very nice young woman who wanted advice on how to get into editorial illustration. I really thought about her question a lot, and I hope my email response helped her. Kindness is not hard. And it always comes back around. 

6.  Never stop learning. Continue to evolve your talents: I credit this nugget to Lisa Congdon, a fabulous artist, educator, speaker and fellow dog lover. She’s a real nice lady too.  In her classes she talks about how there is always more to learn, and how we are always developing as artist. Even the most experienced artists continue to take classes to evolve their talents! Lisa has inspired me to take classes whenever I can. In all sorts of mediums. Two of the most memorable classes I took this year had nothing to do with drawing: a pom-pom making class that my friend and I attended as a fun afternoon social gathering, and a FREE watercolor class taught by the famous John Muir Laws…..I don't think I have made pom-poms since I was in 3rd grade, and I surely haven't watercolored for decades!  Both were a lot of fun and I enjoyed my self so much, that…guess, what? Through the beauty of "spreading the word" on Facebook, a  design teacher friend from the Gap days suggested that I try my hand at teaching at the Richmond Art Center. Huh. Never thought of that. This October I will be teaching a pom-pom making workshop at Richmond Art Center for our community's annual Day of the Dead celebration: Skeletonfest. B00-yah!

My name is spelled wrong, but still! I'm so excited for this event. This winter, I will be teaching some studio classes at the Center as well! Who knew!?!

7. Buy this book: The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines

This one is so easy. I credit this piece to multiple people as well, but it's my sister who convinced me to bite the bullet and purchase this book as an investment in myself. You must own this if you are a working artist. Because artists must diversify their skills in order to make an income, this is the bible for us. Since 2013, I have earned a (small) income doing everything from story boards, to logo design, to licensing, apparel design and production work. I now know how to write comprehensive contracts, and price my work for what it is worth. The handbook recently saved me from setting a really bad precedent in a tempting offer from a well known media entity. PURE GOLD I tell you!!!!

8. You are ready now: Why wait until you are skinnier, richer, more experienced, (insert adjective here).  Eff that. Do it now . If nothing else, you will get practice and, as I alluded to before, practice makes perfect. This summer, following this tidbit of advice from many people (including life coaches, artists and the POTUS),  I decided to reach out to agents. I was nervous — I wasn't quite sure I had my style down, and I had no published work. But, what I did have was a decent portfolio and a white knuckle fear of remaining in the research phase forever. In the end, after receiving numerous rejection letters, I met the right agent at the right time and now have representation and a big boost to my confidence.

I will persevere!  SIDE NOTE: rejection never gets easier.

So there you have it. Take it if you need it. None of these nuggets have brought me a fat wallet or fame. Only hard labor will do that and I am still very much working overtime. But, I feel richer for having remembered these bits and I wanted to share the wealth with you. Have a great weekend, you guys!

Spending Time with Finn

I’ve been so busy these days. Busy good. I have been juggling logos, patterns, apparel designs, summer school classes, teaching curriculum and store graphic designs. Whew! But I did manage to fit in a very special project for a friend who lost her canine companion last June.

Doing pet portrait embroideries are my greatest joy. As of today, I have completed 10 of these labors of love. I love doing them because invoking the handicraft that my “abuelas” taught me makes me feel close to my heritage, while spending time being mindful and productive. It soothes my soul. I simply love the feel of the floss against my fingers, weaving together patches of color to form an illustration I may have had a creative inkling about, but just knew was somewhere in my mind waiting to spread onto the canvas. This is a special one. Meet Finn. I spent many peaceful hours with her nightly over 5 weeks. Those eyes.

Thanks to Nancy White Jayson for letting me share this story. 

“[Finn] was a rescue from Emmonak, Alaska.  A friend saw she was being abused by little kids and untied her from a post where they were throwing things at her (I still can't understand this).  Finn followed him around to a point where he couldn't get rid of her.  Unable to care for her himself due to his job (field work) he ended up bringing her down to Tucson, thinking he would give her to his mom.  I was in Tucson at the same time taking care of my mom who was terminally ill.  Without giving it much thought, after only knowing her a short time, I offered to take her and we have been inseparable ever since - August 2006.  She was at the foot of my mom during her illness and passing, traveled with me up and down the coast, landed with me back in San Diego, came to know and love my husband Eric (and tolerates his cat, Don Gato)...we even got her a little veil for our wedding.  

She had some high anxiety around other dogs and never fully got over her fear of little kids.  She loved ALL food - even veggies (except onions), especially carrots and chicken!  Her favorite times of day were breakfast and dinner.  She was the biggest cuddle bug ever.  She hung out with us at the beach, but only went into the water if we went in and she followed us.  When we would take her to the beach, she would just sit with us, protecting the perimeter of the blanket.  She wasn't much for long walks.  She basically liked to lounge around and accept belly rubs whenever offered.  Even exposed her belly for easier access.  I believe she was around 12 or 13 years old.  She died on June 21.“

I have a special place in my heart for all animals, especially rescue dogs, and so, it was a bittersweet pleasure to memorialize dear Finn with an embroidered portrait retelling her story in pictures.

As I think about Finn and what she must have meant to Nancy and Eric, my heart swells. She must have been such a joy and comfort to them throughout life’s many ups and downs.  I pictured Nancy and Finn flying down I-5 to attend to her mom’s bedside. That’s why I’ve included the California style palm trees, highway and road sign.

Nancy is a surfer and spent many days at the beach watching the sun rise and set as Finn (part Corgi!) stayed put on her little corner of her blanket. So, I added the San Diego sunrise and waves. Also, included is an Alaskan iceberg. While I’m sorry Finn was mistreated there, it’s part of her touching story with a very happy ending.

And of course, the cacti and desert flowers. I have a special place in my heart for Tucson, the town where I went to high school with Nancy and her sister. It will always be my home.

Oh! and Don Gato! The skeptical grey cat who eventually came to love Finn as part of the family.

I imagine that in doggie heaven, Finn is chowing down on a whole rotisserie chicken! And carrots! And milk bones! And maybe even Pup-a-cinos from Starbucks as she loved getting treats on her coffee runs with Nancy.

Rest peacefully, dear Finn. You are loved.

A success milestone! I'm now represented by Parcai Designs

Wow. I feel like such a grown up lady woman. After two years of hard work, drawing my heart out everyday, researching and networking I finally signed with a wonderful licensing agency based in Dallas, TX called Parcai Designs.

 

 

Yay! I'm looking forward to being able to focus on my art and having the support of experts in the industry. I've always been interested in crafts and sewing, so the quilting or bolt fabric markets seem perfect for me. However, lately, I'm obsessed with the home decor market. I never met a throw pillow I didn't like! Or a duvet cover for that matter.

Anyway, today is a beautiful day and I'm so excited to share my news with you. Parcai Designs represents a variety of artists with different styles. I think that's a recipe for success. You should check them out! For any licensing inquiries, please contact my AGENT, Teresa Cain at TCain@ParcaiDesigns.com.

Rock bands, dinosaurs, and pom-poms, oh my! Influences for April's Bootcamp assignment

This was a fun one, you guys. The April brief took it up a whole nutha' level in making this a real world assignment: a poster design for the upcoming Make Art That Sells Global Art Gathering, a live event being held in Brighton, UK on June 12th, 2015.

Here is an excerpt of the brief:

Create a single design that works as both a poster and a postcard, for the ADVERTISING market.

The poster should be designed at full size 20” wide x 30” high, portrait.

[as for the style] consider where the poster will be used. It will be displayed on the seafront and around the city of Brighton, which is a highly creative place. The poster should appeal to men and women, and to a very hip crowd. … Ensure that your lettering is clear and legible.

We were given copy to include, and a specific color palette, which I think is lovely.

As all of our Bootcamp assignments begin, we were given a “mini” of hand lettering the words: THE GLOBAL ART GATHERING. Okay. So, this is right up my alley. I love typography and I love writing. I send hand written snail mail ALL THE TIME. And, I’ve been practicing my lettering a lot over the past year, to beef up this section in my portfolio:

So, this is where I brought out my pens, paints and markers. Lots of this is crazy doodly junk, but I did find a few useful sketches.

Sketches, books and COFFEE!

I have pages of this stuff!

My most time consuming study was this script lock-up which I later refined in illustrator using anchor points and bezier curves. I'm glad I spent the time because I'm really proud of the way it turned out in it's final rendition.

Brighton is so interesting! I WANT TO GO TO THERE.  Look at all these gorgeous images I found!

The Brighton Pavilion

Brighton Pier Amusements

Brighton Pier Ferris Wheel and Seagull

The pier is like our Santa Cruz pier, only 1000 times cleaner, arty and way more sophisticated! If I have my geography right, one of the most interesting tidbits that I “dug up” is that Brighton has an association with dinosaurs and fossil discoveries.

Brighton Pier dinosaur postcard, 1947

Awesome. That got me thinking….

Tea Rex?

During the development phase of this project, we were in the throes of redecorating our home office a la “Fillmore Room West.” My husband has a great collection of concert posters that heavily influenced my designs.

I had also attended a Pom-Pom making workshop as Makeshift Society, SF, and that got me thinking about confetti, and festivities and general colorful fun. I took some really great photos that day.

Pom-Pom remnants

You can see how this creative expedition infiltrated my mind to produce one of my final selections later in this post.

In the end, I exhausted every inkling of every idea that I had in order to come up with these three designs:

Tea Drinking Dino at the famous decorative railing on the Brighton Pier

I loved this design the best, but thought that the next one fit the whole concept better.

I love this hipster art maker!

After taking polls among my friends, family and classmates, I chose to submit my hipster arty seagull. Thanks, everyone for your awesome feedback, especially Dionne and Martina, art directors extraordinares! I love this little guy and his art maker tattoo. I had great fun with the textured, layered background, the fancy swirls in the famous Brighton Pier railing, and of course, the hand painted typography. I think this poster design really does capture the energy of the event. We'll see what happens next!

The class gallery went live today. There were 300 submissions from our class of 700; so many different takes and mediums. I think you will enjoy having a scroll through these inspirational pieces:

Click here to check out the beautiful posters!

The prize for winning the competition is, naturally, to have your poster printed and displayed out and about Brighton, a corresponding postcard printed and distributed, $500.00 and the pièce de résistance, a one-on-one portfolio review with artist agent, Lilla Rogers. Wow! I could use all of those things. For now, I am very happy that I have three great new portfolio pieces. Thank you Lilla rogers and Make Art That Sells Bootcamp for the amazing opportunity!

Tutorial: DIY up-cycled pom-pom remnant “confetti” coasters!

We have two sayings in this house: 

1. WE DON'T WASTE IN THIS HOUSE! 

and

2. MORE COFFEE PLEASE.

Here is a little up-cylced project I made on the fly this weekend inspired by our household matras: DIY up-cycled pom-pom remnant "confetti" coasters!

Simple sewn edge version

No Sew Duct tape version

Last week, I suddenly found myself the proud owner of a bag of teeny tiny yarn scraps collected from an afternoon of pom-pom making at the Makeshift Society SF with Brooklyn artist Dana Haim. I just thought they were way to pretty to throw away. But what to do with them? 

These are the beauties I made at Dana Haim's worksop

And these are the yarn bit remnants filling an entire shopping bag in my studio

While running errands, I found a bolt of thin clear vinyl at Stonemountain & Daughter fabric store on Shattuck in Berkeley. For$2.00 I was able to purchase 1/2 a yard! Perfect to try out a small project like coasters. Do you ever suddenly get that "jazzed for crafts" feeling, wanting to make something in an afternoon and have something awesome to show for it by end of day? I do. And I did!  Here's how I up-cycled the yarn bits from my weekend pom pom frenzy in five easy steps for this incredibly satisfying and fun coaster project:

MATERIALS NEEDED - Clear or transparent vinyl, yarn scraps - you could also use glitter, magazine images for collage, scrap book paper pieces, sequins, (really anything that is relatively flat), scissors, embroidery floss, large eye sewing needle, xacto knife (optional). ** for the no sew version use duct tape in bright color or patterns in place of the needle and floss.

 * and a bit of masking tape (optional!)

* and a bit of masking tape (optional!)

Duct tape in fun colors for the "new sew" version.

1. Measure and cut 8 identical 4” vinyl squares. Lightly tape together two sides of the squares with 1/4" piece of tape for stability while sewing together (optional).

2. Using a needle and about a yard of embroidery floss, stitch around 3.5 sides of the clear square sandwich as shown. You could do a running stitch, but ever since I learned the blanket stitch in girl scouts, it has been my personal opinion that this method makes anything look better. Plus, it's fun. Yeah, I love a good blanket stitch.

Step 1 and 2

3.  Leaving a 2” opening on the last side of your vinyl square sandwich, insert a few pinches of yarn scraps into the center and evenly distribute by smashing around. Don’t fill the pouch too much. It should be sort of flat so that your drink is balanced and stable.

Step 3

4. Finish sewing pouch closed. I tied a bow at the corner of the square where my threads ends  met, but you could simply knot it, or even add pom-pom tassels!

5. Do this four times and you have a colorful stack of wipe-able vinyl coasters. Why not bring them as a hostess gift to you next friendly crafternoon?

Bundled DIY coaster set for the crafter noon hostess with the mostess!

If you don't feel like sewing, here is a "no sew" version that is just as fun!

1. Measure and cut eight identical 4” vinyl squares. Lightly tape together two sides of the squares with 1/4" piece of masking tape for stability while attaching pieces together (optional).

2. Cut four 5” strips of duct tape in the color of your choice. Anyone who has ever met me knows that I will ALWAYS choose neon. ALWAYS. 

Vinyl Squares, duct tape and cutting implements

3. Cut each strip in half lengthwise as shown. I used an xacto knife and ruled mat for accuracy, but you can eyeball it and use scissors, specially if working with small children.

Step 3 and 4

4. With each 2”wide (half strip) fold evenly over edge of two vinyl pieces sandwiched together. Repeat on two more sides. 

Two sides with taped edges

5. Insert a few pinches of yarn scraps into the center and evenly distribute by smashing around. Don’t fill the pouch too much. It should be sort of flat so that your drink is balanced and stable.

6. Add your last strip of tape to seal, making sure that you squeeze out any extra air in your pouch. While it looks cool, you don't want a plastic pillow under your glass unless you want coffee all over your workspace. Do this three more times for a set of 4. Since these taped versions were so easy, I made six total and the project took only 1 hour. Instant art!

Yay Neon!

Now may I have some more coffee please?

This project would be a great summer camp or birthday party project for kids. It's very inexpensive and can be done in 1.5 hours or less. It's also a great way to use up old craft supply scraps.