MATS B is here!!!

I took the online course Making Art That Sells part A over the summer and now Part B begins. I’m excited! I get to hang out with many of the fantastically creative and supportive people I met in Part A and meet still more in Part B. While I’ve learned a lot about making art for licensing and what art directors are looking for, I think I’ve gotten even more out of connecting with the others taking this course. They range from experienced industry pros to newbies like me. It has felt like finding my people. I’ve been able to hang out with fellow creatives who get me and the way I think and create. The bonus has been how incredibly giving and supportive they have been. I am continually blown away but how quick they are to respond to requests for feedback, technical assistance, etc. I’ve found a place where one can ask for a critique and not hear “It’s lovely just the way it is!” but get real feedback that also just happens to be done in a kind, respectful way (something those who went to formal art school were quick to point out wasn’t the norm in that environment–eek!). The cost of the courses was a splurge but I can easily recommend them. Participants learn  a lot about the art licensing market and also connect with a great network of fellow creatives more than willing to help each other out along the way. Can’t wait to see what our first assignment of Part B will be!

Back to Malaysia!

We returned to George Town on Penang Island in Malaysia earlier this month for a couple weeks to spend time with my husband’s parents and celebrate their 50th anniversary. I love my in-laws and this was an opportunity to not only celebrate their wedding anniversary but also to meet many of their friends and family at the various gatherings. I went into it all a little nervous but left feeling so welcomed and loved. I married into a pretty awesome family. :)

Not a lot of photos this time around. The weather was particularly hot and humid which sort of saps me and I found it difficult to even bring myself to haul out my camera. Mostly when we went to various places I just soaked up the views and atmosphere. We also had plenty of just hanging out eating phenomenal local food and catching up, though–wonderful!

I returned with a treasure trove of goodies including some moon cake molds, cookbooks, batik fabric, and scarves. The next time we go, however, I’d like to see if I can get one of those small-ish red shrines that ones hangs in the kitchen with incense and such to bless the home. I saw so many on/in homes there and would like something like this in our home, too. I need to speak with my mother-in-law some more about this and learn what it all means and how one selects the right one. Something to look forward to on the next trip.

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MATS week 5

I meant to post this a lot earlier but the office where I work my day job has been in the process of moving to a new building and I was one of the people working extra hours and days to get that done (the new space is beautiful but I still have a lot of unpacking and organizing to do). That has pretty much eaten up any free time and energy. Here, late but here, is the image I submitted for week 5 of the Making Art That Sells course. The assignment was to create an image for a large pouch or makeup bag incorporating hyper-lush colors, photographs, and mirrored images. I really like how it turned out and wouldn’t mind doing something like this for a few yards of custom fabric via Spoonflower or similar.


Week 5 marked the last for part A of MATS. Part B starts in October. There was a Global Talent Search opportunity to submit an image appropriate for a journal cover (with a playground theme) but (1) I didn’t really feel ready for that and want to focus more on improving my digital art skills and putting together a sizable amount of drawing samples (2) the piece I was working on and considering submitting couldn’t be done in time because my aging iMac decided to die shortly before the submission deadline (sigh). It’s okay, though, because the first 50 selected from the 1,500 entries are great, high quality looking pieces and I’m just not at that level (yet!).

So, here are my current goals. First, I need to upgrade to a newer computer with a better processor so I can run Adobe CS6 without crashing it (that’s what the Mac doctor diagnosed when we took my baby in–she is revived but I had to completely remove CS6). Second, I need to learn Photoshop and Illustrator if I want to achieve some of the art I’ve been thinking about and also to be more competitive in the illustration field. Third, I need to set aside regular times to create, draw, etc. to get the practice in and work on defining my style. This is probably the best thing I got our of MATS so far–fine tuning goals and setting a path to reach them. Ultimate goal: paid illustration work. I know it will take a lot of work, but it seems do-able now. :)

Weeks 4 MATS

Part A of the two-part MATS course I signed up for is now complete. Whew! Week 4 was hard. Did you or anyone you knew ever take a class like phys. ed. or art or something that you thought would be easy to pass through with flying colors only to suddenly have it fall apart and bring down your grade point average? Well, that’s a bit how week 4 felt for me. The assignment was to design an image for the wall art market (like the canvases or large inspirational plaques you see in chain stores, etc.). I went in all confident thinking, at last, this will be my area to shine because I love wall art! Wow. Way to be humbled. It was hard and I really don’t like what I ended up submitting. Here it is:
It took me this long to post because I felt like this was such a failure. I had a vision in my head and it seemed to be headed in the right direction when I made some bad choices (materials, layers, paint) that shot me off into “ick” and I felt so horribly disappointed. The hard part with this course is that you get a mini assignment on Monday to get ready for the main assignment on Wednesday that has to be all done and uploaded by 2 PM (Seattle time) on Sunday. That is a really tiny window to get a 24″ x 24″ canvas put together well (the full time day job and 2 hours a day bus commute doesn’t help, either). The theme was to use colors assigned (mine were greens and blues) and incorporate at least one word if not a quote of some sort along with at least one flower (those little blobs on the sails are supposed to be flower–oi!).

I think the hard part was knowing I had it within me to create the idea I had in my head but then getting panicky as I got closer to the deadline and straying from my planned path to short cuts that turned out badly which led to more–repeat, repeat, repeat = ick. :(

Some people in the course said it wasn’t so bad. I don’t know. It’s very hard for me to look at it objectively. However, now that I’ve had time to walk away and come back to it with fresh eyes, I have some ideas I’d like to try. I’m throwing the assignment out the window (it’s already over and done with anyway) and going to head in a direction that will, ideally, result in something I’d like to hang on my own wall. I’m hoping to post some positive results.

As disappointing as I feel my submission is, I will say that I learned a lot during that week. I need to work out more of the project and my plans for it ahead of time and with more detail. I need to schedule my time better and be more realistic about how long it will take to complete the project to reach the results I want. And here’s the big one (as noted by some of my wise and dear fellow students in the course–we communicate a lot via a private Facebook group)–I need to be kinder to myself and quit beating myself up. Yes, I’m not happy with the piece, but it isn’t the whole of my art or me. It is normal that a lot of bad art is made on the path to good art. I need to ease up on myself and see each work–even if it doesn’t go the way I’d hoped–as an opportunity to learn and continue moving forward toward my art goals. It may not have been a great submission, but it was a very good lesson!

Week 3 – design a cover for a children’s board book


Today is the end of week 3 of the MATS course part A. This week the assignment was to design a cover or two-page spread of a children’s board book (the kind meant for early and pre-readers) based on the story “The Snail and the Rose Tree” by Hans Christian Andersen. Depressing story but one that could generate a potentially good conversation between and adult and child.

So here is the design I went with when I uploaded my assignment earlier today (and an extra little spunky snail just because!).

The Snail & The Rose Tree



MATS week 2 – The Assignment!

Last week was the second in the Making Art That Sells course Part A and the assignment was to design an image that would work on a plate (thus the round shape). Tkitty plate design for MATS coursehe theme included seed pods and/or succulents. In trying to stay more true to my own look and take on things, I stretched a bit on those themes and opted for cattails (seed heads–that’s close to seed pods, yeah?) and came up with this design which I think could work on a dessert plate or decorative plate (too busy for a dinner plate I think). I like it and the inspiration was my model and muse (mews?) Murphy.

This week we work on designs for children’s board books. That’s the market I really thing some of my quirky images might work well in. Mini assignment for today is to draw lots of snails then we find out the larger assignment that incorporates those guys on Wednesday. Fun stuff!

Week 2 of the MATS (part A)

pixI am really enjoying the Lilla Rogers MATS course! Last week the assignment was to design an image for retro kitchen fabric (bolt fabric – like the sort you see in local fabric stores). The themes we started out with that week were mushrooms and vintage Pyrex style casserole dishes (we were later allowed to branch out beyond that to other kitchen items and veg, etc.).

Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of either (mushrooms always seem like nibbling on ear lobes to me and if I’m lusting over any casseroles they would likely be Le Creuset and not those old Pyrex ones I remember from my childhood). I don’t know if that is why I struggled with my design or  because I felt a bit intimidated by the amazing art others in the course are doing (we can share thoughts and images via a private Facebook group set up for participants). I kept worrying over what I thought my design should look like. That “should” thing always gets to me and I need to learn to let it go and trust my own instincts and style. I don’t feel like showing the image I submitted because I just don’t like it. It had some of the shading style I tend to use in ink drawings but it just doesn’t feel like me.

Here are some of my initial doodles–I wish I’d stuck with this look instead of trying to play it safe and do something that ended up so bleh. But this is a new week to forge ahead!

misc kitch 2 smOn Monday we got our assignment to create designs for the surfaces of dinner or dessert type plates using botanical images like seed pods, succulents, etc. (realistic, abstract, anything goes). I’m a home decor fan and love this! Inspiration comes from places like the plates and such at Anthropologie, West Elm, etc. How often does one get homework that involves “research” at her favorite shops? Yay! And this time I am trying to loosen up with my artwork and go with the look and feel that I am most comfortable with and quit worrying over how my style looks in comparison to anyone else.

A couple things have happened during this course that I couldn’t have expected. One is that I find myself doodling away in my sketchbook on the bus. I hadn’t tried that before because my commute to/from work is usually crowded and bumpy so sketching seemed like the last thing to attempt in an environment like that. But I gave it a go and I like the weird, loose, sloppy sort of pen work I’m getting. Below is a page from my sketchbook that I did on the bus. The blob of flowers that look like a hydrangea or lilacs started out as a piece of coral but I couldn’t get any details I wanted due to the bumpy ride. I hated the way it turned out until I got home and was able to layer some colors over the top (Copic markers) then I liked it! Ordinarily I would have tossed it out before getting to the coloring stage but this time I pushed through and was happily surprised!

kitty floralssmThe other thing I’ve learned is that when my mind is actively engaged in creative projects like this (daily creative activity with something to look forward to each day) I don’t seem to need as much sleep. Weird, right? I’m usually one of those people who feels like a zombie if I don’t get 8-9 hours of sleep. Now I start to wake when the sun starts to come out and the first thing that pops into my head is that I want to draw/paint something. It’s a feeling of energy I’ve never really experienced before and I love it! I need to figure out how to keep this going once the course ends. I’m thinking about writing out single word ideas for things to draw and put them into a jar or box where I can pull one out each week and keep working “assignment” style–that might work well. We’ll see!

School time!

I said I’m jumpLRSSchool-logo200ing into the art thing all the way, right? To kick that off I enrolled in the Make Art that Sells program (sessions A & B) offered through Lilla Rogers. Some of my favorite artists like Lisa Congdon are represented by Lilla’s agency and I’ve often thought how great it would be to someday work with them, too. Whether its Lilla Rogers or another agency one day, I’m charting my course to get there!

I’ve looked at fabrics, wallpaper, greeting cards, and books for kids and thought how great it would be to do that with my art. This program fits so perfectly with that and will help me better understand what I need to be do to reach that goal. A bonus is the community part of the program where I’m meeting all these amazing artists who are also taking the course–yay!  Today is the first day of class and for this first week our assignment involves a specific design theme that would work well for bolt fabric (woohoo!). As someone who loves fabric and sewing and has long thought how great it would be to design my own line of fabrics, wow, what a great assignment! Okay, off to sketch some ideas out (best homework ever!).

Back into the light

I took an exended break from blogging. I didn’t want to be one of those bloggers who just heaves up a mess of whiny, cranky blah blah blah. A combo of things got to me–one is the incivility of people I have to deal with pretty much every day in my commute to/from work (it is a disheartening statement about how people treat one another). It’s a downer and I let it get to me. I decided to focus on the positive more, though, and I make a point of noticing the nice people who still treat others with respect and kindness. When I am actively looking for that, I find I am more likely to see it all around me–cool, yeah?

The other thing, the big thing, that has sort of shut me down for a while is that I simply miss my dad. In taking care of my mom, I pushed aside my own grieving and it piled up dad's shirtsinto a big heavy weight on my heart. In the process of losing someone I love so much, though, I have found out who my true friends are and am thankful for having them at my side (both in person and in spirit)–I am lucky to have such amazing people in my life and they’ve really helped me get through this sad time. You know who you are and I am sending gigantic warm bear hugs your way–thank you!

Last month marked what would have been my dad’s birthday and my folks’ wedding anniversary. This month there is father’s day. It has kept my dad very much on my mind. But along the way I am focusing more and more on the good memories and less on the loss. I think that’s what he would have liked. One of my more recent and good memories is when I visited him while he was convalescing in a care facility. He mentioned the beautiful cherry blossom tree just outside his window and  remarked on the amazing shadows it cast on the room wall. Then he said he’d been looking at that before I arrived and thought of how I would enjoy it with my artist’s eye. I think that’s the first time he referred to me as an artist and it felt wonderful. Right then I thought “he gets me!”

So, with that in mind, I am leaping full into art (thanks for the encouragement, dad!). I’ve been painting and/or sketching almost daily and have found that wonderful creative space in my head where I lose track of time, so caught up in the creating. I love that feeling. I’ll post some shots of background work I’m laying down on various surfaces for some abstracts I have in mind. I’ll share some pages from my sketchbook, too. I’d love to hear from others who have used their art making to work through various stages of life.

Malaysia Trip – Part IV

I think these are the last few photos from the grand Malaysia trip. My father-in-law taught me how to bake sweet fermented tofu buns in the baking school area of their business–we had fun and the buns were delicious (need to see where I can find sweet fermented tofu in the states).

A couple pix of some of the cats we saw lounging in the heat all over the island. I was surprised how many have short stubby tails shaped a bit like chicken drumsticks (weird, yeah?)–all very cute, though. Also a few snaps of public art and a no parking sign surrounded by the ever-present motorbikes (with the crazy traffic I was surprised there weren’t piles of bikes and bodies all over the place!).

I can’t wait to go back next year! I did learn a few things that I’ll keep in mind next time, though. I’ll bring a smaller camera (lighter to haul around and less obvious when in crowded or sketchy areas). I’ll pack less clothes (but choose more that drip dry really fast overnight–that was great this time). I’ll make time to do some urban sketching (I wanted to but there was so much for me to see this first trip that there just never seemed to be time). I also want to sample more of the amazing fresh fruit next time including durian (yes, I know all the horrible stuff some folks have said about it but my hubby and in-laws love it so I want to give it a try–I may even like it and I won’t know if I never try!)