March 9, 2018
The movements of our hands help build the Unseen. Hafiz
Make Magic is an illustration I drew recently. The idea actually came to me while working on designs for Soul Flower. But as soon as the sketch started taking form, I quickly realized that it wasn’t appropriate for SF and was more my style. So I scrapped it and expanded on the idea in a full-blown illustration instead.
Here was that original design that sparked it… a little bit spacey and mystical:
I wanted to capture that occult feel and also make something that would be inspirational to me personally.
First step in rehashing, I decided that the hand was too chubby. I wanted two hands, and I wanted them to look elegant and slightly feminine. I tried just doodling out some hands, but they looked like cartoons. And there’s no way I could have drawn two opposing hands and have them look nice and symmetrical. So I decided to use my own hand. First I traced my fingers, then refined the shape and cut it out of paper.
The hand template was full-size, and I wanted miniature hands in my 9x12 illustration. So I scanned in the piece of hand paper, outlined it, scaled it down, and printed out a couple different sizes on a piece of paper. I then traced one of those.
My process: make a thumbnail sketch, draw the full-size illustration with pencil on paper, ink everything with ink pens, erase pencil lines, scan it in, then paint in some colors in Photoshop. Voila!
Lately I’ve been thinking about how making art is magical. How amazing it is that we humans can turn a thought into something real. Create something from nothing. Paint what ain’t.
Painting is a magical process that I like, where you conjure something out of nothing…
If there is such thing as magic, how isn’t art magic? Creating something out of nothing really is an alchemical process. Making art combines intention, energy, experience, earthly materials, craft, and a bit of luck. Aren’t those the same ingredients to making magic?
All artists give birth. It’s alchemy and it’s really an amazing process.
Jewel, Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story
I’m not an artist who believes that all creativity comes from inspiration/above/the universe/a higher source. I’m not sure if I even believe that artists are simply conduits for channeling that higher inspiration. Being just a vessel for some other unknown energy doesn’t resonate with me. I see it more as a dance, a collaboration. And instead of artists channeling some goddess of artistic inspiration when making art, I think it’s more like we tap into our higher selves. That above our monkey minds, our ego, our day-to-day chattering minds, we have a higher mind. A piece of ourselves that doesn’t play in that place of earthly worries. She doesn’t go there. She doesn’t vibrate at such low frequencies. You have to transcend your default mindspace to access it. I see our higher selves as being an extension of our selves, but connected to something bigger. Your higher self is the truest version of you.
To me, making good art taps into your higher self. When you enter a flow state, your higher self is running things. When your art just feels “right” and you’ve surprised yourself with how it turned out, it’s because you’ve let a bit of your higher self shine through. And she fucking rocks.
Because the truth is, I believe that creativity is a force of enchantment– not entirely human in its origins.
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
There’s a phrase: everything you need is already inside of you. I think creating takes these things we already have, and combines them together in a unique way to produce something new. It’s a special formula. A spell, if you will. Take some physical materials like graphite or ink, your past experiences, something you’ve noticed, your intentions to work, your openness to something new, your bodily energy at this moment, the dexterity of your fingers today, time, plus luck. Mix it together and something new arises. We all have the ability to make magic in this way.
Maybe it’s called flow, being in a meditative state, or maybe it’s just plain hard work that results in the magic. Maybe that’s all this magic of creation is. I don’t think it matters what we call it. As long as we enjoy the work and feel good about the process. And the more we practice, the easier it comes. The more often we channel our higher self, the quicker and easier it becomes to access that pathway. The more we practice this weird creation alchemy, the more we can rely on it and reap the rewards.
Something from nothing. That’s what we do as artists. We create. We bring into existence something that wasn’t there before. If that’s not magic, what is?
January 29, 2018
January 1st is an arbitrary time to begin anew.
Happy New Year to all – at this arbitrary spot in Earth’s orbit around the Sun.
~Neil deGrasse Tyson tweets
But I still like New Year because of the historical tradition to start fresh in January. Plus, coming right after the hustle-bustle of the holidays is good timing. When the new year rolls around, I’m usually ready for it. Ready to halt and then breathe.
This year has started out slow.
But any time, any month, any week, any day is a good time to steer yourself in a different direction.
I haven’t had much success with single new year’s resolutions in the past. I’ve come to know myself well enough to know that I rarely follow through with succinct goals. I’m better at general “vibey” goals, made up of multiple activities. I’d rather focus on trying to shift my mindset to get closer to being the person I want to be.
In the past, moodboards, pinterest boards, and slideshow screensavers of inspiring photos have helped steer me in the direction of who I want to be. This year, when thinking about my new year’s “resolutions”, I considered what seems missing? What area of my life feels like it could be stronger?
The idea of having a “one little word” for the year is one that resonates with me. (I first learned about this concept in the scrapbooking community.) In previous years, I’ve chosen words. But I didn’t actually do much with these words each year; I only remember these because I had them engraved on a ring.
2016 & 2017: I never chose words
This year, I didn’t plan on choosing a word. It came out of trying to wrap my arms around the general new-years-y vibes I was feeling at the end of December.
I chose care.
I’m not planning any elaborate activities or goals based around this word. Again, it’s just a general vibe and path I’d like to steer myself on to. Become more caring. When I have a choice, choose to care.
Care encompasses many areas of my life. It means self-care, home care, earth care, caring about relationships, caring about my body, about my possessions, about how I present myself to the world, caring through sharing, caring enough to research more, and caring about my art and creative work. Mostly, I’d say care = self love. But going further than just “take baths and do yoga”, it’s about respecting my talent and working harder to access the greatness I know I possess and can achieve.
To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.
So far this year, these are some things that have sparked my interest and helped me act more from a place of caring:
- insights from a self-knowledgeable human: reading this book by Jewel Kilcher
- daily(-ish) movement: TRUE 30 days of yoga with Adriene
- pep talks for my work: listening to the entire backlog of Dangerous Ideas by James Victore as a patron on Patreon
- reminders of a higher mindset: Christina Sutra’s stories on instagram and on youtube
- eat whole foods: The How Not to Die Cookbook
- just put in the work: The War of Art and Turning Pro
- staying curious and researching: Austin Kleon is constantly learning and sharing
You can boil down all interactions to two categories: ones that grow love and ones that diminish it. Choose love.
November 17, 2017
Since I only ever take digital photos these days, my pictures rarely get printed. Even if I did order prints, where do you put them? Who wants all that paper clutter?
I don’t really care if I have photos displayed in my home. And I don’t super miss photo albums like I had growing up. But I do miss being able to show people pictures in-person and talk about them. (And not via Facebook.) But instead of printing single photos, I’ve come up with a solution that I’ve been quite satisfied with for the past 6 years: yearbooks.
My yearbook is a photo album that only includes photos from the past year.
Before Thanksgiving every year (since 2012), I make a single square photo album that sums up our year. I include all our best/favorite photos from the past 12 months and create themed page spreads. Then I bring the book with me the next time we visit family. When they ask, “what have you guys been up to?” I pull out the book and show them (and I secretly love doing that).
I don’t just toss all my photos into the book– I deliberately plan out what each page spread will be. This forces me to create a narrative for the year, and it’s actually pretty insightful. Do I like the story of my life this year? What would I change for next year?
One theme that we loved from 2013 has had a place every year since: food we loved this year. Looking back at old yearbooks is super fun, especially this food page and seeing what we were loving back then.
A couple of our books have signatures in them. I think this came out of my sister joking about it being a “yearbook” and asked if she could sign it like you do with school yearbooks (quite literally: “never change!”). I said yes, and let other family members and friends write in it, too.
One other thing I do with these books is tape our holiday card into the back. I just use double-stick tape on the back of an envelope. This way, I have that year’s holiday card right with the book. We typically write about our travels and life events on the card, too, so it’s also there for that extra info.
Details about the books:
I make them on Shutterfly. Their software is easy to use and the print quality is fine.
Besides my photos, I use only free backgrounds, stickers, and elements in Shutterfly. I try to just have fun with the layouts and get them done as efficiently as possible, knowing that if I spend too much time on it I will get sucked in and be frustrated that Shutterfly isn't my beloved Adobe InDesign.
Each book is 8x8 inches. One of my books came with a free upgrade: Lay-flat pages. It's bigger than the rest. Unfortunately, Shutterfly doesn't tell you that their fancy layflat pages makes your book 1 cm wider. Had I known, I wouldn't have done it.
Shutterfly's 8x8 books are about $20. I typically pay for mine using free 8x8 book coupons I get from my local Safeway. I can pretty much rely on getting a coupon in the fall. If I didn't get a coupon, I'd just wait for a good sale: Shutterfly always has sales.
October 5, 2017
I love fall, but I don’t have a ton of autumn- or Halloween-themed home decor. To keep my holiday decorating contained and manageable, I usually create a little “altar” of decorations. For autumn it’s candles and pumpkins. For Christmas it’s our little tree with lights.
This year I decided to create a small fabric banner that I could hang at my altar and reuse in the future. This mini tapestry now hangs where a Christmas tree would, and nicely fills the vertical space.
I used only scrap fabric I already had.
tie-dye: from a maxi skirt that I altered into a mini skirt
chevron print: from new pillowcases I sewed earlier this year
black & white print: from a sample fabric swatch of a print I made for Soul Flower
plain black fabric: an old t-shirt of Rob's that I cut into rags
The fringes I made by cutting thin strips of the knit fabric and stretching them a bit. Knit fabric tends to curl when you pull on it, creating the perfect fringes!
The twine pieces are from a roll of jute(?) string I’ve had for years. Surprisingly, it comes in handy for a lot of things. I’ll have to buy more when it runs out.
The letters I cut out of black t-shirt fabric and stitched on. Knit fabric is a pain to work with like this! It curls up like crazy. I struggled with “Happy” but learned for “Autumn”: I coated the backside of it with Elmer’s glue and let it dry before cutting out the letters. Glue acts as a sizing to the fabric, adding stiffness and preventing it from curling. Worked like a charm!
I sewed everything with my old sewing machine, except the blanket stitching around the edges (which I did by hand).
I painted the pumpkin with acrylic paints, starting with a white base and a second coat of orange. The white behind helped the orange paint pop, instead of getting lost into the black background. Drew the pumpkin lines on with orange Sharpie.
It’s the perfect addition to my little autumn altar!