My Year in Art :: 2014

I sat down and wrote, uninterrupted, for about an hour tonight, while my husband was making dinner.  I waxed poetic about all the workshops and classes I took last year and how I changed in the process.  I added colorful photos and shared about my year-long journaling project.  And then, I lost the entire FREAKING thing.  After cursing a fair amount and walking away from the computer, I'm back.

I wanted to share with you how my art journaling project turned into something really wonderful last year, so I'm going to give it a try again (minus the swear words).

Last year, by committing to drawing or painting on a blank page every single day for 2014, I discovered quite a bit about what I like and don't like; what I'm drawn to (no pun intended!); and what processes and mediums I like to work with.  By sitting down each and every morning and committing myself to this self-imposed assignment, I learned about what I'm attracted to and what tools would quickly become my favorites.  It also encouraged me to learn from others and seek out new teachers.

Last March, while we were on vacation in Costa Rica, I took a basic line drawing class with Lisa Congdon through Creativebug's website (which I HIGHLY recommend).  I immediately fell in love with micron pens and spent the entire week drawing, coloring and getting lost in lines, letters and geometric shapes.

Upon returning home from that trip, I was registered to take a screen printing class with Andy Kane (sponsored by Bing) at ohhappyday's San Francisco Studio.  It was fast and furious, but the results were graphic and super satisfying once completed.  I loved the end result, but learned that I didn't want to make or "burn" my own screens.  I would have to be an admirer from afar or figure out how to hire a screen printer to make what I had been drawing in my journals.

Next up would be a block printing class with the talented and lovely Jen Hewett at the SF Makeshift Society.  I've been carving stamps for a few years, but never took a class.  I was inspired by Jen's clean, simple aesthetic and her teaching style was so easy and encouraging.  Though carving stamps, I found a way to fully accept the wonkiness of my creations and celebrated the imperfections as one-of-a-kind masterpieces.

By mid-year, I was collaborating in earnest with a fellow Write Doe Bay attendee and friend, Annie Flavin.  Annie's poetry would be the inspiration for a series of experiments with watercolors, my old typewriter and pen + ink.  By sharing my work and process on Instagram, I gained confidence in my abilities and just thoroughly enjoyed making art and sharing it.

In June, after months of drawing in my daily art journal, I would take a small leap and enter a community art show at The Back House Gallery in Petaluma.  Actually, I talked my husband and son into entering, as well, because I needed the moral support.  The show was called Full Plate and all drawings were transformed into melamine plates.  My love of circles prompted my plate design, Full Circle.  Our plates didn't sell and so now we get to eat dinner on them.  A total win-win situation.

I read Austin Kleon's book Steal Like an Artist and adopted a few of his concepts (like an analog & digital workspace and sharing my work on Instagram).  Because I was open to sharing, situations arose that I don't think would have otherwise. For instance, Mamalode magazine asked me to illustrate & hand-letter eight poems written by Annie Flavin and this spread would be featured as their centerfold in their Fall print edition.  This would be my first paid illustration gig and I was over the moon.  I was a little nervous and overwhelmed by their initial request, but delighted and proud of myself in the end.  I learned so much in the process - about my handwriting, my own creative process and what motivates me to create.  

Speaking of what motivates me, my son always motivates and inspires me in the art department.  He draws so effortlessly and has a sense of humor with his work.  We collaborated on an word project this summer and worked our way through the alphabet, picking a word that started with the appropriate letter (N in this case and landed on the word NEVER).  We both think about the word and go to town on drawing whatever comes to mind.  I loved this project, especially the hours spent talking and making side-by-side with this kid of mine.

In September, I took a six-week class at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts with the oh-so talented watercolorist, Jean Warren.  Jean is an incredibly gifted painter and a generous teacher.  I was more than a little nervous to take a class with other, more established artists but knew that I had to get over it.  Everyone was kind and helpful, but I was terribly uncomfortable and self-conscious.  I know that's probably is a good thing, but I don't think I was really ready for this type of class (at least not yet).  It did, however, force me to get the heck out of my comfort zone, so I'll consider it a success in that regard.  I need a few more basics under my belt before I return, but I will return because Jean is the bee's knees.

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By the time autumn rolled around, I had opened up my very first etsy shop and called it small town goods.  I took a few of my drawings from my art journal and had them silkscreened onto library tote bags like this one and this one (NOTE TO READERS: free shipping this week use coupon code LIBRARY LOVE).  My love of books, libraries and words were now ONE and I was really proud that I had started and completed this project that had existed in my head for almost a year.  There was a steep learning curve (for sure!), but now I'm ready to embark on a line of children library tote bags in the near future.  All because I gave it a try.  

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And all the while, I was continuing to draw and paint in my journal.  I found my art journal provided a sort of morning meditation for me and it seemed to steer me in positive directions.  I would purposely wake early to make sure I had time to sit down with a cup of coffee, draw whatever came to mind and start the day feeling centered, satisfied.

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The simple act of doing something every day made a really big difference in my life last year.  Through the act of making art, I learned a lot about myself and what makes me tick (or doesn't).  My love of graphic design, words, fonts, letters, books, quotes, watercolor and libraries morphed into this great big beautiful THING.  I'm still not quite sure how to describe it.

I just feel so different now.  I feel like I unlocked something and it's never going back in.  Does that make sense?  It's out there and I guess I'm out there now, too, in this big, bold, beautiful, colorful world.  I'm soaking up new influences and appreciating all the art & thoughtful design around me.  I'm even dressing with more pattern and color!

And to think it all started with a book filled with 365 blank pages.  I'm so glad I followed through on this project because it really has changed my life for the better.

Happiness was not my goal with this 365-day art journaling project, but it was most definitely the by-product.