Creative South 2014 – An In-House Designers Perspective

Mark your calendars for April 9-11 of 2015 because you need to be at Creative South 2015! I wasn't sure what to expect from the event - small venue, small town, big ideas - it seemed too good to be true. The creators of Creative South gave 200% to this event and it showed. I left with so many good vibes, my skin was jumping with inspiration.

In-House Life
For me, I deal with limited time, money, and resources as well as some set-in-stone client expectations. All the while, I must keep materials on-brand and focus on the umbrella message of my organization, which is higher education. My biggest objective is just to do good work, but sometimes reality gets in the way. I start every project with a focus on making it great  - I wouldn't have it any other way. I do go the extra mile and love it when I can, but when you work in a mostly-limited environment, you find yourself thinking in a mostly-limited way too often. (see below)

So, what did this in-house designer take away from Creative South?
So much of what I learned from Creative South was about keeping the creative spirit alive through the sometimes difficult task of putting aside the most creative ideas to finish the job within all the perimeters that you are given. Creative South is what I needed to rattle my creative core - it reminded me that even though not all my jobs have brilliant solutions, it doesn't mean I suck. 

Elle Luna's (elleluna.com) talk about the crossroads of "Should" and "Must" really struck a cord with me. My job is a "Should", but my "Must" was fired up by everything I heard. When I see a job that will allow me more creative freedom in my day job, I'm going to jump on it and make the most of it. I'm going to take the time to hand-letter or illustrate - I'm going to take the time to further my creative process. Not because I should, but because I must.

I took away validation about things I've believed in for quite some time - for example, Helena Price (helenaprice.com) talked about her dedication to keeping the photography in her campaigns genuine because that's the best way to tell a story. My entire in-house design team was there to hear that and agree with her thoughts and it renewed our quest to demand that level of quality for our in-house clients.

Looking Ahead
I have always stayed involved with creative endeavors outside of my day job. I like my job, but I LOVE what I do - I'm a creator. Creative South puts you into an environment with like-minded people - creative thinkers who design and create for a living but who also create for themselves - they make beautiful things because they want to - because it's who they are. That is something I identify with and something that is important to me. I founded The Doodle Swap Project several years go (doodle-swap.com) as a way to keep myself more creative. I'm going to continue to look at my creative path long and hard - I'm seeing that doors of opportunity sometimes need to be knocked on. I want to be inspired and inspire those around me.

Next year, I hope to attend Creative South and be another level closer to that happy creative place in my heart. I'm also going to make sure not to carpool because having to leave early with everyone else in my office was lame!

Links:
creativesouthga.com
twitter.com/CreativeSouthGA
instagram.com/CreativeSouthGA
facebook.com/CreativeSouthGA

A New Year and a New Creative You - Give Away WINNER!

We have a winner!
I'll be sending out a book to Kim who entered both by commenting on the blog and by liking the new Diversion Design page on FB. Thanks Kim and thanks to everyone who participated!

I hope to be able to do this more in the future and revive this blog in a fun way!

The Sketchbook Project 2011 - Almost done!

Four of my favorite sketchbook pages from The Sketchbook Project 2011
It's almost time for The Sketchbook Project to be mailed off and begin it's tour around the country! Due to inclement weather nation-wide, the postmark deadline has been pushed back to January 18th, which gives me the entire 3-day weekend to finish up and get everything in order!

I have had my sketchbook for a very VERY long time, but didn't like the paper, so I hesitated to start. Then I saw that a lot of people were re-binding their books with different paper, so I decided I would do that myself. However, I procrastinated. I finally got it bound with paper I liked better.

I have been a sketchbooking maniac for the last two weeks! In a way, I think it's good to take a few days and that's all you do is draw...it takes time for me to find my "groove", but I definitely think I found it with this sketchbook. I think that these are some of the best things I've ever captured in a sketchbook.

It really makes me think that I need to draw more regularly. Even though, because of The Doodle Swap Project, I draw a lot more than I ever have. I can see improvements in my ability to observe something and draw it more accurately and my ability to  adapt what I observe to a certain style that I want to draw.

When I am finished, I will scan each page and take some photographs and share them here for all of you who will not be seeing the tour.

For tour dates/locations and more information, see The Sketchbook Project 2011's website at http://arthousecoop.com/projects/sketchbookproject.

A New Year and a New Creative You - Give Away!

Welcome to 2011. As a way to start this new year off with creative haste, I have found a lovely book to share with one lucky winner! Kaleidoscope: Ideas and Projects to Spark Your Creativity by Suzanne Simanaitis is a great book to get your creative energy in high gear this year.

Check out Kaleidoscope on Amazon and you can see a preview of the book on Google Books as well.

How do you win?
There are four ways to enter to win!
1. Leave a comment here and tell me what you plan to do to make 2011 the most creative year ever.
2. "Like" my brand new Facebook page!
3. "Follow" my blog and leave another comment on this post that just says "follow".
4. "Tweet" this give away and leave another comment on this post that says "tweet".

Enter by January 23rd at midnight.

Winner will be selected and notified January 24th! Please make sure that I will have a way to contact you.

Good Luck! :)

Think Geek's Zombie Selection...

To add to the Zombie mania, I came across this craziness today while surfing through things on ThinkGeek.com - who on earth would pay $89 for this Garden Zombie? I dunno, but I do think it's awesomely funny.

ThinkGeek :: Garden Zombie



I do, however, think that $39 might be a fair price for this awesome Zombie cookie jar!

ThinkGeek :: Zombie Cookie Jar



 What about this cool plush pull-apart zombie for only $12.99? Awesome? I think so!

ThinkGeek :: Plush Zombie


Who need Vampires when you Got Zombies?

Now that the big Vampire kick is evening out, Zombies are everywhere! Why are they so much fun to draw? In our Monday afternoon staff meeting, I drew the two lovely zombies below while we talked about whatever it is we talk about in staff meetings. It's pretty much expected that me and the other designers sit around and draw while we listen to other's reports. It's like High School History class all over again. Except in High School history, I had to prove to the teacher that I was actually paying attention...he left me alone after I got 100% on the first test.

I also found this AWESOME zombie lego minifigure. I want him...he is on my Xmas wishlist!


And check out the new AMC series The Walking Dead - it comes on Sunday nights at 9pm CST. It's based on the graphic novel series with the same title. I've never read the graphic novels, but my friends who have said it follows them very well. It's a really interesting show so far. It's amazing how even though they are killing zombies, they leave some of the humanity in the situation...the survivors take pity on the zombies sometimes...knowing that they are suffering souls who didn't choose to be in that situation. Pretty interesting. I was never into the vampire stuff very much. I'm not sure why. I'm less of a "sexy vampire" kind of girl and more of an "undead" kind of girl. What does that say about me? LOL :) :) :)

Mmmm Brains...And Doodles Swap #7!

The latest round of Doodles were due right before Halloween this year. The theme was perfect for some possible Halloween doodles - Nightmares/Dreams. I really went for more of the nightmarish evil side of things. All of my doodles ended up pretty gruesome except for 4 of my 8 zombies that were more cartoon-like and funny. These 4 zombies were much more horrific looking and a lot of fun to draw. As I was drawing them, I realized that they made a nice little family... Ma Zombie, Pa Zombie, "Junior", and Ellie-May. How nice :) LOL

I actually felt kind of bad sending these scary doodles to folks that sent out the fun, cute little dreamy cards because obviously gore and brain-eating zombies were not their thing.

I even made a little video of me drawing Ellie-May. I didn't get to make a video from start to finish because I didn't think about making a video until I had already sketched her out. I might try to do that sometime though!

video 


As I often do, I was in two groups for round #7 and I also did a series of doodles that I titled "Unwanted Visitors" - each doodle was about a kind of evil entity that watches in the darkness. I really struggled with this series at first, but in the end, I like the way they turned out. I especially like the ghost appearing to the baby, the hell hounds, the devil and the grim reaper. It's a pretty dark series, but it really is nightmarish... the idea of something out there watching while you are unaware is very, very creepy to me.


To check out all the doodles from this round, go to the Doodle Swap Flickr pool. There is some really great talent out there! Check it out! :)

The Sketchbook Project

A long, long time ago I signed up to be a part of The Sketchbook Project. It's the great group project where artists from all around the world submit sketchbooks that will tour the United States for people to view. After the tour has concluded, the sketchbooks will enter the permanent collection of The Brooklyn Art Library.

I got my sketchbook way ahead of time because I knew I would need all the time possible to finish it up properly. I was pumped about the whole thing! When I got the sketchbook, I saw the thin paper and I was so disappointed. Especially after I began drawing in it. My favorite sketching pen bleeds right through! So, I stopped sketching... That put a roadblock in my enthusiasm.

Then I saw where others were modifying their sketchbooks and I read that it was acceptable to do that as long as the dimensions stayed the same. I had plans on doing this and FINALLY after many, many months, I removed the thin paper and added in my own.

I added in patterned paper, white paper, colored paper, and some watercolor paper as well. I thought it would be more fun to have a variety. There are only 44pgs now compared to the 80pgs that it originally came with.

Here are some photos that I thought I would share! Hopefully now I can continue to tote my sketchbook around with me and actually USE it!

My one and only real sketch on the actual thin paper in the Moleskin.

The book after the new paper is added. It's a little thick, but it's not too bad.

Examples of all the different kinds of paper.

I think I'll paste my sketch into the new book. I hate to trash it because it was done in the moment and I liked it a lot.

The Return of the 'Zine

After a hiatus and period of reorganization, the HOW forums HOWieZine is back with issue #14: Coffee. As an occasional coffee drinker, I didn't have a lot of strong feelings about the subject, so my 'Zine pages do not have a lot of concept behind them - they are just visual contributions to the whole of the theme. I think that is what I like about this project - in the end you have a visual catalog of one theme interpreted by several different artists and designers.


My first page was done in the same style that I illustrated my 2010 calendar in - what goes better with coffee than donuts?! BFF :)


My 2nd page actually began as just brainstorming for my concept. After looking at the little drawings, I decided that a visual contribution in the style of sketchbook doodles was easily a concept in and of itself. There are so many coffee cup styles and coffee items, I thought this doodled collage would be an interesting addition.

Visit the newly renovated website for past HOWieZines and details: http://howiezine.com/

Fridays with Fiona & Friday : Kittens going "Nuts"

Friday & Fiona have been with us for almost an entire month now! Here is some video from May 7th. Friday & Fiona both went nuts for packing peanuts! They loved playing in the box and batting after packing peanuts on the floor. Enjoy :)






Crafty Headbands

Here is my first attempt at making my own crafty headband. I ordered some more feathers so I could experiment some more. The feathers available at the local craft stores are pretty boring! This is just peacock feathers and some blue-dye feathers. I needed a couple more peacock feathers to really get the density of feathers that I wanted, but the pad I glued them to is black and it blends with my hair, so it's not that noticeable. However, there will be more experimentation to come! I like the way it looks - it makes my "up-do" hair days a little snazzier.

"The Letterpress" from Lifestyle Crafts - My Review & Experiment

Last year Lifestyle Crafts released "The Letterpress" Machine much to the chagrin of many letterpress owners. When I heard about the machine, the only thing I wanted to know is if you could make your own custom plates. I didn't really care for the idea of creating presses from the same pool of "clip art" that everyone else on the planet would be using.

Why I bought "The Letterpress"
I checked out the review by Kristen at Papercrave.com and her update about custom plates. When I found out that you could, indeed, make your own custom plates, I was on-board because I could get the letterpress kit and the Epic Six by Quickutz for 50% of their regular cost with coupons and a partial gift certificate. If it hadn't been for the discounts, I probably would have waited. I bought "The Letterpress" because I wanted something new to play with, I don't have the room or the money for a proper letterpress, and thought this would be an inexpensive place to start.

My thoughts on "The Letterpress" System
Everything Kristin pointed out in her blog coverage is quite true. The ONLY useful thing in the letterpress kit is the plastic foldy plate that you must have in order to run it through the Epic Six press. The brayer was terrible, the foam stickies to hold your paper in place were hard as HECK to get off the plastic and therefore are not reusable or repositionable, and the plastic plates are HORRIBLE. One of mine was broken when I opened the package - didn't even use it yet. The others cracked upon rolling through the pressure of the machine. They were very cheap quality, so don't even bother with buying any others! I've already contacted them about replacement plates, but I'm not sure why I am bothering!

A bonus to having the whole system is that with the Epic Six, you can use it as a die-cutting machine. I haven't done that yet, but for those who scrapbook or make cards, that might be an added bonus.

Lifestyle Crafts Accessories
The accessories sold in the stores are bogus. Buy the ink - it seems to be of decent quality and the right size tubes for what you are doing. Buy the paper if you must, but you can buy 250 8.5 x 11 sheets of Crane 110lb Lettra online for $35-$40 bucks plus shipping and that is a much better deal. You can buy a palette knife for mixing inks in an art supply store. Use double-sided tape instead of their sticky adhesive sheets. Get your own brayer! I didn't like the size of their inking block either. Since I bought a 4" brayer (I would recommend a 4" or a 6") the block is too small. You can go to the dollar tree and buy a cheap document size photo frame and use the glass to roll your ink on.

My Experiment
As I am not made of money, I'm going to have to wait until I can get a custom plate made. A 6"x8" polymer plate from boxcarpress.com would cost about $35.

When I was buying my new Speedball brayer in Hobby Lobby, I saw these thin sheets of linoleum for print-making. They looked to be a little over 1/8 of an inch thick and I wondered if it would work in the little press. So, I picked up a 3"x4" sheet for $1.99 and gave it a shot.

The idea was to see if this linoleum would be hard enough and precise enough to make an impression into the paper.


1) I cut a simple little design out of the linoleum. You can see how thin the sheets are. It was REALLY easy to cut through. I really like this product. You can pick some up on Amazon - Easy to Cut Unmounted Linoleum by Richeson.
2) I tried to cut down as far as I could in order to make sure the cut-away areas wouldn't interfere with trying to get an impression.


3) Then I decided just to cut the excess away to prevent it from interfering with the impression.
4) I inked the little design and set it up to print on a little piece of the 100% cotton paper that came in the kit. (This photo was actually taken after I had already rolled a print)


5) For this first print, I took out ALL of the packing. The only packing that comes with the kit is one sheet of medium weight paper and the clear, plastic board with the grid. I took that plastic board out too because I knew the linoleum was thicker than the dies that come with the kit. When I rolled it through, it was easy to crank, so I knew there would be no impression. But, to my surprise, the Epic Six served as a nice little "printmaking" press. If I had inked my design better it would have been a more even print. The bad inking wasn't really my fault. My new brayer has issues...it must have been on the shelf too long because there is a "dry rot" area on it that the ink doesn't work well on. I'm not sure what is going on, but it definitely has a defect because that strip of rubber is darker and slicker than the rest of the roller.
6) For the second print, I put all the packing materials back in. Obviously, this was too much pressure. The ink spread and the cut-away areas of the linoleum began to press into the paper.

I found an alternate use!
So, I think another neat way to use this little "press" is as a linoleum (sheet only) carve print-making press. If you take out the packing that comes with the press and experiement with your own packing, this press makes a handy way to evenly press a hand-carved design. You could easily come up with your own way of registering your art so that you could print multiple colors.

For the Record
I do not think this thing will EVER replace the quality of a real letterpress. There are serious size limitations and most users will never take the time that you'll need to really perfect the process of making a print on this little plastic machine. Given the low-quality of the ready-made plates, non-art/design users are going to be disappointed with their results and have a hard time coming up with all the resources to make this endeavor worth it. I don't think that letterpress folks have too much to worry about - ultimately, there is no way that anyone can produce commercial quantities on this machine. The process of hand-inking the plate each time and cranking it through each time will limit the number of items produced. This process is to letterpress what Gocco was to screenprinting. I have ENORMOUS respect for the true art of letterpress. While this machine is fun to experiment with, I yearn for the real thing!

Fridays with Fiona & Friday : Introduction


As some of you may know, our beloved cat, Figaro passed away this March leaving a gaping hollow spot in our hearts. Our quiet home needed a cat, so we adopted not one, but TWO. Here are my sweet lovely kittens, Friday and Fiona!

I've been going home everyday at lunchtime to check on the kittens just to make sure they are staying out of trouble. They like to get on our kitchen table. That is a terrible habit for them to get into, but it's hard to stop the little devils!

Today Friday has been featured on The Daily Kitten Web site! Tomorrow The Daily Kitten will feature Fiona as well! Check them out :)

Book Review: The Artist in the Office by Summer Pierre

This book is the most useful quick read you can ever invest in. It took me half an hour to read it, but I already want to re-read it. The Artist in the Office - How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week is one of those books that just "gets me" and I immediately thought of at least a half a dozen of other people who I know would love it and understand it.

In the book, Summer Pierre examines the duality of a creative person - especially a creative person who is "stuck" in a job that renders their creativity seemingly useless. Even if you have a job in the creative industry (which I do), it's easy to feel like you are leading one life for your work and another for your creative self. Pierce takes you through several scenarios that open up your mind to the positives of the "humdrum" job and talks about ways to inject creativity into your daily routine. The ultimate message is to make the most of your days, start now, and take back your life!

While it is geared toward artists and creatives, I can see VALUABLE lessons in this book for anyone who is feeling less than satisfied with their work/life balance. This book is a giant pep talk on looking on the bright side and improving your life without making radial, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants changes.

Typography and Doodling

We just finished another amazing doodle swap over at The Doodle Swap Project. Round five was the largest group yet - forty in total! This round (the first ever themed round) was themed "hand-drawn typography". I have to admit, it wasn't my first choice, but it really opened up a whole new level of doodling for me. I really, really enjoyed this and I am STILL thinking about words I would love to make into doodle creations. For my set, I chose to doodle song lyrics from some of my favorite songs. To see my doodles in better detail, check out my set on flickr.

This project presented me with the same problem I have when it's time to download new music. What song do I want? I know there was something I wanted to get, but I can't remember what it is. With this project, I knew there were TONS of songs I loved and there had to be some doodle-able lyrics in them somewhere. But, I was drawing a blank! Most of my lyrics went back to my favorite artists of the 90's. I have to admit, 3 of my doodles don't fit that theme because I was running out of lyrics! ha :)

I have decided to dedicate a small water-color sketchbook that my brother got me for Christmas to typography doodling. I will be on the look-out for interesting lyrics, phrases, or words that I can "illustrate" in my little watercolor journal. I am excited about the idea and I think I can fill up the notebook pretty quickly! I've already got a few started.

To see what other doodlers have done for this round, check out the flickr pool. Catch up with new events by visiting The Doodle Swap Project blog or become a "fan" on facebook!

The Art of Butch Anthony

Butch Anthony of Seale, Alabama may be my new home decor hero. On his 80-acre homestead he creates art, architecture and curiosity. Not only is this place his home, but it's also the "Alabama Museum of Wonder" and home to the Doo-Nanny folk art festival each and every March since 1996.

His self-built, log cabin home is a thing of beauty. The raw wood paired with stark white walls and unique details like windows made from beaver dam twigs are sophisticated Folk. His art is often repurposed items that would have been thrown away.

See more of Butch Anthony's home architecture in the New York Time's slideshow:
Backwoods Design and the Art of a Doo Nanny

Other Links:

Butch Anthony on the History Channel's series American Pickers

Interviews with Butch Anthony by Tommy Morehead: Part1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

Doo-Nanny Official Web site

"Me Time" for Creatives

Sometimes I really have my stuff together, but sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with daily life. Get up. Rush to work. Work for 8-9 hours. Run errands. Go home. Do chores. Relax for about 2 hours. Sleep. Being a creative being, that routine can only sustain me for so long and then I need to DO something. I have a instinct to create or talk about creativity and if I don't have an outlet, I get a little depressed and stir-crazy. It even leads to burn-out which effects my job.

I was the April issue of Better Homes & Garden and saw their monthly calendar article which is usually themed. This month was "A Month of 'Me Time'". The advice is based on a book by Lisa Quinn called Life's Too Short To Fold Fitted Sheets. Isn't that the truth? Sometimes I look at all the work I put into a clean house and wish I could convert it all to energy spent creatively. Granted, I am the kind of person that needs to be in a clean, organized home, but wow, it takes up a lot of my time. And when I am done, I am tired. Hiring a maid is out.

I am a bit of a "homebody", but when I am at home, I don't get as much creative work done. A messy bedroom and a pile of unlaundered clothes are there to taunt me until I finally step away from what I am doing and attend to them. Last week, I went to the coffee shop with my portable art supplies to finish up a Doodle Swap Project swap. I was incredibly productive while I was there.

So what do I do when I feel like I'm drowning in a world without "Me Time?

For starters, I am involved in some creative group projects such as The Doodle Swap Project and HOWiezine. They are things that keep me happy and fill a creative void that my 9-to-5 job creates. These things keep my wheels turning and it's a great opportunity to share with a community of other artists. The organization of these projects takes place online and through social media resources, so it makes it very convenient to keep up-to-date.

I have a "studio". I have one room that is full to the brim with art supplies, books, my computer, and lots of inspirational trinkets. The trick is to keep it functional. I have a LOT of stuff and it gets a bit out of control at times. But, the great thing is that I have a place that is all my own. I can put on my favorite music, clear off my work table, and get started making something.

Because the internet is much more cultured that the area I live in, I take time out to look at other creatives online. I browse blogs and other creative Web sites for inspiration and project ideas. Seeing the things that other people have done lights a fire under my dormant ideas!

I take my camera and go for a ride. This is something I would like to do more of. When I go, I just focus on driving around (preferably in the country) looking for things that strike me. Then I pull off the side of the road and take photos. It's a great thing to do on a beautiful day.

As often as I can, I like to get together with other creatives in person and share experiences. If you can attend conferences and workshops then great! But, if you can't, having a creative buddy to bounce ideas off of is another useful outlet.


Even though I feel like I have made much progress in making time for the creative side of my life, I think that things can always get better. As most people do, I have good intentions, then life gets in the way. Maybe "A Month of Me Time" is a good idea. Perhaps I can start scheduling in times to be creative on a monthly basis to make sure I have one creative outlet per week.

What are some things you do to make time for your creative self?

I miss you, Blog.

I miss my blog. Facebook has lured me to it's dark side with it's quick to publish options and almost instant gratification. When I get notifications that someone "likes" my status or I get emails that someone commented on a photo, I know folks are listening. There is no doubt that Facebook's constant stream of information is a great way to share what is going on in your life or your work.

It's been quite a while since I have added anything to my blog. I have to admit, since the popularity of FB has skyrocketed, I feel like blog posts are almost obsolete. Facebook provides almost the same type of interaction in a quick, easy to publish way. The biggest advantage of blogs is the ability to elaborate on a subject, but most readers like quick messages anyway, so Facebook fits the bill!

Many times when I blog and share that blog post on Facebook, I receive comments on my Facebook profile rather than my blog comments section. Any commentary is good commentary, but when everything funnels back to Facebook, why bother with a blog? I try my best to practice what I preach and make sure I comment on blogs rather than the FB posts that share the blog posts.

Blogs are still outrageously popular when it comes to the major blogs that are practically full-time jobs for their writers. But, can the little guy's blog survive Facebook? What is the advantage of a blog for folks like me? I still look at other people's blogs, do you?

My 2nd Etsy Item! SPECIAL OFFER

I recently added my 2nd Etsy item to my shop just in time for Valentines Day. This set of 4 friendship & love cards includes some artwork from my 2010 calendar as well as 2 new illustrations. I think these cards would be fun to give to friends or that special someone any time of the year! Each card is 4.25"x5.5" (A2) and the set includes 4 matching pink envelopes. They are printed on high quality Curious papers-it's part of their iridescent collection so they are sparkly too!

This is the first item that is actually shipped out in the mail, so I'm really excited and I can't wait to send them out! In celebration of my 2nd item, I'm going to make a special offer! The first person who purchases my 4-card set from my Etsy store gets not just one set of cards, but an additional set of cards for free when they mention this blog post in the comment section when purchasing! So, that's 8 cards for the price of 4! You can either give those extra cards out to friends, or make it a gift! Order now and you'll have plenty of time for card-sending during the month of February! :)

Adopt A Pet This Christmas

The animal group FoCAS (Friends of Cullman Animal Shelter) in Cullman, Alabama asked me to design a Christmas T-shirt for them to wear in the local Christmas parade. Animals are my soft spot, and since I have worked with them on T-shirts designs before, I knew it to be a pleasure! Donating time to help a cause that I love is always a treat. I was so glad to help them!