Wednesday, January 30, 2013

finding his way back

I am so excited today to introduce (or re-introduce) you to my husband Andy! If you didn't know- he is an artist too but we are complete opposites when it comes to creating. While I am messy, abstract and free- he is clean, perfect and can pretty much draw anything that you put in front of him. He is truly one of the most talented artists I've met! The interesting thing about Andy is that he took a detour in his life that involved not making art for years (15+ years!). Instead he chose to put time into things that seemed to be more practical and made more sense at the time. Since walking away from his structural engineering position to be a stay at home dad, he has been on a non-stop journey back to his creative roots. It has been such an inspiration to witness Andy embracing his talent and falling back in love with art! In the weeks and months ahead we will be collaborating on a number of creative projects so I thought it would be fun to do a little interview with my hubby so that my readers could get to know him a little better.

I always loved art and drawing and I spent a great deal of my childhood inspired by comic books and cartoons. I would spend hours drawing different characters that were stuck in my head that I had to get out on paper. I fell in love with comic books at a young age and would draw Spiderman and Wolverine over and over again.  From the beginning I was able to replicate what I saw in a photo and translate it into a drawing.  Then as I got older the process of drawing what I saw became a creative challenge that I loved. I spent lots of time in art classes and by the time I reached and neared the end of high school I thought I wanted to go on to study art in college. While I received a number of art scholarships, I made a last minute decision to join the US Navy, Search and Rescue. This decision pretty much ended my art career and took me on a different path (a path that kept me out of trouble).  

Fortunately the Navy lead to college and eventually meeting my wife Alisa. I studied structural engineering in college and landed a really great engineering job at the University of California San Diego where I managed their earthquake testing laboratory. After 7 years at the university, I walked away from my position in May 2012 and have been a stay at home dad ever since! The last seven months at home with my wife and daughter has empowered me to reawaken my love of art, something I don't think I would have done without this big life change.  In the end, my heart has always told me that I'm an artist. 

Yes! Half way through my college career I thought I had made a mistake by choosing engineering as my major. I can vividly remember sitting out side the art department on a bench, on the phone with Alisa, asking her if she thought I should change my major. Of course she said yes, Alisa will always say yes to art! We talked about it, I crunched numbers and I researched how I could shift gears. After so much thought, I decided to stick with my goal of being a structural engineer. At that point I was already an older student, I had already worked so hard in school and I was determined to at least finish what I had started. I often think about that moment and wonder how different my life and our story would be if I had decided to change my major to art or design. But when all is said and done I am grateful for the the way that things have happened and even more grateful now to have art back in my life.


I have always been a major doodler! Typically small pieces of my art were all over my school notes, meeting notes, white boards at work and pretty much anywhere I had a pen and paper.  All of my notebooks from college and my job have images, designs and drawings on them. Beyond my doodling and an occasional drawing for a friend, I didn't have the time or the inspiration to create. Having a management position in engineering  was a ton of pressure and was very busy, so by the end of the day I just wanted to relax.

Even though I didn't make a lot of art, I did find that many aspects of my engineering job were very creative and innovative.  Most of the time the engineering fulfilled that need to be challenged creatively, only in a much different way and with a very contrasting application. 


I love to work with pencil and graphite. There is something about the simplicity of pencil to paper that has always appealed to me. I really enjoy the process of layering different variations of light and dark to bring my subject matter to life on a page.  I also enjoy the use of dimension in a drawing, for example- my brain knows the page is flat but if I can figure out a way to make the subject 'pop' out of the page, kind of like 3D, then I feel like I have successfully translated the depth to paper. This challenge makes me happy!

I have always loved portrait and figure drawing. I am enamored with people and our diversity, so I am always visually soaking in gesture, movement, emotions, reactions, etc. through real life experiences, pictures, mass media, movies, etc. Then I finally see something that I want and need to translate to paper. Being able to translate the emotion of a photo into a sketch is my favorite thing. My eye is drawn to subject matter that has a lot of contrast and I want my art to exaggerate that contrast in order to amplify emotion.  Currently I am in the middle of working on a series of portraits of musicians. Music is a huge part of my life and blues and jazz was introduced to me at a young age by my father and uncles.  Fortunately for me, blues and jazz musicians provide some of the most amazing contrast and culturally diverse subject matter to draw!

The first step is to find a really good picture and one that obviously captures emotion.  The challenge for me is to magnify that emotion through my drawing.  I then figure out what size paper will work best.  If I go smaller, will the emotion become confined and will that feeling compliment the image?  Or do I go big and expand the page, giving the image space to share it's emotion?  From there, I simply lay out a plan in my head and estimate the scale of the image compared to the paper.  I have forced my self not to be afraid of going off the page (any engineer would know how frustrating it is to not scale properly and run out of paper, so I am FORCING myself to steer away from this).

Next, I pick a starting point, typically the face and head, and quickly sketch the outline.  I then start working my way around the features, shading here and there. The shading process helps me slowly replicate the picture and almost mold with shadows. I will look at my drawing from a distance and compare it to the picture. This helps me check to see if it actually looks like the picture. From there, it is just working through an intuitive process until the drawing is complete.

I am first and foremost on a personal quest to just make art as much as I can. I would like to continue to draw in a less constrained manner and loosen up my style. I am trying to move away from fixating on the details and getting stuck making it a perfect replica. I am a work in progress and I can't wait to see how my drawing grows and changes. But more than anything, I am so grateful to have found my way back to art!

When Andy is not chasing after our daughter Lucy or drawing you can find him surfing cold Oregon waves, playing guitar, working on his daily yoga practice and cooking gourmet meals for yours truly- he is one darn awesome husband!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

a peek into larger than life

My latest online class- Larger Than Life is well under way and I am having so much messy fun creating and filming in the studio that I just couldn't resist sharing a tiny peek into the class!

The best part about this class (and all of my online classes) is that you can register at any time and work at your own pace AND you have unlimited access! Visit my shop for more information on Larger Than Life.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

driftwood arrows

Arrows are all the rage these days and I must say that I'm obsessed! I am also obsessed with driftwood! Since I live across the street from a beach covered in an endless supply of driftwood, I thought it would be fun to create my own whimsical arrows from driftwood.

I selected my driftwood and painted striped of color with acrylic paint.

Once the paint was dry I used a variety of different supplies to add tiny details. 

I made the arrow head from thin metal and then added paper doilies to the other end.

I created a variety of colors and sizes.

Last, I wrapped a wire around each arrow to form a hook and hung them on the wall!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

the art of setting goals

Ahhh January, its the month of starting fresh and making resolutions but I must admit that I am not much of a new year's resolution type o' gal- I think it's because I tend to set goals and meet goals daily, weekly, monthly and all year long. I do understand the draw in setting resolutions for the new year- I am a sucker for a fresh start, for goal setting and list making. I love a brand new day, a blank canvas and new beginnings. And after the journey we have been on during 2012, I have to say that I kinda consider myself a bit of an expert on setting, meeting and succeeding (and also failing) at goals.

2012 was will go down in our history as the year that our planning, saving and "picking away at our dreams" resulted in actually attaining the things that we had been working towards. We went through A LOT of ups and downs, trial and error and moments when we truly thought things were going to fall apart but we were able to come together and push forward and make it to the other side of our goals.

I receive all kinds of email asking for advice about meeting creative goals, living a creative and alternative life, running a business and pursuing dreams.  And after the year I have been through- I feel confident that I can offer a some small bits of advice and experience when it comes to setting goals. I've been working on this post for a while, trying to search my heart for some simple and candid advice that I can share about setting goals. Whether you believe in resolutions for the new year or not- goal setting is a profound way to start movement towards the things that you want and need in your life. So here we go!

Before launching into my advice, I have to give some history to provide context to where my opinions comes from! 

I wanted to be an artist since I was a little girl. As the kid of self employed potters I grew up with lots of creativity and with the notion that running a creative business out of your home was totally normal and attainable. Growing up I took drawing classes, participated in art shows, contests and sold things at craft fairs. It wasn't until I graduated from high school that the concept of being an artist became real for me. While I had always loved the creative process and identified myself as an artist, I fell in love with it in college. From that point on I knew I would do whatever it took to pursue a career in the arts. Like most, I worked lots of "day jobs" while working on my portfolio, showing my art and taking on freelance jobs. I landed a really great job in marketing that allowed me to be creative but it didn't satisfy my craving to make art on my terms. I set out to quit my job- a long 5 year process that started with setting a lot of little goals that would get me to the point of making money and supporting myself with my art full time. After time spent working long hours at a day job, lots of rejection, tears, persistence, hard work and never giving up, I was able to get to the point (financially and creatively) to quit my day job and have never looked back! 

When we decided to start a family, my husband and I knew that our long term goal of leaving behind our life in Southern California and moving to Oregon to simplify and focus on raising our daughter needed to happen ASAP. During the course of one year (2012) we worked hard to plan, save money, rent our home in California, build my business, take my husband out of his 60 hour week job and bring him home to be a stay at home dad. We then then set out on a crazy, difficult but exciting journey to small town on the Oregon Coast where we now live and operate a creative business. 

There is nothing more profound than naming the things that you want. While you may not be able to attain all of those big goals and dreams right now, its important to identify the things you desire and the best way to get there. My husband and I spent years with the goal of leaving our "life in the fast lane" in Southern California for simplicity in a small town on the Oregon Coast. We spent so much time talking about it, dreaming about it and planning for it. While we knew it wasn't going to happen over night or without TONS of work, acknowledging it everyday brought life to our goals, it brought excitement and HOPE for our future. And sometimes a little hope is all it takes to provide the drive and action you need to attain your goals.

I am obsessed with writing down my goals and making lists. I am NOT organized by nature so over time I've had to teach myself discipline and organization- especially when it comes to goals. I depend on daily, weekly and monthly lists and goal setting to stay organized and on task with growth and movement towards the things that I want to accomplish. Making a list or even mapping out goals is one of the easiest and simple ways to begin movement towards the things that you are working on. 

Keep your goals in one place and somewhere you will see them on a daily basis. I like to keep mine my planner or a sketchbook. 

Organize your goals by subject matter or time frame. 

Get creative! Instead of a boring list try illustrating those goals.

You may remember in my post HERE where I shared how I think it is important and totally ok to take baby steps when pursing an art career. Well, I also believe that its ok to start small with your goals. While I love the thought of setting big, beautiful, dynamic goals- I also think its important to be realistic and start with small goals that are easy to attain. Meeting a small goal is much easier (most of the time) than meeting a big goal. And if there is something I have learned, its that meeting goals (especially the small ones) builds confidence and inspiration. All those those little tasks and goals you are able to meet, equal confidence and that confidence can provide the stamina and discipline to go after that big stuff.

For years I wanted to quit my day job and work for myself. You cannot imagine how many days (at work) were spent daydreaming about getting a big break or something profound happening that could enable me to quit that job and finally be a full time artist. For years I wasted time setting goals that were TOO BIG for what I had on my plate.  Finally I ran out of confidence and inspiration and I was forced to change my thinking. I started setting smaller goals that fit into my reality, I asked myself what I could do (and attain) while working my day job- I could improve my photography, live and create on a cheaper budget, teach myself photoshop, draw every day, build a portfolio, work on bettering my blog, build a website, open an etsy shop, write an article, take on a couple of free lance/commissions, generate consistent income with my art, network with like minded creatives, etc. All of these little tasks were very realistic and could easily could fit into my life. I spent years working a day job and then picking away at small goals until those small goals slowly evolved into bigger goals like write a book (or even two), teach at retreats, sell my handmade goods at stores, build my blog readership, teach online classes, plan my own retreats, build my monthly creative income, quit my day job, enable my husband to quit his day job, move to Oregon, etc.

I cannot tell you how many times I've been asked for advice about where to start when it comes to making those goals and dreams reality. My answer is always the same- DO SOMETHING...ANYTHING! Often it's easy to get distracted especially when you have a job, family or financial responsibilities to take care of. I know this first hand. When I was working a day job and I had lots busy or stressful days, the last thing I felt like doing when I got home was work on my creative goals. There were weeks, sometimes months when I didn't accomplish anything and that got me discouraged and kept me stuck in the same place. But when I was doing something- even something small I felt like I was moving forward. I finally reached a point where I able to be more disciplined about doing something dedicated to my goals everyday- even while working that day job! Eventually that discipline turned into a habit and setting and meeting goals became a part of my everyday life. 

Take a look at your schedule, your time and the responsibilities that you juggle. 

How much free time do you have and how do you spend that time? 

Could you fit some work on your goals into that free time? 

Try to identify goals that easily fit into your everyday life. 

Start by setting aside 30 minutes dedicated to your goals- maybe at first its simply taking time to brainstorm, research or work in short bursts. Challenge yourself (and your schedule) to work up to more time.

Often we associate goals and planning with- the whole purpose of setting a goal is actually meeting it right?! Well, I think that failure is just as important! I can't tell you how many goals I have set and worked hard at, only to have things not work out or even fail. Over time and lots of hindsight, I have come to realize that those of moments of failure have been some of the most important learning opportunities. Typically I don't learn much when I succeed and meet goals- except that I am grateful BUT when things don't work out I am forced to look at my life and really do some soul searching.  

My husband and I set out to change our life years ago but it wasn't until 2012 that we  actually made it happen. All those years in between were full of failed attempts of going after our dream of a simple life in Oregon. From distractions to money issues to bad timing- we really struggled with meeting the goals we needed to meet in order to create a new life. But all of those experiences (while they were difficult) really made us more patient, humble and strong. Those failures only created more desire to go after the things we wanted. While there were some very disappointing moments, we still kept trying and eventually succeed. And let me tell you something- when you finally succeed (after lots of failed attempts) the reward is so much sweeter!

The problem (at least for me) when it comes to setting goals, is that you can become consumed with those goals and living in the future instead of the present. Goals and planning can be highly addictive especially if you are unhappy with your current situation. The next thing you know, your plans become the focus and center of life. 

There was a time that I learned this lesson the hard way- I became so unhappy with my current situation that I wasn't enjoying the day to day moments. I was working a job that made me unhappy, I desperately wanted a more creative career, I wasn't fulfilled with living in Southern California. I was living in a constant state of thinking my happiness would change if everything in our lives changed. Finally, with encouragement from my husband (who is exceptional at living in the moment) I slowly started to change my thinking. We were stuck in our situation for a while- I had to keep working, we had to save money, we needed to make some plans before our lives could change. I could spend that time being miserable OR I could start living in the present. It wasn't easy but I began to work at appreciating what we had instead of being consumed with making plans for something else. This is still something that I still struggle with but I have found that I am so much happier when I take a break from my goals and find time to be present.


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