New year, new #artgoals...

I have gotten out of the habit of journaling my "progress" in the realm of illustration, since abandoning tumblr. During 2016 I learned A LOT but didn't manage to blog any of it. I created a lot of work that I was sort-of fond of, but wasn't exactly what/where I wanted it to be (yet).

Why bother blogging? It is fun to chronicle your own evolving process as an artist (especially if it provides motivation to keep improving). I need a place to collect links to resources that are relevant along the way. Although video seems to be the medium these days, I still gravitate towards old-school writing.

As a newbie illustrator, I always appreciate when people whom I admire generously share their journeys and tips, beyond a purely self-promotional way.

Many helpful and established (i.e. not "emerging") artists and thought leaders have taken the time to share their insights in a concrete form:

Note: Meandering path of thoughts ahead!

So, into the second week of January 2017 we're hopefully at the tail end of an unusual cold spell, for Vancouver standards. The historically usual pattern of snow turning to rain and slush within a few days has been disrupted. Layers of ice have persisted for several weeks.

People (well, mostly local news media) have been freaking out over salt shortages.

Over the last several years of art-making, of all the things, this "D.I.Y. Ice Melt" recipe I drew up last week (quickly, before kids' school pickup) is the most shared image I've ever posted onto Facebook:

Not as heart-warming as a video featuring cute baby goats, but apparently in the realm of shareable value-added and temporally-relevant content. Here is the science fact bit if you are interested: isopropyl rubbing alcohol has a melting point of -89 degrees C.

For most of December 2016, I shamelessly and intentionally recharged my psycho-social-emotional batteries by avoiding both Instagram and Facebook, to hang out with friends and family IRL.

In the not-so-distant past I might have felt the self-imposed, comparison-driven pressure to join one of many beautifully illustrated, artist-community-building advent countdowns to the holiday season, posted daily onto IG.

I do appreciate the genuine support, interest, and interaction on social media platforms with old and new friends/followers, and other artists. But it can get overwhelming in volume and frequency (24/7 in all time zones!).

Having reached a certain vintage this year (age 40! The '80s and relics of my childhood are officially retro/vintage!), I've discovered that Mother Nature is a wise guide. The dormancy of winter allows plants and animals to emerge (burst forth?) in the spring with more energy.

"This period of rest is crucial to their survival in order to regrow each year."

Seasoned gardeners get it. So do experienced, "good-enough" moms who can lower their seasonal expectations for what is attainable (namely, their sanity).

But December's last straw was the fact that I had officially become, in the second half of 2016, an addict of all-horrible-news-related-to-Trump. This problem of habitually checking the state of the internet was not insignificant. My funny-loving 9 year-old could confirm. "Mom, I know you love me ... and your phone!" So, ouch.

[Addendum: Upon arriving home from winter camping, my previously precious cellphone was accidentally dropped onto the icy ground from the passenger seat of the car. It may have been stepped on for good measure, though it's hard to tell as it was dark. Its screen is shattered in the top right corner (currently held in place with some clear adhesive film). I took it as a hint from the universe.]

One night, after a bit of last-minute shopping preparation for family winter camping, we stopped at Hon's Wun-Tun House, THE place to get cheap and flavourful AND vegetarian options for Chinese food in Vancouver, for deliciously filling egg noodles in soup, plus a tasty tofu + egglant dish. My fortune cookie message was:

"Look to those you admire for their successes and emulate their work."

Or something like that.

A helpful distinction between "inspiration" vs. "influence" vs. "reference" can be found at Marian Bantjes FAQs. Her work is like candy for eyes. She lives in the vicinity on one of the islands off the west coast of Canada that coincidentally appears on my latest map of Joffre Lakes, inspired by our crazy family winter camping trip between Christmas 2016 and New Years, seen below with some books that influenced the style of illustration I was trying to achieve. I used the photos and video that my husband took during our camping trip for reference.

 The pile of books. Because research. And,  Steal Like An Artist  (by Austin Kleon, highly recommended).

The pile of books. Because research. And, Steal Like An Artist (by Austin Kleon, highly recommended).

Aside: That odd white piece of plastic cardboard on the left side of the books is the thing that I use to reflect extra natural light onto whatever I'm taking a photo of (you know, for IG) in order to block the darkness of the warm wood wall panelling above my drawing desk.

This week's illustrated map project (winter camping at Joffre Lakes, British Columbia) was commissioned by ... me.

Some purposes for this project:

  • portfolio-building
  • link-building for website (SEO strategy, #2 content creation being relevant here. My favourite creative playgrounds and places to submit content are: TheyDrawAndCook.com and TheyDrawAndTravel.com. Illustration Friday would probably be another good one.)
  • relieving a bit of guilt that my kids don't have scrapbooks of their childhoods = capturing family memories
  • practicing using real ink and a new nib pen because my favourite drawing implements (Sakura Pigma Professional brush pens) keep running out of ink
  • working with my big picture dream goals in mind (#artgoal #ilovepicturebooks)
  • executing a project over the course of roughly a week*

A daily goal for art-making can work some people. I've *finally* discovered that, for me, a weekly goal is more achievable, just like the parent who strives to help a toddler achieve good nutritional balance over the span of a week instead of obsessing on a daily basis.

One week allows for more thought and depth to be put towards a piece than something that is executed in one day. More time also allows for the mulling of ideas and tweaks to an initial concept, in those unintentionally creative spaces of time when you are doing dishes or having a shower.

There is an unwritten expectation for artists to frequently post on social media, which may clash with the need to spend more time making better quality work, especially if one is a "beginner". It can be helpful to step off the daily social media posting treadmill at certain stages, to refocus. That being said, quantity will also push one to discover a multitude of things, such as your "voice", "style", process, and more.

*A tremendously helpful weekly workflow of completing an "assignment" is modeled in Lilla Rogers's popular Make Art That Sells e-courses, at least the version of MATS A & B that I took in 2014:

  • Monday: non-intimidating "mini" assignment (usually, drawing a certain subject matter or objects), like a warmup
  • Wednesday: actual assignment/brief
  • Sunday: assignment is "due" to upload for review
  • extra optional step: do up a blog post for your assignment. Reflect, and move on!
  • REPEAT... and now make up your own assignments!

Lilla also offers some fabulous "free stuff" = her top tips and some motivational videos on being an artist.

 Big thumbnail for basic composition, and a reference photo from our camping trip.

Big thumbnail for basic composition, and a reference photo from our camping trip.

Over several days, and a bit of smudged ink (due to impatience and inexperience with ink drying times), my vision came to life in black and white. I ended up redrawing some bits and pieces of the map and some labels. And adding a compass rose, which I forgot to include until the end.

 A bit of smudged ink, but yay for Photoshop/paint.

A bit of smudged ink, but yay for Photoshop/paint.

FIGURING OUT COLOUR is also one of my #artgoals for 2017.

Better colour palettes, how to apply colour using digital or traditional media (or both?) to line drawings (or not), etc.

In the end, I made a few watercolour swatches and manipulated them in Corel Photopaint to add interest to the final map illustration.


This thing is one of the first illustrations that I actually executed to pretty closely match my initial vision, which is a milestone. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!!

In case you missed it, I have been hanging onto THIS for several years: Ira Glass talking about THE GAP (not the store). Share it with any beginner and your heart will grow many sizes bigger!