Towel Year!


I turned 42 this month, so I'm dubbing it my Towel Year. I'm planning on it being transformational! Have towel, ready to travel!

Vitruvian Fine Art Studio: Beginning Figure Drawing

So I sort of think of this as my first "big girl" drawing (big girl as in adult, not large). It's what came out of my first class at the Vitruvian Studio. We spent the entire 8 weeks (3 hours per class) creating one drawing, learning to measure carefully and fill in the detail slowly. I loved it. I knew I was going to love it when the instructor said in the first class that while gestures and short poses are typical of figure drawing, how can you draw quickly when you don't know how to draw slowly? This is exactly what I felt I was struggling with the most (I'm still trying to understand gesture drawing) so this method was perfect for me. I'm really happy with this drawing -- I even hung it up in my newly created (as in I cleared all our crap out of the office) studio space as a representation of an official starting point. It was one of my goals for this year to create a drawing that I'm happy with, so it's heartening to have already accomplished that. It makes me feel like this path might be possible after all. So take that all you people who say I'm never going to like anything I do!

Now. The next goal is to regularly create drawings I like, and keep improving. I'm still completely unhappy with everything that comes out of my regular figure drawing sessions, so I'm trying to practice more at home and get the hang of gesture draiwing and shorter poses (using photos, which isn't optimal, but I'm working with what I've got). I'm also taking the Drawing Basics class at Vitruvian, which focuses on the fundamentals of line, shading and form with simple still life drawings. I took a couple of fundamentals classes in college, but I wasn't really focused on drawing then, so I don't think I really got a lot out of them. So, here's to progress -- upwards and onward!

Happy New Year: 2014 is GO!

I usually post my resolutions around the New Year, but it looks like I never got around to it in 2013. That's funny, because I think it might be the first time I actually acomplished them. The past few years I've set three, with the first being my theme and primary goal for the year. Last year's top resolution was weight loss -- specifically fitting back into everything in my closet before our Savannah vacation in May. I actually ended up going beyond that and ended up with a new wardrobe and a running habit (I discovered how much I love running outside). So far I'm maintaining well, although my eating habits could still use some fine tuning.

The second goal was to become an Adobe Certified Expert in Print. It's something I've wanted to do for years but never really got around to, and while I did procrastinate until the end of the year, I got it done. I am now Certified in Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign and Acrobat CS6. I'm not sure what this gets me, really, but I now know a lot more about these programs than I did and feel like I established a bit of a study habit, which is something I really need.

The third goal was to draw more, and that one really didn't get done but I knew that was what this year would be for.

I also turned 40 in 2013. I think the midlife crisis actually happened around 39, when I got all angsty over my choice to become a designer instead of an illustrator and feeling like an utter failure because I'm not an artist and blah, blah, blah. At least I hope that was the midlife crisis because seriously, I'd like to be done with the whining about things I can't change now. However, one of the reasons I was so serious about getting the first two resolutions done last year, goals that had been around for years, was so that I could get them out of the way and concentrate on the third in 2014. My primary resolution this year is to draw. Fitness was my entire focus for the first half of 2013 (I started the years with 60 days straight of gym time and a ban on sugar and alcohol), and during the second half my entire focus was studying Adobe software. Now my entire focus is going to be drawing. Every day. Doesn't matter what it is. Doesn't matter if it's awful. Just draw. I start a Figure Drawing class on Sunday, and I plan to be a regular at a couple of local figure drawing sessions. No more whining, I'm just going to DO. I started New Year's Eve, and two days in, so far so good.

The second goal for 2014 is to maintain (or improve, but at least maintain) my fitness level. I'll work on the eating habits, I'll try and gain a little more muscle, but as long I'm basically in the same place next New Year's Day, that will be okay.

The third goal is to improve my Web Design knowledge. Now that I'm back to Print at work instead of Digital, I'll have to keep up the Digital knowledge on my own (and I already feel out of date again). I'd like to learn Wordpress, get better at CSS, feel like I could do some coding on my own if I need to. It's not really neccessary for my job right now, but it's where design is going so I feel like I should keep up with it.

2013 was an amazing year. I feel like I took what could have been a depressing milestone and turned it into a new beginning. I am so ready for 2014, and for my next decade. I think it's all going to be fabulous!


Confessions of a Fake Geek Girl


So I have a confession to make. When they talk about the Fake Geek Girl, I feel like they're talking about me. I can't really make the claims that they make in the video above. I didn't grow up reading comic books or playing D&D or hacking computers. I did grow up reading fantasy novels, watching Star Trek and Star Wars, and seeing any Fantasy movie that came to the theater (it's funny to me that they're so popular now!), but it was because that's what my dad did and what I had access to, and while I like all of these things, I can't tell you much about them.

I'm not particularly smart, boys liked me when I was growing up, and even though I went through a goth phase as a teenager where I tried very hard not to be girly, I'm very much a girl. I'm blonde and I have a lot of blonde moments. I'm much, much closer to Penny than to anyone else on the Big Bang Theory. I also really *like* the Big Bang Theory.

However, my dad is a science fiction fantasy illustrator. He worked for TSR back in the day. I was surrounded by dragons and skulls and vampires as a kid. As mentioned above, I was immersed in geek culture as a family activity. I couldn't tell you if I was naturally drawn to it. I don't know, because it's just what I grew up on.

As a teenager, my interests switched to music and dancing and boys. Mostly boys. I didn't fit it with the popular kids, but I fit in nicely with the goth kids (again, see the skulls and dragons referenced above) and I enjoyed my high school days despite being harassed for being different. I didn't rediscover geekdom until my late teens, when I met my ex-boyfriend and his group of friends (which included my current husband, although we were just friends for a long time). They reintroduced me to D&D and comics and sci-fi and art, but again, while I liked it all, I was consuming what was around me, not necessarily what I was seeking out.

I started going to cons when I was in my early 20's, tagging along with my dad initially because I wanted to get away and it was a means to a cheap vacation, but then because I fell in love with the cons. I never became a gamer, or a comic nerd, and I can still take or leave most pop culture, but I felt so very comfortable in that space. I went on to work at a RPG game company, using my dad's name as a foot in the door. Once I started school, I moved on to their sister video game company, and to this day, I regret leaving that job when I did (with school, the hours were just overwhelming). I loved the people there, and I've never since felt so suited to my workplace.

I've never been badly treated within geek culture. For the most part, nobody has ever seemed to care that the only geek cred that I really have is that I grew up around it. I do think I may have grown up differently, though, if I were growing up today. I remember very intentionally dumbing myself down in my pre-teen years, to make myself more "attractive." I am extemely happy that is it now "cool" to be smart and nerdy, especially for girls, and that there are tons of smart, brilliant *and* beautiful women out there to be the role models that I really wish I had had. Everyone goes through phases in their lives, and tries on different personas -- when I was a teen, the term "poseur" drove me as nuts as the term "fake geek girl" does today. Who cares if you're just trying something on? Who cares if you self-identify with a culture that you don't know everything about? We're all just trying to fit in, trying to find a comfortable spot and people we can have fun with. On the inside, I think most of us feel like we're faking it most of the time. Yet we're all just living our life, the very best life we can.

I am a Girl. I have no particular credentials, but I still self-identify as a Geek. And whatever you think about it, I have Nothing to Prove.


Our Savannah Vacation

For the past two years or so, my mom and I had been talking about a Savannah vacation. I'd wanted to go ever since I read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil probably around 15-ish years ago. My mom had friends that had gone and loved it. We're both into Southern and historical and I wanted to institute an annual family vaction and it just made sense. However, even though we kept talking about it, it just wasn't happening. So this year was my 40th birthday, and when my husband, the best husband in the world EVAR, asked me what extra-special gift I would like for this landmark birthday, I said I wanted to take my mom to Savannah for her birthday/Mother's Day (the two are days apart). I'm sure that he was expecting me to say that I wanted to go to Alinea, because that was my previous plan. Because he loves me, and he loves my Mom, he said yes.

And so we went.

I've had life-changing vacations before. The first time I tagged along with my Dad to Dragon-Con in my 20's, I had this big epiphany about independence and travel and where my life was at the time and it was my first realization that I could do things on my own. The first time I went to Burning Man in 1998, tagging along with my ex-boyfriend and company (Dox included) to a strange event in the desert that I knew nothing about -- the Leave No Trace, art for art's sake, love-of-fire-preformance ethic left it's mark and I think I enjoyed it more that anyone else that went. I got involved with the local Burning Man group, started fire-spinning, attended a slew of regional events, and went back twice with Dox in 1999 and 2000.

I'd already been thinking about a Master's degree, and I'd looked at the Savannah College of Art and Design's online program, been tempted, and talked myself out of it because of the cost. I love being in school, and if I could afford it, I'd be a perpetual student. However, since I'm not good at making that make sense monetarily, I'd decided against it. However, the first day that we spend in Savannah, I decided that if nothing else, I was moving there for a year. A Master's degree was a good excuse to do it, so that's what I would move there for. I'm from North Carolina, and whenever I've gone back to the South to visit, there's something odd that happens -- it feels sort of like relaxing, or suddenly being able to take a deep breath when I couldn't before. I feel like I'm home.

We moved to Lake Geneva, WI when I was 10. I just turned 40, so I've now lived the majority of my life in the North, but I've never stopped thinking that somehow, some way, I'd end up back South again. I hate the cold. HATE it. It gets into my bones and makes me feel like a shadow. Every year, around February or March, I feel like there must be something wrong with me because I feel so tired all the time and maybe I should go to the Doctor. But then the sun come out, and suddenly it's 80+ and humid and I feel like a human being again. When it's 90+ here and everybody in Chicago is miserable, I feel alive. Unfortunatly, Dox was born and raised in Chicago, loves it, and is not a soul that adjusts well to change. We'd visited New Orleans years ago and agreed on it as a potential relocation spot, but Katrina happened, and graphic design jobs are scarce there, and so we kind of let it drop. There wasn't any other place that seemed like a good option.

And then we went to Savannah. I told him that in a few years I was going to move there and get my Masters. It could be a temporary thing where he could stay in Chicago and I could visit on break and then move back when I was done, or he could come with me, but either way, I had to do it. I had to live there. It was beautiful and hot and 15 minutes from the ocean and I HAD TO LIVE THERE. I felt it in my bones. I didn't think he would do it, but he agreed. We're going to take four years to get our finances in order -- get out of debt, pay down our mortgage, save some money -- and then we're going to move. We'll keep our condo here for a year, rent it out, see how it goes down there, let me get my Master's degree. If we like it we stay. If we don't, we come back or go elsewhere. If we disagree -- well, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

I can't wait.

As far as our Savannah vacation went, it was fabulous. My mom was ecstatic. All of us had a great time. My recommendations for can't miss spots:

- Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room. A buffet of traditional Southern food to die for, and the only biscuit that has ever challenged my favorite best-ever North Carolina gas station biscuit (I don't remember the gas station, but the biscuit was AMAZING). It's an experience, and it's worth the wait. Get there early.

- Alligator Soul. They'll tell you that the Old Pink House and Elizabeth's are the best restaurants in Savannah. We didn't make it to Elizabeth's, but I like Alligator Soul a little bit better than the Old Pink House. Check them all out if you can, but if you want contemporary Southern dining, don't miss this restaurant.

- Leopold's. It lives up to the hype. Really. Go there.

- Chocolat by Adam Turoni. Delicious! I kept a secret stash in my desk at work that I worked through very slowly. This is chocolate that's meant to be savored.

- The Crab Shack on Tybee. Okay, my impression of Tybee Island is that it has a very college spring break kind of feel, but that could have been the time of year that we were there. I loved it -- it's a beach on the  ocean and I can ignore the drunk college students -- but everybody else in our party, not so much. However, the Crab Shack was laid back and the seafood was inexpensive and fabulous -- everybody had a great time. They even had a decent wine list, and there were kittehs everywhere. What's not to love?

- Lulu's Chocolate Bar. Part neighborhood bar, part dessert nirvana. I tried a chocolate truffle and the specialty chocolate martini, and both were amazing.

- Soho South Cafe. It's like having lunch in an artist's loft. The service is as slow as the reviews say it is, but who cares? Relax and enjoy the artsy atmosphere!

1,371 days to go. I. Can't Wait.


Year of the Nerd

So, because I need a new project to help me procrastinate better on all of the other projects, I'm going to do this thing. Maybe. Because I told you, I'm really bad at commitment.

I recently attended C2E2 and I realized something. I consider myself a nerd, but it's kind of by default. I grew up surrounded by fantasy art and D&D and comics and sci-fi because of my dad. I never really went through the process of discovering these things, and thus really appreciating them, because they were always just there. I moved away from them during high school (and into Gothdam, which just seemed like a natural progression when you've been surrounded by skulls and dragons all your life), but eventually drifted back towards my roots and surrounded myself with gamers, comics aficionados, and fans of fantasy art. Still, I was never very participatory.

I went to cons for the travel and the parties, I played games because games were being played, and I read some graphic novels because they were around. When I'm hungry, I still to this day think "Warrior needs food badly," not because I played Gauntlet, but because I was around when others were playing it. It's not that I didn't like games and comics and fantasy art -- I did and I do. But I don't feel like I've ever really appreciated them, or in all honesty, know that much about them. It's like the fact that I've lived in Chicago for 20 years and have never been to the top of the Sears tower -- I've always been a resident, and never a tourist, and I feel like I've missed out on a lot.

So, I think I want to make up for lost time, go back and experience some of the things I missed. I want to play some old video games, read the entirety of Sandman, maybe read some superhero comics and some classic sci-fi, watch Dr. Who (new or old or both, I don't know), play board games, and whatever else I can think of that I wish I'd done over the past 25 years. Why? Mostly just because.

You, imaginary reader, can even participate if you like. If I do this (see commitment disclaimer above) I'll write about it here, and tweet about it on Twitter, and if you have suggestions on what I should do next, you can let me know. Or just tell me what a poseur idiot I am, whichever.

My first stop is going to be Super Mario Brothers. With a little help (thanks Jeff!), I've figured out how to play the game through an emulator (Nestopia) and I've even ordered a USB controller that should be here on Monday. I've already played around a little bit with the game using the keyboard, and so far I'm every bit as bad at it as I remember. If you're interested in doing this yourself, there's a great guide for this on Lifehacker that was also very helpful.

Year of the Nerd -- Game On!



Passion Junkies via @frogdesign.

I've thought about this a lot, but I never quite know how to answer the question of what I'm most passionate about. I really like a lot of things -- design, art, technology, food, wine, cooking, books, singing, piano, firespinning, bellydancing -- but am I really passionate about any of them? I don't know. Some of them I barely do anymore, some of them I don't do at all. To me, passion equals commitment, and I'm really, really bad at commitment.

I feel like I should be passionate about design since that's my profession. I like it, and I like my job, but would I do it if I weren't being paid for it? Maybe, but I'd only do it for myself, not for clients, and I'd call it art, not design, which is perhaps just a matter of semantics.

I want to say I'm passionate about art, but I feel like passion should be something that's effortless, that you do because you enjoy it. Sometimes I feel like art for me is like a bad relationship -- it's great when it works, but it doesn't work very often and I spend most of my time feeling bad about it. It's under my skin, though, and I can't just walk away from it. I feel like my whole career might have been based on an attempt to walk away, and it just hasn't quite worked out that well.

I'm currently reading Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore, and there's a whole lot of passion about art and the madness that seems to accompany it. It's not the happy passion of the Frog Design employees in the video, it's the dark self-effacing passion of wanting to be good at something and never believing that you are or can be. Are they both equally valid, two sides of the same creative coin? The book is also, being a Christopher Moore book, really funny and maybe that's the key. I feel like a lot of the problem with passion is that it can makes you take yourself way too seriously, and if you'd just chill out and enjoy the process (and ignore the seemingly demonic woman named Bleu, how symbolic is that?), you'd be fine.

What's your passion? Does it make you happy, or does it make you sad, and is the proper answer a little of both?

Tea Houses of Ohio: Magnolia Manor

Every year for my birthday, I visit my mom in Akron, OH. As part of a celebratory weekend, we usually try out a new tea house. This year, we went to a Lavender Tea at Magnolia Manor, a Victorian-style home in New Philadelphia, OH that also functions as a Bed and Breakfast and Tea House. I love floral flavors, and lavender in particular, so I was really excited to try it out.

We had a great time. The tea was wonderful, and stretched out over the afternoon with plenty of rest time between courses. The owner of the house and her family who helped to serve the tea were very nice, and the whole experience was languorous, relaxing and extremely filling -- we took most of the dessert course home.

1st Course
White Corn & Lavender Soup
Salad w/ Creamy Lavender Poppy Seed or Lavender Vinaigrette Dressing
Baked Brie w/ Lavender Jelly


2nd Course
Lavender Scones w/ Lavender Jelly & Devon Cream

3rd Course
Finger Sandwich w/ Avocado Spread, Turkey and Lavender Chutney
Pimento Cheese Sandwich w/ Sweet Lavender Cream
Calla Lilly Sandwich w/ Lavender Filling

4th Course
Lavender Swedish Cream
Lavender Baby Bundt Cakes

Pear Lavender Coffee Cakes w/ Lavender Crunch Topping
White Chocolate & Lavender Battenburgs
Mini Cheesecakes w/ Lavender Syrup

Lavender Tea
Cherry Almond Tea
Lavender Spritzer
Citrus Pear Iced Tea

Magnolia Manor
467 E High Ave., New Philadephia, OH 44663
(330) 364-9275 / (330) 204-2477

Lill Street Paintings: #2 & #3



My last two paintings (unfinished), oil, two 3-hour sessions each. I definitely feel like I'm gaining a better understanding of the technique, and my teacher is happy with my progress, but I feel like I need to refocus on just drawing. I may skip this class for a session and head back into a drawing class. I've not been tremendously successful at finding time outside of class to practice, so at least I'll have class time to work on my drawing basics.

Let the Creating Begin!

I'm learning to paint! Below is the first painting I've done since college (so, probably around 12 or so years ago, and I only did a couple while I was there). I didn't get very far and it's not very good but I'm very excited to be learning.

The drawing below was from my first class back at Lill Street. Our model didn't show, so we drew Bob, our teacher. It was fun, and actually turned out to be a fairly good likeness. Although I feel really rusty, and my drawing fundamentals really need a lot more attention, I feel like I'm getting a good start on my goal for the year!


I'm participating in the 2012 Creative Every Day Challenge, which provides a monthly theme to inspire creativity. January's theme is 'New.' I drew the champagne glass in Photoshop (in the previous post and from a photo) and then created the above before I read Neil Gaiman's new New Year's quote. But you can never have too much Neil Gaiman.

Happy New Year

I stayed in for New Year's Eve this year, for the quiet and the contemplation and the relaxing. It was lovely, and it felt like exactly the right thing to do.

2011 was actually a pretty good year. I spent more time drawing. I grew creatively, particularly at work, and received a completely unexpected promotion. I spent a lot more time reading, which made me happy (my 2011 favorites: A Discovery of Witches and The Night Circus). My jeans are still a little bit too tight, but they're looser than they were, and there seems to be minimal holiday damage.

Before we headed out to Ohio for Christmas, I spent my holiday weekends baking and decorating and wrapping to a background of Hallmark Holiday Countdown movies. It was cheesy and solitary and wonderful, and I really enjoyed the season. There was no snow, and no kitten, but it was absolutely perfect.

This year, my word of the year is 'Create' and my one resolution is to draw (and paint, IRL and digitally) as much as possible. For whatever reason -- probably just because this is the last full year in my 30's -- I feel like 2012 is going to be significant. I don't know exactly what that means, but it feels important.

Neil Gaiman always says it best, and his New Year's greeting for this year is as perfect and inspiring as ever:

"I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever."

In 2012, I hope I make lots of mistakes, and I hope you do, too. Happy New Year.

RIP Little Jackson Puppy

My mom and stepdad's dog Jackson passed away last night. He was part of the family, always announcing my arrival as I pulled into the driveway, greeting me enthusiastically as I came in the door, snuggling with me in the evening as I curled up with a book. I'm really going to miss him. Hope he's having a grand old time playing in the sunshine at the Rainbow Bridge.



New Work: Fisher Website

Today I get to add a new piece to my portfolio! We've been working on the new Fisher site for months, and it's finally gone live. I designed the front end (with some fabulous guidance from our Creative Directors), the developers worked their magic to make it real, and I'm really, really happy with the way it turned out. Check it out at

Got Klout?

I know that people have mixed feelings about Klout, but if you work in the social media sphere, you should probably be paying attention to your score. If you're looking for a job that involves a social media component, it might be useful to include your Klout score on your resume. Since I needed to recreate my Klout score for a project I'm working on, I thought I'd offer the vector file as a resource for anyone who might need one.

Download the file here:

If you don't know how to use Illustrator, I've created a Fiverr for anyone who'd like me to make an icon for them. I created this mostly because I wanted to experiment with Fiverr, but I wanted to choose something easy and low-demand.

Another resource that I've found invaluable in creating social media related designs are these vector social media icons available at the Icon Dock. They make updates as new services become popular, and there's even a recent addition for Google+. I hope you find these as handy as I have!

Mini Chicago

I really like this tilt-shift video of Chicago, which I found via @SMWChicago. Tilt-shift miniaturisation seems to be really popular at the moment. I've seen a lot of photos posted online and elsewhere, but I didn't really understand how it worked. So I found a great article on that explains both tilt-shift and tilt shift miniaturisation. There's also related articles that include a DIY Guide to Tilt-Shift Lenses, and Shooting Tips and Results.

If, like me, you aren't very good at DIY then check out this inexpensive tilt-shift camera at Photojojo, or the Photoshop tutorials at Visual Guide and Tilt Shift Photography. If you have an iPhone, check out this list of tilt-shift apps at Digital Photography School. I'm not as familiar with Android apps, but this Mashable article lists Camera360 as a good tilt-shift option.