Delicious Spring

I love journaling.
Often I think the act of keeping a journal helps me look out for things worthy of journaling about.
Blogging is no different.
Increasingly though, I find that this often takes a non-written form. I look for color or light that's just so. And that's somehow what I feel like recording.
 And so sometimes my camera is my journal.
And so I share some snippets here on my blog of moments I've spent recently, relishing spring.
This is my nephew, Richard.
I'll catch up with posting some drawings or process pieces for recent illustrations and current illustrations I'm working on soon.
But, as hopefully most out there know, sometimes life is too rich to spend too much time plugged in or online.
But it is nice to stop in now and then and share/record the richness.

Making it my own

Here's the old sketch of a memory I took to that Nikki McClure paper-cutting memories workshop I blogged about a few weeks ago:
Here's what I made at the workshop:

And after experimenting with paper-cutting in new ways for a few weeks I decided to take what I had been practicing and finish off my workshop piece in my own way.
I'll share more new stuff soon. I haven't had a chance to scan everything yet.

I should mention that if you happen to be in Bellingham, WA (where I live), on March 23rd, Nikki McClure will be at Village Books speaking about her new picture book How To Be A Cat. I won't be able to be there but I thought I'd share in case others were interested. I can't wait to check out the book!

Bookshelves bookshelves bookshelves

Show and tell time.

These are my family's new bookshelves:


I LOVE them. 

Please note all the picture book shelves. And the face-out picture book rack on the wall to the left of the shelves. I am a proud picture book hoarder. I feel that this is a very fine thing. I have a five-year-old afterall (or maybe, yes, that 's just an excuse...).

Also! These awesome bookshelves do not stand alone.

How about some bookshelves just for all our handmade journals and photo albums?

Are two shelves too many? How about three? How about one for the wall? Face out!

Or maybe four?

Aren't these shelves AWESOME?

They are like half-tables stacked on top of one another.


Now, how about some handmade shelves by yours truly (and my crafty sister):

Patchwork bookshelves for the nook at the top of my stairs.

 Because every crafty lady should try DECOUPAGE at some point.

 Here's the shelves right after I hung them, before I filled them up. My son helped me. He loves helping mommy with projects.

 As long as said projects don't involve trips to the craft store.

Is it embarrassing to realize that this little list does not include the bookshelves in my studio? Or my bedroom? or the one downstairs for cookbooks? I mean, is that too many? Too many bookshelves?


In fact, how about I just add pictures of those shelves too. Why not?

Studio shelves, complete with flying pig light

Cookbooks under the T.V. Wouldn't we rather be reading anyway?

This one houses journals I'm still filling.


"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves."
-Anna Quindlen (from an article in the NYT)

Alright. Enough already. Go read a book.

Superhero Photo class, and pictures in Cambodia

From an assignment in Andrea's Superhero Photo Class.

One of my favorite bloggers, Andrea Scher, recently decided to offer a playful online photo course.

I couldn't resist.

It just sounded so fun. And so low-key. And there was no concrete reason to take it other than fun.

 I have this habit of taking a crazy amount of pictures. I look for color, shape, light. But it's all just playful.

Sort of an extension of my excessive journaling habit I guess.

Red-shirted girl in the distance

Anyway, the class exceeded my expectations.  It was fun. Super fun. Superhero fun! 
 There were no goals to make serious art, just an opportunity to play and share (and do photo treasure hunts!) with other like-minded playful (mostly) amateur photographers.
My mother and my son holding hands

The class also happened to overlap with my family's trip to Cambodia last week.

For once on a trip, I wasn't feeling guilty about how many stupid pictures I was taking, and worrying over looking like some sort of camera-happy Hawaiian-shirted stereo-type of an American abroad.

Instead I embraced my practice as a way of appreciating the moment. I was no more obtrusive with my pictures than I've ever been (Let's just say the overly shy girl isn't one to walk around with a camera dangling from her neck, She leaves that to the real pros, like my uncle, or to the bolder amateurs, or to the tourists riding big buses).

Anyway, If anyone out there likes to take pictures, especially in a playful way, I highly recommend Andrea's course.

One of the surprising highlights for me was the group flickr pool, where we shared photos and commented on each others pieces. It was so fun to participate in the exchange!
Plus it hardly took anytime. Maybe 10 minutes any day I felt like checking in. Yet I still gained a lot. 

Andrea will be offering another class soon, I believe. I hope, if you like to play with pictures, you'll join her.
And um... Cambodia?
Blue umbrellas at Angkor Wat
Ya, well, WOW!
Trees draping over mossy textured ruins,

 bicycles, bicycles, bicycles,

And some of the most amazing sites in the world.

Some dreams fall in your lap like an apple dropping from a tree. Other dreams you yank and yank and yank at the door, but it just won't open. Both have their place in my life. And I'm happy to say that while I keep yanking at the door of my biggest dream (and dang that door can frustrate me), I'm at least eating my apples. 

More color in Penang, this time using the Hipstamatic

 I took these pictures in Penang, Malaysia, using the Hipstamatic photo app on my Iphone.
 Pretty cool for phone pictures.

 My sister's been using an app called Instamatic. Supposedly it lets you change your pictures retroactively for similar results. I'm very curious if I'll be able to use any texture photos taken this way for my illustrations.
Time will tell...

The Crafty Lady vs. Ms. Snobby

One of my many Crafty Cousins (I’m talking real cousins here, I come from a very crafty family) recently put a blog post up wondering if she could call herself an artist. She likes making stuff (mighty fun stuff, I might add) and yet she was wondering if what she made was original enough to call Art. She asked how other people who make stuff come to call themselves artists or their work art. I like how vulnerable and real her post was. She got me to thinking in one of those raw, sincere ways that you’d share with your best friend, but might hesitate to share with your rough and tumble inner critic.

I was thinking, specifically, about this famous art critic person I heard speak in Chicago when I lived there, let’s refer to her as Ms. Snobby. Ms. Snobby claimed there only a few dozen true artists in the world at any given time in history and right now they were all living and working in New York City – because that is the “salon” of the current times.

I remember the amused, playful thoughts I had during this woman’s lecture. My first thought was, dude, this woman is full of herself! And not only has she discredited her own city and most of her country’s artists, she’s discredited entire other cultures and countries and traditions. What a freaking’ joke! Who died and made her the matriarch (although she sounded patronizing, not matronizing) of ALL ART OF OUR TIMES.

The feelings I had then could be compared with the feelings I have now when I hear a wing-nut politico speak wing-nuttery. I felt kind of aghast but at the same time amused at the sheer ridiculousness.

Anyway, when I left the lecture, I realized most others did not take the lecture the same way I took it. I remember fellow art student friends looking rather bummed out. They were commiserating in frustration, expressing gloom and doom. Like it was impossible to be an artist. Nothing they could do mattered.

This is my apron.
My eye-brows knitted. I couldn’t believe what a different take-away I was getting from Ms. Snobby. I felt light-hearted almost. She had somehow in one hour’s time given me complete permission to write off super high-brow snobbery forever. Because, really? Who made her the judge? She could go ahead and have fun with her obviously and impossibly narrow view over in her stuffy academic office while I left her stuffy lecture to check out an interesting drawing show at the coffee house down the street, not giving a hoot whether she thought those drawings were REAL ART or not. She could be the expert dressed in black, while I continued to be the “non-artist” enjoying other “non-artist’s work” all the while with my apron soaked in color.

And I guess that moment was somehow a switching point for me. I knew then that I was an artist, and it didn’t matter what any Ms. Snobby thought. It’s not that rejection doesn’t suck. Believe me (if you don't already know it yourself), rejection sucks. But grand sweeping rejection of entire swaths of artists and their work is flat out ridiculous. And from that day on I knew that no matter what rejection came my way, it wouldn’t change the fact that I’m an artist.


The floor of my studio the day I wrote this post.
Artists make art.
It's as simple as that.
And there's no way I'd ever stop making art.

Critics can try to make some kind of exclusive club for what’s art or not art or what’s good art or bad art while the rest of us can go on “loving what the soft animal of our body loves”  (to quote Mary Oliver in an out of context sort of way).

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh.

Or, as I suggested to my cousin, if one really can’t handle the baggage that comes along with the word, "Artist," just don’t worry about the label and go on making stuff. Make what you feel like making. If you must give yourself a label, consider the label “CRAFTER,” or, my personal favorite, “CRAFTY LADY.” Because crafters craft. And that even includes doilies. Which is awesome.

Truth be told, even though I do consider myself an artist, I have a shirt that says “CRAFTY LADY,” and I’d rather wear it than one that said artist, any day of the week.

But either way, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m someone who makes stuff and attempts to bring a bit more color and heart into the world by doing so. No matter what any Ms. Snobby calls me.


This is one of my favorite pictures I took in Sri Lanka, just because it caught such a serendipitous moment of color -- the kind of serendipitous moment of color I'm constantly on the look out for and love to find. I just love the stripes of the guys shirt with the stripes of the tree and the red hat and the shorts that match the tuk-tuk perfectly. It may not be fine art or whatever, but it was a happy color moment.

My wish for you today? To dwell upon any happy accidents -- fortunate accidents. They happen more often than we notice. Or maybe someone who needs it most can have a little happy accident today. Is that a strange thing to hope for? No one hopes for accidents. But what about happy ones? Those surprises in life that are unplanned. If we never had happy accidents, we might never fall in love. So I hope for a little happy accident for someone who would appreciate it today. A good one. A moment of serendipity.

"Serendipity is putting a quarter in the gumball machine and having 3 pieces come rattling out instead of one -- all red" ~ Peter H. Reynolds.

When the Subway is Beautiful

I collected these mosaic pictures last time I was in Singapore.
They were all on a wall in a subway station.
 I like pausing for public art.
 It's right there to take for granted every single commuting day.
 Like the huge old Banyan trees I pass in the park daily.
 Rich with color and texture and life.
 Making my life better at the boundaries of my vision, even when I don't stop to notice.
  But when I do stop to notice...
Those colors are even more sweet.

I dare you.
This year:
If you don't already,
Stop and notice little bits of color in your peripheral vision.

Success can be measured in goals set and met
(a New Year's sort of thing, no?).
But it also can be measured in moments noticed and treasured.
And no one controls the success of the latter but you.

Collecting Shooting Stars

 A torn edge of a brochure taped over a found child's drawing with a scribble of what I was thankful for that day.
 I love looking back at my old journals, with their cluttered and messy pages.
 The practice of writing (and drawing and taping or gluing stuff) in a journal has helped me seek adventures that are worthy of recording. And to notice little things in the grass or colors overhead.
 While I've been traveling so much this year, I've found a lot of the photos I take are these sorts of snippets. Colorful bits and pieces I'm happy I didn't walk past -- but stopped to notice.
I took all of these photos in November. I think I was subconsciously collecting shooting stars. 
 Not a bad thing to collect, and a happy thing to collect on accident.
My photos are an unconventional sort of journal (my favorite kind). They aren't professional or serious, they are just pauses to notice small moments. Each on their own aren't very special, but altogether they kind of tell a story. Just like a journal.

Do you keep any unconventional journals? 
I'd love to hear about them.

P.S. This week I'm GOING HOME, as in BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON home. In fact by the time this post goes up, I'll probably just be arriving. Blessing to all who are traveling this season -- whether it be home or away from home. I hope you collect many amazing moments.

I've put up a few posts in advance of being gone, so the blog won't shut down while I'm away. Enjoy!


I found this forecast in the paper this morning.
So I thought I'd share a little shiny yellow with the world.
My favorite color: Golden Aspen leaves under just the right light
"We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light" -- Mary Dunbar
"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet." -- Jack London
I took these pictures this past fall in Southern Utah and the quotes are from my quote journals.
Which are you going to do today -- find a little light to bask in or be a little light and glow?

"This COLOR Thing Rocks"

Okay I normally don't book reviews here, and I'm not going to start anything like that now. But...

I heart every book Antoinette Portis has ever made and I especially love that my son loves them and I also especially love her new book, A Penguin Story. Deep breath. There. I got that off my chest.

So when I saw a video of Antoinette Portis talking about A Penguin Story and she said the very true and true-to-my-heart words, "This COLOR thing rocks," I decided to blubber on like an idiot here and share the link to the video (Amazon won't let me embed the video here or I would) because I have a thing for color and people who are passionate about it.

If you haven't read these books, you are in for a treat:

Not A Box,
Not A Stick,
A Penguin Story,

They are picture books at their best. Go check them out.

SUMMER FRIDAY TRAVEL JOURNAL SERIES: Sometimes my favorite "rule" in journaling is that it's okay to let something go

My Grandmother had always dreamed of going to Morocco. It was a request of our trip to Spain. "Can we go to Morocco, too?"
I wanted to take her there with all my heart. But I knew the kind of travel I most enjoyed would probably not be comfortable for her in Morocco (she is in her mid-eighties!) no matter how adventurous she is.
So I spent many a long night after my son had gone to bed researching just the right way we could take her on a day trip to Morocco without it being cheesy and without it being uncomfortable.
I found a woman in Spain who owns a guesthouse near the ferry to Africa who lives and breaths all things Morocco. We stayed at her guesthouse, a magical and tranquil place called Dar Cilla, which is decorated peacefully and perfectly with Moroccan handicrafts and antiques. Even if we weren't going to spend the night in Morocco, I wanted Grandma to relish the flavor of the place.
The people at Dar Cilla arranged for a private tour for only my family. It was a beautiful and perfect day. I never imagined a day-trip tour could be so fulfilling. Our guide listened to things we cared about and walked us (or drove us) to see such things. That's how we ended up in an apothecary shop learning about spices (my husband loves to cook) and in a communal bread baking oven underground. It's also how we saw many of the sites Matisse had painted when he lived in Tangier (There are unassuming diamond shaped cobbles in the roads wherever Matisse painted). These colorful string bits are tied all around posts and doorknobs in the section of the market where thread spinners work:
We weren't pressured by any heavy duty salesmen but we didn't have to worry about the stresses of transportation and we had a guide who taught us lots of fun and interesting things. We also ate one of the best meals I've ever eaten in my life with some crazy brewed fruity juice concoction. I felt like the day was a trip on a magic carpet ride back in time to the days when silent movie stars and Parisian artists came to Tangier for the color, life and magic of the place. My Grandma beamed all day. I was thrilled that I made her dream come true.

And here's where I sigh and bring us back to journaling. My journal pages from this magical day are anything but. How frustrating.They are boring. And un-colorful. In a sense, I let them go before I even started making them. I was too busy taking in all the color and life and magic to collage about it later that day. But even though it's frustrating, it's also okay. Sometimes my favorite "rule" in journaling is to just let something go. So I didn't do it justice. Move on. At least I had that magic ride.

If I beat myself up about every time I didn't do some experience justice in my journal (travel or otherwise), it would mean I wasn't having enough magical experiences (I'd rather be having them than recording about them).

So consider this a permission slip from a journal junkie. If you are ever journaling (or blogging) and you really really wanted to capture it all, but you also really really wanted to do something else, do something else -- especially if that something is magical. Journals suck when they become dreaded obligations.

All that being said, I did bother to make some different sort of collages from my Tangier magic carpet ride when I got home. But that's another post.


A Recent Blue and Dreamy Afternoon

Recently I was feeling blue for no really good reason. My son fell asleep in the car on the way home from something so I was stuck in the car. But luckily I had my journal and my sketchbook (I’ve been taking them with me if I go in the car near nap time – just in case).

I drove about 2 miles from my house to a spot that overlooks Bellingham Bay. I got out my journal thinking I’d brainstorm ways to get out of my funky mood. Instead, as I opened my journal, I was inspired to daydream.

I asked myself what I would like my life to look like a few years from now, and to dream BIG. This is nothing really new. I dream all the time. And I do dream big. But I wrote out the 5-years-from-now vision in present tense, as if it were now.

About two pages in, I stopped myself. I smirked. I realized, while all this was very cool and sounded wonderful, first off, it was not too far off from where I’m at now. I mean, if I were to ask what that version of 5-years-from-now could look like 5 years earlier, it’s my life now. I’m just a 5-year-earlier version of that supposed big dream. That was a pretty awesome and funny moment for me.

Even more awesome though: I stopped myself because I was describing my relationship with my son 5 years from now. I realized I didn’t even want or need to go there. What I realized was that I want and need to focus on now. I want to enjoy his sweet little 2-year-old self while it lasts and not worry too terribly much about his 7-year-old self lest life passes us both by.

And really, despite the fact that I think dreams are essential, I know that also, I really want and need to focus on now in all the other aspects of my life too. I think I was blue because subconsciously I had slipped out of the moment that afternoon. I looked out over the bay, then over my shoulder at my sleeping son in the back seat and slipped right back into the moment.

I’ve been working at becoming an illustrator for an embarrassing amount of time. And it’s fun. I’m so thrilled that I have the chance. Thank you Universe for my life as it is now. It’s a dream come true.

My Journal is a Playground

I just filled up my beloved idea journal that I use for writing picture books:
It feels appropriate to put pictures up because of the garden on front. I've been doing a lot of work in my yard on mommy days (as opposed to artist days when my kid is at daycare) while my two-year-old plays with his bike.
You aren't still writing in a journal with lines, are you? Lines are like horizontal prison bars. What do you do when you want to write big? Or write in spirals? or write sideways. If you are an artist especially -- I dare you. Step out of the box. Buy a journal without lines next time and destroy it with your crazy handwriting (no matter if it's ugly).

It's a playground. Play.
I love having patterned paper mixed in with regular (well colorful) plain paper. I normally weave text all around the images or glue stuff down over the patterns.

These pictures were taken last year when I did a big photo blitz and took photos of lots of my personal journals to eventually post here. So the pictures above show empty pages. But I assure you the pages are not empty. They are full of crazy ugly handwriting and cross-outs. And the whole thing is all the more precious because it's where I've let myself go and allowed myself to play.

LATER UPDATE/AFTERTHOUGHT WORTH SHARING: I also should add for anyone interested, that I started calling my journal a playground after hearing George Shannon's phenomenal talk "The Journal as A Playground" several years ago. If you ever have the chance to hear George talk: do! He's an amazing speaker.

Portraits of Me by Jen

My friend, Jen Dickenson, took these photos of me a few weeks ago when I volunteered to help out with the youth group she leads.
The youth made "sojournals" that night, that's where I got the idea -- she said I could steal it -- thanks, Jen.
I love these portraits. Somehow they capture my color courage, while at the same time capturing my shy side.
Thanks for sending these to me, Jen!

A tool to make me drool and a new journal that does the same!

Look at what my awesome husband gave me for Christmas:
I'm not awesome at sewing by any stretch of the imagination, but I wanted a sewing machine that I didn't have to spend hours adjusting the tension every time I used it so I could make crazy fun cloth journals and sew on paper. I tried it out last week on my very own new journal:
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this journal! Let's call it this month's journaling inspiration of the month.
It was sew fun to make.
And true to it's promise, my new sewing machine (named by Singer: Confidence) adjusts the tension automatically.
I switched back and forth from thick fabric to paper without adjusting anything (although I probably should change the needle next time).
I've already filled many pages in my new journal. I'm thinking of it as a "soujourn-al," or maybe a "sew-journal."
I like the word "sojourn." Besides meaning "a temporary stay somwhere," I think of it as a retreat, a break, an excursion outside of the ordinary.
So (Sew), I like my new sojournal (sewjournal).
And my new sewing machine. Did I mention that my new sewing machine makes all sorts of fancy stitches? It's a dream come true. Thanks Bryceroni!
Sorry for the overload of pictures, but the different pages and colors are just too fun not to share.
Almost everytime I develop a new kind of journal to sell it comes from me playing around with my own personal journals first.
Yay for play.
I should really show off the insides of journals with a video instead of 10 pictures. I'll try that out next time.

Now, what else can I sew?
And what do you do to sojourn?