I can’t tell you how many times I sit in front of the computer staring at a work in progress, waiting for inspiration to strike. I stare at it for so long that eventually, just like staring at a word for a long time makes it seem less like a word and more like a jumble of letters that don’t make sense, my piece of work starts to separate and become a mess of elements that in my mind don’t work well together.

When a project doesn’t come together as I would like it to, it becomes easy to blame myself and to accuse myself of having a lack of talent for graphic design. When color combinations don’t meld beautifully I decide I don’t have a knack for color theory. When I can’t settle on layer styles and drop shadows and strokes and gradients I decide I can’t make up my mind and so have no talent for graphic design. And when—Good Lord, this is the worst—I can’t settle on a font… The sky is falling.

Here is the big revelation that always takes me a while to come up with in my own mind—sometimes I am just not in a graphic designing mood.

I am waiting for inspiration to strike when I should either be a) putting down the work, shutting off the computer, and reading a book to my kids, or b) doing a little bit of inspiration-surfing (Pinterest is great for this). I am an internet “browser,” a “surfer” to the core. Have always been and more than likely always will be. I am one of those people who can sit in front of a computer for hours looking at random things.

A funny thing about that is it is not always random. Sure, someone who watches me doing it (Master P, as my husband likes to be called) might automatically and loudly proclaim that it is his turn on the computer because he thinks I am not doing anything productive, when in fact I am! I swear it! This random text not-so-artfully arranged on the screen in front of me has a purpose—Font Research!

Research Fonts

There is another reason why I start to doubt my abilities when I am working on a project and it has nothing to do with my abilities. I fail to understand that sometimes my mind is too full of other things to produce a viable piece of creativity on the screen. To succinctly put it, life gets in the way. Interior cartoonist and artist Jamie Smith wrote it best on his blog Ink & Snow when he said, “Sometimes what can kill off art is real life, when the banal realities of mundane everyday activities erode and eclipse the pursuit of one’s passion. It’s an irresistible force meets immovable object scenario on a daily basis: exhaustion versus inspiration.”

Jamie Logo

When I sit down to the computer, which is in our living room, I often have a 2-year-old asking me to run her back, or an 8-year-old complaining that she’s thirsty, or a 6-year-old complaining that the 2-year-old is bothering her. It sometimes gets difficult accomplishing the completion of a project from start to finish in one sitting. If inspiration hits while I am at the computer, well, tough luck. Life is calling.


Lastly, what can prevent me from recognizing my own potential while working on a project is none other than artist’s block. Sometimes is it due to just not feeling like I have a good enough idea of where I want a project to go. Sometimes it is due to working on side projects that have nothing to do with graphic design, such as homework from a college class or a crochet project that in my mind has a deadline of yesterday. Focus focus focus! Eh, impossible.

I have found that I am most productive when I use all tools at my disposal to complete a project—Pinterest for inspiration, my iPad for hand drawing, a sketchbook for brainstorming layouts, bouncing color ideas off Master P since he was a painter for 25 years and knows his stuff. I draw on 10 years of experience in knowing what to do and what not to do. I take a breath, make a cup of breakfast tea with cream and sugar, and I tackle the project as if my life depends on it. And I get it done.

I must say, I am not always happy with it for various reasons, but that is perhaps a blog entry for another day. (Have you ever looked back on a project and cringe?)


What ART 105 Has Taught Me (CAUTION: Drawing of a nude…)

Tonight is my last class for Art 105, the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Beginning Drawing class. Although I am certainly sad to see it go I am so happy to have found that I am a better artist for taking the class.

2013-12-12 14.10.12

Much of that success I have to credit to the professor, Jamie Smith. He is a fantastic professor and introduced me to techniques that I might have balked at before. But his willingness to demonstrate every technique really made me a believer! By using his techniques I found that I really can draw PEOPLE! This has eluded me in the past. Faces are still a challenge, but I am getting better.

2013-12-12 14.04.43I also think that I was successful in this class simply because talents that had lain long dormant in my mind were brought to the surface. My high school art teacher, Lillie Stoutenberg, was also an amazing teacher. She packed so much learning into my four short years (sometimes with multiple classes per semester in her classroom!) that it is little wonder to me how much I was able to dig up and dust off during my time in ART 105.

What amazes me most about my experiences in this class is that of course, when I put my mind to something I can be successful. There have been so many instances in my life where I have given up because things were too hard, too boring, or I was too busy with other things. If I had given up when things got tough I never would have known I could turn scribbles into a work of art (which Professor Smith calls “scumbling”).

2013-12-12 14.10.50There were plenty of assignments that really stumped me. The vignette assignment (above) was very hard for me composition-wise. I had no idea what to draw because we were supposed to use sketches from our sketchbooks and up until that point my sketchbook was full of baby blocks, leaves and paper folds. We also had to put in some of our own writing, and the only thing I had was a poem I had written for my husband a couple years ago. I put all of this together and came up with the vignette drawing picture above, and even impressed myself with the humber of different drawing techniques I was able to utilize to make the whole drawing really come together–stippling, cross hatching, scumbling, hatching, and lettering.

Needless to say, this assignment more than any other showed me if I really want to accomplish something, my mind is fully capable.

It also taught me I work well under pressure… I really procrastinated with that project!

Since I have recently changed my major to Art I have also decided to pursue the Bachelor’s of Fine Art rather than the Bachelor’s of Art (I think I wrote those correctly–all I know is I want to do more drawing!) That way I can have a concentration in drawing. Somehow I will incorporate more computer graphics courses. I have heard a rumor that UAF is considering adding more of those, but don’t quote me on it!

I’m excited, can you tell?

ART 105 will be kept in my pocket for when I am needing some extra help with drawing in graphic design. The possibilities are swirling around in my mind like a cauldron of ideas! Although much of the graphic design work I do is 100% computer, I think ART 105 has broadened my talents to include a more homey, hand-drawn look for certain designs. Have I mentioned that I’m excited?!

I can’t wait to see what art classes I will be taking next!

My Journey Into Graphic Design

As I say in my tagline I have ten years of experience in graphic design and logo design.

You might wonder, how did I come by this experience if I didn’t go to school for graphic design?

The answer is dedication, a whole lot of determination, and ten long years of trial and error.

I started using Adobe Photoshop 7.0 in late 2003 when I acquired a copy to help a friend with his website development business. At the time I was fascinated with Photoshop filters and often downloaded new ones from the Internet to experiment with photo manipulation. I soon branched into adding text to the photos and attempting small projects for websites. I didn’t know anything about making websites, but if a task was set before me that would help complete one, I was game! It was fun, and it felt exactly like discovering a new hobby.

For the next year I experimented with the filters and with various aspects of Photoshop—steadfastly avoiding the more complicated yet extremely important tools such as the pen tool!

In early 2005 I met my now-husband and, eager to impress him with my design skills, created my first real graphic design project—his business card. Funny enough, I had no idea that what I was doing had a name. I thought it was just using my computer skills to create. I did not know I was a budding graphic designer!

In the spirit of honesty, when I find this card and scan it in I will post it here so we can all get a good laugh….

Throughout the next few years I continued using Adobe Photoshop 7.0, completely oblivious to the fact that Adobe was releasing newer versions. At the time I felt, why mess up a good thing? I had become intimately knowledgeable of 7.0 and had no wish to upgrade. I designed business cards and further altered photographs, dazzling my close friends and family with skills I grouped together with being able to blow a bubble gun bubble inside another bubble—I saw it as a skill that I would never use in a professional setting.

Fast forward to 2009 when my 6-year-old Gateway laptop was starting to show signs of being obsolete. 32GB hard drive?! It was UNHEARD of! I ordered my shiny new iMac, put the laptop in a storage bag and said I would never look back.

Except I did. Look back, that is. When I realized I couldn’t magically transfer my Photoshop 7.0 to the iMac, I was incredibly disappointed. I don’t know how many times I dragged out the old, heavy laptop with the 1024 x 768 screen resolution and brought up 7.0 to work on a project for my husband or family member.

In April of 2011 I finally decided to make a change. I had discovered Adobe Photoshop Elements, a smaller, much less involved version of the true Photoshop included in Adobe’s Creative Suite. Since the CS version came in a suite of programs and I didn’t have $1,500 to drop on a brand new copy (and although at the time I was attending college at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, no one had told me about the miraculous “Student Discount”) I purchased the $99 Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 and WENT TO TOWN.

Seriously, I felt like I was on top of the world.

My projects were coming out nicer, I was able to pay better attention to detail and to use layer styles, and going from a semi-complicated version of Photoshop (7.0) to this Elements 9 proved to be an amazingly smooth transition.

Purchasing Elements 9 really opened the door to creating some beautiful graphic design projects even though—get this—I was still unaware the term Graphic Design existed. I know. Shocking.

At this time in 2011 I was working on an Associate’s degree in Accounting from the University of Alaska Community and Technical College. I was about 2 years into the program (as a part-time student) when I discovered that wonderful title, and was able to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t want to be an accountant for the rest of my life. I could make a living doing something I love—GRAPHIC DESIGN!!

Needless to say I couldn’t just waste two years of school so I finished the program in two more years and graduated with the Associate’s of Applied Accounting. I then promptly changed my major to ART.

I quickly found a Photoshop class to take (and at the same time an InDesign class) and it was then that I found out Adobe offers a student discount, so I purchased the CS6 suite of programs. It was like Christmas every day, opening the new Photoshop and seeing all the shiny new buttons and options I never knew existed!

So here I am today, still on the same gorgeous iMac with the beautiful CS6 Photoshop, starting my graphic design business with the official title of (as it says on my business card!) Graphic Designer.

For all of my current clients, thank you for choosing me for your graphic design needs! I of course wouldn’t be where I am today without your business, as well as the support of my friends and family.

Thank you for reading my story!