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When you’re not where you want to be

Pulling a Plant - Eleanor Taylor

The thought about being a landscape architect never once crossed my mind as I was growing up.

I didn’t spend my younger days thinking about how great it could be if I could be one – to spend my time designing gardens, parks and pockets of greens; carrying T-squares, measuring tape, wearing a hardhat and safety boot and all. So what made me write that down when it came to choosing what I wanted to do in university?

It was simple – I didn’t want to be stuck in a lab doing experiments (that’s all I thought scientists-to-be did back then). And I didn’t want to spend my time purely in lecture halls hashing out theories and being spoon-fed formulas. I wanted to learn about art and design, and that course was my one and only ticket.

Oh sure, I could hear you ask – why not just go to a college where you can pay to learn exactly what you want? I got an entry into the local university; and where I come from, to get that was as good as if you had struck lottery. The price of a degree at a private college could cost up to 10 times more than it did at a local university. I wasn’t about to go in debt by choosing to go to a private college, and I didn’t want to let my parents worry about funding expensive tuition fees only to get a piece of paper I might not end up using in the end (I was being realistic).

So I chose the best route to go about it. I knew I liked art and design – and if I were to chose a course within that university, the only one that was available to me was landscape architecture. I could learn about the fundamentals of art and design in a studio environment, I had access to art teachers and designers, I had more flexibility in how I scheduled things (studio-based classes meant that you had plenty of time to experiment with ideas); and I didn’t have to worry about money so much. I told myself I would figure out the rest later.

Four years later, when it came to deciding what I wanted to do after I graduated, I gave myself 6 months – it was when we had to be an intern at a real consultancy firm. The rules I gave myself were simple: give it my best shot, and if I still didn’t feel that it suited me, then I’m free to do whatever that I wanted. Six months passed – the boss’ firm passed me with flying colours and told others that I was one of the best interns he’s ever worked with. I left, happy.

It was also the last time I was a landscape architect.

“Why did you give up your degree?” was the common question I had in that first year after I graduated. “It was four years – all wasted, down the drain,” said others. Even my father was at a loss – he couldn’t understand why I would give up being a landscape architect. I could have a good job, a stable career. A title. I could be a professional. I could be Amy Ng, the Landscape Architect. I didn’t blame them at all – they didn’t know why I did it.

But I did.

Because when I went into the university to do a course on landscape architecture, I wasn’t looking to just be a landscape architect. I was looking to learn. I absorbed everything like a sponge – even the stuff that people didn’t care about. I inhaled snippets of knowledge and sniffed it out whenever I could. Lecturers were held hostage as I left them a barrage of questions. Little wonder that when it came time to decide to narrow down a focus for my final project, I went with campus design. I loved learning that much.

I went to the library often. I didn’t just go there to scoop up the latest architecture tomes – I went in to borrow books on art, illustration, cooking, exercise, writing and technology; all because I was curious. I maxed out my book limit every time because I there were so many things I wanted to know. I didn’t know where all of this digging would lead me, but I knew that deciding on a destination just because I was handed a ticket seemed silly.

Instead, I wanted to make my own fate. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. And when I look at myself right now I’m still figuring it out – just like everyone else. I try hard to not confine myself to anyone else’s definition of success, and to stay true to myself by constantly asking myself what I want. Being happy was always my goal – and I’ve been incredibly lucky on that front. Somedays I still pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming.

So for those who feel as though they’ve been handed a curveball in life, or that they aren’t in the place that they want to be – I want to tell you this: you can’t control the cards you’ve been dealt, but you sure can change how you choose to deal with it.

Oh, and no one ever asks me about that degree anymore.

SHARE WITH ME:

Have you ever been in a less than ideal situation? How did you make the best of it? Share your story with me below in the comments! 

[Illustration by Eleanor Taylor]

Tom Gauld

Tom Gauld

Tom Gauld

I first came across Tom Gauld’s work on Flickr, and once I started looking, I couldn’t stop. Tom works in the UK as a cartoonist and illustrator; counting The Guardian and the New Yorker among his clients. His comics are filled with robots, astronauts hapless personalities that combines innocence with wry wit – there’s so much eloquence in his panels, delivered in a deft swift kick.  I read an interview from 2011 where he talks about what he does, and I wanted to share some snippets of the interview that I thought was really thought-provoking.

On  his working process:

I sit and think and doodle in my sketchbook until I have a good idea. Then I’ll make rough pencil sketches on copier paper till I have things worked out visually. Then I hone these sketches on paper and in photoshop till I have a rough version of the image which I can send to anyone who needs to approve it. Then I will print out the image and use a lightbox to trace an ink version which I crosshatch then scan back into the computer where I can clean it up, tweak bits and add any colour. I love using the computer but I try to stay away from it till I’ve done most of the thinking for an idea, looked at it from all sides, because I feel that once the computer is involved things are on an inevitable path to being finished. Whereas in my sketchbook the possibilities are endless.

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On illustrating a book cover versus a cartoon:

I feel more pressure doing a book cover than almost anything else, I think “This author has probably spent years writing this book: I mustn’t mess it all up with a crap cover”. So I have to try and find a way to react to the book and make something which is suitable, but is also strong and interesting in its own way.

Tom Gauld

On how Edward Gorey has influenced his work:

I like that what he makes is unclassifiable: he makes picture books for adults which aren’t comics, many are self-published but they’re beautifully produced. I love his drawing, the odd narratives, the design of the books, the compositions, the hand drawn typography: everything really. The way I crosshatch (with small “patches” of short lines rather than long ones) I learned from Gorey.

On what he thinks is next for books and print:

One thing which might happen with the rise of e-books is that the books that DO get published in paper may have to justify themselves by being better made, designed and illustrated. That would make me happy.

Read the complete interview here. Also: another in-depth interview about his comic-drawing process that’s really good.

Links: Tom Gauld’s website | Flickr

His books: You’re All Just Jealous of My Backpack [Amazon link] | Goliath [Amazon link]

What if you reclaimed your time?

Paul X. Johnson

I made a decision about a month ago to not renew my contract as a creative lead for a PR firm. I had been in the position for only 3 months, but it wasn’t working out for me as well as I had hoped (remember this equation?)

I took it on to help out a friend, who needed someone to help out with the team on fleshing out the creative side of client briefs and campaigns. I was the go-to person when it comes to working out imagery that would work; the piecing together of visuals, style and form to form an effective campaign. That I did.

I went in without knowing if it would work; whether I was up for the job, or if I would fail terribly and end up embarrassing myself and the firm. So I took it on as a challenge. I told myself that it was something I hadn’t tried before (not in a formal capacity anyway) and so ahead I went. It soon dawned on me – it wasn’t whether I was up for the job or not; but in the end it really boiled down to me asking myself, “is this really what I want?”

It came in small whispers – it doesn’t feel right. You’re not happy. I had a knot in my neck that didn’t seem to go away. I felt as though time was slipping away like sand between my fingers as I tried to hold on as tightly as I could. Where did the time go?

Although I loved working with great colleagues, it wasn’t for me; it ate away at the time which I’d rather spend on other things – like Pikaland. Having the amount of hours you could spend on something you love cut short by other commitments really helped me refocus and find clarity. For example, I had been faffing around with the redesign of the blog for a few months, but when I left my position, I instantly got to work and got everything out there within a week. I started with just an inkling of an idea and turned it around into a full-blown working website design within a few days. I felt incredibly happy.

Maybe it was a burst of timely inspiration. And maybe it was. But more importantly, it was me realizing and thanking the universe for the gift of time that has been given back to me. And I didn’t want to waste time in getting back to the work I felt I was meant to do.

When I was working at the PR firm, I asked myself constantly – what could I be doing with my time instead? Don’t get me wrong – having built up a creative direction for a campaign really convinced me of what I was capable of. But I didn’t just want to do work that I was capable of. I wanted to do more. I wanted to do work that thrills me to no end (well, maybe for the most part!) I want sleepless nights not because of clients and their imminent deadlines breathing down my neck – but because I was excited that I couldn’t wait till morning came so I could get right to it.

It was a great opportunity, many people said. “You’re crazy – I would relish the opportunity,” said one. I thought so too – if it were 5 years ago. But the beauty of it was that if it were indeed 5 years ago, I wouldn’t be given the same opportunity. I could only laugh at the irony of it all.

What I gave up might be an wondrous opportunity for others, but I knew it wasn’t for me. So instead of hanging on to a title that would eventually kill me, I’d rather part ways to focus on things that wake me up with purpose. Plus, on the flipside, I like to tell others that it isn’t very nice to hang on to positions/jobs that doesn’t quite fit you – what if someone who really loves it comes along, only to have it occupied by someone else?

I didn’t regret the experience one bit – if anything, I know better what I am capable of. Learning through stretching myself has always surprised me in good ways, and I am grateful for the amazing experience that was offered to me. Rory Cochrane once said: “I do not regret the things I’ve done, but those I did not do.” – and it certainly rang true in my case.

The good thing about having your time given back to you? You’ll appreciate it that much more. I know I do.

SHARE WITH ME:

I’d like to know – if you could reclaim your time, what would you do with it?

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My Work/Art/Play online class will be happening this September! To make sure you’re not missing out on details and to be the first to know when registration opens, click here to sign up! (psst, you can also read up on what our past students thought of it too!)

[Illustration by Paul X. Johnson]

Inspiration: Fashion

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[Richards NYC Spring 2014]

I’ve never been much of a fashionista.

After 5 years of wearing semi-corporate wear to work (I refused to wear greys and blacks and look all proper and “professional” – which was basically ironed shirts with collars and long pants), and then transitioning to comfy yoga-ish inspired clothing as I worked from home. Pajamas were game too during those beginning years. I even found it hard to justify wearing any footwear that’s higher than 2 inches. Even if it looks amazing.

Maybe I was lazy. Maybe it’s because I was a practical person. Or maybe it’s because fashion wasn’t at all interesting to me back then. (Plus: I had an old knee injury from playing too much sports in school – I kid you not.)

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[Source: Miss Moss]

Nothing much has changed now – I still want practicality when it comes to fashion. Shoes. Clothes. Accessories. I need the freedom of being able to move. It’s just that I’ve begun to look at fashion with new eyes: I could have all that I wanted – uninhibited movement, comfort and practicality – without having to compromise on how I looked. Oh sure, I didn’t care what other people think. But perhaps I could have it all and look smashing at the same time.  Double win!

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[Less by Maria Jennifer Carew]

Or maybe I’m lucky this season (and the few seasons before), because what I’ve seen on the runway is extremely likable in an offbeat way. You know – the kind of clothes that doesn’t need for me to have a perfect hourglass body to pull it off. The kind of clothes that doesn’t need me to stay in place to look pretty. Pretty colors and quirky shapes. Fun details and happy-inducing cuts. Beautiful, yet utilitarian. Once I found out that fashion can be fun instead of scary, it takes on a whole new light. There is no wrong or right – anything goes.

I think that our bodies make great canvases – and our clothes, accessories and shoes all paint a picture that’s unique to each and every one of us. What shall we paint on ourselves today?

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[Marta Lugo’s hand sawed pins]

Maybe it’s the internet. Maybe it’s always been there, just that I wasn’t aware of it.

But right now, I’m inspired by it, and I have the internet to thank.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Here’s more posts on fashion and more images I’ve collected on Pinterest. Happy Tuesday folks!

On speed dating: Les Mots de la Carpe [animation]

I watched Les Mots de la Carpe today on Vimeo, and though I couldn’t understand a word of French, this animation proves that a picture is worth a thousand words. Watch how deceptively simple the lines are (the environment is mostly made out with black pencil, with bold colored characters for emphasis), and how the form of the characters are derived from their personality. From Absolute Mag:

At a speed-dating event, animator Lucrece Andreae takes some creative liberties to depict the shape of various oddities of romance-seeking, like (literally) inflated personalities and people who actually compare their date to an ideal sketch, adjusting them accordingly.

Here’s wishing a happy 4th of July for those in the US; and for everyone else, have a great start to the weekend (which is a cause to celebrate anyway!)

Want to see more fun animations? Check out the below links:

Watercolor teatowels by Yao Cheng

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I’m in love with these gorgeous tea towels by watercolor artist Yao Cheng today – it looks absolutely vivid and bright, and I found out that she doesn’t print them digitally – instead, she prints through a reactive dye process.

What I love about these towels is that it is completely color-fast. These linen cotton blends are printed through a reactive dye process in which the colors are dyed directly into the fabric rather than sitting on top like with pigment printing. The difference is truly extraordinary, most noticeably is the saturated color range and the color fastness of the fabric. ~ Yao Cheng [link]

Pablo Bear Goes to Asia

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Two years ago, I met Pablo Ientile as he was working his way across Asia for his book. Now, 2 years later and with lots of stories under his belt, he’s running an Indiegogo campaign where you’ll be able to support his first ever production of the book that brings all of his experiences together – all bounded in a beautiful comic book.

With just 42 hours left to the clock on the Indiegogo campaign, this is your last chance to be a part of his first print run – the campaign is already a success, and as of this point in time has surpassed the €6,577 needed for him to kickstart things!

I did a little interview with Pablo to find out more about the process that lead up to the campaign:

Congratulations on your Indiegogo campaign Pablo! I’m really thrilled to have you with us to talk about your process from the beginning to where you are right now with raising money for your comic book. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the project?

Thank you Amy, my name is Pablo Ientile, I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and I live and work in Berlin right now. I always wanted to make a big project with illustrations and I came up with an idea to combine it with another two of my favorites activities: traveling and meeting people. In the end, with all the ideas combined, I traveled to Asia for 6 months and met a lot of artist along the way, including you, Amy!

How did you get the idea to come up with having yourself as the main character in your comic book?

I needed someone to tell the story so I had to be the main character, but I didn’t want it to be a human being – so I decided I will be a bear and that’s how he became the main character. The words are all me though!

What was the scariest part about starting your project?

I struggled a lot before buying the first flight ticket to Kuala Lumpur, just because I was scared of the idea that spontaneously meeting artists along the way would never work out. But some of the artists I contacted before I left confirmed their participation and that made me feel more comfortable to give it a go.

How many artists did you meet on your journey, and how did you get to know them/approach them about your idea?

I met a lot of creative people, from many different fields and I featured around 40 artists in the book plus many creative meetings with young artists. It was a great decision to meet other artists along the way, it gave me a lot of inspiration and new ideas for the future. I hope I could inspire them too with my ideas.

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What were the few most important lessons that you’ve learnt throughout the 6 months journey for your book?

My first plan was to show my friends in Europe how Asia looks like but at the end I was surprised at how many other people were interested in my experiences too as I went along the way. I felt I was showing Asians how Asia looks like and that made me feel very happy.

How did you manage to save up enough money to travel? Did you have any help, or sponsorship throughout the journey?

I had saved up for a long time with the idea of making a big project one day, although at the time I didn’t know what that would be! I kept myself confident that it would be an unique project. I also started my first crowd funding campaign and the amount I’ve received from that represented only a small part of what I’ve spent, but it helped to get the travel done and helped me with my struggle along the way. The trust from the funders was very important to me and gave me confidence I needed for the project.

How has your life changed after your journey through Asia for your book?

A lot! When I came back I was already thinking about future trips, so I thought I will never be able to keep myself still, but after 3 months I started to plan the book so I kept myself busy creating it. I also had a lot of new freelance jobs because the project gave me some exposure as an artist too. Now I can safely say I’m really happy with the result of this project.

What did you do after your trip? How did you put your dreams of turning your experience into a book a reality?

First of all I scanned all the drawings I had. Then I tried to figure it out how the composition would be. At first I started doing a journal-like design, mixing pictures and drawings about my days in Japan – the first country I visited, but it didn’t  look like a professional book. I kept trying new things and I found out that a comic could be a good method for telling the story of my travels, but I had no idea how to make a comic! So after 6 months of trying, I finally had the first chapter ready and I started to send it to publishers, but with no results. So I asked myself: “do you want to continue with the rest of the story without having a publisher?” and I said “yes!”. Two years later I’m answering this interview for the crowd funding campaign of my first comic book!

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What is your advice for aspiring artists who look up to you as a role model?

I recommend to all new writers and illustrators that if you believe in an idea you should fight for it! So don’t give up too early, you can still learn a lot in the process. And never forget to have fun at work, you live only once.

Lastly, tell us something random about your trip! (any funny details or happenings, or even tips for traveling in Asia perhaps?)

The most amazing thing that happened to me in Asia was my experience with food! I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should travel to Asia at least once and try as much food as they can – for me it’s a big enough reason to go back.

Thanks so much Pablo!

You can support Pablo’s Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign here! (Hurry, there’s not much time left!)

My experience with starting a freelance business

Starting a freelance business Over on the Pattern Observer blog today, I talked about how I started my freelance career – having made the jump into the unchartered territory (at least for me), 7 years ago. Did you know that I also put down a mortgage for our home a month before I went solo (it was something me and Mr. T had been planning, but we never thought we’d find the perfect house – within our budget no less – so soon!) So if you’re ever nervous about making that leap, follow Michelle as she uncovers other freelancers who made the leap too!

Click here to read my interview and also, I’ve written an article where I share my thoughts on how to land your first freelance job.

Pikaland @ Bok Fair

Bok Fair 2014!

I can’t believe I haven’t posted this up here yet – social media is sneaky that way – it can make you feel as though you’ve done loads, while you haven’t covered all your bases!

If you’re in Malaysia (my neck of the woods!), come and say hi tomorrow, Sunday 22nd June at Bok Fair, organized by the lovely folks of Bok Tjuv. It’s going to be at Freespace@Kakiseni, PJ SSTwo Mall. There’s a pop-up shop (which I’ll be a part of!) and also a sharing session at 2pm where I’ll gather around with other local indie publishers and talk about self-publishing and the like.

Do come and say hello!

Simona Ciraolo

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Loving the sketchiness of London-based Simona Ciraolo’s work. Look at that beautiful muted, limited palette for images 1-3 and then feast on the loveliness of the contrasting colours on image 4. When I look at that last image of the girl resting on a white tiger, I could imagine myself being in her place – cuddling up to a great beast and safely tucked away while getting lost in a story. That’s what great illustrations do to me.

[Found via Karine Fortier on the Picks for Pikaland Pinterest board]

How to stretch yourself

Surrender by Penelope Dullaghan

Here’s a secret about me: I love to exercise. Having been exposed to different sports training while I was in high school it only made me love my body more when it’s in movement.

I’ve been on various teams: rhythmic gymnastics, volleyball, hockey, running, mountain climbing, and taekwondo – all at the same time. And when I’m not at school picking up a ball, I’m at home skipping rope and doing mat pilates. Early morning swim runs with my childhood friends remain in my memory as one of the fondest activity we get together for. Being in the water makes me feel as though I’m fully immersed in the moment – as though my body is one with all that is around me. This was why I mentioned that drawing for me, is like swimming.

But age catched up. I found that I could no longer run without feeling it in my knees afterwards. I took cautionary steps to alleviate the pain, but after many years of following Mr. T along with his run, I’ve decided that it wasn’t for me. So now I concentrate on doing yoga flows and pilates stretches instead because it helps me open up my shoulders – hunching over my keyboard or Wacom tablet for long periods on end makes me feel as though a curled up ball of wrangled nerves at the end of the day.

With any yoga pose (or anything at all, really), practice makes perfect. But one particular pose has eluded me for many years – the yoga push up (also known as the four-limbed staff pose). For those who don’t know what a yoga push up is, it’s basically a push up but instead of your arms being the same position as your shoulder when you bring your body down, it’s instead at a 90-degree angle, with your upper arms running parallel to your torso, so that your body weight rests on the middle of your body instead of the top of your body (and your wrists are holding your body weight up at the middle!) I just read that last sentence and oh man, here’s a case when a picture tells a better story.

So I have lousy upper body strength it seems, and no matter how I try, I fall flat on my face several times – never mind that actually getting to that bit was a torture. Imagine this: You’re ready to do a push up. You square your hands, resting your hands firmly on the mat. You take a deep breath, and hope that this time will be it – it’s the time you won’t fall flat on your face because your arms betrayed you. So on to the beginning of the descent – a few inches down – and oh boy! It’s looking pretty good so far. A couple more inches, and your upper hand begins to quiver no matter how tightly they’re tucked away at your sides. Your thigh begins to feel nervous, trembling at intensity of keeping the body parallel to the floor. And during that last pivotal moment when you’ve almost hit that 90-degree angle, your body gives way, and everything – your hands, thighs, torso and all – come crashing down in a tangle of limbs.

I thought to myself there’s no way that I could do it. Some muscles obviously did not get the memo that this is the one thing that is still on my list.

My mat almost has an imprint of my face from how many times I’ve landed face first into it. But I still kept at it. Lately, I mixed up my routine a little and instead of allowing myself to just fall on the mat, I just allowed myself to go as far as I could without diving head-first into the mat. And then,right before I felt that familiar jelly-like feeling creep up my hands, I come up for a cobra pose (here’s what that looks like).

That felt really good. I did a couple more each time.

And today, I tried the yoga push up again on its own, and I was surprised at not landing on my face. In fact, my face was an inch away from the mat as my body balanced itself parallel to the floor. I blinked in surprise. I held myself that way for a few seconds – in disbelief. It was surreal. I did it. And then I did it again. It wasn’t a fluke!

My shoulders were hurting afterwards – as though I had worked out muscles I never knew were there in the first place. It was throbbing with a dull ache, warm to the touch and tight. I felt proud.

I believe that we never stop growing or stretching ourselves. The biggest takeaway for me from this whole exercise (pun intended!) is that it takes time to practice anything at all. Whether it’s yoga, drawing, or doing your own business. You might think that you don’t have it in you, but it’s all there. Every bit of it. You just need to find your way, and maybe you’ll fall down like I did (and I don’t just mean on the mat!) but you’ll soon find the strength you never had.

When that happens, it’ll just take you completely by surprise.

And then you’ll be proud.

[Illustration: Surrender; by fellow yoga-loving illustrator Penelope Dullaghan, via Scott Hull]

from How to stretch yourself

Inspiration: Sketchbooks

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Being left to my own devices without much distraction lately, I rediscovered the joy of drawing and sketching. Most of this urge came about after moderating a workshop led by Frane Lessac & Javier Zabala last week for AFCC – where I re-learned about monoprints, paint mixing (Javier carries pigment powder and various bases to create his own watercolor/gouache/acrylics) and a demonstration of how he creates his illustrations.

So just like my previous post on Moving Drawings, this time I’m going to take you on a short discovery through some of the sketchbooks that caught my eye online, starting with one of my favorites: Mogu Takahashi. I met with her again while I was in Tokyo last year and it’s hard not to be inspired by Mogu-chan – she’s one of the most hard-working artists I know, and she’s simply a powerhouse of ideas and joy. Just take a peek into her sketchbooks and you’ll be able to see what I mean (and oh, did I tell you? She makes videos of them. VIDEOS!) Watch and you’ll immediately want to pick up your sketchbook to paint:

I also bought a new sketchbook by Kunst & Papier through This is Ocean (they’re the only one that has reasonable international shipping rates!) via the recommendation of Leah Goren. I love her work, and have been reading her blog for whenever I feel a little overwhelmed with things – somehow looking at her sketchbooks make me feel a lot calmer. I can’t quite explain it – maybe it’s the colors, or maybe because it’s the breeziness in the way her illustrations are, that makes it really accessible.

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Reading her posts made me realize that she also contributes to Books By It’s Cover (it was relaunched not too long ago!) which has a fabulous collection of sketchbook features. One of my favorites is by Alison Worman (pictured below, taken from the BBIC site). I just love how her collages and mix of medias create different worlds within her books! She majored in Fibre & Book Arts and her sketchbooks inspires me to not be afraid to mix it up a little.

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So there you have it – my little round-up of what’s inspiring me this week! What have you been inspired by lately?

[Images 1 - 5 by Leah Goren, images 6 - 9 by Alison Worman via Book By It’s Cover, YouTube videos by Mogu Takahashi]

from Inspiration: Sketchbooks

A quick change

Hi folks!

If you’ve noticed that something has changed here, well by golly you’re right. I’ve given the website a bit of a facelift (some of you have noticed that the site has been down for 24 hours a couple of days ago too!)

So far I’m still making small tweaks here and there on the fly, so don’t be alarmed if you see something weird going on about these parts. Hopefully I’ll be done in the next few days!

Making any sort of change to my website has always been a daunting task in my mind. There’s so many things that could go wrong, and yet there are many things that could go right too, especially once a change has been made.

It took me some time to re-grasp and refresh my CSS vocabulary in making changes to the website. A few years back I could change up codes without even bothering to make a mock-up beforehand! I did try going his route for a couple of hours before I stopped myself – I wasn’t going anywhere, and the design I had in mind wasn’t unfolding as I had expected it to. You know, by sheer magic.

So I fired up good old Photoshop and put my thoughts onto a tangible form, instead of winging it like I did before. And I got lucky because I got it all out on the screen in the matter of minutes. Tweaking the codes  was so much easier once I had a visual reference to follow – I did myself a favor by extracting what I had in mind and to throw it out there. In fact it should have been the first thing that I did. Though I did sketch out some layout preferences, nothing beats a straight up mock up. Or the actual sitting-down-to-get-the-hard-part-over-it phase, instead of hemming and hawing around with nothing to show for it.

So here’s my thought for the week: put that hand on your canvas. Or click that button already. If you’ve been putting off making a change, no matter how small, think of this as a friendly reminder that it’s never to late to begin.

Go  on, it’s your move.


from A quick change

Snippets from AFCC 2014

Hi folks!

Right now I’m still in Singapore for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC), and I just wanted to leave you with a few insightful quotes that I’ve gathered from some of the speakers that has inspired me this year:

From illustrator James Mayhew:

A style is artificial. You should try to be you. Far better to be an honest illustrator who can be flexible about telling a story.

Children’s books aren’t just cute illustrations.

Illustration is an act of courage.

Never underestimates what would get a kid excited. Adults are the ones with the narrow worldview.

From illustrator Javier Zabala (read my interview with him here!):

It’s not just the techniques. If an illustration isn’t technically good, but tells a story, I’ll prefer it over an illustration that is masterful in technique but lacks emotion.

Illustration is communication.

Throw away your erasers.

And a few more from various other speakers:

“Typography & images can support each other in delivering a message. Bit they don’t have to say the same thing.” ~ Mariko Takagi, designer, author and lover of typography

“Publishers now think of themselves as entertainment companies.” ~ Eric Huang, Development Director, Made in Me, UK

“You do not need any permission to reach a global audience.” ~ Bill Belew, Social Media Consultant

“Seriously, do think about self-publishing your work instead of merely waiting for validation from gatekeepers.” ~ Fran Lebowitz, former literary agent with Writers House

I’ll catch up with you guys next week as I’ll be moderating the masterclass with Javier Zabala and Frane Lessac tomorrow!

[Image: That’s Javier sketching up a storm!]

from Snippets from AFCC 2014

Studio Visit: Mafe Hernanda

For today’s Studio Visit, I talked to Mafe Hernanda, an illustrator based in Barcelona, Spain. I first found her on Instagram when she posted up her beautiful studio as well as her working process, and I can’t wait to share them with you here on the blog! (Think I’m missing out on featuring your studio/process? Well let’s remedy that – tag me on Instagram (@pikaland)!)

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

Hi Mafe! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hi Amy! Thanks for your kind invitation. My Name is María Fernanda but my friends know me as Mafe. I was born in Colombia and now I live near Barcelona, in the middle of an amazing Nature park and I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts. My life changed when I came to Spain. Although life in the city is exciting, I started living for the first time in the middle of nature and this was an indescribable and inspirational experience for me. I discovered the many pleasures of taking in the sounds, smells, colours and other treasures that nature gives.

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

With that change in my life came a noticeable shift in my style of creating and painting. I feel that the work is truer to me in terms of my character and my outlook on life in general. I like to see the beauty and magic of nature and the little things of life.

I enjoy walking with Panchito (a pug) and Mimi (a teckel) – my best friends! – as we go up the mountains. They are cute and funny, and they are always together.

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

I’m active and curious. I often feel the need to make new things, and I love to explore techniques, colours and different medias.

What are you working on right now?

I’m very happy now because I’m working on two exciting projects: The first one is a personal project – I’m writing a book about emotions and dreams and the second one is my creative work, actually I explore mixed media and paint to express my love of nature.  Both projects are special to me. My life is going through a lot of changes right now, and this is the first time that I’m writing about life and dreams. It´s a fulfilling experience.

I’m exploring and experimenting the possibilities of mixed media. I see the environment, its colours and its forms. I’m exploring with gouache and mixed media, and this is very exciting for me. I love working with paper, crayolas, gouache, pencil colors, markers – all of which makes it a very hands-on experience. In both projects I feel free and happy.

I love your studio! Can you tell us a little bit more about your spatial arrangement?

Once in a while, I like to renovate my studio. I think this is a inspirational way to create, having pictures, objects, and things where you can find surround yourself with inspiration. Last year, my studio looked like a child’s room. I enjoyed this decoration because it was inspirational for the happy mail project and other illustration projects that I was involved with. This year, I made some changes in my studio because I needed more space and I added a big table so that I could paint and draw in different formats. I sold part of my furniture to create this new space! I enjoy changes, because it always brings good things into my life.

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

What are your favourite tools?

I think that everything I come across is a great tool to create with! I work with seasons, and sometimes I enjoy working only with Adobe Illustrator and my Wacom tablet.  Sometimes the craft girl in me comes out and I enjoy exploring with stamps, washi tapes and various cute tools. But for now, I’m using more traditional medias like pencil colours, brushes, gouache, crayolas, markers, acrilic, paper, pastels, and ecolines. After that, I use a camera to take pictures of my work and then work on it further with Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. I also use the camera on my mobile phone a lot to take a snapshot of any inspiration that I encounter.

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

What or who inspires you and your work?

The best inspiration, I think, comes from the observation of nature. I like to contemplate by looking at the amazing landscape near my home. The river, the pound, the leaves… the sky, the colours of the sunset.

The great masters of painting always are inspirational. I enjoy seeing the paints of Matisse, Klimt, Miro, Monet they do amazing wonders for my heart and soul!

The internet too is an amazing tool to discover lovely people with great ideas! I find a lot of inspiration on Pinterest.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you work? What’s your process?

My process begins when i walk around the mountains. I open my eyes and take in everything around me… I see colours and forms; I close my eyes and feel my emotions. I then take some pictures with my mobile phone. After compiling a number of images I select one or more to do up a quick sketch. These sketches are about quick observation of shapes and colours; but before I begin, I like to think about the title for each art work.

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

When I arrive home, I take my sketch book and I begin to select the colours that I want to incorporate for my new project. When I have the colours all picked out, I then start to think about which tools I could use. After the colour selection, I clean my table and prepare my tools and materials. I like to prepare everything so that I don´t disturb my creative process.

When I do all the above, I feel that this is my moment, and for me it´s very special. I like to work while listening to music, sometimes classic, and sometimes I get in some bossanova or jazz.

I like to let the art flow, each line, each drop, each colour. I work in gouache and mix media, so I enjoy the process of working directly on the surface. It`’s my moment, my space, and my time. When I finish each artwork I usually spend my time appreciating it. Each work has plenty of colours and is intuitive to me.

The next day I take pictures of it, and then make additional amendments through Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator if needed. And when it’s done, I upload this image on to Society6 where it gets to be on various different items!

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

Thank you so much Mafe!

(Images courtesy of Mafe & also from her Instagram account)

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Do you have a project that you’re working on right now that you’d like to share? Or what if you’d like to finally reveal your secret studio in all its glorious messiness once and for all (hey, it’s a place where you create – let’s keep it real!)? I’d love to share your process (nothing’s too messy for us!) with our readers, so do contact us if you’d like to be featured! Also, if you’re on Instagram, tag me (@pikaland) in your photos so that I can scoot on over to take a look!


from Studio Visit: Mafe Hernanda