The end of the year is here, and for our family, that means a little time with family for Christmas. Since the husband’s deployed, I’m going to count myself lucky enough that we at least have some extended family close enough to visit for the holidays.
The end of the year always gets me thinking a little about the year behind me. This was a bit of a bumpy year for our family, but all told–it really could have been SO MUCH WORSE. I really don’t consider myself an eternal optimist (I call myself an “optimistic pessimist”), but whenever I’m low, I try my hardest to look around for the good things, no matter how small, and if you really take the time to look, they’re all around you. The fact that you’re even breathing is just ONE small gift. It helps to stop and get some perspective on that now and then.
Myla and I have done so many projects and drawings and activities this past year, it wonderful to stop & look at it all over. Sometimes, during my day, I actually stop and look around, and take a minute to enjoy the things around me–paintings we’ve done, sculptures done by friends, artwork from others, cards, books, dolls, toys, and little cutout scraps of paper from Myla’s crafts. I’m grateful for all of it.
This next year, I plan to continue creating. Maybe doing more shows (I’ve got my eye on you, Designer Con!). Maybe doing more custom pieces. Who know what the next year will bring?!
I’ve been flipping through pictures of older portraits I’ve done, and I’m inspired again by some past work–especially in these machine-stitched portraits I used to do. Maybe I’ll do more of those, and offer customs….
In any case, I know it sounds goofy, but I truly am grateful for everything. In the darkest times, in the happiest times, I’m grateful for everything I have, everyone I know, everything I can do. I’m glad for the very good friends I have, even if they’re always far away on the map. I’m glad for the support of my husband, even from thousands of miles away. And I’m glad for YOU! For the fact that you’re even reading this!
I don’t like to set resolutions at the new year (to me, resolutions are for whenever you want to make them)…but I’m looking at a goal this next year of trying to figure out how to maybe have these doodles or sculptures or whatever it is that we do, do some good in the world. I’m not quite sure how. I’m still working on that. There are still a lot of changes to make, and I’m ready to see what sorts of transformations this new year will make.
Being a military family, we’re exposed to so much variety–we have such diversity in our lives that we can celebrate so many types of people around us, no matter what their gender, their politics, their lifestyle, because when you break it down, we’re all just people. (Remember that guy in Muppets Take Manhattan? He said,”peoples is peoples.”)
The important thing is that we CAN be different. We CAN show small kindnesses to one another, despite our differences. I want to make sure we share that, and spread it around a little. You might not be able to change the world all at once, but if you can do some good for someone, that kindness is absolutely contagious.
So I’ll leave you with a little drawing Myla did of our family, in a card she sent to her dad. Here’s wishing you all great things for the new year!!!
I am not good at selling myself. I’m horrible.
You might say, “wait, don’t you WORK in marketing??” And I would respond with “I am a graphic artist. I just put together eye-catching imagery.”
Once, after I got out of the army, I had a job where I had to call up existing clients and offer to schedule them for their yearly meetings. It was the closest thing to a telemarketer I had ever been (even though it was for EXISTING clients who probably NEEDED to schedule their yearly appointments), and I was often treated as one. I hated it. When they were short with me or shoot me down, my attitude was, “Oh. Okay, then.” Way to make that hard sell, Mica!
I’ve SEEN people be good at it, and it’s sort of amazing to watch. I was once a graphic artist for an auto ad sales department, and worked with some amazing salesmen who could pull out the charm and still talk you into something you’d be happy to have, and not in a sleazy way, but in a “Oh! This would be a great deal for BOTH of us!” sort of way. It always felt genuine, even though you know it was a sell. It was always impressive to see.
I am not one of those people that even knows how that works.
There’s a quote I quite like, by psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott, that says: “Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.” I like that. It makes a LOT of sense to me. It’s very true for me. I am an introvert, but I want to connect with like-minded (and sometimes different-minded) people. I have no desire to be “famous,” but I’d LOVE to share my work with a lot of people. If you ask my opinion on something, I will tell you everything I feel–until then, I keep it to myself for the most part.
This does not mean I am shy, by any means. I have learned to hold my own in my interactions with complete strangers. I just don’t grow in the spotlight. (I’m a little more like moss that way.)
But from time to time, even though I think I have tooted my own horn a-plenty, I still get asked, “do you sell your artwork?” and “do you have a book/t-shirts/prints?”
I do speak a lot better about something when I’m truly proud of it, or if I truly want to share my opinion. So I thought I’d share a bit about what I feel is awesome, and what I’m proud of. I’m going to tell you what I have for sale, where to find it, and what it’s like…
1. THE BOOK
I am VERY proud of the book we made. Thanks to so many backers on Kickstarter, I was able to put together and print the collection of our collaborations. It tells the story of how our collaborations began, how we do our doodles, and even has some doodle pages you can finish yourself. You can buy copies of “Share With Me” here.
We even had enough funding to print a little animal book of short stories I called “Tail Tales,” which you can buy here.
Both of these books are very near & dear to me. Not only do I think it’s amazing to see all the artwork Myla & I did together, I worked tirelessly putting them together myself, laying them out, sorting the files, and it’s wonderful to see all that work turn into something beautiful in the end.
1. SOCIETY6 ITEMS
When I first posted the “Collaborations” story, I put a few of our collaborations up on Society6. I had seen a friend’s work posted on there, and tried it out myself by ordering one before I ever made the post. Their art prints are beautiful, printed on very nice archival paper. The color is beautiful, and I found them to be a VERY close representation of the original artwork. (First off, let me say that I don’t get any of this stuff for free; I have to pay for it myself, just with only a slight discount.) So I’ll tell you a little more about the other items they offer there:
Their mugs are BEAUTIFUL! The color is excellent, and the printing is so clear. Once, I got a mug that was great except for the signature, and the lower part of the mug, which was completely smeared. I took a photo, sent it to them, and they sent a new one right away. I have a couple that I mostly keep pens & paintbrushes in…
The printing is so cool and clear on them. The big one is BIGGGG. I bring it with me to Myla’s gymnastics class. At first, I felt it was a little TOO big, but the more I use it, it’s just right. It’s one of my favorites to carry around. I initially thought the small one seemed a little TOO small, but actually, I can fit my sketchbook, Ipad, and quite a few other things in there. It’s not bad when you just want to carry a few things around without taking up too much room. (If you promise not to tell, I’ll let you all know that I plan on giving a tote or two as teacher gifts…)
The pillows are nice! We have quite a few of them, thrown all over the house, because I couldn’t decide which ones I wanted. They’re sort of a canvas-y material, and they’re quite stiff at first, but they do soften up after awhile. Myla even uses one to sleep on at night. I changed it out once, thinking it was too rough for her, but she asked for it back once she realized it was gone.
Okay, let me say this. Their t-shirts (at least the three I tried) are SOFT. That being said, I’m not quite as crazy about the printing style they use. It comes looking nearly faded, and I have gotten a few comments about the quality. One of mine was actually stuck to itself, which tore part of the design. When I contacted them, they did give me a full refund. If a faded sort of look and a VERY soft shirt is what you’re looking for, that’s what they’ve got. (I now only offer just a few on Society6).
My favorite t-shirts, however, are on RedBubble…
2. REDBUBBLE ITEMS
I was contacted by RedBubble awhile back to give their store a try. I had gotten many requests like this from a variety of companies, but I had seen quite a few good things come from them. However, since my original “Collaborations” post was already linked to Society 6, I couldn’t just migrate to RedBubble. So I released a few t-shirt options (and at the time, they were the only ones that offered children’s sizes), and an exclusive listing of our ABC animals. I also posted our other animal collaborations there. They have the option of little die-cut stickers, but my favorite thing from them is their t-shirts.
This is Myla in her “Lizapillar” shirt. The shirt itself is a regular, well-fitting shirt, but the design is SO bright and true to our colors. We’ve washed it many times, and it still looks bright and beautiful.
3. MY NEW ETSY SHOP
If you’re looking for a strange, handmade gift, this is where I’m throwing those down. I’ve been having SO much fun making little handpainted resin monster necklaces, monster brooches, and handmade monster puppy dolls.
Also listed is a pretty wide assortment of original artwork. These are drawings and paintings from my own sketchbooks that desperately need a home, and that want to look at you lovingly from a behind a frame on the walls in your house.
…So there it is. Self-promotion. Something I’m not entirely great at, but hopefully you will take it for what it’s worth: me, just wanting to share something with you that I hope you will enjoy. Or that maybe you might think someone else will enjoy. Not in any kind of shady way, but in a “I like this stuff. If you like this stuff, here’s where to find it” sort of way.
Thank you all so much, and have a happy day!
A word of warning: This post is a little long, but it has a point. Hang in there.
Christmas is weird. It’s a strange time for a parent, and strange time for a kid. What you believe and don’t believe? Now THAT is the question. My parents always taught me that Santa was more about an idea, a spirit of giving. That there WAS a St. Nick, but now we sort of carry on the magic and spread the love around. And all that jazz.
(Now it’s a bit of a hike to get from Santa to building a gnome house, but please stick around and follow me, here…)
I always felt weird about flat-out lying about a big man sneaking into our house in the middle of the night (bringing toys or not)…especially since my husband’s deployed and she’s ALREADY worried about “strangers.” I found it hard to sell that when it didn’t really make a whole lot of sense, did it? I couldn’t really ever get into the “Elf on the Shelf” idea for the same reason.
So when our VERY practical daughter asked me about Santa, I told her the same thing my parents did. And she was silent. Which usually means she’s mulling it over. So I wasn’t surprised when later she asked the same thing: “Is Santa real?” I got the feeling that she wasn’t happy with my previous explanation, so I tried again in the same way, adding an explanation that it’s fun to PRETEND that he’s real. She silently mulled it over once more, and still later asked me again: “Some kids at school say that Santa is NOT real. Is that right?”
Finally, torn between explaining the real story of Santa and going along with a “lie,” I asked her: “Well, what do YOU believe?” And she thought about it awhile, very seriously contemplating it, and finally said firmly, “I think he’s real.” “Okay,” I said. “Then he’s real.” I’m not sure she entirely convinced herself, but she enjoyed the idea.
The Santa Debate brought questions of other anomalies. “Are fairies real? Are aliens real? Witches? What about gnomes?” To each I would respond, “I don’t know—you know, I’ve never SEEN one, so I don’t know if they’re real or not. But what do YOU believe?” She asked me about the kids at school, and I said, “People believe all kinds of things. And since nobody knows for sure, then nobody is wrong. You believe what you believe, and you let other people believe what they believe.”
So somehow, we got on the topic of gnomes.
I told her a story about how when I was a kid, my parents took my sister and I on a walk in the woods, and my dad helped us construct a little bridge across a tiny stream with sticks and dental floss. Days later, when we came back to check on it, someone had left a note saying, “Thanks, good job!” We joked that the gnomes had left it. Our daughter loved that story, and suggested we build a gnome house and that maybe if we did, they’d come visit US. I sort of agreed to it, but didn’t think much else about it, dismissing it as one of the hundreds of project ideas she has in any given hour. But days later, and she was still persistent.
So we built a gnome house.
It was a fun little project, and we got all our supplies on a quick visit to the craft store. She was excited picking out stickers and decorative things to go along with it. I went the easy route and started with those pre-made papier-mache houses you find at the craft store for $5. While she happily decorated it with markered gnomes, I hot-glued sticks and fake plants to the roof.
She drew all over the outside, and filled the inside with a doodled Christmas tree (probably influenced by the fact that ours is still up. Don’t judge.) and other stickers & doodles. And the front door was headed by a cute little “painting gnome.”
We put some of her dollhouse furniture in it. She put tomatoes in it “for dinner,” she said. And we tucked the little gnome house into the corner of our back porch, to protect it from the rain, since we don’t have any trees around.
(Side note: That little garden gnome in the picture above is actually a weird little terracotta gnome I got at Ikea ages ago. It came plain, but I painted to look like the gnomes from the Gnome Book. The book Gnomes was a favorite of mine as a kid. It explained gnomes in a realistic way, and fit them into our world as if they WERE real.)
Later, that evening, I threw out the little tomatoes, partly to see if she’d notice, and partly so our little food-hungry dog wouldn’t tear the gnome house up trying to get to them. It all reminded me a little of the Dinovember post that was going around a while back.
When she saw them this afternoon, she was excited. And I was excited for her. “GNOMES! I didn’t know we could really have GNOMES!” But honestly, I’m pretty sure she didn’t believe it. I suspect she’s enjoying just playing along…
And I’m not sure if I want to run with it, or just sort of let her in on the fun of pretending….
I don’t want to totally LIE to our kid—she’s always known us to be able to give her straight answers on nearly any topic imaginable. But I don’t want to rob her of that magical fun stuff that makes up being a kid. Her world hasn’t been completely defined by reality yet—for all she knows, there ARE such things as horses with wings or giants. Why not gnomes? After all, we’re all free to believe what we want, right?
It happens. I understand. Things get hectic, and you inevitably forget someone on your gift list. And the teachers! What about the teachers?!? Well, I have a habit of making many of my gifts myself (when time permits), and have learned a few pointers that will help you give them a personal touch, even if time is running out.
1. Something Wooden. In any craft store or section, there’s usually a decent selection of random wooden things. Grab a sharpie, get to doodling, then spray it with gloss varnish to set it.
If you’ve got a little more time, you can paint it in a little more detail with acrylics, or decoupage some little graphics onto it. Doodle some final touches with a permanent marker or paint pens, and you’re good to go!
Got a new baby in town that you need a creative gift for? Give your kid free reign with some permanent markers (hey–be careful with those!) on a package of plain onesies and it makes a cute (and wearable) keepsake. (These are ones our daughter did for her new baby cousin.)
You could also personalize it with some iron-on transfers or shapes you made yourself…(I did a blog post about it ages ago).
3. Embroidery Hoop T-shirt Art. SUPER easy. Take some favorite old “retired” t-shirts, cut ’em up, and stretch them across some embroidery hoops to hang on the wall. Voila! Fancy wall art!
4. Cup Cozy. With some iron-on appliques or your own brand of embroidery work, a quick little cup cozy is a nice touch around the office (at least, I hope my manager thinks so). They even have pre-made base parts in some crafty places. Wrap it around a reuseable coffee cup with a button hook or velcro, and toss in a gift card, or a few packets of tea.
5. Shrinky Jewelry. A good gift for a loved one. We love shrinky art. But what do you do with all those wonderful little doodles? You can make these doodle chimes. Or drill some tiny holes in them and hook them up to a ready-made charm bracelet.
6. A Quick Little Doll. I’m not sure, but most kids like dolls, don’t they? Mine does. If you’re skilled with the sewing of things, a quick little doll can be made with a little bit of fabric and some easy shapes. I made this little brachiosaurus in just a couple of hours. I probably wouldn’t turn to me if I needed help with the basics of sewing, but if you can handle your own, this is a quick & easy gift to make that kids should like.
7. Drill a Hole in a Dinosaur. Okay, I found this on Pinterest somewhere. I got an inexpensive little plastic dinosaur toy & used my Dremel tool to cut his back out, filled him with dirt and put a little mint plant inside. Easy peasy!
8. Turn a Watch into a Locket. Got a little more time? Find a used watch or order a cute crafty-looking one. Take the back apart (just go with it–I had to experiment myself) and replace all the guts with a cute little photo of your intended person’s family, pet, or special something-or-other.
9. Something Edible. If baking’s your thing, you could make all kinds of fantastic, wonderful, edible things. I’m not so good at that sort of thing, but I know an edible thing is nearly always appreciated (as long as you’re aware of someone’s possible allergies or food restrictions). This is an owl cake I made for our daughter’s 3rd birthday. Okay, I’m not suggesting you make someone a full-on CAKE, but if baking is your thing, I’m sure you already have ALL sorts of wonderful, edible ideas. We made cookies for the local firefighters, and they were so happy to have us stop by, that they didn’t even notice (or care) that I pretty much stink at making decent cookies.
10. Fill Up A Cup. This is an easy go-to I like to do for teachers or friends. Find a cute cup (OH! Look! This one happens to be from the shop of our collaboration doodles! Um. Yeah, a lot of people might be seeing those for Christmas this year…). Anyway, fill up the cup with a handful of chocolate kisses or candies, a pen and a notepad, and show your teacher how much you appreciate them!
So there you have it! Just a few little easy ideas for some last-minute gifts. I hope it helps if you’re in a pinch. I know most of my friends and family have personally already seen half the things on this list, or gotten them as gifts already. If not….well….Keep an eye out, you’ll probably see them THIS year, too. Not because I waited til the last minute….but BECAUSE I CARE! 🙂
And since I’ll be out of the loop and full of all kinds of good cheer next week, here’s wishing you all happy holidays, everyone! And my fingers crossed for another very happy new year…