End of Summer

Wow, it's been far too long. Here's hoping you're having a delightful summer. Mine has certainly flown by, and I'm still trying to collect myself and dive into the season that is generally most productive for me: Autumn.

There's a reason you haven't heard from me in a while. I've spent the past few months settling into a new job as a textile designer for Connecting Threads, a quilting brand in Vancouver, WA. After freelancing full time for over two years, I felt I needed a little more financial stability. It's a tricky thing, navigating the "day job" and maintaining my illustration practice as well. While the pressure is off to nail down the next paycheck, my window of time to create work is significantly narrower. Whether this is coincidence or not, I've also been in a bit of a creative rut, lacking motivation to make things and disliking most of what I did manage to eek out. In the years that I've consciously cultivated my art practice, the "rut" is not a new experience; but it never gets easier. Thankfully I seem to be coming out the other side, or I would probably not be writing you this newsletter.

I do have one very exciting announcement: I've signed a contract for my first full-length picture book!! I'll be sharing more in the coming months, but for now I have to keep it mostly under my hat. The next six months will be a lot of storyboarding, designing characters, and creating final art for the book. I'm so excited to share it with you when it's finished!

It's cloudy and chilly outside the window as I write this, a little hint of the end of summer and a promise of deliciously frosty mornings, turning leaves and evenings by the fire. To those of you who are saying "whoa, hold up, it's still August!" I'm including some very summery illustrations I did for a travel company recently. You're right, the hot season isn't quite over yet. I'll enjoy this down time a little while longer.


Project Spotlight: Alphabet of Acceptance

Well, I am finally putting my nose to grindstone and finishing this project! It's very close to my heart and I want to make it available to you all as soon as humanly possible! In the meantime, you're welcome to order or preorder prints and posters — it will motivate me!

The Alphabet of Acceptance began as a personal project in early summer 2016. It is a way for me to express the anguish I feel at acts of violence due to xenophobia, racism, bigotry, sexism, and general intolerance of others — events that have become increasingly prevalent in the news in the United States and elsewhere.

I began creating one letter a week, each one corresponding to a different word that represented acceptance and understanding. It was a kind of personal reflection, a moment where I could look inside myself and reevaluate my place in the world and the way that I treated others. It was also a challenge: by posting one each week online, I was held accountable to finish all 26 letters — at least 26 weeks committed to this one project.

Since then, the project has sparked conversation, particularly around what its purpose will be once the alphabet is complete. As a result, I’ve decided to compile the finished alphabet into a bound book, which will then be donated to organizations who support children and their wellbeing: hospitals, shelters, libraries, schools. I believe firmly in the potential of education, and perhaps this alphabet can play a small part in teaching the next generation about the importance of understanding each other. I’m currently researching funding for printing costs, and a portion of each print sold is also going towards that fund. Letter Z will be completed in early December, 2017, and my hope is that the book will be able to be printed sometime in the coming year.

Follow the progress of the Alphabet of Acceptance on instagram, and buy or preorder a print or poster on Etsy!


Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee 1960

From the book jacket:

“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel— a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s.

I recently took the opportunity to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird for a client project. It had been 16+ years since I last read it, but I had a vague memory of liking the character Scout, and being pulled almost instantly into the world of Maycomb, Alabama. Since I have Harper Lee’s latest (and only other) novel Go Set a Watchman on my reading list, I wanted to freshen my memory.

I’d forgotten what Lee does best, and why I liked the book so much in the first place: she records human interaction and the fabric of a small town with such clear and subtle observation. The relationships between the people of Maycomb feel incredibly real: the grudges, the romances past, the straight-up honesty that comes from living alongside the same folks, generation after generation. Scout and Jem are both insiders and outsiders in their community — they come from an old, respected family, and they also have a highly educated and radical parent. Atticus Finch is unapologetically compassionate, whip-smart, and doesn’t see the use in hiding truths about the world from his kids.

I feel so attached to Scout in her early girlhood; her love and admiration for her father; her hilarious observations of her brother as he becomes a moody pre-teen; her realization of how girls and women are treated by society. As an adult I love her precocious and curious nature, so skillfully communicated by Lee, who chose to write this book first person from Scout’s point of view.

Repeat readings of a book usually cause me to reflect on the differences between then and now: our experience of a story is affected by our own life experience, our knowledge of the world around us. In fact, I would argue that a good story is one that causes us to reflect on those things, and in this respect, To Kill a Mockingbird succeeds tremendously. It delivers as much wisdom today as it did when it was published in 1960— I actually wish every American would read it now, today, whether it’s again or for the first time. On the other hand, it’s difficult to see why a book like To Kill a Mockingbird was and is an instant and continued success in a deeply divided, classist and racist country like the United States. But perhaps it’s due to Lee’s honest and complete depiction of each of her characters — prejudiced, kind, simple, lazy, old, dirty, mean, poor, gossipy — flawed, each of them, regardless of their status or heritage, and written through the eyes of a child who is still willing to understand those unlike herself. 

At what age, exactly, do we give up trying to do that?