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An Informal Poll

…of my family members shows me that most of them would prefer buying ready-made products. This is one of the reasons I made a move to have a second, independent shop on my website. While Etsy has the advantage of a large audience, it isn’t in the spirit of Etsy to sell commercially produced products as the mainstay of an Etsy Shop.

I did, however, post one of my Pitbull Life shirts to see what would happen. I’m just leaving it there for anyone to find, but not advertising it like I would my other listings. It’s an experiment.

I’m not sure yet what will do well in my shop. I do have some data on website traffic, but until I get some actual buyers, it’s pretty hard to know where to focus. So I keep doing what I like and hopefully that means someone else will like it too.

I ordered myself a shirt so I can see the quality for myself. Printful offers a few options in terms of technique. If I don’t like the quality, I can restrict what I offer to the products they make with only certain techniques. To shorten the story, I’ve heard of, and seen, some pretty shoddy examples of Direct-to-Garment printing, and I don’t want to offer it if the price isn’t right for the quality. I do know that many of the apparel choices are from Bella Canvas which is much higher quality than the Gildan brand and thus worth the extra money to buy.

As always, still learning, still journeying.

Take it easy and remember to smile!

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Never Poorer, Never Happier

I started a new job at a craft store. It’s minimum wage, but at the same time I’ve never been happier. This is the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had in my life! I stock shelves, and help people buy craft items. I get to use my general knowledge of crafting along side my organizational skills. As a result, I have a lot more creative energy outside of work.

I started painting again. I chose watercolor because it’s a little less messy and doesn’t require heavy chemicals (terpenoid, for example, although I love oil paint too). It started after watching way too much Bob Ross on YouTube. I want to do oil painting too and try the Bob Ross technique, but maybe in the future. I bought some new paint and brushes. They are nothing fancy – value grade, somewhere between student and artist quality – but they let me be creative.

This creative journey I’ve been on for the past 11 months has been crazy, fun, and terrible all at once. I thought I wanted to be a designer. I think my biggest take away from this latest turn of events is this: don’t try so hard to make something happen since any kind of hard work I put in will be rewarded one way or another. I never know what to expect. I’m terrible at predicting my future. It’s better right now to let it flow.

Take it easy and remember to smile!

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Accomplished

What a great day! Work went great! And now I’m prepping for my 1 yr wedding anniversary with a trip to Savannah, GA. I’m feeling more comfortable as a someone in charge of production. I get to use all of my skills.

I have a new chance at being me. I can work digitally and physically. It’s not 3D printing or anything, but stores need window decals right? Company cars need logos on them. Truck drivers need to comply with DOT regulations and have their business license information on their trucks. Little girls need copies of their favorite shirt that accidentally got stained and ruined. Schools need branded uniforms. There’s a lot I get to see and do. Most graphic designers never work physically with printers and produce what they are designing. It’s an asset to my skills that I know how logos are used in the real world.

Trust me. If you need a logo get it in vector format as well as .jpg or .png. It will save you money down the road to have a vectors file that can be made as big or as small as you want! You could hire me – shameless plug- to make your logo because my pricing comes with any and all formats you could ever need. If you’ve read my blog you know what my qualifications are. 😉

Take it easy and remember to smile!

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Be Positive (Sometimes)

It was brought to my attention that perhaps I’ve made my experiences sound like I have a nightmare job. I didn’t mean it that way at all. I’ve had more good weeks than bad ones, but sometimes the good weeks go by the wayside because I’m too busy to try about them. If I hated my job, I wouldn’t stay. I’ve learned a lot and I have a positive future outlook overall. 

I’m also trying to focus more on my own creative work. You’ve  probably noticed a little of it. More “ads” and a new banner and brand. I’ve learned tons about branding at my day job. I think it’s made me a better designer for it. That’s ultimately why I agreed to work there in the first place, and why I stay despite some of what I’ve experienced. 

These are my experiences. I’ve learned from it. Maybe others will too. There is no blame here. If anything my job has gotten better and it means I can dedicate more time to my personal pursuits.

I finally got around to entering a contest on 99designs. Yay! I’ll share that design soon. My concept of a good logo has changed. I think it’s for the better too! 

Take it easy and remember to smile. 

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To Make or not to Make?

I hate Shakespeare’s work. I mean I only like adaptations. Sometimes the stories are good, but the language gets in the way. I don’t have time to sit down and watch something where the words are ones I know, but they are in such a convoluted and poetic order that I can’t understand the meaning of them. What does this have to do with design? That’s a good question with an interesting answer. Stay tuned!

I basically went to college to learn the language of visual arts and how to create them. Now, in my job, I’m learning the language of making. How to measure and make things with my hands that are physically present. I like it, and I enjoy the thrill of a hard job well done. But, I also love to create designs. I wish I was the designer and not the maker. I realize these two areas are not exclusive. Doing both is a boon most designers don’t ever get to experience. It’s possible to do both on a tiny, individual scale. Do you need a casual party invitation designed? Less than 100 printed? That’s great! I can do that myself on a home printer and it will be more custom and less work for you than buying a premade set from a store.

I like my job, but do I want to do it forever? I don’t know. Do I hate it as much as I hate Shakespeare? Nope. Certainly not. I can live with this and be happy I dare say!

Take it easy, and remember to smile!

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Eureka!

For my family and friends, it comes as no surprise that one of my sources of creative inspiration is Walt Disney. More specifically, the animation and otherwise artistry of the Studio and Parks is, in my opinion, some of the best work ever done, anywhere in the world. Glowing review right? I don’t work for Disney. 🙁 I’m just not that caliber. At least I’m not yet. 

Inspiration is a funny thing though. Where does copying end and new creation begin? If you trace over a drawing or picture at the start does that mean the end result, no matter how different, is nonetheless still a copy? I personally think the answer is no. I’m not talking about just changing a color or replicating the exact original in a different style (although that can be it’s own work of art, much more of a grey area legally and ethically). For my vector art, I often start with a photo and work it up into something new that sets it apart from a photo. Sometimes I combine photos to get a certain unfindable angle or unique pose. I hardly ever use all the details, and many times I end up running my lines through filters to get a certain type of line. Check out the example below. 


Believe it not, this Phoenix started life as a photo of a vulture. A lot of the work went into making the usually smooth feathers look more like flames. Picking and choosing where the gradients fall is a big part of this illustration too. There are both red and yellow lines to contrast the gradients and, of course, the head is entirely red to stand out from the brightly-hot chest area that I imagined would be the hottest. 

So is tracing really a cheat and a way of copying? When does a tracing of a vulture stop being a tracing of a vulture?

What about the question of collaboration on something like an animated movie? In the following YouTube clip, Walt Disney explains how sometimes and artist has to forgo their preferred style to mesh with other artists in the studio, but on their own they take the same tree and paint 4 very different pieces of art from it. This is why Walt Disney is my biggest inspiration. 

4 Artists, One Tree

Take it easy and remember to smile. 

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Le Sigh

I feel stupid a LOT these days. Maybe I needed a lesson in humility. I don’t think I know everything, but I don’t like discovering I’ve done something wrong that could have been prevented by better training or or own creativity in problem solving. Some days, though, I feel like an ignorant child. 

I want to learn new things. That’s the good part of all this. New skills means more marketable when I’m ready to find a new job. I’m not goo any everything. I’ll never been a jack of all trades. But I can try my best and do what I can. I don’t think I ever want to run my own print shop, but working in one shows me how my work might someday be used so I can avoid designs that won’t look good after printing. 

As for the things I feel stupid about, it’s not as bad as I make it sounds. How I feel is true, but it’s not like these are Earth-shattering mistakes. The business isn’t going to fold because of it or anything. I don’t think I’m that important! With a little luck and hard work I’ll be able to teach someone else to do what I do so no one will ever have to go through what I did!
Take it easy and remember to smile. 

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Time Travels Towards…

…what? I have no idea. I wanted to use alliteration and that’s what came to mind.  I haven’t written much in the past two weeks for two reasons. For one, my job makes me stressed out enough that I have not been able to put the work in for freelancing. For two, my time has been sucked away by looking for an apartment and moving. My official move-in date is August 25th. It’s not likely anything is going to change until then. 

It feels horrible. I’ve been trying to submit proposals on Upwork and do at least one contest entry per week to keep up my practice. I haven’t landed any other freelance jobs and I know that’s because I barely put in 5 hours per week. I haven’t advertised on social media either. 

So that changes today. I must, at least, attempt 1 social media posting per week with a link to my Upwork profile. Posts from me will always be scheduled to drop at 6am to maximize the possibility that people will see it by chance. Here’s to hope for the future. 

Take it easy and remember to smile. 

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Indescribable Inertia

I grew up in a house. My parents owned houses my entire life. When I turned 30 I was finally able to move out with my then-boyfriend to a very nice 1-bedroom in Wheaton, IL. It was a lucky find and I love it here. I don’t want to move away from Wheaton. But there’s nothing we can afford but studio apartments, which would be a huge step down in room for us. 

It should be air in the wind compared to the journey I’m on trying to work full time and make time to freelance. It’s stressful with so much up in the air in the next 3 weeks. I’m doing my best, but I’m floundering a little right now. I’m being pulled in different directions and the net force feels like zero, but I know I’ll still keep moving one way or another. 

I managed to send out a proposal for a job on Upwork.com tonight. That felt nice. I’m also trying to make a t-shirt design for my husband. On top of that, my husband won some plane tickets at work. While that’s nice that we have a flight to use sometime between now and next February, it’s really hard to even think about that. It’s the final straw on the camel’s back. I want to focus on work, our lives, and my own happiness. Trip planning will have to wait until September. 

Take it easy and remember to smile. 

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Credit Where Due

I had an epiphany today. I was working on a job at work and started doing corrections to make the result polished when I noticed that some of the details were rather ugly ok a logo. The designer had clearly used Image Trace in Illustrator. It wasn’t the worst I’ve ever seen, but I did a better job in less than 10 minutes. I think that extra 5-8 minutes I spent on it are the difference between good and great. 10 minutes is the equivalent of $0.16 under my own pay scale. The business is not losing money by taking the time to do the job right. Even if no one would have noticed the curves and bobbles of the Image Trace, you don’t want to give the the opportunity to either.

I guess all of the above depends on the complexity of the work to be done. Maybe I’d use Image Trace for a photo or complex logo and only fix the bare minimum if it was going to take, say, an hour, or $10, of my time. I have had to use Image Trace for a photo simply because the original wasn’t big enough for me to use. Usually, however, I make it look like it’s a bit pixelated anyway so it looks like a raster, what most people expect from a digital photo. 

I try to avoid Image Trace on the whole unless I’m looking to clean up or stylize something. For example, I have a drawing in pen or pencil. I want the lines to be black and crisp and the whites to be transparent. Image Trace is perfect for that! You can set it so that you only have black and white and then play with the threshold and minimum area size in order to clean up some lines or make sure some fainter ones are traced properly. It’s a good idea to expand an Image Trace before editing it. Expanding the result allows for editing individual points. I’ve also used the Path > Simplify option to further clean up needlessly complex results. It’s an art in itself. 

Take it easy and remember to smile.