Giving Up: How to Let Go and Let Live

Giving Up: How to Let Go and Let Live

Have you ever thought of giving up?

Let me rephrase that. I don’t mean giving up ENTIRELY (please don’t do that!). No, I’m talking about that fork-in-the-road intervention we all face at strategic points in our lives. Who am I? What is my purpose?

In all honesty, I have had my own “giving up” come-to-Jesus talks with myself many times in the past. Not so much, “What is my purpose?” as, “Why don’t people like meeeee?!” (Or, maybe I just had a mental breakdown and started talking back to the voices in my head. But hey, I’m an artist. We embrace a little bit of insanity.)

So how does giving up work, exactly?

1. Stop being stuck in the past.

With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

giving up - illustration of getting stuck in the pastHere is my origin story of giving up (and finding freedom in doing so):

I began my journey as the kid who doodled all over her books in elementary school, then became the artsy girl in high school drawing anime characters. Finally, I graduated with a Bachelor in Studio Art, the budding artistic professional ready to take on the world. I have worked in graphic design, in preschool as an art teacher, and in all kinds of non-creative jobs scattered in between.

During some of that time, my muse stayed close. We were best friends. I had so many ideas, I thought I may burst if I didn’t get them down on paper.

Long dry spells inevitably followed. Days and weeks went by that saw me plagued with depression and anxiety and a constant struggle to find some sort of self-worth. Nothing I did was good enough. I felt inferior and longed for days past when things weren’t so complicated and hard. Giving up felt easy, but I needed to learn to give up the right things.

We should learn from the past instead of living in it. That way, when those dry spells inevitably return, we can be better prepared to handle them.

2. Give up on unrealistic expectations.

I’ve learned that universal acceptance and appreciation is just an unrealistic goal.
Dan Brown

Giving up - letting go of expectationsLike many times before, I found my footing again at the end of the dark hold of depression and anxiety. From then on I have spent every-possible-moment-since taking advantage of the inspiration. Painstakingly, I create quality content on my social media platforms. That includes making myself more marketable. I work tirelessly to grow my fan-base and extend my empire. Except that my empire is very, very small (really more of a village).

For a while that bothered me. (Okay… if I’m honest with myself, it still bothers me.) But, do you know what? I am learning that when I raise the bar too high, too fast, that’s when I crash and fall. Those unrealistic expectations can be killer to a perfectionist. And I have always been extremely hard on myself.

Which brings me to giving up on whatever measures of success have been ingrained into our brains from day one. So what if I have few followers? Those that do follow me, they are my people, my kindred spirits—they are YOU. And you are more precious to me than gold. Because you are real people who take an interest in what I do. You find value in the work I create (if not, you wouldn’t bother hanging around).

That means so much more than thousands of lukewarm followers who only stick around until the next trendy thing catches their eyes. And at the end of the day, I need to feel that my art means something to someone much more than I need to feel “popular.” If I can touch even one person’s soul, shed light on one dreary day, make only one person smile, I’ll consider my art a success.

3. Let go of what you can’t control.

You may not control all the events that happen to you. But you can decide not to be reduced by them.
Maya Angelou

I have spent years fighting for control. Control over my circumstances. Control over how others perceive me. Things that I can never hope to attain but that I continue to beat myself up over. I cannot force others to like what I do or force others to invest in my work. But I CAN foster relationships and build trust with those who do. Which means creating quality art for quality people, numbers be damned.

Sure, I may not have 100,000 followers. So what if I still have to have a day job on top of my art business? If I focus on the good things, the small wins, I start to realize that I’m pretty lucky—and extremely blessed.

What do you have a hard time giving up on? Let me know in the comments below!

Favorite childhood books: things that inspire

Favorite childhood books: things that inspire

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Everyone treasures those select few favorite childhood books. You know the ones. These books have been read so many times, the binding is cracked and splintered. And, these books came to life when we read them, and the words engraved into the very marrow of our bones. These books hold stories that were our dearest friends, our closest companions, and our solace in many a darker time. Finally, they helped us to escape from the drudgery of life. They became our first loves. And, they taught us how to dream big.

So, what makes us gravitate to certain books more than others?

In all honesty, I have no answer for what makes this book greater than that book and vice versa. I know only that the books I gravitated toward had a tendency to show one or more of the following characteristics:

  • A character I identified with: If I could not find a character to identify with, I put the book down. I have always needed that connection to the story, a person who made me cheer for them, cry with them, feel everything they felt. Otherwise, a story lays flat and wooden to me.
  • Fantasy: Honestly, the more fantastical a story, the more I loved it. Real life can get pretty darn bleak, after all, and I wanted my stories to take me away from real life.
  • Humor: No book is complete without the ability to make me laugh. Sure, most of the time I laugh, then cry, then laugh some more, then get angry… whew. But, while a really good book sends me on one humongous, emotional roller coaster, it needs to make me laugh a lot to make up for it.
  • A happy ending: That’s right folks. No tragedies for this girl (see Fantasy section). Now, don’t get me wrong, I can handle a book where I KNOW there’s going to be some sort of tear-jerk ending (Fault In Our Stars, anyone?). However, I just tend to avoid seeking out those books unless they come HIGHLY recommended (and, to be honest, FIOS is absolutely hilarious, too, so I can forgive the sob fests). That said, I absolutely loathe being blindsided and will hate a book forever if it tricks me with a horrible, dark, tragic ending.

Want to know more?

Then, keep reading my top 5 favorite childhood books:

Check out the slideshow* below:

Just Imagine

favorite childhood books

My all-time favorite picture book, and one of the many reasons I wanted to be an illustrator when I grew up. The rhymes are ridiculous and lovely and chalk full of fantasy – from dragons and fairies to teddy bear knights and beyond – and each illustration captures the reader. Honestly, this book is too perfect for words.

Sadly, this one is out of print, but it can be purchased used and, to me, is worth so worth every penny!

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winnie the pooh book coverAnother huge favorite. I have always loved the sketchy, soft quality of the original illustrations. The stories are sweet, whimsical — and the characters, beloved. I loved these stories so much that I have always vowed my first nursery would be a Classic Pooh theme. Sadly, that hasn’t been possible, but it doesn’t keep me from having my own little collection of keepsakes. 😉

“Since 1926, Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends—Piglet, Owl, Tigger, and the ever doleful Eeyore—have endured as the unforgettable creations of A.A. Milne, who wrote this book for his son, Christopher Robin, and Ernest H. Shepard, who lovingly gave Pooh and his companions shape. These characters and their stories are timeless treasures of childhood that continue to speak to all of us with the kind of freshness and heart that distinguishes true storytelling.”

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True Story of the 3 Little Pigs

I remember winning this book at my elementary school, and it was an immediate favorite. The story made me laugh out loud, but the illustrations really drew me in and made me love it. It’s such a silly premise that I would be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t enjoy it.

“In this… clever fracture fairy tale picture book that twists point of view and perspective, young readers will finally hear the other side of the story of ‘The Three Little Pigs.'”

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Anne of Green Gables

I consider Anne of Green Gables another classic series. The story follows a young orphan girl through life, from finding a family, to finding friends, to finding love and beyond. It warms the heart, has all the whimsy a girl like me could ask for, and has been read by me more times than I can count. Those characters are MY kindred spirits.

“Favorites for nearly 100 years, these classic novels follow the adventures of the spirited redhead Anne Shirley, who comes to stay at Green Gables and wins the hearts of everyone she meets.”

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Chronicles of Narnia

Last, but CERTAINLY not least – C .S. Lewis tops my chart of all-time-favorite authors. I’ve read about everything he’s written twice and three-times over, this series most of all. I cannot say enough good things about it, from the character development to the breathtaking description and the poetic way Lewis writes. You aren’t dragged into the story – you go willingly, excitedly, through that wardrobe and into an amazing world where things aren’t always what they seem.

“C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia has captivated readers of all ages for over sixty years, enchanting them with fantastical talking creatures, epic battles between good and evil, and magical doorways into new lands.”

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As I mentioned before, these are only a small sampling of my favorites. After all, I was a huge bookworm growing up so to really delve into all of the books who touched me in some way throughout my childhood — well, we’d be here a long, long time. 🙂

Now that I’ve shared my favorite childhood books, tell me, what are yours? I’d love to know! Just write them in the comments below.

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20 awesome songs to spark creativity (a.k.a. my current playlist)

I have a rather eclectic taste in music.

(There. You’ve been warned.)

Seriously, though. Where lots of people I know tend to gravitate to specific genres as a whole, my ears cross many boundaries. I have my favorites: alternative and grunge, blues, jazz, big-band/swing always top the list. (I told you. Eclectic.) But, I also love many pop songs, country and “southern-fried” rock, hard rock/heavy metal, and some rap (mostly old school, though. Let’s not get crazy.)

Did I miss any genres? Because, honestly, I’m sure I’ve got a few favorites in other areas, as well. Like, Indie Rock. Okay, what’s the deal with Indie Rock? Don’t get me wrong. I seriously love it. But, it’s like Alternative’s not-quite-rock younger sibling. It wants to be rock(ish), it really does, and it tries so hard…

Sorry. Getting off track. Playlists! That’s what we’re talking about today. As you can see by my mostly coherent ramblings above, what I listen to varies greatly on my mood, or what type of art I am creating, or what I am writing. So, I have compiled a list of 20 songs that really get my creative juices flowing. Or, I just really like to listen to them. Anyway, without further ado:

20 awesome songs to spark creativity!

(I’ve also added a link to the song’s official YouTube video, if one exists.)

  1. Left Hand Free (alt-J)
  2. Trip Switch (Nothing but Thieves)
  3. Take Me to Church (Hozier)
  4. Julep (Punch Brothers)
  5. Heathens (twenty one pilots)
  6. Someday, Baby (R.L. Burnside)
  7. I Feel a Sin Comin’ On (Pistol Annies)
  8. Ex’s and Oh’s (Elle King)
  9. Hell No (Ingrid Michaelson)
  10. In Chains (Shaman’s Harvest)
  11. Hades Pleads (Parker Millsap)
  12. Circadian Rhythm (Silversun Pickups)
  13. Lydia (Highly Suspect)
  14. The Sound of Silence (Disturbed – though I also love the original!)
  15. Hide Away (Daya)
  16. Let it Go (James Bay)
  17. Drag Me Down (One Direction)
  18. Me Too (Meghan Trainor)
  19. It Has Begun (Starset)
  20. Hayloft (Nickel Creek)

And, there you have it! I’ll probably have a completely new one for you next month, but for now – enjoy! Don’t forget to let me know what songs are YOUR favorite to listen to for creativity!

Art chose me: a look at why I do what I do

When it comes to art, I never really had any other option. It chose me. From my very first breath, it grabbed hold, wove itself into the very fiber of my being. As soon as I could hold a crayon in my chubby little grasp, I have been drawing.

Yes, art chose me. But I chose illustration.

My childhood gave me the chance to dream of all sorts of different careers. A nurse (that didn’t last long), a musician, an animator. Finally, in college, I settled on a degree in Studio Art, with a focus in graphic design. I enjoyed the way design allowed me to use my art as a way to communicate and draw people in. Graphic design allowed me to move into a full-time career of development (a bit of a jump away from the art field, I know, but I have mentioned I am also a huge geek!) — but always, my passion has been to illustrate.

Why picture books?

Simply, I love children. Growing up, I was always the child who mothered the others in her class. I often played the mom every time we dressed up. Later, I stayed behind to assist with children’s church when the rest of my friends moved up to youth group. In youth group, I stayed behind to become a youth leader. During college, I worked at my church’s preschool center, when led me to an art teacher position at a preschool for a year on the east coast.

So, for me, marrying art and my love for children seemed natural. Not only do I love art, but I love telling stories (both with words and with pictures). Illustration always seemed the have that perfect combination.

No matter what I choose as my career, no matter what path life takes me down, I know in my heart I will always be an artist.

What it’s really like to live with an artist

My husband is a saint.

(Just don’t tell him I say so – I’ll deny everything.)

Seriously though, I can’t really imagine how someone so left-brained, so… logical can put up with the whirlwind that is my existence. We have this little joke that the inside of his head is a tiny Hitler screaming at everyone in German. (I’ve been told my sense of humor is rather dark. I apologize in advance.)

In turn, he quips that I am the butterfly girl from Blind Melon’s “No Rain” music video, dancing aimlessly through a field of wildflowers. If you have no idea what that music video is (do they still do music videos?), then I am happy to present, for your viewing pleasure, “No Rain” by Blind Melon. You’re welcome.

(Random side note – that girl does look remarkably like me as a child.)

So, back to the joys of living with a creative, right-brained, artistic individual (that is to say: me, individually. I make no claims that all other artists are exactly like me. That would be weird.).

How accurate is my Dear Husband (DH) on his assessment of me? Let me count the ways:

A compilation of my husband and my various alter-egos.

A compilation of my husband and my various alter-egos.

  • My DH will often (daily) find me standing in the middle of the room with a vacant look on my face, lost in my own thoughts. (And forever frustrated that I wonder why I am always running late).
  • No day ends without the question, “Have you seen my phone?” being asked (out loud, by me, in intense frustration) at least hourly. I have once left my phone in between the top lip of our freezer drawer and the bottom lip of the refrigerator door. (There is photographic evidence.)
  • I will begin conversations in my head, continue them out loud, and expect DH to follow along. Usually, I get a blank have-you-lost-your-mind stare.
  • I take forever to get to the point of a story. I blame creative writing classes. (Backstory, people!)
  • My moods change without notice, and often.
  • Too many fragmented, unfinished thoughts run through my head before I jump to the next ones. This makes me a bit scatterbrained.
  • I am insanely stubborn. To the point of obsession.
  • I am selectively OCD. Things visually can drive me crazy, but I will “walk over a pile of dirty laundry to fix a blind that is one centimeter off.” (DH’s words)
  • I cry at least once at every Disney movie. Ever.
  • (Have I mentioned I’m emotional?)
  • I love naps.
  • Shiny objects distract me.
  • (Like, really emotional.)
  • I overthink everything. No lie. I will stare at something I’ve created until I hate it.
  • I am passionate. (Another word for emotional.)
  • Most things I do are spontaneous scattered rather than goal-oriented.

(And, yikes, that’s only a quick snapshot! )

What do you think – is this list fairly accurate of a creative individual? Feel free to add any other “artistic” descriptions in the comments below!


Color blind: the art of love

Heart in Ishihara color blind test plate

I want to be color blind.

Probably a strange thing for an artist to claim, to want to lack the ability to see colors correctly. I do not mean this in the literal sense. To be color-blind has two different connotations and I can see color just fine. I have no desire to lose that ability.

But, I do want to be color blind.

color blind

adjective | col·or–blind | \-ˌblīnd\
: unable to see the difference between certain colors
: treating people of different skin colors equally

I cannot in good conscience say that I am truly color-blind, as much as I would like to. Prejudice runs rampant in our society — whether it be toward race, socioeconomic status, sexuality, religion… the list goes on and on. No one person is truly color-blind. We all judge (and have been judged by) others.

We can easily say that we are accepting of others, but it is much more difficult to act upon in a world where opinions are given more freely than any other time in history (thanks to the internet and social media). Behind the anonymity of a computer screen, we become the world’s biggest critics. We condemn. We spew words of hatred, words meant to divide and tear down. We fear what we do not understand, and fear leads to hatred. Hatred leads to violence and pain.

In light of all of the horrible acts that are being committed in the world today (the Orlando shooting of the Pulse nightclub, police-on-civilian brutality, civilian-on-police brutality, ISIS attacks across the globe), I feel compelled to look inward. I like to think I am a good person. I give to charity. I feel empathy toward those who are suffering. But, I can do more. I can be better. I can do my part to end the cycle.

Because, when does it end? Where does it stop? Who will be the ones to say: enough is enough?

Enough with hatred.

Enough with blame.

Enough with division.

It stops when we quit feeding the monster. Focus instead on love, acceptance, and compassion. Love your neighbor. Three small words. One powerful and unyielding command.

It does NOT state: Love your neighbor IF…

  • Love your neighbor IF he makes as much money as you.
  • Love your neighbor IF she has the same skin color.
  • Love your neighbor IF his love is heterosexual.
  • Love your neighbor IF her beliefs are the same as yours.

It simply states:

  • Love.
  • Your.
  • Neighbor.

No exceptions. No excuses.

Now is the time to act. Stop feeding the hatred. Stop feeding this sense of “me vs. them.” We are all in this together. We are all on this planet together. We are all striving to make this world a better place for our children, and our children’s children.

Love is the reason.

Love is the answer.

Just love. ♥

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