Random holidays that are TOTALLY worth celebrating

Recently I did this survey thing on Facebook where you see what random national holiday falls on your birthday. Mine is National Pasta Day (October 17th) and I couldn't be happier. Well, that got me to thinking about all the other strange holidays we celebrate as a country (some bigger than others), and there is REALLY a holiday for just about every day of the year... and some days there are more than one! When doing all this super technical research (read: procrastinating and goofing off), I came across this list : 12 Totally Random Holidays Every Designer Should Celebrate. The article lists holidays like National Sweatpants Day (Jan 21), Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day (Feb 18), and Drawing Day (May 16), but I've got a few more that I'd like to add to this list. 

Handwriting Day January 23

This is something I'm trying to get better about. When I get to writing too fast, I'm super sloppy. I'm trying to slow down and really concentrate on writing neatly.

Napping Day March 12

Seriously? This is TRULY a holiday I can get behind!
(checking calendar to make sure I'm free this day...)

No Housework Day April 18

Ok, most days are "No Housework Day" for me... but I'll totally celebrate it on April 18th!

Read a Book Day September 6

Again... clearing my calendar for this day! I absolutely LOVE to read and I've got an enormous reading list right now.

International Coffee Day October 1

Ok, I honestly celebrate this every day, but I'll be happy to make this a special holiday!

Author's Day November 1

YAY! I had NO IDEA this was a holiday! ESPECIALLY since my first book, Amazing Alabama, was officially published on November 1, 2017! It was meant-to-be! 

Make a Gift Day December 3

EVERY YEAR I like to sit down with the kiddos and make Christmas gifts. Whether we do it for one person or multiple people on our list - making gifts is something we (I) love to do! This year I'm going to have to start thinking of something SPECIAL to make on "Make a Gift Day". Maybe I'll create a DIY and you can make a gift with me! 

What random holidays do you remember to celebrate each year? Certainly I'm not the only one who can TOTALLY get behind National Inspire Your Heart With Art Day (Jan 31) or National Coloring Book Day (August 2) or Candy Corn Day (Oct 30)... Right?

The business of design

So, this title is totally misleading. I'm no businesswoman. I didn't take any business classes in college. I failed (my only failing grade - but I STILL failed) economics (micro and macro... so maybe that's TWO failing grades - whatever) and only took enough math to suffice for my fine arts degree.

For 15+ years I worked in the corporate design world and my schedule was all laid out for me. Fast forward to the summer of 2016 - I decided to branch out on my own... become my own boss... be a business owner. And not just any business - I wanted to be a work-from-home artist! 

It's incredibly rewarding, but I had no idea how hard it would be to WORK at home.

At least if you go into a place of business, it's understood that you're there to work. When I go into my office at home, there are 50,000,000 (that's a lot of zeros... but totally accurate) distractions throughout the day. The dog needs to go out. The dryer just buzzed. Dinner needs making. The neighbor's dog got out of the backyard fence AGAIN and I've got to go take her home. Oh look - there's the mailman. Dad calls to chat. One of the kids wants a popsicle. I've gotta make lunch. Someone ran through the sprinkler (again) and I need to cover the wood floor in towels so they can change clothes. 

Needless to say, my productivity hasn't been quite what it should've been. 

2 years later - here we are. I'm now in a place where I understand where I'm going wrong and I'm taking baby-steps toward a more productive business model. I'm still no business-virtuoso, but I'm working on it... slowly but surely. One thing I did today was open up my first business checking account. YAY ME! Next, my plan is to get all my business expenses (capital, licenses, software, office supplies, etc.) captured into a financial program like quickbooks or something. I think I'm going to set aside some time this afternoon to research those (as well as the one that I can sign up for through my bank). Any suggestions would be helpful.

I've also been thinking a lot about how to increase productivity. Here are a few things I've written down in my bullet journal (sorry I can't remember where these came from, so I can't credit the OP): 

What other productivity tips-and-tricks do you have? Maybe MY #1 should be to schedule out my ideal day. That way I can account for design time, drawing time, business time (instead of putting THAT part off 'til I've got a mountain of stuff to sift through), and housework time. 

Well hello there!

Remember me? I'm your fun and funky pen-and-ink artist... the one whose ashamed and appalled that it's been TWO MONTHS since posting anything. I know, I know... but I've had quite a busy couple of months launching my new book, Amazing Alabama, traveling all over the place hosting book talks and coloring parties, we moved my stepson and his girlfriend into their new (adorable) little house, we had family here for Thanksgiving, more family for Christmas, celebrating an engagement, more family after Christmas, football (GO DAWGS)... I'm POOPED! 

For now, I'm going to leave you with this little piece of SOLID GOLD!

IMG_9251.JPG

Thankful for November...

If you've been following me on Instagram (@alabama.pen.paper) or on Facebook (Alabama Pen & Paper), you will see that I've been trying to get in the Christmas spirit while listening to carols and drawing up some new Christmas designs for cards, stickers, gift tags, etc. But today I realized that I'm completely overlooking the best holiday of the year - Thanksgiving! 

So to celebrate (and ask the Thanksgiving turkey-gods their forgiveness) - I've created this sweet little FREE Thanksgiving download. Click the image below to download a PDF file and have a super great time coloring! 

Pebble Hill

I'm going to back-track a tiny bit this morning and talk about something incredible that happened last week. On October 26th, Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities (aka: Pebble Hill) hosted my Amazing Alabama book launch party and we really had such a great time! I talked about my childhood growing up NOT in Alabama, my research, gave a few fun facts about Alabama that I learned along the way, we had refreshments, I signed books, and we had a super fun coloring party! There were people in attendance that I knew, people I didn't know, and even a few students who were there for class credit and they were taking notes. NOTES! About what I was saying... about my COLORING BOOK! But it was made even more special by the fact that my Dad and Stepmom and also my Aunt drove 6+ hours to be here for it. 

A HUGE Thank You to Kellie Wilson for taking the great photographs. Not only is she a dear friend, but she's also a really talented photographer!

Amazing Alabama progress pics...

Y'all, I LOVE seeing your gorgeous coloring pictures from Amazing Alabama. It's so exciting to see how much everyone is enjoying coloring in their books. Whether you color with crayons, colored pencils, markers or felt tip pens... I would LOVE to see your beautiful artistry!

Please tag #amazingalabama or @alabama.pen.paper if you post to Instagram or Facebook so I will definitely see your fun colored Amazing Alabama county pages! 

From one artist to another...

I really don't have the words to describe New York. We walked over 45 miles in the 6 days we were there, saw some incredible artwork (more on that in a bit), ate some FABULOUS food, saw some quintessentially "New York" neighborhoods, rode in a yellow taxi, the subway, AND a taxi boat, saw 2 Broadway plays (one of which was actually in the "Broadway Theater"), ordered food from a street cart, got honked at while crossing the street... and that's just the tip of the iceberg! 

Now, being an artist and reading books about art and artists, and studying art and artists, we HAD to hit a few art museums while we were there. We didn't get a chance to go in the Guggenheim - even though we took a picture of it (from the street), but we did go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET) and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and between the 2, I thought I had died and gone to heaven! 

Saturday we went to the MET and we ended up staying 7+ hours and totally closing them down. We were seriously some of the last people in the building and we didn't even see half of everything. From Matisse to Van Gogh (we saw the sunflowers, the cypress, and his SELF PORTRAIT) to Cezanne to Monet, this museum was right up my alley.  When you think it couldn't possibly get any more incredible, we even got to see a Leonardo Da Vinci (I was so in-awe that I didn't get a picture. Sorry.)! Steve was even surprised to find that the MET is the home of Emanuel Gottlieb Leutz' painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware. I must admit, it's a bit surprising to round a corner and see this larger than life (seriously - at least 20 ft wide) painting that you've read about and studied your entire life! It's exhilarating and awe-inspiring, to say the least. 

Wednesday we were flying out at 4:15, so we decided to walk to MOMA before heading to the airport. Once again, I was ASTONISHED by the paintings that are there... Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, Dali, etc. Some of these works were the ACTUAL works that I studied in Art History 101... I definitely had my little freak-out moment when I got to see The Starry Night... 

There were a TON of Picasso paintings at MOMA, but I honestly think I blacked-out from excitement. When I came to, with tears on my cheeks, I was a bit disappointed that this was the only Picasso I managed to take a photo of.

Oh well, I've got them all in my memories.

The city that never sleeps

My 40th Birthday is next week, so my husband suggested we go to New York to celebrate. I'm super excited - neither of us has ever been! We're staying about a block off Central Park and are planning on doing a bunch of touristy stuff (Empire State, Ellis Island, Staten Island Ferry, etc.), but we both have other MUSTS in mind as well. I definitely want to go to the Brooklyn Art Library and the Russian Tea Room, and we also both want to go to the New York Transit Museum.

Steve and I usually plan our trips down to the minute, but we're both kind of flying by the seat of our pants on this one. We have a shared google map with places we'd either like to go or restaurants we can't afford (but will take a selfie in front of anyway) , but other than the few things we definitely want to do, we're open to anything. 

NewYork.signature.jpg

A little partisan debate...

Fall brings with it some wonderful things - October, my birthday, falling leaves, cooler weather, pumpkins, mums, scarves, boots and candy corn. My life is better in the fall when I can easily get my hands on these delicious little orange/yellow/white beauties. In fact, my husband and I have a serious love affair with candy corn mixed with peanuts. Anyway, I resisted as long as I could, but the other day I broke down at Kroger and bought several bags of candy corn and a jar of roasted peanuts. Oh RAPTURE!

Let's count the positives about these beauties:
1) They're like this heavenly miniature bite of Payday candy bars.
2) They look adorable in a little jar on the counter.
3) I don't care to hear any negatives... they're perfect!

That's a jar full of happiness.

The other night I fell asleep on the sofa and Steve, in glorious rapture at being left alone with the blessed jar of candy corns and peanuts, posted something on facebook about them and a very partisan debate ensued. I am extremely shocked and hurt by all the negativity surrounding candy corns. Seriously, what's wrong with people? I don't need that kind of negativity in my life, people!

Candy Corn + Peanuts = Angels singing from above! 

To show my love and support, I am offering another FREEBIE to download and color. Click on the image to download.

Any and all donations to the cause can be made in the form of more candy corns and peanuts (they've got to be roasted)... just shoot me an email and I'll be happy to tell you where to drop them off! 

Happy October!

We live in Alabama, so our 4 seasons aren't as defined as the rest of the country (read: it's shorts-weather for about 8 months out of the year). It's October and the high this week is in the 80's. That doesn't mean I can't LOVE October. Not only is it my birthday month (I'll be the BIG 40 this year), but I get to enjoy things like plaid scarves and hot cocoa and fire pits and falling leaves and pumpkins and boots...

It's been a bit breezy and the humidity has been relatively low the past 2 days, so I wanted to celebrate this special time of year by giving you a free coloring sheet download. 

click the image for a download link:

click the image for a download link:

I might look like an idiot wearing my blanket scarf and jeans this week, but it's October, so I'm just going to crank down the AC and enjoy myself!

Happy Fall, y'all!

a little coloring - food for the soul

There's something cathartic about sitting down with a box of colored pencils to color. Not only does coloring relax the soul, but it's really a wonderful experience to see something come to life on the page in front of you. 

IMG_0221.JPG

Something different altogether is coloring with a child. I wouldn't say that coloring with my 11 year old is exactly RELAXING. Yes, she may ask 50 questions per minute about what color I'm using, or what shade of blue she should use here, or how she should blend this section, but it's definitely a sweet bonding experience.

Last Saturday she woke up and asked me for her very own copy of Amazing Alabama so we could color together. 

Cue the waterworks...

 

So for a large portion of the morning last Saturday, she and I sat on the back porch using my "good colored pencils" and coloring... together... talking... spending time together.

IMG_9450.JPG

Crazy couple of days...

Last week was "week #1"...

Grassroots marketing, sometimes known as guerilla marketing, starts from the ground up. Instead of launching a message you hope will appeal to many people, you target your efforts to a small group and hope the group will spread your message to a much larger audience. Grassroots marketing often uses unconventional or nontraditional methods. Grassroots marketing often costs less than more conventional marketing efforts, but can produce big results.
— www.smallbusiness.chron.com

I have to say, NewSouth Books is an AWESOME indie publisher who knows the value of grassroots marketing. They have come up with some SUPER ideas to promote the book! Last week we started out with an Alabama Living Magazine interview, an interview with Fred Hunter of Absolutely Alabama, and the Good Day Alabama morning show (WRBC Fox6) in Birmingham.

Here I am in the green room (It's actually a GREEN room) at WRBC - waiting to go on Good Day Alabama. Click the above photo for the video.

Here I am in the green room (It's actually a GREEN room) at WRBC - waiting to go on Good Day Alabama. Click the above photo for the video.

After I left WRBC, I headed to the Vestavia Hills Library in the Forest for a kid's after school coloring party! We had so much fun learning about different kinds of colored pencils, gel pens, felt tip pens, hatching/cross hatching, stippling, and we EVEN learned how to turn your Crayola markers into watercolor paints (yes, the paper is thick enough in Amazing Alabama that you can even PAINT in it without bleed-through)!  

IMG_8009.JPG

Toward the end of the week I was in Huntsville at the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism Association's annual meeting at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens. That facility is gorgeous, the grounds are immaculate, and the food was incredible (especially the cupcakes).

IMG_8015.JPG

Community

It's always nice to find a community of like-minded people. In my case, being a work-from-home freelance designer, it's something I've been craving! A creative space with other creatives. Artists and artisans to share ideas with and sell our craft. 

On June 1, 2017, my dream came true.

Welcome to The Local Market in Auburn, AL! Owner and fellow artist, Lauren Duncan, had the same dream I had when she breathed life into this wonderful gallery/marketplace. It's an incredible space filled with artwork, handmade jewelry, clothing, woodwork, pottery, local yarn, farm fresh produce, pickles, paper goods - you name it! All of it is from artists around the great state of Alabama. 

All of us commit to work several hours here-and-there, and it's really fun to see what's new. The Local Market has been a great way to make new friends and learn about other people's craft. 

The Local Market has classes that range from after school painting classes to morning art classes for tots to beginning watercolor to floral arranging, pickle canning, travel journaling, and so much more. There is really something for everyone - beginner to seasoned artist.Last Saturday we had a free coloring party with a custom coloring sheet I did of the Local Market. It was SUCH a great time!

Here is a little of what I have for sale at The Local Market. On November 1, we're having an after school Amazing Alabama book launch party and signing - with lemonade and cookies. I hope to see everyone there! 

Cookie of fortune...

Have you ever thought much about fortune cookies? They're my girls' favorite part of ANY Chinese meal, but did you know they didn't even originate in China? Many people believe they were first made in San Francisco in the early 1900's by Japanese immigrant, Makoto Hagiwara, at The Japanese Tea Garden. However, some historical digging has them dating back MUCH earlier (still in Japan). The NY Times even got into the exciting debate on the origin of the fortune cookie with this fun article


To ward off lower back pain or joint problems, undertake some at-home measures like yoga.
— Hogyokudo

Originally there were only 23 "fortunes" that were largely poetic or self-help in nature. Today there are over 10,000 possible fortunes that you could receive when you finish your Chicken Chow Mein. 

Several months ago, my husband and I opened two crispy cookies after a wonderful meal of General Tso's Chicken and Beef With Broccoli to find these... 

Mine was pretty poignant, seeing as how I'm having my first book published (EEEEEEEEK!), but Steve's is pretty interesting. We wrote the date on the back, so we'll see what happens on 3 months from that date..... Stay tuned!

Pretty big day...

Well, yesterday was a pretty big day around this house. Yesterday I had my very first interview. A reporter for the Alabama News Center came to the house and interviewed me in my studio about my book, Amazing Alabama!  

IMG_6919.JPG

She got to the house, set up her camera, put the wireless mic on me, then started asking questions about the book. I thought I was going to be nervous, but once I got to talking, I forgot about the fact that I was ON CAMERA!

IMG_6925.JPG

In retrospect, I probably should've moved my glass of tea before the interview. Thankfully she said she didn't get much of my desk in the shot. 

The interview should be online by the end of June, so I'll post a link when it's LIVE! EEEEK!

Paper selection...

On Tuesday Maggie and I drove to New South Books in Montgomery to chose and approve paper samples for Amazing Alabama. We came armed with crayola markers, Sharpies, watercolor, gel pens, fine tip felt pens, and a few others mixed in there too. After thoroughly putting that paper through the wringer, we settled on the best choice... just no Sharpies (they have a really high alcohol content and bleed really bad). This was the last piece before my book goes into production. EEEEK! 

That's Chynna (the Graphic Designer in charge of my book), me and Maggie trying our best to destroy some AWESOME paper!

After leaving New South Books, Maggie and I did a little bit of sight-seeing in downtown Montgomery. We went to see the fountain and the clock, and finished up our day at the Rosa Parks Museum.

Index cards as art?

I've tried daily design challenges before, but have never been able to follow through with them for one reason or another. You know the challenges I'm talking about - Draw one specific thing every day in December, or 100 days of hand lettering, or draw something every day for a year. Yeah, in theory those are great. They're all about inspiring creativity and prompting you to make "being creative" a part of your everyday life. Well, that's great... but if you don't keep them up, it doesn't mean a whole lot. 

That's when I stumbled onto the Daisy Yellow website's #ICAD (Index Card A Day) challenge.  

The challenge is about the DOING and not the
KEEPING or PRESERVING or ARCHIVING. 
It is the process of creating each day that matters.
— www.DaisyYellow.com

What you do is you buy a pack of index cards (I got a 100-pack at Target for $0.47) and you draw, paint, collage, doodle, haiku, stamp, sew, color, glue, etc. for 61 days - 1 card per day. 

I'm HOPING to stick with this for the entire 61 days. I'm only 7 days in (I've got plenty of time to create today's design), and I'm going to TRY to post my creations (and some of Maggie's) here for all to see. 

We'll see - fingers crossed.

Introducing Amazing Alabama

I've been working diligently on a project for the past year that I'm super happy to FINALLY be able to talk freely about! 

Amazing Alabama: A Coloring Book Journey Through Alabama's 67 Counties has definitely been a labor of love and I have thoroughly enjoyed driving around the state and researching to find just the right image(s) for each county. Each one of Alabama's 67 counties has its own individual page - full of drawings (about their history, architecture, topography, plants, livestock, etc.) and a little bit about the history of the county. 

Amazing Alabama

I'm working with New South Books based in Montgomery and I'm excited to announce that my book will be available November 1st. Check out the press release here. EEEK!! I have a PRESS RELEASE!! More on how to purchase at a later date, but I know you will be able to purchase from New South's store.

I'm going to leave you with my bio page from the back of Amazing Alabama 

Author bio