Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The good kind of busy!

©Holly DeWolf 

"Let's stop the glorification of busy." - Guy Kawasaki 

They say it's bad to stretch yourself too thin. They say it's bad to be busy all the time. But what if you are just constantly doing things that you love? All this busyness is not bad if you find yourself enjoying it so much that it does not feel like work.  

I'm not a big fan of saying "I'm busy" all the time. It's one of those overused words we hear all to often. Instead, I pair words like 'being productive' and 'getting stuff done.' 

Procrastination on the other hand, feels like your busy getting nothing done. So when the sock drawer gets organized after you've caught up on your favourite shows, that deadline is still there waiting for you. That work beacon will not stop until you give in and get it done. 

Then there are the crazy days when the busyness diverts us away from what we like to do. When it starts to affect my sleep or downtime that's when I call a time out. Nothing derails me from being productive then not getting enough sleep. And yes, I believe in naps. I use them as a tool to recharge my busy brain. Mixing my day with kids, work, household duties and rest breaks means I do not get as much done as I'd like. On the other hand, I cannot compare myself to other illustrators or writers either. I wont. I have a different life. I have a different lifestyle that comes with my own needs.  

At some point as adults we need to make peace with being busy. It’s part of being in this world. Some see it as an excuse. Others see it as comfortable avoidance. Then there are the rest of us that see it as something we have to constantly manage and accept.  

It's so easy to get sucked into things that we do not enjoy. We all have to make a living. It's important to be busy having fun too. We are so hardwired to think we need to hustle and work our asses off so we can get everything we want. I agree with working hard but I also believe there will be a price to pay on the road to that kind of success. Hustling is good if you're enjoying life while enjoying what you do at the same time. It comes down to balance because it's never going to be 100%. 

Lately, I have been eating, sleeping, and breathing ideas. But I am my ideas. It is all that I do outside of being Mum to my kids along with the daily household duties that come with that. Things are what they are. 

One of the most powerful things I've ever read while in University was from the Tao Of Pooh on the theory of 'busy, be back soon' thinking:

"Our Busy Backson religions, sciences, and business ethics have tried their hardest to convince us that there is a Great Reward waiting for us somewhere, and that what we have to do is spend our lives working like lunatics to catch up with it. Whether its up in the sky, behind the next molecule, or in the executive suite, it's somehow always farther along than we are--just down the road, on the other side of the world, past the moon, beyond the stars..."

The idea is, the Bisy Backsons never reach their des­tin­a­tion. 

That's why I think the expression, "Get busy living, or get busy dying" is so powerful. We have to live a little to make this adult life work. Without a personal reward or having something to look forward to means we are just punching in and punching out. We are then just busy being busy! 

I think happiness is a destination. I believe having a career and loving what you make is a destination. I also know that in order to get to those destinations we must take care of ourselves. We do not know how long we have. So, what is this destination? It's whatever you see and plan for yourself in the future. To me, it's not a palatial estate or a house full of stuff. It's balance, happiness, raising happy kids, contribution, education and of course a good body of work that I am proud of. Knowing I worked hard while enjoying the ride is definitely the right kind of busy for me!  

Here are some great articles that you may like: 

“Say, Pooh, why aren’t you busy?” I said.

“Because it’s a nice day,” said Pooh.

Friday, February 6, 2015

What Working At Home Is Really Like!

Recently I came across a photo online depicting a typical work day in bed with the kids. The photo had beautiful lighting. The hotel styled bedding looked hardly ruffled or messed. The bedroom was and tidy immaculate. They kids were dolled up and working quietly away on their side of the King side bed. 

It was a fantastic photo. It could have been used in a magazine. 

But as I sat in my bed looking at that photo, I couldn’t help but laugh a little. This photo was so unrealistic to me. Let’s face it, when freelancers work at home with the kids, our houses are anything but immaculate! 

Lifestyle blogs and Pinterest spotlight photos like this showcasing how to live beautifully & organized. Supposedly they work at home with kids but everything is just too strangely perfect. 

Meanwhile, in my little corner of the world, my house is busy. I have two kids and I have worked at home for many years. When I say busy, I mean things get done & things get made. Games are played. The WiiU gets loud from Mario Cart. The TV has a cartoon on and another and so on. Drawings get made. There are sometimes dishes in the sink. And my bed might still have books and papers on it.  

I don’t do perfect. I prefer a house with toys, books, pictures on the wall, a fridge gallery, mismatched things, antiques with a history and a story to tell. I like colour, collections and stripes. I keep it interesting because I don’t do boring either. 

I should mention that when I went to art school I did in fact, take photography too. I could create these stunning welcoming photos depicting a life of wondrous work at home splendour. But I don’t nor do I have the time. Although it is true illustrators live in a world of ideas and a type of visual make believe, I do not need my house to look that way. Simply put, my house is lived in. I do love galleries. I don’t wish to live in one. 

Living where you work has a unique give and take dynamic. Working at home goes against the typical career structure. Our commutes are quick. Our breaks include throwing the laundry on and taking out the garbage. We set our own schedules. We sleep sometimes. Eating lunch during our work day is often scheduled or forgotten. Tea and coffee are a warm comforting friend on the frustrating days and helps us to keep going on the others. Our wardrobe is comfort casual from jeans to pj's. We live with distractions here, there and everywhere. We send out promotions and emails as we look for new projects while working on the ones we have. We promote online that should take 20 minutes but leads to a 2 hour mind melt! We start the morning with intentions of getting it all done. We get half of it done. We go to bed eventually and do it all over again the next day. 

Bissell has a great slogan that says it like it is-"Life is messy. Clean it up!” I tell my kids this often to encourage them to clean as they go. If I didn’t there would be trails of paper, pencils, toys and clothes everywhere. Living where you work is a progression and an exercise in patience. Perhaps our illustrator work at home slogan could be-"Working at home is messy. Embrace the imperfection and get back to work!” 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My favourite illustration things!

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." - Arthur Ashe 

Dr. PH Martins Bleed proof white-
This is the best paint to use along with gouache. It is a true white. Don't let the small jar size size fool you. This jar lasts a long time and if it dries out, you can re-work with some water. 

• Loose leaf-
I keep a heaping pile on my desk not only for myself but for the kids too. It's one of those basic things I use that is helpful for quick notes, doodles that is inexpensive to use. 

Black Gold brushes-
I cannot express how good these brushes are when it comes to getting a clean line and the longevity of brush life. 

• Windsor & Newton Gouache-
This is my favourite paint. The pigment and quality can't be beat. They're a little pricey but they last awhile. 

Sennheiser headphones
Long days at my desk are best accompanied with good music or a really great podcast. For the moments I need to drift off because the kids are noisy or the cartoons, WiiU, or the minecraft music is making me sleepy, these bad boys really help! 

Obus forme back support-
This back roll for my chair has been the best thing ever. Last year I threw my back out twice and recovery was challenging. Now I've incorporated better seating, yoga, exercise plus having this back support. It's worked wonders! 

• A great view with natural light- 
Living in a valley that faces the Kennebecasis River has its advantages. 

Staedtler mechanical pencil-
I love this pencil. It's slim and has the right weight. It's my pencil of choice for sketching out ideas and it's great on tracing paper. 

• Tracing paper-
I use this as much as loose leaf. It's the best for sketching and layering ideas. Invest in a good brand such as Canson that will stand up to erasing.  

• Desk toys- 
Distraction, misdirection and fiddling is good for the stressful days and to give your eyes a break. 

• Having a cat- 
I don't know how I got by without my little boy Toby. He is a great distraction, foot warmer and office buddy. 

What are yours? 

Monday, January 26, 2015

I don't want to finish everything.

©Holly DeWolf- warm up sketch

"Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials." - Lin Yutang
I leave things undone. 

I never used to. 
I was once one of those freelancers that had a long list of to-do's and did everything I could to finish everything that was jotted down. When I didn't, I felt disappointed. 

"When you let go of what trying to get more of what you don't really need – which is what most of us spend our lives trying to get more of – an enormous amount of energy is freed up to make a difference with what you have. When you make a difference with what you have – it expands." - Lynne Twist

As we become seasoned illustrators we want more than our projects- we want moments of creative freedom, we want to work on what matters to us and have a life! We also want to sleep every once and a while and wear big people clothes. We want to leave the creative bubble to go outside with people and breathe in fresh air and see the sun too. 

I stopped apologizing for being a busy parent long ago. I do not want to take on everything nor do I want to work 14 hours a day. I cannot always take on quick turn around projects. For some illustrators that schedule works and for the rest of us, we balance it all the best we can. No apologies required. 

"Art is never finished, only abandoned." -Leonard da Vinci

I'm a firm believer that if you're finished then you're all done! I don't ever want that infinite imagination loop to ever stop. Because of that, I shelve projects and ideas often. I think its my way of storing ideas while constantly having something in the creative bank to look forward too. I never throw away a hint, a nudge or a notion. They're way too valuable to ignore! 

"Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things… I am tempted to think that perhaps there are no little things."
- Bruce Barton

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The fine art of blowing up the new year!

©Holly DeWolf 

New Years is a good time to clear the slate. If there's no change then it's business as usual and for many of us that does not sound like we are progressing. But we are often resistant. We trudge along hoping the usual things will suddenly get better and change on their on. 

"Suffering usually relates to wanting things to be different from the way they are.” -Allan Lokos

I think there is something very fitting in blowing up the new year. Fireworks and champagne corks aside (even though both are great), I'm talking about blowing up routines. To be more specific, destroying and redesigning our comfort zones.

January is moving along at a fast pace as it usually does. I've already accomplished at exploding many things. In true human fashion, I almost chickened out a couple of times, I wavered, I swerved, I questioned my ideas and I felt nervous about the outcome. I talked myself out of it and then back into again then finally set out to do what had to be done. 

Talk about a long process! 

Ahhh, but I was reminded this is a 40 something response. And supposedly this is what your supposed to do at this point in life. But I think there is a big difference. It's not a freak out, a bug out, or a melt down per se. It's what they call that 40's style confidence, instead.  

It goes something like this: We now know how to make our own decisions. Our gut knows more than we do so we listen better. Our flaws and mistakes are actually assets. We know the power behind asking for what we want. We take no shit but we cannot hide from our feelings either. We know what's right. We know who we are so we've done this and done that and we will do more. Being in the middle means we can stay the course or change the creative program. We do not owe anyone any explanations about who we are. 

There's safety in sandwiches. I love that expression because I always get a "huh" and "what does that mean" type response. Being in the middle is not so bad. It's neither hot nor cold. It's warm. It's neither old or young. It's the middle stage. To make it visual, it's the creamy peanut butter and jam filling!  

This year I'd like to shake up my schedule, my routines, habits, and not be too comfortable while doing this and that and doing more. 

I really never imagined as kid that it would take so long to get things done as an adult. I never saw the whole picture back then-just the end results from very busy big people. Clearly, as an adult life and work is still a mysterious process that has no end. It helps to have reminders to help along the ride. 

1. Opposites are so attractive. 
I'm starting to be believe Seinfeld was onto something during the episode when George discovers doing the opposite gets him what he wants. What a surprise! Conclusion: our fears can be jerks! 

2. You're gut is your guide! 
It's good to say no but do you notice we talk ourselves out of yes's and agree to annoying things because we feel politely obligated? Conclusion: Saying yes lets you try new things. Saying no saves your brain and saves you so much time. 

3. No more excuses! 
Excuses are so habit forming that often we forget we're doing it. Conclusion: Making excuses is not a virus but they often spread like one. Pay attention to what your avoiding.  

4. Keep your bull-shit filter on at all times.
As we grow and learn we can spot nonsense a mile away and that is a good thing and a bad thing. Conclusion: know the difference but filter it because there no end to the madness.

5. Expectations can fool us. 
Life throws many curve balls and veers us off track daily, monthly and yearly. 
Conclusion: have a plan but allow room for the random stuff too. 

6. We are all winging it! 
Let's call all this this mess making experiments. Conclusion: we're all amateurs but the good news is, we can do it confidently! 

7. Negotiation is learned. 
As a freelancer this is a regular challenge that comes with time. It's not about winning all the time, it's not a fight and it's never perfect. Conclusion: eventually it becomes mutual meeting of the minds where both parties need to get something out of the deal. Freelancing after all is about building relationships and not about taking the money and running back to the studio.  

8. Evaluate the rules.
We impose rules on ourselves that we've learned growing up and from day to day living. Conclusion: Deviating from the rules opens up the hand of thought. 

9. Time moves REALLy fast! 
Really really pay attention to how you use time and how much time your wasting each day. Conclusion: decide what is work time and what is downtime. Resting and relaxing is not wasteful but playing Mario cart for 4 hours could be. 

10. Daydreams and distractions are good!  
Really pay attention to where your mind goes when you daydream. Conclusion: focus on what your brain is telling you. It says more than you think!

11. People are not really paying attention as much as you thought. 
People do not notice mistakes, downsides, or if you haven't posted on twitter for 5 days. Conclusion: MUM was right. We blow up our mistakes larger than they are, not everyone else!  

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Making something from nothing.

© Holly DeWolf

Making something from nothing REALLY is an unrecognized skill!

I've had many conversations with folks who are not in my industry describing the hidden world that happens between creative point A and creative point B. I like these conversations because it's a reminder to think about the process. These secret concentrated steps involve long hours, lots of coffee and so much experimentation. It's the magic that makes us illustrators and it really is an uncelebrated skill. 

Think about everything a creative mind can make in a run of a day, a week, a month and year. Out of all of this effort produces a few projects that actually pay. The rest is a learning experience. All that extra stuff is set aside or used for other things. Making things daily is never a waste.

Typically, the final project gets the all the fame and recognition. We are so hardwired to focus on the end result that we forget to thrive and exist in the moment. When we do, we know we are progressing and contributing to this world however small it may feel sometimes. This commitment to making something from nothing is a do-it-yourself lifestyle that many misunderstand and sometimes envy. In the end, we follow our ideas because it's a path we really enjoy getting lost on every single day!  

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Knowledge And New Years!

Like many, I've always thought that having a list of plans was the best way to jump start the New Year. My intention list I methodically created many times got lost on a very busy desk only to be rediscovered later on during that year. It always resulted in a disappointed feeling that time passed without successfully completed anything in January, February and so on and so on...

Lately I've celebrated New Year's with a big pile of shiny new books for 3 years now. This was an accidental tradition that has now become a habit. You have to admit, learning stuff is not a bad way to ring in 2015!

So many books so little time... and money! I discovered that ordering them early and setting them aside was a good hoarding technique. I research some, randomly pick others and find some on sale.  

It's never my intention to read all these books at once, but to savour ideas, jot notes and take snippets from parts of books. Believe me, I'd love to just stop and read for more than 20 minutes at a time but life, kids and the pursuit of continual work always takes the focus. 

Sometimes that 20 minutes is all I need. The benefits come with a break, a fresh brain, a good word or an idea to focus on, a mood shift, or a great new perspective I learn about myself. There's always something good that comes out of reading.   

What's on the list so far: 

• 2015 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market

• 2015 Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market 

Media Writing: a practical introduction- by Craig Batty & Sandra Cain

The True Secret of Writing- by Natalie Goldberg 

The Art Of Non-Conformity- by Chris Guillebreau 

The Design Entrepreneur- by Steven Heller & Lita Talarico 

Punk Marketing- by Richard Laermer

Packaging Your Crafts- by Viola E. Sutanto

And for fun and inspiration, Vintage Patterns from the 1950'sby Marnie Fogg

Where do I find my books?

Book Depot
My local library

I wish you a very successful, happy and healthy New Year! Happy creating! 
~ Holly