Tour of my studio – Part 1

Hey guys, hope you’re enjoying the beginning of the end of this summer weather! Summer is honestly my favorite season – I know it’s in vogue to love fall, but I just love beaches, London lemonades, picnics, bike rides, swimming in the lake, and warmth. In Boston our winters can feel pretty long, so it’s nice to be VERY far away from all that.

Anyway, I thought I’d share some photos of my studio! It’s pretty basic and simple, just took over a spare room where Rob and I work and create things. We’re lucky enough to HAVE a spare room for this – back when I had a tiny apartment, I just carved out a corner of my living room and got really sneaky about storage! So it’s nice to have space now to spread out, and to have all my things in one place! Not have to hunt and dig for art supplies that I swear I have.

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Here it is! Where I do 90% of my work… sitting on the floor. Ha! I’ve just always been a floor sitter from the time I was very small. Feels natural to just plop down on the floor and have a nice big surface to work on. The floor table is an Ikea coffee table called the Lack, which everyone knows from their first-apartment days. However, this big square coffee table has been discontinued! Sucks, because it’s the perfect size. I got this one off craigslist.

You can see Rob’s desk to the left – he actually uses the floor table almost as much as I do. We might end up moving this desk to the basement and getting something smaller to hold office supplies. Far to the back you can see the greatest thing ever: the window seat. It’s HUGE and really comfy – full of pillows. It’s the size (though not the shape) of a queen size bed! Two people could sleep on this fairly comfortably. Also – we built it ourselves with nothing but an electric drill and a hand saw! One of my favorite things about this apartment.

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My typical work setup. Yes, that’s an “ugly Thinkpad”, but don’t knock it. It has a built-in Wacom tablet and the hardware is all completely 100% removable and replaceable. At some point I’ll upgrade, as this one is rather heavy, the resolution isn’t great, and it’s about 5 years old now, but in the meantime it’s working out really well for all my side design work and art. You can see my enormous amounts of pens/pencils – I take all of those with me everywhere. And my notebook with a certain character from a certain game – bonus points if you guess him!

And of course, a cat.

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My buddy, Augustus, in a tiny tiny box. Love this little guy, even if he’s really annoying. He’s been with me since college! He helps me with all my projects, of course, and NEVER ever ever does things like sit on my papers or bat my pens away or step in paint and track it all through the house. He would NEVER do these things. Ever.

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So anyway that’s part 1 of my studio tour! I love seeing people’s live/work spaces, so if you feel like sharing your workplace, please do and let me know!

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Happy birthday to me!

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind. I did the following things:

Celebrated my birthday! Hooray! I’m now the big 2-9!

Whew! I got some AMAZING presents, including a bunch of art books. My brother and his wife flew up for a week so that we could celebrate. It was so fun having them, and we had an amazing time visiting NYC and playing way too much Kingdom Hearts. I didn’t do any art, buuuut I’m finally getting back into the swing of things, and feeling new inspiration from all the books I got!

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In order:

  1. 101 Things to Learn in Art School: Kit White. This book is REALLY good but I’d say borrow it from the library or your friends and just take notes, because it’s a quick read for the money.
  2. Dark Inspirations 1 and 2, published by viction:ary. This is a collection of paintings/sculptures/art for all your inspiration needs. They’re both super great, but if you can only get one, I recommend you get the second one. The selection is just far better. I plan to do a master study from these books (hey, who says the master study has to be by someone who’s dead…?)
  3. How to Sketch People and Plants by Matt Pagett. These books are GREAT if you’re a beginner. They come with sketchpads too to practice the lessons. They’re also funny and really informative. They provide a lot of practice for things like tone/lines/etc, which people always forget about. Drawing isn’t just about drawing a person or a thing, it’s also about the quality of your lines and shading, so these books dedicate some time to those too. Definitely recommended for any level.
  4. Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics. This is the quintessential comic how-to. I’m really excited about this because I’ve had a comic idea brewing in the back of my brain forever. I plan to read this cover to cover, while taking notes, before I start. Can’t wait to dive in.
  5. The A-Z of Visual Ideas. This book is basically a how-to for solving creative briefs. My day job is as a designer, and I’ve been getting more and more into the world of illustration, so this has already come in handy for my day job. It breaks down the most important thing for an artist or designer: BRAINSTORMING. Brainstorming is a skill we are NEVER taught, and one that we’re expected to just “pick up.” The first part of the book is a how-to for brainstorming a creative brief broken down into 16 steps. The second part is an A-Z for inspiration. I have a strong feeling this book is going to be my design bible, and I really want to do a post about brainstorming soon.

Went to NYC and to the Met and the Natural History Museum

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As a Bostonian, I don’t LOVE New York. It’s fine. I like going for some things. But I don’t LOVE it. Still, it was nice to visit and see the Natural History Museum, which I love. My favorite section is the section nobody’s ever in – the dioramas! I did a TON of sketching while I was there, and took a TON of pictures to compile into my inspiration/reference gallery.

Otherwise, we did all the touristy things, which was fine. By the end, though, I was so ready to be home!

Oh, I also bought a giant beanbag from Muji, and managed to sneak it on the train, despite the fact that it took up an entire set of seats!

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Went to Cape Cod with Rob’s family

And apparently took 0 photos while I was there. It was nice to get away… AGAIN. But after just getting back from NYC, I was exhausted.

We did swing by the Curiosity Shop, which I mentioned in my last post. And guess what? I sold 50 stickers in 3 weeks, and it was only open for 4 days a week. That is NUTS. I’m seriously so proud of myself! Now I’m trying to decide what the next steps are for this. Open an Etsy? Try to get a table at a festival? Approach some other local shops to sell my stickers? What do you guys think?

Anyway, it’s been crazy busy! Glad to be home and relaxing though. And it’s time to get back into art!

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Coping with impostor syndrome

View from St. Thomas of beautiful mountains and palm trees
I remember this moment so well, because Rob and I were on vacation in St. Thomas in the Caribbean… and I cried for hours knowing I had to go back to my real job. I was miserable and insecure, and impostor syndrome was hitting me in a huge way (among other things). I didn’t think I was good enough to get any other job… ever. I’m luckily in a better place now!

I’ve been dealing with impostor syndrome my entire life. From as far back as I can remember, I remember feeling terrified of failure, afraid that I wasn’t nearly as good at anything as people thought I was, and insecure in every single way. Impostor syndrome, for those of you who don’t know, is the belief that you’ve fooled everyone so far into thinking you’re as good as you are, but someday someone will find out you’re faking it and you’ll be outed as an impostor. Basically, the belief that you don’t belong, the belief that you can’t do something as well as everyone else.

My day job is a user experience designer, and I’ve been working in the tech industry my entire career. Impostor syndrome is particularly prevalent for women in tech, partly because it’s a high-achieving field, partly because it’s a highly skill-based field, and partly because there’s already the social feeling that women don’t belong. But honestly, it can happen anywhere at any time. I was paranoid in high school about being in advanced classes or doing anything outside my comfort zone!

I’m still struggling with it, but throughout the years I’ve managed to come up with some techniques. I’ve read a lot about impostor syndrome but none of it has really been THAT helpful. Usually articles recommend that you just “believe in yourself,” or “adopt a different mindset,” which isn’t helpful… at all. I mean, sheesh, if it were that easy, then people wouldn’t be so stressed about it! So I’ve compiled a list of things that has definitely helped me.

Push through it

Sometimes, ignoring your fears, buckling down, and just DOING THE WORK is the most helpful thing you can do. You’ve got a deadline, you can’t afford to be afraid. One of the best things that helped me get over myself and do the work was working at a career job, where we had real clients waiting for our work – my work! So I just couldn’t afford to spend any time wallowing.

It involves turning your focus from inwards to outwards. This is really hard sometimes, but as you do it, you’ll build up a list of accomplishments that you can look back on. You can even make a physical list – look at the things you accomplished. It helps so much to make lists of positive feedback you’ve been given, real accomplishments you’ve made, and times where you’ve pulled through despite setbacks. Focusing on the work itself, rather than your feelings, helps you to get things done and build up your confidence.

Start small

When I get overwhelmed, I pick out the tiniest thing I could possibly do… and then I do it. Starting small is advice that many therapists give to people with anxiety, and it works out really well for all kinds of situations (including procrastination). Need to mail out a package? Step one is just organizing what you need for the package – then you can take a break. Step two is getting your box addressed and getting everything inside and taping it shut. Step three is taking it to the post office!

With impostor syndrome, it’s easy to not be able to start because you’re gripped by fear and you feel like everything has to be perfect or else it isn’t worth doing. Doing small things one thing at a time helps you move through your list, so your feeling of accomplishment can overtake your fears.

Help others and forgive the mistakes of others

This is a huge one. Huge. If you’re terrified that everyone thinks you’re doing a bad job, or if you’re terrified that you’re going to be found out as a fraud, but then you treat everyone else’s mistakes with disdain, you’re doing it absolutely wrong. People will treat you the way you treat them, so if you help them through their mistakes, they’ll forgive and forget yours, too.

I used to get horribly defensive anytime I would make a mistake at work. It felt like the end of the world. I’d lash out and make up excuses for why something wasn’t perfect. Honestly, I was probably awful to deal with! But I started making an extra effort to not just tolerate the mistakes of others, but instead helping them to EMBRACE their mistakes, and even encourage mistakes! It’s much easier and more effective, I think, to focus outward on helping out other people and being kind to them, than it is to try to feel more confident and better about yourself all on your own in a vacuum. Helping out other people will make you feel valued, which then will make you feel good. Helping other people work through their mistakes helps me to practice being kinder to myself about my mistakes.

Be humble

Ultimately, impostor syndrome is placing undue emphasis on looking inward instead of living outward. You’re basically expecting yourself to be better than everyone else, more perfect than any other person. If you look at it in a certain light, that’s pretty egotistical, actually. It’s placing so much thought and emphasis on yourself and your ego. Better to acknowledge yourself as a human being, one who succeeds and fails, just like every other human being.

So, when people give you a compliment or a critique, say thank you. When you are successful, remember to thank everyone who made it happen. When you make mistakes, rely on those who love you. And always be humble while doing it – don’t hold yourself to unrealistic standards. Impostor syndrome comes back to me often, but it’s getting easier with every year I practice. I’m slowly gaining confidence in myself and my abilities, and making lots of friends and connections along the way. I’ve come so far in my thought patterns, and I wanted to share a bit about it in the hopes that it will help someone else.

Please share your experiences in the comments!

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