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The Inspiration Book

Something useful that I always like to keep on hand when going through the creative process is my inspiration book. Over time, I've clipped photos, graphics, type treatments, textures and patterns from magazines and have archived them in a small notebook. It's always growing and is always changing. Some pages are just words, this is great for getting typography ideas or for brainstorms when you're looking for just the right word. A few of the pages are just plain ugly and don't have the flow I intended while others are perfectly laid out with tons of beautiful ideas. This is just a fun, simple, cost efficient way to overcome creative block and always have something hands-on to flip through to get the juices flowing.

Life Lessons for a Creative Person, Part 1

I'm titling this "Part 1" because I like to think that there will be more posts talking about stuff I have learned from other artists and designers. It's interesting hearing another artist's story. Some people were born artists. They came out of the womb with a paintbrush in hand and heroically failed math and science in a "I genuinely only care about art class" kind of way. Others have tried everything else before giving in to being an artist. Maybe it's the reputation that artists historically have crazy personalities and live a life of poverty and hardship that have made them hesitant to succumb to the title. Or maybe because they just didn't know yet.

Which brings me to the heart of this post. I recently attended a discussion by artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon at Nevada Museum of Art. The talk covered an incredible balance of business logistics, personal experiences and creativity; something especially helpful for a full-time 9-5er running freelance on the weekends and squeezing in some painting and crafting somewhere in between. Of all of the wonderful things she spoke about, though, the thing that stood out to me the most was how stunningly accidental her successful career as an artist seemed to be. It started with a casual Friday night painting class and turned into a vast professional portfolio consisting of everything from wallpaper to book covers. If there was one major take-away for me, it's that this was a good reminder to always keep growing as an artist and stay true to your style, no matter what. The rest will come on its own. If we're lucky, the reward will be a life of doing work that we can be proud of and maybe even being able to afford an Airstream someday.

The key to happiness: handmade paper

Sometimes after a long, hard day, the only person you can rely on to put a smile on your face is...crafts. A few weeks ago I bought a paper making kit. It was intimidating. I opened the box and set its contents on my desk, read the directions and said "well, that's nice." Every night, I lay awake in bed. I can feel it staring at me. Judging.

A stack of paper scraps and old brown paper bags piled up in my craft corner along with the long list of projects I wanted to complete with my (non-existent) handmade paper. All I needed to do was bridge the gap. And that I did. I felt like a witch mixing up potions; it was amazing. I blended old paper, chocolate bar wrappers, dried flowers...anything I felt like. My first go at it was pretty terrible, it turned out more like anorexic cardboard with a heroin problem. But nobody's perfect. Not even cardboard.

After a decent batch, I went to the paints and stamps and made all of my wildest craft dreams come true. On a few versions, I worked on staining the paper with watercolors; it's debatable if that was a great idea but it got me excited to experiment with different approaches.

Thank you, handmade paper, for putting a smile on my face today.  I love you.

 

 

Shameless Self-Promotion and the SIA Tradeshow

Shameless Self-Promotion and the SIA Tradeshow

 

One of my favorite industry events has always been the SIA Tradeshow. Skis, snowboards, hardgoods, softgoods, parties, seminars and of course, networking. While I have attended the show in the past, this year is sort of a big deal for me. One of my clients, Shaggy's Copper Country Skis, is showcasing at CRAFT @ SIA; for years it has been a dream for me to see my designs at this show and it's finally happening.

In preparation, I thought it would be a good opportunity to make some new connections in the industry and really have the chance to show off my design work. With that, my latest project has been a pocket-sized 5"x5" self-promo piece complete with resume, portfolio, business card and a short bio to show off my stunningly unique personality. I look forward to handing it out to potential clients and other creatives to share my work.

I've been neglecting self-promotion, it's always been hard for me. I've always preferred modesty, but this is not the place for modesty, I've learned that much.The more time I spend in my field, the more I understand that if you don't promote your work and show people what you can do that no one else is going to do it for you. As an artist, it's okay to show off; in fact, you pretty much have to. Hence the "Shameless Self-Promotion" part. There are more and more talented graphic designers every year, which means there is more competition to get the gigs you want on the terms that work for you. Adding value to yourself and to your work is the best thing you can do for your career as a creative professional.

If you're in Denver this week, stop by SIA booth 4437 and see the 2014-2015 line-up of Shaggy's Skis with topsheets designed with love by yours truly.

 

 

One Way Ticket to Texture Town

One Way Ticket to Texture Town

Textures can be a great way to add depth and excitement to a design. The thing is, all well versed designers can recognize an attempt to add texture using a generic filter or default brush treatment with their eyes closed. Which means, chances are, your client and any observant member of the general public may be starting to catch on, too. Going with my recent theme of being more hands-on to increase creativity, working up some homemade textures can help give your designs a one-of-a-kind look. I really geeked out on this one, using general household goods (and garbage) to see what I could come up with.

 

Petals from flowers I killed: I placed the petals onto some packing tape and used my brayer to roll it with paint and transfer it to paper. Then I scanned it in.

Petals from flowers I killed: I placed the petals onto some packing tape and used my brayer to roll it with paint and transfer it to paper. Then I scanned it in.
Banana peel: I ate a banana and then cut apart the peel and, again, rolled the outside with some red paint and transferred it to some paper.
Sand on tape from my “serenity garden”: This one was a borderline #fail, but, you never know.
Lint roller: This one actually turned out pretty good. The example I’m providing is a little lame, bit I just used the lint roller texture over a creepy photo I took at Bode State Park to make it look like a scene from Blair Witch Project. In real life, I will use it for something cooler. I hope.

These are just a few samples of how something simple that you use everyday could be used in design. And…it’s true, some of these might look pretty boring or useless, but when placed in the right design, could make a huge difference and change the look of a design completely.

So, just glance around your office, desk, room, (or in my case, it’s all three of these things in one), and just find three things that you could use in a design. Scan in a sock. Cut off a leaf from your ficus. Zoom in on the seeds of a strawberry. Cool graphics are everywhere; it’s just a matter of thinking beyond what’s typical. You can do it.

Printmaking for Toddlers and Other Humans Without a Press

 

I took printmaking in college, my work was definitely sub-par and I got ink on almost everything I owned. But it made me a more well-rounded designer in the end. My teacher was an eclectic, mid-fifty-something woman, hopelessly devoted to art and her students. She was sweet as sugar and found beauty in even the ugliest mistake of an art project (all of mine). I left the class feeling like I took away what I needed and needed what I took away, but I was frustrated that I had completely butchered the art of printmaking, which I have always had such an appreciation for.

Five years later, after moving to Tahoe and struggling with the usual "I need to meet people" mentality, I decided to sign up for a class at Lake Tahoe Community College and give printmaking another try. While my class was mostly mid-life crisis moms and unfairly talented teenagers, the class was good for me in an artistic sense, I learned some new techniques and perfected some old ones. It was far more successful that my first round. Again, my teacher was an eclectic, mid-fifty-something woman, hopelessly devoted to art and her students. But she was tough as nails and while she may not have known it, she made me push myself to succeed at the things I wasn't quite ready to develop as a 19-year-old Kendall student. I'll post my work from the class sometime, but let's stay on track today.

One thing I picked up in this class was the "art" of rubber stamp-making, it was something that I could easily do at home without any heavy equipment or chemicals. Now, usually when I think of "stamps" I think of toddlers and hardcore scrapbookers, but if you do it right, it actually looks kind of cool. It looks like a real printmaking project. Above is an example of a recent stamp project I completed for some birthday cards.

Want to get your stamp on? Here are some tips:

1) Buy some rubber printing blocks either online from Blick, or, if you live near an art/craft store, that's always easier. They come in different size blocks and are easy to cut to size with an Exacto.

2) Get yourself some carving tools, I have this handy Speedball Linoleum Cutter, it comes with six different attachments and it can be used on a variety of materials.

3) You'll need an ink pad or a rubber brayer and some paints to color the stamp.

4) You'll also need fun paper. Try printing on cut up brown paper bags, tissue paper or any other unique paper you find. It really adds to the design verses just printing on white paper.

5) And a cool design, drawn on the rubber first (with pencil), then carved out of the rubber with your new Speedball tool. Keep it simple with very few lines your first time. And remember, if you're using letters or words...reverse it!

6) From here, you can stamp on like a toddler.

It's pretty fun to play with different papers, inks and techniques. You can also choose to subtract more from your rubber stamp after you've printed a few times to modify your design and make it look different. If you're looking for a good afternoon hands-on project, give stamps a try. They're not just for toddlers.

Have fun!

My HOW Design Conference Resolution

 

Earlier this week, I attended HOW Design Live in San Francisco. It was my first design conference and one that I've wanted to go to since I became a designer. I was pretty floored when my boss okay'd the travel for the conference, I guess it made me realize just how much my company really does appreciate my talent and that they care to see me grow as a creative person. Of course, I'm sure they're also eager to reap the benefits of my fresh, recharged creative mind.

I could probably write a whole post giving you a full recap of each session I attended at HOW (I took really good notes), instead, I'm going to talk about the aftermath; the  actions I plan to take as a result of going to the conference. It's easy to say we all experienced creative influence from the speakers, case studies, upcoming  technology and new creative friends. We're all excited about the new connections we've made and perhaps a shiny business card from a potential client or employer. But the truth is, it's easy to get home and feel like sh*t because we're so overwhelmed with great ideas and inspiration that we don't know what to do next. We know we have to do SOMETHING besides return to the status quo we were obtaining before the conference, because otherwise...there's no point in going to the conference or maybe even being a designer, really.

Here are four things I can't wait to implement into my routine to step up my game:

- Blog once a week: When I think about how easy this is and how many times I've told myself I'm going to do it and then don't...I feel like a total loser. Blogging isn't that hard, hell, in second grade I used to write in a journal EVERY DAY. And people actually read it! Given, it was my teacher who was paid to read it, the point is, there was writing and thinking and self-reflection happening every day. Each week I will write about art, design, branding, advertising, anything that I encounter that I think is interesting. I don't care if you think it's interesting. Well, maybe.

- Do something creative for ME: Crafting, a personal art project, baking some sort of awesome new cake (or something), etc. It doesn't have to be good or right or even have a purpose, but it gets me moving and thinking away from a computer and using my hands. If there was one main theme I took away from the conference, it's that we need to take a step back and get to the roots of our creativity. Creativity not Adobe Illustrator or researching logos on the internet; it's the goold ole fashioned juice flowing inside our brains.

- Share more ideas: Working as the sole in-house designer, it can be intimidating sitting in a room of brilliant, well-rounded marketers with a long list of outstanding big ideas. It can be easy to sit back quietly and wait for them to tell you the next steps in execution after they've landed on the big pitch. But, that's a good way to feel useless, I am supposed to be one of the truly creative ones, right? I have good ideas, it's time to share what's being pent up in this special little brain of mine.

- Ask for more feedback: Again, being an in-house designer, I often hear "you're the designer, do what looks good" or "we trust your direction". This is great, for awhile. Until I realize that I have no idea if anyone actually has an opinion on the work I'm creating, or if they're just happy that it's not something someone had to "design" in Microsof Word. I've made it too easy on my team, and have been missing out on a critical step of the design process...FEEDBACK. And, dare I say it, criticism. This could potentially lead to lack of creativity thus letting my work become boring and practically invisible. Starting immediately, I will be putting myself through the wringer on all of my projects, just to make sure I'm doing the best work I can. And more importantly, to make sure I stay out of the bubble of unrealistic, happy designer land where I think I'm the sh*t.

 

Stay tuned for updates, friends. And if it looks like I'm falling off the blog wagon, feel free to crack the digital whip.

Tahoe Snowcial: For Skiers with Jobs

Back in September, we started planning for the 5th Annual Snowcial conference. There were weekly status calls, impressively long e-mail chains, and a handful of logistical ups and downs. When February 27th finally arrived, I had no idea what to expect. During the welcome reception, well-dressed entrepreneurs entered the venue along side flannel-wearing, trucker hat heros; all with plenty enough in common to spark up some of the most fascinating and occasionally appalling conversations I've ever heard. Ski resorts, algorithms, social media strategies and PBR are among the topics you would likely overhear at any given point during the conference. Throughout the four days, we had 10 keynote speakers, three days of skiing, a film festival, and of course, the after parties...this is where all of the real networking happens. As a person with a minor case of social anxiety, having a beer or three while discussing the conference highlights from that day can really help the conversation; and since Snowcial is a hybrid of borderline awkward computer geeks and employed ski bums, I'm sure I'm not the only one who appreciates the casual environment that this conference provides. For me, the most rewarding and memorable part of Snowcial was being invited to participate in the Lightning Round. You have one topic, 20 PowerPoint slides and 15 seconds to present each slide, all while getting heckled and laughed at by the audience. My topic was "EpicNixed: 10 EpicMix Pins that Didn't Make the Cut." Thanks to TransWorld Business, there's an awesome video of my Lightning Round Presentation. You can watch it here. I'm pretty sure being on the panel for the Lightning Round earned me some street cred; something a rookie Snowcialite could certainly use.

Snowcial really made an impression on me. I successfully expanded my professional network, learned from some of the smartest people I've ever met and got less sleep in a 96 hour period than any other time in my life. I can't wait for next year.

Oh. Here's the recap video, it's good.

I put my external hard drive in the refrigerator.

Snowboarding in deep powder in December This photo pretty much sums it up. So far, it's been an awesome season in Tahoe and it's only January. When you work at a ski resort, more snow means working harder and still (somehow) finding time to play even harder. For me, it means setting my alarm at 5:15am to get to work two hours early, allowing for a three hour "lunch" break and still clocking out at 5:00 in time for the oh-so-important Après-ski. It makes for a long day, and sometimes I forget how to function. For example, sometimes I put my external hard drive in the refrigerator and take a can opener out of the drawer to open a bottle of wine. Super fun.

Off the mountain, I've been working on a few really fun projects for College Skis and Shaggy's Copper Country Skis for the 2013-2014 season. I'll post a few photos later this spring when everything gets launched.

That's it for now, back to shredding, designing and living the dream of an employed ski bum. If you want to see more snow porn or keep closer tabs on how much more snow we're getting than you, follow me on instagram or Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Smith, Communications Coordinator @ Heavenly Mountain Resort

 

 

Invent Creative Opportunities for Yourself

Working for Heavenly in Lake Tahoe this year, I've had a few opportunities to write blog entries for the website and I decided to take the liberty to incorporate a little bit of my own artwork. I'm beginning to realize that sometimes you have to invent opportunities for yourself to get creative, especially if you're an artist or designer who has found themselves working a job that is not native to your talents. Whether it be through art and design, cooking, writing, crafting, music or even the way you dress, it's important to keep the juices flowing on a daily basis. Creating art based on things you love tends to come easy, which is why I'm excited to share these "bloggage" (blog + collage) images that I designed for my Heavenly blog posts. Check back soon for new bloggage artwork!

Winter Recap - 2011/2012 in Tahoe & The Sierra Nevada Mountains

This winter season was undoubtedly a test of devotion to those who dedicate themselves to the mountain lifestyle. With record low snowfall throughout the 2011/2012 season matched with unseasonably warm temperatures, living and working in a ski town had its challenges this year. That may even be an understatement. Resort towns across the country rely on cold temps and big dumps to keep in the game, when the snow doesn’t fall; jobs, local businesses, morale and the overall well being of a town could be in jeopardy. I feel like we all made it out alive, but perhaps a bit weary. For me, this season brought a catalog of changes. In January, I took on the job as Marketing Coordinator at Heavenly. I moved into my own place, shifted the direction of my business, and saw a few good friends come and go (one of the most difficult parts about living in a part-time-seasonal-type town).

Oh, and Robert (my hermit crab) passed away. And then I got a goldfish named Milo and killed him, too. But not on purpose.

Below is a collage of cool Tahoe photos I took this winter using Instagram, because that’s what all the cool kids are doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RIP Robert

January, 2012

 

 

High Mountain Creative Stickers Have Arrived!

Want one? Great for water bottles, snowboards, car windows, coffee mugs, refrigerators, ugly kitchen tables, notebooks, Christmas gifts, laptops, bathroom mirrors, vandalism and the defacing of public property*, garage doors, chairlifts, bar stools and much more!

*In no way does High Mountain Creative support vandalism and the defacing of public property. That was a joke.

Vacation Collage

My big brother got married on October 1st, it was awesome! So I ventured back to the motherland and took a few side trips along the way. Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, etc. Since I'm terrible at writing blog posts I'm just sort of going to sum up my Vacation Collage in a series of short phrases that may or may not directly correspond with the photos...or make any sense.

 Here it goes:

Downtown Chicago water tower thing really awesome fortune cookie that never came true, The General walking in the rain, a cool pizza box from Minneapolis, a cloudy day near a chocolate store, cockroaches eating a cookie in downtown Detroit (figures), projection screen waiting for Fleet Foxes, a White Castle building that was actually a jewelry store (...I know, what?), the Rays wearing an awful lot of orange while standing next to an orange wall, pumpkin soup in a pumpkin, cinnamon whiskey(?), a bomb-a** burrito in Minneapolis, the Double Decker Mega Bus...we didn't even hit an overpass or get pulled over(!), spooky night with a full moon in Detroit, the merry go round at the Tiger's game, a pice of squash on a farm in Minnesota, snow emergency route (duh), Jess playing Buck Hunter...no mercy, a bunch of fixies in Minneapolis (of course), a pretty leaf from Banning State Park.

The Art of Flight: Try Not to be Inspired. I Dare You.

I don't care if you're from space. And have no clue what snowboarding or helicopters are. If you landed your little ship on our brilliant planet and just happen to see Travis Rice and Curt Morgan's The Art of Flight glowing on one of our high definition television contraptions, I can guaranteed you that your little alien jaw will drop. From start to finish, a nearly emotional combination of audio and visual overload bring you to the height of excitement. Cliff drops, avalanches, mountain sunrises, branch cracking, take-offs and landings. Stomping it, casing it, high fives and snowmobiles. It does something to you. If you're a snowboarder, it gets you amped for December. If you're an artist, the camera angles and film editing make you wonder if the bar could possibly get any higher. The narration, so well written and composed, would even impress your college literature professer. Everything about this film seems to come together into a utopia of adrenaline.

If you're not stoked to ride, travel, breathe after watching The Art of Flight, check yourself, son.

Even my mom liked it.

Check it out.

I also really enjoyed the Asymbol Gallery exhibit displayed at the premier.

Welcome to the new High Mountain Creative website!

It's pretty exciting to have a new website. A new brand. A new direction. A new adventure. For those of you who have been following me for the past ten years (or longer, oh, lovely family of mine), you have seen me transition in so many ways. Every mile I've travelled, mountain I've climbed and mouse that I've clicked have made me a stronger person and businesswoman. One thing I can say I've learned over the years that has gotten me this far is how important it is to find inspiration in everything that surrounds you, maybe even the awful things. As you can probably tell, the good  'ol mountain air tends to be my inspiration, not just in a creative sense, but on a daily basis. You might be inspired by architecture or organically-grown produce or quadratic functions. It's really difficult for me to picture myself  stepping outside in the morning to take in a deep breath of quadratic functions. So, I'll stick to what inspires me and you stick to what inspires you and we'll talk at the end of the day. Thanks for visiting and I'll see you next time!