California Inspiration

Mountain sunset - taken while we were stuck in loads of traffic.
Mountain sunset – taken while we were stuck in loads of traffic.

I am back at work on new designs, and I realized as I was flipping through my sketchbook, how much inspiration I’ve been taking from where I live. This is certainly nothing new to artists, but many of the big name fashion designers talk about taking expensive, exotic “inspiration trips” before they work on their next collection.  I don’t believe in waiting for vacation to find inspiration, as I think it is everywhere if you look for it. And in my opinion, one of the best skills you can develop creatively is to find inspiration in your daily life and surroundings, not just when you’re travelling. If you have this skill, then you can pursue your creative passions even if you don’t have the means to travel.

I have loved life in LA practically from the minute I stepped off the plane. That isn’t to say it wasn’t hard relocating here – I was terrified the first day I woke up in our new apartment and realized I didn’t know a single soul, left behind everyone I might have been able to go to coffee with, and didn’t even know where the local grocery store was. It was hard work to get established in a new place, and almost 8 years later, I still get weary sometimes of being the “new girl”. But I did (and still do!) love the overwhelming sense of having a new world to explore. So many different cultures, a huge city to explore, all the sights and scenery that are nothing like where I moved from. And when I travel, I am always reminded when I come home of how happy I am to be here.

PalosVerdes
One of my favorite parts of the coastline. I could walk here for hours, I can’t get enough photos of it, and I will probably design multiple things with this as my inspiration!
Snowcaps
Snowcapped mountains on a beautiful 75-degree LA sunny day. Yes, this is taken from inside the car, on the freeway, as we were driving. Hard to believe it was probably only 20 degrees if you were actually standing on that mountain!

Southern California is quite a dichotomy – my favorite things are the mountains and the ocean. I realized as we were driving home the other day what a special thing it is to be able to take my kids up into the mountains to experience winter and snow, but to also be able to leave all the slush and 10 layers of clothing behind and come back to the balmy 70 degrees in Burbank to work. The day this photo was taken, it was about 75 degrees in the San Fernando Valley, and yet, there are beautiful snowcapped mountains visible from the freeway.

As for food, of course a huge city like LA has practically anything you could dream up. We have always loved alot of ethnic food, so that is not particularly new to us. But one of my favorite discoveries here has been fish tacos. I’m sure other places have them, so I don’t know why they weren’t on my radar before, but for whatever reason, they are one of my favorite LA foods.

Then there are the things that are just backwards compared to everywhere else. If you ever move to LA, don’t get rid of your umbrellas! Yes, it’s true that rain is scarce, but umbrellas are apparently multi-functional. We use them to shield ourselves from the sun when we attend our children’s softball games or other such events. I showed up to my daughter’s first softball game, and the other moms sitting there seemed shocked I didn’t bring my umbrella. But of course!

I have a design in the works based on this photo. The kelp forests are unique to CA, and I want to get my scuba license this year so I can see them in person. I have seen them from an underwater boat - they are like shimmering towers of waving leaves.
I have a design in the works based on this photo. The kelp forests are unique to CA, and I want to get my scuba license this year so I can see them in person. I have seen them from an underwater boat – they are like shimmering towers of waving leaves.

I hope you enjoy seeing my inspirations. If you have moments of feeling uninspired, take a day off to explore where you live. Keep a camera and a sketchbook with you, and consider what makes your surroundings unique. What is your favorite food, what are your favorite plants or animals, or your favorite spot to be outdoors? Usually if you take a moment to look more closely, you will notice things and your inspiration will revive itself.

In 2015…

You may recall from previous posts that I welcome a chance to reflect and renew my resolve. New Year’s, naturally, is one of those times. Our family is just back from a winter break in the mountains, the kids are back at school today, and my husband and I are also doing our best to return to reality. I don’t like unrealistic or impossible resolutions, but I do have things I’d like to work on in the new year.

1. Toxic relationships need to go! I tend to be very open and friendly with people, but the last several years, I’ve been a little too much so, and it’s hurt me deeply when people have taken advantage of it. I also tend to be the “fixer” – instead of letting the other person uphold their end of the friendship, I go too far out of my way to try to make everything work, even when the other person is being blatantly disrespectful. I still believe in being kind and friendly, and in giving everyone a fair chance. But I’ve also realized that when you devote too much time and energy to toxic people, you are diverting it away from the people in your life who really do deserve your best. My resolve for the new year is to not waste any more energy on people who choose not to show common courtesy and respect, and to instead focus my energy on my family and the people in my life who have proven themselves to be true friends. Even though this means a change in certain relationships and I’ve had a hard time with that in the past, I have grown enough to be sure of where I stand. Closely linked to that is learning to listen to my gut right off the bat instead of excusing bad behavior.

2. Being grateful. This includes the big things like two healthy kids and a good husband, and the small things, like the way my cats are happy to pitterpat around me in the mornings when I’m fixing breakfast and school lunches. Focusing on the things you’re grateful for makes it easier to keep negativity at a distance.

3. Gratitude leads into my next resolve, which is to be very controlling about how I think. The last few years, as I dealt with the above-mentioned toxic friendships, I often found myself in a very dark, sad place. It is hard when someone is making you feel bad to realize that it is still up to YOU to decide to stop the cycle and control your own thoughts and emotions. So, in connection with being grateful, I am also resolving to be more in control of my thoughts and who is allowed to affect my emotions.

4. Of course, I also have some artistic goals, in case you were starting to wonder. I have read many articles about the benefits of focusing on one thing at a time instead of trying to do too much multi-tasking. To that end, I will continue my goal from last year of trying to pare down how many projects I have going at one time. It has been beneficial to focus on finishing things, but I still find myself wanting to start too much at once. But I have made progress!

5. Another resolve, artistically speaking, is to continue to develop a habit of sketching regularly. This not only helps improve drawing skills, but it also makes a visual record of fleeting ideas that I’d forget about if I didn’t draw them immmediately! A note about keeping a sketchbook – don’t be intimidated by your drawing skills! The main point of it is to be able to come back to it later – if you can “read” your drawing a month later, then that’s all that matters!

What are your resolutions for 2015? I hope as you look back at 2014, you can see progress on whatever you worked on last year, and that as you look ahead, you feel the same motivation and positivity that I do!

5 Habits

I appreciate when life offers us little periods of time to reboot. For many (and for myself too), this is New Year’s. Starting a new year fresh with goals in mind and a new energy is great, but for me, the fall is an even better time to try to develop good habits. I’m much more rested and refreshed after the summer than I am in January, and I always consider how I can make the school year a good one for the kids as well as more productive and creative for me while they’re in school. So, here are five habits I’m working to develop, and I’d love to hear yours!

  1. Work in sketchbook daily. I do work in my sketchbook quite often, but I wish it was a more developed habit. Every successful designer I know does this, and when I was in art school, it was the first thing all the teachers encouraged us to do. My drawing skills aren’t up to the standard I’d like, but a sketchbook is invaluable for remembering ideas. I write alot of notes, but honestly, no matter how fast and scribbled my drawing might be, the visuals are always easier to go back to later.
  2. Set specific goals and build in rewards for when I accomplish them. The last few years I struggled alot. I got very sick for about 6 months, and had to go back and forth to the doctor to get myself sorted out. I was so tired I could hardly make it through a day without a nap. I also worked nonstop, and as soon as one thing was done, I moved onto the next. I realized I was losing the joy in life, even in the things I most love to do. The key, I think, to avoiding such complete burnout is to set specific goals, and to celebrate accomplishments with a day off. I plan to allow myself the pleasure of a day out shopping (or a day at home with a good book, depending on my mood) before rushing into the next big challenge.
  3. Even when you have a job you love, there will always be tasks you just don’t love doing. And they mount up very quickly when you procrastinate! My new goal could be termed “Don’t procrastinate”, but more specifically, get the tasks you hate out of the way. Even though this takes discipline, it does help free your mind for the things you love!
  4. Learn to focus. Sometimes life requires us to shift gears more than we want to, but especially when it comes to crafting, we have alot of control over this. In my previous post I mentioned how I had way too many projects going, or just sitting around because I lost interest. What I learned over the summer is that it is so much more productive to focus, and it’s also much more likely to get things finished when I do!
  5. Give more, share more. I really love this video. I think it’s extremely important if you work by yourself to keep up interaction with other people in the same situation, to know when to ask for help, and to also be willing to give other people the same support. I want to get better at this, and plan to spend at least a little time each day keeping up with what my fellow designers and crafters are doing.