Friday, May 29

Maira Kalman: And the Pursuit of Happiness

Sometimes I come across something wonderful and horrible and amazing. Today it was this New York Times blog post written and illustrated by Maira Kalman. I love her art, her words and her sentiments like, "Don't we need both the warriors and artists on this planet?" and "Everyone is beautiful. Everyone makes you proud. Everyone breaks your heart." Okay, I liked every word and brush stroke.

Monday, May 18

Eat, Sleep, Draw

This shoe is probably the best sketch I've done. I hadn't sat down to just draw in a long time and signed up for a class so I would have to. So conditioned am I as a graphic designer, I tend to crave that deadline. The teacher set up this still life with a spotlight and we drew in the dimness. Who wore it? Where did they go? How many public restrooms had the shoe hurried into? Did that shoe get to dance? I wondered these things, and I loved drawing this shoe.

Everyone learns to draw. Then most of us stop. I sometimes forget what a pleasure it is to look, really look, at a leaf, a person, a dream and transcribe it to paper. The process is as magical as a photograph appearing in a bath of darkroom chemicals - maybe more so because the subject is not captured by technology, but by a being.

Synapses fire off to make the finger hold the pencil, jog the line, darken a shadow, while the eyes record what they see to create an image filtered through thought. Click here to see the magic.

Saturday, May 16


When you are around someone who is bettering themselves in some way, education, fitness, etc., it is hard not to get inspired. Or at least feel inadequate or lazy or both for not doing something to move toward your goals. My husband has acquired a couple Microsoft certifications and is taking a course twice a week to learn C# (sharp not pound, apparently) and .net programming, things I cannot hope to ever understand. I've run a few marathons so I'm crushing him on the fitness (though he's not unfit as I've wrangled him into some 5Ks), but it's time to work a body part I've been neglecting.

I've been a graphic designer for over a decade, but as with most professions, there is always something new to learn - and thank goodness. A month ago I downloaded a 10-week Photoshop webinar and am finally nibbling away at the one-hour classes with accompanying one-hour Q and A. For perspective, I now have to admit a guilty pleasure: I loved school. I loved college. Being in a class is one of my favorite things. I was really disappointed I couldn't take this Photoshop course when it was offered live and was really worried it would be dry and feel less interactive. Maybe that's why I put it off for a while. It turns out that it's wonderful.

The instructor, Jason Hoppe, is excellent; he is concise, entertaining and dispenses so much knowledge about Photoshop it could fill an Egyptian pyramid. As someone who uses the CS3 version of this program, I'm in an excellent spot to soak up more efficient ways to do the things I know, learn some new techniques, see how things work in CS4 (the version used in this course) and get a refresher on skills I learned once but don't have the opportunity to do often. It's like taking toothpaste to tarnished silver; try it - it will shine like new.

As a lover of learning, my second favorite thing is sharing what I've learned. I often e-mail my coworkers tips and tricks. Some they already know and some they don't, but I figure if we all get faster, we have more time for the fun part - being creative! There are so many things I've picked up from this course, such as holding the option key (alt on the PC) while clicking on the eyeball icon on one layer will turn all the other layers off for instant before and after comparison. Fab-u-lous!

This course is still available here. Download all 10 weeks for $65 or just the weeks you want for $15 each. CreativeTechs, a Seattle-based professional Mac support company, is who produces this course and others. Visit their blog for all kinds of useful Mac/design-related information. You can also follow them on Twitter: @creativetechs. Am I in some way affiliated with CreativeTechs? No. I just want you to get better.

Monday, May 4

SharePoint Saturday, D.C.

I don't use SharePoint. I have just a basic idea of what it does. Who knew it would take me on a variety of road trips and lead to fun excursions at the destinations? While Rick packs his brain all day at SharePoint sessions, I meander around wherever I am until we meet up with the group later to go out and have fun.

I have now tagged along to two SharePoint Saturday weekends - one in Boston, one in D.C. - or to be more precise, the surprisingly fun suburbs of Waltham, MA and Reston, VA. In Boston last month, I set out on foot and didn't stop until five hours later and then just to have some lunch. While in D.C. this past weekend, we headed into the city to experience the monuments at night. The cherry blossoms littered the ground like delicate pink confetti as we walked from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington, the spring night air was perfect and the company highly entertaining and welcoming to a non-SharePointer. From an impromptu light saber duel during which a stranger sidled up and joined in for a few jabs to lying at the base of the Washington monument to look up at the top, it had the air of a senior trip. Maybe that's because my senior trip - way back in the day - was there though our bus driver got lost, and we didn't get to all our designated stops.

Rick is really motivated as a user of SharePoint to learn all he can and then share what he knows via blogging and presenting. I had a small epiphany today about getting certified in the design programs I use. Perhaps I could eventually train people if I headed in that direction. It could be worth the mental road trip.