"Do you do illustrations for books?" was a question I got early last week, so I wanted to take a trip down memory lane when it comes to creating illustrations. With all that is still going on in the world, I've taken to doing more digital drawing as a familiar coping mechanism lately since mostly moving away from chalk lettering. It had been a while since I drew regularly, but getting back to it has been a relief and something I look forward to daily.
The first book illustration I ever tried was for a book cover design for project my Father published entitled Escape. I remember him giving me a synopsis of what he was writing about and asking me to draw something. At that time, I sketched it on paper with pencil and shared it with him, but the drawing didn't go much further than that. Eventually, and I'm not sure how much later it was... there was a second book that is available online via Amazon/Kindle that I did a watercolor design for and then used as a project to learn how to make vector art using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I wrote about falling in love with that process in one of my first-ever blog posts here seven years ago.
That was only the beginning, and I had no idea that I would create illustrations for three different author's projects some years after that. I haven't seen any of these author's books as finished, printed products yet, unfortunately, but learned a lot with these early illustration works that I still use today. Read on for more about my first few storybook projects!
2016 Illustrations for Kevin Norman's book Golden
I met Kevin while attending a Valentine's event with my good friend Alicia in 2014. The singer Marcus Canty was having a concert at a venue in Fayetteville, and Kev was its host. We became cordial over the years and even casually dated before realizing it wasn't going to work out between us, but were able to collaborate on a few cool projects in that season.
One of those projects was a children's book he wanted to release and he asked me to do the illustrations. It took some months of brainstorming and tweaking, but I completed the designs and sent them to him in June 2016. Since then, I haven't heard anything more about publishing the book, unfortunately, but the illustrations can be viewed in the slideshow below. My process was to 1) sketch, 2) ink the drawing and scan it into the computer, and 3) color and edit in Photoshop, then save save as a PDF.
When I reached out to Brenda Miller Holmes years ago to inquire about getting involved in her project as a volunteer, I never imagined what would come with it or after. I shared a couple of posts in the past that touched on the Durham Civil Rights History Mural Project, one in July 2014 and the other in September 2014. This year, Myra Weise received an Arts About grant from Downtown Durham, Inc. (DDI) to fund a performance event inspired by the mural. Originally, she wanted to have Brenda create the temporary ground work, but being the equity-conscious person she is, Brenda suggested getting another artist involved and recommended me. At first, I wasn't sure if I could deliver what Myra envisioned, but I got more and more excited after meeting with her, getting an overview of the event, and sketching some ideas out on paper. We even met one weekend for a photo shoot to get images for promotional material (pictured below and also taken by Zoe Litaker Photography).
On the day of the event, Myra was busy going through a super long list of logistical tasks that included things like picking up road barricades and chairs and dropping those off along with supplies and setting up, etc. I arrived on site a little after 10 a.m. and began to mark up the parking lot. The goal was for me to lay out the design in the mock up shown that would both serve as a place the community could color in for a couple of hours before the performance as well as the stage space for the dancers to perform within.
Time flew as I started installing the stage's border. I quickly went through a number of the chalk spray paint cans and began to improvise when I was running out. In the home stretch, one of the men featured in the mural stopped by... Walter Riley, who was in town visiting due to a National Lawyer Guild's convention on civil rights (he's an Attorney who's done incredible work; look him up!). We talked for a while and I learned that he, too, is an artist and paints often with oils.
All in all, it was a great experience. I wrapped up and went to work, and when I finished my shift, I came back to see bits of the performance and to check out Derrick Beasley's exhibition inside of the Durham Arts Council building. Some photos from behind the scenes are in the slideshow below as well as two brochures that were handed out during the event that share more information about the mural itself. Thanks for much for reading, and as always... feel free to leave a comment or two!
1. Acrylic Hexagon Hand-painted and Lettered Tiles
I love how these turned out! It was a total experiment, but I am glad to have been trusted enough to take on this project. Photos in the gallery below show the transformation, step-by-step, from what the painting boards looked like when I took them out of the package up until after they were cut, painted, and lettered on! It was my first time cutting acrylic with the tool I used as well> I had to find a video on YouTube to research what to get and how to use it (also posted below). The edges were not as smooth as I hoped it would be at the points when I did cut the boards, so I sanded them a little and then used a heat/wood burning tool I have used in the past to cut pieces of acrylic board for evening it out.
-Acrylic Painting Tiles from Jerry's Artarama
-Plaskolite Acrylic Cutting Tool from Lowe's
-Acrylic Paint by Liquitex Basics in Ivory Black and Artist Loft
-Chalk Markers in white by Marvy Uchida Bistro
-Wood burning/heat tool
-YouTube video resource
2. Balcony Makeover
After bringing home a houseplant from work one day and taking on the challenge to learn how to care for it, I sat on my balcony and stared around thinking I was ready for an upgrade. It had been almost exactly a month since learning I would move into my first apartment, and I couldn't believe the time had passed so swiftly. I enjoyed each month in my new home, and kept busy decorating and settling in over the time. It was now time to settle in the outdoor space. Time to decorate and make it my own... right in time for Summer 2019! That is exactly what I did (photos below); and all of it for under $100.
Outdoor rug... $35 from BJ's
Lantern... $4 from Michael's (was on sale + discounted due to damage)
Flowering shrubs... $12 from Walmart
Hanging flower basket... $16 from Gunter's Greenhouse
Table... $2 from TROSA Thrift Store
Outdoor fabric... $7 from Walmart
Batting... $0 left over from previous project
Bag of potting soil... $2 from Roses
Three cans of spray paint... $12, one from Walmart, Michaels, and Roses
Chairs... $0 given to me from a friend
Railing attachments and baskets... $0 gifted to my job and no one wanted them
Sweat-equity, blisters, and DIY perseverance to get the job done... PRICELESS
My baby nephew's due date was yesterday; and I am joining my family in the wait for the day he actually arrives. My sister-in-law requested some hand-lettered scripture to hang in his nursery some time ago, so I am sharing the behind the scenes of this project as it came together. The materials used were all things we already had and were reused. I am thrilled about that and happy with the results. Check out the transformation in the photos in the slideshow below to see as well as a second transformation project from months ago! I'm actually wearing that piece as I write right now.
1. Plans, Plans, Plans. Hand-lettered Scripture Wall Art
January came and went, and there were a few awesome projects I wrapped up that I wanted to share. Continue reading to check them out!
It's the holiday season, and I declared that this would be the first year in awhile and the first of many... that I would not succumb to the winter blues. This season used to make me feel very down about not celebrating with all of my family the way I used to while growing up or not being where I always imagined being by this time in my life. To help me do that this year, I poured myself into creative projects for myself and others. This blog post documents a few DIY projects that are easy and fun, and perfect for decorating your space for Christmas.
1. Holiday Wreath
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of crafting another front door piece, this time requested by my sister and with the help of my niece on a lovely Friday evening. My sister had seen versions of what she wanted in several stores, but all of their prices were $50 and up. I offered to help, and the picture above is what we created together. She supplied all of the materials, my niece created the design (seen in the photo to the left in action), and I led in the project's execution. We started with a plain wreath, many variously sized and colored ornaments, a bow, scissors, needle and thread, and glue gun with glue sticks. Below, you can see a photo slideshow of how the wreath transformed, step-by-step.
What an exciting time it's been to continue to settle in at home, and make it [for the most part] everything I ever imagined while incorporating my own personal style. During this time, I've also had the chance to step away from social media and better manage my intake of everything going on in the world. It was a much needed break, and allowed me great amounts of time to slow down, refocus, and plan for the future. DIY projects are an awesome way to relax and get creative.
This door decor project was one of my favorite to do during my social media break. Though I am a fan of wreaths, which are commonly hung on doors... the beautiful arrangements whose ring or circular shape is meant to represent eternity are also laid on graves and often seen as related to death. Growing up, I would always hear my Mom say she (or Liberian people in general) didn't use wreaths for decoration on their doors/at home because of this. I was looking for a design that would be just as gorgeous as a wreath, but way different than what you'd typically see hanging on a door or at a funeral.
Within a few minutes of online searching, I found a design that I liked and looked easy enough to replicate. I skimmed through my craft supplies, frames, and outdoor spaces and scavenged for all of the materials I needed (needle, thread, small branches and twigs, faux flowers, pine cone, plexi-glass, frame, ruler wood burner/stencil cutter, chalk markers, sealant, 3M hanging strip, scissors, spray paint, water, a rag and hot glue gun)! After some short, sporadic sessions of putting everything together, I hung up the sign on my front door... for $FREE.99! To seal and weather-proof the piece on the door, I sprayed the chalk ink lettered design with fixative, but that left it with a foggy residue I was not happy with. I ended up testing which spray of the ones I had on-hand were the best on sections of the first piece. Then I redid the lettering on a new cut of the plexi-glass. Of the four sprays that were tested, Krylon's Crystal Clear had the best results. Pictures in the gallery below show a little of this project's behind-the-scenes process. Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed and/or feel inspired to create one of your own! Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments section if you have any!
Whether attending a festival to enjoy good music, to serve the community, or to work as a face painter or vendor, festival life has become THE LIFE from Spring to late Fall. With Durham Art Guild's Swing Into Spring arts fundraiser to kick off this year's festival season in the Triangle, I've had quite a few that I enjoy participating in each year. Those include the Eno Festival, the African American Cultural Festival, and the Art of Cool Festival; however, there are so many more that take place. The Dreamville Festival was scheduled to kick off this year in Raleigh, and I was reeeeeally looking forward to being a part of its Art Market. It was canceled due to Hurricane Florence, but will be happening next year on April 6th instead, so I will still be looking forward to that. Mark your calendars now!
Each event has its own type of crowd as well. Being a vendor at events for the past year now, I've learned to better prepare and cater to my audience. I'm still learning and growing, but here are some photos from past occasions where I've vended. The evolution is real. Thanks for reading!
In the words of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, "There's NO place like home!" I'm officially ten full weeks in at my new place, and this is the very first time I have felt "at home" since moving to North Carolina. The word [home] alone is one that has given me mixed feelings my whole life. Growing up in two separate households from the ages of 12 through 18 as well as living as a first-generation [naturalized] American, "home" always felt bittersweet and family gatherings grew to feel strange. I dreamed of one day starting over and being able to create a home and family of my own. Fast forward 11 years, and I'm almost halfway there!
Earlier this year, the phrase "Home is where the heart is" had me pondering the idea of 'home' once again. I was participating in an art auction and fundraiser hosted by the Carrack Modern Art and Smashing Boxes for Habitat for Humanity of Durham, where they used the phrase as the event theme. "Where was my heart?' I wondered.
The answer is that my heart is in good ol' North Carolina... for now. NC is where I found what I love to do and where I learned to heal, forgive, and love myself fully. NC is where I finally came out of my comfort zone and grew up. I am grateful for this place. I settled into my first apartment here. I lived by myself for the first time here, and I feel like I can call the place I reside "home" without any lingering feelings of sadness.
In the ten weeks it took me to settle into my apartment, the wall art I imagined hanging up in my bathroom slowly came to life. I wanted some art to match a piece of counter top decor and the beach-theme shower curtain and colors of my bathroom. I learned a lace and spray paint technique while teaching at Seeking the Self summer camp this past July, which I tried out on the background, then used other sources of inspiration from there. See below for pictures of the transformation and read on for the revamped classroom caddie, refurbished bookshelf, and reused window decor projects I did for my living room as well!
How Two Days Taught Me Two Valuable Business Lessons
I recently had the honor of lettering a huge, overhead chalkboard menu for Zweli's, a Zimbabwean restaurant that opened up its doors to customers in Durham, North Carolina in late June 2018. It was a great opportunity, especially with it being the first time I had ever done such a large-scale project. Although I had the pleasure of getting this job under my belt and having much of the process video documented, two major and hard lessons were learned as well through unexpected challenges I had to face first-hand. Check out the video below and continue reading for two things all creative business owners and/or DIY-ers should know when tackling similar projects!
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