blogtime

For the first leg of my creative residency project, I’m doing 100 pieces of art (still thinking of a name). You can follow along by way of Instagram, Behance and my portfolio site. The home page of www.beckycmurphy.com will showcase my progress, and in the future I’ll list the tools used to complete said projects. I’ve already added a handful. Check it out.

story-and-now-blog

You know when you have those moments where you’re like, “I know very few things for certain, but this…this I know this for sure.”…? Yes? No?

I’ll skip the rapport and get to the point:

Just try it.

HA! It was in the header this whole time.

Last Thursday I spoke at Adobe’s Austin Creative Jam. It was a real big time. Local designers competed for a few hours, then a crowd full of students and professionals gathered for Foodapalooza grub and booze. We mingled, then four of us spoke for 15 minutes each on our process. The grand finale was the room voting on which design they liked best. It was a great night. Be sure to check out the other speakers: Lin Zagorski, Ty Wilkins and Ryan Hamrick. 

How’d I spend my 15 minutes?

Talking about books, of course.

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*Photo by Bonnie & Lauren

I’m working on my second book, The Roommate Book. I forget that it wasn’t long ago that I didn’t think it was possible for me to be a published author/illustrator at this point in my life.

Let me explain via the rewind button.

In college I knew I was pretty okay, but “all my classmates are way better.”

I almost moved to South Korea (to teach English) because I didn’t think I’d get a job in “this economy”* PLUS “I’m not even that good.”

I always wanted to write and illustrate books but I didn’t think I had it in me until “Sometime in the future when I’m older and better and have more time.”

I put off starting I’d Rather Be Short because “I’m not a good writer” and “I’m not even qualified.”

I didn’t think I could get a book deal because “I’m not that type of person—the type to get PUBLISHED.”

Once I did have a book deal, I didn’t think designers I respected would take it seriously because “I don’t draw the right way.”

And on and on and on.

But somewhere between those lines read,

“You may not be the best, but what if you just try?”

“You are qualified at you. You are an expert at your story” and

“Just because this hasn’t happened to you yet doesn’t mean it can’t or isn’t going to.”

“Big deal” stuff is all relative. If your name is Lorne Michaels, why are you reading this? Please keep working on your show that I will always love despite the dummies who say it hasn’t been funny since the 90′s.

Back to the rest of us. If [insert creative dream] is indeed a dream of yours, then I imagine that while you are inspired by the possibilities, you might also find yourself on the other end of the spectrum. The part that feels like it’s too good to be true or too “advanced for where you are now.”

But that’s hogwash (I can make that joke because I’m from Iowa).

The best person for the job is the one who is doing the job. Not the one who says they’re going to do it, or the person with the most qualifications, but the one who is actually doing it. 

We have no idea what we’re capable of. What we do know is that we’re capable of more than we think. The least we can do is try. Just try! Just wait and see! Let’s get off our twerking booties, computers, Instagram and Farmville (really?) and MAKE. Make dinosaurs out of tin foil and necklaces out of macaroni, record a song in the bathroom, I don’t know! You do you. It might be bad, but do it. Make it. And then put it into the world.

If it’s nagging at you now, it will nag at you later. THEREFORE, It is better to make a crappy draft sooner than later, my friends. Back to one of those few things I know for certain:

It is better to start somewhere now than to start somewhere later.

Just do the thing.

Or, if this is easier,

just try the thing.

*I realize I just quoted ‘the economy’ but you have to remember it was 2010 and people were blaming canker sores on the economy.

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Please join us at Creative Jam tomorrow at Vuka (7 PM) for a night of process and story telling. I’ll be sharing the journey of how I ended up in the publishing world. Better yet, you’ll also hear from Lin ZagorskiRyan Hamrick and Ty Wilkins and learn about the process from our creative leaders in Austin. RSVP here.

my-desk

Two things.

1. When in doubt, draw what you see. In my case, I looked at my desk and here we are. Sometimes I blank because I want to be clever or soooooo original, but my eyeballs keep me grounded.

2. Do you sometimes wonder about other people’s illustration process? Me too! Do you have Photoshop? Below I share how I took a modest doodle and turned it into a HeyThisDrawingThingIsFun.JPG.

I often work in Illustrator with vector files, but I spend my fair share of time in Photoshop. This is also more or less how I illustrated I’d Rather Be Short and The Roommate Book.

Let’s begin.

1. When I use a regular scanner*, I scan the drawing at 600 DPI so I always have the option of making it bigger (you can always make it smaller, but you can’t blow it up and maintain quality…also a reason why it’s great to be short…I’m talking about how you can always hem a good pair of pants but you can’t make them grow, but I digress.)

*I often use my phone as a scanner. Either the ScannerPro app, Adobe Shape (if I’m making it a vector) or just a straight up photo.

2. I make the image black and white, level it out, then I might clean it up a bit and HECK, I may even crop the dang thing.

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3. Next I convert it back to color (CMYK or RGB, depending on the purpose).

4. Sometimes I drag in a specific image for color inspiration (good app for this is Adobe Color). In this case, I snagged this art from Pinterest under my “Illustration: color” board. Image source: 2014 MOMO lookbook. Originally found via Miss Moss.

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5. Now it gets fun. Unlock the background layer and create a new background (use the Eyedropper tool to pick background color from the image).

6. Now multiply the illustration layer (make sure to keep this layer on top). This will ensure that only the black stays visible.

multiply-layer

7. Use the Eyedropper tool to pick a fill color from the image.

8. Create new layer (remember to keep it below the top illustration layer).

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9. Click on the illustration layer, then select the Magic Wand tool and click on a portion of the illustration you want to color in. It needs to be a bounded space without any gaps. Then click on the new layer and Paint Bucket the selected area. Make sure to add a new layer for each new color.

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TIP: If you want to change the color of a layer, double click the layer (not where the text is), then the layer styles will open, then go to ‘color overlay’ then click on the color thumbnail and change it to the desired color.

change-color

10. Rinse and repeat. There are countless ways of achieving anything in Photoshop, but this is just one. Play around with it. If anything doesn’t make sense, test drive a new route. We all learn by doing.

Lastly, this is my first written tutorial. Please let me know if you found this helpful (or confusing), as well as how I can improve them in the future. What are your favorite tips and tricks?

What do you do when you suddenly have the time, space and resources to fully unleash your creative potential?

1. You find yourself “weak at the knees” or “scared shitless” or “extremely humbled.”

2. You pull yourself up by your favorite-colored bootstraps and put a little meat on the bones of this project* you set out to do.

3. You wish to flesh out this list for the sake of adding more idioms.

4. Okay, now let’s talk about this here Creative Residency and what one (me) plans to do in the first three months.

Like I said in my previous post, I’ve found myself in a unique situation (huge opportunity). Before this all came about, I was making teeny tiny baby steps toward transitioning my business into full-time art sellin’. As you know, side hustle forces us to make the most of the little, precious time we have to work on the side projects we are so passionately side hustling in the first place (efficiency! Great!). The sometimes-downside is that it creates, at least for me, an ultra-productivity mindset. If I have an hour, I’m going to make it count.

But we know that making space to explore and play is where we find the insightful, clever, thoughtful and impactful art.

I want to make and sell my work and I want it to support me and I want to teach others how to do it too. I also want to help folks realize their creative potential.

Because of this year-long creative residency through Adobe, the whole process will be accelerated.

There are a lot of unknowns, and that’s why this is so good for me. Like I said, I tend to be very methodical. I suspect the hardest part for me will be making space for exploring, learning and failing. For the first three months, my focus will be on making art. I’m going to create 100 pieces and I’ll be posting them on my website. I plan to update the home page weekly (probably starting in the next week or two), so please follow along on my journey. I’ll also share my process (thoughts and tools).

In an effort to prioritize the actual illustration process, I created a skeleton schedule. Check out this post by Jessica Hische (sent to me by my fellow traveler and figurative running partner, Jen). I have no doubt it will be more fluid than my “2-3 PM: catch up on email” plan, but making time to make is going to transform my flow. I’m looking forward to seeing how this impacts the life of my work.

Last thing! Next week (Thursday, May 14th), I’ll be speaking at Vuka alongside some other talented designers at Adobe’s Creative Jam. Sign up and join us for a night of inspiration, process and tomfoolery.

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Some exciting, big changes are happening around here.

Aside from my recent engagement and progress with The Roommate Book, I now have the opportunity to work with Adobe to actualize a dream of mine since I can remember (and have gotten serious about in the last six months).

I’ve been a self-employed cowgirl for the last two years and three months. It’s been awesome and it’s been hard. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The best parts have been seeing myself get tougher and realizing my long-term goals (and seeing them change over time). I’ve observed what gets me into my flow and what gets me out of bed early. The last year has especially groomed me for the road ahead.

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My dream career is to make and sell original content. Content being art and ideas.

I’m talking books (check), prints (check) and now a lot more stuff. That’s where Adobe comes in. They have a brand new program called the Adobe Creative Residency. I’m one of their first two creative residents, alongside the talented, whip-smart Kelli Anderson. Check out her work and watch this video where she shares more on her creative process.

Over the next year I will forgo client work in order to focus entirely on making my illustrations a sustainable business.This will give me the time to make art, explore new methods, fail, succeed, experiment, collaborate and share the process along the way. Adobe will also provide mentorship and software to make it happen. Check out this interview to learn more about why I’m so excited.

But this isn’t all about me. I know I’m not the only one with this kind of dream. My hope is that my participation and commitment to sharing the process will help accelerate this dream for everybody else too. To learn more about what I do (and what I plan to do this year), Check out this interview to learn more about why I’m so excited. You can read about why Adobe is excited by checking out David Wadhwani’s post, One-Year. Unconstrained Creativity.

And lastly, here’s a bit more on the program from Adobe:

With Adobe’s support, the creative residents have access to the best tools, resources and mentorship in various creative fields throughout the residency. Residents are encouraged to explore their strengths and weaknesses through the support of mentors both inside and outside of the company; and to share their insights and work at conferences, workshops and online.

The Adobe Creative Residency is a way for Adobe to support the community and to honor creative individuals whose work elevates the use and value of visual content in our culture. The residents are future creative leaders who produce work that changes the way we see and interact with the world. They are individuals who are eager to share their skills with others. They are visual explorers, willing to take on risk and fail, while knowing they will learn from their challenging experiences.

Pretty soon I’ll write more specifically about my role in this program and what I’m trying to accomplish by the end of the year. I’ll be posting my process and what I’m learning along the way. If you’re a creative entrepreneur who dreams of selling your work, where are you in your journey? What are you learning? What do you want to learn?

Let’s band together. Like the African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Now let’s do this.

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Currently reading: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

I’ve been drawn to downsizing, discarding and minimizing over the last couple of years. While I’ve made great progress as an ex-pack rat, I still struggle with believing I too can be one to just let things go.

Susan Bolotin of Workman Publishing said, “There’s a dreamy quality to it…It’s a book that promises something that is almost beyond imagination. It’s magic.” (Read more from this WSJ article)

Susan is right.

This post isn’t a summary of the book, but a notation of a couple of personal paradigm shifts.

1. Re: discarding. Kondo asks every client to answer the following question before deciding to keep or toss:

Does it spark joy?

2. If our belongings don’t spark joy, why are we making space for them? What if we only made space for that which we really treasured?

“To truly cherish the things that are most important to you, you must discard those things that have truly outlived their purpose.” —Marie Kondo

3. Beauty for the sake of beauty is enough. If we decide to only own what we really love, then doesn’t beauty and art move up to highest priority?

If any of this brings you a small sense of serenity, you won’t regret giving this book a read (or listen). I started it yesterday and I’m almost finished.

Perhaps you’ve already read it. What did you think? Did it spill into other areas of your life?

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puberty
*Puberty Survival Kits designed junior year of college

I was recently contacted by a cool gal named Molly about some questions regarding life as an illustrator. Molly is a designer and illustrator up in Minneapolis (AKA the Austin of the Midwest). I asked her if I could turn her questions into a blog post and she kindly told me to go for it.

M: I’d love to know what your experience was like transitioning from someone who makes art for fun to someone who makes art for a living. Was there a moment you knew you wanted to turn your skill set into a business?

I’ve always been an art kid. In 3rd grade I was determined to win the fire prevention poster contest, in middle school I designed our field trip tees and in high school I ran for student council so I could design the dance posters.

It was instilled in me at an early age to be my own boss. I don’t think this path is for everybody, but it has always motivated me. I inherited my creativity from my mom and my entrepreneurial spirit from my dad. Part of choosing graphic design as a major in college was knowing that it could provide the flexibility to work for myself (or even go part time). I assumed after a couple years at a design job I’d easily be able to transition into full-time self-employment. While it actually did work out this way (thanks to my book deal), it was not easy. My preparation included building a portfolio site and emailing friends and family to “keep me in mind” if anyone needed a graphic designer (I did have some consistent work lined up too).

I’m glad I jumped in when I did, but if somebody close to me were to tell me they’re about to take the plunge, I’d ask them if they’ve read The E-Myth, know their general rates, figured out what they need to earn and how they’ll track every hour for the first 3 months, at least (I use Harvest). I’d also ask if they have 1-3 people their field that they can call on with any and all questions and even better, if they’re not afraid to ask questions in the first place. And then I’d congratulate them because working for yourself is the best. In 2014 my travel time added up to six weeks. Since I’m in charge of my schedule, I got to spend time opening my print shop, work on a book proposal and seek out some fun collaborations. I really really love what I do.

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M: It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I felt I might be suited for a career in illustration or design. Did you know immediately you wanted to be an illustrator/designer?  What kind of struggles did you experience, if any, in finding your niche? 

I don’t think I intended to become a full-time illustrator. I studied graphic design because it was flexible and practical. Most of my projects in college were some-to-mostly illustrated because it was just easier and more fun. For example, I designed these puberty survival kits junior year. I just wanted to make something fun and kind of weird. Over time this became the norm. Everything starts out hand drawn, and then I spend the other half of the project in Photoshop or Illustrator. Nowadays, I show the work I want to do more of. Illustration makes serious and complicated information accessible. My style has changed a lot and it will continue to evolve, but I generally embrace what feels right. When it’s coming from an authentic place, the work is better and often times even feels refreshing.

I wouldn’t worry about a niche when it comes to style. Just practice, research (outside of Pinterest) and celebrate growth. Keep doing what gives you life. That will probably become you are known for. 

M: I’d also love to ask about your experience in Austin . I’ve grown up and lived in Minneapolis area my whole life but have recently been thinking about trying to move out of state. Do you feel like moving provided you with any unique opportunities that you might not have found in the Midwest?

I love Austin. I have a list of some of my favorite ATX spots here (needs updated). I was attracted to Austin because of the warmer weather, thriving economy and art/music scene. I moved here two years ago from Waco, where I lived for two years after graduating from Iowa State. I’ve never looked back. The creative community is very supportive. It’s full of talented folks who raise each other up. There is no doubt that my work is better because of it. I’m also a believer that we should put ourselves into new situations because it makes us tougher and forces us to grow. One way to do this is traveling and moving.

Though Austin is known to be a creative hub, I have no doubt that every city has its own version of this. There are pockets of art and ingenuity everywhere. It’s just a matter of finding them. As far as Austin? Come visit and see for yourself! I give it a 10 out of 10 + bonus points for breakfast tacos and pretty swimming holes.

Thanks, Molly!

That was fun. For everybody else, do you have any questions about illustration? Do you want to talk shop? How about thriving as a creative entrepreneur? 

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It’s Wednesday. Let’s talk about rituals.

Are you into them? Or do you prefer the word routine? I’m going to share mine as of late. And then I want to hear about yours.

MORNING

I wake up between 6-7 then drink 16 oz of water (trying to get to 32 oz). See Japanese Water Therapy. I either go to yoga before or after the following:

-Write in my Five Minute Journal

-Read at least one chapter of the Bible and another book (currently: The Power of Habit. Highly recommend.)

-Freehand journal a few pages

-Set my timer for 3 minutes and practice gratitude, then set it for 2 minutes to visualize my dreams (this small step was inspired by Michael Phelps’ routine of visualizing his races before bed and upon waking).

NIGHT TIME

Ideally I wind down around 10-10:30, spray magnesium oil on my belly (here’s why magnesium is so important, and here’s the recipe Jen used to make me my first batch). Then I put a few drops of jasmine essential oil on my pillowcase to help me relax (not sure if this is the “right one” for relaxation, but it’s a scent that I’ve always associated with bedtime). Then I spray rose water on my face, moisturize with Dr. Bronners lavender coconut lotion and read until I fall asleep.

I didn’t even touch on science or how these routines have impacted my business and personal life. But none of that matters unless you see for yourself. If you want to learn more, I recommend listening to this short podcast where Todd Henry delivers actionable steps (he even provides a cheat sheet). Want more? Me too. Next on my reading list is The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.

Lastly, my favorite thing Todd said is that our systems exist to serve us, not the other way around.

Now I want to hear about your routine. What has worked for you? How has it impacted your day? I’m also open to hearing about the funniest thing on the internet these days, because, duh.

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