My goal for 2019 is print and sell more of my own stuff on Etsy. So here’s my first effort! The best part is I sized this to fit a ready to hang frame you can find on Amazon or at Ikea. The paper is 11 x 14 and the image fits an 8.5 x 11 display.
I’ve been spending more time painting from pictures I’ve taken, or ones I find, of the weird and wonderful people of New York City. Here I was inspired by those fabulous ladies of upper Manhattan. Never change old ladies wearing expensive jewelry and who have more square footage than I’ll ever live in. I give you more points if you also have a tiny dog in a bag.
I’m a little in shock it’s already 2019, aren’t you? This past year was so fast! To usher in the new year, I made a free calendar to get things started! You can download my free 2019 calendar to print on your own if that’s your thing.
Overall, the best thing I did in 2018 (besides move into my own apt in Ditmas Park!) was practice and practice and practice art. I’m at this point where I look back at things I’ve done and I’m ready to completely redo them, to keep learning, like I’ve hit a new plateau with my skills. I also sold prints and a custom commission via my Etsy store which was a great first time accomplishment. I’m working on that gratitude for things I’ve learned and for myself everyday, especially when it comes to improving a skill like painting.
On a similar note, for the past five days I’ve had all of my social media logged off on my computer and my phone. As I’m writing this, I haven’t checked Instagram in what feels like the longest time. There is nothing wrong with Instagram and social media in general, but I think I have to reset my use of them in 2019 simply because I’m losing time to focus on other things.
So, here’s to 2019 spent in my lovely apartment, full of art, and more time spent doing things away from my phone with people and animals and places. I hope to see you!
My 2018 in Favorites
Trip: Montreal in early December in the snow and cold.
Book: My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh
Eaten: Honeycomb ice cream is the best flavor I never knew I loved.
New York moment: A summer day when we went to four boroughs in one day. If only we had hit up Staten Island, too.
Music: Janelle Monae, Dirty Computer
Podcast: I’ve kind of stopped listening to new podcasts, so long live Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.
Art: Of course Hilma af Klint
Thing I learned: How to make a kid lit dummy book. How to print and sell some art.
Thing I bought: Bryr Clogs! Long time lurker first time buyer.
Thing I cooked: Instant Pot Butter Chicken
Happy New Year!
For this year’s Inktober, I drew a series of wild things in New York City, from fish in Chinatown markets to lavender on Governor’s Island to parakeets that reside in Southern Brooklyn. What I really liked about this year’s challenge was that I told myself I could only use one box of Blick Brush markers and a single black pen. Restricting color made me more resourceful in needing to use texture, layered colors, and black pen brush strokes with fast drawing techniques to give the impression of what I wanted. I also enjoyed forcing myself to draw something with color every day. I don’t feel the same about each drawing, some were made quit fast or at coffee shops even while on vacation, but a few I really love now. I see them each as a beginning of a larger idea just maybe.
I’m now gearing up to work on a portfolio for 10 to 12 images for the SCBWI New York Conference in February. I’m pretty nervous! But I found a lot of inspiration from this Inktober challenge for that. I’m thinking I might want to do a lot of New York City wildlife scenes for my portfolio, maybe turtles in Central Park or raccoons sneaking into trash cans.
July went by so fast. We finally closed on our new home, packed in a literal weekend, and moved (goodbye upper west side!) into our first bought home. Hello, Ditmas Park! We are very excited to be in our new apartment but we are still trying to arrange our stuff, unpacking in a dreaded heat wave without enough air conditioners, which means my art boxes are somewhere underneath it all.
This month's free wallpaper is actually a scan of a doodle I made during my office's weekly project meetings. I can't help but doodle no matter what I'm doing. It's a fun challenge I have for myself now, to see what I can do with the doodles you don't think will add up to anything.
I think the vibe is burnt seventies green floral extravaganza, perhaps because I feel like the summer has scorched me too much.
You can download this wallpaper, too.
I've been having a lot of fun making patterns recently, using old sketches, work doodles, and even things I've found on random pieces of paper. This one of summer vegetables I made from an unfinished sketch at least three years old. I'm loving my new color palate here.
Download the free summer vegetable pattern, too.
Mexico City is very close to the United States. I know that seems like such a silly thing to say but I really had no idea you could fly to there so quickly. I'd never been to Mexico, either, not even for a beach vacation so I was pretty excited for our trip. Given how terrible our country is currently treating Mexico, I think no time is better than now to appreciate our very close North American neighbor for being a diverse, beautiful, and worthy country.
I learned in plotting this trip that flights to Mexico City are pretty stable. They'll rarely go lower than the mid-250's for round trip from New York (a good deal) but they'll always hover around mid 300's (not so bad.)
We flew Delta though Volaris has a lot of great budget flights. My favorite part of the flight is the descent because the city is built in a former lake bed with mountains surrounding it. As someone who is afraid of flying, I weirdly loved having a window seat for watching this descent. The airport feels very much part of the city too, so it's like you're landing next to skyscrapers.
The best time to go seems to be between March and June, so we went at the end of March. The weather was to die for. It would get sunny during the day, and coolish at night. It was bright and verdant. All the jacaranda trees in the city were blooming, a serendipitous coincidence in Condesa, a trendy and leafy neighborhood where we spent a lot of time in. The streets were lined with large, tropical trees and bright townhouses. It reminded me of parts of Los Angeles.
Our trip was short but very relaxing. I'd love to go back to Mexico to take a few excursions farther from the city, to explore Oaxaca or the Yucatan. Eating my weight in regional foods of Mexico is now very high on my bucket list!
We stayed at a bed and breakfast called Condesa Haus. Most nights we stayed in that neighborhood as well because it's home to a lot of food and nightlife. Ubers are very cheap in CDMX though, and the best way (I think) to get around for a visit. I've heard good and mixed things about the subway, and the usual "be careful of your things" which applies to similar cities here too.
To Eat and Drink:
Hand's down the best thing we did was eat and appreciate the cuisine.
My highlight was splurging on a walking guided food tour with Eat Mexico. Our guide was charming and knowledgable, getting us to try a variety of things we'd not have experienced on our own: pulque, mole, tlacoyos, grasshoppers, regional fruits, and more.
We splurged on two fancy restaurants that expanded what we were expecting of cuisine in Mexico City. The first, Contramar, is well known. We opted for the tuna tostadas and large grilled fish to share with mezcal margaritas there. The ambience was perfect for a fancier meal. The seafood is very fresh in CMDX because the city is the central depot for fish throughout the country. As well, we dined at the trendy Roma restaurant Fonda Fina.
For budget dining, we loved tacos al pastor at El Tizoncito. I could live off of those alone really. We also ate at a few markets, including the newer and hipper Mercado Roma and the bountiful Mercado Coyoacan.
We had a drink in the old school La Opera Bar, as well as a drink with a view at the Miralto, both located in the Centro Historico. We spent severals nights back by our bed and breakfast sipping mezcal at Botica in Condesa. One night we splurged for the rooftop bar at hotel Condesa DF.
Dessert had to be Churreria El Moro.
To See and Do:
CDMX is full of sights but we didn't have a bunch of time, so we decided to see the classics and murals of Palacio Nacional and Belles Artes, and take respite in the Metropolitan Cathedral.
Chaultepec offered lush trees and multiple things to see during long walks including the anthropology museum and an open air bookstore and cafe. We walked the neighborhoods of Condesa, Roma, Polanco, and Centro Historico a lot to. A day trip brought us to Coyoacan for Frida's house and the market. If and when we revisit, I'd like to stay in Coyoacan, the area was so friendly and bright.
New York City is experiencing a heat wave this week that I've taken off from work to putz around both at home in Massachusetts and in the emptied out city. It's meant a lot of moving from subway car to subway car until I find the actually cold one, as well as a deep appreciation rain today.
For July forth, I didn't do much in the way of celebratory, besides margaritas for dinner and watching the distant Jersey City fireworks from the 79th street pier. But I'm fully in support of doing nothing for holidays.
I don't think I've taken enough time to appreciate a staycation in New York, especially in the summer. Right now I'm nursing a bad burn from a day trip yesterday to Sandy Hook beach, watching the World Cup, and making art in my air conditioned apartment. Later I think I'll venture out, maybe buy some watermelon, and get my nails done. I love a lazy, summer life in New York City (even if for just a few days.)
When I worked on the Upper East Side I used to take walks over to Glaser's to get a donut or a black and white cookie. The 116 year old bakeshop is a wondrous blast from the past with that teal green sign, the intricate inside, and of course, those iconic New York City cookies. They were even featured in a Mad Men episode.
When I heard they were closing a few months ago, I made a strategic decision to go early to get my last black and white. I'm glad I had my little goodbye back in April. I carried a box home with two cookies on the crosstown bus like a funeral rite.
The sunsetting of Glaser's makes me think of the book I'm currently reading, St. Mark's Is Dead by Ada Calhoun, a great rumination on the constant change of New York City seen through one of the city's most iconic streets. Calhoun strikes a nice balance of nostalgia for the wonders of the past city and thinking forward on the nature of urban change. She shows us how the city has always lamented "those newcomers" ruining everything, with residents wishing for the mythical past.
I'm stuck then somewhere between loving the ever changing, ever contentious, beat of New York City and feeling pretty downtrodden that the commercial rent is so high that all we get are banks and big brand pharmacies. I understand why a family would want to end their 116 year old store because generations change and grow, that's kinda the American story too, but perhaps it would be less sad if we knew the diversity of stores in New York could keep going.
Glaser's Bakery 1670 1st Avenue New York, NY 10128
I want to illustrate a full children's book dummy about a New York City bodega cat this summer. So here's a wallpaper I made with my sketchbook studies I've done for the project. Repeat patterns are a great way to keep me occupied and slowly chipping away at the goal while binge watching an TV show.
When I was in ninth grade, with extremely frizzy hair and a strange sense of style that only the early aughts could produce, I met a librarian who told me about poetry. It was a simple breakthrough in my life of books.
This librarian helped me finish an assignment for my honors english class one afternoon at our town's public library. She also serendipitously told me I should I read Lawrence Ferlinghetti's A Coney of the Island of the Mind, too.
Up until that point, I'd really never had an adult show me the good stuff in reading beyond me stealing my mom's Oprah paperbacks. It ushered in a desire not just for poetry but for all kinds of books I'd hadn't been thinking about.
I loved Ferlinghetti's anti-classical form instantly, how what he wrote spoke to feelings I'd had about living in our times even if we experienced different Americas. He was nothing like the sonnets we were learning in class. I didn't need to track his literary devices. I didn't even know who or what the beats were, but I felt like I could actually read what he wrote.
I bought his book on my own after returning that library copy. I never really loved Kerouac or the other beats after that. It was always A Coney Island of the Mind for me.
Even today, I think about his style, especially in this weird time and place in the world. I still have my copy that I move with me from apartment to apartment. Once in San Francisco, I stopped in City Lights hoping I'd get a sighting of him. Maybe I will someday.
(excerpt from I Am Waiting, Lawrence Ferlinghetti)
Happy Almost Summer! I'm wearing a great vintage dress today that I thought I'd have to wait until the actual summer to wear because it's going to be in the 80s. I also made a thrifted (Poshmark, you devil you!) purchase of bright yellow saltwater sandals that kind of match this months free wallpaper. Now I'm thinking I need them in gold, too?
In honor of that summer feeling, download my lemons wallpaper repeat pattern for your desktop.
I'd gladly take a trip to Cinque Terre Italy right now, to eat a slice of lemon olive oil cake.
For the past few years I've made time to get away to various parts of the Catskills and Hudson valley for adventures in the summer and fall . I just happened upon this fast watercolor sketch after I climbed up Overlook Mountain sometime ago which made me a bit wistful for the close to home getaways.
I'm looking for inspiration, especially for this coming summer season that are right outside the city's door step.
Send me your ideas! I've been inspired by Only Living Girl in New York's trips to the farther afield Lake George area.
Upstate Weekend Trips Ideas Near New York City
By car: A Summer in the Hudson Valley Ashokan for the Reservoir Big Indian NY for The Peekamoose Restaurant New Paltz to tour the cideries Westkill for the Spruceton Inn and Westkill Brewing Woodstock for Overlook Mountain and Bread Alone
Before our trip to Provence last thanksgiving (I'm bad at posting travel recaps on time, huh?) I landed my two feet in Spain for the first time. It had been on my personal bucket-list-before-thirty. I visited just under the wire in my thirty first year, so I'll call it an almost win.
Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in Europe so it's very easy to get great flight deals to from the east coast. To me, It had that cosmopolitan feel of lot of tourism and students, kind of like Amsterdam.
Our trip was very interesting as we happened to arrive right after a tumultuous vote for independence. There were Catalan flags strung out everywhere, dotting the grand apartments on the boulevards we walked through.
I know many people will say that Barcelona is warm and lively, full of good food and welcoming people, but it's a true cliche. The city is both beautiful on foot and the prices are very reasonable for dining.
The concept of eating and drinking late into the evening was all I needed to be smitten with the city's laid back culture. We spent out days walking, drinking cava which was everywhere like water, and eating late into the night at tapas restaurants.
In terms of the big tourist draws, we opted to not visit many Gaudi museums because they're fairly pricey for tourists, but cheaper for residents. But the beauty is you can make your own guided tour on foot. Each house or building is also beautiful seen in the fading afternoon sunlight, the intricate tile work a fascinating maze to gaze upon. We did book a visit for the Sagrada Familia because it we knew it was absolutely spectacular, like a spaceship cathedral planted on earth.
For food, we mostly found a few tapas restaurants we enjoyed so much that we returned several times. The well-known Tapas 24 was as delicious as the hype, too. It was worth a stop for a long dinner of small plates, people watching the mix of locals and tourists.
One afternoon after walking down from the funicular on Montjuic, which I wanted to do even though I'm terrified of heights, we happened into a southern Spanish restaurant called Sucursal Aceitera that had a fantastic set lunch. I definitely recommend trying a restaurant at lunch for a full meal at a great price. Afterwards we somehow kept walking and made it all the way to the beach at sunset. I think Brian and I are addicted to just walking until our legs give out.
I also enjoyed the many markets, especially a few meals we had at Catarina market in Born. I've hankered for slices of tortilla we ate there ever since.
We made drinks a leisurely unplanned activity, opting often for Basque pintxos so we could snack and sip wine (cheaper late lunch!) or hanging out in local spots in the neighborhoods surrounding our hotel, like Born and Raval. I enjoyed an afternoon drink of vermut, unexpectedly. I've never been a vermouth fan until Barcelona where it's having a renaissance.
For lodging, we stayed in the Gothic Quarter in a small hotel for ease of access to the city. A word to the budget travelers: Airbnb is under a lot of scrutiny in Barcelona . We were stopped once by several kind school kids doing an investigative project on tourism for an interview, in turn giving us a lot of information about how the local debate on tourism is growing deeply critical of rental apartments. Given that atmosphere, we opted for a hotel in a central location. The prices were right so we had no qualms with the change of our travel pace.
Of course, I dusted off my very rusty Spanish skills from years of American classroom experience that included very little real world interaction when we arrived. To my chagrin, I quickly realized most people speak Catalan and then English, with Spanish in between.
Alas, that means I've got to make more trips around Spain to really learn. I found being around any amount of Spanish in Barcelona fascinating and addictive, like remembering a story you were told over and over again but without the right context. Here's hoping I make it back for the practice and the Jamon Iberico!
Churros and people watching on Las Ramblas
Barceloneta beach strolling.
Montjuic for the funicular.
Self guided walking tour of Gaudi buildings
La Catedral in Old City
Drinks in Raval
Meandering around Born
Parliament street in Poble Sec
To Eat and Drink
La Boqueria market especially for the jamon!
Restaurants around Mercat Saint Antoni
El Bosc de les Fades is a touristy spot I'm not ashamed I love
Irati for Basque pinxtos
Tapas at Sensi
Southern Spanish at Sucursal Aceitera
The best part of this year of living on the Upper West Side is exploring all The Very New York Institutions that exist up here on a casual basis. It's been fun to just see movies at Lincoln Center, walk by the farmer's market at The Natural History Museum, and sit for a slice of cheese cake at Cafe Lalo.
And in the this neighborhood, the intersection of 72nd Street feels like one of the most cinematic and iconic. Perhaps I feel this way because of You've Got Mail but I also learned that it's a background in Die Hard, too. I think my subconscious remembers that scene.
The yellow and bright Gray's Papaya at 72nd is a perfect storefront symbol for the neighborhood, an open 24/7 stalwart on the corner beaming in yellow and painted signs.
Now that the spring is really here, I feel a craving for a hot dog with mustard, but never ketchup. Yep, that's how I like my papaya dog.
-- Gray's Papaya 2090 Broadway, New York, NY 10023
I love the desktop backgrounds I find over at Design Love Fest so I thought it might be nice to start making my own too. You can expect these to be my new monthly project. So keep your eyes out for more!
Download my free desktop background of house plants to start your spring office day right.
If you're interested, I have a house plants print for sale, too.
March is Women's History month! So in honor, here are a few articles I've saved over the past year or so to remind myself that the path to being an artist (or whatever you want to call it) is long and varied. It's also good to feel positive about women making it for their work and art whenever I'm feeling stuck or confused. It's not a competition, but a journey.
"From one point of view, I’ve succeeded, because I am making a living doing this. But even if I didn’t, the bottom line is that at least I have tried. If we try really hard and things don’t work out the way we want them to, we can move on. ."
"You would think I spend most of my day creating this fun artwork, right? Actually most of my days are filled with reviewing contracts, managing current licensing relationships, developing new licensing relationships, and researching (trends, what’s in the market, etc.) Everyday is different, which I love.
"Like many game-changing ideas, Women Who Draw started in a bathroom. “I was literally sitting on the toilet, looking through a stack of a well-known magazine that uses illustration on the cover,” Rothman, an illustrator based in Brooklyn, remembers. “That’s when I realized: I recognized most of the cover illustrators—but none of them were women.”"
You know what's great about New York? The bodega. The corner store. The deli. You can pick your name of choice.
I love being able to buy a single diet coke with a straw anywhere, at any time. I love egg and cheese as a universal deli rite. I drink lowbrow coffee, with no shame, from my bodegas. Give me a small hot coffee with no sugar, thank you very much. Even if I'm in a current battle with my deli by my work office (how do you mess up a simple turkey sandwich so many times?) I can't imagine living in New York without them. I'll keep coming back, always trying to make the credit card minimum.
I loved this story from the past year from NPR on the bodega. It's neat to think of them as also cultural institutions that change with people and places, passing down through families, and making their mark of New York City.
My Sunday vibes this wintry day are:
Thinking about making a cold soba noodle salad for the week
Drawing and coloring with Blick brush markers (above illustration.) They're more affordable than Copic markers but just as great.
Exploring Woodside, Queens on a wintry afternoon trip.
Bagels are a reason I can't leave New York. Growing up in pretty basic New England town, we had one guy who made bagels the New York Way. They were good, not great, but chewy in a much better way than most non-metro area bagels tend to be. Then I moved to New York and started eating Bagel Bob's all the time. Hello, pimento olive cream cheese. A bagel love affair began in my life and has yet to cease.
Currently my favorite bagels are found at the edge of the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights at Absolute Bagels. This is a non-frills, kinda grimy, bagel cafe.It is not meant for Instagram selfies with matcha and pink walls. But they are one of the best in New York according to Eater!
The bagels are just right: they're chewy, not too big, not too small, salty and perfectly New York-ish. You can literally watch as the bagels are boiled and baked here, emerging from the giant oven like little golden nuggets of joy. The everything bagel is perfectly garlicky and salty, which is my real taste test for a bagel. If there is no salt I am done, that's it. Your bagel is dead to me.
I can't describe it actually but you just know what a good bagel is when you take that first bite.
Spring for the Thai iced tea if you're an iconoclast. It makes a good bagel friend.
Absolute Bagel 2788 Broadway, 108th St.