Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ring Out the Old!

Ring in the New!
Happy New Year Conga

This morning I arrived moody and upset at the airport after spending a hellish red-eye flight next to Neanderthal man and his lesser-half child bride. I was already a little homesick. I know that with my family in Utah instead of Hawaii and my brother working for Delta that I get to see them much more than any other time in my adult life, but the drama queen in me likes to wonder "When will we meet again?!"

I hailed a cab from the curb of JFK. Stepping into the familiar yellow taxi I shook out my
snow covered scarf. We left Queens, keeping to Atlantic Avenue in a wild flurry of snow that blanketed everything in sight. I couldn't help but feel a deep satisfaction and calm wash over me as we made our way into Brooklyn. When we turned on Court Street and I felt my neighborhood get closer, that familiar warmth of belonging made my pulse quicken in excitement. I hadn't been out of the cab long enough to grab my suitcase when the grocer from the fruit market across the street yelled out "Ahhhhh Happy New Year Miss Amber!!!!" I lugged my "way over-sized" luggage up to my third floor apartment. At the top of the stairs it hit me, we're at the end of a decade! I hadn't really put it together yet. I took a moment to reflect on the past. I was senior at Kahuku High this time ten years ago. Now I am here. (picture a big red x on a map of awesome)

I CANNOT wait to kick 2009 to the curb, let's be honest, it's been seven kinds of lame. At the same time, I smile so broadly on the the last decade.

Ten years ago I rang in the decade of double zeros with my family, Pacific Ocean side. I distinctly remember chasing my twelve-year-old sister down a sandy stretch of beach with a sparkler held aloft.

at that point in my life
  • I hadn't ever spent a night completely alone.
  • I didn't know what it felt like to have friends that are like family.
  • I'd never been in love.
  • I'd never swam in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • I didn't comprehend how a computer could do anything but hinder you as an artist.
  • I had absolutely no idea how anyone could stand talk radio.
  • I swam faster than I walked.
  • My skin was about ten shades darker.
  • I wanted to be a full-time animator.
  • I hadn't lost anyone close to me.
  • I hadn't graduated from high school.
  • I was more interested in biology than I was in any other subject in school, including art.
  • I had in no way embraced my inner-nerd. I spat at her, embarrassed when she showed her 'glasses-face'.
  • I had no idea how to walk in heels.
  • I was torn, wondering whether Blink 182 or Weezer was the best band of all time.
  • I didn't know how to ask for what I really wanted.
  • I was often paralyzed by my fear of the unknown.
  • I didn't know how to stand up for myself.
  • I trusted so easily.
  • I wouldn't ever guess that I'd live for tough contract negotiation or that I'd thrill at the challenges that come with new clients.
  • I didn't have an identity or a style as an artist - I was fairly sure I wouldn't ever find one.
  • I was terrified at the idea of disappointing my family and my community.
  • I hadn't yet made the decision of Brooklyn's Pratt Institute over Valincia's Cal Arts.
  • I was sure I that no matter my choice, I would want to work for a huge company in California as an animator after I graduated from college.
I had no idea that a decade later I'd be in love with my life, confident in who I am as an artist and an individual. How could I know that I'd be thriving, making a living as an artist in New York City? I didn't know that I'd have so many rich experiences or that I'd live through so many hard lessons. I didn't know that I would have so many people in my life who make living fun, exciting, challenging and oh-so-rewarding. Who could know that I'd love Brooklyn as much as I loved my sprawling white-sand "back yard"? When I'm here, I am home, my soul knows it.

I wish I could go back there for just a moment and really see my seventeen-year-old self. I know how scared she was and how worried she was that she couldn't make it in this big world. I know how terrified she was to leave her family all the way across the country. She loved where she was but she needed to go somewhere new. She wondered if it was a mistake to fly off to a totally new existence in a far off place where she knew nothing and no one. She wondered how New York could be the right choice. How could you ever feel at home somewhere so big and urban? Plus, what if she didn't make any friends? What if college at an art school was as hellish as high school had been? What if she wasn't even that great an artist? What if she couldn't do it?

I'd go back and hold her hand and tell her that she was in for such an 'effing-fantastic adventure. I wish I could let her know that in ten years time, at twenty-seven, she wouldn't change a thing about the path she'd taken. It's been a Robert Frost journey. I wish she would know not to care when people tell her she's throwing away huge opportunities. Then she wouldn't be so nervous when she turned some things down for other chances that just "feel right". I wish I could let her know that broken hearts mend, that career crises subside and that the people who matter most are the people who let you be yourself. Most of all I wish she knew that New Year's Eve 2009 would find her shimmying into something fancy and scrubbing India Ink from under her nails before running out into the night full of glee and anticipation for everything that is coming now, without a smidgen of worry. Then she'd know that it's a wonderful life and that everything works out the way it's supposed to. I wish she knew she'd be giddy about staring down a New Year, excited to get started on a new decade, "a new day with no mistakes in it yet."

Happy New Year, my loves. I hope it finds you and everything you love, healthy, happy and ready to pop the cork on a bright new future. Let's see what the next ten years brings us, shall we?

"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day." ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

listening to right this second: "run" -- snow patrol

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Owl Done

Hehe. Sometimes I crack me up.

wildnight Final Line Art

wildnight FinalLineArt copy
You can see the progress on this little journey here
and don't here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Something Old and Something New

After twenty-five years of Hawaiian life, my parents recently relocated from the North Shore of Oahu to the Middle of Nowhere Utah.
Sea Shell Wreath
As I prepared to vacate Brooklyn I packed my warmest clothes and made sure that I hadn't forgotten leggings and scarves. I laughed/cried when I got to unpacking at my parent's place and realized I'd absent mindedly packed not one, but two bathing suits. Old habits die hard.

I quickly busied myself poking around the joint, making sure that things were put "just so". After all, just because it's a new location doesn't mean that things should change. (This is where I start singing Fiddler on the Roof's 'Tradition! TRADITION!')

New: This "woodland upstairs tree". My mom was set on two trees this year! Witness our first major 'Hawaiian Christmas' violation. I can safely bet you that no one in Hawaii decked the halls with two trees this year....

New: ALL of these Ornaments! What? New Ornaments? This is not adhering to protocol. Ornaments can be given as gifts or purchased to commemorate important life milestones. They can be bought on vacations and picked up in small doses at after Christmas sales. They are NOT supposed to be bought in bulk to fit a theme!

But... this tree is pretty cute. I kind of do adore those funky little owls. You know I'm prone to loving you know who?
Up Stairs Tree
Old: The teddy bear snow on the windows saved my mom from my skepticism. I was totally afraid she'd shirk this very important tradition. Growing up in a snowless existence makes fake snow on the windows vital to creating the perfect holiday vibe. I was worried that with all the powder on the ground outside this vital bit of decor would go the way of the Dodo. How could I have ever questioned her? Oh. Wait. I know How:

New: This Downstairs Blue Spruce Christmas tree.
Ahwuah? A blue Christmas tree? It is pokey and sharp and unlike the Douglass Furs and Palm Tree Christmases that I was raised on. I paced around it, suspicious like a cat.
Downstairs Tree
I poked around and slowly located all the important things that make for a perfect Christmastime.

Several Ice Cream Angels polka-dot this suspicious spruce. This may come as a heart-attack inducing shock, but I wasn't always wicked cool. As a seventh grader I became obsessed with making these ice cream spoon angels. Their little wooden bodies are crocheted into proper holiday get-ups. I turned a pretty fair little business selling them at the Blaisdell Craft Fair. Mom saved just the right amount of them to bedeck the tree forevermore. Their little mouth-less faces have been a Christmas constant ever since.

Ice Cream Spoon Angel
This Maneki Neko is a good luck cat. It's important that he's prowling in the branches. He brings a great New Year.
Cat Luck
This Santa Icicle is one of my very favorite pieces to put on the tree. I like his crystal blue eyes and his snowy beard. There is part of me that secretly loves and the way he can stab people into being nice with his pointed stare and facial hair shiv. Hmm... right about now I'm loving the way this blue tree showcases the ornaments....
Santa Icicle
This chubby little mermaid speaks directly to my well documented obsession. It reminds me of perfect Christmas days by land and by sea.
This rainbow block was my first ornament way back in 1982. How could my parents know this Mary Blair-esque decoration would so perfectly speak to my design aesthetic decades later? It's one of my top five favorites on our overflowing tree.
Baby Block
I think I was eight when this ornament was wrapped in the brightest candy cane red wrapping paper and labeled with my name. It might have melted my brain. I'd never seen anything so perfectly beautiful.
Ever since it's been my "magic glass flying pony."
Never mind that it is not glass, it's some form of iridescent plastic. Forget that it's a Pegasus and not a pony, its title has stuck. I remember thinking it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.

Its presence on the new/odd/strangely alluring tree reminds me that The Christmas Spirit can transform things. So I might be in a snowy Utah Valley instead of frolicking on the beach of my youth, but my family is here and the ground is white and we're warm and lucky to have each other. I hope your holiday was family and fun and fabulous, on that note, Mele Kalikimaka and a Hauli Makahiki Hou!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Coming Undone

I'm still in the throws of an uber gigantic project that screams at me every time I try to find a moment to myself. It's been about two months of eating and sleeping said project.

Sea Horsies

Hourse of Course

Here are a few of the million things that sit undone. They hide in the shadows and mock me.


Flower Cabbages

I itch to attack them.

Wallpaper Deviations of Love

You'll see them here in anticipated done-ness here at She Sure is Sketchy in the OH-So-Wonderful-New-Year that is creeping closer, ever closer.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pantone Finally Gets Down With It

Me: Hey Pantone, do you know what the best color ever is?
Pantone: The color you've been blog rocking since 2006?
Me: 'Bout time.
Welcome to the party!

The first time I fell in love, when I very first felt that twitterpated feeling I've been chasing my entire life, I realized that when I'm head over heels I feel the same way about the object of my affection as I do about water. Even before I knew I was going to fall madly in love with She Sure is Sketchy, I knew what color it needed to be....

1.© AHMED... 2. © vjhreeves 3.© floralgal, 4.© Sarah Schloo, 5. © marksternphoto,6.© ArtsySF

These photos are visual manifestation of what I think of when I think of the purest inspiration. I am always happiest when working in this color. It pulls me to my roots and takes me home.
Pantone's color for 2010 takes me to my happiest place.

This bodes well.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Snakes on a Blog

That's right! Monkey-Fighting snakes on a Monday - Friday blog!

When I have a concept for illustration I grab the closest piece of paper I have and I scribble random lines on it. I know that my memory is not as awesome as it should be. I'm only 27 but I forget some of my best ideas if I don't make a note. I think when I'm old I'll be one of those funny red-hat ladies with yarn bows tied on all my fingers. The digital age and Google Calendar has made life much, much better. Regardless, I like things tangible and scraps of paper are my preferred medium for note taking or scribble drawings and sketchy thinking.


These snakes first happened at Joya's on Court Street.
Nothing says snakes like a writhing bowl of mundo-delicious flat noodles. I love Joya's because the food is delicious and the service is bad. They have paper on all the tables and if you're a sketchy Brooklynite who always has a pencil tucked behind her ear this is a great place for inspiration while you wait forever and ever for your yummy food -- hence the snakes.

Snakes Seconddraft RedPencils_1

First snakes were sketched in itty bitty scale - around 2x4".
I liked them enough to give them some time and I hit them with red pencils on 10x10" paper.

These are done with my preferred Col-Erase red pencils in cadmium red.
I recommend buying them and trying them out - well that is if you're not in the Brooklyn or Manhattan Burroughs. Finding them here is getting harder and harder. If you must buy them in New York please just stay away from Chelsea's Utrecht and Lee's Art Shop across from Carnegie Hall - those are my haunts and I have dibs.

I always think better when I see my art in red line. I realized these snakes were almost cool but that their faces weren't entrancing. Snakes need entrancing faces. I played with them in pencil once I loved their mugs I attacked them with pastel, watercolor, gauche and digital ink.


When I got to this "finished" stage I was so disappointed with these guys. I thought they were going to be awesome when they were in that very first thumbnail stage. Now they seemed to be missing some face-punch snakiness. I uploaded dirt and grass variations and called my brother. Ashton starts every conversation we have about my work with "OK, but what's my percentage?" ;)


One of the best lessons I learned in college was from a professor who said "If you want to know how your art is going to be received ask anyone you trust. They don't have to have any artistic inkling to know what's wrong or what they think. After all, they're your audience." We looked at them online and I talked about the pros and cons of dirt vs. grass. I was weary of grass because The snakes were already green and I didn't want to lose them. At this point Ashton really wasn't earning his keep. Then he was like "Nah they look great, keep them on Grass. Just do something to make them different than the grass, like you know something artsy you can do." 2 points.

I suggested we add more rocks. He said "yeah, rocks can be good, just make them artsy." So I started scribbling in pastel while we kept chatting. "Kid, you've got to give me something better if you're going to earn that ten percent, yo."

"What if you gave them scales?"

This is where working with younger brothers becomes exasperating "Butch, they already have scales!"

I pictured him shrugging when he said undaunted in his Hawaiian boy attitude "Dude, give them more scales."
I hung up exasperated, grabbed a glass of water and came back to the drawing board when I realized,
gee that kid is genius. Meet the snakes, in all their "more scales" glory.



listening to right this second: "right round" -- flo rida

Friday, December 04, 2009


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