Dare To Be Stupid

DareStupid (Image available here for purchase)

Last time, I introduced you to one of my "3 Rules for Creating" - Show Up and Work!

Today, let me introduce you to my next rule...

#2 Dare To Be Stupid

Yes my friends, Weird Al Yankovic had it correct back in 1985 when he released a song by this very title. He's been doing stupid for a really long time. With no signs of slowing down. As a matter of fact he's in the height of his career with having nabbed the number one slot for a comedy album on the Billboard charts. Now before you click some other link to leave this page, hear me out...

This rule is about loosing you inhibitions. Every time you sit down to create something, you start hearing "those" voices. You know the ones.

"You can't do it that way. You'll look foolish".

"What on Earth are you thinking? No one is going to {buy, read, watch} that. You'll just prove to others that you really aren't that good and don't have a clue what you are doing."

By adopting Rule number 3, you kick those voices in the teeth and actually do something "stupid" just to spite them. It's not just for stupidity's sake. But it's in doing something stupid that we experience the sense of PLAY. And that my friends, is where the good stuff is.

Last week, I decided to try something stupid. Instead of using a paintbrush, I used a stick. Yes, from my backyard. And I made a video Instagram post of me using it. Stupid. But you know what? It was also freeing and playful. And I really like the results. Results, I might add, that I would never had come upon if I had not dared to be stupid.

What stupidity should you be chasing? Odds are you know. It's that thing that the "voice of reason" is trying to stifle right now.

What are you waiting for? Go for it. You never know what breakthrough might be just beyond stupid. Take Al's advice. Watch his video if you like, then muster up all the stupid you can find and have FUN!

...Get your mojo working now I'll show you how You can dare to be stupid...

...Come on and dare to be stupid It's so easy to do Dare to be stupid We're all waiting for you Let's go...

...You can be a coffee achiever You can sit around the house and watch Leave It To Beaver The future's up to you So what you gonna do...

Dare to be stupid

~ Weird Al Yankovic, "Dare To Be Stupid"


If the 80's style is a bit much for your sensibilities, try this one on for size.


30 in 30: Day 23

Day 23 of my 30 paintings in 30 days challenge. I'm using sketches i created from Instagram photos on my iPhone I did as part of a 100 day project and turing 30 of them into paintings. User: @heredes

Original Instagram photo:

Day 23 instagram


100 Day iPhone Sketch:



30 in 30 day painting:

Day 23


Acrylic & Ink. 8 x 8 on 140 lb. watercolor paper.

30 in 30: Day 11

Day 11 of my 30 paintings in 30 days challenge. I'm using sketches i created from Instagram photos on my iPhone I did as part of a 100 day project and turing 30 of them into paintings. User: @jaimiealexander

Original Instagram photo:



100 Day iPhone Sketch:


30 in 30 day painting:


Acrylic & Ink. 8 x 8 on 140 lb. watercolor paper.

Learning from Jim Henson

jim_henson_2128566i I grew up on Jim Henson's work - Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and Fraggle Rock (to name a few). He was a master at creating magical realities. Unfortunately, as a kid you don't recognize the work and genius. You just enter it and enjoy it. With the release of the new Muppets Most Wanted movie, a whole new generation is getting to experience his brilliant work, long after his untimely passing in 1990.

I recently found myself checking out from my library, the audiobook of his biography "Jim Henson: The Biography" by Brian Jay Jones. While I had admired his work for years, and the part it played in my childhood, to be honest I knew very little about the man behind it. It was great to hear of his humble beginnings, and drive to succeed at his dream. I'm only on chapter three, but I'm finding his story inspiring and refreshing.

Especially noteworthy to me was a description of how he learned by experimenting and playing to problem solve. This often led him to breakthroughs that were unusual, because he wasn't trapped by traditional thinking or training. He often didn't know any better, and this freedom was the exact thing that he needed to try new things. Case in point - he decided instead of creating an immersive physical theater for his puppets, that he would wed his love of television and consider the monitor his puppets theater and world. Everything had to look good and operate with Television viewing in mind. This was not how his predecessors worked. It was revolutionary thinking for his time.

I suppose that in the past I never really thought to look into his story because I wasn't really interested in puppets. But there's so much more to his life and story. If you're looking for an inspirational book, from a guy who followed his dreams and passions - check this one out! You just might find some influential thoughts to your own dreams and creative process!

If opportunity hasn't knocked, start going door to door.

lucky What do you do if you feel like you're doing everything you possibly can to advance in your art and yet there seems a lack of opportunity? You try and try and yet it's like there's no traction. Where is that "lucky break"?

You have two choices:

1. Complain about the lack of opportunity and become jealous of those around you who seem to be succeeding with such ease. I could so do what they're doing, you think. But you're not. To be honest, you're barely doing what YOU are doing. It's not luck. It's hard work on what is before you right now, no matter how small or big.

2. Make opportunities. Yeah I know. I hear the push back. The truth is though, if you are HUNGRY enough you can take advantage of opportunities all around you. They just aren't those sexy opportunities that thrust you into the public eye with accolades and acclaim. And let's be honest. If we're going to bust our butt, we want it to count for something BIG right?

What I have found is that you might have to redefine your idea of what great opportunities look like.

If opportunity hasn't knocked, start going door to door.

Are you doing work you love? (If not - then get to it. Stop waiting for someone to ask or invite you to do it).

Ok. I'll use myself as an example. Would I like to have my art valued, hung in galleries and sold for a lot of dough, and soak in all that goes along with being a "successful" professional artist? Sure. But I'm not waiting for someone to come knocking. I keep taking the right next step. TODAY (That's my mantra, as you know well if you frequent my blog).

Practically here's what that looks like:

- I committed to a drawing or painting a day for an entire year. April 4th will be an entire year. I have held to that. And even done more some days. Did I do this because some one asked me to? No. I did it to kick to the curb the lie I believed for too long that I because I couldn't draw in a photo realistic style my art was no good. This experience is more valuable than your could possibly imagine.

- I have taken advantage of FREE (and cheap) opportunities. Visit the Sketch book project. Sign up to not only do a sketchbook but every so often they have other projects to join in on. Most recently it was The "Dreadful" Project and it was free to enter. Sign up for a class at a local art center. Take a class from Craftsy.com

- A fellow artist i follow on Instagram decided to do a #100dayproject and asked who might want to join in. (see my previous post) So for the past 21 days I've posted an iPhone sketch of someone else's photo in my Instagram feed. This has been great because I get to keep myself sketching and benefit from brightening up someone's day when I tag them in my post. They often are flattered & think it's way cool. And I even won a t-shirt from one post :)

- A few weeks ago I joined up with the NYC Urban Sketchers group. These are people who just love to draw. They meet up every Saturday in NYC and sketch in various places. Urban Sketchers have groups meeting world-wide. And it's F-R-double-E except when there's an admission to a place they are sketching (like the Central Park Zoo, which was $12 admission).

- Make things for other people. Give your art away. Give some to friends and family. Surprise someone with a handwritten letter and draw on the envelope. You'd be surprised how this could make someone's day. I did a watercolor painting of my daughter as a surprise for her 11th birthday. Your art is a gift, and while you need to make money if this is a career, there are also times when you need to gift it.

- Use social media to share your art. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest - you never know who might be exposed to your art, like it or even share it. It's todays networking. And if you're an introvert, this is great news as you don't have to have the personality of a mayor to connect.

- Look for local venues to display your work. In april, I will have one piece in a show at a local library. In August, I'll have my first solo show at another library. While it's not a SOHO gallery in NYC, it's getting your work out there that counts!

I don't say all this to brag. On the contrary, I say it to show that everyone has opportunity. Sometimes you just have to get creative, or change your perspective. And before you tell me it's easy for me because I'm a "creative professional" - all that I mentioned above has nothing to do with my full-time graphic design job. This is extra.

So, still think there's no opportunity? Get to creating...

Kick Your Creativity in the Pants

calvin-hobbes-swift-kick-in-the-butt Everyone finds themselves stuck in a rut at some point. Getting out can seem difficult if not impossible. (Where did I put that motivation?) When it comes to creativity, it's easy to fall back on the same ol', and to stop growing, pushing, reaching, risking...

So here's a suggestion. Join me on a journey over the next 100 days. March 6th through June13th.


I was looking through my Instagram feed and happened upon a post by Elle Luna (@elleluna on Instagram) where she was throwing down the challenge to do a #100dayproject. She's even set up a website for it. What is it? Simply put - One thing. Every Day. 100 times.

It could be five minutes a day. Everyone has five minutes to invest. Keep it simple. Small. Light. Portable.  To be honest, I hesitated because I have already committed to doing a drawing or painting for a year (finishing up in April). Did I really want to commit to another goal? Yes. Why? To keep pushing just a little further than where I am now. But I am keeping it light. I'm doing a black continuos line drawing on my iPhone each day based on a photo that shows up in my Instagram feed each day. (So be warned that if I follow you on Instagram, you're fair game). A quick drawing. The challenge for me comes in the size.

Want more ideas? Check out this and this.

This isn't just for artists either. Do anything for 100 days. Send an encouraging email to someone different each day. Take a photo. Get creative in your thinking and approach.

The reason why you haven't moved forward is because you keep doing the same things. The same ways. You can't expect different results when everything is the same (definition of insanity I believe). A small step is better than no step. And you can join a community of others on this journey as well. So...

Who's with me?

And if you have Instagram be sure to hashtag your daily progress with #100dayproject

And spread the word.


Creating Summer Troopers

Let's face it, here in the Northeast, we're all beyond sick of snow this winter. So besides complaining on Facebook, I found a little inspiration to follow hoping it leads to sunny days soon. I was perusing my Facebook stream and came across the following photo from the Star Wars page I follow (don't judge). As soon as I saw it, my mind saw the image I needed to create.


The following was my process on creating "Summer Troopers" as a digital art file on my iPad.

First I downloaded the Trooper photo from Facebook to my photo camera roll on my iPad.

Then using an app called "Sketchclub" I created a new document and placed the photo on the first layer. After rotating and scaling, I changed the opacity to somewhere around 50%.

The I went hunting for the additional images I needed to use as source for the umbrella and man's legs/swim trunks. Once I found those I imported them on separate layers, scaled them, cropped out all the excess of the image and change the opacity to 50% as well.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-rainy-image9690409Photo Feb 27, 3 01 30 PM

Starting with the Trooper layer, I selected a new layer where my black line art would live. Once I hid the umbrella & swim trunks layers - I was ready to trace over the troopers with a black fountain pen setting.

Photo Feb 27, 9 16 33 PM

I did the same process for each the umbrella layer & the swim trunks layer until my black line drawing was complete. Then I selected another layer where i added flat colors for the ground and the sky. I placed this layer underneath the line art. I then created another layer on top of the flat color to add a few shadow spots and set the layer to "Darken" mode and decreased the opacity to taste. The only portions left to color were the umbrella and swim trunks, so I created another layer directly under the line art and applied the color with a brush tool.

Photo Feb 27, 7 31 21 PM

Once my art was complete I saved a JPEG back to my camera roll. Then I opened that Jpeg in an app called Snapseed (a great little photography app!). In Snapseed I adjusted some contrast, saturation (in the "Tune Image" area), added a frame from one of the presets (Frames) that gave it a nice messy edge, and lastly some texture (The Grunge feature - messed around until I got the style & strength I wanted), added some "scratches" for final touches. The reason I added a frame and then the grunge waas so that the grunge effect would show on the frame as well as the image area. Finally, I exported again to my camera roll and Viola - the final digital image of "Summer Troopers"


I hope you enjoyed that quick description of my process. Just remember - have fun, play and remember there's a bunch of tools and methods to help you experiment! Happy creating!


You Can't Make it on Talent Alone

3415498843_dbf352b0a8_b When I was in High School I remember a few kids in my art classes who's work was just stunning. They were so talented and made it seem so easy. It was hard not to be either disheartened or jealous. I remember one day, my Art teacher telling us all that "you couldn't make it on talent alone". At the time I thought that was such a dumb statement.

But the reality of that statement started showing true through my years in art school (2 different ones even). We all started out bright eyed, eager, naive... along the way the crowd was thinned. Some people couldn't hack it, others lost interest. I remember one sad extreme example vividly.

There was a fellow student we'll call "Steve". Steve was so naturally gifted. His work was always praised, and seemed to need little reworking following our critiques. I would have bet he was on the fast track for success. Yet he started to miss some classes here and there. And soon he was absent more than present.  Rumors of alcoholism surfaced. And one day sitting on a bar stool at a local pub, I saw this first hand. He confessed he had no hope. His addiction swallowed him. And Steve disappeared for good one day.

I remember thinking that was such a tragedy. From outward appearances he was this shining star, ultra-talented artist. But his demons got the best of him.

Other Art School dropouts just seemed to be victims of wayward passions, dead-end jobs, financial situations... the normal stuff of life. "You can't make it on talent alone." Now I got it. But what do I do with it?

Keep showing up. Make the best of YOUR situation. Take YOUR experiences and create your art in them, through them, and even in spite of them. Keep learning and growing.

For a long time I didn't. I got sidetracked. Lost. Buried with other responsibilities, false identities, believing lies about myself and my art. But it's never too late.

You can't make it on talent alone: A beacon of hope for those who feel talentless; A tale of warning for those who rely too much on their natural giftedness. Take it as you want. But either way - Just show up. Do the Work. Be yourself. Offer the best you can right now. Keep following the path before you.

I heard Will Smith make a statement on the first episode of the Tonight show with Jimmy Fallon. When Jimmy asked what advice Will gave his kids who are in show business, Will's answer was to make their Art a gift to others. As artists we have the opportunity to make someone smile. To brighten their day even just for a moment. Don't make your craft about pursuing success, but rather a gift to the world around you.

Talent gets you noticed and opens doors. Character and hard work lay the track for your best work, work that impacts your life and  the lives of those around you.

Stop lamenting your lack of talent or opportunity. Give your gift of Art today. Someone in your world needs it.

 {Photo Credit: Louis du Mont}

3 Choices That Will Kill Your Art Before It's Created

knife The pressure to create can sometimes be stressful. There are many outside and inside forces at work that seek to destroy your creative spirit before it even lifts a finger. Here's 3 choices I have found can kill your art before it even has a chance to see daylight:

1. Waiting For Permission

Don't wait for someone else to tell you it's ok to create your art. Don't wait for an invitation. It will never come. And more urgent and "responsible" things will come to sway your attention. Create and create some more because you HAVE to.

2. Seeking Constant Validation

Everyone like's a word of encouragement, or a fist bump for your soul in the form of some Facebook Like's, Retweets, or Instagram Hearts. But basing your artistic self worth on the opinions of others is a recipe for disaster. Be who you are. Be true to YOUR art, even if you are still trying to figure out what that is. Everyone starts there. Give yourself a break.

3. Befriending Perfectionism

Wanting to be excellent is a worthy pursuit. But if you struggle with the voices of Perfectionism in your head you know all too well the following lies:  "You suck, don't even get started on this because you know it's going to fail", "What gives you the right to think someone will care about your Art when there is so much great Art out there already." and "You are not a REAL Artist. Real Artists don't make art like THAT." Kick Perfectionism in the teeth by showing up to do the work each and every day. And if you're brave enough, share your art, especially when you think it's sub-par.

Art Process: A Pear of Grapes

Did you ever look at a piece of art and wonder how it got to the finished piece before you? It's a rare thing to see art as it goes through it's various stages. Well, today I'm going to let you in on my process for this watercolor still life I've called "A Pear of Grapes". First, I set up some fruit and lighting (for some drama) to my liking. I knew I wanted a few different areas to avoid everything all clumped in the same place.

Photo Nov 03, 3 25 32 PM

Next, I taped down a piece of Watercolor paper (Strathmore 140 lb) to a foam board. I'm using Winsor & Newton brushes and watercolor paints at the moment. Also pictured in a kneaded eraser, an HB Graphite pencil and two plastic jars for water.

Photo Nov 03, 3 19 29 PM

I started off with a simple pencil sketch to block out my composition.

Photo Nov 03, 3 25 49 PM

Starting with the lightest color, I lay down some wash of watercolor paint.

Photo Nov 03, 3 30 09 PM

From there, I move on to add more color and a bit of texture, still keeping things light.

Photo Nov 03, 3 44 06 PM

I keep layering to get things a bit darker, while still keeping some light areas.

Photo Nov 03, 3 55 00 PM

I work the main subject until I feel like I'm at a good place to switch things up (or waiting for an area to dry before working a bit more).

Photo Nov 03, 4 14 35 PM

Now, I lay down some color to the foreground, knowing that I'm going to add more texture so I'm not concerned with getting my watercolor smooth.

Photo Nov 03, 4 22 47 PM

I do the same for the background, as well as now going back into my dry areas on the fruit to add more texture and lines. I've also added some darker shadows at this point

Photo Nov 03, 4 42 54 PM

Now I apply the texture in the foreground area using a darker hue and more pigment of the watercolor paint.

Photo Nov 03, 4 46 05 PM

Then I add a little more texture to the background and foreground. And to put some finishing touches, I use a bit of white Gouache for some highlights.

Photo Nov 03, 5 15 30 PM

And there ya have it folks. Hope you enjoyed a little peek into my process!


What's your next step?

photo (1) I've been pondering the question of "What's next?" as of late in terms of my passion to create. That is, when I'm not taken in different directions in the busyness of my project lists and the tasks of life. The question is always there in the quietness, when things do finally slow down.

To be honest, I have no big revelations. At least not yet. But what I am convinced of is simply showing up and taking the right next step. Some days that's making sure I get myself in my sketchbook. Or recently, signing up to take a watercolor class (which I'm loving BTW). Still, others days, it's finishing a project I've set out to do (like the art above, commissioned to do based on a page in my sketchbook project) or reading another chapter in The Artist's Way. The only thing that is certain for me is that I must find new ways and opportunities to keep creating more. Creating the stuff that flows out of my heart, and hopefully finds a way to touch someone else.

Part of me feels like it's starting to wake up to more of what could be. I'm leaning into a phrase found in the Bible in the book of Ephesians - Immeasurably more. I want to know what that looks like in my life. For my Art to be immeasurably more that I could ask or imagine - for it to go places and touch people that I don't know.

I'm not talking fame or success. I'm talking usefulness, and being a blessing in some one else's life. I'm not talking grandiose dreams. I'm talking me - fully alive, using my gifts and abilities, and trusting God to use what He desires to - in breathing life into what I create. You might think that's crazy talk. Or prideful. But, you see, for far too long I haven't given my art the value it deserved. And at one point, I almost let it die.

So at this stage in my journey, I'm not interested in "playing" art. I'm interested in real and true creation. Creation that moves me and the people around me. Creation that somehow brings a smile, or a tear, or an acknowledgement of some beauty around us that we miss most of the time. Creation that I'm is born out of passion.

I saw the following video by artist and design Elle Luna (love her name BTW) on a talk she gave entitled "Find Your Must". That's where I am. Where I've been. Where I will continue to be... (at least for a little while I think). Finding and rediscovering my "Must" - what I and only I can & must do.

I resinate with the journey. Maybe you will too. And just maybe it will help you take the right next step on your journey, leading to a new path.


Confession of a Dying Artist

RIP Something inside of me started to die. It was a slow death. Barely noticeable. It went on for years. Somehow, I think I knew something was wrong but I couldn't put my finger on it.

I've spent years using my art (mainly graphic design) to support the cause or endeavors of others. That's what I get paid to do. To use my art to create a logo for someone's product, someones else's message slides, someone else's company and ideas. Nothing wrong with that. But, I finally realized what had been slowly dying all these years. My personal art expression. My message. My voice in my art.

Doing design for others isn't the correct place to insert your personal message/expression. I'm hired to communicate their message, their identity. BUT I came to realize that I had stopped pursuing avenues of my own expression. And it slowly began shortly after graduating art school.

Earlier this year, I began a journey back to my passion - creating art "just because". Creating because my soul needed to. Creating art not for the masses but for personal expression. And something wonderful happened. I felt the cold dead place inside start to come back alive.

I made a fatal error early on in my design career. I don't even know if it was conscious (I don't think it was). I took on an either/or approach to my art. Either I could do commercial work (and get paid for it), or do personal art expression (and not get paid for it). And just like the carpenter who lives in a home where the carpentry needs go unmet - I felt like after doing "art" all day long who had time or energy for more when I got home?

When it comes to creating commercial and personal art, it isn't about either/or but rather and/both. Both are vital to creative health. Who knows, maybe one day the two lines will blur more for me and I'll get paid to create my personal expression art. But until then, I'm making sure I don't loose sight of pursuing both.

What about you? Do you ever feel that tension?


Illustration by Mike Brennan

Beautiful Mess

horseeye I read these words tonight on Danny Gregory's blog, and it resonated. How about you?

Organization is irrelevant to making stuff. Art needs to be messy. A neat stall is the sign of a dead horse.

The more responsible side of me wants to make sure I can contain my art and process, and not get too dirty in the process. Sanitize it. But there can be (and should be) beauty in mess. Here's to more art birthed in mud and mire.

{photo credit}