We have become “that family.” The family that is SO blessed that our generations are overlapping – I now have a cousin who is younger than my nephew. I’m not going to complain – keep the babies coming! Family is like the weirdest most awesome club to be a part of – people I don’t see very often but love with my whoooole heart. Anyways, I got to create this super duper cute birth announcement for baby Jonah last month – obviously taking some inspiration from the legacy of his name.
The past couple months have seen my pencil pretty happy. As my love of illustration continues an uphill trajectory, I’ve set my hand to a variety of projects – although most are still for Insights magazine – and finished some pretty fun pieces. I started my first personal project (a childrens book!) but plateaued when the story didn’t come together quite as easily as the visuals (don’t fear, I haven’t given up! But yes, judge me – of course I started with the pictures :P) I’ve been fighting some spring-time blues (which seems to be a pattern, which is very helpful to identify), and I’m looking forward to shaking things up a bit this summer. Sometimes I get in these exhausted slumps of feeling like all my free time is good for is reading and consuming Netflix, and seem to forget that I NEVER regret forcing my butt into creating something.
In less than two weeks I’m heading to Bogata, Columbia for a week of being AHAP (as helpful as possible) and learning from some of the Youth for Christ staff on the ground there. It’s going to be stretching…which both excites and terrifies me. I speak hardly any espanol, and I’m not all that good with strangers – but I am encouraged. At our last meeting I “stumbled onto” this passage from Ephesians 3:7-10, which I expect will be the verse I return to repeatedly during my short foray into the terrifying unknown:
When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God’s way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.
8-10 And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along.
It was completely unexpected. I had laboured all afternoon, sketching, planning, then carving and cutting until I was ready to print. I took a stab at block printing in the corner of my “office” at home, quickly turning my recently organized space into the likes of a high school art room. First on paper, then on fabric, I giggled as my prints came out better than I had even hoped for. For the first time in a long time, I got caught up creating something out of passion. I wasn’t getting paid, I had no idea if it would work, I just wanted to create something special.
Later, I shared my success with a group of individuals I can barely describe to you. These folks are tied to me only through a long-gone chat room centered around graphic design and the church, and have somehow become my “tribe” (that word is so trendy right now) for all things creative. We barely know eachother, but we share the intricacies of our working lives periodically online. So I shared my print, most likely selfishly hoping for some encouragement but also hoping to encourage.
The next thing I know, “Life in an Overcoat” was born. The keen minds of this tribe brought life to my character in a way that I could never have done alone. We began pouring out comic strips like church juice, feeding off each other until there were too many NOT to do something with.
Now we’ve got a tumblr account and things aren’t slowing down. Existential Bear is entirely goofy, serious, and a lot of fun. I’m proud to be a part of something born out of community, even if does turn out to simply be a massive inside joke. And it all started with an expressive bear – “Mr. Bear looks like he could just drop some wicked logic that would throw anybody into an existential state of emergency. Dude is deep.” – and a grammatical lapse – “Existentialist Bear most likely prefers to eat peanut butter or something that he can savour while pondering the intricacies of life in an overcoat.”
Read them all at lifeinanovercoat.tumblr.com
Dear Diary (a personal reflection),
I have spent the morning reviewing the photos of 2014 and remembering the year that has passed. Its so neat to take this time to reflect and realize how this past year has shaped me. My initial impression was sort of resigned – to be honest it felt like I had worked the year away. But, taking the time to walk through all those photos…! I’m so glad I did – this year had some pretty neat moments and I learned some pretty big things!
Things that happened
- A winter in Rossland
- My first creative conference in Arizona (on a dude ranch!!) in which I learned much about who I am not, and as a result, who I am.
- Our first nephew was born! And it is amazing to be an aunt :D
- We cruised to Alaska with the entire Griffioen family (minus a few)
- Dear friends were married (5 weddings!)
- We had the best shuswap weekend in the history of shuswap with the Vanderwel clan
- Umm…we bought a house! Left behind our sweet rental for our very own piece of ‘72 real-estate. And still haven’t quite gotten over the anxiety that whole process has caused (nor the excitement)!
Things I learned about myself
- I’m not an entrepreneur. And I’m HAPPY that way – viva la office job!!
- I have finally put enough distance between myself and a year long battle with depression (2011-12) that my good days far outnumber the bad ones. Sorting through the lies I believed and replacing them with truth has been a gradual but incredible journey
- I talk to my cat the same way I talk to babies
- I have self-confidence issues that are rooted in PRIDE. I’ve held way too tightly to my own need for definition and success and ignored God’s promises and claim on my identity
- If I put myself out there…half the time it will turn out well. I am still working on how to decide when its worth it :D
What does 2015 hold?
- money stress (new windows?? new electrical panel? Save, spend, save, spend?)
- more opportunities to trust in God (RE money stress :D)
- almost no plans…I feel like God is standing in front of my blank slate and rubbing his hands in excitement. Whatever is going to happen it will be a surprise and I hope I roll with it!
- many painting projects
- growth, adventure, failure, and deeper relationships. Let’s do it!
A few weeks back I came out of “photographer retirement” (I’m not really in retirement, just intentionally not doing much these days :D) to hang out with Hannah to commemorate her first year! What a cutie pie…my camera has been snapping quite a few littles lately and I have a feeling its just beginning! A new era has begun! And I am learning…you snap what you can get. No amount of planning can prepare you for a one year old :D
I’m pretty excited to be a part of a collaborative new project – We Make Stuff, Volume 2. As their website summarizes the project, “WeMakeStuff Volume 02, the second book in the groundbreaking series, introduces us to a new group of 100 Vancouver and BC based artists and innovators. Through the lens of different creative initiatives, this stunning coffee-table book showcases the amazing work and thoughts of this amazing talent.” The team who has put it together has an awesome vision, and has done an amazing job of getting it all together. Watch a 90-second preview of the book, and see if you can spot my split second spread! :D
After applying to be considered for inclusion, I was short-listed and invited to supply a submission for the second round of curating. I had to choose some of my favourite pieces for submission and ask some deep, probing questions about myself and my work. I decided to focus on my illustrative work, which has surprisingly (to me!) become my favourite.
Here is what I wrote as the “story” behind my work, and why illustrating at IFLC has become such a meaningful part of my life.
For many of us, biblical truth has a stale outer crust. We’ve heard the promises so many times they’ve become theological small talk. “The Lord be with you!” “And also with you!” we chime, because we know the drill. Doves mean peace on earth, rainbows mean promises, and the cross means Easter.
In the 4 years I’ve been designing Insights magazine for Insight for Living Canada, I’ve faced off against these clichés time and time again. The problem is, the ideas aren’t stale – but if they’re presented the same way they always have been, we’ll never be exposed to the freshness of their truths again. We’re apt to forget how life changing it was the first time it touched our hearts, and with an attitude of “oh I’ve heard this before…” we’ll skip over valuable insights.
Illustration is one of my favourite mediums to communicate Christian ideas. It gives me the ability to address an idea without being bound to our physical world in the way that a photo is. I can include only what matters to the “story”, emphasize the funny bits, lighten a heavy topic and use colour to make a point. To be honest, I usually begin with only a vague picture in my head and a clear goal of what I want to communicate. As I begin to sketch, refine, digitize, and add colour, the excitement builds as I begin to glimpse what is going to come out the other end. More than any other discipline, illustration feels like a gift: like something I don’t possess on my own, but get to see God pull out of me as I put in the time to work it into being.
My latest greatest project in the office has been putting together some official branding for our Agency, Living Bridge Media Canada. The logo was originally developed just over a year ago as a test run, but time and expansion has finally dictated an official branding package, including stationery and a tradeshow banner. The branding is professional and media focused, communicating the radio based marketing and media services of the agency. An image taken in our recording studio serves as the key graphic, dictating colour choices and tone.
I’ve just been flipping through some press sheets for the desktop version of the IFLC 2015 Calendar. I tell you, choosing the photos for this project every year gives me a renewed sense of awe for the country God created and placed me in.
The wall calendar, “Meeting God in Peaceful Places,” is available right now as the Insight for Living Canada featured resource for the month of October. That means its supa cheap ($5!) for one copy! I think I say this every year, but it really is my favourite yet. And I did not expect that to happen, I really liked the last one :D.
The theme of meeting with God led me to spend a lot of time searching for photos that really visualized the quotes: words from Chuck Swindoll, monthly reminders to carve out time to meet with your creator. Each month also features carefully selected scripture.
Of course the design geek in me also made sure the colours and paper finishes look and feel awesome :D.
Summer just won’t die. And I love it for that. This summer has been a whirlwind of sunshine, road trips, snuggles (nephew!), weddings, and family getaways. I can barely remember what rain sounds like – a testament to the fabulous weather BC has had for the past 4 months. I expected the beginning of the school year to bring the fall breezes and wet lawns. But perhaps summer is taking a cue from the BC teachers union – holding out for a better offer before passing the baton to fall. Anyways, this past weekend felt like the cherry on top of the cherry on top. Beautiful weather and a few hours on my brother & sister-in-law’s boat…it was heavenly. (The “Suma” is a half restored wooden fishing boat. They’ve reno’d the cabin and the entire exterior with plans to finish up the interior with two living spaces, a kitchen, and lots of seating. For now, its rough, raw and ridiculously awesome. You can sit on the roof).
Our agency, Living Bridge Media Canada, recently took on a fun new project. I’ve had the privilege over the past few months to work with the band The SHIYR Poets. As an in-house designer, projects that fall outside of the normal scope of work are…SO EXCITING. Plus, it’s definitely a change from the norm to work with a whole team of people with artistic vision!
They came to us just about ready to launch their first album, “Songs for the Journey: Volume 1.” They’d commissioned a logo and gotten rolling on album art, even had the beginnings of a launch tour booked. Looking to start things off right, we worked on a “for launch” web landing page and some snazzy tickets for their album launch concert.
Now that their fantastic first album has successfully launched, we’re ready to press GO on their brand new complete website! Check it out, take a listen, and let them know what you think!
More about the SHIYR Poets:
Making the world’s most loved and ancient songbook new again.
The Psalms express the human longing for God with poetic artistry and emotional force. They release the voice of praise and resonate with the universal cry of pain.
The SHIYR Poets (pronounced ‘Sheer’) are Brian Doerksen, Calum Rees, Brian Thiessen & Teresa Trask. ,Choosing not to censor out the dark and difficult emotions, the SHIYR Poets render each psalm in its entirety, singing songs of desperation, desire, justice and praise.
Logo Design: Rod Sawatsky (rodsg.com)
Album Artwork: Gordie Cochran at Fabric Creative (fabriccreative.com)