An interview with Fia.

Today I have the great pleasure of introducing you to illustrator, artist, feminist, mom — Fia Kilbourn. Fia was one of the very first friends I made when my husband and I moved to California just over three and a half years ago. She has inspired me with her courage to always speak her heart, and through her work with her ability to see and create life and beauty out of everyday things. Fia is also a fellow artist-momma and truly understands the juggling act required to be a full-time mother while maintaining time and space to be creative so we can be filled up and have the ability to give back to those who need us.

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Tell me a little bit about your background and how you got started working as an illustrator:
I was a freelance graphic designer before I had my first child. I took a few years off from work after my daughter was born and when I decided I might want to start looking for work again, I didn’t really love the idea of doing graphic design. Around the same time, my daughter was really interested in drawing, or rather, asking me to draw things for her. It had been so long since I had sketched anything and it felt so good. I started checking out children’s drawing books whenever I took my daughter to the library. The first book I borrowed was Draw 50 Dinosaurs by Lee J. Ames because my daughter was in a huge dinosaur phase. The more I drew, the more right it felt. It felt like coming home after a long journey.

Do you consider yourself an artist? Why or why not and how does it make you feel to think of yourself as one?
I was always drawing and creating as early as I can remember, so I think that other than a time when I lost my way, I’ve always considered myself an artist. Almost everything I’ve been passionate about (drawing, dance, fashion) has been because creating things is my language. It’s how I respond to the world.

fia scarves

fia glasses

What is it about illustrating that excites you?
I love working with my hands. There is an intimacy with hand-drawn or hand-painted art that I missed when I was doing graphic design. I also love when I feel like I conveyed an idea the way I wanted to, when I feel like what was in my head is on paper.

What are your favorite subjects to illustrate and why? (Tell me about your current projects!)
I’m inspired by flowers, animals, fruit, fashion, hairstyles. Right now, I’m working on a project featuring 100 great women. Another artist I follow on Instagram (Nieves Waleska, @nwpb) recommended the 100 Day Project to me. I was inspired by the Women on 20s campaign and decided I wanted to illustrate great women in history for my project. I had recently started doing these hair portraits where I left a lot of white space on the face and the portraits for this project were just a natural extension of that. Highlighting the great things women have done is also a nice intersection of my art and my feminism. I’m trying to be as inclusive as I can be in my project, because it’s important for me to feature overlooked women and communities. That’s why I’m still looking for any suggestions on women to feature. I’m about halfway through the project and I still have room to add more women to my list.

Fia Frida

Fia lucille

 

Do you enjoy working in any other forms of art?
Very much. Sometimes I feel like I make even mundane things about artistic expression. Makeup, outfits. I do nail art. I even have a blog for my nail art. I used to dance. In fact, that is the art form I miss the most. I used to be in classes 5 days a week and I wish I could still be dancing that often, but I don’t have time in my life for it right now.

What is one of your biggest struggles as an artist and are there any struggles that you’ve overcome?
Right now my biggest struggles are time and space. I’m still a full-time caregiver for my children. My youngest son is with me all day and my daughter is with me for a half day. Some days I barely put anything in my sketchbook because I’m too exhausted or my kids are too clingy. My goal is to draw in my sketchbook once a day and I can usually accomplish that but sometimes I take up to a week off.

Space is another issue. I have a designated space on the bar in our family room, but it’s in the middle of everything. It’s sometimes hard to tune out what the rest of the family is doing.

In high school I had a destructive art teacher. She wrote some hurtful personal comments on the back of my paintings when she graded them. I was also in a senior art class with three other students and she gave the other students graduation cards glowing about their future in art, but my was just a generic congratulations. The omission was obvious. I still don’t know why she singled me out. She’s the reason I pursued graphic design instead of other forms of art. It took me awhile to get over it. I’m very grateful for my daughter encouraging me to draw again. I think overcoming that gave me confidence in myself as an artist. It helps to have the perspective of an adult now and realize what that teacher did was wrong.

Fia honeybee

Fia toast

As a fellow artist-momma how do you balance making time for art?
Ha! This question is so timely, because I recently took a break from my 100 Day Project to focus on my son and our upcoming move a little more. I think that is good and healthy, but that hasn’t stopped me from feeling a little bit guilty. And of course, when I’m working on my art, it’s hard not to feel selfish. I think the thing about life is that you never arrive and then stay there. Sometimes you can balance things and then sometimes you veer one way or the other and then you course correct. Life is always going to fall out of balance and we have to be comfortable with that and learn to make gradual changes back to center.

When it comes to your art, what do you consider to be one of your biggest successes or victories and what are you most proud of?
I’m proud of myself for “getting back on the horse” after so many years. Also, putting my work up on Instagram, learning to silence my inner critic and just share my work. It’s funny because some of the pieces I’m the most disappointed in my ability to translate from my head to paper are the pieces that connect with people.

Fia birds

fia bat

Do you have any advice for other creatives or budding illustrators?
I attended ICON8 last summer even though I wasn’t a student and I wasn’t working as an illustrator. It was a bit intimidating. I learned a lot but the two things I have been applying to my journey this past year are to try to draw something every day. Don’t get hung up on the what to draw, just draw. Hone your skill and style so when you have more time to focus on concept, you have the tools to accomplish it.

The other thing is to say yes. I have been approached a few times this year to work on things that I wasn’t sure if I had the time or I was intimidated by the scope, but I said yes anyway. It’s easy to get paralyzed by the what ifs so just make it a habit to say yes and then figure it out as you go along. All that being said, advice is so personal. It often assumes a common starting point, so if something doesn’t seem to fit your life, ignore my advice.

Fear.

“What are you afraid of?”

My friend, Bonnie, asked me a few weeks ago as I timidly stepped around the ideas that I was holding in my heart — carefully straining them, sorting through them, before fully divulging them to her — a trusted friend.

She knew I was holding back, she heard it in my voice and I knew she felt it as I clamped a sweaty palm around my phone willing myself to be honest enough to fully answer her question…

“I’m afraid of being a failure. Of not being good enough, smart enough, expert enough to do what I feel in my heart I’m made to do. I’m terrified of being laughed at, misunderstood, and letting people down,” I told her.

I told my friend what I was afraid of.

And what happened next changed me forever.

“Now tell me what you want to do,” she said.

As I released my fears, moved them aside and refused their construction of a clamp around my heart, joy burst forth from the depths of my very being.

I poured my heart out to her.

My dreams, ideas, inspirations began to flow freely and I felt my heart lifting as a smile formed across my face. And I’m certain, if I had been standing in front of a mirror watching myself, I would have seen a sparkle in my eye — the manifestation of joy itself.

But why?

How did the act of voicing my fears make room for joy?

So, I decided to dive a bit deeper, and I began realizing that the fears I listed all hinged on one single lie I was believing — that my identity and worth comes from who people say I am.

I have been placing my identity and worth in the hands of man  — worrying deeply and intently about what people think of me and how they view me instead of resting in the truth of who I am in Christwho HE says I am:

Fearfully and wonderfully made.
(Psalm 139:14) 

Strong.
(Philippians 4:13)

Equipped and able to do good.
(Hebrews 13:21)

Forgiven, made new, redeemed.
(2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 1:7)

Recognizing and letting go of the lies that captured my heart gave me freedom to see the Truth — to live fully in who I am in Christ! And continually soaking up the Truth, basking in it, marinating my mind with it will give me ammunition against future lies that will try to invade space in my heart.

Releasing fear makes room for joy.

So, I want to ask you, my friend.

What are you afraid of?

Love,
Janine

An interview with Ellie.


I’m excited to introduce you to the life force behind the strikingly elegant yet humble Instagram feed @Calligraphellie, my lovely friend, Ellie Camp.

Ellie and I met a couple of years ago through shared friendships and Bible study and I’ve always been in awe of her raw, artistic talent, her heart for bringing justice to others, and how she readily gives her whole self to her work. I pray you find encouragement in the honesty of her words.

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Tell me a little bit about your background and how you got started doing calligraphy:

Right now I am a stay-at-home mom with 2 terrific daughters, but before that I was a high school history teacher for 8 years.  I started doing calligraphy after my first child was born.  The short story is that my first kid was about a year old, I had just turned 30, and I wanted a new hobby.  The longer story is that I had actually been doing hand lettering since high school in the margins of all of my notebooks all the way through grad school. I had no idea that what I was doing was a “thing” or something you could make a career out of.  When I graduated I no longer had a reason to be doodling in margins, so I stopped. Then years later when I was looking for a new hobby, I was at a church meeting doodling letters on the side of my paper and a friend saw me and said, “Hey! That looks like calligraphy!” And I thought “It does? Maybe I should try it out as my new hobby!”. So I went home and looked up videos online and checked out books from the library and stalked other calligraphers online to learn whatever I could, and now here I am.

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What excites you about calligraphing?

It is exciting to have something I have so much fun doing and feel like I am good at. Also, it’s nice to have something that is just mine to do by myself.  There’s isn’t much of my life that isn’t overrun by my kids, so doing calligraphy is often something I do to get away and have my own space.  There’s something about writing letters and words over and over that I find to be oddly fulfilling and really fits my personality in a strange way.  I always feel like calligraphy is a big blessing that God plopped down into my lap.

 

Do you consider yourself an artist? (Why or why not) And how does it make you feel to think of yourself as one?

I’m not sure, it’s not something I think a lot about. I am always supremely flattered when people call me an artist or say that I’m talented, but I always hear it as if they’re talking about someone else.  It’s kind of like when Beyonce says she has this performer alter ego “Sasha Fierce”.  I think of it like I have this Calligraphellie alter ego and she’s really confident and artistic with a good eye. But when I think about just regular Ellie, I’m just a hobbyist that has a lot to learn.

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Describe for me your artistic process; how you decide what to work on and how do you execute the projects. (walk me through the steps of how you practice or create a piece, I’m insanely curious about your everyday working habits!)

Right now I pretty much do a project if I have time to do it, which is not a lot these days.  I’m still in a place where I’m wanting to learn as much as possible and am really open to trying new mediums and tools to help me figure out what I like and don’t like.  In terms of process, I usually start with what type of tool I’m working with.  A dip pen, marker, chalk, brush…each tool lends to different types of writing styles.  Then I just see what kind of mood I’m in, or what mood my client wants to communicate, and try to get the style to match it. Then I look at the words and letters I’m working with. At this point it’s helpful to look at letters more like shapes than actual letters. The shapes of different letters and words have different possibilities for flourishing and creativity. As a matter of taste, I like things to look balanced, but not symmetrical.  I’m also a real stickler for readability.  Abstract or fine art is a different case, but calligraphy is meant to communicate words and it drives me nuts when you can’t actually read the calligraphy

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As a fellow artist-momma, I know it can sometimes be a struggle to make time for creating, tell me a little bit about how you make time for being creative?

What a great question.  In the beginning I was practicing anytime the kids were sleeping. Nap times, after bedtime in the evenings. Anytime my husband had something going on in the evening I would practice while he was out. Also, I would find mundane reasons to practice writing. Labeling things in my house (I never labelled until I started doing calligraphy.), writing lists. When I owe a friend money now I just mail them a check so I have an excuse to make a pretty envelope, even if I know I’ll see them the next day.  I also freely admit that I let my kids watch extra tv so I can get in some time if I really need it.

However, I would add that I’ve had to get used to the idea of saying no to calligraphy a lot and I’m still waiting for the right time to officially open a business.  I remember when I started seriously thinking I could start a business, and I read a blog post by another calligrapher with young kids and how she found herself up in the middle of the night finishing calligraphy orders instead of sleeping. I knew I didn’t want that to be me.  I cherish my sleep too much.  So part of balancing being a mom is saying no to a lot of opportunity and trusting and waiting on God for the right season. And as much as I love calligraphy, I’ve always wanted to raise a family, so I’ve needed to get comfortable with the idea that even if the calligraphy thing never really happens, I would regret it more if I went full force with calligraphy but didn’t spend the time raising my kids the way I wanted. I learning to hold my calligraphy hopes loosely and trust that if being a successful calligrapher is really in the cards for me, God can make opportunity reappear when the time is right.

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What would you consider your biggest struggle as a creative person and your biggest success or victory?

It’s hard not compare myself with other calligraphers I follow online, especially when they have time to practice a lot and I can see them improving. It’s frustrating to not have the time you want to practice and improve and feel like other people are passing you by, or that my skill will go away.

I consider it a victory anytime I create something that when I step back and look at it, I think, “Wow did I make that? That’s really good!”. Usually I see all the flaws in my work, but it’s nice when you impress yourself once in awhile.

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Any parting words of wisdom for fellow creatives and/or specifically calligraphers:

Something I’ve really appreciated about the calligraphy community is how generous and gracious everyone is.  I honestly feel that calligraphers are among the kindest people I’ve ever interacted with. Most people are happy to answer questions and share advice and just be encouraging.  This taught me early on not to be possessive or stingy with my calligraphy, and I try to honor and act out of the same spirit of generosity.

15 minutes.

Today, I tried to rush out the door.

I tossed on some clean clothes, pinned back my hair, and swiped a brushful of coral powder across my cheeks to give the illusion that I was awake-r than I felt.

The babysitter was due to arrive any moment, the kids had fresh diapers, were out of PJ’s and fully clothed.

I was ready for my day.

But then, the little one started to cry and needed to be held. The dog had to go out. The bigger one’s socks were hurting her feet. I couldn’t find my keys.

And of course, once the babysitter arrived, and I tried to run out the door, my husband’s car that is ALWAYS parked on the street was behind mine in the driveway blocking me in.

I ran back inside the house, grabbed his keys, ran outside, moved his car, ran back inside, deposited his keys where they belong, ran back outside, grabbed the handle of my car door and realized in my flurry I had somehow managed to lock my keys inside. So, I ran back inside, grabbed, husband’s keys that has the extra key for my car, unlocked my door, ran back inside, deposited husband’s keys back where they belong, and was FINALLY on my way — 15 minutes later than I had anticipated.

I had a choice to make.

I could let those 15 minutes on the clock dictate my day by allowing them to tell me my morning was ruined because it hadn’t started out as I planned, or I could accept them as is and move along.

As I drove down the street headed toward my destination and trying to decide how to let those 15 minutes work themselves into my plan for my morning, I found myself stopped behind nearly every red light.

And then traffic started backing up.

I was gridlocked on a road that almost never has heavy traffic — what was happening to my day! I was running out of precious alone time that I had paid the babysitter to give me!

And then I saw the flashing lights.

As I crept along with the slow flow of traffic, I finally saw it. A car the same make, model, and color as mine had a front-end that was absolutely crushed. Destroyed. From my driving-by view there was no sign of the driver anywhere, so I desperately pray that they made it out safe and sound…

Really quickly I realized that maybe those frustrating minutes this morning positioned me in to be in the driving-by, witnessing traffic instead of potentially being a part of the accident.

It’s easy for me to say that I believe God has orchestrated my life, cares about me, and knows the number of hairs on my head, (Matt 10:30, Luke 12:7) but I realized in that moment that I don’t believe it fully.

My stressed-out, flustery planning of my day says it all. My inclination to be furious about 15 minutes lost, ones that simply didn’t work out quite the way I wanted painfully reminds me of my self-focused nature.

So, today I am choosing not to let those 15 minutes ruin my day. I am choosing to believe that those 15 minutes were given to me to position me exactly where God wanted me to be to hear Him. To see His provision for my own life, and to pray for the life of someone else.

Love,
Janine

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Psalm 139:1-6

 

30 day sketch challenge!

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Hi friends!

Some of the biggest struggles I face as an artist are being inconsistent in practice, not making time to create, not knowing what to create when I open up my sketchbook fully intimidated by that blank page, and wishing I had community and support with friends creating by my side. (I’m sure some of you can relate!)

So, to overcome some of my own struggles, for the month of June, I’ve challenged myself to get in my sketch book every single day by setting up a series of prompts ahead of time so I can’t say to myself (and my sketchbook) “I don’t know what to draw, so I just won’t do anything today.”

But, even better than just challenging myself to draw every day this month, I’ve invited my friends (yes, that includes YOU!) to join in with me so we can create together and cheer one another on!

Each day at 7am (PST) you’ll receive an email from me with your prompt for the day. Once you’ve completed your drawing, pat yourself on the back, and then post it on Instagram with the rest of the crew under the hashtag #MakeWithMe.

One of the best things about doing this together is the encouragement of community, but also the accountability to continue creating and the joy of practicing. (And even getting better!)

Absolutely no drawing experience is necessary! Just start where you are and challenge yourself to grow.

I hope you’ll jump in and join us!

Love,
Janine