2015 Reading Challenge - First Quarter

What have you been reading lately?

Shown above are the books I read over the past three months. It's interesting for me to see how books just "land on my laps".  Despite having a list of books to read for my reading challenge this year, there seems to be certain books that find their way ahead of the list. Seth Godin, Zig Ziglar, James Altucher, Jason Gaignard and Robin Sharma's books were amongst those who skipped the reading list line this first quarter of the year. I'm happy to report that I'm 3 books ahead of schedule, according to Goodreads. Audiobooks are a big help in keeping up with the challenge. Perhaps I can increase the amount of books I read over the next three month. I'm curious to see what kind of books will end up on my read list in June.

Invest in yourself. Read a good book!

Start With What You Keep Avoiding

art journal april clouds
Is there something creative you'd like to do but keep rescheduling it to "Someday" every time you think about it? Is it writing a book? Scrapbooking? Making a video? Designing something? For me it's painting. For some reason, I can't stop thinking that I should paint more and more often. But as soon as that thought comes to mind, so does about a dozen thoughts about all the reasons why I should wait until someday when...  [insert excuses here]. It's a trap! "Someday" is not a day of the week. My way around that has been to do little paintings in my journal at least once a month : no pressure, no "waste" of canvas, no big time commitment. Not only is it a good way to actually do it, but it also encourages me to do it more often. This one was made with only two colours and a couple paint brushes on my desk in about 30 minutes. Take that Resistance! Now I feel like I'm starting this month on the right foot and I'm very happy with the result. 

What have you been putting off to "someday"? What small step you could take today to start chipping at it? Whatever it is, I hope you find a way to fight your way through any discouraging thoughts this month and start expressing yourself creatively. I'm sure you won't regret it. 

Ten Down Twenty to Go

The challenge continues for the Grumpy Cat colouring pages. I now have 10 done and at least 20 more to go. It's definitely a challenge to come up with some interesting backgrounds and make sure they look different. It's a great way for me to practice patterns as well. I really like the latest one with the catnip plant leaves. To purchase the print, just check out my Gumroad page : https://gumroad.com/mjillustrates

A Couple More Printables

I've been playing around a little more with my grumpy cat sketches and came up with four more colouring pages with fun backgrounds. The goal is to digitize all of them and create a colouring book. It will be an interesting experiment to conduct and I will finally be able to get that idea out of my head. In the mean time, each page are currently available on my Gumroad page for a dollar each. 

Polka Dogs

I recently joined Spoonflower to try my hand at pattern making. They have this really neat weekly contest where they give a topic and participants get to design a pattern based on the given theme. This week's theme is Beagles in honor of Miss P, winner of the best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. I wasn't sure I would participate as I couldn't think of something interesting, but today I thought of making Polka Dogs and this is the results. Their patterns are used for wall covering, fabric and gift wrapping paper. I think these would make a fun wallpaper. 

Colour Your Stress Away

Colour your stress away Grumpy Cat Printables

I know from experience that colouring is a very relaxing activity. In fact, according to an article in the Huffinton Post, Carl G. Jüng was the first psychologist to apply colouring as a relaxation technique. But for those who have not touched a colouring pencil in a while, a blank page might be a bit daunting. This inspired me to try a new project and create fun colouring printable pages as a way to help those who are looking to get rid of some stress and what better way to colour your stress away then by adding some colour to a grumpy cat. The first one, is a modified version of a drawing I did a couple months ago. I just uploaded it to my Gumroad page and you can download it for only a dollar, print it as many times as you'd like and add your spin on it. Hopefully it will help you get rid of some stress and put a smile on your face.  

Winter Subway and Streetcar Riders

A couple weeks ago I started a new sketchbook and drew a couple passengers in the subway and streetcar on my way to various events and meetings. Above was this guy I drew while he was sleeping. It is one of the easiest subjects to draw because they don't move a lot so it gives me time to get more details on paper. 

The subway was packed (top right) so I drew what stood out. I also like to take notes of what I hear every so often and also note down the colour of people's outfit so I can add it later.  This time I decided to keep most of the sketches in black and white, for now.  It's fun to see the various styles and what people chose to wear. It says a lot about their personality and mood. This little girl (probably around 7 years old) was wearing the cutest little outfit with pinkish earmuff. I had to sketch her. She looked so serious and focused. She barely moved while I sketched her. 

On my way back from the exhibition place, there were a lot of kids sitting in the back and the adults in charge didn't have much control over their volume. It made for an interesting ride. Some people were cringing, others were talking louder on their phone so the person on the other side could hear them. The sound took over the visuals so it felt more appropriate to write down what was going on instead of trying to sketch the crowd around me. After the kids left, I sketched a little more in the streetcar. By the time I got in the subway there was another loud conversation going so I added bits of it to my sketch as well.

21 Portraits in 28 days

As I'm learning more and more from successful artists, it became clear to me that one of their common traits is the ability to produce a lot. Even while reading Arnold's biography, I realized how much work he put into his craft which made me take a look at how much work I do and realize that I could do a lot more. There's also a really good audio from Tai Lopez on YouTube entitled Be Prolific - Gulp Life, where he talks about the about the importance of producing on a high volume : Gulping life instead of just sipping. He also talked about how Pablo Picasso produced over 3000 pieces of art in his life. All this information inspired me to challenge myself to produce more. So, at the beginning of last month, I came up with the idea of creating a portrait of an important figure during black history month. I ended up creating 21. They took a little longer than I expected (about 3-4 hours each), but I managed to do one almost every day of the month. It was a great way for me to learn a little bit more about this part of history that I hadn't really paid too much attention to in the past. By taking the time to do a little research, I found new inspiration from people who, no matter what their obstacles were, figured out a way to live their dream and lead the way for many after them. 

I've uploaded all the portraits on my Society6 profile (society6.com/mjillustrates), so if you're interested in buying a print there are quite a few options available. 

First African American : Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole is considered to be one of the greatest jazz pianist of all time. He played his first performance at the age of 4 years old.  At 12 he was a church organist and he created his own band at the age of 16.  He started out as a jazz pianist, performing with two other musicians and playing for the public in various venues. He was asked one day to sign by one the patrons one night and people took notice and he got a record deal that led him to record popular classics such as "The Christmas Song" and "Unforgettable". In 1956, he became the host of the Nat King Cole Show on NBC. It was a controversial show because it was the first time an African American starred on a variety show. The show lasted a year. Cole pulled the plug because of the financial pressures of running a show without national sponsorship. He continued to create hits and selling millions of record around the world until he passed away from lung cancer, most likely caused by his heavy smoking habits, at the age of 45. Several years later, Nat King Cole was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Down Beat Jazz Hall of fame, the Hit Parade Hall of Fame and the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame. He was also awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. 

First African American : Bessie Coleman

Born in 1892, Bessie Coleman was the 10th child of a family of 13 kids. Being of African descent in those time meant that there weren't a lot of career opportunities for a young black girl. By the time she was 23 years old, she was working as a manicurist in a barbershop. Her faith changed when she heard her brothers and other military clients talk about flying during World War 1 and how women in France could also fly planes. This inspired her to want to become a pilot. And since no aviation school would let her enroll due to her skin colour, she took it upon herself to learn French and work extra jobs to save enough money to travel to France via boat and earn her pilot licence. 

In 1921, she became the first African American female pilot and the first to have an international pilot licence. This fearless petite woman specialized in stunt flying and parachuting. This was the only way she could earn a living doing what she loved, since commercial flight had yet to be established. In order to become a stunt pilot, she had to go back to aviation school for more advanced lessons. Once again, discriminations in the United States kept her from being able to enroll in the school so she headed back to Europe to learn from teachers in France, the Netherlands and Germany. She then returned to become an acclaimed pilot nickname "Queen Bess" by her fans, both black and white. She had dreams of starting an inclusive aviation school. Unfortunately, she never got a chance to fulfill that particular dream. In 1926, her plane unexpectedly dove and spun around while she was planning a parachute jump for the next day and her mechanic was flying the plane. Both her and her mechanic die on impact.  

During her short life, Bessie Coleman inspired many African Americans to dare to dream bigger  and that no matter how big the obstacles are, if there's a will there's a way.