art personal

Stuff I Made for My Girlfriend and Why I Failed

Full disclosure: this title is 100% misleading and click-bait adjacent. I fell asleep drafting this post, read that temporary title to Brooke, and she was like “that’s the one.”

We’ve known each other for 11 months and been together for 10 of those months and every time I was like “I want to start doing dumb art stuff again,” she’s been next to me being like “go for it, babe” and “only some of it is dumb.” So, after a full Christmas of hand illustrated gifts for the fam, she’s the first person I thought of when I was thinking about sample commission pieces.

The very first thing I made for her was this phone background of a gold pineapple on a marble background. In our conversation on the subject of, like, stuff people will pay money for, she said she’d pay money for this specific thing.

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It is fine.

I used a lot of vectors for the pineapple and a lot of reference images for the marble and was pretty embarrassed to share it with anyone, tbh. Looking back, there are a couple tweaks I would make, but I have come to be a. way less reliant on vectors, b. way less embarrassed about seeking out references, and c. a lot more shameless about making people look at my shit.

But in addition to being my biggest supporters, Brooks is also … a pretty discerning consumer… and my work for her is not subject to an NDA, so this is a strong opp to talk about my process and how I work with you to make custom pieces.

Early Works

These are a few months old at this point. The first piece is from a #homwork assignment to take a rude word and make it beautiful. My girlfriend has the most creative series of expletives and exclamations I have ever heard and it is perhaps time I finally give the world the “Mother Bitch” piece it has been waiting for. [Watch This Space]

“thundercunt” is the first freehand lettering I did that I didn’t hate and florals have always made me feel like I’m in a safe space, illustration-wise.

The piece on the right was, like, the second digital piece I ever did, inspired by her affinity for bright colors and banana leaves, and prints. They look like feathers. I needed some more information about digital color-mixing. I know.

Movin’ On Up

Ed. Note: I told Brooke that I called her she was a discerning consumer and she was like “did you make me sound like a dick?” and I assured her I did not — but then a buzzfeed quiz assigned her the Spongebob character of Mr. Krabs and when I said “congratulations,” she corrected me with “you mean conkrabulations?”

So actually she is a dick and idk if we are even still in a relationship, really.

Anyway. The two fonts in the “you’re bangin'” piece are two that I have been super drawn to lately and, as you’ll see, that serif font is on that I particularly associate with her. I would love to share a bit more about my process with you, but I lettered this 100% doped up on nyquil, to the dulcet tones of Brooklyn 99, while we both thought I was sleeping — until I found that with a time saved.

My handlettering has grown really, really quickly. I have a lot of early visual art training and my time in theatre has helped with spacial awareness and arrangement, but handwriting and lettering have been low on the visual totem pole for me, so exploring new handwriting fonts has been super fun!

The Warhol inspired succulents, I think, are a big step forward in terms of how to use neon colors for shading without the total chaos of the early banana leaves. I love color-blocking, just as a general aesthetic, and have enjoyed incorporating that into less abstract works.

Surprise Commissions

Usually, surprise commissions are pieces someone tells you to make that are a surprise for someone else. However, in the midst of a conversation about travel, my beautiful girlfriend said she wanted to have more rich people fun. It started as a joke – and initially the thing I showed her was just the lettering and the airplane – but then she was like “I like that, but I don’t love it” (#discerningconsumer #notadick) so I got back into it, adding various travel images.

The suitcase was the last thing I added, and as I started adding elements to it, I got very into the idea of making this tiny corner of this silly piece really represent my favorite person. The hat draped over the corner is a hat that she wears just constantly and each of the stickers represent a place that’s important to her or to us.

She grew up between Burnaby, BC and New Orleans, so adding those two was an obvious choice. Next, I added a ColoRADo sticker – Denver is the first place we traveled together … and she says the word ‘rad’ 75 times day. This fall, we’re going on a Eurotrip planned around a wedding in France and the first stop is Geneva, so had to include our first international destination. The one that required some thought was DC.

We live here together, we met here, and I love this city so much, but she has a different relationship to the city than I do. I wanted to celebrate our life here together, without making it about all of the stuff I think is so bomb about DC. So, I went with a Friends of the National Zoo sticker. Our apartment is right next to the Smithsonian National Zoo and she really, really loves a good animal.

That specific piece is a good metaphor, I think for a good commission and a good partnership — honor the differences between you and your client-slash-girlfriend, find the spaces where your interests and vibe mesh with theirs, and don’t be constrained by the broad expectations for a a specific style or topic. Anyone could have thrown the monuments on that sticker to represent the city – and that would still have been an accurate representation of where we met – but ya gotta really listen to made DC about the zoo.

PS, re the title: I was going to explain why I failed to get through ten blog posts in June, but I think it’s sufficient to acknowledge that that did not work. In the market for other resources to get back into a writing habit, but also learning that talking about my work is a helpful mechanism for talking about my life!

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