1. Pick up your Laradise t-shirt NOW
(locally designed/locally printed)
Hurry; supplies are limited!
These are fresh from the printer! I have unisex sizes S, M & L. (I usually wear a size Large in Women’s, but I wear a Medium in this shirt.) They are extremely soft and have a very body-flattering fit. The design includes Laramie’s downtown cityscape, and the words “Been spending most my life living in the land of Laradise” (morphed from “Gangsta’s Paradise”). Price: $20 How to get one: Email me!
If you live outside Laramie, no problem; just let me know, and we’ll work it out.
(Click the image to see the design in its entirety.)
2. My latest design
Get your hands on it this summer!
This is the second phrase in my dad’s evolving Words of Wisdom series, and its message of renewal is quite fitting for this time of year. I’m excited to announce that it will be one of the matted 8″ X 10″ prints sold at the Laramie Festival of the Arts this summer! (And if you miss getting a t-shirt now, you’ll have another opportunity at the festival.) More information soon to come!
We all hate it; we’re all scared of it. We pass up opportunities every day in order to avoid it. It drives the first questions that come to mind when we consider change: What if I try it and disaster strikes? What if I’m not any good at it? What if it humiliates me? These are valid concerns, but allowing these concerns to keep you from trying means you’ve already failed.
The reasons above were my excuses for never testing my own limits. If I continued to do what had always worked for me, then I’d never fail, right? …Not exactly.
Prior to enrolling in UW’s graphic design program, I had this nagging suspicion that I was missing out on something. Although my marriage was strong, my spouse and I had just moved into a brand new home, and my job was stable, I couldn’t shake the feeling.
When my father passed away in 2009, it hit me hard that life does not wait for you to accomplish your goals. I realized there were so many things I wanted to learn and do. I wanted to knit. I wanted to create things. And most of all, I wanted to change the stale path that I had been paving for myself. But I’d been holding back….For what? I couldn’t say.
Don’t Be a “Commit-a-phobe”
The month after my dad’s passing, a couple friends took me under their wings and helped me buy a pair of knitting needles, some bulky yarn, and the how-to book Stitch n’ Bitch. They taught me the knit stitch, and from there, I was hungry for more. I bought more books, watched numerous tutorials, and I learned advanced techniques. It took me a long time to get really good, and I made some huge mistakes along the way, but the fact that I never gave up is what caused my life to take a new direction.
As odd as it sounds, my success in knitting drove me to enroll in the graphic design program. There were numerous times that I wanted to put my needles down and say “I give up; I’m never going to master this stitch!” But I didn’t; I always found a way to solve my problem. Through commitment, my confidence increased immensely, and I found myself thinking: “If I can teach myself to be this good at knitting, I can pretty much do anything.” Wow; having a thought like that was pretty unlike me.
What If You Succeed?
The graphic design program was trying, to say the least. I didn’t join with the intent to become a graphic designer. I went into it like I went into knitting–wanting to learn more about something that had always intrigued me. However, there were many long nights, many tears, and MANY thoughts of quitting…because that would’ve been so much easier.
Only half of the students who started with me ended up graduating from the program. Those who stayed, including myself, did so because they wanted it badly enough, and they had the moxie to finish. What I took away from the program was confidence in myself and my perceived limits. I learned that I’m only as strong as my most condemning thought. I learned to think differently about my capabilities, and I began to associate failure with the willingness to try and see what might happen. Thus, I surprised myself by realizing how much I really LOVE TO LEARN.
My Ownership of “Failure”
Last weekend I took Jeff Rogers’ online class on painting letters. Now, paint is not my typical medium, and he is quite a bit more free-spirited than me when it comes to art-making. However, I challenged myself to give it a go and just see what would happen. I chose the phrase “own it”, because I wasn’t sure where this project would end up, but the point was to not let that bother me. After all, I was exploring a new process and medium. What I found is that since I didn’t follow my regular, regimented creative process, the piece emerged more organically than what I’m used to. I continuously slapped on new layers of color without judgement and let the piece shape itself (which was a little scary). Once I finished, I noticed some things in my own work that I tend to be attracted to in the works of others, like Jeff. Most importantly, I allowed myself the possibility of failure; I owned the fact that it might turn out terribly. And because I did, I learned some things about my skills, and I got a glimpse of some new possibilities. None of which would have been possible had I not tried.
If you take away anything from this post, I hope that you’ll reconsider the word failure and what it means to fail. Failure is the undesired result of trying. It’s almost impossible to not learn from failure. And as long as someone is learning, he/she is succeeding.
A common misconception when it comes to art creation is that a truly original piece is the result of something that has never been conceived of or done before. The truth is that it’s near impossible to create something 100% unique. We all have a zillion things that contribute to our frames of reference and influence the ways in which we interpret our world. Therefore, it’s rare that any of us has an idea that someone else hasn’t already thought up. But that’s NOT A BAD THING.
What’s Old is New
Postmodernism is a current art movement that recognizes/honors what has already been done and strives to “make the old new again”. For example, there’s a huge trend right now to refurbish household items, giving them fresh life rather than discarding them for something brand new. It seems wasteful to throw away something that is perfectly functional; not to mention the fact that it’s so much cooler to own something that already has a story behind it! These same principles apply to postmodern art.
Those of us who create do so from inspiration. Something as simplistic as a walk in the park to exhaustively reading multiple texts pertaining to one subject can serve to inform a successful work of art. I will not jump onto the computer until I’ve doused myself in research and imagery, made various sketches, walked away from my project to gain fresh perspective, and then come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. It’s a tedious routine and it’s not for everyone, but an uninspired process produces uninspired results.
Postmodernism in Action
Many of my hand-lettered phrases come to me out of the blue (although nothing is really “out of the blue” since our thoughts are a fusion of personal experiences), and make me laugh out loud. If I’ve determined that one is illustration-worthy, I research the idea to gain an understanding for its origin and meaning, and then I seek visual inspiration.
My most recent design combines my nostalgia for 90’s music and appreciation for my adopted hometown of Laramie, WY. I referenced specific song lyrics (If you can’t place the song, click on the image.), and I explored downtown Laramie imagery, as well as 19th Century type specimens and advertisements. The result is something new created from items of old, containing a little research, history, and pieces of myself.
After a long morning of plane rides (one of them being especially terrifying and leaving me nauseated but thankful to be alive), and a fun-filled afternoon with my sisters, mother and aunt, it was time to head down to my grandparents’ to present the phrases. When we arrived, my grandparents were characteristically eager for us to begin a game of Mexican Train, but Mom, Aunt Sharon and I asked them to give us about 15 minutes beforehand. We raced downstairs, hurriedly removed the printed phrases from my suitcase, and placed each in a frame and its own gift bag. We marched up the stairs, each holding a gift bag or two, and lined them up on my grandparents’ game table. I stood across from my grandparents and asked them to take a seat. My aunt stood next to me with her cell phone ready to document the moment, and my mother stood beside my grandparents to assist as needed while they opened their gifts.
What transpired next is documented in photos below. I hope you all enjoy…
Frank and Donna listen intently as I explain that what lies within each bag
is something I’ve created for them throughout the year.
They open the first gift and smile
as they recognize the illustrated phrase within the frame.
Laughter and smiles escalate with each phrase that is revealed. At one point, my grandfather has us all in stitches as he reads the “Frank!” phrase with inflection in his voice, just as intended by its design.
I will forever remember this Christmas with my grandparents. And without the help of my mom and my aunt Sharon, I know this experience would not have been nearly as memorable. Thank you, and I love you all.
2014 has truly been one for the books! A year ago at this time, I was preparing for surgery to correct a herniated disc in my lower back. My pain was tremendous, and I was convinced that I would not be able to walk on Christmas day. Nevertheless, I held out until laminectomy day arrived on New Year’s Eve. The surgery was a complete success, and after almost an entire year of healing, I can say that my back is in better shape than it’s been in ten years (Man, I sound old)!
This past summer I graduated with my second Bachelor’s degree in graphic design. This is an accomplishment that I will never take for granted. For five years, I worked full-time while taking one course a semester. During that time, my husband saw me through numerous break-downs, and there were plenty of occasions that I considered throwing in the towel. But perseverance enabled me to find a niche in hand-lettering, confidence in illustration, and the satisfaction of knowing who I am as a designer.
The year wasn’t without its pitfalls, however–a big one being my special little Mr. Man (a Holland lop named Gus) passed away after a month of critical care. He suffered a severe infection, and in the end, his little body had grown tired of fighting. My husband and I (and our mini-lop Gracie) miss him dearly, but our memories of Gus bring us cheer every day.
In a few days, I fly out to see my family and present my grandparents their hand-lettered phrases that I worked on throughout the year. I’m excited to see the looks on their faces when they recognize words that they’ve spoken to my family members and me over the decades. I know I’ll need to explain quite a bit about my process and what was involved in the creation of the phrases, but that’s part of the fun.
I wish to thank all of you who have liked DRD’s facebook page and subscribed to my blog. I wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. It’s truly a time to celebrate all that we have and those whom we love.
Larraine Fairbanks (who also happens to be my mother and the daughter of the man who inspired this hand-lettered illustration)! And NO, the contest wasn’t rigged; she just wanted it really badly and was relentless in hounding friends to subscribe. In fact, she was neck-in-neck last night with another contestant. But amazingly, with only about an hour left in the competition, a massive group of people began signing up for her, and she was cannon-blasted well into the lead. Congrats, Mom
So What Happens Next?
As some of you know, last December my family pooled together around 30 phrases commonly uttered by my grandparents. We all voted on our top five favorites, and I have been working to hand-letter the phrases throughout the year. This particular phrase is the fourth in the series, and I will complete the fifth next month. At that time, I will reveal to all of you the entire, completed series. And at Christmas, I will present the illustrations as framed prints to my Grandparents (who are, I think, completely unaware)!
Thank you to all who participated, and WELCOME to my new blog subscribers! …and Happy Halloween!
This is the current phase of the print
(before color & texture are added)
The Story Behind the Design
Now’s the time to give you all a little background on why this hand-lettered phrase is looking the way it does. First, let me start with the history of “What in the Sam Hill?”. I researched its origin, and it dates back to the 1800’s. As the story goes, Sam Hill was a mercantile store owner in Prescott, Arizona (where the store still stands today). Sam Hill’s Warehouse carried just about everything, from hardware to ranching equipment, to household goodies and more! Hence, the saying “What in the Sam Hill?” was used to indicate something surprising, like you’d find in the store, and it quickly evolved to take on a number of different meanings. (It was even a great way for men to disguise their swearing around the womenfolk!) For these reasons, my typography references American wood type specimens of the 19th Century, and my layout is based on those of advertisements that you might have seen hanging in the store at that time.
In order to tie in my grandfather (who inspires this illustration), I incorporated sweet treats and hardware elements within the frame, as well as drafting paper for the background. Although time has slowed his ambitious endeavors, back in the day, he was a designer and carpenter, and damn, he was good at it! As a kid, I remember sitting mesmerized at the kitchen table while watching my grandfather draw out house plans on gridded paper. Typically, he’d have a soda in a see-through, barrel-like mug on one side of his drawing, and a treat on the other side. In my teen years, I had the tremendous opportunity (though I didn’t see it as such at the time) to help him build a couple houses in exchange for some summer spending money. I became handy with a tape measure, learned the purpose of a chalk line, and always helped myself to a sweet treat (oatmeal cream pies were my favorite) when break time arrived. Oh, and I almost forgot the most important part!–My grandfather uttered “What in the Sam Hill?!” frequently when something puzzled him on the job…and with apprentices like me, there were numerous reasons for puzzlement.
I’m excited for the final phase of “What in the Sam Hill?”, because it will incorporate more color and texture, which will really make it zing! By the end of this month, I will reveal the final print. My hope is that I will also announce a recipient of the print at that time as well. So, one more time, here are the instructions on how to win it:
How to Win the Finished 8 X 10 Print:
Tell folks to subscribe to my blog by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org and mentioning YOUR NAME as the person who referred them!