Sunday, November 23, 2014

10 Ways to Sketch More

Sketching is good for the soul

At least it's been good for my soul lately. So it makes sense to sketch more.

Pablo Picasso said,
"The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls."
So let's wash some dust off and get more art into our lives.

Draw/paint/sketch/photograph something that inspires you

Be inspired by the ordinary, by the light on the patio after a rain, or by something you already love in the corner of your world.

I love that my phone is my camera and always with me. I love taking pictures of the ordinary and elevating it to art by finding an interesting composition, color, angle,  or close-up. Then I sketch it. Right then or later from the photo.

Inspiration is anything that makes me say "that's cool" or "that's interesting", or "I'll bet nobody has really looked closely at that." Maybe you like flowers, cats, architecture, lemons or cars. Draw it. You'll see it in a new way and love it more.

Let go

In another life I used to paint and craft, but other priorities took over for a time. I so missed being creative. I didn't realize how much until I started in again. So, I recently let go of a few things...a long to-do list that was never done, house-cleaning expectations, home cooking (not my thing), too much media, others' ideas of how I should spend my time and the need for take up the pen and paint again.

Let go of anything that doesn't feed your soul. (And, no, sleep doesn't count...get your sleep.)

Start small

I bought a cheap sketchbook and a travel set of paints and a water brush and began to work the dustiness away, by doing small sketches. Use what materials you have, try different pens and pencils and paints. Do several small studies. And embrace wonkiness, and imperfections and learn from them.

Share with friends

Begin sharing with social media friends on Instagram or Flickr or Facebook. Your friends will say encouraging things or "like" it and that will give you a boost. Share the good...

... the bad and the ugly. It keeps you humble and learning.

Sign up for an online class

I signed up for an Alisa Burke online class, Flower Power, last spring to do something simple and unintimidating. She explores so many different styles and is full of never-ending creativity. Her classes are reasonably priced to get started with.

I know that my motivation comes from a class-type setting where lessons and assignments give me something to look forward to and goals to meet. 

I love learning about the other class members from all over the world, and from seeing their styles, and trying to emulate them.

Find inspiration in unusual places

These reading notes from a (rather dry) book on the golden ratio, The Story of PHI, just had to have a sketched illustration. I love math, and combining it with art made sense to me.  I definitely looked very closely at this sunflower as I was drawing it, and even counted the spirals of seeds. Yes, 34 going one way and 55 the other.

Draw something you love already, but might not be related to art.

Make something you'll see everyday

Stretch beyond the paper. Make a craft. Use different paints. Paint big. Paint on wood or fabric. Bloom where you are planted.

Get away from home

When you travel you get a bump in creativity. Neuroscientist Jonah Lehrer, in his book, Imagine, says "when you escape from the place you spend all your time, the mind is suddenly made aware of all those ideas previously suppressed. You start thinking about obscure possibilities." My mind is definitely in a good place on vacation.

So this makes sense now too..."a relaxed state of mind allows us to look inward toward a stream of remote associations in our right brain...insights come in the shower, when we are in a positive mood, when we are not looking for an insight." 

But really it's just that "Life is better at the beach". --Kitschy sign from the beach bum store

There's nothing to do but sit and listen to the waves and the wind, and enjoy the sun. (Ah, letting go of that to-do list again.) Get away to a new place and sketch what you see.

Experiment with a different technique

White sharpies are thing? Yes! This is just a piece of cardboard with drippy sloppy colors (let dry), and then a crazy white doodle on top. Batik-like. Just for the fun of it.

My birdhouse gourd (that has yet to become a birdhouse) was a last minute purchase from the farm market. It's done with acrylics base paint, then black paint and Sharpie used to make the look of lace.

Commit to sketching often

It wasn't until a friend encouraged me to #sketchmore during the month of November in support of her NaNoWriMo goals, that I realized how much I could get done, how it's helped me improve, and how good it really is for my soul. Do something every day.

Bonus tip: Do what you like

Be yourself. Enjoy your own style. Don't care what others think. Choose a quote from one of these philosophers to remind yourself...
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde
Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are. --Kurt Cobain
Where is your will to be weird? --Jim Norrison
Just be yourself, there is no one better. --Taylor Swift

This one is my favorite because I'm my own worst critic.
If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. --Vincent Van Gogh

So silence the inner critic, dust the daily life off, see how it feels. Good for the soul?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Making your website accessible is just plain the right thing to do

Bridging a barrier

I've spent a lot of my work life and free thinking time this year teaching myself (and others, one coworker at a time) the principles and skills of web accessibility, to be applied first on a simple low-risk pilot project, and then so I can be positioned to make a difference when my company finally commits to it whole-heartedly.

Making web content easily available to people with disabilities will take institutional will and know-how.

But mainly will.

Don't tell me it doesn't fit in with the mission, target audience or business needs. I design and manage web projects for the main website of a major financial institution whose mission is to take a stand for their clients, to treat them fairly, and give them the best chance for success. But for all it's altruism, it has yet to get on board fully with coding, design and writing practices that would make it's content available to all people regardless of their technology or disability.

Don't tell me there isn't time or money in the budget. I've just rolled off a 5-year multi-million dollar infrastructure and user interface project where commitment to one internal goal was paramount, but little thought or support was given to complying with basic accessibility guidelines for users.

So I find myself wondering about how large institutions become motivated to take on change.

Where is the will?

I found this excellent WebAIM article, Hierarchy for Motivating for Accessibility Change, which made me wonder if any of these approaches would work at my company.
  • Guilt: See above. It is so perfect with our mission, and we've had the opportunities that we've passed up, so why not make it a priority like other projects we've done recently.
  • Punish: We could be sued. Others in our industry have recently and the Department of Justice has become increasingly involved.
  • Require: The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act "places of public accommodation" phrase could be interpreted to mean websites, which would require companies who do business on the web to make their websites accessible to those with disabilities. Or, maybe we should just declare that we are making this a company standard and it will become a part of job expectations tied to yearly performance evaluations. 
  • Reward: Being accessible will give us a competitive marketing advantage...we'll be able to earn/tout industry certification. Or, we'll strengthen loyalty to the brand and our net promoter score will go up. Or, we'll broaden our client base and that means more money coming in.
  • Enlighten: Cleaner simpler code is better for SEO and gets us better Google rankings. Or, it makes for better future readiness as new technologies come along. Accessibility is a side effect of technical excellence. 
  • Inspire: It is about taking a stand for people, treating them fairly and giving them the best chance to succeed. So let's see it make a difference in the life of an individual. I'll bet you know someone with a disability who could benefit from our great company philosophy. And, 50% of our clients are over age 50, but they own the lion's share of our assets. Let's make it easier for older eyes and improve their experience. Let's make it more accessible to both clients and prospects. It's just plain the right thing to do. 
Which ones work for you, personally? Which have worked for you at your large company or corporation? Did I miss any?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Meaning in our lives and work

I started blogging in 2006.

The thing I like best about those first posts were the quotes that related to the topic. Here's one from this early post.


“The least of things with a meaning  is worth more in life  than the greatest of things without it.”  

—Carl Jung, “Modern Man in Search of a Soul”

It's true. The small meaningful gestures, words, and acts of kindness of those around me are worth a lot to me. Those connections make life meaningful.

They feed us better than the barrage of words and messages we receive every day through the media, our interaction with technology or the marketing messages vying for our attention.

I'm a designer in the worlds of finance, marketing and technology. It's my job to make your experience on our website a pleasant one, a trustworthy one, a (dare I say) delightful one. The challenge is to make the empathy I feel for you and your experience evident to you through the design and technology. Believe it or not there are many of us who care deeply about getting it right in all the big and small ways that are meaningful. So that we can connect with one another. So that our work and your experience are meaningful to both of us.

I ended that early blogpost with this.

The future of successful design is not in new technologies alone,
but in connecting with users to make meaning in their lives.

I still believe that.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

About web accessibility from the experts at

I've been buried for the last 6 months in teaching myself all about web accessibility (A11y), what it is, how it benefits others and how to achieve it.

Recently I attended the WebAIM 2-day training on the Utah State University campus in the beautiful Logan, Utah, to finally check my knowledge and fill in any gaps.

I'm pleased to say I know a lot about accessibility already, had a few misconceptions cleared up and dove into ARIA tagging.

I tweeted all my notes to share in real-time with colleagues.

Here is the Storify version, as a recap. Enjoy!

Tidbits from A11y training at WebAIM - Day 1
Day 1 continued
Day 2