Sayonara 2016!

Happy 2017 everyone! I can’t believe A Bird of Passage is already over a year old! Where has the time gone? With the death of 2016 comes the birth of a fresh year, and the chance to once again start anew. It’s time to make new goals!

Reflecting on this past year, I asked myself several questions to help reveal my new route and organize priorities for 2017. Have you sat down and thought about what you want to accomplish this year? It might seem daunting at first, so here are a few questions to get the juices flowing.

What were your 2016 goals? What was challenging?

When you look back at your previous year’s goals, it’s hard not to get extremely discouraged by the ones you didn’t achieve. That’s why it’s taken me HALF the month of January to reflect on my 2016 goals and think about what I’d like my 2017 achievements to be. Eeesh, talk about procrastination… (I THOUGHT I’d resolved to stop doing that…) Thinking about my failures really got me down, but listing out new goals for this year was a much-needed breath of fresh air.

Speaking of procrastination, that is the one word I would use to summarize my creativity in 2016. Last year I talked about being productive in 2016. My focus was to create more and be routinely active with my blog. 12 posts in a year isn’t exactly the activity I had hoped for. I spent a hell of a lot of time thinking and planning fun new ideas for my blog and personal projects, but did I actually DO them? No. Why? Several reasons really, but mostly I just had trouble staying motivated. This was a challenge.

What achievements are you proud of, and what did you learn in 2016?

Last year’s failures also came with a few major accomplishments, and I’m trying to focus on these going into the New Year. Working my ass off to get promoted to Associate Art Director at my company. Not giving up during extremely tough times. After years of living here, I almost gave up on Seattle and seriously considered moving back to Minneapolis… But I didn’t, and I’m still here. These were huge highlights of twenty sixteen. Being scrappy with my budget and planning a trip to South Africa was also a big event (post and photos to come). Supporting Jeff during his first and second comic convention as an artist was an amazing experience, and finding a bigger space to rent (a house!) at the end of the year was a much-needed check off my to-do list.

2016 was the year I finally realized my value as a hard-working woman, and that fighting for yourself is the only way to get the advancements I deserved (no one else is going to do it for you). I learned to stand up for myself and take action for positive changes in my life.

What do you want to prioritize this year, and what do you want to make happen?

For 2017 I again want to focus on creative progress, spending more time DOING and less on thinking. This year is round two; another shot at accomplishing important goals. I want to work on personal pieces for my portfolio, actively update my blog (at least 3 or 4 times a month!), and learn some new artistic skills while reconnecting with some much-neglected ones. And I’m serious about it (I was serious last year too, but life gets in the way and goals shift). It really helps that I have a home office now, a creative space of my own to get to work uninterrupted (details and photos to come).

So yea, more doing and less thinking. More trying and less holding back. That’s my motto for twenty seventeen (good-bye procrastination). I hope I’ll be able to document this journey here with you and have an audience to hold me accountable this time around!

What are your goals for the New Year? Good luck in 2017, time to make it happen!

Photo by Jeff Carpenter.

Portfolio Makeover: 5 Step Plan

I graduated from art school back in 2008 and I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’ve been toting the same design portfolio around all these years. It’s in serious need of an over-haul! Every creative person knows it’s important to keep your body of work up-to-date, because your style naturally changes over time. Adding and removing pieces keeps the variety of work fresh and cohesive. When’s the last time you updated your portfolio? Are you in the same boat as me right now? If so, it’s time to abandon ship and get to work!

How do we undertake the huge process of re-working our portfolio, and how do we fight the anxiety? My weapons of choice this time around are planning, research and inspiration. I’ve created a 5-step list to help navigate the process and make it feel less overwhelming.

I’ve come to the realization that I’ll need to create brand new work for my portfolio because the current examples are outdated, but thinking about all that work gives me paralyzing anxiety. That’s the reason I haven’t updated in so long. Your portfolio is a very personal body of work. It defines who you are as an artist, and sells you to potential employers and clients. That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself! Also, making new pieces takes a hefty chunk of time (and stress!). 

How do we undertake the huge process of re-working our portfolio, and how do we fight the anxiety? My weapons of choice this time around are planning, research and inspiration. I’ve created a 5-step list to help navigate the process and make it feel less overwhelming.

Step 1: Cull

Look through your portfolio and pull out any outdated pieces, work that no longer speaks to you or represents you as a designer today. You might not need to completely over-haul your body of work. See if there are any old pieces you want to keep or update, and recycle them to save yourself time.

I realized I needed to make several new pieces of work after I took a helpful class on Skillshare. It’s called Expressing Yourself with Personal Passion Projects, and you’re asked a simple question: What are you passionate about and how can you convey that in your work? The goal is to create fulfilling art that is distinctively ‘you’, not only showcasing your skills, but also highlighting who you are. Ask yourself what your dream portfolio would look like.

Step 2: Skills and Strengths 

You’ll know how many new pieces to create after you thoroughly cull your portfolio. I like to make lists to help with my brainstorming process, so I started listing out my relevant skills and strengths. Are you good at photography? Illustration? Typography? Photo manipulation? Website design? UX/UI? Are you strong at web design, print, or both? Let your skills guide you in deciding what types of pieces to create.

For my work, I want to show a good balance of web and print design, with a focus on typographic elements, hand lettering, vector shapes, and a dash of screen-printing.

Step 3: Passions and Interests

This is the part where you sit down and think about what message your body of work will convey. What are your passions? What type of work do you do in your spare time? What do you someday hope to be paid to do for a living? In other words, find what you love and love what you do. List out anything you can think of, even if it seems silly. You can go back later and sort the list.

I’m really passionate about environmental and wildlife conservation, human rights, and travel. I’ll be incorporating these passions, at varying degrees, into my new projects. I’m not passionate about sports (sorry sports fans) or theater, so you won’t see that reflected in my portfolio.

Step 4: Form Projects

Now that you know what skills and passions you want to incorporate, you can start thinking about what type of projects you want to make. Combine steps 2 and 3 to form project ideas. Maybe I’ll make a vector illustration of an endangered species, screen-print a travel poster, or re-design the website of a local nonprofit. While I’m at it, I could even re-design their logo.

This is also the step where I’ll gather inspiration (think pinterest, art museums, or design books) to help get the wheels turning. There are lots of projects out there with unlimited possibilities. Narrow the ideas down to a handful so you can build a strong portfolio.  

Step 5: Goal Setting

We should have a good list of projects at this point, with a vague idea of what our new pieces will look like. Setting goals for completion is something I find very helpful, and it eases the overwhelming feeling you get when you first sit down to work. I like to plan out when I’ll complete each new piece, and list out what resources I might need.

I have a full time job, so I know my personal time is limited. That means it wouldn’t be practical to set goals of more than 1 project every month or two. I just can’t work that fast!  Think about the amount of free time you have and plan accordingly.

How do we undertake the huge process of re-working our portfolio, and how do we fight the anxiety? My weapons of choice this time around are planning, research and inspiration. I’ve created a 5-step list to help navigate the process and make it feel less overwhelming.

So there you have it, not too complicated, right? These are the 5 steps I’ll use to tackle my portfolio’s makeover. I hope they are helpful to you, too! Just remember to focus on planning, research, and finding inspiration. It will take some anxiety away from the process. Is anyone else updating your body of work? I’d love to hear about it.


Once in a while I get the urge to return home to the small town in Iowa where I grew up. It used to be easier to satisfy this urge when I lived I Minnesota. It took only a 4-hour drive down the highway to get there. Now that I live in Washington, a 25-hour drive (or a 3-hour plane ride), I’m only able to go back a few times a year, if I’m lucky.

I got the urge last month as my 29th birthday neared, and hastily booked a flight home. I missed the Midwest snow, missed my mom’s house with my old bedroom and all of my discarded belongings. I missed my cat Chitty, who was my pal through high school. I missed the simplicity of a small town, where it takes 5 minutes to go anywhere and there is always plenty of parking. I missed familiar sights like the A&W drive-in, Swan Lake, and my Grandma’s house with a backyard that overlooks a golf course.

Visiting home got me thinking about what exactly ‘home’ is. I’ve always referred to Iowa as my home, even though I haven’t lived there in over a decade. When I say home, I mean my childhood home. You can always visit home, but will it always feel like home? Will it be just the way you left it when you moved 11 years ago? The main reason I felt such an urge to return was because I wanted to spend time in my old room relaxing. I wanted to feel the way I did when I was younger, when I had no real responsibilities. I guess I wanted to escape reality and go back to simpler times, just for the weekend.

My childhood home hasn’t changed much all these years, except for strange new faces and the Taco Bell that moved in last year. What has changed after all this time is me, and because of that, home will never be the same as when I was growing up. Even though I was back in my old room, digging through my old belongings, I didn’t quite feel the same way I did when I actually lived there.

It’s interesting to look back at where you came from, why you left, and how you got to the place you now call ‘home’. I noticed a pattern when I thought about all the places I have lived. You move from one place to another when you stop growing. Some people can accomplish a lifetime of growing in just one or two places, but not for me. I left Carroll after 7 years when I moved on to better things in a big city. I said good-bye to Minneapolis after 9 years when I decided my life was stagnant and I had finished all the growing I could there. I’ve grown a lot since moving to Seattle almost two years ago, but who knows how long it will be my home.

Images taken at Swan Lake State Park.

I guess what all my rambling is getting at, is that you can never really go back home, not fully, because you change as a person. You move on, and you cannot go back to the way things were. Your childhood home no longer holds the same meanings for you, no longer feels the way it used to. You can visit home and try to runaway from reality (from your job, your bills, your stressors), but you won’t be able to completely return home. And I guess that is ok, because sometimes you are meant to move on. People change, the meaning of ‘home’ changes. But at least you have those memories, and you are the person you are today thanks to those memories.

Here's to a productive 2016

It's a new year, and for most people, that means setting new goals. I make a list every year, and even though I don't always reach them, I still think it's important to list your goals as a way of organizing your priorities. I have personal, health, and financial goals. Like a lot of people, my list includes losing all the weight I put on last year, and paying off credit card debt. But I'll spare you those details.

More importantly, I want to focus on two things in 2016: traveling and creating (more). Traveling is extremely important to me, but because of big changes over the last few years (graduating, moving across country, getting a full time job, ect), I haven't had time or money to do it as much as I'd like. I wrote about re-connecting with my creativity recently, and want to make sure I continue focusing on that this year, too.

This year I am spending my vacation time responsibly, and planning a trip out of the continent for the first time in 3 years. I'm not for sure where I'll go yet. It's a hard decision, because I only have so much vacation time! I really want to return to Europe for a more 'tourist' vacation, or return to Japan (I loved visiting in 2010). But part of me wants to shake things up and go somewhere completely new. A trip centered around wildlife and the outdoors would be amazing. I might look into volunteering with some conservation nonprofits overseas.

Aside from traveling overseas, I want to travel around the Pacific Northwest more this year. I live in a beautiful state and there are so many places to explore. I want to hike more, take pictures of landscape, try car camping, rent one of those fancy tree houses in the middle of a forest, explore the Olympic peninsula, hike around one of the many mountains. I just want to spend more time outside.

I started to re-connect with my creative side towards the end of 2015. This year I will continue working on that. I'm still battling my perfectionism, and have to admit that it's still getting in the way at times. I have to remind myself that done is better than perfect (or better than nothing). To continue exploring my creative side, I'm lining up some fun classes at the School of Visual Concept and Pratt Fine Arts Center. I'm also going to push myself to actually use my Skillshare account (three months in, and all I've done is save over 100 classes to watch later). Jeff has been toying around with the idea of selling art at one of the comic conventions in the PNW. If he lines something up, I'd love to partner up and maybe screenprint some of his illustrations. I could use the practice...

What important goals will you work on this year? For anyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest, if you comment below with some places that you like hiking or taking pictures at, I'd really appreciate it!