Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What Have You Learned Lately: Online Creative Class Round Up

Over the past two-ish years, I have become obsessed with taking online classes to learn new design and craft skills. As you may know, I never attended any kind of design school (apart from a few basic classes in my Journalism undergrad). Through the years, I was always on the hunt for various art classes, but I could never find the time or motivation to actually go to an in-person class.

But lately I've been noticing a huge crop of new design and craft classes, led by some of my very very favorite artists, cropping up all over! I've dipped my toe in the water here and there, but I wanted to briefly share my experience with the classes I've taken in case anyone else out there has any interest. So here goes!

I Still Love Calligraphy with Melissa Esplin

This was one of the first classes I took back in 2012. At the time I paid $99 plus materials (paper, ink, pen, nibs). Currently the class is $130 and includes materials, and I believe she has been updating her videos and content since then. My favorite part about this class was getting feedback directly from Melissa and the structured practice exercises. I have to admit that I haven't kept up with my pointed-pen practice, but this class really improved my understanding and appreciation of hand lettering. See more...

Pattern Camp with Jessica Swift

This class probably had the MOST impact on me in terms of learning technical skills that I now use all the time to create repeating patterns. I have admired Jess for a long time (and also took her Declaration of You class). I met her at a craft fair once in DC and was completely, ridiculously, embarressingly star struck.

Anyways, Pattern Camp is a great overview on how to make repeating patterns in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I paid $130 for the class and it was worth EVERY PENNY (I believe prices have rightfully gone up but Jess is regularly running specials so check her blog! Worth it!). I already had a copy of Illustrator/Photoshop so I didn't have to pay additional for that.

The videos walk you through each step from concept to creation, and it was great even if you've never used the software in the past. This class offered the option to go through it "live" during a specific weekend which I highly recommend. Jess and my classmates' real time feedback through the Facebook group and webcasts was extremely helpful and generally made me feel like a rockstar. See more...

Design, Carve, Print with Jen Hewett

Jen is another artist that I've been stalking admiring for many years, so when she opened up a new online block printing class I waited less than five minutes to sign up for $99. Like Pattern Camp, this class offered and "live" option, which again, was so much fun which some great teacher/class interaction.

I had tried block printing before but Jen's class really helped me improve my efforts and understand the right materials to use, particularly on fabric. I tried my hand at printing a full yard of fabric to make a tote bag, and also combined several of my block prints with my digital skills to turn out some pretty fun digital patterns. See more...

Creative Bug Fabric Design with Heather Ross, Lizzy House & Denise Schmidt

Creative Bug is a subscription site that I signed up for in March in order to watch their fabric design class co-sponsored by Spoonflower. It's only $4.95/month which seems like a ridiculous steal for the amount of classes and content.

The Fabric Design class was really good in learning more about the artistic process that these three amazing designers use in developing their fabric collections. I really loved their personal stories and seeing how there really was no "right" way to do things. I think it was less helpful in the technical department (where Pattern Camp really excelled), but for $4.95, I enjoyed it immensely. See more...

Creative Bug Drawing & Illustration Basics with Heather Ross

Following the Fabric Design class, I also started watching the Drawing & Illustration Basics class taught by Heather Ross who seems like another person I want to be best friends with (sorry if that is creepy). This class touched on sketching and painting everyday objects and creating conversational artwork. Heather's style isn't exactly the same as mine, but I loved trying something different. Her mantra that everyone can draw was really empowering because I have often felt that I couldn't draw "things that look like things." See more...

Lynda.com Adobe Illustrator Essential Training

Finally, the last class I'll talk about was on Lynda.com. This was another subscription, about $40/month. The site, which was recently purchased by LinkedIn, is geared more towards career development vs. hobbyists, but this class was really helpful and in depth. It definitely gave me a great foundation and more confidence in working with Illustrator which I had never used before.

All in all, I hope to keep jumping in to these classes and would love more recommendations if you know of any. I love learning new skills and techniques and really hope that more artists will be sharing their passions through this type of setting in the future!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Drawing & Illustration for Dummies

Continuing with my spate of recent online classes, I recently finished watching Heather Ross' Drawing & Illustration Basics on Creative Bug. In the next week or so I'm going to be posting a REALLY BIG round-up of all the online classes I've taken, but I wanted to share some of my attempts from Heather's class in particular.

Heather really focuses on drawing everyday objects so we started out with some little things little clothespins and push pins.

Next we moved on to some more complex sketches of things like flowers.

Up to this point in the class, I basically was just drawing whatever she drew, but then I diverted and started sketching some things from our backyard (I mean, it IS spring and EVERYTHING is blooming!)

In the second part of the class she focused on filling in the sketches with gouache, which is a type of opaque watercolor paint that is hard to spell. I was immediately very intimidated, because the bulk of my forays in to painting are decidedly abstract, but I soldiered on at her encouragement that "everyone can draw/paint."

SO I gave it my best effort and was mildly impressed/happy with the result! Lots of room or improvement though.

Finally, she talked a lot about making conversational artwork... again, not something I do naturally... but I loved the little painting she taught us to do of a ladybug hiding under a mushroom. Check out #cbugsketchbook on Instagram to see like 15 of my classmates versions of this... pretty freaking adorable in my opinion.

I think this class was really interesting and pushed me to attempt drawing more things that I usually immediately am like... "nope... can't draw flowers, sorry."

Unrelated to what was taught in the class, I also decided to try my hand at some brush lettering which I really loved and hope to do more of in the future. Sort of an easier (for me) way to get a calligraphic style without the frustration of bending metal nibs (curse my heavy hands!).

Stay tuned for another post coming up in which I will share my deep thoughts and general fangirl-ness from a bunch of the online classes I've taken. If you've been thinking about learning some new stuff... this post will be for you!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Ready, Set, Sew: Race Day Tank Top

I have to admit that I'm not always the most enthusiastic runner. My motivation has a lot more to do with the clothes than the many other benefits of running. So I decided, after my first tank top turned out pretty well, I needed to try out Spoonflower's Performance Pique fabric to make a running tank for the Pikes Peek 10K race this past weekend.

I again used an existing tank top (with a racer back) as the pattern, which worked out pretty well, but I tried another method for the binding and ended up with straps that were slightly different sizes (oops!). I also wish I had made it a little bit longer, but overall it fit pretty well.

I really loved the fabric. It was light and surprisingly great quality. I think it will hold up really well over time. I picked my Block Print Blossom pattern in Hydrangea for the task. 

Here's a pic at the finish line! I'm always the happiest when its all over. Photobombed by the Geico Gecko of course. 

It was really cold at the start so I wore my jacket through the first few miles, but was delighted when the sun came out! Good thing I remembered my sunscreen ;o)

Anyways, after all my crazy fabric design projects of late, I decided to try something a little different. Here's a sneak peek... more to come!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Feeling Just Fine & Dandelion

Hooray! Today I finally got the swatches from my Fine & Dandelion patterns from Spoonflower! You can see the whole collection here. I was so excited I made this little movie on Instagram:

A video posted by Liz Weaver (@snarkybeagle) on

This was definitely a labor of love as I put in a lot of post-full-day-of-real-work hours in to it. Here's what the primary pattern (that I shared first on Instagram two weeks ago) looks like close up...

I really like the natural/linen-looking background color and the detail in the flowers. If you are so inclined, I entered it in to the final Creative Bug Fabric Design Challenge and I would greatly appreciate your vote (no login is necessary)! Here's the other main pattern I made...

As you can tell by the grass in our backyard, the collection was inspired by all the weeds that are coming back in full force now that it is finally Spring! Pretty soon there will be clover and bumblebees all over the place (and I'm totally ok with that!)

Here are all the swatches together. I just want to say thank you again for everyone's encouragement during this process. I know it may not seem like a huge deal but this has been a fun/exhausting creative outlet, and I want to hug every single person who has shown even the tiniest bit of enthusiasm or interest. You guys are the BEST!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Tank Top Sewing and a Fine & Dandelion Sneak Peak!

Well, it's been a really exciting week! I made my first sale on Spoonflower (woohoo, $1.35! lol) and I was picked for Creative Bug's Instagram Challenge for their Fabric Design class. More on that in a minute, but first, I recently embarked on learning to sew with knit fabrics.

It actually wasn't as hard as I expected. I don't have a serger, so the seams weren't as pretty as they could be. I also made the mistake of not paying attention to the length vs. width (which really matters with knits). Luckily Spoonflower's Modern Jersey is VERY stretchy in both directions so it still fits well. Lesson learned!

I made the pattern myself (also a first!) from a Banana Republic tank top. I used this tutorial from Anna at Noodlehead as a guide as well as Creative Bug's Sewing a T-Shirt class.

Here's the design/fabric before I cut it. The design was featured this week on Spoonflower's "Hot Trends" this week and can be purchased here in fabric, wallpaper and gift wrap!

As I mentioned earlier, I've added Creative Bug's Fabric Design class to my ever growing list of online class credentials. And I was thrilled to win their Instagram challenge this past week! The feedback from folks was an AMAZING confidence booster. I seriously want to hug every person who liked or commented on the post. Here was my submission:

I've spent the last few days furiously finishing the pattern I posted and creating a whole collection around it to share on Spoonflower. I just got everything uploaded today and ordered the swatches. Here's a sneak peak of a few of the other designs and coordinates. I hope you are as excited as I am!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Block Print Blossoms now on Spoonflower!

Guess what! My Block Print Blossom patterns are now on my Spoonflower shop. And, oh yeah, I have a Spoonflower shop! You can order any of the patterns, in three color ways, on a variety of their fabrics, wallpapers and wrapping papers. I got the fabric swatches in the mail this week!

I mentioned a few weeks ago when I posted my block print patterns that I feel like I've come a really long way when it comes to designing patterns. I started this blog almost seven years ago and I started thinking about designing patterns almost five years ago. I fumbled through sort of figuring things out myself and toodled around with that for a long time.

I've always thought about posting my designs on Spoonflower or another print-to-order site like Society 6, Zazzle, etc., but I never really felt like my designs were good enough (whatever that means). In the past year I've taken a lot of design classes (and purchased a new laptop) and I finally feel really proud of what I'm making.

I don't necessarily have big expectations in terms of actually selling stuff, but it was an exciting milestone that I felt like I could. I greatly appreciated the support from many friends and classmates that were a huge confidence booster. Anyways there's always a long ways to go, but I'm excited to share these patterns and I hope you will visit my Spoonflower shop to take a look :)

**UPDATED 4/18** I just got a whole yard of the main fabric (in hydrangea) to make in to a running top! So excited! Check it out:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Let's Ride! Block Print Bicycle Artwork

Last year we finished our basement and moved our TV downstairs. Since then, there's been this really big blank space on the wall in our living room and I'm happy to announce... we filled it! (Oh homeownership... the little things we get psyched for... and also take an ENTIRE YEAR to do...)

Also note, Kevin made an awesome cabinet out of an old pinball cabinet... but that's another story. We used CVS to print a 36x24" canvas with a block print Kevin designed a few years back. They were having a 50 percent off sale so it ended up being about $50. I was relieved that the overall quality was great! It turned out a little darker than expected (it's navy in person, see original below).

Above is the original linoleum carving and the print that I scanned. I used Photoshop to enlarge, tidy and change the color to blue. Here's the image I uploaded:

Another successful block printing project complete!