October 24, 2014

dead fish swim

this morning at the playground my son saw small leaves floating in a puddle and said "mama, dead fish swim!". i just couldn't resist stealing this image from the beautiful brain of an 18 month old. i collected a few leaves and here are the dead fish swimming on my desk. 

dead fish, gouache on leaves

i just wish i had more leaves!

and i hope no one will accuse me of plagiarism and give me a lecture on intellectual property.

October 20, 2014

the ballerina notebook

ok, i know this blog is about my work and not my life as a full-time mom (as if there was another kind). but it's 10 pm and only now i had the time to sit down and blog. so i hope you don't mind me saying blogging is the last thing i want to do now. why am i doing it? i remember i once said something very deep like "i blog therefore i am" - there's too much pressure to keep sharing work, and i believe it's important for my so-called "career". there is also too much pressure to stay positive or at least sound positive, and that's even more exhausting. i personally don't believe anyone who says they're super-excited and grateful and happy 100% of the time. do you?

and this is where i stop being negative and tell you about my super-exciting way of life. yay!

there are so many projects bouncing around in my brain, that i had to separate them into little notebooks to keep my sanity. here's the bunch of them. 

projects in progress

the green notebook is the one devoted to my little ballerina character, which is based on my daughter, who would dance 24/7 if she was given the choice. it took me a while to get the hang of drawing a cute ballerina, as you can notice in the snapshots below. i decided to share the good, the bad, and the absolutely horrible, since i'm being very honest tonight.


cute but pretty bad

that's more like it

getting to know her better

fourth position mastered, or almost

arabesque: feeling better about this

i feel like i know what i'm doing, sometimes

i do have big dreams both for my daughter and this little character. both will need a lot of nurturing and a lot of my time. i only hope the best for them and i will do my best for them.

and in case you're curious about the other notebooks, i'm afraid you will have to wait until i recover from this post. i am being very honest, but even that is sounding a little gimmicky, isn't it? how was that for honesty?

good night. i'm tired. 100% honestly.

October 2, 2014

in case you were wondering what Little Fox is up to!

just in case you've been checking my sketchbook, you might have noticed i have been painting a lot of foxes and other cute creatures. so here's the story, in case you were wondering.

it's been that time of year again: the deadline to submit to the Illustrators Exhibition at the Bologna Children's Book Fair was fast approaching and i had nothing that met the submission specifications, so as usual i had to create something new. luckily i knew exactly what i wanted to illustrate: i had long been musing about telling different stories with different characters all happening on the same page. i chose to illustrate 5 Aesop fables, because they are simple, and because their characters are animals, and who doesn't like painting those? i focused on 5 fables which had the fox as the main character - i've been seeing foxes everywhere and wanted to come up with my own little fox.

a new restriction i imposed on myself - well, it's not really a restriction, since it's very liberating, as you will see - was that i would not draw the illustration first and paint over later, as has been my practice since forever. i find my paintings lack the spontaneity of my sketches, so i decided to start painting without the initial pencil drawing. of course i did have a rough sketch in front of me, but i was no longer just coloring my drawing. my brush was free to move around, and i did not mind when some lines were a little off. i felt this made my illustrations more lively and i learned not to obsess over small discrepancies.

in preparation for this new way of painting, i had to draw and paint my characters numerous times, to familiarize myself with them. below are some examples:

once i felt ready, i placed my sketches on the wall above my desk and started painting. here's one of the sketches to show how rough they were:

and finally, below are the illustrations i submitted to the exhibition. each one focuses on the fable it tells (the fox always being the largest character illustrated),  but the main event is surrounded with illustrations of what the other characters in the remaining or previous fables are up to (according to me, not Aesop:)

the fox and the grapes

the fox and the stork

the fox and the lion

the fox and the rooster

the fox and the crow

i have been submitting to Bologna every year with no exception for the past 10 years. it is a very prestigious show, and it would be amazing if i ever got in. but by now i am used to rejection, and don't hope for anything. that doesn't mean i stop trying, though. wish me luck this time!

September 10, 2014

no place like home

i am working on a personal project which i call "no place like home". i love to draw houses and i love to draw maps, so these drawings show houses and a street map, in which the streets lead nowhere else but home. no need to read too deep into this, i just like to draw these things.

i have been drawing, like so.

no place like home no.1 drawing

and painting.

no place like home no.1 painting

i have been painting and drawing.

no place like home no.1 painting and drawing

i have been "photoshoping" and "illustratoring".

no place like home no.1 in photoshop

no place like home no. 1 in illustrator

i like working in all those media and i am not sure which way to go. which one do you like best and why? these are not rhetorical questions, so please feel free to answer them. it goes without saying you can also feel free to ignore them, even though i would like to know what you think!

September 1, 2014

back to earth

so here i am as promised. had a great time and did not forget the suncream - and it was never cloudy!

before leaving, i had entered the Lilla Rogers Studio Global Talent Search 2014. the assignment was to create a wall art piece with the theme "little terrariums", and the image had to contain at least one word. i loved the brief, and how it was packed with supporting material and guidance.

first thing i did: called our babysitter to make sure i had enough time to do my best.

and then the fun began. i spent the first day on visual research, a couple more days on drawing motifs, and then i scanned in everything and experimented with various photoshop brushes, until i found what i was looking for. i played with my drawings in illustrator, moved them around, designed the composition and figured out the colors. finally i worked in photoshop to add the desired texture. (one day i want to write about how working digitally has made my process so much more intuitive than when i used to paint like a medieval manuscript illuminator! )

plants (drawings)

plants ( illusatrator)

small world (photoshop)

i greatly enjoyed making this, was satisfied with my work, and waited for the results with anticipation. when i found out i hadn't made it to the second round i have to admit i was disappointed, but fortunately i did not have time to dwell on it because i was in a sunny place with my family, and frankly, nothing else mattered (except not forgetting the suncream!)

make sure to take a look at the beautiful work of the 50 artists who were selected among the 999 from around the world. 5 will be selected and move to the finals. who do you think has got what it takes? not me, obviously!

for me, it's back to earth, back to school, back to work, and back to my sketchbook.

happy september!

August 24, 2014

don't forget the suncream!

going on a sunny vacation tomorrow. will write when i'm back.

this is me. i wish i had red flipflops!

stay well. make pretty things. and don't forget the suncream, of course.

August 16, 2014

meet the royals

there are many things i'm not sure about, but one thing i know: i just love to make pictures. i'm happy when i make them, and sad when i don't, it's that simple.

these faces had been waiting in my sketchbook for far too long:

giving them color had been on my mind since the day i sketched them, and today i managed to do that in between all the dirty diapers, tantrums, fevers, and everything else that happens on a sunny saturday.

i even surprised myself and added another member to the family:

not sure what's going to happen to them now, if anything. in any case, they will have to wait for a couple more months, at least.

what's that?
you're tired of waiting?
well, that's too bad because i'm also tired. yesterday i walked out of the supermarket with my shopping bag waiting for me by the cash register. the other day i put my baby son's shorts on my 3.5 year old daughter. and i only stopped because she started laughing. so you will wait your turn, and i will get back to you when i can. believe me, i want to more than you can imagine:)

this was me, unedited. will post now before i start feeling silly.

August 3, 2014

a very quick note about a quick challenge

today i had a few minutes to spare for one of my favorite activities: painting.
first, i set myself these rules:

  1. no corrections, no layering
  2. don't over think, be quick and intuitive, don't plan
  3. share whatever the result, no judging

then i painted this:

this was fun and liberating.
looking back, the black dots where a bad idea (i make the rules and it's ok to judge after it's done and shared. please feel free to judge!).

June 25, 2014

without the blah blah blah

i know i haven't blogged for longer than it makes sense. don't have the time. not blogging defeats the purpose of having a blog, i know that too. just give me time.

i recently overheard a young girl, she must have been around 7 or 8, walking through Harvard Yard with her parents, saying "i don't want to go to Harvard. i do want to go to a good school, but one, you know, without the blah blah blah…" that's a line i will never forget. there is too much blah blah blah in this world anyone can handle.

so without any more of that, here's what i recently did: five giant illustrations for my daughter's end of school year performance, each animal couple representing a class. 

crocodile rock'n roll

elephant cha cha 

giraffe charleston

lion kochari (armenian circle dance)

monkey twist

i really enjoyed making them, working for hours in absolute silence without having to change a diaper, or feed, or talk, or smile.

who knows when i will sit down for a minute and blog again.
please, do keep in touch and blah blah blah.

April 3, 2014

(the slow) march of the penguins...

before you start reading this brief post, please know that it was written over the course of 7 non-consecutive days. on the first day, i just managed to type the title. i later edited it on day 4. welcome to the secret life of mothers.

on day 2, here's what i typed:
when our daughter was born three years ago, like every new parent, we wanted to surround her with objects that would stimulate her, etc etc etc, and thought about getting these wonderful animal art cards by wee gallery:

art cards for baby, original collection, by wee gallery

but then i thought, why buy stuff when i can make stuff? so i painted these black and white animal friends for her on little white canvass boards. she loved them and so did our baby son, born 2 years later.

animal friends paintings, december 2010

he also got the art cards as a gift!

art cards for baby, sea collection, by wee gallery

but there was one little problem. he is crazy about penguins, and there were no penguins in the series. so i had to make one:

penguin in the snow

on day 3, i took some of the photos that accompany this post. did not have time to upload.

on day 4, i took the rest of the photos and managed to upload.

on day 5, this is what i wrote:
since he liked my penguin painting, i made these wall decals for him using black and yellow contact paper i bought at the hardware store. they will come off the wall easily once this penguin obsession is over:

penguin wall decal

the simple penguins were inspired from my sketchbook:

penguin happy, penguin sad

the sketches above were also the starting point for a new pattern i developed in photoshop, which i entered in the Tigerprint Black and White Pattern Competition, since it was the only black and white print i had on hand:

on day 6, i typed a few more sentences:
i've been trying to blog since morning, but teething toddlers are too demanding. so i'm speed-typing this at as he tries to bring down the floor lamp. the last manifestation of our penguin obsession was this simple birthday cake i made for him. not sure he even noticed it:

on day 7
did she rest? of course not! added all the links, made final edits, and will hopefully publish momentarily.

as i said before: welcome to the secret life of mothers, where time stretches and flies at the same time.

March 18, 2014

of rooftops and pickle jars

do you remember the metaphoric safe i had stored all my work in? it just burst open! in a nutshell: i decided it's better to share my work than to sit on it. so i started a tumblr sketchbook, which i have been updating with a doodle everyday.

so what happened? first, common sense. who's going to care that i am making things if i don't show them to anyone? second, i came across this book by austin kleon, "show you work", in which, among many others, i found this motivating quote by dan harmon:
"find your voice, shout it from the rooftops, and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you."
i am currently working on patterns with fruits, and here are some oranges from my sketchbook:


when a person doesn't make use of something they own, in armenian we ask them, "are you making pickles with it?" if i don't want my oranges to become pickled ones, i'd better shout them from my rooftop.

shouting from the rooftops.
throwing out of the pickle jar.
bursting the safe open.

March 7, 2014

great news!

yes, i have great news to share! and no, it's not another baby. or maybe it is. 

so here it is: my submission to the UPPERCASE magazine surface pattern design guide was accepted! it means my designs will be published in the magazine i can't stop reading and looking at! every page of it unravels a new treasure, and now my work will be on one of those pages!!!! these might seem like too many exclamation marks, but given how happy i am, they're not even close!!!!!!!!!!

cover courtesy of Uppercase magazine. cover art by Jan Avellana

what's more: i will be in amazing company. in addition to the other 99 designers who were selected, there will be expert advice from Lilla Rogers, teNeues publishing, Print and Pattern, and my design hero, Lotta Jansdotter, to name a few.

i honestly can't wait to get my copy. i know it will be packed with valuable information, it will be beautifully designed, and it will be a great read. to find out more about the issue,  you can watch the video below where the editor, publisher, and designer Janine Vangool discusses its content, and also shares great tips on how to stand out in the crowd in surface pattern design. and apparently, i have a point of view. watch the video, you'll see what i mean.

and here comes the best part! consider yourself lucky to have read this: you can use the code "USPDG2014" and get a $15 discount off your subscription. just go here. you will not regret it.

so how was this for great news? it's wonderful news, if you ask me. minus the sleepless nights.

February 7, 2014

with a little help from my friends

last time we spoke, i was painting coffee. i still am, and it has become an addiction. but i'm not going to show any. why? it turns out i shouldn't be showing so much of my work. why? because clients prefer work that has not been seen before. i found out about this recently when i entered the together again: minted+west elm design challenge

now, did you like my introduction? was it subtle enough? i don't think so. please, if you have the time and desire, please do check my entries, and if you like them, please do vote for them! thank you!

i don't want to make you regret you read this post and wasted your time, so here's a little example of my current work. just a tiny little example, the rest is in a waterproof, airtight, insulated, bolted safe.

dream garden, gouache on paper, 2014

(and please, please, do vote!)

January 23, 2014

i blog therefore i am

yes, i am still around. getting more philosophical by the day - i have to, if i need to accept that for the time being, 95% of my creativity (or whatever's left of it), will be spent on how to make my 10 month old sit down for longer than 2 minutes.

yes, i do exist. even as a shadow of myself. even if i don't feel great. nothing life threatening, but i am slowly convalescing from a hyperactive thyroid which, as it turns out, was the reason, why, well...i haven't felt great lately.

i am at our kitchen table (as opposed to my desk) around which most of my life revolves lately, and i am slowly realizing it's not a bad thing, after all. i remember having read an essay by an armenian writer (or rather my grandfather reading it to us as he did every sunday afternoon, oh, happy days), who was forced to write in the kitchen. and he noticed that the armenian word for kitchen (khoh-a-nots) contains the word "khoh" in it, which means "thought". so here's where thoughts are peeled, deconstructed, chopped, mixed, simmered, and savored. and here's where my idea for the coffee paintings took shape:

since a day doesn't go by where i don't wake up and make myself an espresso, i should not let a day go by without painting a cup of coffee.

well, i haven't really stuck to it (the painting part of it, obviously), but i am doing my best, considering.

here are a few of the many i have been painting over the past month. i do have a plan for these guys. but first i must be able to leave this kitchen.

enjoy your coffee. enjoy your day.