CREATIVITY THAT HEALS

I was honored to be interviewed by FlintPeople.com recently. Here's a teaser...

FP: Can you think back to a big win, a celebratory moment for Art with Heart?

SL: Art with Heart is peppered with them! Miracles & celebrations and unexpected blessings. One unexpected blessing that happened early on which I’m still amazed at – we had divided the printing of “Oodles of Doodles” up between many printers. One of the printers called up and said – I can’t do the 10,000 that you want me to do. I’m going to fall short by 750. So we were going to be left with uneven books. The next day I received a phone call that said, “Hey, I just found out, there is this paper house that is about to throw away all of this paper, unless you want to use it.” It was exactly the right amount of paper that we needed to finish the project. That was just amazing. Through the years – donors, supporters, volunteers, advisers – all these people who’ve come up and said “I want to help.”  They’re all moments to celebrate... READ MORE >>

ICON | POWERFUL

Volunteers help put together the Zine after the workshop.

Volunteers help put together the Zine after the workshop.

Since 2003, I have had the good fortune to be involved on and off with a fabulous group of illustrators who formed a national conference called ICON. I was invited me to speak and my topic was "The Ripple Effect: Turning Passion to Action." It was well-attended, and I met many illustrators whose work I admired and who had donated their time and talent and time to Art with Heart's books.

The next year they asked me to join the Board of Directors to help plan the next one. I served as Secretary. Ann Field was the Board President, and the legendary Seymour Chwast served as Board Vice President, along with a list of other insanely talented illustrators such as Ron ChanCraig FrazierJoe MorseWhitney Sherman, and Molly Zakrajsek

We worked as a team for two years – some parts of the planing were unbelievably difficult, and some parts were seamless – yet I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Which is why when they asked me to be involved again this year at ICON8, I said yes without hesitation. This time, they asked me to run a workshop and I chose the subject "Using Your Powers for Good." I led everyone in an activity from Chill & Spill about personal power and we brought everyone's artwork together to form a 'Zine.

Participants told me later that they actually had a hard time using art to express themselves because most of their art is "for hire" - it's someone else's idea, someone else's art direction. So to make it personal was a challenge, but a good one.

I think it is hard to make room for personal, meaningful creativity in my own personal life, but it is something that I'm finding helps center and strengthen me. It helps me feel less hopeless in a world that seems to be falling apart. It helps me feel that I have something to say, even though I'm usually too shy to say it out loud. It helps me find my personal power. 

DREAM A LITTLE DREAM

Artwork by Gina Triplett for Art with Heart's Chill & Spill journal

Artwork by Gina Triplett for Art with Heart's Chill & Spill journal

Dreams. They can reveal so much if we learn to listen to the messages they hold.  Sometimes they are just wacky. But other times, they can shape your future, look at things from a different angle, helping us solve perplexing problems that seem to have no answer during our waking hours.

Have you ever had a dream that lingers with you all day? You can still feel the sensations you felt in the dream. You may carry the anger or sorrow or joy with you hours later.

Sometimes I have dreams about unfinished business. In the dream, I accomplish all sorts of things, and because it feels so real, I am surprised to find that upon awaking, nothing was actually done. Then the rest of the day feels redundant.

You can tell that there's something more to certain dreams, but its often hard to put your finger on it – not at first anyways. It's like a blind taste test – you know you know the flavor, but you can't quite place it.

I've had dreams that haunt me for days, holding onto my brain and teasing me to find a deeper meaning. One dream in particular involved a baby who kept stretching out her little chubby arms up towards me. As I bent to pick her up, I couldn't lift her – she was too heavy. The harder I tried, the heavier she became.

When I went in closer to figure out the problem, I discovered that her skin was shiny gold. As I tried again, I realized that she was made of gold, through and through.

Artwork   by Steffanie Lorig

Artwork by Steffanie Lorig

I asked passers-by if they could help, and eventually, together we all cradled her in our arms and carried on as one unit the rest of the dream. When I awoke, I could feel the weight and the strain on my muscles from the burden.

All day long, I mulled over all the possible meanings. My first thought was that it had something to do with my own baby, but that answer didn't quite seem to fit.

As I began my day at work, thoughts of this golden child kept resurfacing. Then all at once, it hit me. I realized the baby was really the nonprofit organization I had founded years before. In reality, it had gotten so big, so heavy, so unwieldy I just couldn't handle it by myself anymore.

Once the metaphor seemed to fit, I realized that the dream was telling me that I needed to reach out to others for support to keep things moving, or the organization would stay in the same place, rooted in one place. This dream helped me realize the change that had to happen and I began taking steps to reach out to others.

Some people write their dreams down as soon as they wake up. Some add extra time into their morning routine to allow themselves to bask in the memories of the dream and begin to recognize if there are any patterns or things that show up time and time again. I have done both but not with consistency. I have drawn them in my sketchbook too, as some dreams are far too complex for words.  I think that whatever method you use to think about or memorialize dreams, it's important to take time to dissect them for a closer look. You never know what you'll find yourself talking to yourself about.

IF YOU CAN, YOU SHOULD

When I first moved to Seattle, I knew no one besides my husband and his college buddy. It was a lonely business trying to find a job and make friends. We had one car and we were living 20 minutes outside downtown in a townhouse with no furniture. Our sleepy marina town closed down at 7:00 at night and our closest neighbors either worked nights, or dealt drugs from their driveways during the day.

I spent every waking moment trying to get a job to help me escape the absolute boredom I felt. During one of my interviews, the Art Director asked me if I was a member of AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) or if I had heard of the School of Visual Concepts. Being both receptive and desperate, I joined AIGA immediately and began taking classes as SVC. Her advice changed my experience dramatically. Instead of pining away, waiting for my employed spouse to return home, I now had places to go and people to meet.

One of the greatest benefits of jointing the AIGA was that it had plenty of opportunities to volunteer. And boy did I. Jumping in with both feet, I helped plan events, as well as volunteered with inner city kids doing art projects, and eventually was invited to join the Board.

Jesse Doquilo, the president at the time, asked what my motivation to join the board was and I told him I wanted to use my talent to give back. He put me in charge of Community Outreach, a brand new position, and told me to define it. And, oh, by the way, you have 70 volunteers waiting for you to tell them what to do. I was given carte blanche.

So...wow. Where to start? Too much freedom can create confusion or stagnation, so I started winnowing the choices down. 

Continue reading the story in an  article I wrote for Communication Arts >>

TRAFFIC DESIGN

Me   and my sporty plastic glasses my mom got on sale.

Me and my sporty plastic glasses
my mom got on sale.

I am one of the lucky ones. I've known what I wanted to be ever since I was 12 years old when Ms. Garcia had everyone in her sixth grade class take a Career Aptitude Test.

We nervously queued up to use the brand new Micro Computer from Radio Shack, and watched as the results printed up dot by dot. Eagerly, I read the results, which offered three main options deemed to fit my personality. Rushing home, I shared the news of my potential careers to my mom who offered her perspective...

  • Veterinarian:What about your allergies? You'd be sneezing all the time! And besides, could you actually put a little puppy to sleep and watch him die?
  • Photo Journalist: Would you really be able to sit idly by and shoot photos of people who are dying – or on fire? You'd have to, you know.
  • Graphic Design: Traffic Design? What's that? 

So, the choice became obvious, thanks to mom. The next day, I told Mrs. Garcia my top choice and she arranged for me to spend the day with a real, live Graphic Designer at the University of Arizona. Surprisingly, he didn't have to do anything about traffic jams, except create way-finding signs and cool logos. I was smitten. He got to draw and do beautiful typography. AND he got paid for it. I had found my future bliss.

After graduating college with a Visual Arts Degree, I began my Graphic Design on the bottommost rung at a neighborhood print shop, where the manager made fun of me for not knowing what a Gripper Edge was (Sheesh...what do they teach these kids?).

My job was split between taking change for customer's Xeroxes and pasting up golf brochures the hard way – laying out spreads using a T-square, X-Acto blades and toxic spray-on glue. I had to convince them that they no longer needed to send out for type since they had a new fangled Apple Macintosh with a sizzling 128k of RAM, a floppy disk drive, and a handful of fonts named after big cities.

Somehow, that job didn't break my spirit, and slowly, rung by rung, I began the dizzying climb – job by job – until I finally made it to "the Big Time" at Hornall Anderson Design. Yet, after all that hard work, I felt like a fraud – How could these incredible designers not know that I don't belong, that I started as a copy clerk? I am unworthy of licking their Italian Leather boots.

My competitive nature, however, helped me rise above my freelance status and swim with (or at least float along side) the über talented sharks with stylish glasses. Once I was hired, the clients I worked on ranged from corporate to classic to boutique. During that time, my supervisor taught me skills I would eventually use for Art with Heart – writing Creative Briefs (which translated well to Grants), managing budgets, and dealing with difficult situations and demanding clients. The two main clients that helped shape what was to come were Children's Hospital of Orange County and Harcourt School Book publishers. Working closely with these seemingly disparate clients helped me find a direction for Art with Heart and led to my first big project for hospitalized children, Oodles of Doodles, a healing activity book inspired by a local child with neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer that takes the lives of most of the children diagnosed with it.

After working in the design field for over 15 years, I now had a new direction, a new passion, a new possibility – but one which used all my foundational skills. My sixth grade teacher planted a seed that not only sprouted and grew, but gave me the roots to branch out to new possibilities. Thank you Ms. Garcia for giving your class a head start in life and for helping me find my bliss...twice.  /  More on Hallie's story at Art with Heart.org >>

FISHING FOR COMPLIMENTS

There was a new face that started showing up at different Art with Heart events. Jana pulled me aside, pointed and said, That's Bruce. You gotta meet him.  He's got a heart of gold and he could be a huge help to you...

And so, over the course of that year, I got to know Bruce. He was a complex man – rough around the edges. He could embarrass the heck out of you, and then make you feel proud to know him at the same time. He was very generous with his time, advice, and personal wealth. As our friendship grew, I found that his generosity sprang from a deep well.

Before he was eight, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. The disease and its related complications plagued him throughout his entire life. He faced heart problems, deteriorating kidneys, and pancreatic cancer. After many unsuccessful attempts to repair his declining health, doctors ran out of options, save one.

A double transplant was his only hope – to see if Bruce's body could start again and finally cure him of his diabetes. It would be the first transplant of its kind in the state of Washington  – but the surgery was not without major risks or additional complications. It was on the hospital gurney that he made a deal.

If I get through this, I'll live life differently. I'll help kids. I'll do whatever it takes. Just help me through this...

As Bruce slowly recovered, he spent the next six years fervently fulfilling his promise. He became Art with Heart’s first Board President after we seceded from AIGA, spreading the word to  everyone he came across.

I remember a particular lunch meeting with Bruce. I had been working 50+ hours a week for months, and was feeling exhausted and under-appreciated. I must have been fishing for compliments to buoy my flailing mood because he offered up this story...

When I was 18 years old, I got a job as a lifeguard at a beach. I was vigilant – always watching, never slacking. One day, I saw a 13 year old struggling. She was pretty far out, so I had to swim quite a length to get her. She was frantic and started pulling me under. Somehow we made it back to shore, where a small crowd had gathered. Her dad rushed to her side and carried her off. The crowd dispersed. I was left alone, kind of crushed. No hero's welcome? No pats on the back?

Later, I complained to my boss, 'Hey, I just saved that girl's life and I don't even get a simple thank you?' He looked at me and said, 'Son, you were doing your job.'

I tell you this Steffanie, because what you are doing is its own reward. The praise of your peers isn't going to be something you can count on. Just keep doing it and treasure it all in your heart. You are changing lives and that's thanks enough. 

I miss Bruce and to this day am inspired by his commitment to making his life count. He has been gone now for five years, but he continues to live in the work that I get to do every single day – with or without compliments.