BOOK REVIEW: Make It Mighty Ugly by Kim Werker

Book Review: Make It Mighty Ugly by Kim Piper Werker #creativity #read
I’ll admit I’m not a huge reader. I find it difficult to concentrate on words (where’s the pictures?) and I read rather slowly, which usually means I never finish a book I start. I stole Alison’s copy of Make It Mighty Ugly months ago and set it on my bookshelf intending to sit down and read it. Months went by and I still hadn’t picked it up.

At the end of February, I packed up and left for Central America and knew that the month long vacation I had ahead of me would be the perfect time to finally read Mighty Ugly. So with nothing to do but lie in a hammock with a rum punch and a good book, I started reading.

Make It Mighty Ugly is A Handbook For Vanquishing Creative Demons. Author Kim Piper Werker shares personal stories from her own experiences, offers advice from other successful creatives, and provides tools and exercises to overcome what she calls the dark side of creativity, ie. Our creative demons. We all have creative demons to face. Kim discusses the most common ‘demons’ like fear of failure, self-doubt, perfectionism and block. Then she offers exercises and suggestions on how to make friends with and overcome them.

Book Review: Make It Mighty Ugly by Kim Piper Werker #creativity #read

The title, Make It Mighty Ugly, comes from her desire to make ugly things on purpose. She does this as a way to overcome her fear of making something ugly unintentionally. I’m sure we all can relate to the feeling of worrying about what other people will think about the things we make. By setting out to make something ‘ugly’ we are able to free ourselves from the pressure of what the product or end result looks like. It instead allows us to focus on the process – which in my opinion (and Alison’s) is the best part of making anything.

Alison and I have had many discussions about how frustrating it is to hear people say “I’m not creative” because it’s just not true! As children we are born with the gift of creativity and imagination. What happens to a lot of people is that someone at some point tells them that something they created was bad or stupid and that they have no creative talent. What a horrible thing to tell someone, especially a child! Our creativity is what makes us truly unique individuals and expressing our creativity is so important for personal development.

I have been haunted by my own creative demons for years, particularly self-doubt and fear of failure. Years ago back when I had just begun my own creative business, Camp Smartypants, at a time when I had just discovered my creative voice and artistic style, someone close to me lashed out and accused me of being a fraud. I was utterly crushed. And what’s worse is that a part of me believed that she was right. Ever since then I’ve had that demon sitting in the dark part of my thoughts reminding me that no matter what I do or try to create, I am nothing but a big fat fraud.

Book Review: Make It Mighty Ugly by Kim Piper Werker #creativity #read

Reading Make It Might Ugly was such a comfort, learning that I’m not alone in combating creative demons. Until I read Kim’s book, I never really considered that there are ways of ‘making friends’ with and overcoming them either. I had just accepted that they were there to stay, sitting in the shadows of my brain, haunting me.

The biggest thing I learned from Make It Mighty Ugly is that you CAN quiet those mean voices inside your head. You know the ones, telling you how stupid you are and that your creative ambitions will never amount to anything. Creative demons don’t have to rule over you. We all have the ability to tell them to sit down and SHUT UP. All you need is the courage to acknowledge them and with the help of Make It Mighty Ugly you can face them head on. And the next time they start to chime in with their ugly negativity, you’ll be ready to take them down in a constructive, and creative way.

You can get your very own signed copy of the book on Kim’s website. It’s also available wherever books are sold so head to your local bookstore!

SHOW + TELL: Rachel Finds Peace In Panama

SHOW + TELL: Rachel Goes To Panama

I had the unique opportunity to spend the month of March in the countryside of Panama, my first trip out of the country since college. My mom and I stayed with her childhood best friend, Linda, who retired there a few years ago. Linda has battled ovarian cancer since she was in her twenties, and within the past year it has returned and escalated to stage four. My mom left for Panama in January to help care for her, and I joined them for a month, in desperate need of a nature retreat to lend some balance to two years of chronic pain.

I flew from Portland to Las Vegas to Panama City, then a 3.5 hour bus ride to Santiago where I met my mom. Linda’s house is in a remote part of the countryside, nearest to Santa Fe, and is only accessible with 4 wheel drive. 22 hours after leaving Portland I found myself at her leaf-decorated house perched on a hillside overlooking a beautiful valley.

SHOW + TELL: Rachel Goes To Panama

I spent the first two weeks working in my art journal. I brought with me a ton of my favorite art supplies to play with. It felt so good to have nothing to do but sit and paint all day. And in between laying in a hammock, that’s exactly what I did.

SHOW + TELL: Rachel Goes To Panama

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SHOW + TELL: Rachel Goes To Panama

SHOW + TELL: Rachel Goes To Panama

My mom and I spent about a week sight-seeing, but mostly we stayed in Santa Fe where I soaked up the sun, gazed at the beautiful Panamanian jungle and countryside, swam in the nearby river, made art, and napped in a hammock. I was able to do the things I usually can’t make time for like practicing yoga, meditation, doing daily tarot readings and journaling.

It was the first time in a very long while that I felt truly at ease. I left the clutter and stress of my life behind and was able to think clearly and find much needed peace. Every day I woke up to sunshine and lush, green nature. Each morning I climbed to the top of the hill and looked out at the valley. You can’t help but feel immense gratitude for nature with a view like this.

SHOW + TELL: Rachel Goes To Panama

Spending a month here helped me to reconnect with my true self and let go of the fears and anxieties that had once paralyzed me. It helped me to clear and calm my mind that felt so cloudy and overwhelmed before. And I rediscovered my own spirituality and trust in the universe.

SHOW + TELL: Rachel Goes To Panama

Returning home I am slowly easing my way back into normal life. I want to hold onto the good vibes of Panama for as long as possible. Memories of Santa Fe remind me to slow down, take time to get dirty in my garden, relax and let things be. Thank you Panama!

SHOW + TELL: Gift Card Mosaic Letters

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With one week before our March DIY Challenge deadline, we thought we’d throw a little more inspiration your way! This letter project incorporates a bunch of our favorite things – thriftiness, recycling, bright colors, and kiddos! Here’s what Deb shared…

Hi. I’m Deb DiSalvo and I live in Dublin, Ohio. I’m excited to share with you a letter project that I taught with a group of elementary school kids. I was teaching a recycled arts and crafts class after school with kids in the 3rd and 4th grade. Over the years, I had accumulated hundreds of used gift cards. I am an avid Starbucks coffee drinker and loved the designs on their gift cards. I started saving them and had friends and co-workers saving their used gift cards for me as well. I came up with the idea of having each child cut out the letter of their first name. I helped with this part and cut the letters using heavy cardboard for the base of this project. I, along with the kids, cut up the used gift cards in various shapes and sizes and then glued the shapes onto the letter to create a mosaic look. It was such a good way to use the colorful gift cards and the kids had a great time coming up with their own style mosaic letter.
The kids are so excited that I submitted this project. They are so proud of their work and should be!

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I bought the thickest cardboard I could find in the art section of the craft store (Hobby Lobby and JoAnn’s sell this), drew the letters and cut them out using an xacto knife.

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We used heavy duty craft scissors to cut the gift cards.

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We used turbo tacky glue to glue the cut up gift cards to the cardboard. Double sided mounting tape works as well.

 

 

Well, we’ve been working on Letter projects all month, and now we’re inspired to do more! How about you?

SHOW + TELL: Codex Seraphinianus

SHOW+TELL: Codex Seraphinianus #weird #book
If you haven’t heard of the Codex Seraphinianus, it is a beautifully strange book created by Luigi Serafini. First published in 1981, this amazing book is an illustrated encyclopedia of an unknown world written in an unknown language. My boyfriend, James gifted me a copy last year and I could not put it down. I will warn you that the hardbound book is both big and heavy, but you’ll spend hours pouring over each mysterious page.

SHOW+TELL: Codex Seraphinianus #weird #book
SHOW+TELL: Codex Seraphinianus #weird #book
One of the strangest (and most debated) things about this book is that it is written in an invented script. The artist claims it to be nothing more than a pretend language. But one can’t help but wonder if there is a secret code to be unlocked.

What I want my alphabet to convey to the reader is the sensation that children feel in front of books they cannot yet understand.
— Luigi Serafini

SHOW+TELL: Codex Seraphinianus #weird #book
SHOW+TELL: Codex Seraphinianus #weird #book

Want to know more? Check out this interview with artist and WIRED magazine.

SHOW+TELL: Codex Seraphinianus #weird #book
SHOW+TELL: Codex Seraphinianus #weird #book

SHOW + TELL: Our Favorite Lettering Books


Lettering is one of our many passions here at Adventures-In-Making. We are both trained in graphic design, so type, letters, fonts, etc. are all constantly floating around in our brains. Over the years, hand-lettering has become our obsession and a daily practice. Just like any skill, the only way to get good is to practice, practice, practice. Since we are compulsive doodlers, we tend to be practicing all the time.

Once of our favorite ways to practice is to page through a favorite book of lettering for inspiration and ideas. Since this month’s DIY Challenge theme is ‘Letters’ we thought we’d share some of our favorite sources for lettering inspiration.

Rachel’s Favorites

SHOW + TELL: Our Favorite Lettering Books

1. Logo, Font and Lettering Bible by Leslie Cabarga

This is a great book of reference for any graphic designer. And even better for anyone interested in letters. This book is bursting with inspiration, techniques and tips for the aspiring designer.

SHOW + TELL: Our Favorites Lettering Books

2. Hand Job: A Catalog of Type by Mike Perry

This book is a must-have for anyone interested in hand-lettering. Michael Perry showcases the work of tons of talented artists and designers. Some of my favorites are Kate Bingaman-BurtDeanne Cheuk, and Human Empire.

SHOW + TELL: Our Favorite Lettering Books

3. Handwritten: Expressive Lettering In The Digital Age by Steven Heller and Mirko Ilic

This is one of my favorite books for inspiration. A fun collection of posters, books, ads, etc., that all showcase beautifully crafted, hand-lettering.

SHOW+TELL: Our Favorite Lettering Books

4. Custom Lettering of the 60’s and 70’s edited by Rian Hughes

I have a huge soft spot for the colors and psychedelic, groovy style of the 1960’s and 1970’s. This book is a fantastic collection of lettering from the era.

SHOW+TELL: Our Favorite Lettering Books

Alison’s Favorites

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5. American Wood Type by Rob Roy Kelly

I was lucky enough to use Rob Roy’s collection of wood type at in college, and to have inherited this amazing collection of type samples. Reprints come up from time to time making this book more affordable- but even in used condition it is an amazing resource for type and lettering.

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6. The Art of the Letter by Doyald Young

…or any other book by Doyald Young, who was single handedly responsible for some of the most iconic logos that we grew up with (and typeface of course.) This book has break downs of his letter forms and stories about why he made the decisions he did.

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7. An A-Z of Type Designers by Neil Macmillan

This book is mainly focused on the biographies and essays of type designers over the years- but also includes samples of type from almost every era. Since I reference a lot of traditional typefaces in my work, it’s a great resource to have on hand.

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8. Little Book of Lettering by Emily Gregory

This one is all about eye-candy. It has sample lettering work from over 100 artists (including friends of the site, Jacqui and Scott Scoggin). Whenever I get in a lettering bind, all I have to do is flip through a couple of pages to get inspired to try a new style, new color, or new composition.

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(Not Shown – Sign Painters by Faythe Levine & Sam Macon which I raved about before.)

What books inspire you?

SHOW + TELL: Watch Ali Draw Words


I think that it’s one of life’s small miracles that no one has to listen to all the noises that go on in my head while I’m working. The cajoling, the reassuring, the brainstorming, the problem solving, the bickering, the promises, the compromises… you get it. It’s noisy, but generally productive (“What were you thinking, Ali?” “You can do it, Ali!”) That’s my process.

Since this month’s craft challenge is all about LETTERS, and so am I, I thought I’d give you a little glimpse into the sketching steps of my lettered pieces.

img_6405I showed you my travel kit of supplies, but my sketches rely on just a few tools. A mechanical pencil, a ruler, a compass, clipboard, lots of erasers, and some thin white card stock.

img_6411I usually have a concept that I’m trying to convey in words. Often it’s one of the mantras I repeat to myself while I’m working (which makes the whole process very meta.) I will write down a bunch of phrases, and think about…
• Priority of words (Visual Hierarchy) – The most important words should generally be biggest and easiest to read to reinforce the message of your piece. I like to think that if you only read the big words, it would be like a summary of the whole statement. As fun as it is to make a really big and elaborate THE, it doesn’t make much sense. (THE message gets hidden.) You can also use visual hierarchy to hide a message and make people really look.
• What shapes I can use in the phrase: Is there a representative shape I can work into the overall form of the lettering? If I’m writing about lemonade, should I make it fit into the shape of a glass?
• What kind of typography would best represent the words? – Some words want to be formal (“Typography”) and some want to be flourishy (“Passionate”). Sometimes it’s fun to mix those up.

I’ll also start looking at the way a word is structured so I’m sure to give it enough space per letter.

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When I have a general idea of the shapes I’d like to play around with, I’ll build myself a make-shift grid with the ruler and compass. I find that I like to make mostly symmetrical pieces, so I’ll map out the middle of the page and go from there. I end up with a lot of extra reference lines, but that’s fine.

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Then I will start very lightly penciling in the skeleton form of letters. I do A LOT of erasing, so light lines are important. Usually while I’m working on the basic structure of the letters, I will start to think about the shape they will take in the end.

img_6421I am constantly working to find the center of a word or phrase. I can count letters in my head, but nothing beats a quick jot down of the phrase. I’ll then count (including spaces) and mark the middle. (This is also helpful because if a word has a lot of skinny letters – like Ilif – it will be much shorter than one with fat letters – MmNn)

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(More penciling.)

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At some I will inevitably get a “better idea” and shift a bunch of letters to work better. In this case I shifted my grid up, erased and re-lettered.

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Practice makes better.

One of the best consequences of lettering practice is that I’ve started to think of writing as “drawing letters” which makes it sometimes possible to write backwards or sideways. This helps with lots of things including spacing words from the center line (see above). It is also SUPER handy when you’re a lefty who loved to drag your hand through wet ink all the time.

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When I have the skeleton of the letters basically where I want them, I will make decisions about how to flesh them out. My first inspiration was the word “Letter” which reminded me of a typeface I love in my very precious American Wood Type book. (We’ll be showing our favorite lettering books later in the month!)

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I love to keep printed samples of type on hand to look at. I used to try to look at inspiration on a screen, but it never translated right in my brain. I’ve started saving all sorts of printed materials (filed by style) to look at when I’m lettering.

img_6435Again using a light touch, I will start to add details to the letter using my inspiration pieces. Sometimes I make little changes in a letter form to better fit my space (hey, I can do what I want!)

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Sometimes the skeleton of my letters will have to move to allow for more space for some letters

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and sometimes the letters stretch outside of my borders.

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Once I’m happy with the general form of everything, I’ll start erasing the extraneous pencil marks.

IMG_6443Once they are gone, I will sometimes look at the whole thing and decide to make changes.

img_6501Like for instance, I might change the phrase itself.

But that’s okay- it’s just a sketch. If I love it I’ll take it to the next level with paints and ink, and if I don’t love it I’ll put it away to inspire me another day.

 

What’s your sketching process? Is it anything like mine?

SHOW + TELL : Lotta Prints Book

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As lucky as we all are to have Pinterest, Instagram, and the rest of the internet; every once in a while all I want to do is flip through a book. There’s something about having an idea in print in front of me…

It’s been a few years since I picked up Lotta Prints (on sale, because it was missing the templates from the back) and although it has a limited number of projects, I seem to find a new thing to explore every time I open it.

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Like this simple screen printing technique. Hmmm… does that mean I should try screen printing next?


I would say that most of the projects are rudimentary, but it’s a wonderful resource if you’re interested in experimenting with printing techniques. (Yes. She prints with a potato.)

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I love the way she uses simple, repeating shapes to form gorgeous patterns, and that each page is a new process to explore.

SHOW + TELL : Paper to Petals Book


Since we’re still a little ways off from real flowers, I’ve been finding myself thinking more and more about the paper version. I thought I would share this beautiful book with you.

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Paper to Petals is an amazing collection of vibrant paper flowers that’s sure to impress even the most weather weary. It’s quite hefty, and packed full of tons of beautiful inspiration.

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But, it’s not just a coffee table book. The back has tutorials for all of the flowers, and details about tools, materials, and methods– all so beautifully laid out that they are almost as compelling as the flowers themselves.

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I’m not much for following tutorials, but the details are extremely useful for learning new methods of working with paper. 

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I also sometimes use this book as inspiration for my illustrations. I love the graphic nature of the flower shapes they build.

All in all, this is a wonderful book- full of inspiration, instruction, and eye candy. You can pick it up at your local bookstore, or on Amazon (Paper to Petal: 75 Whimsical Paper Flowers to Craft by Hand)

SHOW + TELL: Sign Painters book

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Sign Painters by Faythe Levine an Sam Macon

I saw a lot of old Texas towns in my formative years. A lot. Maybe that’s why I developed a healthy interest in the old painted signs that peeked out of new alleyways and wore slowly off the brick walls of boarded stores. Since my work has been more and more type driven that interest has been renewed, and only encouraged by the resurgence of sign painting. (Thank You, Hipsters!)

On a recent trip to Austin, we stopped into the Yard Dog gallery and this book caught my eye (and came home with me.) It’s full of eye candy, ideas, and the stories of working sign painters all over the country.

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I’m still working my way through it all because every page inspires me to move to my sketchbook.

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I love the details of the sign painting process and tools

IMG_3193and fanciful uses of sign painting techniques.

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Basically, it’s amazing. I’m so glad to add it to my inspiration books.

IMG_3199If you like vintage ephemera, or typography or both this book is definitely worth a peek. There’s a quick summary of some sign-painting history at the beginning, but the book mainly focuses on contemporary talent.

You can pick up your very own copy on Amazon – Sign Painters by Faythe Levine an Sam Macon*

 

*Help support Adventures in Making by purchasing this book from our Amazon Affiliate shop. You’ll pay the same price, and we get a little cut from Amazon so we can continue our adventures!
We have no connection with this book, just found it on a shelf, fell in love, and wanted to share it with you.

SHOW + TELL: Paper Scrap Birds, from the Vault

We’re not happy unless we’re making things- which means we have a whole slew of projects from the time before A-i-M. We thought we take time now-and-again to share some of these projects from the DIY vault. This one’s more of a Show + Tell, but it’s a great example of how you can add creativity into you life anywhere…. even with scraps.

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Have I mentioned I am unable to throw anything away?

A few years ago, after printing and trimming massive quantities of cards, I was left with a treasure trove of cotton, cover-weight paper strips (which I have since started using to make handmade paper).

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I grabbed a bottle of Elmer’s glue and started working them into simple Christmas decorations, using the strength of the stock, and a few tricky reinforcing pieces disguised as decoration. Eventually the pieces began to turn into birds, trees, and other fun critters.

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I would find a picture of an animal, and work with the paper scraps until they started to take a shape I liked. It was fun trying to recreate animals with the strips, using just glue and the natural resistance of the cover-stock.

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I enjoyed playing with them, and making scenes and patterns out of the shapes. Nothing beats a quick, simple exercise that uses scrap materials.

I’ve got to go now- there’s a box of black paper scraps calling my name.