Calendar Girl

December 17th, 2013

Here at Girlfriday, we like to give back. As 2013 winds down, I’m proud to have donated work and time this year to the very deserving and amazing Ten Oaks Project in Ottawa, as well as the tirelessly hard-working St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation in Montreal. This year, Panda asked if she could get in on the fund-raising fun – so we hatched up a little calendar project to give back to Panda’s favourite cause, because they are also the reason she is alive today. Now you can get your monthly dose of Panda even when the internet is out!

Panda Calendar 2014

I’m pretty excited to finally have a first offering in my Etsy shop, and extra-pleased that any profit these calendars make will be going straight to the Frontier Animal Society. We’re hoping to make this an annual fund-raising tradition!

Panda Calendar 2014

I’d like to give a big thanks to Mylène and Warren at Pazazz, who were very patient with me and did such a beautiful job on the printing. The 2014 My Dog Panda calendar is in a handy 5 x 7″ postcard format, printed on satin finish FSC-certified card stock – I love how it turned out. A special thanks also to my darling Christian, who helped take the pictures.

Click here if you’d like to purchase a 2014 My Dog Panda calendar for yourself or for the animal-lover in your life, and give back to an amazing, no-kill animal shelter to boot. It’ll give you the warm fuzzies, Panda style.

We love our calendar girl!

Fresh Work: Lake Jane

November 27th, 2013

I am just a tad behind on my work posts – even though my next few work updates won’t necessarily be the freshest in freshly freshed freshmakers, please bear with me as I try to get caught up.

This past summer I helped my dear friend Marie-Eve Best update her very popular blog, which also happens to be one of my favourites: Lake Jane. If you didn’t know already, Marie-Eve is incredibly talented in many areas: interior design, fashion, cooking, diys, writing… I could go on. Her blog is a lovely mix of personal stories, recipes and fabulous fashion and design discoveries. She recently started up an interior design consulting business and I speak from experience when I say that she is a power-charged dynamo that flies into your space and whips it into shape before you have time to blink – all while remaining affordable and creatively re-using what you already own. She’s currently helping me finish my office space so I’ll be sure to share the end result when we’re done. Marie-Eve has flawless taste, so I was a little bit nervous about fulfilling her expectations – but lucky for me, she is also a fabulous communicator and I’m really proud of the end result!

Lake Jane blog redesign close-up

To keep the content front and center, we developed a look that was light but distinctive. A subtle grid design, soft watercolour grays and a little hint of mint brought everything together.

Lake Jane blog redesign

If you haven’t yet gotten hooked on Lake Jane, go on, take a gander and enjoy! And thank-you, Marie-Eve, for the great project – it was such a delight to work with you :)

Crankiness Is…

August 30th, 2012

See what I did there?

Actually I’m not cranky anymore. But the past several days have been a little trying. Of course, it’s all because Christian was out of town – nothing like a change in your schedule for things to suddenly go wrong. And then, just like that, a bunch of good things happen and everything turns around. Funny, that.

Crankiness Is...

Last week:
I lose my medicare card. Generally not a big deal, but for someone who regularly visits doctors and pharmacists, it’s kind of a problem. I’m pretty sure I lost it while walking along a trail in Hudson (I’m thinking it fell out of my bag when I pulled out the camera) so I go to city hall to see if anyone has brought it in but no such luck. They give me the phone number of the trail maintenance crew and suggest I wait a few days and then call them.

Power failure. Last time Christian was away, we filled up the fridge with tons of food for me and then we had a 21-hour power failure that forced me to throw everything out. Luckily this one only lasts 2 hours but I spend every second thinking about all the food in the fridge.

When the power comes back on, I take Panda for a walk and come home to what looks like the hot water tank leaking (which would have been another kind of disaster). There’s a huge spill on the floor… oh wait… is it MOVING? ANTS. A CARPET OF ANTS ON MY FLOOR. COMING FROM THE CLOSET. I get the vacuum and spend the rest of the afternoon, evening and night vaccuuming anything coming out of the gap in the closet floor every five minutes. I’m afraid to stop and go to bed. Luckily the army stops its onslaught sometime around midnight, and when I come back down again around 6am, there’s a manageable little gang of them waiting to get sucked up.

Exterminators arrive in the morning. Tell me it’s the best case scenario, that they’ve seen way worse, that there are worse ants to have. That it’s good I called them because if we deal with it now it won’t become an epidemic that would send us to a hotel. Well that’s good. It’s time to spray the house. Do I have somewhere I can go for four hours? Hmm… I pack up some water for Panda, put Blue in the back yard with her water bowl, and off we go on foot to wander around Hudson for 4 hours. Did I mention it was 36 degrees Celsius with the humidex? And that we were out during the hottest four hours of the day? I try to make the best of it so we walk down to the beach, sit in the shade and watch kids and dogs play in the very low, very soupy lake water. We sit there way past the boredom stage, then I finally give in and let Panda sploosh around for five minutes. Then it’s off to cool down at the drugstore, thank goodness Panda is welcome there. I slowly examine every item I can. Another stop at the health food store, then the hardware store, then it’s time for the half-hour walk home. The house stinks to high heaven of cooked cabbage – that’s what the anti-ant chemical smells like. It’s 36 degrees, I’m blistered and slightly heat-stroked, I’ve just spent several hundred bucks on a bunch of ants and my house smells like cooked-to-death cabbage. I realize I’ve forgotten to eat today. I feel entitled to a little wallowing.

Those five minutes I allowed Panda to sploosh in lake water? Deadly. She has bad hotspots on her lower tummy and back legs. If you don’t know what a hotspot is, it’s a very itchy rash that quickly spreads and becomes raw and very angry as your dog tries to lick away the discomfort and takes away all their fur in the process. It’s so awful. Poor Panda. No more lake water in the summertime. I make an appointment for the vet, briefly consider driving her myself before ruling it out (I’ve only got my learner’s permit) and make arrangements with the local cab company to pick us up. Panda gets antibiotics, anti-itch steroids and tons of cookies. A few hundred dollars later, we are back home in our cabbage-stinking house. Feeling pretty defeated at this point but there’s a little glimmer of hope: Panda has lost 7 pounds! Way to go Fuzzbucket.

My medicare card arrives in the mail! Some kind thoughtful person found it and dropped it in a mailbox. Then the nice folks at the post office mailed it to me with a little note. Such a relief. My dear friend Marie-Eve comes by for a visit and I get to hold baby Theo. I try a new recipe for lunch and it’s delicious. Well well well. The tide has turned. Ants are gone, Panda is feeling better, my medicare card came home, and the smell is fading… a bit.

So – how was your week?

Volume 3

July 18th, 2012

Pure Green Magazine Volume 3

I was very excited to answer the doorbell this morning because I knew that if I was lucky it would be the very latest in Pure Green goodness – and it was! Volume 3! I’d already gotten very well acquainted with this issue through the project files but it’s always a real treat to see and feel it all on paper, as it was intended. It’s a beautiful issue – fantastic stories, guides, tips and as always, amazing photography. Speaking of photography, Christian did a beautiful job photographing one of our features (A Moveable Feast), which was written and styled by the very talented Michelle Diamond. Michelle came to our place back in May laden with beautiful food and styled up a gorgeous spread just for us (her recipes are equally gorgeous, I can say this definitively because I got to eat some of said amazing food afterwards). She takes us on a guided tour of some beautiful Quebec cheeses and accompanying artisanal products, for a summer picnic how-to that’s not to be missed.

Pure Green Magazine Volume 3

I am also absolutely loving the planisphere insert that our very own talented Bess designed exclusively for this issue – I can’t wait for a clear night so I can try it out. Finding that little tear-out DIY gift amongst the pages reminds me of being a kid, and really what could be more fun in the summertime than feeling child-like again. I hope you enjoy our new issue, we’re very proud of it! You can subscribe to Pure Green here or feel free to check out our wonderful stockists here.


Fresh Work: Pretzel & Compagnie

photo courtesy of: Pretzel & Compagnie

Bronwyn and Andreas are two of the hardest-working people you might meet. They run a bakery, have adorable twin toddler boys and are in the process of taking over Montreal and beyond with their gorgeous, authentic pretzels. When Bronwyn contacted me about their pretzel business I was really excited to help them out – not only had they given much time and thought to their plans, but they were revving up for an appearance at the Montreal Beer Festival and Bronwyn was determined to make it all come together with a unified identity.

It started with a fresh new name and took off from there. We chatted and brainstormed together and it was great – I’m so lucky to have clients with impeccable taste. We wanted to avoid any typical pretzel visual traps and steer away from anything that felt too traditional. Bronwyn was inspired by modern design with a touch of vintage and nostalgia, so we developed a round crest/stamp with a minimalist pretzel icon, clean typography and a textured background reminiscent of old-world bistro blackboards.

Fresh Work: Pretzel & Compagnie

I got a little carried away thinking of all the possibilities – I couldn’t help myself. Can’t you just imagine the wax paper, stickers, pretzel boxes, napkins…? So much fun.

Fresh Work: Pretzel & Compagnie

Snack-lovers: be sure to drop by, say hello and try a pretzel or three – there’s nothing like enjoying some delicious treats AND supporting a local business. Bronwyn and Andreas, I can’t wait to see where you go with this – I know you are destined for home-baked greatness! Thanks again, I’m looking forward to our next delicious project together :)

I don’t have as much time for reading blogs as I would like but I have my favourites. One of them is Aran Goyoaga’s blog, Cannelle et Vanille – I discovered it several years ago when I was first figuring out my gluten-free/auto-immune diet and I’ve since spent a lot of time on there. I’ve made her recipes (delicious), drooled over her photos and soaked up her stories – I adore recipes that come with stories. And I want to LIVE in her photographs. I rarely comment, which is odd because I don’t usually have a problem sharing my thoughts (haha) and, for my part, I love receiving comments over here – but perhaps I just felt shy about it. Even though I had never met Aran in real life, over time I became certain that we would get along: that we would hang out if we lived nearby, or that she would come visit and love Montreal/Hudson and take pictures of my dog (haha just kidding… not really). It didn’t help that we were already friends on Twitter and she was so sweet and gracious (and likes a lot of the same music I do – a sure sign of get-along-ness).

So this past February, when I found out that the lovely Mayssam was bringing Aran to Montreal for a workshop… well. You can imagine my excitement. And slight panic. The week before the workshop I was so excited I forgot that I barely know how to use a camera properly. On Saturday morning I packed up a few props, our camera, some backup gluten-free crackers and Panda and we headed into town.

We arrived at the lovely, bright and airy SAT Foodlab at 9am – I invited Panda and Christian in for a quick hello (Panda may or may not have peed on the industrial entryway carpet – sorry SAT!) and hugged Mayssam and Aran because I just couldn’t help myself. I was so happy to be there.

My Saturday with Cannelle et Vanille

It was an AMAZING day. Aran shared how Cannelle et Vanille came to be, we all took turns introducing ourselves, and then Aran got to work on the first of many styling projects for the day. The ease with which she put a shot together was amazing to watch – like a true pro, she made something hard look incredibly easy. And delicious! I think my stomach grumbled all day, everything looked so tasty. Aran shared camera tips and demonstrated her process – from setup and styling to lighting strategies, bounce boards and photo editing. One key element that really stayed with me was to decide what story you want to tell with your photograph. Take the time to shape the mood you’re going for and the rest will fall into place.

The talented chefs at Foodlab prepared a gorgeous lunch for everyone and were on hand all day to help – it really felt like an amazing day at camp. Everyone was happy to be there, pitch in, learn and share. Aran styled a beautiful salad of shaved fennel, fava beans and quail eggs, a gorgeous (and gluten free!) trifle that I wanted to devour and a tray of luscious roasted tomatoes. I was in heaven.

My Saturday with Cannelle et Vanille

That afternoon, it was time for us to try our hand at what Aran does so well – it was the part of the day I was most nervous about. There was a too-great abundance of cool props and beautiful food, and I was almost frozen with indecision and uncertainty. A beautiful piece of fabric caught my eye, and then a plate, and a fork. I started fiddling with radishes, sprigs of thyme, and a strand of cherry tomatoes. It wasn’t bad. I played with my camera settings but I could tell they were wrong; although I knew what I wanted my shot to look like, I wasn’t sure how to get there. I raised my hand and Aran came over. She looked at my setup and said – it’s good (huge sigh of relief), but why so much stuff? Look how beautiful these tomatoes are. Just make it all about the tomatoes.

She was so right. We cleared out the radishes and thyme and put the tomatoes front and center – then Aran scattered a few herb sprigs, artfully crushed up some crumbs and lo and behold, it became a beautiful shot of true simplicity. Then she helped me find the sweet spot in my camera, and here’s what I came up with. It’s my Anile’s-best-try-mostly-helped-by-Aran shot.

My Saturday with Cannelle et Vanille

Another aspect of the workshop that I really enjoyed and appreciated was meeting and befriending a whole whack of talented, sweet and funny women who were just as pleased as I was to be there – it’s been so much fun to get to know them and keep in touch with them. As for Aran, she was everything I thought she’d be and more – sweet, funny, beautiful, incredibly generous and humble, and just a joy to be around. I soaked up as much as I could that day and am still energized by it over a week later. I know that each person can take away something different from the same experience but after many months of chronic illness and the compromises that come with that, this day was really memorable for me and truly kicked off this summer in the best way possible.

A huge, special thank-you to the wonderful and sweet Mayssam Samaha who orchestrated the entire weekend from beginning to end, and whom I was so happy to finally get to meet in person. This week I’ll be making some gluten-free strawberry trifle and getting to know a few more settings on our camera. Thank-you Aran :)

Happiness Is…

March 30th, 2012

Sharing projects, both old and new. On Monday I got to share the process of Volume 2’s cover design on Pure Green Magazine’s blog – the issue is almost here! We’re all so excited about it. Get your limited time special subscription offer here. Then last night I received House & Home’s newsletter and I clicked on an item that caught my interest: Suzanne Dimma’s Best Organizing Secrets. Much to my delight, as I scrolled through the images I came upon a photo of our previous bathroom! So pleased that it’s still making the rounds – man do I miss that bathtub. I’ve never really posted about our old place (we were lucky enough to have the honour of Lake Jane and Design*Sponge do some of it for us) so I think I might do a little tribute to it next week. Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Happiness Is... sharing projects

Exploring the ethics of Pinterest

Image used with permission from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

Pure Green Magazine has been keeping me very busy this week (volume 2 is almost here!! Can’t wait to share the gorgeous content with you) but today I’ll be taking a little break to chat it up online with the lovely community of Oh My! Handmade Goodness. I met the lovely Jessika on Twitter (where else ;) and we have become fast friends. She is a super creative, community-minded gal who works tirelessly to connect people, encourage dialogue about issues that concern creatives and small business owners, and share her expertise.

This month, the theme over at OMHG is ethics – check out this amazing post by Jessika, here. She graciously invited me to share my Pinterest post (which I have since updated) and I was happy to oblige! It’s been really great to keep the discussion going and share it with others. Every Thursday, OMHG has a real-time online chat from 1-2pm EST (follow along with the Twitter hashtag, #omhg) and I am honoured to be co-hosting the chat with Jessika today. Do join us, would love to see you there!

{Updated: March 15, 2012}

The internet: where everyone goes, and where very few know how to behave. Not through lack of trying, mind you – many of us try our best, but NEW AND FUN THINGS keeps popping up on our radar and we just want to THROW OURSELVES IN. Terms of use? Yes I agree, yes yes yes! Just let me into this app/game/website. Whoops, this might infringe on the rights of others – whatevs, that’s the website’s problem, amirite?

Sadly and all too oftenly, nope.

Many of us aren’t strangers to being “borrowed” from. A few years ago I designed a logo for my dear friend Michelle, then one day she emailed me with a little surprise:

Clever Cupcakes logo vs imposter

Isn’t that a delightful homage? I didn’t think so, either. I emailed and respectfully asked for a take-down and the person wrote back to say that she had found my image by Googling “cupcake” and that as such it was fair game. Um, no, it’s not, really. It took a few diplomatic emails to explain why this was inaccurate. I was beginning to despair when the lightbulb moment finally arrived as I explained that had she found the McDonald’s logo instead, she wouldn’t have used it. She agreed to take the logo down.

If only it always went down this simply – often the stakes are much higher. I regularly see many talented independent artists getting ripped off by big corporations. But what if your images are not being modified or used for personal profit, yet are being shared at a dizzying rate, without your permission or even without leading back to the correct source? Surely an artist doesn’t mind getting a little free promotion, right? Well, you don’t need me to tell you what assuming does…

Pinterest has been around for a few years now, but has gathered considerably more steam and attention as of late. It’s a pretty fun concept. “Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” Hey, cool. With all the nifty things I find on the web, and with all of my ideas and future plans/haircuts/meals/renovations depending on it, I could use some organizing help. There’s even some pin etiquette to help get you started. Interestingly, they’re saying to avoid self-promotion. Really? Ok then. Moving on… wait. What’s this in the Terms?

“You acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services. Accordingly, you represent and warrant that: (i) you either are the sole and exclusive owner of all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services or you have all rights, licenses, consents and releases that are necessary to grant to Cold Brew Labs the rights in such Member Content, as contemplated under these Terms; and (ii) neither the Member Content nor your posting, uploading, publication, submission or transmittal of the Member Content or Cold Brew Labs’ use of the Member Content (or any portion thereof) on, through or by means of the Site, Application and the Services will infringe, misappropriate or violate a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other proprietary or intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy, or result in the violation of any applicable law or regulation.”

*Holds up hand* Soooo…. how can I post anything if I shouldn’t self-promote but those are the only images I actually own? How can I pin to my boards if I don’t have the rights to use the images I find on the interwebs? *Waves hand around* Is this even a sustainable business model?

It’s great that Pinterest encourages their users to credit the source (if you spend any time on Pinterest, you’ll see that a lot of images are credited to other pins, or Tumblr, or whatever other site they were copied from, instead of actually leading anywhere that would be productive to the actual creator of the image). Not to mention, Link With Love is doing an admirable job of raising awareness in this regard. And many Pinterest users are conscientious, caring people who are crediting, attributing, linking wherever they can. But there’s one thing everyone mentioned here has forgotten about:

Most, if not all, of the images you’re posting do not belong to you. You need to ask permission.

I probably should put my hand down now – my fingers are getting numb, and I don’t think anybody’s going to be able to answer my question, at least not for now. If everybody on Pinterest actually took the time to ask permission to use the images they’re pinning, would anybody still be on there? And if you really think about it, shouldn’t this already apply to all blogs, tumblrs, facebook pages, etc? I realize this is a much bigger issue that stretches far beyond the scope of this (already very long – and it keeps getting longer) post, but it’s something we should all consider on our daily internet wanderings. Professionally, when I come across a font or texture I’d like to use for a project, I read the terms of use. If they don’t grant permission for commercial use, I don’t use it. If the creator wants attribution and the project I’m working on doesn’t allow for that, I don’t use it. And so on. Why should anything else on the internet be approached any differently? If there’s a share button, or some kind of disclaimer where you agree to respect the terms, go for it. But if there isn’t – do you really need it that instantly that you can’t write a short note saying how much you like said image, and can you please use it? Not only is it respectful (and lawful), but 9 times out of 10, you’ll be making that person’s day. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE making somebody’s day…

Pinterest is trying to set up some measures to help with this. They’ve created a “pin it” button you can add to your site to allow users to pin your work, and conversely they’ve also created a code snippet you can add to your website that will block people who try to pin from it. Flickr has already implemented this code to pages with copyrighted or protected images.

Unfortunately, the code snippet is very easy to bypass and I have seen websites with no-pin codes continue to have their images pinned to Pinterest – meaning that users are still pinning even though the copyright owner of the work has specifically and unmistakably requested that they don’t. This kind of behaviour is exactly what has some content creators and bloggers so concerned, and the fact that Pinterest continues to be so passive about it (i.e. you need to contact them to file a claim of infringement, but they aren’t actively discouraging this behaviour nor investigating/enforcing this on their own).

Additionally, the pin-it button does not necessarily eliminate the permission question. Firstly, if I have obtained permission to run somebody’s work on my blog, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they have also given permission to allow their images to be pinned to Pinterest. Adding pin-it buttons throughout your blog can be misconstrued as a green light to pin when, in fact, you may not have the right to offer this kind of permission. Secondly, a trend seems to be forming where major sites are adding pin-it buttons across the board, regardless of whether the content belongs to them or not, and without giving any kind of opt-out choice. Behance has since revised their approach and are not including the pin-it button on any portfolio work that is not cc (creative commons). Etsy remains particularly worrisome because they exist primarily to showcase and promote independent artists’ work, and at the moment there is no option for sellers to remove the pin-it button from their images.

And what about all the sites that don’t have pin-it buttons? Pinterest is basically suggesting that the entire internet needs to modify their sites with the (slightly ineffective) block-out code in order to opt-out. It shouldn’t be an opt-out. It should be an opt-in.

Ok, so back to me. Since I can’t post anything I don’t own or have the rights to, how about I throw suggested pin etiquette out the window and just post my own work? Then I’m safe, right? Wrong…

“By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.”

Some of these rights sound a bit scary, but as with many other sites, they are necessary in order for the site to function as it promises to. But SELL? That’s a bad word to see in there. (“And otherwise exploit”… after everything else they’ve listed, I can’t even imagine what that would mean). If I post any of my work, I’m granting Pinterest the right to sell it? Oof. A few years ago I used to warn artist friends not to post their work on Facebook for licensing reasons but most people really don’t seem to care. And, I will admit to using Instagram (for personal use) with gleeful abandon. Perhaps Pinterest will be free of this kind of care, as well. But until the terms of use change, I think I’ll refrain from pinning my own work, or adding any pin-it buttons to my site; at least for now, thank-you.

Don’t get me wrong – the idea that somebody might like my work enough to save it as inspiration or just to share with others tickles me absolutely pink. But I have a problem with granting this kind of access to a site that will claim selling rights over my work. I wouldn’t even be able to track it or embed copyright information into it, because Pinterest strips all embedded metadata from its files. (p.s. so does Facebook, Twitter, and others).

Think you’re safe because if anybody gets really upset and starts suing, the website will take the fall? You’re not. The Pinterest terms of use state that they are free and clear of any wrongdoing. In fact, if they get sued, not only will you have to pay to defend yourself, but you’ll have to pay to defend Pinterest, too. (Facebook has similar terms, by the by).

Pinterest is a small, growing company of 20 or so people. I understand how this can make it difficult to resolve massive issues such as this – but since they’ve already been around for a few years, and seeing as their business model appears to be built around sharing images that nobody has the rights to, I certainly hope this is something they are working on. Surely they realized this would become an issue? (Pinterest: quit calling me Shirley. Badum-bum). Recently, a petition was passed around to limit the amount of characters you could add to a pin. Turns out, people were copying entire blog posts or recipes and adding them to their pins, which eliminated the possibility of people clicking through to the actual site that was responsible for the content. Pinterest graciously implemented a character limit soon after. While I applaud this move, I feel that this was a relatively quick fix and still skirts the main issues at hand. From what I have read, they’re a conscientious team and they’re trying to do the right thing. I hope this means that significant changes for the better are in their not-too-distant plans.

If you are frustrated by the ongoing silence and lack of updates from Pinterest, and are concerned about the ethics of your Pinterest boards but lamenting the return to simple bookmarking, there may be other solutions for you:

Image Spark (in fact, when Pinterest showed up as the new kid on the block a while back, I thought: hey, another Image Spark). Image Spark differs from Pinterest in that it allows you to make your image collection private (this is a key difference that allows you to assemble your favourite images in one place while helping to avoid the more complex issues of sharing), has much more acceptable Terms (and in the FAQs, they specifically state that getting permission is your responsibility) and has the additional fun feature of personalized moodboards.

Dropmark is also showing a lot of promise. You can sign up for a free account (250MB) and have the ability to assemble a lot more than just images – and, more importantly, you have the ability to keep it private. Their Terms are also very reasonable.

As for where this leaves me, I did sign up to Pinterest not long ago to see how it works… but I haven’t pinned anything, and for the time being I don’t plan to.

To sum up:

– Just because something’s on the internet doesn’t mean that it’s free for public use – it is still protected under copyright law. Some sites share their permission policies prominently but if there is any doubt, ask.

– Not everyone wants their work to be shared on Pinterest, or any other site. It doesn’t matter what their reasons are. We have all snapped a photo or similarly created something that belongs to us. Try to be respectful of others’ wishes.

– Crediting a source, while admirable, is not enough – you should be asking permission. Drop them a line, tell them how much you love them, and ask. If they say no, move on.

– If something has a pin it button, and you know for a fact that permission has been granted, go crazy and Pinterest your pants off. If you’re unsure that a site truly has the license to share, or you come across a site that doesn’t specify whether you can pin or not – regardless of whether there is a Pinterest blockout code on it or not – ask.

Wow – you’re still here?! You super trooper, you. Thanks for sticking around. Gold star for you!


Illustration Inspiration

February 16th, 2012

Technically, this isn’t an illustration post per se – but inspiration always gets its roots from somewhere, right?

Years ago I studied Illustration & Design – it was a grueling program, and fellow classmates dropped like flies. Lucky for me, I had started the process by taking a few night classes prior to being accepted in the program so I knew what I was in for. Even luckier for me, my very first teacher turned out to be my best.

When I handed in my first assignment to Carmelo Blandino – a still life I had drawn hastily in a (very) short hour before class, I got “it’s fine, but I know you can do better” back. Incredibly, nobody had ever said this to me before. I was so surprised that I forgot to be embarrassed or insulted and proceeded to re-draw the same subject matter (my boot – I was a combat boot gal in the mid-90s) for the next class. I gave it a good 3-4 hours and, to my surprise, he was right – it was so much better that I finally felt the appropriate twinge of embarrassment when looking at the first version from the week before. I still have that sketchbook somewhere; I love comparing the two and reminding myself that we all have that potential inside of us, waiting to get hustled out.

It was so much fun to work with Carmelo in those early years – as a group, we worked on giant tableaux for a special gala at Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts in honour of their Lichtenstein exhibit. As students and teacher, weekly we challenged each other to go above and beyond in our exploration of techniques and art history. I got accepted into the full-time career program and life was crazy, but good.

Then I got sick. I was diagnosed with IBD (specifically, ulcerative colitis) halfway through my studies. Shortly after, things took a serious turn for the worst and I had to leave my job and apartment behind, then cut my school hours by more than half. I can’t really put into words what it’s like to be seriously ill for several years (and on and off ever since) and the resulting earnest gratitude I feel daily for the most mundane things as a result. I was put on additional side-effect-heavy medication just to help me make it through school, and I was fortunate to be able to stay on by special permission from the faculty – it would take an extra year for me to graduate. And graduate I did: by the skin of my teeth, with a lot of determination. I’ve led a pretty varied career path since then but those years continue to influence me, and my work, daily.

Carmelo has since left Montreal and his successful illustration and teaching career behind to immerse himself in fine arts – it’s been a real treat to watch him express himself so vividly. His work is luscious, organic, larger than life. I want to live in his paintings. My walls covet them. We keep in touch here and there, and we usually get to say hello when he comes to Montreal for one of his exhibitions. Recently, he decided to make one of his pieces available as a print – guess who snapped one up instantly.

This piece, a beautiful rendering of a vintage Dior dress, painted on an Hermes box (that is some chic recycling Carmelo!) hangs in my office and reminds me every day that I can always thrive to be better. Thank-you Carmelo :)

Dior Vintage White Dress on Hermes Box - Carmelo Blandino

In this spirit, and to honour one of the resolutions I made earlier this year, I will begin a new column next week where I post a sketch of the week. Just to keep me limber and to remind myself of the possibilities. Because there is always an abundance of possibilities :)