How Do You Know When It's Time To Quit?

Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a project or task and you wanted to quit?

I bet your inner dialogue started tossing out all sorts of motivational mantras to encourage you to push through. Maybe something like...

Keep going! Persevere! Follow through! Remember why you started!

All of that advice is immensely valuable in the right moment (and it’s certainly advice I’ve dispensed before)... but what if “pushing through” the task at hand is ultimately doing more harm than good?

What if persevering down a path is only leading you farther and farther away from yourself?

These are the questions I was asking myself two weeks ago when we were about to leave for our trip to Tahiti.

I could feel myself being weighed down by the various daily commitments and projects I’d undertaken. During our trip, I wanted time and space to myself to be present and to reflect, so I decided I wanted to stay off of Instagram and social media for the duration of our stay.

This posed a bit of a conundrum, because as most of you know, for 2016 I had committed to posting a different abstract art piece and message every single day of the year.

I considered the possible solutions. What was I to do, program my posts and publish them while I was on vacation?

Not only did that seem to undermine the authenticity of the project, but I also didn’t love the idea of going on the most freeing, beautiful vacation of my life only to have this daily “task” weighing over me.

That’s when Jason asked the question I was too afraid to ask myself: “What would happen if you didn’t post at all?”


It was the first time since January 1st starting the project I had actually allowed myself to consider quitting.

There were plenty of moments throughout this art project when I didn’t want to do my piece for the day. Maybe I was feeling tired, or had a splitting headache, or didn’t feel inspired, or wanted to do something else, but ultimately I powered through anyway because I knew that resistance was part of the process. I learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of in committing to push past that resistance.

But this road block felt different.

It felt like I had arrived at a moment in the project when every ounce of my original intention was no longer there.

In the beginning, my mission for undertaking such an ambitious commitment was essentially this list of things:

  • To develop my confidence when it came to painting and my own point of view as an artist
  • To commit to carving out time for creativity and make it a habitual part of my daily life
  • To push myself to explore new boundaries and share my art, even if it felt imperfect

But now, 10 months later, my confidence had been built, my creative practice had become a habit, and I have no problem exploring the boundaries of my creativity or sharing imperfect work.

So, if these original intentions had been met, what was the project about now?

I realized that the project was no longer about creating; the project had become about NOT quitting.

It had become about what other people would think if I didn't make it to day 366. What it might say about me if I didn’t follow through.

Liz Gilbert in a podcast episode once said something I'll never forget:

“Anything that doesn’t taste like freedom is not your path.”

This project stopped tasting like freedom and started tasting likeobligation. Once I realized that, I knew that was my cue to make the hard choice and, yes, QUIT.

It was such a difficult decision to make, and yet once I saw it as a possibility, it was the easiest decision to make too because I saw it as a path back to freedom.

During my delightful week of vacation (away from social media, away from my studio, just present to the experience at hand), upon Jason’s recommendation I picked up the book “The Dip” by Seth Godin. Here’s a quote I love that feels especially appropriate:

“Most of the time, we deal with the obstacles by persevering. Sometimes we get discouraged and turn to inspiration writing, like stuff from Vince Lombardi: ‘Quitters never win and winners never quit.’ Bad advice. Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.

The truth is, quitting things allows you to make room for other things. It allows you to reallocate precious resources, like your mental space and your time.

Now that this project has taught me what I wanted to learn, I’m ready to use that time and space for things that feel more valuable to this current version of myself.

What’s funny about this whole project as I think back to December of last year making the scary declaration that I was going to do a year-long project, my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t finish it. That I would quit. I was so terrified of putting myself in a position to look like a flake.

The irony though is that, in quitting -- in basically realizing my “greatest fear” -- I’ve also realized the baselessness of that fear.

Just because I stopped before piece 366 does not mean that the commitment and hard work and dedication it required to complete 280 pieces simply disappears. It does not eradicate the lessons I learned along the way, nor does it take away from the people whose lives were touched, even just momentarily, by the messages of these pieces.

And that in itself is a huge lesson I will take with me. That even if you’re afraid to start something for fear of not following through, do it anyway.

I also learned a TON about my own artistic voice. I developed a love of painting and it jumpstarted my point of view which has allowed me to move on to huge canvases like these two that I ADORE. I never would have had the courage to paint these last year.

I’ve brought in almost $10,000 to my business through selling prints and I learned how to get my art printed and sold without knowing the first thing about how to do that in January.

I’m so grateful for this project for all the things it taught me, but I think the greatest lesson of ALL is that it reminded me of what is most important to me -- the belief that is absolutely central to everything I do at Made Vibrant:

If I’m doing something that’s not aligned with my truth, my essence, my core being -- if it’s something that’s not lighting me up and I’m tempted to do it because of some type of external validation -- I always want to be the kind of person that finds the strength to walk away from that.

So, my challenge to you this week is to think about what it is in your life that you need permission to quit.

What one thing are you doing for everyone else BUT yourself. What thing is no longer bringing you value or joy or growth, but you continue to do it because you’re afraid of NOT doing it?

Let my own “failure” be an example:

When it brings you back to your true self, quitting is an act of self-empowerment, not an act of weakness. 

When it brings you back to your true self, quitting is an act of self-empowerment, not an act of weakness.

Once you’ve learned the lesson that a task or project or relationship was here to teach you, it’s okay to release it.

I will still be sharing abstract affirmations on my Insta account, just not within a formal “project” basis, and I’m excited to transition what I’ve learned into the 15 or so huge canvases that are currently taking up my studio.

Thank you guys for continuing to support every creative experiment and project I continue to take on. After all, what are we on this earth for if not to explore, discover and connect?

I’ll tell you the one thing I don’t intend on quitting any time soon… you guys. :)

 
 

The Causes Of (& Cures For) A Creative Hangover

Wow, last week was a bit of a blur!

Finally launching Color Your Soul -- a project that was basically four months in the making -- was such a joyful feeling. It was so comforting and validating to know that this creative idea of mine was in loving, accepting hands with you guys. Your warm email replies (especially from those of you that unhesitatingly jumped on board with this first issue and became subscribers!) was an incredible feeling.

Today, though, I want to get REALLY honest about the emotional aftermath of launching a creative project like this, one where so much of your heart is invested.

Truthfully I thought about not writing this letter at all, sticking to some safer topic that felt less raw. But, after thinking it over, I realized that you guys don’t open these emails each Monday for the sugar-coated stuff. I’ve always tried to share with you the REAL emotions and real insecurities behind running a creative, values-based business, and so today I wanted to honor that promise by keeping it real.

So here’s the truth:

This weekend felt WEIRD.

Despite experiencing the highest high introducing Color Your Soul to you guys on Thursday and welcoming many of you as subscribers, I woke up on Saturday and felt strangely OFF. It was a feeling I haven’t had in awhile, not necessarily one of sadness or disappointment but just of confusion, like this beacon of light I’d been chasing all summer was no longer illuminated and I was now fumbling around in the dark.

This isn’t how this is supposed to feel, I thought. I made the thing I’ve been dreaming of making! It’s alive and in the hands of people who appreciate it! So what is this strange feeling?!

It’s not that I was questioning my vision -- I believe more than ever in the vision I have for this movement toward soulful, inspiring, thought-provoking content -- and as I look at Color Your Soul and the canvas it’s provided me to go on making this kind of content for you guys, there’s no doubt in my mind it’s what I want to be working on.

So, if it’s not the idea itself then, what is it? Where was this sudden slump coming from?

I spent all day yesterday trying to sort through these emotions. I took my token beach walk to ponder the meaning of life (that’s not a joke, I actually do that), and I got really honest with myself, peeling back the layers until I hit on something that felt real.

What I decided was this:

I was experiencing a creative hangover.

A creative hangover is the emotional aftermath of bringing a dream into reality. 

A creative hangover is the emotional aftermath of bringing a dream into reality.


There are two primary causes of a creative hangover. (Duh, bourbon and tequila. Just kidding... Or am I?? 💃🏽😉)


Creative Hangover Cause #1: The loss of your guiding focus.

For months I woke up and I had a clear purpose: to get ready for the launch of Color Your Soul.

I had a guiding vision that provided a structure for each of my days and gave me something distinct to measure my progress against. This made my creative spirit feel safe and purposeful.

My friend Steph often refers to this as “chasing the carrot.” When the carrot goes away, there’s a feeling of aimlessness that settles in.

This weekend, even though my purpose was technically unchanged (work on Color Your Soul), the big guiding beacon of “Launch Day” -- the carrot -- was no longer there. That absence no doubt contributed to my weird and aimless feeling.


Creative Hangover Cause #2: The dissonance between dream and reality.

When you pour your whole heart and your true self into an idea or a project or some kind of brave leap, when you spend days or weeks or (in my case) months daydreaming about it, you inevitably create a version of it in your head that feels real.

You spend so much time and invest so much of your emotional resources imagining it, that a part of you just assumes the reality will match the fantasy.

But, we all know that the reality NEVER actually matches the fantasy (that’s literally the definition of a fantasy -- it only exists in our imagination.)

When I experienced the high of launching last week -- a mixture of joy and relief and excitement and anticipation -- all of those amazing emotions fit the vision in my dream BUT they weren’t sustainable, not at those levels anyway.

After the high faded and my heightened state started to even back out this weekend, suddenly I became acutely aware of how my reality contrasted with my dream.

Think about it: we never fixate on visions of ourselves having a perfectly humble, mundane happy day; Instead, our dreams and fantasies tend to feel grand and elevated. It’s no wonder reality can often seem pale in comparison.

That dissonance -- the disconnect between the grand vision I’d fixated on for months and the happy-yet-humble satisfaction of reality -- caused a sort of emotional reverberation, my creative hangover.

This concept doesn’t just apply to some big project like I’m talking about, but I think it could be any big event in your life, any vision you’ve been working toward.

Once you reach that milestone and the high of it wears off, often you can be left in a strange emotional limbo.

So how do you work through it?

For me it was a matter of first becoming of aware of it and not feeling guilty over it. For a moment I thought to myself, “Snap out of it, Caroline, you made the thing you wanted to make and you should be elated!”

Criticizing yourself for your emotional response is never productive, at least not in my experience.

Once I recognized this creative hangover for what it was and realized it didn’t say anything about me OR about my love for Color Your Soul, then I just shifted my focus back to the long game. I let go of the fantasy of “Launch Day” and set my sights on a more sustainable, more reality-based vision -- one where I’m not building up some grand to-do or chasing down another carrot, but instead I’m reminding myself to aim for what’s sustainable. To recalibrate my emotional measuring stick to a range that’s much closer to the everyday kind of happiness that comes with doing work that’s deeply fulfilling.

It may not be the grand stuff that daydreams are made of, but it’s REAL and it’s rich. It can be that normal happy day where I get to continue to work on the thing close to my heart, serving people close to my heart (hint hint: that’s you!)

So my challenge to you this week is then actually just a question:

Have you experienced this emotional, creative hangover? A project or event or big leap that left you feeling a little lost or dazed afterward?

If so, how were you able to navigate that experience and how can you emotionally recalibrate your own expectations so that you find satisfaction in reality, however that feels? Let me know in the comments!

The reason I wanted to share these feelings with you all is to show you that no matter how long you continue to make things, no matter how many years you get under your belt running a creative business, there is always more to learn and further to grow.

Even if you do find the courage to MAKE THE THING (which is half the battle!) there will always be unfamiliar, often uncomfortable feelings to navigate, and that’s just part of the gig. Creativity at its foundation is an emotional pursuit.

Anyway, I hope this message came across in the way I intended it to. I want to be clear, I’m still 100% all in on Color Your Soul and I’m already so in love with the conversations starting and the community forming around helpful AND heartful themed content like this.

In fact, topics like this are exactly WHY I wanted to create it in the first place. I want to start conversations about the real creative journey, the one that’s messy and yes, WEIRD, and full of all sorts of tangley, disorienting feelings. Why? Because these topics are where the clues to living our brightest, most VIBRANT lives reside.

Hoping you had (and are continuing to have!) a restful weekend.

 
 

The Pain of Standing Still

As I gear up for the launch this Thursday, I’ve been reflecting back on the creative timeline of this project and comparing/contrasting it to things I’ve made and launched in the past. 

Through that exercise, I’ve been revisiting the many lessons I’ve learned about overcoming my fears and getting something out into the world.

These contemplations were swirling around in my head (what else is new) when a close friend asked me, “So, are you nervous to launch Color Your Soul?”

Instinctively I was about to reply “Of course!,” as I would with every other thing I’ve launched in the past, but instead I just paused.

I paused because while the answer IS yes -- there’s always that fear in your mind that no one will like or want or buy what you’re making -- I was actually astounded at just how little time I had spent thinking about that fear over the course of the summer, which is honestly a real departure from my normal operating procedure.

Truthfully it never even occurred to me NOT to launch Color Your Soul once the idea came to me in its fully realized form. And whatever doubts or fears momentarily arose, they were quickly quieted by my passion for getting the thing made.

BUT... this, as I said, is NOT typical of my process in the past.

And I know from the many emails I’ve received from several of you on this list that creative fear is a very real hurdle, one that has the power to take what’s in your head and your heart and allow it to gather dust.

So I thought to myself… When did it change? What made the difference? When did I reach that point where I was able to dull the voices of fear in my head and what nugget of wisdom might I be able to pluck out and pass on to anyone whose fear voices are the loudest thing in the room?

Well before I get to that nugget, a quick backstory…

Back in 2011, I was still working for a local ad agency back in Florida. In my less productive work hours, I would find myself straying away from my work and over to my favorite design and lifestyle blogs (I justified this distraction time as “gathering inspiration.”)

I would cozy up in the archives of these popular online spaces, clicking through page after page of words and images and all this juicy creativity, and I would find myself feeling equally inspired and envious. I was completely envious of these people who had such distinct and well-developed creative voices.

The more I saw other people expressing themselves in this very public way -- a way that had the power to connect with a random stranger like myself -- the more it felt like a mirror reflecting back my own desires, and, more importantly, my own UNREALIZED potential.

I could sense I had something to say, but I didn’t have the first clue about how to say it. I knew I had a voice that was begging to be shared too, but I was afraid that no one would care about it.

The fear and overwhelm of not knowing where to start just paralyzed me.

The days and weeks and months ticked by and I remember feeling more and more stifled and frustrated as I kept imagining myself as one of those bloggers I so admired, only to quickly return to reality, disappointed that this vision existed only in my head.

Until.

Until one day, the pain of carrying these suppressed creative impulses inside became so beyond frustrating that it finally drowned out every one of my fears.

The nagging desire to share my own voice became so persistent that it outweighed whatever hesitations I had.

So I finally started my blog.

I was reluctant and full of doubt and honestly kind of embarrassed at first, wondering what my friends would think. But from the moment I hit publish on my first post, I experienced this relief that's hard to describe. Like a colorful bird that had been trapped in a cage was finally free to fly.

That blog became a place that I could share my writing, my creative ideas and, really, work through my own journey of self-discovery. It was my sandbox to play in, to learn and to stretch the creative muscles that I didn’t even yet know the extent of.

That blog turned into a few side design projects which turned into my full-time design business which evolved into the Made Vibrant brand that exists today.

It’s five years later, but with every single thing that I bring out of my head and out into the world today -- whether it’s something as big as a new website or as small as one Instagram post -- the same basic battle is waged between my fear and my creative impulse:

Will I express what’s inside or will my fear keep me from doing so?

In those moments, I always think back to that day I decided to start my first blog because it illuminates for me this very simple logical conclusion in my brain:

The pain of standing still will always be greater than the fear of moving forward.

The PAIN (and yes, I do think it is a soulful, psychic kind of pain) of keeping untapped potential inside me is a fate far worse than putting it out into the world and seeing what comes of it.

Once you finally reach that rational conclusion, you start to feel you’re virtually unstoppable because you have no choice but to go on making.

THIS is the nugget that allows me to silence my fear and keep on creating things, and now it makes sense to me why Color Your Soul has felt like the most fearless thing I’ve ever created.

It’s not because I don’t HAVE these fears anymore (like I said, they’re always there, and, if anything, when it’s something you care so much about, they’re even more present); it’s simply that my fears are WAAAAY outgunned by the truth and vision and creative impulse I have within this project.

The notion of NOT publishing something this aligned with my creative spirit is so heartbreaking to consider that it makes the alternative -- overcoming my fears of rejection -- seem like nothing more than a necessary step in the process.

So, my challenge is to you this week is to get REALLY acquainted with the pain of standing still.

I want you to think about that thing -- that novel, or blog, or business, or song, or career -- still sitting inside you begging to be born. I want you to ask yourself what kind of impact that untapped potential is having on your heart, what kind of subtle shade it’s creating over your true spirit.

And then I want you to ask yourself:

What’s scarier -- overcoming your fears of rejection OR living your whole life with that subtle shade never being lifted?

I promise you...

Once you decide that your greatest fear is doing nothing at all, the courage to make things becomes a whole lot easier to muster.

Wishing you all an AMAZING week, and I’ll be back in your inbox on Thursday with all the details about the new website, Color Your Soul and more!

 
 

Create The Thing That Only YOU Can Create

The countdown is officially ON…!

Just one more week until the new website reveal and the launch of my new monthly subscription, Color Your Soul. I’m practically bursting at the seams to invite you guys in and see what you think!

But, as with any big project launch or unveiling, I’m starting to notice those doubt-inducing jitters creeping in. I have enough experience creating by now to know that the Fear voices only get louder the closer you get to putting something new out into the world.

This time though, I’ll admit these jitters have reached a whole new level, mainly because Color Your Soul is unlike anything I’ve ever made before. In fact, it’s kind of unlike anything I’ve everSEEN before.

And the truth is, that fact has me pretty nervous.

When I dreamt the whole thing up last year, I had this vision for a creative hybrid subscription of sorts. I wanted it to be part magazine with rotating content around a central theme; part online learning hub with new classes added on a monthly basis; and part exclusive art gallery where I could make a collection of art with a central message and share it to a group of art lovers that would appreciate it.

The only problem is...

What do you call a thing like that? How do you EXPLAIN a thing like that? And finally, the doozy-of-a-doubt that shows up for me on the regular:

Will anyone even WANT a thing like that?

Those are the questions that continue to bubble up as I stare down this massive to-do listing sitting between me and the launch on September 1st.

Has this feeling ever happened to you?

Have you ever fallen in love with an idea that feels unprecedented in a way? Maybe it’s a weird business idea that you just can’t shake, or a really specific niche audience you want to reach, or your own hacked together way of designing something, or an art style that feels strange but also kind of wonderful…

The feeling is like you’re floating out in the middle of the ocean -- no one’s paper to glance at, no one to ask for advice, no one to walk ten steps ahead and make sure you don’t fall down a well… it’s just YOU.

Well here’s what I’ve learned about that feeling.

Even though it can feel vulnerable and risky and kinda lonely and TOTALLY scary… it can also be a beautiful sign that you’re actually creating from your most authentic voice.

I forget sometimes that I actually live with the king of crazy himself, Mr. Jason Zook, who among other things has sold ad space on his chestsold his last name, and most recently has sold his future.

In response to each one of those ideas, multiple people told Jason they either a) didn’t understand the idea or b) knew the idea would never work.

And you know what? He did them anyway. Why? Because that’s who he is. Jason’s authenticity lies in constantly doing things that push the boundaries and that challenge convention.

When I feel myself doubting this idea that I’ve come to love so deeply even for one second just because it feels new and different and weird, I think of Jason and I’m reminded that different is memorable. Different is authentic. Different is original.

So let this week’s letter be a permission slip to you (and really, to MYSELF):

Create the thing that only YOU can create. 

Create the thing that only YOU can create.

 

Create the thing that is so true to who you are and what your gifts are and what you feel compelled to make that it's impossible for it to exist because YOU haven't made it yet.

Go after your unique vision even if it feels weird and scary and completely unknown because that just means that the payoff of creating it will be that much greater when you see your vision come to life.

Not only will you have the distinct pleasure of making something you’ve been dreaming of and following through on your idea, but chances are that it’ll be the idea that makes people sit up and pay attention because it will be 100% YOU.

Creating is a scary and exciting thing, and I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way. :)

I’m hoping that when my own labor of love finally reaches you next week, that you’ll be able to see the ME-ness in every inch of it. Wishing you all a wonderful week!

 
 

Hand-Lettering For Beginners: A Complete Guide To Creating A Hand-lettered Web Graphic From Start to Finish

Pssst...did you know I now have a super fun and affordable e-course to get you started with hand-lettering? If you're interested in learning more, you can check it out by clicking here.

More and more these days I’m using hand-lettering as a design tool throughout my brand presence, not just in the art I produce, but also in things like web graphics and social media images (like these:)

download (3).jpeg

I love that it adds a personal touch of humanity to otherwise standard digital designs, and I also love that it allows me to include "typography" that I know no one else in the world will have. 

If that's something you're interested in doing for your own brand, I thought it might be helpful to show you my step-by-step process from start to finish for creating these kinds of hand-lettered graphics. 

The process can be broken down into three phases, and hopefully this in-depth post will help you get started mastering all three! 

ps. Scroll all the way down to download a free traceable alphabet that was previously only available inside the Better Lettering Course! Consider this post your peek behind the curtain of that online class! 

Now... on to Phase 1!


 
 

Decide on a basic composition by sketching out some thumbnails.

 

Whatever your phrase is that you want to hand-letter on your web graphic, you want to begin by planning out the basic composition of how the words in that phrase will fit together.

When I say "composition" here, I'm simply referring to how the various parts of your hand-lettered sketch fit together and are positioned in relation to one another. 

(Over time and with practice, you may be able to streamline this process and come up with these in your head, but I still try to put my ideas down on paper to make sure I don't have to re-do my piece down the road.)

Some things to keep in mind about composition:

  • Emphasis. Think about what word or words in your phrase you want to emphasize. You may want to make those words stand out by making them bigger, bolder, or in a different style.
     
  • Balance. Is there a way to create symmetry or balance in your design? Look for words or phrases that can be paired up or reflected in a similar way.
     
  • Connection. Do you want any of your letters to connect with one another? OR do you want them to mold around each other like puzzle pieces? Look for opportunities to create connection between letters/words if so. (ps. There's a bonus video below on how to cultivate this skill!)

For example:

Let's say I want to letter the phrase "Just Keep Creating." Below is how I might draw out three different "thumbnails" (aka tiny sketches) with different compositions.

Ultimately I realized that I wanted the most important word to be "creating" so by making Just Keep slightly smaller and making the "C" and "G" of Creating a bit taller, I've made a little cradle of sorts for the two less important words in my composition to hang out. 

I may not have been able to see that at first had I not sketched out a few possibilities first.

download (1).gif

 
 

Draw out your piece in pencil first and then fill in your letter forms in ink. 

Once you have a basic idea of what you want your composition to be for your hand-lettered piece, the next big step is, of course, to DRAW IT!

Now, if you’re new to hand-lettering, I’ve broken this down even further into mini-steps, showing you how I build my individual letters in phases.

1. Draw the "bones" of your letter form in pencil. 
 

2. Once you have your basic letter form, you can go back over it in ink (here I'm using a Sharpie!)

 

3. Add some "muscle"😉  by thickening your strokes to your liking.
I'm using a PaperMate Flair pen for more accuracy here!

4. Fill in your letters.
If you want that "shine" look, leave empty white areas in your strokes.

 

Or... if you want a bolder look, fill your letters in completely like this!

5. Now erase your pencil marks (once your ink is dry) and voila!

 

And now here's how my "Just Keep Creating" piece came together in these stages!

  Step 1: Letter forms in pencil!

Step 1: Letter forms in pencil!

 Step 2: Going back over in ink. (You'll notice I just use my pencil marks as a guide so I can focus more on letting my hand flow and less on "tracing" my pencil perfectly!)

Step 2: Going back over in ink. (You'll notice I just use my pencil marks as a guide so I can focus more on letting my hand flow and less on "tracing" my pencil perfectly!)

 Step 3: Thickening strokes.

Step 3: Thickening strokes.

 Step 4: Filling in my letters.

Step 4: Filling in my letters.

 Step 5: Erasing any stray pencil marks.

Step 5: Erasing any stray pencil marks.


 
 

Make it digital! Add your lettering to your web graphic.

Now that you have your hand-lettered piece, it’s time to add it to your web graphic using Photoshop. (Scroll down to see these steps presented in video format!)

 

Step 1: Take a photo of your piece with your smartphone. 

Be sure that you’re taking your photo straight on and not at an angle or it will warp your letters. You also want to make sure it’s good lighting. 

You can also use the settings on your camera to turn on gridlines if it helps you keep things squared up. 

This is why it’s also important to do your hand-lettered piece in black ink on white paper because you want maximum contrast between your lettering and the page. 

(Note: you can also scan your photo, but I find that taking a photo is faster and usually works just as well.)
 


Step 2: Send your photo to your computer. 

Usually I use Airdrop to send my photo from my phone to my laptop over wi-fi, but you can just as easily email it to yourself as well. Just make sure if you do that you select “Actual Size.” You want your photo to be at the highest resolution possible when you pull it into Photoshop! 
 

 

Step 3: Open both your web graphic AND your lettering photo in Photoshop. 

Whatever photo you want to add hand-lettering to, whether it’s a blog post image, a sidebar banner or just a photo, make sure you have that open in Photoshop first. Then, select your photo that you just sent to yourself, and open that in Photoshop as well. 


Step 4: Adjust the Levels in Photoshop to maximize contrast. 

Hit Command + L (on a Mac) to pull up your Levels menu in Photoshop.

You’re going to use the Levels sliders to make the whites/highlights of your paper as light as possible (right slider) and the darks/shadows of your lettering as dark as possible (left slider).

Be sure you don’t slide the left hand side too far or you’ll start to lose the crispness on the edges of your lettering. (However, if you want a more rough and textured look, you might like that!)

For good measure, I also hit  SHIFT+ Command + U which brings the saturation all the way down, making the photo black and white. This aids in the contrast by removing any colored “halos” that might show up around your letters. 


Step 5: Cut your lettering and paste into your web graphic. 

Once your lettering looks nice and crisp, use the selection tool to select the area around your lettering and use CMD + X to cut it from your document. 

Then, pop over to your web graphic document and hit CMD + V. This should paste your lettering in as a new layer. Then you'll just want to resize it so it fits on your canvas. (Be sure to hold down your shift key as you transform so you retain your proportions!)

 

Step 6: The magic! 

Now that your lettering is in your web graphic, there’s just one problem -- there’s a big white background around it!

To fix this with one click, head over to your Layers palette and make sure your lettering layer is selected. Change the layer style to “Multiply” which will turn everything that’s white transparent! 

Then you’re free to adjust your lettering as you wish. 

...And ta-da! 

A fun, hand-lettered graphic for your branding/social media needs!


Step 7 (Optional): Change the color of your lettering. 

If you don’t want your lettering to be black, here’s how I change the color of my lettering.

First, undo the last step by setting your Layer Style back to “Normal.” 

Then, Command + click your lettering layer which should make a selection pop up of only that layer (look for the dancing ants around your layer!)

Head up to Select > Select Range... and use your eye dropper to pick up the white color of the paper background around your lettering. Be sure you click the eye dropped in the white INSIDE your dancing ants. This will tell it to select everything that is that color within your lettering layer. 

Then hit... DELETE. This will leave only your lettering remaining. 

Then, head over to your Layers palette and add the Color Overlay layer style where you can select whatever color you like. Be sure to use your erase tool to erase any remnant edges around the outside of your old paper halo.  

If you want SUPER crisp edges around your lettering and you don't like the rough texture from your pen/paper, you can also vectorize your lettering in Illustrator at this stage (something I go over in video form inside the Better Lettering Course! Click here to join for just $20!)

Ta-da! (Again!)


**BONUS FREEBIE AHOY!!**

If you're curious about how I draw my letterforms and get my signature "shiny" style, pop in your email to get this free traceable alphabet worksheet!

 
 

And of course, if you're interested in learning more about the basics of hand-lettering in depth, I created a comprehensive but affordable online course sharing everything I've learned about hand-lettering in six lesson modules and nine video lessons. If this is a skill that you'd like to learn, join over 3,000 students inside the course!

Are You Giving Yourself Permission To Evolve?

For a few weeks now I've had this creative itch, this feeling that I’m ready for the next step…whatever that is!

(Have you ever felt like that? Like you were on the cusp of something you just didn’t know what?)

So how the heck do I know what “the next step” is?! That’s all I kept thinking.

After getting curious about what this eagerness was trying to tell me, I finally realized that a lot of it has to do with my word for the year, CURATE.

I don’t know where you are in your business or life journey, but let me give you the quick rundown on how the past few years have shaken out for me:

Year 1 (2014) of my business was all about exploration and experimentation. I needed to try many, many different things to get an understanding for what I was good at, what people wanted, and what I clearly did and did NOT want to do. (If you are in this phase by the way, don’t let the uncertainty freak you out! It’s such an incredible time of discovery!)

Year 2 (2015) was the year of cultivation. I had spent my first year planting all these seeds of potential -- building an audience, learning new skills, finding my writing voice -- and the next logical phase was to cultivate those crops. This is when I finally started to feel the momentum pick up. I learned how much I love to teach and I was able to launch three revenue-generating projects in that time. I was starting to find confidence in myself to come up with a creative idea and make it happen.

Year 3 (2016!) is quickly becoming the year of concentration. (And no, I don’t mean just thinking really hard!) I mean concentration as in the convergence of all these various lessons I’ve learned. I mean bringing together all the things I’ve tried and tested and cultivated, and aggregating them in a more clear and potent way.

Just as my goal at the beginning of this year was to curate (to engage in the Essentialism-inspired pursuit of “less, but better” in all aspects of my life), I’m seeing that this new itch stems from my desire to better consolidate and synthesize all the various projects I’ve tried out into something more powerful.

As I was talking with my friend Steph from Art To Self about this the other week, we discussed the fact that as creatives (and especially as creative business owners), we often find ourselves in a never-ending cycle of expansion and contraction.

There are times when we need to cast our nets wide, to venture out and discover, to try and fail and learn. And then there are times when we need to reduce, to hone, to synthesize, consolidate and refine.

Like the expansion and contraction of a single breath in our lungs, our creative practice contains an equal life-giving respiratory rhythm.

It rises and falls in a never-ending cycle, and it’s the driving force that catapults our creativity forward.

And now, for me at least, it’s time to exhale.

It’s time to take all the life-giving force that I’ve accumulated the past two years and evolve it forward into a more refined vision.

Which is really my standard-issue long-winded (pun intended) way of saying… there are SO many fun things on the horizon, you guys!

While I don’t want to spill ALL the beans quite yet, I can tell you this much: Made Vibrant will still most definitely aim to be your go-to place for inspiring and informative content on becoming your brightest self in life, business and your creative spirit.

In fact, the plan is to have a lot MORE of that good stuff to go around so that you can continue to have an online space and community to fill your creative buckets each day, week and month. My goal will just be to deliver this content in a more tailored and impactful way.

 

SUMMER SABBATICAL

In order to bring this vision I see fully into reality, I’ve decided I need to make plenty of space for myself. This has led me to the decision to take a summer sabbatical away from the Self-Made Society newsletter.

I KNOW! 😱 <-- That's pretty much how I feel even typing that! This was probably the hardest part of the planning process for me to swallow because while I know taking a break from writing each Monday will only serve to refuel and rejuvenate my creativity, it’s also impossible for me to imagine my Mondays without that letter to you guys!

Not only is it my favorite thing to feel connected through conversation to you, but I’ll admit it’s also become a point of pride for me over the years. I’ve now sent 118 of those weekly newsletters nearly every single week since the inception of Made Vibrant, and I know I wear that number like a badge of honor.

But the truth is, the number doesn’t define the work, and nor does the streak. 

The most important thing is that I’m still writing content that resonates with all of you -- content that helps you stay mindful, that encourages your authenticity, that sparks your creativity, and that shares a real picture of what it means to build a creative business from the ground up.

The only way that I can continue to do that effectively and with quality is to give myself some... breathing room.  Space for me to transition into this deep exhale.

So, here’s the rundown:

Next Monday’s Self-Made Society letter will be the last one before my summer break. Starting on Monday May 30th, I’ll be taking five weeks off from writing my weekly newsletter. (Ahhh! 5 weeks, I know!)

But don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging! In next week’s letter I’ll have a download link for your free copy of A Year Made Vibrant: Volume II, which will include every newsletter from February 9, 2015 to May 23, 2016 in an easy to read e-book.

Whether you missed a few weeks or you’re new to Self-Made Society, you can spend those five weeks catching up on over 65 past newsletters to fill your Monday inbox blues.

Then, I’ll be back on July 11th with lots of new and fun content to share and some exciting announcements about what you can expect to see from Made Vibrant starting in August (and moving forward!)

 

PERMISSION TO EVOLVE

But… that’s enough talk about me and Made Vibrant; now, let’s talk about YOU.

I always like to share the thought processes behind these decisions because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from communicating with creatives of all shapes and sizes it’s this: we could all stand to give ourselves more permission to evolve.

As creatives, let’s face it, we are changing our minds all the time. Whether it’s because we get excited about a new idea, or we want the challenge of trying something new, or something inspires us so we want to give it a go, or we just get bored… we’re shifting and learning and changing all the time.

Somewhere along the line though we got it in our heads that this wasn't a good thing. We started to feel like we were "quitters" for this ever-evolving vision -- that we couldn't stick with something long enough to see it through.

Now, you guys know I’m a BIG believer in consistency (I’ve got daily and weekly and monthly projects coming out my ears!) but there’s a point where consistency stops pushing you forward and it starts holding you back.

We have to stay on the lookout for approaching that point, the point where we get so wrapped up in seeing something through that we ignore the signs telling us to change it up.

I've shifted the focus of Made Vibrant so many times over the course of the past three years I’m starting to lose count. First a design studio, then a brand design studio, then art and design courses, plus a blog, then a resource shop, then an art shop, and the list goes on and on.

All of that shifting doesn't mean that I don't have a vision; it means that I have an evolving vision.

That I give myself (first) permission and (second) space to mold my business to meet my ever-evolving sense of self.

That’s the beauty of running an authentic business -- a business that changes to support your unfolding life and spirit rather than one where you’re forced to change your life to fit some static version of IT.

The truth is, if you're a business that’s NOT evolving, then it’s likely you’re no longer meeting the needs of your customers who I can guarantee you ARE evolving and changing before your very eyes.

So whether you are in that first phase of exploration and experimentation and you’re not sure what road leads to where, or whether you’re like me and you’re still finding ways to concentrate and consolidate all that wisdom you’ve racked up over the years, the lesson remains the same:

Give yourself permission and space to evolve your creative business as you evolve. 

Give yourself permission and space to evolve your creative business as you evolve.

There is no destination; only the journey. Keep getting curious about what that underlying creative itch is telling you. And if you find that it is indeed saying you're ready for the next step, dig deeper until you find out what that is.

Listen to the yearning in your spirit -- when it asks you to inhale and expand, invite inspiration in. And when it begs you to exhale and contract, let go of what’s no longer serving you.

This is the respiration of creativity. It goes on and on and on.

Keep an eye out for next week’s email with that newsletter e-book download before my summer sabbatical!

I’m literally squirming in my chair thinking about how much fun stuff is on the horizon this fall. I hope you’ll continue to stay tuned to this journey of mine as we keep pushing our creativity forward TOGETHER!

Here’s to our ever-evolving selves!

 
 

My Favorite Acrylic Paint & Pen Brands: #MVArtShop Ask Me Anything Video Series

Inquiring minds want to know! 

I asked you guys what questions you were most curious about when it comes to my artistic process, my Abstract Affirmations Daily project, and opening up the MV Art Shop

I got some great questions on Instagram so I decided to create a few Q&A videos to answer my favorites! 

One question I get asked a lot is... 

What type of acrylic paints or pen brands are your favorite? 

In the video below, I'm in my studio showing you first hand what brands I love to use, plus my super secret weapon: the best white paint pen of all time. 

Click play to give it a watch!

 

 

 
 
 

Want to check out all the #MVArtShop Ask Me Anything videos?

Click here to view the whole playlist over on YouTube! If you have any other questions you want me to answer in another video, feel free to drop it in the comments!

 
 
 
 

My TEDx Talk: Finding The Courage To Live Colorfully

Back in October, I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at the TEDxBrookings event in Brookings, South Dakota.

As I was preparing for the event, I thought about all the different things I wanted to say. All the important lessons that changed my life that I felt could be "ideas worth spreading."

I thought about doing research and have a carefully crafted story arc and finding some earth-shattering insight that no one had ever thought of before like all my favorite talks I've seen. I wanted to say something worthy enough for a TEDx stage. 

And then, after I had obsessed about it so much that I considered not even showing up at all, I finally said:

Screw it. I'm just going to get up there and tell my story.

So that's what I did. 

See, I haven't always been an artist. And I haven't always been comfortable taking the road less traveled.  

In fact, for most of my childhood and early adulthood, I suppressed my creativity every chance I got so that I could spend my time on the pursuits that I learned were seen as more "successful." Things like getting good grades or starting a prestigious career. It wasn't until one simple question opened me up to the possibility of being a more authentic version of myself that I really started my life as the best and brightest version of my true self.

You can hear more about my story in my talk (click the image below to view), and all the slides were painted/created by me. 

Whatever you are -- artist or not -- I hope my short story here gives you the encouragement you need to live out ALL your various colors in the brightest, most vibrant ways possible.

 
 

Freebie Friday: Creative Progress Maps

Will power can be a tough thing to muster sometimes.

Coming from someone who issues herself daily and monthly challenges all the dang time, even I admit that it never truly gets easier to follow through on intentions I set for myself. Almost every day I wage that internal battle with myself - am I going to remain accountable to the things I set out to do?

Am I going to do my daily lettering piece today? Am I going to write that blog post? Am I going to get myself to the fitness studio?

And sometimes I fail. Sometimes my progress stalls and I find myself starting all over again on one of my self-imposed "challenges." But, no matter how many times I fail, I still continue to work towards my goals because I have a desire to get better and work toward the brightest version of myself.

If you’re like me and you’re constantly trying to challenge yourself, but you too struggle with ways to help you follow through or stay accountable, today’s post is for you!

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a link to this article on Quartz.com. The title was,“Coloring in this picture helped me erase $26,000 in debt”. Um… talk about a link you want to click, right? Who doesn’t want to wipe out debt by coloring!

The writer, Amy, went on to explain that she wanted a way to keep herself accountable to paying off her mountain of debt. Remembering back to when she was young and her mom, a sales associate, would work toward her company’s annual sales incentive trips by coloring in a simple drawing issued by the company, she decided to give the idea a try by coloring in a canvas of swirls (each one representing $100 paid toward her credit card debt.)

 
 

As I read this, the whole idea really resonated with me. I’ve always been drawn to documenting my progress in a visual way, whether it was placing heart stickers on my calendar for every day I went to the gym (true story) or checking off boxes for every day I stuck to my health plan.

This article made me realize though that progress trackers can be a heck of a lot more fun than simply some boxes to draw exes through! I mean… that swirl drawing is pretty sweet, right?

So I decided to make one of my own.

At the end of last month, I was ready to start fully committing to my fitness and I wanted to do something drastic. I challenged myself to attend 20 Dailey Method (barre workout) classes in 30 days. I’ve accomplished this once before and when I did two years ago, I saw major, noticeable changes in my body. It’s no easy task, though, and so I knew I needed some sort of visual way to keep myself accountable. Taking Amy’s lead, I drew this funky geometric/neon thing (the Dailey Method colors are bright yellow, green and orange!)

 
 

Every day I go to class, I get to color in a triangle. Every day I rest, I fill in with stripes. That way, at a glance I can see how much I’ve accomplished and how far I have yet to go.

Surprisingly, it’s working! I’m on pace to hit my goal.

Seeing the success of my own progress map, I started wanting to make progress maps for every commitment in my life.

This month I’m also trying to post on the blog five days a week, so I created a nice little map for that too. I get to fill in the letters as I complete my post each day. (This is Friday’s post which is why it’s not colored in yet!!)

 
 

So far, the whole idea of creating a fun and visual way to stay accountable to myself is working well! I love that each of these “maps” is taped up by my desk in a place where I see it every day. Plus, it feels surprisingly good when I get to take them down and color in my little piece of the puzzle each day.

Like I mentioned before, accountability is a hard thing.

Turning intentions into habits takes effort and will power, and if some silly drawing can make it even 1% easier to choose to stay committed each day, I think that’s worth it!

If you think creative progress maps could help you tackle your own goals, I’ve created three funky and free printable progress maps for you below, all with 31 places for you to color in. That's one whole months of accountability for you (and you can always add to it with your own creativity if you need more "days." 

Get these three downloads by clicking the button below and entering your email address. You'll be signed up for Self-Made Society and I'll send you weekly inspiration and motivation for living your brightest life. 

I also recommend checking out Amy’s website, Map Your Progress, where you can purchase all kinds of her cool swirl progress maps.

So, what do you think about the idea of creative progress maps? Do you think having a tangible progress tracker helps you stay accountable? Let me know in the comments!

 
 

Self-Made Society: Calligraphy For Beginners

Self-Made Society: Calligraphy For Beginners

Last week I finally had the exciting chance to take my first live calligraphy workshop! Being a hand-lettering lover (and teacher) I’ve always been interested in calligraphy but really felt I needed to learn from someone in person ...

#BetterLetteringCourse July Challenge & $150 Lettering Prize Pack

#BetterLetteringCourse July Challenge & $150 Lettering Prize Pack

Summertime is a-foot and there's never been a better time to practice your lettering! There's something about summer that inspires that childhood spirit of play and creativity in me ...

5 Tips For Uncovering Your Unique Creative Voice

5 Tips For Uncovering Your Unique Creative Voice

Whether you’re a writer, an artist, an entrepreneur, a musician, or any other creative type, I’m betting you’ve fallen into the comparison trap at some point or another ...

#BetterLetteringCourse June Challenge

#BetterLetteringCourse June Challenge

Another month, and another lettering challenge is a-foot, my friends!

This month's #NewMediumMay challenge has pushed me creatively in so many different ways ...

Creative Mastery: Lessons From Netflix's New Series Chef's Table

Creative Mastery: Lessons From Netflix's New Series Chef's Table

Last Saturday night, Jason and I made a date with our friends Alli and Jason to have them over and watch the new Netflix series, Chef’s Table. To say that the series was inspiring would be a gross understatement. It was beyond magical...

May #BetterLetteringCourse Challenge: New Medium May

May #BetterLetteringCourse Challenge: New Medium May

Another month is creeping up on us and you know what that means - another monthly Instagram challenge! As usual, I've been so blown away by all of the beautiful work you #BetterLetteringCourse ...

April #BetterLetteringCourse Challenge

April #BetterLetteringCourse Challenge

March is coming to an end, and you know what that means - another lettering challenge! I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed checking out all the entries from #MeetYourselfMarch ...

Meet Yourself March: An Instagram Challenge for Soulful Creatives

Meet Yourself March: An Instagram Challenge for Soulful Creatives

There are only three days left in February, and I have been blown away by the response for the #BetterLetteringCourse Instagram Challenge ...

10 Photoshop TipGIFs That Will Change Your Life (or, at least your graphics)

10 Photoshop TipGIFs That Will Change Your Life (or, at least your graphics)

As a designer, I spend almost every day inside Photoshop.

Even though I taught myself how to use the program, after a couple years of near-daily use, I feel pretty comfortable with it. But, it occurred to me the other day that there is still SO much that I don't know about Photoshop ...