Mike's Harder Design Contest

"ZA JUSU" by Erin K. Nolan
Please vote for me here: http://zooppa.com/en-us/ads/craft-the-next-can/prints

"MAIKU'S RINGO" by Erin K. Nolan
Please vote for me here: http://zooppa.com/en-us/ads/craft-the-next-can/prints

The designs haven't officially been approved yet, so no voting right quite yet, but when voting DOES start go here. Find me and VOTE EARLY & VOTE OFTEN!"

The first one, is entitled "The Juice" in Japanese. It shows a demon tree whose sap is made of firewater. The branches are red to show the spicy cinnamon heat. The leaf and apple symbols are made seasonal with autumn hues and the background texture is the same color as dark apple cider. I thought it might hit, with the Japanese-style design, with the target audience though a tattoo style.

The second can is just the top of the same tree , but it is entitled "Mike's Apple."

Wish me luck! (I think I'll try to do another one in my dot-pattern style over the weekend!)


"All's Quiet on the Western Front," Well, Maybe Not

Was December just two months ago? Seriously?! It feels like another lifetime that I went to school.
Northern Illinois University Graduating Class of December, 2013
I'm the one that turned around just as the photo was taken.
Graduation was awesome. I went back to school to get that single sheet of paper, but it ended too soon. I don't think I'll miss living on Mountain Dew and just three hours sleep a night. I will definitely miss the creative atmosphere, the supportive and kind students and staff, and just the ability to create my own pieces every. single. day. 
Me, with my BFA in Illustration!
3.45 GPA overall  |  4.0 GPA since I went back!
I've been productive in those two months, just not on the art side of life. My son and I moved out of the apartment and lived at the Motel 6 for a month → it sounds bad, but was a blessing because at the end of the month I moved into MY NEW HOME! I can't even begin to express how amazing it feels to clean my own floor, cook on my own stove, and paint walls in a COLOR other than white! The finished basement will be my very own studio!
"The Nolan's"
The most blessed thing of all is that everyone in my family has done some hard work. Each of us has looked deeply into our strengths and weaknesses, our successes and failures. The black hole that we entered two years ago has brought us to a new and better place. We have learned and are moving forward together. People have shown us who they are, their true nature has been revealed → some for better and for worse and those lessons will not be lost. 

We are moving in slowly after we each caught the cold going around town. While I haven't been doing outside work as much or as often, I have been doing some pretty cool things with my co-workers. We got together and decided to try to recreate the movie poster for Star Trek: Into Darkness. That way we could work on our lighting, typography, and special effects skills. Here is the progression: 

How cool is that? I know! Awesome, right?!?! I was also able to help out the Family Service Agency, by working with them to get an updated website. I wrote about this project on OC Imageworks' company blog. 
Personally I was really pleased with the results. FSA currently serves as the um FSA currently serves as the umbrella for a variety of essential community programs: Big Brothers Big Sisters, Children’s Advocacy Center, Center for Counseling, and Senior Services.  They serve as a “hub” of services, organizing the efforts of many local agencies to provide the best care possible to every generation found within my community. I love that I was able to assist such a worthy cause. Here is the before and after website screenshots:

Family Service Agency Website: Left = Before | Right = After
I worked on a marketing campaign for Chad Luberger at Plum Bottom Pottery. He was interested in ramping up his brand identity with a new version of his logo as well as a new color palette. Chad creates both sculptural and pragmatic porcelain and invites artists of other mediums to show in his gallery space. One of those artists is Amanda DeWitt and her Silversmithing. Her jewelry is shown in the ad I created below, but you can read a bit more about her and view her work here

Ad for Plum Bottom Pottery & Gallery in Egg Harbor, Door County, WI
Whew! I guess I there was a lot more going on than I thought! I didn't even write about everything. I'm humbled and praise God for his abundant and generous blessings.


Value creativity: become a hacker

Mr. Logan LaPlante, 13-year old sage

I just viewed a TED talk video entitled "Hackschooling Makes Me Happy." Go ahead, watch it. It's only 11 minutes long and worth every minute.

Basically it is a 13-year old boy (Logan Laplante) who learns how to answer the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up." His answer? He wants to be happy.

Now, ask him what he wants to DO and that is a different story. He has adopted the mindset that he is a hacker, not in the traditional sense, but in a way which equates hackers to innovators. This term is familiar to him and he can take ownership of this word on his own level as a teenager.

Logan takes the position that hackers take advantage of perceived weaknesses in the system; they find shortcuts and create better, faster, and more efficient methods. This way of thinking requires creativity.

Creativity is not taught in schools today. It is not valued in the same way as literacy or mathematical ability, and yet it ought to be. Sir Ken Robinson stated this is his famous 2009 TED talk, "How Schools Killl Creativity." 

The latter is an elder speaking of how the perception of creativity within the American educational system ought to change, the former is a child who is the product of this new mode of thinking. Logan was removed from the public schools and home schooled after the age of 9.  Now this value of creativity just needs to be assimilated in the public school system.

I'm not saying that all public schools have poor systems. I do believe however that standardization developed  an idea that all children are the same. Every person is a unique individual, different and diverse. No person is the same because our experiences, backgrounds, and abilities are not standardized. 

Creativity is only wearing our diversity and non-conformity on our proverbial sleeve. Not that other areas of learning are less important, it is just that everything should be taught as a holistic system. Each area will benefit from knowledge of the other. Science can be taught in art. Art can be taught in reading.

Curiosity is the instigator of creativity.It is the thirst for knowledge in all its forms. Compliance and standardization create automatons ripe for thoughtless industrialized work. No one stands out, no new thoughts are valued, just mindless production at an even, steady rate. 

Imagining alternatives, conceptualizing possibilities, visualizing a better way: that is creativity. How can this not be richly valued? This is one of the sparks that makes us human.

We are all creative. For some, it is dormant because it has not been given the right conditions in which to grow and develop. We are not expected to be creative. Ideas that "only certain people are creative" or "you're born with it" are assumptions based on ignorance. Creativity can be developed and taught just the same as spelling or other traditionally academic skills. The lack of expectation has hampered our society.

Recognize and verbalize when you see creativity in others. We can all challenge one another grow as creatives. Here is an exercise you can try right now: http://weavesilk.com/

God gave each of us strengths and weaknesses. My talent is visual problem-solving, aka an artist. 

1 Timothy 4:14 - "Neglect not the gift that is in thee..."


Graduation Day! BFA

Northern Illinois University School of Art
At 46 years old, I ended my last day as an undergraduate in December, 2013. I lingered in the room until one by one all my classmates walked through the doorway to start a new adventure. I didn't want to leave. I stayed there trying to capture the memory of the room, the feeling, the scents and sounds.

I had left university back in 1987-88 school year. Money was in short supply and although I was in my senior year and loved school, I just couldn't make it happen. I always wanted to go back, but never seriously thought that would happen. Life flowed away from that dream and time was spent on other priorities. That is until I started living on my own two years ago.

I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. I needed it to prove to myself that I was worthwhile and able and that my artwork was up to snuff.

It took only 3 semesters to complete my Bachelor of Fine Art (B.F.A) in 2-D Design, Illustration track. During that year and a half, there were many situations which tried to pull me away from the goal of graduation, yet I kept as strong as I could and am proud of the artwork which was accomplished during my time at NIU. I received straight A's to boot!

During that same time, I continued my freelance business, worked (as close to) full-time at my position as a Graphic Designer at OC Imageworks, and managing my home life. It was hectic and each area of responsibility suffered, each in turn. My son, family,  co-workers, instructors, and clients were all very flexible and generous with understanding. There definitely times when I felt it was all too much, but I just kept on going.

For my 20-something classmates, today – graduation day – is a new beginning. Their whole life will change overnight. For me, however, I'll start Monday morning at work as usual. Life as a student will seem only a reverie. Now my time at Northern Illinois University is over. Just like that a goal was achieved. I have a new goal.

The only difference between today and yesterday is that I'll have that single sheet of paper which no once can take away. With it I have the knowledge, as well as an outward sign, that I can do anything I put my mind to.

What is my new goal?  I hope to continue my freelance business, to grow it and nurture it: to use the talents, experiences and life that God gave me. I want to find his purpose for me and go after it with the same tenacity and gusto.

Erin K. Nolan, B.F.A.


"Buck up, Bucky!"

I am worn down and tired out by the everyday struggles. I imagine a person being pulled down by the weight of smokey wisps that stick like dew and then take hold layer after layer. It isn't a single thing, it is the many troubles all at once for a long, long stretch.

Then I stop myself and try to be mindful of all the good things that happen. I try to practice thankfulness for everything I have been blessed with. There are so many amazing things happening in my life. I have to enjoy the happy moments as they appear.
  1. 1. I have passed my classes and, as of this Sunday, will be a graduate of Northern Illinois University with my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration. It is taken me a total of 28 years from start to finish. What going back to school has taught me is that I needed self-confidence. My instructors and my classmates have walked with me on this adventure– giving advice, offering suggestions, laughing with me, sharing with me their experiences and their life journey.

  2. Just this week my car's transmission went to pot. It happened right in front of a auto dealership with a repair shop. When I heard the bad news that the repair would cost more than the car was worth, I didn't know how I was going to get through this, but I didn't panic. Everything has a reason and a time and a place. Tonight I drove my "new to me" car off the lot. I hope I did the right thing by making this purchase! Kelly Blue Book tells me that it was. All I know is I have a way to work tomorrow and most likely the next many tomorrows. And for that, I give thanks.
  3.  The snow was so beautiful yesterday and we are supposed to get 3-4 inches overnight. I love the way it lazily floats down from the sky to form diamonds in the moonlight. If only I could collect all the diamonds and keep them sparkling forever – without the bitter cold.
  4. At 46 I went to see a dermatologist and my skin is slowly getting clear. My new personal appearance certainly helps with my self-confidence.!
  5. There are two art shows this week. Both are for the NIU-BFA graduates. It is pretty cool to be able to show with these amazingly talented group. If you have a moment, peruse my classmates' and instructors' websites. If you like their work, let them know!
  • Brittany Sherman
    • Playful images based on current environmental issues
  • Andrew Carlson
    •  Andrew is a Midwestern artist working in digital and traditional media. Aveteran of the United States Marine Corp, his imagery reflects his experience.
  • Stephanie Tunnell
    •  Stephanie's work is narrative with a distinctive mood-driven color palette.
  • Dan Kurnick
    •  Intricate patterns and intense color define Dan's current work.
  • John Carter
    • Atmospheric Sy-fy landscapes and detailed character design are hallmarks of John's work.
  • Erin Nolan
    • Conceptual and editorial artwork based on symbolic color, pattern, and texture.
  • Kim Kline
    • Figurative character design with a whimsically dark nature.
  • Autumn Tahara-eckl
  • Michelle Goans
    •  Michelle uses a glowing, surreal lighting and complementary color palette.
My instructors:

Good night, all, be blessed.


The December 2013 NIU-BFA Show!

Flier created by Erin K. Nolan (hey! that's me! lol)
Reception: Wednesday, December 11th, 6 – 9 pm.
Beverages and food will be served.
Located at NIU's Gallery215 located at 215 N. Fourth Street, DeKalb, IL

If you are in the DeKalb, Illinois area, stop by and say, "hey!" I'd love to see you!


Best of the Bunch

Blue Heron - Intaglio Print ©2013 Erin K. Nolan
Homework done. This is the best of the bunch of printmaking experiments. Graphic Chemical ink was used along with a stencil to keep the colors from mixing too much. I am very pleased with it and want to continue with this medium after graduation.