A look back at 2016

Happy New Year! I know I'm not the only one who was impatiently waiting for 2016 to just get on with it and be over. I don't know that I've ever felt like that before but there were a number of challenges, frustrations, disappointments, grief, and anxiety this last year in both my personal and professional life - and in the world at large. It made the prospect of a new year something to really look forward to - in a thank god it's over kind of a way. Even if it's just in my head (which we know it is) I'm welcoming the idea of a fresh start. But of course no year goes by without good things too: fun memories, joy and laughter, new experiences, the return of Gilmore Girls. So I'm taking a minute before I start setting my goals for 2017 to look back at 2016 and give myself a little pat on the back for the things I'm really proud of from this past year as far as my work is concerned. Thanks for tagging along with me - I hope your fresh start of a new year is everything you want it to be.

In no particular order:

1. I was featured (and put on the cover) of Southwest Metro magazine's April issue. It was a fun and unexpected surprise and a great way to share my work with my local community.

2. We introduced my art collective, Pencil Parade, to the world! We'd been meeting and collaborating long before this but back in February we officially announced ourselves. And we have a lot of big things planned for 2017 (see #8).

3. In collaboration with my good friend Nicole I illustrated her self-published children's book, Favorite Part of My Day. It was an awesome experience that gave me a chance to "try on" one of my long-time dreams. And there are about a thousand or so copies floating around out there in people's homes (and in public libraries) so that's pretty incredible.

4. In regard to my artwork I tried to stretch myself and add some new things (and new skills) to my portfolio. I continued painting (watercolor and gouache) which I really love and I worked a lot on hand lettering this year, creating a number of greeting cards and illustrated quotes. I'm constantly refining my style and I feel like I had more moments of "Yes, that's it!" this year.

5. I tried to get my work out into the world more! That meant a lot of sharing on social media (Instagram mostly) and submitting my work to companies, online blogs and publications, and magazines. Back in April I had a bookmark in Uppercase magazine. You can bet I'm going to keep at this in 2017.

6. I got to see my illustrations come out on a calendar produced by Orange Circle Studio! I have yet to see it in an actual store but it's pretty exciting to know my artwork is reaching a larger audience.

7. I wanted to expand my Etsy shop this year so I added some new products and new art prints. It's been well received so I hope to continue doing this into the new year with more stationery/greeting card options and some customizable art prints. (I also love my new Land of 10,000 Lakes illustrated Minnesota piece which you can get as a print, a tea towel, or a journal.)

8. This one hasn't happened YET but in 2016 I made the decision and commitment to attend my first trade show, Blueprint, with my art collective in May. It's a big step for me and I'm hoping it will go well as I really make a push this year to make my illustration and design career become more successful.

Well now, that wasn't so bad, was it? Now to start making plans for 2017 . . .

2015 Year in Review

happynewyearHappy New Year! In the spirit of a brand spanking new year I'm taking some time to reflect on the past year and plan for the next. Day to day it can feel like I'm going nowhere or not moving fast enough, doing enough, or working hard enough.  Anyone relate to that? Looking back allows me to really see what I've accomplished over a period of time. Sometimes it's nice to see how far I've come. (Hey! Not too shabby!) It's especially satisfying to look back on goals I made for 2015 and check off the ones I accomplished. And while I don't really make resolutions for the new year I do like to set some goals. There's something about writing things down that makes those goals real and attainable. For today I thought I'd share some of the highlights from 2015 for Katherine Lenius Design!

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  • Licensing contracts! Back in April I signed my first licensing contract for a product that will come out later this year - I can't wait to share it with you! I'm starting to send my portfolio out to a number of companies I'd like to work with because I hope to get my art on a heap of new products this year. (psst... if you're an art director, call me!)
  • A few patterns of mine were selected to be in the new Print and Pattern Nature book, coming out later this year! This is honestly a dream come true, I'm a big fan of Marie Perkins and the Print & Pattern Blog, so I can't wait to see the book.
  • I was the first runner-up for the P&B Textiles and Pattern Observer Textile Design Competition which got me so so so close to a fabric line (hello, goal for 2016!) and it was a lot of fun.
  • My Etsy shop celebrated it's one year anniversary in August! I love having an Etsy shop and the shop is doing really well. It's also been a fantastic way to connect with different people, like shop owners, art directors, and local media. I hope to add many new art prints and products in the coming months.
  • I had my first gallery show! I never ever thought I would do a gallery show (I don't really expect to do more) but my show at the Chaska Community Center was a great way to share my work with my local community, family, and friends, and even though it was a terrifying prospect at first I'm really glad I did it!
  • I had two designs selected to Minted.com which has been a really great and supportive company to work with. I look forward to adding to my Minted store this year.
  • I was included in the student showcase of MOYO Issue 8 from the people at Make It In Design. Coincidentally, they've featured me TODAY in an "emerging designer" alumni interview.  Check it out!
  • My website got a facelift! I wanted to get a fresh clean site to show my portfolio and I've been really happy with it even though I'm always thinking of improvements I'd like to make.

I also thought it would be fun to share some of my biggest influences from the year. These are the things that have taught me the most, changed my viewpoint about something, and inspired me.

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  • READING: Art, Inc. by Lisa Congdon | Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert | How to Style Your Brand by Fiona Humberstone. | Uppercase Magazine, Janine Vangool, editor. Art, Inc. has such great information for working artists, everything from changing your mindset as an artist to practical tools for running your business. Elizabeth Gilbert continues to blow my mind and this book transformed the way I think about creativity and fear. Fiona Humberstone, the brand stylist, offers a beautiful and practical approach to styling your brand and I'm slowly making my way through the steps in her book. Uppercase Magazine is a constant source of inspiration and one day I hope to be on the pages of this beautiful magazine.
  • LEARNING: Lilla Roger's Make Art That Sells courses. I took Part A and B this past year and the MATS courses are a wonderful way to learn about different art markets, get some valuable advice, and make new work. I also really enjoyed a few courses on Creative Live, which I love because you can view live classes and workshops for free and pay a fee when you'd like to access classes again and again. I also revisited Skillshare this year. I started on Skillshare a couple years ago when I was first learning how to make patterns and I find more and more great classes that are presented within a manageable chunk of time.
  • LISTENING: I'm a big fan of podcasts and this year I was especially addicted to Smart Creative Women with Monica Lee. I've listened to her for awhile now but I spent a lot of time with Monica in my ear this year and loved every minute.
  • CONNECTING: Although it wasn't new to me this year I really started using Instagram in earnest this year. It's been a great tool for my business and such a great way to connect with other artists and get my work out there. More recently I've been diving into Periscope and it's so fantastic! It's like having a little office of co-workers in the best way possible. I'm learning so much from other artists and it'll be a great way to connect with people. Now I just have to be brave enough to do my own scope.
  • MAKING: This could be a long list but I'm loving that I started regularly painting again this past year. Now I'm starting to incorporate a lot of mediums into my work and I love it. There's nothing better than spending a quiet morning painting.

So that was 2015! And with that I'm on to a new year! Check in again next January to see how it all turns out.

Chit Chat with Show & Tell

My youngest child (my baby!) started first grade this year and every Friday his class has Show & Tell day. Didn't you LOVE show & tell day? Maybe that's just me. I still love show and tell. I suffer from some kind of delusion that other people are going to be interested in stuff I find interesting. I send ridiculous emails to friends and family: "You should listen to this podcast!" "Look at this cute dress I got!" "You've got to try a plumcot! It's a plum and an apricot!" They've probably blocked my email address. But lucky for me I have this blog audience and I can share whatever I want. And if I actually don't have an audience (!) I won't know it anyway because I pay little to no attention to my website statistics. Win! Today's post will be a mix of personal/professional chit chat by way of bulleted lists with a little show & tell of new portfolio pieces.

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  • The kids are back in school! Yay! I love the time I get with my kids over the summer but we all function a little better with some routines in place. And we'd been spending a lot of time together. Now the kids are happy and not squabbling as much, I'm back at work and re-adjusting to that schedule, and it's all pretty great.
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  • I was in issue 8 of MOYO. MOYO is a free online magazine about surface pattern design from the people at Make It In Design. I'm in the student showcase and you can find me on page 104. I've taken all 3 modules of The Art & Business of Surface Pattern Design and really found them valuable.
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  • Every year Spoonflower teams up with a fabric company (this year it's Moda Fabrics) and holds a contest called Fabric 8 where the winner gets a licensing contract for a fabric collection with that company. This year the theme was "Botanical Sketchbook" and I worked really hard on a design but when I went to submit it I had some technical difficulties and by the time I got it uploaded I had MISSED THE DEADLINE by a matter of hours. Insert hysterical sobs here. Seriously. That took awhile to get over but I'll share it here and it's now in my portfolio, called Milkweed Meadow. It features the lovely monarch butterfly, one of my favorites, and the state butterfly of Minnesota - I bet you didn't know that! (Unless of course you live in MN)
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  • I also participated in the Lilla Rogers Studio Global Talent Search this year. This contest is how Lilla (an art agent and Make Art That Sells creator and instructor) finds new artists to represent and unfortunately I didn't make it into the semi-final round but it was still a great experience and above is my entry which was based on a creative brief from Lilla.
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  • My Butterflies in Bloom collection is available in my Spoonflower shop! You can get one yard that has all four designs or you can get each one separately.
  • New prints from my first gallery show are now available in my Etsy shop, including this print, "Bloom." My Etsy shop celebrated it's one year anniversary on August 25! Confetti! Thanks for supporting my shop!
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  • I've been working on art that could be used for greeting cards which I think is funny because I spent my high school years working in a Hallmark store (a haunted Hallmark store but that's a different story) and I spent a LOT of time sorting and re-stocking cards. A number of years ago I decided to have a booth at a craft fair and I printed some cards (all hand-drawn) to sell. It was a raging failure but I'm apparently still on the greeting card path and these are a couple of my designs.
  • I've been trying to incorporate more watercolor/painting into my work so I got myself some new watercolor colors: Indigo! Opera Rose! Naples Yellow! I use Winsor & Newton watercolors. Since the kids started school I've also been trying to make sure I make time every (or nearly every) day to paint and/or draw. Usually in the morning, in the quiet, and it's FANtastic. Here's another new pattern that uses some painted elements.
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  • I just listened to a fascinating episode of the Radio Lab podcast called The Rhino Hunter. SO interesting. By the way, World Rhino Day is next Tuesday, Sept. 22! I bet you didn't know that! Kiss your favorite rhino. 
  • Who's doing Christmas Shopping?! I should be, but I'm not. I have a ton of things on my own Christmas list though. But I AM trying to add more Christmas/Holiday designs to my portfolio like the ones shown above!
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  • So, what do you think about starting sentences with the word "so"? I've noticed it's a writing quirk of mine that I'm trying to eliminate but here's what NPR says about it.
  • And finally, to put an end to my random ramblings, here's a new Nordic "folksy" design inspired by my Danish/Swedish roots that was pretty fun to create.

I hope you've enjoyed my show & tell. That's what I've been up to the past few weeks! See you soon!

Weekly Roundup & Spoonflower news

It's been a busy week over here so I thought I'd do a Friday roundup of my little corner of the world. First off, WOWZA'! After my little confessional of how I gave myself a break from Spoonflower contests, my Furniture Forest design went and got third place this week! How about that. Of course I'm pretty happy that it did well and I still really like the design, so that was a highlight of the week. You can go check out my design on Spoonflower and purchase yardage over there. FQbundletableschairs

Secondly, I actually have another entry in the current Spoonflower contest. I wasn't going to do another one so quickly but the theme was ballet and I thought it would be a good chance to work on a children's print. I absolutely love children's prints, patterns, and illustration. In fact when I first started doing this I thought I would naturally gravitate toward that market but I discovered something: it's really hard! I was a theater major in college and it's said in those circles that drama is easy, comedy is hard. And I feel the same way about art for children. You think it'd be easy, simple, fun - everything is color and character. But when you get down to putting something together it can be really challenging, so that's an area I'm trying to work on. Plus, I feel like there's more cross-over these days between the children's market and mainstream markets - all those discerning and style savvy parents! Here's my entry, "Pas de Souris," which I'm pretty sure means "step of the mouse" (instead of other pas de ___ ballet terms). I know it's not as strong a design and I don't expect top ten status this time, but as a practice exercise I'm happy with it and think it turned out cute. You can VOTE over at Spoonflower until next Wednesday Oct. 8.

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I've been messing around with a few other things too. I'm working on creating a studio space here in my home. I had my own room for sewing, crafts, and art a number of years ago before my son was born but now I'm out of rooms except for a large unfinished basement. Not exactly an inspiring environment. After trying to make that space work for me as is I decided it was going to need a lot more love and attention to make it habitable as a work space. I've been busy painting, reorganizing, rearranging, and PURGING a lot of old fabric and materials. I'm really excited about how it's looking so far. Here are a few sneak peek images but I'll be back with a full "reveal" (that word feels too grand for this occasion) of my new space.

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Finally, I'm really working hard right now to get some new products into my shop before the holidays. I have grand plans that I'm sure will be curtailed at some point. I'm currently working on a calendar - I love old fashioned paper calendars. I'm having a lot of fun coming up with little patterns for each month. But why are there so many months in a year? I finish one and there are still eleven to go! Wish me luck. And if you have ideas for products you'd like to see, please let me know! Have a great weekend!

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Friday Grab Bag

A random collection of bits from my week.



While my kids went back to school so did I, in a manner of speaking. I started perusing the online classes available at Skillshare and within a couple of days had signed up for two! So far I'm really liking both. One is for making patterns in Illustrator & one is about digital illustration.

For when those aforementioned kids came home from school I tried a new recipe found in Woman's Day magazine: Chocolate Cream-Filled Sandwich Cookies and, I have to say, they were as good as they looked. In a word: YUM.

This is not a new movie, but I had a recommendation to watch the documentary Helvetica. Actually very interesting, for a movie that's about what I would consider a rather boring typeface. I have a newfound respect for it.

I picked up these vintage patterns, which I loved for the design on the cover but I also think I might try to sew them. The dress especially looks really cute - it's called the "Jiffy Dress", how hard can it be?

I also added this Foldover Tote (from The Sewing Rabbit) to my never ending list of things I want to sew. Found the link, along with other bags I'd like to try, via How About Orange.

Finally, I did this little sketch above in honor of the Back to School theme of this week. Whew, we made it.