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Blog about the studio, life and travels of visual artist Carly Drew.

Holiday Studio Sale

Carly Drew

Carly Drew Tale of the Yeti

My first ever Holiday Studio Sale is now live! You can check out the available work and information in my shop here. I will also be posting updates on Instagram stories throughout the day as well. There is a variety of work in the sale from mixed media drawings to small studies that will make just about anyone on your list happy. All work can be shipped within the US and there is even an option to arrange free pickup/delivery if you are in 30 miles of Landrum, SC.

Clarity in the Cold

Carly Drew


Once the haze of summer has finally let go and the first fire has been lit, the cooler weather sweeping in always brings with it a mysterious sense of clarity. I wrote about it a few years ago and it still holds true. I don’t think I’ll ever know exactly what brings me to such a focused state at this time of year, maybe its the crystalline atmosphere and shifting light that puts everything into a different perspective. Whatever it is, there’s a bit of magic in that cool breeze and a little more drama that sets fire to the imagination, begging to be reckoned with. The incoming flood of inspiration usually coincides with the calm before the storm of next year’s shows and the less than fun aspects of studio work like taxes and planning kick in. Having a few precious months void of paperwork and devoted to making always comes around when I need it the most. The studio turns back into a place of inspiration and exploration, where I can enjoy the process, take risks and respond to intuition. It’s a time to play with new ideas, figure things out and get back into a rhythm that doesn’t have to respond to the world around it for a little while.

Do you have a time of year where you are more inspired than others? Comment below with the time of year and why you think that is, cause I’d love to hear what times of year other creatives feel like they are the most productive!

Frist Museum of Art

Carly Drew

Afruz Amighi,  My House, My Tomb , 2015.

Afruz Amighi, My House, My Tomb, 2015.

Anyone that keeps up with my Instagram stories already got a peak at some of the highlights from my trip to the Frist Museum of Art in Nashville. The two exhibitions that stole the show were “The Presence of Your Absence is Everywhere” by Iranian artist Afruz Amighi and “Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century.” Both exhibitions were beautifully done and I ended up spending most of the day caught up in all of the exquisite details.

Afruz Amighi,  My House, My Tomb , 2015.

Afruz Amighi, My House, My Tomb, 2015.

Afruz Amighi.  Nameless , 2014.

Afruz Amighi. Nameless, 2014.

Tucked away at the back of the galleries hosting the “Chaos and Awe” exhibition was the Afruz Amighi exhibit. Her work utilizes shadows and narrative to create an immersive experience for the viewer, with the placement and lighting reminiscent of an altar or other sacred space. The shadows almost become more important than the metalwork itself and the richness in the layering gives a kind of peculiar intensity to the installation.

Matthew Ritchie,  A Bridge, a Gate, an Ocean , 2014.

Matthew Ritchie, A Bridge, a Gate, an Ocean, 2014.

Next was the “Chaos and Awe” exhibition which had the work of several artists that I’ve never gotten the opportunity to see in person. The over-arching theme was the often sublime collision of the digital space with reality, memory and emotion. It also showcased the variety of surfaces, textures and ways to use paint as a media. The work in the show was quite diverse and it was a pleasant surprise to stumble across Matthew Ritchie, Julie Mehretu, Wangechi Mutu and many more contemporary painters all in one place. Below are some of my favorite moments. You can find the artists name and work info located in the image descriptions.

Sarah Walker,  Dust Tail II,  2008. (Detail)

Sarah Walker, Dust Tail II, 2008. (Detail)

Dean Byington,  The Inquisitors,  2011. (Detail)

Dean Byington, The Inquisitors, 2011. (Detail)

Dannielle Tegeder,  Lightness as it Behaves in Turbulence,  2016.

Dannielle Tegeder, Lightness as it Behaves in Turbulence, 2016.

Pedro Barbeito,  LHC Red from The God Particle,  2014

Pedro Barbeito, LHC Red from The God Particle, 2014

Barbara Takenaga,  Black Triptych (Blaze),  2016.

Barbara Takenaga, Black Triptych (Blaze), 2016.

Pat Steir,  White Moon Mist , 2006.

Pat Steir, White Moon Mist, 2006.

Anoka Faruqee,  (Left to Right) 2013P-83 (Wave), 2013P-68, 2013P-85,  2013.

Anoka Faruqee, (Left to Right) 2013P-83 (Wave), 2013P-68, 2013P-85, 2013.

Corinne Wasmuht,  Bibliotheque/CDG-BSL , 2011 (Detail)

Corinne Wasmuht, Bibliotheque/CDG-BSL, 2011 (Detail)

Corinne Wasmuht,  Bibliotheque/CDG-BSL , 2011

Corinne Wasmuht, Bibliotheque/CDG-BSL, 2011

Wangechi Mutu,  Untitled from Tumors , 2004.

Wangechi Mutu, Untitled from Tumors, 2004.

Wangechi Mutu  Untitled from Tumors , 2004. (Detail)

Wangechi Mutu Untitled from Tumors, 2004. (Detail)

A Few Days in Nashville, TN

Carly Drew

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The fact that I haven’t been to Nashville before this trip is a real shame and I have to say it’s hands down one of my favorite big cities in the South. I loved the laid back vibes, all of the amazing food and that it’s one of the few places that country music still reigns supreme. Didn’t quite get to see (or eat) all of the things on my or that everyone on Instagram recommended, but I’m not too worried because I know I’ll be back again soon. Read on to see all of the places I went and maybe get a little inspiration for your next trip to the Music City.

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COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME & HATCH SHOW PRINT | I figured I had to do at least one of the big “touristy” things while I was here and fighting the crowds for this one was worth it. It was fascinating to see a lot of the moments, instruments and outfits that have shaped the history of country music over the years. As an old school country fan, navigating the exhibits made it painfully evident how far mainstream radio (let’s be real here - pop) country really is from those early roots in Appalachian folk and blues. Let’s hope that a few of the artists that are still writing songs with strong narratives are able to take back the reigns towards those roots. Attached to the Country Music Hall of Fame is Hatch Show Print, which was a cool little stop to look at recent show posters and get nostalgic over that familiar printshop smell (those of you who know, you know).

BAKERSFIELD NASHVILLE | When theres a good taco place somewhere, that’s usually where I’ll end up at some point and luckily these tacos did not disappoint. It was also a great place to escape the stifling heat of August and enjoy a refreshing mezcal cocktail.

TENNESSEE STATE CAPITOL & NASHVILLE FARMER’S MARKET | After walking several miles I decided it would be a great idea to walk even more and check out the Nashville Farmer’s Market. Luckily it wasn’t too far from the hotel and I got to mosey around the State Capitol down to the Capitol Mall State Park. At the Farmer’s Market I picked up lots of fun little snacks to try for a light dinner and sampled a couple of the local wineries. Then I spotted Jeni’s Ice Cream and figured I’d treat myself with some of my favorite ice cream after all that walking.

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FRIST ART MUSEUM | After a quick breakfast of a chai latte and quinoa bowl from Frothy Monkey, I walked over to the Frist Museum of Art and spent an unexpectedly large portion of my morning browsing the exhibitions. I also had an amazing talk with a receptionist that give me some inside details on the best places to visit while in town. I won’t go into too much detail here since I’ll be devoting an entire post on my experience at the Frist, all on the work I saw in the museum and my thoughts on the exhibitions.

GALLERY HOPPING | After leaving the museum I continued on my art filled day by gallery hoping the rest of the afternoon. Stopping at the 21c Museum Hotel galleries, Tinney Contemporary and The Rymer. All of which had wonderful and incredibly different work.

DINNER @ HUSK NASHVILLE | Later that evening we made reservations at Husk Nashville to experience Chef Sean Brock’s take on Southern food specific to the area around Nashville. Having spent several years in the high end restaurant industry I have to say one of the things I enjoyed most was the sense of humor and combination of high/low that ran throughout the menu. I also applaud Brock and his team for not simply rehashing the same tired old recipes that “define” Southern food and culture, instead they choose to highlight the ingredients that are engrained in the region by adding little twists that toy between comfort and contemporary. I’ll have to make it a point to add Husk Greenville to my list of local stops.

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BISCUIT LOVE | Of course I was gonna find my way to a fried chicken biscuit! Usually these types of places can be pretty over-hyped and despite the line out the door, I was very impressed with this little breakfast spot. We were through the line much quicker than anticipated and enjoyed our morning shot of caffeine while waiting on breakfast to arrive. Both biscuits were amazing - the Princess had hot chicken and the East Nasty had sausage gravy and cheddar (I mean how can you go wrong?). Definitely arrive hungry and be prepared to skip lunch, but it’s more than worth it.

SHOPPING | Fueled by fried chicken and coffee, some shopping was in order at the boutiques around the Gulch neighborhood. After not being impressed by all of the tourist trap boot shops the previous day, I made a beeline straight for Frye and Lucchese. A new pair of daily wear boots has been on my list for quick a while now and I’ve been struggling to find a new pair that ticks all the boxes. There aren’t many places in Greenville to drool over all the leather goods, so needless to say I was in boot heaven the next few hours and found way too many things to add to my wishlist. There’s also Urban Outfitters, Two Hippies and several other shops close by.

FOOD TRUCK FAIR & MUSIC | That evening we walked around the city taking in the sights and sounds of Broadway and a small food truck fair down the block from our hotel. We also enjoyed stopping to listen to the variety of artists playing music in every nook and cranny.

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FIVE DAUGHTERS BAKERY | We saved the best for last and picked up a box of Five Daughters doughnuts for the road. When I asked for recommendations on Instagram, this was the number one suggestion and these doughnuts are hands down the best Ive ever had. In fact they've officially ruined all other doughnuts for the rest of my life. Just sayin’.

GARDENS OF BABYLON | This place is a plant lovers playground and is a great place where you can find some more unique additions to your plant collection. Since we had a 6 hour drive ahead, I restrained myself and only bought two ferns, a cactus (that later decided to attach itself to my thumb, so we didn’t get off on a good foot), some small pots and a really cool metal hanging planter. This is definitely one of the places that I will happily go out of my way to get to next time I’m in this neck of the woods.

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DRY LEVEE SALVAGE | COOKEVILLE, TN | I’m one of those people that will always make the most of being on the road and has to hit any places I have bookmarked along the way. When I was out in Cookeville last winter there were two places I didn’t get the chance to swing in, the first being Dry Levee Salvage, an antique and reclaimed goods store that has some really unique finds. They had some beautiful pieces of reclaimed and salvaged wood for sale as well as a great selection of antique tools. This is a place I’ll always stop in out of curiosity.

JOHNSON GARDEN CENTER | COOKEVILLE, TN | Oops I did it again….yes the second place in Cookeville was another plant store. Not quite as epic as the last one, but much larger and with a lot of more variety than you would find at most garden centers.

WHITE DUCK TACO | ASHEVILLE, NC | Tacos are one of my three main food groups. No seriously, I could literally eat tacos for every single meal of the day (as evidenced above), so I have to admit I was not impressed with White Duck. Maybe it was just an off day or maybe it was just all of the amazing Nashville food, but this was a little bit of a meh note to end the trip on.

Hope ya’ll enjoyed the rundown of all my Nashville adventures! I have so many places that I didn’t get to on my list for next time and can’t wait to head back to the Music City for round two. What are some of your favorite things to do, see and eat in Nashville?

Tubing the French Broad River

Carly Drew

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It's that time of year when summer starts coming to an end and the beginning of fall starts creeping up and to celebrate these last few days of summer we went tubing with some friends down the French Broad River in Asheville, NC. A little time on the water is one of the best ways to keep what's left of those summer vibes going and a lazy afternoon on the river is a great way to get in a little R & R before plunging headlong into the craziness that is the pending holiday season. Pair that with a few stops for ice cold beer, some food trucks and a little good company, you’ve got a nice relaxing afternoon in the mountains.  

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TIP | Don't bring a lot of stuff and use a waterproof case. I used this Pelican case, which is just big enough for an iPhone, I.D. and a little cash with some extra room to space. It also had a hook for a carabiner, so all I had to do was clip it on one of the tube straps and forget about it. 

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ZEN TUBING | We didn't want to put a whole lot of thought into the process and Zen Tubing took a lot of the logistics out of the mix by shuttling us straight to the drop in point. I call that a win.

NEW BELGIUM | Not sure why I haven't been to New Belgium in Asheville yet, but they had one of the most interesting selections of sours on tap and I wanted to try the all. I'm not usually one for fruity beers, but after a few hours baking in the sun I needed something a little more refreshing and the Mural Agua Fresca Cerveza hit the spot along with a fried chicken sandwich and avocado slaw from the Root Down food truck

SALVAGE STATION | Then we floated down a bit more before stopping at the Salvage Station to escape a pending storm. Honestly the storms themselves aren't much of an issue (just pull off to the side), but be forewarned it gets a little chilly after a long day in the sun. We took the opportunity to  enjoy another round and listen to some live music.

WHAT TO DO AFTER | By the time we got home we were so tired and relaxed that all we really had energy to do was make nachos and binge watch some Parks & Rec on Netflix.

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Keep It Between The Lines

Carly Drew

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"Keep It Between the Lines" is based off a photo I took a few years back at the only gas station in Tigerville, SC. This drawing allowed me to focus on patterns as well as the hard edges of perspective and softer, more atmospheric components of the landscape and early morning light. Sometimes its nice to strip away all the excessive layering and line work to play with basic shapes in a composition. Below are a few more detailed shots of the drawing. 

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Black Balsam Knob, Tennent Mountain & Ivestor Gap

Carly Drew

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A few weeks back we woke up at 4:00am, loaded our day packs in the truck and to drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway in the dark to hike Black Balsam, Tennent Mountain and Ivestor Gap loop. It's been several years since I've been on the trail at Black Balsam, so the trip was long overdue. At an elevation of a little over 6000 ft. Black Balsam and the surrounding area have always been one of my favorites, especially considering how distinct the landscape is from where we live in the lower mountain elevations. The wide-open grassy balds offer a different hiking experience than many of the more heavily forested trails in the area and provide some incredible views of the Southern Appalachian mountains. Another great thing about the elevation is that temperature is about 15 degrees cooler, so it's a great break from the sweltering heat of late summer. Below I'll break down a little more information on each section of the trail and at the end give a few tips for hiking this trail and others in the immediate vicinity. 

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Overall the hike barely broke 5 miles total and if you start the loop from the Art Loeb Trailhead, you'll get the hardest part of the hike out of of the way first. We parked the truck in the parallel parking at the base, but you also have the option of more parking and restrooms further down the road at Sam Knob. The beginning part of the hike climbs fairly quick and is pretty rocky terrain, but once you get to the top of Black Balsam things level out so you can really start to enjoy the views. There's nothing like watching the mist slowly clear from the valleys below and see the clouds start to open up as you amble along the trail in the early morning hours. While we enjoyed the Black Balsam portion of the trail, the downside of this section was that there were a lot of people camped along the trail up and on top of the summit, so there wasn't too much peace and quiet. Also if you plan to photograph sunrise remember that even though you are at a higher elevation (meaning the sun is visible earlier), it can be pretty hazy in the morning due to the typical humidity of summer in the South. We were surrounded by mist the first part of the hike and didn't get a clear line of sight until a little later that morning after we moved on to other parts of the trail. 

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The Tennent Mountain portion of the loop hits more of that isolated backcountry feel that we love, but unfortunately didn't have time for this day. In fact the other other noise we heard were the birds chattering away in the blueberry bushes and coyotes periodically calling out to each other across the valley. This portion of the trail was a haven for cedar waxwings, brought in by the impending crop of blueberries. Another great thing about this elevation is that the rhododendron come to full bloom in June and there were actually still quite a few blooms when we were here in July. In several areas of the trail these bushes are quite high and the trench is fairly deep and a little dark, so navigating this part of the trail gets a bit tricky. I would highly recommend wear sturdy shoes and make sure to keep your eyes on where you're walking to avoid twisting an ankle.

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Where the Art Loeb trail meets the Ivestor Gap trail is where we decided to turn back and complete the loop to where we left the truck. There's a large rock at this junction that is a nice stopping point for a snack and to take in some more sweeping views, including both Looking Glass and Shining Rock. The Ivestor Gap trail takes you back towards civilization through cathedrals of pine trees decorated with more twisting rhododendrons. A large section of this trail belongs to a creek bed and is often saturated with water after heavy rain, so as I mention below, waterproof shoes are a nice luxury to have in this stretch. The closer we got to the Sam Knob parking area the more people we passed heading out or even just set up to paint plain air or read along the trail. We completed the loop at about 9:00am and I won't lie, it's a nice feeling to get in a 5 miles before most people have even gotten out of bed on the weekend. Plus the early morning hours often provide more opportunities for dramatic light and wildlife sightings than later in the day, talk about a win-win.

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  • Arrive early. This means you beat out a lot of other people and gives you a lot more peace and quiet to enjoy the hike. 
  • Spray your clothing. In the summer the grasses and bushes are quite high, so I recommend wearing pants and spraying clothing the night before with a Permethrin spray to ward off any ticks and other nasty insects. 
  • Wear pants. The grasses and brambles you walk through in some areas will easily scratch your legs and a lot of the vegetation is soaking wet with dew in the early morning hours.
  • Waterproof Shoes. On a similar note a lot of the trail has deep trenches and creek beds that collect water, so waterproof shoes will help keep your feet dry in the muddy terrain. These are currently my favorite light trail shoes of choice because they do a great job of keeping my feet dry in wet conditions like these. 
  • Watch out for campers. Summer is easy camping weather and the summit usually has a lot of people camped out. The day we went there were at least 10 different groups scattered across the summit that had been camped out the night before and some of them were still dead asleep as we were hiking through. 
  • Keep tabs on the weather. Summer storms can roll up quick in Southern Appalachia, especially at higher elevations. Be conscious of the weather and always have some rain gear just in case.
  • Be aware of wildlife. I feel like this is a given, but a large portion of the trails are covered in blueberry bushes in late summer that attract a ton of wildlife to the area. Keep your eyes open and ears open. We saw two bears as we were driving back home on the parkway.
  • Watch for off-shoot trails. The top of Black Balsam can be a little confusing because there are several smaller trails that turn off that main one to explore the summit. Stick to the one that is most defined in order to stay on the Art Loeb to Tennent Mountain. 
  • There will be off-leash dogs. One of the main reasons we don't take Tennessee with us on heavily trafficked trails like this one is that there will always be someone with a loose dog or a small dog on a retractable leash. Now this is something that we are conscious of because Ten and I had been attacked by loose dogs twice while living at our previous house, which means she is extremely wary of meeting new animals, especially ones that come up and invade her space. If you have a dog that is similarly cautious, be forewarned that there are pretty high odds you will run into someone that is working off the knowledge that their dog is nice to everyone, but is possibly not taking into consideration that your animal might need space on the trail.

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Hope you enjoyed these tips and reading about our most recent experience hiking the Black Balsam, Tennent Mountain and Ivestor Gap Loop in the Pisgah National Forest. We're planning on heading back up this way in September for the Graveyard Fields Trail. This will be a new one for me so if anyone has any tips or recommendations for this trail let me know in the comments below! 

No One Stops for Mediocre

Carly Drew

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Over the past few semesters I've witnessed a troubling trend - students are becoming ok with mediocre. And I'm not just talking about ones taking the class to fill an elective, it's students that are interested in pursuing the subject as a concentration. It's what they want to do, it's what they have a passion for, but they're missing one crucial component to be successful as a creative: drive. To make it in a creative field you have to be self-motivated enough to be the hardest worker in the room and do this you need to have something that keeps you going through 12+ hours on the meticulous elements of a project or problem-solving issues. For many artists and designers a large part of that drive comes from making our vision a reality and the feeling of gratification that comes after finally seeing our ideas come to fruition after a very long, laborious process is extremely rewarding. 

Sadly most students don't really get to experience this and I'm seeing less and less of that drive in the classroom. The ideas are there, the thought process is there, but the execution is either lacking or nonexistent. This drive is often tragically misplaced into an array of distractions and media consumption. Video games, Youtube, and social media are all participants in the cult of immediate gratification constantly vying for our attention. They are shorter, more instantaneous rushes that briefly mimic the same sense of reward you get in the creative process, except you aren't actually making anything, you're simply consuming. In small doses it's ok to  consume to get inspired, but when it becomes an obsession then it becomes dangerous to the drive to create. Those little adrenaline hits start to make larger projects, such as a drawing that takes a few weeks or a professional project that could take years to make a reality, seem much less exciting. Why spend hours and hours to get the same sense satisfaction? Why spend so much time struggling to figure something out when you can get that same sense of reward by opening up Instagram? The important thing to remember that digital gratification is a false illusion. The work isn't yours and you don't see the years of hard work of blood, sweat and tears that went into making that amazing photo or 20 minutes of video. Be conscious of media consumption and don't let it eat up time spent on what really matters: making. 

With that said, at the end of each semester I always write a note of advice and encouragement to my students that are based on my observations throughout the past few months and since school starts back this week, I thought it'd be good time to post an excerpt from one of these notes. A lot of young creatives stop before they even get started and I hope this will help inspire students starting classes this month to keep their eye on the prize. 

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Thoughts on Turning 30

Carly Drew

Yellowstone National Park at sunrise. 

Yellowstone National Park at sunrise. 

I turned 30 two weeks ago and believe it or not I'm actually pretty excited. Mostly because despite a few near death experiences (hello being face to face with a black bear a few months back) I actually made it to 30, but more so because turning 30 has a certain kind of freedom to it. When you're younger you spend so much time worrying about who you are and what other people think, that it can really take away from focusing on what you really want and living life to the fullest. With that said, here are 30 life lessons I've learned over the past 30 years.

1 | FIND SOMETHING THAT REMINDS YOU HOW SMALL YOU REALLY ARE | The universe is a big place. Figure out what reminds you of this and find a way to tune into it as often as possible. For some people its religion, for some it's travel and for others it's communing with nature. For me it's staring up at the night sky and thinking about all the people that have done the same before me. There's nothing more humbling than remembering you are just a speck of dust in the grand scheme of things. 

2 | SEE AS MUCH OF THE WORLD AS YOU CAN | I don't just mean the big places like Italy or Japan, but exploring your own backyard is just as important. Get outside of your bubble, meet people and experience new things, you'll never know what you'll find.

3 | TAKE EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO BE OUTSIDE | Some days I'm not even sure why I have a house, because I spend more time outside than in. Fresh air does a body good, so go for a walk, feel the sun on your skin and take a minute to actually appreciate the weather, regardless of what its like. 

4 | GET COMFORTABLE BEING ALONE | I've noticed more and more that people struggle with being alone. This can apply to simply being home alone or going out somewhere by yourself. Learning how to enjoy being alone is one of the most empowering things you can do. 

5 | HEALTH IS WEALTH | My Mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when I was in middle school, so I learned quite early on that nothing in life is as important as taking care of yourself mentally and physically. It's been almost 20 years since her diagnosis and she's still in great health because she's made it one of her priorities. If you aren't in top shape it's much harder to achieve your dreams and be there for others. 

6 | YOUR SCARS TELL YOUR STORY | I have a lot of scars and each one tells a particular story of something that's happened in my life. Over the years I've learned to be proud of them, they mean I've taken some chances and done things outside my comfort zone and a couple of them resulted from something just plain stupid enough to make for a few good stories. 

7 | DON'T LIVE IN THE PAST | You can't change it, so it's not gonna do you any good to worry about it. What you can do is focus on what you will do today to get closer to where you want to be. 

8 | HARD TIMES ARE NECESSARY | Always remember that hard times lead to better times. Without the hard times you won't know how amazing the good times really are.

9 | ENJOY THE PROCESS | The finish line isn't everything. If you don't learn how to enjoy the journey of getting from point A to point B, life is gonna be very long. This can apply to school, jobs, projects, working out, anything really. Taking the time to enjoy the process of doing something will make life 10,000x easier. Good things take time and always being in a rush means you miss a lot of the smaller and often more memorable moments along the way. 

10 | BE THE ARCHITECT OF YOUR EDUCATION | A degree doesn't mean you're done learning and college isn't necessary for everyone. Figure out what you want to do and then see what type of education best suits that. There are so many great options now a days from trade schools to technical colleges, traditional universities and even online learning. Most importantly your education needs to be tailored to you, because at the end of the day a piece of paper is not a magic ticket to your dream job, it's how you use what you've learned to get that job. In the same light that piece of paper doesn't make you an expert. Continue to cobble together your education from a lot of different sources - read books, go to conferences, find mentors, etc. Keep exploring your field and remember that learning should be a lifelong endeavor. 

11 | DO THE BEST WITH WHAT YOU HAVE | A true craftsman never blames their tools. Most people starting out at something can't afford their dream equipment, space, etc and that's normal. Creating within constraints has produced some of the best work throughout history, so do the best with the resources you have and remember creativity is all about making something from nothing in the first place. 

12 | TAKE ANY OPPORTUNITIES THAT COME YOUR WAY | You will be amazed at the places you end up if you just seize seemingly random opportunities. A couple years back I was out in Arkansas for an exhibition reception and met a fellow that suggested we stop by and see an old friend of his on our way home. His friend was an artist in Oxford and little did we know the artist we were visiting was none other than Glennray Tutor. The couple of hours I got to spend in his studio that afternoon were priceless. I got a lot of great input on some things I was struggling through in my own studio practice at the time and I couldn't have been more grateful to have the opportunity to speak with someone that had been in the field for so long. If I never made that call I would've missed out on something truly special. 

13 | TALENT IS A LIE | Amazing things don't just come out of thin air. You can have a natural affinity for something, but to get really good at it you have to put in hours of practice and hard work. Anyone can learn how to be great at anything, all it takes is a lot of patience and determination to make it happen.

14 | DREAM JOBS STILL REQUIRE HARD WORK | Here's a little secret, the only reason why so many people don't make it in art or other creative fields is they don't want to put in the work. That's it. Want to be an entrepreneur, artist, designer, writer or any other type of self-sustaining, self-employed or freelance individual? Great, just be prepared to work 20x harder than anyone else in the room. 

15 | DON'T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS | Social media has really compounded this issue over the past few years. When you are constantly being bombarded with Jenny's amazing vacation or the fact that Barb just bought that awesome house in the best part of town, it's hard to remember that social media is just a highlight reel. Everyone has ups and downs and comparing yourself to others only wastes your precious time.

16 | GET GOOD AT REJECTION | Being an artist means that you apply to lots of exhibitions, publications and opportunities on a regular basis. You know what that also means? You get pretty good at being rejected on a regular basis. Usually it's nothing personal, your work just didn't fit the show or they simply selected somebody else for the award. Applying in the first place already puts you one step closer than the people that were too afraid to put in an application. What's it gonna hurt to apply to that dream job, submit your writing to a magazine or ask for that promotion? Nothing and you never know what will happen until you put yourself out there. 

17 | LEARN TO TAKE CRITICISM | This is something that art school prepares people for that is vastly underrated. At some point in your life you will put something out into the world that you will get feedback from and one of the best things you can do is learn to take criticism. Regardless of whether you get positive or negative feedback, you need to be able to objectively analyze it to see what the value of that criticism is to you. Then either use it to help you move forward or leave it by the wayside. Remember that at the end of the day good criticism will never make you feel personally attacked and if it does, then the feedback is probably from someone that has issues with themselves.

18 | TEACH SOMETHING TO SOMONE | Einstein said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't know it well enough." Teaching will make you better at what you do and will also make you a more well rounded person, period. You need to have a lot of things to be a good teacher, patience, empathy, understanding and tenacity to name a few. These are all things that will help you in your own work and life no matter what you do. 

19 | LEARN HOW TO SPEAK IN FRONT OF A CROWD | This ties into the last one, but best thing I ever did was start teaching college classes. Before grad school I was always the student quietly working in the background, then I got thrown into teaching and it forced me to become comfortable talking in front of people. First you might have to fake your confidence, but just like anything else the more you practice the easier it will be. 

20 | ALWAYS SEND THAT THANK YOU NOTE | Don't underestimate the power of a thank you note, some of the best working relationships I've ever had have started with a simple thank you. 

21 | SAY HELLO TO EVERYONE YOU MEET | It's amazing how many times I see someone completely ignore another person. Walk around any college campus or any city and you'll usually see people staring at their phones to avoid interacting with other people. A simple head nod and a smile or a "Hi, How are you?" goes a long way and I don't just mean to other peers, say hello to the janitor, the waitress, the security guard, the plumber, etc. You never know who will be the one that let's you in a locked building at 7:00am, make a late night call to fix your air conditioner or stop to help you out if you're stranded on the side of the road. 

22 | LIMIT TIME ONLINE | The best thing I ever did was decide to limit both social media and email to 30 minutes at lunch and 30 minutes in the evening. It's amazing how much time you add to your day if you aren't on your phone 24/7. 

23 | HAVE A BACKBONE | Hold your own and don't let people walk all over you. 

24 | FAMILY IS EVERYTHING | When I say family I don't mean just your blood relatives. It can mean your best friend, the honorary uncle, your roommates and the people that have always been and will continue to be there for you. 

25 | HAVE A SMALL, BUT SOLID CIRCLE | You don't need a ton of friends, you just need a few really good ones. Life isn't a popularity contest and having hundreds of friends isn't going to make you any happier. 

26 | SOMETIMES IT'S OK TO WALK AWAY | If something or someone is causing you more harm than good it's time to let it go.

27 | DON'T GIVE A DAMN WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK | Over the past few years I've gradually made peace with the fact that I don't really care that much anymore. By the time you approach 30 you realize that most people are so busy living their own lives that they don't have time to pay attention to you in the first place, so you do you.

28 | LIFE LOOKS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE | Not everyone gets married, goes through college or has children and some people choose certain types of lifestyles. In this day and age we should be able to recognize the fact that as long as someone is happy and isn't causing harm to another person, then they should be able to go on with their lives without judgment.

29 | LIVE SIMPLY & BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE | If you live out in the middle of nowhere you probably already know this, but you don't need a new Lambo or mansion to live a happy life. As long as you have a roof over your head, good people around you and food on the table thats really all you need.

30 | NO ONE EVER REALLY HAS IT ALL FIGURED OUT | My parting advice is that no one really has it all figured out. Do I know where I'll be in the next 30 years? No. Do I want to know? No, because it will change as I do. Everyone is just doing their best to hang on and roll with the punches and enjoy life for what it is - a series of unpredictable, but insanely beautiful moments.

Summer Reading List

Carly Drew

I’m not a big reader, but I love books. Reading has always been a bit of a struggle for me and I need absolute silence to focus. Even then sometimes I still have to re-read things several times in order to process the information. If there are lots of images and diagrams then great, but the second I see page after page of solid text things start to run together. I’m a maker, so the easiest way for me to learn by doing, which is why it's always been hard for me to learn anything from a book. Despite this one of my goals for this year is to read a chapter or article every morning. The first few months I used this to catch up on all the poor National Geographics that had been long abandoned on my reading nook table. By the time I finished those it was already summer, so I decided to go old school and make myself an official reading list. A little extra motivation in the form of a book list was just what I needed to finally get into the habit of reading, there's nothing more satisfying than checking titles off a list and not having to think about which book to crack open next. Read on to discover which the topic and books I chose for my summer list, then see which ones I'm considering adding to my list for the fall. 


Creativity and habit building were the motivating factor behind the books I curated for my summer reading list. The creative process has always been a topic I’ve been interested in and over the past several years between studio work and teaching I've formed a lot of my own thoughts and observations. Habit building is something I became interested in recently because for the first time in a long time I'll have several solid days devoted to studio work. For years I’ve been squeezing studio time into the odd windows between teaching classes and now that most of my weekdays are becoming devoted to studio I get to make my own schedule, which can be both a good and a bad thing. This made me interested in seeing how other creatives approach structuring their days, so it made senes to build my summer reading list around both creativity and habit building. 

Steal Like An Artist // Austin Kleon

Thoughts // If you want a book that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished reading something in a short amount of time, while also being chock full of solid advice, this is it. I “amen-ed” to half of the book, because Kleon is often saying things I find myself saying to my design and drawing students. It's so easy to get caught up in trying to be original or cool and young artists often forget that what really makes them unique is their own life and unique mix of influences. Kleon gets this and I really think every freshman art student should be required to read Steal Like an Artist. Personally I think it would take a lot of the anxiety out of the creative process and head off some of the blatant copycatting running rampant in the arts and social media. It's also a good read for veteran artists in that it serves as a reminder to get back to the basics of why we love to do what we do. Steal Like an Artist cuts a lot of the fluff that other similar books before it have relied on and could easily be considered an updated, clearer and more concise version of the classic Art & Fear. 

Show Your Work // Austin Kleon

Thoughts // Since I enjoyed Steal Like an Artist so much, I went ahead and bought the follow up book, Show Your Work. Kleon's second book creates the essential road map for getting your work out there into the universe. The internet has drastically changed the way that artists can interact with potential clients/collectors and Kleon paints an accurate picture of the opportunities and pressures that come along with creating anything in the digital age. There's a lot of subtle branding advice and also some great online professional practices for creatives throughout the book. He also touches on everything from idea generation to sharing your work and offers insight on how to make genuine connections by becoming the purveyor of your own story. Most importantly though, he discusses why it's finally time to kick the old school notion of "selling out" to the curb, emphasizing that we shouldn't be perpetuating the starving artist narrative any further than it's already gone, one thing that I agree with 100%. Overall this paired with his first book, Steal Like An Artist, are a great introduction to what it's like living and working as a creative in the internet age. 

Better Than Before // Gretchen Rubin

Thoughts // Knowing yourself and your habits are half the battle and Gretchen Rubin gets it. I can honestly say I learned a lot about the way I operate and do certain things from this book. Rubin has a sense of genuine curiosity and a nice writing style that makes Better Than Before such an interesting read. One of the ideas I was especially keen on was the notion that "habits are the architecture of daily life," especially as they can easily make or break your day. As someone that constantly has 50,000 things running through their mind at any given moment, I find that having structure helps keep me from getting distracted and lets me focus on the important things. I also loved the idea of the "power hour" where you do all of the tasks you've been putting off throughout the week. I now do this on Friday afternoons, by organizing my to-do list, zeroing out my inbox and cleaning up my studio space for the following week. This helps me tie up any loose ends and be able to relax, enjoy the weekend and know exactly what I need to focus on the next.

My biggest critique of the book is actually the four Tendencies. They are a bit hard to follow for people that don't 100% fit into that framework and there are a lot of extra subsets to these Tendencies that can get confusing. I'm still not sure exactly which framework I fall into and think her "Distinctions" are a lot easier to work from in terms of habit building. Regardless I still gained a lot of valuable tips and tricks from the book that have helped me refine my daily routine and would definitely recommend this book for anyone in charge of their own schedule.

Big Magic // Elizabeth Gilbert

Thoughts // I won't lie, I have mixed emotions on this one. This might be the most over-hyped book on the list and I'm not quite sure it lived up to my expectations. Don't get me wrong, the book is beautifully written, has lot of interesting personal stories and delves into the insecurities of the creative mind, but I felt like there was something missing that I still can't quite put my finger on. What I did enjoy was how Gilbert denounces some of the unrealistic representations associated with living life as a creative and that she advocates not being a martyr for your art. Her discussion on crafting your own education and the fact that you never really stop learning was especially on point as well. 

On the flip side there's a lot going on in this book and it's not all cohesive. There were some contradictory parts and a few chapters ending up reading more like a self help book than an exploration of creativity. Gilbert also talks about the idea of creativity in almost religious terms and when it came to the discussion of independent idea spirits floating around from person to person she started to lose me. I'm a believer that ideas come from living your life and being inspired by what you do on a daily basis kind of person, not a divine inspiration kind of person...but hey, to each their own. Overall there were some really great sentiments in the book, but I found that it was ultimately geared more towards novices. If you feel like you need a "permission slip" or don't have the courage to create something on your own, then this is the book for you. The rest of us will just get to work. 


Have you read any of these books? If so I'd love to hear what you thoughts on them. My fall reading list will be going up towards the end of November, this way I have time to actually read the books and give my thoughts on them. You can find out what I'm currently reading over on my Instagram Stories and see the books on my wishlist here, that way if you want to read along with me you can. The books on this list will most likely continue exploring the various aspects of creativity, currently I'm eyeing up: Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, Living a Creative Life by Sharon Louden and then I'll be going a little old school by re-reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.  If you have any suggestions for what to read next or any other good books on creativity let me know in the comments below!

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