Pablo Picatsso Takes a Nap

It's that time again, when I've made a pattern to suit a contest theme. I really enjoy the challenge of it, and since I already had a pattern of napping kitties, I decided to modify it to fit the "Cubist Cats" theme. I dressed the cat up in some Picasso style stripes and beret, added some colorful paintbrushes and palettes, and even got the shirt a little messy in the process. The result? I think it's a pretty cute cubist cat pattern. I think it would make an excellent artist's smock, and it would be a fun material for a craft kit of some kind. Well, I'll let you know when voting opens, and if you like my design, please vote for me! Thanks!

Happy Galentine's Day

For those of you familiar with the show, I probably don't need to explain that I am a big Parks & Recreation fan. For those of you who aren't familiar with the show, the main character in the show, Leslie Knope, creates a holiday the day before Valentine's Day called Galentine's Day. It is a day for ladies to celebrate ladies. I had some fun the past couple days coming up with these Galentine's Day card designs, and I'm giving them to you for free (Creative Commons license information below). Ladies, let's celebrate the ladies in our lives; the poetic, noble land-mermaids that support us through thick and thin! Click on the links below the images to download printable versions! :)

Here are some printable Waffle Cards for you!

Here are some Waffle Cards that say Happy Galentine's Day on them. :)

So, Ladies! Print and sign and give some love to your lady friends this Friday. And maybe have some waffles, too.

Cheers!

Kirsten

Blast Off!

I created this rocket pattern last week and entered it into the Spoonflower weekly design contest. If you like my design, or are feeling like being supportive, click here to vote in this weeks contest! Though some patterns are more colorful and dynamic, I like my simple one color pattern. I think it would look great as a dress, in fact. From far away, it would just look like a cute pattern, and then up close you would see that it is actually rockets!

Fairies, Flowers, and Lots of Cats

For the past few days I've been working on some new patterns, so I thought I'd share them with you. Here are a few that I especially like. I've been on a garden fairy kick lately. Could it be the darkness of winter in Iceland, or the lack of flowers in my life? Maybe. I've just had so much fun making these repeating patterns. Surely there has got to be a use for these somewhere out there!

Before my garden fairies, I did some digital illustrations based on my cat, Eyja. She finds the cutest poses as she naps and plays and wants her belly rubbed, so I decided to make a repeating pattern of her poses. Here is how that turned out.

And because I felt like it, I made some variations and matching plaids. Plaids are awesome, and so are cats, so I thought if I combined them into matching sets, that would be super awesome! 

Well, I hope you have a great rest of your week! Cheers!

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Treasure Hunt in Granada

One of the highlights of this past year was illustrating the cover of a book in Icelandic by Ólafur Páll Jónsson. It is a middle-grade/young adult book about his daughter's experience when they lived in Granada, Spain when he was on sabbatical. The title of the book means Treasure Hunt in Granada, and with the cover I tried to evoke a feeling of adventure and mystery, while also showing off the charming style and distinctive mosaic pathways of Granada.

I met with the author and his friend, Einar, for the first time on a particularly blustery and rainy Monday here in Reykjavik. I had taken my umbrella with me, which only shortly after leaving the apartment I realized was a terrible idea. My umbrella, though adorable, could not help shield me from the wind and rain, but it could propel me in any direction like a Mary Poppins gone wrong. I closed it and carried it anyway, not wanting to turn back and be in this weather any longer than I had to. I had no idea what the author looked like, so I wondered how I would find him and how he would find me. We were meeting around lunchtime at the University of Iceland's cafeteria, which as you can imagine is a busy time of day, packed with people, many of whom look like nordic relatives of mine. I found myself a seat at a table, and after only a few moments, a man approached and said, "You must be Kirsten. I'm Ólafur." I was amazed. How did he know? "I saw your umbrella and I knew you couldn't be from Iceland." Ha, ha, ha! Yes, a rookie mistake really helped me stand out.

As we talked about the project, I took notes and got many ideas that I was excited to sketch. Within a couple days, I had send multiple thumbnail concept sketches for cover ideas.

The chosen sketch for the cover design was the first one, though they really liked them all, and the fourth sketch was a close second choice. Those two were also my favorite sketches, and I agreed wholeheartedly with their decision.

<tangent> Different mediums make me create things differently. That sounds like an obvious point, but I mean that the medium dictates how I create, not just what the finished product will look like. And though I like my usual pen and ink with watercolor, I feel that medium makes me tighten up and the final pieces often lose a little bit of the life and character that the loose sketches had. I really like my sketches, and the rough quality and spontaneity in them. Likewise, lately I have found that I feel much freer when I'm working digitally. I can more easily stay loose and make bold marks without fear. This medium is often so true to my sketching esthetic that I am super happy with the perfectly imperfect result. </tangent>

Because I liked the energy and loose quality of the sketch, I decided to do something I had not done before on a project this big. I decided I would use graphite instead of my usual ink to do my linework, and I would color this illustration digitally.

I enlarged the thumbnail sketch and added some more detail.

Then I decided to do some color studies, digitally of course.

Then I created my final "sketch," which would be the drawing I would use as my final linework.

Then I adjusted levels and saturation and started to add color. Here is what the process was like.

Since many of you are unlikely to have a copy of this book in hand, here are some details that I really like. Click on any of the squares below to page through them.

I was thrilled when I got to hold my sample printed copy! Now, if only I could wrap my head around Icelandic! I have considered painstakingly going through this book with a dictionary. I am already a slow reader as it is, so I would hate to think how long that would take me! Well, I hope those who can read it enjoy it.

I hope you enjoyed this look into the process of putting this book cover together. Cheers!

Happy 2015!

Hello, friends! Happy New Year! Here in Reykjavik we blew up 2014 in style, with a ridiculous number of fireworks exploding everywhere in sight! This year, my husband and I contributed to the madness by purchasing and setting off fireworks ourselves.

I think New Year's Eve is a strange and wonderful day because, although it is an arbitrary holiday, it also provides an opportunity for reflection. It forces us to acknowledge the passing of time, and it fills many with motivation to make improvements and set new goals for themselves. This year, I haven't really taken the time to sit down and write out some goals, but I'd like to take a little time now to reflect on this past year...

Highlights & Surprises of 2014

Friends

Last New Year's Eve, when my husband and I had been living in Iceland for only two and a half months, we celebrated with an amazing group of people. We felt for the first time like we were among friends, and this feeling made me so happy that I was moved to tears. The friends we have been fortunate enough to meet are the lifelong friends one would dream of. Over the past year, they have shown us again and again that they are willing to go to great lengths to help us, they will drop anything to come to our rescue, and do everything within their power to make us feel like we belong. They switch to English for us, for though we have tried to learn Icelandic, it is really difficult. They host potluck dinners and ask people to bring vegan dishes, only because of our veg diets. I couldn't have foreseen these incredible friendships, and so I find them and their presence in my life and in my heart to be one of the best surprises of 2014. And this New Year's Eve as we celebrated with the same amazing friends, I was moved to tears once again as my heart swelled with gratitude for all the kindness I have been shown by these wonderful people.

Firsts

2014 has been a year of many firsts for me. This year I went ice climbing on a glacier, illustrated an Icelandic book cover, reached the summit of Esja, rented an office/studio space, did custom lettering work for a company in Turkey, snorkeled, fed and pet kangaroos, drove on the other side of the road, rented a car for myself alone, took a ferry with said car by myself, spotted a platypus in the wild thanks to Chris, shared a moment in the darkness with a fairy penguin in the wild, saw Tasmanian devils, and saw puffins. Also, a not-so-fun first, I lost my job as a balloon designer. Yes, it has been an eventful year, but mostly filled with great adventures.

Feline

One week into 2014, we adopted a cat from a shelter in Reykjavik. We did not choose her because she was the cutest cat with the largest eyes and a uniquely purple nose, all of which are arguably true. We decided to give her a home because we felt she was the most miserable cat at the shelter, hissing and growling while huddled at the back of her cage. We named her Eyja, which means island in Icelandic. It should come as no surprise that we had to be patient with our little island. At first she spent a lot of her time hiding beneath furniture and huddled in corners. She has also had several health issues this year, requiring many trips to the vet, various medications, and switching her food five times. We do not know her history, but lately things seem to really be looking up for our Eyja. She seems to be a happier and more affectionate cat these days who sometimes sits beside us in the evenings and sleeps by my feet at night, and she accepts and sometimes even asks for affection. 

Memorable Travel Experiences

Norway

As far as memorable experiences, 2014 is rich with them. I traveled to Norway with my parents and got to spend some quality time with my relatives. We stayed with my mother's brother and his wife, my Uncle Sven and Aunt Helga, which was priceless to me! I really enjoyed perusing old photo albums and scrapbooks. It gave me a fascinating glimpse into my Mormor's life.

Iceland with Mike & Else

After going to Norway with my parents, they stayed with us in Iceland for a week. It was so much fun showing them around, and we went on a trip to the Westfjords together. I love my parents, and it was a joy to have so much time with them!

Minnesota & Maine (plus bonus time in Boston)

We visited friends and family in Minnesota and Maine, and thanks to Chris attending a conference in Boston, we got to visit and stay with Kristine and Mark, who had visited us in Iceland. I got to meet some newborn babies and celebrate a soon-to-be-born one. And I spent some quality time with great people, catching up and savoring moments.

Australia: Tasmania, Sydney & Cairns

Thanks to Chris's work, in August we spent nearly two weeks in Tasmania, and we spent a few days in mainland Australia, too. While Chris was busy working, I drove on the other side of the road while looking out for wallabies and kangaroos, exploring and photographing anything and everything. On the weekends Chris joined me for adventures around Tasmania. We visited a wildlife sanctuary there where we could see Tasmanian devils, pet a Koala, and feed and pet adorable kangaroos! It was so lovely! Then we went to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef!

One thing I will always remember was our trip to Australia was snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef this summer. I had dreamed I would do it someday, and fulfilling that wish was more incredible and vivid than I could have imagined. It took me a good fifteen minutes to accept that what I was looking at was in fact real, and I was not going to hear David Attenborough's voice narrate what I was seeing. I felt like I was flying as I floated effortlessly with my foam noodle. I had to take pictures with my eyes instead of my camera, and so I don't have pictures to show, I can still close my eyes and see the saturated colors and textures of coral and amazing variety of fish and the magnificent beauty of enormous blue clams at the bottom of the ocean.

Scotland

Chris had work in Aberdeen, Scotland in mid-December, so I tagged along, of course! After Chris was done with work, we took a train to Edinburgh, which was really a lovely place to get into the spirit of the holidays!

Iceland Adventures

2014 was also amazing because of the number of hikes I went on in Iceland. If you know me well, you know that I am not a hiking type of person, but I am married to one, and over the past year I have gone on significantly more hikes than the rest of my years combined. I have hiked in all types of weather, sometimes all in one hike, and the beauty of this amazing country continues to take my breath away. I have always been an extrovert who recharges by spending time with people, but this year I learned that nature has an incredible way of energizing and restoring my balance. Here are 100 favorite photos from my adventures so far in Iceland. Click on any of the 100 thumbnail images below to browse through these pictures at your own speed. Enjoy!

I have experienced and seen so much beauty that I am overwhelmed! I don't know what 2015 has in store for me, but I look forward to sharing it with you. I ran out of space to add any more images to my Wordpress blog, so from now on, this is where I will be posting about my hikes and travels and my artistic adventures, too. If you like what you see and read here, please give me positive feedback to keep me going. I would love that very much indeed! :)

Time for Ornaments

I decided to enter another competition, and this time it is for wrapping paper. With the season of gift giving and wrapping just around the corner, it was fun to work on. Right now in Reykjavik, the city is preparing for Christmas and putting up the garland and lights along the main street. I love how cosy this city gets. I'll share photos when it's up and ready for me to photograph.

So, the theme this time was ornaments, and I decided to go eclectic and crafty, with a rougher watercolor paper texture and a hand-done look. I had a very hard time deciding what color to have the background be. Perhaps you could help me decide? I like the brown, but I thought some other colors looked good, too.

Dia de los Muertos

I just decided, on a whim, to enter this week's fabric design contest at Spoonflower, a cool site where artists can upload designs and people can purchase those designs as different types of fabric, wallpaper, or gift wrap! Friends of mine have competed in these weekly competitions before, and I check in now and again and vote for my favorites, too. The topic for this week's competition was Calaveras, the sugar skulls made for the Day of the Dead in Mexico. I spent a few hours coming up with my design, and here it is. I believe voting opens tomorrow and ends on October 29th, so if you want to pop on over and vote for me, that would be swell!

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Update: I was in the TOP TEN!!!! Hooray! So my pattern is on the website in the winner's circle, and also my design is now for sale as fabric! Check out my Spoonflower shop! Thanks to everyone who voted for me!!!! :)

thinking back

It was one year ago today that my husband and I arrived in Reykjavik for our big move. Since then, we have gained many friends, seen beautiful sights, and had some great visitors come an stay with us. My parents came to visit, and I thoroughly enjoyed showing them around the city. When we were in Harpa, the beautiful concert hall, I set up the camera to take some unusual portraits of the three of us, and today I put them together. A silly project, I know! But I was missing them and thought it would be fun. :)

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Sloths in Love

I was thrilled when some of my friends in Iceland commissioned this piece for Kika and Martin, an adorable couple getting married in Germany. They had come to a print sale I participated in and had seen my painting of a sloth hanging from a branch. They loved the sloth and they thought of Kika when they saw it, and really thought she would love it. My friends asked if I could create a piece with two sloths, loosely based on the single sloth. I loved the idea and ran with it. This is what the piece with the single sloth looked like.

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I am really pleased with how the final turned out. And, my friends were kind enough to give me permission to make the artwork available for sale as prints and products. If you are interested in having this piece customized for a special couple you know, please contact me. I would love to share the love of this piece with other couples by hand-lettering new names beneath the piece. And though it will be a print, it can be one of a kind and personalized.

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Next I am hoping someone wants a piece with a sloth couple and a baby sloth. Wouldn't that be adorable? And then, perhaps a mama and baby sloth. Hmm... The possibiities are endless! :)

My Lettering in Turkey!

I was very excited when I was contacted to do some lettering work for Mapfre Genel Sigorta, an insurance company in Turkey. I worked with Murat Bodur of Modiki on this project, and I am super excited about how it turned out! The phrase I lettered, Emin Ellerdesiniz, means "You are in good hands." Here is one of the posters my lettering was used on for this ad campaign. What other countries can I do lettering for? We'll see...

a save the date for dear friends

I am excited to be working on a save-the-date postcard for a couple friends of mine! Here is a sneak peek, without giving much away. He loves hunting for mushrooms, gardening strange varieties of vegetables and fruits, and games. She loves robots and vintage quirkiness, and together they love... well, each other, obviously! They also love to cook and eat great food with fresh local ingredients. I am planning on incorporating all of their likes as well as a nod to her Sri Lankan roots in their save-the-date and wedding invitation suite. I'll post more as I make more progress!

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Upon seeing this image so large, I can see that it is not the most flattering photograph of my fingernails. I'll try to do better next time...

my society 6 shop

I just opened a shop on Society 6, a fantastic website for artists around the world. Artists from anywhere can upload their work and anyone can purchase those designs as high-quality art prints in a variety of sizes, or on a variety of high-quality products from wall clocks and throw pillows to iphone cases and t-shirts. When you order an item on the site, they produce it using high-quality materials and ship it to you on the artists behalf and that artist makes a profit.

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If you like something you see at my shop and would like to support my work, order it. I have ordered multiple products from other artists on this site and have never been disappointed! And besides, it feels good to know that the artists are earning something each time a piece of theirs is sold. Also, you can help promote my work by clicking the promote button on products you like. Below are a few of my favorite products for sale in my shop so far. I hope you like them! 

Click on any of product image to see that item in my shop. Enjoy!

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windows that inspire

So, I thought I would post some images of windows that I have seen recently and felt inspired by. I have become convinced that people place little displays in their windows just for people like me to enjoy as they walk by. And I do thoroughly enjoy them when I spot them. Here is a small sampling of window inspiration.

And because of these window displays, I felt I needed to get involved and give back. I love this bizarre trend here in Reykjavik of these German Heico lamps. I see them everywhere in people's windows! There is a serious group-think mentality here, and when one person gets something, everyone wants one. Clearly this worked on me, too. I simply needed to get myself a resin duck lamp and place it in my kitchen window. Meet my light up duck!

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sunday's hike

My husband Chris and I, along with our good friend Gunnar, joined a hiking group for a full-day excursion this past Sunday. We hiked over a few mountains to a very active hot spring area in a valley, complete with sudden pools of violently boiling water, clouds of steam that smell like sulfur, and the greenest green moss. Here are some of my favorite photos from the day.

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Click on the thumbnails below to see the images full size. Enjoy!