keeping it stealthy


I’ve been doing this secret agent character thing for about ten years now and sometimes I forget how fun it is. At times it’s been a thorn in my side because it didn’t always match up with who I am. I’m a mom, I’m a graphic artist/illustrator, what does spying have to do with that? Why didn’t I pick another name for my blog? But that is what I picked way back then and now I’m known for it. It would be a shame to abandon a brand that I’ve by default worked at for so long.

So when my neighbor stopped by with two pairs of “secret agent” glasses that she picked up at the local dollar store, I saw a glimpse of how fun this secret agent gig is for other people. It dawned on me that I really should just get into it already. In fact, now that I’m getting ready to launch a book tour and I going to visit some kindergarten classrooms and possibly a home for children (all while in costume) I should embrace this character more than ever. So I am. I’m buying a trench coat. I’m stocking up on glasses and I’m digging out my spy boots from the back of the closet.

Keep your eyes peeled. You might just spy me spying on you in the near future.

why'd I have to go and mess up this shot with my ugly mug?

What I’m really thinking is, why did I have to go and ugly-up that super cute picture of some micro-spies?

Secret Agent Boo

They’re so into the spy thing. It kills me.

Which brings me to my next book: Numbers! I’m slower than molasses in January but I am actually starting on it.

page 1 of my numbers book

page 2

I think I’m going to need help on it. Are there any techie geeks (and I say that in admiration, not jest) out there who would like to help me with my research? I will include you in my end notes! Email me.

me and Bug

Over and out.

Shop Talk: Failure and Monday Morning Disease


I figured I’d write a post about work today. I don’t do that a lot and maybe I should. I don’t know. Do you guys wonder how I spend my days working away with my clicky-mouse? I just have been thinking on something lately and thought I’d share it.

Above is a logo I’m working on for a client. I don’t think she’ll mind me sharing. I thought it was pretty good. I spent a lot of time on it and thought I had it in the bag. The client liked it too but then a day passed and she sent me an email asking me if I could tweak it into more of a 50’s-60’s style. She even sent me some pictures for reference. Which is really nice by the way.

My first reaction was rebellion. I do this a lot. I call it my Monday Morning disease. Because way back in the day when I worked in an office, I would always feel overwhelmed by work on Monday. It seemed like every sales person in the whole office had some project for me to do RIGHT AWAY! RIGHT NOW! STRESS STRESS! STRESS! But then magically, Tuesday would roll around and everything that seemed so overwhelming and impossible on Monday seemed just plain normal and doable. I could count on it. So after a while I started to ignore my Monday morning freak-outs, knowing that they would dissipate by Tuesday.

I don’t know why I am this way but I’m always on the defense right away and it’s stupid. But I always do it. When my client asked me to “tweak” the illustrations towards a more 50’s-60’s theme, my first knee-jerk reaction was to freak out. Do you think I have a button I can push to make it 50’s-60’s, I thought angrily to myself? Is that some kind of photoshop filter I don’t have? Of course I would never say this to a client in real life because it would just be rude and over time I’ve found that I always regret pushing back.

So I sat on it for a day. I wrote a polite email to the client saying that I could probably do what she was asking but that it would mean going back to the drawing board and starting over. I thought she’d dismiss that idea and stick with the original logo that was obviously just fine, right? Nope. She didn’t. And I’m so glad.

That night I took my laptop to bed and while the kids slept on the floor around me (they like having “sleepovers”) I clicked away into the wee hours of the morning.


I came up with this.


And this.


And this.


And this!

I’m not done yet. She’s asked to see a few more designs but I love the new art so much better than the old. I’m so glad I kept my Monday Morning disease to myself.

Do you guys have this problem? Is your knee-jerk reaction to think that you can’t?

A while back I landed a big job with Turbo Tax and got the opportunity to create twenty-some icons for their website. The turn-around time was crazy. I got the job on Friday night and it was due before Monday morning. That’s probably the reason I got the job in the first place. Who else can turn around something that fast? A freelancer who is desperate enough to work all day and all night of course.

At first I thought there was no way possible that I could do it. I don’t even illustrate in that clip art style. But after much discussion with my friend Heather, who I was staying with at the time, I decided to take a crack at it. I downloaded their existing icons and started to take them apart with my mind. Sure enough, the shadows and highlights were just shapes filled with gradients and not that hard to put together. I just had to dissect it piece by piece and not get overwhelmed by the whole.

The job went swimmingly and I ended up getting them all done with plenty of time. But I wouldn’t have if I’d let my Monday Morning disease get the best of me.

Not that I’m all peaches and cream all the time now that I’ve learned this lesson. I’m still learning it with every single job. But I definitely have raised the bar for what I think I can do. Anything is possible.

I watched this video a while back and found it really helpful. Maybe there is some other freelance artist out there wondering what direction their path will take and fearing failure. I think this will encourage you:

Milton Glaser – on the fear of failure. from Berghs' Exhibition '11 on Vimeo.