It’s About That Time, Kids

logoAs of last Thursday night, I’m about 95% done with school. Crazy, right? If you are ever considering going back to school, GO. It’s the single greatest decision I’ve ever made. I have a tendency to exaggerate, but I am serious when I say I have loved every day.

On “The Office,” Andy said, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” I’m lucky, because I knew I was in them when Mina and I would brainstorm for Jean’s class in Brian’s class. I knew it when Dave told me to talk to people who like things and drink more water. I knew it when Zach said, “Yeeeeaah,” in a way that meant, “Um, no.” I knew it every time Mareen said, “chocolate” with her adorable German accent. I knew it when Meghan and I got lost in an empty parking lot. I even knew it when I broke my nose walking into a solid glass wall (shut up).

Don’t get me wrong, there were shitty days. Days I wanted to quit and do nothing but lay in bed and cry (AKA, days I updated my blog so I could stay in my pajamas longer). Weeks where I was physically at school for 50+ hours. Times when just hearing my classmates voices made me want to go on a rampage. I’m generally non-violent and helpful, so my rampage would have looked like this:

Behold my wrath as I gently lay this chair on the ground!!!!!

Behold my wrath as I gently lay this chair on the ground, then cheerfully assist you in putting it back where it belongs!!!

But there were also days that I went so far beyond what I thought possible for myself. I have laughed so hard that my cheeks still hurt the next day. I went places, met people, and did things that were so amazing they hardly seemed real. It was all great and I would change virtually nothing (well, one Saturday, maybe). Sometimes I wonder if 2011 me would recognize 2014 me. Nothing I regularly do now I would have thought possible then.

I remember sitting in my first class, Drawing for Design, over summer session, and we were all quiet. You know that unspoken tension where you start to think, “Why is no one talking? Is it okay to talk? Did something happen when I was in the bathroom? Should I be the brave one who talks?” It bothered me that I didn’t speak up. Everyone seemed in a good mood, but no one wanted to be the first one on the dance floor, so to speak. That night I realized that I had a choice- I could either go on and keep being the person who waited for someone else to go first or I could be the one who stepped up and out.

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Unfamiliar roads always look like this in my mind.

I decided that I was going to walk into class the next day and be the one who spoke up and was friendly and fun. If I didn’t take this experience as an opportunity to reinvent myself, then what would be the point of any of this? I don’t specifically remember that next day, which tells me that it went fine. When fall semester rolled around, I had to again make a conscious effort to let out my bubbly fun side, but it was a teeny bit easier.

Fast-forward three years and to our portfolio night after party and I told everyone this kid Joe, who is young enough to by my son if I was on some 90’s version of Teen Mom, was my secret boyfriend (he’s not). I told another kid he was going to take trapeze lessons with me, and told horrifyingly awkward stories to two of my teachers. Of course, by “told” I mean, “drunkenly yelled across a crowded bar.” I also vaguely remember making pterodactyl-like noises for some reason. So yeah, it’s fairly safe to say that I am much more comfortable in my skin or an obnoxious drunk (“The latter”- you. “Shut up”- me).

I still don’t know if I’m going to succeed or fail. But when I started school in 2011, I decided if i was going to fail, I was going to fail trying. My faith wavers, but giving up has never seriously been an option. Now I’m on a new path and it’s really scary and feels a bit lonely, but I know there are people who believe in me. Even if I can’t see what they see, I’ll just have to believe in their faith.

Some new things coming up that I will leave for future posts. Til then, have a great week!

Put your dreams away for now, I won’t see you for some time…

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Swanky New Website

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 3.06.49 PMHey guys! I know it’s been about 500 years (approximately) since I updated, but I have not abandoned my blog. I’m about two weeks out from finishing school and this semester has been insanely crazy busy. The behind the scenes drama should have been recorded and put on Bravo for their new show, The Real Students of Graphic Design. There would be hella wig-snatching and lots of bleeps on the reunion show. Then I’d get famous and go on to host my own late night talk show where my guests and I would say mean things about celebrities, discuss horrible Lifetime movies, and I’d flirt with Keanu Reeves, who I’d have on every week.

Wait…what was I talking about? Oh right! My new website.

Since I’m about to leave school, the world of work is calling my name. Actually, it’s not. Much like Keanu Reeves, the world of work does not know my name or that I even exist. So I updated my website, so people can check me out, download my resume, and even connect to my LinkedIn. Okay, can I gripe about LinkedIn for a second? I never know ANY of the people it says I may know. A couple of weeks ago it said I may know someone named, Zikpi Kokou. I’m pretty sure if I knew someone named Zikpi Kokou I’d remember. You don’t forget a Zikpi.

Anyway, check out my site and keep your fingers crossed something awesome comes my way!

-Beth

Anyone Seen the Track???

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Our Lady of Forgotten Sorrows and Unwritten Songs
“O, our Lady of Forgotten Sorrows and Unwritten songs, pray for us sinners, though we are unworthy. May all our endeavors contain His graceful spark of creation while serving the highest good. Help us never forget that our sorrows are temporary and our ultimate glory, though a mystery to us, is well-known to our Divine Protector. Amen.”

I’ve been off track lately. I don’t even think I was in the same zip code as the track. But the worst part was, I didn’t even realize it. You know when you are walking with someone, they stop, but you don’t notice and keep talking and walking like they are still right there with you? Yeah, that was me, but whoever I was walking with stopped like 8 miles ago. After a shitty week, approximately 35 pounds of Halloween candy and a few sucky conversations, I finally realized I was not handling things as best I knew how. But the good thing about this life is that every moment is a chance to start again.

Last semester I was so stressed with my classes, intern search and other things. I let it get under my skin and let it interfere with life in general. So this semester I thought, “Well, I’m not going to do that again! I’m not going to be stressed out and I’m not going to let people get to me and I’m not going to let anything deter my awesome time.”   On the surface this sounds fine, but I realized what I was doing was putting a big ol’ spotlight on the things that I didn’t want and giving them my energy, instead of focusing on what I do want and giving that my energy. I was playing defense instead of offense.

Knowing what you don’t want is super important, but use it to create positive thing. Instead of thinking, “I don’t want to be stressed,” I should have been thinking, “I can handle anything that comes at me. I got this,” and putting my energy into that. If you’re making a cake and your eggs are expired, your flour has bugs in it and you dropped the butter on the sidewalk and now it has all kinds of rocks, glass and questionable substances in it- your cake is going to suck. My cake was sucking hardcore.

But there was one good thing that came out of everything! Well, more then one, but we are just talking about one right now. When I was in the midst of crap I wanted to channel it into something. I realized I hadn’t done a collage in a long time, so I searched my old-timey graphics, found these gorgeous bug illustrations, and that inspired the collage at the start of the post. I also used it for a pop-up card project in my 3D design class. The photo reminded me of a holy card, so I wrote a little story about her and that prayer to go with it. It makes a better illustration then pop-up card, but I’m pretty happy with it. To me a “forgotten sorrow” is something that seemed completely devastating at the time, but later we see that had the situation not unfolded exactly the way it did, we never would have been able to move on to something better.

Sometimes I’ll see these projects from my classmates and I’ll think that the project is so personal, that I almost feel uncomfortable looking at them. In my mind I’m thinking, “Oh crap. Danger! Danger! What do I do?? Where do I look??” It’s like walking in on someone in the bathroom. Usually I just say something like, “Looks great! Nice use of color!”, don’t think about it too much and move on to the next thing. I think this is one of those projects. Don’t analyze it- or me- too much. We’ll just move on to the next thing.

Until next time!

-Beth

The Butterfly Mobile

IMG_20130930_210100You can tell things aren’t great because it’s 6 AM and I’m updating my blog. Usually the only thing I do if I am awake at 6 AM is bitch that it’s 6 AM and I’m awake. Things have been a little crazy and recent days have been even crazier and the last 36 hours the craziest yet. Things will calm down soon, though, because I am removing a huge responsibility from my plate. It really sucks when multiple projects you believed in can’t reach their potential because of factors outside of your control. It’s one of those things I’ll tell you about some time over a manhattan and french fries (I’m classy like that).

Anyway, because of the general suckiness of the state of my affairs lately I thought I’d talk about The Butterfly Mobile! Doesn’t “The Butterfly Mobile” sounds fun and whimsical? Like a butterfly garden on wheels that stops at your house. I imagine the driver wears old-timey clothes and talks in Dr. Seuss-like rhymes with a cockney accent. Sadly, it’s not (hmm…now that I’ll have some time on my hands….), but I did make this mobile out of velum, some doll house parts and fishing line.

This was a project for school that somehow I got full points on even though I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet the objective. The project was to make polyhedra shapes into a cohesive 3D design that was either narrative, illustrative or about texture and/or shape. I made butterflies. Out of paper. And wood. So yeah. But, hey, I got an A!

Anyway, a couple of my teachers had each independently said I needed to find a way to blend my photography and my design work. That’s what sort of kicked off the idea. Each pair of wings is created out of one of my nature photographs printed on velum (for those who don’t know, velum is a semi-transparent cardstock-like paper). Let me give you this tip about printing on velum, since it’s kind of plasticy, it doesn’t really absorb ink like regular paper. So when you are printing, put the settings to something like “draft quality” or “fast quality”, because you want the least amount of ink possible. After the pages were printed, I used vintage illustrations of butterflies and moths as a template and cut them out with an exacto knife.

IMG_20130930_104247That was one hurdle, but then I had to find something to attach their little disembodied wings to. I tried rolled paper, but it wouldn’t stay rolled. I took a trip to the hobby store and found dollhouse moulding. Cut it, sanded it, and painted it. Found the craft glue and the butterflies had bodies! But how to get them to fly?

I thought this would be the easiest part- just tie some fishing line and we’re done. However, when I tried that my butterflies all looked like they were attempting to walk upright or swinging on the gallows. It didn’t help that it was 9 PM and this project was due at 10 AM the next morning. So I looked around for what I had on hand and found some jewelry wire. It’s thin and flexible and was perfect. I just wrapped it around the top of the body and the mid section. This way I could bend the wire and get the butterfly to hang exactly how I wanted. Another little drop of craft glue to make sure the fishing line didn’t come unknotted and we had lift-off. No rhymes or old-timey clothes (but I do have an accent, but it’s a Chicago accent and only comes out with I’m really, really mad), but the butterfly mobile was done. I’m really happy with how it turned out.

Until next week…eh…week after…um…let’s just say I’ll update again before 2014. Probably. Maybe.

Dandelions and Crappy Days

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 9.25.44 PMShort post this week because if life has taught me anything, it’s don’t update your blog when you’re in a crappy mood. It’s just been one of those days full of one miscommunication and frustration after another. A second thing life has taught me is never say, “How much crappier can things get?” because life will always answer, “Super crappy! Wanna see?” Tomorrow is another day. Allegedly.

Just in case I didn’t bring you down enough, I made a little video. Um…that didn’t really come out right. Anyway, for my new media class we learn video and computer graphics techniques. I’ve never animated anything before, but once I got the hang of it, it wasn’t really too tough. It you know Photoshop at all then taking the leap to animation isn’t that difficult. The most difficult part was finding a subject. My teacher told us make a movie 30 seconds to 2 minutes long. That was it. Three-forths of the project was me trying to figure out what to make a movie about.

I don’t know why, but when I upload it to any site, it loses some quality in the type. I swear if you watch it directly from my file it’s not choppy looking like it is on You Tube and Behance and really everywhere else online.

Without further adieu, I present, “The Dandelion.” *deep bow, backing off the stage*

P.S. I guess some people might see an ad under my video (I’ve had a report of “The Capt’n Crunch Show”). You Tube put it there, not me.

Diary of a (Former) Intern

lflogo

Their awesome logo designed by my awesome boss

If you’ve been with me for a little while then you probably remember The Great Summer Internship Search of 2013. It was full of frustration and…well, mostly frustration as my resumes went into some vast void where, as far as I know, they’re still sitting. But FINALLY something panned out. I was a little bit secretive just in case there were any lurking weirdos, but now the internship is over and any lurking weirdos will have to stalk me the old-fashioned way (I don’t know what that means either). I thought I’d give you guys the lowdown on my 3 months as an intern.

To start off, the job was at Loaves & Fishes, a food pantry serving Du Page County, Illinois. This is one of the wealthiest counties, not just in Illinois, but in the United States. It sounds a like a place that wouldn’t have a use for a food pantry, but 3.6% of the population live below the poverty line, that’s over 30,000 people. That’s not including the people who may be teetering on the edge or who are suddenly on hard times and need help temporarily. But Loaves & Fishes provides more then just food. They have English as a Second Language classes, resume writing assistance and many other empowerment programs to help people get back in the black (that’s the good one, right?).

I guess I was expecting the actual pantry to be something like the DMV, but with food. It’s nothing like that. It’s bright and full of smiling faces who actually want to help you. I’ve seriously never been anywhere where the people were so consistently helpful and nice and weren’t trying to sell or convert you to something. Really, every single person. At my last job, if you said, “Good morning!”, people would glare at you and say, “What the hell is her problem?” So you can see why an entire facility of nice people would be a bit shocking. To illustrate just how nice they all were, the day I tucked my dress into my panties, someone actually told me about it before I left the restroom and didn’t even gossip about it!

Anyway, the first graphic design related lesson I learned was- I knew nothing. I mean, I know design principles and have a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, but working in a professional environment is so different from school. At school our teachers are pretty much like, “Do what you feel!!!”  At a job it’s more like, “Here’s the colors, here’s the graphics, here’s the fonts. Make something out of them.” Of course, that’s overly simplified, but you get the idea. I did get to create the artwork for their Halloween fundraising campaign and that came out super awesome. I’ll share it with you guys once it goes live on their site.

One of my ongoing projects was to ask the clients to write down the story about what brought them to Loaves & Fishes. I am not good with chitchat and I’m horrible at talking to people I don’t know, so this was not the easiest thing for me. But it needed to get done, so I did it. I met professors, librarians, carpenters, students, bankers, caregivers and people from all walks of life, all races, all ages and all religions and by the second person I spoke to, I was crying and hugging her. You absolutely cannot know someone’s circumstances just by looking at them. Sometimes I’d go out there to collect stories and only get one or two because one person would keep me there for 15 minutes. They just needed someone to talk to.  One thing I heard over and over again was, “I didn’t want to come here. I tried so hard to not need help.”

This is an amazing place from the top down. Everyone there embodies the saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” They care so much about every person who walks in the door and genuinely are making a difference in people’s lives. There were very little to any egos involved and such a spirit of cooperation. I would talk about people and my husband would ask, “What do they do?” I would say, “Um…I don’t really know what anyone other then my boss does.” I’m sure someone explained it to me once and I know they all had job descriptions and responsibilities,  but everyone was always helping everyone else that it was a little hard to follow who did what. It was so unlike any work situation I’ve ever been in before.

Initially I kind of felt like a failure because I didn’t get a big agency internship, but- like every step in this journey- this where I was supposed to be. Maybe someday I’ll actually learn to relax and trust the process. The most important things I learned weren’t really design related at all. On my last day they gave me some very nice gifts (including cream cheese frosting with some gluten free cake underneath it!) and there were big hugs and teary eyes. I am so grateful that I was given this opportunity to be part of their world for a little while.

Next week, I’ll be back with a new paper cutting post!

Designer, Heal Thyself or Sometimes I’m a Dumb Ass

acrobat-girl-vintage-image-graphicsfairy007dI have a few hard and fast rules. One is never wear socks with cropped pants. Another is that when people say, “How are you?” that unless I am in need of immediate medical, fire or police assistance, the answer is always a version of, “I’m fine.” Of course there are exceptions, but 97% of the time people are asking to be polite and no one wants to get cornered talking to that person who, when they are asked how they are doing, actually tells you. I will  politely listen, but this is playing in my head the whole time (I crash into something at the end?).  I also try to remember (but usually fail) that everyone is a teacher and there are lessons everywhere.

Because of the one-woman pity party I’ve been throwing the last couple of weeks it didn’t even occur to me at the time that when one of my classmates blurted out- in great detail- how they are doing that it was a larger lesson I needed to hear.

What happened was I was sitting in class, halfway through eating my Kind Bar when, let’s call her Marie, called me over with a question about our assignment. I don’t really know Marie and have only had maybe one conversation with her the entire semester. She’s a nice woman with a smile that brightens her face and while she’s clearly been overwhelmed with this class, she’s made huge strides this semester. Anyway, I answered her question about the assignment and she said, “Hey, is that a Kind Bar?” I said it was and I eat an obscene amount of them (I buy at least 12 each week and they are usually gone by Sunday afternoon). This lead into a conversation about how she just started to workout and it’s really hard to keep going and eating right. Marie went on to tell me that it is sort of like school, she’s embarrassed and ashamed that she’s not at the same level as everyone else and it takes forever to see any sort of payoff. The struggle makes her question if any of this is worth it. Like I said, we don’t really know each other, but I guess she just needed to get it off her chest.

I said, “Believe me, I know it’s really hard, but just keep at it. Look how far you’ve come this semester. Your last project was loads better then your first one. Those babysteps add up and before you know it, you look back and can’t believe how far you’ve come. As for working out and eating right, on my first day here I was red-faced and winded after walking up the three fights in the SRC. I started working out in February 2012 and last semester I caught myself running up those same stairs. It takes time, but it gets easier and it’s worth it. I swear. Be easy on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect every single moment of your life. One screw up doesn’t equal complete failure. You can always change course, but just keep moving forward.”

Okay, everyone can see the irony in this situation. Everyone, that is, except for me. Because I’m a jerk who was a in a bad mood for 2 weeks (okay, maybe more then 2 weeks, let’s just call it “a while”) I walked back to my desk thinking, “What was that about? Who am I to give someone advice? The way I feel I should be walking around wearing a black cloak and carrying a sickle. Did I really confess that I sometimes eat 3 Kind Bars a day?”  Then I continued to be a ray of gloom for a few more days.

Fast-forward to yesterday and I am driving home from the gym (all my good ideas come in the car, this is why I am a shitty driver. That is what I tell myself, anyway). For some reason this conversation with Marie popped into my head. It finally hit me* that she is me two years ago. She’s putting so much pressure on herself that she can’t see really anything else except what she perceives as her shortcomings. Her own goalpost is so high that it feels like why bother because it’s unreachable anyway. Lately I have been putting so much pressure on myself that there is no way I could measure up to my own impossible standard. I’ve been clutching on so tightly to what I think should be that I couldn’t let anything else in. Sometimes I have these dreams where I am walking and the path becomes almost a vertical wall and the only way I can get to where I need to go is to climb straight up. It does feel that way sometimes (a lot of the time), but in the dream I always make it to the top and get to where I was going. That’s probably something I should remember, too.

The website isn’t quite up 100% yet, but if you want to, you can check out what is up at bethbrousil.com.

(*the sound effects website is going to keep me entertained for the rest of my life)