14 September 2023

Drawing The Red Winged Black Bird

It's been a while since I busted out the colored pencils and created a bird.  In 2017, I had a little venture into drawing birds.  I drew a cardinal, a blue jay, and a mountain bluebird. After drawing three birds, I ventured on to the next thing. Then a few weeks ago I dusted off my bird art and created stickers to sell at the local gift shop. 

Kind of unexpectedly, this inspired me to pick up my colored pencils and create a new bird piece. Settle in and let me tell you a little story about the decision to draw a mostly black bird, the red-winged blackbird.  

Before my Dad passed away, passed away 19 years ago, he had a conversation with my oldest brother about red-winged blackbirds. After all these years I don't remember the details and the memory can play tricks.  In the cloudy memory, there is something about my brother seeing a flock of them take flight the day Dad passed.  The details have been lost to time, but the meaning and symbolism of the red-winged blackbird became a memorial of sorts and a reminder of my dad.

Fast forward to April of this year when we made a trip home for my Mom's memorial. The day we were driving to my brother's ranch, I received a text from my best friend.  Photos he'd taken of red-winged blackbirds during a field survey, having no knowledge of its symbolism to our family. That same day, when we arrived at the ranch red-winged blackbirds were everywhere. I watched them, I listened to them, I was drawn into my memories with them.

One evening, after Mom's memorial, we were talking about Mom passing and reminiscing, my brother told the story of the day Mom died. He was holding mom's hand and they saw a flock of red-winged blackbirds out the window. Mom took her last breath and let go. My brother teared up a bit and smiled. We knew the birds came to guide her home.
In Wyoming, these are fairly common birds, but where I live in Alaska I've never seen them. If I was going to draw this bird would need a reference photo.  I searched my texts, only to discover I'd deleted the original message with the photo he sent me in April. I had him resend them, which I somehow deleted a second time.  Rather than ask him to resend them a third time I went in search of a reference photo. When I found one perched on a cattail I knew I'd found the right one.

When I was a kid we lived by the river and the cattails seemed to always be filled with red-winged blackbirds and yellow-headed blackbirds.  I have fond childhood memories of red-winged blackbirds perched on cattails and walking by the river with my dad.  

With a reference photo found, I started my piece by opening the reference photo in Procreate and outlining the big basic shapes.  This helped me get a feel for how to lay out my outline, to get the angle and the proportions correct.  

Once my outline was drawn, I pulled colors from my Derwent Colour-Soft pencils.  This was my first large project with these pencils, and I can say that while they are a lovely smooth pencil to color with.  They are very soft, layer extremely well, and lay down color beautifully.  Because they layer so well it was easy to add in details with lighter colors.

Colored pencil isn't usually a medium I'm drawn to using, but for some reason, I love drawing and coloring birds with them.  Maybe it has to do with a deep-seated memory of a bird I drew in Eight Grade Art Class.  

I'm happy with the results.  I see room for growth and improvement, but it's a beautiful piece of art for my current skill level.  

I'll be turning this gem into a sticker to go with my other three. Let me know if you'd like to see stickers for sale in my online shop?  Drop me a note below and let me know what kind of stickers or artwork you'd like to see in the future.  I'm experimenting with several styles with various mediums, including digital with the Procreate app on my iPad.

Happy Creating!

14 August 2023

August 2023 Update


Hello Inky Admirer,

Where has our summer started to run off to?  We’re into the final month of summer here in Alaskan.  All though the leaves are starting to tell us Fall is moving in quickly.  June was a bit more rainy than I’d liked, but the true summer days have been beautiful.  The end of July was a hot one for this part of the country and as we move into August we seem to be approaching the rainy season.

Recent Projects:

From the Sketchbook Pages:

This month, I signed up for Skillshare and have been taking several of the art classes they offer.  The above sketch was created during a few lessons from Botanical Drawing for Beginners: How to Draw Simple Flowers taught by Sharone Stevens.  

26 June 2023

Heart to Art Part Five - Hopping the Fence

The world is a wild place, ya'll.  I've grown so much in the last four years.  The on the fence off the fence battle that's been going on in my head for over a year has finally ended, and I've finally hopped the fence.  

If you're new here and you haven't read the other articles in the Heart to Art series, let's take a brief trip back in time.  Remember when I shared my story here, and I talked a little about wrestling a two-headed dragon?  Then in part two, I talked a bit about that dragon.  I walked you into part three, talking about what was next, and then into part four, where I talked about sustainability and creating more than cards.  After I wrote part four, I let the guilt talk me into staying with card making and continuing to buy everything to make the cards.  Ya'll, I've been creating cards on and off for nearly 30 years.  It's comfortable and a known quantity.  The switch to making my own art is scary and unnerving, but we all know the magic happens on the other side of that fear.

I've battled through some guilt.  If I'm honest, I'm still battling guilt.  The guilt of feeling selfish in the desire to pursue creativity for the sake of creating.  Feeling guilty that I'll disappoint my best friend, who's also a cardmaker.  Guilt for having a strong urge to shut down a side hustle so many others have come to know and love.  

I've had these feelings in my head and heart for a long time now, and I can no longer ignore my desire to make more art.  I've tried squishing small works on card fronts, but the truth is I don't love that.  I love the cards.  I know you love the cards, but I want more.  I have a longing to create for the sake of creating, to make for the sake of making.

For far too many years, I have tried to leverage my creativity as a means to an end.  An end to the need for a "day job."  In doing this, I lost my reason for being creative.  I lost my desire to create for the sake of creating.  As some of my newsletter followers know, I took a new job in January.  The feeling that I had to force my creativity to provide income has dissipated.  I've found a job that gives me the flexibility I've chased for so many years.  

I've regained my why.  In the last month, it became very when I created art to put hope in the hearts of those I love and smiles on the faces that needed a reason to smile.  It's not about making money.  It's about making art.  It's about creating for the sake of creating.  I've spent a bit of time waiting for permission, feeling like I had to have permission.  Feeling like I needed to be told it was okay to let go of making cards.  Feeling like I'd be letting all my faithful card followers down, but here's the thing I'm the one who's been in my own way.  Not the cards, not the followers, not anyone but me.  

I feel as though I've outgrown the card industry.  I love the passionate makers, but I crave something more.  I desire more from my own creativity.  I want something that isn't just another sale pitch for the latest release of products.  

I've finally given myself the permission I've been waiting for.  I've reopened my sketchbooks, subscribed to a couple of monthly curated art boxes, and started just making for the sake of making.  

01 May 2023

Online Shop Closing


Hello Inky Admirer,

New adventures are beginning.  I’ve talked off and on about creating art in my little corner of the universe.  I’m venturing into a new commitment of developing an art practice.  I’ve had some false starts in this direction, but I feel like I’m finally ready to commit.  If you follow me on Instagram you might have noticed a bit of a shift in card style.

In pursuing my art journey, the online card shop will be closing earlier than I originally planned. The Inked Inspirations Online Shop will close May 31st.  Shop now to stock up on your favorites.  

This going to be an interesting journey and I hope you’re along for the ride.  Next month I’ll share more about my thoughts on the changes and new direction I have in mind.

21 February 2023

Changes Coming in 2023

Hello Inky Admirer,

In my last post, I talked about making changes in the new year. If you're a newsletter subscriber, then you already have the inside scoop. My plan each month is to walk though my thoughts and decisions while sharing them with you. To get the news fist, become a subscriber. Stick around, you might be surprised where this journey takes us. I have new ideas brewing.

The toughest change isn't a decision I made lightly. I mulled this around for months and have finally settled on it.

In August of this year I will be closing the online shop. In an effort to be transparent about this decision, I'm going to wade into the weeds of it a bit. Don’t worry we won’t go to deep. It will just make more sense if I share some extra bits.

The online shop has never taken off like I hoped it would or honestly should for that matter. I have the traffic, but not the sales. Translation, there are a lot of window shoppers. The reality is that I can no longer justify the cost of platform I currently use.

Part two of this decision, if I'm brutally honest, creating listings for a shop that doesn't make money is soul sucking. It’s time to shutter the online shop and explore other ideas.


Local shoppers will still be able to get their handmade card fix at Smiling Moose. New card designs are added frequently and often.

Those of you who aren't local shoppers, know that I value your business and will be exploring alternatives for you. If you are one of my annual holiday card orders I will still be here to fill those requests. When the holidays season begins, please reach out by email and we can discuss options.

Goal setting isn't in my nature, and one of my closest friends would tell you my inner rebel is the cause. She might be right, but we won't tell her that. So what do we call this if it's not a goal? Let's call it an intention.

This year, my intention is to remember why I started and return to the joy of making, sending, and giving more cards.

Why did I start Inked Inspirations? The deeply rooted reason? I wanted someone to receive the happy mail that I'd wished for in my own mailbox. Then I started selling my cards to help pay for my hobby and then I grew that focus with the intention of building a business. In the process of trying to build a business I lost sight of my why. It’s time to return to the joy and the why.

In returning to my why, I plan to focus on rebuilding my habit of sending happy mail, giving away packs of cards and donating cards to great causes. I make hundreds of cards a year, and when I sent my first donation to Cards for Kindness last month I was reminded of how much that fills my heart and feeds my soul. I want to inspire more of you to send more cards and fill more mailboxes with more happy mail.

This going to be an interesting journey and I hope you’re along for the ride. Next month I’ll share more about my thoughts on the changes and new direction I have in mind.