2015: The Year of Drawing

face doodled sketch

2015…the year I (finally) learn to draw. “Don’t you already know how to draw?” someone asked me. Well…no. Not really, and certainly not to my satisfaction. Trust me, I had qualms about admitting that on this blog. After all, what kind of crafter/artist/maker can’t draw? I suspect it’s more than you’d imagine. So I’m breaking the ice here and hopefully allowing all my lovely readers to feel it’s ok to not yet know how to do something.

So my most deliberate new year’s resolution was ‘learn to draw’. Actually it was more specific: “purposefully draw every day”. What is purposefully? Basically with some sort of objective or goal in mind. For example, I will spend January working through “You Can Draw in 30 Days.” I actually started about a year and a half ago but never completed it. I have a few other books lined up for the following months. After I run out of books we’ll see what happens.

My primary goal for the year is to get to a place where I can consistently render drawings I am pleased with. This is not to say I will be happy with everything that ever results from my touching pencil to paper. That’s just ridiculously unrealistic. Neither is it my goal to draw only in a certain style or medium. No, I just want to be able to say “yea, I can draw fairly ok” come December 2015.

What I did not resolve to do in 2015 was post daily doodles. On New Year’s day I came down with a terrible cold (it’s still lingering over two weeks later). I had no energy for all my other planned tasks (making a whole new wardrobe for myself, cleaning out every piece of clutter in my apartment) so I doodled. Just a bit here and there, in addition to working the exercises in “You Can Draw in 30 Days.” I liked some of these doodles so I posted them on Instagram and Facebook. What happened next blew me away. Friends and family ‘liked’ my posts. But not only did they like them, they seemed to be inspired to make and post their own drawings and doodles. I had not anticipated, nor could I have hoped for, such a warm and joyful response. So after less than two weeks I made a new resolution: to post a “doodle of the day” every day.

I am so excited because this will provide more drawing practice in a no-pressure way. It also seems to be inspiring others to make and share their own art (amazing!). Over the last couple of years I’ve realized that the best and most enjoyable new year’s resolutions are those that emerge organically, without being forced, or being based on negative thinking (for example “I’m so unhappy with my body, I need to lose many many pounds this year”).

On that note, enjoy some “doodle of the day” highlights from the first half of January 2015:

2015: the year of drawing

What are your 2015 resolutions? Are they realistic? Are they motivated by joy?

Don’t Ruin Your Acrylic Paintings!

By complete chance this great video on acrylic painting came to my attention the other day:

Stop ruining your acrylic paintings with water!

Artist Michele Theberge does a fantastic job of explaining exactly what happens when you mix your acrylic paints with too much water.

Basically you compromise the ability of the acrylic molecules to form a strong film on the canvas.  So what you ask? Well if you start with a wash on your canvas and the acrylic film is not solid your painting will flake right off the canvas (sooner or later).

Too much science for you? Don’t worry! Michele makes everything super clear and straightforward in the video.  If you ever work with acrylics this is a must watch.

Have you learned any surprising or valuable painting techniques lately? Share them in the comments!


Leavin’ on a jet plane


Suprise! I’m gonna have to take a brief leave to visit my family in Argentina.  It’s very bitter sweet.  On the one hand I get to see my family soon, on the other it’s because someone has passed away.  I am so so so grateful that I am able to make this trip on short notice to be with my family during a really hard time.  A silver lining at least.

What’s the deal for popElephant.com?

So why am I posting about it? Just to let you lovely readers know that I’ll be far far away from my computer.  I promise to do my utmost to update the popElephant blog every so often, just don’t expect very long posts.

I’ll be back soon enough with fresh inspiration, ideas, and hopefully some good pics from my travels.  Until then I wish you all a great July and August.

Be good, do good, and make meaning!

Photoshop Friday: Puppet Warp Tool

Puppet warp is a super fun tool introduced in CS5.  It finally lets us do the practically magical things laypeople have always assumed Photoshop does for you (but we know better, right?).

Photoshop Friday great puppet warp tutorials to get you started with this awesome tool

*As you may know by now I’ll be away from home (and my precious macbook) until the end of August.  I’ll be doing my best to share great tuts, inspiration, quotes, and travel photos while I’m off but do expect shorter posts for that time.  Short but sweet.


Let’s start off with Tech Guru’s video.  It’s a great intro to what you can do with puppet warp.  Pro-tip: it works best with transparent backgrounds.

great, easy puppet warp tool video tutorial

Just to round off the post, here’s a whole list of other tutorials you can check out.

Best Tutorials for the Puppet Warp Tool, Extractions, and other Reality Distortion Techniques in Photoshop CS5

As always, check my PSF Pinterest board  for other resources not found on this blog.  What have you done with puppet warp? Show us in the comments!

Stronger Than Indifference: Malala Day 2014

I am the girl behind popElephant.com, and I am stronger than indifference. Today is Malala Day, a day named for a girl who is stronger than fear, violence, oppression, even stronger than a bullet.
Today I join my voice to those letting girls, women, children all around the world know they are not alone.  We are all stronger than fear, terrorism, apathy, nationalities, hate.  We are all stronger than we think.

stronger than Malala Day 2014

I, however, do not have a heartbreaking story. I have not experienced violence. I have not been stopped from learning. I have not been overtly discriminated against.
I am a girl. I am a girl with two college degrees, one in Physics, the other in Business. I did not face terror, violence, or hatred in the pursuit of my education like so many, too many, others. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful for that. And not a day goes by that I don’t want to change the world so my experience can be that of all girls

What are you Stronger Than?

Today we can all be stronger than something. We can all feel the injustice experienced by so many girls everywhere in the world. Today, and every day, be:
Stronger than indifference
Stronger than selfishness
Stronger than guilt
Stronger than prejudice

Malala Day: #StrongerThan Indifference

Make more meaning

Today, then, is as good a day as any other to announce that part of all sales in my etsy shop will be donated to MalalaFund. Not just today, but every day that my shop stays open.
I want the world to be a better place. I do not have a grand vision of what exactly it should look like. But I know we will never get there if anyone remains out of the discussion. The best way to change this is to make education accessible to everyone, everywhere.

You can donate directly and make Malala’s birthday wish come true.

Photoshop Friday: Text Effects

It has been quite a while since I applied any fancy text effects to my Ps work. Today I’m going to share a few fun tutorials for turning your text into shining lights, clear glass, textured objects and more. But first:

Why Text Effects?

The idea of making text look like “other things” usually seems so ye olde WordArt to me. So why spend time using the most powerful graphics software to make text look 3D? Here is a list of practical text effect applications:

  • logos
  • graphics for Pinterest
  • digital scrapbooking
  • greeting cards
  • blog/site headers

Typography is the New Yoga

In the information age it’s no surprise that typography has a growing cult following. An image may be worth a thousand words, but some times a few well placed, precise words make all the difference. Combine those words with some evocative text effects and you have a recipe for a powerful message.

Text Effects: The Tutorials

bokeh text effects

bokeh text effect

shade text effects

shade text effect

80's text effects

80’s text effect

fire text effects

fire text effect

liquid text effect

liquid text effect


There you have it.  Super fun, easy, and impactful text effects to check out.  I especially had fun making the “glass half full” image.  What effects do you love? Have another tut? Share it in the comments!

10 Questions To Ask Yourself on Your Job Hunt

Are you embarking on a job hunt? Thinking about embarking on a job hunt? Wondering where to start? I mean really start?

ten job hunt questions

Where am I coming from?

Please allow me to share 5+ of hindsight with you.  In the last six years, give or take, I’ve had every possible job hunt (and job) experience you can imagine, ranging from the ecstatic to the literally nightmarish.  In that time I’ve been: a full time student, a freelancer, a student organization leader, a tutor, a volunteer, an aquarium guest services rep, a neuro-marketing assistant, a marketing intern…

Dont’t make me go on.  I tried every trick in the book to try to get my foot in the door somewhere, anywhere, please for the love of all that is good and fluffy and cute! I tried: networking, LinkedIn, employment agencies, begging family members, getting an MBA, lying to get the hiring managers personal contact info, spamming, resume templates, career counseling.  Again…I beg you…do not make me go on.

The fallout

Do I think it’s a coincidence then that it was during this exact period of my life that I became severely depressed? No I do not.  It’s been a 5+-year road to health from that point.  And now that I am feeling better, happier, and more empowered than ever before in my life I would like to share the wisdom that only comes from horrible, painful, ugly, HORRIBLE experience.

The Job Hunt Questions

Now is the time to ask yourself what you want your life to look like.  And I mean really go deeper than “I want to have a job, any job, please for the love of everything that is fluffy and good.”  I spent years looking at job postings and asking “can I do this job?”.  Do not make my mistake.  You should stop asking yourself what you CAN do and ask yourself what you WANT to do, and what you CAN’T live with.

  1. What do I want to do in my life, personally and professionally?
  2. What do I want to be able to say when people ask what I do?
  3. What do I want a typical work day to look like?
  4. How do I want to feel about myself during work hours?
  5. Where do I want to be today, next year, and in ten years?
  6. Can this job help me get to the everyday life I want?
  7. Can I live with the morals and values of this employer?
  8. Can I create more meaning in my life and others’ by working this job?
  9. Can I be proud of having had this job?
  10. Can this job help me get to the next stage in my life?

If you are applying to jobs that don’t fit this bill you won’t be happy, even if you get hired.  Trust me, I speak from experience here.

There are tons of questions you can, and should, ask yourself when starting a job hunt.  What has worked for you? What hasn’t? Share with us in the comments!


Photoshop Friday: Smudge Tool Techniques

When is smudge not a four letter word?

This week’s PS Friday is all about the smudge tool.  My theory is that when someone first learns Photoshop they fall in love with a few tools and tend to stick with the same techniques through many software updates.  My very first foray into Photoshop was with Photoshop 7.  And we are talking waaaaay before CS up in here.  That was what, almost 15 years ago?

As I was saying there are so many tools in PS (even in ye olde PS 7.0) that you just have to stick to a select few.  The smudge tool may be one of your old faves or a new friend waiting to be discovered.  Either way, here are some examples and techniques to get to know the smudge tool better.

Smudge Tool Tips & Techniques

First off, here’s a little cheat sheet I made on the smudge tool and the ‘strength’ setting.  At 100% the smudge goes on for EVER.  Around 50% is where you’ll usually use the smudge tool for most applications.  You get a good amount of smear but not too much.  The last example shows the smudge tool at 10% strength.  It’s barely visible, which is why you’ll want to use this setting for things like smoothing skin in photo retouching.

smudge tool samples

Next here’s a quick video showing you how to recreate the effects above.  Plus what you can do with the ‘finger paint’ setting.

smudge tool video

You can download a ton of lovely brushes to achieve different smudge effects from John Silva on devianArt.

smudge brushes

This tutorial shows you how to use the smudge tool for painterly tone blending in digital art work.

smudge tool painting

Finally, here’s how you turn a photo into a painting using the smudge tool.

smudge tool photo painting

What’s your favorite PS tool? How long have you been using it? Does the smudge tool make your list?  Share your tips and stories in the comments!

Five Watercolors by SF Artists

Welcome to another Watercolor Wednesday popElephant people! Today I wanted to share some watercolor finds from etsy by local artists from my neck of the woods, San Francisco, CA.  I love etsy’s ability to search for makers from anywhere in the world.  Even though these artists are selling online I can still support my local community and maybe even make new friends!

Without further ado here are my SF watercolor etsy picks:

I couldn’t resist these loving elephants by ArtandAntlers:

Tusk To Tusk

I also love love love abstract art, so this piece from WaterandHue caught my eye:

small abstract purple

Alice Koswara’s shop is full of delectable original watercolors:

red poppies

A gorgeous abstract original from WatercolorbyMuren:


And of course a lovely drawing of our very own Golden Gate by SketchAway:



Have you found great local artists on etsy? Share your faves in the comments!