Peety Interviews is a series that aims to highlight unique artists of all types and their creative process while learning something from and about them along the way.
I asked Wendy if she would be part of the Peety Interviews series after discovering her on Instagram thru #the100dayproject. I love her topic, #100daysofbeingnice, and found myself eagerly awaiting her wonderfully handlettered posts coupled with sweet illustrations. Naturally, I did a bit of online stalking and found out she co-authored one of my favorite creative exercise books, Caffeine for the Creative Mind! I was equally thrilled when she agreed to be part of my little corner of the internet. Settle in, grab your coffee, and get ready to dive into a meaty interview with the lovely Wendy.
I love your unique theme for #the100dayproject. How did you pick it?
Thank you! There are two factors that contributed to my theme choice. The first is that I want to be a nicer person. I don’t think that I’m an outwardly mean person, but I do have an internal voice that’s a little harsh and judgemental at times. Sometimes that internal voice will surface to the exterior when my fuse is running short (yes, I have yelled out a couple of choice words when someone has cut me off on the freeway). I thought that perhaps if I tried to focus on doing one nice thing for someone every day that I could maybe extend my fuse’s length and be a little less judgey.
The second factor to my theme choice was picking something that would force me to step away from the computer and use my hands. I love lettering and illustration, and I have at least three lettering books sitting on my shelf waiting to be read through. But there’s always some excuse that surfaces that keeps me from sitting down to study them (“I don’t have a free afternoon”, “I’m never going to be a great letterer”). I wanted to improve my illustration and lettering, and I thought this project would be a great way to force myself to work on these skills at least once per day.
I didn’t want my project theme to merely be 100 days of lettering. I wanted the content to be just as meaningful as the medium in which it was being presented, hence the two-factor choice of the theme.
You’ve definitely got karma on your side with this project. Do you plan your niceties out for The 100 Day Project?
In the beginning I didn’t plan them at all. I would live my day with the goal of doing something nice, and then letter/draw my nice deed towards the end of that day. That worked fine in the beginning, but then my husband and I went camping for four days. There was no internet or phone, so I fell behind. When I got back to civilization I had to catch up. Since then there have been periods of time where I’ve either been sick or super busy with work and I haven’t been able to draw that day. So what I do now is make a list of the nice things I’ve done (sometimes I’m a rebel and will do more than one nice thing a day—shocking, I know), and then draw them out whenever I can. This means that there are a couple of days when I don’t do any sketching, and other days where I’ll do three in one day. I try my best to do one a day though. I think it’s important to try keep doing one a day (it’s called the 100 Day Project, after all).
Describe your process once you know what your post will be for the day.
I have a ton of awesome blank notebooks. They’re so nice that I never use them because I don’t want to mess them up. There’s something scary about committing ink to a beautiful journal knowing that you can’t delete it. You could rip it out, but then you mess up the book. Anyway, I decided that this project would be a perfect time to stop collecting notebooks and to start using them. I typically start out by doing some rough sketching of the words and illustration ideas to accompany it. Once I have an idea of how I want it to lay out, I’ll use a micron pen and just free-sketch/letter. Sometimes I’ll do a tighter pencil sketch of the illustration and then go over it in ink and then erase the pencil. But most of the time I just wing it. I could spend hours trying to draw perfectly, so I try to not pay too much attention to making things perfect. Once I’ve inked my words and illustration, I’ll use an app called ScannerPro on my iPhone and take a picture of it. Then I AirDrop it to my Mac and open it up in Photoshop. Depending on the day and how much I’m procrastinating doing something else, I might take extra time to kern the letters, erase some smudge marks, etc. After I’ve set the type and illustration, I use a set of watercolor brushes to enhance my illustration. Then I save a JPG, send it back to my iPhone and upload it to Instagram.
Before #the100DayProject, your Instagram account consisted of circular shapes found in everyday life. What things are you learning from your current project compared to your circle study?
The biggest difference between my circle project and my #100DaysOfBeingNice project is that with the latter I have to upload something every single day. As I mentioned earlier, there have been periods of time when I’ve been behind and missed a couple of days. But the goal of the project is to make a habit of your project and try to do it every day. My circle project didn’t really have any definable rules other than documenting circles. This current project is a lot tougher but also more rewarding than my circles project. It’s tough because it’s time consuming. Sometimes a post will take me 30 minutes, sometimes 2 hours. It’s also tough because I’m a perfectionist and it’s hard to put work out there that you know isn’t perfect. But I think that’s one of the biggest take-aways I’ve learnt so far—that it’s better sometimes to just get it done rather than spend hours and hours trying to perfect it. Spending hours on this isn’t maintainable for 100 days. Or at least it isn’t with my schedule 🙂 On the flip side of being tough, this project has already made me feel a little more comfortable with lettering and illustration. It’s less scary and daunting to attempt than before I started this project. There have been a few days when I have spent a bit more time on a piece and I’ve been quite proud of it. Those days (and sometimes it’s only for that day) I feel creatively satisfied. Maybe I was stuck doing invoicing all day, or reconciling my accounts, or something uninspiring. But when I’ve completed a piece and I’m proud of it, all those sucky things that I’m working on don’t seem quite as sucky. It’s like I have one thing I can be proud that I worked on for that day.
The other thing I’ve learnt is that sometimes it’s hard for me to be nice! I joke with my husband that perhaps my next project should be #100DaysOfBeingNasty. It’s easier sometimes to be nasty than nice. Nice takes effort. It takes work. It would be so much easier to flip off that person that just cut you off on the freeway rather than take a deep breath and smile. But I honestly believe that if everyone could be just a little bit nicer then slowly the world might turn into a better place.
I have too many favorites in #100DaysOfBeingNice. I keep going back to Day 16 because as a Disney park lover, that kind of freebie is a major score. I also love Day 32 because as a mom with an incredibly rambunctious almost 2-year-old, my hands are constantly full. Are there any interesting stories that go along with your posts?
I think the biggest thing that I’ve noticed is how taken back people are when you are nice to them. I’m not talking so much about people that you know; it’s the strangers and their reactions that I think have made the more interesting stories. Here are a couple of stories that I’ll share:
DAY 31: One of my husband’s coworkers (who I don’t know very well) was turning a year older. He wasn’t doing anything for his birthday which I thought was both shocking and a crime. So I told my husband to invite him over (along with another coworker) and play video games, drink, and just be guys. I baked a surprise funfetti birthday cake for him and wrote his name on it. Towards the end of the evening I switched off all the lights and lit the candles on the cake and we all sang for him. He was SO taken back by it! He kept saying, “OMG, this is SO cool!” It’s like he’d never had his own cake before. I could tell it made his day and it made my heart explode with happiness that he was so happy. 🙂
DAY 13: My husband and I go to our local pancake place a couple of times a month, and whenever we do there’s this kid who busts his butt cleaning up messy tables for the next customers. I’m guessing he’s probably like 14 or 15, scrawny, and wears an enormous pair of glasses. You can’t help but watch him as he works. It’s like he’s trying to break a record for cleaning up a table in the least amount of time. I felt a little bad for him because he works so hard, yet he doesn’t get tips because he’s not a server. One day after breakfast I decided to go over to him and let him know how awesome I think he is and that I thought he deserved a tip. So I left him with a $5 bill and a happy smile on his face. Totally made my day!
You consider yourself a creative problem solver, rather than designer. Do you have any creative routines or patterns to get the problem solving juices flowing?
Ha, I do! I wrote two books specifically to get the creative problem-solving juices flowing (Caffeine for the Creative Mind and Caffeine for the Creative Team). Creative exercises are a great way to stretch the creative muscles and get your brain fueled and ready to tackle upcoming design challenges. I also personally find running and hiking to be very helpful. Sometimes when you’re in a rut the best thing you can do is to step away from the problem and let it percolate for a bit. Of course, this means that you can’t wait until the last minute to work on something. I used to procrastinate working on a lot of my projects, but now I start them as soon as I can just so that I can do the initial research and then let my brain sit on it for a while.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
“Not everything that you design is going to be the best piece of art ever. It’s OK sometimes to do as best of a job that you can and then let it go and have it be what it is.”—Stefan Mumaw. I wrote about this in one of my blog posts here (#7).
5-word review of the last movie you saw.
Intriguing nail-biting plot twister. [Movie: “Before I Go To Sleep”]
If you could eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Sushi! I would have salmon sashimi, green tea and some kind of salmon roll for breakfast every morning if I could.
Do you have any recommendations for others to follow on Instagram for #the100DayProject or otherwise?
I do! Here are some of my #the100DayProject favorites:
#100DaysOfLefthandedSketches by superleftee
#100DaysOfThingsWithFaces by hellopandreaa
#100DaysOfTinyThings by dcossyle (MY FAVORITE!)
#100DaysOfThanksgiving by sherrinchan
#100DaysOfLittleDudes by mochichito
#100DaysOfCocktails by aeon.sabrina (although it looks like her last post was Day 17)
#sadanimalfacts by sadanimalfacts (MY SECOND FAVORITE!)