Inspiration: Carson Ellis & her studio

More on art studios! The amazing Carson Ellis (illustrator for The Decemberists & wife of lead singer Colin Meloy). Not only do I love her work, but her space is so bright and inspiring. For more on Caron’s studio: click the photo above. For more on other Portland artist work spaces:

photography © Carlie Armstrong, source:

Inspiration Photos: Home Office

Being down with bronchitis for weeks, I have been spending an extraordinary amount of time at home. It has given me an urge to rearrange the furniture again, as my home office/studio have been moved 2 times already (see here & here). I also eat up the Apartment Therapy blog with a spoon and spend my downtime flipping through home decor magazines and dreaming up color combinations. We have the luxury in our Brooklyn apartment to have a dining room, which I realize is just dead space since it’s hardly ever used. Time to reinvent the studio and carve out more art space! I can’t wait to get better soon so that I can dig right into this. Here are some inspiration photos (not mine) that I pulled off the web a while back. Enjoy!

© copyright note: these are not my photographs & taken from the web for inspiration. I do not have the original sources (except for the last photo on Grain Edit of Wayne Pate’s studio), but promise for better citation moving forward. In the meantime, please contact me to credit your photo. Thanks!

Inside the Portrait Studio: Amber, Artsparrow & the Anxious Art Process

I have been sick for 2 weeks now, and even though the worst of it is over, I still have not fully recovered. In that stretch of time being feverish & bedridden I watched an enormous amount of NetFlix & Hulu Plus. This gave me a chance to catch-up on NBC’s dramedy Parenthood, my latest guilty pleasure. The two characters that keep me captivated are Sarah (Lauren Graham) & Amber Holt (played by the amazing Mae Whitman), and while I love all the characters (a shout-out to other dynamic mother-daughter duo Christina & Haddie Braverman), I hold a special place for Amber. I really identify with her, everything from her rebellious streak to her artistic sensitivity and teenage maturity. In Season 3, she cut & dyed her hair (causing mainstream America to have a Felicity-type reaction), but I think her new hairdo is kick-ass and brave just like her. Mae Whitman does an amazing job of capturing the many emotional dimensions of this character, and I can only hope that TV-land will have more teenagers like her in the future. For now though, I wanted to kick-start my own new series Inside the Portrait Studio with a portrait of Amber Holt…which simultaneously kick-started the creative anxiety I’ve been carrying around with me.

I have no problem working on illustrations for clients, no matter how high-profile the job, but when it comes to sitting myself down to work on art purely for myself, the anxious frustration roars like a lion. I spent two full days drawing & painting (then re-drawing & re-painting) different portraits until I was at least semi-pleased. I tried so many approaches with Amber and ended up feeling the most happy with the pen & ink (first illustration above), even though I had originally wanted a more painterly portrait.

Somewhere in the middle of trying to capture the awesomeness of Amber, I decided to take a break and dug into my inspirations folder for someone I had less attachment to. I thought this might ease the frustration and help quicken the process. Not the case.

Although this time I was not seeking to copy her face, I still struggled with how I wanted the final product to look. I repainted her face so many times that by the end of it I was most happy with 80% of the paint scraped off of her, leaving a more soft & subtle feel than I had originally started with. Now she reminds me a bit of Lizzie Caplan from Party Down. Too much TV? Maybe. But at least being sick ignited some artistic inspiration.

The truth is, I spend so much of my creative time catering to others, be it illustration, graphic design or pre-press production, that two days working through my own art hardly seems like a great defeat. I need to be less hard on myself and give more room for art-play. How good can we be to our clients if we don’t spend some personal time growing & exploring?

So I’m off to read a book that I ordered awhile ago and has been collecting quite a bit of metaphoric dust: Mastering Creative Anxiety (Eric Maisel, PhD). “This ‘creative anxiety’ can take the form of avoiding the work, declaring it not good enough, or failing to market it — and it can cripple creators for decades, even lifetimes. But Maisel has learned what sets successful creators apart. He shares these strategies here, including artist-specific stress management; how to work despite bruised egos, day jobs, and other inevitable frustrations; and what not to do to deal with anxiety. Implementing these 24 lessons replaces the pain of not creating with the profound rewards of free artistic self-expression.” -Amazon

photography & illustrations © 2012 artsparrow (Andrea Sparacio), except for Mastering Creative Anxiety book covers (© 2011 New World Library)

Happy New Year!

I joined The Sketchbook Project for 2012. The deadline is January 31, the paper is higher quality, and the pages are fewer (an actual time-saver!) I chose the theme “I Remember You.”

Speaking of sketching, I was an Assistant Stylist for a Corbis photo shoot back in October, and the head Stylist Christina Ruiz sent me this lovely pencil holder along with art supplies in gratitude for helping her out with the shoot and other art projects. Thanks so much, Christina! I feel like this bold type is just the kick in the butt I needed. (What it’s really saying is sketch, DAMMIT!!!)

Am I the only one who finds the paint scraps a work of art themselves? They create this lovely unexpected pattern while you are not thinking about filling in the lines, just color testing, and lost in the right part of your brain. They are so darn pretty. Come share your creative messes too! I would love to see others.

I can’t post it in full just yet, but the next Sewing Therapy illustration (above) for Vogue Pattern Magazine is my favorite one to date. I am totally ecstatic over how this one turned out and can’t wait to do some more just like it. Illustrating a column makes me feel a little like an art-version of Carrie Bradshaw. Maybe I should start buying nicer shoes.

A new year means a new planner, and I have a secret that I’ve been keeping for a long time now: I am a total planner dork. Yes, I still use paper even though I have a smartphone, and I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t professionally surveyed once inside of Staples when I was caught perusing the paper planners in this digital age. But I just love them oh-so-much. I like the feeling of pen to paper, crossing things out, mindlessly doodling, and having ample room to not be rigid inside of something already seemingly rigid (like a schedule). I thought I had seem them all, but when I found the Leuchtturm1917 on the blog of a fellow planner enthusiast (a politer way of saying dork), I was on a quest to find the USA version of these amazingly designed German notebooks (check our Laurie’s Leuchtturm blog post here). Luckily, Amazon also has 2012 in stock and they offer free shipping…weeeee! (I know, I know, total dork out).

Lastly, I am most excited about some new projects that I’m working on this year! One is wrapping up an animated open for a new DIY show on MTV, another is an upcoming gig with HGTV. Maybe 2012 is the year I return to my television roots? My friend Keith did lovingly refer to 2012 as “The Year of the Sparrow” so we shall see how it all unfolds. Happy New Year to Everyone & May All Your 2012 Wishes Come True! xo, Andrea (artsparrow)

photography & sketches © 2012 artsparrow (Andrea Sparacio), except for Leuchtturm1917 notebooks; my sewing illustration was photographed © 2011 Amy Sly

For the Love of Red & Blue

I just saw this great post from Grace Bonney on Design*Sponge: Current Obsessions: Navy Blue and Red. It reminded me of my own post a while ago (from my old blog foodsparrow) and it was one of my very favorite posts!

Here is the old post (2010); it’s spirit reincarnated:

I saw this awesome jacket in The Look Book style section of New York Magazine (2/7/10). There was no mention of her jacket in the interview or footnotes, and even after some Googling around the web I still couldn’t find it. Some time later, I hit the vintage shops with a subconscious lust for red & blue:

Scarf from Odd Twin $22; skirt from Beacon’s Closet $11.95; striped shirt from a neighborhood stoop sale in Brooklyn $3.

While not finding the exact jacket, I found my craving satiated by these other red & blue accessories. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes…

Design*Sponge (2012):

photography: photo 1 © 2010 New York Magazine, photo 2 © 2010 artsparrow (Andrea Sparacio), photo 3 © 2012 Design*Sponge

Bird heads on dresses and white feather sashes

…these are a few of my favorite things! I received several messages from friends to get to Bergdorf Goodman right away to see the Holiday Windows. Those who know me know how much I love animal art & often put animal heads on human bodies any chance I get (like the illustration from my business cards below). Bergdorf’s windows this year are a fantastic animal-head wonderland!! I’m so glad I caught them while they were still up, even if I had to fight the massive day-after-Christmas crowd to grab a few snapshots. I also can’t believe how similar my own artwork from last year is to the bird window!!!

For another winter treat, here are Fleet Foxes: White Winter Hymnal. xo, Happy Holidays.

Listen here: Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal

For more Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Window photos, see “Carnival of the Animals” on their website here & here!

photography & bird head illustrations © 2011 artsparrow (Andrea Sparacio)

Dear Santa

By the time the holidays roll around, I usually don’t know what material possessions to ask for. There are so many things I want and yet most of them seem intangible things I must do for myself. For starters, I need the gift of time! Endless hours getting lost in making art, making messes, being creative, learning programs and new techniques. Can busy New Yorkers ask for more time? We don’t play enough and over-schedule every inch of our lives. Other materials I want are usually for my art career (I know, I’m obsessed) and things I will never ask of others because they’re for my own business. I did create this style board of office supplies I plan on purchasing over the next year (although the wolf pillow is just a reminder to make more animal-themed crafts.) Have a Creative & Happy Holiday! xo Andrea.

mail & paper sorter cube, faux-leather camera bag, studio designs oak wing table, Nikon lenses, Ross Menuez pillows, Crate & Barrel industrial stool, Print Workshop by Christine Schmidt, Blitz Translucent Drawing Board

photos & style boards © 2011 artsparrow (Andrea Sparacio)

New Illustration: Vogue Pattern Magazine!

This time last year I began illustrating a bi-monthly column for Vogue Pattern Magazine called Sewing Therapy. The new Dec/Jan 2012 issue’s Sewing Therapy tagline is: “Do you suffer from Delusional Holiday Gift Sewing?” along with my full-page illustrated spread. Check it out on newsstands now! And just in time for the holidays. ♡magazine layouts © 2011 Vogue Patterns Magazine; illustrations © 2011 artsparrow (Andrea Sparacio)

New Comic: What Is Romance?

This past Summer I was asked by the awesome editors at Slice Magazine to participate in a comic swap with Grayhaven Comics (see previous comic teaser here). My 4-page contribution is finally out for purchase in their “Love Letters” anthology. It was an awesome challenge for me to tackle the issue’s theme: Romance! You’re surely in for a treat.

Order your copy today; $3.75 at ComiXpress!

Comic pages © 2011 artsparrow (Andrea Sparacio), The Gathering (love letters cover) © 2011 Grayhaven Comics

Where I’ve Been

I would never be so ungrateful in this economy as to complain about having too much work to do, but I can at least say this: I miss blogging! It’s been a few weeks now and so much has happened: T & I got married at NY City Hall, we spent some time in New Orleans, had a vegan Thanksgiving with total strangers, took a lot of art & food photography, a few more of my illustrations have been published, and I’ve got some cool new design projects on the burner. I am also buried under piles of work, wrapping up the SVA Typography class, and spend most of my days in front of the computer with a cat who steals drinks from my water glass and spreads across my Wacom tablet only when under deadline. Things could be a lot worse, I know it, but it’s time to play catch-up. I will be back shortly with drawings, photos, animations, designs, and my first musical instrument since childhood (hint: it’s weird & awesome).