mood board / 01

I love a great long-winded post as much as the next girl, but I’m letting you guys off the hook today! Instead I wanted to share some fun design eye candy.

There’s been one project that’s been taking up the majority of my design time lately, and I’m super excited about it! It includes brand identity, packaging design, print design, event design… the works! While I keep my head down trying to make my deadlines, I thought I’d just share a little peek of the project mood board for fun. (I don’t know… I’ve seen designers do it on their blogs and I always find it interesting so… I’m just kinda wingin’ the whole “integrating design work into the blog” thing. Feel free to leave something like “I don’t care for this type of post” in the comments. Although I doubt any of you will do that because you guys are all polite peaches, right? Right.)

To give you a bit of background, the tone words I was working from were: Vibrant. Friendly. Polished. Down-to-Earth.

I’ll be sure to share the project when it’s complete! Happy Thursday!

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A big thank you to Betty Red Design for providing a free mood board template download! I tweaked it just a bit but it saved me a ton of time! If you don’t follow her work yet, check her out now – she’s the jam!

6 tips for doing that thing you’ve always wanted to do

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See that fun little image above? Well, I made that! Just now! It’s digital art and it’s all mine. Believe me, I’m not saying that to T my own H (toot my own horn, for those of you that don’t speak Carol-ese) but I mention it because it represents something very important that I’d like to share with you for the purpose of this post.

Just two short months ago, I had no freaking clue how to make something like that. I didn’t know how to vectorize drawings or download Photoshop brushes or create my own lettering style. Creating art just like that was something I had always wanted to do, but for a whole slew of reasons I had never just sat down and learned. The list of things I’ve been “meaning” to do has piled up over the years, and, until recently, I was only creating a pale shadow’s worth of the great plans I had accumulated in my head.

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you are what you decide to be

A few months ago I took a trip to Fargo, ND, to meet up with a group of friends and strangers, of artists and troublemakers, and to listen to the experiences of some pretty inspiring people. It was a deliberately small event called Misfit Conf, and the idea was to unite a diverse group of people under one purpose – living a life of intention and purpose. While I was there, more than a few profound things happened to me, but ironically it was one small question that seems to have had the most lasting impact.

It was our first day in Fargo, and I found myself sitting a few rows back from the “stage” – a solid black platform that rose a foot off the ground with a beautifully ornate rug resting on top. It had been a morning full of fantastic speakers, and I was gathering my thoughts while most of the other attendees were mingling in the front room, refilling their water jars and coffee mugs. I sat cross-legged on a refurbished church pew, balancing my small notebook on my leg and retracing some of the notes I had taken. As I always do with a fresh notebook in hand, when the conference began, I felt compelled to make my notes “pretty” and so I had some doodles and font treatments haphazardly but deliberately drawn on my open page. A woman passing by must have taken a glance down at my notebook because she looked at me, and with wide eyes she said, “Oh, are you an artist?”

Am I an artist? 

Guys, it sounds so stupid, I know, but I swear it was like the question came out in slow motion. Something in my head wouldn’t allow me to say yes. If I said yes, it felt as though I was somehow declaring to the world Look at me! Look at me! I have talent! It felt arrogant, which made me really uncomfortable, but beyond that, it felt like I was a fake.

I guess I just have this perception that to be considered “an artist,” you have to have some sort of formal training. My formal training? Well, aside from a semester in 8th grade and a Friday morning sketchbook class in college (with spotty attendance nonetheless), I’ve never taken any real art classes. I certainly don’t have a degree in fine arts. In fact, while majoring in advertising, I was discouraged by an advisor to pursue a career as an art director because I had ZERO design skills at the time. Every single thing I know about figure drawing or Photoshop or basic design principles I’ve learned by simply doing. By doodling. By playing with markers. By volunteering to paint giant banners that hung outside my college sorority house. By designing business cards for friends when I didn’t know how. By taking things that I find beautiful and trying to recreate them in my own way.

So what did I say to the woman? Funny enough, I can’t remember my reply exactly, but I’m sure it was some self-deprecating remark about how I was ‘just messing around.’ What I do remember exactly was the sinking feeling that was in my stomach after she politely complimented my work and walked away. It was a mixture of pride and guilt and frustration at myself for not simply being able to say Yes, I am an artist and thank you in response to her acknowledgement.

I’ve had months to think about that exchange. What I’ve determined is that there is no universal measure of what an artist is. Or a writer, or a designer, or so on. To be an artist is simply to create art. To be a writer is to write. To be a designer is to design. I’ve been furiously creating art since I could pick up a crayon. I’ve been writing since I could put words into sentences. I’ve been designing things since I graduated college and taught myself Photoshop in defiance of that college advisor that told me what I could and couldn’t be.

And last Tuesday, three days before my 25th birthday, I finally launched my portfolio website, announcing to the world that I am a designer and an artist. Because I am, in fact, those things. And even if it feels a little self-aggrandizing sometimes, I will continue to try and hush the voices in my head that say You’re not good enough… you couldn’t possibly… and replace them with the voices of friends and family that insist you are good enough… you can possibly. 

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The truth is, we are exactly who we decide to be. If we can push past our fear of inadequacy and acknowledge our gifts and our passions, that’s when we can really start doing what makes us happy. Making art makes me unbelievably happy and for 25 years I considered it just a hobby. As of last week, I’m now open for business.

If you have the time, I’d love for you to stop by carolinekelsodesign.com and let me know what you think. Since the launch I’ve been asked to take on projects that I never dreamed I could be a part of. All because someone saw my work and believed in my talent, but more so because I was able to bravely raise my hand and say this is who I am. Despite my best efforts, I still can’t shake that feeling that says you’re not what you think you are, but the constant support from friends, family, and readers like you is helping me to move past that.

If there’s something that you feel you have a talent for but have been too afraid to share it with the world, I hope today is the day you decide to be that. Because truthfully, you already are. Thanks for reading!