My First Handlettering Experience – Simple Thanksgiving Illustration



Inspired by a class on Skillshare, I did my first hand lettering project last week. It was a fun learning experience.

Here’s the process in pictures.

  1.  I started off hand lettering in pencil on tracing paper. After reworking & polishing the letters many times, I then finalized it with ink. Next, I scanned the sheet into PhotoShop and cleaned it a bit.
    My First Handlettering Experience - Thanksgiving IllustrationMy First Handlettering Experience - Thanksgiving Illustration
  2. I also sketched few fall-theme elements, with pencil/ink, which were then scanned into PS as well.
    My First Handlettering Experience - Thanksgiving IllustrationMy First Handlettering Experience - Thanksgiving Illustration
  3. The fun part was putting it all together, starting with selecting the color scheme, then creating a design using the various elements I’ve drawn earlier.
    My First Handlettering Experience - Thanksgiving IllustrationMy First Handlettering Experience - Thanksgiving Illustration
  4. After finishing, I’ve uploaded the design to Society6 to test how it looks on different products. The following two are my favorite.
    My First Handlettering Experience - Thanksgiving IllustrationMy First Handlettering Experience - Thanksgiving Illustration

It’s no Da Vinci but not bad for a beginner either. What do you think?

Finding Grace in Every Day #16

Finding Grace in Every Day - Joanna Ciolek

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I’ve been reflecting on my gratitude challenge and how it facilitated a positive change in me. It’s been three years in the making.

The one thing I’m grateful for the most was making that first step, saying “enough”, taking ownership of my own feelings, actions, and emotions. That commitment to making a change has ignited my personal transformation that I’m still working through.

Finding Grace in Every Day #16

Today I am thankful for:

  • mornings spent doodling and painting in my art studio – it’s now my favorite place to be
  • cozy bed blankets I can bury myself under on these cold nights lately
  • sharing delicious grapes from the garden with neighbors & friends before the first frost hit us last week
  • buying new art supplies, which make up half of my Amazon wish list (obviously)
  • Sia’s new album – she’s talented & authentic, and the lyrics are like a healing balm for my soul
  • playing ping-pong for the first time in 20 years and still kicking ass
  • my memory foam pillow – one of the best things I got myself this year
  • Jack cooking his signature dish on Sundays
  • My brother & sister in law buying their first house!!!

What are you thankful for?

Daily Drawing Practice: July/August Round Up


It’s November, folks. Which is completely crazy because my knee scar from our last camping trip (in August!!!) hasn’t healed still. Also, I haven’t posted any summer drawings (however few) here on the blog either, and I hate procrastination. So here it goes…

Daily Drawing Practice: July/August Round Up

My focus on fun and family in the summer months meant getting little to no work done, which also meant little time for creativity. Here’s a short gallery of my not-so-daily ink pen drawings from the summer.

Daily Drawing Practice: July/August Round Up

Daily Drawing Practice: July/August Round Up

Daily Drawing Practice: July/August Round Up

Daily Drawing Practice: July/August Round Up

Daily Drawing Practice: July/August Round Up

Do you keep a drawing book, sketchbook or an art journal?

Please share a link to your art – I’m curious about your adventures in art and creativity.

25 Random Things About Me

Just Be Yourself - Joanna Ciolek

25 Random Things About Me

  1. I am an old soul
  2. I love my children to no end, and am fascinated by everything they do
  3. My home is my sanctuary
  4. I love my garden & being surrounded by nature
  5. Drawing is how I meditate
  6. Dancing is how I connect with my body and soul
  7. I’m addicted to sushi & coffee ice cream
  8. I love reading and writing
  9. I’m constantly fascinated by new things & have a huge passion for learning
  10. I love traveling and wish I could do more of it
  11. I switch between wine and beer, depending on the season
  12. Reading in the bathtub is how I recharge
  13. I’m determined to live a simple life in harmony with nature & others
  14. I am learning to love myself just the way I am
  15. My husband is my best friend
  16. I wish I followed my intuition to go to art school
  17. I am determined to become a successful artist, with or without an art degree
  18. I don’t like exercising but I love being active
  19. I don’t believe in diets
  20. I absolutely love mountains & hiking is one of my favorite things to do
  21. I want to live in Europe one day, in some quiet little town with nice weather and friendly people
  22. Being laid off 5 years ago was the best thing that happened to me professionally
  23. I love freelancing and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to working for others
  24. I’ll choose an indie film over a big box movie every time
  25. I hope for a peaceful future, when people are more kind & compassionate

Letting Go, Letting In

Letting Go, Letting In- Joanna Ciolek

Inspired by Kerstin, and fueled by lots of transformative changes I made recently, I’ve come up with a list of things I’m letting go and things I’m letting into my life right now.

I’m letting go of…

  • Caring what others think of me. Spending time wandering what others think of me is a waste of my energy. I can’t and don’t even want to please everyone. I can only be me (however quirky, different, imperfect, or unconventional) and those who will accept me for who I am are those who I want in my life. Others have their own lives to live, whatever form that might take. As long as no one is getting hurt, we should be free to live our lives our way. And that leads me to letting go of…
  • Criticism & judging, be it directed at my self or others. No one judges us as harshly (and closely) as we judge ourselves – and by doing that we kill our spirit, self-esteem, and defeat ourselves before we have a chance to give it our best. I’m learning to quiet that voice inside me that thinks I can only grow through criticism & pushing myself beyond what feels right. That voice has been in control for far too long. It’s time to take over and show it there’s a more loving and peaceful way to motivate ourselves and others to do and be better.
  • Worrying about the future. As a parent, this seems impossible but I figured worrying brings nothing good & is just another energy suck I don’t need. I’m learning to trust that my path is there for me to uncover and that there’s an order in the disorder. I truly believe that we’re only given what we can handle and the human potential for handling adversity is vast.
  • Trying to control everything and everyone as if I’m personally responsible for it all. There’s only so much we can control and be truly responsible for – mainly our thoughts and actions. We can influence but not be responsible for our kids, our partners, our parents, and so on. We can only change ourselves, be it through taking control over our thoughts, adjusting our attitude or taking a specific action. Embracing the new and learning to accept change is the only way we can find peace in this crazy world. There’s too much uncertainly and nothing is ever permanent. Resisting or avoiding change will only lead to pain. Being open & flexible is the only way we can stay sane.
  • Doing everything for everyone. We’ve been overcommitting ourselves to please others but it’s time to learn to say “no”, without the guilt.

I’m letting in…

  • Making art every day. There’s something magical about just sitting down and creating things with our own hands out of our own imagination that is both restorative and empowering. We’ve squandered creativity for far too long, being all grown up and responsible. I’m taking my time to remember how to play too, and it’s both therapeutic and inspiring.
  • Taking care of myself for a change. Women, especially, are taught to take care of others first, and that often comes at our own expense. We put our needs, and subsequently lives, on hold. It hit me like a brick that I’ve been putting myself last for most of my life. These days, I’m doing better at remembering that we don’t live through our children, our families, our careers. These day, I’m stopping to think, “What will make me feel happy right now?”, and doing just that, to an extent it’s possible. It doesn’t have to be grant either. Smallest things like taking a long restorative bath send a signal – to ourselves and those around us – that our needs matter too. Along the same lines, I try to eat healthier, sleep more, and stay physically active. I also love listening to guided meditations or inspirational talks.
  • Writing, which is something I love but never really paid attention to do. I’ve been blogging for few years now but it’s not the same as expressive writing with pen & paper. So, I started journaling this year. Now I have few journals: one for my artistic inspiration/notes/ideas, one for processing my feelings & thoughts, one for my gratitude list that I do at bedtime. Writing transforms – it’s good for your body and mind. I’ve noticed, I’m more calm, balanced & grounded when I write. Journaling helps me release stress, process and “throw away” negativity, and clear my mind. It’s both cleansing & restorative

Happiness is a choice we make every day by letting love-based things in and fear-based things go (tweet this). Unfortunately, we tend to look for happiness in the external world full of “shoulds” and “not enoughs”. Yet, our attention needs to focus within. I’m learning to listen in, let go of what doesn’t serve me and focus my energy on creating a simpler, more balanced life that’s right for me.

Do you have a “Letting Go, Letting In” list?

My Very First Art Studio Is Born


Inspired by Austin Kleon (read his Steal Like An Artist last night), I setup an analog desk in the loft today. And it feels awesome!

Having my own art studio has always been a dream of mine but up until now I didn’t even have any space dedicated to art & creativity. My office, where I currently do all my freelance work, is surrounded by everything digital: computers, printer, phones, etc. And being plugged into the internet 24-7 doesn’t necessarily induce creative thinking either. That’s why I was immediately drawn in the book to the idea of having a separate workspace for art and just messing around, and I was determined to finally make that happen for me.

So this morning, I decided to setup a desk with some basics like pens and a notebook. First, I dragged a sturdy table we use for birthday parties to the loft and set it up with the essentials. Before I realized though, I began hauling all the art supplies that I gathered over the years upstairs too. Soon I was bringing my pads and journals, pens, markers and paints, all my scrapbooking stuff… (I must have burned 500 calories climbing stairs today), even some inspiration books I got from the library recently.

And that’s how my first ever art studio was born. Just like that. Without a plan or intention really.

My Very First Art Studio Is Born

The Art Studio Is Born The Art Studio Is Born

The Art Studio Is Born The Art Studio Is Born

I have everything I need here. Big desk, all my art supplies, music (hello vinyl and CD collection.. long time), books, a couch!!! I even spread an extra rug under the feet of the desk my guy brought the other day from a friend. We didn’t have a good place for it and were about to donate it away. Then boom, two days later I found a perfect job for it–keeping my footsies warm. Serendipity.

Go After Your Dreams – It’s The Only Way

I still can’t believe this just happened. How did I not see this possibility before? Why didn’t I listen to the voice inside that asked for this for as long as I remember?

Why do we put our dreams on hold? Why do we put ourselves last on our to-do list?

We’re so preoccupied with the everyday, with our jobs, kids, responsibilities. We put our passions and dreams on hold because there’s just so much to do in real life.

But I’m slowly reclaiming who I am, step by step I’m putting myself first too. I’m going after what I’m passionate about, in little increments, whenever I can. Because even if I can work in my studio for half an hour each day, that will make a whole lot of a difference over a lifetime. Wouldn’t you agree?

I am an artist inside. I need to make, discover, express myself creatively. I think we all do. This studio is yet another step towards building the life I want to have. It’s not perfect, but it’s perfect for me right now.

What are you doing to make your dream a reality?

PS. Did I mention I did a celebratory dance? It was rather wild but felt so freaking good. We all need to celebrate ourselves and our victories regularly.