August 12, 2015

Running a business is hard. Probably the hardest thing one can ever do.

To all my friends and family: I'm sorry for my inability to text or call anyone back, to freely hang out on weekends or grab lunch, happy hour or even dinner most nights during the week.  I realize this is frustrating, but please understand... I am in the first couple years of one of the hardest things a person can do: grow and run their own business.

For me, there is no other option, no plan B, no second best idea for what I am here to do.  If I am lucky to live 80 years on this planet, I'm going to make sure I'm doing what I love every day. I am energized by taking an idea and turn it into something.  I'm an artist, but that doesn't automatically mean I have a business.  Creating every single day is the fun part, but to actually generate a living for myself (and eventually others) is the tough part that takes sacrifice.  I've learned that most entrepreneurs have one thing in common: they're a little crazy and completely consumed with making their idea happen.

And this is why I don't have time for Happy Hours.  

I'm very excited about the future of my creative business.  I am constantly thinking of how my work can bring happiness to the lives of others.   My signature paintings, the highly personalized Vive Collages, give me just as much pleasure to make as the new owners  get when they see it for the first time.  They are getting more than just art- they are reliving their memories while getting an experience they'll remember every time they see the painting.  My jewelry line is also taking shape in the same personalized manner.  Each piece has a story- carefully crafted to remind us of who we are. I'm very excited to share my new jewelry collection on my website in the next couple weeks. I just wrapped up my first official photo shoot yesterday with the help of the very talented photographer William Clark.

I truly love every element of growing and expanding a business.  Nothing excites me more than the possibilities that come with taking a little brand and turning it into something big.  I love bringing happiness to others with something I can create.  My journey as an artist is far bigger than just me, so I am always thinking of ways to help support other creative people along the way as well.  More to come... stay tuned.

To see a sneak peak of my latest jewelry, follow me on Instagram.

New necklaces!  Each brings us back down to earth with pendants made of arrowheads, Lake Superior agate, deer antler points and quartz wrapped in beaded wire.

Bone and metal three layered wrap bracelet. 

Wrap bracelet gives the look of three bracelets, but is one long strand with magnetic closure.  Easy.
My studio supervisor on duty.

July 10, 2015

Phone & Device rules for anyone who wants their life back!

"Nooooo!  Aaaaaah!  Can't you see I'm busy right now?"

I can still here my dad saying that every time the house phone rang when I was a little girl.  It was so funny to me, because every time the phone rang, my dad would be in the middle of doing something.  After it rang three times, my Mom would yell from some part of the house "aren't you going to get that?"  When it rang the fourth and final time and no one answered, my mom would come running as fast as possible in to answer the phone hoping she did not miss whoever it was. She would miss it by a second and hope whoever it was would call right back.

Our attitudes towards our phones have really changed.  At least mine have!  For my mom’s generation, phone calls were an exciting thing.  A person could suddenly pick up this phone thing and remarkably communicate without being in the same room!  Her generation liked to be near  the phone (attached to a wall) because if someone called, there was a moment of anticipation in not knowing who might be on the other line.  It could be a family member.  A friend.  The neighbor.  Telemarketers.  It was a surprise every time!  Conversations about anything and nothing could last for hours.  Yay!  Phone calls!

Fast forward to 2015, phone calls are annoying. Our phone devices are attached to our bodies all day every day during everything we do, so we can possibly answer every phone call that comes in.  We screen our calls.  If I don’t recognize the number, I am not picking it up.  Not a chance.  I am always busy doing something and whoever is calling me out of the blue is rude for thinking whatever they have to say so important.  Do I really need to stop whatever I am doing to have a conversation?  Unless it's an emergency or I am expecting Bite Squad to bring my coconut curry, no way.  Phone calls are always convenient for the person calling, but never a good time for the receiver. 

I have an important rule.  I control my iPhone.  I don’t let it control me.  I don’t feel bad about it either.  Since my phone knows no boundaries with when it beeps, chimes, buzzes or dings, it makes me wonder why anyone would tolerate such rude, disruptive behavior and how we’ve come to think it’s normal.

Obviously if you need to talk about something that requires focused back and fourth conversation that text or email can't handle, this is going to take some time for both people.  Therefore, for a call to be successful, it should be scheduled.  Yes.  Like a meeting. Unless your job is to answer phone calls all day, no one should be expected be available to talk anytime of the day.  

Our phones aren't really phones anymore. Sure, calling people is a thing the device does, but delivering a barrage of texts, emails, tweets, Facebook messages, notifications to disrupt your focus (or power song when you're  a 3-mile run) are its primary purpose.  My phone has zero respect for me. It doesn’t care what I am in the middle of,  it always has something it feels I need to know about.  It never ends.

Here’s my easy fix. A lot of smart people already do this, but I am surprised how many people don't.  Silence it.  No vibrate.  Nothing.  Not a sound comes out of it all day.  Now, onto more important things.  Your thoughts, focus and energy no longer gets diverted to the phone every time it makes a noise!  

Because my phone is silent all the time, I make a point to check it a few times a day in case of emergencies or crisis.   I check my  phone once first thing in the morning, once around noon and once around dinner.   One exception to my rule: airports or elevators. So far, there has never been anything that important that can't wait until the next time I check my phone.  I handle emergencies, work, clients and urgent messages first, and with whatever time is left, I'll work on a few non-urgent messages. The rest of my day is spent on important things like... oh work, making art, giving my friends my undivided attention at dinner.... taking photos of my dog. :)

With the ringer "on", our devices allow for overwhelming accessibility.  They are distracting. They're annoying.  They are intrusive, rude and time consuming.  But, with the ringer "off", they are wonderful, helpful little tools that have answers to all of our questions. They hold all the messages, texts, emails and reminders in one spot for us to read when we choose.     

June 22, 2015

New photo shoots to talk about!

Happy Monday, everyone! I'm getting into my creative projects at the studio this week and looking forward to some focused work time.  But, as always, I know that could change tomorrow when I get a phone call from one of my agencies!

I've been posting a lot about my artwork lately, and have neglected to talk about where I go and what I do when I get booked on modeling jobs and leave town on short notice.   So, here's the scoop an some of the biggest clients I've enjoyed working in the last couple months.

I've absolutely loved getting into the groove with Spanx and shooting with the talented John Urbano down in Atlanta. Plus,  I'm a huge Sarah Blakely fan, (she's #17 on Forbes' list of Self-Made Women) and I enjoy getting the inside scoop on her ever-expanding business and philanthropic ventures!  When it comes to shooting of the infamous Spanx shape wear, well, let's just say none of us ladies feel the need to avoid the desserts at the end of lunch! Since photos of me wearing nothing but Spanx have been all over the internet for the last year,  I guess there's no point in hiding the photos in this blog post either. ;)  FYI- Spanx jeans and bras are worth giving a try.

Minneapolis has one big client everyone has heard of (and buys way more than intended at).  Target moved much of their big modeling work to New York over the past years, but we are slowly convincing them to bring their shoots back home!  I've shot their in-store signage several times, but this time we were testing out a new idea: Business meets pleasure: Target Style.

Vanity is a new women's fashion client for me.  A few weeks ago, I shot their fall campaign out at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Salt Lake City, Utah.   Unfortunately, I can't share much more than a few behind the scenes photos until the campaign is released this fall.  The best part of this shoot?  There was a horse!  The client did not know I grew up riding and showing horses, so I think everyone was happy I could ride her and get her to do her special tricks!  And no, the photo of her rearing is not photoshopped... I gave her the command and had about .25 seconds to put my arms down, stand still and smile!

Big thank you to my agencies Factor Women (Chicago and Atlanta) and Wehmann Models & Talent (Minneapolis).  I couldn't work like I do from Minneapolis without you! xoxo

May 7, 2015

Art 4 Shelter Benefit- Event Recap

The beautiful mini-art I scored for just $30 each at the Art4Shelter event!      Left: Pat Swanson   Right: Chillon Leach
Last night, my friend Michelle and I took part in Art4Shelter, a very well attended art sale/benefit for Simpson Housing Services.   It was probably one of the most fun and engaging art events I've been to in a long time-and for a great cause!  The (free) annual event is hosted by the Burnet Gallery at the Chambers Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.  In one hour of speedy grabbing, guests collect their favorite original artworks from walls covered with mini art, all priced at either $30 or $150.  Proceeds help to support those experiencing homelessness.  With prices so modest, there was not a single attendee who didn't walk away with art. Brilliant!

With well over 1,000 original artworks (paintings, photo prints, mixed media), there was a piece of art for everyone.  Most of the works are small- just 5"x7" and priced at $30 (these also sold the fastest, understandably).  One wall was reserved for the larger pieces- 8"x10" priced at $150.  All of the artwork is donated by artists (both emerging and established) secretly signed on the back and packaged so that only the person who buys it can reveal the artist's name.  Right at 7pm, guests were lined up eight people deep waiting in front of the the piece of art they knew they wanted.  A bell rung, and everyone started grabbing.  Madness!

My 8"x10" watercolor donations to the event this year
I  bought two beautiful pieces of art for myself (pictured above).  I like them because they're different than my own work (to the left) and I appreciate the skill involved.   Although they are made by two different artists, they look so nice together!  Most importantly, they serve as a reminder of the generosity, creativity and the good in so many people.

I would say the Art4Shelter event was a huge success for the organization, while providing guests with a fun experience and cheap original art.  And, there's a nice benefit for us artists as well- mini versions of our work goes home with art lovers and collectors.  I can't help but wonder who went home with my donations this year!  If you didn't make it this year, I highly recommend marking your calendar for next years' Art4Shelter event.

April 20, 2015

The Epic Reveal

"Something Tells Me" Vive Collage

Happy Monday everyone!  I have a little story to share with you about a recent client (turned friend) who commissioned a Vive Collage from me for his wife's 40th birthday. This is one of my favorite experiences as an artist, and a happy reminder for us all to remember how it's the little things that score biggest points with those you love.

Thoughtful Husband
I met Kris Georges because of my need for help installing my new lights.  Yes, because of lights.  He owns an electric company (Western Electric) and came highly recommended from the company down the street I bought the lights from.  The recommendation sounded far better than turning to a random Google search, but now I believe there was one other cosmic reason I was supposed to meet Kris... his wife, Michelle, had a very big and important birthday coming up, and Kris is not the kind of guy who get her a generic gift. I just so happen to specialize in giving highly personalized gifts!

I have several pieces of my art hanging at home. One of the pieces is a Vive Collage- my signature artwork that tells a true story through blending personal items such as tickets, boarding passes, postcards and wine labels with paint to serve as a visual reminder of life's defining moments.   Kris asked me about the painting on one of his visits, and as soon as he heard me describe the meaning of the painting, I could see a lightbulb go off over his head.  He knew Michelle would love one.

Tickets from K&M's first date recreated in Photoshop.
The Process
And so, Kris and I started work on a surprise Vive Collage for Michelle, with an epic "reveal" just before her birthday.  These collages take me a few months to do, mostly because of the amount of thought, detail and planning involved to tell another persons' story just right.   The first month is what I call the "intake".  I really got to know Kris, stories of his wife, the details of how they met, what is important to them, where they got married, their favorite music, his nicknames for her, even the phone number he called her on for the very first time.  Kris secretly dug through shoeboxes,  closets and the basement of their home, collecting all of the important little memories of their life together.

Some memories no longer had tangible proof.  For those, I used a little photoshop to bring them back to life.   For example, the two tickets to see "My Girl" in November of '91 were from Kris and Michelle's first date.

Once Kris found everything he could, he brought it all to me in a tin box.  Then, I got to work cutting, arranging and collaging the elements into the background of a big canvas.  As I work, I imagine the story of Kris, Michelle, their two kids, how they met, and how Michelle will react when we she sees it for the first time!  Every brush stroke is literally infused with their story which helps bring it to life.
This process took months of planning and work, and the best part is, Michelle had NO idea.

 Once the painting was finished, Kris and I planned a proper "reveal" night in my studio just before her birthday.  I am a huge believer that part of the experience in owning original artwork that should not be overlooked is how that artwork is received.  The moment of the "unveiling" will be remembered every time the new owners look at their painting!  When I (we) have put so much effort into creating such a highly personalized and special piece of art, the experience has to match.  It just has to, or I didn't do my job!

Tickets, boarding passes and love notes.
Process photo of items being collaged onto canvas.


This is my absolute favorite part.  Let me share the best "reveal" I've ever done, and why the experience is so important to me!  It's so fun to create a reaction in others that I know they can't get any other way.

Kris and his wife had a Birthday dinner at the restaurant next door to my studio.  As they pay up and are about to leave, Kris tells his wife he has one more surprise for her.  He excuses himself and texts me: "I excused myself to the restroom.  My heart is pounding out of my chest!  Michelle is so curious.  We just paid, be there in about 10 mins".

Notes to add to the fun!
Back at my studio, a bottle of Malbec (her favorite) is open.  A playlist is made, with a song meaningful to both of them timed to play at just the right moment of the "reveal". I've posted notes with arrows all over the studio building to guide them from the front entrance, up the elevator and to my studio.  Although Kris has been there before, she hasn't.  He lets her find her way.

They enter my studio.  Michelle, of course, looks extremely confused! I introduce myself, tell her I am an artist and welcome them in. I tell her that Kris had commissioned me to do a painting for her and she begins to look around my studio at the kind of work I do.  I pour the wine.  And then...

I hand her the the worlds' worst painting:  

It's small, cartoonish, awful painting that took longer to mix the colors than to actually paint.  I couldn't reveal the real thing just yet!   I tell Michelle that Kris and I worked very hard planning it, and I hoped I got her hair right.  Kris was fighting back his urge to laugh.  I think he was also fighting back tears of how sweet her response to me was, too.  Being the good-hearted Minnesotan she is, she complimented the painting and actually said she liked it!!!  

She enjoyed her little painting it for a few more moments, and then I took it from her hands and confessed the truth. "Sorry, Michelle.  I see how much you like that painting, but that is not really your gift!"  That moment, their "song" came on (Something Tells Me, by Herman's Hermits).  She knows something special is about to happen, because Kris tells me that particular song always happens to come on during big moments in their life.  A happy tear or two in her eye.  Kris hugs her.  I tell her to keep her eyes closed and no peaking until I am ready!  He has his arm around her,  she is happy, excited and I am sure nervous all at the same time. 

I turn their real painting around on my easel.  All of the work and planning in months before comes down to this moment.  Michelle will see and feel just how much her husband loves her.

"Ok!  You can look now!" I stand back and let Kris take the lead from there.

"Something Tells Me"
Finished artwork is titled after a special song to Kris and Michelle.

She turns.  She sees something that can only be felt.  I felt it.  Kris felt it.  It hits her right away that this painting is a story of them. They walk up to it, together, and Kris starts to explain the chronological order of the items collaged into the painting. She said she was so impressed that Kris remembered all of the little details of their life together, because they had special meaning to her as well. The painting was more than just art, it recognizes Michelle's efforts as a mom, a wife and the love and appreciation that Kris has for her.  It recognizes all of the little things in their life (that are actually the best things!) that shouldn't be forgotten. From the tickets, to text representing to the day they were married, to the songs that have meaning in their life, to hand-written love notes, the painting preserves their story and the things important to them.

Detail of finished artwork.
As they looked closely at the details painting and reminisced over the events of their past,  I stepped back and let them have their moment.   I was fighting back tears of happiness just watching their happiness!  It was so beautiful to see these two hold each other while remembering who they are and how far they've come.  All of the nervousness Kris had felt turned to pride.  He'd given quite the special gift to quite the special lady.  He said she held his hand on the whole drive home.

In the end, this was one of the most memorable paintings that gave me such joy to create.  The "reveal" night was certainly the most special I've ever done!

Kris and Michelle- thank you for allowing me to tell your story on canvas.  You both serve as an inspiration for the kind of unconditional love, admiration and the deeply caring thoughtfulness two people can have for one another.  I am glad to call you both friends in my life.  I hope the painting brings years of happiness to you every time you walk by it! 


If you are interested in having your own personalized Vive collage done as a gift or for yourself, shoot me an email!  I'd be happy to discuss.

To see more Vive Collages and understand how commissioned artwork pricing works, check out the Vive Collage portfolio page on my website.

March 6, 2015

Super Easy, Super Tasty, Healthy Breakfast Berries in Coconut Milk

It's not very often   I don't ever post my kitchen creations because, well, the kitchen is not exactly my strength.  I am really good at decorating cookies and cakes, but this does me no good since I can't have those types of foods around me or I'll eat every last crumb... in one night.  I find it much easier to have Bite Squad deliver food to wherever I am from my favorite healthy restaurant in Uptown, Agra Culture!

Despite my lack of kitchen creativity, I don't mess around with breakfast.  This is the area I've learned to navigate well out of pure necessity. I wake up starving most mornings, (is that weird?) and since Bite Squad doesn't deliver until 11, I need to keep a few things in the fridge for breakfast to avoid a hangry meltown.  Growing up, my parents (who just didn't know any better at the time) kept the kitchen stocked with Eggo Waffles, Toaster Strudels and Honey Bunches of Oats Cereal with 2% milk for quick breakfast staples,  Yikes!  It all tasted good, but all of these are the worst offending food items one can eat. I would be starving by 10am with blood sugar crashes. As an adult, I wouldn't dare put any of that in my body... talk about processed/gluten/carbohydrate/sugar bomb!

When I started to model- it became part of my job to educate myself on foods and proper nutrition.  I saw a nutritionist, read a zillion books and talked with experts.  Then, I tried and tested it all on myself.  While everyone's body handles different foods differently, there are two things I know to stay away from: Dairy and gluten products.  When I eat either of these two things, my skin pays for it immediately, (although I have no problem indulging if something is really worth it!). But, knocking out gluten and dairy makes most American Breakfast options very limited.  With breakfast being the most important meal of the day, what is left to eat without the cereal, toast, granola, waffles and pancakes?

Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Vegan

Time: 1 minute

You need:
1 1/2 cups Pre-washed berries of your choice (I use sliced bananas and grapes too!)
1/2 can full-fat coconut milk
1tbsp honey
1/4 cup Slivered Almonds

I love a little sweetness in my life, so my super simple breakfast satisfies my sweet tooth, while nixing all the bad processed sugars.  Since I'm always in a hurry, this takes about 60 seconds to make... and I don't have to be any sort of kitchen genius to make it.

Directions: Mix the coconut milk with the honey for a sweet, creamy yogurt-y mixture. I use canned coconut milk and a big handful of slivered almonds for a healthy dose of good fats.  It's important to use the canned full-fat coconut milk, not the boxed stuff, stirring it well because it does separate in the can. Make sure your berries are pre-washed and sliced the night before, otherwise add another couple minutes time.

*Canned coconut milk also makes for extra creamy smoothies.

March 2, 2015

Drawing Horses

Recently, I had the pleasure to meet Avery, a very talented young lady whom this blog post and how-to is dedicated to.  First, a little backstory.

A while back, Avery's dad sent me an email that touched my heart:

"I am not sure if you remember me or not, but my name is Joe Anderson and we graduated high school together in Forest Lake.  I wanted to reach out to you to thank you for all of the great artwork that you do and more specifically the drawings and paintings of horses.

... At one point she (Avery) wanted to see a painting of a horse for which I recalled that you had done some artwork on and I began to show her your drawings.  Now, whenever I put her to bed she always asks "daddy can you show me those horse drawings by that girl you went to school with?" to which I respond "yes" and can immediately see the joy in her face. "  

Now if that didn't tug my heart strings, I don't know what else could! As a little girl, I was completely in love with horses and art as well. The thought of another horse-loving girl out there going to bed looking at the paintings of my horses on my website was so meaningful to me.   I had to meet Avery- and thank her for appreciating my work.   I invited Avery and her parents down to my studio for a special surprise visit, including a little gift from me and a mini-drawing lesson on how to draw a horse (head). Avery's mom, Kristin, captured the whole visit in this video:

Avery and Val from Kristin Anderson on Vimeo.

The night after Avery left,  I felt like she had given me such a gift of her own.  Her curiosity, excitement and appreciation of my work was so honest and real- the kind that can only come from a five-year old.  She knew exactly who I was when she saw me for the first time! She reminded me why I love being an artist.  After I showed her my art and gave her a painting of her own, we had a quick little art lesson.  I taught her to draw a horse head, which she picked up remarkably fast.  She drew several of them that night, each one better than the last. She gave one to me, and it's hanging in my studio as a reminder of her and our shared love for horses and art.

In the weeks after our visit, Avery mastered the horse head.  Her dad sent me updates on how she was now teaching others to draw the horse head.  It seems like it's time to give that horse head a body! As promised, here are step-by-step instructions for how I draw a horse.  Anyone can do this with a little practice.  Horses were the very first thing I learned to draw, starting with the head, then learning the body.   And don't worry if you mess up your first few drawings, I have a trick to help you draw like a pro.

Avery- I'm looking forward to hearing all about how your horse drawings come along!  I am sure you'll have this perfected in no time!  You're a natural artist.

Happy Creating!

(link to printable PDF here)

 All you'll need is a few pieces of paper and a pencil!  Start with a very soft "x" in the center of the paper.  This will mark the center of the horses' belly.

 Next, draw two egg-shapes on either side of the "x".  The egg shapes should be slightly tilted towards each other.  These mark the hindquarters and the shoulders.  The shoulders are slightly larger than the hindquarters.  Then, draw two circle shapes indicating the head and muzzle.  Connect the edges of the shapes and indicated.  (Note the size variation in the shapes and how the lines are not straight, but curved).

February 27, 2015

Live Creatively!

Happy Friday!
This is my first official post since the grand makeover of my blog!  Before I post anything else, I want to quickly introduce you to my new blog.  For the past year, I've really dug deep and thought long and hard about my entire mission as an artist (and, well, a good human being in general).  In doing so, I realized my website and old blog topics did not reflect my mission and who I am today. The best way to describe my new blog (this one) is to imagine a Venn Diagram. My new blog is the spot in the middle where being an artist, being a model and giving back overlap.   Less about me, more about you.

Moving forward, I plan to share a lot of what I know the most about- creativity, making art, what I've learned from my decade working as a model- especially when it comes to the topic of beauty! My aim is to give you thoughtful posts with inspiring stories, talented people and DIY projects you can do at home. To help me fill in the blanks, I'm lucky to have access to an army of talented, smart experts from the art and fashion worlds.  Repeat After V is all about me giving you knowledge, tips and ideas I've already tried and tested.

While a lot of old content from years past will remain here, there will be a shift in what I write about going forward.  It's a little fascinating (and shocking) to see how far I've come since I first started blogging in 2009.  In 2015, I've rebranded my website and blog with a new mission statement, "Live Creatively".  I think it perfectly describes my life and what I do as an artist.  Most importantly, it's a statement aimed at you.

We are all creative beings capable of creating something great every single day- and a lot of us do!  For me, creating is as necessary as breathing.  Not only do I want us all to enjoy a life lived more creatively, but more thoughtfully, gratefully and beautifully (from the inside, or in the form of art!).


January 17, 2015

I'm back!

I left blogger quite a while ago to try out a new blogging platform, but now I am back.  I've missed it here!

When I launched my website last year, it seemed very appealing to try out a new service that was supposed to work seamlessly with my website.  Well, it didn't.    I couldn't post photos and videos very easily which is such a major part of blogging!  There has been an empty hole inside of my heart for the last 9 months...  I've missed it over here at blogger.  Things are easy.  I have so much to share, and so much to catch up on.  I am glad to be back.

I hope you will like the new content, topics and inspiring people I have on board to make my blog a fantastic experience for all.  I am very excited about the direction of my new blog- with the focus being on living creatively, beauty, art projects and inspiration for you to create projects for your home and for others.  Yes- even if you think you don't have a creative bone in your body, you do.  You just have to exercise it and I'm going to teach you! And for all of my fellow creatives, you'll probably really relate to the way I write about my projects.

I am looking forward to reconnecting with my community.  Thank you for reading, and I look forward to getting into some interesting new topics with all of you this year.