What love and art can do

I started doing 30-Day challenges after watching Matt Cutt’s TED talk, “Try Something New for 30 Days.” In my first post on the subject, I said:

I try a lot of new things. I’m a big believer in shaking my life up and, for better or worse, I don’t do all that well with routine. The older I get, the more I crave… well, new. Different. I want to explore. Stretch. Expand. Make shit. I want to experience all the stuff that happens when I do the things that scare me, and learn all the things I can learn when I’m willing to be a clumsy beginner again and again.

What attracts me to Matt’s idea is the 30-day part. It’s just enough time to try something out – a new art form, a new exercise program, a new diet, a new habit – but not so long that you feel daunted by the commitment.

Since then, for 30 days at a time, I’ve eaten like a child, been unabashedly grateful and relentlessly creative, and I’ve made art, not-quite daily. I’m always happy to have completed the challenges, and I always learn something about myself (for better and worse) in the process. The one lesson I’ve learned over and over again is that it’s harder than it seems like it should be to do something new every day. Even when you like it, and you think it’s good for you, and you’re happy when you’ve done it… it’s hard.

That said, I’m on Day 22 of my 30 Days of Hand Lettering, and I have to say, this has been the easiest challenge for me to show up and do every day (well, except when I traveled this month, which is why I’m on Day 22 and not 30). I’m having a lot of fun, and have been using the challenge to explore not only hand lettering, but also background painting, art journaling, and color manipulation through Photoshop. Some would-be masterpieces have turned out better than others. If you’re interested in seeing what I’ve done (and watching what comes next), I’ve been posting daily to Pinterest.

There are lots of things I’ve loved about this challenge, but the best thing about it was completely unexpected and wonderful. It happened when I painted and hand lettered this, honoring my friend, Lisa Bonchek Adams, and a phrase she tweets to her many, many friends and followers every day.


Her daily reminder is especially meaningful because Lisa has metastatic breast cancer, so she knows more than most of us about how hard it can be to find beauty in the midst of hell. I painted this because I read her words every day. I take them seriously. They represent for me the best way to live a life, and by painting them, I felt I was honoring Lisa in the best way I could.

Lisa is loved by many, so when I posted the painting on Facebook (as I’ve done with most of my hand lettered efforts), there was an immediate, positive response and requests that I make it available in my Etsy shop. I contacted Lisa and we decided to sell the print and donate all the profits to Lisa’s Sloan-Kettering metastatic breast cancer research fund. In about a week and a half, we’ve made over $900 for the fund.

And here’s what I love best about that number, $900: it’s more than I ever could have afforded to give on my own. I suspect it’s more than most of the people buying the art could have afforded too. It truly feels like a team effort to give to a very worthy and underfunded cause. Lisa writes beautifully and honestly about living with cancer on her blog, which is where I learned that although 20-30% of those diagnosed with breast cancer will eventually have a metastasis of their cancer, less than 5% of money donated to breast cancer research goes to the metastatic domain.

If you’re interested in joining our cause (and having something I painted straight from the heart), visit my Etsy shop. You can get this painting as a limited edition print or on a set of limited edition note cards.

And now… there are six days left in my 30-day challenge. I just got this book in the mail today. I think some fun things are about to happen.


p.s. Happy Halloween!


  1. Karin on October 31, 2014 at 7:40 am

    I think you could write the book on whimsical lettering to be honest 🙂 Perhaps one day…?

    Congrats on raising so much money for a good cause. That’s really impressive, all from your artsy contribution to her beautiful words.
    It’s times like this when I marvel at how such a sweet gesture can make such a big impact. You should be proud. ♥

    (And Happy Halloween!)

  2. j on October 31, 2014 at 7:49 am

    Thank you, Karin. I’m hoping the book will help me stretch my wings even more. I’m getting pretty comfortable with lettering, but the book has a lot of techniques for getting very specific results. All stuff I don’t know how to do… yet. ; )

    And, yes. I’ve been so amazed and delighted by the outpouring of love for Lisa and the art. I love when people confirm my long suspicion that humans armed with love are unstoppable.

    Happy Halloween!

    • Karin on October 31, 2014 at 7:58 am

      That reminds me — one of my favorite superheroines I watched growing up was a magical girl who used the power of love as her weapon (figuratively and literally). Her only real weakness was doubt–if she believed in herself enough, her power grew and she would spread that happiness to others.
      Sounds rather “fluffy” and all but I always thought the meaning behind it was very powerful. We don’t have to be magical to spread our love to others–but it works just like magic. 🙂

      • j on October 31, 2014 at 3:51 pm

        I love that, “fluffy” and all. xo

  3. Christie on October 31, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Okay, so I finally really took the time to look at your artwork and once again, I can say I am totally blown away! The detail is incredible. I absolutely love the grasses and the dandelion petals floating away are spectacular. Add that to Lisa’s words and you have a beautiful piece of art. You keep getting better and better even though I don’t even know how that is possible since I already think you are producing such fantastic work. <3 <3

  4. Christie on October 31, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Dang it, those 3’s were supposed to be hearts. Can’t remember how to do them the other way 🙂

    • j on October 31, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      On my end, they’re hearts, baby, I do emoticons old school (and apparently so does my blog)! And thank you so much for the praise and encouragement. I have so much to learn still… but it’s words like yours that make me want to keep at it. <3

  5. Nina Badzin on November 2, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Wow! I love that you made that gorgeous piece out of Lisa’s wise words.

    • j on November 2, 2014 at 6:08 pm

      Thanks, Nina! And thank you so much for sharing it. xo

  6. Annie Neugebauer (@AnnieNeugebauer) on November 3, 2014 at 7:58 am

    What a beautiful story! Beautiful quote and beautiful art, too. Good for you two!

  7. Pam on November 4, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    Love love love!

    I’m looking forward to having my print of this piece in a frame. Mwah to you!

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