Saturday, September 17, 2011

Welcome to Big Sky Country

It’s been nearly 3 months since our move to Montana. I’ve been meaning to post something about our move, the new home and all the oddities we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing for quite some time now! Though, I will say, that we’ve been busy. With this many mountains, rocks, rivers, lakes and bears, it’s easy to fill up every inch of free time with fun in the outdoors. My main stress is which activity to pick from. Seriously, I feel like a kid in a candy store. And even though George and I have gorged ourselves with miles of hiking, climbing, biking and whatever else, instead of wanting to take a breather, we’ve become crazy-eyed outdoor junkies. 

The move from Texas was interesting. We knew we were moving, but didn’t know where to until two or three weeks beforehand. The Lone Star state had been very good to us and we had met some wonderful people, but it was time to move on (cue Tom Petty song). We had recently been granted full nomadic status with my fulltime remote employment and George’s applications for seasonal positions at national parks. Whether we were going to move into a travel trailer or just haul all our stuff across the country numerous times, we knew the one thing we probably needed was a truck. So, of course, we find the most dodgy looking dealership on the outskirts of Dallas to sell us a grungy looking, golden truck with a few mysterious bullet-sized holes in the back. Did I mention it came sans title? Let’s not get into that. Lets just say we have it now. George is magical when it comes to haggling titles out of El Salvadorians who speak very little English…

So with the truck and a trailer (we decided against the travel trailer idea), we were ready to go. Where to? We were thinking Colorado at the time – it seemed nice enough. Just before we were about to find a place in Fort Collins, George received an offer for a position as a backcountry ranger in Glacier National Park, Montana. I promptly found us what looked like a very nice rental in a small town close to the park and off we went.

Thirty three hours later we arrived in Montana. After a trip like this, one tends to feel a little crazy. I thought I was hallucinating when we finally reached the house I had rented all the way from Texas. The property managers had posted many pictures of the little house, though I had never realized that they only showed the top half. The house, in fact, sat on top of a garage in the middle of a sad looking, trailer parkish neighborhood. The neighborhood was not the bad part, however. The neighborhood was just dandy. What set me back just a little was the man living in a dumpy little trailer in our front yard, just a few feet from our front door. He was nice enough, apart from the sad mullet on his head and his lack of front teeth. We soon found out that the house belonged to his mother and that she had granted him space in her front yard to set up his shanty. Richard (that’s Mr.Mullet) and his friend (who he said was just visiting, but we later found out was also a permanent fixture) cooked their food in a fire pit outside our front door and spent the day drinking beer in the yard.  Their numerous broken down vehicles scattered around the property gave it a nice final touch of shantydom.

I’d like to think of myself as a pretty flexible individual. I felt bad for Richard and his friend. They were sad leftovers in a world that can be brutal and unforgiving. Sympathy aside though, I thought it would’ve been nice of the property management company to let me know that the house came with a man with no teeth living in the backyard. We hadn’t signed the lease yet and decided that we’d rather look for something else and try to get our deposit back.

When we confronted the property management company about our yard dweller, they became very defensive. “He’s just like having another neighbor!” they said. A neighbor with whom we share utilities? “And he looks after the yard!” To this I responded “that’s great, though it would’ve been nice to know that the man who looks after the yard also lives in it.” They truly did not seem to, or want to, understand why I had a problem. To me it just seemed like something you ought to mention to prospective renters. Many arguments later we got back most of the deposit. I vowed never to rent remotely again.

We found another home and moved our belongings (for the second time that day) into the new apartment. Our landlord seemed genuinely sympathetic towards our predicament and let us move in that same night. 

So here we are. We live in Montana now. We roll with the locals and soon I will be saying “Ay” and “you knooo.” As for the mountains, they’re even more amazing than I had imagined. Montana seems to be what dreams are made of.  The only thing missing are our friends scattered across the world. So how about it? Ya’ll coming or what?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Moustaches and rock climbing (Illustration)

Here's a piece I created a little while back for a rock climbing competition. The theme was "stache bash", which made for a very hairy comp (those who were not capable of growing facial hair were supplied with fake alternatives). It's not often that I get to mix so many of my favorite things together; illustration, design, rock climbing, leotards and moustaches. It's so much easier to work on a project you care about!

Micron pen (and a wee bit of Illustrator)

George + moustaches + climbing = happy

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tips on moving

Moving can be a real pain in the butt. It's exciting as hell to hit the road for a new home clear across the U.S. (George and I are moving to Montana), but the actual packing up part is quite a bit less fun. The last time we moved (from Ohio to Texas, where we are now) we only brought what could fit in our little car. The little car was not happy about this. We filled every tiny space available inside, as well as four bikes and a large suitcase on it's roof. Luckily Texas was all downhill and we didn't hear the muffler scrape against the road too many times. But that was before we had furniture. That and the other things which come with not being college students anymore.

From packing we come to realize that owning things is nice, but that schlepping those same beloved things around, is not. Here are a few tips which might help you the next time you're trying to stuff all your earthly possessions into a smaller space;

  • Instead of wasting newspaper to protect your breakables, use your clothes. Better for the environment AND less clothes to pack later. 
  • Use your move as an opportunity to slim down on your earthly possessions. Go through all your junk and toss the unwanted instead dragging it along.
  • Never, ever underestimate your pile of stuff. George and I do this again and again, thinking that our boxes and bags will definitely fit, only to realize that a terrible optical illusion was at work.
  • Many of your belongings have holes and cavities - those holes are opportunities waiting to be filled with more stuff!

So wish us luck! It's a 33 hour drive almost all the way to the Canadian border. We're going to try and do it in three days so that I can get back to work as soon as possible. A little house is waiting for us in a small town called Columbia Falls. The real estate agent promises that mountains can be seen from all of our windows. If so, it should be a happy relocation.

Illustrations created with my trusty micron pen (and a bit of Illustrator)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Repertory Dance poster

As is the way with design work all too often, my resources were a bit limited with this one. I was asked (very nicely) if I could please use a particular photograph of a dancer to create a large poster to advertise an upcoming dance concert. The image, unfortunately, was not very good and lacked the vibrance I was hoping for. Some edges were blurry and the dancer appeared a little damp, and well, uncomfortable in certain spots... She seemed so rigid for someone in motion. I wanted to highlight the image's movement and color and bring more contrast, while hiding the fact that I was working with a not-so-awesome photograph.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Faculty Exhibition Postcard

It's important to have those fun, quick projects to keep the creative juices flowing. This postcard was quickly created for a friend who needed something ASAP. With little time to ponder the meaning behind a faculty art exhibition, I mainly focused on simple typography. I'd like to say that the spectrum of colors illustrate the versatility of the faculty who's work was being shown, but I couldn't say for sure that I got to think about it quite that much! Quick, simple and fun.

SFASU Faculty Art Exhibition postcard (2010)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

One man's trash...

For me, living simply means living consciously. I've always appreciated things which were well designed, simple and extraordinarily effective. The same should go for the decisions we make and the habits we choose to keep.

It's not easy. George and I started living simply because that was all we could afford. While attending college we lived in a small attic and only owned what would fit in our limited space. We had a garden and rummaged through dumpsters for exciting finds. We were always amazed at how incredibly wasteful college students could be. Bags of unopened food, new looking furniture and clothes, Spanish dictionaries, airplane tickets to Cancun... everything! Are you wanting to head over to your neighborhood dumpster yet? There are many ways to live simply, but being aware of your resources (whatever they might be) is the first step. Not wasting your resources is the next.

We hope to keep things simple. It’s tough, especially when you start getting that pesky monthly paycheck (“why Yes, let’s buy the pre-sliced cheese!”).

When we initially moved to Texas, we brought nothing but what could fit into our small car. Once we arrived and found a home, we lived without furniture for quite some time. It was tempting to run to WalMart and buy something quick and temporary just to fill the cavities in our home. Sitting on thermorests got old pretty quickly. But instead of buying furniture that would probably look like hell before we were even done assembling it, we decided to find and create anything we might need. We also wanted quality furniture; the stuff made from thick wood and nails, not particle board and sticky tack.

Today at least 90%  of our furniture has been found, given or salvaged. Instead of heading to the landfill, it came to our home with a new purpose. Painting, refinishing and sometimes building our furniture from scratch was a lot of work. Although a lot more fun than a dreary visit to the furniture isle at WalMart... and a heck of a lot more fulfilling.

Most of our furniture was made  from salvaged wood and other found materials: kitchen table, cutting boards, kitchen shelf, picture frame, coat rack, planters, sitting boxes (good for storage too), bookshelf, guitar hook, outside stool, bench (that converts into picnic table), outside table, glass bottles, postbox stand, bird feeder and oven timer.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The beginnings of a blog

I enjoy blogs. I spend many hours a day (in between those pesky real job projects) wondering from inspirational posting to the next. Honestly, though, I've never been completely convinced to start one myself... There's a lot of blogs out there. A LOT. The world has done an exquisite job of covering at least everything I'm interested in; graphic design, typography, cooking, building things, funny shaped dogs, travelling, cycling, rock climbing, bright yellow pencils and fanny packs - they are all being written about in abundance by many a disciplined blogger.

I'm still starting a blog.

Why? Because sometimes we come up with a few very good ideas. We've lived decently interesting lives so far, and I have a feeling it's about to get a whole lot more interesting...

Either way, it might just be worth sharing.