Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Meet Artist Chloe Conner

Meet Chloe! Chloe is a senior in high school. She is looking forward to being a freshman at the University of Tennessee this Fall. She has graciously offered to share about her art journey here at Project Paperie and hopes to inspire you with her story.

How did your journey as an artist begin?
My mom actually just decided to teach me to crochet one day back when I was in the 7th grade. When I watched TV or something, I would work on scarves.
What inspired you along the way?
Honestly, I didn't have a specific influence on my work. Looking at all of the creations and art of others made me want to be a part of something like that, too.
If you could use only three words, how would you describe your style?
Contemporary, Stylish, Indie

What is the biggest challenge you've had to overcome as an artist?
Organizing the abundance of new ideas and schemes that are constantly streaming through my head and also following through with my plans is definitely my biggest obstacle to overcome. 

What is it like being a high school student AND an artist? How do you balance the roles?
Luckily, crocheting in class helps me focus so it's easy to try out new patterns and get prototypes made while at school and studying. I do wish I had more time to focus on my business, though. Senior year is not a good time to try to start a business!

How long ago did you create your Etsy shop? What made you decide to start a business?
I created my Etsy shop (here) about one year ago, but I'm just now adding things onto it. Most of my orders are in person.

What lessons have you learned about being an entrepreneur so far?
I learned that there is a lot more that goes into a business than just crocheting scarves. Planning, financing, making, etc...

If you could offer one piece of advice to a younger artist, what would you say? 
Focus on the game plan! It's so easy to get scatter-brained with a creative business. 

Who/what inspires you? Why?
Seeing successful small business owners really inspires me, because their job is to literally do what they want for a living. Being my own boss has always been a dream of mine. 

Thanks again, Chloe, for being willing to share about your journey. Best wishes as you pursue your entrepreneurial dreams and transition into college. You've got an exciting future ahead! 

Readers, do you have any questions or words of encouragement for Chloe? Leave them below in the comment section! 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Meet Artist Andrea Levendusky!

Today, Andrea Levendusky is visiting Project Paperie to share about her journey as an artist, person of faith, and human. She has a beautiful story and I encourage you to check more of it out at her website.  

Without further ado, here's our conversation. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hey! I'm Andrea and I'm a graphic designer and writer and coffee drinker and mom and so on and so on. For my day job, I design websites, work on handlettering projects and help startups brand their businesses. On the side, I'm writing a book, playing in a folk and Irish band, and leading worship at my church. I live in the Finger Lakes area of upstate New York and we are just thawing out of winter so HIIII.

How did your journey as an artist begin?
I've been doing creative and artistic things since I was a kid. Poetry was my medium when I was young. Music has always been a part of my life. In high school, I started painting and sometime in my twenties, graphic design found me. For a few years, I worked on paintings and did some commissioned work, but I found that as soon as my paintings were made to order, I lost the muse to paint. I decided that I would only paint for pleasure, and making my living from design and writing. So far, so good. I also write songs like crazy, play in a little folk band and this keeps me sane.

Who/what experiences and elements inspired you along the way?
This may sound super cliche, but I feel that life is one big inspiration, and one long tragedy. Life is both beautifully magical and devastatingly painful. These things inspire me. The things my friends say fireside. The way my daughter turns her head down when she's disappointed. The way the stars seem to shine brighter on summer nights, how love is palpable in the middle of June, and how the earth aches in November. The world is full of inspiration. As far as who? Madeleine L'Engle, Yeats, Mary Oliver, Rilke, C.S. Lewis. These are who I turn to when my well seems to be cracked and dry.

Does your faith affect your art? Or, does your art affect the way you encounter God?
Yes! Absolutely. My faith affects everything. I don't see how it couldn't. I once had a friend who was a ballet dancer. I remember her saying once, "When I dance, I feel like God understands me." I think this applies to most art. I really believe that God gives us the capacity to see Him and experience Him and know Him in different ways. For me, writing, art, design, music — these are all ways that seem to tie my soul to another world. And I really believe that world is His Kingdom — it's the place where all is right, the struggle has explanation, the beauty is complete. Also, when I consider that everything in this world has the capacity to help us see Jesus, or steal us away from him, it makes me feel like everything is so much more alive. I'm not a believer in animism, but I do think that God is infused in all creation. We don't marvel at this world, and stories, and people with the intention of ending worship there. All of that wonder, and beauty; desire and ache should lead us to a longing for Jesus.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced as an artist? How did you conquer it?
My biggest challenge would have to be the feeling of "losing inspiration." Call it the muse, writer's block, the Resistance, whatever. That thing that makes me feel like I cannot create, no matter how hard I try. I once heard a quote that said only amateurs wait for the muse. Professionals just work. I hated it when I first read it but have since seen this to be true in my life. When I'm only waiting for inspiration, it rarely comes. Of course, when it does, I feel like a wild-haired gypsy, chasing her down with pen, ink and words. But mostly, the discipline creates space for the muse. It creates that area for me to say "This is where I will work until it comes." And usually it does. Or sometimes I just need sleep. That usually helps too.

If you could describe your artistic style in three words, what would you say?
Yikes. I'm the worst at this. Three words.
Whimsical. Raw. Rambling.

What does your art space/studio look like? Or, where is the most productive place for you to work?
I have worked in all sorts of random studio spaces. Garages, attics, churches. These days, my creative space is my office. One desk. A window that overlooks our backyard and the tree swing where my daughter plays. Sometimes I take my work elsewhere, but most of it happens there these days.

What is one of your favorite pieces that you’ve created? What elements make it special to you?
It depends on what medium. Painting — it's a painting I did for a worship night at a church in Texas. I did a live-painting during a worship service with Kari Jobe at Gateway Church, and I was able to keep one of the paintings. That one is still my favorite. It's of Jesus and it says "You, My Redemption." I also write lots of songs and I write a lot of words. my favorites of those change all of the time. The things that make my art the most special to me are the stories around them. If I can remember the "why" behind why I wrote something or painted something, it makes the whole piece even more complete to me. If I just created it on a whim, or if it has little connection to a story in my life, it usually disappears into my attic (house or memory!)

If you could give one piece of advice to a young artist, what would you say?
Do what you do best. There are so many ways to pursue creative endeavors, but I really think there are things we "do" best as artists. As much as I know what I can do, in my career I've learned the hard way and now have a good long list of the things I am not good at. Can I do them? Sure. I can hack them. Will they be my best work? No way. I always want to learn, but for the greatest joy, I continue to do the things I love and KNOW I can do best.

Do you have any ideas about how the Church could better embrace, love, and use artists?
I think the whole moniker of "Christian art" needs to disappear. I think as a whole, the idea of separating "secular art" from "Christian art" has really damaged our standards. I highly recommend Madeleine L'Engle's book "Walking on Water". Basically if I could put this book here and say "all of the above" to what she says, I could. She was asked to write a book on Christian art and she talks about the struggle. She talks about all good art is worship. It's really beautiful actually. Everyone should just read it. I think the church is growing in this area, and maybe heading into a season over the next few years and on where we'll see less and less fear toward the arts. I hope. It's not a weird "other" thing.

Andrea, thank you again for bravely sharing your thoughts in this space. Your beautiful words encouraged and inspired me. 

Readers, we'd love to hear from you! If you have something to say to Andrea, questions, etc., please comment below. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book Review: Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt

Have you ever been drawn to a person, because you were captivated by his or her lifestyle, confidence, and dreams? Have you ever had to peel yourself away from an adventure documentary on TV? Have you ever tried a strange food (like teriyaki pizza in a college cafeteria), just because you "had" to know what it tasted like?

I have! You see, I love adventure. I savor the thought of moving to a new place, meeting new people, etc. Yet, there are often fears, commitments, and lack of resources that hold me back from fully embracing change and adventure.

In her new book "Packing Light," Allison Vesterfelt shares about her journey to move through life with less baggage. She addresses many of the fears and circumstances that paralyze individuals, illustrating them with essay-style snippets of her travels across the United States.

Allison begins by laying out her background, focusing on her life in Portland, Oregon and her experience as a Christian. She explains what it was like to grapple with disparities between the culture of the city she loved and the conversations of religion within her church.

Because of the clash, Allison often wondered why she had to choose a side. This inner conflict became part of the baggage she picked up in life. Acknowledging that every reader's story is unique, Allison states, "It [baggage] might look different than mine, but it weighs you down just the same. I hope it will encourage you to go on a trip" (17).

After explaining some of her background, Allison dives into her decision to take a trip to all fifty states. She shares about her friend Sharaya, describing her as "the type of girl who would disappear and show up a few days later, saying she couldn't help but take a quick trip to Los Angeles or Australia" (24). Because of Sharaya's persistent encouragement, Allison chased her dreams, rather than living with numerous "what ifs?"

With a good mix of humor, serious reflection, and honesty, Allison describes their journey, pulling out numerous snippets of advice and encouragement for others desiring to achieve their goals. Though I don't want to spoil the many surprises of the adventures in Allison's story, I will say that every paper in this book holds fiery words, the type of sentences that make you want sell everything you have, pack your bags, and do something crazy. If you're looking some dangerous reading material, check this book out! 

*This book was given to me by Moody Collective in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, March 7, 2014

"Open Your Eyes" by Jake Olson & McKay Christensen

Throughout the past month, I've read tidbits of the book Open Your Eyes, right before falling asleep each evening. I've used it as a motivation for fostering a more joyful lifestyle and a prompt for reflection on my day-to-day attitude.

I stink at writing summaries, so here's an eloquent excerpt of the book description from the publisher:

"Doctors removed Jake Olson’s left eye at ten months old. When he was twelve, after years of radiation and chemotherapy, the cancer took his right eye as well. That’s when Jake’s story really began.

When ESPN met Jake Olson, he was a twelve-year-old boy who wanted to spend his final weeks of sight with the USC football team. Jake’s story became one of the most recognized pieces in the network’s history, earning an ESPY award, instantly viewed by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. But Jake’s story didn’t end with his final surgery or with ESPN—not by a long shot."

My thoughts:

Basically, Jake is a very cool guy. He's gone through some extremely challenging experiences, yet emerged stronger as a result. His attitude is radically optimistic and his zest for life is admirable.

Though I originally assumed Open Your Eyes was an autobiography, I quickly discovered that it is mainly a book of advice. Drawing from some of the lessons that Jake has learned throughout his trials, the book presents ten challenges for discovering happiness. Rather than echoing the emotional aspects of Jake's journey, the dares focus on analyzing the human response to trials and methods of readjusting attitudes.

Once I realized that the book is not really meant to be autobiographical, I started appreciating its mostly clear-cut, unemotional presentation of advice. My only complaint is that the sections on personal application were a bit short. In light of the author's background in counseling, I was hoping that there might be a few more psychological concepts expressed. That said, I recognize that two individuals wrote the book. Thus, finding balance between the writers' voices and ideologies must have been extremely difficult.

Overall, Open Your Eyes is an inspiring, thought-provoking book. It challenged me to reevaluate my behaviors and attitudes, so that I might cultivate a happier lifestyle. If you're like to be challenged to do the same, check out the book. It's a neat read!

*I received a complimentary copy of Open Your Eyes from Thomas Nelson, in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

In which I share a bit of the darkness

As a writer, friend, sister, and daughter, I often choose to tell only one side of my story...the "good" side. When I have excitement, dreams, and encouragement, I offer them freely. I genuinely enjoy sharing these things and seeing the joy that they bring others. 

On the other hand, when I have questions, frustrations, and shame, I bite my lip and process the darkness inside of my head. I enjoy the silence, the opportunity to sort through my messes independently. I look at the big perspective of life, minimizing my struggles in light of it. I fill my head with new dreams, new ideas to study, new prayers, and new people to invest in. I kick the darkness into the corners of my mind or let it go completely. (In other words, I cope. I move on.) 

Most of the time, my way of filtering life works. For the past few weeks, however, it hasn't. Quite honestly, it's gone terribly wrong. 

You see, since coming back to campus after Christmas break, I've changed a lot. I've heard some stories that stirred my heart differently than anything I've ever heard before. I've grown spiritually. I've dreamed about doing things, moving places, and loving people differently. My mindset has become more flexible, open to whatever happens in life. 

Simultaneously, however, I've become so caught up in a serious, futuristic mindset that I've neglected and hurt some of my dearest friends, the people who are here. I've failed to communicate. I've ignored people who needed me. I've snapped and said things that I wish I could take back.  I've made a mess of my relationships. 

And, yeah, I've been pretty ashamed about it. I've wondered if I could ever do anything to fix what I'd screwed up. 

The answer? No. I couldn't. Not by myself, at least

This morning, I woke up, looked out my window, observed the snow, said something to my roommate Madi, packed my backpack, and went to work on a project in the study room. Before I left, Madi asked me something about my plans for the day. I mumbled a quick reply and walked out the door. 

An hour or so later, I came back to our room to grab a coat. Madi mentioned asked where I was going. I said, "The caf to grab some lunch." She replied, "The caf's not open til' 12:30. You can just eat here with me and some friends if you want, so you don't have to go out into the snow." Again, I mumbled a quick, noncommittal response and headed back to the study room. 

Later, I came back to our room to grab a few markers. I was frustrated when I found that the door was locked, so I turned to go back to the study room and grab my key. As I was nearing the study room, I saw Madi and Dani running toward me with a scarf. I raised my eyebrows and mumbled (notice a theme?) something like, "Oh, is it time for lunch?" 

Dani and Madi suddenly blindfolded me with the scarf and started dragging me toward the stairs. At this point, I started to feel a bit disoriented. They kept counting stairs, telling me to turn left and right, and giggling hysterically. And, for the first time in weeks, I laughed with them. 

When we got downstairs, I heard country music and squealed happily. (It had been a while since I'd listened to good country music.) 

Then, I smelled something strange, similar to spicy salsa and sugar. I was quite confused. They asked me to guess what the smell was. I didn't want to offend them by guessing incorrectly, so I took a safe bet and said, "Uh, something breakfast-y?" 

They removed the blindfold. There, right in front of me, was a pot of chili and a pan of cinnamon rolls. And, a fellow Nebraskan, Missouri friend, Guatemalan friend, and Arkansan friend. If I wasn't in shock, I probably would have started bawling right then. 

I looked around and saw a table set up with plates, silverware rolled in napkins, and bowls. Glancing back at the chili and cinnamon rolls, it all started to sink in. Madi had done this for me. She had worked like crazy, shopping for ingredients, preparing a meal "from Nebraska" that I'd talked endlessly about, playing music from a genre that she doesn't really like, and trying to bring joy to my heart. 

And, I really, really, really didn't deserve it. 'Cause I had been a really, really distant, selfish, rude roommate during the past few weeks. 

As I ate the chili and cinnamon rolls, I kept thinking, "Why? Why would she be willing to do this for me, even after I've been such a jerk?" 

Honestly, I'm still wondering that. 
Making me an amazing lunch wasn't the first sweet thing Madi's done for me during the past few weeks. She's done so, so much more (written me letters, vacuumed the room, inviting me to go out to eat, etc.). Sadly, I've failed to really appreciate/respond to her kindness. I've been distant, stuck in darkness, focusing on my ambitions. 

But, today something snapped inside me. It snapped when I took in a whiff of strong chili pepper and cinnamon. It snapped when I heard Luke Bryan on an iPhone speaker. It snapped when I saw my sweet friends working like crazy to do something unbelievably kind and gracious for me. It snapped when I thought back on everything I had done and said over the past few weeks. 

So, here I am. A mess. 

I want to change. I want to climb out of this dark place I've been in. I'm asking for help. I'm apologizing. I'm deciding to start sharing a bit of my darkness, realizing that it's way too much for me to carry by myself. 

That's all. 

Love, Gabrielle

P.S. If you need to share a bit of your darkness, I'm all ears. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

101 Secrets for Your Twenties by Paul Angone


I'm not twenty yet; I still have a few years to go. Yet, when I saw various reviews of the book 101 Secrets for Your Twenties online and in print publications, I knew that it would be the perfect resource for me to study as I transition through college. So, with the help of the kind folks at Moody Publishers, I read the book. And, let me tell you, it did not disappoint!

Angone begins the first chapter by stating, "Sometimes surviving your 20s is nothing more glamorous than just holding on for dear life on the back of an inner tube like a kid being whipped around by a speedboat" (17).  Bam! I chuckled when I read that line, because a) I've spent many terrifying summer afternoons clinging to inner tubes and b) I've discovered that life itself is one crazy ride.

From that point on, Angone dives into 101 secrets that range from "#31: Faith is not a Mr. or Ms. America Contest" to "#85: Never looking at your budget and never making a budget is the exact same thing." Each secret acts as a chapter of sorts. Some secrets are typed out in large typefaces with little to no explanation, speaking for themselves. Others, followed by numerous paragraphs of stories and advice, serve to generate curiosity.

Angone closes the book with a short section on applying the secrets to one's life, openly admitting that the book "is not meant to be a step-by-step plan, but a conversation starter and instigator to prompt us to think, speak, and believe differently about our lives" (199). He suggests that groups of friends get together to discuss the book, create visuals of the secrets, write down long-term goals, and connect to his other resources (,, etc..

Angone's writing is entertaining, sometimes sarcastic, honest, thought-provoking, and encouraging. It cuts straight to the chase when addressing struggles that most twenty-something's face, yet softens each piece of negative news with hints of optimism.

My only complaint about this book is that it contains an overwhelming amount of typesetting changes. I appreciate italic, bold, and all-caps words, but only when used sparingly. Though the rapidly changing styles were likely implemented in order to mimic the styles of most twenty-something's, I found them more distracting than beneficial.

Overall, this is a wonderful book. I recommend it to not only twenty-something's, but also to teens. Though some of the topics are geared toward adults, hopefully, they can help younger teens make choices that might help them enjoy a smoother transition into their twenties.

Check it out!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Food Art Friday: Brownie in a Mug

During college, the old saying "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" has become one of my favorite mantras. I recently put a poster with the quote on my wall, so that I would be reminded daily to be content with and enjoy the things I have, rather than constantly longing for more. Throughout the past few months, I've discovered that striving to be resourceful and content is surprisingly fun. It poses a challenge and requires creativity. In many ways, it's an art.

In light of my efforts to be more resourceful, I've tried to cut down my spending on food items, especially pop tarts. (Don't judge.) For the past few days, however, I have been longing to cook and bake. I kept telling myself, "Gabe, ingredients are expensive. Don't cave in. Don't watching baking vlogs. And, whatever you do, don't go on Pinterest to look at recipes." 

Alas, my resolve wore down, and I decided to bake a brownie. In order to conserve money, I pledged to borrow ingredients from friends and use items that I already owned. 

Here's how my cooking adventure went down: 

Initially, I ransacked Pinterest for brownie-in-a-mug recipes. All of the recipes required ingredients that I didn't own, so I ended up piecing together a recipe, using concepts from a hodgepodge of other recipes. 

First, I dumped four tablespoons of flour into the mug. (When I say "tablespoon," I'm referring to either a huge, honkin' scoop of flour or an itsy-bitsy clump held in a tablespoon measuring object or random silver spoon. Basically, I get too hyper and excited to accurately measure ingredients.) 

Next, I dropped in two tablespoons of cocoa powder. Miraculously, I only spilled about 1/4 of the cocoa powder on the counter. Typically, I spill much more. As you might imagine, my heart was bursting with pride. 

Then, I stirred in four little thimbles of coffee creamer. (I didn't have milk, and the coffee creamer was free.) After stirring in the coffee creamer, I added four, er, five tablespoons of sugar and stirred some more. The batter still looked pretty dry, so I added a few tablespoons of water. (Sorry, I forgot how many I added.) 

All of the Pinterest recipes I viewed required eggs and oil. Sadly, I had neither eggs nor oil. So, I melted two tablespoons of butter for a substitute. 

Once I mixed all of the ingredients together, I plopped the mug in the microwave and let it roast on high for two minutes and forty-five seconds. 

When I pulled the mug out of the microwave, I saw the most ugly brownie I had ever seen. On the top, the brownie looked like a clump of dried-out, fire-scorched clay. I giggled, thinking, "Another one of Gabe's weird baking concoctions. Good thing M, C, and J (my siblings) aren't here to make fun of it." 

But, as I bravely plunged a fork into the brownie, I discovered that the brownie was surprisingly brownie-like in texture. As I savored a chunk, I was even more amazed to discover that my experiment was edible. In fact, it tasted kind of like chocolate cake. 

Feeling a bit bummed that I didn't have any caramel to drizzle on top, I went for the next best thing: maple syrup. Yes, that's right. Maple syrup. (I can see my mom cringing right now, as she reads this.) It tasted like perfection. Well, maybe not quite perfection. Free dessert-y happiness might be a more accurate description. ;) 

Happy Friday! I hope you have a wonderful weekend!