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07 Apr 2021

Keep Going: On Creative Process & Art Direction

How do you know when you're finished creating something and ready to release it to the world?

This is a question I get asked by other creatives. It's often one of the hardest parts of the creative process for me. And it's one of the (many) reasons I have Laura.

If you don’t know the full story: Laura and I met 14 years ago when she was working as a full-time wedding photographer and I was on staff at my church. It was friendship at first sight, and she’s been one of my closest friends ever since. I hold her opinion on everything—work, parenting, faith, marriage, decorating, etc.—in very high regard.

Also, we’re VERY FUNNY together, which just delights me. She’s like my sister. She's like that younger sister who's somehow also bossier and wiser than you.

lindsay and laura booping each other on the nose

Lindsay and Laura being silly

Lindsay and Laura being cute on a bench

Laura was the first female entrepreneur I ever met in real life. It was a pre-Pinterest, pre-social-media-business-era, and I didn’t know that a “regular girl” could start a business and be successful, like little Laura had. She was like: it’s not that difficult. You just work really hard and be good at what you do and treat people well and keep your receipts and file taxes.

(It’s safe to say this is an oversimplification of entrepreneurship, but it was enough to encourage me to start Lindsay Letters, and for that I’ll forever be grateful.)

Laura shot our first shoots for me completely free of charge. I had zero capital and paid her in props and art—which, for a minimalist like Laura, got overwhelming really fast. Finally she was like your friendship is enough and I started paying her in money as soon I could.

Business Tip 1: Yes, know your worth. But the things I have received and done for free have made some of the biggest impact, and have paid dividends in the end.

At a time when there weren’t any other non-big-box online art stores, I knew that photography and styling would be key to casting vision for my print-on-demand art across a webpage. (Something art.com, for example, hadn’t been doing).

I’d actually never seen a styled photo of art or an art print before. I had seen images of art in rooms, like in catalogs, but the idea of flat-lays and styled images and prop switching was something that I’d never seen before.

I was so inspired by Laura’s detail shots from weddings (something that’s expected now, but was ahead of its time then) that I just knew Laura’s unique photography, story-telling and styling skills would be a key ingredient in the success of my brand. I was right, and it’s one of the wisest choices I’ve made.

Business Tip 2: if you find someone who has that special something that you can’t place your finger on, that inspires, delights, and surprises you, do whatever you can to hire them. Even if it’s for a role that feels weird or undefined. I've done this with every member of my team, and it's one of the decisions I feel most confident and proud of.

Over the years, Laura’s grown in her own skills and transitioned from weddings to more interior design and interior styling, which has only made her more of an incredible blessing to my creative process and our team. After Eva’s accident, Laura stepped in as Art Director for LL (in addition to doing the photography) and that has been such an incredible asset and gift to me.

From the very beginning, I’ve always sent Laura images of what I was working on, or one-off texts with an image of my work, and questions like how’s this? and am I crazy?! 

Over time, I began to notice that the more ownership and insight she had into my work prior to actually shooting it, the more successful and cohesive the shoots became. When she became the official Art Director, it made that ownership and cohesion the goal and not the lucky exception. It’s been wonderful and so fun for me, because I love collaboration. It’s truly a beautiful partnership. We make each other better, and we make really good art together. 

Laura and I start every collection with a mood board. (This actually started in 2015.) Either it will be something that sparks a collection idea for Laura, or for me—usually about half and half. It might be a pillow, a piece of marble, a photo of a woman in a flowy dress, whatever. And then we build out a mood board from there.

We use Pinterest to create these secret boards, and we really try not to pin any other artists' work. I take pride in trying to offer a good variety of styles within my work, and I want to protect myself from ever unintentionally taking too much inspiration from any other artist, be it calligraphy or painting.

For me, this means that I really can’t follow many artists that are peers, and I try to glean inspiration from places that aren’t art. Which is actually a really fun challenge! The exception to pinning other artists' work is if it’s within an in-room vignette (like a photo of a living room, for example) that we really like the interior design of, or if it’s a vintage piece that’s public domain. So in the mood board, we’re describing visually how we want the art to feel and look, without using art. 

evergreen moodboard

Above: the mood board for our next collection, which I'm actually en route to KC, MO to shoot with Laura (as I write this)!

Once the mood board is ready, I’ll start painting/drawing/creating. Because Laura lives outside KC, MO and I live in Wisconsin, we communicate through FaceTime and text until we’re actually together at shoots. This usually means me texting her shoddy phone photos of wet paintings and waiting for her to thumbs up them (crushing) heart them (satisfying), send heart eyes (jolt of pride for each emoji), or tell me in words how brilliant I am (be still my tender heart).

Sometimes I even paint with her on FaceTime, which can be hilarious.

painting over zoom

Usually Laura’s critiques of my work come in one or two words, and it’s very simple stuff. I love being Art Directed, but I appreciate that she lets me do my thing and she knows she’s there to inspire and enhance the work, but not to change it or me, if that makes sense. Her responses look like: pretty, or more blue, or YES.

This is usually all fun and helpful. But there are two things that she says that I HATE.

(Ha! Bet you didn’t see that coming.)

The first is when she says stop... but I’ve already kept going.

Let’s say I send her an in-progress picture, and then I keep painting and she hasn’t gotten back to me because she has a life or whatever, and then she responds four hours later with perfect!

Little does she know that I HAVE BEEN CONTINUING TO PAINT ON IT FOR FOUR HOURS WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN IT’S TOTALLY DIFFERENT NOW.

So an example: I sent Laura an in-progress photo of Monarch and Laura responded later: it’s perfect! But it didn’t look like the photo I had sent her. It had became Monarch. Which she liked, we'll just say, significantly less.

Soooo, I tried to re-create the layer that I had sent her originally, and that painting became Daughter. And Daughter has sold, we'll say, significantly more than Monarch... and this is why I listen to Laura. 

monarch and daughter

Above left: Monarch | Above right: Daughter

(Since then, what I’ve learned to do is take a break, let the layer dry, and scan that layer before I keep painting on it. In the Girls House Collection, Mint Meltaway is actually underneath Icing on the Cake. Wild, right?)

mint meltaway and icing on the cake

Above Left: Mint Meltaway | Above Right: Icing on the Cake

Text conversation between Lindsay and Laura

The other thing Laura says that I hate? 

Keep going.

You would think that if I hated stop I wouldn't mind keep going, but I hate them both equally and for contradictory reasons.

When I send her something that’s (in my opinion) finished, and she tells me to keep going, it's her way of saying: you’re on to something but it’s not there and I’m not going to tell you how to fix it.

One year Laura was still doing lots of weddings and planting a church. Phoenix was still a baby. She and I hadn’t communicated much through the creation of that year's holiday collection, and we had a call to figure out our specs for placing the canvas order for the photo shoot. (These are usually my favorite calls—picking the sizes/finishing/etc.)

I sent her a PDF of all of the work I’d made for the collection, right there on the call, while we were getting ready to order. 

(As an aside, I was exhausted. I hadn’t hired Joy yet, I had just closed my brick & mortar shop, and I honestly wanted to be done with the collection. But it was for Christmas, which is an important collection financially, and so I didn’t really have a choice about whether to do it or not.)

I sent her the PDF and waited for her to open it.

Silence.

I was like, well?

And she said: "Linds... this isn’t there. Like, at all. You need to keep going.”

I was crushed. It was such an awkward call. I didn’t want to keep going. I wanted to be done. Done with the collection and, honestly, done with Lindsay Letters.

It might sound like Laura was being harsh, but she was right. The collection was pretty awful. I wasn’t in a good place. I wasn’t feeling inspired. I was deflated. But Laura knew what I also knew, which was that I literally couldn’t afford to release a crappy collection. At that time my business hinged on Christmas sales, and my family depends on my business. To fail at Christmas would mean that everything would need to change, in ways that would have significant impact on our home—my time with my kids, Dugan’s job at our church, etc. A lot was riding on the collection, but keep going in that moment of exhaustion felt like running a marathon and mistaking a water station at mile 20 for the finish line (if you’re reading this Jen, hi, and I love you).

I got off the phone, cried, went to bed, and picked up my brushes and pens the next day and made a way better collection. It wasn’t my collection de résistance, but it paid the bills and we didn’t lose our house and D didn’t have to quit his job at church to go and be the breadwinner. I’m so glad I kept going. 

Keep going pays off. It doesn’t answer any questions for us. It doesn’t tell us when we’re done, or what to do to be done. This is true in art, in work, and in life.  Keep going means that there isn’t an obvious answer like "more blue"—only that you’re not finished. 

I’ve come to expect Laura will say “keep going” to me every several pieces I send her, and they are always better for it. It's become a running joke with us, a mantra. And while I still think it’s annoying, the proof is in the pudding.

This happened again recently at the Girls House shoot. We were so well prepared, and when we were staging, it all came together as we planned. But as we stepped back and looked around at 2am the morning of the shoot, something felt off. It was executed exactly how we’d pictured, but it still wasn’t right.

After the rest of the team went to sleep, Laura and I stayed up, moving things around, trying to get a handle on what needed to happen... which would prompt this text from Joy in the morning, as she tried to piece together what had happened:

joy's text to laura

As we locked up that night, Laura and I both agreed: we needed to keep going. Exhausted, I laid my head on the pillow finally at 3:30 am, just trying to wrap my mind around the what didn’t feel right and what keep going actually meant, this far into the shoot. 

The next morning, I painted Fairy Garden.

painting fairy garden

painting fairy garden

fairy garden

As bright and bubbly and delightful everything else in the collection is, we had planned Gumdrop as the anchor piece for the collection, and it felt like too much. Beautiful, fun, quirky—but relatable only to the few people it was made for.

Leanne Ford says if things feel too cutesy, add black. And that’s what we did. That’s what it needed: something deep and grounded. We added black accents around the room and I painted over the square Gumdrop canvas, and that became dark and dreamy Fairy Garden. It's been the best seller of the collection.

fairy garden at the girls house

fairy garden canvas

ABOVE: Fairy Garden

Throughout the shoot, we couldn’t decide what design to create for the for the cream hoodie we wanted to release. But as we processed through the shoot on the way to drop Laura off at the airport, we mused at how that shoot was our finest example of “keep going” and how hard we had to push to get to the gold. Laura said: maybe that’s what we need to put on a shirt and I said done. And so here we are. And here’s the hoodie.

Lindsay in keep going sweatshirt

keep going

The Keep Going Hoodie

I’m so honored to have been able to share my creative process with you, as well as the multi-faceted meaning behind this sweatshirt design.

Whether you use this phrase as a cheeky "you’re not done yet," or as inspiration for a journey you need to keep walking, or as a nudge of encouragement on a day you need to power through: I hope it serves as a comforting reminder that you are seen and loved.

Keep going.

xo, L

 

23 Mar 2021

The Girls House Collection

what is the girls house?

"The Girls House" is what we call the 100-year-old craftsman outside of Madison that serves as the Lindsay Letters HQ. It's my painting studio, our team workspace, and the photoshoot location of the majority of our art collections. Someday soon it might also be a girls' weekend getaway rental!  

In short, the girls house is a dream come true—the place i've always been trying to get to. I'm so happy to finally be here, and to bring the heart and soul of this space to yours, through art!  

welcome, darling. 

Above right: The very first thing you see when you walk into the Girls House is a garden mural Lindsay painted late one night.

Dark but oh-so-colorful, Fairy Garden is the pièce de résistance of the collection, and just the thing to complete our space (maybe yours, too?). It's available in a square or classic proportioned format, has hundreds of hues in it, and loads of interest and texture. The deep and moody green was just the thing our creative space needed to ground all the lights & brights, and keep it feeling sophisticated.

The most special part of Sparkled Violet are the little white "sparkles" peppered throughout. It's soft and delicate, and the complimentary colors make for a perfectly punchy combo. (It's also available in a square proportion.)

We have another post coming soon with juicy before/after photos, paint colors, and sources — stay tuned! You can shop the entire Girls House Collection here

29 Oct 2020

The 2020 Holiday Home Collection

 

 I'll be home for christmas

Christmas in 2020 is a holiday season like none any of us have experienced. Life holds many uncertainties, but this collection of art is built on the comforts of the season we can count on – familiar colors and textures, beautiful words and nostalgic imagery... a flickering candle, a messenger angel, quiet carols in the background... all signs that point to a time when we gather to remember that Jesus came to meet us in this place. So let's cling to that Hope, let's cozy up in our homes with our people, and let's create bits of light wherever we can! 

FAWN ABSTRACT | ELIZABETH'S RIDE

All oppression shall cease (Farmhouse Canvas Co.)

Forge Ahead Abstract

"Christmas is wide enough to hold big tensions - of pain and peace, joy to the world, but sorrow for all that is still broken. The tension of waiting & longing but knowing that Christmas means that the Messiah has come, victory is his, and someday all will be made right, in Jesus' holy name." 

Christmas Tensions & Joy

Balsam & Berries Abstract

Bittersweet & Wild Chicory Botanical | Petite Pano Pines Abstract

Climb Every Mountain Abstract

Remembrance Candle | Take Heart (John 16:33)

Christmas Isn't Just a Day

In the same way that getting ourselves dressed up and ready can uplift our mood, the same can be said about our homes. I hope this collection inspires you to invest time and thought into your holiday home—not to keep up with anyone's expectations, but as an act of self-care, and hope, and celebration. 

 

Mountain View Engraving, 1985

Holiday Bouquet Abstract

Hark the Herald | Heavenly Night Abstract

Angel Sketch

You can customize and shop all the pieces in the 2020 Holiday Collection, here!

I'm wishing you a beautiful Christmas, friend! You are worthy of every good and lovely thing this season has to offer.

xo, lindsay 

27 Oct 2020

New Frames & Fine Art Print Upgrade!

Hello, friends! The 2020 Holiday Collection launches on Thursday! In the meantime, we have some fun shop news and updates that have been a looooong time coming. Live today at The Art Bar® are two beautiful new frames – Gallery Aged Brass Frame for canvases, and the darling Natural Wood Frame for prints. We're also thrilled to announce that our unframed art prints received a beautiful upgrade to our new Cotton Luxe Paper, and will be shipping in flat mailers (per popular request!).

Read below for all the details! 

New Art Print Frame: Natural Wood

This beautiful and understated Natural Wood Frame is the new darling of the group. You'll love the subtle grain of the light wood, which is sealed but not stained, allowing the natural beauty of the Pine to speak for itself. No two frames are exactly alike! You can find the Natural Wood frame on every art print in The Art Bar® at Lindsay Letters Co. Go see it on "Here is the World," here.

natural wood frame

 New Canvas Frame: Gallery Aged Brass

This new gallery finishing is an understated, moody metallic that adds a subtle shimmer to the face of an otherwise matte black frame. While it’s not an in-your-face yellow-gold, it adds an unexpected little something special to your artwork — especially when the light hits it just right. It's available now on all framed canvases in the Art Bar—go see it in the Christmas Classics Collection! Below is a photo of it in direct sunlight, on Bind My Wandering Heart. (In dimly lit rooms, the frame will appear more matte bronze, less shiny/metallic).

gallery aged brass frame

 Cotton Luxe Paper & Flat Shipping!

And last, but totally not least: An epic art print UPGRADE! Fine Art Prints are central to the history and mission of Lindsay Letters, and the quality and experience of receiving them is so important to us! We're thrilled to say that all unframed art prints have now been upgraded to a beautiful new paper, Cotton Luxe, and will be shipping in flat mailers instead of rolled.

Thank you, dear customers, for your patience in this! We want you to have the best possible experience with LL from start to finish, and we firmly believe that experience ends with not having to mess around with a rolly-uppy Art Print. Amen.

Cotton Luxe is a beautiful, cream-colored, heavyweight (105#) archival paper that boasts a perfect subtle texture and matte finish, helping the art to shine as if it were the original piece. When we were discussing how to describe this paper, Laura said "I just want people to know it's really, really pretty." So naturally, we thought about calling it "Really Pretty Paper," but figured we'd reserve that for it's in-house pet name. ;o)

Cotton Luxe

Stylist's Tip: Wondering what size unframed print to choose? If you're ordering an abstract piece as an art print, we highly recommend the 11x14 and finding a frame with a substantial mat. You'll love how it looks on the new textured paper!

You can browse abstracts, here. (Every piece in the Art Bar® is offered as a canvas or art print, framed or unframed.)

That's it for now! Don't forget that the Holiday Launch is Thursday, 10/29/20! Christmas is coming early and we are READY for it!

23 Oct 2020

Holiday 2020 Sneak Peek

Holiday Home Collection

The 2020 Holiday Collection lands in the shop on Thursday, October 29 at 7 PM, CST., and is an absolute treat for the eyes and the soul. Lindsay has created a beautiful collection of art that's at once merry and bright, traditional and fresh.

❆ 

Enjoy this behind-the-scenes glimpse at how the collection came together, and a sneak peek of what's coming on Thursday!

❆ 

Laura's Moodboard

A Page from Lindsay's Notebook

The New Christmas Color Palette

At the Shoot

Lindsay and the Tree

Lindsay's HandsLaura ShootingDetail

At the Shoot

"It's time to start transitioning our mindsets from the confinement of home to the beauty and blessing of home." 

xo, lindsay