This is how I feel about it being 2014:

January 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

© Leah Hoelscher

For once, I don’t have a laundry list of resolutions! 2013 was a big year – I made over 200 patterns and illustrations, filled four sketchbooks, debuted at Surtex and formed some great client partnerships, and finally launched my illustration business for real. On a personal note, I visited some friends in LA, moved in with Smashotron Scott, got my new studio in order, ran a half marathon and did lots of other fun things along the way. All I want to do in 2014 is KEEP DOING IT!


Tales from the road: Finding Tranquilo

February 25, 2013 § 1 Comment


© Leah Hoelscher 2013


{Tales from the Road is a new series I’m starting here at Little Arrow. To make up for terribly lazy travel blogging over the past year and half, I’ll finally be telling some of the better stories and reflections from my travels in Asia, Europe, and South America.}

TRANQUILO (adj.): quiet, peaceful, calm, gentle, relaxed, untroubled, laid-back; ex: (tú) tranquilo, -a! -> don’t you worry!

This is my favorite word in the Spanish language. Over the course of the three months I spent traveling in South America, it came to embody the total attitude makeover long-term backpackers find necessary to adjust to all the little bumps along the way. Did it take your bus ten hours longer than expected to get to La Paz? Are you somehow stranded in an Andean village, crashing with a family that only speaks Quechua? Have you spent four hours begging every bank teller, Western Union outlet operator, and travel agent in some godforsaken border town to exchange your Peruvian Soles for Bolivianos? ¡Tranquilo!

I got told to tranquilo a lot. By cab drivers. By shop owners. By my Peruvian friend who thinks I walk too fast. One time, by a Bolivian border agent, who lazily checked my documents, filled me in on the nation-wide transit strike, and assured me I could find a boyfriend in Bolivia. I got told to tranquilo so much that it got me thinking – we really don’t have this word in English. Sometimes you’ll hear people get told to “relax” or “chill” or “calm down” but really, it’s not the same. Those are all ways of telling people to be quiet and get in control of themselves. Tranquilo is more like, hey, why don’t you stop worrying and be happy?

And really, it makes sense that the people of South America have embraced this word – by and large, the kind of problems you encounter there cannot be solved by a little old fashioned hand wringing. This is a world of poverty, massive labor strikes, imposing mountains, extreme weather, and bad roads. Who has time to worry? It strikes me as ironic that for all the advances the US has made in sanitation, education, technology, etc. that we spend WAY more time and energy obsessing over details and complaining about (mostly) insignificant problems. Kind of like that “first world problem” internet meme.

There’s a bigger lesson here for me though – well, two, really. 1.) My world is full of things that I previously took for granted – reliable transit, public works, dental care, trash cans – and never will again. Thank you, South America. 2.) Even if my problems grow beyond the “first world” category into the “basic things necessary for life” category, it still doesn’t make sense to sacrifice happy moments for worried moments. Worry itself is no use to me.


2013: Looking for Greatness, Looking for Green

December 28, 2012 § Leave a comment


One of the ways we designers like to welcome a new year is with a splash of color. Not just any color – a color lovingly selected by the undisputed authority on color, Pantone. This year, Pantone has announced that the 2013 Color of the Year is 17-5641, Emerald Green. And what a gorgeous green it is! According to the Pantone website, Emerald Green is a color that signifies unity, regeneration, well-being, and harmony. I am more than a little bit partial to Emerald Green so I was especially excited to see that it is the color of 2013. Today I’ve spent some time planning, goal setting, pinning to my board I entered in the Pantone Color of the Year Pinterest Contest and generally getting psyched about all that I have to look forward to in 2013. 2012 was an incredible year for me – it was a dynamic reel of adventures that pushed me in so many ways. I learned Spanish, became a surfer, fulfilled my dream to travel in South America, and renewed my passion for illustration and design. Now, in 2013, I’m looking forward to a year of tremendous growth and opportunity and my biggest goal is to apply myself with renewed energy and passion to designing and illustrating. Emerald Green balances emotions of both lively and calm, so it’s an appropriate mood for me to keep in mind as I focus on more long-term (but still very exciting!) opportunities. Here’s to 2013!

I ain’t never gonna go back to my old ways again.

January 31, 2011 § 1 Comment


uh, awkward. I have all these blogs I want to write about how I’ve leaped into 2011 as a gleaming instrument of productivity in satisfaction (which is kind of partly true!) but clearly, I’ve let another month slip by without doing the blogging I supposed I would be doing in 2011. Please excuse the massive backlog of posts here.


I always make New Year’s resolutions. I always make these vague, touchy-feeley resolutions that I do and feel good about sometimes, and guilty about others. And I always refine these ambiguous blobby initiatives down to an arbitrarily low number of resolutions, as if that somehow makes them more reasonable or easier to achieve. Or, as if that will put all of my other desires for self-improvement out of my mind and help me focus on the really important things.

I know myself better than that.

No matter what I am doing, I am always finding new ways to overestimate, overextend, distract, sample, dabble, side track, burn the candle at both ends, put more tasks on my plate. This year I’m going to try a different approach to New Year resolutions: please step up to my buffet of 32 (an arbitrarily large number!) of goals for 2011. In no particular order:

  • don’t waste time.
  • sleep at night, for periods of 6-8 hours, every night, like a normal human.
  • spend a MINIMUM of 12 hours of dedicated, distraction drawing-only time.
  • finish a MINIMUM of 1 “big project”, design or drawing-wise, per month.
  • blog TWICE A WEEK about art and design things. (I know…)
  • improve my photography skills; especially portraits and photographing my work.
  • run a sub-50 minute 10k race.
  • run a sub-2 hour half marathon race.
  • complete another marathon.
  • do strength training twice a week.
  • stop eating gross snack food just because I’m bored at work.
  • take proper care of my skin.
  • hair cut every 12 weeks (this is HUGE.)
  • throw away gross old clothes.
  • save lots and lots of money.
  • expand music collection ^___^
  • learn to french braid…
  • finish to-do lists within a reasonable amount of time
  • spend less time making stupid lists
  • skype friends more
  • avoid injury
  • start learning Spanish, like maybe one hour  a week.
  • make lots of travel plans!
  • visit Jeju island
  • visit Gyeongju, Korea
  • visit Seoraksan and Sokcho, Korea
  • visit Lawrence, Kansas!
  • make. website.
  • look for new inspirational art things once a week.
  • buy things that are environmentally conscious
  • break the cycle of cheap crap in my life (buy quality)
  • eat at a new restaurant once a month


One year in the R.O.K…

August 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

Hard to believe, but I’ve been in Korea for almost an entire year. I have a few more days of work and then I’m USA-bound for a month of vacation before a return to deal ol’ Seoul for round two.When I came here I was really needing the opportunity to reflect about some pressing things in my life, and I definitely have had that opportunity here. I want to take a minute and write about some of the things that have been on my mind this year, and some of the better ideas that have occurred to me.

So, the main thing that I was feeling confused about a year ago was what direction I wanted to pursue career-wise. This is what I wrote on September 13, 2009: “Essentially what I’d like to use this year for is to find a way to connect my illustrator/designer self with my sustainability and world affairs self.” No major breakthroughs there, but after reading up on a lot of relevant issues, I have realized that communicating a message is a huge part of creating a change in society. I do have a skill that could be useful in bringing a lot of social problems into focus for the public at large, and I don’t have the skills to tackle these problems in other ways, and I’m not inclined to go back to school just yet. Also, quite frankly, I’ve met a lot of well-meaning but directionless people this year, and it’s reminded me of how much I like working hard for something I feel committed to.  I’m very happy with my choice to spend sometime wandering around and exploring things before I ‘get serious’ (and I will be taking more time for that purpose), but I can see that I’m going to want to buckle down sooner than later, and illustration / design really is the best route at this point, which is a huge relief.

I want to mention a few other realizations I’ve had in the past year:

– “free time” is overrated. I’m a project person, and I need to be working on something to be happy. The flip side of this is that I like to overwhelm myself.

-adequate sleep is not overrated.

-living abroad has made me skeptical, but skeptical is just another way of being open-minded.

-Marathon training has been hugely beneficial for me, mentally. I have a bad habit of getting overwhelmed by the bigness of a challenge, and I also tend to expect too much from myself at too short notice. Marathon training is good because you progress in small increments and you can’t slack off at any stage. Like drawing, running for long distances requires a certain mindset and level of discipline.

-For next year, the most important thing is to spend many, many more hours drawing and working out my ideas visually. I didn’t spend near enough time doing that this year, and I badly miss it. I’ve done a lot of thinking and scheming this year, so now I need to turn to the work for answers. Also, blogging. I’ve tried some different approaches to blogging this year and I’m not 100% excited about any of them, so I need to work on that.

Design for the first world.

July 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

Tee hee. You big shot designers in the first world think you can fix all the problems of the third world while your own countries are mired in oil spills, eating disorders, and rampant materialism?

Actually, I really like this great design competition I just read about in a Good Magazine article called Design for the First World. The article mention that while the humanitarian boom in design is great and all, it is mainly comprised of Western, first world designers designing for communities in developing nations…communities that they themselves do not live in while many of the major problems in Western society go un-designed-about. Hmmm…I like this call to action for designers from the developing nations themselves. We’re all screwed in one way or another. Haven’t we got a lot to learn as well?

another thing about plastic…

July 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

I just found this on Good magazine’s website. It’s a fantastic animation, and it makes a damn good point too!

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