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When I look at the calendar I have been back from China longer than I realized. I  got wrapped upon re-entry and updating my XO, Monica Lee website to put my paintings up for sale. (yay!) I have small works and large works for  AVAILABLE FOR SALE! This took more contemplation and time than I was prepared for while dealing with jet lag, haha! I am reaching out to galleries soon and I am open to suggestions of particular ones you like and can recommend. If there was one take away from traveling to China is that it is a small world after all.  I think I was unnecessarily nervous about this trip, which often happens when I take a particularly long flight (and omigosh was it long) to get somewhere. Adding to the fact that I was checking 7 large paintings packed carefully in a large golf bag on the airplane to assemble in a setting I knew very little about beforehand. I was prepared to adapt and to not get too wigged about things I couldn’t control like:

*no normal internet connection ( especially as we navigated our way throughout the city)

* eating (I have a gluten issue, was I going to have to eat rice for 7 days straight?!)

*driving my BFF  who came along, absolutely nuts and obliterating a long standing friendship (serious jet lag and close quarters made this a possibility, haha!)

Turns out the signs on all the street corners are in English as well as Chinese in Shanghai and even though the cab drivers don’t speak English as a general rule, the subway is clean, easy to understand and completely marked in English as well Chinese. It was easier for us to get around on public transportation, we felt quite savvy by the end of the trip.

Staying at a  GOOD hotel, the JW Marriott, was the best decision I made. I was pleasantly surprised that I had complete access to the world wide web while I was on the hotel wifi  AND by adding access to the Executive Lounge to the room bill, we ate very well before we headed out for the day and when we returned. TOTALLY WORTH IT. I even wrote  Trip Advisor review!

We had our share of feeling foreign, just try being the only two blondes in a sea of people on a crowded tourist area on a Saturday! We got really good at saying NO to sales people (which is kind of amazing for me since they all wanted to sell me handbags!) Which on a side note, there is not one woman from teenager to grandmother, who carries an ugly beat up purse. Seriously, NOT ONE! And to add to that noticeable oddity, if your husband or boyfriend is with you, they carry your bag for you! What?? Hmmm,  let me just throw that extra water bottle in my bag since you are doing the heavy lifting.

We also had a “Hey, wait? Did that just happen?” moment when my dinner was served to me and we couldn’t figure out what it was. “Did I actually order this, because I think it is moving like a bunch of underwater sea coral?!!” My trained eye realized it was not sitting on gluten free noodles but just WHAT WAS THAT MOVING on top of those glutenous noodles? Our experienced dinner partner quickly asked the waiter, “Is that LIVE?” about the same time I asked about the noodles and the dish was whisked away before I got a video of it, shoot!

It is hard to tell you everything and I thought of you while I was gone, really! I thought of things like the advice I got when I said that a workman in China would be making some of the stretchers for the canvases I was bringing. The pre-trip advice being, don’t count on that going exactly right. It didn’t, which was fine because we arrived a day early and I am fast on my feet. Wood working is not quite a Chinese thing, I quickly deducted. In fact,  I met a family in the Executive Lounge who was exporting wood from Kentucky to China. I met THE most interesting people, who traveled way more than I do and it just makes me want to get out in the small/big world more! But we came for art, fashion and sights and shopping so here are some pics! (err, I am not showing pictures on all my handbag purchases because my husband on occasion reads my blog and didn’t I actually HAVE a handbag business at one point?) I may need an intervention.

You can see these installed art images at XO, Monica Lee as well as the art in the available section on the site.

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I did end up sketching a live runway show, which again, I absolutely love doing. Positioning where I sit is key, I realized, and this is something I am not always in control of, but my note to self is to ask to be right next to the photographers! I also must keep drawing people so I don’t lose my hand, since it is really fun. You can see more under the illustration menu over on my portfolio site, XO, Monica Lee. shanghaifashionweek_runway

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17862475_1361845347218909_2383431222381942206_n  Drying tea leaves the old fashioned way…or at least I think that is what he was doing. He might have just been getting some exercise.

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The top right shot is what happens when you ask a Chinese waiter to take your photo, I couldn’t understand why he was holding the camera crooked :0! And Yes, my BFF still loves me, you do Susan, right?

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I THINK I mastered the art of  bartering by this end of the trip. Naturally, wish I would have had a better handle on it on the first day, but my Chinese visa is good for 10 years, if anyone needs me to shop for them!

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Well, it has been a really long time since I have posted. The last you saw me might have been when I announced a bit of a sabbatical. I think you all know that since then I have been exploring an entirely different side to my creativity. I have wholeheartedly jumped into a fine art practice, taken workshops, rebuilt my personal website, XO, Monica Lee and developed my artist statement.  The last one was really fun (and somewhat surprising) since, if you know me, I have always have a fair amount to say!

Now I am about to embark on another very exciting trip to Shanghai China!!! I have been asked to create an art installation during Shanghai Fashion Week. WHAT?!! I know, how fun is that? I leave next week and there has been a fair amount of planning and a large amount of painting going on the last couple of months.  Some of you have asked via social media how this all came about and it got me thinking a bit…

The straight up facts are that when I was illustrating at London Fashion Week, I was squished on the front row at Fashion Scout London drawing away and met Meimei Ding and we just hit it off. She was so cool and such a jet setter, a girl after my own heart! Meimei is the  CEO  of DFO International;  DFO is currently the largest distribution, showroom, buying and press office, for international fashion brands in China and Southeast Asia. We had a couple of girlfriend moments watching runway shows and both got excited about possibly meeting again and doing something together.  Now I am packing up 6 (possibly 7, I can’t DECIDE, gah!) large scale paintings and placing them in her show in these giant structures I designed. All using metrics instead of inches, I might add. Lordy, that was tricky for a dyslexic girl.

So esoterically, energy wise, spiritually how did this all happen and how did I get to a space where I am painting large scale florals and abstracts, packing them up  a feat within itself), applying for a Chinese business visa (complicated) and booking a hotel for Shanghai Fashion Week?

  1. I took chances on my art and myself. This started when I sent off an email to work with Fashion Scout London last year, something I happened across on instagram! Could I have talked myself out of sending that email and that trip, easily! When I was told they had offered the spot to me out of 200 applicants, I was seriously flattered and nervous but I made it happen.
  2. I made it a priority to do good work and challenge myself. This move meant trusting myself, my taste, eye and skill. From having people watch over my shoulder as I drew fashion heading down the runway to buying giant paint brushes and changing my medium, I was allowing myself to fail epically at my art as well as trust that some of it just might be good. I had not truly pushed myself skill wise in years and what helped me was…
  3. I took money off the table and by that I mean, I didn’t chase the money. Hustling and following what industries where hot for illustrators was not allowing me to grow creatively. This way of approaching art might not be for everybody, but for some background on me, I had been doing art commercially since college.  I realized that I had illustrated in every single market there was to illustrate for! I had also realized via all the Smart Creative Women interviews that it didn’t really matter what was working for creative’s at the moment. I had interviewed many people doing financially well at just about everything. Lesson: Find your thing and just do it.
  4. I took things off my plate. Awwww, The Rotary Lesson! If too many cars are circling around you and your life (i.e. the rotary) then somebody or something is bound to crash. I like being busy but instinctively I knew I had to simplify even BEFORE I had a clear plan as to why.  If my plate had been completely full with self imposed deadlines and great laid plans, I simply would not have had room for opportunities that came my way. This was harder for me than it may seem. I even let go of social media and only did what I FELT like doing. WHAT?! I am such a planner but when my priority became do good work (see number 2) then I simply had to make time to sit, contemplate and then create.
  5.  I made myself a student. I spent the last couple of years teaching and mentoring creative women and yet carved out time to learn new things myself. This is where the creating the bag business  had really propelled me along. I had so much to learn in a short amount of time, I HAD to be a confident and fast learner. Calculate cow hides in to yardage, anyone?  As I started plotting out this trip, I had to GROW every aspect of what I was now creating, stretching canvases…learning THE METRIC SYSTEM. Why didn’t the US just make the switch when we had the chance. i.e. when I was younger?!

Opportunities can embolden us to view ourselves in a new ways we might not have yet imagined for ourselves but it is important  that we pave a way for them so we are ready when they arise.

I am hopeful and pretty calm about all the moving parts in next weeks adventure coming together!  You can follow me on my personal instagram @xo_monicalee and on my insta-stories! More installed art pics to come!

monica_lee_art  Meimei and I  during London Fashion Week, she is pretty much followed around by her own film team. I told you she was cool.

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A peek at some late afternoon contemplating when Tom joined me at the BIG studio. What studio? The one I got to work in for a couple months to prepare for this trip…another awesome opportunity!

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I have interviewed Lisa Daria Kennedy once before, quite a while back and since that time we have become good friends. Lucky me! I wanted to bring her on this series so you could tune in as we talk about the-meaning-behind-art-creation. Sound deep? Well, it sort of is but this is the type of conversation we have when we get together.  Lisa has terrific insight, is a terrific teacher and has been holding my hand a bit as I leap into new territory, you can hear more about that here. Lisa helped me think about writing an artists statement and has help me let go of things that were holding me back. She is a fabulous, deep and FUN artist and mentor. If you get the chance to take a workshop from her, DO IT! She has a gift for teaching! She also has a gift for art. If you get a chance to own some of her work, DO IT!

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Fainting Party Series

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Too Polite To Ask Series

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Lisa’s Daily Paintings 

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I decided to wrap up this Artists and Mentors Series with a note from me. In this episode, I talk about what I am up to and why I needed an online break and what evolved as a result. This is a good episode to listen to if you are feeling a bit fatigued with the internet (the election might have been the final nail), if you ever needed to stop something you were invested in and if you think you may need some help with where you are headed. I am sharing what the last couple of months have looked like for me and the motivation behind some of my new paintings AND how using my own coaching from Smart Creative Style ended up helping me find some visual rhythm. (The coach got coached!) If you are interested in coaching feel to contact me! monica (at) monicaleestudios.com

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I am so excited to welcome back Danielle Krysa from The Jealous Curator. Danielle has recently released her third book  titled Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk. This is such a terrific read, I just had to have her back on for the Artists and Mentor Series.

Her own podcast, Art For Your Ear, has kept me painting when I could otherwise be drifting off into the kitchen in procrastination. Danielle is funny, smart, vulnerable and a talented artist herself. I adore her collage art (check out the screenshot below from her Instagram feed). Tune in as we talk about producing art while trying to wrestle, make friends with and stamp out that critical voice that we all have.

 Here is the art of Martha Rich. It is just so fun and we need this as a poster in our studios!

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Here is a peek at #daniellekrysaart on Instagram @thejealouscurator, you simply have to go read the titles and commentary on Danielle’s art-hilarious and smart! You can tune into my other interview with Danielle here.

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