In the spirit of the new year, I have a moodboard of images depicting Creation (with a capitol C) that I have been collecting. Once you see someone's visual interpretation of our beginning, you start to find others. I think they are so epic and weird. Excited to make things this year. 

2016 in Review

Apologies for filling up a piece of the internet with my own exercise in self-reflection. This medium has proved to be a very accessible format for me to reference, and if others want to read it you are welcome to. 

2016 has been a year of big changes—good and bad. Internally, I have been attempting to recognize the network of amazing and supportive friends, family, and creatives I have cultivated for myself over the years—to see how full my cup truly is and be present with that fullness. In the larger picture, Donald Trump was voted as president elect of the United States that resulted in a wave of protest and unease in his wake. I am not going to get into all that cause I could easily fill a journal with words and feelings and visions of a post-democratic mess. So instead, here is a quick breakdown of my favorite things about this year. 

Favorite Reads

Favorite Albums

Personal Highlights of 2016: 


The holidays were so busy that I really haven't had a chance to look forward to what's in store in 2017. But I am starting to think more about what I want to work on this year. So far I have two goals/intentions for this year. I want to take an intro ballet dance class. And secondly, I would like to practice talking slower and more intentionally. Life is moving too quickly and there is so much to discuss that I suspect I've developed the ability to talk someone's arm off! This year I'd like to speak less, say more


It's not a line; it's an arc

This year I turned 27. For the past several years, I had been dreading turning 27—and I'll tell you why. You see, Saturn takes 27-29 years to complete one full orbit around the sun and return to the same zodiac sign it was when you were born. This return is called “Saturn in Return” (also known as a quarter life crisis). Saturn in return lasts 2-3 years, in which time you come face to face with tough life lessons. 

…And I am reporting live from the trenches. 

Saturn in Return

Previously, my view of saturn in return was that I would just be depressed for two whole years. That I would be going backwards in my personal growth. But I am realizing that that is not at all what this phase is about. 

An interesting thought occurred to me while I was visiting Hobuck Beach, on the NorthWestern tip of Washington. The beach forms a long, arcing crescent shape, much like any beach. I was taking a long walk back from one end of the beach where some friends and I were exploring. I was enjoying the walk so much, taking in all the interesting land points from my vantage—the whole time looking out and aiming for a rocky point at the other end of the beach. Overtime on this long walk, I stared out, entranced, at my destination. The shape of the landscape became etched into my vision. Finally, I reached the other end of the beach. And, much like Forrest Gump on his epic run across country, I decided to turn and head back to the other side. 

Arching Beach Walk

I turned 180 degrees and at once saw a whole new expanse of scenery to take in and observe. It was the same beach, but I was seeing it in a completely new way. I excitedly absorbed myself in the new land forms, lush colors, and textures. And it occurred to me—this is exactly like Saturn in Return. During my time alive, I have been looking out, moving forward on a single trajectory. Always looking ahead to the future. And suddenly, I’ve turned around and I am seeing myself and my life through an entirely different lens. I’m still me. I am not going backwards. Everything is the same. But I am noticing all these new things that I couldn’t see before. Maybe because my back was turned, or I was so focused on going forward. 

In that moment, I understood that you can never go backwards in life. It’s an arc and you are now turning your position. It’s a change of perspective, that’s all. And now I am learning to embrace my saturn in return and what it has taught me thus far. 

Trip Log: Spain + the Canary Islands

This year has been particularly wet, dark and grueling for us in the Pacific Northwest. So when my friend, Cori, said she was going to be in Barcelona for work, I jumped at the opportunity for an international trip! Our goal was to spend a week surfing and relaxing on a warm beach. We ended up choosing the Lazarote, an island of the Canary Islands. 

Before meeting up with Cori on Lanzarote, I decided to spend three days in Barcelona solo, exploring the city and seeing the museums. Basically took myself on a  3-day art date through Barcelona to see the Fundacion de Juan Miro, the Contemporary Art Museum, and Sagrada Familia. I packed my overalls as to best stuff myself with tapas and red wine. 

MACBA: Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona 

MACBA: Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona 

MACBA—enjoyed walking around this building even more than the art

MACBA—enjoyed walking around this building even more than the art

Can Paixano (La Xampanyeria)

Can Paixano (La Xampanyeria)

Sagrada Familia
The ceiling at Sagrada Familia

The ceiling at Sagrada Familia

After three days of roaming the streets and museums of Barcelona I was pretty exhausted and ready to head to the islands. I jumped on a plane and took a 3-hour flight to Lanzarote—an island of the Canaries, located off the coast of Morocco. 

Lanzarote, similar to islands in Hawaii, is a volcanic island. Just 300 years ago, a series of volcanic eruptions lasted for 6 years, dramatically changing the island. Even though that seems like a long time ago, I imagine it takes a long time for an environment to blossom from molten rock and fire. At first glance, the island looks like a desert. But the longer you spend on the island, you start to notice all the different sorts of vegetation braving the intense wind and sun. Everything was very low to the ground—even the palm trees were short and squat. You can tell the island endures a lot of wind throughout the year. 

The 60's bungalow beach house of my dreams 

The 60's bungalow beach house of my dreams 

Coral rocks on the beach
Taking off on a (tiny) wave

Taking off on a (tiny) wave

Our surf house accomodations

Our surf house accomodations

Low clouds rolling off the top of the ridge at the beach we surfed at everyday

Low clouds rolling off the top of the ridge at the beach we surfed at everyday

Caleta de Famara

Caleta de Famara

Timanfaya National Park

Timanfaya National Park

Walking inside the crater of Volcan del Cuervo

Walking inside the crater of Volcan del Cuervo

I've been getting in the habit of making short videos of trips. They are so much fun to look back on. Moving pictures transport you back to that moment and place so much more vividly than a photo. So here's a little thing I made of this trip :) 

Winter's Transformation

I get asked a lot about the rain in Seattle. And I gotta tell you, it lives up to the hype. It’s less about the rain and more about the darkness, that is the trouble for a Seattlite. During the winter months the sun sets as early as 3:00—that is, if you could see the sunset. During the daylight hours the sun is often covered by a low and dense layer of grey clouds that diffuse the sun into a soft white light. It can feel stifling, day after day, to live life under this grey blanket. And it can start to chip away at your mood. If you’re not mindful of eating healthy and exercising, you can easily slip into a sleepy, cheese-curd-induced winter coma (*ehem). 


Despite everyone’s struggle with winter, I think it’s one of the most important times of the year because it gives us a chance to slow down and look inward. 

For me, winter is always a transformative time. I am never the same person as I was going into winter.  It’s like gardening—occasionally you need to prune a plant in order to make room for more blossoms. It’s uncomfortable, but it's a healthy process to go through annually— like a spring cleaning for your mind! I think of winter as a time for pruning away all the negative aspects in my life to make way for fresh experiences and connections in spring. 

Mornings in Seattle

2015 in Review

Getting on this a bit late in the game, but I felt it was important to do a recap of each year going forward. Life moves so fast. I want to be better about recognizing it's blessings. Overall, 2015 was a year of growth and transition. I formed and strengthened a lot of friendships, became a more organized and clean adult, and learned to be more patience with myself.  

Favorite Albums: 
Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color
Tame Impala, Currents
Tacocat: NVM
D'Angelo, Black Messiah

Favorite Books:
The First Bad Man
The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex
Boys on the Boat


Most notably, back in March I took a two-week long road trip with my cousin Hallie down to the Southwest. I'd been daydreaming about exploring that part of the country for years and I am happy that I finally brought that dream to action. The trip was flawlessly amazing. There is so much to see and explore down there, I could take 3 more similar trips to see things we passed up. I look back on the video I made of our trip and my heart glows.

2016 Goals

Be present.
Let go of the control I attempt to have on my future and let things happen more naturally.

"Have courage, take risks, go now, why not, who cares, yes yes yes!" - Amy Poehler 
  • Surf trip in the Canary Islands
  • buy a new car
  • have a solo art show at a coffee shop
  • learn a new design skill: animation
  • practice meditation
  • spend less time on social media 
  • stop taking myself so seriously

Chloe Hope Gilstrap

Last month I was fortunate enough to meet up with a talented photographer friend, Chloe Gilstrap. Chloe recently moved to Seattle from South Carolina where she studied photography. We met through a mutual friend here in town and I have been creeping on her photography ever since. We met up for coffee at Porchlight and walked around Capitol Hill talking and shooting pictures. She is a wonderful person and here are some of the lovely photos from our afternoon. 

Museum of International Folk Art

While in Santa Fe, New Mexico I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of International Folk Art. This museum has been on my radar ever since I discovered the work of Alexander Girard, architect, interior designer, furniture designer, and textile designer.  

Alexander and his wife, Susan, began collecting folk art (particularly Mexican folk art) starting in the 1930's. Many tourists have done the same, but Alexander and Susan Girard "recognized the aesthetic value of this art immediately". The Girard Collection at the Museum of International Folk Art is made up of over one hundred thousand objects drawn from over one hundred countries. When you step into the Girard wing of the museum, it's absolutely overwhelming. Brightly colored and immensely dense, the exhibit weaves a maze around dozens of intricately arranged dioramas. Textiles hang from the rafters and religious statues loom from above cases. It's a sensory overload, but in the best way. 

The definition of the term "folk art" remains vexing even to scholars in the field. There are two schools of thought: one where a sense of community (i.e. made from indigenous cultures) holds sway and the other in which individual creativity is heavily emphasized. In contrast to fine art, folk art is purely decorative and utilitarian. The interesting thing to me about folk art is that it seems to come from an uncorrupted urge (or call) to be creative, whether it be in clay, fiber, wood, or tin cans. I imagine most the artisans in the exhibit never went to school for art, and that is what makes their creative expressions so pure and true. 

Southwest Road Trip Recap

I've been away for a while, driving around the southwest and living out of my car with my cousin Hallie O'Brien. The trip was around four thousand miles, through 7 states and 4 national parks. I'll attempt to share some of the awesome rock formations and deep canyons we saw in pictures, but for now, here is the roadtrip in a nutshell. 

Back to the Basics: Letterpress

This winter I decided to get back to the basics with my letterpress education at take a class at the School of Visual Concepts here in Seattle. They have a great letterpress shop with excellent and enthusiastic instructors. I decided for my final broadside project to typeset the lyrics to a song by Nina Simone that I like to think of when I'm down in the dumps. And since I had access to SVC's wonderful print shop and skilled printmaking instructors, I would go all out. I put together a complicated handset type lockup, using a combination of lead and wood type from their collection. I printed a split fountain background that I ended up doing as a "pressure print", a process that I would actually love to continue using in my process. Two press runs total. 

Everything was designed and produced off the computer. 

On My Bookshelf: Le Forchette di Munari

Ever anthropomorphized your cutlery? Well, after seeing these illustrations of forks, you will. This is another art book by Bruno Munari from the publishing house Corraini EdizioniMunari also published his "Supplemental Italian Dictionary" explaining what each expressive Italian hand gesture means. And this book illustrates that same concept in a playful way— through forks! 

The book itself is as quirky as its subject matter. It is so narrow, there is no proper place to store or display it. But that is all part of its charm. I love the silver ink on a pink cover stock and the exposed spine binding with contrasting black thread. The whole thing makes me smile and giggle when I flip through its pages. It's nice to see a designer take things less seriously and just make something silly. 

Meg O'Brien | On My Bookshelf
Meg O'Brien | On My Bookshelf
Meg O'Brien | On My Bookshelf
Meg O'Brien | On My Bookshelf
Meg O'Brien | On My Bookshelf
Meg O'Brien | On My Bookshelf
Meg O'Brien | On My Bookshelf
Meg O'Brien | On My Bookshelf
Meg O'Brien | On My Bookshelf

The Drawn Letter

Last month, I took a trip out to NYC to attend a weekend workshop at Cooper Type taught by Ken Barber of House Ind. Most of the room was filled with students in the Cooper Type certification program for type design, so I had to get over an initial wave of intimidation. Luckily, being at the Cooper Union building was aspirational enough to give me the gumption I needed. 

I was struck by how open Ken Barber is about sharing his process of drawing type, and how concisely he was able to articulate the concepts of lettering and type design. He wasted no time getting us right into it. The first exercise was to draw "hands on" using his process: starting with a typographic reference (Didot was my favorite), you then shift around the variables such as weight, contrast, width, proportions, and contours to create unique letterforms. I think the point in starting with a typographic reference is to make sure you are following some sort of system that unifies the letterforms. I find this method really helpful and much less daunting than just sketching letterforms out of thin-air.

Cooper Union
Cooper Union
Type Reference
Ken Barber

Other interesting points from the workshop:

This seems totally, "duh, Meg", but I had never thought of applying the basics of design (color, shape, contrast, scale, composition) on a micro level to typography. I guess that's why type is so FREAKING COOL! Volume especially struck a chord with me. When looking at a particular arrangement of letters in a sketch, some would appear heavier, messing with the overall color of the composition. So then I would fix the problem by adjusting some of the other variables.

Also, when you are initially sketching out a composition, breaking down letterforms into basic shapes (circles, squares, triangles) really helps to determine how much space they will encompass on the page. For example, pencil in a triangle instead of the whole A or a square for an N. Again, kind of a "duh", but it's a tip I had never been explicitly told. 

Type and Color
Type Shapes

The second day we were able to sketch letterforms of our choosing, and create a unique composition using Ken Barber's process. I chose to sketch out the name of a friend's home brew side business. By the end of the weekend, my fingers and hands were sore from all the hours of drawing :) 

Type Sketch | Meg O'Brien
Poison Water

On My Bookshelf: Contanti Auguri

This book was a speedy little charrette for Bruno Munari, only taking 7 days to design and make ready. It's a very light, compact book. How to use it? As the title suggests, "this little book is excellent to give your best wishes to relatives, friends, neighbours or anybody you wish. Since it is written in (almost) every language of the world, you will also have (almost) no possibility to make mistakes or blunders in giving it as a present to your most distant friends." 

A Personal Geography

I've been turning the idea over in my head of visualizing the events of my life into some weird geographic location. I thought it would be a good creative exercise, and also help me reflect a little. So last month, I finally sat myself down and illustrated this Tolkien-inspired map of my life. Now that I've got the juices flowing I can't stop thinking of different ways to chart and represent the events in my life, like the imaginative maps in Katherine Harmon's "You Are Here".  Maybe I'll make this into a semi-annual thing.  

map process
Meg O'Brien | map detail
Meg O'Brien | map detail

On My Bookshelf: Flight of Fancy

Diecut into the cover of Flight of Fancy are twenty-one randomly scattered dots. Imaginging these series of dots to be locations— cities, Bruno Munari finds various ways to connect them. It's a pocket-sized book that takes a design exercise and turns into into book form, with Munari providing explanations to his thought processes along the way. Quoting the interior explanation of the exercise: "Let's look at [the dots] as reference points around which and with which we will establish clusters— connections— formal relationships— using straight lines, curved lines, or lines of dots or whatever. The game consists in inventing lots of different ways of connecting, linking, grouping together these dots." 

It's a very simple book. But I love it for its brevity and singularity.