Monthly Archives: September 2015

Heather B. Armstrong: The Daily Chuck


Heather B. Armstrong is a speaker and consultant made famous for her popular, funny, and irreverent ‘mommy blog’  A fixture on the website was the Daily Chuck–an original daily image of her idiosyncratic dog. Chuck passed away this summer and Armstrong documented the experience in a touching post.  Chuck’s fame extended to an Instagram account and an annual calendar with proceeds going to a local animal shelter. Armstrong and her two daughters live in Utah.

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You have described yourself as a ‘professional blogger’, ‘speaker’, ‘writer’, ‘brand consultant’, and even as a ‘Trivial Pursuit answer’. I would add ‘artist’ and ‘photographer’ to that list. Do you feel like a creative person? Yes, that is at the heart and soul of me. Having stepped away from blogging I have taken on a lot of administrative and business things. Now I realize how much joy creative things brought to my life.

You documented your dog Chuck’s life with over 1,000 images on your website with the Daily Chuck. Back in the early days of my blogging, whenever I would post about Chuck people just adored the dog. People—at least my readers—love dogs and kids. And I was willing to provide content about Chuck. People wanted to see more of him so I started the Daily Chuck. It really started with his talent of balancing things on his head. Literally everyday I would take a photo—it became part of my job. He knew it, too. He knew after the session that he would get a reward. His tail wagged like mad as soon as I picked up the camera.

With some distance now, what are your feelings about Chuck? Very interesting what’s happened. At the end of my blogging the whole experience of the blog became panic inducing. I don’t want to take another picture of my damn dog, but I have to take the photo. But I can’t believe I’m dreading taking a picture of my dog. But back in the day it was so much fun and I loved the readers’ reactions. Now that he’s gone I realize how good my other dog is. I never really appreciated it. Chuck was very cat-like and my other dog is a real dog—and I like dogs.

Tell us about your new business and this new phase of your career. The best part about it is not being beholden to a publishing schedule that was killing me. Not living underneath that weight has been nice. Transition is still ongoing and I haven’t reached the other side yet. Now I’m worrying about spreadsheets, Word documents, and Keynotes. Business is interesting, but I miss writing about my life.

Visit Heather B. Armstrong’s website.

Follow Heather B. Armstrong on Instagram.


Natalie Hoopes: A Little Off-Kilter


Natalie Hoopes is an illustrator, painter, and writer. She graduated from BYU and lives with her husband, a drummer, in Utah. Her new book is a collaboration with David Miles called Book.  One review called it, “One of the prettiest paeans to the codex in recent memory.”

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Describe yourself as an artist. I’m an illustrator and (kind of?) fine artist who aspires to be a writer as well. There are too many things I want to do in life, so I usually just say ‘illustrator’. I tend to work with watercolor, pen and acrylic more than anything else, but I’ve also worked in oils, watercolor pencil, crayon, torn book pages, marker, India ink, charcoal, Photoshop… whatever I can get my hands on! My biggest goals in life are to write and illustrate my own picture books, young adult or middle-grade novels and possibly comics. I enjoy telling stories about dissatisfied young kids who get into trouble and I love to paint pictures of a situation that’s a little off-kilter.

What do you think about art in the Church these days? What would you like to see as Mormon art evolves? Growing up, there wasn’t a lot of Mormon art that I really related to. I felt like every image I looked at was too rosy, with lots of obedient, smiling children who looked like they loved church (which I didn’t at the time). I dismissed it altogether and decided that I never wanted anything to do with religious artwork. However, the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve learned that being an LDS artist doesn’t mean you’re restricted to painting scenes from the scriptures, or even anything typically ‘Mormon’ at all. I’ve grown to respect and appreciate the art I dismissed when I was younger (and I think those artists are probably more talented and successful than I will ever be!), but most of the artists I connect with now tend to paint more personal, spiritual scenes. Their art feels specific to their human experience, which actually makes it more relatable. I know many people who feel out of place in Church culture. Art like that can be healing.

Tell us about your experience working with J. Kirk Richards. It’s awesome! I’ve learned a ton. I work as a studio assistant a few times a week at his in-house studio and have been doing so for little over a year I think. It’s funny because I feel like are a lot of things my university professors told me not to do that Kirk is doing. And he’s doing them successfully! It’s refreshing because I feel like he follows his own instincts and isn’t afraid to try multiple things or to have many projects going at once. He’s found a good rhythm for his work. He and his wife, Amy, are great examples to me. It’s been fun to observe their happy, functional, artistic family. My husband and I have similar life goals and I feel like working with Kirk and the other studio assistants has opened up a lot of doors.

Visit Natalie Hoopes’ website.

Follow Natalie Hoopes on Instagram.


Jonathan Hoffman: Digital Art and Maquette Sculptures


Jonathan Hoffman is a talented sculptor and digital artist currently working as a Technical Director for Pixar. He graduated from the BYU Animation program and has worked on a number of Pixar projects including the film Up. He has worked with oil-based clay since he was seven or eight years old and does personal projects with maquette sculptures. He currently lives in Northern California.

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Describe yourself as an artist. This is a really hard question to answer. I’m still trying to find my style, still trying to find my audience, really. Most of my artwork is centered on the stories that I write. Creating art is part of creating a story for me – as I’m working, I’m thinking about the characters, about the world, weaving together the larger canvas of the story. My art comes out of a passion and drive to create, to make something that is purely my own. One of the things I struggle with is focus – I bounce between digital painting, sculpting, and writing – and my fear is that I haven’t progressed fast enough because I’m unwilling to hunker down with one discipline and really master it. I guess I’m too restless to just keep doing the same thing for too long, I crave variety.

What is a maquette sculptor? Historically, maquettes were made as a means to ‘mock up’ a character. In practical effects, they could make a maquette of something that would later be built to scale – or in sculpture an artist would make small wax maquette of what would later be a marble sculpture. At Pixar there are two full-time sculptors who make clay maquettes of our main characters, taking two-dimensional designs into three dimensions. Both are incredibly talented. They explore the characters and their facial expressions before these are built on the computer.

What is your role at Pixar? My role is a character shading technical director. That means I get a digital model after it’s been built by the modeling/rigging department, and it’s my job to take that basic 3D shape and paint on the details. I usually get a packet of reference images as well as a painted image showing me how the art department wants the character to look. My job involves painting details, like the freckles on someone’s face or the scales on a fish. I also have to define how reflective a surface is, how deep light penetrates beneath the surface, how minor details on the surface actually displace above or below the model itself. It’s sort of a handshake between coding and painting.

You once said, “I believe a story worth telling talks about human experience in a way that is edifying, where you learn something about life and the consequences of our actions and the potential man has for great good or great evil.” What are some of the aspects of the human experience that you like to address in your writing and art? In the article you reference, I was saying how I feel that fantasy and science fiction are an excellent medium for teaching us about the real world, specifically because they are set in an unfamiliar environment that isn’t loaded with our own preconceptions and prejudices. But, that said, my writing definitely falls into the category of escapist fiction – it’s primarily meant to be entertaining. I do try to craft my characters to be complex and believable, so when they’re thrown into horrible situations they respond in a way that shows human nature, good and bad. I learn about myself as I’m writing, and hopefully I can touch on themes that arise naturally from what happens in the story. I guess as a writer I’m especially cruel to my characters. It’s only when you really kick your main character to the curb that you get to watch them pick themselves up and keep going.

What are you working on next? I have been writing a series of novels since college. After pursuing a couple different story ideas, I’ve kind of returned to the story I wanted to write originally. I’m confident that this is the best draft I’ve created so far, but I’m still revising and improving it before I start sending it off to publishers. I’m also part of a writers group at Pixar who have been work-shopping parts of it with me, so that’s been very helpful. Unfortunately, there’s a whole lot more to getting published than simply writing. I counted up how much fiction I’ve written so far, and it’s a little under one and a half million words. Most of them are fairly awful – but the last 300,000 or so aren’t so bad. That’s how I feel about my art in general. Any of my work that looks good is a result of brute force, trying something eight hundred times until I finally sorta figure it out. Hopefully, one day, I can get published and my work can be enjoyed by a larger audience than my friends and family. But even if that never happens, the process of creating is something I enjoy too much to ever give up.

Visit Jonathan Hoffman’s website.


Carter Thompson: Witty Effervescence


Carter Thompson is an illustrator and scenic designer. Thompson describes himself as ‘well-bred and corn-fed’ and he lives in Harlem.

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Tell us about your art. I have always been a storyteller, and that’s my main goal with my art. I try to tell stories; to expose some facet of the human condition. I think that is the purpose of art, and the purpose of life. To learn what it means to be human. Mostly my art focuses on people and characters and trying to capture some moment in their journey, however strange or whimsical it might be. I studied Theatre Arts with an emphasis in scenic design at BYU, which gave me a terrific education in not only art and history, but communicating, collaborating, and storytelling. After graduation I moved to New York and I’ve been working here as a freelance artist and designer for the past two years.

You describe your style as “dark sophistication and witty effervescence”. Explain. I have always been fascinated by the idea of using humor to understand heavier things. That old expression, “truth is best told in jest” really resonates with me. So when I think of humans and the human experience, I always try to capture that in a bubbly, lively way. I admire artists like Edward Gorey, Charles Addams, and Quentin Blake, who had this great ability to infuse light-heartedness into serious situations. They could make strange things charming. I like to explore the line between what is grotesque and what is lovely. Along with that, I love storytelling and I think wit and humor are great ways to explore truth. I think of it as a sort of winking self-awareness that reveals aspects of the human experience.

What do you gain and lose from working digitally? So far, it’s been very positive to transition into the realm of digital art. I think I was leery of it in the beginning because of this stigma of a cut-and-paste insincere sort of art, but that’s really not how I work at all. I view my stylus and my iPad as tools, just like paint and pencils. In fact, working digitally opens the door for new artistic possibilities in certain situations. I can mix “mediums” in ways that I never could in real life. Switching around every five seconds from pencils to oils to watercolors in the same project would be much more complicated and costly without the aid of digital technology. That being said, if a project is better suited for a more traditional medium I definitely go in that direction. I still love to get my hands dirty in the studio. Working digitally also allows me the freedom to work almost anywhere, which is very inspiring to me. I’ll work on a project in the park, the lobby of the Waldorf, on a subway, there are infinite possibilities. I have a fully stocked studio anywhere I go. It’s liberating.


Your Instagram account is a cultured tour of New York architecture. You include quotes from Stephen Collins Foster, Jawaharial Nehru, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I didn’t intentionally set out to create an Instagram full of architecture, but I think it came naturally out of living in New York. I always try to capture images and stories that inspire or edify me, and in Manhattan there are just so many lovely and interesting buildings. They surround you everywhere you go. Every building has a story, and because it’s New York, I suppose, the history for every noteworthy building is well documented. As far as the quotes and literature I like to post, I think that comes out of my love of reading. I collect quotes and phrases, and have found that sometimes I express my thoughts best by using someone else’s words. Literature sparks a lot of my creative ideas. My art is often born out of a phrase from a poem or short story I read. I take that idea and build my own thing out of it. I like to think I have had a positive reception so far. Most of my art commissions come from Instagram, which is something I never would have dreamed of a few years ago. It’s a wonderful platform to connect with people, create, and share my work.

Visit Carter Thompson’s website.

Follow Carter Thompson on Instagram.


Marwan Nahlé: Paintings from Lebanon


Marwan Nahlé is an artist of the world. Nahlé was born in Beirut, Lebanon and is an alumnus of the LDS International Art Competition (Mount of Olives, below). He also works in mixed media, photography, and collage. Nahlé currently lives in Lebanon.

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Tell us about your background and art. As an artist I work with multiple medias from painting with a brush to using my hands doing collages than recycling trash into art for my love for mother earth I clean my surrounding from the trash found in forests the sea and my neighborhood. I draw my inspiration from being in nature walking around breathing and ideas just flows to me often traveling to a new destinations more and newer inspiration arrive I go to my studio I had one in New York, Portland Salt Lake City, Paris, Beirut and work for periods of six months.  I was interested in all religions for a while, now more connecting with the natives from all cultures and into mother earth, traveling the world had opened my mind and heart to look at all humans as one scattered family, no one is better or worth just different and special.