House Around the Corner

Now that I’ve got five posts in the can, I think it’s safe to share the home renovation blog I started. Five is a mark of long term commitment, right? I didn’t want to be one of those people who makes a single post to the effect of “HERE I GO! BLOGGIN’ ON THE INNERNETS!” and then……. nothing ever again. Nothing tra la la. Cuz those people are the worst. They steal all the ideas you had for blog names but can’t have. All those cute, clever ones that work the word “bungalow” into songs like Yellow Submarine and Buffalo Gals. They mock me with their blank screens.

But this blog? This is the real deal:


Click on over to watch my husband Ben & I tackle lots of beige, lots of painted over hardware, and a bathroom with a view of the basement in our downtown Ferndale, MI 1920’s bungalow.

Before and Afters abound!

Before and Afters abound!


Draw More

Draw More

New Year’s Resolution at 1920 x 1080 resolution. A har har har.

I liked Design*Sponge’s New Year’s Resolutions from the Design Community so much, I decided to make my own visual reminder.


My work space is still sparse (this is probably the last room in the house we’ll get around to painting), but as my view is generally full steam ahead, it doesn’t matter much. May be better for my productivity, actually…

2012: Year in Review

I’m woefully behind in my blogging (New Year’s resolution: blog better) but it’s only because I’ve been busy making things worth blogging about ! — still, I wanted to make sure I took the time to do my third “Year in Review” post. They’re a great momento and fun and humbling to write. I hope I’m fortunate enough to start every annual reminiscence wistfully, saying “such and such was a good year”. This year I certainly am.

2012 was a good year. It’s the year I officially started working as a freelance illustrator and portraitist, declared my DBA, She Can Lift a Horse, launched my Etsy print shop — something I should have done years ago–, and celebrated one year of marriage to my best pal in the entire world. We bought a house, our first, on September 12th and moved in at the end of October. We love it, and though 2012 was also the year I hopped back on a bicycle (a beautiful pink floral one with a basket at that), we’re within walking distance of good groceries, a public library, a cafe, bars, restaurants, 2 used book shops, the post office, and food trucks during the spring and summer. It’s small but it’s huge for someone who has spent every year after high school graduation in a dorm room or tiny big city apartment. We’re gradually making it our own; there will be a lot of painting and hanging in 2013.

2012instagram copy

In 2012 I: embraced Taylor Swift fiercely, switched to soy, checked off last year’s resolution to “make the perfect latte”, had Brussels sprouts for the first time, wanted to give Amy Sherman-Palladino a huge kiss for bringing the flawed but wholly entertaining Gilmore Girls redux that is Bunheads into my life, used my sewing machine — not very well — but I used it, celebrated my birthday with friends while eating too many homemade crepes and watching Drag Me to Hell on mute and playing my own Rdio playlist through the stereo, started (and stopped, eek. There’s another resolution) Pinkie Swear with Lindsey, started a small book club, got strangely into fragrances considering I did not actually purchase any fragrances…, joined a gym where I’m not even afraid to use the weight machines anymore, saw Fiona Apple live — something I wasn’t sure was likely to happen again — with my pal Jennifer, celebrated my nieces’ first and third birthdays, won a prize in the Momiji photo contest and a lot of games of Rumikub, went white water rafting in West Virginia with friends, logged too many hours playing Harry Potter Lego: Years 1-4 on my iPhone, and did not get a haircut. Not a single haircut, you guys. I am like a sheepdog over here.

I didn’t read as much as in years past, but I did read some denser, heftier titles (and finally finished Scott Pilgrim too). You can always join me on Good Reads, but here’s a my top 8 reads for the year…


FAVORITE NOVEL… The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling: Deeply effecting, depressing and at times difficult to read for all of its broken characters, but something I wanted to keep picking up, for its captivating storytelling and characterizations and for its incredible neutrality in laying out a whole towns worth of ego and opinion on topics as hot button as welfare and addiction. An especially thought-provoking read for an election year, when we had an candidate who considered 47% of his countrymen lazy, wastes of space. The family at the heart of the novel, the Weedon family, stands for every complaint waged against the addicted, the poor, the abused and the criminal, and the community of Pagford, not that they are responsible for every bad thing done by or to the Weedons, has a role in that. The suffering of some is bad for the whole; maybe not on an economic or political scale, but it’s bad for souls. It’s humbling and heart breaking to see laid before you in 500 pages all the ways we forget that we’re all just people.

FAVORITE PICTURE BOOK… This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen: Jon Klassen illustrated a number of the year’s most beautiful picture books (Extra Yarn and The House Held Up by Trees), but this one he also wrote and it is hilarious and perfectly paced. I read it aloud to my mom in Barnes & Noble, both of us LOLing in the kid’s section without a kid.

FAVORITE MOVIE… Django Unchained written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Hand’s down the best thing I saw on the screen all year. So smart, so satisfying, such sophisticated wish fulfillment and utterly BAD. ASS. It had me laughing, covering my eyes in horror, and dancing in my seat in equal measure.

FAVORITE TV SHOW… Modern Family The Mindy Project is a close second, for being so fresh and wonderful, but Modern Family makes me feel so joyful and grateful for both my family and well-crafted entertainment, that I nearly drop a tear at the end of every episode.

FAVORITE ALBUM… Red by Taylor Swift. Yes, more than Fiona Apple. It’s not the best album by any means, but it was truthfully the one that I anticipated the most eagerly and have had the most fun listening to. I just don’t even care, you guys. She is good, fun people and I probably listened to “All to Well” more in the month of October more than I played any other song all year long, after…

FAVORITE SONG…Losing You by Solange. I was really into pop this year. Guess I needed something light to counter the depressing novels…

FAVORITE NEW (TO ME) ARTIST… Isabelle Arsenault, who also keeps a great blog where she documents children’s picture books she loves.

Boots by Isabelle Arsenault

Boots by Isabelle Arsenault

FAVORITE TREND… Colored denim: Specifically these Gap 1969 Summer Skimmers, which I practically lived in throughout the spring and summer.

FAVORITE BEER… Atwater Brewery Vanilla Java Porter. Worth noting as 1) it is delicious and 2) I didn’t drink beer at all prior to this year.

FAVORITE BLOGS… : I embraced RSS feeds this year and it made it easier to follow a lot more blogs. I love Pikaland and Design Work Life for exposing me to new creativity every day, Kali Ciesemier for her illustration, especially her project sketches, and Bust Magazine, for bringing me news I actually want to hear about.

FAVORITE APPS… 1) Clear: If you like making lists, and you like crossing things off those lists, this is for you. I like that it’s tangible, portable, and I can rearrange items by their urgency. 2) SnapSeed: for editing photos on my phone. I liked it so much, I downloaded it for my desktop as well. It makes edits to much faster, which means I’m much more likely to actually edit photos. KrisAtomic posted a rundown of the many photo apps she’s tested on her blog earlier this year, which was great. 3) Instagram: I still love it. Username: nicoleslawski

And MOST IMPORTANTLY, 2012 was a huge year for me artistically. I conquered a lot of anxiety by taking on my 2012 resolution to “follow my artistic whims” more often. I stopped using my lack of connections and professional know-how as an excuse not to put my art “out there” and started figuring things out for myself like a big girl ought to. I saw, really for the first time, my art printed beautifully and satisfyingly, sold prints to people near and far, far away. And I’ve appreciated every single person who laid down their dollars for something I made with my head and my hands much more than I can say. Thank you for supporting me in 2012. It makes me so excited to start 2013. I wake up earlier and stay up even later these days so that I can start making new things. Looking forward to sharing more of them with you here in 2013 <3


Gee my lollipop is great

I’m excited to be celebrating my beautiful niece’s first birthday this afternoon. Here’s the party invitation I designed for her lollipop-themed shindig, with lyrics from one of my longest-loved songs, Lollipop, written by Ronald & Ruby… though I know and love the Chordettes version best. I remember singing it to myself as a kid.

4 x 6 glossy postcard

Thinking about submitting this as a Threadless kid’s tee or onesie… Yes, I’ve gone Threadless crazy, but why not?

FUN FACT: Heidi and I share a September 14th birthday. Happy birthday (again), Heidi Genevieve :)

And Another (New) Thing…

My pal Lindsey Gates-Markel (whom I have told you to go read a million times so, by golly, just do it) and I have been excitedly cooking up a project to work on together for a while now. Finally, on Monday afternoon, we sent our blog baby out into the world! It’s called Pinkie Swear and you can coo over it at

Here’s the deal: Pinkie Swear is a story blog written by Lindsey and illustrated by me. We’ll be posting a new story based on a real life childhood memory every Monday for you to laugh at, commiserate with, or maybe even feel a bit weepy over. In Lindsey’s much more stirring words…

We handle your childhood secrets, chop them to their cores, and re-imagine them as the beautiful, sad, mysterious, hilarious stories they are. Dig deep into your psyche and unearth those moments that have lingered long enough to sprout roots. Pinkie Swear will make them bloom.

See? There’s a reason she does the writing. I hope you’ll check out our first story and maybe even submit your own.

Happy lingering!

Open for Business

At long last! My Etsy print shop is finally up and running. You can visit at

Right now a small selection of original illustrations are available as signed archival prints (Honestly, they’re such crisp reproductions. I’m so pleased with them.), but Birthday Blowout cards are on the way, and more stationery and printable downloads are in the works. I hope you’ll check it out!

Weekend in Detroit

Despite the 100+ degree weather and complete lack of electricity we were forced to endure while our friend Jennifer was visiting from Chicago last weekend, we had an excellent time exploring Detroit, filling our faces, and seeing one of the great loves of my life, Fiona Apple. Here are some instuhmagrams from the weekend. I doodled on ’em for fun’s sake.

Michigan Central Station. It closed in 1988 and, like much of Detroit, is decaying, though efforts (however slow) to restore the building are underway. You can see more current photos, including the interior at, watch a video tour here, or imagine the station in its former glory in the Talk to the Station gallery. For more “lost Detroit”, check out Dan Austin’s website and book.

Created by artist Tyree Guyton, The Heidelberg Project is an urban, out door work of sculpture, installation, and painting that both represents and recreates its community. It’s named for the street it started on in East Detroit. This was my first time there and, while it’s always exciting to see any part of Detroit getting positive attention, and while it’s playful and heartfelt work, it’s also undeniably sad. The cheap, carnival prize stuffed animals are rain soaked, matted grey and musty smelling. The grass is at once dead and overgrown. Residents sit on their porches, idly watching as visitors take photos, then get in their cars and leave. A welcome sign warns you to lock your car doors and windows, secure your valuables. It’s as mesmerizing and hopefull as it is beat down and pitiful. It’s so Detroit.

I love Tyree Guyton’s spirit (this video he speaks in is so wonderfully uplifting), but I feel a lot more conflict when I think about my actual experience of it then I expected to. I feel like I did seeing the DIA exhibit Detroit Revealed earlier this year. You’re looking at trash, basically. You’re looking at garbage, but you’re looking at it from the perspective of art. Of course I don’t think people are so bird-brained they’re only looking and thinking “ooh, pretty colors!” I’m sure those photos, and Heidelberg, make others feel just as bad and just as awed. The degree of decay is sublime, so much so that for a moment you can forget that people live here. That tall dead grass, those shattered windows, people don’t just live next door to these places, they live inside them, and they probably didn’t come to see the exhibit. It’s such a strange thing to stand inside a museum looking at a huge, framed photograph of a site you just drove past and see it as something else. It’s strange to enjoy looking at the same kind of decay that kept you, literally minutes before, from using the museum parking garage (which is closed because the city can’t afford to maintain it). It makes beautiful media, but when you step back outside it’s garbage again. It’s hard to reconcile.

Ben and I are huge book shop enthusiasts and the John K. King is one of our favorites. It’s a four story warehouse wonderland of used and antique books with categories for just about anything you can imagine. Unfortunately our time there is always limited by the fact that it has no climate control. In the winter, it’s time to go when my teeth start chattering and my nose starts a-runnin’, and last Saturday it was time to go when after only about 30 minutes of shopping, when putting my head directly in front of a fan wasn’t enough to keep me from melting. Seriously, it’s a wonder no books were disintegrated in our sweaty, sweaty hands.