Pedestrian’s Guide to Enjoying (and Appreciating) Art

The other day I was thinking about my job as a public school art teacher… the good, the bad, and the misunderstood. In some ways art and teaching art is frivolous. No, you don’t have to pass art to advance to the next grade. No, art isn’t “required.” No, art isn’t a basic element of survival (though I know people who would argue that). Even within the institution where I teach there is lack of understanding. I’m not going to lecture you on the benefits of art education (there are many!) but I want to point out that art is the most human and human only thing you can be a part of.

Thus to be more human, we should appreciate more art. And that thought has prompted me to write this post.

The “Art World” has a reputation of being stuffy, heady, and elitist. All are true. BUTTTTT here’s the good news, THAT DOESN’T MATTER! You can enjoy and appreciate art just like the next Guggenheim minus the millions of dollars. Here’s how:


1 :: Visit a Museum ::
This may seem obvious but it’s essential to beginning your art appreciation quest. A museum visit doesn’t and shouldn’t be hours long. Start by going to an area that sounds interesting to you and find something that catches your eye. You’re already building your appreciation! Take a picture of your favorites (if you’re allowed, usually without flash) and the name of the artists.

Try this ::
Look at your pictures from the museum trip and note if the works that caught your eye have anything in common. Colors? Subjects? Artist? Extra points if you google search your favorite artists of the day.

Recommendations ::
Start with a museum that’s close to you (in your city, the next city over). The more you support your local museums, the more pieces they can acquire and exhibits they can host. Buttttttt, if you’re feeling adventurous, make it part of your next vacation itinerary.


2 :: Get a Book ::
I’m going retro with this one… but go to an actual bookstore or library. A real brick and mortar one. Once you’re there, head towards the art section and/or the coffee table book section. You’re going to use the ol’ peepers and find something that strikes your fancy (much like you did at the museum). Now, buy/borrow the book and take it home.

This this ::
Once you’re home with said book flip through it and stop on any image that catches your attention. Practice describing to yourself what it is you like (or don’t like). Describe how the artist uses color and texture. Try to see if the art reminds you of anything… literally, anything.

Recommendations ::
Henri Matisse, Cut-outs, Drawing with Scissors (I own this one!)
Georgia O’Keeffe (and this one!)
Art That Changed The World (good primer)
Pop Art (more genre specific but fun)
Art of the 20th Century (specific but not… much like the statement itself)


3 :: Follow Museums on Instagram ::
Because even grandmas are on social media these days it should be no surprise that museums are too. An easy way to incorporate art into your everyday mundane life is to follow museum accounts on Instagram. Start by following museums that are locationally close to you and then follow who they are following.

Try this ::
Museum accounts are usually run by someone that works at the museum instead of being sourced out to creative/PR firms. If you have a question you will most likely get an answer from a real person that is more than happy to answer. I’ve interned at two museums and let me tell you only passionate people work at museums (jobs are hard to get and few and far in between). Here’s a good question: If I can only see one piece in the museum, what would it be and why?

Recommendations ::
Museum of Modern Art
San Francisco MOMA and their archives (they do the best job IMO)
The Met
The Lourve
Guggenheim Museum


4 :: Take a Class ::
There’s no quicker way to gaining an appreciation for something than trying it yourself. You can take a one off class or sign up for a series of weeks. Who knows, you might find a passion and a talent you didn’t know you had (lucky!). Bonus points if you get a friend to join you.

Try this ::
If you can’t find a class near you, YouTube and Skillshare are great online resources.

Recommendations ::
Watercolor: 10 Easy Projects Anyone Can Paint
Doodle Magic
Beginner Acrylic Painting
Drawing and Painting: The Virtual Instructor
Sketchbook Skool
Watercolor tutorials


5 :: Support an Artist Friend or Local Artist ::
This is by far the easiest and most impactful step to enjoying and appreciating art. If you know anyone that is an artist and you half way like the way their work looks, buy something… even if it’s just a print. If you can afford it, commission them to make you something or something you can give as a gift. Hang it up and enjoy it. Now that friend can continue to make things that make the world a beautiful connected place.

Try this ::
Here are some FREE ways you can support your artist friends:

  1. Follow them on social media
  2. Like their posts
  3. Share their posts
  4. Comment on their posts
  5. Tag friends who would like them
  6. Post photos of their art (if you own any), tag them, and use their hashtag
  7. Tell friends about their art and encourage support
  8. Write reviews on their etsy, google, etc.
  9. Sign-up for their email newsletter
  10. Send a message telling them you support and appreciate what they do

Recommendations ::
Go to local art festivals and buy something you love. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. Have a conversation with the artist. Art is better when there is a connection. STOP BUYING MASS PRODUCED ART. Your friends and walls will thank you.


This concludes my TEDtalk. I love art. You can follow (please, please!) my art stuff on Instagram at @molliejoydesign and @bigwavepaper. Thanks!

“Artist don’t retire, they simply die.” – Jeanne-Claude de Guillebon

Summer Abstract Series

Here’s the birth story to my first painting collection and Etsy shop:

Back in the beginning of May I had a streak of inspiration. An artist I follow on Instagram shared a series she started based on the desert. They were simple abstracted paintings of desert things and they really caught my attention. It got me thinking about composition and how to be better at it. As an art teacher it has been a hard concept to teach to middle schoolers. It’s difficult to explain why one arrangement of shapes looks better than another arrangement of shapes to thirteen year olds. Hell, you might be lost at the concept.

How I attempt to explain it is composition is just the arrangement of elements. Those elements are or some combination of shapes, colors, textures, and forms. For example, a banana, an orange, and an apple and where you place them on the table.

One day when I was watching students in ISS (in school suspension, yep, that’s right) I started sketching.

Prior to this sketching, I had taken a Skillshare class exploring the elements of art and illustration style. I didn’t expect that little class to be groundbreaking for me but I did realize I am drawn to combinations of warm and cool colors where one accentuates the other. Thus, my color palette for the series.

The shapes and colors together reminded me of summer. The first painting I made reminded me of a sunset at Big Sur which then reminded me of my trip last summer. So I titled it “Summer Forever Because Everything Else Sucks.” And put it on Etsy. If you would like to purchase any of these paintings (I would love you forever) they are $30 and that includes shipping!

After that one, I decided to do 10 in the series and give each a name that made me laugh or roll my eyes about summer.

Want to Come Over and Sit in the Air Conditioning?

Let’s Go On A Hike in the Desert But Not Too Far **SOLD**

The Good Bands Start Past My Bedtime

This Humidity Really Works Wonders On My Hair

I Buy Expensive Sunscreen **SOLD**

I Need To Tell You Mosquitos Love Me

It’s a Pool Party, BYOB, Preferably Local Craft Beer

Red Wine and Blue… Berries

Since We’re On Vacation We Should Definitely Ride Bikes

Oscar Gowns and Art 2017

Another year, another Academy Awards, another gowns and art post. Thank you to my friends that gave me a little encouragement to do this again. Sometimes I think I’m the only one that reads my blog so it’s nice to have some feedback. If you like something you see, please let me know! See past years here and here.

Back to the 2017 Oscars… overall, this was probably my least favorite one ever. The dresses were kind of all the same to me (gold or solid) and the ceremony wasn’t that interesting either. I missed the most exciting part with the mix up over the “Best Picture” because I went to bed. There were a lot of nice dresses but not many were very exciting. Despite the yawnfest, I still managed to pick out five that I thought were worth a second look.

Art : Frank Stella / Pamela Wiley / Ben Nicholson

Priyanka Chopra: If I could go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow as Priyanka I would finally know the feeling of being better than everyone else… haha. Man, that girl has some confidence. If she were teaching lessons on how to be her I would totally sign up. I feel like there should be a t-shirt with the slogan “Be Like Priyanka” in bold letters. Only she could wear this dress (and those cuffs!) with ease. It’s probably obvious this dress beckons to quilting but quilts are beautiful so there you go. The dress seems like a work of modern art itself so it felt natural to pair it with two such artist.


Art : Nike Schroeder / Todd Chilton / Bobbie Burgers

Ginnifer Goodwin: I thought Ginnifer looked like a porcelain doll but I haven’t seen or heard much about her look. Mostly everyone has focused on this very similar red dress which is also beautiful. I actually liked GG’s a little better because of the fit, tiers of transparency, and structure. This dress is bold and romantic all with a lightness to it. Very complex! Which all seemed like a challenge but I think I found artwork with the same qualities. (That top work is super cool string art!)


Art : Crystal Liu / Henri Matisse / Nicoletta Darita de la Brown

Janelle Monáe: I’m not surprised that Janelle wore the most outstanding dress of the night. I love her style. I’ve contemplated only dressing in black and white because of her. This dress has a lot going on but I was happy to see somebody taking a risk. In my search for art I focused on black, white, metallics, and texture. How perfect is that black bag with the gold embroidery?!? This dress is fun and whimsical so only fun and whimsical art would do. Thank you for being you, J!



Art : Rosemarie Auberson / Miranda Crooks / Amanda Clyne

Hailee Steinfeld: I’m not totally sure who Hailee Steinfeld is but that’s okay because her dress is bee-yoo-ti-fullll. The light lavender-y color is gorgeous. I hardly realized the dress is (basically) entirely sheer. To fully appreciate it, you should see a close up. And the ruffles on the back! It is the definition of pretty to me. I went for artwork that had the same sheer and etherial quality as the dress. I really love how unabashedly feminine the dress is and so I picked artwork that was the same and was coincidentally made by all women. You go girls.

Awesome Documentary I Watched Recently

Over the Christmas break I watched a really interesting documentary about artist Cai Guo-Qiang called Sky Ladder. You can watch the trailer below…

I found Sky Ladder to be super inspiring as a creative AND as a human being. I would recommend this documentary to anyone that needs a little inspiration to persevere (all of us right?). The wide variety of art he makes really resonated with me. I have a lot of interests and I always feel like I need to choose one path but I can never decided. It was reassuring to see a prolific artist that didn’t choose just one path and is still successful. Granted he’s already “made it” which allows him the freedom to do whatever he wants but it’s still aspirational nonetheless.

Check out some of his work below:

Please let me know if you watch it and what you think! See more of his work here.

Inspiration from Instagram

Remember in my New Year post and I mentioned using Instagram as a place of inspiration instead of jealousy? Well I went on a following spree of illustrators last year. I found a lot of good ones out there (later posts?). But the one I freaking love the most is Maria-Ines Gul.

I’ve always admired artists that are simple/minimal, clever, and interesting. I think it’s partly because those are my goals as an artist/illustrator/designer but I also know/appreciate how hard it is to do so. Simplicity is hard!

Maria-Ines Gul’s illustrations are perfection. They are perfectly quirky, understated, witty, interesting, and minimalistic. They are feminine but not girly. They are current but not trite. I basically want to be one of her illustrations.

I love the range she has in her work. Some pieces are super minimal while others are worked up a bit more with detail and whimsy.

All of her girls just seem so cool. Like I said… I want to be one of her illustrations (probably the least cool thing to say).

Who’s inspiring you these days?

Dream Dinner Guests

I have been wanting to do a daily project for basically the last eight years. I have a problem with commitment. I’m committed to being flaky. But this year, it’s a new Mollie in town! So when I saw #The100DaysProject coming up on Instagram, I decided to get prepared and commit. So far, I’m 16 days in and things are great!

One of my “goals” this year was to get better at drawing people (#100DaysOfPortraitsByMJ). I always want to draw people and then I’m disappointed at the result. So I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to practice. Because when do you ever will yourself to get better at something without actually doing the act? I’ll tell you. NEVER.

One hundred days is a lot to think about at once so I decided to break my 100 days into ten ten-day chunks. My first chunk was to draw my ultimate fantasy dream dinner party. I love dinner parties and I like fun people so it seemed natural. I decided to a simple line illustration without any shading for these. I picked people that I would genuinely like to have conversations with not just A-list celebs. Keep on a’scrollin’ for my ultimate invite list…#molliejoydinnerparty

First up is the greatest Iris Apfel. I think she would bring a lot of experience and knowledge to the fantasy table. If all else fails we could just talk about her outfit. Ps. have you seen “Iris” on Netflix? So gooooddddd…
iris apfel

Second is Leandra Medine because she totally gets me even though we’ve never met. I’m such a creep. I kind of jacked up her eyes in the drawing though.
leandra man repell

Of course it’s not a party without Dolly! I’ve always wanted to draw Dolly Parton so I did. This is 80s DP.

Jen Gotch, founder of is my other pretend best friend and idol. She did tell me via Snapchat that I looked like a cute mime. True Story.
jen gotch

Little known fact about me is that I’ve been obsessed with Martha Stewart since I was a kid. I love her super dry sense of humor and come on, it’s a dream dinner party. Obviously Martha would be cooking!
martha stewart

Now, I know this is a curve ball but don’t you think Dr. Ruth would be an amazing dinner party guest?!? She was interviewed by Nate Berkus in his book and I thought she was so interesting (her parents were taken by the Nazis!) and for the lack of a better word, darling.
dr ruth

No good dinner party is complete without a loud drunk. Thus, Chelsea Handler. At least one person would tell me if the food was bad.
chelsea handler

In my middle and high school years I was  HUGE fan of TLC shows. What Not to Wear was one I watched a lot. I adored Stacy London. Recently she was on the Man Repeller Podcast with Leandra Medine and it was pure gold to my ears. I hate that I made her look like Boy George though.
stacy london

Obviously I was missing a little bit of weird from the dinner party so I threw in Yoko Ono. Who wouldn’t want to sit next to her?
yoko ono

Finally, Tamron Hall gets invited because she’s my favorite Today Show host and was best friends with Prince, duh.
tamron hall

Overall, I’m pretty happy with these first ten drawings. I’m not going to frame any of them or anything but it was good practice. I had fun thinking of who I would invite and searching for the perfect image of them. I surprised myself some and sometimes I just had to move on… such is life! Who would you invite to a fantasy dinner party?

My next ten drawings I’m picking street style photos and changing up my process some. Stay tuned for the next ten!

Andy Warhol’s Butterflies

Mollie Joy Design Andy Warhol ButterfliesI was searching for a spring inspired lesson to teach to my elementary students. I came across a really good lesson on symmetry and butterflies. One of Andy Warhol’s prints was included in the blog post and I instantly needed more.

I’ve never considered myself much of the butterfly-type but hey we’re all aloud to change our minds.

If you’re not familiar with Andy’s butterflies, let me introduce you…

Andy Warhol Butterfly

The above butterfly is the endangered San Francisco Silverspot Butterfly. This was part of his series of screenprints titled Endangered Species from 1983. (image)

Andy Warhol Butterflies 1

Andy Warhol started his career in the 1950s as a designer and illustrator for magazines like Vanity Fair, Mademoiselle, Bergdorf Goodman, and Glamour. He would actually have his mother write descriptions or titles on many of the drawings because he liked her cursive handwriting. (image)

Andy Warhol Butterfly

Andy Warhol actually invented the silkscreening process at his studio called The Factory. This process enabled him to mass produce a single image in his signature style. (image)Andy Warhol Butterflies 2

Like many artists, Andy Warhol referenced famous artists and periods of art that came before him. The above painting is titled Tondo. Tondo’ is a Renaissance term for a circular work of art. (image)

Andy would paint these butterflies and other illustrations with ink and then blot them with paper to get that perfectly smeared look. Color was possibly added at one of his coloring parties, hosted at the fashionable Serendipity 3 café. He would encourage his friends – some of whom would have helped him create the original illustrations – to color the works with an inventiveness that adds to their whimsical nature. (image)Andy Warhol ButterflyNow I’m going to start planning my own coloring party. You are all invited! (image)





Oscar Gowns and Art :: 2nd Edition

The Oscars have come and gone and I only saw one of the movies nominated (The Revenant, Go Leo!). But I did see all of the fashion because it’s my favorite part. I picked my top 5 most inspiring gowns for this year’s edition to pair with some art. I think I’m going to have a follow up post for all the white gowns (and jumpsuit) I loved. I know there has been a movement of “ask her more” as in ask her more than just who she’s wearing and I respect that. Men are somewhat limited in their tux choices but at the same time I don’t see many (if at all) going beyond a slight variation on the standard. So, gowns it is.

I hope you enjoyed last year’s post because without further adieu, here I go again…

naomi watts oscarsART: Emily Filler / Brian Steely / Georgina Vinsun

Naomi Watts: I’ve been a huge fan of Naomi for years. I think she is a classic beauty and a fellow fair skin gal. This metallic dress looks like a mermaid’s dream on her. The colors compliment her cool skin tone and reflect light like no other dress on the red carpet that night. It’s playful and elegant. I am inspired by the reflective quality of the dress as well as the colors (so unexpected!). My art picks for her are a little abstract just like the dress itself is and what it does with light. Also she obviously could be a mermaid with newly obtained legs.


olivia munn oscarsART: Donald Martiny / ??? / Maria Ines Gul

Olivia Munn: Who would have predicted an orange dress to be a stand out? Olivia usually flies under the radar for me but wow. She was stunning in this orange, soft number. I love that this dress isn’t harshly structured and has some nice curves to it. Basically, she looks perfect and her lipstick too. My picks for this dress reflect the overall soft quality as well as the understated ease. Dang, I wish I looked good in orange.


jennifer lawrence oscarsART: Pierre Soulages / Ashleigh Ninos / Fitz Herrera

Jennifer Lawrence: As usual looking perfect and on trend with a little bit of a gothic flair, J-Law. The texture, the neckline, the silhouette, you nailed it sister. The see-through, layered-ness texture of this dress really influenced my choices of art to pair it with. I’m a fan of transparency (in design but also in life). It adds depth and richness to gowns and art. It looks expensive but not over the top.


cate blanchett oscars

ART: Jenny Andrews Anderson / Calvin Ross Carl / Rebecca Chaperon

Cate Blanchett: I’m a total fan girl of Cate’s style and persona. She is the epitome of edgy perfection. She has worn some of my favorite looks in history that I could and should probably do an entire post dedicated to her. I love that she’s not afraid to take risks. And really I just want to be her. She’s so cooooollll. Anyway! The color, texture, and movement of her dress guided me in picking the art. I looked for art that showed subtle depth and calmness.


amy poehler

ART: Becca Stadtlander / Jen Garrido / Hanna Ilczyszyn

Amy Poehler: Of the night I was most surprised by Amy’s gown. I love she chose something so detailed and different. I haven’t seen much said about her choice but I could imagine it being divisive because it is so different. I am a fan though. I think she looks beautiful like a Japanese garden in spring. She looks like a walking illustration so it made it hard to pick things that weren’t so literal. I stand by my choices though. They show control and restraint. They are feminine but not girly and I think that represents this dress. (Btw, I love her with red hair.)

Did you watch? Who were your favorites?

My 3 Favorite Podcasts and then Some

My Favorite Podcasts :: Mollie Joy DesignPodcasts have been around for awhile. The first ones I tried to listen to were kind of boring and not that great of quality in sound or content. So I quit them for a few years. But I’m here to tell you, things have changed! There are so many good ones now. I have a whole slew of podcasts I listen to regularly. I listen to podcasts when I’m getting ready in the morning, cleaning the house, on my commute, painting my nails, etc. I listen whenever I have a mundane task and it makes said task so much more bearable. And if that’s not convincing enough, it will make you feel super smart and pretty. Maybe not but maybe so!


Here a few of my current favorites:

Oh Boy by Man Repeller & Monocycle by Leandra Medine of Man Repeller
First of all, I wish on a daily basis that Leandra and I will become friends in real life (because she totally is my friend in my head). I started reading her blog, Man Repeller, years ago. I devoured her book in a weekend and thank the good Lord above she started TWO podcasts in the past year. On the Oh Boy podcast Jay Buim (Man Repeller’s videographer) interviews cool ladies that are basically doing cool things. These interviews don’t make you feel like you’re not doing cool things but it encourages you to make your own cool things path. Cool things! Monocycle is just Leandra pontificating on whatever she feels like for 10 minutes. She’s so witty and honest it’s always a fun listen. Ps. I’m a fan girl.

Favorite Episodes: Rebecca Harrington on Oh Boy & Confidence on Monocycle


Mystery Show
This podcast features public radio producer and writer, Starlee Kine solving mysteries that can’t be solved through googling. The mysteries can seem silly but the path with which she takes to solve them always reveals really interesting stories along the way. I resisted listening to this podcast for awhile because I thought the mysteries weren’t mysterious enough (ie. not like Dateline) but once I finally gave in, it became one of my favorite podcasts. I wish I could think of a personal mystery for her to solve. Season 2 is in the works and I cannot wait!

Favorite Episode: Kotter (Season Finale)


The Jealous Curator : Art For Your Ear
This one is perfect if you are interested in artists and their creative processes and habits. It is hosted by the blogger of “The Jealous Curator,” Danielle Krysa. I have discovered so many artists through her blog (I like to think we have similar tastes). This might sound weird but she has a really nice voice to listen to. The interviews are fun and light but there are always little nuggets of creative wisdom to hang on to. She has interviewed some of my favorite artists including Wayne White (!!!). She includes a blog post for each artist she interviews so you have a visual to go along with the podcast which I think is a nice touch.

Favorite Episode: Trey Speegle (but they are all good!)


Other podcasts worth a listen (if you haven’t already):

General Interest:
This American Life – weekly theme, interesting stories
Serial – one on going story/mystery per season
Invisibilia – “the invisible forces that control human behavior”
RadioLab – human interest stories
Freakonomics Radio – I like to say it’s “fun” science

Creative Life:
The Lively Show – a little self-helpish but interesting people
#girlboss radio – very similar to Oh Boy but with Sophia Amoruso
Being Boss – on running a creative business
After the Jump – interviews creatives of all kinds with Grace Bonney
Creative Pep Talk – for illustrators and graphic designers mainly


Do you listen to podcasts? What are your favorites? I’m willing to give it a listen!

Who Is An Illustrator?

Have you every wondered what it means to be an illustrator? According to Wikipedia, “An illustrator is an artist who specializes in enhancing writing or elucidating concepts by providing a visual representation that corresponds to the content of the associated text or idea.” Of course this is the simplest most pared down definition.

Illustration blends the lines between designer and artist. When I was in design school at Auburn, we didn’t have an illustration major or minor. Some of my design classes had more of an illustration component than others. I also took illustration specific courses. Illustration is definitely a part of design but not all designers are illustrators and not all illustrators are designers. I’ve always had a propensity to drawing so I consider myself a designer and an illustrator.

If you’re still not sure on what an illustrator does, stay with me as I share some of my favorite illustrations in varying styles and applications.


You most likely have illustrations all over your house. Many times the cover on books is an illustration (and duh, children’s books!). You will also see illustrations accompanying articles in magazines. Jackie Magpie / Jen Collins


Illustrated recipes have been a thing here recently. You might also think about all those info graphics that have been popping up all over the place, those were probably made by an illustrator/designer. Corina Nika / Bene Rohlmann


Illustrations can kind of be like doodles, small and quick. I’m really into simple but smart designs. Emily Isabella / Unknown


A variety of materials and techniques like collage, watercolor, and stamping are used in illustration. Illustrations are sometimes turned into surface design like fabric or wallpaper. Brittany / Bouffants & Broken Hearts


These days (as in the technological era) illustrations can be colorized, enhanced, or entirely made on the computer. The best illustrations to me are the ones that are definitely started by hand. Once you have trained your eye you can spot the difference most of the time. Charlotte Farmer / Josh LaFayette (Classmate/Friend of mine from Auburn. Hey buddy!)


Illustrators usually have a recognizable “style.” This is either within their subject matter, materials, or the types of marks they make. Lynnie Zulu / Samantha Hahn

illos7Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the image is an illustration, fine art, or both. It’s all subjective y’all. Angela Dalinger / Bella Foster

I hope you’ve learned a thing or two or at least enjoyed looking at pretty pictures. If you want to see more of my favorite illustrations head on over to my illustration Pinterest board. You can also check out some of my work in the ol’ portfolio.

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