Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day!

Paper Raven Co. Earth Day Free Printable!

Happy Earth Day! Earlier this week it struck me: I needed to do a free printable for Earth Day, and we need to spread some love around for our gorgeous, amazing Planet! I am SO inspired by nature (can you tell?) in my work, and even walks in my neighborhood, enjoying the Springtime, give me so much peace. I am a huge advocate for Green Energy, Climate Change Awareness and preserving our planet. So I wanted to send you a gift for you to enjoy for Earth Day, in support of our planet, its wildlife, and the organizations, scientists, and regular citizens like you and me that are committed to protecting it. Enjoy! 


Paper Raven Co. Earth Day Free Printable!

Paper Raven Co. Earth Day Free Printable

April Desktop Download + The Beauty of Nature

April Desktop Download + The Beauty of Nature

One of the best parts of my day, as the weather has warmed, has been walking my sweet dog Patty in the afternoons. Our neighborhood is in bloom, and we have a ton of bird species nesting in the trees. During our outings, I like to pause and take a moment to intentionally appreciate nature, to notice details, and welcome that peaceful mental state into my work. If that sounds a little "woo-woo" to you, maybe it is. But in an increasingly chaotic world, especially when the environment and the planet is at such risk, it's become a focal point of my day to stop and be grateful for the beauty around me. Nature teaches us so many things: persistence, balance, harmony; I find that very comforting, and I've strived to make those principles an integral part of my illustrations.

So for April's Desktop Download, I give you an illustration based on my favorite scene from Alice in Wonderland: you can learn a lot of things from the flowers. Click the image below to grab it. 

Paper Raven Co. Free Illustrated April Desktop Download

Here is the full illustration (but click the image above for the download!), and a detail shot of me drawing it. I start with a pencil sketch, then ink in the leaves with India Ink, and then ink in the lines. Finally, I bring the illustration into Photoshop to finish it. Happy Spring!

Paper Raven Co. Free Illustrated April Desktop Download - www.ShopPaperRavenCo.com
Paper Raven Co. Free Illustrated April Desktop Download - www.ShopPaperRavenCo.com


Paper Raven Co. Free Illustrated April Desktop Download - www.ShopPaperRavenCo.com
Happy International Women's Day!

Happy International Women's Day!

I have no grand schematic for this blog post, but I just felt the undeniable tug to say something today: I am so happy to be standing here with you. 

I had never owned the word "feminist" before; but in the last year of my life I have realized that feminism has been with me all along, and recently I have whole-heartedly embraced it. Feminism is the idea that men and women should have equal rights - financially, emotionally, in their healthcare, and in their home. In that a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle, the same is true for feminism. When we see ourselves in others' success, we know we can succeed. When we use our resources to lift up women and communities in need, we ALL win. 

For my MFA Illustration Thesis project, I created 12 illustrations of women who inspire me. These women impacted social change, started a dialogue, and live on as examples of the positive force women are in the world - and who WE can be. Today, I would like to share a few with you. These illustrations were created with pencil, ink, watercolor, acrylic and Photoshop.

Malala Yousafzai: A powerful activist for Women’s Educational Rights, Yousafzai survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban on her bus ride home from school. She is the youngest person and first girl to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Maya Angelou: An acclaimed writer and poet, Angelou is not only known for her poignant and moving autobiographies, but also for her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. The message of strength and enduring faith in her writing has resonated with readers throughout her career.

Marie Curie: A ground-breaking chemist and physicist, Curie was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, and the only person to win in two different sciences. She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris. She is credited with the discovery of Polonium and Radium and coined the term “radioactivity”.

Anne Frank: Renowned for her famous diary written during her 2 years living in the “Secret Annex” during the Nazi Occupation of Amsterdam, Frank’s faith, honesty, and positive outlook continue to inspire and inform millions of readers. The Diary of Anne Frank has been the basis for several plays, movies, and documentaries, with over 30 million copies of the book sold in 67 different languages.

* As we've come into a new era in America, I have decided to revive this series, as I feel the need to highlight the achievements of women and true equality has only gotten stronger. If you have a woman you'd like to suggest for this series, please leave a comment. 

The whole collection can be viewed here. Thank you so much for standing with us today.


Happy March - Download the NEW Desktop Wallpaper!

Happy March - Download the NEW Desktop Wallpaper!

Hello friends in love + equality, happy March! I can't believe it's already here, and as I am writing this, my balcony door is open and the first breezes and rumbles of a March thunderstorm are rolling in.

This month, I created a new illustration for our Desktop Wallpaper, starting with a pencil sketch, painting with india ink, and finally lining with my Faber Castell Artist Pitt Pen. The colors for this one gave me a bit of a time, but when I popped in that spot of lime, I was in love. I hope you enjoy it too!

Click here to download

Here's a close-up of my inking process:

I love to see when others enjoy my freebies, so feel free to post a pic and tag me on Instagram as
@PaperRaven.Co - I would be thrilled to check it out and send some good vibes your way.



Welcome, February! How is your desktop looking?

Welcome, February! How is your desktop looking?

I hope you are having a fantastic 2017 so far! I have realized that I LOVE designing these monthly free desktop downloads. The February Illustration was created by printing out the type, and drawing on top of it, adding flourishes and flowers with my trusty Faber Castell Artist PITT Pen. Feel free to leave me feedback or suggestions in the comments, or tag me on Instagram @PaperRaven.Co so I can see your desktop in-action! Enjoy, my friends :)


Happy December, A Free Download Gift for You!

Happy December, A Free Download Gift for You!

Every month, I create a special, original illustration for email subscribers to download and use for their enjoyment on their desktops. This December, I created a mini calendar backdrop with hand-drawn type and lots of festive flourishes. I used my trusty Tombow Calligraphy Pen to do the lettering ;) Just my way of saying thank you for taking a step alongside of me on the journey of building Paper Raven Co. So without further ado... 

Free Thanksgiving Wine Label Printable

Free Thanksgiving Wine Label Printable

I hope you have a peaceful and fulfilling Thanksgiving, whatever your traditions are. In the spirit of the holiday, I have created a free printable wine label for you to dress up your hostess gifts! Please print as many as you'd like.

What You'll Need:
1. Bottle of Wine or Spirits
2. Double-Sided Tape (Or regular tape will work)
3. Scissors
4. Printable

1. Click below to download the printable. The print size is at 8.5x11" (standard printer).
2. Cut out the printable along the border. 
3. Fill in the "To" and "From" sections. 
4. Use double-sided tape to attach to your bottle (you can remove the label first if you'd like, but it's not required - this printable wraps around a standard size bottle). 
5. Bring your gift with you to your gathering!

DIY Gold Painted Pumpkins

DIY Gold Painted Pumpkins

Halloween is my favorite Holiday. I mean, I like it more than Christmas. Maybe it's the air getting crisp on my morning walks with Patty, or maybe it's that everything is covered in Pumpkin Spice, or maybe it's the beautiful scenery and changing colors. Or the opportunity to carve pumpkins. This year, I wanted to do my own take on Pumpkin Decor, so I spent a nice sunny fall morning making this DIY to share with you. Enjoy!

Don't forget to post your finished pumpkins on Instagram and tag me at paperraven.co so I can see!

1. Gather your materials! I grabbed the mini Pumpkins from my local grocery store, and if you need some cheap (but good!) paint, you can head over to your local hardware store and grab a sample of Valspar "Satin" (pictured above) for like, $2! That's less than a tube of good acrylic, this art school grad will tell you. Pick up your favorite paintbrush and a Gold Sharpie. You may also want a cup of water for refreshing the brush and a paper towel.

2. Get ready to paint! Don't forget to shake up the sample for even pigment distribution!

Paper Raven Co. - www.ShopPaperRavenCo.com - DIY Painted Pumpkins

3. Paint a flower shape. It doesn't have to be intricate - we will be adding the gold accents on top of the paint once it dries, and this is where the detail will come in. 

4. Be free to make floral shapes, leaf shapes and berry shapes. Don't worry about messy edges - they will be covered in gold! Try to fill the front side of the pumpkin, or you can even cover the whole thing! Once the paint dries (about 20-30 minutes), apply a quick second coat.

Paper Raven Co. - www.ShopPaperRavenCo.com - DIY Painted Pumpkins

5. Voila! They look so elegant and sophisticated - and the gold isn't even on yet! Let these babes dry for 30 minutes and make yourself a cup of coffee or tea. 

Paper Raven Co. - www.ShopPaperRavenCo.com - DIY Painted Pumpkins

6. Now the fun part! Using your Gold Sharpie, carefully outline each shape in gold. I found it was easier if I pressed lightly. Then, add in interior details like petals, leaf veins, and decorative elements. Have fun with it! You can go for realism or a graphic style or a mix of both. 

7. The Gold Sharpie dries fairly quickly, but give them a good 5 minute sit so you can admire without smudging.

Paper Raven Co. - www.ShopPaperRavenCo.com - DIY Painted Pumpkins

Paper Raven Co. - www.ShopPaperRavenCo.com - DIY Painted Pumpkins

And there you have it! You can make as many of these as your heart desires! Here are some ideas:
- Nestle them at your front doorstep with a cinnamon broom and a basket of pinecones. 
- Get the super mini gourd pumpkins and make each a place setting at your next Fall Get-Together.
- Fall Wedding? Make one for each of your tables for a pretty (and affordable!) centerpiece.
- Or, decorate your Thanksgiving Table and make a beautiful place setting, like we have done here:

Paper Raven Co. - www.ShopPaperRavenCo.com - DIY Painted Pumpkins

Fabric Tablecloth, "Sweet Leaves and Berries" from Minted // PlaceCard, "Autumn Thicket" from Paper Raven Co. // Dinner Plate from World Market // Lantern from IKEA // Dessert Plate Thrifted

Paper Raven Co. - www.ShopPaperRavenCo.com - DIY Painted Pumpkins

Don't forget to share your finished pumpkins on Instagram and tag me at paperraven.co so I can see! Or leave a comment here with how you used the DIY :)

And don't forget to sign up for email updates, coupons and exclusive art advice!

My Biggest Motivation Secret

My Biggest Motivation Secret

A few days ago on Instagram, I asked y'all to throw some good questions at me so I could connect with you! One of the biggest questions I get asked is how to stay motivated. Let's tackle this one. Because this is a doozie and keeping yourself on track - especially as an artist - is really tough sometimes. 

Here are 3 things I do on a daily basis to keep myself motivated and on-task.

This is by far my biggest secret weapon to staying motivated. My brain wakes up at night, so I typically do this after dinner or before bedtime. If you're more of a morning person, grab a cup of coffee or tea and start your day this way!

Before I go to bed, I make a plan. I have a Paper Raven Notebook that I keep on my desk at all times. Every night, I flip to a new page and add the next day's date. I take a look at my Google Calendar and my emails and I prioritize and plan my day. Here's a snip of my day today (for real, this is actually what it says): 

  • Create little check boxes and start with a time slot.
  • 9:30-10:30: Answer and follow-up on all emails.
  • 10:30-11: Email 3 new stores from Instagram.
  • 11-12: Photograph Coloring Book for Giveaway posts.
  • 12-12:30: Eat lunch.

Make sure each step starts with an actionable verb; this allows you to take action immediately - you already know that to do and there is no guess-work! It's important to me to feel satisfied by checking off the box when tasks are completed - the more you mentally reward yourself, the more motivated you are to stay on track. If you're more of a highlighter person, grab your neons and go for it! Lastly, I add timeslots because it's motivating for me to section out my tasks into time chunks. If I just make a list, it's easy for my brain to say, "Oh, I'll get to that." But if I schedule a task from 2-3pm, it will happen from 2-3pm and then it will be done!

Don't forget to add in real time chunks for breaks (15 minutes long) and lunch time ;) I often schedule breaks after big tasks or tasks that aren't my favorite thing to do. Then, if I finish my task, I get a nice little break!

Creating social accountability means creating a post where you publicly share with your audience that you are going to do something, by a certain date, and that they can expect something from you at that time. 

When you create social accountability for yourself, you're more motivated to get it done because other people are expecting something from you. If you find it difficult to assign tasks to yourself and complete them, try making a post on Instagram or Facebook about an upcoming product launch, new series or blog post. Give your audience a date. Put it on your calendar. And when you finish it, reward yourself. 

Spend a little time gathering some great playlists. I'm definitely responsive to dramatic movie and television scores - when I feel like Daenerys riding her dragon into battle or like Batman throttling some thugs, I am in the zone (I'm being totally serious guys). Whatever your music choice is, turn it up, close the Facebook tab and get to it!! You do you, boo.

Remember, motivation is a muscle and a habit. You just have to have that moment of clarity where you realize you have a choice to make - and just make it! The more you make that choice, the easier it is to make it again and again until it becomes a habit and a lifestyle.

I hope this blog post was helpful for you! Always feel free to reply and let me know your thoughts. And if you try these strategies out and love them, please let me know :)



Why I'm Here

Why I'm Here

A few months ago, my life changed suddenly and drastically. 

After working for a year as a Product Designer at my full-time job, I was called into my boss' office and laid off with absolutely no warning - a month after I had moved my whole life across town for my job, and the day before I left to go on a week-long vacation overseas. 

I was shocked and angry. But as I drove home that day, with the slow, seeping realization that my life had just changed completely - I was overcome with a strange feeling of peace. Real peace. I was angry and confused, but I was not worried. 

The universe had just shoved me into the reality I had already been working towards for the last 2 years of my life. I had been planning to give my leave in August, but my lay-off was in April. It was a few months earlier than I had planned, with a little less savings than I had planned, but as I made the phone calls to my boyfriend and my family, I was met with nothing but support. "If anyone can do this, it's you."

My boyfriend and I left the day after my lay-off, and standing in the fields and pastures and high places and castles and moors of Scotland, in this beautiful, free and completely thrilling moment of my life, I made a promise that I was going to whole-heartedly follow my dream. That I was not going to give up, and that I was not going to fail. 

3 months later, I have been consistently making the salary I would have made at my full-time job, but now it's completely through my work for Paper Raven Co. 

And that is why I am here. This awful, unpredictable thing happened to me. And because of my business, it didn't crush me. I did not allow my lay-off to be a source of self-doubt and depression; instead, I made it into a springboard for growth. I am free. I am happier than I have ever been.

Being able to do this full-time has led me to questions about my community and how to really connect, and that is my goal for this blog. I want to share my humble knowledge with you, bring you into my studio, and answer your questions. I want to share my successes with you, and the moments when I am feeling doubt (because we all do and it's a real thing). I want this blog to be a source of inspiration, and a fun and happy place to come to.

If you are working on your day-dream, keep going. Do not give up. You never know when life will unexpectedly flip upside-down, and being able to rely on yourself and the work of your own hands is an incredible sense of accomplishment.

July 07, 2016 — Erin McManness