Night Mare #5: A Last Pause

Night Mare #5: A Last Pause

Night Mare #5: A Last Pause

Night Mare #5: A Last Pause

As she came within sight of the Dream Depository, Night Mare paused to contemplate what might happen if she did not obey the summons.

Nestled in the crook of the moon, the Dream Depository had been built layer upon layer over aeons, to serve whichever creatures of the age had need of dreaming. It demanded, in turn, the servitude of its dream citizens.

If she ignored the summons, it was likely they would fetch her anyway. It was just a matter of time.

Download the coloring page PDF: 
5 A Last Pause.pdf

The coloring page posted above is free to download, print and color! I love seeing finished pages; you can catch me on Twitter @christifreyca and Instagram, where I also post the occasional sneak peek of whatever I’m working on at the moment.

To follow Night Mare’s Adventures, enter your email address in the sidebar (under Follow This Blog) to be notified when each new picture is posted. Thanks for coming on the adventure with us!

Night Mare #4: Wynken, Blynken & Nod

Night Mare #4: Wynken, Blynken and Nod

Wynken, Blynken and Nod

Night Mare #4: Wynken, Blynken & Nod

Night Mare passed the Somniferey where Wynken, Blynken and Nod kept watch.

The Somniferey marked the beginning of the heart of the dream world, with the Dream Depository at its centre. Night Mare had not been back here in centuries – there were other, younger night mares who bothered themselves with the delivery of bad dreams these days.

As she passed by, Wynken stared and Blynken blinked. Nod did not wake up, although he may have noted her passing in his dream.

Download the Coloring Page PDF…
4 Wynken Blynken Nod.pdf

The transmission from the Dream Depository continues, as Night Mare makes her way into the heart of the dream world. The coloring page posted above is free to download, print and color! I love seeing finished pages; you can catch me on Twitter @christifreyca and Instagram, where I also post the occasional sneak peek of whatever I’m working on at the moment.

If you want to follow Night Mare’s Adventures, you can enter your email address in the top right sidebar (under Follow This Blog) to be notified when each new picture is posted. Thanks for coming on the adventure with us!

Night Mare #3: In the Land of Flying Fish

Night Mare #3: In the Land of Flying Fish |

Night Mare #3: In the Land of Flying Fish

Night Mare #3: In the Land of Flying Fish

Night Mare stepped out of the girl’s dream and into the fabric of the dream world. She was immediately surrounded by reams of flying fish cavorting in the glittering starlight. The dream paths here were all very well-used and in good repair – and the fish were supposedly a good traveler’s omen.

“Where are you going in such a hurry, mare of the night?” they called.

Night Mare did not answer. She suspected they already knew where she was going.

Download the Coloring Page PDF…
3 In the Land of Flying Fish.pdf

The transmission from the Dream Depository continues with Night Mare #3. A few quick reminders – the coloring page posted above is free to download, print and color! I love seeing finished pages; you can catch me on Twitter @christifreyca and Instagram, where I also post the occasional sneak peek of whatever I’m working on at the moment.

If you want to follow along, you can enter your email address in the top right sidebar (under Follow This Blog) to be notified when each new picture is posted. Thanks for coming on the adventure with us!

Night Mare #2: Night Mare Receives A Summons

Night Mare Receives A Summons by Christy Frey

#2 Night Mare Receives a Summons

Night Mare #2: Night Mare Receives A Summons

In her dream, the girl was surprised to see a bird drop down out of the sky and alight on her outstretched hand. In its beak was a slip of paper with a ribbon, which it dropped at the horse’s feet.

“You’ve been summoned,” it chirped.

“Oh, bother.” The horse-which-was-not-a-horse stamped its hoof. “From the Dream Depository, I suppose?”

The bird nodded in affirmation, its top hat wobbling on its head, and flew off in a hurry. The girl wondered how the bird managed to keep its hat on when it was in the air.

“Do you have to leave now?” the girl asked the horse.

“I’m afraid so,” said the horse. “I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

Download the Coloring Page PDF…
2 Night Mare Receives A Summons.pdf

The Dream Depository transmission continues with Night Mare #2. A few quick reminders – the coloring page posted above is free to download, print and color! I’d LOVE to see and/or post finished pages; you can catch me on Twitter @christifreyca and Instagram, where I also post the occasional sneak peek of whatever I’m working on at the moment.

If you want to follow along, you can enter your email address in the top right sidebar (under Follow This Blog) to be notified when each new picture is posted. Thanks for following along!

2016: A New Adventure

Night Mare: A Head Full of Dreams by Christi Frey

Night Mare #1: A Head Full of Dreams

Night Mare #1: A Head Full of Dreams

The girl snuggled down into the quilt her grandmother had made for her. She began to dream. It was one of her favourite dreams, the castle in the mountains. And the horse that came to visit in the wide glade below the castle. It was a horse, but not a horse. She didn’t know how she knew that, but she knew.

1 A Head Full of Dreams.pdf

2016 brings a new adventure at here at the Studio. The Dream Depository has begun transmission.

I’m still working on my writing projects, but the way I write takes time. And I wanted to do something this year that I could begin sharing immediately. I’m going to be posting a new coloring page once a week(ish), and they’re going to follow the Adventures of Night Mare, and they’re all going to be available as a free PDF download. I have almost twenty pages already inked and I can’t wait to share them with you.

I’d love to hear feedback and see any finished coloring pages – you can find me on Twitter @christifreyca and Instagram, where I also post the occasional sneak peek of what I’m working on at the moment.

I’m excited to start on this journey and I hope you’re all excited to follow along! Here’s to a great 2016.


Book Cover Magic

Above: Dostoevsky covers by Peter Mendelsund

Above: Dostoevsky covers by Peter Mendelsund

I was listening to Debbie Millman interview book cover designer Peter Mendelsund in a Design Matters podcast from November, 2011. At one point, Debbie asks (in response to one of Peter’s comments), “So, what makes a really great book jacket?”

The answer was so brilliant I had to write it down for posterity:

“… the bottom line is that it has to be beautiful, whatever you think that means… A book really does three things: it advertises itself before you buy it, it (obviously) contains the text that you read, and then it interacts with you after you’ve read it…

“The first part of that equation is that it has to sell you the book. So in a way, a big part of what we do as designers is advertise the thing… It has to be compelling on some level… The jacket does other things in those subsequent two stages, but you don’t get to those stages without the first stage. You gotta make the sale.

“What makes a really great book jacket, though… is a book jacket that evolves along with the reading of the text – that there should be, I think, ideally, some point when [the reader] will casually look at the jacket … and there’ll be some sort of connection made – that you have made some sort of nod towards the text, towards the narrative, towards whatever the author’s themes are, that will emerge at that point… I think you have to do a jacket that will stand the test of time in the sense that people will want it in their house. Because these things are, ultimately, a souvenir of an experience of having been somewhere.

I’ve made a few small edits to his comments for clarity, but you should go listen to the whole podcast anyway » at Design Observer or at Soundcloud. Peter Mendelsund’s website is here, with links to his design books here.

Color Experiments: Screen Printing

1904 Worlds Fair illustration by Christi Frey

1904 Worlds Fair

Last week I scanned a piece that’s been in my sketchbook for a long time – like, several years. I decided I wanted to try to mimic the flat pastel tones of screen printing, aka silkscreen, and this was the perfect piece to try it out.

Here’s how it was done.

Helen Payton screen print silkscreenI came across this page in the book Low Tech Print: Contemporary Handmade Printing by Caspar Williamson, featuring a print from Helen Payton. I loooove the pics showing the different silkscreen layers, and wanted to see if I could use the same effect in Photoshop.

For the 1904 World’s Fair piece, I used a total of fifteen layers and nine colors. I set each layer to either multiply or normal, depending on the effect I wanted, at anywhere from 40 to 60% transparency. I filled the layer with the chosen color and applied a layer mask. I then used the layer mask to draw in the areas that would show the color.

You can see the results above – the layers aren’t shown in the order they were created, but you can see how the buildup of color contributed to some nice effects. I like how the limited palette dictates that you have to use multiple layers to achieve the darker colors – they end up matching the palette much better than if I’d picked the color myself.

Here’s the final piece. 1904 World’s Fair prints are available on my Society6 page.

1904 Worlds Fair illustraiton by Christi Frey

1904 Worlds Fair illustraiton by Christi Frey


Dispatches from This Side of Cyberspace

Next year I’m going to hang a sign on my website in July that says “Closed for the Summer.” I mean, that’s more or less what happens. We get two fickle months of hot weather here in Saskatchewan and making the most of them generally means being outside and away from wifi signal.

But now it’s fall. NaNoWriMo is only a month and a half away. It’s cold, it’s pouring rain, and I am ensconced at my desk with a cup of tea (Earl Grey, hot). And I found an interview I had to share.

William Gibson is the author of Neuromancer (I have yet to read; it’s on my TBR list). I didn’t realize that he lives in Vancouver, BC (born and raised in the Southern U.S.), although I have a vague remembrance of him being referred to as a Canadian author. He’s the writer who coined the term ‘cyberspace’, and his interview in the Paris Review covers a lot of ground that I just find fascinating. Such as this:

It’s harder to imagine the past that went away than it is to imagine the future. What we were prior to our latest batch of technology is, in a way, unknowable. It would be harder to accurately imagine what New York City was like the day before the advent of broadcast television than to imagine what it will be like after life-size broadcast holography comes online. But actually the New York without the television is more mysterious, because we’ve already been there and nobody paid any attention. That world is gone.

My great-grandfather was born into a world where there was no recorded music. It’s very, very difficult to conceive of a world in which there is no possibility of audio recording at all. Some people were extremely upset by the first Edison recordings. It nauseated them, terrified them. It sounded like the devil, they said, this evil unnatural technology that offered the potential of hearing the dead speak. We don’t think about that when we’re driving somewhere and turn on the radio. We take it for granted.

And this…

If you read the Victorians writing about themselves, they’re describing something that never existed. The Victorians didn’t think of themselves as sexually repressed, and they didn’t think of themselves as racist. They didn’t think of themselves as colonialists. They thought of themselves as the crown of creation.

Of course, we might be Victorians, too…

…we’re all constantly in a state of ongoing t­echnoshock, without really being aware of it—it’s just become where we live. The Victorians were the first people to experience that, and I think it made them crazy in new ways. We’re still riding that wave of craziness. We’ve gotten so used to emergent technologies that we get anxious if we haven’t had one in a while.

But if you read the accounts of people who rode steam trains for the first time, for instance, they went a little crazy. They’d traveled fifteen miles an hour, and when they were writing the accounts afterward they struggled to describe that unthinkable speed and what this linear velocity does to a perspective as you’re looking forward. There was even a Victorian medical complaint called “railway spine.”

And I am particularly fond of this, talking about our digital life and where it may go in the future:

It looks to me as though that prosthetic-memory project is going to be what we are about, as a species, because our prosthetic memory now actually stands a pretty good chance of surviving humanity. We could conceivably go extinct and our creations would live on. One day, in the sort of science-fiction novel I’m unlikely ever to write, intelligent aliens might encounter something descended from our creations. That something would introduce itself by saying, Hey, we wish our human ancestors could have been around to meet you guys because they were totally fascinated by this moment, but at least we’ve got this PowerPoint we’d like to show you about them. They don’t look anything like us, but that is where we came from, and they were actually made out of meat, as weird as that seems.

Reminder to Future Me

Every once in a while I post stuff that is more or less a reminder to future me. This is one of those posts. From “Why You Should Do Your Work First, Others’ Second“:

If you don’t build big-picture meaningful work right into your daily calendar, it will always get crowded out by the small stuff.

Best-selling author and researcher Tom Rath reinforces this point by saying, “What you will be most proud of a decade from now will not be anything that was a result of you simply responding.” He recommends to, “Manage your communications, online and offline, instead of letting them run your life. If you don’t, you will inadvertently spend a majority of your time responding to other people’s needs instead of creating anything that lasts.”

Tolerance Can Extend in All Directions

This is what public shaming does: I’m genuinely trepidatious about commenting on this topic, lest I incur the wrath of social media.

But first, let’s celebrate the #distractinglysexy hashtag. Because no matter where it came from, it speaks to real perceptions and it is awesome.

I found the hashtag before I heard about the Tim Hunt debacle. “Hmm,” I thought, “that’s too bad. It must have been uncomfortable to be one of the women in that audience.” Then I was taking photos this weekend at a client’s STEM function, and they were looking at old class photos of graduates. In the first class, in 1969, there were no women. In the second class, there was one woman, who happened to be attending. I overheard her laughingly remark, “Everyone always asks me why women in (my field) are so stubborn. Well, you have to be stubborn, to be a woman in this field!”

But that wasn’t the kicker. One of the old fellows, looking at the time in the mid-eighties where the class photos began to segue from a male-dominated field to a female-dominated field (yes! in the sciences! bonus points if you can guess which field it is), made a remark that could have come out of Tim Hunt’s mouth: “Must have been distracting to have all those women in the lab,” he said. “Yes,” his companion agreed. “Some of them are real lookers!”

I tell you this not so that you can have MOAR OUTRAGE. To me, it was a genuine indication of how pervasive these ideas are within a certain generation. And Zoe Williams has a fantastic article in the Guardian which you should read, and I am going to quote thusly:

The issue is particularly piquant in the wake of the Nobel laureate Professor Sir Tim Hunt (I give him his full title to indicate my elaborate respect for his plentiful science), who lost his jobs following what has come to be described as a feminist witch-hunt. To a conference in Seoul, he explained the problem with women – you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry. By the end of the week, he had lost his posts at University College London, the European Research Council and the Royal Society. “I am finished,” he said, in an interview with the Observer. “I had hoped to do a lot more to help promote science in this country and in Europe, but … I have become toxic.” This looks like the best possible case against making a fuss: the price he paid was out of all proportion to the remarks he made, which were jocular and minor. He was tried by Twitter and convicted by his employers, unable until it was too late to make a case in his own defence.

We first need to separate the individual women who mocked Hunt with the hashtag “#distractinglysexy” from the institutions that fired him. Most of the social media response was, itself, pretty jocular. While plenty of people said that Hunt distilled the working environment in science, and the reason women can’t thrive in it, it didn’t follow that those people were calling for him to be sacked.

I keep seeing this trend of pillorying people for small-minded remarks, when their actions speak loudly of them being an otherwise generally good human being, and it’s wrong.

1. Words are easy disproportionally to prove. A man said some stuff he shouldn’t have said in front of a bunch of women. Yep. It was bad. Let’s put this in perspective, though – what about a man who pinches a woman’s bum or “accidentally” brushes against her breasts? Whether in a crowded room or in private, although this is a much more egregious action, it’s also much harder to provide a record of what happened. In a very real way, people who have given verbal proof that they hold outdated or sexist views (even when defended by co-workers and family members) are treated just as badly – or worse – than those who actually cross that line.

2. People are a product of their environment. And a product of their own determination. It’s both. You start with a huge dose of being a product of your environment, taking for granted the values and ideas handed to you by your parents and your teachers – in which actions and situations often speak louder than words – and bit by bit, as you grow and educate yourself and form opinions and learn from experience, you figure out which of those values and ideas are wrong for you and should be discarded. You form your own person, and it’s a life long process. Some people ossify into crusty old Get-Off-My-Lawn buggers well before their time. Some people, god bless ’em, stay curious and motivated all throughout their journey until they die at a ripe old age.

But bias is subtle and pervasive, and you can’t discard values if you don’t even realize you have them. Or, even more subtly, you can completely agree with a statement that says, “Women are equal to men,” and yet, when someone mentions a judge or a scientist, automatically picture a male person in that role.

Here’s my example of this. I grew up in a farming community. For anyone who didn’t grow up on a farm, the women are an integral part. There are not that many farm women who don’t how to start a tractor, or who haven’t taken a turn on the combine or driving the truck during harvest. But when I was growing up, men were farmers, and women were the farmer’s wives. I saw a picture when I was in grade 12 that was captioned something like, “(Woman’s name), a farmer, stands next to her crop.” MIND = BLOWN. I’m pretty sure this was a photography book celebrating women in all aspects of industry, from space travel to firefighting to scientific research to trucking, and it was the farmer that got me. Just from that one little syntax, I could see one of the pervasive ways that the outdated language of sexism had a legacy in our community – a leftover from a time, not that long ago, when women didn’t drive tractors.

Here’s another example of someone being a product of their time, this one not so subtle, and one of the most shocking things I’ve recently read:

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 9.49.53 AM

It’s a section of Virginia Woolf’s diary from 1915, discussed in Virginia Woolf in Context, by Bryony Randall & Jane Goldman. She didn’t grow up, as I did, in a time that recognized the personhood of disabled and mentally handicapped people. You can read the book it’s excerpted from if you want the greater picture of what the views of Victorian England were – her thoughts were not considered radical, but thankfully, we’ve moved on since then. 

What is my point? Just this: a reminder that tolerance and understanding can extend in all directions. That whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had. That you can be tolerant of a person’s mistakes while not being tolerant of a sexist situation or comment.

Let him or her among us who has never made an off-colour joke or tasteless comment throw the first tweet.