Sunday Artist, Monday Librarian: Sean Lyons

Sean LyonsSean Lyons makes the kind of art that I could stare at all day. And even if I did stare at it all day, it’s the kind of art I’d probably see something new in every time I looked at a new piece! Sean was generous enough to share more about his work and his practice for this edition of Sunday Artist, Monday Librarian.

Let’s start with your Monday Librarian gig! Can you tell us a bit about what you do?

I work at a public library in Lansing Michigan as a Public Services Librarian. I do a lot of front line reference work, and some programming, adult instruction, and collection maintenance.

So can I just say: I am thoroughly fascinated by your work! It’s vibrant and colourful and perplexing (in the best possible way!) and when I look at your pieces, I feel like I come away with more questions than answers. And I love that about your work. So, I’m going to start asking some of those questions, if that’s OK. To begin with, how did you get started doing the kind of paintings you do? What inspires you? How do you choose your subjects?

Thank You! Well part of that experience is what I intended actually. So that is good!

Untitled, by Sean Lyons

Untitled, by Sean Lyons

I was always drawn to the religious works of Asia throughout my life. Awhile back I decided to get back into painting after a hiatus and I wanted to try my hand at replicating this style somehow despite my formal art training being very “western”. So I thought that this sort of cultural re-interpretation should figure into the work somehow.

As most of the paintings I was interested in were so steeped in Buddhist or Hindu lore I found myself feeling that same way where I had more questions than answers as to their meaning. I did not understand what they were trying to convey, or why this person had 8 arms and 3 heads etc. Since I did not want to incorporate the subject matter I knew very little about I wanted to come up with my own myths and lore to include in the paintings, but also thought that somehow I would try to put the viewer in a place where they would feel the same way I did when looking at the paintings that inspired me.

In my search for subjects to include I have noticed a strong parallel in myths and popular culture. Many of the popular culture stories are based on the same premises of myths, religions, and fables to some extent, and I started to wonder if they serve the same roles in society. To take it further i decided not to simply do this type of work and have it be derived from one piece of popular culture (like have a painting that is all Star Wars characters, etc.), but rather look at popular culture as a whole and draw from it as I see fit to reinforce the cultural re-interpretation I was going for, and to create a visual dialogue that could still be inclusive.

Now I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to do, but I wanted to come up with a way to not overthink the process of subject selection so I could just get right to work. So I came up with a system where I actually roll some dungeons and dragons dice to determine what subject goes where. So when I go to create a new painting I roll the dice and refer to my formula and choose the characters, and composition elements that way.

Actual dice are being rolled! I love it. Tell me more.

Untitled, by Sean Lyons

Untitled, by Sean Lyons

After I have rolled the dice to come up an idea for a new painting I then work it out by doing a series of rough sketches to zero in on a composition. Then I draw out the semi-final version on a canvas which is stretched over panel. I say semi-final because I typically change things as I am working on them and ideas come along as things progress. I still am learning how to best achieve what I am after, and trying new techniques, so my process is ever evolving. As of now it includes using many compasses, circle cutters,and automotive masking tape to get the clean lines I want. I use acrylic paints which has been challenging as I want to get that solid color look and to do that sometimes i have to go over an area up to 5 times depending on the color. I do incorporate a lot of metallic pigments which sometimes I mix myself. These don’t really show up in the photos so you have to imagine that anything that looks a gold or silver tone in the photos is all shiny and stuff.

So cool. And intense! Can you tell me more about your practice? How do you fit your art into your life?

I not only work as a librarian full time, but I also have a family at home, so my time to work on this stuff is super tight. The last painting took over 9 months to finish. I have a setup in my basement where i can work on them as time allows, which is usually after kiddo goes to bed around 8 or 9 and I work for a few hours until I decide it is not smart to continue since the early morning routine is just around the corner. This seems to work for me and has become such a habit that on the odd chance I do have time during the day to work on stuff it takes extra motivation to do so, and feels kinda weird.

Untitled, by Sean Lyons

Untitled, by Sean Lyons

Does your practice as an artist influence your work as a librarian? And vice versa, does your work as a librarian influence your practice? Talk about how, if it does.

I don’t think the artwork directly influences the library work. I do try to bring art into the library and have conducted art classes, and am exploring ways to offer more of an ongoing art program/makerspace in the future. I can see some of the library that makes its way into the subjects I choose because the Public Library’s collection is so steeped in popular culture.

And finally, the question with which I like to close out all these interviews: are you happy with the balance you’ve struck between working your day job and your art practice? Do you ever dream of quitting your day job and being a full-time artist?
I am happy with my life setup, and love that I am able to incorporate art into it. Of course I sometimes think it would be fantastic to be able to focus on your own thing full-time, but not being able to do so also gives the time I do have a more urgent, special feeling.


Sunday Artist, Monday LibrarianIf you (or someone you know!) are a librarian who makes art in your spare time, ping me! I’d love to chat.


You’ve probably heard of NaNoWriMo — that November tradition where you pledge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, using the NaNoWriMo community for support along the way.  There are all sorts of spin-offs (NaBloPoMo, NaNonFiWriMo, etc.) and NaNoDrawMo is the drawing version where you draw 50 images over the 30 days of November (the “NaNoDrawMo” short-form doesn’t quite work but no need to get into that). I optimistically signed up thinking, 50 drawings in 30 days? Easy!

nanodrawmoYes, well. I managed 20. That’s what getting serious with my composition got me. I really enjoyed the process and I’m quite pleased with the results, but boy howdy, each of those drawings took quite a bit of time. Made me think of the project management triangle and how you can’t do something fast, cheap, and good — one of those must be sacrificed every time. Is there a corresponding triangle for art?

Anyway, no time for regrets, just lessons learned. Onward to December! I’m still drawing all the people, just not any actual people this month. It’s just day 2 so too early to tell how this will shape up. I’ll recap here at the end of the month but you can always follow along if you just can’t wait until then!

Sunday Artist, Monday Librarian: Kat Drennan-Scace

Kat Drennan-ScaceEver since I was introduced to Kat Drennan-Scace by a mutual friend, my Instagram feed has become a better and brighter place. Kat is a full-time librarian, as well as a designer, creator, and entrepreneur, with her own card business. She generously squeezed in some time to answer my questions about how she manages it all in this edition of Sunday Artist, Monday Librarian.

Let’s start with your day job, Kat. Could you tell us a little bit about what you do?

I’m a youth services librarian at Hamilton Public Library. I specifically look after teen services in our system. Since I work in a branch, my day-to-day looks very different every day. I do everything from teen programming to reference to adult computer classes and school visits. I also plan system-wide teen programming like our teen summer reading program and writing contest. I love that every day is different and I get to meet so many great people.

I’ve found myself losing track of time clicking around your website and Instagram, taking in all your designs. Your cards are lovely! Could you tell us a bit more about your work? How did you get started? What inspires you?

You're always there for me when I need a drink...I was actually invited to a Stampin’ Up party (like Avon but for stamps). While there, we made cards and it was a really nice creative outlet. I love that I can sit down and finish a project in one sitting unlike quilting or crocheting a blanket. I love putting a lot of colour and happiness into my cards while keeping them clean and simple. I usually am inspired by actual products – a patterned paper or stamp set. I’m of course inspired by other crafters as well. I love the wealth of process videos and ideas that generous crafters are sharing. I love pulling out a single element – maybe a colour scheme or a technique – and using them in my own cards.

I totally get that – how something like a colour scheme can inspire you and take you down a brand new path. Can you tell us more about that, about your creative process?

It's beginning to look a lot like ChristmasI always start with white card stock and while the blank page is sometimes intimidating, it’s also inspiring. I pull out everything I think I’ll need first and put it on my craft desk (I’m lucky to have a craft room). I experiment on the first card until I get it how I like, then I do it factory line style – one stamp on 5-10 cards, then the next stamp, then maybe the paper, etc. to be more efficient. I also find that once the more arduous creative part is over, I can do the factory line type stuff in front of the TV or while listening to an audiobook which makes it easier to fit into my life.

Does your creative practice influence your work as a librarian? And vice versa, does your work as a librarian influence your practice?

Doing nothing together has become my favourite thingIt sometimes does get involved in my work in odd and exciting ways. I strike up friendships with other creative types that I notice borrowing craft books or magazines. I’ve also been able to plan craft programs like Christmas cards and tags using my own supplies. My coworkers are super supportive and even buy my cards and come out to my craft shows.

I think the same desire for lifelong learning that serves me well as a librarian also serves me well as a crafter. I’m always taking online courses and watching videos of new techniques. I’m not shy about researching new things in the least and I think that helps both in crafting and starting a crafty business.

So speaking of your crafty business, are you happy with the balance you’ve struck between working your day job and your creating? Do you ever dream of being a full-time maker?

Merry Christmas from our home to yoursI think I’m still in the phase where it’s rejuvenating to come home from work and craft. I like the switch from intellectual work to manual work. I think it helps me to process my day and the world around me.

I would love to craft more but at the same time, I recognize that the things that make me a good librarian – a desire to serve customers, ability to work within structure and policies, working in a team environment – would be absent and I wouldn’t work as well without them. I daydream about a leisurely morning and productive afternoon/evening making stuff but I would probably go crazy without people to bounce ideas off of and some sort of structured day.

Maybe one day though I will become disciplined enough to make it happen but that day is not today. The truth is I love helping people at the library and being still able to find the time to be creative. It is the perfect life for me.




Thank you to Kat for taking the time to do this! Go ahead and follow Kat on Instagram for regular peeks into what she’s working on and keep an eye on her site, too (she’s focusing on local craft shows for now but maybe we can convince her to start selling her cards online soon!).

Sunday Artist, Monday LibrarianAnd thanks to all of you who have been in touch about how you balance the joys of being a Sunday Artist, Monday Librarian! I’ll be publishing a new interview every couple of weeks and I can’t wait to share the ones I have lined up! I’m always eager to chat with more of you though, so do get in touch if you haven’t already.


Inktober was all about doing a drawing a day with, well, ink. As you might expect, it was right in my wheelhouse. So I participated, posting my drawings over on all the people i met today. Since I’ve mostly been digitally colouring my drawings lately, I knew I could only commit to one person a day (rather than all), so that’s what I did. Here are all 31 people, in 15 seconds:

A video posted by amanda etches (@etches) on

It was fun! And because I’m still digging the monthly challenge thing, I’m on the hunt for a November challenge. Maybe NaNoDrawMo. Maybe something else. Updates as progress warrants!

October in books

50 books in 2014, yay!Way back in January, I signed up for the Goodreads reading challenge, pledging to read at least 50 books this year (because, you know, it’s not good enough to set a personal goal; you have to do it on social media or else is doesn’t count). That “50 yay!” means just what you think it means: challenge completed! The other part of the challenge that wasn’t obvious was that I pledged to review everything I read this year and, I’m happy to report,  I’ve kept that up, too.

So I only read two books this month but they were enough. In so many ways.

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”, Lena Dunham
It’s quite possible that I have never before been as excited about a book coming out as I was about the arrival of this one. I pre-ordered it as soon as I could and even though it was scheduled to hit my doorstep a day after it hit the shelves, that wasn’t soon enough for me: I ended up buying it in an airport bookshop on publication day because, well, it was the only thing I wanted to read on that flight. I finished reading it less 24 hours later and I loved every word of it. Lena Dunham is my favourite.

What We See When We Read, Peter Mendelsund
I heard about this book on a podcast and when I saw it in my local bookshop a few days later, it just about leapt into my hands. A beautifully illustrated/designed book about reading? I was powerless to resist. Mendelsund is a book designer by trade so, at times, it did feel a little self-consciously over-designed, but ultimately I’d say that the overall experience of reading it was pleasurable.