Alaina Sullivan is an artist, graphic designer and writer / recipe developer based in Brooklyn, NY. Her background as a fine artist informs her current work as lead graphic designer at Bon Appetit magazine, as well as her creative whims in the kitchen.
01 Story: What’s the best story you heard this month?
I was talking on the phone with my grandfather and he told me that he picked up a book about the science, magic, and mystery of solar eclipses at the library in Erie, PA. It was written by an astronomy professor, one who I happened have class with my senior year at Colgate University. We laughed at the coincidence. And delighted in the way that the universe threads ideas and people together in the strangest ways.
02 Nature: An encounter with the natural world
I work in Lower Manhattan, but I crave nature, so I try to take daily walks by the water to escape the sea of skyscrapers. I was taking a stroll along Battery Park on an unseasonably warm day, and stopped to admire a small garden that I discovered wedged in the middle of the dense buildings. It was bursting with life, blooming with flowers that I had never seen before, and I spent a good five minutes just watching a monarch butterfly quietly siphon nectar from one of them. I couldn't help but think it was like he was enjoying a fruit smoothie.
03 Art Experience: An encounter with art (in any form)
Watching the dancers in Nick Mulvey's video for his new song "Mountain to Move" filled me with such joy, it was almost spiritual. A beautiful reminder that our bodies were made to move and flow, and that dance is a medium for connecting to a deep space within, and breaking away into something bigger than us. A collective human pulse.
04 Change: a meaningful change that impacts the way you live (either that you initiated or that entered from outside)
Re-learning how to go analog. As a graphic designer I spend a lot of my day pushing pixels around a screen, or just staring at one. I crave the antidote. I'm trying to limit time on social media, and time on my phone in general. I read an interview with Aziz Ansari about how he "quit the internet" and I was like woah, I want to do that. Not that I want to cut myself off from what's happening in the world, but so much of what we consume on the internet is just noise. It's too much for us to process, and I feel like it's turning my memory to mush. I'm making an effort to reduce aimless scrolling & pointless news, and replace it with reading good fiction, and learning from people who think deeply. It's about being deliberate with what I read / look at to afford my brain some time and space to process things. Technology will greedily take all of your headspace if you let it. Sometimes I'll spend a good 20 minutes on Instagram, and after I'm like dang! I could have just spend that time meditating or taking a walk in the park or sketching.
05 New Idea: a new way of looking at things or something to attempt in the future
How do you get what you want? Design it.
06 Object (new): a new object that held significance
I bought myself a new set of watercolors in an effort to put paint to paper again more regularly. (See: analog practices.)
07 Object (old): an old object that took on new/different kind of meaning
In first grade I wrote and illustrated a book about my sister. I found it in my mom's attic and read it again at my sister's wedding this month. I had forgotten how proud my six-year-old self was when I drew a hand holding up four fingers to illustrate her age. Rendering those thumb creases was no easy feat!
08 Discard: Something you decided to rid from your life (or that you are particularly happy this month to see come to an end)
My mantra right now is Let. Go. I have a tendency to hold on to things, overthink things, overwork things, sometimes subconsciously, which often manifests itself as physical blockages in my body ... so I'm meditating a lot on letting things pass through with greater ease. The mind-body connection is so strong, we often forget, and I'm constantly working toward cultivating a space to allow them to communicate. When the channels are clear, and you become aware of how messages are relayed, it's so beautiful. I do think it is healthy to feel a bit uncomfortable sometimes, recognize that feeling, sit with it, listen to it without judgement, and do the work necessary to shed the old and create space for the new.
09 Gratitude: something you have been specifically thankful for this month:
Spending time with family. This month unfolded with a string of parent visits — Mom, Dad, my boyfriend's mom, my boyfriend's dad — all came to town on separate occasions. We celebrated birthdays, a sibling's wedding, went rock climbing with nieces, line dancing with uncles ... I had been bracing for family overdose, but truthfully it felt really good to be with my people, especially now that we are separated by geography and don't see each other as often. And spending time with my person's people adds so much texture to our own relationship.
10 Proportion: A specific moment that reminded you of the scale of the universe. That you are part of a greater whole.
Flying home at night. Shoulder-to-shoulder with the moon, it's nearly full, playing peek-a-boo behind the clouds ... seeing other planes in the sky, specks of light like fireflies just out of reach ... getting this sense you are above Manhattan by the way a warm glow is illuminating a particular stretch of the thick bed of clouds you are skimming over ... and then seeing just the tip of the World Trade Center poke its nose up from below. Being in a plane always affords a shift in ways of looking as it quite literally wrests you from your usual perspective of life on the earth. A reminder that all of this is bigger than us.