Category Archives: motivation

My Favorite Things – Decluttering!

There’s something about the arrival of spring that always gets me into this mode…

(In case, you’re wondering, I’m the one spending time with the sponge and spray cleaner – not the one goofing off playing broom guitar!) 

I’m also the one making multiple trips with donations to our local thrift store.

Because at the end of the day…

Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.




Filed under Art, Cartoon Illustration, Drawing, funny art, Funny Illustrations, Humorous Illustration, I Love What I Do, inspirational quotes, Joana Miranda Studio, Live In The Now, Live In The Present, marker and ink illustration, motivation, My Favorite Things, wisdom, wise quotes

My Favorite Things – Free Time to Work on My Cartooning Process

This week I’ve been enjoying simply being “The Wife” while keeping my husband company on a New York City Ballet tour to Washington, D.C.   Aside from my responsibilities (none, actually – though I’ve been happy to shop for the food for our meals), I’ve mostly been busy in our hotel room working on my cartoons.   Having time to buckle down and see how many I can churn out is both a pleasure and a challenge.  It’s easy to chalk up my struggle with writing gags when I’m at home to the fact that I rarely get large chunks of uninterrupted time for cartooning.  However, this week has shown me that having large chunks of time to brainstorm gags doesn’t necessarily make the process any easier. 

Gag writing is hard.  Period.

(If you don’t believe me, try your hand at the caption contest found each week at the back of the New Yorker magazine.)

That said, the gag-writing process IS interesting, and when you finally do come up with something that feels right, it’s truly an awesome feeling.  Besides exercising your funny muscles (if you don’t go insane, first), it’s very possible that the mental gymnastics might also stave off dementia in the long term.  Or so I hope…

In case you’re curious, here are some helpful articles with tips on gag writing and working around mental blocks:

Of course, gag writing is only half the battle.  Drawing engaging and funny images is, in my eyes, equally important.  Although I’ve always found the drawing part of cartooning to be easier than the gag writing, I’m constantly challenging myself to get better at drawing, too.  These days my focus is on creating my drawings more quickly so that they look more “tossed off.”  Drawing in pen is definitely a challenge, but one benefit to working this way is that you are forced to pare down to only the essential lines.

(It also gives you something to do at breakfast while your husband checks his phone…)

(Or, you contemplate taking your morning vitamins.)

Of course, it’s one thing to draw a funny solo figure like the ones I drew above, but to actually come up with the layout for a cartoon scene to match your gag involves a little more planning.

Today I hit on the idea of doing my (VERY) rough initial layout drawing digitally in my Corel Paint Shop Pro X8 photo-editing program.

From there, it was a lot easier to proceed to the pen drawing on paper….

And the gag?  Well, for that you’ll have to be patient and wait ’til next week when I can properly scan the cartoon and add in the caption.   After all, there are some limits to what you can do in a hotel room!


Filed under 10 Thousand Hours, Cartoon Illustration, Digital Illustration, Drawing, education, I Love What I Do, illustration, ink sketches, motivation, My Favorite Things, New work, Pen Drawings, practicing drawing

Being Mindful of Giving Thanks

As I’m making progress in my recovery from whatever was making me ill (at this point I’m pretty sure it was a combination of age-related hormone changes + a walloping case of anxiety about what was going on with my body), I’m mindful of wanting to give thanks for all the love and support I’ve received from family and friends.  When you’re anxious and scared, it’s easy to feel like you’re all alone.  Even though there were times when I felt pretty awful over the past two months, I never felt alone…so a BIG THANK YOU for being there for me!

For those of you who might struggle with anxiety as well, or are just curious to know what’s helped me so far, I’m happy to share.  I see this recovery as an ongoing journey – one that will ultimately make me stronger, healthier, (and hopefully) wiser and more compassionate along the way.

In addition to my new ritual of daily meditation (I like to do my meditation just before breakfast), I’ve also done daily yoga sessions on Youtube with this wonderful teacher.  Getting outdoors for exercise in the sunshine and fresh air has also worked wonders.

Since our minds have an uncanny ability to sabotage our best intentions at times, I’ve also found it helpful to keep furthering my reading on meditation and mindfulness practice.   My book pile above currently includes the following titles:

How to Sit – Thich Nhat Hanh

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway – Susan Jeffers, Ph.D

Timeless Truths for Modern Mindfulness – Arnie Koza, Ph.D

5-Minute Calm 

Breathe: The Well-Being Special

The Mindfulness Manual

(Not pictured, but also incredibly helpful have been the following two books: Minding the Body, Mending the Mind – Joan Borysenko, Ph.D, and, The Upward Spiral – Alex Korb, Ph.D)

XOX – Joana


Filed under Cartoon Illustration, funny art, Humorous Illustration, Influences, inspiration, live in the moment, Live In The Now, Live In The Present, motivation, wisdom

My Favorite Things – The Healing Power of Being Outdoors

Ironically, as I’ve struggled over the past 6 weeks with health issues and anxiety, I’ve stopped doing some of the very things that make me the most happy and healthy.  Today I took an important step by, well…stepping outside.  And of course, I made sure to bring along my camera. (Note to self – stopping to take pictures of beautiful things is one of the best ways to be mindful and in the moment.)

Here’s what caught my eye…

Happy Thursday!


Filed under live in the moment, Live In The Now, Live In The Present, motivation, My Favorite Things, nature, nature photography, New York, photography, wisdom

My Favorite Things – Making Variety the Spice of Life


Seven years ago when I left my job at the Milwaukee Symphony to follow my husband in his new job in New York City, I was full of anxiety.  Foremost in my thoughts was of course…

How will I make a living? 

And that thought was quickly followed by this one…

If I go back to musical freelancing after having played as a member of an orchestra for 10 years, I’ll feel like a failure.

Fortunately, life intervened.  Freelancing became the ONLY option, and I quickly learned that it was not only the best way for me to pay my share of the rent, but also exactly what I needed to be doing in order to feel challenged, stimulated AND happy!  Go figure. 

So while I’m not writing this post to suggest that you all take up the viola and move to New York City to join the musical freelance scene, I do want to suggest the following:

  • Go ahead and step out of your comfort zone.  You might find that the areas outside your comfort zone provide new perspective and tremendous opportunities for growth.
  • Pursue your outside interests.  Illustration and music might not seem like they have much in common, but my two passions feed each other and help to give me needed perspective when the going gets tough.
  • Volunteer your time.  There is nothing that will make you feel more worthwhile, plus you might discover even more interests in the process!  In the past four years, I have volunteered on 38 New York Cares projects around the city.  Those 74 hours have put me in contact with other dedicated volunteers and expanded my horizons.  Through volunteering, I’ve gotten to know many more neighborhoods in the city, and the interactions with the people I’ve helped have made the city seem like a lovely small town.

How about you?  What fears will you face today?


Filed under Cartoon Illustration, Do What You Love, funny art, Funny Illustrations, Humorous Illustration, I Love What I Do, Joana Miranda Studio, motivation, My Favorite Things

Why I Love What I Do…

(Even though it’s a balancing act sometimes!)

As a musician and illustrator, I work very long hours.  When I’m not “on the clock” officially, I’m always busy trying to improve – whether that means putting in extra time sketching at my drafting table, or standing in front of my music stand practicing the viola.  The beauty of loving what you do is that you can lose yourself in a state of flow where time seems suspended and work doesn’t feel like work.  And the advantage of wearing two hats (in my case, as an illustrator and a musician), is that when the going gets tough in one arena- and there WILL always be difficult days – you can retain some sanity by focusing on how you will move forward in the other.  On the best days, both loves serve each other fueling focus, creativity and smart time management.

How did I develop my passion for both music and art?  In the music case, it was easy.  I grew up in a musical house where both parents were heavily involved in music.  Playing an instrument was a part of my upbringing.  Fortunately, I did love music, and I was even one of those rare kids who actually took lessons in piano and also music theory from both parents.

My love for visual art, drawing and illustration evolved more organically.  I always drew as a kid, but it wasn’t until I got engaged and designed my own engagement ring that I discovered how much I loved drawing, and, initially, designing jewelry.  Those of you who have followed my blog from the beginning will remember the year where I posted a new jewelry design (rendering) a day.  If you’re new to this site, type “A Design a Day” into the search bar and you’ll see my jewelry designs…there’s 365 of ’em.  Enjoy!

I like to think of my path from jewelry designing to my current cartoon illustrations akin to the zig-zag pattern of how pilots pilot airplanes.  As the years have passed and I’ve put in my hours, I’m zeroing in on my illustration focus – or how best to say who I am and what’s important to me in my art.  Creating visually compelling art has always been a love.  These days, finding the humor in the everyday and adding that into the mix has taken my work a step further.  I figure if I make you smile or laugh, we’re both better off!

You can find my illustrations here.  And if you’re in the New York City area you can hear me playing this coming week at these locations:

New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center and New Jersey Symphony (Morristown and the NJPAC)





Filed under Cartoon Illustration, Do What You Love, funny art, I Love What I Do, Joana Miranda Studio, motivation

From My Sketchbook – Six Degrees of Separation

In a city of 8 million people, it’s easy to think you won’t ever run into anyone you know.  And yet even in this vast city, strangers share a common destiny.

Waiting for the same train…


Lost in thought…


Surprised by the noise across the subway car…

bald-man-with-beard-and-glassesOr, immersed in reading the latest news.



Filed under Art, Cartoon Illustration, Drawing, drawing faces, funny art, Humorous Illustration, ink sketches, motivation, New York, practicing drawing, quick sketch, sketchbook, subway sketches, weekly sketch project