Amanda Sue Howell

The 3 Focus Challenge: March Update

Can you believe that it’s already the 2nd Quarter of the year? It’s April… which is crazy because yesterday was Christmas.

In the last month I moved into my office… my workspace has changed a few times since we moved to Virginia. I started in the sunroom, but it was too cold in there when winter hit, so I moved into my bedroom… but then I was up until all hours of the night, because apparently if there’s a computer nearby, I fell compelled to keep working. #workaholic

So then I tried having a workspace out in the living room so I could spend time around the kiddos, and work… problem is, we’re still working on boundaries, and they think Mom working in the living room, means Mom wants every-5-second updates on this episode of Teen Titans Go. Mom does not.

So now that spring has arrived (or so it insists in-between snowflakes) it should be warming up in my sunroom soon, so I’ve officially moved back. We also unpacked a lot of my books, which we hadn’t done before, so I had to get some new bookshelves (oh darn *finger snap*).

I now know that I need more rooms in my next house. If you’ve seen pictures of my house, you’re probably like.. girl say what? But really… I need a room just for my books. See? That’s right. Now you’re nodding your head, cause you want the same thing. I need a library, with a big jahonking fireplace, window seats, ceiling high shelves, and one of those rolly ladder things like Willy Wonka has. Just kidding… the upper levels of my shelves will hold book merch.

I love the look of rolling ladders, but practically, I’d hate them. I’m a shortie and I like my stuff in arms range, cause dang I have to use a step stool for EVERYTHING.

But anyway, there’s my March update… I did a lot of unpacking. I still have some to do, but that’s a start. So now let’s dive into what I accomplished for the 3 Focus Challenge this past month.

Personal Focuses


I didn’t do anything new with acrylics, because most of my attention was on moving. This was really a down month for creativity. I viewed it as a strategic move to make room for MORE creativity. So everything I still needed to do, I still need to do.

What I did figure out though, is that what might help me cover all the ground I’ve got, between my 3 Focus Challenge and my fantasy fashion project, is that theme days will be very useful to me.

I’ll go into more details on this in my fantasy fashion update post, but Saturday’s will be the day I work on acrylics, in the morning if my husband isn’t working that Saturday, and in the afternoon is he is working that afternoon.

Coming Up:

– More acrylics purchases
– Picking up more canvases on Hobby Lobby’s next “package of 2” special
– Bonnie Lecat’s class
– Acrylics on Saturday mornings


Other than continuing to receive Ipsy & BoxyCharm, and putting on makeup more often, I haven’t done much with this yet. I’m still in need of a great thing for brows. Everything I try looks sooooo so fake. The last one I tried was so bad, that it was pulling eyebrow hairs out… those things are precious! I cannot be losing eyebrow hairs.

Coming up:

– Make a playlist with looks using my specific makeup
– Give myself extra time in the mornings to try those looks, instead of just doing what I would normally do


Okay still haven’t figured out a way to track progress on this one. Thoughts?

A friend of mine suggested doing a song a week on Instagram stories… whatcha think about that?

I set up my office, but we think my keyboard is dead. So we need to replace that, and then I can get started with Piano Dust Buster.

Coming Up:

– I’ll play with Notes Teacher a bit more
– Research a keyboard replacement

Business Focuses


Picking out my Canva templates, I ran into a problem. I’ve been feeling like my branding is too dark…. I’m a dark/snarky kinda girl, but I was pushing that into my branding colors, but it looked too literal.

Back at the beginning of the year, I went through my colors and I created a palette of colors to create my art with. I had what I referred to as “my canon” and the “expanded universe”. The canon was darker, the expanded universe was more bright and colorful. And recently I’ve been pulling from the expanded universe more.

I rather enjoy the juxtaposition of my snarky personality combining with bright playful colors. So I redid my header on this site, and updated my logo with my own hand-lettered logo. Are there more changes coming? Yup. But I’m excited to see how this grows.

But now that I know what colors I’m pulling from now, I’m ready to choose those templates.

Coming up:

– Choose the Canva templates
– Rework my Pinterest account
– Finish taking Pinning Perfect
– Officially launch Pinterest services on my site


I’ve been enjoying my board from Medium (I have the “slate” style), and I’m looking forward to another one they’re releasing in May.

I decided not to worry about a “theme” on my Instagram just yet, and I’ll just explore and see if one emerges.

I’ve enjoyed Follower to Fan Society so far, and I’m looking forward to my second month. As I mentioned above, I’ve chosen some theme days, so Friday is my day for doing FTF homework, and applying that to my Instagram.

It’s been raining or snowing here, so there hasn’t been a whole lot of sunny days just yet. But as soon as one comes up, I’m jumping all over that for a photoshoot for my Instagram feeds.

Speaking of feeds, I split my Instagram. The bookstagram community really seems to enjoy feeds that are purely focused on them. Same with booktube (more on that in a second), so I’m splitting my territory into “creative” and “bookish” for Instagram & Pinterest.

Creative Instagram: @amandasuehowell
Bookish Instagram: @amandasuereads

Coming Up:

– Purchase a few more major props
– Go through the modules in Follower to Fan and implement them
– Take advantage of a sunny day and get some photos taken for both feeds


I joined Jessica Stansberry’s VidFluential U and she has a 30 day YouTube kickstart, and I’ve downloaded it so I can work my way through it. Some of it’s already been done, like setting up a YouTube channel, but a lot more still needs done.

After an issue with my phone picking up the sounds through phone holder, I had to figure out a crazy setup so I could record from my DSLR. After a chat with Jessica, it became apparent that I either need a camera that’s really good for video, or a separate mic.

I don’t have a “new camera” budget at the moment, but I do have a “new microphone” budget, so I’m picking up a lavaliere, and hopefully that resolves the issue for now.

Just like my Instagram channels, I’ve split them between creative and bookish.

So my art channel is Amanda Sue Creates, and my book channel is Amanda Sue Reads. And they both need content, and trailers.

And just like the Instagram class, I’ve scheduled a class day for YouTube, and I’ll be taking my class on Tuesday.

Coming Up:

– Go through the modules in VidFluential U
– Read Blog Like a Boss
– Map out my videos for my split channels
– Map out my videos for Instagram & Facebook

How are you doing with your creative exploration this year?







My New Project: Art Meets Books

My New Project: Art Meets Books | Amanda Sue Howell | #fashionillustration #fantasyillustration #amandasuehowellLast October, I realized that I was no longer happy with my blog. I had been struggling to come up with topics that were appropriately business-y enough for a virtual assistant’s blog. I was on a creative high, having just ended a 30 day challenge, of live hand lettering on Facebook. A chat with a friend made me realize that my frustration was stemming from a feeling that I was no longer writing about topics I was passionate about. I was writing about topics I thought others wanted me to write about. Boo hiss.

Almost completely overnight, I changed everything. I updated my branding, blog, colors, logo, and photos. But then it turned out no one really liked the “curmudgeon” branding. So I changed it all again, and this time I went with my name. But I still didn’t really know… what… I was going to be doing. I knew something something books…. something something art. In fact if you asked me about my blog, I probably used the words “bookly artish” to describe it, because I didn’t have anything more to share.

But meanwhile I kept exploring, playing, creating. I watercolored. I made Skillshare classes*. And I just let it percolate in the back of my head. On February 14th, when most women were bombing Facebook with photos of flowers from their man, I was having a brilliant moment.

When I was a kid, my Mom bought me paper dolls from Dover. They were of a little Chinese girl and boy, and they had historical costumes like a Manchu wedding. And they were cute, but I didn’t really do much with them. Later, my Mom got me this neon pink stencil where you could draw your own paper dolls and clothing. And I started with the stencils, but I got bored pretty quickly, and started free handing the clothing.

I’d whip out my Mom’s 1965 World Book Encyclopedia (Book C), and go through the historical fashions… pulling designs from the Elizabethan era, the 1940s, and even Ancient Egypt. Later, I began reading a series about a little girl named Mandie*, who attends a young lady’s finishing school, and the books are chock full of descriptions of clothing. Some of the most memorable passages in books for me involve clothing, and one of the primary reason I wanted to read The Selection Series* was because of the dresses on the covers.

So I started thinking about drawing clothes. And I thought about how, when I got my very first iPad (Generation 2!), I downloaded Paper, and the first thing I did, was draw a few dresses. They looked like crap, cause I didn’t know how to use my iPad for that just yet… but that’s what I gravitated towards for my first art on there.

I thought about how a few years back, I had some acrylics, and I did a painting for my office… and it was a dress. And later I painted a boot. I thought about some of my Skillshare classes I’ve signed up for… watercolor fashion, painting jewels and jewelry… and I realized I was on to something.

Then I thought about a book I’d read about drawing clothing, and the long, lean models it featured in it’s instructions. Long. Lean. Hmmmm. Models. Meh. Long… lean… slim. Hmmmm. Slim. Like elves. Like ELVES. OMG. ELVES! I ran into the kitchen and told my husband “I just had an idea and it’s either genius or crazy!” He said “the line between those is pretty blurred.. the key is to err more on the side of genius.”

So I spilled the whole thing to him… drawing fashion… on elves. And I continued to explain, that if I become known for elfin fashions, I could expand to other body types like hobbits, ogres, trolls, giants… and my daughters have put in a request for fairies.

I was already REALLY excited about this, but then when I laid down to go to sleep, I had the rest of the idea pop into my head. Instead of just drawing any ole fashions, I’d harken back to my paper doll days, and draw fashions inspired by what I’m reading.

When our tax refund came in, my husband suggested that I take the opportunity to load up on materials so I can dive into this as quickly as possible, and I did! I spent more money than I’ve ever spent on books at one time (and it was GLORIOUS!). I got books on drawing fashion, books on drawing fantasy creatures… even a book on digital drawing in Photoshop.

One thing that I’ve said repeatedly, is that a road trip is the most fun when a friend comes along for the ride. It’s the whole premise behind me sharing my 3 Focuses for the year, and in that spirit I’m sharing all the books I bought (plus I few I already had) for this particular leg of my journey. Even if you don’t want to make dresses on elves, there’s probably something in here that will interest you. And I’ll share a bit about why I chose each one and/or what I’ve used it for already. <3

*Just a reminder, all links with an asterisk are affiliate links. This doesn’t cost you any extra, it just sends me a little for my coffee and lemon bars fund.

Fantasy Fashion Illustration by Amanda Sue Howell: Fashion Books

Fashion Illustration

Fashion by DK*

We had a clothing/costume book by DK when I was a kid… we were homeschooled, and if you’re a homeschooler you’ve probably got a lot of DK books in the house. 😀 I homeschool my kids, and we’ve got a pretty decent collection too. This DK book is not your standard DK books… if you’ve ever seen them you’re familiar with the white cover, black strip across the top, etc. This book is MASSIVE. And it’s got gorgeous illustrations!

Steampunk & Cosplay Fashion Design & Illustration*

I’m hoping to learn sewing next year, and I would LOVE to add steampunk elements to my daily wardrobe. I also feel like these could be fun elements to bring into my art, since it’s pretty well established that I love steampunk. Except for the TV show Steampunk’d. Great idea, lousy execution.

Shojo Fashion Manga Art School*

Manga is another art form that features a lot of long lean kind of characters, and I really enjoy a lot of anime & manga art styles (as you’ll see further down). So I picked up this one, and it’s sequel (see below).

Shojo Fashion Manga Art School 2*

Same as above.

The Manga Fashion Bible*

Really… same reason as the Shojo Fashion school books. And yes I have two… want one? Live in the US or Canada? Send me an email!

Fashion Illustration Art*

This teaches how to draw figures, as well as the clothes over them… it goes into a lot of detail about creating movement with your clothing.

The Art of Fashion Illustration*

This one is primarily inspiration… it’s kind of an industry who’s-who book, with sketches and illustrations from people who do this for a living… I mean, not on elves… just in general. 😉

Watercolor Made Easy: Portraits*

This could have been with the painting pile, but because it’s portraits, I put it with fashion illustration, because there’s a lot of focus on creating the bodies under the clothing, and portraits will pull in some realism.

Fashion by the Kyoto Costume Institute*

This is another inspiration book like the other Fashion book. It’s not as massive a book as the DK one, but it’s nearly as thick, and still has GORGEOUS illustrations.

Contemporary Fashion Illustration Techniques (not pictured, cause it was on my desk)*

This is another one that has great information on drawing figures but it also goes into details about making good hands, eyes, lips, faces from different angles, etc.

Fantasy Fashion Illustration by Amanda Sue Howell: Fantasy Books


The Compendium of Fantasy Art Techniques*

I didn’t know a whole lot about this yet, but the title gave me a snicker… it’s subtitle is “The Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Fantasy Worlds, Mystical Characters, and the Creatures of Your Own Worst Nightmares”. That was enough to make me grab it up.

DragonArt Fantasy Characters*

This is divided up into 4 sections: things of fairy tale, things of legend,  things that go bump in the night, and fashion central. Sounds like a great place to start, and this is another one that should be a pretty quick read.

Dreamscapes Magical Menagerie*

This looks GORGEOUS. It’s got instructions on painting elementals, koi, Pegasi, and any number of other non-humanoid creatures that might inhabit a fairy story. This is exciting to me, because I may branch out later, and meanwhile some creatures are human-animal hybrid (like centaurs) and this is handy information.

Watercolor Fairy Art*

As mentioned above, my daughters put in a special request for a line of fairies, and a friend of mine has requested a fairy tattoo design. And I LOVED fairies when I was younger…. I used to have a pretty decent collection of them all across my shelf and mantle.

Drawing Made Easy: Dragons & Fantasy*

It talks about drawing fairies, ogres, and other fantastical creations, as well as dragons. It’s a slim, quick read, and it also looked like it had excellent information on shading!

Fantasy Fashion Illustration by Amanda Sue Howell: Painting Books


Beginner’s Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop*

There’s so much beautiful digital art out there, and I may dive into it in the future. Meanwhile, this book is TOTAL eye candy.

Pop Painting*

I was tuned into Camilla a while back, after spying one of her books at Hobby Lobby. I tucked her away as someone to research when I got home, but of course I forgot. Later I saw her name pop up at CreativeBug, and I started exploring her work. She’s a very surrealistic sort of artist, and I find her paintings fascinating.

Everyday Watercolors (already owned)*

I picked this up basically as soon as it came out. I follow Jenna on Instagram, and her paintings are SO gorgeous. She really is a stunning example of how much you can grow painting every day, because even though her paintings were gorgeous when I started following her, I’ve witnessed her growing and expanding her techniques on her Instagram stories.

Acrylic Painting for Dummies (already owned)

My Mom bought this for me, a billion years ago, before I actually had acrylics. Now I can finally dig into this and use it. Thanks Mom!

Fantasy Fashion Illustration by Amanda Sue Howell: Manga BooksMy New Project: Art Meets Books | Amanda Sue Howell | #fashionillustration #fantasyillustration #amandasuehowell


Manga for the Beginner: Chibis (already owned)*

I bought this years ago, and did a few little drawings from it… chibis are some of the cutest little things ever!

Pop Manga*

This is another book by Camilla, who did Pop Painting. And it’s got a panda bear on the cover. Do I really need anymore reasons?

Manga Art*

This had a really cute cover, and mentioned art in a wide variety of mediums. That’s all I needed. 🙂

Kawaii Doodle Class*

This one is Jessica from Brown Paper Bunny’s fault. She posted about it on her Instagram, and she was doodling the cutest little kawaii tacos, coffees, popsicles… this probably isn’t anything that would wildly feature in my art, but it’s a fun aside, and it could pop up in a clothing pattern. You never know. 😉

Manga for the Beginner: Kawaii*

I just think this is adorable… really that’s all there was too it. 😀 And I already owned the Chibi one. 😀


Okay! BLESS YOU for making it all the way through that, and now I just have one question for you… what book have you read, that had FA-BU-LOUS clothing in it?

The 3 Focus Challenge: February Update

All the gurus will tell you I’m about to make a big mistake. “Never apologize for a lack of blog posts” they’ll hiss in horror. But you know what? I rarely listen to the gurus. So here goes…

I am SO sorry that the last time you heard from me was the January update. And I could tell you any number or things…

  • I could tell you it’s a busy season for several of my clients.
  • I could tell you my computer decided to be a freak show mid-month.
  • I could tell you that my living room isn’t wired for lights, and it’s the rainy season in Virginia.

All of those things are true, but none of them are a good enough explanation. Really it just boils down to one simple thing… I’ve been floundering. I figured out in October that I wanted to do art, but making a transition from being a VA to being an artist has been a bit bumpy.

It’s one thing to love making art, and it’s another to have the confidence to put it out there. And it’s one thing to believe that everyone’s art is beautiful and has merit, and it’s another to realize that applies to your art too. And, it’s one thing to know you want to make art… but it’s a whole other ballgame to know how you’ll sell that art. And what you’ll make… specifically.

It's one thing to love making art, and it's another to have the confidence to put it out there. Click To Tweet

But mid-month, I had the seed of an idea planted, and it grew into this amazing concept that I will be sharing in my next post (which will be in a few days… not in a month… #pinkieswear)

So let’s dive into what I accomplished for the 3 Focus Challenge this past month.

Note: Any links with an asterisk* next to them are affiliate, which doesn’t add anything to your cost, it just gives me a tiny kickback. However, I do not share links to anything I’m not a fan of.

Personal Focuses


I mentioned last month that I needed a few colors to start a class on how to paint a sunflower from my friend Bonnie Lecat*. I placed an order for those colors, and some Princeton Glacier brushes from Black, and those have all arrived and are on my table.

For my upcoming secret-until-next-week project, I’ve also purchased a few books that discuss acrylic painting, and I’m compiling a list of any specific colors I’ll need to acquire for those.

I haven’t purchased any canvases yet, but I don’t really think I need canvases while I’m learning.

Coming Up:

– More acrylics purchases
– Picking up more canvases on Hobby Lobby’s next “package of 2” special
– Bonnie Lecat’s class
– Digging into the secret project


My BlackMoon lipstick, and ColourPop purchases arrived (pictures to come soon). I’ve had 2 BoxyCharm* boxes come in, and I’m definitely keeping them around… and starting in March I’ll be posting unboxings to my YouTube channel. I’ve only had one Ipsy bag*, so the jury is still out on them, but I will say so far it seems better than the first time I had them.

I posted on Instagram a little bit in stories, and one post in my feed showing off a look using the Dream St palette from ColourPop.

Coming up:

– More looks popping up in Instagram
– Unboxings on my YouTube channel
– My 2nd Ipsy bag


Okay still haven’t figured out a way to track progress on this one. Thoughts?

I tested out Vanidoo, and it’s supposed to work you through vocal exercises… but I’m not too convinced of it’s accuracy. And I tried out Music Tutor, but it’s only helpful if you’ve already learned/memorized the notes on a music sheet. It seems to help build speed, but it’s not for teaching you to read the notes.

I’ve found a different app called “Notes Teacher” and I’m hoping that will better suit my needs. Once I get set up in my office (it’s been too cold in there) I’ll be setting up my keyboard piano, and I’ve also got a few apps I’m looking at for learning to play piano as well.

Coming Up:

– I’ll test out Notes Teacher
– Same with Piano Dust Buster

Business Focuses


Still haven’t chosen my Canva templates, but we’re starting the 3rd month of the year, so I basically need to choose those as soon as I publish this post.

Now that I know what direction I’m going with my art, I need to rework the Pinterest to match that vision!

And you may have noticed that Pinterest services were not launched yet…. so that’s still on the list.

Coming up:

– Choose the Canva templates
– Rework my Pinterest account
– Finish taking Pinning Perfect
– Officially launch Pinterest services on my site


I’ve found a few Instagram “patterns” that I’m looking at, to decide what will help me work in all the content I want on my Instagram. I’ve also signed up for Follower to Fan with Tyler J. McCall, and I’ll see how that goes!

I had a discount code from Clickin Moms for a backdrop from Medium, so a few days ago I ordered the “slate” style backdrop and it just came in, so now I need to take some pictures using it, and see how it looks. I also want a lighter one, but I’m trying to decide which one I want.

Coming Up:

– Try out one of the patterns for March and see how it goes
– Purchase a few more major props
– Go through the modules in Follower to Fan and implement them
– Take advantage of a sunny day and get some photos taken


Okay I didn’t do much with this for February, for a lot of the reasons mentioned at the beginning of the post. I need to move into my office, because even though it’s a bit chillier in there, it’s also got more light, because almost half the room is lined in windows.

And I didn’t read Vlog Like A Boss. See? I’m keeping it super real here… I don’t just go 100% all year long on my topics. But I still learn A LOT by the end of the year.

I did join Jessica’s VidFluential U… I haven’t done a whole lot with it just yet. I actually paid for it while I was sitting in the Genius Bar waiting for the Apple peeps to fix my computer. That’s also when I paid for Follower to Fan. I wanted to maximize my waiting time. Ha!

One thing that’s very apparent from January to February is that I cannot wing it. If I don’t map out my game plan for what I’ll video, it just flat doesn’t happen.

Coming Up:

– Go through the modules in VidFluential U
– Read Blog Like a Boss
– Map out my videos for YouTube – include unboxings, book hauls, and creative process videos
– Map out my videos for Instagram & Facebook

How are you doing with your creative exploration this year?




The 3 Focus Challenge: January Update

At the beginning of the year, I chose 3 personal focuses to grow creatively, and 3 business focuses to stretch myself with. Last year I also did this, but I kept it to myself. This year, I'm bringing you along for the ride and showing you every step of my journey. Here's what I did for January... | Three Focus Challenge - January Update | #threefocuschallenge

At the beginning of the year, I chose 3 personal focuses (acrylic, makeup, music) and 3 business focuses (Pinterest, Instagram, video).

I’ve walked you through choosing your own 3 focuses, and now I’m gonna take you through my first month with these focuses, and give you all the details… what’s working, what’s not working, and what’s coming up.

Note: Any links with an asterisk* next to them are affiliate, which doesn’t add anything to your cost, it just gives me a tiny kickback. However, I do not share links to anything I’m not a fan of.

Personal Focuses


Right now, I’m in the gathering stages of this one… I did the same thing with watercoloring last year. Paints can be quite expensive, so I’m gathering up a few here and there. I’ve got a few more shades I want to pick up, and then I’ll start with a class on how to paint a sunflower from my friend Bonnie Lecat*.

After that I’ll poke through Craftsy and pick a class.

Coming Up:

– More acrylics purchases
– Picking up more canvases on Hobby Lobby’s next “package of 2” special
– Picking up more brushes on the next craft store sale
– Bonnie Lecat’s class


First thing I did was set up a BoxyCharm subscription*, and I got my first box last week. The next thing I did, was renew my Ipsy subscription*, and I’ll get my first bag in February.

Next I went to Ulta, with intentions of picking up some of the Urban Decay Vice lipsticks on sale. But our Ulta was out, but while there I did pick up a lovely spring shade of nail polish, and the Benefit Roller Lash mascara. I’ve got a sample of mascara from my first time around with Ipsy, but it’s “Better Than Sex” mascara, and that’s not really a name I’d like to explain to my children just yet.

When I got paid, I ordered makeup from ColourPop, and I’ll be sharing it on IG when I get it. I also ordered a metallic lipstick from Black Moon Cosmetics that I’m very excited about.

Meanwhile I’ve started watching a few YouTube beauty tubers recommended by my sister:

Kathleen Lights – She’s a hilarious, feisty Latina with a military husband. And she watches Supernatural. Score!

Tati – She’s closer to my age than a lot of the beauty gurus, which is refreshing. And her Instagram feed isn’t JUST makeup. It’s much more lifestyle, which I love.

Coming up:

– My first Ipsy bag
– My ColourPop & Black Moon purchases will arrive
– I’ll look for tutorials of my current makeup collection and start trying out looks
– Watch Instagram for photos of makeup/looks


Honestly, I haven’t done much with this one at all. Partially because I haven’t figured out how to track progress on all of it, and I don’t know how to share accountability on this. Progress on playing the piano or violin is easier…. progress on singing is a bit more difficult and nebulous to me.

I’ve found an app called Vanido that’s supposed to be good for vocal training. Still searching for what I’ll use for learning piano… if you have any recs lemme know. 🙂 I’m also looking at an app called Music Tutor, to learn how to read music. I can read the treble clef pretty well… but not really the bass clef.

Coming Up:

– I’ll test out Vanido and let you know if I like it
– Same with Music Tutor

If you have a way for me to share what I’m working on musically, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 🙂


Business Focuses


This month, I haven’t done much with this. I did attend a very good class on Pinterest for stationers. I’m not one, but I figured lettering is tangentially related, and who knows… maybe I’ll do stationery some day. 😉

Coming up:

– I’ve got one Canva template I like, but I’ll be picking 2 more and testing them
– I’m reworking my profile and playing with the sub-boards
– Officially launching Pinterest services on my site


I’m still trying to get a handle on how to blend multiple topics into one Instagram feed. I feel like it can be done, I just need to figure out a rhythm or pattern. I’m testing out a few different kinds of backgrounds, and I’m currently acquiring some pretty props.

Coming Up:

– Nail down a pattern/routine for my photos, so that I can cover all of my different topics in a cohesive way
– Purchase a few more major props
– Collect all of my props and backgrounds into one easily accessible place
– Start doing a major photoshoot once a month, and micro shoots once a week
– Batch photos in Tailwind or SmarterQueue


This is the one I’ve done the most with this month. I followed Jessica Stansberry on YouTube, and joined her Facebook group. I also purchased the book “Vlog Like A Boss” by Amy Schmittauer. I’ve done a bullet journaling video this month, several BookTube videos, Instagram stories, and several Instagram Lives. I even took a class from Brown Paper Bunny, and did a few time-lapse videos…. those are a blast, by the way.

Coming Up:

– I think I’ll be joining Jessica’s VidFluential U
– I’ll be reading Amy’s book
– And there’s another book that’s called How To Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck

How are you doing with your creative exploration this year?

What I’m Learning About Life And Business From Watching The Crown

Recently, I started watching The Crown... and in my usual fashion I've already seen half a dozen episodes. But I didn't expect to be learning things... | Amanda Sue Howell | #amandasuehowell #thecrown #businesslessons #lifelessons #bingingNetflix

Recently, I started watching The Crown. And by recently… I mean yesterday. As I’ve had happen in the past, what began as “lemme just see if I like it” quickly turned into “wait, how many episodes have I watched?”

Safe to say, I like it.  It’s changing how I think about royalty, in the same way that Designated Survivor changed how I think about the office of the President. Let me explain.

When I first saw Designated Survivor, I was fascinated by the premise… I didn’t even know that was a thing (although it totally makes sense). In case you haven’t seen the show, it’s a fictional drama about the designated survivor who becomes the President. A designated survivor is a member in the Presidential line of succession, who’s eligible to become president (natural-born citizen etc.).

In the show, he’s one of the lower ranking members in the line of succession… he’s over HUD I believe. And the worst happens… the White House is bombed, and to his shock (and the nation’s horror) he becomes President. Overnight, this man who was in politics more out of his wife’s ambition than his own, is forced to make incredibly difficult decisions.

Decisions I’ve never thought about. Like… the consequences of ordering a missile strike. He’s up late at night, thinking of the SEAL team who’s putting their lives on the line for the mission. These aren’t things that ever occurred to me. Of course I know they happen, but when it’s spoken about on the news, it somehow feels more nebulous.

Watching it unfold before your eyes is riveting, and stressful. And you’re just watching a fictional character on a fictional show, making a fictional decision, affecting fictional lives. But these things really do happen.

So, back to The Crown. In case you haven’t seen it, it begins with Prince Philip of Greece renouncing his title to become Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten of Her Majesty’s Naval Service. As you may know from history King George VI because sick and died at a fairly young age, meaning that Elizabeth became Queen years before anyone thought she would be.

And overnight, everything changed. Everything. Her husband could no longer escort her through the door, because The Crown must take precedence. There’s a moment, shortly after King George’s death, when the newly crowned Queen is coming down the hall, and her grandmother Queen Mary in full mourning veil, has to curtsey before her.

I’ve never known how awkward a curtsey can be.

I’ve never realized just how much work goes into being a queen. But it makes sense… they’re managing a country. Or in the instance of England.. many countries.

Recently, I started watching The Crown... and in my usual fashion I've already seen half a dozen episodes. But I didn't expect to be learning things... | Amanda Sue Howell | #amandasuehowell #thecrown #businesslessons #lifelessons #bingingNetflix

But one of the things that got my attention, was the letter from Queen Mary to Queen Elizabeth. In it, she explains that she needs to not only mourn her father’s death, but the death of Elizabeth Mountbatten. For now that she’s queen, that woman doesn’t really exist anymore.

She goes on to say that the two women will be at odds throughout her life, but The Crown must always win. She also adds, that she’s seen 3 monarchies brought to their knees by a failure to separate personal indulgences from duty.

Now our businesses aren’t as serious as managing a country. And there’s something to be said for personal indulgence now and then… but I fully understand the 2 warring women. As a Mom, and an artist, and a business owner… the struggle to balance those worlds is real. Recently I was on a call, and someone said that they wished that they could mother like they didn’t have a business, and run a business like they didn’t have kid-responsibilities.


It’s tough to nail the balance of wanting your kids to see what you do, and be a part of that world… but not wanting to apologize for the argument in the background of your last voice message. To want to be with your kids and soak up every moment of their childhood… but to not want your expensive paints smeared on the wall. To struggle with guilt over whether you’re spending enough time with them, or wonder if you’re failing your business because it’s growing a little slower than some people.

It's tough to balance wanting your kids to see what you do, but not wanting to have to apologize for the argument in the background of your last voice message... Click To Tweet

And if you’re a homeschool Mom, or your kiddos are still very young, there’s a whole new layer involved. A twinge of envy, when all the Moms in your group cheer because their kids are going back to school… followed by a flush of shame because you really do love teaching them. Most of the time. There was that one meltdown over division…

But you have to find the balance. And you have to teach your kids… this is Mommy’s work time. But follow through… when it’s play time, don’t be Entrepreneur Emily. Don’t think about your business, or check to see how your Instagram time-lapse video did. Turn off your notifications, and be present. Just be Mom. And when the kids are in bed, and you’re with your hubby… don’t think about the next project the kids have. Don’t go set up a Facebook ad. Be present. Be a wife. Because that’s one thing The Crown nailed…. it’s much easier if you’ve got a great spouse.

King George never wanted to be King in the first place. He was thrust into that role, much like the Designated Survivor was. But he tells Elizabeth, that the only thing that helped him, was her mother. And he asks if she has that in Philip.

My husband is also named Phillip (but with 2 “l’s”… it’s the man version of Anne with an “e”), and I could not do this without him. He believes in me, when I don’t. He urges me to invest in my business, when I insist that it’s not in the budget. He listens to me complain about unproductive days, or website misadventures, or terrible customer service from someone I buy from. He is quick to share my FB posts even though most of his friends don’t care.

I wish that Queen Mary wouldn’t have told Elizabeth that the Crown always takes precedence (although that conversation may not have really happened… but in show it did). I wish she would have told her… that when she’s attending to royal duties… Queen Elizabeth takes the lead. But when she’s home, behind closed doors, she’s just Elizabeth Mountbatten… the love of her husband’s life, and the light of her children’s lives.



How To Choose Your Own 3 Focuses In 5 Easy Steps

We've already talked quite a bit about my 3 focuses... we've talked about my 3 personal focuses: makeup, acrylic painting, and music. And we've discussed my 3 business focuses: Pinterest, Instagram, and video.  But how can you decide on your focuses?

We’ve already talked quite a bit about my 3 focuses… we’ve talked about my 3 personal focuses: makeup, acrylic painting, and music. And we’ve discussed my 3 business focuses: Pinterest, Instagram, and video.

But how can you decide on your focuses?

Step One:

Scribble down ANYTHING that’s been on your want-to-learn list. To be clear, when I choose my focuses, they’re always a brand new skill for me… that keeps the excitement fresh, I think.

When I choose one of my 3 focuses, I like to pick something that's a new skill for me... it keeps the excitement fresh I think. Click To Tweet

For example, I was asked the other day if knitting was on my 3 focus list. No, it is not… not because I’m not down with knitting this year… I totally am! But because I’ve been knitting off and on for over a year now. Are there still skills to develop? Oh yeah… in fact I just got a set of circular needles for Christmas (and boy are they gorgeous!) But I have begun learning to knit already. Therefore it didn’t make the cut.

Same with Spanish… Spanish is hanging out with me again this year, and I plan to knock it out and move to my next language… but it’s not one of my 3 focuses.

Step Two:

Now, jot down any skills that you NEED to learn, for work or life. For example… my husband is building a forge… but maybe, he wants to add a little medieval flair to his business. So maybe he spends the year learning how to make chainmail.

Or perhaps you’re a chef, but you’re held back because you suck at desserts (for the record, if that’s you… don’t try out for Chopped just yet, cause that’ll sink ya!) So maybe you spend this year learning as many kinds of dessert recipes and techniques as you can!

Step Three:

Look at both of those lists… if there’s something that you feel very “meh” about… cross it off. Heck, scribble that mess out. Get rid of it. If it’s not exciting you, you’re not gonna wanna carry this through for the whole year.

If it's not exciting you, you're not gonna want to carry it for the entire year. Click To Tweet

Step Four:

If it’s something you can learn in a matter of a few days or weeks, that’s gone too. See ya! This is all about stretching yourself… that’s why sometimes it’s better to go with a broad category, than a really narrow one. For example, if you’re that chef… you probably don’t wanna say “I’m gonna learn how to make a blackberry pie”.

Now, my husband will eat the heck out of a blackberry pie, so I’m not knocking them. But odds are, you’re not gonna spend the whole year making just that pie. Do you have go as broad as “desserts”? No, absolutely not. If you wanted to just go with “pies” that would be just fine, cause there are zillions of pie recipes out there.

This is your game honey, so you can make it as broad, or narrow, as you please. Just make sure that it gives you enough space to play for the whole year. Pinterest is much more specific than “social media” but there’s SO MUCH to learn about Pinterest, and the platform is always growing and evolving… and for me that includes scheduling services like Tailwind, and learning how to improve my graphics in Canva… there’s a lot of room to learn here.

Step Five:

Look at your lists… whats left? Are there any skills that play nicely together? Last year, I chose watercoloring, doodling, and hand lettering, because I felt like they played together beautifully. I had a sudden realization that if nothing else, they all come together in a creative journal.

Are there any that you’re more excited about than others? Write them on a separate page, and then circle your top 3. Bonus points if a glitter gel pen comes into play somewhere in this, and even bigger bonus points if you take a picture of your final picks, and tag me on IG – @amandasuehowell (and it can be in a story so it doesn’t mess up your pretty feed!).

Now, here’s the really great news… I’ve got a worksheet for you!! Just click the photo below, put in your name & email, and it’ll be sent whizzing to you faster than Monk asking for a wipe after a handshake.


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