ICON9 : Recap

*You will also find my thoughts on the Happy Happy Art Collective blog, along with Denise and Lauren's.

WOW! ICON9 was a total whirlwind. When we registered back in October, July seemed like such a long time to wait - which it was - but it led to some pretty impressive build-up and excitement for the trip. And it did not disappoint! Those ICON planners pack a LOT in to those 4 days, and by the end, I was exhausted!

I kept a sketchbook specifically for my ICON adventures - and this was the first page. I really wanted to see an armadillo! (I did not.)

The first two days of ICON were filled with optional workshops. There were so many great ones to choose from, and unfortunately there were two for each time slot, so there were some good ones I missed. I learned about creating animated GIFs with Rebecca Mock, creating a consistent process with Jessica Hische, pricing and other legal matters with Robert Huntand Jonathan Tobin of Counsel for Creators, and editorial concepting with Anita Kunz. My favorite workshop, though - was more hands-on - signpainting with Norma Jeanne Maloney! Since I've been doing a few murals over the last couple years, it was nice to hear a REAL signpainter describe her tools and process. We even got the opportunity to try our hand at some lettering!

Norma Jeanne demonstrating her technique on the tricky "O" utilizing a mahl stick and quill #4. We practiced an A, E, O, S and Y - the five letters that exemplify all the lines, curves, diagonals and symmetry of the English alphabet.

There's my "E"! Not too bad, considering how nervous I was, with a few of my peers watching over my shoulder. My hand was shaking so much! Gotta work on my snap at the end

On Wednesday night Denise and I went to the famous Alamo Drafthouse Cinema for Motion Commotion - a series of animated shorts. Gosh, people are SO talented! I was especially interested in this event, because I am taking a Motion Design course at our local college in the fall and I'm super curious about animation and taking my work to the next level. It was fun watching these animations while we ate our dinner. Some of the artists were even in the audience, so there was a Q&A afterwards to get even more insight on their process.

Denise pointing out the cool tile work at the entrance to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.

I had signed up for 5 workshops over the course of two days. While I wasn't workshopping, I was sitting in the main ballroom listening to the presenters at the Education Symposium and drawing. It was nice to have the option of learning even MORE during our downtimes. ICON also had a pop-up bookshop with the most amazingly curated selection of illustrated books, and tables with all of the sponsor's wares - including some awesome art supplies. There were even a bunch of button makers available for us to make buttons to wear and trade. Who doesn't love buttons? I'm telling ya - ICON thought of everything!

ICON sketchbook - Mahlstick

Finally, the main event arrived - 2 days PACKED with speakers! Each day was comprised of 5 speaker sessions with 20-minute breaks in between (except for lunch, where we got an hour or so). So from 9a to 7p, we were sitting in the ballroom, taking everything in. Midway through the first day, my butt was starting to get sore, so in anticipation to another day and a half of sitting, I started taking a quick walk around the block on our breaks - just to loosen up the hips a bit and get some exercise. Despite my sore body, what a phenomenal lineup of speakers! Of course there were speakers I was already familiar with that I was super excited to hear - and they did not disappoint. But there were quite a few artists and topics that I didn't know - and I probably learned even more from them.
A few themes:

  • collaboration
  • virtual reality
  • political cartooning
  • sharing a studio space
  • getting in front of art directors
  • storytelling
  • design activism
  • zines
  • collage
  • play and expertise
  • inclusivity

Gosh - the speakers were SO good and SO inspiring! In addition to individual speakers, there were also more casual panel discussions and a kaleidoscope session - in which a few of the attendees told their stories in 5 minute presentations. Fun!

The ICON stage changed during every break! Jason Holley and his team definitely kept us engaged with the ever-evolving scene!

Our evenings were filled with numerous social activities within walking distance of our hotel. There were multiple happy hours, Motion Commotion, The Roadshow - a pop-up market showcasing the art and product of dozens of the ICON attendees, Tall Tales - a group exhibition featuring the work of some ICON attendees, and the closing night party - featuring a live band, open bar and yummy BBQ. I really appreciated the effort the planners put in to ensure we had plenty to do.

BBQ, that-away!!

I waited all week for some Texas BBQ. And the brisket at Stubbs Bar-B-Que totally hit the spot.

Of course, all of these social events meant plenty of opportunities to hang out with fellow illustrators. I got to meet a few of my illustration idols, catch-up with some old pals, and meet new friends! I can see how ICON ends up being a reunion of sorts.

Lauren, Emily and Denise after the closing party. Phew! Whatta week.

ICON9 was incredible. I had heard great things, and it definitely lived up to its reputation. I absolutely want to go back to ICON10. Next time, though - I'll probably take more hands-on workshops than lecture-based workshops, just to mix it up a bit. I'll also try to pad my trip with an extra day to explore the host city a bit more. This was my first time in Austin, and though I am happy the conference was right downtown in the thick of things, there were still so many places I would have liked to experience - we just didn't have the time!

We ate a few smoothie bowls for lunch. One of mine was the most beautiful hot pink color. It was hard to believe it was natural! Turns out it was the pitaya (dragonfruit) that made it that beautiful hue.

Austin is a very creative, artsy city. I loved the beautiful storefronts, painted brick, funky floors, neon signs and murals. Murals, murals, murals! Everywhere! I couldn't get enough. Here are a few of my favorites:

The first night we had the most amazing Tex-Mex at Chuy's. The food and margaritas were phenomenal - and look at this floor!

Detail of the side of the Iron Works BBQ building

Butterfly mural at the Art for the People gallery

Oh, how I love me some painted brick

Taped floor at Parts and Labor.

Just look at the Uncommon Objects storefront! 

Mural on the side of the Mexic-Arte Museum.

ICON, you were fantastic. I am still processing everything I heard and learned last week and I am ready to start making art in response! I had a wonderful time with my roomies, Denise and Lauren, and truly enjoyed the quality time spent with Jennifer Orkin Lewis (aka August Wren) and Rachel Place, some of my MATS buddies. I loved meeting everyone else and I can't wait to see y'all in 2018!

24 Days of Holiday Downloads

Happy 2016!! I hope you had a wonderful holiday and your first week of January has been great. Though we had an awesome winter break, it is always nice to get back to the normal schedule. 

In the craziness that was the holiday season, I unfortunately neglected to post the rest of my contributions for Happy Happy Art Collective's 24 Days of Holiday Downloads here! Here's a quick re-cap of my printables:

To celebrate Hanukkah, I created this whimsical foldable dreidel for Day 06.

I played explored some watercolor textures for this set of holiday stickers for Day 14.

Finally, for Day 20, I thought it would be fun to create a winter-y board game to play with the kiddos! I gotta say, we've played several times and it is quite addicting!

Don't forget to check out the other 20 holiday printables on the Happy Happy site - there were some good ones this year! Bookmark the page so you can easily find them again next December. 

I hope you and yours have a wonderful 2016!
emily

Ferocious Quarterly no. 4 - DEEP

Ferocious Quarterly is a "slightly-larger-than-pocket-sized coffee table zine filled with illustrations, comics and pulp-inspired short stories". I was asked by Nate Utesch, the brains behind FQ, to participate in the latest issue no. 4, DEEP.

Whoa. I was SO honored to be asked! The list of artists that have been featured in the publication over the last several years includes many of my idols. It kinda blew my mind that I was being asked to join the ranks of those talented contributors. But despite my intimidation, I said YES!

The theme for Ferocious Quarterly no. 4 was DEEP. Artists were divided into two groups - deep sea and deep space. The deep sea group was tasked with creating an illustration set in a deep sea environment. They were then partnered with a deep space artist who took the round 1 deep sea illustration and used that as inspiration for their deep space piece.  

I was partnered with Brandon Rike who created this bad-ass octopus:

Illustration by my Deep Sea partner - Brandon Rike

We had two colors to work with - navy and mint green. As you can see, Brandon trailed the octopus legs off the right side of the page, and I really wanted to continue his lines on my side.

I don't do a lot of work in the science fiction genre, so when I was doing research for this project, I really gravitated towards futuristic cityscapes on distant planets. I liked the idea of incorporating space-age buildings set in a barren landscape. Once I started sketching I focused on two concepts:

The first concept had one of the aforementioned space cities surrounded by highways mounted on sky-high pillars. The roadways would be an extension of Brandon's octopus legs. The second concept was a bit more whimsical and literal, with alien legs attacking the surprised astronaut. I decided to finalize concept 1.

I liked how it turned out, but the skyway looked pretty random to me. If we're in space, wouldn't the vehicles be flying? Why would they need roads? It just didn't make sense to me and it seemed too safe. I decided to scrap it and flesh out concept 2.

As I worked, I decided I wanted more illustrated elements in this illustration, so I created a network of controls to give our hero a greater sense of purpose before he is attacked. 

I wanted to share a bit of my process - after I create all the color flats, I print out the illustration, and utilizing tracing paper and a light box, I manually draw in the textures with a pencil. I then layer the transparent textures over my illustration in Photoshop and color them to create different effects. 

My final piece for Ferocious Quarterly no. 4 - DEEP

I was happy with how the final art turned out, and I thought it was a good complement to Brandon's piece. I couldn't wait to see them together! 

Last week, this showed up:

Ferocious Quarterly no. 4

Ahhh! Isn't it beautiful? The simplicity of the cover, paired with the gold foil is just gorgeous. And I love the heavy stock and the perfect binding. Nate was so thoughtful when designing the book and it really shows.

I flipped it open, and right there in the middle was our spread! 

It turned out so great! Even though I laid the two pieces together digitally, it has so much more impact side-by-side in the book. I am really glad I decided to go with the second concept. Though I feel bad for the poor astronaut. Hope he survived.

This was SUCH an amazing project. Though I was super intimated by the awesomeness of my fellow contributors and the exquisite corpse idea provided it's own challenge, I couldn't be happier with the end result. Plus, it turns out a couple of my talented artist pals were also included, so it's fun to share the excitement with them. (I'm looking at you, Nate and Scotty!) Thank you again, Nate, for taking me along on your ride!

If you want to purchase your own copy of Ferocious Quarterly no. 4, head on over to their shop. It would make a pretty great gift for the upcoming holidays, if I do say so myself!

emily

Booth Tour {Surtex 2015}

In my last post, I explained our booth design and why we made certain choices. Today, I'd like to give you a little tour. Welcome to the Happy Happy Art Collective booth!

tammie, emily and Jill at the start of the show. Come on in!

 

As I previously explained, we decided to have one wall dedicated to patterns (the raindrop wall) and one wall dedicated to characters. Jill did a quick sketch of the character wall to get an idea of how everything would lay out.

Jill's sketch of the character wall.

 

I designed a simple scene for our characters to walk on consisting of some rolling, grassy hills and a rainy blue sky. We all contributed a few flowers to sprinkle throughout the grass. Our characters, umbrellas and cloud were all printed on foam core. Some pieces ended up being four feet tall! I found some giant pipe cleaners that worked perfectly as the handles for the umbrellas - and their fuzzy texture was super fun!

Once the characters were attached, we cut raindrops out of adhesive white vinyl that we stuck all around. We didn't want to get them printed directly on the banners, so we would have some flexibility with placement. 

Singing in the rain!

 

For the raindrop wall, we each had a cloud that "rained" giant raindrops full of our patterns. The raindrops ranged from 1' to 2' tall - pretty big! tammie designed the bold painted plaid pattern for the background banner which allowed our raindrops to really pop.

It's raining, it's pouring...patterns!

 

As you can see in the above photo, we had a skinny wall that was kinda hidden from view. We decided to make our useless wall into our Happiness Soaker display. Jill painted some cork board for hanging our soakers and we stuck some more white raindrops all around.

Soaker wall!

 

Because there were three of us sharing the booth, we thought having two tables would allow us to have multiple options for displaying our work and promos. The tall table was for our promos.

The tall table worked great for grab-and-go promos.

 

Jill picked up some Poppin boxes to keep our postcards, business cards, magnets, pencils and stickers organized.

Look at all the fun stuff!

 

The low table was perfect for sitting down and browsing our books. And when we were extra busy, we were able to utilize the tall table for sharing our portfolios, as well.

Have a seat!

 

We had a box full of props for our selfie station. Grab a prop and snap a pic!

#HHACselfie

 

I also liked having a prop as I stood in the aisle trying to convince people to stop by our booth. I mean, how can you resist this? ;-)

Hammin' it up.

 

Last, but not least, here is our lovely raindrop garland and sign. I just love how those raindrops look when the light hits them.

I absolutely love how our booth turned out. It was not only unique, but it perfectly represented us as artists. And just in case you're not smiling yet, here are a few more shots to sum up the experience:

In case you missed my other four Surtex posts, you can find them here:

Part 1 - Promo Mailers

Promo Mailers Part 2

Part 3 - Final Prep

Part 4 - Building the Booth

Until next time,

Building the Booth {Surtex 2015}

One of the challenges of sharing a Surtex booth with other artists is coming to a consensus on big decisions. While prepping for this year's show, the booth design was probably the toughest decision to navigate. Don't get me wrong - the process was still fairly smooth and cordial - but we did have many, many conversations in order to get to the final design.

Part of the challenge was designing a booth that would play to ALL of our strengths. Jill and I have a more character-based approach, while tammie is the queen of geo and floral patterns.  We needed to figure out a way to showcase all of our skills in a cohesive manner. Since we had secured a corner booth, we'd have two main walls - so we decided to make one wall pattern-focused and the other wall character-focused. 

We also wanted our booth to look different from the rest of the booths. Last year when I walked the show I remember thinking that after a certain point, the booths started homogenizing even though the individual styles were different. Much of this had to do with utilizing the standard vertical banners to decorate. Don't get me wrong - I totally understand why that is such a popular approach - the vertical wall panels lend themselves perfectly to the banners. But how could we make our booth stand out among the sea of other booths?

The Happy Happy Surtex booth before. There is so much potential!
Once we agreed that we would have a character wall and a pattern wall, we needed to figure out a booth theme. Our theme for 2015 was Rain. As in, "raining happiness". We also worked within a loose color palette of red, pink, light blue and yellow. A common theme and color scheme would start to pull everything together. The 1st wall would have our characters walking along wearing rain slickers and carrying umbrellas, while the 2nd wall would be raining patterns - large raindrops filled with our patterns.

In lieu of the aforementioned vertical banners, we chose to get large, wall-sized banners that would cover all of the framework of the wall panels (see above). Those large banners, though incredibly unwieldy, looked fantastic once mounted - they eliminated all unnecessary seams and gave us a nice, clean canvas to apply the next portion of our booth design. We were a little worried about the weight and how we would hang them - but tammie had used some 3M velcro strips the year before with success, so we decided to use them again and they worked GREAT!

tammie smoothing down the corners of our ginormous banners during setup.
Admittedly, the walls don't look like much yet. We really liked the idea of getting our characters and raindrops printed on foamcore. This way we could attach them to the background banners with some flexibility and the added dimension would add some interest to our booth design. Again, we used those 3M velcro strips for hanging. Not one piece fell down!

One downfall of getting giant characters printed on foamcore and shipped across the country was the potential for damage. When tammie received the initial shipment, there were a few bumps and bruises:

Poor kitty and fox. (Photos by tammie)

Thankfully we had them shipped early enough that we had time to get them re-printed and re-shipped - this time with a lot more padding. Crisis diverted!

We had talked about doing some sort of raindrop garland to string across the booth. Jill found some super cool translucent colored vinyl that would add some funky texture and color. We ended up cutting and assembling the raindrops on the fly during setup:

Look at those colors!
We also got some props made out of foamcore to encourage people to stop by our "Selfie Station", take some photos and have some fun. Tammie took some quick practice selfies to whet our curiosity a couple weeks before the show:

tammie perfecting her selfie with our custom props. (photos by tammie)

Jill had the brilliant idea of handing out squirt guns swag to go along with our rainy theme. She created custom header cards with her awesome lettering which we stapled onto the bags back at our hotel. Get drenched in happiness!

A big pile o' happiness soakers. (no, they're not guns!)

As you can see, we had a lot of different ideas and pieces which all needed to come together. Since we are located all over the country, all of our conversations happened over Google Chat, email, FB or text. (thank goodness for technology!) I'll be honest - there was a tiny part of me that was a little nervous that it would look horrific once the booth was set up. I mean, we didn't even mock it up beforehand! :-O

But by the end of setup, our booth transformed into this:

Our booth after a long afternoon of setup. Now all we need is carpet!

Wowza! That's a big difference! As you can see, we had a wall for prancing characters, a wall for raining clouds, and that happy happy wall on the far left? That was the backdrop for our Selfie Station. Since there were three of us, we elected to have a tall table and a short table to help with the flow of traffic. The swag and promos ended up on the tall table for easy access, and the short table contained our portfolio books. The cute IKEA chairs allowed our guests to peruse our books and chat in a comfortable way. 

We were thrilled with how it turned out. Yes, it is bold and loud and colorful. But it reflects who we are as artists - and it was almost impossible to not look (or smile) when walking by. That was our goal - to spread happy-happiness!

Stay tuned for an in-depth look at our booth during the show. For all of my other Surtex-related posts, check them out here, here and here.

Until next time,

Final Prep {Surtex 2015}

All I could think about for the last three months was Surtex

Surtex this, Surtex that. 

I'm sure Stephen and Stella were SO over it. And now the show is done. It's hard to believe! 

Let's get back to the last 10 days before the show.

After I sent out all of my promo stuff I buckled down and pulled together some collections. My original goal was 12 collections. As I got closer to Surtex I realized I'd never be able to pull that off, so my revised goal was 8. Then 4. Four seemed like a good number, right?

I ended up designing a Surtex flyer for every collection. I not only used them for my Surtex countdown on social media (40 days > 30 days > 20 days > 10 days), but they became the placeholder on my portfolio site for all of my new work and postcards for the aforementioned promo mailers. Plus it was a good way to put some of my new imagery to use and throw in a little hand-lettering. 

I made 2 flyers for my first collection : 10,000 Thrills



My 2nd collection, inspired by Stella - was about a super girl and her sidekick. It is called Flying High:


My 3rd collection is called Little Explorers:


And finally, my colored pencil florals, Joyful Garden:


Each collection had between 6-9 pieces. When I felt they were dialed I went through the rest of my portfolio and determined what needed to be freshened up and where the holes were. I spent a week refining and creating new work. At the end I had about 85 pieces of art ready to go. I had two portfolio books - one with my new collections, and the other with everything else. Thankfully I had the foresight to order enough paper and ink - because I went through a lot! Here are all the paper scraps after I cut the portfolio pages down to size:


I wanted to go the traditional route of having physical portfolio books to show my art. Call me old-school, but I always prefer being able to turn pages - you can go your own speed, start and stop when you want, start in the middle and jump to a certain page quickly without fumbling around on a screen. Not to mention the pages are big (11x14") and you can see the work very clearly. Plus, when someone buys your art, the page can be removed without ruining the rest of your book. Don't get me wrong - the Blurb books are beautiful - but I consider them more of a supplement to the rest of your portfolio. At one point I had also contemplated using an iPad to show my portfolio digitally. But in the end I chose to just stick with the portfolio books and they ended up working awesome. 

Once the portfolio was done I had about 3 days before I left for New York. I spend that time doing last minute prep such as printing, cutting and folding the header cards Jill designed for our booth swag:


I also made a bunch more pennant flags to give out at the show. Here are a pile of ends cut and pressed, waiting to be sewn onto the felt:


My last goal (and lowest priority) was to make shirts out of some of my own Spoonflower fabric. I bought a cute pattern called the Scout Tee by Grainline Studio and went to town. Sara from The Sewcial Lounge told me the finished shirt is a bit short, so I modified the pattern slightly and added on two inches to the length which ended up being perfect. This is one of the shirts all pressed, ready to be worn:


I wasn't sure what type of fabric to order from Spoonflower - so I ordered some Cotton Lawn. It was a nice fabric, but I have to say - it was still a bit stiff for a shirt. It didn't have a lot of drape, and it gets SO wrinkly every time I wash it. But it looks cute, and the shirts were a hit at the show, so I guess it was worth it!

That's all for the pre-show prep! Stay tuned for another post all about the booth. 

Until then, have a wonderful day!

Promo Mailers Part 2 {Surtex 2015}

ONLY TEN DAYS UNTIL SURTEX 2015!


Yup. Ten days. And so much to do. But I have to say - after the stress of the last month, I'm definitely more chill than I was, despite the pile of work and lack of time. I don't want to go into the show totally exhausted, so I'm trying to get to bed at a decent hour (you know - 6 hours of sleep as opposed to 4 hours!) and I think that is helping to clear my head a bit. Ask me in five days if I'm still playing it cool! 

I wanted to finish my series on the promo mailers I sent out two weeks ago. After the flags were all sewed and ready to go I realized I needed to mount them to something to keep them flat in their envelopes. I got some backing board, cut it to fit and stamped them with my Emily Balsley Illustration stamp to make them even more official. Here they are, drying:



It may be hard to see in the photo, but I also designed a large rubber stamp for addressing the front of the envelopes. I love how it turned out, but it wasn't the easiest to print - the coverage wasn't as solid as I hoped and that big blank space was next to impossible to keep clean. I actually had to put a little piece of paper there to block the ink for every print. It was a pain, but it was still worth it. They're super fun!



And here are the flags on their boards. I secured them with cute washi tape.



I had also ordered some Surtex postcards, stickers and new business cards, so I stuffed the envelopes with those as well. The back of the postcard has a whimsical "nice to meet you" design.



Each mailer contained a flag on backing board, a hand-written note, a postcard, stickers and business card. I was relieved that the stuffed envelopes still fit through the sorter at the post office - that saved me a bit of $$ for shipping!


I'll be honest - I was a bit nervous mailing these out. There was so much love put into these mailers, I couldn't help but feel a little vulnerable! But that's okay. I want people to know who I am as an artist and I think these packages were the perfect representation of me and my work. And maybe...just maybe...I'll get a job or two from it!

If you missed Part 1 of my Surtex promo mailers, you can find it here.

'Til next time,

Promo Mailers Part 1 {Surtex 2015}

I can't believe there are only 17 more days until Surtex. I am SUPER excited, yet I can't wait for it to be over. I'm sure Stephen would agree with that, too, since that is ALL I talk about lately! 


The last few weeks have been absolutely insane with preparations. Even though I didn't have a lot of new art at the time, we needed to start thinking about the booth design. Which meant ordering banners. But of course, I don't want to put a lot of old work on the banners, right? So not only were we designing our booth, I was making new art at the same time. It was kind of a chicken-and-egg situation. I-need-art-for-the-banners-but-the-art-needs-to-be-created-before-I-can-put-the-art-on-the-banners. Ya know? Whew! So needless to say, there were a lot of almost-sleepless nights and sacrificed weekends while I pushed through. Once everything was ordered, a huge weight was lifted off me and I could breathe a bit. 

But just a bit.

Then I had to start thinking about promos. Originally, I wasn't planning on doing much promotion so I could focus on making new art. But then I thought, I am investing a lot of time, effort and money on this show, so it would be pretty unfortunate if no one even knew I was there! I've never done any kind of physical promotion, so I wanted to get it right. Lots of people do postcards, which are great - but I still think it's pretty easy to toss them in the wastebasket or lose them in a pile of papers. I needed something more memorable that an Art Director wouldn't want to throw away. Maybe they'd even pin it to their wall.

My answer? Felt pennant flags! I know they're nothing new - but they're right up my alley. They're throwback (vintage!), involve felt (my favorite material!) and they could be screen printed (my favorite printing method!). Plus if I really got my act together I could incorporate some of my newly-designed fabric as the binding. 

I was working on some Super Girl illustrations at the time, so I thought that theme would be fitting. A local screen printer, Screen Door Studio did the printing on some yummy colored felt. I scaled my colored pencil floral designs down to be proportionate to the flags and got some Spoonflower fabric printed. My friend Michelle saved me several hours by cutting, pressing and sewing the binding. And all of a sudden, I had a stack of amazing custom felt pennant flags!!


Ahhh. They make me so happy! I think they are a perfect representation of me. 

I'll be back soon with the rest of my Surtex promo plan.
Later!


Grandma's Garden

When Alison of tiny blue orange approached me last year to collaborate on a project, I didn't have to think twice. She is an awesome Madison-based web extraordinaire and super-savvy business lady that I am lucky to call a friend. The project involved gardening, and kids and television - sounds pretty cool, right? 

Essentially, Alison was tasked with building a website for Grandma's Garden - an "...educational television program...focusing on equipping children to live healthy and productive lives, teaching them how to engage with their environment and their caretakers in meaningful ways". The program was coming to life with help from a successful Kickstarter campaign

Alison asked me to help her create a natural world for the website content to live. Since the theme was gardening, we thought it would be cool to a garden graphic that would run along the entire bottom of the site, and a sky/sun/clouds graphic to encompass the top half. Here are some of the initial sketches:





There were also a few characters that would help out around the site, and eventually be the inspiration for costumes on the television show! Here we have some concept sketches for Billi the Bee, Sammy the Snail and Betty the Butterfly:


The concept sketches were pretty close to Alison's vision, so I fleshed them out, digitized and added color. I made the garden footer into a repeat, so it would be seamless once it was placed along the bottom of the page. Alison worked her magic (including fun, moving clouds!) and everything came together beautifully. Here are a couple screen grabs so you can get the idea:



Didn't it turn out great? It was such a fantastic experience, collaborating with Alison, and illustrating for a website (a first for me!). I love how it looks - perfect for both kids and their grown-ups. Be sure to head over to the Grandma's Garden website to check it out for yourself, and while you're at it, here is what Alison had to say about the project. So fun!

Have a great weekend,

New Work {Custom Portraits}

Over the last few months I have had the opportunity to do some more custom family portraits, which I always enjoy. A couple of these were even used as holiday cards - what a fun way to spread season's greetings!


A custom illustrated family portrait is a great way to capture your family's personalities and interests without the potential for cranky kids, closed eyes and bad weather. If you're interested in a portrait, you can check out my Etsy listings for more information. 

Have an awesome day!

HHAC is heading to NYC! {Surtex 2015}

Well, it's official! Happy Happy Art Collective is heading to New York City in May to participate in SURTEX 2015. The show will be held at the Javits Convention Center May 17-19, 2015.


Jill, Tammie and I will be representing HHAC at booth 532, and Lauren will be on her own at booth 559.

We're super excited! If you're interested in setting up an appointment, please head here to fill out the request. 

Hope to see you there!


Cooking Class

Yesterday when I walked outside to go pick the kiddo up from the bus stop, I noticed a box sitting on our front porch. On the box was a big sticker that said "Storey". YAY!! I was SO excited - I wanted to open the box immediately, but I would risk missing the bus. My next thought was to carry the box with me to the bus stop and open in there. C'mon, emily - you can wait TEN MINUTES until you're back home with your child safely off the bus. Right? 

Why was I so excited about that box? Because it contained copies of a book that I did illustrations for! Plus, I haven't really talked about it yet - so I had extra suppressed excitement that was finally able to be unleashed. Stella and I opened the box together which was pretty cool and looked through it page by page. It was a special moment.


The book is called Cooking Class by Deanna F. Cook and is published by Storey Publishing. It is such a fun book! I got an opportunity to see the recipes while working on the illustrations last year and they look so good. Stella and I will definitely be doing some cooking now!


The book is organized by meals, but has a whole chapter on getting started in the kitchen - including rules, safety tips, vocabulary and measurements. There are wonderful photos throughout showing step-by-step instructions, lifestyle shots and fun little vignettes. I got to draw lots of little spot illustrations to accompany the recipes and photography throughout the book.



There are so many awesome ideas that will help kids get creative in the kitchen!


I created a repeat pattern of miscellaneous food items that was used on the chapter pages and inside front cover.


The back of the book contains some bonus goodies for the kids including labels...


stickers... (the Guacamole Guy is my favorite!)


stickers to fold over toothpicks to make flags for sticking in various foods...


more stickers...


and placecards!

There are also recipe cards and conversation-starting game cards. Seriously - what DOESN'T this book have?!?

This was my first published illustrated book, and I couldn't be more proud. The process was so smooth - thanks to the wonderful art direction at Storey. It was definitely a lot of work, but I knew exactly what was needed and I was given reasonable deadlines - all which led to a really great experience. Hopefully this is the first of many book gigs! Plus - the fact that the subject was food (I love to eat!) and it was geared for kids was just icing on the cake. It was a fantastic job. 

So - now that you're hungry or are looking for a fun cookbook for your kids (it would also make a great gift!) - you need to pick up the book for yourself! Of course, I'd recommend to buy local, but for convenience, here is where you can find it on Amazon.

Enjoy!


American Girl Magazine {2014}

As I'm sure most illustrators and designers, do, I have a list of dream clients that I hope to work with some day. I am so excited to say I can cross one of them off my list - American Girl Magazine!

I just missed the American Girl craze growing up, but I've always had the utmost respect for the products. When I graduated college, they were one of the few companies I sent my portfolio to (I was rejected, unfortunately). So they've always been on my radar.

Fast-forward to the present. My daughter, Stella (7-years old) loves American Girl. I mean, LOVES American Girl. From the dolls to the books, she can't get enough. One of her favorite days of the month is when the AG catalog arrives in the mail. So it's pretty cool to see the impact the company and products have on a kiddo from a mom's perspective. And since I've been back in the illustration game, I thought it would be especially cool to do work for a company that means so much to my daughter. That would up my hipness-quotient with her, right? ;-)

So when I was asked to do the illustrations for the holiday craft feature in the November/December issue, of course I said yes!! 



I got to illustrate all the step-by-step instructions, along with the wrapping paper, window, tree and fireplace scene.


The creative team took my illustrations, blew them up huge, and displayed the holiday crafts on them like a real tree or mantle - isn't that a cool concept? I love seeing how my flat drawings suddenly become dimensional when used in this application.

It was such an honor being a part of such a fabulous publication. And I gotta say, Stella seemed pretty proud when she saw her mom's work in her favorite magazine. And that is just the best.


Wedding Invitations {Laurie + Michele}

One thing I love about designing wedding invitations is the challenge of creating something that showcases who the couple is. Everybody is different - and on their wedding day, it is especially important to create a one-of-a-kind piece that represents them at this special time.

Laurie and Michele are from Florida and were celebrating their love with a beach wedding. Though the beach was an integral part of their celebration, they didn't necessarily want their invitations to exhibit the typical beach-y imagery - nothing overly nautical and avoid an abundance of seashells and dolphins - we wanted to imply beach without being so literal. They were also looking for something classic with a touch of whimsy.

To start, I sent them a few different concepts:



After deciding on a variation of #2, it was time to start applying the concept to the rest of the pieces. Because we were going for a nice balance of classic and whimsical, we thought incorporating a more formal script, letterpress printing and pocket folder would cater to the more traditional, while the quirky characters, illustrated map and bright color scheme would be super fun.

It just so happened that I had just taken a class to learn formal calligraphy techniques, so these invitations were the perfect excuse to apply my new skills. Here is a sample of some of my writing:



My friend Kate of Flying Rabbit Press did the letterpress printing and was so helpful and patient with me as I learned how to set up these fairly complicated files. The suite consisted of five 3-color pieces, after all - that's 15 plates right there! Kate is a rockstar. She even sent me sneak peeks during the printing process which was awesome to see:


Photo courtesy of Flying Rabbit Press

And here we have the final invitation suite:



The main invitation was glued to the left panel of the pocket folder and the rest of the inserts stack in descending order when placed in the pocket. The printing is beautiful, and I am extremely happy with how they turned out. Thanks to Laurie and Michele for letting me do my thing! Yay!










Wedding Invitations {Brian + Meredith}

Brian and Meredith are a super fun couple that I met through mutual friends in the Madison cycling community. When I sat down with them regarding their wedding invitations, they were looking for a few things:
  • an organic, laid-back style
  • eco-friendly - limit the number of pieces 
  • incorporating bikes and the city
  • a fall wedding = a warm, autumnal color palette 
Meredith sent me this photo she took at their venue for inspiration:


With their great direction, I was able to pull together several concepts.


We went back and forth a few more times and eventually landed on the final layout:



Once we had the layout, I started painting! Here are a few progress shots.




After all the color flats were laid, I added the text, which was a font I created out of my handwriting. The invitations were printed at Think Ink & Design on French Speckletone - a recycled paper - and paired with grass green envelopes. The main invite and map are actually 1 piece of paper, printed double-sided, to be a bit more eco-friendly.


This was such a great suite to work on - made better by working with such a fun couple. Together, we created a pretty fantastic piece of art to celebrate their special day.


Happy New Year {2015}

2-color block print

It's 2015! I know, I know. I'm only 3 weeks late - but I still wanted to wish everyone a great new year. 

2014 was an incredible year and I am so thankful for all the opportunities I had. I got to:

  • Work with dream clients
  • Join Happy Happy Art Collective
  • Immerse myself in an amazing passion project
  • Travel to NYC to walk Surtex 
  • Survive my first-ever speaking engagement


And of course, I can't forget all of the new skills I learned, all the awesome connections I made, and all of the crazy things I tried - how did I get so lucky?

I am in starting the new year in a great place, and I hope it only gets better. In the first few weeks, big things are already brewing, which is making me super excited to sink my teeth in and get moving. Though - in order to make time for these new opportunities, I have decided to take a break from creating the desktop calendars. I have loved making them over the last four years, but it has been harder and harder to prioritize them as I get busier. I do want to create some desktop/mobile wallpapers from time to time, just so you have something to beautify your space, but it won't be on a regular basis. I hope you understand! 

Have a wonderful year and I am going to leave you with some hand-lettered inspiration:

Hand-lettered mantra for the #52handlettered Instagram challenge with @penandpeplum

See you around the internet!