doodle a day

Desktop Calendar {October 2014}

It's October! It's October! We are very excited about this here at the Balsley house. Because Stella knows we get to hang up Halloween decorations now! Plus we're planning a Halloween party this year, so that means even MORE Halloween crafting. Yay!

I decided to do a looser illustration for my October desktop calendar. These little guys were taken from today's daily doodle, so I thought they'd be perfect for the calendar as well! Plus I've never digitized any of my paintings, so it was an interesting challenge.

I hope you enjoy my happy trick o' treating jack o' lanterns!

To download the October calendar, you can click on the above image and save it to your computer, or you can also find it herePlease note that this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Have an awesome month!

MAKE! Conference 2014

It's no secret that Madison, Wisconsin is a creative community. Between the University, art museums, Gallery Nights, Art Fair on the Square and craft shows, being an artist in this city is pretty great. 

A couple years ago, after I started focusing on illustration, I rediscovered Design Madison - a local group of "creative thinkers...where talent meets inspiration". Before joining DM, I had made friends with several local designers/illustrators via social media. But working from home, alone - virtual friendships only get you so far. I wanted to get out and actually meet these people I knew on Twitter and Instagram! That's when I attended my first Design Madison meeting and "IRL" friendships were forged. It has been so amazing getting to know everybody.

Fast forward to July of 2014. I got an email from the president of Design Madison, asking if I would be interested in speaking at the MAKE! Conference - a conference dedicated to connecting, learning and being inspired by others in the creative community. Honestly, my first instinct was NO WAY! I do NOT do public speaking. But after a few moments, I reconsidered. This was a HUGE honor. I really respect what DM is doing for our community - and this would be an amazing opportunity.

So I got over the initial shock and answered YES.



I'll be honest. I have never been as terrified as I was last week preparing for my presentation. I had ample notes, but gathering all the images from the last half of my life was tricky and time-consuming. Plus if there was any info I needed to show, I wanted to hand-write the slides - so that took a lot of effort, too. I knew I had a half-hour to talk. But how many slides would that take? I know when I get nervous I tend to ramble. Should I bring notes to keep me on track? And then the whole technical side of creating the slides threw me - I refuse to use Powerpoint, but I've never used Keynote or Prezi. And what size should my images be? (Thanks to Alex for technical and moral support!). So, so many questions. That was NOT helping my stress level. 

Well, I put together the slide show. I ended up with 62 slides. (Too many? Don't think about it, emily!) My talk was on Saturday, so I went to the conference on Friday as an attendee. Wow. So many amazing speakers. (Don't get intimidated!) I got to see long-lost designer friends also attending the conference. There was a meet-and-greet Friday night which was another opportunity to connect (and get even more nervous). 

Saturday rolled around and I was still nervous. I hardly ate anything in the morning in fear that I was going to hurl. Prior to my talk, my friends were super encouraging and supportive. They did their best to build me up. (Thank you! You know who you are!) It was time. My mic was placed, my slides were ready. I somehow made it onto the stage without tripping. I was introduced, and it was all me. 

I introduced myself and as I mentioned my "husband and daughter", I motioned to them in the crowd. (Yes they were in attendance!). Stella stands up, puts her "paws" up and starts panting like a puppy. The audience chuckles. Then she yells, "Can I have a doughnut?" and everyone laughed. I announced to the crowd, "If I get through this, I'll get you a doughnut!" and the ice was broke. It was brilliant. I couldn't have planned it better! Thank goodness for my family because it was exactly the distraction I needed. And I started talking!

Here are a few key slides:

And at the end I gave everyone a postcard and custom emily balsley illustration pencil. The back of the card was blank with the prompt "Doodle what 'Make' means to you". I was hoping to generate some MAKE! doodle love on Instagram and there were several participants! It was super fun to see everyone's interpretations.


I made it! (without puking!)

As far as I'm concerned, I thought it went really well. I didn't forget much and I hardly used my notes. I even survived some Q&A. I am really, REALLY proud of myself. I knew that this was something I needed to do. Not only for my career, but for myself. I know I need to scare myself once in awhile in order to grow. And presenting at MAKE! was probably one of the scariest things I've done. And I am forever grateful to my friends and family who were uber supportive of me. I am SO lucky.

One thing that made me particularly nervous was presenting in front of my peers. As I mentioned in the beginning, Madison is chock-full of so many talented creatives. And I am friends with a lot of them. Any one of us could have been chosen to speak at MAKE!. For some reason, it was me. So I felt added pressure to present something not only exceptional, but something they didn't know about me. I hope I was successful.

Whew! Long post. But I wanted to document this very pivotal moment in my career (public speaking! say what?). Now, IF I'm ever asked to present again (!!!), I will at least have my "first time" under my belt. Not to mention all the stuff I've collected, scanned, sized and filed. Yay! That is a good feeling.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading! I'm not sure if my talk was recorded. But if it was, I will be sure to share it!

Desktop Calendar {September 2013}

Hello, and Happy September!

My family is now home from vacation and Stella is back in school (Kindergarten - what?!?) so I now finally have time to sit down and get some work done. First up, the new desktop calendar!

Because I've been off the grid, I have been way behind drawing up my daily doodles, as well. In fact, today I posted the doodle for August 22... and even though I am playing major catch-up, I am still having fun. Today's doodle prompt was "Bird", and I was experimenting with combining tribal patterns and exotic birds. I thought these colorful creatures could make for a fun calendar!

To download the September calendar, you can click on the above image and save it to your computer, or you can also find it herePlease note that this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

I'll be back soon for some big news!

Back to School {MATS 01}

Today I am so excited to share my newest artistic endeavor - I'm going back to school! 

I've been refocusing my creative efforts over the last year to focus on my first love, illustration. That meant a few things:

• I have been slowing down Fuzzies production. Yes, I still make them, but mostly
  custom orders.

• I haven't been pursuing graphic design opportunities.
• I created a new, illustration-only portfolio website.
• I'm incorporating a LOT more drawing into my daily routine. Daily Doodles, baby!
• I'm marketing myself as an Illustrator first, Designer second.
• Design projects now have a more illustrated feel.
• I am educating myself on the ins and outs of the Illustration industry. 

Last week I began a new online class - taught by Lilla Rogers, a world-renowned illustration agent - Make Art That Sells is a 10-week course giving us "in-depth insight into ten of the most lucrative markets for art, from home décor, gifts and bolt fabric to papergoods, baby apparel and children’s books."

Week 1 focused on the Bolt Fabric market - right up my alley! 

Early in the week we were given a mini assignment to draw mushrooms and vintage pyrex. Here are my mushrooms:

I started out with pen and ink, and fairly realistic interpretations. Then i decided I needed to loosen up a bit and take to the gouache and do some more stylistic mushrooms, focusing on basic shapes and patterns, and using a limited color palette.

Next up, vintage pyrex. I was in heaven doing the research for this one!

Again, first the pen and ink drawings to get a feel for the shapes and designs, then onto the whimsical gouache version. I love those colors!

We were then asked to apply our mushroom and pyrex icons into a retro-kitchen themed fabric design. Here are my two final versions:

The first one basically took my gouache pyrex paintings and laid it out into a repeat pattern. The colors are super bright and the coordinates utilize some of the pyrex designs made into a pattern. Someone in class suggested this would make a good oilcloth design, and I couldn't agree more!

The second incorporated my stylized mushrooms and combined them with some vintage casseroles and kitchen goods - utensils, salt & pepper, bowls and herbs. I chose a palette that was a throwback to the 60's - mint green and bubblegum pink punctuate the muted teal background. 

I am thrilled with how the designs turned out - already I am gaining some solid portfolio pieces, which was one of the goals of taking this course. It was great to get assignments, something I really miss about school, and drawing things that are out of my usual arsenal of subject matter.

And I have to say - what a wonderful group of classmates! Everyone is so supportive, motivating and positive, and I am so excited to meet and get to know these wonderful people! They are EXTREMELY talented, and though it's hard not to be intimidated by their skills, I try to channel it to push me harder, which is exactly what I need to succeed in this industry!

I can already tell this is going to be a long ten weeks, considering last week I was already staying up way too late in order to meet deadlines. But sometimes a little sacrifice is necessary to push me to the next level. 

Thanks for sticking with me through this long post! I am hoping to do a weekly recap of my experience, so I will be back.

Hooray for school!

Desktop Calendar {December 2012}

Well hello!

It's December and that means a new desktop calendar (even though it is a day late...)!

Inspired by Ugly Christmas Sweaters, this fun bunch is truly getting into the holiday spirit!

You can click on the above image and save it to your computer, or you can also find it herePlease note that this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

I hope you all have a glorious holiday season! I'm getting into a festive spirit by drawing up some Merry Daily Doodles - you can find them on Instagram (emilybluestar) under #merrydoodles or on my Emily Balsley Illustration Facebook page. I'd love it if you join in on the fun with me!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend,

Desktop Calendar {November 2012}


Well, I cheated for this one. I've been so overwhelmed by preparing for the Trunk Show and other miscellaneous daily distractions, I did not have any time to make a brand-new calendar for November.


Since I have a whole sketchbook full of super cool daily doodles from August and September, I thought I could recycle one into the new desktop calendar. I hope that's okay!

And now that it is colored, I actually really like how it turned out. I chose to scan the doodle right in and color it without re-drawing it in Photoshop. I kept the light grey marker shading in, which actually creates a nice texture. All-in-all, I'm digging it and it is inspiring me to play around with this technique a bit. See? Sometimes good things come from taking the easy route...

You can click on the above image and save it to your computer, or you can also find it herePlease note that this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Hope y'all had a fun Halloween! I'll be doing a full blog post on Stella's homemade costume within a few days. And she brought in quite the candy haul tonight - 80+ pieces! Wowza! She is definitely my daughter. Now hopefully she shares!

Giveaway! {Doodle A Day}

This giveaway is now closed.


I am suuuuper excited about today's post. You may or may not know that I have an Instagram addiction. And part of reason I cannot get enough Instagram is the Doodle A Day challenge. 

The original list is actually Photo A Day, created by a blogger named Chantelle, aka Fat Mum Slim. She comes up with the list and the prompts, and the photographers go at it. I stumbled upon the Doodle A Day challenge when my online friend Rhi of Ello Lovey posted the list for all of us doodlers out there. Well, with all of my spare time (ha!) I am always looking for more things to do, so I jumped on the #DoodleADay bandwagon and I am LOVING it. 

1. Faces - August 17, 2012                                                                                    2. Strange - September 16, 2012

When I draw for myself, I typically gravitate towards the same subject matter - my family, flowers or woodland animals. But these new prompts would encourage me to get out of my box and draw other things. Plus, it has been so interesting seeing the interpretations of all the other artists on Instagram that are participating. If you're on Instagram and are interested in joining, just follow the hashtag #doodleadayoct and get drawing!

Anyways - now that you have the backstory, I want to give you a chance to win three prints from my shop!

I have a big art show coming up November 10 (more on that later) and I am going to introduce some new illustrated prints to my lineup. Since I now have over two months of daily doodles under my belt, I'd like to digitize some of them for my shop. This is where you come in - I'd love your input! 

First I need you to Like my Emily Balsley Illustration Facebook page. Then under Photos, click on the Doodle A Day album to see the whole lineup from August 1 - present. Under the Giveaway post on the Emily Balsley Illustration page wall, please leave a comment and tell me your top 3 doodle picks you'd like see become prints.

If you leave a comment with your picks, you will be automatically entered to win your choice of any 3 prints from my shop!

Please leave your comment by Monday, October 15, 2012 at 11:59pm CST to be entered in this giveaway. Winners will be announced via Facebook on October 16.

3. Three Things - September 24, 2012                                                                                    4. Writing - August 6, 2012

If you'd like more chances to enter, share this giveaway on your blog...twitter...facebook, you name it! You will get an extra entry for every share - just be sure to leave a comment letting me know you shared - for EVERY ONE - either on this post or the Giveaway Facebook post!

I'm so excited to see what y'all pick! And again, thanks SO much for your input. I cannot tell you how much I value your opinion!

If you've decided to participate in #doodleaday on Instagram, let me know your handle - I'd love to follow you! You can find me at emilybluestar.


Anniversary! {Seven Years}

Seven years ago today I married my best friend. It was a blustery Fall day and we said 'I do' atop a local ski hill surrounded by beautiful autumn foliage and our closest family and friends.
Though I was chilled to the bone (my shawl wasn't quite cutting it at that point), I knew my love for Stephen would keep me warm for many, many years to come.

Love you, babe!