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!

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.


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.

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 2014}

It's that time of year - Back to School! Stella starts First Grade tomorrow (wha?!?) so that's all we've been talking about in our house.

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. 

Have a great week!

Desktop Calendar {August 2014}

Late again! I just cannot manage to get a calendar out on time these days...

This month I decided to focus on a theme that is near and dear to our family:

As you probably know, biking is a big part of the Balsley family. Stephen and I met at a bike company. Stephen raced very seriously for years, and I raced [not so seriously] for a year or two. When Stella was born, our riding became more commuter/recreational, but it is still our favorite mode of transportation. 

Earlier this year, I did a post about Stella learning how to ride her 2-wheeler. Last week, after breaking her little bike several times, we decided the universe was telling us that we probably needed to get her a bigger bike.

Stella and her new bike
Well, she loves it and has already put about 15 miles on it in the last week! Over the weekend we decided to take her on the trails to see how she did. We had a blast!

The biking Balsleys

I have to say - I am super excited about this new chapter in our lives. Having Stella bike with us is going to be so awesome. I wanted to commemorate my excitement with a desktop calendar full of bikes bikes bikes!

To download the August 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. 

Happy biking!

Almost There {Trek + Design Madison + Allan Peters}

Last night was a very special night for Design Madison. DM teamed up with Trek Bicycles and Target Creative Director, Allan Peters to put together an art show called Almost There.

Anyone could participate. Any medium was welcome. All we had to do was create a piece a piece of art that is inspired by our interaction with biking. This was right up my alley!

I have a lot of memories and experiences with riding my bike. From learning to ride on my orange sunshine-speckled banana seat bike as a 4-year old, to saving up enough allowance for my first 10-speed when I was 12, biking was a big part of my life growing up. As a college student living on the UW-Madison campus, my bike WAS my transportation. And then, of course, landing a job at Pacific Cycle led me to a couple years of racing bikes - road, mountain and cyclocross. Now, since having Stella, biking is still a very important part of our life, from riding the amazing bike trails in Madison to pulling Stella to and from school in her trailer, we are a crazy biking family.

Late last summer, Stella finally learned to ride her two-wheeler. It was a pretty big deal. She had been flying around on her balance bike for a year, and we KNEW she could totally do it - we just had to figure out how to convince HER that she could do it. If any of you are parents, you know just how hard that can be. Basically we had to wait for her to want to do it ON HER TERMS. And then she was off.

That was the idea I was trying to portray in my poster - my girl with her long flowy locks flying behind her - riding off to who knows where - on her bicycle. Now it's time for her to form some biking memories of her own!

I'll leave you with a few photos and videos.

And another fun fact - that little orange bike with the streamers Stella is riding? I designed that for Schwinn! I actually had her in mind when I drew the little characters. It makes my heart soar watching her ride one of my creations!

Let's hope for some warmer weather soon...because now I want to go ride!

Custom Portrait Service


You may know that I have been offering a custom illustrated portrait service if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook. I finally made it official by posting the service in my Etsy shop!

The listings in the shop are categorized by the number of family members in your group, be it people or pets. And of course, if you don't see what you're looking for, I can create a custom listing for you.

These would make great Valentine's or Anniversary gifts!

The process is pretty simple - After you purchase the listing, you will need to send me some photos of the people/pets in your portrait. Since this is completely customizable, I can apply a preferred color palette, or if there are certain outfits or props you want included, I'll do my best to cater to your needs!

Add props like a book or a superhero cape!

Would you like a border? Your name and date at the bottom? I can make it happen!
That's what's so cool about these portraits - they're illustrated, meaning I start from scratch and can do what you want. Plus you don't have to worry about blinking or the crying baby or the dog who just won't lay down. These portraits are easy peasy with no stress on your end!

Commemorate a great group of friends!
Included with the portrait are PDF and JPG files of the digital portrait so you can use the portrait for holiday cards, Save The Dates or on your Facebook profile. An 8.5 x 11" (21.6 x 28.9cm) print is also part of the package. Extra prints are available at an extra charge.

Sound like something you're interested in? Head on over to my shop and check out the options! And if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. 

Have an excellent week. I'll be back on Wednesday with the big news!

Lean In Lean Out {Brava Magazine}

Last Fall, I had an illustration first - my first editorial illustration was published!

Brava Magazine is a Madison-based publication focused on women + style + substance. It recently got a facelift, thanks to my good friend and fellow designer, Jinger. As the editor-in-chief puts it, "We've reimagined Brava as the most fun, interesting and inspiring girlfriend we could think of.". Neat, huh?

I got the opportunity to create a full-page illustration for the article Lean In. Lean Out. What's on Madison women's minds by Anne Morrissy. Inspired by the book Lean In : Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, the article focused on "the controversy over women's roles in a 21st-century 'post-feminist' society". 

I can definitely relate to the discussion regarding women choosing work over family. Since I own my own business, I am constantly struggling to find a balance between work and life. And working from home doesn't help, either - it is much too easy to hop on the computer while Stella is playing in the next room. As my business as grown, I have made an effort to separate the two, but it isn't easy. This was a very compelling read.

If you're interested in reading the article (or the rest of the magazine, for that matter), here is a link to the September 2013 issue. The Lean In article is on page 42.


2013 Holiday Card

I love Christmas. I really do. In fact, my nickname used to be Mrs. Claus. Then, being the crazy maker person that I am, I started taking on more than I could handle in November and December. Instead of focusing on what the season is REALLY about, I became overwhelmed with my never-ending to-do list. I couldn't just buy a wreath, I had to MAKE a wreath. I couldn't just use store-bought gift tags, I had to HAND DRAW pretty, swirly names on the Kraft paper wrapping. Yes, in the end, I had a beautiful handmade holiday, but was it really worth it?!?

This year I made a tough decision. Instead of hand printing our Christmas cards, I outsourced the printing. This was the first time since 2000 that I didn't physically make my holiday cards. It pained me to hand over that task to someone else, but I have to say - it alleviated SO much pressure. And because of it, I could create a more complex design (more details and more colors) knowing that a pro could handle it.

Like previous years, I wanted our card to depict a fun, holiday family tradition. We decided to focus on the moment when Stella places the topper on the tree. Here is the sketch.

As far as color palette goes, I wanted something non-traditional, but still somewhat Christmas-y. I knew Stella would be a fan if we used pink, so I picked out French Paper's Shocking Pink and went from there. This was going to be a bold one!

I was excited that French was now offering no. 10 size envelopes. I thought the long, skinny format would be the perfect match for our tall tree. I hired Screen Door Studio here in Madison to do the printing, and I think they did a splendid job - especially with the fine line work I presented them. It was the best feeling sending the job off to the printers and NOT having to do all the work. Of course, we still had to write the inside message and address the envelopes, but it still felt like nothing compared to the hours of back breaking printing, cutting, scoring and stamping it used to be.

So the lesson I learned here is that it is OKAY to ask for help - even if it is one of your favorite things to do! I was much happier, that's for sure. And that extra time meant I could make snowball garland for the windows...and felt ornaments...and Christmas tree centerpieces... Who needs rest, right? ;-)

Editorial {Make Art That Sells Week 9}

I was pretty excited for the Editorial week in Make Art That Sells. I have had very little editorial experience, and I would love to do more work in that market. I was wondering what assignment Lilla would have up her sleeve!

For the Mini assignment on Monday, we were asked to do some hand lettering of where we live. How fun! I love playing around with lettering! Here's a page out of my sketchbook:

Do you know what our maxi assignment was? I'll give you one guess. 

Yup! A map of the town/city we live in. To Lilla's point - the key to editorial illustration is being able to create an image that a photo wouldn't necessarily be able to depict. A perfect example is a map! I was super excited about this one. 

I started out by writing a whole slew of things that makes Madison a great place to live. And then my list got REALLY long (because Madison is awesome, of course!). I needed to focus my point of view. Then it hit me - I wanted to show how Madison was so fun for kids! 

I originally started drawing the places and associated objects. Chairs for the Union Terrace; A picnic basket for Picnic Point; A baseball and bat for Mallards Baseball. Sure, they worked, but they didn't have much personality. I decided if this map was for kids, I should SHOW some kids. Duh! Here are some kiddos out of my sketchbook:

And here is the final map!

I really wanted the color palette to be light and fun. And I chose to speak directly to the kids in the key, so they would really be able to identify with the map.

This was such an amazing project. It really made me think about WHY I am doing something instead of just churning out a whole slew of random drawings. 

Wanna see where some of my classmates live? Denise • Ine • Johanna • Sam • Samantha

So...if you visit Madison with your kids, be sure you check out some of these fun activities!

Halloween 2013

Yup, it's November. And nope, I don't have a desktop calendar to share with you yet. Soon, I promise! I figured I should probably share Stella's Halloween costume before too long...

This year, Stella decided early on that she wanted to be a witch. But she wanted to be a pink and purple witch (isn't that a princess?). After much discussion, we compromised at a black and purple witch. That way we could utilize a store-bought hat. 

I thought it would be a fun twist to make a witch tutu in lieu of a traditional witch dress. You can find tons of DIY tutorials for no-sew tutus online, so that's what I decided to do. Basically, you just tie long strips of tulle around an elastic waistband and you have an instant tutu. Easy peasy!

We kept it simple - layering the tutu over a black shirt and leggings. I added a little sparkly purple ribbon around the broom, put on some black lipstick and blacked out one tooth, and we had ourselves a cute little witch! She had been practicing her scary claw hands and cackle, so when she put it all together it was quite scary! ;-)

Unfortunately, my camera wasn't very cooperative that day, so I got very few good photos. Bummer.

I hope you all had a great Halloween! We ended up inviting all of the neighborhood Kindergarteners and their families to our house for pizza before trick or treating. My friend Jinger and I dressed up as foxes and had a little impromptu dance party, performing our routine to What Does A Fox Say? Yes, I know - people are getting sick of this - but I have to say, it was pretty fun when there were 13 kids and 2 foxes jumping and dancing around! In case you're not familiar with this, here is the official video by Ylvis:

And here are the foxes!

I'll be back tomorrow for another Make Art That Sells recap.


Keep On Keepin' On

Today we found out the final results of the Lilla Rogers Global Talent Search! Unfortunately, I didn't win. Zoe Ingram took the grand prize and Daniel Roode won the special studio award. I have to say - their designs were stellar! Lilla and her team definitely couldn't go wrong with those two. My heartfelt congratulations go out to Zoe and Daniel!

I'm a bit disappointed, but I have to say, I am at peace with their decision. When I turned in my final assignment, I was extremely proud. I put my best foot forward and have absolutely no regrets. I didn't stress about it while waiting for the results - there was nothing that I could do at that point besides wait it out!

The fact that I made it this far in the competition is validation that I am on the right path. Since I have dedicated myself to illustration, I have been so happy. I am going to continue to push myself - learn more, (Make Art That Sells Part B starts on Monday!) create more, inspire more. I want to put myself out there, because I am learning that's how things happen.

Today has been a series of ups and downs. Though I am okay with the decision, seeing all the buzz surrounding the winners does sting a bit. Several people have checked in with me to see how I am fairing, and I really appreciate their sentiments! In fact, I cry every time I read their wonderful, supportive words. I am so lucky to be surrounded (both physically and virtually) by such amazing people. Thank you!

For now, I am going to keep on keepin' on!

Desktop Calendar {October 2013}

Can you believe it? I'm actually posting a calendar on the first of the month! 

This one is inspired by my favorite thing about Fall - the falling leaves.

Though it has been relatively warm here, the leaves are starting to make their descent - and it makes me so happy!

I'm really looking forward to October. Stella has requested a LOT of Halloween decorations, so I promised her we would make some together. If any of you have some fun Halloween-themed DIY craft ideas, send them my way! 

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.

Enjoy the leaves,

Work/Life 3


Wow - it has been absolute madness since my last post regarding the Global Talent Search. Thank you all for your amazing support and comments! I just turned in my final assignment late last night and now I can finally relax. Until October 3, when we find out the results, of course! :-)

In the mean time, I want to share some more exciting news that occurred in the flurry of GTS. I received this gem in the mail:

Are you familiar with Uppercase Magazine? It is a quarterly publication that is chocked FULL of inspiration, artist profiles, trends, typography and vintage ephemera. As they put it - it is a magazine "for the creative and curious". I love it. I've only been subscribing for a year, but on the days when Uppercase arrives in my mailbox, everything else is trumped as I soak in the goodness found within the pages. Plus, the fresh ink smells glorious! Stella took this photo of me sniffing my latest issue...  :-)

Uppercase also publishes a book called Work/Life where they profile 100 artists from around the world. And I am happy to say that I am part of edition 3!

For the third book in the series, they focused on the theme, "An Illustrated Life" in which they "explore the illustrator's lifestyle in intimate detail and find out what it takes to stay creative 24/7". Each of us were given a fairly comprehensive questionnaire to complete, from which, along with our bio, a custom illustration assignment was crafted for the participants.

I loved my assignment - though it made me a bit nervous first. I was to ask Stella what she thought I did during the day when she was at school. For all I knew, she thinks I watch movies or ride my bike all day. That would make for an inspiring portrait! Thankfully, when I did sit down with her to chat about what Mommy does all day, she answered:

Make Fuzzies
Look at the computer
Cut paper
Use string

Phew! At least we were on the right track. I asked her to be a bit more specific about what I draw and she answered:

My friends

That was a pretty good list! I felt I had all I needed to start my composition. I decided to paint this portrait, since I thought an original painting would be a nice keepsake. I originally had a blue color scheme in mind, but I changed it up at the last minute. I thought the yellow would be a bit more cheerful - since I am pretty darned happy when working!

I am so honored to be a part of such a fantastic publication, along with some highly talented artists. Some of my personal favorite illustrators included in Work/Life 3 are Lindsey Balbierz, Tammie Bennett, Helen Dardik, Denise Holmes, Dinara Mirtalipova, Elizabeth Olwen, Ashley Percival, Erica Sirotich, Linda Solovic and Brad Woodard. Though now that I am reading the book cover-to-cover, I am discovering so many others! If you're interested in purchasing the book, you can find it here.

I recommend subscribing to the magazine and the blog - it's a constant source of inspiration! Plus - they're always looking for new content - they welcome submissions and often have Open Calls to Participate. It's a great community.

Go check it out! You won't be disappointed.

Have an awesome week!

Global Talent Search {Round 2}

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I made it to the semi-final round in the Lilla Rogers Global Talent search. Wowee!

Our round 2 assignment was designing a Fall-themed Farmer's Market Tote. It was pretty open-ended, other than we had to focus on nature. AND it was suggested we incorporate people and hand-drawn type. Suggested? Yup. I'm doing it.

I love going to the Farmer's Market and Autumn is my favorite season. I thought about WHY I love them so much. Our family always rides our bikes to the market and we find a good place on the grass to call our "base". Then Stephen and I take turns running around the market picking up our favorite stuff. We end up just chilling out watching the people shuffle by as we munch on raspberries, beef jerky and Stella's favorite cookies. (We don't buy a ton of produce at the market because we get a CSA). When we're done, I load up my cute wicker basket with all of our goodies and we ride home.

And in Fall, I love, love love the fallen leaves! I love the sound of them crunching under my feet. I love watching them fall quietly to the ground as the sun illuminates what's left on the trees. But my favorite part is walking through the piles that accumulate on the edges of the sidewalk. I'll admit I may kick a bit harder than normal, just to see them scatter in my wake.

So I knew I wanted to incorporate biking and fallen leaves. I wanted to focus on the experience of traveling from the market, gliding silently through the fallen leaves with our precious goodness strapped to our bikes. Though browns, oranges and yellow are so typical, I wanted to throw in some bright colors to complement their warmth. If this design were screen printed on a canvas bag, I think they'd really pop.

With all of this being said, 6 finalists will be chosen to move onto the next round. Five will be picked by the amazing panel of judges, and one will be the "People's Choice" finalist. This is where you come in

Please take a look at the online gallery of all the phenomenal semifinalists. I would love your support, but you can vote for up to five different artists, so please share the love! Voting ends Monday, so don't delay!

Thanks again for your vote and all of your support throughout my journey. This has been an incredible year.

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!

Wall Art {MATS Week 04}


I was about to post about Week 5 of Make Art That Sells, but I realized I never posted about Week 4 - Doh! So here we go - Week 4 focused on the Wall Art market.

Admittedly, I never really considered wall art for my illustration. Which is strange, considering my walls are covered in other people's work!

Lilla was really pushing us for the wall art challenge. Initially, she assigned us different color combos depending on our zodiac sign. As a Pisces, I got pink and purple. Oh, yuck. I love pink...and I love purple...but together?!? Ugh. Maybe it's because we have a 5-year old girly girl who is obsessed with princesses and unicorns and her entire room and wardrobe is plastered with the combo. Oh well - it's all about being challenged, right?

Then we were asked to collect flat-ish items in that color scheme. Papers, magazine clippings, ribbon, fabric, buttons, etc. Well, this proved to be a challenge, as well! I have plenty of fabric and ribbons, but my collection ended there. Until I wen't into Stella's art supply box, that is - pom poms! pipe cleaners! beads! feathers! Finally I was getting somewhere.

I had an inkling, but I was curious where this assignment was going to go. Sure enough. We received our main assignment, and there it was - a collage utilizing our collected items. We were also encouraged to paint, incorporate some floral imagery and a quote or words. My heart stopped. I can paint, and flowers and words are cool, but collage? It has been a LONG time since I've collaged anything. Much less using those crazy items I found in Stella's art box. But emily - this is the point, right? To push me out of my comfort zone, right? I was going to tackle this project head on.

First up, though, I had to re-think my pink and purple items. I really wasn't feeling them. They were way too "crafty" for my taste. So I decided to make my own patterned paper.

I laid out some dark purple washes and collected some items that I could use as stamps. Utilizing my screen printing ink, I stamped all over the papers to create some funky patterns. Here are some close-ups:

And all of them:

Now I was getting somewhere. I was feeling more comfortable with this project, now that I had some materials that were more "me".

Now onto the collage. This ended up being another learning moment. I realized it was totally against my nature to just "go for it" and start "slapping paint" on the canvas. Apparently I'm way more anal than I thought! I needed a plan. So I drew sketch upon sketch of possible compositions. Finally I got two that I thought I could work with:

I'm not typically super flowery, so I decided to go back so some of my pod drawings from Week 2. The lines on the sketches represented strips of paper collaged together as one solid element. Then I started cutting.

I had another realization as I was amidst gluing and painting : The permanence of collaging was freaking. me. out. I didn't have the option to Command-Z (undo), so once I stuck it down, it was practically final! And, the mess I created totally stressed me out as well. Man, I have to learn to loosen up! :-/

Working on 8x8 boards, I finally finished my pieces.

Even though my pieces ended up looking pretty different from everyone else's, I am happy with them and feel they reflect me fairy well, even though this was by far, the toughest assignment thus far.

A few of my classmates started mocking up rooms where their collages would live, so I thought that would be fun to visualize, as well. Even though I was targeting a young woman with these pieces, I immediately thought it could look cool in a funky girl's room.

I think it works, right?

My takeaway - even though I probably won't work in collage much in the future, I learned a few things. 1) I need to loosen up. I'm going to try to do some pieces just for fun when anything goes. It will be good for my soul. 2) I really like painting on wood and Kraft paper.  3) If all else fails, make your own paper! It was a lot of fun, and totally unique.

And I know I've said it before, but my classmates rock! They are uber talented! If you're interested in checking out their interpretations of the assignment, you can find them here, here, here, here, here and here.

Thanks for stopping by! 

Children's Books {MATS Week 3}

Well, Week 3 of Lilla Roger's Make Art That Sells was the week I was looking the most forward to - the Children's Book market!

Illustrating a kids' book is something I've always wanted to do. Back in college, I was lucky enough to take a special illustration course with the amazing Peter Sis, author/illustrator of many children's books and winner of the beloved Caldecott Honor Award. A few years later I met my husband, a talented writer, and we discussed dreams of growing old together; he would write the stories, I would draw them. Then Stella was born, and her book collection grew, along with my dream of illustrating a book that she could add to her shelf.

Therefore, I took last week's assignment very seriously. Our mini exercise was to develop a snail character. Again, a subject I've never considered, but it was a lot of fun! 

After drawing plenty of snails, I decided the one on the left page, lower center was pretty cute and decided to explore his facial expressions. Onto the gouache:

During this exercise, I learned the eyebrows are the key to the expression.

Next we received our full assignment - illustrate either the cover or full page spread from the story The Snail and the Rose-Tree by Hans Christian Andersen. Wow, what a dark story! It really threw me for a loop. Usually my drawings are so happy and colorful - this would be quite the challenge. But I was up for it! I went through the story, line by line and started sketching out some compositions:

After working through some compositions, I decided the first two were too ordinary. I liked the third one, but since it was a wintery scene, there were no blooming roses (I really wanted to draw roses!). The fourth one was fun, but it was getting a little busy for my liking. So it was down to the last two. I decided to go with #5 because it much happier. Plus I could have fun with some curvy type and lots of swirls.

For this assignment I wanted to push myself, so I decided to forgo the digital design and do the entire spread in gouache. It took a bit longer, but I was able to play with subtle color changes and brushstrokes that I'd never be able to accomplish in Photoshop.

The black details in the illustration are all done with acrylic ink, and the text is hand-drawn using my beloved Micron pens.

I am so happy with how it turned out! Unfortunately, I got pretty sick during the middle of the week, so I didn't have time to do a cover as well. That would have been fun to explore some more hand-drawn type for the title. Maybe if I have some time I'll work on that for my portfolio...

Thanks again for following my process!
Have a great week,