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 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.

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!

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!

Global Talent Search {Final Entry}


Today I am back to share my Global Talent Search final entry with y'all. As you probably already know, the lovely Zoe Ingram won the big prize last week - yay, Zoe!

Our final assignment was to design a home decor/gift collection for Midwest CBK. We were given four trend boards in which we were to pick one to use as our inspiration for our collection. I went with Boho, since the color palette and detail suited my illustration style quite nicely.

Our collection was to include a main pattern with 2-3 coordinates, 2-3 products, some placement graphics and type.

When deciding my theme, I wanted it to exhibit a few things:

- reflect my personality
- something I would display in my own home
- speak to my illustration style

- have some fun elements that could be showcased 3-dimensionally

After lots of sketches, I chose a Sun theme. Why suns? First of all, it's one of my favorite things to draw. It represents happiness. I can bring in other celestial elements to sprinkle throughout the collection. I can have lots of fun with different types of rays, and it gave me some more dimensional options. I also didn't want to do birds, butterflies or flowers - I thought that was too common - suns were a  little more "out there". :-)

I now introduce to you, Shiny Happy Day!

I tried to incorporate a good blend of organic elements, geometric shapes, texture and a bit of whimsy. When I saw Boho was one of our choices, I immediately thought "pom-poms!" - one of my favorite decorative styles - so I knew I was going to include pom-pom trim somewhere!

My three products are a macrame hanging planter, a lamp and a pillow. I love house plants, especially hanging ones, so I thought it would be fun (and very Boho) to create a macrame planter with red beads. And, yes - I actually made that planter and painted those wood beads. Remember this photo from Instagram?

I created a geometric pattern on a white background that I thought would make for a very striking lampshade.

And the pillow is my favorite! As I said above, I am a sucker for pom-pom trim, so I knew I wanted to do a sun pillow, where the pom-poms would represent the rays. And, depending on your mood, you can flip it over for a fun, inspirational quote!

I also created a chair out of the main pattern, but decided not to use it at the last minute. Here's a peek (and please don't mind the crappy seam-y pattern - I was just trying to visualize...).

In addition to the main sun pattern and the geometric pattern, I also created two more coordinates - a stripey clouds and sun bursts. I am so in love with that cloud pattern I think I'm definitely going to get some of it printed so I can make some fun throw pillows.

The final assignment was a great exercise, and quite the challenge. I am glad I got the opportunity to design a mini-collection, because it forced me to think across a range of products and applications. Now I know I want to do more of this type of work!

Thanks again for all your support throughout this competition. Though I didn't "win" the final prize, I still feel I have won so much - the experience was so valuable - it something I will carry through all my future work.

Now it's time to focus on school again. Make Art That Sells is back in session!

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,

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!

Ready to Snuggle {Fuzzy Blankets}

Over last six months, a lot of babies have been born all around us. So exciting! And now that I have finally perfected my Fuzzy Blankets (Ni-Ni's), I have been making them for the adorable newborns.

Meet Brixo, Joli and Lanodi! I found some really great black and white striped knit fabric to use for the fronts of the blankets - the neutral palette allows me to have fun with bright, colorful binding, stars and features.

Even though my Fuzzy production has slowed dramatically because I'm focusing on my Illustration career, I am still enjoying making these custom plush!

Until next time,

Desktop Calendar {June 2013}

Hello, and happy almost-Summer!

Here in Wisconsin, the trees are at their greenest, the flowers are blooming, and the bees are buzzing. I've had bees and honey on my brain between my daily doodle on Instagram and this month's desktop calendar.

I've been playing around with layering blocks of color with linework, inspired by one of my favorite mid-century illustrators, Roger Duvoisin. Also, in this composition, I painted the honeycomb hexagons and scanned them in, creating some nice texture in the background.

To download the June 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!

Wintery Wedding Invites


Today I'm excited to share one of my favorite projects from the past year. Our close friends Brian and Courtney got married in January and I had the pleasure of designing their wedding invitation suite.

They decided to profess their love for each other in a snowy field on a cold Wisconsin afternoon. With this beautiful setting in mind, we played around with a wintery theme for their invites.

I sent them a few concept sketches to get things started. 1) Every year they go on a ski trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. They envisioned a scene of the two of them sitting on a bench facing the mountains with their trusty dogs at their sides. 2) Their party was to be held at the High Noon Saloon - we explored the idea of a subtle western-style theme. 3) They also liked the idea of an image of their dogs pulling them in their wooden dog sled.

They were ecstatic about the sketches, and chose to combine the concepts and use bits and pieces from the three. The winter theme was the focus of the invitations, but I was able to pull in the wood board sign to represent the rugged nature of the saloon.

Brian and Courtney encouraged me to 'do my thing', so I ran with it! I loved having the freedom to express their love in my style, and I even decided to paint the whole thing in gouache. 

Since this was the first time I had to reproduce my paintings, I decided to get them professionally printed - and I am SO happy with that decision. The printer did an amazing job, and you can even see my brush strokes - exactly what I wanted.

I had such a blast with this project! I learned so much throughout the process and I am so happy I got to be a part of our friends' special day.

Robbin' from the Rich to Give to the Poor {Halloween 2012}

We love Halloween in our house. And this year, the excitement was more than it has ever been. As of last year, Stella figured out what it was all about, so the last few months have been "Halloween costume this and Halloween costume that". Once again, I wanted to make her costume, but there is always the looming possibility that she chooses to be a Princess - in that case, I'd rather buy the costume than deal with all the tule and lace.

As Halloween got closer, the discussions were more serious - what WAS she going to choose? She decided she wanted to incorporate bow and arrows. Cool! That left us with 3 possibilities - Katniss (though she's a bit young for the Hunger Games), Robin Hood and Princess Merida from Brave. We were sure she was going to choose Princess Merida. But, alas - she wanted to be Robin Hood! Hooray! We loved the idea, and I could actually make her costume once again!

This one was pretty easy. I bought her some green tights and a long sleeved green shirt for under her tunic. This was also the excuse I had been waiting for to buy her a pair of mocassins. She picked out some brown fake suede for her tunic and quiver, in which I stitched some green contrast stitching around the hems for a fun little detail. We got a piece of leather cord to tie around her waist, and I made a simple green hat from this tutorial I found online. She requested a pink feather in her hat - of course I obliged!

She had so much fun being Robin Hood! After lots of practice with the bow and arrows, she was finally able to shoot an arrow - though not very far. I don't think it mattered, though - she was having a blast!

Any fun costumes in your household this year?

Painting {James Madison}

A couple months ago, my friend Tony clued me in on an opportunity to participate in a fun project for a Boston theatre company.

Bad Habit Productions is doing a production of 44 Plays for 44 Presidents - a "chronological, biographical survey of the lives and presidencies of each of the 44 men who have held the office so far. Their mistakes and successes are celebrated by a company of actors who take turns donning a star-spangled coat that symbolizes the presidency." Their goal is to produce 44 plays around the country leading up to the U.S. Presidential Election on November 6. 

Some of the companies chose to enlist artists to create portraits of all of the presidents to decorate the stage during the show. At the end of the production, the portraits will be auctioned off to raise money for the theatre. We got to bid on our top 5 presidents. I chose to avoid the modern-day presidents and go for those who had some distinct facial features I could play around with. I ended up with James Madison and his powdered wig.

I was excited for a chance to participate for a few reasons: 1) I wanted to do a painting! It has been such a long time since I got down and dirty with my acrylics. 2) Talk about a different subject - since I usually stick to bunnies, flowers and Stella, depicting an older man a couple centuries old could be quite the challenge. 3) I love learning about new things! This portrait could be however I interpreted it - as long as it was within 12 x 12 inches and would hang flat. I wanted to represent James Madison's legacy, at the same time giving my painting style a chance to shine.

After doing a lot of internet research, I decided to use this image as my inspiration. I could have fun with his rosy cheeks and pouty lips!

Next I started sketching. When I got a drawing I was happy with, I scanned it into Photoshop and started playing around with different color combos. Since I was painting this, I wouldn't have the luxury of switching colors with ease so I wanted to have a plan. I even enlisted my Instagram friends to get their opinions. Thanks, guys!

The consensus ended up being the lower left - chartreuse and navy. I was ready to start painting. I had a piece of birch plywood all gesso'ed and ready to go.

At this point, other than the hyper color scheme, it was still basically a traditional portrait. Now time to make it truly James Madison. Since he is considered the Father of the Constitution, I decided to paint the Bill of Rights behind him on the green background.

Four hours and a very sore wrist later, James was complete!

I had a lot of fun with this project. To the point I am going to start painting again! Hopefully I'll be able to show you more in the near future.

And a sneak peek of the theatre production was posted on Facebook yesterday. Look who has a prominent place behind the stage!

Photo ©Derek Frasier 2012 courtesy of Jeff Mosser 

And Tony's Ronald Reagan ended up to James's right - he's in great company!

Have any of you seen the play? Apparently there was a production here in Madison, but I totally missed it. Doh!

Sketchbook {Fundraiser}


I wanted to share this fun little project I did back in August. We were on vacation, and one of my friends contacted me hoping I could help her out with a last minute project. She was having a fundraiser party at her house and needed a flyer to help promote it. Well, since I was on vacation, all I had accessible was my sketchbook. I told her I could only do a drawing, and take a picture of it with my phone. She was game. And I was up for the challenge.

What's funny is that, even though I don't typically do a lot of alterations once I scan in my drawing, I KNOW that I have the option. It's nice to be able to move a word over a bit or enlarge something if necessary. But NOT having the capabilities to fix something in Photoshop means all the pressure is on to make the initial drawing just right. And with the large amount of text that was to be included, there were even more elements to take into consideration.

My friends were doing a 'Bike the Barns' tour for Community Supported Agriculture, hence the bikes, barn and veggies. All-in-all, I had a lot of fun with this flyer, and I was glad I got to help out a friend.

Have a great day!

DIY {Teacher Gifts}


Today is Stella's last day of Summer School. It is her last day of being in the 3-year old Moonbeam class. Craziness!

We wanted to make a little something for her teachers to show them how much we appreciated them this last year. I saw this post over on Ez's Creature Comforts blog which inspired me to decorate mugs as teacher gifts.

Since I'm a total slacker and sat on this project until yesterday afternoon, I didn't end up getting the Porcelaine markers that Ez suggested. Those need 24 hours of air-dry time before they can be baked and set. So I went with the Sharpie Oil Based paint pens that supposedly work on metal, pottery, wood, rubber, glass, plastic and stone. I was a little nervous about the toxicity of them, but they are AP certified and Xylene-free, so they should be okay.

I gave Stella the task of drawing on them first. The paint actually dries really quick, so there wasn't a whole lot of smearing happening. Once the mug met her satisfaction, I took over and supplemented her artwork with mine. 

I thought they turned out pretty nice! The colors were nice and bright and popped well on the white ceramic mugs. Stella had a lot of fun drawing on something besides paper. All-in-all, I'd say they were a success! Hopefully her teachers like them.

Have a great weekend!

I Can Scan!

Today is a good day. Why? Because I finally have a scanner that works. Hooray!

For the last 8 months I haven't had a functioning scanner. I've had one sitting on my desk, attached to a printer that I use, but the scanner decided to leave me high and dry a while ago.

Since then, I've been taking photos of my illustrations and emailing them to myself. Not a very precise method. And it meant a lot of clean-up work in Photoshop. I figured it was about time I got myself a new scanner.

Well, so far so good! I decided to use this little gouache painting of a coneflower for my test subject. I kept the page in the sketchbook to test the gutter shadow reducer. I think it did a phenomenal job! I did nothing to it in Photoshop besides crop it. I didn't touch the white background - that's how great it scanned in! This is going to change my world.

In case you're wondering, I ended up buying a Canon CanoScan 9000F scanner. There were a few others I was considering at a much higher price point, but this one got stellar reviews. Some of the features I was especially interested in were:

     • Built-in retouching
     • Gutter shadow reduction
     • The software works with my Mac OS X Lion

I'm pretty pumped! I feel like I have a lot more options for my analog illustration now that I have good scanning capabilities. I can't wait to test it out more!

Until next time,

New Project {Zoe's Nursery}

Remember this post when I showed a sneak peek of a big project I had been working on?

Well, I am finally able to reveal it in it's entirety. Yay!

Several months ago, our friend and local photographer, Andrea approached me about making some Fuzzies for her baby's nursery. Of course, I was totally on board! 

Andrea came up with the super fun color scheme of orange/teal/purple and a MONSTER theme! How cool is that? After discussing the rest of the decor with Andrea, we decided that in addition to the Fuzzies, I would also make her a custom monster mobile and some illustrated monster prints to supplement the theme. 

It was a big project, but it was great working with Andrea to see it through. She has a great eye for detail, and as she added more accessories to the room she looped me in so we could always be on the same page. We wanted to keep the balance of the 3 main colors in check. Knowing the rest of the plan (rug, lamp, rocker, crib bedding, etc) helped me coordinate my portion. It was a real team effort!

I created the Fuzzies first, as they would be the inspiration for the illustrations. When Stephen wrote the stories, the teal monster ended up chasing butterflies, and the orange monster was an extreme unicycle racer. So of course, the illustrations had to depict them in their natural environments!

And then we have the mobile. I was especially excited about this, since I have been toying with the idea of making mobiles as an extension of the Fuzzy family, but never had time to actually see it through. Thinking it wouldn't take me that long because of their small size, I severely underestimated the work. All that hand-stitching takes time! And then I had to figure out the actual hanging apparatus. I'm no woodworker, so it had to be simple enough that I could make it. Using a combination of wooden dowels, pre-formed round knobs and a cube, I was able to pull it off. I painted the center cube and ends a nice teal blue to pull it all together, added a star to the top, and voila! A mobile!

I am really happy with how it all turned out. I also really enjoyed the challenge of designing a "space". Even though my contributions were mere accessories, working with Andrea on the entire decor was a lot of fun.

Now that you have seen my creations, please head on over to Andrea's blog to see everything in its place! She did a fantastic job putting the room together. Her daughter is a very lucky girl! And, Zoe's nursery was even featured on Project Nursery! How cool is that?

On a side note - if you're in the Madison area, be sure to hit up Andrea for any of your photography needs. She is one talented lady!

Home Ec {Weekend Tote}

Can you believe your eyes? Yessiree. I have finally completed another Home Ec project! I think it has been about a year since the last, so it was LONG overdue. And what inspired me to tackle another project? Well, this upcoming weekend, I have a big illustration getaway planned, and I wanted a cute bag to carry all my stuff. Instead of buying one, I remembered the Home Ec tutorial for the Weekend Tote and decided to make it for the occasion!

Since this was one of the later projects, it would definitely be one of the more challenging. But I figured I've had some practice making various bags the last year (here and here), and I thought it wouldn't be too bad. Plus, this one called for some leather - how fun is that?!?

In lieu of buying some new leather online, where I wouldn't really know EXACTLY what I'm looking for, or what I was going to get for the money, I decided to scour the thrift stores for an old leather jacket that I could upcycle. But, I found an even COOLER option:

LEATHER CHAPS! Ohhhhh yeahhhhh!

They're XL, so I HAD to stand that way just to keep them up on my hips. :-D
But XL means lots of leather - exactly what I needed. The largest panel required for the bag was 18"x18". Unfortunately, there wasn't a section of leather from the chaps that didn't have a seam running through the middle. See how the legs were broken up into panels?

I decided to go for it anyways. After ripping apart one leg, I thought it would be cool to incorporate the big zipper from the chaps as well. And thankfully, it was JUST long enough!

As far as the fabric upper portion went, I decided to finally use the cute  Echino bike fabric I bought at Purl SoHo almost 2 years ago. The black leather would look great with the colors of the fabric. And as for the lining, since this would be a pretty heavy-duty tote, I wanted to use some heavier fabric - I ended up using some red and white striped upholstery fabric from IKEA. I was all set and ready to start sewing!

The basic bag construction was pretty simple. The tedious part was making all of the little leather accessories - the handles...the zipper tabs, etc. Sewing leather means taking it slow - but it was SO worth it in the long run. I LOVE how it turned out!

You can see where there is a seam running through the bottom panel and the leather handles. I really don't mind it, especially when there is such a good story to go along with it. And doesn't that zipper look badass? If the biker dudes only knew how cute their leather chaps could look...

Unicorns & Glitter!

In addition to lots of bike riding, gardening and chalk drawing, warmer weather means playing in the summer volleyball league! I have been playing with the same team for several years and I always look forward to spending week after week with my friends in this hot and sandy setting. This year we decided to change our team name to Unicorns & Glitter - super fun, right?

My friend and I decided that the name Unicorns & Glitter calls for colorful sparkly t-shirts. So I did a little research and found that we could each get a different colored shirt for screen printing our sweet unicorn logo. If I designed it in such a way that it was almost like a coloring book, then we could all paint our shirts with puffy paint. 

Shirts, waiting to be puffy painted

I haven't used puffy paint in probably 20 years, but there were lots of options, including glitter, iridescent and neon - perfect! We had a little t-shirt painting party where we all bedazzled our shirts. And boy, did they turn out awesome!

Puffy painting party
I wouldn't say we're the best team out there in terms of skills, but we sure do know how to have fun! And if nothing else, the glare of our glittery shirts in the sun has to help a little, too...right?

Team Unicorns & Glitter
And of course, our volleyball had to match, as well:

One of our super fans, Stella, holding the team ball
It's funny - I didn't think I could be more excited to play volleyball - until now!