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ICON9 : Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ICON sketchbook - Mahlstick

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

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

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

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

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

BBQ, that-away!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Detail of the side of the Iron Works BBQ building

Butterfly mural at the Art for the People gallery

Oh, how I love me some painted brick

Taped floor at Parts and Labor.

Just look at the Uncommon Objects storefront! 

Mural on the side of the Mexic-Arte Museum.

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

Booth Tour {Surtex 2015}

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

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

 

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

Jill's sketch of the character wall.

 

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

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

Singing in the rain!

 

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

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

 

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

Soaker wall!

 

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

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

 

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

Look at all the fun stuff!

 

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

Have a seat!

 

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

#HHACselfie

 

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

Hammin' it up.

 

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

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

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

Part 1 - Promo Mailers

Promo Mailers Part 2

Part 3 - Final Prep

Part 4 - Building the Booth

Until next time,

Building the Booth {Surtex 2015}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poor kitty and fox. (Photos by tammie)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Final Prep {Surtex 2015}

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

Surtex this, Surtex that. 

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

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

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

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

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



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


My 3rd collection is called Little Explorers:


And finally, my colored pencil florals, Joyful Garden:


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


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

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


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


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


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

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

Until then, have a wonderful day!

Promo Mailers Part 2 {Surtex 2015}

ONLY TEN DAYS UNTIL SURTEX 2015!


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

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



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



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



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



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


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

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

'Til next time,

HHAC is heading to NYC! {Surtex 2015}

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


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

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

Hope to see you there!


Cooking Class

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

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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


more stickers...


and placecards!

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

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

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

Enjoy!


American Girl Magazine {2014}

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

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

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

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



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


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

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


Happy New Year {2015}

2-color block print

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

See you around the internet!



Brava Artist Feature

This month I am extremely honored to be featured in Brava Magazine as December's Portrait of an Artist!


I've done a bit of work for the publication (remember this post?) and I look forward to receiving my issue every month. Brava is a Madison-based magazine focused on women + style + substance - and as the editor-in-chief puts it, "[Brava] is the most fun, interesting and inspiring girlfriend we could think of". That just makes me smile! :-)

Hopefully you can read from my photo, but if not, here is the link to my feature in the online publication. Basically, it tells my story of going from a graphic designer at Pacific Cycle to full-time illustrator. What a whirlwind it has been!

And I am happy a snippet of my studio was included - the top photo is my inspiration wall that hangs right above my computer. It consists not only of some of my work, but some of my favorite artists' work as well. You should check out their work, while you're at it! Seen here is the work of Lesley Barnes, Mikey Burton, Hamiliton Wood Type Museum, Eight Hour Day and Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn.

Thanks again to the fabulous ladies at Brava for including me in their magazine!

Desktop Calendar {December 2014}

Well, in my last post, I promised more project posts - and I couldn't follow through! :-(
Unfortunately, my computer broke and it was in the shop for a week. What a bummer! I know I'm on my computer a LOT, but when it's inaccessible, it makes me realize just how dependent I am on it. Yikes. Thankfully, the awesome folks at Swink let me hang out with them for a few days and use their spare computer. That was a tremendous help, but I have to say it is nice to be back on my baby. Now to work through the mountain of projects that piled up in my computer's absence!

Now let's get to the point - the December desktop calendar! I painted this pattern a couple weeks ago and it got a good response on Instagram, so I decided to make it into this month's calendar:



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

ALSO! To celebrate the holiday season, the ladies at Happy Happy Art Collective are doing 24 Days of Holiday Printables!


We have lots of fun stuff in store for you! All you have to do is follow our blog to download the goodies. And be sure to Like us on Facebook to ensure you don't miss a thing! 

Have an awesome week,

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.

Whoa.

Butterflies.

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.


Anyways...

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!










Women in Baseball {Wisconsin Storytime}

I recently got to participate in an ongoing collaboration all about the history of Wisconsin. The guys that brought you Project Wisconsin [365 towns : 365 logos] decided to delve even deeper into what makes Wisconsin a great state by focusing on its history. Each Wednesday, Wisconsin Storytime pairs a different designer with a different story from our state's amazing past. 



My assignment was exploring the All-American Girls' Baseball League, which was right up my alley! It was fun poring through the old photographs from the ladies on the original teams - and drawing them was even better! What a great exercise in different body positions.


And here is the final illustration! Please head over to Project Wisconsin to see more info about my story and read all the others from the first 6 months of 2014 - you'll learn a lot, I promise!




24-Hours in Madison {Design*Sponge}

Hey hey!

As you may know, I currently live in lovely Madison, Wisconsin. I adore Madison, and all it has to offer. I am certain I will be spending many more years here, possibly the rest of my life!

I recently had the opportunity to share my love of Madison on the fabulous Design*Sponge blog. Contributing to their well-known City Guides column, I was tasked with describing my ideal day in Madison. This was such an honor, considering I've been reading Design*Sponge for a LONG time!



As you'll read in my guide, I had a really tough time narrowing down my favorites to encompass just one day. I am still thinking about local establishments that I didn't mention in my guide - there are too many things that make Madison awesome!


sketchbook drawing

Head on over to Design*Sponge to read through my ideal day in Madison - and if you ever visit - I guarantee you'll have a fantastic time!



Surtex 2014 {Walking}

Hello!

Well, it has been a week since I've been home from Surtex 2014. And I'm STILL processing it all! Wow, what an experience.

I decided to check it out after I learned all about it in Make Art That Sells - Surtex is a tradeshow where artists sell or license their work to companies who will, in turn, use it on their products. The art consists mostly of surface pattern designs, but there are some stand-alone images featured as well. Since one of my goals is to some day have my own fabric line, I thought it would probably be worth my time to see what it was all about. I didn't necessarily want to have a booth YET, since it is quite the investment, so scoping it out was Step 1 of the process.

Since I was walking the show as an artist, there was some etiquette to keep in mind - most importantly, don't linger too much in the booths. The artists who were showing spent a LOT of time and money on being there, and they were there to generate business and make connections with potential customers. Having long conversations with walkers could potentially detract customers from their booths, so out of respect, we needed to make our chats short and sweet. And if someone walks up who looks like they're there for business, excuse yourself and come back another time.

Though I knew there would be some dream clients there, my goal wasn't to get business - since they were there for the Surtex artists. I didn't carry a formal portfolio, though I did make a few "mini" portfolios which consisted of twenty of my Moo business cards clipped together - to hand out JUST IN CASE I happened to meet a potential client. There were a few moments I could have taken advantage of, but I was too much of a wimp to sell myself. NOTE TO SELF: Work on pitching my art; have confidence in myself!


My "mini" portfolios and shoulder bag, created just for Surtex
I also made a quick shoulder bag consisting of my Science Fair fabric from Spoonflower. I figured that might generate some attention, so why not? Plus it was fun to sew again. It has been too long!

Lauren and Tammie, two of my fellow Happy Happy Art Collective artists were there showing their work for the first time (woo hoo!) so it would also be a good opportunity to support them (not to mention MEET them)! I ended up rooming with Muffin (another Happy Happy artist) in an Air BnB apartment just a ten minute walk from the Javits Center where Surtex was located. It was a great location, not only close to Surtex, but within walking distance of Times Square where we hung out in the evenings. It sounds like many of the Surtex participants found hotels close by Javits - which is ideal, since they were most likely hauling stuff to and from every day.


Muffin and I in front of the Javits Center on Day 1
Once we got into Surtex, we made a beeline to Tammie and Lauren's booths to say hi. We had never officially met, after all! Both ladies had wonderful booths. It was obvious that they took a lot of care and consideration in selecting what art hung on the walls and how they showcased their portfolios. Again, being conscious of blocking potential customers, Muffin and I set off through the aisles of Surtex. 

It didn't take us long to bump in to some of our classmates from Make Art That Sells! We anticipated a sort of MATS "reunion" (can you call it a reunion if you've never actually met?), but I was still blown away by how many people I recognized from class. It was so fun meeting our fellow "Matties" in real life. There was a lot of business card exchanging and hugs, and I loved every bit of it. I also got to meet several of my illustrator crushes: Helen Dardik, Elizabeth Olwen, Zoe Ingram, Dinara Mirtalipova and Allison Cole, to name a few! And I got a hug from the one and only Lilla Rogers. Wow. I was surrounded by greatness!


Elizabeth Olwen, Muffin, Jill and I
On Day 2, Jill joined us from Massachusetts! After doing our round of hellos, we decided to buckle down and walk the show with intention. Aisle after aisle, we took notes about the decisions artists made when designing their booth. Some of the things we noted:

  • Portfolio : Loose prints vs. bound book
  • Booth sign :Standard Surtex sign vs. design your own
  • Products with your art in the booth
  • Flat wall vs. bracketed wall
  • Corner booth vs. middle aisle booth
  • Tall table vs. short table
  • Code or number all your art for future referencing
  • Brand every print
  • Walls : Banners vs. framed art
  • Show personal work or original art 
  • The buzz : License or buy outright

Some of us also had an opportunity to participate in Lilla's MATS meet-up. A few things I learned from that session:

  • If buying outright - What is the life of the product? In other words, when can I get it back again?
  • As you make money, invest it back into your business
  • When you have a large body of work, display some on your website, but save some to only show potential clients. 
  • Have a worksheet for your customers which lists all the categories/sub-categories so they can check off their interests.
  • Always ask for a little more.

MATS meet-up with Lilla Rogers
On Day 3, Muffin, Jill and I walked a bit of the National Stationery Show, which was right next to Surtex. Talk about overwhelming! We were there for a couple hours and I don't think we got through 1/3 of it. I would have actually liked to have spend more time there, but my flight back to Wisconsin was beckoning me. I did see enough, however, to realize there are a lot of independent stationery companies - and many of them are wonderfully creative. Oh - and gold foil is trending. We saw it everywhere! 

Now that I have had time to process my Surtex experience, I know that it is something I can definitely handle. I will be able to produce a body of work to have a successful show. My hesitation at this point, aside from the expense, is whether or not I want to put all my eggs in this particular basket. There are many markets of which to focus my illustration, but dedicating a better part of my year in preparing for the surface pattern and licensing segment kinda makes me nervous. I have been hearing from various Surtex artists, that there is the potential for work outside of licensing, such as publishing, so that is good to know. My other option is sharing a booth with the other artists in the Happy Happy Art Collective, which I know would be amazing. Ah! So many decisions! 

To wrap up, I am very happy I got to experience Surtex. It was complete eye-candy, and it was delightful meeting so many of the artists I've admired over the last few years. I loved hanging out with my Happy Happy sisters (we missed you, Denise!) and I'm glad I was able to share the experience with them. On the other hand, it has given me a lot to ponder, and I think it's going to take me a while to figure out my game plan. 

Until then, thanks for sticking through my super-long Surtex re-cap! If you're interested in learning more, be sure to check out Lauren's, Tammie's, Jill's and Muffin's blog posts about their Surtex experience.



Tiny Green Worlds {Spoonflower Fabric}

Life has been crazy-busy here. But when I realized the Spoonflower theme was terrariums, I had to make time for it!

But I didn't have time to do all the research and preliminary drawings like I usually do. I decided to jump right into Photoshop and start drawing. This is the first time I've ever skipped the sketching process and started on the computer. It is not my ideal, but I have to say, the spontaneity was a bit exhilarating! And since the design was very organic, it worked well with drawing on the tablet - I didn't have to worry about super straight lines or perfect spacing. I could just roll with it!


This was my final pattern block. When I set it up as a repeat it looked like this:


I think it turned out pretty well! There is a lot of detail in each of the terrariums, so I have to keep the design on the bigger side in order to appreciate it all. 

There is still a bit of time to vote in this week's contest, so head on over to pick your favorites!

And speaking of patterns, I am heading to NYC this weekend to check out Surtex - the surface pattern & textile licensing show. I am looking forward to seeing the setup to see if this is something I'd like to pursue at some point in the near future. Not to mention I get to finally meet my Happy Happy Art Collective friends and other artists I've met online the last few years. It should be a fantastic experience!

I'll be back next week to tell you all about it!



Surface Pattern Design Guide {Uppercase}

Hello!

I found out some very exciting news last week - I have been accepted into the Uppercase Surface Pattern Design Guide


Cover design by one of my fellow MATS classmates, Jan Avellana

My work was selected from almost 300 entrants and 2000+ designs - wow! Since surface pattern design is something I've been focusing on this year, this news couldn't happen at a better time. The guide will be a part of issue #21 of Uppercase Magazine, and 1500 copies will be sent to Surtex in May. What an amazing honor!

Here's a fun video all about the Uppercase Surface Pattern Design Guide and 10 Tips for How to Stand Out in Surface Pattern Design:





I know I've gushed about how fabulous Uppercase Magazine is (remember when I made it into Work/Life 3 last Fall?), but just in case you are unfamiliar with the publication, YOU NEED TO CHECK IT OUT. Seriously. I adore this magazine. Each issue is so chocked full of artsy goodness it is impossible to put down. If you're interested (and you SHOULD be!), use the discount code USPDG2014 and receive $15 dollars off your subscription! What are you waiting for? Get it here.

I hope you are having a glorious Monday - I know I am!

Porchlight Chef's Auction

This week I got the opportunity to attend a very special event : Porchlight's Original Chef's Auction. This was a fundraiser to raise money for Porchlight Inc. - an organization dedicated to helping the homeless of Dane County - by offering shelter, food, counseling and employment services. An extension of Porchlight includes Porchlight Products. Utilizing produce from local farms, the employees turn the crops into high quality canned and preserved goods to be sold to local markets and restaurants. This amazing program not only provides employment and confidence for the less-fortunate, it also helps support our local farm community. 

I was able to contribute to this fundraiser by creating all the marketing collateral. How fun! This was a chef's auction, meaning ten of Madison's top chefs and restaurants came together to provide some wonderful food, incorporating some of the Porchlight Products. I wanted to focus on the stars of the event - the chefs - and their wonderful food made with local ingredients. These were my initial sketches for the ad:


We ended up going with the marching chef, and turned his swirl of food into the shape of Wisconsin. After adding a bit of color, here is the final poster:


Not only did I get to create a cute little chef, I got to draw lots of yummy food and do some hand lettering! This project was right up my alley.

After sampling some of the Porchlight Products, I was highly impressed! I will definitely be picking some up on future grocery shopping excursions. For those of you who are local, you can find them at Metcalfe's Hilldale, Regent Market and Willy Street Co-op. Be sure to check them out!



Happy Happy Art Collective

Hello!

Shortly after Christmas, my online friend Tammie emailed me and a few other graduates of Lilla's Make Art That Sells class inquiring whether we'd be interested in forming an artist collective. Heck Yeah! Denise (another friend and MATS buddy) and I had already been discussing the same thing a couple months earlier and it seemed the stars were aligning.

After a month of planning and lots of preparation, we finally launched our website this week. I am now a proud member of the Happy Happy Art Collective!




Over the next several days, we will be introducing the members one-by-one on our blog (mine was just posted today!). After you've had a chance to get to know us, then we'll start posting lots of fun group projects and freebies we've been happily creating! Head on over and check it all out. And while you're there, be sure to sign up for our monthly newsletter for a little dose of happiness in your inbox!

I'm really excited about the possibilities that will come from being a part of this collective! It's such a creative, supportive group of ladies, and we're chock full of ideas - I don't think there is room in the blogosphere for all of them! 

Can you tell I'm a little happy happy?



Custom Portrait Service

Hello! 

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!