process

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,

Wedding Invitations {Laurie + Michele}

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

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

To start, I sent them a few different concepts:



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

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



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


Photo courtesy of Flying Rabbit Press

And here we have the final invitation suite:



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










Wedding Invitations {Brian + Meredith}

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


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


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



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




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


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


Who Inspires Me {Blog Hop}

Since I took Lilla's Make Art That Sells course in 2013 I have met so many wonderful artists from around the world. I am a big believer in making connections and starting conversations both online and in real life, and the recent "Who Inspires Me" blog hop is a great example of this. 

Liz Ablashi, the designer/illustrator behind Eine Kleine Design Studio recently wrote a lovely post and asked me to participate in this international blog hop. How fun! 


Liz and her adorable family live in Maryland, where she is not only designs sweet patterns and illustrations, but she turns them into lovely product with her sewing and crafting skills! From bags and pouches to scarves and cushions, her designs are bursting with fun themes and fresh color palettes.


If you've been following the 2014 Global Talent Search, you may have noticed that Liz has gotten all the way to the semi-finals. Yay, Liz! 



Thanks so much to Liz for inviting me along on this blog hop. Please be sure to check out her wonderful work here!

I'm also supposed to answer a few questions as part of the blog hop:

1) What am I working on?
I am currently in the middle of my first book project with Storey Publishing. Unfortunately, I can't show any images right now, but I CAN tell you it is right up my alley and I can't wait to share more! I am also about to start the roughs for a local animation project and initial concepts for a logo design this week. This is one of the things I love about what I do - there is always so much variety - it really keeps me fresh!

2) How does my work differ from other work in its genre?
I'd like to think the humor and quirkiness of my art sets it apart from other illustrators. My influences vary from mid-century picture books to JCrew catalogs to block prints, so I feel these bring a unique perspective to my illustrations as well.


3) Why do I create what I do?
The simple answer is, it makes me happy. The fact that my hand, head and heart creates art that has never existed before is such an amazing feeling. 

4) How does my creative process work?
When I first tackle a project, I initially think about the assignment - a lot. I rarely jump in and start drawing from the get-go. I let the ideas swim around, form concepts, problem-solve - all in my head, so when I do finally sit down with my sketchbook, I have some pretty solid ideas to start working through. I create sketches; first pencil, then inked - for I prefer seeing a more finished drawing before I scan it in. Once it's scanned, I work primarily in Photoshop, re-drawing the color flats with a Wacom tablet in several layers. I generally work with a limited color palette, between 6-8 colors, and I set up my files almost as if I'm planning to screen print it. If I am planning on adding texture, I print out the illustrated color flats, tape it down to my light box, overlay a sheet of tracing paper, and manually add the texture with a pencil or china marker. Once all the analog texture is complete, I scan it back in, make it into a transparent layer, and add it on top of my digital color flats, recoloring the texture as I see fit. 

Now, I am excited to share two artists that inspire me!

First up, Lucky Nielsen, an artist hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota. (go mid-west!)


I first discovered Lucky when I read her insightful blog post all about her Surtex experience last year. And shortly thereafter, Lucky and I both approached the initial 2013 Global Talent Search assignment from a similar perspective - the climbing apparatus! Since then, I have really enjoyed her charming characters, bright patterns and needle felted creatures.


I absolutely fell in love with Lucky's entry for the 2014 Global Talent Search semi-finals! Between the hand lettering, textures and darling outfit - I think this print is going to have to be showcased in Stella's bedroom - don't you think?


Good luck getting to the finals, Lucky! I can't wait to hear the results.

Next up, a Swede living in London, England - Monika Forsberg! I cannot help but get lost in the quirky cut-paper worlds that Monika creates:


Combining colored paper, crayons, paint and markers, Monika loves the adventure of not knowing exactly how her illustrations are going to get from start to finish, growing organically as she listens to audio books. 


She describes her work as "technicolor", and I couldn't agree more. She is a master at combining dark, moody shades with bright pops of color, creating lush palettes with neverending texture. I especially enjoyed following her recent project on Instagram - illustrating all the matches of the World Cup


Monika also made it to the semi-finals of the 2014 Global Talent Search - way to go!! You can see her piece here.

Thanks for following as I hop - hop - hopped through 3 amazing artists' work. Please check out their portfolios and stay tuned for when they share their inspirations next week!

Have an awesome week,






Palm Springs Mini-Collection {Happy Happy}

I am so excited to share my latest group project from Happy Happy Art Collective! This summer Lauren taught a class geared towards art licensing at Watkin's College of Art, Design & Film. She thought it would be fun to assign the Happy Happy ladies the same project as her students - creating an mini collection using a city as inspiration.

My first thought was Seattle, since my family was headed there for vacation. And though I truly loved my time in Seattle (what a fun city!), I had a hard time coming up with a theme for my collection - sure, there's coffee and rain and music, but those themes just weren't ME. 

As I was contemplating other cities, I decided to do something more architecture-based. Usually, my illustrations are pretty organic - so I thought focusing on buildings could be a nice change. Then I started thinking about different types of architecture, and of course, I decided to do something from the 1950s/60s. What city is known for their mid-century architecture? Palm Springs!

I've never been there, but I'd love to go some day. And once I started researching the Desert Modern Architecture and Eichler homes, of course I HAD to check out the going rate for one of them on Air BnB. Yikes! I'll have to start saving ASAP. :-)

First I started out by drawing the Palm Springs Houses.


I couldn't stop!


Those rooflines! The textures! The patterns! Even the landscaping was perfectly proportioned. I decided to focus on the different elements.


And just for fun, I did a quick pattern using my Pentel brush pen:



I intended to create my main pattern utilizing the houses, then create two more inspired by the elements. I envisioned a warm, pastel/coral palette, inspired by the desert. 

And without further ado, here is my Palm Springs Mini Collection!


Here's a closer look:





If I ever get the opportunity to visit Palm Springs, I am DEFINITELY making myself a bag out of this fabric!

Please, please please head over to the HHAC blog to see the rest of the city collections. They are amazing!!

Have a fantastic weekend,






Sh*tty Barn Poster {Spirit Family Reunion 2013}

Recently, I got the opportunity to design another gig poster for the Sh*tty Barn. This was a fun one : Spirit Family Reunion! Their music is so full of energy, it is almost impossible not to clap or stomp along while listening to it.

They paint some beautiful imagery with their lyrics, so I decided to focus on a phrase from their song, On That Day: "...like the clothes upon the line...". I thought it would be fun to create the letters of their band name out of pieces of clothing hanging on a clothesline.

Here's the sketch:


And here's the final poster!


I played with texture in the knockout areas of the clothing which adds a bit of visual interest and balances the linework pretty well. Also, I made myself use colors that weren't red or pink or turquoise! It was tough, but I think it speaks to their music better than my typical bubblegum pop color schemes. 

Unfortunately, I had to miss the show this year, which was a bummer. Fingers crossed that I'll get back to The Barn sometime this season yet!

Have a great week!

Desktop Calendar {August 2014}

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

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



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

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

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

The biking Balsleys

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



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

Happy biking!

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!




Desktop Calendar {July 2014}

Well, hello!

It has been a while since I've been around these parts - actually, the last time I posted was the June desktop calendar... yeesh!

I hope y'all are having a lovely summer so far.

The July calendar, inspired by the summer sun, is a bit of a departure from my typical illustrations:



If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen a few of my daily doodles during the month of June - I called them #doodleshapes, because I started with a solid shape of color, then transformed that shape into an object with just a few strokes of black pen. Because I have been so swamped with work, I didn't get a chance to explore a lot of doodle shapes, but I wanted to incorporate that idea into July's calendar.

Utilizing blocks of color, negative space and sparse line work, I was able to illustrate these bathing beauties. I have to say - I LOVED this challenge. Plus, it has been a while since I've focused on the human form and it was a nice change from my usual subject matter.

I like this one so much, I might turn it into a print - or a series of prints. What do you think?

To download the July 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. 

If you're reading this in the U.S., have a wonderful 4th of July holiday!



Walter the Whale {Spoonflower Fabric}

I'm back with another fun Spoonflower pattern! This week the theme was Whales. Apparently, whales are going to be the next big thing in 2014...

I liked the idea of making a happy whale with a big, toothy smile. That's when I decided to sketch Walter the Whale. Since whales have such a big expanse of nothingness, I added a little dotty design element for visual interest. 



We were given a color palette. Initially I liked it, but when I started putting the colors together I had a hard time getting them to gel how I preferred. So I decided to forego the cream all together and used the rose-y color sparingly. I was hoping for more contrast with the rose and raspberry, but unfortunately, it got kinda lost...


And here is my final piece!


As you can see, Walter is having a blast frolicking in the sea. If you're feeling inclined, head on over to the weekly Spoonflower contest and give Walter some love! There are a LOT of super whale designs - apparently everyone wanted to get in on the whale trend!

Have an awesome weekend,



Mad Science {Spoonflower Fabric}

I was super excited for the latest Spoonflower challenge - it was a Science Fair theme! Something you may not know about me is my love for Science (biology and anatomy, specifically). I took several science classes in college, and thoroughly enjoyed drawing things I saw under the microscope. At one point, my Zoology professor actually suggested medical illustration as a career path for me. I was really interested in that idea until I found out there were only a few universities in the U.S. where I could get that highly specialized degree. Oh well. Such is life.

Fast forward to last week when I was working on sketches for this pattern. I was having a blast creating little Science-y icons!



For this composition, I wanted to create a more organized pattern. Rows of icons could be cool...but how could I make it more interesting? I decided to first create a hex pattern which was a nod to molecular structures, THEN fill in the hex shapes with my icons.


When I was working on my sketches, I had a pale yellow - red - light blue - black color scheme in my head. I applied it to my pattern, and I was very happy with how it complemented my icons. It has a sort of vintage feel which I love.

If you're feeling inclined, head on over to Spoonflower and vote for your favorite Science Fair designs - it is so interesting seeing everyone's interpretations!

Have an awesome weekend!



Bedtime for Bunnies {Spoonflower Fabric}

Though I didn't have a lot of time this week, I managed to squeeze another pattern in for the weekly Spoonflower contest. The theme was so fun, I hated to pass it up just because I wanted a few extra ZZZs. Which is ironic, considering the theme was 

Bedtime!

Stella's bedtime routine is VERY important - if we happen to miss something, she is right there reminding us what we forgot. She is quite the task master when she wants to be! I decided to use her bedtime as my inspiration for a few sketches.


Is it weird that I put bunny slippers on a bunny?



For this contest, Spoonflower provided us with a color scheme. Usually I love limited color palettes. This one, not so much - the yellow and purple were really intense. Oh well - those were the parameters and I was going to make it work!


One thing I discovered during this process, was, even though I am getting better at setting up square repeat patterns in Photoshop, I can't seem to figure out other types of repeats - namely half-drop. I have a couple books that I've been referencing, but these novelty patterns that are a bit more complicated are really tripping me up. If any of you have any tips or resources, I'm all ears! 

And of course, I have to plug the contest! Head on over to Spoonflower and give my Bedtime for Bunnies pattern some love! Thanks!

xo


Gems + Geodes {Spoonflower Fabric}

Hello!

This week I decided to create an entry for the current Spoonflower contest. The theme was Geodes and Gemstones.

As I've mentioned before, my typical subject matter consists of flowers, animals and Stella - NOT stones...or anything geometric, for that matter! I thought it would be a fun challenge.

After researching what EXACTLY gems and geodes were, I decided I would focus on gems. I drew a whole page of these cute little structures!



After I brought them into Photoshop, I set my palette and tried to figure out how to show the gems' dimension without adding too many colors. My solution was some crosshatching!



By layering the colors of my basic palette, I was able to not only add dimension, but some nifty tones with the "transparency" the crosshatching created. My eyes were watering like crazy from drawing all of these fine lines, but I am really happy with how it turned out.

Tomorrow Spoonflower voting begins! Be sure to head on over to the contest and check out all the awesome selections. If you're interested in my other Spoonflower patterns, check 'em out right here.




Great Barrier Reef {Spoonflower Fabric}

Once of my 2014 goals is to do more patterns. I would love to get some work in the surface design category, whether wrapping paper, fabric or home decor - so I figured in order to make this happen, I need to make more patterns! 

I love assignments - they challenge me to create something out of my usual wheelhouse. So I decided I would start partaking in Spoonflower's weekly fabric design contests. I've been meaning to spend more time on Spoonflower's  lovely site, especially now that they offer wallpaper and gift wrap options, so this would be a win-win. 

The theme for the current design contest was Great Barrier Reef. If there is one thing I don't draw a lot of, it is fish - or any water creatures, for that matter. I usually prefer a hairier subject matter! But this is what the challenge is all about, right?

I started out by drawing a lot of coral - so many beautiful colors, shapes and sizes! I was having a lot of fun.



I decided at that point that I was going to stick with the coral - no fish. I liked the idea of focusing on the underwater flora. Inspired by these IKEA glasses one evening,


I found my color palette!

And here is the full Great Barrier Reef design, in all it's glory:



If you're digging it, I'd love your vote over at Spoonflower! To vote in this week's contest, please click here. Thanks!

I have to say, this was super fun. Though I wasn't particularly thrilled by the theme at first, I am really happy with how the pattern turned out. It just goes to show, it is worth going out of your comfort zone once in a while!

Have a great week,


2013 Holiday Card

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

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


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

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


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

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



Party Paper {Make Art That Sells Week 10}

I made it! School is officially out. Meaning, Make Art That Sells with Lilla Rogers is over. What a whirlwind the last five months have been! I plan to do a post to summarize my projects and thoughts about MATS, but for now, I am going to focus on the final week : Party Paper.

What is party paper? Well, simply put, it encompasses paper goods associated with a party - paper plates, napkins, cups, tablecloths, crepe paper streamers, etc. Lilla asked us to focus on Ukrainian and Bavarian folk art for our inspiration, as birds and florals are such an important theme in party paper goods. 

Wow. I had SO much fun perusing folk art inspiration. I already utilize many elements of folk art in my illustration so I knew this was going to be a good fit. First I started filling a page with the amazing patterns I was seeing on Ukrainian Eggs (I have always been a huge fan):


During my research, I stumbled across some fantastic folk art in the fashion world:

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These were from the Spring 2013 collection of fashion designer Mara Hoffman. Gorgeous, right? I was completely smitten by the background images. Turns out this was a collaboration between Mara and Ukrainian folk artist Maria Primachenko. I had to find out more. Oh my gosh. I was blown away by her work - the color...the patterns...the creatures! I had to start drawing. I filled a page with Maria-inspired doodles:


At that point, I knew where I wanted my pieces to go. I drew up a round plate and a square napkin.



Now came the fun part - adding color! I wanted it to be bold and bright. I ended up putting the bird on a white background and the giraffe on a black background for maximum POP. Here are my finished party paper goods!


I had a blast with this assignment. In fact, I recently acquired a tired, old toy chest that we are going to utilize in our mudroom as a storage bench. I just put a fresh coat of black paint on it, and I have now been inspired to do some folk-art inspired hand painting on it to give it a little personality. I can't wait to share it!

Thanks again for following my journey through Make Art That Sells. It has been a wonderful experience! Check out some of my other classmates, while you're at it: Denise • Ine • Sam • Johanna.


Editorial {Make Art That Sells Week 9}

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

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


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

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

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

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


And here is the final map!


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

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

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

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