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,

Happy Happy Art Collective


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?

Guest Posts


In the last two weeks I have been honored to be a part of two lovely ladies' blogs: 

First up, Kate Erickson, of KMericks Spreadable Joy

Kate is a painter with a wonderful blog showcasing her art and inspirations and talks about adding joy to your life. She shares her favorites, tips on exploring your style, boosting creativity and even interviews artists. Recently, I was interviewed on Kate's blog! Get to know me a little bit better right here. It was so fun - please check it out and say hi to Kate!

Next, I was a guest blogger on Lilla Rogers's blog!

Since I've been talking about Lilla for months, I probably don't need to introduce her. But just in case, Lilla Rogers was a full-time, very successful illustrator in the 1980s. In the mid-90s, her top students asked her to represent them and Lilla Rogers Studio was born. Today her studio represents 30+ artists internationally. Since Lilla is an artist herself, she really understands the creative process and how to maximize her artists' potential. I participated in her inaugural Make Art That Sells course, where we focused on 10 illustration markets and learned a TON about the illustration business.  

In my guest post, I talked about my experiences with Make Art That Sells and the Global Talent Search and my recent journey into illustration. Please read it here!

Thanks for letting me share my story with you!

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:




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!

Scrapbooking {Make Art That Sells Week 8}

Hi there! 

I'm back with another Make Art That Sells recap. Last week was all about the scrapbooking market. I'll be honest - I was probably the least excited about this topic. I think it's because I had preconceived ideas about what scrapbooking was all about and I generalized who the target consumer would be. I apologize if this offends you. But what I realized after Lilla's instruction, there is opportunity for many different styles and mediums - including mine! That's what I get for being close-minded! :-O

Wow, scrapbooking is all about STUFF. Borders, stickers, stamps, fancy papers, buttons and other embellishments - I can see why people have so much fun with it! Lilla showed us lots of examples and assigned us our mini assignment focusing on vintage cameras and typewriters. 

What an assignment! I choose to do my initial drawings using only pen (no pencil sketches), so the angles and high level of detail in these instruments really flexed my brain - trying to get it right the first time. Lilla chose these subjects BECAUSE of the details - and boy, was she right. I have to say - it was fun deconstructing the objects into their little parts and pieces - it really gave me a good idea of what they were all about. And you'll see later in my icons - I was able to incorporate some of these details in a fun and unexpected way!

For our main assignment, we were supposed to design a full page of scrapbooking 'bits and bobs' that could eventually become stickers, chip board cutouts, buttons, washi tape - you name it. And of course, use the cameras and typewriter drawings to create a "Recording Your Life" theme.

I started out by drawing a bunch of simplified typewriters, but it quickly turned into typewriter and camera characters - robots, maybe? I was really attracted to the form of the type bars, and I thought it would be fun to transform them into fancy hairdos, teeth and facial hair. Things were getting goofy, and I was trying to figure out how to tie all of my ideas together into one concise theme. 

I utilized some sound effects, phrases and positivity, along with a happy color scheme to pull it all together. I'm still not sure if it exactly meets Lilla's Recording Your Life theme, but I sure had fun with it! After learning all about the scrapbooking market, I think I could really enjoy immersing myself in themes and creating lots of these bits!

Once again, it was so neat seeing my classmates' interpretations. Here are a few for your perusal: Gabriella, MarianaIne and Denise.

Childrens' Apparel {Make Art That Sells Week 7}

Week 2 of Make Art That Sells part B was all about the Childrens' Apparel Market. Though I have never really thought about creating for kids' clothes specifically, anything for kids sounds fun, so I was all in.

Lilla gave us Camping as our theme - awesome! There are so many directions I could go. I started this assignment by writing a giant list of anything camping/woodsy related I could think of. The sketches came easily - instead of only focusing on objects, I could draw activities, as well. I decided a moose and a fox would be the stars of my collection.

I came up with a few fun scenes and phrases, and I thought they'd be nice placement graphics. I tried really, really hard to pick a color palette that wasn't typical for me. I wanted it to be a bit more sophisticated and masculine. That was tough! Way to push me out of my comfort zone...

I was having a blast with the lettering as well! I chose to keep my backgrounds simple since there was so much detail in the characters.

Once I created the three concepts, I built a few patterns that coordinate with them. The first is the main pattern, comprising of all the camping gear the fox and moose would need to hike, hang out by the fire and canoe.

And then some trees and stripes for the next two patterns:

By the time I finished with these six pieces I was almost out of time! I have never pushed it so close to the deadline. I had planned on creating a hoodie with the campfire graphic and the stripe pattern inside the hood; a pajama set with the canoe graphic for the shirt and the tree pattern for the pajama pants; and two coordinating onesies with the hiking graphic on one and the gear pattern on the other. Unfortunately I didn't have time! :-(

I'm pretty proud of this collection. Though looking at it in it's entirety, I think it's a bit to dark for your typical kids' clothes. I'm planning on revisiting the palette at some point and brightening it up a bit.

Whattya think? This was super fun!

And be sure to check out some of my other classmates' work, too! Ine • Johanna • Denise

Thanks for stopping by!

Paper {Make Art That Sells Week 6}

School is back in session! That's right. Lilla Rogers' Make Art That Sells Part 2 started back up last week. There is no rest for the weary, that's for sure!

Week 1 was all about the Paper Market. From journals to notepads to washi tape to greeting cards, the paper market encompasses a LOT. And this is one market I am dying to get into.

On Monday we were given our mini assignment - and it was all about the holidays! Yippee! Can I say, this Mrs. Claus was VERY excited about that? We were to focus on holiday ornaments and candy. So fun! I drew lots of little icons - which are key, according to Lilla. Here's a sample of the fun I was having:

When we got our main assignment on Wednesday, we were asked to create two greeting cards utilizing our holiday icons from the mini.

While brainstorming, I was trying to think of ways to display ornaments WITHOUT relying on a Christmas tree. I thought that was too obvious. Here are some of my early concept sketches: 

They were cute, but they didn't have that somethin' somethin' I was looking for. So I kept going. Eventually I came up with these: 

So much more fun! It was time to digitize. When all was said and done, I had this card:

and this card - which was the one I ended up turning in as my final.

I had a blast with this assignment. I utilized a fresh color palette, and I feel I packed a lot of personality into these cards. I have been making a huge effort to maintain a good balance of strong graphic shapes and detailed line work. And, I'm trying really hard to give my characters different expressions and features. This is so fun!

And you should definitely go check out some of my classmates' work - it was great seeing all the different interpretations of the theme : Denise, Tammie, and Lauren.

Until next time,

Global Talent Search {Final Entry}


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I now introduce to you, Shiny Happy Day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep On Keepin' On

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

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

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

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

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

Global Talent Search {Finalist!!!}

Yesterday I found out some amazingly huge news. Remember this?

Now take a look at my smiling face!

The judges picked me as a finalist in Lilla Rogers Global Talent Search! Wow. 

Knowing September 10th was the day of the big reveal, I woke up hoping to get the news right away so I wouldn't have to incessantly check my email all day. There WAS a new blog post from Lilla, but psych! It was just to tell us the finalists would be named later. Ugh!

Thankfully I had an early morning breakfast planned with two of my favorite ladies, so I welcomed the distraction. 

During my lovely breakfast, Lilla revealed the finalists. Seriously, what an amazing post! I loved that she included some of the judges' thoughts on each of our totes. And the summary was extremely thoughtful - giving a bit of insight into what is marketable.

As my shaky doodle above shows, I went through a LOT of emotions when I found out the results - I was stunned; I wept; I couldn't stop talk-talk-talking about it; I paced a lot; I freaked out. When I drew this, my hands were shaking so bad. But all of it was out of sheer excitement! I have to say - yesterday's productivity level was pretty low - it was so hard to focus!

It is still so hard to believe. I never thought I'd make the top 50, much less all the way to the finals! There were SO many fantastic artists in the pool, I can't even imagine how hard it was for the judges to narrow it down.

Now, onto the final round! The challenge was put together by Lilla and Margo Tantau of Midwest CBK - we are to essentially come up with our own line of home decor and/or gift products based off one of four trend boards provided to us. How awesome is that?

I don't have much experience in this category, but I welcome the challenge. I already have some fun ideas brewing and I'm ready to start putting them to paper. And there are five amazing artists joining me in the final - if you get a chance, you should definitely check out the others - Zoe Ingram, Lizzie Mackay, Daniel Roode, Josephine Kimberling and Vesper Stamper!

And - to all of you that voted for me in the People's Choice - THANK YOU! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Seriously. I am so grateful that you took the time to take a look at the semifinalists and cast your vote. I know how easy it is to ignore requests like that, but you didn't. I can't express my appreciation enough!

Just in case you missed the other posts about my journey to the GTS finals, you can find them here and here.

Now, off to do some sketches!!

Global Talent Search {Round 2}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global Talent Search

The final assignment in the Lilla Rogers Make Art That Sells course wasn't exactly a MATS challenge - it was for Lilla's newest endeavor - the Global Talent Search. Lilla and her team are looking for some new talent - and they're having a contest to find the best of the best. The winner would win two years representation from Lilla Rogers studio and some amazing licensing deals. Wow!

The assignment was designing a Journal cover for Paperchase with a classic playground theme. Fun! Since playgrounds are generally pretty spread out, I thought it would be tricky to showcase many different apparatuses (apparati?) on one cover, I decided to focus on one. Here are some of my sketches:

I was really drawn to the one in the upper right - I thought it was an interesting approach to the climbing apparatus, and I could have fun with the typography and characters' expressions.

I liked the idea of doing a super-saturated color palette on a Kraft cover - I thought it would make the colors pop even more. I personally love the combination of very solid color blocking and the mottled Kraft paper texture. 

So, here's my final submission!

One of my biggest takeaways from Lilla's MATS class was attention to detail. I had a lot of fun bringing these characters to life with this assignment. For example - the bird's tank top has a hopscotch graphic, and the bear's t-shirt is actually a merry-go-round! 

I submitted my journal fairly early in the process and tried not to think about it over the last couple weeks. I didn't want to stress out. I was really proud of my work and knew it was the best I could do. It turns out over 1500 people submitted from over 30 countries, so I knew there was amazing talent out there. Either way, I had an awesome piece for my portfolio.


This morning I woke up to an email announcing the top 50 finalists - AND I WAS ONE OF THEM!! Hooray! Check out the rest of the top 50!

Wow! I am still in shock. I never did end up getting a mention in Part A of Make Art That Sells, and admittedly, I was pretty disappointed. But being shortlisted in this competition makes up for it. Now I have to gear up for the next assignment as Lilla narrows it down even further. Ahhhh!

Thanks again for following me throughout this journey!

Gift {MATS Week 5}

Well, we have finally made it to the last week of Make Art That Sells part 1. What a whirlwind this has been!

Week 5 focused on the Gift market. Imagine this - you're in a coffee shop and there is a rack next to the register that is full of adorable water bottles and reusable tote bags. Can you picture it? Yup - those are the kind of items included in the gift market. 

Our mini assignment was to photograph our collections. Sounds like fun! If you have cool collections, that is. As a kid, I had lots of collections - panda bears, New Kids on the Block trading cards, seashells, marbles, etc. But as I grew older, every time I moved, my collections slowly disappeared. With this assignment, I took stock of my adult collections and couldn't come up with much. Lots of fabric, of course, some art books and handmade plush from my Plush Team friends, but that was about it.

Hmm. I decided to take a walk around my house and see if there were any themes. I have been acquiring several cool vintage tins that I've been upcycling into planters. And I can't stop buying old chairs (much to Stephen's dismay...). But my most prominent "collection" I could find ended up being my potted plants! Once I started actually taking inventory, I realized I have a LOT. So I decided that would be my theme. Here's a handful from around the house:

Our main assignment ended up being designing a zipper pouch based on our collections. Lilla also showed us a couple trends for inspiration - photo realism, hyper-lush, and ink blot patterns. Hopefully we'd be able to integrate some of these ideas into our pouch.

I decided in lieu of photographing my plants and collaging them, I would do colorful stylized paintings and collage those instead. I had fun playing with super saturated colors and vibrating color combinations. Here are my little gouache studies:

I then brought them into photo shop and started piling them all together. With the idea of "hyper-lush" in mind, I knew I had to keep the colors bold and throw my typical editing out the window. "More!" I kept telling myself. "More! More! More!". At the end of my first attempt, this is what I had:

Oh my. Though it was kinda cool, it propelled me WAY out of my comfort zone. I think it met the assignment parameters quite well, but it really didn't feel like me. So I decided to start over with the ink blot idea in mind.

Ink blotting is basically mirroring to create an even grander image. I took all of my individual plant elements and started mirroring away. But something was still missing. I remembered a doodle I had done recently of "Bloom Where You're Planted", and thought that might be a good focal point for the pouch. That way it would be almost as if the girl (me?) would be growing out of the jungle I created.

Here is my final image. It's still hyper lush, but there is some breathing room in the white space, and the jungle lady is much more indicative of my style. Done!

Phew! Even though class is over, we still have one more assignment for the Global Talent Search with Lilla Rogers. This one I'm extra excited about. I'll be back to share more details!

Thanks for following me along through my journey. It was an exhausting 5 weeks, but I am so happy I did it. For those of you interested in Part B of the course, you can find all the info here.

Oh! And if you're interested in some of my classmate's interpretation of the assignment, find them here, here, here, here, and here. It's good stuff, I tell ya!

Wall Art {MATS Week 04}


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And all of them:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think it works, right?

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

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

Thanks for stopping by! 

Desktop Calendar {July 2013}


Just popping in to share the newest desktop calendar with you - July 2013!

I had so much fun drawing mushrooms a few weeks ago for class that I decided to make them the stars of this month's calendar.

As always, you can click on the above image and save it to your desktop, or you can download a version here

I'll be back tomorrow with another school post!

Children's Books {MATS Week 3}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home Decor {MATS Week 2}

Well, there are two weeks down in this first session of Make Art That Sells with Lilla Rogers. Last week focused on the Home Decor market - a market that I honestly hadn't given much consideration.

On Monday we were given our Mini Assignment - instead of focusing on typical floral imagery such as daisies and tulips, we were to take it a step further and draw "Odd Pods" - seed pods. Who knew it could be such fun?

The shapes are still very organic, but it was the textures and the details that were so interesting. I think I could have sketched pods for days and days. Now I am curious about all flowers - what do their seed pods look like? Some of them I've already noticed, such as Allium, "Helicopters" and Poppy, but I'm going to have to pay attention to the life cycle of the flowers in our garden and do some more sketching studies throughout the season...

The main assignment was applying our seed pod drawings to the design of plates - and in a round format - something I've never had to do!

Side Note - last week, when designing the fabric, I kinda struggled with the teal pattern. After analyzing my process, I realized it was because I hadn't figured out the general composition BEFORE I sat down at the computer. I had literally opened up a white background and started importing my individual mushroom drawings. Then I scaled and rearranged from there. It was quite frustrating because I never felt there was a good balance, and I realized afterwards it was because of my approach. I rarely start digitizing my work without getting at least a rough concept composed in my sketchbook to work from. So I think that is why I was so stuck when putting together my second pattern - though I had all the elements, I still felt pretty rudderless when creating the design.

For the plates, I decided to take what I learned from the previous week and compose the circular designs in my sketchbook first, THEN take them to the computer. That worked MUCH BETTER. By the time I scanned them in, I was very comfortable with the compositions and I was excited to start playing around with color. Here are some of the sneak peeks I posted on Instagram of my pod compositions:

I played around with layering large shapes behind finer details and scaling the pods for a more interesting composition. I also drew my lines with the intention of adding shapes of color to help finish off the pods.

I was inspired by the color palette of this dress in the May 2013 J.Crew catalog:

I decided the green/neon yellow/fuschia color scheme would really pop on some plates. 

Here are the five finished designs integrating pods, a saturated palette and a bit of color blocking. I think they're really dynamic.

And just like the first week, I am constantly amazed by the talent and varying approaches to the assignments by the artists in my class. Everyone is so fabulous!

Have an excellent week!

Back to School {MATS 01}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hooray for school!