Friday, July 10, 2015

Alice in Wonderland!

I recently had the great honor of illustrating the cover for a re-issue of Alice in Wonderland for Scholastic Book Clubs. This really was a dream job for me, since it combined both illustration and hand lettering, plus it was such an awesome subject. Not only am I a big Alice fan, this year marks the 150th anniversary of its first publication, making it all the more special to have the opportunity to work on.

I don't normally show my process but I thought I'd show my initial thumbnails I submitted. The parameters were pretty open other than that the book would come packaged with a mini pocket watch, so that needed to be featured alongside the white rabbit and Alice, of course. 

The bottom left option was the one that was selected, which was a favorite of mine along with the top left. I was pretty surprised that it was chosen, mainly since I had taken the typographic liberty of line breaking up "wonderland." The revisions were only to flop Alice and make her look older and more tween/teen looking. Basically, I just lengthened her torso, cinched in her waist and slimmed down her face and there you go! 

Because these titles for the book clubs are reproduced at a tiny thumbnail size, it need to be readable at a reduced size, so I went with a dark background to make the title pop. It worked pretty well, since Alice's descent is kind of mysterious anyway. The best part was adding some angry flowers!

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Been trying to expand the ol' folio recently into the tween category. Oh to be 10-12 years old, living an aspiring, drama-free life, poolside in Palm Springs... why not?!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Surtex, part 2!

So, dear readers, here is the long anticipated (if you don't know me, please insert heavy sarcasm...), part 2 of my surtex journey, this time concentrating on how we (Tammie, Emily and I) worked together as a collective in preparing for the show. 

Firstly, let me say that if you are planning on exhibiting in a group, make sure you have common goals, work ethics and individual styles that ultimately look good when shown together in the same space. Maybe that seems obvious, but the look of your booth, design, etc. should have a cohesive vibe to it...not so much where the individuality gets lost, but enough that a passerby knows the kind of art to expect. The three of us (along with the other collective members) had been together, doing collaborative projects for over a year, so we knew that we could depend on each other going in, to share the workload and work well on a collaborative basis. 

Once we committed to the show, our first design-related order of business was to put together a Surtex ad. We were all busy, so naturally, the deadline creeped up and we only had a few days to put something together. After deciding to just divvy up the allotted space in thirds, it was apparent that we would need vertical images! Giraffes, llamas and top hats to the rescue, haha. We agreed to an overall palette for cohesiveness, added some coordinating patterns at the bottom to fill the space (and show we could do more than characters...a recurring theme). Emily put together the overall design with some additional great hand lettering and we were done in about 24 hours, whew!

Our next design topic, was the booth itself. This was a little trickier. We all were of the opinion that we wanted to stand out and be different, which by our definition, meant not going the typical vertical banner route. I believed that as a collective, we had a unique opportunity to do something a bit different...we had the advantage of combining our time resources as opposed to an individual artist and yet we were not as large as your typical design studio, attempting to fairly represent a larger number of artists' work. Our booth design evolved over time and many discussions, via text, email, Facebook, google chats, you name it. Initially, we were going to feature a different character scene on each wall. The characters would be dressed in our own patterns and hopefully, could be printed on foam core, to give the walls some added dimension. The more we thought about this, the more we realized that this would really only feature characters. Being a group with differing strengths, we needed to rethink and come up with a design that could showcase pattern work more effectively. Tammie came up with the great idea of extending the "rain" theme we already had going on the character wall, with a wall filled with raindrop patterns. At that point, we felt that we would have the best of both worlds... pattern + characters = happy happy!
Wall design that was axed in favor of the raindrop wall concept.

Initial thumbnail of what our character wall might look like.

Next came the extras. Emily had the awesome idea of having a selfie wall. Since we had a corner booth with an outside wall, we decided to utilize that for selfies. That left the interior/flip side of the same wall. Having crappy site lines (we started referring to it as the "useless wall") I thought of playing up the rain theme a little more (yep, I know how to run an idea into the ground) with a fun self promo.... squirt guns (or for the politically correct crowd, "soakers"). With all the walls, spoken for, we divided up the tasks. Emily did the character background and designed the selfie shapes (we divided up the props themselves later), Tammie did a graphic plaid background for the raindrop wall and other areas, and I did a happy happy lettering pattern for the selfie backdrop along with the headers for the squirt guns. 
We each contributed our own birds as well as hand lettered names.
Credit for the Happy Happy Art Collective logo goes
to Muffin Grayson.
Now it was time for actual design and production. We never actually comped up what the final booth would look like, something that in retrospect, was kinda scary. The most we did was mock up our own areas of the walls. Emily provided the background image, and I made sure that my elephant would fit. For production, again we divided up responsibilities. I dealt with the foam core vendor, Tammie with the banners and Emily tied up all the loose ends and handled a lot of the dealings with the show itself. We had talked intermittently about hanging raindrops, suns clouds, etc. as a cute finishing touch. That idea got scaled down to a raindrop banner, hung between the poles. I found some cool colored vinyl online (what can I say... I procrastinate by shopping...) and we cut and strung together all the drops on setup day.

This was Emily's preliminary character wall background for layout purposes, She later added flowers that we each had drawn. White vinyl raindrops were added by hand at the show after we had adhered our guys to the banner.

Fortunately, Tammie was local, so we had the everything shipped to her (lucky Tammie). The only snafu was with the foam core. The company I found that could print and die cut our characters was based in San Diego. Needless to say, oversized  foam core animals with skinny appendages don't always travel well cross-country, but we gave ourselves enough time for some redo's, which we ended up needing to do. Setup day was a bit more involved than the usual hanging of banners. The command velcro strips worked really well, even with hanging our big, wall-sized banners. After cutting numerous foam core tabs to the backs of the characters and raindrops, we adhered them all and moved on to cutting out more raindrops for the various walls as well as for the banners. We decided to tackle packaging up the squirt guns back at the hotel, after we ate.

Our wild and crazy Saturday night activity... bagging and stapling up squirt gun promos!

our promo table set up... magnets, cards, postcards, stickers and pencils galore!
Emily was a pro at interacting with the passerby's!

my little shower of patterns :)

Ultimately, we were super psyched when we saw how it all turned out (so maybe we or at least I was a tiny bit worried, not having comped it all up!) The show went very well and the booth design and selfie station served as great conversation starters. Well, I think that about covers it! If you haven't dozed off by now, thanks for reading!

parting was sweet sorrow!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

new stuff

hey, now that all the hullabaloo of surtex is over, I can share some of my new stuff I took. Well, I guess it wasn't exactly a state secret before, but, everyone always seems to keep surtex stuff all hush hush, beforehand, so what do I know? Anyhow, here's some of what I took and no, you can never make enough stuff. Check out my site for lots more... (ok, that may be an exaggeration... some more?!)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Surtex 2015.... part 1

Seems like the posts where you think you have the most to say, are the most difficult to begin. I am trying my hardest not to fall into my usual trap of starting off with, "Well..." Looking back at my posts, it's downright embarrassing how many times I start out that way! 

Anyway, (is that really any better?!?!) Surtex was an absolute whirlwind, from the moment I got there  and began the set up process to the last minutes of the show. I met so many great artists that I've been fans of for some time and I can honestly say, they are collectively, a wonderful group, funny, talented, friendly and just great to hang out with. Definitely a major highlight of the show for me.

I was reading my friend Lauren Lowen's recent post on her road to Surtex and it really got me to contemplate my own path. I don't have the same background, but she made me think about the how's and why's of getting to the show. I'm a graphic designer by trade...that's what my degree is and the design program at Penn State was meant to develop you into an art director. NOT an illustrator, which is why I don't consider myself much of a drawer. I still don't think of myself as an 'artist' and that's actually ok. I like to think that I'm more of a problem solver. But, when it comes to presenting yourself as an artist licensing/selling your work, it can get a little tricky. Truthfully, I never even heard of Surtex until a couple years ago, when I took a series of online classes. It opened my eyes to the possibility of working to get stuff in the marketplace, vs. working for a client. Big difference.

My first job out of college, was as a entry level designer for a major toy company. I had interviewed at a number of small agencies, but landed in corporate design. It's an area that is often overlooked by graphic design grads, but it gives you a great background in working with and for all the different aspects of getting a product to the market place. From R&D, to marketing, to upper management, to sales, packaging, copywriting, legal and merchandising departments...there's a lot to learn. I worked with a lot of brands and helped develop and apply styles (yes, I even did a few My Little Pony rump designs O_O). I left Hasbro to raise my family and I continually, in dribs and drabs, started doing some freelance illustration. But not "licensing." Somewhat ironic in that I did a lot of work for the Licensing department, developing kits that defined brands like MLP, Monopoly, Mr. Potato Head, Furby, etc. I was pretty good at creating patterns, motifs, etc. that expanded the brand for manufacturers to use, but my own brand? What was that? I worked to briefs, solved problems, came up with ideas. I never gave my own "brand" a second thought. 

So the whole concept of coming up with art that others would be interested in, was pretty foreign. Make art that sells, do what you love... huh?!? To be honest, that still seems like a stretch at times. I decided to walk the show last year, and like so many others have said, it was completely overwhelming. So much to see, learn and process. I never had the courage to take a single peep into any portfolios, just walked around. When the opportunity arose to show with my happy happy friends, even though I felt completely unprepared, I knew it might be my best and only chance to get in. Usually the one standing on the sidelines watching, instead of logically waiting and developing an appropriate amount of work, I decided to go for it. We formally committed to a booth in January, but due to other commitments, I didn't start anything until mid-March! Not a plan I recommend to anyone! I did a lot of 'refresh' on some existing work (my motto being, it's new to you! ;) Here's an example...

This was originally a journal cover that I reformatted and did some coordinates and new lettering.

Even though I walked the show, I still didn't feel like I had a handle on what to show. This would be my biggest learning curve. I knew I wasn't a "pattern" person, but despite that, I still felt compelled to do them. That was my biggest eye opener. You don't have to do "patterns." Not that you shouldn't of course, but it's not a requirement. There were very few who came to our booth that were actually looking for them. A majority seemed to be in the market for icons that they could pull out and use. And Christmas. Bring it. You can't have enough of it. It was downright shocking to us how often we were asked for that subject. I had some, but should have had a lot more. I had heard that there would be a lot of requests for boys prints, but that didn't seem to be the case for us, at least.

Another surprise was the number of publishers present. This was great for me, since it's an area I really want to get into more. It makes sense, since NYC is kinda the publishing capital of the world, but surprising at least to me, considering it is advertised as a licensing show. Again, it's not all about pattern.

What do I wish I had done more of? Just prints and lettering in general...more that could be applied directly to the paper market. What was I glad I had? Prints with an abundant number of characters. It gives the buyer more bang for their buck. Can't have enough of that. What do I wish I had done? Send out show stopper self promos. Even if it is only to a handful of very select dream clients, if you do it well enough, you can really stand out and get noticed. Case in point...Emily's pennants! Who could resist or forget these beauties?

What was I glad I did? Show up. There's nothing like it. Where it all leads, remains to be seen, but it all went down pretty well and I'm excited about what happened and what might happen next! Stay tuned for part 2 when I talk about booth design and showing with a collective :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

cinco de mayo surtex silliness


yeah, you know when you have a crap load of stuff that you know you should/need/must be doing and then you get some stupid idea that you just have to see through? Well, that's what happened today. Because sometimes, you just can't resist the stupid. oh and happy cinco de mayo!

And as long as we're talking surtex, here are my other two more "official" flyers...

Sunday, April 19, 2015

storytime magazine

I must say, over the past year, I have been extremely fortunate, having some wonderful opportunities just land in my lap. An illustration job for Storytime Magazine is no exception.  Truthfully, I had never seen this magazine before, mainly due to that fact that it's new and does not get US distribution (hopefully that will change!) It's soooo gorgeous, filled monthly with lovely illustrations from many of my favorite artists, printed on a quality matte stock, and NO ADS! It kind of reminded me of the old Ideals magazines that I remember reading with my Gramma, growing up.... full of full bleed pictures and wonderful stories and poems. Right now, there really is no other periodical like it here in the states that I know of. 

just look at that gorgeous cover illustration by Chiara Nocentini!

I was contacted by them back in January. I was super swamped at the time, but really wanted to do it, and they were kind and flexible enough to accommodate me. I have always wanted to get into editorial, so having my first job in this area being with a kid mag, really made it ideal. The story was so ABC poem. It was just so old fashioned and cute, I knew right away that I wanted to give it a retro limited color palette. I had to hide all 26 letters of the alphabet within the 2 main illos (can you find them all?), plus design a simple alphabet that corresponded to the poem. Actually, in the back of the issue, they used to letters to make a board game. Fun! 

If you live in the UK, it's definitely worth subscribing to, whether or not you have kids. I was super honored (and completely surprised) to be included.