Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Feeling a bit spacey



I've been absent from Spoonflower contests for a while. MATS and other things have taken over my life since February or so, but I couldn't pass up this most recent contest: Cosmic Voyage.

I have a special fondness for space and astronomy. It ranks right up there with my interest in tornadoes and apes that communicate via sign language. Growing up in a rural area with very dark skies, we could regularly see the Milky Way, and in college I was fascinated by SETI and went on a reading binge where I read a bunch of books on the subject. Aside from my own interest, my husband always wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up, so he really, REALLY likes astronomy.

The first Christmas my husband and I were dating, I bought him a big, fancy telescope kind of like this one. It was so awesome: it was motorized, had an automatic star finder device, and could track celestial objects across the sky. It went with us on our trip to NY to see my parents that December, and one night as my husband-to-be and my dad looked at the stars together from out on the driveway, he asked my dad's permission to marry me.

Now, 11 years later, our oldest child is maybe just old enough to appreciate (that is, not break) the telescope. Maybe we'll get it up out of the basement this summer!


Here's what I came up with for the Spoonflower contest -- some astronauts, watercolor planets, and goofy aliens. It's entitled "Space… A Friendly Place!" because thinking that the aliens might not be glad to see us (as in, they might want to annihilate us) is something I'd rather not contemplate. Thanks to my husband's Ancient Aliens just-before-bed obsession, I often go to sleep creeped out by alien abduction and that sort of thing. (Actually I do like to get a glimpse of that guy's hair.) So my aliens are a little bit goofy and very, very nice.

Friday, May 16, 2014

MATS at Surtex

Surtex, the big licensing show in NYC, is coming up this weekend, and some of my MATS mates and other artists I know have been knocking themselves out preparing for it. I've put together a list of their fabulous promo cards and look books. Take a peek at some really amazing work!

This week our 5 year old is graduating from preschool, which happens to be at the same time as Surtex, and of course I don't want to miss her ceremony, so Surtex is out this year. One of these years I'll make it to NYC walk the show. It's been almost a quarter century since I've been to that part of the world… dang, I'm old!

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Victoria Johnson


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Alex Columbo / Studio Alex

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Sarah Ehlinger / Very Sarie

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Bari J.



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Kathy Weller



Artwork ©Kathy Weller


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Feng Liang


Website



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Aileen Tu (exhibiting with Cultivate Art Collective)




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Gina Linn Designs


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Stacy Peterson


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Nina Edwards / Metropolitan Miss



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Lauren Minco




Wednesday, April 23, 2014

They Draw & Travel



I've been working feverishly (no, really!! I actually did have a fever!) on a map for a contest on They Draw & Travel. The task was to draw a map of the town where you live now or your home town. I decided to draw my home town of LeRoy, NY, even though I haven't lived there in over 20 years, because I know (knew) it so well.

That knowledge was kind of a problem, because OF COURSE I had to include all the details on most of the notable buildings, so it took me something like 100 years to finish it, and both the to-do list of stuff to draw and the time it was taking me to illustrate them increased exponentially because I was so sick. I was still tweaking after I'd uploaded it, but I think I'm going to call it done now.

Today they're posting the runner-ups and honorable mentions…. very exciting! I know mine hasn't won any special mention; really, I'm just happy to have finished it, especially considering the circumstances!

Anyway, I loved seeing all the different ways other artists interpreted the theme: hand-drawn, computer illustrated, some very loosely designed, some more traditional. It was a surprise to find out so many of my fellow MATS-ians created maps, too! I wanted to highlight as many as I could, so in no particular order, here they are:


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

So what? Sew postcards!



I think I may have found a new appreciation for sewing. Thanks to my playtime yesterday (working on my contribution to the Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap), I have some big ideas percolating about combining all the different stuff I do: digital vector illustration, watercolor, paper crafting, sewing, acrylic on canvas paintings.

I almost didn't sign up for the postcard swap. I definitely don't need more stuff to do, especially projects with deadlines. Some days I consider it a really big accomplishment if I take a shower. And my youngest is almost a preschooler… so it's not like I have the new-mom excuse anymore.

When I was about nine years old, my mom, who has loved to sew since she was about that same age, decided I was old enough to learn. So she taught me, but I never really liked it. All the measuring and cutting and seam ripping -- a process I didn't particularly enjoy, all to make projects I liked, but didn't LOVE.

So my sewing machine sits inside a sewing cabinet in the other side of my house -- away from the dog (she's young and still chews table legs occasionally), away from the kids and my computer and art nook (A.K.A. a corner of the family room.) I rarely sew, mostly because of the cabinet's location, but also, out of sight, out of mind. Yesterday I decided to move the machine to the little table next to my computer desk.

I went into making the postcard with no ideas about color, no preliminary sketches, nothing but a little box of scraps, ribbon and sequins that didn't even go together. I just cut and added stuff, used a bunch of fancy stitches that I've never used before, and it was fun! I wasn't following a pattern or plan, just winging it; creating and making decisions about what to add or do next the whole time I was sewing. I think that had a lot to do with it.

So now I'm wondering, what if I made mini quilts like this? Scanned them in? Added them to my vector illustrations and scanned in pen sketches and watercolor blotches? I'm excited to try.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

2014, the Year of Good Stuff



I've always wondered about the philosophy of "everything happens for a reason." If I look back at situations that got me to where I am today, personally and professionally, I can definitely connect the dots. Everything influenced what came after it.

So, A (no money for college) led to B (a "cheap" state school fully funded by student loans) led to C (my freshman roommate who moved to Chicago) led to D (me moving to Chicago) led to E (meeting my husband and having three awfully boisterous but wonderful little ones), led to F (a Christmas present led to my art licensing career), and here I am.

But, does everything REALLY happen for a reason, or do we figure out a reason for everything that happened, after the fact? Do we have any control over it?

The point of all this is, I think sometimes it's good to be proactive to make sure that they're GOOD things happening. (Though I do believe that something good can be found in just about everything. Case in point, the cat "accidents" (ugh) over the past week resulted in a sparkly clean laundry room.) With that in mind, here are the good things I'm planning for 2014:

  • Paint (take Flora Bowley's Bloom True e-course)
  • Develop a truly awesome portfolio (MATS Part B & Bootcamp should help)
  • Get a couple new licensing partners in the Home, Gift and Wall Art categories
  • Figure out the details for an art/craft book I want to write
  • Update my website, including only the stuff I really love to do (and deleting the stuff I don't)
  • Be more calm more often
  • Draw every day

Monday, December 2, 2013

Make Art That Sells, doing what you love, and finding joy along the way


I recently completed Part A of Lilla Rogers' insanely rigorous yet wonderful online class, Make Art That Sells, which concentrated on bolt fabric, home decor, children's books, wall art, and gifts.  It's a jam-packed five weeks full of tips, tricks, advice, and info on five different art markets, lots of drawing, lots of self-doubt and ultimately lots of growth.

Some of us MATS students decided to do a little blog tour all about the class, and today along with Victoria Johnson and Emily Dyer, it's my turn!

I was seriously impressed with the talent of my classmates. Here are just two examples:

Victoria Johnson
Art created during MATS by Victoria Johnson

Victoria is so good at effortlessly combining hand-drawn and digital, and making them work together beautifully to create cohesive and awesomely cool things that would appeal to a wide range of ages, myself included. (I'd love to have those plates in my kitchen!)


Children's book illustration by Emily Dyer

And I was really impressed with Emily's cut paper designs -- she does them by hand, and it was such a treat to see her in-progress photos! The cut paper illustrations are incredibly intricate and beautiful all on their own, and make a bold and unique style when combined with digital, like in the illustration above, that reminds me a little of linocut, which I love.


Investing in myself

I went into MATS after a bunch of years in graphic design/illustration, with two licenses for my work, but no idea what to do next -- no clue what steps to take to get to that place I didn't even know I wanted to go to.

I decided, I'm at the point in my life where I know I reeeeally love art licensing, a lot, and I want to do more of it. And MATS seemed a good investment in myself so I can reach that goal.

There was a lot of talking myself out of it before I actually went ahead and signed up for the course (barely a week before it started, naturally.) I wondered, since I've been marginally successful so far -- or maybe just really lucky, would I get a lot out of this course? I've never spent nearly as much for an online course… is the cost worth it? Is it really as awesome and life-changing as others have claimed?

Well, if your average art/business of art class is a two-scoop ice cream cone, MATS is like a twenty scoop, five banana mega über banana split with ten kinds of sprinkles, peanuts and pecans and a gallon of caramel and chocolate sauces, with a cherry on top, and you must eat the whole thing in about a half hour. Yes, it IS absolutely all that and a bag of chips.

What's it all about?

During five weeks, you get info and advice about five different markets. You get a ton of really useful tips about how to break down an otherwise Big Scary Important project into tiny, manageable and fun steps. You get advice on how to make the most of your time, despite your own personal circumstances (full time job, kids + pets to take care of, whatever else you're juggling.) You get advice about being true to yourself, finding joy in everything you do, and making stuff YOU love, work that will ultimately sell because all that joy will shine through! The whole course, from Lilla herself to all my fellow students, is infused with excitement, positivity and joy. Surprisingly so. I haven't felt this much a part of a like-minded community of artists since college!

My collage/digital hybrid wall art


Crying over plates

During the class, I hoped to get inspired to try mediums again that I haven't used in years (oil and acrylic, collage) and ones I still use but not as much as I'd like (watercolor), and possibly use them in new ways. My work has been feeling kind of stale and I hoped to figure out how to combine traditional mediums with the digital that I do 90% of the time nowadays. During MATS, I thought I'd pick up some insider tips about breaking into markets I haven't tried yet.

I started out excited, optimistic and inspired. After a week of struggling with my bolt fabric design, I was a bit discouraged. After two weeks I actually cried, my plate designs were that bad. After three weeks I thought maybe I should give up new markets and stick to what I know.

I was surprised to realize I have not much of a clue when it came to wall art, home decor, and gifts. In retrospect, I've never designed plates, and my oil painting days were many years ago, and I realized I need to just RELAX already and enjoy the process (that's where Lilla's brilliant idea to do minis --drawing lots and lots of icons before tackling the actual project -- really helped me out!)

Postscript

What I learned:
  • People buy your joy
  • There's room for all good art
  • Everyone is at a different place in their art journey, and wherever you are now is right where you need to be!
I just love that phrase: "people buy your joy." It's so true. Thinking back to my most successful work, those were also the ones I most enjoyed creating. The ones I'd get so wrapped up in, I'd forget to go to the bathroom and feed the children, and things I had cooking on the stove always burned.

Did I do everything I wanted to during MATS? Well, I got out my acrylics and collage stuff and painted on canvas. I found some new ways of working. I filled up a sketchbook. I drew in Starbucks. I have a million ideas for things I want to create. I now have more knowledge and confidence to make good work. And I'm excited to put all these ideas into practice. So yeah, in case you're wondering, I'd recommend the class… it was definitely worth it!

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And now, a list of blog tour participants!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Maybe I should take up drinking?



When I signed up for Making Art That Sells, I thought it would be just what I needed at this point in my art licensing career. I have my Silhouette and Timeless Treasures licenses, and client projects, but my work felt sort of stagnant. I've been wanting to bring in some more hand-drawn imagery especially into my fabric designs, but am not sure quite how to combine it with digital. I was hoping the class would help sort it out.

I thought it would teach me a lot and be a lot of work (it is both)… but I had this notion that it would be tons of fun. Strangely and surprisingly, I'm finding it difficult and frustrating, and in classic melodramatic Jen style, it's having me doubting my talent and ambition and feeling discouraged and mopey.

The first week was bolt fabric… fun and easy, right? Nope. It was like my friend's husband in his bowling tournament: I crashed and burned. Fun sketching… but frustrating coming up with a print I was even sort of happy with.

I was slightly nervous about week two (plates), which I have no experience designing for…. again I had lots of fun sketching, but the final assignment was the same kind of thing as week 1.

Then last week was children's books, which I do have a bit of experience with. I really enjoyed creating the week's assignment -- I was excited to work on it! -- and thought the final result was a bit better than weeks 1 & 2, but it has the same stiff, uncomfortableness as my other two assignments.

This week it's wall art. I'm feeling even more anxious about it.

It's probably that I'm putting too much pressure on myself to come up with something super awesome. If I was still 21, I might try drinking a few beers and working on my assignment.

Once semester in college, I took a figure drawing course with a very colorful professor. She always wore black clothes, patterned knee socks and black Chuck Taylors. I remember us giggling over her artwork when we found out she created sculptures of giant phalluses (we were only 20 or 21, after all!)

One night some friends and I imbibed before starting in on our homework, which was drawing each other in charcoal. The next day we hung up our work in the studio. Judy came in and studied the drawings. She commented on mine, not knowing whose it was. "Such freedom, so loose and wonderful! Whose is this?" "It's mine," I replied, "but not my best work. I had a little to drink before I drew it." She said, "Well, I'd say you need to drink EVERY time you draw!" Everyone laughed.

I've never forgotten that. It was said jokingly, but there was a real lesson within: lighten up, have fun, stop taking everything so seriously! Tap into your humor and quirkiness!

Art has always been fun for me, and if it's not, like these past couple weeks, I need to figure out how to make it fun again. So, with that, here's what I want to accomplish during the rest of MATS:

- HAVE FUN and enjoy the process; play lots.
- Remember this is NOT a competition.
- Remember that everyone's taste is different & everyone is at a different place in their art.
- Play with combining hand-drawn / hand painted stuff with digital.

Okay? No big deal. Calm down. It's all good. Everything will look better in the morning. I can so totally do this. Yay team. Breeeeathe. Go into the studio and make some great stuff!