Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Super Star Interview: Tracy Mattocks

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.

This month I am thrilled to be catching up with the charming & spunky Illustrator/Designer, Tracy Mattocks! I had the pleasure of not only being Tracy’s classmate in Lilla Rogers’ first ever Make Art That Sells e-course, but also of meeting Tracy at Surtex this past May! Her booth was so fabulously playful & fun! Tracy acquired her BFA in Illustration at Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia. She has worked as an in-house designer for just over 20 years at a variety of fabulous companies, including C.R. Gibson. Recently, she enrolled in Rachael Taylor's ABSPD and Lilla Rogers' MATS online classes and was inspired to break out on her own as a freelancer. You can enjoy more of Tracy’s superstar artwork here.

How totally cute would this image be as a framed print in a playroom?!

Q: Before becoming a freelance Illustrator, you spent many years working in-house for a variety of fabulous companies, such as CR Gibson and the Betesh Group. How did that time influence your own artwork and design sensibilities?

A: Working as an in-house designer has been such a valuable experience in so many ways. One thing is that you get insight to how things are developed or how things come together; it gives you such a better understanding on the whole process. I had the opportunity to go to Hong Kong and China for one of my product design jobs and it was quite an education on how your 2D design is made into an actual 3D product. Being able to tour the factories and choose all the fabrics and embellishments first hand is amazing, not to mention eye opening. You also gain an understanding on how time is such a huge factor—things can take a really long time to go through the system and sometimes they don't even make it through, even after devoting lots of time to it, which can be very frustrating. As a freelancer, knowing these things helps you understand that there's a process and that you've got to be patient!

Love Tracy's illustrated crayon sunbeams!

Q: Tell us about your MOST favorite art project that you’ve created: one from the past and one from the present.

A: From the past—Working with Crayola on their "Green Initiative" campaign. I illustrated pieces for their crayon, colored pencil and marker boxes to show their part in giving back to the environment and working on being as "green" as they can as a company.

Present—As you know, I've been a part of Lilla Rogers' MATS classes, which have been an enormous help for me to explore and create. I think I'd have to say of those projects (which were all fun and challenging!) my favorite piece turned out to be the plates that had a succulent theme. Since so much of my work revolves around characters, shifting my focus to a subject matter and product that I probably never would have thought of on my own turned out to be just what I needed to push myself somewhere new. I surprised myself!

Q: I love your playful & fun original typography! Describe who, what, where inspires it.

A: Thanks so much for the compliment! Actually, it's mostly my own print and handwriting; it just comes out of me! Of course it's generally tweaked in some way, but it feels to me like an extension of my illustrations, which is why I guess they feel so harmonious together. But there is SO much beautiful inspiration out there! I try not to be too influenced by other artists because I don't want my work to seem inauthentic—I always want it to feel like me.

So sophisticated! Gorgeous palette!

Q: Describe your artistic process from beginning concepts and sketches to final finished artwork.

A: My process varies a bit from project to project, but generally the less I over-think something, the better it flows. I used to always sketch with a pencil on tracing paper, but lately I've been attacking copy paper with my fine-point Sharpie with reckless abandon! No erasing! I like how fresh it looks, not labored over. Once I have a bunch of drawings to go with (sometimes several sheets), I scan them in and get going in Illustrator. Sometimes I have an actual plan, but sometimes I just play until something happens. If I'm struggling with a piece, I always find it most helpful to walk away and find a distraction for a while. Coming back to it with fresh eyes is usually the best way of problem solving for me. I love when I'm working on a piece and I have a "buzz" going while I'm working. When everything is coming together the way I want, I'm actually quite giddy! Is everyone like that? Haha, I hope so!

How fun is Tracy's illustrated recipes?!

Q: What marketing/self-promotional advice would you give a fellow illustrator, given your experience having worked both as a freelance illustrator as well as an in-house client.

A: First and foremost, do your research! You don't want to send the wrong art to the wrong people. Sure, research is time-consuming and often boring, but in the long run, it will actually save you time and money. Also, follow submission guidelines—the company takes the time to make them for a reason. It helps them streamline the process. If you can't follow their guidelines, how can they expect you to follow any direction if they were to give you a project? Professionalism is so important.

Fantastic characters!!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: This is by far the hardest question! Sleeping in just a touch, but not so long as to eat away at my day. Having some espresso and reading the Sunday Times (okay...I'll be honest...only the styles section)! Then heading out for a tasty brunch with my husband or with some friends, while of course indulging in some bloody marys or mimosas depending on my mood that day! Then stretching the day into a "Sunday Funday" (as we like to call it), hanging out with friends (laughter is mandatory) and relaxing over some afternoon beers preparing for a new week to start. Hopefully that would lead into dinner and then home to relax. There are lots of things that could be inserted into this day such as: watching live music, drawing/doodling, watching baseball, a quick workout, reading...being in Paris! Haha! I could go on, but I won't.

Thank you so much for letting me share with you and your readers. It was a pleasure for me to do this!

Thank YOU, Tracy! We, here at Bird Meets Worm, love your artwork & can’t wait to see what you are up to next!

Friday, July 18, 2014

NEW Super Hoot Original Collages

Super Hoot is debuting 4 brand NEW mixed media collages today, all alphabet-inspired and ready-to-hang in your baby's nursery, child's room, playroom or any fun family space! Shop original artwork at Super Hoot now!

M Is For Monster • © Jane Smith
C Is For Cupcake • © Jane Smith
How totally perfect are these Super Hoot collage in a playroom?!
B Is For Butterfly • © Jane Smith
R Is For Rocket • © Jane Smith
Don't the on bright colors on these Super Hoot collages just pop?!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Doggies & Kitties: Celebrating Pets

Doggies & Kitties • © Jane Smith

Doggies & Kitties Coordinating Repeat • © Jane Smith

Doggies & Kitties Coordinating Repeat • © Jane Smith

I love doggies & kitties! • © Jane Smith

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pretty Princesses

Every girl is a pretty princess inside! How totally cute would my princess artwork be on kids puzzles, placemats, wall art & more?! Cheers!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Super Star Interviews: Laura Huliska Beith

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.

This month I am thrilled to be catching up with the fabulous Illustrator, Laura Huliska Beith! I first came across Laura’s artwork while working as an Art Director at Intervisual Books, who published the classic childhood favorite, Ten Little Ladybugs, illustrated by Laura. More recently, though, I was Laura’s classmate in Lilla Rogers’ Make Art That Sellse-course—so fun! Laura is a freelance Illustrator living with her husband and three dogs in Kansas City, Missouri. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, where her siblings were the inspiration behind her first picture book, “The Book of Bad Ideas” (although she takes full credit for Bad Idea #143). She has since illustrated many books including “The Recess Queen" by Alexis O’Neill, and most recently "Little Red Hot" by Eric Kimmel. Her work has also led to teaching at the Kansas City Art Institute, children’s art workshops, presentations at elementary schools, and several community art projects. You can enjoy more of Laura’s fabulous artwork here! And her books here!

The Adventures of Granny Clearwater and the Little Critter

Q: You’ve illustrated many gorgeous children’s books, but recently you’ve illustrated something a little bit different: the children’s book app, Wake Up World. Dish with us about how this project was both similar and different from a traditional book project.

A: Ooooh, this was such fun to work on! What made it most fun (and different) was thinking in terms of movement and making stationary elements come to life. Many of the illustrations were painted traditionally, then scanned and put on several Photoshop layers—objects came with extra painted parts that could be swapped out to create the illusion of movement. I worked closely with a fantastic art director and programmer and they were magically able to put those parts into motion...and were very open any ideas I had.

It was the same as working on a book in terms of thinking about a "story", flow, and how one image would lead into the next.

Q: Before freelancing fulltime, you spent several years working in-house at Hallmark. How did that experience influence and shape the career you have today?

A: Working at Hallmark was an amazing experience for me! I'd almost describe it as graduate school, and my greatest teachers were my co-workers. I was lucky to be able to immerse myself in those creative surroundings for 9 years and 51 weeks. ;-). The resources were amazing—the library, the art supply room, and a place called the "Rice Center" that had a ceramics facility, wood shop, and print shop. Hallmark was also great at bringing in top-notch speakers and designers to help inspire us (we saw Maira Kalman speak, among others).

I think what helped me prepare for a career in children's books was learning how words and pictures go together on a page. I also learned how to communicate with art directors, editors, and artists from other disciplines. What it didn't prepare me for was the sticker shock at the cost of art supplies—I had been spoiled!

Hello, Yeti Bear!

Q: I love your dimensional artwork, particularly your yeti gentleman plushie! Tell us all about him—who he is, where he came from in your imagination and what project he is part of.

A: Oh, thank you! I call this little guy a "Yeti Bear". He was a gift for my good pal Sarah Walsh (of the MATS class and Lilla Rogers’ group!) and her new baby, Finn. Since Finn has such amazingly creative parents, I knew I couldn't make a regular ol' "Teddy Bear" for him—this bear had to be special and have a sense of humor.

So having specific people in mind for this project helped me imagine the finished product. Most of my 3 dimensional art is made for a specific person or as a donation/auction item.

Q: You have two distinctive portfolios—one for children’s work and one for editorial work. Chat with us how each of your styles evolved and how you’ve marketed each individually.

A: Ok, this is a great question because I am still trying to find my voice as an illustrator.
I should probably re-categorize my website because I'm not sure any of my work is "editorial" or "conceptual".

The work that I'm labeling as "editorial" is really just personal, narrative work....they are pieces that illustrate a single moment in time, and therefore allow me to experiment a bit. The children's book work is very much driven by the story, characters within the story, and the unfolding of time... so it involves a slightly different approach and way of thinking. Last year I found myself needing a kick in the pants to re-invigorate my art so I took the MATS class with Lilla Rogers (and you!). I re-discovered design and color, and was inspired by SO MANY talented designers and illustrators! Since that class I've been able to push my personal work and pay more attention to the ways I was using design and color in my book work.

As far as marketing, I have been very lucky to be represented by MB Artists (previously HK Portfolio) for many years now. Beyond that, I have marketed through such venues as Workbook, Folio Planet, the I-spot, and social media.

Deja Food—so lush, lovely & delicious!

Q: You teach illustration at your alma mater, the Kansas City Art Institute. What advice do you give your students about how to create a successful career as a freelance illustrator?

A: Ingredients for a successful freelance career:

• One part self-starter. (You gotta show up at the drawing board!)
• Two parts hard worker. (It takes work—sometimes work that you're not initially paid for—to help create opportunities. Once you have those opportunities, give the client more than they ask for up front and it will save loads of time down the road.)
• Three parts persistence (Never give up—you can take a breather, but don't give up.)
• Add a bucket of humility. (Listen to criticism/feedback)
• Mix with a lifetime of curiosity. (Continue to take classes, attend workshops, try new things, embrace technology, and weave life experiences into your art—and, as Lilla would say, do what you love!)
• Light a candle for good luck.

Talent and creativity are a given—but many people are talented and creative. It's the willingness to stick with it, evolve, and create mounds of work (some of it really crappy), as well as look for and make your own opportunities that will eventually pay off.  Also, keep in touch with your classmates—we can all help each other!

Laura's mural painted at the North Kansas City Public Library!

Q: What are you working on now? And what can we expect to see from you in the future?

A: A few projects in the works right now:
• Creating murals for the children's section of the North Kansas City Public Library. (2 of 4 rooms are completed.)
• Working with a writing partner on elementary education story-creating workshops.
• Crafting manuscripts and book dummies for my own picture book projects. Hopefully, those published books are what you'll see from me in the future!!

Thank you for chatting with us here on Bird Meets Worm, Laura! It was a pleasure!