Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Super Star Interview: Lauren Lowen

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’m jazzed to be chatting it up with supa-duba-star Illustrator, Lauren Lowen. I was first charmed by Lauren’s quirky style, during a session of Lilla Rogers’ MATS online class, and then I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Lauren last year at Surtex. Her booth and tiger shirt were totally rocking! Lauren Lowen currently works as an Illustrator in Nashville, TN, and is represented by Jennifer Nelson Artists. A graduate from the The Rhode Island School of Design, she has taught illustration at various art colleges and previously worked in the giftware and stationery industry as a designer before returning to her illustration full-time. You can visit more of her artwork here.

Here's the supa-duba-star herself!

Q: Last year was your Surtex debut and now you have plans to return again this year. What will you do differently? What will you do the same?

A: It’s so crazy to think it’s getting to that time of year again! Last year I was pretty conservative just because I had a lot to learn the first time around and didn’t want to overcomplicate things. This year I will do more with my actual booth design (disclaimer: don’t plan to be amazed. I’m probably still going to look pretty plain compared to other people!) Last year I learned what clients really liked about my art and what they wanted to see more of, so that will help me focus my portfolio this time around. As for keeping the same, I wasn’t afraid to be a little offbeat last year, and I think that helped me stick out. My plan is to let my quirky side shine again!

Q: Give us the scoop on your artistic process—concept to sketches to finished art—how does it all come together?

A: Whether it’s client work or a personal piece, it always starts with a line drawing. If I decide to paint it, I use gouache on silkscreen paper. If I’m working digital, I ink it and then scan it into Photoshop. From there I have several libraries of brushes and textures I can use via my wacom tablet. In fact, sometimes the digital stuff ends up looking more painterly than the actual painted work! Working both ways is a great way to experiment and prevent boredom from settling in.

Bears with beards—the outdoors never rocked so hard before!

Q: How has your time working in-house at CR Gibson influenced your approach to freelance illustration and art licensing?

A: I figured the best way to learn about the industry was to be a full-time employee at a company and learn it from the inside out. I learned how manufactures worked, what the challenges were for the creative teams, how marketing played a role in the process, and how art was selected for projects.

By the time I left, I obviously had a much better understanding of the logistics of the field as well business matters like pricing and such. I also learned that my quirky sense of humor and style was not always seen in the industry, so it made me more confident showing that side of me to future clients.

Party time with a tiger—oh, yeah!

Q: Your artwork has a very hip and modern sense of humor with your luchadores, beards and pirate santas! Where does that come from and what continues to inspire it?

A: Thanks! I’ve always enjoyed characters and entertaining people, so I think those two elements come together to create that wackiness in my art. When I was younger, I was a huge fan of comics like Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side. The Far Side especially had this very bizarre humor when you think about it. There weren’t really “jokes” or punch lines. Instead, Gary Larson made these one-panel comics that would take a simple premise and turn it upside down. I think there is something like that going on in my work. I think “Ok, Santas. Santas have beards. What else has beards? Lumberjacks do…and pirates…and hipsters,” and before you know it I have a collection based on different silly Santa characters like that. I think my best pieces are always the ones that excite me even a week or two after the initial idea. For inspiration, I look at what’s going on in pop culture and see how I can poke fun at something or reinvent it. Visually, I’m attracted to street art, folk art…anything heavily stylized is fun to me.

LOVED these guys at Surtex last year!

Q: You have taught art students at numerous colleges. What advice do you give them about how to promote themselves and land actual clients in life-beyond-art-school?

A: I love teaching! It’s so hard to try and summarize a whole semester in a few paragraphs, but here are some of the most common things I say to my students:

Don’t label yourself too much: Many people miss out on opportunities just because they focus too much on a specific market while being completely oblivious to similar fields that they are well suited for. If you’re a children’s book illustrator, for instance, why not look into creating art for children’s music albums or children’s magazines? Try to step out of your comfort zone and you’ll probably find a few “cousin markets” perfect for your portfolio.

It’s OK that your art doesn’t work for every client known to mankind: My work isn’t right for everyone out there. Similarly, it’s ok if your work isn’t going to find a home with every single client in the world. Instead of trying to be a jack-of-all-trades in order to please every art director, focus on the art you enjoy creating and market it to those people who truly have a need for it. You’ll be happier and saner.

Don’t try to do every social media platform out there: Blogs, Facebook, instagram, pintrest, twitter, newsletters, youtube… the internet has given us a lot of options when it comes to promoting our work. Maybe part of the problem is that it has given us too many options and we feel a little overwhelmed when marketing ourselves. When it comes to social media, pick 1-3 to start with and do them well. You can always adjust or add more, but having too many outlets that end up getting ignored can make it look like you aren’t active in your career.

Geek chic cute bunny spring florals!

Q: What do you anticipate being both the advantages as well as the challenges of being formally represented as an illustrator?

A: It really hasn’t been that long since I’ve joined Jennifer Nelson Artists, but I’m extremely excited about all the projects coming our way. As far as challenges go, I’m getting use to managing more projects. In the past, I was working on one or two jobs at a time and then would move on to the next one. Well, now there are several things to keep on top of! You have to roll with it and switch gears suddenly if an opportunity comes out of nowhere, especially if the deadline is a quick one. The huge advantage for me is having the business side of my art simplified. I really do enjoy marketing and promoting my work, but I recognize that it eats up a lot of time. With an agent, I’m now able to focus more on the important part: creating the art!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: I’m not 100% sure, but I envision it with Bloody Marys, a good brunch, and hanging out on a patio with friends and my husband just relaxing the day away.

Thank you so much, Lauren! We can’t wait to see what crazy, fabulous artwork you make next! Hooray!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Love Is In the Air" Valentine Collection

I ADORE Valentines' Day and so here another of my NEW collections, themed "Love Is In the Air." It's sweet! It's pretty! And it would look absolutely lovely on a whole host of products from tableware to kids clothes to greeting cards! Interested in licensing it? Email me at jane@superjane.com! XO

© Jane Smith
© Jane Smith

© Jane Smith

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Super Star Interview: Merrill Rainey

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’m excited to be chatting it up with the super fun Illustrator/Designer, Merrill Rainey! Merrill is a fellow Tugeau2 artist, who has been illustrating and designing for more than 10 years. He is a 5 ft. 7 in. kid at heart, who uses his youthful memories of growing up as inspiration to draw his imaginative ideas. A techie geek by nature, Merrill generates all of his illustrations using a combination of a Green Pencil, his Modbook, and Adobe Illustrator. His clients include American Greetings, Hasbro, Highlights Magazine, U.S. Kids Magazines, Picture Window Books, Pockets Magazine and Scholastic. You can view more of Merrill’s artwork here.

Who doesn't love hidden pictures?! Super fun!

Q: Describe your MOST favorite project you have created: one in the past and one in the present.

A: Present:
My MOST favorite project to date would have to be “The Candy Caper” Halloween board game spread I created for the Sept/Oct 2014 issue of Jack & Jill magazine.  Why?  Well, for one, who doesn’t like to create Halloween art?! And two, it brought back childhood memories of the Halloween books I used to read. I enjoyed trying to create something that will give others a piece to look back on as a fun holiday memory as I do with so many entertaining Halloween books such as The Bernstein Bear’s The Spooky Old Tree or In a Dark, Dark Room. This spread gave me the opportunity to create that same imaginative excitement I had when I joined the Bears on their spooky adventure through each secret passage and corridor in that old tree, but this time for the Jack and Jill readers.

Red Beard the Pirate, was my first e-book project for Scholastic as well as a game changer in how I create my illustration work today. This project literally came a few days after I had thought to myself while walking my dogs, “Man it sure would be cool to add Scholastic to my client list.” In most cases, this project would have been a nightmare (having had all of my original sketches tossed out the door, and being asked to rework everything in a completely different style)! But it forced me to break out of my creative mold and start to build my current final art style. Plus, it didn’t hurt that the e-book was about pirates!

Arrgh! Pirates are too cool, Matey!

Q: You do a lot of artwork for children's magazines that are chock full of super fun details! Give us the scoop on what is awesome and what is challenging about creating illustrations for kids magazines.

A: I consider the challenges of creating work for kids’ magazine to also be what is awesome!!! I love the challenge of trying to out-do myself with each new piece, especially when it comes to Puzzle Pages! :-). When that fresh new assignment zooms into my inbox… I always ask myself, "If I were a kid what would I want to look at?" Or, "What would the activities be that would keep my interest?” I then start jotting down those thoughts and the rest is history!

I think the greatest thing about what I do, is being able to create those memorable reactions and emotions within kids that will stay with them forever.

Octopus! Treasure! Adventure! Fantastic!
Q: I love the friendly-action-oriented-saturday-morning-cartoon-comic-book feel to your artwork! Tell us all about who, what, where inspires it.

A: I am heavily influenced by the 80s Saturday morning cartoons. For a good chunk of my childhood, I would wake up early (like 5:30am) when only Looney Tunes would be on, and just watch till noon, flipping between ABC, NBC, and CBS to find the next show. (And parents don’t worry, I did get my exercise as I had to walk across the room to either adjust the TV antenna box or change the channel :-) ). But seriously, Saturday mornings were set aside for pure cartoon love; and cartoons then were all about having fun. Some might have had educational values, but what made them so great was how they made your childhood imagination work.

I am also influenced by the story telling and character designs of the Rankin & Bass era to other greats like Charles Schulz, Jim Henson, & Hank Ketcham.

Q: What would be your dream illustration gig?

A: This is hard to say as my mind flips from one idea to the next, but if I have to choose something, it would be either getting involved with a graphic novel, or chapter book series. My boyhood dreams of being able to create my own comic, or book never die. :-)


Q: Chat with us about your experience creating the "GraveYard Hop" app. What about the project was similar to working with traditional publishers? What was different?

A: Back in the mid 2000s when it was cool to customize your folder icons on the MAC. I had created a series of Halloween character icons for the Apple share/developers market called the Halloween Friends. They were a huge success and even were chosen as one of apples top downloads of the week/month. So for years I wondered what to do with them, and then finally, right before I left my full-time job to work for myself, I partnered with a past co-worker of mine to build the first Halloween Friends app. We both had high hopes that the game would sell well, but like most apps at the time, the market was just so flooded that things didn’t go as we had planned. Nonetheless, it was a great learning experience and it allowed the Halloween Friends another chance at success.

The execution of this work was very similar to what you would normally experience with traditional publishers. From character development, to story-boarding out each game screen/page, to executing the final art. The biggest difference here was we set our own timeline of when we needed to get things completed and launched. 

Most of what I do runs the same gamut whether it be a game, a book, or a comic. It just all has different outcomes!

I confess Halloween is my most FAVORITE holiday!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: I’d wake up early and hunker down with a fire, a good book(s)/comic(s), and the snow falling outside. I’d then toss in some family time with the Mrs. and the kids, then finish off the day with biting into a nice juicy cheeseburger (with all the toppings) and a plate piled high of fresh-cut fries with ketchup to dip them in. It's the simple things in life that make it so great!

Thank you so much for chatting with us today, Merrill! Looking forward to seeing your artwork in all the kiddo magazines we love here at the Bird Meets Worm house! Cheers!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Gingerbread Christmas Countdown

How totally yummy is my NEW Gingerbread Christmas Countdown collection?! It features a deliciously fun advent calendar and a set of sweet repeat patterns perfect for a whole host of holiday products & goodies! Interested in licensing them? Drop me a line at jane@superjane.com! XOXO

© Jane Smith • Advent Calendar Front

© Jane Smith • Advent Calendar Interior Spot Art

© Jane Smith • Mr. & Mrs. Gingerbread Claus

© Jane Smith • Winter Mint

© Jane Smith • Peppermint Presents

Snowglobe Snowmen

© Jane Smith • Snowglobe Snowmen in a Winter Wonderland