Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Super Star Interview: Kim Hawes

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 super excited to be chatting it up with the fabulous Illustrator & Designer, Kim Hawes. I’m a big fan of Kim’s delightful artwork! I first discovered her work while taking Lilla Roger’s Make Art That Sells class and then had the pleasure of meeting Kim at Surtex awhile back. Kim went to the Cleveland Institute of Art where she received her BFA in Illustration. After college she worked as an in-house designer for branding & package design firms. You've probably seen a lot of her work and characters on products that you use on a daily basis. After working in the corporate world, she decided to branch out into her own freelance business. She now works with her agent Cinnamon Joe Studio, selling prints for greeting cards, fabric, and scrapbooking. You can view more of her artwork here! And you can follow her on Facebook here!

Up, up, and away to woodland wonderful!

Q: You are a TRUE super star when it comes to creating artwork specifically for kids! Fantastic characters! Fun typography! Totally on-trend topics! Dish with us about your influences, inspiration and overall approach when creating artwork for kids.

A: Big influences to my art are my children and the people around me. When I sit down to start a project I often think about what my son would get a kick out of seeing, or what I, as a mother, woman, and consumer would like to see on a product. I sometimes will do small audits of what I see trending in the market place and then brainstorm ideas of how I can give it that little unexpected delight to make it my own. I love creating art that I know can make a person smile or bring some delight to their day.

Love this friendly, little llama on pink, pink, pink!!

Q: You spent nearly 10 years working as a designer—both in-house and freelance—on multi-billion dollar brands. Tell us a bit about what was fabulous and what was not-so-fabulous about the experience, and how it has shaped you as a freelance Illustrator—from both the artist and the businesswoman perspective.

A: As an in-house designer for a branding and design company, it was great working with other like-minded artists and being involved in a project from start to finish. I had opportunities to travel around the globe to learn about different cultures. It also taught me to work fast, and in a world where time is money that skill is very helpful. The drawbacks of working as an in-house designer were that you are ultimately confined to what the client envisions. You may feel that a character should look a certain way, but they want it a different way. You have to detach yourself somewhat from the art because it was never really yours to begin with. One reason that I love freelancing is now I can choose the variety in my work. If I feel like drawing unicorns one day and strawberries the next, I can because I’m in charge. I love having the freedom to draw what is inspiring me that day and the flexibility to try new things and push my abilities. Along with the flexibility of my work I also love the flexibility of my schedule! It’s so great to be able to work the hours that work best for my young family and me. The drawbacks, I have found, are making sure you stay disciplined. I am a horrible procrastinator and can easily be distracted by random things if I don’t have deadlines. I try and make weekly goals for myself so I stay on track and make sure that I’m getting done what needs to be done. Another draw back to not working in-house is you don’t quite have the control you otherwise would have getting your art onto a product or even simply the insight that your art has made it onto a product. When I was in-house I knew when things I worked on would show up so I could go find it on the shelf. Now that I freelance and have an agent, a lot of times I’ll have prints purchased, but I don’t know if/or when they’ll end up on a product. So I’m often roaming the aisles at different shops, just to see if I’ll see any of my work.

Little ghosties say, "BOO!"

Q: Give us the scoop on your MOST favorite illustration projects: one from your past and one from your present.

A: Hmmm…favorite project from my past? I would say I have a soft spot for my senior thesis my last year in college. I went to the Cleveland Institute of Art and majored in illustration, and for my capstone project I illustrated a children’s book. I’m a bit of a nerd for musicals so I adapted the musical “Once Upon a Mattress” into a children’s book. I had a lot of fun sketching the ideas for spreads and figuring out how the story would unfold. Looking at the work now I would totally redo the whole book, but I really enjoyed the process and how I took a large project from start to finish. As for a project from my present that I really like, I would say creating art for my agent. I know it’s not one particular project, but I do really enjoy getting to create a variety of art on a daily basis. It’s fun to learn new techniques through classes online and continuing to push my style and create my ‘look’ without constraints, which can be set by clients.

Tea time! Now all we need are little cakes!

Q: As a freelance Illustrator & Designer, juggling 2 kiddos and an art career, in what ways to do seek balance in your life? (As a fellow Illustrator Mama—this is one of my favorite questions!!)

A: Ooh, this one is a toughie! Right now things are really off kilter. We are currently in the process of moving, and will shortly be living with my parents for a month before our new home is ready, so there isn’t a lot of balance at the moment. When we aren’t in the middle of moving homes, I really try to make sure I have time for my family and myself. Having a ‘create your own schedule’ I try to make sure that my evenings and weekends are open for family time. Although there is the occasional project that takes my attention some evenings, I try to make sure they don’t happen too often. My house is often left a mess with unfolded laundry and a dirty kitchen, but that’s just this phase of life that we are in with having a 3 year old and an 8 month old running around the house. Creating time for myself is a bit of a challenge these days as well, but I squeeze it in when I can. When I can I’ll sneak in 20 minutes here and there and take a nice soak in the bathtub. I’ll close my eyes and pretend I’m on a beach for a few minutes before my son busts in the door and says he wants to take a bath while stripping down naked.   I also have to give a huge shout out to my awesome husband. It really is a team effort to keep things going and when I have to get work done, he is there to give me the time to focus on my work.

If you eat your vegetables, then you can go to Treatsville!

Q: What advice would you give fellow freelance illustrators on the following topics: 1) self promotion 2) trade shows 3) following trends?

A: I still feel like I am a novice in this area. I recently joined an artist collective, the Sunshine Syndicate, to help with promoting my art. We often share tips, critique art, and inspire new ideas as well as share the task of promoting our work. It’s a full time job staying on top of social media, blogs, twitter feeds etc., and having others to assist in the process makes it less overwhelming.
For trade shows, I think they are great to go to. I’ve been to Printsource as a buyer, and Surtex as a viewing artist and I loved both! If you are able I would say definitely go. You can meet so many talented people and make lots of connections. I met my agent, Cinnamon Joe Studio, at Surtex as well as many other artists that I had met online. It was great meeting them in person and making those invaluable in-person connections. Most of the ladies in my collective I met online and then in person at Surtex.

Ooo! Guess who is going to Blueprint this month?! Very exciting!

Q: Describe your most perfect day.

A: Oh, the possibilities! …how to narrow it down to one thing…? I would say the most perfect day would begin with a full night of sleep and then waking up around 8:00ish. I’d have breakfast in bed and the kids would be dressed and ready for the day. We’d go somewhere fun, maybe the amusement park, or zoo, or the local park. Then around 4pm I’d get a nice power nap in. After the nap, my hubby and I would go get dinner while the kids are with a sitter, then we’d go see a movie of my choice.  If I could squeeze in a massage that would be nice too, but that could be pushing it a bit. J

Thank you so much, Kim, for catching up with us here at Bird Meets Worm! We love your fabulous artwork and can’t wait to see what you create next!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Super Star Interviews: Emily Balsley

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 pleased as punch to be chatting it up with the fantastic Illustrator, Emily Balsley. I’m a big fan of Emily’s graphic style and unique characters! Emily lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her sweet, creative daughter and loving, yogi husband. When she’s not drawing or hanging with the fam, she loves riding her bike, doing DIY house projects, perusing Instagram and chilling with her friends. You can view more of her artwork here!

I totally wanna hang with this hilarious bunch! Don't you?!

 Q: I can’t get enough of your AWESOME characters!! Seriously cute little guys with seriously distinctive details! Give us the scoop on your inspiration and influences.

A: Aw, thanks! I really do have fun coming up with my characters, so I'm glad you like them! Inspired by mid-century illustration, my characters start with basic shapes and minimal color palettes. Sometimes, depending on their position, I add sharp angles and long lines to accentuate certain movements. When it comes time to add the features and details, I layer my lines and patterns on top, trying to find a good balance of minimal line work, but with the most visual impact. I am often inspired by the work of Swiss-American illustrator Roger Duvoisin—the way he created amazing textures and environments by layering line over shape—but in a thoughtful way—it blows my mind. I also love geometric patterns (in design and life in general!), so I tend to incorporate a lot of stripes and polka dots into my characters' outfits. 

10,000 Thrills indeed!!!

 Q: You are masterful at creating collections—sets of art including standalone graphics, main patterns and coordinating patterns. I particularly adore your 10,000 Thrills collection. Take us through your process from inspiration to sketches to final art and how you developed the overall look & feel.

A: Thank you! For 10,000 Thrills, I wanted to find a theme that wasn't gender-specific, incorporated animals and bright colors, and would be able to showcase my love of geometric shapes and patterns. A circus theme seemed like the perfect fit! Plus, the different acts would offer a lot of opportunity for fun little vignettes. In fact, I started with those vignettes: I filled pages of my sketchbook with them - trying different positions and angles. Once I had a handful I liked, I fleshed them out a bit more. My goal was to incorporate several different characters performing several different activities. I knew my hero pattern would include most of them—but thinking ahead to the rest of the collection, I would have an opportunity to zero in on specific sub-themes. For example, when sketching, I was really enjoying drawing the performing dog. We have a dog, who is a silly brown hound mutt, so I loved the idea of making her the star of my tightrope pattern. Dressing her up in different outfits as she tip-toed across the tightrope just made me smile. Yet, it still fit with the circus theme! 

Regarding the colors, I've always loved the combo of pink and red. Pink COULD be seen as feminine, and as I was going for a non-gender-specific collection, I decided to go with a bolder "hot" pink as opposed to a bubble gum pink. It seemed to have a harder edge to it. Plus it would pair well with the white and black that my color schemes usually include. 

Circus sketching awesomeness!!

Q: You exhibited for the first time at Surtex 2015 with your art collective Happy Happy. During the year that has followed, how would you say that that experience has influenced: your artwork? your client list? your promotional efforts? And are you planning to return again this year? Why or why not?

A: Yes, after walking the Surtex 2014 show, I thought exhibiting in 2015 would be a great experience and a good way to gain more exposure. And that it was! Creating work and collections to show at Surtex was a first for me, as I hadn't ever licensed my work. It was interesting building a portfolio of work that wasn't for a specific customer. I created work that made me happy and hope that it stuck. I had some success at the show, but generally speaking, I learned that licensing probably isn't for me—at least at this point of my career! I really like to work with clients closely to create work that best represents their brand. On the other hand, though, I met some amazing people and made some fantastic contacts. It was so nice being able to talk to people in person and show them my work and ask them about their needs and start developing relationships. My client list has definitely grown since showing at Surtex—as has my confidence. The experience allowed me to build an extensive portfolio of new art which has gotten a lot of positive feedback and the validation that I can do this. All the work and stress and sleepless nights over the last few years is paying off! That said, I will not be returning to Surtex this year. I have been busy busy with lots of new work (including working with dream clients!) and just don't have the time! 

"Take me out to the ball game! Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks..."

Q: Dish with us about your MOST favorite illustration projects: one from the past & one from the present.

A: Ooo—that's a tough one! I have to say, I love my job so much and I put my heart and soul into each and every project, so it is REALLY hard to narrow it down. I can tell you why each project is so special to me. Ugh! 

...Okay—I just looked through my entire site, and I responded the best to my "Women in Baseball" illustration. I created it for Wisconsin Storytime, a 2014 collaboration for Project Wisconsin. My assignment focused on the inception of the All-American Girls Baseball League. As a former softball player, I have very fond memories of throwing the ball around with my dad as a kid. In preparation for this project, I re-watched A League of Their Own, and fell in love with the movie and story all over again. I had a blast doing research, poring through old photos of these female baseball players and then drawing them was even better! This piece was one of the first times I started incorporating my new shading texture technique and the color palette is so "Emily". All of it—the nostalgia, the female empowerment, the drawing process—made (and makes!) me so happy. I feel it really exemplifies who I am as a person and artist. 

How awesome is Emily's mural?! Fantastic!!!

 As far as present-day projects go, I have to say, I am getting into more mural work and I am LOVING it. Being able to incorporate my art into a space and environment is very exciting to me. I'm still learning the ins and outs of the mural process, but it has been a really fun experience. I especially love being out in the community, talking with people about my art and my job. This is what I do; I am so lucky!

Q: What do you know now that when you first began your design & illustration career you wish you’d known about: art licensing? business? self-promotion?

A: Gosh, I feel like I'm learning something new every day! In a broader sense, way back when I first started freelancing, I wish I knew more about the business side of my art, specifically talking about money. Like I said earlier, I love what I do. I still can't believe that I get to make art every day. But this means that because I love something so much, I often de-value my art. It was hard for me to charge what it was worth because I found so much joy in creating it. And then common sense started kicking in and I realized that my love and joy in creating my art wasn't paying the bills. So I had to figure out how to charge more and have those money conversations with clients that made me feel so uncomfortable. Today, I see that it goes hand-in-hand. I know what I'm worth and I can talk about it. It's not always easy, but it is a necessity. 

So cute! So charming! So fun!

 Q: Describe your most perfect day.

A: My perfect day would start with sleeping in to about 7:30am. I would have breakfast with my family and then go for a long walk with the dog and Stella on her bike. Then I would want to make some art! Drawing on the front porch while my family hangs out sounds awesome. We would then grab our bikes and ride downtown for lunch by the lake and play a couple games of UNO. In the afternoon I would work on my computer for a few hours, followed up by a grill out on the back deck. After dinner we'd veg out a bit on the couch while I work on a weaving project. After everyone is in bed I'd head out for a drink with my friends and toast my amazing day! 

Thank you SO much, Emily! We had a hoot chatting with you here at Bird Meets Worm and can’t wait to see what you create next!

Friday, April 1, 2016

NEW Geo Pets Collection

Geo Pets Collection • © Jane Smith

Geo Pets Shapes Coordinate • © Jane Smith

Geo Pets Main Repeat • © Jane Smith

Geo Pets Floral Coordinate • © Jane Smith

Geo Pets Collection • © Jane Smith