Friday, January 20, 2017

Heart Safety Pins

I'm proud to share my NEW Heart Safety Pin pattern that is now available on a wide variety of products that will let you show your support for your fellow men & women during these trying times. As an artist, I was looking for a way to create something positive for folks, to help them hold their heads up high and to send a signal to those around them that we are in this together. As a recent transplant to North Carolina, I've found that my own safety pin has spurred conversations that have made me feel more connected in a place where politics are very divisive. And, of course, I love that my fabulous client, Kess InHouse, jumped on board with this design! So superstar! XOXO

Thursday, January 5, 2017

NEW Soaring Balloons for Mpix

I'm thrilled to share a NEW Super Jane Gallery Wrap Collage now available on Mpix! It is fully customizable and cute, cute, cute!!! Shop now! XO

Super Star Interviews: Mike Lowery

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. (Psst! You might have noticed that today is actually Thursday—sorry about that!! The New Year has been off to a bumpy start, but we are finally off and running over here at Bird Meets Worm! And BTW Happy New Year!!)

This month I’m so happy to be kicking off a whole new year of artist interviews with supa-dupa-star Illustrator, Mike Lowery! I’ve been a big fan for a longtime and the kiddo in my house has been a fan, too—Mike’s book Ribbit Rabbit and his activity calendar have been big hits! Mike Lowery is an artist living in Atlanta, Georgia with a beautiful German lady named Katrin and his incredibly genius daughter, Allister. Mike’s work has been seen on everything from greetings cards to children’s books to gallery walls all over the world, and he is a Professor of Illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design Atlanta. He lives in an atomic ranch house, surrounded by trees where he likes to draw little animals in party hats and other silly stuff. You can view more of his artwork here!

Let's go on a Doodle Adventure!! Woohoo!

 Q: You’ve illustrated numerous hilarious and fun children’s books! (And I’m lucky enough to have a signed copy of Mike’s The Search For the Slimy Space Slugs! Squeee!) Give the scoop on your most favorite one—from idea & characters to sketches & finished art.

A: I have lots of favorites, but I’ll tell you about working on my newest series: “Doodle Adventures”.  When I was a kid, we didn’t have cool comics in the library.  We would sneak in stuff and pass them around at lunch and I always thought it would be really cool if there were comics that librarians would like too.  Well, that’s all completely changed and comics are now a big part of most school libraries.  

I decided I wanted to make a series that combined my love for comics with my love for drawing/doodle books, and DOODLE ADVENTURES was born.  When it was time to come up with the narrator, I knew I couldn’t use just some ol’ boring human, so I drew a really plain looking duck.

The problem was, he didn’t have a TON of personality.   SO, I kept drawing and came up with this guy.  His name is Carl the Duck:

I liked that he looked grumpy and weird.  I immediately started hearing what his voice could sound like and got excited to draw him into the story.

From there I wrote out key moments that I wanted to happen in the story, and then took a really big stack of cheap paper to a coffee shop and started drawing.  At this stage the drawings were very rough, with a LOT of erasing and just figuring stuff out.  One of the days I was drawing at the coffee shop, I noticed a girl around 7 was drawing and she kept looking up at me.  I peeked over and realized she was drawing a portrait of me drawing!

Q: I’m a BIG fan of your awesome random facts illustration series! Dish with us about how the series began—inspiration & all!— and how it continues.

A: One morning I wasn’t on a trip, hadn’t had anything new to eat, hadn’t met any strange folks all day….and couldn’t NOT think of what to draw.  I sat staring at the blank page in my journal and for the first time in a really long time I absolutely did not know what to draw.  Then I remembered some weird fact that I had read…I don’t remember the very first one, but it might be something about how it’s illegal to carry ice cream in your pocket in Kentucky.  

I’ve always loved those kind of weird nuggets of info, so I decided to draw it out.  And now I’ve been doing it for about two years. 

Huh! I didn't know that! But I'm SO glad I do now!!! Perfect party convo opener!

 Q: For more than a decade you have kept travel sketchbooks, marrying the classic artist sketchbook with memory and story; snapshots of time and place. Tell us a bit about how travel has influenced your habits as an artist and as well as your artwork itself.

A: THE ABSOLUTE MOST IMPORTANT THING AN ARTIST CAN DO:  Is to keep a sketchbook.  Whew.  There, I said it.

It’s a place where you figure out your “style” or what tools you like to use when you’re drawing and all kinds of stuff.  It’s also a great way of keeping track of your day, like a journal or (the most feared word by young dudes) DIARY.  I keep one every single day, and try to spend at least 30 minutes to an hour in it.  

And drawing in your sketchbook doesn’t always have to be some intense scene, like sitting down next to a creek with your watercolors.  It can be really anything as long as your drawing.  For me, I really use it to remember things about my day a lot.  

Since I was very little, I traveled a lot with my parents and my grandparents.  Traveling became a big part of my life and then later I married an amazing woman from Germany who had this really great family that we now go back and visit a few times a year…so travel isn’t just fun for me, it’s also necessary.  

So, it just makes sense that some of my drawings started to be about the trips that I was on, new sights I was seeing, new foods, etc.  I love having these as a way to look back and remember trips, but I also get a lot of inspiration on these trips for new art and projects, and I’ll bring those ideas home and turn them into something that (hopefully) other people would want to look at.

Join Mike on his travels aboard! Ni hao!!

Q: What is a typical workday like for you? Set the scene (workspace, materials, accessories) and describe your responsibilities (teaching, art making, business stuff) and creative juju (rituals, inspiration, process).

A: When we are in town (which for us is Atlanta), I mostly work out of the home studio that I share with my wife, Katrin, who is also a children’s book illustrator.  Some days we will work in our studio called Paper Ghost, which is also a little gallery we share with a few friends who are also illustrators.   

We are out of town a lot, and in that case I’ll get up really early and go down to the lobby of our hotel and find a quiet spot where I can start drawing, usually with a cup of the free lobby coffee in hand.  I always try to draw before getting caught up on emails and other stuff.  

Sounds like some hilarious trouble!!

 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: Honestly, I didn’t know anything when I first started.  I mean I knew BASIC stuff, like the difference between an apple and an onion, but when it came to business stuff, I knew very little.  I went to school for ART, which means that my instruction covered a lot of topics from watercolor to dark room photography, but very little was about the business side of making art and when it was, it was primarily about being an artist that exhibits in galleries.  Most of my formal instruction was about technique, and then later in Graduate School, it was about how to critique or explain your work.  Which meant that really early on, I actually learned what illustration is while I was already doing illustration.  I thought I was doing Graphic Design with a lot of drawings in it, and realized that what I was actually doing was ILLUSTRATION. 

I read as much as I could on the topic, and I took every single job that resembled illustration, even if it wasn’t a good fit for me.  I sent my work to anyone who MIGHT hire someone to do a drawing for them:  magazines, ad agencies, local shops, publishers, clothing companies…anything I could find.  And then I just waited to hear back from ANYONE.  Slowly work started coming in, and I learned the business job by job.

I get a lot of folks (usually students) emailing asking for advice about the world of illustration.  This is really hard, because I’m not sure what to talk about.  Are they wondering what pens I use, or are they wondering what sort of portfolio case to buy when visiting art directors?  It would be like asking a mechanic:  How do you fix a car.

So, here’s what I’ll say:  
1) Forget about what your “style” is and what it’s going to be.  Just draw a LOT.  Draw stuff you don’t feel comfortable drawing and don’t just keep drawing it the same way.  If you have a way that you like to draw EYES or people or whatever, stop doing it and try it a million different ways until you finally find the MOST perfect and comfortable way for you.  You won’t know it until you’ve tried what DOESN’T work.
2) Keep a sketchbook every single day.
3) Make work that people can use.  Meaning:  look at magazines, books, all kinds of stuff and see what they actually use.  Lots of folks want to draw floating characters with no backgrounds.  Not a lot of companies need that.
4) Send your work to these folks!

Q: Describe your most perfect day.

A: Get up.  Coffee.  Draw for a little.  Daughter wakes up.  Breakfast with wife and daughter.  Toast.  Boiled egg.  Butter. Get out of the house.  Sit and draw in sketchbook.  Read a little.  Maybe a graphic novel.  Ramen for dinner with friends.  Watch an 80s movie with the family.  Maybe Gremlins?  A few more hours of drawing.  Read a little more.  Bed.

Thank you so much, Mike, for chatting with us here at Bird Meets Worm! It was a hoot and a half!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Super Star Interviews: Paul Richmond

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 super excited to be catching up with my fabulous artist friend, Paul Richmond! We first met as art students in the Illustration program at CCAD back in the day and now Paul is an internationally recognized visual artist and activist whose career has included exhibitions in galleries throughout the United States as well as publication in numerous art journals and anthologies. (Seriously, can you say “super star”?!) His work is collected by individuals around the globe. Influenced by his own struggles and experiences, he seeks to challenge social constructs that exist around sexuality and gender through his work. In his role as the Associate Art Director for Dreamspinner Press and their young adult imprint, Harmony Ink Press, he has created over three hundred novel cover illustrations. He is a co-founder of the You Will Rise Project, an organization that empowers those who have experienced bullying to speak out creatively through the language, visual, and performing arts. He greatly inspires me and I’m sure you will be, too, after you discover his powerful artwork. You can view more of his artwork here!

Truth, humor & a whole lot of heart makes Pauly's work so powerful!

Q: You have been long been recognized for your work as a visual artist and social activist, addressing issues of sexual identity & gender roles in your artwork and the politics surrounding them. In the wake of the recent election, what issues do you plan to tackle in your own work? And what advice would you give to other artists looking to use their work as a vehicle for social change?

A: Oh man, the election! My advice is to paint nonstop for the next four years because we're all going to need to be high on paint fumes to get through this! I had some great influences early in my training who used painting to address socio-political issues. I absorbed that and to this day, my favorite thing about being an artist is communicating ideas. Like you, my background is in illustration and I'm a natural storyteller. This election came at an interesting time for me because my husband and I relocated a few months ago from Ohio to California. Everything’s new and interesting and occasionally a bit scary - we didn’t know anyone here and I had never been to this part of California until the day we arrived to move in to our new place. On election day, any last tangible thread of “comfort zone” I may have been clinging to got swept out from under me. Suddenly, not only did I feel like I was in a new state, it didn’t even feel like the same country. I've been doing a series for the past few years called War Paint - expressive figurative pieces that investigated the construction of identity. Models coated themselves with paint; the colors and marks of which were meant to be suggestive of their psychological states. Building on that idea, my next phase will be to play more with context and environment; showing figures in spaces. They might be exploring new territory, floating aimlessly, clinging desperately to something that feels safe — basically all the things I’ve been experiencing myself. A lot of us woke up the day after the election in a country that didn’t feel like home any more, and I want to dissect all of that in my next body of work. I don’t like to give advice because what works for me might not work for someone else. But I will say that I’ve never found moping for an extended period of time to be very effective. When something terrible happens, I have to do something. And usually that “something” is start painting.

Gorgeous! Simply stunning!

Q: You are a co-founder of the You Will Rise Project, an organization empowering youth to use the arts as a means of speaking out against bullying. Tell us a bit about how & why you took on this powerful project and how can folks interested in speaking out against bullying can get involved?

A: I have such empathy for young people who are bullied because I was once in their shoes. I hated the social aspects of school because I was so uncomfortable in my own skin, making me a perfect target. As a gay boy who didn’t know he was gay (despite my closet full of assorted diva compilations on cassette tape), and growing up in a pretty conservative part of the Midwest, I stuck out like a sore thumb. A super-tall-for-my-age, awkward sore thumb with bad skin. Thankfully I had already established an identity as an artist thanks to an amazing teacher named Linda Regula who became my painting mentor when I was four. Creating art was not only something I could take pride in thanks to her thoughtful guidance, but it was also an outlet for coping with the harassment I experienced on a daily basis. Linda and I have remained good friends through the years. I was chatting with her one day about all the tragic cases of teen suicide we kept seeing in the news, many of which were connected to incidents of bullying. I told her that I felt her classes were one of the reasons I never became one of those statistics, and in that conversation, we dreamed up the idea for You Will Rise as a way to empower others who are being bullied to find their creative voices and speak out. We publish artwork from young people all around the world on our website and lead workshops and organize community exhibitions and art installations all focused on this important theme. It’s been such a powerful, eye-opening, gut-wrenching project to work on, and we’ve received some incredible feedback from participants about the positive changes it has helped them create in their lives. Above all, it just reinforces for me the importance of art in our schools, communities, and in our society as a whole. If you’d like to hear more about the story of Linda and me, a filmmaker named Doug Swift created a wonderful short film last year about us called The Mentor and the Artist. I’m so proud of the way he wove together our stories. You can watch it here.

Oopsie!!! (wink, wink!)

Q: One of my absolutely favorite series you created is your Cheesecake Boys series, inspired by 1950s pin-up girls! Dish with us about how this series came about from inspiration to sketches to finished artwork.

A: I have always been a super-fan of the pinup girls from the 40’s and 50’s — all those accident-prone ladies constantly experiencing wardrobe malfunctions wherever they went. They were so hilariously innocent and naughty at the same time. I always wondered why there were no male equivalents. Men in pinup art from that era, the beefcakes, were always just muscle bound dudes posing on a mountain or in the gym. They were always in control of the situation, which said a lot to me about expectations of gender roles and sexuality. So of course I wanted to turn the tables! :) My Cheesecake Boys series is totally an exercise in campy, cheesy fun. They are dudes who can’t seem to keep their clothes on and always get caught at just the right moment making that classic “oopsie” face. I like to have models pose for photo references and then I sketch them out and start painting - very similar to how some of the pinup greats like Elvgren and Frahm worked back then. And I’ve had the chance to work with some fun models for the series too, like Jack Mackenroth, Perez Hilton, Mike Ruiz, Davey Wavey, and more. Currently, I am offering a free Cheesecake Boy coloring page every Friday on my website. People are all about adult coloring books now, and I thought this would be a fun way to play up the “adult” part! It has been SO fun to see all the different colored versions of the Cheesecake Boys floating around social media. Anyone who wants to join in the fun is welcome to check it out here!

Q: During your career you’ve had your artwork stolen and sold illegally time and time again, especially by individuals overseas. Give us the scoop on how you’ve met this challenge and what advice you would give to fellow artists about how to protect their intellectual property.

A: It’s a difficult challenge that so many artists face, and there’s not really an easy solution. My experience with it happened when someone sent me a link to some ebay listings and said they looked like my work. Indeed they were mine - some of them were sitting right next to me in my studio! Even worse, they were being attributed to someone else. What I learned is that because international copyright laws are pretty much nonexistent, sellers in other countries - especially in China - are really fronts for these pretty large-scale “fake art factories.” They grab images from artists’ websites, list them as originals on ebay, and then when someone makes a purchase, an assembly line of talented and tragically underpaid artists will re-create it. I learned all about it and even got a free sample (of my own work!) by conducting an unofficial “investigation.” If you want to hear all about that, I shared the story in a YouTube video here.

Sadly, ebay is very lax about enforcing their policies. Most of these sellers have thousands of listings, which generate a lot of revenue, so they are in no hurry to shut them down. Even when you make a big fuss about it like I did, usually the most that will happen is that they pull the individual listings but allow the seller to maintain their store. So they just re-list them a few days later with slightly different names. Legal action is way too costly and time consuming for an independent artist like myself, so the most I could do was use it as an opportunity to raise awareness about the issue and have a few chuckles along the way. To this day, you can find knock-offs on my stuff on ebay from a variety of different sellers. Some artists put large watermarks on all the images of their work that get posted online. I considered it, but a lot of my art sales are through the web. I personally don’t like the idea of obstructing the view of the piece even though I certainly understand why other artists do it. For me, the benefits of online exposure FAR outweigh the negatives, and someone who is going to buy a cheap knockoff is probably not going to be interested in collecting my original work anyway. At least that’s what I tell myself so I don’t obsess over it constantly!

Aren't we the cutest?! Love me some Pauly!

Q: Tell us all about your MOST favorite illustration/painting/series/or book cover project: one from your past and one from your present.

A: The one from my past that I’ll pick is The Dollypop Guild because it involves you, Jane! I was invited to participate in a group show called DollyPOP honoring one of my heroes, Dolly Parton, at the World of Wonder Gallery in LA. I’ve admired Dolly since I was a kid and saw The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Incidentally that movie also made me want to grow up and be a whore, but to my credit, I thought it just meant wearing fancy clothes and singing a lot. Anyway, my contribution to the show was a Dolly-ized take on The Wizard of Oz, complete with a little boy in his mom’s red heels embarking on the yellow brick road to Dollywood, with Dolly herself as Glinda descending in a big pink sparkly bubble. Pretty much my childhood dream come true! You were so kind to invite me to stay with you when I came out to LA for the opening, and even surprised me with tickets to the musical 9 to 5 which was debuting there at the time. That was such a fun trip! And I still love and admire Dolly to this day!

Sweet, heart-felt & fabulous! Could it be anything else when Dolly's involved?!

More recently, a project that was one of my favs was a set of commissions from James Franco. I painted two large pieces that were incorporated into the set of a film he was making last year called The Long Home. One of our college friends, Kristen Adams, was doing production design and made it all happen. I delivered them to him on the set and my friend Aaron and I even got to be extras in a scene they were filming that night with James, Josh Hutcherson, and Courtney Love. Quite an experience! And I can’t wait to see the finished movie, which comes out sometime in 2017. 

I know I already said it, but seriously, can you say SUPER STAR?!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: I think my perfect Sunday is the opposite of most people’s. I have a really hard time sitting still. I'm always the happiest when I’m concocting some kind of crazy scheme. The details aren’t important - it could be an adventure with my husband, some kind of kooky video collaboration with friends for my YouTube channel, dreaming up a new art project, etc. I usually have twenty things in the works at all times, which is how I’ve always been and I’m sure always will be. There’s so much I want to see and do! Even on a day when I could sleep in, I usually get up really early and don’t stop until I crash at night. My friends always joke that they have to take me in small doses because they are tired when they leave and their faces hurt from laughing — which I take as the highest compliment! :)

It’s always a pleasure, Pauly! Thank you SO much for giving Bird Meets Worm a boost with your talent, positive energy and fabulous sense of humor! XO

Friday, November 11, 2016

Super Jane & Chloe Zoe Support Kids Against Bullying

On Friday children’s illustrators were called to share a free image for educators to post in their schools in support of all children and to send a message that bullying is not acceptable by fellow author/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Originally, a safety pin was used as a symbol to convey this support, however, because symbols are often loaded with multiple meanings, we’ve been asked to pivot our message to #hugsfromkidlit. A hug is for every child! In support of children and educators during this difficult time in our nation's history, I am offering this free mini poster of Chloe Zoe and her friends to the public to download and print and share with your students, your children and your friends. XO