Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Super Star Interviews: Amy Schimler-Safford

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 thrilled to be chatting it up with the one, the only, THE Illustrator/Textile Designer, Amy Schimler-Safford! I had the distinct pleasure of working with Amy back in my art director days and have been a big fan of her artwork both before and since. Amy Schimler-Safford works predominantly in the children's market. She has sold and licensed her artwork for a variety of products including children's apparel, children's books, toys and puzzles, wall d├ęcor, and fabrics to name a few. Lately she has been focusing on children's books with a couple of exciting new projects on the horizon. You can view more of her artwork here!

So lovely!! A floral dreamscape!

Q: You are a master of pattern, having created numerous super fun fabric collections! Dish with us about how you approach creating a collection: inspiration to sketch to color artwork to repeat pattern.

A: Thank you so much. I have been doing pattern design for a very long time. I’ve created thousands of designs over the last dozen years. Because I have been doing it for so long and so consistently, much of the process is intuitive and flows naturally. It almost feels effortless at times.

If I was to break it down I would say my inspiration starts with color stories. I begin to see where the colors feel most natural and explore those themes. Once I have a theme I start developing a print, I play off of that idea. Usually a theme connects a collection, but a collection can also be connected by color and/or style.

Ideas come in spurts from many different sources. I walk every morning and usually take pictures as references for colors and subject matter. I see patterns pretty much everywhere I go. I think when you work that intensely at something your unconscious mind takes over. There is nothing better than playing with color all day. I don’t do repeats, but I do a layout that could easily be put into a repeat. I should also say that I mostly use Illustrator for my pattern designs. It makes it so easy to play with color and see immediately what works and what doesn’t work. I love fiddling with the placement of all the elements in the design until I find a layout that feels just right.

Hello Fishy, Fishy!! Where are you headed?

Q: What qualities make for the “perfect” art licensing client? And are there any key buzzwords to look for when negotiating or reviewing contracts?

A: It is always great when you have good communication with a client. My clients are usually very easy to work with. Understanding the client’s vision and what inspired them to contact you in the first place are key. The mission is to produce a great product on both ends, so you start with a common goal and a mutual interest.
The biggest buzzword is “copyright”. You always want to own your art if you are licensing it. It is also important to know what products you are licensing your art for and to be sure your contract reflects that. The only time I have had difficulty is when the client hasn’t clearly explained what they want which can result in more work on my part, but I have learned over the years to ask a lot of questions before starting a project.
Q: I absolutely LOVE your mixed media style! Give us the scoop on how you find/create your materials and on how you put them together, whether traditionally or digitally.

A: Thanks so much. I started out working mostly digitally, but I am more often off the computer lately. I almost always finish a piece digitally though. It is easier to edit and send to clients. I love working with a variety of materials, I love playing around to create new and unexpected textures. In terms of materials I use anything and everything – watercolor, gouache, crayons, chalk, tape, stick brushes that I make, ripped paper, frisket, and on and on.  I recently began painting in oils and it has helped me open up my ideas about texture and slight variations in color. I try to keep my process as open and experimental as I can, I rarely plan it out. I also love the printmaking process. There are so many wonderful unexpected moments, beautiful textures and happy accidents. If I had more time I would love to explore screenprinting. I also love to incorporate papers and images intended for a different purpose. I used vintage wallpapers, old bus schedules, report cards, and dining receipt carbon copies recently in a children’s book I just finished illustrating. In some places they might be recognizable but I try to seamlessly incorporate them into my illustrations. My scanner is my best friend! I also approach my illustrations similarly to my pattern design in that I use color stories to inspire my work. I am not sure which comes first – concept or color, but I would bet they are equal in informing how I start an illustration. The most fun is combining all these elements to create something satisfying and new.
The birdies are so cute! Which one would you choose?

Q: Tell us all about your MOST favorite illustration project: one from your past and one from your present.

A: What a fun question! I think my favorite illustration from the past was for a board book I did for Little Simon titled “Splish Splash”. It was an illustration of minnows in a shallow river. It was a little bit of a turning point in my work, I started moving in another direction – a little more painterly. The piece just flowed as I worked on it and the colors came together so naturally. It was so much fun to work on.
A current illustration that I quite like is one I did for a book dummy I was shopping around. It is a picture of a woman looking in a pet shop window. It was based on a true story and I love this piece because it is more narrative and it encourages your imagination. And it is about relationships which is a favorite theme of mine that I hope to explore more in my artwork. I also love the way the colors worked in this piece.
 These are two illustrations in which I wouldn’t necessarily want to change anything. I think that is when you know a piece is successful. It is hard to do that, I try to remind myself often that a lot of hard work does not necessarily yield work that you love, but there are always one or two pieces that have a lasting impact or a surprise nugget of something new that pushes your work forward.
Aren't little jellies the sweetest?!

Q: What advice would you give fellow artists looking to break into art licensing on the following topics: 1) business practices 2) self-promotion 3) daily habits.

A: I think that everyone works differently so it is hard to give individual advice. What works for me might not work for someone else. That said here are a couple of thoughts. Regarding business practices – the most important thing is to be respectful and maintain your professionalism, try to be the person an art director would want to work with again. Regarding self promotion – there are so many opportunities through social media. Just be sure you are showing your work to people who hire vs. only other artists. Take a risk and contact a dream client and introduce yourself and your work. Come up with some routine that is consistent, whether it is mailings or a newsletter that you email, try to stick to it. Personally, I just put my portfolio on a couple of community illustration websites and I haven’t done much marketing past that, except for children’s books where I do direct mailings. It still amazes me that people find me on the web solely through my online portfolios. Regarding daily habits – I think it is important to keep working on improving your artwork and updating your portfolio. I find the only way to do this is to do personal projects if you can find the time. I like to come up with a plan each day of what I hope to accomplish. Of course it doesn’t always work out that way, but doing that helps me make the best use of my time. It took me along time to refine my current style and yet I still feel like I am just getting started….so patience is key and giving yourself the necessary time to develop. That is the hardest part.
Cityscape fabulousness!!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.
A: Ahhhhh… I love the idea of a perfect Sunday. It is a beautiful sunny breezy summer day and I take a long walk with my husband along the ocean.  I go back to my studio and paint a bit. We get together with friends and family later that day for a big meal and some game playing. Lots of laughter and lots of chocolate are a must! Perfect.
Thank you so much, Amy, for catching up with us here at Bird Meets Worm!! We can’t wait to see what you create next! XO

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Super Star Interviews: Rebecca Green

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. (Note Bird Meets Worm is taking a holiday in September, so check back on the first Tuesday of October! XO)

This month I’m pleased as punch to be dishing with the super-talented, super-fabulous Illustrator, Rebecca Green! Rebecca is a fellow Tugeau2 Artist, working as a children's and young adult book illustrator. She currently resides in Nashville, TN. Rebecca works primarily in gouache and colored pencil, and also dabbles in acrylic, collage, and 3D set and puppet building. Her work is playful yet grounded, and often includes children and animals comprised of texture, patterns, and flat colors. You can view more of her artwork here!

Squirrels, mysterious forest, a bright-eyed girl—I want to read THIS story!

 Q: You recently attended ICON9 in Austin, Texas (SO super fun!!). Share with us your top 5 tips for getting the most out of attending the event.

A: Yes! I love ICON—this was my third time attending. 
1. Do your research—familiarize yourself with the artists, speakers, workshops. By going through the roster and seeing people's work before you actually get to the conference, you can be appreciate their talk—especially if they don't actually speak about just their art. 
2. Find others attending and reach out to them prior to the conference to schedule a coffee of meet up. It's a great way to meet people face to face
if all you've done is spoken with them online. 
3. Do the roadshow if you can! It's a juried event but if you get a table to share your work, it's a great way to get your portfolio in front of people, who would have otherwise not seen it. 
4. Take a workshop! It's enough just to go to the conference but I think taking a workshop is a great way to learn in a smaller environment and you are more likely to make closer genuine connections to people. 
5. Come with a sketchbook! Whether it's to jot notes, or doodle away, the conference is really idea inducing and energizing and chances are, you'll walk away inspired about your own work. 

Beware the evil WITCH!!

 Q: Dish with us about your work with the Warren (her working artist studio/art community hub/superstar space!). In what ways does it build and support your local art community? And why is it important to you?

A: The Warren is a dream space for me! It all sort of came together organically, but now that it's up and running, I realize it's what I've always wanted. I started it with local illustrator, Kayla Stark, because we couldn't find a local studio
that offered what we needed. The space is first and foremost a workspace for 4 permanent artists and a few community table members. We also are starting up workshops and class that will focus primarily on illustration, design, and freelancing. The space supports the local art community by hosting drink and draws, gallery shows and some free lectures and panel discussions. We are also open to the public every second Saturday of the month for our local East Nashville Art Stumble.

The space is incredibly important to me personally. As a freelancer, I spend enough time alone and I loathe working from home. I need a community. I need my people! And The Warren is basically a community of artists who support each other, share feedback and ideas, and bounce inspirations off of one another. I also must say the space itself is so beautiful—we have the best light!

"Don't worry, little guy, I've got ya!"
 Q: Your gorgeous illustrations have found a crossover between editorial work and gallery work as well as children’s publishing work. Chat with us a bit about how you balance servicing these 3 very different markets while staying true to your own artistic voice.

A: Good question! It's less an act of juggling and more an act of letting the juggling balls purposefully fall to the floor one by one. I planned to do narrative work in college and when I graduated I got pulled into gallery work 
and just sort of stuck with it. I actually have my last gallery show this November and I'm pleased to be taking a break from it.

As far as editorial work goes, I thought that's what illustration was (even though I wanted to do books) so I signed on with an editorial agent and really struggled through a couple of years with being unsatisfied with what I was making. I was losing my voice artistically, so I left that agent and started doing work that aligned with books.

In the last year, I've really made the switch over into the publishing work and happily work with Nicole, who has been a gem in helping me with this new venture. It's taken me 6 years, but I finally feel very at home and excited about the stuff I am working on. So in short...I just had to try a couple of things out to know how much I didn't want to do them, before I could fully get into books. 

How amazing is Rebecca's fabulous 3D art?!

Q: What would be your absolute DREAM illustration gig?

A: OH man. Probably taking a year or so to work on a stop motion film, where I get to do all the detail work for the characters and the set. I'd like to help create the look of the film, and then work on the actual fabrication. I wouldn't want to do any of the actual planning/production/film stuff...I would just want the detail jobs. And can we add travel in there? Traveling for research. And the film company has limitless brownies is the break room. That's my dream. 

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

A: Probably business. It's important to set it up on an ongoing basis instead of just waiting until taxes are due. But who am I kidding...I still put everything off! I hate business, so it's the one thing I feel like I should have focused on more in the beginning.

Slumber party trouble brewing...

 Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: It's Autumn, the windows are open. My husband Matt and I make breakfast and coffee and then walk our dog, Mori through the park by our house. We wear scarves because it's cold! We then go to the farmers market…maybe get some pumpkins, wander around, thrift a bit, get more coffee from a cutie little coffee shop, head back home and cook a huge dinner with roasted vegetables. Then we sit by a fire in our front yard and one of us reads ghost stories.

*Just writing this makes me loathe this heat we're having in Nashville! I grew up in MI and I miss the cold so much!

Thank you so much, Rebecca, for catching up with us here at Bird Meets Worm!! We love your fabulous artwork! XO

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

NEW Chloe Zoe "First Day of School" Picture Books

I'm pleased as punch to share the next 2 picture books in my Chloe Zoe series: "It the First Day of Preschool, Chloe Zoe!" & "It's the First Day of Kindergarten, Chloe Zoe!"! They released on July 1st. with Albert Whitman & Co. and are the PERFECT stories to get your little ones ready for their big school year adventures in the fall! Purchase them here now!! XO

Chloe Zoe is starting preschool today, but she’s a little nervous. What if she doesn’t like it? Mommy tells her that she will get to sing songs, read stories, and paint pictures. But Chloe Zoe isn’t so sure. She’d rather stay at home and play with her little sister. Will Chloe Zoe discover how fun preschool is before the day is over?

Chloe Zoe is starting kindergarten! Full days of school for a full week. Chloe Zoe has a new backpack and matching lunch box and is so excited to see her best friends Mary Margaret and George. On the first day of school, Chloe Zoe discovers Mary Margaret and George are in a different kindergarten class. Will kindergarten be any fun without her best friends?