Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Super Star Interviews: Jill Howarth

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. (Special Note!! Bird Meets Worm will be taking an artist interview summer break in the month of August. But, be sure to check back in September because you don’t want to miss all the fun interviews coming in the Fall! Cheers!)

This month I’m so happy to be catching up with the fabulous Designer/Illustrator, Jill Howarth! I first came across Jill’s delightful artwork during Lilla Rogers’ MATS class and instantly fell for her whimsical characters and imaginative typography. Jill grew up in a tiny town in rural Pennsylvania, and always loved to draw. She attended Penn State University for Graphic design. Upon graduation, Jill took a job as a Junior Designer at Hasbro, in their corporate design department. She eventually became an Art Director for their Playskool brand, but when she started a family, she happily turned to freelancing. Since then, Jill has gradually shifted her focus from design to primarily illustration. You can view more of her artwork here!

Happy as an adorable pear! Love it!

Q: You are a master of typography and hand-lettering! Dish with us about your inspiration, process and approach to type.

A: Ha, I so wish I was a master, but it's a field that is heavily loaded with talent these days! I don't really know why, but I've always liked playing with lettering and truthfully, it is a very learnable skill. My comfort level with it probably has a lot to do with my background as a graphic designer. In college, one of my typography professors made us hand paint all these super long quotes. It seemed ridiculously tedious at the time (and it was!) but it really made you pay attention to relationships between letters, X height, kerning, ligatures… all that fun stuff, haha. But really, there is no substitute for practice and observation. It was tedious work at times, but I guess I enjoyed it and I'm glad I had the experience. In many ways, I like lettering because even though there are tons of choices and approaches, it's still finite...a "b" has to look like a "b," a "w" is a "w," and so on. There is a certain set of parameters when working with type that is different than say drawing something from scratch and getting past that blank page stage, that we all hate. It becomes a puzzle that you can go about solving…choosing the best forms/variations of those letters that support the intent of the word or the larger quote and making them all fit well together. 

As far as inspiration, there are sooooo many wonderful lettering artists that I admire. I'm constantly finding more to follow on Instagram! From technically perfect, to brush/ calligraphic masters, to expressive, I could never name names, since there is so much talent out there. I'm also inspired by the founders of modern graphic design, particularly Pushpin, with Seymour Chwast, Milton Glaser and so on. 

So sweet, so darling! Love the soft palette and little black bear!

Q: How has your time at a Senior Designer/Art Director at Hasbro Toys influenced your freelance illustration career—both artistically and business-wise?

A: Well, I didn't graduate from college, hoping to work for a toy company, but I think there are a lot of advantages to working in a corporate design department that a lot of young designers overlook. Like so many graduates, I hoped to land something in some hot design studio or boutique agency. When that didn't happen right away, I applied for a junior design job at Hasbro. Working in a corporate environment gives you an inside look at all the facets of getting a product to market. You have to work with all the major corporate players from marketing, sales, legal, copywriting, R&D, packaging, merchandising, etc. It really gives you a broad spectrum of experience, plus you have the opportunity to work with freelancers and see the other side of the coin, so to speak.

Artistically, you need to work in a way that will satisfy your creative vision, while keeping all those aforementioned departments happy. It's not always easy, but it's "real life" design work. Plus, as an art director, you have to work within budgets and source out vendors, so there is business experience to be gained as well.  

Q: Give us the scoop on your MOST favorite illustration project you’ve created—one from the past and one from the present.

A: Ohhhhh...that's a tough question! I'm not sure I can fairly answer that, ha. As far as personal projects, I really enjoyed working on my letters for the group alphabet project we did over at Happy Happy Art Collective. I recently did a book cover of Alice and Wonderland for Scholastic that I'm especially proud of. It combined both lettering and illustration, so it felt like a perfect fit. I also worked on some Christmas board books recently, so I'm super excited about those coming out. 

An autumn woodland fantasy rocking out with the squirrels & bunnies!

Q: You exhibited for the first time at Surtex 2015 with your art collective Happy Happy. (And your booth was SO fabulous!!) Tell us a bit about your experiences before, during and after the show.

A: Well, Surtex was a whirlwind! And a great experience for me as part of a collective. I'm usually the one standing on the sidelines, so this was the perfect opportunity to work with such talented artists that I am proud to call friends as well. We worked together pretty seamlessly in designing the booth, as well as all the other nitty gritty details of show preparation. My biggest issue was the super late start I had on making new work. Because of that, I didn't have the time to do as much promo as I would have liked to. I went into it with low to no expectations and came away very happy with the wide range of contacts and some deals. Plus, it was a ton of fun!

Q: How do you approach marketing yourself as an illustrator to both existing and potential clients? What marketing advice would you give fellow illustrators wishing to generate a steady stream of work?

A: I don't think I'm the best person to ask about self-marketing, but I'll try. I'm a strong believer in just getting your work out there, on your site, social media, wherever! You never know where someone might come across your work. Also, just ask! Don't be afraid to send some samples to a dream client who you think might be a good match for your style. You have nothing to lose and you might be surprised with a positive response. And pay attention! I follow a lot of cool shops on Instagram to seek what is popular and trending and who they are working with. And with existing clients, it goes without saying, be on time or ahead of schedule and if time allows, give them more than they asked for. 

Can you say adorable boy bedding? Yes, yes and yes!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Hmmmm...being off on some exciting vacation sounds pretty good right about now! Short of that, maybe a great breakfast out with some good coffee, followed by watching some baseball at Fenway (even though I am a lifelong Yankee fan, I still like the park), followed by dinner at my favorite tex mex restaurant in Cambridge! Lots of eating and no cooking!

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

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Super Jane & Mpix

I'm super excited to share that I've teamed up with Mpix to bring you four NEW, totally adorable children's birthday party invitations! Aliens, Circus, Cupcakes & Monsters! Each are customizable with your own photos and party details! Check it out & shop today! XO

Alien birthday with outer space cosmic cake? Awesome!! • © Jane Smith

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Super Star Interviews: Denise Holmes

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 delighted to be chatting up with the super sweet Illustrator, Denise Holmes! She is a fellow Tugeau2 artist and I’m totally in love with her darling artwork. Denise attended The School of The Art Institute of Chicago and earned her BFA in 2003. After graduating, Denise worked everything from a server to a sales associate until she saved up enough money to pursue her dream of illustrating children's books. In 2012, after 6 years of freelancing, her hard work and perseverance paid off when she was asked to illustrate If I Wrote A Book About You by Stephany Aulenback, published by Simply Read Books. Since then she has worked on a variety of projects, including The Yoga Game series and 2 children's activity books. You can view more of her artwork here!

Jack and Jill went up and hill and read Denise's book!

Q: You are a member of the fabulous art collective, Happy Happy. What are the advantages of being closely connected to an active art community as a freelancer? Dish with us about your experiences as a member of the online group.

A: I have been freelancing for eight years and most of those years were pretty lonely. I had become friends with Emily Balsley and Tammie Bennett over time and we all ended up taking Lilla Roger's Make Art That Sells course together. Tammie had the great idea after the class to start the Happy Happy Art Collective!

Being part of Happy Happy is one of the best things. We started out as a group to get together and push ourselves to make more work and we ended up all getting amazing paying work within a year. We now talk daily about jobs, questions we have about contracts, gossip in the industry and what is happening in our personal lives. It’s a great support system and doesn’t make freelancing feel as lonely. 

Would you like a spot of tea, kitty cat? Oh, yes, please!

Q: Give us the scoop on your artistic process from initial concept & sketches thru final art technique & finishing touches. (I simply adore your whimsical linework & earthy, but bright palette! Swooon!)

A: I start all my projects—be it client or personal work looking around for inspiration. It could be in my book collection, out and about in the neighborhood or on the Internet. Then I sketch everything in my sketchbook with my handy mechanical pencil and bring it over to my lightbox to ink it in with a nib pen (my favorite tool) and ink. I scan everything into Illustrator and color from there. My color palettes are always so similiar, I tend to work with a lot of the same colors. I have a huge color spreadsheet in Illustrator that I keep adding pretty colors to. When I start a project I go to the sheet and pick out what I think would work best. Last, I will play around with adding textures and shadows and save it!  

Let's go on an outer space adventure!

Q: You’ve illustrated a handful of lovely children’s books! Which one is your favorite? Then tell us all about it—how it began, how it developed, everything.

A: I got so lucky—I mean it. It has always been my dream to be a children’s book illustrator. I was a new mom and having a rough day when I got the email. An editor at Simply Read Books contacted me to see if I would be interested in illustrating a book they had in mind. It just so happened to be If I Wrote A Book About You by Stephany Aulenback. I got the manuscript and couldn’t believe what perfect timing the story was. The story is about a mother’s love for her child and I quickly replied YES! I said YES! And I actually had no clue where to start. I luckily came across Susan Hartung who offers a how to make a book dummy class online and I asked if we could change it up a little to help me. She mentored me through the entire process. Her critiques were the hardest I have ever endured, but it really helped me to create the best work I could have made for the book. It’s silly but the best part is getting to read it to my daughter. Who luckily asks for it pretty often.

Sweetness abounds! Sunshine meooow!

Q: As an Illustrator Mama, in what ways do you balance your home life and your work life? How does your daughter influence your artistic life, both personally and professionally?

A: If only I knew the answer! This is the toughest thing for me to do. I try my best to balance work and life so that I’m not super exhausted by the end of the day. My daughter is 3 and not in school yet (can’t wait for the fall!) so I spend my mornings doing mom duty, cooking, cleaning, playing, and trying to do a fun activity before lunch. We paint, make projects, draw, read books and explore the neighborhood most days. After lunch is her two-hour nap and that is where I bust out my emails, Facebook, blogs and I write a list of all the things I need to get done for the day/week. 3 PM is wake up time and we try to go outside until my husband gets home from work at 4. Dinner, bath, read books and she’s off to bed and I finally get to sit down and work at 7. I do my best to respond to everyone’s email, but I spend the next 4 hours working on my to-do list. It makes for a long day, but I end my nights reading my on my kindle until I fall asleep. If I am on a deadline I enlist the help of my neighbor to watch Hazel for a few hours in the mornings. Oh, and I should add that my mom comes in once a month to help out, too.  I’m pretty lucky! 

As for my daughter, she is such a huge influence on me! To me she helped open up the children's book world even more. I get to read books to her over and over and over again. I know what I love about them, I know what I hate—what could I do better, what did they do to make this book so great? It is amazing what my daughter likes and what she doesn't (we don't always agree). It might be sort of like cheating!? We also get to draw together a lot and I love being able to sit down with her and just doodle— not worrying about how it will look or if the color is all wrong. I really love experiencing childhood with her again.

Wouldn't you just LOVE to cozy up with this book?! Buy it here!

Q: How do you market yourself to both publishing and art licensing clients? What advice would you give to fellow illustrators?

A: This is a great question, because it is something I have struggled with. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out how to merge my two worlds together. To me it felt like illustration for clients and picture book illustration were two different worlds. I kept trying to figure out if I should have two separate websites, but in the end, I just decided to combine everything into one portfolio. It works for me, it’s who I am and I can’t separate them.

As for advice, I have seen it both ways, but I feel like it’s great if you do different markets—the more you know about each industry the more work for you to get! I love being able to bring in my knowledge of design to my children’s books and my children’s book work into my client projects. It really opens up your world.

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Coffee. With my family in tow, head up to Logan Square Farmer’s Market to get some delicious food and hang out on the grass with my cousin and her husband. A catnap in the early afternoon and then some time to work in my sketchbook at my favorite coffee shop Star Lounge. Dinner at The Chicago Diner, a nice evening walk around the neighborhood and end it with gelato at Black Dog. Hang out on the porch with husband after the little one goes to bed, drinks, talking, laughing, go to bed super happy because life is lovely.

Thank you so much, Denise!! It’s been so fabulous catching up with you! Can’t wait to see what new delightful artwork you create next!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Summer Froggies

Just kicking off the beginning of summer a bit early with a fun-sunny-froggies-at-the-beach illo inspired by my little beach town, Hermosa! XO

© Jane Smith • Summer Froggies