Thursday, November 8, 2018

Thanksgiving Sticker Card for Design Design

I'm pleased as apple cider punch to share my NEW Thanksgiving Sticker Activity Card for Design Design!! It's the perfect holiday fun for the little ones in your life!  Shop it here now!

How totally cute is this Thanksgiving sticker scene?! I'm so thankful for stickers!! • © Jane Smith 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Super Star Interviews: Olivia Chin Mueller

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. 

I’m pleased as apple cider punch to be catching up with the fabulous Illustrator Olivia Chin Mueller! I'm a long-time fan girl of Olivia's adorable artwork and love that we are fellow T2 artist, both of us being represented by the lovely Nicole Tugeau. Olivia is a children’s book illustrator from Connecticut who graduated from RISD in 2014. She currently lives in Rhode Island, and loves her cat, moths, and anything cute! You can view more of her artwork here!

Ooo! The cutest trick-or-treaters ever!!!

Q: I absolutely love your sweet, adorable style that is a mix of classic golden book vintage and modern technique. Dish with us a bit about your unique art style—how you approach your artwork & what inspires you?

A: When I first started illustrating, I was much more focused on editorial work. Because it was typically only one image for those types of jobs, I was able to work in a very painterly, fully rendered style. However, when I decided to try out children’s books, I realized that this technique was not practical for multi-image projects! It was too time consuming, and to me, just didn’t seem to fit the child-like tone. I decided to try out a style that was a bit flatter, but still had a slight painterly feel! Thats how I ended up with the style I have now—something kind of flat, yet textured!

Like you mentioned above, I am very inspired by vintage Golden Book illustration! The colors and textures on those books are so beautiful to me, and is something I want to capture in my own work!

Oh, no! Mirabel, you've lost your valentine!!

Q: You had two super CUTE picture books release this year: Mirabel’s Missing Valentine and Princess Puffybottom—and Darryl. Give us the full scoop on these two titles: beginning, middle and end of each project.

A: I feel like Mirabel was a very important book for me! Not only because I relate so much to the shy mouse main character, but also because I experimented with a new style while working on this book! There were a lot of landscapes in this story, and I wasn’t quite used to drawing them. (I normally like to draw very close up scenes). However, the style I found to make those scenes work for me is now something I want to use in all my future work! I had to be a lot looser in those images, and it turns out I really liked working that way!

The beginning of working on Mirabel was difficult for me, because I was still trying to figure out how to approach it, But once I figured it out, it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had illustrating a children’s book!!

The very definition of cuteness overload!!! I love it!

Princess Puffybottom actually gave me a similar problem. Tundra asked if I could draw the cat in the story in a way I had only done once before (an image they found on my Instagram from years prior). I had basically forgotten how I had done it, and what brush I had used back then! It took a lot of back and forth until I finally was able to replicate the style! I'm thankful they stuck by me while I figured it out! I think it turned out great though, and I’m so happy they asked me to work that way again!

This story was also unique for me in that the tone of the book was much different than what I was used to illustrating. The books I had worked on in the past all had a much more serious tone to them—people tend to hire me for slightly ‘darker’ books because of the work in my portfolio. However, Princess Puffybottom is a very happy and funny story, with lots of things that would make people laugh! I was asked to draw both cat poop and dog puke in this book, both of which were definitely firsts for me!! It was great to experience something new, and I’m so glad I was able broaden my illustrating horizons with such a great story!

Q: You have two very unique hobbies: creating felted wool animals and raising silk worms! Tell us ALL about these hobbies and how they inform/inspire/support your professional illustration work.

A: I started needle felting in high school after I took a class on wet felting with my mom! It turns out I didn’t really like wet felting at all, but it introduced me to needle felting! I bought a book about it soon after, and then I started making and selling little animals as a way to make money while in school, instead of getting a summer job! Although my needle felting shop has been closed for years, I still needle felt occasionally for fun or for gifts!

I think that learning how to needle felt has definitely helped my illustration work! It helped me to understand things in a 3D way. I remember when I first started illustrating, I would create my character first in felt, which would then help me draw it from different angles!

How gorgeous is he?! We are big fans of bugs in my house!

Moths have always been one of my favorite creatures! I find them to be so fuzzy and cute, and even more beautiful than butterflies! I'm actually afraid of most insects, but not moths for some reason!

In college, I took a class on insects, where we often took field trips to the woods or fields to collect insects and study them. We also learned how to pin and preserve them for display! I became fascinated after this, and when the class was over, I found a website where you can purchase moth cocoons to hatch and raise. I made a little inclosure, and bought a bunch of cocoons from different silk moth species. (I think I started out with Luna moths, Cecropia Moths, and Polyphemus moths). Almost all of them hatched, and I had so much fun observing and drawing them! When they died a week or two later (these species of silk moths only live about one week or so as adults, because they actually don’t have mouths to eat with—their only purpose is to reproduce at this stage!) I preserved them all and still have most of them in a shadow box on my wall!

Q: Chat with us a bit about your MOST favorite illustration projects: one from the past and one from the present.

A: I think my favorite recent project I worked on was Princess Puffybottom, for all the reasons I mention above!

Although its not from that long ago, my favorite project from the past was definitely the two books I got to illustrate for Golden Books: I am a Kitten! and I am a Puppy! It has always been a dream of mine to do work for them, so illustrating those was so surreal!! Plus, I got to draw cute kittens and puppies for a couple months straight which is never bad!

Gorgeous Golden Books! Hello, Kitten!

Q: It seems like everyone these days wants to illustrate children’s picture books! What advice would you give to illustrators looking to break into the children’s publishing industry? And what advice would you give to fellow professional illustrators looking to continue working in the industry?

A: I think having an agent is important! Especially if you are like me, and aren’t very good at negotiating or reading and understanding contracts! I also think that having an online presence, like an Instagram and Twitter account, is very helpful for not only gaining exposure on your work, but making friends and connections in the industry!

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned in the few years I've been working, is to only fill your portfolio with work you want to get hired for! I remember in the beginning, I drew a bunch of children and babies for my portfolio, because I thought thats what I needed to do. However, I really prefer drawing animals, so when I would be hired to draw babies I wouldn’t enjoy it! After I took down those images from my website, I got hired for things I loved! I guess that seems kind of obvious, but it didn’t occur to me!

Q: Describe your most perfect day.

A: It's exactly 62 degrees, and I’m inside watching movies with my cat, Minnow, while sipping on some hot chocolate!

Thank you so much, Olivia, for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm! We think you're amazing!!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Friday, October 5, 2018

Disco Dance-Off

© Jane Smith • Disco Dance-Off

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Super Star Interviews: Puck Selders

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. 

I’m tickled Autumn leaf pink to be chatting it up with the darling Illustrator/Designer, Puck Selders! I’m a fan girl for all her adorable designs and can't wait to share them with you! Puck 
lives in Leiderdorp, the Netherlands, with her partner and two wonderful children. She is represented by Brenda Manley Designs and is passionate about drawing, painting, fabrics and beautiful colours. Puck studied Fashion and Textile design at The Royal Academy of Art, The Hague. After graduating, she started working in-house as a babywear designer for several companies for about 13 years. After that, she became freelance, so she could focus on surface pattern design and illustration. Puck loves all things cute, stationary, fabric, children’s books, going to the theatre, the beach, being outside, rollerskating, dancing mambo and everything food related. You can view more of her artwork here!

Busy, busy construction site! What do you want to build?

Q: You’re superstar power is creating adorable characters and patterns for a variety of art licensing markets! Dish with us about your creative process: inspiration to sketches to final art—all the fabulous details.

A: Sometimes I make little doodles and sketches with pencil and paper first, without looking for reference, just using my imagination. Scan it into Illustrator and work from there. But mostly, I start gathering some reference first (not too much!) and then just start drawing in Illustrator, with my tablet and pen. I do have a lot of fantasy, so ideas just appear while drawing—yay! I also love to make textures with paint, scan it into illustrator and have a play with it. I recently started making lino prints, too—so much fun! Love to try new things!

As far as inspiration, I love Instagram and Pinterest! So many wonderful artists! I also use trendboards provided by Brenda Manley, my lovely agent. And just by looking around, nature, playing kids—inspiration is everywhere!

Santa is totally already in the holiday spirit!

Q: You worked for more than a decade as an in-house babywear designer before becoming a freelancer. How has that experience shaped and influenced you as a freelance Illustrator/Designer—both from an artist and a businesswoman perspective?

A: I learned so much while working in-house—everything from setting up themes, colourcards, moodboards, building collections, drawing styles and artworks to preparing photoshoots and making salesbooks. But also, technical stuff about fabric qualities, printing, embroidery and applique techniques and how to send your work to manufacturers, so they understand what to do. Super valuable information I still benefit from.

When I started as a freelancer, the first commissions were babywear design gigs. That was great to start with, because I knew exactly what I had to do. But I also wanted to focus more on surface pattern design and illustration and had to build my portfolio, so I spent hours and hours drawing and doing some online classes. I loved making cute baby and little kids art while working in-house and that’s still my favorite thing to do.

Fall foxies are ready to play! Are you?!

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

A: Everyday starts with a big mug of coffee! Then, when the kids are off to school, I’m off to my workspace, which is at our attic. I always work with some music on the radio and if it’s not too cold, an open window—I love fresh air. I work on a PC using Illustrator, Photoshop and a Wacom pen and tablet. Since I’m represented by Brenda, I mainly work on new art—my favorite thing!! Before she was my agent, I used to spend a lot of time contacting possible new clients, sending emails, looking around which companies could be a good fit with my art, etc. I work until it’s time to pick up the kids from school. I regularly work nights, too, sometimes because there’s a deadline and sometimes because I just want to draw.

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

A: I once designed a series of artworks for Zeeman and they made a variety of products with it, like stickers, toys, colouring books—really cool to see those products in the shops. Recently, I sold quite some designs to Stoffonkel, a fabric company. It’s so cool to see my designs become fabric and the things customers make with it! For the future, I’d love to see my art on Paperchase products or design some kids tablewear for Rice or design baby toys. But actually, as long as I can just draw cute stuff, I’m super happy!

Time to blast off & have an adventure!

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

A: 1. Get your work out there! On social media, your website—You never know which company/ agent/ art director will come across your work and might contact you! Also, send emails with some samples of your work to companies that you think are a good fit for your style. Don’t give up too fast if you don’t get a response! I know it can be super frustrating not getting responses, but just try again after a few months with new work.

2. I’ve never been to a trade show myself, so I can’t tell you a lot about it, but my agent does attend a few each year like Blueprint and Surtex. Super exciting! Busy times preparing art, postcards, blurbbook, flyers, but I love it all. I really want to go to Surtex someday!

3. I definitely think it’s important to keep your eyes open and be aware of what’s popular and trending. I think it’s a good idea to follow some trends. I did quite a lot of unicorn and mermaid designs—lol. Customers kept coming back for more. But I don’t follow trends that are just not my cup of tea—like the trend with bugs, no thanks! Sometimes it’s ok to say no, right?

Mermaid really do have more fun!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Hmmm, well. First, sleep in, then a lovely breakfast with coffee, croissants, fresh fruit & juice… After that I think we’d go to the beach, have a great time there, and of course, more food—haha! After that we’d go home, have home-made pizza for dinner and when the kids are asleep, we’d watch a movie. 

Thank you so much, Puck, for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm! We think you're fabulous!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Super Star Children's Book Review: A Lady Has the Floor

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Joan CharlesSharon Calle—and I are so excited to be championing books celebrating everything from gender diversity, people of color, the LGBTQ community to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, people with disabilities and developmental challenges to controversial topics, unique family situations and anything and everything I did not include. It is to say we take a rightfully board view of diversity! We aim to shine a light on books that bring both familiar experiences to those who do not often see themselves represented in books and new experiences to those looking to expand their worldview. Here at Bird Meets Worm we believe in the power of story to build empathy and thus a better world for you and me and everyone. Look for a new review on the second Wednesday of every month. (And yes, this month's review is a day early in deference to Hurricane Florence!)

By Kate Hannigan • Illustrated by Alison Jay
Picture Book (ages 7+)  • 32 Pages
Published by Calkins Creek • 2018
ISBN: 978-1-6297-9453-2

A Lady Has the Floor is the rollicking account of the extraordinary life of Belva Lockwood, the most interesting, dynamic, and influential woman you’ve never heard of.

From earliest childhood, Belva refused to let the fact that she was a girl get in her way. Over the objections of her father, she enrolled in college, graduating from Genesee College with honors in 1857 (but not without a fight)!

After teaching in New York schools for several years, Belva was eager for new challenges. She moved to Washington DC after the Civil War, where she entered law school. She was one of the first women in America to earn a law degree (but not without a fight)! As an attorney, she championed the rights of the poor, the weak, and those without a voice, eventually becoming the first female to argue before the Supreme Court (but not without a fight)!

Perhaps her greatest fight was the struggle for women’s suffrage. Not only did she campaign vigorously for a woman’s right to vote, she actually ran for President twice – in 1884 and 1888. And although she lost, Belva’s candidacy was another important battle in her lifelong war to secure equal rights and opportunities for women.

Especially timely in an election year when a record number of women are running for public office, Belva’s story is a testament to the power of saying yes to your own dreams and aspirations – even when everyone around you is saying no.

Alison Jay’s illustrations are the perfect complement to Kate Hannigan’s lively text. Painted in soft, glowing colors in her signature na├»ve style, Alison shows us a strong, secure Belva striding across the pages just as she strode through life, checking items off her cosmic “to do” list, while leaving a better world in her wake.

“Fight, fight, fight everlastingly – not with your claws and fists, but with your wits.” – Belva Lockwood

Buy this book:

Barnes and Noble

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Joan Charles

Monday, September 10, 2018

Night School

Welcome to Night School, Owlets!! • © Jane Smith