Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Super Star Interviews: Cale Atkinson

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 catching up with the very talented Illustrator, Cale Atkinson. Cale is a fellow artist with Tugeau2 Art Reps and I am a huge fan! Cale is an illustrator/writer/animator currently residing in Kelowna Canada. Believing in tea more than sleep, Cale is constantly working on numerous projects. His work can be found in children’s books, animated shorts, television, and games. You can view more of his artwork here!

Cale's superstar picture book, To the Sea!

Q: Your career has been very self-directed from foregoing a traditional art/film education to moving back and forth from in-house studio work to freelancing. Dish with us about your boldest career choices and what following your dreams means to you?

A: I’m not sure what my boldest choices are along the way, but I do think an important aspect of my career thus far has been not shying away from making changes and taking on new challenges. This has meant taking risks, leaving reliable jobs, and a lot of work!

Ever since I was a kid I’ve always been quite driven and determined to create/tell stories in some way for my job/career/life. The things I’ve wanted to accomplish seem to be ever changing and growing (from comic strip artist to comic artist, filmmaker, television show creator, animator, picture book author/illustrator...) No matter how unprepared, unskilled or inexperienced I am, I always go after each new goal with all my might. I suppose many of my choices have been kind of ‘bold’, though you could also probably call them stubborn or naive. :)

I believe following your dreams means you love/want/believe-in something so much that you are willing to push, work and face your fears to make it a reality, no matter how many people tell you no.

How lovely to visit Venice with a trio of monster friends!

Q: Comics and cartoons have played a huge role in shaping you into the fabulous Illustrator you are. Give us the scoop on your biggest comic and cartoon influences from both childhood and today.

A: Whewph, it’s always hard naming influences. Growing up my biggest influences would have to be The Simpsons, Gary Larson, Sergio Aragones, Ben Edlund (creator of The Tick), Disney, Don Bluth, George Lucas, Spielberg…

Today there is such a wealth of inspiration at our fingertips on the internet it makes it hard single out influential modern artists, there would be far too many to try and name here. Most of the old illustration/animation greats are still a big source in inspiration to me as well, such as Eyvind Earle, Mary Blair, Martin & Alice Provensen, Charley Harper, Ward Kimball…I’d say we are living in a great time for animation in both feature length and television. I love what Laika is producing and am so inspired by their work. I am also so happy cartoons like adventure time, gravity falls and over the garden wall are being made. Inspiration abound!

Don'tcha just LOVE this little guy?!

Q: I simply adore your illustration series of animal professionals in their workspaces!! Tell us every little thing about how these pieces came to be from idea to sketch to finished series.

A: Thanks so much! They are so fun to do! I love working on illustrations that you can fill up with little details that help tell a narrative. One random day doodling or writing, I thought it would be really fun to do a series of animals as professors, where as you see them at their cluttery busy desk, and can tell what they study through the details around them. I brainstormed a bunch of different animals (with the help of some of my friends!) and then picked the first ones I was excited to do. As far as process is pretty much went from a somewhat clean sketch, to being scanned in and all painted in Photoshop :)

Quiet froggie friend!

Q: In animation, the process is all about consistency and conformity. In what ways in your personal and contract work do you break out of this to define your artwork as uniquely you?

A: Tough question! I’m super lucky to be in a position now where I get to create the style/look of most the things I work on. I think making time to do your own personal work is SUPER important. It is completely in my personal work where I spent time experimenting, playing with designs and finding what appeals to me most, which in turn is where I’ve developed the look of my art. When working on projects for clients (no matter if for animation or illustration) I think it’s hard to experiment or try new things as you want to make sure the client will like it, so generally, you play it more safe. I would say your personal art is like your testing ground, and if the tests are a success it can lead to and drive your contract/paid work. Pretty much 99.9% of all my best opportunities have come from personal work/projects I decided to do for fun, and this is still the case now. I think artwork that is uniquely you shines through best when there is no specific reason you are doing it, aside from the challenge, fun and love of it.

Wishing on a star for forest friends!

Q: With your background in both children's publishing and animation, you are a master of visual storytelling. What advise would you give fellow illustrators about how to 1) set the tone/mood of a story 2) establish the setting of the story and 3) create drama/action/tension.

A: Definitely not a master! More of a fake-it-until-one-day-I-make-it kinda guy :)
1                Know the mood/feeling you want your story or image to have. If I don’t know that feeling in my head before starting, it makes it 1000 times harder for me to get the image out. I think if you want an image or story to have feeling, you need to feel it. After you got that then you can play with layout, colours, design and all the art elements to help try and push that feeling/mood as much as you can.
2                I think the setting of your story has to come from the story itself. A big help if you only have a vague idea is research! Use that beast known as the internet to get ideas of what would be in such settings or if possible, check out similar settings in real life and take pics/notes!
3                Experiment in the early stages with simple small thumbnail drawings. Play with blocking in different layout ideas and trying different colour combinations at a very top level rough to try and find the feel you’re going for. Thumbnails are a perfect process for trying many, many, many ideas and not getting consumed in details or spending too much time on any specific one.

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Drinking tea and answering these questions on the couch is a pretty great way to spend this one. Otherwise I would say being somewhere warm, working on an exciting project/story, going for a swim and then checking out a new movie in the theatres :)


Awww, shucks! Thanks so much for catching up with us here at Bird Meets Worm, Cale!!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

It's Valentine's Day, Chloe Zoe! Book Launch Party

I'm pleased as punch to invite your to join in the book launch party for It's Valentine's Day, Chloe Zoe!  Come celebrate! The book is the first in a series of 6-picture books releasing from publisher Albert Whitman throughout 2016, featuring the sweet elephant, Chloe Zoe! We will be giving Chloe Zoe a fabulous launch for her first book at Pages Bookstore with a reading & book signing, complete with some fun extras and lots of valentine candy! It will be a sweet valentine celebration perfect for sharing the love! Bring your little ones, bring your friends, bring your valentine! Hope to see you there! XO



Saturday, January 9, 2016

Chloe Zoe Books Featured in the Beach Reporter Newspaper

I'm pleased to share that The Beach Reporter newspaper recently interviewed me for an article about my NEW Chloe Zoe picture book series! It's run in this week's paper! If you're in the Southbay area of Los Angeles, check it out! Or enjoy it online here! XO

All images © Jane Smith. Hooray for Chloe Zoe!

Jane Smith & Kess InHouse

One of my favorite art licensing partners, Kess InHouse, recently interviewed me for a feature on their blog! So fabulous! Check it out here today! XO


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Super Star Interviews: Miriam Bos

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 catching up with the very superstar Illustrator, Miriam Bos. I first discover her delightful artwork while classmates in the famed Lilla Rogers’ MATS e-course and later had the pleasure of seeing her work in person at Surtex. Miriam is a cheerful and energetic pattern designer and children’s book illustrator from the Netherlands. She loves creating warm, joyful artwork inspired by nature, and specializes in both traditional and digital techniques. You can view more of her artwork here!


Such lovely details! Don't you just adore these colors—teals, reds and pinks?!

Q: Your artwork is SO rich and beautiful, blending both traditional and digital techniques. Chat with us about how you achieve the balance, taking us through your process from inspiration thru final art.

A: Thanks very much for your compliment. Well, I had to think of this question a little bit. It's like asking me: how do you breathe? I don't know exactly, I work very intuitively. 

I think I go on the spur of the moment. It depends on the idea I start with.
Most of the time I simply sit down with my sketchbook and start drawing elements of the artwork that I have in mind. It's brainstorming with visuals instead of words. I like to start with drawing things from the top of my head, but I often google for reference as well, to study a shape or look and then continue drawing things a bit differently.

For the first part of the process I like working with ink and draw simple lines. So I use my dip pens and fineliners a lot. But I also LOVE to work with gouache and brushpens, which I dilute with water to give them a watercolour effect. The process is organically. I let the art speak for itself and the ideas come while working on the piece. Sometimes I work on a composition and draw a whole scene, and the other time I simply work on icons that I will combine on the computer later.

After I am done with the paper phase I continue to my computer and scan it in. I build up the illustration, cutting out all the objects, so they are on their own layer. This enables me to move them around so I can improve the composition and mend little mistakes. Very often I like to add vector elements as well, to give the artwork a bit of a modern twist. I love combining the graphic elements and their somewhat fixed shapes with the more organic flowing lines of the watercolours and line art.

Of course I also work on artwork that's a 100% digital. A lot of the children's books I worked on lately are digital from scratch (with some hand painted texture added). I work a lot with my own made brushes in photoshop, which gives the illustration a more painted feel. A lot of my pattern designs are vector-only. Made in Adobe illustrator. 


It's a PARTY!! I wanna come!

Q: Your artwork appears on a variety of fabulously amazing products spanning multiple markets, such as fabric, wall art, cards, children’s books and clothing and more! Give us the scoop on how you approach self-promotion to address such a wide variety of clients and potential clients.

A: It's exciting to be able to work in so many different markets. I really love them all, and I feel super fortunate to have this diversity available to me. It makes the job never boring while II’ve had the chance of working with some amazing people along the way.
I approach marketing in a few different ways. 

One of them is sending out emails to companies I'd like to work with. Of course, there is a chance of not getting a reply. Art directors are very busy people and get lots of emails all the time. And it's possible you are not what they are looking for (at that moment). But it never hurts to try again after some time. Don't stalk them every week though ;)

I try to send out a newsletter every month. I am sending out two different newsletters. One is for my business contacts, whom I share my latest artwork with that is available for licensing, and the other one is for my other followers and contains updates of my latests projects. I am trying to send it as regularly as possible, which is sometimes hard to do when juggling different projects at the same time. The marketing aspect of this job can be quite time consuming.

Another option is sending out mailings to the companies that you really like to work with. I only send them out sporadically though because of my budget, and also because e-mails are faster and environmental friendly compared to all that printwork. But once a year I'd like to send a paper mailing to a select list of companies that contains a presentation of my work and an invitation to come and visit me at Surtex. Surtex is an art licensing trade show, which I will be attending for the third time in a row in 2016! And it will be my first time going solo, which feels like a huge step!  

And last but not least there is my online presentation. 
I write a blog post every time I have something new and fun to share. And I am active on different social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Instagram is my most favourite of them all because it's mainly focused on visuals, which I personally love. I try to draw and post something every day. Sometimes it's a sneak peek to some new art I am working on, or it is a drawing I made during lunch just for practice or as a startup for a new piece of artwork. It gives people a bit of a 'behind the scenes' feel and they see a bit of my work in progress.


Delicate and darling! How cute would this be in your kitchen?!

Q: There’s a distinctly “modern vintage” essence to your artwork, especially your images for kids. They harken back to the Golden Books of Mary Blair and her peers! Dish with us about “modern vintage” and who/what/where inspires it in your work.

A: I am not usually aware that my work has a modern vintage essence, but I guess it does, haha. But I am not surprised, because I do have a big love for vintage illustrations. Even as a child I already had this love for vintage items and styling. Good thing for me is that it became so trending the last couple of years.

I own a few books with old-fashioned illustrations, and in my house you will find that it's a mix of modern and vintage decorations. For instance, I collect vintage tins with beautiful illustrations on them with lots of curlicues and flowers and birds—a theme that you see returning in my work as well.

Though I also really love modern designs that are more bold and bright. It just feels natural to combine them.


Fabric treasure!!!

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

A: Hmm that's hard because I've worked on so many fun ones. But if I have to choose I would pick the following projects:

Last year I worked on my very first fabric collection with the super kind people of Birch Fabrics. The collection is called Wildland and will be available in December 2015 with Fabricworm.com.  It's already a year ago that I created the artwork, can you believe it? It seems like I just made it yesterday. That’s because the manufacturing and distribution, etc. take so much time. Birch fabrics has been promoting it the last few weeks and last week I received a big box with fabric samples. It's like opening a treasure chest! Working on the collection was a bit of an adventure for me. I enjoyed working with the team and focusing on fine-tuning the collection.  

The most recent project I love(d) working on is actually not quite finished yet, so I am sharing a scoop. We still have to dot some i's and cross some t's, but it's almost done. Together with French publisher  'Auzou Publishing' I am working on a fun playing card game for kids featuring cats and dogs. I guess it's unnecessary to say I am having a blast creating all these funny characters. I can't wait to see the end result and share it with you all. This week they shared the design for the cover with me and it looks so great. These are the moments I just love my job.


Wildlands are delightful!

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: Actually, all of the above plus time management and administration/finances. 
We didn't get much guidance when I went to Art School (about 10 years ago). The focus was on illustrating mostly, but I wished we would've been more prepared for the actual business side of our job outside school. We didn’t get any of that. 

Being an artist means you have to wear lots of different hats at the same time. 
Only a few years ago I first learned about art licensing and was immediately hooked. 
All this stuff; licensing, business aspects, contracts, self-promoting, time management etc, is in a way self taught, simply by my own experience (making mistakes and learning from them), and with the help of a few e-courses that I took during the last few years. 
During your career you will find out that there will always be new things to learn. But I guess that's simply part of this job, and I personally love learning and discovering new things.


Such fabulous characters!! I wonder where they're off to...

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Waking up with my husband without any rush. Then we have breakfast together, prepare some sandwiches for lunch, fill a big bottle with water, and go on a bicycle trip together. We live in the middle of the 'Hoge Veluwe' which is a huge Dutch national park consisting of heathlands, sand dunes, and woodlands. It doesn't really matter what direction we go, it always ends up somewhere pretty, which is something that I love.
And when we get back from these trips we cook dinner together, and watch some movie or TV series on the couch with our cats close by. I often have a sketchbook on my lap while my husband is softly playing his guitar. These Sundays don't happen as often as I like, but when they do they are precious to the both of us.

Thank you so much, Miriam!! It’s been lovely catching up with you & we can’t wait to see what you are up to in the New Year!

Monday, January 4, 2016

It's Valentine's Day, Chloe Zoe!



I'm absolutely THRILLED to share my NEW picture book, "It's Valentine's Day, Chloe Zoe!" It is the first in a series of 6 from publisher Albert Whitman & Company. (Hint: Like Chloe Zoe's FB page to get the scoop on all her upcoming titles!!)
In Chloe Zoe’s debut title, her class is having a valentine exchange! Chloe Zoe made valentines for all her classmates, including an extra-special red-robot-cherry-lollipop valentine for her extra-special friend George. But when it comes time to hand them out, the special valentine for George is missing! Can Chloe Zoe and her friends work together to find the missing valentine?