Saturday, November 18, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

© Jane Smith • Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Thanksgiving Photo Card Design for Mpix

Shop this Thanksgiving Photo Card Design • © Super Jane Smith

Super Star Children's Book Review: Each Kindness

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Cara Chow, Denise Holmes, Joan Charles, Sharon 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.

By Jacqueline Woodson • Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Picture book (ages 5-8) • 32 pages
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books • 2012
ISBN 978-0399246524

Maya is the new girl at Chloe’s school. Unlike Chloe and her classmates, Maya wears second hand clothes. Her lunches look different than everyone else’s. No matter how hard Maya tries to befriend Chloe, Chloe shuns her, as does everyone else in her class.

Then one day, Maya doesn’t come to school. The teacher tosses a pebble into a bowl of water, demonstrating how the kindness you give ripples out into the world. Each student is asked to drop a pebble in the water and share a kindness he or she has done. As Chloe holds her pebble, she looks back on how she treated Maya and wants to make a different choice.

Woodson’s prose is poignant and powerful. Her story breaks form with most children’s stories, which have happy endings, showing the real life consequences of poor choices. Some readers may find the ending a little hard to digest. Nonetheless, Each Kindness is still redemptive, as Chloe faces her mistakes and is transformed. E.B. Lewis does a beautiful job with his watercolor illustrations, exquisitely depicting each character’s expression and body language. This book is definitely deserving of the Coretta Scott King Honor and the Jane Addams Peace Award.

Buy this book:

Reviewed by: Cara Chow

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Super Star Interviews: Paula J. Becker

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 tickled pink to be chatting it up with my fellow Tugeau2 artist, the fabulous Illustrator, Paula J. Becker! I am a total fan of her fun and whimsical art for children’s publishing! Paula has been a freelance Illustrator for over 25 years, creating engaging artwork for children’s books, magazines, posters, greeting cards, educational curriculum and more. You can view more of her artwork here.

How fun is this High Five magazine cover?!

Q: You are totally “The Queen” of kid’s magazine illustration! Dish with us about this fun, unique market and describe some of your MOST favorite kid’s magazine assignments

A: Well, I don’t know if I’m “The Queen”, but thanks! Whether an accurate description or not, I guess that over my career, I've been fortunate to illustrate a good number of magazine spreads and spots. I am grateful so many clients have employed and trusted me to enhance writers' stories, or orchestrate puzzles. And a fair amount of them ARE puzzles of some sort: hidden pictures, mazes, multiple puzzles in spreads, etc. Each one comes with its unique requests, and turns out to be a puzzle in itself for ME to figure out! And it’s obvious that I like busy scenes, a la Sergio Aragones of Mad magazine, big influences of my work! Busy crowd scenes are so much fun to create!

I definitely targeted children’s magazines when I started out in the early 90’s. I also sent promos to publishing companies, but magazine work has been my biggest client base over the years. There are several pros to doing illustration for magazines—one being that the projects are smaller (compared to a book), hence the turn-around time for both the project and the compensation is shorter. I also like the variety of projects that magazines’ need—from stories, to spots for jokes, to mazes and puzzles of various sorts.

Don'tcha just love the colors & energy in this piece?!

 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: I prefer to try to keep a workday routine of traditional office hours. I am usually up by 7:30 (unless I worked late the evening before). I’ll have coffee and catch up on news, etc., a quick breakfast, then start work at 9 a.m. I have a separate bedroom that is my office/studio space. I have a weekly over-all productivity/to do list that covers everything (I like paper, so haven’t digitalized that aspect of organization yet). I rewrite the daily list each morning so I get a sense of what to accomplish that day, working off the main list and previous day’s list, with items divided up by work-tasks and everything else-tasks.

Sometimes that gets “blown” within an hour or two, if I’ve underestimated the time an illustration takes, or something distracts me. But I am in constant training to manage my work and life in general. I’ve recently read several books on productivity, such as Deep Work by Cal Newport, and Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg. I found these books to help me understand the psychology of work and to work….well, smarter, faster, better—and deeper! I’ve just started to read Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins. Reading books on productivity, listening to podcasts on related topics, etc. is a major element of my formula for generating motivation and developing as an artist/illustrator.

I am often asked what medium/media I work in, and when I tell people it’s all digital, they are surprised. I usually say, “I work digitally, but traditionally”, or “I work traditionally, but digitally”. I think they both mean the same things, yes? My workhorse is a desktop computer with a dual-monitor set up, with a 22” Wacom Cintiq as my main monitor, and a 32” monitor as my secondary. For backup systems and mobile working, I have a Dell laptop, with a Wacom Intuos tablet, as well as a 13” Wacom MobileStudio Pro. For software, I pretty much use Corel Painter 15 & 17. Painter 18 is out, and I’ll upgrade soon. I have the Adobe CS4 but don’t use them often.

Who's else is up for #4, #5 & #7?!

 Each project has different aspects to it, from conception to working on a final piece. I am easily distracted by sounds so when I am at the conceptualization stage of a project, I only listen to light instrumental music, if anything. But when I am at the final stages, where I am inking from a sketch, and/or filling in the color to an ink drawing, I listen to podcasts or talk radio sorts of things. Each of these stages can take hours on end, so forcing myself to take breaks is important. I will take a pause to do a mundane house task, walk into the village, or take a short walk, if the weather permits.

Besides the 9-5 hours, I will sometimes work on projects in the late evening on into the early morning, depending on my workload or if I am up against a deadline. The benefits to working a late night shift are the lack of usual daytime distractions. It’s an ideal time to get a good-sized creative block of time with minimal to no interruptions.

Keeping up with one’s books and taxes is a part of the business, albeit not as fun and creative as illustrating!  I don’t use any special accounting software for that, but I do have spreadsheets for keeping track of invoices and business expenses, as well as anything licensed. The only specific routine I have related to this aspect of the business is, when I create an invoice, at the same time, I record when, to whom, and the amount on the spread sheet, and then when a payment arrives. I also print out invoices and file them, and have a file for business receipts. At some point, I want to make this a “mastery” type of project, to improve and maybe overhaul my system, but with such a small amount of invoices and business expenses, I’m in no hurry, as it is fairly easy to maintain as it is.

I should add that I will sometimes take time to look at other illustrators’ work. There is so much amazing talent out there, and I like to study other illustrators’ techniques and visual problem solving. I have a file on my computer just for collecting illustrations. I find it inspirational and many times, viewing other’s illustration helps me push my boundaries.

Don't worry if you're cornfused! Of course, you'll make it out—mwaaahhh ha ha!

 Q: Give us the scoop on your MOST favorite illustration projects: one from your past and one from your present.

A: For a recent illustration project, The “Creepy Corn Maze”, created for this October issue of OWL magazine, is a recent favorite of mine. I really like how that turned out in the end. I pushed myself on that and did a more painterly style as well as darker and richer color scheme. When I saw how it looked in print, I was quite happy with the end product.

For an “older” illustration project I chose “10 Fun Things To Do With Your Family”, a two-page group of spot illustrations created in 2011 for a Focus on the Family magazine. I am pleased when I can succeed in keeping an illustration light, loose and fun. I had fun with line and color and pattern here. Contrary to how a style like this looks, it is not so easy for me to pull off. I have to almost always fight over-working an illustration.

Q: You’ve illustrated countless stories for kids—both in magazines and in books. Dish with us about your process for creating narrative illustrations—beginning with receiving the manuscript thru to the final art.

A: Projects come to me in different forms. Some come as just the manuscript (copy with art notes and dimensions), while others come as PDF files with all the copy on the spreads/pages, and also containing art direction notes (I like when my clients send me a template to work from. I prefer to organize my illustration around the copy and space provided, then there’s no guessing game).

I do pretty much everything from start to finish digitally—sketches, revisions, and final art. There are many benefits to working digitally, one being the ability to revise images. Cutting and pasting, trying different colors, and erasing are all made easier and faster. I use many, many layers in my illustrations, but you get used to the “chore” of labeling layers, so you don’t lose time figuring out what layer is what! So when an illustration is completed, I also can easily and quickly get that to the client.

Carnival—art direction

 So, once I get the art direction or layout files, I will set up a file for sketches/roughs in Corel Painter. For sketches, I might do set them up at 300 dpi, so I get a feel for the tools as they will be for the final art. The copy is set up on one layer, and I work sketches on another layer. For roughs, I might send several ideas to a client, or one idea, more worked up than a quick sketch. I then wait for feedback. Once I get feedback, I make the requested changes and there is a second round of roughs/sketches. This rarely goes on much past two rounds, but sometimes there are more, especially if the art director also makes layout changes at each round (see the “Creepy Corn Maze” as an example). After final approval, the file is set up at 300 dpi and with an all-around bleed, if necessary. Then off we go to finish! I will flatten the file at different stages and save it as a JPG so I can put it on my larger monitor and review it. I do this especially if I am working on a sequence of illustrations and characters, colors, etc. need to be consistent, to check the flow of the images on the pages, etc. I can line them up on the larger monitor, like one would tape pages to a wall. Once illustrations are completed, they are emailed or uploaded to an ftp site for the client to retrieve. That’s my system.

Carnival—black and white sketch

 Q: You’ve had a long and successful career as a freelance illustrator and you are still going strong! (Go, Paula!!!) What are your top 3 tips for working illustrators looking to land new clients?

A: Uhm…I think that’s a question I would ask, too! We’re all in that boat!

Marketing is not my strong suit (many creatives feel that way) and I would almost say that the course of my career and the jobs that have come have been more happenstance than a solid marketing plan! Though the Internet and computer have changed a lot about the profession, there are some fundamentals that are still the same in regards to marketing, and looking to land new clients. I may not come up with three, but here’s what I do:

1—Research potential clients that would buy and use your art style. The internet has just made it enormously easier to research said clients!

2—Mail-outs (Promo package, postcards): Still the standard way as far as I know, to reach existing and new clients.

3—Repeat 1 & 2 over and over again!

Of course, having an online portfolio, networking, attending illustration-type conferences & workshops, etc., are all part of moving your business forward. It’s a lot to keep up with, and you do what you can. It’s like any other business: you do the hustle!

Carnival—finished color art

 Q: Describe your most perfect day.

A: A perfect day for me would be doing whatever appealed to me that given day, free from the cares of the world interfering, either physically or mentally. For example, a solid day of progressing on client or personal projects, but without the body pains, money worries, or computer crashes! : D

Thank you for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm, Paula! You’re fabulous!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween ABCs

© Jane Smith • Happy Halloween ABCs

Monday, October 23, 2017

Halloween Parade

© Jane Smith • All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Super Star Children's Book Review: Everywhere, Wonder

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Cara Chow, Denise Holmes, Joan Charles, Sharon 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.

Everywhere, wonder
By Matthew Swanson • Illustrated by Robbi Behr
Picture Book (ages 3-6) • 48 pages
Imprint • 2017
ISBN 978-1-25-008795-9

Everywhere, Wonder is a picture book for all children. It celebrates the power of books to transport us to far off places and encourages us to embrace life’s diverse possibilities.

The protagonist of this story is a dark-skinned, curly-haired boy. The story begins with the boy seated at a simple table with an open book in front of him. On the right side of the two-page spread is an open window filled with an inviting blue sky.

Throughout this story the unseen narrator invites us on an adventure filled with contrasts. We travel alongside the boy to far off landscapes. We meet characters from a variety of backgrounds, such as “a cold and lonesome polar bear” and “Shirley Sheboygan who has 37 friends,” just to name a few.

Everywhere encourages readers to find beauty in their daily life—even down to a bowl of noodles. “One noodle that doesn’t match the others” can spark our curiosity. Instead of being threatened by something different, we can embrace it.

This book describes life’s adventures as, “All of them interesting. All of them beautiful.” It prompts children to consider how they are a part of a world filled with so many stories.

Everywhere inspires young readers to be curious, ask questions, imagine the future and celebrate the diversity of life. Its illustrations of digitally sampled watercolour washes are stunning and make this book a treat for the eyes.

It’s refreshing to find a diverse picture book where the child’s cultural background is not the focus of the story. This could be any child, anywhere on earth. And that’s what makes this book wonderful.

Buy this book:

Independent Bookstores

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Super Star Interviews: Karma Voce

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 pleased as pumpkin pie to be chatting it up with the lovely Illustrator & Designer, Karma Voce! I’ve been a total fan-girl of her artwork every since being her MATS classmate a couple years ago! Karma is an Australia-based artist with 12+ years commercial experience, specializing in fashion, home décor, wall art and paper products. Her clients include Kmart, Target, Sky Horse Publishing, Tea Collection and many more. She is influenced by nature, vintage art & design and travel. You can view more of her artwork here!

Don't you just adore the colors in this lovely succulent pattern?!

Q: Before going solo, you worked for 10 years in-house as a designer in the fashion industry, creating prints and patterns for womensware, childrensware, sleepware and lingerie. Tell us a bit about what was fabulous and what was not-so-fabulous about the experience, and how it has shaped you as a freelance Illustrator/Designer—from both the artist and the businesswoman perspective.

A: Fashion is a very paced environment. You are always thrown in the deep end, and it’s sink or swim from the get-go! So the pros are it is never boring— as it changes all the time! You learn how to predict trends a year or so in advance, and you are constantly learning and developing a broad range of skill sets, across many mediums, as you have to be able to create in a wide variety of styles, depending on what is required on the day. A lot of problem solving—which always keeps your brain engaged!

The downside is you are often creatively limited, in some way or other, and often have to be very commercial. Working in fast paced mainstream fashion isn’t necessarily on par with my own ethics or personal style, so that can be a sacrifice at times.

Pretty, pretty, pretty!!! I'm thinking sweet girl dress, gorgeous sheets or rug!

 Q: You are an avid world traveler, always jetting off to amazing locales from Vietnam to Mexico! Give us the scoop on how your travels have inspired and shaped your artwork.

A: Oh, wow, I must admit I think travelling and exploring exotic destinations may well be my number one passion! I blame my parents who travelled with me in the womb through India, (my namesake country) and then taking me again at 6 months old, and then, when I was 3, they promptly left me in the hands of an Indian family for 3 months, while they went off and did their own thing! I think that has undeniably had a huge influence on me!

I went on a big 15 month backpacking trip when I was 20, and another 3 month trip at 25. After I had my son, I didn’t go anywhere for another 14 years! Now I have been making up for lost time, and going once or twice a year, for the last 3-4 years. It fills me with so much joy! I love the 6 months of researching beforehand, almost as much as the trips themselves!  I absorb so much, and feel so invigorated and regenerated when experiencing new sights, sounds, smells and tastes! I feel like all my senses are rewarded, and yes, definitely my artwork is influenced in either content or style on my return! I try and create on the trip, but it is usually more when I get home that I start to put things onto paper.

I totally want these gorgeous vases in my house!! Swooon!

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

A: Definitely, the colouring books were a fave. I wish I had had a lot more time, but they definitely brought together all of my favourite things—fashion and travel—and I loved doing them! I hadn’t been to Paris or Japan at the time, so had to research heavily. I am happy to say I have since been to both places, and they are even better than I could have imagined!

I would say more recently would be some fabric collections and illustrations that I had total creative freedom with! It was really nice to not have to work to someone else’s brief!

Rockstar fashion + coloring pages = super fun!!

 Q: Coloring books for ALL ages are still all the rage! And you have two super fun travel/fashion-inspired tween coloring books now available. (Psst! You can buy your own copies here!) Tell us every little thing about them, plus why do you think coloring books have become such an enduring trend?

A: Oops, I may have covered this in question 3!  I loved doing them sooo much! I had a really short deadline, and was working in-house 4 days a week on top of that, so it was really crazy at the time, but I think sometimes I work better under pressure! I especially loved Japan, as they have so many things to put into a book.

I think colouring books shall always be an enduring part of a kids life, but I think probably links to the call for ‘mindfullness’, which is the latest health trend, that I think comes as a need from our very busy lives, where we are always with a screen in our faces of one kind or another, both at work and at home. A colouring book, is like a long hot bath, you can give your mind a rest and get absorbed in the simple repetitive and soothing action of colouring, without having to think too hard. The outlines are there, so the hard work is done, it’s just a matter of settling in and choosing your colours and style, and breathing in, breathing out...sigh…

Meow, meow, meeeooow!!!

 Q: You are a seasoned exhibitor at Surtex, the annual art & licensing tradeshow in NY. What are your top 3 best superstar tips for having a successful booth at Surtex?

A: The first two times I went as part of a collective (Forest Foundry), and the third time my agent, Nerida Hansen represented me. So I guess tip # 1 is in that—save costs by either sharing a booth, or being represented at an agents booth. It can be an expensive venture on your own, especially for the first time! Having someone to share a booth with also makes it a lot more fun, and the booth is always busy and fun to be at.

#2 Make sure you have fun and really engage and ask questions of your buyers. Having a good note-taking system is really handy, so you don’t forget things later!

#3 The follow up is a lot of work, and can be both exhilarating and exhausting, but it’s super important! And you never know how it will turn out—sometimes the brightest star that got you super excited fizzles into nothing, and something else, which you didn’t get a vibe from on the day, can turn out to be really lucrative! So try and not feel too excited, nor underwhelmed, just keep an open mind, as you never know what can happen! AND ALWAYS WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES!

Thank you so much for catching up with us here at Bird Meets Worm, Karma! We think you’re super fabulous!!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

It's Halloween, Chloe Zoe! Now Available in Bookstores Everywhere!

Purchase It's Halloween, Chloe Zoe! & download Chloe Zoe Halloween activity pages HERE!

Mandala Tile Designs for Kess InHouse

I'm super excited to share my NEW trio of mandala tile designs for one of my fav clients: Kess InHouse! Each design in available on a wide variety of fabulous, high-quality home decor products! Happy shopping! XO

Shop Socali Hippie Mandala Tile HERE!

Shop Tangerine Dream Mandala Tile HERE!

Shop Pink Indian Meditation Mandala Tile HERE!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Super Star Children's Book Review: Green Green, A Community Gardening Story

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Cara Chow, Denise Holmes, Joan Charles, Sharon 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.

Green Green, A Community Gardening Story
By Marie Lamba and Baldev Lamba • Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez
Picture Book (ages 2-5) • 32 pages
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux • 2017
ISBN 978-0-37-432797-2

Green Green, A Community Gardening Story is a picture book close to my heart. I am lucky enough to live in an urban city that recognizes the need for community gardens. My daughter and I have a garden plot in our neighborhood, where it is has been wonderful to see the plants grow and neighbors come together. So, needless to say, I was excited when I discovered this book.

The story opens with a family, who moves from the country to a big, urban city. A cast of diverse children in the neighborhood, start to notice their city developing up around them. Green spaces are becoming smaller, and empty lots are filling up with garbage. The children take matters into their own hands and start cleaning up one of the lots. With help from the adults, they start cleaning, digging and soon have a space for planting.

Written as a poetic narrative, Green Green shows how children can change their own world and bring people together by doing something as simple as building a garden for their neighbors to share. The message is powerful—it inspires community and fosters a love for cultivating our natural environment, even in a big urban city.

The back matter of the book provides additional information for readers about how to create their own gardens and make spaces that attract pollinaters, like bees and butterflies. 
Green Green will give the reader an open invitation to talk about their community, the environment and how to care for our world.

Buy this book:

Reviewed by: Denise Holmes

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Squirrel Selling Nut-Flavored Ice Cream

What says summer more than a squirrel selling nut-flavored ice creams?!

Super Star Interviews: Holli Conger

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 super duper excited to be chatting it up with the rock star Illustrator & Designer, Holli Conger! I’m a long-time fan of Holli’s fabulous mixed media collage artwork (and by long-time fan, I mean like the better part of twenty years!) She’s an artist specializing in illustration for the children’s market, art licensing and three-dimensional found object art. Holli is a Nashville native. Three years ago, she left the land of Country Music for the land of Krispy Kreme, and currently lives in Winston-Salem, NC with her husband and two children. You can view more of her artwork here!

Go, Crocodile, Go!

Q: I absolutely love your adorable characters and whimsical artwork for kids! Dish with us a bit about your creative process: ideas, sketches, creating color digitally, adding and balancing patterns & textures—you know, all the good stuff!!

A. For any project, even if it's to make or build something around the house, I start with a sketch. Pencil and paper is always the first step for me. Many artists have switched over to working digitally for their sketches, but I like the feel of drawing on paper, erasing but still leaving a faint marking of what I've left behind. I like the process of layering pencil marks in different tones to get my shapes and details worked out. I just can't seem to have that effect when I try them digitally on my iPad or Cintiq. Also, I'm on the go a lot so paper and pencil are always easy and accessible and it doesn't need to be charged. I home-school my kids and I try and change up their learning environment when I can since I know how well that works for me as an artist. I work in the studio, different rooms in the house, coffee shops, the library, the park, doctor's office, etc. I like to keep a sketchbook of just random ideas. Inside are things my kids might want me to draw, a new found object art piece I may make or ideas for art licensing.

For sketches that need to seen by a client before final color artwork (my children’s publishing work or on-assignment work like licensing) I know it needs to be a little more polished and within the size format. For those projects, I use regular copy/printer paper. I'll box out the dimensions for the piece and start sketching with a blue pencil. This allows me to get loose with my lines in a much lighter tone than my gray pencil. That way my "thinking" lines don't distract from the final, more detailed gray pencil line. Once I have my shapes and details figured out, I go over it all with my normal, everyday, number 2 pencil. At this step I finalize my lines and add in details and rough shading if needed.

When it comes time to final artwork, most all my client-based work is done digitally. I work in a vector, painterly and found object style. My found object work is what I tend to do the most of since it’s my trademark style. I tend to do more vector and painterly for educational illustration (workbooks, etc.) and licensing. In my found object work I use a lot of different things. I love shopping at thrift and antique store and even garage sales to find "treasures" to use. I scan in or photograph the objects, papers, textures, etc.—creating a huge digital archive of things to use. Once they are captured digitally, they did go in my filing cabinet or in the many storage bins and they are free to use for my three-dimensional found object pieces.

In both my tangible and digital found object pieces, I rarely know what type of textures, pattern or objects I will use in a final piece, but if I have an idea at the sketch phase, say a button used as the nose of the dog, I will draw it as a button just so I can remember. All my client work (except vector art which is done in Illustrator) is done in Photoshop. I have a Cintiq that has allowed me to work quicker and with more detail than I have before. I was never a wacom pen user, just their mouse and tablet. I would always draw, cut out shapes, etc. with the mouse. Now it's much easier just to draw and cut with the pen directly on the screen.

Bring on the holiday cheer! Ho, ho, ho!

 Q: You have a background in graphic design and advertising as well as a love for typography. Give us the scoop on how your background in these areas has influenced not only your artwork, but how you present your artwork to the world.

A. I graduated in 2000 with a Bachelors degree in Graphic Design & Advertising. I have always loved marketing and thinking through how I could stand apart from my classmates (AKA competition in the job market once we graduated). I started freelance designing toward the end of my freshman year, but didn't do much until my sophomore year. By the time I graduated, I have 2 more years experience and a portfolio of completely different projects than my fellow classmates had since their portfolios all consisted of the same school projects and assignments. I had wondered how many hiring Art Directors saw they same project come through the portfolio of job seekers over the years. I landed my design job with a publisher 2 weeks before graduation that was beyond entry-level and making almost double of what my classmates were being offered for their entry-level jobs. That same mindset has help me maintain a successful illustration career. Having that job for 5 years allowed me to do all kind of design work like web design, advertising, book design, catalog design, art directing photo shoots, etc. I was able to do so many different things I didn't get bored doing just one aspect of design. Whenever appropriate I tried to fit in some more of illustration work into it. It didn't happen often, but it allowed me to experiment with different looks and techniques.

I think my love for typography started in collage. We had a full semester on Typography and had so many wonderful projects using type. Around that time the internet began to boom with free font sites so I would always download them and use them in different ways and combinations. Today I love creating my own letters within my work or using words and letters from old paper clippings, packaging, signs, labels, games, etc.

When my daughter was born I decided to go into freelance illustration. I wanted a career with goals but still wanted to be home with her. Freelance design involved to many phone calls, face-to-face meetings and that just a little too much client hand holding that wouldn’t interrupt my mommy time. Sticking to illustration meant that most of my clients would be out of town, prefer email contact and diaper blowouts could be managed without a client even knowing.

Having a design background has been invaluable as an illustrator. I always tell young people that if they are on the fence about a degree in illustration or a degree in graphic design, go for graphic design. You'll be able to design your own brand and promotional materials, you can always do design work on the side if your illustration work slows down and most importantly (I think) is to understand the production process of what happens after your turn in an illustration. It helps to speak the Art Director's "language" in understanding why they may need things at a certain DPI, how to add a spot color or a foil layer to something, understanding bleeds and how a book will be printed or how your flat art ends up on a three-dimensional piece. With art licensing, I’ve had to lay out art and specifications for entire product lines for factories in China and I would never have known how to do that without having the technical design background. All that to say, it's just helpful to know the entire process, as it's benefited me greatly.

Speedy shopping helper!

 Q: You create a lot of artwork not only for children’s publishing, but also for art licensing. How are these markets different? How are they similar? Describe your approach to each.

A. The artwork, clients and marketing are so different from each other. For children's publishing it's all assignment based. The client knows what they want. For art licensing I have to come up with the idea and concept and then try and sell it to someone else. Promotion for these markets is different and it is difficult to manage those two types of self-promotion. For publishing, I send postcard mailers, email tear sheets and post work online. That is all to entice an art director to hire me for their project. For licensing, I have to contact the manufacturer (by email or phone), get an idea of how they license art, what they might be looking for theme wise, and if it's even the right time of year for them to review said art. Then I have to go back and see if I have art that fits their need and reformat it to their desired format. If not, I decide if it's worth it to create art to fit their needs (because chances are that same art will be what another company needs also) or move onto another potential client and try and license what I have. With licensing it's best to build a relationship with clients and continually show them new work I've already created as with publishing, the work I've done for other clients is what I show to them. "Look what I did." vs. "Look what I can do for you."

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

A. Depending on what deadlines I have that day, I may get up at 3:00 am to get a chunk of work done before my kids start school. I may get you at 7:30 and work on emails from the couch and have a cup of coffee (or three!). Afterwards I head to my studio, which is an extra living space in our basement. It's filled with color and inspiration in the form of artwork, vintage finds and childhood toys. I’ve had other kids come to my home and think the room was a playroom for my kids. I tell them it’s all my things and this is where I work. I get a weird look from them like "you're kidding right?" I like to be surrounded with what I like and since I spend so much time there, I might as well enjoy looking at it all.

My messy workspace for painting and sometimes sketching is a big dining room table from IKEA. It's the perfect size and I can spread out lots of supplies when working on my big found object pieces. I then have a separate sketch table that keeps me in the studio, but allows me to work away from my computer. And then my main computer area looks like I could land an airplane from it. I have and iMac, dual monitor and a large Cintiq all accessible without scooting my chair around. It's a set up that works really well for me.

Is this studio the coolest or what?! Total art pro playground!

 My day consists of mostly creating art for clients and self-promoting whether it be via social media, email or researching new places to promote to. I have an agent that handles most of the business side of things. Signing contracts and keeping up with jobs and payments is the only paperwork I really do. I multitask a lot and am able to turn out art fairly quickly. I know my time in the mornings will be interrupted with schoolwork so I allow for that. After lunch my kids are usually done with their schoolwork so I can focus 100% on my work. I'll turn on a movie or binge a TV show on my second monitor. I may not actually watch it, but the noise helps me set a pace for working.

I try to be done in the studio by 4:00pm each evening, but I’ll continue to work on things in the back of my head throughout the evening. Thinking though specs for a project, what all I might have to do the next day, etc.  After work I usually go outside and walk while my kids play. Then it's dinner and family time and I'm usually in bed by 9:00pm. I just can't stay up late to work. I’d rather know I can sleep before working even if I do have to get up at 3:00am and knowing that coffee and probably a binge worthy TV show are waiting for me.

Q: You are a marketing rock star—so much so that you even offer 4 different paid consulting programs to assist fellow creatives with their own marketing! What are the biggest mistakes you see artists making when self-promoting? And what are your top 3 tips for effective self-promotion?

A. I love helping other artist with marketing. My consulting program has been a big part of my business over the last few years. It does take a lot of time since it's all personalized so I do have a limit of how many artists I can take on at a time. I learned the hard way of committing to eleven artist the first time I started offering it and it was exhausting. I didn't get much sleep those two months.

Understanding that some artist don't have the time or necessarily the money (especially if they are just starting out) to commit to consulting, last year I released an e-book of marketing tips, how to work smarter, what to expect in your career, etc. It's a totally interactive book and although it's and e-book, it's meant to be printed out and marked up with notes and ideas.

Tear sheets: this is how a pro gets it done!!

Most artists have similar problems in staying motivated and effectively marketing themselves. Some of the biggest mistakes I see artist doing with their own self-promotion is:

1. Not knowing where to start and not feeling that they're "ready." 

My advice: You will never feel ready. Just start; get out of your head. Stop over thinking and over criticizing yourself. We are our worst critic. Even if you aren't 100% comfortable with your style, just start putting what you have out there and keep creating it, fine tuning as you go. Start promoting yourself to potential clients. Start to getting your name, your brand, out there. You're style will naturally change over the years. My style has change so much from my first professional illustration job thirteen years ago.

2. Thinking you're not good enough. 

My advice: Comparison KILLS creativity. If you’re doing you, just keep doing you. If you love it and have such a passion for it, other people will too. They just need to find you so put yourself out there.

3. Getting hung up on social media. Thinking their worth is in the number of people who follow them and number of likes their post gets. 

My advice: Don't get caught up in what others think. Easier said than done, but trust me, you can get there. The feeling creeps up on me sometimes and I have to check myself, before I literally wreck myself. I'll open Instagram and say to myself "here's your dose of depression for the day." I try and think of my social media accounts as a way to journal and document my process and journey so I can go back later and reflect rather than trying to post for people's reaction. Sometimes just posting and not looking at your feed is a good thing to practice every now and then.

4. Not knowing what main image to put on a postcard mailer thus never sending on out. 

My advice: During consulting this is one of the main hiccups artist seem to have. They want it to be just perfect, but their definition of perfect will sideline their efforts. In the first year of consulting I worked with a really talented illustrator who had a very marketable style and I knew wouldn't have any trouble landing work, BUT, they could never nail down the perfect image for a postcard mailer, therefore they never were able to get one laid out, printed and mailed during our time together. They put in the time to research names, find addresses, know the submission guideline, but they could not decide on what image they wanted to send. Everything in their portfolio was perfect in my eyes so they have plenty of work to choose from, but they didn't have the confidence to see it. This goes back to #1 above. You've just got to push through it and get yourself out there. Send out a promotional mailer and forget about it. It's just one of many you'll be mailing in during your career. Let it work for you and move onto the next promotion.

How totally fun is this 3D collage?! Love it!

 A few tips for effective self-promotion:

1. Stay active online and in the studio. Motivation will lead to creativity. Creativity will lead to creating more work. Creating more work will fine-tune your style, therefore you're more confident with your work. The more confident you are with your work, the more you will share (self-promote).

2. Do some type of promotion everyday. Email a potential client, connect with someone on LinkedIn, post to social media (but keep the mindset of my advice in mistake #3 above). Self-promotion can be that easy. Just get your work out into the world.

3. Follow-up. Any interest you may have had in your work, follow-up. People get busy, they get sidetracked, projects get postponed - those are all reason why you may not hear back from poetical (and even past clients). Follow-up and keep checking in with them, even if it's just a reminder that "Hey, I'm still around and would love to work with you."

Q: Describe your most perfect day.

A. Waking up knowing I don't have any deadlines that day (which rarely happens and I'm so grateful for that!) and the day is totally mine where I can work on any type of project I want or just have a day of nothingness. Coffee. A breakfast where biscuits are involved. I'm currently trying to perfect my biscuit recipe. I'm almost there. Baking them and eating them has become an unhealthy passion of mine. Coffee. Then doing any kind of creative project. One of my large found object pieces, some kind of project around the house (redecorating/rearranging/building something) or even taking a nap to refuel. My kids like to help with those things—except the nap part. Coffee. Then dinner delivered to my door (we have the best authentic Italian restaurant in our small town) and a good movie with my family. And maybe a decaf cup of coffee ;) To me, coffee just chills me out and it like a warm sweater for your insides, since I'm always cold.

A day like that would be total bliss—coffee, biscuits, creativity and rest!

Thank you so much, Holli, for catching up with us here at Bird Meets Worm!! You’re a total rock star!