Monday, December 21, 2015

ChrisINKmas: Day 21, 22, 23, 24 & 25

© Jane Smith • Mistletoe Lovebirds XO


© Jane Smith • Rocking Horse Holiday XO


© Jane Smith • Penguin Friends XO


© Jane Smith • Silent Night, Candlelight XO


© Jane Smith • Bells & Holly XO


Friday, December 18, 2015

ChrisINKmas: Day 18, 19 & 20

© Jane Smith • Keeping It Cozy Hat & Mittens XO


© Jane Smith • Holiday Wreath XO

© Jane Smith • Critter Christmas Fun XO

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

ChrisINKmas: Day 1

Hello, hello! Lately I've been inspired by all the talented folks who participated in INKtober, a month-long challenge to create a quick black & white ink drawing every day during the month of October. With so much going on during October, I missed participating, but am making up for it NOW by creating my own drawing challenge for December, ChrisINKmas!! I'm aiming to create one quick black & white ink drawing doodle everyday this month leading up to Christmas and I'll be sharing the results along the way here at Bird Meets Worm, of course! Follow along and enjoy! Or if you're game, join in and participate in ChrisINKmas, too, because after all, the more the merrier, right?! Happy Holidays! XO

© Jane Smith • Oh, sweet Christmas tree! XO


Super Star Interviews: Sarah Ehlinger

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 happy to be catching up with the sophisticated, ever-lovely Designer/Illustrator/Artist, Sarah Ehlinger (aka Very Sarie)! I had the absolute pleasure of being her booth neighbor at Surtex awhile back and am in love with her gorgeous work. (Plus she’s a fellow SoCali girl! Very yay!) Sarah’s work has spanned branding, packaging, in-store retail campaigns, and can be seen on greeting cards, stationery, wallpaper, kitchen tiles and ceramics. She has years of design agency experience working as a Graphic Designer, Creative Director and Creative Strategist with big name brands. She happily brings that experience to her current work—except now, she gets to do it in yoga pants instead of heels. You can view more of her artwork here!

Flowering succulents are a desert beauty!!

Q: Your beautiful artwork has a distinctly Southern California esthetic (which I totally ADORE!). Tell us a bit about how living in Los Angeles has shaped you as an artist from trends to colors to subject matter and everything in-between.

A: It definitely has influenced my work. I'm originally from Iowa, and I lived in Minneapolis for 12 years, so I do think there is part of me that gravitates to things that are distinctly Southern California because it's a (relatively) new experience for me—in particular, the desert life. I've found that my favorite weekend getaways around here are to the desert: Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, Ojai. The colors in the desert landscape just blow me away—so many subtleties.

And certainly there is a strong mid-century influence in my work, but that started a long time ago while living in Minneapolis. LA just magnified it for me, because there is such a strong mid-century vibe here.

Also, my grandparents spent a considerable amount of time in Arizona when I was a child, and my Grandmother had little cactus plants all around her house. I was mesmerized by them. Nobody else I knew in Iowa had cactus plants in their houses! So I guess in a weird way, filling my house with, and painting a lot of succulents and cacti reminds me of my childhood. The first time I visited LA, I felt very at home, and I think that shows up in my work.

Fabulous beetle buddy!!

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

A: I don't think a lot of people realize this, but I haven't actually been doing illustration for very long! I've only begun CALLING myself an illustrator this past year. I have a bachelor of Fine Arts degree, but after school, ultimately became a graphic design, art director and creative director for years. I was actually the one on the other side of the table hiring & pitching illustrators for campaigns and projects—never dreaming in a million years it was something I would get into myself! Even when I went to Surtex a couple of years ago, I was still approaching much of my work from more of a graphic design—not illustration—perspective. Looking back, I realize that I was injecting illustration into my projects where I could (even if I didn't recognize it at the time.) I recall a store campaign I worked on for Target—it was all of the signage for Easter. We had to use these little plush chicks, and I created an illustrated landscape of painted grass for them to live in. The end result was a combination of illustration and photography and it looked stunning in store. Recently, I did a poster project for SPAM that was a lot of fun. I had to illustrate a poster combining SPAM brand and Los Angeles life. It was a great client, because they mostly let me do my own thing—and that doesn't happen a lot with freelance work. 

Q: You are a big embracer of approaching marketing & self-promotion as a creative endeavor. What are your top 5 must-do-creative-marketing habits?

A: Great question!
1) First and foremost is consistency. Whatever you do, you have to be sure to keep at it and be consistent. There isn't going to be one blog post, one email newsletter, or one instagram photo that is magically going to turn things around for you. It's the collected, consistent work of doing it all on a daily & weekly basis that will "magically" turn things around. Everyone thinks people suddenly burst onto the scene, (I know I'm guilty of it) but that almost never happens. The overnight successes are usually the people who have been plugging away forever, and are just now being recognized. Consistency is hands down the most important thing you can do- it's a marathon, not a sprint.

What a delightful little potted fern!!

2) Don't do everything. Seriously. You can't. Most of us are a one-person operation, and there just isn't time. I tell everyone to give up all but one of their social media channels for awhile and see how it goes. Pick the one that you enjoy the most, and pour yourself into it. Learn everything about it, and focus your efforts in growing just that one channel. After you have that one on autopilot, THEN add in another one. I pretty much have stopped using twitter and facebook this past year for my business, and guess what? Nothing happened. Nobody died. I don't feel like I missed out on some big opportunity or anything. What did happen, is I was able to put all of my efforts into Instagram—which I love using—and by the end of the year, I will have grown by almost 10K followers, and I'm seeing great opportunities and partnership come out of it. That never would have happened had I been diluting my time and energy on social media marketing that I didn't love or care about. Seriously, the only reason why I still push my Instagram posts to my business page on Facebook is because I have family members who love to see what I'm doing, but refuse to get on Instagram. (True story!) But because of that, at this point, I have no plans to do anything more with FB—the metrics just don't merit it compared to instagram—for me—for others Facebook could totally be the answer. The key is picking that one thing, and rocking it!

3) Start an email newsletter. The sooner the better. Just get that list going. Honestly, I don't see a ton of conversions from my list yet, but I do know that these are my most loyal people, and I treat them as such. And over time I know that most of my business will come from there. I send an update out at least every other week, and I can see my numbers slowly growing. In the long run, nothing will be as valuable to you as your email list, because it's yours—not instagram's, or Facebook's, or Twitter's. And your list peeps have a much bigger chance of hearing and being receptive to your marketing messages in their inboxes vs. in a social media feed, where they may be passes over or never seen at all. (Hint: most of the time I use my social media marketing to get people onto my email list.) Your email list will also be a valuable asset when creating new work or new products—these are the people who's opinions will matter the most to you + they are the most likely to give it!

"Tweet! Tweet! Chirp!" said the sweet bird!

 4) Find an accountability partner. This one has been huge for me this year. Is there a person you can meet with or check in with on a weekly or monthly basis that will hold you accountable to what you said you would do? They don't even have to be in the same exact industry as you (in fact, sometimes that's even better), but they should be someone who is a freelancer, entrepreneur, etc. who understands what you are trying to do from a business and brand building perspective. My partner doesn't even live in the same state as me, so we meet via Skype once a week, and she has now become one of my best friends. Not only is the accountability important, it's also been invaluable having someone to share struggles and triumphs with.

5) Create a project that people can follow along with. Every time I've done this, I've seen massive engagement. My followers grow, and my email list grows. As an added bonus, the public accountability of posting on social media helps me stick with it. It's also an easy way to come up with content to share on a daily basis when you're feeling less than inspired. (Remember that consistency thing I mentioned earlier??) 

Q: Let’s chat a bit about your creative process! How does yours begin—set the stage for us: workspace, materials, habits, inspiration? How do you approach sketches? Finished color art? Do you mostly create standalone images or do you develop collections?

A: Lately, my creative process has been all about establishing a practice to create something first thing in the morning, every morning, even if it's just sitting down to paint for 30 minutes. This daily practice has amped up my productivity and creativity immensely—even on the days I don't want to do it. (Actually, those are the days I find I create something I like the most.) If I wait for inspiration to strike, I'll end up with nothing. I find that inspiration comes after you've sat down for a few moments and shaken a few cobwebs loose. I always pour myself a cup of tea before beginning, and my material of choice as of late has been watercolor. I used to make lots of separate pieces that I would draw and then ink, and then turn into vector art, which would get colorized. I've fallen in love with painting so much though, that I'm trying to use original painted art as much as I can now—which is completely changing my workflow! Lots more time in photoshop vs. illustrator, and I'm learning some best practices to start saving me more time. Also, creating patterns in photoshop vs. illustrator is a whole different thing for me, but I'm slowing becoming more confident with it. In the past, I always approached my work as collections, but I find myself creating more stand-alone work now. I'm sure I will be revisiting most of it and turning it into collections eventually, but I'm really enjoying just seeing where this is all going for now, and letting myself play and explore.

What luminous colors!! Don'tcha just love it?!

Q: What advice would you give to fellow illustrators looking to break into art licensing? What advice do you wish someone had given you when you first started out?

A: I feel like there is a lot of misinformation about art licensing out there. Most of the time, when other artists and illustrators ask me how to get into it, they think it's going to be great because they'll be able to sell the same artwork over and over again—thinking it will be nice, easy passive income. While that certainly can be the case in some instances, generally it isn't. In my experience, art licensing is far from passive. I actually get quite a few requests to create things vs. using existing art- clients like a certain style, but want a different subject matter for instance. I also don't think people realize just how vigilant you have to be at following up and establishing relationships with prospective clients. Sometimes (actually most of the time) it will take a year or more of consistently following up with someone every 6-8 weeks before you even get a response. A lot of times, manufacturers will like your work, but there is just no way for them to slot you in immediately, so you have to figure out ways to stay top of mind. When it comes to art licensing, art is only about 10%. The rest is follow up, relationship building, and learning how to handle rejection with grace (because there will be a lot of it). 

Imagine tea and cake on this succulent topped table—so lovely!!

 Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: If I can wake up before my guy and the dogs and the house is still quiet, time for meditation, journaling or reading would be first. Then, a trip to the flea market for sure. Follow that with a very long, lazy brunch- preferably someplace new that I've been dying to check out. Then, in the afternoon, head back home to tinker about on projects or the house or the garden- homebody type of stuff, ha! Evenings, I love to make dinner and open a bottle of wine- especially on Sundays because I have more time, so it's usually something a little more complex than what I would make on a weekday night. Then my favorite thing about Sunday nights is ending it with one of my shows: Game of Thrones or Walking Dead—they're both so good!!

Thanks so much for chatting with us here at Bird Meets Worm, Sarah! It was a pleasure!!

Super Star Interviews: Christopher Lyles

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 punch to be catching up with the delightfully talented Illustrator & Fine Artist, Christopher Lyles. I have long admired his artwork and am honored to be a fellow Tugeau2 artist alongside him. Christopher earned his MFA in Illustration and works in a variety of media. His artwork has appeared in children’s books & publications, greeting cards, editorial media and galleries. You can view more of Christopher’s artwork here.

Let's go on an ADVENTURE!!

Q: I’m a BIG fan of your fabulous mixed media style! (Collage is near and dear to my heart – in case ya’ll had never noticed!) Dish with us about your process: how you find your materials, how you decide whether to invite paint or pencil to the party, how much sketching do you do, how do you know when you’re finished—you know, all the good stuff!

A: Thank you, Jane! Every assignment is unique, and as an illustrator, it’s my job to decide what medium or combination of materials will work best. For me, I am always looking for ways to mix things up. Maybe because I work with children all day and see the way they move from one thing to the next with bewilderment and excitement. It’s that energy that I try to harness with each assignment while striving to convey a sense of playfulness in all of my work.

As far as which materials to use, it really depends on the overall feel of the story.  Sometimes it can be as simple as loose line work paired with washes of watercolor.  Other times, I might combine collage, paint, pencil, and printmaking techniques. There is always a fine balance of knowing how much to employ in any given piece, but for me it’s always about maintaining a handmade quality. That is really important to me. I want the viewer to be engaged on every level and to want to touch and feel every texture. Besides, working in this way never gets old!

Ooo! Can you say adorable Hanukkah present?!

Q: You are having a superstar picture book year!! Give us the scoop on your latest titles: Meg Goldberg on Parade (October 2015), Lucy and Lila (March 2016), and what is coming next!

A: So far this has been a great year. I have been fortunate enough to have illustrated two picture books for two wonderful publishers. Each of them has been created in a different style and both were a lot of fun to work on.

Meg Goldberg on Parade is a wonderful story about a little girl who imagines herself taking part in NYC’s annual Israel Day Parade. It was written by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum, and she has created great rhyming verse and depicts the spirit of the event in a most authentic way. I love New York City, and I spent a lot of time visiting the locations described, getting a sense of perspective. I decided to use collage for this book because of all the tactile elements of the city as well as depicting a playful quality to support the text. Besides, I’m a sucker for scissors, glue, and paper.

Lucy and Lila came about completely unexpected.  I had drawn a little elephant character for my newborn niece and my wonderful agent, Nicole Tugeau (who we both share) used it to promote my work. It was soon after that Little Bee Books expressed interest in building a story around that character. I was shocked! The story is about a little girl named Lucy and her drawings of a pink elephant named Lila. It stresses the importance of having your own vision and encourages thinking outside the box. It supports all of my beliefs and I was able to work from a very personal point of view. I used colored pencils for the illustrations because of the soft delicate way they illustrate the emotional rhythm of the story. You never know when something will happen like this so I am a big supporter of creating personal work. No matter how big or small, it forces you to grow while helping to strengthen your artistic voice, which is so important in this field.

Christopher's studio—also know as "where the magic happens"

Q: Let’s talk inspiration! Who, what, where do you draw your inspiration from?

A: That’s a difficult question. There are so many sources in which I receive inspiration from. Perhaps the greatest would be children. I suppose that I am in a fortunate position working with elementary students all day long. Each of them has such unique qualities and I always look to them when determining a certain character or personality trait. They inspire me in so many ways. Children have the ability to work from the inside out without judging themselves too harshly. As adults, we can be our own worst enemies and place a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves to do things “right”. It’s as if we forget how to have fun. Drawing should be fun and the minute you lose that feeling you are just going through the motions.  Whenever I hit a rut, I look to nature to rejuvenate me. A long walk through the woods can do wonders for the soul!

Now THIS is beach beautiful!

 Q: Characters are a key piece to creating a picture book that connects with young readers and your characters are very sweet and light and relatable. Take us thru how you translate a written character in a manuscript onto the blank page.

A: Character development is the most exciting part for me when illustrating a book. I spend a lot of time exploring line, shape, and form in my sketchbooks until I arrive upon a drawing that I like. I always look to capture the character’s spirit in as little as possible and I suppose that is the biggest challenge for me. To make this process more enjoyable, I use a variety of tools to experiment with. For example, I might start sketching a character with an ebony pencil and select one or two colors to apply a wash on top. In this manner, I can keep the looseness and spontaneity of the character without becoming overly concerned with rendering. The challenge for me is to keep the consistency throughout 32 pages. Tracing paper and light boxes are my best friends!

What a gorgeous view!!

Q: What is your dream project?

A: My dream project would be to have my illustrations appear on children’s apparel, bedding, wall art, etc. I love the idea of an illustration having a life outside of the page. Licensing has been a big inspiration to me and I am beginning to explore that side of the field. Also, I would love to create a wordless book. These types of stories can be translated in so many different ways and it challenges the illustrator to communicate clearly and precisely. 

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Watching football all day and eating spicy homemade chili.


Thank you for catching up with us here at Bird Meets Worm, Chris!! It was a hoot!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

NEW Super Jane Kid Growth Charts with Mpix

I'm thrilled to unveil my two NEW Kid Growth Charts from Mpix: Martian Mania & Silly Ring Leader! Both can be fabulously customized with your kiddo's name and photos! Shop Martian Mania & Silly Ring Leader today! XO

Martian Mania • © Jane Smith

Silly Ring Leader • © Jane Smith

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Super Star Interviews: Anne Bollman

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 punch to be catching up with the delightfully darling Illustrator, Anne Bollman! Anne is the illustrator behind Anne Was Here, a studio, which provides art and illustration for products and publications, designed with humor and style, that is meant to make you smile. Anne's artwork can be found online and in stores internationally on a wide range of products including stationery, fabric, gifts, apparel, home decor and more. Anne is best known for her iconic illustrations of peeking dogs. You can view more of her artwork here!


How much do you love these fancy ladybugs?! 
Q: As a working designer & illustrator, you have faced head-on more than once the challenge of having your original artwork stolen, copied and reproduced without your permission. What advice would you give fellow artists about how to protect their intellectual property?


A: Most importantly my advice would be don’t let it stop you from sharing your work. Exposure means opportunity. The more places you share your work online, the more opportunities will come your way. That being said, only YOU can decide what is more important to you: reducing your risk and consequently reducing positive opportunities OR being vulnerable and prolific and enjoying a lot of opportunity! I choose the latter.

Some more practical advice would be to always include a copyright symbol on your work, wherever possible, and if you find that someone has used your art without permission let them know it is not ok. If they refuse to remove your copyrighted work, use a DMCA notification to report them to whatever platform they are using. I routinely do this with Amazon, Etsy, Ebay, Instagram, Facebook, Shopify and the infringing images are always taken down. Websites from countries without strong copyright protection laws are more difficult to deal with. You can do reverse image searches on Google to check where your images are being used online. Click here for a YouTube demonstration on how to do this.

In cases where you feel someone has copied you but it is not exactly the same, I would advise you to proceed with caution and kindness. It is easy to get heated and upset in the moment of discovery and want to take it public, but that course of action never ends well. If it is just similar and looks inspired by your work, it is probably best to just walk away from it. There is a chance that it was overly inspired by your work and there is also a chance that it was a coincidence. It is helpful to get confidential and honest opinions from designer friends about how close they feel it is to your own work. Make sure to ask people who won’t just tell you what you want to hear and will truly give you their opinion.

If it is so very similar to your own work that the icons, details, color palette and layout are all the same, but just drawn in another hand, you may want to reach out to the other designer and express your concern. Regardless of their reaction, at the very least they will be less likely to copy you again.

If it is a large company that has copied you, and you feel it is a clear case of infringement, get a lawyer’s opinion. There is also a service that I was recently introduced to and will be using in the future that can help you without any upfront costs called Copyright Armor. I spoke at length with the owner and lawyer of Copyright Armor and they know their stuff!

Such lovely colors! Love these teals & pinks & neutrals!
Q: You are well-known for your delightfully whimsical pet and animal illustrations. Tell us all about what inspires these works and how you approach creating them.


A: I have been an animal lover from the beginning. I swore I would become a vet or zookeeper when I grew up until I realized that those jobs don’t consist of hugging animals all day long! Drawing animals really makes me happy, and that is the main reason I keep doing it. I like to draw things without faces too, but if I go for too long I begin to go through withdrawals and quickly draw a puppy to make myself feel better. I think my addiction to fat cute little animals got really serious when I got my first dog in 2012. My parents never let me have a dog growing up so by the time I got one as an adult I was primed for obsession. My dog, Midji, inspires so much of my work I should probably start to pay her. When drawing animals I always start with the face, which is my favorite part. I like drawing faces that make you wonder what mischief they are up to. I just started teaching a class on Skillshare that walks students through my entire process for illustrating a pet. You can check it out here. Midji even makes an appearance!

Sweet birdie - chirp, chirp, love!
Q: Even though Surtex tends to get all the buzz when talking art licensing trade shows, there are a LOT of other great shows throughout the year. Give us the scoop on your experiences exhibiting at the Art LicensingExpo in Las Vegas earlier this year. And do you consider trade shows worth the investment of resources?


A: The Licensing Expo was very exciting to be a part of! It is very different from Surtex in that the majority of exhibitors are big brands or big brand representatives. The Art & Design section is very small compared to the rest of the show, but I thought that made it so much easier to stand out. Because of the big brand aspect of the show I also met contacts that I doubt I could have at Surtex, such as executives from major cartoon networks and publishers. I have several new contracts from exhibiting and many more exciting contacts that I hope to work with in the future.

The show also opened my eyes up to new exciting possibilities for my art, such as developing a character with a story, and how that can expand licensing opportunities beyond just products and into publishing, gaming and animation.


Tree trunk cross-section forest florals! Brilliant!
Q: You work with clients across a wide variety of markets, from gift and paper products to fabric and children's items to so much more! How do you approach marketing yourself to such a wide variety of clients? How frequently would you recommend sending out new work? And what avenues of contact do you consider most effective—email, traditional postcards, face-to-face meetings, social media, etc.?


A: One of the great joys I have found in working for myself is that I can create a career filled with diversity! I enjoy working on a variety of projects and tend to focus my marketing on one industry until I get a good partnership and then move on to the next. So for instance, if I want to design for home decor, I would create some art that I think works really well for that market and then create a presentation including artwork swatches and mock-ups to show my ideas. Then I send the presentation out to companies that I want to work with in that market that are also a good fit for my style. I’ve been fortunate to be able to find great partnerships this way but I also think that it is partially because I am very strategic about who I submit to and making sure that what I am submitting is appropriate for their products. Once I have work in one market, I move on to the next.

I recommend sending out new work as much as you possibly can and I need to take my own advice, because like many artists, it’s one of my weaknesses. One of the things on my to do list is to start a newsletter so that I can send a sneak peak of my latest work out to my contact list once a month.

For me the most effective form of contact is a combination of those that you listed. My top three marketing tools are probably email, social media and creating a robust online presence. I use email to directly contact art directors and submit new art, I try to post creative work to instagram, facebook and twitter daily and I also aim to have my work
found online in as many places as possible. This includes my website, client websites, portfolio sites, designer directories, magazines, blogs, shops, social media, and tutorial sites. It may seem daunting if you are just beginning, but if you tackle your online presence one place at a time, it happens organically. Having a good online presence brings some partnerships to you that you may not have been able to find or think of on your own.

Autumn leaves are forest magic!
Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.


A: Wake up without an alarm going off and take a walk to the local coffee shop with my husband and my dog. Paint something for the fun of it (and not for work!) in the morning. Do something outdoors and active with friends in the afternoon to enjoy the beautiful Southern California weather. Go out for an ocean view dinner and drinks with my husband in Manhattan Beach. Watch a movie or one of our favorite tv shows as we fall asleep.

Thanks so much for catching up with us here at Bird Meets Worm, Anne! We LOVE your work and will be keeping an eye out for it in our local shops!