Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month. (Special Note!! Bird Meets Worm will be taking an artist interview summer break in the month of August. But, be sure to check back in September because you don’t want to miss all the fun interviews coming in the Fall! Cheers!)
This month I’m so happy to be catching up with the fabulous Designer/Illustrator, Jill Howarth! I first came across Jill’s delightful artwork during Lilla Rogers’ MATS class and instantly fell for her whimsical characters and imaginative typography. Jill grew up in a tiny town in rural Pennsylvania, and always loved to draw. She attended Penn State University for Graphic design. Upon graduation, Jill took a job as a Junior Designer at Hasbro, in their corporate design department. She eventually became an Art Director for their Playskool brand, but when she started a family, she happily turned to freelancing. Since then, Jill has gradually shifted her focus from design to primarily illustration. You can view more of her artwork here!
|Happy as an adorable pear! Love it!|
Q: You are a master of typography and hand-lettering! Dish with us about your inspiration, process and approach to type.
A: Ha, I so wish I was a master, but it's a field that is heavily loaded with talent these days! I don't really know why, but I've always liked playing with lettering and truthfully, it is a very learnable skill. My comfort level with it probably has a lot to do with my background as a graphic designer. In college, one of my typography professors made us hand paint all these super long quotes. It seemed ridiculously tedious at the time (and it was!) but it really made you pay attention to relationships between letters, X height, kerning, ligatures… all that fun stuff, haha. But really, there is no substitute for practice and observation. It was tedious work at times, but I guess I enjoyed it and I'm glad I had the experience. In many ways, I like lettering because even though there are tons of choices and approaches, it's still finite...a "b" has to look like a "b," a "w" is a "w," and so on. There is a certain set of parameters when working with type that is different than say drawing something from scratch and getting past that blank page stage, that we all hate. It becomes a puzzle that you can go about solving…choosing the best forms/variations of those letters that support the intent of the word or the larger quote and making them all fit well together.
As far as inspiration, there are sooooo many wonderful lettering artists that I admire. I'm constantly finding more to follow on Instagram! From technically perfect, to brush/ calligraphic masters, to expressive, I could never name names, since there is so much talent out there. I'm also inspired by the founders of modern graphic design, particularly Pushpin, with Seymour Chwast, Milton Glaser and so on.
|So sweet, so darling! Love the soft palette and little black bear!|
Q: How has your time at a Senior Designer/Art Director at Hasbro Toys influenced your freelance illustration career—both artistically and business-wise?
A: Well, I didn't graduate from college, hoping to work for a toy company, but I think there are a lot of advantages to working in a corporate design department that a lot of young designers overlook. Like so many graduates, I hoped to land something in some hot design studio or boutique agency. When that didn't happen right away, I applied for a junior design job at Hasbro. Working in a corporate environment gives you an inside look at all the facets of getting a product to market. You have to work with all the major corporate players from marketing, sales, legal, copywriting, R&D, packaging, merchandising, etc. It really gives you a broad spectrum of experience, plus you have the opportunity to work with freelancers and see the other side of the coin, so to speak.
Artistically, you need to work in a way that will satisfy your creative vision, while keeping all those aforementioned departments happy. It's not always easy, but it's "real life" design work. Plus, as an art director, you have to work within budgets and source out vendors, so there is business experience to be gained as well.
Q: Give us the scoop on your MOST favorite illustration project you’ve created—one from the past and one from the present.
A: Ohhhhh...that's a tough question! I'm not sure I can fairly answer that, ha. As far as personal projects, I really enjoyed working on my letters for the group alphabet project we did over at Happy Happy Art Collective. I recently did a book cover of Alice and Wonderland for Scholastic that I'm especially proud of. It combined both lettering and illustration, so it felt like a perfect fit. I also worked on some Christmas board books recently, so I'm super excited about those coming out.
|An autumn woodland fantasy rocking out with the squirrels & bunnies!|
Q: You exhibited for the first time at Surtex 2015 with your art collective Happy Happy. (And your booth was SO fabulous!!) Tell us a bit about your experiences before, during and after the show.
A: Well, Surtex was a whirlwind! And a great experience for me as part of a collective. I'm usually the one standing on the sidelines, so this was the perfect opportunity to work with such talented artists that I am proud to call friends as well. We worked together pretty seamlessly in designing the booth, as well as all the other nitty gritty details of show preparation. My biggest issue was the super late start I had on making new work. Because of that, I didn't have the time to do as much promo as I would have liked to. I went into it with low to no expectations and came away very happy with the wide range of contacts and some deals. Plus, it was a ton of fun!
Q: How do you approach marketing yourself as an illustrator to both existing and potential clients? What marketing advice would you give fellow illustrators wishing to generate a steady stream of work?
A: I don't think I'm the best person to ask about self-marketing, but I'll try. I'm a strong believer in just getting your work out there, on your site, social media, wherever! You never know where someone might come across your work. Also, just ask! Don't be afraid to send some samples to a dream client who you think might be a good match for your style. You have nothing to lose and you might be surprised with a positive response. And pay attention! I follow a lot of cool shops on Instagram to seek what is popular and trending and who they are working with. And with existing clients, it goes without saying, be on time or ahead of schedule and if time allows, give them more than they asked for.
|Can you say adorable boy bedding? Yes, yes and yes!|
Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.
A: Hmmmm...being off on some exciting vacation sounds pretty good right about now! Short of that, maybe a great breakfast out with some good coffee, followed by watching some baseball at Fenway (even though I am a lifelong Yankee fan, I still like the park), followed by dinner at my favorite tex mex restaurant in Cambridge! Lots of eating and no cooking!