Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Super Star Interviews: Amy Schimler-Safford

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 chatting it up with the one, the only, THE Illustrator/Textile Designer, Amy Schimler-Safford! I had the distinct pleasure of working with Amy back in my art director days and have been a big fan of her artwork both before and since. Amy Schimler-Safford works predominantly in the children's market. She has sold and licensed her artwork for a variety of products including children's apparel, children's books, toys and puzzles, wall d├ęcor, and fabrics to name a few. Lately she has been focusing on children's books with a couple of exciting new projects on the horizon. You can view more of her artwork here!

So lovely!! A floral dreamscape!

Q: You are a master of pattern, having created numerous super fun fabric collections! Dish with us about how you approach creating a collection: inspiration to sketch to color artwork to repeat pattern.

A: Thank you so much. I have been doing pattern design for a very long time. I’ve created thousands of designs over the last dozen years. Because I have been doing it for so long and so consistently, much of the process is intuitive and flows naturally. It almost feels effortless at times.

If I was to break it down I would say my inspiration starts with color stories. I begin to see where the colors feel most natural and explore those themes. Once I have a theme I start developing a print, I play off of that idea. Usually a theme connects a collection, but a collection can also be connected by color and/or style.

Ideas come in spurts from many different sources. I walk every morning and usually take pictures as references for colors and subject matter. I see patterns pretty much everywhere I go. I think when you work that intensely at something your unconscious mind takes over. There is nothing better than playing with color all day. I don’t do repeats, but I do a layout that could easily be put into a repeat. I should also say that I mostly use Illustrator for my pattern designs. It makes it so easy to play with color and see immediately what works and what doesn’t work. I love fiddling with the placement of all the elements in the design until I find a layout that feels just right.

Hello Fishy, Fishy!! Where are you headed?

Q: What qualities make for the “perfect” art licensing client? And are there any key buzzwords to look for when negotiating or reviewing contracts?

A: It is always great when you have good communication with a client. My clients are usually very easy to work with. Understanding the client’s vision and what inspired them to contact you in the first place are key. The mission is to produce a great product on both ends, so you start with a common goal and a mutual interest.
The biggest buzzword is “copyright”. You always want to own your art if you are licensing it. It is also important to know what products you are licensing your art for and to be sure your contract reflects that. The only time I have had difficulty is when the client hasn’t clearly explained what they want which can result in more work on my part, but I have learned over the years to ask a lot of questions before starting a project.
Q: I absolutely LOVE your mixed media style! Give us the scoop on how you find/create your materials and on how you put them together, whether traditionally or digitally.

A: Thanks so much. I started out working mostly digitally, but I am more often off the computer lately. I almost always finish a piece digitally though. It is easier to edit and send to clients. I love working with a variety of materials, I love playing around to create new and unexpected textures. In terms of materials I use anything and everything – watercolor, gouache, crayons, chalk, tape, stick brushes that I make, ripped paper, frisket, and on and on.  I recently began painting in oils and it has helped me open up my ideas about texture and slight variations in color. I try to keep my process as open and experimental as I can, I rarely plan it out. I also love the printmaking process. There are so many wonderful unexpected moments, beautiful textures and happy accidents. If I had more time I would love to explore screenprinting. I also love to incorporate papers and images intended for a different purpose. I used vintage wallpapers, old bus schedules, report cards, and dining receipt carbon copies recently in a children’s book I just finished illustrating. In some places they might be recognizable but I try to seamlessly incorporate them into my illustrations. My scanner is my best friend! I also approach my illustrations similarly to my pattern design in that I use color stories to inspire my work. I am not sure which comes first – concept or color, but I would bet they are equal in informing how I start an illustration. The most fun is combining all these elements to create something satisfying and new.
The birdies are so cute! Which one would you choose?

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

A: What a fun question! I think my favorite illustration from the past was for a board book I did for Little Simon titled “Splish Splash”. It was an illustration of minnows in a shallow river. It was a little bit of a turning point in my work, I started moving in another direction – a little more painterly. The piece just flowed as I worked on it and the colors came together so naturally. It was so much fun to work on.
A current illustration that I quite like is one I did for a book dummy I was shopping around. It is a picture of a woman looking in a pet shop window. It was based on a true story and I love this piece because it is more narrative and it encourages your imagination. And it is about relationships which is a favorite theme of mine that I hope to explore more in my artwork. I also love the way the colors worked in this piece.
 These are two illustrations in which I wouldn’t necessarily want to change anything. I think that is when you know a piece is successful. It is hard to do that, I try to remind myself often that a lot of hard work does not necessarily yield work that you love, but there are always one or two pieces that have a lasting impact or a surprise nugget of something new that pushes your work forward.
Aren't little jellies the sweetest?!

Q: What advice would you give fellow artists looking to break into art licensing on the following topics: 1) business practices 2) self-promotion 3) daily habits.

A: I think that everyone works differently so it is hard to give individual advice. What works for me might not work for someone else. That said here are a couple of thoughts. Regarding business practices – the most important thing is to be respectful and maintain your professionalism, try to be the person an art director would want to work with again. Regarding self promotion – there are so many opportunities through social media. Just be sure you are showing your work to people who hire vs. only other artists. Take a risk and contact a dream client and introduce yourself and your work. Come up with some routine that is consistent, whether it is mailings or a newsletter that you email, try to stick to it. Personally, I just put my portfolio on a couple of community illustration websites and I haven’t done much marketing past that, except for children’s books where I do direct mailings. It still amazes me that people find me on the web solely through my online portfolios. Regarding daily habits – I think it is important to keep working on improving your artwork and updating your portfolio. I find the only way to do this is to do personal projects if you can find the time. I like to come up with a plan each day of what I hope to accomplish. Of course it doesn’t always work out that way, but doing that helps me make the best use of my time. It took me along time to refine my current style and yet I still feel like I am just getting started….so patience is key and giving yourself the necessary time to develop. That is the hardest part.
Cityscape fabulousness!!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.
A: Ahhhhh… I love the idea of a perfect Sunday. It is a beautiful sunny breezy summer day and I take a long walk with my husband along the ocean.  I go back to my studio and paint a bit. We get together with friends and family later that day for a big meal and some game playing. Lots of laughter and lots of chocolate are a must! Perfect.
Thank you so much, Amy, for catching up with us here at Bird Meets Worm!! We can’t wait to see what you create next! XO