Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Super Star Children's Book Review: Mia Mayhem Is A Superhero

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Joan Charles, Laurie Young, Sarah Orgill—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 broad 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.

Written By Kara West • Illustrated by Leeza Hernandez
Middle Grade Chapter Book (ages 5-9) • 121 pages
Published by Little Simon. • 2018
ISBN 978-1-5344-3269-7

Mia Mayhem Is A Superhero is a delightfully illustrated, young middle grade chapter book, starring the chaos-magnet, ball of energy: Mia Mayhem! Wherever Mia goes, disaster hilariously follows—CRASH! BANG! BOOM!—until Mia’s luck takes an exciting turn. When Mia receives a letter announcing her acceptance into the Program for In Training Superheroes (the PITS), she discovers that she is, in fact, part of a whole family of superheroes! The only question is: how will she fit into the PITS, if she doesn’t even know what her super power is?

Readers will laugh and giggle as Mia makes her way through the story in expressive, action-filled illustrations. All the details—stars, lightning bolts, screen dots textures & comic book panels—will transport the reader into Mia’s super world. No doubt, you’ll be inspired to get out your own cape & mask and save the day, too!

(Extra bonus: Mia Mayhem Is A Superhero is the debut title in a whole series! So there's more adventure—and chaos!—ahead!)

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Jane Smith

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Super Star Interviews: Alyssa Nassner

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 so excited to be chatting it up with rock star Illustrator & Hand Letterer, Alyssa Nassner! I'm a total fan girl for Alyssa's typography & bright, graphic illustrations! Alyssa is from Baltimore, based out of Brooklyn, NY. She earned her BFA in illustration from the Maryland Institute College of Art. By day she is the Lead Visual Designer for (previously for ABRAMS Kids, Callisto Media and Target), and in her spare time she dabbles in hand lettering and food illustration. Alyssa is also quite fond of dogs, donuts, her family, and traveling. Her biggest inspirations include vintage botanical prints, mid-century illustration and good bottles of Beaujolais. You can enjoy more of her artwork here!

Artsy glasses, check! Cute jean jacket, check! Super star status, check!

Q: You are a total rock star at creating and designing original typography, both as an illustrator and as an art director/designer! Dish with us a bit about your process from initial ideas to sketches to finished products and what unique considerations are necessary when creating original typography.

A: First of all, thank you so much, I’m flattered! My process has evolved over the years and definitely depends on the type of project I’m working on. When I was first starting out, I relied heavily on using typefaces or existing alphabets to start. I would set the type and manipulate it in Photoshop or by tracing it and then customizing it based on placement / composition / stylistic needs. It required a lot of trial and error to get things right. Through doing that, I was able to understand different typographic styles and develop a lettering vocabulary.

These days, on most projects, I don’t need to rely on reference as much and I’ve learned to loosen up and rely on my instincts more. I will say that the internet is an abundant source of archival type specimen and inspiration, so if I’m looking to do something new, I do still tend to start by researching and always recommend that to folks who need a jumping off point. The most important aspect to me is making sure the lettering is complimentary to the illustration it’s accompanying and its style furthers the tone of the design.

If Magic 8 Ball says it, it must be true!

Q: You have a strong graphic sensibility in your work that is absolutely delightful as well as a keen sense of what is trendy-cool-fabulous right now! Give us the scoop on your own unique influences and inspirations: the who/the where/the what.

A: Again, thank you so much! I think this is something I’m constantly cultivating. It’s really easy to get caught up in my Instagram feed or on my closed-loop Pinterest recommendations, so I’ve been working hard to find inspiration outside of the illustration world. Going to galleries and museums, visiting the zoo and botanical garden, reading more and learning about subjects outside of art. For the first time since college, I have hobbies outside of art.

Over the past two years I’ve really poured myself into learning about wine and enjoying cooking and baking and hosting more. These things have really, and not surprisingly, impacted the course of my creative work. My passion for food and wine outside of art making has resurfaced into my personal work, which has in turn, inspired clients to hire me for that type of work. One of my most consistent clients last year was Wine Enthusiast—all because I started reading books about wine and drawing based on that interest. I also have a great group of friends who are also living multi-faceted lives and killing it in their careers—knowing and supporting them also inspires me to look at my work differently and push myself creatively.

Ooo! Pass me the pretzels, please!

Q: Tell us every little thing about 1) your MOST favorite illustration project and 2) your MOST favorite design project.

A: This is a hard one! I have a lot of favorite projects and clients, and almost every new thing that comes up is the most exciting thing. I love everything I’ve ever done for Target as a freelance illustrator—their in-house marketing team is the best in the biz and working with them is a dream.

In terms of artwork, many years ago I worked with American Greetings to design a Christmas card that was a little poo in a snow globe that said “Warm Wishes”. I always thought that was such a funny job to be commissioned for.

Design-wise, I love all of the Appleseed books I had the opportunity to art direct and design at Abrams. All Aboard: Let’s Ride a Train is an entire novelty concept I developed in-house and I designed it with Andrew Kolb in mind as the illustrator. We were able to hire him for the project and it was so amazing to collaborate with him to bring my vision to life! I’m really proud of that one and the series that’s come from it at Abrams.

How fun! Let's go for a ride! Where to?

Q: You work as an art director/designer by day and as a freelance illustrator by night. In what ways do you balance these two professional creative pursuits? And how do they influence each other, both creatively as well as from a business perspective?

A: It’s a constant give/take to be able to balance a full-time creative job and freelance/personal work and life itself. I think a large obstacle I’ve had to overcome is the idea that my identity and worth are defined by my productivity, output, and title as a creative. I get really burnt out trying to “do it all” and it’s taken me a very stressful year to step back and reassess how I achieve said balance. Luckily, I’m now established in my career, both in-house and freelance, and I can choose to be more intentional about dedicating my time to things I care about. This means feeling more comfortable saying no to freelance jobs, setting boundaries at my day job, and not tying my worth to how often I post on Instagram (which can be very difficult).

In terms of how my day-job and freelance impact one another—I think the influence is pretty great. Maybe not from a stylistic or subject standpoint, but as I move from industry to industry, I start to understand more about the behind the scenes needs of an art team. Working for Curbed, which is digital media, is completely different than working in publishing, or working in apparel/product design. The art and design will ALWAYS need to be strong, but what makes the work successful and how a user interacts with it is really different. I’ve also been pushed out of my comfort zone with every new position; Target was incredibly trend-driven and required that I widen my illustration style and mark-making range, Abrams pushed me to develop more confident typography skills and collaborate in a new way, and I’ve spent a great deal of time learning CSS, working on branding, and creating animations for Curbed. All of this impacts the way I work, the work I look at, and my goals as an artist in general. I also think my illustration background and my place in the community allows me to communicate with artists better and give more helpful and specific feedback as an art director. It also helps that I have a wonderful community that I can hire from and I’m genuinely invested in maintaining relationships with artists and following trends in the industry.

Everything is better with a twist of orange! Don't cha agree?!

Q: As an art director/designer you work with numerous creative freelancers on a regular basis. What are your top 3 hot super star tips for how to have a successful relationship with you and other creative clients?

A: My first tip is to be aware of the market you want to work in. If you want to work in children’s books, for example, it helps to know your competitive landscape—who’s successful in that field, who’s hiring artists similar to your work (or who’s not). A trip to the bookstore or taking a peak at another artist’s client list might help point you in the right direction. If you find that there’s not many artists successfully making art in the field with art that looks like yours, it might be helpful to assess your portfolio with a critical eye to make sure it aligns with the needs of the market. To return to our children’s book example, if you’re drawing super gorey fight scenes, you might find that you’re targeting the wrong industry or that your work needs to adjust to optimize your potential. That being said, ultimately find a way to both be marketable AND be true to your voice and style(s). Keep the work original!

Secondly, shamelessly promote yourself! Flaunt your favorite work and be involved in high-visibility projects or platforms. Instagram is my current favorite discovery tool and I often find people's work who submit to popular accounts like @BallpitMag @brwnpaperbag or use tags like #WomenofIllustration or #goodtype (to name a few). I also bookmark relevant portfolios emailed to me as an art director and save promo mailers for hiring inspiration. You are essentially providing a service to those who need to hire artists and make their job easier by making your work visible to them. You might not always hear back or see an immediate return on investment but it’s important to put yourself out there without fear of failure. Create and confidently share the type of work you want to be hired for!

Quick! Take me to Olive Garden for endless breadsticks!

Finally, if you do land that freelance job, communication is key. I always appreciate working with artists who are timely in their communication, ask questions to get clarity on projects, and keep me up to date on their progress. Going AWOL in the middle of a project or not having the right deliverables at the agreed upon time is the number one way to cause a tear in a creative relationship. As an AD a lot of people rely on me to share the progress of a project and if my creative talent isn’t communicating often and honestly, then I can’t keep my team up to date either. That’s stressful for everyone involved! I’m 100% more likely to hire someone who was easy and delightful to work with over someone who made my job more difficult. It seems simple, but if you’re a reliable artist you’ll build lifelong freelance relationships.

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: My perfect Sunday is sleeping in until 10am and waking up to have freshly brewed coffee with my boyfriend. My best Sundays include taking a long walk in Brooklyn, running errands, cleaning up the house and cooking something delicious for dinner (with the perfect wine pairing) and relaxing by reading or watching a movie. I love using Sunday as a reset day. Weekends are my sacred time to get my life back in order before the chaos of the week begins again. I tend to do most of my freelance work on weeknights, too, so I can have the weekend to relax as much as possible.

Thanks so much for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm, Alyssa! You rock!