ICON8 or bust!

It’s been a crazy & chaotic, but wonderful start to the summer!  I’ve had little time lately for updates, but have been busy illustrating editorial assignments, creating logos for small businesses, designing a slew of new book covers, writing & illustrating a super fun doodle book for tween girls—and designing + letterpressing my own wedding invitations! I couldn’t be more thrilled with the variety of opportunities that have come my way, and would have never dreamt that just 9 months into freelancing full-time I’d be so busy with work—but I’ve been very lucky. I am super excited to share some of the projects I’ve been working on as soon as I’m allowed!

In the meantime, I’ve also been preparing to head out west to Portland for the Illustration Conference, July 10-12. I’ve attended 5 of these in past years—but this is the first one as a full-time freelancer, so I expect to reap even more inspiration than ever before! I can’t wait! The line up of speakers is so awesome I can hardly contain myself—Carson Ellis, Steve Simpson, Lisa Congdon, Jon Klassen, Lilla Rogers, Paula Scher—and that’s just the start! And as if all that isn’t exciting enough, I was also accepted into the Roadshow—a portfolio review & marketplace showcasing over 60 artists to kick off opening night! I’ll have my portfolio on view as well as a bunch of letterpress prints and greeting cards for sale. Here’s a little snippet of some of the latest goodies that I’ll be taking with me.

Blurbbk1 cards SKullsLP Tableshot

I’m Pittsburgh-bound tomorrow for a fabulous family wedding over the 4th, then will be heading straight out to Portland! Not only will I get to soak in all the ICON excitement, I’ll also be staying with some dear friends that I don’t get to see nearly often enough. With all this joy and inspiration, I’ll be sure to have oodles of great stuff to share once I return!

Hope everyone has a fun and safe holiday weekend!

 

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Dust Chronicles book covers & hand-lettered type design

I was recently commissioned to redesign a really cool YA post-apocalyptic thriller series for Skyscape. The art director had a fantastic vision for these, with a focus on hand-lettered title type design that would turn from orderly and a bit futuristic to “deviant”, swirling and splitting off into different directions that would snake around the cover. Laying the decorative type over an atmospheric stock photo would give these books a  futuristic, dystopian feel.

I sketched out a bunch of different type styles for these, and we developed one into something that has a sort of decorative circuit board feel that conveys the sci-fi tone of the series. I really love how the final covers turned and it was SO fun to get to create custom lettering in such a decorative, elaborate style! Many thanks to Katrina for the project and great art direction!

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The cutting room floor…

I don’t think most people realize how many versions a book cover goes through before it becomes the final product they see on the shelf. Designing a book cover is a very collaborative process, and though it can also be a very challenging and loooong process at times—it’s always fascinating to see the evolution. Often, a designer’s best or favorite concepts are not the ones that make the final cut, so it’s fun to share what was left behind.

Here’s a recent cover I did for Egmont. Another opportunity to mix my own illustration and lettering into the design, I dove right in and really enjoyed hammering out these first comps.

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Ultimately, the publisher preferred a more commercial photographic approach, but I was still able to incorporate a whimsical illustration into the final cover:

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This is Mary Amato’s second YA novel, and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

 

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Jell-O fun!

The assignment for Lilla Rogers’ Bootcamp class this month was to create a design for bolt fabric based on vintage jello molds.

When we first got the topic, I wasn’t so sure I would really connect and find inspiration in the theme. (I was never a huge jello fan!) But as I started to research and gather up references I realized how much awesome content there is to draw from: retro/vintage baking supplies, dessert dishes, and the interesting shapes, colors, and textures of Jell-O! Plus, the community of artists participating in the class is just so amazing—everyone jumped in right away, sharing their super creative takes on the theme and got me so excited about where this could go!

However, March was an incredibly busy month! I’m still getting my footing as a full-time freelancer—which, very fortunately, has been an incredibly steady & busy stream of client work. And I’m also in the trenches of wedding planning, so I found my time pretty limited to devote to class which is always disappointing. But, in a way it forced me into not over-thinking the assignment, and even working in a new way.

Lilla always gives a “mini” assignment—an opportunity to explore the theme through sketches before really knowing the application of the content. This encourages working with icons to create a library of individual images that can be drawn from to later compose the piece for the assignment. This approach is ideal for licensing collections, as the icons are easy to work with, re-purpose, and create coordinating pieces from. These are my ink & gouache sketches from the “mini”:

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This is a really new way of working for me, but I’ve been enjoying it a lot and seeing the difference it makes in my work. But with such lack of time this month, these were the only sketches I got to and didn’t have time for much more after the full assignment was given. Down to the wire with our deadline, I decided to allow myself only to pull from what I had existing. I used several of these icons and grabbed a character from an old project to rework. I usually have some vision of where I intend to go with a project, but this time I only had a vague idea. I liked the thought of the Jello shapes becoming hats or umbrellas, and knew I wanted to incorporate a girl figure. So I dove in head first, with no real “roadmap”, and played for just a few hours until I a pattern emerged. Lilla also encouraged us to try a “nougat” palette, using more neutrals, which I really enjoyed pushing myself to do. This was my final submission.

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The class gallery is now live, including hundreds of artists’ submissions. Loads of really wonderful work and super fun interpretations of the theme.  Check it out! http://bootcamp.lillarogers.com/bootcamp-march-2014-gallery/

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Cuckoo for cuckoos!

I’m taking Lilla Rogers’ 6-month Assignment Bootcamp—an online portfolio building-course geared toward licensing. After having such a great experience in her Make Art That Sells course last fall, I really thought this would be a great opportunity to stay on track with making new work . (Though I love self-initiated projects, set guidelines & deadlines always seem to help me actually see things through! :)

Each month, Lilla gives an assignment based on a theme. This is similar to her MATS class format, but there isn’t as much direct feedback and extra insights & advice on the industry. It’s sheerly for building up a body of work, and connecting with the creative community of other artists in the class. This month’s assignment was to create a piece of art for an iphone case, incorporating a cuckoo clock theme.

So much fun imagery to explore here! At the start of the project, Lilla gives a “mini” assignment—she tells just the theme so that we can fully explore the subject matter without over thinking the final application. I’ve really enjoyed working this way, as it helps me feel a bit freer in the sketch phase.

Here’s a few of my sketches, and a first attempt at a case. I just wasn’t feeling like it was really “me”. I felt like I was trying to make a piece that would fit the mold, and it just wasn’t exciting for me at all. So I abandoned ship and dove into the second one (below). I had so much fun with this that I tired out some coordinate patterns too! One of the top things I’ve taken from Lilla’s classes is that “people buy your joy”—meaning that the best work comes out when you are truly enjoying creating it!

Rather than critiques for each assignment, Lilla’s offering a gallery that she will share publically with real world creative directors in the industry. Very excited about that! Also happy to add a new design to my Society6 shop where I already sell a few iphone cases!

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Month of Love, Vol. 2

I’ve been pretty swamped with deadlines lately, so haven’t been quite able to keep up with sharing new work. Lots of exciting projects are on my desk, many of which I can’t share for awhile. But in the meantime, I can share some new pieces I’ve been working on for the 2nd Month of Love!

If you follow me, you know last year I was invited to participate in this fun art challenge for the month of February. The brainchild of fabulous fantasy artist Kristina Carroll, it started as a daily sketch challenge with an impressive roster of artists participating. It was such a success that Kristina followed suit with a weekly art challenge— “Month of Fear“— last October, and is back at it again with another Month of Love this year.

A challenge topic is provided each week, and all contributing artists create a piece in response to the theme. I’ve been able to jump in on 2 challenges so far this month. Here, “Favorite Love Story”, for which I created a piece inspired by Johnny Cash & June Carter. My Dad used to talk about how much Johnny loved June, and how he died of a broken heart shortly after he lost her. They certainly didn’t have a “perfect” love, but they had the truest, strongest kind of love—the kind that weathers the worst of storms and can’t be broken, even by death. I looked to the iconic Hatch Show Print posters for inspiration to create a fitting tribute.

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This next challenge was to illustrated a fetish. I had to do a little research to find something I could get inspired by, and found myself kind of fascinated by “forniphilia”—a form of bondage and sexual objectification in which which a person’s body is incorporated into a piece of furniture.

I’ve been looking at the work of Erte a lot—hard to believe I’d never heard of him in all my years of art school & art history, but after seeing a framed piece hanging in a friend’s home a few years ago I’ve become obsessed! Been learning a lot from his work about simplifying & stylizing, and finding that sweet spot of illustration perfectly married with design. Was thinking about these things when working out how to portray this concept, and had a lot of fun with this one.

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There’s just one more week left….February always goes too fast! Be sure to stop by and check out the blog. There’s a ton of talent, and new work is being posted daily!

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The Feather Chase

Just wrapped up another really fun book cover project, and excited to finally share it!

I was approached a few months ago by an independent author who is self-publishing a new middle-grade mystery series. This was my first time working with a self-publisher, but she gave me a lot of creative freedom and I was able to do the design/art direction as well as the illustration and hand-lettering, always my favorite kind of project!

I created a watercolor texture for the background and pieced in my ink drawings of the feathers, horizon and lettering.

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New year, new book covers

Excited to start the new year off with a fun new project to share! I designed & illustrated the paperback cover of This Journal Belongs To Ratchet for Sourcebooks. A middle-grade novel from award-winning author Nancy Cavanaugh, it’s the empowering story of a girl trying to find her own definition of “normal”, as told through her journal of home-school assignments.

The story and format immediately inspired me, and I thought it would be a perfect design project to bring my illustration style & hand-lettering to.

The team at Sourcebooks is always really fantastic and open to my ideas, so I jumped into comps exploring a few illustrated directions. In the book, Ratchet is home-schooled by her mechanic father, whom she is embarrassed by at the start of the book but learns to appreciate & embrace. So the tools seemed like a great element to incorporate—both symbolic & representational, while lending to alot of fun graphic solutions.

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They were well-received overall, but ultimately we went with the bottom left direction. A few color tweaks made it a bit more appealing to the girl audience, and I had a ball illustrating each letterform in the title. Here’s the final cover, officially on sale May 1, 2014 but available for preorder on Amazon now.

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Anne of Green Gables series repackage

I’m thrilled to share a recent book cover series I art directed at Simon and Schuster. It’s always really fun to get to re-imagine a classic and give it a fresh new face—and this one was extra special to me because the Anne of Green Gables series is a personal childhood favorite, as my Grandmother always loved these books.

There’s always countless editions of classics like these, but the Anne books all looked so similar to me—traditional images of Anne with her long red braids. So I knew I wanted to do something very different. I adore the work of Coralie Bickford-Smith (who doesn’t!) and felt super inspired by her fresh designs for the Penguin classics (maybe it’s the Penguin-alum in me!) So, I got to thinking how I could approach this series with something more graphic, but still classic. Then I found the gorgeous work of Julene Harrison , who creates beautiful and detailed papercut illustrations—and I knew this was the solution! I was thrilled that my team at Aladdin books was whole-heartedly behind my pitch for this direction, and I really had a wonderful experience working with Julene on these. Each book in the series will feature specific elements from each story, following Anne’s adventures through the years.

These editions will print both as paperbacks and jacketed hard covers, on uncoated stock with spot UV. These new designs will roll out beginning in early 2014.

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MATS round up

My 5-week Make Art That Sells online course with Lilla Rogers came to an end last week, and though it was hard to keep up with updates as the class was in-progress, my experience was too great not to share a bit in hindsight!

The course covered a different market each week: paper goods, baby apparel, scrapbooking, editorial, and party paper. Lilla created a fabulous “classroom” environment with her daily blog posts, interviews, videos, and a private Facebook group for all participating students to connect and share work in. She shared invaluable insight and tips for each market, and gave challenging assignments & constructive critiques each week.

I’ve already shared my assignments for week 1 and week 2, but haven’t been able to catch up with updates since! Our scrapbooking assignment was based on old typewriters and cameras—a personal favorite! For the editorial piece, each artist was to create a map of their current city. And the party paper theme was folk art. All super different and fun—was so great to explore such varied themes and markets! Some sketches and my final pieces included here, as well as a roundup of projects from all 5 weeks.

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WEEK 3: Sketches inspired by vintage cameras & typewriters

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WEEK 3: SCRAPBOOKING Create a page of art to be applied to various scrapbooking materials, based on the theme of old-fashioned communication

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WEEK 4: EDITORIAL Create a map of your current city

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WEEK 5: Folk art inspired sketches

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WEEK 5: PARTY PAPER Create a paper plate & napkin set based on folk art motifs

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Round up of all 5 weekly class assignments

 

It’s fun to see my growth as I look at my body of classwork. Coming in with nearly 10 years of experience doing illustration & design, mostly in publishing—I loved the challenging assignments & learning about new markets. Most of the themes were new subject matter for me, and the approach of working with icons to make versatile pieces that can be applied to a range of products was definitely very different for me. And, the community of artists from around the world who participated was invaluable—encouragement, feedback, and just seeing so many different styles & takes on the same assignments each week really inspired me to strive for better work each week. It really was like being back in art school!

I’m really excited to take what I learned and further develop my portfolio for licensing and surface design. I surprised myself a bit with what markets I was most drawn to, and my brain has exploded with new ideas and subject matter to dive into. Plus, as a special gift to her students, Lilla offered a free 6-month membership to MOYO—an online directory of artist specializing in surface and pattern design. Please stop by to give my portfolio some love there—and stay tuned to see some new work posted soon!

 

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