Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Surtex is Coming

For those that don’t know, Surtex is the biggest show of the year for art licensing. It is at the Javits Center in New York and runs from May 19th to the 21st.
This is the first year that I will be doing a booth. (Patti Gay-Design #442) I have always been there with an agent in the past. I have decided to go out on my own. Of course prep for the show has been going on for a couple months now. There are lots of decisions to be made. Am I doing panels in the booth? Am I doing them in vinyl or paper? What app is best for the ipad to put my portfolio on? Am I advertising and where? What is the design for the press kit? What is the design for business cards and post cards? Fortunately, I have slowly been working my way through all of the decisions and am on track with getting everything ready. There is still a lot to do, but I am really enjoying the process as well.
I am really excited to be featuring the Two Can Art collection, which is the collection I do in collaboration with my son who is autistic. He paints all of the textures and I create images from the painted textures. I will also be showing new work in the Fun & Bright collection, the Realistic collection, the Simple Notions collections and the Amanda and Max collection I will also be debuting the Heartmade Inspirations collection.
After the show I’ll be writing an article about the experience and will also be featuring some of the other artists who are exhibiting at the show. Stay Tuned.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Aja Wells

How is it that you came to be an illustrator? 
When I was really young, about 5 or 6, I saw a beautifully illustrated alphabet book. I remember staring at the scales on the alligator forever. I read the word "illustrator", and thought it was the coolest word I'd ever read. After that, I loved to draw, especially animals. When it was time to go to college, I briefly considered a career in science as a veterinarian, but as it turned out, math was no friend of mine. So I continued with my study in art, became a full time graphic designer working in house at a firm, and slowly built a freelancer career over a couple years. I've now been working as a full time freelancer for three years.
Did you go to art school?
Yes and no. For my undergraduate degree I went to Humboldt State University, which is a small state college in northern California. I studied Art Studio there and emphasized in graphic design, because there was no illustration program. I really enjoyed graphic design, and worked as a graphic designer for two years after college but it never satisfied me on a deeper level. I then went to the University of Hartford and earned my MFA in Illustration at the Hartford Art School. The quality of the education was outstanding. However, I strongly feel that whether you go to art school, a state school, or do not attend college at all, the most important aspect of your education will be your own personal drive.
Were there1 or more individuals that were an influence in your becoming an illustrator?
Is there any other artist or person that or continues to influence your work? 
My undergraduate experience was fairly frustrating because my college had a fine art bent to it and I did not feel like my classes were preparing me for a real career in the arts. However, I did have one amazing professor, M. Wayne Knight, who took me under his wing. Wayne was the graphic design professor, and in additional to helping me learn tons of photoshop tips and tricks, he privately tutored me in drawing and painting during his own free time. He's the one who first opened my eyes to the world of illustration, what it meant to be an illustrator, and how to put together a basic portfolio. Without Wayne, I would have left college completely clueless to the world of illustration. Artistically, I am greatly influenced by late 19th century/early 20th century artists like Racey Helps, Mainzer, Garth Williams, Beatrix Potter, and Ernest Shepard. Contemporary illustrators I love include Peter de Seve, Stephen Silver, Omar Rayyan, and Kei Acedera. 
What inspires you now? 
Lately, I've been really interested in watching how technology is changing our field, and observing illustration and animation blend into more of a singular field, through interactive children's apps and games. While some would consider the changing landscape more nerve wracking than inspiring, I think that we are living in a very exciting time. Lots of doors are opening up for illustrators in new markets, and if you can stay abreast of how things are changing, the potential to have a varied and exciting career is better than ever before. It is also a wonderful time to do self directed projects. The ability to affordably create ebooks, apps, podcasts, and animations is something that just wasn't in place even 5 years ago, and watching others take advantage of these mediums is absolutely inspiring. When I need a boost, I also love to read Stephen Silver's blog, watch his art rants, and listen to his podcast. Great stuff! I also keep in touch with many illustrators through facebook and g-mail chat, which is at times very much needed for moral support.
Is there anything you would like to share regarding your technique or style of Work for instance what types of medium do you like to work in? 
I work pretty much in two styles, one is sort of more cartoony, and one is more whimsical with slightly more realistic proportions. I do all of my painting in Photoshop CS5 with a small cintiq tablet or an intuos tablet. I always keep a moleskine sketchbook with me, and when I want to finalize a drawing on paper instead of digitally, I love to draw on Strathmore's "Visual Journey" bristol-smooth paper. This is a fantastic sketchbook and holds up to almost any medium. I sketch both digitally and on paper and I think it's critical to try to draw for at least a few minutes every day. (see attached image of digital and traditional side by side). When drawing in the computer, look at different brushes and find ways to incorporate textures into your work. For years I hindered myself by not incorporating textures in my work, which resulted in very amateur looking artwork. You can easily make your own brushes or find free or cheap ones online, so definitely start exploring.

What types of markets do you do art/ illustration for? 
I originally started out wanting to work only in children's publishing. However, my first book, "That's Not Your Mommy Anymore- A Zombie Tale", was a mock children's book that tilted my career into more humorous titles. In addition to those two markets, I also do character design for animation and am beginning to fiddle about in interactive books and other apps. 

 Are there links to your images you would like to share? 

My website,, is currently under reconstruction, but you can check
 out my FB page for art and musings in the meantime:
Do you do other things regarding art like teaching, or Classroom visits? 
I have previously taught graphic design as an adjunct professor at Humboldt State University, and I also occasionally guest lecture at different colleges and lead sketch trips at local zoos. I hope to teach more regularly in the next couple of years.
 Are there other creative interests you pursue like writing or music? 
Honestly, illustration takes up pretty much all of my creative brain. I enjoy listening to indie music, watching good film/documentaries, and reading, but these are things that I enjoy for recreation. Whenever I spend time on different creative pursuits, I always end up thinking, "Why am I doing this when I could be drawing!?".
 Do you currently have product with your images on the market? books, gift or home products? 
Yes! Here is a link to the book That's Not Your Mommy Anymore, I have three other books coming out this year, but they won't be available until Fall, 2013. The first to hit stores will be "The Very Hungry Parasite" (a humor book), pictured here. I can't release the other names of the books yet, but one will be humor and the other is a children's book. I am also working on two self-published iPad apps which I hope to release later this year as well.
What is the thing you love best about what you do?
I love the freedom. Being a full time freelancer means that stability can be elusive, but the flipside to that is that I have almost total control over my time and my life. When I have dry spells, or I feel like a break, I can just pick up and go on a hike or skip out of town. The idea that I could have a boss who would tell me I can't attend a wedding or that I've used up all my days off is not a part of my reality. This doesn't mean I don't work hard or that deadlines don't exist. I often put in 16 hour days and most weekends are also spent at the studio... but at the end of the day, I control where I live, when I work, and I'm doing what I want to be doing. It's the only way to live.
What kind of  advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Draw every day. Draw from life. Draw from pictures. Draw other people's work. Pay attention to what kind of work inspires you. Use facebook and Pinterest to discover new artists. If you can't name illustrators who inspire you, or if you can't think of at least 10 contemporary illustrators right off the bat, then you aren't paying close enough attention to your field. Join professional organizations. SCBWI, Society of Illustrators, Guild of Scientific Illustrators, Graphic Artists Guild, College Arts Association... there are so many professional organizations that run conferences and are fantastic resources. Illustration is a small field, and it can feel isolating at times. The beauty of the internet is that you are given a digital network to connect with other artists. Make illustrator friends, ask people you admire if they'd critique your work. Read books (anything by Andrew Loomis is fantastic and you can get his PDFs free online!), listen to podcasts, watch animated films. Immerse yourself into art entirely. Don't burden yourself with thoughts that you aren't good enough or that you've got a long way to go. Just start creating, do it now, and you'll see improvement quickly.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Clint Young

How did you become an illustrator?
I have always sketched- Drawing was an escape for me when I was young, I found that I needed to create in order to feel normal, plus it was a fun get-away from the homework gloominess. Not that I didn't find school to be important or interesting, but I much preferred creating my own histories, sciences and characters rather than learning about them in class. Daydreamer.
Did you go to Art School?
I attended the Art Institute of Dallas and received a degree in computer animation and multimedia. Computer animation was just beginning to be used as an visual FX tool, and A.I.of Dallas was offering a course in the art of animation.  It seemed like a perfect tool for film and art, not to mention loads of fun!
Is there anyone that has inspired you to become an illustrator?
It's a very hard question to answer as there are so many Artists who have inspired me. I've always admired N.C. Wyeth's impressionistic style, and Norman Rockwell's characters practically jump off the page they are so rich. Leyendecker with his sharp edges and graphic design was also an influence. Peder Monsted's landscapes- Ralph McQuarrie's otherworldly design. Mucha, Sargent, The nine old men...the list goes on and on-each and every one of them an inspiration. I collect art books. (Can you tell?)
What inspires you now?
Inspiration comes at me from just about anything. My daughter inspires me, she loves to draw and I find myself picking up the pencil more and more when she wants to sit and doodle. Outdoors is another big inspiration, I love to sit and draw outdoors, especially trees; I have a fascination with tree bark, roots and leaves and the gnarly way it gets all intertwined. 
Can you tell us a little about the technique you use to create your work?
I normally sketch on paper keeping it very rough and small. I'll draw and chunk (throw out) as many sketches as it takes before I'm happy with a piece. Sometimes doing a simple wash over the top of the pencil with a light water-color, then it's onto the scanner. I work my tones up in photoshop, building up the light and dropping in shadows before moving onto my colors. I have photographed  and scanned real paint strokes on canvas (watercolor, oil, acrylic, ink) and use them as custom brushes in Photoshop-I find that this can often times give you a "painted on canvas" look, and I prefer it to the off the shelf brushes that come with the program. After I have my tone and colors- it's all in the details-this is where your art books and National Geographic come in handy. Reference everything. Good lighting can make or break a painting. 
What kinds of markets do you illustrate for?
Currently I am a concept artist working in the gaming industry in Austin, Texas. I'm also illustrating children's books and some of my own stories and ideas.
Do you have a a link to your work, so that we can see more?
I do have a blog and am working on re-imagining my website (to be opened soon)
Do you do classroom visits?
I'd love to teach art someday. I think that as I get older it's something that sounds interesting and rewarding. Since my first illustrative work has just been released, "Return to the Willows" I hope to be able to travel to some schools, I look forward to giving (and getting) some art tutoring. I love talking stories, books and art with children!
Do you do anything else pertaining to art?
Directing. Next to art, it's always been a passion. I've done visual FX work in the past and have a love for digital model making, compositing and matte paintings - would love to do more- though I think, for the time being, I’m happy to just create something for children.
Do you currently have your images on the market?
Yes, you can currently find my work in the book "Return to the Willows" by Jacqueline Kelly (being a sequel to the Kenneth Grahame’s classic "The Wind in the Willows" If you're in need of adventure or you just feel like "messing about in boats" it's the perfect read aloud book. :)
Do you have anything new that you are working on?
My new book, what I’m working on now, is called “Toast.” Toast is my daughter’s stuffed pig and the story of his adventures in a land where all make believe friends and children’s wishes, dreams (and nightmares) go to live. It’s a coming of age story that asks the question “What do our make believe friends do, after we have grown up?” It’s also a love letter to all the things I found great about the stories and characters I loved as a child- and the importance of imagination, believing in yourself, and passing down the things we cherish most.
What do you love best about what you do?
I think the thing I love best about what I do is the imaginative feedback I get from family and friends. I love creating worlds and stories, but only if I can share them. There is nothing better when your child or children are inspired by something you have created- when they give it back to you and you then become inspired; it’s a dynamic ring, art. I often wonder if it’s that feeling that drives creation from its roots-years of inspiration passed down from artist to artist. Maybe that’s where my fascination with trees comes from.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Caroline Simas

Caroline Simas is a licensed artist and mother of four in Charlotte, North Carolina whose designs and patterns appear on a variety of home décor, stationery products, fabric, pillows, furniture, ceramics, cups, coasters, technology devices, and much more which are sold worldwide. She has developed a distinctive, style by staying true to her passion for hand-painting and her niche which is recognized for often including faith-based inspirational messages. Caroline partners with top manufacturers on design, product development, and unique packaging concepts. Caroline designs from her home studio in Charlotte, North Carolina and gathers inspiration from her faith and her family who provide love, support and much of the color and character for her creations.
When asked about her style…“I don’t know that I’ll ever stop evolving as an artist or discovering techniques for my designs. I have a passion for trying new mediums and mixing them in various ways. While my art may have a recognizable style and niche I will always experiment with color and technique to keep my designs fresh and inspiring. I feel strongly about connecting my faith with my art. After all, the talent came from God in the first place, so I want to honor Him and use this gift wisely. I am fortunate to partner with several manufacturers who understand my passion for this and enjoy providing uplifting products in the marketplace. It makes me smile knowing I am a part of spreading joy and faith through my art and on these products; designing for a purpose brings much joy.”

How is it that you came to be an artist? Did you go to art school? Were there 1 or more individuals who were an influence in your becoming an artist or was there 1 person who influenced and continues to influence your work?
I’ve been designing since I could hold a pencil and was blessed to inherit some of my grandfather’s artistic talent. He was my earliest inspiration as an artist but really many played inspiring roles in influencing and encouraging me. My father- with his engineering/building skills and architectural drawings, my mom- with her love for flowers and gardening- my aunt who is quite artistic as well and others along the way. I knew from age 6 that I wanted to grow up and be three things: a mother, a teacher and an artist. I feel so fortunate to have been all three. I was an Elementary Education major and did not go to art school, but took as many art classes as I could during my early years. I dabbled in everything I could get my hands on…watercolors, oil, acrylic, charcoal, clay, jewelry making, cartooning classes, and I even remember searching through Mom's fabric scraps trying to create clever outfits for my Barbies. I was a First Grade teacher for 6 years and taught children’s art lessons from our home during the summers. I stopped teaching to stay home with Walker, our first child, and started a custom painting business called The Creative Palette. I hand-painted baby linens, children’s furniture and murals. The custom work grew and grew and I couldn’t keep up with the demand. About that time we found out that we were expecting twin girls (answered prayer after two boys!) and after designing our twin girl’s birth announcement I decided to create a collection of 24 Christian greeting cards with scripture. I was encouraged by friends to print them and bring them to a local show. They sold out that day and a Charlotte store owner asked to have them in her shop that next week.  Multiple Blessings grew quickly,  and after a rep group picked up the MB brand, they sold the products across the US to 250+ independent retailers. I added other stationery gift products to the collection but realized after a while that being on the manufacturing side kept me busier with management and farther away from my true gift-creating art and designing. I had been researching and reading all about the art licensing industry, found it fascinating, and soon transitioned out of manufacturing into licensing. I feel so blessed to be partnering with some amazing companies and truly enjoy collaborating and working on product development. I recently signed with Courtney Davis, Inc….a wonderful art licensing agency who now represents me and my Multiple Blessings brand. I wrote about that on my blog, Designing for the Soul, here

How did the name Multiple Blessings come to be?
The truth is I was really praying about what I should name this little company of mine and this first small collection of greeting cards. The name wasn’t coming to me until one night, pregnant with my twin daughters and tossing and turning in the middle of the night. The good Lord gave me the name at 3am….Multiple Blessings. It made perfect sense to me. When we send a card to someone, especially one of faith, we multiply blessings and joy. We are blessed in giving it and the recipient is blessed by receiving it, therefore joy has been sent and has been multiplied. The real hope is that it will continue to spread in a pay it forward kind of way. The other reason the name Multiple Blessings made sense to me is because we have four children…yes, twins, but all four are our multiple blessings.
I know you started out on the manufacturing side and now license your art…how do you think that helped you?
Great question! Many of the companies I design for have said that they can tell I understand the manufacturing side of the business and I am so glad I do and that they notice. It was not all roses when I was on the manufacturing side…several bad decisions, overprinting some skus and not enough of others, and loads of learning curves but it forced me to understand the business details of it all and I am grateful I experienced those growing pains….they truly grew me in so many good ways.
I know you do some product development with some manufacturers. How does that process work? 
Early on in my relationships with manufacturing partners, I made it clear to them all that I really enjoy product development. I think it’s our job as licensed artists to get out there and see what may be missing from the marketplace. There are so many products available to consumers but I enjoy trying to think of things, which don’t exist yet or ways to make a product more beautiful, more functional, or more meaningful. Once again, I feel quite fortunate that some of my ideas and inventions have been produced and licensed…a true blessing and honor.
What inspires you now?
My faith plays a huge part of my design process and journey. I am most inspired by God’s creation…I love noticing details in nature’s smallest places. I strive to see the extraordinary in the ordinary…water droplets on flower petals, the color palette of the sunset, the chartreuse green of a granny smith apple, the intricate pattern of a monarch butterfly, heart shaped rocks, the pattern of freckles on my children’s faces. I am also inspired by architectural detail when I travel and have snapped thousands of photos to remember them. Our four children often inspire my art and spend a good bit of time in the studio with me. They certainly inspire my work and have contributed advice and ideas to my collections. I truly believe it’s just more beautiful to see the world through the eyes of a child, don’t you? 
Is there anything you’d like to share regarding your technique or style of work for instance-what types of mediums do you like to work in?
I really have several different styles and I believe that’s been helpful because not every client/manufacturer likes or has the need for the same look.
I am completely in love with creating mixed media and the more texture, paint and paper, the better but I also love adding detailed embellishments like lace, rope, even twigs from my yard. I only use the patterned papers I design so I never use other people’s work in my own art.  I also rarely use scissors. I prefer to hand tear each piece of paper for an organic look so each piece is truly unique and difficult to recreate.
I also love painting with watercolor and gouache. I am passionate about bright, joyful color, which you can probably gather from peeking at the products design and am fascinated with figuring out which scripture and inspirational message goes best with a specific piece of art. To me, this is a Bible Study in and of itself…really digging deep into the meaning and matching it well to a piece of art or a collection.
What markets do you do art for?
Home décor
*Currently designing multiple products for 12 manufacturers but this is expanding greatly in the months to come, thanks to my wonderful agent, Courtney Davis, Inc.
I love what you are doing with the Bridgewater Candle Company. Can you tell us about the trip and the effect it had on you?
I feel so incredibly blessed to be partnering with Bridgewater Candle Company. They are truly making a difference by feeding hungry orphans with the sales of their candles. I was fortunate enough to be asked to travel with them to Honduras in October of 2012. It was a life changing experience to stay at one of the orphanages and see first hand how Bridgewater and Rice Bowls partner together to make a huge impact. The Honduras experience was so profound that I blogged about it in three full segments which I’d love for you to read about here.
My first collection of fragrance products for Bridgewater Candle Company launches in June 2013 and we are all super excited about its debut! I’ll be able to share sneak peeks on my blog just before summer markets.
Bridgewater Candle Company: 
Rice Bowls
I also just returned from Quito, Ecuador in February of 2013. I feel blessed to have been asked to help design a jewelry collection made using tagua nuts from trees in Ecuador. This jewelry will be assembled by girls, who have been rescued from sex trafficking. Some amazing boys who were formerly street boys may help too and possibly some of their family members. This micro economic plan is just starting but there is a tremendous amount of support, resources, and prayers over this project, we have no doubt that God will completely bless our efforts. I was also in Ecuador witnessing the amazing ministry of Education=Hope and saw first hand how every single penny goes to help these children become educated and fed and loved. It was incredibly powerful and I would be thrilled if you’d like to read about my blog post about my Ecuador trip here. 
What advice would you give artists interested in licensing their work?
Great question and I am asked this often so I am glad to have another spot here on the web to share it since I cannot personally answer every email and call.
*You MUST be completely passionate about what you do, your art and truly believe in it. If you do, it will show! If you don’t that will show.
*Research, research, research! Read all about art licensing and learn all you can about the industry before you dive in. There are so many great folks who give advice…here are a few of my favorites:
Monica Lee-Smart Creative Women---*you can watch my interview on SCW here
*Develop a niche…what do you want your art to be known for? Your brand? What makes you and your art different from the thousands and thousands of talented artists out there? What do you want your legacy to be?
*This is a relationship business. You need to love people and not be shy to introduce yourself and let your passion for your art shine through.
*Develop specific collections of art and work diligently to build a strong portfolio.
*Lots of hard work, a supportive family, and prayer:)

What is the thing you love best about what you do?
I love knowing the products I design have brought joy and faith into homes. I know this only because people have told me so. I never tire of hearing how a simple gift with a message of faith has touched someone's life in a positive way. I realize that my artistic talent is from God and nothing I have done on my own so I try to remind myself of that often and pray I use this gift wisely. 

Are there links to your images you’d like to share?

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