Thursday, December 26, 2013

Porter Flea Paintings!

I had a great time as a vendor at Nashville's Porter Flea Holiday Market.  Here are some of the paintings from the sale!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Porter Flea Holiday Market 2013

Oh, snap! If you live in Nashville, the place to be this Saturday is Porter Flea's Holiday Market. I will be sharing a booth with the amazing Tracy Mattocks where we will both be selling cute art and products. Come say hi!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

4 Online Art Communities To Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

Every artist knows what it's like to sit down at their sketchbook and suddenly realize-uh oh- I have no idea what to do! Luckily, the internet is full of creative websites that have plenty of fun contests, assignments, and prompts that will get you back to art-making in no time. Whether you're making new portfolio pieces or just wanting to have fun with other creative people, here are four artist communities to check out now.

1) Project : Rooftop

Perfect for: Artists focused on character design and/or comics.

Started in 2006, comic creator Dean Trippe and comic journalist Chris Arrant started Project : Rooftop as a way to invite artists to reinvent the costumes of classic and popular comic book characters, from Batman to The Fantastic Four. What has emerged is a wildly entertaining and inspiring collection of concepts from both established and emerging illustrators and cartoonists. Even if you don't participate in the redesign contests, it's addictive to flip through the archive and see all the amazing (and sometimes plain old wacky) redesigns of comic favorites like Superman, Spiderman, and Wolverine. Below are three great and different takes on Wonder Woman.

left to right: Joe Quinones, James Stowe, and Maris Wicks

2) They Draw & Cook

Perfect for: Artists looking to experiment with hand-lettering, graphic designers, and foodies.

Brother and sister team Nate Padavick and Salli Swindell started this website simply as a pet project, but it's grown into a respected and much loved community where artists submit their illustrated recipes. Several published books later (!), you can also visit their equally popular sister site They Draw & Travel, which features an extensive library of illustrated maps. Both websites have developed a cult following and have even become a hub for art directors to find new talent. Artists can start an account and submit recipes/maps at any time, and Nate and Salli will post the cream of the crop on the homepage regularly to keep things fresh (hint: make sure you follow submission directions carefully, as your submitted piece could be picked for the next book!).

The talented Tracy Mattocks

They Draw & Cook co-creator Nate Padavick

Perfect for: Surface designers, artists focused on color and pattern.

Spoonflower is a site that prints custom fabric, wall decals, wall paper and giftwrap from your own uploaded designs. Basically, anything that could have a pattern on it! In the mix is a weekly contest where artists get a theme and make a pattern to go along with it. The winner gets their design sold for a week on the site (and earns 10% of all sales), PLUS a nifty Spoonflower gift card (perfect for buying a few yards of your winning fabric design, right?). Want to learn more about making patterns and repeats? There are many online web tutorials and e-courses available at sites like Make It In Design.

 Contest-winning patterns by the lovely Miriam Bos

Perfect for:  Artists wanting a wide range of creative freedom; recent graduates or newcomers to illustration.

Probably the most well-known site from this list, Illustration Friday was created by illustrator and former art-director Penelope Dullaghan as a way to force herself to regularly make new portfolio pieces early on in her freelance career. The name says it all: A topic is decided upon by the community, and artists have until Friday to post their visual interpretation of it. Past topics have included such themes as "Secret", "Creature", and "Explore". I particularly like this site because it allows people of all backgrounds to participate no matter what medium or style you work in. So whether you are into ethereal, somewhat surreal paintings or cute children's book illustrations, 99% of artists will find they can jump right in and adapt the topic of the week to their way of working. 

 Illustrator Kelly Murphy's submission for the topic "Midsummer Night" 

So what are you waiting for? Dig in!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Lilla Rogers' MATS Class Part B: WEEK 4

Week 4 in Make Art That Sells covered Editorial Illustration. This is definitely the area of illustration that I live in right now- books, magazine articles, advertisements. In fact, the first college class I taught ever centered around Editorial Illustration!

Lilla asked each artist to do a map of the city or town that they currently live in. For me, this meant Nashville. The funny thing is, I already did a map of Nashville last Spring for Nfocus Magazine! Of course, there were going to naturally be differences (Nfocus asked me to illustrate the best picnic spots around town). Still, I was a little nervous because I wasn't 100% happy with the map I did for them. So this time around there was a little added pressure to redeem myself! And you know what? I think I managed that. This is a large gouache painting, and I'm really happy how I was able to make it so much more "me" with the characters and all the little icons that are snuck in there (like the bike and picnic basket. Also love the "This Way" speech bubble/arrow idea. I want to use that more!).

Working on the LAST WEEK of Lilla's class! I wish she offered a Part C!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lilla Rogers' MATS Class Part B: WEEK 3

Week 3 in Make Art That Sells was a market I know a little about: scrapbooking! Why do I know about it? Well, I've never done art for one, but one creative team at C.R. Gibson does A LOT of them, so I'm constantly seeing them around the office (I wandered into our product room and saw bookcases of them- birthday scrapbooks, first-day-of-school scrapbooks, vacation scrapbooks... needless to say there are many, MANY scrapbooks out there that need art.)

Our inspiration was to draw vintage cameras and typewriters, which instantly made me think of how very hipster the idea was once I started sketching.

BOOM. My concept was born, and I simply ran with it.

In the end, it's been...a little awkward in MATS. I feel like I am more comfortable with exploring my own unique solutions to the assignments this semester...but I feel very isolated at the same time. I am one of the more "misfit" artists of the group, and as a teacher myself, I can understand why Lilla can't really pick art like the above example- it doesn't go far in illustrating a point to 300+ individuals because it's SO specific. In the end, I'm proud of myself, but I'm also reminded of how different my art is every week...and sometimes "different" is good. Unique! But sometimes "different" also can mean "unmarketable" in the worst case scenario. My style has been great for editorial and galleries, but this is a fine line I walk in licensing. As I work towards Surtex, it will be interesting to see what I develop- my style could lead to wild success, or a complete belly flop...(bum bum BUUUUUUUM). Stay tuned...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lilla Rogers' MATS Class Part B: WEEK 2

Woo! A little behind on the posting! Truly, last semester during the MATS class I had NO TIME to breathe, let along blog, but this time I am trying to talk about the class as it happens, rather than just making one post afterwards where I desperately try to remember everything.

So yes! Here was my piece for Week 2: Baby Apparel. I think everyone in this class has one week in the schedule where they kinda feel like it may be an assignment that throws them through a loop- maybe they are even a little concerned about bombing it. I wouldn't say I was worried about utterly failing at Baby Apparel, but I was curious to see how I would do. Even though my work seems to be very child-friendly, the market can have a very fine line when it comes to determining what's "cute" versus "cute but a little weird". Or "edgy". People love to use that word , so let's throw that one in. With kids' stuff, it's ok to be "edgy". "Edgy" can be fun and age appropriate. But babies...usually you don't push it for that group. My challenge was to have my homework look like "mine" without going too far in that "edgy" world (ok, we're shelving that word now. It's had plenty of stage time during this post).

In Part A, I was not able to make the optional coordinating patterns for my bolt fabric piece, but this time I wanted to make sure I had everything: the main art, the extra patterns, the placement graphic... After I was done uploading it to the class Flickr page, I just kinda sat in my chair and looked at it. I mean, I REALLY looked at it. For like a good 20 minutes. Part of this was because I was letting the adrenaline leave my body after coming waaaaay too close to the submission deadline. However, another part of it was, well...I had pleasantly surprised myself. I liked it. It was strange looking at it, because in a way I was meeting another artist for the first time, and that artist was just a different facet of myself. It was very rewarding to see it all come together and realize that I could do this age group without loosing the essence of my characters or artistic "flavor" as I like to say. Furthermore, I was proud that I accomplished making the animals the stars of the show.

I actually need to post about the most recent assignment: scrapbooking! We just turned that assignment in this past weekend- I'll get it up here later this week. :)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Lilla Rogers' MATS Class Part B: WEEK 1

A week ago, the second semester of Lilla Rogers's Make Art That Sells Class started, and boy it's been hectic ever since! Our assignment was to make a Christmas card inspired by vintage holiday items (ok, technically we were suppose to make 2, but I was lucky to get one done considering I had about 2 1/2 days to pump this out).

In the end, this is how I feel about it.


I like the color. I had a collection of pantone chips from work taped down to one page in my sketchbook, and I realized it was perfect for this assignment. During my research, I noticed there was a lot of black used in old holiday tablecloths and such. It seemed so dramatic, and I loved pairing that with more delicate shades of green and pink.

I like my icons. The first week of Part A, I was missing something very vital from my piece: my characters. There was nothing that seemed to nod back to that strength. This time I managed to be inspired by all the vintage bird ornaments as well as the partridge from The Twelve Days of Christmas and came up with this guy. In spats! He adds a much needed warmth to the whole imagine. Other things, like the addition of geometric pattern and the candy jars, were favorite details.

I like my hand-lettering. In a perfect world it would be bigger, but in the end I'm quite pleased with it.


I'm not crazy about the composition. The truth is, depending on what I'm doing, sometimes it's better for me to make art and then assemble it digitally, and other times I do just fine getting it right paint to paper. THIS image, however, was caught between multiple ideas and just never got solved. It's not an organic mosaic, but it's not a grid-like illustration either (places like the small candy under the partridge or the holly seem to awkwardly fill in space and break up straight lines). Although the icons are all fun, it's crowded. This either needed to be busting full of small cute icons, or one icon should have clearly dominated the composition with others removed. The partridge is bigger...buuuuut not quite as big as it should be to really be the focus. It's just a little awkward.


Although I'm not 100% satisfied with my illustration, I figure if I can walk away saying I like three things about it (and only have one major complaint), that's not too shabby. The first week is always a little wobbly, AND did I mention I only had 2 1/2 days??? Phew!

Friday, September 20, 2013

When Your Neighbor / Aunt / Dentist’s Sister-In-Law Wants You To Illustrate Their Children’s Book

Today’s post is inspired by a question I get pretty regularly, so I thought it would be good to cover it on the blog. Many illustrators have aspiring writers in their community, whether it’s a family member or someone in your town that hears about your talent through the grapevine.  

There are 2 scenarios to consider.

Scenario 1: “I’m writing a children’s book to send around to publishers. Can you illustrate it?”

First of all, if someone says this exact sentence to you, what they have really just said in 10 seconds is I have no idea how this children’s book thing works.  Why? Because publishers buy text for children’s books without the art.   It is the Art Director of a company that researches and reviews all the art submissions they get, and they will want control over which illustrator is paired up with a purchased text.  It’s like when a screenwriter goes to Hollywood to sell their script- they just have to sell the script, not make the film because the studio handles casting, finding a director, financing, marketing, etc. Therefore, authors don’t need to stress over the whole art issue- let them know they can submit their text/story without illustrations to publishers (Most publishers have submission policies on their website. You can also reference the book Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market. There is one printed every year with up-to-date info on each publisher's contact information and what they are looking for).

Now, Obviously I’m sure there are examples of an author/illustrator team who have submitted their work together and it was bought- it’s just rare, or usually there is someone of importance or notoriety involved (For instance, I know an artist who is illustrating a children’s book for someone else and they are pitching it with success, but that “someone else” is a pretty well-know TV actor). 

Also, illustrators who also write are welcome to submit text with art. Usually this is done with a rough B+W example of a book called a dummy, which shows the layout and sketches of the pages and a copy of one or two examples of completed illustrations to show what it looks like 100% done. Anyway, this post is more about authors coming to you as an illustrator. so let’s get back to that.

Scenario 2: “I’m self-publishing a children’s book. Can you illustrate it?”

Most of the time this author is doing a small-run for family or they plan to sell it themselves. They may try to convince you with lines like “it’ll be good exposure” or  “ You’ll get some portfolio pieces out of it”.  If they can pay you, it’s usually not very much, or at least not a lot considering the amount of work you are about to commit to such a project. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for these projects to fizzle out because of “life issues”, a lack of commitment from the author after they realize how much work it is, or other assorted problems down the road (you get fed up with the 835th revision or  maybe the author has changed the story 20 times while you’ve been working on illustrations).

Now, I have to admit that I approached some friends recently to do an album cover for free, but there were definitely benefits to this decision beyond “I got a portfolio piece out of it”. Plus I had complete control and it took a lot less time than a whole children’s book. But in the end I understand that you may still be interested in such a task because of the other person involved, or maybe you really just need a personal project, too. So let’s get into some points you should remember if you decide to do this.

Remember that many people who request this are doing a book as a side project.
They have jobs and other responsibilities that can transform a collaboration like this into a very lengthy project. Children’s books take roughly 8-12 months, and that’s with a publisher and art director who are both in it 24/7, full speed, so you can imagine how long something like this may take when it’s not someone’s main focus or job in life.

Make sure you have answers to basic questions before you begin.
I knew someone once who was working on a children’s book for a man’s grandchildren. By the time I was introduced to this artist, it had been almost two years since the project started. She wanted my advice, and to familiarize myself with where she was I asked for some information:  How many pages/illustrations will be in the book? What are the page dimensions? How much are you going to get paid? Do you have a rough due date in place? Her face went blank as I realized she could not answer these questions after almost two years. It’s no surprise that within a couple of months the man and artist decided to go their separate ways.

Also, It’s important to realize that if someone is self-publishing, different routes of manufacturing have different options. A place that can make your book from scratch may be able to do any amount of pages you want, although some page runs may be cheaper. Page sizes can be custom made at a printer, but once again standard pages sizes will be cheaper than some random funky page size that is selected. If the author is making books through a website like or, there are set page dimensions and page amounts you must pick from, so that decision should come early in the process.

Really consider a fair price for your time and effort.
Obviously most self-publishing authors can’t afford to pay what publishers do (anywhere from $7,000- $14,000 depending on the project, sometimes even more if you are a hot shot). Usually when people come to me with this question, someone has offered them $300-$500. This is INSANELY low when you consider how many illustrations are being made, any layout work, and revisions. For example, if there are 30 illustrations to make, you would be getting paid roughly $10-$16 PER IMAGE. Consider what you want to get per illustration, than multiply by how many images you need to get a ballpark amount (don’t forget the cover!). Most artists would give a discount to friends and family, sure, but just make sure you are taking care of yourself. Don’t get underpaid because you want to “be nice”.

Most importantly… do not “depend” on the situation in any way.
 If you’ll humor me with a tangent, my mother and I were once watching day time court TV (because we’re classy like that), and a person was going after another family member for a loan (of course). My mom turned to me and said “if you ever loan money to family, make sure you’re OK with never getting it back. Just think of it as a gift”. Now, she didn’t say this because my family is compiled of jerks and cheapskates. She was telling me if I ever made that decision, my emotional sanity would be healthier if I was at peace with whatever outcome may happen (and probably the relationship with said family member). Naturally, another point is don’t give away anything you absolutely need later, because you may not get it back and things will get ugly.

I feel like deciding to illustrate someone’s children’s book needs the same outlook, because you ARE giving your time, energy, and probably some money when it comes to supplies or resources (or forfeiting paid jobs to take on the project). Do not depend on the book being seen by the right person and being your “big break”. Do not depend on the book when it comes to paying your rent or bills. If you can honestly say that this is a fun labor of love and you’ll be ok if it fizzles out and you’re left with just a handful of illustrations, then you have the right mentality. Like I mentioned before, some benefits are beyond just dollar signs, and its up to you to decide if the risk or adventure of such a project is worth it.

When I decided to do my friends’ album art, this was the decision-making process behind it:

1)   I have a full-time design job and did not depend on any financial outcome from the project, nor did I   expect one.

 2)  I was looking for a pet project to try some new techniques, but I wanted it to be “real” so I would commit myself 100%.

      3)  Although these friends were given the invitation to provide input from the beginning, I had complete control over the final art and what I wanted to illustrate. They did not art direct me.

4) The collaboration with these friends has resulted in specific opportunities coming my way which would not be possible through other avenues of marketing- it was a highly specialized type of networking I was doing within the music community.

 5)   I did not have a strict deadline. Therefore, I could stop any time to work on paying jobs that popped up from clients.

Make a contract, OR at the very least “write up a summary”.
If you are working with someone who you know on a very personal level, I understand how the word “contract” might hurt your ears. Obviously, you do not want to offend family or friends with such a professional word that makes it sound like the two of you can’t trust each other. That’s why I say you should at least “write up a summary”, just to make sure everyone’s on the same page. With everything. Time. How many illustrations you’re doing. Important dates. Any money and how it will be paid. You and the author should sign it. If it’s a close family member, give a copy to another trusted person in your circle so that they can be a mediator in case any problems come up.  I can’t guarantee it will fix all problems, but it should help prevent and sort out any confusion that comes along during your journey.

Whatever you decide to do in such a scenario, I hope some of these points listed above help you navigate the process. Cheers!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Out right now is the 2013 Tennessee State Fair poster I did back in May. So much fun! Scroll down to see the two sketches. I pretty much knew I wanted to do the version with allllll the characters, but I tried one that was less complicated with just the one girl. I might have to do her another time just for fun (I'm kinda fond of those very content racing pigs).

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Lilla Rogers' Make Art That Sells Part A

As promised, I wanted to share my experience taking the first 5 week semester of Lilla Rogers' new online e-course, Make Art That Sells (MATS). It is a class that provides in-depth knowledge of the licensing industry complete with interviews, reading materials, and assignments that really challenge yourself and the way you work. I definitely recommend it. Here are some additional thoughts if you're considering it:

Although you will naturally get out of your comfort zone, there's a difference between trying something new and setting yourself up for disaster by reaching too far beyond your capabilities.  For instance, if you've never touched a computer and you decide to work all digital for this class,  you are missing out on a great opportunity by distracting yourself with huge technical hurdles when you should be concentrating on the more important things at hand Lilla wants you to learn.  The same can be said for several scenarios, not just going digital. Actually, let's mention right now that the class description says this is not a class for people wanting to learn basic digital techniques or how to use software, and it's true. Save that for another class- there are plenty out there that focus on learning Photoshop and Illustrator. After all, this is more of a professional practice class then a techniques and methods class.

Also, Lilla stresses several times in the class description before you sign up that not everyone will get individual feedback. If you are use to a critique setting where you have experience learning from the observations made about others' work (oh, 8-hour critiques... thank you for breaking me in), then you'll do fine. However, if you feel like you are at a stage where you absolutely need individual feedback, then this class should perhaps be down the road after you acquire other critique experiences under your belt. Apparently, Lilla is working on spreading the feedback love during the weekly critiques for the next round of MATS part B, but with 400+ students, you have to expect that several people will still not have their work discussed.  I'd like to add, though, that learning to develop your skills and business savvy without feedback is a normal and valuable experience for illustrators and artists. If you contact a client and never hear back, you must learn from that experience and carefully examine yourself and your work (or your marketing technique), without feedback. If an agent rejects you, you usually must move to Plan B without feedback, and so on. If you are waiting for someone to tell you every step of the way what you are doing right or wrong, your journey is going to be a slow one. MATS is a class, yes, but a good perspective to have is to think of it like a lecture class of 100 rather than a cozy workshop of 10. Prepare to listen and take notes while Lilla is talking, and you will learn a lot.

Let me finish this post by saying Lilla's structure for the assignments led to great discoveries. I actually was playing with my art again, and the fact that we had mini-assignments before we knew the actual assignment meant that I couldn't over think anything or get too far ahead of myself. It allowed for a very organic process for my art, and I really needed that after all these years. I left the class feeling energized, in love with my work again, and ready for Part B all the way! The second semester starts October 7 and I. AM. PUMPED.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tomato Fest 2013

This was my painting for this year's Tomato Art Fest at Art & Invention Gallery. It was another amazing show put on by Meg, featuring artists from all over the country! It's up until mid September if you are in the Nashville area.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

About C.R. Gibson

A fun side project at C.R. Gibson that I got to do was update our "about" page (and in my style, too!) It was a monster of an infographic (especially when it had to read on a scrolling computer screen and not as a single illustration- won't even get into all the design obstacles there!). In the end, I had a good time coming up with all the product doodles in the background and what my co-worker and I fondly nicknamed "Johnny G" at the bottom of the infographic. Check it out on CRG's website.

In other news, I hope to soon post all the work I did in Lilla Rogers' online class Make Art That Sells. I start Part B in October and CAN'T WAIT!!!!!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Birthday Painting (may even be better than Birthday Lunch)

In April my boyfriend (now fiancĂ©!) celebrated another birthday, and this means he got a new painting from me to celebrate. Ever since we met I started saying "My Hero!" whenever he took care of things, whether it was saving me from a flat tire or simply getting me a glass of water. I want to have the saying engraved on the inside of his wedding band (don't worry, I'm not spoiling anything. He already knows that!).  

Friday, June 7, 2013

Happy National Donut Day!

Did you know it's National Donut Day?? C.R. Gibson asked me to doodle this up real quick in order to celebrate! Check out the Donut Day post and other C.R. Gibson Markings Journal entries on our Instagram page. Nom nom nom...

Monday, May 13, 2013

Poster for POLY

I'm happy to say that I have several projects to share in the upcoming weeks- this first one is artwork that I made for a future poster to be used by Nashville's POLY, a very whimsical and cute trio of musicians that make whimsical and cute songs. They were kind enough to let me run with some inspiration and create some artwork for them (without having any idea what I would make in the end). Below is the final painting and some images documenting the process.

Thursday, January 31, 2013


About...goodness...two years ago I illustrated two dogs that are the adorable mascots of Gulu-Gulu Cafe in Salem, Massachusetts, and are famous enough to have several shirts featuring them executed by different artists. I was happy to add to Gulu-Gulu's store with my takes on Jack (Boston Terrier) and Charlie (Pug). Jack's shirt came out pretty much right away, with Charlie being left for a later date. At the end of 2012, Charlie Shirt came to be! Steve, the owner, actually sold out of them, but he was awesome enough to make another small run so my boyfriend and I could have one. There are a few left- you can purchase one here.

And since we are on the subject of dogs, I can only say that at work I am happily working on some new pet-related products (although that's really all I can say. Working a year in advance means I can't talk about all the fun stuff I'm doing NOW). It's been a fun project to work on, and very close to my heart since I grew up with (several) dogs and volunteered at a shelter with my mom in Texas for a couple of years whenever possible.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Miss Penelope at Art & Invention Gallery

My newest painting! See it at Art & Invention Gallery in East Nashville.