January 30, 2008

Calorie-Free Treats!

Kreations by Karina has featured me on her blog this morning! To check it out, here's the link.
Karina is a fellow Etsian and soapmaker. She's quite deserving of her own "Favorite Things" blog post, so I decided to make her shop my topic du jour!

Buy Handmade

Her shop features some of my favorite kinds of scents...dessert! A friendly warning to those with a sweet tooth: do not visit her page if you're hungry. She has posted luscious pictures of what item the soap smells like. You're bombarded with images of sugar-topped blueberry muffins, gooey cherry cheesecake, white chocolate torte, and creamy vanilla cupcakes. (Personally, I have my eye on her coconut cream pie soap.) Thank God she's not a bakery, because my waistline would be in big trouble! Lucky for all of us, Karina's treats are of the calorie-free variety and good for your skin.
Unlike many commercial soap makers, none of her soaps contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). As Karina says on her site, "The sodium lauryl sulfate found in commercial soaps and some other soaps on Etsy (it's claimed as a lathering agent) is exactly the same as you would find in a car wash or even a garage, where it is used to degrease car engines." Um. Ewwwww!
It's obvious Karina has put a lot of care and thought into her hand-crafted products. Isn't it time to pamper yourself with yummy bath treats? (If you can't decide - she does offer a soap sampler!) Stop by her shop to look around, and make sure you read her blog today...after all, I'm on it! (o;

January 29, 2008

Back to School 101

This summer, I decided it would be to my benefit if I were certified in graphic design. When I actually do get the rare freelancing gig with a company, many of them seem to expect me to be able to do the layouts and design for their brochures and ads as well as the illustration. I can't. My BFA is in illustration, and things like typography boggle my mind. I'd rather have someone else take care of text and layout than to do a poor job of it myself. Poor design seriously detracts from good illustration.
But the need for graphic design knowledge kept popping up in my life. I eventually began to feel like I was trying to build a house with only one hammer instead of a complete toolbox. I decided it was necessary I learn those other skills. Besides, a graphic design degree coupled with my 4 year illustration degree may eventually lead into a full-time design position (or so I hope).
So, eight years after I graduated from art school, I find myself back in the classroom. Let me tell you, it's so much different the second time around. When you're a full time student you have the luxury to eat, sleep and breathe your studies. It's your world. Though not an easy one by far, at least your sole concern is your education. As a grown woman taking night classes, there's a full day's worth of work at my job before I ever even get to class. Tack that onto the fact that I'm commuting 1-2 hours (depending on traffic) one way just to get to school. You can forget maintaining your household.
Taking two classes last semester nearly killed me. I was staying up until 3 a.m. on a weeknight just to finish my homework. When you work an 8-5 that isn't pretty, let me tell you. Somehow I survived (with straight A's too!). I'm fiercely proud of myself. I'm not generally a risk-taker, and the decision to go back to school was a big one for me. However, it's also taking a lot out of me. The winter break was much needed.
This past Sunday, I realized with a start that my spring semester begins this week. My first class is tonight, as a matter of fact. I do not feel emotionally ready to get back into that maniac schedule. Things should be a little better this semester though, since I was only to take one class due to prerequisite requirements. Still...the commute, the homework, the late nights...ugh. This will go on for three-plus years until I am certified. I don't know how I'm going to make it. It's just one of those things you can't think about, you just have to do. (Sort of like how I get myself to aerobics class every day.)
Are there any other "grown-ups" taking night courses, enrolled in post-grad programs, or continuing ed? How are you dealing with it? Do you have any secrets for time management? I could definitely use some advice. Personally, I just had to set priorities. That meant work and school came first, but unfortunately I let everything else slide. Our house was a disaster, I couldn't exercise as regularly because of my schedule, and I often had to eat on the run. It left me feeling icky. I wish I could balance it all. I'm hoping it'll be easier this time around. How do you do it?

January 26, 2008

Art for Mini-Muffins

I just got back from brunch with a good friend who is expecting. She's due in 3 weeks, and this will be her first baby. You know what that means...baby shower! Unfortunately I was unable to make her shower, hence our brunch date this morning. While catching up, I asked how her baby room was coming along. She said it was good but the walls were still bare. My face lit up. Nothing makes an artist happier than naked walls just crying out for their artwork. I started pointing to myself enthusiastically and saying "Just tell me what you want, I'll make a painting for you guys!"
I love creating paintings for baby rooms. First, most people already have a theme in mind. Second, there's an obvious deadline. It's basically an illustration gig, but you have a lot more creative wiggle room. Plus, baby themes are pure fun. Here are some of my past commissions and gifts for moms-to-be:

This was my first baby shower painting for my cousin. My aunt informed me her baby room theme was frogs. Well, me being me - I couldn't just paint a simple frog sitting on a Lily pad and be done with it. Oh no. I had to make synchronized swimming froggies. Eat your heart out, Esther Williams.

This was a commission for a grandmother awaiting the arrival of her first granddaughter. The painting is a recreated and embellished version of an image the grandmother had hanging over her own bed as a child. Though not entirely my own invention (I didn't make up that 1950's baby angel!), it was still fun.

A client of mine had two friends who were expecting at the same time. One was having a girl, one was having a boy. The theme for this little girl's room was vague. "Pink floral" I was told. A perfect opportunity to showcase some of my crazy bees, of course.

This was the painting for the baby boy's room. The theme was "safari". I love monkeys.

I'm curious to know what my friend's theme will be. She said that she and her husband briefly considered a Noah's arc theme, but quickly decided they didn't want "two of everything". That made me laugh. Still, it sounds like a possible animal theme is brewing. This is obviously right up my ally. Hurry up and decide, honey! My brushes are out and I'm ready to roll!

January 24, 2008

Putting my feelers out there...

Yesterday I started a thread on the Etsy forums to get some sort of consensus on what people were interested in seeing more of in my shop. Do people like the illustrations? The prints? Plush characters? My bee ornaments? I bought fabric last weekend, but since no one has been buying anything at all, it's really hard to gage which direction I should go in.
Not a ton of people responded to the thread, but the ones who did all said the illustrations were the way to go.
I'm starting to feel the way I did my senior year in college. Confused.
Though I majored in illustration, I started experimenting with creating 3-D pieces in my last year...which went over really well with my teachers and classmates. My teachers encouraged me to continue in that direction. But when I asked them which career path I should turn to after college, I got a bunch of blank stares or vague replies. After all, this was the illustration department. How were they supposed to know what non-illustration path you'd be qualified for? No one seemed to like my illustrations as much as the items I was sewing or sculpting. I would go home from my senior portfolio class feeling lost and directionless. The tears would start building as I climbed the hill towards my apartment. By the time I got home, I'd be full-out crying. That is, until my roommate wandered in to lend an ear, (and often coffee or a cookie) to cheer me up.
People would suggest, "Design for children's rooms!" or "Work for a toy company!" The problem is that there are plenty of talented industrial design and textile professionals for both of those jobs. Some random illustrator is not qualified at all. Or so I learned after several job interviews where I failed miserably. I spent a full year after graduation floundering. I had interview after fruitless interview. I tried to branch out on my own and sell my own work. I tried sending promotional postcards to publishers. Nothing. Since I had spent my portfolio class sewing polymer clay sea creatures to a pair of fake bloody mittens, I didn't have enough illustration work to make a decent portfolio. I finally settled into the soul-killing world of 8-5 office work just to I could pay the bills and at the very least move out of my parents' house. Talk about hitting bottom.
Now here I am, years later. Admittedly, I'm doing better by leaps and bounds than the above narrative may imply. I've been involved in a few successful art fairs. I have some freelance illustration work (for real companies!) under my belt. I've completed several commissioned paintings. I have my Etsy shop. And most significant of all...I even made it onto HGTV somehow! (I am still working full time in an office to survive, but at least I finally like my job.)
Yet, I am confronted with the same question. Illustration vs. 3-D. Which path? It seems that other artists or illustrators love my 3-D things (the bees go over especially well) and the remainder favors my illustrations.
I still sort of feel the need to define myself. I realize that I can do both things and am perfectly capable of wearing two hats. At the same time, I also feel like I should have a primary focus. Even if it's simply in terms of what to create first (or more of) for my teeny online shop.
So...which is it?

January 22, 2008

Technical Difficulties (and Miorats!)

I didn't post yesterday because I was bogged down in technical difficulties. First, I didn't know what to blog about. When I finally decided that I wanted to profile some of my favorite Etsy shops, I had no idea how to go about getting a hold of the code for their "mini". For those of you not hip to the Esty lingo, the Etsy Mini is the lovely shop pic/link/profile that you can post on websites. Mine is on my sidebar off to the right.
The general consensus on the Etsy forums was that I should e-mail my favorite sellers, ask if they'd like to be profiled on my blog and if so, request their mini code. However, the prospect of writing to people I don't know, waiting for a reply, a code, and probably having to wrangle up some interview questions was simply too much for me. All I wanted to do was a quick blog! This was starting to require serious amounts of work. I promptly gave up.
Today I've figured out how to post someone else's mini on my page, but I've also decided to take the easy way out. I'll be profiling Etsy artists, however I'm going to use a bit of nepotism to do it. (Sorry to my favorite sellers, I'll get to you later!)
These two artists are fellow Etsians, but they're also good friends of mine from college. I'll probably profile one today and one tomorrow. I know they wouldn't mind and I'm not afraid to e-mail them!

First meet Jen:

Buy Handmade

Jen's a fellow Illustration grad. She doesn't have a ton up in her Etsy shop, so I would highly suggest linking here or here to see more of her work. What I love most about Jen's work is how she's created a world that is so distinctly her. Her illustrations are full of glowing translucent color (hard to believe they're acrylic and oil paintings) and often include collage elements from foreign newspapers collected during her travels. At first glance the cuteness of an image will draw you in. But once you're there, you're assaulted with something extremely creepy or uncomfortable. For example, "Aw, what a sweet illustration of a kitty...HOLDING A SEVERED HEAD???" Haha. I love it. I bought this painting from her last Christmas. It's in my studio and it makes me happy. Go check her out...and stay tuned for another profile tomorrow!

January 21, 2008

We must use time creatively.

In honor of the holiday, the title of this blog is a Martin Luther King Jr. quote. Do you have today off? If so, what are you doing to use your time creatively?

January 19, 2008

Flash-in-the-pan Saturday

I always have such lofty goals for my weekends. I have visions of somehow completing 100 errands, producing an immaculate house and oodles of creative work. To accomplish this, you need to be one of those insane Type A personalities. Those are the people who are up at 6 a.m., spend the day being a whirlwind of productivity, and have conquered all their goals before lunch. The only problem is that's not me.

On Saturdays I am one of those people who get up, lazily eat a bowl of Cheerios while staring at the crossword (I have no idea why I bother. I can never remember any words, and even when I do I'm an atrocious speller.) After that, I usually stroll up to my studio in my pajamas to listen to "Car Talk" or "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" on NPR while drinking my coffee and clicking through the Internet for a couple hours. Eventually, I remember that I had "THINGS TO DO" and will get dressed and leave the house...mid-afternoon. Doesn't leave too much time for taking over the world, does it? Though, I must admit I've been much better with getting down to business lately.

What I did accomplish today was the errand part. I paid a visit to the fabric store, which I haven't done in ages. The fabric store can be a dangerous place for artists and crafty people. Especially me. I'm not interested in boring inexpensive cotton. Oh no. I'm buying up yards of satin, sequins, and anything remotely textured. Furry? I want it. Fuzzy? It's mine! Faux leather??? Fork it over! Oh yeah. My weird stuffed animals are better dressed than I am. C'est la vie. But check out the goods:

From bottom layer to top - sheep-like fluffiness (dunno if that fabric has a name. It was in the fake fur area), flannel, fleece, felt, and velvet.
I have visions of stuffed sheep in my future. I also had this massive brainstorm for a stuffed animal where a big chunk of the proceeds will go to charity. Which charity (and the reasons why I chose it) is a sad story that deserves a post of it's own...later.

Anyway, while I was out and about today, I was heading back to my car in a MAJOR shopping plaza parking lot. Traffic was whizzing by, people were stalking shoppers in order to get a parking space, and in the middle of all this there were...ducks. Yes, ducks. There were 4 gorgeous Mallard ducks sitting behind a van, quacking away like it ain't no thang. There were probably 2-4 more walking around the busy parking lot in between cars. The males had those distinctive bright glossy green heads and the brown females had that little familiar band of blue on their wings. I wish I had a camera on me, it was a bizarre sight. I was so scared they'd get run over. I probably chased about 3 of them away from oncoming traffic. I eventually realized that I couldn't stay in this massive parking lot all day long being "The Crazy Duck Lady" so I reluctantly got into my car and drove away. I'm still obviously wondering about them. Don't ducks migrate? I mean, it's cold here! And duckies, why a parking lot? I mean, really! There are loads of duck-friendly rural spots not even 5 minutes from the shopping plaza. Puzzling.

In other news, the Main Showcase I was in yesterday on Etsy was a total and complete bust. I made zero sales from it. I did get a lot of hearts, but only a couple more than I would've gotten on a normal day. I have received just as many hearts simply from talking to people in the forums. For you non-Estians, "hearts" are a way of bookmarking the page of a seller you like. It's also your way to tell the seller, "Hey, I think your artwork is awesome!" Or, that's how I like to interpret it. Here are my hearts if you want to see what it looks like. In any event, I don't think I'll be wasting my money again any time soon. Blah. Sad. I'm not letting my sales disappointments stop me, though. I have new fabric and am going to get to work. Due to the Martin Luther King holiday on Monday, I have a long weekend ahead. That's plenty of time to pick my chin up.

January 18, 2008

Illustration Friday: "Plain"

This illustration is one of my older pieces, but I thought it suited this week's topic.

This dragon simply can't bear to eat his dinner plain. Time to raid the fridge for condiments! Now, where's the ketchup...?

Who needs The Price is Right? I have my own showcase!

I'm on Etsy's Main Showcase today! I'm hoping it'll allow people to find my shop a lot easier (and buy from it!). I'll let you know tomorrow if it was worth the advertising $ or if it was a complete waste of time.

But who wouldn't want to take a Diva Pig home? (o;

January 17, 2008

Art Confessions

I don't have a favorite illustrator.
And I think that's a little weird, seeing as how I have a BFA in illustration. To narrow the topic a little bit, I'm talking specifically about children's book illustrators for now. (If I expanded to include all illustration, this post would be a book in itself!)
Though I'm not a teacher, I do work for a literacy-based early education program and I see a lot of children's books come through here. In fact, I'm the one placing orders for them. I know which books our kids at the school love. (Anyone else have to hear Paul Zelinsky's "Wheels on the Bus" or Eric Carle's "Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?" 900 times?) When it comes to my own favorites however...*shrug*. I appreciate different illustrators for different reasons.
There are the contemporary classics like Maruice Sendak and Tommie Depaola. Then I'm drawn to illustrators like Jan Brett, Jane Chapman, Ian Falconer....I could just go on and on. For me, there's just not one single person who takes the cake.
On one hand, I suppose that's good. I'd hate to be so enamored with someone that my own illustration becomes influenced by them. No one wants to be a cheap copy of someone more successful than themselves. On the other hand, shouldn't I have someone to look up to? Maybe I'm just wishy-washy. I don't know.
Do any of you have a favorite illustrator? Picture books that you were obsessed with while you were growing up? What is it about that person's style of illustration that draws you to them? I'd love to hear your list of favorites, so spill the beans!

January 16, 2008

The Pink Shoe Diaries (and me!)

As far as I'm concerned, Wednesdays are notoriously iffy days. The good news is that you're halfway through your workweek. The bad news is that you're only halfway through your workweek.
So you can imagine how much brighter my Wednesday looked when I strolled over to my friend Sarah's fabulous blog and read this. If reading a lovely artist profile about me is not reason enough to get you over to her blog immediately, I'll give you a few more. Sarah's witty satirist look at every day life, keen fashion sense, and delicious cooking experiments (the recipes of which, thankfully, she shares with the rest of us) are a wonderful way to break up your day and quite often give you a good laugh at your desk. Go ahead. Why not give your coworkers a reason to look at you funny? Like they don't have enough reasons already. (o;

January 15, 2008

Second blog = crit time!

You knew it was coming. I didn't put this blog up to talk to myself! (In spite of what it may look like so far...)
I spent this weekend putting some serious time into revamping my online shop. I made some more items to put up there, then my father and I spent two days snapping new photos of both my new and old work. As I mentioned before, I also have a brand new banner and avatar thanks to a fellow Etsian. I think the only thing that's missing right now is info on my profile page. But I'll get around to that.

Anyone feel like taking a look at the results of this weekend's hard work? I'm looking for some honest input. What are things you think need tweaking? Are the pictures clear enough? Too boring? Do you need to see the items in a setting? Would you buy from me? Why or why not? What are the good things about my shop? What needs improvement?
Some people are fantastic at photographing their artwork with a colored background, or in a context. I'll admit I'm a little envious of those people who look like they have catalogue photos in their online shops. However I feel that, for my stuff, it gets too cluttered and you lose the object in the visual chaos. That could just be me, though. I always seem to lean towards simplification and "clean" design.
In any event, my shop is 100% better than what I had posted last week. But you know that things could always improve, and we art people are never happy with settling for "good enough". Please put your two cents in - especially those of you who have your own successful shops. Here's the link, by the way:


I'm looking forward to hearing what you guys have to say! Happy Tuesday.

January 14, 2008

Let's Get It Started!

Even though this blog has technically been in existence for ages, I confess this is my first post. But it is a new year, and there's no time like the present, right?
I plan on dedicating this blog to illustration, art, and "making stuff" in general. I welcome fellow artists and craftspeople to pop in and leave comments and suggestions. As always, non-artsy people are more than welcome too.
Just to give you a little "about me" info: I live in New England with my hubby and have a BFA in illustration. Since no one has come down from the heavens to present me with a giant book deal (or a winning Powerball ticket), this fact has necessitated a full-time day job. I love my job and the bennies are good, so that's ok.
I meet with my SCBWI crit group when I can, create paintings commission and illustrations for ads when I can get it, and I sell quirky little gifts in my online Etsy shop. (Check for the links on this page, guys.) I'm absolutely addicted/obsessed with Etsy. That, and Jazzercise. Yes, seriously.
I also started going back to school this year. I decided that some sort of knowledge in graphic design would be beneficial to my long-term career goals. So, I applied - and got into - a graphic design certificate program. I now have to suffer a one (sometimes two) hour drive twice a week to take night classes. The stress of working full time, plus school, plus the commute sort of makes me want to poke my eyes out, but I believe it'll be worth it in the long run. I already survived my first semester.
Other factoids about me: I was randomly discovered by a scout for the HGTV show "That's Clever" before my wedding this past spring. The HGTV crew flew out this summer and was at my house for 8 or 9 hours taping me as I created some of my weird little gifts in my studio. I got not one, but TWO segments for that episode. I was a total goofball, but I had a blast with them. My show will be airing in '08 sometime. I have to call them in the spring for an exact date.
Flash forward: this week I dove into self-promotion headfirst. I hired a wonderful artist, Jelene, to help with the graphic design of my banner (cute, non? That's my illustration of my hedgehog, Baxter McPrickles, up there). Then, my dad was nice enough to take two days out of his weekend to help me take better quality photos of my artwork for my online shop. I've been busy meeting people like crazy in Etsy forums as well as on various social networking sites. I also bought some promotional ad time on Etsy. Look for me in the Main Showcase this coming Friday. Hopefully, it'll direct new people to my page.
This blog has a roll in all of that. I really hope to keep up on this thing, but once classes start again in a couple weeks, I make no promises. But I honestly will try!!!
The best part of all this mess is how motivated I've been feeling lately. I've been consistently busy making new work to sell online. Plus, I'm snowed in today (14 inches, really???) and you better believe I'll be coming up with some new stuff. So, keep your eyes peeled!