The last couple of months have been eye-opening for me. I spent five weeks in the Lilla Rogers/ Beth Nicholls e-course "Make Art That Sells", and it was truly amazing! It is one of the best courses I have ever taken, and I highly recommend it. It is incredibly well planned, absolutely packed with information, and Lilla is one of the kindest, gentlest, most inspiring teachers I've ever had.
I've been licensing my artwork since 2005, and while taking the course I realized that this is the first time in all these years that I have stepped back, taken a deep breath, and focused solely and deeply on stretching myself as an artist and going beyond my self-imposed limits. The most important thing I learned by going through the exercises and completing the assignments, was that I have so much more to give than I thought! You see, I know what I am good at, therefore I tend to stick to those things. I'm good at designing decorative repeat patterns, so I often wake up and get to work designing patterns. Do I ever wake up and say, "Today I'm going to illustrate the cover of a fairy tale". No, I don't. Or, I should say, I didn't before taking this class.
The assignments pushed me into uncomfortable territory, and man, did I ever need to be pushed! The class also taught me a new way of working and thinking about art. Here is a look at some of the work I completed while in class.
Week one was all about bolt fabric. I figured this would be a fun week for me, and it was! Our theme was vintage kitchen, and we were to include mushrooms and pyrex dishes in our design. I would NEVER have included such imagery in a fabric design because, for the most part, I've stayed away from conversational type prints. Yet, I'm so in love with how this turned out! And I'm totally digging my gingham corn-- haha!
I would LOVE to see these designs on recipe boxes and cards-- I think it would be so cute!
Week two focused on Home Decor, and our assignment was to design a plate that we could imagine being sold in Anthropologie or Crate and Barrel. That's a dream every designer has, right?? In fact, I plan to revisit this assignment because it was so much fun! Plus, it was hard choosing just one idea.
At this point in the course I was feeling pretty good about my work. Then we hit the dreaded week three-- children's picture books-- yikes!! This is so far out of my comfort zone that I didn't even know where to start. Yet one of the great things about the class is that Lilla eases you in to new territory by assigning "mini assignments" to get you going. The minis aren't intimidating. They are just exercises and they are meant to be fun. When she gives you the big assignment, it doesn't feel scary because you are already halfway done! I found myself loving this week. Here is my first version of designing a cover for the fairy tale, "The Snail and The Rose Tree".
I finished early and started to turn this in as I was quite happy with it. Still, I wondered if it really stood out. Was it memorable? I felt like it was good, and it probably fit the assignment better than what I turned in, yet I wanted to do something unusual. That's when I had the idea for this 60s rock poster inspired illustration.
I chose to post this one for one main reason-- I could imagine what the entire book would look like. There was a very strong direction, and if I ever get the chance to illustrate a children's book, I would have so much fun doing it in this style! I got so excited about how this turned out that I'm now working on a series! And the thing is, never in a million years would I have sat down to do this had I not challenged myself with this class! And crazily, the image below has more likes on instagram than any other photo I've ever posted! Even more likes than my sweet cat photos (see sidebar)!
I drew both of these completely on paper, then digitally colored them in Illustrator. I added the faces later because I was nervous about messing up!
Ha-- I just realized this is turning into an epic blog post! Here's a quick wrap up of the last couple of weeks! Week four: Wall art!
Week five: Gift!
It was thrilling to be venturing into new territory! It made me realize how safe I've been playing it by only doing artwork that I know will be good! I've been afraid to make mistakes. And part of this is because I am always in a hurry, always rushing to make more and better art. It has been a long time (with the exception of some of these paintings) that I spent an entire week working on one piece of art. Part of it is because there is always so much to do when you are acting as both artist and agent for yourself. This is precisely why I entered Lilla's Global Talent Search. I really want to work with an agent so that I can spend more time on the artwork! And there is one more important reason--There were a couple of times during the Art Review sessions of MATS where Lilla reviewed work by her own artists. She mentioned how she and the other agents at LRS could not wait to send that artwork out. And I was thinking what a great feeling it would be to know that when you make great art, it will be getting shown to art directors! Immediately and with enthusiasm! That, in and of itself, is a great motivator to make great art! As soon as you do, someone in your corner is going to shop it and sell it!
So here is my entry for the competition. One of Lilla's mottos in school was "Give a lot". You can see that written in the painting above, and it is another one of my big takeaways from the class. With this journal cover, I have given a lot! Any art director could take this, pull it apart, and use the different patterns and icons in many different ways!
I have longed to work with Lilla, and even submitted to her for representation in the past, but I was never sure if I would be a good fit for her. I've looked at Lilla's stable of artists and considered them, primarily, illustrators. I've categorized myself as more of a surface pattern designer and, with the exception of Rachael Taylor, I didn't see a lot of her other artists that I felt I could relate to. But this class made me realize that I, too, am an illustrator! Granted, I'm just starting this and I have a lot to learn, but I can illustrate. I can do so much more than what I've been doing! In fact, this past week I got an inquiry for an illustration job from a design firm in Phoenix. I was terrified to take it, and part of me wanted to turn it down out of fear. But with my newfound skills, attitude, and the encouragement of my husband, I accepted the assignment and (according to the art director) I "nailed it"!! Who knew?! I can't wait to share it with you! The thing is, I didn't even really learn new "skills" per se... I just learned to start thinking in a new way about myself and my art. Why have I been putting myself in a tiny box all these years? I've been closing doors on myself, if that makes sense. I face so much rejection in this business-- why have I been rejecting myself? Golly, does it sound like I went to therapy or took an art class?! Thanks for letting me share all these thoughts! By the way, a special thanks goes out to the ever-awesome Monica Lee who, in the middle of her vacation, took the time to walk me through how to talk to the art director about the illustration job!!
Earlier this summer my husband and I named our wireless network "Challenge Accepted", a reference from one of our favorite shows, "How I Met Your Mother". Joel suggested this be the "Summer of Challenge Accepted", and I said (what else), "Challenge accepted!" It feels really good to look at all of this art and see what I've accomplished in the last couple of months. Plus, now that I've gotten that first illustration assignment behind me, I can't wait to do more!
By the way, I'll be in Part B of Lilla's course starting this fall, and you should think about joining me. You will meet the nicest, most talented artists from all over the world, and you will instantly have about 400 supportive new friends! Gosh, this might be the longest blog post I've written in years! Thanks for hanging in there with me! I really appreciate you guys!! Now I'm off to make more art!