Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Super Jane & Mpix

I'm super excited to share that I've teamed up with Mpix to bring you four NEW, totally adorable children's birthday party invitations! Aliens, Circus, Cupcakes & Monsters! Each are customizable with your own photos and party details! Check it out & shop today! XO

Alien birthday with outer space cosmic cake? Awesome!! • © Jane Smith

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Super Star Interviews: Denise Holmes

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.

This month I’m delighted to be chatting up with the super sweet Illustrator, Denise Holmes! She is a fellow Tugeau2 artist and I’m totally in love with her darling artwork. Denise attended The School of The Art Institute of Chicago and earned her BFA in 2003. After graduating, Denise worked everything from a server to a sales associate until she saved up enough money to pursue her dream of illustrating children's books. In 2012, after 6 years of freelancing, her hard work and perseverance paid off when she was asked to illustrate If I Wrote A Book About You by Stephany Aulenback, published by Simply Read Books. Since then she has worked on a variety of projects, including The Yoga Game series and 2 children's activity books. You can view more of her artwork here!

Jack and Jill went up and hill and read Denise's book!

Q: You are a member of the fabulous art collective, Happy Happy. What are the advantages of being closely connected to an active art community as a freelancer? Dish with us about your experiences as a member of the online group.

A: I have been freelancing for eight years and most of those years were pretty lonely. I had become friends with Emily Balsley and Tammie Bennett over time and we all ended up taking Lilla Roger's Make Art That Sells course together. Tammie had the great idea after the class to start the Happy Happy Art Collective!

Being part of Happy Happy is one of the best things. We started out as a group to get together and push ourselves to make more work and we ended up all getting amazing paying work within a year. We now talk daily about jobs, questions we have about contracts, gossip in the industry and what is happening in our personal lives. It’s a great support system and doesn’t make freelancing feel as lonely. 

Would you like a spot of tea, kitty cat? Oh, yes, please!

Q: Give us the scoop on your artistic process from initial concept & sketches thru final art technique & finishing touches. (I simply adore your whimsical linework & earthy, but bright palette! Swooon!)

A: I start all my projects—be it client or personal work looking around for inspiration. It could be in my book collection, out and about in the neighborhood or on the Internet. Then I sketch everything in my sketchbook with my handy mechanical pencil and bring it over to my lightbox to ink it in with a nib pen (my favorite tool) and ink. I scan everything into Illustrator and color from there. My color palettes are always so similiar, I tend to work with a lot of the same colors. I have a huge color spreadsheet in Illustrator that I keep adding pretty colors to. When I start a project I go to the sheet and pick out what I think would work best. Last, I will play around with adding textures and shadows and save it!  

Let's go on an outer space adventure!

Q: You’ve illustrated a handful of lovely children’s books! Which one is your favorite? Then tell us all about it—how it began, how it developed, everything.

A: I got so lucky—I mean it. It has always been my dream to be a children’s book illustrator. I was a new mom and having a rough day when I got the email. An editor at Simply Read Books contacted me to see if I would be interested in illustrating a book they had in mind. It just so happened to be If I Wrote A Book About You by Stephany Aulenback. I got the manuscript and couldn’t believe what perfect timing the story was. The story is about a mother’s love for her child and I quickly replied YES! I said YES! And I actually had no clue where to start. I luckily came across Susan Hartung who offers a how to make a book dummy class online and I asked if we could change it up a little to help me. She mentored me through the entire process. Her critiques were the hardest I have ever endured, but it really helped me to create the best work I could have made for the book. It’s silly but the best part is getting to read it to my daughter. Who luckily asks for it pretty often.

Sweetness abounds! Sunshine meooow!

Q: As an Illustrator Mama, in what ways do you balance your home life and your work life? How does your daughter influence your artistic life, both personally and professionally?

A: If only I knew the answer! This is the toughest thing for me to do. I try my best to balance work and life so that I’m not super exhausted by the end of the day. My daughter is 3 and not in school yet (can’t wait for the fall!) so I spend my mornings doing mom duty, cooking, cleaning, playing, and trying to do a fun activity before lunch. We paint, make projects, draw, read books and explore the neighborhood most days. After lunch is her two-hour nap and that is where I bust out my emails, Facebook, blogs and I write a list of all the things I need to get done for the day/week. 3 PM is wake up time and we try to go outside until my husband gets home from work at 4. Dinner, bath, read books and she’s off to bed and I finally get to sit down and work at 7. I do my best to respond to everyone’s email, but I spend the next 4 hours working on my to-do list. It makes for a long day, but I end my nights reading my on my kindle until I fall asleep. If I am on a deadline I enlist the help of my neighbor to watch Hazel for a few hours in the mornings. Oh, and I should add that my mom comes in once a month to help out, too.  I’m pretty lucky! 

As for my daughter, she is such a huge influence on me! To me she helped open up the children's book world even more. I get to read books to her over and over and over again. I know what I love about them, I know what I hate—what could I do better, what did they do to make this book so great? It is amazing what my daughter likes and what she doesn't (we don't always agree). It might be sort of like cheating!? We also get to draw together a lot and I love being able to sit down with her and just doodle— not worrying about how it will look or if the color is all wrong. I really love experiencing childhood with her again.

Wouldn't you just LOVE to cozy up with this book?! Buy it here!

Q: How do you market yourself to both publishing and art licensing clients? What advice would you give to fellow illustrators?

A: This is a great question, because it is something I have struggled with. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out how to merge my two worlds together. To me it felt like illustration for clients and picture book illustration were two different worlds. I kept trying to figure out if I should have two separate websites, but in the end, I just decided to combine everything into one portfolio. It works for me, it’s who I am and I can’t separate them.

As for advice, I have seen it both ways, but I feel like it’s great if you do different markets—the more you know about each industry the more work for you to get! I love being able to bring in my knowledge of design to my children’s books and my children’s book work into my client projects. It really opens up your world.

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Coffee. With my family in tow, head up to Logan Square Farmer’s Market to get some delicious food and hang out on the grass with my cousin and her husband. A catnap in the early afternoon and then some time to work in my sketchbook at my favorite coffee shop Star Lounge. Dinner at The Chicago Diner, a nice evening walk around the neighborhood and end it with gelato at Black Dog. Hang out on the porch with husband after the little one goes to bed, drinks, talking, laughing, go to bed super happy because life is lovely.

Thank you so much, Denise!! It’s been so fabulous catching up with you! Can’t wait to see what new delightful artwork you create next!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Summer Froggies

Just kicking off the beginning of summer a bit early with a fun-sunny-froggies-at-the-beach illo inspired by my little beach town, Hermosa! XO

© Jane Smith • Summer Froggies

Saturday, May 23, 2015

NEW Woodland Babies: Collection Highlights

© Jane Smith • Woodland Baby Deer
© Jane Smith • Woodland Baby - Little Things Pattern
© Jane Smith • Woodland Baby Bear
© Jane Smith • Woodland Baby - Baby Steps Pattern
© Jane Smith • Woodland Baby Fox

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"It's A Party" Birthday Collection

How much do you LOVE my NEW "It's A Party!" Birthday Collection?! It's sweet, it's pretty, it's perfect for cards, invites, wrapping and party paper! Interested in licensing it for your fabulous products? You can get in touch with me anytime at jane@superjane.com. Fabulous! XO

© Jane Smith • "It's A Party!"
© Jane Smith • "It's A Party: Heart Clusters"
© Jane Smith • "It's A Party: Presents, Cupcakes, Flowers"
© Jane Smith • "It's A Party: Party Polka Dots"

Monday, May 4, 2015

Super Star Interview: Victoria Johnson

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.

This month I’m pleased as punch to be catching up with the effervescent Illustrator & Designer, Victoria Johnson! I’m a long-time fan of her beautiful artwork and was thrilled to get to see her gorgeous Surtex 2014 booth in person. She is an English artist/designer in Rome. She lives there with her Italian husband and two children. Before that she lived in New York for twelve years, owning and running a design studio in NY and London. Her work has been featured on a huge variety of products, from women's and children's wear, to paper products, home furnishings and giftware and is lucky enough to have worked with some of the best known companies in the US and Europe. You can view more of her artwork here!

"C" is definitely for CUTE!

Q: How has your time living in each England, New York & London influenced and inspired your artwork?

A: I lived in NY for 12 years and worked in the Garment District, mainly designing womenswear prints.  I think this influences my work.  I gravitate towards feminine palettes that are very wearable.  I also love vintage womenswear fabrics—the way that contemporary art was so influential on fashion print trends during the 20th Century.  

Q: You've spent many years as an independent illustrator and have recently signed on with Jennifer Nelson Artists (Congrats!!). Dish with us about the pros and cons of representation vs. being independent and why you've chosen to be represented at this point in your career.

A: I was very happy being independent and would definitely recommend that route— even though it's very demanding and requires an awful lot of self-discipline.  However, it's not everyday that an agent of Jennifer's caliber presents an opportunity.  After one conversation with her I knew that my career would benefit massively from her support.  I was finding it difficult to make time to send my work out as often as I wanted and was starting to chase my tail.  I knew that Jennifer would get my work seen regularly by the companies I wanted to work with.  I felt she was 100% invested in my success and was keen to maintain regular contact with me (and her other artists), working as a partner in a joint venture.  This is unusual and offset any reservations I'd formally had about representation (that sense of sinking into a vast sea of anonymity with multiple other artists working under the name of the studio). I sensed that I was incredibly fortunate from the outset.

How adorable is this floral repeat?!

Q: Describe your artistic process. How do you begin? What comes next? How do you choose a medium and color palette?

A: I choose a medium based on the idea.  They're kind of linked.  I keep a running list of ideas in a single notebook.  I've worked like this for years.  I might be inspired by something I've seen online or in a shop (the usual sources) or want to progress from something I've already done or I might know that I need to cover a commercial theme like Christmas, Valentines, etc.  I write my ideas on my list and then decide what needs doing most urgently and what I fancy doing!  I always try to establish my palette at the outset and work very hard on making it beautiful—and hopefully a bit original.

Come fly away on a Victoria Johnson dream!!

 Q: In what ways do you balance your art career with being a mom? (As an illustrator mama myself, this is one of my favorite questions!!)

A: I struggle daily. My children are both school age so I have all their school hours to work, but my husband's away or working long hours a lot so it's difficult.  I often start work again after the kids go to bed.

Q: What advice would you give to an illustrator attending Surtex regarding prep as well as what to actually bring to the show?

A: I don't know where to begin.  I could write a whole blog post about this.  A whole book even.  In a nutshell— don't make yourself ill.  Be super organized. Make sure everything is cohesive—that it screams you and is high impact.  Go the extra mile because you will not believe how much effort people make on those stands. It blows your mind!!  Just when you think you've done as much as is humanly possible, you'll realize someone else has done MORE!!!  Also, establish relationships with key clients beforehand.  It's not like a shop where strangers just stroll by and pluck your goods from a shelf.  It's very much an opportunity to expand on and cement existing relationships and show your clients that you are professional and serious.

So lovely! So gorgeous! So fabulous!

 Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Waking up at six am, leaping out of bed and going for a 5 mile run, getting back and eating fresh, crushed raspberries, organic oatmeal and a kale smoothie before taking my children out for a very educational tour of Rome's finest art galleries.  I've NEVER done this.  EVER.  But I imagine it would be quite nice and I would feel pure and saintly afterwards.

Thank you so much, Victoria!! It’s been an absolute delight catching up with you! Wishing you all the best at Surtex!