Thursday, May 19, 2011

Eight years of watercolour cards featuring house cats

Yup, right on the heels of my portfolio book debut comes something a little bit different! For the past eight years or so, I've been painting watercolour cards for family birthdays, Mother's Days, Father's Days -- all occasions, pretty much. These cards often depict family hobbies and always feature the Minamata family cats: Leo, Sparky, and Dido. Leo is the grey tabby, Sparky is the fluffy orange and white one, and Dido is the dapper cat in the black and white tuxedo.

The book has fifty-five watercolour illustrations of cats playing racquet sports, Yahtzee, Scrabble, gardening, birdwatching, shovelling snow...

Most of the originals are framed up on the wall of my parent's dining room, although there isn't enough room to have them all up any more. Not all of the cards are in the same place -- some are with my sister, some with my parents, and a couple with my boyfriend. The book is the only place where you can have them all collected together!

Sadly, Leo and Sparky are no longer with us, but Dido is still going strong. Expect to see more cards starring her in the future!

Portfolio book now on sale!

Okay, so I'm pretty excited! I've just self-published my portfolio using Blurb. It's a great site that allows anyone to create their own books. The software is slick, there are lots of options, and most importantly, Blurb isn't a bunch of intellectual property pirates out to shake down creative people for all they're worth.

One of the most important courses I took when I went to Sheridan College was basically a Business 101 specifically for illustrators. Super-savvy illustrator Kathryn Adams taught the class and showed us how to read those eye-watering Terms of Service agreements. After reading Blurb's TOS, I was satisfied I could use their service with few qualms. Same goes for Society6, Artflakes, and Etsy. Even better, after I'd already decided, I discovered that Anita Kunz sells books using Blurb, too! If that's not the ultimate endorsement, I don't know what is. Anita Kunz is pretty much the queen of illustration and if you've ever read Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Time, or any other magazine for the past few decades, chances are you've seen her work.

Got sidetracked, back to my book! My portfolio book has nineteen images in it, so it's quite skinny for the price. There's no denying it. But it's still cheaper than purchasing pretty much any one of my prints from Society6 or Artflakes, and MUCH cheaper than purchasing an original on Etsy. And I did go for the thicker, nicer, lustrous 148 GSM (100#) paper! If you're gonna do something, might as well do it right!

I have to admit, creating the book was possibly more for myself than for anyone else. I've always been a bit giddy about self-publishing, ever since I was president of the comic book club in high school and we got our stuff printed on the black and white copiers at Staples. Nowadays with the web and smart phones I always have my portfolio at my fingertips, but there is just something about real books and real paper.

One thing leads to another... And my March illustration job "A Brave New Book World" turned me on to this awesome new era of self-publishing. Funny how that works!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Twelve Wonders of New Mexico

Clockwise starting from upper left: Ancient Wonders, Dive Bar Wonders, Grave Wonders, Wonders to Avoid

A couple of weeks ago, the Weekly Alibi approached me to do a series of twelve black-and-white spot illustrations (3x3") for their feature "The Twelve Wonders of New Mexico". The art director provided me with a list of twelve different kinds of wonders that was further subdivided into lists of seven specific wonders... For a grand total of 84 different wonders! I live for jobs like this. The more info I get, the happier I am. I had a ton of fun trawling the internet for visual references and tried to stuff as many different wonders into each illo as I could.

For instance, for the upper left "Ancient Wonders" illustration, I included Chaco Canyon ruins, Acoma pottery, Bandelier National Monument, Ghost Ranch (with its coelophysis dinosaur bones), and a Chaco Canyon petroglyph.

Here's the feature article!

Clockwise starting from upper left: Sci-Fi Wonders, Natural Wonders, Religious Wonders, Roadside Wonders

Composing in squares is always challenging, because of how symmetrical they are. Because these are spot illustrations, I didn't want most of them to feel square -- I think only two of them really do. This job addressed the same concern I have when doing my Macleans jobs; I didn't want them to look the same. And because all of these are appearing together, it was even more important that they didn't look TOO similar. But just similar enough!

Clockwise from upper left: Underwhelming Wonders, Water Wonders, Weird Wonders, Old West Wonders

I had four days to complete all twelve. Let me tell you, it was a race to the finish the whole way! I've always felt that one of my weaknesses is how slowly I work. But as I get more experience, I'm finding that I'm getting faster and better. If I'd gotten this job a few years ago, I'd probably would have panicked, cancelled all my weekend plans, and then panicked some more.

In fact, for the Macleans job I got right after this one, the art director complimented me on my speedy turnaround -- and that one I screenprinted!

All throughout school and for a few years after, I was constantly frustrated by how hard it was for me to make illustrations. Uphill both ways, walking into the wind with an albatross around my neck HARD. There'd be an occasional job here and there that wouldn't be as tortuous, but for the most part it was an epic slog to the finish. That's changed somewhat. And I feel really good about that.

Overall, I'm very pleased with how these turned out. Too bad I missed the deadline for The Society of Publication Designers spot illustration competition!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Mother's Day 2011 card

My parents and I visited Point Pelee National Park on April 29th. They are keen birdwatchers (or "birders", as goes the lingo) and Point Pelee is the hottest of hotspots to catch birds migrating back to Canada in the springtime. It's an oddly shaped triangular peninsula that stabs into Lake Erie and is the southernmost point of Canada.

It really is an amazing spot, stuffed full of all manner of plants and animals -- it's a remarkably biodiverse place and even boasts an indigenous cactus! There's a gigantic marshland area with a boardwalk and that's where we encountered Old Man of the Marsh.

We were on our way back to the car to start the five hour drive home; we'd left the house at 4am, arrived around 9am, and were leaving the park for the day and for dinner. I glanced over the side of the boardwalk and caught a glimpse of this monstruous, ancient-looking turtle sunning itself just under the surface of the water. From head to tail it was 2+ feet long and had moss growing on it. All turtle look kind of old, but when something's got plants growing on it, well...

Are there pictures? Of course there are. And here's one:

Who knows if it's a male or female, or how old it actually is, or if it even has a name. But he's the Old Man of the Marsh to me. And now he is starring in my Mother's Day card!

Monday, May 2, 2011

I'm on!


Recently I was invited to set up shop on Artflakes, a company that produces framed art prints, posters, canvas prints, gallery prints, and greeting cards. I took a look around their site was quite impressed!

I already have shop sites set up with Society6 and Etsy, so I wanted to make sure Artflakes was offering products and services that would bring variety to the types of products I'm offering. First of all, Society6 is based in California while Artflakes is based in Berlin. Right off the bat, depending on where you're located you may go with one over the other simply based on shipping & handling charges!

Both sites sell prints in a range of sizes, but they both offer unique products, too. Here's a helpful little chart (click to enlarge):