Meditation for People Who Don’t Like to Meditate.  Editorial art sample drawn for the Make Art That Sells Bootcamp.

A fox in the forest

Week 3’s assignment for the Children’s Books market was either a cover or an interior two-page spread for the Aesop fable “The Fox and the Crow.”

I did some terrible fox sketches during the mini, and a few attempts at lettering, but the project didn’t really come together until I decided on a setting for my illustration.  So I researched foxes.  It turns out that while red foxes to live in Texas, they aren’t native species. So while I could have used some of our scrub and mesquite (and I considered it for a while), it might work better set somewhere else.  And my Flickr account is full of gorgeous forests in Japan, where the red fox has been for centuries and inspires fantastic folklore there already.  So I took a few elements from my Japan photography and pulled out a couple of other animals to be in the picture: a litter of kits, a gecko, and a dragonfly.  Then I went to work.

Here’s the progression:

The lettering gave me a bit of a headache as well, but after some false starts I decided to just find an appropriate font and smooth out any rough edges manually.  Mom pointed out that kids these days aren’t learning cursive, so I edited a few letters to be more printed, and gave each letter a bit more “brush” flourish.  Then I toned the color down from pure white to a cream that echoed the forest floor and the cheese in the crow’s beak.

And here’s the final piece.

Desert Flowers

So this week’s assignment was in the Home Decor market: dinner plates, based on a theme of succulent plants, desert, summer. I decided after the semi-disaster that was my digital coloring experiment last week to remain true to the watercolors this time around. So all of my icons this round came from paper, even the signature and logo for my name bar.
Here’s some of the paper while I was working on succulents:
There's probably something here I can use... #succulents #makeartthatsells

It’s a pretty fun assignment, really, but I was a bit frustrated by my lack of patience with the beautifully symmetrical succulents – the spiral cacti, the wonderful circular growths of florets and spherical plants. I don’t even know half of their names, but I have some growing at my office and at home.

I ended up with a lot more to work with than I thought, honestly, and after a couple of false starts I came up with some plates. I feel much more confident about this submission than the last one, partially because now that there has been one review I can see what a professional presentation looks like, and also what kind of layouts are expected.

This particular market is tough for me, too, because I have such eclectic tastes and have difficulty imagining that people buy certain items. Plates with bright colors and shapes on them seem out of place to me – they make me nervous when washing them, for one thing, never sure that the spot I’m scrubbing is actually a spot or part of the design. Sometimes I see plates that are gorgeous on the wall or as decor but I would never imagine actually putting food on them, either. So there’s that. But the interesting thing about home decor, too, is the vast array of potential projects, so that designs that look silly on plates might be right at home on accessories like towels or soap dispensers, or as accents to furniture. Just because I’m not in the target market doesn’t mean that an agent couldn’t see potential in the work for others. It’s a tough lesson, I think, to learn to create not only outside of your comfort zone but potentially outside of your own preferred aesthetic.

So anyway, this is what I came up with for dinner plates:


Adventures in Tropical Fruit

So our first assignment in Make Art That Sells was a design for bolt fabric. You’d think with my giant stash of fabric that would be an easy idea, but it’s really difficult to deconstruct the genre and figure out, what about this makes it appealing? Why did I buy this fabric? I just couldn’t get into the right headspace for it at first, especially when I was trying to draw on the computer from my terrible doodles over the first couple of days.

So I had these terrible (and kind-of-ok) concept ideas but no real direction. Then I decided I had to really buckle down and just use my damn pencils. The computer wasn’t working. And I had the (crazy? predictable?) idea of adding a personal touch, a kind of “My Steampunk Kitchen” by including gears in addition to the tropical theme. I think that really enabled me to break out of the circular thought patterns.
I sat down with a bunch of clear shapes that I drew with a dark pencil, and copied onto several pages, then I used those shapes to lead the icon design. It worked!

Of course, if having the basic concept images was enough, I’d have been home free. But then I sat around trying to figure out how to color them, how to combine them in a pleasing way, how to use my concepts in a way that could generate other, complimentary designs. I didn’t want to necessarily spend a lot of time on the coordinates myself, but as it turned out I did one of them first, just to see how the elements looked in repeating motifs. Then I changed things. Of course. I spent a lot of time playing with color, and debating how to achieve a usable fabric – something I would see in the store and think, “That’s the one I need.”

Mom had a lot of advice, here. Plus we have all these vintage 1950s women’s magazines from the boxes in the garage, and fabric catalogs from some of the big stores, so I was head-down flipping through those a lot during the sketching and color stages. I had an especially interesting time experimenting with icons of people based on some of the cartoons from the December 1954 issue of Family Circle. But in the end I decided people were right out, and I should stick to the fruit and the casseroles. So I turned to the vintage pyrex image search on Google, with some direct influence by my sister-in-law’s collection of dishes.

After a lot of agonizing and some general bitching about color and design – and the painfully slow method I chose, since I don’t have much experience in Illustrator, of tracing my pencils into Photoshop and coloring there – I eventually reached a place where I felt like I was producing fabric, rather than chaos. It took some tweaking in a few places, but this is what I turned in at the end.

I am definitely looking forward to the rest of class, now that I’ve seen the method and experienced the surge of creative energy that came with it. It’s a great course.