Sunday, May 31, 2009

Interview with an Illustrator: Laura Zarrin

This week I'm bringing another wonderful artist to your attention. Laura Zarrin's colored pencil work makes me gasp with envy. I love it so much! Her illustrations are bright and funny. She's been in the biz for a while and is still learning and doing new things. Be sure to visit her website and blog and check out her amazing art.

How did you get started as an artist/illustrator?

I’ve been drawing since I was very little. The illustrations in the Little House books inspired me. I began working as a designer while working on my illustration degree. Right after graduation, I attended Illustrator’s Day in Pasadena. I showed my portfolio to Art Directors attending the event and was hired to illustrate 6 books for a book packager. It was amazing!!!!

How long have you been doing this?

Since 1988 with a big break for the last 9 years while my kids were little. I'm now restarting my career and it’s a lot harder this time around.

What does a typical day look like for you

Up at 6:45 to get the kids ready for school. Drop them off. Walk the dog, then dig into work. I’m currently working on a lot of promotions for the children’s and educational market. Researching constantly. I’m also working on collections for licensing. This is very new to me, so there’s a big learning curve. Let’s not forget checking blogs and Twitter. The kids are home by 3:30, then homework, dinner, bedtime. Sometimes, if I’m very lucky, I get to work while they’re home. It’s getting better as they get older.

Who/what inspires you creatively?

Everything. My kids, the dog. A walk. Other artists. I’ve recently embarked on a new path after reading Kelly Rae Robert’s book, Taking Flight. I knew I needed a change, but didn’t know what it was. Her book launched me into collage and painting. I’ve been painting up a storm lately. I am not giving up color pencil, but it’s feels so good to work in a freer, quicker medium also. I love color pencil, but it is extremely labor intensive.

How has your art/style changed since you first started?

I’d like to think it’s gotten a lot better. I still cringe at some of my earlier work. I was lucky to work with a great art director, Annette Hollister-Papp, early on. She really pushed me in my style. I love to collaborate like that. A good art director can really get you to do things you didn’t think you could or hadn’t thought of before. I’ll always be grateful for her input and direction.

What are three pieces of advice you would give to someone just starting out?

  1. Draw, draw, and draw!

  2. Make art friends and support each other. I’m finding some great friends on Twitter. They inspire me daily.

  3. Know your market. Research. Get out to as many conferences and industry related get togethers as you can. If you want to illustrate children’s books, join SCBWI!!!

What do you hope to accomplish in the future (artistically or otherwise)?

I want to improve my drawing skills. Explore more. Add more fun and humor to my work. Illustrate more board books. License my work. Achieve balance.

What's one thing you've always wanted to do?

Be a great wife and mom. I’m a work in progress.

If you could meet anyone living or dead, who would it be & why?

It’s so hard to choose. Garth Williams—I’d like to just watch him draw.

I would love to shadow someone whose art is licensed. I want to see how they do everything from the art to the business. Mary Engelbreit would be at the top of my list in this category.

Thanks so much Laura! Go check out her work at:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Interview with an Illustrator: Carmen Keys

The first in a series of wonderful artists that deserve recognition for all of their talent and hard work. I don't remember how I first found freelance artist, Carmen Keys....through Illustration Friday maybe. Following her blog, I often have moments where I can't help but thunk my head and exclaim, "no way!" "how in the world did she do that!" Carmen's work is soft and beautiful and peaceful. She mainly uses watercolor (my archnemesis!) and her paintings are sometimes so intricate and detailed I have no idea how she finishes them so fast. Click on the artwork to see it bigger or find out how you could purchase it.

Q: How did you get started as an artist/illustrator?
I have wanted to be an artist/illustrator since childhood, but never had the courage to step out and do it seriously until about 4 years ago when I found myself in a position where I badly needed a way to earn money. I knew that other people sold their art online, such as through Ebay and websites – I finally got desperate enough to get over my fear of selling my artwork and jumped in! I started by selling itty bitty ACEO paintings of fairies and fantasy on Ebay. Out of the necessity to earn money I learned to paint like crazy, and ever since then I've been painting hundreds of pieces every year. At the time I had a blog on LiveJournal (the archives are still there) and that is where I learned the wonders of networking! I met many artists there that are still my friends, and we look out for each other in this wacky business. I don't know what I'd do without them! Though most of my art friends are fantasy/fairy artists since that is where I started, their support and friendship are invaluable still as I've transitioned into children's illustration.

Q: How long have you been doing this?
Like a lot of artists, I've been drawing since I could hold a pencil – however, I've only really been painting for about the past 4 years. My mom and brother are artists, too, and we kids got to play with all my mom's good art supplies from the beginning! I owe a lot to her for that, even though we ruined a lot of markers and brushes. ;) She also was (and is) very adamant that children should not stifle their imaginations, encouraging us to use them more!

Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
There is no “typical” in my day, ha ha... I have discovered that sticking to a set schedule/routine just does not work for me, no matter how I've tried to fight it. I wish it did, but it doesn't; I am learning to just accept this and roll with it, as long as the work gets done on time! The creative part of my business (drawing and painting) happens best in the evenings to late night, so I try to do the more tedious office-y tasks during the daytime. Lots of web and computer work, post office, things like that. I feel more physical during the day, so I also let myself play in the garden on sunny days as I wish. Sometimes a painting will be so consuming that I will do it all day despite my dusk-loving creative muse. Lastly, all of the things I've just said are subject to change on any given day! Deadlines are good, schedules are bad. For me at least.

Q: Who/what inspires you creatively?
First and foremost, God. This is His business, not mine. I love innocence and all things childlike and gnomish, and I love being out in God's creation. His great and inexpressible beauty is something I long to stay close to. Those things really drive my work, and I want to make a little respite from the trials of this world for both adults and children. All of the beautiful illustrations and storybooks I loved as a child really helped me in this way. Looking at other artists' wonderful work is usually a good way to get me fired up for some drawing and painting.
Music is also a huge part of my creative process, as it is my other main vehicle for creative expression. I write it/sing/play instruments and I certainly love listening to other peoples' music. My brother is a very gifted musician/composer, and listening to his work is great fuel for creative fire!

Q: How has your art/style changed since you first started?
A: It has changed a fair bit, especially in subject matter. When I started I was an animistic pagan, so did a lot of fairy, mythology, goddess, and pagan type subjects in a rather Art Nouveau style with heavy ink outlines and bright, soft colored pencil. Three years ago I met Jesus, which has utterly rocked my world and just exploded my ideas about everything. My art began to change with me, switching to themes of innocence and childhood. My work also became much softer and looser, mostly all in watercolor. I love acrylics and oils too, they're just a lot more work! I still paint fairies from time to time, but I have felt called mainly to paint through the eyes of childhood (which can certainly include a fairy or two!). The transition from fantasy art to children's illustration was an inevitable thing for me.

Q: What are three pieces of advice you would give to someone just starting out?
A: 1) PAINT. (Or whatever you do to make art). Do it all the time. Set quotas, it doesn't all have to be amazing. I end up with plenty of mediocre and even bad paintings scattered amongst the good ones, and I go through artist's block ridiculously often. Doesn't matter, keep painting. If you get used to this, meeting deadlines even when you don't feel inspired becomes far less of a problem. If you want to do art as a profession, there are going to be plenty of times when inspiration isn't there (unless you are very unusual and lucky, then rejoice!), yet it still must be done. The more you paint the more you want to paint and get better at painting, and the less you fear painting -- at least for me. Also your unique style/voice will emerge naturally from this.
2) Make friends! The single most important thing in my art business other than doing the actual art is the networking with people. Almost every single licensing contract I have has come through knowing my circle of artist friends. Most people are more than willing to help set you in the right directions. We protect eachother against copyright violations and steer eachother through the murky and sometimes dangerous waters of contracts. I made friends primarily through my old LiveJournal blog when I started out, which also led me to various artist forum communities. Nowadays I make friends through my Blogspot blog, Illustration Friday, and recently Twitter. Some people like Facebook, MySpace, etc or may prefer face-to-face in their own community, people from SCBWI – find something you like and use it! Go forth and meet people! I'm shy/introverted and I did it, don't let that stop you!
3) Have a way for people to keep up with what you are doing, like a website and/or blog and be consistent with it. It's much more fascinating for people to see the human being behind the paintings and illustrations. Post sketches, works in progress, tutorials, pictures from your life, talk about your process, your life, etc. People will want to know more! This phenomenon still amazes me, but it is true. I know I for one end up liking an artist's work many times more than I already did just by knowing about who they are.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in the future (artistically or otherwise)?
Many book publications with my illustrations in them, I hope! Getting my business in a place that it will support me without being always driven and nervous about the next set of bills (thus creating lots of lovely artist's block). A little less hand-to-mouth, please. Mostly I just want to listen to what God wants me to do with it and follow.

Q: What's one thing you've always wanted to do?
I would so love to be able to write my own little stories for my illustrations. I am incredibly shy and fearful about doing this, but there it is. My brother seems to just be able to write fantastic stuff without sweating it too much, but I don't have his confidence in that area!

Q: If you could meet anyone living or dead, who would it be & why?
A: Wow, that's kind of a tough question. I'm going to say Beatrix Potter, as I identify with her a lot. Besides loving her illustrations. I love that she created an entire little world to keep her company in a very introverted childhood, what a great imagination! And such perseverance despite obstacles. I'll bet she might be a “kindred spirit”.


Thanks so much, Carmen! Go and leave her a note on her bloggy if you LOVE her work as much as I do. or visit her Etsy and ArtWanted shops and personal website.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Inspire Me Thursday: Petals

Oh, how crazy! The wedding turtles I just finished work perfectly for this weeks' Inspire Me Thursday topic. These little reptiles proclaimed their undying love amidst a wave of petals.

This drawing will be made into a card and possibly a stamp soon! Let me know what you think. Constructive criticism is always welcome.

Monday, May 18, 2009

For the love of Blogging

Okay, that's it. I've just realized it. I like blogging. Despite all my best intentions, I really do. I desire a simple, minimalistic, naturally beautiful life....I view computers, gaming systems, and the internet with aloof disdain. After having a job that requires a computer for over 7 years I still wouldn't know how to set one up myself (it's okay, you can be embarassed for me). I think people get sucked into staring at a screen and buying the latest gadget instead of spending time with real people or solving real problems in our world.

But you know what? In the short time that I've been blogging, using Etsy, Artfire, Deviant art and the like, I've found a whole bunch of amazing and interesting people I might not otherwise have the privilege to know and learn from. In the journalistic world of blogs I can learn from other peoples mistakes with money like this guy, or find even more ways to be frugal like her. And then there are the days I stumble upon hard to read blogs like BringTheRain and I feel so completely immersed in the heartbreaking story of someone I've never met.

Lately I am thankful for how this technology has led me to real artists that I can learn from and interact with. I am so excited to let you in on the newest idea I have cooked up for this bloggy. Interviews with the Illustrators! I will be publishing interviews from some of the amazing people I have met online through one connection or another. I know that you will love getting to know them and seeing their awesome creativity. It definitely inspires me! Stay tuned for my first Interview with an Illustrator featuring my new bloggy friend Carmen Keys!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I'm seeing spots...or polka dots!

I just stumbled upon a great site for fellow Etsians and creative types out there. Julie of onthedotcreations has an obvious love of everything polka dotted, a generous spirit (check out the free e-book on her sidebar), and the desire to highlight other Etsy sellers. Look around her site it's so colorful and fun! I am a part of the Polka Dot Parade for this month. Every month you can send her your Etsy items that have polka dots in them and she'll feature them! She also has contests, giveaways and advice on selling from many valuable sources on Etsy. Check it out! Thanks, Julie!

Monday, May 11, 2009

My Mama!

This post is too late for Mother's Day but it doesn't really matter does it? The minute you find out you are pregnant, you are and will always be, a mother. Every day is mother(ing) day even when your babies are all grown up. So now we have a day to stop and appreciate our mothers and honor them for all they've done. As if we can really sum it all up or pay it all back in a day. Ha!

This Mother's Day, Joel and I decided to host a lovely brunch for our families at our house. Joel expertly made tons and tons of pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon. It was yummy and fun and we had a wonderful time.

My mother-in-law, Gail, and her babies.

My mom, Debbie, and her babies, minus Cristi and Ben. (And I suppose my dad isn't her baby, but he's often been referred to as the oldest child....!)

Later that night I was excited to hear that my mom, who just recently set up a blog and an Etsy shop, sold her first item!!! Wow! She was excited and I was very happy because my mom deserves success in whatever she does. She has always been interested in natural healthcare remedies and products. She started looking into glycerin soap when she found out how much more beneficial it was to our skin. She's been selling soap at craft fairs and soap parties ever since! If you are interested in my wonderful, gracious momma and her endeavors in the land of home-made soap, check out her blog here or on the link in my sidebar. She's just started listing yummy soap bars in her Etsy shop which you can see here. It's too bad you can't smell them through Etsy because the scent is amazing!

I love you Mom. And I wish you lots of success in this crazy cyber world.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Inspire Me Thursday: Umbrella

Oops! Totally forgot that to submit something for Inspire Me Thursday you should kind of post it, um, before Thursday! The topic was umbrella which was a fun topic....and I was going to submit my Singin' in the Rain Turtle. Which is quite fitting as it has been hazy, cool and rainy lately. Sigh.

This is the last leg of endurance fellow New Englanders! The rain is bringing our flowers out and the sunshine is right around the corner! I CANNOT wait! Every year since I became an "adult" (aka - started working full time and realized summer vacations were over!) I think of all the fun things I want to do in the summer and write them down. Summer flies by and I always want to stuff as much into it as I can. It makes me happy just to put things down in anticipation. I love lists, especially when they involve fun!

Here's what is rolling around in my mind so far:

1) Go to a local baseball game.

2) Take a community class (starting my Pilates class next week!!!!)

3) Go to the zoo.

4) Hike, bike, and walk.....anywhere there's a path!

5) Tennis and that order. Because when I try to play Joel in tennis, I need to fall in the pool after!

6) Have a picnic/cookout/party at the lake for my birthday in July. Bocce anyone?

7) Take time off to do fun things when my sister and her and her husband come to visit. Yay!

8) Go to the drive-in movies.

9) Cheer at Joel's softball games.

10) Vacation in Vermont. To celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary. Just me and Joel and a canoe....ahhh.

Monday, May 4, 2009

In the jungle, the mighty jungle....

there are two more babies! Introducing....

Zeke the Zebra and Maya the Monkey! They are up on Etsy already, check them out! I'm working on some other fun monkey art. Hope to show it in the upcoming weeks. Happy, rainy Monday!