Jill Howarth ditches her mouse for a paint brush

As surface designers, we JNA artists delve into Christmas and winter-holiday imagery pretty much year-round. But when November comes, I always get a little excited. I actually feel like I'm on season!

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With this in mind, I recently ditched my mouse for a paint brush and rendered a little Christmas piece. On the rare occasion that I go analog, I always end up doing a hybrid of cut paper and gouache -- because I just can't wrap my head around a finished painting in one piece!

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Admittedly, I'm pretty attached to Santa themes, but this time I tried to imagine just what goes on up there, inside his North Pole abode. Who knew he was so good at plunking out the holiday tunes? I hope this puts you in the spirit of the season! Enjoy - Jill

Artsy Emojis by Bee Brown

Hi Everyone!

Earlier this year Jennifer contacted me with news of an interesting new project: Would I like to design some "Artsy Emojis" for a project being developed by the lovely Barbara Rucci and her design studio?

As a Graphic Designer by training I jumped at the chance. How cool! I've never had the opportunity to work on an App before and as a mum to two boys addicted to messaging on their iPhones and iPods, I was hoping to win a bit of credibility there too!

Barbara had a very clear idea of the kind of images she wanted to incorporate into her App so we rigged up a shared page on Pinterest where she could show me in quite specific detail the look she was after. This made my job much easier because I could see right from the outset the approach she desired: fun, quirky and colorful. I was excited to begin.

We started in the usual way with me responding to her list of subject matter with a series of simple black and white sketches. In total we worked on around 100 drawings for the App which we tackled in groups of 20 or so at a time. Once Barbara had approved these, the sketches went on to be made into vector shapes in Illustrator and then color was added. 

This is what Barbara has to say about the app and how it all came to be: "I started designing all of the emojis myself, but then realized I would never get this app done on my own. So I hired this crazy-talented illustrator named Bee Brown to draw about 100 of the emojis. I drew about 30 myself. Bee is really good at animals and faces, something that is not particularly my strength. I am very grateful to Bee for creating these drawings that are so whimsical and beguiling and F.U.N.! They are exactly what I was imagining."

"The emojis cover all types of categories, not just art supplies. There are flower and feather emojis, nature and beach emojis, food and dessert emojis, transportation and holiday emojis, and party emojis. They really are all so beautiful, I can’t wait for you to see them!"

Artsy Emoji's can now be downloaded from the Apple App Store
I hope you enjoy using them as much as we enjoyed creating them! - Bee

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Creating a Fabric Collection with Rae Ritchie

Hi Everyone!

Today, I wanted to share my process of creating a fabric collection with amazing fabric manufacturer Dear Stella! I’ve been working with them for a couple years now, and the medium of fabric design never fails to excite me!

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Every collection I create begins of course, with gathering inspiration.  Since many of the work I do is based in nature, I gather many photos of flowers, plants and animals as my main source of inspiration. Discovering new (to me!) species of plants and animals and trying to capture their essence is a driving force for me. 

Color palettes naturally come out of this research. I’ll start with Pantones right away, and pull the main colors I choose to use in the collection.

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The next step is planning the prints I’d like to create. I usually make a list for myself to use during the sketching process. Sketching is always the most intense portion of the process for me. This is where the look of the collection is first proposed. I’ll often use sales information from past collections to help with my decision making in layout and subject matter.

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Creating the actual artwork is my favorite portion of the process. Here, I apply color to the sketches and bring the collection to life! Sometimes I will do actual paintings, and sometimes create the art digitally on my Wacon Cintiq. It mostly depends on how complex the repeats are and the look I’m going for. I feel most comfortable painting florals in actual gouache, so most groups heavily based in florals will be hand painted.

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Cleaning the art and indexing the files into screen separations is the most technical part of the process. Making sure the integrity of the print is intact, while still limiting the number of screens is essential!

Creating colorways is a very fun step, because you can start imagining what the quilts can look like, and how the final impression of the collection will read. It also excites me to think about what my quilts will be made into and how they can inspire those around me. 

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Finally, I’ll add Pantone colorchips to the repeats and send the files over to be printed in strike-off form. Then, a little while later, the strike-offs are sent to me! This by far is the most exciting part. Seeing the art directly on the fabric is very rewarding! The Dear Stella team and I will work on choosing the final prints and colorways to run in the group, and from there a fabric collection is born!

Enjoy! Rae Ritchie

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Anisa's Mural for Mud Bay Pet Store

I was recently hired to do my first mural! My client was a local advertising agency who produced the mural for their client, a pet food shop. I’m sure this helped to make things go smoother, as the agency was able to act as a go-between for myself and the customer. Mud Bay is a beloved Northwest-based pet food company with a number of locations in Portland and Seattle. The brief that was given to me by the creative folks at the agency spoke of a "welcome to Northwest Portland" message. I'm proud to say the mural is one of the first things you’ll see as you get off the freeway and make your way into the quaint, charming neighborhood of Northwest Portland. The town is filled with Victorian and Craftsman houses, so we reflected that in the mural, and added lots of pets.

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This is my original artwork for the mural. There were a few revisions before it became a mural. The building owner wanted his own dog in there, so the gray dog was changed to cute dachshund.

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Here’s the final mural. It's amazing they were able to do this! Though I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that there are a few changes and touch-ups I wish I could make. (That's the artist in me.) Also, it looks as if they stretched the drawing. Now I wish I could go in and add more flowers, they look a little bare.

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Overall it was a very exciting experience. It’s also super cool to see your art work so large like this! Hope you enjoy it too, Anisa

Jill Howarth tells all!

Our own Jill Howarth answers your questions about creating art for surface design. We asked the artist to select three questions pertaining to her art career. These are her fascinating answers.

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Q. If you hadn’t become a professional artist, what kind of career do you think you would have chosen?

A. That's a tough question but my best guess would be a teacher. I come from a family of them, with my mom, three brothers and all three wives in the same profession. My sister and I seem to be the only ones not in the family business!

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Q. Where do you find inspiration? Do you go for walks in town, look at nature shows on TV, or just start scribbling and see where your muse takes you?

A. I'm somewhat of a mid-century picture book collector, having amassed a pretty thick stack of Little Golden books, amongst others. I don't stop at vintage though. I always had a soft spot for buying beautifully illustrated books for my kids when they were small and now I just buy them for myself!

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Q. How old were you when you knew you wanted to be an artist? Did you strive to get your art on the refrigerator as a child? Describe your earliest artwork. 

A. My earliest memory is drawing Peanuts characters on large, white paper that my mom brought home from her classroom. I had several Peanuts books that I could draw from with my trusty “El Marko” markers (penciled sketched first, of course). That evolved into redrawing cute Hallmark cards for my mom's bulletin boards in her classroom. Around age 10, I knew that I wanted to be a “commercial” artist. I saw this as hopefully a practical way to make money with art, vs. fine art. Eventually this evolved into getting a degree in graphic design.

"I was always a creative kid" - Lauren Lowen

Our own Lauren Lowen answers your questions about creating art for surface design. We asked the artist to select three questions pertaining to her art career. These are her fascinating answers.

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Q. If you hadn’t become a professional artist, what kind of career do you think you would have chosen?

A. Definitely something with a performance element to it. I loved being in plays and musicals in high school, and in another lifetime I would have ended up applying to theatre programs instead. In my art there is a focus on characters and deep love for them. When I’m not creating characters on paper, I’m on stage embodying them!

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Q. How old were you when you knew you wanted to be an artist? Describe your earliest artwork.

A. I was always a creative kid. I remember stumbling upon an old art project where the objective was to draw what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said “artist” with a drawing of me by a framed piece of art in a gallery. It was first grade or so, which puts me at about 6 years old. However, it probably wasn’t until I was about 12 or 13 that I really considered it as a serious path. At the time, I was copying all my brother’s comic books and anime I found online (yup, I was one of those kids). I drew silly comics about my bird character with the genius name of “Bird-O” and even started a comic that was inspired by superhero characters like X-Men. That seems so long ago!

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Q. What advice would you give to a young person who is just beginning an art career?

A. First of all, you don’t have to be everything to everyone out there. Meaning that it’s OK if your work doesn’t fit with every client or market. I have a thing I do and have been fortunate enough to find the people who need and love my particular skills. This means that some companies or clients that I think are really awesome may not ever need me, and I’m at peace with that. (However, I have been pleasantly surprised at times. You never know!) Many artists ask themselves “What artwork do I have to make to get hired?” and although this is an important question, you really should ask yourself “What is the work I want to be making?” You should answer THAT question first, then move on to finding the proper homes and venues for your art. Do you create funky hand-lettering? Cool, try making some fun greeting cards with it and approach stationery companies for licensing. Or create portfolio pieces that show it being used as a magazine cover and approach editorial clients. Think about what you do and how it can be applied in different scenarios.

Rae Ritchie's fascinating answers to your questions!

Our own Rae Ritchie answers your questions about creating art for surface design. We asked the artist to select three questions pertaining to her art career. These are her fascinating answers.

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Q. What’s your favorite animal to draw and why?

A. I really enjoy drawing and painting red foxes. Because they are such majestic creatures with their little human-like hands and graceful movements, I find myself introducing them in my work quite often. Sadly, I have never seen one in the wild! They are rumored to hang around the creek by my house in the early morning, so I definitely need to go for some 5 AM walks to see some! Cats also have a special place in my heart and on my drawing table!

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Q. What’s the life of an artist like? Do you work early in the morning? Late at night? How do you integrate your art time into your daily routine?

A. I feel incredibly grateful everyday to be a full-time artist who works from home. I have always been an early riser, so I often get to “the office” around 7 AM. I always feel more comfortable being awake and in the office before my clients get to work, so I can devote some time to licensable artwork before any assignments come in. Depending on the day, I may have time for personal work, or I’ll be booked with a client for the day or sometimes for the week. Every day is different, which I love!

Often, I’ll go for a run around lunchtime, then work until 6 or 7. They can be long days, but the work is always rewarding and enjoyable! I try to turn off in the evening and recharge for the next day. I must say that I should try to get out more, though I am a homebody for the most part and really do enjoy this set-up!

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Q. Everyone can answer the question, “What’s your favorite color?” But only an artist can answer “What are your two favorite colors to put together?”

A. Hands down, my favorite color is dark blue, and I love pairing it with a warm/pinky lavender. The night sky has always been a huge inspiration for me. The cool cast the moonlight puts on tones that are warm during the day is fascinating and comforting to me.

Miriam's Latest Project Just In

Hello again,

A little while ago, I received such a wonderful sample in the mail. And I finally got around to making photos so I could share it with you.
Demdaco produced a super lovely and soft scarf with one of my designs that I licensed last year. I am so happy with the quality.
Personally, I think it also works very well as a shawl, because of its size (24″w x 72.5″long)
The artwork is a mixture of line art and painted elements.
Beautiful florals, combined with acrobatic swallows and dragonflies, adorn the textured sky-blue background. The backside of the scarf is a periwinkle blue.
When I first picked up the scarf, I noticed how soft it feels. It’s made of a combination of polyester and rayon, which gives it a bit of a silky appearance. But it’s also slightly fluffy like fleece. Knowing nothing about types of fabric, I find it rather difficult to explain, haha.

Anyway, I wanted to share this with you. It’s so lovely seeing your artwork appearing on actual products! I always feel like such a lucky girl when I receive these samples at home. 

After some research, I found a website that is currently selling the scarf, along with a beautiful line of other designers.

You can find it here.

Please browse through the gallery below for more images.

Wishing you a great day!

Miriam

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Rachel Grant Answers Your Questions

Our own Rachel Grant answers your questions about creating art for surface design. We asked the artist to select three questions pertaining to her art career. These are her fascinating answers.

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Q. If you hadn’t become a professional artist, what kind of career do you think you would have chosen?

A. It’s really hard to imagine doing anything that is not within a creative field of some description. When I do it all gets a bit random. If it wasn’t for the night shifts and the overwhelming responsibility I’d say a midwife... or a doula. Then of course I do very much like the idea of having a little antique shop full of old books and ceramics, with a stand outside selling plants... and fresh pies... and freshly baked bread! Perhaps I would have been a farmer... if I wasn’t scared of animals?! I would also have liked a little shop selling Fair Isle jumpers on an island off the Scottish coast... but I don’t think I could handle all that bad weather. Overall it’s probably a good idea I took the path I did. I can take myself off to different worlds in paint every single day, without the commitment to stay there!

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Q. Where do you find inspiration?

A. I spend a lot of time looking back for inspiration. I am obsessed with history, nostalgia, time-worn surfaces, patterns and ephemera. I love the way that the aesthetics of the past influence trends; and the way that those trends resurge in cycles is also fascinating. These kinds of interests lead me to antique shops, second-hand book stores, museums and anywhere where history comes alive. So here in the UK we have lots of stately homes, castles and other places of interest, like factories and mills that are open to the public and are full of inspiration. I also love to relax in front of films and TV dramas that mix historical reference with fiction, or even science fiction and fantasy. I love to see the way a director plays with colour and style to create exciting visual interplays between past/present/future. Wes Anderson’s colour palettes for example are absolutely divine and I spent the whole of the film “Brooklyn” geeking out about the way that John Crowley and his team had beautifully coordinated the knitwear with the wallpaper in each scene!

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Q. Thinking back to art school, what’s something you learned in a classroom that you still use to this day?

A. I followed a very clear path into the arts from high school to a BTEC Art and Design foundation course at college, and then on to a Textile Design and Surface Pattern degree course at University. The most prominent and transferrable skill I learnt during those years was about layering and manipulating surfaces to create texture and depth. Since graduating I have worked on all kinds of different projects, from original art, site specific installations, collaborations with performing arts groups and architects, through to the illustration and licensing work that I do now. In one way or another all of the work I create has been underpinned by those first years of experimentation in mark-making and surface manipulation.

Fairytales of the World – Auzou puzzle

Hello! I’m very excited to share with you this super duper fun project that I worked on last year. The mailman delivered me two big boxes with samples from French Publisher Auzou.

I illustrated a 54 pieces puzzle called ‘Mon puzzle des contes du monde’. It contains a small selection of (fairy)tales from different countries. Some of them where new to me, but I was happy I could introduce some stories as well.

As a kid I really liked the story of the boy who drew cats. It was a story from Japan about a boy that had trouble to find his place in society because all he really wanted to do was draw cats. He was looked upon by his family who feared he would never learn anything. His parents sent him to the village temple to become a priest. But even the priest didn’t want the boy, because the boy didn’t want to study. All he wanted to do was draw cats. He was sent away again. Ashamed of himself, the boy didn’t want to go home and decided to go to a temple in another village.

He arrives at night, and finds an empty temple. He is tired and decides to stay the night in one of the rooms that was filled with big rice-paper panels. The boy can’t resist, and starts drawing cats on them. Then he finds himself a small place to sleep in. That night he wakes up, hearing scary sounds, and he keeps very quiet. The following morning he finds a big dead rat monster and a trail of cat footprints leading to the rice panels. The drawn cats are positioned differently. They came to life at night and protected the boy’s life!

You’ll understand why I loved that story so much. And Auzou let me use it for the puzzl Of course there are more stories hidden in this scene. Do you think you can find them all?

Here is a list:
Baba Yaga
The Jade Rabbit
The boy who drew cats
Hansel and Gretel
Jack and the beanstalk
The Ugly Duckling
Puss in Boots
The Wizard of Oz, Alladin
Thumbelina
The Snow Queen
The Frog Prince
Alice in Wonderland
Pinocchio

I hope you are as enthusiastic about the puzzle as I am. The colors turned out great and both the box and the puzzle are of a really lovely quality. Maybe you’ll see them pop up in the toy stores too soon. Wishing you all a great day! - Miriam

Blue Print + SURTEX = 100% SUCCESS!

We had an absolutely amazing time in NYC at Blue Print and SURTEX. It was great to see old friends and to make some new ones. Our little agency sold or licensed art for use in all these categories: bedding, greeting cards, journals, tea towels, decorative pillows, wallpaper and many more. Plus, we received loads of smiles and compliments. It was very gratifying.
 
I was so proud of my wonderful artists Rae Ritchie, Anisa Makhoul, Jennifer Orkin Lewis, and Kelly Angelovic who were able to attend the shows and share the excitement with me. (Maybe next time we can include the equally excellent Miriam Bos, Rachel Grant, Lauren Lowen, Jill Howarth, Bee Brown, and Janna Krupinksi.)
 

 
I wanted to spend time with each of you individually, but sometimes there was literally a line of people waiting to see us (!) and I wasn’t able to get to everyone. I’m truly sorry about that.
 
 

If you purchased some art at the shows, I’ll process that for you very soon. If you requested a custom gallery I’ll get back to you with that just as quickly as possible.
 
Thank you so much for making this our best year ever! - Jennifer

We keep our little agency small on purpose.

It allows us to really focus on our artists and to give personal attention to our clients. That's why it's a REALLY BIG DEAL when we add a new artist to our roster. Today I'm proud as can be to introduce Janna Krupinski!

Janna joins our awesomely talented team to bring us to a total of ten amazing illustrators. Just check out her work to see why I'm so pleased to bring Janna into the fold. Please join us in making her feel welcome.

Come see Janna's debut at Blue Print and SURTEX this month!

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And there's more where those came from! If you want to see what else Janna Krupinski has been up to, just let me know.

Kindly, Jennifer