Sunday, March 27, 2016

Live Life as if Everything is Rigged in Your Favor - Artist Kim Smith

Sometime ago I started a new series of painted florals in watercolor on paper, just for the fun of it.
I had forgotten about them but seeing the lovely artwork of Kim Smith, it reminded me how much I love art, painting and creativity!

Let me introduce you to Kim. She is an artist, designer, business owner, mom and more. Kim says her life is crazy busy but somehow she is able to squeeze in time to follow her passion every single day (or at least close). That alone is very inspirational and a great example to follow for all creatives who don't have much time to pursue their dreams.

Artist Kim Smith
Kim says, "With three kids and a business in Advertising & Design, I felt like I never had time to paint and follow my creative flow without feeling guilty about the 'more important' things that I should be doing with my time. So several years ago I made a commitment to get up around 5:00 am every day and paint. And I love it. It brings me peace and happiness. What a great way to start any day!"

The Moon from My Attic: What's exciting about your creative work? I feel that, although my painting sessions are very short, and often sporadic, I am continually growing and learning. I make the most of every precious minute I get. I never sit in front of a blank canvas and wait for inspiration to hit. It's always there. I guess that's a positive of not having enough time to do what I love, it's forced me to be super efficient with the time that I do have. I don't have time to overthink things, which is a good thing.

TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? I love so many types of mediums, watercolor, acrylic, oils, hand lettering and more. I painted with oils when I was very young (6th grade), but never really enjoyed it. I worked mostly with watercolor years ago (before kids), and then had a dry spell when I really had absolutely no time for art. Then when I decided that it was now or never to get going again with my art, I really wanted to loosen up, so I tried oils again and now I absolutely love them! Oil paints are so delicious and buttery and oh, so much fun.

TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? I went to school for graphic design, which I've been doing ever since in my "real job." But I never had the opportunity to take an oil painting class back then. So I'm self-taught. I find inspiration everywhere. That's a wonderful benefit to the internet. I am often listen to podcasts while I'm painting (the savvy painter and the jealous curator) and have found an endless amount of inspiring artists to follow. I was especially inspired by the daily painting movement, with some of my favs being Carol Marine and Karin Jurick, who made me realize that I could fit painting into my life, even with very limited time.

TMFMA: Tell us a story about one of your paintings. Last year a friend gave me a vase of zinnias for my birthday. I went outside on the side walk behind work and did a five minute photoshoot. I've painted and sold many, many paintings from that tiny inspiration that created happiness over and over again.

TMFMA: What's in store for your future? I would love to have my work in a gallery someday, or perhaps in a group show, or it would be fun to try an outdoor show with a booth and the whole nine yards. I hope someday to paint full time. That's such a scary thing to say since I have a great business that I'm not ready to be finished with. So I am just working in that direction with the faith that everything will just work out as it's meant to—when it's meant to. Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor, right?

You can find out more about Kim here:

Advertising & Design Website:
Instagram: kimmyerssmith
Twitter: @kmyerssmithart

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Curious Mind - Artist & Designer Natalie Woo

Natalie Woo and I met last year and discovered that we both share a common passion for design and illustration.

I invited her for an interview to share her lovely art. Some of it has been published by numerous inspiring websites like Design Sponge and I Travel and Draw.

The Moon from My Attic: Tell us about yourself and your art. I've had a passion for illustration since I was a child and continue to approach life with a curious mind.

My art strives to celebrate connections and diversity through all types of experiences and mediums - watercolor, ink, pencil and pastels.

The first icon I created was Sunni, a simple yellow sun, intended to bring some smiles. I remember being so excited, I shared this with all of my friends, specifically my friend Arthur who worked at a psychiatric hospital and shared this printed image with a patient. The woman was depressed, suicidal, and he shared this with her. It turns out she kept Sunni by her side and in times of darkness, he was there with her to make her smile.

Arthur gave me an update in 2010: 'She is doing well; she is actually working with a group in Hawaii doing some type of marine work/study. Maybe the sunshine you brought into her life that day subconsciously encouraged her to head towards the sunny, happy, islands of Hawaii (who knows).'

At that point, I knew my art was meant for something more - as a way to heal but also connect with others.

TMFMA: What is exciting about your creative work? When I keep a "child's mind" and stay curious, there are endless places to find inspiration - be it from random people I meet, to my travels, culture, fashion or food. The work I create is an amalgamation of the little and big things I find joy in.

TMFMA: What inspires you? My Chinese heritage, my husband who has introduced me to the French culture, fashion, travels, nature and food! I'm also inspired by people who have a story, use creativity, curiosity and passion to create meaning in their lives.

TMFMA: What are the most recent art projects that you have published? I recently bought a home with my husband last year and he really wanted me to have a space I could call my own. We decided to build a small art studio in our garden where I could do my work. My in-laws visited from Paris and helped me set up the electrical, flooring and drywall. I created a sanctuary to really make it my own. I was recently published on Design Sponge as part of their DIY stories. This was truly a dream come true and it meant so much since family contributed to the space.

In 2015 I quit my job, took a sabbatical and proceeded to design my own wedding. It was such a fun experience since I had total creative flexibility to design one of the most memorable days of my life. It was a spring wedding in Half Moon Bay and I really enjoyed choosing the fresh color scheme and creating the overall decor. The wedding was featured in Style Me Pretty - California Edition.

More recently, I contributed to I Travel and Draw's compendium of 100 illustrated maps of the nation along side talented illustrators from all over the world. This was the first compendium of it's kind and I was fortunate to be chosen from among 400 artists.

TMFMA: What art project are you currently working on? I'm expecting a baby in a few months so I'm focused on designing the baby room which is really exciting. I'd like to make the space soothing and inviting so it'll be a challenge - since there's so much baby inspiration out there!

TMFMA: Share with us of your experience in the commercial art industry. Much of my art has been a personal passion and I'm gradually branching out and would eventually like to be represented by an agent and do more lifestyle and fashion illustration.

TMFMA: Anything else you'd like to share? My favorite quote: Curiosity is greater than knowledge - Albert Einstein

TMFMA: What are your future aspirations and goals? My art is about celebration and I'd like to create a community where it's shared for its beauty around the world. I hope to travel, draw, eat and inspire others to do what they love.

Find out more about Natalie's art here:


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Art for Little and Big Moments - Artist Tatyana Starikova

Tatyana Starikova and I briefly met at Surtex last May. My first impression was that she really liked to be there and that art licensing was a perfect world for her. This interview will tell you more about her and her lovely work.

The Moon from My Attic: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your art? I was born in Ukraine where I grew up and received an education in Fine Arts. Now I live with my husband and daughter in New York's beautiful Hudson Valley, creating art for licensing and editorial illustration.

I work in a variety of styles — from whimsical art for children to sophisticated florals — bringing my passion for illustration and surface pattern design to products for everyday, holidays and special occasions.

TMFMA: What is exciting about your creative work? Creating art for products is especially rewarding to me, not only because it is beyond exciting to see my designs in stores, but more importantly, it allows me to share the way I see the world, who I am as a person, and at the same time to be a part of their lives when people buy products with my art and bring them home.

When I work on a new design, I imagine who might enjoy it – maybe it will be an image on somebody's favorite coffee mug, a pattern on a tablecloth at a family gathering, or a design on a nurse's scrub that could make a child smile. Thinking about it leads me to many new ideas and gives my art purpose. I believe that art for products is not just for decoration, it’s for celebrating the little and big moments in our lives, for making memories, expressing our taste, and making statements about who we are.

TMFMA: Briefly share with us about your experience in art licensing and any art show you exhibited in. My first steps into art licensing began when I discovered Tara Reed's "ASK Calls" and started to learn more about the industry. In 2013 I took Surtex seminars and walked the show. In order to bring my art and business to the next level, I signed up for Lilla Roger's and Tara Reed's classes which equipped me with knowledge and confidence and brought me to the decision to show at SURTEX.

The upcoming Surtex 2016 will be my third time exhibiting at the show. It's a great place to meet manufactures and art directors face to face and start business relationships. I am happy to say that I have quite a few deals with paper, gift, fabric and tabletop companies since stepping out into the art licensing arena.

I would like to add that I had a great opportunity to meet energetic, wonderful agent Brenda Manley, at My Favorite Designs, who represents some of my work at shows like Printsource and Blueprint.

TMFMA: What's your favorite art style, if any? I enjoy so many art styles, I can't name them all; folk art, children's book illustration, mid century modern, painterly, graphic, bold or delicate, as long it is a great art. I appreciate beautiful lines, interesting or sometimes unusual use of color and strong design.

Recently I discovered iconography. I am taking classes from my 80 years old Russian (French born) amazing artist and teacher Olga Poloukhine, who unlocks ancient egg tempera icon painting secrets of masters like Andrey Rublev. It is quite an experience to make everything from scratch; glue, gesso, paints! It inspired me to create my own Angel collection, that I am currently working on now.

TMFMA: What inspires you? I find my inspiration in almost anything that excites me and I never know where it might come from. Sometimes a quiet walk in nature, travel to a new place or country, taking a class to learn something new, talking to an interesting person of any age, or an unusual color combination could spark a new idea.

TMFMA: Any useful tips that you'd like to share about art and licensing? While staying connected with other artists through social media is very important for support, I would suggest to go deeper and find an artist friend who would be your accountability partner as well. I am lucky to have Marsha Rollinger, who is my friend and colleague.

Even though we live on the opposite costs of the country, we found out that we are very close in spirit. We support each other in our art licensing journey through our weekly phone meetings, emails, and texts to keep each other accountable in our weekly goals, give each other encouragement or kick in a pants when needed, share tips and laughs, and maybe sometimes a tear or two. I highly recommend having an artist friend who "gets it" and is on the same path as you.

TMFMA: What are your future aspirations and goals? The thought of seeing products in stores with my art on them makes me very excited! My goal for 2016 is to get new deals in paper, gift, and tabletop markets.

You can find more about Tatyana's art here:

Wishing everyone a Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Painting as a Visual Communication - Fine Art Painter Felice Panagrosso

I know, I know. I've been away for several months. I have been taking care of a couple of important family/personal life events in Europe. Fortunately all is well and I couldn't be any happier!

So I decided to resume the publishing of my blog interviews along with some other creative concepts, although I won't be able to publish as much as I used to do before - at least for the next couple of months, but it's a start.

In my next blog post I will share with you some of the art and design I saw while I was in Europe this past summer. Meantime I want to welcome my first guest of this month. He is an American painter, Felice Panagrosso, who has lived and worked in Paris since 2001 but is originally from New Haven, CT where he grew up in an Italian-American family. He returned to the United States for two years in 2006 to receive an MFA from the New York Academy of Art. Previously, Felice attended the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, Connecticut, and Parsons, Paris. He has also studied drawing in Italy with the New York Studio School.

Tell us about yourself:

I've shown at The Forbes Gallery and The Windham Fine Arts Gallery in New York, held two solo shows in Paris and participated in an exposition entitled "A Bi-Cultural Palette: Les Artistes Franco-Américains" at the Mona Bismarck Foundation, also in Paris. My paintings have twice been accepted at the Annual Salon Exposition in the 15th Arrondissement in Paris, in 2009 and 2010, receiving "Mention d’Honneur" in 2009.

Painter Felice Panagrosso
In March and April, 2015, my painting "Rooftops from Atelier" was on exhibit at the Salon Aguado in the Mairie (City Hall) of the 9th Arrondissement of Paris, in support of Paris' bid to have its rooftops included as one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. I've also shown my work at Studio 7 Fine Art Gallery in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

I have a monthly blog called "The Art of Felice Panagrosso" (, where I write about painting, family, and Paris, always including one or more of my paintings.

What brought you to art in the first place?

I should answer this question by telling a story about the first painter I ever met in New Haven, Connecticut. Well, I didn't actually meet him. I saw him when, as a child, I was riding in the backseat of my father's car. There under a highway overpass was a man with a portable easel set up and painting on a canvas. I knew what that was because I had seen painters on television. Was he painting the streets? I didn't think so. Was he painting the cars? No. Was he painting some Grand Vista? Definitely not. Then what was he painting? His easel was set up so that he was facing the concrete highway abutment. It had rained the night before and he was painting, as far as I could tell, the water stains running down the concrete face of the abutment.

I only saw that man a few times after that, and only after a rainstorm. I never learned his name, but he taught me something that day. He was SEEING something that I had not seen. Something I was unaware of before I saw him and his painting. He was appreciating something that I had not appreciated before. He was seeing it and painting it and in the process showing it to me. So, when I see a broken down neon sign selling rubber stamps, the litter in front of some bicycles or even a triangle of sunlight on a patch of concrete, I am moved to paint it.

That's what brought me to painting.

What's exciting about your creative work?

I'm excited by communication, and to me that's what painting is, visual communication. If I am captivated by an image, a configuration of buildings or a stand of trees I trust that someone else in the world will be too. I think that that's why I love to write a monthly blog. The images and words compliment each other. I must add that, in spite of this, I still paint for myself, for my own pleasure and astonishment, and experimentation. Every painting is different and comes from a different place.

Who/What Inspired you?

I am inspired by the work of Les Nabis, a group of Post-Impressionist French Artists including Édouard Vuillard, Maurice Dennis and especially Pierre Bonnard. "Les Nabis" means The Prophets in Hebrew and Arabic. I lived within walking distance of Maurice Dennis' home in Saint Germain-en-Laye where I was able to study first hand much of his work. The Musée Gustave Moreau, perhaps my favorite museum in Paris, is just around the corner from me. Gustave Moreau, a Symbolist, was one of the teachers of Pierre Bonnard.

Tell us about a recent art project/series.

© Felice Panagrosso
My current series is called "Sign Language". These are neon signage from the 40's and 50's, mostly found in the United States but also a few in Europe. For me they evoke a sense of permanence, confidence, and solidity from the past, even in their present decaying state.

They also display an unabashed sense of commercialism and modernity. I try to capture their unique combination of art and technology in my paintings.

Find out more about Felice Panagrosso's paintings here:

Monday, July 6, 2015

Putting the "U" in Unique! - An Interview with Margo Tantau, Vice President of Design & Creative at Midwest-CBK

I have been traveling around Europe for sometime and am seeing some new trends and innovative designs. I will post more about this adventure but in the meantime it's my pleasure to publish this exclusive interview with the wonderful Margo Tantau, Vice President of Design & Creative at Midwest-CBK!

I met Margo at the Atlanta Mart last January and walked through her beautiful showroom. She is one of the most fun, loving and professional people I've met in the design world, a pleasure to talk to! I share with her a few passions: art & design, traveling and helping artists find their ways. 

Here are some very inspiring insights she shares with us today: 

Margo Tantau
Tell us about you, your background and your own experience as an artist and art director. I come from a creative family. My Mom has spent over 40 years as an Interior Designer, so from early on there was always lots of talk about color, pattern, shapes, rooms, details...and my Dad was a pilot, so we were able to take advantage of very low fares and see things in far away places. Plus someone was always singing. That combo just puts color in one's step.

I was the "creative one" growing up, always asked to hand letter the signs and draw the pictures. I was encouraged all along the way, which I truly appreciate. Career-wise, I have done several different things...retail, wholesale, selling, entrepreneurial and corporate forays, creating, and more creating. These have all added up to more years of experience than I sometimes care to admit. My passion, though, is helping other artists and makers further their own careers. Watching someone grow and flourish and find personal success is just my favorite and most rewarding thing.

© Amy Rice - Cottage Bloom
What is exciting about your work, what inspires you as artist and art director? The best part for me is twofold. Finding great talent and then working together to turn ideas into fresh, interesting products. I completely enjoy the learning curve. I like to have my nose to the ground, so to speak, and discover what feels new and interesting. I push myself to be aware of what is happening in the market and to trust my gut and push for great style. I love to travel (cue Pilot's daughter!) and therefore having my hands involved in the creative process, wherever that takes me in the world, is truly inspiring.

What are your views in regards to trends and art styles? Style and trend are subjective to the market. I look at it kind of like the food triangle with "high trend" or the latest newest coolest things at the tippity top. That's a very exciting place to play and is highly creative. It's where one can try things and see what sticks. It's hot and happening, and often expensive. Then as you move down to the wider bits of the triangle, the trends grab a broader market share. They become more the norm, more affordable. You start to see the subject matter showing up in many more places, more markets.

© Zoe Ingram - Decor
Think of the last few years; owls, foxes, indigo, shibori, Moroccan rugs, quotes on everything. The bottom of the triangle, in my mind, is Mass Market. Big box stores that sell to the masses. Lower prices, cheaper product, the trend is becoming old. New things are always brewing up at the top of the triangle, and making their way down. There is room for good product every step of the way! People are buying, and companies need design. It's an endless cycle.

Tell us about your new e-course in collaboration with Lilla Rogers. What are you hoping to achieve through it? I'm super excited and honored to be collaborating with Lilla and Beth Kempton on the new Make Art That Sells course. It's called Creating Collections for Home Decor. What I hope to pass along is the idea of designing for three dimensional product, as well as techniques and information about different materials and how to use them. I want to demystify the process.

© Zoe Ingram
We're playing with the concept of taking flat art, learning to visualize how to dissect and shape it, and beginning to think about product. The industry needs more diverse and better goods. We rely too much on the familiar. This class will produce people who will have the power to shake it up. That's pretty thrilling to me. The talent is definitely there.

What's your philosophy about commercial art and licensing? I think many artists consider licensing to be the end-all, the pinnacle. For me, the most meaningful creative practice is that of doing something you are proud of and of putting products you believe in back into the market. There are several ways of doing that and licensing is only one. Licensing is a fantastic way to go if you have the right connections and/or agent. If you are going to make a go of it yourself, you do need business sense, a stick-to-it attitude, and a way to pay the rent as you get your work out there and grow your business. It's a balance.

What is some key advice you can give to an artist who wants to make a living through their artwork? Network network network. Understand your competition. Pay attention to the market. Stay fresh. But above all, more important than anything else to me, is BE UNIQUE. It may feel daunting, but if you continually put your own creative energy into the world, there will be a payoff. If you keep it to yourself and just timidly play in your studio, who will know your intentions? Who will see your talent?

© Susan Black
I can think of many artists now who post on social media a lot. They get noticed. They are trying, they are growing. That kind of energy and dedication goes a very long way. When people can see that you are trying, you gain respect, and you grow your own talent. You might be thinking, "How do I make the time? I have kids, I have another job..." If you want to make money eventually with your own art, MAKE THE TIME. Take classes. Meet other people who can support you and who you may be able to collaborate with. Push through the scary bits. That's the golden are already holding it in your hands.

Anything else you'd like to share about art and licensing? The creative community is amazing. My best and dearest friends are part of this global community and most of them don't live anywhere near me. But we share the same passions, goals, challenges and defeats, and we can therefore knowingly support each other. I have great respect for anyone who is putting their creativity out in the world. After all, one of the hardest things is to share of yourself. But it is also one of the most generous and rewarding. The world will always need product. There is a new groundswell of appreciation for art, for artists, for good, fresh design that will set a company apart. Artists are the keepers of that talent. What do YOU want to see out there is the world? Your ideas hold great value. Find your boldness. Share it.

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