Monday, April 13, 2015

Quirky Modern Surface Design - Artist Nina Seven

We are only a month and a few days away from this year's Surtex 2015 show. Many artists are preparing for this exciting event in NYC. Artist Nina Seven is one of them. She is a surface designer and illustrator from Seattle, WA, represented by Pink Light Studio.

"I live in a 1909 Craftsman style home with my hubbie, in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood," Nina says. "I have 2 kids, but they can hardly be called kids any longer since they are now in their 20's!"

I asked her what her favorite design style is and what inspires her. "My favorite design style and the one that most inspires me, I guess you would call quirky modern. Designs that are kid-like but still appeal to adults. Cute, but not cutesy. I hope that makes sense."

THREE (or less) KEY NOTES ON ART & LICENSING: I'll be showing my work through my agent at the big Art Licensing show, Surtex, in May, for the 4th time this year. I'd like to thank my agent, Mary Beth Freet, for giving me the best advice when I first signed with her. She told me one of the main things you need to know when getting into licensing is that you have to possess the ability to have patience.

If you are a person that really thrives on instant gratification, you will most likely face some disappointment. The process of getting your work shown, picked up, then eventually made into a product can take years sometimes. It also takes awhile to build up a full body of work that can be shown at the big shows like Surtex.

If you are new to surface pattern designing or are thinking of getting into it, I would point out the need to design pieces in a collection.

Here are a few examples of the way we do our collection previews. Everyone does them slightly differently, but you can see how the designs within the collection go together but don't actually share any of the same elements.

WHAT YOU REALLY LOVE, I.E. YOUR PASSION: I really love spending time with my family. I love my two crazy but adorable cats and I love drinking coffee. I'm hopelessly addicted to Starbucks!

WHAT YOU DON'T REALLY LIKE: I don't like loud, rude people.

A FAVORITE SOMETHING: I like to take photos with my phone, mostly around my neighborhood and share them on Instagram. It's my favorite social media site. All pictures, all the time! My user name is @ninaseven7, if anyone wants to follow me on my photo taking adventures. I also share some of my design work on there as well.

A MEMORABLE EVENT IN YOUR LIFE & A FUN MEMORY: I often think about how one thing leads to another and how you end up where you are because of a chain of events. About 15 years ago, when I was making a lot of mixed media fine art work, I had a small show at the local bakery. A woman that owned a paper crafting company here in Seattle saw the show and contacted me about designing some products for her. She also happened to live just up the block from me. This was the start of my surface design career. I continue to do some design work for her and we are great friends. I never could of imagined this happening when I put that work up in the bakery.

YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD AS AN ARTIST: I still do some fine art work occasionally and contribute work every year to Art for Autism, which benefits Northwest Behavioral Associates. My son has autism, so it's a cause that is very meaningful to me.

WHAT'S THE NEXT CHAPTER IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE: As I said before, my work will be shown at Surtex in NYC and I also will be attending the show for the first time! I'm so excited! I'll be at the Pink Light Studio booth on Sunday, May 17. If you're at the show, stop by and say Hi!

A HELPFUL TIP TO OTHER ARTISTS: I've already mentioned a few things that might be helpful to anyone who is interested in getting into surface design and art licensing, so I don't have too much else to add. I would just say keep working, work every day and hone your skills. Take classes, try new things, be observant to what you like and find your own happiness.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Music as Inspiration - Artist Lauren Lowen

As mentioned in my earlier post I am going to showcase all artists at Jennifer Nelson Artists, a new art and licensing agency. I feel inspired by artist & illustrator Lauren Lowen. Her energy and enthusiasm is as contagious as her work. An artist, RISD grad, and educator living just outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and dog, Lauren creates art that she lovingly describes as "awkwardly whimsical or whimsically awkward" for a variety of markets including editorial, publishing, and licensing.

YOUR FAVORITE DESIGN/ART STYLE: I'd say folk art in general, which has influenced several art movements throughout history. The way folk art around the world utilizes iconic motifs, patterns, and colors has always been something I have connected with. There seems to be a pureness and natural abstraction there that I enjoy and display in my own art.

THE MAIN INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR WORK: Probably music is the biggest inspiration in my work. I don't mean because my work is based on music (although there are a lot of characters playing guitars and various instruments), but I use music a lot in my process to "unlock" ideas when sketching and brainstorming. Each song has a different mood and feeling and that will usually inspire an image in some way, whether it be the colors or a prominent character.


1) When compared to other markets I've worked in, like editorial, artists in licensing and surface design are much more preoccupied and concentrated on trends. Obviously there is a reason for this, as clients need what will sell and artists need to pay close attention to that fact. However, I think sometimes people can be too focused or intimidated by trends to the point where it can be paralyzing. There has to be a balance of both market research and one's own "flavor" and when you find that balance it can be amazing. Pay attention to what's going on in the field, but don't get too wrapped up in what everyone else is doing. 

2) Learn some basic digital savvy. It doesn't mean you have to work 100% digital or only in vector. Even for traditional mediums, if you know how to edit colors or set up layers in Photoshop it can really benefit the types of jobs you can get.

Last year, I had to take a gouache painting and rearrange the elements so it would fit into a client's template. Since I had these skills, I was able to rework the painting easily in less than 2 hours. If I hadn't been able to do that, I would have lost the job. If you can't manage digital work on your own, then know someone you can hire to do those jobs here and there, like an assistant or local art student looking for part time work.

WHAT YOU REALLY LOVE, I.E. YOUR PASSION: I love my family and husband dearly! Also, I am truly lucky that my art is my full time job and am thankful for that every day. I also get to teach at the local art college, Watkins College of Art, Design & Film throughout the year and have always enjoyed working with students. When they talk about "what would you do if you didn't have to worry about money?" my art and teaching is what I would be doing, so it works out for me just wonderfully.

WHAT YOU DON'T REALLY LIKE: I'm not a big fan of being alone for really long spurts of time. I need to switch it up and be with people to maintain my sanity. It's important for me to connect with others - friends, family, my students and other artists.

A FAVORITE SOMETHING: My new house! We just moved in and it's been fun to get everything in order. I can't wait to set up my new studio.

A MEMORABLE EVENT IN YOUR LIFE: Last fall I got married, so I have to say that the big day and all of the honeymoon was very memorable and wonderful. Another big moment is probably when I got asked by Jennifer Nelson (my agent) if I wanted to be represented by her. It had been kind of a rough morning and it was like everything just changed for the better in that one second.

A FUN MEMORY: I visited Australia with my husband before we were married (I got to pet a wallaby!), we got engaged outside the Sydney Opera House, and he was prepared to Skype my parents on his phone so that they could share the big moment (they already knew and had to keep the secret from me).

YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD AS AN ARTIST: Probably my teaching. I give 110% to my students and have kept in touch with several of them over the years. It's nice when they let me know of big things in their lives, like a new dream job they just landed. Sometimes they go through rough things, like maybe their family isn't 100% supportive of their artistic goals. They only have classmates and teachers to cheer them on, so for those students my involvement can carry a lot of weight.

THE NEXT CHAPTER IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE: Earlier this year I started working with Jennifer Nelson Artists and have been blown away by the support and interest the agency has received (if you are a fan or follower, thank you from all of us!). Each artist has worked on several great projects since we've started and I am super excited to see the variety of clients we are talking with. At the same time, I am preparing artwork for Surtex in May. I will be at booth #559. Please stop by and say hello!

A HELPFUL TIP TO OTHER ARTISTS: I will share a favorite quote by philosopher Francis Bacon that summarizes my approach to the business of art: "A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds." Sometimes you have to put yourself out there. Make that first contact. Be the solution to someone's problem.

Successful people in general don't wait for others; they say "Here I am! You need me!" and sometimes you get lucky and that client yells back "You're right! Let's get to work."

Monday, March 30, 2015

Don’t Be Afraid to Show Your Work - Artist Jennifer Orkin Lewis, aka August Wren

A few weeks ago I published an interview with a new art licensing agency called Jennifer Nelson Artists. I really liked their fresh and unique work so I decided to publish all the artists there, starting with the amazing Jennifer Orkin Lewis, aka August Wren. We share a passion for art and design but also for interviewing artists to help them connect to their communities. Jennifer's interviews can be found here on Riverarts.

Jennifer is an illustrator and painter and a RISD graduate in textile design. She lives in a pretty little village just a bit north of NYC on the Hudson River. For many years she was a stylist in fabric manufacturing companies and designed lines for lingerie, children's clothes, and sleepwear, she said. Jennifer bought lots of art from shows like Surtex and Printsource. She got to know all of the design studios, although she didn't paint at all herself in those years.

© Jennifer Orkin Lewis
"When my son was small I started painting for a design studio that sold to card companies. That was the beginning of starting my own business. I slowly phased out of my job and focused more on my own art. When my son was in high school I realized I would have an empty nest soon and that's when I made a strong decision to become an illustrator. I opened an Etsy store, took many classes, and painted and drew all the time. I started getting licensing and freelance work but it was a long path. The culmination so far is a book I illustrated last summer for Abrams books coming out April 7th. It's called Sitting in Bars with Cake."

YOUR FAVORITE DESIGN/ART STYLE: I have so many different styles that could be my favorite, I love Matisse and also American Folk art. I love roaming the Met to see ancient vases and tapestries. I can't leave out mid-century modern and vintage/flea market stuff. There is something inspiring to find in everything it's hard for me to choose just one. But I try to find that spark that speaks to me and create my own language.

© Jennifer Orkin Lewis
THE MAIN INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR WORK: I find my inspiration everywhere, I particularly love painting flowers and people. But it's the little everyday thoughts and things that cross my path that make up most of my work. I will paint a bouquet of flowers or find some leaves from a walk on a trail, I visit a busy place and look at all the crowds, I see a beautiful teacup or a fancy sweater. I imagine an intricate piece of lace or a butterfly garden. All of these things inspire me to paint.

THREE (or less) KEY NOTES ON ART & LICENSING: This is my first year showing at Surtex. So far my advice is to start preparing early – create new art, your banners, a portfolio book. It's so much work and you don't want to be scrambling at the end. And don't be afraid to show your work.

WHAT YOU REALLY LOVE, I.E. YOUR PASSION: I really love ice cream. Black raspberry chip. That makes me very happy. The beach, traveling with my husband and son and sitting on my porch in the warm weather with the sun on my face for a mid afternoon break.

© Jennifer Orkin Lewis
WHAT YOU DON'T REALLY LIKE: I hate migraines and cold weather. A lot.

A FAVORITE SOMETHING: Speaking on the phone with my son who is in Florence for a semester.

A MEMORABLE EVENT IN YOUR LIFE: Having lunch on a rock in Northern Thailand with elephants bathing in the water beside us. And having my sketchbook featured in Uppercase magazine.

A FUN MEMORY: I had the most delicious peach I have ever eaten from a farm stand in Sicily on my honeymoon. It's been many years and I can still taste it; I've never had another peach that great. Another is on a trip to Paris. I stopped into the Notre Dame cathedral for a minute (for some reason there weren't many tourists) and a choir was singing Gregorian chants, filling the whole space with incredible sound. It was unforgettable.

© Jennifer Orkin Lewis
YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD AS AN ARTIST: For the past 6 years I've been on the board of our local arts council Riverarts. I've created a blog where I interview artists to introduce them to our community. It's something that has been on the back burner for a little while but I mean to pick up again.

I've also started a sketchbook project where I paint for 30 minutes daily and post them on Instagram. I think and hope I have inspired many others to start their own daily practice. It's the most rewarding thing I've ever done.

THE NEXT CHAPTER IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE: For the last two months I've been lucky enough to have a wonderful agent, Jennifer Nelson. She is smart, encouraging and lovely. I hope to up my whole game in the licensing world. I will be showing for the first time this year at Surtex (Booth 355) with a new collective I've joined called Cloverly with 3 other amazing artists.

A HELPFUL TIP TO OTHER ARTISTS: Be yourself. Look at other's work for inspiration but then close it down when you are doing your own. Don't worry about the final outcome during your creative playtime. That's where you discover the most about yourself.

© Jennifer Orkin Lewis

© Jennifer Orkin Lewis

Monday, March 23, 2015

Dreaming to Have Art on as Many Products as Possible - Artist Victoria Hutto

This week I am pleased to share this interview with artist and designer Victoria Hutto.

Victoria makes her living by licensing her artwork to companies worldwide. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Victoria has been working in the decorative market for over 20 years. Her work appears on many different products ranging from greeting cards, to fabric, to pillows, to wall décor or anything that needs artwork.

Here is what she shares with us today:

YOUR FAVORITE DESIGN/ART STYLE: I enjoy all types of styles. Every style has a unique quality to it and should be appreciated. I am drawn to styles that are very different than my own work, such as watercolor that is loose and free, or folk and primitive art.

THE MAIN INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR WORK: I find inspiration is everyday life. The simple things that make you smile. The bright yellow blooms of daffodils on my daily walks in the park, my dogs when they curl up on my lap for warmth, hearing my husband singing in the other room when he thinks I am not listening; those are things that inspire me.

WHAT YOU REALLY LOVE, I.E. YOUR PASSION: I love my work. I suppose that is the reason why I "work" almost every hour of the day. My work is woven into my everyday life. Even when I am not physically creating, I am always looking for inspiration that I can bring into my creations. My husband and I share this in our lives together and we feed each other's passion. It is our way of life.

WHAT YOU DON'T REALLY LIKE: I don't like crowds. I sometimes feel claustrophobic when there are too many people around. It's interesting that I feel this way, since I grew up in the big city of the San Francisco Bay Area. We now live in a city with a population of about 25,000. I have grown to appreciate the slower pace.

A FAVORITE SOMETHING: Every year my husband has a garden. My favorite "something" is the time we spend together seeing what has blossomed. I know it sounds a little bit silly, but every time we find that first baby tomato, it's like finding a treasure.

A MEMORABLE EVENT IN YOUR LIFE: One of my most memorable events was seeing my first greeting card design in the store and turning it over to see my name printed on it. I still get excited seeing my name in print on products. It's a feeling of accomplishment that never seems to go away.
A FUN MEMORY: Growing up in the city, I never had the opportunity to go camping. When my husband and I were dating he wanted me to experience camping. We spent 29 days camping through the National Parks in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. The experience was priceless.

YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD AS AN ARTIST: Long ago, my husband and I worked with gourds as a medium. We became known as "gourd" heads. We have given several workshops working with gourds and teaching the history of gourds. Like people, gourds come in all shapes and sizes. It was interesting to see what shape each person picked, and what their vision for the gourd became. We had many children make masks and animals out of them. It is nice to be able to inspire others.

THE NEXT CHAPTER IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE: My dream has always been to have my art on as many products as they can be applied on. I plan to continue art licensing. The business is a fickle one and is forever changing. I will see how far I can take it. In addition to the licensing I would like to start creating more 3-D art. I like working with different mediums; fabric, paper, clay etc. I'm not sure at this point what form that will take, but it is exciting to see how it may develop over time.

A HELPFUL TIP TO OTHER ARTISTS: Learn to trust your gut." There have been times when I put pressure on myself to create as many pieces of art as I could to submit to companies. Some of them I felt good about, others, I did just because it was a subject that was popular. My thinking was, the more I did, the more chances that they would get picked up. In the end, the ones I felt really good about were the ones that went to contract and did well in the market. That tiny voice that tells us something is "off" usually is right. If you feel this, others will too. It is usually better to do fewer quality pieces than spending time doing a lot of mediocre ones.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

And the Three Winners are...

Congratulations to our three winners in this special giveaway to celebrate The Moon from My Attic's 4th birthday. The winners will also be featured on this blog in the upcoming months in a special interview!

Patrizia Vitrano won the two books!

By Artist and Author Ronnie Walter

The smartphone case goes to Ev Wesson!

Design by Alex Colombo

The three thank you cards go to Madeline Faiella!

Design by Alex Colombo

Thank you all who participated and for reading our blog. Keep tuned for more fun giveaways, special product reviews, and amazing stories from our art and licensing community!