Monday, April 27, 2015

Drawn to Art that Evokes Emotions - Artist Monika Forsberg

There are 19 days left before Surtex and most exhibiting artists are preparing their last collections and hoping to have everything done in time.

This week I am pleased to feature artist Monika Forsberg, represented by Jennifer Nelson Artists, who will also attend the show this May.

Monika is a mom to 2 boys living in London but is originally from the north of Sweden. "I always loved drawing and making things. I worked as a photographer, illustrator, animator, writer and artist over the past 20 years and in-between worked in bars and cafes as well as tutoring at a university and being a mum. Right now I'm working full time as an illustrator," she shares.

She is drawn to art that evokes emotions. "Being a Swede I tend to favour melancholy and sadness inducing feelings, the dark side of the moon...but having lived half my life in the UK I also love things that makes me laugh, the silliness of things and the jolly oopsy daisy idiosyncratic mentality of the Brits."

© Monika Forsberg
I then asked:

THE MAIN INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR WORK: I am curious by nature, I love listening to stories and making stories up and I love escaping into my own head. Drawing is like making your own low budget version of life with some extravagant insane seasonings of fantasy. I think my inspiration comes from all aspects of everyday life.

THREE (or less) KEY NOTES ON ART & LICENSING: I do a lot of commission work and when working on briefs a lot of the time I find that I sometimes have time and space to do some of my own work that then will be licensed. It's about experimenting and rejuvenating and indulging myself and letting go of a "this will sell..." mentality.

© Monika Forsberg
It may not be profitable in the short term but I found long term it's a very good approach. Do what you love. I don't love churning out a thousand florals that look the same - in fact that's why I moved away from animation, to have more freedom. Even if all those florals would license immediately, I would be so fed up drawing them that I'd have to take 6 months off and become a ski instructor or something instead for awhile.

I found the work I license the most are the quirky "weird" stuff that I had a great time doing and the stuff I made trying to follow the guidelines on how to find a recipe for licensing success are so watered down and drab that no one wants to touch it. So, stick to your guns. Be yourself. Have fun. But also be open to see how to make your work more exciting by watching, learning ,and experimenting.

WHAT YOU REALLY LOVE, I.E. YOUR PASSION: My kids, the beaches of my hometown, hotels, my boyfriend, drawing, laughing, sleeping, swimming. Not necessarily in that order. And coffee. And watermelon. And going to the cinema. Daydreaming.

© Monika Forsberg
WHAT YOU DON'T REALLY LIKE: Money grabbing mentality, Skype and un-kindness.

A FAVORITE SOMETHING: My friend Danny, a comic book author and I have been going winter swimming for the past 4 years and it's the best. You get a thrill from the icy, near freezing water and she is the best of company. You feel alive and all troubles dissipate with that combination of things. So all of you, find a Danny girl, a freezing cold lake, jump in and you will feel great!

A MEMORABLE EVENT IN YOUR LIFE: Going to the BAFTA's was very memorable. I was nominated for best short film and I took my friend Danny (the comic book artist) along. We got all glammed up by professional make up artists and walked on the red carpets with film stars and celebrities and drank too much tequila and then we took the night bus home because we were too frugal to get a taxi. I loved that. To belong to all and everything and nothing. By the way, I didn't win the BAFTA but that wasn't really that important.

© Monika Forsberg
A FUN MEMORY: Going to the Clermont-Ferrand film festival with my eldest son who was only 4 at the time. We stayed in a hotel, played pin ball in cafes, watched loads of films and ate chips with mayonnaise. And it was raging winter and we'd come there in our summer clothes. It was cold. It was great fun.

YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD AS AN ARTIST: The lines are often blurred as an artists. I donate art for charity auctions and give up time for volunteering and give advice to people needing something they think I can give. I've learnt over the years that you have to sometimes just say no. Just because I work from home and manage my own time I do need time to work and my family is my main priority.

© Monika Forsberg
THE NEXT CHAPTER IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE: I will be exhibiting at Surtex with the Cloverly Art Collective in May and that'll be exciting. I'm working on some new products for the beautiful people of eeBoo which is very fun and not much like a "proper job." I really want to do more book work and so am playing about with some ideas. I also have ideas for larger scale pictures - we live in London where space is sparse so my work is very tiny to fit into little boxes and to not take up too much space. I think I need to do an exhibition to justify making LARGE pictures.!

A HELPFUL TIP TO OTHER ARTISTS: When drawing observe carefully and draw fast.

© Monika Forsberg

Friday, April 24, 2015

Designing with Kids in Mind - Artist Bee Brown

The Moon from My Attic will be attending Surtex as press again this year. It has been our tradition for the past 4 years to run free promotional ads for exhibiting Artists; we'll start on Monday May 4th for the whole week.

At the show, we will be around to interview and to report on trends and the National Stationery Show.

Meanwhile I am very happy to publish this artist who will also be at Surtex this year. Her name is Bee Brown, a U.K based Illustrator who also has a blog at

Bee is trained as a graphic designer but has been lucky enough to work as a freelance Illustrator since leaving art school and has always had a small studio at home. "I'm also a mum to 2 energetic little boys, but I find balancing my creative and family life is a good combination for me," she says.

Bee shares with us more details about her life as an artist:

YOUR FAVORITE DESIGN/ART STYLE: I don't really have a favourite design style as such. Inspiration can be found from a variety of sources, but I do love to keep an eye out for what's new, fresh and exciting in the design world. I am very drawn to fun, strong, bold graphic images both from a pictorial and typographic point of view.

THE MAIN INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR WORK: I love designing with kids in mind, so they are my inspiration. Its fun thinking of characters and ideas they might be drawn to to look at in books, wear on their clothes, hang on their walls and just generally have in their lives.

THREE (or less) KEY NOTES ON ART & LICENSING: I think I would have this to say to anyone wanting to work in art and licensing: Just keep going. Keep believing and keep making work. Follow your heart and work hard.

WHAT YOU REALLY LOVE, I.E. YOUR PASSION: My daily passions are simple: my boys, beautiful, strong colour palettes, drawing out ideas and being in the fresh air. Oh, and good food!

WHAT YOU DON'T REALLY LIKE: Things I'm not keen on - rainy, miserable days when I can't get outside and my electricity supply packing up!

A FAVORITE SOMETHING: My favourite something would have to be my Mac - oh, and my iPhone! I love technology.

A MEMORABLE EVENT IN YOUR LIFE: It's hard to pick a single, memorable event in my life, but one that stands out from a design perspective would have to be when my work was first accepted by the Association of Illustrators for their annual illustration event which at the time was called 'Images'. I had submitted some maps that I had illustrated for a children's book published by Harper Collins. Never in a million years did I think they would get through the stellar judging panel but they did! I remember reading the letter that came through the post and the subsequent shaking all over - my knees went to jelly! I was in complete shock! It was both a real honour and very exciting to see my work hang in the Royal College of Art in London, have it featured in the accompanying catalogue and then see it tour the country in the traveling exhibition.

A FUN MEMORY: A fun memory would have to be my honeymoon with my hubbie. We travelled to Bali.

YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD AS AN ARTIST: Before and just after I married, I used to teach drawing and graphic design at my then local art school. I'm naturally quite shy but I used to love it. It was so rewarding working with the students, watching them change and develop over the weeks and months and building those relationships. My husband and I then started to travel a bit with work and then when we moved to Paris in France, I had to say goodbye to that part of my life. I'm glad I had those opportunities to contribute and maybe I will again at some point in the future.

THE NEXT CHAPTER IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE: The next chapter in my creative life I hope will be the most fun yet ... the world of print and pattern! I have just been lucky enough to sign with the very amazing and super lovely U.S based agent Jennifer Nelson. I have my sights set on developing what I hope will be my very own recognizable style and brand of work, which I would love to see printed on array of different products and in children's books. I'm hoping that along with Jennifer's expert knowledge and help we will get there!

A HELPFUL TIP TO OTHER ARTISTS: Gosh, offering advice to other artists is so tricky! We are all so different but I think if I had to offer something it would be to try to always keep yourself fresh and to keep looking at the world with a sense of wonder and fun, just like when you were a child.

Bee is represented by Jennifer Nelson Artists.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Anything can happen in art licensing - Keka Home Corporation Alert

Anything can happen in the arena of art licensing and for sure, recently it did!

Unfortunately this is a story that I wish didn't have to be shared but it's important that it be circulated as soon as possible within the art community to alert all designers involved.

A couple of days ago an email alerted me that Keka Home, also known as Kekacase, went out of business. The company used to be an on-demand company from San Francisco that made tech and home accessories. It listed hundreds of established and emerging artists and their artwork on a variety of products.

Many of the artists do not know, however, that the site has been shut down just a couple of days ago. The site posted this message:

There is also an FBI report claiming that Henry Lo, founder and Chief Financial Officer of Keka Home, has been sentenced to 70 months in prison for many offenses including fraud. Per data gathered, he's already started his prison term.

As mentioned above, feel free to share this post with other designers to alert them about the whole situation. Please do not contact me regarding this situation as I don't have additional information to give you at this stage. I will post on this blog any future updates when and if I get any.

If you are owed money by Keka Home, I can only suggest you consult with your own attorney on what to do next.

~ • ~

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."