12 Days of Christmas project

I decided to give myself a little project, kind of like a mini Inktober: illustrating the 12 days of Christmas from the song.

Objectives for this (yes there are objectives, other than have fun drawing) are to explore the new Kuretake brush pen I got recently and to make something that maybe I could use part of next year for Christmas. For example, maybe I could make cards out of some of the drawings, or put them all on some kind of Christmasy product.

I have sketched out ideas for most of them. Some will be sillier than others. Here are the first three! These are drawn in ink (the Kuretake pen) and then colored in Procreate…and then brought back to Photoshop for final color adjustment and addition of the border and text at the bottom.

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Blurb book arrived!

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After Inktober, I wanted to gather all of the Verntrupple drawings into a collection. I looked into Blurb.com, downloaded their InDesign plug-in, and got started.

The InDesign plug-in is amazing. You choose the type of book you want to design, the paper, the number of pages to start with and then go to town. There are guides and bleed marks. All of the production questions are answered via just using the template.

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After I got everything laid out how I wanted, I worked on the cover. Then when both files were finished, I uploaded them to blurb through InDesign. So crazy simple! I confirmed paper, the sizes, etc. Preflight was done and no errors were found. I was redirected to blurb.com and chose my quantity, shipping, and paid for the books. I ordered 10 to get a little discount, figuring it would be nice to have a few to play with / give away, etc.

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I’m very impressed with the quality of the printing. I chose a 6″ x 9″ trade book, keeping it cheaper this way. I chose the standard color printing, not the economy printing. The pages have visual bleed-through, but it isn’t bad and I expected this. The colors are vivid and crisp. I would give more inside margin room in the future, and I would also make the book more pages. Right now, it’s so thin…it just kind of feels flimsy, or like it should be a hard cover but isn’t.

I listed it on Etsy. Who knows – maybe someone would want to buy a cute little art book. I am giving a few away to family and friends. Oh, and yeah…trying to get that Etsy shop populated!

Stranger Things

I recently finished watching Stranger Things on Netflix. Yes, I binge-watched it. What other way is there to watch a show on Netflix?

I really enjoyed it. Before I watched it, I had a feeling I would enjoy it, from what I heard about it. And I also thought it would possibly be something awesome to draw in a “pop culture” kind of way.

Around the same time I finished the first season’s episodes, I found my gouache paint. We have been painting models for Pathfinder, a campaign-style role playing game we’re going to play this winter, and all of that painting really made me want to paint more. Specifically, I wanted to revisit gouache. So I broke out the paint tubes, some watercolor paper, and after some quick character sketching for Stranger Things, I painted Eleven on a waffle. If you haven’t seen the show and you like sci-fi and scary stuff…and the 80s…I highly recommend it. It’s kind of Goonies meets E.T. meets Stand By Me. You probably have to have seen the show to understand the drawings below.

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Pretty fun, and a nice way to get back into painting. I would like to do all of the characters. Next, Barb. Have you seen Barb?

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I haven’t decided how I’m going to feature Mike, Lucas, Will and Dustin yet. Or if I’ll do Nancy, Jonathan, Joyce and Hopper. Or any others, for that matter. But I at least would like to do the kids. I also decided that these would be better for any products as vector art. I am still going to start with paintings of them each…but am currently in the process of making them vector as well.

It’s been hard to balance painting and working the day job…but with winter coming and less yard work / outside things to do, I’m hopeful my evenings can be spent with my paints.

Reviewing Yourself = Hard

So far I’ve known I want to sell some sort of prints in a shop, as well as original art eventually. I’ve decided on Etsy as a shop, and I’m researching different print-creation options. While waiting for more samples to come in, I thought I should get a jump on what prints I’d actually want to have made so I can prepare the art files.

As I began to think about what the heck I’d actually pay to have made, knowing I probably won’t recoup that money any time soon, the decision proved to be a tough one.

First, as I mentioned, I don’t expect to actually sell anything for quite some time. Maybe some family members will purchase something, but I am fully aware that just because people ask if I have a shop or say “you should sell your art!” enthusiastically (as if I’d suddenly be able to quit my day job from my sales), I’m not guaranteed anything. Once the shop is up, I know I have a lot more work ahead, researching how to sell things, tap into markets, etc. But it’s all part of the process and the bigger plan: getting better and maybe become a children’s book illustrator.

To choose 10 prints (Etsy’s recommended shop opening volume), I had my husband help me – an eye that is “removed from the situation” that could look at my stuff more from a market point of view and tell me what he saw. What would people actually buy and why? Just because something may look cool doesn’t mean you can sell it. (I do think there is an important place for that work though, which I’ll get to later.)

What we came up with is pretty simple: I draw stuff for kids. However, my husband had a better, sexier way of putting it: “Children’s art for the discerning adult.” We started by just looking at my website, going through all the categories I have there and writing down things that looked like something someone might buy. And then after thinking about the importance of having a “look” or category to be in, we weeded out some of the drawings. What was left was animals and monsters.

CreativeSmith: a shop specializing in colorful ink drawings of animals and monsters doing the unexpected. Or something like that.

I was somewhat dumbfounded. That isn’t the kind of art that I drool over online. It’s not the kind of art that I follow from artists on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Turns out my inspirations are just that – inspirations from other types of art, that I’m not directly creating myself, but am highly influenced by somehow. Interesting.

It was a great exercise, and I now feel a little more prepared to start the shop with something, and then build it on that foundation. Product: children’s art. Market: Parents buying products for their children’s life. It’s a start anyway.

I have other ideas that I want to get in to, eventually, as I continue to carve out illustration in my day, and practice and create more. And the work that looks cool but isn’t “sellable”? Well that will be how I have the most fun with all of this: interacting with people, showing flexibility and variety in my portfolio, and exploring styles and mediums.

Here is a snapshot of the first ideas I have for the chosen pieces. They all need some production and color work before I make prints. I guess I’ll start getting busy.110316_firstshopideas

 

I draw a lot of elephants, apparently. Also, I really enjoy drawing monsters, so I hope I can make that sell.

And now, I leave you with a picture from a 30 minute sketching session I did yesterday on mimes. They creep me out, but everyone on facebook really seemed to like these guys! I bet the limited color helps.

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Sample Progress

In an ongoing search to find a good online printing source for books and prints, I’ve been ordering samples. Some places have nice paper kits that they send to you (for a price, or with an order) that shows calibration and how images look on different paper with different processes. Very helpful…I don’t think I could decide on anything without seeing it first.

Prints

The first place I ordered from was iprintfromhome.com. They seem to be a pretty great small company, with great customer satisfaction. Their samples were very useful. I had also ordered actual prints from them (which is how I got their sample kit).

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However, I only ordered them on lustre photographic and matte photographic paper. They look amazing! Colors are exactly as they look on my monitor, both my Dell monitor and my iPad (which one was created on). But…it’s just weird to have the art on a photo paper.

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I’m not sure. Certainly the lustre photographic paper is more textured and strange to use as an art print paper. But the color reproduction and crispness of the matte photographic paper is so nice! I originally didn’t order a giclée sample because I thought maybe the price may be too high, but now I have. I’m curious.

In addition to iprintfromhome.com, I’ve ordered a starter kit from Finerworks.com.They definitely seem to be all about fine art print options.This was a $20 purchase…but it shows sample images across all papers and types of printing, and provides a $20 gift card to use toward a future purchase. So I figured that it was worth it. That has shipped, and I should get it end of this week or beginning of next week.

Next up for print research will be seeing what’s in town. If I can save money on shipping, plus support a local printer, that would be awesome. I feel funny that I’m a graphic designer and I don’t know where to get archival or giclée prints made in town. But I guess that is more of a fine art type of thing. It’s just funny – I’ve worked with soooo many printers over the years, yet know nothing about this niche.

Books

I’m still very interested in being able to create books. I am starting to lay out the Inktober 2016 book; I’d like to offer that as a cheap, fun thing people could buy (like, probably just my family, haha). However, this research isn’t going as well. I have made and ordered a chat book , which is a newer Instagram phenomenon that allows you to print right from your Instagram account, or upload files into a “chat book” – small softbound book. This seems very cool and inexpensive if it looks good and I can cater to the end product – i.e. know that my images will just be plopped into the center of the page and that if I want text it’s probably going to be pretty hoaky, etc. So Inktober 2015 should be coming in the mail any day.

I ordered a swatch kit from Blurb. This is pretty premium. I am not sure how I can get these books to a price where I could sell them at a price people would actually pay. However, I have no doubt that they are super quality and would look awesome. I will probably get a sample of something when I have created a book design.

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And finally, I stumbled upon bookemon.com, which allows you to create books online to share just online, or they also can print them. They have a creator right on the website, which allows you to upload pictures, type in text, upload text, etc. It’s pretty custom and seems pretty awesome, but I’m still not sure how much design control there will be. I just started playing with it. You can create a book, keep editing it, share it on social media, publish it, get it printed…it seems to be geared toward self-publishing for sure. Once I have a design, I will see if I can redo it via them, and see how it all works. The prices seem reasonable.

Again, next step here (besides more research) is to figure out what is also in town.

And now, I leave you with my final few Inktober drawings, which I spent a little more time on and liked. You can click on the image and see each one individually. Inktober was a great time this year, but I’m also relieved for it to be over so that I can start focusing on new projects, creating more and getting better.

My Plans Have Plans

I’ve been sneaking in more planning for the illustration business when I can. I have a pretty great start with many notes covering some ideas, what I want to develop/improve upon, social media flow, and product ideas. I based the social media stuff mostly on what other successful illustrators seem to be doing, but also on some of my graphic design opportunities I have had – specifically working with social media specialists. I am by no means an expert…but I figured I can start somewhere, do some tests, observe, and go from there.

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This morning I spent some time trying to map out what this blog will do. It seems it will be my foundation. One could argue the website is the foundation, as it houses my portfolio. But I’m thinking more in terms of activity foundation right now. Everything kind of starts with the blog: announcements, sharing process work, sharing ideas, new work, sharing inspiration, etc. Then the other things connect and support and sometimes reaffirm.

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I haven’t worked on today’s Inktober drawing yet, but here is yesterday’s “box”. This makes me want to draw some mimes now!

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Operation “Make Something Out of Illustration” is Underway

Inktober is coming to and end…but it’s been a great ride this year. From the start, I decided to take on the initiative a little bit differently. Using a monster character I had loosely developed, Verntrupple, and the Inktober prompts from Jake Parker, I’ve been drawing and documenting Vern’s short (one month) vacation here on our planet as he passes through our universe.

Thanks to this Inktober and everything that comes with it, another journey has been underway: that of my illustration. I’ve decided to try to tackle this as a business / side business / happy hobby / endeavor to see where it can lead. I am so happy when I’m illustrating. I haven’t made enough time to spend on it enough. But I’m going to start making some changes that hopefully allow me to focus more on my style development and creating more things.

I’ve updated my website: stephaniesmithcreative.com  It is definitely still a work in progress, but I’m beginning to see the shape of it. I also now  have a notebook started with a business plan, product ideas and social media maps that I’m trying to sort through and organize into a cohesive illustration business launch. I’m super excited! It’s a lot of work, but I’m certain the creative rewards are going to be worth it.

Here are a few shots of Vern from the first few days:

And now…back to work!