It’s Surtex season for a lot of artists, illustrators, and surface designers all over! Surtex (SURface and TEXtile) is an annual trade show held in New York every May, and this year it happens this Sunday, May 18. It’s a B2B (business to business) trade show attracting wholesellers, manufacturers, and buyers to buy and license original art to put on products– journals, gift wrap, greeting cards, home decor, party plates, tabletop accessories, and other gift ware. My agents at Bright Art Licensing will be bringing my work to the show:
So much for trying to post regularly. It’s hard to find things to share when you have nothing to show since your projects are still unreleased / under NDA (non-disclosure agreement).
This one I can show you though. I’m working on a nautical-themed collection. I already made one last year:
I’m not really happy with it, though. The color palette is all over the place. So I decided to start from scratch and make a new version with a more thought-out, more cohesive, and less primary color palette.
See what a more structured color palette can do? It instantly changes and dictates the art’s intended audience. If the old nautical collection looks more suited for K-Mart (SM Department Store if local), this new one gives more of a The Land of Nod vibe (Hobbes and Landes may be the closest local counterpart). I hope. Haha.
You will see I reused some elements from the old collection and changed a few things. I noticed my style has been subtly changing and evolving lately (which is good! You don’t want to stagnate). I’m simplifying my technique and going for a more casual, hand-drawn look, even if it is still vector.
Patterns, old and new:
What a difference 10 months make. I’m constantly learning and growing and I love that it shows in my work 🙂
One of my goals this year is to update more regularly on this blog. I wish I could be more like some of my favorite illustrators who can get away with just posting pictures of what they’re working on and pass it off as a blog entry with hardly any text. But I’m a bit of a blabbermouth online and it’s always nice to have things in context, hence my lengthy blog entries (with weeks going by in between updates). Quality over quantity, I say.
But here’s my attempt at (hopefully) regular show and tell of new/recent/ongoing work. I’ll still have my occasional lengthy entries every now and then, but with more posts like this in between.
I’ve recently finished working on a London-themed collection for a couple of trade shows. Here are a few snippets from the collection:
From my posts, it probably sounds as if we were just given five assignments and that’s it– bam!— you now know how to draw. But this is NOT (entirely) an illustration course, and it’s not as simple as it looks and sounds. Contrary to the course title, it is not just about the physical act of making and drawing. The course goes into a lot of detail about WHAT makes commercial art sellable, what manufacturers look for in buying artwork to put on their products, what steps you can take to not just make great art but HOW to get that art on the market, and how to spot emerging trends so you can act accordingly and ride the trend wave (leading to sales for your work). Personally, I’d say this course is 90% about the business side of art, and 10% making art according to what you learned about the business side of it.
So, given all that, is it worth it then?
For me, a resounding YES.
The two-part course costs £798, or £399 each part. That’s approx. $600 USD, or Php 26,600 for just one part of the course. I signed up for the course (Part B only) earlier this year and if I remember right, I got an early bird discount so I got a few thousand Pesos off the price. It’s still pretty expensive (I gave up a trip outside the country and spent my travel funds on this course instead), but if you’re DEAD SERIOUS about illustration as a career and you know you can make a profit off your work, I think you’ll agree with me when I say that the course price is merely a drop in the bucket in the long run, especially when you consider the value this course brings.
Here is my personal list of things I liked the most about the class and why they’re important:
Week 5, the final week, was all about Party Paper— that means paper plates, napkins, gift bags, gift wrap, and all other paper things related to parties and celebrations. I was looking forward to this market as I think my work translates to this industry very well. I was expecting a brief that involved birthday balloons, cake, confetti, and all other colorful party fare.
I did not expect at all the brief that was thrown our way: to design a party plate and napkin with a Bavarian / Ukrainian folk art theme. WHAT!
I didn’t know anything about folk art, much less Bavarian/Ukranian stuff. When you say Bavarian, the thing that comes to my mind is Dunkin’ Donuts’ Bavarian cream donut which I don’t even like. And folk art? All I imagine are roosters, kitschy country home decor, and middle-aged ladies wearing long dresses with their arms folded over their chests, legs flailing about while screaming, “Ole!”
So I googled Ukrainian and Bavarian folk art to get a feel for what they look like. According to Lilla, Ukrainian and Bavarian folk art is an emerging trend, along with Scandinavian-inspired graphics, according to a trend report put out by my art agency. So I googled Scandinavian folk art as well.
My first thought upon seeing the search results was, “GRANDMA GRAPHICS!” So very lola-ish. No offense to any of these cultures. If it’s any consolation, I can’t relate to my own country’s folk art as well. Zzzz, zzzz, snore, snore. Folk art’s just not for me. I was at a loss on how I’ll be able to apply my young, hip, and bright illustration style to something so traditional, old-fashioned, and grandma-ish. So lost and uninspired was I that I seriously considered not turning anything in for this assignment (submissions aren’t mandatory). But no! I didn’t pay big money for this course just to bail on the work.
I took a couple of days to work leisurely and find inspiration from the Google search results on Bavarian/Ukrainian/Scandinavian folk art. I noticed a common, recurring theme in the folk art from this region: floral themes, lots of swirly decorative elements, and mirror/repeat patterns. I started playing around and drawing busy-looking flowers (as folk art had a busy, intricate look to it), not really sure how they would end up being used.
Flowers and folk art made me think of the woods, which led me to thinking about woodcutters and wood cottages and Hansel and Gretel. I found myself imagining a woodland girl character. What would a woodland girl wear? That led me to a search for Bavarian costumes.
Now a concept was shaping up. I decided on a holiday-themed, Scandinavian folk art-influenced party paper collection. I learned in Week 1 of this course that winter holiday designs are always in demand year after year so I took advantage of that insight to make sellable art specific for a commercial holiday, using deep shades of red and green in my design and incorporating neutral holiday messaging.
Just a few from the dozens of layout/color iterations I played with before settling on my final plate/napkins designs
What I failed to consider was that this was for a WINTER holiday design. I had FLOWERS on my plate… and flowers don’t grow in winter. Oops, my tropical country upbringing is showing. By the time I realized this, I was too far in with the design and I didn’t have time to change my concept. At the same time, I thought that maybe this accidental mistake is to my advantage– you don’t typically see flowers on winter designs, so this could be a fresh take on winter. Something different and interesting. If asked, I can always say that this design is for the tail-end of winter, leading into spring 😛
I had doubts as to whether my design was folksy enough, but I liked my work and I was happy that at least I was able to marry my style with the folk art theme.
Now, every week, Lilla picks a handful of submitted assignments and critiques them for the benefit of the class, pointing out a design’s strong points, what can be done to improve it, what makes it work. There are over 300 students in this class so it wasn’t possible to review each and every submission, but having your work reviewed by Lilla was something a lot of us aspired for. It’s hard not to get frustrated when you come up with work that you think and know is good, but maybe not “good enough” to be in Lilla’s review. There *is* a disclaimer though that the review is not an indication of your work’s fabulousness (or lack of), and even the submitted assignments from each week that I really like and think are great don’t always end up in Lilla’s review. Still, it’s nice to be “acknowledged.”
Week after week, I hoped my work would be included in the review. I was always disappointed when it wasn’t, along with my other classmates who hoped for THEIR work to be critiqued. I had to remind myself that I thoroughly enjoy working on the assignments anyway, and that’s what matters. I was just getting used to that way of thinking when I found my work included in Lilla’s final review– a nice way to end the course! Lilla thought my work and my presentation was beautiful and manufacturers would just “snap it up.” I’m not ashamed to say I giggled with glee upon hearing that. Hahahahaha! She also pointed out the same thought I had regarding the flowers, saying flowers typically don’t grow in winter “unless you’re in Australia.” But she did say it was an interesting concept and I can always change the flowers to snowflakes if needed.
I ended up repurposing the plate design (along with another design I made in Week 1) for my holiday postcard mailers which I sent out to clients a few weeks ago. One of the great things about this course is you come out with finished, polished work that’s presentation-ready and ready to send out or pop into your portfolio.
And that’s it for five weeks of focused, intense lessons of Lilla Rogers’ Make Art That Sells e-course. I truly learned a lot about the creative and business side of commercial illustration AND I have five new pieces to add to my body of work. This series of blog posts about the course doesn’t end here, though. I’m planning a final post that discusses what I learned (beyond the creative image-making) and why you should consider taking the course if you’re considering it. In the meantime, check out the previous posts I have on this e-course:
I’ve gone back to school! But not the kind of school you’re expecting– that’s boring.
Last March, I signed up for Lilla Rogers’ Make Art That Sells e-course. Lilla Rogers Studio is my DREAM agency (I don’t know if I’m supposed to say that as I’m already represented by another agency!) and Lilla reps a few of my favorite artists (among them, Jillian Philips and Mike Lowery). Lilla is one of the world’s top illustration agents and I tell you, I see her artists’ work on products all the time, even here in Manila. You know her artists and the studio must be really successful and get a lot of projects if their work is that far-reaching.
When I found out that she was running an e-course on how to make your art more commercially viable, I immediately signed up (I found out about the course late at night and registered for the class the next morning). It’s the next best thing to being represented by her agency– I haven’t tried submitting my portfolio to them for consideration as I know my work needs to be at a certain level of quality– a quality I have yet to reach.
The course is split into two parts, 5 weeks each part: Part A covering Bolt Fabric, Home Decor, Children’s Picture Books, Wall Art, and the Gift market. Part B covers Paper, Baby Apparel, Scrapbooking, Editorial, and Party Paper. You can opt to take both parts, or just one. As the course costs a lot of $$$ (ka-ching!) and I can only afford to take one part, I opted to take Part B as it covers illustration markets that, 1) I am most interested in, and 2) I think my illustration style is best suited for. I’m not very interested in home decor and wall art, and I have since found out that I do not enjoy illustrating for picture books (stuck on the same project, drawing the same characters consistently in different poses for months on end = nah).
The class started four weeks ago. The first week covered Paper– specifically, making illustrations for greeting cards, a huge industry that buys artwork (in fact, just yesterday, my agency sent me a notice that a greeting card company bought one of my illustrations). We get an assignment each week, and the assignment for Paper was to make a holiday card featuring ornaments and/or candy. We were to make two cards, but submit only one in the class pool.
This is my first card:
You don’t often see gingerbread houses (or even gingerbread) here in the Philippines.We had an intern at work once who brought in a large and elaborately decorated gingerbread house to the office– my officemates and I were so fascinated by it as it was the first time most of us had seen one. I think we ate it for days.
That gingerbread house became the inspiration and focus of my card design. That, and the idea of a world of candy. When I was 9, I watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the 1971 version with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka). As someone with a major sweet tooth, the thought of being surrounded by so much candy and chocolate really captured my imagination days, weeks, and even years after watching the movie. I remembered that childhood fascination as I was doing my card. I set my gingerbread house against a snowy, winter background as winter holidays is apparently a top-selling card theme.
I had fun adding minute details to my card, really enjoying the process, never mind that it took a lot of time to get all the details in.
For my second card, I still couldn’t shake off the idea of gingerbread, so I designed a card with that theme as well. I ended up with gingerbread letters spelling out “Ho ho ho” because that means I only need to draw two letters, as opposed to “Happy holidays” or “Merry Christmas” ;P I’ve always wanted to decorate cookies (but just decorating– I’m not interested in baking them) so I’m glad I got to do that with digital icing, at least.
I finished the second card in one sitting because I took some elements, used (mints and jellies) and unused (snowman, candy canes, jelly beans) from my first card.
But I only needed to submit one.
I ended up submitting my first card since I put in more time and effort on my gingerbread house, even though I like the second card better. In hindsight, I should’ve gone with the second one as Lilla reminded us to “design a card you would enjoy giving to friends.” I would definitely send out the second one instead of the first. In fact, I might actually send it out as my holiday postcard mailer for clients abroad 🙂
I’m already on week 4 of the 5-week course and gaining a lot of insight on different markets for my work. Each week I also end up with commercial-ready work I can add to my portfolio (maybe with a few tweaks here and there). I’ll be sharing my work from and thoughts about the class in succeeding days/weeks.
Next up is Week 2: Baby Apparel 🙂
I’ve been busy with several client projects, none of which I can show yet since they’re either under NDA or still in production, but I can show you some personal work 🙂
This started out as an entry to Lilla Rogers’ Global Talent Search contest where the winner gets two years of representation from Lilla Rogers Studio. I’m ineligible to enter as I already have agency representation but I liked the contest brief and thought I would work on it anyway, for fun and to possibly add to my portfolio.
I’m not at liberty to share the exact details of the contest brief but I am allowed to say that the brief was to design a playground-themed journal cover as if it were commissioned by lovely UK-based stationery brand Paperchase. It is one of my dreams/career goals to design something for Paperchase someday (for real, and not through a contest). I wish we had Paperchase in the Philippines. I’ve no interest at all in the foreign brands coming in to Manila lately, like IHOP and American Eagle Outfitters (although I do love Uniqlo!). Give me Paperchase! Give me kikki.K!
But anyway, here’s my take on the playground brief. This is my proposed journal cover:
The brief only requires a journal cover, but I expanded these illustrations to include some repeating patterns…
…and reformatted the illustrations into a poster layout.
In fact, I’ve made these illustrations available on a variety of merchandise on my Society6 shop.
Check it out— there are iPhone cases, prints, shirts, hoodies, tote bags, and more. I myself ordered a print to check out the quality (Society6 products are produced and shipped from the US— I don’t have any of my merchandise on hand) and I believe it will be arriving in my hands soon. I’ll have another blog post up then when I receive it 🙂
Society6 shop: http://society6.com/wedgienet
Every so often, Society6 offers free shipping worldwide on most products– become a fan on my Facebook page to receive updates whenever free shipping is available: http://facebook.com/wedgienet.net
I just recently finished some Christmas designs for my agent. When I say recently, I mean this month, January. Apparently, holiday designs are in demand all year round, with buyers in various stationery and art licensing shows looking for designs to license as early as January or February. Fortunately, the weather’s pretty cool and chilly here in Manila this time of year (it hit 18 C recently! Hello, climate change) so it’s not that ironic to be doing designs for December compared to, say, April or May, when the heat and humidity here is unforgiving.
And since I’m on a pattern kick lately, I made a seamless pattern from the border elements, too. I think this will look great as a gift wrap or on gift bags.
Also mocked up how it would potentially look like as a stationery set with matching sticker seals, envelopes, and packaging.
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