Make Art That Sells, Week 5: Party Paper

Almost a month has passed since my last blog post about Lilla Rogers’ Make Art That Sells e-course. Sorry about that! Getting back on track now.

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.

Google Images search results


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.

Folky flowers

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.

Ok, these are Halloween costumes, but you get the idea.


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.

Holiday folk art party paper
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 ๐Ÿ˜›

Reg_Silva_FlowersAndFolkSongs_1B_Week 5


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.

Holiday postcard mailer 2013

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:

Read about my Make Art That Sells series of blog posts
Week 1: Paper
Week 2: Baby Apparel
Week 3: Scrapbooking
Week 4: Editorial
Week 5: Party Paper
Bonus: Lilla Rogers’ Make Art That Sells: a review