Monday, September 15, 2014

Who Inspires Me {Blog Hop}

Since I took Lilla's Make Art That Sells course in 2013 I have met so many wonderful artists from around the world. I am a big believer in making connections and starting conversations both online and in real life, and the recent "Who Inspires Me" blog hop is a great example of this. 

Liz Ablashi, the designer/illustrator behind Eine Kleine Design Studio recently wrote a lovely post and asked me to participate in this international blog hop. How fun! 


Liz and her adorable family live in Maryland, where she is not only designs sweet patterns and illustrations, but she turns them into lovely product with her sewing and crafting skills! From bags and pouches to scarves and cushions, her designs are bursting with fun themes and fresh color palettes.


If you've been following the 2014 Global Talent Search, you may have noticed that Liz has gotten all the way to the semi-finals. Yay, Liz! 



Thanks so much to Liz for inviting me along on this blog hop. Please be sure to check out her wonderful work here!

I'm also supposed to answer a few questions as part of the blog hop:

1) What am I working on?
I am currently in the middle of my first book project with Storey Publishing. Unfortunately, I can't show any images right now, but I CAN tell you it is right up my alley and I can't wait to share more! I am also about to start the roughs for a local animation project and initial concepts for a logo design this week. This is one of the things I love about what I do - there is always so much variety - it really keeps me fresh!

2) How does my work differ from other work in its genre?
I'd like to think the humor and quirkiness of my art sets it apart from other illustrators. My influences vary from mid-century picture books to JCrew catalogs to block prints, so I feel these bring a unique perspective to my illustrations as well.


3) Why do I create what I do?
The simple answer is, it makes me happy. The fact that my hand, head and heart creates art that has never existed before is such an amazing feeling. 

4) How does my creative process work?
When I first tackle a project, I initially think about the assignment - a lot. I rarely jump in and start drawing from the get-go. I let the ideas swim around, form concepts, problem-solve - all in my head, so when I do finally sit down with my sketchbook, I have some pretty solid ideas to start working through. I create sketches; first pencil, then inked - for I prefer seeing a more finished drawing before I scan it in. Once it's scanned, I work primarily in Photoshop, re-drawing the color flats with a Wacom tablet in several layers. I generally work with a limited color palette, between 6-8 colors, and I set up my files almost as if I'm planning to screen print it. If I am planning on adding texture, I print out the illustrated color flats, tape it down to my light box, overlay a sheet of tracing paper, and manually add the texture with a pencil or china marker. Once all the analog texture is complete, I scan it back in, make it into a transparent layer, and add it on top of my digital color flats, recoloring the texture as I see fit. 

Now, I am excited to share two artists that inspire me!

First up, Lucky Nielsen, an artist hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota. (go mid-west!)


I first discovered Lucky when I read her insightful blog post all about her Surtex experience last year. And shortly thereafter, Lucky and I both approached the initial 2013 Global Talent Search assignment from a similar perspective - the climbing apparatus! Since then, I have really enjoyed her charming characters, bright patterns and needle felted creatures.


I absolutely fell in love with Lucky's entry for the 2014 Global Talent Search semi-finals! Between the hand lettering, textures and darling outfit - I think this print is going to have to be showcased in Stella's bedroom - don't you think?


Good luck getting to the finals, Lucky! I can't wait to hear the results.

Next up, a Swede living in London, England - Monika Forsberg! I cannot help but get lost in the quirky cut-paper worlds that Monika creates:


Combining colored paper, crayons, paint and markers, Monika loves the adventure of not knowing exactly how her illustrations are going to get from start to finish, growing organically as she listens to audio books. 


She describes her work as "technicolor", and I couldn't agree more. She is a master at combining dark, moody shades with bright pops of color, creating lush palettes with neverending texture. I especially enjoyed following her recent project on Instagram - illustrating all the matches of the World Cup


Monika also made it to the semi-finals of the 2014 Global Talent Search - way to go!! You can see her piece here.

Thanks for following as I hop - hop - hopped through 3 amazing artists' work. Please check out their portfolios and stay tuned for when they share their inspirations next week!

Have an awesome week,






Thursday, September 11, 2014

MAKE! Conference 2014

It's no secret that Madison, Wisconsin is a creative community. Between the University, art museums, Gallery Nights, Art Fair on the Square and craft shows, being an artist in this city is pretty great. 

A couple years ago, after I started focusing on illustration, I rediscovered Design Madison - a local group of "creative thinkers...where talent meets inspiration". Before joining DM, I had made friends with several local designers/illustrators via social media. But working from home, alone - virtual friendships only get you so far. I wanted to get out and actually meet these people I knew on Twitter and Instagram! That's when I attended my first Design Madison meeting and "IRL" friendships were forged. It has been so amazing getting to know everybody.




Fast forward to July of 2014. I got an email from the president of Design Madison, asking if I would be interested in speaking at the MAKE! Conference - a conference dedicated to connecting, learning and being inspired by others in the creative community. Honestly, my first instinct was NO WAY! I do NOT do public speaking. But after a few moments, I reconsidered. This was a HUGE honor. I really respect what DM is doing for our community - and this would be an amazing opportunity.

So I got over the initial shock and answered YES.

Whoa.

Butterflies.

I'll be honest. I have never been as terrified as I was last week preparing for my presentation. I had ample notes, but gathering all the images from the last half of my life was tricky and time-consuming. Plus if there was any info I needed to show, I wanted to hand-write the slides - so that took a lot of effort, too. I knew I had a half-hour to talk. But how many slides would that take? I know when I get nervous I tend to ramble. Should I bring notes to keep me on track? And then the whole technical side of creating the slides threw me - I refuse to use Powerpoint, but I've never used Keynote or Prezi. And what size should my images be? (Thanks to Alex for technical and moral support!). So, so many questions. That was NOT helping my stress level. 

Well, I put together the slide show. I ended up with 62 slides. (Too many? Don't think about it, emily!) My talk was on Saturday, so I went to the conference on Friday as an attendee. Wow. So many amazing speakers. (Don't get intimidated!) I got to see long-lost designer friends also attending the conference. There was a meet-and-greet Friday night which was another opportunity to connect (and get even more nervous). 

Saturday rolled around and I was still nervous. I hardly ate anything in the morning in fear that I was going to hurl. Prior to my talk, my friends were super encouraging and supportive. They did their best to build me up. (Thank you! You know who you are!) It was time. My mic was placed, my slides were ready. I somehow made it onto the stage without tripping. I was introduced, and it was all me. 

I introduced myself and as I mentioned my "husband and daughter", I motioned to them in the crowd. (Yes they were in attendance!). Stella stands up, puts her "paws" up and starts panting like a puppy. The audience chuckles. Then she yells, "Can I have a doughnut?" and everyone laughed. I announced to the crowd, "If I get through this, I'll get you a doughnut!" and the ice was broke. It was brilliant. I couldn't have planned it better! Thank goodness for my family because it was exactly the distraction I needed. And I started talking!

Here are a few key slides:













And at the end I gave everyone a postcard and custom emily balsley illustration pencil. The back of the card was blank with the prompt "Doodle what 'Make' means to you". I was hoping to generate some MAKE! doodle love on Instagram and there were several participants! It was super fun to see everyone's interpretations.


Anyways...

I made it! (without puking!)

As far as I'm concerned, I thought it went really well. I didn't forget much and I hardly used my notes. I even survived some Q&A. I am really, REALLY proud of myself. I knew that this was something I needed to do. Not only for my career, but for myself. I know I need to scare myself once in awhile in order to grow. And presenting at MAKE! was probably one of the scariest things I've done. And I am forever grateful to my friends and family who were uber supportive of me. I am SO lucky.

One thing that made me particularly nervous was presenting in front of my peers. As I mentioned in the beginning, Madison is chock-full of so many talented creatives. And I am friends with a lot of them. Any one of us could have been chosen to speak at MAKE!. For some reason, it was me. So I felt added pressure to present something not only exceptional, but something they didn't know about me. I hope I was successful.

Whew! Long post. But I wanted to document this very pivotal moment in my career (public speaking! say what?). Now, IF I'm ever asked to present again (!!!), I will at least have my "first time" under my belt. Not to mention all the stuff I've collected, scanned, sized and filed. Yay! That is a good feeling.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading! I'm not sure if my talk was recorded. But if it was, I will be sure to share it!










Monday, September 1, 2014

Desktop Calendar {September 2014}

It's that time of year - Back to School! Stella starts First Grade tomorrow (wha?!?) so that's all we've been talking about in our house.



To download the September calendar, you can click on the above image and save it to your computer, or you can also find it herePlease note that this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. 

Have a great week!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Palm Springs Mini-Collection {Happy Happy}

I am so excited to share my latest group project from Happy Happy Art Collective! This summer Lauren taught a class geared towards art licensing at Watkin's College of Art, Design & Film. She thought it would be fun to assign the Happy Happy ladies the same project as her students - creating an mini collection using a city as inspiration.

My first thought was Seattle, since my family was headed there for vacation. And though I truly loved my time in Seattle (what a fun city!), I had a hard time coming up with a theme for my collection - sure, there's coffee and rain and music, but those themes just weren't ME. 

As I was contemplating other cities, I decided to do something more architecture-based. Usually, my illustrations are pretty organic - so I thought focusing on buildings could be a nice change. Then I started thinking about different types of architecture, and of course, I decided to do something from the 1950s/60s. What city is known for their mid-century architecture? Palm Springs!

I've never been there, but I'd love to go some day. And once I started researching the Desert Modern Architecture and Eichler homes, of course I HAD to check out the going rate for one of them on Air BnB. Yikes! I'll have to start saving ASAP. :-)

First I started out by drawing the Palm Springs Houses.


I couldn't stop!


Those rooflines! The textures! The patterns! Even the landscaping was perfectly proportioned. I decided to focus on the different elements.


And just for fun, I did a quick pattern using my Pentel brush pen:



I intended to create my main pattern utilizing the houses, then create two more inspired by the elements. I envisioned a warm, pastel/coral palette, inspired by the desert. 

And without further ado, here is my Palm Springs Mini Collection!


Here's a closer look:





If I ever get the opportunity to visit Palm Springs, I am DEFINITELY making myself a bag out of this fabric!

Please, please please head over to the HHAC blog to see the rest of the city collections. They are amazing!!

Have a fantastic weekend,






Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sh*tty Barn Poster {Spirit Family Reunion 2013}

Recently, I got the opportunity to design another gig poster for the Sh*tty Barn. This was a fun one : Spirit Family Reunion! Their music is so full of energy, it is almost impossible not to clap or stomp along while listening to it.

They paint some beautiful imagery with their lyrics, so I decided to focus on a phrase from their song, On That Day: "...like the clothes upon the line...". I thought it would be fun to create the letters of their band name out of pieces of clothing hanging on a clothesline.

Here's the sketch:


And here's the final poster!


I played with texture in the knockout areas of the clothing which adds a bit of visual interest and balances the linework pretty well. Also, I made myself use colors that weren't red or pink or turquoise! It was tough, but I think it speaks to their music better than my typical bubblegum pop color schemes. 

Unfortunately, I had to miss the show this year, which was a bummer. Fingers crossed that I'll get back to The Barn sometime this season yet!

Have a great week!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Desktop Calendar {August 2014}

Late again! I just cannot manage to get a calendar out on time these days...

This month I decided to focus on a theme that is near and dear to our family:



As you probably know, biking is a big part of the Balsley family. Stephen and I met at a bike company. Stephen raced very seriously for years, and I raced [not so seriously] for a year or two. When Stella was born, our riding became more commuter/recreational, but it is still our favorite mode of transportation. 

Earlier this year, I did a post about Stella learning how to ride her 2-wheeler. Last week, after breaking her little bike several times, we decided the universe was telling us that we probably needed to get her a bigger bike.

Stella and her new bike
Well, she loves it and has already put about 15 miles on it in the last week! Over the weekend we decided to take her on the trails to see how she did. We had a blast!

The biking Balsleys

I have to say - I am super excited about this new chapter in our lives. Having Stella bike with us is going to be so awesome. I wanted to commemorate my excitement with a desktop calendar full of bikes bikes bikes!



To download the August calendar, you can click on the above image and save it to your computer, or you can also find it herePlease note that this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. 

Happy biking!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Women in Baseball {Wisconsin Storytime}

I recently got to participate in an ongoing collaboration all about the history of Wisconsin. The guys that brought you Project Wisconsin [365 towns : 365 logos] decided to delve even deeper into what makes Wisconsin a great state by focusing on its history. Each Wednesday, Wisconsin Storytime pairs a different designer with a different story from our state's amazing past. 



My assignment was exploring the All-American Girls' Baseball League, which was right up my alley! It was fun poring through the old photographs from the ladies on the original teams - and drawing them was even better! What a great exercise in different body positions.


And here is the final illustration! Please head over to Project Wisconsin to see more info about my story and read all the others from the first 6 months of 2014 - you'll learn a lot, I promise!




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