The first week of July marked the beginning of Back to School season for 2011. Naturally, I have been counting down the months for this ever since spring of 2010: mostly because I can finally share with you all that I worked on last year. This week, I scouted out the lunchbox section at my local Toys’R’Us and was able to find these goodies all sitting on the shelves.
Whew! What a winter! I have a ton of news to share and am just now getting back into the swing of things after the holiday rush. Let me start today’s edition of Wednesday’s Weekly Reader with a bit of backstory.
My good friend, Jen, and I had the great idea to host our own designer/illustrator-friendly version of NaNoWriMo this past November. (More on that later…) Rather than spending time writing every day, we decided we would spend at least 15 minutes working on a personal project every day. No rules, no pressure. To hold ourselves to it, we sent each other photos to recap our week each Sunday night.
Fast forward to the beginning of December, and lo! the birth of Jen’s latest endeavor: Seg’s Mints. The stationary line is illustrated by Jen and each piece is unique. She’s also hoping to expand her offering this coming year. In the meantime, be sure to check out her etsy shop!
A belated post due to a busy week at work! So without further ado, our weekly feature:
I first met Jeremiah while showing work at this past year’s Firebelly Holiday shop: what an honor to be showcased in the same room! Jeremiah Chiu is a Chicago native, co-founder/partner at Plural and a musician with local group Icy Demons (that’s him on the keyboard). He received his MFA in graphic design from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Since co-founding the studio in 2008, Plural has received recognition by the Art Directors Club, AIGA, The Type Directors Club, The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Communication Arts magazine, Print magazine, How magazine, and The Society of Typographic Arts, among others. With a focus on typography and visual experimentation, Plural explores new ideas within the design process as they collaborate on a wide range of print, web, video, textile, and music projects.
What’s your favorite part about Chicago in the summer: any fun tips for new residents, such as myself, or visitors?
Chicago’s a great city to be in, whether it’s summer or not. It’s not too big, and not too small. You can ride your bicycle everywhere and there are tons of great cultural happenings every day of the week.
I don’t know, I’ve grown up here my whole life, so I bet other cities are great as well. If you’re visiting I highly recommend going to Millennium Park.
Typeforce was earlier this year and the Post Family show recently wrapped up: what’s next?
It’s been a great year for Plural so far: busy busy busy. I’m not sure what’s next. We’re feeling really good to be buried under tons of exciting new work right now. We’ll be pushing out some more Lumpen magazines, working on a building mural with Edmar down in Bridgeport, making books with The Stockyard Institute, working on some new album covers, curating a poster show at Depaul, missing meetings with the Chicago Printers Guild, etc… Same as it is everyday… Wake up. Make things. Go to bed.
How do your installations and other artistic endeavors influence your design and vice versa?
I definitely don’t differentiate the two. Ideas are ideas. Design is the way we think. The execution differs based on the audience, location, space, time, etc…
Most of the ideas/works that end up as installations or in exhibitions are derived from experiments in the studio, all of which are nonsense. (It’s all the stuff the clients won’t buy) 🙂 With exhibitions, it’s our opportunity to do whatever, without consequences, so we usually go with the most absurd idea and just let it be. Why not?
Playing music has helped me learn to work in different ways. It helps me approach things from a different perspective, writing a tune and composing a poster are very similar things, you have an idea, and then you organize that idea into a cohesive thought and deliver the message in the best way. If you always design your poster by placing the image before the text, next time try it the other way around.
On Humble Pied, Renata’s and your advice to young professionals was to practice and experiment. What are your favorite ways to combat creative block?
Headstands. Hands down. Try not to over-think things. Take a break.
Lately, we’ve been using the phrase “keep it funky” a lot. It’s been working pretty well. I think the idea behind that is to do something you think is wrong, or that you wouldn’t do, like use drop shadow or something silly like that, and then force it to work. You can make anything good, you just have to work through it. School made me a rigid designer, and I think only now am I starting to realize how to balance that with the other “wild” side of me. The rules are instilled, everything I make will always carry more scrutiny now than it did before, because I learned right from wrong.
How did you know that grad school was right for you, and how did you decide on a program?
I decided to go to grad school because I was ready to spend 2 years devoting all of my time to learning more about graphic design. I had been working at an art gallery and doing a lot of freelance for two years after college, and as I started looking for a change of pace, things just sort of fell in place. I learned about UIC from a friend of mine, Jon Krohn, as he was studying there. My roommate at the time, Chris Kalis (future Plural partner), was also interested in the program, so we both applied, and both got in. UIC has a great program, with the faculty there, I think it’s the best GD MFA in Chicago. Marcia Lausen heads the school. After meeting with Philip Burton and hearing numerous stories about Paul Rand, Armin Hoffmann and Wolfgang Weingart, I was sold. UIC also began accrediting the Basel School of Design at the university level, so we were afforded the opportunity to study in Basel during their summer workshops. Nothing beats hearing your teacher tell you that you’re in Emil Ruder’s old classroom.
This week, my feed-reader continues to be dominated by both animation links and the World Cup (hurray for both the US and Germany advancing to the round of 16 today!). However, since I already posted the best World Cup links, and I still haven’t seen Toy Story 3, I thought I would focus on a few of the illustrators I’ve come across recently.
Danielle has a lovely style that blends beautiful type with vintage-looking illustrations. I noticed her work for her adaptions of Hoffmann’s Der Struwwelpeter, and fell in love with her hand-lettering.
I met Jerrod through twitter earlier this month and have been Loving his illustration Flickr stream ever since. Lots of fun kawaii adaptions of favorite animated characters and more: Ãœber cute!
Gemma has a really great sketchy feel to her work, and I love her patterns: good inspiration for work!
Of course, all images are borrowed from each artist’s site and are copyrighted byÂ them.
I’m so excited to be able to kick off the Summer Interview Series with Jesse Kuhn of RawToastDesign. I first met Jesse while I was still a student at Missouri State and have been avidly following his work ever since. Art director, illustrator, children’s education advocate and publisher, Jesse produces some awesome work in addition to promoting children’s literacy through science with his book series, The Quirkles. (and you Know that’s right up my alley!)
Give us some background information on The Quirkles. What gave you the idea for them? How did they go from being your senior practicum project to where they are today?
Hmmm, where to begin with The Quirkles 🙂 These little guys were my first major illustration project that actually stemmed from my final senior illustration practicum at Missouri State. In short, they are a 26 characters, one for each letter of the alphabet, that teach literacy skills through stories about science adventures with hands-on experiments for kids. Initially I did the character development for all 26 characters as my senior practicum project. After graduation, we discussed the serious potential in the marketplace for a series of childrenâ€™s books that tackled science at the pre-k, kindergarten, and first grade level. There wasn’t any material at the time that was addressing the science needs directly for that age group in a practical way. From there, the potential was made more concrete for this science/literacy series through some great feedback from a couple major publishing houses. A partnership was then formed between myself and the co-developers, Terri Johnson and Sherry Cook, and we struck out on our own as a start-up educational publishing company. So for the next two years, many many late nights, and about 1,463 cups of coffee I brought 832 pages of children’s books to life. Which are now the foundation of The Quirkles product line that can be seen today.
Honestly, it’s really been an amazing journey so far. I’ve learned so much through this beyond the traditional role of being an illustrator/designer. Starting with the logistics of building and running a company from scratch. I’ve also become well versed in the elementary education community, and have had the opportunity to meet with so many inspirational educators and speakers at conferences all over the country. Iâ€™m actually doing educational workshops of my own now with teachers involving the integration of technology and the arts in the classroom as an offshoot of all this. The whole experience has really made me appreciate the value of how important it is to work on projects that bring deep personal gratification into my life. I want to leave this world knowing that it’s a better place because of the contributions I’ve made and the people I’ve helped. So far, The Quirkles have given me a nice introduction to that.
You recently moved from St. Louis to NYC. How has living in New York the past few years affected your work?
New York has really been an incredible place for me, things happen so much faster here. I feel like I’ve accomplished so much over the past two and a half years. (I can’t believe it’s been that long already!) It has been fundamental for my creative career, as well as personal exploration and growth. The pulse of this city is like no other that I know of: so many resources, culture, mixes of societal class, and mountains of inspiration packed so densely onto one little island. It’s definitely not an inexpensive place to live either, which forced me to reevaluate my business plan and also helped me get off the couch for more work. I suppose when more work *equals* drawing more pictures, things could definitely be worse. I’m grateful every morning for the city I live in and the work I get to choose to do in it.
What advice do you have for aspiring illustrators that you wish someone had passed on to you?
Create, create, create…then promote, promote, promote… and then promote some more.
Take a business class, you are essentially in business for yourself. If you want this to be successful and lucrative, there are some business fundamentals that you really need to have a solid grasp on. Or get yourself a rep so you don’t have to deal with it. I, for one, like the mix: it allows me to shift modes when I’m not feeling so *creative*. Also, I think being comfortable when talking about money actually makes you more confident about the value of your work and pricing your services correctly too.
Last, but not least, taxes. Just remember that (depending on where you live) about 1/3 of each of those checks you’re cashing has to go to good ol’ Uncle Sam. Don’t spend it all. I actually have a separate bank account for this. After I deposit a check I write one to my self for 1/3 of the amount and then go to my other bank and deposit that right away so I’m not tempted to spend it all 🙂
How has social media affected the way you approach the illustration industry? Do you feel it makes it easier for illustrators to find potential clients?
I think it makes it easier for potential clients to find you. Most people now, immediately go to the web, and begin researching visually. There are so many great illustrators out their who understand the value of self promotion. You have to be realistic and know that it’s very easy to be quickly forgotten in this industry. Rest assured, if you aren’t sending out samples, posting your work on the web through multiple streams, and active socially (physically and virtually), other illustrators who are just as good or better than you *are* doing this and will most likely get the gigs. Promote a little… get a little. Promote a lot and it certainly increases your chances of making more connections, being seen, and getting more work…especially in the beginning.
It’s also an awesome way to get to know your peers. I’ve connected with so many other illustrators online that I’ve formed friendships with and met in person now too. It’s a great way to share resources, insight, ask questions, and get feedback. I had a couple unique jobs come through that I had to bid on, and I wasn’t exactly sure how to price them out. So I sent a few messages via twitter to other illustrators that I respect and got feedback on whether or not my estimates were realistic.
So…(in closing) I think there are many advantages to social media, and if you ignore it, you’re just ignoring other potential opportunities and professional relationships. I’ll be completely transparent though, and note that I do look forward to the day that I can retire from all this to a remote “unplugged” tree house in the woods…hopefully those places still exist then.
I’ve seen you selling your art prints on the street in New York and at Chicago’s Renegade Craft Fair: where else can people buy your work and what festivals do you plan on attending this year?
I still remember the first time I sold my work and how awesome it felt knowing that someone really was going to hang it in their home. It has really been another great way to monetize existing illustration work and a way for The Republic of RTD to continue to expand. What started as a small little table over in Union Square down the street from my apartment has now grown to be a sizable part of my business offering archival quality limited edition prints of my illustrations. I now have several stores that carry my smaller sized prints and Iâ€™ve been licensing work too. Prints can be purchased on the website and some are available on shirts too over at Skreened.
Artists in New York City are very fortunate. Protected under the First Amendment of free speech, we are allowed to display and sell our work legally for free on the streets of the city as long as you comply with certain regulations. I’ve met and made a lot of connections through this and doing art markets/shows. It’s really a great way to move some business cards too. Fortunately/unfortunately I don’t make it out to the streets as much as I used to because work has been steady and also the competition has gotten steep for getting a spot over in Union Square (the recession had everyone and their brother out trying to sell something). I do try and make it to some of the bigger fairs and shows though. So far this spring RTD has done St. Louis with the CraftMafia, Philadelphia with ArtStar, and just did the big BUST Magazine Spring Craftacular and Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn. Also coming up this summer are Soulard Market Park Fair St. Louis, Renegade Craft Fair Los Angeles, and Renegade Craft Fair San Francisco this year. There are others that are currently being reviewed and applications are in the works for fall shows already too. Folks can checkout the store which lists the show schedule and gets updated as new ones are added.
I really have a great time doing these and wish I had time to do them full time. When you work alone in the studio the majority of the time it’s nice (and healthy) to get out and socialize with humans, and this gives me a nice dosage of that. 🙂
Also starting in June, 10% of all print sales will be going into a mini-grant fund for schools. The one thing that frustrates me the most with the educational community are the constant budget cuts and lack of funding for todayâ€™s youth. All to often this is the reason that children are unable to benefit from The Quirkles Science and Literacy book series. The requests for donations far outweigh what the company is able to fulfill. So initially, I will be personally awarding funding for full Quirkles book sets (including extras and the Teachers Guide) on a revolving basis and will hopefully then expand this into other funding eventually as well. Application details to be announced soon!
Everyone loves a contest, and you do one every month: details, please!
I give away a free signed 5×7 print of the winners choice each month and there is a grand prize drawing for one of my limited edition 16×20 prints at the end of the year as well. If you tweet it or post it to your blog or facebook (and send me the link) I’ll enter you twice for that month. Each month starts over, so people should enter every month if they want to be eligible for each monthly drawing. Only one entry during the year is needed for the grand prize drawing though. Blog shout outs will get you an extra entry for the grand prize too.
All images Â© RawToastDesign
Cheesy, yes? Just sent it out to my brute-squad. Sorry for the lack in posting: I’m currently moving to a new place, so my internet connection is rather shoddy. I promise to be back into the swing of things next week…hopefully!
The past month was a blur of working, getting ready for the holidays, and travel, but the kickoff to all of the fun and mayhem was the Firebelly Holiday Shop. As I mentioned last month, I contributed a booth showcasing embroidered goods and illustration prints/postcards. I was really excited that my good friend and fellow illustrator, Jennifer Carson, sent some illustration prints up my way to be included once she heard about the show (that’s her leaping sheep on the left). You can see more of her excellent work over at Calcography.com.
I think the tea towels turned out quite nicely, don’t you? I’m currently working on the third in the series, so will post photos once I have them. Here are a couple of detail shots from the first two:
This was the first time I think I really mastered the French knot: good thing too, as I designed a lot of them into this one!
This design was really just an excuse to experiment with different variations of the Lazy Daisy stitch: I think it quickly became my new favorite!
Needless to say, the event was a huge success and ended up raising thousands of dollars for Firebelly’s Reason to Give charity. I was deeply honored to be part of it and send out a huge thanks to Dawn, et al. for including me!
To continue the theme of November: Design Month, I found out in late October or so that Firebelly would be hosting their annual Holiday Pop-Up Shop to benefit their Reason to Give charity. After asking Dawn how I could help out, I have since spent the last month frantically crafting/designing away in order to have enough wares to sell. Expect to see some sweet embroidered goods, art prints of my illustration work, and possibly some stationary/paper goods. I’ll try to post some sneak peaks before the shop opens, but between the holiday and frantic crafting/designing, they may not come until the shop itself opens. Details below in the awesome flier designed by Will Miller:
Whew! What a marathon 2 weeks again. I have been hard at work on both a freelance project (an annual report) and on getting AIGA KC’s blog ready to launch a new series of interviews and articles. Unfortunately, the combo of the two have zapped all of my time the past couple of weeks: hence, the lack of posts. On a related note, I also didn’t have much time to scour my feed-reader of late. The little bit I did get to look at it, however, led me to the miscellaneous links below:
Rainbow Brite is Redesigned
Ok, this subject is very near and dear to my heart. With the exception of Jem, I doubt there was a doll I carried around by the neck more than my Rainbow Brite doll or her Color Kids, nor was there a show that I watched more. Some guys can name every Nintendo game ever made, and some chicks can tell you the backstory to the entire Rogue-Gambit story arch, but I can rattle off every detail about Rainbow Brite. There. I said it. (What? We all know I am a closet-nerd.)
Anyways. Just recently, Hallmark announced the redesign and rerelease of Rainbow Brite along with the launch of 3 dolls (Rainbow Brite, Tickled Pink, and Moonglow). I have mixed feelings on this. On the one hand, I have always wanted to own the Moonglow doll. (Quite possibly one of the most rare of the original toy series…and only available in Germany.) But on the other hand, is nothing sacred?? I don’t like how they redesigned her at all! Must they bring back and ruin all of our childhood cartoons? (CareBears? Strawberry Shortcake?? The upcoming Smurfs movie???) And I’m still waiting for them to release the entire original cartoon series on DVD in the US. (Why does Germany get it first??) Ok, enough of my rant. (But on the other hand, if they do continue to bring back all of these cartoons, then maybe there will actually be a good Saturday morning line-up again…)
Wallâ€¢E Computer Case
I saw this on Coudal’s feed: how awesome is this desktop computer?? Over on English Russia, they have the entire process photographed.
Gold Leaf Rocks…Literally.
You know, I’ve always wanted to work with gold leaf, but have never really had a good project for it. Then D*S pointed me to this awesome How-To. Wouldn’t they be great on a shelf next to a couple of antique books? Or maybe just next to a vase and some flowers… Definitely on my to-do list!
Mucha Window, St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague
I love Mucha + I love Stained Glass = This Window is Awesome! (Be sure to check out the rest of his Prague photos: beautiful city!) I can’t believe I was right next to St. Vitus when I was in Prague and I didn’t go in! I had no idea this window even existed until I saw it on Coudal’s feed. *Le Sigh* I’ll just have to add it to my list of things to see before I die.
While in D.C., I managed to slip into the National Gallery for just one hour. Although they Do have little 1-Hour-Must-See maps, I figured I’d just hit up the West Wing for the time I was there. I grabbed as many photos as I could. A post will be coming later on S&D highlighting my favorite paintings, but for now a tease:
I was on a pattern kick that weekend and I absolutely LOVED the patterns in many of the medieval altar pieces, etc. I didn’t get title cards for any of the patterns I grabbed, so no artist attributions this time. However, if you get the chance to visit the museum, GO! I was able to be inches away from Da Vinci and Raphael. If I’d have had more time, I would have sketched some of the other patterns in a lot of the paintings. But the photos are more accurate for later reference anyways.