Friday, February 14, 2014

Portfolio Building - Doing What You Love

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately asking me for portfolio advice, so I thought it might be helpful to make a general post on the topic.

When it comes to building a portfolio of work – to show online or to a potential employer – the most important thing to remember is that originality is key.  Having work that looks really similar to another artist (especially a well known artist) isn’t always the best direction to head in.  It’s perfectly acceptable to be influenced and inspired by awesome work – but it is NEVER okay to closely imitate a style you’ve seen before.  (Yours won’t look as good as the original, and it will come off as a cheap attempt to look “good.”)  Have a unique voice and be your own artist!

In my opinion, the best way to look “good” is to fill your portfolio with work that you love creating.  If you’re super into animals – draw all the animals you can.  If it’s patterns that get you going, repeat away!  Don’t get me wrong, showing that you can do a range of things is great, but it’s more important to show that you love something. (Or a few things, if that’s the case.)  Call me a hopeless romantic, but artwork made in love will almost always have an unmistakable quality of joy between the line work, brushwork, or colored patches.

It frustrates me to see a lot of my peers flustering around trying to figure out what to “make” for their portfolio.  Building a portfolio isn’t always about creating a whole new body of work every time an opportunity comes up.  A portfolio is meant to be a snapshot of an artist’s abilities to date.  That means that at any given time – every artist has a portfolio of some kind.  (Maybe that collection of work isn’t applicable to every job opportunity or application purpose, but it’s still a portfolio and it should represent the artist.)  If you’re giving your artwork consistent attention and time, improvement will come and a portfolio will naturally develop.

Hate what you’re working on?  Maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.  Unless it’s a practical learning tool – like figure drawing or observational painting – working on assignments that you hate won’t help you breach new creative ground.  The key to helping yourself enjoy those assignments you “hate” is to find ways to turn them into the ones you love.  I realize this doesn’t make complete sense – but go with me on it.  If you’re crazy about surface design, but not so into painting still lives – find a way to bring the aspects you love about surface design into the painting.  Spread your colors, balance your negative space, and experiment with how various areas of the canvas communicate or connect with another part.  Love affairs can’t exist in a vacuum, so finding ways to breach your design interests with fundamental learning objectives will only make your work stronger – and probably help you accomplish it all a little faster, too. 

Do what you love – and find ways to see the “not so fun things” as they may relate to your full time affection grabber.  Building a portfolio shouldn’t be about making things that will appeal to a certain company – it should be about creating things you love.  It’s your passion that will attract an employer, not your ability to half-heartedly cater to their design needs.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

I'm back!

I've been forever neglecting this blog for a few months now.  Things are hectic - as always - but things are wonderful.

I'm well invested into the final half of my senior year at Ringling College of Art and Design.  (Where did the last four years go?)  Working steadily on portfolio pieces and commissions as they roll in.  So far, I love this semester the most out of my whole college experience.  I can finally set my own schedule and focus on the things I love!

Included in the things I love?

Mornings spent in coffee shops.
Mornings in the library.
Exercising and running.
Evenings in the labs - with friends and good music.
Sending surprises in the mail.
Discovering work and artists that inspire me.
BEACH! (...because, beach.)
More lettering.

Here's a preview of some of the things I've been working on for my portfolio this semester.  For a better look with some included process and extra info - head on over to my Behance portfolio!  I've opted out of creating the "traditional" thesis display as an illustration senior at Ringling and have instead decided to create a portfolio full of different applications of my hand lettering abilities.  

Did I mention I'll be working as a full time Lettering Artist at Hallmark Cards, Inc in Kansas City in just a few short months?  EPICALLY EXCITED.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I went north last weekend and enjoyed (a little too much) kicking in the leaves and walking around Cleveland in the crisp air.

Also did this fun little bird pattern.  

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ducks! (Children's book piece)

For my illustration portfolio class we were assigned a "children's book" piece.  We could choose any story we wanted - or even make up our own - as long as the final illustration would appeal to kids and was generally friendly.  It took me a day or two to decide ducks would be the perfect subject for me.  I LOVE DUCKS! And my portfolio doesn't have any yet - well, now it does!  I ended up using "Make Way for Ducklings" by Robert McCloskey as my inspiration. His book has 8 ducklings - but my illustration has just 5 little guys.  

This piece went through a lot of transformation from start to finish.  From the start, I knew I wanted to create a contrast between hand drawn (what ended up in the background) and clean sweeping curves with tight edges.  My original sketches had a lot more detail and frilly unnecessary line - which I ended up eliminating.  Well - replacing with textures and color variation. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013

First illustration of the school year!  For a poem based on the story of Little Red Riding Hood.
I chose to show Little Red heading towards the forest - stuck somewhere in between childhood and adulthood.

Little Red Cap
At childhood’s end, the houses petered out
into playing fields, the factory, allotments
kept, like mistresses, by kneeling married men, 
the silent railway line, the hermit’s caravan, 
till you came at last to the edge of the woods. 
It was there that I first clapped eyes on the wolf. 
He stood in a clearing, reading his verse out loud 
in his wolfy drawl, a paperback in his hairy paw, 
red wine staining his bearded jaw. What big ears
he had! What big eyes he had! What teeth!
In the interval, I made quite sure he spotted me, 
sweet sixteen, never been, babe, waif, and bought me a drink, 
my first. You might ask why. Here’s why. Poetry.
The wolf, I knew, would lead me deep into the woods,
away from home, to a dark tangled thorny place
lit by the eyes of owls. I crawled in his wake,
my stockings ripped to shreds, scraps of red from my blazer
snagged on twig and branch, murder clues. I lost both shoes
but got there, wolf’s lair, better beware. Lesson one that night, 
breath of the wolf in my ear, was the love poem.
I clung till dawn to his thrashing fur, for
what little girl doesn’t dearly love a wolf?
Then I slid from between his heavy matted paws
and went in search of a living bird – white dove –
which flew, straight, from my hands to his hope mouth.
One bite, dead. How nice, breakfast in bed, he said,
licking his chops. As soon as he slept, I crept to the back
of the lair, where a whole wall was crimson, gold, aglow with books.
Words, words were truly alive on the tongue, in the head,
warm, beating, frantic, winged; music and blood.
But then I was young – and it took ten years 
in the woods to tell that a mushroom
stoppers the mouth of a buried corpse, that birds
are the uttered thought of trees, that a greying wolf
howls the same old song at the moon, year in, year out,
season after season, same rhyme, same reason. I took an axe
to a willow to see how it wept. I took an axe to a salmon
to see how it leapt. I took an axe to the wolf
as he slept, one chop, scrotum to throat, and saw 
the glistening, virgin white of my grandmother’s bones.
I filled his old belly with stones. I stitched him up.
Out of the forest I come with my flowers, singing, all alone.