Archive for July 2009

Monkey Doodle Dandy

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MDD-LogoMonkey Doodle Dandy is as fun as its name implies with a moniker  that is reminiscent of a sugar-charged ten year old tearing through the yard with oblivion. The toy design duo () behind Monkey Doodle Dandy equally achieves the same level of exhilaration with their charming properties and illustrations. My interview with Kurt offered  a taste of the cute and scary ingredient that makes up current toy appeal as well as the upcoming licensing of Monkey Doodle Dandy’s own cute creations, Squaredy Cats and Squarey Monsters. Congratulations, Kurt and Elaine!

1) How and when did you and Elaine first start Monkey Doodle Dandy?
Elaine went to FIT’s Toy Design program, and worked for The Idea Factory then Tara Toy after completing the program. I was working as the art director at a Brooklyn publishing group, and desperately needed to be more creative, and do something more rewarding. I sold some panel cartoons for several years, but never enough to make a living. I did some freelance work for some of the project managers at Tara Toy while Elaine was there, and finally left my job to freelance design for various companies. Elaine left Tara Toy, and took a temporary position at Fisher Price. I continued to freelance, and we discussed the possibilities of freelancing together once her position at Fisher Price was to end. At that point I was learning some of the necessary skills and specifics for toy design, andPostcards 4x6taking freelance work from some project managers at Fisher Price as well. We decided it would be a good idea to incorporate, and brainstormed a company name we thought would be fun. Soon. We were both working from home, and through word of mouth we managed to get enough work to survive, and enjoy what we were doing.
2) What are your influences?
My favorite art to look at is usually something that mixes cute and frightening. Charles Addams is my favorite cartoonist, and I love Jhonen Vasquez’s work, and all he’s done to influence the direction that mainstream gothic art has taken. I love to look at anything that looks horror related, but manages to stay “safe” by being cute. It’s become more commercial, but I’m okay with that because my style has grown to incorporate the young style that exists in modern toys while what I am inspired by has done the same thing. We watched independent brands like Emily the Strange, Ruby Gloom, Teddy Scares, and Skelanimals grow each year at licensing events, and wished we’d done more to promote the GirlMonsters.
SqMonstersSampleImage3)What would be an ideal project to work on?
Ideally I would want to collaborate. I feel like we work in a bubble sometimes. Mixing up with other creatives is really important to generate new ways of thinking. My favorite thing to do is when I get to illustrate with a solid direction and assignment, but no boundaries. When no license is involved, I get to draw what’s in my head instead of what’s in the style guide.
4) What advice do you have for artists/illustrators just starting out?
My best advice to artists just starting out is don’t be afraid. You probably have know for several years you want to be an artist. Don’t fall into the trap of getting stuck confusing your work ethic with your passion to be creative. If you don’t like the work you have move on. Put what you WANT to do in your portfolio, not necessarily what you CAN do or do best. The only way to be happy being an professional artist is if you are doing what you want to do, and finding a way to get paid for it.
I must say, I enjoyed finding the answers to your questions a liberating experience. Something all artists should consider is finding a group to discuss your work with. We all need critique, and the opportunity to spill our brains into words so we know what’s happening up there. We think so visually, we rarely get a chance to understand it in literal language.SqCatsSampleImage


John & Wendy Universe

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nooooJohn and Wendy are an illustrator duo who recently released their delightful children’s book,  Periwinkle Smith.  Periwinkle Smith pirouettes and twirls until she spills a stubborn stain on her lovely tutu. John and Wendy also have illustrated the Katie Kazoo Switcheroo series by Nancy Krulik and their first board book, Mommy Loves Me. In addition to being dynamic illustrators, John and Wendy  have worn many hats one of which happened to be a hat designer as well as the foundation for the band, Sugar Syndicate.

John and Wendy took the time to answer my questions, lend their advice and advocate against Muggle-ism.

1) How and when did you and Wendy first start working together?
W: I think you really have to go back to about a year after we met, when John started taking art classes at Wayne State University. We were living in Hamtramck, and since I didn’t have a job at the time, I used to take the bus with him into downtown Detroit and ended up going to most of his classes with him. (Strangely, none of his professors objected to me sitting in—although a few insisted that I participate in class discussions. The next year, John transferred to the University of Michigan School of Art in Ann Arbor, where my reception was just the same.) jumpWe started by working on photography projects together, but over time our collaborations have grown to include illustration, painting, hat and clothing design, and music (we play together in a band called Sugar Syndicate).

2) What are your influences?
J: How much time do we have here? Marvel comics and Peter Max/ Yellow Submarine pop art as a kid. And Tintin. I think that Joan Walsh Anglund is way up there as an influence, thanks to a book of hers that I received as a Valentine’s gift:  “Love is a Special Way of Feeling”. Little Golden book-type stuff is a favorite: Mary Blair, Alice and Martin Provensen; amazing drawing and colors. With a fondness for Astro Boy and Kimba, Ranma, Sailor Moon, etc. along with liking Margaret Keene-style art,  at some point the cutesy big-eyed bug was bound to bite so, at least superficially, Anime style has been pretty influential. Maybe a little less lately, since we’ve been cooling it on the eyes. We really like Tara McPherson, Junko Mizuno, Yoshitomo Nara, Camilla d’Errico, Fawn Gehweiler. Rita Ackermann, Seonna Hong and Saelee Oh are favorites, too. Apart from the two-dimensional stuff, music is a big influence. Pop culture in general, especially ’60’s and ’70’s fashions. Books like Fruits and the occasional peek at “Giant Robot” or “Juxtapoz” magazines can be inspiring. Getting into Fragonard a bit lately.

3) What are you reading now (or the last book that you read)?
W: It’s funny that you should ask, because yes, we do read books together. Right now we’re reading Missee Lee by Arthur Ransome aloud at home, and we just finished Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse (we like to read Wodehouse together on the subway, because the books are just too funny to keep to yourself).

4) Does Periwinkle Smith have any other adventures ahead of her?
W: Yes, we just turned in our first draft for a second Periwinkle Smith story. It’s called Periwinkle Smith and the Far Away Star, and is scheduled to come out next summer.

5) What advice to have for artists/illustrators just starting out?
W: Well, it almost goes without saying, but it’s important to draw a lot. Work on expressions, not only in faces, but in body language, too. Work on developing your own style and techniques. Look at lots of other artists. Look at kids drawings. Have fun.
peri-@-sweetiepieIf you are planning on working as an illustrator, think about what kind of stories you’d like to tell with your drawings. We’ve been doing kids book illustration since 2002, when we started illustrating the Katie Kazoo Swithcheroo series, but before that we spent many years mostly doing editorial illustration for magazines, so those illos were very specific, very short stories.
Put together a website (or join a group that allows you to put up a portfolio). It’s good to send out email announcements, but you should also get a promo card printed which directs people to you and your site—if they like it, Art Directors will stick your card up on their wall. They might not have a job for you right away, and they are much more likely to call you if they have something tangible to remind them of your work rather than an email. Also, ADs will take their favorite cards with them if they change jobs. We get postcard from Modern Postcard ( or 4by6 (; both print full color on both sides, do very good, quick work, print small quantities and various sizes.
If you get an assignment, be professional: get your sketches and artwork in on time, respond promptly to requests, and be polite. Seems simple, but it’s always appreciated by Art Directors. And don’t be shy: it’s perfectly proper to ask your AD if they could recommend other art directors and designer that might like your work.
One last thing: we always retain copyright to our work, and only sell reproduction rights.
J: I’m not qualified to give advice on this, but my thoughts at the moment are: Personal relationships andwashintroductions and recommendations are pretty important, I think. Be ambitious and find ambitious friends who are artists. Trust yourself and your instincts, and aim high. I may be wrong but it seems to me that the word art gets way more respect than the word illustration. Don’t be a Muggle, if you can help it. People like magic.

The Little Prince: Comets and Roses

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the little princeI recently re-read and reviewed The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry for Kids Book Review. I was surprised at just how sad the story was. I realized how sadness is registered differently as a child.
It is the sort of story that leaves you with tiny mantras that you want to write down, fold and place in your pocket for you to find when you inevitably forget them and need to remember them most.
Here is my folded piece of paper posted on Kids Book Review.

Written by corvusblue

July 7, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Crowded Teeth Smile for Cute Designs

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11_04_08-DETAILCrowded Teeth is the compellingly cute clothing and accessory line by Michelle Romo distributed by Loungefly and available at many of the Hot Topic stores. Michelle’s creations are crafty wonders that charm with their simplicity of design and underlying sassy expressions. Ms. Romo is currently publishing three books, one which documents her novel dedication to do a project a day for one year to represent her 25 years of age. The 25 Project is not only a creative homage to a lifetime but also a reflection of Michelle’s own artistic evolution. Ms. Romo kindly took the time to discuss Grandmothers, ’50’s kitsch and provide a further look at the 25 Project book.
1) What are your influences?
I think that I am influenced a lot by things from my childhood. My grandparents from Japan usedct_ht to visit me every other summer and bring me a giant box of goodies. So I’ve always really liked cutesy Japanese stuff. And when I was a teenager I really liked anime but I think my work has moved away from that. On the other side of my family – my other Grandma has a lot of kitchy 50’s and 60’s stuff around her house and so I love that style too. My influences are my Grandmas 🙂
My favorite artists right now are Junko Mizuno and Audrey Kawasaki – I’m not sure if they influence my art but they are huge inspirations to me.
2) How did you first get started in graphic design?
When I was 16 my mom brought home a fancy new computer. She was also a designer and so it was loaded with Photoshop and Illustrator. I just started playing with those programs until I learned them. I didn’t go to school – but I kind of wish I did.
3) What advice do you have for people who are just starting to promote their art?
Just put yourself out there! Start a blog and start emailing people!
4) Please tell me a little bit about The 25 Project book.
11_01_08The 25 Project book is a book that I am self publishing and it is based a project I started on my 25th birthday. I was feeling unaccomplished so I decided to do an illustration a day for a year. Each month had a different theme. It got me a fair amount of attention and I feel like I got better at drawing. Even though it was tiring at times I think it was a good thing to do. I have another book coming out that is being published by HOW Books, and it is a cut and fold paper craft book called Papercuts. I think it is coming out sometime in 2010. Since I have been working on the paper craft book the 25 Project book has been put on hold – but that should be available by the end of this year.

Written by corvusblue

July 6, 2009 at 10:22 pm

Dani Nelson: Where Spooky and Sweet Commingle

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AmbitionsDesignEven in the sweltering heat of July, I walk with the ghost of Halloween. While I was hunting for the spirit of spookiness, I stumbled upon its crafty embodiment practically in my childhood backyard. Ambitions Design is created by Dani Nelson who is also the founder of SpookyTimeJingles, an eclectic craft blog dedicated to all things Halloween-inspired. Ambition Designs is located in Titusville, NJ-a quaint, Norman Rockwell-esque river town that borders the Delaware River. Dani is a contemporary folk artist who works in mixed medias, with a strong affinity for the vintage and playful side of the Halloween. Mrs. Nelson took the time to tell us how the gory and the sweet commingle in her paperclay creations:
1) What is your design process? Sometimes I work from sketches, books or internet inspiration.  But by in large I just start sculpting or painting and see what comes up.
2) When and how did you first start your craft? Although I have been involved in the arts over the last 12 years or so, I got very serious with sculpting when I discovered Paperclay (air dry clay type) which will be 2 years ago in August.  I knew it was for me because I took to it relatively easy.  I have not looked back since.  3618504230_fe631e5f5cI owe the discovery of working in air dry clay to an amazing artist named Janell Berryman of Pumpkinseeds Folk Art.  If not for her help, I hate to think of where I would be artistically.
3) What are your influences? By in large movies.  I base most of my work largely from the inspiration of the movies Beetlejuice, Monkeybone, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline, etc  I am a big fan of Henry Selick & Tim Burton for the animated films.  But I am also a big Horror movie buff, so I will take the coolest creepiest goriest, drooling creature and make him into my signature sweet and spooky styled character!
4) What advice do have for others just starting to promote their craft? Don’t expect to make a piece that is always a “homerun” because you will always be disappointed.  Keep working and trying and challenging yourself.  Find inspiration (internet is a great source) and that will help guide you, just be sure to make it your own.  If you like a particular artist, use certain elements but be sure to change it up in your own style.  I also suggest joining an online art group/forum.  It is a great place to ask questions and learn things much quicker vs. taking years to figuring it out on your own.  There is no shame in seeking.

Written by corvusblue

July 4, 2009 at 10:10 am