You can place your order here. If the minimum of 12 orders is not reached, the shirt will die and you will not be charged. Sad but fair!
Since we moved from Vancouver to Yarrow in 2015, I had been working out of a studio off site. The space was in a building of mostly pottery studios. It served its purpose quite well, and for most of the time, I required a space that was some distance from my home — mostly because of the age of our children.
This spring, we decided it was finally time to bring my studio home. It was a combination of reasons that all suddenly converged, but mainly we were ready to start our second wave of renovations (the first wave was when we moved in in 2015). The other reason was that we felt our girls were at an age where they could understand my "at home" and "at work" modes and therefore understand why I might not be available during the day. The flip side to this is that I can spend more time being present at home, and hopefully soon, I will be comfortable enough to invite them to participate in my workday a little more. That's still a work in progress, but that's a different post!
At first, I thought I would actually build a studio in the back yard, but because of building code restrictions, it would have to be pretty small (about 100 sq. ft). For the same cost as a proper outbuilding studio, we figured we could do a lot more in our laundry room, and probably do our bathroom, finish our entrance, and update the playroom while we were at it. Our laundry room had been in pretty much the same state since we moved in. It was our most neglected and shameful room. It seemed like a waste to have such a large room devoted to laundry and neglect. So this is why the laundry room has become my studio.
While I hope to show some before and after pics of the rest of our most recent reno, I wanted to show the transformation of our laundry room and adjacent bathroom first. I'm super pleased with the results. A big thanks goes out to Matthew Holdsworth and Tyler Dick over at Hickory Lane Construction. If you're looking for a good contractor who can make your renovation dreams a reality, try giving them a call!
Some of you guys may know I've been working on a new Skillshare class on how to create beautiful illustrated maps using the techniques taught in Inky Illustrations. It's called Inky Maps (obviously)!
I am currently producing it and am about 3/4 the way through! Here are a few production stills just to show you what I'm up to — and hopefully to whet your appetite!
I'm planning to launch this in mid-to-late October. It is a sheer coincidence that the class will be launching in this month, for some reason now known as #Inktober!
Please stay tuned for the official launch announcement!
NEWS: I just completed my second collaboration with Reunion Goods & Services on some wall art a the new Upper East Side location of Quality Eats. Their photographer, Liz Clayman, was kind enough to let me post some of her photos of the interiors. You can see more of the art I did for this location as well as the original East Village one here.
Remember January, when we all made those resolutions and goals for the coming year? It’s June, and that means we’re pretty much halfway through 2017. We're as far from the start as we are to the end. It can be a challenging time, with many projects and goals in progress and seemingly nothing to show for it. The excitement of the idea of the goals themselves has long evaporated, and their results — the juicy stuff you and others can appreciate — have not quite materialized. The middle is always a hard because it takes the most energy to push through without the encouraging sight of the finish line.
At this time, one of the best things we can do is check in with our goals to see how we're doing. We can assess whether we've steered off course, or whether our goals themselves need a bit of redirection. In this middle season, I decided it would be a good time to review my own goals. I'm definitely encouraged to say all of these goals have had some serious action, although they are certainly all works in progress. I am actively doing things toward each goal, but none have been truly achieved just yet. As one might imagine, six months into the year, my goals are definitely a work of progress.
Goal 1: Book Pitch
I declared to the universe that I wanted to illustrate a kid’s book. The universe heard and said, “let me help you with that”. For 3 or 4 years now, I have been hoping to turn a good friend’s brilliant poem into a children’s book. 2017 was going to be the year of action. I had a strong start but ran into a little problem. Almost as soon as I started getting serious with my book idea, a publisher came to me to work with them on a new book. This is really a dream come true for me. After all, a huge reason I wanted to develop my own book was to break into the publishing industry. So the choice to set my passion project on the back burner for now was not so hard. I get to illustrate a kid's book, get paid, and learn a ton about publishing. I’m learning a lot about the book illustration and planning process, and gaining more of a sense of my voice and style for the genre. By the end of July, I will have completed my first published book. I cannot wait to share more soon!
Goal 2: The Canadianist Issue 2
The Canadianist is a series of letterpress prints by top Canadian illustrators. Conceived by Everlovin’ Press and me, our first series was released in 2015 and was a huge success for us. The Canadianist Issue 2 is well under way: the work is on the press as I write — but not without a few snags! We had intended on launching in May but had some unexpected issues on the press (as a craft technique, letterpress is not always a smooth process). I’m pleased to say our exciting lineup, which includes Ray Biesinger, Banquet Workshop, Sandi Falconer and Doublenaut, is on the press right now and we expect to launch this month, just in time for Canada’s 150th birthday.
Goal 3: Colour Class for Skillshare
Oh, Skillshare. This class has been a thorn in my side, to be honest. I want so badly to get this class out there but it has not been shaping up as easiliy as I’d hoped. Not at all. After months of writing and rewriting, and even a false start with recording the footage, I’ve decided to step back from this for now and reevaluate my approach. I’m not saying I’m cancelling this effort, but I do need make sure the time I’m spending here will pay off. If I keep hitting a wall, I will definitely need to change directions here. I have so many other things I feel more confident about teaching, so it may make sense to simply start writing on a different subject. Does this mean I'm failing this goal? It's too soon to find out. If I do fail though, it won't be without its own hidden win. As long as we're trying our best, failure can be our best teacher.
Goal 4: Speaking Engagements
I love speaking to groups about what I do. I love sharing my experience and shedding light on processes and ideas that may otherwise be inaccessible to people. It also is a great way for me to connect with fellow creatives and tap into that beautiful creative energy we all need to do our job! I currently have one speaking engagement in the works and look forward to letting you know more as the event approaches. Meanwhile, I have also had the pleasure of mentoring an illustration student and judging a design competition, both of which tap into my drive to share and teach.
It's encouraging to see how my goals are coming along, and it's also a kick in the old arse to keep up the effort. None of these things will happen without sustained and focused effort. And it's not just about doing the things, but doing them well. That just might be the hardest thing of all — not simply ticking off my goals for their own sake but actually making what these goals are about count.
I find it hard to believe that 2016 was only my third full year in business as an illustrator. It feels like I've been doing it for so much longer! There has been so much change in the past year, let alone the last three and a bit. There are so many different ways to categorize the year's achievements and lessons that I can't choose just one. Instead, here is a report-style breakdown of my most significant moments of this amazing year.
As always, I would like to thank all those who were a part of making my year so great. First, I must thank my wife and kids, who patiently endure all the overtime and verbal obsessing about my work. Without Amanda's encouragement and insight, I would have given up a long time ago. Now, I must of course thank my clients, who trusted me to visualize ideas on their behalves and to add value to their companies. Next, a special thanks also to my agents for all the hustle and taking care of the business side — so I can focus more on the creative work. And speaking of trust, while technically they represent me, they also entrust me to represent them with my work. My work is their product, and I do not take my part of that responsibility lightly. Finally, a big thanks to all my friends, new and old, inspiring me and cheering me on. A particular thanks is due to Vincent Perez, my longtime collaborator and friend, the man behind almost all my letterpress projects. And thank you — whoever you area — for reading along and caring.
Now, without further ado, I give you the report! (I will add and update links as I am able).
Total Unique Jobs
79 projects and over 100 illustrations.
Most Personally Significant Project
Cover for The Walrus Magazine. This was my first mainstream magazine cover, and it came to me within weeks of wondering if and when such an opportunity would come. I was getting used to doing interior illustrations and started to wonder why I hadn't done a major cover yet. Not that I felt I was too good for interiors, but self-doubter that I am, I wondered if I just wasn't a cover kind of guy. Needless to say, I was elated to learn I was being too hard on myself. In fact, by the end of the year, I had 3 major covers, including The Walrus, Reader's Digest, and Quill & Quire.
Most Fun Project
Traveller's Playing Cards for Herb Lester. Because hey — I got to design a deck of cards. And this for one of my favourite little companies.
2016 was a year of firsts. First mainstream magazine cover. First illustration conference. First art fair. First beer label. First private commission. First major newspaper illustration. First line of custom stationery. First deck of cards!
20 Illustrations for Kit & Ace's online journal, The Ante. By sheer quantity of illustrations, Kit & Ace was my biggest client. What made it so easy to push out an illustration every other week? A client who gave me tons of creative freedom and trust, and one who has a great sense of humour.
Most Important Career Moment
Speaking at ICON 9. Going to this conference on its own would have qualified for this category, but it was an amazing opportunity to be able to speak on the mainstage, for Kaleidoscope, in front of hundreds of my peers and heroes in illustration. I did a 6 minute spiel about why I am an Inky Illustrator (why I choose to use physical media in my art). The audience response was amazing, and I was blown away by the kind feedback from attendees thereafter. What nobody knew was that it was my birthday that day — best gift ever!
Being interviewed and featured on Heythere.ca, a well designed and edited blog dedicated to the Canadian creative industry.
My main goal for 2016 was to pour myself more into each job, to up the ante when it comes to craftsmanship, intensity, and overall wow factor. At the end of the previous year, I felt like I was settling into a groove and leaning on a few go-to tricks a little too much. In 2016, I really pushed myself to try new processes, unfamiliar techniques, and to lean more on my intuition. This definitely shows in all the work I did this year, but particularly in such jobs as my mural for Ryerson University, Monocle Magazine, and Manhattan College.
Another major goal was to produce a line of greeting cards. With the help of Vincent Perez, we pushed out 8 flagship letterpress cards under our very own brand, Summer Studio Stationers.
Increased revenue by 25%. While my overhead increased this year, my overall earnings increased as well, owing largely to an increase in advertising work and a strong US client base.
Another huge win was discovering A&Co, an entire community of talented creatives and entrepreneurs in my own neck of the woods. It was so much easier for my career to have a social life when I lived in Vancouver. In May, in the midst of burnout and feeling very isolated, finding out about A&Co (Abbotsford and Company) put some much needed wind in my sails. Since then, A&Co has even created new friendships and business opportunities.
Un-met goals for personal projects leaves a small hole in my 2016 heart. Having too many goals is probably a pretty good problem to have, but I definitely had a lot and failed to meet a fair share of them. One major letdown was not getting very far on a picture book pitch I have been dwelling on since 2014. Similarly, I had hoped to do multiple new Skillshare classes but ran into writer's block late in the year that I have yet to get over.
Where to Improve in 2017
As more than enough jobs came through my doors, financial and time management fell by the wayside. I was sloppier than usual in keeping track of finances (I am still trying to catch up as a result), and I definitely picked up some bad habits in terms of using my day hours. In 2017, I will need to be more diligent in bookkeeping, and I must work to prioritize activities and stay on task.
Goals for 2017
My main goal this year is to finally get my book pitch together and in the hands of publishers. It will be a matter of setting aside time each week to work on it. My two biggest challenges in this regard will be to nail the story concept and to establish the book's illustration approach and style.
Another goal is to produce a second issue of The Canadianist. Our first issue was an amazing success, and it's worth noting that it got picked up by Chapters/Indigo (The Barnes and Noble of Canada). We hope to release the finished product in time for Canada's 150th birthday celebration on July 1st.
I'd also really like to complete and publish my colour class for Skillshare. I know some of my students are waiting for me to move on this — It's going to happen!
Finally, I would like to do more speaking engagements. I had three in 2016, the most notable of course being the one at ICON, and I really enjoyed them all. I had a few casual discussions of more speaking engagements which I hope materialize! Stay tuned.
If I simply match the success of last year in 2017, I will consider it a feat. While it is tempting to put a lot of effort into matching and surpassing my numbers and earnings, I must remind myself that this is not why I got in the business of creating art for a living. I make art for a living because it's what I love, and I always want it to be that way. My passion is a tool that serves me and should not be the other way around. My challenge in 2017 will be to continue to find that original sense of joy in creating — loving the process and discovering new ways of doing and seeing things. I wish you all the best in your own reflecting and goal setting. I'd love to hear about what you learned from the past year and what you hope to accomplish. Thanks again for coming along for the ride!
With an increasing amount of speaking, interview and teaching engagements, I figured it was time for some real studio portraits — pics of my in my daily environment. Sure I know how to use a camera, sort of. But it's a good thing I called up my neighbour Sharalee Prang, who knows how to take a picture. I've included a few of my faves below. You can check out more of her work on her website.
Hello! I hate describing the tone of my life with the word "busy", but that just about sums it up. One day, I will figure out the balance. One day. Meanwhile, I assure myself that this is how it has to be by saying "I am an artist for a living". There are only notional boundaries between work and life, on- and off-hours.
So far, 2016 has been a challenging year, both in positive and negative ways. On the down side, I have been struggling a lot with the aforementioned balance of life and work. Sometimes, completely against my most valiant efforts, client timelines compress and deadlines pile up around the same time. I find myself working through the clock whilst sacrificing time with my family and also a good night's rest. Life falls by the wayside. I have also found myself being easily discouraged at my efficiency. Of late, my struggle has been to accept the level of craft and quality of my work in spite of how long it takes me to obtain it. I find myself wondering if I should be seeing a much higher degree of impressiveness in my work for the amount of time I spend making it. How can I become more efficient? How can I both strive for excellence in my work and also have a life on the side?
I assuage my feelings of guilt and doubt by admitting to myself that it is this relentless drive for perfection (even if it is a carrot on a stick) is what has gotten me as far as it has. It's a quality that other illustrators I admire possess. I'm not even trying to be this way — it's the way that I am.
On the upside, I have been overwhelmed with the amount of requests for work I'm getting. While it's never great to say no to clients, I have found the need to turn work down to be able to focus on the jobs I have on hand. And in some cases, reserving space for the possibility of larger projects. So the phones are metaphorically ringing off the hook, and I am still in business and growing.
If I have retained any of my 2016 resolutions, it is to push myself in my art more than ever before. To avoid lazy shortcuts that only harm my creativity and my body of work. To go for more "wow factor", as it were. Concept work does have its place and its charms, but I am trying more to think in terms of execution, detail, and nuance. I want my drawings to be more clear, more solid. I want there to be more details/attention to detail, and I want there to be more nuance in the details. Particularly, I want more nuance in my textures and ink work. If last year I used a lot of solid ink lines made with a nib pen and random, full-on inky textures, this year, I am trying to apply more controlled, washy textures and linework made with brushes. Whereas the former technique is more graphic and spontaneous, the latter is more artful and intentional.
So I think, in spite of the exhaustion I am feeling of late, I am still growing, still improving, and hopefully, my work is achieving a higher degree of quality. For me, it's all about building on my strengths. I'm learning to be less consumed by the idea of a consistent style and more focused on doing whatever comes from my hands with care and with a mind to the best result for the given purpose. There are some illustrators who bang out illustration after illustration in the same narrow visual style, with the same limited tools. And I have the utmost respect for those who are doing this with stunning results. Their ideas are strong, their brand is consistent, and they seem happy to stay within the limits of their approach, at least for their commercial work. For me, I am learning how to have consistency in my own way but not to be held back from trying different approaches as I find myself doing quite naturally.
So what is all this? I came to post a few sneak peeks of current work. I ended up spilling out my heart about my current and ongoing crises as a commercial artist. Hope you enjoyed it.
There were a lot of amazing moments in 2015. Too many to mention, really. The following are limited to what I consider professional highlights — milestones in my illustration career. There have been so many great people involved, bringing me great work, trusting in me to work with them, inviting me to contribute to their projects. It’s truly an honour, and I cannot be thankful enough. While the following are to me the most significant highlights, they do not even begin to acknowledge all the supporters behind the scenes, be they my steady clients or my always-supportive family and friends.
Before I begin, though, I do need to acknowledge my number one supporter, my wife Amanda, and our in house cheerleading team, Nina and Marie. Without their patience, encouragement, and love, I could not have done any of this. So thank you, Froese girls. Now, without further ado, I give you my best 10 from 2015.
In 2014, I started illustrating for Stickyscapes New York, a really cool fold-out stickerbook for kids by UK publisher Laurence King. This was the most intensive project to date, with two 5-foot long panoramic illustrations of New York City and some 100 stickers. I released final art in January and had the printed books in my hand (in two languages!) by November. Just as the New York books came in, I was finishing up art for my second Stickyscapes title, Stickyscapes Space. It was an honour to be asked to create not just one, but two titles under this series.
2. Herb Lester
Herb Lester creates beautiful illustrated city guides that are reminiscent of tourist maps from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. When they contacted me about doing a guide, my chair hit the ground as I stood up in disbelief/excitement. Coincidentally, they asked me to illustrate a New York themed guide. Having just wrapped on the Stickyscapes title, I was able to hit the ground running and produce a fully illustrated and designed guide within a month. As a lover of vintage maps and New York, this remains my favourite piece to date.
3. Brand New Conference
Having researched New York City extensively for the above projects, it was a no brainer to attend Brand New Conference 2015, which was this year hosted in the city. For a number of years, especially as an art director, I had dreamed of going to the event, which caters to designers. As an illustrator, it actually made a lot of sense to go, since it is art directors and designers who now commission me after all. I met some of my favourite Internet buddies and got to rub shoulders with some of the most legendary people in the industry. One of the best things to come out of this trip: meeting Ben Levitz of Studio on Fire, who in turn invited me to illustrate for their 2016 Calendar.
4. Moving to Yarrow
Early in the year, my family decided it was time to leave Vancouver for greener and more spacious pastures. Literally. We sold our condo and moved to a split level in the semi-rural village of Yarrow, BC, an hour outside the city. Along with this decision came the rather painful-at-first transplantation of my studio from the bustling Railtown district of Vancouver to a quiet farm-based studio shared with local potters. It was really lonesome at first and had me questioning the whole move, given the need for creative community as an illustrator. But after a month, I was settled in and there was no turning back. Best thing about the move: the commute.
5. Quality Eats
While my work primarily consists of editorial and the odd retail project, I do get a few jobs outside the usual from time to time. This year, in the “odd job” category, my commission from New York steak restaurant Quality Eats took the cake. Restaurant interior architecture and design team Reunion Goods & Services had me illustrate a series of large framed canvases that integrated with their electrical lighting system. You need to see the pictures to see what I mean! With art direction that included “draw a prostitute and a cow on a skateboard”, this was definitely one of the most hilarious and amazing jobs I’ve ever had.
6. Adobe Creative Jam
One of my long game goals is to regularly share my expertise and experience with others. Public speaking, writing and teaching are among the activities I hope to do more of as I mature and grow in my art. It was with gratitude and a knotty tummy that I accepted the invitation from Adobe to speak at Vancouver Creative Jam. It was convenient that I had just done all those projects about New York, so I just talked about my illustration process by walking the audience through a couple of those projects. It was so good to be able to share to a listening audience (they were amazing), and to answer such good questions. I basked in the glow of a successful presentation (no need for knots in the old tum-tum after all) as I sipped beers with new friends and fellow presenters after the show. Turns out I quite like public speaking.
7. The Canadianist
For the past two years, my pal Vince at Eveverlovin’ Press and I have created letterpress projects that aim to elevate the art of letterpress printing in Canada. Last year, we created Greetings From Canada, a 10 artist collaboration of 10 Canadian-themed post cards. It was a hoot and a success. This year, we went with a similar theme, but with a smaller batch of artists and a larger format to create The Canadianist — 5 8” x 10” prints. We were elated to have names like Katy Dockrill, Andrew Kolb, Jeannie Phan, and Ben Weeks in the mix. Of course, with a foil stamp as part of the design, I couldn’t resist inserting myself into the mix.
8. Bloodbath Group Show
Another first this year is being in a group show. Bloodbath was shown at 71a Gallery in London (UK), and was organized by Edward Tuckwell and Josh Mckenna, fellow artists on the MP-Arts agency roster.
9. Skillshare Class
Skillshare had been asking me to develop a class for a while. They asked me first in the summer when things we just nuts for me. I figured it wasn’t a big deal, they probably ask everyone to teach. But when they asked me again in October, I was persuaded. I took on the project fully aware that building a good class and then shooting/editing my own video footage would be a crapload of work. And it was (had a lot of help on the editing side). Creating this class dominated an already saturated work month, but in the end (and after a lot of support from the folks at Skillshare and one very patient video editor), we pulled it off, and Inky Illustrations was born. I was pleased when, after only 2 weeks, the class had amassed over 1,000 students and ridiculously generous reviews. Sticking it through for this class taught me the value of shunning self doubt; it reinforced the importance of encouraging collaborators; and it reinstated my love for teaching. All in all, a big win.
10. First Editorial Writing Assignment
While I haven’t heard much about what people thought about my writing for the Hunger issue of Applied Arts Magazine, being published as a writer is another significant milestone for my career. The article was featured in their craft column, where, each issue, they feature an essay by an industry professional “to open up peer-to-peer dialogue”. Had I supplied them with a better headshot for the piece, I would have liked to show you a pic of the spread! Looks like you'll have to order the mag to read it!
So those are my 2015 highlights in a nutshell. I want to include so many more things above, like the front of book series of illustrations for Monocle Issue 83, the crazy illustrations I did with the folks at Will Inc., all the great projects (like Wired UK and The Harvard Business Review) from Tim and Karlie at MP-Arts, and of course, being added to the Mendola Artists roster of illustrators more recently.
If 2015 is an indicator of how things will go in 2016, I’m very, very excited. Thank you for following along. I can't wait to see what's next.