Big news: I'm going full-time freelance! For two years I've been the honorable "swissmisstant" at swissmiss studios, helping Tina Roth-Eisenberg do all sorts of crazy fun stuff for her many ventures. Lately, my own freelance work has accelerated, and I'll be pursuing it full-on. I'll still be working from my desk at Studiomates, but I'll be drawing 'round the clock now. Which means that I'll be able to fully dedicate myself to collaborations: working in-house/on-site for clients, and taking on long-term clients. I'm majorly stoked and raring to go. Let's make something awesome together!
It didn't take much convincing when the Art Director's Club invited me to create some original artwork illustrating the phrase: "Blood, Sweat, and Tears." I knew right away that it had to feel real and a little bit gritty. So I busted out the OneShot lettering enamel, found an unloved leather jacket at my local thrift shop, and got to painting.
Once finished, I had to shoot it. The jacket was actually a boy's size 8, and I couldn't find a model since all of my friends were away for the holidays. On the coldest day this Winter, I put on my own damn jacket and trekked outside to the most photogenic (and at the time, the coldest) spot in NYC, the DUMBO waterfront. After sneaking through a hole in the fence that separates my studio's back parking lot from the East River bank, tossing off my down coat, and trying my hardest to get the jacket to not distort the lettering too badly, I had a shot. I bolted back to my studio to thaw out and spent the night post-processing.
I'm proud of the personality that comes through in the end result yet even more proud to be among such an awesome group of talented artists. Be sure to see the whole gallery here, and read the stories behind each piece.
You may have heard me singing the praises of Squarespace at some point or another. The fact is, they are one of my all-time favorite companies and I use their services every day. As someone who has tried every portfolio service/blogging platform under the sun, Squarespace is a breath of fresh air for my visual (read: I don't know how to code at all) brain. It doesn't hurt that the company is made up of tons of creative, awesome, super nice people who deserve every ounce of success that comes their way. To say I'm a fangirl might be an understatement.
So when Squarespace contacted me for some custom artwork I just about leapt out of my seat to get started. We had a fantastic collaboration, and I can't wait to show you the finished piece once it launches in March.
I'll be headed to Luck, Texas with my friends at Squarespace for the Heartbreaker Banquet music festival from March 12th-14th. The festival takes place on Willie Nelson's ranch (this just keeps getting better) where there exists a ghost town (I know) where Squarespace will be setting up shop (literally, you'll see) as a sponsor. I can't wait to see what shenanigans we get into together!
Jay over at Cotton Bureau sent me the most hilarious email last night to let me know that people keep requesting this damn shirt to go to reprint. We're giving the people what they want for a THIRD time! Get it while you can, because they are only available for two weeks! Head on over to The Cotton Bureau to nab yours.
After a pretty intense sprint of client work, last night I found myself with an extra couple hours, energy to spare, and decided I should spend some time on myself. I inked up this bad boy to reflect the style of work that I am putting out now, and will have a few minor changes to my identity to follow.
I've also started using dribbble again! Keep your eyes peeled for more works-in-progress to come.
I am so beyond excited to show what I've been working on lately! In December I was called in by the amazingly talented team at LOGAN NY to collaborate on some frames for Lincoln Motor Company's latest heritage spot. I've been a fan of Lincoln since childhood, when my dad would point out the ever-recognizable Edsel to me at car shows we frequented. Getting the call to work on this spot was instantly humbling. It was also enlightening to me that a company as huge and classic as Lincoln valued hand lettering and the kind of obsessive craftsmanship that I put into it.
Endless thanks to Art Director Kenji Yamashita and everyone at Logan.
I've been lucky enough to have my Cotton Bureau shirt reprinted due to popular demand! Wrap your favorite specialty coffee beans (I suggest a bag of Handsome Coffee, Ritual Roasters, or good ol' Stumptown) in one of these babies, tie it all up with some twine, and you have the perfect holiday gift. Get it while it's hot, like your espresso!
I got myself a shirt during the first print, and I have to say it is the softest tee around. And I'm not even a regular tee shirt wearer, so that's saying something! I've gotten all sorts of laughs and compliments wearing mine around Brooklyn. The women's sizes are fitted and true-to-size. Men's shirts are also true-to-size and neither of these shirts will shrink in the wash. Cotton Bureau isn't kidding around when they say they use the best quality shirts for printing.
I was lucky enough to meet the Cotton Bureau dudes while they were visiting my neck of the woods for Brooklyn Beta in October, and let me tell you: they are as nice as you could have ever imagined. Due to the successes of PixelWorkers and Cotton Bureau they have been able to take this project full-time. Every purchase from them is in support of small businesses and freelancers. Three cheers for alternative economies!
EDIT: Holey Moley! In just eight hours this shirt sold enough to go to print again!
These cards are lovingly printed in the USA by the fine folks at Mama's Sauce, my new favorite people in the world. They put so much care into printing these and I'm lucky enough to be featured in this oddly gratifying short process gif below. We assemble these cards here in my studio in Brooklyn, so it's surely a family affair. Yay!
Be sure to get 'em while they're hot off the presses!
I spent a night in October going out of my comfort zone while drawing in public. Yeesh!
I heard about an event called Draft and Draw from my buddy, Michael Tabie of Two Arms Inc. and bought a ticket on the spot. It wasn't until I got on the train to Manhattan that night that I realized a.) I was going alone to a room full of talented people and that b.) I would end up drawing in front of and amongst all of these talented people. Now, I tend to be a very confident person; I didn't work so hard and practice for countless hours to be sheepish about what I can do with a brush pen. But I'm definitely not one to show off, and sometimes drawing in a group can feel like just that. So when I got there, and I ran into Chris Rushing for the first time, I may have been a bit nervous. But then sitting down with my friend Aaron and quickly making friends with the unfamiliar faces around me, I felt at home. This is what I love. And these are people that love what I love.
I can't wait for the next one and I am now a Draft and Draw addict. Chris, get ready, because you are going to have a ton of people wanting to draw together next time.
On the second day of Brooklyn Beta, I climbed the stairs of the Invisible Dog for the hundreth time on a mission that I promptly forgot when I saw Chris Shiflett and Nate Bolt having a discussion over the drawing table. The drawing table had been set up with crayons, sharpies, chalk, and plenty of brown butcher's paper for anyone and everyone to scribble all over. Nate was hesitantly picking up a colored pencil when I heard Chris say "why don't we get Jen to do it, she's real good at drawing" and I hopped over to the conversation. See, Nate was using his drone, his iPhone, and his connections at the NYPL to shoot a video for Chris. The last thing they needed was a poster that said "Thank You."
Oh, and they needed it in five minutes.
Chris shot this stop motion video of me at work (I'm pleased to announce that I did, in fact, make the five-minute deadline) using my fastest and most reliable tool, a basic brush pen by Tombow.
Along with the finished drawing I leant Nate a giant wooden "B" that I had gold leafed earlier in the day. I met up with Nate later on in the night to get back my gold "B" and he showed me what he had done.
When Chris and Cameron screened the final product in front of 1300 people at the final event of Brooklyn Beta, I couldn't stop laughing and smiling. I would do anything for the amazing people that I have met through this conference and I am completely honored to be a part of it. In the words of Nate Bolt, thanks for letting me get *pretty* weird with you guys.
Eight weeks ago a bunch of my Studiomates, some soon-to-be-very-good-friends and I jumped into a 13-person church van that Jessi Arrington and Creighton Mershon had rented and we left Brooklyn, Mid-West bound, to head towards Cleveland.
We didn't know that we would get a few hours out before promptly blowing a tire, stranded on the side of the road while Jeremy Perez-Cruz and Jonny Gotham used their experience and general manliness to get us back in shape. After lots of grunt work, greasy hands, and getting side-swiped by an RV that took off our driver's side mirror, the guys got the spare on. We coasted to the nearest tire place, which happened to be in the middle of the Poconos, Pennsylvania, and then took a walk. Our trip so far, even with the bad luck circumstances we had met already, was drenched in the kind of strange optimism and good humor that I value so much in my friends. We set out in search of lunch, and the tire guy directed us around the corner.
We ended up in Leon's Fireside Cafe which I can only describe as being out of the Twin Peaks universe. As a crew of 13 Brooklynites opened the door, the three locals drinking there at 1:30 on a Friday turned and gawked. A big white dog greeted us as we quickly made friends with the residents, picked up some billiards cues, and ordered as many sandwiches as possible. Leon, who was in the back, made the pickles himself, I was told, and people come by just for them, apparently. The locals included Deborah, who was Leon's sister, Johnny, a local schoolbus driver, and the mysterious dog's owner. The dog was named Raindog, and his mullet-clad owner never said a word.
In the hour or so that we spent at Leon's waiting for our tire to be fixed, time seemed to stand still in an odd way. It was a world so unlike our own, yet we felt right at home. As we left, Deborah came around the bar and kissed me on the cheek like an aunt would. There in the parking lot awaited our van, that we had already developed such an odd relationship with. Our champion, our steed, our crippled hero.
We made it the rest of the way to Cleveland hours later as the sun set. We pulled up to what looked like a movie theatre and the doors slid open. We all jumped out and dusted the oddly magical roadtrip feeling out of our eyes, took a deep breath, and went in.
The next three days I was surrounded with all sorts of creative people at the Weapons of Mass Creation Festival. At first it was exciting, but as I began to realize that almost every single person there was doing some iteration of what I do (hand lettering as illustration), I became intimidated and felt strange. Is there room for this many people in my industry?
WMC prides itself on being a more raw conference experience and they addressed that this year by talking about failure and fear. It's important to discuss these things in our industry so that we don't all just end up patting each other on the back for mediocre work. Failure is an important issue but to me it's not the most prominent one for us now. I mean, let's be real here: so much of hand-lettering is popular now because of just that: it's popular now. Read: it's a trend. I am fully aware of that and sometimes it can be crushing for my own work. I try my hardest to focus on things that separate me from the "herd" and being there at WMCFest was slightly terrifying. Am I actually being successful in this attempt?
I found myself "running away" from certain talks with Frank and Jeremy and Meg Lewis.
I didn't meet everyone there (I probably didn't meet a quarter of the people that I could have), but the people I met challenged me and made me think. I came home from WMCFest thinking, reconsidering my past, and ready to work differently. Which is important. But.
If you find yourself paralyzed with fear and nihilism, that doesn't necessarily mean that you will then make better work. At a certain point, you need to leave that at the door so that you can continue to do what you are compelled to do...even if it's "trendy."
For that reason I will continue to seek the happy optimism and strange humor that lets a group of 13 people still have an amazing time while stranded in the middle of the Poconos.
Asking myself "WHY AM I DOING THIS? What's the point..." is important for me and my work. Once in awhile. Just not right now. I have a Raindog to play with and certain questions just ruin the magic.
New York City enforces helmets for motorcyclists by law, but that doesn't mean much for other states like Pennsylvania, where helmets aren't required. Don't be stupid. Suit up and ride safe. I made this graphic to adorn the helmet of all helmets, the beautiful Ruby Atelier full-face helmet which is just begging to be gold-leafed. I designed this after seeing a recent Instagram photo from CafeRacerTV:
I'll be busting out my pinstriping brushes and One-Shot soon, so hopefully I'll work my way up to painting real helmets in no time. Until my skills are up to par, I'll stick with mucking up signs.
Did you see the NASA frog? He must have been in the blast zone when the recent NASA shuttle launched and, well, he was launched as well. His feat of daring is inspiring and that little silhouette will be burned into my heart forever.
Working for free is fine, once in awhile. When you look at it in the long-run, doing someone a favor now could really benefit you in the future. Ultimately, it's a gamble, but I like the excitement of the risk. I also like the kind of friendship you can create from giving your work away generously.
Here's the thing, for the client's perspective: If you ask someone to work for free, you need to trust them. What you would be paying for is some sort of creative input, and since you haven't paid up you need to leave most of your creative opinions at the door.
I recently asked a friend for a favor, to work for me for free. What I offered was buckets and buckets of creative trust. I might have had a few aesthetic requests, but ultimately I needed to accept what I've been given. And the end result was awesome.
The work is always better because of trust.
My new Tattly design launched today! It's a feather, and it is deceptively real-looking. Inspired by Baltimore ravens, New York pigeons, and other flighted beings. Get it here for a mere $5, which includes shipping.
Two crazy-talented, super-lovely, and totally-hilarious ladies from Baltimore, Sarah Barnes and Lisa Perrin, visited me in my DUMBO studio to chat about illustration, cities, and dream projects. Check out their lovely blog and their interview with me here!