Friday Sketch - Fort

For those who don't follow the Reel FX blog, thought I'd throw this up here also. We did "dream forts" for our sketch topic. Cats are good buddies.

Fun Size

Click to enlarge
In lieu of a Halloween illustration, here are some creepy buildings concepts that got cut from a music video project at work, being lead by Nader Husseini. They ended up using no backgrounds at all, but they were still fun to come up with.

This year is flying by for me, hopefully I will soon have a lot to show for it. Stay Tuned!

Higher Power Cover

Higher Power of Lucky
Simon & Schuster
After completing the Lucky Breaks cover last spring, Simon and Schuster approached me again to do a matching paperback cover edition for the Newbery Award winning Higher Power of Lucky, also by Susan Patron. Quite an honor to do covers for such a beautifully written series!

I'm currently working on interiors for the third book in the Lucky series, which will be out in the spring next year. Oh and still finishing final details on French Ducks in Venice. And maybe some other things.

And, a sketch-

I saw this adorable girl on Sartorialist today and wanted to do a drawn version of her. She had a lot of character.

Even though I get busy, I try to find time to sketch for myself. Sometimes if I can grab enough time through out the day waiting for emails or feedback or whatnot, I can usually fit in a little sketch. I also made my Photoshop history take snapshots every time I saved, so it occurred to me I could make a little gif of this sketch coming together

My process is THRILLING I know ;)
Til next time!

Autumn Sketches

Friday Sketch topic at work was Autumn. You can keep up with other sketches and such from the art department on the Reel FX
Art Department blog.

I also drew this gal.

I really enjoy autumn in Dallas. Everyone is in a nice mood, there are all sorts of pumpkin flavored things, and I can have my windows open.

This has been a busy few months for me. I'm wrapping up on French Ducks in Venice, as well as the illustrations for the next Lucky book with Simon and Schuster. Books are a lot of work. I'm still deciding whether or not to go to the SCBWI conference this winter. We'll see I guess! :)

In the bits of free time I can find, I'm also taking a baking class this week, the guys from Baked NYC are on tour for their new book, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I have their first book, and everything I've made from there was really tasty. Baking is what I do instead of video games, I find it relaxing and delicious.

Nothing new besides that. Just wanted the blogosphere to know I'm still around. I hope to have a lot to show soon. Until then, I hope all are well.

I can tell that we are gonna be friends

I'm not in school anymore, but I still get nostalgic at the beginning of the school year. How easily we forget how hard it was to be a kid.

My mom and sister are both teachers and I have a great deal of respect for the profession. It was always eerie being at my mom's school after hours or during the summer; seeing the school empty and the teachers relaxed and speaking freely about their lives. Teachers were always real people to me, I never doubted the existence of their personal life, because they were also family friends.

But enough sentiment.
I'm finally done(!!!) with all of the interiors on my children's book, just needs a cover and I'm finished. The next book, another in the Lucky series, is already next in line, and I'll be switching gears from ducks to desert children forthwith. Reel FX is keeping me busy also.

Also, after running out of reasons not to, I joined twitter. Better late than never, I suppose. Follow me and I promise I won't retweet too many 50 cent posts.
Hope all are well :)

Pool Party

Friday Sketch at work - Topic was Pool Party.

Trapeze Swinger

Our Friday Sketch at work was circus themed. I must admit, I had never cared much for the circus, until I read Water for Elephants a few years ago. I guess years of explaining that Ringling College had nothing to do with the circus made me a little jaded also.

Quick sketches like these are really enjoyable, and I feel like it helps me to make aesthetic decisions a lot more quickly. Back at school, we used to get together in the computer labs and do one hour thunder-domes to practice finishing work quickly. I feel like that was a pretty beneficial exercise, especially given the deadlines in the real world.
Kind of crazy that students thought ONLY A WEEK for an illustration was an insanely short amount of time. I don't remember the last time I had a whole week to finish something ;) Actually, for this piece, I asked for 3 days of time to work on it and was laughed at. So there. Kids, learn to work quickly and you will be happy you did.

Finishing up some big projects while some other big ones loom on the horizon. Hope all are well :)


Some quick studies at work. I purposely kept my canvas small so I wouldn't zoom in and noodle the thing to death. The top one still got a little overworked maybe, but they were fun.
Once Texas stops with this triple digit weather business, I may need to go to the Arboretum to get my landscape painting fix.

Also, a bunch of us just went to the most recent Dr. Sketchy in Dallas. For those who don't know, it's a life drawing session with dancers and burlesque models, and it's really laid back and fun. They have groups in most major cities, if there's one by you, check it out! This was our third time going, and it's a lot of fun. Breaking out the watercolors for these 20 minute poses was refreshing as well. I could tell I was a bit rusty though :]

In other news, it is mega-children's-book-crunch-time, as I work to finish up French Ducks in Venice. It's been a great experience working with Candlewick, and I'm excited to see how the whole thing comes together. This is probably the biggest project I've done, so I can't wait to show the finished product as well. All in time.

Hope all are well and surviving the heat :]


I think I'll call this one done. Drew called this creature a Goat Ball, but I'll have to think of a better name.

Until August, I probably won't be posting much. Deadlines aplenty and only so many hours in the day. I have a children's book to finish and commercials to make. Art is hard work and I'll fight anyone who says otherwise (if the fight consists of a scrabble match).
I'm busy but I don't think I'd like it any other way.

Take care, folks.


Work In Progress

As for the day job- Here's a Shrek commercial I worked on, doing matte painting. I painted grass and fence posts for about a month. Painting grass is just as fun as it sounds.

As for the book stuff- Working on a few projects, and enjoying the ride. Half the battle with large projects is staying organized, but I think I've found a system that works for me. It's cool seeing a large body of work develop over time, I feel like I'm making progress. I'll be excited to show what I'm working on, once things are released.

As for everything else- Enjoying the start of summer in Texas, and eager to go on a few little adventures this summer. After visiting Adam and co. for Memorial Day, I'm excited to get to see Kyler and McLean this summer as well. Old college friends are a great comfort in these crazy stressful times, so it's good to keep in touch while we can.

I hope all are well and making lots of art.

Lucky Breaks

Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron
Interior Illustrations by Matt Phelan
Paperback edition cover Erin McGuire

A few months ago the kind folks at Simon & Schuster asked me to do a cover redesign for the paperback edition for Lucky Breaks, the sequel to the Newberry Award winning Higher Power of Lucky. I had a great time reworking Lucky, the main character, and her drawing her adventures in the Mojave desert. Book covers are an interesting challenge, and the many rounds of thumbnails taught me a lot about what makes a good cover.

Many possibilities! At one point there was a donkey.

It's funny seeing your book cover on Amazon, and I got a bit more of a cheap thrill today when I saw it on the shelf at Barnes and Noble (and texted a picture to my mom, after all it is Mother's Day ;] ) in the YA section.

Still hard at work at French Ducks, as well as some other projects coming down the pipeline. Being this immersed in the book world is like running a marathon, but I think I'll make it through just fine. Oddly enough, the more time I spend on books, the less time I have to read, though I am almost done with Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth, because I will always make time for her short stories.

In my free time, Drew and I are trying to grow many varieties of hot peppers, as well as herbs and tomatoes. I've never really had a garden before, so I'm having a good time learning as I go. Hopefully I can have some personal work to post soon. I hope all are well and enjoying the warming weather.

For Boston, for Boston

Click to see full size :]

Recently I was commissioned by the North of Boston Library exchange to create some promotional materials for their library system. I was excited for the opportunity because 1. I like libraries, and 2. My entire family is from Boston. It was a fun challenge fitting 7 figures in a composition, I've always thought that people interacting (or crowd scenes) are a good exercise.

I'm just getting everything back to normal after a fun week in San Francisco/Bay Area with Drew, Matt, and Megan. California really is beautiful and inspiring, and I welcome any opportunity to run around some mountains and eat some cioppino.

Enjoying my last remaining months of temperate weather before the Dallas summers go into full swing. There's a lot to be done.

Dallas Film Festival

Film Festival time again!
Just like the materials I did last year, I was asked to complete some theater screens and promo materials for this year's Dallas Film Festival. I'm always pleased when I'm asked to draw fantastic contraptions. The stuff on the screens are shots from our reel, of various projects we've worked on.

that we must change, or pay more for remaining the same

This time of year seems so busy and restless. I've been working pretty nonstop to finish up a few projects, and it's crazy that another year of students is already graduating. Time really speeds up after you leave college, and it's a strange life change, learning to live and work on your own for the first time.

In seeing a lot of buzz about recruiting and job hunting, a few of us were thinking about how we got started, and were reminiscing about this anxious time of year. I graduated before the recession, so I'm sure graduating into an almost 10% unemployment rate is even more nerve wracking. However, I don't think it's all doom and gloom. This generation has a lot of technical advantages on their side, and the industry isn't as dead or dying as we think. It is changing, but regardless, people will never stop needing art, and that's just that.

That being said, I had the idea to post about a few of the things I think graduating students should consider, or things I found helpful in getting started:
  • First off, Ringling students who are graduating this year, if you have a blog or website, don't put "Senior Year Illustration Major!" on your site. Go and edit your information right now, and just say that you're an Illustrator, because you are. How you present yourself to the world (or internet world) is how you will be received, and if you go out of your way to tell me you're a student, you'll be treated like a student. It tells art directors and employers that you still need training and that it's fine to pay you less. After all, you're telling me you're just a student.
  • Between graduating and moving for work, I bought and read How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing your Soul and I highly recommend it, even if you aren't a graphic designer. The advice is just about the client/artist relationship, and how to really act like a professional and understand the business. I thought this was straightforward and helpful. Ringling's portfolio class (basically a business of art class) was not really helpful to me in any way, so this book made up for all the things I should have learned.
  • One of the best concepts from that book, was that nothing gets you work like work. It feels like such an impossible Catch-22, that you need to have work experience to get your first job, but that's how it is. Previous work reassures a client that you've worked before and aren't going to leave them hanging. Look for an opportunity to do some work that will show clients just that. For me it was the Hallmark contest I entered all those years ago. After that, having some work with the Ringling Design Center was just another way to show I knew how to actually finish work.
  • Be smart about the opportunities that come along, but when you see them, take them. We joke about the job postings on craigslist, because it's ridiculous that someone would design a logo for $50, but those jobs exist because people take them, on the false premise that the "exposure" will make up for your low pay. On the other hand, there are companies that freelance out cool work at a lower rate, and the work probably REALLY WILL get you more work in the field, a client on your client list, and a cool portfolio piece. If you're smart about which work you take, you'll work your way up eventually. If getting that first job is too hard, try selling prints on Etsy, entering designs on sites like, or submitting work to competitions. You're trying to show how legit and un-studentlike you are, and when you're starting out, how you spin what experience you have makes a difference.
I have a few more points, but I'm thinking of splitting those into my next post. For now, I wish everyone the best of luck. I'm taking a much needed vacation.

American Greetings

Finally! After months of work and waiting, the commercial I art directed for American Greetings is on the air. AG is a sponsor of PBS's The Electric Company, and we were hired to complete their sponsorship ad. This was a really awesome experience for me to learn more about the technical side of the process, and work closely with clients to get the look right. Here's some more of the concept art, we went through a lot of revisions.

Early development work. This was vetoed quickly by our effects artists, I think the billowing hair and sparkly magic stuff made them nervous about the time we had to finish the spot.
Early street scene development
The bottom round was the first set of character designs, and then we decided the characters should be younger, and more like paper dolls, hence the top row.

For the actual animation, I vectored every scene and every key frame poses of the girls, and our very talented animators rigged them to move like paper dolls in our shadowbox world. If you look closely, I make a cameo as the girl at the ticket booth. My creative director, Barrett Lewis, is playing the guitar on the left. Also Drew makes a cameo in the first shot :]

This was a really great experience, hopefully I'll get more projects like this soon.

In further good news, along with friends Adam Volker and McLean Kendree, I'm happy to have gotten into this year's Spectrum! Congrats to everyone!

Spring in Texas means mighty fierce allergies, pepper plants, and savoring the last of my girl scout cookies. I hope this weather holds, and I appreciate the few remaining brisk days (even the occasional weekend snow), for when the 100 degree days of summer roll around. Happy to be busy, working hard, and feeling alive.

Keep it like a secret

Done for a project that went away.

I just finished moving, and even though the new place was only 500 feet away, it's made all the difference. It's wonderful having a dedicated work area, and I am excited to make it an inspiring space. Organization has been an uphill battle for me when it comes to physical spaces (my computer and brain are fairly organized), but I'm going to do my best. There's work to be done.

When it Rains

A quick invite for a work event. I am the go-to girl for invitations now, but any opportunity to draw classy ladies (and I can make anything an opportunity to draw classy ladies) is welcome.

In other non illustration news, a Scottie won Westminster this year.

All prides and tithes aside

For an ongoing project. Trying new things.
Because if I don't, I'll always just do the same things.

Okay, here's one thing I've learned: Starting a project is really hard if it stops being fun.
So many artists say they're going to "do a portrait a day" or update every day and so forth, then as soon as their once-exciting project feels like work, they give it up completely.
For a personal project, I don't give myself deadlines, parameters, quotas, I just tell myself to do what I can, when I can. It becomes my default thing to draw when I'm bored and can't think of anything to draw. It has yet to feel like work, and I've stuck with it longer.

How about you? How have you stuck with your personal projects?

On a separate note...
Are you following the Reel FX Art Department blog? Check out what we do when we aren't doing commercials. That's right, we're drawing tricycles.

WIP it good

A work in progress.

I don't have the most interesting process. I have a very different attitude for personal work vs. professional work, mostly in that I let my personal work develop organically. With no deadlines or agenda, I forget studies and thumbnails, and just push some pixels for a while. For the book I'm working on now though, I did literally hundreds of thumbnails before I sent in sketches. It all depends on the challenge at hand, and the most efficient way to tackle it.

How about you? Structure and thumbnails and studies? Or the good ol' start-and-see-what-happens method?

And to complete my noncomplete work post, here's a still shot from a commercial I concepted and art directed (ie, why I've been busy lately).
This was my first foray into art direction, and it was a lot of fun to really work closely with the CG artists to get the look right. Not to mention, I got to draw literally every asset in the commercial.
Soon enough I'll be able to post the final, and the concept work I did, but for now, an enigmatic still.

In other news, I put new work up on for your viewing pleasure, and all my updated info. 2010 is going to be a fun year, right?


Some old work, from a John Woo project we did when I first started. Sometimes you just gotta draw ninja chicks all day. It's a hard life. This was a really great learning experience, for putting more color and mood into my images, and starting to think more cinematically.

It's odd, even looking at student's blogs now, I can see trends going through each class in whatever major, and it's funny because everything starts to look similar sometimes. Once you graduate, and everyone disperses into the world, you'll find that your tastes change, and maybe the type of art you want to make is different from what you (and all your classmates) were doing at school. Everyone is more nervous about getting jobs than they are about satisfying their own aesthetic at that point. It's hard to realize that the world is bigger than art school. The more I work in film and publishing, the more fun I'm having just thinking up stories and worlds, and bouncing ideas off Drew and Adam. It's nice to take your time, and focus on what you care about.

We forget that we're young, and we have plenty of time.