A poster for the playground

Here’s yet another sleepless night-project.
A poster for the playground where I work. I guess I didn’t tell you about that. The reason for why I’m going back and forth between Sweden and Denmark all the time is that I now work at a playground in the weekends. Cleaning, planning activities, lending out bikes and stuff like that. It’s an awesome job. Only problem is that when you tell your new boss that your primary job is illustration, you suddenly have a bit more work than you planned for. Such as advertising for the park.
I did get some extra hours of course, but not nearly as many as I spent on making this. I think I need to become a little tougher regarding this stuff.
No use to complain now though, as it’s already done, and I’m really happy about how it turned out. Also, not having to worry about the taxes (as they’re payed automatically when you work for the city) is a big relief.

Here’s the initial sketch:scan0059
And the final illustration:LvpIllustration2

If you’re around Copenhagen, come by Lindevangsparken some weekend and say hi! Next week we’re starting up a tiny community garden :)

Too much work

Hello friends. I’m sorry to have neglected you lately. The reason is the same as always: I’m working.
The past few weeks have been quite unforgiving. Besides from the going back and forth between two countries on days when there are no buses going (who else in the world uses hitchhiking as a regular way of commuting?), I’ve been getting a little too much work to handle in between those trips. Maybe you noticed the lack of a monthly diary post yesterday. I haven’t had the time to document much.
I really only have myself to blame. I could just start telling people that I need more time, and I should. I will. But sometimes, something comes up where the timeframe can’t be prolonged, and the project is so exciting that I feel as if I have to take it, even though I know I’ll be working every waking hour for a long time. Such is the story about these guys:
DoodleBearDoodleCat1
I was sent a very sweet little love story, which was meant as an anniversary-gift. It was actually a lot better than many of those I’ve had sent to me before, even by people who’s been writing children’s books for years, so I was very eager to illustrate it. But there was one problem. The anniversary was happening ten days from when the client first wrote me.
The reasonable thing to do would be telling her that it’s simply impossible. Just the sketching for a children’s book can take months, there’s no way a whole book can be made in ten days!
But, you know… the story was just so sweet, and I knew how happy it would make her girlfriend to receive such a gift. So I said that if I make them really really simple, and don’t show the sketches or anything – it might be possible.
And so I stupidly attempted to create a whole picture book from scratch in only ten days.
Amazingly enough, I did it.
Here’s a bit of the story:

DoodleBearDoodleCat3DoodleBearDoodleCat4DoodleBearDoodleCat5DoodleBearDoodleCat10DoodleBearDoodleCat11DoodleBearDoodleCat8DoodleBearDoodleCat9DoodleBearDoodleCat12
I’m ridiculously proud of myself for having made it. But I will never try anything like this ever again. No matter how great the story, or how simple the illustrations. I have found my limit.
While making these, my sleep has consisted mostly of power naps. It’s not even anything new. I’ve been awake much more than I’d like to for this whole year. And I don’t think I’ve had a single day off for about 18 months now. It’s something I’ve been handling pretty well so far, and it feels good to get so much done, but I think it’s time for a break. I’m noticing myself becoming more forgetful, and especially more emotional. So that’s probably a good sign to slow myself down. Probably, my choice here is either slowing down, or a wall-smash-stop in the near future, and the latter is not preferable.
So, for anyone thinking about hiring me for anything, you are more than welcome to write me, but be prepared that it might be several weeks before I’m ready to take on a new project.
For now I’ll be getting through the commissions I have left, and spend more time on my personal projects. But most of all, I’ll put my focus on the vegetable garden, the chickens and the workshop, and most of all – my bed.

Good night!

This new exciting scarecrow-project

Hello friends!
Today I want to tell you a bit about this project that I’m working on.
It started with a woman writing me, wanting to order a few illustrations for a song that she wrote. I thought it was really cool. I’ve never illustrated a song before, and was totally up for the task. And it brought my mind to when I was a nanny.
The kid I was looking after liked to watch music videos for kids on the Ipad. And I hated it. A little bit because of the Ipad-use itself, but that’s a whole other discussion about child-upbringing that I’m not qualified to discuss. It was the actual videos that really disturbed me. It was the same annoying song over and over again, but different videos with equally horrible animations. I tried my hardest to distract her from that Ipad so I wouldn’t have to hear/see it.
I’m neither an animator nor a good song writer, so I never thought of this before. But when this woman wrote me it hit me like lightning. The lyrics she sent me was great, and I thought that we should really make a whole video out of this.
At this point, we had already agreed on a price for three illustrations, and it was a pretty good one. Her budget was a little tight, but it was enough to keep me fed during the project. However, I knew that if we were to make a video out of this, it would take much more than three illustrations. At least if it was going to be as good as I could possibly make it. And I knew that she wouldn’t be able to afford that. So, since I was (and still am) so excited about the whole thing, I simply asked her if she would be ok with giving me free range on the project. I would do the whole thing for free, as long as I could take good time (so I can do some paying jobs in the meantime) and do it just the way I want to.
And she said yes! She’s had the idea of making a video herself, but just hadn’t gotten the opportunity. So now I’m doing this super cool thing! I have no idea how much it will take, or how long, or if it’s even going to turn out good. But I’m really, really excited. I’m even planning to throw myself out in some animation!
So here’s the first parts of the process:ScarecrowSketch1
First of all, I need to find the characters. The song is about two scarecrows, holding a contest. I have a thing for scarecrows, so that probably played a part in my big excitement.

ScarecrowSketch2
Some more character sketches. Here I’m starting to consider facial expressions. The first thought was to give them the classical buttons for eyes and sown together mouths. But it’s more important to me that they can be really expressive, and I just couldn’t do that without pupils or teeth.
ScarecrowSketch3
There are some really hard facial expressions to deal with here. How do I draw someone that’s trying to look cool and maybe a little arrogant, while they’re actually suffering from a big weight?
It’s pretty funny how I’m terrible at reading other people’s faces. The intention of others often fly over my head. But when it comes to depicting it on paper, it’s not at all that hard. Probably it has something to do with the big difference between exaggerated expressions in drawings and the subtle ones which are more common in real life.ScarecrowSketch4
And some more expressions and a little color test. I’ve pretty much found my characters here.

And here is the first big illustration!
scan0039
I’ve tried out the softer style here, and I think it works really well.
This is probably not going to be a part of the final video. I think it will be better to draw the characters and backgrounds separately, for animation-purposes. But this was a good start.

This all actually relates to what I said in my last post. About working because it’s fun above anything else. I think this is the best reason to be working for free. To do it purely because you’re passionate about it. And this project is something that really sparks up my lust for creating. I’m really excited to find out how this is going to unfold.

Have a great day!

Em

Baby bear

Here’s a commission I finished just a day ago. It went almost ridiculously fast and easy, because I pretty much had free range with it. The only instruction was that a human mom is trying to feed an angry baby bear. And here’s what I came up with:
BabyBear.jpgI did a lot of things here that I haven’t done before. No, wait, sorry. Actually, it was only three things..
I guess the biggest one was to make an animal with another facial expression than neutral. That was pretty new, and a lot of fun.
The color scheme was new as well. Sure, I do a lot of brown and yellow, but that blue-green color is new and I can’t believe I didn’t discover this mix before. I love it!
Another thing I haven’t discovered before is how the whole thing looks so much more fairytale-ish when I just do those rounded shapes on the cabinets and window. That’s yet another “why the hepp didn’t I think or this before”-moment in my life.
Well, you learn something new every day. Sometimes even three things.

Have a nice day everyone!

Embla

Portraits

While I’m speaking of portraits anyways. Here’s a bit more about that.

Just like any other realism, portraits isn’t something that I’ve spent much time practicing. I recall making some pencil-sketch of Helena Bonham Carter for an art-assignment in elementary school, and a tiny drawing of my grandparents from the same time(which is still displayed in their house, and I’m horrified by it whenever I visit). Since then, I can’t remember making any portraits.
But then, the commissions came, and suddenly I had requests for portraits, even though I didn’t even have any in my portfolio.

jiajia

 

Like other commissions involving photographs, it’s often more about artistic interpretations rather than depictions. Mostly it’s family portraits in a cartoonish style, and they turn out looking something like this ————————————————————>
Making a portrait this way is tricky. Even if it’s just a simple figure, I must put a lot of thought into where the facial features go, to both match the style, and have the drawing resemble the person.
Still, it’s nothing compared to a real portrait.
One tiny line in a wrong place can mess up a whole face. You’ve probably seen portraits that are good, but there’s something really creepy about them that you can’t put your finger on. Yeah, that’s just an eye in a slightly wrong angle or a mouth a tiny bit too big.

My first portrait was a pencil sketch of leonard cohen and two others. I was so scared about messing up, but this was just the rough sketch, and the client was so happy with it, they didn’t even want me to finalize it. I’m not too proud of it myself, but you don’t tell your boss that you disagree when they say job well done. So here’s how that turned out.DSC_0074.jpg

 

Cowboy.jpg
Then it was this cool old cowboy who needed an image for the articles he wrote for a newspaper.
It was my first ink portrait and ink can not be erased (obviously), so if I messed this one up I’d have to start all over. But it turned out fine, and I must say, the shirt was actually harder than the face on this one.

 

 

 

Then came along something much much scarier. On my fiverr-page I offered creating pictures in coffee. I thought I would reach coffee-shop-owners who wanted something fun to hang on their walls. But instead, it was coffee-loving people wanting portraits. And omygoshyouguys, that was the real challenge. Coffee is so hard to control, it’s sticky, it runs away to places it shouldn’t be and it takes forever to dry. I spent so many hours on these compared to what I would with any other medium.

CoffeePortrait.jpgcoffee1
Ok, so this one isn’t great. But I’m still                           Nope, that’s not a screw-up. That’s
happy about it because that was a very                              a zombie doll
blurry photo.

I see I switched scanners around here. Believe it or not, that’s the same kind of coffee.
coffee1coffee3
I really like these two. I’m happy about the roughness of the left one, and for the right, I’m just glad I managed to make a good one out of both coffee and ink.

 

 

 
After that, my first portrait in watercolor and ink. Scary as usual, but here I had started gaining some confidence in this area.deborah

 

And lastly, the ones in only watercolor. I am super happy about these, and don’t even hesitate to make them anymore. The first I made was of Darwin, which was great, because that guy is recognizable as long as there’s a big beard and bushy eyebrows, so it was hard to mess up, even if I was making a color portrait after a black and white photo.
darwin

This little lady you’ve seen before
wp_20170301_011

And this latest one, which I’m really proud of, even though the dog looks crazy.
I promise, it looked crazier in the photo.samjoemollyoriginal
Yeah. Watercolor is obviously my medium. Maybe I should just stick to that instead of stupidly messing around with that ink and coffee.

I hope you enjoyed these. And if you didn’t, at least now you know where not to go for a pencil-portrait.

Have a great day!

Embla

Realism

The past weeks I’ve been getting a lot of work involving depicting photographs. Usually when a commission involves a photo, it’s more about artistic interpretations of them, but lately I’ve been doing a lot of realistic depictions.
This is something that I haven’t done much before I started doing commissions, and I still never do it unless it’s for a job. Because, honestly, it’s a little boring.
For me, the fun part in painting is to make something that wasn’t there before, and while copying surely is a challenge, it’s just not the same.
Nevertheless, these commissions are always very welcome, as it is such good practice for me.
Here are some paintings I’ve done recently for different clients:
City.jpgFor a blog

2184.jpgplant 001.jpg
For commercial purposes

 

 

Birthday2.jpg
Birthday party invite
Teacup.jpg
For an article

 

80dollars.jpg
For personal use

The best thing about depicting photos is the awesome sense of accomplishment when it’s finished. Not only because it takes a long time, but also because I’m always happily surprised by the result. Like “wow, did I just make this??”.
When making all the childish cartoony stuff that I do, I easily fall into self doubt. I can feel that my work is too simple, that my success is undeserved and that I’m not a “real” artist. But creating paintings like these makes me realize that I can actually do things other than just cute doodles.
So, these commissions are great for practice, and most of all, they’re great for boosting my confidence.
Thanks to all my lovely clients for trusting me with your projects!

Hope y’all are having a great day!

Embla

Monster

Good morning!
I want to show you a project that I worked on in November, for a musician named Dave Crosby.(not the older, bearded guy, but the other, younger, clean shaven Dave Crosby)
I was really excited about the description I got, which was something like: “a dark monster hanging up eyeballs on a line, above him a ‘swirly’ sky(with faces in it) and it’s as if it’s exploding into space”. Ok, that sounds really confusing, but he had some reference pictures along with the description, so it was easier to figure out than it sounds.

DSC_0590 (1).jpg
Pre-sketches

The reason I was so excited about it is because most of my commissions are either really sweet things for children, or it’s depicting photographs. It’s not at all like I don’t enjoy those jobs, but a dark and scary picture is always like a welcomed break from all the cute stuff.
Here’s how the painting turned out:
Monster1.jpg
This was for an album cover, and naturally, I thought the music was something hard and loud, but I was surprised to learn that it was a pretty mellow singer/songwriter who ordered the painting.

As it was for an album, Dave thought it could be cool if his name was written in the swirls. So he ordered another one, with a few other changes as well. Quite a hard task, but I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. As I had gotten a lot of practice on the first one, this one looks a lot cleaner, don’t you think?
MonsterCrosby.jpg

When looking up his youtube channel, to share with you guys, I realized that this is the guy who just went viral, with the video of him and his young daughter playing ‘you’ve got a friend in me’. If you’ve seen it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Such a contrast, between these creepy paintings and that most adorable video the internet has seen since, well.. The last adorable viral video I guess…

You can find his youtube channel HERE

And the newly released EP is HERE
Have a great day!

Embla

Angies Website

AMPlights1.jpg
Hi Guys!
In addition to the last post about a bad commission experience, here comes a really good one.
Last week I was commissioned by a woman named Angie McHenry to make a few images for her website:
amplogo

She’s a really talented photographer, specializing in children’s portraits. And they are so, so beautiful!
I was really nervous about living up to those standards. But it started really well with her loving the sketches I made, and it was decided that I do not only draw the main image and the logo, but also a bunch of small details, such as these:AMPfireflies.jpgAMPgirls2.jpgAMPdandelions.jpgAMPtrees.jpg
AMPgirls1.jpg
I’m very happy about them, but it’s the big picture that I’m really proud of. When I get a commision that is really fun, the perfectionist in me starts exaggerating, and I can’t slow myself down. Usually I need to tell myself that it doesn’t have to be that perfect. Stick to the clients requests and don’t spend ten hours on something when I’m only getting paid for three. I mean, of course I want to do my very best every single time, but overdoing it means that I get very little sleep, and a very low income. So sometimes I just have to restrain myself.
But, well… not this time. This time I stayed awake pretty much all night for three days, and here is the result:ampbigpainting
Oh, man. Those trees were such a pain. But so worth it!
I’m really happy about it. And of course, the best part is that Angie loved them. Which was the whole point.
The reason I loved this project so much was because it’s rare that I get to paint a motive for someone else that is so much in line with my personal work. Mostly it’s just “draw this car, a butterfly, a portrait of my kid..etc….”. That’s all fun in it’s own way. But when the description is “It’s a few kids, in a mystical fairytale forest with really tall trees, on an adventure” that really gets  me going.

ampdandelion
I’m so glad that I was chosen for the project.
Angie is really an amazing photographer. Her photos are beyond beautiful, and if you happen to be anywhere close to her and have children, go book a session.

Find her website HERE
AMPlights2.jpg

Some old drawings that taught me why illustrating is a real job

Today I found a few old drawings I made when I had just started doing commissions.
Of course I was crazy excited about making money out of doing something I love, so I was letting my clients get away ridiculously cheap. I think I must’ve been working for less than one dollar an hour. Not to mention that I didn’t have a scanner of my own, so for every delivery I had to bike up to the library and borrow theirs, which made it into even more hours.
These are a few drawings I made for one of my first clients, who told me she was working on a scrapbook.
Paris.jpg

While making these I started to realize that I can’t keep on working like this. This particular client needed everything really fast, really cheap, and never ran out of projects for me. After a few months of working my butt off for her, I finally understood that this wasn’t just some scrapbooking project. She was selling my drawings to someone else.
I have no idea how much she might have made out of that, but it was undoubtedly more than I did. So eventually, when the excitement of having my dream job had settled, I had to let her know that I wasn’t going to be working for her anymore.

London.jpg
I know that many new illustrators constantly deal with the same problem. How does one rightfully charge a decent hourly pay, for a job that most people only dream of? Well, after making a few drawings that I really didn’t enjoy making, for a pay any waitress would’ve declined, it became pretty clear that this wasn’t just a fun hobby. It was a real job, in which I have to work extremely hard. I spend my time mailing with clients more than I do drawing for them. Sometimes I have to put so many hours into a painfully ugly drawing, because I couldn’t convince the client it wouldn’t look good. And when it’s finished, the client might tell me it’s just as awful as I said it would be, and ask me to remake the whole thing. Often only a few hours before deadline.
Negotiating with clients and harsh deadlines is something that is really tiring and stressful. And above all, they are things that makes this job qualify as a real one.
NY.jpgSo, while this project (and a bunch of others in my early illustration days) was a horrible experience, it taught me a lot of important lessons about this business. Most importantly it taught me to stand up for myself. A conflict with a client isn’t the end of the world, and my work is worth more than one dollar an hour.
I still charge my clients very cheaply compared to other illustrators out there, and I should probably start raising those prices. Not only for my own sake, but for the whole artist community. Because how could anyone in the business ever survive if the competition does the same work for less than half of the price it’s worth?

So for all the new illustrators (or any kind of freelancers) out there: It is ok to charge more. I know it’s a dream job, but it’s a job nonetheless. It’s really hard work, and you might not ever earn much more than a minimum wage. But if you can realize that you’re worth at least that, you’ll eventually stop wallowing in self doubt, the thoughts of going back to being a cashier will fade, you’ll be happier working, your work will become better, your clients happier, and the whole business will thank you for not taking it down with you.

Have a great day!

Embla