Catchin' up

Oy! Best laid plans... yep. This summer hasn't gone as planned. My seasonal allergies have really dampened my energy and reserve. I was on steroids for a few weeks to try and get on top of them and those were the best two weeks of my summer! I haven't been able to do any of my new series, other than the 100 Days of Botanicals and Bugs which has been really helpful and enlightening. So, let me catch you up on some of those pieces I was able to squeeze out of my hands. I also had some client work this summer which has been great as well. 

I will be at Holden Days Community fest this Saturday with some new works like the ones below, "Love Thy Neighbor" series. I will have afordable originals as well as prints of soem fo the botanical and bugs. COme say hello! I'd love to see you. 

Summer focus

Normally, summer is not my favorite season. I don't do well in the heat and my allergies leave me feeling itchy, tired and a bit foggy most of the time. This year, however, I have a reason to welcome it with open arms! I can already feel the schedule of the school year fading away and I'm starting to adjust to the new,  more consistent work schedule in the studio. I will still be navigating the work schedules of my two teenage sons who are not yet driving and the very phrenetic schedule of my new(ish), high energy puppy but this is all an improvement! 

Looking forward to sinking my teeth into my emerging "Caged" series. This series gets its imagery inspiration from vintage botanical and biological illustrations. The energy for this series is fueled by my own angst and thoughts about being a woman in her fifties as I consider all the choices I've made along the way and the things that cage me in one way or another. I will be incorporating hand embroidery into the works, as I have in the previous two series. This time I plan on working on hand dyed fabrics as well as the tissue paper layers I've used in the past. I have been doing research on the history of embroidery and it's parallel to woman's roles in the family and community.  This history will play its own role in the series and what I hope to express in these works. 

work in progress 

work in progress 

Because most artists these days have to keep many irons in the fire to keep the bills paid, I will also be putting together a marketing package to send out to art agents and directors in the direction of illustration and licensing work. Work on the Gracie Brave book is ongoing and I will be doing some illustration work for the authors this summer as well. 

Happy Summer to all who have teken the time to visit my "desk" today. Be well and stay in touch! 

Botanicals and Bugs and Sometimes, Cages

The 100 Days Project Continues and is going well ... I've loosened up and have played with new color palettes and am finding pure joy in the process! I've started doing research on the history of botanical illustrations as well as the history of embroidery and it's reflection of society and culture. This search and the daily practice of playing with the themes will inform my next series which I hope to really dig in to this summer. Finally, I am researching fellowships and artist residencies to commit a focused block of time to this series, if anyone has any leads - I'd welcome the resource! 

Days 1-9  

Days 1-9

 

Days 10-19

Days 10-19

Days 20-29  

Days 20-29

 

100 Days

I'm taking part in the 100 Days Project by producing sketches and studies of bugs (mostly moths) and botanicals. They can be found on my instagram feed as well as on my Facebook studio page .

These studies and sketches will inform my next wall art series. This new series will explore the mixture of hand embroidery, used in a more free-form/intuitive way than I have used it in my first Beasts series. I've begun to explore the use of embroidering on tea-dyed fabric as well as water soluble substrate material for hand work. My intention is to bring an updated and deeper exploration of the traditional botanical/natural history illustration. 

I continue to work on my children's book illustration portfolio and hope to pull a pitch together for the Gigantic Turnip book. 

Finally, I am researching the possibility of pursuing a Masters in Social Work to support my goals of bringing creativity as a means to healing to audiences that have experienced loss and or trauma. 

Day 2 of the 100 Days Project 

Day 2 of the 100 Days Project 

Day 1 of the 100 Day Project 

Day 1 of the 100 Day Project 

An experimental piece using recycled bed sheet material stretched over wood panel and prepared for waterbed gouache and ink. Embroidery on tea-dyed bed sheet material and water soluble embroidery fabric. 

An experimental piece using recycled bed sheet material stretched over wood panel and prepared for waterbed gouache and ink. Embroidery on tea-dyed bed sheet material and water soluble embroidery fabric. 

Day 7 

Day 7 

New Gallery !

I am pleased to announce that the newly expanded Worcester Art and Frame Gallery in West Brookfield, MA is now showing  my work ! I have my Beasts II (Heritage Breeds and Heirloom Seeds) series hanging now in addition to some smaller works on paper and cards, also available. There will be a grand opening reception on March 11 if you're local and want to stop by to say hello to some local artists. 

"Arapawa Goat" Beasts II series 24" square. Mixed media and hand embroidery on wood. 

"Arapawa Goat" Beasts II series 24" square. Mixed media and hand embroidery on wood. 

Let's get this year rolling !

Hello good people ! Whew! Haven't posted here since November ?! Shame on me ! December always gets away from me. Here's the new year upon us already. I have been emerging from the fog of activity related to the holidays as well as to my middle son starting college.  I am just starting to get my footing with my new schedule of driving him back and forth to classes and carving out my studio time. Oh! And we added a new little four legged life to our family. "Jimmy" is a little ball of puppy energy and a real tricky one to train. I've taken on a new teaching position at Tower Hill Botanical Gardens and will be starting with a "Monet's Garden" class with young school age students in the spring. Really looking forward to teaching children again. I taught children ages 3-13 for 11 years in my private art school out of my home. I stopped teaching to get ready for a solo show back in 2011 and really miss being with young artists. Their enthusiasm and strong instincts were the things that got me painting again in 2006 and it's a missing piece in my life. 

I'm working on a big project that unfortunately I can't share here or anywhere else until I get the thumbs up from the client. In the meantime I've been warming up in the studio by doing little concept pieces and throwing them on Instagram

I've been inspired by a Emily Gould's journaling class on Skillshare, where she asked us to write daily by being sparked by the opening sentence, "today I noticed.." 

I also played with some images that suggested to me a particular word. I worked with images first and then thought about what words came to mind when I thought about the composition. I've been working on hand lettering with all these ideas. 

and finally ... I created a little piece for M.L.K. Jr. Day. I love W.E.B. Dubois's words...so much richness in his thoughts and writings. 

Sugar Plum Fairy Hits the Streets

Now that the the Children's Book Illustration course is over and all the Thanksgiving left overs are eaten, I am ready to take on the holiday season! I'm gearing up to participate in an art show this Saturday at the UUCW church and have just announced that I will be hosting an open studio the weekend of December 17-18. 

I am offering my newest card design: a Hanukkah themed card ! 

Hanukkah cards will be available in my shop December 1st. 

Hanukkah cards will be available in my shop December 1st. 

 

I decided to enter the competition to win a free space in the next round of the Children's Book Illustration course. 

The assignment was to design the front cover of the imaginary book titled, "The Sugar Plum Fairy's Adventure". I truly had so much fun with this assignment! I really tried to relax and have fun and give myself plenty of time to see it with fresh eyes to fine tune and make this the most solid submission to date.  

My plan first thing in the new year is to design a marketing package to send to a small group of art directors and agents. If you are an art agent or art director in the children's book illustration and/or children's markets and would like to receive my newsletter and/or my marketing package please email me @ janemhoughton@gmail.com. Thank you. Here's to the best year yet in 2017 ! 

"First, stand up!" - Maurice Sendak

It's staring out plainer than ever
Brighter than all the fool's gold that gleams
It's simply now or never
Putting flesh on the bones of my dreams

                               - David Gray, "Flesh" 

Any chance I get to use David Gray's lyrics to illustrate a post is a good day for me ! 

I've been a bit quiet here the last few weeks but I apologize... I couldn't find my computer keyboard under the flotsam and jetsam that accumulates when I am chin deep into a project. And I have indeed been chin deep into the Make Art That Sells course, Children's Book Illustration course with Lilla Rogers and Zoe Tucker these past four weeks ! What a wonderful experience it has been for me. Some tears, as there are always tears when I take Lilla's courses. All my buttons get pushed and my ego tries to bully me. However, I am getting much better at pushing right back. I've been reflecting at how very far my work and my knowledge has come in the past three years (since taking the first MATS A course Lilla offered) and really, that's an opportunity to celebrate not fill tissues with tears! 

I'd like to indulge you, if it's ok for just a bit,  and share the lifespan of this dream I have of creating beautiful picture books for children. 

That's me in the fashion forward dress 

That's me in the fashion forward dress 

Drawing, coloring, painting on the wall of my second grade classroom (shhhh...) have always been my activity of choice. My first studio was in my bedroom where I set up a private space in an unused large closet to research, draw and paint. I would collect my favorite picture books and study them intently in that little closet lit by one bulb hanging from the ceiling. I recently purchased a second copy of one such book that I was intrigued by: "Debbie's Dollhouse" illustrated by Pat Paris.

"Debbie's Dollhouse" was a Hallmark book. The author (Barbara Kunz Loots) and illustrator's names weren't even included on the front cover. 

"Debbie's Dollhouse" was a Hallmark book. The author (Barbara Kunz Loots) and illustrator's names weren't even included on the front cover. 

Other illustrators that I was intrigued by were Holly Hobbie, Arthur Rackham, Maurice Sendak, Jan Brett and 1930's illustration in general. The blocks in the photo above were my mother's. Her mother, my grandmother, whom I never knew wanted to be a children's book author/illustrator. I am told I look just like her and we have quite a bit in common leading many to believe I am her reincarnated spirit. It is eery how much we have in common but that's a story for another day...

In college I bounced around a bit within my studio art major at Skidmore College but always held up the intention to be a children's book illustrator. One of my drawing professors was married to illustrator, Lorinda Bryan Cauley. Pat and Lorinda invited us into their home where we could view her studio and ask her questions, etc.. I remember being tongue tied because this life of illustrating stories while raising small children was the very dream I had imagined for most of my life. I think it scared me to view this glimpse into the very life I wanted so closely. It doesn't make sense now but that's what I felt. 

During the summer of my junior and senior years in college I was fortunate enough to work at The Main Street Gallery in Nantucket, MA. The gallery showed Jan Brett originals and I would stand transfixed in front of her work, studying every detail just as I had as a little girl in my studio closet. I was thrilled to meet her and to talk to her about my dream of developing my portfolio to approach publishers after graduation. She was so encouraging and even said I reminded her of herself at my age. Again, I felt more fear than encouragement at her open and kind spirit. 

So, for reasons I can't really nail down, other than a lack of confidence in my own voice, I lost my way after college on the path to pursuing that dream. I won't go in to all the twists and a turns my career took since 1987 (including an advanced degree in a non-art field) but to suffice it to say, "what a long strange trip it's been!" Along the way, I met another one of my illustration heroes, Maurice Sendak , when I embarrassed myself by kneeling in front of him to ask for his advice. His response? "First, stand up". I think that's pretty telling. Yea Jane, stand up and take your place in the world would you for crying out loud !? 

So, here I am. I started painting again professionally in 2006 and ever since I have worked toward developing my voice and honing my skills. I illustrated my first children's book this past year, "Gracie Brave" to be published soon. The authors' hired me privately so it's up to the winds of fate and their efforts to edit and pitch it to the right publisher so, fingers crossed! 

So, "enough about me, what do you think of me?" wink wink

Here's some of my progress in the class:  

Lilla gives us daily warm-up assignments. This was my "hats" practice. 

I did apply some embroidery to the main character in the story...

I did apply some embroidery to the main character in the story...

I used french knots in his beard and hat as well as his coat (not shown). I think the presentation was too small to have such detail show through. 

I used french knots in his beard and hat as well as his coat (not shown). I think the presentation was too small to have such detail show through. 

some preliminary pose sketches

some preliminary pose sketches

full color poses. I'm working on redoing the lower left example. 

full color poses. I'm working on redoing the lower left example. 

some supporting characters

some supporting characters

a little mood sketch 

a little mood sketch 

The true hero of the story: the tiny mouse

The true hero of the story: the tiny mouse

The Sea Cucumber Farm: setting for the story I imagine. 

The Sea Cucumber Farm: setting for the story I imagine. 

Turnips and Mermaids and sleepless nights...

The children's book illustration class with Art Agent Lilla Rogers and Scholastic UK Art Director Zoe Tucker started this week !  We had to pick a text from three different choices. Lila developed a quiz method to help us make our choices which was fun. I chose the Russian folk tale, "The Gigantic Turnip",  a favorite or mine as a child. I always loved stories that built on itself progressively. I thought I could have fun with all the characters and it just felt right. 

First I brainstormed about the characters...

? a farmer at the farmer's market buying seeds from a woman who's truck says, "Ginormous Seeds" or "Monstrous Seeds" or something...

? a scientist-farmer who is experimenting with various fertilizers...the scientific name of turnip is "Brassica Rapa" 

? Show growing turnip under the ground with a calendar...looked up the growing season of turnips... 

? make the turnip a character in it's own right

And then... I couldn't sleep because I couldn't stop thinking about the characters and the setting of the story. I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea that I fell in love with ! 

> Set on the seaside...family lives in a lighthouse (considered setting it in Holland but gave that up)...Old man is a fisherman who finds the seeds washed up on the beach in a pirate treasure type box...married to his wife, a mermaid...granddaughter based on photos of my mother's of her as a 2-3 year old in vintage 1930's bathing suit...use vintage 1930'2 color palette. In the back ground is a secondary story: a whale swimming in the ocean getting progressively closer to the shore...when the turnip does finally pop out of the ground it flies into the open mouth of the whale.   That's my idea so far. 

Here is my final main character submission for the old man: 

I like how the embroidered details look on his coat and beard. I also like the color palette and the crab on the watering can. I want him to be an imposing figure built like a big, hefty turnip! I'm really looking forward to allowing the other characters and story to unfold. Working on trusting my instincts and not allowing my insecurities about certain details derail me but rather push through and just keep sketching and brainstorming gently. In the past I push so hard I think I block some of my best work. 

Preparation

I've been spending most of my time preparing for my experience in the Lilla Rogers Make Art That Sells course: Children's Book Illustration which starts this Monday (!0/3/2016).  I've been saving for and looking forward to this class for months and months since I first heard about it. I've cleaned my studio, cleared the air of any sense of regret over the Global Talent Search experience and tried out some new ways of working. 

I've been experimenting with incorporating my hand embroidery into my illustrations. 

 

I've also played around with Lilla's warm-up assignments that revolved around a fictitious character named "Minette". We were charged to imagine her as a well rounded character: who were her friends, her pets, her world? 

#GTS2016

My submission for the Global Talent Search hosted by Lilla Rogers Studio has been a joy to create! . I went with a Metamorphosis theme for this assignment: to design a tea cup, saucer and napkin for a posh newly expanded tea and pastry cafe. I named the cafe "Chrysalis" and went with imagery of moths and fruit. I've been obsessed with the combination of peachy-salmon tones with dusty rose lately so I knew they would play a role and of course, light aqua blues and mossy greens are always popping into the picture ! I did my first honest to goodness repeat pattern in Photoshop with this project. The original idea was to put the pattern on the tea cup but I decided on putting it on the napkin only as well as a backdrop neutral for the overall presentation. 

The repeat pattern on the tea cup option

The repeat pattern on the tea cup option

I also tried it with a grey background...

I also tried it with a grey background...

I made the decision not to do a mock up of a teacup with the design on it. I really wanted to keep the composition simple and let the art come forward. I decided instead to do the teacup design on a template shape that would be used at the factory level to place it on the cup. 

I wanted to push the unexpected nature of using moths instead of butterflies. Moths are so varied and so many are just amazingly gorgeous. I borrowed nature books filled with photographs of moths and their various stages of life: chrysalis, caterpillar, egg, etc... from my dear friend Loree Burns who has a vast collection of such books including the ones she has written! If you have a young nature lover check out her books - they are terrific! . 

I liked the idea of using the Metamorphosis idea in conjunction with a place you might go to pause for a bit to gain sustenance  to continue your personal journey or perhaps spiritual unfolding. I came up with a tag line for the cafe: "Nurture your Metamorphosis" for the cafe. 

I truly felt more confident and joy-filled working on this assignment than I have in previous GTS attempts. I hope my emotion for this personal victory shines through in the result. Crossing my fingers and toes that Lilla and her staff sees something they'd like to see more of and will allow me the opportunity to try my hand at the next assignment. There are over 1,000 international artists in this GTS and she will have to narrow that group down to 50 ! Not an easy job I am sure. I will let you know ! In the mean time I still have work on the Gracie Brave book and having fun with the last few pages - so much going on in these last illustrations and I am loving that prospect as well! 

Here is my final presentation submission: 

Global Talent Search 2016 submission. Hosted by Lilla Rogers Studio 

Global Talent Search 2016 submission. Hosted by Lilla Rogers Studio