2011 :: Handmade Holiday Ornament Exchange


I’m excited to announce that registration is OPEN for the 4th Annual Handmade Holiday Ornament Exchange!

ornaments made by :: Clare Cassar 

Collecting and making new Ornaments is one of my favorite parts of the Holiday Season. And coordinating this Exchange has started to become a really fun part of my holiday tradition for the last four years. Who doesn’t love getting brown paper packages tied up with string in the mail, especially during the holiday?!


ornaments made by :: Jill Turney :: Christina Hess :: Elyse Maxwell :: Ginger Gonzalez :: Kellie Carbone :: Bethanie Murguia


This will be my fourth year hosting this Exchange and I’m switching things up a bit and trying something new this year. The Ornament Exchange will now be housed on a PRIVATE  Blu Penny Forum, exclusive for Ornament Makers. The registration fee to participate in this years Exchange is $10 and you’ll have until midnight on Friday, November 25th to sign up or until the group maxes out. Whichever comes first. So don’t dillydally, it filled up really fast last year :-) All the DETAILS you need to know are  HERE.


ornaments made by :: Brenda Syre Crowe

ornaments made by :: Tanya Orstad (2) :: Cathy Hennessy Roberts :: Becky Shank :: William Whitmoyer :: Bridget Matros :: Emily Ausbrook


So, all you artistic and crafty peeps, are you ready or at least crazy enough to take on one more holiday project? You’ll get to make three handmade ornaments and receive three in return. And those of you that are overachiever’s and want to make and receive more ornaments, have the option to register for more than one group.


So hurry on over and sign up before it fill’s up!

Add to Cart

 All the details that you need to know are here.

spread the word grab a button :: 

(just copy and paste the HTML code)

 <a href=”http://www.blupenny.com/2010-hm-holiday-ornament-ex/” target=”_blank”><img border=”0″ src=”http://www.blupenny.comhttp://blupenny.com/storage/ornament-exchange/ornament_exchange1_button.jpg”/></a>

New Glasses & Do Overs


Yeah!!! My new glasses are here and ON!! Now I’m just waiting for my reading glasses to arrive so my eyes won’t get so tired working on the computer. And perhaps I should take the hint and try working off of the computer every once in a while. I’ve been having the itch to pick up a paintbrush and glue stick and get my hands dirty. I just need to get past my current hang-up of not having a button to press to un-do a mistake. It’s funny how I’ve gotten so use to pressing Command Z. It’s actually become a bit of a crutch that I find myself using quite frequently. I just need to make the time to paint and to give myself permission to make mistakes. After all no one is perfect and how can you have a happy accidents if you never allow yourself to make the mistake in the first place?

sketchbook stories :: michele melcher


Michele and I first met and became friends in college as we were working away in the wee hours of the night, finishing up our illustration assignments that were do the next day, in the art studio. We always managed to have a good time in that studio, and the later it got the more fun there was to be had. A lot has changed since then, but what hasn’t is Michlele’s amazing ability to capture the likeness and expression of anyone she paints, with a little something extra. Michele has worked on everything from window clings for American Express, posters for roller derby teams and, most recently, a graphic children’s novel of Elvis Presley for Capstone Press.

The series that Michele is sharing with us today was originally intended for a Philadelphia printing company as part of a four-artist advertising poster campaign with the revolutionary tag line “Long Live Print!”. The campaign was designed to showcase the company’s revolutionary new way of printing using biodegradable inks, recycled papers, and giving back to the community by donating a portion of customer purchases to charity.


Here is Michele’s Sketchbook Story :: 

MM: Each artist was supposed to design a poster that would be sent out quarterly to clients and printed in industry magazines as a promotion. Unfortunately, due to lack of funds, the company was only able to do the first quarter of the year and ultimately ended up killing the project. Because I was due to be the artist representing the second quarter poster, I had already presented my concept sketches before the project was killed. A drag, yes, but I knew I had some great poster sketches and that it would have been a shame not to move forward with them in some capacity – especially the Ben Franklin sketch.

MM: I’ve always been interested in vintage posters from the early 1900′s. Some of the advertising, travel and war-era posters have fantastic illustration and hand lettering.


MM: I thought that the whole idea of Philadelphia and Ben Franklin as a revolutionary, founding father of the country and modern print was fantastic. In my research, I came across this War era “Books Wanted” poster. I loved both the contrast of the color against the dark background and the hand drawn lettering. I emulated the type in my Long Live Print poster, as you can see.

MM: How I work, Two words: Old school. I like to draw. I’m not a great designer, and I can fumble my way through CS3 but my real strength lies in my hand drawing skills. First I do thumbnails and sketches in the sketchbook. When I get something I like, I scan it in, adjust it in Photoshop and print it out. Then comes the tracing paper where I trace and retrace until the sketch is where I want it to be. Sometimes, this process is repeated several times. I showed the Ben Franklin sketch to several Art Director friends, who agreed that I had hit the nail on the head had the job been kept live. I really lucked out to be able to have Philly agency, PRIMER, art direct it for me. I ended up with a strong promotional piece that showcases my ability to capture a likeness with pen, ink and watercolor.


MM: Next, I print out the sketch to the full size and then graphite the back so that I can trace and transfer it onto the watercolor paper.


MM: After the drawing is transferred to the paper, I tighten it up in pencil. Then I go over it again lightly with a Micron pen. Finally I may or may not staple the paper to stretches. At this point, I tape off the edges of the illustration and add liquid mask where needed. Then I begin laying out the color.


MM: I keep adding color in layers, building depth a little at a time. The secret to great control with watercolor? Use a hair dryer. There’s a lot of painting, drying, painting and drying going on while I work. When the painting part is finally finished, I go back into the illustration with the Micron pens and tighten up the line work. Sometimes, I may use a thin pin striping brush and ink, depending on the drawing.


MM: I remove the tape, cut the painting off of the stretchers and scan into the computer where I will color correct the image and fix small things that I would otherwise have to go back and re-draw. (the miracle of Photoshop!) This whole experience just goes to show that sometimes, the best work that an illustrator produces is not the paid work. I can’t express enough how important it is to have consistently good strong promotional pieces, so any chance that you have to go the extra mile and make something great, do it!


And here’s where you can find Michele:

     website: http://www.michelemelcher.com

          blog: http://melcherillustration.blogspot.com/

 foundfolios: http://www.foundfolios.com/Michele-Melcher

       twitter: @MicheleMelcher


if you are an artist or would like to recommend an artist or designer to be featured in Sketchbook Stories please feel free to drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you :-)

Monday Mornings

I love Monday Mornings!! I’m not sure there are many people that can say that. I’m not sure I could of said that six months ago, but I truly love Mondays. It’s when I get to meet with a group of wonderful ladies and share! Share in what were working on, what we’ve accomplished and what we hope to do in the future. I always leave super motivated and with a clear picture of what I need to accomplish for week. There is just no better way to start my week then with a cup of tea and sharing with these inspiring and talented ladies. So thank you LIDL!! You know who you are :-)

Sweetly Refined :: Cupcakes & Fashion

Sweets and in particular cupcakes have been on my mind. I have a sweet tooth like nobodies business. Always have and I think always will. It’s something I think I’ve passed down to my daughter, but thank goodness she has inherited her fathers teeth, as I have definitely have paid for it at the dentist. I’ve been working on my new Sweetly Refined Collection for sometime now thought I would share with you my process. I showed you a few of these sketches for this collection a while back but thought it would be nice to pull it all together to show the true progress of my creative process.

When I first started off thinking about cupcakes I was taking it in a whole different direction. The first phrase that came to mind was ‘camp cupcake’ it was summer time and I was envisioning cupcake totem and little cupcake doing skip rope, sitting by a fire and playing camping games. Cute, right? But I when I thought about it a little more I really wanted to add in a level of sophistication and all the ideas were   beginning to feel a bit too cuties. I’ve been reading and looking at all the soft and romantic fashion photography over at Day Dream Lilly and thought that there must be some way I can incorporate cupcakes and fashion. I also really wanted to draw some ladies.


 I started off pulling some screenshots of cupcakes that I liked off of the web. There are a ton of different kinds of cupcakes and website and blogs dedicated to the art of making cupcakes. It’s very easy for me to get caught up in all the research.


I decided to draw a few flavors that I liked and started filling up my sketchbook with pages of cupcakes. My daughter even joined in the process with picking the cupcakes that she wanted me to draw and making suggestions on how many sprinkles should be added.


Then I started drawing the ladies and pulling pages out of my husbands stack of W magazines. Gosh I love looking thru that magazine with juicy colors and large format pages. We often fight over who get to look at it first when a new issue arrives in the mail. Technically they are addressed to him, but I feel it becomes communal property the moment it hits my front step. :-)


After I was satisfied will all the sketches and drawings. I pull out my handy dandy color swatch books and pick a basic color palette. This way I at least I have a starting point even if it grows and changes I always have a color foundation to go back to. Next came the computer work. I scan my drawings, clean them up and then place them in illustrator and start the colorization process.


…and Voila the first of my Sweetly Refined Ladies!! Only 5 more to go and the collection will be complete.




DO NOT BE TIMID. Some great advice even if it is written on a Yan Yan stick. This is something that I often need to remind myself when I’m having a moment of insecurity. Whether it be making that cold call, replying politely to that rejection note or revising a contract. I’m working on building up the courage to ask for what I want both in my life and my art career. I have to trust the the universe will provide. I mean, how will other know if I don’t speak up? Heck, I deserve to at least ask. What’s the worst that could happen?  
I’m sure some of you also go thru these moments of insecurity. I think everyone does at one point or another. Do you have any coping techniques that you use to get yourself past those self-imposed roadblocks and fears? I’m always interested in learning what other people do to see if maybe their techniques would also work for me. I think there is so much we can learn from other.  So I’m putting it out there and asking all you Brave Creatives, what do you do to get past your insecurities and fears?

And, yes sometimes opening a sweet snack and being reminded to not be timid is all that’s needed.

sketchbook stories :: kathy weller

Kathy, is a wonderful whimsical artist that has a soft spot for animals and pets of all kinds. Her sweet illustrations reflect her positive outlook and her ‘look on the bright-side of things’ attitude towards life. Kathy recently wrote a post on her blog titled The Realities of an Art Licensing Newbie and I think she has some really great insight that we can all learn from. One of the things that Kathy said that really spoke to me was “I just had to keep my head on, refocus myself and revise my plan a little. Just keep on plowing through. Keep working, keep submitting, keep trying. No quitting allowed.” This is good advise for anyone pursuing a dream not just an newbie trying to breaking into art licensing.

Here is Kathy’s Sketchbook Story ::

KW: My inspiration for this piece was two-fold. First, I am taking part in The Sketchbook Project, and the sketchbook theme I picked is “It’s raining dogs and cats”. Second, I have a long history with dog and cat art—I have always loved drawing them. For five years, I even ran a busy custom pet portrait business. So nowadays, it’s practically a given that I feature pets in many of my art licensing collections. And though I had no specific visual reference for this sketch, I was initially inspired by the idea of creating a decorative pattern with the theme of cats and dogs—something that could potentially be a part of an art licensing collection.


KW: I enjoyed the fun energy and whimsy of this initial drawing, and I thought it exuded commercial appeal. So I decided to develop the image into a finished piece of art. If the final ended up strong, it could be the beginning of something good…

KW: I scanned the sketch in and brought it into Photoshop. The initial 8.5″x11″ sketch was not as large as the 12″x12″ piece I was going to craft from it, but I usually redraw everything digitally anyway, using a sketch as a guideline. The line will be clean, fresh and work seamlessly with the digital painting, but it will still maintain it’s quirky original line. I decided to try something I have not done in a long time: I drew and painted this piece start-to-finish in Photoshop. The reason why is because I’d just upgraded to CS5 right before I started this piece. The new Photoshop has some painting tools that are a bit similar to Corel Painter, and I was excited about the possibilities— excited enough to take my chances.


KW: I decided to paint the clouds without an outline, after initially planning to do them with an outline/ line-work detail as I usually do. I liked the collagey feel of the fluffy, painterly clouds living in the same world as the little line-painted cats and dogs. It felt fresh, so I went with it. During the cloud painting process, I used a temporary green background for good contrast.


KW: The finished piece! I am liking this new Photoshop painting method… and, this piece has indeed become a part a new collection. Success!


And here’s where you can find Kathy:

   website: www.wellerwishes.com

        blog: www.wellerwishes.blogspot.com

       shop: www.wellerwishes.bigcartel.com

    twitter: @wellerwishes

facebook: www.facebook.com/#!/pages/WellerWishes-Illustration-Design/255377860787

if you are an artist, art director, designer or would like to recommend someone to be featured in Sketchbook Stories please feel free to drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you :-)

CHARLOTTE’S WEB :: Garth Williams Cover Art Auctioned Off


Wilbur, Fern and Charlotte have been top of mind recently. Charlotte’s Web is my daughter’s latest obsession. I’ve started reading her a chapter of the book before bed every night. We also have an easy reader version of the book, a VHS copy of the cartoon and the newer movie with Dakota Fanning and Julia Robert’s on order. That’s just the way we roll over here, when we have an obsession we go whole hog.


(Courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

So it was quite serendipitous when I read about Garth Williams’ original cover art for the book was auctioned off and sold for more than $155,000!! I love that Garth’s oldest daughter Fiona was his model for Fern Arable. It’s so interesting to me how the artist’s real life gets intertwined with their work. I think this happens to all of us.


Garth’s art work for ‘Charoltte’s Web’ has been used for the last 58 years. I can only hope that someday my own work will have that type of timeless quality, longevity and staying power.

Surtex 2011 :: I’m IN for round two

I was really on the fence whether or not I should get a booth for Surtex in May.  I’m planning some BIG Creative Life Changes and just wasn’t sure if it made finical sense, since I’ve started to tighten my bootstraps in preparation for the transition. But after talking it thru, I think it would be a big mistake if I didn’t do it. I don’t want to blow my momentum. I just need to do things a little differently, and quite frankly smarter than I did them last year, focusing on the things that will get me the biggest return. <–That’s me wearing my business hat. Usually, I’m wearing my artist hat where aesthetic, style and craft trumps all else. I need to be a little more cost conscious and stick to my planned budget. It can be done thrifty and still done well. So I just signed my contract yesterday, and I’ll be setting up shop in the same corner booth, with my same booth neighbor Megan Halsey. We had such a good time hanging together last year. :-)

So here’s to year TWO surpassing the first!!!

On a side note I thought I’d share with you the survey results that Surtex has posted on their homepage. 80% of Surtex attendees consider it to be the most important tradeshow for their business. I wonder what the other 20% think. I know that the Licensing Expo in Vegas has been gain some momentum and I actually received a call from them today gently trying to persuade me to consider exhibiting. (But I first need to walk it before I consider showing there.)


I thought I’d also share the the video that they have posted. I think it does a good job and highlight some of the 2010 exhibitors (sadly I wasn’t included, but hey there’s always next year).