52 Birds: American Robin

It's Saturday/Bird Day!  Sticking with the theme of drawing birds that hang out in my general vicinity, this week I illustrated an American Robin.  We tend to associate these birds with spring, but they generally stick around all year long.  

As always, 52 Birds prints are in my Etsy shop, and throw pillows, etc can be found in my Society 6 shop.

If you'd like to draw along with me on this weekly bird illustration project, just share your bird art on Instagram, tagged with #52birds.

52 Birds: Cardinal

Nine weeks into my 52 Birds project seems like a good time to finally illustrate our state bird, the cardinal.  These always remind me of my grandma who used to call the brightly plumaged male and his lady counterpart Mr. and Mrs. Red.  

As always, 52 Birds prints are in my Etsy shop, and throw pillows, etc can be found in my Society 6 shop.

If you'd like to draw along with me on this weekly bird illustration project, just share your bird art on Instagram, tagged with #52birds.

Working Hard & Thinking Big

 Although it's Friday, I don't have any new art to share with you today. Instead, I wanted to share some exciting news and also a bit of a story. First, the news: I'm now represented by The Bright Agency! I'm thrilled and flattered to be in the company of so many amazing illustrators.

And now, on to the story about how this all came about! I warn you, it's about to get wordy, but I think it's important to share some of the ups and downs of being an illustrator. It's not all just drawing pretty pictures.

You might remember way back in 2012, I illustrated a book with Chronicle Books, the first one I'd ever illustrated. It was a huge deal for me and I thought it might be a big change in the direction of my career. It was so exciting, and working with Kristine at Chronicle was a magical experience, so magical that I signed on to do a second book soon after the first was finished. I was on a roll!

Except then I wasn't. I was still happily running my Etsy shop, but other than a handful of illustration and licensing jobs here and there, silence reigned. I was disappointed and down on myself, down on my art. And I lost interest in even trying to build an illustration career. It was a sad time for me, that lasted until the end of last year.

Even though I was down in the proverbial dumps, I kept drawing every day, kept plugging away at improving my skills, and revamping my style. The dream was still there, buried deep down, even though I was afraid to chase it again, or even acknowledge it.

In the meantime, I was still plugging away at my Etsy shop, less happily, having reached the point where I needed to scale back or expand and hire some help. Spending the majority of my day shipping orders and dealing with all the other aspects of running a shop was really running me down. Not having much time to draw, that's not a happy place for me.

After another exhausting holiday season, I knew it was time to scale back on the shop and jump back into focusing on my illustration career. What a terrifying thought it was, as big changes always are. My first big move was to discontinue boxed stationery sets in my shop. Getting rid of my most popular item was nerve wracking, but it felt right because boxed stationery sets were also the most time consuming items for me to make.

Taking that first step, making that first big change, made the rest feel more manageable. Now I needed a big change in mindset as well, to start thinking about making art for the illustration markets instead of just making art for my Etsy shop. I needed to find the balance between the two, and I needed to focus on getting my work in front of the right audiences again. No more shy illustrator, hiding in the corner, hoping someone would notice her.

The next big step for me was signing up for a Marketing Kick Starter session with Holli Conger. Holli is a children's illustration phenom. How she manages to create such a prolific amount of work, I'll never know. I suspect that she doesn't sleep, has some hidden superpower, or has somehow acquired a time turner a la Hermoine Granger. And on top of being a busy illustrator, she takes time to offer career consultations too.

A month of career consultation with her was money well spent for me. We worked on polishing some already known but long dormant social media skills, finding clients, designing promos, and improving my portfolio. Holli was an open book to me for the month of January. Even after out first week of consultation, I was refocused and ready to jump back into illustrating on a regular basis.

Working with Holli confirmed that for the work I wanted to do, I'd be best served to find an agent, especially for work in the educational market, which is largely dealt out to agented illustrators. In addition to working on a client list, I was also working on a list of prospective agencies. The Bright Agency was my top choice for a variety of reasons. Bright felt like a good place for my work to fit in while also standing out. I knew many Bright artists to be cheerful, friendly, and generally, quite busy with illustration work. And I knew that Bright agents were always working to promote their artists and help them build successful careers.

My portfolio didn't feel quite ready yet though; I wanted to finish a few more new pieces of art before I started approaching agencies. I'd already constructed the email I wanted to send to Bright when I was ready, at least I'd constructed it in my head, and I went so far as to make a few notes so I'd be ready when it came time to make contact. But I didn't want to pull the trigger just yet.

Imagine my endless and enthusiastic surprise when two days later I checked my inbox to find an email from The Bright Agency, offering me representation!

I won't lie, there was a bit of screaming, and a bit of jumping up and down, followed by some dancing, and rushing off in a daze to tell my husband what had just happened.

After chatting with a few other Bright artists, to find out about their experiences with the agency, I signed on, and am now feeling pretty at home among the other Brightlings.

This time last year, I was contemplating putting up my pencils for good, and heading back out to find a “real” job. What a difference some time and a large dose of hard work can make!

I think that so often with social media, it seems that everyone is just living a life filled with sunshine and daisies. We tend to share only the good stuff, and I'm not knocking it, but every now and then it's nice to know that others are struggling like you might be, which is why I wanted to share this story. I've struggled a lot over the last two or three years, quietly and in the background. I've cried, doubted myself, doubted my work, doubted my ability to achieve any sort of success as an illustration. I've been *this* close to quitting.

But I hung in there. I worked harder, honed my skills, revamped my approach, and already it's paying off in 2015. I'm creating, and I'm happy, and I'm looking forward to the new artistic adventures I'll be taking.

If you're struggling, don't give up just yet. Change your plans. Revise your focus. Rethink and reimagine your dreams. Work even harder. It will get better, or as I so succinctly lettered it early this year, it can't possible get any worse ;)  

So here's to an already awesome 2015!  It feels so good to have already marked "find a publishing agent" off my 2015 Goals list!  

 I'll have more art to share with you soon.  In the meantime, in the midst of all the changes, I've found time to add a few new bookplate sets and stationery sets to my Etsy shop, which you can find here.

Happy drawing,

Steph :)

 

52 Birds: Dark Eyed Junco

We've finally had snow on the ground for about the last week and the dark eyed juncos have been hopping around all over the place, standing out from the snow with their dark feathers, light pink beaks, and white underbelly.  

Dark Eyed Junco illustration by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

Now, thanks, Winter, I think we're done with snow til next year!

As always, 52 Birds prints are in my Etsy shop, and throw pillows, etc can be found in my Society 6 shop.

If you'd like to draw along with me on this weekly bird illustration project, just share your bird art on Instagram, tagged with #52birds.

Remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned that we'd had a mild winter around here?  Apparently Mother Nature heard me say that and decided to remedy the situation.  It finally snowed!  Almost a foot!  Not so nice is that right now is -8 degrees.  Brrrr!  

But it's perfect weather for staying in my cozy studio, working on some new illustrations!  

Apple Stand - children's illustration by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

I hope you're staying warm wherever you are!

52 Birds: Tufted Titmouse

For my 52 Birds project, I'm mostly starting out drawing birds that frequent the area around my house, and then as the year progresses, I'll be widening the area, drawing birds from my state, then my region, then other parts of the country, and maybe the world if I'm in the mood to draw something totally different.  

This week is the Tufted Titmouse, which is a frequent, and very friendly, visitor around here.  These birds are actually pretty sassy, which is why they are one of my favorites.

As always, 52 Birds prints are in my Etsy shop, and throw pillows, etc can be found in my Society 6 shop.

If you'd like to draw along with me on this weekly bird illustration project, just share your bird art on Instagram, tagged with #52birds.

52 Birds: Carolina Wren

This week's 52 Birds illustration is the Carolina wren, the state bird of South Carolina.  These adorable birds are also frequently spotted all over the eastern part of the United States during warmer weather, including here in West Virginia.  

I spotted my first Carolina wren a couple of summers ago, when I heard it's very loud song in our backyard, and finally discovered him perking in a pine tree, singing his heart out.  

This year, we've had an unusually mild winter, so they are still sticking around, frequenting the feeders and the trees around our house.

As always, 52 Birds prints are in my Etsy shop, and throw pillows, etc can be found in my Society 6 shop.

If you'd like to draw along with me on this weekly bird illustration project, just share your bird art on Instagram, tagged with #52birds.

Shop Talk: Stationery

Let's talk shop today! Specifically, let's talk about stationery.  In case you forgot or didn't know, Boxed Stationery Sets will no longer be available by the end of this month.  I'll keep selling them until I run out of boxes, which looks to be before the end of February.  

In an effort to give myself more time to focus on illustration, I'm simplifying my shop, which means that some things are going away, some things are just getting a makeover, and some things will stay the same.  Boxed Stationery Sets are the most time consuming product, which is why they are getting cut.  If I had more time on my hands, or wanted to hire an assistant, it would be different, but I don't.

Mini Letter Writing Sets are sticking around though!  They are getting a facelift, and I'll be adding new sets to my shop as well, including a select few from my 52 Birds series.

Here's a look at some of the changes:

With the new sets, available at the end of February, you'll be getting round stickers instead of mailing labels.

As always, you can personalize it with a name, or leave it blank.  You'll also be able to choose whether you want the sheets to be lined or unlined.  

I'm chipping away at the big design overhaul in my spare moments, so you've still got a few weeks to buy the old sets.  These new Mini Letter Writing Sets will be available at the end of February.  

Boxed Stationery Sets will most likely be gone within the next two weeks or so, as I've only got about 20 or so boxes left in stock and will not be ordering more.  

If you have any requests for my designs that you'd like to see on a Mini Letter Writing Set, just leave a comment below!

Bunny Sleepover

I'm still plugging away on new portfolio work over here, focusing on simplifying shapes, but adding more fun details, and sticking with lots of color.  And spending more time on my sketches is helping me to save time in Photoshop.

I used to just work from a rough sketch and move right into coloring it in Photoshop, but my rough sketches tend to be just that, rough, and filled with all sorts of problems that need to be worked out.  I've found that working those problems out during the sketch phase saves so much time in the long run, so now it's rough sketch, revised sketches on the light box, and then going to Photoshop for color.  

It's a much more enjoyable and productive process, for me.  And here's a fine example of a much cleaner sketch from me: 

And then the finished illustration:

Bunny Sleepover illustration by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

Happy Monday!  I'm back to the drawing board this morning!

52 Birds: Mountain Bluebird

Mountain bluebirds, we don't have them around here, but gosh, are they ever gorgeous.  That color!  

I was thinking that I'd start out 52 Birds just drawing regional birds and then branch out--see what I did there?--later in the year, but I'm already veering off course and just drawing whatever I'm digging each week.  That works, too.

You can buy prints of the 52 Birds series in my Etsy shop, and I've also started adding them to my Society6 shop, so you can also

Happy Saturday to you!

52 Birds: White-breasted Nuthatch

Saturday mornings have become my times to work on this 52 Birds project.  I'm an early riser, and love having a quiet hour with my green tea and a sketchbook.  Adding some bird illustration into the mix doesn't hurt either!

For this project, I spend a lot of time sketching the bird I'm drawing for the week, from all kinds of different angles, in all kinds of positions.  It's good practice, and, I hope, helps me capture the personality of each bird. 

When it comes to illustrating the birds in Photoshop, I limit myself to certain amount of time, usually between 30 minutes and an hour.  Any longer than that and I tend to overwork it and overthink it.  Spending more time sketching helps as well; I'm going into Photoshop with a complete sketch, something I never used to do.

This week's bird, a white-breasted nuthatch, is a frequent visitor around here.  When I first noticed them, I thought they were woodpeckers, because of the way they walk down tree trunks head first.  Then I noticed they didn't use their tail feathers for balance, like woodpeckers do, and after a quick search discovered what kind of bird they really were.

white-breasted nuthatch illustration by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

Prints are available in my shop, along with the other birds I've illustrated so far!

Quiet in the Library!

Because this is the year I'm trying to inject renewed life into my illustration career, I'm spending as much time as I can working on improving my portfolio.  Focusing on mostly illustration, and not so much on my shop, has been a big shift for me, one that has required conscious decisions.  I'm a creature of habit, and those habits are hard to break.

Even so, I'm having so much fun just working on my illustration portfolio, it doesn't feel like work at all.  I really missed that feeling!  After spending most of last year, as well as part of the year before, feeling down in the dumps and you'll-never-be-good-enough, this change of focus has been refreshing and energizing.  I just want to draw all the things!

To keep myself focused, I'm sticking to a small range of topics, for now, things that will perk my portfolio up.  This week, I wanted to tackle a library illustration, featuring kids and an adult or two, something I don't draw enough of.  You guys know I love the library, and I love books.  I couldn't spend enough time in the library as kid.  

As a kid, I wouldn't have dreamed of speaking above a whisper in the library, but these boys are maybe a bit more ornery than I was:  

please be quiet in the library - children's illustration by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

Happy Friday!

52 Birds: House Finch

Our feeders are being swamped by house finches right now, so I had inspiration flying all over the place for this week's 52 birds drawing!

house finch illustration by stephanie fizer coleman

house finch illustration by stephanie fizer coleman

Alma Loveland from Caravan Shoppe is going to be joining in on Instagram with some weekly bird drawings of her own.  It's occurred to me that perhaps some of you might also like to draw along.  If so, it's pretty simple, just draw a bird each week, whatever kind you feel like drawing, and then share it on Instagram, tagged with #52birds so I can find it.  It will be fun!

Also, I've got a section set up on my shop to house prints of my 52 Birds illustrations, just prints for now.  You can find them tucked away in their own section of the shop.

Happy Saturday!

 

Space Cat and Astro Dog

I can't seem to get enough of drawing space-related stuff these days:  silly animal astronauts, space ships, cute aliens, planets.  You name it and I've been doodling it in sketchbooks.  I knew when I finished up the illustrations for this year's valentines that I wanted to do a larger portfolio piece on the same theme, and I finally got around to finishing last night while watching the Golden Globes

astronaut cat and dog, children's illustration by Stephanie Fizer Coleman


52 Birds: Vermilion Flycatcher

For 2015, I'm jumping into another weekly illustration project:  birds!  Going off my success with my 52 dogs project from last year, I'm sticking with similar principles for this one.  Mainly that I wanted I subject matter I'm already curious about/interested in, and that I wanted something that would push me to hone my skills in creating simple illustrations.  

Simplicity, you guys, it's tricky and it takes practice, at least for me.  But I truly enjoy making these simple little pieces of art that can breathe and be light.  It's a whole thing for me these days.  

Here's my first bird illustration of 2015!

He's a vermilion flycatcher.  Apparently when he's trying to garner the attention of a special lady friend, he presents her with a butterfly or another showy sort of insect.  Isn't he just the charming fellow?

I'm hoping this year to revive this blog a bit, so I'm expecting to keep up with posting these bird illustrations each week.  Or you can also keep up on Instagram, Tumblr, or Facebook!

52 Dogs - Completed!

Way back at the beginning of 2014, I decided to embark on a weekly illustration project, with a bit of trepidation because of previously abandoned year long projects.  In past years, I've planned a grand project for the year, and then, because it's such a grand project, I end up not having time to keep up with it.  So I quit.  Then I feel terribly guilty for being a quitter.  It's awful.  

To set myself up for success on this year's project, I decided to keep it simple and set some ground rules for myself.  I picked a topic that a) interested me and b) that I wanted to get better at drawing.  Dogs!  I knew that I wanted to develop a simpler style of illustration with this project, and I knew that I wanted to have a cohesive collection of illustrations at the end of the year.  

With those guidelines in mind, I shared my first dog illustration here and every week for the past year having been sharing a new one on Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr.  When I finally finished the last illustration yesterday, it felt pretty spectacular!  

So here they are, all 52 Dog illustrations:

I think I finally succeeded in a yearly drawing project because I focused on drawing something that I loved and I kept the process simple.  

I enjoyed this project so much, I'm starting a whole new topic for weekly illustration in 2015:  birds!

PS - If you're looking for prints of these illustrations, you can find them in their own little shop. And if you'd like to commission a dog illustration in this style, just send me a message.

With 2015 just a hop and a skip around the corner, I've already been thinking and planning for the year ahead. For the past couple of years, my Etsy shop has sort of taken on a life of its own, as I trailed along behind, doing whatever it told me to do. Ok, that's just me being silly, but you get the point.

Several months ago, it occurred to me that, as far as my Etsy shop goes, it was time to either expand or scale back. Time to consider adding an employee to take over the production and shipping duties in my studio. Or time to focus more on my illustration career and finds ways to work smarter where my shop was concerned.

For a variety of reasons, including my natural love of solitude, I'm going with option two. I'm considering my five year plan, the kind of work I want to be doing, and regarding my shop, what is sustainable for me, both in regards to time and money.

The good of that, for you and for me, is that I don't envision a future without some sort of online storefront, be it Etsy or my own shop space. I'll continue to offer art prints and sticker sets. I'll be adding new offerings in 2015, specially a collection of folded cards that I've been working on.

The bad news is that personalized stationery, for me, isn't a sustainable option in the long run. It's been a tough choice to make, to cut a product that I find so charming and that customers also adore. But, the truth? The truth is that personalized stationery is a time consuming product that must be printed on demand and that, quite frankly, doesn't have the profit margin to maintain on a small scale.

Instead of just saying Poof! it's gone and never thinking of it again, I'll be slowly phasing it out, starting with Boxed Stationery Sets, which will be available until I run out of paper and stationery boxes. That will happen by the end of February 2015, at the latest. If you've had your eye on a set for yourself or for a gift, don't delay in ordering; once the items I use to make these sets are out of stock, that's it.

Now, Mini Letter Writing Sets are staying around for the time being. They will, however, be getting a bit of a facelift in a few weeks, so keep checking back here to see what is new!

Here's to making time in 2015 to draw all the things! Too bad I can't promise to improve on my abysmal blogging skills, but, rest assured, you can still keep up with my more frequent updates on Instagram, Tumblr, or Facebook.  

Merry Christmas!

After being a bit Scroogey last year, I've back in the Christmas spirit this year.  Decorations have been up since before Thanksgiving, and I've been driving my husband crazy with Christmas tunes for the last month.  And my holiday spirit is infusing my gift giving as well.  Last year nearly everyone got gift cards, because I just wasn't into it.  At. All.  This year, everyone is getting a gift basket full of thoughtful, small gifts and some handmade/homemade gifts as well.  It's all from the heart and stuff.

To go inside my gift baskets, I decided to illustrate a little Christmas portrait of my little family:  me, my husband, and our dogs, Leia and Rocket.

And because I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas as well, I'm sharing that illustration right here: