beckysimpsoncreativeresident

You may have noticed that Adobe has opened up applications for the 2016-2017 Creative Residency. I’ve been receiving a handful of inquiries about the application process and I’m happy to share my answers with you here. I can’t believe I’m in my last quarter! This year has flown by. Long story short: this residency has been even better than I imagined and I highly recommend you apply.

“Do you have any general tips on applying to the Creative Residency?”

I wish I had the magic answer, but the application is really about you. Enthusiasm is contagious. Be really excited about what you’re doing and don’t try to make it fit a certain formula that you imagine Adobe is seeking. They’re looking to expand the program (new mediums, objectives, processes, etc.), so don’t assume that because you haven’t seen it done a certain way means it can’t be done that way in the future. This is the second year of the program. Anything is possible.

“Do they pay you a yearly salary? Is the salary comparable to what I’d otherwise be making?” 

Yes, I think so. It was for me. As a resident, I have always felt like the entire Adobe team has been rooting for me. This includes how they have compensated me over the last year.

“Do they compensate you for the materials?”

When I was applying, it was explained to me that Adobe is investing in my creative journey, not my business. So in my case, no, they do not pay for my materials that I will end up selling. But they will pay for materials to help foster my creative growth (art supplies and travel!).

“How do I budget what the project will cost?”

This portion is to give them an idea of what they’ll be investing in with you. Sometimes it will be expected for you to pay for things with your salary and sometimes they’ll pay (it’s a case by case basis). But the rule of thumb is what I said before: if it aids in the creativity, they’re all about it. The project budget is really to help them understand if they can fiscally support you. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just do your best with the knowledge you have at this point about your endeavor.

“Do they provide free software?” 

Yes, Adobe has given me the Creative Cloud suite for the year as well as a MacBook Pro (that will be returned at the end of the year).

“How much do you travel?” 

Quite a bit, but that’s relative. You’re expected to be available for travel about 25% of the time. In my busier months I probably traveled twice a month, sometimes more. But often times it was initiated by me where I found an opportunity and went for it. They don’t make you go anywhere (though there are a few important events), but it is assumed that as a resident you’re willing and speak and travel when the opportunities arise. But no, they won’t make you skip your best friend’s wedding. Adobe covers all travel expenses.

“Could your partner or friend join in on the travel?”

Yes, sometimes Greg joined me. Often times I would be so busy with work that it didn’t make sense to make it a couples trip, but you could do it. It is nice having one of the flights plus the hotel paid. The event you’re traveling for is the priority so as long as you’re smart and doing what you came to do, they don’t care.

“How much of your work should be shown in the proposal?”

It really just depends on what is needed to give them a clear idea of your project. You can always link to your portfolio or a blog post that expands on the subject if there’s a lot more you want to show (or give them the opportunity to dive in more).

“Does Adobe own your work?”

No. Part of the nature of the residency is being really transparent about what you’re working on, so you’re already sharing a lot. They don’t want you creating in a dark corner. I think they always ask when they use my work, and it’s always credited to me. I’ve always felt that it was to bring me exposure and support me. My book and art I’m selling is not owned by Adobe, but they do get to use it (again, they’ve always credited me). I’m more than okay with this.

“Can I do freelance work while in the program?”

Mostly no, but maybe yes. The point of the program is to totally focus on your personal project(s). They aim to pay you well enough that you don’t need to consider taking on other work, but if a really great/special/exciting/once in a lifetime opportunity comes up, they’ll work with you. The right perspective would be to go into this assuming you will not be taking on client work for a year.

“How did you hear about / how were you accepted into the program?”

Adobe found my work online and reached out to me to talk further about the program. I was asked to provide a project proposal and we continued the conversation from there. The process was much like the application process today, except they reached out to me rather than me finding an open call for applications online.

Closing thoughts

Remember, these are real people who are doing this because they really do care about our creative community. They’re excited to see the applications and how they can work with you this year. They’re not looking to nitpick your proposal. They want to see eager folks who are already investing in themselves; they want to take that to the next level. It’s important that you share with the community as a resident (everything from social media to public speaking). If you can prove that you’re already doing “your thing” to the degree that you have the opportunity, great. You’re in good shape. It’s better not to know what I did or what other people are doing (as far as crafting the proposal) because yours is a blank canvas and that’s a good thing. Picasso wasn’t formally trained as a sculptor. He just went after it, and you can too.

Check out what it means to be a Creative Resident, and don’t miss the FAQ at the bottom of the page.

Good luck!

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Hi. Hello. Howdy.

Real excited to share some news I’ve been working on and thinking about 25/7.

As a part of my Creative Residency, I’m opening an online store with my new product line, Chipper Things. I called it ‘Chipper Things 2.0′ in the header of this post because that’s exactly what it is: the new and improved, all-in, LOLs to the walls, “There’s no turning back now” art and paper paraphernalia line that will be illustrated by yours truly.

I’ve had my Chipper Things Etsy shop for a little while now. Some of these products will be in the new store, but that’s nothing compared to the work happening behind the scenes. Follow @chipperthings on Instagram for more process shots and a glimpse into the tangents of my brain.

This is something I’ve been dreaming about for years so I’m very excited to share the process with you. Pretty soon I’ll share more about my timeline, strategy, how the name came about (and stayed) and why I decided to take my art in this direction. Sign up for my newsletter for the occasional picture viewing and pump up party as well.

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Ever ask yourself, “How much is too much pizza?”

Me too.

If you come to West Elm (Austin) this Sunday from 12-4 you’ll be able to snag yourself this very helpful decision-making flowchart (as well as a number of other pieces that haven’t been released online yet).

See you there!

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My very first art show, All the Things, opened on December 1 at Companion. I displayed 31 pieces total, with a mix of prints and originals (and a variety of mediums like gouache, watercolor, risograph, screen printing, etc.) It was a very special night for me and I greatly appreciate all who came out to support this work I’ve done during my Creative Residency.

The show will be up through the end of the month. Check it out if you’re in Austin!

Photography by Chelsea Francis 

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My friend Val gave me the idea to put “Drawliday” in the name of the event. I don’t remember what I would have done without her input (actually I think I was going to do Say It Ain’t Snow), but I’m glad she stepped in.

Mama’s Sauce has a fantastic internship program and they take great pride in their end of the semester lecture / workshop series. It was an honor to follow in the footsteps of Dana Tanamachi and Will Bryant in teaching a workshop to this Winter Park, Florida crew. The purpose of my workshop was to spur a night of drawing and remind everybody that illustration is accessible to all. This year we had help from a cool folks to make it a really great event, including Adobe Creative CloudCreative Live, French Paper, and of course, Mama’s Sauce (and thank you for helping out, AIGA Orlando!).

Everybody is creative, and creativity is just connecting the dots. No dots to connect? Enter creative prompts.

I led attendees through a series of guided steps so they could illustrate their own posters out of just paper and Sharpies. The steps were as follows:

1. Pick a theme.

Wait for it…

No theme? Pick a number between 1-8.

DON’T READ AHEAD.

Have your number?

Okay.

Here’s a topic to riff of of for your theme: 1) food 2) imaginary creatures 3) nature 4) animals 5) region 6) person/people 7) holiday 8) something you don’t understand.

2. Next: see the image bank below…

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Now fill this whole thing out—with words or pictures. You will end up with 25 prompts to illustrate for your poster. Don’t overthink it. The idea is to have imagery to use that isn’t as obvious as “Christmas tree” with a Christmas theme. If your theme is, “The Midwest,” you’ll have 5 ideas/pictures under “see” that you see when you think of the Midwest (farms, Grant Wood, etc.). Under “taste,” do the same. You might write, “snowflakes,” “sweet corn” or even “cow manure”. You get the idea.

3. Pick your five favorites.

4. Draw the centerpiece of your poster using one thing from your top five. The centerpiece is the hierarchy of the poster.

5. Choose another image from your favorites in the image bank. Draw it twice on the poster and make it symmetrical or asymmetrical. This will compliment your centerpiece.

6. Do this again with a new image from your image bank. Now you’ll have 2 sets of 2 images. That’s 4 images, plus your centerpiece. Way 2 go.

7. Create a pattern out of the design elements from row 2, column “hear.” The point of this is not only to employ the power of repetition, but it also serves as a reminder that we can find inspiration in ANYTHING. Whatever is in this box has pattern potential. Even if you wrote, “farts” or “tree.” You could take it literally and draw simple leaves, or you could draw little tear drop shapes, or use the lines from the branches. It’s whatever you make of it.

8. Create border inspired by imagery/texture from “touch” column.

9. Mentally divide poster in half…then choose your own adventure with how you finish. Do you want to leave it blank and employ the negative space? Or do you want to make a pattern out of box 1 under “taste”? OR how about you draw something from the smell column? The world poster is your oyster.

10. Color it in! Or color in what you want, where you want it. Remember, contrast is king.

BONUS STEP: download the Adobe Capture app, then go to the Shape tab and take a picture with your phone to vectorize the image so it’s all ready for print. How cool! One of the attendees from the workshop will win a free run of screen printed or letter pressed prints of their design. I’m so looking forward to seeing this finished, printed piece.

Thanks again for having me, Orlando! You made me feel so warm (very literally) welcome and I hope to be back sooner than later.

Dear Austin,

Please join me at Companion on December 1st from 7-10 p for the opening reception of my very first art show.

I’m very excited to be showing off work I’ve created throughout my Creative Residency that will kickstart the next phase of my project (I’ll tell you about it soon).

The show will be up through December, but I want to see you there. Grab a drink next door at Brew & Brew and join the fun!

Address:

908 E 5th St #106c
Austin, Texas 78702

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Woo hoo! 2016 calendars are available! They’re 12×18″ and perfect for any office, kitchen or kids room.

I illustrated the type with crayons and India Ink. Each month’s header has a unique illustration and type treatment. The left side has space for writing notes and goals, and each day on the calendar has little boxes for marking goal progress. It includes holidays and even has a cardboard backing to make it extra sturdy.

Includes October 2015-December 2016.

Snag one while they’re hot.

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Meg Gleason is the founder and designer of Moglea (pronounced Moh-glee), a letterpress and stationery studio. You’ve probably seen her work, even if you don’t know it.

I met Meg at Iowa State back in 2006. It was a brief but memorable interaction. Long story short, she was a junior when I was a freshman. I saw her work and thought it was the coolest (she had a poster that featured a llama). The following year she remembered me and asked if I was accepted into the graphic design program. Fast forward 10 years later and her work is still the best and I’m still trying to play it cool.

Today Meg works from her studio on her family’s farm in Audubon, Iowa (which is beautiful). Her husband Chad is also a designer and farmer. They have several employees and they ship their stationery and other paper goods to Anthropologie, Paper Source, Steven Alan and shops all around the world.

Meg was kind enough to let me hang out with her at the studio when I was in Iowa a couple of months ago. She gave me the full tour and some pretty great swag. She dropped some knowledge and I learned a lot about what to expect from the stationery world as I move on to the next phase of my creative residency—developing my creative business.

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Here are a few of my questions about starting a stationery business and some of her answers.

Q: How did you first get your work into stores? Where do you sell the most products?

A: Tradeshows. If you want to make a big splash in the stationery world, you need to attend the National Stationery Show (NSS). It’s in May, but it’s best to apply early (ideally by October in order to get a good spot—you don’t want to be on the outer ring). There are others too, like NYNOW, which is twice a year (this show is optimal for gifts like prints and other products).

Q: I’ve looked into NSS, but the price of attending seems unclear. How much does it all cost? How did you know what you were doing when you first attended?

A: NSS costs about $2,500 for a small booth then several thousand more (at least) to put the space together and cover travel, food and products. It’s not cheap, but this is the place to be seen. As far as how to navigate the new tradeshow scene, sign up for Tradeshow Bootcamp.

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Q: How prepared were you when you first attended?

A: “I never sold a card before attending. However, I did go into it with confidence from my Minted line that was doing well. Since I was sharing a booth with some other designers, something that helped give me attention was another company that directed big buyers to check out my work. Before I left the NSS in May of 2012, I had orders from Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters. I came in with 30 designs, but buyers wished I had an even bigger catalog.”

Q: How do you start a new business when the markup is so low per product? It’s so expensive to print a low quantity that selling a few here or there seems hardly sustainable.

A: “You might not make money right away. It takes time. The idea is to grow to get big enough orders so that it lowers the cost per product.” Meg said she doesn’t see how people can grow a business without going into debt. “If you make $30,000 from a tradeshow, you have to invest that right back into the business in order to grow and meet the demand.”

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Q: What’s a line? How many cards do you need to have in a line?

A: “A line is all of your cards. It’s best to have 60-100, but it’s okay to start smaller.” Meg went into the first tradeshow with about 30 designs. Her products went over well, and retailers even wished she had more. Obviously it’s best to have quality over quantity, but quantity is really important too. When I had lunch with her and Chad, they told me that retailers like to be directed to top sellers. “The top 3% sounds better than the top 30%. That’s the difference between a line of 100 and a line of 10.” Well put, Chad.

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Q: How do you find the time to design and run the business?

A: Shocker: delegation. While Meg does do all the lettering and card designs, she has designers who work on the website and online marketing, as well as employees who work on shipping, sales, painting the paper, printing etc. She focuses on the things that need to be cohesive for the brand—essentially the work that nobody else can do. “You have to learn to trust others with your work and be able to clearly communicate the vision behind each piece so that they can help you accomplish your goals.”

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Q: Where do I start?

A: Observe what’s missing in the market. See what people are doing. Find the right balance between being knowing the market really well and not finding yourself too…inspired…by other brands. When Meg emerged, nobody was doing what she was doing—mixing hand painted cards, collage, hand lettering and letterpress (they still aren’t). She’s found a way to mass-produce individual pieces of art. Find what makes your style unique and run with it.

Thank you, Meg!

Shop Moglea here and follow Meg on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. 

*Photos courtesy of Moglea

Last week I received an email from a nice college student named Lauren. Lauren had a good question and I thought it was worth sharing on the world wide web (with her permission, of course). I also edited the exchange to only keep the relevant parts to this blog post.

Hello!
I am currently balancing a job, class and my “side-project” illustration work. When you were in college, what worked for you? Did you keep a daily journal? How did you keep what you wanted to do separate from your assignments?

Thanks a ton!
Lauren


Hi Lauren,

Thanks for writing. I was a crazy college kid who took herself like, soooo seriously. I spent all my time on class projects, which is okay enough because I did a good job and had fun, but a few side projects wouldn’t have hurt. I think you’re already ahead of the game if you’re creating personal work now. I do well with self-initiated projects that have a start and end date (100 day projects and the like). I even started my first book by turning it into a monthly blog post where I uploaded one new “I’d rather be short” drawing every day. They took way longer than I thought, and I only created half as many as I intended, but this structure helped me accomplish my big goal—compile enough illustrations to pitch to lit agents.

I’ve also found that doing a side project at the same time every day helps, even if it’s just 10 minutes before bed or first thing in the morning. I think it’s best to give your personal work the best part of your day (early morning). This way you start the day out feeling satisfied, and no job or class project can take that from you.

I’ve learned that slow and steady wins the race. Steady baby steps are usually more powerful than sporadic sprints. There’s a time and place for each, but for the sake of practice, I’d rather “stay in shape” by drawing a little bit every day than just picking up the pen for a huge project once every couple of weeks.

I hope that helps. Best of luck!

Becky

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UPDATE: Watch my MAX talk here. 

Adobe MAX is right around the corner! As a Creative Resident, I’ll be giving a presentation (twice!) called Adventures in Book Publishing. It’s a dream for many designers, illustrators and writers to see their name on the cover of a book. I’ll be giving an hour long talk where I share my story as well as answer some questions to help aspiring authors get started. Questions like…

Do I need an agent? Should I go with a traditional publisher, or self-publish? How much money will I make? How long does it take? What can a book do for me? Should I share my ideas online? What’s the difference between a query and a proposal? …and more.

I hope this provides clarity to what can seem an ambiguous, arduous undertaking.

Not going to Adobe MAX? Sign up to view the keynotes online. I’m going to try to Periscope my talk. Will keep you posted! Follow the fun.