Starving Artist Make-Your-Own Christmas Gift Ideas

By heather at 3:05 am on Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Starving artists like to give presents, too… why not take a step back from the pressure of buying gifts and put your skills to use by making your own gifts instead? Creative gifts show that you care about the person you have taken the time to make it for…and being an artist you have a distinct advantage in the creative-gift department!

• Hand paint your own holiday cards : Hand painted cards are unusual and become a frameable gift in themselves. Come up with a simple design (or not!) that you are happy replicating a dozen or so times (however many cards you’ll need). Either mount your finished illustrations onto cards, or illustrate directly onto your pre cut & folded cards. An inexpensive option is card-stock paper, which can be trimmed down, scored & folded to the desired size… it can be purchased from office supply stores for around $5, and a pack of card envelops about $5.

• Frame artwork such as a nude / still-life drawing : A simple black frame can transform those recent charcoal sketches from life drawing or still life studies into works of collectible art. Make sure to sign & date your work!

• Swap Artwork with Colleagues : Want to give a creative colleague a gift, and visa versa? Why not chat about it, and see if you both have work you may want to swap! Trading paintings & artwork is a fun way of collecting interesting pieces from artists you know & love.

• Make a Coupon Books : Remember making coupons for your parents for simple treats like “Wash Your Car” or “Take Out The Trash?” Why did you ever stop making those, give it a go again! Coupons for “1 Free Sketch Portrait” or “Clean the Bathroom” may actually be redeemed!

• Hand Paint an Ornament for the Christmas Tree : paper & glass “blank” ornaments are inexpensive ($1 each at Walmart) and a small gesture suitable to anyone who celebrates Christmas at the holidays.

• Illuminated Notebooks : Blank notebooks can be purchased from the dollar store, and just afix a copy of one of your illustrations to the front, or custom design the front cover for each person you plan to give it to.

• Custom Artwork : Creating a piece of artwork for someone special can be risky…if you’re unsure of their tastes, maybe involve them in the process to see what sort of subject matter and colours they may like. If painted on canvas, often you don’t even need to add a frame…just use eyehooks & wire so that it is ready-to-hang.

• Print a Calendar : A bit more pricey for the starving artist, but they make a great gift / promotional piece around this time of year. You can get good quality calendars printed for as low as $15 each, and they are a promotional tool that works for you year round.

• Hand Painted Stationery : Slice up printer paper down to nice notepaper sizes, and hand paint little swashes in the corners. Mix in a few hand-painted envelopes, tie up with a ribbon…and voila, you have a hand-painted stationery pack ready to give to a thoughtful note-giving friend!

Still stuck for ideas? Here are a few ideas from TreeHugger for giving gifts that are earth-friendly :

1. Be sure your material gift will get used : It may be the thought that counts, but a gift that the receiver does not use is simply wasted: not a very nice thought. Give material possessions only if you know the recipient well enough to pick out something they were on the cusp of getting for themselves, or which they really need and will certainly enjoy using.

2. Give a consumable gift : Your friend will love your consumable gift twice: once while enjoying the organic teas, fair trade coffee, fresh flowers, fresh or dried fruits and nuts, or other consumable gift; and again when they appreciate that your gift leaves them with no guilty conscience about a gift left unused in the corner of their closet.

3. Buy a local gift : A gift made or grown locally can tell a story or share a unique product you have discovered on your own stomping grounds. Your locally-sourced gift will save the environment from the emissions involved in shipping.

4. Buy high-quality goods : Sometimes a little extra care or money invested will result in finding a high quality gift that will do justice to the materials consumed in the manufacturing by a long lifespan. Try flea markets or vintage and second-hand shops for quality goods you can afford: then make the gift “new” with a personal touch like a special paint job, or some ribbon around the edges. Your friend will enjoy your perfect high-quality gift much longer!

5. Think about your packaging : Use packaging that will not go to waste. Your packaging may be part of the gift itself, such as wrapping the gift in a scarf or enclosing it in a box that can be reused for collecting life’s odds and ends. Reusable wrapping, such as a gift bag, will pass on the fun…

If you do decide to buy baby gifts for Christmas for the children of your friends and family then look online for various baby gift ideas before you go to a store and over-spend on overpriced baby gifts that you didn’t have to buy.

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Guerilla Marketing | Tips for Creating A Great Brochure

By heather at 7:24 pm on Monday, November 27, 2006

Just received this tip for today…try reading it swapping the word “brochure” for “promotion,” the tips still apply.

Tips for Creating a Great Brochure

  • Don’t bury the benefits.
  • Create a clear call to action.
  • Put your highlights in the headline, subhead or captions.
  • Don’t assume your brochure will close the sale.
  • Take a real-world view of work in progress.
  • Connect your brochure with your other marketing materials.
  • Create your brochure with a high resolution printer.

(You can sign up to receive weekly marketing tips like those above from Guerilla Marketing)

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BlueQ | Lookin’ Good for Jesus lip balm

By heather at 12:44 am on Sunday, November 26, 2006

I got a kick out of this packaging for BlueQ’s Jesus lip balm… “Lookin Good For Jesus Lip Balm: Returns lips to near virgin quality. Virtuous vanilla flavor protects and preserves….Guaranteed to help you be worthy and get noticed by the King of Kings.”

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David Lanham | Illustrator

By heather at 10:53 pm on Thursday, November 23, 2006

A colleague introduced me to the illustrations of David Lanham, and wow, Lanham has created some lovable critter illustrations… enjoy!

david lanham

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Portfolio | “Home for the Holidays” Christmas Dayplanner

By heather at 10:15 am on Thursday, November 23, 2006

home for the holidays

© Heather Castles / Barbour Publishing

Illustrated by Heather Castles
Written by Rebecca Germany
ISBN 1593101309
Published by Barbour Publishing (USA)
Published Date : December 2005

Media Used To Create : Colored Pencil, Pencil, Watercolor

Description of the process :
This was one of the easiest projects ever…I had created a collection of seasonal royalty-free stock illustrations, and they were put together into this book. I didn’t even know it was being printed until I stumbled across it at the 2005 Book Expo in Toronto! It’s a cute little complilation of Christmas tid-bits, recipes & inspirations. It’s a nice size too, about 4 x 5 inches in hardcover, with room in the front cover to write a note to whomever you are giving it to.
“Home for the Holidays” is available through Amazon.com for about US$2.95

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M&M’S® | Dark Movies, Dark Painting Game

By heather at 12:38 am on Thursday, November 23, 2006

Now this is a really interesting use of traditional artwork… A promotion for Dark Chocolate M&M’S®, this game is in itself a dark & delicious experience! Find 50 dark movies hidden in the painting.

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Portfolio | “Because I Love You” children’s book illustrations

By heather at 9:59 am on Wednesday, November 22, 2006

© Heather Castles / Rubicon Publishing

“Because I Love You”

Written by Mary Clendenning-Genge
Illustrated by Heather Castles
Rubicon Publishing (Oakville, Canada)
ISBN 1554480663
Published Date : March - May 2005

Media Used To Create : Colored Pencil, Pencil, Watercolor
Collaborators : J. Harvey

If you love me, you would… Maggie has many ideas about what her mother should do to show her love. She soon finds out that everything her mother does is “Because I Love You…” Mary Clendenning Genge lives on the North shore of Lake Erie with her husband, Mike, and their two children, Fraser and Erin. Mary feel writing for children is a privilege and way too much fun. “Because I Love You” is illustrated by children’s book illustrator, Heather Castles. “Because I Love You” is the second book by Mary Clendenning Genge. Be sure to visit Maggie in the first book, “Hope You’re Happy”.

Purchase ‘Because I Love You’ at Mary Clendenning-Genge’s website

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Purple Ribbons | working with pencil part 2

By heather at 9:53 pm on Tuesday, November 21, 2006


I’ve discovered the wonders of water soluble pencils! I started adding another coat of watercolor over some areas I darkened & lightened with pencil, and noticed my white pencil was dissolving…I was using a new white and didn’t realize this type was water soluble! Fortunately I got the hang of it pretty quickly, and discovered that it was much faster to apply hilights & lightening areas with the white pencil rather than layering with white watercolour paint. I’m still spending my time establishing form, some details are coming out but I’m mainly taking a step back and getting shadows dark enough & hilights bright enough before I go over and do those last details (like texture in the hair, eyes, etc). I’m really enjoying the back-lighting technique, especially in scenes where you don’t know where the light is coming from, it gives it a bit of a surreal feeling. (Read on …)

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Portfolio | The Ants Go Marching!

By heather at 9:48 am on Tuesday, November 21, 2006

ants go marching

© Heather Castles / Rubicon Publishing

“Ants Go Marching”

Illustrated by Heather Castles
Written by Larry Swartz & Cathy Marks-Krpan
Published by
Abrams Math Readers(TM) and Rubicon Publishing (Oakville, Canada)
ISBN 076642810-9
Published Date : September - November 2005

Media Used To Create : Colored Pencil, Pencil, Watercolor
Collaborators : J. Drew
Description of the process :
This is the fourth children’s book I illustrated in a 12 month period… and all 500+ ants were a bit monotonous to illustrate by the end! I had considered digitally duplicating the ants, but hey, I wasn’t in the mood for cutting corners!

Counting book to the childhood song “The Ants Go Marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah!…” These ants march one by one, two by two, and so on until there are ten groups of ten. This book is ideal for reinforcing addition, multiplication, and growing patterns.

Purchase ‘Ants Go Marching’ here!

Filed under: illustrations, childrens books4 Comments »

Market Your Children’s Picture Book through a Blog

By heather at 1:54 am on Tuesday, November 21, 2006

One great way to market your children’s picture book is by starting a blog. By posting a few basic pages and periodically writing good quality posts surrounding your story, you can generate quite a bit of interest to promote your storybook through blogging. Companies such as WordPress (who host my blog!) offer blogs for free, and the online software is easy to use and quick to set up.

If you want to keep it basic, you should at least create a few pages in your blog :

  • 1) “Your Book” : be sure include a JPG of your book cover, a short synopsis of the story, the ISBN#, the date published, publisher name, and links to where it can be purchased. You could also write about what inspired you to write this story. If you have more than one book, create a page for each book.

  • 2) About the Author (that’s you!) : include your picture, bio, source for inspiration for the story, list of previously published books, and anything else that relates to YOU!
  • 3) About the Illustrator : you can include their picture, bio, link to their online portfolio, list of previously illustrated books, and anything else that relates to your illustrator.
  • 4) Shop : if you have more than one book, having one page dedicated to links & details of where these can be purchased makes it that much easier for your books to be bought!

Once you have a few basic pages up, start writing posts!

  • • Work In Progress : Ask your illustrator if they have jpgs of the sketches or illustrations in progress that you can post on your site. If there are lots of images, break them up into several posts of the work in progress.
  • • Teasers : post a few JPG spreads from your book to generate interest.
  • • Reviews of your book
  • • Invite friends, family & colleagues to visit your blog and leave feedback on your story
  • • Events :post information about upcoming events regarding your book… and then post about those events, including lots of digital photos of all the excitement!
  • • Articles on Related Topics : if your book revolves around a social topic, post synopsis of articles around that topic (Read on …)

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