2009 Illustrations | Year In Review

By heather at 10:14 pm on Tuesday, December 29, 2009

heather castles 2009 illustrations

As another year fast approaches its end, looking back I realize how busy a year 2009 has been! I kept my paintbrush and pencil busy with completing just under 100 illustrations… wowsers, that’s a new illustration every three days! The illustrations include three children’s books (Celebrate! by Rubicon Publishing, Riley’s Lost Tooth by Diane Cantrell, and Spotty & Eddie Visit Percé by Lisa M. Chalifoux), a collection of green themed illustrations for ImageZoo, and several more little illustrations for my illustrated diary of Hera’s outfits. Looking forward to 2010!

Filed under: green design, illustrations, childrens books, business of illustration, Spotty and Eddie, Diary of Hera's Stuff, Riley's Lost Tooth1 Comment »

Merry Christmas!

By heather at 9:13 pm on Thursday, December 24, 2009

heather castles christmas 2009 illustration

The holidays have been a little greener for us this year… we used solar powered lights to decorate outdoors, wrapped presents with bright red & green fabric that we will reuse for years to come, and made our own oragami tree decorations from colourful christmas card envelopes. My toddler even got in on the act, helping reuse paper bags by festively decorating them with yummy smelling Honeysticks. Wishing you a happy green holiday wherever you are and whoever you’re with :)

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Business of Illustration | Bookkeeping Checklist

By heather at 9:27 pm on Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Erica over at Outright.com sent me a great bookkeeping checklist… perfect timing, as I was just updating my business budget with the last invoices and receipts for the year. The tips were very helpful, with the pointed reminder that “if you don’t record it, in the eyes of your bookkeeping, it doesn’t exist!” This checklist has specifics which will be helpful to US illustrators, but with my business based in Canada it’s still a good general reminder of items to not forget.

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Eco Art Supplies | Honeysticks

By heather at 9:28 pm on Monday, December 21, 2009

honeysticks crayons

Hera has been thoroughly enjoying her new Honeysticks, one of the earth friendly crayons on my eco-art supply list. You can’t go wrong with crayons that smell like honey! A box of 12 Honeysticks is available for AU$12.95 over at TreeFrogToys.com.au (who, by the way, shipped surprisingly fast and provided friendly correspondence.)

What makes them environmentally friendly? “They are handmade made from New Zealand beeswax and non-toxic pigments so they are natural and safe for children. The beeswax used in Honey Sticks is a natural by-product of honey production. The sustainable process causes minimal impact on the environment and gives the crayons a wonderful scent of honey.” –TreeFrogToys.com.au


For Kids : These beeswax crayons are a joy to use… my toddler loves to smell them, stand them up in a row (they are very chubby!) and scribble to her heart’s content. The colours are bright and easily colour (i.e. obliterate) anything you have delicately drawn below. And because they are so chunky, they don’t break like regular crayons easily do… your kid would have to bash them with a hammer to do any dammage… which I think makes up for their higher price point.

For Professionals : Hmm, any pros out there who use crayons in their work? If so you may want to give these a go, their width makes them easy to hold and colour on their wide edges.

Filed under: green design, Hera Leave A Comment »

Painter’s Tip | How to Clean Hardened Paintbrush Bristles

By heather at 12:23 am on Sunday, December 20, 2009

watercolour paintbrush illustration

This week I discovered one of my good acrylic paintbrushes was as hard as a rock… I obviously didn’t clean it properly the last time I used it! Hoping to recover the brush I did a little online search for ways to soften up the bristles. I was pleased to discover that the solution was in my kitchen cupboard… white vinegar.

Here’s the method I used* :

  • • Place the brush’s bristles down into a glass or jar.
  • • Fill with white vinegar just to the metal ferrule.
  • • Let sit for a few hours. At this point the bristles will have softened up considerably.
  • • Pour some white vinegar into a shallow pan on the stove, and place the brush’s bristles into the vinegar until are submerged.
  • • Gently heat the white vinegar (not to boiling!) until paint is loosened from the bristles.
  • • Rinse the brush in water, then use gentle hand soap to suds up the bristles to remove any vinegar.
  • • Rinse well. Condition bristles with a brush cleaner optional.
  • • Make a mental note to wash the brush more carefully next time it’s used!

*Inspired by eHow.com (How to Soften Paint Brushes and How to Clean Paint Brushes That Have Hardened)

Filed under: business of illustration, tutorials1 Comment »

Eco Art Supplies | Watercolour Paper

By heather at 8:38 pm on Friday, December 18, 2009

hera child drawings paintings

Hera & I had a good go testing out some of our new eco-art supplies this morning, including recycled watercolour paper by Schoellershammer (Available for US$10.95 at Stubby Pencil Studio.)

What makes it environmentally friendly? It is made with 100% recycled paper, yippee!

For Kids : This is great watercolour paper to muck around on, it has a nice texture and works well for watercolours and finger painting (See Hera’s illustration above using Faber-Castell Watercolours.) Tempera and acrylics would also do well on this surface. The pad made it convenient to use, but as soon as the pad got too wet the top page started to split away from the rest (which isn’t unusual for watercolour blocks,) so I’d recommend using masking taping around the edge of each painting to keep the block together.

For Professionals : This paper is labeled as 220g/m2 and “student quality” and accurately so. It reminds me of the Canson watercolour paper I tried watercolours on when I was in college and a poor student… but then discovered how amazing Arches watercolour paper is and never looked back, good quality paper makes a huge difference when watercolour painting! This paper wasn’t too bad to work with, it’s just not professional quality so it’s not as easy to mix and layer the paint cleanly. (See test below using Windsor & Newton paints.) This paper would be good to work with if doing simple clean watercolours (where you aren’t building up layers of colour or doing any fancy techniques,) or other mediums you enjoy working with on a textured surface, such as acrylics or pastels.

hera child drawings paintings

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Spotty & Eddie Visit Percé | Before & After Colour

By heather at 6:03 am on Friday, December 18, 2009

spotty eddie visit percé rock quebec sketches children's book

spotty eddie visit percé rock quebec sketches children's book

Am about halfway through digitally colouring my pencil illustrations for Spotty & Eddie’s latest adventure by Lisa M. Chalifoux… wanted to share a couple before and afters of my illustrations (clicking on them will bring up a larger image). The colouring has been going very quickly thanks to my new Wacom tablet… I bought my first one this summer and taught myself how to use it, so this is the first big project I’ve used it on. And I LOVE it. Also, here is a snapshot of how the layout is turning out in the InDesign file… I find it helps dropping in the colour illustrations into the layout as I go so that I can make sure the colours balance nicely.

spotty eddie visit percé rock quebec sketches children's book

spotty eddie visit percé rock quebec sketches children's book

Filed under: work in progress, sketches, illustrations, childrens books, business of illustration, colour, Spotty and Eddie3 Comments »

FAQS | A Few Questions About Greeting Cards

By heather at 9:00 pm on Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I just sent this email off to a fellow greeting card artist who had a few questions… thought I’d share!

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Q: Is it acceptable to just work digitally or does the original have to be done in traditional paints (or what have you) and then scanned?

A: You can illustrate with whatever medium you want, digital or traditional, whatever is your style! (See FAQ: What Medium Should I Use?)
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Q: I read your bit about resolution size for cards.  8.5 x 11′ with an inch at least of bleed over… but what about for other illustrations? Will this be specified by the client?  Also scans should be done at 300dpi correct?

A: Yes, sizes will often be specified by the client. The letterhead size recommendation illustrations is only for ease of scanning, don’t feel limited by it if you’d prefer to work to different sizes. And 300dpi is high resolution, perfect for scanning illustrations. Often I scan at 300dpi and 125% just so that I have a little flexibility with the final size. (See also FAQ : What Size Should I Illustrate Greeting Cards?)
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Q: I’m wondering how lucrative or not  the greeting card industry is? It must also be very competitive like the rest of the business.  Is it very difficult to land a gig and is that done using an agent as well?

A: Greeting card work is seasonal, so there are certainly dry periods. The industry is a bit slow at the moment. Landing gigs isn’t difficult when it’s in a busy season, simply getting your work in front of the art director’s eyes by sending samples is the best way to make contacts… no need for an agent to do this for you.

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Q: Guess it’s not necessary to watermark?

A: It’s always a safe idea to watermark any illustrations that you send via email or post online as it helps to protect from theft.

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Filed under: business of illustration, greeting cards, FAQS1 Comment »

Calling All Eco Art Supplies!

By heather at 4:26 pm on Friday, December 11, 2009

environmentally friendly eco art supplies

Finding eco-art supplies has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while now, and had a chance a couple weeks back to really do some research and order some environmentally friendly alternatives to some of the art supplies I use regularly. Being a full-time Mom I’m also keen on green art supplies for children… and happily there is more demand for eco-kids art supplies than for professional grade, so I was able to easily find a selection of crayons, paints, markers, pencils & papers to try. I’ll be posting reviews here on my blog of both professional grade and children’s eco-art supplies, and compiling them all on my new list of Green Art Supplies. Am so excited to give these a go, especially my new Canadian 100% Recycled Eco-Jot sketchbook.

If you know of any great environmentally friendly art supplies, or have tried any yourself that you like please let me know!

P.S. To reduce the carbon footprint of ordering these art supplies online, I ordered all my new supplies (save one item!) from the same online shop. Making one order from one location, rather than ordering individual items from multiple locations, is an easy way to care for the environment as it saves on the extra resources (fuel, packaging, purchase orders) used to ship multiple items.

Filed under: green design, inspiration, business of illustration2 Comments »

ImageZoo | New Green Themed Illustrations Available!

By heather at 4:32 pm on Friday, December 4, 2009

green environmental image solar panel houses illustration

Ten new environmental images have been added to my range of royalty-free illustrations at ImageZoo.com. Illustrated with pen and coloured digitally in Photoshop.

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