January Desktop Calendar

I'm looking forward to spending my New Year's Eve with dear friends (some old, some new, some returned after an overseas adventure) and I'm excited for the year ahead. I hope you're spending your midnight tonight with *your* nearest and dearest, ready to welcome the new year with bright eyes and big dreams!

2013 Wall Calendar, Dress-up Styles

Every month of 2012 I put together and mailed my niece dress-up outfits I found at thrift stores around town. And because I have to illustrate *everything* I decided to put them all together in this 2013 Wall Calendar!  Dresses all year long! Huzzah!

Holiday Cards for those special people: Mom & Dad

My parents commissioned their Christmas cards again this year, and so I collaged this Georgian Bay-inspired scene for them. An earlier draft had the strings of lights hanging in (what I thought was) a much less logical way on the tent - you would never poke holes in your tent, right? - and Mom was supportive of the change, but remarked "but lights on a tent are illogical anyway, aren't? I mean, where's the power source?" 

Well played, Mom.

These are them all printed! Hooray!

New Initiatives Marketing Identity

Clockwise from top left: Letterhead, 5" x 7" Greeting Card, Business Card Front & Back, Sticker, and Envelope designs.  

Here's a little insight into an identity package that I designed this summer for Jennifer Kelly, Director of Marketing (and owner) of New Initiatives Marketing.  Jennifer already had a strong philosophy and set of values for her company, and in the questionnaire I sent her she eloquently outlined her vision: marketing services for companies that are embarking on new things: bringing a product to market, entering new industries, launching a new service. The difference is that instead of just focusing on the strategy, her company puts the pieces together to bring it to reality in a thorough, detail-oriented, positive, and sophisticated way. I liked her energy right away, and I really wanted her logo and marketing materials to stand out.

And so began the design process. Interestingly enough, the "n" of the logo was the first thing I created, and then the bold, angular pattern behind it came in direct response to the feminine swirl of the "n"; I wanted the delicate loops and the strong angles to play off of each other. We chose these colours to reflect the energy and optimism that Jennifer brings to each and every client. Then I had a lot of fun implementing the pattern across all of her materials including her letterhead and business cards. Then it was over to a good friend and talented web designer, Avery Swartz, to implement this on the web (and it's responsive too!):

Screenshot of New Initiatives Marketing's homepage
It was so great to work with Jennifer and I can't wait to see what's in store for her!

Sign Painters Book

Stephen Powers, New York
Just came across these great images on The Morning News - photographs of hand-painted signs.  These all come from a new book from Faythe Levine and Sam Macon called Sign Painters (from Princeton Architectural Press): a collection and anecdotal history of America's best sign lettering artists. These make me feel like I rely far too much on digital tools. I'm in awe.

Josh Luke, Boston

Phil Vandermart, Minneapolis

Information is Beautiful Awards

Michele Mauri's winning data visualization in the Infographic/Infodesign category: this infographic visualizes the most-covered songs, by artist and year, from 1958 - 2010. (Hint: green is The Beatles).

Found this today: The Information is Beautiful Awards, "the world's first open contest to celebrate excellence and beauty in data visualizations, infographics and information art." The winners have just been announced, and you can see them and a larger version of Mauri's winning entry here.

Some of my favourite designs on the site actually came from their regular Challenges - the judges propose a topic and provide the dataset - and award the prize to the person/team who visualizes it the best.  And they're often fun: this past summer they held one called "Diagrams are Forever" and the challenge was to visualize the entire 50 years of James Bond (women, gadgets, martinis...you get the picture?).

The judges for these most recent awards included Maria Popova (whose carefully curated blogs BrainPickings.org, Exp.lore.com I really enjoy), MoMA Senior Curator Paola Antonelli, David McCandless (one of my all-time favourite infographic wizards, author of Information is Beautiful) and, oh, Brian Eno.

Illustrations for Thousand Islands Playhouse

Since, in my working life, I started out as a stage manager for live theatre, I have always paid attention to the ways in which theatres market their shows.  Whether they're packaged as part of a season or individually, shows need images to entice and sell.  And especially in this climate of budget cuts, fewer government grants, and, I think, the general noise of everyday life, it can be extremely challenging to get noticed. But in order to get those bums in seats, theatre companies (and the completely unsung arts marketers out there) need to find that "magic bullet" image - you know, the one that completely evokes the tone of the show in a thrilling, exciting, and captivating way - and find it on a tiny budget.

In this climate, then, I think most theatres choose photography over illustration.  Some marketers are convinced that audiences want to see photographs of human beings, and pictures of actual cast members - especially if they're known, or "big name" actors - are ideal.  I think of theatres like the Stratford Festival, or Tarragon Theatre, when I think of this approach. The Shaw Festival did that for many years as well, but for this season they've got whimsical, retro, photo-collage illustrations.  Of course, I've always had Soulpepper Theatre Company on my dreamlist of Companies To Work For.  I have admired the multi-award-winning work from Sandwich Creative for years and years.

I suppose it all comes down to the audience and how well each company thinks they know them.  Of course, most Canadian theatres have seen a steep decline in subscription-based ticket buying over the past decade, so perhaps the face of your average theatre-goer is changing.  Theatres are still trying to find that "magic bullet" that makes sure each and every night is sold out.

I have always loved illustrated theatre posters much more than ones that use photography. I appreciate the leap of logic that captures a story, or the combination of two disparate images that sets the tone. I respond to imaginative, fantastical, stylized drawings that are, ultimately, human. And that, to me, is theatre.

Anyway, this whole blog post was inspired by some work that I can now share with you.  I was hired recently to do the graphic design and illustration for the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque, Ontario, and today was their season launch.  Working with their inexhaustible new Artistic Director, Ashlie Corcoran, and supremely talented web designer Kelly Wong, I am so proud to show this stuff off. I'm excited to see what 2013 brings for that amazing company!

Here are some highlights of the 2013 season images:

Image for Boeing Boeing

Image for No Great Mischief

Image for The (Post) Mistress

You can see the whole 2013 season here.  Visit the Thousand Islands Playhouse website too!

What does your keychain say about you - Version 2






I don't think it's going to work out?

Thanks to a few friends for input & suggestions...you know who you are. Hey, if you have an interesting keychain, maybe you should send me a photo of it!

October = Monster Month

I'm off this weekend to picturesque Bracebridge, ON for a family Thanksgiving and since my not-quite-four-year-old niece will be there I am taking the advantage of giving her her monthly dress-up outfit in person.  I always try to buy used clothing - the Value Villages near me are never short of incredible dresses for little girls - but the Monster hat is new.  Hey, I mean...Hallowe'en is only 28 days away, right? Plus, I tried to balance it by making the cardboard crown by hand. It was fun. It was a lot of fun. Okay, I had too much fun.

Getting lost in my own dressing-up

What does your keychain say about you?

One day a few months ago I noticed my roommate's keychain (filled with mementos, trinkets, other people's housekeys, and inside jokes) and thought how appropriate it was; it was such a reflection of who she is. And so began my secret spying of other people's keychains to see if this was a common phenomenon. I learned two things: a) it's actually rare to see other people's keychains without literally asking to see them and b) results are inconclusive.  I'm still going to keep an eye out...

In the meantime, here's my thesis, in collage form:




New series of prints: Toronto Libraries

Beaches Branch
 I'm continuing my love of illustrating Toronto buildings with these new prints of six public library branches here in the city.  I picked some because I live near them (ish), some because they're modern looking, some because they're not.  It wasn't until I started illustrating them that I realized the High Park and the Beaches branch were very nearly copies of each other.  And that the Palmerson Library looks like it's from space.

Most of all, I like that we have these buildings devoted to books.  And I'm happy that enough people in this city like them so much that they'll cause a fuss when certain mayors try to close them.

I'll update here on the blog when and where they'll be on sale!

Bloor Gladstone Branch

High Park Branch

Palmerston Branch

Pape / Danforth Branch

St. Jamestown Branch


I worked on this poster for Toronto-based dance artist Shannon Litzenberger's new work.  The piece is an exploration of home, inspired by Litzenberger's Saskatchewan roots.  As she writes on her website:
“My generation has led the mass exodus from rural life over the past two decades. On the prairies, and in other parts of rural Canada, whole houses have been left behind, now decaying monuments that commemorate our pioneering roots. HOMEbody is both an intimate portrait of my childhood prairie home and a tribute to the importance of where we come from.”
In the brainstorming for this image, Shannon shared with me a number of gorgeous photographs of her trips back to Saskatchewan. I was completely inspired by the flatness, open sky, and abandoned homesteads, which led to this photo illustration. Shannon also requested the little gopher (which was drawn in pencil and scanned in separately) in order to add a little curiosity and hope for the future. In the end, the gopher became such a hit that, if you're planning on attending the Cabbagetown Festival this weekend, you just might see him on a tote bag...

You can watch the HOMEbody trailer and buy tickets on Shannon's website.  Performances are September 20 - 23 at the Winchester Street Theatre in Cabbagetown.

September Desktop

Yeah, the first of the month isn't until tomorrow. But tomorrow is Saturday. And on Saturday mornings I'll bet you've got stuff to do.  You're busy with the kids, or brunch, or yard sales, or the CNE, or the airshow, or rollerblading (do people still do that?) or bladerolling (that's not a thing) or WHATEVER it is you do on a Saturday of a Long Weekend.

So I thought I'd give this to you now, so while you're tidying up your desk and arranging papers so Tuesday's inglorious return to real life won't seem quite so harsh, you can just take this and pop it on your screen.  That way, when you boot up the ol' PC Mac on Tuesday you can go "ahh" cause it's already done.

Or, more likely, you've already left early cause you don't work from home so the hours don't weirdly blend into one another like one of those melted tri-colour popsicle things. In unrelated news, I've had three iced coffees this afternoon.

Have a wonderful long weekend!

Happy Birthday(s) Mom and Dad!

My parents' birthdays are one week apart (today and last Thursday).  They were on a kayak trip last week with my aunt and uncle - and the wind and waves were so rough that my Mom actually broke her kayak paddle!  They didn't have any spares, so Dad and my uncle Macgyvered it "by shoving bits of wood down the shaft and then [using] duct tape to hold it together - all while sitting in the middle of a windy lake" (all this in a text from Mom after they got home).

I thought it might be nice to remind them of their resourcefulness in this birthday card I made for them.  Aren't I a nice daughter?


Here's a little guy I drew for an upcoming project...I'm not sure if he's going to get used but I liked him enough to post. Wikipedia told me that the word "gopher" doesn't actually refer to a specific animal; instead, it's sort of general term applied to "field rodents." So, little guy - you may not get used and you certainly aren't a real animal.  That's two strikes against you. GOPHER!

August Desktop, early!

I'm not going to be around much next week, so thought I'd get this one done early (for a change). Here's wishing you a happy August full of sun and lake swimming and lazy afternoons.

The Sketchbook Project is in Toronto! Too bad that's not where I'll be...

You know how sometimes it seems like events in the universe are conspiring against you?  Well, okay, this isn't one of those times, but it is bad timing nonetheless.

Remember how for the past two years I've been doing the very fun Sketchbook Project (a blank sketchbook arrives by mail, I fill it with pictures and mail it back to its home in Brooklyn and it becomes part of a permanent Art Library at the Art House Co-op?) Well that Library has been on tour for the past few months, and it's finally here in Toronto!  All of the sketchbooks from artists around the world will be at the Gladstone from July 19 - 22 - open to the public, books ready to be browsed and held and admired.  I have been waiting for this day for months!

And....I'll be in Ottawa.  The whole time.

So, please - for my sake - go visit the sketchbooks. Say hi. Enjoy them. Admire them.
And let me know how it goes.


July Dress-up

Shakespeare under the stars

I never showed you this poster I did for the Humber River Shakespeare Company's touring production of Mackers. Sorry about that. I know you were waiting anxiously for this.

Okay, maybe you weren't exactly waiting...

HRSC is a wonderful company of passionate Shakespeareans and - if you live somewheres along the Humber River - they'll be coming your way.  Go see 'em!

Comics and The New Yorker together on TMI

Benjamin Walker's podcast Too Much Information is a thing that I enjoy very much. In the hour-long radio show from WMFU, Walker tells stories, conducts interviews, and generally messes around with truth and fiction. What I didn't know about him was that he is also giant comic book fan. His June 20th episode was all about comic books and comic book illustrators, and even interviewed Francoise Mouly, the impeccably French art editor of The New Yorker (and who - fun fact - is married to Art Spiegelman).

It just so happens that The New Yorker is also a thing that I enjoy very much. The magazine has published many covers drawn by well-known comic book artists - R. Crumb the aforementioned Spiegelman are but two - and Mouly talks about the recently released book Blown Covers, a selection of New Yorker cover illustrations that never made it. She explains why she wanted to publish illustrations that were never supposed to see the light of day:

"...when you see the enormous work that goes into refining ideas - once they are found - and search for ideas, then you realize the phenomenal work that goes into this distilled result. I think the insight into that process of the artist looking for ideas is an insight into the creative process."

It's a good episode, and if you're a comic book fan I'm sure you'd enjoy some of the other interviews Walker has with other comic book legends from the "Comics, Philosophy and Practice" conference.  You can find the episode here.

Toronto's My Home...sneak peek

I'm working new Toronto building illustrations and even though the series is not quite complete I just couldn't resist posting one.  I hope to share the rest soon!