Thursday, October 4, 2012

Riding Dogopotamus

I'm illustrating a book called Dogopotamus about a boy who dreams of what he imagines to be (and later realizes is NOT) the perfect non-traditional pet.

The image above occurs just before Dogo spots a squirrel and mayhem ensues.

I've been posting this as a work in progress on Behance where you can follow along to see the steps I go through to get from sketch to finish.
Click the above image to see my work in progress and please leave a comment!

To learn more about this book which is part of a series called Petimals, you can go to the Petimals website.

Update: The book is now available at It's a fun read!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Art Director/Illustrator Relationship

Illustrations ©edfredned; design ©Justin Perricone
(This article was originally written for the blog at Creative Relay)

What makes a great collaboration between an Art Director and an Illustrator?
That’s the question Justin Perricone and I wanted to explore on behalf of art directors and illustrators when we began putting together a panel discussion for June 27, 2012. The event, titled The Art Director/Illustrator Relationship was co-sponsored by AIGA BostonMassArt Office of Alumni Affairs and Rhode Island School of Design’s Alumni Relations.

A successful collaboration can make all the difference for the final product. It can win acclaim or, better still, create a final product that is relatable, balanced and beautiful to those who behold it.
But, much like a marriage, there’s a give and take involved where each creative must understand how the other functions best and allow them the space and feedback to create.

With the help of freelance designer and art director Jillfrances Gray, we created a laundry list of topics and questions to get the conversation going about the give and take in the relationship.Art Director / Illustrator

Scott Magoon: Illustrator & Art Director
First, we started with a wonderful children’s book illustrator, Scott Magoon, who also just so happens to be an art director at a large publishing house, Houghton Mifflin. Scott is the illustrator and writer/illustrator of a growing number of kid’s books and his style is both playful and engaging. Scott agreed to join our panel to represent both sides of the coin.

Ann Stott: Art Director
Ann joined us next. She is an art director at Candlewick Press and has collaborated on a number of award-winning kid’s books including the Caldecott Honor book, Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein and The New York Times Best Seller, I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, as well as the Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald.

George Restrepo: Art Director

George is a freelance graphic designer and art director and in this capacity has worked with a number of clients for whom he has collaborated with an even greater number of illustrators. He previously was an art director for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and the Improper Bostonian before moving on to a full-time freelance career.

Rob Dubé: Art Director
Rob is a senior art director at Hasbro, where he leads a team of art directors, graphic designers and freelance designers tasked with developing visual brand executions for Hasbro Games. He has led teams working on such brands as G.I. JoeStar WarsNerfMighty Muggs, and Beyblade.

Ed Shems: Illustrator & Moderator
I’ve been a freelance illustrator for 21 years, having worked with art directors in a large variety of industries from books to magazines, comic books to board games and small restaurants to major brands. But even after all that, I still have questions about how it should all work.
  • What are an art director’s expectations of an illustrator and vice versa?
  • How do Art Directors and Illustrators find each other?
  • How should they communicate and exchange necessary information?
  • What if an illustrator does not meet his/her deadline? What contingencies are put in place?
  • Without naming names, what disastrous collaborations can you recount and what made them so bad?
  • What do aspiring art directors need to know?

To start off the night, introductions were made and then the questions began- first from me, then from the audience and a couple from the panelists themselves. You’re probably reading this article because you’re interested in the conversation that unfolded and the answers provided by the panelists, so without any further ado, this is some of what was talked about:
  • Some art directors find illustrators through self-promo mailers and some online. Some check out agent websites. Some companies have art resource coordinators (or a similar title) to whom an illustrator should send samples.
  • Ann said something interesting that stuck: ADs will come across you on Facebook and they’ll know pretty quickly if you’re not a nice person based on what you say online. So beware! (And be nice!)
  • If you’re even thinking about kinda-sorta-maybe working freelance for Hasbro, you should first register as a vendor here: Hasbro art directors cannot use a vendor who has not been registered. Anyone can register and you only need to do it once. However, you can update your “listing’s” three portfolio pieces whenever you want.
  • Deadlines: Often an AD will buffer the deadlines in case the illustrator is late. On occasion (and this is a rarity among ADs), Rob will commission the same work to two illustrators if he’s working with a newbie. This is just to insure that the work will be done on time.
  • How hands-on an art director will be depends on a few factors but ultimately; If there is a previous relationship (proven trust) between the AD and the illustrator.
  • At this point, with the web connecting us all, it doesn’t matter where the illustrator is located. It may work to your advantage (or disadvantage) to work with someone in a different time zone. If you’re ahead of them, it buys you an extra couple of hours. If you’re on the west coast with a New York deadline today, you’ve got 3 fewer hours…
  • Best way to build your relationship with an art director is to hit your deadlines.
  • How should aspiring art directors rack up some experience? Spend some time working for an AD and take on as much responsibilities as you can. Get used to dealing constructively with problems. Work as a designer and get used to the give and take when collaborating. Learn and grow from the experience.
  • How does a freelance AD get new work? Network on social media (Facebook and Linked-In are George’s top recommendations). Makes it easier to contact people.
  • Get a membership in a design organization (and attend events) to surround yourself with other like-minded creative people. Look for mentors/mentoring opportunities.
  • How do you get work through Facebook? George uses his photo buckets as a portfolio. He uses his personal FB page (which is turning into more of a business page) and his work sparks conversations.
  • Do you need to get permission from clients to post/promote the work you do? Yes. Call the art director and ask. You have to be especially cognizant when it’s a job that doesn’t see print/web for 6 months (or more!). You cannot show that work until it’s out in public in most cases.
  • Art Directors appreciate it when someone is easy to work with and that is one thing that makes them return with new projects. Getting your files right is also helpful as well as keeping to a deadline. Stay in constant contact- even if you fall behind in the work- remember that you’re collaborating.
  • Illustrators: “Be a delight to work with!” (Jokingly stated by Scott Magoon- but a very true statement.) Be open to AD’s suggestions- try what they suggest (unless you detest it! Or perhaps, even still). Maybe it’ll work out great, but if nothing else the AD appreciates that you tried. You’ll be building good will while building a good relationship.
  • Rob says it’s ok to be a “pain in the ass” as long as there’s a ‘but’. “He’s a pain in the ass BUT he always hits his dates.” This is not true for many (most?) ADs.
  • Leave your ego at the door.
  • George said it’s important to be a fearless problem-solver.
  • ADs don’t mind working with a rep although they recognize it ends up costing more. But often it’s good to have someone else on your side trying to get the artist to hit his deadlines.
  • Scott shared a story: An artist representative pointed out to a rep-less Scott that book publishers have a whole crew behind them while illustrators often have only themselves. So a rep is a good person to help you watch your back and look over your contracts. That person became Scott’s rep.
  • Generally, Art Directors don’t want you to call them to follow up from a promotion. If the piece is right, then you’ll get a call. Of course, it’s all about timing and a piece might be passed over one day and “just what we’re looking for!” the next because it happens to show up when a job requiring that style is at the top of the queue.
  • SCBWI is a great place to network and meet/talk with Art Directors. Ditto Comic Cons.
The panel discussion was tremendously helpful to all those who attended and we are thankful to Scott, Ann, George and Rob who so graciously agreed to relate their experiences and offer advice.

Please leave a comment or question.

You can see photos from this event on Flickr

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Drawn Together at ICON 7

It seems to me that trying to collect a large group of professional illustrators into one city for four days would be akin to herding cats into a doghouse, but somehow ICON pulled it off again. ICON, The Illustration Conference, recently concluded its 7th biennial conference, held this year in Providence, Rhode Island, with platinum support from the Rhode Island School of Design.
Illustrators and art directors came from all around the country, and some from different countries, to learn, network, and schmooze with their fellow illustrators from June 13–16, at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in downtown Providence.
There were pre-conference workshops that split up the attendees into classrooms to cover character design, artistic anatomy, Adobe’s Creative Cloud, writing for comics, and self promotion. And there was even a soccer game. Those mini events were just preludes to the full conference where everyone was together in the main ‘tent’ (auditorium).
Art Director SooJin Buzelli’s workshop, Art Director’s Pet Peeves, is worth singling out for the sheer amount of useful advice she offered:
  • Don’t post the image you created for a client on your blog until the printed piece has come out (better yet- check in with the Art Director for her okay). Ditto for printing postcard promos.
  • Include your phone number on your website.
  • Include contact info/website link at the end of every email.
  • Sketches should not be in the wrong proportions.
  • Watch out for misspellings.
  • If you have to move your mouse to click the forward arrow on a portfolio website then there’s a problem.
  • Don’t do a contact form on your website. An actual email address is preferred.
  • Your portfolio thumbnails should be representative of the full piece- not just a tiny portion of it.
  • Websites should be iPad and iPhone friendly, with no flash.
  • Send your invoice on time. And include an image of the artwork on the invoice if possible.
At the conclusion of her talk, SooJin poured out two week’s worth of mail and went through each promo postcard and explained why she was placing it on the save or recycle pile.
Drawn Together
Drawn Together was the theme for ICON7, and many of the workshops, presentations, and panels embraced the importance of collaboration. And not just collaboration between two illustrators but between illustrators and whomever could help them meet the needs of their clients in order to take a project from start to finish.
Illustrator to Animator: Christopher Silas Neal talked about pitching an animated short to Kate Spade. Once it was approved, he had to find someone to help him make the animation and score it.
Illustrators to the Public: Josh Cochran and his studio-mate Mike Perry drew 33 different amateur models (friends, art directors, Craigslisters) for twelve straight hours on two consecutive days at five minutes a pose. They then hung up the hundreds (and hundreds) of illustrations for a very successful show. (They also pitched collecting the illustrations in a book but the idea didn’t get picked up.) You can see many of the final illustrations at
Illustrator to Teacher and Students to Video Producers: Kiel Johnson told an amazing story of begrudgingly teaching a friend’s art class and coming away with a final collaboration of which he is incredibly proud. You can see the trailer for the video that was created at
Illustrator to Writer: Wife and husband team Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson of the small press Idiot Books left their normal lives to live in a hayloft with no kitchen and write and draw quirky books for adults until the money ran out. They talked about the importance of doggedness and how it kept them going. For instance, by attending trade shows when they would rather be working, new opportunities were presented to them by certain show attendees. Six years later, they’re still going and now venturing into the children’s genre.
Illustrator to FilmmakerTommy Lee Edwards talked about designing and illustrating on-set to help a director firm his vision of a movie’s visuals during preproduction. A lot of the moodiness of The Book of Eli (2010) can be attributed to Edwards. And if Masters of the Universe ever gets off the ground, expect a very cool Edwards-inspired origin for He-Man.
ICON President John Hendrix explained that illustration is collaborative: “Stop thinking of ourselves as Han Solo (boasting about the Kessel Run) but as a contributor to the Rebel Alliance.”
At this time it’s important to talk about ICON6. For those who missed it in 2010 and didn’t get to see Wired Magazine’s presentation on the Future of Publishing panel (you can still find it online), much was said of the death of illustration as a static art and the absolute need to move on to motion graphics. As an illustrator of 20 years, I remember the position I took right away on this premise and it was as close as a guy in his forties can get to the fetal position. And I certainly wasn’t the only one—many illustrators were beside themselves with outrage (and angst).
Fast forward to ICON7 in 2012, where a number of presenters knocked downWired’s premise. My favorite quote came from Tim O’Brien (his realisticCharlie Brown is eerie): “If something moves, we start watching and stop thinking.” Illustration is illustration and there will always be a need for images that every viewer gets to interpret in his/her own way. Go ahead and make your images move, but the impact and the market is not the same for motion as for illustration (with exceptions).
The Thursday night Keynote was “The Power of Communities” featuringKickstarterBehance, and Etsy, who all offered words of advice on putting yourself out there in as many ways as you are comfortable and capable.
Make Your Own Work
As the conference continued, another informal theme, Make Your Own Work, was introduced by other speakers:
Bob Staake is a children’s book illustrator, as well as a hotly sought-after editorial illustrator with a growing number of magazine covers (most significantly The New Yorker) sporting his work. However, 75-80% of Bob’s work is self-generated. In other words, he’s not sitting around waiting for assignments to come to him—he’s creating and pitching all the time.
Jessica Hische (look up her poster Should I Work for Free) is extremely motivated. “Learn what you need to learn to make what you want to make,” is what she lives by. She believes that you should look for gaps and try to fill them. When you hear yourself say “Somebody should invent/do that,” you should do it yourself—which is why she created
In a 90-minute workshop, Josh Cochran and Christopher Silas Neal showed us how to quickly construct and illustrate our own ‘Zines (see photos), get them photocopied, and get them out to people which could lead to… who knows?
Julia Rothman talked about starting out creating textile prints to sell at shows and quickly realized that there’s more (royalty) money to be made in licensing. And she retains ownership of her work!
The 99%
At times it got a little depressing to hear many of the same illustrators mentioned during different presentations by the likes of Rolling StoneAbrams Publishing, and others. But take heart if you are not one of the elite. Adam Rex, somewhat tongue in cheek, offered an inspirational poster with a photo of a catfish captioned “Aim Low: They Wouldn’t Call it Bottom-Feeding if There Wasn’t Any Food Down There.” The context was that he was trying to break into children’s publishing without much of a portfolio of work for the field, so he found publishers who were not very discerning and this led to other, more prominent work. From this we can learn—and also take comfort—that each opportunity will lead us to the next.

What had to be the highlight for nearly every ICON7 attendee amid a large number of noteworthy presentations was the keynote given by Lynda Barry with her special guest, Matt Groening, creator of Life in Hell and The Simpsons (he walked out in a Marge Simpson mask). The title of her talk was “Writing Comics in the 21st Century,” but what we were all treated to was something between fantastic storytelling, stand-up comedy, and inspirational speaking. And that was just Lynda. Groening, who was Barry’s boyfriend in college and has remained a very close friend, let us take a look at a number of his Life in Hell cartoons (which he and Lynda so entertainingly brought to life). Then they both talked about productivity, why Lynda loves Family Circus, when sometimes a job just isn’t worth doing, and most importantly the power we have as visual artists to create work that elicits a response from the viewer and allows us to express ourselves.
The Bazaar Rhode Show
At the conclusion of the day on Friday was the Bazaar Rhode Show, where attendees could elect to showcase their work and, just as importantly, sell their wares. On display and for sale were comics, mugs, graphic novels, collections of work, prints, shirts, jewelry and greeting cards. And I must add, I was very impressed with the very professional-looking set-ups and the excellent quality of the items for sale.
In Conclusion
I’m proud to report that illustration is alive and well; individually, we need to keep working on finding the jobs we want to do. And we shouldn’t be afraid of getting in too deep—you can always collaborate with someone who can fill in the gaps. Membership in an organization such as the Graphic Artists Guild and participating in events is a great way to network and meet creative professionals with different abilities.
As illustrator/type designer Jessica Hische (have you checked out her sites yet??) said: “Do what you do best and delegate the rest.”

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Posted by Anonymous

I thought I'd play around with hand-lettering while also trying to make a point. One of my favorite blogs to read was recently closed due to many anonymous commenters being exactly what my poster says they are.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Elevator Pitch

I wrote an article recently for the Creative Relay blog about the importance of having an elevator pitch that helps to sell you, as well as realizing that every situation where you meet someone new can be viewed as an interview.

To go with the article I created the above image of the elevator counting down for you.

You can read the article here: Rock the Interview

Friday, March 30, 2012

Tintin Poster Commission Hot Air Balloon over Africa

In November, I was hired to create a custom Tintin poster as a surprise Christmas gift by a man for his fiancée. He came to me with what he wanted represented in the image (which is meant to look like the cover of a Tintin book) along with some photos and I put together a few sketches.

It's important to give your client what they ask for but to find the right spin on it. Originally, he requested that the balloon (and fiancée) be on the ground but I found that the composition wasn't going to be dynamic enough and it would be hard for a viewer to know what to focus on. So I brought the balloon to the foreground.

He wanted zebras, an elephant, a giraffe, a leopard, a Great Dane, a bird and a Vervet monkey.

I poured through Tintin books at the library (and at my parents' house) to really understand how Hergé would have done these characters and the background. His style is so simple and each line is perfect and intentional; it can be a little daunting but I was able to work it out.

Below are some screenshots I took while I worked:
The progression for the balloon and basket. Although very little of the balloon shows in the final piece, I drew it in its entirety.

The various characters start coming together.

Mostly done. The photo at the bottom right is a portion of a shot I took in Africa in 2007 and I was using it to try to get the tall grass right. In the final piece you'll note that the zebras have been switched around (which meant thickening or thinning the line weights accordingly) and a few elements were moved to improve the flow.

My client's fiancée loved the gift and the poster/book cover is framed and hanging in their home.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Grammar, Illustrated: Heroine vs. Heroin

This was just posted on the Creative Relay blog.

There's a lot of bad grammar and misuse of words out there- we'd like to fix one recurring mistake:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog Day 2012

Happy Groundhog's Day! 

What did you get me?

Another installment of my yearly Groundhog Day celebration. I've been creating illustrations and cards for Groundhog Day since 1992 (I skipped a couple of years somewhere in there) and this time I show what it would be like for either outcome.

You can check out a bunch more Groundhog Day illustrations on this blog by clicking HERE.

Excuse me- I have to go rent Groundhog Day, the movie, and watch it over and over and over...

I’ve been doing a lot of character development lately and from time to time I show off new characters on my blog. Sometimes they’re black and white and sketchy and other times full color and finished. If you want to see more from this series, just click this “characters” tag. You can also see a collection of characters in my Behance portfolio or on my website.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Kiss for the New Year

This is an illustration I recently created for a client's blog and newsletter. One of their articles talked about the Hershey's Kisses that the company's clients couldn't keep their hands off during the New Year's party so it was a no-brainer what the illustration should be!

This style is a little more realistic than my usual so it falls under the "FRED" section of my website.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Slides for a Social Event

Because creative people don't get out of the house much (at least not us freelance types and especially not those with a newborn like I have), AIGA Boston has put together a large social event - Cross-Org AFTA - for creative professionals in the Boston area. It's an opportunity to network, schmooze and compare drawing pen nibs.

I'll be there as a working illustrator/graphic designer and also as the co-founder of Creative Relay as we are one of the 12 co-host design organizations. Very exciting considering we've only been around since September 2011.

Here are all the hosts:

During the course of the evening there will be a slideshow of submitted work so I thought that I would post my slides on my blog. They run the gamut of kid's stuff to editorial illustrations to superheroes to design-y pieces with a little bit of illustration.

Looking forward to getting out of the house!