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Happy Birthday Illustration

HappyBirthdayButtonman

This illustration is dedicated to my Mom and cousin Megan who both have birthdays today. Happy Birthday to you both, wish I could be there to celebrate with you.

I’m planning on using this illustration in a new series of Mr.Buttonman greeting cards, which will be available on my Etsy shop in the coming months!

 

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Bologna Book Fair 2015 – Looking Back

I’ve decided to make a habit of going to book fairs every year. The 5 days I spent in Bologna were incredibly inspiring and well-worth the time and money it took to get there. There were some disappointments, don’t get me wrong. But, the overall experience was amazing.  I’ll try to keep this blog concise because there’s a lot I could say!

Bologna as a city was beautiful. It’s a little off the tourist map, and we were fortunate to have sunny weather the whole week. We even got our first sunburns (but only on half my face, nice right?). We stayed in an airbnb place close to the Bologna Fiere and could walk there within 10 minutes. Our hosts were super friendly and helpful in recommending places to eat and to go when we weren’t at the fair. We also randomly ran into two good friends from Vancouver. We happened to be standing in the same Piazza at the same time. That made my week! Here’s a few photos of Bologna and us outside the Fiere.

BolognaBlogPhotos1I was pretty nervous going to the fair, but as soon as I stepped through those doors I felt at home.  It hit me that: all of these publishers and illustrators are people who love children’s books. When you realize that you’re in the company of people who love the same thing as you, it’s hard to get down. Here are a few photos from inside the fair:

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You’ll notice that I got my picture with the one and only PIPPI LONGSTOCKING. That’s right. Don’t be jealous because I know you all love her too. Well, actually this was a booth with her books; the real Pippi couldn’t make it out. The foreign agents man looked at me like I was crazy while taking this photo. That stopped me from lifting that little horse over my head.

I’d have to say that I fell in love with the foreign publishers (not surprising). I realized growing up in North America, I missed out on a lot of other books. Not to say that North American books aren’t beautiful. But there are SO MANY books in the world. One of publishers who I fell in love with is Didier Jeunesse.  They have really unique books and some with embroidered illustrations. I was instantly excited when I saw their work. You can see one of their covers in the photo above.

In regards to meeting publishers, there were some disappointments there. I didn’t anticipate that many (if not most) of the American publishers had no editor or art directors willing to review portfolios or talk to illustrators at the fair. Of all the research I did, this was not something I had heard. That was a disappointment for me and made me feel like I flew all this way for nothing. On the flip side, I could understand why this was the case and decided to just browse through the books, collect some business cards and move on. And I was able to cross a few publishers off my list, just from looking at their recent books. After a while I started to get a sense of where my work might fit.

Luckily, many of the European publishers had portfolio review times and a couple Canadian publishers made time to meet with me (the Canadian publishers were the nicest people I met all week, and that made me miss home. Go Canadian friendliness!) I was also able to talk with a few German publishers, in German. All those classes finally paid off!

Looking beyond the fair, the plan is to continue working on my Mr.Buttonman picture book, in the hopes of getting it published.. The fair inspired me to buff up my website more, so you can look forward to seeing new work up here in the coming months.

Thanks for reading and hope you have an inspiring weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bologna Children’s Fair 2015- It’s go time!

It’s the night before my first day at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. I just finished my first plate of lasagna in Italy and a lovely glass of red wine. Life is good. I anticipate this week will be exhausting, exciting, disappointing and rewarding all at the same time.

I’m thankful that I’ve got my trusty “translator/husband” by my side to keep me company (I registered him as my translator to get him into the fair. Ssshh, don’t tell anyone. But if you do know of anyone who needs German/English translation, let us know!). I’ve also been notified that my German friends are pressing their thumbs for me, which is always reassuring :) It’s now time to wade into a pool of 25,000 children’s book professionals; bring on the networking!

I successfully finished my first batch of dummy books for the fair, AND managed to design and print some posters and postcards for promotion. I’m calling this a victory already, no matter what happens after this week.

I’m posting a few snapshots from my dummy book below. If you follow my Instagram and Twitter feed, you may have seen these final spreads already. The dummy book is mostly made of sketches, with three completed spreads to give publishers an idea of the final style. I am really excited with these sample spreads and the direction the work is going in. Let’s hope a publisher will be too!

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Stay tuned for a follow up on the book fair. I’ll have a lot more to talk about after the next four days! Thanks for reading.

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Illustration Friday: Noise

Well, it’s been about a month since my last personal blog. I must say, I was quite shocked at the increase in views, but also very encouraged by all the thoughtful comments. Thank you!

This past month was a bit crazy, with moving to a new flat and sorting out all the details for that. Thus, I haven’t had as much time as I wanted to devote to illustration. However, I’ve done what I can and have been steadily working on sketches for the Mr.Buttonman picture book.

With all of this sketching, I’ve been itching to bring at least one work to completion. So this week, I decided to do an illustration for the Illustration Friday blog, just for fun. Though I noticed today, that I actually missed the deadline to post it on their blog. I’ll have to be quicker next time! I hope at least you will enjoy it!

The theme for this week was Noise. And here’s Mr.Buttonman being very noisy in the kitchen.

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I was quite pleased with how this turned out. It’s one of the first times I’ve put Mr.Buttonman in such a detailed background. There will be more detailed backgrounds in the picture book so this illustration was a good testing ground.

Have a great Friday and make some noise!

 

 

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Hello 2015. I’ve got some news for you (and Christmas Market Part 2)

Today I’m writing this blog with some nervousness. Did I drink too much coffee? No. I’m nervous because I’m going to attempt to write a personal blog. Personal?! I usually avoid being too personal here. Why do I do that? Mostly because it’s scary.

However, I will attempt to summarize 2014 and try to explain my feelings as I look 2015 in the eye. If you want the short version, check out the photo below.

Deep breath, here I go:

2014 was a challenging year. It may be the most challenging year in my life thus far. (There are not many years to compete with yet) It began with a lot of good-byes. I hate good-byes. We moved from Canada to Berlin, Germany. I became immersed in a new culture, new language, new home, and new friends. All this new stuff, took a lot out of me. The first month we were here, I slept almost 10 hours every night, mostly from the emotional exhaustion. In the midst of trying to figure out regular life in a new country, I was also struggling to find direction for my art practice.

2014 was also my first year without a day job. I chose to focus on learning German and building my portfolio, rather than making money. (Hopefully, this decision will pay out in the long run! ) This job-less state, introduced new challenges. I had to manage my own time, set my own goals and attempt more freelance work. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m horrible at decision making. Combine this with having a lot of free time on your hands and unlimited possibilities and you’ve got a recipe for a meltdown. Thankfully, I avoided the meltdown and made some progress. This is a miracle.

Here’s a photo some highlights of 2014.

NewYearsNotes

Now referring to the photo above, do you see the phrase “Hello Illustration, I pick you” in the photo? Are you curious what this means? Well, let me elaborate.

I made an important decision in 2014. In the midst of a challenging year, one thing became very clear to me. I want to be an illustrator. Didn’t I always want to be an illustrator? Actually, I didn’t. I always wanted to be an artist, but I had no idea what to specialize in. And there are so many avenues for art, especially now.

I majored in illustration at the suggestion of a teacher. She was a teacher who knew my work well and the way I think. Since, at the time, I was unsure of what to pick as my major, I chose to trust her and focused my studies in illustration. This was the right decision. But, through the rest of my studies and the following 2 years, I’ve had some nagging doubts.

These doubts were fanned into flame by some fine art teachers who told me illustration was “not real art”. I always disagreed with their views, but didn’t speak out. Yes, illustration is different from performance art, sculpture and multi-media installation work, but that does not make it less of an art form. This is an age-old discussion, which I won’t get into. My self-doubting lasted until 2014. Thank you 2014 for ending my misery!

Around October, something changed in my thinking. It didn’t come with a great opportunity or a wise word from another artist. It was a weird, out of nowhere, realization moment. Here’s how it went.

Joelle was drinking coffee at the breakfast table. Suddenly a thought overcame her, “I love illustration. I want to be an illustrator. This is what I’m good at, and that’s what I should be doing.” 

Then I cried. A long, deep cry of relief and longing. A little dramatic, I know. But, do you ever have these moments? Where you realize that you want something so badly, and at the same time feel relief that you finally know what you want?! It’s such a wonderful, amazing feeling!

Ok, now keeping this moment in mind, join me in looking at the Christmas Market in December and the present New Year 2015.

The Christmas Market, overall, was a good experience. There was not the mad Christmas rush that I had expected or hoped for, however I had many wonderful conversations and was encouraged by the friends who came out to support me. Without my newly refreshed desire to be an illustrator, I could have come away from this market thinking it was all pointless. But actually, it was very valuable research. It gave me the opportunity to see lots of people (children in particular) interact with Mr.Buttonman. Markets are always unpredictable, that’s partly why I love them. You never know who you will meet, and you also never know how much you will sell. The point of doing them for me (though I do forget this sometimes!) is always the people more than the profit. I also had many chances to practice my German which is always helpful. Thanks again to everyone who came out to the Samariter Kiezweihnachtsmarkt!

There are a lot of uncertainties heading into 2015. We unexpectedly lost our apartment two weeks ago and have to find a new one. I will be finishing German classes soon and will likely need to start looking for part-time work. I also have the goal to finish my first draft of Mr.Buttonman’s picture book by March and have no idea if anyone will want to publish this thing.

But, I have A PLAN. The plan. The 2015 plan of resilience and victory (insert evil laugh here).

Oh glorious, unrealistic year-planning how I love you. With my new found direction, there’s no where to go but up, right? Well, actually I may be starting the most difficult part of my illustration journey. I have no excuses now. I know what I want, I just have to do it. And that, my friends, is more scary than not knowing what to do because now I have to face the possibility of FAILING at what I want to do.

But, this is another thing I realized in 2014. Long-term goals are more important than short term deadlines. As long as I keep working towards that bigger goal of being an illustrator, it’s ok if I make mistakes along the way. WHOOPIE!

And there’s also this tiny/big thing to look forward to: Bologna BABY.

Are you having a baby in Bologna you ask? No, I’m not pregnant.

But I’m going to the Bologna Children’s Book Festival in Italy in March and am super excited/freaking out about it. Mr.Buttonman will meet the world, and I’ll get a book contract and everything will be bliss. Ok, that’s probably not going to happen, but DREAM BIG PEOPLE. Dream big.

After I made the decision to be an illustrator, I also decided that Mr.Buttonman needs to be discovered. Those two somehow went hand in hand. I’m not sure how long this will take, but I’m very excited to keep working with this character and to see where he goes. I’ve already written a few blogs about that though, so I won’t bore you with those details again.

In conclusion of this personal, and hopefully not boring blog-post, 2015 is looking uncertainly awesome at this point.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My First Berlin Christmas Market: Part 1

This weekend will be my first time participating as a vendor in a traditional German Christmas market in Berlin! I’ve been busy preparing all kinds of holiday wares for this sale. There will be art prints, Mr.Buttonman Christmas postcards, original embroidered creations, handmade matchboxes, and up-cycled jar candle holders. Everything is 100% handmade by myself. Check out the pictures below, to get a sneak peek!

The market is the annual Kiez Weihnachtsmarkt  in Friedrichshain, Berlin (website here). You will find it around the old church on Samariterstrasse. It runs both Saturday, Dec.13th and Sunday, Dec.14th from 1-8pm. This is a great market if you are looking for small, handmade gifts for family and friends. Most of the vendors live in the neighbourhood and some even have store fronts here.

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And in case you’re wondering, yes, there will be Glühwein! Hope to see you there :)

 

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A Fox and a Running Santa

Last week, I completed two new Mr. Buttonman Christmas illustrations and card designs. I had a lot of fun with these. You know you’ve got something good in your hands when you can’t stop smiling while making it!

The first card design is for the Speed Badminton division of Füchse Berlin sports-club. Since their logo is a fox, we decided it would be good to incorporate that and a speed badminton racket into the illustration. (If you’re wondering what “Speed Badminton” is, Wikipedia explains it here. ).

I used a new embroidery technique to create tuffs on Mr. Buttonman’s santa hat. This made the hat warm and fuzzy, which is important for him when he is so skinny! Here a few pictures of the process and final illustration:

FuchseBerlinButtonmanBlogPictures

The second card design is for an upcoming Christmas event hosted by Projekt: Kirche. The event is called “Running Santa” as you can see from the picture. The idea is similar to a progressive dinner, if you’ve ever  been to one of those. Basically, people sign up in partners and spend the evening travelling to three different eating and cooking locations. Lots of fun!

Of course, as soon as I thought of a Running Santa, I had to picture Santa running with his arms full of cookies. Since, the event includes a lot of cookie-making and eating, the image seemed appropriate.  If you’re curious about the event, it’ll be the evening of December 13th in Berlin. They’ll soon be posting more information on their Facebook page here.

 

RunningSantaBlogPictures

Next on the agenda for November, is preparing for Christmas art markets in Berlin. You’ll be hearing more about that on the blog in a couple weeks. But, if you’re already dying from curiosity, here’s the link to one of the markets I’ll be selling handmade goodies at: http://www.kiezweihnacht.de/

Have a great week friends!

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New Mr. Buttonman Holiday Postcards Are Here!

This is a historical moment my friends: Mr. Buttonman’s first holiday cards are here! I’m very excited about this new series, and want to give all you Buttonman fans a chance to order these sets before it will be too late for international shipping.

To give you some incentive to make your purchase sooner than later, I’ve decided to offer postcard sets at a pre-order discounted price, if you order before Nov.15th. You can purchase postcard sets directly through this blog post by clicking on the “Buy Now” button below or purchase them in any amount (1, 5, 10, 20) through my Etsy shop here. The orders are processed securely through Paypal, but you do not need to have Paypal account to make the purchase.

The postcards are blank on the back, as you can see from the picture below, so that you have plenty of space to add your own personal message. You will get 2 of each card in a set of 10 and 4 of each card in a set of 20. If you would like specific cards, then please put a note in your purchase, indicating which cards you want and how many (eg. 3 Snowman, 3 Gingerbread, 4 Tree).

International shipping is $5 for pre-orders, but it will take up to 2 weeks until you receive your order. If you live in Berlin, send me a message and we can arrange for a pick-up/drop off time.

Feel free to send me an email if you have any concerns or questions: joellegebhardt@gmail.com

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New Projects with Mr.Buttonman

 

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I’m sure you’ve already met Mr.Buttonman if you’ve been following my website, blog or life in general. He has been an ongoing project for me, that has slowly grown bigger and bigger. It seems that every time I think I am “finished” with the character, something happens to pull me back to him. And the reason is not because I’m obsessed or in love with buttons. I do like buttons, and this character was definitely invented in a “button phase” of my life, but I think there is another reason.

Over the past 3 years, I’ve displayed, sold and exhibited Mr.Buttonman in various settings. In a way, it feels as if I’ve been gathering research based on the different feedback or reactions I’ve gotten. This year I’ve had the opportunity to display him in Berlin, to an international audience, and that has been really affirming. Even though, I haven’t yet had great “success” (as in Mr.Buttonman hasn’t paid any of my bills or become famous) I still feel in my gut that there could be great potential here. Maybe I’m wrong, and will eventually have to give up. But I don’t feel that I’ve pushed him to the limit yet. This is why: I’m writing a storybook!

There have always been little stories embedded in the Mr.Buttonman illustrations, but I’ve never sewn the images together into one plot. I’ve never actually defined: Who Mr.Buttonman is, where he lives, what he eats, who his friends are, and what happens to him on a daily basis.

I’m really excited about this next project and have gotten a lot of affirmation over the past few weeks as I’ve discussed my ideas with fellow artists and writers. If everything goes according to plan, I’m hoping to have my first draft of the book finished by April 2015.

In the meantime, I’m also planning  to release a series of Buttonman Christmas cards for this year in October. So stay tuned for those on my Etsy shop.

Here’s to not giving up on long-term projects, and thanks to all of you who have been an encourager of Mr.Buttonman. You’ve helped keep him alive!

 

 

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“Dear Life” Exhibit at the Vancouver Public Library.

Starting September 2nd my two newest artworks will be on display at The Mote Gallery in Vancouver Public Library Central Branch. I’m very excited to be participating in this exhibit, but sad that I won’t be there for it’s launching. This is a group exhibition of members from the Open Book Art Collective and is inspired by a book of short stories, Dear Life by Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro.

I’ve been a member of this collective for over a year now, and this is our third exhibit and the second book we’ve selected as a group. Basically, we’re a group of artists who love literature and who made a book club that also functions as an art collective. If you’re a fellow book/art lover, and maybe an Alice Munro fan, we’d love to get some feedback from you on our latest exhibit at the VPL.

Here are images of the two works I’m contributing along with my artist statements.

**SPOILER ALERT! Don’t continue if you’re planning on seeing the work in person! (Art is always better in real life)**

“A New Reality”. Based on Corrie.

This drawing illustrates a key moment of realization in Corrie that alters the main character’s reality and shocks unsuspecting readers. My aim was to create a situation where the viewer might look twice, as I had to read this story twice.

 

A New Reality

“The Captain of the Pinafore”. Based on Amundsen.

Captain of the Pinafore

 [...]and in burst Mary[...]she threw off her coat and displayed herself in a red-and-yellow costume. She [...] began to prance around the table, singing at the same time in a plaintive but vigorous young voice[...] I’m the Captain of the Pinafore. And a good right captain too!

This artwork is inspired by the character of Mary, who was a bright star in ‘Amundsen’, though not the main protagonist. For me, she was innocence, joy and an unexpected beacon, in a village of Tuberculosis and depression. There is a risk of not taking characters like Mary seriously. Especially when they burst into closed rooms uninvited. But Mary truly was a Captain. In her display of colour and song, she offered a chance for escape from the inevitable.