Jun 302014
© Copyright Joanne Hus

© Copyright Joanne Hus

On June 22, Elizabeth Gilbert shared a brilliant post on her Facebook page entitled “WISDOM & AGE & WOMEN.” Like so many, I was blown away by it. It also reminded me of something my younger self had written 13 years ago (not nearly so brilliantly as Ms. Gilbert), inspired by some tulips:

I shot these tulips when they were perfect. I’m still waiting for the film. But now that they are faded, they’ve acquired a very different, and still very attractive quality. The dried petals and leaves seem to dance. They are filled with a different kind of grace, one filled with much more character and distinction. Perhaps this can be a metaphor for ourselves. We assume we are “better,” more “attractive,” more “perfect” when we are young and show no signs of our living, but maybe the forms we take as we age are at least as interesting as our more nubile selves. The flower ages gracefully; we fight our own fading, and twist ourselves into unnatural forms.

—from my sketchbook, 7 February 2001

Interestingly enough at the time, I took a quick snapshot of the more “perfect” tulips, but felt compelled to draw the faded ones (above).

Dec 052013


Lilla Rogers has done it again: as a perfect follow-up to Make Art That Sells Parts A and B, she is now offering Assignment Bootcamp. Not as intensive as MATS, this is a way for artists to keep creating art that sells, with fantastic input and inspiration from the incomparable Lilla. We’ll be getting five assignments over a period of six months, starting in February. And once it’s finished in July, participants will be well prepared to tackle the 2014 Global Talent Search.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

Nov 092013

Gypsy Rooster

This week in Make Art That Sells, Lilla’s assignment for us is to design party paper, specifically a paper plate and napkin, using Ukrainian and Bavarian folk art as inspiration. I had so much fun doing the research for this! (You can take a look at some of things I found on my Pinterest board.)

As always, we start off with minis:

© Joanne Hus

© Joanne Hus

I liked the feeling I was getting, especially with the bird. Then I remembered some roosters I had drawn a long time ago and had an idea: what if I were to redraw one of them with this folk art in mind? Here’s the result of that experiment:

© Joanne Hus

© Joanne Hus

I really liked the feeling of this. Then I remembered some floral borders I had doodled in a notebook. (I keep this notebook in my bag all the time, along with some pens. It gives me something constructive to do when I have any downtime, like when I’m standing in line, riding the train, or waiting for a friend to show up.)

© Joanne Hus

© Joanne Hus

I did a sketch in black and white, and seriously considered using a simple black and white palette for my final:

© Joanne Hus

© Joanne Hus

When I went back to my inspiration board, I had to use the folk colors. So rich!

And here’s the final:

Gypsy Rooster

© Joanne Hus


Isn’t he a handsome fellow? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Oct 202013

Li'l Acorn, baby and children's pattern design. © Joanne Hus


This week in MATS, we are designing fabric for baby and children’s wear, and the theme is camping! How fun is that? I love the work process that Lilla is teaching us: mini, where we do research, create lots of icons, and play with color and technique; then the main assignment where we pull it all together.

While doing my research, I remembered how when I was a kid I thought acorns were wearing little hats. Had to play with that! I love how sweet their faces came out. Got the inspiration for the color palette from a food ad, another tip from Lilla. (You can find great color palettes anywhere—advertisements, vintage books, the view from your window, even stuff on your desk.)

So what do you think? Are these cute enough? Let me know in the comments, or share this below:

Oct 132013

Retro Holiday, © Joanne Hus

It may be October, but we’re all about winter holidays here in MATS!

Week 1, our assignment from Lilla Rogers is to create a holiday card using retro ornaments and/or candy. I was surprised to find in my research that many ornaments from the 1960s used pink and light blue, so I made a point of letting that inspire my palette. I also wanted to use more texture than I usually do, so I painted a background in acrylic and scanned it in. I experimented with making the vector shapes look more like cut paper. I like the contrast of the brushwork with the flat shapes.

What do you think? Who do you know would love to get this card in their mailbox?

Oct 042013


On Monday, I’ll be starting Part B of Make Art That Sells, offered by Lilla Rogers. I learned so much in Part A (which ended this past July), that I can’t wait to get started on Part B—I’ve been about as patient as a 7-year-old kid counting the days until her birthday!

Make Art That Sells is a unique course, filled with the kind of industry-specific info you just can’t get anywhere else. If you have been wanting to learn more about illustrating for paper/stationery products, baby/children’s apparel and décor, scrapbooking, editorial, and party paper, this is the course for you. You’ll learn about the latest trends in these markets, enjoy interviews with industry leaders and the successful artists who work with them, and surprise yourself with the amazing portfolio pieces you’ll create. All in a phenomenally supportive community of fellow artists.

Lilla is so incredibly generous—not only with her extensive knowledge of all these markets, but also with specific leads and how to approach them—that the students in Part A nicknamed her our Fairy Art Mother. A firm believer in making the pie bigger, Lilla takes great delight in empowering all artists to make a living doing what they love most: making art (that sells)!

There’s still time to register, so if you’re interested in taking your art from good to great, sign up! I’ll see you in class on Monday!

Jul 072013

The last assignment for my class with Lilla Rogers is to design a zipper pouch. We are encouraged to stay true to our own styles and approaches, while still being open to the “lush and juicy” trend. Since my style is usually very pared down, this has been challenging to say the least!

First, I created some texture in black ink on cold pressed watercolor paper, created a vector of it in Illustrator, and added some color (orange, of course!):

zipper pouch step 1

Then, I thought I’d do the retro-abstract thing (love that mid-century aesthetic!), and added some blobs of purple. Softened them up with some “letterpress” effects:

zipper pouch step 2

Left to my own devices, I would have stopped there. I’d love to see this on stretched canvas, about 36″ wide! But it didn’t follow the brief, so I kept going, adding some lettering (cut black paper, scanned and vectorized), some floral elements, and a bird:

zipper pouch step 3

I really thought I was done, until I shared it with my fellow students. They loved the colors, the flower, and the lettering, but it wasn’t textured enough, and needed more lushness. (This is why I love my classmates and Lilla; they push me and help me make my art even better!) What to do? I looked at the brief and the inspiration boards provided, and decided to add some fancy swirls and more birds. I also added the little visual joke of the egg (dreams before they “hatch” and take flight). I thought it was over the top, but that was the whole point according to the brief!

zipper pouch step 4

Another important thing I’ve learned in this class is that presentation is key. Rather than just submit the final design all by its lonesome, I put it in context (using a template generously supplied by classmate  Sherry London), and created a couple of complementary designs using elements from the main design. Put everything on a wood background to unify and enhance the designs, and added my logo and the collection name:

Zipper pouch and other products

And there you have it! I have learned so much from this class, and can’t wait to build a portfolio over this summer full of new designs for bolt fabric, home décor, kids, wall art, and gifts. Even more, I’m looking forward to Part B of this course, where we’ll cover paper and stationery, baby and children’s apparel, scrapbooking, editorial, and party paper. Not to mention the Global Talent Search.

It’s going to be a great summer!

Jun 302013

More work from my class with Lilla Rogers. This design is for wall art and measures 24″ x 24″. Much looser than what I usually do. It incorporates a drawing I did several years ago, just a texture of tiny circles I drew with a 000 Rapidograph on a scroll of rice paper. Scanned it in and vectorized it in Illustrator, and used it in part of the background. I also did the lettering, scanned that in and ran it through Image Trace in Illustrator. The small white flowers are a scatter brush I built, based on a photo I took of some flowers on the High Line in NYC.

Can you tell I’m having a great time?

"The Earth Laughs in Flowers" —Ralph Waldo Emerson. Illustration of poppies and daisies by Joanne Hus.


Jun 212013

Here’s a recap of another assignment from Lilla Rogers’ course: kids’ books! Like most illustrators, I’ve always wanted to illustrate picture books, so this assignment was really exciting. We were to design either a cover or a spread for the Hans Christian Andersen story, The Snail and the Rose-Tree. (I’ve included the complete text of the story at the end of this post.) The assignment also included some hand lettering.

Before we were given the full text of the story, we had to do some sketches of a snail character that kids could relate to. I tried out ideas for a “cheerleader” snail, a nerdy snail, a tough-guy snail, and a punk snail. I played with facial expressions, and how the characters might interact with one another.

snail sketches

After working on different concepts for the snail, we were given the text for the story. The story itself is a bit gloomy, so I wanted to lighten it up through the illustrations. Making the curmudgeonly snail into a punk snail made a lot of sense. (And it didn’t hurt that I had just gone to the Punk show at the Metropolitan Museum!)

Next up was the hand lettering:

snail lettering067 rose tree lettering

What about the rose-tree? How to make it a character?

snail rose sketch071

I like how the rose-tree is irritatingly cheerful, and how the snail is having none of it—very much the way they relate in the story! Now, to pull all the elements together:


Here’s the first version in color:

Snail and Rose-Tree, version 1

I like the color palette and how the lettering came out, but the composition feels a little weak. Also, the way I’ve drawn the rose tree doesn’t relate well to the way I’ve drawn everything else. Here’s how I addressed all those issues:


Better, but still not quite on the mark. I went back to the brief, and came across a list of important things to keep in mind for children’s picture books:

  1. great characters,
  2. in well-developed environments,
  3. expressing emotions.

Aha! The characters aren’t in a world of their own, so I added an environment. I also put a subtle face on the sun.

Snail and Rose Tree cover version 3

Thought I was done, but I realized that the two main characters have to relate to one another, and hint at the story. I also decided to go with a more disdainful expression in the snail. Here’s the final version:

Snail and Rose-Tre cover, version 4

Just for kicks, I tried my hand at different expressions of the rose-tree:


So much fun! I’d love to hear your thoughts about this process. Please share them in the comments.

And now, as promised, here is the full text of the story:

Continue reading »

%d bloggers like this: