Wednesday, September 23, 2015

All That Glitters and Shines With Andi Butler

Andi Butler is different that many of the other illustrators I asked onto my blog this month. Instead of doing picture books, Andi creates Activity books! Andi does both a lot of art and design so she has a unique and wonderful perspective on illustration. Her work? It's just gorgeous. I wish I had books like this when I was a kid. Especially the fashion books. Paper dolls and clothes making was my favorite as a kid!

Dani: Why did you decide to become an Illustrator? 

Andi: I didn't really decide to become one, it was just what I was... I was always a maker. My mom taught me how to sew when I was really young, and I was always drawing and inventing things. I had always participated in Young Authors in grade school (and won, in third grade). I’d taken a hiatus from art in junior high, but was still writing and inventing things, and went back to it in high school. In college, I attended courses in illustration, photography, fashion and design. I went to a community college and really didn’t need to declare a major, so I took only what I wanted. That not only exposed me to facets of many creative careers, it also prepared me with the flexibility to jump into any type of responsibility in a creative dept (trend, product development, surface design), and, ultimately primed me for an independent career. When I worked as a staff artist, I really learned how to work with people, and how to become severed from the relationship I had with my work. You can't take things personally. When you decide to make money as an illustrator, it's not the same as a fine artist at a faire. Buyers don't see your art and then just decide to purchase it for their personal use. It has to be "sale-able" and convey what the organization (who hired you) wants to say. It's not easy, but the illustrators who make it look that way are just really good at ideation and working with others. It's all about collaboration and problem-solving.

Dani: How did you get started in Klutz activity books?

Andi: I'd sent them many postcards, but they didn't find their way to the ADs with whom I'd ultimately worked. The ADs and designers had actually found me through my website and contacted me from there. I'd had so much surface design on my site back then because I'd worked with different design studios that provided that service to apparel and home product development designers. That's exactly what Klutz needed at that time, and I loved working with them. Klutz closed a few years ago when Scholastic moved the operations to NY. I believe they still publish the books, and have new titles.

Dani: Are there any special techniques you use to save time?

Andi:I've recently decided that it was time to get off of FB. It's a ridiculous time waster, it really doesn't hold a lot of interest for me and I don't gain the knowledge that I do from Twitter nor have the discovery that I do with Pinterest. I still have my personal page and a "fan" page (I actually don't call it that, it's my promotional page or workshop page) and the latter I've been trying to update and keep current, but my personal page will eventually be closed. I've been trying to stay off the internet just as a 'best practice' despite loving Pinterest and Twitter.

Today, there’s almost too much to see on the internet, and sort of dulls that serendipitous discovery that many of us had 30 years ago. That can get discouraging if creatives spend too much time comparing their work with others' final pieces and not enough time with real people around a table, messing around with ideas and building on them. On the upside though, I love the sharing of things. As far as saving time with my work, I just try to keep things really organized. Our family is coming off of summer vacation, and both my sons will be in middle school. I make a list of everything that needs doing that day, do the things I don't want to do first, and get them out of the way.

I try not to procrastinate (but I still do sometimes). Procrastination lulls you into thinking you've gained something. Your immediate reward is not doing the thing you didn't want to do, but only for that moment. It's still on your mind, you're not free of it, you still have to do it, and now in a smaller window! People who seem to always have time, ironically, do not procrastinate. They get the stuff out of the way that they dislike, and have far more time for the things they do like. If there's a huge project, take it on in smaller achievable goals. Finally, my best (and most difficult) time saver? Get used to saying the word "no." To your friends, family, kids, school, etc. The more you do it, the easier it is. If you don't have the time and don't really enjoy something, you have to say no. Your time is as important as another person's, but only you care about your time and have control over it. You'll only end up procrastinating over the things you don't want to do, and then you're really in a state! You're allowed to be kind to yourself. You'll find it's really okay, others will accept it and you'll be happier and more creative for it.

Dani: What kinds of projects are your favorite to create? 

Andi: Pattern design is my ultimate fave... I see a lot of people creating patterns by duplicating images, that's not what I mean. I mean a technically correct repeat, where it's difficult to find the repeat, and you're having to work within certain size parameters because of the roller. You're also working with a limited palette because it's screened with spot colors, so the fewer, the less expensive it is to produce. It's a challenge and I love the process of it. When I worked in product development, that was kind of the bar, in CAD. Who could consistently create the most intricate repeats (and some were on quite a large scale), that bar was usually raised by RTW (ready-to-wear, which is women's) because of all their florals and conversationals. Spoonflower isn't like that because it's print on demand and doesn't use spot colors.

Dani: When you aren't creating patterns or doing activity books, what do you like to do? 

Andi: I'm knitting, reading, baking or gardening, and not in that order...Or working on something for the school. When both my kids were in elementary school, I did a lot of creative volunteering but didn't enjoy it as much as I do with the middle school. I was a technical director for the school musical (and created a style guide), and just finished an image for the music department for their tees. Knitting is huge for me right now. There's a ton for me to learn but it's not messy. Working with food and gardening are both messy, but I do love that tactile, "getting your hands dirty," accomplishment. I start our plants from seed, all organic and hope for the best when I get them outside. If you're a professional creative, it really helps that side of you when you have something on the other side that you love to do, and there are no expectations from others.

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  1. I spend way too much time online. Doing nothing. Terrible non-productive procrastinating.
    I love your patterns - that is something I want to make time to learn to do.
    Getting offline now...

  2. Oh, I love Klutz. I bought most of their kits. Thanks Andi for sharing :)

  3. Love your patterns, and glad to hear you're getting off Facebook. I'm controlling mine better. Just don't turn it on for a good while.

  4. fun patterns :) Motivation to work on better wallpaper in my illustrations.